It doesn’t take much scrutiny to realize that The Deer Run Drifters were alt-country Americana/bluegrass/folk hybrid with the ability to write and deliver a song on their debut album Appalachian Blues. The four-piece comprised of Chris Link (guitar, vocals), Joe Link (mandolin), Shane Edgell (banjo), Sean Edgell (guitar, harmonica) and Will Norton (bass) went back into the studio and came out with their sophomore release entitled Restless Youth.
The release is a step forward in a number of ways. One thing you get is the addition of electric guitar and percussion. That being said, they are not focal centers of the songs. In fact when there are drums they are mixed very low in the mix, which is fine by me since the acoustic strings sound so good. Thematically, the band covers a wide variety of topics - heartbreak, being down on your luck and nostalgia. The band is not without a sense of humor, which is also very welcome.
First up is the bright and warm “Good Days.” Link has a unique and undeniable country twang. He sounds like he could be anywhere from twenty to about sixty when he sings, “Those were goods, those were good days. “Nirvana’d” is straight up brilliant and is actually about the band Nirvana. The song is really split into two parts. The first part as far as I can tell is completely original where they casually have a lyric that mentions “Nirvana Songs.” It wasn’t till about half way through way I swore they were playing “Come As You Are” which they do for about fifteen seconds. I laughed while I simultaneously enjoyed every second.
There are twelve songs on this album and they aren’t skimpy. The songs range from about four- to-six minutes. It's obvious the band dug in deep and pulled out the best songs they could. There weren’t any lulls and the rather girth-y album went by quickly.
Out of the twelve there were a couple that were highlights but are arguable considering all the songs have something to offer. “Down in the Gutter” was a refreshing, self-deprecating yet humorous song that had the perfect amount of melancholy. How can you not appreciate a song called “You Go Too Hell, I’m Goin’ Drinking.” That’s pretty much what I say to my wife every Friday (sarcasm). Kidding aside the song is a certified sing-along that goes down just as easy as that sixth drink.
Suffice it to say this album gets two thumbs up. These guys are touring like crazy so why don’t you check them out and give Restless Youth a spin.
The only real complaint about the self-titled EP Jack Runaway from Jack Runaway is that it isn’t long enough. The songs are extremely well written, with great vocals, guitars and drums, and some amazing production and mixing. The EP captures some really powerful emotional moments and is a great listening experience. Vocally there are traces of Bon Iver and Jeff Buckley over some soaring guitar work that has some elements of Explosions In The Sky. The arrangements are clever and nod to influences without being derivative. The running order is also well thought out, rising and falling through the journey.
The EP opens with “Moonlight (Reprise)” (bold choice to OPEN with a reprise!), which starts out minimally with some soaring vocals and strumming guitar before building into a full band arrangement. The build is very organic and the climax of the song feels earned. There are some hints of Modest Mouse if Jeff Buckley was fronting the band. There’s a mantra-like anthemic section before the song neatly bookends.
“My Show” is an up-tempo song with a melancholic melody over echo-y guitars, subtle tambourines and driving drums. It’s a very smart arrangement too, halfway through after an amazing vocal line the song drops down and rises back up. The band is very clever never to fall into the power ballad pitfalls of Coldplay but instead work with dynamics and repetition to create amazing sonic energy.
“Ouroboros” opens with a waltz-like acoustic guitar pattern and features some incredibly interesting percussion throughout. There are some great harmonies throughout with some heart wrenching melodies and lyrics. The song has a gorgeous close by stripping away the drums and electric guitars to feature a lone vocal and some simple strumming.
“At The End Of An Ocean” is the longest track, clocking in at just over seven minutes. After some volume swells the song starts with more simple strumming over some warm amp hiss. There’s some sneaky tremolo guitar that sneaks in along with more clever percussion (cymbal swells and an ostinado rim pattern) before a melodic guitar solo and a long atmospheric build.
“Loam” closes the EP with another waltz pattern over piano and electric guitar. There’s a quiet reserve but a confident sense when the lyrics “It shouldn’t be this hard” start to repeat. The melody is arching, as the rest of the song swims around.
With songs written, performed and recorded like these, Jack Runaway has lots of promise and will certainly have many fans clamoring for a full album (or least several more EPs). The singer has one of the most controlled but powerful voices in rock today, the arrangements are incredible and the songs are truly a sonic journey.
To the rest of the world, the Canadian music scene seems to be dominated by people like Justin Bieber. However, you need to see the bigger picture to know that’s not true. That’s exactly what Long Range Hustle means.
The Long Range Hustle is a Toronto based band consisting of Paul Brogee, AJ Fisico, Jay Foster and Josh Weiss. The quartet has a diverse range of musical influences (rock, classical, folk & jazz) and has earned quite a reputation as a live band playing clubs in London and Montreal. Their biggest gig to date has been playing Toronto’s wired city music festival, which was broadcast live on Canadian television.
Long Range Hustle’s sophomore album From Seedlings to Saplings was released in late March of this year after a lengthy four-year process that required crowd funding via a go fund me campaign, as well as an intense songwriting process. The record was recorded at Escarpment Sound Studios and produced by Ryan Pritchard and mixed by sound engineer Brian Hewson.
From Seedlings to Saplings is a bit like a rock opera that exists in three movements. The first movement consists of bright, poppy upbeat tracks like the adult alternative song “Up & Up” or the ‘70s FM rock track “Paddle Away." Each movement gradually shifts in tone lyrically and musically with the second movement tackling more melancholy subjects. This is quite present in the second movement track “Sour Milk” a Phil Collins-inspired song that touches on familial relationships and a dark "Joshua Tree" era U2 sound alike track “Coyotes.”
The third movement’s songs touch on dark themes of death and despair. A perfect example of this is the song “Engine Parts” which compares the body of a dead loved one to worn out car parts. “Three Bells” is written from the point of view of a corpse at a wake and “Yearlong Vigil” deals with suicide.
Musically and lyrically, Long Range Hustle has demonstrated that they could potentially become a denominating force on the Canadian music scene and join the ranks of great Canadian artists such as Rush, Neil Young and Metric.
Searching For A Note by Innocence Theory is an eclectic smorgasbord of audio delights. The first song "Another World" starts the pack-a-punch EP off with an ethereal, groovy down tempo beat. The song is laced with female vocals that are sultry and soulful serenaded by soft and humble piano. Here and again the song is dotted with a sound that very much appears to be contacting otherworldly creatures with its satellite beeping echoes. The song builds with some sexy guitar and bass lines. It is otherworldly and even a bit under-worldly. It is a gorgeous track that keeps your soul swirling around the song’s finger and slowly twirls it like a soft lock of hair. The depth and warm gooey feel of it dances around the heart stirring emotion.
Next up on the EP is “Om Ma Ni Padme Hum,” which from my knowledge is a mantra that can fix about anything in life that seems to be going wrong. It continues to swirl in those otherworldly sounds giving it an alien vibe. The chant begins to commence and it gives the listener goosebumps. It sounds familiar and yet also feels like a purging of something from within. Perhaps it is a call to release hidden demons within us. Definitely is not a light listen by any means. The electro down tempo music fueled by chanting monks is fit for a spiritual experience.
The listener feels a huge weight lifted though moving onto the next track "Today is the Day." It is not nearly as heavy or soul purging. Perhaps it was fit to follow the purge with an emergence, because it is definitely a lifted, golden sound. I really enjoy the methodology behind this song and the "When the world is going round and round and round, and memories growing old are dead and gone" lyrics ring true and bring the listener to the consciousness of life's preciousness and how short it is. It reminds me of The Flaming Lips song "Do You Realize." Sometimes we need a reminder to bring ourselves back into the present moment by reassuring us that yes we are in fact mortal beings and we should just let anything go that isn't serving us.
My favorite song on the EP comes up next entitled "Blue Waters." Blue Waters has a feeling of something Moby would bust out and also reminds me of Black Moth Super Rainbow. It is cool, collected and psychedelic. The organ synth and electro rock musings activate the neurons in the brain and connect the listener to the universal consciousness and nebula up above in space. I like to call it space rock. Mostly instrumental, the song speaks for itself in its multidimensional, diverseness. The song even throws in some horn like sounds towards the end embracing all the amazing dynamic noises we can all appreciate. The EP ends on a slightly morbid sounding track entitled "Blissfully Trapped in Solitude." This song is solely instrumental and feels like a weeping tree. I don't know about the blissful part, but this one definitely feels like being trapped in solitude. This song is a good book end but again is more wintry and dark in its vibration leaving the listener with an eerie feeling.
Overall, I believe this EP is a varied force that continues to surprise its listener and evoke different layers of emotions. I know it can't always be happy sunshine-y lovely, but I'd personally prefer more of a balance with more songs like "Blue Waters." I think the band is still working with what they want their sound to be, but that they have a notion there is other life on other planets and their music definitely calls out to that in each song. I like the dreamy trippy, drippy, waxy candle with little shooting stars and glistening comet like sounds. It feels stimulating and magical.
The EP both embraces a darkness that is akin to the underworld and a lightness that is made of the same stuff as nebulousness in outer space. I salute the creators and I am excited to hear more down the road as they play more and more with their sound and create more otherworldly sounds that stimulate the brain waves and get us listeners to hear out of the box.
Boy In The Water the latest album from John Patrick Halling is an interesting Americana folk-rock sound that evokes the more countryside of Ryan Adams and some of the early albums from M. Ward. There are six songs where Halling is backed by a band and the final song which showcases him alone and where he really shines.
“Siren Song” opens the album with a guitar that’s very upfront before being joined by mandolin and fiddle nodding a bit to some of the “American Beauty” Grateful Dead feel. The song is an interesting folk song but is obscured a bit by the mix as well as some really out of time drumming. “Misfit Toys” follows with an interesting verse but a chorus that doesn’t quite reach beyond the excitement of what’s happened before (and also some more out-of-time cluttered-ness from the band).
Things pick up quite a bit with “Downtown Blues” which shows off some deft electric guitar leads throughout. The song also features some nice builds and dips in the energy giving it a barroom electric Chicago blues sound. ‘Ballad Of a Gypsy Queen” has some nice west coast surf guitar along with some organ. The melody is nice and really opens up in the chorus.
“Jorogumo” has some disturbingly great metaphors in the lyrics and some good backing vocals. The drum part is interesting and builds throughout. “Bummer, Bummer” has a really catchy melody (though a bit wordy in the chorus), some chime-y guitars, pulsing bass line, and features the best mix of the “band songs” on the album.
“If I Would’ve Known” closes the album with Halling alone with his guitar singing a very intimate and moving song about missed opportunity. Without the band surrounding him, the lyrics and melody really shine through; it’s the best song on the album. It would be interesting to hear some of the other songs stripped down like this.
Overall the album features some nice songs and Halling has a unique likeable singing voice. It feels a bit cluttered throughout, however with some of the arrangements and some simplifications it could really let some of the songs reach some new heights (as he does on the closer).
The Dead Company is the solo project for Jon Bushaway. Apparently over the last fifteen years he has produced four hundred and fifty tracks. His most recent recording is entitled Four Horses, which is a sprawling, dark, ambient album that is a little under seventy minutes in length. It was originally one piece of music but eventually split into five.
Right off the bat I think it goes without saying that this is music that you have to be in the mood for. Even for ambient music it is rather minimal. There are only a couple of different elements to each song and there aren’t any distinct changes. The music is less dynamic than a group like Stars Of The Lid or Mountains but more trance-like and hypnotic. It’s contemplative music that contains so much melancholy it almost feels detached.
The first track “Four Horses” is the shortest of the five pieces. It didn’t have as much emotional resonance as some of the other tracks but contained spoken lyrics, which helped the sparse piano. The lyrics are on the verge of a mythological and biblical allegory. He says, “For here there are four horses Which will you choose to ride One that will take you places And stay there by your side.”
The second song “and it will all be gone” works better than the first. He utilizes pads that float in and out of existence and places vocal samples that sound like someone giving an emergency announcement over a ham radio. The vocal sample works well because you can’t hear what is being said. Brief waves of sound dance like whimsical fairies but an ominous undercurrent does occasionally manifest. The song gets more intense and layered as it progresses.
“More Horses” contains drones of angelic pads that instill a sense of tranquil reverence. As with the previous track his vocal samples work. This time they seem to have a slight delay and are panned hard left and right. “A Better Man on a Better Day” showcases a return to piano. The lyrics are intensely dark and despondent. He says, ”So here is where I am a useless waste of a man The fingers don't stop pointing The pain inside just growing.” He closes with the most dissonant and alien sounding track entitled “Your Horses.”
I don’t think Four Horses will be playing during happy hour but it has its place.
Mitch Eubanks new solo album Tiger is acoustic and independent.. His lyrics are vulnerable and dreamy. I enjoy the first track because the back up singers and xylophone sound bring a child like joyfulness to what might otherwise just be a sappy love song. The lyrics are sweet and literal. He almost embodies an Elliot Smith sentiment but less emotionally downtrodden. His voice is lifted and hopeful. Guitar strumming is simple and dusted with twinkling xylophone. Each song is actually quite short, not trying to overdo it.
The song "Breaks My Heart" gives us a peek into the more soulful, folky sounding elements of Eubanks’ voice rather than just the high soprano. He is from North Carolina, therefore the country influence. The guitar remains dance-y and fancy-free and there is a slight tambourine in the background. Simplicity is the name of the game in this album. The song "You and Me" brings a more dense, emotionally charged pulling of memories of lost love or current love hardships to the surface. It is that good mix of beautiful and almost too painful to listen to. It has a waltz rhythm and is a fit song to slow dance to. I am sure I will hear this one on some sappy Redbox movies soon enough. It tends to lighten toward the end of the song but not by much. It's deep - let’s just say that.
"Daisy Chain" brings back the upbeat new love sensation that we all crave. It is a knee thumper and is good for a circle around the fire. I enjoy the infusion of whistling and the guitar solos. This song is sweet and melodic. His voice is really quite fragrant like jasmine. The acoustic rhythms are consistent and danceable. This whole album makes me want to just jump into my pick up truck and drive down the back country roads on a starry night with my dog by my side in the front. It gives a feeling of nostalgia because it is so comforting and familiar.
The album ends with the song "Every Little Thing" which keeps making me think it is moving into that song by Tim McGraw. I do believe he was perhaps influenced by Tim McGraw, further exemplifying that he does in fact have a country influence.
This album is just country enough, and just indie enough to make it a unique piece that is worth a listen. I imagine it would be a bigger hit amongst country loving folks though for certain. I enjoy its folky nature and the consistency of the album. It remains love focused and poetic. Even just the titles of the songs "Where We Were" and "You and Me" point at the fact that perhaps there was a special lady, maybe even one he has known from back home, that is inspiring each and every breath that Eubanks put into this album.
I think that Eubanks couldn't change a thing about this album to make it any more real or expressive for him, because I can feel that he is truly being transparent in lyrics and vocals - opening his heart up and allowing the listener to take a peek into his soft vulnerable side. If he is heartbroken from this chick though, I just know if he continues to write these sappy sensitive songs he will have all the ladies chasing after him at all times. It is funny because the album is entitledTiger but nowhere in here do I get the vibe of a big intense cat. Maybe the Tiger is who he appears to be on the outside, but from the sounds of it on the inside he's just a kitten.
There are a lot of time periods within the last sixty years that you can point to as a prime time for rock. A lot of people go to the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, which is indisputably true but the early to late ‘90s is certainly being brought up in conversation. Bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains Nirvana, Pearl Jam as well as The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Smashing Pumpkins were becoming embedded into our social conscious. It’s no wonder that in 2015 there is a huge resurgence of bands who sound like they could have been on “120 Minutes.”
Enter the band Sour Jenny. The four-piece from Queen, NY is comprised of Jordan Sopp (guitar), Christian Chandler (lead vocals), Chris Calvacca (drums/vocals), and Sean MacDonald (bass). Their recent self-titled EP Sour Jenny is a throwback to bands who have come before. Out of all the bands to come from the ‘90s Alice in Chains is the band they have the most in common in with. Chandler often sounds like a different version of Layne Staley and the music is reinforced with a similar guitar heavy style.
Although the songs on Sour Jenny don’t contain any welcome surprises and follow the tropes you would come to expect from the genre the songs are well written. The opener “Drive” is a high-octane rocker that almost sounds like a cross between Rage against the Machine and Alice in Chains. It’s a hard-hitting, dynamic song that comes through a couple of time changes. In fact the breakdown even gets a bit bluesy and builds on a guitar solo.
“Alarms” is a straightforward distortion filled song that contains well-done vocal harmonies. The band gets pretty intense at points. Three songs in, the band makes the wise decision to take their feet off their distortion pedals. There were a number of moments on “Sour” and “Only One” where I was reminded of mainstream 2015 rock, which I could have done without. I don’t think there is much argument that ‘90s rock you heard in the radio trumps most of what you get today.
Sour Jenny hopes to breath life back into the ‘90s genre. Truth is that they aren’t alone. There are thousands of bands trying to do the same thing. If Sour Jenny hopes to be a step above their peers they are going to have to go above just paying homage to artists that came before - they will have to build upon it. Bands like Deerhunter and Savages have done this with great success - will Sour Jenny be next? Only time will tell.
Derek Nye aka Pluto BFF has been writing music for about the last twenty years. Since fifth grade he has been involved with music and his recent release Burning Alive is a testament to the fact that those years have not gone to waste. Burning Alive contains instrumental music that combines electronic and hip-hop. Nye’s music can draw comparison to Boards of Canada, Burial and Prefuse 73 to name a few.
It definitely has dark, post-apocalyptic undertones that would be appropriate to play at that party they had on Zion in one of those Matrix movies. Nye’s songs are precise and concise. None of the songs go above the three-minute mark and don’t deviate too far from where they begin. I would have liked to have heard one or two tracks spread to seven-to-ten minutes so Nye could have explored some more creative possibilities and venture into experimental territory.
The EP starts with no buildup or warning. “Blue Planet” immediately combines pads, elaborate percussion and other synths, which builds a solid foundation. The song drops into what could be considered a verse as synths zig-zag back and forth creating a serene almost comforting atmosphere. Around half way through more hip-hop intensive percussion is introduced which starts to fall away not long after it is introduced.
“Burning Alive” felt like more of an intro to a song than anything else. It feels like one build up that never breaks. I think there was something within the drums that never felt like it kicked into full gear. The next track “Next Time” has the best beat on Burning Alive. I enjoyed the subdued bass and hard-hitting beat. This song had a lot of potential but again feels like the song was cut short. There was a lot of ways that song could have grown into an opus but Nye never goes there.
Bottom line is Nye is a talented producer but it often felt like he was holding back on Burning Alive. There was a surplus of great ideas that he didn’t know where to go with or just didn’t want to. I have a feeling his best work is still ahead of him.
Equinfox by What the Wolf Is commences with the song "Fox Head." The song is ambient yet hard rock. It has that steady bass line and semi-smashing drums that gives it just enough flair to be considered almost heavy. It is uplifted by ambient electric guitar and an evenness in which the whole album remains on one dimension. The next song "Time Wolf "gets a little harder and brings in the vocals. The singer’s voice is powerful but subtle and the guitar tends to get more metal filled here lending the listeners ear to some more solos.
I really enjoy it when they bring the horn into this song. Something about brass that just takes any song and sends it up to the sky. I appreciate the lyrics in the next song on the album “Jungle Beat." It speaks of the demons in his head and that he is barely sane, and he puts his face on either way. It really is always refreshing when people admit how barely sane they are - because it is just so true! None of us are completely sane and it is nice to announce it to the world. The vocals are a bit muffled and distant in this album. Although the voice is not pulled forward very much it is still effective.
You get a little more of the punk like sound in this song as the singer starts to do the inevitable scream/shout. The album is punk, it’s ambient, it’s rock, it’s metal. You cannot pinpoint it. The lyrics are rebellious and anarchistic. The singer’s voice is quite whiney giving it an emotional sentiment. I could see some soft moshing going on at a concert of this music. All of the band members are quite talented. The “Sloth Genie" asks, “Well can you see? Can you see clearly now? Where is the line?” Often in the songs in this album they speak of the line. I wonder what this line is that they talk about. Perhaps it is that one between sanity and insanity. They seem to play with it by bringing contrived musical elements and then letting them expand into an ambient rock vast expanse.
Moving on, the song "Mister Future" is emotionally visual. "I’m spent, I’m through, I can’t depend on you. You’re never there when I need you and I can’t seem to please you, and I refuse to wait around." No wonder the album has rage behind it. They feel duped because someone didn't come through that was supposed to. I like this song because the horn comes back into play. It is funny because they so rarely have the brass play a part in their songs, but each time when it does it sounds so amazing you don't want it to ever end!
The album ends with the song "The Chud." I really have no clue what a chud is, but I am open to knowing! The lyrics, "Living these colors with no idea, with darkness bounding on my heels" seem to explain the essence of this piece. There is ambience and the main vocalist actually has quite a dreamy voice when he sings, but he also knows how to bring that dark punk feel. It is colorful and dark. Each time the horns come in I see streams of rainbows pouring out into a dark room.
I appreciate this album overall and think that it covets a sound that is unique and dynamic. There is so much at play here instrumentally. The electric guitar and super condensed drumming bring a hard-edged punk feel that is angst-y and emotionally charged. When the horns come in, it brightens the whole thing. The singer’s voice is soft and digestible. Sometimes when you hear punk albums the voice of the singer tends to be only fit for screaming. This guy has a lot going on and knows way more than just how to huff and puff on a microphone. I like the songs and could see myself soft moshing at their show. Not quite moshing hard enough to acquire bruises, but enough to have energetic exchanges with the other emotional punks at the show and rubbing some shoulders here and again. I like it and I highly suggest it especially if you are into anarchy and giving a big FU to the system and the heartbreakers of the world.
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