Eric Waisman (guitar/vocals) and Scott Decker (drums) are The Blind Stares. They formed in 2017 and already released their debut album entitled Watch Me. The duo plays into a popular blues rock sound that got a resurgence from the The White Stripes almost twenty years ago. To say that The Blind Stares have a lot in common with The White Stripes is an understatement. And I want to be clear that they don’t sound that similar to the more recent material Jack White has released. On that note the similarities to albums like White Bloods Cells, De Stijl, etc. are overt and undeniable from the Jack White style inflection you hear to even similar beats that you might hear from Meg White.
The seven songs all have their charm in the ways I just described starting with “Courageous.” You are introduced to a familiar sounding blues riff and the emotive vocals. It’s one of the better songs in the batch.
“Watch Me” has a catchy chorus and more lead blues guitar. As the album progresses I can't say there were any surprises as they continue to create a cohesive blend of familiar but enjoyable hard blues rock. The other notable songs to my ears were “Prom Night” and “Ants.”
Considering that the band formed in 2017 I was impressed they were able to release an album so quickly. I also think they are going to have to have to dig a little deeper to find a signature sound. Truth be told this is often the case I see with bands that recently formed. There is nothing wrong with this style of music but in my opinion finding their own strain which identifies what they are doing as opposed to something very similar to what The White Stripes already successfully did will not only create a foundation but is conducive to finding a dedicated fan base.
Overall, the talent is evident in their delivery and songwriting. The next step of creating a signature sound is much harder to achieve and something many bands fail to ever do. I wish them luck on their evolution.
Jack Jones (vocals), Ethan Ling (drums), Alex Couts (guitar/vocals), Lane Moore (guitar/ vocals) and Brian Patton (guitar/vocals/bassoon) are Joyd Parker. The band released a four-song EP The Joy of Loving which displays a young band with potential but also a very loose foundation on any particular direction in a number of ways.
The EP starts with “Hosanna” which sounds like nothing else on the EP. Jones sounds young in his mere inflection and also sings about situations that a younger person could relate to. Most of the lyrics reminded me of my years in college about twenty years ago. The song is comprised of a couple of major and minor chords and he sings about making out with girls at parties and a breakup with some added poetic twists. A good, cathcy song.
The second song “Pale Blue Dream” felt a lot more intense emotionally. They add a very distinct post-rock element at times. I couldn’t make out almost all of the lyrics despite listening through numerous setups. The lyrics I could make out seemed to be far away from the more mundane and relatable actions he sings about on the opener. The chorus was catchy but could have done without the dramatic and angry metal type voice that interjects. This song in particular feels the most post-rock influenced. As far as post-rock goes I can’t say they are in the same league as heavyweights and legends like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky or Do Make Say Think with this release but there were certainly some inspired and inventive moments.
“I Wrote Haikus About Communism in Your Hotel Book (feat. Chris Bernstorf)” is another deviation in stye. The vocal delivery often felt hyperbolic. It feels so dramatic at times especially when the vocal delivery is angry. The whole song was a thin line of feeling overly melodramatic and trying to capture genuine emotion that in all honesty is something I think I would have been able to deal with a little better in my mid 20’s. To their credit there are some solid harmonies and general out of the box thinking of where a song can go.
“We've Lost Our Kindness, We've Lost Our Soul” contains mostly a talking/singing type style over atmospheric music while the closer “All Joy” might be the highlight. “Joy” had a little more levity, some of the catchiest vocal melodies and some of the most inventive transitions.
I felt like the band was taking themselves very seriously throughout the EP. I love EP’s that can attempt this and get away with it which this sometimes demonstrates. The band has some great ideas and there were times it all came together beautifully such as the last song “All Joy.”
The EP is undeniable lo-fi and for as epic as they are trying to be this recording aesthetic can only go so far. I have worked with myriad bands who have wanted to get away from home recording and I have seen the songs reach their potential. I think that would be the next step and they should work with a producer/engineer who can create the similar sonic imprint when comparing songs, fix EQ, compression and balance issues and much more.
Just by looking at how young the band is on their Bandcamp page I’d say they have all the time in the world to evolve and take it to the next level. I look forward to their next move and have a feeling it will be a big one. Take a listen.
Blake Graham is a multi-instrumentalist from Myrtle Beach, SC who recently released Elements. Graham is an exceptional lead guitarist and his skills can be heard across this album.
There are apparently themes throughout which is always something I argue is somewhat unnecessary for an instrumental album as I would prefer the listener to interpret the sounds as they want to. Graham states the album is “a four-song cycle of instrumental guitar-based rock, influenced by retro video games. Each movement represents a combination/clash of the classical elements, as well as a thematic connection to the biblical story of ‘the woman at the well’." I have to admit I’m not sure how the video games were connected to the biblical stories or if they even were. Either way the songs in general sound like a mix of Dream Theater, Joe Satriani and many other virtuous type players.
The guitar work which is often fantastic especially from a technical perspective is the high point in all the songs. This is essentially a solo album and I have to admit the drums didn’t have the dynamics I hear from an organic drummer. It was either heavily sampled or midi-programming. All in all the sound quality was solid especially from a home studio but felt a little shy from what I would expect from a professional studio.
Graham is the type of guitarist that just has an endless amount of riffs and leads. You can hear this on “Press Start - Morning Star.” The song has an ambient, atmospheric beginning but with no warning gets much, much heavier. The music is fact sounds like ’80s or early ’90s metal in particular. The song is epic as it moves forward going from crescendo to crescendo.
“Distant Shimmer” has great guitar work but also feels a lot more ethereal at times because of the pads he implements. I was thrown off by “Four Months.” The acoustic guitar work and percussion had such a different sonic imprint at first I had to make sure I was listening to the correct song. The last song “Harvest” does have a lot more in common with the first two songs.
There is a segment of the population that loves this style of music. You know who you are. Take a listen.
Hackitt is a solo project from Jack Pogson. He recently released a collection of tracks with slowcore, shoegaze and post punk influence entitled Take Care.
It’s hard not to mention reverb with this release because it's so covered in reverb it was hard to think of anything else. Shoegaze in particular is known to use heavy amounts of hall reverb. However when you listen to albums by bands like Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine and like- minded bands there is clarity. Truth be told I couldn't make out most of the lyrics to these songs. The main one being the combined reverb from the vocals, guitar and whatever else was creating muddiness around 200 - 500 hz. In this kind of situation I suggest cutting the reverb itself with the lower mids to create clarity.
The album opens with “A White Dove” which contains a couple of guitar notes and talking sort of singing style which I found interesting. He implements some white noise with some success and in the end this was an ambient piece.
“A Promise” is a little more structured with a verse and chorus. The melodies in general weren’t easy to latch on to right away and I can’t say there was a hook but I appreciated the overall atmosphere. Pogson more or less continues with a singing style that is monotone but that works in an Ian Curtis type of way. “Through Descent” sounded similar to a slower song off Closer by Joy Division while “No Cliche” is more of an experimental soundscape. “Take Care” has some of the most palatable guitar parts to my ears.
I love shoegaze and post-punk and in general thought Pogson had some good ideas. I also wanted more hooks and memorable melodies that make a song by bands like My Bloody Valentine or Ride so memorable. Perhaps even more importantly I think Pogson should consider working with a producer/engineer to help get closer to the aesthetic that is usually preferred with this style.
Hackitt is a case of wait and see for now. There were a lot of things I liked and also a couple of things that could be improved. I hope to hear more and wish him luck in his evolution.
Eric Taylor (vocals), David Rothman (guitar), Joseph Wood (drums) and Ben Trajtenberg (bass) are Cosmic Romp. The four-piece band are basically the definition of a party band. They blend elements of hip-hop, funk, jazz and rock on their recent release Alien Funk.
They open with the title track which is indicative of what else you can expect. The vocals during the verse are for the most part rapping and reminded me of what jams bands would try to pull off when I used to go see them live in college about twenty years ago. In fact the lyrics are even similar.
“Blaster” is a mix between funk and Rage Against the Machine. A formula starts to rise. There is the rapping that at the very least feels like it is trying to be “cool” and “slick” perhaps a bit too much and the chorus which contains the hook.
“Space Horse” was a personal favorite. The song felt less derivative with influence and the chorus in particular felt original and catchy. Good song. “Tasty,” “Bandanna Jam,” and “Say Hello to the Bad Guy” had their moments but it was the James Brown inspired “Get Down” which was the other highlight.
Bands like Cosmic Romp in my experience have been playing predominately college campuses (as well as other places) for a long time. This is a distinct style and the hybrid sort of rapping thing in particular is so on the nose that it was almost nostalgic for me.
I have to admit this type of music is usually best served live and think it's hard to argue otherwise. It’s for the most part for a younger audience that wants to have a good time and drink beer. Suffice it to say this album is the next best thing to being there.
Keaton Peters is an artist, musician and student from California who released his first album entitled Tide of the Heart. The album is a fairly straightforward mix of indie pop with some flirtation into other sub genres. I had some preferences with the songs along the way but for the most part felt the songwriting was solid throughout.
The album starts off with “Shine On” which revolves around a couple of jangly major and minor chords and 4/4 beats. The song had a familiar feel that felt like an amalgamation of different bands with a slight Americana vibe. Overall, I thought it was well delivered and catchy
Up next is “Find a Way” which digs slightly into hip-hop which reminded me of Beck at times. It’s another well written song and Keaton delivers a dynamic vocal performance. The next song that stuck out was “Letting Go” which is more emotionally resonant and folk based.
Another highlight was “Blood Moon.” I really liked this song because it has a unique vibe and I thought he gave one of his best vocal performances here. He has more success with “Bright” although the auto tune effect felt too prominent. The closer “Rain in California” has its moments as well.
I’d say one area which I think Keaton should try to improve next time around is the production/recording quality. It’s very lo-fi at times but even on the most modest of DAW’s there were issues with balancing/EQ/compression that could have been improved with basic fundamental techniques.
I think there is a good amount of talent here in multiple areas but would also like to hear how Keaton can further a signature sound on his next release. Overall, I think it was a solid album from beginning to end and I hope to hear more. Recommended.
Stone Crofts is a solo musician from Idaho who recently released his first DIY effort entitled Boreality. He started playing guitar at the age of fifteen but is still only eighteen. Three years of playing is still the embryonic stage of development by all accounts. I started playing guitar at twelve and am now thirty-seven. It wasn't until about ten years in that I felt I was becoming a decent guitarist and songwriter. My point being Boreality certainly has the feel of someone who is just starting out in terms of chord structure and songwriting but also displays some potential and talent as well.
The album starts off with “Another Day” which is a highlight. That being said he needs to be careful about being off key which is evident on the initial vocals. The song launches into a two power chord structure that sounds like the beginning of a Soundgarden song.
“For You” is another success but also revolves around a similar two chord type structure. He does a better job staying in key this time around especially when he sings in a more natural range. “Motivations” has a good amount of emotional resonance to it and he arguably does his best job singing on this song. “Final Goodbye” has some resemblance to the band Blur.
I remember being his age and I think the best recipe for me getting better was playing with other more experienced musicians. Hopefully he has the opportunity to do that. Other than that I would encourage him to start expanding his general knowledge. These songs are built on 4/4 time and major and minor scales. There is nothing wrong with that but being able to throw a wider range of theory will open up more emotional possibilities within the songs.
I liked what I heard but I think his best material will be ahead of him if he keeps with it and is passionate about playing music. Boreality is a first effort that showed basic knowledge and talent and I hope to hear his evolution.
Ethan Eckert (vocals/guitar/percussion/sequencing) debuting out of Kansas City, Missouri released its first EP Punishment Part I, May of 2018. This is an opening piece to a fractional album because they had the feeling it would serve the music best to release Punishment in four parts.
Writing songs about dread and redemption. Punishment Part I was written in response to some of the worst mental and emotional pain personally experienced. “A friend of mine compared me to Jeff Buckley, which made me just about cry.”
Eckert recorded his first record Duets With You. Bridging the gap between realized mature images and ambiguous resistance to certainty. Eckert in releasing his second record Punishment Part I strives to continue a conversation of meaning. Eckert becomes most inspired by competition, spending time near streams and walking through in windy forests
The EP opens with "Punishment". The drums are jazzy and in the background while multiple guitars provide intricate picking. Eckert's vocals are a tad monotone with just enough dynamics to work with the music. I wasn't expecting the almost prog-style eruption that happens towards the end of the song.
"Still" has a distinctly different sound. The edgier rock song sounds undeniably lo-fi against the untamed vocals and distorted guitars. "Glad" has some of the more infectious melodies and also continues to showcase some impressive technical skills. "You Are" is a short closer that sounds like an ascending jet engine.
Punishment Part I was recorded with Albeton and mastered in his father's suite Dave's Guitar Lounge. The recording process was difficult because it was done alone and Eckert by trade is not an audio engineer.
Punishment is solid EP. Eckert has great promise in his musical ventures. Keep an eye out for the rest of the full album Punishment.
On her brilliant debut record, the Athens, Georgia based violinist and composer Annie Leeth has created a listening experience that is at times enigmatic and at others a ghostly vision of the blurred lines that electronic and instrumental compositions continue to create just when one thinks they have heard it all.
On Heard, the University of Georgia music composition and performance major, Leeth reveals to the listener a personal symphony of growth both in its scope and construction. At times Heard exudes so much beauty it’s simply breathtaking. Leeth is the puppeteer and whatever instruments she touches: the violin, analog synthesizer, organ, voice, and thumb piano become here willing marionettes.
Heard opens with the breath of morning song “Meditation” which pits a solo violin, sawing its way slowly through an atmospheric haze of electronic mystification. It owes as much to violin auteurs such as Andrew Bird (the reverberating string-plucks) as to a litany of other composers of both classical and electronic veins, both Eric Satie and Brian Eno come quickly to mind.
But though the compositions beg these comparisons they are first and foremost original works that resonate with the splendor and heart that could only come from Leeth herself. As “Lōp” weaves in and out of classical and mired electronica one realizes they are in the presence of a true and original master of the form. They play on the forensic sensibilities of both pop and classical. Sometimes there are just no real ways to classify such genre bending. To call it electronica serves to divert from the contextual classic layering which is the very life-blood of each of these movements as they can only be called, as the word pieces seems too inane for these works.
Even on the one such more noticeable artisan collage of “Electric Bach” which further serves to unveil Leeth’s wit and intelligence, as does the closing suite of “&I'll” and “N&S,” which sound as though they were wholly created by an act of photosynthesis. Anyone who has found themselves unmoved by music should surely hear Heard. It might just be the antidote to so many problems.
Sleeping In The Pines is Loretto's first LP. The group is a two-piece act out of Jacksonville, Florida. While the album was recorded by two people, the group has since added a drummer and keyboard player. Their hope is to go into a more live format which I think would be interesting considering what I heard on the album, I imagine there will be quite a few adjustments. The music bounces around from indie, to punk and a pleasantly placed amount of Americana. It's a cool blend that stands out from the crowd.
I really liked how the album started off with a quick instrumental intro called "Remember The Alibi." It's an odd little number that sets the stage for the different genres you'll encounter throughout the album.
With "Away For A Little While" I was first introduced to the vocals which I loved, as well as the lyrics which can subversive and endearing. "Stars Fall" is a great example of the Americana touch I spoke of earlier. This song is upbeat and incredibly distinctive, the Americana bleeds into their indie sound so seamlessly. My favorite song was "Bridges." It's blunt with rough edges and detours into a little bit of a punk arena.
Sleeping In The Pines is a home recording projecting, and a damn good one. The two band members had Logic and analog 4 track at their disposal and they wielded these very wisely. I get that sense that what worked so well for these two was using the production elements to enhance, not define. It didn't feel like there was one set treatment for the whole album, which a lot of home recording groups tend to do. Considering the scope of genres involved, it would have been a crucial mistake to prescribe a singular treatment to every song. I really am impressed with what these two did. These two are setting a good high standard of what is capable with a laptop and a willingness to take the time.
This album is not built on things that I think would woo the commercial masses, but it serves as a great counterpoint to all of that. Normally I prefer a little more cohesion than what was presented, but I'm throwing that rule of mine out the window. I liked the journey and surprises provided in the ten tracks because there were some strong cables strung between the songs that piece it all together. Those cables being strong vocals, visceral lyrics and an overall highly distinctive sound that also happens to have a range.
I really liked what this album had to offer and I want to commend these two on a cool new perspective. Again I love that this was a DIY recording project and it came out so well. I am genuinely excited to see this group shift into a more traditional band that can work in a live medium. With any hope I'll get an album once they've settled into their format.
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