Tremolo Lights is a four-piece indie pop band based in Los Angeles, CA. The band formed in late 2017, when Stacy Cole (vocals/guitar) had a vision, and met Fabian Peña (drums/producer). Shortly after, they met Sean Embrey-Stine (keys/vocals) and Rachel David (bass/vocals).
The band went on to release Colors of the Dreams which is a four-song EP. They have this fantastic sound that melds synth pop, a bit of disco and rock. There is this very classic late ’70s and early ’80s sound. The band that came to mind was Heart but there are also shades of Juice Newton and Fleetwood Mac. I found the sound to be original yet retro and a welcome deviation from the more contemporary synth sound of bands like Chvrches and Passion Pit.
Peña apparently did all the production. Suffice it to say there is no doubt he has a lot of experience in this arena. I loved the aesthetics which have a very ’70s feel to me. The dry close mic-ed drums in particular just had this fantastic ’70s sound.
Cole has more or less a perfect vocal style for these songs. She really nails it with all the songs. It never feels contrived or forced. There is this ease to her delivery and again there is this ’70s, even early ’80s aesthetic. I instantly appreciated her delivery and inflection.
The band gets going with “Chase The Night.” This is just infectious just beginning to end. They create this summer jam which twinkles in the moonlight evening by the drive in. There is this sort of nostalgia too in there that reminded me of finding that first spark of love when you are young or feeling like the night is full of wonderful possibilities. There isn’t the slightest bit of melodramatic pretension.
They continue to hit it out of the park with “Afterglow.” The airy vocals are just so on point. They actually reminded me of a band called Broadcast on this song. Up next is “Tidal Wave” and it comes closest to a ballad in the style of Juice Newton and Fleetwood Mac . There is more of a pop ’70s sound and it could be the single today or fifty years ago. The chorus is so catchy. They go four for four with “Albuquerque” which has a kinetic energy and a beautifully explosive chorus that glows.
I rarely find a band that grabs me this fast. The songs embrace the warmth, comfort and joy of nostalgia rather than focusing on the somber reflection and inevitable loss of those memories which has become a recurring cliche within music. It’s the reason you smile when thinking about those long summer nights that seemed like they would never end.
Corretta is a California based progressive rock band that released their debut album I, this past February. I is a 57-minute conceptual epic that fuses rock, progressive metal, blues and classical influences to create a unique yet cohesive sound. And let me tell you – they may have single handedly brought back the progressive rock epic album – you’re in for a treat concept album geeks! The group explains the concept of the album as “a story of a young man on a journey, seeking a cure for his brother’s mysterious illness. There are themes of hope, adventure, loss and devotion.” For example, “in the band’s first single, “Stay the Course,” the protagonist accepts the change that his journey has brought him. The story is told through both lyrical content and adventurous instrumentals.”
The album opens with “Swim in a Sea (of Dreams)” a gentle push of sound that begins with splashing water, piano, echoing guitar and a singular, almost choir like voice by Jon Gibson. “Trailblazing” does just that – sets a trail of blazingly fast guitar riffs by either Jordan Seah or Brig Urias or both, searing vocals that I would definitely categorize in the “Geddy Lee” range, all inside a progressive style that rocks hard and cuts deep. “Daydream” switches things again starting with a quieter acoustic melody and then into a cross between contemporary pop rock and easy listening. “Through Sea and Storm” has the feel of a movie score on a soundtrack, complete with keyboards, strings which build up but then the music ends. It picks up again with “Night of Thunder” – a dark, death/speed metal/goth conglomerate that fans of these genres won’t want to miss.
“Darkwater” features a funk metal style that’s truly worth a head bang or two. Anthem-like and theatrical, the band taps into a chilling, haunting sound that feels apocalyptic in nature. A fire cracking can be heard in the end. As a Spanish-styled guitar begins “- Interlude -” which is another instrumental that also showcases whistling and a backing vocal. “Last Dance” offers the listener a soulful, blues number that with all the extra backing vocal tracks, sounds quite heavenly. The guitar solo hits the mark, as if the machine was literally crying and Gibson really lays it on thick with his singing – I mean, dang, this guy really has one hell of a voice. The next song is “Descent” and it features a guest guitar solo by Adam Bentley. If you’re into progressive rock instrumentals (more metal than rock, I think) from the likes of Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, or some of the younger guys out there, then you should like this one.
I wasn’t expecting the futuristic sounds of a keyboard on the beginning of “Muckwater,” but I liked what I heard. Along with the progressive metal and traditional piano sounds mixed in, this tune was probably the band’s most dynamically intense – or should I say insane – song. There’s so much more to say that’s great about this one, so I’ll just say give it a listen. “Turning Point” which features a guitar solo by another guest artist, Max Gorelick, is the group’s longest track, and by far reveals the band’s superb talent as a progressive musical act. The title song suggests that this is maybe the part in the story where the protagonist realizes there is no turning back. This tune is full on prog metal-rock with all its many parts, layers and textures. So good. The ending has a revealing clue or poem rather, by the narrator.
“Stay the Course” finds the protagonist accepting the change that he’s encountered. The style of the song is softer, the melody tender, like a contemporary rock ballad. I thought its presence on the album was a nice detour and offers another side to the band’s talent. The last number has the fitting title of “Adieu.” The group wraps the album up nicely with familiar sounds from the first track, but arranged much differently, while adding more explosive energy and bittersweet melodies among synths and sounds of birds in the air. If you’re not into concept albums in general, or progressive rock with its many layers and change ups, then this might not be the album for you. However, I think you’ll agree after listening to Corretta, this band has a level of dedication and pure artistry that’s often hard to find in the cookie-cutter, sound-bite music industry of today.
I am genuinely intrigued by Rewire, a new album from Holden Laurence. He presents an interesting twist on alt and indie rock with heavy insertions of synth and electronic sampling. It sort of sounds like a clash of decades. The synth he prefers is heavy and very much rooted in an ’80s motif. Meanwhile his vocal and musical styling is more telling of indie rock at the turn of the millennium. There’s also a lot of theatrical like expression of emotions, specifically desire. The album name is more than appropriate as Laurence has seemed to "Rewire" established sounds and bend them to his advantage. It certainly has a way of making itself heard in a crowded genre and for that alone, I think it worth a listen.
This fascinating sound comes from Cleveland, Ohio, which all jokes aside, has been cultivating a VERY diverse local music scene in the past decade. I am not shocked something so unexpected would flourish out of that scene. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has become small potatoes compared to what the city has going on the local stages. Falling right on trend with today's modern artists, Laurence is for the most part a solo act. He produced almost everything himself with the exception of the percussion elements. For this album he collaborated with drummer Michael O'Brien who I think has great instincts for Laurence's aesthetic.
This is a fully stocked album with ten tracks. The big selling points for me are the lyrics - catchy, deep, romantic and a little on the fantasy side. There's also Laurence's voice, which is in itself very dreamy and charismatic. He definitely has one of those voices where people can only hope that perhaps he is singing about them. His performance comes with a balancing of youthful hopefulness and wise words from someone who's been there. I did struggle a bit with how parallel the music came to its influences. Especially with the new wave aspect, which is produced very well, but I needed a little more to shake that dated feeling for many of the tracks. There were some songs that really found their footing in that ironic and spacey niche. A good example of this would be the track "Rewire." I feel this song holds dear his love of synth, but the entirety of it is a completely rejuvenated sound.
I will say part of what kept the album fresh for me was the production elements. Especially with these what I can only assume are intentionally dated sounding synths, the engineering had to be thoughtful and it absolutely was. I could sense the professional level of production talent here. Lots of layers, thick layers at that, and I never felt like anything got overwhelmed. It's clean and easy to digest.
I think Laurence did something low key revolutionary. He managed to take synth sounds that more often than not rub against my personal grain and managed to make them enjoyable. Recommended.
Seven Year Witch is a band from Anderson, South Carolina. They formed in 2013 and have been touring nationally and internationally. The band has had success and played with POD, Nonpoint, Pop Evil, The Gin Blossoms and Islander to name a few. I also have to mention they played Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim in June 2017 which is pretty amazing if you ask me.
Their album Songs Our Mothers Love is about as pure a rock album as you can get in a lot of ways. There are elements of hard rock, classic rock, garage rock and more. The music is upbeat, fun and is begging for you to hear it live.
The band gets kicking with “Pipe Dream.” This song in particularly reminded me of The White Stripes. White was obviously influenced by garage and blues and all of that is in there too. It’s catchy and a single worthy song.
“Rags To Riches” veers towards classic rock and has a very crunchy sound. The chorus ascends and the guitar solo has the perfect tone. You even get a hint of a Bonham-esque solo towards the end which then goes into a riff that sounds somewhere between Led Zeppelin and Rage Against the Machine.
There is some undeniable funk on “The Art of a Charm” while “Whore House” is fuzz overload in a very good way. The band takes a break with their first well earned ballad with “Peril.” There is a hint of Pink Floyd when it goes into epic territory.
“It Comes in Waves” is an intimate performance with just guitar and vocals. They have the swagger of the Black Crows on “Hoodini.” They continue to rock with “Rainbow City.”.] I was loving the Black Sabbath like guitar riffs on “Tambourine Girl.” They close with some fuzzy guitar rock on “Rum Lord.”
I can’t say this album is taking rock into territory that it hasn’t been before but in all honesty how often does that happen. Sometimes you just want the stuff that works and delivered with vibrant, enthusiastic energy that rock can achieve within the right hands. That’s what you have here.
Watson Park is an artist from Merrimack, New Hampshire who recently released Tomahawk. I reviewed his previous effort Lovers, Strangers and seems to be a slight evolution.
The album starts with “Maddy B” which is comprised of a couple of strummed major and minor chords and vocals. It’s a solid song but I have to admit it has this kind of open mic aesthetic to it because of the simplicity. Up next is “Cabin” which is a guitar pattern that doesn't change much and felt like a transitional piece.
“Flakey Love” introduces drums into the mix. The beat is very straightforward 4/4 drum pattern. It’s a catchy song overall and his vocals sound really good on this song. “Truth Burns” is a very slow burn that is melancholy and on the sadder side while “Flawed Comfort” is a clear highlight.
“Flawed Comfort” sort of has a ’60’s quality to the song not too far away from early songs from The Beatles. The slower melancholy returns with “Sweet Bradford (Mountain Love)” and “Burdened.” “Dead Time’ is another highlight with a '50s pop oriented feel to it. Park goes into garage rock with “Sweet Release” and the closer is a sweet ballad entitled “Untitled (It Was Only Love).”
I mentioned that Park reminded me of a much younger version of myself in my last review and I had the same impression this time. He obviously has a lot of passion for music and is making some improvements. I would encourage him to explore outside of major and minor scales and 4/4 time. There is nothing wrong with that and in fact most pop songs aren’t a whole lot more than that. That being said a whole entire world of possibility opens up when you start getting into more complex musical arrangements. You can always have those bread and butter chords but finding things like chords that produce dissonance, 6/8 and much more will simply give you more tools to play with.
Overall, Park is still unraveling his potential but this release shows that his work and dedication to his craft is pointing him in the right direction.
John Zealous is a solo act that became a group and released an album called Emma Watson. I’m not exactly sure what that has to do with Emma Watson but I’ll roll with it.
I was listening to this release and I just had a flashback to my younger days in my mid 20’s. These recordings sounded like the demo tapes we used to make in our practice studio. We were a rock band and more influenced by bands like Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins but the general “lets have fun with this vibe” was still there. Suffice it to say I appreciated the spirit.
There were a couple of highlights. I liked the energy and feel of “Strained Neck” and the darker qualities of “Through Shadows (to Truth).” The other notable song to my ears was “Sin Against Me.” I’ll also mention that I liked the general indie rock foundation these guys are going for. They play a mix of four-chord type garage rock not unlike Car Seat Headrest along with some more emotive songs that get moody and pensive. It was fairly diverse and I liked how much instrumentation there was.
As an engineer myself I think these songs are beyond lo-fi. When I think of lo-fi I think of something like Youth Lagoon, Neutral Milk Hotel, Mount Eerie or Car Seat Headrest. The most important thing this band needs to do without question is work with someone who can get them into that indie lo-fi territory. They don’t need an overproduced album by any stretch of the imagination. At the very least I just need to hear the horns when they are played.
I recently wrote about a band called Kitty City. In that review I mentioned how the band waited three years to release their first release and mention the benefits in that. According to the info I have this band just played their first show at the beginning of the year and released an album two months later. I can promise you this is not enough time for a band to properly form. I don’t care if you are Radiohead or The Beatles you are still in the very embryonic stages of finding a sound.
The reason I’m saying all this is because I like these songs and their sound. They just need to pull on the brakes a tad and spend time forming ideas and playing shows. I know without a doubt having worked with bands for about twenty years now that doing that first and then finding the right producer/engineer will yield results that will in fact be closer to the band's signature sound.
Overall, this is a solid first release from the band. It displays seeds of their potential and I hope to hear more whenever that time comes.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Scott Lloyd Scott Lloyd 3.8
Valium This Feeling's
a Wave 3.6
Cuddle Cuddle 3.7
Siblings Revelry 3.6
Saboteurs Dance With
The Hunted 3.7
Tim Bean Tim Bean's EP 3.4
Lovekraft is producer from London who recently released Luna. It’s an electronic album that has all the criteria for something you would play at a club. There are thick heavy kicks, synths, rises, catchy hooks and more. It’s also one of the more emotive electronic albums I have heard.
The album is apparently about exploring the legends of a primordial monarchy. I have to admit I was confused about what this meant. Is he singing about political leaders in the time of Ancient Rome and beyond? Either way this fact didn’t affect me much. I fell in love with the hooks, tones, textures and melodies.
The album starts with “Brother.” I felt immersed in the arpeggiated synth that drives the melody. The percussion and even vocals feel syncopated and cut through the repeated synth. There is just no denying that it’s a powerful song. It unfolds and goes in some unpredictable directions while being catchy. Great song.
“Maybe” felt like the highlight and is one of the better songs I have heard this year period. This song is more lush, subdued and melancholy. The arpeggiated synth makes another appearance and is hypnotic. There are additional percussive elements that make their way into the mix. It reminded me of Vitalic. I haven’t even talked about the best part yet which are the vocals.
“Failing of the Moon” is next and sounds somewhere between Cut Copy and German techno. It’s the most club worthy track. “Diamond In the Rough” is another notable track. There is an inventive use of elements that create this alien like tranquility. It has this lounge-y beach vibe but way more ethereal and heavenly sounding than a band you would hear on the beach. The vocals are again killer and ultra catchy.
The intensity rises with “Crystal Dreams.” It’s a dance worthy tune with shades of Michael Jackson, ’80s club culture and more infectious hooks. The EP closes with the dynamic and inventive “Out of my Mind.”
This album feels contemporary and accessible. Suffice it to say it seems like this artist should have a large fan base. It seems like these songs would work for the underground as well as more pop-oriented platforms. This is an exceptional electronic album. Highly recommended.
Become A Fan
The Peace Accord is the music of Stephen Gilbert. He recently released Central Time. I have been a fan of instrumental music for a long time. Post-rock is a contender for the instrumental music I prefer to listen to a lot of the time. That being said the genre has felt exhausted for a long time now. In fact I think it peaked with some of the early Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai albums. It was such a nice surprise to listen to Central Time which felt like it wasn’t directly influenced by Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky which are the bands that seem to have the most copy cats.
I would actually argue the music has more in common with Mogwai, Do Make Say Think and even Sigur Rós. The other more notable aspects are the songs are basically vignettes compared to much longer songs in the post-rock genre. These songs definitely have a foundation to them. Almost all the songs besides the pure soundscapes can really be divided into two components - the drums and everything else. Distortion is very rare on this album. You do get a taste of it on the last song “As A Plow Takes Us Away.”
Every element besides the drum has a very clean, beautiful, ethereal and pristine feel. If these elements were isolated from the drums you would have very serene soundscapes. There is a mix of bells, reverb laced guitar and more which just makes a very dreamy, ephemeral sound. The drums provide almost all the kinetic energy. They really drive the songs.
Gilbert does an excellent job composing. I found myself appreciating the melodies as they would unfold in the songs. You could obviously make an argument for highlights but this type of album really benefits from listening to it from beginning to end.
I would like to pat Gilbert on the back for the dynamics. As I previously mentioned the drums and other elements felt like two different spheres. The constant push and pull of tension makes the songs feel like a short roller coaster ride.
The last thing I need to mention is that this is a full DIY record. It’s actually one of the better home recordings I have heard in recent memory. The one tiny thorn in this album was that I wanted a professional mastering engineer to tweak the slight issues with volume, levels and EQ. Take for instance “Revisionist History” which has a booming drum kit that feels so loud compared to many of the other tracks. These are the type of issues a good mastering engineer can handle with relative ease.
Overall, this is a great album. I think fans of post-rock in particular will appreciate this. Take a listen.
Seattle based sextet Great American Trainwreck has only been a band for a few short years and yet they have played many shows and festivals in the Pacific Northwest. And on May 23rd, they will officially release their full-length self-titled debut album Great American Trainwreck. The band says that their goal was to create lyrically-driven songs that blend multiple genres, like bluegrass, southern rock and classic country. I think after listening, you may agree that this six-member group creates music that’s full and gracious. Those members include Stephanie Ward (vocals/ acoustic and electric guitars), Chuck Dunklin (electric tenor guitar/mandolin), Andy Basinger (keys), Dan Rogers (electric and upright bass), Dave Bush (drums), and Judd Wasserman (backup vocals). Founders Ward and Dunklin are originally from the south and collaborated on all the songwriting.
“Hell on the Rise” eases the listener into a gentle, southern fried country rock feel and flawless vocal harmonies by Ward and Wasserman. “Louisiana” offers a bit more rocking edge and a faster country pop beat and with the lyrics being sung, you’d think this band was actually from the southern state instead of the grunge capitol of the world. “Gears” switches gears, literally, with its faster traditional country beat and bluegrass style. What I thought gave this tune an extra special twist was Basinger’s keyboards. Not to mention some fabulous banjo playing by guest musician Danny Barnes. And Ward’s voice reminded me of a young Allison Krauss at times. “Moving Mountains” features a “tap-tap..tap” beat, pedal steel by guest musician Dave Harmonson and an old school vibe that recalls the earlier days of the country western style.
“Devil Woman” carries with it all the right lyrics and spooky musical style that its title suggests. “Undercover” is straight up bluegrass, clean and honest. Wasserman and Ward trade off on vocals. “All Night Woman” offers a great two-step beat, keys and more pedal steel goodness. I liked the rhythm changes the band did with this one. The song’s lyrics made me think of truck drivers on the road – you might catch my drift when you give it a listen. “Boxcar Pass” is a bit folksier and more poppy as it gently rocks along. A good toe-tapping number. Dunklin takes the lead in the beginning with his guitar on “Highland Drive” while Basinger leads them both into the song’s solo. “Friend Like You” features fantastic bluegrass picking – the band is really on the mark with this one. The beat, the rhythm breaks, it’s all there. “Relativity” has an interesting melody and arrangement. Hard to describe it into words, but it’s not traditional and it’s not a kick back to old school country rock that pretends to be new either.
The band’s last song is “Heavy Weights” and it’s perhaps the slowest and prettiest song on the entire album. The melody gets at the heart and the beat is perfect for that slow summer dance, but I didn’t get that the lyrics suggested anything romantic. The words seemed deeper and more somber. Overall, I thought the Great American Trainwreck’s debut was a solid performance. The band has great consistency and musicianship, and that can sometimes be hard to pull off with six members.
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