Orlando, Florida gives us The King Tides, four longtime friends who have played music in various combinations for many years. The quartet consists of Jeremy Zorn the lead vocalist/songwriter), Chris Vallone (arrangements/guitars), Joey Bonatakis (“additional textures”) and Elliott Countess (drums). The group has put together four rock tracks that “combine lush soundscapes, catchy melodies and thought-provoking lyrics.”
“An Attachment Supreme” kicks us off with a strummed 12-string guitar figure that recalls the Stones’ “Till The Next Goodbye.” The King Tides kick in the bass, piano, guitar and drums, and work in feels that have elements of country, Americana, the Beatles, Dire Straits and even Yes. The jaunty guitar and lyrics have bits of Phish, and the vocal approach could fit on a Herman’s Hermits record. Got all that? Across four and a half minutes, they’ve crafted a lovely pop song that is familiar, yet its own.
The well-crafted nature of Russian Red continues with “Those Who Were First Will Later Be Last.” Here, there’s a nice wash of sound, featuring lush, soaring vocals, all held down by a strong bass melody. It’s a solid track.
The nearly-eight-minute epic “The King of Tides”--the band’s namesake--is the disc’s centerpiece. It starts as a slow, twangy rock song with Dylan-esque lyrics and vocals (more Jakob than Bob) that leads to a long, melodic guitar solo from Vallone. They pick up the tempo, and build toward an orchestrated coda which incorporates some classical elements, almost like mid-period Zeppelin (think “The Rain Song”). The final minutes are a ripping instrumental, melodic jam built around an ascending riff (think “Layla,”,but updated for the 21st century). The track is extremely well-conceived and executed, and a credit to the group that an eight-minute song never felt like it dragged, got indulgent or long-winded. Bravo!
The King Tides closes the set with a lullaby, “The Secret of Sleep”. The track recalls the Beatles’ White Album with its mobile bass line and “Dear Prudence'' guitar figure, but again The King Tides have updated the classic sound for today’s ears. They’ve included more layers, and have again created something that’s their own.
Russian Red is a triumph. The King Tides tell us that this is the first of a series of albums--hooray!
Brianna Kočka is a singer/songwriter and producer from Minneapolis, MN. She has released seven albums over the last eleven years, and has shared the stage with Marc Cohn and The Cult. Known for her moody and atmospheric music and lyrics, Kočka's music has been featured on television shows 20/20, General Hospital, Betrayed, Siesta Keys and many others. Her upcoming release Let It Stay is a five-song EP.
I have to admit this artist was not on my radar. On that note I’m very happy to have discovered her. The music on Let It Stay is a mixture of folk, jazz and some experimental aspects.
The EP opens with the gorgeous “All The Questions I Have Right Now.” It’s a slow burn of a song that melts over you. The lush horns and accordion sound fantastic but really everything sounds great. I would say the vocals were exceptional. The free jazz ending was expected but great.
Next up is “Seasons” which is smooth like the feeling of velvet tingling your arm hair. It’s very jazzy at points and just a pleasure to experience. That sort of feeling continues with “Make Me A Quiet Place To Lay'' but as it unfolds it becomes hopeful and comforting. Almost as if the song is a place of solace.
“Some Thoughts On Stories And Sleep” is one of the more vocally charged songs. The vocals just seemed dynamic and the music appeared to circle around the song more. It’s the arguable highlight.
Last up is “Sunset Vignette” and it had me from the beginning. The instrumentation is separate but whole somehow. It sounds a lot like the title. The music made me feel like i was hanging in an enchanted forest and the vocals, which are more a hushed whisper, work very nicely.
I loved this EP from beginning to end. Recommended.
Francisco is the solo project of Hobart based musician, recording artist and songwriter Oscar Bosch. He recently released a five-song EP entitled Love Road. The artist mentions: “I wanted to almost make a psychedelic-folk EP. I wanted it to sound smooth, dreamy, moody and moving.” I would say that’s a near perfect description of the songs on this EP.
The EP opens with “Love Road” and instantly it has a classic intimate folk type of aesthetics. There are breathy close up vocals, the guitar feels like it's about three feet away from you and soon enough some dreamy additional guitar comes into the mix. It's a well delivered and emotive song that balances melancholy and hope.
Next up is “Already Fought” which cements the aesthetic sound from his first song. I was actually picking up on some Radiohead vibes on this song a little. Perfectly moody with warm solace.
The artist has more success with “Caught in the Rain.” I have to admit some of the lyrics seem quite depressing but the mood is actually more chipper in terms of music. “Show Him what is Real” is quite beautiful and the arguable highlight in the batch. I really liked the vocals on this song. Last up is “All I’ve Got is Left to Give” which is a slow burn and another beautiful yet melancholy song.
One thing Bosch really did well is create an EP that feels very cohesive. The songs really build a signature sound which was clear. I felt like I would recognize a song from this artist even if I hadn’t heard it before.
Overall, this is a very solid EP which contains well developed songwriting and delivery. Take a listen.
paradise is the debut release from John Adrian Higley, recording as monk or monkey. Higley is a life-long singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who grew up in Los Angeles. He now lives in Southern Oregon and “rarely” plays live.
As such, this album is a home studio project with Higley writing all the songs, performing all the instruments and handling engineering, mixing and mastering as well. He used an older version of GarageBand, and calls it “lo-fi.” “Lo-fi,” in this case, doesn’t mean “sounds like it came from a tin can”--it’s quite the opposite. paradise sounds great. There’s plenty of space with instruments coming through clearly. Higley clearly took care with the drum tracks, which can be a stumbling point. Some songs have a little “tape hiss” (or room noise), which adds a lovely, intimate warmth, and takes us out of the realm of sterile digital-ness.
Musically, the songs are generally slower in tempo with vocals worked around a core trio of guitar, bass and drums. Higley tells us that when he moved to Southern Oregon, he considered it paradise, “but beneath the beauty lies a dangerous darkness.” The themes on the record explore “this struggle, and the ongoing search for hope and love.”.Hence the album title, and the contemplative, sometimes moody or even brooding feel of the nine-track set.
“a road alone” and “love you till forever” are the opening cuts, and Higley engages us right away with accessible melodies and sounds. The bass parts are up front in “love you till forever” and they carry the song. The up-front bass appears later in the set (on “why”), and even gets a featured solo. “madeline” and “dancing on the ether” are more dangerous and ominous sounding, echoing bits of ‘90s grunge (and even metal with some of the chromatic riffs), though both are delivered with a cleaner sound than either genre.
Higley uses acoustic guitar to drive some of the songs as well. “stepping on the field” features a strong chord progression and some terrific harmonies to go with nice immediacy in the guitar sound. With “on the hill,” another acoustic song, Higley reaches into falsetto for his vocals, adding a nice extra lift to a touching track.
Higley’s aim with paradise was “to do something that I consider emotional, musical and beautiful.”.He’s clearly achieved that, and has created an impressive variety of musical textures all on his own. He says he’s written hundreds of songs, so let’s hope we see more releases from him
Moleskine is a Grenoble, France-based trio that has released Confidence, a five-song dance-pop EP. They describe the disc as “an intimate journal” that is to be savored like a “Madeleine de Proust.” In this idiom, sounds are supposed to conjure up personal recollections of a certain time or place. Moleskine echoes a lot of influences, letting listeners each find their own connection with the songs.
Let’s connect here first: all five tracks sound terrific. They are well-produced, and densely layered with keyboards, guitars, bass and drums. Every song is grooved and danceable: you could play any of these at your party (or club) and the revelers would be up and moving. Each of the five recalls slightly different dance genres, so you can mix-and-match this set to the playlist of your particular night, or your own personal Madeleine de Proust.
“Dreams Are Not Enough” and “Perfect Match,” for instance, recall the ‘80s with their synth sounds. The bass-and-drum grooves feel like classic Duran Duran. John Taylor and Andy Taylor would be proud of the bass and guitar work, especially on the verses of “Perfect Match.”
The guitars have a bit more grit and thickness, though, as Moleskine adds their own work into the mix. Of these two tracks, “Dreams Are Not Enough” is the pick, as its synth lines played around with variations in major, minor and blues feels. While “Perfect Match” rocked, it was missing the killer vocal melody that would send it over the top.
The band can clearly play, lock down a booty-shaking groove and produce some lovely, textured cuts. Where Confidence sometimes misses is with the vocal melodies. Often the vocals are more spoken than sung, and that delivery means the words land a little flat. “Six Part Of None,” for instance, has interesting (and relevant) lyrics, which would strike with more power if it was more melodic. The chorus offers a fine turn of phrase, and hints of a strong hook (with nice vocal harmonies), and with more melodic structure would be even more impactful.
Confidence was an enjoyable spin. Moleskine has delivered some wonderfully lush tracks that will get you up and dancing. We at Divide and Conquer would love to receive their next release.
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Lavender Hill is a band from the UK that recently released their debut self-titled album Lavender Hill. The band mentions: “It's diverse with a bunch of immediately recognizable influences from folk on the title track, euro-pop "Bardot Lips" to metal on the final song "What Did You Do?" Silver wrote the songs and shies away from the description of singer/songwriter but the lyrics are worth listening to as he describes emotions ranging from love (“The Fire”) to the gut-wrenching pain of the worst break-up ever (“Chainsaw”)! Add in humor, coronavirus and of course Greek mythology.”
There are a whopping fourteen songs and the album is over an hour long. It’s definitely an older sounding type of rock album with a good amount of influence coming from the ’60s, ’70s, and the ’80s.
There were certainly songs that I preferred on his album. “The Fire'' was the first song that stuck out to me and it was a formidable rock ballad. It’s high energy with some catchy melodies and solid performances. “Favourite Son” had its moments and I enjoyed some of the country, slow burn of “Chainsaw.”
The title track “Lavender Hill'' is a highlight which revolves around piano, drums, guitars and features one of the better vocal performances. It’s also melancholic and reflective which I usually enjoyed and in this case they pull it off.
“London Rules'' sounds a bit like The Clash or at least a similar revolutionary type of spirit. “Speaking Russian” was a romp that was upbeat and fun. One of the more epic tracks was “Temptation (feat.Chantelle Bartlett).”
I can’t say every song hit it out of the park for me and the vocalist was attempting some high notes that weren’t within his natural range but overall this is a solid stack of rock songs. As I mentioned it does have a retro aesthetic but I think a lot of people will appreciate that.
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
A Made Man A Made Man 3.7
Hafsol Fly-by Spring 3.9
S. Reidy I Started Grieving
Drew Wynen June 3.8
Formerly known as Ashton York of LA, the artist dropped the “York” and relocated to San Francisco, which enabled him to refocus and simplify. Previously, Divide and Conquer reviewed two of his projects "you are my sanity" and "your love is a light.” in the last year, Ashton has reached 200k Spotify listens for his song "Beach Song,” which was also featured on a You Tube compilation video that garnered over a million views. His latest release nine ninety is a five-song EP that was recorded on a 4-track in his room. Ashton describes the EP as “doubled, hushed, and very bare.” He spent most of 2020 battling serious depression and drifting painfully in and out of a very immature and dysfunctional relationship – his songs reflect all of this. Ashton also didn't realize this was a project until well after the songs were all recorded. All he was doing was writing and recording demos with the plan of recording a full-length album with the help of a loan and his long-time engineer friend Greg. I’m guessing Covid put the brakes on that.
The first track “midnight love” sounds light and airy with a tender melody and a style that is pop/indie. It sounds like a 12-string may have been played in this song about longing and love. Ashton says the song reflects a longing for the fun, reckless and carefree life he was living in LA pre-pandemic. Next up is “Tennessee fever” and it continues the acoustic vibe, but with a richer toned guitar – or should I say, a lower tone. If you ever heard the Icelandic artist Jónsi, Ashton’s voice reminds me of his. Lyrically, it’s a song about breaking up with your lover and the pain that lingers. Moving on to “me inside you” you’ll hear a bit of the banjo, I believe, or maybe Ashton’s guitar was tuned differently. But it sounds like two stringed instruments are going on here. Ashton’s vocal range gets lower and his delivery on the words has a Lou Reed quality about it. Also, his guitar rhythm has a lonesome, alt-country folk quality to it.
The beginning to “stranger” starts off with floor and/or chair creeks. Musically, this song feels more like emo with a delivery that’s purely acoustic/singer/songwriter and lyrics that suggest a lover looking back to a simpler time, but also regretting falling in love. I like Ashton’s chord changes on this one. The last number, “back in an hour! (piano meditation in which a hula dancer keeps time)” is quite literally what’s happening here. The piano is keeping time to the clicking sound, to what I can only imagine is a hula dancer figurine that sways back and forth. You know, the kind you would probably find at a roadside shop. As a meditation piece, the piano melody repeats over and over again, as if repeating a mantra throughout the five minutes. I’m no expert on the piano, but it sounds like the repeating notes are played in scales. The piano starts to get quieter and sparser as the song ends in this instrumental.
Overall, the songs on nine ninety are quiet, raw and deeply reflective.
Caleb Shelton is a solo artist who began playing Johnny Cash covers at local venues in East Texas in 2006. Cut to 2008, where Shelton began to write his own original material and hone his craft as a musician. Currently based in North Dakota, where Shelton writes and records at home, it is nonetheless notable how much Johnny Cash has influenced his sound from his days covering the “Man in Black.” The enigmatic and folksy twang is evident right from the get-go upon the first listen of Shelton’s latest album Chasing Ghosts. In a similar vein, Shelton goes out of his way to write songs filled with the mysticism of American folklore and early rock n’ roll traditions. The title track “Chasing Ghosts” follows the topic of “confronting one’s own personal demons,” and much of the record follows in this vernacular. Shelton’s haunting bluesy timbre chases these “ghosts,” unafraid to get down and dirty with the nit and gritty. The guitar, bass, harmonica and piano were all played by Shelton who also includes the implementation of DAW drum programming. The artist delves into classic rock, Chicago blues, jazz and country territory is a wild ride through America’s folk traditions.
Chasing Ghosts gets started with “On Death Mountain,” where twangy guitars give a very raucous bluesy vibe. Shelton’s vocal timbre has the same gritty blues feel. The marching beat and the guitar work makes for a happening sound. The harmonica adds a distinctive touch to the song. This proved to be some foot-stomping blues. Without missing a beat, the next track “Outlaw” comes in. Some rumbling bass and more foot-stomping blues settles in. Shelton’s uncompromising vocals sets the tone for this darkly rendered track. This track reminded me at moments of Mumford & Sons and The Black Keys. Some piano settles in on “Where Do You Go,” giving off a very melancholy vibe. This song felt more in the ballad vein. There is no doubt the longing and regret felt in this track. Filled with heightened emotions, Shelton really seems to deliver here with his soaring vocal harmonies. Sparse guitar riffs highlight the title track “Chasing Ghosts.” The simple instrumentation accompanies Shelton’s haunting vocals. Slowly, some programmed beats enter. Though simply rendered, there is undeniably an emotional resonance to this song.
Beats and the soft twang of guitars sound out on “Haunted Houses.” The bluesy pulse slowly grows with a howling country vibe. Some more blues-driven guitars loosely fill the start of “The Ritual.” Once Shelton’s vocals enter, the bluesy pulse is unmistakeable. This track felt like it harkened back to some old school rock and blues. The delivery and energy were just right. On “Sick And Tired no. 34,” the energy on the album picks up with this jaunty number. The beats are amped and exciting. On “The Last Time,” beats and a sauntering groove on the guitar makes for a very ‘50s and ‘60s era style of music. This was a great slow burning bluesy track great for fans of retro music. Reverberating guitars roll out for some heavy riffing vibes on “Lost In The Aether.” Slowly Shelton's vocals sound out. Equally drenched in reverb, the distortion is played out to full effect here. Shelton rolls out with this simmering finish for what is an introspective closer.
Though this was a home recording, none of this felt like a bedroom production. From the instrumentation to the execution of the vocals, everything had the polished sheen of professionalism. I thought Shelton’s impassioned delivery had a lot to do with this. His gritty vocals really vied for your attention and once they hit you, you can’t get his distinctive timbre out of your head. A solo undertaking, I thought Shelton did a good job handling each section of this album. Everything came together really well and I think he was really able to revive a piece of vintage rock and American folk history in this recording. This was a solid release and I look forward to seeing more music in this style.
Martie Faye is an artist from Los Angeles who recently released an EP entitled Reaching out for a Lullaby. The young artist fits into the arena of pop and shows some promising talent with this release.
The first song is entitled “Monet (Masterpieces in the Dark)” and revolves around piano, orchestral strings and drums. At the center of the song are her vocals. She does have a nice sounding voice which sounds tailored to pop. When she nails it she nails it. That being said a couple of lyrics it seemed to me like she wasn't landing in the center of the note.
“Hands” is up next and contains some piano and vocals. This song is stripped back and revolves around piano and vocals. The vocals sound near perfect on this track. There isn’t really much variation with the piano playing other major and minor chords.
“Angel” is strummed on acoustic guitar. It’s another simple song revolving around a couple chords where the vocals are clearly the focal point. “”Lullabies”” contains the same piano pattern as “Hands.” The vocals are catchy and well-delivered.
I’ve been working in the music business for twenty plus years and this is one of the more clear cases of a young talent who needs to find the right producer to combine forces with. It would be a producer who knows about production, engineering songwriting, etc but most importantly someone who can bring forth the talent she Faye has brewing.
It may take some time and effort for her to find a producer but I promise if she finds someone who understands what she is trying to achieve it will be a game changer.
Overall, This is a young, aspiring musician showcasing that she has a good amount of potential. I have a feeling this is the first phase of her journey and look forward to where she goes from here.
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