Los Angeles, California plays host to singer/songwriter Tim Dolan. In April of 2018 Dolan released Minor Victories. Recorded in a remote desert location, and mixed and mastered by Dolan himself, the album covers anxiety and the longing for human connection. It gets these points across by taking the listener on a sonic rollercoaster fueled by talent and know-how.
“Minor Victory” opens with a horn section, eventually melting into a folky tune. The drums are what gives this track an extra layer of life. The nuanced fills that populate the landscape of “Minor Victory” are exciting and precise. A single snare hit is never off beat. The structure of the song is varied. There are moments of incredible energy, and there are somberly reflective sections. The emotion of the lyrics always matches the occasion. The song creates a full atmosphere with it’s layered sound.
“Satellites” opens with a sound that comes close to being in a lost Daughtry verse. Before the sixty-second mark, the track becomes an OK Computer-era Radiohead doppelganger. Complete with authoritarian voices cast from loudspeakers, opaque yet effective metaphor, and meaningfully meandering driven guitars being supported by clean reverbed bends. It’s an easy song to listen to twice.
I can’t compare Minor Victories to any one specific band or album. There are elements of folk, orchestra, alternative, pop, prog and rock from cover to cover. It’s a uniquely crafted combination that has the right ratio of familiar and fresh to the listener. There are new trails blazed between the genres. Dots are connected to create a seamless fusion that doesn’t seem forced or over-prepared. Minor Victories has a very natural feel to it. It’s in a league of its own, and it’s a great listen.
Just Jillian is a multi-instrumentalist and film maker based in Toronto. After playing in a few bands, a solo effort was put forth. What Day Is It was released in April of 2018. An album that deals with constantly being in motion, it has enough twists and turns to lend that sentiment to the listener.
“What Day Is It” is a bouncy track that builds quickly before leveling off in a catchy chorus. This is a track that asks the simple questions, and unearths deep answers. It opens with a fun guitar lick supported by a booming bass drum and a hi-hat. As the bass chugs along, the lyrics join. During the chorus it is revealed that the drummer actually has a full kit! This song has a wanderlust to its tone.
“Say You Don’t” tells an all-too familiar story. Struggling lovers that must come to terms with the end of their relationship. There are words that no longer hold any meaning, and therefore shouldn’t be said. It’s a morbid topic. “Say You Don’t” is not morbid; it is bright and confident, with enough passion in the words and the delivery to masquerade as a fun pop song.
“Goodbye Woman” is a track fueled by guitar licks. The entirety of the song is punctuated by them. It gives the song a strong push in energy.
The influence of pop on What Day Is It is undeniable. Elements of pop, in every sense of the word, are front and center being sung loud and proud for the world to hear. It’s an album that is sure to entertain with a lighthearted approach to even the serious topics.
Don’t be too quick to underestimate Just Jillian. There’s a lot more to offer than just catchy choruses and guitar riffs. Skilled writing paired with excellent performance and recording has resulted in What Day Is It.
Whenever I hear about bands having creative differences and infighting and breaking up I tend to turn the other way. Some people will always say things like “yeah they made such great music together but they just couldn’t be friends,” or “tensions ran high” or something stupid like that. Let’s face what really happened though, which is that making music ceased to be fun anymore, plain and simple. And not just because there’s money involved and it’s your job, but because it’s not something you want to spend your time doing anymore because it’s as boring as a marriage that has run its course. This doesn’t seem to be the problem in the making any time for the stoner rock quartet Stone Eyes whose members all hail from Adelaide, South Australia. Let’s meet this cast of stoners shall we? On vocals we have Jordan, on guitar Joe, bassist Daniel and finally drummer Punda.
It’s been a while since the last time I got high and listened to music but I remember when that was one of my favorite past times ever. The music always sounded so good, so different than it did when I was sober. Not that it was bad then but I think or at least I think I thought at the time that I could pick out different sounds than I could when I was sober. My point is however is that Stone Eyes make stoner metal that is both fun and fun to listen to at the same time and that sometimes or at least often enough is a cause for a celebration that ego plays no part in the making of a record.
Their self-titled three song EP Stone Eyes opens with the track “Heed” which wastes no time in developing into an all out hurricane of heavy stoner rock with the proper vocal tone that sounds just evil enough when needed to keep from going overboard into performance art territory. Next on the slightly sludgier but still very, very metal “Human” the band go batshit nuts and it’s nothing near original but it’s certainly spot on for the genre and done very well, so bravo to that. The closing tune “Vixen” follows this same sort of style as its predecessor but again our focus is that what Stone Eyes does, call it imitation if you will, is in many ways just as good as the bands that popularized and had success with this style of music.
Now do yourself a favor and roll a blunt or pack a bowl or eat a freaking brownie, or whatever it is you do to get turnt, and give Stone Eyes a listen. You can thank me later if your stoner ass can even remember it was me who told you to do it.
Become A Fan
I was thinking that an album entitled A Touch Under The Weather by a band called Morose wasn’t going to be the most hopeful and uplifting listening experience. The album wasn’t nearly as depressing as I thought it might be and in fact was a really fun ride that embraces what I would refer to as ’90s indie rock.
The album starts with “John Bender” and I immediately liked the music which is great throughout. I have to admit I was a little on the fence about the lyrics which seems to focus on lost, disgruntled suburban youth. At thirty-seven years of age I wasn’t sure I was going to relate to the subject matter personally if this was going to be the main topic throughout the album.
Luckily, the album is multilayered with themes and subject matter although struggle and existential dread seems to be a reoccurring topic. “Mannequin” was exceptional. I loved this song and it reminded me of Modest Mouse in the spirit of their album The Moon & Antarctica. “Incapable” is another winner. The song has a lot of energy and the lead guitar gives the song a post-rock-esque vibe.
The timing on “Cargo Train” had me. I can always appreciate a band stepping out of 4/4. Kudos to the drummer but man on man the change at around the thirty-second mark has such a crazy good riff.
The band does a good job mixing it up with new types of flavors but never get too far away from their foundation. “Pierce The Gray” brings to mind the serene nostalgia of a band like Local Natives while “Kill Tomorrow, Today” was an easily digestible single worthy song.
“Ravine” is a highlight and the drumming is technically and creative impressive. “George Feeny,” “10:03” and “I Will Sing The Requiem” were all solid songs. I think “Picket Fence” was a notable song with darker atmosphere while the closer “Norman (A Touch Under The Weather)” ends the album in epic fashion.
Fans of indie rock especially ’90s indie rock will not want to miss this. Recommended
Adam Kalviainen aka AK is a solo musician from Ontario who recently released From Man to Machine. The concept Kalviainen explains is somewhere between Westworld and The Terminator. He says From Man to Machine “is a concept album which follows a man's journey to discover he is actually a robot, sent from the future to save mankind. However, during his time with humans, he has learned to hate them and plans to destroy the earth.” The thing I thought was a very original thought was that the album transforms from acoustic instrumentation into electronic synths and elements.
I’m not exactly sure the vibe Kalviainen was trying to paint at times but I don’t think the EP was trying to take itself too seriously which I thought was a good thing. Either way I like where Kalviainen’s head was at with this EP and can appreciate a narrative.
The EP starts with “In Your Mind” which is comprised of a couple of strummed major and minor chords and vocal melody which have a melancholy folk vibe. “Every Morning” is the highlight. I loved the vocal melody and slide guitar. I have to admit the lyrics could be interpreted as a straightforward song about lost love.
Up next is “Need Your Greed” which has a southern blues vibe and this felt like the transitional piece because of the synth that comes into the song. “The Time Is Now” was another highlight that is a hybrid. The song contains subterranean NIN inspired synth noises as well as heavy distorted guitars.
I had to chuckle when I heard “Ima Robot.” Considering this was the point when he was destroying the humans the music was really hopeful, fun, light, danceable and even has a cartoonish cliche feel to it. I thought that was great. “To Infinity and Beyond” sounded like a chiptune song which could be the end song to an old video game.
Concept aside From Man to Machine has some solid music. Take the ride.
Kris Kaleva is an artist from Helsinki, Finland who recently released a five-song EP entitled Time. The songs are pretty straightforward rock which Kaleva recorded on his own.
The EP starts with “One” that begins with a chord progression which sounds like a specific Led Zeppelin song. Kaleva has a higher pitched voice. He can stay in key but I had a hard time understanding the lyrics. The guitars contain some basic effects which sound like flanger and reverb.
Up next is “Turn The Page” which is a highlight. The song has a fun, kinetic energy and melodies that are easy to appreciate. The vocal delivery was a little turbulent with some instances where he gets off key. That being said I thought the melodies were cathcy.
“Fan of Flames’ is more melancholy and contemplative while the title track goes back into rock 101. Kaleva closes with a meditative, emotionally resonant song entitled “Wither.”
The most significant issue I encourage Kaleva to work on is the production. This release does sounds like something made in a bedroom rather than a band playing in a room feeding off each other’s energy. The drum sound in particular is a dead give away.
Kaleva’s strength is the songwriting. Kaleva is a case of wait and see for now. He has potential and I wish him luck on his musical journey.
Alex Ingram is an artist based in London and he worked with Core arts musicians on his debut album The Merry Months. Ingram according to his website is primarily known for his painting, performances and poetry but seems as if he recently decided to get involved with music as well. The songs on The Merry Months had a folksy, whimsical at times fantasy based feel to them.
The album starts with “Eventually” which has soft music that is delivered with piano and guitar. The arrangement is simple and so is the melody and reminded me of a traditional hymn. I thought it was a solid introduction and indicative of what else you could expect.
“Clowns” has a nice arrangement but was hard to fully embrace because of how lo-fi the song was. One of the highlights was “The Whore” which is created with sustained notes from what sounds like a wind instrument and guitar. “Meloncholic” was the best sung song on the album. The song has a traditional old time folk feel and sounds like it was could be used in the video game World of Warcraft. That's at least what I thought of when I heard the song.
The next standout is “Man in the Know” which again feels like it could be in a play about King Arthur while “My Lovely Black Eyed Jack” and “The Old Cock and Crown” were the other standouts.
I think I would have been able to appreciate some of the music a little more if it wasn’t so lo-fi. There were some songs that just needed some extra help in the engineering department. I encourage Ingram to think about how he could improve the recording quality on his next release.
As a vocal coach I get the feeling Ingram hasn’t been singing his entire life as there are noticeable times where he is either flat or sharp when trying to hit certain notes on a number of song. He has a deep, rich baritone voice and I think with a some more practice of certain areas he can take his singing to another level.
Ingram has a unique take on music and songwriting and there was a lot to appreciate. I also think this is just the beginning for Ingram and I hope to hear his evolution.
Field Choir is a solo instrumental indie rock project of Reid Wilbur. His release Western Hits invokes elements of spaghetti western, old time western ballads, ’50s pop as well as surf, rock and more. This is one of the more original releases I have heard in recent memory which combines these types of genres successfully. For reference I would mention groups like The Walkmen, Roy Orbison and The Shadows for starters.
I was impressed that this was a solo album. It truly felt like a band playing live in a room. I can’t say I know any of the details about the recording process but he got an aesthetic sound which fit with the music.
The album has such a seamless, cohesive flow starting with “Goldtop.” There is a ’50s style drum beat with piano and lead guitar which takes the rein. It doesn't sound like a guitar solo which is why I liked it so much. It comfortably takes the lead but focuses on the melody rather than the amount of notes that are being played.
Up next is the smooth and appealing “Technicolor.” I loved the groove which could have worked for a song by The Walkmen. “Parlour” was another success that felt thematic and could work in a modern day Western or movie by Quentin Tarantino. “First Light” has some magic as well but it was the piano and melody on “Bright Black” which brought me back to songs like “Teen Angel” you would hear at a prom. “White Dress” felt like the most classically romantic song on the album.
Kudos to Wilbur for successfully resurrecting a strain of music that often doesn't get its due in the modern world. This is an album that was simultaneously nostalgic, fun and highly original sounding. Recommended.
The Blowouts consist of Mark Ainsworth (guitar), David Phelps (guitar), Geoff Guthier (bass), Barry Branigan (drums) and Joey Placek (vocals). They recently released Drink It or Wear It which is a five-song EP that harks back to a time when rock n’ roll was fun and people were a little more loose. The mid ’80s came to mind. There is a sense of danger but not too much danger in a way that bands like Mötley Crüe, Guns N' Roses and Van Halen would embrace. I think music has in part lost that and it's not a good thing. Their music celebrates decadence, life and a good drink.
The music is great but I was also intrigued by the lyrics which weren’t as straightforward as I would have imagined. In fact I would say some of the lines are downright poetic. Take for instance the robust rocker “Saving Grace.” Placek sings ,“Throw out what’s left in the fire / Looking for support to feed your desires / The truths are lies and the wrongs are right / Pulling at the branches to avoid the blight / And I can’t separate.” I loved the energy of the song and was completely on board from the get go.
“Dead Underwater” is a little more straightforward and I think was more or less about one epic night of partying and possibly spending a little more money then you have. With no ballad in sight the band continues with “DRR” which was the first song that felt clearly punk. There were some anthemic Dropkick Murphy-esque type harmonies that got me going.
The band continues to crush with “Borderline” but it was “Electric Wire” that displayed yet another side of the band which not only embraces some elements of post-rock but continues to topple every crescendo they bring to the table with something more intense.
These guys are pure rock n’ roll and I love it. They are the kind of band you hope to see on Friday if you want to let loose and get some adrenaline pumping. Recommended.
Susan Hodgdon is a musician from New York who has played in plenty of venues and clubs in the city and just released her second album entitled So in Love with Cole. The album celebrates the work of Cole Porter and the American Songbook. Porter is a musical figure that I don’t think too many people are familiar with today. He died in 1964 and while he was alive was a prolific songwriter.
Hodgdon presents these songs in a classic jazzy cabaret fashion. The songs are very well produced and recorded but there is also a sense you could be listening to these songs in a jazz club located in the artistic sections of New York City.
The album gets going with an upbeat swing of “You'd Be so Nice to Come Home To.” Hodgdon sounds confident and sincere and the music is played beautifully. “Get Out of Town” and “It’s All Right with Me” are a slower, late night affair that bleeds with melancholy and solace.
The mood is more festive on “Why Can’t You Behave” which is a song that is delivered in a way that I think is perfect for dancing. Another standout was “All of You” which for some reason had me thinking of the geographical location of New York although that's not what the song is about.
The album contains a total of seventeen tracks and I found the sequential order to be just about perfect. Hodgdon paces out the album’s energy with lively songs, contemplative pieces and much more. I felt there was a lot to consume but Hodgdon made it feel like a performance.
It was a treat to be able to listen to these versions of songs that I think don’t get their due. Hodgdon not only did justice to these songs in her own right but hopefully inspired people to seek out the original recordings as well.
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