No Public Restrooms is an anomaly. The band apparently formed in junior high in 2010 and are still making music. In fact they just released their debut self-titled album No Public Albums. The album feels firmly planted in ’90’s alternative music and stays there for the whole album.
There is this feel to the album both aesthetically and structurally that you are listening to a band playing in a garage. That’s not a pejorative in fact that is usually how I like my rock bands to sound but in this case I very much felt like I was listening to a band playing in a garage and at any moment the garage door would open and a slightly perturbed parent would tell them to move it.
I think this might be the case because I myself played in many garages and basement in the ’90s. We would play Sublime and Nirvana covers and occasionally throw in an original. You can hear influences from bands like Sublime on a song like “San Diego,” “Sand Castle” and many other songs on the album.
One of the highlights was “Beer Pong.” I was actually expecting the song to be a little more intense because if you have played beer pong before it can quickly get out of control. It’s quite mellow and nostalgic and felt like I was watching a slow motion reel of college-aged students playing the game.The band rocks out with “See This Through” and ends strong with “Happy Song.”
There was something I really liked about these songs that was hard to pinpoint. The songs felt genuine and think there was something to that feeling off watching a band play live in garage that I was attracted to.
This album is straightforward but very well done. Fans of ’90s rock and alternative music will appreciate it. Take a listen.
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Father of Sam was formed in the summer of 2008 in Brooklyn, NY by founding members Alec Badalov and Stephan Kuziv. Sam's Tantrum is their second release. There are a lot of different musical styles happening. I was reminded of bands as far ranging as Swans to Talking Heads and more.
I want to start off by saying I absolutely loved the production and recording quality. A number of the instruments were recorded to tape and I swear there just is a difference. It’s like the music becomes more alive. At any rate I won’t go into details here but the guitar and drums tones couldn’t get much better in my opinion.
The band opens with “Everything I Touch.” It’s like a mix between Sex Pistols and Talking Heads type funk. Suffice it to say it’s irresistible appealing to fans of music fans who grew up on this music.
“Existence” is an epic song. They mix up so many styles seamlessly. The song starts off kind of sounding like old school Soundgarden. It’s the breakdown where they are building the music in a similar way to The Doors or Swans that brought it to the next level. The crescendo hits like a freaking wave of angst of adrenaline.
It quickly became apparent the band just knows how to deliver a killer breakdown and crescendo. “Sun” makes my point very clearly. “Stay” felt like the centerpiece. It’s the most dynamic and also goes just about everywhere from a more mellow and cerebral beginning to a Led Zeppelin-esque type rocking.
The band continues to showcase their range with the rolling thunder of “Sucka'” while “Bully” plays into some ’80s inspired rock moves. “The End” makes you think the band might not rock out for once but I was wrong. They close with “Love Song” which was unlike anything else. It sounds a little like Tom Waits picked up a ukulele. It’s the most heartfelt and emotionally resonant song.
Father of Sam delivered one heck of a sophomore record. Highly recommended.
After many years of being a session bassist and writing songs, Jonathan Tromsness finally released his debut Tromsness, titled after his last name, this past April. Located in North Vancouver, BC, Canada, Tromsness has had a lot of experience on the bass, even pursuing a degree in Jazz Studies on the upright bass. But after much playing and making demos, he views himself as not the typical bass player, but more of a songwriter, producer and front man. That’s where his heart is at. And so, Tromsness took to more writing, arranging and producing his first record at Orchid Studios in Vancouver. He had quite a backup band helping him out, too – something like six to seven additional musicians.
When he started writing songs for his debut, Tromsness was listening to a variety of artists and bands, like Talk Talk, Talking Heads, Radiohead, Beck and David Bowie. He would describe his album as “a combination of the melodies of David Bowie, production of Radiohead, with the rhythm section of Stevie Wonder.” Writing the music over the span of four years seems like a long time, but during this time Tromsness was going through a lot of changing attitudes, beliefs and values about his life. About those ideas he was raised to believe vs. what his own life experiences were showing him. Those themes are reflected in his album.
“Closer” begins with a spacey, sci-fi soundscape, which of course I nerded out on. A lowdown bass and drum beat come along with piano, in this soulful and refreshing, indie rock number. Production wise Tromsness has a clean, slick sound that’s balanced out well. “Perfect World” reminds me of the experimental stylings of the Talking Heads. Great bass playing provides the back bone as does the crisp and dry drum rhythms. Genre wise, the song has a bit of reggae, funk and soul. There’s also some great keyboard action on this one. “Sanctuary” funks things up really good with extra percussion, a crazy good bass line and definitely a danceable beat. The chorus part amps up the energy with trumpet and a heavier, rocking attitude. The congas were a nice addition, too.
“Sunbeams” lays it down thick with a tight beat, tense keys and a style that has a more indie rock flavor. This one seems to me to have the right chemistry to be a great single. It just has that certain drive and energy that’s likable, not to mention marketable. Although, the extra piano solo seemed a bit out of place to me – like it wasn’t mixed quite right. Moving on to “Tell Me Why” Tromsness gets to the heart of what’s bothering him about a relationship by confronting the other and protesting “I don’t’ want to be in this position.” The distorted guitar fits well with the lyrics, adding to Tromsness’ anxiety and frustration. “Something Could Happen” is arranged with a sweet and groovy bass line, a disco-esque drum beat and happy, light guitar hook. This one to me sounded like newer Bowie stuff, like in the 2000s, but it also showed a bit of the old Bowie, too. I loved the trumpet as well.
The last number “The Way I Feel” takes a somber tone at first with ambient sounds, but then switches into a faster tempo, splitting the song’s styles in two. I thought this was Tromsness’ most textured and dynamic song – perhaps even, his most succinct. Overall, I thought Jonathan Tromsness’ sound and variety of styles was very refreshing to listen to. And frankly, a little out of the ordinary, which always makes music worth listening to. It’ll be interesting to see if he furthers his ideas in terms of what he did on his debut, or if he’ll take things in a new direction.
The Minneapolis band The Violet Nines describe their latest EP release Cloud 9 as, “the culmination of dream-state vibes, over prominent rhythmic grooves and emotive melodies.” What the band promises is “contagious drums beats, sweeping vocals with rousing saxophone and guitar.” The quintet offers a wellspring of sounds and styles – mixing funk, dance, pop and rhythm and blues with alternative rock influences. Forming just a little over a year ago, the band’s first release Midnight Muse resulted in the long-anticipated dream of producing a vinyl record.
They officially released the debut at the legendary Turf Club and later sold out a concert at the even more legendary and historic First Ave’s 7th Street Entry.They recently performed their newest collection of songs at the Fine Line in Minneapolis. Cloud 9 was recorded at RiverRock Studio in the north east section of town with what’s known as the “largest board in Minnesota available to the public” thanks to none other than, you guessed it – Prince.
The band has a democratic approach when it comes to singing with nearly each member taking the lead at singing. To start off, O’SAY sings lead on “I Will Wait” – a lively and upbeat number, with flavors of R & B and pop and flashes of a Caribbean styled beat. With plenty of bass, vocals, synths and an all-around full sound, I could tell there is certainly no weak spots with this group. Veronica Fritsch takes the helm on the EP title track “Cloud 9.” There is a video version of the band playing live on their YouTube account and by the sound of it, somebody knew what they were doing on the mixing board. I thought Cloud 9 offered a diverse mix of sounds and styles and it was hard to pinpoint the band’s sound to just one genre.
Nick Eagon takes the lead singing “Maëlle” and it clearly has a disco-funk focus. I would say something akin to Keane, maybe – but more disco-ey. The break between the verses slows down and offers a nice change up of styles. Fritsch takes over again on lead with “Blue Skies in Brooklyn” a more laid back, alternative/pop rock song. Nick Eagon steps in to sing lead on “Fly On” in this way chilled out, easy on the ears song that sounds like summer.
The Violet Nines has a lively and fresh sound and how they mix certain styles and influences was quite unique. And by the looks of their YouTube videos, they’re a very engaging live band that also knows how to have a fun time together making creative music videos.
A Sea of Dead Trees is a one-man band from Glasgow, Scotland, that specializes in what its founder Robert Heath calls, “doomy shoegaze.” Drawing influence from Dan Barrett's 'Giles Corey', Godspeed You!, Black Emperor and the minimalist works of Philip Glass, the songs on Heath’s current record Athenia was made from layering sounds of atmospheric guitar (acoustic and electric), swelling to massive crescendos and driven by huge sampled drums. It follows up Heath’s 2018 debut, For I have brought the Sun to the Earth and turned all to ash in my wake which I recommend you check out once you get hooked on his latest. Trust me.
The opening track “A Straw House in a Field of Flame” begins with spacious, beautiful sounds of the piano and acoustic. In addition, the vocals are sung by Michael Wiseman. I’m not sure what is being sung, but halfway in it didn’t matter. Wiseman’s tones added an extra layer that was fantastic. The drums, extra lead guitar melody and the overall dreaminess of the song was reminiscent of new wave, goth ballads of the early ‘80s (if I dare put goth and ballad in the same sentence, that is). The melody is sad, but a good sad if you get what I mean. Like one of those melodies that makes you long for something in your past that you know will never resurface again, but only in your mind. If this is doomy shoegaze, count me in!
The instrumental “Black Philip” sounds like what you might expect – black. Filled with minor chords and a brooding drum beat – now this was the doom and gloom I was thinking about – so good! Think of what would happen if the Cure collaborated with Bauhaus when goth was huge. A Sea of Dead Trees nails it on this one.
“Athenia” is a mammoth 14-minute-plus track (the entire album is a dedication to Heath’s grandfather, a survivor of the Athenia, the first British passenger liner to be sunk in World War II).It begins with a testimony from a female speaker who recounts what happened when the Athenia was submerging in the depths of the Western Approaches in the Atlantic Ocean. Carrying on his distinct blend of doomy shoegaze, Heath mixes up many layers and textures, all hauntingly beautiful. Repeating guitar chords, chilling keyboards and added drums carry on the song’s drive and melody, in-between further narration by survivor accounts. The song gets deeper and it crescendos with many musical arrangements, all telling that fateful story.
“A Picture at the End of Everything” features more narration and sounds like theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, but I’m not real certain if it’s him. Sonically, the song gets even darker with its tones and textures and other fantastic layers of doom and gloom. By now if you’re this far in, most of what Heath does is instrumental, so if you’re a fan of that style of music, you should be totally geeking out by now. I would also say that this one reminded me of Joy Division’s darker songs, but wait – weren’t most of them dark?
The structure and arrangements to “Depersonalisation” are quite interesting. I would say this tune borders on the avant-garde and ambient genres. This one to me sounds like it could have fit very well on the Blade Runner soundtrack. At the five-minute mark and thereafter, the echoing massive walls of sound are unbelievable – sure to fill your ears with imaginative images and thoughts.
If there was a title that could give you a chill up and down your spine, it may be “An Exorcism for the Damned.” Heath certainly delivered on this one. I mean, holy crap! – Gene Simmons of KISS couldn’t have written a more dark and sinister song of death. The droning rhythm guitars cut through to your core, the tapping percussion is relentless, and the reverberating lead guitar melody is mesmerizing. About a quarter of the way in, all that sound drops out as Heath belts out an acoustic guitar with a quick rhythm and then retreats into an introspective style of playing. The rest of the song only gets better, as you might imagine, from a listener who was totally into this album from start to finish. One hopes that there’ll be more to come from A Sea of Dead Trees.
Cigar Club is a band from Toronto, Ontario that recently released Cigar Club EP. The band has been around for about three years and took their time to cultivate their sound. I think this was a good move to wait a little bit to form their sound. There are a lot of bands that seem to release something as soon as possible and this more often than not showcases a band that is still figuring out their sound. This EP felt like a band that formed a sound over the last three years. They are more or less a hard rock band. There are elements of classic rock as well as grunge but for the most part they are a no frills rock band.
The band get going with “Miss Jane” which is oh so smooth at first. There is some slick guitar work which sounds like velvet. You can sort of tell however the band is revving up. A little before a-minute-and-a-half in the band rock out a badass riff. On top of that the vocals are really catchy. Suffice it to say if you will enjoy this rocker.
“Raised By Love” is up next and this song just rocks. The guitar solo was solid. It reminded me of Hendrix at moments. Up next is “Jacket on the Floor” which felt like the most single worthy song. The riff and general mood was a little more uplifting and maybe even more contemporary. At any rate the chorus is immediately catchy the first time you hear it.
The band goes a little bluesy with “Soul.” They sound really good with undercurrent of blues. The vocalist especially seems to have an inflection that works well with this style. They close with “Holly White” which is the arguable highlight and also the most pensive and melancholy. The band goes out in epic fashion as the last minute is dedicated to rocking out and getting your adrenaline pumping.
The band show different sides to their sound with this EP but it’s incremental and the band never seems to be biting off something they can’t chew. Take a listen.
Alternative rock band Ran Aground is from the central coast of California. Feeling comfortable performing in their home turf playing a mix of melodic rock, punk and reggae, the group has also played various venues from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Blending these styles together with other influential artists like Elliott Smith, Propagandhi, Radiohead and RX Bandits, Ran Aground writes songs that deal with existence, relationships and loss, all told from varying points of view. For the band as a whole, their songwriting is based on ideas rather than crafting out a particular sound or genre. It’s a group effort, and that effort was quickly paced – recording the music for their debut EP Adrift in roughly 12 hours – with most of that done in one eight-hour day. Talk about having focus!
The opening track “Capsized” has a really interesting sound. It kind of has this twisted, spaghetti western style, but at the same time sounding alternative punk. The tempo changes and changing guitar chords are really awesome, too. When the next song “When the Stars Disappear” started, I swear the guitar and style sounded like something from The Police and, it would make sense because those guys tapped into the reggae sound numerous times on their albums. Anyway, this song grew on me. The band whips up styles of reggae, metal, punk and all of it was so well done.
“Hands of Fate” continues on with a faster beat and a style that’s more straightforward alternative rock. It’s an all-around likable number with plenty of change ups to keep things moving. Slowing the tempo down is “The Magus” – a love song of sorts with a gentler sound during some sections. It does have some dark storytelling lyrics which gives this tune some great imagery for its listeners. I’d might add, the effect on the guitar was pretty sweet.
“Will Return” reminds of an old sailor’s song or rhythms of old, where sailors would make up songs to pass the time away. I guess I got that impression because of the beat, the shouting “heys!” in between lyrics, and words about the sea. The band goes all out punk midway, making this last song quite dynamic and expressive. All in all, a great sampling of styles from this West Coast band.
Lines That Hold The Curve is a band comprised of Helen Vo (vocals), Kenny Barcenas (guitar), Mindy Bui (guitar), Josh Salazar (bass) and Steve Guerrero (drums) from Fontana, California that recently released Lines That Hold The Curve.
The EP contains five songs all which seem to be about volatile emotions that one usually experiences when they are young and trying to figure out how to deal with romantic relationships. This type of drama that Vo sings about usually calms down a bit as you get older and is strongest somewhere in your early 20’s. I’m in my late 30’s but Vo’s lyrics certainly reminded me of being a younger man and the pain, joy and frustration of trying to handle a relationship.
The first song “Can't Complain” is an atmospheric indie rock song. It’s a catchy song with some solid technical and creative aspects. This song is more about showing appreciation. Vo sings, “See since you came into my life / You’ve made me realize my worth / Never knew what was wrong with me / I never knew why it hurt.”
“Time Between Denial & Anger” is where the strong ambivalent emotions come into play. The lyrics reminded me of a fairly standard relationship one would have early in life. The lyrics are thoughts almost every person has had. She sings, “I used to think that you were / The only thing permanent in my life / And I never thought we would part.”
“Midnight Daydream” is a straightforward song about heartbreak. There is some great guitar work on this song. “Take Off Those Glasses” is a little deeper as far as its topic. Vo dances around the theme of idealism vs reality. “Game Over” seems to be the nail in the coffin as far as the relationship goes.
The next logical step for the band is to step into a professional studio. They sound good and I applaud them on this home recording but a studio recording will take their music to the next level.
This was a solid EP. The themes are relatable and the music is palatable.
Ohtearsofjoy is a queer club producer and performance artist from Long Island who recently released bonsoir, fucker. The album from the artist’s mouth is “focusing on their personal struggles with familial trauma through casual homophobia & queerphobia, and the guilt of being a queer individual through familial dogma.”
The album felt unequivocally contemporary even though music seems to becoming more and more trendless due to the fact that it is coming out of every orifice of the Internet at a faster and faster rate. There is a fairly eclectic mix of music on this album. It ranges from ballads to metallic dance romps and some more in between.
The first song is entitled “There's a Unique Smell in the Pigpen.” There is a clear dichotomy to the song. It starts with lone isolated piano and mutates into a deep beat that implements white noise, sub bass hits and more into an inventive collage of sounds. The lyrics are simultaneously dark, striking and ambiguous. There were lines like “What the fuck you expect? Repeat my grievance for audit / Things be turning exotic / So they shove me back in the closet” which are just as poetic as they are poignant.
“Renoir” is a substantial number. The production feels somewhere between Sophie and Nine Inch Nails. It’s catchy in its own unique way and fills up its time length to the brim with unique sounds and transitions. After the brief “(Piano Interlude) >” we have “Dieudieudieu” which is really picking up the energy. The beats here are hypnotic with the lyrics often feeling like cathartic yet poetic journal entries.
“Adore / Beautiful Boy (feat. Glencove)” is perhaps the highlight and definitely one of the more emotionally resonant songs. It’s a ballad at its heart but goes into plenty of places that would be off limits to a standard pop music. It’s the piano ballad on American Idol that you might watch if it was directed by David Lynch.
“Ouilleouilleouilleouille!!” is a late night thumper that might sound best in the early hours of the morning while the club is still open while “The Day Lawnguyland Saw Me Blossom” has some R&B flavor to it. The energy picks up once more with “Renoir (Copycat)” before the closer “Bear.” “Bear” is the emotional intense centerpiece in a way and also experimental. It’s similar to the opener in that there is a dichotomy between a more busy section and solo piano.
I’ve heard previous releases from this artist but bonsoir, fucker feels like where he was trying to get to. This is the type of release which feels like an artist arrives and in the most important way. It may not arrive financially or commercially (but it could). The thing that is most important is that the artist is coming into their own creatively which is what seems to be happening with this record. Highly recommended.
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Goodwin is an indie/rock/pop trio from Seattle, Washington that got their start in 2016. Made up of Lisa Douglass on guitar and vocals, aNdi pUzl on drums and harmonies and Tom Abernathy on bass, harmonies and the occasional keyboard. Douglass and pUzl have been playing in various incarnations of what now is Goodwin. Abernathy joined them in 2017. Influenced by Queen, Yaz, Low, The White Stripes and yes, none other than ABBA (I like this band already), Goodwin describes the musical chemistry on their debut This Time For Sure, as “full of rippin’ riffs, solid grooves, catchy melodies, sweet harmonies, unexpected but satisfying twists and turns and the occasional wink to the listener.” Sounds like a band that’s all in it for fun.
“This War” begins with a healthy dose of crunchy guitar action and vocal harmonies, and a keyboard sound that reminded me of classic ‘80s sounds of Styx. An old school tap-tap drum beat keeps the groove going with a song that’s about two people in a relationship rehashing old wounds in a “war” not worth fighting for.
The beginning beat to “Hate it Here” reminds me a little of The White Stripes while the main rhythm and guitar hooks speak of Sleater-Kinney. I absolutely loved the punk attitude in this one, especially the line “I think I hate it here.” There’s some doubt there, but also certainty.
“Broken” starts off with a sweet, reverb guitar effect and dreamy-like harmonies. This one is an all-out, feel good rocker. The change in styles and tempos are sick! Those alone kept me engaged. And the clean, dry bass lines, the distorted guitar, the honest lyrics – what can I say – this song has everything. “Tyson” explodes with a sexy bass and drum rhythm and plenty of power chords. A lot of fantastic vocal harmonies, too. All three members strongly carry the song through from start to finish.
The last number is “One Mistake” and it mixes the old school style of Queen with the newer sounds of The White Stripes. Abernathy’s bass action gets crazy good on the verses. And then the trio goes into a solo break which gets really creative. I’d say this was another one of the band’s most engaging tunes and I thought it captured the band’s unique arrangements quiet well.
Overall, this is a solid debut from a trio that have strong vocal harmonies and first class musicianship.
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