Greg Dallas spent his formative years as a musician studying jazz guitar, most notably at the Berklee College of Music. After many years focusing solely on jazz, Greg realized that it was not meant to be his sole avenue of expression. As an avid listener of many genres, this skilled multi-instrumentalist began songwriting, recording and producing his own music, as well as taking up painting. The Storm is Dallas’ first venture outside of the jazz realm. This six-song EP was recorded mostly in his Brooklyn, New York apartment and at his childhood home in St. Louis, where Dallas recorded piano. Drums were recorded in Nashville by Aaron Lawson and recording engineer, Jeremy Bernstein, while lead vocals were recorded by Catey Esler in her home studio in Chicago. Thematically, The Storm tells the story of a turbulent experience familiar to most—heartbreak – and draws sound and inspiration from a wide variety of sources. Some influences include Radiohead, Fleet Foxes, and Bon Iver. The EP splits between two avenues of emotional delivery: lyrical and instrumental (there are three of the latter if I’m not mistaken). Each of the lyrical tracks on the album, which are likely to remind one of times gone by and the sonic imprint of Dallas’ contemporaries, are separated by what can best be described as “sound experiments of an ambient nature.” At times harsh, and inversely soothing, this collection of songs promises to take the listener on a poignant and surprising auricular journey.
The opening track “Time (feat. Catey Esler)” reads like a letter sent to a lover with whom who’ve just broken up with. Dallas’ words are universal, and his guitar work is quite extraordinary, while Esler’s voice is absolutely beautiful and pairs Dallas’ music perfectly. The whole song has this comforting but hypnotizing quality about it, even though the aftermath of a breakup is anything but comforting. The next track takes its title from the EP – “The Storm” has a frenzied sound, energetic and alive. The electronic sounds coming together remind me of the old arcade games when they used to malfunction. “Fallen (feat. Catey Esler and Aaron Lawson)” starts off with piano, and a hushed, rolling drum style of contemporary jazz. Here again, is a lush, gorgeously layered song, featuring Esler on vocals, and a dreamy ambient style of piano. This one kind of made me think of the lighter jazzier songs of Bjork or Fiona Apple.
“Sleep” has a more traditional ambient style to it; in the same vein I would say as Brian Eno. Dallas lets in different sounds and textures in a very natural way as if walking into a mysterious but somehow familiar landscape. If you’re into soundscape/ambient music, it’s pretty cool stuff, in my opinion. The next track once again features Catey Esler on vocals but also the voices of others. “Cold” opens up with a full and rich sounding acoustic. The musical style is like an open, inviting landscape, reminding me of the work of soundscape veterans Lanterna. Lyrically, the lyrics take a realistic view at how the loss of friends and family, or the loss of what you once had with them, forces you into a situation you didn’t ask for. The last tune “Forget” is another beautiful, rich instrumental. The music starts off with a deep humming and droning sound, where I imagine a deep-sea diver going deep into the depths of the ocean’s abyss. The sound was captivating and soothing. It felt like it was over before it started, so I had to listen to it again.
Even though the main theme of The Storm was a downer, it is something we can all relate to in life. Musically, this was a superbly written and produced debut.
It’s rare that I get an album that’s so beautifully played and skillfully recorded that it could be on a major label, but that’s what we have here. Joe Ebel’s debut instrumental release Primebel is a new age-smooth jazz hybrid that would feel totally at home on a Windham Hill vinyl record (his own term is “back porch classical”).
Based in Asheville, North Carolina, Ebel does have some legit credits, including musical placement in the documentaries “Woodstock: Now and Then” and the Ken Burns show “The National Parks.” He’s played live in countless venues and festivals with noted musicians including Tom Paxton, Lloyd Manes and Jules Shear. Finally, the album we’re discussing has already reaped much critical acclaim on radio and cable.
Ebel’s musical background includes classical training on violin; he currently plays steel string acoustic guitar and overdubs violin later. Assisting on this project are Eliot Wadopian (bass), Don Porterfield and Michael Manring (fretless bass), Tony Creasman (drums), Bryon Hedgepeth (percussion) and a couple guests. Ebel notes that he employs “unusual tunings or what I call silly capo tricks” and he points these out in his liner notes, so guitarists can try them at home!
Every one of these 13 tracks are keepers, so I’m going to touch on my favorites and a few with interesting arrangements.
“First Snow” gets us right into William Akerman-Alex De Grassi guitar territory with Ebel adding his gorgeous five-string violin as an overdub. The interplay is so natural and unforced that I at first assumed it was Ebel’s wife playing strings. This is a sweet, upbeat track with gracefully picked harmonic notes.
“The Caper” starts out as a Leo Kottke-John Fahey romp, before introducing little flashes of Rhodes piano and more of Ebel’s violin. Slightly dark but interesting circular melodies play out over a simple blues structure. “Shirley Mae” is the first of three Ebel “all solo” songs, featuring achingly beautiful violin and guitar melodies. Again, your mind’s eye will never see just one person playing these duets.
“The Calling” is a soft jazz gambol that features Chris Rosser on percussion (including resonant bowls) and Ebel’s wife Annie Lalley on lovely background vocals. On the jazzy romp “The Joezone” Chris Rosser plays virtual B3 Organ alongside Ebel’s acrobatic acoustic and Michael Manring’s fretless bass. The title track “Primebel” (nice pun) features guest Stuart Reinhardt on sweet soprano sax for a longer, more orchestrated jazz composition, again with nice use of guitar harmonics. “Island Daydream” was somewhat inspired by the Hawaiian music of Martin Denny, which was great for me since I’ve recently done a deep vinyl dive on Mr. Denny (no birds, though).
“Annie’s Garden” is the final track and one last solo spot for Mr. Ebel, and is a sweet musical ode to his wife Annie. Acoustic guitar carries the full weight of the tune here, and it couldn’t be nicer. There’s a hint of Gordon Lightfoot toward the end, which was not unwelcome.
Overall a “prime” album for anybody to have made, and a wonderfully appealing addition to any music catalogue!
Australian born singer/songwriter Nick Hadgelias recently completed his five-song EP titled Somebody Else, featuring melancholic yet humorous songs influenced by blues, folk, country and experimental music. Now based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, Hadgelias says that he plays “guitar, harmonica, mandolin, Irish bouzouki, keyboards, lap steel and accordion, and worked as a gigging and session multi-instrumentalist for many years with many world class musicians.”
Hadgelias began recording while his wife was expecting their second child, a situation I can relate to. He built a home studio in an old storage room off a parking garage (“the sound proofing was quite good!”) and was hoping to finish before their new baby’s arrival, but wound up working late at night even after his son was born. “Melancholy definitely permeates these five songs, but I think there is some degree of hope in all of them.” Four of the five songs are played in open tunings, so that Hadgelias would not depend too much on familiar chord progressions.
First off, the Hadgelias “storage room studio” worked out quite well. Each song is beautifully performed and recorded, and his voice is a cross between earnest-folky and an everyday guy who fully believes in his songs. One technical note is that the first three songs on Bandcamp have long silences at the heads and tails, which is an easily fixed mastering error. It’s a shame because instead of getting right into the tunes, I kept wondering if my computer wasn’t working.
The collection opens with tentative strumming, keys and vocals for a tune about a fraught relationship that the narrator nonetheless can’t get enough of. “You can scatter me on the face of some wild and winding river / It won't taste that sweet since the best of our love tastes so bitter / so let your river flow, you will lay me low.” This song also features the first appearance of a churchly organ that adds intriguing color.
“Somebody Else” has just a few lyrics, but it somehow feels like a mini folk epic. Musically it begins like the linking music from the TV show “This Is Us” with gentle acoustic guitar and quietly reverb’d piano. Lyrically it’s a bittersweet rumination on lost love, which Hadgelias says was rewritten after having different chords and verses for a few years. “I’m not saying I wont be missing you / but, my love, I can see this time we're through / Who I'll find, you know I just can't tell / but they'll probably be walking around / just like they're somebody else.”
“Out Of Sight” might be a commentary on the uncertain months of 2020, again with just a few lyrics that somehow result in a seven-minute track, complete with Dylan-style harmonica and organ. “Bootlegger” is a fun “period” story set in the 1850’s complete with mandolin and huffing harmonicas. “One time we boiled grass and put it in a cask / it could put you on your arse and you'd be hurting.”
“Dark Blue Morning” is a concluding instrumental in which Hadgelias shows off his already prodigious mouth organ skills, creating haunting melodies and rumbling train-like overtones. This track in particular feels like a small, live band and not one man overdubbing himself.
So that’s Somebody Else in a nutshell: a hell of a nice little EP, and a true folk sleeper. Check it out!
Overhand is an alternative/emo rock band located in Milwaukee, WI. Having formed in 2018, the band consists of two members, Liam (drums/vocals) and Ian (guitar/bass/vocals), though the band plans to get more people onboard in the future when they can play live shows again. The songwriting process for the band is very simple. Ian would get together demos of each of the songs and bring them to the studio, where they would flesh out the vibes to get the desired effect. From slow grooving to upbeat, no two songs on their debut album Plaster Saint are alike. Wanting to create a diverse bunch of songs with lots of variety to keep audiences interested throughout shows. The band flexes their musical muscle in giving us a collection of songs that is as unexpected as it is familiar.
Plaster Saint opens up with “Hundred Pound Arms,” where some drums add a simmering vibe towards the start of this track. Gradually, the guitars come through bringing more to the melody and range. This felt like a slow burn and starts to feel more realized once the soft and hushed vocals enter. The sound then slowly builds making for a more dynamic listen. The band’s vibes reminded me of Minus the Bear and Silversun Pickups. Right from the get-go “Quiver” transitions from the previous track. The drumming beat here is more driven and effective, feeding into tons of reverb. The vibe here felt more upbeat and catchier. The uptick in groove made for a very satisfying sound. The guitar solo felt very psychedelic. The reverb and distortion made this feel like garage rock. The band jams out to total abandon towards the outro. Big demanding drums and guitars create a wall of sound on “At Random.” Through the noise, the vocals come in. The sound is immediate and in your face. I thought the guitars sounded really good here. The distortion and reverb added an overall rawness to this recording that made it very live-sounding.
More guitars address the start of “Zodiac Sigh” as a drumming beat gradually joins in. Some very emo vocals add to the sounds. The music, though a bit subdued, definitely had a certain spark to it that made it stand apart from the pop acts currently out there on the radio. The jaunty rhythms and catchy vibes emphasized this. Rumbling bass adds to the sounds at the start of “Facefirst” as spiraling guitar riffs add to the ambiance. Some low-key vocals arrive, sounding very nonchalant. The emo vibes are apparent throughout. On the title track “Plaster Saint,” some acoustic guitar gives this song a moody feel. The mood gradually builds once the hushed and whispery vocals enter. The combined vocal harmonies sounded very dynamic, adding to the expectancy and urgent vibes of this song.
Off to an upbeat start, the catchy rhythms and reverb-drenched instrumentals made for a great sound on “Leaden Arrow.” Next, a bass solo takes the limelight. Once the combined vocals arrived, the sounds really came together. At moments, the band sounded a lot like Taking Back Sunday and Thrice. On “Throw,” big banging guitars contain a blast of sound as the intro to this song made for a revving start. The drums are jaunty and reins in the tail end of this track. Another bass solo makes for an introspective section. This see-sawing of sounds keeps the vibes interesting. Some acoustic guitar ground the sound on “Smaller.” Coming from a very raw and deep emotional place, once the singer comes in with his warm-sounding vocals, you can’t help but feel stirred by the music. This acoustic performance showed a more intimate side to the band that you only get a glimpse of before.
Having recorded the album on their own, without any outside help, this DIY mentality shows in how the band approaches the recording process. Though they went through a lot of trial and error, the finished product looks and feels through and through like a band just beginning to own their sound. At moments, the band sounds very raw, but once the album begins to wind down, you can really start to feel the band getting into their groove. And once they hit their groove, it seems that there is nothing to stop them. Filled with both rousing songs and songs touching on the intrinsic, this felt like an album that delivers on all counts. This proved to be a great introduction to their sound and I look forward to seeing where they go from here
Old Fortress is the recent release from Miss Tea Party. On their Bandcamp page they explain: “It documents the various stages in a relationship as it is heading towards two lovers parting ways.” Truth be told this is probably the most common topic I noticed artists writing about recently. Love of course has always been the most common topic in music but the stages of a relationship in regards to the ups and downs, the good and the bad has been a hot topic. This makes sense though and as an artist myself I think the creative process of detailing a relationship through music can be both healing and perspective.
The album mostly revolves around acoustic guitar and vocals with some surprises. There are some additional elements like vocal harmonies, additional guitar, some pads but really not much.
“No Future” felt like an intro but has some of the most unique use of vocals. It’s basically just vocals besides what sounds like a wind chime. I actually wanted this song to unfold more than it did but it was still a really cool start.
I was in high school in the mid ’90’s and if you were around back then you will remember Mazzy Star. Those were the vibes I was getting from “You got your way.” There’s some nicely trimmed and picked guitar and great, yearning vocals.
“Open my eyes'' and “Holy Ghostling” sounded like traditional folk songs in terms of chord progression and melody. They were familiar sounding the moment I heard them. The album contains “Dragon fly Lady” has some cool elements in this song which sounds cosmic. I’ll call it cosmic folk.
“Soul Train'' is a change in direction and an outlier. There are no strummed acoustic and sort of this bass-y R&B groove but experimental. “Morning Sun” is the longest song at four-and-a-half minutes. It’s a pleasant, comforting melody with fairly reflective but poetic lyrics about a breakup. “Old Fortress” and “My Girl” were very straightforward folk songs. The album ends with a clear highlight entitled “I see it different now” which contains some well executed but subdued instrumental accompaniment to the strummed guitar.
The lyrics and vocals were the strength of this album to me. I liked the music as well but it never felt centerstage to me. The album mixes a traditional folk vibe from the Appalachians with an almost nursery rhyme type quality from the melodies. They poured on some melancholy and reflection that feels like it came straight from my 20’s which was the cherry on top. I would say that it was a concoction that sounded very good and contained a good amount of emotion. Recommended.
The fundaMentals is back with a new album called Pandamonium In The Pandemic Age. I have to quote the band here because they wrap it up and have a way with words. They say: “It's a conundrum wrapped in a mystery and put in a pinata and beaten with a stick. Garage rock and proud.”
The band sticks to what they do best and that’s kick down doors and take names. There was a time when rock was dangerous. It could be aggressive, cathartic and often represented the middle finger to any kind of authority. Say hello to ’70s British punk.
I think the ban captures that type of attitude on the opener “Flagrant Disregard for Authority”. The song is a slow burn that melds organ, drums, distorted guitars and bass. I would say the vocalist has a more or less perfect voice for this type of music.
The band however sometimes has a softer side and you can see that on a song like “I’ll Be Your Sunshine” which contains some warm piano and acoustic guitar. It’s one of the more reflective songs I’ve ever heard from the band.
The band follows that with “Kick Down the Doors” which is an all out rock session but more of a build with the rhythm section really keeping the beat alive. The guitars are minimal on the verse. I thought the chorus was catchy and memorable. The band even gets into Pink Floyd territory with the cosmic and expansive sounding “Breathing Backwards.” There’s even a jazzy style romp with “Renegade” which contains some sax.
This is the most eclectic release from the band and arguably their best. I look forward to more from the ever evolving band. Recommended.
Mike Grebb is a longtime musician who recently released Levitate. It’s a fourteen- song album that at its heart is a rock album. On that note there are a lot of sub-genres he flirts with. I had some preference based on personal taste but overall I thought there’s enough material here for almost all rock fans to appreciate.
One of the highlights was the opener “World on Fire” which has an atmospheric quality to the songs. The verse is good but the chorus is fantastic. It’s one of the strongest hooks on the album and very psychedelic sounding.
There’s an immediate change in style with the next song. The much more earthy and organic sounding track has a piano bar quality to it. The song begs for a sing-along and is the sort of song that feels like it can put the cap on a fun, drunken night.
The energy picks up with the driving “Last Days and Nights” which has some killer sax and is a bit funky and jazzy. “Hot Damn!” is a fun one and another song that feels like a sing-along.
“Wait” is the first ballad and sounds great. It revolves around sweeping pads, piano and some well delivered vocals. The lyrics and mood in general is existential and reflective. “Inauguration Ball” is one of the brighter and upbeat songs at least in terms of energy. The love ballad “Mixed up with You” was a nice love tale and we get back into a pensive mood with “Haunted.” The title “2020.F.U.” made me laugh and is actually quite funny. Great song! The more reflective and sentimental “Avalon” closes out the album.
The album is very diverse but Grebb mostly nails what he attempts. This was a good listen and I suggest you take some time with this one.
Through The Years is an album Ralph Flynn has been working on for fifty years in some ways. Flynn explains: “the album is a compilation of songs I have written over the past 50 plus years. I spent the major part of 2020 working on it. I sang all the songs and played all the instruments.” I, for one, love that. The fact that a passion for a particular art form doesn't fade is a beautiful thing in my opinion.
The songs are a bit rock, folk and easy listening. “Let’s Go Back to the Beach Again” is an upbeat song that sounded like Steve Miller band to me. There’s an older classic rock quality that was very familiar. It sounded great.
“Better” is a nice, warm ballad. The vocals were quite good. As an engineer myself I thought the bass drum sounded a bit too punchy and noticeable in the mix but overall I liked the mix of piano, bass and piano.
We got back into rock mode with “Just Like a Thief in the Night,” which seemed like a classic blues/rock hybrid with a lot of common staples that define the genre. “You’re My Forever Love” is a sentimental ballad while the more funky and fun “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind” has a solid groove.
“One (feat. Susan Flynn)’' was a nice change in tone with the female vocals taking the lead. “The Hills of Tennessee” was my favorite song in the batch and had a memorable chorus. “In Her Dreams” had its moments but “When I Found You” delivers the goods. Last up is the celebratory “You got the Power.”
My only critique comes from the engineering side. The drum sound in particular was too digital and not human sounding enough for me. It was sometimes a little too noticeable in the song.
Overall, I thought these songs were tender, sweet and easy to interpret. I think Flynn had a good amount of fun making these songs and it comes off in the songs. Take a listen.
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
The Undercurrents Dimension 1001 3.6
Ink Line Run the Run 3.7
L.B.C Day Owl 3.8
Ahmed Azhar Pia 3.8
Raoul Duke Selected
Ambien Works Vol. 2 3.6
Small Mouth aka Tyler Mitchell is an electronic artist who has been greatly influenced by the dance and party scene in Australia ever since he moved from New York to Melbourne, Australia five years ago. He picked up a penchant for DJ-ing when a techno, Melbourne-based producer/DJ showed him the ropes. Since then, he has been immersing himself in the world of electronic music. With his latest EP Lifted Life Ritual, Mitchell is driven to show the world his brand of techno-trance wizard-y as his command of programming and digital fare shows his instincts on the turntables.
Lifted Life Ritual gets started with “Quintana Roo,” where muddled vocals set up a dash of dissonance to the music towards the start. Slowly some bass adds a moody rudimentary feel to the vibes. Leaning heavily on synths, the vibe slowly begins to pick up. Odd vibrations add an alien-like, out-of-this-world feel. The vibes feel very surreal and unearthly. On “Don’t Wait,” warbling auto-tuned vocals add an urgency to this industrial-like track. The glitch-y electronic riffs offer up a very gritty feel. As some bongo drums enter into the equation, the dance vibes just explode. Feeling very trance and techno, I was right away pulled into the EDM waves.
On “Do Good, And Bring Harmony To The World,” percolating riffs add a glitch-y electronic vibe to this song. Gradually, some beats bring across more range to this track. The beats grow as warbling synths surround the sound. Some distorted vocals incorporate a touch of experimentation to this song. The fast-paced rhythms made for an immediate listening experience. Space-age electronic riffs tackle the start to “Broken Bliss Matter.” The synths are other-worldly as they drive in a bit of ambiance to the vibes. The beats and rhythms grow in traction embracing a very surreal soundscape. This oddball ending made for a strange but welcoming change of pace.
Lockdown in Australia had opened Mitchell’s palette for all things electronic music. Such names like Blawan, Bicep, Logic10000 and more would end up circulating on his playlist. And a lot of these sounds would make their way into the new EP. Sounding a lot like a raging dance party that would never end, the trance and techno vibes also feed into tons of ambiance, feeling very atmospheric and mood-driven all at once. Something to get your vibe on, be sure you give this a spin today!
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