David Toma is an artist who is slowly improving his arsenal of sounds. He has only been producing electronic music since 2012 but has already released a number of albums through Bandcamp. His latest Dead Pixel sounds more refined than his previous work. He implements production techniques that sounds that draw from a broader palette. The piano was a major component on Analog and still is a major element throughout his songs. However a lot of the other sounds have gotten beefed up and feel more integral to the music.
The album kicks off with an intergalactic track entitled “Nostalgia” that infuses an ample amount of synths with impressive programming. Toma pours good amounts of reverb onto the synths which make them sound huge as they intersect and collide with each other. This in my opinion is one of Tomas’ most accomplished tracks.
“Follow” has a straight up Eurodance vibe that is mighty catchy. I enjoyed the light elements, which danced upon the surface. “Uncharted Territory” sounds like contemporary new age music while “Wave” has a funky synth line that was quite easy to get down with.
“Writer’s Block” is the first song that has a piano that sounds like an analog version while “Ripple Effect” is a smooth sounding track that produces a sedative-like effect. Arguably the highlight on the album is the title track “Dead Pixel,” which has advanced programming techniques. Toma implements technically and creatively impressive rhythms while the piano provides the main melody.
Toma is still a work in progress but it is enjoyable seeing him evolve and perfect his craft. Dead Pixel is a solid effort.
I’m probably not the first to be fooled here, but I assumed a female led this group. Indifferently, I resigned that assumption and fully embraced the male melancholy drawl of Alex Hillmer, front man of the San Francisco-based band Anaura. Immediately standing out were the singer/songwriter’s choice of vocal melodies, backing vocal arrangement and all around well-refined progressions. Anaura’s fourth studio effort, Champion of the Moon showcases a mature, atmospheric, multi-faceted and mood-evoking collection. Anaura has honed its sound to the point where the listener is constantly renewed in interest from track to track. The writing is comfortable in range and content with little risks or departure from poetic heartstrings.
Anaura is alternative in nature and breaks the mold of their contemporaries by finding beauty in their approach to song writing. The members call it dark pop and they’re not far off in that subgenre. On “Sweet Lover Lost” the acoustic twang sounds right out of Fleetwood Mac’s songbook but with a haze of Smashing Pumpkins and the vocal styling of Pink Floyd. If you’re not sold on that recipe then expand your musical horizons my friend.
The next track “Vinyl” really solidifies the band’s true sound – a murky gem of crunch guitar and disgruntled romanticism. When I heard those backing vocals, it was nothing short of a Beach Boys moment. The timbre and polyphonic structure has this light-hearted yet haunting tone - a very unique contrast and pleasant surprise to say the least. It just might be the stand out. I’ve listened to “Vinyl” at least ten times already and I don’t do that often. Hats off to you Anaura.
Each song on Champion of the Moon is well crafted and mixed to a T. Some critics have compared their sound to Weezer, but I see Anaura as more of an amalgamation of sound both new and old, making their brand much less comparable and very much their own. Give this record a listen and find the good vibes that I did hiding away in an otherwise complacently painted project. From start to finish, the songs follow a personal narrative that I think will apply itself to the listener and strengthen that musical bond between waves and ears.
Once upon a time Adalia Boehne was just another misunderstood heroine of the “lost ones” within the halls of her high school. Every day was just another class in how to delay your dreams by focusing on the failed education’s system of middle America. And then, by the stroke of some small town luck, she happened upon a couple of musically gifted acquaintances via the wonderful worlds of Facebook and retail.
The Saudades play it soft, but they play with purpose. It’s an enticing concoction of hipster aura and art-indie instrumentation. I can tell that these guys are sound nerds and leave no articulation free of deliberation. The dynamics are subtle, but ranging especially on the percussive side of things.
This self-titled EP The Saudades soon becomes an unraveling string from a dense ball of musical influence. It doesn’t sit long with any contemporary classification, but rather borrows elements from funk and dance to dictate the sway or groove within the tapestries of sound. Melody is always the sole focus, which keeps things from feeling as minimal as they really are at times – think Lorde without the electronic production. More guitar-laden tracks and less beat reliant.
For that matter, none of these tracks really feel like pop, but my favorite track does lend itself in that direction to some degree. Get a load of “Staring At Each Other.” It begins with a lilt and a small section of ¾ time just to keep a more pronounced off kilter feeling. Next on deck, however, is an infectious but rather reserved chorus. The beat is fat and on point like a slow jam. It’s not a matter of it, but when it will get you nodding your head. The brightness of that chorus is a great peak among the song’s majority holding valley.
“Make A Scene” moves a little quicker than the others and has a more male dominant vocal, coincidentally making it darker and more melodramatic except for that guitar that still noodles in pastoral and cheery disposition. It’s that ebb and flow of positivity within drama that makes The Saudades worth investing in.
Diamond Lane is an unapologetic bash from the past with classic twin guitars, thundering drums and the vocals of a die-hard Skid Row/Avenged Sevenfold crossbreed. Diamond Lane is currently Fox Sports Artist of the Month in their national campaigns and they’ve earned that honor through tireless performing and promoting their brand of firepower rock, garnering a fast growing of attention and adoration in the LA area. As we speak, Diamond Lane is plotting its course for world domination, or at least a furthering of fame and worldwide notoriety, one show at a time.
I’m usually not quick to judge a book by its cover, but upon seeing Diamond Lane’s electrified and intense album cover with the title Terrorizer I prepared myself for a hairpin turn into some heavy metal/hardcore madness. The opening track “The Enemy” hits a lot of areas musically in just the first minute. And up until that point I was unsure just what I was going to get. Was this group more ‘80s rock and I had them pegged all wrong? Then the distortion kicked in and the double bass fired like a thousand heartbeats – I was right after all.
However, Diamond Lane treats metal like the art form it is. The melodies and songs have an arc to them and thankfully the vocals are bold, brash and yet still highly coherent. The guitar solos are ripping and precise, not to mention the riffs groove with thick weight and rhythm. At times the vocals are a little stretched to the register a la “Slow Destruction,” but you have to hand it to Baumann for embracing the brazen shrieking of nu hair metal – a subgenre I use somewhat loosely.
“Kiss The Ring” is a great track that starts with relentless pound and angry guitar before opening up to a deep-set rocker with great vocal harmony driving the verses forward. Most tracks on Terrorizer start off with their best effort for a face-melting riff and I think they succeed with flying colors. Nothing sounds forced or too formulaic. The lyrics have varying content and have fun with themes like cheating death and toxic relationships. This is an album perfect for metal heads and modern rock appreciators alike. It has satisfying tone and creativity throughout to keep listeners on the edge and wondering what’s next. When I find that in an album, I remember it.
It’s not surprising that this band doesn’t take itself too seriously. Horrible Idea wastes no time delivering anthems of punk, thrash, and hard rock, all at the same time. It sounds like a hopped up version of Blink-182 meets Black Fag. Did I mention they do ska as well? And that their album named Orange Four-Inch Door Hinge is about as ridiculously inapplicable as you would think? These self-proclaimed clowns of hardcore are having a blast mixing high-energy tunes with comedic antics. See them live and get a taste. Since 2001, Horrible Idea has been taking it to streets, the studio and the stage, all the while taking in more than a decade’s worth of punk rock princes and princesses that have come and gone.
It’s apparent that this album was fashioned for their live show. Blistering guitar runs and blast beats shoot through chugging rock facades left and right. They know their strengths and aren’t afraid to throw them in the mix whenever they feel like it. Equally musical and physically demanding, Horrible Idea commands attention whether it’s well received or not. I can picture them at a dusty outdoor festival just causing gleeful mayhem within the crowded youth.
“Shh…Death” is easily my favorite cut. It leaves aside the ska, but encompasses every other element of their party till you puke rock. Imagine a fiery blend of speed, riffs and guitar porn. The main riff is a solid 3 against 4 and it just hits you right in the chest. I like how the drums outline those punches, but I wish they deviated to a slamming straight rock beat on the follow up passage. Then even half time? That’s the kind of stuff that breaks necks with just sheer awesomeness.
The songs are all too aptly named, “The Skankist” is a like a harder Less Than Jake or slightly immature Sublime, take your pick. The guitar line is cool, but thin and even sort of cheap sounding. The off beat chick of rhythm for the verses are right where they should be, I just think that tone carried over too much into an area where the distortion could have lingered. And last but not least, “Freebird.” I thought it was possibly a frenetic punk cover of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic. Don’t get your hopes up. It’s frenetic all right, but an original ripping of sonic skin. I think this could have been put earlier in the track listing. Then again, knowing the way these guys work, I’m sure they’re just messing with me.
There might be something slightly wrong with you if you can’t dig the album The Polperro Horse Bus Company by Lois. I mean sixteen pop songs that unapologetically sound like some of the best rock bands from the ‘60s and ‘70s. What is there not to like?
At first the number of songs on their album may seem a bit daunting in a day and age where we consume music faster than ever before but the record goes by much faster than expected. When you break it down most of the songs are two to four minutes long and there aren't any fillers or ambient noodlings that drag on. Instead you are greeted with song after song of poppy, accessible old school rock that feels great going down.
The album opens with a ‘50s Beatles-esque song called “King Of Opinion” that you could imagine being played on The Ed Sullivan show a couple of decades ago. It's an unpretentious song that sings about being pretentious. The vocalist sings, “Get your own words / If your opinion’s king / Cos I’m sick of the pretention / All around.”
“Star is Falling” has a sing-along worthy chorus and is just all around filled with infectious hooks. Some of the little things make a difference such as the vocal harmonies and the perfect amount of crunch on the guitar. “The Polperro Horse Bus Company” has some wicked organ while “Monkey Girl” is a dance song you might have heard in 1957. One of the highlights for me was “Don't Waste Your Love Away,” which was not only catchy but had an emotional resonance that sometimes was not apparent on the other songs.
Out of sixteen songs there were surprisingly no duds in the mix. Sure some songs were better than others but none were skip worthy. Lois isn’t the only band these days revitalizing rock from a couple of decades ago. Bands like Foxygen and Ty Segall Band have attempted and succeeded at pulling off revivalist rock that doesn't sound contrived and mere imitations to the pioneers. Lois is a very welcome addition to the club and I have a feeling you will be hearing more from them soon.
Standing Still Is A Great Deceiver is the first professional release from Iserlohn and I certainly hope it is not the last. The music on this album will resonate with fans of artist such as Max Richter, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Fennesz and Star Of The Lid. It’s quite often a beautiful culmination of sounds that don’t need words in order to resonate with meaning. The music creates a sense of clarity and somehow feels significant enough for you to embrace it. It perfectly suited to listen to while contemplating the cosmos, our consciousness or the many other mysteries that surround us.
The album starts with “Still Unannihilated,” which sounds like you are entering a parallel universe or listening to the soundtrack of what it’s like to enter a dream state. There are no beats of any kind. It’s a relatively atonal sound that morphs, evolves and eventually sounds like it’s burning.
The second track “Nefelibata” is one the warmest and nostalgic songs on the record. It starts with a smooth, comforting pad and glitch like percussive elements that ultimately feel inviting. Iserlohn slowly introduces more elements such as a kick drum and arpeggiated synths. It builds even more and introduces sheets of white noise that if were any more harsh would have been too much. It’s not that hard of an argument to make that this may be the highlight of the album.
“Dendriform” combines orchestral string swells with a piano that lies on top of a sparse beat. As the song progresses Iserlohn introduces more percussive elements veering on the side of something you might hear from Authcre or Aphex Twin. He closes with “Hiraeth,” which contains some of the most energy on the album. What this song lacks in sentiment makes up with a cathartic purge.
My only complaint with Standing Still Is A Great Deceiver is it sometimes feels a bit scattered contextually. The ride from the beginning to the end could have been a bit smoother. That being said I thoroughly enjoyed this album and there are some moments and songs that were exceptional. Iserlohn has the rare talent for music to sound grandiose and meaningful without it sounding contrived. I certainly am excited to hear how his sound evolves.
I have to say first and foremost that the new album Natural by Sleekey is one of the finest sounding DIY recordings I have heard in a long time. Sleekey, which is a solo project, was recorded, mixed and mastered in his home studio in Nogaya, Japan and the results are nothing less than professional. That being said he is by no means a newbie when it comes to making music. His first project was called PANORAMICO and he was also the lead singer and composer for Cable and Cable.
Natural is a certified synthpop album that could be compared to an album from an artist such as Cornelius. Sleekey combines multiple synths at once bringing bright, vibrant melodies that burst with optimistic energy. He manipulates his voice and creates a synergy with the music. He seems to pass it through a couple of filters, which make it almost sound robotic but he doesn't go overboard.
The first song “Natural” blends electronic drums, soft pads, bass, lead synth and guitar into an appealing concoction of noise. With so many elements in the mix you might expect it to sound crowded but in fact it’s quite the opposite. It’s spacious and leaves plenty of room for his vocals to breath. The second track “Luz” is one of the highlights on the album. Sleeky picks up the pace a bit and introduces poppy elements that make the song burst. “La Decepción” busts out a couple of relaxing, chill grooves that create a sedative effect while “Volver a Comenzar” is a worthy closer.
The last two songs are extended versions of “Luz” and “Volver a Comenzar.” The album is sung in Spanish and unfortunately I don't understand the native tongue but it didn’t detract from my appreciation of Natural. HIs vocal melodies and music was all I needed to enjoy the album and I think you will to.
Anyone touring musician knows that being on the road can be a grueling process. You’re usually always tired, waking up in different cities and by about the second month are longing for your own bed. The process is probably all too familiar for Jon Titterington who spent years on the road before recruiting a lineup of players to form his band called The Roof Beam Carpenters. They recorded a five-song EP entitled Occupation and recently completed their first full-length entitled Golden Hill.
Golden Hill is an immediately accessible album that is indie pop at its finest. Titterington has a soothing, attractive almost child-like voice that is bound to draw some comparisons to Ben Gibbard. Musically, there is a lot to enjoy here as well. The music is well produced, occasionally rocks out and often finds a unique combination of sound to keep you entertained throughout the album.
The first song “The Well” is a somber opener but nonetheless a very striking piece. The guitars are lightly strummed against a steady beat leaving a spacious verse for the vocals to shine. Once the chorus hits the bass comes providing a robust low end. As soon as the verse pops up against atmospheric guitars it paint an immersive almost eerie type of ambience.
“Make Me Stone” is more upbeat and contains some very welcome keys into the mix. At this point I was really starting to appreciate the vocal style of Titterington. His voice sounded good against melancholy but even better against poppy goodness. The chorus is pretty darn catchy.
“Back Bar” has some of the most impressive instrumental and structural elements on the album. There's a combination of bright guitars, keys, feedback and delay that glimmer. “Building Houses” is almost entirely a piano and vocal piece while “Call It A NiIght” may be the most infectious song on the album.
The songs on Golden Hill go down easy. It’s unpretentious fun that gets balanced out with a good amount of melancholy.
Located in Jackson, MS, That Scoundrel is a three-piece consisting of John Schenk, (guitar/vocals) Adam Barkley (bass/vocals) and Tam Tran (drums) that recently released their second full-length entitled Gifthorse. Gifthorse is a pretty straightforward rock album that gives you solid songwriting and a good ole fashioned band playing in a room together. There aren't any bells and whistles. What you see is what you get and for the rock ‘n roll purist this is an album you will want to check out.
The EP kicks off with a shot of adrenaline called “Nice Things” that tips its hat to grunge bands like Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. There is an immediate visceral reaction when you hear the crunch of the guitar and they harmonize and shout, “Baby you would be a jumbo jet / Just because you're breathing it doesn't mean you're living / Here's a heart shaped shit for your ills.” The song comes with a certified badass guitar solo – ‘nuff said.
“Bell Song” has a smidge of a blues influence that sounded good. The song rocks as they plow through a couple of intricate timing changes. Is there anything better than a distorted bass? Well probably a couple of things but I did enjoy the extra grit and 3rd order harmonics.
Ok so I immediately had a bias for the song “Cadillac with Suicide Doors” because the name itself is flat out money. Not too much of a surprise that it almost holds up to the name. Really great drumming on this one.
Gifthorse is a solid album with a mixed bag of songs that were enjoyable. By the end I was a bit exhausted but overall the ride was well worth it
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