The four-membered rock band Plain as Ghosts hails from Canada, and their upbeat, dynamic style is reminiscent of bands like the Foo Fighters and the Matthew Good Band. Drawing upon deep, personal experiences, their release Rendering sweeps through ambience, anger and beauty in a cohesive, comprehensive approach to alternative music.
Hauntingly ominous, yet strikingly beautiful, “Rendering” opens the album with an instrumental swell peppered with distorted clips of unintelligible speaking. This subtle opening shows the band’s maturity and patience in using their first track not as a full-length piece but as a stylistic introduction and a primer to draw the listener in. As the track fades into “Convolution,” driving percussion and melodic guitars provide the vocals with a full chorus of support.
“Monday Morning Quarterback” takes a reflective aura in its intro as wistful lyrics and subtle strumming on electric guitars lead into a power ballad as strong as it is moving. Trevor Lux’s vocals are especially outstanding in this track. Following this, “Against the Waves” is a similar power ballad with a catchy chorus and a solid beat that make this song arguably the best on the entire record.
Quiet, almost ethereal sounds open “Alethea” and carry the song to multiple dynamic peaks. This smooth and ultra-harmonious song is contrasted by “Empty Halls & Plaster Walls,” a more edgy, harsh tune that draws upon gravelly vocals, power chords on electric guitars and crashing percussion to generate a truly immersive listening experience.
As the album nears its close, “The Law” ventures into a refreshing alternative track with hints of pop, ego and rock layered over each other in an uptempo, melodic mesh of styles. The album ends with “Character Witness,” a song that gently and steadily builds to a pinnacle, then fades into silence. As a whole, this album is memorable and a genuine showcase of talent, and Rendering will serve Plain as Ghosts as a powerful propellant in their career as a band.
Set on a platform of pop melodies and lyrics, ABYRNISON creates moody atmospheric landscapes. ABYRNISON consistently shifts between electronic and alt-rock. On their five track EP, The Ship, they meld these genres seamlessly to create a cohesive sound. ABYRNISON’s electronic/alt sound correlates with the recent trend in music that combines these genres. ABYRNISON in particular could be described as a mix between Death Cab for Cutie and Air, with a little added tension and angst.
ABYRNISON currently works out of L.A., but originally hails from Bogota, Colombia where they have played extensively. Recording and mixing of The Ship took place entirely in a bedroom, although this origin goes remarkably unnoticed. The EP was mastered at Toho Sound, Brasil.
Lyrically, The Ship remains in relatively neutral, pop territory. A ABYRNISON sings of universal questions surrounding love, loss and loneliness. We’ve heard it all before but it doesn’t mean it’s not good. They often take the pessimistic road and stick to a darker view of life. They encourage others to do so as well in the song “Hands,” in which they state that “any sane human being should wake up to the feeling of despair and emptiness.” Despite this dark tone, the melodies and instrumentals bounce between lighthearted and etherial. This contrast between light and dark reminds one of the Smiths and Passion Pit.
Small, surprising moments bring this album to life; a wavering synthesizer, a beautiful harmony, an abrupt stop. These little surprises hint at an obsessive manipulation of sound that results in the desired mood and feel of the EP. Every track brings something new and radically different musically, yet the EP remains fluid. At times, when ABYRNISON strips their sound down to one or two instruments, they lose some of their power, and instead sound thin.
On The Ship, ABYRNISON creates beautiful, emotionally stirring environments of sound that through their lyrics and melodies find their way into the realm of pop and alternative rock, despite their electronic core.
Hailing from Wilmington, NC, Thom Kunz & Whitney Pearsall's recent release Stars in the Black and Blue mixes folk, rock and country with an ethereal quality. It’s not that surprising when you take a glance at the cover art which I presume is Thom Kunz & Whitney Pearsall staring at the most epic view of space.
Stars in the Black and Blue is a concept album. According to the band, “One side’s songs focuses on relationships — family and friends and the good and the bad therein, and Side B is a narrative called “The Black & Blue Suite,” which explores the emotional inner space colliding with the unexplained outer space, sort of romantic love beyond the world we know, or think we know.” The dichotomy isn’t all that obvious if you weren’t told and I think that works in their favor. Any way you cut it there is no denying that the album has a cohesive feel to all ten songs.
I’m not sure exactly how all the musical duties were split up but Pearsall handles the vocal duties. You won’t be disappointed. She has a powerful voice which reminded me of a couple of female singers from the ’70s. Stevie Nicks came to mind.
The band opens with “Perfectly Shattered” which immediately goes for epic. It’s a song that slowly builds and builds with intensity. Synths swirl, organs ring and much more as the song progresses.
Up next is “Cold Moon” which is also quite big sounding while also interweaving a country vibe. The formula of starting off small and building to something huge remans for a majority of the songs. “On Your Side,” “Veins Of Stone” and “Stars in the Black and Blue” all lead to crescendos towards the end of the song. Luckily, the duo throws in a song like “Gentle Breeze” which adds to the band's versatility. I also appreciated the atmospheric track “The Apastron Reprise.”
Overall, Stars in the Black and Blue contains lush, expansive instrumentation and top notch vocal work. As I mentioned the songs are pretty epic and certainly seem to have a time and place. Perhaps staring at the stars on a clear night.
Termination Dust comprised of Stefanie Vigoren (guitar/vocals), Jaybird Parkhurst (guitar/omnichord/vocals), Jacob Dee (bass) and ChubbZ (drums) are from Anchorage, Alaska. I have to admit I don’t know many bands to come out of Anchorage. In fact by quickly scanning my memory bank this might the first. Hopefully Anchorage has more acts this good coming my way.
On their release Familiar Eyes the band plays summertime indie pop songs that are downright addictive. The most obvious comparison to me was Dum Dum Girls and it's not just because of the lead singer. Familiar Eyes is a lo-fi effort and it works well for the most part. I thought more pristine, refined production would have worked better at times but the bright yet dirty shoegaze aesthetics were also fitting.
It only takes one listen to have your ears wanting more. I knew I was in for a treat within a minute of the opener “Clutter.” The song is good, unpretentious fun made for doing a little joy riding. “Clutter” has a chorus that is pure indie goodness. You will fall in love instantly.
“Sleep” is another great song overall. The guitars are soaked in reverb, you get some whistling there and undeniably attractive vocals. “Boy” not only contains influence from indie bands but also seems to tip the hat to ’50s pop. “Summer Crushed” may in fact be the perfect summer song. Those handclaps did me in .
The band continues to deliver with “Proximity,” the fuzz driven “Summit Lake” and another ’50s inspired tune called “Funeral Bells.”
Termination Dust has enough talent to be a successful indie band. I like the production on Familiar Eyes but I would love to hear what it would sound like if they can get it a bit closer to the production value on End of Daze by Dum Dum Girls. Those subtle differences could end up making a difference. Either way this band is one to look out for. They got the goods and I wouldn't be surprised to hear a lot more of them real soon.
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I don’t know about anyone else but when I hear the name Asbury Park, New Jersey I think of the Boss aka Bruce Springsteen, a man with whom I also associate a great sense of pride in this country, both in terms of his epic arena rock anthem “Born in the USA” and his quieter take on the state of affairs around the country on his seminal solo record Nebraska. Although from now on when I think of Asbury Park I’ll also think of the wile-y alternative rocker Tony Appleseed and his rotating cast of merry men who hail from this burg.
How can you forget a man whose bio reads: In a reality where Donald Trump is leading the Republican presidential ticket, Venezuela is on the verge of a social collapse and Americans sit pacified behind their cell phones, escaping the world around them into an alternate reality where fear is rapidly digested and subservience runs rampant, Tony Appleseed is locked away in his bomb shelter which doubles as a recording studio, blaring through the megaphone, love each other and yourself, before it's too late.
Well since the release of Tony Appleseed’s latest effort Color Blind Donald Trump has clinched the nomination and I continue to see pacified Americans staring at their phones every time I leave the house. I’m not sure that Color Blind will do anything to change these things; it may however give those of us who feel sympathetic towards Appleseed’s plight a little bit more of a reason to go on hoping, and pretty good for doing so.
Color Blind opens with Mike Mastropierro’s phone message manifesto set to orbiting synths on “Catharsis.” The music becomes poppier on the piano driven pop “type 0>type 1,” though lyrically continues to explore the deeper problems of what is currently going on in our society as a whole as Appleseed documents “we're the slaves to Google gods / the touchscreen has replaced the knob” and “are these human parts inside? / or is evolution just the next step / to becoming A.I.?” Appleseed shifts his focus on society to grandiosely taking on the never- ending problem of racism on the title track, “Color Blind” which despite its serious subject matter still manages to entertain, sinking in its piano pop hooks.
Things get more experimental on the astral symphonic rocker “Komorebi” with its big swells of synth and stellar guitars which leads into the doldrumatic EDM-enclave on “The Thinking Man,” which also bleeds into the beautifully introspective “Lessons.”
Much like his hometown-hero predecessor Bruce Springsteen, Tony Appleseed is documenting his life and times and trying to make sense of everything around him by putting these feelings into his music. Whether you agree with his messages or not Color Blind is still worth a listen.
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Park Slope is a four-piece band comprised of Isaiah Mendez (lead vocals/guitar), Jimmy Ventura (drums), Michael A. J. Freyre (guitar/vocals) and Dakota Maiello (bass). The band released Self-Titled, an EP written and recorded over 2014 and 2015 to showcase their sound.
The EP contains four songs which are some of their first and the results are pretty impressive and certainly build a solid foundation for them. I thought the band painted a concise picture of their sound in a fairly short amount of time. They mentioned they take inspiration from bands like Title Fight, Citizen, Sunny Day Real Estate and American Football. That all makes sense when you start to delve into their music.
They open with “Intro” which is more like a song. It’s pretty meaty at three-plus-minutes and is an instrumental piece. The song initially has a tinge of post-rock with clean, melodic guitar not too far from a band like Explosion In The Sky. Once the band lays on the distortion they rock out pretty hard.
“Intro” transitions into “Scribbled” which is where you can hear a little bit more influence from bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Title Fight. It’s a well-written song with some great delivery. The band is in the pocket and I enjoyed the jagged guitar lines and intense drumming. I also enjoyed the ambiguous, poetic language in the song. He sings, “Free-form words from my throat, Choke down the over emotional. I'll smother it until my heart turns cold.”
The centerpiece and highlight is “Traverse.” It’s a sprawling six-plus-minute song that is dynamic and plays into the band's strengths. The band never spends too much time on one part and packs a lot of great riffs in the song. They close with another solid song entitled “Rain to Soil.” It rocks just as hard as the songs before and really solidifies the band's sound.
I was really impressed at how much the band was able to build a foundation with only four songs. This should be a very indicator of what their full-length will sound like.
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Braxton Kocher is singer/songwriter who goes by the name You, But Metaphorically. He goes at it alone on his EP Cities with his voice and guitar. His voice is dynamic and versatile. He can go from sounding as if he is about to shed a tear to sounding as someone just shoved a knife into his abdomen. You may wonder what I mean that but it's no hyperbole as you hear on the opener “West Chester.” There were times where it sounds as if he is going to break down and lose it like when he is singing about hell. Towards the end of the song he starts screaming at the top of his lungs. A little after the three-minute mark he screams as if he just got stabbed in the gut. It scared the crap out of me.
Kocher is a good guitar player. He showcases his skills all across the album including “Philadelphia.” He mixes it up from guitar picking to strumming and it never sounds awkward between the transitions.
“Boston” is a straightforward song and arguably his best song. His vocal delivery is top notch here and he stays within a comfortable range. Once I got to the third song I started to realize an obvious pop punk influence. You can hear it in the way he plays his guitar as well as his vocal delivery.
It literally sounds like Kocher is crying on “State College.” He holds it together for most of the song. In fact he sounds calm and melancholy towards the beginning. I enjoyed the guitar picking and vocal melody but I felt like giving him a hug after he loses it on the last line of the song. He closes with another sad melancholy song entitled “Home.”
Kocher has some talent and the songs emit a melancholy that seems to be more pervasive for younger people who are still trying to figure out the world around. Nothing wrong with that. We have all been there. I couldn't help but think some of the songs would sound good with a band. Food for thought, maybe.
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
Dylan Young How it Felt 3.4
Cinders Cinders 3.7
Permanent Ability Love You to Death 3.8
John Morales Mysterious Hope 3.7
Will Seifert DIY Anesthesiology 3.5
Color Palette Vaporware 3.7
Dethcoat Sluts, Slaves, & Subs 3.5
SameStory SameStory 3.5
Nangs Cherry Cola 3.3
Dream Architecture is a progressive, ambient influenced band based out of Melbourne, Australia. They are signed to Antwerp Records, and since have released their debut, eponymous EP which combines elements of psychedelia, progressive and alternative rock, ambience, and the occasional hard rock. The music explores introspective and personal themes themes as well as universal elements that could potentially be internalized by a larger group of people.
This beautiful sounding self-titled EP Dream Architecture was recorded, mixed and mastered in a multitude of places, and as such features some very professional sounding production. Actually, the first thing I noticed about Dream Architecture is how pretty it sounds. The opening track, aptly titled “Textures” is an ambient piece, loaded with reverbs and delays that complement a very dramatic sounding vocal track, giving it the space that it needs to distinguish itself from the wall of sound it’s interacting with. The orchestral sounding synth patch toward the end further added to the dramatic nature of the song, as well as the constantly crescendoing dynamics of the instrumentation.
Something I appreciate about the EP is how cohesive it is. By this I mean that all of the songs flow into each other very well, both thematically and sonically. I would say this is yet another testament to the exceptional production of the EP, and it tells me that the band had a very interactive role with the producers and engineers in regards to the production of the album in addition to their songwriting.
My biggest complaint regarding the release would be how consistently dramatic the EP is. I felt that all 24 minutes were pretty emotionally tolling. This isn’t a bad thing, per se, but I feel that the band could potentially add some contrast to their music so the more dramatic tracks and moments distinguish themselves and hit harder.
As far as the music goes, I feel that the songwriting is strong, the instrumentation is solid and the playing feels natural. I also respect the decision by the band to add so many sounds and instruments to their music. I would say my biggest compliment to the band themselves in regards to the EP is how many different sounds they utilize. Whether it be effects or the instruments themselves, I found that there was a lot of sonic variety in the music. I also enjoyed the movements of the music, as nothing seemed predictable or obvious, but rather unexpected and familiar. The ability to move in odd directions yet sound natural doing so is a unique ability, and it was fun to hear Dream Architecture do it so well.
Overall, I would say this is a very solid release. I would, however, like to see more variety in terms of mood and aura from Dream Architecture in the future. On the positive side, they are aware of their strengths and have a definitive direction and scope they want to pursue, which makes the songwriting process a lot easier. I hope Dream Architecture continues the ambitious path they have set themselves on, as I feel that they have the musical potential to do a lot of things that other bands can’t.
The Wolf & I is an experimental electronic quartet from San Francisco and is comprised of David Butler (guitar), Tom Trombino (guitar/keyboard), Bobby Franz (drums) and Mikey Bodulow (bass/keyboard).
On their six-track album The Long Con, this daring four-piece has succeeded in crafting a gorgeous odyssey of ambient synth, guitars and an eclectic array of other instruments. Not only that, but the EP was recorded live and produced within the confines of a single day.
“Spacey Spoons” is a phrase which leaves interpretation to one’s open-ended imagination, as does the music it describes. This opening track invites the listener into the ethereal, twisted world of The Wolf & I. Delicacy and restraint shape the entirety of this EP, but it is evident from its opening seconds that behind the spaced-out and multi-layered atmosphere there lies a metallic crunch and throbbing beat.
This comes to a head on “Sun Paints The Sky.” Littered with chugging, distorted breakdowns and riffs bent out of shape, in order to wrap around the reverberating wall of sound, the only description I find to be worthy is gentle mayhem.
It is on “Crystal Gardens” that The Wolf & I temper themselves once more. Loosely picked guitars, distant crashes of drums and a tentatively plucked glockenspiel build the song into a guttural and mind-blowing climax. Riffs explode through the atmospheric lull and emerge through the other side into a heart-breaking, melancholic chord sequence.
All in all, The Long Con is a stunning journey of sonic ear-candy. Personal highlights of the album would be “Two Parts Are Better Than One” and the closing track, entitled “The Writhing Ocean Song.” The first is a six-minute long gradual build into a simply-beautiful close; reversed guitar fading out into nothing. Likewise, the closer begins with a delicately-picked and emotional guitar sequence, before building into another explosive finale. If I had one piece of advice to offer to The Wolf & I, it would be to build on their talent at creating moving music such as this, as this is where they excel from a great to a fantastic band. Nonetheless, this is an excellent piece of art and the improvisations during the live recordings are entirely unnoticeable; a feat in itself.
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