Canadian singer-songwriter k a r l e e, released her first EP Rewrite This Life this past April and it taps into the folk-rock and inspirational genres. Its attempt is to “uncover harrowing circumstances through lyric and melody, capturing the nature of sorrow while displaying hope in the process.” Karlee’s folk side can be compared to bands like Ingrid Michaelson and Birdy, while the rock influence stems from groups like U2 and Needtobreathe. Other influential artists include Switchfoot and Billie Eilish. Recording the EP was done in two locations: Evergreen Sound and OCL Studios, which are located just outside of Calgary, Alberta. Musicians Spencer Cheyne, Chris Byrne of 'The Roadhammers', Russell Broom and Brendon Waters contributed to the album’s full tracks. I think you’ll find karlee’s music very moving and genuine.
The opener “Secret Place” starts off strong with a rocking tone which carries on throughout the song. Lyrically, karlee sings about finding her source of inspiration and hope through the “battles in my mind” and “this shame I cling to.” “Winter’s Grave” begins like a slow country waltz – additional studio musician Mitch Jay adds his mark on the pedal steel. Karlee’s voice is really beautiful and tender on this number, which adds to the lyrics overall vulnerable tone. “Fallin’” takes on a confessional approach – “There are things I’ve done / I never should’ve done / Things I’ve said / I never should’ve said” but she opens her heart to “the arms of mercy” and prays the grace that she knows she doesn’t deserve. The title track “Rewrite This Life” has a swaggering, “blues rock” attitude musically and here, karlee sings about her struggles between apathy, tragedy and the “fantasies that pull her in” to “the place she fears the most.”
“Helianthus” is metaphorically about karlee’s hope of “growing” and “rising about this Earth” as the seasons of her life change, while the grace she receives never changes. No obvious references to the sunflower here – just a beautiful voice singing a beautiful melody accompanied by Denis Baptista on the piano. The last tune “Here To Stay” is about doubt and reassurance – “Will you hear me? Will you remain?” which reveals deep seated doubt and “you’re here to stay / you’re here when I call your name” covers over those fears that cripple deep inside.
All in all, I thought Rewrite This Life was a strong debut, consistent, but it also offers a good variety of styles. For those who are into Christian and inspirational genres, I think you’ll find plenty to like from this young artist. In the meantime, karlee’s future plans include preparing for her next album, collaborating with other artists, and touring on a small scale to venues in North America.
Concord, Massachusetts native Vaughan Supple has released his debut album A Lovely Grave this past spring. Recorded and mixed at Colonial Sound Studio using ProTools and mastered at Quiethouse Recording Studio, Vaughan gave himself a generous seven-month span to write, compose and flesh out all the instrumentation and singing – needless to say, a lot of multi-tracking was utilized. His songs were mostly inspired by bands The Microphones and Neutral Milk Hotel but he states that the finished product sounds more like Arcade Fire, Nirvana and Radiohead. Additional drumming performance on “Anemic” was made by Caleb Cramer.
“Dream, Pt. Past” starts with a beginning bass line that reminded me of Filter’s “Nice Shot Man.” Overall, the song sways and flows slowly through an indie rock vibe. The additional piano/synth adds a nice and tender, wispy feel to the equally tender lyrics that suggest a “dream” – or maybe one of those intense relationships that seem too much like a dream. “September” begins with a bouncy acoustic rhythm, low drum beats, strings/keys and an added electric. Supple writes very interesting and mysterious lyrics here, especially with the chorus – “Somewhere up above your heartbeat / Starry sleep lifts up your head / Floating wrapped inside your bed sheets / Somewhere you’re already dead.”
“Trace of You” finds Supple singing about stars and constellations once again as he hints at the subjective and universal within concerns about a breaking away from someone close to him. His choice of keys has an old school sound and the beat beats slowly with layers of traditional and electronic drums. This one reminded me of Radiohead in some ways. Carrying on his conceptual dream songs is “Dream, Pt. Future” and this one takes on a dreamy approach. I’m not going to lie – this one has romance and tenderness written all over it and it gave me goosebumps. Supple’s instrumental choices – the added electric guitars, the cello, a flute in there I think, but most importantly, the absorbing, beautiful melody – man, this song couldn’t be any more perfect in my book. I highly recommend not passing this one up.
“Anemic” is perhaps Supple’s sparsest song lyrics-wise and his most revealing. The addition of the cello was fantastic along with the sudden change of tempo and styles – whoa, I wasn’t expecting that! Nirvana fans will definitely hear the influence behind this one. “And We Drown” gets heavier with the layering of guitars, keys and stronger drum rhythms. This one has an Arcade Fire bent, a la their earlier stuff. The extra electronic beats give this one a nice twist, too. The chorus gets especially imaginative – “O, the sirens beam out holy noise / Float inside my clouds like a Theremin’s voice / Sing my human bones into the sand / Drown my violent spine inside my hand.” The shortest song on the record is “(Upward).” Its lyrics read like something Morrissey would’ve wrote, however, the lines “Slowly I drown upward” and “it’s all temporary” would’ve rather applied to Moz’s enemies with the drowning lasting for all eternity. The added vocal layer adds a bit of creepiness to this tune.
The last number “Dream, Pt. Present” ends a ‘trilogy concept’ of sorts and it starts with the acoustic. A little later more cello, strings, tambourine and a strong bass line hold up the song’s melody. Throughout all the songs with ‘Dream’ in their title, Supple writes words that reflect those places in time – past, present, future – making for a nice, cohesive storyline. This last number though was especially poignant, probably because it is written in the present tense. Listening to a few songs again, I was absolutely impressed with this young, talented artist. His arrangements were engaging, and his melodies and style kept me listening from start to finish. His lyrical content seems well beyond his age, too. I suspect we’ll be seeing more from this East Coast artist even if we have to wait another seven months to a year. It’ll be worth it.
Among the beautiful and lush evergreen sprawl of Oregon City there is a courageous rock sound brewing. Enter The Sonic Splits and their latest EP of just four tracks.
First on deck is "Seekin'" where I was immediately greeted with strong rock guitar riffs and those soulful vocals. It's been a good while since I have heard such pure bred rock sound in this day and age. I don't mean to sound like a staunch 60 year old, I swear I'm in my thirties, but this song really hit a nerve that hasn't been poked at in a while. Getting me to smile right off the bat on an album is one hell of an introduction. This song alone is gonna have me digging for the Sonic Splits T-shirt.
"Food Of The Gods" has an interesting title. Lots of debate there on which food was bestowed upon humanity from above, especially here in Chicago. This one takes the form of a more punk sound. It gets the blood pumping, meant to be listened to at max volume. It's dangerous and motivating, always a good combo in my opinion.
Next up is "Red/ Blue" and now we're settled back into a rock sound with a hint of blues in there. The previous songs make the listener dig for the lyrics. Here they let the words shine and I really enjoyed them. These are solid lyrics and they are delivered with such incredible, harmonized vocal talent. This song is what I call rock gorgeous. It's not pretty in a classical sense, but it seduces all the same. They also made a point to let the guitar go for a walk on this one and it was a lot of fun. It was here that I knew this group has many tricks and talents up their sleeves. I wanna hear 'em all.
Last on the list is "Phantom." This one took an unexpected dark and heavy turn. You get the reverb and the heavy guitar; it's built like a solid brick house that runs over five minutes. This one moves almost like a garage rock/punk symphonic composition. It builds crescendos, it dials back. It paints a brooding and passionate narrative. It's a lot. You can sense the energy being expended here.
Okay now, you wanna hear some shit that will blow your mind? Brady Heinsoo produced this whole damn thing in his bedroom. He recorded all of the parts himself and is having the band learn their respective parts. I just need a minute to collect my jaw off the floor. This album not only sounds like a group effort, it sounds like a LIVE group effort in a goddamn studio. Heinsoo is one hell of an engineer and producer, holy shit. I have heard people do some incredible things with just their bedroom and a dream but this is PEAK bedroom studio capability.
This EP was a lot of fun and has turned me into a genuine fan. Check it out.
Marc Ambrosia is a young musician from New Jersey who recently released an album entitled Unleashed. The album fits nicely under the umbrella of pop from the production to the aesthetics. Ambrosia does play into a lot of other genres throughout this album.
The album starts with “Let Me Be Your Secret” which is one of the more single worthy songs in the batch. I thought the chorus was memorable upon first listen. The thing I really liked about this song was the ’80s synth sound which comes out on the chorus that you have heard from bands like The Chromatics and m83.
“Picture Of A Girl” leans much more in the singer/songwriter category. Ambrosia has success here as well. The guitar work is smooth and in fact the whole song is smooth. “Bleed” is another song that felt like a single worthy contender. The same sort of ’80s synth sound with the guitar and drum sound really hitting upon the right textures and tones.
“Pisces and The Scorpio” is extremely lush and atmospheric. I liked the way the vocal harmonies coalesced with the orchestral strings and guitar. This pull and push of energy continues with the motivational sounding “Painting The Shape Of My Heart” and the percussion heavy “World With You.” There is a good amount of nostalgia and hope on “The Hardest Part” which sounded like a song you might hear at a Sunday worship session and he closes with a piano ballad “Send The Hurt Away.”
This album seems to be showcasing all the many different sides to Ambrosia’s talent. I know from working in the industry for a long time this may seem like a good idea but often what it does is create a flimsy structure for the artist’s signature sound which is especially important in pop music so the audience can easily identify the sound. My one piece of advice is just to think of ways he can further narrow down on that singular sound that people will recognize.
On a micro individual song level I thought the production, delivery and songwriting were all top notch. In fact I thought these aspects were so apparent in all the songs I didn’t have a favorite because I liked them all.
Overall, I think fans of pop music will not only enjoy these songs but have an artist to keep tabs as he is just starting his career. I look forward to hearing more as he evolves.
John Scovell’s debut is entitled Plasto-Vision. I don’t know what Plasto means and it doesn't seem to have a definition but that’s fine. I make words up all the time. The music across these lines mixes genres within the songs themselves. This approach is much more advantageous than just doing an album with songs that are different genres. For those who remember when Beck came out with Odelay I always respected a musician who has the ability to do this seamlessly.
The album starts with the oddly funky “Feet Are Hands” where the groove sounds a bit like Talking Heads with a little James Brown. I liked the funk but then again who doesn't really. Things get fuzzy, unique and catchy on “Going Now.” It sounds like a lo-key jam almost improvised.
I was hearing more of those ’70s aesthetics on “Blue.” You can definitely hear those tones and textures you heard on early Bowie and Eno records. “Orangey” is a fleshed out soundscape of sorts. The vocals are at their best here and were infectious and fun.
“Sycamore” is a well done hybrid however this song felt a theatrical and maybe silly with the melodramatic stuff. It seemed tongue-in-cheek. “Stares Back at Us” is a blast. I love the groove here and again felt a similar energy to Talking Heads.
“Wax Clock” is jazzy, midnight noir while “Tornado Party” is an appropriate name for the song. The album continues with “Find It Funny” which is a driving song that had a loose fun feel while “Radical” is an off-kilter bass and piano heavy song. Last up is “Little Bit of Weird” which kind of encompasses how people might feel about this album. An album that is a little weird is usually a good thing and that’s what you have here.
Starting in 2017, Maewyn is an alternative emo band hailing from Murray, KY. The band consists of McCall Key (vocalist/guitarist), Aaron Clark (guitarist), Kyle Morgan (guitarist), Bryce Clendenen (bassist), and Levi Wyatt (drums). The band recently released Wilt which the band says is” supposed to be a metaphor for the cycle of depression that a manic depressive person may feel. The album goes from high to lows with high energy to more soft or slow songs, and ending with our heaviest song.”
I would argue regardless of emotional states or metaphors an album should have lows and highs. This is called dynamics and without it an album can feel flat and boring very quickly. Maewyn does a job with this aspect making it an EP that is best listened to from beginning to end.
The band has the “emo” quality that for whatever reason seems to align with younger people and the idea of coming of age. That type of quality is all over this EP and it feels like younger people in their late teens and early 20’s will be able to relate to this.
Concepts and themes are definitely important within an EP or album but they aren’t the most essential thing. The music is first and foremost and this band had plenty of talent in that area. Their music sounds professional from the delivery to the production.
I graduated high school back in the ’90s and one of the main bands responsible for this type of music is Linkin Park. The same sort of confused, angst existentialism mixed with cathartic screams is apparent on this album.
On that note this band seems to be doing all the right things for connecting with a young audience especially those who might be dealing with mental health issues. Recommended.
AtaxicCrux is a band from Edmonton, Alberta that recently released their first album entitled Splinter. I previously reviewed their EP and this album goes further down the wormhole of cosmic, disparate sounds.
Let’s just get into it. The band starts with “Splintered (Intro)” which is a pretty good indicator of their sound. It’s a mix of distortion, synths, effects, dissonance and more. The actual drum beat is a very standard 4/4 beat but everything else really blends into this inventive soundscape.
“Forgotten Door” is the first song with vocals. There is a mix of serious spoken word and just a lot of things happening. There are musical similarities to bands like Nine Inch Nails, Evanescent as well as Zola Jesus.
The band continues with “Paranoid.” I couldn’t help but think of Goth Kids when listening to lyrics here which are very dramatic and emo. The music is literally bursting at the seams. There are interesting moments in this song that reminded me of Fuck Buttons.
The lead singer sounded her best on “The Cold Darkness” partially just because their use of effects like reverb and EQ were better implemented here. The beat is a throbbing ball of energy not unlike you sometimes hear from Crystal Castles.
The band is at their most catchy on “Hostage.” It made me realize the singer has a good voice when she utilizes it. She shows a lot of dramatic spoke poetry but she really sounds good when goes high and finds a melody. I hope to hear more of that.
Another highlight is “Midnight Sun” which combines dissonance with accessible melodies. The band just does it the right way blending these things in a way I found very attractive. “Divine Flame” is a pretty wicked track as well with a driving industrial beat while the closer “Broken Glass” is a seven-plus-minute song that continues to push boundaries.
I absolutely love that this band is wanting to try to do something original. They are creating this sort of seriousness that bands like NIN, Evanescence and Tool have with some of their own tones and textures. This is a good first effort from the band and evidence that have been evolving.
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
splits they let us go 3.5
Justin Sundlin Revisiting the Past 3.6
The Casters Shave Your Soul 3.9
Big Vic love balcony 3.5
flowerbed flowerbed 3.6
Everyone once in a while I get albums that really truly tickles my sci-fi fancy and once again, I have been spoiled with Part Time Genius' Candy Coated Candy. The album is indeed an other worldly sweet treat from beyond the known realm of existence. Although considering this sound hails from Austin, I'm not shocked. Something about that city makes me think they have a direct link to all things elsewhere, maybe it's transmitted via the moon tower (if you get that movie reference you're awesome). Candy Coated Candy is a mostly instrumental trip-hop/ alt pop experience that wooed me to my sci-fi writing core. It has a duality where it can paint bright and beautiful fantasy but also travel deep into dark voids. The pictures being painted are in full color but I would say they play with light more than color.
There is a lot to unpack in terms of the layering and sampling on this album. Starting with some of the big arcs, they like to keep the treatment of the sound in what I call a canned air effect. It is kept at a distance; there is an atmosphere between the listener and the material. It never sounds like it’s right next to you. Now, sometimes they will break this rule, especially with the spoken word vocals which will get very intimate, I LOVED this wall breaking. They'll also pull this with certain organic samples which will pop out at you unexpectedly. This little trick sculpts the sound into a three dimensional object. It's an impressive and endearing feat to pull off.
This album houses a far reaching and in depth narrative. It conveys moods, conflicts and atmospheres. I highly recommend listening to it in its entirety in the order it is presented. Their ability to tell a story with so few words puts their composing skills on a level that almost compares to classical musical movements. You will go on a proper journey listening to this album from beginning to end I found the overall message to be hopeful and cautiously optimistic.
Let's talk tech for a moment. The production and engineering choices on this album are solid. When it comes to mixing I think Part Time Genius is a more than appropriate name for the project. It is quite brilliant, but not just done well, done with playfulness and curiosity. The album tickles and pokes at your senses. Something about this album makes it feel trustworthy enough to touch my brain. Granted that could be their alien plot and then they'll harvest me for information, but honestly they wouldn't get much.
This is an album for the daydreamers and skeptics alike. It's a good one to chew on, to work to, to create with. Again there's that duality of light. You can kick back and listen or you can stand up and get to work. It's sort of a "choose your intergalactic adventure" body of work and I think it's awesome. Give it a listen if you want to get our of your own head or universe.
Axe Club is the moniker for Collin Barnwell. He recently released Bathrobe Sessions which is a lo-fi album fourteen-song album.
No matter which direction the songs seem to go they have more of an indie flare. I was reminded of groups as far ranging as The Microphones, to Bright Eyes to Vampire Weekend. The songs overall were really well written and have this kind of theme and sentiment that reminds me of being in my early to mid 20’s. There are metaphors comparing love to traffic lights, missing someone who won’t pick up the phone and more. It’s a little hard to pinpoint but this feeling stayed with me while listening to the album.
The songwriting and delivery is consistently good but I would say the styles are a lot less consistent. “Really Really Far Away” felt like I was listening to an introduction of a post-rock album. The mood especially when the vocal harmonies were very serious in that post-rock type of way and really doesn't feel like the mood for most of the album.
“Truth and Hypnosis” is up next and this song at least gives more appropriate direction as to what this album is about. This is a folk song that has a very indie feel to it like Bright Eyes or the lesser known Vetiver. “A Lullaby for Adults” continues here but the atmosphere comes closer to an artist like Bon Iver.
Barnwell is at his best on a song like “By My Side” which sounds somewhere between Vampire Weekend and Dirty Projectors. “You Can Count on Me” is a full arrangement and another song where Barnwell blends disparate influences into a jazzy folk hybrid. There are also some other styles like the experimental but accessible “I and You.”
I felt Barnwell may have benefited from trimming this album to eight to ten songs that had a similar vibe and feel. There is a little too much of diversity here for me to feel like I was getting a singular vision or a signature sound. In fact I think maybe even splitting the album into three EP’s or two albums may have been a better way to consume it. The next area for Barnwell to focus on would have to do with the way an album is experienced and how disparate moving parts like textures and tones can create a mood and flow. This is often the last step and most often the hardest hurdle artists have to deal with and is often why working with a producer who has a different set of ears can be a game changer.
There were certain songs which were great while others were really good. I don’t think there were any songs that I didn’t like in fact. This is an album that is well worth exploring.
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