High school friends, Dom Dougherty and Lucas Willmer began writing music together in 2017 and now as housemates, they’re still writing and recording music. Their latest endeavor That’s Enough… is a DIY, “bedroom record” to the max. A punk rock ride with blends of emo sounds, sometimes heavy, sometimes soft. Their mutual love and respect for emo/punk music drew them to write songs about everyday anxiety, trauma, family, love and loss. Bands such as Brand New, Lower Than Atlantis, Slowly Slowly, Thrice, Sorority Noise and Tiny Moving Parts musically and emotionally influenced their writing. Thematically, the album’s songs are about daily struggles with anxiety, betrayal, fear, family, therapy and doing your best to cope with trauma. Recorded at Lucas' parents’ house in Brisbane, Australia, mixed and mastered in the duo’s house, the songs were first brought to Willmer with a melody and chord progression, from there the duo hash out all the other parts. Dougherty recorded the drums, electric guitar and vocals while Willmer recorded bass and electric guitar.
The opening track “The Only Way” is very much an emo styled song. Simple in its message, with few words and few, spacious notes and musically, it’s got a chilling sound. “Smart Casual” begins with quiet, choppy guitar chords. After the first few verses, the duo kicks it up with heavy guitar chords and rumbling drums. This one to me has a cutting, heavy edge to it – more akin to post-punk, even post-metal (aka new metal) in some respects. “Abrasive” has more of an indie rock sound and style, an all-around likable tune worthy of radio play. Although lyrically, searching “for my body – if I disappear” leaves a chilling impression on the mind. Next up, is “Confidence” a song that delves a little deeper into the band’s heavier sound and lyrically, the words seem to reflect taking stock of one’s life and not being overly confident about the choices we make. The guitar solo was pretty good, too.
“Last Night” begins on a lighter note with acoustic rhythms and a sparse electric guitar. No drums here. The lyrics are very personal, as the song seems to be about getting over the death of someone close, but still being haunted by the memory of someone who is no longer alive. The band switches back to a hard edge rock sound on “Can You Find Me?” Soaring, edgy guitar playing and pounding drumbeats give this number its driving force. Not sure what “F.O.T.” is an abbreviation for what, I don’t know, but the words definitely read as if the songwriter was feeling the weight of all life’s many anxieties and asking – “When will I be whole again?” This is one of the band’s higher energy, charged up songs. “If Anyone Asks Where I Am, I’ve Left the Country” reads like someone caught between being tempted by someone who they find attractive but knowing that they shouldn’t fall down the rabbit hole. Great meaty bass lines by the way.
On “Old Cleveland Road” there are great, melodic bass/guitar riffs starting out and lyrics that reflect inadequacy, doubt and low self-esteem. Sometime later the band ramps up the rock energy and the scream-singing comes in – very emotional. “Drug Me Til’ Your Work is Done” begins with an acoustic rhythm and it stays that way throughout the song. This is a straight on, one-man song. Dealing with loss, anxiety, the fear of being alone and finding out who you are without someone by your side, but at the same time feeling free, really comes through powerfully here. The duo’s last tune is “Common Cold” and this one seems to be about denial – denial of not being a part of someone’s life any more, a lover in this case. The band’s changing, grinding chords stood out most to me on this one and also, when they mix the acoustic in and drop out the heavy stuff at the end. All in all, a pretty solid album.
The band has a consistent sound and style, more post-rock, emo and indie pop than anything I remember punk to be, but genres do evolve through the years. The only influential band Alpynes mentions that I know of is Thrice, and I’d have to say that comparison is spot on.
Louis Mars is an artist from England who recently released Teenage Daydreams. He explains: “The album is about teenage life and how I try to reflect on past experiences and try to make sense of new feelings and emotions.” As an almost forty-year-old man I can no longer completely relate to the emotions of a teenager living in today's world which is much different than when I was growing up. That being said I was once a teenager and although these reflections are distant memories at this point I was interested in going down his perspective,
There are fifteen songs and a number of them are on the longer side ranging from about five to seven minutes in length. The music is primarily rock and bands as far ranging as Sonic Youth to Car Seat Headrest came to mind.
The album gets moving with “Drivin” and immediately I liked the guitar riff. This reminded me of early Sonic Youth. The song drives and the kinetic drum beat is quickly paired with the guitar. His vocals felt like a stream of consciousness and I thought it was catchy and engaging. As the song progresses it gets more intense and I was impressed. This music felt right down my alley.
Up next is the title track “Teenage Daydreams” which is another song that got my attention. The guitars are similar in their approach but this song has a chorus that really pops. His lyrics revolve around going to parties, staying up late and unrequited love.
“A confession from a teenager who doesn't know how to do maths” was a slightly different approach. There is this Courtney Barnett type of spoken word delivery that works really well in the song. He sings about more of the issues of being a teenager and similarly also gets more intense.
There are solemn confessions on “I'd rather be a kid” and I was picking up on those Carseat Headrest type of vibes on this song. As the album progressed he attempted a couple of different aesthetic choices by changing up the drum kits, guitar sound and more.
The album mellows out quite a bit in the second half. My main critique is that he could have put some of this different sounding material on other releases such as the ambient “A distraction.” The other highlights were “Heart full of thorns, head full of storms” and the cathartic closer “I don't like to talk to people about important things.”
There is a lot of talent here and the songs came off as heartfelt and honest. I hope this is just the beginning from him and I hope to hear more soon.
Kimmii Heart (vocals), Brian King (drums), Joe Padula (guitars/vocals) and Antonio Valenti (bass/vocals) are Reality Suite. The band recently released Live at Alpha Wave Studios which is indeed a live album. Live albums aren’t as popular as they used to be. Back in the ’70s and ’80s there were some great albums released. The album Alive! by KISS comes to mind. At any rate it was more of a rock thing and since rock isn’t really in it's heyday anymore I was excited to listen.
One thing for sure, this is a rock band. I felt the band really captured the spirit of live atmosphere. Of course an album is an approximation of the actual experience but the recording quality of these batches of songs is really good. As an engineer myself I have to say kudos to the engineer on this one.
The band goes through twelve songs on this set and for the most part they rock the whole time but there is a ballad of sorts. They start off rocking hard with “Wingman” and the roar of the crowd really does have a nice effect here. The song is a stomper and the band quickly gets to a chorus and displays they know how to write a song.
It’s really more or less smooth sailing then. The band really digs into an early ’90s and '80s vibe with songs like “Cut, Burn, Bruise” and “Bury Me Alive.” There is also some well placed banter between songs from Heart. There is some good shredding on the guitar and classic rock moves as the album progresses.
The ballad “Grave” was one of the highlights as was the anthemic “Live Now Forever.” They really don’t lose a step with the reflective “Wrong With Me.” The closer “Die Dreaming” was another stomper that delivered.
I’m old enough to where this felt like a retro album. Bands similar to Reality Suite were all over the scene at one point. Suffice it to say I’m glad bands like this are keeping the flame alive. I should also add these songs are from their releases Awaken (Deluxe) (2019) and Skinn (2015). Take a listen.
Colors of a Dying Sun is the debut album from North Sea Empire, which is a new, one-man-band project from Andreas Rasch. Rasch, based in Gothenburg, Sweden, has recorded several Swedish-language albums (as Varjyl); Colors of a Dying Sun is his first English release.
Rasch handled everything on Colors of a Dying Sun: writing, recording, production and all performances. He chooses keyboards, drum loops and guitars to support his vocals. He brings elements of the singer/songwriter tradition and fuses them with ‘80s-era synth styles and modern drum loops. He calls this “a mixture of pop and alternative music,” which is an apt description.
I’ll confess: I’ve always been impressed with Swedish artists who can write English-language songs even though English is not their mother tongue. How does ABBA (and Roxette) achieve this, and get English idiom and intonation correct? It’s amazing to me, and Rasch joins this tradition. He offers fine imagery and turns of phrase throughout these nine tracks, including “a boxcar made of matches / and glue to seal our patches” (“When I Awake”), and my favorite, “take a hold of my rocking horse legs, my love” (“A Warrior Dreaming”).
There’s some good stuff here. “Autumn Clear” is a sweet ballad, and probably the best realization of North Sea Empire’s strummy-guitar-plus-spacey-synths approach. The instrumental ending was particularly solid. “Snowblind” brings a ‘60s garage-rock feel, and finds Rasch working in some tempo changes. The poppy, drum-loop-driven “A Warrior Dreaming” works well, and contains the aforementioned lyric.
That said, it feels that these performances don’t always bring the songs to their full potential. The spacey synth on “When I Awake” is great, but the jangly guitar is limp and distracting. I’d love to hear this song reimagined as a spoken-word, trance-feel dance tune. The organ parts on “Through The Night Into Day” are terrific, but they aren’t enough to push the track over the top. And tempo changes (“Snowblind”) are still best executed with live musicians, not a click track. For the next release, I hope North Sea Empire will bring in some outside players to deliver tracks worthy of these solid songs.
Colors of a Dying Sun is a good start, and an interesting entry in the singer/songwriter oeuvre.
Matthew Bailey, recording as Wanderfalke, has released The Way In, a seven-track, forty-minute album. All seven cuts are instrumental with Bailey playing guitar, synths and drums.
Writing and recording took place over five years with Bailey working in western North Carolina. His care and feeding of the material, and recording process, shows in a beautiful result. If you like synth-y, ambient music with a tasty dash of guitar, you’ll like The Way In.
“Contorta” starts us off with a strummed acoustic guitar progression underlying keyboards played by contorted hands. Bailey’s composition and production skill is on display straight away. He takes simple themes and keeps our interest with his variations in tone and motif. And it sounds terrific; every separate instrument is in the just right place in the mix. The drums and drumming sound good, too!
If forced to choose, I’d pick “Parapraxis,” the second track, as my favorite. It starts off with throbbing synths (think “Chariots of Fire”) and builds throughout. The song is a one-chord special, but it doesn’t get boring, as Bailey varies the textures and incorporates bits of themes. The song culminates in a just-right distorted guitar lead--it’s melodic and tasteful.
I’ve picked “Parapraxis,” but each of the remaining five tracks is strong in its own right. “Immaterial” includes very cool sounds and panning effects. “Interval”’s theme repeats with varying tones and a changing drum pattern, giving us a few variations all in one go. The guitars on “Perpetually Broken/Undivided Light” are a nice complement to the keyboards, and a nice change in instrumentation focus.
Bailey says he made The Way In “because it’s fun, and I love it.” That shines through. It’s a terrific album start to finish. Give it a listen!
The five songs on The Indigo Children’s Hug Me, I’m Homesick album “have been on a journey.” As one of the members explains five years ago, they found themselves miles from home “in a place of isolation.” The usual upbeat, optimistic artist fell into a deep depression after a relationship they held high was crumbling all around. Missing their childhood and the old friends they grew up with, writing music was the turning point – a way to cope with the loneliness. In the aftermath, the songs on Hug Me, I’m Homesick record what remains – a“concept EP for the homesick, the depressed, the lonely and the ones who have been cheated on.”The Indigo Children are a dreamy, indie folk band from Central Illinois, that combine elements of dream pop, post rock and psychedelia. First imagined by lead songwriter/guitarist Austin Johnson in 2015, Hug Me, I’m Homesick is the band’s second EP. Other members include Casey Rauch (bass/drums/synth/backing vocals), Gabriel Warner (lead guitar/backing vocals), Ben Chalfant (lead guitar/synth) and Mariah Johnson (backing vocals).
The opening track by the EP’s same name, holds true to the EP’s goal of a collection of concept songs – the duration of time and a slow unfolding of dreamy and beautiful instrumentation. Already I feel that the many layers of vocals, both tenor and baritone and/or bass, are one of the group’s greatest strengths. Also, the time the band took to mix and master this EP was well worth the effort. The balance between instruments and vocals is very professional. These words to the tune sum up nicely what must be the songwriter’s pining for a love that perhaps, was no longer there anymore – “I will find my way back home / I will find my way back home to her.”
The words to “Old Friends” are something everyone should take heed to – “Don’t let your old friends / Become your old friends / Don’t lose their numbers / in your phone.” Man, if there’s a more tearful, heart wrenching song about missing your childhood and all the nostalgia that comes with it, I don’t I want to know about it. This one really tugs at the heart – the music is so gorgeous in its chilling vocal effects, its simple and almost nursery rhyme quality of the lyrics that really pack a punch. Grab a tissue or two for this one!
“Come and Find Me” is a quiet tune and carries on the band’s dreamy, ethereal style of echoing vocals and dream pop/lo-fi synth sounds. Overall, this one has a bit more edge to it with some added synth textures, fuller bass lines and soundscape guitars. Another great haunting number that bleeds into “From One Soul to Another.” This one is an all instrumental track that feels like it’s in the right spot on the EP. Spacious, open sounds and guitar driven echoing melodies with plenty of crisp, ride cymbals are the highlights here. The band taps into their bag of dreamy psychedelia influence and it’s absolutely brilliant! The ending “Just in time (Wouldn’t You Know)” finds the songwriter reflecting on broken promises and betrayal. Musically, I thought this one was so well executed – the arrangement of instruments, the backing vocals, and just how everything seemed to be doing its own thing, but then, all of the band coming together in time so well. If you like the echoed, swirling sound of synths, folk indie and dream pop with heartfelt lyrics, stay awhile, and give The Indigo Children a try.
Flying Daggers is an indie band based in Hong Kong, formed in late 2019. The band consists of Matt Suchecki (vocals/synth), Vincenzo Nardelli (guitar), Sergio Capuzzimati (bass) and Adrien Thai (drums). The band got to work quickly and got to work Man Is Man’s Worst Enemy.
This release is covered in influence from The Doors to Franz Ferdinand and many more. The songs felt like an amalgamation of different bands as they went through the handbook of rock 101. The band gets swinging with “Goodbye Blue Monday” which is a fun and loose song. I really liked the drumming and overall energy. The song cracked me up to be honest, mainly because of the lyrics on the chorus.
The band does an impression of The Doors on “Children of Atomic Bomb.”They start off sounding a bit like a couple of songs from The Doors and Suchecki even sounds like Jim Morrison. The song however does not stay there. It builds up and as I mentioned they start to sound like Franz Ferdinand perhaps mixed with The Smiths.
“Alexander the Great” is a mix of funk and rock. Three is some spoken word and it is reminiscent of The Talking Heads at moments. The chorus soars. “Blind” is under a minute and was more or less a transitional track but they do fit a lot in.
“Rats” was a great track. It sounded like Interpol and Joy Division more than the other songs. There are some great dynamics and the vocals are killer on this track. It’s a track with a lot of transitions. “The Sanctuary of Lost Souls” is sort of this funky hybrid but it makes sense because the garage rock aspect is strong.
I’ve been producing bands for about twenty years. Bands tend to be in their embryonic stage for at least two years. They wear their influences on their sleeve as they start to chip away at a singular sound. With that in mind Flying Daggers is off to a great start because they are taking their influences and creating their own sound. The band rocks and can write a killer melody. I hope this is just the beginning for them. Keep your eye on them. Recommended.
I have to admit I’m jealous that Jordan Little got to record an EP for her “thesis.” That was definitely not what we had to do when I was in school about twenty years ago getting a music degree. At any rate the EP Late June contains three songs which were a pleasure to listen to. Little explains that Feist, Wilco and Bahamas are musical inspirations. That comes through in the music.
Little gets going with “Late June” which revolves around a steady 4/4 beat, reverb laced guitars and a bass line which picks its moments. The lyrics very much reminded me of the mind of a young person in their early 20’s going through the timeless unrequited storyline. It’s tender, heartfelt and catchy. The song becomes repetitive to the point it becomes hypnotic. I was getting Broken Social Scene vibes especially toward the end of the song.
The Americana in the spirit of Wilco and countless others comes on strong on “Irene.” It’s reflective, melancholy, nostalgic and very on the nose for what the genre usually does. The song progresses and the intensity rises. It’s a bit predictable but everything is done very well from the guitar work to the vocals.
“To Be” was my favorite song. I liked the vocal melody a lot. The song is also dynamic and sort of empowering. I was getting more Broken Social Scene vibes on this song. The song moves quickly and there are some great instrumental sections. At around the two-minute-and-thirty- second mark the song peaks with additional vocal harmonies and inventive melodies.
Little is off to a solid start here. I’d like Little to partially shed some of the influence and find more of a singular sound but I was impressed with the songwriting as well as her aesthetic decisions which created a cohesive package. I’m looking forward to hearing more. Take a listen.
Overthinker is a five-piece band from Virginia that released Overthinker. There are four songs which are apparently going to be on their up and coming full length.
I was a kid in the ’80s but I remember the wave of metal bands that were into mythology and took themselves very seriously and created epic music. There are great bands like Iron Maiden and many others who played into this and they got away it. It was over the top, fun and created legions of fans such as myself. That inspired one of the best movies of all time called Spinal Tap. Overthinker is tapping into that same vibe from head to toe and loved what they were going for.
They start with “Long Ago” and the band dives head first into this view I’m talking about. The vocals are delivered in classic melodramatic fashion and the main riff sounds like it could be in the montage of a Rocky movie. As an engineer myself I did notice the band wasn’t always in the pocket like when they all attempt to get back on the main riff around the two-minute-and-thirty- second mark. That being said there are some great melodies and the band does everything in epic fashion.
The ’80s vibe is magnified with a Roland sounding synth on “Arise.” I was impressed by the bands dedication to the era. The vocals are again very melodramatic and the lyrics sound like they come from a fantasy novel. There are some great ones like “Come bear your shield, come draw your sword / A new dawn’s waiting to come o’er.”
They continue with “Harbinger” and “Capricornus” and they really just do a great job playing into an era that is way past its prime but still loved by many. I liked both these songs but they are some noticeable moments where the band is not in the pocket.
I’m happy that there are bands like Overthinker keeping this sliver of rock alive. It's really fun from the costumes, fantasy lore and over the top everything. The theatrical element in rock isn’t as prevalent as it used to be. There aren't too many Alice Coopers and Black Sabbaths these days.
This is a solid debut. I think working with the right producer might be able to bring them to the next level and I look forward to their full length.
Venison Veteran is a solo musician from El Paso, Texas who recently released Similar To Venison. He mentions that he “mixes the gritty sounds of The Mountain Goats with the cloying glitteriness of 3Oh!3 and Merzbow.” I was impressed with the Merzbow reference because of its obscurity. Most of the songs are a little over a minute long. The brevity of the songs made it feel like I was listening to vignettes.
He opens with “El Paso! El Paso!” and it is the most fully realized song on the album. The song can be split up into two distinct sections. There is the acoustic guitar and vocal beginning which then transitions to a chiptune infused song. The white noise is a little overwhelming but I understand the effect he was going for.
“you got it, champ.” was just so distorted and chaotic. I think the intention was to make your ears bleed on this track. He tones things down considerably on “OMG OMG” which is chiptune but also has elements of artists like Dan Deacon and The Postal Service.
The lyrics are silly and absurd on “Wells-Fargo.” It’s a song that mixes elements of Drake with what I think sounds like an industrial factory that is run by gigantic robots. There is some beautiful piano playing and he attempts to mix that with manipulated auto vocals on “Baby Sitter Interlude.”
There is a mix of hip-hop and chiptune as the album continues. “New_Recording_15.m4a” seemed to be some sort of rough demo he recorded in Garageband.
I did like some of the ideas on this album. As a producer and engineer my critique here would be to expand on his idea and try and combine all the styles he is attempting into a singular sound. I think ““El Paso! El Paso!” might be a good foundation for future material.
Similar To Venison felt more like a mixtape. I think there is some talent and potential here to work off of and I wish him luck in his evolution.
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