All the way back in 2019 I reviewed the self-titled release Monrad from Monrad. I was attracted to the Leonard Cohen type baritone as well as the dynamic and inventive music. The artist is back with a followup entitled Wired.
The album contains eleven songs and the vocals are still the central focal point to the music. Musically, the songs are rock but also sort of a dark mix of surf, spaghetti western and other like minded genres.
Up first is “Velvet Melody” which is both fun and upbeat but also dark. I loved the way these qualities were juxtaposed against each other. There’s a danceable post-punk like quality to the music.
The title track “Wired” is a great song and has a very similar quality. You can dance to this song but it’s dark. The female vocal harmonies were a nice touch. Something about the song made me think of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“Villain” is another cool song. He’s borderline rapping on the verse in his own distinct way and on the chorus he sounds more like Tom Waits. It’s an interesting dichotomy. I loved the beginning of “South-southwest” which is arguably the best groove on the album. The reverb-laced root notes on the guitar on this album quickly become a part of the signature sound. There are also wonderful horns on this song.
“One-Stop-Shop” is a unique song amongst unique songs. It’s more ambient and the melodic maneuvers are hypnotic and sort of jagged. The more ’80s inspired “Break It” sounded good and “Turmoil” was a danceable song. One of the highlights was the slow burn of “Midday Sun” and i was reminded somewhat of the band Mogwai in terms of the music. “Night Shadow” closes out the album. The music is really great and sort of has this psychedelic and electronic quality to it but also very nice guitar and sax work.
This is another great release from Monrad. I think the artist contains an amalgamation of influences but definitely has a signature sound. Take a listen.
Captain Frittata is the band name of South London, UK’s Dom Shaw. He admits that though he’s been creating music as long as he can remember, he hasn’t had many “accomplishments” to date, and in fact never intended these songs to be released. But Shaw became totally immersed in recording and production, and What You Get is what we all get as “the first formed piece that I have finished.”
Thematically, Shaw says he “always wanted to create an album that becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It's a theme to all of my favorite records and I've tried to capture a range of feelings to display depth. It's primal at points and it's vulnerable at others. Musically, it's heavily rooted in rock, alternative and lo-fi.” Shaw says he uses the name Captain Frittata as a conduit for “emotional release through music.”
Shaw plays pretty much everything except drums (credited to Cam Steele and Alex Holt) and harp (Rebecca Hordern). He recorded on Pro Tools in his own house and a friend’s basement. For me, the Captain Frittata songs show an abundance of creativity and musical chops, without the technical side having yet caught up. The tracks are listenable, but with more seasoning and experience, they could be much better. That said, if I’d made this album in my 20’s, I would have gladly played it for my friends with the assistance of a stinky bong.
“header” immediately establishes the experimental and somewhat lo-fi nature of Shaw’s music. A one-minute overture, it sounds like Hawaiian music encased in a capsule floating through space. This short track then leads directly into the longest song at almost ten minutes “In Peace / Martha.” It begins in proggy fashion with trebly picked electric guitars and a vulnerable, sonically pinched vocal by Shaw. Like a rock opera by The Who, the song erupts into an exultant full-band chorus with all the instruments swimming in reverb. Captain Frittata’s sound is far from slick, without apparent use of a click track, though the haphazard beat adds to the charm. After slowing down again, the track kicks into fast driving rock with cool slamming guitars and - surprisingly - what sounds like a processed saxophone solo. Shaw has pages of vocals to declaim, and he manages to get them all in. But that’s not all: the final two minutes feel like a different, more dynamic prog-rock construction, which just kind of stops when Shaw feels like it.
The title track “What You Get” continues the unique Frittata sound with a pad of bizarre voice samples on endless loop behind Shaw’s mellow folky singing and strumming. Without as much clutter, I noticed for the first time that Shaw actually has a pretty nice singing voice, both for lead vocals and harmonies. The production is again kind of spiky, sounding a bit like raw, unmixed Beatle bootlegs. “Mortality” has an acoustic guitar and vocal seemingly taped from another room, like a demo for what could be a really good song. “Golden Bear” is another short but nicely composed tune with an interesting arrangement. “24HR” has an eerie, sleepwalking Pink Floyd quality with low rumbles and indeterminate voice samples.
“In The Detail” jumps out of nowhere as the diamond of the bunch. A chunky pop rock gem in the tradition of ’60s psychedelic bands or even Bowie and Sebadoh, it features killer hooks, excellent British-accented vocals and an irresistible beat. Though a bit over saturated like the other tunes, the songwriting magic here can’t be dismissed. “Within” is another cool tune with ever-changing arrangements and many layers of instruments, including more saxophone overdubs. A funny quirk of Shaw’s music is that he often includes extraneous dialogue within his songs, along with off-mic comments; this is at least the third song to do so.
“…and Without” features Steve Hackett-like acoustic picking and intricately muted drum patterns. There’s even a whistling solo! “Unknown” concludes the album with another lyrics-heavy epic with prominent drums, bass and synths. When the fuzz guitars appear, it becomes quite the teeming package. Shaw doesn’t print his lyrics, but here’s a sample of his stream of consciousness style: “I’m asking you to forget everything, to take the jump, to go somewhere that you would never ever ever be / and let the sunset take care of all the logistics while the credits roll out all the inconsistencies / Fuck responsibilities, come take a ride with me!” A more than perfect psychedelic conclusion, though once again there’s barely sonic room for everything Shaw wants to play.
If I were to offer Shaw any advice - and who the hell am I? - it would be to record his instruments as cleanly as possible, experiment with different mixes and only then add processing and effects judiciously. But that’s the kind of thing experience teaches you, and I have no doubt Shaw’s future projects will show even more growth while retaining his already unique musical sensibilities.
Zero To Sixty is a duo from Adelaide, South Australia that formed back in 2005 and recently released a self-titled album Zero To Sixty. On their Bandcamp page they basically mimicked what vinyl is like. There’s side A and side B and you can’t skip to individual songs which I did find more difficult than nostalgic because it was hard to know what song I was listening to. The songs include “6:25 To Hell Into Infinity,” “A New Direction,” “Over And Out No Evidence,” “Nothing To Hide,” “American War,” “This Relative Position” and “Got You On My Mind.”
About ten years ago it became very evident that musicians often end up recreating the genres and style they grew up on as a teenager. Time and time again this has proved the case. I'd be willing to bet Zero To Sixty grew up on a steady diet of ’80s rock like Van Halen, Judas Priest and all those bands that sound very similar.
The songs are a little more experimental than your average ’80s song but for the most part they go through the handbook of rock moves that bands were pulling off back then. There are many times where you hear a David Lee Roth or Axl Rose type scream. The general aesthetics however are very much rooted in the ’70s and ’80s decade. They make no attempt to reinvent the sound or update with a contemporary 2.0 2021 type of production which I was fine with. Sometimes just going the purist route is the way to go.
I will say listening from beginning to end (even though I had no other choice in the matter) was the way to go. The album is dynamic and the band rocks out most of the time. There are subtle and softer sections which make it feel like a roller coaster.
There are some really cool sections. The band rocks out their hardest in part 2 around the eight -minute mark. There’s also the arpeggiated synths later in part 2 that align with what sounds like a JFK recording.
I like that the band got a little experimental here and there. It gave the band a more distinct flavor. That being said I think fans of ’70s, ’90s and especially ’80s rock will instantly enjoy this release. It doesn't seem that the band actually pressed any vinyl from what I can find but this works too. Enjoy.
The Lost & Left is a synth wave project lead by Raleigh-based singer/songwriter and producer Mike Phelps. Phelps recently released a three-song EP entitled Detach. According to Phelps: ‘The project was started after a decade long run of touring across the midwest and slightly beyond in other genre spanning bands (pop/punk/indie/rock).”
I thought the concept was original. Phelps explains: “This tlhree-song EP is a journey of an ’80s childhood plagued with sleep paralysis through the fight to break through by means of lucid dreaming.” The whole EP lasts about eight minutes and goes by fast.
The first song “The Beginning” is really just an intro. In fact I thought it could have combined with the second song “The Dark.” The reason being both songs utilize the same arpeggiated synth riff.
There is a lead synth and it reminded me so much of the introduction music on the series Stranger Things. The similarities between the mood and feeling are very close because of the prominent ’80s synth and ominous tone. “The Dark” is a full-fledged song and is about two-and- a-half minutes long. The song layers 808 style drums on top of the ’80s synth riff. It’s a catchy song and at this point since the ’80s synth pop has become so popular over the last ten years from bands like The Chromatics, Cut Copy and countless others that it feels contemporary again.
“The Light” is the most straight pop oriented. The song title feels fitting. It’s definitely more upbeat, bright and less dark. That being said the arpeggiated synths and other elements still come from a similar palette.
This is a fine release. The songs go by fast and I actually wanted a little more to bite on so I could get more of an idea of what else the artist can offer. On that note I hope to hear more soon.
Stephen McKenna (guitar/vocals) Laurent Steiger (guitar) Jayke Beckett (bass/vocals) Blake Spencer (drums) are Analogue Dreams. The young band that formed in 2018 recently released Half The Story.
Their release is a complete DIY rock EP. The songs felt straightforward but well written to me with a good amount of influence from ’80s and ’90s bands. They start with “Sundrift” and have this cerebral sort of intro but that vibe is cut like a chord when the whole band enters. The song revolves around 4/4 time, distorted minor and major chords and some solid grooves. I thought the chorus was solid and the band creates this serious no nonsense type vibe.
Up next is “Choice Is Clear” which has some solid moments. I liked the groove on the verse and there are some nice builds in the song. They get a bit more heartfelt and sentimental on “Past Reflections” while “Half the Story Told” is a highlight that has some good solid rocking moments.
Last up is “You Know Me” which was my favorite song in the batch. I really enjoyed some of the guitar parts, the vocals melodies and the way the song unfolds. The mixing was also the best on this song. Hopefully, this song is taste of what's to come from the band.
The band is newly formed and at this point I couldn’t really pick up on a signature sound but the songs were cohesive which is a good start. They have a big sort of epic sound and the lo-fi home recording while solid for what they are sometimes held back the potential. For instance some of the vocals felt on top of the music instead of in it and there are sections which felt like they could have been more dynamic with better use of tools like compression and riding a fader.
This is a solid EP. The recording quality is varied and some of the songs hit the bullseye. I look forward to hearing more from the band.
Emma Kieran is a young artist who started music at an early age and took some of that experience to make her debut Wildflow. Kieran mentions: “Her music has echoes of Kacey Musgraves, Colbie Caillat, Nanci Griffith, John Denver and Jewel — some of the many singer/songwriters she has been influenced by over the years.” I say those of are good comparisons. She definitely fits into the singer/songwriter category.
At the heart of these songs are the vocals and guitars. On that note some of the songs which do have more instrumentation were a nice way to introduce different dynamics so the album didn’t feel too static.
The album starts with “Wonder” and is a slower, warm ballad that sounds more hopefully and full as it progresses. This could have also been a good closer. The a cappella vocals might have been my favorite part of the song.
“Alchemy” was a highlight. The song is upbeat, has a solid country/folk groove and exceptional hooks. “Old Woman in the Wood” is stripped back and warm, and a melancholy song while “Wildflower” picks up the energy with some fantastic string included that sounds like mandolin. “Different Way Now” is a very intimate piano ballad. My only critique was the odd sixth track “A Message For You” which felt like a general PSA on her thoughts on the world in a very broad way. It did take me out of the album because it felt like an unnecessary intermission/speech that while very positive and heartfelt disrupted the flow and emotional charge of the album.
The more somber “English Breakfast Tea” is followed but the slightly more hopeful sentiment of “Dream Away.” I enjoyed “Millions Balloons” and “Jupiter and Saturn” which were quite good but the other highlight was “Roundabout.”
I was in college over twenty years ago now. These sort of reflections I noticed in her music definitely has more of a 20’s something type of quality in terms of themes. It goes to show a lot of these topics are timeless but also specifically resonate more with younger artists who are coming of age.
Overall, I thought this was a great album. Kieran has a really nice voice and I thought the songwriting was consistently solid. Take a listen.
Quinn is a 14-year-old Toronto based singer/songwriter. At 14, I could barely pluck up the courage to talk to someone of the opposite sex, so creating and releasing an album at such a tender age is some feat in itself.
Quinn has impressive knowledge of design and is able to produce exquisite music, as well as melancholic visuals. His six-track album Candy, Again sees Quinn flourish through dreamy vocals and beats and synth effects, all united with a strong sense of hopelessness. In terms of the genre Quinn’s album can be characterized as dream-pop or soft-rock with touches of electronic. But there is way much more to this artist, and such the versatility of the artist’s musicality, you can quite easily vision his songs transformed into orchestral or hip hop remixes.
The opening track "Cape Cod" has a Lana Del Rey allure and grandiose nature to it that really portrays Quinn's unshakable confidence. While "See you" deals with the frustration of lack of human interaction during the pandemic. "Resilence" is an amazingly inspirational song to help guide us through these tough times and spreads positivity for the future. With heavy Arlo Park and Billie Eilish vibes. Quinn has an interestingly concurrent voice with an idiosyncratic, heavily distorted vocal style that combines fittingly with his take on playful and innocent angst. As well as serving as a welcome reminder of how amorphous modern pop has become.
Candy, Again is a quintessential contemporary album dealing with the difficulties that modern life holds. There is a sentimental reflection of life pre-covid, which any human being can connect with. Such deep emotions from the pandemic are explored throughout from isolation to optimism.
Quinn is an artist that can guide you into his world, a world crammed with poignant happiness and adamant wholesome emotions. I look forward to seeing what direction this talented young singer/songwriter takes as he develops his sound.
Spanning across the Washington cities of Mead, Colbert and Kelso, 20-year-old lead guitarist Landon Spencer, 23-year-old Cailin Spencer, 18-year-old Samuel McQuarrie, 20-year-old Ian McTamaney and 20-year-old James Ott have joined forces to create the band known as Spilt Milk. The band’s beginnings started in high school with one central focus – to be original. Their debut See You Around was recorded in London Bridge Studios in Shoreline, Washington. The project was produced by Julian Anderson and mastered by Geoff Ott. See You Around is an Americana rock album that draws inspiration from bands such as Dawes, Tom Petty, Jerry Jeff Walker, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Nathaniel Rateliffe. All the songs on the EP were written in various basements over the band’s senior year and recorded the following summer in 2019. Their style is unique and reflects each of the member’s personalities.
First up is the title to the EP, and it’s a jangly, rock and ramble tune with a full band song. A familiar “oom-pah” country beat with piano, warm bass and free from guitar sound that reminds me of Lou Reed from his Velvet Underground days. The vocal harmonies round out the band’s natural instrument, making this a highly likable number.
“Snakes in the Water” has even more great vocal harmonies and a stronger presence of the piano, accompanied by an old-style Hammond-like organ. This is a happy sounding tune with elements of pop and Americana folk and I think you’ll agree.
The third track is “Shoulder” and the band gets quiet on this tune. A low mellow organ, rim shot on the snare with a meaty bass drum thumping, and an acoustic guitar strumming somberly. The young singers’ harmonies are the real highlight, as they belt out the chorus with a lot of heart. I think there’s an old fashioned style with this one – you may hear some CCR or Dylan influence coming through here. Lastly there’s “On a Roll” and it features a more rocking edge. The drums are stronger, the vocals more forceful and the pairing of the band’s two main singers really shine through on this last number.
Overall, I think the entire band really play to their strengths from start to finish throughout the EP. This Washington band has a lot of great potential and has a lot of years ahead of them to prove it even more.
Ravenman is the recent release from Mike Lambeth. The artist mentions: “The Ravenman album sounds dark & heavy with some metal & rock influences & is gothic in lyrical nature. Gothic metal.” Lambeth mentions some of influences like Black Sabbath, Therion, Theatre of Tragedy and NIN. I definitely picked up on Black Sabbath right away and in particular a ’70s metal vibe.
This is a very long album which is one hour and eleven minutes long. It’s intense and required a couple of sittings to get through completely but there are some pleasures along the way. The first song “Serpent Rising” was a solid song. There’s some great riffs here including some parts which I wasn’t expecting which felt like post-rock and others that felt like something Frank Zappa might come up with.
Black Sabbath can sometimes come off a bit humorous and that was some of what I was feeling on “The High Priestess” and lots of other songs. It’s very mythological and a cartoonish and the lyrics felt somewhere between Spinal Tap and Black Sabbath which is perfectly fine.
I think that’s why I appreciated this album is because it was constantly on the line of taking itself too seriously like countless other metal acts that read one too many fantasy novels. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and many more used these themes in their music.
As the album progresses I thought the songs were fairly consistent. I did have some favorites like “Forest Styx,” “My Tempest” and the closer “Death, Magic & Rebirth.” There are even some excerpts which sound like they are from a play about lords, mages, kings and well you get it.
If you’re a fan of fantasy based metal then you should love this. I don’t have much doubt about that.
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Mick Shaffer has an impressive resume. He started practicing the guitar again at age forty but first picked it up when he was fourteen. Before getting into music he worked in the entertainment industry.
Shaffer appeared on network television, off-off Broadway theater, the stage of Radio City Music Hall and various comedy clubs in NYC performing with the likes of Robin Williams, Bruce Willis, Alan Arkin, Dennis Leary and Gilbert Gottfried. On the music side he has been playing in the San Francisco bay area for over twenty-two years and recently released Thoughts & Ruinations.
The album contains ten songs and is around forty-two minutes long. I would say the music is rock based with a strong proclivity towards’70s Americana based sounds. The first song entitled “Amiga'' was a highlight. I loved the opening guitar and slight country twang on this song. Johnny Cash came to mind but with more electric guitar and atmosphere.
Next up is “Low Hanging Fruit’ which sheds most of the country flavor. There’s some really great work across the board when it comes to the instrumentation. The warm and inviting “Lay It Down” lays down the Americana thick and the first time Neil Young came to mind. “Another World” is stripped down with just acoustic guitar and vocals while “Glimmer” features a new vocal style - spoken word. “True” was one of the more single-worthy songs. The song drives and has memorable vocal melodies.
Some of the best vocals are also on “Same Old New Thing.” I thought “Imagining” has more of a contemporary country quality. It wasn’t my favorite song in the batch but contains warm melancholy and hope. “My Green Thumb” is a fun one. It’s loose and playful. Shaffer closes with “In the Moonlight” which is atmospheric and misty.
This was a really well produced and written album. I liked most of the songs and thought some were exceptional. Recommended.
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