Holiis Riverbank is an eighteen-year-old musician. She started making music when she was around twelve years old and she has released a six-song EP entitled Overpass. Loretta Lynn, Jack White and Neko Case are some of her heroes and that’s evident in her music.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind with this release. She is not an audio engineer and recorded the whole EP in her bedroom. There is just no denying this is a demo quality release. On that note she is going to Nashville in search of a producer and engineer. This is a case where I unequivocally think this is a great decision.
The reason being you can tell that she has a lot of talent brewing. She has a good voice and has pretty good yet basic ideas for songs. On top of that I like her image. My point being is with the right team behind her I think it will bring about the potential that I hear on this EP.
Up first is “Perfect” where it seems like The White Stripes might be the major influence. I could definitely hear Jack White singing this song. It’s very catchy. Up next is “Muse” which revolves around a bass, a guitar and her vocals. Her voice really shines here. She continues to showcase the power in her voice on “Sapho Girls” and “Antidote.” The popular Dolly Parton song “Jolene” which has been covered countless times closes out the EP.
At eighteen years old she is at the embryonic stage of her development. From first hand experience playing music around when she did (I am thirty-six now), she will get better at her craft as she continues to go down the road of songwriting.
She has a lot of potential and the best advice I can give her at this point is to try and find her signature sound. The influence of other popular musicians is fairly easy to spot right now. I think her singing style fits the genre but she still is going to find that X-factor that makes her a singular musician.
As of right now I’d say she falls into a case of wait and see but I have a good feeling about her. She is one to keep tabs on and I wish her luck in her evolution.
I think it’s a myth that pop music is easy to make. I find it to be one of the most complex and multifaceted genres in music. The Adelaide, South Australia five-piece pop outfit The Cameramen seems to have done their homework on the pop genre and have taken many pains to get it right on their debut record Good Things Do Happen. Let’s start with the positivity of the record’s title. There is a subtle irony which unfolds from this title as we hear the lush and well-orchestrated pop in the vein of so many acts of the past five decades.
Good Things Do Happen opens with the simple and elegant serenade “Hello Friends.” There is a hinting at Nick Drake meets Jens Lekman styled acoustic pop music here. The dynamic shift, or what makes the song essentially so, is the haunting arrangements of piano and strings which hang in the background like a mist, coupled with singer Richard Sallis’s soft-spoken vocals which sound as though he’s reading a stack of notecards.
Next we get the more spectral piece of orchestrated pop “Drunken Serenade” which begins to show the far reaches of where The Cameramen is willing to explore, as they dole out Pink Floyd styled orchestration, which they continue to explore along with a bit of Pet Sounds influence on the slightly more playful and exhilarating roar of “Sea Creatures.”
The Cameramen is at their best when they concentrate on the orchestral swells combined with special oddities which again fall into the Pink Floyd vein later on the record as on the string driven “Dreams” which alone is worth the price of admission as is the soaring six- minute angelic “Onwards/Upwards” which unfolds brilliantly in a sort of time lapse of emotions and feelings that one just senses from the mesmerizing piano which leads into the eerie found sound recording that closes it out.
The Cameramen’s success I think can be linked to the orchestration of the songs on Good Things Do Happen, which boils down to five guys fine tuning their songs instead of just thinking ‘this is good enough,’ an attitude that unfortunately befalls many bands these days. Good Things Do Happen then is an album which deserves as much undivided attention as the listener has. The rewards will be worth it.
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Our Bones is a hard rock/alternative band from the Orange County, NY area. After playing together in a variety of different music projects for several years, they formed a band in 2015. Although their sound could be described as hard rock, there are also many different elements of different genres as well, making for a unique style. Their debut album No Slogan consists of ten diverse tracks that are definitely not for the faint of heart.
The album started with “Incumbent” which had a rhythmic marching band-esque drum beat and a dark feel. The lead vocals started with a sing-song indie style but quickly turned into aggressive and loud screaming. It felt menacing yet intriguing and I had a hard time working out my feelings about the sound. The arrangement was intricate and unique and undeniably different. The vibe is a lot harder than I’m used to but amazingly stylistic and cool. The second track “Wormhole Heart” won me over right away with its swaying, almost surf rock sound, and playful Indie rock vibe. The vocals were soft and playful but I found myself getting anxious every time I thought they might turn angry again. It definitely takes a darker turn towards the end but at this point, it seemed kind of fitting to me.
The track “Die Alone” was intense, to say the least. The contrast between the two vocal styles is insane. It’s like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing. There’s no transition. it just goes from gentle to rage in an instant. But I can’t say that I don’t like it. There’s something extremely badass about it. I can’t say I’ve ever heard anything like it. And the rest of the sound is on point. The guitars, bass and drums all stand up to the intense theatrics of the vocals and provide a solid foundation for the cool arrangements and melodies.
“Pray for Prey” had a video game-esque intro with very clever poetic lyrics. The vocals are even more intense on this track. I have to say that his voice physically affects me. I feel my heart rate quicken and I have to take deep breaths. Being the huge music nerd that I am, I am always somewhat “moved” by a powerful song, but this is on another level entirely. The next song “I Lit a Fire” almost killed me. Ok, not really, but it was the most intense track on the album for sure. The drums and guitar are just as piercing as the vocals, as they are on all the tracks, and the overall result is a dramatic and powerful song.
“Family Affair” stood out from the rest for me. It was soft and sad with harmonies and intimate lyrics. In an obscure way, it reminded me of “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer, even though I’m not really able to explain why. The following tracks “Rose (Pt. 1)” and “Rose (Pt. 2)” showcase the dynamics of the lead vocals while providing a catchy chorus and a complex arrangement. I loved the line “I can see that you’ve been dreaming because I’m conscious to a fault.” “Lost and Found” has a cool rhythmic intro and a pretty melodic guitar melody but I found myself bracing for the hardness that inevitably came, but was much more accessible than other tracks. The final song and title track “No Slogan” had a full, lush sound with intellectual lyrics.
Our Bones is something special. Although the hardcore vocal style can be somewhat polarizing at times, the playful Indie vibe pulls you in and allows someone like me who might not be fully versed in the hardcore style to want to stick around and experience more. The smart lyrics and instrumental talent make for a well-rounded album. I fully enjoyed No Slogan and will be anxiously awaiting the follow-up with heart medication if necessary.
Down Among the Drowned is an extraordinary effort from Mark Carleton, a one-man band out of Dublin, Ireland who took two years of recording this full collection of songs, which he hopes will get a wider audience someday. Not to sound cliché but, I think Tin Drums may be Dublin’s best-kept secret. Honestly, I don’t see how any of these songs shouldn’t get played on the radio or at least shared amongst many friends for years to come. Using Logic software and playing all the instruments himself, Carleton has crafted a deeply personal album that he describes as “scenes of collapse and reconstruction.”
The album’s opener, “Take You Down” reminded me of the ‘60s sound that made a revival in the 1980’s with bands like ABC and Squeeze. This song seems to be about not letting the bastards grind you down, because one can always find the positive within the crappiness that life throws our way. “Get Up, Get Out” also has that ‘60s pop-ish drumbeat that I love, complete with tambourine, guitar effects and handclaps. The album’s title track slows things down in a gorgeously layered way. Hushed drums keep the beat going and it had a mesmerizing effect on me – not sure how I could describe it any other way.
Carleton’s vocal style really matches well with the mood of this song, which by the way, reminded me a little of those guys from The Alan Parsons Project or Roger Waters, although way less menacing and threatening – think Pink Floyd’s The Wall. If any one song should be played on the airwaves, it’s this one.
“Shaking” has that alt-country sound reminiscent of Wilco or when they collaborated with Billy Bragg on Mermaid Avenue. I could picture in my mind the lone driver trying to shake off his demons among the dust rising form the desert highway. “Weakness” also shines with an acoustic, alt-country shuffle.
“Polaris” is another slow number that's reflective and touching. To me, it sounded very much like what McCartney would have written, post-Beatles, post-Wings. Carleton here sings of looking to the North Star for hope and guidance.
Further in on “Waltz #95”, I was pleased to discover that the song actually did have a waltz progression! Not many musicians I know of play waltzes anymore, apart from bluegrass or traditional country songs. The plucking strings in the background were brilliant and there is a hypnotizing guitar solo as well.
Another beautifully executed song is “Breaking Ground.” I’m a sap for adding strings (violins, for example) when it’s appropriate and they were done very well in this number. The drums come in after the two-minute mark and the vocals layered are haunting. “All I Need” ends the album with a nice sing-a-long melody that reminds me of simpler times growing up.
Overall, this is a wonderful collection of songs filled with lots of great melodies and embellishments other than just straight drums, guitar and vocals. It’s cohesive and not one song seemed out of place to me. There is also awe-inspiring photography for the album's cover and you can find that on the Tin Drums Bandcamp site. I’ll be getting this for sure and look forward to Tin Drums’ next effort.
From all the notable phrases and obscene outbursts borne unto this world via the great gonzo-journalist Hunter S. Thompson, one of my favorites is “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” I guess it all comes down to each individuals definition of weird, which in this day and age with the crowd hanging around on Earth everyday could be just about anything that exists outside of the strictures from which we’ve built our lives.
This idea of what is weird and or not is especially important when one is speaking about artistry in any way shape or form. To some, cubism and Jackson Pollock’s paint splatters are argued as furiously as cause célèbre. Just like with religion, as with art, music, literature etc., people go looking for clues and symbols desperately trying to piece together some semblance of meaning, of something that makes sense to them.
In this day and age with everyone being able to weigh in their opinions via different platforms of social media as soon as something they disagree with happens in the world, it is often now hard Australian band Trampoline Death Machine, their debut record Gasoline Washing Machine is twenty-one minutes of lo-fi wackiness and madness that is centered around the nine-plus minute title track, which sounds more like a rehearsal space jam session than an actual song.
To its credit it’s got some nice bits in it, especially the ones that sound like Dungen rip-offs, but after a time it just becomes white noise in a sense. The opening track “Choo Choo Train” stereotypical smattering of guitar noise whitewashed with sound effects that builds up for a minute and then ends, which one could also say is the same thing happening on the short and odd “Sauron.”
There is nothing really holding the music together, no sinewy. Trampoline Death Machine cite fellow Aussie psych-rock wunderkinds King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard as major influencers, and I can hear their paeans hard and fast in the spirit of these songs. However while the band are decent copyists of King Gizzard’s surface style, they fail to provide the mathematical mastery that band is truly lauded for, and not just for having hazy guitars and a flute jam together.
Despite my honest opinion of the Gasoline Washing Machine sounding very critical I still think the band itself has a ton of potential, something that also shines through on this album. I believe as these guys mature and make more music together that their sound will start to take the shape that they want it too. What I enjoy most is charting the evolution of an artist’s career, and I’ll be waiting patiently to hear what kind of professionalized weirdness Trampoline Death Machine come back with.
Sternlumen is a musician from Denmark who in all likelihood plays piano way better than you. Nørrebro Nights is his second release that simply revolves around piano with no overdubs from what I heard.
Technical mastery versus aesthetics can be an interesting discussion about music. Does technical mastery matter to the average listener? The answer is overwhelming no. People who don’t play an instrument are less inclined to care how fast that guitar player is.
Most people listen to music because it provides an emotional reaction whether it is existential dread that you can relate to through a band like Radiohead or the feeling of adrenaline that you might get when listening to a band like Mastodon. For Sternlumen his technical prowess is indeed an integral factor to making emotionally resonant music but not always.
Take for instance the opener “Red Wine Melancholia” which features beautifully cascading piano notes that if it wasn’t for his precision and nuance would simply fall flat in the hands of a less experienced player. The feeling is all at once regal, eloquent and refined. “Nørrebrogade” wasn’t much of departure from ““Red Wine Melancholia” and was equally as impressive in many ways.
“Neon Lakes” conjured a different feeling from me. The song felt more haunting even dark at times. There is ring of sadness that surrounds the song that only seems to intensify as it progresses.
He mentions the philosopher Kierkegaard in the title “Kierkegaard between trees and spheres” but the meaning will have to be interpreted as there are no lyrics to guide a story. The explosive playing towards the end was a high point among many. “Regina” is dramatic and even chaotic sounding at points. Around the four-minute mark the piece shimmers with apprehension and uncertainty.
He closes with “Morgendämmerung” where he proves that some of the beauty can lie in between the notes. His technical mastery is put to the side and embraces the depth and sustain of each note. It's in this moment that he understands that as a brilliant player as he is he doesn't have to always show it.
The Velcro Shoes is a band name I expect to hear more frequently in the future after listening to their fourth album All That You Are. As far as the alt-rock genre goes, I typically get a sense for how things are gonna go, not so much with these guys. All nine tracks are solid and worth your time.
The band operates out of Pittsburgh, PA with vocalist Eric Emerson leading the charge with extensive experience being on the road with other bands. Pittsburgh seems to be a place of destiny for the band as all roads somehow lead there in their creation. Fate or not, this group has found a rhythm with one another and makes invigorating music.
Upon reading the description of the album I was instantly wary of the words “organic sound.” Allow me to explain, in the past when artists have described their work as “organic” it was actually code for “we know nothing of audio engineering and couldn’t pay someone.” The result often being an at home recording project gone horribly wrong that sours the milk of the music.
I want to thank The Velcro Shoes for showing me that this is not always the case. The band wanted to capture the live show aspect of their music, and I would LOVE to see these guys live. Bottom line, it worked, the production gives the music a grungy, crunchy edge that complements their aesthetic.
The Velcro Shoes’ sound is one that is unified, but not predictable. This is a band that I believe to be at its finest when they are going hard and fast. At times, they veer into this cool, early punk sound that rattled my spine. You get a good taste of that right from the start with track one “In the Frame.” There was no better song to fill that initial spot and I would say that as a whole the album’s arrangement was spot on. Only a couple of tracks fell even remotely flat for me, most notably track three “Love Will Serve.” The song is lovely but compared to the others slid into a “meh” category for me personally.
The guitar work from Mike Slobodian and Bill Krowinski is off the charts awesome. These guys are fearless when it comes to pushing the genre into a harder, rougher place. The best asset those two could have to keep pace with them is drummer Garrett Bogden. It’s all tied together with twine thanks to Emerson’s vocals which show a serious level of experience. Too often when a band goes for the harder side, we get a vocalist who loves to channel their inner hair band and just cheese ball all over a perfectly good thing. Again, I love to see exceptions to the rules and The Velcro Shoes keep on bringing the pleasant surprises.
What excites me most about this album is the range of fans that I imagine they have collected. While I tend to stay in the surfier, lighter side of this genre, I was completely into it. I think they have more than enough edge to pull in hard rock fans. They even managed to woo my metal head husband, an incredibly picky man when it comes to music. All in all, this album is a triumph. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
At twelve years of age Aaron Creigh started playing drums. Since then he picked up a guitar, a bass and started writing songs. Later on in life in he went to college for music. Suffice it to say that he has music in his blood. His most recent accomplishment is his four-song EP entitled All we Leave are Memories.
At center of this EP are his vocals and acoustic guitar. There is other instrumentation but the former felt like the meat and potatoes of the songs to me. Craig's music felt like really well done pop music. Something that's a little hard to pin point about his singing style and playing made me think his songs would work better on FM radio than a playlist with acoustic players like Devendra Banhart, Tallest man on earth and Iron and Wine.
The production and recording quality is fantastic all around. I really have no issues in that department.
He opens with “Gohan” which starts off with a cheerful concoction of strings. It’s an upbeat yet heartfelt song. Creigh seemingly combines lyrics that mixes aspects of mental health and romance. He sings, “is it safe to open my eyes / Because this detachment is getting far, far too old / Protection from within / Yeah but this burning heart grows thin / Loss of mind is not a disease / But more a temporary release.” The orchestral strings and piano fills are a nice touch.
Up next is “Undone” which definitely has a pop feel to it in many ways. The song starts off with a strummed acoustic guitar, piano fills and vocals. It’s soft, warm and melancholy. For the last two minutes the song starts to change into something that sounds very inspirational and hopeful.
“As a Gift” is more upbeat and fleshed out. In all honesty there were times where I thought of Michael Jackson. I’m sure you will hear what I’m referring to if you take a listen. He closes with the sparse, slow moving and melancholy “Shower this Child in Love.” The song felt a little long at seven minutes.
Creigh is a no brainer if you are looking for a pop-oriented singer/songwriter with a palatable voice. Recommended.
Douglas Sims is an artist from Texas who recently released a ten-song album entitled Feel to Heal. It’s a fairly straightforward psychedelic/atmospheric rock album. Sims utilizes a bunch of reverb, synths, delay effects and more to create the general vibe of the album.
The album is certainly on the lo-fi side which for the type music it is is not ideal. I had a lot of problems making out the lyrics. There was a lot that could have been done on the post-production side to make the vocals have more clarity. One thing for sure is using subtractive EQ on the reverb itself around 700hz and 250hz which would have still do it's thing while adding more definition. I thought the drum sound was solid and I was impressed. The acoustic guitars however could have used some work on certain songs.
Up first is “Feel to Heal” which is indicative of what else you can expect on the album. It’s very atmospheric and instead of building starts to do the opposite which I thought was an interesting choice.
If you stripped back the reverb and other effects on “Keyhole” it would be a pretty straightforward pop song. “Dynamite Copyright” was a highlight. He double tracks the vocals and it works quite well. I think comparisons to Pink Floyd were obvious. “Best of Times” was another solid song where he utilizes resonance filters while “New Song Everyday” has a bit more movement from the percussive synth lines.
“On the Way to My Heart” is stripped back and revolves around acoustic guitar, vocals and melancholy. The song is solid but was also muddy and again needed some subtractive EQ on the lower mids. “Far Beyond Our Expectations” has a different feel than a lot of other songs but I thought the vocal melody towards the end was possibly the catchiest on the album. “Grammy Award Winning Instrumental” was indeed an instrumental that has some inspired moments.
I would recommend that Sims considers handing off his mixes to a mastering engineer in the future. They were a number of sonic and dynamic inconsistencies that a pro could have handled with relative ease.
Overall Feel to Heal was a cohesive album with a number of well written songs. He has a sound which is one step ahead of the curve and l look forward to his evolution.
Spare Souls are making their debut with this five-song EP, coming out of the New England coffeehouse scene. I wouldn’t have been surprised if you’d told me they had come from Nashville. The band is certainly dealing in some country and roots music elements that sometimes seem filtered though the lens of Led Zeppelin. At the end of the day though the Spare Souls EP has a generic rock feel, and functions almost more as a proof of skill than an artistic statement.
“Me You Stole” leads off the collection with the aforementioned Zeppelin worship, especially in the vocal part. The drums don’t have a lot of life, which is understandable given the band’s acoustic performance background, so the song relies on that vocal part for its dynamic movement. I do like the organ, which adds a little depth to the bluesy stomp in the high register. Out of the EP’s five tracks, “Me You Stole” seems most like a sign of the path Spare Souls is taking, moving from open mic balladeering towards a fuller rock sound.
“Electric Hearts” brings some pedal steel guitar into play, and the 3/4 sway ends up making for a solid take on the dusty country waltz. There’s not a lot of variety though; it seems to me this would work better in a shorter format, especially since it’s the same chord progression all the way through. The solo broke things up nicely, and might have been a nice note to end on.
“Out of Space” leans on a Mellotron as its backbone, putting the drums away for a dreamier vibe. The gentleness works well against the tracks with bolder sounds, showing a little more of the group’s depth. The runtime is still a bit long, though I think it’s more worthwhile here than on “Electric Hearts.”
Strangely, the closer “Rid the Demons” uses almost the same Zeppelin template as “Me You Stole.” This track shakes itself up more often, constantly building as it moves forward; I get the sense this is their take on a “Stairway to Heaven” slow-burn. The guitar work is nice, though I was expecting a burlier solo. “Rid the Demons” concludes the Spare Souls EP with a similar sound to its opener, but in the end, it doesn’t feel like we’ve gone too far out of the comfort zone.
As the first few recorded songs of the project, I expect that Spare Souls has used this EP to figure out exactly where they want to go. They can either try to stay on the softer side of proceedings, and move even further into the Americana style they teased with the pedal steel guitar, or push towards even headier and heavier rock n’ roll flair. The Spare Souls EP shows that they can do all of these things with talent, but ultimately needs more common threads between them. Once they’ve got a more cohesive sound in place, I think they’ll make something really sweet.
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