Terra and the Dactyls has been active in New York City for just over a year. Despite being a relatively new band, they have gained notoriety playing shows all over the city, including a benefit that raised $6,000 for charities aiding women. The band released Dead Sister their first EP in May of 2018 with plans to write and record more following their recent tour of the American midwest. Dead Sister is an espresso shot packed with explosive energy and musicianship, showcasing the talent of the individuals alongside the chemistry of the band as a whole.
“Deadman’s Clothes” feels like a carnival attended by classic Hollywood monsters. Dracula, Frankenstein, Nosferatu and the zombies from Night of the Living Dead wait in line to ride the tilt-a-whirl. I had this thought when I heard the organ that opens the song. It takes off into a frenzy of bounding chords and falling notes with a driven and biting tone. It makes other appearances in the song, between the verses that are populated with bendy guitar accents and cascading drum rolls. The vocals slice through this foundation like a knife, deliberately and cleanly, cutting right down to the raw nerves of the listener.
“Sister City” runs longer than the other songs. The different sections are exciting through transition, and each individual section includes moments of wonder. The feeling of the song transforms alongside these changes, taking the listener on a ride for the long haul. Despite its just over six-minute running time, the song feels shorter because of the changes. No matter where the song goes, it always feels like it ends preemptively. It is highly addictive, and a showcase of the skill and vision of the band as a whole.
Before even listening to the music, I was immediately grabbed by Dead Sister’s album cover. Brilliant color, a cool band logo and a haunting picture. I was also excited by the name of the band, Terra and the Dactyls. The content of the album brought that excitement to another level. Exploding out of the gate, Terra and the Dactyls wasted no time in taking me for a ride through the album. It ended too quickly, a second listen was needed less than ten seconds after the last song ended. It is hard to sum the entire thing up in just one sentence because there are many different angles that the energy comes from. An excellent effort, I can say with certainty that I will be anticipating their next release.
An epic overture opens A Trip To The Woods, the promising debut album from San Diego based Bellbottom Laser. Three-and-a-half minutes is all it takes for Laser, the one-man band of Bryce Jacobs, to cover psychedelia, spoken word funk and rev’d-up rock in the style of Cursive. In fact, Jacobs shares several qualities with Tim Kasher past the obvious vocal similarities: instrumental inventiveness, conceptual thought, and a DIY mentality suited for the BandCamp landscape.
Jacobs’ primary interest appears to be in genre blending, whether it’s the garage rock Jet meets Maggot Brain funk of “Rain Song” or the Brit punk meets Summer of Love blues rock of “Wake Up.” There’s an affection for lounge music chords, found blended with Animal Collective dance on the instrumental “Acid Testing” and the despondent Roger Waters imitation of “End Of The Night.” These mixes are well executed, creating an overall sense of world-building over ten tracks that feel like more. Negatively, the effect of the mix can come occasionally off as “scratch dj”-ish, with too much blending acting as a distraction more than a sonic experience.
As versatile a vocalist as a producer, Jacobs goes low as a midnight feeling on “Don’t Delay,” gets possessed while taking “A Break For The Funk” and evokes the shaky- emo of Connor Oberst on “The Drifter Travels Light.” Laudably, there’s rarely the sense you’re hearing more than one vocalist, which tends to happen when new artists attempt so many styles on a project. This doesn’t mean his choices are infallible however, “Zelda Fitzgerald” is this album’s lowlight not just from a wavering and unsure lead, but questionable background hollers as well.
Bellbottom Laser took a hard look at the end of teenage life and managed to coherently translate his observations into a solid debut album that uniquely tackles its subject matter with less angst then one would expect. The songs are well crafted, though more memorable for the performances and playfulness then for outstanding tunes when it comes down to it. With years ahead of him Bryce Jacobs will have time to refine his tastes, advance his technique, figure out what makes a song great and undoubtably release a work of true substance at some point in his musical journey.
Atlantic Eyes is the solo project for April Raver. This is her first EP entitled More Than Surviving (EP) which contains four original songs. I’ll quote the artist in that, “this album is very heavily inspired by the death of the artist's brother and father figure; this album is essentially the musical diary of a teenager dealing with loss, gender dysphoria and change.”
By all accounts the EP felt like a valiant first attempt for someone who seems to be getting their feet wet both in music and recording. There are some notable melodies throughout the EP but I have to admit that I wanted a little more in terms of technical prowess.
Up first is “Lost in Transition” which is contains a soft lead synth, a beat and a string of power chords. The vocals certainly have their moments but could use a little studio magic that may have helped with higher pitched notes.
On “Nostalgic Heartache” which is quite nostalgic the lyrics are certainly heartfelt and delivered with a lot of passion. “Smells Like Spring Grove” was the highlight in my opinion. It’s dynamic, catchy and had a kinetic energy to it. “You Might Be The One” was also a solid track. It felt theatrical and quite different from anything else on the EP.
As an engineer and music teacher I know there a couple of things that could take the music to the next level. I think it would behoove Raver to try and work with a produce/engineer at some point. Even with lo-fi there are certain things that can be done with tools like EQ and compression that would enhance the fidelity of the music. I also think working with a drummer would be almost indispensable with this type of music.
Raver has some talent in the songwriting department especially in terms of structure. On top of that I can’t deny the sincerity of the songs themselves.I feel like Raver is just starting out as a musician and the best is yet to come. I wish her luck in her evolution.
New Locals is a recently formed band comprised of Matt Mason (vocals/guitar), Zack Block (vocals/guitar), Matt Johnson (vocals/bass) and Grant Muskevitsch (drums). The band just released Dreams.
They have a relatively broad indie/alternative sound that brings to mind a number of like minded bands from the ’90s such as Pavement and Smashing Pumpkins to more contemporary acts like Grizzly Bear. Although the album doesn't push past its predecessors in significant ways to my ears the album casts a wide net that should primarily attract indie rock fans from multiple decades.
They start with a short ambient piece entitled “Wake.” It felt a little unnecessary to me. It creates a deep, pensive mood as if I was getting ready to listen something as cerebral as Radiohead or even as cosmic as Pink Floyd. The next couple of songs lay out the foundation for a grounded rock band starting with “Surrender.” It’s a song covered in comforting distortion. The verse almost feels blues-inspired compared to the soaring chorus.
The ’90’s vibes are strong on “Rebels Looting” and this was also the song that really go me on board. It’s a loose, catchy song and I thought Mason finds his range and delivery on this song. The J Mascis style guitar is great and ends up for making a clear highlight on the album.
The band has more success with clean guitars on “Pleased to Meet Ya.” That being said I love the fuzzy bass on the freak out section of the song. “Moonlight” is more funky and lively while “Fuzzy Feeling” take a familiar riff and spins it in a style similar to The White Stripes.
The band goes into atmospheric, shoegaze territory with “Dreams.” They end with “Sleep” which is extremely ambient to the point of feeling ephemeral while getting further away from a ’90’s alternative sound.
There is a fairly familiar aspect with debut albums (including this one) that I hear quite frequently where a band seems to be figuring out who they are through the process of making the album. There are attempts of many different styles which ultimately showcases their diversity but doesn't quite build a signature sound. On that note eight times out ten I will hear sophomore album showcase a more cohesive scope that displays a more concentrated foundation.
Overall, this is an impressive debut. The band has a lot going for them in many different departments. I’m looking forward to hearing more of their music as they evolve.
Summer Houses is the recording project for Morgan M. Clemente. His first release under this moniker is a three-song EP entitled Somedays. It’s a noisy, lo-fi affair that is in an almost constant state of dissonance.
Up first is “Collapse” which melds elements of shoegaze, alternative and other like-minded genres. The vocals are delivered in a kind of ’90s classic indie rock type of way and a number of bands came to mind. Clemente sounds like a young guy talking about suitable topics. He sings, “I'm severing ties with all my friends / Collapsing under your weight / I’m just a character in your stories / I represent all your self hate.”
“Between Then and Now” is full of nihilistic thought and ambiguous ramblings that are completely open to interpretation as to what, where and when they are referring to . At its best the song sounds similar to My Bloody Valentine and early ’90s indie rock acts by combining large splotches of feedback and distortions that shift in pitch.
“Pen Pals pt. 1” is a bit more melancholy and tragic. The story on paper is deep but the way it’s told feels a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s a slow burn which eventually leads to a Godspeed You! Black Emperor type drone.
The EP reminded me of some of the more noisy aspects of The Microphones. It’s also similar to The Microphones in the lo-fi approach. The Glow Pt. 2 is a bit of an anomaly because it sounds lo-fi but the engineering is deceptively really well done. There is a clear separation on instrumentation, the dynamics are well implemented and much more.
As an engineer myself I can say the music on Somedays is a difficult style to engineer just because of the sheer amount of white noise which takes up most of your mid and high frequencies between 1khz and 10khz. As Clemente steps into his full length I hope to hear a little bump in this area whether it's by working with other engineers or by increasing the fidelity. There were a lot of interesting things happening but even with my best audiophile listening equipment it was hard to discern some of the more interesting, faint instrumentation.
Overall, I was impressed by these three songs. It was a little nostalgic for me and took me back to my college days at the turn of century when I first started to fall in love with noise rock. Hopefully, Clemente can keep that flame burning.
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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
Beach Fuzz Beach Fuzz 3.5
Derick Evans Songs from Last Thursday 3.5
Ingrid and the
Ministers Ministerial Debut EP 3.7
St. Yuma Here & Then 4.0
Timm Thaler Wanderlust 3.7
Children of Indigo Trails 3.5
Feed Your Head, an indie rock band out of Saint Paul, Minnesota, has tickled my fancy with their EP Self. Interesting name considering I couldn't tell you too much about the trio; they didn't spend a lot of time talking about themselves. Overall they are not very chatty in any way about their methods, members or influences and I am beyond okay with that. I enjoy jumping in with zero context, my mind is free of expectations. I'm free to digest the music as is, no GMO's or added sweeteners. I like what they've done here. Something about it sticks out like a sore thumb, in the best way.
The vocal performance grabbed my attention immediately and helped make this group so distinctive. The vocal talent has a raw female power to it, not that I am assuming the gender of the vocalist, but the vocals did remind me of some of my favorite vocalists who happen to be women. Speaking of the vocalists that this particular performance reminded me of, almost none of them were in the indie rock category, and that's what I think makes this vocalist stand out. I am reminded mostly of jazz and even classical singers who are women. The vocalist takes free spirited walks up and down the scale with a strong improvisational spirit. This lovely voice is paired with purely poetic lyrics which are sometimes very flowery and sometimes cut right through the bullshit.
On the musical side you'll hear things that are more decidedly indie. You get the surfy beach vibes and even a little dark alt rock mixed in. It's a good combo that really lets that voice do the talking. They keep everything at a very flighty and unpredictable tempo, another aspect that keeps this group so distinctive for me. They often anchor themselves in a low key indie rock vice that sound comes of as nostalgic, almost as though they pine for the ’90s as I do. I will say I do wish there was a little more meat on the bones of the music at times. I love what the guitar is doing but I feel like musically there were so many moments where it could have had more to say.
This EP was a studio project done in Saint Paul by Neil Weir of Blue Bell Knoll Studio. Mixing and mastering was done by the hands of Bruce Templton at Microphonic Mastering in Minneapolis. I like the touch of keeping things local for recording and production. It's interesting in today's market where those who do DIY often strive to sound more like a studio project and those who record in studio often have to work to be not so "studio." Self was engineered with more of an at home feel kept in mind however the professional grade touches are easy to spot and I appreciated it.
This is a great indie rock album that could stand the test of time, it has a timeless quality to it. I think there is more than enough appeal for me to state confidently that this is worth a listen if you're an indie rock enthusiast. It's an understated gem, I truly enjoyed it.
Jaded Past is the creation of George Becker. Becker comes from a distinct strain of ’80s rock. Some of the acts he has played with in the last couple of years include Mike Tramp (White Lion), LA Guns, Warrior Soul, London Quireboys, Trixter, Hookers n Blow (Dizzy Reed of Guns n Roses), Tracii Guns (LA Guns) and Cherrie Currie (Runaways). It therefore makes a whole lot of sense that his album Believe fits perfectly into the zeitgeist of the aforementioned band's.
Becker worked with Steve Brown who has credits with bands like Def Leppard and Trixter to really nail the production aesthetics that defined many of the bands at the time. You can hear that right out of the gate with “Tattered.” I felt like the song was a transport from a different time. It didn’t feel like an updated 2.0 2018 version. Becker seemed to want to stay true to a sound that was born decades ago.
Suffice it to say if you listen to “Tattered” and “Don’t Judge” and like what you hear you almost certainly will enjoy the remainder of the album. That being said I thought there were highlights amongst the batch.
The title track was a catchy, infectious track while “Good Bad Innocent” has an arena rock type quality that has a coming of age type feeling to it. “Whiskey Dreams” was another large sounding arena rock type song that brings to mind the hooks you might hear from Def Leppard.
“Be My Lady” felt a little more contemporary with the production but the mood quickly reverts with “Dashboard Jesus”. “Hurt” was a solid track while “Taken” felt like a song that defined the general sound of the album. We have one last rocker entitled “Scratch the Itch” before “Traces” which is by far the most atmospheric and nostalgic song that even has a solo that sounds like it was performed on classical guitar.
Jaded Past is quite obviously going to resonate most with fans of the genre. There are a good amount of diehard fans who will love this but a younger generation may appreciate this as well. Recommended.
Erik Woods is a musician from West Virginia who has been writing and recording music for the last seventeen years. His recent release ...and Open Skies is a lo-fi effort that embraces fuzz as much as organic instrumentation.
The first track opens in an ominous way with a fuzzy bass and clean guitar. It’s like the first emergence of a thunderstorm. The melodies start to quickly embrace dissonance and off-kilter melodies. About half way through the song vocals enter into the mix which feel hopeful and almost separated from the music.
The title track is a mix of instrumentation. You could make the argument there is a little too much happening. That being said the music and even the soft, boyish vocals reminded me of The Microphones.
“Glistening Listening” could be considered free jazz, improv or noodling around depending on who is listening and how it’s defined. “Brother Mania” gets into more experimental, artistic territory and is arguably the highlight. The song at points is barely hanging on by a thread. I think the vocals that enter into the mix make the song work really well.
“Music is for Lovers” seemed to go down the wormhole of an oscillating synth. It seems to serve as transition to the longest song entitled “Once Before.” The song is a melancholy collage of sadness and regret. He laments, “Why don’t you love me like you did once before.”
“Got Me Good” felt like a different band. There is a programmed beat and a tongue-in-cheek type delivery that feels more aligned with an artist like Ariel Pink. The closer “Storm Cloud In” reverts to the more experimental, acoustic approach.
The album has its moments. I can’t say every song was a home run but I think the most effective songs combined experimentation and pop sensibility. Take a listen.
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Yevgeny Baburin, Scott Bevan and Steve Fahlsing are Dot Connector. The band from Indianapolis, Indiana recorded Nuclear Priest. According to the band Nuclear Priest is a concept album based on on various Isaac Asimov novels. The intro and first two songs pertain to characters and elements from the Foundation series. The next one is based on The Gods Themselves and finally a song about End of Eternity.
There are solid ideas throughout and I wasn’t able to quite tell how serious the band was taking themselves. Some of it sounded similar to something from Spinal Tap which I’m not knocking at all but has a tongue-in-cheek kind of feel to it. I guess it doesn't matter that much but I felt like they were riding a fine line throughout the album.
The band opens with “Nuclear Sermon” which all in all is a solid prog rock song. I liked what was happening instrumentally. The band has some technical chops. That being said the song really felt like an intro for the title track.
The title track has its moments as well but unfortunately I couldn't make out the lyrics because the compression on the thin vocals wasn't well implemented along with a couple of issues regarding the recording. I again thought the instrumental aspects were well executed and did appreciate the vocal melodies.
“The Mule” showcases their technical even more with the band really digging into the prog rock sound. “Dua and Selene” and “Galaxy No Vacancy” have their moments as well. In fact I thought the structure of the songs was well conceived. It was a very cohesive batch of songs that undeniably created a foundation for the band.
As an engineer myself the best advice I can give the band is to work with an engineer/producer for their next recording. The songs had my attention but the recording quality doesn't come close to what even a small, mid-grade studio would deliver. I really would love to hear the songs’ potential come to life at some point.
This is simply a case where you have a good batch of musicians who need to find the right studio/engineer/recording. I’ve seen it in this type of situation and the musicians are always excited when they meet the right person for the job.
Overall, this is a band to keep your ears on. The talent is there and I predict good things. I hope to hear more soon.
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