Hello everyone! Meet Jake, also known as Jacob Lemme. He's from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and has been a musician since the age of six. Over the course of his life he has learned to play more than a handful of instruments. Now I'm going to do my best to get you acquainted with Jake the album. Jake the album is an utterly fabulous romp through grunge, alternative and indie rock. This whole project is really about what Jake could learn while creating Jake. I'd say with these eleven tracks I learned a lot about ME so I can only imagine how Jake did. I am really digging this whole Jake/ Jake situation.
The first track is "The Kink in G pt. 1" and I gotta tell you, that is one hell of a first impression. It starts off as a sweet and sticky grunge piece and then right at the end he jabs the needle in and goes hard. It was at this point I decided I could definitely be friends with Jake the album. As for Jake the person, I'm gonna try and not force it on him. The songs are themselves very human in that they are complex and prone to mood swings. It's actually is quite moving.
There's all sorts of emotions packed in here. Things like nostalgia, melancholy and my personal favorite, unbridled frustration. There's also moments that feel like pure productivity and others that are desperately trying to stop the clock, if even for a moment to try to get a handle on things. Sometimes these two themes coexist in the same song.
The lyrics are gold for me. The lyrics are treated in a variety of ways but for the most part are kept at arms length which is interesting because his voice almost sounds like what's in your head. My favorite track in terms of lyrics is "My Euphoric Wire." Another song I found particularly poetic was "The Kink in G Pt 2." Sometimes he doesn't need to say much; he can just get lost in his own head which means the listener gets to do the same. His vocal performances are pretty diverse. He can be monotone and ironic and also classically howling at the world's monotony.
I took this album out for a literal walk. I'm a train commuter here in Chicago and to me if your album can make me forget whatever psychotic thing the weather is doing and drown out a pack of wild Wrigleyville bros, you win. This album, combined with my noise cancelling headphones, held it down from Damen on the Brown line to Roosevelt on the Red line. One of the better CTA rides that I have had in a long time — so thank you sir. Needless to say, I've got it bad for this album and it's to the point where no one can tell me I'm wrong, not even Jake himself. So do yourself a favor and get with the program on this one, thanks.
Jacob James aka Motsy is an artist who just released his first EP entitled Motsy EP. There are five songs which sound like vignettes of songs with ideas that never get fleshed out. Take for instance the opening track “Surfy” which more or less sounds like a constant build. The build gets faster and then well sort of falls apart in a way and starts over again.
Up next is “Lied.” The guitar is out of tune possibly on purpose and revolves around a simple picking pattern. There are really no significant changes to the energy of the song which ends or could really just repeat.
“Ooh” contains a 4/4 beat, jangly minor and major chords and literally “Oohs.” The song repeats a riff while stripping off layers. It does that once and repeats. “Drum Drum Drum” is another instance of two note pattern that repeats. This time around drums flick around the two bass notes. “Detuned” is a piano piece.
One of the things that helped we while studying composition in school was learning the rules of the game. I studied both Western and Eastern theory which are very different on a foundational level. Once I learned the structure of what constitutes classical composition to modern contemporary pop I was able to but it in the back of my head and start writing my own music more effectively. I think James could benefit in studying a little more about composition and song structure. These songs which average around two minutes in length never get much farther from where they start. Melodic phrasing, dynamic shifts and resolution are only some of the things James will need to apply in order for his ideas to feel like more than ideas.
The good news is that some of the ideas weren’t too shabby. I’m pretty sure James is a young musician just experimenting in his bedroom. Everyone has to start somewhere and I wish him luck in his evolution as a musician.
Despite the heat holding steady around broiling here in Chicago, autumn is on the minds of everyone as school supplies are popping up everywhere. Having never been a good student, fall pretty much means I get to start my Halloween celebrating at my leisure. Call me a sucker for all things haunted and creepy, so naturally I would have some attachment to Vox Somnia's album The Broken Light. This album is committed to the darker and danker things in life. It lingers, it haunts and drags its listeners through the nitty gritty.
Anna Dorda is the owner of the voice that delivers these bittersweet performances on the tracks. There is an innocence and youth to her voice that makes these songs all the more unsettling at their core, but also beautiful. This isn't a harsh bummer, it's dreamy and enchanting. It works to slowly pull you in. Mike Millar does all the instrumental work which includes electronic elements as well as more organic ones. I love what he does with the piano because it helps elevate the music from purely an electronic core. He likes circles and winding rounds that expand and contract.
The first two songs were solid, however a little flat in terms of pace and very hard to pull them apart. My favorite song is track three "Prom Song." Here these two break out of the shell of the first two tracks. They kick up the percussion ever so slightly, let the guitar waver around a bit and throw in some peppier synth sounds. Even Dorda's performance turns up the sweet factor. This is all done in irony of course as the lyrics still point downward, but I genuinely preferred this harsh contrast. This was an excellent choice for the middle of the album as a sort of climax as things wind back down with the next two tracks.
The final track, "Swan" is also a favorite because there was much subtle drama with both the vocal and instrumental elements. On an instrumental level I got a healthy dose of that piano I like so much. With the vocals, Dorda employs a more classical approach which really turns up the gothic darkness on this song.
I know there are more than enough dark dwellers that would enjoy what Vox Somnia has here. I think they are correct to commit to this area of the music world because it is a little deviation from what I usually hear. This is subtle, sweet and tastefully understated. They enjoy painting pictures and then letting them gather dust and fade with time. It felt like these two have an ease around each other that lets them be themselves. The was no conflict or even a strand of hair out of place, it always felt natural and and easy, even when they were being more experimental. I wish to extend my congratulations and I would be very curious to see if another collaboration is on its way.
Kevin Conroy is an artist from Chicago, Illinois who released Let It Heal. The album contains seven songs that play into a singer/songwriter/folk angle. Throughout the album you are greeted with what is mostly melancholy nostalgia that is intimate and full of reflection.
These types of albums can sometimes feel saccharine and melodramatic especially if every song feels like a somber reflection of the past that turns into a hopeful realization of the promise of the future. That’s definitely a big part of what this release feels like it is about. It’s emotionally heavy and is backed by great production and solid performances.
Up first is “Old Thunder” which was one of my favorite songs. It starts off in a standard intimate singer/songwriter type setting with breathy confessions. The thing I liked most was the application of instrumentation that changes the mood of the song. It was a repeat worthy song.
“Keep Your Eyes On Shore” was another impressive song. It mixes the reflection and epiphanies of one's mind with orchestral strings, piano and more. The instrumentation again does a good job of shifting the mood and energy of the song.
“Railcar” is full of reflective thoughts about life that are poetic enough to not feel like platitudes. Conroy sings, “The days come and go, And here in the end, There's only one thing I know, This railcar will take me home.” “Annalisa” was a highlight and also a nice change of pace. I liked the vocal melodies and the joyous second half of the song.
“Let It Heal” is very dramatic that bares comparison to some of Coldplay while “Recovery” is under two minutes but still sets up an entire arch of a song. “How The Wildflower Grows” was a little predictable because it felt like a microcosm of the album. The first half is very melancholy and shines a single spotlight on Conroy for his most intense reflection. It all builds to the joyous, outpouring of redemption where he sings about getting his life together and appreciating the smaller things in life.
This type of cathartic, coming of age type of albums are a category that has been around for a long time. In fact the songs I have heard at a Sunday worship that feel somewhat timeless sound undeniably similar both in execution and mood.
There’s a reason the style is so popular. This type of music can be just as motivational to someone as a Tony Robbins convention or a self help book. If you want to reflect about your own life and you want to start the day anew, this may be a good companion piece.
Justin Smith (guitar/vocals), Austin Carlin (guitar/vocals), Jay Gonzalez (drums) and Nick Vogel (bass) are From Clay. The band formed in 2016 and released As Long As You're Happy. They have a ubiquitous alternative sound that bares comparisons to bands like Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and Lucky Boys Confusion.
The band has all the right tools and approach the songs in a no frills type of way. They stick to a lot of distorted guitars, heavy beats and steady bass patterns.”Keeping Up” is the opener and felt a little more aligned with ’90s punk bands. I liked the initial bass line and build that got the song going. The band switches it up quite often and plays at a fast BPM.
“Lackluster” had single written all over it. The vibe veered towards straight alternative and felt contemporary. They have more success with the high energy with “Here's the Situation” which displays a little more of their technical skills. “Coma” has a good amount of hooks and the band reverts to ’90s punk on “Intersections.” They play into pop-punk on “Whispers.”
The band is off to a good start especially for how little they have been together. They can write a solid hook and were for the most part in the pocket the entire time. I thought the individual members knew when to lay back and when to apply their instrument.
The band is still in the very early stage of their development. I think the aspect they need to be keen on is just developing a signature sound. They are lots of obvious influences but the songs had a general alternative/punk vibe and it would be hard for me to pick out the band if I heard them a week later.
The recordings were solid but there were specific areas I would have treated a little differently. There wasn’t enough snap in the snare for my liking for instance. Overall, the songs were good recordings but there are a couple things that would need to happen in order for them to really get that Foo Fighters type of recording.
Overall, I think the band is doing all the right things and if you are fan of the aforementioned band you should check them out. I have a feeling we will be hearing more from them and I can’t wait to hear what’s next.
Act Of Will is the pseudonym of Michael Wilson. The debut EP Nice Doggie was released at the end of May of 2018. Clocking in at just three songs, the EP is nothing but pedal to the metal madness. The EP explodes out of the gate, bombarding listeners with seemingly endless stretches of rolling bass notes, pounding drums, high-flying guitars and a large bed of synthesizers. Each instrument is played with competent confidence as the songs roll from cover to cover at breakneck speeds.
“Prickley Passenger” quickly became my favorite track. The drum work is incredibly technical, laying down a constantly rolling and rotation foundation for the synthesizers to flow over. It feels like watching a waterfall. Chaotic to a point, but the water continues to flow into the river below, even as it becomes weightless and seemingly supernatural.
The addition of the guitar around the mid-point of the song is an even tastier accent, showing itself between explosive drum rolls and during rests in the form of the song. The sharp tone complements the synthesizers expertly before breaking away at the end as the song behind it falls off in a level and controlled manner. The end of the song comes far too soon even though the song is five-and-a-half-minutes long.
Nice Doggie is an album that rolls all the best perks, traits, attributes and attitudes of progressive and hard rock into one nice package, tied with a bow and set right at your feet. It’s full of explosive energy, incredibly technical work on all instruments involved and competent composition. Some moments on Nice Doggie feel like a Frank Zappa album, some like Iron Maiden, some like Yes, and some are completely unique and exist beyond comparison. While Nice Doggie is only three tracks, further releases from Act Of Will look incredibly promising.
For the past few weeks I have been in desperate need of something on my playlist that I have never heard before, and finally, someone has delivered. F. Scott's EP Normal Behaviour is a party album, but keep in mind the party takes place outdoors and you will have to pee in the bushes. It's totally worth it though because this party is one of a kind. This is a celebration of nature and taking life as it comes and being unafraid of the inevitable coming changes in life. There's this sort of zen quality to it where if you leave all expectations at the door, you will enjoy the album that much more. Forget about what you know, don't bother trying to peg the influences or genres involved here, just let it talk to you.
The first song is "Red Wine Stains" and to me felt like a party folk song. It's harmless and innocent with rural string elements and then the lovely surprise of brass as well. It's a movement inducing sort of song that evokes visions of playfulness in the woods. I could practically smell the pine and the burning wood. It's also the sort of song that is paired well with chaos and laughter in the background.
"Medieval Alchemy" is a good title for a song that is full of quirks and experimentation. This one is not so readily a dancing tune, but there is movement involved. Small segments of my body, be it my head or feet, would be compelled to move to the inconsistent line up of catchy beats. It's a bit more low key and has some serious roots in hip hop and and electro samplings. I like the lyrical play here, which is very akin to rapping or riffing.
Number three is "Normal Behaviour" and it's as though we were in the closet having a intimate conversation with "Medieval Alchemy" and now we've stepped back out into the party to be social again. This song is vibrant with pointed lyrics and social activity. It's flirty, witty and I think purposefully contradictory to itself. It speaks to irony and the often bizarre things humans tend to do.
The final song is "Dragon Hearts" and at this point I had no idea what to expect, and I LOVED that sensation. This song was deconstructed and chopped up a bit making it feel more modern and electronic than the others. There's lots of rapid, forward motion here. It stimulates one's heart rate. There's a dance between the slow and fast section, the rhythm is very human in that it is unpredictable and dizzying. This song pulled on my heart strings for some reason. It had a sound that reminded me of growth and evolution.
Normal Behaviour was assembled at several makeshift home studios and went through a great many helping hands to become what it is. The sound is absolutely on point, at no point did it feel over engineered or cold. This is a warm, intimate and immersive experience. This is a cool EP that I had to buy immediately.
Watson Park is the solo project for Evan Ringle. Ringle released Lovers, Strangers which is a lo-fi recording of his songs which contain guitar and vocal.
On his Bandcamp page Ringle gives props to iconic people for “demonstrating that the most powerful art derives from your own personal experiences.” As someone who has been recording and engineering albums for the past twenty years I found his other statement about embracing lo-fi more interesting. I think lo-fi has a time and place and is conducive to the style it is trying to convey. It’s a topic that I have a lot of thought about which I could go on in length about but for Ringle the lo-fi quality could use a couple of tweaks which could benefit his sound while still being undeniably lo-fi.
The album starts off with “Annie, my sweetheart! (you poor, poor boy)” and no matter how lo-fi you get you typically want some separation between instrumentation which can be achieved with EQ. Ringle sings and I liked the melody but I struggled making out any of the lyrics. The lo end was lacking from the guitar and the mid and upper range frequencies around 2 khz to 5 khz were competing with each other. I could also tell right off the bat the vocals were muffled and muddy because of the frequencies around 700 hz and 300 hz build up. An application of two or three db cut would have created more clarity with this song and well as less competition with the guitar.
As the EP progresses the songs “Lovers” and “She Doesn't Know Her” consist of a couple of softy strummed minor and major chords and a more somber vocal delivery. “Interlude” contains what sounds like guitar improvisation with the type of melodramatic poetry reading you might hear in a hip underground lounge. The last two songs “End of Summer” and “Strangers” continued with a very similar feel to the previous songs.
The combination of not being able to understand the lyrics and a very similar strumming style made it very hard for me to pick up on emotional differences between the songs. I wanted a little more diversity from the guitar work whether it be from a technical angle of a creative picking pattern.
I eventually read some of the lyrics on his Bandcamp page and with a couple more listens I started to appreciate the songs more. Suffice it say I think Ringle is a young guy who is in the embryonic stage of his development but has potential to evolve.
When I was in college as a music major I would go to an open mic to perform on weekends. Luckily smartphones weren’t a thing yet but the bar was often noisy and people were paying half attention to all the performers. Regardless I gave it my all as did others I observed giving heartfelt performances that attempted to resonant with people. Ringle seems to have that same passion and I wish him luck on his journey.
The problem I have with so much music today, both popular and even much of the less so, is that it really just sounds a lot alike. Rap and hip hop and most mainstream pop acts working today really just sound like a bunch of the same stuff being released under a different artist's name. It seems that mainstream music and art has found its way of clawing back to relevancy by operating under the assumption that if you make something that sounds catchy enough, people will be awed by it and you’ll be able to make a proper living and not have to get a day job like the rest of us.
Despite all this nonsense going on in the mainstream and underground there are still times when one comes across an artist who is truly trying to explore new territories. One such artist is the Melbourne, Australia contemporary violinist XANI. XANI brings to the contemporary violin and contemporary music in general a certain flair of excitement that seems to have gotten lost in music over the years. In the past XANI has released two EP’s, one which sought out the violin environs of Nashville country and on the other exploring the nuances of contemporary pop.
Now with her first full length record Three she uses an amalgam of different genres which range from classical and jazz to Argentinian tango and Celtic. This is an explosive record right from the start but also one that requires deep listening for Three is not a background record, put on to function as noise at a café or a party.
This is clear from the opening track “Red Violet Lake” which from the beginning offers sharp insights into XANI’S working aesthetics. This you realize soon enough as the eight-plus-minute composition begins to pick up speed is not your average violinist but someone who has a keen and precise understanding of the many directions that music can be taken. Next is the beautifully wrought “Dark Shade of Pink” she plays moods on her violin that are simply at times beautiful and chaotic. Throughout this record she takes things to ever higher peaks using loops and effects to make her violin sound like the biggest instrument in the world like it does at times during the ten-plus-minute fugue of “CODE ORANGE.”
I can’t stress enough how important this record seems to me in the showcasing of where there is still left to go in contemporary music. It gives me faith in life and art to know that there are artists like XANI who are out there continuing to stretch the limits of everything they touch.
Reminders is a full length release from Reed Grimm. With a large sampling of instruments, musicians and influences the album showcases a genre blending style that feels fresh, without going too far out. Smooth, comfortable, confident and laid-back, this album plays like the coolest guy in the bar runs his Saturday night. A unique album in many respects, areas of familiarity with instrument pairings and soulful vocals are sure to show listeners new sides of their own tastes.
“Out of Reach (feat. Max Ribner)” carries itself on low swinging horns, mysterious synthesizers and butter-smooth vocals. The palm-muted walking of a guitar adds to the feeling of the song, creating a sonic environment that feels like a night out in the big city.
The lyrics are very straightforward, letting the listener focus on the soulful and skilled instrumentation that the words follow. The song doesn’t pull the attention of the listener from place to place too quickly. Each section is clearly defined, and easily digested with little effort on the mind of the listener.
“So Good” is an upbeat tune, one that feels like it should be on a Sam & Dave album. It is a classic feel-good soul tune. As the song builds, the feeling of the song goes from a small room to a concert hall. Horns, organs, guitars, and the drums expand the horizon of the song, making miles of room for the vocals to explore. The song grooves along at a medium pace, just quick enough to stay interesting without overheating the engine. “I Just Wanna” carries more elements of modern pop. Twenty years earlier, it would have fit right in with the neo-soul R&B of the late '90s. It isn’t in-genuine, and it doesn’t feel gimmicky. It’s addicting with the title of the song being repeated and interjected into the nearly four minutes that the song graces the speakers.
Reminders is an album that has an old soul in a young body. The songs feel timeless, sharing traits with modern pop, soul, R&B and jazz fusion. There are more than a handful of instruments, and just as many musicians that contributed to this sound. In 2018, Reminders is a stand-out album. The professional sound, the attitude that the instruments are played with, the content of the lyrics and the honesty that they are delivered with through singing are remarkable. Reminders is a great album for a late night, an early morning or even a lazy afternoon. Check it out on Bandcamp, and prepare to be softly carried away by the infectiously addicting tunes.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook