I was born in America. I check the box labeled White or Caucasian when I’m filling out forms either applying for a job, or renewing my driver’s license. I am neither proud nor not proud of either of these things. They are simply facts, decided by someone else long before I was born. But I have to identify as such with an X or a checkmark in a box in order for someone to be able to file it off correctly wherever these sorts of things are filed off to and for whatever reason. It’s not really something I think about too much after the slash mark of the pen has done its job and allowed me to go on with my life. Though there are many people who are proud to be Americans and also many who want to be Americans, to come to America from somewhere else and live the dream that all the rest of us are living. I think that’s great. More power to them I say though many may have a different sentiment. We are in an election year and this wantonness of immigrants who want to come to America seems at the crux of the American political debate this year. I remember when it was universal healthcare. My how things change.
Myself I’ve always felt an affinity with the French. They seem so laid back and elegantly careless. They drink and smoke and eat food that would turn other cultures into fat cancerous couch potatoes. They read books and make films that have no plot and end quizzically and abruptly. J’en suis amoureux le Français. But American culture is and has been for so long, so far reaching. It has reached the western Canadian performer VeePo in a big way. VeePo’s music is swathed in it. VeePo’s second offering American Dreamers takes its from American musical influences such as hip hop and folk.
American Dreamers opens with the list-o-matic “BUST IT (Nobody Got You)” a track of bare bones Mac made beats interspersed with a few seconds of bleeps from hip-hop hits of the past decade or so. A robotic voice recites the furtive and sometimes wry and witty lyrics like “Somebody got hip / somebody got hop / Somebody got MJ / got the King of Pop,” and “Somebody got krump/ somebody got lock / Somebody be poppin / on a dope robot.” Next comes the completely out of left field alt country piano and string ballad “HALELU” delivered with deep country twang vocals. It is both somber and inviting, if not a bit head scratching given its predecessor. Next comes the prophetic and acoustic slow jam “Everybody Gets to Go to Heaven.”
Next after a sample of a revved up Harley Davidson we get the country-punk offering “BILLY (He's Red-Lining)” which has a that “Pepper” by the Butthole Surfers kinda vibe going on. Then comes the austere finger picked “I Don’t Shine” which seems to cross paths with both Leonard Cohen and Devendra Banhart, something which seems to sound more like the latter on “The Orwell Nightmare” a diatribe on the referenced authors clairvoyant tactics set with lyrics that make reference to Facebook.
VeePo takes these pop culture references even further on “American Dream” a skiffly and twangy tune on which he observes “Momma’s in the kitchen cooking at the stove / Daddy’s screaming at the TV /Sister’s sitting pretty talking on the phone / Lil’ brother’s on his PS3,” and then as if that weren’t enough “American Idol, Super Bowl Game / Dancing with the Hollywood stars /Preachers on the TV saving my soul / While I worship in my favorite bar.” The lyrics become some sort of misinformed classification that only an outsider could dream up. It is like assuming everyone in Japan is an expert in karate.
Perhaps VeePo should move to Brooklyn and have a “Bromance.” It might serve his tastes.
Become A Fan
Kolibrí is the solo project of Ryan Og, who is an Irish musician currently based in Brighton, England. This solo artist began his work in 2016 through the release of his debut EP, entitled Eulogies. If you like what you hear, you might be interested to know that Kolibrí is currently in the process of writing a debut album and Og has live shows planned in the future. Those of you in the UK should keep your eyes peeled for this one.
Eulogies is an inspiring three-track EP. The first track “Dream Theatre” opens the EP with, as promised, a dreamy display of color. A splattering of atmospheric guitar overlays a well-paced, gentle drum beat. The smooth guitar chugs its way quietly across the well-forged canvas of sonic noise, as beautifully-placed and perfectly-chosen piano notes seep into the background of the abyss; the gorgeous wall of sound. This is truly the perfect opening to an intriguing and unique album. For a first effort, from a brand new artist, this is incredibly cohesive. It is hard to believe that Og could be so adept when it comes to matters of production, mastering and mixing, given that he has been working on the EP for such a short amount of time.
The ethereal evolves and deepens on the title track of this beautiful EP. “Eulogies” really delves into the idea of a wall of sound, punctuated by elements of the shoegaze genre and tempered drumming. Flickers of guitar, once again, add some color to the dreamy and heart-soothing atmosphere that Og has created here. Rapid strumming and frantic noise has never sounded as peaceful as it does on this track.
“Headcase” is the closer. Taking hold of his music’s shoegaze roots this time, much more than he does the ethereal side of things, Og comes out with the punchy beat and clean, strummed guitar rhythms prevalent within this genre - most notably amongst bands such as Smashing Pumpkins. Fuzzy, distorted, electric guitar chugs its way into the track and Og’s vocals take a real shining spot here. Soothing, atmospheric and gentle; they blend into the song, remaining clear, while never overshadowing any of the other elements of the song.
All in all, Og has conquered what he set out to conquer combining elements of shoegaze and rock tastefully into the mix. It may be a short EP, but it is the perfect length for what it intends to be.
Based in Lexington, Kentucky, Home Grown Head is a indie band influenced by jazz that has been covering songs and creating music as a group for several years. Their self-titled EP Home Grown Head was released in June of 2016, and while the album does contain one cover, the remainder of the tracks are originals, and the latter half of the album was recorded live.
The album begins with arguably the best track on the entire record. “The Times” opens with an ultra-catchy drum beat that continues throughout the song, giving the track a relentlessly upbeat swing. Sections of horned instruments accompany guitars and bass to create a solidly jazzy soundscape, and Drew Cercone’s smooth vocals layer effortlessly atop the instrumentation.
“Prudence Train” continues in the same vein as the album’s opener with additional vocal harmonies giving the sound of the song a wider, fuller presence. The energy in this song is slightly muted at the beginning of the song, but the band’s swinging style is maintained throughout the dynamic crescendo of the tune that builds to an energetic climax at the end.
Home Grown Head demonstrates their ability to embody several styles in “Born Blues,” an aptly named song that is infused with rock and blues elements. Guitars, vocals and percussion are prominent in most of the song, although horn solos do provide a contrasting sound within the song. “Things I Need” returns to the band’s jazzy roots, featuring a danceable beat alongside catchy guitar riffs and trumpet melodies.
Minor chording does not detract from the upbeat energy in “Reaction,” a swaying bluesy anthem that highlights Cercone’s vocals as he effortlessly sings rhythmically and melodically, bringing a unique energy to the song. The final song on the album is a combination between the band’s original song “What We’ve Done” and a cover of Ben Scales’s “Garden Song,” harkening back to the band’s days of being a cover band. Overall, Home Grown Head EP is a testament to the innumerable ways in which this band has grown musically since then, and exhibits the maturity and vision of a band wise beyond their years.
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
Impressionist Keep Trying 3.6
Katherine Hymer Monsters 3.8
Lion Elizabeth Phases EP 3.4
StormWater The Fixing Shelf 3.4
Surly About That 3.5
Arianna Staiger with you in dockland 3.4
Monster Furniture IKEA 3.5
Hailing from Victoria, Australia, Alvie Closet is a rising singer songwriter with a musical style that blends multiple genres into a lo-fi, pop rock style that is as intriguing as it is easy to listen to. Her debut EP Marvel At The Moon, is a concept album, and each track was inspired by people, places and experiences on the beautiful Bellarine Peninsula, Alvie’s current home.
The album begins with an upbeat intro driven by reverb-laced percussion and solid electric guitar strumming in “Dads With Kids.” Closet’s voice, relaxed yet precise, adds a melodic layer above the instruments as the bright pop anthem continues to build momentum and dynamic intensity right up until the conclusion of the song.
“Hotel Motel” picks up right where the album’s opener left off, with Closet’s summer-tinged vocals adhering to the sultry, mellow guitar and droning organ chords. This track remains slightly subdued throughout the entire song with wistful lyrics bolstering the melancholy mood in the midst of energetic rhythms and enthusiastic instrumentation.
The energy of the EP descends into a quiet valley in “Meadow Song,” a simplistic tune led by a softly strummed guitar and beautiful singing by Closet. The song is conventional in its form, a soothing and familiar ballad style that Closet fully embodies. The tempo picks back up in “Up The Bluff,” a country and folk infused song with thought-provoking and hopeful lyrics.
The album comes to a close with “Twenty Three Minutes,” a minimalist track with experimental flavors that appear somewhat unexpectedly. Sound bytes and nontraditional instruments pepper the album’s finale, but the heart of Closet’s songwriting style, based on guitar and vocals, is maintained. As a whole, Marvel At The Moon EP is an extremely accessible and enjoyable record that will undoubtedly appeal to a wide fan base, transcending genres and preferences.
Magnolia Supernova is a pop-funk band hailing from Dayton in Ohio. The four-piece is comprised of Zack Lemons (guitarist/vocalist), Sam Ruff (drummer/percussionist), Kainan Shaank (bassist) and Dave Watanabe (keyboardist). Despite only forming this year, the band has already released their first EP entitled Color of Time.
“Sexy Ways’ wastes no time introducing the listener to this exciting, unique band and taking great strides to demonstrate what they are all about. Jagged guitar chords and screeching, high-pitched lead guitar seamlessly work together to form a funkadelic wasteland. The punchy beat, fluctuating bass and hungry vocals give the impression that this is a band which does not mess around. And that is an accurate impression.
“Chitlinz” boasts the most vivacious, electrifying display of bass and electronica that my ears have ever experienced. The two elements blend into one chaotic, pleasurable mess of funk madness. Then, in an unexpected, but definitely not unwelcome way, the chaos takes a quiet backseat. Jazz and psychedelic tendencies show their face. Sweet, peaceful, clean electric guitar swoops and washes its way over my ears. A twinkling of piano notes flutter and dance to and fro, as a gentle and restrained drum beat sets the tone.
Psychedelia rules on “This Time Last Year.” Staggered and separated guitar chords, distorted and warbled out of shape, provide an explosive point of entry into this otherworldly love ballad. Infectious bass adds to the gentle, yet simultaneously powerful, explosive and passionate atmosphere. Lemons’ vocals truly add the perfect blend of tender emotion and a forceful, present sound to the mix, but it is the groan of an electric guitar solo at the close of the track which truly steals the show. This is a love story from outer space if ever there was one.
All in all, Magnolia Supernova has mastered the art of combining psychedelia and funk with real, human emotion. A feat often missed by many bands of similar genres. They play their instruments masterfully, create an infectious atmosphere, but still manage to perfectly convey the human element of the lyrics through the emotive, pop-esque vocals.
On the first morning of a long road trip, when you leave at 5 am and the sun has yet to show itself, A Little Bright Window may be just the thing you need. It’s louder than a whisper, yet miles away from abrasive. On Susuwatari’s debut album, Aaron Lindsay, along with friends and contributors, deliver angelic harmonies set to a variety of acoustic melodies and handmade rhythms. They also manage to tiptoe mildly in electronic sounds. The album is light and tender, but also contains a vivacious energy and brightness nearly perfect for the early morning hour, or really any time of day.
The indie music project, Susuwatari, is fronted by Aaron Lindsay and based in both Rochester, New York and Boston, Massachusetts. The name Susuwatari is a reference to the much loved, fictitious ‘soot spirits’ created by Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation film studio. Susuwatari draws influence from bands such as Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver, although elements of Iron & Wine, Fleet Foxes, and the Head and the Heart also slip in.
Released in August, A Little Bright Window, was largely bedroom made and produced. According to Susuwatari, none of the songs were finalized when the recording process began. Sometimes this method served Susuwatari well, allowing for an improvisational, casual affect. At other times however, it resulted in sounding unfinished, and unedited.
This is not an album about self-discovery. It’s something similar, but much more quiet and humble. On A Little Bright Window, Lindsay untangles himself and works to learn how to love himself, and by extension, the people in his life. His lyrics contain self-aware, earnest expressions of daily emotions and life vignettes. On the track “All That I Want,” Lindsay sings the gut wrenching line “On the third of June, / Friday / I told you that I loved you / and you cried / and told me to keep going.” It’s delivered in the mellow, matter of fact tone that only comes with reflection and acceptance.
The bones of A Little Bright Window are rock solid. This beautiful album, possibly a subconscious homage to mornings, offers a collection of lovely harmonies underneath reflective lyrics.
As legend has it the Philadelphia psych rock outfit Them Jones “recorded a shitty demo in 2014, played a few shitty shows in 2014, then holed up for a long time and recorded 25 songs in an attempt to give something to the world that was decidedly not shitty.” They band go on to ask “Did we succeed?” Well let’s find out shall we?
First off let’s get to know Them Jones. They are: X. "Whammy" Jones (guitar/vocals/organ/ theremmolator. Patrone "Drone" Jones: Guitar, Drones, Head of Pedal Research. M. Row Jones: Guitar, Loopologist, Homeowner. Chauncey Jones: Drums, Chimes, Percussion Group Set. Dick Jones: Bass, Vocals, Knife, Mix/Master Mellyman.
Of those aforementioned twenty-five songs twelve of them have made it on to their confidently titled sophomore release A Mountain of Nonsense. The opening track “Mended All Made Clean” is full of catchy bass heavy lumps and fuzzy guitar and vocals. It’s friendly as fuck. It’s as though Jon Spencer was fronting the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Them Jones tone it down a bit going for more of a slow-show ‘60s era psychedelic vibe complete with gentle backing vocal arias.
Things get back on course with simple yet effective, one two sonic pulse of the punchy guitar driven “Outburst,” which in a sense is another nod in the direction of bluesy rock. This bluesy rock continues on an even more stripped down to the bone on the good old fashioned “One of These Days.” They then take these bones and add meat to them on “Acute Mountain Sickness Blues” which has a familiar echo to that of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Them Jones then make their way into Kinks territory with the bowl-cut head bobbing “Honey Trap.”
After the slow-tempo snoozer “My Heroin Pretends” Them Jones perk up again on the balls out psych fest “Well Enough Alone” that again marries soft ‘60s pop vocals to distorted thrash and bang jangle-pop a la the Brian Jonestown Massacre. They then use slow trotting bluesy grooves yet again on the touching “Jennifer, My Plastic Girl,” and follow it up with the slow waltzing march beats on the poetic “The Shrinking Violet's Light.”
Just as I was nearing the end of A Mountain of Nonsense I felt an Ashton Kutcher moment coming on when I thought to myself “Dude where’s my organ?” I mean you can’t be a pseudo-sixties psych band without at least one track that features a creepy-psych organ. And then they delivered with the instrumental “Now I am Become Death,” which kinda turned out to be a two for one do to its mostly inaudible vocal samples of a guy talking in the background. Had it not been there however I think I would have felt slighted. It serves as the perfect segue into the closer I expected, which in this case is the slow building, sitar-psych-laden “These Canyons.” It is pretty par for the course rip off of a way to end a ‘60s psych induced record, but if it didn’t end this way I would have felt the same way as on the previous song.
And now we’ve come to the ratings portion of this review. “Did we succeed?” the band asked earlier. I’d have to say yes. Am I biased because I’ve been a subscriber to this vein of music for nearly two decades now? I don’t think so. I’ve let so many other things I was into back then go by the roadside but there’s something about lovely vocal harmonies interwoven with droning guitars and foghorns of bass that just never seems to get old. To me Them Jones are masters of their craft. I’ve climbed A Mountain of Nonsense and the view from its summit is pretty great.
Become A Fan
To be honest, watching the first presidential debate made me a bit sad. Without going into any sort of specifics or protruding any controversial statements/opinions, I think the debate shed some light on the problems within the political system that the United States faces, and I exited with more questions than I had answers, and not much optimistic energy. Walking back to my dorm, I put on my headphones and decided to listen to The Channel Drifters’ debut eponymous EP The Channel Drifters for the first time, and, being completely honest with you, it helped alleviate some of the conflict I was experiencing.
With this being said, the music that The Channel Drifters provide is very, very soothing and warm. The stripped down instrumentation combined with the precise, smooth vocal harmonies made for an incredibly easy listen; about as smooth as it gets, really. Now, I am not a huge fan of the genre(s) that The Channel Drifters coheres with to say the least, but I can say with confidence that I enjoyed this band’s debut release. Folk/rock is a genre that, to me at least, really seems to either hit or miss, and I feel confident in saying that The Channel Drifters hit, and hit hard.
I think my favorite thing about the album is the imagery it seemed to invoke; I was constantly imagining blue skies, long, winding roads with no traffic, and a long road trip ahead that could continue indefinitely with the only thing certain being the pleasant, encompassing atmosphere. At its core, I would say that this is a pop album as the music is not exactly complicated, yet sounds very full and proper. The melodies are catchy and move well with the chords. It’s clear from the beginning that the vocals would serve as the focal point throughout the album with the contrasting male-female dynamic giving a conversational illusion. Although the lyrics themselves may be occasionally melancholy, the ways they are presented seems to say everything will be okay. In “A Thousand Ways” the female voice croons “You scratch my head, I bite my tongue, and you just leave me there,” with the male voice joining in harmony to reassure that “I wont give up on you, because I know you need me to.”
Aurally, this album sounds great. Not only is the production fantastic, but the band sounds like they have been playing together for their whole lives. The songs are executed to their full potential, which is pretty rare for a debut release. The combination of relaxing, tranquil acoustic guitars and thrashing, soulful, bluesy electric guitar played to The Channel Drifters’ favor immensely. It sounded to me like the relationship between that of the acoustic and electric guitar reflected that of the male/female vocal relationship, as they often move together in dynamics. I would also like to note the cohesiveness of the album, which stood out to me, only amplifying the smooth nature of the music. Keep on blissfully rockin’, guys; you’re good at it.
Jamin Casciato aka Tear Bottle is a multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer currently located in Portland, Oregon. He apparently studied in Spain, Belgium, Mexico, South Korea and Iraq. He plays a variety of stringed instruments including the Spanish flamenco guitar, baglama (Turkish lute), and liuqin (Chinese mandolin). He has also been known to employ distinct percussion instruments from India, Ethiopia and Morocco.
After reading that I have to admit I was excited to hear if any of these instruments would show up on his Sessions (which is in fact a session recording). What I wasn’t expecting was a stripped down effort and familiar sound of electric guitar and his vocals. The songwriting is solid and I enjoyed his vocals. That being said some of the songs regardless of what I read really felt like they were begging for more instrumentation. Especially in places where the energy is intense and he is aggressively strumming.
Sessions opens with “Reformed People Pleaser.” The guitar is simple but groovy. It could be in a funk song if there was bass and drums in there. The main draw are his vocals which unfortunately are a bit too masked at times because of the guitar.
Next up is “You May Choose A or…A.” The song starts off great. His vocal melody is money with a lightly strummed guitar. I would have been fine with him leaving the song at that level. Towards the end of the song Casciato beefs up the guitar with distortion also effectively putting his vocals in the back of the mix.
“Because We Believe It” starts with a pleasantly picked guitar and vocals. The first section is great. He then breaks into a fully strummed section with wah guitar. It is one of his best vocal lines and delivered with expertise.
I get that Sessions is a stripped down effort but it doesn’t always feel as if Casciato is approaching it that way. It feels like he wants to rock these songs out a bit more. Overall, Casciato has a good amount of talent as a songwriter and I thought his vocal delivery was top notch. I can give two thumbs up for this EP. What I’m really interested in hearing is some more fleshed out songs with top notch production. I’d keep an eye out for that.
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