I like the string of words “Satan Van Dork Rod” but really enjoy saying it. The name rolls off the tongue but really can’t be used in a sentence unless you are talking about the band from Nashville, TN, comprised of AO Donovan and Kalilah Darkstar and their EP SVDR.
The band revolves around crunchy guitar, drums and vocals - hardly an uncommon setup. Luckily for the duo the minimal setup works because of the attitude. The songs are somewhere between folk, punk and rock. Maybe not too far from Neutral Milk Hotel the more I think about it.
With this minimal setup you really need to have a superb or unique vocalist. I’d say the vocals are unique and undeniable covered with a lot emotion. Satan Van Dork Rod doesn’t sound like The White Stripes in a number of ways but there is a raw, visceral energy that comes from a similar place.
They open up with “ten dollar” which is a fast, upbeat song. It’s a fun song that is just about perfect for a Friday night at a local dive. Some of the energy is continued on the next song “anything but yours” but takes a little longer to get there. The guitar takes center stage for a while with some cymbals prepping you for a beat. There’s nothing complicated it just well delivered.
“Another day is gone” is lighter fare but also a highlight. The drums hold a thump with the bass drum and cymbals You can hear Darkstar doing some vocal harmonies. They sound good together. She also happens to sound pretty good singing some lead parts on “the quitting year.” They close with three rocking songs. The one that stuck out to me was “in love and locked up” which contains a good rocking riff.
Satan Van Dork Rod isn't breaking any barriers with this release but it's got some solid songs with some great delivery. Not a bad combo if you ask me
Schmeeze is a band comprised of Michelle Eliza (vocals), Mike Miller (guitar), Ian Ferry (bass) and Tom Gordon (drums). The band recently released SchmeezEP. They play music that in all honestly is best heard live when you want to have good time. The EP is diverse and scattered with different styles.
Take for instance the opener “Come Home With Me” which is funky jam session. It is not the most emotionally powerful song I’ve heard and is a type of song that you would say “that’s a tight bass line.” The most emotionally engaging part are the vocals. Eliza has a powerful voice but I thought her vocals were a little too much in the background. “Come Home With Me” has a good groove but the jam also felt like one I’ve heard in many of the bars I’ve been to.
Next up is “Howl at the Moon” which is a straightforward rock song. There is a tinge of ’80s metal on the song. The guitar is distorted taking the reins with the bass and drums following the progression. Like “Come Home With Me,” “Howl at the Moon” felt a little too reminiscent of a myriad of other songs I’ve heard before.
The production takes a dip on “On The HiFi” which is almost straightforward reggae vibe. Not a bad song but it feeds to standard tropes of the genre. The highlight is arguably “Someday Baby - Acoustic.” The vocals sound good here and are the focal point. She has a great voice and this is where her vocals should lay in the mix. She has a soulful voice and I think they need to play that up. This style out of all the ones they attempt is the most successful.
If SchmeezEP is indicative of the band’s sound they have a lot to think about. Each song has a distinct style and seems as if the band really isn’t sure of what type of music they want to play. This could work if you are a cover band but confuses people if you are attempting original material.
I would say they all have technical talent and they have a great singer. What they need to do at this point is start digging deeper and create a signature sound which will identify their band.
I think Crooked Cat Adams aka Patrick Barry may be hitting a new level of his songwriting with his new EP Lucia. Lucia is a concept EP based on the relationship between Lucia Joyce and her father, James Joyce. Suffice it to say I very much enjoyed Barry’s previous release Jupiter Moon but Lucia just grabbed me right from the beginning.
The opener “Dublin” is in my opinion one of the best songs I have heard from this songwriter. It’s celebratory, hopeful while also having a hint of melancholy. The song has wide open strings with percussion that lays farther back in the mix. His vocals fit nice and snug into the song which adds to the warmth of the song.
After the joyous mood he brings it down a little with “Saucebox.” There is a stillness to the song between the hypnotic guitar and sparse piano notes. The vocals are the focal point. Barry really gives a great performance here but I have to really credit to Matthew Miller for the production skills. I could hear every word.
The title track is what you could call a builder. At first the song is sparse revolving around brushes, vocals and his guitars. Around the two-minute mark the music starts to fill out the frequency spectrum. A contemplative, reflective vibe fills the air. I was happy to see Barry had some restraint. In a less talented songwriter the song would have gone from minimal energy to an extreme grandiose the clouds have parted ending.
The same thing could be said about “St. Andrew’s” which also builds towards the end but never gets out of control. Lucia has all the right elements to make for a great listening experience. When things like production, songwriting and delivery come together in a cohesive artistic statement it truly shows. Highly recommended.
Skyline Heartbeat is the solo project from Kevin Ruby. Ruby writes, records, performs and produces the music. His album Coming of Age is unequivocally a rock album but it gets a little bit of squirrel-y after that. You can hear tinges of everything from bands like The Cars to Greenday.
Coming of Age is a no frills album. Ruby keeps it simple utilizing guitar, bass, drums and vocals. The other content on the album is crunch. After an intro that doesn't sound particularly connected to much on the album he starts to rock with “High School Hero.” The chord progressions sound similar to Green Day in a number of ways. I wonder if when he sings the lyrics “basket case” it was a tip of the hat to the band. Up next is “Friend Zoned.” Can you guess what the song is about?. There is a tinge of ’8’s rock ballads on this song. You can hear tinges of bands from Boston to The Cars..
“Run Away” is one of the highlights. I especially thought the verse was inventive and the hook was also quite catchy. “Growing Up” has a tinge of blues rock while “Realized” features some solid lead work.
As the album progresses there are a couple of songs that stuck out to me. “Face to Face” makes rare use of a synth. I was digging the second half of the song which has a great grove. After another straightforward rocker entitled “She’s Got That Sting” he ends with “A Story of Freedom” which is a light funky, upbeat rock song.
Coming of Age is a slightly scattered effort where Ruby wears in influences on his sleeves. The songwriting is solid throughout and Ruby also excels with his delivery. I would like to see a little more of his own essence emerge on his future effort. With that there are notable songs on the album that you should check out.
Holding Out, a four-piece alternative/punk rock band from the North East of England (Newcastle), is comprised of Ellis Paul (guitar/vocals), Ryan Hubbard (drums), Jason Toward (guitar) and Charlie Sanders (bass). The band started earlier this year and already released an EP entitled The Garage. The EP is aptly titled as that's where the demo quality EP was recorded.
Bands usually need at least a year or two before their own signature sound starts developing. In the case of Holding Out they are wearing their influences which is more or less the last two decades of pop punk on their sleeves. For better or for worse the band sounds like bands ranging from Green Day to Blink 182 - distorted power chords, nasally teenage sounding vocals, etc on a couple of the songs.
The band has some talent and with some practice they could be another celebrated pop punk band. They will need to tighten up a bit because the band occasionally gets out of the pocket with these live recording. All three of the songs sound similar and are derivative of the pop punk sound. They are anthemic with lots of energy. And like pop punk the songs will be embraced by a younger generation. This is not the music that people above the age of thirty-five gravitate towards.
For as little as the band has been together I was impressed with what I heard. That being said this band has a way to go if they want to compete with the best in this genre. Besides staying in the pocket they need to work on figuring out how they are going to differentiate themselves from a genre that is already oversaturated with thousands upon thousands of bands. They will need to think about that if they hope to stand out from the crowd. I'm forward to seeing how they evolve.
Andrew Gleason (guitar/vocals/mellotron), Ryan Colburn (bass/vocals), Andrew Nicholls (drums/percussion) and Emil Macasinag (keys) are the LA based band called Sleuth Dogs. They recently released a five-song EP entitled Dreary Days.
I hesitate to call this band straight rock because of the eclectic nature of the songs . Their music felt atmospheric, emotionally resonant and quite powerful but the rocking is kept to a minimum. For clarification I think that's a good thing. The superfluous amount of standard rock bands floating in the ether has reached a boiling point.
The first song “Nothing We Don't Own” has a hint of baroque pop in the essence of a band like Grizzly Bear. I was impressed by the unconventional rhythms and time changes. That being said it doesn’t feel jagged or unnatural. There is a sweet groove. The song is quite catchy as well and has a unique guitar solo towards the end of the song.
Up next is “Dreary Days” and this is the beginning of where the atmosphere that lends itself to post-rock comes into play. The guitar work is exceptional on this song and really takes the lead with the vocals. Not to say the rhythm section doing their part to keep the song moving with energy.
“Explain” is another song that plays on atmosphere. The instrumentation surrounds you rather than standing right in front of you. It’s a calming song that has some warm reflective moments in it.“ Confessions” is a slow moving song but quite epic with big moments.
They close with “Out There” which felt like the most straightforward rock/alternative type of song. There is more than a hint of a ’90’s band on this song. Not a bad thing if you ask me. Besides having some good songs the album also has some good production. I thought the aesthetics fit the music and that’s really all you can hope for when recording. Overall, Dreary Days is an impressive EP from a band that has a lot of range.
You know the saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” The same thing could be said about albums. My first thought when I looking at an extended play. by Quinn Devlin & The Bridge Street Kings was that I was in for some kind of rock. Probably garage rock or punk rock. I was pleasantly surprised with some super sweet sounding soul and R&B.
Devlin right away reminded me of Van Morrison and also has some resemblance to Kevin Morby. I really liked his voice and it fit the music like a glove. He knows when to push and pull and has a lot of emotion in his voice. There are only four songs on an extended play. And the whole thing doesn't go past the fifteen-minute mark. With that it's a great fifteen minutes.
“It Ain't Why, It Just Is” is the opener. What can I say besides the horns are just delightful. So is the ’60s style organ. The song is just delightful and celebratory. I was sucked in right away. Emotion, soul, musicianship you can't ask for much else. Devlin even announces at one point “play it soulful.”
“Steal Your Soul (That's What She'll Do)” is one of those songs that just gets people in a good mood. Highly recommended for Bar Mitzvahs, weddings and Saturdays. This song might be slightly offensive if put on during a funeral since it's so goddamn joyful. You’ve been warned.
“Deep In Your Heart” keeps delivering the money. Another good song with more splendid horns. He closes with “You Know It's True” which has a slight shade of melancholy with reflection. But oh man it sounds just as soulful as the other songs. He sings “Well, that bird she don’t fly no more / She’s gone, she’s gone for good. / She left for the western shore / Never said goodbye.”
I can’t say Devlin is reinventing the wheel with these four tracks. Soul and R&B have been around a while and Devlin if anything is tipping his hat to some of the great that came before him. That being said the delivery and songwriting is top notch.
My only gripe is I want more. Until then an extended play. will have to satiate my thirst for soulful music.
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Crosby Surmonte (drums), Connor Surmonte (bass), Taylor Jones-(guitar/keyboard) and Kenny Vest (guitar/omnichord) are This, That, and The Others. The band recently released First Impressions. Some of the songs feel like some sort of interpretation of the surf music from the band Dick Dale & The Del Tones. Most people will recognize the song “Misirlou" which was revived through the movie Pulp Fiction. The band also indulges in some psychedelic tendencies along the way.
The album is demo quality lo-fi recording. There is just no disputing that higher fidelity would have helped the delivery on a number of these tunes. That being said the band still has a number of inspiring moments.
First Impressions has some hits and misses. They start strong with a straightforward instrumental surf rock song called “Goin' up the Stairs.” Next up is “Summer Daze” which is a relatively catchy, fun song. The song emits summer vibes and good times with lyrics to back it up.
“Wasted Away” kind of sounds like the name. If they were hoping for the feel of the song to be like you drank too much they succeeded. The band goes off time but I couldn’t tell if that was intentional or not. “Slack-Jaw” and “Dust Bowl” are more or less in the style of Dick Dale & The Del Tones. Some songs feel silly like “Wildflower” and “Shark Attack.” I’m willing to bet these guys are silly (pokes tummy).
The songs on this album felt like the band smoked a joint and just got done with their third beer. I’m not even exaggerating. There is this mellow yet I’m having a good time and don’t care what you think vibe to their songs. I’d hang out with these songs and the guys who made them.
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A couple of years ago Luis Mojica came out with Anaesthesia. Anaesthesia was a solid album. As much as I enjoyed it I have to say his latest Wholesome is on another level. Apparently Mojica spent four years in the mountains before recording Wholesome. I’m not sure the backstory behind this decision but some of the story may be in the lyrics. For example on the title track he sings, “The mountains of America are my home! Just leave me and my mountains alone! A deep-seeded mountain spirit, Sent forth to me a message, A whisper from the river, Amongst the sidewalk glamor clamor.”
Wholesome is an instrumentally rich and diverse album from the orchestral strings to the piano, saxophone, cello, oboe, flute and more. You can tell right away this was recorded professionally as the proof is in the pudding. It just sounds great period. As much as I enjoyed the instrumental work across this entire album what really got me were the use of vocals. The harmonies on this album are exceptional. From the opera style to the beat boxing. I haven't been this impressed this much with vocal harmonies since I heard the Fleet Foxes.
Wholesome is an exceptional album for a number of reasons. The songwriting structure deviates from typical pop cliches but never sounds disorganized. Take for instance “Lady Bug.” Although the song is only around four minutes it’s sprawling. The vocal harmonies and strings combine towards the beginning of the song which eventually simmer down for the lead vocals and beatboxing. There is a build up around the three-minute mark that is pretty epic but never feels contrived or cringe worthy.
“Humming” was a track that stuck out to me right away. It has a jazzy beatnik vibe that along the way mutates into a very engaging groove with some very inventive textures ”Oh, The Beauty!” is upbeat and jovial in its own unique way while “Black Magick” is an emotionally resonant song with a powerful vocal performance. Mojica closes with “Does Not” which benefits from atmospheric experimentation and some of the most notable harmonies.
Wholesome is one of the best albums to come through this website. I think one thing that Mojica is doing that is separating him from a lot of his peers is the originality with the music. There were a couple of times I noticed how the combination of sounds created unique textures and tones. That on top of the songwriting is a winning combination. This is an exceptional album and I hope Mojica gets recognized for it. Spread this one around.
On her debut album, Out of the Shadows, Callie Hopper hits all of the marks of a talented young songstress taking her wares to Nashville. The EP contains tight, delicate and refined pop sensibilities, underwritten by strong currents of indie-country and an innate sense of optimism that bubbles up, track after track.
Hopper threads a gentle needle between lite-country, soft-pop and adult contemporary offerings. With deft hands maintaining tight production values, Out of the Shadows features a litany of vocally driven, similarly paced songs featuring backing instrumentation that varies a bit between the tracks. One song after another wafts forth—saccharine and swift, the vocals wonderfully predominate, managing both plateaus and platitudes as the lyrics swirls and swivel to encourage the listener. While the songs adhere to a general structure, they delight in the acrobatics Hooper is able to achieve.
The song “So Much” stands out as a track that finds the band stuttering—stopping and starting—to keep up with Hopper's impressive vocals. The band's restraint pays off by leaving more space open for a commanding vocalist: she weaves back and forth on the shaking stage constructed by the stable and apt backing musicians. The song drives ceaselessly forward and contains a degree of intent lacking elsewhere on the album.
Vocal chops aside, the album feels a bit overstuffed with 14 similar tracks. Hopper excels at every opportunity she has, but the album as a whole feels leaden with overreach. Beyond a collection of flawless, forgettable songs, the EP showcases a handful of clever vocal lines and some imaginative chord progressions. One can't help but wonder how the EP would stand up if it were distilled down just a little bit.
It's no surprise, then, that some of the strongest tracks are those in which Hopper shares the mic with her co-writer, producer and, at times collaborator, Chad Alexander. While the two songs they do share may exhibit the same degree of smiling triteness as the rest of the album, but the duality they showcase proves effective. Between the spaced created by shared male and female vocals, a niche is found for the instrumentation to actually shine. The stringed instruments pluck away in an endearing fashion, the piano resonates more consequentially between well-wrought harmonies. While Alexander's voice may be evident in the superstructure of the album, it works best when it's heard aloud, aside Hoper's.
Ultimately, Out of the Shadow is a perfectly pleasant indie-country romp that finds the talented Miss Hopper crooning through love and loss with a smile and sense of upbeat optimism.
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