Out of the hotbed of musical talent that is Brooklyn comes The Shining Hours with their first three-track EP Dead Batteries. The band is an alt-indie rock quartet that have been collaborating together for about five months, probably more once this review is up. They have been making the rounds with live gigs and there is a lot of their live performance element in this album. The music is an interesting mix of hard and soft, sometimes combined together.
The first track on the album is "Dead Batteries" and it's anything but dead. It's hard, fast, a little on the punk rock side and musically works really well. I like how the bass and drums play off of one another to create heavy rhythmic tension. The guitar is a voice all unto itself. Speaking of voice, I struggled a little bit with the vocal work on this song. For the most part it's more scream/shout stuff, but when notes are hit they just didn't land well for me.
It came off as sounding prepubescent and shrunk the heaviness of the music. I was also struggling to hear the vocals and lyrics, which is surprising given the singing style. The audio production on this song was unfortunately sub-par. I understand there is supposed to be a live tone to this, but I was struggling to hear what I needed to hear. I am all for a live sounding album, but the mixing style for how this particular track was done was not my favorite.
"Emily's Head" almost felt like a complete 180 from what I just heard with "Dead Batteries." The tone of the music is a lot campier and feels decidedly indie. The production is miles above what I got with the previous track and the vocals are fantastic. He hit some gorgeous notes. I literally had to stop and make sure I was listening to the same band. This time around I could hear everything in perfect balance. Best of all, I could make out the lyrics, and they're good! Like, blew my mind good. Despite being mixed in clearly a different style, the song maintained rough, reverby edges and a live feel. This track is easily my favorite.
The final track is "Retrograde" and I struggled a bit with this one too. The audio production is about on par with the second track which is a good thing. Once again the cool lyrics were coming through without a problem. However musically it felt a little conflicted. It felt as though the there was an attempt to blend the two very different styles from tracks one and two. I imagine bridging that gap is possible, just not this particular execution. Half of the time I loved the lyrics, but there were moments where once again I would hear notes that just stuck out like sore thumbs.
I think The Shining Hours have a lot of potential and presented some good stuff in Dead Batteries. I may not have fully appreciated everything they did, but it was interesting, and there was enough there to enjoy. Considering the band has not been together for even a full year I think it's impressive that they chose to release an EP now. I would love to hear what comes when they've been together for a little while longer.
Become A Fan
Tyler Whelpton aka Death by landscape just released his first album entitled Whiskey and Transparency. It’s a complete lo-fi DIY effort that contains a mixed batch of tones and flavors. Call it art rock, indie rock or what you will, the songs are atmospheric and often emotionally resonant.
The album opens with “Nodus Tollens” which revolves around jangly guitars, a simple beat and vocals. I have to admit I wasn’t crazy about the drum sound which sounded like a preset but I thought the vocal melodies were unique and carried the song.
Another point on the drums was he did try to change it up with what you might call a frantic beat. The second song “Disconnect” was a solid song. I thought the mixing was improved here and the way he layered the vocal harmonies and guitar worked really well.
A clear highlight was “Saint Lawrence River Blues”. His voice really shines here amongst an atmosphere of piano, synths and guitar. It's one of the most powerful songs that hits upon your emotional strings.
“Militant Doves” had a forward moving momentum as well as engaging guitar parts. As the album progressed I found myself attracted to the atmospheric songs that felt cerebral and ethereal. “Heart of Lead,” “Ellipsism” and the title track were the ones I had on repeat.
The mixing is varied throughout the album. Some songs clearly sound better mixed to my ears and that's food for thought on his next release. A little more consistency would make for a smoother experience.
Overall, this is a solid first effort and at the very least builds a foundation to work off of.
Jules Reuben Kessler is a musician from Greenbrier County, West Virginia. There is no denying that he has some chops because he was selected to perform with the top wind symphonies and choirs in West Virginia as well as the All-National Honor Band. Kessler also released an album entitled Colorized Friction.
His tackles a number of genres on this album including folk, some jazz and even rock. He said, “I wrote many of the songs while abroad traveling through Eastern Europe” and the influences were not only about someone he was away from but also immersing himself in new cultures.
Up first is “Prologue: In Response” which is an instrumental song that isn’t exactly indicative of the rest of the album. There is a good amount of lead guitar and it reminded me of that specific genre. Nonetheless I was impressed with his technical chops.
After a pretty hefty instrumental opener we are introduced to vocal based songs. He starts off slow and steady with “Lost but Searching” which has a very Pink Floyd-esque vibe. The lyrics are existential. He sings, “I’m searching for something that doesn’t exist. I’m longing for someone who I’ve invented. I wonder who'll show that I am reaching for nothing.”
“To Be Undone” was a style where he really shined. The song has a singer/songwriter vibe to it with clean organic instrumentation. It’s also very uplifting and catchy. The opposite could be said about “My Love Ain't Rich” which has a much more melancholy vibe.
“Within Without” was a standout. I especially appreciated the organ and bongos with the song’s Rusted Root-esque vibe. Another standout was “I Sigh (feat. Kelsey Pressnall).” The kazoo is great. He closes with the title track which is a more cerebral song.
I have to admit the vocals were hit and miss for me. Some songs seemed to work better than others. The production is good for complete DIY but I’d like to hear future songs professionally recorded at some point.
Overall, this is a solid album from an artist who has a lot to offer.
Become A Fan
The Grimm Riddle is the musical project for Duane de Coning out of South Africa. OK? is his second release which brings a familiar feel of alternative and grunge to the table with some slight experimental ideas. It’s a captivating EP all the way through and I have to hand it to de Coning for handling the instrumentation.
Up first is “The Jokes on Me” which is a fun song with a good amount of energy. I thought the bass during the verse was exceptional. The song moves fast and goes through a number of transitions within a minute. I was actually most impressed by the instrumental part of the song which happens a little after the two-minute mark.
The title track was another energy fueled song but my favorite aspect was that he was willing to experiment. There is a breakdown which felt original and inventive. It gave the song an off-kilter feel that helped make it feel unique. This is an aspect I always harp on and am glad to hear this sort of out of the box thinking.
“Good Days” has a nostalgic, emotionally resonant feel to it. I think his vocals sound good here and when he sings at a lower octave he really shines. He closes with “I Belong Here” which all at once felt like the most commercially viable and different.
The lead vocals at times reminded me of U2 but the song gets into heavy sampling as well. One thing for sure is it didn't sound like the other songs and was actually an unusual way to end because it significantly altered the foundation he was building with the first three songs.
There are some really good ideas here along with hooks. I would like to hear more from him soon and hopefully he establishes a little bit more of a foundation.
Overall, this is a solid EP and points to an inspired artist with tons of potential.
Jess Tollestrup is a folk musician and poet from southern Alberta in Canada who uses a looping pedal to create a blend of piano, guitar, vocal harmonies and spoken word poetry that creates a truly unique sound that is purely Tollestrup's own. Their EP The Pluto Year features four songs of a combination of folk and poetry that are original and refreshing.
The first track “Lilith’s Orchard” had a soft and gentle melodic intro which led into Tollestrup’s vocal. Tollestrup's voice is pretty and pure folk with a range and tone to match the complexity of their poetic lyrics. Tollestrup's high notes can get a little intense and there is a grit to the low range which all adds to the decorative quality of the song. Every note creates vivid imagery and atmosphere with layers and layers of sensation and emotion. The result reminded me a little of Florence + the Machine, but with a softer edge.
The second track “No” was completely different than the first. This could be described as a “poem-song” where some of the lyrics are presented as spoken word and others are sung. Tollestrup definitely has a knack for songwriting and poetry and the lyrics come off as profound and poignant. I could see how this style could be a little isolating for some, but I found it intriguing.
“I’ll Send Myself to Heaven” returned to the folk sound of the first track but was a little darker and self-reflective. I really enjoyed this one and dug the vocal harmonies and vivid soundscapes. The final track “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing” had more of a storytelling quality to it and the lyrics were more on the surface than the poetry of the previous track. It still felt very raw and intimate.
The Pluto Year is an impressive EP. Tollestrup is a powerful songwriter. Tollestrup wraps each word in a beautiful woven tapestry of sounds and instruments that give each track so much depth and texture, you can almost feel each verse. The folk and spoken word style may not be accessible to every musical taste, but you’re bound to find something to appreciate in Tollestrup’s words, even if the style isn’t what you’re used to. Since Tollestrup's songs are so personal and reflective of Tollestrup's experiences, I can't wait for more as Tollestrup's musical journey inevitably continues.
I love short records. It’s very satisfying to hear a band make exactly the statement it wants to make with no extraneous material. Though the EP format is common across genres, it’s the punk and emo records that make the most of their terseness; the arrangement changes every thirty seconds, foregrounding a new vocal or pausing long enough for a spitfire guitar line. That kind of energy comes best in short bursts, or else you begin to feel bludgeoned with the emotional impact. Bands that can cultivate a mood efficiently, that leave you hungry, tend to be the ones you always come back to.
Though it’s Cody Loman’s first release as Mirror Lake, it’s evident that he has the talent to elicit that response. Oregon & Old Friends is his warning shot, inaugurating his move westward to pursue music, but it’s also a document of his self-education as a singer and lyricist. The three songs are so evidently attempts to make something personal and worthwhile, and the effort pays off.
“Crooked Branches,” the first track on the record, starts with sizzling cymbals and a knotty guitar riff with the groove later opening up for a vocal. Loman’s voice is throaty and immediate, and he writes for it well—he knows just when to stay soft and when to push it for grit. His deployment of a gang vocal later into the track is only more evidence of his ear for great arrangement. The lyrics read somewhat impressionistically, using the imagery of natural decay to convey emotional isolation. The solo-drum conclusion emphasizes those themes, while also establishing the right-in-the-room punch of the production style. “Crooked Branches” will slot right in on your autumn emo playlist, and is a thunderous way to introduce Mirror Lake.
“Oregon & Old Friends,” the title track, once again starts with intricate guitar, and uses asymmetrical phrasing on the vocal parts for a poetic result. Once again, the gang vocal elevated the track, driving home the nautical imagery of “four months until port,” though other backing vocals seemed less carefully deployed. The intense drumming carried some of the more difficult sections, though, and ultimately the track was a success. I’ll be dog-earing this for a cloudy day.
Closer “Uprooted / Misplaced” front-loads the vocals with a wordy verse, slowing quickly for a refrain of “I’ve had seven states to think and it’s safe enough to say / That I’m ashamed of my station in the scheme of things.” It flows better sung than on the page, especially with the evocative guitars as background—there’s a tremolo-picked part that takes the whole thing stratospheric. In fact, the sparse breakdown of solo guitar chords about halfway through the track was perhaps the most effective moment on the whole record. Loman also sees fit to write about his feelings most directly here. “A day out from twenty-six / And I don’t feel any different” so plainly states the introspective insecurity that makes for the tonal core of the record. “Uprooted / Misplaced” closes the album at a similar high water mark to where it began.
Oregon & Old Friends, though not perfect, has the emotional thrust and instrumental intensity necessary for great emo records, and makes good on that promise with not a second to spare. Be glad it’s only three songs if you’re into this kind of stuff—you’ll find yourself playing it over and over.
I never heard of the genre “horror reggae” but apparently that self-described genre for Fuck Parental Rights by Green Eraser. I’m not sure that's how I would describe what's going on here but it makes sense on some levels. I thought the songs or sound collages had more in common with free jazz. Either way the songs are avant garde and revolve around digital horns, bass, sample, keys and more.
Up first is an “Intro” which will give you an idea of what you are in for. Sounds of laughter, static and other noises blend with a repetitive bass line. Disparate parts come together and in some ways reminded me of the group The Books.
The next two tracks “Discrimination Needs Better Justification” and “Needs Justification” felt like a virtual jazz band warming up before they launch into a song. Kind of like the band is stretching out and warming up their instruments. “You Treat Millions of People Like Property” is more girthy and gets into atonal music territory. The last minute or so embraces shards of white noise with blaring horns which feel like the end of a dream.
“You Tell Them To Be Content With Fewer Rights” is arguably the centerpiece. I was listening to the track and an early Animal Collective album came to mind. There were some commonalities with Here Comes the Indian in the way the chaos arises from the music.
“Tell Me, When Has That Gone Well Before?” had more or a backbone and was on this track where I can understand why he labeled it as “horror reggae.” I really enjoyed the last minute. There should be a warning with “When Consensual, Help Can Be A Wonderful Thing.” Don’t be too high when listening - you may freak out.
This album serves a niche audience. There's just no denying that. Take a listen and it may hit you the right way.
The Thick is a Toronto-based band consisting of Charlie Rosenberg and Richard Stirling who have been playing together since their high school days. The duo’s self-titled debut EP The Thick features six tracks of rock, blues, Indie and garage-band styles combined to create a truly unique and entertaining sound.
The first track “I Said Go” started with a solid rock foundation which Rosenberg’s vocals take to a more indie dimension. His voice is playful and melodic with a pretty impressive range and tone. The combination of the hard guitar/drum combo and the more lighthearted vocal give it a very cool original vibe.
The style is reminiscent of Weezer with more modern influences like Cage the Elephant and even a touch of The Killers with interesting vocal arrangements, all with the raw garage sound of The White Stripes. It makes for a really interesting mix. The second track “Make Up Your Mind” was a little lighter and playful - but at this point, I was in love with Rosenberg’s voice. He uses it so strategically yet it comes off as effortless. It gives the edgy rock sound a sophistication that I don’t think it would have without it.
“I Wanna Love” reminded me of Jet with a hard almost punk rock sound with cool old school rock guitar solos and a definite garage band feel.
“Be My Villain” was darker with a bluesy funk sound and a sexy edge in the vocal that was totally swoon-worthy. The lyrics were clever and catchy and the overall feel was pure fun. It was easily my favorite track on the EP. “Let Me Into Your Love” was a tad slower than the rest of the track with more of a dramatic arrangement. The final track “Polaroid Tunescape” was whimsical and had a little folk to it.
I really loved The Thick. The combination of old-school garage band rock n’ roll with the artistic styling of modern Indie and little tastes of blues and funk make it exciting and unique. Rosenberg and Stirling mesh well together and make an amazing songwriting team. Smart lyrics are paired with impressive vocal arrangements and delivered with a raw edgy style that feels completely real and authentic. The Thick is officially my favorite new artist and I’ll be anxiously waiting for more. I suspect this isn’t the last time I’ll be hearing their name, and I don’t mean the dozens of times it’ll be popping up on my personal playlists, because it will, I can assure you of that.
In this day and age with everything electronic at the musician’s disposal, that sometimes are overused and overproduced, it was absolutely refreshing to hear a very sparse but mesmerizing sound coming from JUMEAUX, a two-piece UK band consisting of sisters Laurel and Scarlett Jumeau. Originally recorded for a college assignment, the duo describes their EP Far Out as an “electro-pop journey of a lonely man who ventures into space to find friends.”
There is indeed a science fiction/space concept going on throughout the album and I, for one, was definitely into that. The drum machines, synthesizers and echoing guitars added to that space journey appeal as well, but the instrument that stood out for me the most were the duo’s gorgeous vocal harmonies – they were pure and hypnotizing. Laurel and Scarlett played most of the instruments with a little extra help from Dan White and Ryan Bunney playing the drums and bass respectively.
For the most part, the entire recording has a chill-out vibe with most of the songs played at a very slow tempo, except for “Cosmic Dance” which featured a steadier rhythm and the excerpt narration “The Beginning” which added a glimmer of hope and optimism to the lonely man traveling in space within these songs. The last song “Alienation” is about how loneliness is universal and indeed, the song felt lonely to me but it also had something that was quite captivating and original, too.
It was hard to make any comparisons to other musicians or albums, but creatively, I would say parts of it could be compared to what Bowie did on the Low album (which is one of my all time favorites) or perhaps something Radiohead or Björk did but with a stripped down sound.
This past summer JUMEAUX has been gigging and gearing their minds up at a university this fall where they will be studying songwriting. My hope is that we’ll be hearing more from this talented duo in the not so “far out” future.
Insatiable is the follow-up recording to the 2015 release Uncovered by the Canadian band Nile Groove. Let me tell you, this six-piece ‘tour de force’ does it all – reggae, R&B, soul, ska, funk, pop, jazz and disco and in this latest effort you can definitely hear all these styles. Written and produced by singer/songwriter Roxanne Lecuyer, the songs are described as having “intense lyrical and musical content” and stem from personal stories about the singer’s life.
Some of the songs on the album have that classic reggae tempo, which may remind you of Bob Marley, but Nile Groove brings their own elements of music and style and mixes it up well throughout the recording. “It Was You” and “Sweet, Sweet Love” are songs about love and friendship sung with a very soulful voice and made just right for slow dancing.
“My Superhero” has more a contemporary jazz and funk riffs that have quick, jumpy chord changes, while the title track to the album reminded my a little bit of The Spinners a la 1970s or Al Green – it’s also a hot, romantic number. “Feel My Rhythms” infuses a reggae/ska beat that reminded me of something from The Police, not lyrically, but perhaps it was the guitars, drum beat and sax that did it for me.
“Why It Gotta Hurt So Bad” was my favorite tune because I grew up with a healthy dose of disco music in my parents house. This one has the hallmark sounds I remember from acts such as Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor. “Here I Am” is the flip side to a love song – a break up song and let’s face it, we’ve all experienced at least one. “Ain’t Gonna Stop” was truly a fun song to listen to – funky and upbeat. It had a faster tempo laced with some Latin grooves and worthy of getting on the dance floor for. Lyrically, it’s a positive song about doing what you know is right for you, no matter what others say.
Nile Groove has a very strong social media presence and their own website too – I would encourage you to visit them and if I’m ever in the Ottawa area where the band is based out of, I’ll be checking them out.
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