I must say, I am quite smitten with King Of The Sad Boys and their latest album Soft Drugs. This is their debut album and I would say it is making a soft, but poignant splash. They have managed to turn self deprecation into an art form with beautiful indie/folk rock as the backdrop. The music is rural, rustic and has properly portioned out the right amount of sweet and sour elements complete with enchanting vocal harmonies. I can tell you right now, this is one of those albums that should be destined to cultivate a pretty diverse following. It has mass appeal in that it addresses symptoms of the human condition anyone can relate to. It also maintains a low key tone throughout that keeps everything copacetic and easygoing.
They walk a fine line where they want to engage that self deprecation but that do it very tactfully to avoid swallowing the listener in a void of bummer. Despite the sorrow, they are very good at letting all the sunshine in and making each song a expansive and positive experience. Here you are allowed to be miserable and afraid and do it with style! The album houses just five tracks and I was pretty fond of all of them. They only one I was a little hung up on was track three, "Hey Boy" which was a great homage to the misery tunes of decades past; the only thing was I felt it stuck too close to its influence and came off a little hokey. Meanwhile track four, "Dim Bar Light" I felt did a perfect job of weaving together old and new genre tricks. I loved it.
On a vocal level this album receives top marks; their voice work is just downright stunning. Their harmonic ability is a taught and very strong muscle that they flex over and over again with such subtle confidence. I tend to be a cold-hearted sort of critter but damn it the vocals on here do manage to warm my coal crusted heart. The sound alone doesn't do it. It's also the words which are masterful. Again this is all about reveling in what is complicated, frustrating and, at certain points, just plain miserable. The words stick; by my second listen I was already able to sing along so some of the songs. There is something very comforting about being able to belt out their words of ill gotten wisdom.
Soft Drugs was recorded in several studios around the Auckland area including Albatross Audio Productions and Gabriel Audio. The audio engineering on this album was solid and very professional which is another part of this album that receives top marks. The production really added to the gravitas of each song and also highlighted the subtle but key details that made these songs so beautiful and endearing. I am beyond comforted to know that they are already cooking up their next album.
The Know is an indie band out of Sydney, Australia that has honed a sound that is equal parts glitzy, groove heavy and ’90s hard rock. Very brief at only three tracks, their newest release Afterdark Remarks serves as a good taste test.
Fans of Arctic Monkeys, Queens Of The Stone Age and Audioslave will find that same great mix of atmospheric beats and chilled guitar leads that evolve into anthemic choruses and moody midnight soundtracks that perfectly capture the excited drive out to a hangout and the exhausted ride back home, while lyrics like “chasing cars and running over kids / devils in the yard, pick up your sticks” showcase a dark imagination from an interesting mind.
Those lyrics come from “Clementine” which starts on a dusty bass groove before thrashing guitars carry you to a highly chant-able hook. The economy of songwriting on this one leaves a song that’s lean, fat free and works well to capture the hunger of the young group. An excellent, Zeppelin-esque clean guitar figure swims over a windy atmosphere on closing track “Far Away,” evolving from a single, emotional and wavering vocal into harmonies and then the release of a cathartic, melodic guitar solo and vocals reminiscent of early Pearl Jam, emotional arpeggios cut from the cloth of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit.” This track affected me with its quiet power, and the reverb heavy vocals conjure the image of an astronaut alone; David Bowie or Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce.
I hope to hear more, and my only worry is that these three tracks, all top shelf, are a result of leaving little room for error; quality over quantity, and a longer project might show some holes. But if they can maintain this level of songwriting and production over a longer EP or full length, that will leave enough chewable meat to turn interested new listeners into rabid fans.
With the ever continuing dominance of Australian exports to the international rock scene, The Know has placed themselves within striking distance to be tomorrow’s indie darlings.
David Pandey (vocals), Nathan Garton (guitars), Llew Morgan (drums) and Pete Bennett (bass) are Gravity Road. The band released Walking on Shadows which is their debut EP. There are only three songs but they average out to about eight minutes in length.
On their Bandcamp page they mention they are a progressive rock band. To be perfectly honest their music didn’t feel like straight prog in a number of ways. For me at least bands like Rush, Yes , and King Crimson encompass a pure prog rock sound. The best way I would describe Gravity Road is atmospheric rock. They tend to use a lot of reverb especially on their guitars and vocals which surround you and in many ways define their vibe.
The band get going with “Southern Cross” which slowly introduces you to their sound. I loved the juxtaposition between the bass drums and guitar/vocals. The drums and bass are really the foundation here keeping the whole song from floating away. One of the reasons the song is a bit longer than a standard rock song is because of the longer instrumental sections. I appreciated the dynamics. There are certain sections which rock out, other times where it’s more tranquil, etc.
Up next is “The River.” The drum beat at the beginning of the song really drives the energy. Pandey’s vocals are dripping with hall reverb and work with the upward, hopeful momentum of the song. Similar to the previous track it’s a dynamic ride the entire time. They cover a lot of ground with numerous breakdowns and crescendos.
Last but not least is “Truth.” It’s the arguable highlight. I really appreciated the guitar work here. Pandey delivers a serene Thom Yorke style falsetto. There are just some great grooves in general. The one towards the end is exceptional.
Overall, Gravity Road delivered an impressive debut. It’s not the most contemporary sound for 2018 but that’s not a much of a factor for me. I think this release will resonate with fans of rock who will eat this up. Take a listen.
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It's pretty hard to not find an immediately kinship with a band named Lower Self. I mean come on, who can't relate to that state of mind? Almost sounds like the next self help craze waiting to happen, "get in touch with your lower self." I feel like I do that all the time, and not just because I'm short or an ill-behaved person with a minuscule amount of self esteem. If you're in the mood for a very sci-fi sort punk movement ripe with angst and otherworldly flavor, definitely get in touch with Lower Self's self-titled album Lower Self and see if it satisfies that craving.
You can definitely get lost in the chaotic and furiously punk rock universe Lower Self builds in with the eight tracks on this album. I am pleasantly surprised to hear something like this pop up from San Francisco, but then again that city ain't what it used to be and could definitely use a rebellion and shakeup in my opinion so I'm into it. Besides the highly spirited vocalists and devilish guitar talent, feedback and reverb are also used as instruments themselves. I think the idea is to distort and disorient, and they are VERY good at it.
The pitfall I ran into with this album is that it is so against the grain and grating at all times that there's very little shock value left by the time you get to the third song. I did appreciate the vocal switch up in songs like "Damaged Goods," that was a good surprise and one of my favorite vocal performances on the album. I just had trouble with some of the songs just not grabbing in a way where I would remember them if I heard them again. The first track I heard, which was "Blowin Smoke," did make a huge impression because it introduced me to all the ingredients in the album that I loved. I appreciate the aesthetic and direction of the music. I love that it is obnoxious and unhinged. I like how cooky off-world feedback incorporated throughout the album. I even appreciate the raw and untouched nature of the audio production.
Speaking of production, the recording was done by Mack Narragon at The Loveboat in Oakland. I like the treatment of the music, it has a sort of demeanor to it that reminds me of channel flipping, or attempting to tune a very out of date radio. There's tension and frustration and a rebellious nature that was chosen to embrace it instead of fight it. Listeners do have to do some serious digging to make out the lyrics which I understand comes with the genre, but is also a bit of a shame since they are pretty fun and out there in the best kind of way.
This is a great album when you feel like getting in a fight, and I don't really mean a physical one. You could be getting in a fight with yourself to meet a deadline, or fighting a system that is working against you or maybe you're just fighting to get out. I know for sure this album can assist with that. Its aggression at its best asset.
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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
Concrete Bones Thicker Skin EP 3.7
Fir Always EP 3.6
Skinny DC Sea City Son EP 3.7
Mocaine Portrait of Dalí 3.4
Our Fastest Typist Group Therapy for
Imaginary Monsters 3.5
Dirty Casuals Light and Dark
In 2016 Jeffrey Chan released Spectrum. Two year later he is back with FaultLine which tightens up his pop oriented, dance worthy vibe. The album contains ten songs of golden grooves that would go over well at any club or any house party that prefers to get guests moving their bodies.
The album starts with right around a two-minute intro. Even the intro has a great groove. It does its job effectively by introducing the type of album this is going to be. The dance party really starts to get going with “Breathe Heavy” which isn’t particularly far away from a group like Daft Punk. The groove goes through filters and felt like ’70s funk influenced and contains flashy synths.
“Forever” is a little more lounge-y and after hours worthy. Chan’s vocals are smooth and on the verge of sensual at times. The lyrics reflect a perfect night with a perfect love. The more chill vibe continues with “Porsche.” It’s a song that’s not stuffed with too many elements. He has more success with the short but effective “Didn't Need” which had inventive production.
“Masquerade” felt like a single worthy song. It’s a little more upbeat with a forwarding moving beat that is juxtaposed against atmospheric elements. On top of that it’s the hook that made me think it works as a single.
“Dilemma” is a full fledged club thumper. The beat definitely had a bit of a ’90s vibe with a classic 808 type kick drum sound and classic crescendos which would make a dance floor explode. “Hate To Love” was another intoxicating club thumper perhaps a little more aligned with an artist like Passion Pit. I think “Hate To Love” is a contender for the standout track. I was a little surprised with the acoustic guitar on “Break My Heart” which is straight pop. Chan closes with the title track which is ethereal, cosmic and very atmospheric.
As far as pop albums go FaultLine is one I wouldn’t pass up. The production is top notch and is a sure fire way to get people on the dance floor. Recommended.
Chicago’s Wilde bring 21st century vaudeville to hometown shows with a sound that mixes Rock And Roll Circus era Stones with the proto-punk humor of The Stooges. It’s an expansive sonic, fostered by a versatile creative approach that lets every band member have a say on the style, and comes together as a mixture of funky beats, swanky guitar leads, mandolin and string flourishes.
But how do you describe a band that can bring Glass Animals style alternative rock sound on “Lady In The Sun” before pivoting to “Road To Nowhere,” a funky, garage sweater that wouldn’t be out of place on Jack White’s new and experimental Boarding House Reach? The trick is to just enjoy the ride.
The obvious glue across this setlist is singer Paul Palos, who flexes a theatrical charisma that can be many characters: smooth lover on “Elizabeth,” Funkadelic frontman on “Spill The Beans” and swagged out rocker on “A Reckoner In Mojave.” On the latter track Palos shows off some great falsetto freakouts, and guitarist Timmy Briones really brings the heat with bluesy leads and delayed riffs.
Steve Keider on the bass is a songwriting force, carrying the load on “Road To Nowhere” and providing crucial transitions on “Frown.” Drummer Keenan Feller is a rock, and great at arranging his rhythms to both standout and stay in the back. The secret ingredient here however is James Shine, providing the mandolin, strings and pianos that make this otherwise standard rock outfit unique.
Putting Hurt Fever on feels like going to that warehouse on the weekend, the one who’s address only spreads by word of mouth and partying like it’s 1967, New York City style with Warhol at the bar deep in conversation is not just accepted but the norm. For anyone open eared enough to handle a band that only sees “genre” as a cage, then Wilde and Hurt Fever is a must to experience.
Anjali Nair (guitar/vocals), Billie Seeland (guitar/vocals), Chris Seeland (bass) and Garret Manyoky (drums) are Dog In A Man Suit. Apparently, the band met while playing together in various bands since they met at the Princeton School of Rock music program. There is unequivocally some talent that’s obvious when you hear their self-titled EP Dog In A Man Suit. Everyone can play their butts off and the songwriting is sharp and refined.
Their music is fairly straightforward. There are elements of garage rock/alternative and variants of those genres. They get going with “Shock Treatment” which was a highlight. The song has zero fat on it and comes out of the gate fast. I thought the vocals were well delivered and catchy and the drumming was out of control good at points.
“Fat Face” is next. The song had an overt ’90s alternative feel to it. It’s all of two minutes long and really didn’t need to be longer then that. “State of Mind (feat. Katie Drew)” was another solid effort. It’s more of a slow burn with more of ’70s classic rock feel in a lot of ways. It made me think of Heart. They resurrect the energy of The Pixies on “My Heart's in The Palm of Your Hand” while “Former Movie Hero” features both lead vocalists.
The most logical step for the band is to work with an engineer/producer in a studio. There is just no denying that this is a demo quality recording. As an engineer myself I promise them even a modest studio can vastly improve the fidelity and bring out the performances.
Overall, this was a solid first effort. I think a little more experimentation along the way might be a good thing to really narrow in a signature sound but the band has the chemistry in all the right places. Take a listen.
With just a few live shows under their belt and a couple of years worth of work recording, the three-piece prog/alternative rock band known as Superquiet from Des Moines, Iowa put out their debut Sansterra this summer. Recorded at Screen Door Studios in Jewell, Iowa the title for the album proved a challenge for the trio. The lyrics of guitarist and vocalist, Rob Strain, had recurring themes that dealt with space and the ocean. Mark Wohlert, the bass player, liked the ideas of having “no land” and being “ungrounded” so this prompted him to come up with a fictional comic series, and the conceptual art to go with it, thus “Sansterra” was born. Third member Dalton Siler lays down some sweet beats on drums.
Superquiet’s style has been compared to artists like Jeff Buckley, Soundgarden and The Mars Volta. The band’s philosophy is something I can get behind – they believe that there is no such thing as “my song” or “your song” – each person contributes something unique to a song. During the decision process of recording, each member decided that they would have to truly love the song in order for it to be on the album, otherwise their heart just wouldn’t be in it.
To start off the 11-track album, “Elefino” begins with a great muddy effect on bass and warm full drums. As the chorus breaks in with plenty of good guitar sound, I’m instantly turned on by a style that I can only describe as Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Black Sabbath and Queens of the Stone Age all rolled into one. “Daydream Arrows” mellows things out with a slower beat and a dream-like feeling. I’ll add here as well that production wise, I was liking the band’s more mono toned, muddier sound approach, reminding me that sometimes this way of recording can really bring out a band’s personality.
The beginning rhythm of the drums and bass on “Plagueships” really reminded me of one my all-time favorite bands The Police, while other parts of the song’s structure were reminiscent of Radiohead. Overall, this tune really expressed the trio’s strong musicianship as a prog-rock act. “Textures (How Things Feel)” starts off with a shadowy, dark feeling and gets pretty experimental with some crazy good drum beats, bass and guitar work – and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t hearing strong similarities to Chris Cornell with Rob Strain’s voice – remarkable!
The structure on “Spirals” delves deep into a prog-rock style that reminded me of a darker, early Genesis tune. The bass and guitar get thick and heavy while Siler’s drumming lays down beats that are damn good and mean. “Darkstar” gets interesting with a jazzy, psychedelic feel that at times I thought I was hearing Jack Bruce and Cream. On “Trembling Act” the melody starts off with a lighter feel as the drums shuffle along. The tempo picks up as the backing vocals fill in the spaces with a beautifully haunting sound. “Jetsam” starts with a low, groovy bass line and drum beat and dreamy sounding guitar melody. The singing is simply gorgeous on this one and musically, the band’s approach feels like one-part Radiohead and one-part flashback to the groovier tunes of ‘60 sand ‘70s psych.
With “On Lookout” comes another fantastic, prog rock song with a great off beat rhythm. The band switches gears after five minutes or so into an alternative rock style and then back to the main off beat after seven. I thought this was the band’s most dynamic tune. “Monolith” begins with a low and ominous bass line that’s quite catchy. The band adds an effect to the bass in the next section as Strain’s gets in some healthy scream-singing throughout the song. The rhythm between Siler’s drums and Wohlert’s bass lines got so damn good and crazy, I had to give this one a few more listens. Finally, with “The Siege” which I think is a great title for a song, bass lines fill in solid with the main melody and the drums pick up speed with a fast shuffle beat. Very little guitar can be heard on this one, if at all – but there is plenty of gorgeous vocal work, both with Strain’s chops and additional backing vocals.
In my view, Sansterra is one of those albums you’ll want to listen to again…and then again. I could tell the band pulls ideas from a lot of influences and styles, but even so, they each bring their own unique musical strengths, which results in a sound all their own. I thought the way the album was produced also added to the band’s unique sound. Hoping to hear more soon.
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Change the Chords is a solo project whom I presume is that man sleeping in the right corner picture on the Bandcamp page. Sloppy Philosophy Toads is his first release. The EP is a bit hard to explain. Some of it felt undeniably tongue in cheek and other songs seemed to be a little more serious. It was hard to find any type of foundation to the mood.
Up first is “Change the Chords” which revolves around an acoustic guitar, a little bit of delay effect to create psychedelic effect and delayed percussive elements. It reminded me of Flight of the Conchords. It seemed like a Pink Floyd/David Bowie parody in a lot of ways.
“1970's Grocery Store” revolves around a couple of distorted minor and major chords and vocals. The recording quality takes a little dip and I had a hard time making out the lyrics which felt like the most integral part of the song.
“Water in your Hands” at least felt like a more sincere effort. It’s more emotionally resonant in mood. There is a female vocalist. There are some slight but noticeable issues with staying on key. On that note they sound great together. I have to admit I wanted more fidelity on this song.
“Sloppy Joes” just feels completely frivolous in comparison. The song is dissonant, with disparate elements and vocals that feel silly in their execution. “Cry of a Studio” is all over the place. There is some talking instead of singing, and it sounds like a band is warming up at times; it felt like an improvisation at others. “Loopin in my Head (ft. Sloppy John)” has elements of dream pop and arguably the catchiest song overall.
As I mentioned I’m not completely sure of the angle that the artist was going for. Either way I would love to hear some of his songs with better recording quality. It’s extremely lo-fi at times making it hard to appreciate the lyrics and melodies.
I think there is talent here and but I would like it channeled into either pure comedy or more straightforward songs. Overall, this was an interesting listen to say the least and I look forward to hearing where he goes from here.
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