Aly Laube (guitar/vocals), Tae Whitehouse (drums) and Kristen Frier (bass) are Primp. The trio released Half-Bloom which is an eight-song album. The album is somewhere between indie pop and rock. Two other female bands came to mind while listening but not because they are female. The music sometimes reminded me of Savages but never really gets as heavy. I think there were clear similarities to Sleater-Kinney.
The album opens with “Outside.” It’s a straightforward song really. A 4/4 beat, distorted major and minor chords and a steady bass. The vocals on this song in particular feel subdued and fairly restrained but I say that in a good way. It works with the music and the song ultimately worked for me because it was catchy. It’s a simple song that was enjoyable to listen to.
Up next is “Sure” which rocks a little more. The beat is harder and more intense yet the vocals remain relatively subdued. The juxtaposition works. The lo-fi recording was starting to buckle here and the fidelity and energy was starting to feel compromised.
“Fonky” sounds better in terms of fidelity and is also a highlight overall. I really liked the surf guitar rock type riff. The dynamics were well done with an effective push and pull of energy. “Growing Down” was another case of the recording quality starting to cave in. There was too much distortion making the mix narrow. I was kind of bummed here because the song is super catchy.
“Think About U” was a solid song. I loved the rhythm and drum pattern here. The ladies continue to impressive with “Overflow,” ”Blue” and closer “I Know Now.” “I Know Now” is very catchy and infectious.
As an engineer and producer I would say the obvious next step for this group is to team up with the right producers/engineers who can bring their sound to a level that’s competitive with the aforementioned artists. Lo-fi can work on experimental bedroom recordings but this is a rock band that needs to be recorded live in a room. I promise them if they find the right team it will make all the difference. The good news is the talent and potential seems to just be waiting. I thought the songs were well written indie rock songs that many people would appreciate.
Overall, this is a solid release from a band I encourage you to listen to and to follow. I hope to hear more soon.
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Tyler Plazio wrote Memories through two different time periods. The first two tracks were written in September of 2017, and the last two were written in May of 2018. The entire collection was wrapped up into an EP and released in mid-July of 2018. Memories deals with depression, anxiety, growing up and moving on. An open and honest effort, Plazio takes listeners into his own point of view on the matter, and brings some sweet riffs with him.
“Birthday” is the last track on Memories. A soliloquy of sorts, the arpeggiated guitar that accompanies the verse perfectly illustrates the thought process of mulling over past, present and future decisions. The contrast of the loud volume of the chorus further pushes the point of how chaotic it can be to ponder these things. Plazio has stated that the record deals with facing anxiety, and the uncertainty of the song faces this head on. An uneasy and borderline nerve-racking track, it serves as an excellent stopping point and underlines the theme of the album.
“After Prom” carries the energy, excitement, nervousness and confusion of prom night. It tells a story that most people can relate to. Expectations set too high, no real plans in effect, but the ending is still disappointing and regrettable. There’s not much that’s hidden behind metaphor, it’s a vivid song in terms of imagery and illustration. Each section of the song leads into another situation that is deftly described, with fitting music to follow it.
Following in the footsteps of modern indie giants like Modern Baseball and The Front Bottoms, pulling some from pop-punk bands like Fallout Boy and Taking Back Sunday, and adding in lyrical musings like American Football and Modest Mouse, Memories is an EP that will make a listener think. It’s not shrouded in impossible metaphor, and it won’t be given to freshman in a poetry class that all agree they don’t want to deal with deciphering the meaning behind the uselessly complex lines. It’s honest, straightforward and relatable. Bringing personal memories to Memories is easy for the listener; it happens almost automatically.
Certain situations are brought up, memories that everyone has fondly, or not, tucked away in their minds to look back on years later on. Musically, it’s the right amount of simple. Memories is a great balance of fun riffs, catchy choruses, mellow bridges and staggering intros. Fans of the bands that I’ve mentioned above, and others like them, are in for a great ride with Memories coming from the speakers.
Nathan St. John (guitar/vocals), Alex Crupi (guitar/vocals/drums) and Jacob Vasa (bass) are Impetus. The band released Hello and Good Morning which is a four-song EP. They dig into a fairly popular aesthetics that embraces clean guitars and hall reverb. The band mentions legends like The Smiths and The Cure as well as contemporary acts such Real Estate and Turnover. That’s really the center of the bullseye for their sound.
The band starts with “Judah St.” which is the arguable highlight. I was drawn to the infectious melodies which come from the vocal harmonies and lead vocal. The music itself is fairly straightforward with jangly guitars chords and a rhythm section that successfully conveys the energy the song needs. I found myself fascinated with the lyrics. They were ambiguous enough for interpretation but almost follow a narrative. The vocalist sings, “It was kinda gusty and kinda familiar / On the 25,000th day of this past December / Someday I'll know ways to forget running / All the way to work to watch the sun go backward.”
“Different” draws more from a melancholy, nostalgic type of vibe. It’s also deceptively catchy with understated vocals. The chorus is money and specifically reminded me of Real Estate. “Renovator” is a little more experimental. Most of the song is very lush and ambient. In fact a little more dynamics may have benefited the first three minutes. There are slight up ticks in energy. I always appreciate when a band thinks outside of the box as they do with the last minute or so in the song.
The band closes with “From the Start” and the vibe felt a little more shoegaze to me than dream pop. They start to float in to My Bloody Valentine territory with cerebral sensibilties and a more emotionally heavy appeal.
I think at some point the band may have to make a conscious decision as to whether they want to go for something more emotionally heavy or a little more loose, carefree and fun. It seems like those two sides may be battling a little bit. The recording leans more towards a good sounding demo. I think a top notch mastering engineer could work wonders in this case but would love to hear a studio recording for the band at some point.
The band has a great deal of talent. They certainly know how to write a song and I think with a little more tweaking on their foundation they should be ready to roll. I’m looking forward to hearing their next step.
The Rogers, Arkansas quartet Formals consisting of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jordan Ellington, drummer Shawn Newcombe, saxophonist Addison Bunch and producer Chris Moore play a hazy sort of psychedelic style rock that is really kind of hard to pin down. It has this sort of freeness to it that I liked, kind of like a jam band that’s on acid and just letting what comes out come out. It’s sort of a splatter-painting of sound; the kind that one can hear and see different elements at work as they come to it at different times. It’s a bit cerebral like that, but there is a loose cohesiveness to it also that keeps things from sounding like a messy mixture of a band just lost in the woods so to speak and going off in all different directions trying to find their way out.
Their debut record Dirtswimming sounds like it’s straight out of the ‘90s most of the time with its hammering drums and droning guitars bled through with just enough feedback to keep things nuanced enough from sounding like grunge but perhaps some sort of post-grunge spinoff. The opening track “perpetually coming down” is a long drowsy rock song with enough pop supremacy behind it (mostly due to the keyboards) that it sounds like one of those bands that MTV only played the video for between the hours of midnight and six a.m. It’s just a very melodic and likable tune, not too hard, not too soft.
Next comes “saint joe” which keeps with the ‘90s beats and sounds a little like something from the Meat Puppets et. al., with its swimmingly grungy guitars that burst out those few interchangeable chords and drum fills that made men and women famous for decades. This seems to be a style they like to employ as they do it in an more up-tempo fashion later on “make peace.”
But when they want they can really write some pretty exquisite semi-rock ballads that really stand out as pretty exceptional. I’m talking here about “black fiction” and “gumption” which I really found to be songs which were both well rounded and sounded almost like they could have been ripped from a record from several decades ago. It is also worth to note here how good the production is on all of these songs; the quality finesse of them is quite spot on.
Needless to say I really enjoyed Dirtswimming both for its sense of nostalgia but also for its steadiness and its ability to stay focused on a sound without jumping around too much yet also not making each song sound like one is experiencing déjà vu. I look forward to hearing what Formals comes up with in the future.
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Based in Leicester, UK, the artist who goes by the name Fear The Dove released their debut this past summer. What started as a hobby that carried on for many years, eventually blossomed into a full-length album, Species Disconnection, all written, performed and recorded by the artist. Fear The Dove describes this first venture as being very low-tech in production and the style as dark alternative rock with a touch of the blues.
“Gutter Wrench” begins the album with a slow, sludgy and sultry sound. I wasn’t exactly sure what the artist’s lyrics were about, but the feeling and intensity within the song is so freaking beautiful and original – I had to take a breather before the second song. Vocally, I would say the singer could be compared to Lorde or Patti Smith or perhaps even Shirley Manson, but with a much deeper voice. “Descendi” has a slow-paced feel and heaviness to it that reminded me of Portishead or some other post-Goth band. And, in my opinion the low-tech production works extremely well for Fear The Dove and with just two songs in, I was already hooked.
“Taste” goes even deeper and darker with a cross of goth and a sticky beat that’s punkish and industrial. The guitar solo screams just high enough with a dark, foreboding drippiness and the drums are heavy and dense, too – I loved it! “Bloodsucker” continues on with a dark vibe and a crazy good beat, that’s jumpy and tense. This one felt a little ‘80s new wave meets dark punk. I loved “Fever 34” for its intensely deep bass lines – thick and syrupy – and the beat of the drums, rich and murky. The artists’ guitar solo gets even better and experimental in this song.
“Fish For Floods” is another song with a jumpy, tense off-beat that was great and kind of hypnotizing. “Stone Thing” breaks out strong with a hearty use of guitar chords, which at times I think two were overdubbed, and a tribal beat – both intense and full of energy. About three-quarters in, the song gets a little quiet and breaks into a free-form style and then ends with heavier sounds. “Uptide” is perhaps one of the slowest songs on the album and has repeating guitar chords as the main rhythm. The guitar solo on this one is quite good as well. “Nos” features a shuffle-like beat and plenty of crash cymbal action. Fear The Dove adds some clicking effects to the song, sounding something like glass. One of the songs that stood out for me was the very last one “Back In The Light” not only because it’s barely over a minute, but because all that’s heard is a vocal and a mandolin, or what sounds like one. It was a refreshing ending that I didn’t expect.
Fear The Dove’s style is no doubt dark, heavy and slow-paced, but that’s what I found most appealing along with the artists’ unique musical arrangements. Production wise, I loved the low-tech approach and I thought it worked well without a single song sounding cheap or amateur. A few numbers stood out more than others, but overall, Species Disconnection is a solid debut. I hope to hear more from this UK artist.
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
Topograf Colors EP 4.0
Lou Terry Week of Bees 3.9
Ersatz Savant Nothing Incomplete 3.7
Fatal Empath Out Of Faze 3.6
The Knopp Brothers Wide Eyed EP 3.4
Party We Will Meet in
Another Life 3.8
Superstellar Psychosis 3.6
Parades Parades 3.3
toni lee Sola Aestas 3.7
Sonatore's Dream Boy EP is a brilliant, shiny object for my senses. It's soaked in a glittering dew of fantasy and originality. The music is head to toe an electronic labor of love and yet it is romantic and pastoral and it ultimately felt like an organic experience to me. I'm not one that is easily persuaded to indulge my more whimsical side, but with just five tracks, I was completely won over. If you're bringing love for ’80s synth, indie rock and electro pop you cannot go wrong here. This high tech sound comes from Nashville, Tennessee and I can say with confidence I did not see that coming. I have heard a lot of cool music come out of Nashville, but nothing quite like this.
The first track "Midnight Man" is my favorite and may be one of my favorite introductions to a band of all time. This track is so green and lush as it builds. They managed to capture the chaotic noise of a forest in full swing in the evening. Heading on down the line with tracks like "Dream Boy" and "Agents of Love" things get a little more brick and mortar. I can now picture the skyscrapers and bustling traffic. The music captures this imagery and then slows it down a bit just so you can take a second to breathe it all in.
"Colors & Sounds" builds an interesting bridge between settings. This one has a great indie rock feel tucked away behind the electro curtain and I loved it. The final track is "Space Turbulence" and it rounds the collection of settings quite nicely. As one may expect, you get to go a little off planet with this one or at least get some distance between you and whatever is bugging you. This is one more on the psychedelic spectrum. I like how with just five songs we get to go to so many places.
The goal of this EP was to evoke a dreamlike sensation and I would say that mission has been accomplished with great help from the production. Sonatore at its core is Alex Red, a musician, painter and oneironaut (expand your vocabulary and look that one up, the music will make so much more sense once you do). It doesn't shock me to know that this EP was a home recording project, but I am impressed with the polish of the finished product. Red worked hand in hand with Chance Cook on the mixing and mastering process and their good work is very noticeable. Red likes to indulge in music that resembles noise and this is a tricky art form to pull of properly. Luckily, attention to detail has made Red and Cook's efforts a poster child in my book for how to do noise music. There is a decisive direction applied to finely crafted layers of sounds; this direction cradled everything into a nice, even flow.
This album has so many applications for me personally. It's rare music can be both unwinding and productive for me, but that's where Dream Boy landed for me and I couldn't be happier to be aware of its existence.
A musician needs to have an arsenal of sounds. Ideally, you don’t want to work with presets in Garageband or any other DAW for numerous reasons. You want to build a unique template of tones and textures which will stand out against the noise. For Michael Klug it was his latest release entitled Different Universe where he started to explore new sounds with a new DAW.
Klug makes electronic compositions that involve layers of pads, arpeggiated synths and much more. You can hear this on the first track “The End Of Days.” The song starts off subtle enough with not much more than what sounds like a metronome that slowly mutates. Other elements start to arrive like a sub bass drum and an arpeggiated synth. Klug doesn't so much as sing as he does recite in spoken word. The beginning of the song at its best has some similarities to an artist like Aphex Twin. Once big lush pads enter into the mix the song starts to feel melodramatic and grandiose as he says, “You are everything / And nothing / Don't assume the earth / Will stop spinning just for you.”
“The Summer Of Suffering” was a little more grounded with a beat and rhythm. There were still plenty of cosmic sounding synths. The lamenting is so dramatic at points it almost spills over to comedy. It was a little hard to tell the vibe that he was going for at points.
“Either Ether” is a highlight. I thought the production was inventive and you can tell his new arsenal of sounds was coming into play. The vocals are dramatic and monotone as if he is some sort of demigod spouting off eternal knowledge. Up next is “Gas Cloud Suffocation” which was my favorite track. It’s dark and nihilistic. It sounds like the thoughts of someone who needs to find meaning and significance with their life. “Not At Home” is a collection of ambient pads and synths while the closing title track had some of the best programming on the album.
In all honesty this album felt like it was coming from a place of pain, suffering and depression. And you don’t have to read the between the lines to recognize that. The search for meaning in a meaningless universe, the self depreciating lyrics and the yearning for something more than a mundane existence in favor of the cosmos itself.
Overall, this seems like another step up in production and sound design. I hope to hear more as he continues to evolve.
After releasing their self-titled debut Hydra Plane, the Baton Rouge, Louisiana trio known as Hydra Plane follow up less than a year later with II. Carrying on their improvisational structure of songwriting and playing, they delve deeper into psychedelic rock, funk, jazz, surf rock and indie rock. Comparatively, the styles and sounds heard on II are similar to artists such as King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, The Strokes, Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers. The trio - Jacob Stanley (guitar/vocals), Eric Stewart (bass guitar) and Stephen Nelson (drums) have already gained a good reputation in their home turf and in New Orleans, where they currently reside. They’ve also toured playing gigs in Memphis, Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville, Nashville and St. Louis, and are currently planning a tour for next year.
The opening guitar riffs on “Love Misunderstood” sound like a great classic ‘80s new wave tune. The drums sounds as natural as natural can be – which in my opinion, is a damn sweet sound and the solo breaks get into an even more new wave vibe. So, my answer then – give it a listen. On “Grand Theatre of Irony” the bass lines lead in heavy and the song’s overall structure is a cross between groovy pop from the ‘60s but with a newer twist, like a throwback sound, but without sounding over the top. Oh yeah, and the guitar solo is tasty! “Girl with Fashion Sense” reminds me a little of ABC, the Smiths and the Squeeze rolled into one – but minus the mopey, narcissistic stuff Morrissey usually writes about.
“Bittersweet Daydream” fades in with a dreamy sounding guitar riff and a jerky jumping drum beat. I heard a bit of the bass but it’s more subdued in this number, until a break happens when the drums cut out and the bass goes into a crazy good solo. Of course, being the nerd that I am when it comes to instrumentals, I couldn’t get enough of this one – simply lovely. “Shake to Incorporate” starts off with a jazzy drum beat, a free form bass line and psyched out guitar effects that keep getting better as the music progresses. Then, the trio breaks into a funk so deep and groovy, and later into a sweet jazz style, so that I’m instantly transported to a higher level I’ve only dreamed about. The lyrics drop in half way with an echo effect. Give this one a listen too – you won’t regret it.
“Uncle Fuck” really gets down and groovy with a danceable beat and bass line. The guitar is low as the bass takes center stage embellished with a sweet sound of a warbly effect pedal. This is another fantastic instrumental that was strong start to finish. “Causality” begins with the sound of the tom-tom drums, and high smooth sounding guitar riffs, until the trio breaks into a fast and frenzied punk infused mash up. In my view, this tune was perhaps the band’s strongest in terms of musical styles and composition – I mean, my mind was blown – and yes, oh yes, another sweet instrumental.
“Nothing Was the Same” begins with a mellower style with some higher intense points throughout. It felt to me a mix of trippier tunes from the ‘70s alongside soft rock-jazz. The groove and swing with “Sweat Rag” is so damn fantastic, I just can’t get the right words enough to express how damn fantastic it is! I guess, if you love jazz, funk and the sounds of a trumpet – or in other words, a band called Fat Rudy, that may no longer be around – then you can’t go wrong with this one. And yes, another instrumental, but eh… who’s counting? “Blue and Yellow” has a lounge sound in an old school jazz kind of way – I mean, these guys nailed that nostalgic feel very well I’d say.
Lastly, with “Bad Witch” the longest of the eleven-song album, comes an intro narration by Emily Mccollister. After that, a steady fast beat and rhythm from the bass with vocals by Chloe Marie. This song had a different feel and it could be because it seemed more lyrically heavy and had a more traditional rock song arrangement than the others. The trio gets really tight musically and overall the feel inside the song was hauntingly good. Another stellar tune. I may be biased because I love the many styles that Hydra Plane lays down throughout their album, but seriously – I feel these improvisational virtuosos are the real deal. And even if this Baton Rouge trio are only doing it for fun, well then – keep doing what you’re doing! And please, come up north – I’ll be the first in line to your show.
The Lawrence, Kansas driving rock quartet Amore Et Bellum takes their name from the Latin. It means love and war and that’s how the band sees the music that they write represents. They take as their odes the genres of blues, hard rock, and jazz and tribal compositions. On their self-titled release Amore Et Bellum they do a good job of balancing out playing songs that represent the trials and tribulations that one learns to deal with artistically as they encounter them.
Amore Et Bellum wastes no time digging into things as they open the record with “Take the House.” The mixture of jazz and funk slowly broods into a gritty and cohesive dark rock song that begins to jam and stomp near the end with a fiery blaze. To accompany this fiery song one needs a powerful vocalist and the band has found one to fill the role, Tahnsui Thawngmung. Even when she is speak-singing as she does on “Witches Brew,” a dirty riffing rocker with head pounding drums and thumping bass, she is able to keep up with no problem. She has about her vocals that great sneer that artists such as Joan Jett and Pat Benetar were so good at without seeming like they were trying too hard.
Later on the breakdown of “Brothers Blood” is a surefire hard rock radio hit, full of fluid guitar rock, Thawngmung does a bit of a cappella if only to show that she can belt it out just as beautifully as she can snarl. This range is then quieted down on the slow beginnings of “Satan is a She” which later erupts to become one of the band’s most intricate songs as it goes from lows to highs to hard edges. Its tonal shifts are pulled off perfectly and show that the band is more than just a bar rocking jam outfit; also that they can pull off things in the studio too. This also goes for the feisty rocker “War Cry.”
Amore Et Bellum is definitely a band that I think will go far, especially as they begin to branch out their sound and experiment a little bit more with their songwriting and begin to explore a bit more of a sound outside the typical confines of rock n’ roll.
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