When you really think about it, the birth place of so many songs is the bedroom. That's where you make love, brood after a breakup, and come up with your best and worst ideas. The musical revolution of music being forged in the studio that is now one's bedroom is fabulous. I never cease to be in awe what people can achieve in their inner sanctums. Bedroom pop takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to Marlowe and his album Something, Nothing & Anything. All on his lonesome in the comfort of his home he has made a radically charming collection of indie pop songs.
Marlowe prides himself on being a recluse. No shows, no studios, no fuss, no muss. He makes good tunes and calls it a day. I for one am very much on board with this brand. It seems as though he channels all his resources in terms of energies and funnels all of it into his work. He has a timeless aesthetic that teeters back and forth between decades and manages to find a classic angle. He perspective is one that is colorful and bright. He has a fantastic voice that again, fits that timeless aesthetic.
I would say most of the songs on this album could easily make their way onto a few of my playlists. He has a healthy mix of moods and tones. Everyone once in a while I wasn't as enthused, but I could still appreciate the picture and the brushes he was painting with at the time. Marlowe has been writing songs for a long time and his experience shows. There are few different formulas that he abides by, however, every once in a while, he will throw in a curve ball like power 80's guitar solo and I was totally into it. I really like the balance he found between cohesion and diversity. This album is a selection of his favorite songs from other albums of his. I love this because this means I am examining a body of work that has taken place over time and I can determine what has stayed the same and what has changed.
Marlowe's production and engineering instincts are top notch. Honestly I feel if he did manage to get out a bit more he would be snapped up by a studio operation and his whole motif would be ruined. His ear is one that seems to render in three dimensions. He can build things like depth or height with just a few understated tweaks. His process sounded confident and exciting, it was a big selling point on this album.
This album and Marlowe have the potential to cast a very wide net. His music is first and foremost enjoyable. I feel like with the right tune he could tag on almost any fandom within the pop and rock genres. Considering I know a great deal of music enthusiasts, some more prickly than others, I stand firm in my confidence that he could attract all sorts of fish.
Bland Orlando's first artistic release entitled Blue - Hold - Wasted is an approachable and heart led EP that is reminiscent of Jack Johnson with a bit more jazz, a little more sensuality and subtle naivety. This was a treat to listen to.
"Blue" is that deep kiss that comes from the naive love that is poetic exquisiteness. It is folk roots with an electronic sound. Orlando really captured a purity in “Blue” that I have not heard in a long time from artists.
In "Hold" Orlando used a sampled and pitch shifted bass harmonic. All the drums in the song are played using MIDI pads. You would not know that everything is recorded from scratch. It is a very laid back track. I felt a more Sam Smith vibe in the second song rather than Jack Johnson in the first.
The third and final song of the album "Wasted" has a different feeling all together. A new consciousness is imbued in this one as even the effect on the vocals is like Bon Iver or Iron and Wine. We still get that thread of folk rootedness, still giving that sensual goodness but less naivety as the album goes on.
I look forward to even more music from Bland Orlando and I hope he keeps this depth, this rooted folk rhythm and beautiful combination of the three artists that came through while listening - Jack Johnson, Bon Iver and Sam Smith. He definitely has his own unique sound but with all of those three together I do not know of another new artist that has come on the scene that captures these emotions so beautifully.
On August 31st, East End Londoner Pete Boyd released his 11- track debut album. Book of Shame is a collection of songs by Boyd and Gary Bridgewood, a mult-talented duo who did not plan on starting a band but next thing we know is that a visit to a violin repair shop then turned into a recording session and the rest is history.
Book of Shame's new album by the same name is a gritty, punk, lyrically catchy and distinctive. It is reminiscent of a little David Bowie mixed in with The Velvet Underground. "Killing Pickle" is the first song on the album which brings a catchy melody. The lyric "you've got your wires crossed" made the punk side of me was quite happy.
“I Think I Love You" is a young punk love song with an incredibly catchy chorus, striking lyrics, and easily imagined as a teen early 2000s love anthem. The drums and lyrics together are so complementary, that this almost made me doubt that this is a debut first time album. It's as if they were a match made years ago.
You can catch the David Bowie inspiration in "Compatibility." Pete Boyd has a distinctive Bowie-esque sound. It may have helped that the lyrics include a layered robotic sound and lyrics including the stars, moon, and "clutching on to straws of our / Compatibility.” In sing song and also poetic statements this otherworldly song echoes a grasping on togetherness. The crescendoing guitar solo then overcomes the lyricist and you get in on the added layer of melancholy.
Introductory acoustic guitar transports us to Spain in "Barcelona." Such a romantic "pact to back each other up." Jo, Gary Bridgewood’s wife, is a guest vocalist. The capturing of changing faces of love from the "not being the man I knew you on the beach."
"Ding Dong," takes us out of the acoustic realm of the previous song and back into the electronic soundscape. "Sometimes it makes me sad to think you are so lonely... But I learned to grow some wings so now I'm flying over the walls and over the hills..." A moving on, a coming away from the past. We also get a little bit of saxophone with the drums and guitar which is a surprisingly fantastic addition that you would not think would work, but somehow they made it work. "Ding Dong, the witch is dead... the witch is dead from my head!"
We move into a more solemn and reflective song on the album entitled "Inertia" with the repeating lyrics "tell me you didn't do it." That sinking feeling with the electronics, and bass taking the lead really shows the multi-instrumental mastery of the team. "Let Me Go" feels like a continuation of “Inertia." However instead of the bass being the leading instrument, the drums are the takeover this time around.
"Drifting" features Bridgewood's friend BJ Cole. It is a haunting melody on personal evolution, friendship and safety. This song definitely has a unique sound with Cole on guitar. You can feel the conversation of vocal and guitar in a complementary way. "Sometimes I feel like crying… to think that you might be drifting…" We get a fully rounded song that allows you to hear the full spectrum of instruments. “Damned” revolves around guitar, vocals, drums and a collective choir. This is the reckoning and recognition of the narrative being crafted in the album.
This is reenforced with "Ponytail Blues.” We all know the theme this song as which is that intense feeling of young love and just feeling the wall of nonreciprocal love.
It would be too sad if we were left with "Ponytail Blues," so "Hope and Glory" is the final song on the album. "Spine is realigned... undefined... stumbling through doors... sounds like a fable." It's the phoenix breaking down and rising from the ashes song. It is a bit disorienting but coming out clear with the synths and drums.
This emotional storytelling debut from Book of Shame is a nod to David Bowie. It includes gothic punk and multi-instrumentalist anthems. I highly recommend a listen through. I kept thinking of these background songs for teen anthems. It is a fantastic debut from an accidental chance encounter of two great artists.
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
Life Parade Suburban Life 3.6
Havenport Reappearing 3.7
Matthew Thirlwell Night Drive - EP 3.8
Meeting with Hans Genius Loci 3.7
Simian Cyborg Questions Everyone
is Asking but No One
Tired of Wisdom is Thomas Waltrich (vocals/drums/glockenspiel), Daniel Cooper (guitars), Matthew Owen (bass), Leon Tan (keys), Daniel Tsang (violin) and Ash Richter (trombone). The band released Anywhere But Here which is a diverse eleven-song album. Apparently each song is a story from the life of Thomas Waltrich which relates to different memories and phases from ages sixteen to twenty-three. I was thinking about this for a second now that I’m almost forty. The memories I have of myself from that long ago are of a different person. I don’t know how old Waltrich is and I was wondering how recent these memories were.
The story he tells is a little hard to keep track of considering there are a lot of purely instrumental songs. There is a hint however on his Bandcamp page. It says, “in a state of restlessness and continually striving for what is next.” This was more or less constant for me in my early twenties. Truth be told this kind of feeling usually eases up with age.
The band explores a number of different genres on this LP. They start with “Street Lights” which sounds somewhere between Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Menomena. The overall vibe I was getting was post-rock with a little dash of funk from the bass.
“Gorge” is one of the songs that has vocals. The vocals are on the verge of rapping at points. That being said there are a number of different styles. This song comes close to neo-post-punk in the spirit of bands like Viet Cong. The vibe felt very different between the first and second song. That chasm becomes larger with “Void” which is an off-kilter avant garde song that mixes some catchy melodies and jazzy overtones. I loved this song which reminded me of The New Puritans but the direction of the album almost felt random. If I didn’t know otherwise I would have told you the first three songs were from different bands.
“Neon Sand” does bring together some of their previous styles. You can hear elements of post-rock as well as jazz and prof-rock. I loved the drumming on this track. This song in particular sounded similar to something you might from a band like Do Make Say Think. “Neon Sand” flows very nicely into “Really?”
The band throws in raw punk rock on “Signature Scavengers.” At this point I gave up on trying to connect the dots. As the album progresses the band continues to explore new territory from drum heavy ambient pieces “Point Leo” to singer/songwriter folk with a tinge of post-rock on the closing track “Laughing With It.”.
One of the things I always mention in my reviews are bands building a foundation and forming a signature sound. I personally think it’s important and something you will notice in successful bands ranging from Sigur Ros to The Black Keys. They have a sound which gets embedded into people's memories. I’m not saying every band does this but it sure helps to build an audience. On that note I thought these songs were great but I would love to hear the band carve out a specific niche at some point in the future.
I think there are a lot of exceptional songs on this album and I was impressed they were able to pull off as much as they did. This is an album you may need a couple run-throughs because there are so many approaches to the music. It’s definitely a journey worth exploring. Take a listen.
Become A Fan
On the Bandcamp page for Bryce Kepner it says his album Transitions is the culmination of five years of writing, recording, re-recording, getting married, moving across the country, having two kids and settling into a nine to five career. The album is about his life.
This cold, hard fact I’ve learned after being in this business for twenty-five plus years is that the audience in most cases could care less about a person’s life, especially if it’s an artist that they haven’t heard before. The emotional connection that can happen is often a reflection. It might be a lyric or an idea that relates to their life. A possible truth, a situation they have encountered that creates empathy, etc. That human connection is why we gravitate towards certain musicians as if they understand something about us that no one else can. To further my point I often find myself more immersed in singers that chose to use “you” instead of “I” because I feel as if they are singing to me.
Transitions is certainly an album you can get immersed in. There is a sense of reflection you can hear in the music. The album is a bit somber all things considered. Kepner often laments about things. He questions if he can overcome situations, sings about hurt that is gone but not forgotten. On that note I didn’t feel like this was a pity party. His delivery is subdued but also soulful not unlike that of James Blake. There are some really great melodies as well. I was impressed by the amount of catchy hooks throughout this album.
There are some really well done songs on this album that feel contemporary and inventive. I’ll also add that it was hard choosing the highlights because I enjoyed so much of this album. “Start Again” was definitely one of my favorites. It’s more upbeat and sort of motivating but also just a great collection of tones, textures and rhythms.
“I Gotta Go (Right Now)” is so well done. The atmosphere feels so quiet as if you moved your hand the recording would catch it. I really loved the subtle percussive aspects. That’s really just the beginning but I wouldn’t miss “Sky Dreams” either. I thought the songs were really well crafted and it felt obvious he took a lot of time making these ten songs. Recommended.
It’s not very common to find bassists that play the six string bass but they are out there. One of those players is Shawn Simms. That’s the main weapon of choice on his release Vapors In Time which is a prog rock infused album that mixes in other genres such as jazz and other sub genres.
Simms doesn't seem to be singing at all on this release. There are however a number of featured singers throughout the album.
The album opens with “Sprava (ft. Liann)” which immediately showcases some interesting free jazz. There is a guitar and bass that play off each other but soon enough the song starts to gel together. The vocals by Liann are well delivered but the instrumentation is really the backbone of the song.
Up next is “Cemetery Riot (ft. Sara)” which features some funky bass and reminded me of when I listened to jam bands more often. That being said there are some unexpected aspects such as the orchestral strings that show up in song. The album continues with “Sweet Epiphany (ft. Lena)” which was one of my favorite songs. This song is catchy but unconventional and goes in a number of very interesting directions. The vocals are also a little prominent on this track but this is hardly standard verse/chorus/verse type stuff. It felt like a rock opera.
“Twilight” is an orchestral piece and very cinematic. It reminded me of the soundtrack you might hear on an older movie. The song “Signal to Noise” goes into new territory as well. There are some atmospheric elements as well as an organ which gives this song a darker feel than anything that came before it.
Those first five songs give a good idea of what else you can expect on the album.There are some songs however that felt like highlights. “Coalescence (ft. Lena)” and “Silent Dawn (feat. Sara 432hz)” are two songs that I will be revisiting.
This album is impressive from both a technical and creative level. I think more than just fans of prog rock will appreciate this music. Take a listen.
The Zap Guns debut self-titled EP The Zap Guns packs a decent wallop for just four songs. Falling on trend with rock bands making classic rock statements with bold, vintage sounds. There are a lot of fresh ideas mixed in here as well.
The opening song is “Ghosts" and it's a keeper for me. Wicked, dangerous and ironic. I immediately fell in love with the vocal work which is theatrical but not smarmy or overdone, love at first note. Also worth mentioning for this song is the lyrics. There are some songwriters who are just verbal gymnasts, and this is gold medal wordsmith work for me. From this song alone I was able to gauge all the influences and places we might be going on this EP. It's rare an opener is my favorite, but that's exactly what happened here.
The second song "Dahlia" was a big surprise. The tone on here was much more classic rock and Americana rock. There was a nice solid bass line along with a little pensive quiver in the vocal performance which made it feel intimate. This one had an interesting additive in the production that gave it a vintage ’80s pop feel. I can't say that I was completely over the moon for this one as I was for "Ghosts." I feel like this song was about creating an atmosphere more than anything else, and definitely redefined my mood upon hearing it. There's something here, again, the production on here was pure in its delivery.
Next up, "Waiting For You." This one kicks up the tempo and we go into a nice pop/ pink rock setting that is bursting with color and energy. Of everything that is packed into this song, I thing I ended up appreciating the most was the drums. The lyrics were a little hit or miss for me, but other than that, I feel like this one definitely fell under what I expected and in a mostly positive way.
Lastly was "The Devil's Range." Here I was getting a thick classic rock vibe. Again, the production is amazing. Without the high end production I do think this song would have sounded very dated. To be honest it felt a little dated even with the stellar production. I feel like there's a push to project the listener to music of decades past. There are lots of band that do this but I think they almost run too parallel at times as is the case with this song.
Overall, this EP is interesting, definitely noteworthy. I seem to like the music best when it deviates from well traveled roads. There are moments in every song on here that demonstrate original and fresh thoughts. I think the trick for me is the ratio of how often they use those kind of sounds. I cannot commend the production enough. I would be very curious to hear what a fully fleshed out album would sound like.
Being a musician is not easy. I spent most of my twenties and some of my thirties try to make it in this business which I did have some mild success in. Prior to that I got a degree in composition. The thing is once the bug bites it never really leaves. That seems to be the case for Anton Schindler. He has spent some time putting in the hours, playing shows, and having things fall apart so you can build them back up.
Schindler got together and formed Collision Course with Robert Gosling (lead guitar), Jeff Toledo (drums) and Adam Robert (bass) to create a four-song demo entitled The Demo Tapes. I listened to it and my god does this remind me of my high school days. I was a teenager in the ‘90s and was raised on Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins. The opening song “Nameless” sounded like it was off of Gish by The Smashing Pumpkins mixed with a couple of other 90's bands. They implement a rocking verse and and even more loud chorus All things considered it might be the best song on the EP.
Up next is “Blue Angel” which is a pretty straightforward grunge inspired song although there are some great transitions. I loved the kind of military like Metallica-esque breakdown and falsetto vocals. The band have some more success with “Doctor” which is actually more like a mix between ’90’s alternative and ’70s classic rock in same way but man does this come out of the gate hard. The band rocks out hard on "Suicide" and "Italian Cusine". They close with “Rut” which is an eight plus minute song.
One of the keys besides hard work I always point in my reviews is that band’s should find a signature sound and concept. Let's think about that. Take two disparate acts Sigur Rós and The White Stripes. They are very different brands but they have very defined styles and an image and sound that really is identified. This is a trait you will find almost ubiquitously when it comes to celebrated musicians.
This release showcase the band can write a song and have a heavy influence from ’90s music. They also were forming a very firm foundation in which they can build from here.
Overall, I say this is a really good release. I look forward to hearing more.
David Petty is a musician from Olympia, Washington who recently released Curiosity. Petty has a background in engineering and decided to make a complete DIY project. On his Bandcamp page he states, “This indie rock album presents memories of a marooned astronaut who reflects upon in his last moments of life.” That topic seems like it would be awfully depressing but the music was surprisingly upbeat.
He opens with the title track “Curiosity” which is indicative of the type of style you will hear throughout the album. The music did remind me of bands like The Strokes, Local Natives and a couple of other like minded bands. There are some synths which provide some atmosphere on this song but the main elements were guitar, bass, drums and of course vocals. It’s a catchy song and really well done from beginning to end.
Up next is “Mostly Harmless” which is another really well written song. There is a tiny bit of ’50s pop thing going on during the bridge but the influence from The Strokes seemed most noticeable on this song.
“Satellite” might be the highlight. The synths are a little more upfront in this song and I thought the subtle build to the memorable chorus was well implemented. “Poltergeist” is very chill and contains a groove that you can slowly sway to while the single worthy “Octopoda” picks up the energy while continuing to deliver catchy melodies. “Cattle” has a slightly different feel. This song is a little nostalgic with a tinge of Americana. I also really loved some of the unique ways the energy builds in the song.
“Almost Getting Nowhere” is a fun tune and probably the most dance worthy song on the album. “Imagine & Machine” was another song with some nostalgia while the closer “Happy Birthday, Computer” utilizes a vocoder and ends with a smooth and funky jam. There is some inspired sound design happening on this song.
Curiosity is a great album from beginning to end. Petty’s songwriting is top notch as is the production. Recommended.
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