KOLBAK is an indie pop three-piece consisting of Harold Pflug (vocals/guitar), Rick Ruhland (bass guitar) and Martin Voigt (drums). In 2016 the band released Sea which reviewed here at Divide and Conquer. The band is back with Twists and Turns which to my ears is the most realized release from KOLBAK.
The band's sound is bigger than ever with this release. Take for instance the opener “Sleazy” with an explosive rock song. The song starts with dripping electric guitar and a rhythm section that adds the energy. It doesn't take too long for the band to get to the first bridge which brings the first dynamic transition but the most impressive climax comes around the two-minute mark. The groove is great and the vocals are infectious and the song ends with a hair raising crescendo.
The next song “0'07"” starts off sparse with guitar and vocals. The vocals are emotive and melancholy. That being said the mood slightly rises when the drums and bass enter. The song is lush and atmospheric as it progresses with the instruments never playing more than they need.
They come out of the gate with some traction on “Accident Waiting to Happen.” This song revolves around jangly guitar chords and metronome like drumming at first. The chorus is arguably the most infectious on the album. I was reminded of The Smiths at some points. I also appreciating the lyrics which poetic yet not steeped in ambiguity.
The band has more success with “The Last Stand” and also expands on their tones and textures. This song combines a lot of ear catching transitions. It's lush but almost funny at times. I also really liked the way the song unfolded.
They close strong with “Once.” This is easily the most epic song out of the five which ends in a very rocking way like it’s the third finale and the concert is over.
The band has grown since their first release and has established a more firm foundation which displays different aspects of their sound. Recommended.
Mike TV aka Go Set Go released his latest single last week. To my ears, it's another great song off his upcoming album. If you read any of my other reviews there is no doubt he takes on a lot of different styles and seems to do it with relative ease. You could make an argument that all the songs have a pop sensibility to them.
“Berninator” is the latest song and is one of the more jazzy numbers on the album that I have heard so far. I can’t say there is even a smidge of rock on this song. The song starts with percussion and strings. The drums benefit from brush work and the lead acoustic guitar shines. Somewhat unexpectedly a piano is the focal point and the acoustic guitar work ends. It was a good way to showcase some technical abilities which were impressive but also the notes he plays have a lot of emotion behind them.
The feeling is very breezy and joyful. It’s easygoing as if you don’t have a care in the world. This is all within the first thirty seconds. The vocals like his other songs are really catchy. They are also heartfelt and mainly about gratitude. It's gratitude you might have for a best friend or partner who through thick and thin, good times and bad has been there for you.
At its core this is a love song but never feels saccharine. I swear most love songs make me feel squeamish but there is something so playful here I liked it much more than usual. Truth be told I tend to cringe when a love song gets too dramatic and epic sounding.
This is another great song from Mike TV. It also seems like a great way to start your morning.
Shelby Kanouse (vocals/drums) and Josh Taylor (vocals/guitar) are First Names. The duo have been playing since sixth grade with other players coming and going. I actually don’t know their current age but they seem to be in their early twenties. At any rate, I have to admit I sort of love this just because I’ve had a similar experience. There was a drummer I met in high school and we have been playing for over twenty years now while other people have come and gone.
The band’s album The Living Room is fuzzy garage but definitely plays into its own frequency. Their music sort of reminded me of No Age in some ways. The music is fun and catchy but the way they approach it has this artistic quality to it.
Take for instance the opener “Psychobabble” which is beyond fuzzy. Those big bass drops are brilliant as the guitar melody. The most notable aspect however is the vocal melodies which are infectious. I was pretty much on board with the band once I got to the explosive chorus.
The organ on “City Buses” brought to mind the band Clinic. It’s a dynamic song with a classic start and stop thrust that you hear in garage but the way the band approaches it with inventive guitar work feels fresh and new. The band continues to impress on “Graveyard Shift.” This is a little more emotionally resonant and has some of the more notable vocal performances. It’s still a very jangly song with a lot of energy.
The band is just getting started. The Pavement-esque “Up the Stairs” and the reverb laced “Talking Loud” were a couple of highlights. I would also make sure not to miss “Teeth” and the uplifting, bright and sort of Flaming Lips-esque “Allocation of Emotions no. 1.” “The Living Room” closes the album and out of all the songs is one of the more straightforward garage rock influenced.
This type of music was made for lo-fi. On that note I wanted just a little more fidelity. I think Ty Segall level aesthetics would be perfect.
I loved this album and the spirit in which it was made. I’m excited to hear more from them.
Accidental Martyr is a project of Richard Coutts from High River, Alberta. He recently released a self-titled album Accidental Martyr. He mentions, “having played for many years in a variety of genres (rock, pop, blues, jazz, folk etc.), I decided to stay true to my experiences as opposed to trying to chase trends.” That’s very good advice in my opinion and I agree being a musician myself and approaching forty. It always felt silly to me to try and replicate what a much younger generation might be doing.
On that note the music on Accidental Martyr doesn't sound dated to my ear. There are some great songs on this album along with some inventive production.
The album starts off rock heavy with “Crash And Burn.” This song has the attitude I usually think of first when referring to rock. It’s meant to be experienced live with an anthemic chorus. All things considered this is a pretty straightforward albeit really well done and implemented.
“Sucker Punch” is certainly one of the highlights if not the best song on the album. This song combines upright bass, what at least sounds like harpsichord but might be acoustic guitar with much more. The song is explosive and a blast but also off kilter in a good way. David Bowie came to mind at points on this song.
“For The Birds” melds electronic and organic elements. He even implements the auto-tuned vocal effect but doesn't over do it. This song felt quite contemporary to my ears. I thought the slick acoustic guitar work mixed with the somewhat jarring distorted guitar created an interesting dichotomy.
There are plenty of other styles including “Half Way Gone” which was one of my favorites which combined folk and country influences. I loved the emotive vocal performance on this song.”Idle Brigade” provides empowering rock and a great Americana style chorus that is one of the most memorable on the album. The slick and kind of lounge-y ’70s vibe on “Odd Man Out” worked as well. You even get some blues on “Wicked Ways”. He ends epically with a Pink Floyd style on “Last Star In The Sky.”
There are definitely a lot of styles that he attempts here. So much so it was hard to find a signature sound and a flow to the album. On that note, he really does justice to the genres. There are some great songs here and he really doesn't miss a beat.
This is very diverse but well executed album. Take a listen.
PoliMorphic is a band based from Madison, Wisconsin. Starting out as a Beatles cover band, the band soon morphed a style into their vision. After months of basement jam sessions, the band emerged to begin performing at open mics and events around the city. These experiences helped motivate them to work on original material to better represent the members. Using foundations of jazz as well as elements of blues, funk, folk and alternative rock they were able to create their album Night & Day.
The album starts off with “Jazz Hands.” As the name suggests the song is a jazzy tune that has a really nice swing to it. The vocals are elegant yet strong enough adding a layer to the mellow sound. “Eclipse” has a build up in the beginning but it’s much slower compared to the previous track. Strong instrumentals and gentle vocals make this track lighter, while the message is a bit dire.
As the season changes so do people’s personalities. The soothing song “Smoked Filled Room” casually waltzes onto the speakers. Powerful vocals accompanied by guitar makes the folk song about confessions quite impactful.
“Ship At Sea” is a solid acoustic guitar song with good vocals. The lyrics touch on being free but at this point the overall sound of the entire album is more or less slow. Finally there is a change of pace a bit with the blues song “Hand To Heart.” It still holds a serious tone but the instrumentation at least gives a much-needed jolt to the album. The album comes to an end with the funky jam “Tulips.” It’s another jazzy track that brings a lot of emotion with the vocal range and a wonderful guitar solo.
Night & Day allows PoliMorphic to explore emotions evoked by their personal life experiences. The album touches on themes such as love, loss, growth and pain. While “Jazz Hands” and “Tulips” are light and joyful, a majority of the songs embrace sadness. Perhaps that’s what life’s journey is all about, fun in the beginning, rough patches in the middle until you get to the end.
Australian Eugene Holcombe released EP1 July 2019, and it has a beautiful complexity to behold. Both vulnerable and strong at the same time his narrative piano folk songs are a release of his grief from the Victorian bushfires of 2009.
The album opens with "We're All Listening" which contains a striking string ensemble for your auditory pleasure. "These walls are not enough to hide you," Holcombe starts. You can feel the grief, the struggle of adulthood and the young naive wishes. His opening song is my favorite on the whole album. The seriousness starts off with his lyrics, but mid-song "We're not all like this," adds a shift in the melody and tone of joviality.
"Dealing with Darkness... I've moved on to another phase..." Just a few of the lyrics in the second song of the album "The Spaces." There's a bit of electric guitar supporting the piano in this piece, at one point even indulging in an interlude. This is the song of missing home, of the space of memory, house, and family. "The time will come to undo... but for now I'll play this game of hide and seek with myself. / It’s childish, but I'm not ready." Such a relatable lyricist!
We transition into "Patterns." A bit more of a jazzy tone, almost Michael Bubble with a little bit of Marlon Williams. This is the rainy day song on the album. The lyrics feel like the constant back and forth of the games we play within ourselves for survival. Mainly piano and a dash of cello. The vocals are the centerpiece of this song.
The album completes with "A Dog." American folk, resilience, and derealization coping mechanisms come to the surface. Eugene touches upon social interactions, pleasantries, and the coping mechanisms humans have in their own lives. "If I had a dog, it might give me something to say."
Holcombe's EP1 is a beautifully human narrative work. The processing of grief, the muchness of it all, and just making it through. American jazz, folk and storytelling invite you into his relatable world. He is a vulnerable crooner with a fierce stand for the human experience. It includes fantastic piano playing and inviting string instruments.
From the San Francisco Bay Area comes the band mayari. The band has been together for over a year after guitarists Ryan Foo and Jordan Torio met by exchanging emails through Craigslist. After a few jam sessions and realizing there was some potential, the duo added drummer Nick Lucido and bassist Bo Zhang. The group doesn’t rely on one single songwriter. Instead it’s a collective focus to mix all their influences to provide a larger range of sound. From angular guitar work and a solid rhythm section to melancholic grooves and melodies. That experimental fusion of styles is why the band decided to call their EP An Imaginary Canvas.
The album opens with “No One Pt. 1.” The song is virtually nonexistent as it’s a very short minute filled interlude with some light guitar riffs and mellow hums. The song is over before it can do anything interesting. Luckily the following song “Spiral” is much more vibrant. Thanks to the guitars and Lucido’s drumming the song is upbeat and a solid rock instrumental. The bass and drums carry the song while the guitars are able to battle it out on which one is more dynamic. The build up leads to a satisfying conclusion. “An Imaginary Canvas Pt. II” is a much funkier instrumental. The groovy vibes is a welcome change that really showcases a different side of mayari. But before they’re able to expand on the sound, the song abruptly ends.
While “An Imaginary Canvas Pt. II” was mellow, “PUNKS” brings back that rock feel. With some nasty drumming and solid guitar riffs, mayari is able to express an edge to their music. Foo and Torio break their silence as they finally sing lyrics on the track for the first time on the album. The last song on the album is the longest as mayari put together “No One Pts II & III” together. Fortunately it’s a better listen than PT I. The first half is a jam session while the second half is filled with heavy synth and Japanese vocal samples.
An Imaginary Canvas is a free flowing album of musicians putting together their craft. The instrumentals are very strong with everyone getting a time to shine. While you have to love that it’s a collaborative effort it brings together a lot of different approaches. The various styles and techniques displayed makes for poppy and catchy tunes. However the majority of the songs are short. Once you start to enjoy what they’re creating it’s over before you know it. This is a very well done EP and certainly paves the road for an epic LP.
Straight out of Nashville, TN comes the grungy blues-rock band Dirty Fuss. Since winning $4000 from their first Battle of the Bands gig, they’ve propelled themselves to nonstop touring. They have since played 200 gigs and are setting up another 100 by this year’s end. They also used that money to record and produce their first album American Animals.
The album opens with the grungy song “Stimulator.” It’s filled with punk goodness as well as gnarly drums and guitar riffs that will make you want to do donuts in empty parking lots until your head spins. On the booming song “What You Are,” Aaron Richard’s vocals pop as he smoothly sings, “So you wonder what you are, I don’t. I know what you can do.” It’s the emphasis on the O’s that ooze through the speakers and makes your heart melt. Also in the middle of the track it breaks down into a psychedelic jam that blissfully fades you away before bringing it back to the gritty sound of the song.
After the first two heart-thumping tracks, Dirty Fuss tames things a bit with the heartbreaking jam “All the Pieces.” The softer tone is a completely contrast to what you heard from this point, but it makes for a stronger emotional pull as you feel Richard painfully admits, “I can’t believe you. I can’t believe my very eyes. I want to love you as much as you do.”
Both “Heartbreaker” and “3 Times” are two very short songs but they let the band experiment with a darker sound and use pedal effects. While they are pretty short, they are a lot of fun to listen to. Dirty Fuss ends the album by showing off their individual strengths on the final songs “Help Myself” and “300 Lbs.” “Help Myself” is a blues song that builds as the song progresses. Vocal effects and funky guitars really excel the dire blues vibe. “300 Lbs” has a cowbell intro so you already know it means business. And while the beginning feels like another blues jam, it cranks up the volume to 11 for a mosh pit. With a sinister laugh, screaming vocals and face melting guitar solo, Dirty Fuss dares you to go wild and lose control.
American Animals flows wonderfully throughout the entire album. Dirty Fuss blends grunge and power rock anthem mixed in a layer of R&B and psychedelic. DIY is their motto and their path to take over everything in their way. I was impressed with the beginning of the album. Even in the more experimental songs there’s something to enjoy. If you like bands like The White Stripes or Bass Drum of Death (and I don’t know why you wouldn’t), then you should definitely check out this album. If they’re playing a venue by you, you should try to catch one of their live performances.
Rusty Reid is a musician originally from Texas and who currently resides in the Pacific Northwest. He recently released Head to Heart which is a sprawling album with eighteen songs and is well over an hour long. It is basically a double album.
Reid states on his website that he writes songs that are philosophical, political and spiritual. He goes on to say he writes songs for the world, extolling universal virtue and more. It’s obvious from reading this that he hopes his songs will be perceived as more than just songs in some sense. That’s obviously a very big cup to fill but I appreciate that he has so much passion about his own music.
The album felt pretty straightforward to my ears for the most part. He plays guitar based rock that felt rooted in influence from the ’60s and ’70s. You get to hear blues, Eastern music, alt-rock and folk but those influences still for the most part were guitar based.
There is a lot of music to ingest here. So I want to mention some of the highlights. The title track which has a tinge of country and also reminded me of The Byrds as well Roy Orbison to an extent was one of my favorites. Reid has a deep voice that certainly is dynamic and contains a good amount of emotion.
The slightly funky “I Went Searching” in a George Clinton kind of way was catchy and infectious. I liked the instrumentation quite a bit. He hits upon the same frequency as Steve Miller Band does on “Fly Like An Eagle.”
Throughout the album Reid explores big philosophical themes such non-duality, meaning and more. You can read some of the song titles to notice this. It is similar to a lot of bands in the late ’60’s like The Beatles. I have to admit my favorite moments were when he sounded similar to Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. “Eldorado” was my favorite song on the album.
As I mentioned earlier I respect the fact that Reid has some faith in his music that he literally wants to change society for the better. At the very least if you reading this review I can say there are some well written and delivered songs that I think a large demographic will appreciate. If you like music from the ’60s, ’70s and even the ’50s then make sure to give this a listen.
Okay Mr Cool, that's an artist name with some trouser melons on it. Can you deliver? Well the latest album is Gelatin, a fuzzy wuzzy, garage rock experience that is just four tracks long. I feel like when someone pays homage to ’90s grunge they're somewhat cheating when it comes to being cool. However, I'm a sucker and I'll always buy in when it's done well. So sure, I guess Mr Cool lives up to the name in the aspects that count.
"Gelatin" is the opener on this album and I was immediately transported back to the ’90s in the best way. I think the track "Something You Left Behind" is my favorite. All the pieces on this one form something that sounds like a mashup of all my favorite songs from my misguided ’90s youth. Also on the lyric end, it's pretty hard to resist.
"Anyone At All" in just title alone lends itself to grunge fans. Just classic grunge at work here, solid tune. Last up is "Big Wave" and it is here that I got a little bit of a different vibe. Especially in terms of production. I was VERY much into it.
Right off the bat while listening to the first track "Gelatin," I had an immediate thought; I wish I could hear this live because I want to hear this full throttle. The production is determined to create this space between the listener and performer. Now, this is obviously intentional, at least as far as I can tell. However the song structure is so on the nose as far as grunge that it just becomes dated. My one hang up is how curious I was to hear this album with a more modern or even experimental approach to the production. I think "Big Wave" is a great example of the kind of production trickery I wanted to hear more of throughout the album. The album was recorded at a local studio, Raven Sound Studio. Despite me not entirely agreeing with the production process, I can appreciate the motif they were able to achieve. Color matching that '90s vibe is no easy feat and takes trained ears. They mastered it completely.
There is cool factor here, no doubt. It's an interesting sound that comes from Prescott, Arizona. While it may have its feet firmly planted in grunge, there are other musical influences in here. The music is able to take a turn into dark psych and even a little pop. I like the tone, I respect the fuzz. I just don't want to dig so hard to hear all the little enticing details. Best of luck to Mr Cool. I really am very motivated to catch this act live. I would definitely put my name down to hear what comes next. However, I am pretty content given they've only given me four songs.
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