Mic Mountain is an Afro-Latino emcee and producer of Native American descent who is from Washington D.C. He recently released Piragua. The album to me sounded like a mix between old school rap like Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, etc. and influence from regions like Mexico and South America. I thought it was a nice change from the mainstream rap we hear today. It was also nostalgic in some ways because I grew up in the ’90s when artists like Run DMC and A Tribe Called Quest were huge.
The album starts with “Piragua (Intro)” and the music is festive and sort of preps you for what to expect. I found the groove fairly infectious right away and loved the horns. The rapping was on point and I was excited to hear what else the album had in store.
“La Caserio feat. Ant Milli” was great - old school almost ’70s soul sounding drums with bright horns. There is a lot going on musically and I noticed the unique panning effects when I had headphones on. The style of rapping did have more of a ’90s inflection.
“Huka feat. Bobby Knuxx Castro” is a little dangerous sounding but also infectious. The percussive elements are dark but upfront in the mix. The vocalists played off each other seamlessly. “Piragua (Skit)” is actually a skit and worked because of the humor.
“Peligroso feat. Thirstin Howl the 3rd” definitely felt a little more modern in terms of the production from the hi-hat programming to the darker pads which reminded me of Drake. “Mire Loco (Watch Out) feat. CTRAFFIK” actually has a similar dark quality from the lyrics to the beat and elements in the song. “Mis Suenos” brings some levity and is more festive while the closer “Sabor de Abuela” is a celebration of a life lived.
This album is eclectic and diverse yet also cohesive. There are different shades of emotion throughout but the underlying foundation and style tied it all together. Recommended.
Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, John Mark Alston is an artist who is currently writing and recording in Brooklyn, New York. His teens and 20s were spent playing in rock and punk bands in Alabama, but eventually he decided he felt more at home singing his original creations. This Is a Call from Nowhere is the first taste to his solo endeavors.
The eight-track album dabbles in psychedelia, jazz and new-wave, but admittedly at its core, it is a rock n’ roll album. And Alston doesn’t fool around when it comes to his flavor of rock. Though he does play around with different ideas, he never settles on what he thinks rock music should sound like. The album art very much depicts this ideology for never settling for less with the image of a man on a motorcycle barreling down a highway. According to the artist: “I wanted the album to have that feel, of being constantly in motion, of having a steady progressive pace; I wanted it to be a great driving album. I hope you enjoy it.” Very much like the image of the man on the motorcycle, Alston’s music is dynamic, focused and driven.
This Is a Call from Nowhere gets started with “Porsche 1971,” where moody bass lines lean into a rhythms-heavy sound. As the sound of synthetic strings offer up a bit of ambience, Alston’s vocals come in drenched in reverb. The guitars roll forth with sparse riffs. The sound is very stripped-down, though you can definitely detect the expansive rock notes permeating the track. The album moves forward with the title track, where shimmering guitars and a driving backbeat on drums is introduced. Alston’s vocals are etched with more reverberation, giving his voice an echo-y and cavernous appeal. The guitar riffs lead into a bluesy vibe. The sounds are once again sparse through simply rendered riffs and rhythms. More synths shift overhead on this number. Percussions and a drumming beat liven up the atmosphere on “The Crack-Up.” Next, the sound of noodling on the guitar brings to life a bluesy sound as Alston executes a spoken word piece. The meandering then dives into a more dynamic sound coming from the vocal harmonies.
On “If…” pensive numerating on the guitar awash in mumbling vocals gives off an emo-inspired vibe. The vocals come across as a monotonous drone that does not let up. The guitar riffs continue throughout the gamut of this song as well as highlighting a lively feel coming from the percussions and synths. A driven sound coming from the guitars offers an acoustic take to “Waiting’ For A Sign.” The sound leans into a more country-bent vibe as the guitar riffs and rhythms denote from the genre. Alston’s vocals are sung in a soft manner barely above a whisper so that it made it hard to catch what he is saying. A countdown jumpstarts the revved sounds on “Baboon Heart.” Alston’s vocals really recall a Beck vibe. It was something about his affection that really drives that home. A dramatic drumming beat paves the way on “Reach Out, Touch Me.” Somber-sounding bass lines add to the groove. The vocals come across as subdued and once more I had to strain in order to discern the lyrics. The mood overall was very mellow and lulling. The vibe overall embraces a very warm feel, which I think is an apt way to close the album.
Alston makes headway with This Is a Call from Nowhere that contains a classic rock vibe while also incorporating his own embellishments. Rolling forth with a heavy synth-based sound, distorted guitar riffs and ambiguous vocals, the artist showcases a sound inspired by Serge Gainsbourg and Beck.
Though the album does dance around genres, Alston mostly delivers straightforward rock music meant for die-hard fans. The record sees Alston carrying the torch for bands from the ‘60s/’70s era and well into the ‘90s as well. This is a solid start and I expect more exciting things to come from this artist.
Bryce Bangs started his music career in 2012. His cigarette laden voice, mean guitar riffs and “one hour to live” performances are what he’s become known for in his native state of Texas. Bangs doesn’t like being pigeonholed playing just one genre and his catalogue reflects that. He states that anyone who’s in the music business knows that it takes up a lot of your time, makes you put in long nights and asks that sacrifices be made – with no promises of making the big time. Still, for Bryce Bangs, throwing in the towel and saying “no” is not an option. Starting with his first EP in 2015 She’s Gone, produced by Paul Cauthen, word got around the Dallas music scene for the self-titled track “She’s Gone,” a psychedelic sad story anthem, and the fan favorite “Cocaine Road,” a driving, Texas Country-esque joyride. Now, after a few more albums under his belt, Bangs’ release this summer, What Are You Looking For? is a six-track EP released by Bangs, along with Jason Burt and Bobby Bedsole. The entire album was produced, mixed and mastered by Bangs and recorded at his home studio.
The EP starts off with "I Want All Your Love" – a catchy, sing-along like tune that is pure rock n’ roll. It totally reminds me of a cross between Led Zeppelin, Ram Jam, Mungo Jerry – albeit harder edged – but mostly Zeppelin with some awesome backup singing. "Dancing in the Rain" is a “sexed up,” super bluesy tune about the “baddest” girl on the planet, who takes what she wants and doesn't apologize to anyone. If the song just had a bit of the deep, acoustic resonance it would be like hearing Bonham or Cindy Blackman on the skins). Bryce wrote this song with Keite Young of Medicine Man Revival who recently has writing credits with John Mayer and Leon Bridges for the new "Inside Friend" single. "Steel Crushes the Bone" is “the closest to Texas Country that I have ever sounded,” Bangs states. He also says it was mostly due to the pedal steel and rumbling chug beat from the guitar and, by the way, he wrote this one after a rough night in jail.
"Midnight" has a dark and gritty vibe to it. This song is about wanting to make a change in your life for the better, but you keep reverting to your same old habits and crap over and over. Yep, I’m not a stranger to that. I really liked the dark, echoing sounds to this one as well, with its muffled bass drum and other percussion effects and Bangs’ sobering guitar riffs.
The next tune is "Wildfire" – a mix of two stories about lying and deception. Bangs states that his sound is a bit like John Mayer mixed with Houndmouth – I tend to agree. The last track, which also happens to be the title to the EP is “What Are You Looking For?” – a haunting and emotionally dark emotional closer. With just guitar and background vocals Bangs lyrics reflect the people he’s known who have gone through depression and addiction, which unfortunately led to their death. Oh, and if you’re into fantastic guitar solos, don’t miss out on this one.
If you like rock and blues, with touches of funk and pop, I’ll think you’ll enjoy Bryce Bangs’ What Are You Looking For?
The dark, gothic Louisiana sound from 49 Burning Condors was what first drew me to their debut self-titled release 49 Burning Condors. If I remember correctly I had just got done watching True Detective Season 1 and their music seemed to be a near perfect counterpart.
The band is back with a fitting release called Truths and Roses and it seems to sort of feed the idea of a story in the south. They mention “A small town in Louisiana houses secrets -- each song from the EP represents a new character, a new story, a new mystery this town calls its own.” The band this time around adds violin and drums to the songs. I do admit I did sort of enjoy the minimalism of the first EP but some of the added instrumentation had its benefits.
The band gets rolling with “Marigold Lake” and the drums and violin certainly make their sound much more full. There are points which really dig into a darker vibe but the chorus sounded a little more festive and reminded me of the band Rusted Root and to a lesser extent The Dave Matthews Band. They find their best moments about halfway through with the darker chants which sound like a seance.
“Slow” is a killer track. The violinist is all over this song. It’s gothic and dynamic. I liked the aggression from the guitar and the song ends with a huge sounding crescendo. “Rosaleen” is pretty yet dark and contains a fantastic vocal performance. I really liked how they decided to approach the instrumental climax with dissonant and chaotic guitar sounds.
“Within The Woods” is the arguable single in the batch. There are some very cool instrumental sections and builds. I was getting some serious Fleetwood Mac vibes at points. “Dust” is a gorgeous song with fantastic guitar picking and another exceptional vocal performance. “Jim Jones” felt like a good closer. The subject matter, tom rolls and everything made sense to me.
The addition of the drums and violin were creative decisions which brings the band in a new direction. This release is perhaps more dynamic and probably a little more accessible all things considered. I’m slightly nostalgic for their first release because there was this slow burn like haunting effect that I remember having because of the minimalism. It felt a bit like a spell from a witch living in the corner of the swamp.
I would say this is a welcome addition to the band’s discography which finds the theme evolving in some ways. Their core sound is still intact and I found this to be a fun yet haunting release.
It’s been a tough year for the majority of us. Do we really need to be more scared this October? My answer is bring it on. Halloween is made up of goblins, ghouls, vampires and more which was created in minds as a work as fiction. There are truly scary things that happen in the world but this is not it. The lore or Halloween and the horror genre in general for me has always been about fun and suspending disbelief. I for one love a good haunted house and watching scary movies with the lights off. The prolific band Cucurbitophobia has done their part in keeping the horror genre alive through their music and they are back with their latest entitled Dies Ferialis: Awakening the Lemures.
On their Bandcamp page they mention that “Dies Ferialis: Awakening the Lemures is a thematic album, painting a fictional picture of ancient Roman deities of the Underworld.” There is more info there regarding the themes if you want to get more into the lore.
This album to me plays like a movie. It’s very visual and was begging for some visual accompaniment although those with a good imagination can just close their eyes. On “Exordium,” a lonesome piano plays in a big empty room. It’s haunting, sparse and even beautiful.
Tension starts to crawl up your spine on “The Catastrophic Flood” with a cascading melody, military type drums and ancients pads which loom in the darkness. Once “Subortus: Excludunt Ab Inferis” arrives I felt like I was in a medieval battleship waging war with skeletons that rose from the dead.
This sense of dread only intensifies at night as we hear on “Divalia” while “The Quiet Quest into the Underworld” is a slow, ominous burn that finds us winding down the river. “The Sigillaria and the Summoning of Saturn” is more intense as if this is where a lot of the action is occurring. The nightmare continues with “The Infinite Abyss,” “Et Factum Es Monere Te” and “Peroration.” We end the journey with “*Eyes of the Black Cat*” which lingers and leaves you with a sense of unease.
Dies Ferialis: Awakening the Lemures is another one in the win column. The artist knows what he wants to do and how to do it. Throughout this album he creates an auditory environment that embraces all things horror. If you happen to be running a haunted house or maybe a virtual haunted house house this year this music would surely add to the atmosphere. Recommended.
Noa. has fifteen years of music experience producing, writing and playing with both amateurs and pros however Songs for Emi is his first release. It’s around nine minutes long and goes by fast.
“Fracaso” is the opener and all things considered it felt more like an intro. It revolves around a melody that doesn't change and more or less builds until it doesn’t. There is a melancholy guitar and vocal pattern that reminded me of Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear. It was the more prominent melody of the three songs. I did really enjoy the vibe, delivery and patterns of energy I was feeling while listening to this song.
“Without II” is slightly jazzy and perhaps more upbeat in some ways. The vocals are still delivered in a sort of a subdued and melancholy way. That being said his vocals have more optimism in some ways. The chord progression and music is fairly straightforward and very ambient. I liked the mood and the song doesn't change much dynamically from where it starts besides some slight atmosphere.
“Storm” is similar in terms of dynamics. There are repetitive yet enjoyable guitar patterns and light percussion. The music is pretty, pensive and again doesn't go very far away from where it starts. In a lot of ways it felt like a vignette.
I liked the ideas, melodies and the general mood with these songs. My only critique is I hope to hear some more experimentation and exploration on his album. Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear are two bands who I think do this quite well and are in the vicinity of what I was thinking in terms of taste and aesthetics.
This is a good batch of songs and hopefully is just a taste of what’s to come. I thought this was also a cohesive even though it's under ten minutes long. The talent certainly seems to be brimming so I’m excited to hear where it goes from here and this EP feels like a fantastic foundation.
Essential is the latest from Tuesday X. The artist is prolific. He has released six albums, multiple EP’s and more. Essential is prolific as well and contains seventeen songs and the best release yet from the artist. The music to me very much sounds like a DIY production. I have been an engineer and writing about music for too long not to pick up on these things.
The songs on the album are mostly rock oriented and not exactly what I call bedroom productions in terms of what he is trying to accomplish. A lot of the songs reminded me of ’90s alternative and grunge in some ways.
Amongst the batch of songs I thought there were some standouts. The album starts off strong with the warm and serene “Jet Fuel Can't Melt Steel Beams.” It is somewhere in the vicinity of early AIR and had an atmospheric quality created by the synths.
“The Only Difference Between You and Me is a Sense of Apathy and Your Brand New Nikes” starts off great and I loved the groove. The lo-fi recording quality did begin to buckle when the distorted guitars came in. “Polaroids on My Bulletin Board” had its moments and I was wondering if the out of tune guitar was intentional or not. Either way it becomes a non factor when the chorus hits.
The slight vertigo inducing “Then Why Was it Named Gideon?” was great and I enjoyed the more shoegaze vibe on this song. I also thought the song contained some of his best vocal melodies. The other two songs I enjoyed were “Minneapolis” and “Before the Sunrise” which is arguably the highlight on the whole album. There are some great vocal melodies on “Before the Sunrise” along with a more Pink Floyd approach to the music. I hope to hear more like this in the future.
This is an eclectic album and it felt more like a mixtape in a lot of ways. It seemed a collection of songs rather than something where the sequence was of great importance. On that note I think there is a lot to appreciate from a broad audience. Take a listen.
It was the early 90’s and I was fourteen years old. I was always involved with music but it was this year I started writing music. After going to college for composition and working on countless albums I still feel like I’m learning things twenty-five years after I started. It’s an ongoing process. Cody Lenhard just started making music in 2018 and he is in the very early stages of being a musician. Lenhard is off to a solid start with his complete DIY effort entitled Ahead Of You.
The songs are short ranging from about a minute-and-a-half to three minutes and felt like vignettes. He starts with “Ahead Of You” where he strums chords on his guitars and I could tell before he started singing that it was going to be a melancholy song. There are some warm elements that come into this mix and the song ends fairly soon after I felt like it was getting started.
“Opiates' ' was definitely very melancholy and sad sounding as well. It reminds me of early Bright Eyes. He starts singing about halfway through the songs. It’s definitely for a warm quality but also pensive and again it sort of ends before it really has a chance to become a meaty song. There are some heartfelt lyrics I thought were really well written.
“Take Me Away” sounded like a completely different artist. It’s upbeat and way more complete sounding than the previous songs. The funky vibes work for him and felt like the highlight “Our Song” is sort of in the spirit of the first two songs but more hopeful and chipper sounding. It sort of goes in this playful direction and felt like something you might hear in a commercial. There was something about the instrumentation that made me think of that.
Lenhard has some talent in multiple areas and is also displaying a lot of things I associate with newer musical artists. He is experimenting with different genres trying to find his own signature sound which takes time. At this point I would encourage him to explore where some of the ideas can go. Even if it’s not exactly where it seems it needs to go, I think learning how to create structure and expand on an idea is an important part of the brain to be working out.
Overall, I thought this was a solid first effort from a young artist. I was really impressed how has been able to harness this sound so early on in his musical journey. I hope this is just the beginning for him and hope to hear more soon.
Aaron Matthew is an artist who recently released “Alone.” He mentions that “it’s made for listening to while on pandemic quarantine, societal lockdown and forced social distancing.” Truth be told Matthews wasn’t the only one who had this idea. Artists everywhere started working on “quarantine tunes” and well sort of it became its own little genre. This is a song that is a welcome addition to the genre.
He mentions that “It sounds like Bob Dylan meets Jack Johnson and touches on contemporary themes.” That is a statement I agree with although I think the theme of being or feeling alone is timeless and the lyrics on this are pretty broad and the concept of the pandemic is very loosely touched upon.
The song has a very familiar singer/songwriter vibe. I’m sure you might have heard the warmth, intimacy and and often heartfelt lyrics that come along with this genre and Matthews goes right down the center of those factors and more or less hits it on the nose.
Musically, the song consists of a couple acoustic guitars and very subtle percussion. The vocals are the focal point and sung with the proper and appropriate inflection to my ears. The emotions are a mix of comforting, warm and perhaps insightful solace. The tone and affectation again very much goes right down the center of what to expect from the singer/songwriter. On that note it happens to be done quite well. The vocals are well delivered and the performances are strong too.
As an engineer myself I thought the recording was good and tailored to the vibe of the song. The recording doesn’t contain much reverb which is a good thing in this case and instead relies on the nuances of the performance. This is the type of situation where intimacy is important. You sort of want the performance to feel like he is sitting right next to you. It should be organic and raw and that doesn't mean it should be lo-fi. This recording benefits from fidelity and is accompanied by a raw, live performance. Kudos.
I liked this song and think it is a song that so many people will empathize with. There weren’t any surprises to me as I listened but it was enjoyable and easy on the ears. It also feels like it would be accessible to a broad audience. That might be you so take a listen.
Al Ward is a drummer from Staunton, VA. He has received awards from Bridge College (where Ward attended school) for musical excellence. And in the past, he has lent a hand in producing projects for other bands. Inner-Mission is his first dive into his solo endeavors.
Though primarily a drummer, Ward also plays other instruments such as percussions, bass guitar, rhythm guitar, keys, trombone, ukulele and vocals. He shows his talents on these various instruments including his skills programming beats on his 13-track debut album. Ward really shows his range and versatility as an artist as his sound features a blend of genres, combining pop with R&B, hip hop, indie rock and an alternative vibe.
Inner-Mission moves forward with “The Beginning” where crunchy electronic riffs ripple over the course of this music. Gradually, the riffs become more industrial sounding. The gritty sounds wash over the track as a rap style is executed in rapid succession. The song alternates between rapid rap sequence to more celestial sounding vocal harmonies. Up next is “Just Getting Started (Instrumental).” Ward bursts into the scene with loads of clarity. He repeats in loud vocals “I’m only just getting started.” Next, some energized scatting accompanies the percussions and keys. On “Remain The Same,” aerial synths radiate over the forefront of this track. The vibrations that it sends out are colorful and vibrant. Ward’s soothing vocals sail over this song and I could really feel myself relaxing to the mellow vibes.
Warbling synths highlight an airy sound as Ward sings in a straightforward manner on “2002.” Next, he starts up on some hip hop notes with an evocative rap style. His rapping is ridiculously smooth. The deep reverberating sounds coming from the cellos adds a moody, entrancing vibe to the intro of the title track. Next, some bouncy beats are executed as the strings are played in a driven staccato feel. In a rapid pacing, Ward’s verses seethe through the speakers. He really pulverizes with his exacting rap style. The stop and go motion of the bass provide for a wonky and funky vibe on “They’ll Say (ft. Tyler Burch).” Ward’s rap style really recalls a classic ‘90s hip hop vibe. It really felt like a Will Smith or LL Cool J song to me. The xylophone adds some unconventional instrumentation on “Dope Ma!” He pays an ode to his mother, semi-rapping and singing on this catchy track. “Dreams” is a highly refreshing and innovative song. Ward lays the foundation by beatboxing in the backdrop while he overlaps contagious sounding vocals in the forefront. The sound of synthetic horns zip through the course of this track. This song functions on all levels as a great pop number.
Doubling down on the electronic beats and synth keys, the sound that comes across can be over-the-top, but Ward momentarily adds some variables like changing things up mid-track that makes things less excessive. Listing several of his influences as Tony Royster Jr., Thomas Lang, Mike Johnston, Sarah Thawer, Anika Nilles, Buddy Rich, Gary Chester and Cobus Potgieter, Ward’s sound isn’t solely informed by these artists – he also goes out of his way to forge his own path with his own signature sound.
While you can say that Ward is relatively new to the scene and has yet to develop a singular vision to his sound as of yet, Inner-Mission is a solid start. Though a bit lo-fi at times you can say that this is what brought about its strengths. Though a professional studio could go about tweaking his sound, the home recording quality gave the album an old school classic ‘90s/’00s vibe that really brings you back to the day and that is all a part of its charm. Fans nostalgic for the era will be welcoming this album with open arms. But if you don’t fall into that class, no worries, the album is also filled with plenty of other sounds and styles that are of equal note.
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