Sky Road Fly is an alternative rock band hailing from tropical Madison, Wisconsin. They've been playing together for about four years and have opened for the likes of Against Me!. Since then, they've recorded one release, though I can't seem to find it to compare, and this time around have struck out on their own to record in their rehearsal space. Though there are very energetic moments on the album, I noticed a somewhat melancholy theme running through each song. The band said that the album Head Out Of Your Mind is about chasing a dream, a nightmare, but still a dream.
"KBD" ends with a jam session in which those jamming know that a song has to end at some point. The entire time, the band is as tight as the skin on a fresh apple. The intro to "Current Burn" is very similar to the Beatles "Daytripper" but it quickly becomes its own song, with abstract lyrics and a string section to pull everything together. All of your nightmares come true in "Sirens of the City" as singer Ben Jarosh shouts, "All we see is burning gasoline.”
I'm a bit confused at choosing to name a song "Steve Kerr" because there isn't really anything in the lyrics that hints at basketball. As I listened to the extended instrumental that concludes "Future Bullet,” I was reminded of a mix of 70's heavy metal and the early 90's alt-rock that characterizes much of the album.
Before hitting record, the band worked very hard on figuring out the direction they wanted each song to go. That is likely the source of their cohesion on the record. And that cohesive sound is evident from the beginning. This is a band that is passionate about music and actually enjoys the process. If I had to pick one thing about the album that just doesn't do it for me, it has to be the vocals. The instruments are performed incredibly well but, unfortunately, the vocal side of the music doesn't always hit the mark (sometimes it does). Even so, it's worth sticking around to hear a band that can play together this well.
Slack Hands is an alternative rock band from Melbourne and formed in order to meet a requirement for singer Dave Hobson's university course. That is to say Slack Hands is an EP recorded under pressure and it's come through in their sound.
Speaking of pressure, the shortest amount of time I've heard of being devoted to recording an album was Damien Jurado's Maraqopa. He and Richard Swift recorded it in 24 hours. The lads in Slack Hands managed to record their self-titled EP in 10 hours. While there is definitely some sloppy playing as a result of the rushed recording, it only adds to the charm. It's a welcome break from the polished, digital perfection we've been subjected to for the last decade.
It is impossible to talk about Slack Hands without mentioning Queens Of The Stone Age. The guitars on "I Know" sound exactly like those used by Josh Homme, dirty, fuzzy and raw. It's a great intro to the EP, providing an in-your-face introduction to the songs you're about to hear. The second track, "Candy Gloss,” begins very quietly and suddenly erupts into a driving, yet dynamic, rock song. It plays with the contrast between loud and soft to create something more interesting than either of the two would be separately. "Rats Of The Chapel" features an oddly lounge-esque verse that offsets a loud, but behind the beat, chorus. The main riff on "Dummy" is quite poppy compared to the rest of the record and furthers the interest of the songs. It ends with a "Soon To Sleep,” a song that reminds me of late 2006; it's slow but fuzzy.
Slack Hands is, simply put, varied. There's a lot to listen to here and that keeps it interesting. My only worry is that by keeping the sound this varied, there isn't a concrete way to define the band. That can be a good thing if it means the band is truly creative with their future projects, but a bad thing if it means the band never really figures out what it is they're trying to say. Still, the heavy rock thread manages to hold the songs together here quite well and I'm really excited to hear what else Slack Hands have to offer.
If I owned a piano bar I would try and hire Ryan Wolfe. On his album Human he writes songs that are accessible, fun pop songs, that have an ample amount of energy and seem conducive to having people singing along within minutes. The album is full of rich organic instrumentation almost all of which Wolfe plays himself. He picks up a lot of instruments including bass, drums, piano, organ, synthesizers, percussion, and vocals. The wow factor doesn't end there in that he also recorded and mixed the album himself and it sounds more like a professional product than a majority of the albums recorded in a studio.
Wolfe’s songwriting is not only good but also quite varied. You get a little bit of everything from heartfelt piano ballads that may remind you of Coldplay or less serious songs that may have got their inspiration from Ben Folds Five.
The album opens with “Bridges,” which is a song that showcases some of Wolfe’s best abilities including his piano playing and vocal range. The first thing you hear is a saloon-style piano that changes rather quickly to another riff that accompanies his voice. As the high-hat creates a steady time and the subtle flourishes of bass and guitar play, you can tell that things are going to pick up.
The music of “Far Behind’ is quite a departure from the first song. It is grittier, has a psychedelic dimension and some intricate drumming that adds a lot to the song. “People” confronts the nature of the gold digger in our society while “Friends” is one of the funkiest songs on the album that may have the catchiest chorus.
"Make Love” is a sparse song that is the emotional centerpiece of the album. Wolfe’s voice sounds better when there is some melancholy behind it and a lot of the remainder of the album does contain a good degree of it. There are other songs that are minimal such as “Too” and the closer “Superman,” which work almost as well as “Make Love”.
The only issue I have with the album is that it is quite long. With 14 tracks and most songs being around the five- minute mark I was started to get a bit antsy by the end. Other than that Wolfe has created an eclectic album that delivers.
Born and raised on the west side of Chicago, the up-and-coming alternative producer named Laerec just released his EP entitled Paradise, which infuses instrumental hip-hop with other genres such as chill-wave and EDM. Laerec calls his music “vibe” but falls in line with acts such as Flying Lotus and Prefuse 73 except the music feels like you popped a Xanax. Listening to this relaxed vibe makes you feel as if time might be slowing down but not in a bad way. There is no reason to get excited because everything will be just fine.
The first track is called “Introduction” and is comprised of warm synth tones, and up front and center drum beats. As the tracks progresses it doesn't change a whole lot. Laerec cuts up the beat leaving a half second of silence at times to change things up a bit. ”Vibe” is a chill song that is like a dose of Ambien. There is nothing jarring about this track as it sets you up for a moment of relaxation. This song combined with a hot tub and I think it would calm my nerves for a week. A similar vibe continues with “All The Time (LA∑R∑C Mix),” which utilizes a scattering vocals sample that when combined with the whirly synths and electronic hand claps makes this track one of the highlights on the album.
“Purgatory” is still chill and starts to feel eerily psychedelic as well as if you are on the 10th hour of a trip that you want to end as you are trying to get to sleep at 2:45 in the morning. Vocals samples are like ghosts in the background that are abstractions that add to the overall ambience.
The album ends with the most energy filled track called “Al-Hamdulilah.” Arguably this is the best song on the album as the song produces drones filtered through a vocal sample that are manipulated until they are barely recognizable. This features some of the best programming all around as he ends the album
Laerec made a solid instrumental hip-hop that has some good ideas as well as execution. The concepts are there and I’m interested to see how they evolve with his future projects.
Hailing from central PA, Ryan C. King (guitar, bass, vocals, songwriter), Luke Phelps (lead guitar, vocals) and Barry Wohlschlegel (guitar, keyboardist, backup vocals) make up Undecided. They recorded Home Grown and Natural, which is a four-song EP in a barn through a laptop and a two way interface. Unfortunately the sound quality is about what you would expect from that setup. The acoustic guitar sounds frail, without much body and the vocals are in desperate need of a compressor. Fortunately they have written some decent songs that are worth looking past the production value for. The songs are melancholy-filled acoustic numbers that could have been on a split single with Conor Oberst when he was making bedroom recordings.
The album opens with an acoustic guitar strumming chords and warm pads that lay distant in the background.The lyrics are hard to distinguish at points as the vocalist sings “We are all afraid, afraid too do out thing”. “They Did Not Die” is a simple acoustic song where the vocals are the focal point. The song has a decent guitar solo and solid vocal performance but that is about it.
“Far From Here” has vocal harmonies that worked well while the closer “Stay With Me” is the ballad of the EP and is ”based on a past relationship of a close friend leaving and moving far from home.”
It is a shame that a decent EP like this is plagued with so many production issues. They adversely affect the songs and an engineer with decent chops could bring these songs to a better place. However the songs themselves are decent and display that the band does have some chemistry. While I recommend you give this EP a listen I can't help but hope there are a number of improvements that will happen on their next effort.
If you don't know much about Garland Jeffreys here is a little history lesson. Jeffreys started playing music in the mid 60's and released his self-titled album in 1973. "Wild in the Streets" which was his single, became an unofficial anthem for the skate community and has been covered by countless punk bands including The Circle Jerks. As the years progressed he has become well known in the music community and has played on Letterman, has had his music used in popular video games, has joined Bruce Springsteen for live performances and much, much more. He hasn't slowed down over the years and just released a new album.
Garland Jeffreys is bringing the straight truth on his latest album, Truth Serum. The music that Jeffreys passionately brings his audience is pure Americana soul with some southern twang in it. Yet Jeffreys aims to surprise, as there are several other musical influences present in his songs. One of the amazing things about Jeffreys is that he is 70 years old and still recording music.
The first track on the album, which shares the title of the album, really lays down the “truth” about what this “truth serum” truly is. It reveals itself as that fiery liquid that people gather to gulp — that social lubricant that takes the edge off. “Truth serum, get it down so fast, and that’s all she wrote,” the lyrics of the song playfully and metaphorically harp about the ugly truth of alcohol; how it will leave you out on the corner, and also induce truth telling. The song is full of classical southern tones of harmonicas, classic electric guitar, and some really funky effects which make you just tap your feet to this slowed down yet upbeat track.
The next track is titled “Any Rain,” a bit of a somber song yet has a catchy vibe to it. “Anything to ease the pain… ease my sanity;” again this may be another allusion to taking alcohol to “ease the pain.” A track with a more upbeat tone is “Dragons to Slay.” This song has a bit of an island feel to it, yet maintains being bluesy, it really is a great track. “Dragons to slay, each and every day,” the song is accented by Jamaican-like horns and drums, Jeffreys even goes on to speak a little “rasta” towards the end of the song.
Many of the songs are anchored under the basis of alcohol and the effect if may have on the passages of life, whether they be positive or negative. The title of the album is a metaphor on this theme in itself. The entire album is highlighted by beautiful and telling poetic lyrics, they draw compelling metaphors that have depth yet are simple, light, and airy. The album remains true to the genre of music that is bluesy country Americana rock, yet has several surprises in store for listeners. A listener can tell this artist has been making music for a long period of time, this comes across when listening to the songs that make up Truth Serum.
Miles 'n' Miles was a surprising listen for me. Or rather I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I'll never completely disparage an entire genre but southern-sensibilities rock and roll doesn't really do it for me. But Turk Tresize is on to something. It has a slight novelty value, since Tresize grew up in Australia, but the album was recorded in Nashville, TN.
The EP is five tracks of lovingly crafted, soused-up electrified, countrified tales of loss, deprivation, perseverance and love is somewhere in there (of women, of whiskey…). Tresize's voice is a twilight cocktail of the last shot of happy hour and the first lover's spat when you drive back home. He's usually aggressive, but can tone it down no problem. "Direction" captured my attention with Tresize's gentle but stout delivery. He even breaks his voice in the chorus, and his voice is an ear-catching contrast to the background vocal harmonies.
The music is just as great, Tresize is very skilled at guitar playing, and his ear for musical structure is just as adroit. The title track is a shuffling, quiet number that draws its strengths from Tresize's voice over dusty, scrubbed guitar chords and slight percussion. "Karma Wisdom" is more bombastic, using more instruments and producing more of a hard rock sound. "Wasted" follows suit, but it’s the final track, "West On Train” featuring Brittany Howard that solidifies my enjoyment of this album. It is a blistering, raw number that uses searing guitar licks, bar room percussion, and the impressive counter voice of Howard. Together she and Tresize spin an escapist yarn you won't soon forget, even getting some Rolling Stones musicality toward the final minute of the track.
Again, Miles 'n' Miles was a pleasantly surprising listen. I should try this open-minded thing a bit more often.
Lights That Change is churning quite a buzz in the UK with their new-age pop shoegaze sound. They have recently started making music but have received a lot of attention for the uniqueness and passion found within their music. This EP, Beautiful Soul only has two tracks in it but they definitely showcase the sound that is emitted from the members of the band. It sounds almost like retro electronic pop from the eighties, from bands like The Cranberries and Depeche Mode, yet reclaims is modernity with their effects and almost eerie-like way of constructing songs.
The female lead singer really acts as a staple to the songs as her voice is high-pitched yet pleasing to the ear and is capable of variations. The first song on the album titled “Beautiful Soul” starts off like the beginning of a journey, it is a bit slow and slowly blends the beat, which never ceases to echo throughout. There are a lot of effects and sounds coming from many different areas of the song, yet the sound is not meddled and there is maintenance of a pleasing musical structure. The vocalist gives the listener a trance like repetition of varying sound before proclaiming, “You are beautiful, yes you are.”
The second song on the album is very sultry and has a running percussion that just sweeps you away to some misty and lusty place. The lyrics paint a picture of someone who just can’t stick to love anymore, but really can’t make up their mind, “my heart is running away from you… I can right the wrongs, I can, I can.” The usage of trippy guitars, simple drum percussions, and a synthy effect that never ceases to emulate from the background makes this song one to really get lost in. It’s dramatic and serious while giving the listener this hypnotic beat to let them forget about whatever may be itching at their consciousness. “I can take you to the valley of wonder, hiding beneath a sycamore tree.”
This band has managed to create a solid and unique sound that is very layered and sophisticated. It is unfortunate that there are only two songs on this album for I can only imagine what else this band is capable of producing.
Greenstick is an acoustic guitar duo out of South London. They construct beautifully simple ballads in their album Left Hand of Darkness. The sound of the album is a kin to folk music and is decorated with very poetic lyrics that are incredibly metaphoric. Each song illustrates a different sentiment that may be positive or negative.
The song with the same name as the album is an upbeat folk song with plenty of simple percussion. “Left hand of darkness, lord it's a-tugging on my sleeve,” even though the song illustrates “darkness” the song is light and has a positive air to it. The track “Your Last Stand,” is compelling from the get-go and has a very jumpy and catchy beat that explains a “last stand” and the confusion of someone who can’t quite make up their mind; “deaths by indecision… it’s your last stand, final throw of the dice” After the chorus, a deep guitar riff brings the drama of the song into fruition as the beats continue to swell and build.
“Stars” is a song quite literally about the stars in the sky and the beautiful metaphors that make them relevant to life. The lyrics enlightens points like how we can’t touch stars or quite understand them, yet they are so dear to any star-gazer; “Starlight in my eyes, stardust inside me, I use the night… to hide me.”
The voice of the lead singer is mellow-dramatic and has the perfect amount of depth to withhold and balance the tracks on this album. He sings poetic illustrations of life and there is pleasant harmonization. The album is well produced and the recording is high quality. This would be a great duo to catch at a live venue as their music seems so real and pure that hearing it live is the only way to give their style complete justice.
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