Event Horizon EP is an ambitious collection by Ruin’s Everything. Unafraid to combine dramatic shifts of attack and complete vulnerability, the band succeeds in their boldness.
“My Damning” opens with Beatles-y acoustic guitar strums setting up a contrast before screaming vocals, drums and electric guitars enter. There’s a Midlake influence in the melody and in the electric guitar work, moving between minor and major with long held out notes. The song has a good build, but unfortunately through mixing and mastering, perhaps, when the full band plays they sound much softer than the opening acoustic guitar, losing some of the momentum and edge of the song. Some of the edge comes back in the final chorus with screamed vocals over sloshing cymbals, but until then it feels like listening through a keyhole.
“Decomposure” is built around electric guitar arpeggios and a soft melody that builds with additional voices. The song tips its toes in the water between White Album era Beatles and Jimmy Eat World making for a nice ballad. The swimmy piano layer adds to the trippiness of layered vocals that enter and function as a canon between themselves. Some of the screamed voices feel abrupt and while they might distract from the song, they do add a level of contrast, which makes moving into the more melodic parts even more satisfying.
“A Miracle Occurs” employs a great drum pattern to really propel the song, moving between march-y snare hits and telegraphic cymbal hits. The guitar line is very melodic, playing against the vocal melody and driving piano chords. Here the screaming vocal that enters towards the middle works for a good climax building up before the band goes into a long series of unison hits. The song could be a little shorter, the end dragging on a bit, but overall it’s very catchy and driving.
“Eventually” starts out as a folk song with mocking backing vocals entering from time to time before the timing of the guitar gets trippy and sprinkles out. After a section with the full band, the song evolves into a second movement adding piano and e-bowed guitar. It works well as a build before the song moves to a third movement playing into elements of the first section with a rapid melody playing up the 6/8 time signature. It’s an ambitious song and works well summing all of the parts together into a symphony of emotion.
The EP closes with “Understanding There Are Things That Matter To Me,” contrasting screaming over acoustic guitar. The pain of vocal is palpable and personal, almost like reading someone’s diary. When the full band enters, the vocal turns to a rapid tirade of spoken words. It’s a bold choice and if it feels a bit awkward, perhaps it is on purpose. There’s a nice piano interlude afterwards over guitar strums, snare rolls, and distant string patches.
Overall, Ruin’s Everything leaves it all on the floor. There are beautiful pieces and ugly pieces and they make up a mosaic that is unapologetic, direct and interesting.
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Living in a large city like Chicago, New York or LA can in some ways make breakups easier than say a small town or even a mid-sized city where all the cool shit that both you and your ex like to do is in the same five-block radius and you’re bound to run into them at some point. God bless the anonymity of the big city. Virginia natives JG Kemper & Kara Lorraine, the singer/songwriter duo behind Summer Plans were strangers who were each going through breakups when they met. Naturally they began writing songs together, songs, which documented what each of them was going through. Yet it was not until years later that the pair independently each moved out to LA and finally got together to record their self-titled debut record Summer Plans.
Summer Plans opens with the glitzy alt-rocker “Waterside.” Though it deals with the dissolution of a relationship, it uses the shimmery ‘60s garage jangle pop guitar chords that Paul Westerberg put to such good use on his early solo records, many of which also dealt with unpleasantries. The next two tracks, the dusty sad and slow “Low” echoes of Ryan Adams more country tinged tunes, as does the even more so Adamsesque ballad “Porch Light.”
On “Telephone Poles” Kara Lorraine, who had been singing backup vocals, finally takes charge and belts out some angry yet hopeful lyrics, “you got the best of my love / but not the best of my heart,” she sings over rollicking piano. On “Lovers, Friends, and Ghosts,” a dusty rambler that comes closest to the California Canyon Rock style of the ‘70s, which the band cites as most influential in the making of this album, you can hear the grit in JG Kemper’s voice. It’s like he’s choking on every word that comes out of his mouth, as though after all these years the pain is still raw.
There is a transition then, when on “Your Bed” the pair picks themselves up on this upbeat organ-friendly rocker. The lyrics may still be a little sappy, but the music is uplifting which is exactly what Summer Plans needed to have happen here lest the listener get out the razor blades. Its successor “California Skies” is even more uplifting, and leads into the alt country rocker “Los Angeles” which closes the record with hope.
Summer Plans is definitely a record that captures emotions. Its track listing is an arc of the story lines JG Kemper & Kara Lorraine’s lives took from the Virginia breakup years to their respective recoveries out in LA. Though it’s not necessarily a genre I immediately flock to, I would argue in its defense with anyone trying to find fault with it. The arrangements are spot on and Kemper and Lorraine’s harmonization is amazing. Summer Plans is an album fraught with emotions, surely, and sometimes those emotions can be a little hard to take if you’re not in the breakup mindset, but as Elton John said, “When all hope is gone/you know sad songs say so much.”
Finn Runyon Jr. is an eighteen-year-old musician and recent high school graduate. Like many that came before him he has aspirations of becoming a musician full time. In fact he is moving to Portland, Oregon to pursue his dreams.
Being almost twice as old as Runyon I can remember myself, and many others at eighteen- years old, having the same determination. I would go on tour, release albums and would even witness my peers have some success in the local scene in Chicago. At the end of the day none of the people I knew slipped through the cracks and became a household name but those were different times.
With the advent of the Internet we not only have a lot more of everything but have also created an environment where niche artists (besides ultra stars like Justin Beiber and Taylor Swift) are the ones who are surviving. Whether it’s a vine star or a guy who is playing glitch infused dubstep, it’s these types of one-off artists who are starting to make an impact, get noticed and pull in enough cash to keep at it.
This brings me to Runyon’s first release The Kid EP. The songs are decently written; he sings in a standard, soft-spoken singer/songwriter type way and all things considered makes pop music. It’s obvious the young artist has some talent but also lands straight smack dab in the middle of a market that has only become more oversaturated since recording equipment has become affordable and the sound quality has gotten better.
The first track “Nordic Seas” contains tinges of an artist like Jack Johnson. Much like Johnson the music is relaxing and tranquil yet has a bit of a bounce. Runyon strums an acoustic guitar and sings while an organ, drums, bass and another guitar provide additional layers.
“She” has a similar vibe and certainly has mainstream viability. Runyon delivers a strong vocal performance, as the song gets more intense as it progresses. The third song is a cover of The Doors song “People Are Strange.” Perhaps if this song was done in a similar style to the first two songs it would work better but it wasn’t. Runyon even says it's done in a “punk rock” style. To be blunt the song sounded out of place with the other three songs. The closer “Perfect Two” makes more sense with the first two tracks.
As of right now Runyon doesn't have that distinct of a sound but luckily for him he's not my age. He’s eighteen and at that age the majority have just started to discover their “sound”.
Before Patricia Bahia was songwriter she was a singer. She was a jazz singer as well as a singer with the acclaimed Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. The catalyst to start writing music actually came when she was getting treatment for cancer that she was diagnosed with. After making the best of a bad situation she got to work writing music and has since released a good amount of music. Her latest is entitled Save Your Heart.
Anyway you splice it Save Your Heart is a pop album. With that Save Your Heart primarily revolves around acoustic instruments and a singer/songwriter type vibe. There were definitely some songs that resonated with me more than others. Some songs were almost hyperbolically optimistic and carefree while others are reflective and melancholy. Lyrically, the album contains somewhat simple, straightforward language. There isn’t much interpretation needed for these songs because the topics and ideas are clearly presented.
The album opens with “Resilient” which was inspired by the teenage Pakastani activist Malala Yousafzai. I have to say the song felt like a bit of an odd choice to open up the album but not because of the topic but because of the production. Between the heavy hitting electronic percussion, synth inspired breakdown and fast BPM “Resilient” plays like a motivational dance song that isn’t indicative of the sequential styles to come. I was reminded of the song “Believe” by Cher.
The next song “Good Day” dismisses any kind of negative energy and is so optimistic that it transcends the mundane feelings most people have going about their life. It has an almost Feist type energy except it feels a little bit more mainstream and prone to play in a place like Starbucks.
Up next is “Blue on Top of Blue” which is another distinct deviation. Bahia sings with melancholy and in my opinion it's the emotion that sounds best with her style. She takes her time singing on this track and you can sit back and really take in her inspired vocal performance.
As the album progresses it goes between inspirational hope to extremely optimistic and back to melancholy. During the song “Happy Birthday” all I could imagine is a choreographed dance routine done by the staff at Disney with smiles as big as the sun.
The highlights were “Save Your Heart” and ”Love Sweet Love.” Both songs were well written. I enjoyed the vocal performance on “Save You Heart.” “Love Sweet Love” was another really optimistic sounding song but it didn’t feel like it was quite as intense as some of the previous tracks, which contained almost too much joy and happiness.
Save Your Heart is a mainstream sounding pop album. I think most people will know fairly quickly if this is their cup of time. That being said when you take a listen try out a couple different tracks because one style will most likely resonate with you more than another.
First of all I would like to thank Google Translate© for choppily deciphering the bio of Jun & The Paradox Mind, an indie rock band from Paris, France. But nothing’s perfect so if I start mixing up my noun and verb orders just let it be. It’s not like telling a joke wrong. Anyway back to Jun & The Paradox Mind. The band, led by singer and guitarist Julien Demont, began back in 2008 and was initially a power trio that released their first EP Wandering Soul in 2012. It is an EP inspired by bands like Blur, Oasis and The Libertines front man Pete Doherty. They toured through France and England before taking a hiatus after which Jun & The Paradox Mind emerged with its current lineup of Ruddy Thery and Jean Louis Bire who play drums and percussion, bassist Veyres George, Sébastien Bede on keyboards and guitarist Xavier Lelong.
Moments, their first offering as a six-piece is four songs which run the gamut from spacey pop to alternative rock (please excuse the use of this vague relic of a genre) that was often prevalent on local airwaves in the states for the past twenty or so years.
The album’s opener “Having A Drink” is a slow building rock ballad. What I noticed from the first though is how much the background instrumentation plays a part in setting Jun & The Paradox Mind apart from just being a band that would otherwise sound like Kings of Leon. This is mainly due to the sly bits of percussion and spacey keyboards.
“In Circle” is a sad and sweeping ballad complete with strings and synths. Its sprawling and mellow pop feel combined with Julien Demont’s deep, lounge act, drink sodden vocal and inward focused lyrics combine for a pretty powerful though depressing effect. And as if you couldn’t already guess “Six Feet Under” ain’t no picnic either, but it does that dance-pop thing that Interpol has always been good at, so that even though Demont is talking about subjects which are less than pleasant, there is still this great dance beat going on that. Even though I dance like a guy with a broken leg who’s just had his crutches yanked from him, I still found my head bobbing along as I listened.
The crown jewel of this EP “Moment” starts as a stark piano ballad, with Demont once again pouring his heart out until by this point it must seemingly be empty of anything he’s ever had to say, and then morphs into some crafty percussion and a long droning guitar solo.
EP’s are sometimes hard to judge, if only because many times a lot of the songs come off sounding quite a bit alike, something that befalls Jun & The Paradox Mind on Moments. But I liked it anyway, mostly because it reminded me of the Scottish rock band The Twilight Sad though not as loud. Also the drums and percussion as well as the keys reminded me in some ways of the structures to certain songs on OK Computer. In the end Moments does what an EP is supposed to do, and that is introduce a band to a listener, and let the listener decide where they want to go from there.
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Life Support EP by Sabali is a hushed, gentle collection of songs made up of rolling acoustic guitars, water-based sound design and direct lyrics.
“Decomposers” opens the EP with a rainstorm before plaintive acoustic guitars enter sounding like Bon Iver. When the vocal enters, there is a distinct Mark Kozelek vocal inflection. The melody is very gentle and beautiful, the words annunciated very clearly and it builds to a great final chorus with screamed vocals backing up the lead. It’s a pretty song, although a bit wordy at times, it could possibly benefit from some editing of the lyrics.
“Love From Me” is a catchy folk song sounding like a blend of Morrissey with Nick Drake. Handclaps drive the song along and make for a clever percussive track. The chorus is very catchy, playing off a syncopated melody that balances a tinge of sadness and confidence. The electric guitar solo is melodic and comes in just at the right time in the song.
“Ebb & Flow” is based around the piano, opening with a variation of the vocal melody to come before adding synth strings to literally ebb and flow around the voice. The melody has a nice contrast moving between quicker notes in the verse and bridge to a more legato stretched out chorus, again playing into the title in a clever way.
“Irish Goodbye” is a beautiful waltz that uses chiming rings of the acoustic guitar giving a gentle pedal point drone, playing into the nature of the song. The harmonies are gorgeous and enhance the melody and lyrics quite well. The marching drum ostinato that enters later on has good intentions but feels a bit stiff, though that being said does add a nice new layer to the song and develops it. The final harmonium-like note of the song is a clever exit.
“Odessa” follows an electric guitar melody that is surrounded by tape hiss. The song is driven by percussive slaps on guitar, which bounces around with echo, making for an uneasy but successful tightrope walk. What works really well overall is the chorus that moves with parallel motion between the guitar and voice making for a nice development from the contrasting guitar and vocal melodies of the verse.
“Driftwood” closes the EP with the sounds of waves rushing up on shore before quick acoustic guitar arpeggios enter. Here again, the contrast of the nimble guitar against the long legato notes of the melody really opens the song up. Towards the middle, synth strings enter again playing a nice contrasting melody, however the timbre rubs a bit with the open expansiveness of the acoustic nature of rest of the song. The song finishes well however with a Glen Hansard-esque vocal breakdown.
Overall, the EP has some gorgeous gentle melodies and some interesting instrumentation. Some editing and perhaps some collaboration could let some of these blossom even more.
Aonghas Maxwell, Chloe Robertson and Jack McLuckie are the three members of the band Northern Central. The UK-based band released a four-song EP Imogen, which gives a sample of what this band offers and hopefully points to what we can expect from them in the future.
After Robertson and Maxwell met at an open mic they started play music together. The duo played covers and originals and eventually included McLuckie within the mix. After listening to their EP you can see why they stuck together. It’s doesn’t take long to appreciate the upbeat folk rock this band plays as well as the vocal harmonies Their music has some similarities to bands like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers not only in that it's folk rock but in the hopeful, inspirational sections it shares that make the aforementioned music so popular to the masses.
The EP initially starts sparse with vocal harmonies, acoustic guitar and bells. I enjoyed what I heard but by the two-minute mark I didn’t think I was going to get variation. To my surprise the band shifts the energy by implementing bass, percussion and violin into the mix. The additional layers made the song more dynamic and added another dimension to the band. It’s around the three-minute mark the song peaks with exceptional violin playing and vocal harmonies.
The song is about the reluctance of leaving the student life behind. I’m not sure why anyone would want to perpetually live the life of a student but some people don't want to grow up I guess. The lyrics on the verse are a bit more straightforward while the chorus is a bit more poetic. They sing, “When the cat’s away the mice do play, but they forgot about the dogs. But the best laid plans of mice and men weren’t written by the gods.”
Northern Central hasn’t been around very long as a group and this shows when you get to the track “Cracks and Rhymes.” Bands that have recently formed tend to have a lot of ideas and are still in the process of finding their sound and that’s what you sense when comparing these two tracks. “Cracks and Rhymes” is an instrumental track and sounds more like something that would come from TV On The Radio than a folk rock band. I actually enjoyed the track but from the impending doom vibe towards the end to the dark vocal harmonies it felt very different. In fact if these songs weren't both on the EP I never would have guessed it was from the same band.
“Rest Softly” reverts to the vibe folk rock vibe on “Mice an Men” and is arguably the highlight. It’s an excellent song overall and has anthemic qualities such as when they sing, “I won’t let go, you are my own I’ll let it show, you are my own.” The last song is a remix of the first song and while engaging is not as effective.
Imogen feels like an appetizer. There are some solid songs here with good songwriting, which build a solid foundation. The band does fall into a category of wait and see but I think they should be well on their way from what I heard.
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RTP EP by Ready The Prince is an amazing collection of good songwriting, fantastic performances and excellent production, combining elements of power pop and harder edged rock. The craftsmanship in the songwriting is very clever and showcases the band’s talent for development.
The EP opens with “Your Way Or Mine,” a song made up of fast guitar licks, pulsing tambourines and a gritty lead vocal. Moving between large open arpeggios to driving rock, the song combines power pop elements along with more of a modern vocal inflection a la Panic! At The Disco, eventually culminating in an excellent guitar solo.
“Drunk Without A Drug” begins as a set up to a ballad before moving to a very laid back groove. Over chime-y electric guitar, fuzzed out bass and rim clicks, the song builds carefully, each verse and chorus adding an instrumental element and making for a very natural crescendo. The melody is very catchy and skips though intervals in a smart double-time fashion propelling the song along.
“Egyptian” is based around a shuffle with the bass and drums locking in a tight groove while sparse guitar notes decorate the space around the vocal melody. Again the band uses one of its greatest strengths, crafting each section of the song to build and change slightly, keeping and building interest with subtle development. The song really rocks out with a fuzzed out garage-rock interlude complete with drum flourishes and fantastic backing vocals forming a soft pad of “ohhs” over the edgy attack of the song.
The EP closes with “Heart,” a mid-tempo number with some Crowded House influences throughout. Here the band uses the opposite technique as the previous three songs, stripping down parts of verses to add contrast and the result works just as well. The song also has the most backing vocals of the EP with the anthem-like chorus inviting an audience sing-a-long. The nimble guitar solo plays with echoes and reverbs over a telegraphic line and dances along well before the epic final chorus.
Ready The Prince has made an excellent EP of power pop songs and shows great promise for a full album of more material, as the only disappointment on this EP is that there aren’t more songs.
The formula of playing distorted heavy metal/pop inspired music combined with a lone female vocalist who tends to sing about pain, darkness and like-minded subjects is extremely ubiquitous. It’s really not that surprising as in the last twenty years this formula has been been successful and commercially viable for bands like Evanescence and Paramore to name a few.
Blind Revision is barking up this tree on their release Fight Or Flight. Although the band is young in terms of their age as well as their existence (as a band) they know what they are doing. The members consisting of Jen Janet (keys/vocals), Kirk Scully (guitar), Jamie Steele (drums), Jake Bedard (guitar) and Phillip Clougher (bass) have a very tight band that have some technical and creative talent. Janet can certainly belt it out and the band can pull off some slick moves.
When you start to unpack this four-song EP you realize some songs veer towards commercial pop and others have an intense, metal vibe. I personally enjoyed the metal stuff more for a number of reasons but above all else I loved the speed in which these songs were played. When you have a drummer that is as good as Steele you have to take advantage of it. The guy is not only wicked fast but has metronome like timing.
The first track “Fight Or Flight“ was a highlight. The beginning of song has an ‘80s metal/prog rock vibe that sounded very good. As the song progresses the band is throwing out changes left and right which kept the song engaging. There is no boredom to be had as the music feels like a constant onslaught. The song is rather epic in that it is over seven-minutes long and the band just crams so much stuff in. “Colors” is up there with “Fight Or Flight“ in terms of quality. I hate to mention this again but feel like it needs to reinforced. The drumming is just ridiculously good. I think the drum track alone would have been enough for me to enjoy the song.
I have to admit the last two tracks “If The Earth Could Stand Still” and “Tough Love” weren’t doing it for me like the first two. “Tough Love” is basically pop punk in the style of Paramore and I thought the band sounded better when they went straight metal. Obviously, someone could have the exact opposite opinion but those were my initial thoughts.
Blind Revision has a lot of innate technical talent and has the ability the keep the changes coming in a song. The band has a good amount of potential and if they continue to work on their strengths they should be able to circulate some buzz.
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Corsicana is the solo project for Ben Pisano. Pisano is only seventeen-years-old but is already showing some serious talent with his music. His latest is a self-titled four-song EP Corsicana, which revolves primarily around his guitar and vocals but also flirts with electronic elements. Pisano is a little undefined at this point and a bit scattered but there are a bunch of notable artists who came to mind when I listened.
My first thought was The Postal Service for a number of reasons. Pisano has a high-pitched voice and sounds unequivocally similar to Ben Gibbard at times. The other thing is some of the electronic elements such as those you hear on the first track and highlight “Caustic.” Although comparisons to The Postal Service is inevitable on the first track that doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. Pisano also has some skill when it comes to coming up with original lyrics. He throws in a couple of hundred dollars words in there along with some poetic ambiguity. He sings, “I chide myself sometimes for bringing my day to a standstill, and write myself a letter of apology, but it never seems to do. The daily drills, best of luck, follow, if you will, go to bed, see it again in a different light.”
The second track “Glacial” contains a good amount of melancholy that is induced with atmospheric pads and light guitar playing. There is a bit of a Bon Iver vibe here from the music. Pisano shows some restraint on this song and only during the last minute does he add bass and percussion. It was done tastefully and doesn’t push the intensity too far, which was a good call.
“Kokytos” feels like a departure from the first two songs and sounds somewhere between Radiohead and Local Natives. There is a groove on this track and it’s a bit hypnotic and easy to zone out to. The song is almost seven-minutes long and the second half is dedicated to climatic post-rock-esque instrumentals. The last track “Empyrean” may have the most commercial appeal. It also tends to align with the “Kokytos” in terms of groove, vibe and feel.
Pisano has accomplished a lot for how young he is but still will need to do some work if he wants to compete with the artists he sounds similar to. With this EP Pisano covers a lot of ground in terms of style and does do so in a convincing way but also leaves a lot of questions as to what a full length would sound like. Pisano will have most likely have more luck by sticking to a particular genre and defining his own style rather than flirting with a myriad of them.
Pisano should be well on his way as long as he continues to dig into what is distinct and original about Corsicana.
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