The Huffington Post describes Yvonne Sangudi as “the next great songstress.” Perhaps that is true but truth be told Sangudi only really has two songs out as far as I can see. “Mistaromeo” is is her most recent single but before that she came out with “Tanzanite” which is the song I will be focusing on.
The song has multiple versions that were released. In fact there are five versions. There is the original version, a version sung in Swahili, an a cappella version, a Swahili a cappella version and an instrumental version. For me the version I found most appealing was the original version partly because I don’t understand Swahili.
At its heart the song is a club worthy pop song with a unique fusion of what can be referred to as world beat. It starts off with an energetic synth and vocals. Her vocals initially are pretty subdued and you can tell right off the bat she has an almost classical singing voice. I have to admit Christina Aguilera came to mind. It doesn't take long for the hook to come in which happens at the one-minute mark. She showcases her range here and it’s impressive. Additional elements come into the mix.
You might say the world beat is flirted with on the second verse with what sounds like tablas and bongos. The piano works very well which builds the intensity of the song. After the hook is introduced again I thought the most off-kilter aspects of the song were introduced. In the last minute of the song a clear eastern vibe is introduced with huge sounding drums and tribals chants. It flows seamlessly back into the hook.
If you’re wondering what “Tanzanite” is you’re not alone. I had to look it up and it’s a gemstone. Suffice it to say “Tanzanite” is a great pop song. Sangudi has a lot of talent and I think we will be hearing a lot more from her.
Joe Kennedy (guitar/vocals/harmonica), Daniel Eastwood (guitar/vocals), Benjamin Giblin (bass/vocals) and Aindriú Llombard (drums/vocals) are The Darjeeling Feeling. The band released an EP Bounds of Suitability which seems to serve as somewhat of a preview to their full length since it contains two singles from the album.
The band gets going with “Signal To Noise” which is an expression of disillusionment in the digital age, and a search for objective meaning in the content overload. It’s also a pretty catchy indie song. It’s not a hard rocking song by any stretch of the imagination but has enough to keep you coming back for more. The chorus in particular is single worthy.
Up next is “Take Another.” The guitar work across the board kept my attention. Lyrically the song explores darker themes of heartbreak and identity. The general mood they paint with tones and textures reinforces the lyrics.
“The Varietea Of Life” is a play on words. The song is an ode to the unifying power of tea and the deep conversations had over a mug of the good stuff. It starts off simple enough and feels quite jazzy and clean. The song slowly builds to the most epic crescendo with multiple vocal harmonies creating a big joyous sing-along.
They close with “Waiting For The Crash” which felt like an appropriate closer. It’s emotionally heavy with memorable melodies. The lead guitar work has some ’70s crunch and tears at the seams at points. In general the groove was easy to bob along with.
Overall, this was a solid start. The band isn’t breaking any barriers here but have a knack for presenting well conceptualized songs.
Skywriters is the solo project of Christchurch, New Zealand singer, guitarist, and bassist Greg Mannering. Mannering has been a working musician for many years in Christchurch and in Sydney, Australia. He has been working steadily on his debut five-song EP Inside Out. Describing his process of songwriting Mannering is a fiddler, not a fiddle player but a man who works out a riff slowly, looking for a hook and then fiddling with it until the song presents itself. This process seems to have worked out well for him on this debut as each song has a very precise and hook driven punch that makes the music fun and accessible in that beautifully simple yet highly effective way that so much English post-punk was built on.
Inside Out opens with “Flicker” a downbeat guitar driven pop rocker that builds into that troubadour rock style of meaningful jangle pop which gets a nice hint spirally melodic keyboard playing from Mannering’s mate, Paul Andrew. Next comes “Miles Behind Us” a fun and frolicking faster paced rocker that exemplifies Mannering’s ability to build a such a melodic pop groove that takes the listener with him on the song, borne along on the upbeat melody.
On “Freddy’s Funhouse” he turns the volume up a bit more and pairs thick chops of bass and chunky guitar with whirly keys. The song reminded me of bands like Madness and Elvis Costello most specifically on albums like Get Happy! and Armed Forces. He goes for a more traditional and bluesy rock more reminiscent in a sense of the early Blur records on “Shut Down” and especially the albums heavy sounding closer “American Idyll.”
Needless to say any fan of British post punk and Brit pop will find Inside Out to be a fantastic addition to such a great cannon of music. It’s not often one hears this style being originally recorded anymore and it made me long for a resurgence or made me want to go and spend a day or weeks really just revisiting those decades which seem to have been long forgotten after grunge and its aftermath swept through the nation of music. For anyone out there looking for a good starting point before delving into the big boys I would highly suggest Inside Out. It’s a mix of a walk down memory lane and a new path being forged by some great musicians.
After being in multiple well-known bands in the Napa Valley region of California, singer/songwriter Brandon Kerrigan’s latest endeavor is his “new shimmering garage fantasy” called Moss. This project is a combination of ‘90s indie rock with early 2000s psych pop. His project’s first release We Don’t Get Even, We Get Mad was recorded in Moss’s studio using the latest version of Garageband and it mixes fantastic sounds of low-fi and the well-known “wall of sound” made famous by ‘60s producing guru Phil Spector.
The conceptual theme of the album Kerrigan describes as, “what it means to be angry and how a passionate release of emotions can be healthy even if it is inherently selfish.” He writes about relationships, careers and life decisions and instead of looking for meaning outside yourself, he focuses inward to keep his emotions and headspace in check. The instrumental elements play on these themes between the light and dark, heavy and soft. Kerrigan hopes listeners will resonate with his struggles of melancholy but also, his desire at being determined and self-sustaining.
The opener “Mad” taps into Moss’ style of psych-pop and dream-pop melodies. The echoing guitar and vocals take center stage as drums drop in a bit later and a faster tempo picks things up midway. I thought the transitions of styles mesh together quite well. “Wounds” features a guitar with a harsher, tinnier sound and vocals that are up front and easier to distinguish what’s being sung. The style here was more in the vein of atmospheric pop or shoe gaze with ‘90s slacker alternative. The additional keyboards added extra finesse and the ending was fantastic as it bleeds into “Vacation.” This song’s strong points were its arrangement and how Moss wrote each instrumental part. Each instrument complements the other, but at the same time each seems to stand on its own. I thought this one had a very unique sound and one of Moss’ best.
“Strawberries” features some creepy sounding effects and then transitions into superbly executed styles of ‘60s psych and dark gothic dreaminess. This one easily became a favorite. The longest on the EP was “Paths” – a nicely muddied-up, ‘90s alternative pop trance featuring a strong rhythm guitar and additional keyboard effects and instruments. Parts of it reminded me of The Cure. “Guidelines” finishes the EP with a stripped-down sound of vocal, guitar and backing keyboards tones. Moss adds an additional vocal that sounds menacing and sinister. He also adds horns and some stronger keys later on. I thought this one was Moss’ most dynamic and daring.
Moss’ debut taps into some truly fantastic psych, dream pop and goth vibes. In my opinion, We Don’t Get Even, We Get Mad really needs more than just one listen – there’s so much imaginative output going on here. I’m looking forward to hearing more of Moss’ brand of low-fi, “wall of sound” surrealism.
The American folk rock band Copper & Gin consists of guitarist and vocalist Dejon Hamann, drummer Rick Poy, bassist Justin Sircus, lead guitarist Zach Siegel and keyboard player Steve Stempien. They play that sort of dirty blues inspired rock of the kind one often finds playing in seedy clubs at the dark ends of streets. Maybe they get a cut of the door and maybe they don’t. At best they get a few drink tickets. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here, you really should get out more. But for the sake of that I’d say they sound like what Ryan Adams and his band the Cardinals were doing back when they were still releasing records together. To put it plainly its rock n’ roll with lyrics that skirt the depths of battered love and finding yourself at the bottom of a bottle too often to even want to admit it because it has gotten past the point of sounding cool.
Their eponymous seven-song debut is chock full of songs like I’ve just described, covering those people whose lives are in the crapper but they’re little fish in a big pond and where they live it’s either expected to see people of these kind or they just become invisible, like the same scenery you see everyday of a routine life.
On the first song, the melodious and boozy rocker “Things I'll Never Know” singer Dejon Hamann name drops being at a Blitzen Trapper show and then goes on to detail some moments of the evening which he does in a rather poetic fashion, not overdoing anything and trying for overused metaphors and I really dug this about the song. The rest of the band provides a rhythmic accompaniment that is just plain old good listening and lets listeners know up front that they know their stuff. The same could be said for the slower but still just as powerful “Jacksonville” which reminded me of the sweet sweet power of some gold old southern rock music. I could say the same for the equally heart-wrenching “Tallman.”
Copper & Gin do a damn good job of playing southern tinged blues rock, especially for a band so far north of the Maison & Dixon line. I could see fans of country digging on this record just as I could see fans of the old days of classic rock. If you’re not a fan of either but are a musician of any rock-addled genre I’d say it’d do you well to take a listen to these guys. It shows what a band of tight musicians who practice their craft can do.
Starting out in 2007 in Fairfax, Virginia the original line up and style for Thirteen Towers was classic pop punk. Since then, various members came and went, and a horn section was added which turned their pop punk style into a more ska/punk feel. With two full-length albums already and two EPs to speak of, this juggernaut eight-piece band has now come out with Two-Banana Habit their third EP to date. On this effort, you’ll hear plenty of horn blowing, guitar solos, harmonies, fantastic melodies, swinging drums and chants.
Lyrically, the songwriting is humorous: battling a banana addiction – hence the EP’s title – Tinderdates gone bad and the usual ‘what’s for dinner, honey?’ question. As a live act, Thirteen Towers has taken their brand of music to festivals such as Punk Island and the International Supernova Skafest. They’ve even opened shows for legendary acts such as George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic and The Mad Caddies.
“Burning Bridges” starts off fast like a punk song, and with added horns the ska style really comes through. The playful and energized guitar solo and saxophone battle was tasty! As the song’s title suggests, the song is about burning bridges with a former lover. “Two-Banana Habit” gets heavier with the horns and lyrically; this one is by far the band’s most fun and comical – not to mention a chorus that’s quite catchy. “Whoa’s and Oh’s” mixes styles of ska and harder edged guitar riffs. Lindsay takes the lead vocally and she’s accompanied by another singer from this eight-person band. A couple of fantastic solos from Edson, the bass player, and saxophonist Daphne are the real highlights here.
“Tinder Lovin’ Care” is another hilarious tune and it’s about finding someone to hook up with on the dating website Tinder. All I can say is, I’m thankful these kinds of sites weren’t around when I was dating. Although, I can imagine with any online dating situation the consequences are the same. Whether they turn out good or bad, I’m glad those days are over for me. “R.P.F.U.” is yet another funny tune with funny lyrics – “let’s play rock, paper, f*** you” – determines the outcome of choosing coffee or tea and other ordinary, everyday decisions. Musically, the song’s arrangement leans more in a punk rock style.
The last song, “Three Drinks In” starts off with vinyl record ‘pop’ sounds and is straightforward ska. The words are about taking a chance on love, and dancing with someone you hope will be at the local dance hall. Of course, downing three drinks to gather up enough nerve to dance with that special someone works wonders. The lyrics sum up those butterfly feelings we’ve all had – “Why oh why, do I like you like I do? – Why oh why, do I become unglued.” If ska and punk genres are your musical tastes, look no further than Thirteen Towers’ Two-Banana Habit.
Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches are an impressive batch of musicians. The band leader Nick Russo played with Paul McCartney (yes, The Beatle) while performing at Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s home. He also performed on ABC’s “Good Morning America" and appears in the Sam Mendes film “Away We Go” and the PSB Masterpiece, “The Chaperone."
Betina Hershey has worked on major productions like “West Side Story” and “Phantom of the Opera.” The other Scooches have notable resumes as well. The band released Get Us Out Of Fearland which is a mix of styles like country, folk, traditional, bluegrass, gospel, dixieland and more. It’s very organic music that feels like it’s being played by humans and not computers. The music often feels as timeless as the hills themselves.
The band gets going with “Soar.” The song is infectiously positive and when Hersey sings about soaring it matches the meaning of the word. I loved the banjo and vocal harmonies but really everything was immensely enjoyable.
They slow things down with “I Wish The World Knew Why” which shows a different side to the vocal talent. The vocals drip with solace and the slide guitar is so on point. It’s a beautiful song. “Get Us Out Of Fearland” felt like a political march. The vibe is very empowering which is the best way I can put it.
Thanks you for taking me back to the ’40’s with “I Don't Need No Glasses.” The song drips with old school ragtime. It takes you back to a different time period, attire and all. “Dandelion” is so good. It hits upon a funky/gospel vibe. If church sounded like this everybody would be going.
“A Hundred Miles” is more or less straight bluegrass while “Needed Now (Freedom)” is more rock oriented vibing on a ’70s type Fleetwood Mac type style. They continue exploring with the eastern sounding “Don't You Follow Me” and close with a joyous revival entitled “Park Song.”
My only slight issue is the band never taps into a signature sound. They way they jump to very specific genres was more than impressive but think I would have a hard time recognizing a song of theirs on the radio. That being said this factor was fairly easy for me to overlook because of the exceptional production and performances. Don’t miss out on this one.
Chris Friesen is an artist from Grande Prairie, Alberta in Canada who recently released To Stand Among. He has been playing guitar and other instruments for about ten years and writing for six. In all honesty, from my experiences teaching and going through schooling, six years in is usually a point where musicians are just getting started.
Suffice it to say To Stand Among is fairly simple in a number of ways. The song structure is basic, the chords mostly stick to major and minor ones and the songs don’t seem to deviate from 4/4. That being said this is all you need to write a great pop song. On that note Friesen certainly displays some talent and potential on these songs.
“Bureaucrats and Boondoggles” which is a reflective, somber song revolving around piano and vocals. I have to admit I immediately thought of Ben Folds Five because of the vocals. That should hopefully come off as a compliment because I always loved the vocals for that band.
“Donnelly” changes things up with acoustic guitar. The guitar playing is solid with nuanced picking skill. “Donnelly” is about as somber as the opener. Friesen sings “I wish I had somewhere / Or something to be / Now I'm as lonely as summer In Donnelly.”
The mood does pick up quite a bit with “Patchwork Heart.” The song even showcases some lively harmonica. “Make Me Wonder” is open to interpretation. The lyrics could be interpreted as pertaining to God, a romantic interest or something more.
“The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side” is completely a cappella while “Winter” is performed on a ukulele. The album continues with the light and breezy song “See a Star for the First Time” and the much more reflective “What I Left Behind” which is a highlight. Friesen closes with “Don't Be Far Away” which seems to yearn for the presence of another person.
To Stand Among is minimal but eclectic. There was enough variety to keep it interesting. Moving forward I think Friesen should consider working with a producer/engineer to get more of a studio quality intimacy to the songs.
Overall, this was a solid album which builds a foundation for Friesen. I’m looking forward to more of his work.
Responders formed in the Boston area in 2016. After a few adjustments and some recalibration, the band’s current line-up released their self-titled EP Responders in late August of 2018. An energetic and upbeat fusion of many genres, the result is straight up rock n’ roll.
The opening track of the record slowly fades into a reverb drenched surf-rock influenced world. “Days Gone By” is an appropriate title. The style is based heavily in early rock n’ roll, making the tune feel welcomingly familiar. The pace of the song stays the same, creating a comfortable journey through the sonic landscape for the listener. As guitars begin to wail over the top of the drums, when the verses hit the vocals come front and center. The chorus is an explosion of each of the instruments, carrying the song into the next level. The uptick in energy sets the tone for the next song in a way that could not be more fitting.
“One To Blame” flows naturally after “Days Gone By.” The bending guitars and grooving bass are what make this song stand out. The kick drum and snare alternate to push the song forward with the strength of a locomotive. While not as explosive as the first track, the more laid-back nature of the song showcases a different side of the band.
The sound of Responders comes not only from the band, but the singer as well. A unique voice that immediately grabs the listener’s attention, it powerfully cuts through the layers of instruments behind it and makes itself the center of attention. When the vocals aren’t being heard, the competent technical skill of the band shines through. Through bridges, breakdowns, solo sections, intros and outros, the fills, licks and riffs are delivered with a surgical precision to fit snugly with the form of the song. The music doesn’t sound calculated; each note naturally taking off from the speakers with an attitude that seems as carefree as it is aware of where it is going.
Responders is a great EP for fans of all music. The genres represented are vast. Despite this, it’s still a rock n’ roll record. The sound is as timeless as it is modern. A welcome update on the stylings of Alabama Shakes, The Black Keys, The White Stripes, or any of the other modern rock bands with a direct blues influence, Responders brings the heat with their newest EP.
Charlotte Corday is the moniker for a solo artist from New Jersey. She released Hermit EP which is a five-song demo style EP. The songs consist of guitar and vocals and have a lo-fi bedroom production aesthetic.
I’m a little too old to listen to Julien Baker on a regular basis but I’ve heard enough that I recognize immediate the similarities to Charlotte Corday. The sadness and melancholy come from a similar place and the vocals also have distinct similarities. Up first is “Emily Brontë” which revolves around a bass, a jangly guitar and vocals. It’s pleasant enough, a little sloppy but heartfelt. She sings, “and I can't say I won't follow you into a locked up life, my soul chained to a rock out back.”
“Facedown” was a solid track. It really digs into a monotone type melancholy vocal inflection. The changes about half way through feel a little disorganized in a way but there are moments of beauty in there as well. “Therefore” is a short interlude.
“I'm Not” was the highlight. It was catchy and I thought her voice sounded best here. She sings, “and my mind can't take the tricks it plays on me anymore when I think I'm waking up in my bed the trees that tap on my window, they don't even grow here I think I'm a lot like them.” She closes with “Shell” was was the other standout track. The guitar picking is a little more advanced and the lyrics encompass the theme of being a hermit.
I like the songs and recording them at home is a good start. On that note working with an engineer/producer will have to become a reality in order to get to a competitive sound quality say similar to Julien Baker. I would also have the artist be cognizant about being too influenced by her idols. It’s not easy finding a signature sound but finding ways to forget your influences before writing or recording is a solid start.
The artist has some talent and falls into a case of wait and see for now. I look forward to hearing her evolve.
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