Robert John Baune (vocals/guitar), Alex Ortberg (drums) and Judah Smith (bass) are Twin Lakes. They recently released In The Valley. The band seems to be marketing themselves as folk rock but their songs are diverse to say the least. There are songs which I wouldn’t classify as folk at all.
The album starts with “In The Valley” which is a solid song. It starts with a sing-along type melody that felt like something you might sing with a bunch of kids. It sounded great. I loved the music especially when the full band comes in. The vocalist seems to sing with a different affectation at different points in the song. His singing seemed most natural the first time the full band comes in but certain lines felt like he was really pushing it.
Up next is “Devil Comfort Me” which sounds like a different band. This sounds more like Red Hot Chili Peppers with a tinge of blues. “Other People’s Bed” was a highlight and the general direction I hope the band delves more into as they evolve. Out of the first three songs this one felt the most natural and realized. They seemed to be comfortable and I liked the upbeat vibe here.
“Wall Between Us” is the first song that is sort of a melancholy ballad. The vocalist inflection is again back and forth the whole time. Some words are smooth as if delivered by Bon Iver but other words are almost on the verge of rapping. More to my point he sounds his best and most consistent on “I Will Not Bury Myself” which is the most beautiful song on the album. It comes off as sincere and heartfelt.
As the album progress there are some highlights as well as new styles. On that note this band has all the typical signs I’ve seen in this business of a talented group of musicians who are trying to find a signature sound. They are attempting so many styles which can blur the lines of who this band is.
I preach about this all the time but is a constant you will find with almost all successful bands and certainly a key ingredient in making a successful album. Take albums as far ranging as Richard D. James Album by Aphex Twin or White Blood Cells by White Blood Cells. These two albums are very different but the one thing that is similar is that once you are done listening to them you have a very good idea of who this is and what they sound like. If that artist is visionary (although there are exceptions) the more singular of a signature sound it will be.
Overall, I would say this is a solid debut album which displays their versatility. I think the highlights I previously mentioned are where I think they thrive and should consider starting their foundation for their next release. That’s my two cents. I wish them luck and I hope to hear more.
Dread Father is a band from North Carolina that recently released the band's eponymous EP Dread Father. The songs are long and sounds like a mix of Sunn O))), Black Sabbath, Ty Segall and Comets of Fire. That's a pretty amazing mix of artists in my opinion.
The band starts with “The Ritual” which takes about a minute to find the first riff which is derivative of old Black Sabbath. There is some fuzz and drones which repeats over a slow tempo. There are two vocals. The one is a little more classic ’70s rock guy and sounds good. There is also this cartoonish other vocal that sounds hyperbolic and like it’s purposely trying to be evil. The remainder of the song is more or less an instrumental jam.
That vibe continues with “The Arrival.” It’s a little more atmospheric at moments and you could argue even rocks out a little more. The song is sludge and fuzz in a way many will appreciate. Similar to the other song this song ends in an epic jam with a blaring lead guitar. “The Revival” felt like an extension but also a clear display of the band building a foundation. For some reason “The Divination” was more lo-fi than the other songs but also rocks out the most epically.
As an engineer myself I have to say the first thing that came to mind was I would like to hear raw but studio quality versions of these songs. And what I mean is somewhere in the ballpark of Life Metal by Sunn O))). That can be the benchmark for this type of music where you can hear the distortion rip at the seams with extreme detail.
This type of music embraces low frequencies on the guitars between 100hz and 500hz which have to compete with the bass and bass drums. Suffice it say creating an aesthetically pleasing fuzzy layer of distortion is very difficult for even a seasoned engineer but it can be achieved. All that being said, I think the band did a solid job with these home recordings.
This type of music never went away when it was born in the ’70s. There are of course new iterations and style but this music, the more I listened, felt related to Sabbath if Sabbath liked to jam. It’s also music that has this meditative quality that I feel like needs to be experienced live or at least loud.
This is showing potential and talent. I’m looking forward to the fuzz and drones that evolve from here.
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Attic Choir is a band from Edinburgh, Scotland consisting of Andrew Wright, Dillion Kennedy and Evan Hamilton. They formed in 2015, played shows, released demos and a little earlier this year released Internal Wound Management.
Internal Wound Management contains four songs and it’s apparent that the band was hard at work. They put the hours in and that leads to chemistry and performances which are in the pocket and an organic quality that tends to surface when bands have been together for awhile.
“shHAarp” is the opener. The song goes in a lot of different directions. Initially there is this playful vibe that reminded me of Vampire Weekend but then some distortion later and they came closer to sounding like The Smashing Pumpkins. All of this is before the singing starts. As the song unfolds the band did plenty to keep my attention from the catchy vocal melodies to the brief but effective breakdowns. The band does a good job filling the almost five-and-a-half-minute length with engaging transitions and riff.
The band continue with “Bleeding Grounds” which at least starts off a little mellow. It’s a warm energy with clean guitars before the song explodes with no warning. This is a move that was fairly popular in the ’90s. That clean verse, hit the stomp box with no warning to trigger the distortion. The band pulls it off and I liked how when they go back into the verse they let the distortion ring out.
“Uneven Two” is the arguable highlight. The grooves were wicked. It’s a little dark while also having a good amount of momentum. Take for instance that instrumental section at the one- minute mark that is led by the guitar and backed up by the atmosphere.
“Life-Size Cut-Out” might be the most unique song in the batch. They rock out here but it’s a little abrasive at times and I don’t say that in a bad way. There is also rocking out that again had a clear ’90s vibe to it. It’s also another example of the band filling the song with a lot of transitions and changes.
I think fans of alternative rock and probably more specifically ’90s rock will really appreciate this EP. Take a listen.
Cuckoo Bay consists of Devin Patton (vocals/ukulele), Stephen Maher (keys/drums) and Alex Michael Piazza (guitar/bass). Last year we reviewed their eponymous EP and they are now back with Limits which is a three-song EP.
The EP starts off with the title track “Limits.” It’s a stripped back song revolving around piano and vocals as well as some other atmospheric elements. The focal point is far and away the commanding and powerful vocals of Patton. One of the gold standards for a gifted singer would be dynamic range and there is no denying Patton can sound good in multiple octaves.
The beginning of the song is a little more intimate and she stays in a comfortable range that is also soulful. She does climb a scale on occasion. It should also be stated the piano playing is precise but soulful. Around the middle of the song there are some additional vocal harmonies that blend with pads.
“Night and Day” brings instruments like bass, drums and guitar to the table and with that brings a much more upbeat and festive mood. This was the highlight in my opinion partially because I just love this style. I actually thought this song would have worked better as the opener but that’s me. It’s funky but not like a blaring ’70s funk. The mood is sort of lounge like and subdued. It’s like music where you could totally dance to it or just relax with a cocktail and enjoy the performance. The vocal harmonies towards the end were so on point.
Last up is “Gave It All Up” which is a solo performance. It revolves around ukulele and vocals. Something about this song felt the most pop oriented. I might even classify this in the singer/songwriter genre.
This EP showcases a number of different sides to the band. The one constant are the impressive vocals. Take a listen.
Buddy V has been performing solo and in bands since 1985. The veteran musician recently released Meet Me Again. His music mixes styles like rock, country, folk and blues styles. The influence here definitely leans towards more classic genres and I for one have no problem with them. He mentions Dylan, Neil Young, Steve Earle, Wilco and The Band as musicians you can hear a hint of. I’d say for the most part there is a blanket of Americana infused within these songs. There were a couple times Leonard Cohen came to mind.
“There's Another Man” is the opening track and contains a joyous and celebratory vibe. I loved the vocal harmonies on this song as well as the diverse instrumentation. The fiddle, guitars and organ was a nice organic mix of instrumentation.
“Nuthin' begins with a strummed acoustic guitar and vocals. It seems like he is celebrating or at least accepting sadness and weakness. That being said the chorus yearns for better days. The title track “Meet Me Again” is more pensive and melancholy than anything that came before. His singing is a little more intimate and the instrumentation consists of strummed acoustic and a termolo laced electric playing lead.
Up next is “What For” which is very upbeat. There is a rockabilly vibe on the verge of theatrical. It’s a romp and sounded a little like something you might hear on The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“Insomnia / Mirror Mirror” was a personal favorite that includes subtle cello playing. This song is a little darker and mysterious. There is a bit of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits on this song. The spaghetti western guitar was great. The country tinged “A Place For You” was warm and comforting while “Not Blue” mixes a number of different styles but is really slick and sleek sounding. “More Than Just Friends” is borderline bluegrass but didn't sound out of place. “Pockets Full Of Rocks” is a warm rock ballad and closes with “Daylight On The Horizon” which is a nostalgic breakup song.
All things considered this was a diverse album. The talent and experience of Buddy V is undeniable. Take a listen.
Before listening to a single note of WAR by The Writing South I had a feeling this was going to be powerful music. I mean look at the album art and the album is called WAR. Brendan Cavanaugh is the man behind the music. He explains the album was “a six-year journey, with most of the songs having been written in the midst of a formative spiritual journey and a tumultuous personal event.”
The album is relatively short coming in at thirty-six minutes but I for one always appreciate brevity. Maybe I need to meditate more or I’m just a by-product of this society where our threshold for engaging outside stimuli is constantly being ramped up but it’s hard to just listen to an album from beginning to end especially if it goes past the fifty-minute mark. WAR is epic enough that I think the thirty-six minutes is all that was needed.
The album starts with “Won” which is short enough to be an intro and contains fully realized vocal melodies that are juxtaposed against heavy hitting drums and reverb laced guitars. Cavanaugh’s vocals reach a crescendo on this song which dissipates and then seamlessly flows into “For Who I Never Was.”
“For Who I Never Was” is a mix of pop and indie rock. You can hear shades of bands like Coldplay but also Arcade Fire. Either way the song has a lot of upbeat, cathartic energy. The drums are tribal, the guitars soar and the lyrics felt like declarations of someone who is realizing some sort of truth about themselves or the universe itself.
“No Matter What” does not let up. There is a mix of white noise, guitar, drums and an all around motivational feeling you get when listening to this song. “Feral” finds some really intense crescendos that felt closer to post-rock while “I’ve Got Fire for a Soul” is a short ambient piece. “Ain’t No Giant,” “Burnin’ Like a Coal” and “Return” return to this energy that is striving for the most epic of heights. The album ends with “Maw” but don’t miss “Viscosity Bonus Demo” which doesn't sound like a demo.
This is an album that demands your attention. I’m not sure it’s music you’ll want to play if you want to have a conversation over dinner. The point I’m getting at is that it doesn't feel like background music to me.
WAR is certainly grand in scope and vision. Under the right set of circumstances, songs like these can feel life affirming. Recommended.
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There are plenty of topics that have been explored in the singles I have heard from the upcoming album from Go Set Go. None have been so on the nose as “I Just Wanna Be Your Lover” which is the most classically romantic song I’ve heard from MikeTV aka Go Set Go.
The song starts suddenly with lead guitar, drums, rhythm guitar and bass. I loved the melody which is off kilter and actually reminded me of Nirvana although there was no distortion. It’s like a march that is ascending. MikeTV always gets me with his catchy melodies and that’s no exception with the chorus. It’s catchy but short. He doesn't linger there long before going back to verse and then going back again.
The song is actually pretty sweet at points when he talks about being with his lover for a lifetime. That being said the song gets sexual. There are some groans which certainly sounds like a simulated sex act. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting and it reminded me of the groans you hear in the song ‘Rocket Queen” from Guns N' Roses.
Is this the most poetic or thought provoking song I hear thus far from the new album? Nope, not even close. It’s a straightforward declaration and sometimes that can be a good thing. Sometimes it’s best just to come out and say it. Hey you know what “I want you” and yes “I want to be with you.” There are times it’s best to skip the poetic ambiguity and just say what you mean so the other person can understand.
“I Just Wanna Be Your Lover” is therefore a pretty punk rock song in a number of ways. It’s direct, uncompromising and isn’t afraid to get down.
Mike Bon Jorno is an experimental multi-instrumentalist rock artist living in Germany; Kevin Hutchings is a folk-pop lyricist, vocalist and author living in western Canada. They met about three years ago and released Truth to Power which they explain contains seven “protest” songs. Furthermore they sing about relevant issues but it’s also important to mention they don’t want these songs to come off as anti-American.
They open with “I Wanna Go To America” which is an extremely political song that overtly leans left. The song is narrowly focused on people on the right and all the cliches and stereotypes that go along with that. He is basically saying he will visit once again once he feels these problems are figured out. I have a lot of thoughts about this which I’m not going to get into.
“Remember The Good Times” is much less politically fueled. I felt it was much more easy to appreciate. The melodies were great and so was the general message. They continue to have success with “Terrible Tuesday.” This song has a very straightforward narrative about family and anger.
“Cancel My Trip” is where he re-visits the themes of the first songs. Up next is “Lies, Damned Lies” which is an acoustic song that kind of just glosses over political subjects you hear about on the Internet.
“The Great American Reality Show” has a bit of an old Led Zeppelin vibe. The melodic “Hello Paris” has some of the catchiest melodies. I also loved “Banned At The Border” while “Fool's Paradise” is a warm song. They close on “No More War” which is the perfect song to end on and had a great message.
I currently live in Chicago. I talk to people everyday and I’m out there in the field making real connections. It’s important to realize that the Internet and social media in particular are amplifying our differences, not mitigating them. The case seems to be that the extremes on both sides are the ones who are most highlighted by the media. I will say I know a lot of people on the left and the right and they are just normal people, who want to go to work, be happy and be loved.
There is a world where we can coexist and the reality is that when we talk to people face to face (and not through screens) this is more likely to happen. And even if there are notable differences we are more likely to empathize with someone when we are within their physical space. I think that’s why I really liked that the album ended with “No More War.“ It’s an important message.
Sometimes you just need a catchy tune that is free of pretense. That’s the vibe I was feeling with Ball Bearing by PB Atom. The songs in mood and style are somewhere between Vampire Weekend and The Shins. It’s a bit like ear candy although unlike actual candy it's good for you and doesn't make you feel guilty after consuming it.
The band opens with “Anxiety Daydream” which is more or less perfect power pop. I loved the energy of the music which is fun, upbeat and might give you an extra boost of adrenaline. The lead vocals match the music. His vocal delivery is exciting and he seemed genuinely exuberant and full of life. Great opener.
“Befores and Afters” was equally as fantastic as the opener. The song mixes pads with acoustic guitar with some impressive tom work on the drums. Perhaps my favorite aspect was that the song has zero fat. It’s just under two-and-a-half minutes and still felt fully realized. In fact, I can say the same exact thing about the remaining songs.
“Imagining the Sky Over Olecko” which is even shorter but still is a great song revolving around jangly guitars, what sounds like harmonica and an impressive rhythm section. You might think “Isolated” might be the more melancholy track but no; they evoke the spirit of The Velvet Underground on this song mixed with a bit of A. C. Newman. “Philadelphia” was some ’70s psychedelia that’s mixed in with the power pop while “Too Dark to See” contains power pop mixed with a little more garage rock a la The Strokes. And the chorus on “Too Dark to See” is undeniably infectious.
I thought this was a great EP. It’s unequivocally repeat worthy and just a blast to listen to. Rock on.
John Gamble (guitar), David Grow (bass), Jeremy Harvey (vocals/guitar) and Eric Murphy (drums) are Low Vault. The band formed in 2018 and quickly got the ball rolling and released Hoping, Not Hopeful.
The songs meld alternative and indie aesthetics with a hint of emo and pop punk. There is also this coming of age thing happening here which feels like it's intended for a younger audience (when I say younger I mean 20’s). It’s not on the nose like I just graduated college and I will miss my more youthful days but it seems to scratch at these topics with more poetic language. The pop punk inflection in the vocals also made me feel this way.
They open with “Required Contrast.” I liked the groove they begin the song with especially those guitar fills. The lyrics hint at things like depression, free will and even the chaos of life itself. Lines like, “Will we be stuck between / The autumn hum or the summer heat / Or will we give up / Or otherwise self destruct” stick with you. The chorus is anthemic with vocal harmonies and had a good amount of pop punk on it.
“Death & Chardonnay” seems to be more about death than chardonnay. The lyrics conjure up images of being at someone’s wake. Musically, the song is pretty diverse. There are more introspective moments but also times where the song rocks out.
“Routine Card Game” was the highlight in my opinion. The vibe is a little more indie rock and early Modest Mouse came to mind. I thought the riffs on this song were wicked. The guitar work was inventive and weaved a web of patterns on the verse. They end with with a grand outro questioning free will itself. It’s a valid question the likes of Sam Harris, Sean Carroll and many other public intellectuals debate about.
This short EP shows a band that have found their chemistry fast. That’s a good sign. They are a young band and I wish them luck as they evolve. I’m looking forward to hearing more and where they go from here.
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