Located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, singer/songwriter Clayton Crowder came out with his debut EP Bones this past summer. Crowder has a history of playing in different bands over the past decade, such as guitar in a side band called Kiss Kiss Bang that also happens to have an EP out called Hearts On Fire. But he also performs originals in his solo acoustic shows and describes his sound as part Tom Petty, part Ryan Adams-ish.
Bones was recorded at Gem City Studios by Matt McQueen – who also helped Crowder with producing the EP – and mastered by David Caplinger at Soothsayers Audio. Other musicians who lent their talents to the songs were Dustin Lambdin on bass and additional guitars, Shawn Siler on drums, Dylan Tiller also on drums on the song “Nine Pound Hammer,” Jordan Enfield on keys/organ and Smith Curry on pedal steel.
In the opener “Runaway” Crowder sings about some ‘honey’ that runs around, sleeps around and then leaves their lover high and dry. But he cautions – “running won’t save your life.” A mix of alternative, roots flavored rock can be heard clearly.
“Hurricane” continues a style of rock that’s maybe just a bit in the category of country rock, in the style of Keith Urban I’d say, but less country and heavier like a Ryan Adams. An awesome, gritty guitar solo takes over between verses giving this number extra energy. The break in between with the thunderous drums and instruments dropping out, was also well executed and sounded great.
Crowder’s last tune is “Nine Pound Hammer” which taps into a more country-fried flavor of style and sound. Here he sings about giving life’s circumstances the best shot he can, despite being dragged through the mud that “these natural limits” that are “given to flesh and bone.” The beginning line seems to suggest letting life run its course – “I can feel it in my bones / Crawling underneath my skin and it’d probably go away if I would leave it alone” and “But God I know what’s done is done / Didn’t think it’d feel so final / Maybe solace comes when you’re on the run?” After just a short sample of songs, Clayton Crowder give the listener a great consistent sound and opens the door to whatever comes next down the road.
Slyp is a three-piece indie pop group from Springfield, MO that recently released Thanks For The Slow Fade. The band is aligned with bands like Frankie Cosmos and Snails to a lesser degree.
This new generation of indie rockers seem to have a more compact and simple format of like minded bands from the ’90s. Bands like Yo La Tengo and Pavement were bands I was listening to in the '90s when I was in high school. It’s almost as if this brand of indie rock is condensing their ideas into short vignettes that don’t go past the three-minute mark with more simple chord progressions.
None of the songs on Thanks For The Slow Fade are over three minutes and in that time frame there usually isn’t more than a verse and chorus. They open with “clammy hands” and they seem to hit all the right points. It’s catchy but melancholy in that Frankie Cosmos sort of way.
This continues with the more melancholy “TYPICAL” and more energetic “sea change, see change.” There is a nice ebb and flow with these songs all of which have a similar foundation. As the album progresses the songs felt consistent in terms of delivery and songwriting. This “indie” in Indie rock feels very emphasized with these songs. The band certainly seems to be most aligned with Frankie Cosmos to a point where I have a hard time telling their sounds apart.
There are some minor issues with the recording quality but most of all it’s that there are varying degrees of quality. Some songs are more lo-fi while others seem to have more clarity. As I’ve mentioned in the past a reputable mastering engineer can help with issues like these.
I do like this music quite a bit although I have to admit I feel like its audience leans towards people in their early and mid 20’s. Something about this sound just hits on that suburban hum of melancholy yet is sort of care free. That being said fans of indie rock young and old should spend some time with this. Take a listen.
Melbourne band Kaz Garaz is a group of very fine gentlemen who bleed the summer of love feeling and a good bit of humor on their second EP Something To Help Pass The Time. The grooves are groovy, the melodies catchy and the lyrics a sort of high-brow parody that comes off very pleasantly.
They boast a thoroughly “Euro” sound that incorporates the snarl of Alex Turner and the colorful palette of Franz Ferdinand and Cream. Tasty licks weave throughout, courtesy of lead guitarist William Soulsby, who affects the bluesy excitement of a hot pot of soup bowling over. Check out “Dunce in the Corner” for Soulsby on center stage, delivering riffs like a young Kenny Burrell while his mates bash through the mid-tempo blues, virtual transplants of the chitlin-circuit.
At four fast tracks, Something To Help Pass The Time is in concept a grab bag of differing styles meant to showcase Kaz Garaz as a highly competent band that are still trying to find an individual footing. What distinguishes the boys as they wear their influences like thrift-store fashion are high quality lyrics and a cohesive production style which builds on crunchy guitar tones, melodic bass lines, tight arrangements and a relatable vocal.
A combination of “in-jokes” and recorded studio goofiness elevates Kaz Garaz from just another retro-rock outfit to those cool friends who light up any room. “Swill” with its minor progression and rapid-delivery reeks of 20-something emotion and hefty bar tabs. The staccato chops and fuzzed out guitar that transitions back to a subdued vocal and guitar define Kaz Garaz’ use of unexpected dynamics to keep listeners on their heels.
In my opinion, Kaz Garaz hit a stride with their second release that few young bands are able to these days, packing not only a high set of songs, but a distinctive personality into a breezy 15 minutes. I’m left wanting more music, and more information on these boys who so effortlessly convey a wit and worldliness that simply cannot be ignored. Obviously, outgrowing their influences and forming a more individual sound out of the disparate styles presented on Something To Help Pass The Time is the expected evolution, and a longer playing release would be a delight. But until then, count me at the party.
Memry-Man is a two-piece instrumental rock band based in Austin, TX comprised of Mario Alvarado (drums) and Robert Howard (guitar/bass). Their release Technasma is a four-song EP that mixes elements of post-rock, math-rock and more.
It’s an intense release and doesn't let up. There is an onslaught of instrumentation along with very technical and precise performances. They get going with “Dizzy GoRound” which is an apt name. It begins with delayed guitar which begins to create this psychedelic swirl. The drum work is impressive with metronome-like playing that is also creative. A little after the one-minute mark the song starts to really ramp up and creates a sense of vertigo, hence the name of the song. It gets more crazy after that as they seem to outdo themselves with crescendo after crescendo.
The band keeps that momentum going with the adrenaline inducing “Ultra Max” which has a bit more of a grounded groove. That being said the song soon gets torn to shreds with hair splitting lead guitar and an amazing performance from the drummer. By the two-and-a-half-minute mark the band is again toppling every crescendo that it can one after another.
The delayed guitar is back on “When Cats Attack” and oh man did I love the bass line on this song. This song is slick and I just loved the groove. It is also arguably the most post-rock sounding with a band like Explosions in the Sky coming to mind. The band finds some of their most epic moments on the EP at around the two-and-a half-minute mark. It’s like a firework show and somehow they find a way out of it which leads to the outro.
They close with the highlight “Gravitron.” I really wanted to see what the drummer was doing here. The performance was crazy technically. I loved how distorted and hard this song sounded. It’s almost mechanical and sounded like a robot army charging on a battlefield. The song goes into a number of interesting areas a lot of which I wasn’t expecting. They turn on a dime so quickly.
This band tears it up. Turn this one up loud.
JCCalvet is a musician from New York who graduated from Berklee College of Music, worked as an engineer and eventually released RESIZE THE UNIVERSE. That’s a pretty grand name and it’s obvious just by reading his Bandcamp page that he wants to cover just about everything possible. He explains that “with topics about the universe, humanity, love, time and their absence, he seeks not only for the listener to get him, but for them to be one step closer to getting themselves.” In fact he goes into some additional detail on his bandcamp page if you want to read more.
These songs definitely feel as if they are trying to tackle big themes and ideas both in execution and topic. This isn’t easy and in fact in my twenty-five plus working in the music business I’ve learned that if you are setting a high bar for people that’s exactly what they will expect. I’ll admit after I read all the info on Bandcamp including that he is a “genre-bending scientist of the word and sound” that my expectations were extremely high.
I’ll say up front I was impressed by the songs and overall thought this was a great release. There were a wide variety of styles and sounds. The EP starts with “RESIZE THE UNIVERSE” which begins with delicate and warm guitars, what sounds like a xylophone and subtle singing. The chorus goes for epic in an M83 kind of way.
Up next is “half asleep” which begins with an intimate vocal performance. When the guitar fades you get the feeling he is going for something ethereal and when it combines with some of the wind instruments there is a combo of beauty, wonder and happiness. Towards the end of the song, it sounds a little like Sigur Rós.
“her” is a little more subtle and melancholy before it gets to the triumphant chorus with a surrounding organ. His vocals are expressive and emotive on this song. “SIBILANCE” was a highlight. The song combines orchestral elements with a more rock band foundation. I really liked the instrumentation especially the strings and piano. The chorus is definitely epic in a good way.
“a tree” was a very much needed intimate song that doesn't try and hit the dynamic crescendo that the previous songs do. It’s fairly stripped down and intimate. He closes with the very dramatic and thematic “6 A.M. (nightmare sequence).” There is very cool sound design here especially in the beginning which ties together a number of disparate elements. The song leads to an intimate piano performance which questions life in a number of different ways. I liked how it ended abruptly.
RESIZE THE UNIVERSE is a seamless release with powerful and intense songs. Take a listen
Tom Paul is a singer/songwriter from Western PA. In 2001 he released his first album and more recently released his fifth album entitled It's Only Tuesday. There are thirteen songs on this release which are a mix of folk and rock. The music I can be labeled underneath the umbrella of Americana.
The album starts with the title track “It’s Only Tuesday.” There is a little bit of grit to the blues lead guitar but a good amount of upbeat energy to other elements of the music. It’s a catchy tune and also sort of tongue-in-cheek. It doesn't go down a chasm of despair. In fact I could imagine a humorous video accompanying a song like this.
“Gotta Fight It” is right on the nose Americana in terms of the tones and textures I was hearing. The song is ultimately pretty hopeful as Paul sings about the general battle of life itself. “I’m Gonna Miss You” is the first melancholy ballad. I was actually reminded of Pink Floyd on this song. This song is heartfelt, sincere and I liked his voice quite a bit on this track.
“Everybody’s Blue” is the most rocking song so far. I could classify this song as hard rock. There is even an impressive lead guitar solo. The next two songs “What Do You Need” and “One Road’s as Good as Another” were highlights. They are both warm songs with acoustic instrumentation and really great, memorable hooks.
The classical/Portuguese vibe on “When I Think About Love” felt a little out of place compared to the other songs but I still enjoyed this tune.
As the album progresses there are a number of highlights. The Americana infused “We’re Not Open Today” felt like a single worthy hit while the closer “Almost There” changes tone, tempo and styles in a seamless way.
This is a good batch of songs. It will most likely resonant with people who were raised on this music but I encourage anyone to take a listen. Recommended.
6th Event is a solo multi-instrumentalist project by Craig Trumbo who released The Twelve-Year Blues. He explains that “the main thrust of the project is motivated toward examining anxieties concerning the future. It's not just climate change, that's only the backdrop; it's the whole unraveling.”
The music itself doesn't have many hooks or catchy choruses. It’s more like psychedelic collages of sounds. There is spoken word, unusual but inventive sounds and a lot more unique territory.
Up first is “John Galt is Dead” which combines a couple of jangly minor and major chords with wave like percussion and soaring lead guitar. I had a hard time making out the words no matter how many times I listened. He is talking here often in a very melodramatic fashion. A voice is hard panned left and one is hard panned right. I honestly didn’t know what to think after this song. It felt like some disconnected abstract piece in the spirit of David Lynch. I was intrigued.
That sort of disconnect continues with “Backhaul to China” but is even darker. Trumbo combines doom metal which transitions into brighter chords and then goes into a number of disparate sections. The whole song feels like you are going down a rabbit hole of absurdity and random thoughts. I am pretty sure that was the intent.
“A Fast Melt” reminded me of Ariel Pink. In fact, the more I think about it the more it reminded me him and Frank Zappa. This song again goes into a number of different sections with abrupt transitions. There are steel drums, repetitive singing which sounds like a jingle and a couple of more surprises.
“This Inconvenient Stranger” was my favorite song in the batch. There are digital orchestral strings, brush work and spoken word which sounds like it’s from a play. I suppose this song might be the most overtly about climate change but the ambiguous lyrics make it hard to tell. “The Twelve-Year Blues” has this plastic quality to it. There is again this sort of detachment I was feeling as if it was a caricature.
I have to admit I’m a little confused on his angle. I’m pretty sure this was purposely supposed to feel a little absurd and disconnected like Ariel Pink or Frank Zappa. At the very least, this is a piece of art that makes you think which is one of the things good art is supposed to make you do.
Matt Perish is a singer/songwriter who explains on his Bandcamp page that his music dwells on stories, people, and places untold. That to me is a longer way of saying he writes music about life and the human condition. Suffice it to say it’s a broad subject he tackles on Downstate.
His music leans towards the melancholy and felt connected to artists like Fleet Foxes and Elliott Smith. The first song “Cairo” specifically reminded me of Fleet Foxes. He even sounded similar to Robin Pecknold. The song starts with percussive elements and the fading in of an acoustic guitar. It’s warm and in fact covers you like a blanket of solace. The feeling is reflective and sort of stoic. The imagery I had in mind was looking at a vast landscape upon a mountaintop.
“Cold Treatment” has a little more of a melancholy vibe and was grounded on earth. The vibe here felt a little more Kurt Vile. That being said as the song progresses additional guitars make the song sound subtle, more beautiful and even fragile. He sings, “people keep talking about me / getting into my head.” A striking line that I think everyone can identify with.
Next up is “Local” which goes back to the first song where I felt like it was being sung in the Appalachian Hills. There is also a haunting quality to this song. It swings back and forth while posing existential questions. The lead guitar which sounds similar to something Johnny Greenwood would play is one of my favorite musical moments. The song is brief but the brevity is impactful.
Last up is “Boy Blunder” and that initial guitar melody reminded me of “Disarm” by Smashing Pumpkins. The vibe did feel more ’90s to me and less folk based which was hard to pinpoint. The lyrics are striking and Perish creates a sense of empathy.
This is a tight and cohesive release with emotionally resonant songs. The top notch recording, delivery and songwriting created an immersive experience. Take a listen.
Formed in 2015, Bossnova is a Boston-based hard rock quartet with members having a mix of musical backgrounds. Think of heavier Seattle grunge mixed in with some '80s metal, for instance, Black Sabbath and Alice in Chains. Melodic and progressive at times, heavy and groovy at others, the band’s album Blues for the New Eon, offers a big sound. Many of the songs had been written for years and were uploaded to YouTube this September with the current group lineup. The band recorded bass and drums for all nine songs in one 12-hour session at Q Division Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts. The guitars were done at Ronan Recordings, with the vocals finishing up at Q Division. The album was originally supposed to be a five-track EP, but instead turned out to be full-length. Almost a year from tracking to a mastered product, the group calls it “a passion project.”
The opener “Kiss of Death” sounds spot on as if Alice in Chains updated their format from old school ‘90s grunge and sludge to something more polished – but don’t get me wrong, Alice in Chains is one hell of a band. But what Bossnova does here is dead on tight, and their sound is so well produced, make no mistake. The drummer, Joe Cook, really knows his fills well on the skins, too. “Reloaded” gets a little grittier in style, even a little sleazy like late ‘70s Van Halen, but it’s not any less worthy to turn up loud, as I imagine the rest of the album will be. Again, insane drum fills! Also, the guitar licks by Tim Dubuc, killer bass lines by Dave Markunas and stellar vocals by John George all sound like one solid machine of rock. Great stuff so far.
“Fill the Void” definitely has a darker, goth metal style to it with loads of thundering drums, shadowy and sinister vocals and tasty, minor chords. John George sounds very like Lane Staley on this one. What else can I say? – but listen. “Shadows” features some bending guitar chords and plenty of crunchy metal style throughout. The rhythm is somewhat slower, and here again, George is channeling Staley almost to a tee, that I swear sometimes I’m hearing the front man being resurrected from the grave. The lyrics get really, really dark on this tune and for those who like scream singing, this one’s for you. Next is “Medicine God” which has a very unique beginning to it, something I can only describe as “earthy” and other worldly. This one felt to me truer to the memory of early grunge of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Next is “Thalassophile” which I’m still trying to find the definition for, but think it has something to do with the ocean, is one of the few songs on the album that’s written like a ballad. The clean, echoing guitar tones was a welcome change from the distortion… that’s until the band switches into distortion mode again and kicks up the tempo a bit. Overall, this one had the structure of a progressive metal song.
“Drive” feels and sounds like a late ‘80s rock metal song that emerged from the overblown, fluffy hair band crap – think heavy Mötley Crüe, Guns ‘N Roses Appetite for Destruction and early Soundgarden. “Against the Wall” speeds things up quite a bit with classic cutting guitar riffs and very suggestive lyrics. “Traccia Nova” was a head trip – a disturbingly short and dark narration about a “nice” gentleman flower shop owner, cannibalism and a place called, “Mr. Gilmore’s Flower Shoppe” – which happens to be the last song. The transition from the previous song into this last one was great, and musically the band combines guitar sounds that reminded me of “Black Hole Sun” as the bass drum rumbles and extra fills were crazy good. Like previously mentioned, this album has a big sound. I would add to that – full tilt, no holds barred and oh yeah, balls to the wall.
If you like high energy metal with periods of darkness and melodious progressive grooves, you can’t go wrong with this band. I was engaged the whole time, but I may be a bit biased because you do have to like this genre of music, or at least be in the mood – I won’t lie. For an album that was originally a five-song EP, I’m glad they decided to expand it and I look forward to hearing what they’ll do for an encore.
State of Uncertainty hails from Chapel Hill, North Carolina and have played together for well over a year with their current lineup. So far, they’ve played various benefit concerts, bar gigs and small venues and have released their first album Murky Waters this summer which they hope will propel them forward in booking more shows and recording more albums. The album brings together many older sounds from the past into one cohesive rocking experience and its subject matter deals with vices and problems the band members have in their daily lives. The band’s sound is very Black Sabbath with some influences here and there from other early metal bands – count me in! Interestingly, the band’s singer was a rapper before he joined up, and that background comes into play in their final song “Devil's Play.”
Beginning with “General Greed” the band’s sound is raw and has very much a live energy. The guitars have a heavy, jutting rhythm and singing that’s comical in some parts. Some twisted laughing amongst the gravelly vocals comes later, reminiscent somewhere between Dave Mustaine and the lead singer of Molly Hatchet. Next up, is “S.O.U” the band’s acronym and musically it offers a lot of transitions, guitar effects and breaks, making for one hell of a dynamic song. I also thought the main guitar riff sounded like old Judas Priest. “Petty Hoes,” not to be confused with pantyhose, features a bouncy, blues-ish style. The cowbell present is always a welcomed percussion instrument in my book. The group’s overall structure and funny lyrics are quite entertaining, too.
“Hyperaction” begins with a great, syrupy bass line and an equally great guitar riff – very catchy. The band’s style feels to me like a cross between Sabbath and Motörhead. I really liked how this one was musically written and the opening lines – “I don’t know what’s in your mind / I just know it can be refined / In this world there’s no recourse / Me to you is no remorse” perhaps suggests someone not of sound mind. Although later, “but there’s much work to be done” could hint at a ray of hope – where that hope lies, I don’t know. Anyway, I thought this song was one of the band’s best. “Lampe” tones things down with mellow and melodic bass lines, warm organ and warbly guitar playing. It’s a very curious song as it has many different parts to it and the lyrics are sung in German, which you don’t hear every day. How the next song’s introduction was mixed gave my ears a workout, as the bass lines to “Wolves” bounced back and forth in my headphones. This one was another interesting number as it features different tempos and change ups. It almost has an art rock/Jethro Tull quality about it. But then, also think of a mix of other artists and bands like Accept, Edgar Winter and Alice Cooper and you’ll get where I’m headed.
The band’s last tune is “Devil’s Play/I Been Outside” which sets itself apart a bit in terms of how the singer delivers the lyrics in rap style and also how the song is formatted. The bands mixes sounds of grunge, early psych rock metal of the ‘70s and the post-punk/funk stylings of Red Hot Chili Peppers – quite an assortment. I thought this was another one of the band’s best off the album.
From a technical point of view the band could be a tad tighter and a little more more in the pocket. That being said the band offers a good assortment of styles and structures within each song. There is a lot to appreciate here. Take a listen
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