Rachel Elion Baird is a singer/songwriter, musician, poet and artist who grew up in the Bay Area. She readily implements in her sound luminescent vocals, startling lyricisms and West-Coast rock roots. Blue, Blue Box is her debut album.
Drawing inspirations from her wanderlust, deep connection to nature and spirituality, Baird writes songs about everything from paying homage to Jack Kerouac on “Forty Years Past” to meeting Emily Dickenson’s ghost on “Emily’s Magnolia” and reviving Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” on “Leonardo” with its historic references and sweet minor progressions resolving in major key. Revolving around an impressive imagination and a deep respect for the intangible, Baird imbues in her works a poeticism that goes on to shape her renderings in a very powerful way.
A 11-track album, Blue, Blue Box gets moving with “Marco Polo.” You can really feel Baird strutting her style on this anthemic song. The music pulsates with a dramatic drumming beat and percussions and has a classic rock vibe to it. Up next is “Noticed,” where bouncy rhythms on the drums pulsate on this track. Sung with an edgy, discordant vibe, you can definitely feel Baird’s energy pulling us toward the music. Half-sung and spoken word, the performance felt very spontaneous. It definitely vied for my attention.
A smooth, jazzy lounge vibe could be detected on “Just Like Leonardo.” The cool, soothing tones go on to project itself here. The reverberating sounds of the guitar rolls in on “Woman At The Well.” Baird’s vocals come in with no holding back. Mellow guitars in a country-twang mode evoke another place and time on “Now.” Combined vocal harmonies are melodious and an interwoven piano adds a soft aspect to this song.
“Island Girls” felt like an undeniable highlight. A piercing melody is executed on the guitar. The driven notes continue in the song as the combined vocal layers come in. The sound evokes a timeless feel. “Wait And See” felt like a ballad. The beauty of the song really took my breath away. On “Dreamland,” a more rock n’ roll centered sound gets executed. Next, electronic beats unveil a more techno, trance vibe to the track. This sound felt different from the other songs as Baird moves toward more innovative technological fare on this number. On the outro “Emily’s Magnolia,” Baird’s vocals display a hushed sensibility. The tone and mood felt just right. This was a great way to quietly close the album.
Deeply ingrained in storytelling, Baird brings her unique perspective in actualizing these tracks. At the core of this album is the guitar, and you can see how layers of instrumentation further the sound. Baird’s vocals are on-key throughout as she ties in the main themes surrounding each track. As symbolism, imagery and musical sensibilities come together, Blue, Blue Box is a record that places as much importance on mood and feeling as it does on craft. Built to last, this album exudes a timelessness that is worth diving into again and again. The more you listen, the more the sound will grow on you. This was a solid effort and I look forward to seeing more from this artist. Be sure you have a listen today!
British rock group Motorcycle Display Team is doing a “re-launch” of their 2018 album Yours Probably. The launch comes at a time when the band is seeing some success. They embarked on a UK tour in 2019 and their single “Darline” is getting airplay around Europe and the UK. Revisiting Yours Probably also comes at a good time because most people are only interacting with music via streaming.
The members of Motorcycle Display Team are music veterans having released two EPs and two full-lengths since their formation in 2007. Emo and pop punk’s success in the early 2000s informs Motorcycle Display Team’s sound even to this day.
Yours Probably opens with the song “Ice Age,” an earnest, humorous and not always flattering telling of earth’s history through a religious lens. The band highlights inconsistencies, saying, “Giant reptiles walked the earth / yet none of them were welcome on the ark.” Motorcycle Display Team successfully tells vivid stories like this while not compromising the music. The songs are still catchy and full of energy.
Take “Resistance is Fertile,” for example. The track features a groovy bass line and catchy vocal melodies. It’s impossible not to sing along with “beauty is a revolving door.” The guitar solo on the bridge is a bit atypical, but it’s a nice change that makes the final chorus hit harder.
“Oh Country, My Country” is perhaps the best example of Motorcycle Display Team’s songwriting ability. The song rips with each member having a highlight moment on the track. The bass and drums work in tandem with an extreme intensity while the guitar solo works in the same way as “Resistance is Fertile,” only this time, it stays more in line with the vocal melody. The lyrics on this one also hit with the band critiquing nationalism, saying, “Oh country, my country / any other is an enemy.” Motorcycle Display Team’s ability to write equally catchy and clever songs is something special.
Motorcycle Display Team’s 2018 album Yours Possibly sees the band building on their established sound. The project is energetic and tackles serious topics with ease. My only concern is if the band's emo and pop punk-tinged sound has run its course with listeners. But the band also has nothing to lose by revisiting this album. They can see how it lands with people and generate some excitement for a new release.
An Atlas For Disappearing Youth is the alias of Derek Van Gleson, a multimedia artist based in Minneapolis, MN. An Atlas For Disappearing Youth is his self-titled debut and is his first dive into his solo endeavor. Previously, he was the writer/guitarist/art director for Murder Shoes and Witch Watch (also Minneapolis based).
While Murder Shoes resided in Mazzy Star/Pixies indie territory and Witch Watch in the post-punk/goth domain, An Atlas For Disappearing Youth sees Gleson combining these elements from both his prior bands into his latest album. Drawing from influences from 4AD artist Bauhaus/Tones and Tail/Cocteau Twins, Rema Rema and Lush, early arty punks Wire, Swell Maps, Glaxo Babies and Joy Diversion as well as Pavement, Robyn Hitchcock and the Velvet Underground, you can definitely hear these artists in his sound. Covering indie rock, post-punk and rock, Gleson furthers his sound with acoustic instrumentation in each track that overall adds a live element to these songs. Ill-contained and moody, the brushes into gothic territory really brings out the darkness to the sound. As ambience plays a large part of this album, so does the darkness. As you listen on, you can’t help but embrace this bit of darkness.
“Ley Lines/I Know My Resignation Rider” projects a pulsating vibe. The mood and style felt very much in the noir arena, as some dark undertones surface. After a long introduction, finally Gleson’s vocals appear. They are subdued with the music overpowering his voice. It was hard to make out what he was saying, yet the music felt very melodic. The track segues into “Hesitation 75.” Guitars detail the sound and the music felt hazy. The music felt very inviting and pleasing to the ears.
On “Beat Sandwich” as guitars flow through the recording, Gleson’s echo-y vocals were saturated with reverb. The song combines hip hop-centered beats with a rock-based sound. The band does a total sonic flip with the acoustic number “Can’t Be Gone.” The guitar fuels Gleson’s dynamic vocals. In this fiery piece, I could really feel the range of emotions underlining the track. Moody bass moves the music forward on “Under Wood Milk.” Glesen utters the lyrics in a half-sing-song manner all the while unveiling a spoken word vibe. Synths come in, coloring in more of the ambience. On “Circles,” an epic drumming beat that felt like the rhythms you would hear marching into war felt exciting and raw. “Of All The Authors” starts off with a dramatic drumming beat as full-ranging guitars add traction to this song. As percussions liven up the mood, this proved to be one compelling closer.
The lo-fi quality to the music offered up a very raw sound that points to the band’s live sound. While you can tell right from the start that this was a home recording, Gleson makes music that felt very unadulterated. Due to its unpolished sounds, the notes of indie rock, post-punk and goth within these tracks felt very unrestrained and free of boundaries.
While the majority of these tracks went for a more indie rock-based sound, I really felt that his acoustic renderings like on “Can’t Be Gone” really hones into an organic vibe. With stripped-down layers on the guitars, the simplicity of the track goes on to aptly support the overflowing emotions brimming on his vocals. I felt that an album going in that direction would really embrace his rock roots while also fleshing out the sound that he was going for. While I would like to see more tracks in that order, this was a solid first effort, and only goes to show that this is only the beginning for the artist. I look forward to seeing what new sounds he cooks up next.
Austin based indie synth rock duo Saturday Morning Cartoons formed in 2019 and got to work quickly and released Retro Nights. The duo explains, “The majority of the songs draw inspiration from different time periods. With songs about growing up in arcades and suburbs and more, the Retro Nights EP plays like a love letter to nostalgia itself; calling out for ‘better days’ in the past that may not always be as good as they seem.” On a personal note as a kid growing up in the ’80s I appreciate the shout out to arcades which were a blast.
The band opens with “2000’s Style” which begins with jangly strummed guitar chords. You are soon greeted to melancholy vocals, an electronic drum set and atmosphere. The idea of nostalgia feels contained within the music. It’s warm and the song feels like it floats. The song is also catchy but there really wasn’t much of a hook. Up next is “Radio Static Sphere” which has a similar atmosphere to the first song but is a little more funky. The bass is kicking on this song and the song is fleshed out with a good amount of transitions.
“Health Insurance” was a highlight in the batch. I was reminded of the band Real Estate. The vocals and guitar patterns came together nicely in this song and were very lush and comforting. Right around the two-minute mark the band finds some of their best instrumental sections.
“Milk Carton Kids” has more of a bedroom synth vibe. The vocals are well done and are some of the catchiest on the record which sounds similar to Local Natives. They close with the most intimate sounding song in the batch called “Retro Nights” which is also quite dynamic at points.
The newly formed group’s DIY first effort sounded good and certainly displays potential. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this young band
Royce DeZorzi & the New Freedom Movement is a band from Denver, Colorado that is composed of Royce DeZorzi (guitar), Josh Van Wey (keys), Josiah Contreras (bass) and Dominic Fante (drums). The band formed in June of this year and got to work quickly.
Their self-titled release Royce DeZorzi & the New Freedom Movement is a bit unusual. There are three songs and two of the songs are covers but not really in a way because the covers are so far from the original versions. They open with “The Sweet Escape” which is a song by Gwen Stefani. It’s completely instrumental and they more or less just take the main melody and just jam on it. There is a sweet mix of organ, bass, guitar and drums. I liked it quite a bit and it was a jam that could just keep going and it does for almost ten minutes.
“Neeeze, Please!” is their own original song and this is more or less just a straight jam. It reminds me of my college days when I lived in a college town and was very much into jam bands like Phish and Umphrey's McGee. It was that type of vibe.
They close with “Mr. Brightside” which is a cover of The Killers’ song but similar to the first song in that it’s just a canvas for them to explore. This was my favorite song of the three. It was dynamic and I thought there were a lot of inventive changes and interpretations.
One thing I really liked about these recordings was the obvious sound of tape. According to the band, “The recording was done in one afternoon, recorded over an old reel of Bruce Springsteen tunes. DeZorzi brought a 4-channel tape machine that he had bought off Craigslist into the studio and engineer Matt Legge (Peter Frampton, Taylor Swift, Ringo Starr, etc.) agreed to do the record with it.” As a engineer myself I thought this worked out quite well. The saturation and compression of the tape really gels the instrumentation and gives it a sound that crackles.
The whole concept was to capture something live and the band did that quite successfully proving they have chemistry. As I mentioned this was a bit of an unusual release. On that note I’d be interested to hear some more originals in the future. If they are going for covers might I suggest “Eye Of The Tiger.”
Midnight Harvest is a rock band based out of greater Boston that recently released a self-titled four song album Midnight Harvest. Their music contains a nice mix of rock, funk, R&B and even some jazz. I found the songs a pleasure to listen to.
They open with “Ain’t Gonna Shed a Tear” which is an upbeat and funky song. All of the instrumental aspects are great here but the rhythm section just slays. The bass and drums are all over the place in a good way. It’s also quite catchy and fun. The vocals are smooth and the guitar solo is also on point.
Up next is “When” and this song took a little more time to set in. The vocals are sort of sensual. I liked the verse but the transition to the chorus was harder for me to lock in with. There is a great breakdown jazz section towards the end that I really enjoyed.
“Royal Egret'' had an intriguing beginning. The timing of the dynamics caught my attention and when the band locked in I thought it sounded good. There is a feeling of the band slowing down and speeding up. It’s not that they aren’t in the pocket but there is an ebb and flow. The song has some open improvisation and there are some straight jams in the middle.
They close with “Gonna Try (Extended Version)” which is the smoothest jam yet and probably the most accessible song. The vocalist sounds his best here and there are just some great instrumental aspects and we even get some horns on the chorus.
This was a tight EP from a talented band. They sounded great and very organic and natural. Recommended.
Jarbins is a solo project from the multi-instrument of Alex Nicholson out of Athens, GA. He recently released When We Fade. Similar to countless other artists I have read about, Nicholson felt the need to delve into his solo project when COVID-19 hit and he was no longer able to put his energy into live music. Also similar to many other bedroom artists the setup is very minimal. In this case one mic and a laptop.
There are seven songs and they are somber, reflective acoustic songs. It starts with “Scratch The Clouds” which is a pleasant intro. It’s soft with acoustic guitar and light percussion. The song ends as it starts to feel like it is beginning to grow.
“Rebirth” is the song where we are treated with some vocals. Nicholson strums a couple of guitar chords and sings falsetto. The melancholy yet warm and nostalgic vibe worked well and has some similarities to Radiohead.
“Custom Concern” is a highlight. I really enjoyed the vocals on the song. It does come from a little woe is me and similar to lamenting in early Bright Eyes. As an engineer I was picking up on the very low subs that were happening. I’m not sure why this was occurring but using a high pass filter to cut anything below about 35hz might have helped.
“Energy” seems to have a different singer during the verse or perhaps he changes his voice here. I was thoroughly confused by the personality change which happens in his voice at the end of the song. The song contains a ukulele which adds to the intimacy. “When We Fade” felt like a classic singer/songwriter type of tune as did “Hard Drugs.” Last up is “Everything Is Falling” which contains some of the best recorded and delivered vocals.
These songs have the classic sensitive artist type of quality similar to Bright Eyes and many others who provide intimate yet pained performances. Nicholson pulls it off. That being said I think obvious next steps would be to hit a studio to really bring out the songs.
Overall, I thought these songs were well written and delivered. There are a lot of qualities in the songs I think people will gravitate towards.
Siren Satellite is a band from San Diego that recently released The Soundrive. Their EP contains five songs. The band has a straightforward rock sound that is most aligned with a 90’s aesthetic.
They begin with “Everclear” and you are introduced to some guitars before the distortion pedals come on and in a very ’90s fashion start to rock. The song revolves around 4/4 time, major and minor chords, and catchy vocal melody.
“Convertible Cars (I’ve Got the Maps” is up next and reminded me specifically of a band called The Wrens. This song was a highlight. The cleaner production benefits their style and I thought the vocalist sounded good with the more emotive palette of sounds surrounding him.
The band gets back into rock mode with “Lunatic” which revolves around jangly chords, a steady bass and dynamic drumming. They have more success with “Sunder.” The band closed with the catchiest song on the EP entitled “Apart from History.”
The EP was cohesive and the songs didn’t present any surprises good or bad. It felt like an EP that would mesh well with a playlist of bands are far ranging from The Killers to Nirvana to Matthew Sweet. The band proved them themselves to be talented songwriters and performers.
As an engineer myself I felt there was something to be desired with the recordings at points. The guitars were a little thin for my personal preference and the dynamics of the songs didn’t always pop.
Overall, I would say this release has a solid batch of songs. Fans of ’90s rock will especially gravitate towards these songs. Take a listen
Tom Ciurczak is a musician who says he got bitten by the music bug when he was a kid watching the Beatles then they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show back in 1964. Although music wasn’t his sole profession it seems to be a constant in his life and I’m sure one reason he decided to create his album Call Me Ishmael.
His music is very influenced by American music. In particular Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Steve Earle are artists that people mention when listening to his music. I have to say I agree and sometimes the Springsteen influence felt too noticeable to me.
I was listening to the first song “Guys Like Me” and I could hear multiple influences on this song. For example on the verse his affectation when he sings sounds like classic Bruce Springsteen but when the chorus he changes his voice and it sounds noticeably different.
The songs generally have a classic ’60s and ’70s rock feel. My theory that musicians later in life end up making what they loved as teenagers and in their early 20’s seems once again proven to my ears. I never got the feeling Ciurczak was trying to update his sound to a more contemporary 2020 type of quality. These songs and the recordings as well seem to be a tip of the hat to a specific splice of American rock.
There weren’t any surprises when I was listening to the songs. Everything felt fairly straightforward but there were some highlights. I really loved the upbeat ballad “Mine Torne Road” as well as the female vocalist on “Strung Out.” The fun summer jam “Sunny Came Back” is a great song and I also enjoyed the playful “Winter Highland Falls.”
The songwriting for that matter was consistently good and there was a good amount of variety. Ciurczak wears his influence on his sleeve but there is plenty of it to be had making for an eclectic album that I think a lot of people will appreciate. I was definitely one of them and you might be too. Take a listen.
Kid Bowery is a musician and writer from the lower east side of NYC who recently released Colony Collapse. The EP contains three songs which felt like emotive rock ballads. I was reminded of bands as far ranging as The Velvet Underground and The Clientele.
There is no way I can pass up giving you the description of this release from the artist’s mouth. Bowery says, “Colony Collapse explores the uncertainty of our times through the eyes of discontented bees whose populations continue their mysterious decline, and self-destructive geniuses who careen toward internal apocalypse in spite of the love of those around them.”
The first song is entitled “Testimony of Pilot” and is a slow burn that is also the highlight to my ears. It starts off minimal and soft with drums and lonely guitar strings. The vocals sound great here and I loved his inflection and delivery.
I also enjoyed the subtle atmosphere which surrounds the song. It’s again very open and makes the moments heading towards a crescendo that much more powerful which happens towards the end. The band Oasis actually came to mind when the songs started rocking.
“No Bees Up in Here” has a lounge-y relaxed vibe that reminded me of The Velvet Underground at least at first. The verse is composed of single piano notes, organ and drum beat which holds it all together. I was not expecting the chorus to come so suddenly but it does so with no warning. The chorus sounds big and anthemic - Pink Floyd type of big with hall reverb.
Last up is “Colony Collapse Devolution Mix” which contains the most constant energy of the three. It’s a bit of romp and the most catchy, pretty fun and joyful sounding to me. There is also an outro psychedelic jam that consists of drums, organ and eventually guitar that I wasn’t expecting but proved a good addition.
I liked all three of these songs and felt like they melded together which made for a seamless listen. Additionally, I thought the slightly lo-fi recording matched the music. I hope this is just the beginning and I hope to hear a full length at some point.
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