Ins Kono is Evan Farkas. He’s a Raleigh, NC-based singer/songwriter who describes his eponymous release as “chamber pop” that sports “rich arrangements with a flair for the cinematic.” He’s enlisted strings (Camellia Hartman), flute (Jason Juliano), piano (Oliver Ignatius) and baritone sax (Lee Altsher-Wood) players to help him fill out the soundscape on this four-track EP.
The chamber-pop feel is present right from the beginning with string, horns and woodwinds prominent in the opening track “Coming Around.” It’s a poppy tune that repeats its descending four-bar progression all the way through. The shifting instrumental accompaniment almost saves it from being too repetitive; while the track is nicely produced, the ostinato nature of the composition had me hoping for a bridge, or at least a key change.
“All My Friends” follows in a similar vein. For most of the song, it keeps the same bass rhythm with Farkas hammering eighth notes on the chord roots. That bass, mixed front and center, dominates the song, and at points distracts from the interesting string parts. With the choice to mix it so high, some melody and variation from the part would have been nice! In good news, “All My Friends” does have a second section, with its minor-chord feel and layered strings evoking the Moody Blues.
Farkas starts pushing himself on the next two tracks, and finds better results. With “Edmond Dantes,” we get bass movement (yay!) in a very Beatles-esque piece, although once again the bass takes a domineering place in the mix. Around the bass, the track features nice vocal harmonies over the electric piano and chordal guitar comping. The outro piano solo, its classical approach reminiscent of “In My Life,” is a nice cap to a fine three minutes of pop.
“Great Crusade” closes the EP. It’s cinematic and orchestrated with prominent string parts--it’s almost a poem set to music. The long, ethereal outro instrumental was my favorite stretch of music of the whole set. The rhythmic figure passes among the instruments with legato electric-guitar parts filling in the space nicely. The track culminates and fades out with interesting synth sounds, showing nice skill in both composition and soundscape. This finale leaves us thinking about a bright future for Farkas and Ins Kono.
Adam Camm is one half of the London-based duo Halloween Jack with several Bandcamp releases and live performances to their name. This year Camm decided to try something different, leading to his first solo EP titled Echo Chamber, which is available on CD, cassette, vinyl and by download. Camm wrote, recorded and produced everything by himself, playing guitars, pianos and even mellotron for a ’60s feel. His songs blend “cinematic style with elements of Gainsbourg and Barry; with hints of Motown and ’60s pop with modern day indie sensibilities.” Camm recorded at High Cat Studios in Cologne, Germany with the help of Florian Bechte using Pro Tools. In fact, the download version was remastered from a vinyl record to retain that warm analogue sound.
Thematically, Camm says this is not strictly a concept EP, though he wrote everything within the space of a month. However, “lyrically the four songs exude an edge, a common strand of isolation, possibly born from the lockdown in which it was written and recorded.”
“The Girl Next Door Will Sing Alone Tonight” certainly jumps right into the feelings of isolation, specifically about a female neighbor on whose head “rests a veil, a crown of thorns dressed in black.” For me the structure of this song starts out like moody prog, then kicks into retro psychedelia for the choruses. There’s a lot going on here instrumentally and Camm has managed a pretty decent mix. His voice is in a higher range and maybe not what you’d expect for popular music nowadays, but would have felt totally at home in the ’80s.
“Waiting In The Wings” thematically and musically feels very much like a continuation of the first song. Again, Camm’s ability to create a mood of gorgeous dread is quite special, especially with his multiple vocal overdubs. There’s a lot of reverb here but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Bring In The Clown” (love the title’s riff on “Send In The Clowns”) is apparently the big single here, as Camm has created a simple but fun video where he channels Heath Ledger as the Joker. This song really has all of Camm’s ducks in a row, in that its got that retro feel but sounds quite of the moment with a tasty arrangement and killer mix. If I weren’t typing, I’d be dancing right along with him! The EP concludes with “Echo Chamber” which has a slightly ragged garage band feel; sort of ’60s psychedelia as seen through modern indie ears. If I’d heard this track on its own, I’d have been sure it was a total bedroom production.
These four songs were fun to listen to and all show off Camm’s strong musical and songwriting abilities. I’d love to see him continue in the solo lane for a longer, future release.
Mick Gould (guitars/vocals), Jules Hancock (bass/vocals) and John Postlewaite (drums) are Lunar Sea. The three-piece band recently released a self-titled four song EP Lunar Sea. They mention they are primarily influenced by ’60s and ’70s rock and bands like Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and The Who.
“Lose Myself” is the opener and is a fairly straightforward rock song. It revolves around strumming major and minor chords, a 4/4 beat and verse/chorus/verse type structure. The song has a good amount of energy and there is a psychedelic breakdown section around the two- minute mark which is the high point.
“Trickle of Time'' had a more overt Pink Floyd type of feel that contains a cerebral and cosmic quality. The earthy organ sounds good against the fuzzy guitar work and driving drums. There’s a lead guitar solo towards the end which sounds like it came straight from the late ’60s.
“Close Me Eyes” caught my attention with the great bass work. The song embraces more organ and fuzzy guitars and feels like a mix between Pink Floyd and Steppenwolf. There’s also a killer organ solo. They close with the most ballad-like song called “Living On The Green” which to my ears has the best vocal performance and some notable piano work.
Lunar Sea isn't reinventing the wheel here. In fact if I didn’t know when this was recorded I would have guessed in the late ’60s and ’70s. They don’t do much to update this aesthetic but do a good job writing songs that embrace what the legends have planted decades prior.
With that in mind, if you’re a fan of classic rock and in particular Pink Floyd, I think this release should be in your rotation. Recommended.
No Gumption is a band from Rochester, NY that recently released a self-titled six song EP No Gumption. The music is rock based and definitely has a classic emo quality. There’s unbridled youthful exuberance that comes with a lot of emo and that manifests on this release.
They start off with “Departing Flight” and this song primarily shows off their technical and creative skills with their instrument of choice. The band sounds in the pocket and the guitar work really stuck out to me.
“420 Baby” contains vocals although they were more in the background of the song. I couldn’t make out most of the lyrics but I could pick up the spirit in which they were intended. There was a unique transition where the song breaks down into fuzzy feedback, clean chords and builds back up, which caught my attention.
“Threaded & Meshed'' comes in a slower BPM but this gives more room for the instruments to breathe. There’s again some great guitar work and in particular I enjoyed how these two players are feeding off each other. “Lost & Ridden” is actually a very similar BPM but does noticeably speed up towards the end. The band does a solid job with “Swimming In Thoughts.” There’s some screaming on this track but again the vocals felt a little too buried in the mix.
“Every Weakness Makes Me Strong In The End” had the most memorable and infectious vocal melodies. In fact this was the most accessible song and the arguable highlight.
The recordings were raw and lo-fi. I would have liked just a little more separation in the mixes. The dynamics were handled well.
Overall, this seems like the beginning of a young emo band that embraces the aesthetics from the genre. They are off to a good start and I look forward to hearing more.
Jim Halfpenny has been a professional film composer and songwriter for more than twenty years. His composing credits include the original scores for over twenty-five feature length films, music for a Discovery Channel series and jingles for national TV and radio ads. He recently released Tabula Rasa which is a twelve-song album.
The album has its roots in Americana to my ears. Artists like Tom Petty and John Mellencamp came to mind. The songs are on the warmer side of rock with gentle fuzz and sometimes clean guitar, earthy organ and organic sounding bass and drums.
I thought the songwriting was consistently good and there were a number of songs which felt like highlights to me. “Caught Up” was a great one revolving around minor and major chords, a 4/4 beat and memorable vocal melodies. Americana has typically been a very nostalgic genre when examining the lyrics and that’s the case here.
“Thin Brim Hat” was another highlight. The vibe here is a little more bluegrass and country inspired. I think I heard some mandolin on this song. The best part of the song is the hook which I loved the first time I heard it.
“I Know About Love” is a nice mix of emotions. I was receiving a sense of gratitude on this song which was warm and soothes your heart. It’s also pretty hopeful sounding. “Same Full Moon” is one of the more rocking songs and also has some clear Tom Petty influence. The groove is dynamic and I thought the guitar work was sharp and creative.
The closer “Righteous” is more of a slow burn. It felt like a good way to end the album with a thoughtful sentiment. There are some well written words and more melodies which hit at your heart.
This was a finely produced and written album. Fans of Americana in general should queue this one up.
Clare Larsen is a musician in Seattle. In 2019, she received a Bachelor's Degree in music composition and has continued to compose and write songs in her free time. That would eventually become Get Well Soon.
Get Well Soon, according to the artist, “is a coming of age story loosely based on Clare Larsen's life. It outlines her transition from her childhood in the country to the beginning of her adult life in the city. This transition is reflected not only in lyrics, but in sound as well.”
The album starts with “Life in the Country” which is a slow sprawl of a song and one of the highlights. There’s a mix of drums (using brushes), fiddle, guitar and horns. The vocals are unique and sort of mix between heartfelt sentiment with a gloss of melancholy. Some of the lines I thought were brilliant and pretty funny. My favorite was “Last night, I had a dream, I was a chicken with bright feathers.”
“Mom's Boyfriend” seems to have a noticeable affectation. Perhaps a little country on this song. Another highlight was “The Other Side” where I loved the horns. Larsen is singing in a sort of stream of consciousness style. The topic is timely and regards to the tribal nature humans have.
I think Larsen might like chickens? She brings them up again on “Happy Chickens.” Larsen sings “We have locked ourselves in cages / We are like Tyson chicken / And I wanna be a free range chicken.” This song cracked me up.
“Don't Go Outside” is sort of a dark and doom ridden song. It worked and I wasn't sure what to expect next. Up next is “I Can't Tell You’ which again sort of dabbles with changing perspective. Larsen sings “What does the world look like from up there? / What does the world look like from down here.” Is she singing about chickens again? I don’t think so this time.
I remember college vaguely about twenty years ago. Having roommates was fun back then. Larsen sings about them on “College Roommates.” “Bus Song'' is sort of adorable. I’m not sure how else to put it. “Everything Changes” felt a little more sincere and “Quarantine Ballad” is a sweet lo-fi ballad.
My only critique was the mastering. The songs are at noticeably different volumes.
Overall, this was a loose and fun album. The songwriting was good and I liked her approach to the vocals. Recommended.
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The idea of the project Mum’s Guitar was to stage a theater show. Adam Cirillo states ”My character would write and record a music album in real life and then have a CD launch. The CD launch would be directed by a theater director Paulo Castro.”
The album starts with “A Bohemian's Tale” and sounded like Bob Dylan was strumming his guitar while creating a one-man play. I’m not sure how comedic it was supposed to be but once I had that image in my head I have to admit it made me laugh. The song does sort of morph into a more traditional song.
“I'm James Dean” sounded like a Bob Dylan song again but there’s a thumping 4/4 beat which almost makes it sound like a dance song. “Oh, Look at Me” was a good song with a solid arrangement. “Hitler's Tank” I think was going for a comedic angle.
“Cult” is extremely fuzzy and distorted garage rock that transitions into an acoustic song with strummed chords, bass and poetic lyrics. “Lonely Taxi Driver Theme” and “Sometimes” were solid songs. “Sometimes” sounded like a lullaby.
“Green 'n Free” contains some solid guitar picking. Cirillo closes with “Bluebird” which contains field recordings of birds that accompany his vocals and guitar.
The most striking thing about this release is the similarities in delivery to Bob Dylan. It’s not subtle. Additionally, it’s not just the character of his voice but the inflection, cadence and pacing of the delivery. I’m not sure if this was baked into the “character” he is apparently playing. Are these songs Cirillo or his character? Is he using an affectation when he sings to purposely sound like Dylan? It’s a little confusing.
There are some solid songs on this album regardless of the intent or setup. That's worth the price of admission, so take a seat and enjoy the play.
As I’ve mentioned countless times the creative process not only can bring perspective but also be quite cathartic and healing. The amount of artists that create music in order to have an outlet for negative emotions is simply never ending. I think that's a good thing and I think it’s more therapeutic than most things. It Stays With Me by Tim Lee is a release that seems to be about this and you really don’t need to do more than just listen to the lyrics to realize this.
The EP starts with “Save Me” and you are greeted with guitar, digital sounding drum loops. There’s some well-placed delay on the guitar and he sort of laments broadly about life. The transition into the chorus works fine musically but the dynamics are held back by the mix and the sonic imprint noticeably changes.
“Wolves'' is more fluid in terms of the mix. The bass work was great and reminded me of ’90s indie rock bands. “Walking Down These Halls” was the highlight and also contained the strongest vocal performance. The lyrics are very straightforward in terms of the meaning. The lyrics aren’t poetic and don’t contain any metaphors or analogies.
Last up is “What I’ll Always Do” which is the most upbeat and joyous song to me. It seems like this was the song that brought about hope and maybe acceptance.
As an engineer I know these songs would have benefited from a full band recorded in a studio. The drums in particular had a little too much of that digital quality to me. That being said the heart and sentiment was able to rise above these restrictions and felt authentic and honest.
It Stays with Me is the sound of an artist putting his heart on his sleeve and letting the world hear it. That’s not easy to do and oftentimes artists will be vague about what songs means, This wasn’t the case here and I appreciate that.
Zombie Summer is the recent release from clash bowley. This particular set of songs was recorded between June 1st and June 30th, 2021. There are definitely concepts with previous bowley releases but I can’t remember a specific zombie theme before. Zombie Summer contains a whopping thirteen songs which might be the most I’ve seen on a release of his.
There are some gems on this release. One of the highlights was the second song entitled “The Walls Come Down.” I loved the trap style beat on this song and the vocals. In particular the ghost vocals which follow the lead were very cool.
“Rhapsody in Wah” is a rare instrumental track and it sounds like the title. The focal point of the song is wah wah guitar. I thought the lead work was well done and sort of subtle. It wasn’t a lead that was begging for attention.
“Zombie Summer” is a descriptive song that reads something like the TV series The Walking Dead. Bowley sings “It was hot / Hotter than the breath of hell / And the stench had stories to tell / I had an axe / I had a hunting rifle / And I got good at navigating by smell.”
“Pouring On Gasoline” has a classic bowley sound which also happens to be one the catchiest songs on the album. The lyrics are great and actually pretty funny. Bowley sings “Pourin' on gasoline / They want to eat me / But I won't let them touch me I am / Pourin' on gasoline.”
I think my favorite song was “Zombie Lover.” The vocals are really well done on this and again I found the song fun and liked the melody and lyrics. Bowley sings “We spend out time together / And I talk of searching for a cure / She grunts through her muzzle / As if to reassure.” I’m not sure this lover worked out however because he sings about how he had to bash his girlfriend’s brain on “An Acquired Taste.”
This is a fun zombie themed album. Bowley doesn't seem to take it too seriously which made it enjoyable. Two thumbs up.
Hayden Elizabeth is a singer/songwriter from Portland, Oregon. She wrote her debut EP Nomad while backpacking before beginning her first year at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. The album was recorded and mixed in Portland by Troy Welstad and mastered in Nashville by Richard Dodd. Hiking in Oregon is a huge part of Elizabeth’s life and much of that is reflected in her songs. While walking out on various trails, she wrote every song and listened to every new mix reviewed here. Collectively ,Nomad is a record that showcases the life cycle of a relationship. The first song is about falling in love and the last one is about falling out of it. Hiking is how Elizabeth processed everything that happened. Among her influences, she looks to Stevie Nicks for lyrical inspiration and Sheryl Crow for everything on being a woman who plays guitar.
The opening track “Bugs” has a hopeful sound – bright, with a refreshing acoustic rock style. I like this song’s melody and overall optimism and the joy the comes with falling in love. Next in line is “Before I Met You” and it’s a very short number with a beautiful vocal melody and backing vocal track. Elizabeth’s guitar drives the song’s rhythm which reminded me of gently rolling train and her message is short and sweet. “Before I met you” all hope was lost and there was no chance of being with anyone, but now, being “all caught up – it feels like the sun.” Yes, few things in life bring greater joy than knowing that you’re actually “in love” with someone, especially when it takes you in and consumes you. Moving on to “Mountains” is a song that reveals something about your life that you didn’t see coming – “I thought I knew better / I thought I knew wrong from right / But I’ve got mountains to climb.” She seems to be suggesting that the honeymoon period of falling in love is showing signs of “falling out” and that there are some things she needs to figure out on her own.
“I Used My Heart and Not My Head” is another short tune featuring just Elizabeth and her guitar. Her playing on this one is delicate and graceful, but intricate, too. Here, the love story goes through a period of self-reflection and realization – perhaps quite a bit of it – to a point where decisions that come from the heart overshadow ones from the head. The last track is also the EP’s title – “Nomad” and as stated earlier, this one’s about falling out of love and about the reasons why it’s time to move on (“The only things keeping me here were our old ties”). A full band of musicians back Elizabeth’s lovely voice here, with rich, warm sounds of folk rock well produced. The singer signs off on post-love doubts (“Did I love you enough / or just enough to keep you near”) and past feelings of being in love – “This nomad needs to find her place / and take a chance to breathe in time and space / while I am headed down the interstate / I know I’ll find my way.” And like being in love, falling out of love can be just as vivid and surreal – where life happens in “slow motion.”
Hayden Elizabeth’s Nomad delivers a universal, timeless story – one that we all have experienced to some degree or another. She captured briefly in song a moment in her life that most likely will repeat itself somewhere down the road, but in a different context. Next time around that corner, or up those Oregon mountains, past lessons about being in love and out of love will be remembered – just one of many in this thing called life.
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