The Neighbors is a young collective of two musicians, one drummer and one guitarist. Their latest self-titled EP The Neighbors was recorded on a road trip from the Florida Keys up the coast of Florida to Tallahassee. The style of their music is familiar in sound to bands like Brand New, and perhaps a little of electronic vibes similar to Hot Chip.
The first song on the album gives us a taste of what the band is all about. “Gravity” is a mix of hard-hitting lyrics, trippy guitar riffs, and simple and subtle percussions. Together, these sounds successfully build a pleasing and catchy song. The second song on the EP is titled “It’s Good” and it may be the best track on the entire album. The chorus of the song is very appealing and a bit repetitive, which makes it just ring in your head. The lyrics of “God bless you, and yours,” just call out over and over again making it both a pleasant string of words and something for the listener to sing along with. I find these lyrics revolving in my head after the song is over.
The last and final song on the short EP is a bit mellower than the other tracks. It starts off with a gentle yet leading guitar chord, then the vocal chimes in with a seductive almost whisper-like voice. “To the Matterhorn!” also has some repetitive lyrics of “Thank you” which are fun and musically appealing. There are bridges in this song that remind me of bands like Band of Horses and even Grizzly Bear.
The name of the band is something that tries true for this collective of young musicians. They are somewhat inconspicuous and mysterious, but then out of nowhere they’ll throw a wild party that will keep you up all night. They are definitely on the road to maturing as artists and developing their sound further. As for the quality of sound on the album, is it satisfactory but could benefit from a higher-quality recording environment and/or equipment.
Pablo Naranjo may have just released his first solo album entitled Here In The Distance but he certainly isn't new to the scene. He has had his fair share of experience as a musician throughout the years. You may recognize his grunge band Septimo Aposento, which still has some of their songs played on the radio.
He wanted to grow himself as a musician so Naranjo didn't stop with grunge as he became proficient with Bossa Nova and jazz styles. While learning these styles made him more of a diverse musician, he reverts to his early rock roots on Here In The Distance.
Here In The Distance is a guitar album. It is the focal point of the songs and is just as strong as his voice throughout (similar to a Dinosaur Jr album where most listeners are enjoying J Mascis’ guitar playing as much as if not more than his voice). That being said Naranjo includes other instrumentation like violin and cello to bring a bit of variation and depth to the songs.
Naranjo starts off with a rocker called “Burning Snow,” which conjured up imagery of mid 90’s alternative bands. The guitar work is top notch, carries the song and you won't want to miss the solo. “Time Machine” is on the verge of rocking out hard but never arrives while “Reflection” delivers some of the best guitar progressions on the album on top of orchestral strings. One of my favorite songs on the album was the acoustic number entitled “A Distant Light,” which contains some beautiful guitar melodies, great drum work as well as warm strings.
At 12 tracks long Here In The Distance is a girthy album that has only a couple of faults. Some of the songs sound similar on first pass and Naranjo’s voice isn't immediately distinct or even that attractive. The album is one of those “growers” that will most likely not blow you away upon first listen but gets better over repeated listens. If you are a fan of creative, technically proficient guitar playing wrapped in a decent 90’s inspired rock song than this is up your alley.
As soon as I heard the vocals on the new album Kind Words For Cruel Times by The Reverse I knew I would like it. The lead singer has an English accent and reminded of Jarvis Cocker from Pulp. Since Cocker is one of the best vocalists in history I didn't have a probably with this. The vocals are a key ingredient to The Reverse’s success but it is far from the only factor that makes this band work.
After listening to this album you appreciate how these guys work as a unit. No one in the band is ever trying to fit too much in. The guitars are creative throughout and fit like a glove around the drums and bass. Perhaps the most impressive component to their songs is their use of background vocals. They have a knack for using it in just the right places and also with just the right amount of reverb. Another thing that should be noted is that the production sounds stellar. The guitars have a distinct tone that changes with each song to fit the mood.
The album starts with “Encore” which initially sounds like an encore. You hear a crowd in the distance and hum of an organ that eventually subsides for a jangly guitar progression; a little more than a minute in the band is in full force with a beautifully constructed pop song that’s incredibly catchy. The vocals are addictively delightful but that creative guitar work throughout is the cherry on top. They slow things down a bit for “Then They Came For Us,” which works even better as it allows them to have more of an emotional impact. This song also has one of the best if not the best vocal performance on the album. The vocalist’s riffs on the verse is talking about economic insecurity but when the chorus hits and they cover his vocals in a sheen reverb it brings it all home. Cocker’s vocals are lush, warm and hardly strained as his delivery is just about perfect. ”Mary” is a dose of pure pop and is immediately addictive when you hear the guitar progression. The song pops with a carefree vibe that makes the song that much more enjoyable.
The Reverse has been together for a while and if you didn't know it already they have previously released three EP’s. I’m happy to report that their full length is well worth the wait and will not disappoint. It’s a treat when you hear a band that works so well together release an album. You can tell that they put time and effort into each one of their parts to improve the foundation of the song. This attentive attention to detail creates ebbs and flows that make the album feel like a journey.
More often than not album covers are not indicative of the music that you are going to be hearing when you spin the music. That’s why I was impressed by the cover art for Dolomiten by Manet, which displays an eerie mountaintop covered in a grayish hue. The longer you stare at it the creepier it gets and eventually it emanates an ominous cloud of loneliness and isolation just like the music. The music as well as the album cover create a sense of space as if its being played on a mountaintop (he cleverly does this by placing hall type reverbs on the drums and using dark airy synths).
There are four songs on this EP, which are all instrumental and all original works of art that differentiate themselves from other ambient artists. Manet’s use of organic drums is well done.The kit is played lightly and never seems out of place amongst the music. At certain points he adds the perfect amount of effects to compliment the music. It’s subtle and never seems to be misused. Take for instance the first track “ Dolomiten” where he adds a slight delay to the drums that fits the dark atmosphere of synths and what sounds like the crackling of a vinyl record.
The second track “The Log” moves into even darker territory. At this point it feels as if I am lost within the terrain and darkness with almost no chance of escape. Hardly any light is found between the dark textures that change within micro scales. It is the micro changes that happen within the song that really make the darkness such a beautiful thing. By the end of the track I feel like I am no longer lost in a mountain but hanging out in the deepest, saddest jazz bar this side of David Lynch.
The album closes with “Shrouded Hill,” which has the overt jazz influence. The horns towards the end are some of the saddest I have heard since Talk Talk’s laughing stock.
This is an album that you will want to explore and it is highly recommended. If you ever enjoyed the music that played during Twin Peaks this will be your favorite EP of this year.
Growing up watching her father play piano served as the impetus for singer-songwriter Jessie Houghton's desire to play music. She began teaching herself how to play the guitar at 14 and has been playing and writing songs ever since. She grew up in and still lives in Maple Valley, Washington, where she recorded this collection of songs entitled The Donut with the help of Robert Auerbach.
The songs were recorded over two days in her bedroom with only the essential instrumentation. It's an EP made up of Houghton’s guitar playing and her incredible voice. Along with the stripped down recording comes a bit of nitpicking, but mostly a legitimate complaint and that is that her guitar spends quite a bit of the recording just out of tune. In the hands of someone like the Moldy Peaches or Daniel Johnston that could be seen as a deliberate decision, but something about the nature of this recording leads me to believe that that simply isn't the case. On the plus side, Houghton's voice more than makes up for much of the rushed, lo-fi nature of the recording.
The EP begins with "Not A Love Song,” a song that demands to be called a love song until the chorus. Houghton did a great job of arranging her cover of "The One That I Want,” making the mood of the song much more haunting and almost creepy. You can almost picture the protagonist singing this song while holding a meat cleaver. "What It Is" is my favorite song of the five that are here. It feels like it's the best suited to Houghton's voice, with its soulful melody and arrangement. "Cain Wasn't Abel" adds a harmonica and piano to the sound and it does so very well, without them the song would have been mostly forgettable. The EP closes with "Be My Man,” a song that features a lot of ambient noise along with the song itself. It’s almost as if the song was recorded with the group of singers that come in at the end talking during the beginning of the recording.
While there is definitely some charm in Jessie Houghton's music, it definitely needs a bit of work. The recordings feel like they were done without thought or intention, like they set up a mic in a room while she played them for herself. What I'd like to hear is these songs recorded by someone that really knows how to handle engineering and production because this could have been a great recording. For now, it'll have to be considered decent.
Bent Jetty is a band from Orange County, CA that makes absolutely perfect folk-pop. We'll start things off right there because it was the very first impression that I had of the band. Though they met in high school, it wasn't until college that they tried playing music together. They recorded their first EP Honey Be Wild in a bedroom, though you would never guess that its origins were born of sheets and sleep. This review, however, is of their most recent effort, Honest Approach.
With a solid lineup that included adding another friend from high school, the band chose to record Honest Approach in a studio over a period of nine months, which feels like a long time for four songs. For the most part, it's resulted in a tighter production, which doesn't say a whole lot. They didn't have much improving that needed to be done after Honey Be Wild. The studio does lend the band a bit more credibility as they hope to make this their business card, as it were.
The band has said they've been compared to everything from Mumford & Sons to John Mayer to Phil Collins (don't even get me started), but I simply don't hear it at all. If the band is anything, they're California's answer to Fleet Foxes. With reverberous harmonies and folk-inspired pop songs, the band is sun and sand where Fleet Foxes is rain and trees. Starting the EP is the upbeat but not quite driving, "Human Tribe" with its catchy guitar riffs sprinkled throughout the song. It's the perfect intro to the band and really does a good job summing up what they're about in terms of sound. "Old Carruthers" is a driving folk tune that, in other hands, would make an amazing country tune but the lads in Bent Jetty make it into more of their pitch-perfect folk-pop. They quiet down a bit with "Red King," a much more mellow tune than the other three songs. It feels like a good song for driving home. "Favored Few" feels like the band is channeling the Scottish indie-pop of Belle & Sebastian and makes for the perfect close to an amazing EP.
If I had to choose something constructive to say in a critical way, it'd be that this EP is simply too short. I want more songs. For now, one can only hope that they don't take another nine months to record their follow-up to this.
n the past, as far as my own experience goes, it wasn't uncommon to hear about teachers that were also musicians in their extremely limited office hours. I remember playing an open mic a few years back that had a band that was made up entirely of teachers. What I'm calling a tradition is continued with Brob Ront Experiment, a project headed up by Brent Tomchik, a high school math teacher and an advisor for his school's theater tech crew from Baltimore, Maryland. He's been writing music for 12 years but has only begun to practice the art of recording that music in the last five years. While he is the creative head of this project, he prefers to focus more on that actual recording of the music.
On this release entitled Maturo, he had help from friends Tony Vitez on guitar, Aaron Santory on keys, and Nick DiGiacomo on violin. He recorded the album at two separate home studios using pretty rudimentary equipment but still managed to produce something quite pleasing to the ear.
The songs on the album were written as homage to the people that Tomchik met while he studied and taught in Slovenia. Through the music, one feels you can see the alpine territory of the country's northwest. Brob Ront Experiment accomplishes this with a surprisingly limited musical palette on the opener, "Ljubljana". I was reminded of early Sixpence None The Richer on "I'm Here,” with its sparse percussion and chorus and echo-drenched guitars. From there, the songs range from ambient and instrumental (“You Colour The World Like Street Art”) to late night-friendly rock (“Valley Song”). To my ears, the standout track on the album is absolutely the closer, "New Pedagogy (Bojana).” It brings the tempo up and mixes peppy pop rock drumbeats with a slow melody in a way that works perfectly.
Overall, this album is done quiet well as a study in production and recording. Unfortunately, the songs don't really feel very well thought through, ranging from unoffensive and mellow to simply forgettable. It isn't that the music is bad by any means; it just didn't have that special spark that can make it really feel like magic. I'm excited to hear what Tomchik has coming in the future, though. He's obviously a gifted producer and engineer and, with practice, will only get better.
Post War Stories is a band that works with extremes. On their recent four-song EP entitled Cold Wars they have moments of hushed stillness that may remind you of a band like XX and at other times they put everything they’ve got into the moment and sound more like Mastadon or ISIS. Whether there are cymbals crashing or guitars that are barely being picked the one thing they have in common is the dark, ominous tone that is apparent throughout. Cold Wars is rooted in darkness but borrows its nuances from genres like post-rock, progressive metal, shoegaze and a couple of others.
The first song “Darkstar” is the most restrained song on the EP but also one of the highlights. The guitars create a spacious atmosphere as they go from clean sounding to having the perfect amount for a reverb for a post rock sound. The bass isn't too fancy but creates a nice low end contrasting the drums that have a healthy dose of reverb on them as well. The vocals work with the music as they are restrained themselves with dark tones and shades of grey. The darkness that loomed in the first song comes out with no hesitation on “Battles.” Within the first moments the distorted guitar are ablaze with the drums and bass. They quickly take it down a couple of notches sounding a bit influenced by A Perfect Circle during the verse. This doesn't last long as they amp the intensity back up to ten.
“Ghosts” contains some shredding guitars riffs along with the best bass lines on the album. The guitars amass to a blanket of white noise that overflows the senses. Not bad. They pull it all together for the last song “Shame,” which brings together a lot of the cross-pollination they were experimenting with. On top of that it’s also the most dynamic song on the album. They reach intense highs as well as parts that don't seem like too much above a whisper.
Cold Wars has some bumps along the road but does create a cohesive experience that is worth checking out.
Corey Abell’s debut EP Rainwater Youth is an album that often showcases elements of quintessential indie rock from the last couple of years. While his debut is uniquely his own you hear traces of bands like Deerhunter, Broken Social Scene and The Walkmen. For example you can hear a hint of Bradford Cox's vocal delivery and other times he sounds more like Hamilton Leithauser. Anyway you cut it this album works for a number of reasons. However, the two most important are that the songwriting is good if not exceptional and second is that the production is top notch. It also has a nice flow, as there is a lot of variety throughout, not only with the melodies, but the aesthetics he brings. For instance, sometimes his voice is manipulated with a good amount of effects and other times there isn't much more than a touch of reverb. Rainwater Youth is an expression of Abell’s experiences in Vancouver. He says that “the sound, like the rich dark greens of Vancouver’s rainforests, vividly reflects the contemplative drizzle that the city is famous for.”
Abell starts things off with a great song called “Kids First.” The first couple of moments were perhaps my favorite where a subdued saxophone, a lightly played guitar and a synth mix to create a gorgeous mixture of sounds. It’s also Abell’s best vocal performance. His voice is confident and up front in the mix as he sings “Europe's got steel.” His voice is layered as the song builds to its crescendo at the end of the song. He doesn't miss a beat with “Salene,” which is an acoustic song that puts electronic drums low in the mix and instead chooses to focus on the vocals and the lush arrangement of warm textures.
The title track “Rainwater Youth” creates a tantalizing dichotomy between the intricate percussive elements and Abell’s distorted vocals. It was difficult to decipher the vocals but it also wasn't my biggest concern. “Georgie, Where Are You Georgie?” is a stripped back song that introduces some female vocal accompaniment that works quite well when they sing “come back to me.” Abell saved one of the best songs for last with “For The Lions;” the triumphant tone is only enhanced by the banjo and almost choir-like vocal harmonies.
Abell’s Rainwater Youth is an impressive accomplishment that not only embraces some of indie rock’s finer examples but builds upon them.
Here’s an interesting concept. Start a band that plays punk rock and transforms into a reggae/dub act that writes and performs their own original music. I’m not sure how the change happened for Firesale but I'm sure happy it did. On their recent second full-length album entitled Mind Breath they bring it song after song. The bass bumps hard, the guitar sounds refined, but when it mixes the percussive elements and the horns it really come together. It’s obvious from the beginning of the album that the band has chemistry and creates some great music for Max Lipnick to sing over (he sometimes sounds like Brad Nowell from Sublime).
Everything about this album goes down easy. The overall vibe as well as the production makes you want to grab a drink and bob your head along with the music. From the first note to the last, Mind Breath is covered in a warm inviting tone.
The first things we hear are enticing complex percussive elements followed by a clean guitar line. After an upsurge of energy, a tranquil atmosphere enters when the horns enter the scene. The slight delay on the guitar is just enough as the complex bass playing leads the song. “For Future’s Sake” could come with a guarantee that it will make your day a little brighter. It’s a very optimistic vibe, that is I’m sure is a fan favorite when they play live. This song is also one of the best performances by Lipnick.
The guitar chords on “She’s A Wave” reminded me of a James Brown song and added even more danceability to the song. It’s obvious from the get-go that these guys are technically talented but on this song they flex their muscles a bit with the guitar solo, as well as the horns. Bob Marley would have been proud of their message on “Time for a Change,” which talks about a prolific transition in order to achieve peace. It is one of the only songs with slight political overtones.
As much as I liked this album it's hard not to think that these guys are even better live. The music seems conducive for a live environment. In the meantime go ahead and pick up this album until they visit your hometown.
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