This debut album Cold Open by Meadowlark Valley is a showcase of the work of J.J. Schrick who recorded all the vocals, as well as playing each of the instruments. The overall theme of the collection is a deeply rooted folk rock feel with an easy style that ties directly to nature as well as the use of metaphors to mirror day-to-day relationships. There is an undeniable similarity to Fleet Foxes in the vocals, guitars and just about everything else that people will notice.
While the musical styling is pretty easy to identify as being very folk based, Schrick also uses some pretty innovative arrangements to make this album his own. “Bottom of the Hill” was unexpected and playful with a different type of percussion sound that made it much more playful than many of the other songs on the album.
Other tunes from the album like “Without a Sound” rely heavily on the guitar to complement a raw vocal that just exudes so many emotions you can't help but listen. This song in particular would lend nicely to an acoustical live performance like the likes of a classic Brandy Carlile tune. There was something very effortless and raw about the way the guitar and vocals combined.
“Beneath the Tree” continued the almost effortless feel of the album with a simple mix of heartfelt lyrics and a soothing guitar arrangement that was just enough to support the vocals without over powering them. The vocals of this song in particular almost stand alone. “The Driftless I: Mountaintop” is another song that plays easily with a passion that is almost haunting and a guitar focus that again would lend nicely to a live performance. The first two minutes of the six-minute song have an almost lullaby quality with a nice surprise as the tempo picks up with more of a guitar focus for a change of pace. I enjoyed the unique arrangement.
Overall the rawness of the vocals was by far my favorite part of the album; it seemed effortless at times but also very connected to just a natural flow of emotions and vocals. I also enjoyed the unique musical arrangements that seemed unexpected but just fit with the theme. Like both nature and relationships, sometimes the unexpected things are the most memorable.
The use of the familiar metaphors of nature and the outdoors made this collection timeless and current at the same time. I can almost picture singing some of these songs at a sleep away camp around a campfire for years to come. I look forward to the upcoming release in December and more from this artist.
Kyle Ranshaw (vocals/guitar), David P. Harvey III (vocals/guitar), Andy Buch (bass) and James Berardi (drums) are Primatives. The band from Philadelphia recently released a rocking six- song self-titled EP Primatives.
The band isn’t reinventing the wheel with these songs but between the production value, songwriting and delivery there is a good amount to appreciate from fans of early grunge bands like The Melvins and Mudhoney.
In regards to the production I found this mix to be just about perfect. Not too glossy but not too lo-fi. Reminded me of those bands you used to hear on sub pop. The band opens with a killer track called ”Once Upon a Child.” Right away you are greeted with a blazing lead guitar and distorted power chord progression. The vocals are buried in the mix but not too much. I thoroughly enjoyed the vocal harmonies on this track.
The band has more success with “Lil Creamsy” which is a sludgy grunge track. Ranshaw draws out the words in the chorus “She don’t know/what I know.” Up next is “Birds Of A Feather” which is a bit more frantic and has more of a punk vibe while “Peasent’s Fare” is a solid instrumental track. They don't disappoint with the final two tracks “Vagrant” and “Buzzard.”
Primatives is a band for fans of the original grunge style. This isn’t the consumer fed version you got after the success of Nirvana in the mid-nineties. The music is raw with a good amount of attitude and holds up quite well in 2016. Recommended.
Cielo Pordomingo is an Argentine composer, singer, songwriter and arranger. Her first effort which we reviewed entitled D FRET was a lush, multi-layered album that had a high production value. She is back with FUGALINE which is a worthy successor that has just as much to embrace and enjoy.
Up first is a single worthy track called “Escape” which combines a decent amount of experimentation with pop sensibility. The song sparkles with synth, buzzing bass and of course the vocals.
It's a solid opener which should have you somewhat hooked. Up next is "Insensible" which I preferred over the opener; this is more melancholy, haunting and just felt more emotionally resonant. The production on this track is slick. I enjoyed how the mood changed because of some additional synths that were added to the mix. I thought there were elements of Bjork on this track.
"Play with me" is a more straightforward club song with a fairly straightforward 4:4 beat. Catchy, not so subtle use of auto tune. There were hints of Saint Etienne on this song.
I preferred the more experimental track like the lush and ethereal "Quieta." "Caida libre" was another unique sounding track that had a whimsical vibe to it. There are a number of very unique tones on this track. It's also a very dynamic song, Make sure not to pass up "Laberinto" which is a song that is rich with orchestration. The album closes with "Something Changes.” It's a soft, subtle song which is certified headphone music.
I'd say FUGALINE is great album and a worthy successor to her previous effort. Don't sit on this one.
Minneapolis rockers KILO FLAG were born out of the dissolution of several other bands which its members had previously played in. Their first EP has quite a bit of heft behind its conception. With the release of the KILO FLAG EP the band seeks to combine their musical influences, namely fellow Minnesotan bands The Replacements and Babes in Toyland, infused with themes inspired by the writings of social welfare activists such as Naomi Klein, Daniel Quinn and Rachel Carson.
And KILO FLAG waste no time in getting down to business. From the guitar centric Weezer-esque first track "Anthropocene Epoch," comes the lines “stretching out across the kingdom as we please / bringing it to its knees / delivering disease / bursting at the seams.” At first I was a bit perplexed by the nature of the song, but then grew to appreciate it. I thought to myself not every song has to be about a broken relationship or redundantly political. A call to arms to look at what we as a society as a whole are doing to the planet and each other seems a pretty good alternative.
So then the witty and upbeat rocker “Commodify Your Life,” was even more appetizing to my ears as it talks about “product placement in your dreams,” as the drums crash and a myriad of raucous guitars ring out. This idea of consumerism bleeds into the next track “The High Command” which reminded me of the more experimental noise rock albums of Sonic Youth.
Later KILO FLAG prove they are not just a raucous guitar glaring band, but that they can also write a pretty slick pop-rock friendly tune which arrives as the delightful “Repeat After Me.” This pop-friendliness continues on the next track “Zeroes and Ones” which had a pop punk texture to it. KILO FLAG lets it all go on the grungy closer “History is Written,” a good ole fashioned smash and bang tune that which bears odes to their compatriots The Replacements.
Though disguised as a rock record, KILO FLAG EP is more of a musical manifesto than anything. It was a welcomed change to hear people writing songs about things bigger than themselves.
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Mojo (vocals/guitar), Kevin (guitar), Matt (bass) and Andres (drums) are an LA based band called Audiomated that recently released Unusual Waves. The band plays pretty straight forward hard rock. I was reminded of bands like System of Down and to a lesser extent Queens of The Stone Age.
It’s hard pumping, adrenaline based music that feeds you energy. Take for instance “Rise” which pops right out of the gates. I was impressed by the amount of changes the band pulls off in the first minute. The band is tight and in the pocket as Mojo sings, “I'm not your little servant / And I'm not your little slave / You brainwash us through the media / And the propaganda won't end.”
Up next is “Welcome” which is another fairly intense rock song. A good amount of distortion and a myriad of notes make for an energizing song. Lyrically, the song dances around very similar themes to “Rise.” “Story” is a pretty straight forward rocker and arguably the most single worthy song of the batch. I enjoyed the song “Ricochet” but it sounded a bit out of place because of the vocal style during the verse. Mojo sounds somewhere between Anthony Kiedis, Zacarly de la Rocha and an ’80s rapper.
“Euphoria” has an intense, grand ending while the closer “Leech” has a slight ’70s feel because of the modulated guitars. For the most part Unusual Waves is cohesive despite a couple of songs that made me wonder what direction they were going. All things considered these songs had more of an FM radio vibe to me and I would see success from a more general demographic. I think the band is on the ball in terms of delivery. They all have a good amount of technical talent and don’t rest on their laurels.
I would take a listen to Unusual Waves. You should know fairly quickly if this is your cup of tea.
Ryan Smart is a young artist from Lawrence, Kansas who recently released Take A Chance. Smart isn’t even nineteen years old but is showing some potential with these songs. At this point he still seems to be struggling slightly with finding his own sound as he jumps around from R Kelly type R&B and hip-hop to a more hard to pin down synth based pop.
He opens with “Man Made Paradise” which is one of the more unique styles on the album. Smart never revisits this style he introduces the album with. Soft synths linger around with cymbal crashes as he sings, “The years I've spent alone failed to build a home I've woke women who were able / Showed them soul that they could feel.” You then have a song like “No More Bets” which feels much more aligned with R Kelly but feels disparate from the opener. I enjoyed both songs but thought the leap in style didn’t create a foundation for Smart.
“All That Your Love Means To Me” is a smooth jam with electronic piano and his soulful vocals while “Over & Over” is a song that's more apt for the club. It’s not as high energy as a typical Daft Punk but has a good amount of energy.
“More Sure (Love Like Yours)” is a highlight. I thought he got the tones right and also delivers one of his best vocal performances. He closes with “Looking 4 Love (Dedicated 2 Ya)” which actually had a tinge of MIchael Jackson.
I think the first two songs off this album didn’t give you a good idea of what the rest of the album was going to be like. Both those songs felt a bit more pop based without as much influence from R&B. The album starts to sound more cohesive after the third song.
Smart may not believe me but he will look back on this album in ten years as his humble beginnings if he continues to pursue music. At his young age there is a lot of time for his tastes to become refined and to learn a lot about composition and production. That being said this is one of the more impressive beginnings I have heard from someone who is just get started. He is one to watch. I can say that with certainty.
Pour Me An Encore is the creation of an original garage rock, power pop band from San Jose, California that goes by the name Audiobender. These guys have been together since 2012 and have a unique sound that incorporates blues-infused riffs and hard rock bass lines. This album is the follow up to their last project Reverb and shows a more versatile sound and unique talent.
The album has a great intro and comes in with the track “Venus.” The song starts out with a calm, slow guitar melody. The guitar has very little distortion or reverb, but that’s not what Audiobender is going to do with this album. After about ten calm seconds, the rest of the band comes in with loud drums and heavy guitars that lets you know that this album is about attitude. The track has a pop punk rhythm, and loud cymbals that accompany the lead singer. The voice is slightly drowned out by the instruments in this first track but the vocals definitely shine with a high-pitched and emotional chorus. The bridge of the first track is also awesome because it shows off the drummer’s talent and then the guitars also hit us with smooth solos, too.
The second track “Show Me A Sign” has an awesome guitar riff that introduces the song and stays throughout. The song has a calmer feel to it but it still has that good ole rock n’ roll guitar sound. The mellower melody and sound lets the singer stand out more. He has more room to shine and do his thing, and we get to hear more of his talented range.
There is a nice variety of sounds throughout the album. That was a nice surprise and makes the project a worthwhile listen. The track “Easy” for example has a unique guitar sound compared to other tracks. It has a different type of distortion that gives it a nice, grungy sound. The drums in this track are also more clean, and not as loud or cymbal heavy. The sound and production of the drums were laid down excellently on this track. Like with the majority of songs, and rock albums, this track also has a fun solo at the end of the track.
“Stop Talking” also has a unique sound and changes the feel and attitude of the album a bit. This song starts out with a heavy metal bass line that you can feel in your bones. It’s a nice change of pace and incorporating a variety of sounds and influences makes this a fun album.
These guys are experienced musicians and have an obvious creative chemistry. The variety of styles and genres mixed together really showcase their skills and make this an enjoyable album to listen to. It’s got a little bit of everything for all types of rock fans and has a general rock attitude that music heads can appreciate.
Safehaus is a band from the Glastonbury area in London that has been crafting and putting together a unique rock sound that stands out from the crowd. They’ve spent time touring the world and collaborating with other artists to spread a cool sound and message that audiences love. Lyft is a recently recorded and released EP that is a nice journey through the different sounds and vibes these guys can put together.
The first track of the EP “Real” starts us out with a cool and mellow vibe. The sound is accompanied by a spacey electric guitar in the background, and the vocalist’s style and voice complements the music perfectly. It’s obvious these guys work well together, and they have an obvious chemistry. The hook has a modern touch to it with a high-pitched octave that carries across the chorus. Overall this track has a pleasant sound, and you can tell these guys have worked on their individual crafts and really understand their style. There is an awesome transition and bridge in this first song, and it helps take us listeners through an emotional ride driven by the melody and music.
The second song called “Sad June” really showcases the singer’s range much more. This song also has a nice, mellow guitar riff that sings along with the vocalist and, again, shows great complement and chemistry between the musicians. The combination of the calm, acoustic rhythm guitar and the electric guitar that’s quieter and more in the background adds a really cool energy to the sound. These guys are great at changing up the pace and sounds throughout the song, which has a strong emotional impact.
The third track of the EP has a different vibe to it. The introduction is a bit dragged out, and features a high-pitched grungy guitar sound to it. The bass line in this song is excellent. It is clean and heavy, and rattles your bones a bit. The vocals also change up a bit compared to the other tracks, and they take more of a backseat compared to the other tracks. All-in-all this song called “Red Sky” is different than the others but showcases a variety of styles the band is capable of producing.
The last track “Leave it All” is a great wrap-up and has an excellent calm, rock ballad feel to it. The vocalist takes center stage and is accompanied by a chill but rhythmic drum beat that marches us along the song. This album has cool, poetic lyrics throughout. This album showcases a great lyrical ability, and the vocalist is able to convey an emotional message in a smooth and enjoyable way that makes this album a fun and pleasant listen.
Crux is a duo from Delaware consisting of Nathan Koski-Vacirca and Duncan Covell. Both members have barely gotten out of high school but are already showing some potential on their effort entitled Tide.
Tide by Crux is an album that combines many different style. The band combines elements of genres like post-rock, ambient, metal, hard rock and more.
In regards to the production and sound quality the songs are oddly consistent. That's not particularly something you want for an album. Take for instance the tonal and aesthetic differences between "waterfall"and "Ebb & Flow". I don't think there's anyway you can argue that "waterfall" is the superior sounding song when it comes production and recording quality.
Aside from the production the albums does have some success in terms of songwriting. I'd argue that "waterfall" is also the highlight of the batch. The band displays some versatility but more importantly seamlessly blend genres. The song slowly builds and sounds good doing it. I also enjoyed the shredding solo towards the end.
"Black Box" is a little more straightforward. The song is heavy. Unfortunately the vocals are so buried it's hard to make out much of what is being said. "The Ocean Floor" is even more straightforward. This is metal that never really even attempts to meld other genres like "waterfall".
For as young as they are they display some talent. That being said the duo have a good amount of work to do if they want to compete with some of the more notable musicians around today, Luckily, they have a more than enough time to do some tweaking. I’m sure we will be hearing more from them in the not too distant future.
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Will Miles does not disappoint in his latest release, Away Into the Night. His almost haunting vocals are front and center for this collection of songs recorded at his home studio and mastered by JP Sanco with Eldorado Studios.
The opening song “All the Love You Need” has a melodic tone that is folky with just a bit of a blues feeling. The guitar piece that complements the vocals makes the piece flow nicely and seems like it could have been something dating back to soulful folk rock favorites of the ’60s. The pace is slow enough to appreciate the ease of the guitar heavy song.
This almost bluesy feel continues in “Baby Blue” where Miles lulls the listener with the smooth tone of his voice. The wispy quality pairs nicely with minimal guitar backing but the vocals are very much the star of the album. “Foolish Games” came very close to crossing over from the folk feel to more of a country twang, but just when it seemed to be going that way the vocals draw it back to a deep and soulful place. The styling of the album seems to be an overwhelmingly eclectic mix of a bit of everything.
Of all the songs, “Isabella” seemed to be the one that stood on its own as being a bit different in that it focused on some really nice guitar work. There were also some nice back-up vocals that highlighted the strong lead vocals as well which would lend easily to a live acoustic performance. “Sinking Sun” returned to the soulful folk music with a haunting reminder of untapped emotions. This too was a pretty timeless piece that could easily be a classic or a hit for today.
All of the songs except for the short instrumental end to the set shared one main feature, a great showcase for the vocal talents of Will Miles. His timeless voice and heartfelt lyrics left me wanting to hear more from this artist, I enjoyed how seamless the intermixing of the variety of his influences was. This is a sultry, slow moving album with many emotions and just enough of a mix of styles to keep the listener guessing.
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