When referring to his new album Wake and Hate, Charlie Foxtrot said, “I basically just revisited my adolescence and listened to way too much ‘90s Green Day while fuming over how every day we've had to wake up to a new outrage since November 2016.” I have empathy with Fox and have dedicated days where I stay off the Internet because of the constant presence of social media outrage. There's just too many people with too many opinions and I have found having a beer with a couple of friends is my preferred way to express any outrage I might have.
Foxtrot isn’t a one dimensional Twitterbot who only expresses outrage. On Wake and Hate he expresses myriad emotions that come in the form of simple ’90s style punk songs that often have hints of bands like Green Day, The Strokes and a couple of other like-minded bands.
Wake and Hate is a self-produced album and I thought that Foxtrot did a good job. There is a lot of energy in the recordings and his vocals are actually easy to understand. The one thing I would mention is that there are a lot of higher frequencies (5K - 10k) that could have been cut to make it a little less harsh when you crank the songs.
I thought the songwriting was consistently solid. There was an ample amount of hooks and Foxtrot keeps the songs under the three-minute mark which for these types of songs works. Foxtrot opens with “The Golden Age” which is indicative of the rest of the songs. It's a high energy yet simple song revolving around basic distorted chords and a driving beat.
“Adam And Steve” feeds into ’90s punk while “Schizophrenic Paranoia” felt more aligned with The Strokes. A highlight was “SPCSTEOAT” which actually had the vibe of early ’90s skate punk such as NOFX.
Lyrically, Foxtrot keeps it interesting. His lyrics aren't always straightforward but you can usually make out the theme of the song.
Wake And Hate isn’t reinventing the wheel and I never had my jaw to the floor but it was a fun album that was easy to appreciate. Fans of ’90s punk and alternative who still spin Dookie every once in a while will enjoy what Foxtrot has to offer.
Eastsound is a band from Seattle that recently released An Apprehensive Mind. The young band who are friends from high school recorded the EP DIY style and play conventional indie pop songs. I thought the songs were catchy and easy to appreciate.
The recording quality veers towards a demo. I thought they did a good job but there were still some things that could have used some improvement such as the treatment of the vocals and the drum sound which are extremely common with DIY home recordings. At the very least this EP gives an idea of the band’s sound.
Up first is “Inside My Mind” which is a fairly straightforward rock song revolving around distorted minor and major chords, a steady bass and driving drums. The vocal melody is there and easy to appreciate. I was pleasantly surprised to hear some horns which added a lot to the song and gave it an additional dynamic that sounded great.
“Crossed The Line” sound smooth and clean. The vocal melody is especially catchy and has hints of a band like Pavement. As the song progresses the guitar launches into an solo and the song gets more intense.
“Locomotive” is the arguable highlight. The band shows restraint and it benefits the song. There is a bit of relaxed Vampire Weekend type vibe on this song . They close with “She Knows Me” which is anthemic and the most radio friendly out of the four songs.
The band still has a little ways to go to compete with some of the more notable, popular bands out there but they have a palatable sound that I could see a lot of people enjoying. Getting a more polished product should definitely be one of their next steps, whether it's saving up to work in pro studio or working with a very experienced producer.
The horns were an important element to the music and it really worked with their style although the band needs to be careful about sounding too similar to other band's out there. The songwriting and delivery is there but there is no denying they have a familiar sound.
Overall, the band shows a lot of potential. They seem to be on a good trajectory and I hope to hear more soon.
With a style and sound that harkens back to ‘60s pop rock and a little punk and blues mixed in, Shem Sharples describes his sound as, “Lou Reed and Dylan meet The Clash.” Hailing from Chester, England the band is currently a duo with Shem Sharpies on vocals, guitar and a mean harmonica and Thor Brown on bass guitar. Their latest release And The Train Rattled Along is the first under the Shem Sharples name. Previously, the two musicians were part of a garage band called Rev Rev. They played under this name for 20 years and the DJ John Peel on BBC Radio championed one of their releases.
This current album was recorded in the band’s own studio and took over 14 months to complete. After a listen or two, I could definitely tell their was a Lou Reed/Velvet Underground influence but more than that, The Kinks, somewhere along the lines of “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” or “Well Respected Man” not so much, “You Really Got Me.” The opening song has that sound of the bands I’ve mentioned before with lots of harmonica. The line – “Don’t need the city lights, it’s too fast a pace” hits home the desire for England’s green fields and that suits these guys just fine, thank you very much. “Behind Every Face” has a darker, mysterious sound and it’s philosophical in some way, too.
“Everything is Mine” has a jerky, infectious ‘60s beat and two different parts, or was it more, that give this number a dynamic twist. “You Take It All” is a swinging, toe-tapping, happy little ditty featuring a great slide guitar. “A Box of You” is fast and punked up and seems to be about a box of keepsakes from a lover or good friend and suggests that it might be all one needs to get through life’s bigger problems. The next song title, “Jackdaw Alien” just sounds so kickass to me for some reason. Might make for a good band name, movie or book and the song has that storytelling feel describing how an alien would feel in a strange world.
“The Burning Tree” features some badass harmonica and the lyric matching the title to the album; another storytelling song in the tradition of early Dylan with flavorings of blues and folk-rock. “Turning in My Hands” is the only song on the record that features just guitars and vocals. It’s introspective and looks at the bigger picture – “Life is just a ball game turning in my hands, when I get to the other side I hope I understand” – it reminded me of Neil Young. “Mask” has that familiar blues shuffling beat that Bo Diddley made famous and great harmonica. It’s a good beat to jam on and perhaps that’s why the band played it for over 10 minutes, but at first, it seemed odd to me amongst the tidier three to four minutes songs.
“Strangers Outside My Door” musically reminded me of the classic Rolling Stones sound paired up with the American roots music of the ‘80s. “Clouds of Day One” has the Velvet’s sound with that deadened snare drum that Mo Tucker is known for but this number is more pop than avant-garde. I absolutely loved the “bop-bop-bop” vocal parts and it made this song an instant favorite. I also loved the last song “Sunrise” because of its guitar hook. It’s very catchy and fresh and the break midway with vocals singing “Sunrise…. sunrise” was fantastic.
Overall, Shem Sharples has made a solid album with lots of good hooks and melodies and one that carries on that classic pop-rock sound of yesteryear. And with his straightforward, no nonsense lyrics I am sure what Shem Sharples brings to this type of music won’t go out of style anytime soon, just as long as bands like his continue to draw influence from the oldies but goodies.
Keenan McNamara, Derek McNamara, Jacob Stark, and Travis Cohen are Pretty O.P. The band recently recently released a ten-song self-titled album Pretty O.P. They mix a number of different styles but it felt mostly like an indie pop or indie rock album.
The band recorded, mixed and mastered the entire album. They did a really good job. On that note the album felt frustratingly close to something you expect after recording in a professional studio and having it sent to a trusted mastering engineer. The album is missing that fifteen to twenty percent that separates an amateur recording from a more commercially viable product.
The songwriting and delivery is there time and time again. “Elephant In The Room” is a great song the channels the whimsy of a band like Vampire Weekend. There are ample melodies and inventive changes. The vocal harmonies are fantastic. “Elephant In The Room” is a standout track but there are plenty of other highlights.
The next song that stuck out to me was “Going To Vegas.” There were a number of unexpected changes including what sounds like the inside of a casino. “Going To Vegas” was a very inventive song and reminded me of Dismemberment Plan in some ways. The jazz infused “Magnets” was another one that caught my ear. “Doom Jazz” felt like the highlight. The band lets loose and the horn breakdown is unequivocally one of the most inspired moments on the album.
As the album progresses the band continues to showcase some out of the box thinking. There are some great moments on songs like “Trouble At Home” and “Gone With The Breeze.” This band has a surplus of talent. The album has infectious melodies but they also aren't afraid to experiment which is something I always love.
They need to focus on production/engineering next time around which was my only complaint. I would say at the very least to work with a professional mastering engineer but try and record in a pro studio as well.
Pretty O.P. is a really good band with crazy potential. I can’t wait to hear more.
Become A Fan
Todd Sarvies is no newcomer to music. In 2009 he won the reality show Starmaker that was P.Diddy’s brainchild. Since then he has played countless number of times and recently released The Dead, The Dying, The Damned. Sarvies said The album “is a collection of songs that chronicle working with a major recording label and producers. I compare these experiences to dying on an operating table and losing a great war.”
The Dead, The Dying, The Damned is a pop album with some deviations to my ears. He occasionally feeds an ’80s and ’90s rock vibe but overall this music felt very familiar to radio friendly rock. There is just no denying when you hear the opening song “Gravity” that it feels like the lovechild of bands like Goo Goo Dolls and Matchbox Twenty. Suffice it to say if you like the first song you will like the others.
“Gravity” adheres to the tropes and criteria of pop songs and I don’t say that in a pejorative way. Sarvies utilizes the template for how a radio friendly pop song is supposed to sound. “Plastic” hits a little more of a hard rock vibe while “Code Blue” tapes into a more reflective singer/songwriter type angle.
“Fire at Will” was a fast paced highlight amongst the batch. He sings, “Cannot give up, cannot give in, despite the torture taking toll, You risk making a martyr in this campaign for control.”
As the album progresses it gets dark. I started analyzing the lyrics and I think it might be easy to gloss over why. On “Save My Soul” he sings, “A system’s in complete control, bloodshed is living proof, Agendas in place, we are pawns in this game” and on a highlight entitled “Crash” he sings, “The vultures, are circling, the scene of the crime, Piecing theories together, and writing headlines.”
Towards the end of the album he starts mixing up multiple genres with different styles. “Killer” has a sludgy rock vibe, “Dust and Ash” is a soulful performance with electronic production and “Going Nowhere” is a motivational ballad.
His style was hard to get a hold of after spending more time with the album and the last couple of songs kind of threw me for a loop. Either way the album is still grounded in a style of pop that you will have heard before unless you have been living in a cave and will appeal to fans of radio friendly rock/pop genre.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Juggernaut Beach Youth is gone 3.7
darling lily gave Cartograph 4.1
Pin Pin 3.5
Anna Tosh One Big Fire 3.7
scumdogs purpose 3.4
Ashen Verditc Timing 3.5
Mad Habit Fear the Sun 4.0
squibn studio Legend of the Devil 3.9
Open Ceilings The Palace Tape 3.7
Kowari is a power-pop band hailing from Tacoma, WA. Playing as a group since 2015, Pastel Bruise is their debut release, a quick four-song jaunt through the math-rock and emo-tinged pop de rigueur. Though such music can be dreary, Pastel Bruise doesn’t spend much time plumbing the genre’s emotional depths, achieving instead a detached contentedness common in dreamier rock productions. The band’s Bandcamp bio says that Kowari is the “musical equivalent of when you accidentally hit Shift five times and Sticky Keys comes up,” and that’s about how tragic it gets here.
EP opener “Sorry” begins with an insistent, slightly overdriven riff accompanied with a surprisingly groovy shuffle. Low, fuzzy lead lines intertwine with the bass, while the yelping vocals sit deep in the mix. “Sorry” will appeal to not only fans of post-emo-revival indie, but the buzzy bands of the mid-‘00s— there’s a bit of Unicorns-y bounce to the track that makes you bob your head from side to side. The chunky chorused-guitar breakdown is a great way to shake up the vibe, before crowning the track with another chorus section. As an opening statement for a band goes, “Sorry” lays out a fine blueprint.
“Sweet Bumblebee” has a jerky 5/4 guitar line as its backbone, with a vocal delivery reminiscent of a Dismemberment Plan track. After a relentless first half, a descending guitar line slows things down, before a title-dropping vocal leads the whole track down into full silence. Songs with such busy arrangements can lose their impact after even a short while, so the compositional trick of breaking things up gives “Sweet Bumblebee” a pleasant ebb and flow.
“Absence” is the lighter-raising moment on the record, with a gentle guitar arpeggio and a full vocal opening up into a chill groove. The cleaner guitars and simple instrumentation also give the drums a chance to shine. Splashy cymbal parts and rich fills are all over Pastel Bruise, though they’re often masked by the overdriven guitar sounds, so it’s nice to catch some of the percussion work in a clearer setting. Though the shortest track on the EP at barely more than two minutes, “Absence” works with a drastically different palette than the preceding songs, demonstrating Kowari’s talent as songwriters.
“Definition” closes the record, synthesizing much of Pastel Bruise’s success into one evolving piece. Galloping drums underpin fast guitar strumming, signaling the group’s tightness in performance, before a break that gives the bass a moment alone. The song slows, speeds up and then slows again into a gentle outro. The song runs through both the warmer, sweeter vibes and frenetic breakaways that appear elsewhere on the EP, joining them into a continuous stream without losing impact.
Pastel Bruise is a confident first salvo for a new band, and it’s frankly a very enjoyable listen. The worst part about it is the inevitable return to the “play” button after 13 minutes pass by. With its tendency towards overbearing introspection, the emo scene needs more joy of the kind Kowari offers, and I’m hoping to have some more of it soon.
Become A Fan
If I had a lick of musical talent I think I’d just go at making music with a “guns a blazing” attitude to writing songs. I mean if you like it fuck you, and if you don’t fuck you too. You know, just to keep it plain and simple. Let everyone know where I stand. This seems to be the approach of Austin Texas blues punkers The Banisters, and I like that approach. On their latest record, Piñon Vista The Bannisters explode out of the gate ready to rectify some rock n’ roll tunes, like there weren’t nothing holding ‘em back, like there weren’t no tomorrow. They just go after it, no stupid delayed build up to a mediocre hook, just plain old good ole fashioned rock n’ roll.
The opening tune “Weary Pilgrim” blends bluesy guitar riffs with whammies and wails, and the vocals are laid back but not lazy. Then there are bits of twang (they are from Texas anyhow) that interweaves throughout the song giving it the substance and dimension that every good rock tune requires. Next we get the same formula but sped up to a punkier beat. The song is “Don’t Text Me about Drugs.” It reminded me of the early years of Bad Religion and other such politically-minded punk upstarts whose songs can sometimes blend in a bit of wry humor along serious lines.
Things take a more mellow and indie-rock driven turn on rather radio-friendly “Heat Lightning” which gets a little warped in a good way as it morphs from this radio-friendliness to a more balls out rocker along the lines of Neil Young when he gets really pissed off. The diversity ensues as singer/songwriter Nicole Hutchins adds her powerful vocals, reminiscent of Patti Smith’s beautiful growl, to the progressive and groovy rocker “Toxic.” Hutchins closes out Piñon Vista, with the soulful and serious grooves of “Superstar.”
The Bannisters dynamic of letting their musical tastes help to write the songs individually and play them collectively could have easily blown up in their faces. I have heard it happen thousands of times. The fact that it didn’t happen to them is because they see the bigger picture and they know that a diverse batch of songs that sound like they were written cohesively can only come together if everyone plays their part, which is exactly what each of the Bannisters do best.
Ben Brookes put together an impressive lineup for his album The Motor Car & The Weather Balloon. He worked with drummer Michael Bland (Prince), keyboardist Greg Inhofer (Bob Dylan) as well as two members from Badfinger.
I found the album enjoyable with solid songwriting and obviously good performances. On that note the general vibe of the album felt a little dated with a lot of familiar moves that echoed a ’70s vibe that we have heard plenty of times before. You can hear influence from bands like Pink Floyd and I thought I heard some Rod Stewart in there as well. I think I just wanted some more advanced production techniques and out of the box experimentation rather than hearing another guitar solo.
The songs were consistent and Brookes knows how to write a hook. “Crack A Smile” was a standout for me and I thought the backward sounding effects worked well. The song has a good mix of melancholy and hope. “Look Through My Eyes” is a solid rocker but the best moments come towards the end where the song slows down and a saxophone take the centerstage. There were a couple of other highlights such as “I Wanna Go Home,” “Stories In The Rain” and the reflective closer “Shackles.”
I have no doubt there is an audience for this album. Brookes has talent which is immediately apparent and it's spread out evenly throughout the songs. I’m inclined to say that this album should immediately resonate with fans of classic rock.
Overall, The Motor Car & The Weather Balloon wasn’t the most inventive album I have heard this year but the combination of exceptional production and performances with solid songwriting makes for a winning combination.
The evil winters is a one man act with a new crunchy dream pop album out. Robert Schnettler has been writing music since his youth. He likes to focus on emotional responses. When you hear the synthetic escape he has devised with his album littlemouse his influences come through crystal clear. Schnettler was influenced heavily by the goth wave of the late ’80s and the electronic ambience of the early ’90s. Anyone with a fondness for that era of music will not be disappointed with what you get for just four tracks.
Some people have the gift of creating entire universes in their heads. Some of those people turn those worlds into books or movies; others like to construct them with music. Littlemouse has serious sci-fi movie or video game score written all over it. The heavy synth is combined with some rather worldly sounds and the result is something that feels off planet. I’ll say this, the game or movie or television show I picture is awesome. I am intrigued. At points the music gets very epic and I picture an enormous space battle going down. Other times it calms itself and I get the sense of an internal struggle within someone’s mind. I like the back and forth.
All the tracks are instrumental. Each one gets a very unique tone, especially in the beginning. Track one, “Myles Thomas” gets a subtle dreamy. Number two is “Lillian” start off in a very worldly and earthy place. Three is “Slab City” and has a fabulous trippy sci-fi vibe. My favorite is by far the last track which is “Orange Sunshine.” This song has the the strictest structure of the bunch with an active percussion element. While all tracks start with signature sounds they tend to end up in a similar place of dreamy, grungy, crunchy rock. It gets very industrial and is very appealing to me. Since all tracks seem to circle back to this sound I almost wish the album was one big movement instead of divided up into tracks.
My only complaint is that the tracks all seem to land in the same place at one point or another. However, if it was all just one big piece it would make more sense to me. I could have used a little more action and drama in the first three tracks. “Orange Sunshine” kind of spoiled me with possibilities and I wish there was more of that in the other tracks. The audio treatment definitely dates the tracks. This is understandable considering his influences but part of me wanted to hear certain things a bit clearer. There were so many elements and I’m not sure they all got their due. However I can appreciate the aesthetic and the dedication to what kind of sound he wanted.
Littlemouse is easily enjoyable and has a lot of applications in terms of where and when you would want to hear it. The evil winters has cool ideas and is not afraid to be original and experimental. I think he’s got a solid handle on the art of transportation. If you want to be somewhere else for a while this would be your album.
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