Care Again. is a musical project by Brendan Kerrigan currently based in Portland, OR. Divide & Conquer reviewed his previous EP We Don’t Get Even, We Get Mad under the name Moss and we are more than happy to see him return with his latest full-length album Don Quixote.With this new release, Kerrigan brings back more of his shimmering surrealism that we all fell in love with in his prior release. Kerrigan infuses in this recording ‘90s indie rock with early ’00s psychedelic pop that magnifies his intent to introduce to the world his brand of unique garage rock. The album was recorded and mixed from years 2014-2020 in bedroom studios at different intervals in different cities such as San Francisco, Napa, Eureka, Portland and even West Palm Beach. The influx of places has led to subtle signatures of these settings being imprinted into the recording. In the background, you may hear running faucets, washing machines, car alarms and movie samples, which marks the sound with a very distinctive pulse.
The album title, artwork and theme all reference the Spanish classic novel of the same name, which points to Kerrigan’s upbringing due to his Mexican mother’s heritage. The character, Don Quixote, dared to dream an impossible dream and reject reality. It is due to this route of escapism that has led Don Quixote on his adventures and Kerrigan with the making of this album, a journey that is as much about legacy as it is about following your dreams.
Don Quixote gets started with “Separation Of A Mixture,” where the sounds of bongos drip into the cacophony of sounds on the backdrop that evokes a very carnivalesque feel. The sounds are whimsical with strumming that sounds like coming from a mandolin. The clashing of waves adds to the reverberating effects. The vocals come across a bit buried from the instrumentals, but at certain moments the fidelity shines through. Arresting acoustic guitar spins a warm sound on “Stutter Neatly.” The vocals come in drenched in reverb. The echo-y notes really carry the music forward. A sauntering drumming beat adds touches of drama to the track. The clashing of instrumentals at times sound chaotic, but there is order in the chaos. The sounds are electric and eccentric at once. Shimmering guitars and tons or reverb introduce “Easier.” A spaghetti Western vibe is harnessed. This sounds like something from a Tarantino movie. I greatly enjoyed the spangly beats and cinematic sounds. I think the reverb and distortion worked really well here.
Rumbling guitars create a wall of sound. The vibes were ominous at first but once the song progressed the sounds grew with more levity with highlights from the xylophone. On “Sonna (Windmills),” chiming of bells and dissonant electronic layers give off a video game feel. The chiptune embellishments gave the track an ‘80s-inspired vibe. The randomness gave the track a stir of the moment feel, as if at some point in time the band was inspired to improvise on the recording of this track. On “Sick Of It,” ghostly sounds arise from the synths as more guitars filter in. The mixture of percussions added to the ominous factor. Up next, the music becomes more metal-influenced with one endless strand of guitar riffs, wailing to the forefront of this song. The vocals continue against this droning backdrop. They sound separate from the music as if Kerrigan had recorded the vocals and instrumentation separately. There was something to the delivery and energy that I could appreciate. Fuzzy guitars carry forth more of the distortion found in the previous recordings on “Sonna (Giants).” The synths and chiming of bells added to the ambience of this \ track. The vocals are echo-y here. The hazy and dreamy notes will really transport listeners from their everyday lives with this dynamic closer.
The album lavishly enchants listeners with a wide array of instrumentation from acoustic guitar, upright piano, mandolin, drum kit, bongos, synths as well as field recordings that fuses unusual soundscapes with warm instrumentation. Kerrigan’s eccentric sound will speak to those who are fans of the more whimsical, quirky side of life. Don Quixote is definitely something that should be on your must-listen playlist.
Hophorn Hornbeam’s debut self-titled album Hophorn Hornbeam almost didn't happen. Three days after the Ottawa band played their first show, lead man Gavin Dyke severely damaged his left hand in a woodworking accident. Unfortunately, a nine-day hospital stay and many surgeries did little to point to Dyke regaining the necessary dexterity to play guitar again. Goodbye, Hornbeam, right? Wrong. Dyke retrofitted his guitars and learned to play guitar left-handed. Through the re-learning process, the band came up with their debut album. At the core of the album are simple folk tunes, easy for Dyke to play as he re-learned guitar. However, when played as a full band, Hornbeam’s project takes on an exciting alt-country edge.
“Dystopian Bump” is a beautiful opening track. Bugs and birds chirp over heavily reverbed pedal steel and slide guitar. The song is spacious in its ambiance but pointed in its emotiveness. After knowing the band’s tumultuous past, this opener provides hope that they are now at ease. Along this vein, “Songwriter Death Trip” shows strength in the face of life’s adversity. The song ends with Dyke confidently singing, “But you don’t have to say / That you’re bound to fail / When the devil’s got you by the tail / No you don’t have to say / When you’re bound to fail / That old devil’s got you by the tail.” The songwriting on the album is smart and vivid. The songs have tight vocal melodies and surprising rhymes, all while managing to convey a clear story, and the music is just as good.
Both “Perrenial Bloom” and “Flowers on a Beer Can” have excellent pedal steel solos, while “Domesticated” features a saloon-style piano that is pure fun. Some harmonica solos are sprinkled throughout the album and give the track “Old Stock” a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers type of energy. On top of the impressive performances, the production has an honest and endearing quality to it. This was purposeful, as Dyke played the songs for the band not long before recording, which happened live. Overall, the songwriting and recording style mesh well.
Hophorn Hornbeam has overcome a lot in its short existence, but their perseverance is a testament to what it means to be a band, musician, artist, writer, or what have you. The group has overcome a lot, and they have an impressive piece of music to show for it. This album has me looking forward to what they’ll drop next.
Originally, a couple of musicians with over 20 years of experience playing in other people’s projects, due to some life-changing events they decided to come together and play their own music. Dēpsikk, therefore, is a vehicle for the band members to fully express themselves with their own original ideas and vibes. The band is releasing their self-titled debut EP Depsikk.
On a technical level, the EP felt like a work that showcases the band members skill set as musicians. Honing vibrant guitars, tight bass, energized keys as well as the band’s ingenuity with programming beats, the album felt like a good mixture of both their ability to rock out organically as well as digitally. The sound felt neither manufactured nor contrived. In fact, I felt that the sound was very in-the-pocket, showing the bandmates’ ease on their instruments as they display a smooth lounge, oftentimes funk-based sound that can switch from groovy to sensual-sounding depending on the track.
Dēpsikk gets moving with “Shadows,” where right away the music struts right in. The melody is a smooth blend of cool vibes. The vocals also come across as laid-back and mellow. As the music washes over you, listeners will be provoked to start moving along with the groovy music. Dashes of funk could also be detected from the energized synths and keys. An easy-going R&B vibe gets executed on “Take What’s Mine.” The combined vocal harmonies felt very dynamic. The vocal layers grow more vibrant as the fire behind the vocal seethe with emotional power. The fierce vocals almost felt like a rap sequence. The fast-paced beats go on to power through the track in the backdrop.
On “None Of A Kind,” sultry guitars take the track by the reins. More rap-like vocals persuade the listener to listen on. The vibes were very compelling. The band ups the ante with this energized number. On “Prettier,” tribal beats add an Afro flair to this song. The energy of this track is contagious.The song carried some dark riffs and the gritty layers really added an extra component that really gave another necessary dimension to the album. Recalling a Wu-Tang Clan vibe, the band adds some unique vocal characterizations to “Rhyme Or Reason.” The antics really gave a distinct flavoring to this track. More gritty beats added traction to this song. I loved the energy on this closer.
The band shows that they are naturals in front of the mic, performing these mellow indie concoctions. You can tell from their close-knit interactions that they are a tight group of people, who have most likely played together in sessions well before the project formed. Their rapport is obvious from the get-go. And their performances display players who are perfectly at home playing in front of audiences whether live or invisible, stretching their talents to show the most of their potential. The EP proves that this is only the beginning for the band. This was a good start and I am excited to see where they go next from here.
There isn’t too much information out there about lone wolf theory. I’m not sure if this is a solo release or a full band but the EP Battlegrounds is quite good. The music is sort of dark rock. I was reminded of Radiohead and a couple of other like-minded bands.
The first song is called “better day” and immediately I was digging the bass groove, beat, synth and vocal melodies. It’s also has a good, rising, slightly bright chorus. There was a breakdown too which I really enjoyed. Overall, I thought this was a really strong start to the EP.
Up next is ‘battlegrounds” and this song initially gave me a more motivational type of vibe and overall was a little more pop oriented I would say. There is a warm melancholy which sounds great and reminded me of The National with a little slice of Cold Play. The chorus is a lot brighter than the first song and I felt this was a single worthy song.
The energy gets even brighter and more joyful on “opiate #2.” There are some killer guitar picking patterns on the song and really infectious vocals. I would say this song also had a slice of Americana that I think came from the organ.
“blue shirt” might be the highlight. The music was fantastic on this song, the lyrics are cerebral and introspective and I loved the dynamics. I also really loved the vocal melodies. His delivery is confident yet warm. Everything about this song gets two strong thumbs ups. Last up is “slow burn” and he doesn't disappoint with this song either. This song is a nice mix of nostalgia and hopeful sentiment.
I thought this was a great debut. I’m looking forward to hearing more from him in the not too distant future.
The recent release In Dreams from Clash Bowley is about dreams. What kind of dreams do you ask? I’m not sure if it’s about dreams you might have about your life, like owning your own business or the type of dreams you have when you close your eyes at night. On his Bandcamp page he really doesn't give any specific answers and leaves it quite vague. He says, “These are songs about dreams. They go all over the place musically, but I have never cared about that.”
Truth be told I do care about that aspect. An album that’s very scattered in terms of style doesn't possess the cohesive qualities I appreciate. I prefer listening to an album from beginning to end and having aspects that connect adds to the experience for myself. To my ears Bowley isn’t all over the place. There are the common aesthetics that I’ve heard from him before. Suffice it to say this felt like classic Bowley to my ears.
There are twelve songs and I do want to highlight some of my top picks. The opener “Rain Dance” was one of my favorites. This song was a little more stripped back and the vocals really felt like the focal center. I also really enjoyed the way he sings on this song. It really felt natural and inviting. The vocal melodies were infectious and overall it was a really solid song.
The vocals are noticeably different on songs like “Jump & Shout” and “Too Close.” I enjoyed the songs but you can clearly hear his affectation coming and going. There are some lines where he has a bit of a snarl and sounds a little like Tom Waits. Other lines have more of a David Bowie like quality. This kind of emotional variance was all coming from his delivery and inflection. Impressive.
Towards the middle of the album I was really just getting a classic Bowley type vibe I heard on his previous album. Take for example “Conjured Star” and “Hard To Hold” which have synths and electronic percussion that is juxtaposed against the lead guitar. That’s not to say these songs aren't unique but the Bowley sound is inherent within the songs. One of my favorites was the closer “Drive-By Love Hammer'' which contains some cool counting vocal harmonies.
Overall, this is another Bowley record in the win column. It’s a nice addition to his already impressive discography.
Josh Esterley is a musician currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. He explains, “I was fortunate to record my first album in Syracuse before I moved to St. Louis and recently released it under the title Half-Dozen Dead Roses.
Esterley was playing open mics previous to the pandemic and truth be told that was sort of the vibe I was getting with this release. I don’t say that in a pejorative way. It’s just the fact that the songs are simply acoustic guitar and vocals. He even approaches the guitar playing in a similar way to all the open mics I’ve been to over the years. I would say he strums the guitar with some force. There really isn’t much variation to this on the songs. He finds a comfortable dynamic range and stays there.
Musically, this is a very sparse release. There wasn’t a whole lot to grab onto in this regard. The chords seemed to serve the vocals as the main focal point. On that note the vocals are quite good in a number of ways. He’s a dynamic singer and I found his voice aesthetically pleasing. The lyrics are well written as well and he can get away with different shades of emotion.
The EP gets going with “Thirty Years on the Road to Nowhere” and this song is indicative of what else you will hear on the album. It’s a dynamic folk song about traveling. This is a song that felt timeless in theme. Countless folk songs have been written about the traveling troubadour, not sure where they are going and reflecting on the road so far.
He has some more success with “Far Off Distant Stare” which has some country flair while “Morning Train/Ella Rosa” is contemplative. The remaining songs “One Time Thing/Half Dozen Dead Roses,” “Ten Day Clean” and “All My Years of Drinking'” were solid and really reinforced his sound.
I felt this was a solid foundation. On that note I would love to hear a little more experimentation when it comes to dynamics, chord progressions and general structure. I also think a little emphasis on the music itself might benefit his songs. I’m not saying he needs a full band but other elements here and there could have presented some pleasant surprises on this release.
Overall, I enjoyed Half-Dozen Dead Roses and I look forward to hearing more.
Bo Johnson is an artist who recently released Falling. The four songs are fairly straightforward pop songs that meld elements of electronic music. Although I’ve personally never heard of Johnson before or his music he has been involved with music for a long time and started his own label years ago.
The EP starts with the title track “Falling (feat. Evan)” and everything has super pop like production. All the instruments sound like they are electronic and you get a lot of synths, programmed drums and many of the elements you have heard in pop music before. The song is straight accessible 4/4 and the structure itself didn’t contain any surprises as it progressed.
Up next is “Humming Waves” which is a little of a deeper cut with sub bass, warbly synths and more. This was the highlight for me. The groove definitely kicks and the breakdown reminds me of Burial at points. There is no lead vocal which I was perfectly fine with.
“I Hear You Tonight” is actually just straight pop and more so a ballad. There are organic instruments on this song. This is the sort of song you might hear on The Voice or American Idol. Last up is just the instrumental version.
The three songs felt separate to me. “Humming Waves” has a slightly more underground indie feel like Jon Hopkins, Fennesz or other like-minded artists. “I Hear You Tonight” sounded like a different artist to me and I never would have guessed it was the same release.
This music appeals to a very broad demographic. It’s not niche, experimental or plays with convention in any sense. There is certainly an audience for that. The production is super clean, sheen and very recognizable in a commercially viable type of way.
Parade Music started in 2017 and has maintained a steady flow of indie releases, each recorded in intentionally limited timeframes and spread across the Internet in one form or another. Their style spans everything, from indie folk to depressive black metal-tinged, post rock to something called “screamo.” (I guess I’m out of the loop with that genre). Anyway, this year, Parade Music was approached by a manager, which culminated in the formation and release of two albums. One is Oolong Mixer which gives the listener a well-rounded look at Parade Music's early releases, offering a simpler, lo-fi indie rock aesthetic that has been compared to Ben Gibbard and Connor Oberst. Its follow up Opulence feels a lot more intentional, focusing on a darker, bleaker sound, which matches its themes of guilt, depression, anxiety, envy, guilt and nihilism. Stylistically, the album is a blend of emo, hardcore, theatrical rock and cello-tinged balladry, offering a lot of variety to say the least. Some of the characters the band writes about are emotionally neurotic, which the group’s main songwriter sees in himself and those around him. Couple that with screaming, cellos, walls of distortion and barbershop harmonies with an additional ukulele, and you get an intentionally dark, confusing experience, which the band hopes people will identify with. On the technical side, Opulence was recorded in a storage room of a first-floor apartment using a mix of DAWs, including GarageBand and Ableton, over the span of three months.
To begin, “Welcome to Opulence” is a free form, fuzzy intro at just half a minute. “Mime Erotica” has a dark groove with post-rock and metal riffs reminiscent of hard rock and metal masters such as Alice Cooper, Scorpions, Dio and a host of others perhaps. Overall, this early track is a good example of blending old with newer rock/metal sounds. “The Suitmaker’s Gambit” starts off like an Emerson, Lake and Palmer tune mixed with a psychedelic Beatles number. A lot is going on here – a cello playing, a flute of some kind I think, a mandolin or a lute maybe? Quite a change in sound and style from the previous song. Production-wise though, it was a bit tinny – I wasn’t hearing much low end, warm bass sounds. “Pretty Pink, Pt. 2” cranks up the energy and full rock sound very well with a smattering of harp and piano. “Two Drinks” explodes out of the gate with a faster, head-bobbing rhythm – and if you’re into the “screamo” genre – this one’s for you.
“Pressure” has an interesting composition with its extra percussion and intricate guitar playing. What I liked about this song the most was its atmospheric sound and dynamics – more contemporary and indie rock you could say, you’d think you were listening to a completely different band compared to the last track. “Home, Pt. 1” is one of the band’s most introspective songs and musically, it’s somewhat more stripped down – sound effect a la synths, piano in the beginning – but then, a big, bold drum sound comes in, which took me by surprise. This one overall was a very emotionally impactful song. Switching gears once again, the band ramps up an explosive sound on “Masochism.” Perhaps you can compare some other bands you’ll hear on this track, maybe both old and newer ones – all I can say I was very attracted to this one. But if I hazard a guess, it has this Misfits and/or Cramps feel.
The next number “Delilah” features the ukulele and I swear it will immediately remind you of the Beatles’ “Michelle.” I’m pretty sure the gal here the band sings about is connected to Sampson in some way. Musically, I loved this one a lot – the cello, bells, the layered voices, the piano – all of it sounded so, darn good. Flipping a coin once again to another style is “The Ark” a nervous, hard indie rock n’ roller with dark, brooding vocals. The highlights here I thought, were the chilling background vocals and the ‘60s style keyboards. Of all the harder edged tunes, this one was my favorite. “Petite Mort” offers an acoustic folksy sound with the ukulele making an appearance again. This one had an emo-like style, reminded me of one-part Radiohead, one-part Connor Oberst and the voices at the end creeped me out.
“Twitch” feels like a classic rock opera tune a la Queen, but minus the “screamo” stuff going on, which is so not Freddie. Overall, a lot of great, explosive energy with this one – you can hear the nervous urgency within the instrumentation. Last, there is “Home, Pt. 2” a stripped-down sound of vocal and a banjo in the beginning, but then the rest of the band comes in with their instruments and what you get is an all-encompassing wild ride of rock styles. On the whole, I would have to give this record another listen or two – there is a lot of variety and dynamics going on.
I walked away convinced that this band doesn’t leave anything to chance. They explore a lot of ground musically, as well as having good chemistry, which is a strong characteristic for any band to have.
Daniel McCrystal is a recent college graduate, soon to begin working as a software engineer. He was the keyboard player for the band Stereonet, and based on this first solo album, he’s clearly a skilled musician. As with many of us, he found himself stuck at home during quarantine and decided to record these songs in his basement. I’m not positive but I believe he also plays guitar and programs the drum tracks. His vocals are good, though always treated in some way, sometimes beyond comprehension.
In his notes McCrystal states he wanted to give every composition a different feel: “I never want to make the same song twice.” Sometimes he practically doesn’t make the same song ONCE, as he often changes tempo and arrangement toward the end. That said, I can’t help but be churlish by pointing out that songs five, six and seven have very similar chord sequences and melodies, and two of them are about the afterlife. They’re all good songs, but might have worked better with some breathing space.
“Taxes” starts the album off with an a typical jaunty guitar tune featuring nice harmonies and a kazoo-like sound on the choruses. Fun lyrics include: “When I fell in love, I knew it was right / all it took was one drunken night.” A very short song (just 1:42) and something of a novelty track compared to what’s coming.
In “Every Time You Walk By” McCrystal hands over lyric writing and hip-hop singing duties to his good friend Spencer Leibow, who acquits himself quite well in this fast, jittery boogie. McCrystal’s next guest, Stereonet guitarist Ric Stone, shreds away on the title track “Vanilla Moon,"none of the more straight-ahead rockers in the vein of the Steve Miller Band.
“While You Were Gone” showcases McCrystal playing solo piano against a bed of string patches and bird sounds. Here’s where his musical abilities totally shine through, and I would have loved to hear more of this kind of track. A highlight!
“Timeless” is a sweet song about two lovers convinced they have not only met in a past existence, but fully expect to rejoin each other in the afterlife. The voices and instruments are appropriately spacey with nice use of a Magical Mystery Tour-style tack piano.
“This Is Not The Title Of This Song” is the emotional highlight of the collection. McCrystal’s friend, drummer David Nicks, said he was inspired to write lyrics to these chords, but tragically passed away earlier this year. McCrystal never saw what Nicks wrote, so he finished the song by singing about those missing lyrics, and anyone who’s lost a friend will feel his pain and longing. “All I know is how to play my part / wherever you are / I hope you have a guitar / so you can finish writing this song.”
“Answer,” as noted before, shares a very similar chord scheme to the previous two songs, and at first I thought we’d entered another section of "This Is Not The Title.” McCrystal describes this number as being about “…a man of faith reaching the end of his life and wondering whether he made the right choices.” Featuring impressive jazzy guitar and keyboard playing, there’s a great snarky chorus: “And don’t you ever even think about a question / because I sure as hell don’t answer to you.”
“Teach Me A Lesson,” the last traditional song, visits Supertramp territory with a funky keyboard shuffle and talk box middle section. “Ego Birth” means to portray nothing less than the beginning of consciousness with roiling underwater keyboards, ghostly voices and shimmering sounds, which evolves into more of an actual song with rapid drums and indecipherable vocals. A pleasant journey, though I’m not sure to where.
Overall McCrystal has made a satisfying album of superb songs, and I can only imagine that further experimentation will take his work to even greater highs.
The Handsome Static is the debut album by The Handsome Static, a Pennsylvania-based rock band that’s been playing together for about four years. Bob Pettit is the guitarist and main songwriter and has written and recorded for many of the bands on the Blind Pigeon Records label. The other members (instruments not specified) are Mike Babcock, Troy Chapelle and Mike Naydock.
Handsome Static describes their sound in various ways: “rural prog pop,” “Guided By Voices meets XTC with a Richard Thompson sensibility” and “shoegaze and jam band goodness. Pick yer poison and get yer freak on.” I can’t tell if these guys were also influenced by the garage bands of the late ’60s, or by the next generation or two that copied those original groups.
A typical Handsome Static song is framed by blasting guitar chords, over which are added digital keyboards, acoustic guitar, lead vocals and harmonies. This is a group that likes their stomp box volume knobs turned all the way to the right, and they move a serious amount of air. What is sometimes lost in detail is more than made up for in sheer rock energy. The human element also cannot be overlooked or minimized. The vocals fight for sonic space with everything else, but I really like their voices: not TOO wiseass but definitely not your standard issue rock singers. The guitars and keyboards are not always 100% in tune with each other, which is fine by me. Finally, it’s nice to hear a band using a real drummer with great chops who keeps this stuff interesting and chugging forward.
In the opening “The Slow Children” the guitars slam right in, sharing space with a pops-sounding organ. In this fast, insistent rock tune, there’s barely room for anything to breathe, but it’s a sweet, life affirming noise (with a great guitar solo). Sometimes the organ sounds like it’s playing a different song, which adds another level of complexity. A surprisingly tender acoustic piano and bass movement ends the song. “Cars” again features overdriven guitars that threaten to blow the tubes in all the amps; there’s a great melodic song here if you can fight your way through the fuzz. “Texas” has more of a rural feel with wailing “Greek Chorus” lead guitars throughout. Love the opening lyric couplet: “She regrets the vows she made in Texas / I guess she’s not a cowgirl after all.”
“What A Way To Make A Living” changes things up with swaggering vocals (quite clear in the mix) against clanging guitar riffs and a cool Moog synth solo. “She Had It Down” has an appealing picked guitar and piano trills intro, leading into loud chiming chords and swooping bass runs; a fun tune about a girl who “always had to take things to extremes.”
“Something Better Than Good” is appropriately titled, as this Elvis Costello-like song is better than most of these other very good tracks with a return of the Handsome Static untethered vocal style. The lyrics use the “comparison” scheme of Alanis Morissettes’s “Ironic.” “It’s unconditional friendship / when you thought you didn’t have a prayer / it’s an unabashed epiphany / with the whole damned world right there.” Also dig the reference to Dylan’s "Blonde on Blonde… on vinyl.” Top pick!
“Deadwood” features harmony lead guitars, grungier than the Allmans but ever so tasty. “When I Part The Sea” has a quirky beat with picked guitars, organ and harmony vocals right up front. Love the repeating lyrical button “I will never ever / ever ever / ever ever be ignored again!” Another melodic, hit-bound tune unapologetically recorded in the red!
“Left Hand Lies,” the final selection, recalls the Rolling Stones in their psychedelic phase. Even more overdriven guitar and diverting digital piano,\ with bonus middle section guitar and keyboard jam. Background vocals are buried WAY in the back.
There’s 12 songs total and pretty much all of them have something to recommend. If this kind of loud but melodic rock is your bag, you might want to bag them all!
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