Brooklyn-based Arlen Hart Ginsburg has just released his first album as a solo artist, titled Radian (“a brief look into the infinite story of New York City”). Ginsburg has performed internationally with jazz ensembles and hip hop groups, and his last decade was spent touring with Lady Moon & The Eclipse as well as composing for film, theater, dance and podcast.
Ginsburg describes his music as “underwater, groovy, wavy, day glow.” His Bandcamp page also lists “chill and meditative.” Ginsburg explains: “The sounds of New York City are a constant and significant presence; the machines, the people, the animals. The cacophony is inescapable and inspired me to create music that soothes the tension, embraces it and can feel like jumping into it!” Instrumentally these songs have a range of audio palettes featuring pianos, synths, mbira, strings and drums. Recording took place in Ginsburg’s Brooklyn apartment using Logic. Mixing was by Matt Shane and mastering by Alex DeTurk at Bunker Studios in Brooklyn.
“Thawing” is based on a gentle percussive shuffle, in a time signature I can’t quite ascertain. It’s filled with somewhat mysterioso keyboards, and feedback is even used as an instrument. It’s the longest cut here and takes its time exploring opaque variations in tone and mood. “Underwater Robots” features a great stutter-y beat like a remote submersible machine doing its work and then slowly dying down. I can easily imagine this is the kind of music Ginsburg composes for films.
“Making Lights” has circular rhythms that suggest an android’s dance floor, somewhat in the Kraftwerk vein. It’s mostly percussive dance music with simple melodies and a slow build. “Ordinary Confusion” continues the previous drum template but with slightly dissonant or “confusing” keyboard parts with a classical solo piano break toward the end. “A Bath” features cheeky bass lines and jazzy keys, laying a background for bursts of hiss (or bathtub steam?) as the second lead instrument!
“Horizontal Thunder” begins with tinkling percussion and metallic, retro synth patches before settling into an Asian-influenced piano and bass riff. “Missing The Sunset” suggests distant explosions which then kicks into a triple time beat like a victorious army marching home with appropriately glorious banks of keys.
Though some of this album leans a bit “virtual” for my personal taste, overall I loved Ginsburg’s sounds and melodies and look forward to more in the future.
Sam’s Play is a solo artist currently located in New York. Prior to working on his release Trailer Grapes he played lead guitar in a number of bands in Rhode Island. The artist mentions: “Inspired by acts such as Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Songs; Ohia, Tom Waits and many others.” I’m also a big fan of those artists and just based on that information I was guessing this was going to be a dark and melancholy experience.
The EP starts with “Castle Walls” and you are greeted with a soulful bluesy sound. I loved the guitar melodies especially how two different guitar parts sounded together. The vocals are hushed but lacked an intimate quality I was looking for. I was having some trouble making out the lyrics but regardless this was still a great song.
“Wam” is next and again the guitar work is great. The drums and bass while solid felt like they were supporting the guitar melodies. I thought the vocals were a little more clear on this song and definitely worked in terms of the mood and emotive quality.
“Liaison” is just guitar work and there are multiple melodies. In this case there’s intricate picking and the first time we hear the artist play lead. He does thrive here as well and treats it more like he’s playing in a rock song which somehow works.
Last up is “Under The Weather” and I was all about the introduction of the banjo on this song. It fits the song and was a surprise I was happy to hear. Lyrically, this song is about the concept of heaven. The artist sings “Can you hear the birds singing / As you lay there on your own / Have you found a private Eden / A place that you can call your own.”
This release is lo-fi but works for the style of music it is. I think a little more compression on the vocals may have made it sound more intimate but overall the instruments were well mixed.
If you enjoy the aforementioned bands I think you will enjoy this release. Take a listen.
Lonely Neighbourhood got started as a way for the artist to channel his feelings during a difficult time in his life. Launching the songs off his guitar, he began writing and recording in the attic of his home. He is located in Cornwall, UK on a narrow lane surrounded on all sides by fields, hence the moniker ‘Lonely Neighbourhood’ to emphasize the idea of living on your own in the middle of nowhere. He says his sound is inspired by bands like The Fray, Skullcrusher, Beabadoobee, Kings of Leon, Coldplay and Soccer Mommy.
While he does sound similar to these bands, I’d also like to add Glen Hansard and Bon Iver to the list of like-minded acoustic acts that are in the same wavelength as him sonically. Immediately when I hit play on his self-titled Lonely Neighbourhood – EP, his sparse but emotionally powered sound surrounds and immerses me in the musical detail. He makes the sort of music you want to enjoy on a quiet and contemplative night on your own.
Lonely Neighbourhood – EP opens with “Sad Country,” where mournful strumming on the acoustic guitar sets up the vibes here. The mood feels very melancholy once the artist’s vocals come in. This is a quiet and contemplative track. The simplistic style creates greater emotional resonance in the end. The music just builds and builds for a powerful crescendo. Some synths bring in a moody vibe towards the start of “Typical.” This felt like an atmospheric track packed with mood and feeling. As he sings about small town life, you readily feel the emotions coming from his lyrics and vocals. On “Sociality,” slowly as strands of guitars lift this track off the ground, the sound of percussive beats adds an invigorating vibe to the music. I was enjoying the uptick in pacing. This felt like a sunnier direction for the artist.
On “Euphoria” some synths and guitar riffs slowly open up the vibes expanding from his acoustic-based sound into a fuller vibe. This felt like a rock-based ballad. Warbling synths greet the start of “Cause Concern” as acute strumming from the acoustic guitar binds the sound. Once his vocals enter, the somber vibe wraps around listeners. Next, the music grows for a rousing buildup with this dynamic closer.
Lonely Neighbourhood certainly has a great singer/songwriter vibe to him that purveyors of the coffee shop or open mic scene will certainly appreciate. I really liked his simple style with just vocals on guitar, but his other tracks that layers in other instrumentals are also good too.. I could imagine myself sitting in a coffee house somewhere (it doesn’t have to be a Starbucks) and hearing his voice coming through the speakers. With that in mind, I also thought that perhaps in his next recording, he could get other musicians on board for a fuller sound. Maybe having a live drummer sit in could help flesh out the vibe he was going for. All in all, this was a nice record that I enjoyed and I hope to see more in the not-so-distant future.
Johnny Deerest is from Sarnia, ON, Canada. The band consists of Shawn Bentley (guitar/vocals), Jennifer Brace (bass/vocals) and Kyle Stewardson (drums). They released My Teepee which they describe as ’90s lo-fi. I would agree with that label.
“Putting Chaos Back Together Again” is the first song and is slowly moving. It drags but not in a bad way. The lyrics are interesting and abstract. As the song progresses there aren’t any major changes besides the vocal range of Bentley.
“Repetition's A Smack” is a fuller song with a more complicated arrangement. The band creates some notable grooves and even tries to go epic which is harder to do in lo-fi like this. “Gentle” is a gritty and dark tune and almost an early Pavement vibe with this song mixed with Guided by Voices.
“Chesterfield” is the ballad of the batch. Last up is “Blank Eyes (electric)” which is a slow burn very similar in energy to the first song. There are some well done background vocals by Bentley. This song reminded of a song by The Pixies but slowed way down and vacant of the punk energy.
I grew up on ’90s indie rock. The band does have a similar quality to the aforementioned bands as well as Yo La Tengo, Belle and Sebastian and other like-minded bands. This music definitely thrives in lo-fi. In this case some of the songs go beyond ’90s lo-fi. I do want about twenty percent more fidelity on some of the songs. There was masking of frequencies and also a little more separation would have helped.
The EP has a nice flow to it. It starts and ends with very low energy but they also do a good job in making the body of the songs fairly dynamic and quite often rock in a jangly ’90s type of mode.
Suffice it to say fans of lo-fi and some of the previously mentioned bands should enjoy this. Take a listen.
Auckland, New Zealand trio Silk Cut came to life in early 2020, as a batch of songs inspired Andrew Thorne “all at once.” Thorne (guitars/vocals/synths) took his reverb pedals, added Aidan Phillips (bass/backing vocals) and Mike Burrows (drums/backing vocals), and produced ‘astronaut’ EP which is planned as the first of a pair of EPs.
This four-cut release is an indie-pop delight. Thorne describes the tracks as “echo-chamber daydreams,” which is an apt description. The songs all feature layered guitars and ear-coating harmonies. Phillips’ bass is prominent, driving the songs against Burrows’ in-the-pocket grooves. Synths and backing vocals fill out the sound space. There are lots of little parts and themes to pick up, if you want, or you can simply enjoy the catchy melodies and well-constructed overall sound.
“Getting in Close,” the lead single, opens ‘astronaut’ EP. Phillips’ stellar bass propels the verse. He grooves and moves things along, and throws in just enough subtle variation to keep it interesting. There’s a cool switch of feel for the chorus, and lovely layered vocal stocks, especially on the refrain.
“Dream King,” up next, keeps it going. Phillips’ bass is grooving again--especially on the breakdown section--with Thorne working in smooth guitar arpeggios and fills around the dreamy vocals. The auto-pan on the solo section was a bit disorienting; to this listener, the gimmick detracted from the solid playing.
Silk Cut breaks out the ethereal synths for “Black Night Sky,” which is appropriate for a song about UFOs. Burrows’ drum patterns shine here, especially locked in with more great bass work from Phillips. Thorne’s guitar solo (with shades of surf-rock tone) is his best on the album, and he shows his keyboard skill with the multiple parts and sounds here.
“Undone” closes the EP. Again, Phillips delivers a cool bass line, and the band lays down vocal harmonies reminiscent of Abbey Road. Keeping us alert, Silk Cut throws us a curveball (or bowls us an inswing, as they might say) by shifting to a heavy, scary-interval guitar-riff coda. They don’t go all-out metal on us (the tone is more indie than Iniquity), but the change in style worked as a nice contrast to the rest of the disc.
‘astronaut’ EP is an engaging, interesting album with terrific playing from the whole band. Four songs just isn’t enough! In good news, the companion EP is coming, and we’ll get more for Silk Cut soon. While we wait, give these four a shot in your indie-pop rotation.
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
The Bitter Ends. The Ends 3.6
couch bard trite nonsense 3.7
Croc Pot Croc Plop 2 3.7
Tay Temple Painfully Aware. 3.7
Ten Fields Loner 3.7
The Stifftones is a husband and wife dynamic duo who are back with a sneak peak of their new album Bitter Findings & Silver Linings. They have toured, released some impressive music (which we reviewed here) and seem to be going strong and continually evolving.
The first song I listened to was “Backwards Down A Hill” is a fun and fast song that more or less combines elements of punk and surf. It starts with a gritty and dirty chord progression, 4/4 time and a classic surf rock guitar move. The male and female vocals work together and there’s also possibly a third person doing background vocals. It’s under three minutes and goes by fast. This was not a style I was expecting from the band but I thought they did a great job keeping the music live sounding and like you’re in a small concert space with the band.
The second song “Starting Over” which is a demo, however has almost an exact type of feel. There are reverb laced guitars, emotive and passionate lead vocals and the song feels like more of a pop/rock ballad. This song is five minutes long and slowly builds with intensity. It feels more and more motivational as it progresses especially with lyrics about starting over. By the time the guitar solo arrives, the song is going for an epic, sweeping energy. The song does crescendo there but does simmer back down.
I liked these songs but for different reasons. It did leave me wondering what else to expect from the album. Is it going to be more punk oriented or a mix of all different types of rock genres? I think the band is evolving in new and exciting directions. They already released songs which display their talent and skill and with these songs they seem to be reaching for new heights.
These two songs piqued my interest and I’m sure their fans are eagerly anticipating what’s around the corner.
Mark Abbruzzese (guitar and vocals) and Keith Walsh (keys and bass synth) have known each other since kindergarten but they just recently released their debut self-titled album Mindfree. Ric Rosario, drummer joined in 2021 while CD Rios was the engineer/producer. At their core they are a rock band and I would also say they sound like a live band at least on this album. The recordings sound like they are playing a room together.
They get going with a nice romp of a song entitled “I Am The Wolf” that is an upbeat and fun song. It reminds me of a song you might want to hear on a Friday night hoping to have a good time.
The band simmers it down slightly with “She Will Be'' which is a little more of a rock ballad. Bowie came to mind on this song and just in general more of a ’70s aesthetic. They continue to crush with the organ infused “Storks and Vultures” and the more lush piano led “Shoshone” which has one explosive and epic chorus.
The title track “MindFree” was the first time they rock out in a prog rock style. They display their technical skills going up and down scales and changing tempo. This felt like a highlight to me.
The Bowie vibes became more apparent on “Hollywood Heroes” which sounded great. I will take sometime to compliment the vocalist on his dynamic range as well as the emotion he put into singing. Another standout prog rock infused track is “MindFrei.”
This is a finely produced album. As I mentioned earlier this sounds very live as if you are hearing the band in the studio performing. I personally love that quality in music which feels less and less common.
The songs were well written but also felt connected by the band's signature sound which is something I always preach about in my reviews. Recommended.
It was the late ’90s and I was in a high school band at the time. I lived in a suburb of Chicago called Crystal Lake and one of our first concerts was a battle of the bands in a nearby city called Elgin. I got a little nostalgic when I read the band The Subterraneans was also in a battle of the bands in Elgin more than twenty years later. I can’t help but wonder if it was put on by the same group of people.
Suffice it to say I surmise the band crushed it if it sounds anything like their six song self-titled EP The Subterraneans. The band mentions, “The six-song project was written over the past two years, and reflects on the challenges and paradoxes of self-transformation as one comes of age in the modern world.” The band is certainly around the right age to make this type of album and their concerns don’t seem all that much different than what I was worrying about at their age.
They start with a highlight entitled “Part One.” This song has a mix of ’70s classic rock and ’90s alternative. I really liked the groove on this song and the vocalist does a good job creating memorable melodies. This felt like a strong start to me because the song felt accessible and infectious.
“Lies” is a little darker and they sound good with this mood as well. The song moves along with a hypnotic type of melody and the band Mazzy Star came to mind as the song progressed. “Phases” was more like an interlude with phased out guitar, shimmering cymbals and an overall psychedelic quality.
“Better Friends” is a highlight. This song soars and is also quite catchy. The additional synths help with the song and add an additional element which adds to the dynamics. I also thought the lyrics were very coming of age. The vocalist sings “My friends always change, one day you wake up and they're better, I stay the same, only the doctor is writing me letters, and I'm nervous you'll forget about me, cause friends always change, you can't keep an eye on me forever.” Last up is the ’70s influenced “Feeling Great” which is another solid song.
The band is young but already has a good sound and hopefully this is just the beginning for them. Recommended.
Vocalist Ben Hernandez appreciates the potency of soul. In fact, his prior band, Malachi Henry & The Lights, recorded with the same Los Angeles musicians who played for Mavis Staples. This time around, he teams up with Kevin Spencer (guitars/vocals), Scot Smart (guitars/bass), Aaron Hook (bass), Shea Thompson (keys/vocals) and Cheyne Dolly (drums). Known collectively as Bright West, when their groove locks, they positively cook.
Blending classic gospel with modern shades of alt-rock and electronica, the band’s debut EP Breakers crashes out of the gate with "Shake Dance." The opening track delivers enough “love, peace and soul” to rouse the spirit of Don Cornelius, amplifying every nook of secular testification. Hernandez weaves his voice through a heavily drummed rhythm section before a call-and-response chorus keeps the tail feathers quaking. This all happens quickly (within 36 seconds, in fact), but the urgency itself is what propels the locomotive forward. Just as smartly, the Nile Rodgers-tinged guitar lick knows when to accompany and when to step aside. “The Holy Ghost power keeps the lights on / It’s the fury and the sound / Lightning coming down,” sings Hernandez, offering the perfect rationalization for the lack of empty seats along the wall of the proverbial dance floor. Even the slack-jawed Mosaic Man on the album’s cover can’t help but process the vibes.
What is surprising, then, is how Breakers fails to preserve its momentum. After towel drying from the opener, the remaining tracks don’t seem designed to keep the follicles dripping. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that – why pigeonhole oneself? – but since we’re having such a blast, seeing the punch bowl wheeled off in favor of a crudité platter can be, well, disheartening. Fortunately, “Milk and Honey” offers enough of a plodding shimmy to help the shoulders moving. Echoing shades of Zac Browne and The Allman Brothers Band, the tune feels primed to become an outdoor concert staple. Or, at very least, an enjoyable dancehall comedown.
“Upon The Shoals” and the title track “Breakers,” delve a bit more into the adult contemporary landscape. It’s responsible music for folks who demur that third can of Genessee Cream Ale. The former rides an already established chilled groove while the latter sounds like an updated Bruce Hornsby. And just as suddenly, the rough and tumble “shake kids” of those back alley bars are all grown up, eating caviar off crackers on some docked yacht. Yes, in just four tracks and 15 minutes, we’ve experienced a partial life cycle.
Given Hernandez’ prowess in navigating the world of music production, it’s clear that Breakers is no amateur project. Undoubtedly, Bright West can hold their own in the soul circle-of-trust, boasting the chops that fellow white boys like The Afghan Whigs flaunted decades earlier. Let’s hope they keep tapping that vein. Thrombosis is a bitch.
Don’t miss this one.
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