Seductive and vulnerable is how Trevor Harley paints his music. His voice is supremely confident, if quiet, and yet very convincing, even urgent on his album The Wanderlust. On the piano-studded "A Bench and a Street Light," Harley admits that, "Time goes by so fast / there's questions I need to ask / but it's hard to find the words." Ascending piano notes quickly glide across the track with percussive jingles and it becomes hard to ignore the singer's earnestness. These plaintive but telling statements populateThe Wanderlust.
Musically, though, Harley ventures into different genre territories. Do you know how unfair it is to classify music as "Singer-Songwriter?” Like, what elements are we supposed to watch out for? Because Harley goes with the flow, wherever it takes him, and we end up with an impressive mix of lounge, jazz, glam rock and folk. The songs are mid-tempo affairs so as to allow the lyrics to take the lead, unless Harley is doing that himself with the guitar, drums or bass (he plays all instruments himself, though he is also helped out at times by friend and fellow recorder Andy Thompson). I mean some of the riffs in "My Father's Words" where Harley flawlessly emulates Santana. In fact, throughout the EP Harley proves he has enough ideas, lyrically and musically, to sustain his creative output.
The mellow simplicity of "What's the Big Deal?" with just a guitar, piano and what sounds like a tambourine, just has Harley talking about what a pain-in-the-ass love, or even just affection, can be. "I've wanted to say it for so long / but my brain keeps yelling to hold on / but I know that you feel me so why don't we just be." I'm sure we all can relate. Meanwhile the reggae-cum-soul efforts in "The Lesser Bear" should not go unappreciated. Slick and sensual effects pedals underscore the much less forthcoming percussion, creating an interesting tension that's more steamy than anxious.
There's good stuff here. Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea, but there's enough of Harley trying out sounds to garner interest for those looking for variations on the Singer-Songwriter genre. Ugh, I can't believe I just wrote that.
72nd and Central is the debut album from 72nd and Central, the "culmination of a ten-year effort by frontman Chapman Suther." A decade's worth of patience and creativity has a lot riding on it, so how does 72nd and Central sound?
"My Weapon of Choice" kicks off the album with a red herring, just a couple of nondescript guitar strums before a blistering wall of sound falls upon the ears. The boys claim Tool, Nirvana, Modest Mouse and Brand New among their influences, and all are heard in this song, from the heavy-ass guitar play to the thick timber of the drumming. The album follows in sonic suit.
The guitar work is aggressive and impressive, sort of reminds me of Sunny Day Real Estate for some reason. Could be the texture, or maybe they just sound similar. The drumming is fantastic on this album, especially the licks on "Does He Know." Grunge is also a huge element on the tracks. The churning guitar riffs, crunchy bass rhythms that threaten to snap your neck and of course the drumming. Seriously the percussion on this album is beastly.
This is biased, (but then, so are all music reviews, right?), but what I enjoyed most about 72nd and Central is how the well the album emulates its influences. True, it doesn't add anything new, but the compositions are tight as hell. The smooth interplay among the musicians on "Mask of the People" adds to the overall feeling of paranoia conveyed by the song. Same with the next track, "This Place is like a Ghost Town," when subdued instrumentation, of less decibel-level than most of the album, build off each other rather than vie for the listener's intention. The result? It is a cohesive, if dirty statement, on the power of rock.
Luke deWilde is a twenty-year old emcee/producer under the moniker “The Wilde” who makes self-described “alternative hip-hop” on his recent album entitled Urban Alien Nation. The album is full of eclectic sounds produced from organic instruments such as guitars as well as electronic synth and drum sets to create a musically rich album. DeWilde wisely enlists a number of guests such as Scarub of Living Legends and Milo of Hellfyre Club to bring some variety along with his own skills. DeWIlde sounds undeniably young throughout the record but that hardly holds him back from making well-crafted lyrics with more than impressive production and even more impressive hooks.
The album begins with “Name ≠ Ego,” which combines reverb laced distant sounding guitars with electronic hip-hop drums during the verse. DeWilde has clever self-deprecating lyrics such as: “Waking up and hoping that you noticed me and tweeted / While you lay awake last night and couldn't fall asleep / Now I'm busking on the city streets and trusting there's a plan for me.” The verse is solid but the chorus is extremely infectious and filled with great tones and sound as he sings, “Every single day is the same, never changes / One step closer or I waste away.”
It’s evident on “Leaving The Living Dead” that deWilde also could start an avant-garde indie pop act. The best part of the song is when he sings that infectious hook. “Off the Map (feat. Natalie Sullivan)” takes Sleigh Bells-inspired drums and combines them with bending guitar strings making a lush atmosphere for him to spit rhymes off us. The hook may be the best on the album. It sounds like it’s straight out of a California pop song and Sullivan’s voice works nicely in the mix.
The production gets pretty sick on the title track “Urban Alien Nation.” He cuts up the beats while a foghorn type synth permeates the sound field. The song dances around topics young people have been talking about for decades such as intolerance and general in-compliance with the bourgeoisie life style.
Luke deWilde made an album that is a “grower.” It has some good production and you won't want to miss the hooks. Sure some of the topics he skirts around may seem a bit sophomoric but I doubt you were writing songs this good at twenty years old.
My God, Walter Young Jr.'s voice. It is deep and full of the blues, and just about every other emotionally representative color. Only four songs on the EP Not gonna hurt me anymore and that's a damn shame. You ever hear of Otis Redding? It's like Young channeled the man's spirit just long enough to record this EP.
The title track is astounding. It is a plainly delivered song about rape that, depending on your view, trivializes or captures the seriousness of the subject. Musically, the album is slow and let's the tracks breathe. Of course, Young's voice takes full control of each number. The EP seems to focus on a standard jazz sound, crossing in Otis Redding's sense of rhythm with the quiet energy of The Righteous Brothers (not quite blues but a suitable comparison in this case.
"She is my Everything" is a slow blues number that combine piano, subtle drums and bass to create a solid canvas for Young to sing over. The vocals are excellent but the harmonies he introduces are the cherry on top. "Hey Girl" follows a similar style but is more heavily influenced by 1950's pop. If the song was made 60 years ago it would have been on the radio right after "Teen Angel". He reverts to some more traditional blues with "Love Me Down". The guitar parts had just enough attitude on them to make you nod your head. When the chorus hits the song goes from an undercurrent of pent up blues to full throttle rock.
There are a number of things to enjoy about this album. Not gonna hurt me anymore is highly recommended, that voice is just astounding.
Sam Williams is musician from Stratford, CT who seems to be less concerned with making a cohesive album and more into making music he wants too. On his latest release Butterflies he mixes genres (some successful such as pop and others not quite as successful as we hear with his rap song) and styles to create a diverse if scattered listening experience. Williams doesn't have a particularly great voice nor is he an amazingly proficient guitar player but he can write a tune. Along with songwriting capabilities are his production skills. Although the songs are sparse I was impressed by the quality of this self-produced bedroom record.
Williams states that “This album is to cultivate some of the happier things in life. Just looking at the song titles at the on the album make this message self-evident.
The first song on the album is called “Butterflies” is a simple, sparse pop that is catchy enough but wasn't as enjoyable as his second tune “Invisible” The sounds in the songs are a bit goofy but oddly hypnotizing. “Smile” is another solid tune if a bit corny at times while Sam Williams (Featuring Robert Codio on Piano) - Fallen sounds a bit too lo-fi for my liking. Mr. Williams attempts too rap and fails on his song “I Can Rap (Fly). The song is goofy and can’t tell if he is being serious or not. He should stick too the quirky, pop songs cause this deviation was a misstep. Williams closes with an optimistic song called “Wonderful Days” which is a simple mix of his voice, guitar and some bass.
One thing that is evident is that WIlliams he is passionate about his music. He plays what he wants unapologetically and its hard to fault him for that. While there are a lot if improvements that could be made on the album it does have some moments that are worth your time to check out.
Polygon Palace is a musical collaboration between Adam Phase and Gabriel Crossan. After a couple of EP releases including Tokyo Getaway and We Have a Visual they released their first LP Sunburnt Shadows. The album contains 12 exceptional songs of electro pop not unlike that of Passion Pit or Cut Copy. From beginning to end every track sounds top notch with high production values. The songs are fun, easy to dance to and have unpretentious lyrics and themes.
From the first moments on “Starpilots” you know you are in for a treat. A deliciously funky bass line and extremely infectious vocal line coated in an English accent gets you in the right mood. The chorus explodes with exuberance as the vocalist sings “The greater heads got together / Decided it was time / We buried our thoughts / With clocks to measure our passing / And a note explaining why we left.”
A deep distorted bass and lead synth follow the same melody on “Paper Cuts” while “Tokyo Getaway” is a deep cut with an inspired beat and may just be the best song on the album. “Foreign Creature” relies on the symbiotic relationship between the bass and drums to create the foundation for the vocals to lay on top of. As the song progresses it impresses with advanced production techniques. The vocals become filtered, synths manipulate and dynamics are perfected creating an engaging, visceral song. “Showtime” utilizes Interpol-esque guitar strumming and an impressive instrumental breakdown section that is a blast to listen to. “The One Who Walk Away” has a huge sound and was a good choice to end the album with as it had some of the most original sounds.
Polygon Palace has made an exceptional album with Sunburnt Shadows. It had everything I appreciate in an album and is undoubtedly going to be one of the most underrated releases this year. Hopefully we hear a lot more from Polygon Palace.
South Mountain Lights recent EP Glamdring is one take, no overdubs, improvised and solely instrumental. It combines various genres such as post-rock, ambient, shoegaze and even blues to make for an enjoyable listening experience. The band has been together for about ten years and released a fair amount of material and Glamdring seems to be a solid introduction to the band that will most likely get you interested in exploring some of their previous material. The fact that this material is improvised and in one take is what is most impressive to me (although I did wonder how their songs might sound if they had a less arbitrary approach to the music.)
The first track on Glamdring is called “Untitled #2 and is the shortest of the three songs (just under three minutes) and is a subdued blues jam. Everyone in the band is talented but the guitar is the shining star on this song. The song is basically one big guitar solo and is impressive although not that emotional tantalizing.
My anticipation was with the title track “Glamdring” as I wondered what would develop in the fifteen-minute time frame. The track follows a typical post-rock structure that relies on dynamically infused tempos that go from soft to loud. In the beginning of the track the guitar produces no more than a fog of ambience as the bass trickles its way into the spectrum of sound. By the five- minute mark the bass line is more prominent; the guitar is producing a slow but loud lead and the drums are producing some effective tom work. The song progressively gets more intense but also displays some creative moments in between that a lesser band may not have hit upon.
The last track surprisingly called Untitled #1 is decent instrumental track and feels most like an improvisational jam. It was a good listen but just never went anywhere that felt more than an improvisation.
I respect the aesthetic that South Mountain Lights has taken to in their album and I am sure it makes their live shows pretty intense. While this EP isn’t perfect it has moments of brilliance that sound big. The fact that these guys are a three-piece band is a testament to their talent.
Forming in Athens, GA by way of attending band parties and filling in each other’s bands The Doxies were born. They released a strong self-titled album The Doxies earlier this year with seven very well crafted pop songs that contain fantastic harmonies, delicate guitar work and a gorgeous horn section. The record is influenced by French-influenced garage pop such as Serge Gainsbourg and Jacques Dutronc but has a hint of some alternative rock such as Radiohead. It’s a nice combination of sounds and feels like music that can be played at almost any kind of occasion. Whether you are working on your laptop on at coffee shop or need something to wind down to this music will work.
The album opens up with the excellent “Pistol,” which has some fantastic percussive elements and technically impressive guitar progressions that sound extremely accessible. It a great pop song and right off the bat you will notice how attractive Bren Bailey’s voice is. It is comforting and feels non-offensive if that makes sense.
The first song is not a fluke as they show you with “S'il Vous Plait.” It’s one of those songs that will get stuck in your head the first time you hear it. The vocal harmonies and guitar melodies feel like the perfect spring day. Therefore, it’s highly recommended any time of year. The horns against the guitar melodies on “Stella” sounded so good. Bright guitar’s notes against the warm solace of the horns were money. Bailey gives an inspired vocal performance and reminded me a bit of the lead singer from Foxygen. They continue with excellent interplay between horns and guitar on “Berliner” that takes advantage of a 1950’s surf pop influence. The album closes with “Enceladus,” which has the most melancholy moments on the album and where you notice a bit of influence from Radiohead. That being said the song is one of the highlights of the album.
The Doxies self-titled album The Doxies contains seven songs without a single dud and it has high production value. It is really great stuff so take a listen.
I became an unintended fan of dirty blues rock after hearing a band perform it live, having been impressed with the artful use of instruments and sheer musicality that was exhibited. Hearing the self titled effort by The Addies proved to be a similar ethereal experience, one that captured my ear from the very first note and kept me bobbing my head all the way until the silence at the end.
“Right On Time” required a restart to fully process the odd time signature of the attention capturing yells of the title, but it was worth the effort. This tune features catchy lyrics and meaty guitar work, with vibrant vocals. A electric-laced guitar solo offers a brief break in the energy, picking back up with an equally catchy bridge.
“Take You Home” has blues written all over it, with all of the pizzazz of rock and the accessible lyrics of pop. The chorus opens like a nutshell, with various instrumental effects making an appearance to flesh out the already strong sound. A strong bass line gets the spotlight later in the song and is the perfect complement to all the ingredients already in the mix.
The alternating guitar chords in “She’s Not There” are deep and entrancing, and the vocals here are edgier than before. The sting of anger is deeply apparent here and comes out in aggressively played music. In contrast, “Feeling Down” is much more laid back and, in a weird way, more sensual than the other songs. Like the other songs, this features a guitar solo, though this time the guitarist is really making a name for himself with this particular part; you can hear his passion through the strings.
“Trouble Bound” has a brief moment of feedback that kicks into a positively infectious rhythm. By now, the confidence of each musician in the band has shown loud and clear, and you are even more enthralled with their talent than you were from the first song. A harmonica coos in the background, introducing the most air-guitar worthy solo yet. The song ends decisively and you are thrust back into reality.
The Addies’ bandcamp page sports a photo of the band with the caption “Indisputable champions of grabbing your attention right now”, a completely true statement in any regard. With tremendous musicianship, the confidence to do what they do well, and the sense of having fun, The Addies really have a winning sound, and are definitely worth a listen.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook