The five-piece band Margins of Society comprised of Trevor Houck (lead vocals), Greg Harman (drums), Scott Shackelford (guitar), Nick Smith (bass) and Marc Weaver (guitar) formed in 2011. They recently released Disconnected, which is an eleven-song album.
My first thought and I don’t say this in a bad way was that the music didn’t sound contemporary. There seemed to be an obvious influence from rock from the ‘80s and early ‘90s to my ear. I have stated in the past that I think that musicians are much more often to sound similar to music they were listening in their late teens and early 20’s. If I were a betting man I would put my money on the fact that the band is well past their college years.
The album is diverse or scattered depending how you look at it. There are some straight hard rock songs then they play reggae/pop and go into other areas as well. The good news they pull off most of what they attempt.
First up is “Welcome to the Human Race” which is a mix between what sounds like sludge metal and a brand of rock you could imagine coming from the Talking Heads. Lyrically, the song is broad and taps upon topics such as choice and destiny. He sings, “What’s the point? The point is you have a voice/I feel bad. The way that you feel’s a choice/I’m no good. Embrace the God that made you/Don’t give in. Take your ideas, push ’em through.”
“In The Groove” is a funky affair not too far from James Brown. The singer sounds nothing like the singer but the music does during the verse. The lyrics don't have much substance on this song and felt like they were there to get you more into the music.
“Steep Climb” was a highlight that revolves climbing the corporate ladder while “Diminished Returns” sounds similar to UB40 as they meld reggae and pop. Another highlight is the title track, which is more or less standard rock but has a number of memorable melodies. As the album progresses “Even More” was the other song that stuck out to me.
My only minor gripe with this album was that I was left feeling like the band didn’t have much of a distinct sound. Perhaps this was because they attempted a lot of different styles and felt like a genre band. Overall, this is a solid achievement for the band and I can give it two thumbs up.
Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Jeremy Porter & The Tucos play a distinct flavor of rock that lies somewhere between Ted Nugent, Wilco and Cheap Trick. It’s a good ole boy style of rock that you surely have probably heard before but still sounds good.
The songs on their latest release Above the Sweet Tea Line are catchy, well produced and also fairly straightforward. Their no frills style of rock isn’t on the cusp of reinventing rock and often feels like a tip of the hat to artists that have come before. That being said the band is still able to sculpt their own sound with the subtleties and nuances of the music.
The album opens with “Josh” which feels like classic Americana rock more aligned with an artist like John Mellencamp. There is an instant “classic” feel to it where you can tell people would like to hear this song live. The song blasts through a number of tropes which are pleasant enough but also predictable. “Bottled Regrets” is a little more grounded than the opener and aligns with more of an indie rock vibe in the spirit of Wilco or The Shins.
“Elimination Round” is another solid song. At first I thought I was in for a country song but it ended up sounding closer to Cheap Trick. The drumming is top notch on this track along with the lead guitar. The band goes back to a pure American feel with “Knocked Out Cold” while “Hey Kentucky” is an upbeat, festive song that is more or less a perfect drinking song. They close with “Long Story,” “Sounds like Goodbye” which sounds like a Fountains of Wayne song and the sparse “Sleepy Eyes.”
There isn’t a whole lot of guesswork with Above the Sweet Tea Line. By the time you get to the third song you should have a decent grasp if this is your “cup of tea.” Overall, I think this album will resonate with a broad demographic that a lot of people will appreciate.
The recent EP entitled I Want You by West Without is a unique release because it can resonate with the mainstream and the underground. You can hear traces of bands like Phoenix, Local Natives, Coldplay and The Chromatics. Suffice it to say I Want You is an exceptional EP that a lot of people will enjoy.
There is a lot to appreciate here. First off the singing is great. They changed singers from their first release but the band won't have to worry about that. Passionate, dynamic, and palatable are a couple of words that come to mind when I think about the vocals.Then there is the production, which is just top notch. There isn't much to say besides that it sounds great.
They open with "Red" which revolves around a hard-hitting steady beat, cascading synths, guitars, bass and exceptional vocals. The initial groove reminded me of The Chromatics. The vocal delivery is extremely soulful and the range is really impressive.
Next up is "Safe (in the arms),” which is a great song and is probably the most single worthy out of the batch. Its hits huge peaks; inspirational and catchy. You can hear a hint of new wave on "Slow" but it also contains the aesthetics of a band like Phoenix. It's another one for the win column. Great delivery, great singing and great songwriting.
I was already impressed by the first three songs but "Away From Us" blew me away. This is an exceptional song. It starts off sparse with synth and vocals but doesn't take long to build up energy. The song eventually get to a dance worthy groove that bursts with emotion. During the breakdown the vocalist sings, "a fire is burning a fever is rising." Towards the end the band even goes into post-rock territory.
There really is much else to say about this EP except you should already be listening if you haven't already.
Delco Bread is a songwriting duo of lifelong friends who are separated by many miles. Mike Waltman lives in Arizona, and Dan McGowan lives in Delaware, but thanks to digital music tools and online collaboration, they have been able to come together in spirit to release their debut album, entitled Better Than 9-5.
Mellow and peaceful strumming open the album with the first song “Better Than 9-5.” A groovy drumbeat adds a layer of rhythm to the mix, and wistful, bluesy vocals take control as the guitars build in volume and force. The song gradually develops into a smooth anthem and a harmonica solo brings the song to its emotional apex.
“No One Could Replace You” features alternating hushes and crashes with deep, resounding guitars, bringing an enjoyable contrast to the solid and steady percussive beat. Subtle vocal harmonies pepper the tune, which maintains an upbeat, bright atmosphere throughout the rather lengthy song.
The sunny mood continues to dominate the album with “Moonlight Flowers perhaps the best track on the album with its catchy piano and harmonica added to the usual repertoire of instruments.
Angst and tension builds in “That Was Yesterday” the first song on the album built around minor chord progressions and a darker theme. The differences in this song bring variety to the otherwise vibrant aura of the record and in doing so make the brightness more noticeable. The energy slows down with “Willow” but develops into an emotive, reflective ballad complete with tuneful melodies and poetic lyrics.
Ending with “Scene Stealer” a stylistic pop rock track, Better Than 9-5 thrives as a creative work built by two talented individuals. Listeners can only hope that the distance between the two musicians will not prevent them from continuing their collaborative careers or touring to produce excellent live music.
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Edward Korft is an artist from Brooklyn, NY who recently released an EP entitled I Love Parties. He has a nasally high-pitched voice and his music is fairly straightforward electronic dance music that is more apt for a club than your headphones.
He is a decent often good songwriter and the songs are well produced. The one thing that had me perturbed and confused was his liberal and completely unnecessary use of the f-bomb. He utilizes the word like he is a twelve-year-old who uses the word when his parents aren’t around just because he isn’t allowed to say it.
More to the point it sometimes comes off as sophomoric, a filler and just doesn’t work with the music and his singing style half of the time. I have no problem with some cursing but if it's used over, over and over again it not only diminishes the impact of the word itself but displays severe lack of lyrical creativity.
He starts off with “I Love Parties” which is a solid song. The lyrics are solid and the music initially reminded me of something you would hear from The Postal Service while his vocals veer towards a style you hear from a pop-punk band.
“United We Flail” utilizes a standard 4/4 techno beat. The music that surrounds the beats is creative and revolves around cascading, arpeggiated synth. It’s fairly catchy and easy to enjoy. “Not Missing Much” talks about thinking about going to a party but just sitting around and drinking a beer. “Dating Is Fun” is another upbeat, dance song. His lyrics don’t require much thought. He repeats the words “I’m sorry that I fuckin suck” like a dim-witted mantra. He closes with “Happy New Year” which contains a bit of nostalgia.
I Love Parties is an EP that is about a very specific age group and will most likely resonate with them. This music and its theme are about people in their early to mid 20’s at their latest. Parties, girls, vapid nights out. Korft has some skills as a songwriter and producer. That being said I hope he expands his vocabulary because the frivolous topics (which I didn’t mind but don’t need to be repeated) and the vacuous use of the word “fuck” is going to be harder to get away with as he ages.
Darkest Adrenaline is a solo project from a currently anonymous artist. The recent project, which was created back in 2013, is apparently the first step in what the artist hopes is just the beginning of his or her musical journey.
As of right now Darkest Adrenaline is releasing demos on Bandcamp and the first one is entitled Embers Of Hope. The songs meld electronic and rock elements all of which were made inside a DAW. At the very least these songs serve as a decent foundation while Darkest Adrenaline builds up his or her palette of sounds.
Embers of Hope opens with “Luminate.” The song combines arpeggiated synths and overpowering distortion from what sounds like a guitar. It’s a very robotic sounding song that fails to feel organic. There are shades of band like NIN. What the song needed was a bit more elements that have a human touch that unlocked emotion. It felt like music that might be played in First Person Shooter as you are entering a battle sequence.
“Drift Away” is more ethereal but has a very similar feel. At times the synth sounds aligned with the one on the first song and the overall energy is more subdued. The arpeggiated synths were becoming too formulaic by the time I got to “Sparks of Hope” which sounded like presets you could instantly call up in a DAW like Ableton Live or Logic. “Awakening” is arguably the strongest track on the album. There are some decent moments and transitions.
One of the hardest things to do especially when not using organic instrumentation and composing completely on a keyboard is to find a way for the music to have emotional resonance. This artist at this point has not figured out how to do that. The songs feel alien as if a computer made them. That being said that could be used to the artist’s advantage. These songs seemed perfect for a game like Quake, Gears of War or Halo. The artist may want to consider going down that path depending on how he/she evolves as an artist.
Arkavello is a three-piece band consisting of Alex Webster (bass/vocals), John Hutchinson (guitar/vocals) and Riley Frank (drums) from Alberta, Canada. They recently released a three-song EP entitled Songs from the Future, which ironically sounds more like alternative songs from the ‘90s.
The band's bio claims they combine rock, pop, folk and jazz. Out of those four genres the two the band can legitimately be filed under are pop/rock. You can make a very thin argument for folk but I didn’t hear any traces of jazz. The ‘90s alternative vibe is real and the most apparent on the first track “Caught in a Fantasy” which has traces of bands like Alice In Chains and Silverchair.
The song is well written and well delivered. Musically, the song is straightforward relying on basic chord progression and a steady, tight rhythm section. I was most impressed by the vocal performances. The lead vocal was catchy and I thought the ghostly vocal harmonies were the most vital part of the song.
“Here We Are” sheds the distorted guitars and replaces them with an acoustic. As with the first song it’s carried by an exceptional lead vocal. The vocals are aesthetically appealing and are heartfelt, warm and easy on the ears. My favorite line was “Do you feel the doubt drip down from space/ there's no way out of this charade.”
They close with “Vanilla” which was a personal highlight out of the three. I thought the music was especially strong on this track. The song starts with an inventive guitar riff with the bass and drums feeling juxtaposed yet connected. There were a couple of times I was reminded of Band of Horses. On top of that even though the vocal delivery is competitive with the other songs I thought the melody itself was more memorable.
Songs from the Future is a solid EP but it goes by quickly. All three of the songs work together but it’s a little bit hard to imagine what an album would sound like. Songs from the Future build a good foundation but I hope to hear them expand their palette of sounds with a full length.
I was first exposed to Reptiel when I reviewed their 2013 Violent Sagas Of The Ancients. The band immediately struck me as something unique with their fantasy themes that fell somewhere between Heavy Metal (the movie) and Spinal Tap that was done in such a way that had some levity but wasn’t a joke. The music fell somewhere between, prog, psychedelic and classic rock most of the time but also had enough distinct qualities that the band was able to create a unique sound.
The band's latest Hobbitozz ... A Land That Never Was continues with a similar style that refines the foundation even more. This is an album with a very distinct story that I think bears repeating. According to the band Hobbitozz ... A Land That Never Was “is a psychedelic prog rock fairy tale that takes place in a fantasy world somewhere between Middle Earth and the Land of Oz and relates the story of Forest Boy who awakens one morning to hear a bird singing to him that he must bury his father who has died in the night and begin a journey through the sylvan landscape of Hobbitozz to confront the roots of its demise and discover his destiny.”
The band wants to create a Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones type universe so I would surmise that you are going to be hearing a lot more from the band. One thing I will mention is that since they want to create this universe I thought they would have made the lyrics available but I can’t find them anywhere. In addition to that I thought more artwork to sift through would have been cool to further emerge into this universe they are creating.
From a musical standpoint I was loving what I was hearing. After a quick ominous, nightmarish intro which sounds like ghosts dwelling in purgatory entitled “Intro” the band gets to rocking with the title track. They don’t come out of the gates rocking but rather ease you in with a celestial, atmospheric glaze. The music is good but the vocal harmonies make the song.
“Forest Boy” is a whimsical song that sounds fantasy-based with crystallized fairy sounds. It’s a unique song to say the least. After that the band pulls off “Near and Far” which is a highlight of the album and has it’s roots in ‘70s rock. “Leaves Are Falling” combines dissonant sounding elements that sound like the wind with standard rock instrumentation while “(Beware) The Woodland Witch” is a fitting name and sounds like it could be used in a play.
The highlight at least for me was “Ecstasy in Shadow Green.” It’s the catchiest song on the album and the vocals will get stuck in your head in a good way. “The Elven Souls of the Forest Knolls” starts off sparse but eventually gains some momentum. They close strong with “The Druid of the Wood” before “Outro.”
Hobbitozz ... A Land That Never Was is a great achievement and I appreciate their tenacity but to be honest I want them to go further with it. A couple of videos or artwork would be a good start. I haven’t seen them play live but if they aren’t they should be dressing up in some type of fantasy-based costumes. At the very least the vocalist should be in full body armor and the bassist should have on elf ears and his bass should look more like a battle axe.
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Ken Allen is a firefighter, an EMT instructor and a musician. I have no idea how he has time for all three of these things but he manages. Although I don’t know Allen personally I can surmise that he’s probably a pretty good dude just by the altruistic work he decided to get involved with. Luckily, I didn’t have to expel too much effort to enjoy his five-song EP Eye of the Storm.
Ken Allen (vocals/guitar) got some help making Eye of the Storm. He was backed up by Benjamin Andrews (bass/lead guitar), Connor Forsyth (piano/organ/wurlitzer) and Shaun Elley (drums/percussion).
The music is soulful, heartfelt Americana with elements of rock, folk and pop. These songs don’t fit under the sub genre of hard rock. Allen makes music you can enjoy at a wine bar with that special someone. It’s smooth, goes down easy and best of all Allen has a good voice.
He opens with “Eye of the Storm” which rings with nostalgia and melancholy. It starts without any warning and the singing begins immediately. He sings, “I think we met before / In a cafe before the war.” I was reminded of the band The National here and there. As the song progresses there were a number of well-executed crescendos but nothing that goes into U2 or Coldplay territory.
“Jody” has a familiar country swing. It’s subdued and is the type of song that if played live will get people to put down their drinks and try their best on the dance floor. The next track “Leta's Lament” is another solid track that combines organ and distorted guitar. There are some decent rocking moments on this track but the band still manages to keep it subdued relying on Allen's vocals to carry the song. The same could be said about “Rappacchini's Daughter.” Allen closes with “Road to Eden” which is more or less straight up country. The guitar picking is top notch and arguably Allen’s best vocal performance. It’s a reflective song about life and death.
Eye of the Storm isn’t reinventing the wheel or being experimental in any way. It’s obvious the band wanted to keep it simple and rely on classic songwriting. I think they accomplished that.
At the beginning of this year Bipin Kumar aka Apollo Architect released The Wanderer. The EP explores the genre of post-rock with all its tropes that we have come to know from artists such as Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. It has a theme, which is apparently about a boy who leaves his home to understand his purpose in life. The wordless story is completed with The Cutting-Room Floor EP.
Kumar mixes it up a bit more on this album and each song has its own vibe and feel. I would argue that The Cutting-Room Floor EP is more complete and diverse sounding than its predecessor. It starts off with “Lights In The Sky” which is a track with a decent amount of momentum. Ominous synth and guitars create a vibe that is comparable to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. For a post-rock standard the song is predictable but well delivered.
“Idea” is another lesson in post-rock but this time Kumar embraces clean guitar at least for a while. Right before the two-minute mark the song become more intense and shoots for the stars.
Kumar starts to veer away from post-rock with the enjoyable “Quiet.” The song is sparse, free of percussion and revolves around pretty string work. It’s a tranquil piece and one of the best Kumar has done. “A Mixup (ft. The ShatterGlass Project)” is the highlight of the EP and has a distinct hip-hop feel that isn’t too far away from Prefuse 73. The song’s finest moment comes about a-minute-and-a-half in where everything comes together. Good stuff.
“Sunlight” is an atmospheric, ambient piece that is well done while the closer “This Is Not For You” reverts to Kumar's post-rock sensibilities.
The Cutting-Room Floor EP seems to be a slight improvement over The Wanderer EP. That being said I would like to hear an improvement when it comes to the production at some point. It’s certainly not bad but there were a couple of things such as more separation between instruments and more defined low-end which could have made the experience even better.
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