Socialite is the new album by indie rock outfit Foot Shooter. The band is based in Memphis, Tennessee, and consists of, in the group’s own words, “passionate singing/songwriting by Shane Ellis, multi instrumentals by Zach Loomis, stomping drums by Seth Loomis, acoustic strumming by Chris Jensen and Jesse Loomis who plays the bass.” The album is a combination of some of the latest sonic trends on the indie scene, some interesting not-quite-soul and blues guitar with some electronic flourishes.
The album opens with the track “What is This,” which drew me in quickly with its muted, soulful introductory section; the compression on the vocals, sweet and resonant guitars, and looped drums are intoxicating, recalling the bright but restrained “Everlasting Light” by The Black Keys. This song became slightly less interesting to me once the second half opened up to a more straightforward indie sound, but the soundscape remained unique (and with pristine production!), so I was excited to hear more from the band.
Next up is “Diluted,” which I found less entertaining and detailed, but probably the most radio-friendly tune on the album, and it still retained the unique production elements that initially piqued my interest. My ear specifically trained onto the subtle effects placed on the vocals, and the subtle keys hanging in the background of the chorus. Frankly, despite the song’s radio-friendliness, I would still rather hear Foot Shooter on a pop or alt-rock station over a lot of what’s played there. I simply love the singer’s voice and the tone of their guitars across the album.
Socialite takes an interesting turn on “Pairing Up Happens,” trading up-beat bombastic instrumentation and charismatic vocals for some more atmosphere and interesting low-register harmonies. The horn section that appears about halfway through the piece is beautiful, reminding the listener of the bygone days when a pop group like The Beach Boys, The Beatles or The Zombies could incorporate classical musicality and no one would bat an eye. It’s a beautiful highlight on the album overall.
“Fool’s Gold” serves as a sort of bridge between the two disparate styles Foot Shooter has demonstrated so far, serving up another slower, more barebones tune that also includes the more rock vocals consistent with “Diluted.” The song also has my favorite chorus on the album, which seemingly launches straight out of the ‘90s alternative scene in the best possible way. The song contains some interesting vocal rhythms as well. “Stomp On” is probably the most varied tune on the album, containing some neat backing vocals and horns with a slightly more bluesy feel, while “Rumble. Jumble. Sound.” is a great and ominous finish to the album, bathed in reverb and atmosphere, reminding me, oddly, of For Emma, Forever Ago in production.
With Socialite, Foot Shooter combines indie pop with gorgeous mixing, sliding effortlessly between a few different sub-genres, adding a “-soul,” “-blues,” or “-rock” to their “indie” label whenever necessary.
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The Sound Of Carpet is a collaboration between Jason Petrovitch and Randa Eid. The duo went to work and released Various Assassinations.
Right off the bat I enjoyed the singing style. It’s dynamic with lots of emotion and has a palatable quality. The music isn’t too shabby either. It doesn't contain the most innovative grooves this year but still has some inspired moments. Petrovitch mixes elements of rock, funk and synthpop that is a suitable palette to lay some vocals over.
The production is completely DIY. I’d say it’s a step above lo-fi but it doesn’t have that sparkle you can hear from a professional studio. Overall, a good sound quality where you could appreciate the songs.
The vocals and music contains some catchy melodies. Along with that are lyrics that I found avoided typical cliches. Take for instance the opening track “Stop The Flow.” The song has a quirky groove that reminded me of Ariel Pink and the off-kilter lyrics fit the mood. Eld sings “Hack off something that you know can heal and then you might just live for a week or more and if at any other time you feel cause to go. Then it might help kill the taste when you kiss the floor.”
Some of the lyrics are quite poignant despite the music feeling upbeat. On “Hey Daddy” Eid sings “Hey daddy you never really had me / You want me so bad but you should / Pray daddy I hid it well but sadly / It's starting to show.” “Hey Daddy” was a highlight. The next song that got my attention was “Molt.” Just a killer song but the vocal performance is stellar here.
“Pay No Mind” is a fast, fun song with a punk vibe while “protocol” is short but sweet synth pop that contains another exceptional vocal performance. As the album progressed “Another World” was the other track that stood out.
My one piece of advice here would be to have the production quality be a little more consistent next time around. Some songs did seem to be mixed better than others.
Overall, I really enjoyed this duo. The songwriting was consistently good, the vocalist is great and it was an album you don’t have to work too hard to enjoy.
A solo folk artist singing behind the Actor Actor persona, Twisted Wrecks was a refreshing mix of folk with an ease of listening that I really enjoyed. There was nothing forced about the music, just a pretty simple mix of solid guitar talents and vocals that were authentic.
The title track “Twisted Wrecks” starts us off with a glimpse into an emotional love that is not as simple as the effortless talents of the artist. I enjoyed the organic pairing of the guitar with the laid back styling of lyrics that were strong enough that they didn't need to be overly manufactured. The opening was something I could see playing well in person. The vocals really connected with the subject matter in a way that you just knew this song was personal and couldn't be sung by anyone else. It's like when a song is just written for just one voice.
“A Truth Worth Knowing” is an interesting take on love just for the sake of being in love but perhaps not with the right person. I enjoyed the honest tone of the song, and it never felt forced or overdone. “Vertigo” was also very much this way.
That feeling of being out of sorts but in a good way by finding just the right match. It's an interesting use of something most people wouldn't describe as being a pleasant thing, actually having vertigo but you also just understand the feeling of experiencing an overwhelming level of love. The type of love that overtakes the senses and you just don't know if it's a good or bad thing just yet.
“Fear of Lights” was a continuation of “Vertigo” that left me feeling like there was so much more to this story and wanting more. I want to hear more of his voice and to continue the story. Four songs simply wasn't enough for me, in a selfish way I wanted more because it was good.
The folk styling was natural and the emotions paired well with the guitar. The vocals were soothing but also a bit stronger than that if that makes sense. I found myself listening several times to each song because I feared missing something, each time there was a new piece I would catch.
James McGrath is an independent artist from Edmonton, Alberta ,who has finally achieved his dream of putting together a full-length album. He’s been playing music and performing for years, but only on a casual basis. Much the same as many people in his position, time was a factor. He just wanted to get this done, so he put all other activities aside and gave his all to the music. It truly shows. While he views this as ‘rough around the edges’ because of the speed at which he recorded it, I see it more as raw and honest. It’s simple, but his talent shines through because of that. There are no cheap effects or gimmicks. It’s just him singing and playing to a great standard.
Chaos Theory is McGrath’s latest 12-track release and it opens with “The Tale of a Phoenix” a minimalistic track at heart. McGrath’s vocals belt out a melody atop a gently-strummed, acoustic guitar pattern. This is the good example of simplicity. Sometimes effects and complexity can be beautiful, but sometimes something as simple as a man with a guitar can be incredibly passionate and intoxicating.
“Lost Not Found” continues the acoustic-driven sound, though a slight pattering of electric guitar shines quietly through the mix. McGrath restrains his brutally powerful vocals a little on this song, instead opting for gentle, soft beauty. I enojying the depths of this sweet, succulent track when the pattern unexpectedly altered for a beautiful little of a chorus in the center of the track.
The title track “Chaos Theory” is an emotional, acoustic-driven track. A sad, nostalgic, reflective track opens the slightly longer piece, falling in around the four-minute-mark, as McGrath’s vocals wail in a heart-breaking way. I’m a big fan of acoustic music and numerous solo musicians, but it’s rare that solo music can project so much raw energy. Often it’s a quiet, intimate affair. Here, McGrath shows us an intimate part of himself. The ending was truly a highlight for me.
This is an enjoyable piece of work and McGrath should be proud that he achieved all this during such a short recording session. The rawest talent doesn’t need weeks or months of editing. I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
It all started out with a couple of hyper fourteen-year-old kids making some noise in a bedroom, and has now grown into a group of college students recording their own compositions. The band, hailing from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, writes and records their own music, as a sort of self-expression and therapy, and now gives us You Had to Be There.
You Had to Be There is a mix of rock, pop-punk and alternative influences that lead to a variety of grungy songs. The songs are long and emotional with a lot of the focus on the vocals. The first track “Nobody Hates Us More Than Us” starts out with a reverb-laced guitar in complete contrast to a smooth and clean bass line. The guitar is somewhat simple and to the point, and is eventually joined by the vocals. These are not professionally trained musicians, but each play with enough attitude and confidence to make it work.
Each song is long and comprehensive with a clear message and theme. It’s cool to hear the purpose of each track. The composition, chord progressions and melodies are pretty standard pop-punk sounds. This album is more about self-expression rather than showcasing a new type of style, sound or way of playing music.
The third song of the album “Collide-O-Scope” is a highlight. The introduction is really unique and immediately caught my attention. It starts out with an odd, electronic sound and background voice saying “Palm tree...palm tree.” Instead of the more out-of-the-box pop-rock sound that the other songs have, this track has an interesting composition and progression. The song slowly but surely makes its way into the first verse, where the vocals come in with a more authentic and emotional sound. The lead singer is singing at a lower octave in “Collide-O-Scope” which seems to fit him and the chemistry of the band much better.
As the album progresses, the band moves from a standard pop-rock sound to a more unique rock sound. These guys are obviously not the best individual musicians in the country, and have a rugged, grungy sound but the genuine emotional effort put into this and the chemistry they all share make You Had to Be There an interesting rock album.
There isn’t too much information out there about the one-man project called Company. He released a twelve-song self-titled album Company. The songs move slowly and are quite melancholy. I have no problem with that and enjoy Sparklehorse and Elliott Smith just as much as the next guy.
I actually really liked a lot of these songs but that's not where the problem lies. The biggest issue by far is the recording quality. There is no nice way to say that it’s not very good. You can’t make out most of what he is saying and everything sounds like it's coming from a different room. The ironic thing about that is that this music begs for an intimate recording. The kind of recording you get with an Elliott Smith recording or even Jack Johnson. You need to hear the nuances from the guitar to the vocals.
As far as the songwriting goes I thought it was consistently good. The album is extremely somber and is a lot to handle for twelve songs. Suffice it to say if you enjoy one song you will enjoy the rest.
The songs do feel interchangeable. It took me multiple listens to start to recognize one song from another. Most of this has to do with aesthetics and production. This is a case of just pressing play and listening to what hits you. He usually mixes in organ, drums, guitars and his vocals. That mix of instrumentation drips with melancholy and serves its purpose well.
The best advice I can give to this one-man project is to either get some more practice and knowledge about home recording or work with an engineer next go around. I have to admit I would like to hear these songs with a pro studio sound.
The Gorgeous Boyscouts are a rock band based out of San Diego, CA. They are a three-piece band comprised of Nick Schwarz (vocals/guitar), Brandon Albu (drums) and Mike Lomangino (bass/guitar). The band released a complete DIY album entitled um (cough) We Blow. I guess they are going for the self- deprecating angle.
The album showcases a band with potential that also hasn’t quite figured out their angle. They attempt different styles with varying degrees of success. Up first is “Trampolines” which is a pretty straightforward song revolving around a couple of jangly guitar chords, a bass that basically follows along with the root notes and a steady drum beat. Perhaps these guys are talking about the popular activity amongst young adults called binge drinking when they sing “I’m the one for a good time call No Respect, I’m blowin up 1,2,3 Drink 4,5,6.”
Up next is “Hey Zeus” which has a straightforward punk vibe revolving around a couple of power chords. The next two songs don’t need much explanation. The songs are composed around a couple of major and minor chords and that's really about it.
The band showcases their most creative talent with the track “Often Times.” It doesn't sound remotely related to anything else that came before. I thought the synths sounded good and the vocals were the most memorable. I’m not sure where this track came from but I hope it’s one they base some more of their other music on.
The Gorgeous Boyscouts isn't the most innovative band to come out this year. Some of the songs are pretty basic and not that engaging. My advice to them is to find a way to spruce up some of the guitar based songs with something. There were a couple of solid melodies in there and I thought “Often Times” was the clear highlight.
The Gorgeous Boyscouts have some potential. For right now they seem to be a case of wait and see.
Harnessing the energy of punk rock and old school heavy metal and infusing elements of alternative rock and hints of blues, The Scarecrow Show is a three-piece band from Buffalo, New York. Their self-titled album The Scarecrow Show, released in 2016, is a collection of songs written by Jon Juchniewicz, the singer and drummer for the band. Juchniewicz is joined by his brother Ben on bass and Ray Cook III on guitar in The Scarecrow Show’s recordings and performances.
Up first is "Fear (For Your Life)" which initally starts with warm vocal harmonies but soon gets trampled by a barrage of pop-punk. The trio showcases their technical abilities and the drummer tears it up.
The record has a number of other highlights such as hard-hitting, aggressive tone in “The Working Man,” a power punk anthem proclaiming the trials and triumphs of a modern employee or laborer. Although the song is just less than two minutes long, a ridiculous amount of energy is packed into the blisteringly fast song. Juchniewicz succeeds in maintaining crisp vocals through the chorus of guitar, bass and percussion sounds that flood the listener’s ears.
“The Rat Race” is in a similar vein as "The Workign Man" . Screaming electric guitar riffs are complemented by steady drums, throbbing bass guitar and emotive singing. The vocals find a balance between gravelly punk screaming and melodic singing, alternating between the two throughout the course of the song. A vibrant bass solo in the middle of the song provides a slight respite before the track plunges back into a full-fledged rock band soundscape to end the song with strength.
“Fear (For Your Life)” begins with a slow, rather quiet electric guitar riff before developing a fuller, faster and more ominous sound which leads the way for multiple layers of unfettered vocals and vocal harmonies. The energy continues to build as the song gradually crescendos before finally landing on a lasting, droning guitar chord that slowly fades away.
“Straight and Narrow” ends up becoming a unique blend of blues and heavy metal rock. This catchy song, as well as the other songs, make The Scarecrow Show an accessible and enjoyable listening experience for fans of aggressive rock, as well as exhibiting the band’s natural talent for writing and performing innovative music.
Jay Ducker is an indie folk artist of sorts based out of Norfolk who just released a very solid album titled Country Sober. In said release, Ducker provides his listeners with very calm and collected yet passionate and emotional songs which explore personal experiences such as breakups and uncomfortable thoughts regarding the nature of existence.
Although this album is delicate, it is certainly not weak. On the contrary, Ducker has a unique voice that it is soft and easy yet still retains a sense of authority, and as such, possesses a nice sense of clarity that makes it easy to listen to. Throughout the album, Ducker consistently sits within a pretty consistent vocal range and doesn’t explore the versatility of his voice too much, however, with that being said, the sound which he provides lends itself really well to what Ducker is comfortable with doing. As far as pitch is concerned, there were no problems and the silky harmonies which Ducker employs adds a nice facet to the overall sound.
I really enjoy the constant contrast on the album between the ethereal, spacey atmospheres and natural sounding acoustic guitar. It provides a very human yet very adventurous, explorative feel which I can certainly appreciate. Songs such as “Wild Life” and “Pendulum Hill” do a good job demonstrating this. Although Ducker’s voice is always the focal point of each song, the airy atmospheres which surround them permit a full, encapsulating sound.
As far as production goes, I would say it’s pretty stellar. The music itself isn’t too complicated, and I think the production does a good job making the most out of a sparse amount of instruments and sounds. In pieces such as “The Painter Of The Sky,” very little is going on, but at no point did I feel like anything was missing anything. The production is warm and gentle, which fits the mood of the music very well and certainly adds to the oftentimes bleak nature of the album.
Onto the subject of improvement, there really isn’t too much to say except that I would like to see Ducker explore the capabilities of his voice more, and perhaps lean more on the darker side of his songwriting. My favorite two songs on the album, “Wild Life” and “Geyser” both have an ominous feel to them and in my opinion they also present the strongest and most direct message not only thematically but also musically.
Again, this is a very solid release, and Ducker should be proud of this one. It is honestly quite beautiful, and I am very impressed with the quality of songwriting from beginning to end. If Country Sober is the beginning to a longer musical journey, then I would say that the ride should be both worthwhile and rewarding.
Christopher Rockin’ Robin is a joyful and enthusiastic fellow that hails from Sydney, Australia. The man is indebted to music and rock n' roll. Scrappy, scruffy, sloppy rock music saved his life and now it is his turn to return the favor. He’s put together a concoction of pop-punk, punk-rock, and even surf-rock sounding jams and presents them all to you in an album he’s decided to call The Hundred Acre Goods.
I’m not sure what the title of the album is referring to, but that’s not completely relevant to the music. The Hundred Acre Goods starts out with the track “2088” which seems to be more satirical than serious. The song, and introduction to the album, is a weird, psychedelic, electronic track. It would seem the entire album will have that type of electronic sound and makeup, but it takes an enormous turn with the second song.
The second track of the album, “91 Camry” is a huge and interesting contrast from the first. This song has the standard sound of contemporary, pop-rock album. The guitar progression and melody is happy and cheerful, and leads the entire vibe of the song. The vocals are very London, English-esque punk sounding, and the album gets even more punk sounding in the later songs.
The Hundred Acre Goods is an interesting mix of punk anthems and punk instrumentals. It is hard to say this album has a specific rhyme or reason, and is instead more a collection of songs that vary slightly in the pop-punk arena. There are fun punk odes, like “King Konglomerate” with a heavy, distorted bass line that has a lot of attitude and style. There is also a variety of instrumental tracks laced into this album, usually a minute or two long. While somewhat confusing, or different than the more vocal driven song, these instrumentals stand alone pretty well and showcase the talent within the different instruments.
While the back and forth between rock, punk, pop-punk, surf-rock and random instrumental songs is somewhat confusing and lacks flow, the talent and musical ability is evident in the album. It’s a fun set of songs meant to pass on some good energy and fun times. The Hundred Acre Goods accomplishes just that, and has a good attitude that you simply can not help but smile at.
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