CAPTIVE is a solo project which recently released SHAME. The album mixes genres like metal, punk and more into songs which often felt like an emotional catharsis for the artist. I have to admit the songs seemed like they were geared towards a younger generation. Most of the songs seemed to be about hard to control adverse emotions like regret, guilt, etc. that are often conveyed through poetic verse, hyperbolic vocal delivery and journal like confessions.
“SHAME.” is the opener and at least it felt like it had one of the most natural sounding vocal performances especially during the verse. The vocalist laments over what seems to be a breakup. Some screaming at the top of his lungs ensues during the chorus.
I’m not sure if it was a different vocalist on “WAKE.” but the approach is completely different which was a mix between hardcore Blood Brothers style punk and metal. The emotions continue to pour out on “BONES.” while “FORWARD.” starts with indignant spoken word and leads to some of the most aggressive performances. I was confused as to why the remaining songs were instrumental. The vocals were such an important part of the equation. It felt like two distinct EPs after “Forward.”
The mixes were solid although the vocals were sometimes on top of the mix or underneath it. Even more important were the volume issues. Some songs were noticeably louder than others which is one of the most important things to fix during the mastering process.
Overall, there was some solid songwriting here and diverse delivery. I think the songs would have been more effective split into two separate EP’s because of the distinctly different qualities but I was able to embrace it after a couple of spins.
A sure fire way to make a song feel silly is be introducing a kazoo. There are a couple of short yet defining kazoo moments on the opening song of "I can hear my light." by The Aftergreens. The band consisting of Adam Baumann, Eric Wigham and Jordan Narloch hail from Minnesota and showcase three songs on their EP which is about a whole seven minutes long.
The songs fall into an indie folk rock territory with positive vibes that can easily make a morose man forget he is morose for a couple of minutes. “Killing Time” certainly has its charms. The melody is infectious both in terms of the vocals and string. The vocalist sings, “Hey how have you been? How long has it been since we have heard back? It's been forever and you never answer your phone. Answer your phone.” The barber shop quartet harmonies are on point and to end a song with kazoo makes a serious statement. That statement being somewhat ambiguous.
“No Finger Pointing” was a highlight. The song is two minutes long and I loved the lyrics along with the optimistic, uplifting groove. The lyrics “Loudness, the peaking of my senses All sense of its lost, but in the moment I feel alive!” builds to satisfying climax before launching into the verse which seems like a gloriously cathartic moment.
It is arguably because of the “nah nah nahs” but I actually thought “Do You Want to Hang Out Sometime?” should have been the second song. The mood was so confident after “No Finger Pointing” but the lyrics remind me of a meek introvert who needed to do some pushups and ask her out already.
I really like the band's angle and their songs. The recording was obviously a lo-fi demo home recording but worked at least to get any idea of what they are capable of. Suffice It to say I think this band deserves proper production for their songs at some point.
Overall, these songs point to a band with a lot of potential and I hope to hear more soon. Recommended.
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The Illustrative Violet is a four-piece progressivepPsychedelic indie rock band formed in the Inland Empire, CA. Their debut album Prisms of Light and Last Words is a concept album that follows an unnamed protagonist who is saying goodbye to his lover before his death when ethereal beings appear and take him on a journey through space and time. Crazy, right? I’d have to say the sound of the album pretty much matches that plot line. It was definitely a trip, to say the least.
Most of the tracks sounded like a blend of post-punk and indie rock to me with trippy sci-fi-esque synths and effects mixed with rock beats and guitar solos. I’m a big fan of concept albums in general, and this one didn’t disappoint. Tracks like “Lucid” that was full of layers of electronic sounds and mellow indie rock vocals, and “Spectres” which featured ghostly vocals faded into a spacey backdrop, really made for an interesting listen.
I did find most of the songs very similar and they tended to blend into each other. I had to keep checking to see when one track ended and the next one began, but there definitely was a noticeable order and flow even if it was subtle most of the time. A standout track for me was “Gateway” which felt a little different than the others with a darker vibe and a little bit of funk to the beat.
Some songs were a bit of a clusterfuck of separate melodies and beats like “Different Space” which felt a little scattered and distracting to me. But others were more formed and polished like “Tesla” which was hazy and unique. My favorite track was “Visions” which felt like ten different songs in one. The vibe and melody kept changing and fading, and although there wasn’t a concrete sound on this one, I loved the constant evolution.
Prisms of Light and Last Words was a fun album to listen to. I really loved the blend of experimental psychedelic sounds with the melodies and vocals of indie rock. I can’t say it would be something I’d listen to on a regular basis, but concept albums are usually a special occasion jam anyway. The creativity alone is pretty impressive and I loved the storytelling blended into the songwriting. The Illustrative Violet is a unique band that I’d definitely listen to again.
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Alex Stewart (vocals/guitar/keys), Austin Eller (drums/percussion) and Josh Geddings (bass/guitar) are Artist Vice. The three friends who also happen to be musicians recently released an EP entitled Jot It Down Get It Out.
They play infectious indie rock that goes down extremely easy. The songs are filled with memorable melodies and hooks that are evident the first time you hear the songs. They aren't doing anything here that hasn’t been attempted and perfected before but there is plenty of room for songs like this when they are well-crafted. The band went to a pro studio for the mixing and mastering and the proof is in the pudding. I have zero complaints in this area.
“First Impression” is the opener and a good one at that. Why you ask? It raises the mood, has a positive energy and is free of any extra fat. The song is about three-minutes long and achieves a lot of dynamic rocking within that time frame.
“Cleared For Landing” balances just enough melancholy and nostalgia with hopeful melodies. There is a bright quality to it and I thought the vocals sounded great here along with the whistling.
Up next is “Inspiration” which felt like the most single worthy song of the batch. It definitely has a single type quality to it where the hook gets stuck in your head right away. “The Other Side” contains some good ole fashioned rocking while “Our Little One” is a memorable closer.
Jot It Down Get It Out has a lot to appreciate. If you want a batch of unpretentious songs that are a delight check this out.
As soon as I read that the new album Exaggerator by Provincial Camps was written by Sam Roach when he was sixteen I was wondering if I was going to be able to relate to this album. I know having gone through it that your perspective of experience changes as you age. Aaahh if only my sixteen-year self knew what my thirty-six self knows now. Enough with the nostalgia.
Truth be told when listening to the album there were some things I could relate to and other things which felt like it was from a former life. Besides the lyrics you also have the music which in this case has a raw lo-fi indie vibe. Specific bands that came to mind were Cloud Nothings and Guided by Voices.
The album opens with “Intro” which is a bunch of noise and distortion from the guitars. Enjoyable but it didn't need to go on as long as it did. The album gets going with “Exaggerator” which is a fast paced, distorted indie gem and a highlight on the album. There are some great hooks and the chorus is infectious.
“Don't Think” has a pretty wicked groove. I was having a hard time making out the lyrics here except for when they repeat the title of the song with authority. “Slim Slow Slider” had a bit of coming of age, Americana vibe while “Drained Brain” is another highlight that is drowning in waves of distortion. As the album progresses “You're in My Throat” and “If” were notable songs.
The production/recording quality is about that of a demo. It is by no means a bad recording but it contains the standard issues you often hear with a home recording. Not enough separation between elements, narrow drums sound, etc.
Roach certainly has a talent for any age but the fact that he is so young makes me think he is just getting started. Recommended.
Apiaries is the musical project for Erik Harms. The project started in 2014 after taking a hiatus from music. Prior to Apiaries Harms was in a band called Picture Books that released two EP’s. Neighborhood Ghosts is the first EP from Harms that has an indie folk vibe which mixes organic and electronic elements.
He opens with “Spiteful Crow” which is an instrumental song. The song takes its time building mostly on atmospheric elements for the first minute before introducing percussive elements. The energy is increased but before you know it the song goes into another more subdued part before building once again with layers of synth and guitar.
I was somewhat startled by the beginning of “Social” because of the increase in volume and the difference on the sonic imprint. The song is driven by a distorted bass and percussion. He sings on this song which made enough of a difference in the emotional impact. On that note there weren’t really any vocal hooks in the song. Harms preferred to go for instrumental interludes instead.
Up next is “Neighborhood Ghosts” which was the first song that really got my attention. The vocal melodies were not only more memorable but the flow of the song felt more organic and fluid with dynamic changes. Harms sings, “Say you remember our neighborhoods. Will our faces haunt the spaces we once stood? Or have I forgotten?”.
“No Light / No Time” stated off very promising. I was immediately drawn in by the vocal performance and guitar. As much as I enjoyed the verse I still felt like it needed one notable change to a hook, chorus or even outro but instead goes into instrumental parts. I was reminded of the The Shins on this song in particular.
“Lake Monster” was the other highlight besides “Neighborhood Ghosts.” The vocals were strong and so were the transitions which were dynamic and engaging.
Harms definitely has an indie rock vibe alongside bands like Pavement, Built for Spill and Broken Social Scene. I often felt like Harms was on the precipice of getting into a similar creative space as those bands and could bring the infectious melodies and exceptional songwriting that make those bands so undeniably talented.
As an engineer I have to say this was a case where I think sending off the finished mixes to a mastering engineer would have helped quite a bit. The quality was lo-fi which I was fine with but wanted the mixes opened more than they were.
Overall, there is a lot to enjoy on Neighborhood Ghosts although I think his best work might still be ahead of him.
When it comes to somber, melancholy or bad moods is general, I would consider myself an expert. I tend to these moods so that they can flourish into full blown seasons within my own mind. A psychiatrist might say this is not the healthiest hobby, but I’m good at it and albums like Mercury from Graceland Gate aka Max Fletcher have the potential to assist me. This is an album focused on the cloudier emotions of human existence. It’s not all gloom and doom; there are definitely notes of romanticism and even optimism tucked away in the songs.
The music clings closely to Fletcher’s haunting vocals and bare bones guitar work. I would put Fletcher’s voice at the top of what makes this album work. He sits in a very low range, making his notes rich and engaging, it’s absolutely beautiful. Fletcher is also a strong writer who is not afraid to be epically vulnerable. The lyrics are introspective and take measure of entire situations, inside and out. It’s intriguing to say the least. The format for the songs is very fluid, designed mostly for storytelling. Overall the aesthetic is very inviting. I couldn’t help but get lost in my world of woe and take stock of my present situation. I have to give ample points to this album for be able to turn being bummed out into something tolerable and even interesting.
As far as guitar goes, Fletcher knows what he’s doing from a technical standpoint. The album has six tracks, and the guitar riffs from each of those tracks sounded as though they could have all been in the same song. I needed more of a gear shift in one direction or another. My other hang up deals with my favorite part of the album, the vocals. Fletcher has a great ear for inflection and can hold a note like no one’s business. However there were some missteps. With the last three tracks in particular, I noticed he would use an inflection technique that came off a little too dramatic. These inflections only last for about two seconds, but it had a profound effect on me in a negative way. It goes from a lovely vocalist in pain, to a bad theater performance.
Mercury is a mix of studio and home audio production. Whatever the formula might be, it worked. This album has all the loose ends tied up neatly. Rich sound throughout, and all hands involved understood the importance of letting that voice guide everything. A nice touch that came from the home recording portion is that you do get organic bird sounds on several of the tracks which was a charming touch, and the birds as well were given excellent production. They sound lovely.
Graceland Gate has a lot of potential and this album is undeniable proof. There was a lot to love and genuinely enjoy. Despite what I considered hiccups, this album is worth a listen. I would say the album is accessible enough that you don’t have to have a doctorate in misery like me to enjoy it.
Laura Kranz has been involved with music from a young age. At the age of thirteen she started composing songs for a local choir. She became proficient at piano and won the Paderewski Gold Medal at age 17 and the 2007 MTNA piano performance competition for Washington State at age18. She went on to study composition and released a number of her albums.
I took a listen to her 2016 release The Mark It Makes which revolved around a solo piano. It was an enjoyable sparse listen but worlds away from her latest release Mutagenesis. Mutagenesis is much more dense with layers and production. It contains altered vocals, synths, samples, pianos and I’m sure much more.
Mutagenesis is what you could consider an avant garde experimental album with palatable hooks. There is a deep artistic quality that veers towards the post modernism. Suffice It say I felt her music could fall between artists like Bjork, Arca, Jlin and Zola Jesus.
The album opens with “The Sea” which melds different elements like piano, synths and percussion. There are some notable melodies but for me the thing that stuck out was the gradual changes in BPM which I felt defined the song. Up next was “More Than What Exactly” which was the song that got my attention. There is some inventive production here overall and I really enjoyed what was happening with vocals.
I was starting to feel the raw human emotion that surpasses art for art's sake on “Daycatcher” where Kranz delivers a heartfelt vocal performance. The effects on the vocals were subtle and effective. “One Layer Out” felt more like a soundscape but was nonetheless beautiful..
“All Your Blood” felt like the most single worthy and conventional song on the album. The experimentation on “Gone” pays offs from its sounding like a standard piano ballad while the title track is a club thumper type dance song.
As much experience as Kranz has into music I feel like her step into advanced production is just getting started. Something about this album felt like her best work is yet to come and she is still exploring the possibilities of where it can go.
Overall, Mutagenesis was a really good album that balances experimentation with melodic structure in an appealing and satisfying way. I’d say this album creates a solid foundation for her to build upon and I have a feeling we will be hearing more from her soon.
Oblio is the recording project of Tulsa, OK-based musician Nicholas Foster. Robot is Oblio’s first release. Playing as a drummer with other artists for years, Foster felt he did not creatively contribute to most of the projects he was involved with; out of a desire to keep from stagnating as a musician, he began recording at home, trying to develop an autonomous creative identity. From these home recordings, Robot emerged, and the project took its name from the misfit main character of Harry Nilsson’s The Point! Oblio draws influence from classic and modern groups with Foster claiming the Beatles and Wilco as inspirations, though the project has a decidedly DIY aesthetic and a rough-hewn charm.
The record opens with “Greyscale” an indictment of the contemporary world’s reduced expectations and mass-market cultural conformity. With a burbling rhythm section somewhat reminiscent of “Come Together” and disaffected vocals about Subarus and building websites, Foster flexes his drummer’s chops and a lovely overdriven guitar for a Black Keys-esque rocker, albeit with a sharper social critique.
“Summer ’14” is a bit more in the tradition of ‘90s indie rock acts with plinking mallets cutting through sheets of gorgeous layered guitar fuzz. The mid-tempo swing that kicks in towards the end of the track has a familiar British Invasion-style progression and Foster’s whispery vocals sit just right in the surprisingly broad soundstage.
“Walk Away” even further foregrounds the mallet sounds, ditching the guitar and all but an intermittent bass drum for the first two minutes of the song. It’s a scintillating piece, using simple patterns and, eventually, sleigh bells to build a mysterious anticipation. It eventually pays off with rich fuzz bass and some laser sound effects buried in the mix, another sharp left turn on a record full of them.
The clearly intentional shambles of “Disengage” punctuated with a wavy Mac DeMarco-like bridge, eventually gives way to “Every Tuesday” a slacker-indie jam with obvious love for Beulah and the like. The dull ennui expressed in the verses, including a “playing Summerteeth on repeat” lyric, runs counter to the brightly melodic chorus, aptly demonstrating the constant cycle of boredom and longing familiar to so many young Midwesterners.
“The Distance Between Us” is a ballad with obvious Paul McCartney influence, though enhanced with bizarre sound effects and a gentle guitar break; “The Pretty Dark,” on the other hand, is a nearly-spoken garage rocker in that rich tradition. The splashy guitar and echoey vocals help ground the track, though the dueling leads in the end section do bring the track careening to a halt. It’s another sign of Foster’s best quality as an artist—he has thoroughly digested so much music that his compositions seem more like confident pastiche than a lo-fi lust for glory.
“Moving Day” and “Lazybug” share a slow, Wilco-like stomp, but it’s the seven-minute “Lazybug” that really shines. With one of the most open arrangements on the record, it nevertheless implements Wurlitzer electric piano, strident drumming, and a slowly growing chorused guitar in a jammy odyssey that even ends up including a calliope part. It’s Oblio’s “Let It Be” moment, but also something greater; it’s the sound of Foster making good on a rock legacy that he felt he couldn’t access, and it’s a frankly inspiring piece of work from one person alone in a bedroom.
Robot is goofy, at times, but it never feels slapdash. Even in its most cacophonous moments, the record feels inhabited with purpose, though that purpose is sometimes as simple as being bored of boredom. Foster may have begun the Oblio project feeling creatively static, but the record he’s delivered shows he’s more than a mere student of rock history—he, too, is an active participant.
Roscoe Williams is a singer/songwriter based in Toronto, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia. His debut EP Trails consists of four songs which Williams describes as “coherent, but stand out on their own.” His sound could be described as indie pop although there are elements of rock, funk and jazz.
Trails started off strong with “Innocence” which is funky and upbeat with a jam-band kind of feel. I loved the horns and the subtle harmonies in the chorus. The whole thing was fun and uplifting while remaining mellow and comforting. It’s the kind of song you’d hear in the background in a movie during some sort of friendship montage or something. I love Williams’ voice. it’s simple and understated but has that perfect indie tone.
The second track “Come Back” was by far my favorite. It had a much deeper groove than the first track with a jazzy bluesy feel. The vocals had a much more stripped down intimate quality to them which meshed perfectly with the slow swaying beat. The harmonies towards the end added so much dimension and soul as did the sexy guitar solo. I loved it. It was the kind of song that once heard you’ll crave again and again.
“Nocturnal State” featured vocalist Rachel Fawn and the deep raspy tone of her voice was beautiful and worked perfectly with the style of the song. I’m not sure how I feel about the instrumental break towards the end of the track. It took on more of a rock feel that just didn’t flow with the vibe for me. I still would listen to it over and over just to hear Fawn’s voice.
The final track “Coast to Coast” definitely took on more of an indie rock sound and reminded me slightly of The Plain White Tees. It was soft and pretty and showcased a different side of Williams’ vocals.
I really loved Trails. Each song has enough meat on it to be a standalone representation of Williams’ style, but I love the slight turn in direction each one takes. Williams is a talented songwriter and although I feel like Indie is definitely his niche, the bluesy vibe he brings to his music is unique and refreshing to the genre. I look forward to future work for sure.
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