When it comes to Ohio Sons, you need to soak in the scene that is Cincinnati, Ohio. This is a key rustbelt city. It's a sturdy, brick and mortar, blue collar, thriving metropolis with a blossoming creative movement. No muss, no fuss, very much an American staple that has evolved with the ebb and flow of American manufacturing. Out of this environment comes a fresh post-punk sound in the form of Ohio Sons Demos. Just four tracks long, no muss, no fuss - just good 'ole fashioned rock music tuned for the new for the new era.
Simmering just beneath the surface of every track is an unwavering contradiction to everything. It's combative and abrasive, meant to rub against the grain of just about everything. However it's not some overwhelming squall of noise. There's tact and finesse used here. All of these songs flow along a similar vein in terms of pacing and mood, but there are delightful distinctions. The lyrics paint very different pictures.
The opening track "All Black" houses some of my favorite lyrics by illustrating an aesthetic that kind of sums up how the album was gonna go. There's a lot of genre spices blended in here. It all teeters between punk, garage and/or grunge rock and a little indie there as well. I would actually confidently say this album has a lot of mass appeal tucked in there.
The production is something that worked for me as well. Typically when I see the words "raw" or "live" I get nervous. However when it comes to Ohio Sons, I feel like this is the only way I wanna hear it. This was a basement studio project and it worked like a charm. The whole album was recorded in one day which I think worked to their advantage; the same level of energy was projected through each song. The electricity of what I can only imagine was going in the space at time of the recording is pretty contagious.
This is an album that is infected with passion and rebellious love for the subject matter at hand. Again, I really feel this album has mass appeal for any one breed of rock or punk fan. I have no doubt these guys have more on the horizon and I can't wait to hear it. In the meantime, I am contemplating a road trip to Cincinnati to catch these guys live because it's all I can think about now.
A Long Way from Home seems the most proper name for Eric Long’s debut record. The reason being is that he currently lives in San Francisco but is originally from Pennsylvania. If you look at a map of the states it’s pretty much as much distance as one can put between two places on the map. He has brought with him however a deep sense of roots that still make him long perhaps in some way for the home he left so far behind.
On his debut though he also has a few friends who helped him record A Long Way from Home in a San Francisco home studio on a quarter inch tape. Those friends are Tom Relling, David Pascoe and Jack Ghegan, who contributed on guitars, fiddle and mandolin, and drums to name a few things, but really what they help to do is to give A Long Way from Home a little more body than a typical singer/songwriter record about being far from home would have.
On the record’s opening track, “Pennsylvania on My Mind” Long documents the long drive cross country in an Oldsmobile and everything he left behind. It’s catchy enough and moving enough song musically however the theme, be it steeped in truth or maybe a little embellished, of driving across the country in a beat-up car and missing home has been beaten to death.
But nevertheless we push on into the record and find the slow burn of “Maybe The Fools Had It Right” to be a bit more original in stature and has that jokey country and blues feel to the lyrics. “To Dream Again” is a slow rolling quiet country ballad of reflection, a quiet confession which pairs perfectly with the fiddle.
What Long does so well is make the simplistic seem so heartfelt. He is a man and his guitar documenting with a poet’s eye the things around him, a sense of ordinary life, the kind that so many of us lead without even thinking there’s anything worth writing about it. Long does this so well on songs like “Leaving,” “A High and Lonesome Feeling” and the gut wrenchingly simple and direct “Morea.”
Eric Long has said about A Long Way from Home that he had set out to write songs about real people and real lives, songs that were meant to be listened to on dark summer nights on the back porch and watching the fireflies dance about the yard. I’d say he’s accomplished this and quite a bit more on this record which captures so many different moods.
Unknown coast has its roots in the Twin Cities. High school friends joined under the direction of Roshan Wariar, and formed the band in late 2017. Their debut effort The Path was released in late October of 2018. The Path deals with involuntary isolation, deep introspection and reflection on the past. Both triumphs and mistakes are covered on the album, however more of the mistakes are put into the spotlight through the words and the mood of the music. Regardless, it finds a way to make a deeply personal experience a connection to listeners at large.
The most interesting aspect of The Path is the seamless blend of electronic and typical styles. Keyboards and synths join guitars and drums, bouncing between being an electronica act and a late term alternative band. The transitions are not distracting either; it’s still apparent that they are part of the same song. While many bands attempt to do this, it is not often that it can be executed in a way that carries both the songs and the artist with such a grace and an awe striking thought for the listener.
The electronic parts are skilled enough to rival dedicated electronica acts, while the regular instrumentals and the lyrics place unknown coast on the level with big time alternative acts. Whatever style you’re listening for, you can’t go wrong with The Path.
The Path is a tasty mixture of more contemporary alternative styles, married to the new electronic directions that music has been taking over the last decade. It’s a reminder of where alternative came from and a compass to guide the ship into the new era. The six songs feel short, however it’s clear that unknown coast is just getting started. The Path is a roadmap to a larger outcome, one that will provide listeners with fresh new music and new directions to follow it in.
Fans of bands like Arctic Monkeys, Pink Floyd, Muse or Radiohead will instantly find a place in their rotation for unknown coast. New listeners will be enthralled and enchanted by the lyrical content and the musicianship of the album. As a whole, The Path is a complete package despite its short running time.
Costal Greeting is a surf rock and alternative band from Santa Cruz, California. They don’t fully stick to these two styles, often incorporating psychedelic and a hint of blues into their sound. This makes for a well-rounded EP entitled Summer that was released in mid-October of 2018.
The EP’s four tracks are filled to the brim with explosive energy, illustrious lyrics and high level shredding on all instruments and vocals. The mix of genres creates a unique sound that incorporates elements of enough older influence to let it be familiar, and enough new ideas to keep the music fresh and entertaining.
The instruments are played with a fervor and skill that lend to an addictive listening experience. The heavy use of cymbals and reverbed guitar chords create a full spectrum sound that covers all ends. Grooving bass lines dance between phrases to underline both guitar chords and vocal bars. The only silence is the odd full band rest, while the rest is populated by a bright and upbeat sound. The lyrics don’t always follow the mood of the music, sometimes becoming cleverly deceiving describing lost love and heartbreak. Other times, the songs are simply about enjoying when life is going through a great phase, the summertime.
The detriment of Summer is its short running time. However, it is an explosive start showcasing a boatload of both grit and vision. The fifteen minutes of the EP does have much to offer listeners who are fans of more laid back and introspective music. It doesn’t require a master’s degree in philosophy to fully appreciate, but certain lines and sections as a whole will be enough to set gears in motion that can set off trains of thought that run all night and from coast to coast. Each of the instruments has much to contribute to the overall sonic environment that is created on Summer. It creates a large world to be explored, and listeners will have many opportunities to roam through and examine the full spectrum of the sound.
Dirtty Dogs is the music project of nineteen year-old Maxwell J. "MeowMixxed" Walsh. He released These Are Violent Times. It is a complete DIY effort that melds a number of different genres. My favorite moments were the jazz inspired ones which often seem to be influenced by big bands. The songs are relatively long compared to a standard pop song.
“Who?” is the opener and starts off innocent enough with digital piano and vocals. I had a real hard time making out the lyrics. On that note he has a unique inflection in his voice. The song opens up with jazzy overtones. It grew on me as it progressed. It’s deceptively catchy. There were a number of unexpected changes which worked in the song’s favor.
Up next is “Faith” which is a dissonant avant garde piece. It’s sometimes ugly but can switch emotional shades rather quickly. “What Was Washed Away in the Flood” has a little more of an indie rock feel it. There are some effective orchestral swells and easily is one of his best vocal melodies. He sings, “Witches sink, as innocents float / Looks you should have stayed back on the boat / Up above will pull you from the moat / But they’re just doing it all for your vote.”
“Blame” features a more overt singing style. He is dynamic and reminded me a little bit of Stephen Malkmus at times. It’s definitely impressive the amount of ground he covers here. “Automatic Automobiles / 2050” is what you might call the centerpiece. It’s an almost ten-minute song with a lot of different transitions. It goes from slow and jazzy to haunting as well as some other places.
“Fog Over the Bridge” is very sparse and arguably the most avant garde sounding piece. There are again some well done transitions such as the one where the full band comes in before the three-minute-mark.
There is a whole lot more as the album progresses with songs which are all worthy to be listened to such as “Paper-Thin Heroes,” “Melody Magpie,” “Garrett,” “Goodnight, Melancholy” and “Everyone Is (Birds).” He closes with “Living With the Foxes on Maple Grove” which delivers some solid vocal harmonies.
Walsh perhaps packs a little too much into this release. There is a lot of depth and I think eight or nine songs may have worked better for this release. I would also mention that I think the artist should focus on recording quality a little more in the future. It was very difficult to hear most of the lyrics especially with the lo-fi quality.
Walsh displays a lot of ambition and willingness to experiment. I think he is onto something here and l Iook forward to his evolution.
This folk/pop band originated from North Orange County California. The band consists of friends Wes (lead vocals/guitar), Andrew (lead guitar), Jordan (bass), Alyssa (violin), and Trey (drums). Moonlight Graham was formed after Andrew and Wes wrote a few songs to play at a friend’s fundraising event, and they decided to join forces with Jordan, and played a few more shows. Then came more and they wrote a few more songs. Over and over till present day.
Moonlight Graham’s motto was for creating and playing music. They wanted to create stories with a close group of friends and produce it to those who wanted to listen to it. I would love to see a live show from them because their goal is to be heard, understood, and entertain while retaining professional musicianship, create lyrics to be heard and produce melodies to be remembered forever.
When I listened to this EP, it was very much like a coming of age movie from the ‘90s. It produced a timeline of growth and maturity from them being a local garage band to a known indie folk rock group in the community. Listening to Songs for Hunting Scorpions EP felt like a mainstream album you would hear on a Top 40 radio. You wouldn’t believe that they’re an independent band still looking for a label.
The band open with "Easy" which is single worthy rock/pop song. There aren't many surprises but the song delivers what you might hope for in a pop song. "False Stutter" is a little more blues inspired (at least during the verse) with slick guitar and orchestral strings. "And I Don't" is a stripped back acoustic folk song that includes some banjo on the chorus.
I think the strongest song off this EP is “Bored With You” because of the rock riffs, Alyssa’s violin playing and Wes’ charming voice. You’ll fall in love with it instantly and wouldn’t know time can fly by so quickly.
This band has a diverse music palette under the umbrella of pop. You’ll want to stomp your foot and jam with the folk fueled romps while still following the structure of an approachable pop song.
Oh my good lord, what have we here?! Ladies and gentlemen the movement I am about to dive into is a band known as Freak Motif, seriously, and damn I need that shirt yesterday. This is an international musician collective with members from Venezuela, Chile, Japan and Canada who have an undying love for music that makes you move. They have been together for nine years and love to put on completely improvised shows, hot damn! Or should I say Hot Plate, because that's the handle for their latest album. The album dropped in October and is guaranteed to warm up any winter, and considering these guys operate out of Calgary and Montreal, they're gonna need that heat. I am beyond excited this monstrously cool collection of groove sessions was slid across my desk so let's go.
When I say this group loves music that makes you move, I mean they love ALL the good stuff. Funk reggae, disco - all marinated in a thick Latin American musical marinade. This music compels you to move like holy writ. Every track pays big homage to the great dance movements of decades past. There is an intentionally placed vintage vibration that coats everything in rose tinted glasses. They hand picked the cream of the crop when it comes to their influences and assembled a celebration made of big brass climaxes, wicked keys and deeply sensual guitar work. It is grandiose and unapologetic in its coolness. A lot of the tracks on the album are instrumental and each instrument takes their turn at that lead vocal spot, including the drums, which is one of my personal favorite moments. There is also sensational vocal work done by Lady C. whose pipes are right on brand with the vintage vibe.
While Freak Motif is very agile on their feet and unafraid to improvise live, this album is held very well together. I think it speaks volumes that they are able to master both the known and unknown with such grace - very cool. The assembly on this album is class all the way. They go for big and classic sound. I think the production should be given their due since the album is very much a callback, but utilizes the best of what modern technology can provide keeping the sound original and modern.
How do I begin with who will appreciate this album? Well, obviously if you love the groovy movements of the ‘60s and ‘70 you'll be right at home but I would say the appeal for this album goes far beyond that. I think anyone who wants to dance and revel in complex and fruitful composition will be into it. Hell, if you just wanna get in your car, put on your loudest pair of sunglasses and just feel cool for no damn reason, Hot Plate is your answer. One final fun fact, this album came out on a limited edition red vinyl, f**k that's cool.
Reading about and listening to Smooth Taste consisting of Daniel Tucker (drums), Nathan Gimpel (bass), Blake Rogers (guitar) and Sutten McWaters (vocals/keys) reminded me of being in college about fifteen years ago.
I talked to a lot of bands as a music major myself and swear every other band was a fusion band of some sort that claimed their jams were deep insights into the human condition. Of course as you get older you realize that not every twenty-two-year-old you ran into went on to have a prolific career as a musician. Those rare artists who can tap in the collective conscious of a culture for myriad reasons are far and in between but can appreciate anyone who attempts to do so.
On Spring Cleaning which is a three-song release from the band they try to capture the ineffable epic spirit of a band like Pink Floyd. They do this with the aptly titled “Dark Matter” which has a poppy, buoyant sound but still undeniably sounds very similar to Pink Floyd. The song’s best moments are the first half. It works well because it's catchy and memorable. The second half is ’70s inspired jam which has been done too much and really felt best for a live situation. The issue here is the recording which is so lo-fi made it hard to enjoy the nuances of the jam.
Up next is “Spring Cleaning, Pt. 1” where the band tries to go very deep. You have the classic ’70s lead guitar, lamenting vocals and atmospheric, backwards elements. It’s reflective and nostalgic with a bunch of melancholy for good measure. Last but not least is “Spring Cleaning, Pt. 2” which more or less just a jam. It sounds pretty great at first. It has this spaghetti western type vibe. The song just gets faster and turns into a noodle session. It features lead guitar that could go on forever while the other instruments run amok with a stampede of sound. The song feels frivolous and sort of silly before transitioning into an ambient pad that I suppose is trying to make you feel some sort of deeper stillness before ending.
I appreciate what these young men are trying to accomplish. When you are trying to make music this deep and epic you are going to have your work cut out for you. You are just going to have to have a high quality recording for it to be its most effective. I really don’t see a way around this with the style they have on this EP. Speaking of their style they have a very familiar one which been mimicked since Pink Floyd became popular. Whether it’s singing about free will or destiny, it will be best if they can find their own angle to stick out from the crowd.
I think Smooth Taste is a capable band with a good amount of potential. They have a good amount of technical talent and I hope to hear them evolve as band.
One of the bands I grew up on was NIN. I was a fan back in the early 90’s and followed their trajectory ever since. They have influenced plenty of musicians over their years and there seems to be no doubt that they had an effect on Jonah Clemens. On his release Feel The Same there are too many similarities to not notice the influence on the album. That being said I liked the album and thought there were a number of really strong songs.
“The Lonely One” is one of the highlights. The thing that really stuck out was the bass line on this song which drives the songs. It’s smooth and distortion from the guitar trails the bass. “Time To” explores the depths of depression with vocals that yearn for better days. The guitar work is great and I thought the backward type effects worked well in the song.
“Out of Here” was one of the songs where I was like this could be a NIN B-side. He sounds like Trent and the beat sounds like a hybrid of a couple of songs from The Fragile. “Find Me” is covered in distorted guitars and an electronic heavy beat and “I'll Be It” contains some intense peaks. Clemens showcases some more skill with songs like “Wish For” and album highlight “Feel The Same.” “Golden Sun(feat. rough ride of crafts)” has great production. I loved the way the percussion, distortion and vocals melded together. “Intermission” had its moments while the nihilistic “I Don’t Care” and “Nothing I Want” could have worked on Downward Spiral.
Clemens has a ton of talent in a number of areas. The truth however is that he will have to find his own signature sound if he wants to gain more attention. He is a young guy in college and has plenty of time to figure it out. I remember being in a similar situation when I was a music major. Most of the songs I wrote sounded like Radiohead. Some good strategies are to become interested in different styles. Maybe listen to jazz for a couple months. The other thing is if you are going to write make sure not to listen to music before you do so.
Overall, Clemens is a case of wait and see. He has the chops. Now he just needs to define his style.
Music engineer Ian Richards and vocalist Jack McCracken have collaborated together composing a project ten years in the making, hence the album title The Ten Year Program. Stemming from the mid ’90s punk rock revival, the duo wanted to shared its history with punk, emo and post-hardcore that shaped them in the early 2000’s. After touring with several different bands, the two men decided to take their fate into their own hands, ditching the big wigs studio heads and producers, and realize a vision that was all their own.
The Ten Year Program opens up with the energetic “Ambien Wet Dreams.” While the flow is upbeat, the dire song title is reflected even greater within the desperate chorus - “These are the pills I take to fall asleep, I’m not as restless as you think I should be. I am numb, silent- motionless with hands folded over me.” The following track titled “A Double Shot for One” is a breakup song. We’ve all taking shots while reminiscing over an ex. The poetic lyrics are the focal point as the instrumental takes a bit to build up leading to McCracken screaming near the end which is very effective.
“A Drop on the Tip of My Tongue” is the highlight of the album. It puts you in a trance with its soothing vocals and catchy chorus while a screeching guitar leaves listeners mesmerized. The abstract sound doesn’t devolve into chaos but instead has echoing arrangements layering over each other. “1000 Words” is much more dramatic and drawn out causing a slower pace.
The last two songs are filled with emotions and have excellent music composition that ends the album on a strong note. “She’ll Have What I’m Having” is less of a breakup song but more in the moment of a romantic relationship. Though the beginning has its good times, sadly mistakes pile up leading to bitter separation. “A Conversation Amongst Dying Friends” reflects the words being said to a friendship that barely exist anymore and if it is even worth trying to save.
The duo of Richards and McCracken should be proud of their debut album The Ten Year Program. The album has solid song writing accompanied by advanced composition and arrangements. It evokes emotions with its upbeat pop rock ballads to the more grim vibes. The vocals emote both sentiments of struggles with getting older and the brutal pain of failed relationships. The pair show their post hardcore roots but is very much an emo type album. Still, songs like “A Drop on the Tip of My Tongue” can be enjoyed by anyone.
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