Crash Scene is a psych-grunge trio from Detroit, Michigan. As is the story with so many bands this year, their output has been affected by the pandemic. On the one hand, they’ve only played one show together, a week before lockdown. So, they still consider themselves a “new band.” But the lockdown provided them a unique opportunity to record some music, and they came out the other side of it with their debut album Fresh Heat. The debut very much embodies ‘90s alt-rock and grunge, but the band steps outside of those influences with their psychedelic sound.
The opening track “Damon” is a straight-up alt-rock song. You get the first taste of the band’s songwriting style on this one. They are not afraid to jam it out, and these moments usually come at the end of songs. In “Damon,” the ending jam is sleek, as the shredding guitar solos are the cleanest on the album. The track rips and gets the album off to an exciting start.
“Wheat Rust” better exemplifies Crash Scene’s psych-grunge sound. The song is dirtier with more of a garage rock sound. The guitars are crunchy, and the chord progressions more off-putting. The guitar solo at the end of this cut is phenomenal. It’s abrasiveness and invigorating, and you won’t be able to listen without bobbing your head.
Besides having an evocative title, the closer “Warm White Wine” evokes a classic ‘90s grunge sound. The guitars are harsh and accent the song’s dynamic shifts. Moments where the bass and drums drop out, electric guitar riffs take their place and drive the music forward. I like that Crash Scene chooses to abandon their usual routine of ending on a big guitar solo, as they sing “go through the motions” near the song’s end. That’s precisely what Crash Scene doesn’t want to do, instead highlighting all aspects of the band equally. It’s a quality closing track.
Crash Scene’s Fresh Heat is exactly that: fresh heat. The group knows their sound well and is not afraid to rip it when they want to. Being inspired by the likes of Pavement and Nirvana, the band pays homage to these groups while simultaneously mixing in their own sound. The result is Crash Scene’s crisp psych-grunge sound that will have listeners entranced with a bobbing head and a scowl that can only mean one thing: it’s fire.
All For The Taking is for now a duo that consists of Cole Smith (rhythm guitars/lead vocals) and Sam Barber (lead guitar/backing vocals). The sound that is unleashed on their So much left to do EP is for without a doubt bigger and louder than what their two-piece arrangement advertises. The band’s vibes veer towards the alternative and pop punk umbrellas with dashes of emo. Their sound evolving over the course of this four-track EP, consistently drives at hard-hitting rhythms and vibrant choruses. The band keeps the momentum going throughout. You can see that this is a band that throws all they have into their music, culminating in an album that fully displays their intense and fervent musicianship.
So much left to do wastes no time in getting started with a melee of guitars that arrest the intro of “Out Of Ink.” The blitz of sounds is adamant. As a dramatic drumming keeps time in the backdrop, the vocals are shouted with gusto. The guitars also sounded great. The band really embraces their punk and emo roots on this song. On “Pointless Divide,” the band builds on their sound with this raging rocker. They really hit the pulse with the great energy coming from this pop punk number. The vocals appear more somber, displaying a touch of melancholy. As a result, the guitars come across as sparser in sections. The guitar solo strings together an altogether ambient sound.
On “Ashamed,” a spree of more guitars greets the intro of this track. The sounds are driven and fast-paced. The vocals keep to the rhythms, spewed out with verve and flair. The band sounds very in the pocket with their sound. The band does a total 180 with the acoustic piece “So Much Left To Do.” The stripped sounds really gave way to the emotional resonance radiating from the pensive vocals. The strings drive the contemplativeness of the music home. They provide a lush element towards the backdrop. The album finishes with this touching closer.
Diving into a sound that is reminiscent of ‘00s and ‘90s era punk rock, pop and emo, the band enlivens the scene with music that is nostalgic for the previous periods, keeping the vibes alive well into a new decade. With music that recalls Jimmy Eat World, Weezer and even the Beatles, the band very much wears their influences on their sleeves all the while upholding an original sound all their own.
Endearing us to a sound popularized by acts like Blink 182, Green Day and My Chemical Romance, All For The Taking furthers the aforementioned genres with a sound brimming with both vintage and modern vibes. With only four tracks that range around three minutes each, the band gives us the correct dosage of memorable pop punk and emo melodies that will whet your appetite for more. Worth exploring from start to finish, be sure to give this a spin!
Dresden Woods started in 2015 as a collection of songs written by Vitold Buzinski until singer Art Lozin joined in 2018 as lead singer. The band's most recent self-titled release Dresden Woods contains eight songs and is twenty-eight minutes long.
I listened to these songs and I would guess the band has been influenced by Joy Division, The Cure and The Smiths. The songs often come from an amalgamation of these styles although they jump around a bit. Similar to all the aforementioned bands Dresden Woods is a band that has a flair for the dramatic. The lyrics and general mood is dark but not necessarily dismal.
The first song “Taos'' seems directly influenced by Joy Division with a hint of more contemporary acts like Bloc Party. It’s a driving song with gloomy synths, reverb laced guitars and it sort of embraces the typical post-punk aesthetic. The band does sound different on the next song “The Moors” which is warmer and perhaps not as dark. There was also the acoustic ’90s alternative vibe I was picking up on this song in particular.
“Someday” is similar to “Taos” but perhaps even more contemporary sounding in some ways. Oddly enough the next song “Kali Yuga (Come Apocalypse Come)” sounded like an extension of “The Moors'' and seems to embrace a similar guitar tone. I’m not sure what was going on with “Spirit” but the song was about 6 dbs softer. It was like the song didn’t get mastered and wasn’t even close to the same volume of the other songs. The RMS volume goes back to the way they sounded on the previous songs.
“Legions”gets very dramatic almost in a comical way at points. There is some language here that felt fantasy based. “Dark Ages'' felt like the highlight. They really nail the mood here. The guitars are great, the vocals have a kinetic energy that crackles and overall is just a killer song. Last up is the dark and isolating “Waves.”
This felt like a pretty straightforward post-punk/goth album. It’s tortured, dark, isolating and dramatic. If you love the genre this just be an easy and accessible listen.
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Austin, TX-based guitarist and vocalist Mike Roeder has written songs for a number of Austin bands. He put together Maplewood All-Stars to pick up some club dates, adding Dave Erertson (bass) and Chris Williams (drums) to the lineup. They found that they clicked, and put out their eponymous debut Mapplewood All-Stars, where the band tried to capture the live feel of the songs.
If you’re a three-chords-and-the-truth lover, Maplewood All-Stars is cause to rejoice. The trio serves us eight songs which meld rock, country, blues and soul, in their own take on the broad “Americana” genre. The songs feature some hooky, sing-along parts, with good vocal harmonies; Roeder’s voice is a nice blend of honey and grit, and a just-right fit for the material.
Underneath the vocals, the band swings. Evertson’s bass and Williams’ drums will make you want to move. The guitars (played by Roeder) have that spot-on open-string, bendy Telecaster twang with just enough crackle to remind you that this is unsanitized rock n’ roll. Maplewood All-Stars is a living, breathing band, and they’ve captured it here. There are a few overdubs--this is a studio album, after all--but really, if you stumbled across them live in Austin, you’d probably get something that sounds like this record, and you’d be happy you did.
Roeder’s lyrics are down-home and relatable, as you’d expect. For instance, in “Stylin’ City,” which takes us to a roadhouse bar--you can smell the jeans, boots and sawdust on the floor--he tells us, “I suggest you keep your hand on your knife.” Or, in “Grackle,” he memorializes an everyday conversation about a tree: “I could use the firewood / but I don’t think I can give up my shade / Let it be.” It’s three chords and the truth.
Categorizing the music as “three chords” undersells the quality of Maplewood All-Stars. They use more than three chords, and the band varies its playing style throughout the disc. “Candy Cane Katie” is a jump blues. “Stylin’ City” should unseat Billy Ray Cyrus’ stranglehold on line-dance songs. If you like groove tunes, spin up “All the Way Gone” and enjoy the wonderful use of space, peppered with tasty little guitar licks. There’s reggae (“Waterfall”) and doo-wop (“Ain’t That Way No More”) too--something for everyone.
There’s strong songwriting, strong execution and a nice variety of blues-based styles on Maplewood All-Stars. I hope this is just the first of many discs to come.
Since she was seven years old, Elle McAndrews has viewed life “through the prism of a musical compass.” It began with playing the piano, studying it until grade 10 at the Royal Conservatory for Piano. Eventually, McAndrews graduated with honors from Capilano University’s Music Therapy program. McAndrews has been building towards this release, writing and performing for the last seven years. Finally, after winning the Original Music Showcase in 2019, she began work on her debut EP Hanging by a Thread. The project is a mix of classic country, folk and soul that makes for a lovely, comforting musical cocktail.
The opening track “Even Better” is a classic country tune about a failing relationship. Atop a twangy slide guitar, McAndrews sings, “The solitude holds me and I / feel like it knows me / even better than you do.” The song also features a top-notch pedal steel solo from Ryan Funk that captures the song’s melancholy.
“Athens to Marakesh” is a more soulful tune. A jazzy electric guitar is this song's anchor and plays off McAndrews’ vocal melodies. The lyrics help establish a vivid setting, as McAndrews sings, “We would travel there by car / up to Milan / I would wear my best scarf in my hair / to stand out, or fit in.” These words not only transport the listener but also give a peek at McAndrews’ personality. Many of the lyrics on Hanging by a Thread serve multiple purposes, and it’s always engaging.
The title track is surprisingly the most unprocessed on the EP. It’s a piano ballad, and its stripped nature exposes the honesty in McAndrews' performance. The way the piano was recorded also adds to the honesty of “Hanging by a Thread.” According to McAndrews, “piano parts were recorded in a large downtown united church with six mics…. Despite the traffic outside and the gentle whirring of the fans above, we decided to use the piano recordings because they impart so much rawness and energy.” A string section accompanies the piano, and it makes for a lovely arrangement.
The closer is the understated “Summer Fool.” it features just electric guitar and vocals, but this simplicity highlights McAndrews' vocals. She performs impressive and catchy vocal runs, singing, “And the chances are small / That I’ll hear from you in the fall / And you might not think of me at all / I’m that silly girl to fall / Oh I’m just your summer fool / I’ll always be that girl.” It’s a song that’s sure to catch people’s attention.
Elle McAndrews’ Hanging by a Thread has a familiar enough sound to rope people in but has added spice to keep them listening. The production quality and mix of genres keep the track list sounding fresh, and McAndrews’ vocal talent is undeniable. Give Hanging by a Thread a listen and hear for yourself.
Joe Bridge is from Sequim, Washington, and his new album has been released on the Hey Gang! label. It was recorded and mixed in Sequim and mastered by Gabriel Murray in Chilliwack, British Columbia.
Bridge says he was moved to record these songs because “I see a mounting propensity to blame the other… I wanted to give people an opportunity to imagine the universe teeming with life forms that have no greater enjoyment than pursuing their callings to be of service to those most in need, who view people of all races as profoundly valuable souls.” In layman’s terms, many of these songs are apparently about aliens, and the hope of a better future they might represent.
Musically, this album had me thinking about indie vs. major label releases. Anyone with a passing familiarity can attest that the songwriting and musicianship in homegrown music are at least as good (if not better) than many commercially promoted artists. So what’s the real difference? I believe it’s the vocals. Sample any major label act, and most of the focus is on lead singers with voices that grab you by the lapels. Indie singers, by and large, sound HOMEY, often burying their shortcomings with excessive processing or by hiding themselves deep in the mix.
I’m not saying that Joe Bridge has a major-label voice. However, the difference with Bridge is the fearlessness of his vocal performances. In nearly every song, he's naked and out front, without blankets of post production tricks. There’s almost a Peter Gabriel quality, not technically or tonally but in the honesty and vulnerability of his singing. At other times I’m reminded of smooth-jazz singer Michael Franks. Bridge’s songs are definitely lyrics-driven, so NOT putting those words front and center would be self-defeating.
The musical backgrounds are just as surprising. Again, not every inch of air space is filled with sound. Instruments are given room to breathe and make statements, then step back and let others peek in. Generally the songs are built from drum programs, jazzy bass, subtle keyboards and slinky, glean guitar lines. Most of the tracks are long takes with a slow build. The instruments seem to be having internal dialogues that feel slightly removed from the songs, as if the parts sometimes don’t care whether we’re listening or not.
The title track “We Are Rising” is a reggae romp with Bridge’s voice prominent, surrounded by percolating keys and sweet high-end guitars. Lyrically it’s a statement of purpose: “There is no man who has ever acquired such great power / that he could not be overthrown by the people.” It’s maybe a tad simplistic but most certainly heartfelt - especially now! “Pass The Point” features stop-start backgrounds with a more traditional rock beat alongside Bridge’s vocals, and appears to be about a utopia that might just turn into a Singularity. “Rosebud” again provides a bucketful of lyrics seemingly concerned with world prosperity, wrapped in vaguely sexual innuendo: “I see you as a rosebud / about to blossom forth in all its glory.”
“Technical Difficulties” combines multiple vocal overdubs, keyboards and tasty guitar licks for a funky Paul Simon-like tune, especially with its “Boxer” like chorus. Bridge seems to be exploring the very building blocks of the human body: “It is the oxygen / and the other life-giving elements / Vital to the cleansing of your blood stream / inhale deeply / It is amazing how little air / people take into their lungs.” Very cool broken-robot middle section with haywire beeps and jagged guitar chords, culminating in a purely funky outro with bass-y keyboard swoops.
“Wrinkle In Your Twinkle” is a smooth jazz lament in the Michael Franks style, in which concerned aliens keep checking in on an indifferent planet (ours). “I Have Been With You” evokes Nicky Hopkins piano along with an irresistible Stones-like rhythm and surprising vocal harmonies. “Multiplus” ends the collection with a space-blues tune featuring busy drum patterns and cool, quick little changes in the bass and keyboard parts.
This album was certainly different from many I’ve heard, and took me on an unexpected and happy journey. Sound quality is excellent and the mastering job by Gabriel Murray brought all the disparate elements into pleasing alignment.
Mary Norris, Noelle Taylor, Houston Garrett and Jacob Lightsey are Salti Ray. The band seems to have music in their blood and started at a young age. That seems pretty evident when listening to their release The Right Thing. It’s a four-song EP that lasts around sixteen minutes.
This EP felt like pretty straightforward rock to my ears. It's just delivered really well and backed up by solid songwriting. The songs were easy to enjoy. Some releases are “growers'' but this wasn’t. It felt immediate.
The band opens with “Parking Lot Airplanes'' and is a very accessible song with tons of melodies which were memorable. I would say the chorus in particular is one of the kind where you find yourself singing it a day later while at work. The vocal work is very strong and I found her voice appealing in a number of ways. That being said the instrumental aspects are also just sharp, in the pocket and drives. Suffice it to say the band sounds great.
Next up is “Ocean City'' which is more upbeat almost like a summer jam. This song felt somewhere between pop and rock. The vocalist proves how dynamic she is with this song. She does more a spoken word stream of conscious type singing on the verse and then she belts it out on the chorus.
“Jessica” is another great song. The song was a little more ominous and melancholy is in some ways. It rocks and perhaps drives more than anything before it. I was getting a little more of a Radiohead vibe here.
The last song was quite beautiful and more arena rock in some ways. It felt like it could fill a stadium and some of that has to do with the reverb as well as when the drummer came in. The song reaches some very epic crescendos with her shouting “I don’t want to give up” which made me feel a little like I was in a Tony Robbins conference type situation.
My only critique was that the songs felt a little piecemeal instead of cohesive. I felt like a signature or singular sound was a bit elusive when thinking about how the song related to each other. I’ve commented before that finding that X-factor that really defines a band is extremely hard to do but something worth giving thought to.
I thought all four songs were well delivered and well written. The band just sounds professional from top to bottom and really know how to pack an emotional punch. I’m definitely looking forward to an LP at some point.
David Lockeretz is a jazz bassist and keyboard player living in Pasadena, California who recently completed his second solo album Mulligan! For the past quarter century Lockeretz has recorded and performed with a variety of musicians in jazz, rock, blues, oldies and world genres. Lockeretz currently plays with the bands Smokin’ Cobras and Outside Pedestrian.
In golf, a “Mulligan” is a do-over, and Lockeretz thought this would make a good title for his second album. He states that while Mulligan! is mainly a jazz record, “…it also explores Latin, Irish, funk, blues, kitsch ‘60s and other genres. In addition to typical jazz/rock instruments such as guitar, synths, piano, vibes, bass and drums, the album also features theremin, accordion, steel drums and spoken word. The emphasis is on quirky, unpredictable compositions and group interplay more so than individual virtuosity.” Though Lockeretz mentions group interplay, he’s supplied no credits for any of his side players. All the players are excellent and his drummer’s kit is wide, expertly played and marvelously captured. Recording and mastering took place at Big City Recording in Granda Hills, California.
“Don’t Read The Comments” (great title) opens the album with Polynesian-sounding steel drums playing off Mingus-like standup bass. Grand piano and bass each take turns for some easygoing improv. “Non-Hybrid Seeds” finds synth and electric guitars trading baroque arpeggios for a mellow, Spyro Gyro-sounding tune. “The Old Neighborhood” delightfully recalls Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas music with the welcome addition of Italian-sounding accordion. It definitely feels like going home for the holidays.
“Minor Outlying Island” again features steel drums in a playful fusion dialogue with breathy synth patches, while the bass anchors the composition at three notes per measure. “I Will See You There” changes tack for a 12-bar blues vamp with a Telecaster-sounding guitar, which is allowed the time and space to stretch out. “Deor” changes things up with a funky spoken-word track. Lockeretz sometimes declaims as if he’s delivering a sermon with Ohio Players-era electronic sounds responding like a Greek Chorus. This is followed by the quite mellow “Old Habits” whose vibes, accordion and clean guitar lines evoke a dreamy summer’s day lounging in the backyard.
“Green Girl” is dominated by a vibraphone and bass melody line that delightfully remakes the old hit single “The Locomotion” with a bit more of that Vince Guaraldi Peanuts piano thrown in. “Big Leo” is the final new track, a grand and immersive summing-up with a bit of a spy movie soundtrack vibe toward the end.
The final two tracks are both demos of previous songs, which I’m assuming Lockeretz recorded by himself to present to his players. Though a bit more synthetic sounding (with digital drums), these are nice alternate takes of “Non-Hybrid Seeds” and “Green Girl,” two of the better tracks.
Overall this is a collection that nicely straddles the worlds of traditional jazz and fusion with many other colors thrown in just for fun.
Red56 is what happens when two souls connect sonically. Led by Danielle Gorre (vocals) and Freddy Villano (bass), the two with the help of their friends create funk-based pop rock grooves tailored for those palettes that live a little on the wilder side. Eminence Funk is the duo’s latest project that sees the band showing the world what funk really is all about.
Eminence Funk gets going with “It’s All Right.” Gorre’s grooving and moving vocals takes the blues and funk-based sounds to new heights. I was impressed by her impassioned delivery. The smooth, soulful vocal vibes could be felt throughout this song. Funky bass rhythms sound off to great effect on “Mother Earth.” The synths also have that wonky feel. Gorre takes full command of the track with her searing vocal performance. Her spirited delivery will certainly draw audiences closer to the resonating vibes. “Salvation” felt more in the ballad pocket. The band draws from their more rock-centered influences in this more straight-edged rock song. I wasn’t sure about the direction the band was taking with this track. I felt I missed the more soul-driven energy from the previous songs. Gorre really commandeers her voice on “Funky Attitude.” I could tell she is an artist perfectly at home in her own skin. She seems to tackle every track on this album with flair and finesse and this song is no different. I love her style. The funk vibes on this track felt sultrier. Gorre really ups the heat factor with her smoky vocals.
Off to a sauntering groove, “Right On Time” followed in the same path as “Salvation.” This felt like a smooth ballad type rock piece. The instruments together create a pulling effect. The band returns to their party mode with this funk rocking number on “Just A Little Secret.” The energy is revving and showcases Red56 at the top of their funk game. On “Look Beyond The Color,” a marching drumming backbeat sounds off on this song. Some anthemic guitars really ground the sound. This felt like a unique take to a funk-driven sound with traces of flute fleshing out the vibes. I loved the dramatic drumming beat on the intro. The feel on the title track “Eminence Funk” is ill-contained. Brimming with unharnessed energy, the wonky and funky vibes are smooth and alluring. This felt like a great way to end the album as the band turns up their funk grooves on this infectious closer.
With unvaried degrees of funk, the grooves felt familiar and accessible with direct inspirations in the lounge, blues and soul genres. Seething with energy and enthusiasm, listeners can’t help but feel excited again for some classic funk tunes. The smooth grooves played by experienced musicians synchronized to each other’s rhythms and styles make for one great listen. From a growl to a purr, Gorre’s vocalizations exhibit full-on theater. She displays fantastic showmanship, clearly taking the lead with her gravitating voice that addresses each track with boldness and verve. What definitely impacts audiences right from the get-go is her passion for the music.
Red56 makes it known that they are clearly a funk band. Their smooth yet energized retro-fitted sound easily transitions into the modern era. They make clear headway by keeping the flame alive for other contemporary bands out there who follow in a similar vein. Their sound, both classic and current, is obviously climbing to new heights with this new album. Be sure you give this a spin!
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Originally from Northwest Arkansas, William Pierce is now based out of Houston, Texas. His latest release is a self-titled mini-album William Pierce with lots of styles – ranging from Arkansas folk and jazz, to an almost ‘70s/‘80s synth sound backed against a rock ballad. The album was recorded in Arkansas at Pierce’s home, then mixed and mastered at his home in Houston – all DIY. Pierce states that the album is mostly about the time in a person's life where they fall to their lowest and are trying to find their way back out of their troubles – not necessarily finding happiness but learning to become content once again. It is also about the destructive behaviors that loom over a person when they are at their lowest point. He says the recording process “was a lot of fun and involved a lot of musicians in Fayetteville, Arkansas” from bands like Honey Collective, Makin Loaf, Foggy Bobcat and Austin Wilkins. Pierce would meet up with the other bands, teach them the music and they would “jam it out until they found a groove or niche that they enjoyed, and we would record it.”
Starting things off is “Little Touch” featuring singer Sarah Loethen. Her voice with Pierce’s, sounded so great! It’s as if the vocal pairing couldn’t get any better, in this “loves on fire” indie rock number. Some older classic rock influences that I could hear come from Springsteen, Jackson Browne and some of the classic female/male pairings that had big hits back in the ‘70s. Pierce’s guitar playing is top notch in my book, too. On “Lovely, Lonely” Pierce slows things down on the acoustic with a tender, jazzy style – complete with the warm bass sounds of the upright, a retro sounding guitar and muted trumpet. A perfect, lovely tune to slow dance to. “Dinner at the Doors” features a jumpy, indie rock rhythm and a few quick guitar solos between verses. The way Pierce wrote the melody and chord changes, with its “whoa baby” backup singing brings together classic pop songs from the ‘60s, with a little Lou Reed and more recently, Franz Ferdinand. A pretty unique mix overall.
“Laser Beam Lady” begins with banjo, mandolin and bass – the classic bluegrass line up. This song has just a little waltz-like rhythm, but not in a traditional sense I’d say. The piano comes in later, along with some very interesting effects that sound like synths and a distorted accordion. Really hard to describe much more to this one, other than I really enjoyed it and it somehow reminded me of a Tom Waits song. Next is “Take a Breath” and it takes on a poppy, old school sound, Beatle-esque in some ways, but also the pop rock stylings of Neil Diamond. I don’t know, just a guess.
“Hard Nights” has a jangly guitar rhythm with some groovy keyboard mini-solos. A lot of what’s in this song reminds me of pop bands from the ‘60s – like The Byrds, The Animals, Dave Clark Five, The Hollies, The Turtles – bands like that. Maybe you’ll hear them, too. The last track is “Running on Thin Ice” which features singing by Nathan Owens. Let me tell you listeners, if you have four minutes to spare, listen to this one. The melody is gorgeous, the words powerful, and the two guys singing together is something you don’t hear too often these days – at least the way that Pierce and Owens sing it. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed William Pierce’s debut – I would highly recommend it.
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