Brodie Knight Sawyer (vocals/guitar), Jesse Magana (guitar), Dave Schwaller (vocals/bass) and Matty DeCarlo (drums) are Sprockets. They are an alternative pop rock band originally from Boise, ID, that transferred to Las Vegas. The band recently released Self Made which is a four- song EP.
The band has an energy, adrenaline inducing sound. Their music made me think of playing the video game Crazy Taxi. The music has a coming of age-like quality which reminded me of pop punk. I would say that combines with a hard rock type vibe on these songs.
They storm out of the gates with “SELF MADE'' which is a good example of what I’m referring to. The band The Offspring came to mind. There are guitar scraps, exuberant vocals and just an ongoing combination of instruments that will keep your fists pumping.
They continue with that energy on “Graffiti (Feat. Jesse Lawson)” which really cements their sound. The band crushes but I also enjoyed the sparse verse which made the chorus more powerful.
I was waiting for a ballad type of song because I usually get at least one with pop punk. “Neon Alley” is sort of half a ballad. The beginning and end of the song revolves around acoustic guitar and orchestral strings but the middle rocks hard just like all the other songs.
“Romantic As Hell'' is the closer and arguably the most intense song in the batch. The double bass drum action was intense and metronome like in its delivery.
This album felt like classic pop punk to my ears and I think fans of that genre will appreciate this brief but powerful EP.
Jolly Rancher is a four-piece emo rock band from Austin, Texas, comprised of Cam, Josh, Drew and Kyle. The band is releasing their four-track EP release entitled Good Neighbor.
Jolly Rancher juggles various genres combining elements of math rock, shoe gaze and post-hardcore. Multiple genres are not the only thing they balance. All four members of the band being primary songwriters are known for quickly trading instruments in the middle of live sets. The deft swapping is not only a show-stopper, it also contributes to the broad array of genres on display on the EP, as each member is able to interchangeably contribute and embrace each instrument on the EP.
Good Neighbor opens with the title track “Good Neighbor,” where numerating on the electric guitar gives off a pensive and simmering vibe. Next, the guitars ignite in a more full-on sound as the sound of bass lines, drum and percussions settle in. The guitar work is intricate.
Following is “Worst Song On The Ugliest Guitar,” where an adamant drumming beat adds to the rhythms on this song. The guitars come with a moody and melancholic vibe. The vocals come in with fervent screams. The shouts are raw and relentless.
On “Star Dawg,” deft finger-picking on the guitar gives off a complex sound that weaves in the cadence of bass lines into this rock number. The vocals are spewed out in a spoken word-like performance piece towards the start. This then segues into a chorus of vocal harmonies that layers overhead. Up next, the vocals barely register above a whisper and it is hard to discern what he is singing about, though you can really feel the melancholy permeating the vocals and coming from the somber-sounding riffs.
On the closer “Grow,” is a track that covers emo and math rock genres. Listeners will be swayed by the very ebb and flow of the music. The energy is nearly palpable. The vibe is stirring and dynamic mixed in with unrelenting screams that trace this song intermittently.
Each track on this record is unique and could stand alone on its own, and the band really exercises their diverse and versatility on these numbers. What ties them cohesively is the energy that oftentimes pervade these tracks. This EP is packed with intricate guitar work, emotionally soaring vocals and a sound that alternates between soft and aggressive at a drop of a hat. The band displays deft musicianship with on-point vocals. This was a solid effort and I look forward to seeing what’s up next for the band.
I do remember listening and reviewing the previous release from YYY which was a Beach Boys tribute. It was fantastic. His next release aquadungeonafterdark is his debut of all original songs so I was very interested in what this album sounds like.
The release refuses to stay in one genre and in a number of ways reminded me of Beck in that he does his own thing but keeps it interesting. I really liked the hip-hop influence which is ephemeral. It will show up here and there. I think the aspect I appreciated was that it doesn't feel contrived. The genres meld in an organic way to create a singular sound.
The album gets going with “Aquadungeon” which felt like an intro. It’s full of atmospheric pads and unique vocals. The hip-hop influence starts to become apparent on “Keep Off The Lawn” and it’s where the Beck comparison comes more into play. His rhymes are done in his own way and reference things from pop culture. I loved the breakdown of synths and drums. It was unexpected and it was very well done.
“Youth In Asia Dept.” is a killer song. The production is really cutting edge and inventive. There are disparate elements like a piano, pads and more that seem to get manipulated in real time. “Cool World” is an almost cartoonish sounding song. On this song I was reminded more of Animal Collective, from the vocal harmonies to the heavy percussion and synth effects.
I think “Waste” was a tribute to the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles. The main riff was very similar but the rest of the song wasn't. “Belayted” is another song where the production goes in all sorts of unique directions while “I.philia” is a darker song but still bright at certain moments.
“UU” on the other hand might be the most joyful sounding song where I was picturing people dancing in the forest perhaps on a number of psychedelics. The DJ Shadow like vibe on “And The Swords Don't Bend” worked well. He closes with “Terra Incognita” where he gives s a vocal performance that is arguably his most emotionally resonant.
This is a great album. The production felt contemporary and the songwriting brought plenty of palatable hooks. This is a talented artist and the proof is in the pudding. Take a listen.
R.A. Jones is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Birmingham, Alabama and recently released New Wave Cave. He is also the frontman and founder of Birmingham based psychedelic rock outfit Saint Aether.
He explains this about the album - “Dark, lonely, quarantine tunes. Although he wrote the music over the span of around eight months. He recorded the final versions of the songs within a week after painting his trademark guitar Windy while under Coronavirus quarantine.”
The EP starts with “Diana” and the music comes in together out of the gate with zero warning. There is a lo-fi indie rock vibe. I was reminded of early recordings of the band Pavement. It’s jangly and loose which is part of its charm. Everything delivered in this sort of nonchalant type of way. It does however feel like jam.
Up next is “Guinevere” which is strummed on a rickety acoustic guitar. The mood here definitely seems to encapsulate more of the lonely vibe he was speaking to. Up next is “Jack” and it is similar in style to the previous song. He does cover his vocals in more reverb here and it sounds somewhat similar to early Bon Iver at times.
“Lou” is a cover done on piano. It's a haunting tune and I loved the lo-fi sound he was able to capture on the piano. He is quite good on and I really loved how he approached this song. “Anna” is a nine-plus-minute ambient piece. There are some vocals towards the end of the song which are infused with some blues flavor. He ends with “Everyone” which is a little more sensual than anything that came before.
This is a solid collection of lo-fi tunes which all have a slightly different flavor. I thought some of the songs grew on you with repeated listens. Recommended.
Julia Alsarraf is a singersongwriter based in Troy, NY. Divide & Conquer has reviewed a past project of Alsarraf’s in which she collaborates with a friend. Left to Write’s album Stories was an intimate lo-fi affair that contained melancholy overtures that though simply rendered was emotionally powering. Mixed Feelings, which is Alsarraf’s first solo EP, does not stray too far from this initial sound. The tracks on the EP are also minimalistic with sparse instrumentation supporting the vocals. In the singer/songwriter vein, this casts an intimate spotlight onto Alsarraf’s vocal delivery and the simplicity simply magnifies the emotion and power behind these songs.
The artist mentions: “The title ‘Mixed Feelings’ is a bit of a pun about using the music production process to translate feelings and emotions into a mix of recorded sounds. More literally, the songs are snapshots of a sequence of feelings I found myself cycling through during experiences of personal rejection.”
On that note, Mixed Feelings opens up with “Won’t Feel It,” where the acoustic guitar is tethered with Alsarraf’s soaring and moving vocals powers toward the start of the track. This is a stripped-down number, made all the more powerful from its intimate approach. A drumming beat sidles in, creating a more upbeat and vibrant feel. The sound of keys is energized and melodious.
Following is “Back To Sea,” where deft numerating on the acoustic guitar starts off this stripped-down song. Simply rendered, the vocals are made all the more impactful from a back to the basics vibe coming from the lone accompaniment with guitar and vocals. Next, the sound of percussions sizzle in, adding a lively vibe.
Noodling on the guitar provides a pensive feel to “Mixed Signals.” Sounds of percussions traces in. The vocals are silky smooth and vie for your attention while the lush sound of strings underscores this track. The beats are jaunty and upbeat on the closer “Such A Waste” where the rhythms are sauntering and fully charged.
Although some of the songs on the EP leaned more towards pop, some had a more folk, Americana, or indie rock vibe. Alsarraf admits that she is more rooted in mood and energy than genre when she writes. You can see what holds these tracks together cohesively is the theme. Revolving around universal themes of love, heartache and rejection, the lyrics retain a deeply relatable vibe that makes these tracks consistently accessible to audiences.
Alsarraf definitely wears her heart on her sleeve on these numbers. Alsarraf ditches the lo-fi delivery in her previous projects and embarks on a more polished sound. Recorded and mixed and mastered by Mike Dwyer at The Bunker Recordings in Catskill, NY, the professional production really added to the sound on this EP. The vulnerability to Alsarraf’s vocals is really highlighted here, which added to the sensitivity of what she is singing about. That combined with the solid instrumental aspect made for a great album.
Little Us is based out of Connecticut, comprised of Rithya Claude (lead vocals/guitars), Alex Pearson (guitar/vocals), Ethan Johnson (keyboard/vocals) and Kallen Colbert (drums). The band is releasing their latest EP entitled Don’t Let Go of Something Real, You’ll Be Fine.
The band started in 2013 with a group of high school friends who wrote original songs and performed all over the Connecticut area. From 2016-2017, the band went on a short hiatus to then return in 2017 with a revamped sound and inspiration. The band decided on a new direction with an emphasis on touching lives using music written with emotion and a positive message. In this vein, their latest EP is to help people that are going through the struggles of coping with depression, suicide and eventually acceptance. Revolving around melodic rock with influences in classic rock and with a new lifting and positive-geared platform, Little Us does some Big Work, championing mental health issues and shedding light on something that is widely experienced but can be overlooked all at once. Their live acts have garnered them a following with sold out shows at the Webster and Toad’s place. With two music videos and a tour of the east coast underway, this is only the beginning for the band!
“Don’t Let Go” is the opener where electronic beats pulsate with rhythmic steadiness throughout the start of this track. A melodic piano melody also sidles in. Then the sounds of hard-hitting guitars and bass lines pulverizes instantly. The vocal delivery is solid and energetic. The style is revved and fully charged.
Synths sound off on the start of “Something Real” with a relentless sound. The full-on vibe of feedback soon gives way to the revved and bombastic sound of guitars. The vocals are kind of subdued, sung in a soft cadence. The music is pressing filled with a strong sense of urgency. This is a dramatic and driven anthem. Claude sings, “Every days the same, I’m a slowly fading flame / Will this be my fate / Will I be okay.” As the background vocals repeat the last line, Little Us reiterates their call for attention for a pressing issue that millions of Americans have to deal with. The band provides a voice for those struggling with depression and anxiety and through their music, they provide a much-needed outlet for those searching for help.
On the closer “You’ll Be Fine,” a soft piano melody courses through this song as electric guitar riffs pave this track. The song becomes more atmospheric as synths soar in the backdrop. The vocals are spewed in a fast-paced fashion. The sound is energetic and amped with a sweeping and epic sound. An electric guitar solo launches toward the three-minute-a-half-minute mark. The music crescendos many times and the buildup is momentous.
With a sound that blends influences of modern alternative rock with a retro-inspired ‘80s classic rock vibe, Little Us’ inspirations include artists like Hands Like Houses, Picturesque, Too Close To Touch, Sleeping With Sirens, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Issues, Journey and Def Leppard. Their energetic performances are relayed through loosened effects of anthemic-like choruses and driven guitars and bass lines. It seems like their recording translates well onto their onstage presence, as they are gaining recognition in the states of Pennsylvania and Colorado. Their powerful and emotional delivery definitely ignites an adrenaline rush as they are on par with the best live acts in the scene, if their EP is any indicator. Driven and exciting, Little Us is an up-and-coming band to look out for. Be sure you have a listen today!
While walking is a duo from Barcelona, Spain that recently released their eponymous album while walking. On the Bandcamp page for while walking it states “We make music playing a double-neck guitar/bass with a loop pedal (Callum) & drums (Ingrid).”.My first thoughts were they sound really full for a two piece band.
The music itself is a mix of rock genres. There seems to be notable comparisons to post-rock bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Do Make Say Think. That being said there are also songs which align more with a band like Interpol.
The band opens with “A new city for the first time” and here we have a very post-punk sounding song. The post-rock flavor is rather subdued here at first until the bright guitars come into the mix.
“We went to Manchester” is where we really get into foundational post-rock in the spirit of Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The mood is darker and foreboding. One of the highlights was “Dear green place” which had some first cool grooves. I loved the jazzy tones and textures on this song. There are some very inventive sounding transitions.
“For our Mothers” is sweet and reflective while “Monday's movie” is a slow burn in a way but also drives. Another highlight was “Happy lights” which sounds like the title. “Carrer Astúries” is quite warm while “Hello Sweden” is the most intimate song.
I actually thought more songs with this type of intimacy and meditative silence would have been interesting. They pull it off really well. “Street art” is wild but very cool and has a psychedelic sound. The multiple guitar lines were ear candy. They close with “Stop and enjoy the view” which melts over you with delay and reverb.
This is a very good album and felt like something fans of post-rock in particular would enjoy. Take a listen.
Secret Towns is Luke Thornton (vocals/guitar), Matt Petino (guitar), Sam Pena (bass) and Harry Dulaney (drums). The band has only been around for about a year but already managed to release a three-song EP entitled Small Hours. They make some comparisons to bands like Yo La Tengo, Warpaint, Interpol, Real Estate and Grouper. I was a little surprised they didn’t mention the band Clientele because they were the first band that popped into my head - in particular their 2005 release Strange Geometry.
The first song is entitled “Secret Towns” and you immediately hear clean guitars and reverb which gives it the aesthetic that the band Real Estate made ubiquitous. It’s fairly straightforward but well performed as the band creates a warm atmosphere with the music.
They continue with “Hand in Hand’ which is a solid song as well and really deliver into a night time fog type of feel. “Suburban Fog” felt like the highlight. There are hints of post-rock with this song in the spirit of early Explosions in the Sky. I really liked how the drummer dictated the pace of the song.
I remember a couple of years after the band Real Estate released their eponymous album there was a wave of bands that sounded very similar. My only critique for the band is to be aware of that. Since they are so newly formed they haven’t had much time to really discover a signature or singular sound which from my work as a producer over the last twenty years typically happens with a band around two years in, if they find it at all.
The thing I really liked about these songs were how cohesive the experience was. There were only three songs but it felt seamless and if you have read my reviews before you know that is one of the things I look for.
Overall, this was a solid first release from a band with potential. I look forward to hearing more as they evolve.
Bagel Pat is a seventeen-year-old musician/multi-instrumentalist from Sacramento, California. His all-original first EP release Hello Today was recorded, mixed and mastered in his garage using, appropriately enough, GarageBand.
Pat plays all the instruments on the four tracks of Hello Today: vocals, guitars, bass,and drums. Given this instrumentation, and the recording venue, you’d expect, and get, garage-rock/indie-rock music. Lyrically, Pat tackles topics that are interesting to him. For instance, “Wallflower” considers a party from two different viewpoints; “Hawkeye’s Lament” is an ode to a favorite Marvel character (in which Bagel Pat unfortunately name-checks himself).
Clearly, Bagel Pat can play, and there are a number of musical highlights throughout Hello Today. His drumming is solid, and the high-register bass figures are spot-on. Guitar-wise, there is a terrific tripled guitar part in “Unsaid,” and a nice distorted counterpoint in “Hawkeye’s Lament.” Pat touches on a number of different feels, including surf-rock (“Wallflower”) and Clash-type punk (“Unsaid”). The start/stop feel in “Dreary Blue” works well. Guest player James Lopez’s sax solo (“Hawkeye’s Lament”) rocks.
The album falls a little flat, though, with the vocals and vocal melodies. Mix-wise, the vocals don’t cut through as they should. Similarly, the vocal lines generally don’t sparkle--they need a little more attention and development. On the plus side, the a cappella coda to “Hawkeye’s Lament” was a nice touch.
Hello Today is a good start. It takes real guts to write, record and release an album of your own music, and I applaud Pat for this. It’s a challenge doing everything in isolation, though: an artist can lose sight of the bigger picture. I’d like to hear him develop the vocal melodies further and intersperse more texture through differing guitar tones. This is where an outside producer/collaborator/extra set of ears can be very helpful. For future releases, I’d encourage Pat to find, and work with, a trusted friend who can help push his artistry to the next level. I look forward to that record.
Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, many artists had to decide whether or not to release their music. With venues closing, it would be harder to gain exposure through live shows. Artist Adam Banner of Oklahoma City went through this same process and decided to release his debut solo album, Rarely Wronge, anyway. But with good reason. Banner began the recording process two years before its release. It was initially slated to be an EP, but it continued to grow until it was of LP length. On top of that, he had a son in the middle of recording. After stepping away from music for his family, he finally finished Rarely Wronge. Given how long it took to complete, Banner decided to release it despite the pandemic’s potential effect on its success.
The album features a full band behind Banner’s tender, alt-country songs. The tunes on Rarely Wronge began as intimate tracks written by Banner alone. The production highlights that. His grungy vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica (on most tracks) shine through over the rest of the instruments. Because of this, the soul of each track comes to the forefront, and the listener is allowed to get a more in-depth view of the stories Banner tells.
Banner’s talent as a musician and songwriter really shine during the quieter moments of Rarely Wronge. “Transatlanticism” is driven by its melancholic piano and lyrics about a distant lover. There’s a tension in the song’s sparse arrangement, but it eventually reaches a dramatic climax that accents the earlier melancholy well. “Goodnight” is another quiet track that highlights Banner’s talents.
The arrangement is similar to “Transatlanticism” with acoustic guitar and piano acting as the driving force. But “Goodnight” has a quiet, droning synth in the background that makes it a powerful track. Rarely Wronge is a consistently written and arranged alt-country album. The singer/songwriter influence shines through on quieter moments, and Banner’s rock vocal style allows the album to go that direction at times without feeling out of place. I recommend you check out this release if you haven’t already.
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