Aramis Jones (bass/vocals) and Cooper Fanning (drums) are Starfighter. The duo recently released Photo of a Black Hole EP. They make music that is made for small punk clubs like the now defunct CBGB to my ears.
Starfighter is not the first to have a distorted bass and drums as their main arsenal. Death From Above 1979 and Lighting Bolt and are a couple of the bands that come to mind. The former is the stronger equivalent when listening to their music.
The band rips it up with “Take Control.” They are very in the pocket but the song also sounds loose and has a great groove. Jones might be at his best here vocally. His fast vocal delivery is implemented when needed and also lets the music breathe. Suffice it to say I was on board after the first song.
They continue with that energy on “If We Break It, Then We'll Take It.” It’s a little darker than the opener but still has plenty of energy. “I Can't Believe” is arguably the most single worthy song. It has a catchy vocal melody and drumbeat that made me think of “We Will Rock You” by Queen.
They get more fuzzy with the grunge inspired “Nosferatu” while they close with “Worms” where the drummer goes a little apeshit in a good way. There was a little more aggression on this song in a number of ways including the vocals.
Photo of a Black Hole is a no frills, bare bones EP. I’m sure these guys put on one hell of a live show. In fact, after spending so much time with this EP I felt like I was listening to a short set in a small club. This is visceral, intense music. Take a listen.
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Sleep - we all need it. It’s such a bizarre thing that for most of human history it was a complete mystery. It’s only recently that we have books such Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker that start to unveil just how important sleep is and the myriad of functions it has. For insomniacs sleep can be a curse. You yearn for it and welcome oblivion. When sleep does come it’s nothing short of a miracle. This brings me to the beautiful yet haunting release The Miracle of Sleep by Chad Walsh.
Chad Walsh combines orchestral elements with vocals on these four songs. He opens with “Apokalypsis” which does feel like you are entering a land of slumber. An acoustic guitar picks a soft melody that is quite peaceful. As the song progresses orchestral elements enter but it’s not all puffy clouds and harmony. There are hints of darkness in this song although there is also a tenderness to the music. The vocalist Emily Gustafson does a great job sounding the part, sort of like she is singing opera.
“May Sixteenth” is more kinetic with orchestral strikes that are sharp and defined. It reminded me of the Radiohead song “Burn The Witch.” If anything this is the part of the dream where you are running down the street and falling down the wormhole. The vocals are lush and even quite catchy at times.
“Sleep” is absolutely haunting and gorgeous. It’s a minimal track with the vocals sounding very intimate and even chant-like at times. I was picturing being surrounded by angels but they were actually devils. The music falls on the line between beauty and terror.
Last up is “Sophie Walks at Night”” and how the music fits the title. The cello and oboe carve out an endless dark night with precision.I loved how these two instruments sounded together.
I loved this release. The songs were unique and perhaps even more important is that the EP felt cohesive. It's an experience that I think benefits from listening sequentially.
I’m not so sure I’d listen to this music when you go to bed because you want to be fully awake to experience it.
In 2015, the members of Love Wagon met at Toronto’s Ryerson University after an open jam session. Guitarist John Chacra, guitarist Max Swiderski, bassist Michael Osztertag, drummer David Matta and keyboard player Sam Ehsaei form the band. Since joining forces the men have performed in venues around Toronto such as The Opera House, The Mod Club and also won Ryerson’s 2018 Battle of the Bands. Their sound pulls from genres such as jazz, rock, blues and funk. However Love Wagon make their live events a spectacle and connect with audiences making attending a show truly worth it. After releasing a single in 2018, “Get on the Love Wagon,” the band has released their debut EP What Wagon.
What Wagon opens with “I Just Want Your Love.” The sound is super groovy with the hard pauses between words during the chorus really capturing your attention. The instrumentation is filled with temptation as the vocals question why the love was lost in the first place. The squealing guitar solo is intoxicating to listen to with the drums building taking us around to another dimension before bringing us back to earth with the chorus. Yet the guitar never loses its focus continuously providing a fantastic performance.
“Sometimes…” begins with a soft keyboard introduction. The chords blend well with the vocal harmony. Then a booming saxophone enters making the track livelier. After that they go into a breakdown which is a funky jam that focuses on instrumentation. The lyrics more or less repeat the line “Sometimes I feel like the king of the world. Sometimes I feel...” The words are catchy enough to get stuck in your head.
“Naturally” comes in smooth with the ticking high hats of Matta’s drums. The song then transforms into a big band performance you would hear at an old nightclub. The musicians put some swing into their instruments making the listener want to dance. Not to be overshadowed, the vocals add a needed layer to the song. For the final track on the EP Love Wagon changes up the tone completely. While the songs have been more jazz focused, “Heart’s Wide Open” is more of a light rock song. It’s a sweet innocent song that showcases the band’s range outside of jazz. The poppy tune contains saxophone horns and psychedelic keyboards allowing the song to evolve.
Love Wagon makes a powerful impact on their debut EP What Wagon. The jazz-rock album is a perfect blend of genres and each song gets better than the last. Love Wagon does a fantastic job navigating the ups and downs of romance and heartbreak on “I Just Want Your Love” and “Hearts Wide Open.” While “”Sometimes…” showcasing the magic of falling in love and “Naturally” reflects the fragileness of humanity. Love Wagon’s soulful performance is something you shouldn’t miss.
Zach Smith (guitar/keys/vocals), Ron Seidel (guitar/keys), Angely Melendez (bass/vocals) and Mark Steinmetz (drums/vocals) are The Holy Smokes. The band formed in 2018 and recently released Goldish.
I was deep into indie rock in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Bands like Modest Mouse, Pavement and Yo La Tengo were the bands I was rocking out to driving around town. Goldish is right in the center of the bullseye in terms of like minded indie rock. Some say indie rock is dying and isn’t thriving like it used to. I’ve been hearing this for years. It’s still one of my favorite genres.
I’ll say this about The Holy Smokes. I think they have all the elements to make for a successful indie band. The songwriting is top notch and so is the delivery. I also felt like they were in the embryonic stage of their development. While they are in that wheelhouse of indie rock bands they explore different niches as if they are trying to discover what their sound is. Given they formed in 2018 this is expected.
They open with “Lips Shut Tight” which might be the catchiest song in the batch. It’s fairly straightforward with no real surprises but very well done. If you are a fan of The Shins this shouldn’t be much of a stretch. The vibe is loose and joyful.
They get a little heavy and garage rock inspired with “What Went Wrong.” There are jangly guitars and I was reminded more of The Strokes on this song. Like the first song the execution is on point as is the structure of the song.
“Like the One” is where I think I started to notice the different approaches. The chorus in particular melds chords that ring with some kind of synth. On the verse it’s very subdued and has some similarities to bands like Vampire Weekend.
The Vampire Weekend vibe felt more pronounced on “Okay Okay” but again the song is well delivered and so many good melodies.. “Love & Money” might be my favorite song. The Beach Boy style vocal harmonies might be my favorite moment with this release. They close with another great song “Lay the Blame” and it really hits some fantastic crescendos that feel like pure joy.
One thing I’ve realized working with bands for over twenty years is that you can’t force a signature sound. This band is so recently formed I would just encourage them to continue playing together and kind of in the back of their mind think about that X-factor that can really define the band. As I mentioned earlier this band seems to have all the boxes checked for what I like to hear in a young band. That last crucial step of finding a signature sound in my opinion is one reason why bands like LCD Soundsystem, Tame Impala, Deerhunter, Local Natives, etc. become so distinct and known.
I think this is a great EP. It hits close to the heart and reminded me why I started to love indie rock in the first place. I have high hopes for this band and hope to hear more soon. Take a listen.
Jimi Lucid is an artist currently residing in New York who recently released Doom Generation. He explains, “Doom Generation is an album about the isolated feeling our generation experiences existing in our current political, climate, and social situation.
The main theme is being young trying to find connection, love and freedom in the face of impending doom.” This is an interesting concept to me because I lived through this. I was in college in 2001 and it was a captivating moment in time. The conversion from living in analog to digital was happening before my eyes and I noticed it. It’s almost 2020 and it’s hard to believe there are young people who have never lived in a time when there wasn’t social media, texting or wi-fi.
I don’t know how old Lucid is but his music will most likely resonate with people who are in their twenties at least in theme. His music points out some of the pitfalls of an all consuming digital life but is optimistic about finding connections and love despite these modern ways of living.
His music is largely electronic based and often dance worthy. The hooks are catchy but the music is inventive and strays away from standard pop structure. Take for instance the opener “Flutter” which contains vertigo inducing beat Aphex Twin would be proud of. He sings, “It's hard to be myself again / It’s hard to feel real when it's all pretend.” That statement itself brings about more questions - is social media pretend? Are you feelings pretend.” Is that even what he’s referring to?
On “Vibrancy” he hints at spirituality in respects to non-dualism. He sings, “Baby I lust for it /The urge to be complete.” “Bloom” felt like a nice boost of optimistic energy. The music combined with the words “Baby let's bloom together” are one of the albums most defining moments. “Clementine” stays on this trajectory with reassurance that the future might not be as bad as we think. Lucid continues to explore these themes with “Acid Wash” and “Drifter” which reminded me of The Postal Service. He closes with “Doom Generation” which felt like song where he wanted to spread love and joy amongst the divide young people have been feeling.
Doom Generation is a contemporary and much needed artistic statement. It doesn't suggest that things are going to get worse and more bleak. Lucid seems to embrace the human spirit and why it's so important to remember that the essential things we need as humans such empathy, love and connection will remain no matter how different the outside becomes.
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“Strangers Growing Stranger” is the eighth single off off of Get Set Go's upcoming 2019 release. As I’ve come to know his style I find that MikeTV is able to take subjects which are serious and brings a lot of levity. On that note the songs aren’t funny or comedic. There are heartfelt and sincere but they also don’t feel as heavy and drowning with negative thoughts.
“Strangers Growing Stranger” deals with the subject of our mortality and loneliness. He admits on the chorus he doesn't want to die alone and I don’t want to die at all. With these two lines he confronted both the general fear of death I think everyone will feel at some point in their life and perhaps the even more terrifying reality that as we grow older we want to be surrounded by loved ones.
The music revolves around a buoyant bass line, strummed acoustic guitar, piano and drums. It’s a lovely juxtaposition on energy against the pensive lyrics. All things considered it’s upbeat and lively.
As I get deeper and deeper into his singles this juxtaposition between theme and music seems to be one of the constants with his music. He likes switching it up. The song that have a more melancholy vibe have more uplifting lyrics and the opposite seems to be true as well for the most part.
“Strangers Growing Stranger” is tender account that at the end of the day we are all mortal critters who have a finite lifespan that can ponder how terrifying the future can be. Suffice it to say some of the solace comes in from the fact that we are all in this together and this a song that conveys that message.
Fred Argir is a Minneapolis-based musician, recording artist, and Grammy Recording Academy member who has released seven albums and one single over ten years - all written, produced, and engineered himself. His latest release No Pushover is a guitar album as you might have realized from the album cover. I remember listening to his last album and his style feels very similar here and more or less an extension of his previous work.
The album opens with “Beggar's Anthem” which is one of the best songs I have heard from him. It’s a straightforward rock song embracing Americana but I thought the chorus was memorable. That John Mellencamp Americana sound continues with “Not Much To Do.” He mixes it up on “Shake You” which is more acoustic and country inspired. The lead work is great and I also liked the melodies that were happening on the acoustic guitar.
He goes deep into rock with “Make Me Supid” and hits upon a Tom Petty vibe on “The Wall.” There are a couple more highlights such as “What Do You Think,” “Lies on the Brick Wall” and the anthemic “Fool.”
Argir is a great guitarist. There is no doubt about that. His lead work is electrifying and I often found myself immersed in the nuances of his guitar playing. I would also point out the songwriting is well done although I have to admit I felt like a lot of the tones and textures could have used a little polish. As an engineer myself I’m a little surprised he doesn't hand off his mixes to a mastering engineer to assist with EQ, compression, limiting and more technical stuff.
Overall, this was the best I’ve heard from Argir who certainly is passionate about his music. The performances are heartfelt and that comes across in his recordings.
In 2010, musicians Laurie Armitt and Catherine Preston can together to form Prints In The Snow. Both pair shared a love for artists like Bill Callahan, Low and The Dirty Three making the two a match made in heaven. While Preston had played bass for a math rock band called Little Girl with Cherries, Armitt had an indie rock project called Ocean State that travelled around England. Since being married, they have lived in Sweden for four years and started a family while perfecting the sound of the band. Now living in York, England, the duo have finished their first album Nothing’s Lost, with the help of drummer and sound engineer Jonny Hooker of the York Label Young Thugs.
Right away Nothing’s Lost starts off blasting with the introductory track “Waiting For The Feeling.” The song is loud and commanding but also has a classic-rock London feeling that listeners should be familiar with if they grew up listening to the British invasion of yesteryear. It reminded me of The Who.
The following track, “To Be Home Again,” slows things down dramatically. It's sweet, tender and heartfelt.This track and “For Grace” deal with the subject of leaving home. Changing your life to an unknown landscape can be frightening but the truth is you cannot go back home. It’s that transition of having to grow up on your own even if you don’t feel ready. The best line on “To Be Home Again” is when Armitt says, “It’s all just a trap to lure you in with rose color lenses your heads in a spin for awhile. You’re just a small drop in this great big lake and soon you’ll see behind everyone’s fake plastic smile.”
On the track “Sleep,” Prints in the Snow get pianist Dominic Meek performing on the song. The mellow tone of Armitt’s vocals as well as the musical arrangements are nods to the post-rock sound of bands such a Radiohead. It’s a laid back song that you can just tune out to which is quite enjoyable. The band brings the energy back for “Desdemona.” The song is louder compared to the rest of the album with wild effect thrown throughout the song. On the title track “Nothing’s Lost,” Prints In The Snow uses piano chords and lyrics as a reflective track. The chord progressing is hip while Armitt’s strong vocals give a powerful message that no words are wasted through any relationship.
Prints In The Snow’s debut album Nothing’s Lost is deeply reflective and powerful account of lead singer Laurie Armitt’s life. It’s a selection of songs from when he was a teenager. The band touches on adolescent subjects such as break ups, loss of friends and relatives, and leaving home. Therefore most of the songs are a bit slower which build atmosphere with the instrumentation and allow the lyrics to leave a lasting impression.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Coconut Cream Out of Touch 3.6
Rogue Soul Relativity EP 3.5
Guns Degenerate Art 3.7
Victor Vellocette Victor Vellocette 3.8
Will Stamp Will Stamp 3.8
Hailing from Seattle WA, Silent Gnomes is the brainstorm of singer/songwriter (and multi-instrumentalist) Samir Chandra. On his EP Dream he explores a number of different genres which showcase multiple sides to his talent.
The EP opens with “Come Back To Me” which is a piano ballad. Suffice it say the playing style reminded me of Billy Joel. The song starts with piano chords and drums and sooner than I expected there was a dynamic shift in the song. It goes full on epic with the drummer hitting the crash cymbals and more intense piano playing. The theme of the song is all in the title.
Next up is “I Need You” which has a distinctly different feel. This song felt like a mix between ’50s pop and ’90s alternative. It’s arguably the most catchy song of the four and was a personal favorite. The guitar is the main instrument on this song with the drums as explosive as ever. Chandra’s vocals sounded really good on this track. I have to admit I would love to hear an entire album in this style.
“Getaway” reminded me of Oasis if they were a little more upbeat. That being said the song is more melancholy than the previous song but is more about yearning and hope. The song revolves around a strumming acoustic guitar and another guitar that picks a distinct melody.
The EP ends with “Belong” which revisits the vibe of the first song. This song is certainly more of a slow burn. It starts off subtle and melancholy but quickly builds into the most epic song in the batch. This was a good way to end the EP.
Dream is a diverse EP and you certainly got an idea of Chandra’s influences. On top of that Chandra brings his own unique style to these songs all of which seem to be a foundation to the EP. The EP also benefits from good production where you can hear the dynamics and nuances of the music. This is a strong start and hope to hear more in the not too distant future. Recommended.
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