Alice's Mirror is a solo project written and recorded by Alex Holliday. He recently released a self-titled five-song EP Alice’s Mirror. For the most part it’s somewhere between shoegaze and grunge.
The EP gets rocking with “Hole.” You are greeted with waves of distortion and reverb. It’s a glorious mess of white noise that finds a backbone of drums a little after the one-minute mark. The drums are fast and the whole song has an energy I wasn’t expecting from the intro. I was having a hard time making out much of anything when it came to the vocals which are way in the background and drenched in reverb.
“I Can't Remember My Dreams” felt like a perfect balance between ’90s grunge and early shoegaze in the spirit of My Bloody Valentine. The end of the song is pretty wicked. Up next is “Fall” which is even more intense. There was simply too much of everything to really get a hold of anything. It sounds like one pulsating drone and the vocals are so in the background that I tended to forget they were there at all. “True” is arguably the highlight. The lead guitar sound is solid and the whole song has an early M83 type of vibe.
Last up is “Cheshire” which is the most open song in the batch. It’s not loaded with distortion like the other songs but it also felt like it fit the EP.
Alice’s Mirror seems like the embryonic stage of an artist who can grow. Shoegaze with a lot of distortion isn’t exactly easy to record. You really need to have a lot of talent in the engineering department and great gear to be able to sound even close to bands like Ride, Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine. That is an area I think the artist should continue to explore.
There are some solid efforts here and I hope to hear more of him being able to mix shoegaze and grunge.
Sean Tosh is a musician from Liverpool, UK who has been writing songs since he was about twelve. I actually have no idea who old he is now but that picture of him on his Bandcamp page shows that he still looks like a pretty young guy. Either way his songwriting is strong on his release SAD.
SAD is a solo, DIY effort. It sounds like a lo-fi bedroom recording with a fair amount of instrumentation. The songs aren’t all sad as the title implies but his vocal delivery certainly veers in that direction.
Take for instance the opening track “Sunday.” The song is lush with airy pads and percussion elements like tablas and distant sound textures. On that note the vocals are really what keeps the song moving and are well done enough to make the song quite good.
Up next is “Everything” which is significantly more upbeat. The juxtaposition between the somber vocals and the more joyous music works quite well. It’s very catchy and I really loved the vocals. The title track “SAD” is great. It’s loose, slightly jazzy and unique sounding. “Soundtrack #1” did feel like a movie soundtrack. There is a bit of a Sigur Rós thematic vibe that really didn’t mix well with the previous songs.
The guitar heavy “The Deeper You Are The More Shallow You Learn To Become” fares much better. “My Problems Are Not Problems” is another highlight. I really liked the elements in this song. “Soften” has its moments but the more melancholy and contemplative “Friends” is Tosh at his finest.
Tosh mentions he wants to re-record the songs as this album gains attention. I would argue the other way around. You need to invest in the studio time, cost and then see is if people pay attention. At the very least I think Tosh should get the songs re-mastered. The volume level between songs is really noticeable and no one wants to fiddle with a volume knob. I say this because his songs deserve it.
There are some great songs on this release and I look forward to more work from Tosh.
Billi is the moniker for solo artist Elliot Ross. He released a lo-fi EP entitled Medicine. It’s a folky indie rock album.
Up first is “Smile.” I loved the female vocalist who is in charge of background vocals. The rest of the song is comprised of strummed acoustic guitar, drums and lead vocals. It’s a fairly catchy song and I thought the lead guitar that came into the mix was a nice touch.
The title track “Medicine” is a step up both in terms of songwriting and delivery. Ross sounds solid on this track. The female vocalist covers the chorus by repeating the word “medicine” and it sounds great. After the midway point the song starts to rock out more with an increased intensity.
The rocking out continues on “Between Your Eyes” which has an early ‘90’s indie rock vibe not too far away from a band like Pavement. “Stronger Now” is another solid indie rock tune. It’s a loose jam. The vocals sound almost drunk at times but it’s arguably his best performance. “Amphetamine” strips back to instrumentation. It’s strummed on an acoustic guitar with a lead vocal. Last but not least is “Gwen” which has a lot of chaotic moments, white noise and more which confront the softer sections of the song. Instrumentally it's the best effort on the EP in my opinion.
This EP did enough to display some talent but in order to get to the next level I think a couple of things need to happen. First and foremost eventually working with a producer/engineer to give it a more professional indie rock sort of vibe is essential to improve things such as the drum sound, dynamics, etc. I also think working with a couple more musicians might benefit the sound.
Overall, this is a solid EP showcasing some potential. I think his best work is yet to come as well.
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In a time and place where panic and rage are smashing into each other at breakneck speed, there has been a quiet but powerful lo-fi movement in the music world acting as a counterpoint. I would say HoneyWire travels in the vein of this trend but elevates the movement with its powerful lyrics and genre bending with its self-titled EP HoneyWire. HoneyWire is Kaleb Slack, a 22-year-old who had his fill of playing gigs with bands in gnarly bars and decided to go solo. I am super into this EP. It's like a low key, alternative fairy tale where the happy ending is questionable and very open ended.
The opening track, "Touch Me" is just over a minute and falls heavily into chill-hop land, and I adored it. It's a looping instrumental with ominous audio sampling. I'll admit, at this point I was pretty much sold which is funny because I hadn't even heard Slack open his mouth yet. Track two is "Actress" which has a dreamy flight through pointed lyrics. It had great dichotomy and I loved it. Slack's vocal styling is engineered toward an indie/alt crowd. It's breathy and aloof, but there's a quiet power there, especially with his grounding lyrics. "Meantime" just might be my favorite. Its iridescence and delicate percussion layering wooed me into a gushing mush.
Not only does Slack have excellent taste in mid-western cities, he also has great taste in music. This became clear to me with his cover of "Be My Baby" by a personal favorite The Ronettes. This cover is quirky, bizarre and totally unexpected. I was over the moon for this little surprise. There was something very The Virgin Suicides about the way he treated this song with such beautiful, blooming gloom.
This EP is another great example of what can be accomplished with the "me, myself and I" work ethic when it comes to DIY album production. Slack is undoubtedly wired to go it alone, and I felt a strong sense of decisiveness when it comes to the aesthetic he presented here. One of my favorite features is how he made an effort to pull the lyrics out from underneath all his lovely and complex layers. While the vocals are not fully in front, I wasn't digging too hard for them either. It was some damn fine balancing work. The big thing that stood out to me was his ability to build a vast, swallowing atmosphere when he wanted to. Going big isn't always about being explosive. Sometimes it's about creating a deep dark canyon the listener is compelled to explore. This is something Slack does with ease and he won't give you a flashlight; I respect that.
Head to toe I found this album to be above anything else alluring. I was happy to be the fish on the hook for this one. Slack is an Albuquerque local who will be relocating to my neck of the woods in Chicago soon. All I can say is welcome and for the love of god bring a long coat and I hope my city serves you well as inspiration for whatever comes next.
Mason Stone is a producer from Melbourne, Australia who recently released Thought You Were A Diver. The album feels like a bedroom project from beginning to end. That being said after that it gets a little hard to define. There were a lot of different styles like hip-hop/pop/experimental but I found the gems were the songs that had infectious melodies.
Things get going with “Diamonds” which is a very airy and atmospheric track. The vocals glide along an arpeggiated synth and luminous pads. It’s a short track that is under two minutes long. I did want a little more meat on the song because I thought a couple of changes may have benefited the song.
“Combo” is a pretty contemporary sounding track. The song is deliciously catchy and innocent except for the lyrics. I thought the beat that dropped was pretty fierce. The hook is there. “On The Phone” is a little over a minute but displays some serious vocal talent while “Predictable” has some great beat programming that didn’t sound too far off from an artist like Grimes.
“St. Lucifer” contains some smooth dubstep in the spirit of an artist like James Blake. You then have “Met Up With Her Again” which is more aligned with R&B. Stone continues to display talent on the ultra catchy “Make Me Sick.” I’m not sure who was singing on “Dive.” Perhaps it was Stone but whoever it was the vocal work is incredible on this track. Don't miss “Dive.”
“Pink Flamingo” melds smooth lounge sound with robotic gestures while “Nobody Wins” has another killer hook. The down tempo “Wish” was chill and serene. Stone closes with “The Beginning” which was a little dark for a closer but still a cool track.
Stone has some serious talent as a producer. The more I listened the more I was on board. Stone could really be on to something here. I wish him luck on his evolution.
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Delta Sierra is a band from New York comprised of Alex Coronado (bass), Ralph Mietz (drums), John North (guitar) and Brandon Schmitt (vocals/guitar). They recently released Grown-Up Situations which is a five-song album. There are a couple of longer songs on the album including the opener “Moon River.”
“Moon River” is a pretty straightforward rock song. It’s almost ten minutes long. Now the most defining quality about this band is the vibrato on the lead vocals. It’s honestly the most noticeable vibrato I ever heard. It sounds like a tremolo effect and I was actually trying to figure out if there was some kind of effect on his voice that made the vibrato more defined. Schmitt has a sort of tortured vocal style not too far off from Adam Granduciel from The War on Drugs.
I’m not really sure why the song had an almost ten-minute runtime. There really weren’t that many changes and a lot of repetition of the main riff that was introduced. It’s not a bad riff in fact it rocks but it just goes on a really long time.
Up next is “Plain Sight” which is another fairly straightforward rocker. There is a lot of distortion and a wicked guitar solo. The song is pretty dynamic and loose. They play in the pocket but the song often feels like they are just rocking out without a metronome which is by no means a bad thing.
“Childish Visions” is a breather. It’s strummed on an acoustic guitar. The vibrato is so prominent on this track I was in awe. Schmitt’s vocals are dripping in pain on this track in a Neil Young type of way. “I Can See My Breath” has one big, long guitar solo. It’s a rocking song which is pretty intense the whole way through. “Patience” is twelve-plus-minutes long. It’s the most epic out of the bunch.
The album really does have a catchy hook that grabs you. It’s more about long form expression in the form of distortion. The band also keeps it very simple as far as production and effects go. It seemed to be just distortion the whole way through.
The album is definitely a grower and rock enthusiasts will most likely enjoy it the most. I will also add the recording quality of the music is absolutely on point thanks to some of the best engineers in Chicago.
Cole Krueger aka Bottom Lashes is a twenty-year old artist from Chicago who recently released Incisor Lies. The artist explains, “Growing up in a small town, I was always inspired by the 1980s/early 1990s New York City Club Kid scene and the care-free dangerous night life of the time.” That is certainly reflected in his album.
Back in the ’80s making this type of music was incredibly difficult. You would have to utilize analog synths as well as MIDI which was just starting to be used to make music. These days are much easier to combine layers of beats and synths. If you have a laptop you are pretty much set. That’s exactly what Krueger did.
Things get going with “Got Time, Pt. 1” which slowly builds with a couple of different synths. It’s a moody piece with arpeggiated synths and Kruger’s vocals laying way in the back of the music. It serves as a solid introduction to the album.
“No Money, Pt. 2” is a little more dance worthy. It’s a cascading, vertigo inducing psychedelic meltdown. There is a tinge of madness associated with the song as it whirls around on a merry- go-round. Up next is “Teeth” which contains a number of catchy lead synth melodies. The heavy 4/4 beats continue with “Lips” which is the arguable highlight. His vocal hooks are more notable on this song though there was also a lot of inventive production.
The title track “Incisor Lies” has its moments as well but almost felt interchangeable with some of the previous tracks. “Your Love (Is For Cigarettes)” and “Video Vampire” have darker, goth inspired tones to my ears.
My advice to the artist is to try and team up with an engineer/producer. These type of tracks need to have a big, deep thud when it comes to the low end. I also had a lot of trouble making out the vocals.
Krueger is a young guy with a lot still to prove but also some potential. I appreciate the angle he was taking on these songs and look forward to hearing more.
Andrew Nixon (vocals/guitar), Joseph Mutamba (bass), Sebastian Evans-Cuervo (guitar) and Marcos Alegria (drums) are A Moment Of Kalopsia. They recently formed and recorded a DIY style demo entitled Towns showcasing a little of what they have been up to. They have a similar post-punk sound to bands like Joy Division and Interpol. Although the band has a long way to go to be on a similar level with those bands they show some potential with these songs.
They get going with “Into The Limelight” which I have to admit sounds a lot like Interpol from the monotone vocals to the instrumentation. The band stays in the pocket and does have some chemistry. I thought the song was well constructed. There isn’t much fat on the song although I thought they pull off the stop for a second and start again move one too many times.
Up next is “Fake it 'Till I Make it” which is a fairly straightforward song. They go for a classic soft verse, loud chorus type deal and it works out well. “Ophelia” is the arguable highlight . Nixon nostalgically reflects on days gone by. He sings, “When I think about you / How much I loved to /Live life with you / How I miss those times.” I really liked the subdued part of the song where he sings, “One more day is all I need.”
“Let Up” is an instrumental song which had the best grooves on the album. They implement what sounds like electronic piano and synth into the mix. It’s a really different feel but an angle I think they should continue to explore. “One For Another Day” and “Graduation Rain” revert to the previous style.
I think the band needs to be aware of sounding too much like Interpol. There are a lot of similarities and moving forward I kept on wanting to listen to Interpol. On top of that they will have to work with an engineer or producer to have a competitive recording quality with notable bands.
The band has some talent but are a case of wait and see at the moment. I look forward to hearing where they go from here.
Aaron Pyke (guitar/vocals) and Alayne Dick (drums/vocals) are Bored Housewives. The duo released a lo-fi effort entitled Iti. The three songs are all very simple consisting of 4/4 beats and jangly major and minor chords. It feels fairly tongue in cheek.
They start with “Personfriend.” The duo try and harmonize on this song. There are some male and female vocal harmonies that combine to make a strong singular because of tone and texture. This isn’t that. That’s not necessarily bad but often leaves very little room for error in pitch. Some of this may be due to production but Pyke’s voice on the chorus sounds worlds away from Dick’s voice. The chorus is catchy and the lyrics aren’t the deepest you will hear this year but have their charm.
Up next is “Cafe Art” which is a little more punk inspired. The vocal harmonies again feel very separate but there are some fun melodies as well. “Zooey Deschanel” is a satirical take on pretentious art boys and the girlfriends that they dream up for themselves. The song hits the bullseye and feels very hipster inspired. There are so many levels of irony I was having a hard time keeping up.
The group has its charm maybe in a Magnetic Fields type of way but there are some basics things I suggest the band tries to tighten up moving forward. There are noticeable issues with timing on a number of songs and there are also issues with staying in key. I’ve heard enough lo-fi demos where some of this is perfectly acceptable. I don’t need something auto-tuned to hell like an overproduced pop. That being said these types of issues should not take me out of a song or hold my attention long enough to take away from the spirit of the song.
The roughly nine-minute demo showcases some potential. I think pairing with an engineer/producer would behoove them for a number of reasons on their next effort. On that note I'm excited to hear where they go from here. Take a listen.
Deep Sea Tourist is a new singer/songwriter project by the Glasgow musician Graham Robertson. Robertson has been a part of the Glasgow band Howling Home but started this solo project as a way to write and record some lo-fi folk songs of his own making. His first offering as Deep Sea Tourist is the four-song EP No Good Reason.
No Good Reason opens with the upbeat folk ballad “The News.” It’s simple guitar melody and a pitter patter of drums with some light bit of keys that pump in and out briskly. It’s a catchy and powerful bit of music and explores a day in the life of a person who as the chorus says has “gotta keep my head on.” The idea is simple but also very much something that will speak to a lot of people who sometimes just need to remind themselves that the kind of day they are going to have is reliant on them and not always necessarily the world around them.
Next comes the title track “No Good Reason” which gets out of the folk vein and becomes this rampant hard rock song with a solo near the end that is pretty thrash and bang and quite good, however it doesn’t really fit with the earlier part of the song. The song sounds a bit like a demo of sorts and with the build up not working out as well as it could have.
Robertson soon regains his composure and focus on “Baby (feat. Chloe Robertson)” a piano led ballad which also features some warm strings. It sounds more like the sound Robertson had intended for this EP and is definitely the shining star on the record. In heavy contention for that star though is the closing song “Foolish Boy” a folky simple dirge that comes in at just a little over a minute, but the power behind it is unmistakable and a full length or any future recordings would really benefit from this arm of songwriting.
No Good Reason is a good skeletal start to something that could really take off if the future songs get a little more fleshing out and go in the direction of the last two tracks on this EP. The ideas are there and the arrangements are there and I’m sure they will continue to shine even brighter on future releases.
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