Witched is a solo project from Victoria BC Canada. The artist recently released a self-titled five- song EP Witched. This is lo-fi music that combines some elements of grunge, punk and to a lesser degree surf.
The EP gets going with “The Possibility to Forget” and revolves around a 4/4 beat, distorted guitar and what sounds like pained vocals which reminded me of Beth Gibbons from Portishead. That being said there aren’t that many lyrics in the song. It felt largely instrumental in the beginning. As the song progresses there are a couple of solid grooves and it gets more intense towards the end. It was a great start.
Up next is “Revenge Fantasy” which sounded somewhere between PJ Harvey and Kim Gordon whom I love. I liked the dark sort of tortured mood. Next up is “Beware” which at first introduces some organ playing. The mixing is better on this song than the previous two and the surf rock groove works really well. It’s this more dark version of surf rock and that bass line is legit. The song sort of lingers around and there are various versions of a similar groove. As much as I liked this song I think it went on about a minute too long.
“Say Nothing, ARE Nothing” is a very cool sounding song. I again really liked this mix of dark surf and punk. The vocals, similar to other songs, are limited and I actually wanted to hear more. Last up is “Root & Stone” which is a bit more shoegaze and sounds like one big phaser pedal with percussive elements and well delivered vocals.
As an engineer my main critique is about the mixing which can easily be fixed. There are way too many high frequencies on these recordings (around 5k to 10k). It may sound good while mixing to boost these but if you do beware it can cause ear fatigue and even your ears to ring. It’s the lower mids which bands like My Bloody Valentine found out are the ones that could be boosted so you can turn up the music and it seems loud but you don’t have your ears ring. At any rate the frequencies was different enough on every song that it was noticeable and took away from the cohesion. If you aren't working with an engineer I would at least suggest a mastering engineer whose job is to create a similar sonic imprint on every song. It also may help to put a spectrum analyzer on the master buss so you can see what frequencies are being played.
I thought this was a very solid EP and hopefully the first of many more to come. There are some great ideas and I thought the songwriting was good as well. My one request is that I’d like the vocals to be a little more utilized because when I heard them I often wanted more. I’m looking forward to hearing more from the promising artist.
Soche is an artist that made me feel my age. I’ve been producing artists for over twenty years. At this point there are certain things which will start to make me feel old. The release Loose Fiction for example could only be made by a young person. It’s bursting with ego, uses contemporary verbiage and is very confident.
Musically, most of the song seems to be hip-hop inspired. The music is mostly made up of contemporary sounding beats and the mood in general just sounds very familiar and recognizable to 2020. It’s just the general aesthetic from the hi-hat sounds to the synths. Lyrically, there is a lot to unpack but the topics felt universal. I thought there was good use of metaphor but also plenty of poetic lines which were powerful and poetic.
“Scheme On” is solid. The rapper has a typical affectation that’s used in the style of music. It’s all about ego and confidence to my ears. The hook is there and quite catchy. I also enjoyed the more dance heavy songs such as “Secluded” and the more subdued “Vocabulary” which features some good singing. I was also impressed with “Rich Quick” with “Cruise Control/Stay Awake.” The songs were consistently good in my opinion which is a factor that defines true talent.
The artist is young and to my ears is really wearing her influences on her sleeve. This is typically harder for younger artists that I’ve worked with but it’s really important to try and shed your influences to some degree so there can be opportunities for a singular or signature sound to emerge.
This album was one where the artist obviously did her homework. There are some many things which happen in the music which make it sound contemporary and accessible. That being said I felt like I’ve heard different versions of these songs before with a similar attitude and similar use of musical elements. It’s good practice to think out of the box and figure out ways where the music feels singular and signature to that artist. I think Soche has a good amount of talent in terms of composition and delivery. The next step which is much harder is trying to break the mold and find that X-factor which she can offer to an audience that no other artist has done.
Overall, I thought this was a solid release but more importantly points to a young artist with potential and talent. As someone who has been involved with composition and production for decades I promise this is just the beginning of the road and there’s a lot more ahead if she continues on this musical journey.
Saul Redhill is a Toronto-based singer/songwriter who has just released the stunning New Jerusalem, his first release since 2014. Raised in a musical home (his father was a violinist and his sisters played piano and cello), Redhill started on violin at age seven in various youth orchestras, finally winding up at a high school for the Arts where he played bass in jazz-rock trios. He put out an EP by his band Lyra in 2011, then released his highly acclaimed Wakeup Shot EP in 2014, wherein he played everything but drums. New Jerusalem was recorded and mixed with Ableton Live in Toronto, and was also mastered in Toronto by Joao Carvalho.
Redhill’s voice reminds me of Bob Dylan during his “Lay Lady Lay” period, and while not classically “pretty,” his singing grew on me as the album progressed. There are also occasional touches of Elvis, but without the flamboyance; in fact, he performs his vocal duties somewhat tentatively, almost dropping the final words of each verse.
But it’s the songs themselves that are most interesting. His arrangements, while very different, reminded me of songwriter-arranger Van Dyke Parks, who can always be counted on to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Redhill’s songs are constantly surprising, both in the progression of his melodies and the instrumentation, which is wonderfully diverse. He generally begins a song with just his voice and guitar, taking his time to set the mood, and only when he’s good and ready do the drums and other instruments appear, and sometimes just for a short while. Rhythmically there are a lot of sneaky dropped beats. He also leaves plenty of “air” in his recordings, and has created some incredible stereo imaging as well.
In Biblical terms, The New Jerusalem refers to the Jewish mystical understanding of Heaven. This album certainly deals in spiritual themes but without being obvious or didactic, and what I heard were songs about relationships with both other people and a higher power.
“To Catch A Lizard” is a slow jazz-funk-classical hybrid that starts with a single guitar chord quietly strummed as Redhill sings theatrically: “When I was a boy, I asked God, help me to catch a lizard / Who heard me? / Now I find everything is cyclical, except love / Just when you’re at the peak / Comes the lightening from above.” As the song progresses, there are Gabriel-like trumpets by Tom Upjohn, and drums by Ian Wright. Redhill begins feathering in little bits of all his other instruments, and to call him a multi-instrumentalist doesn’t quite catch it. Here and elsewhere he plays guitars, piano, bass, violin, viola, mellotron, harmonium, synths, harmonica, drums and percussion… in other words, he could probably replace ALL the Beatles!
“Orion” follows much the same pattern, like a slow-jazz show tune. The middle section is wonderful, as the tempo kicks in VERY SLOWLY with expansive violins and keyboards, like the vistas in a widescreen epic. At one point the percussion mimics a train crossing bell.
“Elegy” introduces strummed acoustic guitar cradling Redhill’s long drawn-out syllables, with Clarrie Feinstein’s backing vocals. After two minutes the drums kick in with a very slow rock tempo. The acoustic guitar stops and starts as crystalline electric and slide guitars pop in and around the stereo field.
“New Jerusalem” begins with the lyric structure of Bob Dylan’s “All I Really Want To Do” (“I Will Never Play You / Into my arms betray you / erase or rename you”). This is a simpler song with mostly just quiet guitar licks with Redhill’s lead vocals, angelic background singing and more of Tom Upjohn’s wonderful trumpets. “In Ashes” feels almost like a traditional folk country tune that Glen Campbell might perform with maybe an echo of “Stand By Your Man.” This track also includes both a Fender Rhodes keyboard and a Mellotron, that wonderful pre-digital sampler we’ve heard in songs by the Beatles, The Moody Blues and many others. Some of the strongest Biblical imagery yet: “The sword is unforgiving, so accept that it will slay / Each day there are these moments, in time they all decay / When she accepts my fading wish, I know what she will say / I love you, and like the burning bush, in ashes we will lay.”
“Badlands” begins with muted strumming as a wall of instruments slowly fade in, before suddenly cutting off. Redhill’s vocals are matter-of-fact against a background of beautifully recorded acoustic piano, harmonica and electric guitar. Toward the end things get a little crazy and I thought maybe my computer was playing two of his songs at once. It’s a feast for the ears, with some of the most interesting mixing on the album.
“Ascension Day” again mentions The New Jerusalem, along with Jesus, the Burning Bush and Heaven. This song mostly centers on Redhill’s voice and his jazzy, slow-picked electric guitar, later joined by some beautifully-recorded bird tracks.
The album closes with two instrumentals. The first is called “At The Gates Of Hades” and features several violin and viola tracks leading to a classical guitar, slide, and a piano section that owes more than a little to Erik Satie with pleasing country overtones. The second is a short instrumental reprise of “To Catch A Lizard,” bringing us full circle.
Any time I get a great album like this, I feel like Salieri trying to explain Mozart, but I hope I’ve been able to convey just how unique and accomplished these songs are.
Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Alan Donnelly, hailing from rural Ireland, sent us his debut solo EP, Session One. He recorded, produced and mixed the four-track set himself in his garden shed. Session One is meant as an introductory piece to his forthcoming full-length album The Shadows.
Donnelly works as a freelance composer for commercial advertising campaigns, and his ability to write across multiple styles is on display on Session One. Each track explores a different genre, giving the listener a quartet of aural treats. The lyrics are a bit dark; Donnelly tells us that the songs are “very personal” to him, as they touch on key moments in his life.
“The Flood” kicks off the set. It’s a folk tune, a 6/8 minor dirge that starts with just acoustic guitar and vocals. For the second verse, the rest of the band kicks in (with all instruments played by Donnelly); the layered vocals add to the haunting feel. Donnelly plays a terrific clean-toned electric guitar solo--foreshadowing some of his work later in the EP--over the acoustic-driven middle section. “The Flood” is a great start.
The second track “When You’re Gone” is a jazzy, bluesy shuffle that recalls the feel of Willie Nelson’s “Georgia On My Mind,” if he took the tempo up a bit. Again Donnelly lays down a terrific clean-toned electric guitar solo.
“Mirror Mirror” and “Rain” get a little darker, lyrically. “Mirror Mirror,” with its appropriately self-reflective words, takes a bit of a reggae turn, but the drumming features extra kicks that are straight out of the heavy metal playbook. It adds that extra bit of tension, and prepares us for the evil waltz that is “Rain.” “Rain” is flat-out terrific with tasty syncopated bass-and-drum parts underneath a fingerstyle guitar figure. However, it’s the string lines on the second verse that really send it to that next level. Wow.
Donnelly says that he plans to release another EP in advance of the full album. Good thing there’s more music coming. We need to hear it soon!
Toronto, Ontario instrumental trio Slow Train Still is made up of Michael Hussey on guitar and loops, Dawn Lewis on drums and other percussion and Ian Starke on bass. As the band states, their 2020 release Invisible Landscapes “is noise to anyone who can't hear it.” I like that statement and their honesty. Although this EP is very, very short, it gives the listener a remarkable sampling of what this trio is capable of musically. With elements of alternative, psychedelic and soundtrack influences, this small collection of songs had me hungry for more.
For starters, “Ain’t Nowhere” gives off a low, mean and distorted guitar sound, followed by a dry, live sounding rhythm section of shuffling brushes on the snare and a menacing but smooth bass melody. There isn’t much in the way of dynamics or risks, in terms of steering away from a three-chord song on repeat, but there is some great noise making by Hussey’s guitar – if you’re into trippy, echoing guitar that is.
Next is “Collateral Damage” a much shorter song that sounds like something from the ‘60s psychedelic rock era. Atmospheric in its style but also, I thought, a bit more imaginative by mixing up old sounds with a newer style of instrumental trip.
Last up already, is the title to the EP “Invisible Landscapes” and as the name implies, this one feels more ambient and soundtrack-like – something akin to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks or Mulholland Drive. I liked this one a lot!
There seemed to be more traditional structure with this tune as well, as the trio made room for an intro, a slow buildup of instruments, loud tension and soft moments within the song’s overall melody and rhythm. A story without words, but obviously instead, an instrument made from their choice of artistic expression. I also liked their use of loops. I am looking forward to Slow Train Still’s next endeavor.
LyricalGenes is back with his most epic release yet entitled Dana Burtin. There’s so much to cover on this release between the themes and music that it could fill a small novel. The album contains fifteen tracks and comes in around forty-four minutes.
There are a lot of topics and themes but I think for the most part I felt the music was generally about facing adversity with positive intention. Truth be told with all the division in the world today I think this is a timely and powerful message. All that being said, some of the topics are more singular and personal such as romantic relationships.
I’ve never heard an album start with an actual message like this. The first track “First Message (Freedom of Thought)” isn’t a song, it's him speaking to his audience. It’s basically about appreciating art for art and not because it’s popular. Personally, I think this is a message more ripe for the younger audience. I’m going to be forty in the next couple months and have not cared about what’s popular since I was probably a teenager. After this message we get into the music.
The album starts with “Bizness Man (feat DJ)” and is a solid introduction. I thought the beat was smooth and I would describe the rapping like that too. It’s fluid, seamless and easy to find yourself just feeling the energy. The song is essentially about his philosophy as an artist in the world.
“Shinin’” is not only positive but I would say it’s pretty motivational as well. He talks to single mothers, people having problems finding a romantic partner and well just about everyone who might feel like they are struggling in some way.
One of the highlights was “Heroes of 2020.” I think a lot of people have looked at 2020 as a terrible year which is obviously understandable. This song to me was about gratitude for the people like the medical professional, etc. but also looking towards a positive future. He even gives some direction. I also thought “Dreams To Reality” was a highlight that puts out more good vibes that can make people thrive.
It’s hard to argue against anything the artist is saying here. I found the message to be on point but just as important he delivers it an artistic and musical way that fans will appreciate. Recommended.
Cadigan is a band based in San Francisco, CA that formed in March of 2019. The band members have become fast friends ever since moving to the Bay Area. Anthony and Dino (brothers) met Henrik in the local punk scene. The band plays pop punk music in the vein of bands like Green Day, Blink 182 and Jimmy Eat World. The band’s energy on their latest album Be Present, Want Nothing is relentless. Right from the get-go, listeners will feel the band’s synergy as all the sections are synced to each player’s attitude, experience level and pump-ness. You can feel the band taking the pop punk genres to new heights as their high-energy performances prove to be one on-going rush.
Be Present, Want Nothing aims for a driven sound with the band right from the get-go opening to a revving start with “Alarm.” The spree of guitars and bass together with a fast-paced beat drums up an energized atmosphere. This was an impressive introduction. A melee of guitars presses on with impassioned delivery on “Bruised.” Anthony’s vocals are adamant as he sings with gusto and flair. The band plays fast and hard. The sounds are anthemic feeding into the punk rock spirit. The band continues the momentum of their pop punk energy with the upbeat “Catch.” The band fully relinquishes a revving vibe that does not abate. The sound is spirited and emphasized by the band’s gusto. The instrumentals veer and add more energized propulsion on “You.” The music is continuously amped but the vocals sound a bit slow burning and melancholic. Even though this is the case, the drama within this track is undeniable. As Anthony sings with full feeling you can’t help but be swept away by the emotions.
Feeling like the ballad out of the bunch, “Claire” had a more slower grooving feel. This felt like another slow burn as the energy on this song simmers in the backdrop. On “Beginnings,” the band does a total 180 with this acoustic number. Anthony’s vocals are alone supported by the guitar. The stripped sounds spotlight the emotional resonance of the track. Next, a full band backing adds a more overall amped sound. The sounds are, indeed, energized, as the band commandeers more of their signature-based sounds here. The band is off to another driven start with “Hooch.” Full-on guitars, bass and drums ambushes this song. The tune is upbeat and jaunty. The vibes will get you moving in no time. Filled with spirited punk rock rhythms, “Sometimes” is fully charged and intercedes as an ignited way to close the album. The band’s energy never wavers and you can feel the group’s persuasive sounds all the way until the end.
Although the band has yet to play a show, they are very excited to do so once the pandemic eases. Their energy will mostly likely translate very well in a live setting. Though the album was recorded in a studio and mixed and mastered by professional engineers the rawness of the ‘live’ factor within the tracks did not get lost. In fact, I thought these elements were enhanced, as you can feel, without a doubt, every charged vocal delivery from Anthony shouted out to great effect with the stamina of the full-blown instrumentals in explosive support behind each anthem. This was a solid effort and I look forward to seeing more from the band.
Mice on Mercury is an indie band from Philadelphia, PA, consisting of Katie Brady-Gold (lead vocalist), Clay Lewis (producer) and Via Dell’Angelo (lead songwriter). Both Brady-Gold and Lewis are high school students and the band was formed during quarantine. Many bands during lockdown are depending more and more on technology to get their music out there. Mice on Mercury is one of these bands. They approached this project with the only instruments either incorporating cleared samples, free plugins or stock plugins. Even their vocals were all recorded using Voice Memos on the iPhone. Surprisingly, this approach did not diminish the quality of the vocals which really seemed to shine on this album. The band’s sound on their latest Morpho EP is in the vein of indie bedroom pop and fully utilizes their lo-fi-ness in getting across their sparse but intimate sound.
Right away Morpho EP gets going with “Ihms,” where some ambient synths meet the intro of this track. Next, some keys trickle in. A drumming beat slowly eases in as well. Once the vocals come in, the smooth vibes are right away apparent. The male and female vocals are cool and the music is both chill and mellow. The blend has a real bluesy lounge vibe to it that felt great to relax to. On “Stranger,” an acoustic guitar accompanied by programmed beats greets the opening of this song. The vocals are touched by a dash of distortion. The effects made for a strong sound. The overlapping vocal layers really honed into a dynamic front. I loved the minimalistic approach. It really opened new avenues for emotional resonance.
On “Connection,” more melodic guitars start off this track. Percolating beats goes on to add traction. I greatly enjoyed the vocal delivery here. I could feel myself being buoyed by the weightless sounds. Some ambient sounding piano starts off “How You Feel.” This felt like a light-hearted song filled with levity and hope. The piano solo and overlapping vocal harmonies were very invigorating. I thought this was a great way to close the album.
The EP surrounds around the premise of transformation. The first half tells a story about a person dealing with “hopelessness, self-hate and problems with relationships they have.” The second half is about this person’s transformation toward a more confident and self-assured self. Being in high school, the band wanted to talk about things that they deal with and the EP is very much a reflection of this. The album art cover, which the band states is an image of the Blue Morpho butterfly, figures in the themes of metamorphosis and change. The butterfly is seen emerging from its cocoon, surfacing as a brand-new self. I think this could be used as a metaphor for the band’s minimalistic sound that recalls an old school R&B feel. Inspired by the soulful and bluesy delivery of ‘90s era pop and R&B, Morpho is a chill EP that adds momentum to the genre. You can see Mice on Mercury furthering the aforementioned umbrellas, and thereby transcending the R&B and indie bedroom pop genres with their own unique flavorings. They take something old and add in their own context of modern. What takes centerstage is a real cool blend that will speak to fans nostalgic for another period as well as newer generations of fans getting familiarized to the genres for the first time. Worth exploring from start to finish, be sure you give this a spin!
Laetitia Michel Shepherd (acoustic guitar), James Grieve (electric guitar), Steven Claxton (drums), Grace Schiavello (vocals), Gillian Watts (bass guitar) and Robert F Cranny (piano) are Peachfield. The band recently released their debut release entitled Monuments of Debris.
Their music is emotive, warm and upon first listen I found it accessible. “Laneways” is the first song and starts with a warm hum of guitar and what sounds like a field recording of school children. Drums, acoustic guitar, piano and bass soon enter the mix and the vibe is nostalgic and reflective. The lyrics mimic the emotional energy of the music and are about childhood days.
“Just One Star” is more upbeat but still warm and reflective. The lyrics are more existential and broad in some ways. As the song progresses it feels more powerful and intense when the chorus arrives. Next up is “Bubblegummers” and it sort of really cemented their sound for me after listening to this track. “A Great Divide” felt a little more religious. It was definitely the lyrics but also the delivery which reminded me of Sunday worship in a number of ways.
The band rocks more with “Box Wine & Fruitypine” but it's really uplifting and puts out a lot of good vibes. It’s the arguable highlight in the batch to my ears. We got back into ballad and reflective mode with “Map Drawn From Memory” while “Konmari” features vocal harmonies and is more folk based.
The more I listened the more of a ’70s vibe I picked up. I say that in a good way. There was this mix of bohemian folk and some of the classic rock bands from that era. The band sounds great and the vocals always sound on point as well. There’s not much to complain about here. Take a listen.
The 295 is a band hailing from the UK that recently released a self-titled mixtape The 295. They mention “Half the album was recorded live with no click track, so the performances on these songs are lively. The rest were recorded piece by piece, but due to the DIY process, they are no less powerful and energetic.” If you play music you will know this is always a huge debate. Click or no click. I really couldn’t tell what was with a click and what wasn’t. One thing I can say is the songs rock.
Their songs for the most are upbeat fun rock songs but they also can write one heck of a ballad. There are a number of songs that I could have on repeat. I love a song that is upbeat in mood but the lyrics lean towards a struggle of some kind. That’s what you hear on “Lovely Without You’ which is more or less garage rock 101 that is somewhere between The Strokes and The Killers.
“Tomorrow, Today” is a slower ballad where warm distortion washes over you. The vocalist reminded me of John Lennon. It’s sincere, heartfelt and emotionally resonant. I was reminded even more of The Beatles on “Man of the Hour” and is even more so of a ballad that slowly builds with piano and is somewhat overtaken by guitar,
There are a bunch of other highlights including “What a Shame!” and the intimate and orchestral sounding “Reverie.” “A Little Bit Better” is a joyous song that should put you in a good mood but also rocks. I would actually say “Everybody’s Here” also puts you in a good mood and feels very warm and is actually about Christmas.
The band is in top shape with this release and I was expecting more of a scattered feel since it was a mixtape but that wasn’t the case. I became a fan of the band for multiple reasons and feel they are accessible to a large demographic. Recommended.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook