Visions of a Perfect Life is the sophomore album from Liam Moore. His debut was way back in 2010 when the world was a very different place. Who am I kidding? The world was a very different place back in 2019.
This was a hard album to pinpoint which I thoroughly enjoy. There were some moments which sounded like Americana and other moments that reminded me of a more avant garde Donovan. I thought the songs were unique and there were a lot of unexpected but welcome surprises.
Up first is “Cosmic Noon” which is a good example of a song that goes in a number of places. It starts off ambient with a lot of surrounding synths. The vocals are the center and somehow out of nowhere a rock band comes through the fog. It’s a bit in the spirit of The Beatles and it felt like a natural progression of the song. I loved the lyrics as well. It’s sort of deep but there is a levity in his vocals which make it work.
“Horseshoe” is a little more straightforward and felt somewhere in the vicinity of Americana alt/country in the spirit of Wilco. His voice is comforting here and the general feeling is warm. I mentioned Donovan and on “Finis” is where that artist came to mind except the arrangement was a little more full and not as folk based. “Lift” felt like a highlight. I loved how the horns worked against the acoustic guitar. The arrangement felt very original yet accessible.
“Cottonwood” is one of the more straightforward songs but very well delivered and emotionally resonant. The slightly jazzy and loose “The Slouch” was a good song and another flavor while “Imbalances” is so smooth, warm, intimate and contains this playful sort of melancholy,
“Apologia” was under two minutes but no filler. There is some great string work and the vocals are also fantastic. “Early to Bed, Early to Rise” is an exceptional song which contains elements of bluegrass and country. The closer “(You Don't Have To) Grow Up” felt like a production. There is a swinging horn section and it made for for an excellent send off.
I loved this album. There is a lot to explore and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect next. The thing that made the album work was that he songs still felt connected through colors, tones and textures which made it feel cohesive. Highly recommended.
I Feel Sick & That Was Weird is Dylan Hendrick’s first release under the name Hora Bora. The Belleville, Ontario-based musician has been releasing music since 2016 under the name Cosmo Doris. The music was more in the realm of lo-fi hip hop, with touches of their current sound sprinkled in. The name change embodies a shift in songwriting style to ‘70s inspired rock and psychedelic pop. The result is I Feel Sick & That Was Weird, an album that is more fun than refined.
The album starts with the lively “Cruisin’ So Low I Could Puke.” The track’s parlor-like piano, heavy bass and distorted guitar give the song exciting energy. Hendrick’s theatrical delivery adds an edge to the vocals, as he sings things like, “I know I’m fake / But I don’t regret smashing that glass over your face,” or, “My mouth is looking for a cigarette or sucking face.”
“Nobody Can Stop Me From Crying” is an ear worm. The mix is excellent, with distorted bass and in-your-face drums put upfront. The guitar on the hook leads perfectly into the equally catchy chorus that will have you singing along. This tune also builds well, ebbing and flowing in a way that doesn’t let its catchiest moments become stale. “Always Blu” is a surprising face-melter. Its spine is jazzy, but between the verse are screeching guitar and banging drums. The juxtaposition between sections makes this track exceptionally engaging.
There are some moments throughout I Feel Sick & That Was Weird that feel unnecessary or out of place. At 24 tracks, the album runs over an hour, but many of the songs are less than two minutes. While most are good songs, they feel like filler. And the song “Loser Like Me” is one of my favorite tracks, but it sounds like it belongs on a separate album with more songs like it. I can see how others may feel differently about these songs given I Feel Sick & That Was Weird’s unruly nature, but a more streamlined approach would have made the album’s highlights shine.
I Feel Sick & That Was Weird is like a mad scientist’s experiment, with continually shifting hypotheses yielding intriguing results. However, despite its inconsistencies, this album is really good. There is a strong sense of confidence in Hora Bora’s songwriting and production aesthetic, which has me excited for whatever they do next.
Paul Mallyon is a solo songwriter/music producer based in Thame, Oxfordshire, England. Drums being his primary instrument, Mallyon’s latest album Promise of Light also sees him showing off his chops on guitar, bass and piano. At the core of these tracks is the guitar, and you can really see his style of rock music unfold with dashes of progressive, alternative, acoustic and singer/songwriter. Mallyon expertly weaves in these aforementioned genres to create an album that takes you on an engaging journey of reflection and introspection.
The music starts right off with a comfortable acoustic sound. I could really feel the warm singer/songwriter vibes coming from the vocals. A pensive piano melody flows over “Follow The Sorrow.” Mallyon’s vocals are big and boisterous sounding. He really shows all the stops with his dramatic and theatrical vocals that recalls a showtunes vibe. Numerating on the guitar supports Mallyon’s warm vocals on “Like Minded Fool.” The track dives into an intimate space for the singer/songwriter to express himself. On “Cruel Sir," a sauntering groove gets pinpointed. I really enjoyed his vocal performance here.
A powerful piano melody washes over this serene sounding title track. Mallyon’s voice is airy and really paints a picture of positivity with the inspirational lyrics as he sings: “A deep breath / Like fire through the veins / A broken silent of night / A place where dreams take flight.” On “Together,” Mallyon brushes into full rock territory with this straight-edged rock song. The sound recalls a ‘60s/’70s rock vibe. Mallyon makes a clean exit with the aptly put “Time For Sleep,” which starts out sparse but then grows into more epic proportions as the sounds builds.
A DIY project that sees Mallyon performing all the instruments, vocals and production. The album was very much ‘on the go,’ with Mallyon using everything he can get his hands on as a studio from the attic, lounge, and even the car as well as in his old home studio on Logic X.
I advise you after listening to the album, to let it sit for a while, letting the emotions on the album wash over you. Perhaps by then, the music will have set in, allowing you to truly appreciate its pure notes. Mallyon has created something that will stay with listeners long after the record has stopped spinning. Be sure you have a listen today!
Chinese Plastic Factory is Matthew Zito who recorded his debut EP I Wanna Be Haunted in his apartment in Chicago, IL.
The chilling undertones depicted on the EP covers the punk, folk and experimental genres. The album is a heady trip through horror films and through the minds of such great thinkers like Karl Marx. What is immediately apparent upon the first listen of the record is that Chinese Plastic Factory’s sound is very much in the vein of The White Stripes and The Black Keys territory. Paired with distorted guitar riffs and tons of reverberation, the sound that Zito tosses together is memorable with tracks that embraces a live recording feel. Zito tackles a rudimentary rock-based sound and really bolsters the vibe by infusing themes of darkness and horror into the mix. The bag is a mixed approach that incorporates a hodgepodge of sounds that fans who delight in the unexpected can find their fix here.
I Wanna Be Haunted dives right in with a tall order of guitars that offer fuzzy riffs that take the track straight into a rock vibe. The atmosphere is eerie and ghostly as the guitar licks undulate over some dark undertones. Zito’s vocals are also drenched in reverb, covering an echo-y bluesy vibe. On the title track “I Wanna Be Haunted,” a spree of guitars played under speedy duress are unleashed on this revved number. Zito keeps pace to the fast music on vocals. The sound that comes across is psychedelic with odes to surf rock filled with spine-tingling effects coming from the distortion.
Zito flips the script by taking on a more intimate approach on “Big Hailstorm In Late January” which features vulnerable vocals over the low hum of the guitar. Mid-way into the song, the band includes in the outro an intense jam-session. More guitars get featured on the introspective “Die Young.” The sound of organs gives some unique instrumentation. Zito conjures a Johnny Cash vibe with baritone vocals on “Sweet Love Honey Baby.” His voice is a deep rolling rumble and gives this track a classic noir, gothic vibe. The closer “Glove” takes us into electronic terrain where electro beats and warbling synths mixed in with the sound of guitars and bass brings forth a sound awash in experimentation as Zito recites a spoken word piece in a monotonous voice.
A bedroom recording that attributes its varied sound to the combined noises recorded in cramped bedrooms throughout Illinois, the lo-fi elements felt throughout the EP really highlighted Zito’s sound. The rawness of the recording went on to denote an eerie, ghostly vibe that was probably the artist’s intent all along. The EP features some dark riffs and it might not surprise you that you will encounter a few spooks now and then. I Wanna Be Haunted is proof that there are souls out there who are unafraid to get down and dirty with the nit and gritty. Chinese Plastic Factory takes us back to the fundamentals of rock n’ roll, keeping the flame alive with a fresh and exciting sound.
Samuel Roberts is a longtime freelance musician and composer, based in Birmingham, UK. Secondary Horse is the eponymous debut EP from his band Secondary Horse, where he says he can “cut loose” and offer his “true expression.” Cutting loose or not, he’s released a strong record.
The seven tracks on the EP alternate between vocal (odd-numbered) and instrumental (even) tracks. For the vocals, Roberts doesn’t sing, but rather, he speaks. It’s not rap, and calling it “spoken-word” doesn’t do it justice--these are poetry performances.
The music supports the poetry, adding emotion, tension and release in just the right spots. It’s done so well you don’t even realize it’s happening--you just ride the wave. Notably, Nick Hartland’s drums are just perfect throughout. They’re interesting where they need to be, and supportive where they need to be. You know they’re there; you appreciate his work but aren’t overwhelmed by it. His playing is the very essence of musical taste.
Roberts’ playing is terrific, too. He covers everything non-drum-related (guitar, bass, keys), and delivers flawless performances. What’s even more impressive is how Roberts’ music morphs in style and feel over the seven tracks. Where we start isn’t where we end, and Roberts’ playing adapts well to the changes in the score.
Our journey begins with “Scherzer” and its tight, riff-y guitar work. I hear bits of Black Sabbath, Guns N’ Roses, Rush and even some Keith Richards in there. The lyric is a surprise--an ode to Major League Baseball ace Max Scherzer, delivered in a UK Midlands accent. Mr. Scherzer should be flattered.
The guitars continue to drive the music on “Secondary Horse Theme.” Is it Rush? Satriani? Chet Atkins? However you label it, it works; there’s very nice interplay between the bass and guitars in the breakdown section too. The arpeggiated, swirling guitars on “The Curse” support the spooky poem well, and Roberts throws in a great, dramatic solo to boot.
The instrumental “Mind Purge” begins the transition from guitar-driven to keyboard-led songs and more mystical lyrics. I particularly liked “Jores’ Theme”, where an ‘80s video game meets ‘70s prog-rock and jazz fusion, all held together with an exploration of whole-tone scales. For “Standing Upon Clouds,” the final track, did Roberts borrow one of Pete Townshend’s old synths from Face Dances to deliver that classic sound?
I’m fortunate to have heard Secondary Horse. I’m in awe of the artistry, and am still smiling from the musical journey.
Peuk is a rock trio based in Hasselt, Belgium. They consist of Nele Janssen (vocals/guitar), Jacques Willems (bass) and Dave Schroyen (drums). The band released their self-titled album Peuk.
With a sound that covers alternative, grunge, punk and indie rock, Peuk meshes these genres to give audiences a sound that is distinctively their own. Their music pays odes to ‘90s grunge and punk outfits prevalent in the era. Music-makers who hold fast to the acknowledgement that “if it gets you moving, it’s rock n’ roll,” Peuk eliminates all the excess in their sound to produce music that is edgy, fast and tense to the point of being overwhelmingly so. Filled with a giant sound, the band really gets down to the basics of Rock 101 with this album that really guns for your attention.
The band paves the way for an exciting sound on their new release with “Gargamel.” They jam out with a revved performance. The music is intense. Each element of the band really brings it, from the screeching wails coming from the vocals, to the melee of guitars and bass to the heavy hitting rhythms on drums. Make no mistake: this is a band that takes their rock n’ roll seriously. More rambunctious guitars take the lead on “Magpie” creating a wall of sound. The band plays in a stop and go motion. Janssen’s vocals are sung in a monotonous drone. She changes it up with screams in the chorus. A more upbeat sound sees itself get realized on “Cave Person.” The sound rolls forth a sunnier approach with cheerful vocals buoyed by catchy melodies and harmonies. Janssen’s signature screams also make their appearance here.
Rumbling bass lines bleed into the forefront on “Skin It.” Janssen’s vocals takes in a bit of darkness with metal-induced screams. A meandering guitar melody is loosened over the pensive “Endless Spark.” This sounds like the ballad out of the bunch. Percussions and a spree of guitars add to the hard-hitting sound on “Drunk’n Caravan.” Driven and unrelenting, the instrumentals are played under speedy duress that do not let up until the very close of the track. Fuzzy guitars played fast and steadily add to the driven sound on “Manipulated Rats.” Janssen’s vocals are sung with attitude and sass. I could really feel the punk spirit permeating her ostentatious vocals. A more contemplative mood builds on “Koppiin.” Traces of percussions dresses this slow burning number. The band drives it home with a full-throttle sound on the closer “Hangman.”
The vibes coming from Peuk’s latest offering sounds louder and bigger than their three-piece accompaniments – more like a five- or six-piece band altogether. Hard-hitting and driven, at moments the band dives into anthemic instrumentals while also encompassing the more delicate side of life with a softer approach. The band maneuvers from a hard to a soft sound with relative ease – it’s all a big part of Peuk’s sound. Recorded all in one day on analogue material, this perfectly captures the band’s intense and raw energy which will most likely translate very well in a live setting. Due to these chaotic times, catching them in-concert might not be possible, but in the meantime there is the CD which will have to do for now.
Become A Fan
Sean Bertram is a Toronto-based guitarist, singer/songwriter, producer, engineer and multi-instrumentalist. After just having graduated from the Bachelor of Music programming at Humber College, and having released his debut full-length album, The Right Place, his latest release Echo, is a succinct four-song EP that Bertram describes as, “a broader look into who I was as an artist, songwriter, arranger, guitarist and as a person.” Through the years, Bertram has spent most of his time deeply invested in learning both the craft of songwriting as well as guitar performance. Often compared to John Mayer, Ben Folds and Paul Simon, his unique blend of musical styles covers a range of genres – from jazz and pop, to rock, and folk. He has also been compared to Bros. Landreth, Jordan Rakei and Tom Misch.
As far as his songwriting approach this time out, the songs started out just on the acoustic guitar, pulling a “contrived meaning or an emotion” from a set of chords or melodies. Bertram wanted to compile a smaller offering that had its own coherent ebb and flow. His work reflects a very emotional relationship that he was in at the time. Echo was recorded, mixed and mastered at Humber Studios with help from Matt Manifould and Reuben Ghose. All recordings were done using ProTools. Some recordings and mixings were done at Bertram’s home studio.
“She’ll Ruin Me” starts off with a very gentle flow of melodies and rhythms. The lyrical content of the song can be summed up clearly in this one line – “'Cause she's tearing me apart, I love her, but I know she'll ruin me.” The John Mayer comparison is unmistakable in this opening tune. Next is, “I Think I Think Too Much” a much slower paced number, with more gentle rumbles and rhythms. Chill-folk/jazz could be another genre classification for this one, but it’s more arranged like a pop/blues ballad, in my opinion. The solo gives it that soulful blues-ish edge.
“Y2K (Interlude)” featuring a New Year’s Eve countdown, presumably for the year 2000, is a short detour of contemporary jazz and funk styled rhythms. Bertram’s guitar playing is simply effortless. A nice little break for this short collection of songs. Last is “Against My Will” – a more upbeat number, complete with jazz like keys via 1970s. A pretty tight number, with all the instruments playing in perfect time. There’s a lot of funk and bolder drumming going on here, which sounded great. Overall, this one reminded me of those romantic soul and funk numbers from decades ago.
If you’re into John Mayer’s blues-tinged work with bit of soul, pop and jazz, Sean Bertram most certainly taps into his style of music on Echo.
Android Superstation is a rock band from Orange County, California that formed in 2017 and is composed of Marc, Heather, Danny and James. They recently released This Side of Nowhere which is an eleven-song album. The band mentions the album, “explores the human condition, telling a story of struggle, tragedy and hope.”
The album is high energy rock that combines elements of prog and classic rock. It’s often atmospheric and contains epic arena-sized crescendos. The songs sound big and the music often feels like they it can’t be contained by your speakers.
The band starts with “This Side of Nowhere” and I was getting some serious Pink Floyd vibes on this song. They pour on the reverb and there is just this cosmic quality to the music. Suffice it to say this was a guaranteed way to make a statement.
The atmosphere is still present on “Alive” but this song felt a little more grounded. It’s kinetic and some parts felt theatrical. I think it was the piano. The seven-plus minute “After You” is a deep cut and the first song where I noticed more prog rock elements. There were moments on this song that felt similar in nature to bands like King Crimson and Rush.
Up next is “Fractured” and this is a song where music just pours out and feels it surrounds you from every angle. It’s dynamic and definitely had an arena rock type quality. There are some ballads such as “Through the Darkness” but as with the other songs it’s large in scope. The band is really just getting started. I would say “Collide” and “The Other Side” were highlights.
This is just an epic album from beginning to end. It felt like a rock opera and some of the songs seemed like they would have worked in a musical. The band pulled it off because they are technically apt musicians. Recommended.
Joey Weedmark and Marina Verdichevski are Spirit Dies First. The band from London, Ontario recently released Lost And Found which is a thirteen-song album. They wrote the album over a five-year period.
Their music is rock based and more often than not I felt like the songs mixed sub-genres like grunge, metal, classic rock and more. The vocals are usually covered in a type of hall reverb and felt like they floated above the music.
They get going with “Lost Again” which starts with a Black Sabbath sounding riff. It’s fairly straightforward and the vocals really become the focal center. The vocals are catchy and dark. Up next is the grunge inspired “The Path” which is another song where there is a clear juxtaposition between the gritty distorted guitars and the reverb laced vocals.
“What Can I Teach You?” is really a different flavor. This song is more experimental and not as rock based. The darker sides to the song reminded me of Portishead. There are some smooth vocal harmonies as well and this section had more of a psychedelic Jefferson Airplane type of feel. “World Falls Into The Sun” was a highlight. The mix here between the guitars, drums and vocals really fits in right. I thought the vocals felt like they were raised from beneath the music which was a unique quality.
As the album progressed I did feel like there were some clear highlights. The very ominous and mystical “Elements” was great. It reminded me of the Knights of Templar or Ancient Babylon. The more shoegaze inspired “Spirit Dies First” has its moments as does the cleaner sounding and ephemeral “Melted to The Core.” The drone metal closer “Shape Of A Human” was also a highlight.
The production was sometimes a little too lo-fi for the tone they were going for but sometimes it worked out well. Their sound is broad and I felt like the album was split between the mystical drone rock and the grunge/shoegaze sound both of which I enjoyed.
Overall, I I thought this was a solid release with some notable highlights. Take a listen.
Wildcat Hawkins is an Eau Claire, WI-based solo artist. He’s released Rough Diamond, his debut LP, after ten years of writing and recording.
Hawkins calls the record “genre blended bedroom rock” and indeed it’s hard to pin down a category for the record. The tracks all have lush, layered soundscapes. Clearly, there are guitars and percussion tracks, but many have been processed and distorted to create their own unique sounds. Rough Diamond incorporates lots of keyboards, too, with Hawkins drawing from a wide palette of tones. Sometimes, the sounds are traditional (glockenspiel, pipe organ, piano), sometimes there are trance synth tones, and sometimes there are both, distorted and processed into their own sphere entirely.
It’s cool stuff. “Quantum Nostalgia” grabs us right away, with its swirling start and a combination of sung and spoken lyrics. “Bleeding All Over The Page,” up next, is a personal, slow, mystical burner that cuts deep. The percussion on “Burned Out Star” was very cool--it almost sounds like it’s out of time, but it’s not, and it fits a nice groove under the clean guitar sounds. The pipe organ finish was a nice touch. (The pipe organ returns again later, in “Daylights”.)
Across the forty-five minutes and twelve tracks, Hawkins plays with lyrical form. Some songs are just one short repeated stanza; others are longer. There’s variety in the vocals, too: vocals are sometimes dry and up-front in the mix, and sometimes they are reverb-drenched and deep in the soundscape. The changing textures work well.
“Teenagers” was a favorite track for me. It’s the most straight-ahead rock song of the set, driven by an electric guitar riff. Hawkins develops the track with additional layers of distorted guitars, and pushes it along with a bare-bones kick-drum part. The lyric sheet displays a sense of humor too: “I know ur young,” he writes. The ending vocal harmonies, with the corresponding percussion, were a treat.
Rough Diamond isn’t rough at all. It’s well-conceived and nicely polished. Hawkins keeps us engaged throughout with his skillful variations in music and song form, as he indeed blends genres into an enjoyable set. Give it a listen!
Become A Fan
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