Bad Naps is a band based out of Williamsburg, VA. The project is led by Derek. The moniker was created as a joke amongst friends while he was touring as a musician. They released their debut Blue Heron EP which was a collection of songs about his coping with the long-distance relationship with his now wife. The band is now releasing their second EP entitled Sheepish EP.
Self-dubbed as “Mid-Atlantic op-punk,” the band harnesses a sound that can oscillate to the poppier, more upbeat side, but it can also dip into dark, more aggressive riffs, often wading into emo territory. The band pivots between hard and soft with relative ease. They challenge themselves to deliver a sound that will not only draw a crowd but also please the musician on a technical level. With influences that range from Relient K, Brand New, Taking Back Sunday and Armor for Sleep, the sounds off their recent EP are energized.
Sheepish EP opens with “The Best Part of ([Of Waking Up] Is Waking Up With You),” where a clashing of instrumentals starts off this track The electric guitars, bass lines, drums and percussions rush forward. The band dives into the punk rock spirit on this song that also has emo instances. His vocals sound similar to Taking Back Sunday although he occasionally goes off-key during the songs.
Following is “Parish/Perish,” where intermittently the guitar riffs come in a staccato fashion. The sound on the guitar is sparse and minimal. Next, the sound of horns, bass lines, drums and percussions come in.
A melee of guitars create a wall of sound on “Pray/Prey.” Next, the number slows down to give s slower saunter. A strong sense of urgency underlines this track. Derek’s vocals are filled with agony and pain as he sings, “Took a hammer to my teeth / Make me feel less than humanity / Worthy of genocide.” A guitar solo adds in range toward the two-minute mark until the close.
On the closer “Anyway” noodling on the acoustic guitar starts off this mainly acoustic number. This is a stripped-down song and the instrumentals are sparse. Though a simple song, the emotional power of the vocals makes up for it. The album closes on this soft number.
With themes of love, forgiveness, faith, anxiety and frustration, Sheepish EP is a straightforward album with a pop-punk sound. I was pleasantly surprised by how tight-knit their sound was. Derek explained that the project came to life through the support of his friends. In fact, the project features a few of his friends with Derek at the helm. Their chemistry is displayed in how well they jam together and on many a searing note, the band shows they are enthusiasts of the aforementioned genres.
Spelling Bee Champions is a brand-new project based out of Grand Rapids, MI, comprised of Sean, Andrea and Dexter. The band is releasing their latest EP entitled Charles.
With a sound similar to El Ten Eleven, Tera Melos, The Physics House Band, among others, the sounds off Charles ranges from shoegaze-y soundscapes through epic anthems to shimmery chill-out vibes. The sounds contain an ambience that is in part dream-like and hazy. Drifting with mellow and laid-back notes, the easy-going vibes on these set of songs will soothe and relax listeners. As the sound progresses, a bit of dissonance adds in an unwavering off-kilter effect.
Charles opens up with “Waiting For The New Year,” where the sounds on this track are soft and undulate with an experimental shoegaze-y pulse. The guitars are shimmering and rev up with full range, creating a wall of sound. A bit of dissonance wavers in from the vocals, which are a crush of background noise. It is hard to make out the vocals as they entirely consist of screams.
Following is “I Will,” where gnarly sounding guitar riffs rev out in the start of this song. The cadences are gritty and ominous sounding. The synths offer up a bit of ambience. Radio-active guitar solos launch out toward the two-minute mark.
Bouncy electronic beats pave the start of “Dexter On The Go.” Full-ranging guitars reverberate overhead on this track. The sounds are dark and gnarly.
On the closer “Suspended In Motion (dreaming…),” moody bass lines start off this song. The sounds are ominous with a rhythms-heavy pulse. A drumming beat also accompanies the bass. The synths add in an electric layer.
My only complaint was that these songs weren’t long enough. The lengthiest song was around three-minutes. Though I was hungry for more, I thought the band was able to unpack a lot in the relative short amount of time spent in each track. Charles is an album on a platform of its own. With their kinetic energy and tight-knit chemistry, the band jams together with an ever-evolving rapport. Their experiences, background and tastes permeate this group of songs, and I can’t wait to hear more from them.
Cam Gainey is based in Raleigh, NC. He has over 15 years of experience playing the guitar under his belt. Gainey is also fond of the electric bass, and he has formal training in piano, drums and djembe. Gainey is releasing his debut EP entitled Empathy.
According to the artist, “Empathy is everything to me. It guides how I act and permeates my music, and I felt that it was the perfect choice to title this, my first release. Though these pieces lack lyrics, each one tells a story – many stories, really because each time I play them, they describe anew the scenes around me.”
On that note, Empathy opens with the title track “Empathy” where a moving finger-picking style propels this layered track. Scenes from nature are evoked in listeners as the impressions of the music pass underneath their eyelids. The deft strumming grows in momentum as the song progresses.
Following is “Pines,” where the melody on the guitar is contemplative. The tune on the guitar is meandering and drawn out. The distinctive noodling on the acoustic guitar is pensive on “Icicles.” The sound on the guitar slowly develops. The vibe is fully realized. The melody is sad and melancholy-tinged. The shimmering notes then grows more rhythmic and dynamic toward the three-and-a-half-minute mark.
On the closer “2am Rain,” numerating on the guitar starts off this song. The cadence is soft. Gradually, the volume to the track increases and the guitar reverberates with added intensity. The sounds are textual and nuanced. The percussions give off a lively vibe. The cadences are revved and amped until the very close.
Gainey sheds light on life’s more momentous instances with this melodious and interwoven array of instrumentals. As you close your eyes and imagine a warm summer evening, or the sun glinting off mountain snow, or the feeling of laughter beside friends, Gainey’s music sweeps you away. The moving songs on this EP convey many emotions. The EP which revolves around the guitar allows the instrument to hone its singular voice. Gainey’s skills on the instrument is exhibited through his classical and finger-picking style. His deft playing is exhibited as he maneuvers the instrument through moving melodies and textures with dexterity and flair.
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Telophase is an artist from Fresno, California who recently released Possesions. He explains that “From the get-go, this EP can be best described as a ‘small parcel of mixed socks’.’’ It’s a complete DIY effort and New Order, OMD, Interpol, The Cure, and LCD Soundsystem were some of his influences.
The first song is entitled “Asymmetric” and this reminded me of Joy Division rather than New Order. It’s a dark song with those similar types of drums you heard on an album like Closer. The song is a slow burn and is very repetitive or perhaps hypnotic. I liked the groove. The vocals are so covered in hall reverb I couldn’t make out a single word. There are some issues with him staying in key which the reverb actually enhances.
On “The Empty Sea” we have a lot less reverb and you can hear the words this time around. It’s a six-plus-minute song with not many twists and turns. There are points where the snare is so loud it takes over the song.
“Subsistence” contains a unique blend of sounds, especially percussive elements. I liked the change in mood and thought this song might have been the highlight. “Sound Of Waves” has its moments as well. There are some catchy vocal melodies on this song. He closes with “Petrichor” which explores different soundscapes and contains some inventive sound design.
As an engineer myself I think this is definitely an area in which he would benefit from learning more about or teaming up with an engineer who can help with some of the more technical issues and deal with things like compression, reverb tails, M/S signal, limiting and EQ. The artist is a young guy even by looking at that blurry picture on Bandcamp. I think this is a solid start. It’s cool to know a younger generation is listening to a lot of the same music which I grew up with. I look forward to hearing him and listening to more of his work in the not too distant future.
One Day Wonder was created in 2019 by Justin (guitar/vocals) and Jeremy (drums/vocals) in Orangeville, Ontario. The band recently released Songs from the Dungeon. They say, “The songs are aggressive and lyrically it speaks for itself. This music is an ode to not giving up on yourself and continuing to move forward with life. The depressing reality of being trapped in a metaphorical dungeon requires some energy and fight. No time to sit back and sleep life away.”
The songs are very bare bones and the production sounds like a lo-fi recording. Suffice it to say the vocals are dynamic. There are times when the vocals sound like someone singing naturally and other times where the affectation is so exaggerated it sounds comical and sort of like a fictitious character or archetype.
“Sinners and Saints” is the first song in the batch. The music revolves around a 4/4 drum beat and mostly distorted power chords. For a little less than a minute he sings somewhat “normally” and then quickly goes into a variation of the demon-like voice you hear in metal. After that there are a lot of high pitched shrieks along with vocals that have some affectation of aggression.
Up next is “Better Late Than Never” which is a fast song and again revolving mostly with power chords and fast drum beats. The instrumental parts were impressive and intense. It was sometimes hard to really concentrate on the music since the vocals are delivered with such varied emotion that it took a lot of my attention. That being said there are times where they let the drums and guitar breathe which I thought were well done.
At first things get even faster on “Internal Dialogue” but they change tempo a number of times. “Blur The Lines” was the highlight to my ears. The vocals at times sounded very different and were a lot easier on my ears in a lot of ways. It’s also pretty catchy. They close with “Late Bloomer” which has solid drone metal and is a good way to close.
A couple of things about this music reminded me of what I was doing about twenty years ago. I just graduated from college and my friend and I would jam in my mom’s basement and we would make these lo-fi recordings that sounded similar to this although the vocals didn’t have the constant change in affectation.
As an engineer I think some of their next moves should be thinking about teaming up with an engineer who can assist with the recording and get something that really plays into their sound. The music was intense to say the least and certainly the most varied vocal approach I have heard in recent memory.
Overall, this band packs a punch and is not for the faint of heart. They seem like a young band so I’m excited to hear where they go from here.
Lilac Grove is a group of friends from school that started a band. It’s a story that has been played out countless times before and will most likely continue for the foreseeable future. They explain, “These songs each originated from a single guitar riff, with the outcome of the eventual sound being a surprise each time. There was never a clear idea. if it sounded good to us then we'd stick it in the song.”
The music felt like straightforward alternative/indie rock to my ears. There weren’t any surprises, good or bad, as I listened to the songs. The songs were well delivered and there were a number of catchy melodies.
They get going with “King For A Day '' and it starts off with buoyant and slightly funky bass lines and a steady beat. The groove was great and I liked the post-punk lead guitar. Once the chorus comes it revolves around distorted major and minor chords. It sounded like a late ’90s alternative song in the spirit of the Foo Fighters or a like minded band. There is a surge in energy, a breakdown and a way back into the chorus.
“Holding On” comes out of the gates with a good amount of energy. This song similar to the first felt like an alternative song I would have heard back at the end of my high school days in the late ’90s. Up next is “The Cats Aren't All Bad” and I noticed the RMS level was lower than the previous song but nonetheless it was a solid song.
They get a little darker with “T.O.T.W.” which also might have the best and most memorable hook out of all the songs. The band closes with “Monoliths” which felt more aligned with a band like Bloc Party.
My critique for the band is to think of ways they can really drive home a signature sound. I really enjoyed these songs and the band can write a hook but their style and their approach sound very similar to countless bands. It would be hard for me to recognize one of their songs if I heard it on the radio even after spending some time with their music. Some loose experimentation might be a good thing for them. This is an issue I write a lot about but still a point that I think needs to be stressed.
Overall, I thought this young band has a lot going for them. The performances were great and they can pull off a memorable hook. I look forward to hearing more from them as they evolve.
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
Clock Stretcher Walking on shell 3.7
The Nautical Theme Lows+Highs 3.8
Mosaic Wear It Like A
Pumpkin Pie 3.6
The Rewind As One Door Closes... 3.4
Husk Bad Faith 3.5
Crow vs Lion is the music and art project of Dan Gallagher of Bucks County, PA, that features Liam Hare (drums) and Andy Kostrzewski (bass). He recently released The Heart, The Time, The Pen. Gallagher explains, “The album has four songs dedicated to each section, The Heart, The Time, The Pen, with the title track song #13.” If you want to delve more into the themes and concepts you can read about that on his Bandcamp page.
The music at its core was folk to my ears. If you stripped away most of the instrumentation I would say these songs sound a lot like ’60s folk artists including Bob Dylan. That being said I liked the full arrangements. The instrumentation was organic and didn’t seem to have any manipulation in post-production. I really enjoyed the orchestral strings and horns.
“Daniel Odin'' starts sounding like one of those storytelling podcasts. There is a collage of sounds but soon enough we get to music which consists of a lot of warm instrumentation. The organ and violin sounded incredible. I think it’s pretty easy to pick up on the ’60s folk vibe on this song. It’s well written and very easy to appreciate.
This is really just the beginning of a litany of great songs. The nostalgic and somewhat coming of age sounding “Beg, Steal & Borrow” followed by the meditatively warm hum of “Newborn (Exon 42)” solidified I was going to love this album.
There is a nice balance of mood as well. One of the highlights of “Five Six Seven Eight” is festive, fun and oh man did I love the horns on this song. I love that it’s followed by the pensive and melancholy “Waking The Truth” which is also a highlight but for different reasons.
As the songs progress I thought “Alpha & Omega,” “A Thousand Pages” and the jovial and bluegrass inspired closer “The Heart, The Time, The Pen” were highlights.
This is a long album at thirteen songs and close to being a double album.On that note there are enough changes in texture and tone to keep you interested the whole time.
Overall, I thought this was an exceptional album. Highly recommended.
The Spiritual Leaders came together in 2010 through a shared love of classic ‘80s and ‘90s indie and college rock. Although day jobs and life was a factor they managed to keep playing music and recently released an EP entitled Albania Away.
The songs are fun, catchy and certainly spans a couple of generations of rock. I was picking up on english bands like The Smiths but also a lot of indie rock from the last twenty years such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
They get going with “Picture on The Wall” which gets a number of things right. I loved the jangly guitar sound, the prominent groove based bass line and steady drums. I’ve always thought an accent from Ireland melded with rock music and this is no exception. The vocals sounded great on this song.
By the time I got through listening to “Fatten The Calf” I was a big fan. They create a dreamy atmosphere here but the bass and drums really keep the groove going. It’s a mix between the funk you might have heard from Talking Heads mixed with some of the aesthetics you heard from The Smiths. My favorite line was “everyone’s looking for a slice of their pie.”
The band starts to get a little more garage rock on “You Know Me.” They pull out some more distortion and there is even a blaring guitar part where he rides one note for a while. The vocalist just kills. There are really infectious melodies and I loved the tone and inflection of his voice.
That is followed by the arguable highlight “Bell Jar.” The guitar parts are fantastic. It felt playful and free. This felt like classic ’90s indie rock to me in the best way and had elements of bands like Pavement and Yo La Tengo which I grew up on.
They strip things down and get a little more emotional on “Temporary.” It’s a beautiful song with inspirational lyrics. It reminds me of the adage “and this too shall pass.” They close with “Underwater With You” and similar to the previous song it is emotionally resonant.
This release had it all. Great performance, production and songwriting. Highly recommended.
The Firegod is an artist currently residing in California who recently released an EP entitled Crosshairs. I was looking at the song titles and I didn’t think it was too hard to figure out that this was most likely about the aftermath of a romantic relationship.
The music is layered and combines inventive production, synths and organic instrumentation. I thought the vocals were dynamic and emotionally resonant. The vocals felt like the focal point of the songs.
The first song is called “Let Me Go” and there is a some what of a hypnotic groove that is created as a steady bass, synths and a manipulated vocal snippet. The lead vocal is catchy and as I just mentioned dynamic. It starts with a more intimate type of performance but starts to open up as the album progresses. In fact the music opens up as well with guitar and other elements as well.
Up next is “Is It Just Me” and this song felt a little more festive. The groove felt like you could dance to it. It reminded me of one of my favorite groups - Pulp. The guitar riff and drum beat provides kinetic energy but the synth brings with it this sort of serenity.
“Prefer to Be Alone” sounds like it might be depressing but it’s not. I actually thought the way he sings it did sound like he prefers to be alone. This might be the highlight to my ears. I thought the music was also great. It surrounds you with pads and swell.
“Never Be Free of You” felt like the catchiest and jovial sounding song. I pictured a large audience singing along to this one. “You Left Me Lonesome” is actually the more melancholy song. This song is fairly stripped back. At its core this song is all about the guitar and vocals. On that note the electric piano provided a warm hum that sounded appropriate for the mood.
This is a great EP. The five songs all had something different but still managed to sound very cohesive. Take a listen.
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