Aanonymous Band - Feelings
Aanonymous Band is a band from Sweden that recently released an album entitled Feelings. I can’t find any names for these guys and possible gals but I do know that the band is made up of a professor of physics and two musicians. If the professor is playing an instrument wouldn’t that make him a musician as well?
Taking one look at the “about page” on their website provides no details that most bands mention but instead it repeatedly is talking about the sample rate and other technical jargon most listeners could care less about unless you’re an audiophile. They even talk about the “the loudness war.”
I thought it would been hilarious if the recording quality was mediocre after talking about the technical aspects so much but that is not the case. The production and recording quality is exceptional. On their site they say, “We want the listener to have the feeling of being there” which I think is probably the goal of most band’s recordings. A less vague description of their recording would be to say that it sounds intimate and organic. The vocalist sounds as if he singing about three feet away. You can hear the nuances and inflection in his voice. Most of the time the instruments sound as if they are being played in a 12x12 room with perfect acoustics with hardly any effects with the exception of some subtle reverb.
On their Bandcamp page they say their music is melancholy and dark. I would say those are correct assessments but the music also contains tinges of beauty which they neglect to mention. Take for instance the opener “Mother” which combines lightly played drums, orchestral strings, guitar, bass and a delicate vocal performance. The song’s deceptively catchy but also contains introspective lyrics as if his brain is having a Freudian therapy session.
The band has more success with “Ragnarök” and “Diamonds” but “Rain On the Window” felt like the clear highlight. “Rain on the Window” starts with sparse but effective instrumentation as if it could fall apart. When the chorus comes and the vocalist sings, “Looking at my feeling like rain on the wind I am looking at the way I feel like rain on the window” he hits the sweet spot where it all comes together. “Feelings of Mine” is another good song with effective orchestral strings while “Home” has shades of Elliott Smith.
If you have a proclivity to appreciate melancholy music Feelings will most likely be one of your favorite albums this year. For those afraid to dwell in the darkness for too long this album will have a time and place. At it best Feelings can feel like a self-reflective meditation that like-minded souls can empathize with and briefly patch up their own pain.
Palmerslum - Palmerslum
Palmerston is a small satellite of the city of Darwin, Australia; full of bogans and gangs like the Palmerston Out Laws and the Cas Boys. Palmerston is a refuge for underage kids looking to get high or drunk on cheap beer, running wild in the night.
Three of the members of Melbourne's Palmerslum grew up in Darwin. Their self-titled debut EP Palmerslum is an attempt to sum up the sound, and the feeling, of this Twilight Zone, by making, in their own words "mosh music that is fun."
I'd say they succeeded admirably with this too-short, four-track EP. Always leave 'em wanting more! Things kick off with the weird, grinding, syrupy "Sunday Heads," which sounds like a bad hangover laced with some LSD tracers, until the quickstart drums, leaden riffs and barked vocals kick in. This is like The Butthole Surfers playing Wire or Fugazi - stripped down, but teeming with sci-fi half-life in the peripheries. The band attains their good time goals during the fade-out, as the song raves and rages like a stormy sea, without ever breaking down into cartoonish aggression. It's friendly, good time circle pit music, just like they'd hoped. "Sunday Head" reveals that Palmerslum knows what they're doing, sounding tight and rehearsed, so this is no mere hedonism. Palmerslum have put in the work, and it shows.
"Doomer" is a particularly satisfying crushing stoner groove, for the Black Sabbath worshippers out there. The guitar sounds much heavier and less washed out than Tony Iommi's - there's no break in this cloud. It's more of a basalt monolith than an overcast day. The final two tracks are more of a glammy, good-time rock n’ roll vibe, along the lines of Power Poppers like Weezer, Big Star, R.E.M., Buddy Holly, with their go-go beats and Enchantment Under The Sea guitars.
For everyone who worships rock n’ roll, who chooses to celebrate Saturday Night rather than Sunday Morning, there'll be something for you in this short slab of awesomeness! Palmerslum are coming out swinging.
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Not the Arrow - Not the Arrow
Boulder, Colorado, on average, gets 300 days of sunshine a year, making it by nature one of the healthiest, fittest and most optimistic places on Earth. A dry climate, due to its high desert climate, made Boulder a popular site for people recovering from tuberculosis in the late 1800s and early 1900s, leaving a legacy of smokestacks to mar the foothills of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Boulder has, at times, played home to Stephen King, while he was writing The Shining, the homebase for the "Good Guys" in King's The Stand, as well as being a mecca for New Age philosophies and cutting-edge technologies, thanks to the presence of several large institutions (and supposedly sometimes the coldest place in the Universe, when MIT scientists cooled atomic gasses to nearly absolute zero).
Boulder is, quite frankly, a complex and varied place, which is neatly summarized in the music of Not The Arrow that veer from straight ahead indie rock to dreamy, drone-y art rock, and all points in between.
Not The Arrow have been active since 2009, but this self-titled six-track EP Not the Arrow is their first official recording, having previously put their efforts into live activities. Not The Arrow met at a weird old tavern known as the Sundown Saloon (known to locals, sometimes, as the Scumdown Saloon), and again at a Spoon show. So, one point weird old West, one point contemporary indie rock. The triptych was complete with a chance encounter on Craigslist that put the band in touch with David Goodheim, a musical theorist, who helped the band finalize and flesh out their sound.
Each member of Not The Arrow brings songs to the table, which is then worked over by the collective until it is polished to perfection. This allows for a diverse sound, which still maintains a holistic integrity - a distinctive sound, if you will. Not The Arrow's self-titled EP also connects the dots between the various stages of the band's history. "Sweatervest," "On The Lawn" and "When I Think I Got You" capture the band's earliest phases, while more atmospheric numbers like "Run Around" and "Music For Reading" - my personal favorite - reflect where the band is heading. If these tracks, in their amorphous beauty, were any indication, I'd say we're all in for a real treat.
Not The Arrow deserves props for a number of reasons. First, and foremost, they should be applauded for blending experimentation with pop craft. If music's going to keep growing and innovating, pop and noise need to get together and make a pact. Noise needs to be reined in a bit, by considering the audience as well as the explosion, while pop needs to not be so complacent and self-congratulatory. Remember, song forms and structures can be easily disrupted with dangerous consequences. Just look at Stravinsky and The Rites Of Spring, to see how quickly, and how drastically, things can change.
And it's all thanks to innovators like Not The Arrow.
Secondly, and almost as important, is Boulder - not the most friendly place for bands and live music. Harsh zoning laws keep practice space at a minimum, as well as being hard on live music. There are just not that many places to BE experimental, in Boulder. Not The Arrow is clearly committed, to play adventurous sounds and hone their craft.
Whether you're looking for music to read to, drive to, stare out the window, go for a hike, start a band, or start a revolution. Their music is as varied as Boulder's history and landscape, on which they will hopefully leave a mark.
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Shoegaze tends to carry with it a sense of distance and detachment. Look at the iconic driving scenes from Sophia Coppola's Lost In Translation with My Bloody Valentine making for the perfect soundtrack for the disconnection that comes from traveling and visiting a new culture. Shoegaze always seems to be dreamily staring out the window, no matter what's going on. It's a float-y take on life that some might find as escapist, but, to me, always suggests a poetic, artistic sensibility.
Charlie Doesn't Surf is a shoegaze band from the unlikely home of Anchorage, Alaska. There is nothing arctic about this three-piece whose music is as warm as a puddle of sunshine on the floor of a log cabin.
Time is indeed a flat circle with Riviera Days, as Charlie Doesn't Surf brings the dreamy, atmospheric sounds of shoegaze with the more pop-oriented sensibility of the alt-rock/college rock/grunge of the early '90s, most specifically Nirvana and The Pixies. Both album opener "Lead Me Astray" and "1995" sound like Nirvana floating on a cloud city. Charlie Doesn't Surf likes to party, but they're dreaming while they're doing it.
For me, this short album is the perfect blend of energy, catchiness and art. The echoing, flanged guitars float like albatross wings over choppy breakers of drums and bass, like silver sun breaking through the clouds, making the water sparkle like diamonds. For people who love shoegaze and indie rock, but have grown slightly tired of the completely clean, nearly antiseptic pop music that passes for indie these days, Charlie Doesn't Surf is the kind of band you get excited about. Tell your friends about. Grafitti in bathroom stalls.
Some of us like to party and some of us like to dream. And sometimes we do both, at the same time. Like The Cure says in "Charlotte Sometimes," "Sometimes I'm dreaming/while the other people dance." Charlie Doesn't Surf lets you do both; over and over again, as you obsessively hit replay on Riviera Days
The Pieces - The Pieces
Talmage Monroe (vocals/guitar), Slade Mankins (bass) and Sebastian Hobbes (drums) are the three-piece band The Pieces. Their self-titled album The Pieces was released last November but Monroe and Mankins have been writing music together since 2003.
The album revolves around pop/rock songs that usually have a tinge of sadness behind them. I was trying to pinpoint where the melancholy was coming from and most of the time I felt like it was coming from the vocals. The music is often melodic revolving around pretty, warm guitar melodies and an impressive rhythm section.
The band gets going with “Seaside Limbs” which is indicative of the type of quality you will be presented with for the rest of the album. In some ways I was reminded of the excellent band The Clientele in the way the guitar melodies intersect. It’s a catchy song with a heartfelt vocal performance.
“Monument” rains with melodies that drip down your conscience. Monroe sounds pained at times with his delivery and sounds similar to Hamilton Leithauser from The Walkmen and even Matt Berninger from The National at times. The band continues to deliver the goods with “Blue Riot” and “Only Me.”
“I Have A Big Wish Now” was a highlight and a song that struck a good balance between hope and melancholy. The guitar work is absolutely stellar on this track and I can say the same thing about the bass, drums and vocals. The Pieces is a consistently solid album on which the band is able to define their sound. Upon first listen a lot of the songs sound similar but after the third or fourth listen the differences start to make themselves known.
Overall, The Pieces is a great debut effort and certainly one you will want to spend some time with.
The Savage Young is a progressive rock band from beautiful Santa Clarita, California. This four-piece combines a wide spectrum of influences having named their band after a Beatles tour poster while taking elements of sound from Muse and System of A Down. The band busted onto the scene taking home the first prize at the Gorilla Music Festival’s battle of the bands. Their self-titled debut album The Savage Young is a testament to an extremely talented band that remains extremely hungry after experiencing initial acclaim, and is doubtless on their way to superstardom.
The album begins with a bang with the track “Wicked West” an upbeat frolic through some dangerous desert terrain with total disregard for safety. The Savage Young are having fun with their sound, and aren’t afraid to melt your face off with soaring vocals and sonic explosion. Digging deeper, the album is a journey of different influences whether it be the reggae influence in “Mexico” or the smooth pop styling of “Whatever Girl.” The ability to range from the kind of anthemic, edgy rock that fills football stadiums to the sweeter, more subtle tracks one might hear at their local watering hole really makes this album stand out as one of the more exciting debut albums out there.
No song on the album is more indicative of the band’s talent than “Grander Love” a haunting ballad disillusioned with the modern dance of meaning & mediocrity. He sings "You’ll wake with a headache/From the long night of drinking/All of my friends are turning into enemies/They can’t see I’m between two worlds/Oh grander love I’ve been thinking you’ve abandoned me/But I can never really tell for sure/".
It’s the kind of song that steeps inside you as you sit staring out the window lost in thought. Absentmindedly you put the mug to your lips only to realize you’ve lost track of the time and the tea’s gone cold. There you are, left with the soft bitterness of death’s inevitability with nothing left to warm your soul but a cold cup of chamomile. It’s the kind of emotion-- desirable melancholy-- that many bands attempt but few pull off.
The Savage Young will make you cry, but they will also make you laugh. Immediately following “Grander Love” is “Nobody” an upbeat romp that drops the punch line, “I’m a straight razor if you get too close.”
“Variety of influences” is one of those buzzwords in music criticism. While The Savage Young clearly do have a wide canon of musical tastes, it’s their mastery and understanding of how to implement the disparate parts that truly makes them special. Check out this album.
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Justina Shandler is an artist from Roanoke, VA who recently released a nine-song EP entitled Three Leaf Clover. At nine songs this could have easily qualified as an album. Either way over the nine songs you will have a good idea if this artist is your cup of tea.
Shandler plays songs that you could picture coming from the speakers of Starbucks or being placed in an ad for the next IPhone. Whether she lays into the cutesy, everything is too good to be true vibe of “Good Guy” or the more reverent “Chicago Can Wait” the songs spew over an overt mainstream viability. In all honesty, these songs won’t resonate with fans of more niche genres. That being said if you can enjoy these extremely well produced songs that are catchy and won't leave you head, this will be for you.
After the snapping Feist vibe on “Good Guy” Shandler delivers one of her best songs entitled “The Mailman.” She strikes a good balance on this song. The music is great and has a bit of a Beatles-esque vibe while the singing is on point. “Outer Space” has the same over the top happy vibe of “Good Guys” although it’s slightly more jazzy and I thought the bass line was notable.
“The Things We Buy” and “Emma” are more well written, heartfelt songs showcasing slightly different sides to Shandler. “Fuel” is a rock/pop ballad that has hit written all over it. In fact I can say that about each one of these songs. Shandler closes with thematic and grand “Shackles.”
One thing that became obvious to me after spending some time with this album is that Shandler is trying to get at least one of these songs to stick with a large demographic. She bounces around with slightly different styles and in doing so doesn’t completely cement her own sound. The style she chooses are at the tip of what the mainstream offers and will certainly be attractive to a lot of people.
Since there are many different shades Shandler showcases I suggest listening to this EP from beginning to end. If one song doesn’t hit you it’s very well possible the next might.
Adam James - Ignite
Adam James is an artist from the UK who recently released Ignite. Ignite is a sparse, melancholy EP which revolves around either piano and guitar and James’ vocals. On his Bandcamp page he says he took influence from genres such as rock, jazz and blues. Interestingly enough these songs don’t have many traces of the aforementioned genres. James writes acoustic based melancholy pop songs that put his vocals front and center.
The EP starts with “Ignite” which revolves around James’ vocals and an acoustic guitar. James strum's basic chords and the song is carried by his dynamic vocal performance. His delivery is passionate, reverent and heartfelt. He sings, “You’ve got chains round my throat, They’re cold on my skin. In your sick twisted game, I’m going all in. Now we’re broken and bruised, And it’s just not the same, Since you belong in my heart, Like a bullet in a brain.”
Next up is “Yesterday's Makeup” which has a similar feel to the first song. In fact the strumming ends up sounding a little too similar. Next up is “Bones” which contains more basic guitar playing that is carried by vocals. Luckily, James switches things up on the next track entitled “I Don't Want To Go” with some piano. James’ lyrics are like a stream of conscious of the mind. He sings, “Letters to strangers, Pages, phone numbers, To disconnected lines. Shoes old and dirty, Clubs and jazz singers, Old lovers writing new rhymes.”
“The Road” is the highlight on the EP. It contains some percussion but also is the catchiest, most accessible song on the EP. His vocal is soulful and spirited on this song and works out quite good for him. James reverts to the guitar on the closer “New Blood.” It’s arguably the best guitar based song on the EP.
James is a good singer who has a knack for writing poetic lyrics. Some levity in his delivery would be good at some points but maybe next time. On top of that I would have liked to hear different types of guitar playing. It also seemed to mesh into each giving little distinction between the guitar-based songs. Overall, he is off to a good start but has some room for improvement.
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Monday Ain't Happening - Critical
How old is too old to play pop-punk? Some genres like blues or jazz have no limit when it comes to age but a number things like lyrical topics and the cliché nasally vocalist about pop-punk screams “I’m young.” I’d say if you are anywhere north of twenty-five that you are pushing the threshold of feeling like a goddamned fool if you are playing the pop-punk genre. In the case of Monday Ain't Happening they seem to be in the goldilocks zone when it comes to their age. After looking at pictures of the band on their Facebook page they most likely are still in high school and the music they play on their EP Critical is appropriate.
The three-piece band comprised of Marcus Swadling, Ash Rouse and Josh Matheson write straightforward pop-punk songs that are far from reinventing the wheel but still have the qualities and tropes fans of the genre tend to love. You can hear shades of bands as far back as Greenday and the evolution of pop-punk over the last twenty years in these songs.
The band opens with “Critical” which is a fast paced song that is catchy and contains lyrics about young love. He sings, “Here I am being critical, When you're over there being an emotional, Wreck again, just like before, It's all the same, the same old game.”
The band takes advantage of clean guitars on “The Distance In-between” which ends up sounding like a ‘90s alternative song while “That Kind of Night” is a fast-paced thriller that is over almost as quickly as it starts. “Who Am I” delves into the typical existential angst that teenagers experience. He sings, “So who am to anybody when no one knows my name? Just an invisible puppet on your strings? While you throw your punches and I do nothing? And who are you to tell me that these things will never change? Put me down all you want, but I’ll tell you one thing, I’ll rise above it and be something.“ The band closes out with “Green Street” and “Crisis” which both have a similar feel to songs that came before it.
At this point Monday Ain't Happening has a lot of competition. Pop-punk is so oversaturated with similar sounding bands that getting noticed is improbable. Monday Ain't Happening has some talent but will want to dig deeper to figure out what separates them from other pop-punk bands.
Foot Shooter - Commuter
Building off of the solo singer songwriter project of Shane Ellis, Foot Shooter is a four-piece rock band based in Memphis, Tennessee. Their latest album entitled Commuter features soul, folk and blues influences and revolves around themes of confession, transition, repetition and nostalgia.
The first song on the record, “Feel the Thrill” begins with a subdued bluesy riff on a lone acoustic guitar before transitioning into one of the catchiest instrumental layers on the album. A piercing combination of acoustic and electric guitars strike out chords over top of reverb-heavy mellow electric guitars as solid percussion lays down the beat. Ellis’s vocals are noticeable for their emotive and unfettered quality, which is especially evident in “Repetition, Repetition,” which incorporates a slow groove as well as an upbeat garage rock segment.
“Zeroes” features the typical rock band setup, along with a funky rock organ, which brings a nice variety to the band’s sound. Although “400 Blown” takes a while to get going, once it gains the dynamic momentum, the song sails smoothly through to the ending with accompanying horns and spoken word snippets. The midpoint of the album “Lovely” grabs the listener’s attention from the very start with Ellis’s voice carrying the bulk of the song’s energy through a barren soundscape of drums and eventually full guitar chords.
The record slows down the tempo a bit with “Not Done Loving You Yet” a melodious ballad that exemplifies the band’s ability to develop interesting sounds without necessarily blasting out speakers while doing so. The softer trend continues with the retro, lo-fi “Ready to Fight” but band returns to its usual high-energy status towards the end of the song.
Foot Shooter does not lift their foot off the pedal at the end of the record; instead, the band continues to experiment with new sounds and styles until the very last note. “Motives” is based on classic rock & roll motifs with modern themes added on top. “Cloths,” the last song, contains a slight beach-wave approach with smooth vocals and echoing guitars bringing the album to a climactic close. Overall, Commuter is a brilliant release that proves the talent and capabilities of Foot Shooter, a band discontent with the status quo and willing to test the musical waters until they find their very own groove.
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