Victor Torres - Give 'Em Hell
Victor Torres is an artist from Texas who recently released Give 'Em Hell. The four song EP showcases a blend of singer/songwriter type songs with rock that is ultimately under the umbrella of pop. The songs even when slightly melancholy felt optimistic and hopeful.
Up first is “Animal” which has a funky rock feel to it. The song heads right down the center to a predictable pop song with classic tropes that make a single a single. There are some similarities to bands like Maroon 5 as well as Jamiroquai. The song is really well delivered with a tight performance all around.
Up next is “One Foot in the Grave” which feeds into a John Mayer and Jack Johnson type vibe. It’s very intimate sounding, about a lady but has also has the classic by the beach feeling to it.
“I'm a Mess” was arguably the highlight. The classic singer/songwriter is in full effect. On that note I could see this song appealing to a large audience. The melodies are very catchy and will get stuck in your head.
“Give 'Em Hell” felt more motivational than the rest of the songs. It’s a bit of an odd juxtaposition. He sings “Give ‘Em Hell” but the way he does it sounds really sweet like he is singing to a lover.
First and foremost Torres is a great musician. He can sing and has no problem writing a song. Torres is also a young guy and I can hear a lot of influence within the songs. I think Torres has yet to find a signature sound based on these four songs and I was struggling to find the elements that really defines a signature sound that would stand apart from other like minded music. My advice to Torres is keep that in mind as he continues to evolve as a musician,
Overall, there is a lot to appreciate here especially for fans of singer/songwriter style pop.
Fidel - Flinch
Guitarist and vocalist Dave Kichen, bassist and backing vocalist Marc Roderick and drummer Jim Theodore are the Boston Massachusetts trio known as Fidel. They’re the evil genius dictators behind the raucous three song indie power-pop and rock EP Flinch. The three met at a Christmas party and had all been in bands around the Boston area that had dissolved.
The three of them began jamming out for fun and that fun eventually turned into recording as a band. Their first EP April sired the track "Ain't Got All Night" which spent five weeks in the top three local songs of the week on WZXL 100.7FM during May and June of 2017.
The title Flinch works in many ways for this little EP that could, or can. I mean it clocks in at just a bit over eight minutes in length but it packs quite a powerful punch. The opening track “Back in Front” bursts out of the gate in classic DIY punk fashion with a clean and wiry jangle with song speak lyrics that lead up to a catchy and balls out jingle jangle chorus that captures that old Jawbreaker or Face to Face pop-punk aesthetic perfectly.
Next comes the perfectly perfunctory punk tune “Long Arm of the Law” a minute and a half length masters class on how to write a punk rock song. It’s a recipe as simple as baking a cake out of a box but that cake always turns out to be pretty fucking delicious so shut the fuck up and eat it.
They close out Flinch with the straightforward pop punk classic “17,” a barrage of fast paced guitar bass and drums and some throat-vein popping vocal angst documenting that awful age when everything seems to be going to shit, yet you’re on the verge of adulthood.
Fidel make high energy funk rock music. It’s a pretty simple recipe that so many bands seem to fuck up. Music like this doesn’t come my way very often but when it does I greedily look forward to hearing more.
HYESSA - The End of Bloom
What started as a school project in the basement of the lead singer/bassist for the Montreal, Québec band HYESSA, has blossomed four years later into The End of Bloom, the first release from this promising quartet.
Recorded, mixed and mastered at a place called Bottle Garden, HYESSA’s first effort draws influences from genres such as shoegaze, post-rock and progressive. Indeed, the EP delves into many styles and according to the band is a compilation that defines their influences. I found overall there to be a mix of darker tones and hauntingly rich melodies. Allow me to indulge.
“The Seas” starts off with a rumbling tribal beat, a “rat-a-tat” styled guitar riff and an ominous bass line. The feeling is tense and dark but very energetic at the same time. “Compound” features echoing guitar effects in the beginning and then the drums stumble in accompanied with room-filling vocals.
There’s a fantastic interlude and a break that kicks up the dark energy as the drums drop out for just a bit. The song just kept getting better from that point. Parts of this tune reminded me of Alice in Chains or a mellow Jane’s Addiction, two of the better bands from the late ‘80s post-metal/early grunge years, in my opinion.
I absolutely loved “Vultures” – the opening rock march makes me picture a rumbling army of Orcs from Lord of the Rings or the slow, drudging beat from a classic Black Sabbath song which rips the soul from the body – perhaps not the band’s intention musically but well done lads all the same.
The last number “Mess” is quiet, soft and dreamy. The drums are muffled, the bass warm as the guitar effects begin to fill the ears midway into the song. The backing vocals are beautifully haunting as well. This one is composed more like a progressive rock tune with a talking part reminiscent of very early Genesis (with Peter Gabriel) or the Moody Blues – good stuff!
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Oliver - Remembrance
Oliver Cheung is a solo musician from Hong Kong who recently released Remembrance. It contains three songs which meld elements of metal, rock and post-rock. The songs are long form instrumental songs with the main attraction being the guitar work. I wouldn't say these songs have much an experimental edge to them. Cheung utilizes very little effects other than distortion and doesn't go off into areas that feel that unconventional.
Up first is “Remembrance” which slowly builds. The first two minutes focus on his exceptional guitar skills. A little after the two minute mark the song gets into metal and post-rock territory. I was impressed by his abilities on guitar and his ability to switch on a dime. The next significant change comes after the five minute which is serene and beautiful. It doesn't stay that way for long as the most intense peaks are still to come.
Up next is “Fragments” which is another roller coaster of a ride. Some of my favorite moments were the most serene and atmospheric but I also appreciate the math rock tendencies as well. Last up is what you might call the centerpiece “Last Hope”. His lead guitar skills shine here and felt the song had a number of interesting parts.
The production and recording quality is solid throughout. I thought Cheung did a good job with the guitar tone. The one thing I wanted was other musicians to support his guitar work. A bassist and real drummer could have made these songs a lot more dynamic. In my opinion there is still no plugin that can replicate a real drummer but Cheung made the most he could with the technology. Suffice it to say I think his music would thrive even more with more members. Additionally, There were time the songs did feel predictable. I wanted some more pleasant surprises
Overall, I was impressed by the technical and creative guitar skill that Cheung brought to the table. There is a of talent here and think he can build off that foundation.
Dizzolve - The Hookwirm EP
Josh Lamison and Alec Lopardo are Dizzolve. The two piece have released eight albums with their latest being The Hookwirm EP. Their music feels like it would work in some techno punk post-apocalyptic movie where there was a pit where fighters from competing tribes would fight to the death.
It sounds a bit like Marilyn Manson with music that is even more industrial and something you might hear in a goth club at three in the morning. Perhaps more than anything I couldn't get the image out of my head of the tropes of the indignant teenager being pissed at his parents, slamming the door and blasting something like this out of his room.
I appreciated the experimentation and high production value starting with “Porno Dump”. The song almost immediately feels like a jackhammer to your skull and unapologetically trudges forward with no regard if you like the intensity or not. Get on board or don’t. I don’t think they care. The lyrics match the aggressive swag.
Up next is “Hookwirm” which melds aggressive bass and a driving beat with more experimental tendencies. The song just plows forward like a train off the rails. The same could be said about the grimey “Trident”.
“sPill Ur bLood” was arguably the highlight. I really liked the programming here which reminded me of NIN. There are some inventive slicing techniques and some actual catchy melodies. They close with “WEAPONZ (Take What's Mine) “ which felt a little subdued compared to the other songs. On that note I loved the robotic voices.
If you haven't figured it out I would say this is niche music. It’s not what I would consider to be music that will be appreciated by a general demographic and that’s part of the appeal. For what they do I think they do it really well. On that note I myself can only listen to this type of music sparingly but most commonly when I’m serving my two young daughters breakfast in the morning. Recommended.
Up is the Down is the - Memory
Up is the Down is the solo artist Andrew Martin. He mentions his music reminiscent` of bands like Radiohead and James Blake. I think those two band's are a good starting point to get an idea of what his music sounds like on Memory.
It’s smooth almost sexy r&b that's isn't afraid to embrace melancholy. As I was listening to “Radiate” I realized there was only a thin line that separated a sensual sound from melancholy. Martin effortlessly blurs those lines here. “Radiate” sets the mood for unique blend of styles.
“Yesterday You Said Tomorrow” is a little more upbeat and revolves around hand claps, clean guitar and an infectious vocal melody. The vocals harmonies towards the end are fantastic. “I Will” is another success which has a silky loungey vibe while “How Could You Have Known” is a guitar based song with rim shots and atmosphere that help drive the song.
Amongst a lot of highlight s“Square One” might be my favorite. He poignantly sings” little by little you come undone”. He repeats the lyrics like a mantra throughout the song which are infectious and rhythmic. “Remember” smooth atmosphere and catchy melodies are also evident. I wouldn't pass on any of the remaining songs either.
I left the album being a fan for a number of reasons. The album is cohesive from beginning to end and Martin builds a foundation. Hence making the album more fulfilling and effective. The phrase.”the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” came to mind.
I thought the the tasteful combination of textures and tones combined with the consistency memorable melodies was a winning combination. My only advice is to up the production value next time around. There was a bedroom type quality to the recording but most noticeably in the way the vocals were treated. I think some pro treatment here could take it to the next level because this style of music isn't conducive to lo-fi.
Overall, this is a great album and can't wait to hear what else he has in store for us.
The Rocking Kings is a no-frills, instrumental blues rock band out of San Francisco. Their latest self-titled album is eight tracks of traditional rock and blues that pull the listener back to the roots of blues. This album is a studio brainchild from Victor Papa Productions. I was intrigued with a blues rock outfit coming from San Francisco, I admittedly was expecting a little experimentation but the The Rocking Kings actually kept it very straight faced.
When I say no frills, I mean they stuck to a formula that they know works. They themselves have even described the music as “straight to the point.” You get a sense there is a bit of traditionalism going on. For this album, the guitars and bass were Fender, the Keyboard was Yamaha. I appreciated their sort purist adherence to a certain sector of the genre as I'm sure others will as well. Very old school, very melodic, the music is always in motion, the groove never really stops.
As is tradition, the guitar work is great, taking you on little road trips around the base line, very cool. I think one thing that was missing for me musically was instrumental surprises. While a lot can be done with the basics, I feel like in this genre there’s always room for a little something extra. Considering the music is instrumental, I think a few added touches from added instruments would have helped make the music stand out and break up the tracks.
My biggest struggle with the album comes from the production end. I understand this was a studio project and they wanted to commit to a very specific sound which they certainly got, however I feel that sound is a bit dated. When it comes to this style of music I want to hear EVERYTHING. I want to hear the sweat coming off of you if I can. I want to be in the room and feel present in the moment of the performance. The treatment of this album made it feel like there was a lot of distance between me and the performer which didn't always showcase their talent.
For me this album could have benefitted from a modernized makeover. The music itself could use more of edge, a little more straying from the beaten path. Everything I heard felt safe but also like a very sincere homage to those that have inspired them, but I struggled to find something that was a true The Rocking Kings signature.
I feel like there is a different album ready and waiting if they want to go down that path. While I may have had my gripes with this album, their craftsmanship along with their talent is something I can appreciate and I think others could as well.
I was taken by surprise with Arcana Roll’s new album The Recalcitrant Children of Sergeant Lintik which is a deeply personal and topical indie-folk story. A lot of the subject matter is severe, things like broken homes, immigration, the unsettling nature of the human spirit. The nostalgia resonated so successfully with me that I could see old photos scattered about. There’s a mustiness to the music, but it’s not what I would call rose tinted glasses, these glasses are a bit darker in tint.
I can tell you a good deal about the artist who appears to be our protagonist, I just can’t give you a name. Our protagonist played in cover bands in Seattle before moving to Melbourne, Australia. This person spent some time in Alaska in the 60’s and 70’s and apparently has a collection of imagery from that time period that helped served as inspiration for this album. This person is an incredible guitarist, so many of the songs are anchored with stunning guitar playing. This person also knows how to really sing for this kind of genre. The protagonist is also one hell of a writer and wrote a slew of engulfing lyrics.
The stories are interesting, and often sullen, not much of a moving or shaking kind of thing, but very pleasant to hear. I don’t mind dwelling in the dark of the world being illustrated, there are counter weights with certain songs that are more atmospheric than narrative. You can sense the stillness of nature and the crispness of the air. The guitar riffs alternate between very indie and very rural, I personally love when there’s a mixture of both applied. I think what kept me glued is the stories and that gorgeous guitar. The songs require a certain amount of attention and effort, but that’s what makes it so transporting and enjoyable.
The Recalcitrant Children of Sergeant Lintik is a home recording project that began back in the early 2000’s. This blows me away, home recording was not what it is now, definitely not as many open source software options. Hell, I was in high school in the early 2000’s, I remember the struggle my friends who were in bands had. When I read this, I couldn’t help but fear that this would work against the music and sound dated. Those fears were completely unnecessary because this album sounds great. If there is a dated quality I missed, then I would say that it fit the music perfectly. I adore that this album has clearly been a labor of love for a long time and that it was worth everything because it’s beautiful.
Arcana Roll did something truly profound with this album. I think anyone who listens can appreciate how open and accessible the artist is. I also have no doubt people could really appreciate the scenery being painted on the walls as they listen. I want to thank Arcana for being so committed to this album and congratulate our protagonist on this commendable collection of work.
Nocode - Divergent
Ryan Luke is the musician behind Nocode. I was looking at his bandcamp page and he sure did release a lot of music in December. One of his releases is Divergent EP. After spending some time with the EP I felt this was a very ambient and mood driven experience. There were some great ideas throughout but some did seem to be implemented better than others.
I felt the same way I usually do when I listen to smooth jazz or Ambient 1: Music for Airports by Brian Eno which definitely isn't a bad thing. There were no focal points in the music and felt like they could be endless loops that could create a sense of oblivion. It’s felt like a trade off because I didn’t experience and dizzying heights of emotion that I sometimes yearn for in my music.
Up first is “640” which combines a beat, electric piano and some type of field recording. I have to admit this song wasn’t a standout for me in the batch because I couldn't connect to it emotionally. “Relativity” fares better and revolves around a smooth, slow moving jazz groove. The distorted talking took most of attention which seemed a little too prevalent in the mix but when I concentrated on the music I appreciated it more.
“Machines” was a highlight for me mostly because he builds a darker almost noire type mood here. I could see it being implemented into a movie when the detective has a cold case and is getting a cup of coffee in the 50's style diner. The song also felt the most ambient and surrounding. I hope to hear more of this style in the future.
“24” had the most energy and you could argue has some similarities to Amon Tobin (whom I think the artist should check out if he hasn't) while “Construction” has a slightly funkier tone to end the album with.
Luke just started writing in 2012 which in songwriting years is still in your infancy. I really liked what I heard along with the ideas but have a feeling his best work is yet to come if he keeps at it. I think there are more possibilities even within the ambient realm for him to conquer and have a feeling we will be hearing that in the not too distant future.
Anime Aliens - Sucker Punch
Anime Aliens are a band from Sacramento, CA comprised of Charlie Passarell, (Guitar/Vocals) Zack Wheaton, (Bass) and Phillip Towles (Drums). They released an album entitled Sucker Punch.
The songs felt like frivolous fairly ironic “nerdy” rock songs that contained trivial thoughts ranging from “not understanding minecraft” to having to go to the bathroom which is what I think the topic was about on “Pee Monster”
The song are so short that you barely have time to start rocking out before it ends. It’s like fleeting ideas that never get fleshed and it ends before it even gets started. Suffice it to say listening to album sequentially was a lot more of a gratifying way of experience the songs rather than individually.
The band's plays into the garage rock of early Weezer or band like Wavves. It's fairly straightforward garage rock that blends in the traditional elements of distorted guitar, bass and drums.
Up first is “intro” which is a short lived guitar pattern that goes into “Horsemen” which is the four chord style garage rock that you can expect from the majority of the songs. Half the song has vocals followed but a short lived guitar solo. The garage style songs start to feel interchangeable fairly early on dispersed with pieces like “Skit 1: In Flux” which felt like experimental art pieces that felt unnecessary.
I don’t have anything against band's writing about topics that don’t have much lyrical emotional resonance but some band's are able to off both. At their best bands like Weezer and Wavves have songs that can do both by interjecting what might be considered trivial topics and themes and connect it to emotional states like anger, sadness, joy, etc. I’d like to see if the lyricist can do something similar and connect to songs to larger ubiquitous subjects which in turn could make the audience more emotionally connected. Food for thought.
The album definitely felt geared for a younger audience from the style to the topics to the general bohemian punk irony the seems to be interwoven into the music. There is definitely an audience for this style but feel like the band is their embryonic stage right now and have to admit I would love to hear something with better production value and more meaty songs at some point.
Overall, this is a solid start and feel like they are onto something. I look forward to hearing the band's progress.
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