Flagrant Orange (great name!) hail from Portland, Oregon. The songs they’ve been writing during their five years together make up their first album titled The Stories I Still Believe. They call themselves indie-alt rock and try to capture “the poignancy of grief, heartbreak and loneliness that exists in the midst of hope, and the need to connect that defines the human condition.” They point out half-seriously that “only a privileged white girl from Olympia and a poor brown guy from the punk scene in Berkeley” could possibly create these songs.
The band members are Misty Nikula (vocals/lyrics) and Eric Crowfoot (guitars) along with Jeremy Fanders (bass), Matt Bugado (keys) and Jeremy Philpott (drums). The album was recorded at Portland’s Supernatural Sound, with mastering by Adam Gonsalves at Telegraph Audio.
“The Stories I Still Believe - Intro” moves us gently into the Flagrant Orange world, with rain and rolling thunder, followed by Nikula’s speaking voice narrating a sort of pre-show introduction to the songs and music. “These are the stories… of the sadness and joy that haunts our dreamless nights... of the relationships we can’t seem to leave though we don’t know why… of the edges and boundaries of our hopes and fears…”
“Rose” then hints at a more industrial world to come with the arrival of a passenger train, followed by insistent slabs of rock guitar. The band immediately sounds like a sharp, locked-in collective, with matching left-right guitars, trebly bass and heavy drums. Nikula’s vocals are of the Patti Smith school, which is a good match for her poetry-style lyrics. “Gut Punch” begins with synths, then fades in more of those nasal, crunchy power chords. The synths continue along as a sort of string section. Nikula half-sings and half-insinuates the lyrics: “Mama told you do not let them see you cry / so you only cry inside / always searching for your redemption / in among the list of all of your transgressions.”
“Inferno (The Fifth Circle)” heavily channels the raw energy of X via The Pretenders, with Nikula sounding both like Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde. The organ is a nice addition here. “Love Song” doesn’t slow down for classic love tropes, instead rocking forward with this reversed sentiment: “So many times, I have been wrong / But I still fall for love songs.” Five tracks in, and the wall-of-sound guitars haven’t really taken many breaks! “Box Canyons” starts like a rock ballad with an especially nice and low-key chord scheme. They build this mood for over a minute before the vocals even start, and the lyrics (like the music) are spare and to-the-point: “It’s too loud / can’t hear what you said / there’s all these echoes / echoes in the empty space you left when you went away.”
“On The Brink” is minor key rock built on a Byrds-like riff, with a vocal from the Natalie Merchant school. “Shadow” has a ’50s sci-fi vibe (we can thank that organ again!) for a quite stark but moving look back at a life sometimes lit by shadows. Nice to hear some of the drum rolls by Jeremy Philpott. “A Hundred One” continues this same mood with another look back at a broken love affair: “You left me / standing in the dark / for the hundredth time / now I’m not waiting for / a hundred one.” I like the tribal drum patterns and the twangy Fender-sounding guitars on this one. “That Summer (Reverie 2020)” continues the pattern of slowing down the songs in a dramatic, orchestral fashion, extended the theme of lost love. This track has a nice feel of space and air between the chords, and the piano following along with the guitars is a nice touch, especially when it briefly shares the stage with Nikula’s powerful vocals. Her refrain of “Remember the summer” couldn’t be simpler but works perfectly for the song’s slow build.
The final track “Chasm” begins with a snaky bass line and hi-pitched guitar harmonics, as Nikula dares to sing a song to “a demon in disguise.” The arrangement starts spare, with mostly bass and synth behind the verses, with occasional stabs of fuzz guitar. Three minutes in, the tempo abruptly shifts with all players blazing away on the main theme. Nikula hits some very high notes toward the end that seem unusual for her.
Though some of theses tracks felt a bit similar on the first couple listens, Flagrant Orange have delivered a nicely realized band sound with compelling lead vocals that bodes well for their future, and I look forward to whatever that may be.
Conor Breen - Chaos On Carnegie
Conor Breen is the lead vocalist and bassist for Wakefield, UK’s Children Of The Year. He’s also an acoustic-alternative singer/songwriter, which is our focus here. Chaos on Carnegie, a five-track EP, is his debut solo release. Breen handled all of the performances on the album, save for a little backing-vocal help.
The album cover, and the music, evokes a gritty, grimy, down-at-the-heels post-industrial Midlands England. Prospects are dim, and there’s not much to do except get into mischief, which starts with “Little White Lie,” a short introductory cut where our protagonist-arsonists light the factory fire that is the focus of the EP. Breen tells his stories with strong, engaging vocal melodies; the music is based around bright acoustic guitar work with bits of percussion and occasional electric-guitar lines mixed in as appropriate.
“Chaos on Carnegie” is the proper kickoff for the album. It’s an uptempo, punky tune, but it’s driven by acoustic, not electric guitar. The song is so strong that the instrumentation doesn’t matter–it would work just fine with electrics, but you don’t miss them at all. The vocal melody is fun and catchy, and the lyrics feature nice internal rhymes. It’s a great starting cut.
“Bloo Rat” keeps the punk feel and adds a bit of electric guitar to the mix. Again, there’s a strong melody as Breen presents a character study of one of his arsonist mates: “no one likes you / you’ve got no home.” That leads us to “The Bridge,” a track with a slower, minor, bluesier, dark feel. There’s lots of space in the music, allowing Breen to spit out lyrics rapid-fire: “the dirty river just seems to flow right through your bones.” The track builds nicely into a searing guitar solo.
The final cut “Danny’s Gone”,is the radio-ready single. It’s a strummed acoustic alt-pop I-V-IV tune (with appropriate suspensions) that features another engaging melody. The chorus soars with its nice vocal harmonies. Breen finishes off with a touch of humor by adding a xylophone(!) part over the coda.
With Chaos on Carnegie, Breen channels that curious English mix of brashness, anger, self-deprecation and taking the piss, all into delightful three-minute chunks. His focus on vocal melody makes the EP a pleasure to spin. The next time you need some Brit-punk, reach to the Midlands for Conor Breen.
At age 54, Atlanta, Georgia’s Glenn Edwards Hall is trying something new. Hall, who initially signed with a contemporary Christian record label in the ‘90s, is now transitioning into country, folk and Americana umbrellas. With his debut EP Clouds Turn Black, hails a new era for Hall. The musician and songwriter brings a new energy to country/Americana.
Clouds Turn Black opens up with “Her Finger Needs A Ring,” where lively percussion, harmonica and fiddle arrests the start of this track. Hall’s country-twang vocals reels listeners in with its bluesy and Americana vibe. The fiddle weaves in and out of this recording taking this track by the reins. Hall’s performance and delivery was really on-point here. Some steel lap guitars and acoustic guitars provide a slow burning energy on “Keep On Truckin’.” More harmonica arrives at the start of “It Ain’t Over” alongside the guitar for a great acoustic sound. The song felt warm and heartfelt.
Energized percussion draws listeners in along with the sound of the fiddle on “Winter With Old Put.” I thought the fiddle really adds something extra to this country-twang/Americana song. “Together” is another moody acoustic from Hall and the band. The addition of the cello and background vocals adds a lush vibe to the ambiance of this track. Hall’s dynamic vocal powers are joined by the organ, guitars and what sounds like chiming of bells on the gospel number “The Savior Is Here.” I thought Hall is able to impart a whole lot of feeling into his vocals. The artist sends us off with this emotional closer.
Clouds Turn Black, a six-track collection, is our first look into Hall’s brand-new sound. Hall seems to embrace the folk and country genres as he fleshes the sound with his vocals. Fiddle player, Jennee Fleenor also impacts the sound with her musicianship as well as help from Nashville’s Steve King, Mike Duchette and Thomas Mingua who contribute on B3 organ, pedal steel and harmonica, respectively as well as Atlanta artists Caleb Hall, Max Hall, LeeRoi and Keeley Adkisson who provide drums and vocal harmonies and Blake Shelton on cello. Together the sounds are top-notch and show listeners a good time from start to finish.
Volcano Moon - Volcano Moon
At the helm of Volcano Moon is California singer/songwriter Brian Lilla who collaborates with musicians up and down the West Coast to give you a mixture of acoustic, indie and folk songs here on his self-titled debut album Volcano Moon. All these tracks were recorded and mixed during the pandemic. The entire process was done remotely and no musicians on the album ever got together to play in the same room. Initially, all the vocal and guitar songs were recorded by Lilla and then passed on to other musicians who added to the takes. From start to finish a collaborative effort, Volcano Moon is our first look into what the band is all about.
Volcano Moon gets started with “Dropped Off In The Tenderloin,” where some melancholic acoustic guitar opens up this track. The sounds slowly evolve and have a way of growing on you. The melody meanders for a bit and gradually builds in sound. Once Lilla’s stark vocals arrive, you can feel the emotional powers of his voice. Though he sings in a rather straightforward manner, you can sense the sadness flowing from his singing. This is a simply rendered sound with just vocals and acoustic guitar. More subdued guitar sounds out on “Mountain Girl.” The guitar provides a mellow ambiance. There’s a bluesy twang to the music and vocals this time. I was arrested right away. Changing things up for a more fuller band sound is “Do It Again.” The electric guitar revs up for a driven sound. Once the vocals came in, I was getting some punk with bursts of hard rock vibes.
Heading back to acoustic territory is the next track “Rattlesnakes & Unicorns.” Lilla is joined by some female vocals. I was loving the light but flavorful acoustic and folk sounds from this song. More moody strumming coming from the acoustic guitar struts out in the start of “Fantastico.” Once more Lilla’s vocals alone with the guitar makes for a simple but emotional resonant sound. Lilla’s vocals come across nearly spoken word as he half poetry slams and sings the lyrics. More mellow acoustic guitar lays out the atmosphere on “Candlesticks.” This track was another sparse acoustic ballad. Lilla is joined by more female vocal harmonies. The simple but soulful manner in which this song is executed really spoke to me.
On “Summers Gone,” the acoustic guitar underlines this track with an easy-going appeal. Lilla’s vocals here reminded me of Postal Service. Especially the simple but resonating vibes really pointed me to bands like them and Iron and Wine. On “A-Train,” some horns erupt out in the start of this track. Some mellow guitars also ground the sounds. I loved how laid-back and easy-going everything sounded. Lilla’s vocals are once more soft and gentle. Again, I thought the Iron and Wine and Postal Service references made sense here as well. Some upbeat strumming from the acoustic guitar lights up the sounds on “Won’t You Be My Lover.” Once Lilla’s hushed vocals came in, the music also eases in with a hushed sensibility. Some beats also highlight the sounds. This is another memorable number from the band as they send us off with this catchy and upbeat finale.
Even though everything was done remotely, it doesn’t feel that way. All the instrumentals, vocal parts and harmonies really came together to great effect. Gradually as you listen on, you will see that Lilla hones into a very melancholic singer/songwriter vibe with this record. There’s lots of mood and ambiance to these tracks and I can definitely see myself listening to this as I sip on some caffeinated drink in a coffee establishment somewhere. It looks like the band is only getting started and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.
Lost Individual - Julia
Lost Individual is an artist who recently released Julia. This is the artist's first release and falls under the category of folk. The songs revolve around a short lived romance that fizzled out as many do. I thought the theme and topic of the music was universal especially for younger adults.
The EP starts with the song “All I Know” and revolves around acoustic guitar and vocals. The guitar picking is simple but effective because it paves the way for the vocal melody which is the focal point on the song. I thought the vocal performance was emotive, heartfelt and warm. On top of that it is vulnerable with lyrics like “Show me your real face / I won’t let it go to waste / If you don’t want this, tell me please / So I can go back to reality.”
Next up is “Mytwysb” and the intimacy of the first song is also apparent here. The vocals at first are spoken words but seamlessly transition into more traditional singing. On this song the artist chooses for the instrumentation to remain simple with a combination of strumming and picking on the guitar. The artist laments but it doesn't come off as woe is me.
“Julia” is the arguable highlight. Instrumentally the song remains focused on one single guitar melody again. It’s all about the confessional vocals about unrequited love. Last up is “Hide Away '' which reaches the end of the story and the inevitable separation. There are some additional vocal harmonies which sound really good in the song.
This is the kind of release that deserves to be listened to from beginning to end. It’s essentially a short story where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I thought the vocals were well delivered but sometimes the guitar sounded too close-miced. However, the vocals felt true, relatable and that’s what music is all about at the end of day.
There were moments where I wanted a little more to be happening in terms of the music and perhaps we will hear more on future releases. For right now I would say this is a very solid EP from an artist who is showing a lot of potential.
Marlody - I’m not sure at all
Marlody is the stage name for J. Rowan, a young singer and pianist based in Kent, UK. She began as a classically trained pianist when she was a child, then moved on to a lo-fi post-rock band singing and playing keys, flute and melodica. That band was influenced by Sonic Youth, Slint, Yo La Tengo, Do Make Say Think and Don Caballero. After a decade’s break from music she began writing her own songs between 2019 and 2021, which appear on her first solo album titled I’m Not Sure At All.
Marlody says she begins her writing process by sitting at the piano and improvising until she finds the story she wants to tell. She adds that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and that some of her lyrics reflect this condition, along with the challenges we face in life and in relating to each other. “I’ve missed making music with other people, but isolating myself and concentrating on songwriting somehow helped me become more authentic in my work, not really worrying what anyone thought… Of course I hope other people can relate to my songs now that I’m sharing them!”
Some of Marlody’s tracks were created on GarageBand, before she upgraded to Logic. She attended a local college to learn basic music tech before recording at home, and describes her sound as ranging from “simple acoustic ballads to more electronic with drum machines.” She also mentions that some of her singing was “half-whispered in the dead of night while my family were quietly sleeping. I (also) decided to embrace the lo-fi elements of the songs I recorded on my upright piano, some with a very basic microphone, before I bought my trusty Rode NT1-A.” Among her influences are The National, Perfume Genius, Quinn Christopherson, Low, Phoebe Bridgers, Olafur Arnolds and Gia Margaret. Mastering is credited to Marlody’s friend Gareth Leggeat.
My overall impression is that Marlody’s a rare kind of artist whose sound goes from rough to polished and back again, but her inspiration and artistic drive overpower any technical considerations. In fact, in many cases her songs derive their power from their flaws. In the opening track “These Doubts” Marlody’s beautiful voice does indeed sound like a choir of angels who all got sent to bed early, harmonizing in the dark together before falling to sleep. She’s singing at least a three-part harmony, if not four or more. This is possibly one of the GarageBand tracks, but it feels completely of its own universe. I love the beats and the distant, groaning synth sounds.
“Summer” introduces Marlody’s piano, and it seems to be playing from another room. This is wholly appropriate for the heart-stabbing lyrics of this song, which appear to be reminiscences of a separated parent. The vocals are right up front, yet feel reserved at the same time. “Malevolence” is next, and though I try to avoid mentioning Kate Bush any time a creative and expressive female artist comes along, I have to play that card here. Marlody’s vocals, playing and arrangement all point to Bush’s influence, especially from the era of The Dreaming. It is a short and bracing track. “Up” is another short piano and electronic keys movement with vocals starting halfway through. It would have worked as an instrumental but the vocals take the song up another notch.
“Wrong” is a song in which Marlody had to use a De-noiser on the piano track. The contrast between the muted, ghostly piano and the close up, sweet and shimmering vocals is something I can’t get enough of. “Words” is built from a 1-2-3-4 synth sequence onto which Marlody hangs her vocals, which this time suggest The Roches. “Friends In Low Places” is a very evocative title. Are the low places emotional, or are her friends literally six feet under? The songwriting here reminded me of Tori Amos, and I love how the electronic drums kick in after the distant piano has been playing a while.
“Change” is an understated title for the ultimate change: a suicidal death by drowning. Marlody tells this chilling tale with sweet, double-tracked piano and hushed vocals, and thankfully the narrator is rescued and sees life differently. “From the dawn to the evening / Part of me gone, the rest is healing / And I hope I don't forget how good it is / Just to be here now again.”
“Runaway” is an electric piano and vocal piece that has a ’70s singer/songwriter sound in the Laura Nyro vein. Strangely, this also sounds like one of the more contemporary tracks, and if a band had kicked in, I could easily imagine hearing this on alternative radio. As it happens, there’s a simple drum machine beat that serves the track nicely. One of my favorites. “Otherly” ends the collection on an otherworldly note indeed, with the primitive beats and low-end patches roiling around beneath Marlody’s vocals. This one’s a little scary, as the singer seems to be questioning the value of faith “that has no mooring place… your only hope will lift you as you lay, upon the earth in which you will decay.”
As far as new music goes, I live to stumble upon these artists who make great music with the tools at hand. I can’t wait to see where Marlody goes next!
Jolon Station Band - Big Sunday
Jolon Station Band is an Americana, roots rock band formed on the Central Coast, California composed of Bradly Coats (guitar/vocals), Paul Hanna (guitar), Max Sheridan (bass) and Stevie Ray Stinson (drums). They have been playing for audiences since 2017 and recently released an album entitled Big Sunday.
This album contains a heavy dose of Americana and classic rock. It’s familiar but timeless and has a sound that will instantly resonate with fans of the genres. I should note that their sound is most reminiscent of southern rock bands. Lynyrd Skynyrd sure came to mind.
They get going with “Kept My Soul” and you are greeted with sweet guitar licks, a steady drum beat and a robust bass line. It’s as warm and inviting as apple pie. The verse works and the vocal harmonies on the chorus make it soar. Great energy and arguably the highlight on the album..
Up next is “Stepping Stone” and this song is a little more of a ballad. Similar to the last song the instrumentation is on point and the band clicks. You can feel the chemistry. They make good use of the vocal harmonies again and catapult that chorus into the atmosphere.
“Pollyanne” is so smooth. Everything from the percussion elements to the guitar playing. They mention “Hotel California” in this song and The Eagles were another band that did come to mind while listening to their tunes.
The band decided to let loose and have some fun on “Low Rent.” It’s a song that will make you dance especially if you’re seeing this live with a beer in your hand. “Bingo Night” is a straightforward but killer rock number with some epic moments while “Katy Is A Fighter” is the most funky song on the album.
They have a more heartfelt and tender moment on “Kitchen Counter” and close the album with “Dance Hall Patio” which is a warm tender ballad with nostalgia and warmth.
Jolon Station Band isn’t reinventing the wheel here nor do I think that’s their intention. The band builds their sound on decades of artists from the ’60s, ’70s and beyond primarily in the American rock genre. They did their homework and in fact pulled off this sound much better than other peers I have listened to. Some of that is due to the fantastic production and recording quality but mostly because these are experienced and talented musicians who can not only write a song but know exactly how to deliver it. Recommended.
BAWANG - Schizo Manifest
Bawang from Canmore, Alberta, Canada, was initially formed several years ago as the brainchild of bass player and vocalist Michael Kragt. The band went through several iterations before it reached its ultimate line up with Gavin Boutet on drums and Kyle Pullan on guitar. All band members have vast musical backgrounds of recording and playing live, and individually they’re all involved with other gigging bands in very diverse genres. Bawang brought the trio together as they all share a passion for heavier music, which includes metal, grunge, punk, stoner and alternative. All songs on their latest release, Schizo Manifest, were written by Kragt who lived and toured in Europe all through the ’90s and early 2000's before moving to Canada. The album was recorded in the band’s rehearsal jam room in Canmore over three days. It was engineered and mixed using Reaper by the band’s friend Dave Crewe (drummer of Northern Quarter), produced by Michael Kragt and mastered by fingerstyle guitarist Antoine Dufour in Montreal. The artwork, found on Bandcamp, was custom made by Canmore local artist Michael Wachter. The band marks Primus, The Melvins, Queen, No Means No and Bad Brains as their most notable influences. Sample pads (audio bites, vintage commercials and spoken word) are a mainstay in the band’s live shows and can be heard on this album as well.
The beginning to “Pitchfork” is well, in a word, tasty. The low-end bass lines, the deep drum rhythms and jagged guitar riffs – it all sounds good. This trio has fantastic full-blown sounds – rich, warm tones that mix old classic rock style (‘70s KISS) with early grunge (Mother Love Bone, Alice in Chains). “Love Lust Lies” continues to carry on a rich, meaty guitar sound – with a harder edge here – I would say more on the metal side of grunge – if that makes sense. In other words, Bawang’s music is worth turning up loud! I also liked the solo and musical breaks here, too. “Hold On” starts off with what sounds like some airport terminal noise with muffled voices in the background. The funky groove and beat are good on this song and the guitar riffs are catchy, too. A quick sample of a woman’s voice issuing a familiar warning of “keeping personal items with you” (the kind you would hear on a public bus or maybe a light rail line) starts off the next song, “Eye4nEye.” It’s the shortest song on the album, not to mention one of the band’s most punk styled numbers – a good head bobbing song for sure.
“Like Me” begins with some police calls coming through a cop car radio and then a fantastic low rhythmic groove by Boutet and Pullan. I thought this one was very dark and tribal, and I enjoyed the band’s energy a lot here. Very heavy sounds overall and a tune I would highly recommend listening to. “The Drifter” starts off with the old school tone of “the phone lady” telling you you’ve reached the wrong number – however, she wasn’t speaking in English – I think it was French or German. Anyway, this tune has got plenty of great drive to it and reminded me in some ways of Stone Temple Pilots. The guitar solo had a fantastic classic metal style – Iron Maiden perhaps? “Dead Time” begins with a mysterious sound, an impressive load of jagged guitar riffs and Primus like bass lines. Dang, listen to this one, too – you won’t regret it if you like the heavy stuff. The child narration during the solo break was quite creepy – “This ain’t no story time – this is the dead time.” The band funks it up on “Walk Away” a tune that showcases catchy bass lines, rapping like singing and classic guitar riffs. Faith No More and Jane’s Addiction come to mind with this one.
Next up is “The Meat” and it starts with a quick narration (which I think is in Chinese or Korean) and then the song transitions into a heavy funk rock vibe. There was something humorous about this tune, I’m not sure why I was thinking this. Bands like Primus, Faith No More and even Ace Frehley’s band Frehleys’ Comet come to mind (Ace Frehley did have some tongue-in-cheek comical moments back in the day). The band’s last tune “Schizo” starts off with one of the best intros from any new trio I’ve heard in quite some time. In my opinion, I thought the band saved their best for last with this closer. There’s funk, metal, punk and a whole lot of fantastic grooves and attitude going on here. Good stuff! All things considered, Bawang’s Schizo Manifest didn’t have one bad tune. A lot of high energy and great chemistry going on with this Canadian trio.
Josh Hambrock - Self Storage
Josh Hambrock is a Brooklyn-based actor, writer, and musician. Though he also plays keys/piano in the Nashville-based collective Fire Chief Charlie, Self Storage is his debut solo album. The eight-song album was written and primarily recorded in Burbank, California. It was mixed by engineer Jason Nelson in Indianapolis using Logic Pro X, and mastered by Garfield Waltz in Chicago, Illinois. The original idea for Self Storage was born out of a need to find love, meaning and expression in a period of intense pandemic anxiety and isolation. Armed with an abiding love of music from the ‘70s, Hambrock had fun dressing those ideas up in the style of some of his favorites from that era.
The result is something between polyester and porcelain, velvet and Formica, reality and surrealism. Hambrock’s heaviest influences include The Beatles, David Bowie, The Flaming Lips, Roberta Flack, ELO, Parliament Funkadelic, Steely Dan and Thelonious Monk, to name just a few. Out of that hodgepodge of musical royalty has emerged something approaching his own sound. I think you’ll like what you hear. Additional musicians heard on the recording include Jason Nelson on rhythm and lead guitar, Jonah Malarsky on guest lead guitar (track 6, “And So”) and Justine Salata on laughing vocals (track 7, “Warpaint”).
The lyrics to “Feeling Great” come off as someone not feeling so great, but Hambrock’s sound is light, fun and carefree with its ‘70s Harry Nilsson-like pop vibe. The song’s ending was the highlight for me – reminding me of the soulful sounds off Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” “Adult Swim” has a singsong, melancholic style – somewhere between Paul McCartney and Wings and Ben Folds Five. Moving on is the album’s title track “Self-Storage (Colocynthia)” – an infectious number with warm tones and a fun, catchy rhythm. This one had a bedroom, ‘70s pop feel to it with a saxophone sound ala the keyboard. “In Development” features the softer piano/acoustic side to Hambrock’s catalog – I would say there is more emphasis on the singer/songwriter side both old and new here. Something like Bowie, McCartney or Lou Reed matched up with the Brit pop bands of the early 2000s. “Just the Minimum” is a tender number that has a strong soft rock ‘70s feel but with a more modern 21st century sound. Oh, and there’s some f-bomb surprises in here, too. Lyrically, this is a social commentary about just doing enough to get by in life (the minimum) with your job, your healthcare or your current situation. As least that’s what I got out of this tune.
The next number “And So” was a trip musically. If you’ve ever heard ‘70s lounge music (ala “Midnight at the Oasis”) or are familiar with Steely Dan, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you’re not a fan of this type of music or the band, move along. I liked it though – a lot. I guess they call it “Dad Music” or “Dad Rock” these days. Dig it, man. This song bleeds into “Warpaint,” a pop sounding number on the edges of a bubble gum Sean Cassidy song, R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People,” roller derby organs and perhaps something off Brian Wilson’s “Smile” album. A great tune all around! Last is “There is Away.” Its dreamy piano/organ work reminded me very much of Bowie’s Low album and/or Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. I would recommend listening to this one for sure. I think the best lines in this tune are “Love in a dress is my favorite distress / Reminds me of the things that come undone.” Lyrically, the song’s words remind me of The Beatles “All You Need is Love” or perhaps it has some of the spirit of Lennon’s message to Yoko is his love song “Love.” That said, I thought this closer was an enjoyable listen. The baroque/bedroom pop/classic ’70s style of Josh Hambrock’s Self Storage, with its warm and well calculated, old school sounding production should satisfy listeners who grew up with this kind of music, and hopefully turn on some newcomers, too.
watchforcats - watchforcats
watchforcats is a one-man project with Ramon Velez handling the writing, recording and mixing himself. As a hip hop artist, Velez has been releasing rap records for several years under the moniker MCrv. Velez’s self-titled EP watchforcats is a departure from making rap records. Instead, you can see Velez channeling his love for smooth guitar parts and mellow sonic environments to give you an atmospheric jazz and rock recording.
watchforcats gets started with “snowleopard,” where some sparse guitars build. Next, some percussion and drum machines sidle in for a more invigorating feel.The mellow undertones really spoke to me. I thought there was a whole lot of atmosphere and ambiance to this track. Velez is a really good guitarist and his expertise shows here. The sparse guitar riffs continue on “moonlit.” More of Velez’s mellow sound builds for a smooth listening experience. The titletrack “watchforcats” is filled with wonky keys and the sound of cats meowing. There were some vocals on this song, where some spoken word sounded out. I thought the keys provided a funk twist to this recording.
On “nightstalker,” more mellow guitars are realized here. The silky-smooth tones were relaxing. Next, a wall of radioactive guitars captivates the sounds. The change in energy will definitely keep audiences on their toes throughout. The sound of ocean and seagulls provides an atmospheric backdrop as guitars, keys and drum machines reel listeners in for a smooth sonic experience on “seacats.” The piano together with the guitars made for a great sound. Velez sends us off with this ambient closer.
Moody and poignant, the smooth blend of soundscapes on this EP will be sure to send you to that sweet spot in no time. Though Velez says this was a solo endeavor (“I am the cat who walks by himself”), things like having live drums and bass could help flesh out the sound even more. Though, in the meantime, Velez likes to work alone for now, he could perhaps think about enlisting the help of others to bring his sound to the next level in a later project. This is a good start and I look forward to seeing where the artist goes from here.
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