tom harrison - electric postcards
Tom Harrison is musician who has an impressive resume. He was raised in Scotland and relocated to Los Angeles to pursue music. He not only writes songs for himself but for YouTube sensation Savannah Outen. On top of that he has worked on music for TV shows such as CSI, Under The Dome and The Simpsons. He recently released a short EP Electric Postcards of three songs that barely eclipse the eight-minute mark. The songs are straightforward alternative songs that are well written and have plenty of energy. There aren't many surprises along the way as Harrison focuses on traditional verse/chorus/verse type structures and the instrumentation revolves around guitar, drums, bass and vocals.
One thing that should be noted is the excellent production. There aren't an ample amount of instruments but everything from the dynamics to where the vocals sit in the mix sounds good. After looking at the credits on the EP I wouldn't have expected anything less. Christopher Tyng the man behind the music for “Futurama” produced the album and it was then mixed by Serge Courtois at Igloo Studios.
Harrison explores life of a young bohemian and the world of possibilities on the first song entitled “Far From Home.” The song is a barrage of power chords, impressive, energetic drumming and Harrison’s vocals, which aren't particularly distinct but are pleasant. The second song on the EP is called “Meaningless” where Harrison sings about the vacuous nature of life without love. It’s catchy enough and feels like something you might hear on the radio or at the beginning of a sitcom like “Full House” or “Friends.”
The highlight of the EP was the last song called “Atlas Shagged.” Harrison sings with a bit more conviction on this song and it felt a bit more visceral than the other songs. It had a bit more edge to it and served him well.
I would have liked to hear a bit more experimentation on this EP. Harrison plays it safe but on the other hand how much can you really get done in eight minutes. Electric Postcards is a nice little sampler of Harrison’s talent and I hope to hear his talents grow.
Scoti*Slate - Good NIght
Who is Scoti*Slate? They are a band consisting of Aaron Scoti and Lars Slate and earlier this year released an album called Good Night. The good news is that the production on the record sounds top notch. It’s obvious that everyone from the engineers to the producers wanted to make a professional, commercially accessible album. That goal they achieved. You could imagine the songs on this album being on the playlist of your local FM station that rotates the same 15 songs. On one hand this album has a fair amount of douche rock that fans of Nickelback and Matchbox 20 could probably get down with. The good news is there is also a fair amount of tasteful rock ‘n roll that is worth a damn.
The album starts out with one of the better songs called “Good Fight,” which contains funky clean guitars, distorted bass, crashing drums and an undeniable 80’s vibe that shows itself during the chorus. It also explores a Franz Ferdinand type vibe that works. “Do Ya” isn't too shabby either. It is high octane energy fueled that goes a bit overboard at times but nonetheless might get you in the mood to chug a couple of more beers with guys before painting the town red. “Brightlife” is a straightforward rock song that turns into a techno song for about two seconds. There is also a scatting/rap part that comes out of nowhere. By the end of the song I was getting the feeling that it was trying to appeal to too many people.
“Little Head Fred” had great vocal harmonies and lyrics that sound as if they were written by a sexually frustrated 18-year-old. They were actually pretty funny. He sings “Now that you're gone I don't need another Venus, I'll be alright on my own, I know you think that I think with my penis”. ”Fanatic” flirts with an 80’s hair metal vibe as the singer’s voice is manipulated with various effects while “What If” had some of the best guitar melodies on the album. The highlight of the album is “Magic Number.” Why someone has not told them that they sound more appealing singing in a higher octave or in a falsetto is beyond me. They bring pretty good funk during the chorus that fans of Daft Punk could get down with.
Most people will know within the first song or two if they will be down with this kind of rock. That being said there were a couple of nice surprises I wasn't expecting from the album.
Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, Steve Cal’ released his debut album, which fans of the blues, Buddy Guy, and Cream will thoroughly enjoy. The Steve Cal’ Band, which also features Sandy Eldred (bass) and Melinda Gervasio (drums) delivers nine songs (a couple of which are covers) on their self-titled album The Steve Cal’ Band that have a vintage feel to them. The recording themselves seem raw and live. Not many bells and whistles on these recordings. It pretty much sounds like a couple of musicians jamming in a room. Cal’ has a decent blues voice but guitar playing is the star of the show on a lot of these songs. He plays a nasty lead and digs into scales while thrashing at his guitar.
First up is “I’m The One,” which sounds similar to an old Cream song tinged with a bit of Hendrix. Cal’ sings over drum fills as the guitar is vacant for a beat only to return with a vengeance. It isn't long before Cal’ starts soloing and makes you feel like an amateur. “Real Long Day” had a solo and riff that sounded similar to the one on “Stairway To Heaven.” He implements an A - G - F progression.
“I Ain’t Messing Around” is the kind of blues-rock you can imagine playing at your local bar while the townies are slamming back boilermakers and playing pool. It has a classic feel to it. ”Through Your Eyes” was one of the highlights on the album. Cal’ delivers one of his best vocal performances while the song pours out a decent amount of nostalgia and melancholy. He even tips his hat to “The Wind Cries Mary” for a brief moment. Cal closes the album by covering two of the greatest blues artists of all time. He does justice to “Come On In This House” by Junior Wells and “Malted Milk” by Robert Johnson.
This album is pretty straightforward blues-rock and will appeal to fans of the genre. If you got a hankering for some old but new music check this out.
Don’t you just love it when music can evoke emotions and take you on a journey – especially when it’s done without the use of lyrics or vocals? Enter I’ve Got A Feeling We’re Not In Kansas Anymore, a four-track EP by Florida band The Music Box. The instrument choice is fairly straightforward, relying mainly on guitars, bass and drums to tell a full-bodied story that promises to take you on quite a ride.
“Depatures” begins with a sprightly guitar riff, and the bass and drums spring up to meet it after just a few notes. The melody evolves carefully from bar to bar, and by the middle of the song the energy has really come to a head. The rapid fire guitar riff makes me wonder if perhaps the strings got set on fire, or if the guitarist even still has fingertips, but it’s an intensely pleasant sound that ebbs and flows softly.
The deeper tones of “The Drive” give it a very realist touch. It cruises along with a poppy (as in, literally popping) flair that explodes into dirty chords, melting back into a more natural and laid-back sound. With a hint of nature sounds, it’s easy to envision a long road trip through the countryside and the freedom that comes along with it.
I am a total sucker for piano, and “Reflections,” with the soothing piano/violin intro, immediately sent fuzzy whispers down my arms and spine. It transitions into a phrase where the automatic rifle-speed drums really carry the tune, aided by the solid bass and chunky chords in the background. I love the main melody that this song seems to have been built around – it sounds like the kind of melody that someone discovered by chance and thought ‘this is money.’
“Remember Me” starts delightfully slow and heavy, and you can really appreciate how they take their time to give each note the attention and power it deserves. The energy builds without sacrificing any of the heavy sound, a technique that has been exercised quite well throughout the entire EP, and closes out on a duly reminiscent and soothing guitar solo that winds down perfectly.
The overall sound of this reminded me of the music you hear while on hold with the doctor’s office, because it’s so upbeat and inviting – BUT, it’s far heavier, way more complex, and I would actually love to have this in my steady album rotation. It’s a fresh take on instrumental tunes and really, a well-composed effort all around. I love the unique sound and really look forward to hearing more from The Music Box in the future.
Take one look at the cover of False Hope Syndrome by Teenage Daydreams, and you’ll get a pretty good sense of what’s inside: a blinding light, showing various instruments and items all fairly prominent yet intricately important to the background. Well, that’s not all that’s within this album, but it’s certainly a start.
“Emotional Lightning Girl” has these super grungy tones that support the simple, wailing guitar. The vocals, high and ethereal, softly crawl over this g-force of a sound, taking momentary breaks to allow the energy to crank up a bit.
“I Love You Babe” has the same guttural feel, but incorporates some sparse higher notes (I hear a tambourine in there) to cover the higher end of the spectrum. The last minute of the song features a rather catchy riff.
I like the slightly electric ambient beginning of “Hearts Touching,” which leads into a really fun tune. A nice deep punch is delivered in the form of a pounding bass that keeps the beat. Most people shy away from the squeal of feedback, but here they’ve embraced it and made it a distinct part of the melody, an effect that grew on me after some initial shock.
“I Don’t Want to Hate” immediately brings to mind early 90’s pop tunes, with disco balls and color block patterns fizzling left and right – think “Saved By The Bell.” Keeping in line with the technique of using interesting supporting sounds, the whistle of a teakettle can be discerned here. Again, it’s not something you’d expect to hear in a song, but it was an interesting idea.
“Dead Best Friends” begins just as hollow and eerie as one would expect. It sounds like a marriage between funeral doom and grunge pop. It sounds very much like a funeral procession at first, though the energy does pick up a little while through. I like the contrast between the higher energy and the very slow parts – in fact, the slower sections were my favorite parts.
“Colors” has a rather dark atmosphere, with the sense that the music is about to simply wash over you. The melody is even catchier here than in some of the others, and I really enjoyed the higher notes juxtaposed with the tweeting birds and dreamy high sounds. There was a sound that caught me off guard and made my heart race, which was actually a lot of fun. Of all the songs, this one seems to have the most artistic depth – making it no surprise that it was titled what it was.
Going beyond the sonic level, there was something about the uniqueness of this album that made me feel like I was tripping out a bit, and at some sort of electro grunge rave. It kept me interested, and it was a fun listen. The only thing I would hope for is some variation in the vocals – her voice is beautiful, but heavily synthesized in many cases to the point where there’s no discerning one lyric from the next. As another instrument and in terms of this sound, however, the vocals work just fine as they are, and I appreciated the creativity within this album.
leeds - leeds
Warning: Do not listen to Leeds’ self-titled EP Leeds if you don’t intend on starting a mosh pit wherever you are – or if you’re averse to air guitar and violent head banging. I’m kidding. Averse or not, don’t deny your eardrums or your neck muscles the delight.
I just thought awwww yeeaaahhhhh as soon as the beginning of “It’s Alright” started. This is classic hard rock all the way, from the vocals to the infectious guitar riffs to the crashing cymbals. The solo, with the energetic vocals, and the supremely uplifting lyrics, were the perfect way to kick the door down to the rest of the album.
“Wine, Women and Song” seemed initially to follow along the same path as the preceding song, as far as general layout, but the solo and brief break of action were quite different. I couldn’t help but laugh at the lyrics that told the all too familiar story of getting drunk and needing help remembering the night you had. I mean this is what rock is about, right? The song comes to a close with an energetic sign off though it doesn’t quite seem to end on the note I expected.
“Too Late To Turn Back” seems like the slower song on the EP, with less raucous drumming and guitars and even more focus on the reflective, almost sad lyrics. I could see this song playing a very important part after a big breakup as a consolatory song. There was a real nice run on the guitar that I hadn’t heard before on the album, and it was nice to hear that technical acumen.
“Let’s Raise Hell” starts with the sound of falling water and a beautifully heavy (and deceptively soft) guitar riff that literally just breaks into a frenzy without too much warning. I love that kind of build up and it really added a little something special to the song versus just jumping into the mud. The harmonious voices in the background give a hellish sound, an effect that overall just works perfectly with the song and theme. If you were somehow able to restrain yourself during the first three songs, this would be the one that makes you break the shackles and start breaking things. The ending of this song is perfect, just perfect – please, consider adding a few songs with just those kinds of guitar riffs. Please.
The EP ends with “Get Myself Back Home.” The first few seconds sound very much like an outlaw anthem, and the rest of the song kind of follows along that theme (but with far more energy). The lyrics are super catchy too. You can hear each part letting loose in this song, putting all kinds of heart into the sounds, and it made for a fantastic end to a really fun listen.
Anyone who is a fan of the old school metal and hard rock bands, that were all fun and fast riffs and lyrics about drinking and having fun and women will greatly enjoy this album. I had a blast bouncing around to the tunes, which greatly heightened the experience. I think that the energy would be even more powerful if there were more of the “Let’s Raise Hell” groove moments scattered about, but that’s just me. Regardless, this was incredibly fun to listen to and I highly recommend giving it a try.
Chillingsworth - it’s A Boy
Don’t be misled by the title – the EP It’s A Boy doesn’t actually contain any songs about children. Given the sound Chillingsworth has, that’s probably a good thing – this is definitely grown folks music that reminds me very much of Sunday afternoons with the oldies station playing.
“Vacillate (ft. Billy Rodriguez-Lopez)” has kind of a 70’s – 80’s R&B vibe going on, particularly with the vocal style and harmonies. I was REALLY surprised to hear the smooth rapping about halfway through, as I was busy musing whether this reminded me more of Ronald Isley’s kind of music or Teddy Pendergrass (I settled on both). The flow was good and the lyrical content took me back to the solid hip-hop days.
“Mr. Mayor” sounds celebratory and pompous at the beginning, much as you would expect from the name. The vocals thoroughly support this star struck atmosphere, and the lyrics struck me as a tad humorous, though I don’t really think they were supposed to be. I enjoyed the trumpet accents and thought they were a nice touch.
Ironically enough, “Bruno Mars” has just the kind of beat I would likely expect to hear from the song’s namesake, and the song content reminded me of that song where Mars references how he doesn’t want to get out of bed. Outside of that, this is clearly a very distinct song and keeps that nice old school mantra. Here, the trumpet isn’t just an accent, playing a much more prominent part in the song.
“NYU Love Story” is super disco, super funkadelic, super groovy. The verse vocals sound much different from the other songs, and it really affected the song in a good way, giving it a unique flair, while the chorus goes back to the sound we’ve grown used to. The drums are well fitted to the theme and could easily be laid over a Latin beat, making this a fun song to dance to. It was a nice way to close out the EP.
I enjoy music that reminds me of the stuff I grew up listening to in my grandmother’s living room, and this EP is a fantastic example of that – soulful but funky with music that isn’t too complex but still remains quite enjoyable. I think this was a solid basis that leaves Chillingsworth a lot of room to expand and grow and try new things with the sound…an all hip- hop album, perhaps, but with the kind of tunes here? At any rate, It’s A Boy was a nice EP to listen to and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes their music smooth but fun.
riding shotgun - RGB EP
RGB EP is described as having groove and jam elements, and let me be the first to say that is an entirely accurate description. Riding Shotgun has found a real niche with their music, which is fun but smooth, jazzy yet rocking all at the same time.
“Born On Legs” has a real buttery groove. Each part has a rather simple part to play (aside from the dynamic riff in the guitar) but the different parts blend well to make a real chill sound. The vocals are kind of soft, almost background to the instruments. I would have loved for the mix to bring them a little closer to the forefront, as they were rather intriguing. The chorus had some unexpected attitude and definitely had my head bobbing. This song seems to come in a few parts, all linked together but still unique in certain ways.
Raise your volume up slightly at the beginning of “See What You Say” – or you’ll miss some of the nice notes that ease this song in. Laid back and twangy, there’s lots of whammy here, and every second of it sounds great. Before long I was snapping and swaying to the beat. I like that it’s mainly instrumental but the guitar could easily serve as the leading part over a voice. The chorus was catchy and crashes in satisfactorily. About halfway through there’s a seriously dramatic pause, and if you weren’t watching the time bar you would think it was over before it goes into a seriously awesome solo. Really, really nice song.
The lyrics in “Scene of the Crime” were quite well written and interesting, but as mentioned before, the mixing made it difficult to hear them. All is quite forgiven, because the irregular drum beat and creative riff more than make up for it. Hey, if I have to listen to this song over and over and over again, I see no problem with that!
I absolutely love the funky soul beat that starts “fighterflight.” There’s also some disco thrown in there, making it sound like an indie rock version of something Daft Punk might put out. This song is a great example of why I believe the band’s strengths lie within their instrumental songs (not to take anything away from the vocalist at all – the music just seems to flow so much stronger with just the instruments involved).
If you couldn’t already tell, I really enjoyed listening to this! The songs were a little longer than typical EP lengths, which helped because this type of music needs time to develop and marinate and simply cannot be rushed. This EP has a real retro feel to it – in every real definition and sense of the word. I sure hope Riding Shotgun has some more stuff up their sleeves, because this is just the kind of inventive music I like to listen to!
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
Jarflower Jarflower 3.4
Pretty Plastic You Chose 3.4
The Mackinaws The Mackinaws 3.5
King Blood I've Got My Kicks So I Don't Feel 3.3
Model Stranger The Changing Score 3.3
Twin Berlin Sleazebrain 3.6
Danny Floyd Exeter 3.7
The Lazy Waves Wavetable 3.7
Bat Zuppel Brain Eater 3.5
The Wallies Sugar 3.7
Big-Hearted Robot is a duo consisting of brothers Adam and Bobb Barito who implement inventive sounds on their recent full-length Nothing Is Leaving. The band brings a lot to the table in terms of creativity. They experiment with horns, electronic drum kits and much more and turn it into a digestible pop format. On top of that the album sounds great production-wise from top to bottom.
Some of the songs had me completely invested while others didn't pan out so well. The album starts out with one of the highlights entitled “Set Fire.” The inventive drum programming and instrumentation impressed me, and the lead vocals reached great heights. The chorus has the vocalist singing with conviction as he delivers on the best vocal melodies during the chorus. He intentionally slurs his words to create a unique vocal style. The first song was really unique, which is why the second song “Falling For You” threw me for a loop. The vocal style felt familiar in a commercial way. Once the chorus hit it sounds like a pop song you would hear on the radio. “Fleeting” was a decent song that contained some of the most original instrumentation on the album. They create an open spacious canvas with what sounds like an electronic marimba of some kind, acoustic guitars and electronic drums.
“Might Love” is a significant deviation from the first couple of songs on the album. The song is extremely upbeat, contains horns and combines ska and rock. It was actually one of the best songs on the album but it did feel out of place amongst the other songs on the album. The change in vibe between “Might Love” and “Wish You Were The One” is too much. The songs sound as if they are from two different bands. “Wish You Were The One” revolves around atmospheric pads you might find on a Juno-G as well as highly distorted vocals.
“More Of You” was the centerpiece of the album going just over the seven- minute mark. I enjoyed the Portishead- influenced sound that I wish was more apparent on the record. The song delves into experimental territory and had me hoping there was more of it on the album.
A lot of the songs work on Nothing Is Leaving but as an album they have a bit of personality disorder. The duo is talented but is obviously having issues finding their own sound. There's nothing wrong with mixing it up but the band goes too far and leaves us with an uneven impression of what these guys are about. I personally thought they sounded best on songs like “Set Fire” and “More Of You,” which delved into darker atmosphere and experimentation that wasn't apparent on some of the other songs.
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