Hilton Park’s new album Strings brings an uplifting cheery feeling with its father/son pair guitar strumming. With the addition of a pianist whose fingers wander dauntlessly over the keys, the trio brings up the tangibility of nostalgia. I almost get a modern day Simon & Garfunkel sentiment. The album tells its story through experience and observation in each song. Perhaps it is the element of the father/son, but you get a warm, fuzzy family tenderness that everything is going to be okay so long as you listen closely to the moral each song provides.
The song “Alabama Moon” speaks of “Old Man Riley,” which the listener detects is an old town legend. Lots of knee slapping and fluid conveyance between instruments. The album moves into “ Ghost at Work” and begs “someone to save my soul.” There is a dance between the ancestral old world and modern day, which is why the album speaks much of lost but not forgotten ancestors and old local townsmen, leading to feeling spirits presence such as this “Ghost at Work.” They are not mourning or looking too hard at death and what was, but feel its overshadowing presence during their everyday busy lives.
The influence of the men and the people that they knew as close as family from living in a small town can teach everyone something by their actions that were. Music seems to be one of the best methods to channel and reflect on this otherworldly presence that is felt.
The album then moves into “ Dream of 1000 Cats,” which perpetuates the thematic element of mysticism by delving into the dream world while telling story of a wise woman - a mother - and her journey. She seeks her world of answers through the world of dreams. “ 1000 black cats dream can change the world“ points out what may have been known to be bad luck because of its rarity, when we all bring that to surface, it is no longer a rarity and therefore has power to change the world. Again we are witnessing another sweet conversation between this trio of story with its sweet flowing fabric like strumming that catches warm breezes as it dries on the line out back of your comfortable summer home.
When listening to Strings you almost get a feeling as if you are watching a slideshow of what is in the world today as if it has already happened. It has a hopeful string of emotion that inflates one’s feeling that anything is possible if we all get together, learn the wisdom of what has happened and dream up what could happen. The album progresses in and out of its softer more emotional feel into a lighter dancing rhythm, which is this blend of future and past.
Overall, Strings pulls the heartstrings of the listener. It is laden with moral and wholesome guitar lullabies and allows the listener to be vulnerable in its blanket of contentment. This is a great album for reminiscing and reflection. Strings speaks of tears and years of wisdom. The listener often gathers the feeling that the father is speaking to his son directly through the lyrics. From rowdy saloon bustling ballads, to soft, candied flowering story, there is something for everyone is this album. I could see this being a great listen for a solo drive down a country road or just taking a road trip with a loved one. It brings feelings of connection and embracing family and comfort.
Cosmic Shift by Ollocs begins with a soft fireside tale called “Threads of Life.” Gentle pats of hand drums accompanied by simple but distinct guitar fingering, this is an instrumental melody that brings fondness, uplift of spirit and hope. Nil of lyrics, the song apprises a story in itself with its creamy instrumentals. Just as the tune is entitled “Threads of Life” it follows this pattern as it oscillates in and out of light harmonic simplicities and deeper emotional constructions.
Progressing into the song “Cinco” the album begins to take on a more Latin-inspired sound with a Spanish guitar rhythm. A symphony of guitar strumming and a steady easy contribution of handheld percussion, the song feels meaningful and powerful in its softness. There is no demand to be heard in this album, it is merely a gift with which the listener will gladly accept. There is a flow of expression and congruence amongst the band members. I imagine them as mostly eyes closed while playing. Since the band has known each other for a long time, having all met and started writing music together in high school, they most obviously speak a language at this point that has no need to be expressed verbally but rather simply is felt.
There is no crippling attempt to give one member of the band limelight more than the other. We are merely observers in a conversation happening between these soft, nurturing sequences. Dreamy, peachy riffs with warm golden dances of fingering techniques, presents an extremely easy listening piece. Great music to listen to gather creativity and inspiration, or to nurture a broken piece of the self that needs mended. The sound healing alone within this album is tremendous. You can sense dendrites in your brain thriving, as it’s classical, however forward thinking poetic rhythmics take the listener on an adventure of sound. There are no sudden jolts of cellular assault within the piece. The entire album has a cream like, silken audio algorithm.
Moving into the song “Steps to Horizon” the overall theme and feeling of hope that is presented in this album can be felt more than ever, offering the listener a chance to feel a positive effect from the uplifting convergence of sounds they are creating. Just as stated in the song title, I can feel the effect of the music eliminating the heavy baggage of being a human, making me lighter and the horizon of emancipation of worldly problems seem to be in sight.
The whole album Cosmic Shift does that just that for its listener. It brings you into the light by allowing its free flowing imaginative rhythms to whisk you away from the troubles of the world. There is a shift that can be truly felt after listening to the whole album. It is a story without words that teaches so much and gives you a peek at the door out of worldly sorrows into a nebulous cosmic existence of magical high vibrational emotion. Definitely a dream soundtrack or one to create to. Listening to this album is akin to a great yoga class, breath work class, or meditation session. Overall it is a beautiful work of art that I highly recommend checking out
Robby Fischer is a musician from Grand Rapids who almost gets away with the “I don’t give a hoot” style of recording on his recent release You’ve Changed. He says, “I wanted to do all the things that the studio people told me we couldn't do when we were recording my other bands (maxing out the gain on the inputs, laying down overdubs of just guitar feedback, doing things that are bad for microphones, etc.).” I don’t mind this approach; I remember reading about multiple artists who embraced similar aesthetics in the studio. It can often work to an artist’s advantage and in Fisher's case it did except the recordings were often too lo-fi for lo-fi.
You get the impression Fischer is a loose cannon that could go off any second with You’ve Changed. His delivery and music is reflective of the way in which he chose to record the album. He isn’t always on key, in time and the music feels loose on the verge of sloppy. It’s these aspects that give the recording some character and likeability. Fischer pretty much does what he wants on this album. The emphasis is on the stew of emotions rather than the chord changes, killer leads or metronome-like drum work. Suffice it to say this could be considered a punk album.
Fischer starts off with a winner entitled “Can I Live Alone?” The song revolves around power chords, simplistic drums and bass. If it weren't for the lyrics on Bandcamp I wouldn't have been able to distinguish a single world. He put his vocals through some kind of filter that make it seem like more of an instrument then a lead vocal part. He sings, “I've never been to the mountain to the center of sin I said that I've never cried I've never listened to the fine things inside.”
Fischer recounts young love on “She Does Drugs.” The lyrics are juvenile, frivolous and perfectly apt for garage/punk rock. He sings, “It's all right anyway I don’t have that much to say we’ll go out she’ll get high I don’t mind I don’t mind she does drugs.”
As the album progresses the songs are consistently pretty solid although tracks like “I’m So Cool” sounded so lo-fi I had a hard time enjoying the track.
You won’t find the best-written songs on You’ve Changed but Fischer makes it up with his delivery. The only thing I would say to Fischer is that next time I would look into improving the mix by about twenty five percent. Keep the same aesthetic just have some more separation and less mud.
Joel Murach (guitar/vocals), Tom Murach (drums/vocals) and Colin Peden (bass/vocals) make up The Low Rollers. The band plays a of American country, rock, folk into a familiar sounding batch of songs on their ten-song album entitled LOUDER.
The songs are fun, well written and well delivered but they don’t bring much of anything new to the table. Not every band needs to try and reinvent a style and that’s perfectly fine. The Low Rollers keep it simple yet effective. One of the strengths of LOUDER is the pacing. They put some thought in the sequential order of the songs and that’s ultimately what makes LOUDER a success. There weren’t any songs that stood heads and shoulders above the rest but instead the album streams consistently solid songwriting with dynamic peaks and valleys.
The album starts with “Small dirty > Red wine” which is more or less two songs in one. They rock out a dirty, bluesy riff that is vacant of vocals. It isn’t until the second half of the song that vocals are introduced into the mix. The band can be compared to The Black Keys as they rock out pretty hard and incorporate effective vocal harmonies.
“Here she comes” is more country and less rock while “Misty Tommy” is an impressive instrumental piece. As the album progresses there are a couple of highlights including fast paced rockabilly knee slapping “Rattlesnake” and darker sounding “Marquee lights.” They close with “Live now,” which is hopeful, nostalgic and a good way to end the album.
LOUDER might get lost in the ether with music that sounds similar but is an enjoyable album from beginning to end. Recommended.
Post-rock might be the easiest genre for DIY musicians to enter at the moment; there are little to no vocals, plenty of room for overdubbing and the instrumentals need not be astounding so long as they are layered. Throw in a synth for atmosphere and it’s conceivable for one person to make a full album in her or his bedroom, which describes to a T UK-based Deathstar Convertible.
Never terrible, but also not memorable, Deathstar Convertible’s debut Shadows Smile sits right in the middle for me—more vibrant than Hammock, but lacking the guitar work and complexity to compare with This Will Destroy You or God is an Astronaut.
The problem here is the album’s most interesting moments endure long separations punctuated by vast, synth chasms; each song can be a chore if you can’t palate much computerized keyboard. I’m indifferent. When the album shines, it glimmers. “Tricks the Gods Play on Men” harkens to early era Circa Survive with its exploding, effects-laden guitar and thundering bass. This was the last song written that displays Deathstar Convertible at its most energetic and enthralling, making it the ideal jumping-off-point for the next release.
The laser-show synth in “My (New) Little Secret” is worth the unvaried passages plaguing the two songs following and preceding. Arpeggiated guitar anchors “Lost In Neon” but overstays its welcome after the first measure and like its sister “Stars Gather, Slowly Merge” plods to a conclusion while yoking appeal to a generic crescendo.
"Bring All Souls MIght" is a clear highlight the showcases some potential and innate talent. It start off sounding more like a Menomena song before getting infused with layers of white noise. The crushing midsection of closer “Bring All Souls Might” ends the album at or near its high-water mark making the lesser tracks all the more forgettable. Regardless of the imperfections, batting .500 on a debut is impressive for a one-man show.
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All Day, Everyday is the solo project for Dagur (Day) Gudmundsson. The young student is a work in progress who laid down his songs in his dorm room and then decided to release them on an album entitled A Side of Broken Bones. There’s no use in sugar coating the recording quality, which adversely affects the songs - it’s not very good any way you look at it. I’m sure Gudmundsson realizes that and sometimes you have to just deal with what you have.
Gudmundsson credits a surplus of indie gods like Built to Spill, Modest Mouse and Pavement while also crediting British bands like Blur, Oasis and Radiohead as a source of inspiration. Musically, Gudmundsson has some talent but his songs are often too self-indulgent. He exaggerates his voice and is lyrically limited to his own perspective. Gudmundsson sings about his own universe and all the heightened emotions that go along with someone who is in their early twenties or younger.
From this album Gudmundsson seems like a pretty normal young person trying to get a handle on his own emotions and the world around it. I’m am willing to bet that as Gudmundsson gets older and continues to write music the self-indulgent qualities will diminish and more universal themes will be apparent in his music.
A Side of Broken Bones has some mild success as well as other songs that don’t hit the mark. The opener “Graduation (The Walk of Fame)” contains some decent vocal work and shows potential for Gudmundsson as a singer. He sings, “But I hate who I've become / And my change is on the run.”
“Road Weary” contains sophomoric lyrics that are dismal. He sings, “So tired of walking this road / I feel so fucking old / It seems to go on and on and on and on / Forever in doubt." Gudmundsson has a winning formula with “Life Has Shadows.” His vocal delivery is the best on the album and he finds some good supporting melodies to back him up.
At this point Gudmundsson is playing the whole tortured artist angle a bit too hard. I’ll give him a break since I don’t think he is even in his twenties yet. It gets better and things start to make a little more sense as you get older. Gudmundsson doesn’t realize that yet but I have a feeling he will at some point and it will reflect in his music.
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Hailing from France, Black Smoke Jacket comprised of Philippe BOUYOU (lead vocals/guitars), William RICHARD (guitars), Maxime FORMEY (bass/backing vocals) and Jeremy ANDRE (drums) have been together for two years and are proving to be coming into their own with their three-song EP entitled Low. Before we go any further I have to admit when I was reading their bio on their Bandcamp it didn’t reflect what I was hearing. They claim they mix jazz, rock, blues and metal. I didn’t hear anything on this EP that even slightly resembled jazz. Black Smoke Jacket is a straightforward heavy rock band from what I heard on Low.
Low is an emotionally heavy album from a lyrical perspective that delves into losing someone. I’m not talking about breaking up with someone; I talking about someone who is close to you dying. A band member’s personal experience was the catalyst for the theme.
The EP starts off with the title track “Low.” A lone guitar is the first thing you hear but it quickly gets trampled by the rest of the band Once Bouyou’s vocals enter they are distorted but in a good way. His lyrics are ambiguous and poetic but impactful. He sings, “Morning comes and mind erased / Fortune tellers cannot prevail / Days of after never raised / Still you’ll be safe child lay down your head.” The energy of the song never lets up. No lulls or breakdowns.
The next track “Heretic” is more dynamic and gets more intense as it progresses. I wasn’t as impressed with Bouyou’s vocal performance as on the first song but the lyrics are just as well written. He sings, “Learn the book of love and hate / The next that cross your way and try / Not hesitate knife throat kill / And find that he does not exist.”
“Home is where the heart is” is a solid closer and I really enjoyed the initial guitar riff they start off with. Reminded me of something I might have heard on Appetite for Destruction. The end of the song leads to a boiling point that introduces some inventive vocal splicing techniques.
Low is a solid first effort. The band shows some potential here although some of the music seemed safe. Looking forward to seeing how the band develops.
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The last several months for The Movement was dedicated to working on their self-titled six song EP The Movement. After taking a listen I have to say the band pulled off a solid debut. The band comprised of Chris Bayliss, Dean Malakiy, Gavin Crotty, and Steven Blackmore float somewhere between hardcore and pop punk. Every time I was reminded of bands like New Found Glory or Thirty Seconds From Mars they switched it up on me and I thought they sounded like the Blood Brothers. I preferred the latter.
Regardless of my ambivalent feelings towards their style the band has skills in the talent department. Their songs are well structured and the music is full of changes. On top of that their technical skills are apparent throughout the EP (the drummer is like a human metronome at times).
The theme behind the music is about anxiety and depression. They did a good job of being consistent and playing into it by way of their lyrics and music. For every cathartic purge they pull off they back it up with theme appropriate lyrics.
First up is “Are You Even Listening.” They start with a barrage of sounds that is layered with the typical nasally pop punk style vocals. The song hits hard and it’s soon obvious that the band did their homework when it comes to doing vocal harmonies. The second track “Hospital Halls” is one of the harder songs on the album. It was on this track that my ears were fixed on the drumming. Hope they have a written contract with the drummer because they will have a hard time finding a replacement.
As the EP progressed some of the music reminded me of Pretty Girls Make Graves and other times I felt like they sounded like every other pop punk song. Take for example “Hopelessly Hopeless,” which pulls off an inventive breakdown around two-and-a-half minutes but then transitions into the more predictable chorus.
I have mixed feelings about their debut but still think it’s better than 90% of the mainstream type punk we hear today. That being said, I hope to hear them veer toward their experimental, hardcore side with future releases.
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Jonathan Bannon Maher is somewhat of a Renaissance man. He started a Senate campaign in 2012, wrote a book entitled “The Destiny Of Humanity” and recently released a single entitled “The Fallout of Love.” I knew when I saw a picture of him with his hands in his pockets, standing there in a suit that I was in for cookie-cutter mainstream pop.
My initial reaction was correct. Maher’s single is a radio ready mainstream song that sounds eerily similar to every other Goo Goo Dolls song and all the carbon copies bands that sound like them.
The song is predictable, displays little originality and lyrically doesn’t get past surface level clichés. It combines acoustic and electric guitars, bass, drums and orchestral elements. He sings, “The days each wash away and all these dreams feel so empty when you don’t believe.”
“The Fallout of Love” could be embraced by people who haven’t listened to anything else besides FM radio but in all honesty it’s not going to resonate with people who have dug deeper into the chasm of what music offers and appreciate it.
“The Fallout of Love” is the antithesis of punk and most independent music in general. Maher is simply following the most mainstream of trends that was popular over a decade ago. It’s obvious that Maher is oblivious to the undercurrent of quality/innovative music that is being created right now. I’m sure bands like Oneohtrix Point Never, Broken Social Scene, No Age, The War On Drugs, Brian Eno and Aphex Twin are nowhere on his radar - if they were I’d be shocked.
It’s really hard to pull off being a reputable musician if you aren’t dedicating yourself to it full time. One look at Maher’s Facebook page shows that he prefers to post news links about politics and global events yet mentioned nothing about the Sleater-Kinney release. I appreciate the motor Maher has but my point is that a portion of the music community will question his authenticity if he doesn’t have his finger on the pulse.
If you are sick of all your Goo Goo Dolls albums but want more of the same then “The Fallout Of Love” will be the song you have been looking for.
There are some who would say that the spirit of '67, the summer of love, the California dream, is dead and rotting in the ground, and they wouldn't be mistaken in thinking that. We all know - we've been seeing Deadhead stickers on Cadillacs for 31 years now, and the corner of Haight & Ashbury hosts a Gap and a Ben & Jerry's, where Jerry and Janis and Big Brother and Quicksilver and Robert Crumb doled out their mimeographed mind melting revolution nearly 50 years ago now.
Our conception of time, and progress, as a linear flow has been greatly disrupted, due to the omnipresence and availability of information. The past is alive, inside the present and nothing can ever die. Instead, passionate practitioners layer on levels of meaning and personal associations. Look at the way The Fresh & Onlys fused the Laurel Canyon sound with a disassociative post-punk shoegaze stance on 2014's House Of Spirits, or the way Withered Hand dropped references to listening to classic records, amidst his personal and introverted folk slow burners. The past can be what you make of it, and we can be whatever we like, this time around.
Bare Wire And Water is a short, delicious EP from Pittsburgh's The Silver Thread, who has been recording off and on for the last 13 years. The experience helps, as the trio of Todd Thomas, on guitar and vocals, Tim Thomas on bass guitar and Dave Halloran on drums know what they are going for and how to execute it.
Bare Wire And Water is like an archaeological dig through the psyche of 1969/1970. The linear history books can't even contend with the fact that The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, Woodstock and The Manson Murders were all happening around the same time, as crippled, shell-shocked Vietnam veterans came home to showers of saliva and "babykiller" cries, all while Japan, London and Berlin plotted and planned for the future.
The Silver Thread re-introduce the hypnotic minimalism, of a long-form Velvet Underground boogie trance, welded to catchy hooks and grooves, like the barbed snare of "Everything And Everything," whose guitar line has a similar sing-song catchiness to Steely Dan's "Rikki Don't Lose That Number.” My other favorite aspect is the introduction of the haunted B3 organ, towards the end of "Go Away From My Door" that even remembers to include the damaged lysergic Texan psych of bands like the 13th Floor Elevators, which also puts them in line of later practitioners, such as Spacemen 3.
This is no paisley power however, no attempt at authentic anachronism. All of The Silver Thread's ‘60s live - the ballroom bass lines, the rippling guitar arpeggios and weeping soloes - are delivered in a stripped down, immediate and energetic post-grunge fashion, like the oldest, best Dinosaur Jr. jams.
So for anyone that likes the Nuggets compilations and The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, sunny So-Cal doom 'n gloom, like cruising the Hollywood strip at 3 am, listening to a Bernard Hermann score, jam bands and The Jesus And Mary Chain, meet your new favorite band!
And if anyone happens to be reading this on the East Coast, go check these guys out live, as I have the sense they'd be a ton of fun live. I'm 3000 miles away, and my private Cessna is still in the shop. So until my wormhole prototype is stable, and stops creating these horrible mutations, I'm going to have to groove out in the floating floor ballroom of my mind.
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