Joe Levi - The Raining Day Parade
Joe Levi is an L.A. based songsmith originally from the rural English countryside, who was raised in the pagan community of Cumberworth (an old Lincolnshire hamlet with a population of 50 people), and “fed on a diet of the weird and wonderful, mythology and magi.” Joe has lived in Los Angeles since 2015 bringing his obscure and imaginative songs to many of the city’s best loved music venues, as well as performing several tours in his native England. His sound is a blend of “witchy folk, baroque pop, soaring balladry and celestial psychedelia.” Levi’s third release The Raining Day Parade was recorded entirely in his apartment in Highland Park, L.A. over a period of two years. It was mixed and mastered by Charles Sicouri at his home studio in Echo Park. The recording is a concept double album dealing with loss, life, love and ritual in a small rural community. Sonically it pays tribute to traditional English and Celtic folk music with strokes of psychedelia, chamber pop and baroque, and was recorded largely on acoustic instruments with limited use of any synthesized sound. The songs on the record were completely written and mostly performed entirely by Levi, though there are collaborations with fellow musicians (namely UK experimental artists Chelsea Hare and Guatemalan singer songwriter Ericka Sance).
The first track is the album’s namesake, and it waltzes in with a style that clearly has singer/songwriter written all over it. If you’re familiar with the likes of Cat Stevens, Harry Chapin, perhaps a little Ray Davies and a smidgen of Frank Zappa, you’re going to like Joe Levi. Next is “Frog Song” and it offers the listener Levi’s take on psychedelia folk, akin to the Syd Barrett years of Pink Floyd. “Jamboree Sand Witches” features a style that’s part old world Celtic folk, a bit of dark gothic sensibilities and something that reminded me of Jethro Tull. There’s nice, warm bass tones to this one as well. “Marionette” might conjure up visions of some minstrel traveling show that performs shows with what else – marionettes. A nice female vocal accompanies Levi here. The next tune “Throwing Stones (Through Stained Glass Windows)” was one of my favorites, because of the vocal harmonies, the piano, the lower key Levi plays/sings it in and its overall haunting appeal. This one kind of reminded me of Leonard Cohen’s more folky stuff too, like “So Long, Marianne.”
“Spanish City” really has an old-world style to it, like some medieval musician Levi offers the music world a unique style and sound. “House on the Hill” features a warm humming sound and an echoey effect on vocals – even some pump organ action or accordion if I’m not mistaken. Lyrically, this number has something to do with vampires and for me, it was effective – it gave me the creeps. Some filmmaker should redo the 1922 German masterpiece “Nosferatu” and put this song in the soundtrack. “Bike Ride Into the Sun” is perhaps Levi’s most cheery tune, delving into a lighter pop-psych sound and happy background singing. I was thinking about the song “Kites are Fun” by Free Design but with a darker edge. “Grow Old With You” starts with a light, bouncing rhythm between the guitar and piano and lasts till the song’s end. A beautifully melancholic tone is its charm and equally so are the messages in its words. “The Medieval Scene” is one of Levi’s more spaced out, free form tunes with random guitar feedback solo, prickling acoustic chords flittering in the background and what sounds like some dog barking.
“If You Call (And I Don’t Answer)” reminded me more of the singer/songwriter qualities of Cat Stevens or maybe even early Bowie, like from “The Man Who Sold the World” or “Hunky Dory.” If you’re not totally into Levi’s kind of music, this might be the best gateway song to listen to – quite likable in my view. “Apple” was another tune that reminded me of early Bowie, when he was transitioning from Dylan-folkish tunes to experimental avant garde. But also, I was hearing Jethro Tull and Zappa as well. What I liked best about this one was the sudden shift in tempo and style – fun song! “Rosehips and Vanilla” features Levi on the 12-string I believe, and a style that has an inspirational/Celtic pagan vibe to it. If Loreena McKennitt was looking for someone to open her shows, she should look up Joe Levi. So much of his approach and unique style of music reminds me of her.
Next is “A Seasonal Hymn (Four Old Friends)” – a light and airy tune, filled with a mellow acoustic rhythm, deep rumbling drums and choral like vocals that are hypnotizing. Last up is “Hello Mountain!” Levi’s shortest song. I would say it feels kind of like a sing-song nursery rhyme or some other quirky children’s song, all in all, another likable tune ending the album on a high note.
In the end, I got a sense that not everyone can pull off what Joe Levi does on The Raining Day Parade or for that matter, the type of genre mixing he does as a musician. Every now and again, when I think I’ve heard just about everything there is in music, a certain something comes along and truly delights me – The Raining Day Parade was that something.
Nina Blade - The Silk Road
Nina Blade is an artist who grew up in the Minneapolis, MN area. She is the founding member of The Arches. Having contributed 70+ releases on Bandcamp with The Arches since May of 2017, Blade continues to hone her songwriting skills as well as bass and piano skills with the band with her contributions adding a whole new depth to The Arches’ music. It is no wonder that she is embarking on her own solo adventures with her album The Silk Road. While her favorite pastime is playing her grand piano in front of the fireplace on a cold Minnesota winter night, Blade is also a student of fashion and has used the world of fabric as her platform for inspiration. The Arches support her on many of the songs and the sound is like that of old friends pursing conversations that delve into new sonic territory.
The Silk Road opens with “Tweed Bias” where the sound is driven by melodic guitars. The cadence is overall very smooth and soft. A soothing and relaxing feel could be detected running underneath the gamut of this track. The bass adds a rhythmic dimension to the song. Synths go on to give off an invigorating pulse throughout this song.
Following is “Big Crescent Satellite” where a giant sound forms from the guitars. A wall of guitars creates a big and boisterous vibe. The guitar riffs soar overhead. The drums and percussions accompany the guitars along with bass. The keys send out an amped cadence.
The guitar comes in supported by the sound of keys and synths on “Bolt.” The instrumentation mixes that of the organic with electronic embellishments, making the sound altogether more electric. The keys are energized and melodic. The synths give off a buzzing cadence that for the most part drones on in the track.
On the closer and title-track “The Silk Road” melodious sounds arrive from the keys. The cadence is soaring and has a full reverberating effect. Guitar riffs sound off overhead as well. Synths offer up an atmospheric cadence filled with an ethereal ambience.
The majority of this album is made up of instrumentals. With a real cool and smooth sound, the melodies on this record oftentimes consist of soft harmonies. This eight-track album mainly features tracks that are under three minutes of recording. Though these songs were on the shorter end, they were packed with depth and mood. Oftentimes atmospheric and soaring, the ambience on these instrumental numbers was grounded in an arresting cadence. Both cool and inviting, with an emphasis on keyboards and synthesizers, these classy tracks are something great to relax to or just something to stimulate your mood as you go about your day-to-day. Fans of indie rock and pop as well as avid followers of The Arches will appreciate what Blade has to offer here.
Billy Conquer is a three-piece indie rock band, primarily composed of Samuel Edmonson (bass) and Stefan Scott (guitar/vocals). They recently released Your Eyes Are Colored Fierce which is a five-song EP.
I grew up on indie rock like Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Built to Spill, Guided By Voices and many others bands in that era. Twenty-five years later and I would say this brand of indie rock is still my favorite. It wasn’t hard for me to get into this EP. The music has strong indie rock roots which I can spot a mile away.
The band opens with “Fight” and we are introduced to a very strong bass line. I could hear a hint of Smashing Pumpkins in the music and there was one section I was reminded of the falsetto I've heard before from Stephen Malkmus. This is a short song but it might be the highlight. It rocks but they also fit in a lot of changes.
They continue with “Wasted Slate” which is another success. The rhythm section holds down the foundation of the song while the guitars give off feedback and notes. It’s a sound I’ve always loved. No need for a rhythm guitar. “Backyard Song” could be the catchiest song yet. The guitar work is great on the track and switches between lead and guitar picking.
“Eyes Colored Fierce” is more indie rock goodness. You get the sense they are jamming but it’s more controlled. I have to give props again to the guitar work which feels like an endless stream of ideas.
“Getting Away with It” is the closer that really just builds on their strength. The groove is breezy, fun and joyful sounding. I would say playful might be another good way to describe the vibe.
Fans of ’90s indie rock will rejoice with this release. It’s that simple. Take a listen.
Disturbance Happens is a Fort Collins, Co. based rock band. The band is in the embryonic stage of their development and formed just a little over a year ago. They released a four-song self-titled EP Disturbance Happens.
The music felt like very straightforward no frills American rock with elements of blues and funk. There really weren’t many surprises in the songs but the band certainly has some chemistry. They open with “Dangerous” and you can hear a lot of rock 101 type moves throughout the song. The song has a tinge of country, a touch of attitude and felt like a good bar song. There is a standard guitar solo along with just enough affectation from the vocalist.
“Sedated” might be the highlight. They play into a blues riff and throw some funk and rock into the mix. They have more success with the more upbeat “Underwater” which reminded me of groups like The Black Crowes. Last up is “Goin' Wich Ya” which agains plays into their strength with a good mix of blues, funk and rock.
It was about twenty years ago now that I was in my late 20’s and was into the bar scene. I remember stumbling into bars and I would love when I found a band similar to Disturbance Happens. This style of music sounds good in a crowd because of its upbeat, rocking energy that always sounds better live. Suffice it to say listening to this EP did give me some nostalgia from my younger self.
My only critique would be for the band to think about how they get a little more of a singular sound. They wear their influences on their sleeves and it often felt like I was listening to a genre band. This band is still very young in terms of time together and it does usually take more time for a signature sound to develop but I think throwing another variable in their equation might give them the edge they need.
I would say this is a solid start for a band with a ton of potential. The songwriting and delivery are there. I’m interested to hear where they go from here. Take a listen.
Twelve Days in June is singer/songwriter Dave Hulegaard. He recently released A Bittersweet Season of Lament which is a nine-song album. Hulegaard mentions, “As a teenager, I dreamed of writing hard-hitting rock songs in the vein of Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. What came out sounded more like The Lemonheads.” He also mentions artists like Juliana Hatfield, The Posies, and Red House Painters as influences. I’ve been a big fan of Red House Painters in particular and knew exactly what he meant when listening to his music. His songs do rock but very much in the vein like The Lemonheads and Red House Painters. Some of this is due to the fact he implements an acoustic guitar but I would also say it’s more subtle than that.
He opens with “Dissolve” and it starts with him strumming an acoustic guitar and vocals. His vocals do have a melancholy like quality. I felt like he was lamenting most of the time but it didn’t come off as melodramatic. The song is also quite catchy and easy to appreciate. As the song progresses drums, subtle distortion and bass are added into the mix.
“Callow” amps up the energy. It’s another catchy song but also a slow burn of sorts. The run time is six-and-a-half minutes and there is a lengthy instrumental section which is the outro. “Crutch” continues to build a foundation for the album. One thing I noticed is the drummer rarely settles on a beat. It seemed like there was another fill every measure.
You then get a song like “Tapestry” which is an eight-minute song. There is a subdued section towards the end which is just acoustic guitar and vocals. “The Bleeding (For Natasha)” was definitely one of the more rocking songs while “Lost at Sea” contains heartfelt lyrics and emotion. “Paint” is an arguable highlight. I loved the bass on this song. “Under a Pale Moon” perfectly blends hope and melancholy. He closes with “Caroline” which hits upon more of his strengths.
My only critique is that I thought some of these songs would have been more powerful if they were shorter. On some of the songs that eclipse the six-minute mark I felt they could have been trimmed down mainly because not that much more is being introduced into the song.
Overall, I thought this was a cohesive release with good songwriting. I can say if you are a fan of the aforementioned bands this will be right up your alley. Take a listen.
Poor Elliot - Poor Elliot
When I first started making music in the mid ’90s there was no such thing as bedroom pop. The technology wasn’t available yet to make good sounding recordings. There was tape which was hard to work for many reasons I won’t go into. Times have changed and bedroom music has become its own genre.
Poor Elliot composed of Lauren Wilson and Parker Bradford explain that their music is the epitome of bedroom pop from the recording process to the aesthetics. I would have to agree that their four-song eponymous release Poor Elliot sounds very much like the bedroom indie pop I have in my head.
The songs are relatively short and catchy. They start with “A Better Time” which begins with synths, guitar and what sounds like a xylophone. There are drums that fade into the mix. The verse is undeniably infectious. They got to the chorus very fast and I felt like the song did what it needed to. There was no fat on the song.
Up next is “Love U So Hard” which is under two minutes. I loved the groove on this song which is very clean with a phaser type of sound coming from the guitars. This song reminded me of one of my favorite groups - Broadcast.
“Closing Song” is actually the penultimate song and continues to do what the duo does really well which is create short yet memorable melodies. The mood here is a bit more dreamy and even psychedelic than the previous songs.
They closed with “Green Light” which actually reminded me even more of the group Broadcast. There is more melancholy in this song and it sounds good on them. Wilson sings, “I don’t know / I don’t feel right / open the window / I’m having a hard time.” I loved the ominous tones on this song which became all encompassing at points.
This is a great four-song EP. The songs are well written and delivered. This is bedroom pop at some of its finest. Take a listen.
Haunting Hands - Haunting Hands
Haunting Hands is a recording project started in 2019 by two musicians called Tung and Dyllan. Apparently they were in punk bands together while they were in college in Rapid City, South Dakota. They graduated and drifted apart but now they try to make music from Rapid City, SD and Denver, CO. The duo have done that quite successfully on their six-song eponymous release Haunting Hands.
They mention, “the EP is based around the themes of therapy, loss, self-acceptance, self-sabotage and being a work in progress.” I will say these songs certainly have a sense of apprehension and perhaps even dread. It reminded me of the album Drum's Not Dead by Liars in terms of tone at points.
It starts with “The Therapist's Chair” which does set the mood. You hear what sounds like an animal crying in the background as a dark bass line and pads come into the mix. The song soon revolves around haunting vocal harmonies and whispers. I would say there is a nightmarish quality to the vocals in this song.
They become more of a band on “Polar Reactions.” There is a mix of Joy Division type post-punk mixed with some intense feedback towards the end. It's also pretty catchy. “Nancy” could be the highlight. I loved this song. It is dark, ominous and also infectious. There are some great grooves and the subdued vocals are right on the mark. I have to point out that these lyrics are pretty fantastic - “Shutter in my broken bones / Feel like I’ve always been alone / Sinking in my black worn out chair / Feeling like I’m going nowhere.”
They become a noise band on “The Therapist's Chair (Reprise)” which is distorted and jarring. “Call to the Void” is another highlight. The band goes big here. It's somewhere between shoegaze and ’90s alternative. I was reminded of Smashing Pumpkins. “I Need You to Listen / Thank You for Listening” is a great landing to the album. It’s perhaps the most haunting song and they make great use of reverb here.
I really enjoyed this release. It’s cohesive and delightfully dark. Take a listen.
I was reading about Hearing is Hard by Mama Sam and the Jam. The band says the release “was written to be listened to as one big long song - a journey of self discovery that dives into the memories of childhood while staring the realness of adulthood in the face.”
Believe it or not there was a time when people listened to music sequentially (you didn’t have much choice with vinyl) because it was understood that it was an artistic statement and the whole was bigger than the sum of its parts. Would you watch a TV series out of order? Probably not especially if you want to understand the story.
The first song is “Hearing is Hard” and it begins with cymbal rolls, hypnotic guitar patterns and a serene sort of vibe. There are some satisfying guitar strums that feel straight out of the playbook from The Who. They found a sturdy groove and once the vocals came in I was happy to hear a fantastic vocal coming from Mama Sam. I liked her voice - in fact I might say loved her voice right off the bat. She sings “people just want to be heard / hearing is hard” which is a powerful but infectious melody.
Up next is “Pale Blues” which brings up the energy over all. The drummer does a great job with the dynamics on this song. There are also just some killer riffs. The band can certainly rock out and sounds like a ’70s classic rock band but they also embrace hazy, dreamy soundscapes that are in similar company to the band Mazzy Star.
“Parties” is just a killer track. Everyone is doing their own distinct thing. The bass has a prominent part but just shift your focus and you’ll hear everyone is doing something interesting. It comes together for a rocking groove. The vocals are again top notch with nostalgic lyrics about childhood. Oh and this song rocks so hard.
Last up is “Take You Back” which is a satisfying way to end the album. The drummer again steps up to the plate and I was loving that hi-hat action that was happening. You will find some prog-rock infused riff on this song.
I think you should listen to this album as it was intended. And as the band states - start from the beginning and just let it ride. Highly recommended.
Faiblesse Parfaite is a French-British duo hailing from the English Midlands. The band consists of singer Caty Meleuc and guitarist Gael Mace. The duo is releasing their debut album entitled Sincere or Engineered?
Their sound is a blend of folk, rock/pop, as well as a mixing of a smattering of genres based on what feels right at the moment. Their intuitive music is based on sensibilities of mood and emotion. The band has an instinctual radar when it comes to what sounds good and what is the best fit for their songs. Their innate proclivities toward honing an inherent-based sound motivates them to traverse the territories of the heart, mind and soul. Faiblesse Parfaite is a clever band whose mission appears to be to delve deep into introspective and contemplative terrain.
Sincere or Engineered? opens with “Gay Friend” where wonky synths go on to create funky vibes on the start of this track. Percussions trickle in adding a more energized feel. The vocals are warm and honest. The chorus is catchy and expressive. The vocals have a character-driven flair fused with gusto and flavor. Groovy guitars underline the gamut of this song.
Following is “Mes Series Preferees” that starts with a healthy slew of groovy guitars underlining this track. The song is entirely sung in French. Although I couldn’t understand the lyrics, the vocals are infused with a whole lot of feeling and range. The guitar riffs are distorted. This is a contagious rock song. A guitar solo blazes through the two-and-a-half-minute mark. The drumming backbeat is upbeat and vibrant.
Noodling on the acoustic guitar starts off “Your Fear” which is the feature track. This is a stripped-down number with the vocal harmony layers being supported solely by the acoustic guitar. The sounds are beatific and lovely. A soft lilting cadence ensues that is similar to that of a lullaby. A soothing and placating sound arises. This is something great to relax to. An evocative cadence pervades with meaningful lyrics. An added dimension to the album title surfaces in the lyrics where Meleuc sings in the bridge, “Can you see, or do you cheer / The glass wall between us that keeps me out / Is it sincere or engineered / That it’s always the same getting left behind.” About the day in the life of the left behind, Faiblesse Parfaite shows they have a pulse on relevant and engaging materials.
Numerating on the acoustic guitar adds a striking sound to “Sugar Mice.” A piano tune trickles into this song. The cadences are melancholy-tinged. This is a soaring ballad. A strong sense of urgency underscores this track. This is a dramatic song with real resonating elements. A sax tune traces this track, adding an invigorating twist.
The album contains an eclectic sound. Though the sound is varied, there is a deep sense of cohesive prevalent in these tracks. Blending their influences with their own cadence, what you get is a unique album that flows like a playlist. Maneuvering between different genres and moods, Sincere or Engineered? dives into a varied listening experience that fans of the above genres may relish in.
This is a relatively lengthy album with 13-tracks total with each song varying between four-five minutes. Ladled in-between the tracks are a couple of short interludes that adds a bit of breathing space between the tracks. These intervals give a much-needed break in-betwixt tracks. Listeners will find these adequate pauses gave a needed respite to an invariably packed record.
With a provocative cadence, the band engages with a live sound connecting directly with listeners with their warm flavors and thought-provoking lyrics. The duo wants you to listen with your heart. With their on-point lyrics, the band hopes to spark a conversation and oftentimes their songs end with a question. Through a simple formula of sparse guitar and vocal harmonies, Faiblesse Parfaite’s compositions are infused with a whole lot of emotion and feeling. Their pared down works offer us the bare essentials of sentiment and soul. Their songs carry vivid stories that are timely and thought-provoking. Faiblesse Parfaite is a hard-working band that invokes in their works playful harmonies, catchy melodies and robust vocals. Be sure you have a listen today!
Jason Murray - Invisible Warmth
Jason Murray is a singer/songwriter based in Boulder, CO. He is releasing his debut album entitled Invisible Warmth. The record is his first full-length solo album, consisting of a collection of songs written between 2015-2018 and recorded in 2019. The album is a testament to his hard work over the course of the last few years. He has been accumulating songs that he has written over time and Invisible Warmth is his dreams realized to have them put together in an album.
With his heart on his sleeve, Murray bares-all on these exquisitely executed love songs. Written during his college days, love was an emotion that felt very real at the time. So, the songs often came across as Murray wanting to acknowledge how important he felt love was, even if he wasn’t in a relationship at the time.
Invisible Warmth opens up with “Antlers” where a sonorous display on the acoustic guitar launches with interwoven melodies coming from the piano. This is mainly an acoustic track with real resonating elements. Murray’s vocals are soothing and have a soft lilting quality. This is a real dynamic song. A strong sense of urgency underlines this dramatic track. The acoustic guitar melodies come across as beatific.
Following is “Lay My Weary Head,” where noodling on the acoustic guitar starts off this song. The sound is moving and dynamic. Choral harmony layers propel this track with a celestial and unearthly vibe. Some real ethereal and soaring tones pervades. Murray’s vocals come across as angelic. The song has an old-timey vibe that harkens to a Medieval-like minstrel tune. The track mainly contains solely the acoustic guitar alone supporting the vocals. Combined vocal harmonies add a disarming feel.
An announcement launches toward the start of “End Of The World” adding an ominous element. Percussions and dynamic strumming from the acoustic guitar give off a pressing cadence. This is a dramatic song bursting with a fully charged vibe. The percussions really propel this track. Guitar riffs give off a ghostly and airy sound. A real stirring song. Murray collaborates with Meredith Wilder on this track and their vocals duel it out in an excellent foray. The vocals elicit an exciting cadence. This is a definite highlight.
On “Dressed And Ready,” an upbeat and catchy melody courses through the reverberating tones of the acoustic guitar. A sunny cadence comes from the keys. An energized vibe is harnessed. The song contains some invigorating melodic riffs. The track has a real cool and smooth bluesy lounge appeal with a jazzy flourish. A bongo solo gives off a compelling stance.
In the singer/songwriter vein, these heartfelt tracks reverberate with a warmth and inventiveness that makes them both startling and inviting at the same time. Murray sings at a standpoint of sheer emotion. With vocals and lyrics filled with range and flair, the artist stoutly incorporates riveting musicianship into the number. At the core of these tracks is the acoustic guitar. Underlining the soft and soothing vocals, the expert playing on the rhythm guitar has a voice of its own. Murray’s deft playing is instrumental in honing a sound that is brimming with warmth and effusiveness.
Though on the production end these songs were slightly lo-fi, these bedroom recordings provided many an intimate performance that made them stand out with a striking sense of urgency. I felt these guitar-centered tracks were really moving and otherworldly. Their soft lilting qualities really made them magical and ethereal. As the album progressed, I grew to appreciate each song’s simplicity yet heart-wrenching emotional quality. These songs were simply arresting filled with an out-of-world appeal that made them that much more extraordinary.
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