Dead Jetsetter - You Gonna Pay
Dead Jetsetter is a band from New York City that has been playing around New York in various configurations since 2010. The current line up includes Johnny Andrew (guitar/vocals), Paul Pesce (bass/vocals), Santiago Quijano (drums) and Phillipe Madjalani (guitar). They recently released You Gonna Pay which is a three-song EP.
The entire EP is around eight minutes long but given the punk aesthetic it works. Their style reminds me of the Minutemen or a similar band that plays fast, gets in and out and delivers all of what you need in a short amount of time.
The opening song “You Gonna Pay (Edith Bunker version)” starts with a fast drum beat and quickly bass and guitar soon enter the mix. The band is loose and the song is all about the spirit in which it’s delivered. I liked the vocal delivery which has a sense of urgency to it. There are some top notch lyrics as well and I really appreciated the line about Jack Kerouac. The band also doubles the BPM on a dime which I found impressive.
The next song “Days So Far Away” is a good one and reminded me more of bands like Sex Pistols. It starts with a fuzzy bass, followed by drums and guitar. I loved the verse which goes by fast and gets to the hook. The band thrashes and destroys during the entirety of the song. I thought the hook was catchy and is the type of melody that you will sing or scream along with.
The next song is called “Heartache Dissipate” and it is the longest song in the batch and the arguable highlight. It’s another song full of kinetic energy that gets your adrenaline pumping. This song also contains a killer guitar solo. The vocals are in full effect here as well. Similar to the previous songs the vocals are delivered with a sense of urgency.
These are the types of songs that are best delivered live in a small club. The next best thing in my opinion is turning these songs up loud and experiencing the power of Dead Jetsetter. Take a listen.
Stēvi M - Watch Me Go
Long Island native Stēvi M writes and sings songs that are empowering, uplifting and hopeful, seeking to inspire self-love and confidence, especially in people that have been made to feel “less than.” According to the artist her songs speak of body positivity, determination, grit, resilience and light-hearted joy. One of her upcoming songs is entitled “Watch Me Go.”
The song combines a Latin vibe with a contemporary pop sensibility. I loved the piano and blaring horns before the groove snaps in. Once the drums come in you are also introduced to the vocals. I can say she has a vibrant and confident voice. There’s a lot of emotions in there. It’s playful and fun with a little bit of danger. The song gets better as it progresses.
The hook is there when she repeats “Watch Me Go” with a robust and dance worthy groove. I also thought the additional clean funk guitar on the verse sounded great. It quickly subsides but other elements are added as well. The song at around the two-minute mark is in full effect.
The thing I wasn’t expecting was rapping that appeared from a guest called Ivy States. It’s a very unusual combination of sounds that somehow works. There’s a heavy electronic beat, wild opera singing and rapping. It’s very original any way you slice it. The transition back to the hook is somehow seamless which might be the most impressive part of the song. It should be noted that Ivy States put together the instrumental aspects of the song.
This is a single if I ever heard one. The fusion of styles here is done masterfully. It’s the type of song that feels accessible to almost any age group. It’s also the type of pop song that works because it’s immediate and the rhythm of the song simply catches you and doesn't let go till the end of the song.
Stēvi M has a number of other singles planned for the not too distant future. In the meantime I would suggest checking out some of her back catalog to get up to speed on this impressive artist.
Move Like Creatures - Space Case
Move Like Creatures is a pop rock four-piece from Southern California. Their lineup currently consists of Nancy Bombard (lead vocals), Ryan Reynolds (guitar), Brian Bello (bass) and Melissa Koziel (drums). It’s a fairly typical setup for a rock band, but don’t be fooled by the simplicity of it because Move Like Creatures make music that is phenomenally catchy! Space Case is the name of their, as the band put it, “exhilarating” brand new debut EP, and it is chock full of hooks influenced by everything from alternative rock to new wave to pop punk.
Produced and engineered by Ethan Kaufmann (Ryan Cabrera , Avril Lavigne), each of Space Case’s five songs shimmer with confidence and charisma, despite the lyrics being quite raw and vulnerable. Bombard finds herself “grappling openly with loss, insecurity, and mental health,” but asserts eager listeners that “no matter how dark and desperate things may seem, we’re never truly alone in this world.” Touching sentiments aside, this no-skip EP rocks all the way through from “Ghost Me” to the title track closer.
Just from hearing “Ghost Me” alone, my immediate comparison for these four was After Laughter-era Paramore. Luckily, I know exactly what the title means, considering my Generation Z status. The drums and bass are full of firepower, and Reynolds’ guitar has this reggae-ish vibe that continues onto the next song, the breakout hit, “Mind Reader.”
“Mind Reader,” to me, is as if “Ain’t It Fun” married “Hard Times” (both carefree-sounding Paramore songs). It results in some of the stickiest songwriting Move Like Creatures offers, which is why it makes so much sense to me that this was released as their very first single. By the band’s own account, the lyrics of “Mind Reader” were inspired by a failed therapy session. The descending hook of “You must be a mind reader” followed by a snide “At least you look the part” is straight-up Hayley Williams territory.
“All Hung Up” dials up the new wave influence with explosive synthesizers that enter after the euphoric chorus. Perhaps “Age of Consent” by New Order was used as a reference point for those synths? That sound layered on top of guitars and drums becomes pretty irresistible. “Pick Up What I Put Down” resumes the island funk sound of “Mind Reader,” and is just as good, especially as Bombard utilizes falsetto on the hook.
Last but not least, the title track “Space Case” is the dreamiest song on Move Like Creatures’ EP. The way Bombard sneers “I’m surrounded by you” is not unlike Courtney Love. Atmospheric guitars and synths are a nice touch to this very cool song. Out of the five tracks on the EP, I couldn’t possibly imagine a better closer than this one!
With the impressive Space Case, you can bet that Move Like Creatures will really rack up a large number of streams. Give this a listen. Strongly recommended.
Shane Palko - Allegedly Here & Now
Shane Palko is an independent alternative folk musician from Pennsylvania. He has performed his original music across six continents in over twenty countries. On top of that he has released eleven albums and has worked with Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Flaming Lips, Rage Against The Machine and more. Today we will be talking about his recent release Allegedly Here and Now.
The album begins with “The Train is Bound for Love” and some of my first thoughts were that there were similarities to the band Fleet Foxes. It’s not just the acoustic instrumentation. It’s also the vocals which sound similar to Robin Pecknold. I thought it was a minimalistic song that showed off his abilities as a songwriter. Fantastic start.
“Roots Like You” is next and on this song we get a rhythm section. The song however starts with guitar, vocals and some atmosphere. If you listen closely you can hear what sounds like crickets and forest life in the background. I loved the groove that comes into the mix about halfway through. It’s catchy, easy on the ears and well-delivered.
On “Winnebago” we get some exceptional guitar picking with sparse piano. It’s quite melancholy and beautiful at the same time. I liked his voice more and more. Similar to the previous song we get a groove about halfway through. On this song it’s more of a rolling beat with airy kinetic drum work.
“Sitting/Wondering” is an instrumental piece with guitar and orchestral strings. It’s cinematic and felt like there was a lot of room in the song for the elements to breathe. Palko continues with great songwriting. “Marcie” is a mid-energy song that is one of the catchiest songs and I like the stream of conscious type lyrics while “Catch Yourself” continues with a similar emotional resonance.
“For Oz” is a little bit more experimental in some ways. Some of the sound design was hard to pinpoint. Some of it sounded like forest life. I wasn’t always sure what I was listening to exactly but it all worked in the mix.
“Stained Glass Moon” might be the most beautiful vocal delivery. There’s a delicate quality to his delivery and also some exceptional guitar picking. The song has a warm welcoming melancholy that creates a sense of solace in the listener. That somber quality continues with “Moments, Passing.” The last song entitled “Love Is Here to Stay, But We Are Not” is fast - under a minute - but felt like a good way to end.
Palko is very talented. He’s the type of musician that doesn't need more than a guitar and his vocals to create something beautiful. I think fans of folk and Americana will enjoy this most especially if you dig Fleet Foxes. Take a listen.
The 3148s got together in a Detroit garage in the summer of 2015. According to their website “Their current line up is Ian Coote, who writes and sings most of the tunes, plays guitar, keys, mandocello and just about anything else the rest of the guys will let him bring to gigs; Jason Seifert on bass; Greg Jones writing songs and playing guitar and doing vocals; and Tom Jones as the drummer.“ Additionally, they mention their music “will appeal to fans of artists like The Tragically Hip, Black Keys, Hootie & The Blowfish and Counting Crows.”
In 2022 the band released a string of singles which we will be reviewing today. The first song I listened to was “Picture of You” which starts with a guitar solo supported by the full band. The song quickly gets to the verse with the vocals. It’s a smooth groove with keys, guitars, bass and steady beat. The song starts to rock out and some fuzz is introduced with the vocalist stretching his vocals to hit some high notes. I liked the dynamics of the song and the band displayed solid chemistry between the members. It’s accessible, fun and a repeat worthy song.
The next song I listened to was “Guillotine” and given the name I was expecting something different. It starts off with orchestral strings and is reminiscent of music you might hear in a series like Game of Thrones. The song makes a quick turn as a rock band quickly emerges into this darker surf rock type of riff. Perhaps even more interesting is how the vocals were delivered. It’s almost on the verge of rapping but somehow works. The hook is a little more straightforward. This is a really original sounding song. It takes a number of different styles and makes it feel natural and organic. I also thought the guitar solo hit all the right notes. Job well done.
The last single I listened to was “Saratoga Ave” and it was a sort of warm Americana influenced song. It’s tender, heartfelt and very relatable. The melodies are memorable and I thought the track builds well to the hook which is quite explosive as well as cathartic. I can clearly see why they chose this song as a single.
There’s a variety of styles with these three songs. You can’t help but wonder what an EP or album might sound like from the band. I liked these singles and hope to hear more in the not too distant future. Recommended.
Plutonian State - The Basilisk
Plutonian State is a small collective of musicians spread out across various different global locations. The collective is composed of Graham Iddon (vocalist), Roy Messiah (percussionist) and Tommy Jones (guitarist) who have, individually, received various accolades through prior projects. Today we will be reviewing a single entitled “The Basilisk.”
The collective mentions “Plutonian State is an atypical band to say the least. You won't hear any typical subjects about well trodden ground like love, partying or the like. We have one goal - to address the most pressing climate, socioeconomic and technological issues we face as a society, usually through metaphor or intricate storytelling.”
In regards to “The Basilisk” they elaborate further to say “With the single we propose, we have taken the infamous thought experiment known as Roko's Basilisk (which we implore you not to research if you're at all concerned about the future of artificial intelligence) and we ask this - when we create true AI, will it become a monster because that is what is expected of it?”
The song starts with an electronic jungle beat. It’s very rhythmic and the synths do feel like you’re exploring the inner circuitry of some AI system. The vocals were surprisingly a little distant from the music but it works.
After the initial burst of energy there's a more subdued section where the vocals have some space. Iddon shows some serious range on this song in terms of vocal range and mood. He is able to sound close to you and other times as if he’s yelling for the fate of the universe.
This is a contemporary sounding song that could easily be used in any modern day sci-fi movie. I think they were able to capture the essence of AI with sound and I would say that it displays some serious creativity and skill. Recommended.
Pacific Witch - Relics Only
Pacific Witch is a three-piece, Sacramento based, alternative surf-rock band that formed in early 2020. Waiting-out the pandemic until venues re-opened allowed them the time and focus to record Relics Only, their debut album. They embarked on a West Coast tour as soon as the opportunity presented itself in January 2023 with shows ranging from Vancouver, BC to Tijuana, Mexico. The band describes themselves as “...an uncomplicated, honest, if less traditional surf rock band. If traditional surf rock is a sunny day at the beach, [we] would be the fog on the horizon…A little less Beach Boys and a little more Roy Orbison. It calls on some punk grit, a little classic rock, some dreamy vibes, and sad lyrics, but all of that revolves around a spring reverb surf core.”
“Whole Nerds And Puke” immediately draws you in with its groovy bass riff. There’s some well-placed back-and-forth between the rhythm guitar and vocalist in the first verse with a strong solo coming in hot at 1:30 mark. There’s a rawness to the vocals which are sometimes contrastively supported by quiet backing harmonies.
“Spin Cycle” offers an interesting metaphor, “Still got the suds on me from when / Clotheslined and hung out as a friend / Not quite dry enough to mend / I'm stuck in the spin cycle again.” The music very much has a cyclical sensation in the sense of having a repetitive (spinning) rhythmic guitar part, although there is tasteful variability with excellent little guitar licks turning up a little over half-way through the song.
“American Lie” expresses disillusion with, I presume, the American Dream and also the American Dreamers themselves, “But we’re not great people / We’re not great.” The intro on here took me by surprise with a sound somewhat akin to Red Hot Chili Peppers. The instrumental “Shindig” showcases the band's technical proficiency to a greater extent. It’s something straight out of a Western and gave me visions of gunslinging cowboys riding their horses through ghost towns overrun with tumbleweed.
“Lucid Dreams” slows things down and reveals a quieter, softer, and subtler side of the band, “Coming up short again today / Got it all but I lost my way / It’s just easier to sleep.” The next song, “Old John,” tells a tragic narrative of divorce and heartbreak with a pleasantly surprising vocal shift in contrast to the previous songs. The chorus has a particularly striking melody when the singer, who has a relatively low and - up to this point on the album - slightly un-dynamic voice, transitions beautifully into his upper register, “Buried him under the sun.”
“Devils Only” returns with the intensity and energy that kicked off the album. It initially seems like it’ll be an innocent enough song with a sort of a cappella Beach Boys vocal intro that reflects upon the peace and quiet of the countryside as opposed to the city. Yet the song takes a twist into a story about prostitutes and kinks with a pressing rhythm, quick vocal-delivery, some wailing guitar and darkly descriptive imagery.
The sparse lyrics of “Photosynthesis,” which entail just one line, “I get my food from the sun,” in no way describes the music itself. The rhythmic guitar converses in tandem with the drummer while the bass player infuses lovely and solitary moments of subtleness when the guitar and drums pause silently.
“Caveman” is a love story that covers our sprawling human timeline from the caveman era to graduation day in 2008. It’s pretty low-key. You’ll hear lots of cymbals underneath the repetitive chord progression of the verses and chorus, with a welcome instrumental bit after the second chorus. Closing the album is “Seagraves,” an instrumental with intimate and warm vocal harmonies overtop of gentle strums and stripped-back bass/drums. The vocal harmony parts are interspersed with some excellent back and forth between the solo guitar and bass/drums. It’s a peaceful and beautiful song which, of all the songs on the album, most clearly enables me to feel and envisage myself as a surfer riding the waves...
Zodiac 68 - Anonymous
Zodiac 68 is the brain child of Cardiff, UK based singer/songwriter Matt Dunn. The ‘band’ was started as a tribute, and is heavily influenced by grunge and alternative rock of the ’90s. It became an outlet for the heavier side of Dunn’s writing. This album is the follow up to 2022’s Sasquatch. As with the first album, his latest release Anonymous features guest appearances from Blaine Vogt (27 Dead, Crossing 13th, Groove Thief, One More Story). The eleven-song album was recorded in Dunn’s home studio. It was mixed and mastered by Marvin at Tide Studios, London.
This second album carries on where the first album left off but with added electronic elements. Anonymous also contains a few piano based ballads amongst the heavily riff based alt rock. Anonymous kicks things off with “Someone Else’s Eyes” which is a song about despair, guilt and regret. The tune starts with some echoing guitar and a catchy, moody melody. Layered on top later is some distorted guitar and a thick bass line. The most telling line from the verses comes in the second stanza, “Make my bed, here comes the end of mankind.” A peculiar juxtaposition - an everyday chore most of us do when we get up in the morning from last night’s rest, contrasted with an apocalyptic, albeit a rather dry and stoic statement. A great opening track that mixes grunge and dark, post-rock elements.
“Blind” touches on themes of betrayal, loss of friendship and showing no remorse when someone gets “kicked when they’re down.” Musically, this song has an even catchier guitar melody and many great moments on the piano that get mixed in the song’s main melody. There’s something about this tune, at least on the verses, that reminds me of moody ’70s rock tunes. A couple of highlights to this track are the searing guitar solo and the extra backing vocals.
Next is “Be My Moon” and this one is about reaching out for someone, asking them to “be my moon / be my sun / will you be the one / to take this heart and heal the wounds.” It opens with tender sounding piano and Dunn on vocals. The rhythm section comes in after the first verse, low and brooding. Another fantastic guitar solo can be heard here as well and it ends with a few chords on the piano. The next track asks, “Where Did Everything Go Wrong?” A song that deals with loss of a boyfriend/girlfriend, confusion as to why nothing good every lasts long, and time moving on - being the great equalizer, despite us humans not liking that fact one bit. This one has an electronic bent to it, with a heavy synth sound in the beginning. To me, this song’s style features prog-rock, hard rock, a little funk and all points in between. It reminds me of bands like Living Colour, Jane’s Addiction, maybe Red Hot Chili Peppers and King’s X.
Moving on is the album’s title track - “Anonymous” and it talks about being just that - a person with no identity. “Bury me up to my neck and I stand alone / I stand alone” is about as dark as any lyrics get. I like Dunn mixing in the acoustic guitar on the verses and how that contrasts with the edginess of distortion and the song’s message. This one kind of reminds me of the grunginess of Alice In Chains with the more hard prog-rock sensibilities of bands like The Mars Volta.
“In Your Hands” suggests that the hand that you were dealt in your life is in your hands. “What you want is in your hands my friend / And if you want me just reach out and take my hand.” Compared to most of the previous songs, this one offers hope, despite doubts we have as humans. The music overall, and how it develops right from the start, is absolutely fantastic! I loved how the drums sound, the catchy bass melody, the little bit of acoustic right before the chorus, the guitar solo, the piano - everything! I would recommend listening to this for sure. The words to “Everyone Who Saw You Run” has more mystery to it, lyrically. I think it’s about a friendship coming to an end and words that were left unsaid after a breakup. Dunn’s sings a little higher on this track and overall, his sound is softer and musical approach gentler. Guitars take a back seat for a bit (until the solo part of the song), while the piano and synths are more present.
The lyrics to “Sorrow is Your Only Friend” are some of the darkest on the album - “I’m not thinking / Of what I can do to save me from myself.” They are also some of the most sparsely written, even minimalist, you might say. Musically, this song is part hard alt-rock, part funk and part spooky (an eerie sounding synth melody is played during the verses). “Without You” is about finding salvation and safety within the friendship / love / embrace of another. But Dunn also sings of that “other side of the coin” predicament, where he recognizes “With you I’m almost a better man” - I’m just not there yet. This one has a great, grunge rock hook on the guitar and plenty of energy. This one feels like it has all the classic ‘90s grunge/post-rock elements to it.
The next tune is called “Even Now” which I think, is about realizing after all the crap and pain you’ve been through with a broken relationship, things have not gotten any better. A song about someone who hasn’t gotten over it. This track has a lot of great dynamics to it. To me, it sounds like it might have been Dunn’s most complex and hardest to write. Lastly, there is “Love is Something That I Can’t Feel.” A tune as sad as any song you might hear - I mean, really, this one’s a downer, but it does feature a beautiful melody. Zodiac 68 touches on real emotions - sadness, regret, sorrowfulness, mental pain, loneliness and wanting resolve through forgiveness. It mostly features Dunn singing at his piano, but then a dramatic mix of drums, electric guitars and strings come in about midway, finishing off the song with a powerful ending. With that said, this is a solid, well written follow up from Zodiac 68.
Dave Barrett - Stockton Ave
According to the Bandcamp page for Dave Barrett he didn’t know if he was ever going to record again. During the pandemic a number of things aligned and Barrett found himself working on new songs and would eventually release Stockton Ave.
Stockton Ave contains fourteen songs and is a fully realized album. Barrett did get some help along the way. The band consists of Chris Starke (drums), Tad Santos (bass), Paul Stebner (guitar), Christa Cummins (vocals), Patrick Whalen (trumpet/flugelhorn/melodica), Jennifer Jennings (vocals), Justin LeBreck (keys), and Tony John (mandolin).
The music feels very much based in Americana music. I was reminded of Bruce Springsteen, Steve Miller band and other like-minded artists and bands. The album starts with “Dance With Me” which is definitely a song that should make you dance. This is a fun one that is easy to sing along with. I loved the grooves and spirit of this song. Barrett sounds good and happy to be there.
We back off from the celebratory mood of the opener to something more reflective but still positive with the title track “Stockton Ave.” The vocal melodies are there and the horns sound fantastic. There are some impressive dynamic peaks in this song. The band sounds incredible at points such as the two-minute mark.
Barrett has the kind of baritone voice that sounds great with some melancholy. “In The House That Is Empty” is perhaps the dark horse of the album. It’s cerebral, warm and those distant guitar sounds work wonders to give it a cosmic quality.
Barrett sounds equally as good on “Turn Around” which has some spoken word on the verse. It revolves around piano, what sounds like xylophone and other tender and warm elements. “Touch and Go” feels a dose of hope in the form of music while “Dance On The Sidewalk” is another song that has dance in the title which lives up to its name.
“Simpleton Galore” is a big one. It’s full of instruments and is just epic in scale. Barrett continues to pour out the goods with a mix of emotions. “October Skies” and “Don't Come Free In The End” were solid songs but “Come Around” is motivational. Barrett sings “We all have a moment / Something we wouldn’t change / Yes, this is my big moment / Something you live over again and again.”
“Lonely In The Night” and “Remedy” bring the Americana flavor once again with perhaps more of ’90s alternative flavor. The most somber song is “What Love Can Do” which is quite beautiful. The orchestral strings sound great. “Heroes Of Our Day” is the closer and Barrett plays to his strengths with this song.
Barrett is a talented songwriter and this album proves it. The album was cohesive and I found the songs to be consistently well delivered. Recommended.
Vickis Dream - Vickis Dream
I was excited to listen to the self-titled release Vickis Dream from Vickis Dream when I read about their influences. The band states “The Misfits, Faith No More, Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Kennedys, Sonic Youth, Sioxsie Sue, Peter Murphy, The Damned, Type-O Negative and A Perfect Circle” are some of their influences. I’ve been a fan of those bands for the last twenty years so I was excited to hear what they would deliver.
The album starts with “Awakening” which is an over the top introduction that sounds like the beginning to an epic full scale superhero movie. I liked it but not sure it was necessary in all honesty. The band arrives in full on their song entitled “Deja Vu.” I would say this band shreds in a major way in the first minute. The music was interesting. It was more punk oriented than I expected, especially with the anthemic vocal chants. The band sounds tight and definitely dips into many different genres. I have to give it up to the guitarist for absolutely slaying the guitar solo. There are some other different vocal approaches and the vocalist sounds like the lead singer from The B-52's. There’s also a spoken word section which is haunting and post-rock inspired that sounds like it could be in a movie and then goes into drone metal. Wow - this song goes into so many unexpected places.
“Morbid” gave me Joy Division type vibes at first with a side of The Cure. The vocalist sounds great on this song and I felt the vocal melodies were quite catchy. It’s a fast moving song and the energy is there. That being said it did feel like almost a completely different band from the first song.
“Wendigo” is a good one with another strong vocal performance. There’s lots of energy in this song and it reminded me of the energy I would feel when listening to TV on the Radio. “Desert Punks” felt straightforward in comparison to some of the previous songs. There are multiple vocalists here and minus Kurt Cobain this sounded like it could have a Bleach era Nirvana song.
“Vandal Hearts” combines punk energy with the revolutionary spirit of The Who and also sounds like it could be a song in the The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It's a bit of a romp. “Nuke ‘Em All” is a fun and fast punk tune. They end with “Priscilla” which was another narrative closing out the show.
The band was at their best on “Deja Vu.” This song is the most ambitious by a far margin and displays their ability to bend genres rather seamlessly. Most of the songs that followed were a little more predictable.
Overall, I really enjoyed this release. The band has a lot of energy and felt like music that deserves to be heard live. Take a listen.
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