Prone To Jones - Prone To Jones
Prone to Jones is an alt-rock, power rock trio based out of Des Moines, Iowa. Since forming in late 2019, Bruce Day, Taylor King and Nick Sinclair have quickly created a covalent bond of rock, passion and chemistry. Hot off the release of their self-titled album Prone to Jones, these dudes are motivated to pursue their goal of world domination. Their debut was recorded, mixed and mastered at Sonic Factory Recording Studio in Des Moines, by Phillip Young using Pro Tools. The album is a culmination of songs written by Bruce Day about real-life experiences as well as fantasy. Rockers at heart, the band expresses their passion for music along with their emotional connection to each song. Kicking things off is “Lethal Weapon Infinity” a heavy, grinding guitar song with an inspirational soaring sound – a powerful rock opener. What I liked best about it was the intermission, which features acoustic, keys and a Gilmour-like guitar solo, albeit a short one.
Next up is “Castlevania” and it features a fun, brooding rhythm and playful guitar licks. Tension in the trio’s playing builds up during the song’s break and Bruce Day, who writes the songs (and I’m assuming is the singer), really belts out the words towards the end, in a Chris Cornell kind of way. Speaking of Soundgarden, “Soul Scream” has a deep and heavy sludgy feel to it, like something from the seasoned Seattle band. I really like the band’s sparse use of words during the chorus, other than “I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i YEAAAHH” which was just right for this number. Overall, a dark sounding song with a great, infectious guitar riff. “Spicy Mexican Burrito” is yes, a humorous title and to match it, a fun dancing rhythm. This one would definitely be worth seeing live – (c’mon Covid virus, let us see live music again!)
“For You” is a slower, lighter tune contrasting the previous, and it also seems to have a Latin-influenced, romantic feel to it – at least from what I could tell. Think Santana meets up with Big Head Todd and The Monsters. Moving on, “Can You Hear Me” has a style that’s one-part earthy rock with sprinklings of outlaw country/blues rock. I’d say something like The Allman Brothers (minus the piano/keys) meets Ram Jam meets Chris Stapleton and a few other artists in there, too. Great number!
“Stringer” was a curveball, I’d have to say. It’s definitely a lighter, indie pop tune with funny lyrics. I would even say the band took a page from the early days of rock n’ roll, as they throw in a style that harkens back to the ‘50s and ‘60s. They say variety is the spice of life – and this trio certainly has variety on this album. The last tune, “Stringer (edited)” says ‘edited’ but it clocks in five seconds longer than the previous version. Anyway, a fun closing tune.
Overall, I would say Prone To Jones is a tight trio that showcases many styles and influences on their debut album – one I would recommend.
Amaury K-D - Floating Bye
Breathing fresh life into what remains of the Bay Area’s DIY indie music scene is Amaury K-D, a musician from Berkeley, California, whose first full-length solo release Floating Bye came out in February of this year. K-D spent his first couple of college years writing the album’s 13 songs with a meditative, guitar-focused approach, ultimately recording and mixing them in his room using Garageband and Audiokit Synth One. As such, Floating Bye makes for a satisfyingly low-fi bedroom pop album that contains an atmospheric tenderness which captures the vacillations of the first years post-adolescence.
Floating Bye starts from a place of softness, opening with a gentle acoustic riff on “With You,” over which K-D sings, “I’d like to stay / here all day / with you,” in a mild humming tone which invites the listener into the album as he continues, “sing my song / all night long.” The earnestness contained in the opening track remains consistent throughout the album, as the tempo and sound evolves from one song to the next. “Good One,” the album’s second track is more uptempo, and the combination of synth-y swells backed with beats allows for a higher vibration of sound. The song however retains a dream-like quality, and K-D’s nonchalant delivery of repetitive lyrics calls to mind the work of Alex G. The element of shoegaze apparent in tracks such as “Cloud #9” lends a tender adolescent vibe to the album as it throws a veil over the lyrics, demonstrating that the songwriter walks the line of being conscious of the self without being necessarily self-conscious.
K-D uses this album as a space to explore a handful of sounds, apparent in tracks such as “Spaced Out” and “Jigey on Dums.” In the former, K-D throws in some pleasantly understated autotune harmonies which complement the mellow tones of the synth in the track. The latter song is more abrupt, featuring lo-fi drums and cymbals that offer a gratifying, muted crashing over indecipherably fuzzy vocals. Even as the track veers unexpectedly at the end, the listener is left with the second-hand joy of these musical oddities. In this sense, the album as a whole is reminiscent of the early self-released work of Greta Kline, not only in its willingness to experiment with tracks that create sonic juxtaposition to other elements of the release, but also the inexorable exhilaration of creating something from the most intimate of spaces -- the bedroom and the depths of identity and angst -- and then the vulnerability of making that work accessible to the world beyond. As the album wraps up, the tone is increasingly self-assured, notable in the penultimate track, “Disarray,” which employs harmonies, synths and beats, which creates a lilting sound with an easy confidence, despite the apprehension in the lyrics, “doomsday delayed.”
As someone who grew up in the Bay Area exploring its DIY indie music scene, I am pleased, even proud, to hear the new sounds and palatable tones of the talented youth of my home zone emerging into the world. I’ll be eagerly keeping my ear out for future releases from Amaury K-D.
Les Ailes - Tennessee
Les Ailes is not a person, but the musical project of Seattle born singer/songwriter Rylie DeGarmo, who wrote the songs for her debut album Tennessee while living, working and touring in the South. DeGarmo happened to serve a hamburger to producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Carson McHone) at a Nashville restaurant, and was later invited to record in McHone’s studio. DeGarmo speculates: “I’m not sure if I was the soundcheck for his vintage ribbon microphones during maintenance or if he was deliberately recording my songs, but eventually we had an album’s worth of material together.”
Recording took place at both Quad studios and later at McCarthy’s home using tape, analog gear and vintage ribbon mics with mastering by Heba Kadry. The resulting songs certainly have a nice, analog wall-of-sound feel, especially with the multiple overdubs of Juilliard graduate Christina Courtin on strings. Drummer Matt Chamberlain adds solid bottom to the acoustic guitar and vocal tracks by DeGarmo and McCarthy’s electric guitar. DeGarmo herself has a pleasing alternative or folk rock voice not unlike Tanya Donnelly or Kim Deal, and also plays Lowrey organ and ukulele. Filling out the group are Britt Daniel (vocals), Michael LaValle and Charles Spearin (bass) and Gabriel Cabazas (cello).
“Cavaliers” starts off in a somber mood with very deep drum beats and low-tuned guitars, over which DeGarmo’s sweet, high vocals sit comfortably. In our digital world, hearing music recorded to tape takes a little adjustment, as the bottom tends to be more prominent without that crystalline yet somewhat unnatural digital sheen. Once I became aware of this I was more than happy to take the ride.
“Lately” features an unusual ukulele and strings combination. DeGarmo’s vocals create heart-aching overdubbed harmonies that feel quite natural, as if you’re in the room with her. “Run” like the other songs on this album builds an interesting percussive track from drums along with what sound like glasses, bells, Indian drums or table tops. On this track McCarthy plugs in his fuzz guitar and accompanies DeGarmo with squonky abandon. This song in particular has a Kate Bush level of experimentation, which I love.
“Another One” allows DeGarmo’s vocals to again explore their “sweet spot” while still filling all the nooks and crannies with percussive sounds and tricks; Chamberlain’s drum kit especially sounds big and deep. “Full On” is a touching ode to a broken relationship in which the narrator appears to have the upper hand with yet another solid and interesting beat. DeGarmo’s vocals here reminded me of somebody, and I finally thought of Rickie Lee Jones, who I’ve always revered.
“Forever, For Good” features a string-heavy wall of sound and feels like a more traditional pop tune, if slightly overloaded. For this one DeGarmo’s voice is somewhat shoehorned alongside all the other instruments, but her duet with Britt Daniel brings the tune alive for me. “Paper Wings” is the somewhat pensive conclusion with plenty of “air” for DeGarmo to spread her gorgeous pipes, though the electric guitar is a tad overdriven for my taste.
I don’t know how much credence to put in the Les Ailes Origin Story (that’s a LOT of ribbon mic testing!) but as a debut album this blew me away, and I can’t wait to see where DeGarmo goes from here.
Alexandra Rose - Alexandra Rose
Alexandra Rose is a UK artist who is embarking on her own solo material for the first time. She also plays lead guitarist for alt rock band Honey. Using her time under lockdown wisely, Rose decided to pursue her own solo project. Able to explore her passion for many different music genres freely, has opened up her creativity and inspirations. With plans to write and record new material later this year and to perform live when the opportunity arises, the horizon is rife with new possibilities for the artist. Rose’s debut self-titled EP Alexander Rose EP encompasses her “great passion for all types of ‘60s psychedelia from its early stirrings in folk rock through French pop and culminating in electronically advanced psych.” Rose is a songstress whose passion for ‘60s culture makes for a very stimulating sensory experience on her newest EP.
Alexandra Rose EP starts off with “In The Garden,” where keys, beats and guitars make for a swirl of psychedelic sounds. The music has a very retro-styled vibe, recalling a ‘60s era sound. The sounds of keys and Eastern instrumentation created a psych-filled revelry. The energized percussions in the backdrop added a lively vibe. Filled with tons of colors and flavors, this was a great introduction. What sounds like the sitar gives a very Eastern flair to the overall sounds. On “If I Were A Rose,” more warm tones fill the sounds on this track. The combined vocal harmonies provide a dynamic vibe. I loved the energy of this song. The driven sounds of the guitar feel very welcoming. The percussions that highlights this track dive into a lively approach. Her sound was really reminiscent of The Beatles here.
On “Happy Accident,” electronic riffs made for a dissonant carnivalesque vibe. As her soft vocals enter, Rose creates a semi-tranquil vibe. Jangly guitars make for an energized entrance on the start of “Apres Jeudi.” Entirely sung in French, Rose shouts out her vocals in a happening punk rock vibe. I loved the jaunty energy of this song. This felt like a great, fun-loving anthem to rock out to. The guitar solos were stellar.
With musical interests and influences that include The Byrds, Jacques Dutronc, Love, The Great Society, The Beatles and more contemporary leanings such as Babe Rainbow, King Gizzard and Stonefield, the EP is a varied mix of all of Rose’s inspirations and influences. Feeling very much a part of the counterculture of the ‘60s, this EP revives a past archive in the annals of rock history, keeping the grooves and riffs of another era well and alive in the present while also keeping true to Rose’s spirit and personality in the music. This is music that will make you nostalgic for classic rock while also keeping contemporary fans delighted. Be sure you give this a spin!
Obscenery - Wired to Fail
Obscenery is a three-piece alt rock band from Victoria, British Columbia, founded in 2019 by Harrison Breeze (bass), Dan Borowiecki and Andrew Brown. The members of the group have a wide spectrum of musical tastes; everything from classical to heavy metal, jazz to punk, blues and progressive. As a result, their writing contains fusion elements from a wide variety of genres brought together in an undeniably catchy fashion. Their sophomore release Wired to Fail follows up last year’s album, Dedicated Cat Vacuum. Their first producer, Jon Epworth, was unavailable due to the pandemic, so Harrison took the reins this time around with mixing and mastering. The trio recorded the album live with overdubs, for that old-school raw rock sound, instead of using click tracks with each song which they did on their debut. They also rented a much larger room and took the time to write songs and make demos, spending the spring rehearsing once Covid restrictions in their area were lifted. They then moved on to recording in the summer. The album itself is a silly loose-concept sci-fi album taking place in the mid-20th century. They story tells of a group of fictional scientists who invent a radio which can pull signals from the future, but the device eventually becomes self-aware and turns homicidal. They used this idea as an opportunity to dabble in whichever style they wanted, which allowed the trio to experiment with different sounds and to pay tribute to the styles that inspire them.
The first track “Swing Around” starts off with a short introduction of “sci-fi speak” and then a raucous, live sound from something like the band that playedThe Munsters TV show theme song, pairing up with the Cramps, Franz Ferdinand and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. “One Day” slips further into the sci-fi wormhole with hints of a post-grunge/post-punk rock vibe. If there were tons more fuzz on the guitar, this song would kind of remind me of Filter’s “Nice Shot Man.” The second part to the song had a nice dynamic twist, which contrasted nicely with the overall flow. “Goodbye” lays down some more distorted, fuzzy noise in the beginning and a softer, acoustic rhythm. The trio’s live sound really comes through here, and it sounds fantastic, especially on the drums! Also, there was something about this one that reminded me of very early Bowie, where he would incorporate his Dylan acoustic influence with early fuzz guitar glam a la Ziggy Stardust. Overall, I liked this song’s melody and progression.
“Fragments” blew me away – as the trio sounds uncannily like the Beatles on records such as Rubber Soul or Revolver. The rhythm, the guitar (just a bit heavier) and vocal harmonies were all there. “Time Will Follow Through” carries on the spacey, radio signals narrative with a female saying some words, and also the Beatles-like sound – “Happiness is a Warm Gun” comes to mind (at least in the song’s beginning). There is also some definite ‘90s vibe in here, encased in the album’s conceptual narrative. The guitar solo was great as well. “Away” is quirky, tense and loud. Parts of it reminded me of Weezer, but much more in a garage rock, less poppy kind of way. Loved the tambourine and catchy guitar chords, too. “Out of the Blues” sounds very much like a traditional blues song with one of the familiar blues chord progressions as its base, but here, the trio also mixes in an alt-rock style – quite seamlessly in fact. The band truly sound like naturals here.
“WDYK” (short for “What Do You Know”) beings with more radio signals and then picks up with a super-fast punk beat – that if you’re listening, would be hard not to bob your head back and forth, or at least tap your feet to. This song was insane, and I loved every minute of it! The psychedelic waves and random distorted words bleed into “Wired to Fail” – a flowing, rumbling, drum-driven song with a light, guitar melody. Seems like here another one of the members takes lead on the vocals in this artsy – progressive/indie rock tune. The band’s concept story reaches full circle as the fictious radio goes completely mad, turning deadly on its creators. I’d have to say this last track was probably Obscenery’s most entertaining and complex, the album’s “magnum opus” if you will. And the ending was perfect, as you hear the radio reaching an explosive endpoint, dying out with undecipherable garbled words. I would love to hear this album on vinyl for two reasons – the band recorded it live, and as a purest, digital tracks just don’t do concept albums any justice. It was clear that most of the band’s songs bled into each other and from my understanding, only analog formats can do that without error. Meh, it’s probably just me being an old codger – enjoy the album.
Kansas City, Kansas, singer/songwriter Rob Rice has just released his debut EP titled and the Devil’s Threesome. What makes this collection unique is that Rice used 12 of his Kansas City brethren on these six tracks, parceled out two for each song. He’s planned this project carefully: the resulting sound is so consistent you’d never guess he’d taken this approach, but the players are stellar and the whole package works beautifully. He went so far as to take color-tinted portraits of each contributor to introduce them on his Instagram page.
Rice says his songs encompass “barn-burning ballads to soothing serenades, all of which contain notes of love, loss and lust whilst learning to live with oneself through it all.” He jokingly adds that his music is “…so sultry and amorous it eradicates any ailment currently cramping your youthful, sensuous soul.” Thing is, he’s not far from the truth; but he’s not exactly joking either, as his Instagram posts do not suffer from false modesty.
Rice’s pleasant, relaxed singing and playing appears to flow naturally from deep inside, without a hint of sweat or strain. Rice says that fans of Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird and Damien Rice might enjoy his music, and to that I would add the Fleet Foxes, to whom his voice and compositions have some similarity. At one point I had his album opened on both Spotify and Soundcloud and accidentally played the same song against itself, delayed by about a minute. It took me a little while to realize what was happening because his vocals perfectly complemented each other, even out of sync and with different chords. Given the stellar sound of this project, it’s amazing to discover that it was recorded in Rice’s home using Logic Pro X and minimal recording gear, though some contributors added their parts remotely. Mastering was by J. Ashley Miller.
“Tiny Window” is the opening track and the first single, and literally glides in on Calvin Arsenia’s harp glissando. This gentle, folky tune is an unlikely love song to Rice’s basement, which became an essential creative space during the pandemic for many of us. Rice says “tiny window” refers to his “learning to appreciate the only natural light source in a cold, cathartic basement.” His lyrics are sweet and evocative of both his basement and the love for his seeming ex-partner. “And how am I supposed to forgot what all went on? / How we turned the basement from a dungeon to our home? / How you practiced dance moves in the mirror in the bathroom / How you’d blast the heater to rid us of the cold.” Ezgi Karakus adds a wonderfully droning cello, and both he and the harpist take a short duet as the song ends.
On “There’s A Devil Inside Me” Rice gets background vocal assistance from Rachel Feeley and Landon Hambright (who also plays standup bass). This song in particular put me in mind of the Fleets, both for the vocals and the subject matter: the ego voices that take hostage of your head after losing a loved one. “There’s a devil inside me / And I just want him to go away / but I fear he’s here to stay.” Short and bittersweet. “Thinking Of Another” features Teri Quinn (clarinet/vocals) and Stephen Roper (drums) for a Micheal Franks-like smooth jazz tune about sleeping naked with a near-stranger. Rice’s lyrics are so good I could quote them all, but then I’d never finish this review! Fun twist ending, too.
Not veering too far thematically, “Serial Lover” explores the nuances between long-term and fleeting relationships. The guests here are Robert Castillo (upright bass) and violinist Coleen Dieker, whose gorgeous playing and lovely signing fully completes this tune. “Down The Road” possibly continues the dialogue with the woman in the tiny window, “discussing the desire to stay together, despite the redundancy of departures in the past.” Mark Lowrey adds nimble piano for a showtune-like sheen, along with the sweet layered vocals of Miki P.
The final song “Swipe Right” brings us full circle to a relationship started with a dating app, featuring the final two guests Clint Ashlock (trumpet) and Eva Louise Hall (vocals). This may be the only song that I felt sounded a bit shrill, but Rice has earned enough goodwill to get a pass.
This collection of songs is so good, and Rice and his guests so skilled, that I can’t imagine anybody not enjoying and the Devil’s Threesome like I did. The songwriting and performing talent on display here can’t be faked.
Connecticut’s Big Fang has returned with their second release, the EP Everything & Nothing at Once, Part 1. We at Divide and Conquer reviewed their debt EP, Human Distance.
Remember how you used to get a new LP and you’d read the liner notes and the credits to try and detect any internal band drama? Did they change producers? Why did they bring in to play “additional” instruments that they already had in the band? Who’s writing the songs? Well, LP sleuths, Big Fang provides some fodder. Just three members return from their previous release: Tony Mascolo (guitar, vocals), Chris Otero (bass) and Jacob Doherty (drums). Melody Celle (credited for lyrics only on Human Distance) gets one writing credit, and three turns at the microphone. Producer Sam Carlson adds some “additional guitar.” Also carried over from the previous release is one song “Emergency.” What is going on with BIg Fang? I can’t wait to find out!
Five tracks are new, starting with “Take” and “Waiting.” They’re both uptempo, pop-punk tracks with nice washes of guitars and catchy choruses. Celle’s vocals feature prominently in “Take” (is she in the band? Inquiring note-readers want to know!), and Big Fang is off to a good start.
“Mondays” keeps up the fast tempo and jangly punk guitars with very cool string parts from Laura Klein and Jesse Newman (are they in the band too?) augmenting the sound. There’s a really nice build into the end, reminiscent of a classic Moody Blues track, where the band layers in lots of vocal, guitar and string counterpoints off the main melody. The somewhat ironic lyric brought a smile (“people in love say Mondays are wonderful”). This is the creative peak on the EP with the band exploring its full range.
After that, the “Emergency” retread is a bit of a let-down, which is more due to its album sequencing than the actual performance. This hooky cut (with R.E.M.-like vocal harmonies on the chorus) doesn’t seem terribly different from the version on Human Distance--it works, but it’s more remix than reimagination. “Fading Phase” is another uptempo, pop-punk track in the same vein as “Take,” “Waiting” and “Emergency,” although Celle’s backing vocals save “Fading Phase.” With all of these tracks using the same guitar tones and rhythmic patterns, I was left wanting a riff, or maybe a change of tempo.
“Same Old Song” delivers on that need. There’s a riff under the Cars-like verse; Big Fang updates Ric Ocasek by going nicely chromatic on the chorus. The EP finishes with a nice big splash of layered vocal harmonies.
This album is well-executed, but would have worked better as a four-track EP. A run of “Same Old Song,”“Take,” “Fading Phase” and “Mondays” would be a tight, interesting set. “Emergency” didn’t add anything new, and “Waiting” could be part of volume two, which we eagerly await.
Bigots - Bigots Under My Bed
Bigots is an indie pop duo composed of Israeli-Australian twins Itamar and Daniel Livne. They have played together since the age of nine. Bigots Under My Bed is their most recent release.
The band are somewhere between atmospheric folk and rock. This was an album that reminded me of AIr, Belle and Sebastian, and other indie acts that were fairly popular a number of decades ago. That’s a big compliment because I love those bands. There’s also a bit of a vibe that feels like The Beatles but more Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band type era.
The first song is called “He’s a Philistine'' and immediately it sort of feels like you’re rocketing off into the space. It’s not too far from “Space Oddity” by David Bowie mixed with the more contemporary vibe from Air. It’s catchy, cosmic and somehow doesn't feel too grand or pretentious.
“Bad News from Delacroix'' is still atmospheric and alien sounding but also quite playful and warm. Crystallized synths are juxtaposed against guitar and very well executed vocals. The chorus absolutely pops as well and is infectious. I thought the use of slight dissonance worked very well in the song
Next up is “Spicy With a Dash of Salt'' which starts with a vibe that feels a bit like the tango. As it unfolds it becomes another extremely catchy song but the use of instrumentation is experimental enough to make it feel novel.
“Movies (Scene After a Scene)” is a synth heavy song and another tune that is infectious while “Elbows” and “Silence” continue to form a strong foundation for the duo. Last up is “Closing Remarks” which melds some white noise, guitar and drums with a sweet sort of ballad.
I loved this album. Every song is fun and interesting. It’s accessible yet still feels novel and experimental at times. Two thumbs up here.
I’m not sure where to start with the band Electric Peace. The band released a four-song EP entitled You’re Going to Hell. They seem pretty confident about this fact so that’s fine with me. They sound like a couple different bands, so let’s get into it.
They get going with “You’re Going to Hell” and it sounds a bit like a rock opera. It’s also live and lo-fi sounding. The music sort of has this generic rock quality and the singer sounds like a Jim Morrison impersonator mixed with some influence from Danzig. These qualities go together and it ends up feeling like an absurd yet comedic song. I’m not entirely sure of the intent but it was definitely on the line for me between comedy and drama.
“Dinah Might” is a much better recording. They sound like a mix between surf and post-punk but also sort of absurd and psychedelic. I won’t deny the band crushes it at points. There were a number of great grooves and the vocalist gives an over the top type of performance which works just fine. Next up is “Stranded in Love'' and has a unique mix of tones and textures. It’s sort of mystical with a lot of pads but also contains some spaghetti western. The song is catchy and weird in great ways.
Last up is “Tell Me You Hate Me” and is probably the catchiest song yet. It’s over the top and a romp. The music was a little more straightforward but still had some cool grooves and dreamy sequence.
My only critique was the recording quality. I would have loved to hear these songs with a little more fidelity.
I think this band was having fun with the themes sort of like how Jack Black does. It felt theatrical and silly at times but not in a bad way. As I mentioned they sort of dance on that line which is what I think a lot of rock does. Take a listen.
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
Hafsol Fly-by Spring 3.7
Glenmary's Ghost Glenmary's Ghost 3.6
Messiah Hektor 3.4
White Glass White Glass 3.6
Taylor Roberds Waiting Through
The Weather 3.7
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