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
Nature Girl Antecedent 3.2
Jagged Stone Jagged Stone 3.6
The Deep Vees When The Ocean Meets The Sea 3.4
A Brighter Life The Worst Kind Of Luck 3.5
Franks Wild Years Four 3.4
Space Pony Space Pony 3.1
Scoot Cooley Used To Be Good Looking 3.5
Walking Waves Walking Waves 3.9
Mitchel Violins Population Experiment 3.1
Magnetfisch - Rarotonga
Magnetfisch is an instrumental three-piece from Switzerland consisting of Timothee Barlett (synthesizers, programming), Patrick Scherrer (guitar) and Rolf Althaus (bass). Magnetfisch has been at it since 1998 and recently released Rarotonga, which is a 4-song EP that seamlessly blends electronic components and organic instruments. The EP is a fun ride of sounds that never feel too serious but at the same time never feels silly. I often felt like busting out in a little dance move as some of the music reminded me of Out Hud.
The first song “Propangasmaschinerie” starts with lo-fi sounding fuzzy synths, percussion and bass. It doesn't take long for the song to introduce more elements such as clean guitar doused in reverbs and handclaps. In some ways the music reminded me of Joy Division. The groove rides a dark wave of dance-worthy synths that sounded like distant relatives you heard on Closer.
“ADNDADN” is a percussive heavy song that combines warbly manipulated guitar and white noise. The beat is intricate sounding somewhere between Aphex Twin and Autechre. “Hoppla!” continues to play into dance-worthy dark grooves although the song has a tempo shift about half way through that may make you trip on your feet.
The album closes with “Der kleine Durchbruch,” which was the highlight of the EP. They follow the same formula but the groove is more infectious than ever. The song starts to swell as it progresses and delivers moments of nostalgia and triumph. It was a good way to end as the song delivered an emotional resonance that wasn’t as apparent on the first three songs.
Rarotonga is a rather short ride that left me wanting more. The EP goes by fast and had me yearning for a lengthier artistic statement. With that being said the EP is well crafted and delivers some solid tunes.
Soul, pop and smooth contemporary funk is exactly what THE ANSWER! is. This is the band’s first EP Prelude to THE ANSWER! that is a prelude to their upcoming full-length album release. The band hails from Croatia and has already experienced some USA and UK radio airplay with their first single release, “If I Had U,” which is a romantic ballad of seduction and is chock-full of sexual innuendos and smooth jazz vibes. You can’t help but fall into this super smooth song while listening.
The second track on the release is “Where Is Our Love,” which is a bit more slowed down and lacks the happy lovey-dovey-ness of the first track. It starts off with a downplayed jazz tempo and the vocalist repetitively asks, “where is our love,” and goes on to illustrate a sad scene; “my eyes are filled with tears, everyday they cry.” The song is truly gifted with truth and serious passion and as the song goes on the sweet piano keys and the simple percussion uplifts our souls and remind us that love is THE ANSWER! The chorus gets catchy and the super reflective “where is our love” seems to just roll of the tongue of the singer and I am intrigued to sing along and submit to the pain and heartache.
Unlike the previous track, “Get Up” has that authentic breakdown funk vibe. The instruments and effects are in collective vibrations in an attempt to “get up, get up for your love.” The lyrics show us that the song is about love but in its least ideal form; “I gave you the whole world and you asked for more… I just cannot fight you anymore." There is a nice harmonization of the vocals and as the song progresses the song gains momentum and the “love” grows.
Prelude to THE ANSWER! is a true embodiment of smooth and intriguing jazz in a relevant and contemporary form. The style of the vocalist is so rich and exudes great talent that raises the bar on each song. Sound quality is great and anyone interested in funk or jazz music will greatly enjoy this collection of well-produced fusion tracks.
St. Aria - we claim this aria
We all know that Sweden knows how to breed musicians, and St. Aria is no exception to the rule, giving us a really cool compilation of songs in their We Claim This Aria EP. As soon as I pressed play, “Running” greeted me with a beautiful piano chord punctuated by a steady drum and vocals that sound like the genius baby of punk, black metal and pop. I was half expecting a growl of some sort, especially with how grainy the vocalist’s voice is.
The next portion of the album takes a dramatic turn to the ethereal as each song becomes much softer and more delicate. I was actually really surprised by this change (but that’s why you’re not supposed to assume things) but I loved it nonetheless. One could play “Her Song,” “By your side” and “Until life parts us” to a love interest, and she would absolutely be floored. All three are incredibly sweet songs and actually fit rather well in the scheme of the album even if I didn’t expect them.
“Another Symphony” blew me away. The sweetness from the love songs remained, but there was a bit of edge and more complexity here than in the preceding songs. I especially enjoyed hearing the return of the harsh male vocals juxtaposed with the serenely sweet, almost angelic female vocals; it sounded so right for this band and for the sound they’ve created.
The surprises of the album were not done, however. “Fly away” has a definite 80’s rock feel, eschewing all the sweetness for a much rougher sound. I like how the rapped verse mixes with the sung chorus and all plays nicely over that rocking melody to combine a lot of different influences all into one really good package. I also hear some sort of ethnic sound in the background fueling the melody, though I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. This is exactly what Limp Bizkit SHOULD have done, but didn’t quite pull off, in mixing rap, rock and metal. Awesome job on this one!
With such a broad spectrum of sounds, St. Aria has done a fantastic job of creating an interesting and thoroughly intriguing album filled with surprises and great moments that will make you stop and rewind. The variety of instruments and vocals also played a large part in making this album so much fun to listen to – and of course the piano was very well played and was well deserving of its front stage position in the music. Don’t be nervous; give this a listen! It was a great time.
Dead Dawn - dead dawn
If you’re not afraid to be honest with yourself about the real depth of life, then treat your ears to Dead Dawn’s self-titled album Dead Dawn. It takes a long meandering trip through the dark and heavy, using gritty guitar melodies and haunting vocals to create an atmosphere of deep gravity. It actually took me a little time to get used to the skillful monotony of the vocals that sometimes sound like Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth (except for a few instances, they stayed in the same range) but when I got a feel for their purpose and how they added to the overall sound I came to love them. The drums throughout were consistently supportive, doing a great job of supplementing the intriguing sound without overpowering it.
The lyrics are a major focus of many of the songs, each line carefully written though mostly kept simple. It’s that simplicity that gives meaning to the words. “Dear Papi,” a very soulful epithet, is a great example of this. “Live Near You” is another good one, with the added attribute of an extremely catchy chorus that’s actually a lot of fun to hum along to.
Weaved within the fibers of this album is an intense groove, which accentuates the darkness and gives it an added touch and zest that otherwise could not be attained. Even when bombastic, the melodies rock gently and are almost cathartic, particularly for those who already enjoy intense music. Some of the songs employ a ‘smooth verse, hard chorus’ technique that really suits this band well.
Each song is even further supplemented by a healthy dose of soul. This music sounds like it was created because it needed to be created, not because it was forced or would sell records, and it really makes all the difference in the general feel.
My favorite song on the album, hands down, was “Circus Song” – it was the song that made me fall in love with Dead Dawn’s sound. It felt like it was written in the deepest of gravity, with the heaviest of cement weighing each second down, yet it still had a touch of whimsy to balance things out. I loved the harsh, hollow shrieks in the chorus as well; they were rather impressive given the sound I’d come to recognize from the vocalist, and I wouldn’t have minded hearing them elsewhere too (though they may not have made the same impact).
There is a very solid place in this world for heavy music that hits right in the center of the chest, and Dead Dawn have managed to loudly claim this space for themselves. This is more than heavy for the sake of being heavy; it’s heavy because that’s how life is, and that’s how these ladies view the world, and quite frankly I find it very easy to identify and agree with them. I hope to hear a lot more from this talented band.
Ray Allen the Band does a fantastic job of living up to their “minimalist” mantra, keeping things short, sweet and to the point with their Branches and Bones EP. Save for the rather cool water effects in the beginning of the introspective song “The Sailor,” everything is kept simple, down to the instruments used. Smooth guitar chords carry each of the four songs, while the mid-range vocals tell an interesting story.
The EP follows a bit of a bell curve. After the smooth beginning, we reach “Rockets,” a clear ascent towards the climax of the work, so to speak. This song is upbeat and super exciting to listen to, and I found my shoulders bobbing quite quickly into the song. It reaches a sort of musical plateau with “Tendrils,” which is not to mean that it got boring or petered out; rather, this song maintains a more workable pace than the song before, as the album coasts to five miles over the speed limit.
“Where It Ends” does a great job of bringing the music back down to earth, ending on a fun but noticeably toned down note. The vocal harmony sounded great and was well placed.
All throughout the album is the sense of making do with whatever was available, a sense that made this an extremely honest album to listen to. There’s nothing fancy or overdone here, which is exactly as it should be; the music doesn’t need electronic enhancement or frills. Kudos for recording it in a garage and keeping that theme without making it sound sloppy or unfinished!
Anyone looking for music at its skeletal core will really enjoy this; the authenticity speaks volumes more than the band would never need to do for themselves. Check it out!
skyward - drift
One word sticks out in my mind as I listen to Skyward’s Drift EP: confidence. It is their third work, and it shows; the sound is very well developed, each instrument is played with boldness and clarity, and they are obviously very comfortable doing what they’re doing.
The five-track EP consists of electropop seasoned rock with just the right amount of appeal to attract a large audience, yet just enough slam to get your blood pumping and your fist shaking. Though there are only a handful of tracks, there is a good deal of variance from the beginning to the end, with the EP containing both bright and flavorful songs as well as ballads and introspective melodies.
“Drift” is as good an introduction as any. The melody seems to bloom from an ever-expanding aura, taking off to glide amid crisp drums and very strong vocals. The piano adds just right amount of flavor to the whole sound. It feeds effortlessly into “Last Parade,” a soaring song with tons of energy feeding into the swift guitar chords and rapid-fire drums.
If any one song here were chosen for radio exposure, “Cold Hearts” would be that song. The vocals are highly accessible but the guitars maintain a rock feel, just the right kind of balance to entice listeners all around. Beyond the radio, I could definitely see this song reaching a more widespread audience, particularly if played at an indie rock fest (Lollapalooza, are you listening?).
There are some slower, more ballad style songs too, and “Sing It Back” stuck out most to me. It’s an almost sickeningly sweet song; it’s not quite as mellow as the one before it but still awesome nonetheless. I absolutely love the second part of the vocals in this song, with the half step progressions that very easily get stuck in the head and are a lot of fun to hum, even for someone like me with no vocal rhythm at all.
The next thing I want to hear is for these guys to break completely out of the shell they’ve so masterfully crafted for themselves, and go crazy on the instruments. Now that their signature sound has been discovered, there is so much room to grow and I think the evolution will be an amazing thing to hear. Definitely check out this EP, and while you’re at it listen to their previous works. You won’t be disappointed.
missing maddox - missing maddox
Hailing from the suburbs of Long Island, this three-man band recently reconnected after a decade to form what is now known as Missing Maddox. The reconnection brought the addition of a female bass guitarist, which the band said was “the missing piece of the puzzle.” This is the band’s first release together and they have been performing live shows as well as winning battle of the bands contests.
Missing Maddox gives its listeners a rich sound of authentic garage band rock music in their self-titled EP Missing Maddox. You really feel like you’re sitting in some floppy old sofa chair jamming out to this band and getting anxious for their next live show because you know it’s going to be so epic. The first song on the EP “Ask the Questions” has that true rough guitar edge to it and we become accustomed to the vocals, which are tough and gritty as well. The song is very melodic and has a great continuous beat to it and the chorus carries passion and depth.
The next song is a bit more intense. “Homebodies” begins with hard, in your face, guitar chords. Soon enough the chorus begins and the bridge holds everything together. The drums on this song seem to really keep the beat as all the instruments are constantly changing. This track really suffers from poor sound quality though because at times it is difficult to listen to as the guitars and vocals get drowned out by recording fuzz. The following track “Leaky Valves” has a more intimate and slower sound to it. The guitars are a bit softer and the vocalist has also changed his form to a less agitated and more peaceful vibe.
Overall, Missing Maddox has given us a good EP, full of very genuine garage rock vibes. A professionally recorded version of this album would make all the difference and greatly improve the album’s delivery. Yet, the sound and composition of the songs are very successful and Missing Maddox contributes greatly to the genre of contemporary rock sounds.
Building Brooklyn is a one-man project from New Hampshire who writes a lot of music. For his debut album he had 365 songs, which means he wrote one song a day for a year. He somehow narrowed it down to twelve songs, which made up his debut album entitled One Year. After a year he is back with his second release entitled From The Bottom of the Bay. The songs on this seven-song album are composed of just vocals and an acoustic guitar. The songwriting is very good throughout both lyrically and musically. With that being said there is no variation to the music in terms of instrumentation, which makes a straight listen difficult. The addition of piano, drums, bass or anything else would have helped with my attention span.
The artist is a talented lyricist and has a pleasant voice. He sometimes sounds like Colin Meloy from The Decemberists. This is most evident of the track on “Weather Glass.”
The album starts with “Harder to Find,” which is an upbeat folk song that displays his talent for songwriting. It has momentum and purpose as he confidently sings about sitting in traffic jams, setting up roadblocks and sirens. His lyrics are poetic metaphors and puns that stray from a narrative and instead are circular passages, which make you think. “Weathered Glass” is full of warm melancholy and revolves around guitar picking while “That Day In November” delivers an infectious vocal melody on the album.
“Waiting” was the highlight of the album but was also a bit of a head scratcher. The song starts with him saying “chill the fuck out,” which sounds out of place against the pretty guitar riff he begins to play. Once the song gets going you are treated with a great guitar progression and a fantastic vocal melody. The song is immediately enjoyable and was the one on the album I had on repeat.
From the Bottom of the Bay is a solid album with some good material that might have been better with more instrumentation. Check it out.
joe matzzie - This Box Makes Noise
New York based outfit, Joe Matzzie represents a unique incorporation of jazzy folk and rhythm into honest, melodic rock/pop. This Box Makes Noise is a musical journey that holds a diverse group of songs that showcase not only his songwriting prowess, but also an undeniable love for rock n’ roll. This album is a good mix of 10 tracks each with their own brand of rock, folk and pop under a singer/songwriter point of view a la Lou Reed. Lyrically sound and musically loose with a little bit of flare, it’s really an interesting combination. We have good rock with an alternative edge, definitely a crossover vibe going on here. This Box Makes Noise has a sound and melody that takes the listener right into the heart of the American dream, the challenge of survival, and the relationships we all encounter.
“My Imperfect Girl” reminds me a bit of Sting and Paul Simon rolled into one. On previous recordings this song had a more ska-like quality, but the horns have been removed on this project and that’s ok with me. The integrity is still there and the band makes it all look easy.
“Dies Irae” starts bringing in an ethnic quality and that’s about as far as it goes. It’s quite the diversion from the previous tracks and has a very nice authenticity to it. The Italians themselves would be up and dancing to this one. “Run To The Beach” is sunny and singsong while “Would You Be My Valentine” is like the token ballad from an emo group. You never know what’s next with Joe Matzzie, but chances are it’s a good time.
The alternative volume knob is cranked on “Guilty of Possession.” It’s like the Smashing Pumpkins and Alice in Chains with Matzzie at the mic. This one takes some getting used to and at that rate the whole album really deserves a few listens. With Matzzie it’s not about easy digestion, but long lasting nutrition from exposure. A simple two cents from me would go like this – bring it home at the end. The tracks started to wilt a little as the album aged. I wanted some stronger melodies and fuller instrumentation that exuded earlier. Other than that, it’s another home run from Mr. Matzzie. Set up your lawn chair, find some shade, and set this on repeat.
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