According to the website from the artist, “Primate on a Planet is a reminder of who... what we are and where we are. We are a species of animal on a planet, a closed ecological system, spinning through an unimaginably vast, cold space. Our home is precious and we should protect it. Life is beautiful and rare and should be respected. People should be allowed to be themselves, as long as they aren't hurting others. Other animals and plants should be allowed to live and play their part in the system as much as possible. We shouldn't deplete our resources or pollute our environment. The system should not be allowed to break down.”
The artist recently released a five-song eponymous EP Primate on a Planet. Up first is “Disconnect” and a couple of things about this song reminded me of NIN. It’s a dynamic song combining synths, guitars, bass, drums and more. I enjoyed the vocals right off the bat which did sound a bit like Trent Reznor when he goes for the intimate and slightly sinister inflection on this verse. The hook is strong and catchy. Overall, it’s a solid opener.
Next in line is "Air Zen," a delightfully unconventional and experimental tune infused with a distinctive funkiness. The guitar patterns truly caught my attention with their originality, providing a refreshing and captivating experience. Additionally, the bongos added a pleasing touch, gradually building a groove reminiscent of the infectious rhythms that resonate with LCD Soundsystem's style. Overall, this song was a unique gem that left me thoroughly impressed and thoroughly entertained.
Undoubtedly, the standout track is "Gun (Welcome to Johannesburg)," a mesmerizing composition enveloped in darkness and filled with captivating drones. What truly captured my admiration was the exceptional sound design, complemented by the hauntingly beautiful saxophone melodies. The juxtaposition between the two elements created a profoundly distinctive and compelling sonic experience. This song truly stood out as a testament to the artist's innovative approach and left a lasting impression on me.
"Super Stressed Out Man" exudes an ethereal quality, enhanced by its captivating spoken-word-like delivery. This alluring track amalgamates various original elements, resulting in an irresistible composition. The relatable lyrics strike a chord, as they encapsulate the universal experience of feeling overwhelmed, a sentiment shared by individuals at different junctures in life. This song truly resonates and serves as a reminder that such emotions are part of the human condition.
“To Be” is the closing song and my favorite groove on the album. The bass work is slick and I loved the vocal melodies as well. It’s smooth and builds with an undeniable energy as it progresses.
I really enjoyed this album from beginning to end. The songs felt fresh and novel. I look forward to hearing more in the not too distant future.
Troublemaker - Waco
Having withstood the test of time, Troublemaker consisting of Kat James (guitar/vocals), Robert Hampton (guitar/vocals), Mel Gilmore (drums/vocals) and Tony Hiebel (bass/vocals) has established itself as a veteran presence since its inception in 1982. This enduring rock band holds the title of being the longest-running group of its kind in the state of Texas.
The band released a song called “Waco” which hits with a classic rock type flavor that feels like an anthem. They mention “Waco is a pop/rock song and was influenced by all of the issues and media coverage in the Waco area.” To my ears this is a rock ballad. It feels like a lot of the influence came from the late ’80s and early ’90s.
The song starts with some cymbals and guitar but quickly the whole band enters into the mix. It sounds huge. The lead guitar soars and grabs your attention. They settle in the verse which is lush and fairly calming but you can feel a storm brewing. The guitar comes in again with distortion and James hits a higher octave. I loved the builds as well the anthemic chorus which soars higher and higher.
They get back to the verse under the two-minute mark and the song progresses with energy. The band more or less repeats the other parts but there's a wonderful breakdown around the three-minute mark. I thought the drumming was solid and the breakdown provided some space for the vocals. This leads to a killer guitar solo. The technical and creative skills were next level. They hit the chorus once more and end with an intimate and melancholy feeling.
This is a great tune and a unique subject. The melodies were memorable and felt like an anthem that people would sing along with in an arena. I became a fan of this band after listening to this song and hope they release something new in the not too distant future.
Stevie-Lee Belfield, based in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England released an album entitled So Long, Big Red. It’s not an easy album to find but I was able to listen to a number of songs from it. The artist makes rock based with a classic and timeless sensibility to it.
The album begins with “Hit The Nail On The Head” which is a bluesy but hard hitting rock song. I will admit The White Stripes came to mind between the minimalism and infringed, raw approach to the song. It’s catchy, dynamic and I really enjoyed the vocals as well. “Don’t Ask” sounded like a song that would have been popular in the late ’50s but with a little more grit. It has that very pop quality that a lot of songs had. In particular the vocals felt very pop oriented.
Radiating a cozy vibe, "Coralee" exudes an Americana essence reminiscent of Neil Young's spirit. The song embraces a straightforward structure, centered around resonant jangly guitar chords. However, what truly stood out was the vocal performance, capturing me with its heartfelt delivery. The poignant lyrics and memorable melodies lingered in my mind long after the song had ended, making it a solid tune. "Coralee" skillfully blends elements of Americana, showcasing the artist's musical prowess and leaving a lasting impression of warmth and musical artistry.
“She's The One” is a ballad. It’s reflective and nostalgic. This song had more of a ’90s flavor to my ears. The vocals soar at points although the song does feel very lo-fi and the drums felt a bit loose at times.
"Clean Toilet Blues" is a lively and upbeat track that stands out with its infectious groove. The vocals are delivered with skill and add to the overall appeal of the song. There are subtle hints of the late ‘60s era, reminiscent of bands like The Doors. The song's energetic nature and captivating rhythm make it a standout, showcasing the artist's ability to infuse charm into their music. "Clean Toilet Blues" is an enjoyable track that leaves you wanting more.
With its warm and nostalgic aura, "Lovely Thing To Say" carries the essence of an album closer. The song's pleasant melodies evoke a sense of fondness, creating a fitting conclusion. Additionally, the clear mix enhances the listening experience, allowing each element to shine harmoniously.
I really enjoyed these songs. Although I would have liked to have heard some more fidelity, I thought the talent of the artist shined. Recommended.
The Gentle Orchestra - SYNONYMITY
After hearing so much music in saturated sub-genres of rock, it's always refreshing to hear a band that's daring enough to try something different. The Gentle Orchestra combines so many different musical influences on their latest album, SYNONYMITY, and I'm here for it. Nothing is ever entirely new, but creating an original piece of music is about taking bits and pieces of many wonderful genres to craft something utterly unique. And on "Slow Down,” the intro to SYNONYMITY, The Gentle Orchestra delivers exactly that. There's nothing gentle about this orchestra in any way, shape, or form on the opening track. Ferociously-strummed, clean, electric guitar bursts into the mix, quickly joined by energetic brass instrumentation. I love brass instrumentation in rock music. The trumpets complement the guitars perfectly throughout the fast-paced, high-energy track. And the vocals from De Montrond fit the rhythm brilliantly too. "Why? / Oh, why? / Why-y-y-y-y?" I can't get that out of my head. De Montrond does such a superb job of timing his staccato, catchy, vocal melody with the rhythm of Antoine Arvizu's punchy beat, Bart Broadnax's funky bass and brass instruments. This is an electrifying intro.
And then "So Long Ago" completely changes the pace, demonstrating that The Gentle Orchestra can actually live up to their name. I love both styles. Raw and powerful. Slow and gentle. But "So Long Ago" absolutely blew my socks off. It is a gorgeous ballad. Such a touching acoustic guitar melody, measured beat and heartfelt, broken vocals. A ballad is a very hard thing to write. It's about more than cobbling together a few pleasing chords and a vocal hook. It's about the emotion that De Montrond evokes, and there's no doubt that he feels every single word. Again, The Gentle Orchestra offers mesmerizing brass instrumentation, but the tone is entirely different. Not raucous trumpets, as heard in the opener, but tender, melancholic, saxophone solos that wonderfully gel with the acoustic guitar. Another fantastic track.
"Karen is.” What a tune. Another slow, tender, acoustic effort, but less of a melancholic ballad, and more of a soothing, introspective piece. There's something ethereal and dreamy about the choruses -- I really find myself floating away on the elongated notes that De Montrond sings. "Breathe" is another tender, reflective song that demonstrates the band's gentler qualities. I love the string instrumentation on this beautifully heart-breaking track. The choruses are so cathartically climactic, which is thanks to both De Montrond's powerful singing and the cacophony of instrumentation. There's a real vulnerability to this penultimate track, and it leads perfectly into the album's closer. "Home Alone" is an uplifting ballad that felt reminiscent of classic singers such as Cat Stevens and Bowie. The powerful vocals, the slow beat and the incredibly catchy piano progression. It's the perfect outro to an intriguing album of numerous styles.
SYNONYMITY is an album that isn't really synonymous with anything I've ever heard. I really wish the best for The Gentle Orchestra because I think this is a very talented band that deserves every success.
Become A Fan
Great American Racer marks the latest venture of Jake Dryzal, a singer/songwriter hailing from Johnstown, PA. Dryzal is widely recognized for his musical contributions under the moniker Blue Navy within the realm of ambient pop. Collaborating with him is Autumn Obusek, a skilled drummer who formerly lent her talents to the Pittsburgh-based emo ensemble Al Coda. Although the inception of Great American Racer dates back to 2018, it was only recently unveiled to the public in 2023.
Dryzal's musical expressions evoke the essence of '70s folk rock, the heartfelt resonance of Bruce Springsteen's heartland rock and the ethereal allure of contemporary dream pop. The eponymous album Great American Racer delves into the harrowing subject of the heroin and opioid epidemic, a longstanding crisis that has plagued Rust Belt America for decades. It specifically sheds light on Dryzal's hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a place deeply scarred by three catastrophic floods and a profound economic downturn. Through poignant lyrics, the record skillfully draws parallels between the erosion of local industries in Johnstown and the community's enduring battle with substance abuse.
The album opens with “Desire” which is indicative of the type of ambient pop sound you can expect from the other songs. I would say the song primarily pulls on a sense of nostalgia and melancholy. It’s a solid opener and if you like this song I believe you will enjoy the entire album.
“From the River, Pt. II” is an inventive soundscape. There’s bright music that shines as a new report on substance abuse. It works and brings you into the conceptual framework. “If Only” continues to reflect on nostalgia and melancholy but on this song I definitely was feeling a sense of hope as well. Dryzal sings “If only I could make another daydream / Of you and I together in harmony / Then maybe we could start anew and bloom here.”
“Porches” is stripped back but also surrounded in so much hall reverb it sounds like he’s playing in a cave or a cathedral. “Isn't Bright…” is a song that encompassed the general feel of the entire album. I liked it quite a bit and felt like it was one of the strongest songs.
As the album progressed I thought there were a number of highlights. “Sunrise and Mellow” is a rocking song with an anthemic chorus while “From the River” feels pensive and has some exceptional guitar work. The last “For November” was gorgeous and hits a nice balance between sadness and beauty.
One thing Dryzal did exceptionally well was create a seamless listening experience. The atmospheric qualities make it feel singular as well. This is an emotionally resonant album that I think a lot of people will relate to. Recommended.
Bill Owens - Shady Shadows
Shady Shadows is the latest album by Bill Owens of Tucson, Arizona, who records under the band names Blunt Objects and DID NOT!
Owens states that his young world was rocked by The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, when he was shocked to realize that “my musical horizons were not limited to the popular artists favored by my parents.” He calls his own music “vibrant multi genre” and has many influences, starting with the British Invasion bands and moving toward the iconic American groups (Velvets, Beach Boys, Doors, Love) before getting a dose of ’70s glam rock via Bowie, Iggy, Roxy Music, Mott, etc. The ’90s and beyond saw detours into Arcade Fire along with Stephen Merritt and Magnetic Fields.
Owens further describes his sound as being built from elements he values: “melody, harmony, dissonance, noise; whimsy, fun, informality, slightly out of tune, slightly off-rhythm and an abiding love for the music of sound. My writing these days is based more on self-reflection, aging and observing the current state of things.” This collection was mixed and mastered by Jim Waters at Waterworks West Studio in Tucson.
The very first sound we hear on the album is an eerie distant train horn, which always warms my heart. “My Best Friend” blasts in suddenly, and it’s one of those songs with more beats than musical notes. Like a glam musical box created by overdriven robots, Owen creates a jumpy, percolating background for his laconic, matter-of-fact vocals in the Thomas Dolby or Gary Numan tradition. What’s really interesting is that I can imagine taking the vocals here and laying them against folky acoustic guitars and they’d work in either idiom just fine. I love the subtle Beatles callout in the line “I took a sad song today, tried to make it better / But things don't always work that way.” The song’s idea that you could once have a best friend and can’t remember their name is very funny but weirdly moving. The middle section has something like a harpsichord break, though the tonalities are so thick it’s hard to tell.
“I’m Going to Hell” fades in with another cyclical arrangement for all manner of synths and beats. Based on the idea of “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” Owens has a lot of fun with the old saw about selling your soul to Satan: “There was so much I intended that just never came to pass / When logic and reason failed me / The devil, himself, stood ready to lend a hand.” Musically I can hear traces of German oompah music, strange though that sounds! A shorter track but lots of fun.
“Uphill Climb” has a bit of a sharper tonality, while retaining those propulsive steam engine beats (hey, remember the train at the beginning?). Here’s another song that, with a different arrangement, could easily be a folk rock hit from the late ’70s, maybe sung by Neil Diamond, though Owens sounds more like froggy Paul Williams here. The analog synth riffs are thrilling to hear for this retro-futuristic fan. “Picturesque Decay” is the first track that reminded me of David Bowie, in his Berlin phase: Fripp style electric guitar, Eno-like beats and synths and finally an understated Bowie-esque vocal. I noticed that at its core, this song is very close to pop, despite being delivered by otherworldly sounds and extraordinarily busy beats.
For “Time” (the same title as a Bowie song!) Owens brings his vocals right up front, the better to deliver his sobering message about the passage of time: “I’m not waiting anymore / I’ve had so much time / And now there’s none to waste.” The backing track is built on what sounds like a drum roll loop with jangly minor-key guitar riffs and mournful keyboards. On “She’s Going Away” Owens dares to tackle a fairly straightforward rock beat. To flog a dead horse: if you removed some of the spacey ornamentation, this song ain’t that far from the Fabs on Sullivan! The thick wall of angelic vocals recall 10cc. Continuing the Fabs theme, “Where Do You Go?” owes a little something to the psychedelic, Magical Mystery Beatles (as many of Owens’ favorite groups do). The drum loops and machines are a bit more stark in the mix, which is an interesting change for the Blunt Objects sound. In fact he continues this style for the finale “Falling Apart,” where the different elements are mostly given their own space within the stereo field. Though Owens has nowhere near a Phil Collins falsetto, this track and a couple others do remind me of early Genesis right after Gabriel left. In an alternate universe this song is the closest to a hit single, a very distant cousin to “Follow You Follow Me.”
If you’re looking for electronic music that feels familiar while also containing many surprises along the way, Shady Shadows will not disappoint!
On May 24th, 2023, Kevin Zarnett will release his newest single called "Letting You Break My Heart." The record's musical foundation blends The Byrds with Motown, combining a jangly 12-string electric guitar with an upbeat and lively backbeat. The heartwarming harmonies, background vocals and unique guitar riffs reflect decades of pop rock underdogs like Big Star, The Raspberries, and Marshall Crenshaw. The recording is filled with delightful ear candy moments throughout without feeling cluttered, all delivered at the right moments.
According to Zarnett the chorus for the song came to him out of the blue, complete with the lyrics "I thought there was a limit / And you were bound to hit it / But I go on and on letting you break my heart." However, it took him several years to complete the song. Kevin shared, "I wasn't sure how to proceed. Every year, the chorus would resurface in my mind, and I would try to decipher its meaning." The original chords for the chorus came from the fun idea of descending the bass note chromatically while changing chords. Starting the verse with a minor chord finally gave Zarnett some direction, and discovering something different for the fourth chord of the verse gave him the push needed to finish the song.
The song starts with some beautiful sounding guitar and bass which is quickly followed by bass and drums. Everything sounds silky smooth and Zarnett’s voice is fantastic here. The groove is well done and I was definitely picking up on the sound of The Byrds but done in his own style. It’s also a catchy tune with some inventive production techniques. For instance, the vocal harmonies around the two-minute mark sound quite heavenly. The song reaches its peak towards the end with repeating melodies that crescendo. There’s a well done guitar solo which was a good way to close things out.
This song felt familiar but novel at the same time. I picked up on a number of genres here but Zarnett does enjoy revitalizing the genres with a contemporary energy and approach. There’s a lot to appreciate here.
The 3148s (thirty-one, forty-eights) is an indie rock band that consists of Ian Coote (songwriter/vocals/guitars/key/mandocello/etc.), Jason Seifert (bass), Greg Jones (songwriter/guitar/vocals) and Tom Jones (drummer). They make the sort of music that feels like a mixture of punk, grunge, garage and blues. The sounds are exciting, with the male lead vocalist shouting out the lyrics with absolute gusto and the revved music in the background.
For the most part, the band is made up of a group of friends who work as trial lawyers as a day job. The band name comes from a section of the Michigan auto insurance law, Section 3148, that happens to describe the band very well, as being “so excessive as to have no reasonable foundation.” And I have to tell you that The 3148s definitely have an “excessive” sound that spills out in every corner to give you something you’ll be remembering for a long time.
Their latest single is “Fire At The Meeting House” and right out of the gates, you get the band’s over-the-top sound. A wall of wailing guitars howls deep into the night as sirens swoop in. Once the male lead’s vocals come in, you’re already hit with a blast of music and you’ll definitely never be the same again.
From beginning to end, this had some high-tail energy and the enthusiasm of the band was great! I couldn’t get enough of their great energy and can’t wait to see what more good things they have in store for listeners next!
Frank Marsilio - Distractions
Frank Marsilio is an indie singer/songwriter who takes influence from ‘80s and ‘90s music, namely pop and rock radio from around that time. His debut single, titled “Asteroid,” was released in March 2021. He released another song, “I Hope You Know,” which Marsilio describes as an acoustic ballad, back in July of that same year. While both were very good songs, he has another high-quality song waiting in the wings. “Distractions,” his latest single, is both fun and sincere in its instantly admirable approach.
Beginning with the bouncy piano riff that stays constant throughout much of the song, “Distractions” toys with several ‘90s music tropes, more specifically those of house and alternative dance, while still primarily being a pop song. It’s got the bright piano melody, the backing diva vocals, the funky bass and even lots of brass. Marsilio’s vocal timbre and delivery sounds intentionally whimsical over the intoxicating combination of tambourine and drum machine. Those who are fans of acts like EMF and Jesus Jones will find a lot to love here.
A notable triumph of “Distractions” is its lyricism. Obviously, the song is about distractions, but a deeper look reveals the universality of such a subject. “Well, I’ve got so many distractions that it’s starting to feel natural to me,” Marsilio sings, a highly personal statement made even more ominous once it’s followed by “And I don’t know what the next one’s going to be” at the end. Indeed, the lyrics are a huge factor behind this single’s “replay value,” but I feel like what is interesting about this song is that there isn’t so much a chorus as there is a refrain. Mainly, the verses do most of the heavy lifting.
Even if someone looks at the lyrics to this and thinks, “this is about something more serious, like ADHD,” I see tons of potential for this to be licensed for an animated kids’ movie (or TV show). It’s a very charming, catchy song. I’m glad that Marsilio is putting this out as his third single. Highly recommended.
Become A Fan
Big Man - Big Man
Big Man is Lee Jackson and Ralph Platt who originally came together decades ago to form the punk band (chaos) when they were in their teens. Since then, they have stayed in touch and Big Man is the result of their long friendship and musical bond over time. They are releasing their self-titled album Big Man, which is nine tracks filled with the darker side of humanity. The record itself consists of electronic soundscapes with rock and touches of orchestral elements. Together with the spoken word-like vocals, this made for an oddball sound filled with quirky and whimsical moments.
Big Man begins with “Big man,” where a big rumbling bass comes into this track alongside some percolating beats. Jackson’s vocals sound very interesting. There was a touch of funk to this track which I thought was great. The lyrics were also very humorous. The synths and wonky vibes really worked well together. I think the spoken word vocals really do a lot to set the stage to this song. Everything was a balance for a great vibe. The horns also sounded top-notch and were a great addition. Some ambient keys and synths come in for an atmospheric vibe on “Under my floorboards.” Next, some beats roll in alongside some guitars. Here, Jackson’s vocals are an octave lower. It made for a great moody sound. This rock ballad proved to be emotionally powerful. Some more scintillating synths arrive at the start of “Living on a powder keg.” Next, some melodious keys reel us in. Jackson’s vocals come across in a robotic quality instantly reminded me a lot of the ‘80s. I thought there was a retro vibe to this track that worked really well in this instance.
Some rumbling bass and beats struts into the start of “Small.” The beat was very jaunty and once Jackson’s vocals settles in, it clinches this. The sauntering groove and upbeat execution of the vocals made for a great listen. The reverberating guitars also sounded great here. Some gritty synths draw listeners closer to the sounds on “Omega Man.” The cello and other orchestral instruments put on display a moody vibe. Jackson’s vocals come across like a chant. This made for an exciting sound. Some glitchy electronic vibes settle into “15 Oxymorons.” Next, some keys and guitars come into this song with a soaring vibe. The ambience was very dark. The glitchy electronic vibes continue once Jackson’s vocals enter.
On “Metamorphosis,” more glitchy electronics and percolating beats arrive at the start of this track. The electric sound meanders for a bit. Jackson’s distorted vocals come in with a robotic twist. The electronics were layered and made for a gritty sound. On “I told you so,” more gritty synths arrive and some loose guitar riffs spiral overhead. The electronics were very glitchy and gave off a haunting sound. On this rock/electronic track, there was an operatic quality to the vocals, which made for an epic sound. Some pounding tribal beats enter the sound on “The neighbour next door.” The instrumentals were shimmering and made for an electrifying sound. The horns were also very ear-pleasing. I thought it really added some pizzazz to this overall track. Once more Jackson’s spoken words vocals enter for a great vibe. The band sends us off with this exciting closer.
Jackson and Platt have had a long friendship and their bond is evident here as their collaboration feels very tight-knit. They each are assigned their own roles in this project: Platt thinks up the storyline and lyrics together with the artwork while Jackson is the composer, who records and is the vocals. Together the melding is fantastic as the witty lyrics and Jackson’s deadpan execution makes this something worthy of exploring. This was a great start from the band and I look forward to seeing more from this duo soon!
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