Cat Summerhill says that music is like a spiritual journey for her. On her latest EP Slicing the Daisies, the power of Summerhill’s vocals as well as the moving instrumentals that back her go on to show an artist who uses her music for the purpose of “transformation, grace and healing.” A balance of spirituality and the mundane, Summerhill’s music is like a catalyst, sparking thought and conversation all at once. Guitars, piano, beats, electronic riffs and more all make up the sound on this album. Clearly, Summerhill has something worth exploring here.
Slicing the Daisies opens up with “Good-bye,” which is filled with electronic riffs. The music comes across sounding very smooth and soothing. Once Summerhill’s vocals came in, I was definitely reminded of the artist Jewell. The piano, guitars and electric riffs go on to make this song. The sounds are definitely very moving.
Some eerie synths sound out at the start of “Silence.” Next, some smooth piano glides in. Once Summerhill’s vocals arrive, the music really starts to come together. This was another wonderful ballad from the artist.
Some piano and beats gain traction on “Angel” mixed with organic instrumentation and digital fare. Together, the different elements fused together made for a dynamic recording. Here, Summerhill’s vocals sound very operatic. I was reminded of Evanescence. This was a dramatic and captivating finale.
Naming some of her influences as Kate Bush, Judy Garland, Cat Stevens and the sound of traditional English and Celtic folk music, I thought Summerhill happened to sound a lot like Jewell. Though this was true, I also thought that Summerhill brings her own unique take to the electronic, ambient and rock genres. My only criticism is that I thought this EP, at three tracks, was too short. Other than that, I think a lot of fans of the aforementioned genres will be drawn to her music. This proved to be a good introduction to her music and I look forward to seeing a full-length released from her soon.
The Crimson Boys are a Minneapolis based duo who just released their self-titled album. They play a mix of garage rock, blues, and 50's Rock and Roll. The band mention this about their sound “If the White Stripes, Tom Waits, Hank Williams, and Jon Spencer were put into a blender the result would be the Crimson Boy”. I would say the prominent flavor of the band is White Stripes. The drums and guitar is a factor but only a part of the equation. There are a lot of songs that have a very Jack White style of guitar playing.
The band gets going with “Leave Me Too” and you get some fuzzy guitar riff and driving drums. It's a hard rock and blues hybrid that follows blues progressions. The song is raw and I have to say the vocalist puts a good amount of effort into being expressive. There are some wicked sounds coming out of the guitar.
“I Got Heart” is also a song that follows a blues progression. They do it justice and the song is mostly about the spirit in which it’s delivered. I have to wonder if “The Dinsmore” was a tip to the hat to Elvis. The band continues with relatively short songs like “My Pretty Baby” and “Let You Down” that have the same sort of energy with riffs that aren’t too far away from each other. I do like the 50’s pop angle on “Let You Down”.
“New Orleans” has more of a garage rock flavor. They continue to rip it up with “Baby Got New Jeans”, “Two Shots” and the closer “Burnt Rubber And Rain”.
This is the kind of music that's best experienced live. There’s a cathartic quality to their music and can get people in a frenzy if they find the right wavelength. We live in times where people appreciate authenticity and this is about as authentic as it gets.
The band does stick to a lot of conventional blues and rock patterns. Some of the progressions have been around since blues started. I wanted a little more surprises in this area and tended to predict where the songs were going before they got there. On that note this is an album that’s more for purists and fans of some of the aforementioned artists should certainly appreciate this. Take a listen.
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Sinking Season is an Alternative-Emo band based out of Seattle, WA. Sinking Season started in Central Valley, CA and their first DIY release came out in 2015, titled "Awake For The Winter". Sinking Season was active for two years playing shows and recording music but went on hiatus in 2017. In 2021, they resurrected the project in Seattle, WA. Sinking Season then recorded their first fully produced album entitled therapy which was released a little earlier this year.
I’ve talked about how making art and the creative process can be therapeutic. There have been countless albums where I have read about this and as an artist myself understand this. This seems to be what this album is about. The artist mentions “This album is about the past 6 years of my life, leaving California, starting a new life, the ups and downs of starting and losing relationships and friendships, losing my grandmother, dealing with mental health problems, and finally starting and going through therapy to manage it all”
The album features a versatile blend of rock songs and starts with “Home”. This song begins with strummed guitar and vocals. I liked the melancholy emotion and guitar work. The song does explode into a rocking affair with a heavy dose of 90’s alternative and grunge. It’s a great opener.
“Solace” is a great one and a highlight on the album. This song is a little more aligned with shoegaze. There’s a lot of exceptional guitar work on this song and the vocals soar on the chorus. Up next is “Phantom” and this is definitely another song for the win column. It’s a straightforward rock song with dynamic drumming and defined transitions. The female vocalist knocks it out of the park. I loved her voice but was hoping to hear some more harmonizing between the male and female voices
“Radiate” has a sense of nostalgia and felt like more of a ballad to me than some of the other songs. It’s a powerful song with well implemented crescendos “Therapy” has an intensity and urgency to it while “Arose/Explode” is a lush song that does eventually explode towards the end.
As the album progresses I thought there were some other highlights. “Lean” and the closer “Endear” are two songs you don’t want to miss.
I thought this a good album from beginning to end. The songwriting was consistent and the album felt cohesive which helped give the artist a signature sound. Perhaps the most appealing aspect is the visceral quality this release has. That aspect may provide the listener some therapy through the art which is a beautiful thing. Recommended.
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H.Pe is Ben Hope. It wasn’t too long since we reviewed Interfaction. He is back with Computer Rock with Notes on Translation which is his most recent release. The album contains eleven songs and is about forty four minutes long. It’s full of emotive songs that blend elements of folk and rock.
The song opens with “Friday” and I absolutely loved the juxtaposition on this song. Hope sings “I can’t wait for Friday night” which is something people usually say with some excitement. Hope sounds like he’s yearning for it. It’s brilliant and a bit funny when you look at it from that angle.
“Magnifica” is where we start to get into the album. It’s a full band but nothing too fancy which he saves for later. You get guitars, bass and drums. Hope hits it out of the park with the vocals. Similar to the opener, his delivery is very emotive and comes from his gut. It’s a song that on paper is pretty simple but there’s some ineffable magic when you listen to it.
“Estuary #2” is a great song as well. There’s a super smooth acoustic guitar, percussion and bass which creates a serene and calming soundscape. The hook is strong here as well which has notable vocal harmonies.
There’s more complexity on “Parallel Sound” which features atmospheric elements. It sounds like there are some synths and that combined with the more electronic kit create an 80’s vibe. The song is catchy and again the vocals hit the mark.
The flavor sort of continues with “Telemachine” where we start to get into the meat of the album. This has an assortment of colors and tones. Some of the grooves were funky as he sings “Hey you everybodys looking/On no nobodys watching”.“Sirens” has a blaring guitar solo you don’t want to miss.
As the album progresses I thought there were some highlights. “Dance” deleviers dance worthy beats while “Days in the South of New Town” has arguably the most infectious vocals on the album along with stellar production.
Hope goes all out on the closer “Other Things” which might be the most complex song on the album. It’s a largely ambient soundscape he sings against but the song does get beat going just much later in the song.
I loved this album. Almost every song hits the bullseye. Hope proves with this release he is the real deal by following up his previous album with something just as impressive. Take a listen.
Jesse Heinz is a musician located in Victoria B.C. Canada who recently released a three song EP entitled Under the Table. The artist played all the instruments on the EP which is impressive. There’s no denying that the three songs sound like a live band. The artist has got comparisons to other artists. Heinz mentions “A lot of people are saying like Pinkerton-era Weezer, Sebadoh, Dinosaur Jr, Sloan”. The artist also mentions that some of the common themes revolve around regret, procrastination, self-doubt and hope.
“Pomelo” is the opening song and starts with ride cymbal and guitar work. It stops abruptly and is replaced by fuzzy guitar chords. Drums and bass quickly enter. It's fast paced, it's really catchy, fun and dynamic. There's some additional synth at points and a lot of transitions. There’s one change in particular I enjoyed around the two minute and forty second mark. The song ends with cascading vocals where he repeats “Where Did It Get Me”. It’s a very solid opener.
“Dreams > Screens” was in my opinion the highlight of the three songs. The guitars were well done but pay attention to some of that bass work. There are a surplus of grooves on this song. The vocals are quite catchy as well but thought the lyrics created a good sense of what a lot of people feel these days. Heinz sings “Sitting alone, staring at my phone Who would have thought mundane would Be the new reality? Stuck and plateaued with nowhere to go Thinking of goals for some kind of utopian future” which I think captures the temperature quite well. The guitar solo around the three minute mark which closes out the song showcases his talent on lead.
“Societal Compromise” delivers the goods as well. The song takes advantage of modulation effects like subtle phaser and this song felt a little more prog rock influenced. There are vocals on this song but there’s a lot of focus on instrumental sections. The song sort of replaces a vocal hook with guitar fills and dynamic breaks. Heinz goes all out on the end with explosive drums and a bunch of different melodies.
The whole EP goes by really fast. It’s a little over ten minutes. The EP felt like an introduction to the artist which I think he does effectively. I was able to get an understanding of the artist.This is a solid start and I hope to hear more from the artist in the not too distant future.
Northern Ireland-born, London-resident Owen Duff has been making music since 2006 .He has recorded four EPs and three albums, one of which, rather than releasing, he hid in secret locations around the world for people to find at random. On top of that he scored the Queerty Award-nominated web series Kissing Walls in 2019. His latest release is called bed.
Owen mentions “The songs are the love story of a gay couple who are only free to express their feelings for each other within the confines of their bed. There they are safe from the judgment of the outside world but not, as they discover, free of the internal conflicts and shame they carry, which eventually drive them apart.”
The artist also mentions Sufjan Stevens, John Grant, Rufus Wainwright and Radiohead as comparisons. This is definitely the case. I was picking up on the intimacy and melancholy you heard on Carrie & Lowell and also Radiohead did come to mind as well. On that note Duff has his own sound so let's get into it.
“Introduction / With my Regards” starts with a beautiful arrangement of piano, radio frequencies and orchestral swells. The vocals are intimate and right next to you. It fills you with solace and beauty. Not a bad start.
“Genet on Uranus (the Story of Us)” picks up with a brighter emotional resonance. The song bursts with complex arrangements. It’s orchestral and there’s a lot going instrumentally behind the vocals. This is a fantastic song and gets more and more joyful as it progresses.
“The One for Me You Are” is even more joyful. There’s again so much happening in the song in terms of the instrumental aspects. This song did remind me again of Sufjan Stevens but more aligned with his release Chicago. “The Dissonance” however veers more into that Radiohead territory in terms of aesthetics but I also was reminded of The Beatles. The arrangement is complex and gorgeous. I loved the lead sax and the vocals sounded fantastic as well.
“Pothos’ goes deep into a contemplative energy. It's mostly piano and vocals. The song is grand but intimate. “A Lightless Love” has moments where it feels like the song is about two inches away from you while “One Word” is one of the catchiest and joyful songs that could be the single.
As the album progressed Duff continued to go deep. Some of the other highlights were “Spaces” and the more haunting “Two Houses.” I thought the guitar picking and orchestration sounded just about perfect on the closer “In Loving Memory.”
This is an album that had a lot of attention to detail. It pays off. The album is very emotive. It’s the type of album that I would revisit when I needed to think or felt melancholy. I thought this was an exceptional listening experience. Highly recommended.
No Lemon is a psychedelic four-piece funk/rock band based out of Burlington, VT, consisting of Sam Hurwitz (drums/vocals), Miles Kittell (keys, vocals), Jake Patkin (bass, vocals) and Drew Steinberg (guitar/vocals). With their self-titled debut album No Lemon, the group shows that they definitely have something to bring to the table with this offering. Together, the bandmates make fun-loving music that is also emotional and fully charged at once. It really seems like the band has a knack for some powerful songwriting that weaves in some funky fun and great energy. There's a ton to appreciate here, so let’s get going.
No Lemon begins with “Inside My Head,” which starts off with some funky bass. The sound then grows into a slow groove. Once the lead vocals come in, you can feel the emotions coming from the singer. The tune meanders for a bit. I can tell that this track is big on atmosphere and emotion. The retro-styled keys here also made this song as did the slow burning energy. With little to no hesitation, comes the quirky and whimsical number “That Bad.” I greatly enjoyed the keys and background vocals. This was a welcoming surprise from the band. There was a touch of theater to this track that I thought worked out very well. Some keys light up the start of “I Don’t Care.” As spiraling guitar riffs also sound out, this song felt more like in the ballad vein. As the lead singer belts out with emotional resonance on his part, there was tons to enjoy here as this track felt like a Broadway production. I also thought this song had a great flow to it. Some more keys come into this recording, feeling mournful on “Connection.” Next, percussion sidles in for a more psychedelic feel from the revved wall of guitars. This track had a more dramatic tone to it. I was loving the epic pulse and sprawling sounds of this piece.
Some spirited keys arrive at the start of “Got Me Feeling Like.” I was loving this whimsical take from the band. I liked how upbeat this number sounded and the sunny and positive vibes. It was catchy and uplifting all at once. On “Blue,” some monotone keys come into the start of this song. The sound is very hypnotizing. Once the lead singer comes in, the music gradually grows into a soaring ballad. On “Wasting My Time,” some funky bass enters for a sparse sound. Next, the music becomes more funk-fueled. Alongside a drumming beat, the lead singer’s vocals arrive for a searing sound. Loving how stripped and emotional this song seemed. The band served it to you straight on this psychedelic rock track with a funk-filled twist on “Swamp Monster.” I enjoyed the wild wonky vibes here. This seemed to be another fun-loving song from the band.
From psychedelic rock romp to more serious and slow-grooving harmonies, No Lemon’s record has it all. The band shows with this selection of songs that they know the sound they want to get across and go at it full-throttle. This is a good beginning for the band and I definitely look forward to seeing what’s next for them.
Derek Christie‘s musical styles have traveled from garage to gospel, folk/roots to rock, and ska/reggae to soul with a Leonard Cohen meets Patti Smith sensibility. Born and raised in Montreal, and now based in Toronto, Christie’s first band was a punk band named Civilians, that hit the scene in 1979. Enigmatic activist band Conditioned Response and then Mayday followed on Queen Street West’s music scene in the ‘80s. Christie released his first solo album, the acoustic-based Undecided in the ‘90s, and launched heavy rock-funk duo DarkRide, which will release its sixth album this July. Going it alone for the album Secrets in 2011, Christie’s sophomore solo effort is the eponymous DC, a deep dive back to earlier influences unearthed after years of playing clubs and festivals in and around Ontario and Quebec, Canada. Produced by mutlti-instrumentalist, songwriter, band mate and longtime friend, brilliantfish (Hush and Rush, Frank Patrick, Baby Is a Bombshell) along with Christie, the songs are the result of a deep dive back into the early stages of Christie’s many musical influences.
DC was recorded intermittently over a three-year period (2019-2021) then mixed at Session House in Port Perry, Ontario. With a global pandemic, the death of a family member, social upheaval and a first-hand Covid related brush with death himself all going on, the songs tackle mature themes, both personal and political, from oppression and empowerment, the rock bottom moment to sobriety, heartbreak to healing. The end message is that of redemption, survival and resurrection. Christie’s overall approach was to produce a recording that sounds - and should be listened to - like a vinyl album. The ten-track album was mastered by Taras Petryk, SerpentOne. Style-wise, the album is soulful, with an impassioned return to earlier influences, addressing mature themes both personal and political.
The opening track “Chains” is about breaking the chains, shedding that old skin and beginning again. What I like already about Christie’s sound and style, is that he mixes a little soul, rock, gospel and a whole lot of trumpets! Sure, Christie’s work has some of the Cohen influence, but I’m also hearing bands like Hothouse Flowers in this song. Next is “The Messenger is Dead” and this one has got a great driving force and plenty of low-end bass grooves and rumbling drums. Great rocking energy! “Wherever It Takes You” is about finding something special within your life and letting it take you wherever it leads. It features a shuffling reggae beat, a bold and fat horn section and some extra percussive elements. This was a fun song to listen to. “The Stars” is a gentler sounding song, featuring the acoustic, a softer drum rhythm and a trumpet and flugelhorn, both played by Bryden Baird. Lyrically, the words seem to suggest that the stars are telling us humans that our world is in a world of hurt. As far as who it reminded me of, I’m thinking Bowie, Steely Dan and Sting – how’s that for a mix?
Next up is “This Is Your Time” and this tune’s message is an uplifting one. Despite older generations “letting things burn” and leaving the younger ones unguided, Christie sings, “Come on shine the light / Children of the world / This is your time.” “These Are Your Best Years” features more fantastic trumpet sounds and reflective words on what now, or maybe what once was, your best years. Good guitar solo on this track – I only wish I knew which years Christie was singing about, I kind of would like to know. “Evangeline” showcases more horn section sounds and a slower beat. Lyrically, the words are a confession of sorts to someone named Evangeline. It’s about “coming clean” but I’m not sure what from. Moving onto the next number, “Nothing Left to Burn” has got a smokey, alt-rock feel to it. Perhaps there’s a little Bob Seger in here, maybe Springsteen or later Bon Jovi (much later). Steve Frise plays electric guitar on this track. Great backing vocals from guest singers and classic organ sounds accompanies this number as well. The next track is an all-out reggae tune.
“Long Way to Go” may have you longing to soak your feet into some sand on a beach. The backup singers on this track, remind me of the singers during Bob Marley’s time, or Clapton’s journey into reggae music back in the ‘70s. Christie’s last track is called “Going Home,” and the singer really taps into the spirit of Leonard Cohen, but I also thought of Tom Waits here, too. His style is smokey and mysterious, his range deep and low. Cam MacInnes is featured here on lead guitar. Laurelle Augustyn and Michelle White on backing vocals. All in all, I thought Derek Christie’s DC, with its deep dive into past influences, had a rich sound and varied approach. There’s lots of good qualities about this recording that I enjoyed. I think Christie’s invitation for many other musicians and singers to record with him helped to achieve a rich sounding album.
At the helm of Calgary, Alberta, Canada’s Stonehocker is Mark Stonehocker who has been making music for a while now. Currently Stonehocker is backed by Vince Musaka on drums. Together the duo makes emotional and exciting music mostly in the indie rock and ballad form. With harmonies and expansive melodies that will remind you of big and wide-open spaces, on his latest album Ups & Downs, the artist says that the record chronicles the ups and downs of life. He sees life as a seesaw, inevitably going down, but most importantly, it also serves as a reminder of the effort required to go up again!
Ups & Downs gets started with “Flash Flood 2,” which is layered with synths and piano. Gradually, some driven guitars and drums came into the recording. Once Stonehocker’s vocals arrive, you can feel the expansiveness of the track. This was a highly melodious and atmospheric song. Packed with mood and feeling, I really got the sense that Stonehocker highly valued ambience and this showed on this number. Some percolating beats gain traction on “Unfinished Love.” Eventually, some piano and Stonehocker’s vocals enter. Next, the music swells up for a dramatic crescendo. The dynamics of the music changes up from soft to hard-hitting at a drop of a hat. It definitely kept me on my toes. Synths and piano come in for a retro feel on “The Walk.” The balance of organic and synthetic instrumentation made this an interesting track. Once Stonehocker’s vocals arrive, the ‘80s vibes become more apparent. This was another atmospheric song from the artist.
“You Gave Me Love” is a total 180 from the previous tracks. With simply the acoustic guitar and keys, the sounds here felt very warm and sentimental. Next, some beats enter for a more pulsating sound. I loved how melodious and searing this number was. More electronic beats come in on “Missing You.” Next, some guitars and synths follow-up for a compelling vibe. Stonehocker’s vocals are immediate and captivating as he belts out with emotional emphasis on this song. “Lost Art” begins with a jangly beat. The band comes right out of the gates with high-tail energy.
On “You Matter To Me (remix),” some piano, synths and percussive beats gather together on this recording. Next, Stonehocker’s eerie vocals add an ominous edge to this track. On “Coronation Revisited,” a drumming beat and piano lights up the start of this song. The melody meanders for a bit. I was getting some lullaby-like vibes from this number. Dramatic synths and piano right away highlight the start of “Running Away.” I felt the immediate sounds drawing me in closer to the music. Next, the serious sounds of the music changes up for a catchy chorus. This seemed to be a memorable way for the artist to end the album.
Layered with tons of ambient instrumentals, I thought the sound that Stonehocker manages to get across is very atmospheric and emotional. I also felt moved by the airy notes from these numbers. Stonehocker definitely has the voice to carry out these sprawling indie rock numbers with Christian undertones. If you’re a fan of Christian and indie rock, then this should be right down your alley. Be sure you give this a spin today!
The Ruta Beggars composed of Micah Nicol (guitar), Sofia Chiarandini (fiddle), Ariel Wyner (mandolin), Trevin Nelson (banjo) and Noah Harrington (bass) is a bluegrass band currently based in Boston, MA. They have been featured on the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Showcase, Steve Martin’s Unreal Bluegrass, Brian O'Donovan's A Celtic Sojourn and the main stages of Joe Val, Grey Fox, Thomas Point, and Ossipee Bluegrass Festivals. The band also recently released an eight-song EP entitled Ever-Changing.
The band mentions their music is “traditional bluegrass and early swing to create a timeless act filled with intricate vocal harmonies, fiery instrumentals and plenty of fun. They start the album with “Papa’s Got Ahold of the Wine” and the band's talent is evident right off the bat. The song is as warm and inviting as sunshine. All the instrumentation is very organic and clean. There’s plenty of space to hear the vocals very clearly. This is a joyous and fun song to get things going.
The settle into a back and forth sway on “Red Carpet” which is a heartfelt song. There’s a low level sense of melancholy but also of gratitude. The vocal harmonies were exceptional and the instrumentation comes in when needed.
“Ever-Changing Love (feat. Justin Moses)” has some fast moving banjo playing and is a very dance worthy song. The song makes for one heck of knee slapping go time. The band is very much in the pocket and they nail the performances.
“Hold Me Close” is a song about heartbreak and a highlight to my ears. This song contained some of the most memorable vocal melodies. I also loved the instrumental breakdown around the two-and-a-half minute mark.
“Pass You By” was another highlight. The vocals were again memorable upon first listen and just another display of the band working as a cohesive single unit. They wisely slow things down with the lush and emotive “The Way That You Loved Me” while “Yodelin’ Yasmin” is a playful and jazzy sign with a lot of swing. The end with a nostalgic and reflective song called “I’ll Never Forget.”
The band is full of very talented musicians and this album was very strong from beginning to end. Fans of bluegrass as well as like-minded genres should love this. Take a listen.
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