George Francis - Year Of The Dog
Scotland-based George Francis favors guitar and piano to "touch the deepest parts of the soul." And while that might tickle, it certainly informs our posture when enjoying the "soaring melodies and lush multi-layered harmonies" that wash about in his debut LP, Year of the Dog. Francis also seems to revel in studio mastery. Thus, what one may assume is stripped down to its most essential bolts is actually inflated via reverbs, delays and panning methods; not to mention an always appreciated brass section. The final product, however, is less a Frankenstein monster than it is a cohesive whole, entirely unmurderous and spread across 12 tracks.
The sonic blueprint here is familiar, if not redundant, in the way that a conditioned hamster might run the same wheel each night. And yet, we’re hardly noshing on comfort food. Rather, this is a raw-boned, multi-tracked journey with invariable landscapes. The more we dart, the less things change, as if by preserving speed, this mongrel of a year might snap into aural focus.
“On The Hill,” the opening cut, is a stark, sharp metered introduction to all that follows. Shifting into “Ancient Sadness,” double-tracked vocals trade on the burgeoning psychedelia of mid-to-late 1960’s London; persisting in that narrow band where the Walker Brothers ceded influence to Lennon/McCartney. The overall vibe is trance-inducing, a thematic bit of production whimsy that Francis uses to agreeable effect. In that same vein, “Cardboard Cathedral” slinks serpentine through an undressed version of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass. Although the white knuckled horns ebb and flow with the tension, they do so in full respect.
Both “Caterpillar” and “Fools” offer very present bass lines, bobbing above the water in apposition to dirge-like harmonics. Likewise, “Intruder In the Past” is a faithful slice of Donovan, if not an amusing tune in the way that Francis maintains total composure, even when warning of prowlers. Such is the ethos of a crumpet-hardened Greater Britain. After rolling into “The Fly,” the album’s closing song, exhaustion is evident. This is, after all, five minutes of operatic necrosis, scored to beautifully dramatic piano and wrapped in heavy velvet.
Francis stays true to form in composing Year of the Dog, which certainly scores a merit badge for integrity. Yet, for all of his devotion to structure comes a fatiguing slow-burn; the reality that we’re cornering a tight lane with cheerless give. Is this the perfect cure for mania or a howl down the garden well? Either way, it’s an original piece of art, both hauntingly stark and unbearably heavy.
Lost In January - Lost In January
Jason (El Fresh) McElfresh is the one-man band behind Lost In January. McElfresh has played in bands since college, mainly contributing on bass. Around 2019, he moved to Minneapolis, MN, where he started playing in a punk band called 2003ub313. Sadly, they disbanded once the pandemic hit. That was when McElfresh decided to start Lost In January, a project where he could flesh out all his ideas. On his self-titled recording Lost In January, which is a purely instrumental album, McElfresh includes grunge, prog rock, with hints of shoegaze garage rock. Altogether the sounds that come across sound very ambient and moody.
Lost In January begins with “Droneski,” where some programmed drums comes in alongside a wave of guitars that sounded energetic. There’s some bass and keys in the mixture. At the same time, the sound that comes across is very busy. I was immediately getting some grunge and prog rock in the mixture. Even though this is a one-man band, I can tell that McElfresh is having a great time jamming out here. Some synthetic strings also add to the ambience of the track. Reverb-drenched guitars come here for a wall-to-wall sound on “Bendy.” I was definitely getting some prog rock here. The sound just builds into a meandering vibe. I thought the rock-filled sounds were solid. There was something psychedelic about the sounds as I was getting some garage rock vibes as well. On “Spin,” more ambient guitars come. The sparseness of the guitars pointed to a stripped back sound. Next, the artist layers in more instrumentals for a more full-on undertaking. The sounds felt very revved and energetic.
On “7:08,” some sizzling percussion and drumming beat sends out a very metal and hard rock sound. The vibes definitely felt heavier as McElfresh goes all out. I was getting some grunge and metal-inspired rock vibes. Some moody keys come through here to great effect on "Space Jazz." I was getting some immediate psychedelic jazz here. With tons of mood and feeling comes this moving closer from the artist.
As far as instrumental albums go, I think what the artist has here works. Even without the vocals aspect, McElfresh manages to pull an impactful punch with just instrumentals. McElfresh plays everything himself from the guitar, bass, keys and drum machines and I think he does a good job. For now, it’s just McElfresh, but he says he’s currently looking for people to join him on the project, which I think is a great idea. Having a live drummer would definitely enhance the sound he is going for. With that being said, I think McElfresh shows a whole lot of potential and I look forward to seeing more from him soon!
Austin Delin - Nocean
Austin Delin is an indie artist based in Providence, RI, who does something unique to his sound. Self-dubbed as “prog-pop,” what Delin does is combines progressive rock with pop rock sensibilities and indeed, what comes across sounds both technical and pop-oriented at the same time. Right from the get-go, once I hit play, I was hit by the catchy and upbeat sounds that paired together with the blend of instrumentals made for an extremely textured and nuanced sound. I think what Delin has managed to do is make prog rock more accessible. With airy vocals and tight musicianship, his latest EP Nocean is a three-track collection that shows the artist’s gift for music-making.
Nocean opens up with “Sail,” where fast and revved finger-picking on the acoustic guitar reels in the energy. Some smooth background vocals soon arrive. Once Delin’s vocals come in, you get the sense that you’re floating on air as his sound surrounds you. There was definitely something very atmospheric about the vocals and music. The intricate instrumentals and pop-oriented sound made for a welcoming listening experience.
With a sauntering groove, there was an easy-going vibe to the pop rock “Innerstate.” I loved how laid-back the artist sounded. The golden sounds recalled a very sunny sound. The guitar sounded great. Delin also does a good job on the vocals.
On the acoustic “Fortunate,” only the guitar comes in with a searing sound. Next, some beats glide in, alongside some nice background vocals. Once Delin’s vocals came in, the music really came together to great effect. This was a pensive song that was packed with feeling. I loved how emotionally powerful the music became. This was an extremely moving way for the artist to end the EP.
With this undertaking, Delin manages to give us something truly unforgettable. With his range as a musician and vocalist, he gives us these tracks that tackle the prog rock genres and give it a hint of pop accessibility as well. Though these tracks are a little on the short side, he manages to show us so much with so little time. With that being said, I was hoping the EP could’ve been longer. This definitely whetted my appetite for more and I can’t wait to hear more from Delin soon. In the meantime, Nocean will just have to do!
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LOST FOXES - Welcome to Kiff
Lost Foxes is a young band that recently released Welcome To Kiff. They mention the EP is about “escaping a city called Kiff. Kiff has an oppressive government and the story is about a band of three citizens trying to escape the clutches of the City of Kiff.”
The EP starts with an intro called “Intro.” It sounds cinematic and electronic. An arpeggiated synth melds with sub bass notes and other elements. It’s got an epic quality to it and attempts to set the stage for what’s ahead.
The next track “My People” is a hip-hop inspired song. There’s digital piano, synth bass and electronic drums. The rapping is fast but there’s no hook to the song. There’s however a breakdown of sorts that leads to the best part of the song around the two-minute mark. The song explodes with a number of elements including spliced up vocal phrases. Cool track.
“Live” is a completely different style and genre. This is a ballad. The instrumentation felt almost entirely digital. There are mostly airy elements and a good amount of reverb. The singing is emotive and I was picturing the vocalist by a piano.
“FIVE MARKS” is more of an emotive rock song. There’s some guitar on this song, a metronome tight drum beat, some atmosphere and vocals. I noticed there was a vocal that was detuned about an octave against the lead. This is probably the highlight on the album. The vocals are memorable and the production was inventive.
“Stay Alive” is the most experimental song. The manipulation of the vocals is so much on this song starts to feel like any other elements. I liked the beat and production on this song and it is another highlight. The song is also quite cinematic and a slow burn and a dark ominous soundscape emerges.
“The CYLINDER” is sort of a hybrid between rock and electronic music. There aren’t any vocals on this song. The focal point sounds like a lead guitar. This song is the most post-rock inspired. They close with “Outro” which is an experimental piece with heavy electronics. This is another cinematic song which closes out the EP.
As a producer for about twenty-five years at this point I can tell this is a young band that is still figuring out their sound. They have a lot of ideas but they don’t have a signature sound. This sounded more like a mixtape than an EP from one group. There’s hip-hop, ballads, electronic music and rock but they don’t tie these songs together.
Overall, I thought this was a solid start. Some of the ideas work really well and occasionally hit some emotive parts like on “FIVE MARKS.” I have a feeling this is just the start for the young band. I look forward to hearing more in the not too distant future.
Gravy is the musical exploration of Garrett Knochenmus. This Nelson, British Columbia based musician finds inspiration for his music in the beauty of the natural landscapes in which he finds himself - the mountain peaks, river valleys, and expansive forests of interior British Columbia. Writing, recording and performing his music mostly in solitude, Gravy's music is a testament to the emotions that we experience deep within the wilderness. Mountains, Valleys, Places Between was self-recorded in a small cabin in the woods near Ymir, British Columbia. This cabin is featured on the cover art of the EP, which from the looks of it, is a classic A-frame model (got to make me one of those someday). The album was self-mixed and mastered by Garrett, and exudes an intimate sound crafted from years of playing for friends around late-night campfires and on DIY backyard stages. While stripped-down guitars and mandolins are inspired by youthful scenes of time spent in the mountains of British Columbia, the lyrics go deeper. They tell stories of love lost and solitude found, and subtly encourages the listener to chase the moments where they feel most free. Enjoy the journey!
To kick things off, the fun to pronounce first track, “Shabadoobah” begins with the sound of gentle rain falling, a full and rich acoustic and bass guitar, and then a mandolin can be heard alongside the faint sounds of chirping birds. This danceable track also features a little tambourine and harmonica for good measure. This first tune is about doing things on a whim – rambling around the countryside, climbing mountains, having a campfire and driving dirt roads.
“Lost my Voice” is one of the longer tracks on the record, with more birds chirping in the background blending at the start of a more somber tune. With lower sounding guitar chords and a nice second vocal track offering nice harmonies, some mandolin comes in later, all playing along to a waltz-like rhythm. Sometime after the five-minute mark, the tempo and style of the song changes. Gravy’s rhythm and sound reminded me a little bit of the song “I Wish That I Knew What I Know Now (When I Was Younger)” aka the “Ohh La La” song. With gentle rain still being heard in the background, the next song “Wildhorse” starts in. It begins with a catchy, light acoustic riff, light mandolin accompaniment and a soft, thumping bass beat. “Play my tunes to this cabin” sings Garrett, has a sort of children’s song quality about it, that was heartwarming and happy. “I Won’t Stay” takes on a richer sound, complete with a bright electric, alongside warm acoustic and bass tones. I liked the melody with this one, as well as the addition of an electric guitar solo. Lyrically, this track seems to be about a break-up or maybe just someone leaving for a long time who couldn’t stay – “Did it hurt you to find out that I won’t stay?” The whistling at the end was a nice treat, too.
Next up is “Oh My” and it’s another longer track, which sounds like it was written with the 1-2-3 waltz structure in mind. Style wise, this one felt to me more country-folk rock, like stuff that came out of the early ‘70s. For comparison, bands like Bread, America and Lobo come to mind. What I liked best on this track was the fuller sounds of the bass and the ambient sounds coming from the electric. “Sweet Mary” finds the mandolin as the main lead, with accompanied acoustic and bass. The happy sounds of that bright, little “guitar” play a catchy melody on this tune. This track also features great contrast between the main vocal and bass vocal harmony – nicely done! Overall, I thought this track was as close to a full band sound as you’ll hear from just one guy.
The last number “Freebird” puts the electric upfront, with no apparent sounds of the acoustic, at least not right away. Multiple vocal tracks layered together are also one of the highlights here. I thought this last tune was Garrett’s most indie rock on the entire album, which was a nice way to change things up. As in the album’s beginning, there is more rain heard at the song’s end, which gives the album a fantastic, uninterrupted flow. Overall – a sweet, mellow album, refreshing and a perfect DIY musical journey.
Barbell Death Squad is a garage pop group made up of Houston Putney (lead vocals/bass guitar), Davis Mincher (backing vocals/guitar), and Darren Smart (backing vocals/drums). The band from Austin, TX recently released a six-song EP entitled Show Me Your Teeth. They mention “The songs on our Show Me Your Teeth EP were written collaboratively over the course of several months during the tail-end of the pandemic and are the result of the many influences of each member, ranging from early punk, garage music, blues, emo and pop-punk.”
The band does a fine job mixing genres. For instance I was definitely picking up on pop punk but it’s subtle. They are able to find this balance and often are able to slightly shift their style even in one song.
They get cracking with “Grab The Boys & Let's Start A Party For The Emmys” and don’t waset any time getting into an adrenaline inducing riff. They dynamics pop and the feeling is loose but the playing is tight and in the pocket. The band explores a lot of territory with a chorus that benefits from additional handclaps, a killer breakdown and even a bluesy guitar solo.
There’s was a feeling I was getting on early naughts garage rock on “Did You Get A Good Deal? (Charge It To The Game).” This song isn’t far away from The Strokes. One difference is the cascading vocal harmonies which are really well done. There’s also some pop punk infused in the music as well. Similar to the first song this song covers a lot of ground. They switch time with relative ease and swiftly move between transitions.
“I Won't Be Caught Dead Buying Gifts” is very catchy. This song felt like the most single worthy song. The band finds a solid groove on the verse and the guitars on the chorus cut threw like knives with a syncopated rhythm. I think the way they find their way back into the verse was seamless. This is arguably the most emotive song.
The band continues to hit it out of the park. “Fall Asleep In Vietnam... Wake Up In A Documentary” is a fun one. I loved how the chorus speeds up and the slight nod to bands like NOFX and Rancid. “Bosnian Beachfront Blues” is one the only songs where that keep the BPM fast and consistent the whole. They close with a cover of “Search And Destroy” which I think Iggy would approve of.
I loved this band's ability to capture your attention. The songs were emotionally resonant but you also get the feeling that the band is having a blast playing. It came through in the music. Suffice it to say I think they will be an amazing live act. This is a great EP. Recommended.
Crash World - So The Story Goes
Comprised of Glen MacLeod (guitar) and Graham MacDonald (vocals), Vancouver-based Crash World juxtapose a contemporary vibe against the “poetic whimsy of the ‘60s and the alluring boldness of the ‘70s.” And since the latter need not subject us to vinyl jumpsuits or deep pile chest hair, this decade sampling is hardly offensive. To the contrary, the group’s debut LP, So The Story Goes, promises an entire cornucopia of influence, listing jazz, blues, country, pop and rock as exploratory paths. Had vaporwave or monophonic chant been jammed down that drain pipe, it might still have flowed. After all, the duo strip their influences to a bare-skinned layer of integrity, focusing more on lyrics and instrumentation as opposed to the schematics of theory. Although this so-called “stylistic journey” may loft a few love letters to the past – as exemplified in the less-than-subtle typewriter cover art – it’s the present moment, the actuality of the work, that shines.
The first cut, “Lucky One” is a country tune with well hewn harmonics and excellent structure to the chorus. “These days / your mirror is the bottom of a glass,” MacDonald imparts, as his vocal nuances coax a puddle of beer soaked saloon tears. “Radio,” on the other hand, effects an abrupt turn toward tribute. Sure, Freddie and Geddy belted out their respective love for AM/FM terrestrial boxes, but that was four decades ago. Whether this is a condolence letter or an application for a Kevorkian clinic, the sentiments to old economy are on full display with (spoiler alert) no station hash or annoying DJ talk-ups. If anything, the pre-chorus channels a firm Hold Steady vibe.
“Tail Lights Fade” plays like a hand-cranked music box. The tune is fleshed out with an extra crisp guitar solo amid restrained string accompaniment. Likewise, “Before and After” is a dim lit paean to sudden attraction, aping the perfect croon for hanging mics, while bidding adieu to single life. Then again, it’s hard to know whether the goodbye is an excited nod toward the future or a timid lament. And once again, the group’s lyrics – vagueries and all – push a solid charm offensive.
“R’n’R Queen A.D.” nods toward frantic Mink Deville meets Southside Johnny piano plinking. It’s a fun bar anthem, with every trapping designed for sing-alongs at sticky tables. In other turns of genre, “Third Time’s The Charm” highlights ’70s schlock-house, “Black Swan” take vague cues from Eastern European mysticality and “Leaving Behind” conjures steel pan Steely Dan.
Crash World exists in the yellow glow of Edison bulbs, leather couches and dark hardwood. In that sense, there’s an able comfort to their music; making it both lived-in and sleek, sweeping yet claustrophobic. The band deems this “ragged beauty." And while 15 tracks – many of which top the five-minute mark – is a dense serving for a debut, the sincerity is clear. As is the canon of work from which to pull, given a commitment to live sets. If anything, the light-but-compulsory studio sheen here is a bonus. So The Story Goes may shapeshift through genres, but it’s still familiar enough to make a noted acquaintance.
AMode - AMode
AMode is an independent rock duo from Galveston County, Texas who’ve just released their self-titled debut AMode. Drummer Chase Cromartie is also the lead singer, along with Reid O’Sullivan on electric guitar, bass and lap steel. The band calls these songs “cinematic tales of seaside dive bar dream states, future jubilation and Rock and Roll Mood.” Recording and mixing took place at the band’s home studio using Reaper “on an old, lagging Mac mini.” Mastering was by James Mason.
“Fooling” starts in with lazy, retro-sounding tremolo guitars, like the soundtrack for some desert island hallucinations. When the song proper begins, the structure owes a lot to the Love classic “My Little Red Book.” Chase Cromartie’s vocals suggest Robert Plant in his more laid-back moments, or even Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Structurally the band seems to prefer sticking to patterns of two alternating chords, upon which they add solos or subtle variations. In the video, a wrestler-looking dude wakes up alone (and lonely), then dresses in a flamboyant outfit and proceeds to paint the town red before crashing out on a bench. Is he fooling the public or himself?
“Ehh Tu” has a compelling “whiplash” rhythm. This is a good time to mention the drums, which are very real and follow each song’s dictates without worrying about absolute perfection. The vocals here feature really nice understated harmonies on the chorus, and a cool electric solo to bring the song home. The video seems to follow a young homeless photographer with a penchant for religious iconography, but most of the video is so dark I can’t glean much else.
“Nuggest Of Crystal Wisdom” has a funkier “ricochet” rhythm, and the guitar work is especially tasty. For the vocals I was again reminded of Robert Plant in his Presence mode, and the drum fills are sharp and right on the money.
“Keep Up” most definitely “keeps it up” for over five minutes, with the kind of fuzzy, enveloping rock Neil Young likes to explore with Crazy Horse. I can’t help but float away with it. “Roll Mood” has the final video of the series. After a short but magical guitar fragment, the song itself lumbers in like a tape played at half speed, while a guy jogs Rocky-style through a bleak downtown area, before training in a boxing ring. The dominant tremelo guitars are back, alongside a simple but effective drum beat. I may not have praised Cromartie’s vocals enough, as by now I’m a total believer in his abilities and sincerity. An octave-effect guitar solo adds an interesting element here. The final song “Feet Back” goes back to the band’s funk-rock roots, which feel a bit like the Red Hot Chili Peppers on a quiet day.
This band has a great sound and style, and I definitely look forward to their future endeavors!
What You Will was started by Chris and Jenni Wiggins in 2010. Members Leighton LaBorde, Kelsey Dolan LaBorde, Luke Fletcher, Ike Eickstaedt and Justin Douglas join the band, fleshing out the lineup. The band have played several festivals and venues in Texas including the Kerrville Folk Festival, LEAF Festival, the Leanne Atherton Barn Dance and regularly for HAAM Benefit Day, as well as for many benefits and fundraisers supporting the needs of people in the community. They recently released a full-length album entitled Nothing To See Here.
Their music revolves around folk, country and other like-minded genres but this is predominantly a rock band. As far as themes go, it might be more appropriate to say what the album is not about. They mention “Topics of interest that end up in our songs include but are not limited to pandemic pivots, ego death, mindfulness and thought maintenance, media programming, integrity, independent thought, the Monsters Inc agenda, the homeless crisis, embracing reality, the matrix, the Mandela effect, merging timelines, polarization and revolution,”
“Smiling With My Eyes” is the opener and I liked the warm and inviting production. The mood here felt sort of carefree and relaxed to me. There’s a nice mix of instrumentation and the banjo added a lot. As the band creeps up on the chorus they turn into more of a power pop act. It sounded similar to Weezer if they had some banjo in the mix. The song is very catchy and well structured. Great opener that gives you a sense of the band.
“Come Around” is arguably better and a highlight to my ears. The feeling here is a little more chipper and upbeat. I thought the vocals were well delivered with a heartfelt and earnest tone. As the song progresses more elements are added which starts to feel empowering. Similar to the previous song, once the chorus arrives, the guitar gains some distortion and the power pop qualities come out. My interpretation of the song was that is was about finding perspective and understanding with lines such as “Then I understood / Where I really stood / And I did all I could / To be found some more.”
“Gone Fishin” is a wonderful song and by this point I was feeling immersed as to who they were as a band. They do stick to a similar structure with a folk inspired verse that rocks out once the chorus arrives. The vocalist is barely hitting some of the high notes but sounds good.
“Why So Blind” is an anthem. I found the music to be very uplifting on this song and loved the descending vocal line that mixes with the lead guitar on the chorus. The slightly cerebral melodies on the title track “Nothing To See Here” mix with soothing vocal harmonies. It’s another song with a strong chorus that feels defined and memorable.
They get a a little experimental on “Turn It Back Around.” Make sure not to miss the build around the two-minute mark which combines white noise, repeating vocals and a general sense of psychedelia.
“The Great Reveal” felt like one of the more pensive and thought-provoking songs. They create this feeling with atmospheric soundscapes and soaring vocals. The band continues to hit it out of the park with just enough variation. “Driving Down These Thoughts” soars while “Far From Me” felt like a certified tearjerker seeped in warm melancholy.
“Something Real” is almost pure bluegrass and they close strong with “Time Holds Her Tongue” which has some attitude and feels more aligned with a hard rock band.
This is a great album. I felt like a lot of the songs were accessible the first time I heard them. The album also felt cohesive and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of thought went into the sequential order of the songs. Take a listen.
junebird - junebird
Located in Fulshear, Texas, junebird's self-titled debut junebird was recorded by Steve Tagliere (former Gingersol) and Jason Bonilla. Tagliere and Bonilla played all the instruments, recorded and produced the recording. Tagliere wrote ten of the songs and co-wrote three with Bonilla. The pair have since become a four-piece and are preparing for live shows in the coming months and are recording a follow up. Tagliere states, "I have the next 26 albums ready to go, no joke, so we have a lot of work to do.” Wow, I’d say! Junebird was recorded and mixed at Tagliere's house, with Bonilla also recording guitars on his laptop at his house. Tanglier recorded five solo records at home in the last two years before forming junebird. Scott Craggs provided the mastering. Tagliere says about his work ethic, “I write songs every day on my lunch break and get up at 3:30am and record before I go to work – these are the songs on the album and they're very simply about my life, struggles, disappointments, observations and triumphs.” Tagliere also states that family can be a challenge, and that betrayal is a tough thing to work through, all the while trying to remain optimistic – or at least trying to get to some level of optimism.
Thematically, the album is about fighting the good fight but being honest about the doubt that's always lurking and acknowledging the perseverance to keep moving forward. Sometimes moving on leaves something behind, but it can also mean finding strength within.
The opening track, “This Part is Hard” is about finding yourself in a place of struggle, where you thought you were on solid ground, but all you find around is shifting sand. Somehow, with all the questioning “Will it ever feel right?” there is that still small voice that says, “But you’ve made it this far.” Junebird’s sound is rustic, indie and has a live, raw quality to it that I liked. “Be a Friend” I thought had an even more live sound, especially with the drums. I liked the group’s arrangement on this one – how they put in a short break after the chorus parts. I also liked the sound of the bass. Overall, the band’s style has elements of ‘80s college alt-rock and jangle pop. I think the main message to this song is, to have friends you got to “be a friend.”
“Don’t Be Afraid” has got plenty of that bright, jangle pop, made well known by bands like R.E.M. I also thought about Wilco, as well as the melancholic country rock sound on The Replacement’s last album, All Shook Down. Lyrically, I understood this song to be about facing your fears and, it helps to have someone by your side through the dark times. Joel Martin is featured playing the pedal steel here. Next up, “All Things Being Equal” is a slower paced number with dark sounds, earthy and muddy. Style wise, the duo’s approach is hypnotizing, kind of shoegaze you could say, with mixed sounds of banjo and droning guitars.
“Don’t Get Stuck” is about not giving up, not getting stuck, despite “threats becoming mountains” and not being able to find a clear path out. A bright, positive song with a beautiful melody. I liked the sound of the guitar and banjo on this one a lot. “Dumbass” is one of the duo’s faster paced tracks and reminded me a lot of early R.E.M. and Soul Asylum. Lyrically, it’s about a friend making bad choices and then they ask you for help to get out of whatever trouble they’re in, but you flat out tell them no. “The Softer Lie” features a very lush, soft sound. I really loved the muffled, mallet playing (?) sound of the drums here. In my opinion, I thought the band was channeling The Replacements in a big way – songs like “Sadly Beautiful” and “Skyway” come to mind.
The next track “There’s Always a Choice” is about finding that other (right) choice, whatever it may be, because you’ve made so many missteps in the past. Musically, there’s a fantastic, big live sound going on here. Lots of echoing guitars and distortion, and cutting through it all is the crisp, bright sound of the ride cymbal. What caught my ear the most though was the guitar chord change between the verses. The next track, “Oh So Bright” has a bass melody and hard drum rhythm that reminded me of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. I don’t know, the band’s blend of folk rock and alt-country made me think of them. Joel Martin is featured again on pedal steel.
“Happy Again” has an uplifting appeal and a great rocking groove – another positive song about keeping your head up because eventually, you will be happy again. “A Splintered Excuse on a Sturdy Concern” I think is about making bad moves on the game of life and/or placing bets that don’t turn out in your favor. Anyway, it’s another of the band’s faster paced tracks, tense and full of rocking energy, with great rhythm section vibes, too. “Guilt Times Pride Equals No Future” has got a great sound, it’s hard for me to put it into words. But what I liked the most was the melody, there’s a beautiful sadness to it. I also liked the vocal harmonies and the short guitar solos. Junebird’s last song “Anchor” is also their longest – clocking in well after six minutes. This last tune is about having someone in your life that keeps you grounded and sane – “You are my anchor, without you I’d drift…you are my anchor, you keep me where I need to be.” Musically, this one had an interesting mix of sounds, droning guitar melodies, and extra percussive layers and textures.
Junebird’s self-titled debut has a large variety of musical influences, some of which are mentioned here. The album blends styles of indie rock, alt-country, folk rock, pop rock and, what else? – it was all good from start to finish in my view. It’s one of those recordings where you may find yourself listening to the entire thing in one sitting. Not many bands have that kind of hold on their listening audience these days. And with “the next 26 albums ready to go” as Tagliere puts it, I for one look forward to hearing what’s next from this Texas band.
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