Louis Emerson, once a fixture in the circuitry of progressive rock as part of Pangaea, has now embarked on a divergent solo journey, one that unfurls across the realms of rock and pop, all while tethering the ongoing exploration of progressive rhythms alongside Pangaea.
In his latest unveiling titled Everyone, a succinct four-track EP, Emerson invites listeners into his sonic world. The inaugural notes of "Ready To Go" evoke shades of Van Halen, not necessarily in stylistic congruence, but rather in the raw energy that's channeled. Noteworthy are the guitar interludes that weave a captivating narrative, while Emerson's own vocal prowess remains an unwavering cornerstone, exuding both power and precision.
The titular track "Everyone" embarks on a lush sonic odyssey tinged with a ’70s nostalgia. It's akin to a homecoming, a sensation that envelops the listener. Here, the vocals resonate with clarity, adorned tastefully with a touch of delay that finds its harmonious place within the composition. This sonic embrace resonates as an anthem of positivity, instilling a sense of impending accomplishment.
"Space Age Love Song" catapults us into a cosmic expanse, an interstellar tapestry painted with psychedelic hues. The vocals soar threading seamlessly through the interstellar ambiance. This auditory voyage encapsulates a boundless soundscape, encompassing both the experimental and the entrancing. As the final offering, "The Wheel" emerges as an intriguing ballad, weaving introspective tendrils that prompt contemplation. A moment of respite within the EP's sonic spectrum, this track invites deep reflection, its pensive undertones forging a connection with the listener's innermost thoughts. Not to be overlooked is Emerson's stand-alone single, "Broken," a composition that sways within lush atmospheric dimensions. The poignancy seeping through the melancholic tones is a testament to the artist's ability to encapsulate emotions within soundscapes. The result is nothing short of exquisite.
Louis Emerson's audacious foray into diverse soundscapes is a testament to his artistic breadth. Across the range of tracks presented in Everyone, Emerson demonstrates a daring willingness to traverse musical avenues. There's a distinct appreciation to be found within this endeavor, a willingness to step beyond established boundaries. A sonic excursion rife with layers and depth, inviting you to delve in and explore.
When I was a teenager (and maybe you, too) I used to sing along to the radio and think “I sound just like the record!” In actual fact, I sounded like the prepubescent kid I was, which I realized when my little brother went through the same phase. But occasionally you encounter a young artist who has a voice and persona way beyond their years. Current artists I’d place in this category are Sophie Dorsten, Abigale Fierce and now Ann Gray.
Ann Gray is a Norfolk, Virginia singer/songwriter of high school age who’s just released two singles: “No Good Partier” and “Top Fifteen.” She’s well on her way to success, having already won the 2021 Tastebreakers Music Contest while her debut EP Foolish received great reviews and a Veer Music Award nomination for “Best Acoustic / Folk.” Besides her recent singles she also released a full length album in January 2023 titled The Half Of It.
The title of “No Good Partier” is already interesting: is Gray calling somebody a “no-good partier” or is she saying there’s no such thing as a “good” partier? As the lyrics kick in there’s a chance she means both, as she mentions: “My friends are now on the floor… wasted a week getting wasted.” Musically the song is built on a subsonic, digital dance beat with low, swirling synths very much of the ’80s school. As previously mentioned, Gray has a voice of grit and substance way beyond her years, similar in some ways to Sophie Dorsten or even Nanna from “Of Monsters and Men.”
The instruments mainly stick to a descending four-note motif with subtle variations, giving Gray plenty of space to roam around and explore the melodic possibilities, with a few well-placed harmonies for variety. There’s also some subtle humor in Gray’s lyrics: “I feel bad for the parents who have to clean this up!” As the song moves on, Gray declares herself to be “the no-good partier, the designated driver… (it’s) obvious I’m no expert at this stuff.” This is a very witty, evocative description of the kind of party most of us hope never to visit again (but probably will).
“Top Fifteen” is a major stylistic change to “upbeat indie pop.” Gray describes this song as being about “a toxic, annoying audacious Ex” who has the temerity to rate the narrator as a “Top Fifteen, but Top Ten if she’s wearing a skirt.” That’s a really clever lyrical conceit, and nicely explains the cover photo of the artist quizzically regarding herself in a large mirror. Gray handles vocals (natch) with John Terrell on guitars and bass and JJ Bowers on drums. Terrell also recorded the track at Soul Haven Studios in Virginia Beach, with mastering by Izzy McPhee at Weird Jungle Studios.
The vocals are again quite accomplished, and I personally enjoy this style of breezy pop rock, conjuring happy memories of Michelle Branch and her contemporaries. It seems Gray is more interested in building a solid base for her vocals instead of messing around too much with her musical structures, and she’s more than deserving of that spotlight. But her musical team of Terrell and Bowers also acquit themselves nicely, laying a solid groundwork over which Gray can shine.
It’s always exciting to find a new artist with a truly unique take on what could be fairly common themes. Get in her camp early because this young lady is going places!
Greg Bond, a maestro of classical vocals turned troubadour of the acoustic realm, seamlessly fuses the realms of folk-rock and alternative, birthing a sonic experience that resonates deeply. Delving into his musical oeuvre, I found myself immersed in a tapestry of sounds that beckoned appreciation.
"The Blood Is On Your Hands," an exquisite composition, evoked echoes of Fleet Foxes. The artistry of the guitar's delicate plucking is evident, yet it's the essence of Bond's vocals that truly enchants. The song exudes an almost spectral quality, an introspective melancholy interwoven with captivating beauty.
In "Two Ships Passing Into The Night," a profound serenity envelops the listener. Stripped-down to its core, the track emanates a profound sorrow and Bond's mellifluous vocal delivery invites you into its cocoon of solace.
A departure from the pensive tones, "Nobody's Clown" emerges as a spirited outlier, marked by animated strumming. Here, Bond's presence feels palpable, as if he's serenading you right within the room's embrace.
While these recordings boast a lo-fi aesthetic, this sonic choice often amplifies the songs' essence. The raw, unfiltered quality establishes an immediate connection, as if Bond's emotions are channeled directly into your ears. As a singularly gifted artist, Bond's future releases hold promise, a prospect that piques my curiosity and anticipation.
Seattle's own Gina French emerges as a true sonic voyager, traversing diverse musical terrains with finesse and flair. Drawing inspiration from a rich tapestry of influences, French employs her voice as a vessel for emotions and visual narratives, crafting a sonic language that is uniquely hers.
Each composition is a heartfelt testament, where authentic melodies ebb and flow, intertwining seamlessly with her evocative phrasing. In the sonic odyssey that unfolds, the initial notes of "Seasons Of Us" beckon the listener into a realm of haunting beauty and shadowed elegance. An undercurrent of Southern gothic mystique weaves through the song's fabric, an enigma that unfolds at a deliberate pace. French's vocals, akin to radiant beacons in an ethereal mist, infuse the piece with luminosity. The orchestral components only enhance the enchantment, gradually ascending to crescendos of fervent emotion.
"Dream It All Up Again" presents a departure into rock-infused territory, yet retains a trace of its predecessor's enigmatic allure. This composition, too, unfurls with a hypnotic quality, wherein French's vocal prowess takes center stage amidst the dimly lit soundscape. Peaks and valleys of sonic intensity mark this auditory reverie, each peak an exemplar of her artistic prowess.
The enigmatic aura persists with "No Tomorrow’s," a captivating offering steeped in intrigue, hinting at existential undercurrents. The chorus swells expansively, an expanse of sound and sentiment that captivates. The echo of "Hallelujah" within its refrains perhaps nods at Leonard Cohen's legacy, interwoven into French's sonic tapestry. Amidst this musical kaleidoscope, it's the vocals that emerge as the defining compass.
French's voice is emotionally charged and serves as the linchpin. Her innate ability to infuse layers of meaning into her intonations is an unparalleled gift that elevates each composition. Gina French's creations are more than mere songs; they are emotive landscapes, meticulously crafted and endowed with intricate details. The instrumentation, skillfully executed, forms the vessel for her vocal journey, culminating in an auditory experience that lingers. French's artistry shines brilliantly, leaving an indelible mark with these compositions. Eager ears await the promise of more sonic explorations from this gifted artist.
Hailing from the heart of Virginia, Doxter S emerges as a musical craftsman with a penchant for meticulous production. The sonic offerings unveiled by this artist are nothing short of enthralling, captivating the senses with a depth that resonates on multiple levels. Inaugurating this auditory exploration, "Better Days" stands as an eloquent testament to Doxter S's artistry. The orchestral arrangement lends a melancholic hue to the composition, creating a tapestry of emotion. The vocals, a focal point of admiration, infuse the piece with an authentic resonance. As the song unfurls, it becomes evident that its potency lies in its evolving energy, underscored by percussive elements that bear a distinct touch of innovation. A truly engaging and unparalleled soundscape ensues, embracing the listener with its distinctiveness.
"Connection," another entry in Doxter S's repertoire, possesses a cinematic quality that unfurls with an orchestral grace. The vocals, masterfully executed, carve a sharp and defined presence within the auditory realm. This sonic endeavor transports the audience to a realm where sonic threads are woven with sophistication, each note a brushstroke on the canvas of sound.
Within the nostalgic embrace of "Masquerade," echoes of an era colored by the constraints of COVID and the mandates it brought forth reverberate. The composition captures this essence with a wistful charm, invoking emotions that have been part of the collective consciousness. Through its melodies and narratives, "Masquerade" pays homage to these experiences, creating a sonic sanctuary of reflection. The core of Doxter S's prowess lies in his impeccable songwriting and meticulous production.
Each composition is a testament to his commitment to the craft, radiating a brilliance that emanates from well-honed skills and innate talent. The ability to traverse the emotional spectrum and translate it into sound is a rare gift, one that Doxter S possesses in abundance. In this symphonic voyage, Doxter S stands as a beacon of authenticity, an artist who has harnessed the synergy between craftsmanship and innovation. These compositions are not merely songs; they are profound narratives woven with care, precision and an unwavering dedication to the art form. Doxter S emerges not only as a musician but as a true luminary, a voice that beckons us to listen and immerse ourselves in his sonic tapestries.
Hailing from the heart of Nashville, TN, Kevin Holt stands as a musician deeply rooted in the city's distinctive musical heritage. His sound is a reflection of Nashville's organic essence, a genuine embodiment of the musical tradition it exudes.
"Terms and Conditions" offers a glimpse into Holt's artistry. The song effortlessly blends a timeless quality with modern themes, delving into the realm of technology, from everyday apps to the unassuming Roomba.
Its charm lies in its lighthearted playfulness, inviting listeners to explore these contemporary musings. "Corona Bikini," the subsequent offering, infuses a hint of Americana with a touch of ’50s pop. This track feels like the perfect companion for a relaxed moment, a soundtrack for sipping a drink and soaking in a breathtaking view. Like its predecessor, it carries an infectious allure, capturing ears with an undeniable hook.
In "I Believe In Love," Holt shifts gears, delivering a more heartfelt expression. The song's sincerity shines through, accompanied by impressive guitar work that complements his vocals beautifully. It's a testament to Holt's versatility as a musician, revealing his ability to traverse different tones and moods.
Kevin Holt is a multifaceted musician who effortlessly navigates various styles. His musical prowess is evident, and his ability to bring authenticity to each endeavor speaks volumes. Whether he's conjuring melodies that capture the essence of modern life or delving into deeper emotional landscapes, Holt's talents remain undeniable. Take a moment to explore his musical landscape – you'll find an artist whose skills know no boundaries.
Ed Miller is an artist from Virginia who recently released Jokes in the Garage. The vibe here seems to be influenced from prior decades. There’s a lot of stylistic choices that go back to the ’70s, ’60s and even ’50s.
The album opens with “New Age” and I did happen to love how well balanced the ’50s pop and garage rock sounded. It sounded a little like The Strokes attempting 50’s pop. The song is catchy, well delivered and lo-fi in a way that complements the song.
Up next is “”I Am The Man” and this is another song that seamlessly combines genres and styles. There’s some surf rock elements in here but also some psychedelic guitar which felt very late ’60s. Some of his inflection sounds like Mick Jagger on this song.
“Back to Heaven” is a ballad and another one done in a ’50s pop style but with more grit and attitude. Some of the flourishes with the guitar come out of left field in a good way. Pink Floyd came to mind.
“When Its True” is one of the more rocking songs while “Rude Rebecca” was one of my personal favorites and not too far from The Beatles. ““Rude Rebecca”” sounds somewhere between The Beatles and Ariel Pink.
“Out In The Streets(Shangri Las)” hits the mark but “Hearts Torn Out” felt like a certified highlight. “Im Destined” has some gorgeous vocal harmonies and is one heck of a catchy tune. Last up is “Lost” which was my personal favorite. The song is emotionally powerful. It moves slowly and is just beautiful.
If you enjoy bands like Lord Huron and The Walkmen that reimagine influences from the ’50s and ’60s you should love this album. Recommended.
In the sun-soaked heartland of South Florida emerges a sonic juggernaut that is as audacious as it is relentless – NZM. Birthed in 2010 under the visionary leadership of Nick Z Marino, a luminary famed for his enthralling role as the singer and keyboard virtuoso in Yngwie Malmsteen's constellation and a revered name within Generation Axe, this outfit has been sculpting their sonic artillery under the banner of "neo-classical zombie metal," an alluring portmanteau that hints at the enigma within.
Drawing deeply from the annals of rock history, NZM is a fervent brew of high-octane hard rock and unbridled power metal, with melodic vocal lines that soar like seraphic omens above a tempest of edgy, lightning-forged riffs. The musical lineage they've chosen to honor is palpable – the ethereal echoes of Deep Purple, the primal vigor of Led Zeppelin, the electrifying might of AC/DC, the mythical cadence of Dio, the galactic echoes of Iron Maiden, the regal grandeur of Queen and the sonic enigma of Scorpions have all coalesced to forge the bedrock of NZM's sonic identity.
The introductory notes of "Rise Above," the very threshold of this sonic odyssey, transport the listener on a time-traveling voyage to the golden age of ’80s metal. The production exudes a titanic resonance, casting a sonic expanse that envelops like an ethereal embrace. While initially unfolding as a contemplative ballad, the track's metamorphosis arrives with the thunderous double bass drum and the singer's ascent to previously unimaginable vocal altitudes – an electrifying testament to their prowess.
A searing onslaught of sound awaits the intrepid listener with "Hell No." Unyielding and relentless, this opus is an exquisite showcase of the band's formidable technical aptitude. The synchronicity that emanates from this ensemble is nothing short of staggering – a tightly-knit unit that propels the boundaries of their artistry to exhilarating extremes. As the breakneck pace hurtles forward, the relentless waves of auditory aggression leave a resounding mark, testifying to NZM's mastery over their craft. "End of Days" initiates with the mellifluous grandeur of a piano's embrace, only to metamorphose into an unbridled torrent of rock intensity. The groove, irresistibly infectious, serves as the foundation upon which the edifice of aggression stands tall. In this track, aggression intertwines with melodic sensibilities in a harmonious dance, a dichotomy that is emblematic of NZM's multifaceted approach. NZM's music is an offering that purists of metal will undoubtedly find themselves enamored with. A multi-layered experience that traverses realms of nostalgia while forging uncharted paths, the band's dynamic approach and devotion to their craft are undeniably commendable. With the sonic arsenal they wield and the echoes of legends they channel, NZM stands poised to enrapture the souls of old and new metal disciples alike.
Echo Bloom is the project of founder Kyle Evans. Like David Bowie, Lou Reed and Nick Cave, Evans found his muse in the streets of Berlin, secluding himself in an apartment for months to focus completely on composing and recording. (Side note: Evans even looks a bit like Bowie.) He’s released three collections from this time, then relocated to Brooklyn to continue working on albums and songs. His three most recent singles are “Hold On Tight To Me,” “Superfortress” and “3 Little Birds.”
Evans’ influences are diverse enough to include both 1960’s surf rock and the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Evans performs solo as well as with a full six-piece band, and is looking forward to a 28-date European tour starting in September.
Evans describes “Hold On Tight To Me” as a song about his good friend Steve and his wife sledding in Germany. There’s an amusing video that Evans “hacked together” from a classic 1950’s instructional video about marriage. Musically it’s alternative rock, starting with a fuzzy riff worthy of Bob Mould. Now that I’ve heard a few of his songs I can say that Evans has an instantly recognizable, idiosyncratic singing voice that doesn’t really sound like anyone else. It’s the kind of voice that always feels like it’s straining a bit, which works great for rock! The guitar arrangement gets thicker and more jangly as the song moves forward, with the power of the track surging bit by bit toward the ending. If Evans is playing everything he did quite an impressive job, but his voice and the guitars are without doubt the stars here.
On “Superfortress” the arrangement is more stark, with Evans getting real, gritty power from his guitar, bass and drums, while claiming even more sonic space for his compelling voice. The structure is not terribly unique but Evans’ guitar-based choruses literally rise up to embrace his increasingly dramatic vocals. Honestly I’m not sure what he’s singing about but with lines like “I will replace my blood with benzedrine in cups of coffee” he’s certainly not messing around. Maybe my favorite of the three!
The final track “3 Little Birds” is a song from a previous Evans album titled Wake. Right away it feels different, with clanky percussion and muted guitar strings worthy of Tom Waits in his experimental mode. Evans’ vocal is his lowest yet, barely above a conversational tone but nicely overdubbed with himself. The scratchy guitar interjections are thrilling just like in Wilco’s “Spiders (kidsmoke).” The track has a simple structure but the repetition adds to the hypnotic effect while all the cool sounds and added vocals (an uncredited female singer?) keep things intriguing. I change my vote: this track now rivals “Superfortress” as the best of the three!
Exploring these tracks, I discovered that Evans has a very large discography just waiting to be heard. He’s an artist worth exploring. Highly recommended!
Recipient of the illustrious 2018 Carolina Music Award, Province of Thieves emerges as a sonic sextet, their arsenal exclusively acoustic, painting an auditory landscape that invites exploration.
An assemblage of guitar, mandolin, ukulele, upright bass, fiddle and percussion crafts a symphony of harmonious proportions, weaving a tapestry that stands as a testament to their distinction. Yet, it's the vocal harmonies that stand as their pièce de résistance, a potent elixir evoking the echoes of legends such as Crosby, Stills and Nash, as well as the venerable Eagles. This versatile ensemble draws from a diverse reservoir of inspiration, navigating the waters of folk rock, bluegrass traditions, the sun-soaked hues of beach melodies and even a flirtation with the neon nostalgia of ‘80s pop.
In my auditory sojourn, I first encountered the opus christened "Walking With The Devil.” Its essence resonates with an organic fervor, a warmth that envelops like a sonic embrace. The instrumental craftsmanship is nothing short of virtuosic, but it's the vocal harmonies that imbue the composition with an ineffable soulfulness, uniting its multifaceted elements into a harmonious whole.
Segueing gracefully into "Almost," a distinct timbre takes the reins. Here, a knee-slapping revelry unfolds, a veritable sonic hoedown primed for communal resonance. The chorus emerges as an indelible imprint, ripe for audience participation and the vocal delivery maintains an exceptional quality, a testament to the ensemble's prowess.
"Feels like That" takes its place as another gem within the trove, its rhythmic architecture exercising a hypnotic spell. The composition exudes an air of playfulness, akin to a carefree romp through a realm untethered by worldly concerns. Such is the alchemy that Province of Thieves deftly conjures.
In sum, Province of Thieves is an incredible band. Their compositions possess an uncanny ability to uplift spirits and connect with the very fabric of the human experience. Venture forth, dear listener, and partake in the melodious banquet they present.
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