Paul Bibbins is a guitarist/songwriter and independent musician from Dallas, Texas. The artist recently released a triple album entitled The Last Perfect Performance. I think most people will recognize a pretty direct influence when they listen to Bibbins’ songs.
There’s unequivocally some striking similarities to Jimi Hendrix. The similarities sort of run across a number of different domains. I heard it in the vocals, the lead guitar playing and also the production. There are even similarities on the album cover. You should notice the guitar is upside down with the tuning knobs facing the floor. This is also something Hendrix did because he was left-handed.
On that note Bibbins interjects his own personal style on the songs. There are a whopping twenty-seven songs on this album. I’m obviously not going to go into detail on every song but I did think there were some highlights.
“Come and Go Babe” is a great song with fuzzy, swirling lead guitar, kinetic drums and memorable vocal melodies. There’s a mix of psychedelic rock and blues. Bibbins shreds quite often on this song. His lead guitar skills are dynamic and sharp.
Another standout song was the title track “Last Perfect Performance” which features some interesting juxtaposition between the guitar work, drums and vocals. There’s a unique playing style on the guitar which is like a mix between rhythm and lead. The vocals are sort of a mix between spoken word and singing. I would say the song felt loose and almost improvised.
“Stone Cold Monday” sounds like a mix between Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. Although if you know a bit of rock history you will know how intertwined these artists are. Most of the songs probably average around five minutes in length but there are some epic songs as well that are closer to ten minutes.
One of the most original and longest songs was “'Til the 6th of Saturn” which contains some exceptional lead guitar work. Bibbins attempts and pulls off different styles and patterns. “Eagle's World Blues” is a little over ten minutes long but I also recommend taking this journey.
This is a sprawling album. It’s pretty incredible the consistency that he was able to create, from the fidelity to the songwriting. I think it goes without saying that Hendrix fans will love this but also more generally fans of psychedelic and classic rock as well. Take a listen.
D Blinco is a freelance musician and elementary music teacher from Phoenix, AZ. According to Blinco, when all the gigs, choir performances and rehearsals went away due to Covid-19 he put his busy musical mind and free time to use; gearing all his efforts towards songwriting. Some of those efforts went into the release The universe is talking.
This album was a mix between folk and ’90s alternative rock in the spirit of bands like Pavement and The Flaming Lips. In fact Blinco’s vocals reminded me of Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips. Once I noticed it I couldn’t stop hearing it.
“people (center on living your life)” is the opener and sort of a light acoustic song. There’s a sense of yearning to the vocals, It’s heartfelt and tender. On that note I preferred the next song “shout at the devil” which is a fuzzy and kinetic tune with pulsating drums and memorable vocal melodies.
“weather girl” is a great song that’s melodic and catchy. The concept of being infatuated with the weather girl on TV works wonderfully in the song. “karen noyd” could be a B-side from the album Transmissions from the Satellite Heart by The Flaming Lips.
As the album progressed I had some preferences which I thought were highlights. “rock bottom moment” is a well-written song which revolves around existential themes and how we start to seek change at our worst. The mood however is light and sort of even fun. “go to guy” had its moments and I thought the intimate title track “the universe is talking” was another highlight.
My only critique is that he should consider working with a mastering engineer to balance out dynamics and make the sonic imprints similar from song to song.
This is a good album and I look forward to hearing more from the artist.
The Spins! is a South Jersey songwriting trio featuring multi-instrumentalists Michael Auble, Dominic DiPietro and Justin Roa. The band recently released 4:49. They mention: “4:49 is an eclectic and energetic collection of otherwise disparate musical backgrounds, as a result of the equal songwriting contributions from each member of the band.”
They start off with the title track “4:49” which is more of an introduction. This song, for whatever reason, is very lo-fi and there’s a build up of frequencies in the lower mids which mask almost all the instrumentation. The next song “Hat Hair” is mixed much better. The song is melodic with good guitar work and memorable vocals. I thought the male and female vocals sounded cohesive together. On top of that there was fantastic instrumental skills displayed by the members.
“Okay” is noticably louder than the first two songs. It's the best engineered song yet. There’s a distinct ’50s pop vibe on this song which sounded really unique. “Kennedy Park” is more punk oriented but one of the catchiest songs. “Stay’ is a melodic rock tune while “Cemetery” reminded me of the band Real Estate.
The band definitely has some talent in multiple areas. On that note, as an engineer myself, the recording quality is lo-fi but also very varied. Each song is mixed in a different way and the RMS levels from song to song are inconsistent. In this case I think one of the first things the band should do is find an engineer to work with who can assist with recording, mixing and mastering duties.
Overall, there are some good songs on this release. They blend a couple different styles here and I would say they do that successfully. I also thought the members had innate chemistry and the vocal work was impressive from all the vocalists. The young band is off to a solid start and seem to be finding their way. I look forward to hearing more.
Charts and Graphs are a three piece band based in Newcastle Upon Tyne who recently released Run It Neil. Their music is a blend of New Wave and Post Punk and is composed of Dan (guitar and vocals), Ross (bass) Hugh (drums). The band states “We are a New Wave/Post Punk band that are influenced by late 70's/early 80's bands like Talking Heads, Gang of Four and by a few more current bands like LCD Soundsystem and Snapped Ankles”.
The album starts with “World of Video” which immediately felt the influences they were referring to. I loved the percussion, especially the cowbell which I’m a sucker for. The bass line is funky but no slap bass here. There are other elements which start to trickle like guitar and the vocals are also on point. Great opener.
“Wiretap” is another killer song. The bass drives the song and there are some elements of surf which you hear in the guitar. They bring together more rhythm section heavy songs with “”New Mutants” and “Lifestyles”.
I heard some of that post-punk as well on songs like “Lipstick” which sounds like a mix between Interpol and LCD Soundsystem. “Taxidermy Tears” has a hint of 50’s pop on top of the grooves.
The highlight is arguably “Professional Life’ which is also the catchiest song out of the gates. They continue to blast out grooves with the atmospheric “Get the Message” as well as the more guitar heavy “Cocaine Nosejob”.
Simply put, this album is a blast. It’s one I recommend putting on Saturday Night to get people in a good mood and ready to dance. I would also say however it’s not just about the grooves on this album. There’s heartfelt sentiment as well catchy hooks which bring it all together very nicely.
The songs were DIY recordings and sound great. I was getting more of an older analog tape recording vibe from most of the songs even if they were recorded digitally.
This is a good album from beginning to end. The band has an aesthetic and consitentially nail it. Recommended.
Justin Rutz is originally from Oregon and has been living in Portland for the last 15 years or so. As an Oregon-native, he has been playing in various punk or new wave bands for years. He contributed on bass for the Portland band Roselit Bone. Facts Machine is his first release as a solo artist under the name Neon Greyjoy. Pretty much Rutz got used to playing for local punk bands so this move toward more new wave, indie rock and synth pop umbrellas was a little outside his comfort zone. Yet Rutz is able to handle the transition with ease, easily adapting to the new styles on his debut EP. Rutz’s vocals recalls a Passion Pit vibe.
Facts Machine launches with “Love Shtick” that starts off with some airy synths. The synths then made way for what resembled Celtic sounds. Once the vocals came in, I was reminded of Passion Pit. There was a jaunty feel to the rhythms. Rutz’s falsetto is really infectious. The waves of synths, electronic riffs and beats really came together. Next is “We,” where some smooth and retro keys sound out here. Gradually, some beats gain traction. More of Rutz’s falsetto vocals sound out. The vibe felt more low-key with a sauntering groove. There was overall a more easy-going feel to this track. But eventually, the music becomes more exciting in sound, blowing up in an explosion of synths and electronic riffs. Guitars and more glitch-y electronic vibes strut out to the start of “Midnite blur.” The sound is a celebration of EDM music. The flavorful notes point to a very dance-worthy vibe.
Some monotone beats open up “Manhattan.” As some synth layers in the sounds for a very atmospheric feel, the wave of synths then makes way for Rutz’s vocals. The energy does not abate in this song. There was a very new wave and clubbing feel to this track that felt like it would be perfect for groovin’ along to. More synths light up the atmosphere on “Plastic Apothecary.” This time around there was a more nostalgic and sentimental air to the music. The auto-tuned vocals right away reminded me of Owl City. There was a very inviting sense to the music, as Rutz sends us out with this memorable closer.
Listening to the tracks on this EP, the album felt very cohesive. The energy of the opening track “Love Shtick” then segues into the next and next and next, creating a movement of sound worth visiting on multiple occasions. I loved how the artist was really able to think outside the box and experiment with different sounds. I thought the tracks here on this record had a lot of textures, each one feeling a little different from the other. There’s a lot going on on Rutz’s Facts Machine. Worth exploring from start to finish, this proved to be a good introduction to the artist’s sounds and I look forward to seeing where he goes from here.
Kevin Krull is a Chicago-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist whose musical experiences span a number of different styles. Revolution Euphoria, his 2021 release, is a home-recorded set that was born, he tells us, from spending 2020 “voraciously consuming radical leftist media” and needing “an outlet for [his] rage at the way the world is organized.”
The resulting four-track EP is “strictly anticapitalist, working-class solidarity music” that lands squarely in the country/folk genre. There’s no confusion about his subject matter, starting right with the opener “Malatesta.” Krull clears his throat, steps to the podium and tells us: “justice in an unjust system is impossible / because power's only function is accruing more power.” The music is classic American folk, complete with harmonica, and, in a touch that brought back fond memories of Mr. Sweitlicki’s 5th grade music class, an autoharp. Krull adds his unique print to the genre here with layered, tightly voiced vocal harmonies. The short track concludes with a uniting group sing-along.
“Ode to Illinois” moves to a country, strummed-guitar feel, again featuring Krull’s tight vocal harmonies. Andrew Krull’s note-perfect pedal steel guitar elevates the proceedings, as Kevin Krull sets his sights on government-subsidized farm conglomerates: “who cares if the earth dies … as long as it dies for the company dime.” Fair enough, but the f-bomb lyrics cheapen the message a bit.
The third track “Us v. Them” shifts uptempo with Andrew Krull adding in some dextrous banjo. With the couplet “capitalists worked hard for all these / years to make you feel worthless,” don’t anticipate a “like” from Adam Smith. The lyrics also include some shout-ats to Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. This is an unfortunate choice, because this limits the song’s reach to current events. As there is no description of who these men are (or why we should perceive them as evil), there’s no way for future listeners to understand the context and connect with the emotion that Krull is trying to deliver.
“A Casual Reminder” closes the EP. The track includes some tape hiss, by design, but it distracts from the tight vocal harmonies. The lyrics take a swipe at streaming platforms, which presumably excludes Bandcamp: “they need workers and thinkers and artists alike / to run the machine that fills their pockets up nice / you get a tenth of a tenth of a tenth of a cent / for every dollar they make with your life up for rent.” Krull does a nice job changing the music’s feel at the end of each stanza--it adds a little underline to his message.
Krull exhorts us to “educate! agitate! organize!” and hints that he knows the direction forward: “wait til you see what we've planned / I see a path that we can take / to put [America] in the people's hands.” Revolution Euphoria doesn’t give us the next step though. Perhaps the follow-up will point us?
The Pool Noodles is a duo from the Bay Area. Their identities are shrouded in anonymity, only going by the names Blue Pool Noodle (lead & harmony vocals/mouth noises/ukulele) and Green Pool Noodle (production/sax/misc. instruments/vocal). I thought the fun names really seemed to show us the band's playful side, as a lot of the stuff on their latest album Luminous Canopy includes a mixture of sounds from live sax, clarinet, pots and pans, a fax machine, synths and the sounds of a party as background noise. The band members really give us a glimpse of their eccentric and eclectic vision on this 13-track collection. A mix of pop, electronic and jazz, the band layers into their sound a lot of weird and strange noises and it is their oddball effect that really makes them stand apart from their peers. None of the sounds feel out of place here as The Pool Noodles pack into their music a varied and all-encompassing sound, and somehow make it all work.
Luminous Canopy opens up with “Song (Part 1)” where what sounds like xylophones and shooting flares of electronic riffs sound out. The vibe created sounds that are very alien-like and other-worldly. Gradually, synths pound into the recording, adding a lasting ambiance. Weird and wonky sounds erupt here on “Smoothest Stances.” Next, the vocals come in. The sound of bongos provides an adequate backdrop to what sounds like spoken word vocals. The music is strange with a slightly oddball feel. There was a tasteful jazz segment on the keys that I thought really added a nice flavorful touch to the piece overall. Some bouncy beats shoot out from “Leafless.” The smooth and soulful vocals send out a very soothing appeal. I really enjoyed the vocal harmonies. The island flavors in this track made this a highlight. Some steel drums add to these tropical flavors. A sax solo also adds to the vibes.
Wonky bass lines settle into the groove on “Tasty.” Next, some funk-induced vocals light up the sounds. The hilarious lyrical content points to the band’s more fun-loving side. Another sax solo sounds out for another jam-fest. There was a whole lot of whimsy to this quirky song. A piano melody enters that meanders for a bit on “The Man Like A Nest Of Spiders.” The piano tune builds, becoming more intricate in vibe. This is solely an instrumental piece. Some wailing synths faire out on the start of “Mycelium Wires.” It produces a sense of dissonance to the overall vibes. Next, the ambiance changes up for a more minimalistic approach with just beats and vocals. Then the music becomes more embellished with more glitch-y electronic flourishes. The auto-tuned vocals offered a very robotic vibe.
“Birth Of The Fax” starts off with vocals. The keys slowly then join in. The background vocal harmonies provided a lush backdrop that I enjoyed. The sound of retro keys really seemed to liven up the atmosphere as you can hear in the background the sounds of a fax machine working. On “Slipping,” the sounds of a ukulele embrace a very island flair. Once the flavorful vocals come in, you can really feel the music coming together. This felt like a warm beach-y affair that had a really nice groove to it. I liked the way the singer was able to flex his vocal chords and give audiences a sense of his range. Next, the track changes up for a more dance feel. The band alternates between its sparse ukulele sound to more radioactive rhythms in a heartbeat. Percolating beats add to the vibes here as synths also struts in on “Dance In Oblivion.” This song felt very electric in mode. As the vocals come in starkly, you can feel the mood and emotions coalescing in the backdrop. This track heavily leans on the band’s electronic side. The band closes the album with this heavy dance jam.
Over a span of three years, the album was recorded in various apartments, bedrooms and parental living rooms around the Bay Area. Since this was a bedroom recording, it is only natural that a certain amount of lo-fi-ness finds its way into the album. Yet this didn’t seem to deter the course of any of these songs in any way. There was also a certain wild abandon and spontaneity to this recording that felt like the band was jamming out to some jazz. The way the music felt free of constraints as well as upholding more solid structures that is found in classical music, the band is able to tackle all this and more. There is also a touch of electro-pop in the music as The Pool Noodles hail the arrival of many significant synth-wave movements within their sound. The band has certainly produced something of note with Luminous Canopy. It looks like the band is only getting started and I look forward to hearing more music like this soon.
I have to admit I thought Maggie Dave was the artist. Maggie Dave is actually the music project of visual artists Sean David Christensen and Mark Christopher. The band's music has been presented at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and screened alongside works by Black Pumas and The Shins. "I'm Not Ready," their debut music video animated by Cassie Shao, was awarded with a Vimeo Staff Pick and won "Best Music Video" at the 69th Columbus International Film & Animation Festival.
They recently released “I'll Be Home” which is a cover song written by Randy Newman. The song starts with some atmosphere. It’s warm and followed by electric piano. The vocalist sings: “When your nights are troubled / And you're all alone / When you’re feeling down and need some sympathy / There’s no one else around to keep you company / Remember baby you can always count on me.” This is a song that goes straight to your heart if you are in a particular kind of mood.
The song unravels like a slow burn and as I was listening I thought this song needs some sax. Why? Because sax is usually a sensual and soothing sound that provides solace. The artist seems to understand that as well because my wish was granted. I thought the sax was a great part of the song.
This song feels like a fire in a cabin. It has the sentimentality of a hallmark card. The song attempts to provide some comfort, warmth and tranquility for those of us who are lucky enough to have someone but might be missing them.
Along with that there’s also a sense of gratitude the song embodies since it implies that there is someone who cares and will be there for you when you feel alone. If you happen to be desperately single and no one who is coming home figuratively or metaphorically for you the message in the song will most likely miss the mark.
These are lyrics which pull on your heartstrings if you have a partner who might be away on travel for whatever reason and you find yourself feeling alone. At least for the duration of the song it should provide solace. Maggie Dave reimagined a timeless sentiment that will continue to resonate with the human condition.
Trapdoor is a recording project that emerges out of the dorms and bedrooms of New York, creating a carefully constructed and contemplative indie rock style that seeks to explore new sounds and emotions. Trapdoor’s debut album Abstractions was almost entirely recorded in the artist’s bedroom using Logic, while playing a Fender electric bass, Midi keyboard, and a semi-acoustic ukulele. Due to the guitar tones being recorded using a ukulele, the songs have a unique tone that adds an extra layer of abstraction to an already psychedelic sound. Thematically, the album seeks to capture the abstracted sounds and feelings that marked a transitional period during the artist’s life. Growing into adulthood required a “coming to terms” moment that dealt with personal emotions and angst – music became an outlet to give a name to those formless emotions. The artist states that he tended to dwell on certain sounds just to see how far he could push them, where each song became a way to grow and to develop thoughts that were still forming. A love for psychedelic soundscapes and noise grew alongside Trapdoor’s songwriting abilities, and this album reflects that.
The album’s opener “You Will Never Know” suggests that the cosmos is beyond human comprehension, but that at the same time there can be this “intimacy with the mystery” that is all around us – we just must “learn to love or rot away.” I liked the line “the concrete of your mind where lilacs bloomed” – an interesting visual. As far as style, you could say it’s synthpop, without being traditionally synthpop, added with other ethereal soundscape elements – a pretty cool mix.
Next up is “The Mirror” and it starts off with a warm, muted bass, bright melodic guitar, or the ukulele (?) and a trippy style overall. Parts of this one was dark in nature, perhaps a bit goth. “You Made My Bad Decisions for Me” begins with some piano, an echoing guitar/ukulele sound and a melodious bass. The singing gets trippy, edging on someone going mad or at least having some sort of nervous breakdown. I thought this number had a tenderness about it and reminded me of the later work of R.E.M., like off Around the Sun. On “Falling Stars,” Trapdoor tells the story of a girl who is “patiently waiting for the stars to fall again” and “waiting for the world to end.” The bass takes on the brunt of the rhythm and melody here, while the guitar drones loudly and a saxophone comes in-between the verses with a solo effort at the end.
“Ms. Flowers” has a trippy, shoegaze quality about it with muffled singing and the instruments taking more center stage. There’s also a creepiness vibe I felt, but a likable one – maybe it was the lyrics. Overall, I thought this album flowed well from start to finish. “Cacophony” has nice rhyming on some of its words. The main instruments here are keys and drums. The effects pedal, or whatever was used on the ukulele, was quite good and it had a nice contrast to the smooth sounding bass tones. I thought it really defined what the word cacophony meant. Moving on to “No Longer Strangers” you’ll hear plenty of classic and new wave like synth, via the Midi keyboard and a wild drum beat. This one is lively and has an interesting arrangement of sounds. The story behind this tune goes out to a “Theo” and suggests two people coming together – “fade into blue, I fade into you / we are no longer strangers.” The last track “Something Pleasant” offers no singing, just an instrumental. It features mostly keys/piano and a solid drum beat. There are also some cool effects that add to the song’s melody. I really liked this last one and thought it added a greater dynamic to the album’s mix.
Altogether, Abstractions by Trapdoor has a unique approach to songwriting and mixes instruments in entertaining ways.
Jaime Sales is a 15-year-old that was born in Manila, Philippines but lives and grew up in Dublin, Ireland. oh boy is his debut album, a 12-track collection with basically just the singer/songwriter on guitar. The formula, though simple, really works. Though the tracks here on the album were for the most part on the melancholy side, Sales treated each track like it came from his own personal experience, taking ideas from books/films to better give them a sense of reality. It looks like Sales is only getting started and credits his sound to emulating such artists/Youtubers like Cavetown, Dayglow and Twooba.
oh boy begins with “one moment,” where right away the synths will hit you alongside the sound of rain falling. Next, the sounds of someone entering the house arrives. As this person shuffles around the house, you, the audience, are following them around. Eventually, the sound of rain falling outside is juxtaposed over the sounds of atmospheric acoustic guitar. The sound right away segues into the next track. Picking right off from where the intro left off, the chord progressions build on “Moon.” There was a melancholy sense to his singing and the sadness permeates the lyrics and music, feeling like an instrumental part of the sound. The chord progressions on “Baron” sees an uptick in pacing, sounding happier in mode than the previous song. Some beats then enter and Sales’ vocals come in feeling very emo-inspired. His singing comes across with a droning feel. The contrast of his vocals and music provided an interesting layer to his sound.
More sad lamenting is realized here on “the end (not).” Feeling very somber, this pensive track will leave listeners in a contemplative place. The guitar rhythms provided a soothing listening experience as Sales serenades us with his soft vocals. A meandering acoustic guitar melody erupts from the start of “happiness.” Gradually more synths and a drumming beat is added to the groove. The chord progressions on acoustic guitar become more upbeat and sunnier on “Fingertips.” There was a very intimate feel to the vocals and music. The music reminded me of Iron and Wine and The Postal Service. What sounds like xylophones added some unique instrumentation. There was a slow but steady feel to the music, then eventually it opened to a fuller band sound.
On “Lovers,” the sound of ocean waves is superimposed over a ‘50s and ‘60s pop feel. The sound of synths and beats sends out an infectious melody. There was a nice groove to the acoustic guitar as well that I thought was a change of pace from the melancholy moods previously. This seemed like a good pop-based sound to rock out to. On “Grown,” more acoustic guitar chord progressions sound out here. The music has a nice flow to it and Sales’ vocals had a soft resonance. The sound of rain falling returns here on “Thank You (Forgotten).” The heavy sounds of rain in the backdrop provides an adequate atmosphere as slowly the sound of acoustic guitar takes its place. The finger-picking on guitar makes for an introspective sound. Slowly building in vibe and melody, this is an instrumental sans vocal. The pensive guitar melody will surely grow on you the more you listen to it as Sales bids farewell.
A bedroom recording through and through, the album was recorded in Sales' bedroom and he handles everything himself, from the composing, writing, recording, producing and mixing and mastering. A lot of the tracks on this record were a little on the lo-fi end, but I did not think that his acoustic sound necessitated any big production flourishes. I thought as a result of the lo-fi-ness, this gave the album a more intimate and inside look into the performer. The songs on this album had a very thought-provoking singer/songwriter vibe that would make it great for a coffee shop ambiance.
My only critique is that for the most part, the songs on this album sounded similar. I thought that if the artist put in more variation into his sounds, this might help change things up a bit. With a whole lot to appreciate on this album, this proved to be a good debut to Sales’ sounds and I look forward to seeing more from him soon.
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