Eva Blanche wears many hats in the industry: she’s a singer/songwriter, composer and musician. On her first EP METROPOLE PARADISE, Blanche describes her sound as lyrical punk. And the sound itself is overall a blend of rock, pop, electro and trip hop. But for the most part, I was getting electronica and an ‘80s vibe, especially on her opener “Traffic Space.” Backing Blanche on this EP are Alois L (synths), Valentin Couineau (bass) and Tiss Rodriguez (drums). Together, they bring together an intricate sound that feels dreamy and surreal all at once.
METROPOLE PARADISE begins with “Traffic Space,” where some industrial-like riffs come in. The sound is very gritty and ominous to my ears. Next, space-age synths arrive for an other-worldly feel. Soon, Blanche’s robotic-like vocals come in. This felt like an EDM track filled with heavy synths and electronic riffs. Blanche’s music here reminded me of Blondie. There was something about the music that brought the ‘80s to my mind. I enjoyed the retro-styled sounds here. Toward the end, Blanche’s vocals take on an operatic approach. More operatic singing comes from Blanche at the start of “Traumapolis.” Eerie synths come in adding an atmospheric vibe. As drums gain traction on this piano-led track, you can feel Blanche’s vocals arrest you with its compelling vibe. I was reminded of Feist and Bjork in this instance.
More ominous synths arrive for an atmospheric listening experience on “To Walk Off Cliffs.” Out of the ether, comes a simple piano melody. Next, Blanche’s spoken word-like vocals enter. This track felt very stream-of-consciousness and quirky. Blanche employs tons of experimentation here on this artsy and avant garde song. On the title track “Metropole Paradise,” a somber piano tune comes in at the start of the track. Gradually, Blanche’s dream-like vocals arrive. She sings with mood and feeling, making this a fully charged delivery. There was a theatrical-ness to this song that reminded me of a Broadway performance. I thought this was a moving way for the artist to close her album.
In her bio, Blanche says that this EP is very much inspired by the city. Field recordings of the metro and streets of Paris are very much a part of this album. And even the subject matter and overall vibe of her tracks takes on this urban feeling. Blanche has had training in theater and her flair for the theatrical is on full display on the set of songs here. Blanche had set out to explore different women’s destines through urban landscapes and I think she has succeeded. I look forward to hearing more in this vein from the artist soon.
Smooth Retsina Glow has been around for around three years and is basically making an album a year. They recently released Metaphysical which contains ten songs and runs forty-five minutes long. The album contains a nice blend of rock flavor. There’s some alternative, psychedelia, classic rock and more that blend into the signature sound of Smooth Retsina Glow.
The music starts with “Fall In Fall Out” and this song has one of my favorite grooves. There’s a clear ’70s type of groove here and it revolves around organ, clean guitar, a steady buoyant bass and an almost jazzy drum beat. The vocal melodies were catchy and I also loved the Peter Frampton inspired guitar sound.
The energy increases on the next song “Live It Up” which is one of the more upbeat songs that will put you in a great mood. I thought the steady snare hits combined with that awesome guitar riff worked very well. There’s a mix of ’60s guitar pop and even arguably a bit from the late ’50s. The Beatles came to mind with this song.
“Metaphysical” is very lush and jazzy. It’s moody, melancholy and also quite beautiful at times. The synths are heavy on this song creating a pensive and cerebral quality as well. This song felt like it could be on a Radiohead album.
“Find Myself” starts with atmospheric pads and vocals. Minimalism like this works well especially when it blossoms into something else. As the song progresses drums enter and a groove is established. The song is moody but when listening to the lyrics I felt the song was mostly about gratitude.
“Held Under Sway” is up next and has its moments as well. It wasn’t the strongest song on the album to me but it had a killer old school drum solo type deal and also some wailing lead guitar. “Derliction” is a fast moving romp of song. It’s a fun song with a great beat, infectious vocals melodies and some phaser infused guitar.
“Born Enchanted” is very smooth and dare I say sensual sounding. The guitar solo on this song sounded like butter. “Something to Show for This” felt like a single-worthy song. It felt inviting and also contained one of the strongest hooks. “At Every Turn” has some attitude while the closer “Veridian” felt like a tip of the hat to Pink Floyd.
This is an eclectic album and contains an array of textures, colors and styles. It might be their best release to date. Recommended.
Jose Israel is an alternative rock artist based in Chicago. His debut single '9/13 in Chicago,”released this past March is on his self-titled three-song EP Jose Israel. As a person currently living in Chicago I appreciated his tip of the hat to the city with its warts and all.
The EP starts with the single “9/13 in chicago” and for the most part revolves around guitar and vocals. There’s a good amount of reverb on the guitar which makes it sound like it is being performed in a hall. The guitar work is solid with one guitar sticking to strumming while the other provides occasional lead like flourishes. I thought the vocals were very well done. There’s basically two lead vocals most of the time although one of the vocals provides soothing “oohhs’ and “aaahhs.” It’s very well done and felt like there was plenty of space in the song. The song seems to be about confusion and not knowing exactly where you stand in the world. Israel sings “im in limbo I can't help but ask the time where is my mind second guessing castles buried in the sand it never ends”
“we exist b4” is next and this is sort of a relaxing and chill song. The guitars still have a good amount of reverb on them with the lead also containing a little bit of delay. Although the song is only composed of a couple of guitars it’s fairly dynamic. The song seems to be about similar themes as Israel sings “desperately searching / for what? I don’t know / maybe I did up until it snowed / futures bleakest when the stratosphere takes me here we now have the authority to reach all of Chicago.” There again are two vocals which are basically both lead but sung in different ways.
“untitled (scott pilgrim song)” contains some percussion instruments. It sounds like brush work which lies against the guitars. It might be the catchiest song of the three. For whatever reason I was picturing myself hanging out on the beach relaxing and drinking a beer.
"what?" contains some of the best guitar work on the EP and would even say that some this might be the highlight. The vocals melodies stuck with long after the song was over.
The whole EP is just a little over eleven minutes long and is fairly lo-fi. That being said, the spirit of the music comes through. Israel is off to a solid start and has the fundamentals down. Perhaps even more encouraging is that he is forming a signature sound. This is a solid start and I look forward to hearing more in the not too distant future.
It wasn’t too long ago that we heard from Fighting Whiskey with their release Dandelions and Failure. The band is back with a new album entitled Songs About Crying. It’s an eight-song album that’s about a half-hour long and builds on the foundation they built with their last release.
The album has ballads, rocks out and in general has a complex and vast exploration of emotion. There’s a lot to appreciate and it starts with “Shivers and Shakes.” I have to admit this song sounded more like a closer than an opener but I still loved what I heard.
The song revolves around swelling strings, piano and vocals. I loved what I heard from the vocals which really makes the song a tearjerker. The song seems to be about strife, loss and ultimately moving on. With lines like “All of this year I’ve been trying” I think most people can relate with the way things are in the world right now.
“Run” isn’t as heavy emotionally and we get a song that is a little more playful and fun. The band breaks out their guitars with some distortion, drums and basically a standard rock band format. It’s a lovely song that goes down easy. The groove is slick and the vocal melodies memorable.
“Ugliness In You” is next and the band bust the piano back out. It starts with bass, piano and vocals. Drums soon entered and this song had a nice juxtaposition. There’s some melancholy but I also found it quite uplifting at points in the song. One thing I thought was really cool was that there was an interesting use of panning where the lead vocals goes from hard left to hard right. There are also occasional vocal harmonies which sounded great. This is arguably the highlight and was one of my favorites.
“Lately” took me back to the late ’60s and ’70s. This song has an Americana feeling but also classic rock. They go back and forth between a more folky introspection during the verse and then rock out quite hard when the chorus hits.
“Impressions of You” contains a similar palette of sounds to the opener. This song however felt very pensive. There’s definitely a lot of beautiful moments and the song comes across as tender and heartfelt.
“Old Gill (Acoustic)” is as the name implies an acoustic song. It revolves around vocals and guitars. These are some of the best vocal melodies on the album and I thought the delivery was exceptional. It’s definitely another tearjerker. “Hesitant” is a slow burn. Some of the background vocals are haunting and lead vocals really make the song work. There’s also a really well done section on piano which brightens the mood.
Last up is “Songs About Crying” which is the last ballad but this one really felt like a revival. The vocals gave this song feeling. I thought the sweeping springs sounded lovely in the mix but also weren’t overused.
The songs about crying might make you shed a tear. If that was their intention then I say well done. That being said, that's not the only emotion you will experience with this great album. Recommended.
Jacob Donnelly is a guitarist from Cambridge, Massachusetts who has spent the past seven years mastering the instrument. He humbly refers to himself as an “up and coming” artist, but this would be selling his talents short. To quote Radiohead, anyone can play guitar, but not anyone can play it well.” Some people simply have an innate musical flair, and it is all too apparent that Donnelly is one of those people.
“Is Anyone There?” makes a powerful statement as an opener to Donnelly’s four-track EP, entitled Tetrachromacy. When I imagine a rock opener to any album, I hear something stark that jolts the listener out of their seat. Think of the introduction to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” While Jacob Donnelly traverses pop-punk and alternative music, which is an entirely different genre to The Beatles, his opening track gives me that same face-melting feeling. A voice asks, “Hello, is anyone there?” and that’s the end of the vocals for the album. A call-and-answer distorted guitar passage follows. Pop-punk power chords jump to sizzling lead guitar arpeggios; back and forth they go. The lead guitar melody, to my ears, almost serves as a replacement for a vocal melody. It gives the instrumental track some variety and layering. That’s an important tool for an instrumental musician. It can be hard to keep a listener’s attention without vocals, but Donnelly does it well.
On the title track “Tetrachromacy,” Donnelly truly cements his style of delivering nostalgic chord progressions underneath sizzling, cutting lead guitar melodies. The guitar speaks for him, as corny as that might sound. I’m not often fully engaged with entirely instrumental albums, but “Tetrachromacy” is a real trip. The main track is driven by punchy pop-punk drums, reminiscent of early Green Day, The Offspring and Fall Out Boy. It feels raw, yet the smooth, sliding lead guitar feels polished. This richly-layered tune is the stand-out on the album, which is what I would have expected, given that it shares the EP’s name.
“Pearl River” is an absolutely stunning third track. A mesmerizing atmospheric daydream. Reverberating guitar drifts ceaselessly in the distance as a warbling finger-picked chord progression, driven by a psychedelic flanger effect, carries the song forwards. It marks a pleasant change of pace for the album, demonstrating Donnelly’s range as an artist. I would have loved to hear more tranquil tracks such as this, so hopefully he’ll delve more into this style on future releases.
The closing track, “The 3 Count” is a powerful return to the earlier pop-punk and rock influences which were present earlier on the EP. The song is driven by a slow, thudding beat, crunchy power chords and sharp lead guitar passages which felt more inspired by hard rock or perhaps even classic metal groups than pop-punk. It created a nice blend of styles, as the melody of the song was still upbeat and firmly rooted in pop-punk. But the fast-paced drum fills and scorching riffs heavily indicated Donnelly’s other influences.
This was a hefty rock album, at the end of the day. For a music fan who rarely delves into fully instrumental albums, I was pleasantly surprised. Donnelly’s skillful musicianship is most likely to thank for that.
Grass Landing is a noise pop/rock, shoegaze, and grunge hybrid band from San Diego that recently released an EP called Sunbeam. The band is composed of Rocky Herrera and Tim Sams. They mention “The album is a homage to the noisy style of late ‘80s and early ‘90s shoegaze/grunge and noise rock music of the time.”
I happened to grow up with that music and was a huge fan of bands like My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr, Slow Dive and Ride. This release felt nostalgic to me for those reasons and felt like I was familiar with these songs the first time I heard them.
“Heaven Upon Us” is the opener and starts with a 4/4 beat, a steady bass and those classic shoegaze style guitars which sound like they are going slightly out of tune but create the coolest effect. The vocals are fairly monotone which is also a common style you hear with shoegaze. There’s some killer lead guitar work around the two-minute mark which goes to the end of the song.
Up next is “Musk” which was one of the highlights. This song is very lush and serene but also drives. There are some wild moments in the song. I’m pretty sure that's the guitar I heard during the instrumental part. There’s a more classic guitar solo towards the end which I thought was wicked. It’s also very dynamic and some sections absolutely pop.
“Grolsch” is next and another great display of shoegaze. The distortion feels a little more clean here and the textures are different. I loved the soundscape they were able to create a little after the one-minute mark where it goes into the chorus. It’s very ethereal and otherworldly sounding which gives you a blissful feeling.
“Reset Repeat” continues to reinforce their shoegaze aesthetic. There are a number of killer grooves here and I thought the bass work was especially good on this song. The band ends with another highlight entitled “Sunbeam.” This is one of the more dynamic songs and arguably has the most memorable vocal melodies.
If you’re a fan of classic shoegaze I can’t think of a reason you wouldn’t like it this EP. The band did their homework and were able to tip their hat to the aesthetic while creating something novel. Take a listen.
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The brainchild behind Elegant Chasers is songwriter, guitarist & multi-instrumentalist Maz Loizou. Loizou recently released Sentimental Dust. He mentions “I have various influences mostly guitar based although I do love various genres like ’90s dance, traditional Greek music, ’80s new wave. So with that in mind the album isn't just stuck in one genre. I wanted to create a wall of sound.”
It’s a thirteen song album that starts with “Asylum” and is sort of an instrumental introduction. There’s a country flavor to it that combines with a good amount of reverb to give it a cosmic feel. We get some movement with “Let's Ride” which brings with it a good amount more energy. The riffs are heavy, the vocal melodies are memorable and at points are reminiscent of Soundgarden although it is mixed with this British aesthetic.
“Solace Anthem'' comes out of the gate with a lot of energy and that wall of sound he was referring to is definitely in this song. Some of the riffs reminded me of The Spin Doctors. It’s a catchy tune and very infectious as well.
Up next is “Clowns” which has some attitude. The chorus is very explosive and it sounds like there might be multiple effects like tremolo, reverb and delay to create that type of mix. Either way I thought it was cool. There’s also a very pronounced guitar solo. “Laughing Sons” has a killer beat. At points the song sounded something you might hear from Marilyn Manson but it often changes and even sounds Americana infused. It’s a very original sounding song with multiple layers.
As the album progressed I thought there were a number of highlights. I loved the spaghetti western sound and gothic feel of “Friday Nights.” This is arguably the best song on the album. “Sunshine Mourning” soars with an almost ’80s aesthetic that’s covered in reverb while “Lympia” is a moody and Eastern sounding tune which has a distinctly different sound. Last up is the title track “Sentimental Dust” which is almost nine minutes long and motivational sounding.
Overall, this was a pretty epic sounding album. There were a lot of different approaches but I still found it very cohesive. Recommended.
How many members are required before obtaining recognition as a "club"? That all depends on your disposition toward solitude. Richard Gray, the larger portion of Dead Blues Club, would likely answer the question by holding up two fingers. Or maybe one fist and a finger; the former to denote himself as a multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter, the latter paying credence to the "additional keys/organs" of Sam Bollands. Semantics aside, the debut from this almost-solo outfit – aptly titled Vol. 1 – is Gray's means toward catharsis, particularly as a therapeutic axe in the battle against emotional trauma. And what better catalyst for song than the complexities of the human amygdala? Sure, extreme partying is awesome, too, but we can't all be as prolifically inspired as Nikki Sixx.
English at heart but Japan by domicile, Gray feeds on distress. Paying homage to Scott Weiland’s earlier work and the milk-and-pepper Thin White Duke era of David Bowie, the LP’s nine tracks also blend a less emphatic Marilyn Manson with a dollop of Ian Curtis. From panic and ego to global warming and astrological positioning(!), there’s a lot to unpack here. Yet, the weight of these subjects hardly compresses the feel. Forgiving the pun, Dead Blues Club is very much alive, even if their physical suns may be darkening.
“Bloody Ada,” our introduction to the band, begins with a slow-burn percussion, likely effected on woodblocks. Gray’s sickly baritone contrasts well against this melodic current. It’s an unhygienic primer to scuzz stained vocals. Still, regardless of the doom-laden subject matter, the song neither explodes nor exploits cheap jump scares. Rather, it measures itself, like a pyromaniac playing with matches instead of jerrycans of gasoline. The result, in its every singular nuance, is brilliant and beautiful.
“Submarines” trades on anger, with vocals that practically splatter against speaker cloth. The funky bass line doesn’t arrive until the second half, but adds a much welcomed dimension. Likewise, “Party Trick” is prime Idiot-era Iggy Pop, gussied up for insomniac audiences. “Well the thoughts come round when the sun goes down and tomorrow doesn't feel ok,” Gray mutters in his trademark cadence, bounding in and out of the occasional feedback bleed.
“Fire” marks another smarmy bass groove. Infused with finger snapping verses, the machine gun gravel in the chorus is a percussive Voice of God moment. “The Bridge” furthers this unctuous tone, sounding humid enough to expect a cameo from Dr. John, robes ablaze with juju magic. But it isn’t until “The Council of Twelve” that the band approach the heights of their opening cut. This is an instrumental for an upside-down church; a menacingly religious, synthesized trance with illusions toward 1980s analog. The unobtrusive rhythm pushes through each level of super-consciousness. Until it acquiesces, presumably at the end of some lucid rainbow.
Misery loves company, but it doesn't require an equal level of despair to enjoy its finished product. Vol. 1 might not be the soundtrack for all night cocaine benders, but it certainly owns its energy, however unique or disquieting. Is it blues in the traditional sense? Not a chance. Should we care? Of course not. Dead Blues Club weaves a consumptive tale of loss and worldly dissociation through a gorgeously noxious palette. It’s a stimulating ride, for sure. Just be certain to shower when you get off.
It wasn’t too long ago we heard from Conor Alexander with his release Alright. He is back with a new release entitled The Magnetic People. Alexander explains “The Magnetic People is a ten- track alt rock album with lyrical themes of relationships and looking for love at the turn of young adulthood. The album is inspired by ‘90s Brit rock bands like Blur, Supergrass and Sleeper, fusing rock with a slightly pop twist to create an upbeat driving sound that intertwines with the lyrics about women and self-doubt.”
The opener “Good Looking Girls” is a great song that starts with the hum of an organ on a single note. The meditative energy turns to something kinetic as it starts to build with a drum roll and strong guitar chords. This did remind me of a Brit rock band but not from the ’90s. It reminded me of The Who. The verse breaks and the song is a fun romp. I felt like it was somewhere between a song from The Rocky Horror Picture show and The Ramones.
“The Man With the Metal Heart” is a rocking song that starts with some very solid guitar work and memorable groove. The vocals sound good and I noticed they were mixed in a way that it sounds like there are two leads. It’s a catchy tune and I thought the hook sounded great.
“Closer to the Girl” had this fast and fun energy. I was reminded of a band like Minutemen. There are jangly guitar chords, a fast but precise drum beat and another great hook. Alexander sings “She makes me feel a little closer / To how the world's supposed to be / She needs to be a little closer / She feels so far away from me.” There’s a fantastic instrumental section a little before the three-minute mark which was one of my favorite moments on the album.
“The Replacements” contains horns and it made the song a lot more aligned with ska. There’s a good amount to appreciate between the melodies, energy and delivery. “Killing Me” was definitely a change in pace. It’s a stripped back song revolving around guitar and vocals. It was unexpected but it was a solid song.
“20” has an Americana type feel to it that finally explodes towards the end of the song which has a bittersweet and tender feeling to it. The energy rises significantly with “Kamikaze Pilot.” It’s got some swing and some of the best attitude. “Anywhere Else” has more of that Americana spirit while “Plan of Action” is more reminiscent of a band like The Clash. Last up is the punk infused “Becoming Magnetic.”
I think this was a huge leap for the artist and his best release yet. This felt a step in the right direction and an artist who is coming into his own.
Such Great Buzzes is an alt-folk trio based out of Northumberland County, Ontario, that likes to add a touch of jazz to their compositions. Consisting of Matt Kowalyk (vocals/guitar/bass/cello/percussion), John Sharkey (vocals/bass/keys) and Joel Carrier (vocals/drums/percussion), the band makes the sort of music that feels atmospheric. With mellow vocals and an easy-going vibe, the real smooth, cool music on A Lonesome Gathering provides a backdrop to a coffee shop ambience. Their laid-back energy is definitely something a lot of us will be enjoying.
A Lonesome Gathering gets going with “East To Kingston,” where once the instrumentals come in, you get a welcoming sense of what the band is all about. Their sound carries with vibes of jazz, some funk and a great alternative sound. The lead vocalist sounded easy-going. The melodies and harmonies were great. I think the band does a good job here. More smooth jazz arrives for a cool vibe on “Bees On The Bamboo.” I liked how the instrumentals take on a sprawling approach here. Once the lead vocals entered, the music really came together. This was another ambient number from the band. Finger-picking on the acoustic guitar comes in alongside some percussion on “Don’t Make A Fool Out Of Me.” This made for a lively sound. This track had a rather island flavor to it that I loved. The lead singer’s delivery was right on point.
More acoustic guitar renderings come through “Ink On Canvas.” I loved the bare and stripped tones here. It made for a welcoming listening experience. Gradually, some electric guitar is woven into the sounds alongside a dancing drumming beat. This was a slow burning song from the band. Once again, some acoustic guitar lights up the sounds on “Meet Me In Magnetawan.” The percussion and drumming beat made for a lively vibe. This felt like a soulful track from the group as the lead singer belts out the lyrics with feeling and verve. Acoustic guitar enters for a mesmerizing feel on “A Man Named Evil.” Next, the stripped guitar vibes are joined by some keys and percussion. The sound was airy and atmospheric. Once the lead singer’s vocals came in, I was definitely reminded of a lullaby. The sound of the lush cello really made this song.
Crisp acoustic sounds from the guitar come in on “Wait For The Rain.” Once the lead vocals came in, I enjoyed his resonating timbre. This proved to be a highlight on this album. Percussion and drums roll in for a revved feel on “Dogfight.” This style of rock music felt very immediate. As the lead singer’s emotional voice arrives, the moving music also backs him up. This was also among my favorites. More acoustic sounds from the guitar enter here on “In The Before Times.” On this track, the guitar takes on a moody vibe. Soon, the sounds of the electric guitar come in and a drumming beat. The music altogether was really relaxed. The lead singer’s vocals are somber and tinged with melancholy here. The sounds of strings added a certain lushness to the overall vibe. The band chooses to end their album with this poignant closer.
With a lounge vibe that hints at jazz, the music that Such Great Buzzes plays isn’t the type of music that bombards you, instead it takes its time to settle in and letting these pieces evolve. I have to say, the band’s chemistry is great. These are seasoned musicians, who seem to love playing together. Their rapport and drive are evident as they play with synchronized rhythm and pacing. All in all, this was a good album and I look forward to seeing more great things from the band!
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