In the waning days of 2022, we delved into Jason Khaw's Freedom Badge, an album that left a lasting impression. Now, the talented artist returns with his sophomore effort, Peace River, offering listeners a more personal and stripped-back experience.
The journey begins with "Fun To Be Around," a track that immediately draws you in with its intimate aura, centered around intricate guitar work and emotive vocals. The addition of orchestral strings towards the end elevates the heartfelt and tender vibes. Following suit is "You," a song that exudes a sense of looseness, teetering on the edge of falling apart but never quite succumbing.
Khaw's masterful guitar crescendos harmonize beautifully with his unbridled vocals, creating an intriguing dynamic. "Just Get It On" injects a dose of liveliness into the mix, evoking shades of Cat Stevens.
The infectious energy is bolstered by effective bongos and a warm bassline, making it a standout moment on the album. "Feels Like I Belong" takes us on a loose, almost improvised journey through a blend of jazz and blues influences. Khaw continues to impress with the '70s-infused tracks "Lucky Magnolia" and "Hometown," providing a comforting wave of nostalgia.
Among the album's gems, "Shoulder Shrug" shines particularly bright. Khaw's poignant lyrics resonate as he muses, "I don't think I've done much and time is running out. Does it really matter as long as I can twist and shout?" The addition of orchestral strings and backing vocals adds depth to the track, making it a standout. "We Don't Have To" emerges as one of the more contemplative and thought-provoking entries on the record, leaving a lasting impression on attentive ears.
"Don't Let It Flood" crackles with vibrancy and a revolutionary spirit, both in its lyrics and delivery, while "Happy Blues" delivers on its titular promise, serving as a superb closer to this musical journey. In Peace River, Khaw demonstrates his songwriting prowess, with each track finely crafted and delivered with exceptional precision. The album's crisp production quality ensures that every nuance is heard, making it a release that firmly establishes Khaw's place in the musical landscape.
Pat The Riffer, hailing from the musical heartland of Pennsylvania, has recently graced our ears with a scintillating single bearing the title "I Know What You Want." From the very first encounter, this sonic gem seizes your attention with an unwavering grip. Embarking on its sonic journey, the composition kicks off with a syncopated groove that weaves a tapestry of guitar, drums and bass, enticing the listener into its intricate web. A brief yet tantalizing guitar solo beckons, paving the way for the verses that follow. With guitars that shimmer like stars in the night sky and vocals as smooth as molten silk, the musical craftsmanship shines.
But what truly sets this track apart is its ingenious use of falsetto as it segues into the hook—an artful maneuver that imbues the transition with a sense of purpose and elevation, drawing the listener deeper into its lush and atmospheric soundscape. And let's not forget the rhythm section; they do an exceptional job in grounding the composition, ensuring that the low end resonates with an infectious pulse. The zenith of "I Know What You Want" arguably manifests around the two-minute mark, where the bass takes center stage and the track ascends into an electrifying guitar solo.
The sheer magnitude of the guitar's resonance at this juncture is nothing short of monumental. This crescendo flows seamlessly back into the hook, and the outro intensifies, culminating in an auditory spectacle that leaves an indelible mark.
As a newfound discovery in the musical cosmos, Pat The Riffer has left a lasting impression. Curiosity piqued, I delved further into his discography, uncovering gems like "Paranoia" and "Too Much," which are equally commendable in their sonic offerings. It is with eager anticipation that we await what the future holds for this promising artist, with hopes of more sonic delights gracing our ears in the not-so-distant future.
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Sour Station, hailing from the vibrant music scene of the Philly-metro area, emerges as a promising indie pop fusion ensemble. Born from the crucible of high school camaraderie, this youthful outfit is swiftly making ripples in their local musical waters, having recently unveiled a pair of singles, "For Now And Forever" and "Melt Away." My journey with Sour Station commenced with "Melt Away," an auditory revelation that swiftly seized my attention.
Beyond its undeniable catchiness lies a remarkable amalgamation of musical elements, deftly interweaving rock, alternative and a tantalizing hint of jazz, notably embodied in that entrancing walking bassline. This composition evokes an insatiable desire to revel in the sheer joy of the moment, conjuring visions of the band executing it within the intimate confines of a mid-sized venue. A guitar solo further elevates the sonic experience, leaving me eagerly anticipating the band's forthcoming offerings.
Segueing into "For Now And Forever," we are greeted by what appears to be a band engaged in a soundcheck warm-up, a prelude to an intricate and rapid groove that ensues. The bass work on display here is nothing short of incredible, serving as a testament to the band's collective musical prowess. What truly enamored me was the harmonious synergy between the two guitars – one sporting a fuzzy texture, the other bathed in pristine clarity with a touch of reverb.
The song's pièce de résistance emerges just before the two-minute mark, where an ethereal organ seems to ascend, entwined with hypnotic guitar melodies, before gracefully morphing into the frenetic pulse of the groove. The band's seamless transition in tempo here is a masterstroke. Sour Station unequivocally warrants vigilant attention, their musical trajectory undeniably set on an upward trajectory. Rumor has it that they're poised to grace our ears with yet another single in the near future, a prospect that leaves me brimming with anticipation and excitement.
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Hailing from the Bay Area but finding his creative sanctuary in the serene landscapes of Maine during his formative years, Sebastian Clegg absorbed the essence of nature and the profound musical and poetic tapestry woven by the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movement. These formative influences serve as the bedrock upon which Clegg crafts his musical narratives, a fact deeply etched into his artistic DNA.
In our sonic exploration of Clegg's repertoire, we first embark on a journey with "Impact." The track unfurls with a jarring chord, swiftly succeeded by a resonant bassline, a relentless kick drum and a leading guitar riff. What immediately seizes the listener's attention is the production quality. The vocals emerge with crystal clarity, their melodies carving an indelible mark in memory. "Impact" possesses an unmistakable hook that beckons the ear, while a gradual crescendo of energy propels the composition towards its climax. As the song nears its denouement, atmospheric elements cascade around it, rendering the overall experience undeniably epic. It's nothing short of a musical triumph.
In stark contrast, "Believe" casts a more contemplative and introspective aura from its very outset. The vocals adopt an intimate demeanor, as if they are mere feet away from the listener. The reverb-laden guitar work weaves an auditory tapestry that evokes a profound sense of space. Around the one-minute mark, colossal guitars and drums make their entrance, adding layers of grandeur to the arrangement. Notably, the return to the verse introduces another vocalist, seamlessly integrated into the mix to the point where one might overlook it without attentive listening.
"Impact" and "Believe" share a common thread in their epic aspirations, with the latter soaring to unprecedented heights as Clegg passionately asserts, "You're all that I need." While "Impact" undoubtedly stands as a commendable musical offering, it's "Believe" that catapults Sebastian Clegg into the realm of exceptional artistry. Prior to this auditory odyssey, Clegg may not have graced our radar, but these two compositions stand as a testament to his prowess in songwriting and his astute grasp of the production craft. If you're seeking a musical experience that transcends the ordinary, we implore you to lend your ears to Clegg's compelling sonic narrative. It's a journey well worth taking.
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The Lesson, the latest offering from the formidable 27 Dead, is a compact yet electrifying six-song EP, clocking in at just over twenty-one minutes. This collection pulsates with unbridled energy, unmistakably embracing a grunge aesthetic that is both instantly accessible and deeply engrossing.
Kicking off the EP is the high-octane opener, "Grade a Loser." It bursts forth with a surge of vigor, as bass, drums and vocals meld seamlessly into a tight-knit musical onslaught. Occasional modulated guitar interjections add a layer of intrigue, but it's when the chorus hits that the distortion pedal is slammed down, propelling the song into a full-throttle rock frenzy.
Following suit is "Run In Place," cloaked in a soft, enveloping fuzz. The lead guitar work shines brilliantly, while the melodies woven into the instrumentation captivate the senses. The rhythm section, punctuated by tom-heavy drumming, injects a dynamic quality into the track that keeps the listener engaged. A standout among standouts, "Shine," unfolds as a true gem. With a spacious arrangement and vocals drenched in reverb, the song achieves an epic soundscape reminiscent of the iconic Alice In Chains. Its ethereal qualities are nothing short of captivating.
The infectious "Afterlife" emerges as a potential hit single within this ensemble. Driven by a memorable hook, it also surprises with the inclusion of piano elements, a delightful twist that seamlessly enhances the overall experience. "Clown" briefly channels early Nirvana before morphing into a soundscape reminiscent of the inimitable Ariel Pink. As is the EP's recurring theme, the chorus erupts with unrestrained fervor, adding depth and texture to the sonic journey.
Closing the EP with finesse is "Grey." Here, the introduction of what appears to be bongo percussion adds a unique dimension, complementing a vocal performance that could very well be the EP's pinnacle. Lyrics resonate with introspection and thoughtfulness, making for a contemplative and profound listening experience. Despite its brevity, "The Lesson" manages to cram an abundance of musical prowess into its concise twenty-minute runtime. For aficionados of the aforementioned influences, this EP is a must-listen, showcasing 27 Dead's undeniable prowess in the realm of high-octane rock with an unapologetic grunge-infused twist.
Hollowed Sky, the formidable heavy metal outfit, has resurfaced with their latest single, the electrifying "Kill My Darlings." Marking a significant juncture in their sonic journey, the band introduces a fresh vocalist into the mix, and the results, dear listeners, are nothing short of impressive.
The track commences with a delicate interplay of ambient guitars, gradually paving the way for the rhythm section to take center stage. A distinct melancholic aura envelopes the composition, invoking echoes of the illustrious Tool. It's nearly impossible not to draw comparisons to the enigmatic Maynard James, as the new lead singer seamlessly channels his haunting resonance.
But make no mistake, Hollowed Sky swiftly ignites a sonic conflagration, establishing their own inimitable rock presence. Special commendation is due to the drummer for his uncanny ability to shift the energy dynamics at a moment's notice. The sonic landscape continues to be scorched as the guitars slice through the auditory realm like razor-sharp blades, leaving an indelible mark. The culmination, following the three-minute mark, takes an intensely riveting turn, and it's safe to say that the band absolutely nails it.
In a word, "epic" is an understatement. Hollowed Sky's "Kill My Darlings" is an undeniably monumental song that charts an exhilarating new trajectory for the band. One can't help but eagerly anticipate the uncharted territories they will explore next.
Hailing from the vibrant heart of Los Angeles, Fire Tiger is a band led by the captivating singer and songwriter Tiff Alkouri. Joining her are co-writer and keyboard player James Ramsey, fiery guitarist Jordan Lucas, groovy bassist Tyler Renga and rhythmic anchor drummer Lorenzo Meynardi.
Since their inception, Fire Tiger has etched their sonic tales into the vinyl grooves of Energy, their debut ten-song album from 2014. With subsequent releases like Suddenly Heavenly (2018) and All the Time (2020), they've found a comfortable place in the indie music scene, amassing a dedicated following. My first encounter with their music was through "Give Me Room," which immediately invoked a sense of nostalgia.
This track takes us back to the '80s, with clear influences, especially reminiscent of Madonna. The production and instrumentation carry that unmistakable '80s vibe, complete with the kind of MIDI sounds you'd expect from that era. "Undeniable" also channels an '80s aura, evoking memories of middle school dances and slow dances in particular. It's a heartfelt ballad that captures the essence of that era.
"Energy," on the other hand, leans into a more rock-infused sound, falling somewhere between Van Halen and Heart, with a contemporary touch that brings to mind groups like Haim. It's safe to say that Fire Tiger's music is likely to strike a chord with those of a certain age, conjuring memories of a time when these kinds of songs dominated the mainstream. It's refreshing to see Fire Tiger keeping the spirit of that era alive and well.
Mark Z80 is clearly making up for lost time, diving into the music scene in 2019 and churning out an impressive five albums and one EP in what seems like the blink of an eye. It's quite a feat, and I can't recall another artist releasing such a prolific amount of music in such a short span.
My first encounter with Mark's work was the track "Bad Break," a fusion of new age and '80s synth pop vibes. The song boasts a generous dose of ethereal synths, accompanied by a slightly robotic yet intriguing vocal delivery that evokes a futuristic AI presence. As the song progresses, it seems to expand and grow in grandeur. "Reflections" takes a lighter, more airy approach, once again blending elements of new age and '80s synth pop. This purely instrumental piece creates a lush, hypnotic atmosphere that leans towards tranquility rather than dynamic intensity.
The soundscape is enriched by a plethora of drifting pads and crystallized keys that weave back and forth, with no clear lead taking center stage. Moving on to "Unlucky Number," I couldn't help but notice its cinematic quality, making it stand out among the three tracks. However, I did detect some striking similarities to "Bad Break." Nevertheless, I found the distant guitars to be a compelling feature, adding a layer of depth to the composition.
While organic drums might have enhanced the experience, the track still holds its own, delivering a palpable sense of tension that I found quite engaging. All things considered, I must admit I'm impressed with Mark Z80's musical journey, especially considering how recent it is. It's clear that there's potential here, and I'm curious to see how his sound evolves in the future.
The Dreadtones make a compelling return with their latest offering, The Dead Frequency. They've aptly labeled it as indie-rock/horror surf, and that description hits the mark. In truth, it plays out more like a double album with a hefty eighteen tracks to explore. While it leans towards the longer side, the abundance of intriguing sounds makes it well worth the journey.
Kicking off the album is "The Unsound Mind Of Lily Liver," a tune that could easily find its place in a Quentin Tarantino film. It effortlessly blends elements of spaghetti western, surf and atmospheric horror, resulting in a captivating sonic blend that sets the tone. As we move through the album, "Sovngarde and the Hall of Valor" leans more into surf-rock, while "A Choir Of Wolves" channels a vibe reminiscent of The Doors, especially during its breakdown. "Wake The Dead" stands out with its impressive guitar work, showcasing the band's musical prowess.
"Heaven's Gate" takes a more experimental and subdued route, evoking comparisons to the likes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The return to surf territory in "Operation Terror" is a highlight, showcasing a perfect fusion of surf with a hint of horror.
At the heart of the album lies "The Conspiracy," a nearly eight-minute slow burn that becomes a personal favorite. It conjures imagery of wandering through the desert, reigniting the spaghetti western essence. A couple of tracks deserve special mention: "Shadow Self" ventures into experimental territory with its robotic-sounding vocals, while "Old Fears" emerges as one of the most dynamically layered pieces, drawing inspiration from the post-rock realm.
While one might argue that the album's impact could have been more concise with ten to twelve tracks, there's no denying that The Dead Frequency is undeniably a solid effort. Its consistent quality and intriguing vibe make it a must-listen. Dive in and discover the captivating sounds of The Dreadtones.
Hailing from Ossining, NY, The 3Bs emerge as a fervent blues ensemble igniting stages with their renditions of classic and contemporary blues, along with a dose of original material. At the helm is the formidable lead vocalist Elle Randall, whose remarkable voice takes center stage, harmonizing seamlessly with Tara Weiss.
Backed by the blues virtuosity of "Diamond" Dave Rinaldi on guitar and the keyboard mastery of Erin Weisenfeld, the band boasts an impressive musical arsenal. The rhythm section, anchored by bassist Kevin Brail and kit drummer Bill Votava, provides the solid foundation that completes the ensemble.
My initiation into The 3Bs' sonic realm commenced with "Like Etta Said," a track that exudes a smooth, midnight jazz ambiance. It's a seductive, almost sensuous musical offering, where the vocals are delivered with precision, and the band's synergy is palpable. Around the midway point, the rock influences begin to surface, culminating in a Pink Floyd-esque guitar solo, adding another layer of depth to this remarkably well-executed song.
"Hard-Times" wastes no time in grabbing your attention with its kinetic groove, a track that practically pulses with energy. It's a composition that fills the auditory space to the brim, and the inclusion of vocal harmonies enhances its live performance potential. You can easily envision this track as the perfect soundtrack to a Saturday night, with a drink in hand, letting the music take control.
Concluding my auditory journey was "I’m Giving Up On You," a slightly funky classic rock-infused number. While it adheres to a familiar classic rock structure, it's executed flawlessly, showcasing The 3Bs' ability to breathe new life into well-trodden musical territory.
In sum, The 3Bs stand as a formidable musical unit. Their songs possess an innate ability to connect with listeners on multiple levels, making them a noteworthy addition to the blues scene. I urge you to lend an ear to their captivating sound.
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