anteloper - Anteloper
What a lovely, lovely indie rock blend anteloper is with their self-titled album Anteloper. So experimental, free flowing, a little jazzy - I am quite taken with it all. There is a charming background of how this band came together as vocalist Stuart Grey needed somewhere to sleep and ended up in the residence of guitarist Ped Teale. From there it was a slippery slope to creating beautiful music together and pulling in more band members in the process. The album features five charming indie tracks packed with electronic embellishments and star quality lyrics.
The first track is "Caper" and it slowly grow on me as it progressed. Right away the lyrics are impressive but I wasn't sure how I felt about the vocals and the lyrics until it all crashed into one another. This is a full-bodied five-minute track with a circular, revolutionary theme that builds in a gorgeous climax of unpredictable themes. I really enjoyed how this song evolved and unfurled into an unforgettable piece for me. While each track carries its own distinctive weight there is a common theme within the structure of each song. They like to build to the point of combustion and then build again. However the means by which they chose to do this is very different every time.
"Parapet" is a great example of how they take what might seem like a mainstream sound and flip it on its head. This song starts out with a bright pop feel to it, but it is really no such thing. The song takes an unforeseen left turn and the words really hit home on this one. These sharp turns are a big part of what make up their signature sound. In fact, when they didn't immediately yank me out of my seat with unpredictability, I was somewhat disappointed. Case in point, "Summertime" is a lovely song, but not nearly as unpredictable as the rest and so it felt a little flat for me.
"Spoons" happens to have a more organic feel than the others with incredible guitar work and interesting percussion concepts. This one has an old school attitude and a new school conviction. It easily became my favorite. To close out the album there is the final song "Lighthouse." This is such a great, somber closer. It has a sincere sense of storytelling.
Indie rock fans looking for that band to get into before they get too cool should consider anteloper. They don't appear to be seeking commercial attention in any way. The only rule they seem to abide by is that rules are meant to be broken and expectations are made to be thwarted. If I had the means to travel to the UK at the moment to catch these guys live, best believe I would be on that plane.
Kendall Burks - Waves
Progressive rock takes a turn for modern elegance when it come to Kendall Burks' latest album Waves. I was immediately smitten with his sculpting of a genre-bending sound that falls under psych, indie and electronic. Burks is a lifelong musical student who has since become a teacher himself based in Denver, Colorado. This album is wildly experimental, worldly and really, really beautiful. Despite covering so much ground in the genre department, I wouldn't call this album fussy or overdone. It's actually very understated and subdued which has made it all the more a standout.
Everything about the instrumental work on these songs was fascinating to me. There is a distinct southwestern vibe that is VERY Denver and also beyond. The album is most lo-fi and moves seamlessly. It sounds like watching a landscape change geographically in fast forward. It's a like a quiet call of the wild. I can hear sand shifting and ice melting. While soft and subtle, there is something momentous and seismic about the music. Its reach is long and wide, but never sleepy or dull. Burks really worked out a solid balance and I think his knowledge and deep understanding of classical music assisted him in this task. The music is very much a labor of electronic love. It has a clever modern edge. However the music still achieves what classical has often done, which is paint landscapes, but these landscapes are a mixture of lush and green fields and massive urban backdrops.
The backbone of the music is all in the instrumental work, but there are vocals present. They seem to be designed to fade into the background. His vocal work is haunting and for some of the tracks works very well. However his performance style is very niche and didn't always ring my bell on certain tracks but I do appreciate how unique his vocal work is. Again, like the instrumentals, his vocals are subdued, but they do make an impact. When going through a second time and really digging for the words I found lots of thick metaphors that complement the music perfectly.
This album was a DIY project with Logic at the core of everything. Burks is a serious loop guy, but those loops are tucked away so well in a sea of thoughtful details that you forget how much loops are involved in the format. His samples and instrumental choices were so wonderfully diverse and given plenty of air to breathe. His attention to that diverse lineup is, I think, a big part of what made this album such a success.
Waves is an album for anyone who wants to take an intercontinental journey from the comfort of their own home. You will experience so many walks of life during your journey. It is well traveled and very well produced. Highly recommended.
Based in Southwest Victoria, Australia, Monsters of the Dirty South takes the already established and accomplished desert rock genre and takes it to new and exciting heights. Through experimentation across many genres of hard rock, the two-piece has created a unique and energetic sound that is sure to captivate fans of rock music from all preferences. Their debut EP Unfinished Business was released in mid-May of 2018. Supported by their live shows and a fast growing legion of fans, Monsters of the Dirty South looks to streamline the process by bringing the experience to record for fans everywhere to enjoy.
“Swings and Roundabouts” is the second track on the album, following the explosive opening title track “Unfinished Business.” The song rides a single riff through the verses, carrying the hypnotic properties of the vocals straight past the eardrums and directly into the brains of listeners. As the track progresses, each of the instruments ultimately opens up full throttle, summiting a peak with the final 30 seconds of the track that underlines it with classic badass rock n’ roll.
“Gone Away” is a more drum focused track, opening with a repetitive pattern that becomes so addicting and suspenseful that it leaves you on the edge of your seat. As the song goes on, the guitar and vocals join. The drums do not die down, with light speed fills sprinkled throughout the track to keep listeners on edge and in awe of the pure musicianship that carries the song. The closing track “Cherry” is less dissonant and relies more on riffs than the previous three tracks, however the bravado behind the song is not lost through the change in formula.
While any fan who pines for the days when a dirty guitar riff and explosive drum fills were king will immediately take to this album, fans of the lighter side of the genre will enjoy the illustrious lyrics and the fervent energy that radiates from each of the four tracks. While the initial distortion and violently rhythmic crashing of symbols might turn some listeners off, another few seconds is all that will be needed to pick out the blues influence of the guitar work. Fans of bands like Alien Crime Syndicate, Queens of the Stone Age, Alice in Chains, Metallica, The Strokes, The Hives, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath or Rage Against The Machine will feel right at home listening to Unfinished Business. Fans of music in general will appreciate the energy that each song is approached and delivered with. While the regular dissonance will be enough to turn some listeners away, the guts presented through the EP are more than enough to overcome personal preference in a simple appreciation of how well the music was written and recorded.
The Sylvans - Background Music
While not having much live show experience together, the members of The Sylvans can at least say that within three days their debut Background Music was recorded. Although not recorded in a professional studio, the band had the help of Josh Lamar’s recording studio experience and the mastering wizardry of veteran music producer Rodney Mills. The band has an “unrepentant love for crunchy guitars, post-punk riffs and catchy choruses.” The Sylvans have been compared to The Strokes, Weezer and The Cars. So, if you’re into that and from what I heard, you’re going to be pleasantly well fed from this Oakland, California band.
The album’s title track opens with a wonderful live sound of the drums – deep, rich and warm. The song’s melody is equally great with catchy guitar riffs and lyrics. I loved the deep, driving bass lines on “Pack It Up” in this really short song about taking off somewhere on the road. “Out of Sight” features plenty of memorable guitar licks and straightforward rhythms. The guitar work, overall style and background vocal harmonies on “So Much Better” reminded me of a ‘60s surf pop group via Weezer and has the makings of a single. “No Chance at All” features a steady rhythm guitar and a cool addition of keys that sounds like an old vintage organ.
The shortest song on the album is “Between the Eyes” and reminds me of a cross between The Strokes and The Killers. “Whenever You’re Ready” has a nice swinging style on drums and guitar and comes off as a sweet-sounding love song with back up singing in all the right places. “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” has a catchy guitar riff that stuck in my head for a while and I felt it would make for another great single. I loved how “Walk Away” comes together with fuzzy, throaty sounding keys that reminded me of the beginning to Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Underfoot.” The additional organ-type keys and live drums sound especially good in this tune.
“Control Myself” ends The Sylvans debut with a poppy and punchy drum beat, matched with cutting guitar riffs. I think one of the strengths this band has is how they change genre styles on the verse and chorus parts in some of their songs, mostly notably on this last one, and do it so well as if they’ve been playing for years. Overall, The Sylvans deliver more than just background music to tune out or shut off on this first release.
Fahrenheist - Albatross
Formed at Vassar College in the spring of 2016 the members of Fahrenheist went through a few names changes before they decided to settle on their current name. Albatross is the band’s first release. This Seattle quartet mixes up alternative “grit” and pop sensibilities with flavors of west coast indie rock and other diverse influences. Their musical style is upbeat and joyfully energized, and they’ve been compared to other bands like Spoon and Cage the Elephant. And when the band’s music is matched with heavier themes of loss, inadequacy, loneliness and depression – Fahrenheist’s style comes off quite refreshing. Band mates include Cole Fisher, Ben Luongo, Sam Gilbert and Tieren Costello.
“Chalk It Up” begins things off with a cheerful sound and poppy vibe with lots of great tongue-twisting lyrics that suggest being fed up with the way things are and calling it a day. “Sights and Sounds” has some fantastic bass lines and old school beats and chords that give this song a new wave feel from the early ‘80s. I enjoyed hearing the off drum beats in “Golden Eye” as well as how the bass, lead and rhythm guitars melodically jived together so well and how the instruments were arranged.
“White Noise” gets fat and tasty with low driving bass lines and drum beats – with just a few slaps of the bass – and a “wah-wah” effect with catchy riffs on the guitar. “Shineback” switches gears with a jazzy lounge feel, complete with some pretty piano work. This one kind of reminded me a little of Ben Folds Five meets Lou Reed on guitar, strangely enough, but it easily became a favorite from the album. “Tides” sounds off with a deep bass-drum combo and some classic guitar grooves. Overall, “Tides” sounds like what would happen if a ’60s classic pop sound met up with say, Franz Ferdinand. The ending is especially cool.
I loved the energy and faster rhythms on “Inertia” especially when the drummer kicks it up on the snare and the guitarist rips it up like some Ace Frehley guitar lick. This became another favorite of mine. “For What It’s Worth” features a jumpy guitar rhythm inside a happy sounding melody, that it was hard to dislike this one – especially for one who likes backup singing and an extra guitar solo now and then. “Lift Off” is the band’s only instrumental song and I wish it went on much longer than it did. Maybe there’ll be a part two on the group’s next album?
“Sunburn” features again some great melodic bass lines and lively guitar riffs centered on lyrics about the loss of a relationship, depression or a combination of them both. “November” was by far my most favorite because of its full and gorgeous piano taking center stage but also because I thought it made a clear break from the more indie-pop approach that the rest of the songs have. Although, “November” makes a great choice to end the band’s debut, I thought it was strong enough to stand on its own, too. And besides, how often do you see a band use the word enthalpic in their songwriting? Everything considered, I thought Fahrenheist’s sound and style was very professional and their songwriting meaty and well written.
West of Central - Tipped with the Tide
Portland, Oregon three-piece rock outfit West of Central formed in back in 2009 by members Brian O'Connor and Trey Stockard with Von Kairos joining the band in 2015. Between their busy lives that include jobs and families these guys have been bouncing around songs for the past nine years and they have finally all come together on their record Tipped with the Tide.
The record opens with the slow rock song “Welcome the Strange” which is a layered and lo-fi sort of woozy song that sounds washed in guitars that just keep reverberating off of one another and shimmering drum parts. This song sort of sets the tone for the rest of the record which will be a twelve-song ride of songs that run the gamut from high epic rock style songs to slower and more mellow jams.
The song “My Left Arm” is a good example of this meandering rock of guitars that suddenly splits into a harder edged sort of rock and then back. The vocals are hidden behind some fuzz, too much fuzz and the song soon turns what sounds like what one hears outside of a band’s practice space with the door closed. “Time 306” is a song on which the band seem to not be able to make up their minds as to what kind of song it should be; hard rock or soft rock.
However later on “High Montana Plains” a highlight of the record, the band makes better use of this soft and loud motif and the washed out vocals blend together much better with this style of guitar-centric rock. Next on “Lye, Lye, Lye” this quietus of soft guitar rock really works in their favor. However the band seemed to think that they needed to add some big heavy lift of rock and change the song which I thought was unnecessary. However to their credit later on “Spring” they do it quite well and it works out in their favor, and also the listeners.
The looming issue to some of the songs on Tipped With the Tide is that they have been (some perhaps but not all) sitting around for too long. I find a lot of bands do this, try to write new songs and put them alongside old ones. Sometimes it works but often it doesn’t. It shouldn’t. Musicians like all artists need to learn and grow and fail. One shouldn’t be sentimental about old work. It harbors one from moving forward.
That being said Tipped With the Tide has plenty to appreciate that fans of rock should take a listen to. Recommended.
Zuffalo - Zuffalo
Mikey Vukovich (bass/vocals), Sean Steele (guitar/vocals), Kimberly Manning (keyboards/ vocals), and (on the recording) Drew Austin (drums/percussion) are Zuffalo. Your first question might be well what is Zuffalo. I did myself so I did a two-minute Google research and found zilch, nothing, nada. It seems to be a made up word.
Regardless of what their name means the band's self-titled album Zuffalo is quite exceptional. The album was recorded live off the floor in a barn in Ontario and sounds great from the production to the performances. There is a distinct sound that has its foundation in the late ’60s and ’70s. Bands as far ranging as Sly and the Family Stone and Allman Brothers Band come to mind. The band can play their asses off. The performance feesl effortless and sounds like a band in a room playing together which is becoming less and less frequent.
Things get going with “Any Given Speed.” You could make some comparison to early recordings of The Beatles with some ’70s swagger. The organ, bass, guitar and drums are all on point. There are some splendid moments such as a “Twist and Shout” style breakdown that leads in a totally justified guitar solo. Great opener.
“Ocean Blue” is a little more badass ’70s style easy rider type energy. If I owned a motorcycle and thought it was even moderately safe I would definitely ride to this song. “Makin' Good Time” takes a splash of ’50s pop and melds them with Beach Boys style vocal harmonies.
“Keep Groovin' Down” could be a B-side from The Grateful Dead. “I See My Future” is just so good. They dabble with ’70s prog in the spirit of a band like Yes and then seamlessly blend into atmospheric verse that has similar aesthetic to the song “Fly Like an Eagle.”
“Saskatchewan” is full on ’70s with what sounds like an improvised jam session while “Loose Cannon” seems to have a vocalist who conjures the spirit of Janis Joplin. “Lately” is soft and smooth and will be one for fans of The Steve Miller band while “You Didn't Tell Me” is a gospel inspired song that is fast and sees the band going out in epic fashion.
The album is really derivative but when the music is this well done it really doesn't matter. They do a great job paying homage to legends while carving out their own slice of the pie as well. Highly recommended.
Every week we mention a couple of artists that are worth your time to check out that were not featured in our weekly reviews.
Artist Album Rating
Behind the Stone Door The Nomad 3.5
Winter Zero Canyonlands 3.5
Coyote Choir Vol. 1 3.7
Sweet Toothe Sweet Toothe 3.6
Michael CG Hitsville, Absolutely
the Castaway - Shores of Emptiness
Shores of Emptiness is the first album by Belgium songwriter and solo artist the Castaway. It was written and produced between 2015 and 2018. This first full-length album explores themes such as solitude, introspection, social alienation, doubts, inner-conflict and lassitude. The previous band the Castaway was in was into heavy metal, so on this debut the artist switches gears to the acoustic guitar. The focus was to not sound like the usual guy with an acoustic guitar but to tap into the moodiness of the ‘90s with influences from Alice in Chains, the Melvins and Soundgarden. In sum, the Castaway’s Bandcamp site states the aim was to “bring some sick, dark and jaded colors into a mainly acoustic guitar driven music.”
“Sickness Woke Up” begins with layered light melodies on the acoustic and then takes a turn to minor chords, which sound chilling, evil and sinister. The off tempo with the acoustic rhythms makes this song chaotic, but good. The feeling I came away with is when I’d watch a horror movie at night, and then not being able to go to sleep. The haunting and moody minor chords carry on in “Fear the Creatures.” The lyrics in the beginning read as if someone was chanting or casting a spell, some get graphic – “Fear the creatures tearing apart the shelter of my head.”
The words to “Procrastinate” addresses that age-old struggle all humans have with wasting time, not giving a damn, and then giving a damn, about our time on earth with whatever day to day schedule we have in front of us. Stylistically, this one reminded me of Alice in Chains, but also some of the darker toned songs of The Doors and The Cult came to mind. “Realm of Remorse” takes a more hushed and steady approach with low, almost whispering drum beats and equally whispering quality on the words. “Mad Sometimes” taps into a more classic alternative rock style, heavy on the acoustic riffs and an arranging of instruments that break up the song, kind of like an old school grunge song. The words to “Strayed” are truly chilling and comparatively I would say that either the Castaway was influenced by Dante’s Inferno, Black Sabbath or they came from the underworld itself – I may not be able to sleep tonight! If you’re into dark, dark lyrics, you’ll love this one.
“Bound to the Night” reads as if Dracula might have wrote some parts – “Because we are bound to the night” and “Just die and vanish with the dawn.” This was the Castaway’s most mellow and lighter sounding tune with a steady drum beat dropped in. One of the shortest songs was “Torn New Day” and I really liked this one for its sparse but imaginative words. I came away from this one thinking – this would fit perfectly on a Mad Max movie soundtrack – there was just something about the words, “Pity is no redeem for disdain” that made me think of the movie series.
“Hammer and Woodlouse” has some rather humorous words – “No I don’t have enough of two middle-fingers for you” and a more traditional poetic approach with lyrical rhyming. This tune gets deep and dark with its heavy use of minor chords, meaty drum beats and additional percussion and guitar solos. “Inexistence” delves into our minds’ mental anguish and that part within ourselves that questions – Who am I? Why don’t I feel like myself anymore? The Castaway succinctly address his own worst enemy and cure “Inexistence invades me, I am the remedy and the disease” and “You are no one else but your own slave / Rise up and blow this hell / But it takes some guts to defeat yourself.”
“Clean my Bones White” picks up the album’s tone just a bit with a faster tempo and catchy guitar licks. And here again, the Castaway gets pretty twisted and dark with his songwriting. I guess when it came time to listen to “Devils Way” I wasn’t surprised by the song’s title, but I was little surprised by the lighter sounding acoustic chords that didn’t sound nearly as sinister and evil as his other songs. With the last song and album title, “Shores of Emptiness” comes a rather metaphysical question – “Can you hear the leaves dying?” and equally, a philosophical proclamation – “Nothing gets as loud as this silence / You ain’t no weight in the great balance.” I thought this song had some shining moments of free form jams, outlaw hillbilly country, anthem power rock and chilling atmospheric tones.
There were definitely some “sick, dark and jaded colors” on Shore of Emptiness.For some listeners, taking in the whole album at one time may be a bit much, as this album dives deep into some intensely dark moments – you may want to listen to some happy love songs by The Carpenters before you go to bed tonight. But for those who are into dark, moody music that addresses the darker sides of apathy, introspection and solitude – the Castaway’s debut casts its light effectively inside the dark corners of the soul.
Shore to Sky - Scarcity & Abundance
When three college friends from Grand Rapids, Michigan, get together in a small recording room with just an acoustic guitar, you can expect to hear a very stripped-down sound. That’s how the members of Shore to Sky started recording their first full length album Scarcity & Abundance. The essence of the group from day one has been to capture the real things in life, the raw struggles and tender moments that are worth celebrating. From youthfulness, divorce, the healing of reconciliation and the complexities of relationships – it’s all there in this 12-song story. Sure, you’ll hear layered vocals, drums, extra strings and guitars but the rawness, the depth and lack of a “more polished” feel to the album is still there – just listen.
“Prelude” explodes with a loud energy that grabbed me right away and makes me wonder – if this is what the band’s version of raw, unpolished music is like – then please, serve me up some more! “Another Way” begins with thundering floor toms, echoing guitars and a big, spacious sound. I absolutely loved this one to death simply because of its “soundscape” approach. If you’re familiar with Lanterna, then you’ll probably like this tune. “Blame” is a nice change of pace, starting out with the vocals taking center stage. Keys and drums drop in along with a great spacious guitar sound. It shifts gears midway through into an alternative rock sound, then returns to layered vocals in the end.
“Divorce” delivers a straightforward serious message lyrically. I liked the instrumentation here with its choppy guitar work and vocal harmonies. “Hymn of a Lonely Man” features a beautiful melody on piano, tender lyrics and great sounding vocals. I really liked this one for its simple, stripped down approach – I’d recommend this one if you’re into piano and vocal work. “Dust” is another fantastic song which starts with piano and vocal, but it also features thundering floor tom work on drums and more fabulous vocal harmonies. This tune had an uncanny, inspiring feel to it – one of those songs that I didn’t want to end. “Letting Go” is again another song with amazing vocal harmonies and an inspiring feel all around. It also features some nice drum roll work on the snare!
“Turbulence” brings together strings, as in classical instrument strings, with a toe-tapping driving beat that’s deep and smooth. The bass guitar really comes through well on this song, too. “Dream” begins with bold vocals and an overall big sound. The violin work at the end, coupled with the vocals is absolutely gorgeous. The style and music behind “By Night”, not to mention the additional female vocal, reminded me of a band or a “sound” I know I’ve heard before but can’t quite name it as I’m writing this – don’t you just hate that? Anyway, this song needs to be in a soundtrack, like for a major motion picture – it’s that good in my opinion.
“Only Light” has acoustic guitar, vocal with additional background strings and keys. This song feels as tender and warm as a starlight night in the summer sky – as if you know everything is going to be alright with the world. “Olam” features the bands signature sound of spacious vibes, energized indie rock and gorgeous layered vocals. Whatever chemistry the members of Shore to Sky have together, I hope they keep it up and put out some more work – I was completely floored with their debut from start to finish! Maybe I am being biased, but I think these guys have something really special going on and it shows on this album.
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