To deem GADADU “unorthodox” would be to only chink at the surface of a technicolored powder keg. This New York-based group is a boiled onion, sonically caramelized in its multi-layered approach, and unafraid to breathe outside the lines of genre niching. Relying on synths, horns and drums, the sextet boast “odd meter grooves” and “synth-spiked orchestral arrangements” on their latest release The Weatherman Is Wrong. That they also wield a soulful edge is an unexpected treat, even if we won’t be locking and popping to any of these tunes atop slabs of linoleum.
Married bandleaders Hannah Selin (vocals/viola) and Nicki Adams (piano/synth) offer rich influences. The former courts acoustic sounds while the latter highlights jazz. When meshed together, the instrumentation and vocals share the spotlight equally; not in competition, but symbiosis. Like peanut butter and jelly, crusts intact. In fact, GADADU thrives on a lyrical poeticism, a stream-of-consciousness flow that undulates, ponderously, from foreground to backdrop.
“Cicadas,” the opening cut, begins with the droning buzz of strings. It ultimately ripens into an ideal day drinking lounge ditty, complete with reedy, light-touch military drumming amid the group’s so-called “insect chorus.” Jazz informed vocals unfold after the two-minute mark, set over groaning bass. “Bear,” however, opts for a more spatial, decidedly minor feel, exemplified by Cocteau Twins octave climbing. Likewise, “Dreamhouse” foments a hip-swaying groove alongside persuasive drums, Stevie Wonder-esque horns and disquieting vocoder.
Within the soapy squeak of “At Play,” tempo changes are explored in earnest. “In the thicket of my mind / I have no sense of time,” Selin sings, presumably addressing eternal youth or Alzheimer’s disease. “Makeup,” on the other hand, plays like a Broadway diva on hard time, utilizing 12-tone bridges for viola and piano. And “Ocean’s Children” synthesizes the less interesting portions of Chuck Mangione’s flugelhorn classic “Feels So Good.”
Buried 25 minutes into the LP, the icily crafted “Tides” is a standout. Its gorgeous creep occurs in tandem with slow blooming horns. The experience is smartly controlled, yet dreamily melodic; forgiving the Hispanic-tinged Streisand interlude that plays like self-serving berserkery. Persisting within this format, “Prove To You” features rewarding harmonies. Even if its key lyric, “why must I prove to you” sounds more like “my mudslide, perfect,” it is a paean to awesome bartenders.
GADADU thrives on changeable structure. Those who invest the time while listening will find such aspects fulfilling, particularly in the dopamine spikes known to affect disciples of classical music or other works of complexity. And while The Weatherman Is Wrong is hardly the stuff of hormonal ecstasy, it does offer a keen sense for the random, the erratic and the multifarious. Linoleum slab optional.
Jason Khaw is a singer/songwriter from Melbourne, Australia who has just released his debut album titled Freedom Badge. He calls it “an album of personal stories embedded within musical styles that have shaped my life.” As a live player, Khaw gigs solo on vocals, acoustic guitar and storytelling.
Khaw calls Freedom Badge his “affront to today’s dominant listening behavior.” What he means is that he’s packed lots of different genres (folk, rock, blues, R&B, jazz, funk, classical) and musical tricks into his songs, so if you play just 10 seconds of a song or skip around (SubmitHub style) you’ll miss the good stuff. He explains: “Some of my all time favorite albums were discovered by allowing the album to reveal itself in its own terms and in its own time. I wanted to make Freedom Badge an album that demands that kind of patient attention.” All that said, for myself these songs primarily fall into the acoustic folk blues category, which is also what it says on his Bandcamp page. But there’s a lot of jazz too, so there you go!
Khaw also states that this album was intentionally recorded “organically,” with most backing tracks recorded in one take. He goes so far as to say that the organic way of recording is “the focus of this album. Freedom Badge captures the musical instincts of the musicians. I truly believe that that is when the ‘feel’ of a song is more sincere. And sincerity tends to stick around longer.” Khaw sings and plays guitar and percussion, assisted by the perfectly-named William Base (bass/guitars/percussion), Felix Wong (keyboard) and Andre Ricardo (drums). Mixing was by drummer Andre Ricardo with mastering by Curtis Hatton at Studio Truth.
“Ain’t No Double O Seven” starts in with an interesting structure right out of the gate: a Rickenbacker-sounding bass with funky drums, over which Khaw sing-speaks a hilarious, self-deprecating anthem: “I ain’t no Double O Seven, I got no gun in my vest / I get my martinis from 7-Eleven, I don’t shake it, I just let it rest.” He also says that he doesn’t “use those fancy words” but he’s clearly a talented wordsmith just based on this first track. His background singers (Kit Toh, Karen Silva, Ashley Chelliah, Suzanne Santa Maria and Catherine Chan) have that old-timey Hot Licks feel.
“Sally and Sunny” is a jazzy pop tune in which Felix Wong’s piano (with more than a taste of Vince Garauldi) carries a lot of the melodic weight, with the guitars, bass and drums all cranking along like a crack studio band. The drums feel centered but somehow have a nice stereo spread at the same time. This is one of those easygoing tracks it’s almost impossible not to be charmed by.
“Shame on Us” marries a Bo Diddley beat with Leon Russell-like keyboards for a sort of jittery gospel treat. Rather upbeat for the subject matter which concerns how easy it is to pass the buck on the problems we all face: “Bad as it all may seem to be / All the forests with no trees / We don’t see it, we live in the city… shame on us!”
“Here You Are” is an excellent Dylan-inspired folk song with crystalline acoustic guitars and sweet harmonies. “Wonder What” is described by Khaw as “more a demo track than a work of precision.” A demo is the last thing it sounds like to me, as Khaw and bandmates hit every ’50s rock n’ roll-inspired note and drum flourish dead center, with the background singers again providing the sweet glue holding it all together. Jumping ahead, track seven’s “No Bones Thank You” is quite similar, right down to the guitar licks and backing coos.
“Deserving” has that immediately catchy ‘60s pop rock vibe without that sugar-sticky bubblegum taint. It’s an upbeat ode to making the best of the roller coaster existence we call our daily lives. Mostly acoustic guitar, piano, drums and vocals but with just enough electric guitar to beef it up. “Halfway There” starts with two quiet acoustic guitars in dialogue, and for the first time you get a real sense of the intimate studio space where Khaw’s recording. Khaw’s vocal is even more naked and emotional atop this simple bed. That the guitars don’t hit every note exactly right adds to the charm. A mandolin and string section seem to come in through the back door and are recorded just as “unadorned” as the guitars. “Rock and Roll Blues” is acoustic blues as played by two guitars and Khaw in Chicago Blues mode: a bit of a stretch but he pretty much nails it!
In the end, I found this album more genre-cohesive than Khaw indicated, but there’s a lot to enjoy here from a highly talented player.
Will Leet is a Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter who has been working hard on his debut full length album entitled Come Back Roses. Leet explains the record was an album seven years in the making. It was recorded across five studios, three states and twenty-five different musicians. Some of the overarching themes are low, growth and renewal.
The album is an eclectic mix of rock, folk, country and baroque pop. Some of the influences Leet mentions are Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Death Cab for Cutie and the Beatles. To my ears that makes sense. The songs are easy to appreciate and quite accessible.
The opener is “Wildflower Thief.” It starts off simple enough with minimal instrumentation and blossoms with a variety of sounds. I found the music comforting and it also had quite a lot of memorable melodies. The song rocks out as well with a surge happening and wild drums and distorted guitars taking over.
“The Corner (feat. Chris Burns)” felt like a single to my ears. The song is very catchy and immediately felt accessible. This song has some alternative with a side of the country. It works well and enjoys the celebratory vibe to the song. The chorus is quite good.
“Cloudy Day” is a great song. It’s a little more melancholy with a good amount of atmospheric elements. Leet sounds great here and I thought the vocals mixed very well with the music.”County Fair” felt like the most country inspired song and I would say this song had a bluegrass element. I love banjo and violin and both those instruments sound great here. The xylophone also works in the mix. This song is warm and inviting. The lyrics are quite nostalgic.
“Louisiana Goodbye” is stripped back and revolves around acoustic guitar and vocals while “NYC Cowboy” is a huge sounding song with a bit of arena rock and blues quality. “Magadalene” was one of my favorites. It’s a percussive heavy song but very organic sounding. The groove the song starts with is wonderful. As the song progresses it just gets better and goes in directions I wasn’t expecting.
“Alice (feat. Sammy Rae & the Friends”) is a tip of the hat to bluegrass, ’50s and ’60s rockabilly and more. It’s a wonderful song and I thought it was another highlight. The chorus is celebratory and sing-along worthy.
We get another sparse performance with “Dearly Darlin’' while “Satan & the Sailor” is an off-kilter bluegrass song. Last up is a piano ballad “Rainbow” which was beautiful and doesn't really sound like much else on the album,
Albums that take this long can often sound scattered and misdirected. Although this album flirts with a lot of genres it sounds cohesive enough that I didn’t get that feeling. The work put into it was evident from the start. There are a lot of good songs and some that felt truly exceptional. Highly recommended.
Tom Hummer is a solo artist from central Iowa, who has been creating music for a number of years and also playing festivals and other shows around the midwest. Hummer recently released a six-song EP entitled Crescendo.
To my ears this music had a very ’90s alternative flavor with some more experimentation. I was in high school back then and had a near constant diet of bands like Weezer, Elliot Smith, Radiohead and other like-minded bands. This music sounds somewhere in the same vicinity as a lot of these bands.
The first song is entitled “Our Time Has Got To End” and you are introduced to sparse piano chords and a slick guitar groove. Hummer’s vocals are on the melancholic side here but also hopeful and reminded me somewhat of Bon Iver. The song builds with instrumentation like percussion and bells and goes into post-rock territory which was not what I expected. It’s a cool opener.
“The Worst Way” had a pretty unique groove. I’m not exactly sure what instrumentation was making some of the sounds. The vocals, which are quite catchy and accessible, are the center of the song. I liked the darker angle the song goes into with samples and Radiohead like guitar melody.
“Bleached Summer Culture” has a warmth to it. The vocals are very strong and supported by atmospheric elements. It contains more of a contemplative energy and by the end rocks out hard. I loved when the drums entered the mix here. It builds with an intensity and leads to short guitar solos where the energy gets stronger from there.
“Shame” was the most straightforward song to my ear and also a song that felt especially seeped in ’90s aesthetics. The more cerebral and ethereal “Wringer” sounds more aligned with a band like Sigur Rós. Last up is “Let's Roll” and is an organic sounding song with harmonica and acoustic guitar. It’s the most straightforward folk song on the release.
Hummer is unequivocally a talented artist. This release displayed a couple of sides to this talent all of which I enjoyed in varying degrees. I can see a lot of people appreciating his music. Recommended.
Gabriel Rioux is an artist from Winnipeg, Manitoba who recently released Dreamstate. Rioux mentions ”This album is heavily inspired by metal, prog rock and soft rock. It starts off with more trashy modern metal and it mellows out in the middle of the album showing a more emotional and melancholic side before finishing with an epic seven minute track.”
The album is a complete DIY effort. It does have that bedroom quality aesthetic. Despite the programmed drums this album doesn't feel too far off from a band playing live. The opening song is called “Falling Awake.” It more or less comes out of the gate with an adrenaline inducing groove. The guitar is the lead focal point to the song. I thought the dynamics were well done. It’s a solid opener and also a good indicator of the general sound.
“Revelations” has a little more cosmic sound. Rioux leans into a hall reverb which adds to this feeling. The song has some very cool moments. I loved the build that was happening surrounding the one-minute mark. The juxtaposition between the palm muted guitars and the more lush elements worked really well.
“Disoriented” has a syncopated type of rhythm which reminded me more of bands like Tool or Perfect Circle. There are a number of killer grooves and some very impressive guitar picking but also lead guitar skills as well. This song felt like one of the highlights.
Things did seem to mellow out with “Running for Miles.” It’s not only mellow but there’s a cerebral quality to the song. There’s quite a bit happening on this song with a myriad of notes coming at you quickly. “Reflection” sounds a lot like the title and goes further into the cerebral flirtation so much so that I was reminded of Pink Floyd.
The title track “Dreamstate” is clean sounding with the distortion basically off till the end. This song almost felt emotionally neutral but I don’t say that in a bad way. It was just a pleasant song that was easy to appreciate.
“Cycle” seemed to be more influenced by post-rock than the previous song. This song sounded somewhere between Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai. The epic closer “It'll Be Alright” returns to the sound of the earlier songs on the album although this song is a roller coaster ride at a little over seven-minutes long.
Albums like this aren’t easy to make for a single person. Rioux impressed me. Although I think adding a drummer might add more to the dynamics, this album rocked. It also shows different sides to his talent. Take a listen.
Kaptain Kollnot is the solo project of Jeff Kollnot. He has been playing in bands for the last twenty-five years. He is known for playing guitar in the power thrash outfit Blackgate and the progressive band, Flood the Desert. More recently he released Future Human which is influenced by power, thrash, death and progressive metal.
“Black Star Alliance” is the opener and also an instrumental song. It’s a very intense introduction. The guitar work was impressive. Although the drums sounded programmed and almost comically fast at points in the song that worked as well. The song is more or less an onslaught of high energy prog and metal riffs. It’s almost seven-minutes long and certainly displayed talent from Kollnot in multiple ways. That being said the guitar work was where it was at and was what the song revolved around.
“Demon of Retribution” has a very ’80s sounding intro with Van Halen like lead before all the instruments lock in. On this song there are vocals and they sounded just like I expected them to. Kollnot sings with the affectation metal have been using since the ’80s and it works well with the song. The bass drum programming was a little too much for me at points on this song and I felt it was taking too much of my attention. Towards the middle of the song Kollnot goes into full villain mode where he sounds like some demon which again has been popular for this genre.
“Exodus From Orion” is almost eleven minutes long. It begins with military-like snare work which I thought sounded cool. There’s some phaser effect on the guitar. The song locks in and there’s some great guitar work. There are vocals on this song and he sounds like a metal guy from the ’80s. A bit pissed yet confident. Topically these songs also fit with a lot of metal songs especially from the '80s and ’90s. Lyrics like “For millennia you've seen us in the sky's / We live in the earth / and from oceans we rise / We are Millenia ahead of your kind / We’ve come from Orion / So our species can thrive” hit the mark. It’s an epic song. The guitar work was again the high point for me but I thought the song structure was well done and I loved the dynamics as well.
I was expecting a more metal version of “Starman” which is a cover from David Bowie. It ends up sounding pretty close to the original version. I loved the original and this was a great cover. It felt like a unique way to end the EP.
Kollnot is an impressive musician. His technical ability is undeniable but it’s the creative ways he makes the music emotionally appealing which is what makes it come full circle. Recommended.
Melbourne, Australia’s Coloured Clocks latest release, Castle, follows up 2021’s The Floral Emblem, which was also reviewed at Pitch Perfect. The band plays their own unique blend of psychedelic pop, influenced by the likes of Van Morrison, Tame Impala, Blood Orange, Toro Y Moi, Van She and Queen. The opening track “In the Castle” starts off quiet and slow, ambient and kind of trippy in a way. I’m not sure but to my ears it sounds like a few off notes were played, but it could just be my ears. I did love the sound of the drums, all the futuristic-like keys/synths and the effect treatments on the vocals. Quite a unique sound and style overall. “Universe” lays it down a little heavier with the rhythm section, and the synths sound more like late ‘70s/early ‘80s. Another original sounding track, so much so, I find it hard to compare Coloured Clocks’ music to any one else at this point, apart from what’s been mentioned earlier.
“Flightless Tigers” has got this ‘70s glam presence about it, but with an updated feel. Kind of like if a band of today who’s bringing back glam, met up with some glam band from decades ago. “In Good Time” has a trippy, spaced out sound. Lots of lofty or ethereal sounding keys can be heard, soft guitar playing and traditional piano melodies, too. This one makes me think of Bowie, meets Blind Melon, meets Oasis. I don’t know - maybe you have a better comparison? Next up is “The Future Love” and this tune features a faster, more direct beat and poppier piano melody. On this tune, I am reminded of Gary Numan from his first two or maybe three albums. Lots of post-punk/new wave stuff going on when synth music was all the rage. “Only Lonely” is another track that features a more traditional pop song structure and a fantastic, echoing melody. The next song “Not Alright” is the “ballad” song on the album. The piano chords have a familiar style and structure. There are added synths and acoustic guitars in here, too. Very early Bowie in some ways I’d say.
“Sun and Lightning” has a heavy synth presence with accompanied piano. There’s also a sort of ‘90s alternative rock beat, where the snare drum sound seemed to be that “dragging style” made well known by a lot of bands at the time, especially Oasis, I think. The highlight to this number is when the drums are cut out towards the end and things get quiet, with only an acoustic and piano playing. “Castleworld” is one of the songs where two guitar sounds are mixed together, and a hollow or muffled drum beat is heard. In fact, I thought the guitars took center stage here. Overall, this song’s style has a lot of soul and perhaps, trip-hop elements to it, which made it stick out more than the others. This is also the band’s longest track. Overall, there are a lot of moving parts to listen to. Moving on to “How the Story Goes” which felt to me like another ballad-type song. It’s about going on a trip with some girl and showing her all the “shifting colors of the sand” or something like that. Even with good intentions for someone you really adore, “we can never know how the story goes.”
“Set in Stone” features a bigger, bolder style - almost like theater pop, whatever that is. I really enjoyed how this one flowed from verse to chorus, how the guitars sounded like they were played through some fusion distortion pedal and how angelic the backing vocals were. I’d have to say this was my favorite track. “Tore Me Apart” was another great song, in my opinion. It’s got this melancholic ‘70s feel to it. Maybe it was the beautiful piano melodies, the soft guitar playing and the trippy, jazz style the band was playing. This song ends with some piano measures and transitions right into “Von.” This tune reminded me a lot of early Bowie stuff from the ’70s. I think it was the way the drums sound, the piano and the trippy vocal effect. I don’t know. This last track was another favorite. It’s sound sad - “my mind’s made up / even thought I gotta go - you remind me of.” But, it’s a good kind of sad. Like when happy memories of the past somehow are also sad memories, because you miss a loved one so much. Coloured Clocks’ Castle, is a symphony of sounds for the ears. Lots of gorgeous and lush melodies can be heard throughout. If you’re familiar with this Australian band, this album shouldn’t disappoint.
Back in the early 2000’s Pony in the Pancake (PIP) began as an acoustic two- piece on the Albany, New York music scene. The band created a following after touring Canada and the East Coast. More recently they released a full length album entitled In dreams.
The album to my ears combines a number of different styles. I was impressed with the cross pollination of contemporary and more retro genres. Some of the songs could have been made in the ’50s or ’60s but with a more modern production style.
They get going with “I have known love” which is a lovely intro to their sound. The guitars are clean, the drums are organic but driven and there’s a steady bass. I thought the use of the synths was well done and gave the song a psychedelic feel. The vocals are well delivered and I appreciated the texture and tone of the delivery right off the bat. Great opener.
I loved the title track “In dreams.” It sounded like a mix between Real Estate and Interpol but more inspired by ’50s pop. The song contains a good amount of reverb which does give it a dream-like quality which fits perfectly with the lyrics.
That atmospheric quality continues with “We'll go walking.” I absolutely loved the vocals on this song. The instrumental aspects support the vocals and add to the cloud of serenity this song has. The energy ramps up on “The rules of love” and it was the first song that reminded me of a different band - The Shins. I loved the groove on this song, especially the lead guitar work.
“Forever” continues to showcase the band's ability to create a great song. The vocals have a Beach Boys type quality especially when the vocal harmonies are more prevalent. There’s also some really cool transitions. More energy is infused with “Mountain dead girl” and this song sounded like it could have come straight from the late ’50s or early ’60s.
The consistency of the song quality was hard to deny. “Ocean of love” had its moments but “What do you do” felt like a certified highlight. The concept of romantic love is prevalent throughout the album and of course you need a good breakup song and “There goes your girl” hits all the right spots. The most Beatles-esque song is the closer “There she goes again.”
I loved the album. The nostalgia and tip of the hat to classic styles was prevalent but not exactly dripping. They left enough room in the mixes to interject their own signature sound. Recommended.
Not much is known about The Faith Irons when trying to find information about the band online. I do know they hail from Indio, California and recently released FOR NO APPARENT REASON which is a four-song EP.
The EP is rock based and their style was reminiscent of bands from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s to my ears. I grew up listening to music that seems to have been made with a similar intent which is to have some fun, rock out and provide some memorable melodies.
They come out of the gates with “Come Out” which sounds like an opener. They pretty much launch into an adrenaline inducing groove. The vocalist sings “Light that fire tonight / Bring your beast and write your name upon the wall / Name upon the wall.” I thought the drumming was tight, the guitar sounded sharp and the bass work was dynamic and versatile. There’s definitely a little attitude with this song and out of all the songs it sounded like a classic rock song. The vocals are delivered really well and there’s a technically impressive guitar solo. I would say this is a solid start to the EP.
The energy simmers down on the next song “Go Around.” It’s the bass and drums which keep the groove on the verse with guitar flourishes providing some atmosphere. The vocals on the verse lean into spoken but when the chorus arrives it’s quite explosive and with that you also get a catchy vocal hook. There’s a breakdown in the song that’s lush and dreamlike, and makes for an even more effective transition back into the chorus.
I loved the third song entitled “Desert Sun.” It’s clean sounding with the distortion used very sparingly. There’s a bit more of a ’60s vibe to the song that mixes with ’90s alternative. The vocals are at their best here. I thought the delivery as well as the texture of the vocals worked really well with the song. On the chorus the vocalist sings “The Desert Sun, gonna shine tonight / Gonna make sure everything's alright / Wanna find my way, through the town tonight / Gonna make sure everything's alright.”
Last up is “You'll Say” which is the most subdued song and introduces some different production techniques. The drums sound electronic which later combines with an organic sounding kit. There’s a distant sounding guitar and bass as well. As the song progresses more energy is brought into the mix. It felt like a good song to close on.
The band showcases a number of different sides to their sound all of which I enjoyed. Take a listen.
Hailing from Richmond Hill, Ontario, Kevin Zarnett is a songwriter who has got recognition with his guitar playing, warm vocals and exceptional songwriting. He has played with many different artists and contributed to a number of albums including The Mad Mile by Kirsten Jones.
Today we will be focusing on his recent single entitled “Hey Elisa!”. On his Bandcamp page he explains “The song ‘Hey Elisa” started as a conversation with a friend who was struggling, weighed down by their current circumstance, and unable to see any escape. I asked, if she could do anything, what would she do? I was thinking vocationally, but her response was, ‘I would like to be a bird. Be able to fly.’ And that’s where the song came from.”
The song starts with a brief swell and leads to a full arrangement. We are greeted with impressive guitar picking, a 4/4 beat and a bass line that creates more energy to the groove.There’s also some sparse piano and an additional guitar. The song has a good amount of instrumentation but there’s also a lot of space in the song for the vocals to breathe.
Emotionally, the song pulled me in different ways. The song has some low hum melancholy but also a little bit of gratitude, introspection and nostalgia. It’s a song about salvation to my ears and quite literally escaping the city to find solace elsewhere. The vocals are delivered in a comfortable range but there is some variation here. Zarnett occasionally hits some higher notes which sound good.
As the song progresses we are introduced to more elements. There are windy pads and what sounds like an arpeggiated synth that are introduced around the two-and-a-half-minute mark. The song ends with a robust section combining ghostly guitar notes, synths, drums and more.
To my ears this song is shares company with a band like Wilco. It hits upon similar emotions and also has this organic, Americana quality. This is a great song and it piqued my interest into what else is in his past catalog. Recommended.
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