The 3148s got together in a Detroit garage in the summer of 2015. According to their website “Their current line up is Ian Coote, who writes and sings most of the tunes, plays guitar, keys, mandocello and just about anything else the rest of the guys will let him bring to gigs; Jason Seifert on bass; Greg Jones writing songs and playing guitar and doing vocals; and Tom Jones as the drummer.“ Additionally, they mention their music “will appeal to fans of artists like The Tragically Hip, Black Keys, Hootie & The Blowfish and Counting Crows.”
In 2022 the band released a string of singles which we will be reviewing today. The first song I listened to was “Picture of You” which starts with a guitar solo supported by the full band. The song quickly gets to the verse with the vocals. It’s a smooth groove with keys, guitars, bass and steady beat. The song starts to rock out and some fuzz is introduced with the vocalist stretching his vocals to hit some high notes. I liked the dynamics of the song and the band displayed solid chemistry between the members. It’s accessible, fun and a repeat worthy song.
The next song I listened to was “Guillotine” and given the name I was expecting something different. It starts off with orchestral strings and is reminiscent of music you might hear in a series like Game of Thrones. The song makes a quick turn as a rock band quickly emerges into this darker surf rock type of riff. Perhaps even more interesting is how the vocals were delivered. It’s almost on the verge of rapping but somehow works. The hook is a little more straightforward. This is a really original sounding song. It takes a number of different styles and makes it feel natural and organic. I also thought the guitar solo hit all the right notes. Job well done.
The last single I listened to was “Saratoga Ave” and it was a sort of warm Americana influenced song. It’s tender, heartfelt and very relatable. The melodies are memorable and I thought the track builds well to the hook which is quite explosive as well as cathartic. I can clearly see why they chose this song as a single.
There’s a variety of styles with these three songs. You can’t help but wonder what an EP or album might sound like from the band. I liked these singles and hope to hear more in the not too distant future. Recommended.
Plutonian State - The Basilisk
Plutonian State is a small collective of musicians spread out across various different global locations. The collective is composed of Graham Iddon (vocalist), Roy Messiah (percussionist) and Tommy Jones (guitarist) who have, individually, received various accolades through prior projects. Today we will be reviewing a single entitled “The Basilisk.”
The collective mentions “Plutonian State is an atypical band to say the least. You won't hear any typical subjects about well trodden ground like love, partying or the like. We have one goal - to address the most pressing climate, socioeconomic and technological issues we face as a society, usually through metaphor or intricate storytelling.”
In regards to “The Basilisk” they elaborate further to say “With the single we propose, we have taken the infamous thought experiment known as Roko's Basilisk (which we implore you not to research if you're at all concerned about the future of artificial intelligence) and we ask this - when we create true AI, will it become a monster because that is what is expected of it?”
The song starts with an electronic jungle beat. It’s very rhythmic and the synths do feel like you’re exploring the inner circuitry of some AI system. The vocals were surprisingly a little distant from the music but it works.
After the initial burst of energy there's a more subdued section where the vocals have some space. Iddon shows some serious range on this song in terms of vocal range and mood. He is able to sound close to you and other times as if he’s yelling for the fate of the universe.
This is a contemporary sounding song that could easily be used in any modern day sci-fi movie. I think they were able to capture the essence of AI with sound and I would say that it displays some serious creativity and skill. Recommended.
Pacific Witch - Relics Only
Pacific Witch is a three-piece, Sacramento based, alternative surf-rock band that formed in early 2020. Waiting-out the pandemic until venues re-opened allowed them the time and focus to record Relics Only, their debut album. They embarked on a West Coast tour as soon as the opportunity presented itself in January 2023 with shows ranging from Vancouver, BC to Tijuana, Mexico. The band describes themselves as “...an uncomplicated, honest, if less traditional surf rock band. If traditional surf rock is a sunny day at the beach, [we] would be the fog on the horizon…A little less Beach Boys and a little more Roy Orbison. It calls on some punk grit, a little classic rock, some dreamy vibes, and sad lyrics, but all of that revolves around a spring reverb surf core.”
“Whole Nerds And Puke” immediately draws you in with its groovy bass riff. There’s some well-placed back-and-forth between the rhythm guitar and vocalist in the first verse with a strong solo coming in hot at 1:30 mark. There’s a rawness to the vocals which are sometimes contrastively supported by quiet backing harmonies.
“Spin Cycle” offers an interesting metaphor, “Still got the suds on me from when / Clotheslined and hung out as a friend / Not quite dry enough to mend / I'm stuck in the spin cycle again.” The music very much has a cyclical sensation in the sense of having a repetitive (spinning) rhythmic guitar part, although there is tasteful variability with excellent little guitar licks turning up a little over half-way through the song.
“American Lie” expresses disillusion with, I presume, the American Dream and also the American Dreamers themselves, “But we’re not great people / We’re not great.” The intro on here took me by surprise with a sound somewhat akin to Red Hot Chili Peppers. The instrumental “Shindig” showcases the band's technical proficiency to a greater extent. It’s something straight out of a Western and gave me visions of gunslinging cowboys riding their horses through ghost towns overrun with tumbleweed.
“Lucid Dreams” slows things down and reveals a quieter, softer, and subtler side of the band, “Coming up short again today / Got it all but I lost my way / It’s just easier to sleep.” The next song, “Old John,” tells a tragic narrative of divorce and heartbreak with a pleasantly surprising vocal shift in contrast to the previous songs. The chorus has a particularly striking melody when the singer, who has a relatively low and - up to this point on the album - slightly un-dynamic voice, transitions beautifully into his upper register, “Buried him under the sun.”
“Devils Only” returns with the intensity and energy that kicked off the album. It initially seems like it’ll be an innocent enough song with a sort of a cappella Beach Boys vocal intro that reflects upon the peace and quiet of the countryside as opposed to the city. Yet the song takes a twist into a story about prostitutes and kinks with a pressing rhythm, quick vocal-delivery, some wailing guitar and darkly descriptive imagery.
The sparse lyrics of “Photosynthesis,” which entail just one line, “I get my food from the sun,” in no way describes the music itself. The rhythmic guitar converses in tandem with the drummer while the bass player infuses lovely and solitary moments of subtleness when the guitar and drums pause silently.
“Caveman” is a love story that covers our sprawling human timeline from the caveman era to graduation day in 2008. It’s pretty low-key. You’ll hear lots of cymbals underneath the repetitive chord progression of the verses and chorus, with a welcome instrumental bit after the second chorus. Closing the album is “Seagraves,” an instrumental with intimate and warm vocal harmonies overtop of gentle strums and stripped-back bass/drums. The vocal harmony parts are interspersed with some excellent back and forth between the solo guitar and bass/drums. It’s a peaceful and beautiful song which, of all the songs on the album, most clearly enables me to feel and envisage myself as a surfer riding the waves...
Zodiac 68 - Anonymous
Zodiac 68 is the brain child of Cardiff, UK based singer/songwriter Matt Dunn. The ‘band’ was started as a tribute, and is heavily influenced by grunge and alternative rock of the ’90s. It became an outlet for the heavier side of Dunn’s writing. This album is the follow up to 2022’s Sasquatch. As with the first album, his latest release Anonymous features guest appearances from Blaine Vogt (27 Dead, Crossing 13th, Groove Thief, One More Story). The eleven-song album was recorded in Dunn’s home studio. It was mixed and mastered by Marvin at Tide Studios, London.
This second album carries on where the first album left off but with added electronic elements. Anonymous also contains a few piano based ballads amongst the heavily riff based alt rock. Anonymous kicks things off with “Someone Else’s Eyes” which is a song about despair, guilt and regret. The tune starts with some echoing guitar and a catchy, moody melody. Layered on top later is some distorted guitar and a thick bass line. The most telling line from the verses comes in the second stanza, “Make my bed, here comes the end of mankind.” A peculiar juxtaposition - an everyday chore most of us do when we get up in the morning from last night’s rest, contrasted with an apocalyptic, albeit a rather dry and stoic statement. A great opening track that mixes grunge and dark, post-rock elements.
“Blind” touches on themes of betrayal, loss of friendship and showing no remorse when someone gets “kicked when they’re down.” Musically, this song has an even catchier guitar melody and many great moments on the piano that get mixed in the song’s main melody. There’s something about this tune, at least on the verses, that reminds me of moody ’70s rock tunes. A couple of highlights to this track are the searing guitar solo and the extra backing vocals.
Next is “Be My Moon” and this one is about reaching out for someone, asking them to “be my moon / be my sun / will you be the one / to take this heart and heal the wounds.” It opens with tender sounding piano and Dunn on vocals. The rhythm section comes in after the first verse, low and brooding. Another fantastic guitar solo can be heard here as well and it ends with a few chords on the piano. The next track asks, “Where Did Everything Go Wrong?” A song that deals with loss of a boyfriend/girlfriend, confusion as to why nothing good every lasts long, and time moving on - being the great equalizer, despite us humans not liking that fact one bit. This one has an electronic bent to it, with a heavy synth sound in the beginning. To me, this song’s style features prog-rock, hard rock, a little funk and all points in between. It reminds me of bands like Living Colour, Jane’s Addiction, maybe Red Hot Chili Peppers and King’s X.
Moving on is the album’s title track - “Anonymous” and it talks about being just that - a person with no identity. “Bury me up to my neck and I stand alone / I stand alone” is about as dark as any lyrics get. I like Dunn mixing in the acoustic guitar on the verses and how that contrasts with the edginess of distortion and the song’s message. This one kind of reminds me of the grunginess of Alice In Chains with the more hard prog-rock sensibilities of bands like The Mars Volta.
“In Your Hands” suggests that the hand that you were dealt in your life is in your hands. “What you want is in your hands my friend / And if you want me just reach out and take my hand.” Compared to most of the previous songs, this one offers hope, despite doubts we have as humans. The music overall, and how it develops right from the start, is absolutely fantastic! I loved how the drums sound, the catchy bass melody, the little bit of acoustic right before the chorus, the guitar solo, the piano - everything! I would recommend listening to this for sure. The words to “Everyone Who Saw You Run” has more mystery to it, lyrically. I think it’s about a friendship coming to an end and words that were left unsaid after a breakup. Dunn’s sings a little higher on this track and overall, his sound is softer and musical approach gentler. Guitars take a back seat for a bit (until the solo part of the song), while the piano and synths are more present.
The lyrics to “Sorrow is Your Only Friend” are some of the darkest on the album - “I’m not thinking / Of what I can do to save me from myself.” They are also some of the most sparsely written, even minimalist, you might say. Musically, this song is part hard alt-rock, part funk and part spooky (an eerie sounding synth melody is played during the verses). “Without You” is about finding salvation and safety within the friendship / love / embrace of another. But Dunn also sings of that “other side of the coin” predicament, where he recognizes “With you I’m almost a better man” - I’m just not there yet. This one has a great, grunge rock hook on the guitar and plenty of energy. This one feels like it has all the classic ‘90s grunge/post-rock elements to it.
The next tune is called “Even Now” which I think, is about realizing after all the crap and pain you’ve been through with a broken relationship, things have not gotten any better. A song about someone who hasn’t gotten over it. This track has a lot of great dynamics to it. To me, it sounds like it might have been Dunn’s most complex and hardest to write. Lastly, there is “Love is Something That I Can’t Feel.” A tune as sad as any song you might hear - I mean, really, this one’s a downer, but it does feature a beautiful melody. Zodiac 68 touches on real emotions - sadness, regret, sorrowfulness, mental pain, loneliness and wanting resolve through forgiveness. It mostly features Dunn singing at his piano, but then a dramatic mix of drums, electric guitars and strings come in about midway, finishing off the song with a powerful ending. With that said, this is a solid, well written follow up from Zodiac 68.
Dave Barrett - Stockton Ave
According to the Bandcamp page for Dave Barrett he didn’t know if he was ever going to record again. During the pandemic a number of things aligned and Barrett found himself working on new songs and would eventually release Stockton Ave.
Stockton Ave contains fourteen songs and is a fully realized album. Barrett did get some help along the way. The band consists of Chris Starke (drums), Tad Santos (bass), Paul Stebner (guitar), Christa Cummins (vocals), Patrick Whalen (trumpet/flugelhorn/melodica), Jennifer Jennings (vocals), Justin LeBreck (keys), and Tony John (mandolin).
The music feels very much based in Americana music. I was reminded of Bruce Springsteen, Steve Miller band and other like-minded artists and bands. The album starts with “Dance With Me” which is definitely a song that should make you dance. This is a fun one that is easy to sing along with. I loved the grooves and spirit of this song. Barrett sounds good and happy to be there.
We back off from the celebratory mood of the opener to something more reflective but still positive with the title track “Stockton Ave.” The vocal melodies are there and the horns sound fantastic. There are some impressive dynamic peaks in this song. The band sounds incredible at points such as the two-minute mark.
Barrett has the kind of baritone voice that sounds great with some melancholy. “In The House That Is Empty” is perhaps the dark horse of the album. It’s cerebral, warm and those distant guitar sounds work wonders to give it a cosmic quality.
Barrett sounds equally as good on “Turn Around” which has some spoken word on the verse. It revolves around piano, what sounds like xylophone and other tender and warm elements. “Touch and Go” feels a dose of hope in the form of music while “Dance On The Sidewalk” is another song that has dance in the title which lives up to its name.
“Simpleton Galore” is a big one. It’s full of instruments and is just epic in scale. Barrett continues to pour out the goods with a mix of emotions. “October Skies” and “Don't Come Free In The End” were solid songs but “Come Around” is motivational. Barrett sings “We all have a moment / Something we wouldn’t change / Yes, this is my big moment / Something you live over again and again.”
“Lonely In The Night” and “Remedy” bring the Americana flavor once again with perhaps more of ’90s alternative flavor. The most somber song is “What Love Can Do” which is quite beautiful. The orchestral strings sound great. “Heroes Of Our Day” is the closer and Barrett plays to his strengths with this song.
Barrett is a talented songwriter and this album proves it. The album was cohesive and I found the songs to be consistently well delivered. Recommended.
Vickis Dream - Vickis Dream
I was excited to listen to the self-titled release Vickis Dream from Vickis Dream when I read about their influences. The band states “The Misfits, Faith No More, Suicidal Tendencies, Dead Kennedys, Sonic Youth, Sioxsie Sue, Peter Murphy, The Damned, Type-O Negative and A Perfect Circle” are some of their influences. I’ve been a fan of those bands for the last twenty years so I was excited to hear what they would deliver.
The album starts with “Awakening” which is an over the top introduction that sounds like the beginning to an epic full scale superhero movie. I liked it but not sure it was necessary in all honesty. The band arrives in full on their song entitled “Deja Vu.” I would say this band shreds in a major way in the first minute. The music was interesting. It was more punk oriented than I expected, especially with the anthemic vocal chants. The band sounds tight and definitely dips into many different genres. I have to give it up to the guitarist for absolutely slaying the guitar solo. There are some other different vocal approaches and the vocalist sounds like the lead singer from The B-52's. There’s also a spoken word section which is haunting and post-rock inspired that sounds like it could be in a movie and then goes into drone metal. Wow - this song goes into so many unexpected places.
“Morbid” gave me Joy Division type vibes at first with a side of The Cure. The vocalist sounds great on this song and I felt the vocal melodies were quite catchy. It’s a fast moving song and the energy is there. That being said it did feel like almost a completely different band from the first song.
“Wendigo” is a good one with another strong vocal performance. There’s lots of energy in this song and it reminded me of the energy I would feel when listening to TV on the Radio. “Desert Punks” felt straightforward in comparison to some of the previous songs. There are multiple vocalists here and minus Kurt Cobain this sounded like it could have a Bleach era Nirvana song.
“Vandal Hearts” combines punk energy with the revolutionary spirit of The Who and also sounds like it could be a song in the The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It's a bit of a romp. “Nuke ‘Em All” is a fun and fast punk tune. They end with “Priscilla” which was another narrative closing out the show.
The band was at their best on “Deja Vu.” This song is the most ambitious by a far margin and displays their ability to bend genres rather seamlessly. Most of the songs that followed were a little more predictable.
Overall, I really enjoyed this release. The band has a lot of energy and felt like music that deserves to be heard live. Take a listen.
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
Lanwell Aurora 3.7
William John Titus Bishop Three Songs for
cello, guitar and voice 3.9
Gilan Goddess Unwilling 3.8
Teresita Basa Shame On Everyone 3.8
Box Warfare To Better Days 3.6
BLu Joy - Blu Joy
Blu Joy is Kris Wilson, Niqo Robertson and Dylan Anthony. The trio from Mesa, Arizona recently released their self-titled debut album blu joy. It’s a thirteen-song album with accessible songs and memorable melodies. Their music felt most aligned with indie rock from around the 2005 era. I was picking up on bands like The Shins, Vampire Weekend as well as other like-minded bands.
The album starts with the buoyant and fun “Up & Down.” Kudos to the bassist for really making the groove fly here. I immediately felt like the song was familiar. The melodies pop and I did notice a smidge of ’50s sound in the style of The Beatles melded with a more contemporary approach.
“Already Gone” is super slick. It’s a light and playful feel with a ton of approachable melodies. It’s a song that unfolds just perfectly with a catchy verse that catches steam into this almost Steely Dan type of bridge. The hook comes a little and serves as a cathartic moment in the song.
The band continues to hit it out of the park with warm and inviting vibes. Even if you are going through a cold winter, “Desert Love” should make you feel like it’s summer. I loved the vocal harmonies on this song which are highly reminiscent of The Beach Boys. This felt like an arguable single to me.
“My Baby” sounds like a sped up and more contemporary pop song from the ’50s. I thought the division between these styles was nailed just about perfectly. “Heaven” was great but the barbershop quartet “Divine” sounds like you are transported back in time.
As the album progressed I thought there were a number of highlights. “Incompetent” is one of the more rocking songs and sounded more like a band reminiscent of Car Seat Headrest.”Know Your Worth” is great and we get some organ on the ’70s inspired “All I Can Give.” “Little Rose,” “Disguised Eyes” and “Conflict” are also great ones. I loved the piano and motivation on “Conflict.”
Blu Joy is a great band. The band's songwriting and delivery on blu joy is sharp and focused. This is a fun and repeat worthy album. Take a listen.
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Katie Ainge - Still Alive
Katie Ainge is an independent singer/songwriter based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Katie's song “Fond of You” can be found in Season 5 episode 18 of the hit TV show The Fosters. Ainge also recently released Still Alive which is a six-song EP.
Her music to my ears falls into the singer/songwriter and folk category. The acoustic guitar seems to be her instrument of choice but at the center of these songs are the vocals. Up first is the song “Easy” and there’s a bit of a mysterious vibe here. The guitar work was really good. I was impressed by the vocals right off the bat and the combination of the lead and harmonies works well on the hook. It’s a solid introduction to her sound.
“Run to the Water” is next and perhaps a little more pop oriented. This song felt like a single to my ears. It revolves around a subtle beat which includes a shaker, an acoustic guitar and a bass. The vocals are delivered well. There’s almost a neutral emotional quality to the verse and it seems to open up a bit on the hook. It’s a great time and reminded me of a number of folk artists from the ’70s.
“Still Alive” is the arguable highlight. This song pops. It’s got a bit of southern gothic quality and the delayed guitar sounds fantastic. Ainge’s vocals are dynamic on this song. There’s an urgency to her vocals and they soar on the chorus. I loved the sense of danger on this song which also feels a bit haunting at times while still delivering memorable melodies.
“Crimes” is the most melancholy and reflective song. This mood works well. There’s also some spaghetti western guitars that are drenched in reverb which create a unique sound. You could make an argument that “The Odyssey” contains the best vocal performance. The harmonies sound warm and full with atmospheric elements assisting with dynamics and consistent strummed acoustic providing the backbone.
Last up is “Lead Me Home” which is another high point. The guitar picking patterns were hypnotic and the vocals again sound great. It’s a pensive song with shades of dark and light.
This is a well executed EP. Ainge successfully displays different sides to her talent and her vocals were continually inviting. There’s a lot to appreciate here. Take a listen.
Chad Carrier - Not Alone
Chad Carrier is a seasoned musician who got his start back in the ’80s. Since then his list of achievements is prolific. Carrier had airplay on MTV when they used to be the biggest thing in the world, was signed to Capitol records and has been in many successful bands. Today however we are concentrating on Not Alone which is a thirteen-song album.
The album begins with “Die on the Hill” which has a strong country, folk and bluegrass quality. It’s got an appealing drive and I loved the rolling drums on this song. The song is a fun, playful and solid introduction that got me interested in hearing more.
“Silence” is more subdued and revolves more around acoustic guitar and vocals. It's a warm and inviting song and some of the vibes felt similar to Cat Stevens and Grateful Dead. Once I got to “Devo on Dope” I got thrown for a loop. It definitely seems to be inspired by Devo but the fiddle gives this country flavor and to throw more at you Carrier sounds similar to David Bryne on this song. This was a very original sounding song.
“Not Alone” was an emotionally resonant song with lots of positive messages and a warm canvas of sounds that provide a sense of solace. “Bootstrap Cantina” was another interesting one. It felt like a tip of the hat to Johnny Cash and the vocals seem to have an affectation to fit the mood of the song. It's dark in the same way a Johnny Cash song is but still good fun and something you can sing along with.
“Check My Soul” was a catchy song that felt theatrical to me. I was picturing a grand performance in Las Vegas with this one. “Hanging Out in Hollywood” is more cinematic and definitely a darker song. There’s a sense of tension here which is menacing.
“Death and Calling” is fun. I loved the almost childlike sing-along quality juxtaposed with heavier lyrics. Continuing with a child-like sing-along quality is “Laughing” but even more so. Out of the remaining songs I thought “I Wanna Hurt” and “Bubbles” were highlights.
Carrier’s tone throughout this album is a little hard to pinpoint. Some of it felt playful, some of it more serious and some that were on the line. Regardless, the album has some great songs and it’s obvious why Carrier has been able to make a living as a musician. Recommended.
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