Quality Professional Audio Recording in Abbotsford BC

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November 19th, 2014 - The Bombay Blue Notes - Face The Pain - Album Review

TheBombayBlueNotes
The Bombay Blue Notes – Face The Pain – Album Review

Hmmm…this one’s a little tough.  At first instance in pushing play, I know this is ‘outside’ my particular genres of choice…so I’ve got to throw my objectivity-hat on here and mine this new music from The Bombay Blue Notes for personal relevance in moments that speak to me.  That being said, the gift of objectivity in music-journalism provides me with the ability to hear something I like in virtually everything I stumble across.  Let’s face it – we ALL put our hearts and souls into what we create…and there’s nothing more inspiring to me than the human spirit rising to take hold of their moment.

Besides…whether or not I like something or not in any of my reviews is nearly irrelevant if you were to ask me – what IS important is that I can hear whether or not YOU like the music you make, whether or not you’re putting everything into it, and that the love and enthusiasm for your songs has an audible tangibility.  There’s no exception here – The Bombay Blue Notes certainly have that electrified-energy in the set of songs that made the line-up for this new album, Face The Pain.

The playing is pretty sick as well – listen to the opening of “Wanderlust,” and you’ll definitely get an idea for the depth of skill in instrumentation here.  Overall, this was the track that started to bring me around to the sound of The Bombay Blue Notes as well…this is a truly inventive track within the rock genre.  It’s a mover for sure, has a ton of energy, great harmonies and creative vocal filters swirling around some incredibly rockin & crunchy guitars.  The female backing vocals of The Bombay Blue Notes really deserves a ton of credit as she really balances out the main-vox through the harmonies and beautiful tone in her voice.

That being said…I keep coming back to this one thought…and that is, ‘if Alice In Chains and Bon Jovi were to join forces, would it sound like this?’  You can take that comment for what it is, there’s a unique combination of a slightly grunge-style rock backing against an older-school vocal sound.  Opening track “Deadlock,” and “What’s In My Dreams,” started me down that path of comparison, and again, initially my reaction was that it might not work for me; but as Face The Pain played on, tracks like “Bombay Blues” proved to me that there’s a lot more going on in The Bombay Blue Notes than you might think right off the bat in those first moments of pushing play.  Absolutely perfect rap-verse thrown into this song, a little less rasp in the main vocals smooths this out well as the harmonies between the male & female singing comes together better than it has at any point on the album so far.  Another track really designed to make your body move and make even the biggest dance-floor grump bump & shake his rump, even just a little.

“Face The Pain,” the titular track brings in the dark funk with opening vocals that sound like they were buried six-feet under alive, given a microphone and a tiny straw for an air-hole.  It comes through menacingly growling and really fits this track well…it gives it this epic nature that a title-track deserves.  Excellent vocals in this one, incredible guitar solos and fantastic samples; again the rasp is traded in for more tone and confidence on the mic and the result is definitely one of the more creative and diverse tunes on Face The Pain.

Wait a minute…what’s this?  “The Magic In Your Smile.”  Here it is.  This is MY moment….

In the largest departure musically, the rock-edge of The Bombay Blue Notes is exchanged for a playful pop melody so sweet the hardest heart of stone would crack just to let it in.  It’s simple, it’s melodic & sweet…I absolutely LOVE the horns added into this song.  This song is a surefire indication that The Bombay Blue Notes haven’t committed fully to a single sound or genre and are unafraid to test the waters with other styles.  I can certainly tell you definitely, this particular one worked very well for me.  I’m a sucker for a genuine, heartfelt pop-song…and the authenticity on this one got to me, big time.

Innovatively, they carry on into the final track, an electro & strings-infused, atmospherically-rich, vibrant track called “Sunrise To Sunset.”  Again, it’s a lot less on the rock, and more of a concentrated effort on tone and melodic, challenging songwriting.  This final track comes together extremely well with all the amazing parts getting their own individual chance to shine in the spotlight of the song, mixing and production overall.

But wait!  There’s more!  We’ve got access to a real gem that hasn’t been put out publicly yet, but we’re sure that’s bound to change.  “Where Did You Go,” the unofficial ninth track from Face The Pain as of yet is one absolute frenzy of electro-rock bliss.  I can’t imagine this incredibly hook-laden track will be kept in the vault for too long, it’s certainly not a B-side! 

What can I say?  Throughout this listening experience from the opening track to the final bonus track here, my experience with The Bombay Blue Notes and their music showed a steady incline, track after track and ended on an extremely high note on Face The Pain, leaving me with a distinct feeling that, ‘yes…yes in fact I WOULD like to hear more from this inventive band.’

  • Jer @ SBS

Check The Bombay Blue Notes out further at:  https://www.facebook.com/BombayBlueNotes

 

November 17th, 2014 - Mariachi El Bronx - Bronx - Album Review

MariachiElBronx

Mariachi El Bronx – Bronx – Album Review

You know…when I think about it, there’s a true advantage in the music of Mariachi El Bronx in that I can’t for the life of me remember hearing true ‘Mariachi-style’ tunes ever with English vocals before.  I’ve certainly heard bands take a departure in their sound for a track or two, and I’ve heard the influence of the Spanish/Mediterranean culture on modern day music in all genres & styles, ranging from bands spread as far apart as Los Lobos and The Mars Volta; but I don’t think I’ve heard a modern-day band bring that true ‘Mariachi’ flavor into the music and own it like Mariachi El Bronx are here on this new album. 

Now…if you had asked me yesterday, flat-out, ‘hey do you ever get out of bed and just WISH you could start your day by reviewing Mariachi-music?’ – I won’t lie to you; I would have said HELL NO.  Aside from some killer cuts in Rodriguez & Tarrantino films and a random tableside experience in Costa Rica, I haven’t ever embraced the sound personally…it was always missing a little something, or perhaps I’ve just been hearing it from the wrong sources.  I can’t imagine it’s only the English-vocals that have managed to hook me in here; beyond the outstanding talent in musicianship within Mariachi El Bronx, they’ve also cleverly inserted some brilliant pop-hooks, harmonies and melody in their songs, making this an absolutely irresistible crossover sensation.

I’m jumping ahead a bit, but both “High Tide” and “Nothing’s Changed,” are perfect examples of what I mean.  Both of these tracks possess such incredible skill in their songwriting craft, providing the perfect blend of their Mariachi-style with just the right amount of pop-melody infused within.  The vocals are gorgeous throughout; the music is completely inventive and, at least for me, extremely new in its sound.  Let’s face it though – you all know I listen to a ton of music…if I’m telling you it’s ‘new’ – you can take that to the bank and cash it.

Though the album starts a lot closer to the classic Mexicana sound with openers “New Beat,” Wildfires,” and “Sticks And Stones,” Mariachi El Bronx presents their alternate take on the genre immediately with songwriting that is nearly more akin to a band like Cake perhaps than any other.  That being said, if you’re not a fan of the John McCrea droning vocals – this would be a thousand times more suitable for you – there is absolutely perfectly suited vocals that fit right into every style, tempo & atmosphere that they present on Bronx.

As a huge fan of the unique, I can’t deny that “Eternal” works for me, big time.  This is a perfect song.  I love the drums in this track…the whole thing just sounds like it’s swirling in an incredible musical-mist.  It rolls along perfectly; flawless vocal flow & delivery…it’s an outstandingly confident track with brilliant use of horns and strings.  In many ways, with the true pop-roots of what’s happening in the songwriting of Mariachi El Bronx, you kinda have to wonder if The Beatles themselves might have ended up here if they kept on tabbing up the acid.

The combination of players in this band, and the incredible way they bring themselves together will hook you in as well…I’m not going into Mariachi-land alone, I assure you.  LISTEN to the playing on “Raise The Dead” will you?  I mean…c’mon…that’s as sickly awesome as it gets right there and an absolute pleasure to follow along with the bouncing-ball of my mind & eardrums.  Mariachi El Bronx has managed to do a lot with their sound; again in comparison to a band like Cake who often come out sounding ‘one-note’ (I do love their music incidentally…), back-to-back songs like “Everything Twice” and “Right Between The Eyes,” do a ton to show the true diversity within the music of this band, and their ability to keep you entertained.

As the album closes on “Valya,” they bring in a little more of that sweet, sweet pop-infusion to end the album on a real highlight.  It’s sounds like this that have made this album a winner in my ears, and literally changed their opinion on how music in a Mariachi-style goes into them.  If you’re like myself, it might be the very last thing you might think you’d reach for…but I can guarantee that if you get even just as far as pushing play on Bronx, you’ll be back for a lot more a lot sooner than you think.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Mariachi El Bronx even more at:  https://www.facebook.com/mariachielbronx

 

November 15th, 2014 - Bigfoot Barefoot - 1216 - EP Review

BigfootBarefoot

Bigfoot Barefoot – 1216 – EP Review

Smooth!  Bigfoot Barefoot’s new EP, 1216 goes down easy with a funked-out crossover sound that’s somewhere between Stevie Wonder and Dire Straits…or maybe John Cougar.  This completely DIY project is a respectable one for sure, there’s some great efforts here and some promising tunes.  I definitely appreciate the overall sound he’s going for…it’s somewhat of an update on the psychedelic sound…perhaps a little lighter on the ears, but just as heavy on the mind.  Bigfoot Barefoot is definitely saying a lot through the lyrics, and a close listen will reveal a lot of excellent lines and well-written songs.

While opening track “Hey Hey” starts out in a funk vein, you get some instant contrast with “Anyways,” a more rock-infused track and realize that you could be in store for anything on this album.  While I dig both these tracks in their own styles, I think I leaned a little towards “Anyways,” as I thought the lyrics really did a great job of matching the feel of this track….really linked into the atmosphere and I thought the reverb-heavy vocals of Bigfoot Barefoot fit best in this kind of style.

“Don’t Forget Your Shoes” brings it back to the funky sounds from the beginning, and displays yet another solidly written track here from Bigfoot Barefoot.  A burst into a rap-verse can often hinder even the greatest of tracks in my opinion…I’m either all-rap or none-rap, but no in-betweens usually…surprisingly to me, this worked extremely well in this track.

What REALLY works well, is the opening of “Shine On Thru.”  Surely, there’s a little room to still improve a few production aspects as Bigfoot Barefoot rolls along with their career, but there’s no denying that there is some real songwriting happening here.  And guitars?  How about fill your freakin’ FACE with the solo in “Shine On Thru” – it’s absolutely killer; great tone on that axe, and overall this is a really catchy tune.  A lot of the 1216 EP really has a classic feel and vibe through both the songwriting and lo-fi production…some might not dig that, but I appreciate a departure from the mass-produced studio sounds that may as well have their artists recording in a spotlessly-scrubbed hospital or factory.  There’s a realness here on this EP that is audibly palpable.

Whether the laidback delivery in the vocals is enough to pull you in…is the lynchpin in the whole situation here.  A song like “Panic Attack,” is a great example of what I mean.  Despite the fact that the tone matches the song well here, at this point, vocally I’m not sure we’ve heard much more than the one-side of dynamics on this EP…and this track I feel like would have been a perfect candidate to switch it up just a little…get in there just a bit more somehow…I dunno, I’m picky I guess sometimes.  Again, I do dig the overall sound, tone and vibe here, but there’s always a risk to making things sound the same to a listener somewhat, even if the music changes around it. 

Of course, that being said….you could point to a million artists and bands that ‘can’t help but sound like themselves’ over and over again and are phenomenally successful; so truly…what do I know anyway?

“Oh Snap,” brings along a subtle reggae-vibe to it, a song that can’t help but bring a smile to your face.  Definitely a winning combo here, another well-written vocal flow and a final smooth delivery to end off these six new tracks on the 1216 EP.  It’s a well-written jump into making all the music, each and every part on his own; to hold one’s own as well as Bigfoot Barefoot has here on 1216…is truly commendable.  But that guitar solo on “Panic Attack?”  To die for.  ;)

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out the official page!  www.bigfootbarefoot.com

 

November 13th, 2014 - Chasing Jonah - Prelude - Album Review

ChasingJonah
Chasing Jonah – Prelude – Album Review

Chills.  That’s the way to start out a listen to new music if I had to choose one.  A feeling that you’re about to hear something spectacular, something dynamic, something new.  From the moment that lead singer Ashley Dudukovich started to sing on the new album Prelude by herself & her band Chasing Jonah…I literally had goosebumps, chills, a spine-tingle…I’ve been reviewing music a long, long time now; let me just say this as clearly as I can – when you hear the REAL deal, it’s unmistakable.  Ashley, her incredible voice and her incredible songs performed and arranged perfectly...are the REAL deal; this is undeniable and absolutely breathtakingly emotionally satisfying music to listen to.

Often times the most satisfying part of my day is knowing I can hear what some people can’t…presumably why many of you read these relentlessly, and definitely why I always take what I do as seriously as I can when I’m listening to a new album.  There’s no getting ahold of me…my brain is absorbed into the worlds you all present us with, and many of those sounds & atmospheres reveal our influences.  You can borrow all you like; if you can make it your own through a unique creative twist, you’ll find that success you’re longing for.  Listening to the opening tracks, the brilliant beginning starts with “It Wouldn’t Be Right,” and heads into the shimmering “Run,” another beautiful track – but instantly, there’s two comparisons that jumped to my mind…and I’ll admit, even I thought I might be crazy for a second.

But I said to myself…it’s like Regina Spektor went ahead and formed a band with Snow Patrol.  Despite the female vocals – the tone, sentiment and emotion in the songwriting was very much similar to the outstanding quality you know and love from Snow Patrol.  And to be compared to Regina Spektor?  I’m extremely sorry Ashley, but it’s sparklingly accurate…and in my humble opinion like a direct comparison to the God of music Herself.  I’ll throw out a challenge to the ENTIRE indie community right here and now, and I wish you all the best of luck, but just TRY and find me a better singer by the end of 2014, maybe even the decade to follow – you’re going to be extremely hard-pressed to it, Ashley’s voice is incredible enough to leave all others speechless while they listen.

Nearly…and I mean that…NEARLY equal credit needs to be given to the songwriting itself.  These musical vessels carrying Ashley’s beautiful melodies to your ears are played with vibrant emotion and truly flawlessly.  Listening to “How,” and “And The Clocks Moved,” realizing I’m on track five and have loved every immaculate sound I’ve heard from Chasing Jonah.  There’s five left to go…and right now, Prelude could very well fit in with my best albums of this year.

“Miss Lorraine” shows a different dimension and a somewhat radical departure in the overall sound.  I liked the additional instrumentation with the horns, but if I had to choose one track that might not have worked as well as the rest, this would most likely be the only option I’d come up with.  While I always understand diversifying an album’s sound…it’s a fine-line to walk on to make sure it still bears that cohesiveness.  This track to me, didn’t sound forced, almost the opposite…maybe too easy for them.  Each of the surrounding songs, even the jaw-droppingly beautiful “As You Want To” all sound like they have every inch of Ashley’s soul and the melodic music completely invested right into it, like their lives depend on it, resulting in literally some of the most incredible recorded performances I’ve heard this year in the indie music scene, or any scene for that matter.

The atmosphere Chasing Jonah creates is marvelous, seriously.  As “Til Somebody Tells Us So” begins, I get that same chill…that instantaneous feeling that I’m about to hear something incredible once again.  This song is stripped-down largely in comparison to the rest, leaving Ashley to carry much of the song…and let me tell you, dear-readers, this is a lady who will NEVER disappoint you.  The wonderfully creative “As Long As You Let Me Try,” that follows is another indication of the brilliance of songwriting here.  Swirling with atmosphere, fantastic guitars, unique structure and of course, amazing vocals…add in some strings and you’ve got an excellent way to wind the album down in a strong, perfect way just before the final song.

Alone with an acoustic-guitar backing, Ashley begins into the final track from Prelude, and I realize that spine-tingling I’ve had hasn’t left me for a single second throughout this album.  Each time they start out a new track I get chills all over again, I’m excited and I literally can’t wait to hear what comes out next.  I can almost hear some Jeff Buckley in this final song, another brilliant songwriter of our time.

If this is the quality, emotion, passion and delivery we can come to expect from Chasing Jonah, consider me a gigantic fan.  Hands down one of the best albums I’ve heard this year – period.

  • Jer @ SBS

Have a listen for yourself!  Consider it an early xmas present from Chasing Jonah to all of us.  Seriously – I’m THANKFUL for this music – and you will be too.  https://soundcloud.com/chasingjonah/sets/prelude

 

November 11th, 2014 - A.S. Swanski - Zafari - Album Review

ASSwanski
A.S. Swanski – Zafari – Album Review

A.S. Swanski has put together an album that is extremely special here on Zafari.  Highly experimental, the album plays somewhere in between the most fantastic parts in a Pink Floyd instrumental and pure, free-flowing art at its absolute best.  The result is quite simply, an album unlike that which you’ll encounter rarely in our world; it truly has its own unique gravitational pull, and while it might not be a collection of the most typical or recognizable music you’re comfortable with – Zafari will both challenge and delight your waiting eardrums.

The European music-maker starts it all off on a quiet, subtle note in the opener “Safari.”  With a smooth electro pulse, and a wicked narration-style vocal; this piano melody led track opens the door wide on what is surely to be an experience to follow this diverse and creative opening track.  As he shifts into “Traum,” A.S. resembles work from Four Tet, perhaps even Orbital from his days working on Octane.  “Traum” plays along in a dark-alley, electro-jazz fashion that can’t be denied.  There’s an extremely subtle vocal sample that comes in at nearly three and a half minutes….just ties the entire sound together perfectly through the melody and whispering.

I was quite impressed with the amount of skill presented on the keyboards themselves.  Many of these tracks are piano-driven in sound, with experimentations of all kinds happening around the surrounding melodies.  “Hartland” and “Rauschwetter” really go together well, but also stand as two of the stronger back-to-back tracks I’ve heard throughout this year.  They’re both incredibly atmospheric, incredibly delicate and beautiful tracks.

“WW” brings the album right back into the dark-alley that Zafari was slightly attempting to crawl out from, before breaking into one of the most melodic parts created on the A.S. Swanski album.  There’s a lot to love about the creativity on this cut – it takes you on a completely beautiful ride after at first feeling like it sounds like it wants to take your wallet.

The short & sweet “Innan” sets up the nine-minute monster of a track to follow, “Futura.”  Epic in scale; it starts off with a menacing pulse as the track swells and grows, expands and finally explodes like a supernova into space.  It breaks into a wide-open atmosphere, complete with distorted, nearly astronaut-like vocal sample, before coming back into that menacing opening line.  Accompanied again by the keyboards & piano – this track works incredibly well and completely confirms, at least to my ears – A.S. Swanski is definitely onto something with his style and sound.

As the album wraps up with the sparse & slow, melodic-intensity of “1 July,” it starts with A.S. on the keys completely unaccompanied by other sounds.  It’s a hollow, isolated ending to this album…small in a sense, but also a way that truly brought me in closer to those final minutes to listen, and left me with an incredibly unshakable feeling at the end – it’s rare to stumble across true innovation and new music…but A.S. Swanski has certainly pulled that off here on Zafari.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about A.S. Swanksi & follow his music at:  https://www.facebook.com/asswanski

 

November 9th, 2014 - Velvet Ashes - Live From The Attic - EP Review

VelvetAshes
Velvet Ashes – Live From The Attic – EP Review

Life may very well imitate art, but it’s still pretty damn rare to find an album title that truly matches the feeling of a band or artist.  This one does completely; Live From The Attic from Zurich-based band Velvet Ashes sounds so intimate, warm, relatable and CLOSE that you’ll swear they’re recording this in the very space above your own head, in your own home.  If you’re on our east-coast here in Canada, you’ll definitely know what I mean as this particular brand of indie-folk truly resembles the sound you all know and love over there…in fact…you might just wanna check your attics…just in case…

Overall…it’s one of the strangest, most honest, unique, aggressive/melodic brands of folk-music I’ve personally come across.  Strangest in the sense that it all truly comes together so well…but I think that comes from the heartfelt honesty & emotion you can genuinely feel communicated throughout their EP.  Unique in the sense that it’s an aggressive mix in sound, but not necessarily in melody; think of bands like The Decemberists and their in-your-face melodies.  It’s all right there up front in the mix…your ears can’t miss a thing.  Crystal clear in production, confidence & conviction in the performance; Velvet Ashes pull you in extremely close to listen to their sweet & beautiful harmonies and delicate music.

In the vein of true-folk music, just like authentic folk tales being told to you the first time, you might not ‘get it’ at first.  As “King And Queen For A Day” opens the EP, the baritone vocals of Nico come through strongly; mind you, like a cup of strong coffee you know you’re supposed to enjoy….it maybe just needs some sugar to go with it…. 

….that sugar comes from the vocals of Judith and Sally, both of which provide the perfect harmonies to make these songs work as well as they do.  The contrast between vocalists compliments each other perfectly.  “Perils In Space” is a great example of this as well, but also for the music itself.  Overall, you’ve gotta hand it to Velvet Ashes – they’re an incredible ensemble of tight musicianship, using instruments that are quite often lesser reached for, but surely sought out by the eardrums of yours truly – and I know I’m not alone.  But using mandolins, harps, fiddles…they’ve really created some beautiful combinations in sound here and some tremendous atmosphere.  Again, “Perils In Space” is a fantastic example of everything this band is doing RIGHT.

“Not Part Of Your Game” is completely interesting through its structure and delivery.  The shaky lead vocals of Judith really communicate the emotion in the song, and against the perfect guitar-playing from Nico and absolutely incredible fiddle-work from Sally…it all makes for one of the more ‘real’ sounding tracks I’ve heard in a while.  I wasn’t kidding before…I feel like when I put this album on, that if I go in the other room I can just imagine them up in my attic making this music come to vibrant life.

As it winds down with “Fictional Lives,” Nico for a second time on this EP is nearly recalling a certain-era of Michael Stipe through his vocal-style.  The backing vocals are perfect, the song structure is beautiful…it’s a fantastic song that certainly leaves the listener on the most beautiful of notes.  Definitely a sound I’ll be looking forward to hearing more from in the future.  Music needs real authenticity like this.

  • Jer @ SBS

Follow Velvet Ashes on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/velvetashes

 

November 7th, 2014 - Collaborateurs - Put It On The Sleigh - Album Review

Collaborateurs
Collaborateurs – Put It On The Sleigh – Album Review

I’m sorry.  I am the Christmas music in your mall.  I am the display that changed on Nov. 1st to Christmas mayhem the minute Halloween is done.  It might be the 6th today, but let’s face it….I’m already reviewing the first holiday album of the year…could be in for a very, very long couple months for a guy like me, who’d be just fine if I didn’t hear another Xmas song for, like, the duration of my life…

Ok…my rant is out of the way…I clearly haven’t done my shopping, haven’t even thought about it – I’ll try not to be grumpy…

For the first Christmas album of the year, we have an offering from Collaborateurs, a band with a great knack for creating memorable melodies, rhythmic songwriting and well put-together songs.  I mean, if we’re comparing these to other holiday songs out there from across the planet – I personally see no reason why this set of new songs on Put It On The Sleigh wouldn’t match up to your favorite Xmas songs of the past.  These are instant Christmas classics, written in that timeless holiday style.

What is very clever, is the tremendous amount of diversity within the songs.  From funk to rock, to soft, melodic songs; this album covers a whole year’s worth of genres & styles while being lyrically-based around one month, or perhaps even one day.  There’s classics redone, like the funked-out “Frosty,” the playful jazzy “Winter Wonderland” and haunting instrumental of “What Child Is This?” in amongst several new Christmas tunes brought to us from the original minds in Collaborateurs.

“What Child Is This?” is a fantastic example of Collaborateurs getting it all to come together perfectly.  The saxophone in this track is just phenomenal.  Overall, there’s no real weak point musically on the album – these songs are all extremely well-played, written and produced.  I often wonder what becomes of these albums in January-November – if this band is at risk for anything, it’s that it would be extremely bizarre to roll-out blasting Put It On The Sleigh with the top down, driving the highway in July.

I’ll fully admit…it’s hard NOT to enjoy.  You read the beginning of this review…you know I tried my hardest to resist…but there’s undeniable fun here on Put It On The Sleigh.  Tracks like “Florida Christmas,” “Mellow Fellow” and “Every Christmas” are songs that I found myself singing along to in my repeat listens.  “Every Christmas” was a real highlight for me on this album…loved the melody in this song and really thought this was another glimpse into Collaborateurs at the very best of themselves.

I can only hope….that one day they’ll make an album for the OTHER eleven months of the year!  But since we ARE heading towards the holiday season – we’ll take this for now!  YOU can take this album as well – and the best way to do it is to donate to a charity project they’re involved with called Gathering Of Mountain Eagles, which supports wounded veterans and their families overcome their obstacles.  By donating here at this link:  http://www.gofundme.com/collaborateurs you’ll get yourself a free copy of the entire Put It On The Sleigh album from Collaborateurs, get some great holiday music and start the season off on the right note by doing something awesome.  Can’t say no to that!

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Collaborateurs at:  https://www.facebook.com/collaborateurs

 

November 5th, 2014 - sASSafrASS - Greatest Hits Volume One - Album Review

sASSafrASS
sASSafrASS – Greatest Hits Volume One – Album Review

With what takes top-prize as easily the best band name I’ve seen since Balls Deep In Your Stepmom – the energetic rock explosion of sASSafrASS is a purely pleasurable experience.  This album flows cohesively from end to end, drifting seamlessly from the playful-pop edge of rock to the thundering massive stadium sounds of anthem-rock to the tongue-in-cheek style & attitude of punk, shifting effortlessly from sound to sound.

Whichever of those particular sounds you like the most might dictate which of these become your instant favorites upon those first listens; but you can also count on sASSafrASS to bring a infectiously fun attitude and a seriously fun vibe throughout their music on each & every track.  To me…this is like the B-52’s on acid.  No wait….I’ve got it now….  This is like the B-52’s on waaaaaay more acid than they were probably ALREADY taking.  Yeah – that’s better; now we can continue…

Take myself for example…I can’t get enough of one of the later tunes on the album, “Crack Whore Baby;” this song totally echoes right out of the riot grrrrrrrrrrl (Too many rrrr’s?  Not enough?) movement, with vocalist/bass player Tish Ciravolo at her most engaging, focused & full-on confident.  The track itself is as punk as punk can get, especially with its pre-chorus chant of “One, two, fuck you!” This cut is a complete mover…and the perfect way to end the album!

But perhaps we should rewind a tad here…god I’m old…I’m mean press-play again on your new-fangled giberrty-gadgets and let’s start this off right…

“Dirge” sets this album up though a subtle beginning, based in a melodic-rock.  You can hear the opening menace in this track; it just wants to explode…ticking along with the hi-hats and the drums.  Quickly switching into “The Majesty Of Rock,” you get a nearly Tenacious D feeling in this track as they put the instruments to work and do what they do best as they crank up the intensity and energy at the outset of this album.  The advantage of Greatest Hits Volume One is that sASSafrASS doesn’t have to ever let the energy drop by roaming through a selection of ripping tunes to make the core of this album.  True to that statement, follow-up tracks “Slave Girl,” and “Pink Slip” show the punk side completely revealed as they continue to drive the album faster & harder into your ears.

Now…if you didn’t buy my B-52’s theory yet….”Cherry Bomb.”  I need not say more, but I will of course…  You gotta appreciate tracks like this where you can hear the absolute love, passion & enthusiasm for the music; sASSafrASS is clearly having a good time – and as a result, so too, am I.  As ‘silly’ as a track like this might seem at times, you can’t ignore the fact that the guitars are incredible, drums perfect, bass as well – and THEN you get the vocals which are having a completely genuine good time.

The switch halfway through “Back Off” is one of my absolute favorite moments on this album.  The second-gear that this particular track finds is just perfect…again, taking it back to the grunge/punk sounds of the riot grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl (I think that’s about the right about of r’s…..) or perhaps even the current sounds found in bands like Tweens.

Just before like lusciously energetic “Crack Whore Baby,” which you already know I love…you get another tasty, tasty punked-out treat in “Touch Too Much.”  Now – I wouldn’t be doing my job if I couldn’t identify a well-known track like this, and I wouldn’t even have a beard if I didn’t listen to rock all day…so let me just say firsthand, this is definitely an extremely worthy cover of the classic AC/DC tune by a band that clearly understands their underlying subtext and raunchy, all-out-fun attitude.

You gotta hand it to this band from LA…they keep the energy flowing and the good times coming at full speed with real heart & passion in their craft that can’t be mistaken for anything other than the genuine love of the music they’re making.  That’s one contagious & beautiful feeling, and they captured it perfectly on Greatest Hits Volume One.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about’em!  https://www.facebook.com/sassafrasskicksass  

 

November 3rd, 2014 - Brutha Smith - Effigy - Pre-Release Review

BruthaSmith
Brutha Smith – Effigy – Album Review

Sacremento, CA’s hip-hop recording talent, Brutha Smith, is back with a fresh set of rhymes with the album Effigy; the follow-up to his incredibly well-received album The Lotus Effect.  While the beats often come at your ears with a playful bounce & rhythmic-groove, make no mistake – these songs can be pretty gritty when it comes to the subject matter.  Effigy documents much of the personal story and struggle of Brutha Smith, but more importantly documents his determination to continue rapping and overcome any obstacle in his way in pursuit of his dreams.

Personally I really dig this kind of juxtaposition in music.  With beats that range from the mellowed-out, smooth opening, title-track “Effigy” into extremely hook-laden, current beats like the following track “Never Knew Him,” no matter what the style or tempo is at, the lyrics come at you in a completely raw but relatable manner.  His articulation and delivery over the mic pull you in to listen closely to what’s on Brutha Smith’s mind and beats like the ones found in “Never Knew Him” are the exact musical hook and way in that the listening ears need. 

But what I truly respect above all things are when an artist has broken down all the walls like Brutha Smith has here on Effigy.  Listening to a track like “Fish Bowl,” well…what can I say other than I can definitely respect the way this man thinks.  There’s no topic off-limits, no subject he won’t take on.  He’s got a real gift for words; the flow harkens back to the days of old-school with Biz Markie & KRS-One, updated in a modern way almost sounding like what you might find from Gorillaz in a rap track.  

Something like the track “94” makes you appreciate this album as the art form it is here, rather than just another set of songs.  Timeline in check, it leads into “Cobain,” a track that offers some real insight into the man that Brutha Smith was, is and becomes – mind you, this is thematically spread out throughout the album as well.  It’s one of the more downbeat tracks on the album in terms of its subtle, chilled out groove; but again, completely effective in combination with the lyricism.

Taking you back as far as it can go – Brutha Smith gives the early history over the track “Mamma,” but also pays true respect to his family matriarch.  Again, very cool to see just how much ground he’s been able to cover and what a vibrant story his life has had overall.  The production is very well mixed, at times offering some brilliant sounds of that true-vinyl feel, warm and with that slight crackle like it’s spinning right in front of you.  I mean…damn…I listen to a track like “A Taste,” and I can only just imagine this coming straight off the turntable.  One of the more unique & diverse tracks on Effigy – this track just spins & grooves through Brutha Smith’s signature-style alongside a melodic guitar line that fits perfectly.

As this new album bumps into the final track “Freak,” Brutha Smith almost rhymes and snarls in ways closer to something Busta Rhymes or DMX might have put out.  This track has flow, it has venom, hunger, commitment, passion…the perfect way to end this incredibly personal album by laying it all completely on the line one last time.  Effigy officially drops on January 15th, 2015 – get them speakers shined & ready!

  • Jer @ SBS

Follow Brutha Smith at his official page at:  http://www.bruthasmith.com/

 

November 1st, 2014 - The New Ages - "The Forest/Destruction Holds The Key" - Singles Review

TheNewAges
The New Ages – The Forest/Destruction Holds The Key - Singles Review

Awesome!  Always love to see great musicians still out there making great music!  Here we are, with The New Ages gracing our pages once again – it’s been awhile since we’ve heard from them with our last review for their EP Piper Man taking place at nearly this time last year; but still – that’s hardly a complaint.  New music from this hardworking band from Birmingham, UK on a yearly basis could certainly only be considered a gift to the ears!

Throughout its subtle beginning, “The Forest,” contains that rhythm and pulse of a single-worthy track right from the moment it starts.  This song, through and through, sounds like a complete hit; a simple but perfected vocal flow with an all-out chorus and truly ripping beat connect this track together seamlessly.  The frantic, scattered vocals from their vocalist Ant come out perfectly with this track and really capture the intensity through both the lyrics and the delivery.  Drums, bass, guitars; The New Ages are all completely at the top of their game in what is clearly a hit-song ready to roll out to the masses.

“Destruction Holds The Key,” made me check that review we had done a year ago on The New Ages.  Did I hear all these elements of Rush, hints & notes of Placebo before?  Yes.  Yes I did.  But here’s one that I didn’t that will serve as a great comparison for our Canadian readers out there…The Watchmen.  Anyone that knows, remembers & loves their brilliant lo-fi debut called McLaren Furnace Room – The New Ages are certainly designed for your ears as well.  It’s the incredible focus in this band that leads these four to victory every time they push record.  You can tell from the sheer quality of these songs and their last EP that they clearly don’t release’em until they’re 100% perfect and ready to rock.  “Destruction Holds The Key,” is another incredible ripping & thrashing beat from The New Ages with an anthem style chorus that will really ignite the crowd from a live stage.

It’s also clear, The New Ages aren’t going ANYWHERE; if anything they only get tighter & tighter as a unit as they continue to rock over time.  We can only hope there’s a full album planned in this next year to come; these two singles are a complete indication that The New Ages are blazing the right trail with their gritty, melodic & inventive rock. 

But even if there’s not an album coming…which all of my instincts tell me to seriously doubt…you better believe I’ll be looking forward to this same time around next year when The New Ages are bound to turn up again!  But trust my gut – you always have you fine music-fans you…I’d put all my chips on a bet that we’ll hear more from this electrifying UK band a lot sooner than another year from now.  With all the energy in their music – there’s no way The New Ages can stay contained for long!

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about The New Ages at their official page:  http://www.thenewages.co.uk

 

October 30th, 2014 - Tome - Nemesis - EP Review

Tome
Tome – Nemesis – EP Review

Always interesting to me, is the synchronicity of music & life…how it all comes together so clearly at times…  No sooner had I just put down the phone from having a conversation with Tyler Mayfield, lead singer for Vancouver band Lung Flower about their own heavy-rock sound, when I shortly after pushed play into a very similar sound being made from across the globe in Switzerland from the band Tome.  Mind you – that similar sound comes through the music only; Tome is completely without vocals, making an intense brooding instrumental-rock that certainly shows depth and some extremely vibrant & strong songwriting.

For the most part – this entire Nemesis EP is completely written, arranged, performed, programmed, recorded & produced by the brainchild behind the music of Tome, Ian S. Cophin.  With the exception of the merciless pounding drums provided by Beta Monkey, a poem written by Charles C on “Dark Conspiracy,” as well as some superb guitar work from Roberto Diana featured on “Edge Of The Void,” and “Dark Conspiracy” – everything else you could possibly hear on this enormous sounding EP has come from Cophin direct. 

Starting with “Edge Of The Void (Intro)” is extremely cool way to open a new record.  Guitar-meets-synth in this delicate track…the melodic calm before the raging storm to come; but in many ways, this track also stands out as one of the most unique and apart from the other four making up the Nemesis EP.  At less than two minutes – it’s also the only track on this disc you probably couldn’t finish an entire meal while listening to…the rest all hover around the six minute mark.

That storm comes through the moment track one stops and “The Wayfarer” kicks in.  Rhythmic, heavy, distorted…this track accomplishes a lot over these six minutes.  What starts with a melodic-metal riff-fest….man, what can I tell you guys….this becomes so much MORE by the end of this sonic journey.  Right around the four minute mark, this track just starts to open up and wind down these crazy musical avenues…just excellent guitar-work here…all leading back to that incredibly driving, melodic riff played at twice the intensity right to the end.

I can definitely appreciate the atmospheric textures that Cophin creates.  “Dark Conspiracy,” plays out nearly like a alt-blues-rock experiment at times before accelerating into the earth-shattering crescendos.  Haunting poetry added, as mentioned before; and an absolutely killer switch with less than a minute to go with Roberto Diana lighting up the guitar on an immaculate solo right to the end – while it all may sound dark, dirty and dank, there’s also no denying the extreme talent in creating an entire world of sonic density.  The constant add of melody throughout the music gives it a thin veil of hope no matter how desolate or despairing the sound that any track might find itself in.  What’s pulled off in this track, and the track to follow, “Anathema” are true trips into the very musical mind’s eye of Cophin.  Heavy grooves, complex rhythms and timing structures…there’s an extraordinary effort here being pulled off sounding effortless.

“The Last Stand,” a track that reminds me much of some of my favorite heavy-rock work in bands like Quicksand and Failure…this is one huge track.  Big, BIG fan of the guitar-work & bass together on this one – they play off each other perfectly, finding their way into the open space each time seamlessly.  In a couple ways, it would be the most accessible track on the Tome EP with a heavier lean towards the melody & a somewhat-more traditional song-structure.

No one panic.  Nemesis didn’t ‘sell-out’ at the end…I said SOMEWHAT…

Overall, it’s an excellent EP and really keeps an ear listening through some wickedly dark & diverse sounds.  It’s impossible not to notice but also not to feel the true weight of these songs; the balance between the dark & melodic, the contrast between the brightness of hope & the dirt of the earth.  The Nemesis EP from Tome is certainly worth a couple spins in your player with its full set of five heavy-grooves all completely tying into each other and twisting into one incredibly enjoyable, dark & mysterious listening experience.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check Tome’s Nemesis EP out right here:  https://tomemusic.bandcamp.com/releases

 

October 26th, 2014 - Lost Gravity - Lost Gravity - Album Review

LostGravity
Lost Gravity – Lost Gravity – Album Review

This album hits hard & hits the spot for sure.  As the opening track thundered into our studio speakers, my first impression was ‘Jesus – how many comparisons to Filter have these poor, poor gentlemen had to endure?'  Thankfully for them – that comparison is mostly valid only on this one track as they go on to clearly establish their musical identity in the tracks to follow.  Even with that being said – “What Goes Around Comes Around” is still a killer track to start out the energy and volume at the max capacity.

“Changes” comes out with a vocal-shredding flow and the huge guitars we already know and love so quickly in.  Excellent breakdown in this track as it heads towards the end.  You can hear the ‘single’ sound on this track here – it’s a radio-ready track for sure with its anthem-style chorus and hook-laden intensity. 

For my money though – make that ‘single’ be “Back Where You Belong;” I really dig the lo-fi mix on this particular track, huge fan of the filters on Breno Val’s vocals on this one too, they work perfectly in his favor here on this MEATY track; for real – this one gives your brain something to chew on!  Excellent switch into a pop/rock chorus – they pull it off flawlessly.  Val seems to have a completely confident grip on both the guitar and the microphone, notably picking up or slowing it down as needed like in the mellow-tempo of “Alone.”

“Anywhere But Home” is another clear winner here on this album.  Musically – you’ve got Giuliano Kolling just pounding out the drums and Breno Val with an incredible bass line in one of the most incredibly well-written pop-rock tunes of my personal 2014.  Really great freeing feeling in the music and another completely sing-able, completely hook-laden, golden chorus; Lost Gravity can certainly put a killer song together - there’s zero doubt about that!  “Friendly Fire” will give you another dose of these guys as they rip through hook after hook on this song.  This particular track reminds me much of fellow UK band Feeder – one of my own complete favorites in my catalog here; but with the pop/rock elements creeping in more and more as the album plays…to me it also sounds like this band hitting their stride at full speed.

They don’t let up.  As the second half-continues, the darker “Selfish” is a completely strong tune, as are the tracks to follow in “All The Same,” and “Venom In A Vial;” though the latter two slightly make me feel that Filter comparison once again…I’m really thinking now that they’ve found that perfect middle ground between Feeder & Filter.  There are so many melodic-hooks but also so many HUGE, diverse  sounds in their songs that Lost Gravity could certainly find themselves becoming the perfect addition to virtually ANY concert line-up.

As they shred through one last energy-driven track in “Walk On,” you can’t help but feel the impact and impression this album makes on a listening ear.  Lost Gravity has found themselves with one absolutely massive sound and they execute it flawlessly.  If you look into their history – you’ll find out that this band has gone through a ton to get this album made.  For all the setbacks & line-up changes they’ve been through….when you hear how this debut full-album came out; it sounds like any amount of trouble would have been worth slogging through in order to get these incredibly intense songs written, recorded and jammed right into your ears to stay.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Lost Gravity at their official page at:  http://www.lostgravity.co.uk/

 

October 26th, 2014 - Omar Bowing - 432 Hz - Album Review

OmarBowring

Omar Bowing – 432 Hz – Album Review

I’ve got to hand it to progressive alt-metal artist Omar Bowing – he’s created an album here with 432 Hz that instantly got my attention; opening track “Virus” comes out swinging like a prison-yard champion.  What I also noticed – was an instant comparison I could draw to one of my favorite bands of all-time, and arguably one of the most influential of the past two decades; Failure.  With the incredible tones coming through the rattling, driving bass and the intensely frantic nature of the beat; “Virus” is definitely a most welcome return to a sound I’m always hoping will make its way to the forefront.

While it might have never worked out commercially for Ken Andrews and his crew in Failure – the sound itself morphed and trans-mutated, permeating other genres.  When listening to the next tracks on Omar’s disc, “Evilution” and “Fear Free” - I can hear other bands like perhaps Quicksand, Ours, Chevelle, Earshot, Tool and Serj Tankian have more than likely filled the eardrums of Omar with inspiration along the way.  And though I might have a ton of comparisons established in moments of listening – Bowing has managed to put an indelible stamp of his own on each of these songs through the combination of his incredible songwriting and his singer Tyson Yen's signature vocal style.

But…but wait – there’s more!  Actual instrumentation!  For real – Omar is writing some incredible songs and some truly incredible parts within those songs.  As he surrenders the microphone for a track called “Lucky;” I kinda feel like we ARE lucky – lucky he put down the mic for just a moment to make this incredible song!  For the record – I dig the vocals all throughout this album, there are some incredibly smart choices made in the writing and melody; BUT…”Lucky” really is one of my favorites; the instrument choices, tones, atmosphere…it’s all here…

That being said – I think it’s a great thing I don’t just listen to an album only once when typing up a review; my first impression…well…it was kind of shocked really.  All I could really establish in those first listens; was that I was certainly hearing something artistic, ambitious, and epic.  But like truly great music – this took a couple listens to really hear how truly brilliant it absolutely is.  “Code Love,” with its excellent vocals, desolate harmonies, massive drums, and exceptional use of the guitarviol, is one scary-as-shit trip of a song.  The solo just before the two & a half minute mark is like the shortest, sharpest and most necessary sound in my life right now…seriously….I’ve backed it up over and over just to hear it….it’s perfect.

As much as I try not to pick absolute favorites…I’d be hard-pressed to not choose “Earthquake” if interrogated long enough.  Just an absolutely fantastic, melodic beginning; which mind you was already blowing my mind – then RIGHT into one of the thickest, densest, crunchiest riffs to rock the entire second half.  Taking it out to the end, Omar demonstrates some killer guitar work on 432 Hz once again with this incredible solo-riff hanging on right until final notes.

“Worried,” the final track on Bowing’s new album is the kind of track that you listen to, and when you hear the extra 10% commitment, conviction, passion…venom in his voice and lyrics – there’s just no mistaking how personal a track like this is.  And as a final cut for an album – freakin gold; it displays the incredibly diverse songwriting I’ve been loving throughout this entire album; these are undeniably challenging, well-written songs performed with high-energy and genuine authenticity.  Ending on a standout track that really shows the incredible guitar, bass, drums, vocals doing what they do best with their own moments in the spotlight as the final track pulses on – you just know when you hear an album this solid in concept in style that we’ll be hearing much, much more to come from Omar Bowing.

  • Jer @ SBS

Watch Omar Bowing’s wicked video for “Code Love” right here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUJmKnRFYkQ

 

October 25th, 2014 - Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World - Album Review

DeathFromAbove1979
Death From Above 1979 – The Physical World – Album Review

Scratching my eyes here…is this correct?  Lil’ ol SBS has the honor of doing the review on the gigantic-sounds of this massively popular Canadian duo, Death From Above 1979?  I’ve mentioned I love it here right?  This…is incredible; and though I’ll admit I’ve been somewhat late to the party on the music of this Toronto-based band, I’ll also admit that now that I’m here I’m taking the couch to crash.  For the year.

This music has all the rhythm and rock you could possibly want, produced immaculately.  Crunchy & melodic and just EXPLOSIVE in every right way – this isn’t me blowing smoke; this is them literally setting the house on fire.  From the drop, track one from The Physical World, “Cheap Talk” comes ripping out of the albums sonic-skin and just buries itself DEEP inside your head.  As far as danceable-rock is concerned – this track could make Stephen Hawking himself get up and bust the robot.

The energy-festival continues on through the franticly-intense “Right On, Frankenstein!” with the vocals on full attack to match the vibrant beat and thrashing pulse of the music.  In three minutes time, Death From Above 1979 shows the range, dynamics and creativity they’re still capable of in this atom-bomb of a comeback album after being away for ten years.  The switch at the end of this second cut though is just pure sonic-brilliance…so short…so sweet…so…

…so hang on just a second…gonna play that one again here…just one more time…then we’ll move on…

“Virgins” is confident, funked-right-out and again, just a completely brilliant switch towards the end.  The vocals are just perfect in this track…the drums, timing…it’s all here – this track is HUGE.  You can’t help but just take a moment and truly marvel at just how massive the sound that these two musical-masterminds make can be.  Have a listen to “Crystal Ball” – even if your volume was OFF you’d STILL hear it!

As burningly-fast as The Physical World rips by, the real magic in the music of Death From Above 1979 is just how tight, concise and no-bullshit this melodically-intense overdriven-funk/rock is; and though it’s extremely noisy in all the right ways, the beauty of the music really lies in their timing and crystal-clarity.  I’m skipping around here, but “Gemini…” I mean, C’MON – I’m not alone here right?  This track ROCKS.

But yeah…too far ahead right now…especially when the middle of this album is so incredibly strong.  Songs like “White Is Red” and “Trainwreck 1979” showcase the real depth in songwriting contained within this dynamic band.  For my money…”Trainwreck 1979” would be right up there with the best of this album full of incredible tracks; the vibrant emotion and innovatively-bouncy rock they’ve come up with this track is maddeningly catchy.  Once again pulling out their ace in the hole within the final minute though – Death From Above 1979 unleashes yet another killer switch up to a phenomenal part, overflowing with outpouring emotion and true conviction through both the music and vocals.

Good lord!  “Government Trash!”  Just fuckin WOW.  Put these two down on my ‘absolutely MUST-see-live’ list; the energy hasn’t dropped below the pulse of a cranked-up jackrabbit the entire album through.  And this track LEADS into “Gemini,” which I’ve already mentioned.  These two tracks, back-to-back could be used medicinally to bring around the comatose.  Can all of this music be pulled off one after the other after the other live?  I’ve gotta see it to believe it – these two individuals have the energy of two full bands – and by ‘full bands’ I mean like, you know…bands the size of The Polyphonic Spree.

For the final cut and title-track, “The Physical World” is a somewhat-more emotionally translatable track than the rest.  It could very well be the fact that it’s probably the slowest tune on the album by about a half-step from the rest, which is to say barely if at all…  But the tones and textures and commitment in this song are audibly tangible; you can hear within this very track that Death From Above 1979 came back because there was clearly still something to be said, something to be created, something yet to be heard…a message undelivered…

They were left a project unfinished; this vibrantly, extraordinarily-dynamic display of wall-to-wall energy throughout The Physical World makes me want to stand up and cheer right here in the studio.  If you’re going to make a comeback after a decade – this is the musical blueprint on how to do it RIGHT.  And though I hope it doesn’t take another ten years to get the next album…after listening to this one I’d happily wait another ten if it truly meant I’d get more music from these guys.  Sonic perfection.

  • Jer @ SBS

You already KNOW where to find these guys…but just in case – follow them at Facebook!  https://www.facebook.com/DeathFromAbove1979

 

October 24th, 2014 - Wo Fat - The Conjuring - Album Review

WoFat
Wo Fat – The Conjuring – Album Review

Just because it’s only five songs long doesn’t mean it’s not an album…trust me!  These five tracks are just ridiculously meaty; heavy in all the right ways without a single ounce of overkill.  All throughout this album, this psychedelic-rocking three-piece kept reminding me of what the perfect blend of Living Color, Rage Against The Machine and Wolfmother might sound like.  There is absolutely excellent instrumentation happening on The Conjuring with so much chunk, funk & CRUNCH, you’ll think that Wo Fat was endorsed by Nestle.

I want it noted…that this particular release from Wo Fat has also been released on VINYL.

I want it ALSO noted…that this particular release from Wo Fat might also be the ONLY release I’ve heard in a decade that truly deserves to be heard on an old-school record player.  This music…this style…it’s all completely born right from the vinyl-era, and to me…whomever is holding onto one of those precious copies right now is holding onto some certified sonic gold.  Honestly…this is like, their fifth album – how have I NOT heard of this band already???

Proving that it’s all about quality, not quantity – this set of five songs slays right from the drop, as the nearly ten minute opening/title-track “The Conjuring” comes rumbling in, you know right away this band isn’t here to fuck around.  Heavy hitting drums with incredible fills and actual WRITING (as in, not just a BEAT people!)…gnarled-up vocals, intense bass & effects-laden guitars; right away this band puts it all up front and proceeds to make music with enough energy to launch a rocket.  Excellent solo-work with real skill, showcasing some extreme abilities and some terrific vocal-effects in the mix as well as this band continues to pound out this killer opener, demonstrating that they get it just as right in the studio mix as they do from the stage I’d imagine…

“Read The Omens” is one absolute hell of a shred-fest.  Talk about holding the fort!  The bass & drums in this track are absolutely steadfast in their mission to get the volume knobs turned all the way up and support some truly incredible solos as this track pulses along.  “Pale Rider From The Ice” is the track that made this a band I’m pretty sure I NEED to see LIVE.  You know…how like, we all NEED air?  That kinda need…  What a trip this whole album has been to this point; but this track in particular gives a listening reviewer a straight-up music-boner.  Masterful guitar work and just another example of the Wo Fat recipe extraordinaire for creating the thickest, most dense & rich sonic-textures; this music won’t just find its way into your ears – it’s gonna hang out there, set up its own jam-space and live in them.

I liked “Beggar’s Bargain” as well.  To me, it’s by far the most danceable tune you’ll find on this album.  So what if I dance funny?  No one here but me when I do.

But in complete honesty, it’s a wicked blues-infused riff-fest with some powerhouse drums, bass & vocals really solidifying this as a standout track I’m sure for many.  Weighing in at just slightly less than six & a half minutes long – it’s also the shortest tune of the five.  In many ways, you can hear this song is a little more concise, a little more focused and pointed – but I think that will work as the crossover they need when looking to score more fans out there.

And truly…I think it’s great that both the band’s needs and the fans’ needs are totally taken care of…but what about MY needs?  As much as you all know I love to help my fellow indie musicians reach the top…well…I say it again!  What about MY needs Wo Fat?

Wait….wait just a couple seconds…hmmm….appears I’ve spoken too soon…

“Dreamwalker” = Jer @ SBS completely satisfied.  THIS IS AWESOMENESS UNLEASHED.  Picking up right where “Beggar’s Bargain” leaves off – we get this MASSIVE, seventeen minute-plus flawless, killer cut known as “Dreamwalker.”  What an absolute powerhouse of a track and extraordinary representation of this band and their overall abilities.  If this is even a tenth of what it’s like to be a fly on the wall whilst this Texan crew jams it out – I’ll more than take it; but still secretly wish to actually BE that fly one day.  Through all its shifting & changing & melting & exploding – this track is an all-encompassing engorgement of everything I want to hear right now, and so to, The Conjuring as an entire entity. 

Think ‘all you can eat,’ but uhhhh…only with music.

Mmmmmmmm.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about this incredible band & follow Wo Fat at:  https://www.facebook.com/wofatriffage

 

October 23rd, 2014 - Gentry Fox - Rare Demo Shit Volume One - Album Review

GentryFox
Gentry Fox – Rare Demo Shit Volume One – Album Review

When you come across an album name like this one from Gentry Fox, Rare Demo Shit Volume One, well – you never really know what you’re in store for as a reviewer.  It could be a cold, hard stroll through the B-sides of a contractual obligation, or simply the cutting room floor from the last sessions…who knows what you’ll hear bump through the speakers.  But the best case scenario, is the one that we have here today, where the music flows along like a high-quality mixtape and still contains a cohesiveness within the diversity to make it all feel like it comes together as one.

Rock Springs, Wyoming’s Gentry Fox has been busy, that much is clear.  With a new album, The Inversion LP due out in December; this set of ten tracks serve as an extreme glimpse & preview into the mindset & music of Gentry Fox upcoming.   And it comes at you quick!  From the moment the intro track “Revengeance” slinks away through its Morgan-Freeman style opening, the beats come at you quickly and intensely as Fox displays his talents both on the decks and on the mic through blazing tracks like “Fatalis” and “Adoxography.”  What I really appreciate is the old-school feel that comes along with the music of Fox; it’s aggressive, but it’s based completely in hip-hop.

A lot of the combinations of filters on his voice can add some busyness to the mix, but it’s all with a completely intended result; these tracks have a real genuine atmosphere swirling them, and it’s all due to the sheer style of Fox and his rhymes.  “Deliverance” will give you a great example of what I mean by all this, and I would also assume that most people will be able to tune themselves into what Gentry is doing after a couple listens.  Again – it’s a stylistic choice; you can hear the massive production on the following track “Ascension,” which we’re also playing during the extended review on Gentry Fox on our current episode of SBS Live This Week.  The point we were trying to make by playing it?  GET this song however you can.  With a true display of conviction & belief – Gentry Fox’s delivery on this track is second to none.

Listening to “Memores” definitely confirms that old-school hip-hop vibe hidden in behind these modern-beats.  I dig the jazzy aspect of this track; it’s simple and allows for the smooth flow of Fox to come through clearly over the mic echoing its signature swagger.  It plays in good combination with the track to follow, “Overground” which brings in some incredibly innovative music with horns and strings backing up the constant beat, perfect verse delivery from Fox and a wicked sample from “The Humpty Dance” from the infamous Digital Underground.

Rare Demo Shit Volume One really seems a lot more thought out than some simple ‘throw-away’ demo songs and sample ideas, there’s a ton of meat on this musical bone.  “Downcast” – have a listen to that and you’ll hear the strength and ingenuity of this natural born entertainer.  In a down-tempo’d masterstroke, this track includes a sample from Eminem’s “Stan” and really goes on to recreate its own world with a dramatic piece from the movie Fight Club echoing off into the distance as this track fades out to set up the final two tracks in this sonic adventure.

Starting into the finality of the album – “Alive,” to me came out instantly addictive from the moment it started.  At this point, I’ve got my ears fully dialed into the flow & style of Fox; and with this incredible backing beat smooth enough to make heads turn, this is a true gem on this album of strong beats & material already on display.  Dropping into the more dramatic and dynamic final cut “Forever,” Gentry Fox puts it all on the line for this final track that rises, builds and swells to a massive size.  It’s tracks like this where you can hear that hunger, that passion, that commitment that’s going to keep Gentry Fox heading full speed toward the top.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Gentry Fox and the Rare Demo Shit Volume One album on this week’s episode of SBS Live This Week right here:  https://vimeo.com/109988504

And follow Gentry Fox’s every move at his official page right here:  http://www.gentryfox.com/

 

October 19th, 2014 - Zane Brune - Dark Night Light Terror - Album Review

ZaneBrune
Zane Brune – Dark Night Light Terror – Album Review

I would be absolutely lying to you all, or at least wouldn’t be honest with you if I didn’t mention straight away that I literally live and breathe for albums this artistic, this pure, this daring.  While I can always find an appreciation for SOMETHING in someone’s music – it’s really only that rare gem that takes your ears by surprise and challenges your brain as to what is and what is not music it can readily accept.  This new album by Zane Brune is something I can thoroughly listen to on repeat – there’s so much new ground being broken here that it’s an instantly gratifying experience into the unknown right from the opening track, the aptly-titled “What To Expect.” 

In my brain…the connection I instantly made with this song, was that I HAVE NO IDEA what to expect next – hence making this title one of the most brilliant to me just for that very reason.  “What To Expect” = throw away those expectations and listen to some music with a truly committed, focused by free-form feeling vibe.  Vocally, Brune opens this album with a nearly Johnny Cash-like drawl, but with the dynamics & dramatics of a Nick Cave record.

As it plays through funked-out, free-verse tracks like “Who Am I?,” “The Way It Moves” and the titular-track “Dark Night Light Terror” – I find the music, the vocals…they demonstrate unique qualities throughout, but MAN does this ever feel like discovering the very first Soul Coughing album, Ruby Vroom.  There’s such an artistic element that runs through this music; with Brune’s constant, unwavering style really taking you into his mind, his vision….the world as he sees it and can express it musically.  You might think it’s insane at times, you might be more like myself and think it’s bang-fucking-on – but the absolute truth is you’re not going to hear too many albums like this one in one lifetime.

Is the average music-fan going to ‘get this?’  I’m honestly not too sure.  As readers of our work here at sleepingbagstudios – I KNOW you wonderful people are ready to stuff this into your ears – you don’t just LIKE different – you LOVE it like I do.  I have a feeling that our new friend Zane Brune also feels the same way.  “Headache, Heartache And Trash” is a perfect example of why I believe it!  But then again…certainly so is “Coffee, Cigarettes And Wine” - each of these two tracks I find absolutely fascinating.  I dig the low-talk/singing of Brune – sounds very similar to the tone in the vocalist for The Editors, who I also love.  But what truly makes me listen, are the tremendous parts he’s come up with here – there are some literally incredibly well-layered parts happening ALL OVER the place.  They’re busy songs…jam-packed for sure – but jam-packed with creativity!  Take it or leave it!

I definitely know how this plays out for artists like Zane Brune – this is polarizing music for sure.  Some of you will think I’ve lost my nut cause I love it so much, while you others…well, you others are the ones who come back to read about NEW and truly exciting sounds through our pages day after day – you GET it.  And I fully guarantee, if you’re a real supporter of the idea that art & music can truly become one – you only need to use this album to point to as an example.  For Zane…there’s a required commitment to continue to OWN his style with the confidence that he has been and let the listeners eventually catch up and find their way into the ideas and sounds in the music.  Think of the comparisons I’ve made…Johnny Cash, Soul Coughing, The Editors and especially Nick Cave – each of these incredible bands and artists were scoffed at for taking the chances they did with their music; and each one of these respectable acts continued to stay true to themselves and their OWN truly unique sounds.  It may very well be the same for the coming years of Zane Brune’s career – but he’s already got me listening and I know I won’t be the only one.

Because what we connect with in music, above all other things, is authenticity & sincerity.  Is it real?  Do they mean what they’re saying/playing, can you hear that they FEEL it in the music?  Check all the boxes off for Brune – have a listen to the sheer brilliance in the songwriting of “I Am, I Have, I Will” – which to me, is an emotionally packed, powerhouse of a song.  Brune has a way of twisting what could very well have been a standard-pop tune into something artistic & incredible, and again, full of genuine emotion.  There’s absolutely standout melody in this track, an addictive vocal flow that’s delivered with conviction and some (more) incredible guitar work – can’t believe I haven’t mentioned that already!

Now, I don’t know it for a fact – but one has to assume that Zane Brune is solely responsible for the instrumentation on each and every track.  That blows my mind when listening to the album this way.  You can’t get this kind of freedom or ingenuity in a band, at least not from my own control-freak’s perspective.  Anytime you make music with others, you have to walk that fine-line of compromise, making sure that each player is respected through the ideas & music and has their part.  This to me – sounds like the work of one truly gifted musical genius – one that has the courage and bravery inside him to pursue music as an art form and not simply make another pop-hit.

And without that directed focus aimed at making radio songs – Brune is free to roam through his own creativity.  Songs like “Bats” show the ability he has to create thick texture & atmosphere in this entirely otherworldly track.  Guitar feedback-laden; this is another delve into the creative & artistic-side of his music before marching into another incredible pop-rock track in “Common Ground.”  Much like the musical genius found in artists like Stephen Malkmus, Lou Reed for it’s sloppy-feeling, tightly-knit groove that comes across as raw as the best of The White Stripes.  Seriously!  Listen, it’s like….2:25ish into this track – you tell me to me FACE that’s not a guitar tone Jack White would have loved to have strummed out himself…or the way the entire track lives in a buzz of overdriven frenzy on “Believe In Me.”  Again, these are busy songs – but personally I like a lot to listen to and have no issue with that whatsoever – just saying – be ready for the sonic experimentations of Zane Brune to come at you from every possible angle!

Yeah!  Gotta admit – I wouldn’t write so much about Dark Night Light Terror if it didn’t deserve it this much; it truly does.  As Brune switches gears one final time into the last cut on the album, “Mean To Ulysses” – it’s the perfect cut for an ending to leave you wanting to repeat.  I mean, Zane!  Buddy!  This last amazing track of yours is nearly DANCEABLE!

No denying it though – that’s the perfect ending to this unique album from an artist with a true perspective, point of view & vision; and an extremely-valid musical contribution through its creativity, construction & intense ability to reach out into the random and come back with the gold, every time.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find Zane Brune’s album Dark Night Light Terror here at Bandcamp:  https://zanebrune.bandcamp.com/album/dark-night-light-terror

 

October 17th, 2014 - Lucid Dream - Lucid Dream Rocks Again - Album Review

LucidDream
Lucid Dream – Lucid Dream Rocks Again – Album Review

Now here’s something interesting to listen to!  In many ways…I’m not quite sure just how to relay the experience of listening to Lucid Dream, which, for a guy that reviews music daily…it’s nearly an eerie feeling!  What I can tell you, is that after listening to Lucid Dream Rocks Again several times over I’m left with the sense that this musical duo truly loves to make the music they’re making…it’s like you can hear what an incredible time they’re having, even in the more sullen moments of song throughout the album.

And one thing I can tell you with absolute, 100% certainty – there is DEFINITELY a reason that multi-instrumentalist & half of Lucid Dream – Harald Nilsen is better known through his reputation as Harald “Thunderhand” Nilsen.  Believe me – this guy can PLAY.

You’ll get an instant dose of his talents as the epic opening track “Unfinished Business” starts into its bluesy, smoky-lounge atmosphere.  Clocking in at nearly ten minutes long – this track covers a lot of ground in one shot musically.  It did make me wonder however…with the following tracks being so short by comparison, if this is the right move to make on an album with seven songs.  I’m not saying it didn’t work for me – I dig the track and I think it’s diverse enough to fit the bill, but I do wonder whether or not the general population & music-fans out there would think the same.  At any rate – the level of guitar playing established in this first song from Lucid Dream is an absolute showcase for the incredible guitar-work of Harald Nilsen; he sounds incredibly at home on the guitar, like he knows the inside & out of every nook & cranny on it.

Astoundingly, the absolute same can be said of Thunderhand on the bass as well.  With a flair that would put Tony Levin, Flea and Les Claypool on their feet for a standing ovation – his performance on “Summer Feeling Blues” is nothing short of incredible.  Vocalist Gro Nesse Bremner really lets loose on this track and for myself personally, this was the track you can hear she’s most comfortable in.  She’s right in the pocket throughout this entire groovy track and sings with conviction and confidence, audibly giving this song 100% of her best.

“A Bit On The Blueside” is another texturally-heavy, smoky & hazy track.  The subtle guitar in the distance is playing feverishly while the vocals hang in the air like a wisp of smoke from a dangling cigarette in the mouth of a movie-star, circa 1950’s.  It’s the kind of song that would make for the perfect montage in a drama, set in a café somewhere quaint while the rain beats down outside.  Of course, this might just be the way I hear it…

“The Scream Within” is the toughest track on this album; I think I want to like it more than the rest…but I’m just not sure, even after multiple listens.  There’s so many points where Bremner is just nailing the vocals, and many others where she makes stylistic-choices that didn’t always resonate in the right way for myself – but in terms of the writing itself and vocal-flow, again, she’s got it nailed.  It’s the biggest ‘anthem’ style song you’ll find on the album…and the kind that makes you feel like no recorded version would compare to how amazingly she might just pull this off in a live setting anyhow.

“Down” is a track that really shows the great songwriting & magic that occurs between these two.  I love this song; I think the guitar-work, again somewhat subtle & subdued in the background supporting the vocals…is just awesome.  If anything – I would have brought those up even more in the music-mix as Bremner hits the chorus with confidence and could easily match against a ‘bigger’ sound.  But that’s hardly a complaint – this is an extremely well-written song musically, lyrically and performed exceptionally well.

With the final two songs, you get an excellent contrast and final display of what these two best and again, that magic they seem to have in this project together.  “Inventory Duty” is a sweet song, with harmonies provided by both and displays the soft-side of Lucid Dream.  As it winds up with the guitar-based “If You Could;” we get an excellent splash of the guitar back up to the front of the mix.  With all the skills Harald clearly has on guitar – spending so much time towards the back of the mix is clearly a choice; this music is about more than his own incredible skills.  And though we get another absolutely killer solo nearly 4 minutes in that makes you easily want to turn the volume knob up to the roof – it’s those moments throughout this album where these two blend themselves together in just the perfect way that truly make this album the enjoyable experience that it is.

  • Jer @ SBS

Follow them at Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/LucidDreamRocks

 

October 11th, 2014 - The Shivers - Charades - Album Review

TheShivers
The Shivers – Charades – Album Review

Sometimes when I find myself listening to a particularly innovative new band, I wonder about just how much untapped creativity is still out there, waiting for us all to discover.  Musically, we ALL know someone in the ‘it’s all been done’ camp…those that believe nothing new or exciting has been happening since like, 1950-something; but you know you’ll never find me there. 

And from the sounds of things, this incredibly creative band known as The Shivers are of the same mentality; Charades is a true art-piece in indie music – and I absolutely love it.

A reviewer’s ear has to stretch big-time to be able to hear anything close to what The Shivers might sound like for a reference.  I’m no different.  Though I’m known for pulling out some incredible ‘sounds-like’ from time-to-time, this one is tough.  Here’s what I’ve got…in one big long sentence for ya; old Beck-meets-old-Weezer-meets-Iron & Wine-meets-Beta Band-meets-Stephen Malkmus-meets-Alt-J-with some like…old…reallllllllly old Disney-esque fantasy themes thrown in. 

Yeah….something like that.  See what I mean?

Whether or not this New York duo can be pinned down to a single sound comparison or genre for that matter, is irrelevant; truthfully I’m glad that it doesn’t come easy sometimes.  To me, this music has been a completely new experience and a real trip into melody and a focused vision, complimentary of The Shivers.  The production values are spectacular – this album feels at times like it was recorded in a tiny bedroom, and others right from the pro-studio.  Combined with the intelligent diversity in the music itself, you get one completely killer set of eleven tracks from this extremely authentic band.

After the opening intro/title-track “Charades” pulses along…you get a quick-sensing that this album could literally go anywhere – and it does.  They had me immediately hooked through the recording-of & genius songwriting in “L.I.E.;” which becomes an extremely impactful & emotional track.  As that leads into the opening lyrics for “Soho Party,” which had me in absolute hysterics; The Shivers switch up the album three straight moments in a row and managed to hook me in every single time.  The thing about “Soho Party” that I absolutely LOVE – is that the track itself, musically, is just addictive as all-hell…even those that might not be so comfortable with the subject matter won’t be able to help singing along.  Genius.

“Kisses” makes for an interesting Radiohead/Powderfinger-esque kinda track.  It’s definitely one where you can appreciate just how different The Shivers can make a pop-song.  “Beauty,” is another perfect example; these songs are loaded with gorgeous melodies that are full of pure heart, soul & raw-emotion.  Whether in their acoustic setting, or diving into electro territory like on “Bedroomer” – you can’t help but appreciate the incredible amount of thought and intelligence behind making music that truly breaks ground like this does.  Charades plays along like a complete adventure, one that twists at every turn and takes you on a completely amazingly subtle thrill-ride into brand new sounds and ideas.

Doubt what I’m saying?  Listen to “Sunshine.”  This kind of artistic endeavor in music is so rarely a path taken; and again, I find myself in complete awe when listening to ideas done this WELL – why aren’t there MORE bands out there with these kind of musical-cahones?  To me, there’s such an immaculate payoff that is well-beyond words when you find that untapped musical vein that really shuts out the rest of the world’s influence and allows you to do your own thing.  Charades…this album is like a pure glimpse into the musical mind, unfiltered.

An album with this much genius behind it truly deserves the immaculate ending that it has.  Closing on two of the strongest tunes on the entire album; both “I Could Care Less” and “Roses” bring in fantastic, dream-like melodies that bring the energy down a bit, but certainly not the quality.  In the studio here…aside from the music playing, you could have easily heard a pin drop each time these two tunes came around again as I ventured from listen to listen.  You just don’t find music as original as this every day…and when you do come across something as inspiring as this latest album by The Shivers, it shouldn’t simply demand your attention – you should WANT to give it.

  • Jer @ SBS

Follow them more at Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/shiversnyc

 

October 9th, 2014 - The Giggitys - Songs In The Key Of Awesome - Album Review

TheGiggitys
The Giggitys – Songs In The Key Of Awesome – Album Review

There’s a large chance you might be able to listen to the entire new album, Songs In The Key Of Awesome in the same amount of time it will take you to read this review.  The Giggitys are packing a sonic punk-punch in their music and keeping it true to the authentic style that bore the breakthroughs of countless legendary bands during the original punk movement.  With an energy and sound that contains the classic elements of punk similar to The Ramones and Fear – The Giggitys also make good use of a more modern-day pop-punk edge and sound like Green Day and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones have made famous.  With their inspiration & influences drawing from all over the genre – there’s a sense of comfort within this punk music of The Giggitys…errr…well….you know, as comforting as punk can get….

As they rip through blazing openers “Not With You (Winter Moon)” and “Goodbye Cruel Girl” – you really get the sense that this band of five from Cleveland, Ohio have lived, ate, slept and breathed nothing but punk music their entire lives.  The blending of so many elements of true classic-punk are put together so effortlessly, they’re providing an entirely new blueprint for the next generation to adopt.  With treble-intensive, crunchy guitars provided by Ric Nimrod (Formerly of legendary punk band The Nimrods), Bernie Lyon and Joe Gill, a relentless pounding and driving beat from drummer Kevin Six and the bouncy, vibrant bass necessary for punk from Paul Ecoli, they storm through truly large-scale punk anthems like “15 Minutes Ago” and “Take Control” in an authentically lo-fi production-style.  Not only does the music match the classic sound & feel, but in the mix this album is also an extreme pleasure to listen to in how close it nailed the genuine punk vibe.

I’m a huge fan of the energy, melody and relentless nature of tracks like “Talk To The Hand,” and “She’s Gone.”  Like good punk should, these songs nearly incite a riot inside you.  No joke – one moment I was sitting here listening to The Giggitys and the next thing I knew I was standing in the middle of the studio breaking my office chair.  I’m still not clear on exactly how this all went down, but it sure was magical.

And then there’s the ultimate love song, provided in detail by The Giggitys courtesy of “Balls Deep In Love With You…”  Did they know I’m one of two members in Balls Deep In Your Stepmom?  Or is this just the beautiful, musical hand-of-fate stepping in to steer our destinies together?  I don’t know what it was, or is…but I know I love this tune.  Closer to the more modern twist on punk like “Talk To The Hand,” and “She’s Gone” – “Balls Deep In Love With You” is nearly reminiscent of The Offspring at their most playful.

No matter if they choose the modern path, or the classic roots like those displayed in “Total D,” this is winning punk done right and really written to be completely geared towards those that have a real appreciation for the entire history of this timeless genre.  The energy never quits; literally – if you leave the room to get yourself a cup of coffee, make sure to keep the volume up as you’d be bound to miss possibly 3-4 tracks as this blazing punk-rock rips by.

Led by the excellent musicianship that has made this entire album a modern-day punk masterpiece – “It’s Not Me, It’s You” finishes this album strongly in a true-anthem style.  A track like this comes along with the visual of a mosh-pit just going-off insanely with bodies being tossed through the air like human rag-dolls.  This is music with energy that leaves a lasting, memorable impression through some very authentic style & songwriting.  If you claim to love everything about punk music – put your money where your ears are and prove it – go get Songs In The Key Of Awesome by The Giggitys.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find the album directly here:  https://thegiggitys.bandcamp.com/album/songs-in-the-key-of-awesome

 

October 5th, 2014 - Mudpusher - Sacrilege - EP Review

Mudpusher
Mudpusher – Sacrilege – EP Review

You literally have no idea how happy and relieved I am right now.  Seriously – I got out of bed this morning feeling like I was trapped under bags & bags of sand without any hope of ever finding myself awake until it would be time for bed.  I clambered down the stairs slowly, refusing to lose and forcing myself into the studio to wake up somehow.  Looking into my list & schedule for what’s being reviewed – I decided to push play on the new EP from Mudpusher, a metal band from Stockholm, Sweden.

Let me just say…I’m no longer tired.  They simply did not leave me with that option.

The EP is short, and it starts quickly.  Knowing that Mudpusher was an extreme metal band – I didn’t find myself fooled at all during the smooth, opening sounds of the “Intro” as it opened.  What I did hear immediately, were fantastic sonic-textures swirling about through beautiful string assembly – a quick allusion to the title track to follow, “Sacrilege,” which is one epic-mother of a song.  As it quickly ranged from tempo & sound and stomped over all the plants in my house through sheer volume alone; I was impressed with the tight sound this five-piece band has put together here.

At first – the bass & guitars stood out to me for their Korn-like configurations.  I should clarify though!  When I say Korn, I mean like….you know, GOOD Korn – long before lead singer Jonathan Davis went a more commercialized route and really began to suck it out.  This is more akin to the Korn of old – a band with something to prove still, and a hunger & determination you can audibly hear in the music.  The drumming on Sacrilege is insane; the amount of switches, tight-rolls, creative-fills and intensely strong, well-timed hits will leave you speechless.  From a drumming aspect – it reminded me a lot of old-school metal band KMFDM and their reputation for creating an onslaught of sound that demands the furious attention you’ll end up paying.  It’s beyond intense – and musically, this track has it all; it’s diverse, creative and it really finds both a heavy & melodic groove flawlessly throughout the song.

Let’s talk about vocals for a second…cause that’s where things get even more interesting.  Ten times out of ten, in today’s indie-journalism world…any aggression in the music + a female singer = an instant comparison to Evanescence…  If this is YOU…or anyone you know and care about…please stop this.  Stop it.  Right now.

In fact, if I had to compare Kimberly Nordqvist’s vocal-style to anyone, it would probably be Madonna actually.  Yep.  I said it.  I not only said it, I’m comfortable in that assessment completely.  And not only do I think it’s factually-accurate – I think that the combination of her beautiful, angelic voice is the perfect complement to the music being made in Mudpusher.  Trading off with Alexander Nordqvist, the man responsible for the low-snarling vocals & song-arrangements on Sacrilege – the contrast between the two vocalists makes for intensely rich & diverse tracks that you really come to love for their complexity and immaculately-produced sounds.

As the EP officially closes with “World Destroyer,” this first sampling of the music of Mudpusher has definitely left me wanting more in the future.  This track literally pushes air right out of your speakers as it pulses along with a hellfire of intensity.  Then about nearly two and a half minutes in…this band finds an entirely new, yet-to-be-displayed sound that nearly finds itself amongst the early records of Tool.  There’s a simple guitar note ringing out for all it’s worth until it fades into the background right before they launch into the final frenzy.  The end of this track is all-kinds-of-awesome with some truly inventive guitar work closing out this EP on a musical high-note.

I also had the extreme privilege of listening to 2 bonus tracks from the Sacrilege sessions as well.  The title track is re-done acoustically; once as an instrumental, once with the added vocals.  I’ve often asked metal bands about their ability to include melody into these epic songs; what many people never realize is just how much there can truly BE within the metal genre.  The dedication to songwriting & structure…it’s all there in a band like this that is clearly on a path to overall excellence in everything they make.  These acoustic bonus tracks really highlight what incredibly skilled and completely adaptable musicians are behind the music of Mudpusher.

From the sounds of things – the future could definitely take this band anywhere they want to go with their music.  But if there are two things that are for certain – it’s that they will definitely be around, and that I will absolutely be listening.  Mudpusher is a highly-skilled band making some beautiful & intense melodic-metal with extremely strong crossover appeal.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Mudpusher at:  http://www.mudpusher.se/

 

October 1st, 2014 - Jour Majesty - Three Winks - EP Review

JourMajesty
Jour Majesty – Three Winks – EP Review

I’ve had conversations with fellow friends and peers about similar music to what’s happening here on the Jour Majesty EP throughout the past of my experience.  It’s this kind of soft, well-played, melodic & acoustically driven music that I’ve maintained to all of these people from day one – you would have to be an incredible dick to walk into a room and turn music like this off, or even down in volume.  Even if it’s not your genre, I’m still saying this applies; the music of Jour Majesty is completely inoffensive and should, by that measure, be appealing to an extremely large mass of music fans.

And it’s current – let’s face it, this particular sound is a very large part of what’s happening out in the music scene right now.  As the Three Winks EP opened into the first track “Angel,” my wife was in the next room over and quickly wanted it turned up for her to listen as well.

Now first of all – believe me when I say this is a completely all-to-RARE experience…always met with instant compliance.  For reference’s sake, the last time this request was made was when we reviewed the album from Shagpile, earlier this year.  Without having done any research on Jour Majesty at this point, we debated the points of sound out loud, citing influences we could hear in the music.  For a moment during “Angels,” and inside my first impressions, I was hearing the popped-out version of what would have happened if Eddie Vedder had taken the Into The Wild soundtrack down that road.  But admittedly, that was only the guitar – vocally, lead singer Michael Perry was heading in a much more pronounced, clean & articulate style…

We continued into the next song, “Photograph” before we settled into some stronger comparisons.  She mentioned the subtle melodies and lyrically-driven folk-music of Damien Rice right before what should have stood out to me further, caught me instantly; The Head And The Heart.  With the extra instrumentation coming drifting in and out of these stripped-down pop tunes, each song expands with that classic modern-day folk-pop stomp that continues to excite ears around the globe.

Largely, Jour Majesty represents the heart & soul and spectacular songwriting efforts of Michael Perry.  A little research into his current bio confirmed those inspirations we found in the music, specifically The Head And The Heart; which without we would not have new music from Jour Majesty to enjoy right now.  Seeing their first opportunity to perform for a large audience opening the show for Death Cab For Cutie before they hit the big time, changed Perry’s disillusioned view of the industry and thankfully inspired him so powerfully that he came back around to making beautiful music of his own once again.  Together with a handful of players & friends and armed with a fresh-perspective and new-found positivity, Perry brought his lyrically-driven pop-folk tunes back to vibrant life with a focus on his relatable storytelling and easy-going, comforting melodies.

“Dancing Shoes” reveals Jour Majesty at their most hook-driven moments.  The playing and production on this EP are literally flawless throughout the entire set of four.  Even vocally, there’s no other choices I could hear myself making – I think Perry and his crew have truly covered all the angles here in making sure that each and every track had its own unique & creative sounds and left no stone unturned when it came to making sure that they came out crystal-clear through the vocals, music & production overall.

It wraps up with “Idaho,” which is a perfect sounding send-off to this quick introduction to the music of Jour Majesty.  Nearly evoking an Elvis Costello sound through his vocals, Perry adds just the right amount of true-Americana style into the music without it ever dominating the sound entirely, giving himself and his bandmates the freedom to explore and drift to the boundaries and fringe of their pop-folk borders.  The extra filters added to Perry’s vocals in this song halfway through really add to the performance on this one, not only updating the sound of this style even further, but also not taking away from anything else happening in this beautiful ending to Three Winks; Perry uses this sound as an added instrument and the effect really works incredibly well in this final tune.

Will we hear MORE from Jour Majesty in the future?  Well – I can only hope we will!  Though there hasn’t been a lot of initial communication between us, we’ve got Jour Majesty on schedule for one of our incredible video-interviews upcoming on SBS Live This Week; a project that many of you know has already seen the retirement of a few bands & artists, but also the rise of the creative and highlights of the real inspiration that people feel when truly connecting with their art & music.  After a thorough listen through Three Winks and hearing what Perry has had to say through his tone, sentiment & songwriting – I’m definitely excited to hear more from him and learn even more about this project, Jour Majesty.  Keep your fingers crossed and let’s hope we’ve found another artist out there that really has established that deep, impactful & amazing connection to his music and we come up with another great show between us.  If the sheer amount of focus and heart on this EP are any indication…we’re in store for something truly fantastic as we become another part of the long musical journey that Jour Majesty is about to embark on as these tunes continue to find their way to more & more ears and audiences around the globe.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Jour Majesty at:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jour-Majesty/319801434835162

 

September 20th, 2014 - Yesterdays Promise - YP - EP Review

YesterdaysPromise
Yesterdays Promise – YP – EP Review

Chances are…there will be a LOT of things that stand out to you when listening to Yesterdays Promise; if this ISN’T the case for you…double-check your ears as I believe you’ve left several Q-Tips lodged in there.  Admittedly, we all like what we like and love what we love when it comes to music – and that first listen can tell you a ton, but often mislead you even when it comes to your favorite bands and sounds.  Within seconds of pushing play on this new EP from Yesterdays Promise, I knew two things instantly; one being that, it’s a little outside of my genres currently, but certainly within my past and scope…

…and the second thing I couldn’t help but notice upon first impressions…is that there is a freakin BEAST back there on the drum kit of this band.  As the EP plays through, each player certainly claims their own justified moments in the spotlight, but in complete truth as to why I’m singling him out at the beginning here…is simply because it really has been a long time since I’ve heard such an impact on the kit ring so true through a first listen.

You know I’m going to look it up; and as it turns out – the drumming is shared between Jeremy Salo (Drums, Guitar) and Steven Douglas Young (Vocals,  Guitar, Drums).  As the EP opens with “Still Burning,” Yesterdays Promise explodes early, largely in part to the drumming and the screaming melodies of S.D. Young.  But here’s the thing – like I mentioned, it’s a little outside of what I’ve been listening to lately – but I’m not so far gone that I can’t tell the real thing when I hear it – and this is just that.  Yesterdays Promise is as real as it gets.

“No Way To Know” is a certified volume-twister.  Anything less than the max your stereo can handle is likely just not doing this song the justice it so deserves.  You’ll hear excellent guitars with furiously-intense-riffage happening all over as lead guitar player Wes Richards and Kyle Friend (Guitar, Backin Vocals) take this band for one completely wild ride.  Nearly an echo or an update on the beginnings of Hoobastank back before they gained popularity and started to suck it out – this aggressive track harkens back to their energetic, exciting early work.  Truly – this song pumps iron all on its own while you stand there and spot it.

While each song has a hook that would bring anyone outside of the alternative-rock genre right to the inside; “Time Will Tell” is the crossover you’ve been searching for.  This is a perfect example of refusing to let a particular style or feel own your music forever; after completely rocking the house down with “No Way To Know,” you’ll find beautiful melodies taking over the tracks to follow.  “Time Will Tell” really displays the band at full strength.  Bass player Austin Terrill takes his moment in this song and really holds this track together as each player finds their own magical way into this full-blown beauty of a track.  The harmonies, the songwriting, the actual performance – this track has it all.

Taking it to an acoustic-level, “Tomorrow’s Gone” is another melodic and gorgeous track.  After starting this entire journey out in such an explosive fashion – the complete switch that begins halfway through the YP EP really shows the ability of Yesterdays Promise to adapt to all the sounds they create and make the absolute most out of each and every one.  The result…well…personally I don’t think it could end up better from this reviewer’s perspective…I literally can’t decide between what I like the most; Yesterdays Promise at their most intense, or at their most minimal.  The perfection in these songs is immaculate – each song possesses some really smart pop-infused hooks that are completely memorable no matter which track you choose.

Do I have any BEEF here with Yesterdays Promise and this excellent new EP?  Not REALLY.  There’s a cover of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” on here…and I don’t know…  I’m not mad about it…how about that?  I mean that in the sense that I’m not listening to this cover and thinking ‘why did they even bother’ as I do with many…they’ve done a good job on making this their own, speeding it up just slightly and adding their own signature melodies in.  But this is a BIG BIG song…and it’s going to be a tough one to convince people with, in comparison to their original work on this EP.  In truth…this sounds to me more like a band trying to figure out the way into the scene by putting their spin on a massive anthem – but the absolute truth of it all here is that this is one band that needs no gimmicks with this much raw power coming out of their amplifiers.  Each song they’ve written originally is an absolute stunning knockout masterpiece. 

Other than that, which is going to be debatable for most ANYWAY…the only occasional issue in some truly flawless production is where to fit in the low-end synth-drum…it’s one of the most addicting sounds out there – believe me I love it too.  With its tone and sound having little elsewhere to go other than to dominate the sound of whatever else is going on, it’s just about the toughest thing to mix out there.  And for 99% of this entire EP, you wouldn’t find me complaining a single bit…there’s only a couple that come through with a little more of a boom – and who could possibly fault this band for getting overly amped on the energy-infused first half of the EP?  If I made music this spot-on, I think all you’d hear from me is one giant booming drum at the end of the mix cause I’d be through the ROOF excited…so I think we’re lucky that Yesterdays Promise was able to reign themselves in for us at all!

As it ends on the subtly-beautiful “New Life,” they recall some of the lighter-side sounds of bands like All-American Rejects, or even The Decemberists.  It’s an excellent way to end the EP and overall, there’s just literally SO MUCH here on only six tracks that you won’t hesitate to instantly listen a second, third and fourth time.  It’s a perfect mix of sound and creative diversity made by a band that sounds completely unified in every direction they take and each avenue they head down.  The conviction, hunger and commitment are all astoundingly prevalent on this EP – this band will take off in the years to follow…mark my words people….

  • Jer @ SBS

Go support this band right now!  Yesterdays Promise at Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/yesterdayspromise

 

September 19th, 2014 - Morning Fame - "Dreamality" - Single Review

MorningFameDreamality
Morning Fame – “Dreamality” – Single Review

With a misty & whispering opening, the new single from Canada’s own East-coast pop/rock sensation starts out subdued as it takes you through the fog.  There’s a hint of epic-ness, just around the corner…it’s something you can FEEL; those opening moments provide a real chill of premonition.  Morning Fame for the large part of their long-standing career have leaned towards to pop side of their pop/rock genre, always with an intense focus on melody and the beautiful side of songwriting.  That’s not to say that they didn’t ‘rock’ before – they certainly did!

But one might ask themselves after listening to the new single from Morning Fame, entitled “Dreamality,” if the band has ever been THIS comfortable letting the rock-side of them loose before.  This new single is tight & exciting with intense guitars fueling the music behind vocalist Vik Kapur’s melodic tones.  There’s no intention of leaving behind the true melody they find within each of their songs; that’s one of the most magical elements of this highly-skilled band and certainly one of the main reasons for their success and why their fan-base continues to grow rapidly to this day.

So to hear this new track carry on the best elements of Morning Fame into a more aggressive territory…was honestly somewhat surprising knowing much of their back catalog, but also completely awesome.  Take for instance, nearly mid-to-late in the track, they bust into this whole…Pink Floyd-meets-I Mother Earth-solo & instrumental jam that they find the courage to rock on for nearly a whole minute.  Don’t laugh – there’s not that many bands that are out there with the cahones to put a minute’s worth of solos into the pop/rock genre; but thankfully Morning Fame has got the meaty-musical-clackers (The Leagues anyone?  C’mon….) to not only go after it, but get it RIGHT.

There’s no dead-space.  Once this track begins, it instantly explodes; the result is one hell of a pop/rock fireball in “Dreamality.”  Drummer Alan Dennis and his partner in rhythm, bass player Rob Giberti never let the energy of this track drop for even a moment as they drift in and out of the main-hooks in a musical dream-sequence that works perfectly to drive the intensity of the song and really give guitar player Joe Liranzo the room to really get right out there to the very edge of the fringe in his solos.

To me, having been a long fan of the Morning Fame ability to really connect through song and resonate in their melodies – “Dreamality,” is yet another complete step in the overall evolution of their sound, if not two full leaps & bounds.  Each time I hear this band from Toronto, Ontario, they just continue to sound more and more comfortable in their own skin as Morning Fame.  This killer piece of riff-pop/rock might just be that indication that all gloves are off and that there’s nothing whatsoever holding them back from seizing their moment in music history any longer; Morning Fame sound more hungry and ready to attack than ever before with this beautifully-aggressive and wildly creative, explosive new tune.

  • Jer @ SBS

Follow Morning Fame at their main site:  http://www.morningfame.com/

 

September 15th, 2014 - Random Tongues - Random Tongues EP1 - EP Review

RandomTongues

Random Tongues – Random Tongues EP1 – EP Review

It’s really not too often that something comes across through these speakers as completely new in sound…you’ll never find me sitting in the ‘it’s all been done’ section, but I’d certainly admit that it’s tremendously more rare than we’d all probably like it to be.  Yet here today in review…I think I might be hearing that elusive rare gem of a band that has the courage to redefine the boundaries of genres and really make something different.  It is definitely time to talk about what Random Tongues are up to – push play!

Old habits die hard even when listening to something brand-new; I sat here for my entire first listen of the EP simply trying to pin this band down.  The best I was able to come up with…is something along the lines of MGMT-meets-Band-Of-Horses-and-then-wins-an-arm-wrestle-against-The-Flaming-Lips and even that feels miles away in comparison but all in the most delightful of possible ways.  Random Tongues ARE unique…it should be completely tough to pin them down to any comparison.

The first EP from this band from Wisconsin, USA is a real mover – and in every direction you can imagine.  Starting out with “Sinking Ships” was an interesting choice overall; while the funked-out beat can’t be denied – there’s a lyrical structure and slight gamble here, which to me paid off immediately.  While it might be nearly jarring in the chorus chant for some – it also serves as the ultimate introduction to Random Tongues and how they might just take you ANYWHERE.  It also immediately left me knowing I’d never forget this band with their instantly memorable and intensely unique sound.

They leave behind the rock-elements of the opener in favor of the electro-infused beat that comes in with the second track “River,” which is absolutely incredible.  This actually reminds me a lot of Vancouver’s own Magik Spells with this electro-punk-funk classic sound in the making here.  The synths are off the charts and the pace of this track puts your brain right onto a virtual treadmill.  Incredibly assembled – this track builds and builds before it finally relents and breaks way to the middle of the EP.

“Well Enough Alone,” – okay…one more comparison or two here perhaps…maybe I can hear some Hot Chip….or Beta Band influence here now…but shouldn’t that go without saying for all of us?  I’d hope we all have some Beta Band in us somewhere….

This is a clever track that really plays along a sickly dark bass-line and repeating vocal patterns and it works really, really well.  There’s a ton of texture in this song and yet another incredible change-up in sound just around the three minute mark after you somehow believed (It’s ok, I did it too…) that you knew what to expect from Random Tongues.  Thankfully – it’s clear that, despite being a relatively new sound entirely – this band clearly knows what direction they want it to go.  It sounds NEW, yes; but it also sounds incredibly SURE and incredibly CONFIDENT. 

And THAT…is music to my ears.

As they switch into the final-two, more rock-based tunes – the first of them, “Cut Out My Heart” really does well to showcase the musicianship in this band, which should be noted completely; it’s both highly-inventive and extremely-skilled.  The guitar-work & solo-highlights in this cut have incredible tone & feel – really contributing to this music that I’d consider to be more artistic than 99% of the bands that have come my way.  You get a real sense that in a live setting, Random Tongues backed by a tripped-out light-show behind them on stage would make for just about the most awesome concert you could possibly see.  Not only will this music take you somewhere when you close your eyes – it will take you to a new and beautiful, completely untouched & undiscovered place inside your mind as it weaves through these five clever songs.

It drifts into the drum-led beats of “Passage Of Time,” the final cut from the first EP.  It’s an absolutely perfect & driving beat, completely full yet leaving more than enough room for some truly immaculate guitar & bass work happening ALL OVER this final cut.  They’ve got an incredible gift for assembly demonstrated here…in so many ways it feels like you’re moving backwards in time with a slowed-down tune but every instrument is being played at a feverish place.  Love the lyrics, tone, sentiment, vocal filters & especially delivery – this is the perfect way to end the introduction to this incredible new band.

Think of your favorite bands…and think of their brand new albums & releases…you don’t always instantly catch on to what they’re doing at first, even though you LOVE what they were doing before.  But after a few listens – you realize how incredibly wrong you were, and how incredibly RIGHT they were when those bands in question shake up their sounds from album-to-album and challenge your ears all over again.  Random Tongues are STARTING their career this way…which to me is every bit the indication of longevity in a band that we can rely on in today’s world.  With the freedom of sound & expression clearly demonstrated by Random Tongues here on their first EP – there’s no doubt in my mind that this band will continue to mine-music for more gold-nuggets of earphoria for many years to come.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check this debut EP out – ya gotta!  https://randomtongues.bandcamp.com/releases

 

September 10th, 2014 - Nobility - State Of Mind - Mixtape Review

Nobility
Nobility – State Of Mind – Mixtape Review

Let me start off by saying that if you’re going to only choose ONE mixtape based on the concept of growing up and living in the suburbs of Naperville, Illinois this summer…well, definitely make sure that it’s coming from rapper/producer Nobility!  Okay, okay – yes…I realize that the odds of running into this conceptual idea in TWO albums over 2014 might come with chances less likely than winning the lottery…but c’mon – that’s a damn inventive opening to a review isn’t it?

But let’s face it – all kidding aside, I have literally NO clue as to what it might be like to grow up with today’s challenges, let alone in another country, another city so far away from where I am here in BC, Canada.  When writing is based in concept – that to me is always an indication of some truly forward thinking and high-levels of care in the overall assembling of the music and all aspects of it; Nobility provides no exception here.  I found that, even just reading through the titles of the tracks before pushing play, I was already interested in hearing the perspective of what life is like from this extremely young artist.  Nobility is only eighteen years old – but the depth in his music will convince you he’s been living on this planet for decades beyond his age.

And that brings me to my daily….wait….whaaaaaaaat?

You read that correctly – Nobility is only EIGHTEEN.  I even went back and read that again myself after I wrote it down!  When you take his young age into consideration, this mixtape quickly moves beyond something made well to realizing quickly that you’re listening to world-class talent and an artist with a massive future in this music-industry.

Right from the drop of the bass in the opening track of “State Of Mind Pt. 1” – you’ll hear what I’m talking about and then confirm it yourself by the second track “The Burbs.”  Nobility is an exciting and tremendously skilled MC; with a rap flow that reminds me of one of my own favorite current mix-tape masters, Tyga – this young rap-superstar is already making music that can certainly compete and hold its own when you compare it to what’s out there right now in the mixtape/rap genres.  Much like Tyga – Nobility has an incredible knack for knowing where ‘the pocket’ is, and through his wise choices in samples…he’s virtually living in ‘the pocket’ throughout this entire album State Of Mind.

The lyricism is top-notch.  Tracks like “All Good” and “I Remember,” showcase his incredibly commitment to style and delivering his lyrics with true modern-day swag.  He flows quickly – but make no mistake, this isn’t blurry-rap where you can’t hear the lyrics; Nobility has taken the time as both an MC and a producer to make sure that you’ll hear each and every word throughout this conceptual album.  Do the lyrics reflect life in 2014 Illinois?  I’m going to give him the credit I believes he deserves and answer that as an affirmative yes.  After nearly half the album has passed and you’re listening to the song “Gone,” comes along and you’ve yet to hear a song that hasn’t reflected the extreme amount of thought and care Nobility has put into his career…well, personally I think it’s best we all assume he’s telling us the truth about how life is going over there in his section of the USA.  Musically – as each track plays out, you’ll realize there’s zero-point in doubting this young man’s credibility.

Production-wise…you’ll even get a shout-out in “O.U.Y.M.” that will go a long way to revealing just how focused Nobility is on his career; “I’ma be the new Dre.”  If there’s ONE true role-model out there for production in rap…I think Nobility has found the perfect choice.  There’s a shocking amount of similarities in their approach from bass tones to the consistency of the production itself.  I mentioned it earlier – but I truly believe we’re listening to a world-class talent here in Nobility and if the album continues to hold up as tightly in the second half as it has in the first – there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll find the longevity on this planet and within the industry he’s seeking out.

You can trust your favorite bearded-music-reviewer here…or you can listen to the beginning tracks of the second-half, “Blondie” and “BASIC,” and simply agree with me…cause I’m right. 

“Blondie” is a compelling and excellent instrumental…and drifting into the extremely memorable cut “BASIC,” you’ll quickly find yourself movin & shakin-it in your seat to this tune infused with a perfect sample from Sara Bareilles “Love Song.”  It pulses with the beat of an instant single that the people are going to love.
I’m a huge fan of the track “KING” which is a lot longer & darker than anything on the album up to this point.  The song is an epic for sure…a true heavy hitter that might not be as ‘easy’ to like in those first listens, but there’s no doubt that this is the kind of track that lasts and holds up over time.  It’s minimalist…even references the mighty ‘Yeezus,’ who went on to really bring about the minimalist movement in the rap scene we know today.  This track is a true nod towards that, and is also proof beyond a doubt that Nobility has got his head in the game, knows what’s current and knows what works.  He’s modelled himself after some of the true giants of the game and come out with a viable and respectable style of his own.

As the album winds down…it stays in the trenches and back-alleys…stays a little on the dark side as it moves through “Suicide Note,” but it’s through tracks like this that help you understand why this became a concept album and not just a few tracks strung together.  It’s like do-or-die for Nobility – you can hear just how carefully this is all put together and when it comes to quality, Nobility is as serious as a heart-attack.  Closing on “State Of Mind Pt. 2” – you’ll hear the real messages from this fresh perspective as he advises you a final time on this diverse mixtape.  He’s not here to simply follow the pack – Nobility is here to bring about change and up the game of everyone else around him – and it all starts with this tremendous example he’s put forth here on this mixtape State Of Mind.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find Nobility’s mixtape direct right here:  http://www.datpiff.com/mixtapes-detail.php?id=636269

 

September 5th, 2014 - Jonny Goode - Snakes & Ladders - Album Review

JonnyGoode
Jonny Goode – Snakes & Ladders – Album Review

HEY!

Like…seriously!  Who put the sticker on this album?  I’m definitely assuming this didn’t come from one of our people – not even one of our readers would have done this; but I’m actually looking at instructions that are more or less leading me towards certain songs – not the album as a whole!  NOT gonna happen lol…though I certainly can’t blame the person in question for providing more direction to the indie-music journalism crowd out there – they certainly need the help!

So let’s talk about Snakes & Ladders by Jonny Goode…in its ENTIRETY. :)

There was definitely one piece of information in this note that caught my eye; it mentions that the music of Goode would appeal to fans of Ryan Adams, Gerry Rafferty and David Gray.  Though I’ve often found Adams to be entirely overrated and under-accomplished and I’d profess to not have listened to nearly enough Rafferty in my lifetime, it’s definitely no secret on these pages that I love the music of David Gray…so let’s see if I can hear this in the music myself!

Snakes & Ladders opens with a tiny & delicate track called “High Hopes,” which, if you’re hearing this track like I am…you’ll end up with high hopes of your own for the rest of the album to follow as this is a tremendously fantastic way to open up this album.  Goode reveals the signature style of which he’ll deliver his vocals; a mixture of sweetness & rasp that come out gorgeously on this first track and throughout the album to come.  This for certain…is where the comparison to Adams is most likely coming from…and I’m cool to accept that as pretty damn accurate.  It’s a clear tone and confident style that is projected with strong emotion and Goode provides it flawlessly track after track.

So to Goode…I say please…PLEASE – do NOT let all these kind words I expect you’ll receive go to your head like Adams has over his short career.  Were it not for his overwhelming sense of entitlement – I’d be a much bigger fan…so I’m hoping that Goode can remain the humble & creative songwriter he is now for many, many years to come!

“Crossfire” is an excellent tune and really brings up the energy quickly into this album.  That sweetness & rasp combo drips all over this tune and frequently reminds me of one of my own favorite singers in the UK band called Feeder.  As he shifts into the dark & slow-groovin’ track called “Radio,” and sweetens up the chorus with his vibrant vocal-chords…I’m liking that comparison more and more as the track plays on.  Feeder always had an imaginative way to find the pulse in a slower jam, and those were often my favorites on their albums; Goode displays that same mastery right here early on into the album in this track, the atmosphere is thick, rich and perfectly full.  This track, despite already loving the two to play before it, moved Goode beyond possibly just getting lucky on the two beautiful opening tracks and into the ‘no, this guy is the real-deal’ category.

Gorgeous…there’s a word I’ve possibly overused myself…BUT…in case you’re wondering EXACTLY what I mean by that term, simply reference “Stay (Acoustic)” by Jonny Goode.  That’s what I mean by gorgeous.  What a song!  It’s completely heartbreaking through the lyrics…the narrative tells the story of a man that is truly in love and watching the love of his life spend their time with another.  But what makes it beautiful…is the emotional way he’s described his plight; the lyrics are fantastic.  If there’s a person that this song is directed to…and they’ve heard it…and they HAVEN’T left their current partner to be by the side of Jonny Goode…well, I’m just saying if these words don’t convince this certain someone of just how devoted & unwavering his love really IS…then it’s just not meant to be!  This feels like an amazingly personal song and story…there’s an authenticity in this track that makes me certain this is drawn from a real-life experience.  I feel for the character presented in the story of this bittersweet song; again, this is a real heartbreaker, but what a fantastic song.

“Runaway Trains” shows the energetic pop-side of Goode’s style in this pumped up tune that has already been making waves as the lead single and video from Snakes & Ladders.  It has a broad appeal and a quick & easy feel to the music with a beautiful vocal-melody.  It’s a big song and certainly worthy of the attention it is continuing to garner from music fans in all corners of the globe. 

It’s followed by a much-more niche-sounding track in “Karma,” whereas Goode leaves by the electric-energy of “Runaway Trains” in favor of a track led in interesting & creative directions through some intense musical-prowess.  There’s some completely excellent guitar work in this subtle and slow-burning track that rises to its full-potential midway through into a tiny but excellent solo/break before descending into its melodious ending.   

By contrast, the song to follow, “Faith’s Prayer,” is a piano-led, drum-intensive and absolutely incredible track.  At this point, you have to tip your hat to Goode – he has certainly found a way to be impressive through the vocals in each and every track.  But the way this track starts into its final minute…WOW.  Just freakin WOW.  Like, really – it can’t get any more emotionally convincing than his performance on this song…it’s incredible.  If anything has had you doubting…you’ll stop all that noise right here and now in the explosive ending of this song, pick your jaw up off the floor…and apologize out loud.

You’ll get a bit more of the rock-side of Goode in the final three tracks in “You Don’t Wanna Know,” before heading into “Being First,” which I think is actually played entirely on a ukulele?  Whatever that instrument is…it’s not only perfect for this quaint little tune – but Goode’s performance in this song will flat-out make you SMILE with your whole face.  There are a few squeaks – good ones – that occur within the playful-rasp of his voice on this track that, if you’ve ever been in the studio-headset listening to a vocalist record…well…there’s no way you’d let him try again to outdo what clearly came out so perfectly genuine here on this song.

The final cut – “10:07,” is certainly unique, and extremely short…BUT…for those of you that would want to go further and really get into your music…something tells me you might be interested in trying to play this song in reverse as well…

What can I say?  This album FLEW by, in all the greatest of ways.  There’s energy, there’s melody, there’s style, confidence and tremendously respectable songwriting on Snakes & Ladders.  Jonny Goode has put forth a veritable piece of pop-rock gold here on his new album with an entire set of heartfelt tunes that couldn’t possibly be ignored.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Jonny Goode by checking out his official site at:  www.jonnygoode.com

 

September 1st, 2014 - Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders - The Last Of The Originals - Album Review

BillyRoberts
Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders – The Last Of The Originals – Album Review

Well…hello to you all in Australia once again!  It is literally and musically ALWAYS a pleasure to visit this beautiful continent full of wonderful talent – and I always make sure to tell you Aussies just how much I appreciate you and how grateful I am for what an electric and exciting musical-scene you’ve kept up, especially over this past two decades.  Though…all this being said – I was definitely surprised to hear the overall sounds of Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders…in many good ways, don’t pull the fire-alarm just yet!  Push play on Billy’s latest album The Last Of The Originals and let me explain!

Starting out the new ten-song set is a complete rocker by the name of “Mrs. Jones - ” and right away things got WEIRD for me.  I rubbed my eyes and I’ve triple-checked now…and YES…I can report that somehow, someway – Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders do indeed STILL come from Australia.

Wait….what?

The fact that this music ISN’T Canadian…not even from the North American continent…well it blows my mind!  Cause you see…comparisons are going to come Billy Roberts’ way in spades through the work of my fellow peers out there in music-journalism land…people will throw out Bob Dylan…Lou Reed…and even the off-continent giants The Rolling Stones…and they’ll all be close, but they’ll all be wrong…

There are two bands out there that I can certainly point to in the recipe of the blend of music that you’ll find coming from The Rough Riders’ amps – one Canadian, one American – BOTH a heck of a long way from Australia and the musical-mainstream…both staving-off obscurity only by true fans of something old done completely new.  Those bands…are Canadian-legends The Headstones, and from the USA , we’ve got the true-authors of Alt-Americana from the band Cracker.  The most beautiful thing about both, is that chances are Billy Roberts and his crew haven’t heard a single guitar-lick from either of those bands – but the comparisons are undeniable.

Here’s the thing…just so you KNOW how truly sick I am…

I’ve been putting off this review as a punishment to myself.  I’ve been searching my brain for the name of the lead singer for The Headstones, for whom Billy Roberts is a dead-ringer…and I would not allow myself to simply Google information I knew was stored in my very own dome.  So until I could finally remember the name HUGH DILLON – I was refusing to begin.  But if you’re Canadian, and you can listen to songs like “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “Not That Special” and not immediately think of The Headstones I’d be shocked & surprised.  The tight rock you’ve always known and loved is there – the drawl of the lead-vocals is definitely there…these are sounds I’ve literally grown up with echoing in my own backyard and booming from my speakers.

But truthfully…The Headstones didn’t work out and never found that avenue that would lead them to commercialized success.  And if you were to ask me…as much as I might personally love their sound & tunes – they simply weren’t creative ENOUGH.

But the other comparison I’ve made to Cracker…is what makes things even more interesting.  The tones of the guitars in songs like “I’m Gonna Get That Girl” or “With You” definitely sport the same style and comfort you can find in the playing from Johnny Hickman of Cracker.  It’s a very distinct way of bending those guitar notes and tones to really resonate with the heart in ways that can’t be explained in words.  But it’s that authenticity and sincerity that you can definitely now hear on The Last Of The Originals.

Cracker?  No.  They didn’t really ‘make it’ either.  And if you were to ask me…it’s cause they didn’t quite rock hard ENOUGH or provide enough energy through their incredible melodies and astounding lyricism.

THANKFULLY…I now have Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders to now provide the BEST of both of these worlds in this new album full of style, full of rock, full of melodies and incredibly authentic songwriting.  Whereas these bands I’ve mentioned didn’t quite make it all the way to the top of the musical-mountain – I think Billy and his crew stand a much larger chance given this evolutionary approach to both of those unique sounds; and in combining them as successfully as this band has will appeal to a much broader audience overall.

There’s an intimacy you can’t fake that comes along with this record.  Songs like “My Baby Gone Cold,” and “I Was Young” feel like you’re right there with Billy Roberts in a private jam session made just for YOU.  The songs are interesting…often personalized but written in such a way that you’ll discover your own life’s storyline will find similarities and relevance – they’re songs that you can connect with.

Where it gets a little tricky…is a song called “Davy Crockett And The Alamo.”  It gave me a couple of quirky reactions I wanted to share with you all.  The first thing to hit me…was that instantly you can tell this song is going to be HUGE.  With a slow but booming start…Billy Roberts almost takes on a similar role to a giant like Nick Cave in his stylistic approach to the mic here.  Retelling a massive piece of history – this song matches the feel of this particular story through and through, and in that sense it’s an incredible winner.  Once the chorus came in…I did find myself shouting “I don’t want to LEARN right now” at my computer, as my brain had already exceeded its comprehensive intake for the day.  It was quickly ignored as this track progressed and really kicked in, bringing in an absolutely stellar violin/string accompaniment that really helps make this seven-minute song become the epic, memorable piece it becomes.  There’s a ton happening in this track, which is almost twice the length of every other track on the album, but with the added musicianship & feverishly-hot instrumentation, it certainly becomes the climax of The Last Of The Originals as it heads towards the end of the final chapter and last song on the album “Red Head Baby.”

This final cut really serves the album well…bringing it right back to a place of alt-rock that has really worked well throughout this album.  “Red Head Baby” is a dark & funked-out rock groove; once again Billy Roberts is in full control of the mic up front and commanding it with resounding presence.  I’m a huge fan of this style of music…but I’m sure you’ve all picked up on that by now!

So…if any of my rambling has made sense here today…you’ll at the very least notice that Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders have been compared to some truly original and groundbreaking artists and bands of our time; and if you know the references I’ve made and they’ve made music you’ve loved – it’s time to check out The Last Of The Originals and really see where the future of this sound is headed.  Cause I have the feeling…you can call it intuition…but I really believe that Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders are still just in the beginning stages of what will no doubt be a musical career with longevity & consistency.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out this album The Last Of The Originals by Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders direct from their bandcamp page!  https://billyrobertsandtheroughriders.bandcamp.com/

 

August 27th, 2014 - Alexander Ehm - Praise The Lord - Album Review

AlexanderEhm
Alexander Ehm – Praise The Lord – Album Review

If I’m not too careful – you people out there are going to start assuming I ONLY deal with religiously-based music!  As strange as I personally find it each and every time that we’re often sought out this way – I take it as an extreme point of personal-pride that I’m able to supply objective reviews that are still of value even when our personal-views and life-context might not always line up side-by-side.  As many of you already know – I was raised with a somewhat religious background and I’m immensely proud of a ton of those values instilled in me, even to this day.  And as I continue to welcome ANYONE that has a voice and a vision – well…I can’t be faulted if the religious-music community is out-working the rock & rap artists out there ten-fold this summer!

And as many of you know for a certainty – religion and music continue to be one of my favorite topics to write about, talk about…become fully immersed in…  So let’s do that again today and talk about the new album Praise The Lord by Alexander Ehm…

I’ll start off by saying there’s virtually an entire kingdom’s worth of material to like and comment on in Alexander’s work – bar none, regardless of what you personally believe in – there is some of the most beautiful music I’ve heard this year drifting in and out of this album.  Alexander Ehm, frequently accompanied by Jennifer P display a real gift for composition and melody, but more importantly the tender balance when both of those components come together in just the right way.

Now…going into an album called Praise The Lord, one can make nearly zero mistakes in assuming that it would be based in religious sentiment and context; but what I wasn’t prepared for, was that it would open with a gorgeous instrumental track and continue on to be nearly completely without vocals throughout the album.  The opening song is called “God With Us,” and musically proves right here just how powerful songs without words can be, yet how appropriate and within the context of an album they can be as well.  It doesn’t feel any less based in religion than any of the songs on this album with words, which again certainly highlights the songwriting abilities of Alexander Ehm and what a gift he has in his ability to truly create magnificent soundscapes that truly take you somewhere when you close your eyes.  There is an astounding amount of beautiful instrumentals on this album of devotion, expressing those emotions that cannot be spelled out in words.  The title track itself, “Praise The Lord” is entirely instrumental…and again, entirely beautiful.

The instant argument can also be made, that if you ARE leery of listening to something steeped from religious scripture, that Alexander Ehm has made a brilliant move in providing these instrumentals throughout the album.  There’s no possible way anyone could accuse this album of being ‘overly-preachy’ – there’s so much left for the listener to interpret on their own.  These songs without words certainly pulled me in closer, and again, for many of those instrumentals…I personally felt as if I was hearing what he truly had to say; and in the best of possible ways – through his emotional, passionate and highly-skilled performances.  “Sunny Days” is an absolute GEM.  I can hear that the whistling-keys might not be for everyone – I get that…but DON’T abandon this track and make sure you stick around for the two minute mark and ride this out to the end. 

***Please note Alexander – I need a version of “Sunny Days” at twice the length!  Please inform Jennifer for me as well as I know she plays a key role in this song (and of course, many others!).

But take on the song “Noah;” you’ll feel like you built an ark yourself by the time the song is over!  It’s truly an epic journey as a song, which brings me to another point I’d like to make – not a single song on this album is over three minutes and twenty seconds long.  The effect this has…I mean, if this is Alexander’s own instincts he has got an incredible future in front of him…if there’s been some guidance on keeping these songs as tight as they are, well…then that person needs some strong recognition and tremendous kudos for some mighty fine work.  But songs like “Wedding Day” and these other instrumentals I’ve pointed to…there’s absolutely zero filler in this music; it’s all so carefully thought out and well put together.

And you know something?  I think that’s one of the finest messages that exist in religions of all types.  Respect for ALL things…not just people, but the work that we do ourselves, the tools that help us build and the very life that our creations take on for themselves.  There’s a care and respect here in the music that is impossible to ignore; and when accompanied by the extremely-awesome songwriting and creative instrument choices, tones and sounds – I would be shocked to hear that this album didn’t find the universal audience it so richly deserves.

The triple-set into the second half of the album, consisting of “Back To Happiness,” “A New Morning,” and “Wings Of Glory,” was an excellent way continue this album on.  Starting those three with a mellow-sound in the first two, before lunging headfirst into a way more guitar-based track in “Wings Of Glory,” – the musicality and intensity of this song set up one of the best moments on Praise The Lord – a song known as “Promised Land.”  With its quiet and isolated beginning, it’s the near-absence of sound left with you after the rush of “Wings Of Glory,” that serves to make “Promised Land” as golden of a song as it becomes.  It draws the ear right in to listen and appreciate the space and carefully chosen notes – and again, how well those two factors come together when approached from just the right angle.

“The Prayer,” is also an incredibly beautiful song in its own right.  Fantastic synth, violin, minimal percussion and of course, the chant-like prayer itself – I can’t be alone here…this is INSPIRING music!

As the album winds through the final instrumental tracks, it ends just as beautifully as it all began and really feels complete by the end.  This isn’t something that would have been in my normal rotation – but I’d certainly venture a safe guess that it most definitely will be in the future.  Praise The Lord is a real transcendent album; seeing the world through the eyes and music of Alexander Ehm is a vibrantly wonderful experience.  A real pleasure that everyone should take a moment to appreciate.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about the music and work of Alexander Ehm here:  http://ehm-music.de.tl/

 

August 23rd, 2014 - Adam Schneider - Turning Away - Album Review

AdamSchneider

Adam Schneider – Turning Away – Album Review

I’ve been excited to get to this new album after talking briefly with its creator over the screens of the internet.  About his music - Adam is one of my favorite things – excited!  From what I’ve heard on this new album Turning Away, he has plenty of reason to be; not only does he have a point of view, but he’s managed to convey that through some excellent songwriting.  In an album that is full of diversity in both thoughts and rhythm – Adam Schneider will no doubt find himself with more people turning ON to his music, rather than Turning Away

First of all…if you’re going to communicate – use a beautiful voice like this.  Tracks like “Free Dimensional,” “Our Lies” and “Heels Of Judgement,” go a very long way in establishing Adam’s beautifully melodic songwriting.  At times, he reminds me of the male-side of Zero 7’s sound…you know, the guy that’s NOT Sia…and at many times through the soft-sides of the guitar-work, can remind me of bands like Toad The Wet Sprocket.  Even in those moments of comparison – it’s impossible to argue that Adam isn’t going his own route; each song carries an indelible style from track to track that hold unmistakable qualities you’ll only find in Adam’s work.

“Give It The Light” – another perfect example of his ability to mix-up the light & dark elements of life through this popped-up tune, juxtaposed against his metaphorical lyricism.  It’s an extremely catchy tune and yet another side of this singer/songwriter that seems to be taking shape in an evolutionary way as the album plays on…  It gives way to a soft-melodic & truly beautiful break in the album in the form of “Aging Me.”  In this truly self-reflective tune, you can really feel Adam take hold of the important notes in words he wants you to hear, and he delivers another fantastic performance – especially as the track builds towards the end.
In another twist from the musical-side – Schneider descends into a theatrical-style blues-rock jazz-jam in an overall interesting choice in the song “We.”  Whereas many of the songs felt more personalized through the ambiguity of the writing – this one almost seems more directed at a larger concept of ‘us,’ but described through his own personalization. 

Did ANYONE follow what I just said?  I’m not sure if I got it RIGHT mind you – but that’s what I’m hearing.  Again – the wonderful ambiguous style that Adam writes in really allows for your own personal meanings to drive his songs as well as the one he’s intended.  What I continually find myself respecting and admiring as I play through Turning Away – is the constant aspect of just how unafraid Adam is to take chances.  He’ll venture out on new vocal melodies – sometimes even somewhat jarring at first…until you find the beautiful musical-meadows his music can take you into.  Towards the end of the album – “Stand” is another highlight and another example of exactly what I mean here.  It’s a sweet song – and an empowering one through both the music and the lyrics.  There’s an audible-hope somehow…I don’t know…MORE realized in this track you don’t always find in Adam’s sentiment.

“Turning Away,” the title track about social inequalities and our own reactions to them…to seeing the very elements that define us, as well as the ones we’ve chosen to leave behind.  To turn away from.  It’s a heavy, heavy song…again finding contrast against one of the most fantastically-written and melodic pieces of music on Turning Away.  There’s no doubt about the amount of work put into the writing of this album – it’s something you can easily hear in both the music and the lyrics.

And there’s no doubt whatsoever about whether or not we’ll hear more from Adam Schneider in the future…I guarantee you will.

  • Jer @ SBS

Listen to Turning Away right here from Adam Schneider’s Soundcloud page:  https://soundcloud.com/Adam-Schneider-music/sets/turning-away

 

August 19th, 2014 - Evin Gibson - "Instant Fire" & "Alarm" - Singles Review

EvinGibson
Evin Gibson – “Instant Fire” & “Alarm” – Singles Review

Evin Gibson is definitely onto something here…

Checking into his latest single, “Instant Fire” – I think I might have just discovered one of today’s future songwriters in the R&B/Soul/Pop section of our lives.  The song embodies a familiar style of modern soul, almost bringing in tones and change-ups found often in the great R. Kelly’s work.  Make no mistake though – Evin Gibson certainly has his own unique and defined sound and has definitely put forth an empowering and emotional single here with “Instant Fire.”

Driven by a beautiful keyboard-synth-piano line that provides the ultimate backdrop for Gibson’s passionate vocals, “Instant Fire,” flows like water.  You can hear the focus Gibson has put on his vocals and hear the work he’s put into delivering them exactly how he wants them to come out.  With an inventive verse, creative & hook-laden chorus and a range that can go from the ground-floor to the penthouse anytime he wants – Gibson has created one smooth, slow burning track here.

It’s the real emotional intensity behind this song that makes it a winner.  Whether it’s Gibson drawing from real-life experience, or just putting on his maximum vocal-effort – the passion is his performance comes through completely strongly.  The song is definitely what’s happening out there NOW in pop/soul music and there’s nothing I can hear that would hold this talent back from making his way onto the airwaves. 

“Alarm” is certainly the confirmation.  With a bass-driven beat that has a seriously anthem-style chorus, you can hear how well a song like this translates both on record, and certainly to a crowd of music-fans from the live-stage.  This song is big in scale and production, the addition of the siren is perfect…but will also no-doubt leave fans turning up their volumes AND checking their rearview mirrors a little more often…just in case! 

Overall the track is a lot more of the danceable aspect of Evin Gibson.  A little research will let you hear a little more music as Gibson keeps the heat on his latest singles “Instant Fire” & “Alarm” – but there are a few more tunes you can hear at his official page http://www.evingibson.com/ that are definitely of the same style & quality you’ve already been digging from him.

This is definitely a showcase talent for the R&B world, and with his ever-expanding fan-base, Evin Gibson is definitely a voice you’ll hear coming over your stereos in the near future to come.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out the hot new video for Evin Gibson’s “Instant Fire” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOpXyA5dhIg
And support him at Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/evingibsonmusic

 

August 14th, 2014 - Big City Love Affair - Atlantis - Album Review

BCLA

Big City Love Affair – Atlantis – Album Review

Warning:  If you’re one of them…you know…music-purists who believes no remix is capable of holding ground to an original version…you might wanna grab a snack and busy yourselves while the rest of us get our collective-awesome on and start shaking things up with the new tunes from Big City Love Affair.  A collection of electro-work gathered over the past four years – it’s not only a fantastic mix of music overall, but truly shows that electro artists are often one of the most open and accepting types of musician out there in our world today.  In a set that includes some of my own favorite songs over the years, remixed in a BCLA style, you’ll be thankful these songs weren’t lost forever like the namesake of the album itself, Atlantis.

There truly is a lot to like, and this album is certainly no small commitment weighing in at nearly two full hours.  Ahem…pardon me…two full hours of enjoyment for your FACE!  There is a tremendous effect in the length of this album…a bizarre one…one that, even with the actual length it truly is, flies right by.  From unbelievable samples, to immaculate production – Big City Love Affair is getting it all completely RIGHT – and the result is an album that will move your whole body.

And considering it’s nearly two hours long, I’d like to personally thank BCLA – I’ve lost ten pounds this week just from listening to their album Atlantis and SHAKIN my bearded-thang!

There’s a true talent in electro-assembly happening all the way through this.  From the moment the first track starts, a remix of Braziian Girls “Don’t Stop” starts the energy going at full speed and BCLA doesn’t let you off the hook from there.  It should be instantly noted that this isn’t an entire re-working or remixing of other material from successful artists; there’s plenty of BCLA originals on here and they are all of equal-awesomeness, I assure you.  “Forgive, Forget” is an absolutely wicked cut that can’t be denied – excellent sample choices in sounds and again, completely well-thought-out in its construction.

Was I WORRIED when I saw remixes of Imogen Heap’s beautiful “Hide And Seek,” and the song that put the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on my radar, “Maps?”  No!  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there’s absolutely no denying that there’s a talent to putting this kind of music together.  It might look a little funny to those of you that hold guitars on a regular basis, but this is outstanding talent; the kind that has been refining and perfecting in the shadows for far too long.  I suspect that time for BCLA to stay in those shadows is finally over – Atlantis sounds like an entire dam of musical creativity burst wide open.

As far as those two particular songs go…well…again, you’ll find me digging these re-works.  “Hide And Seek” includes a real beauty of a mash-up towards the end, bringing in of all things – Kanye West’s “Robocop” – and it works perfectly.  The album this came from…was arguably West’s most heartfelt and personable album – one that even had doubters like myself meeting the music with jaws and ears wide open.  That tenderness alongside Imogen’s beautiful voice is a masterstroke of combination that BCLA should truly be proud of having the insight and the courage to go after.  And “Maps?”  I say that song put the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on MY radar…but if you know anything about the band – that’s the song that put THEM on their OWN radar.  A truly special song and a powerhouse display of their yet-untapped-talent – BCLA takes this song in a playful direction and adds some bounce into the melancholy, creating another incredible contrast that works as well as you’re hoping it might.

It’s more than just having good taste in music – you can’t just simply choose your favorite songs, cut’em up and hope for the best.  Listening to this album…you really get the sense that these songs have truly meant a lot to Big City Love Affair over the years, and how they’ve helped shape the sound of BCLA over time.  The remix of Bag Raiders’ “Shooting Star” is another perfect example…the precision displayed and the choices made in this song and any of the remixes featured all show a tremendous amount of care and respect for the amazing work of the original artists.

Big City Love Affair continues to demonstrate the range and capabilities on hypnotic tracks like the bass-driven “Take Me Away,” which is a smooth jazz-electro combo; or the track immediately to follow – “The Stranger which goes down an incredible road of piano & rap.  These two make for a good time to catch your breath before they jam into the frenzy known as “Limits.”  This track!  Man!  Love that song – the energy is just incredible and if you’ve got two-cents worth of producer in you – this is sheer ear-candy.

Borrowing again from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Cooler Than Rolling Heads” uses a wicked sample from “Heads Will Roll,” a song from the more electro-inspired later-works of Karen O & her adaptive crew.  Cut up so hard it’d be unrecognizable to many – this is deconstruction and reconstruction at its finest.  Loved the twist on this track – this again shows the supreme talent of BCLA in the musical operating room – it’s all put together with a surgeon’s precision.  Towards the end of Atlantis, you’ll also find remixes of Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” and Beyonce’s “Why Don’t You Love Me?”

It all speaks to that ability electro-artists have that the ‘purists’ don’t; talent like BCLA challenge themselves by getting every genre they can in the mix, but at the perfect moment for it.  They don’t all ‘get it’ – you’ll just have to trust me on that one dear readers – but you can also trust me when I say with complete certainty, that BCLA does.  I’m blown away at just how well these songs received treatment in the remix and the hard work you can clearly hear was put into every second that rolls by.  This debut album is a big win for Big City Love Affair; I’m already excited for the next one!

And if it takes four years to assemble something of this caliber and quality – it’s well worth the wait.

  • Jer @ SBS

 

August 7th, 2014 - Professor Oak - Planet X - Pre-release Album Review

ProfessorOakProfessor Oak – Planet X – Pre-Release Review

There are some incredible sounds cooking up in Professor Oak’s musical-laboratory.  With sounds and beats from all kinds of styles & textures, the music is hypnotic in the best of ways; it really holds your attention as the songs display a true range of dynamics as they drift in and out of the light & dark of Professor Oak’s electronic tunes.  The songs themselves are compellingly creative; though I’ve only got a pre-release at this very moment…well…call me crazy but I’m already more than enthusiastic about the way these songs are coming out!

I started with one of the absolute stand-out tracks of my year here in 2014 – “Tuesday’s Thoughts.”  As an opening intro to music I’m about to venture heavily into to…this is the way to go about it!  There’s a swirling heaviness about the atmosphere in this track that I love and can only hope never changes upon the final release; the parts are almost sparse until the middle of the track blossoms fully, but the way that it is all put together here has resulted in one real chiller of a song.  As in the spine-tingling, what-else-am-I-so-lucky-to-be-in-store-for? kind…

A track like “Friends?” displays even more of the skills of Professor Oak, aka Michael Wagner, the solo genius behind this excellent electro.  When you listen to a track like “Friends?” you really that sense that he’s not only completely precise in his music-making, but we really have a true link between all-forms of electro-music here through Professor Oak’s upcoming work and YOU should be extremely excited about that!  There’s absolutely excellent combinations of sound as he showcases his taste & talent for the remix as he blazes through new re-creations with work from Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna.  His take on “Stay,” which even this beard can openly admit is a great tune no matter how you slice it, is wonderfully subdued throughout, allowing the track to pulse and swell along its new electro-infused path.

Again…being a pre-release here…I’ve got access to several cuts…I can’t speak to which ones make the Planet X line-up officially just yet…but everything I’ve stumbled across certainly makes me want to hear MORE of it.

This album has been put together with the precise care necessary – it’s been over four years in the making…and after that long, these songs needed to become as big as they are.  Each track…”Steam,” “Trap s9”…”Meter”…the list could literally go on and on, and I could as well about just how diverse and well-placed each of these sounds truly are.  I’m hoping for one long, long album when Planet X officially drops on October 1st, 2014. 

With assembly that’s as sharp as a surgeon’s favorite knife, creativity that seems to know no limitations…and in my opinion, flawless taste when it comes to samples and sounds – Professor Oak will be one of the most exciting sounds you’ll hear in electronic music coming out this year.  Be ready.

  • Jer @ SBS

 

August 5th, 2014 - Tommy West - Frequencies Of The Sun - Album Review

TommyWest
Tommy West – Frequencies Of The Sun – Album Review

You can’t fool me Tommy…I know what I’m in for here…

Loading up the official website of Tommy West at biggreenuniverse.com will not only take you to the music…but to a very telling background accompanying it.  Look at that beast of a guitar!  Brightly colored in a vibrant design…I suppose my point right off the bat is…well…show me ONE slacker with a guitar this badass and I’ll show you a guy that was lucky enough to maybe HOLD a guitar like Tommy’s for a photo op.  No – the real truth in the matter is…a guitar like this is every indication that it’s about to be held or played by a true virtuoso.

So like I said, Mr. West…I knew full well from picture alone what you’d be bringing to the table…only question left was…how would you measure up?
On Frequencies Of The Sun, Tommy West is firing on all musical cylinders.  Not only is there tremendous playing ability displayed on virtually any track you can click on – but also some really in-depth songwriting as well.  For those Satriani, Vai and I’d say especially Johnson fans out there…Tommy West is not too far from becoming a part of a classic G3 or G4 lineup himself if you were to ask me.  Songs like “Pyre Of The Pale Horse” and “Torn,” occurring early on in the album came out massively impressive in tone, playing and overall sound.

Like many of his peers – the songs are of course structured to be able to carry massively huge guitar solos and still be somewhat in the framework of a song people will listen to.  “Big Green Universe” is a perfect example of a track in this style that is still reachable by people outside of the genre.  Instrumental seems to generic of a genre to call it….my brother in law calls it the “meedeley” genre.

As in…’you know the band with that guy…he had that “meedeley-meedeley-meeeeeeeedeley” thing going on with the guitar…’ 

Sigh…what can I say?  The poor kid grew up on nothing but a steady diet of automobiles and exhaust fumes…

But I suppose this is where I come in anyway.  I can hear a song like West’s “Journey to Ixtlan” and know beyond a shadow of a doubt I’m listening to one of the future guitar-masters of our time.  The solos and proficiency in play are top-notch excitement and played with such enthusiasm and genuine skill that Tommy really has managed to make it all sound easy for him.  Which of course leaves some credit to be had for the production on this album – it’s put together clean and crystal clear, giving way for these complicated parts of Tommy’s to really shine through.  Whether he’s slowing it down a little, like on “Traces Of Forever,” or lightening up the sound like on the beautiful “Presence” – West will never let you down.  Again…I try not to single any one song out too hard in a review…but it’s really hard to deny just how well-nailed a track like “Presence” really is…this might be one of the best of West for certain.

Where I did feel surprised the most was in the creativity all throughout Frequencies Of The Sun.  While certainly the playing and skill level can be compared to the giants of the guitar like Satch or Vai – the sounds…the songs themselves…are really unique to themselves and actually quite brilliant.  I’m a big fan of what Tommy has pulled off here.  I think of a tracks like the final two on this album, “Incantevole Magia Della Fia” and “Rainbow Bridge” and kind of just have to marvel at them while I sit here.  It’s clear that Tommy and I hear things differently than others do…or at least I hope he enjoys his album as much as I am…but I sure dig the subtleties found throughout these songs and album.  It’s those tiny tweaks…those dynamics in frequencies that have clearly both fascinated and inspired this album from Tommy West.

What else can be said other than Tommy West’s Frequencies Of The Sun will happily occupy the frequencies of the stereos here at sleepingbagstudios well into the future. Awesome.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find Tommy West directly here at:  http://biggreenuniverse.com/music

 

July 31st, 2014 - Jason Knapp - In January - Album Review

JasonKnapp
Jason Knapp – In January – Album Review

There were two things that hit me when I was completing my first listen through Jason Knapp’s new album In January; the first was an instantly feeling of ‘man – this guys has listened to a lot of Todd Rundgren throughout his life,’ and the second was that I had been enjoying some severely skilled guitar playing as the final cut “Drivin” played out and I got ready to repeat it all over.  Notably, on this particular track you’ll also hear backup vocals from another one of our guests in review, Vik Kapur of Race Against Fate…but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here…let’s rewind this back to the beginning…

Starting with “Love Is A Cold War” was an interesting choice when listening to it all through the ears of a repeat-listen.  In many spots, this acoustically driven track echoes many of the grunge-era heroes with a lead verse from Jason sounding nearly like Chris Cornell from his Temple Of The Dog years…almost Alice In Chains throughout the harmonies in the track as well through their rich tones.  As the follow-up “January” begins, you get a large sense of perhaps what a musical-chameleon Knapp might be here.  This track is a solid combination and real snap into the album; you’ll find those Cornell tones mixing with a lighter pop feel, more along the lines of Dishwalla-meets-the-love-from-Chris-Robinson, David Baerwald or maybe even David Gray.

Hey.  I’ve got an experiment for you…

As it comes to the third track “Farewell To Poems,” I’m curious to know if you can all feel a track like this the way that I do.  The moment this song started, I absolutely knew this was going to be a standout for me.  The opening chords are crystal-clear & astoundingly beautiful; this is a wonderfully-well-played song that really highlights Knapp’s ability to bring an idea to vibrant life.  And he’s doing it all on his own with exception to the drums provided by Andy Clapson; whether it’s guitars, bass, keys, strings…all instrument arrangements seem to be perfectly placed and well-within Knapp’s wheelhouse and skillset.

Wait…what?  He’s from our own backyard!  Jason Knapp comes from Vancouver, BC?  How have I NOT run into this talented songwriter somehow along our travels before I just don’t know!  Man, this city makes amazing music EVERYWHERE…

I dig the playful vibe in the guitars of “Ghost Of You,” it honestly sounds like an incredibly fun song to play…and if you listen closely, there’s some pretty intricate musicality being displayed on this track.  Again finding his way into Alice In Chains-ish harmonies in the chorus, giving an interesting contrast to the lighter verse…there’s interesting change-ups all over this album…lots of variety in sonics…I’m digging the choices of Jason Knapp; there’s not only good songwriting here on In January – it’s completely wise songwriting.

I personally also really dig just how many places Knapp takes us through his vocals.  There’s no one-note-wonder aspect of this man; and much like Cornell, he’s about 1000 times more hit than he’ll ever be missing.  “Hiway Of Regret” is a great example of Knapp’s power to hold his tone.  Extremely focused on this track, he’s delivering at an absolute maximum here with incredible results.  Again, the change-ups in this track make it musically stand out; around the three & a half minute mark this track finds…like…it’s TENTH gear and changes beautifully yet again.

Bringing us to “Bitter.”  I hope I can write a song…just ONE song in my life…THIS good one day.  A simple, but extremely full acoustic track…Knapp is left to his own devices here on this song and it works incredibly well.  Perfectly recorded and an immaculate performance to match; you can’t hear a track like this and not realize the overall potential that a songwriter like this could rise to.  Taking us into yet another one of his talents – Knapp grabs the harmonica in this one in perfect accompaniment.  For those of you out there right now digging on City And Colour – “Bitter” will definitely be a huge hit with you.

As “Drivin’” finishes off In January with some real pop-rock flair & style; this hook-laden track is sure to stick in your mind and leave a lasting impression.  The trade-off between Jason Knapp & Vik Kapur (Morning Fame/Race Against Fate) works fantastically well; they’ve both got such different styles but they’ve come together extremely well here in this final track.  As stand out as ANY vocalist might be…I don’t know if any one voice, or voices for that matter, could pierce my love of the guitars on this tune…they’re just pure fun and pure awesome.

Overall, these seven tightly-written songs definitely make for a shining example of the musical-palette of a very well-rounded musician that I’ll always want to hear more music from in the future.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find Jason Knapp’s album In January at:  http://jasonknapp.bandcamp.com/

 

July 24th, 2014 - Andy Sizemore - Soundcloud Review

AndySizemore
Andy Sizemore – Soundcloud Page Review

Cool!  It’s not too often you get to review a music collective as opposed to the scores of albums, EPs and single reviews this particular indie-journalist goes through.  After talking briefly with the creator behind these new sounds – I got a real sense that Andy is looking towards that next step…where to take this music next.  Is there a market out there for music like this?  Are the songs themselves ‘finished?’  What about comparable sounds – are there any?  By this point – I’m sure there are many of you out there wondering exactly what’s happening here in these tunes…so let me fill you in…and together – let’s help out our new friend Andy Sizemore…

So.  First of all…is there a market for this?  Emphatic YES.  In fact – I’d go as far as saying this very review nestles itself inside a warm community of music-loving-open-minds that I know will give the music the chance it deserves.  I know firsthand that there’s a market for songs like this – I used to make very similar sounds myself!  And it always depends on the goals overall themselves…I’m not saying that Andy is going to pack stadiums full with tunes like “Journey To The Center Of The Soul” or “Feel It In The Air,” because I don’t believe that’s what they’re FOR.  They’re good tracks in their own respect – but if the goal for him is to reach a U2-like status and pack people like sardines into coliseums…that’s not going to happen…at least not overnight!

What we do have here…is an interesting mix of sounds, and potentially…some glorious moments on film through possible soundtrack work.  A lot of what Sizemore brings to the table would work extremely well with the cinematic screen.  The music is often sparse….spread out….not ever really feeling FULL… And I think, really, at the heart of it all, this is what Andy Sizemore really wants to know about his music; is there enough here?  When you listen to a track like “Memories Past And Future” – you might find yourself wanting for more to happen…tracks like this might not be enough to stand alone on their own for most people.

I say for most, because I don’t want to necessarily include myself in the top-40 crowd.  I listen to music like Colleen, Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, TomandAndy, Boards Of Canada, Aphex Twin….the list could go on for days and you know it – but the point is that many of our favorite artists DO make music just like this on a regular basis…and sometimes we don’t even know it.  Take a look at people like Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, or even the epically-talented Mike Patton – these are some of our most fantastical musical-geniuses of modern-day…but would you recognize them from their soundtrack work and original-scores?  It seems to me, after a thorough listening through Andy Sizemore’s Soundcloud page…that his music could find an incredible home on the Hollywood screen.  Going this route can literally take a song like “Memories Past And Future” and give it an entirely new life.

This music deserves a shot, as Andy has a ton of great ideas here, all recorded and ready-to-go.  Take a good look over that list of comparisons in the last paragraph…and know that if you know of more than TWO of those artists and bands that you’ll certainly be a fan of Andy Sizemore.  For the rest of you, and perhaps Andy himself, realize that in NOT knowing all those comparisons, that this is the standard…in fact…the standard might even be 1/5 or 0/5 for the average person…and what we’re saying by pointing all this out is that the music alone, would be considered greatly niche.  And though the internet has certainly blown open the doors to a whole new group of listeners, providing nearly any genre with enough of a fan-base…well…this one genre of ambient/electronic would still find a way to lay claim to the least amount of people choosing it as their favorite.  It’s a completely tough market when it comes to ear-time; people like to sing-along or generally they find a way to find something else, making it an ever-growing mountain to climb for music of this variety.

Don’t believe me?  See if you don’t start singing along to Andy’s track “Grandmother Georgia” after a couple listens.  This track is a large departure for Andy within this set of songs; in a dose of hypnotic & hazy old-time fun, this song works completely well.  I’d be shocked and amazed if he wasn’t receiving more feedback on that one very track in comparison to the rest based on the structure of human nature alone.

It’s my true belief that Sizemore just needs to expand a slight amount more.  There is zero-argument against whether or not he’s off to a great start – he certainly is…but as a listener I know I want more.  What I appreciate beyond all things, is that Andy is constantly reaching for new sounds and ideas, and that from track to track I never once knew what to expect.  Songs like “Visions Of Playful Madness” and “Set Your Controls For The Heart Of Supernova” were awesome discoveries to come across and display the true gift for atmosphere and textures that Andy can start up.  In an appropriate twist – you’ll also notice that latter title containing a reference to the Pink Floyd title of “Set Your Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” – and though written by Roger Waters…there a large feeling of Syd Barrett’s ghost all over this particular Soundcloud page.

And if you ask me – that’s always a good indication.  Part brilliance, part madness – Barrett always displayed an ingenuity in his atmospheres…and with the help of others, they were brought to full vibrant life.  I think Andy has great potential and a fantastic start into a career in the music-industry that could virtually take him anywhere he wants to go with it.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Andy Sizemore at Soundcloud and see what you think!  https://soundcloud.com/a-sizemore

 

July 20th, 2014 - Race Against Fate - Singles Review

RaceAgainstFate
Race Against Fate – Singles Review

Henry Rollins once described an over-emotional state he was going through as his “White Squall Moment,” which came to him from watching the film White Squall and bursting unexpectedly into tears.  Whether he was over-tired, hungry, emotional…whatever it was came spilling out during the minutes of this movie, seemingly out of nowhere but a sum of the days gone by collected.  I’m not sure what’s quite happening with my own-self here right now…but these new four songs from Race Against Fate have managed to put me right into one of these “White Squall Moments” here in the control room of sleepingbagstudios.  Listening to these new songs brought tears out…not gonna lie to ya.

This new music comes to us from Vik Kapur, who many of you will remember through our reviews here & showing videos of his other work through his band Morning Fame.  Race Against Fate is the solo project he began in mid-2013, presumably as most, to be able to express a different aspect of his abilities outside of the band.  Vik Kapur has a distinct quality and tone of his voice that is completely recognizable – and it’s been no secret to these pages that it’s a sound that resonates deep within me.  I love the sweet tones, the heartfelt & often heart-breaking songwriting of Kapur, and through this released solo-work you really get to appreciate and get a sense for what a large portion of the writing he must play in Morning Fame as well.  While these four songs are enough of a departure to justify solo-existence rather than bringing them to the band – it’s undeniable that each and every track in either project carries Kapur’s signature vocal-stamp.

One aspect of these new songs that I truly enjoyed, was that comparisons I have made in the past to Kapur’s sound through bands like the Gin Blossoms and the Watchmen no longer seemed to apply.  I no longer hear the influence holding him back; at this point he’s defined his own unique path and built upon his past strengths incredibly well here.

Songwriting itself has always been Vik’s number one attribute – this guy writes unbelievable pop-melodies.  I simply push play…that’s all I gotta do…and the music finds its way into me right away like it knows it belongs inside here.  “Shadows,” would be the track in question…responsible for the “White Squall Moment” over here.  A piano-ballad of the most beautiful kind – this song is terrifically emotional and Kapur delivers the chorus with a precise melancholy you just can’t fake.  It’s not a happy song…and as much as it can fill me with happiness to hear an artist nail a track perfectly like this – lyrically this song will pummel you into the dirt.  And as I sit here with those tears still falling into my beard…I can’t help but give Vik the full-credit for my face-monsoon for being able to translate his emotions so well through song.

“Photograph,” is another great pop song; excellent guitars, strings and wonderful back-up vocals in another shining example of how to deliver an emotionally-powerful chorus.  You can find the same perfection in “Casually Leave,” – you get the sense that Kapur is able to find a hook in any piece of music that comes his way.  What surprised me in this set of songs the most, especially being a solo-effort, was how well the surrounding instruments make up these tunes.  The four songs I’ve heard here in this set include some of my favorite choices for drums that I’ve heard in pop-rock to date; they’re incredible minimal and often much more of a traditional-percussive sound rather than a simple, straight-forward snare-hat combo.  They’re incredibly rhythmic and incredibly subtle…and perfect for these songs.

Guitar-wise…I don’t know if I am just straight-up crazy, or if there is actually a sitar substituting often for the traditional spots that would be occupied by a guitar…in either case, the sound comes across as unique and extremely effective.  “Song For Each Day,” is the track that carries the largest portion of these string-tones…I’m just gonna go ahead and call it – I’m not crazy – that is completely a sitar.  It has to be!  With the aforementioned percussive element in these tunes, accompanied with yet another killer hook & chorus, this track is another exercise in Kapur doing everything RIGHT.  A true-track of strength, it not only has an excellent hook in the chorus, but the pre-chorus before that…and the pre-chorus before THAT…  You get what I’m saying here – “Song For Each Day” is a big, big song.

These first four samplings of what Vik Kapur is capable of solo excite me greatly.  To say I’m looking forward to more is a complete understatement.  In a complete confirmation of his own defined-sound and excellent songwriting – these four songs stand out completely as a sign of many, many more to come from this creative pop-melody genius.

- Jer @ SBS

Find out more about the Race Against Fate solo project from Vik Kapur of Morning Fame at: https://www.facebook.com/RaceAgainstFateband

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July 18th, 2014 - Gary Carey - What's Not To Like? - Album Review

GaryCarey
Gary Carey – What’s Not To Like? – Album Review

Some of my readers out there are certainly expecting this…

After spending days in the dark with our new good friend Chris Romans of The Last Surrealist, many of you out there probably put your money on the fact that I’d switch it up quickly and head back towards the light.  That’s fair…I like to change up the tone of these reviews just as much as I do my very own playlist here in the studio.  So today…I’m bringing you to a laid-back place of melody and some beautiful acoustic music from Gary Carey through his new album What’s Not To Like?

Wait…what?  Gary – are you baiting us?  With an album title like that…the independent journalism scene could jump all over this if you don’t deliver the goods!

Thankfully, for myself…after a good couple spins through the album, I found the only thing that wasn’t to like was probably just the album cover itself!  Gary’s a fine looking gentleman for sure – nothing wrong there…it just looks a little on the dated-side for how relevant his music might very well be today.  Is that nit-picking or what though?  Certainly nothing bad to say about the music, performances or songwriting here – he’s got all that stuff down tight!  Considering this is a MUSIC review – I’ll shut up about all this now…

There’s a ton of heart in this album…and while you might not assume a beard like me could take a break from it all and just sit n’ listen to a set of chilled out songs like this…well, I’ve always been a firm believer that there’s a time and place for all music.  After the collage of sounds I’ve been listening to for days on end – this was a welcome break in the clouds for a smooth, well-produced sound.  You won’t find anything over-complicated here at all – there’s a sense of refinement in these songs, each stripped down to acoustic bare-bones often with little or no accompaniment other some slight drums & Gary’s vocals.  It’s not an attempt to cash in on the world-wide minimalist epidemic – there’s a focus here on each instrument played, making sure that they’re contributing to their beautiful-maximum each time, note for note.  Songwriting-wise, Gary has a lot going for him.  There will be moments that remind you of Jack Johnson, Elvis Costello, Grandaddy…and sometimes vocally reaching the very edges of Tom Petty and Paul Simon.

From the tender opening moments of the title-track, to the more expanded sounds of his album in “Everything I’m Not,” “Redemption Road,” and “That’ll Be Me,” – each of the songs come through so clearly that it’s impossible to not give this album some of your precious ear-time and just take a moment to let the world stop around you for a while.  “The Way I’m Loving You Now” and the brilliantly-recorded “That Girl’s Gone,” will make for some true highlights during your world’s stoppage-of-play – it’s quite often you’ll find Gary at his absolute best when simply left to his own devices; smooth-effective & emotional vocals, beautiful guitar…and his excellent ability to write songs.

“Jamie’s Coming Home,” would make a great case for a favorite on this album for me.  Again highlighting the storytelling ability of Gary, this song and the track to follow - “By The River,” also show him at some of his most human-elements.  There are moments where you’ll hear Gary trade in the strength of tone for a more honest and authentic recording in the vocals; there are imperfections – and like the many of you out there embracing this musical route, there are moments where this pays off extremely well.

The final two tracks end this album on all the right notes for me.  “Holidays On Mars” is undeniably catchy…and for those wondering where the Grandaddy reference came from earlier…well…have a listen to this and tell me you couldn’t hear them pulling this off.  It has a familiarity to it…there’s a comfort in this track with a crazy story in the lyrics to accompany this tiny little piece of electro-pop confection.  In a final contrast – Gary takes it back to the original acoustic setting for the final track “Open Heart,” which brings this album to a sweet & beautiful conclusion.  Lyrically, it feels as if this song wasn’t even an option for its place on the album; as these beautiful insights from Gary play out…you get a real sense that this is what he’s been wanting to tell us throughout this entire album.  In this spaciously-isolated last cut…you could hear a pin drop in the background as you absorb this final sentiment.

Crystal-clear, great songwriting and a lot of effort here, resulting in a sweet album that couldn’t possibly offend a single soul…take a break from your metal & punk diets and enjoy this album as the sun-sets out there this summer.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find Gary Carey at Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/garycareymusic

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July 16th, 2014 - The Last Surrealist - Post Life Music - Album Review

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The Last Surrealist – Post Life Music – Album Review

Right on. 

In a rare journalistic opportunity, I get to take the recent interview we did with recently with Chris Romans of The Last Surrealist and take it a little further by dissecting his latest album, Post Life Music, here in review today.  If you’ve read the interview already – you know full well that Chris and I more than likely could have gone on to fill another ten internet pages at least, so believe me when I tell you there’s still a LOT to say about this truly groundbreaking album.

Shit.  That’s a classic indie-journalism softball if I don’t elaborate…what the hell defines groundbreaking?

If you were to ask me – groundbreaking in music equates to a truly different approach to music-making, seemingly endless amounts of creativity and the extreme amount of courage to blaze your own trail.  For hit or for miss – artists and bands that can somehow achieve this status have the proven ability to take chances in their art, leading ultimately to some of the greatest creations & worst disasters we’ve heard in music.  For better or worse, I truly believe there is always reward in the risk.

As Post Life Music begins its nine song journey based in emotional pain and questioning, it opens with “In The Morning Our Bodies Will Be Nothing;” a track that, for the average person listening…is going to smack them hard in the face.  With a heavily distorted synth basis and growly vocals – the first instinct for many would be to assume there’s something off altogether in the production.  It’s dank, it’s dark…built almost to push away those that won’t be able to stomach the emotional toll it took to create this album.

Dealing largely with the personal struggle Chris has been through surrounding his sister’s sudden and tragic death – it’s impossible to ignore the pain and emotion put into this album through the opening track and certainly through “The Gun Is Perched Between My Teeth,” the track to follow.  Lyrically – Chris has put it down all on the page and through the music here in both of these examples. 

And you know what?  These ARE hard to listen to.  I mean…if you’ve got a soul in there somewhere, capable of empathy…Post Life Music is a harrowing experience for anyone truly listening.

Production-wise, you realize very quickly into the album that it’s simply another tool in the Romans-arsenal; he has an ability to create thick, rich atmospheres that allow you to tap into the emotional thought-process that must take place during creation.  They attack your senses…maybe make you feel ill-at-ease or uncomfortable at times…but you FEEL something.  What makes Post Life Music the experience that it has become, is that the weight of uncontrollable & pure emotion from Chris Romans has come out here on record without apologies; in-depth listening will take you into a world that has certainly had these messages coming to it.

“Eyes Wide Open (Suffocate Until The Fire’s Annihilation)” reveals the full scope of the tragedy that shapes the scope of this album.  Interesting to me…is that I find a lot of musical-references in sound that remind me of The Cure – but I feel inclined to remind you all – this isn’t simply sad lyricism – Chris has LIVED through this and continues to carry the weight.  As far as the track as a whole is concerned – this is absolutely one of the most profound tracks on the album with several changes and an absolutely beyond-intense mid-point that is as powerful as you can reach for in sound.

The music matches the emotion throughout.  I had asked about what I felt was a sudden-switch in gears through the track “Rebirth In A Nebula,” and Chris was able to confirm that this was indeed a moment of musical separation…a beautifully hollow and isolated guitar-track, reminiscent nearly of some of the early Mogwai tracks I know and love so much.

“To Kiss My Beloved With Eyes Wide Shut,” a perfect follow-up to the track before, comes up slow and brooding from below the surface with low tones and dark themes…reminding me of the feeling that I took from listening to The Cure’s song “The Same Deep Water As You.”  The writing is poetic, it’s harsh, and like anything truly authentic in life…you can tell these are real feelings and thoughts being spilled onto the page.  Part of that comes from courage, and part of that comes from survival instinct and necessity – but the fact remains that this type of personalization in an album is truly rare.  Romans talks, yells, screams…all with sorrowful conviction; when he projects a melancholy and calm demeanor you can clearly hear what he wants you to hear in the lyrics…when he’s screaming at you, there’s no other option…

That being said…are people going to latch onto “With Stretched Out Nihilistic Hands We Embrace Suicide,” as their new number one go to throughout the day…it not too likely – but this is an angle Romans’ would have long have to have considered in making this entire album.  The juxtaposition of harsh, often distorted sounds are going to throw people without rounded-out musical palettes right overboard…the heavy themes and dramatic-explosiveness of the music is not going to be for everyone…

You know what?  Sometimes music’s not always about that.  Chris and I have exchanged brief messages about the creation of both of our last albums…music we felt we NEEDED to make, at the very least to be able to make MORE of it in the future, if not simply for survival itself.  Suppose for a second…that this album, is perhaps made more for him than anyone else…

What a privilege that honestly makes it to listen to, when hearing it from that perspective…the brutal honesty and ability to share and communicate real thoughts & emotion like this rarely comes along this clearly, no matter how much distortion Chris finds himself mixing in.  In moments like the darkly-beautiful “Love Is Subserviant To Death” – you get a chance to hear The Last Surrealist in a different light.  There is a commitment and clarity that comes radiating from this track…it’s like the world around stops completely for me when this track plays, especially towards the end as the tempo is ground to a complete halt.  Lyrically it’s one of the hardest to catch through the veil of production, but through vocal-tone alone is one of the most emotional performances on this entire album.

“When A Ghost Embraced The Dust” is a track I also brought up in the interview.  As this is NOT the interview…I encourage you to read about the thought process and backstory on this song from this link here, once you’re done reading this review of course...  On a musical-level – this one almost sounds ‘easy’ for The Last Surrealist by comparison – but the intense use of samples to express Chris Romans’ perspective on how life has become for him…is both horrific and triumphant all at the same damn time.  This is yet ANOTHER example of taking a chance in the music, as it goes beyond the simple use of samples.  Chances are MANY of you have used samples in your own work…but how relevant and pointed these insertions into the music are in this cut, in context of the album and Romans’ state of mind, is what sets this track apart from those out there simply adding another layer.  If you’re listening – he hasn’t simply added one layer here…he’s added TEN.  You dig?

I’ve been meaning to get this review out for a while now…and I can’t thank you enough for putting up with all of these words when really the music of The Last Surrealist says it all best.  While it might be personal…while it might be sad…while it might be enraging at times even…there’s undeniable proof out there that songs of this nature go on to help OTHER people in situations like Chris has been through.  When you hear the final song “Her Morning Breath” – you’ll hear a stunning and sad acceptance in this track…audibly coming through clearly in the music…the color has run out…the world has become the worst version of itself and entirely too black & white….it’s desolate…it’s sad…and for many…that’s the life we have in front of us for the rest of time, in our worst moments…

But there’s something about the way this track is played…something about that extra care and fragility that comes into the atmosphere of this song…much in the same way that Explosions In The Sky have managed to do it for years – this song truly sums up the entire album’s worth of feelings…without saying a single thing. 

You couldn’t honor the memory of a loved one in a more honorable way than this; Post Life Music is one of those rare albums that come along and truly make you question how on earth the artist or band in question could EVER achieve something better on record. 

  • Jer @ SBS

Find The Last Surrealist at Facebook here:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Last-Surrealist/478715428866630

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July 14th, 2014 - Red Monday - Red Monday - Album Review

RedMonday
Red Monday – Red Monday – Album Review

Sometimes I look around rather viciously at articles written by my peers.  When we review independent music, often those albums you see on our pages pop up in other corners of the internet…and quite often I find myself cursing out the writers writing them.  As a community, and a supporter…all I’ve ever wanted for each and every one of those journalistic-slackers is to want MORE for themselves.  In most cases, they manage to get the names right…and while I’m not here today to bash on the many voices of the internet, I DO know that you come HERE to these reviews because of the thorough research that I put myself through every time I do one of these reviews.

I cannot…for a single second…imagine what it might have been like to simply hear this debut album from Red Monday without reading the amazing backstory that comes along with it.

The first thing you need to understand when you’re listening…is that you’re listening to album that nearly didn’t exist at all.  The second thing I’d say you’d need to know and recognize through the achievement of Red Monday here, is that it is NEVER too late to pursue your dreams.

Whatever…so the last sentence in the last paragraph indicates they’re a little on the older side.  The fact remains – this new album’s indicates that there’s plenty of youthfulness stored up inside them.  You can hear the sound of a band that is truly having an awesome time just EXISTING through the opening tracks “She’s On Fire” and “Brianna.”  These songs really open the debut strongly with energy, strong song-writing and tight musicianship.

The sound itself…is not maybe as old as they might perceive it to be, and certainly updated past the point of writing them; again their backstory shows that many of these songs were literally written 25 years ago!  As it comes out through the first moments of Red Monday, and into the official single “Time (It’s About Time) – personally I’d put them around….The Verve Pipe-meets-Elvis Costello.  Yeah…I’m comfortable in that assessment…singer Rick Harris certainly echoes both at points and the music is on the lighter, more playful side of rock throughout the album.

What I was extremely uncomfortable with…was the very idea that I’d be listening to songs that were 25 years old!  Haven’t lied to you all before and I’m not about to start now; to me this is ALWAYS the extreme red-flag of a band that can’t move on, can’t continue to create or build upon the sound they once created…

THIS…is entirely different for me…and in all kinds of incredibly positive ways.

I had to take a step back and realize – there’s nothing stagnant here…there’s no STALL in the creativity of Red Monday; these songs literally NEVER had a chance to come to life before!  I can’t imagine just how happy all these guys are to hear these tunes come back through their stereos and into their eardrums.  I completely commend each of these guys – Rick Harris (Vox), Mike McCarron (Drums & Backing Vox), Jeff Kylloe (Bassman) and Jim Miller (Guitars, Backing Vox, Producer, Songwriter) – this has got to be a surreal and extraordinary moment in time for them all.

You can HEAR that magic in this album.  In tracks like “Isn’t That The Way,” and “When I Hear Your Voice,” you can really notice that these songs have spent their time in the incubation stage, just waiting for their moment to break out of the shell.  The way that Kylloe’s bass starts the album rumbling off, the intensity of the drums from McCarron, the perfectly-placed guitar work & precision-songwriting of Miller, and the confidence of Harris through the vocals make this entire album have a real feeling of celebration to it.  “You Move Me,” is a great example, drawing nearly on the lighter parts of a Van Halen sound…but authentic!  You see…Red Monday isn’t forced to duplicate and recycle themselves like VH has for the past, ummmm…TWENTY years.  This album might sound ‘older’ in style – but the delivery is completely genuine and fresh out-the-box.  The production is perfect, crisp, clear and true to the sounds of these songs.  It really is like songwriter Jim Miller has just been waiting to push record all this time and knew exactly what to do when that moment finally came.

There’s a definitely feeling of a true slice of Americana on this debut album, but again, many moments you’ll find them breakthrough the traditional sounds associated with that style in their very own way.  “Broken Promises” comes out absolutely flawlessly; either Harris has found two vocal sounds that work incredibly well, or there’s a trade-off happening over the mic between lead and backing vox…whatever the recipe was, it certainly worked wonders, excellent track.

Everyone knows that a fire still burns long after the flames disappear, and as the album winds down through final tracks “Man In The Mirror,” and the completely-perfect ending of “Somebody Else,” you get a real sense that the sparks alone will carry the excitement of this band clear into their next album.  As they commented in their bio at their official page – it’s a very different world to MAKE music in – one that certainly has allowed these songs to enjoy the vibrant life they’ve always deserved. 

They say it takes a lifetime to make that first album, and two weeks to make the second.  Of all records I’ve ever listened to, this one sure rings true to the first part of that timeless statement.  But now that they’ve got a taste for what they can achieve on a record through this stellar debut – I’d be shocked to not hear from Red Monday again really, really soon.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find them at their official page at:  http://www.redmondaymusic.com/

 

July 12th, 2014 - Charming Timur - A Brief Moment Of Existence - Album Review

CharmingTimur
Charming Timur – A Brief Moment Of Existence – Album Review

Ummm…ok…watch your volumes on this one…starting Charming Timur’s new album A Brief Moment Of Existence off as loudly as you were playing that last jam you heard from whatever band might just spike your heart rate through the roof – or make you wish you were wearing your brown pants!  So be careful with those speakers – there’s no easing into this album; Charming Timur is here to fill every inch between your walls with a sound onslaught!

No joke – from moment one, this one-man unit from Helsinki is throwing more at you than most bands can in their combined efforts.  As a guy that personally NEEDS a ton of sounds coming at me every once in a while – opening tracks “OCD,” “Falling Down,” and “Cut You Open” greatly satisfied this hole that is often wide-open in my never-ending list of indie-music to listen to.

As noted in our latest interview with a similar artist – Chris Romans of The Last Surrealist (Also a solo-act) – it can often be extremely difficult to get that word spread, or the message in the music out when presented in such an in-your-face style.  That being said – there’s certainly awaiting ears for this style of Nu-Metal…and I definitely found a ton of this album to be extremely interesting to listen to on a production-level.  The dynamics of the album are fantastic…a shift you can hear nearly mid-way through the third track “Cut You Open,” and then certainly into the following track “My Pain.”  Musically, it all becomes a little less frantic, which leads to the strength in clarity as Charming Timur highlights parts of the instrumentation through the excellent use of the loud/quiet combo.  “My Pain,” is often just as brilliant when everything cuts out & slows down, leaving just basic bass and drums, as it is when firing on all cylinders.

As a quick side-note for our readers & followers…if you dig on sounds we’ve brought you in the past from Fey, Sky As Skin, or even Closer – Charming Timur is DEFINITELY an act you want to check into…

According to what I can find online…aside from a “mysterious man” who “played some drums and rhythm guitar” on “All The Same” – everything you’ll hear on A Brief Moment Of Existence is created, produced and put together by Lauri Santeri Lohi.  Credit truly needs to be given here, in the songwriting department, even if it’s not the style of music you might normally dig on.  You can clearly hear just how much effort would have been necessary to not only come up with and create these enormous sounds – but to fit them all in as clearly as Lauri has here is a true achievement in indie production.  It’s rare to find an indie album that can match up equally in concept and production, but I believe we have one here.

“Broken Personality” is a complete monster!  LOVE it.  Such an excellent contrast of bright and beautiful guitars against the swaying vocals, and then against the ultimate burst of sound as it all comes together.  Lauri is beyond phenomenal in what he can put out for sound through the vocals.  If you need a lesson on how to get your screams across clearly, this would be an excellent place to start.

Like…for real…I imagine the ‘clean-up’ duty of a recording session with Charming Timur has got to include sweeping up little chunks of Lauri’s lungs from the floor.  It’s literally like the very inside of him is making its way out to join you on each and every track!

In a clever combination thematically, tracks “Ego Machine” and “Center Of The Universe” work extremely well together as a set occurring in the second half of the album.  Again, I’m a huge fan of sound-collages and I love singers and vocalists that aren’t afraid to take chances on a heavy effect to style their sound overall, or simply on a single track.  Opposite to many of my peers, perhaps stemming from my own experience with vocals – I really believe it takes just as much courage to dirty-up or change your natural sound.  People talk about ‘relying’ on effects…I mean, c’mon…if you’re only experimenting with your ‘natural’ sound – you’re ‘relying’ on only one quality.  “Our Day Is Beautiful (The Obsession Song)” is another massive example of his ability to reach out, expand and create new sounds.  Experimentation like this…using the vocals as a virtual instrument in the music is an approach I’ll always appreciate – big thumbs up to Lauri here for these moves. 

As it closes on the final track “Nostalgia” – a slower version or similar feeling as “Broken Personality” – you can really get the closure you need and realize what a satisfying listen this was.  It’s fuckin MEATY – and cooked just right all the way through.  The album has pain…it has emotion…and whichever way these songs have come out, distorted, effect-laden, or straight-ahead – they reflect those feelings stored within Lauri that have been caged up and waiting to come raging out in full control.

But what makes the album and songs as great as they are – is that production aspect and how nailed tight it all is.  It’s through that precision that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that as chaotic and lashing as the music can be – through Charming Timur Lauri has found a way to channel that angst into something artistic on A Brief Moment Of Existence.

However brief – after listening…you can only hope that at the very least there’ll be more of them to come in the future.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out the album for yourself at:  http://charmingtimur.bandcamp.com/

 

July 9th, 2014 - Testify-Music - Pray Until Something Happens - Album Review

Testify-Music
Testify-Music – Pray Until Something Happens – Album Review
Interesting!  Every so often through music reviews and interviews, I find myself in the midst of a religious conversation or, in this case, listening to a full album based in faith and religious-context…which is always interesting for a person like myself, who identifies with no singular ideology or religion of any kind.  That being said…many of you following readers also know that this is one of my favorite conversations or subjects to listen to & learn about…and that I’m willing to listen to anything and everything that comes my way.  So push play on Testify-Music and join me in listening while we take you into one of the most unique experiences of audio-faith you’ll ever come across.  Preach!

The album opens powerfully with “P.U.S.H.”…beautiful piano comes in with a gorgeous line…and soon, passionate spoken word echoes forth from the guy once known as Mik3y-Savag3, now fully embracing a different path of service and devotion as the man he has always been capable of being; himself – Michael Anthony Warren, recording under the moniker of Testify-Music.  As a gigantic fan of spoken word…in a strange twist to it all, this opening was like opening the front door to my own home and having a seat in my comfortable surroundings; or, in other words – this was right up my musical alley.

What I REALLY wasn’t expecting…was just how much I honestly ended up digging this album from start to finish.  Truly.  I mean – I’m just being honest!  I have a very thick, nearly impenetrable skull…it nearly repels knowledge, I swear!  But here I am, sitting here in the studio…helplessly feeling the VIBE here!  The tracks to follow the opener, “To Save A Life,” “Attitude Adjustment” and “#thePower” all had truly impressive flow, well chosen-samples and a completely tight mix. 

Michael Anthony Warren has done something incredibly well here…there truly is a fine-art put into the way this all comes together.  Honestly – I have the ability to listen to this objectively…and in doing so I can listen to these words as information itself…and when you listen to it in that sense, you’ll hear songs truly packed with knowledge and perhaps more importantly – the passion in the delivery that will have EVERY ear listening intently, not necessarily just those of a religious faith.

Seriously!  In Testify-Music, Michael Anthony Warren is demonstrating a clearly in-depth skill set both on the microphone and ESPECIALLY through the lyrics.  “Make You Proud,” is a perfect, shining example, as is “Self-Defeat;” a track about really owning your actions in a track that will more than convince you these aren’t simply random words in Testify-Music – they mean something.  It’s also an example of how I feel I can still relate, even from outside of a religious context; everything I’ve built here at sleepingbagstudios has been the complete result of being consistent between those words of mine and the actions to follow.  I 100% believe that you really need to be the same on the inside as you are on the outside…though that can often be tough for people, the result is always undeniably positive…and freeing.

Who is ANNA?  She pops up on a track later towards the end of the album on a true highlight of a song, called “So Far Gone,” along with fellow guest-star Roscoe Moorhead.  Both of these two bring something to the musical table, big time.  Anna has literally one of the most beautiful tones and sounds I’ve heard in a female vocalist for a long while now.  Just gorgeous.  Roscoe Moorhead is certainly no-joke either, laying a quick & lyrically sharp rap on this excellent collaborative effort.

Through the final tracks of “Morning Prayer,” and “Now Or Later” – what resonates so clearly all the way through this album is the absolute conviction and belief in delivering the lyrics.  Whether it’s from the perspective of a guest-star, or from the mouth of Michael Anthony Warren himself – every word put into the microphone is a word you know they believe in through and through.  That kind of passion is a powerful thing – and if you were to ask me, that authentic delivery is exactly what leads to an album like Pray Until Something Happens, which becomes highly translatable and universal to all.

Keep an open mind – you’ll find these tracks to be extremely listenable.  There is something for everyone here.  Testify!

  • Jer @ SBS

Find Pray Until Something Happens by Testify-Music right here:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/pray-until-something-happens/id894137958

 

July 7th, 2014 - Aztec - Stitches - EP Review

Aztec
Aztec – Stitches – EP Review

Days away from release to the public – the long-awaited debut from Canadian pop-rock band Aztec drops officially on the 11th of July.  This band has had an electric-buzz of excitement surrounding this upcoming release ever since this super-group of indie musicians came together to make their music as one; and what I can certainly tell you upfront at the beginning of this review is that through the five tight tracks that made the Stitches EP, they’ve certainly lived up to their already stellar reputation.

It’s a reputation well-earned from exciting live performances and well-written songs that have incubated for nearly a year on those live stages before becoming immortalized in their recorded versions on this new EP.  As we at sleepingbagstudios have been intensely following this band since the moment of their inception, I can tell you firsthand that these songs have all been tightened up in the very best of ways.  The excellent, emotionally-intense songwriting you know and love from their live performances found a tight refinement on Stitches; a move that will certainly pay off well for this hardworking band.

It’s only fitting that the first track once bore the title itself; at one time called “Stitches,” never-mind refinement – this track now known as “The Benefits Of Being Alone” was processed in a sugar-plant and then sent off to be dipped in honey!  Beginning with a sweet & slow opening before bringing in additional ripping guitars to completely fill in the sound, this opener packs a powerful punch into these opening minutes.  Lyrically – this has always been one of my favorite Aztec tunes in any stage of its evolution, but it’s the exciting new choices Kyle Schepens has made as lead vocalist that are one of the most notable improvements from the early versions of this track.

Truthfully, that can be said of this entire EP.  The amount of focus from Kyle throughout this EP is astounding – you can hear these songs have become completely whole, you can hear the clarity and tone in his voice have now found all the perfect spots and musical-indents to fit into.  In many ways, though always being a main songwriter in any of his projects…I think we had all still been waiting on Kyle to really find that perfect spot for him to land in, not just in a song but a band as well.  The guy has always been undeniably talented…but if you’ve followed him along with us…you might have always sensed there was still more potential that had yet to be uncovered.

With the confidence, passion and emotion he’s singing with now – it would be a literal shame to not acknowledge how much work he has clearly put in here on creating the perfect indie-tones to match the excellent songwriting.  The backup vocals provided by the band certainly help fill the songs with real atmosphere…it’s all done in a very smooth way that almost feel like the backup vocals could be coming just as easily from the person sitting right next to you singing along. 

“Too Shallow To Be A Grave,” second track in is a great example of this full band kicking it in full gear.  Excellent guitar work coming from Saul Sitar on this one, a perfect beat & backing vocals from Amber Banman and bassman Patrick Gleeson keeps the low end rumblin’ on this energetic track.  Each of these players go on to show incredible skills in their respective environments throughout the upcoming track “Untitled Part One.”  Another track that has undergone musical-surgery from its humble beginnings to this recorded version – I can’t help being stoked for these guys; each of these tracks sound like they hit a natural progression without being forced into a formula.  Sometimes tweaking a song back and forth can result in songs where you can HEAR the band is ‘trying.’  That tightness you hear on the Stitches EP now….that ‘we’re-in-this-together’ feeling you experience in listening….it all sounds so incredibly honest, natural and genuine.  You won’t hear the struggle of a band adapting their songs from a stage to a record here in these five songs; they’ve found a way to make their hard work sound audibly-effortless.

Or as some people around this particular studio like to say…it sounds like people doing what they were MEANT to do.  When a group of musicians come together and hit their stride all at the same time like Aztec has here – you can both hear AND feel through the music that you’re at the beginning of something BIG.  The world’s attention-span genre-to-genre can change in a single heartbeat – and this music from Aztec could be the first pulsation in a change to the musical landscape out there.  If it’s timing you’re looking for – they must have thought that out as well as this EP is designed for maximum volume on any summer drive.

“If I Believed Anything,” is pure piece of pop-rock perfection.  We recently played the first-known recorded version of this song on our show SBS Live This Week…I was getting a bit nostalgic looking at that old footage of a then-solo Kyle, complete with authentic-indie HOLE in his guitar play this track at its earliest stage.  Sometimes you truly have to just take a moment to sit still for a minute and really marvel at just how awesome it can be to watch & hear talent develop right in front of you.  The recorded version of this song is a fucking home-run; a radical revamping of a track that shows good songwriting can always be a translatable thing when you’re working with the right people.

This EP sounds as tight as it does because it sounds like these four people BELONG together.  There’s perfect skill in every corner and no one would dare drop the ball – it SOUNDS like they care!  I know, I know, I know – that should be a GIVEN on any record right?  Yeah…well…after publishing well over 100 reviews in this past year alone I can certainly tell you that’s not the case with many records out there.  With this EP, it sounds like these songs were written, dissected, talked about, reassembled and then STILL double-checked for their own universal satisfaction…and it all sounds like music they should be PROUD of.

And IF that was the case – that’s a formula I can dig!  By making music they’re excited about & would want to listen to as well – they’ve all but brought the kegger to your OWN party as that very excitement and energy translates easily into the listening ears of others.  Stitches ends with a well-known track from their live performances; a crowd favorite for sure – “East” provides a hooked-out & undeniable summer power-pop-rock song.  Another song that has been golden in any stage of its evolution, “East” has come to a glorious conclusion here in a recorded version that fully explores the loud/quiet dimensions of the song that have always worked so well and maximizes their every intent.  The production on this album is certainly worthy of mention – every corner and pocket of this EP is tight, tight, TIGHT.

A commendable effort on every front – make the Stitches EP a part of your summer and get in on Aztec from the very beginning as they start into the rest of what is no doubt surely to be a long and successful career.

  • Jer @ SBS

Follow Aztec at Facebook to make sure you get the official word the minute Stitches becomes available to you on July 11th 2014!  https://www.facebook.com/aztectheband

 

July 5th, 2014 - Queen City Heist - Rock & Soul Music - EP Review

QueenCityHeist
Queen City Heist – Rock & Soul Music – EP Review

Hey!  Would you look at that – Queen City Heist have found their way back to our corner of the internet!  With the release of three singles also available as a new EP called Rock & Soul music – I can definitely attest to the title after listening; that is one apt labelling!  Also interesting to me in the sense that I can now compare the skilled sounds from their past to the exciting music they’re making today.  It is always awesome to be able to hear an audible difference from record-to-record and Queen City Heist is no exception; this new handful of songs truly reveals a more tightly-focused band.

Cause skills they got…after listening to them last time I knew I was listening to a truly gifted group of musicians.  I’m not even remotely kidding.  Like….imagine skills were physical objects…and you had to pack them up and take them with you each time you went to band practice or to put on a show…I can’t even tell you how many trips to the van Queen City Heist would have to constantly make…but I bet they’d be in amazing shape everywhere they’d go due to all that heavy lifting of boxes stuffed with talent & skillsets…

Led by the absolutely electric Skye Mangrum, the first of these three singles I put on was called “Tangerine Dream.”  Within moments…jaw completely agape…I was actually kind of startled to tell the absolute truth!  It was happening!  And so soon!  This intense and explosive track had everything I wanted to hear in the evolution in sound for Queen City Heist. 

I mean….I’m not trying to say this EP is as easy as 2am & last-call on a Friday-night…but it really did give me everything I wanted within seconds of meeting it…  And like the dirty-dog of a music-man I am…I got right in there.  But like a true gentleman – I called this EP back first thing the very next day.  Herein lie the rest of the juicy details of my torrid affair with this short, sweet & extremely soulful EP from QCH…

Whereas the last time I had listened to this band and marveled at their incredible skills, this time left me in complete awe of their tremendous focus they’ve put on defining their sound to allow them to make the music they’ve obviously always wanted to.  In many ways, listening to “Tangerine Dream” sounds like Queen City Heist completely unleashed as it rips through rock-hook to more-incredible-rock-hook – but I assure you…this is all credit to their uncanny ability to highlight their strengths in their music and find a way to truly bring the live-stage right onto a record.  The result is a gorgeous rock track has an intense & lasting impact, and like I said – for me…this was an incredible beginning to the latest three songs I was about to listen to.

In many ways, though played with extreme skill, that last full album from Queen City Heist straddled the edge of genres like they only had eight seconds to ride.  I again find myself appreciating the focus now displayed in this band from Clarksville, Tennessee as the second track “Lies” still retains the familiar & excellent playing of their past album but continues to display that overall tightening and defining of this rock/soul sound of theirs.  HUGE shout out to all the players in this band cause for real, they are killing it every time they pick up their instruments.  Bill McDonald on the drums specifically, really deserves an entire write-up of his own – that guy is a machine back there on the kit, pounding out exciting fills and inventive drum lines.  “Lies” is yet again another highlight for vocalist Skye Mangrum who clearly seems to possess the ability to turn regular oxygen into audible-gold. 

That’s some alchemy I can dig right there.  She has it all for this style of rock & soul music – a beautiful voice that was born to sing in these genres, with emotion & passion in her voice that seek to claim the throne.

But don’t be convinced by my words – be sold by their music.  The last track in this set of three for me was their song “Let Me Love You,” which places more emphasis on the soul-side and also has Jason Mangrum on full display through some excellent moves on the keyboards.  Guitars stand out in their simplistic but perfect accompaniment to the soulful keys and Skye’s beautiful voice.  As always – even in this slowed down tune – Bill McDonald is creating excellent parts with the stop & start, push & pull aspect of the drum-line in this song…you can almost get the sense of him being the trigger for Queen City Heist to explode into their more rock-induced moments simply from lack of being able to contain himself any longer.

And you know what?  I kinda hope that’s the case!  Bill SHOULD be excited – they should ALL be excited, and certainly proud of how these all came out.  It’s as perfect of a representation of the rock-meets-soul sound as you could possibly want and with it being as concise as it is – there’s no filler here.  It’s exciting, energetic and truly staggering in the skill department and how these players all come together as one so well on each track. Each song is like a warm invitation and boasts massive amounts of universal appeal.   

Rock & Soul is the evolution of Queen City Heist I’ve been personally hoping to hear; it’s extremely awesome and literally rocks to listen to a band hitting their stride like they clearly are right here, right now.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find them at their official Facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/queencityheist

 

July 3rd, 2014 - Fox And Mew - In Cahoots - EP Review

FoxAndMew
Fox And Mew – In Cahoots – EP Review
Now here’s something I don’t hear every day!

And any time that’s the case…you know I’m all ears.  Welcome to this fresh little EP from Fox And Mew called In Cahoots, with a musical sound based on some truly old-school funk infused with a modern-day R&B twist through the creative vocals.  All in all, it’s a collaboration of sounds that works very effectively; Fox And Mew have played it very smart here with a tight set of five songs guaranteed to get some rumps bumpin’ this summer.

So with five tracks…let’s take these on one by one today and see if I do some justice to the music through these words and somehow explain how this combination works together as well as it does…

So….for me….it started by clicking on the track “PMP,” and here’s where it gets a little bizarre for me…

I had talked with reps for Fox And Mew briefly over the net – I was entirely impressed with just how intelligent and genuine these first communications were.  If I had seen the lyrics of “PMP” on paper first without the music or the vocals…I’m not sure I would have even known what I was in for…  Easiest way to explain it I suppose, would be to simply say I wasn’t expecting a pimp to be the subject of one or possibly any of these tracks – but I’m certainly not suggesting they’re devoid of intelligence.  “PMP” is every bit of proof you’ll need to know right from the beginning that Fox And Mew are thinking crystal-clearly when it comes to their sound as well as their songwriting.  This track literally bounces along with a pimp-like strut, full-mink coat & jerry-curls included; juxtaposed against a track that encourages women to take the power back.

After, I drifted hazily along with them into the R&B-meets-slow-funk track “Yin Yang” which absolutely is a highlight on the vocals, guitars and certainly drums on this cut.  The trading vocals between female vocal parts work well and lyrically this track is a knock-out of heart-wrenching emotion.  Very smooth vocal flow here in this track, they move fluidly like water over music that sounds so minimal from a distance, yet examined up close is absolutely kicking a TON of ass back there on every instrument.  Whether these are samples, or fully-played beats…honestly, you won’t be sure…but from a listening perspective and production-wise, it all sounds incredibly real and full…almost like it’s happening right there live on stage in front of you.

How bizarre to glean that feeling from their music and slip into the track “Dark Night,” which absolutely stands out visually through the music – you can see the party this song would create in a live setting.  Vocally, she absolutely steps up here, bursting vibrantly on challenging parts while once again, the band is just killing the track in the background with horns and drums making this track have that old-school block-party feel.
There’s a dramatic musical shift as I come across the wickedly-titled “F. Hew.”  I was told once after recording a track that included an expletive of some-sort…that a listener’s reaction to those particular words can often be an uncomfortable one…and that if I was to use one of these fine adjectives, that it needed to be NECESSARY...it needed to be MEANT.

Ok ok ok….so now let me tell you how awesome it is when Fox And Mew let loose a “FUCK YOU” in the song “F. Hew…” cause it SO totally is and it is sung with a startling conviction.  Against this chilled-out beat as they change up the style here and slow it down a bit, you almost get the feeling that this was a message pointed, and truly designed for someone out there specifically to hear…  And man, whoever that was…you CLEARLY done some wrong brother…

“Just call me the hammer, cause I nail it, nail it, NAIL IT everywhere that I go…” they sing on the last track of my experience with Fox And Mew on In Cahoots, “Hammer.”  In this return to enthusiastic, catchy-funk – they sing & play with a confidence to justify these bold lyrics.  This song brings the party right back to the EP in this final twist, making In Cahoots have an impression that lasts.

As I mentioned from the get-go…this crew are writing in creative ways that really highlight their strengths individually, as well as a full-act.  Fox And Mew demonstrate through these five songs that they’re more than ready for that next full album to come with an EP that shows limitless energy.

  • Jer @ SBS

 

July 1st, 2014 - Hanging From The Rafters - Box Of Songs - Album Review

HangingFromTheRafters
Hanging From The Rafters – Box Of Songs – Album Review

An album is never old if it’s brand new to you!

Even though Box Of Songs was released last year – there are plenty of reasons why I want to talk to you about this album NOW.  There is so much going for this band from San Diego that attention must be paid!  From the mystically-atmospheric music they make, the fantastic way they represent themselves, to the genuinely great people they are…Hanging From The Rafters have all the right pieces of the musical-puzzle.

It has never been a secret as to which side of the fence I fall on in terms of independent music versus the mainstream.  Not only do I have an incredible amount of respect for those of you out there making it all happen without a cushy management team, but nearly every experience I’ve had in the independent scene has taught me that the new generation of true-leaders in music out there flat-out don’t need it.  Here's proof...

Lolly Brown, lead vocals for Hanging From The Rafters is a perfect example of the unique voice & vision that music desperately needs, but ALSO the perfect example in how to communicate through both song AND general correspondence!  By far one of the most astoundingly genuine souls I’ve come across through our project here – Lolly reached out direct to me personally to put this music into my ears.  Extremely personable & completely approachable she certainly is – and best of all?  She’s EXCITED about her music.  I still maintain to this day – that’s the best possible first encounter you can ask for from my side of the screen; you should all be ecstatic about the music you make.

Somewhat unbeknownst to Lolly and her band…I’ve been listening to Box Of Songs whenever I can since initial contact was established between our two entities.  Love that word.  Entity.  It implies, at least to me, something large in scale, living and growing…which is truly how I’d describe the music of Hanging From The Rafters.  As much as I’ve personally enjoyed talking to Lolly – my quest for unbiased journalistic efforts in my writing always require me to “go dark” for a while…as I got more and more into the album…I communicated less and less.  Some of you out there have already been through that with me.

When I get as excited as I am about an album like Box Of Songs…it becomes tremendously difficult to maintain that silence.  What I want to do is phone Lolly directly and THANK HER personally for bringing this music my way at all hours of the day – that’s the consequence of me still being more of a music-fan than I’ll ever hope to be a professional…

But the straight-up from me on this particular album, is that I could listen to it repeating forever.  Just absolutely HUGE in sound dynamic – Box Of Songs is both well-made and extremely well-mixed.  The low-end on this album is absolutely crystal clear and pushes right to the edge every time it can, creating absolutely huge bass & drum sounds to go along with the other many instruments & sounds they lay sweetly overtop.  “Heavens” midway through the album is a perfect example, not that they all wouldn’t be…but this track is so severely massive that it certainly warrants all seven-plus minutes of the attention it commands.  But I’m getting ahead of myself already…like I said, I’m excited…

Box Of Songs opens with “Wait For Me,” which is beautiful combination of sweet electro and Lolly Brown’s intensely emotional vocals.  I mean, WHAT an opener!  This track was such an indication of the brilliant combinations of sounds to follow.  Credit much of course to the other two thirds and technically original members of Hanging From The Rafters; Kawika providing the electro & guitars and Mike Brown – Lolly’s husband providing the percussion.  These two…I mean…I can literally imagine sitting them in a room, leaving them alone for a couple hours and coming back to MASSIVE amounts of creativity.

Massive.  Hmm.  I like that word too…especially when it comes to music.  I also like the band Massive Attack a border-line stalker’s amount…their music always moved and grew, expanded and changed…like a true musical entity.  And here we have Hanging From The Rafters – who in so many ways remind me of all the best parts & atmosphere created at one time in Massive Attack, particularly the Protection and Mezzanine-era.

A few of you out there just woke up.  Nice to see you again!

Mezzanine, is damn near the Holy Grail of music for its production, flow, songwriting and atmosphere.  You don’t chuck that reference around without raising a few musical spirits.  And high-hopes.  Because there’s been a hole left behind in music through the sound on that album that people still yearn for.  To you all, I say wait no longer – go get yourself a Box Of Songs.  The entire album swells and flows with the same hypnotic power completely.

Taking it another step further – they clearly incorporate another of my personal favorites with many guitar tones from Kawika sounding like they’re coming direct from Robert Smith’s amp from The Cure.  Listen to “Yesterday’s Dream” and you’ll hear it for sure; but the very combination of those beautifully-sad tones and the enveloping percussion, Lolly Brown’s jazz-meets-rock voice…it all leads to an overall incredible sound that is truly their own.

They more than prove they’re beyond the sum of their influences all throughout this album, demonstrated from the very pushing play and opening track “Wait For Me;” but as the album draws to a close, these last tracks show you a band fully expanded and creating completely new & beautiful musical territory.  As it winds down with “If I Could,” Lolly Brown becomes self-reflective in what sounds like a very personal track & emotional tale.  The guitars, again, perfect & beautifully played against the stadium-huge percussion…it’s such an incredibly effective and well-produced combination that as long as I know I’ve gone on here in this review – I know it’ll never feel like I expressed it ALL to you.  It’s that good…I’m assuming you know that already now…cause I’m assuming you’re listening while reading this…

“I Am…” is a song worthy of a novel, not just this paragraph to follow…

This song…to me…represents the very best parts of music.  If you’re listening to music…and you’re not FEELING something, or you’ve somehow NEVER felt something…you need to hear this song and understand what music can do to you physically when you hear something as powerful as this song is.  I must’ve have heard this entire album somewhere in the neighborhood of forty/fifty times since receiving it only a month or so ago…and I STILL GET CHILLS every single time this song comes on.  The incredible atmosphere created in this song, and truly this album, are second to none.  I feel like I go on a complete journey with Hanging From The Rafters and step right into their world each time I press play, which incidentally is a practice I plan to continue here through the speakers of our studio for a long, long time to come.  This is music made by a band with an incredible future, making music you can truly experience physically & emotionally.  This is music you can believe in. 

  • Jer @ SBS

Seriously – check this OUT! 
Hanging From The Rafters @ Soundcloud:  https://soundcloud.com/hangingfromtherafters
Hanging From The Rafters @ Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/hangingfromtherafters

 

June 28th, 2014 - Lifestyle Learning Music - Geometry - Album Review

LifestyleLearningMusic
Lifestyle Learning Music – Volume #2 Geometry – Album Review

Music is one of our most powerful creations and learning tools. 

I’ve been lucky all my life in my ability to relate to people; being sympathetic or empathetic to a person’s situation has always been something that has come naturally to me, even from what I would consider should have been too young to connect all the dots coming my way.  But what if it wasn’t so much luck as it was being put in a position to learn about life in a different way than the other kids in my sandbox?  Since I’ve been able to form sentences and thoughts of my own, I’ve also had my headphones on…

Consequently, I developed quicker than some.  The lessons and experiences of life, I was able to absorb from listening to music from all kinds of different bands, styles, artists and personalities.  From my own experience – this ability for music to teach us is an inarguable fact.  I would follow the riddles of incredible lyrics; somewhere down that rabbit hole, it led to the ability to pick these words of others apart and use their experience & knowledge to help benefit my own life and the lives of others.  I had amazing teachers…does it matter that I didn’t find them in the traditional sense of institutionalized learning?

I have a feeling that the wonderful people behind our album in review here today feel much the same as I do; we don’t all learn in a straightforward manner.  To think, as a child and teenager that continually struggled with mathematics…had this exciting way for learning been available to me I could have possibly been able to avoid many of the upcoming test failures by simply playing an album like this once a day. 

I would like to invite you to listen to this project from the Lifestyle Learning Music – and YES, it’s all about Geometry.  If you’re an adult – revisit your own childhood for a moment and just imagine how something like this might have helped you through your own educational struggles.  This combination of knowledge and music, pointed so specifically at a particular subject like it is here on Geometry truly accomplishes two major objectives; it not only teaches valuable information – but when the music to go with it is as well done & put together as it is here through the Lifestyle Learning initiative…well, it can make even the most ‘nerdy’ subjects cool.

Are kids going to go out and jam something that they know is TRYING to teach them?  Oh yeah.  Yeah…about as quickly as they run to their broccoli, spinach and sprouts…

The last thing I would suggest to do to the youth of today is to trick them…to feed them liver and tell them it’s steak would just be wrong.  The idea of planting seeds through well-made music, like Lifestyle Learning is doing…that’s a completely different thing altogether than trickery.  In fact – it’s all right there; extremely well laid out through the words and performers.  The subject never wavers on Geometry and anytime you find yourself catching the words, you’re literally absorbing mathematical knowledge-bombs.  Where the magic comes in…is through the fact that they’ve actually created six really great beats and overall songs to make these lessons come to life!

Like I had mentioned…had this existed when I was a child…I might be a math genius right now.  Quit laughing – I might have had a different world-view altogether!  Some of you golden-oldies like me out there are saying to themselves right now, ‘this young, handsome, grey-bearded-reviewer guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about…we’ve ALWAYS had learning-music.’

And they’d be RIGHT…about the ‘grey-bearded’ part at least.  Surely there are examples of attempts at this being done in the past, I’ve heard and become victim to many of them myself.  What I mean by saying I had wished this was around when I was a kid…well I suppose what I mean is that I wish it had been tackled like it is here on Geometry by Lifestyle Learning.  There is no ‘cheese-factor’ here; this is ACTUALLY cool.

If you were to ask me – that’s been the hindrance of the music/knowledge combo throughout its existence.  If not cheesy, it often came out pretentious, sounding like it was made by people who understood the subject but not the music that was going with it.  Over the six tracks on this Geometry album, Lifestyle Learning diversifies the music by also taking on five different styles of music – and the best news is that they sound like hit songs made by people that truly understand how to write a good song!  “Pop #1,” “Rock” and “R&B” were all astoundingly current in their construction and certainly appealing to listen to…even though I know somewhere in the back of my head as an adult they’re teaching me…

Lifestyle Learning Music is onto something here.  With a goal of making STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) exciting and interesting for the next generation – I’d say mission accomplished here on the subject of Geometry.  Like I said – it’s not trickery…it’s just extremely well-planned & well-thought-out music that happens to carry in-depth knowledge in the lyrical content!  All the people on this album should be proud of having made an album that can teach the youth of today as effectively as this will without making them feel like they’re staying after-class to do it.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Lifestyle Learning Music at their official page:  http://lifestyle-learning.com/music

 

June 26th, 2014 - Gaz Patterson - Dodging Bullets - Album Review

GazPatterson
Gaz Patterson – Dodging Bullets – Album Review

There are a couple of very interesting methods you can use to listen to the new album from Gaz Petterson of the UK.  You could listen to it for the energy in these tightly-written pop/rock tunes…in fact, if you put it on and press play you’ll find it plays through quite easily!  OR…  You could listen to this album and realize that everything you’re hearing on Dodging Bullets was put there directly by Gaz himself, who astoundingly has put this entire album together DIY style.  When you listen to it with that in mind…it takes this album to a whole other level. 

Now…had I not been told that directly, I would never have known until I did my normal research through his social media.  This album sounds completely like a vibrantly full band; I’ll fully admit I would have been fooled completely.  I often ask people if it’s possible to be a ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ without becoming the master of none; I’m going to retire that question now that I’ve found the living proof in Gaz Patterson.

Cause like…I’m SORRY Gaz…but it’s just WRONG for you to be THIS TALENTED on all those instruments!

In listening to Dodging Bullets, I literally can’t decide which of the instruments I like him on best – and that’s a true compliment.  Understand that in nearly 99% of the DIY projects out there where you find someone completely solo, you’ll hear the weak link somewhere.  Maybe their bass isn’t as sharp as the guitars…maybe the drums should have been electronic…that kind of thing.  These flaws are non-existent on Dodging Bullets; it’s truly fantastic to listen to this album and KNOW that it was completely one dude. 

The drums are just fantastic; opening track “Into The Sun” sets a huge standard in energy right at the beginning of a spin through Dodging Bullets.  Musically, Gaz has zero hope of escaping relentless Blink 182 comparisons – there are many that could be made.  From those quickly beating drums to the frantic guitars & bass, to the melodic vocals – Gaz is building upon the formula that Blink 182 left behind.  And let’s not forget – Blink 182 was a BAND…Gaz is a PERSON…ONE guy!  To pull off the sound of an entire band as effectively as Patterson has on this album is truly nothing short of amazing.  Power-packed songs like “Bitter Sweet,” “Our Movie,” and “Nothing Sacred” share these melodic-punk qualities; if Gaz wants to get the energy going, he clearly has no issues making it happen!

Our Canadian followers will also recognize a few more familiar sounds from bands in our 90’s catalog.  The pop/rock infusion in the music in combination with the sweet vocal delivery from Patterson can ring your memory to recall bands like The Killjoys and The Doughboys.  Those comparisons come most notably towards the end of the album, as Gaz finishes the album through some of the strongest tunes on Dodging Bullets leaning heavily on beautiful pop melodies and fantastic guitars.  “Too Far From The Truth,” is certainly to be mentioned; Patterson hits this absolutely freakin fantastic guitar part just pre-chorus…it’s a real moment in time as far as a song goes.

For what I’m personally looking for in my power-pop; this album has it all.  It rounds out the energy well through contrast with tracks like “Hold On” and “Barely Believe.”  “Hold On” is an inventive and fun cut & inspiring through the lyrics, it’s also a good change up to the crunchy guitars of the opening tracks as he makes an acoustic switch here.  “Barely Believe” is a hauntingly isolated track…Patterson really takes the album into a new atmosphere here through this acoustic and synth-string pairing.  At the halfway-mark in the album, it’s another great switch in the energy and allows Patterson to catch a breath before ripping into “Nothing Sacred” and “Our Movie.”

In an extremely strong album ending, the final three tracks fit perfectly as the climax to this musical adventure.  “Too Far From The Truth,” features Sam Gibson, who we had previously reviewed just earlier this month; he lends some fantastic backup vocals to this song as the album starts towards the end.  “Promises Into Yesterday” is a smartly written pop-rock tune with anthem-style guitars and excellent drums that take this track as far as it needs to go.  Gibson returns in “We Are We Are,” the final cut on the album, along with yet another guest we’ve had on our pages from the UK – Shagpile!

It’s a fitting ending for our introduction and insight into the UK scene right now.  Not only are there tremendous sounds coming from all three of those artists, but now we also have the good fortune to know that it’s a true community – these people both know & support each other and they clearly get along very, very well.  “We Are We Are” is a celebration of a last song – a true, cut-loose and dance-whatever-weird-way-ya-dance kind of tune.

Celebratory indeed - shouldn’t it be?  In talking briefly with Gaz…I can tell you firsthand just how excited he is about the release of Dodging Bullets.  He’s as energetic to talk to as his music is and he’s focused and ready to seize this moment.  And he MADE this album!  ONE guy!  If that doesn’t call for inviting a few true friends out for a great time of celebration & beautiful music on a last-track of a sweet album, well…I just don’t know what would.

Looking forward to hearing more from Gaz Patterson.  After getting to know him through correspondence and through his music – I completely get the sense that this guy has enough energy in him to power the planet twice over.  His enthusiasm, commitment and energy will pay off well in releasing this new album, Dodging Bullets – it’s bound to be well-received by all.

  • Jer @ SBS

NOT that I’m ALWAYS looking at people’s pages or anything…but I happen to know that Gaz is currently looking for the right musicians to take this album and many more of his tunes to the live stage as a full band.  If you’ve got the true musical spirit needed to keep up to this guy – get in touch with Gaz – that’s a tremendous opportunity for someone out there to work with a great songwriter.  Find him at Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/GazPattersonMusic

 

June 24th, 2014 - Dirti Speshuls - Long Time Coming - Album Review

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Dirti Speshuls – Long Time Coming – Album Review

Quite often I can find myself trying to figure out how other people might listen to music…like as in, what quantities, what doses, how often do they change bands or song to song…  What I’ve gathered in all my time spent listening to music through my entire existence is that the widespread genres all still have common threads that we can adapt to through listening and find a way to enjoy.  Those of you following along here already know this; but in listening to the Dirti Speshuls new album Long Time Coming…well, today I found myself wanting to know if any of you out there have ever had that pure joy of putting on an album and, breathing a HUGE sigh of relief with a gigantic smile on your face, realizing that one of your favorite sounds in music has returned in full force.

Canadian music…we’re strange aren’t we?  With bands like The Tragically Hip, Our Lady Peace, Matthew Good Band and more, Canadians left their mark hard in the 90’s and into the next millennium through some truly inventive alternative music and some really unique singers.  One of the bands that were extremely influential to me personally during that time was Age Of Electric.  A fantastic band in their own right; the dissolution of this band gave way to something even greater - Limblifter.  A two-piece band of brothers, Ryan and Kurt Dahle formerly half of Age Of Electric went off to create an entirely new & artistic sound in alternative rock.  It worked brilliantly as music…and went on to fizzle commercially…many people missed the boat on this incredible sound brewing in alternative and even the gluttony of Canadians invading the music scene wasn’t enough to get their music the attention it deserved.

I can tell you who didn’t miss a single beat of all this Canadian musical-history – the band actually in review here today, Dirti Speshuls.  The comparisons between lead singer Todd Carter and Limblifter’s Ryan Dahle are uncanny and the music is just as energetic and vibrant through the production…I literally can’t tell you just how excited I was to discover a sound I had so personally identified with brought back to life like this.  Dirti Speshuls are re-inventing this sound in exciting & compelling ways for a whole new generation now…and for the sound itself…maybe today’s world will be a much better time for it to exist.

Rob Cooper and Jon Vornbrock, guitarists for Dirti Speshuls deserve a lot of credit for some excellent & completely fitting guitar work.  “Gotta Go,” the opening track on Long Time Coming just rips along these crunchy guitar lines as Carter delivers hauntingly melodic vocals.  The breakdowns, the solos...the intense drums from Dean Wilson…this opening track sets the standard high and Dirti Speshuls come out of the cage like the bars themselves couldn’t hold them in any longer.  That excitement, intensity…that hunger, desire & confidence…it makes for a completely infectious listen; what I want in my alternative music is all right here on this disc.

“Come On Kid” was the song that took this band from a possible fluke opening to an “oh-my-god-these-guys-are-the-REAL-thing” assuredness.  This track cuts, chops, starts & stops before it blazes along with frantic energy, proving that there’s much more at work here than simple, straight ahead rock.  Dirti Speshuls are pushing all the boundaries and creating excellent inventive sounds.  “Come On Kid” is a standout track for the bass of Rick Beres, as is “Tried & True” the melodic, slow-burning track to follow. 

I’m trying to imagine a young Raine Maida…a young Gord Downie…a young Ryan Dahle…a young Todd Carter…how do these people find the courage and the confidence to continuing doing what they do to bring us these excellent innovative sounds, I’ll never know.  I’m trying to imagine them all starting out…I can only imagine it would have been an amusing reaction for years and years before people caught onto the sound.  To make music this full of life, as it is on Long Time Coming, I also only imagine the reward is worth the waiting.

I’ve gotta watch myself here…I could literally go on forever about just how much I like the sound of this band…

“Carry On” is a standout example of Dirti Speshuls at their finest; this track builds & lets go, then rebuilds before ripping into the manic chorus.  Just fantastic guitar work on this track; it uses fairly simple rhythms in a glorious combination in a track that’s the musical equivalent of a celebratory fireworks display.  Carter delivers his shakily-confident vocals with true-indie style, and then drops the shake completely in the track to follow, “Out On Your Own,” as the entire band comes out to attack full-scale in the final tracks of Long Time Coming.

Closing on the energetic “Never The Same” was the perfect choice.  In this punky-alternative cut, the guitars come piercing through in all the right ways as Carter reverts back to his own frantic & signature style for this final track, fitting in once again as oddly-perfect as throughout the rest of this album.  This final burst of energy…this marathon of bass & drums and desperation in the vocals…all wrapped in this fireball of a final track bode well not just for repeated listens, but also for the bright & tight musical future that lies clearly ahead of them.

It may have been a Long Time Coming, but perhaps the time for this sound truly is now.

  • Jer @ SBS

Seriously – check out this album by Dirti Speshuls at:  https://dirtispeshuls.bandcamp.com/

 

June 22nd, 2014 - Chartt - Chartt - Mixtape Review

Chartt
Chartt – Chartt – Mixtape Review

“You know my name but you don’t know my story at all.  I write my life into my music, just listen.”

That’s a haunting quote lifted directly from the social media pages of Chartt, our mixtape-specialist in review here today.  From everything I’ve heard on this self-titled effort – that’s a completely accurate statement.  In many ways this new album from Chartt is one of the most personal albums I’ve ever heard come through the speakers; it deals with everything from family life, street life, personal struggles, break-ups, battles & triumphs…  Hidden behind all the misogynistic, gangsta/thug rap references found typically in modern day rap culture, there’s a much deeper mind at work here…

It really becomes an adventure from beginning to end, one where you find yourself rooting for Chartt to make it through the shit-piles of mess he has found himself in over time, and rise up to the full level that his skills should allow him to achieve.  Chartt puts the passion into the mic; you can easily hear him switch from sweetness to venom at any moment – and for good or for ill - that emotion is on full display track after track.  This music & lyrics mean a great deal to him personally, and you can hear that on this record…if you listen.

But I don’t know…is there such a thing as being TOO real?

Chartt’s flow is pretty undeniable overall – each verse and chorus come at you in smartly mapped out pieces that are put together extraordinarily well.  The production is tight; as an album this entire debut effort is crystal clear on all fronts.  Tracks like “747,” “Motivate Me,” and “Friends, Enemies & Everything In Between,” show his skills up front as an emcee and just how intense he can be on a lyrical level.  You can tell that Chartt is seizing the moment; each track is spit out like the grand finale in a live show.

It’s that same intensity however, that can throw you a little.  After listening to the full album, again – you want to root for Chartt to make it when you hear the full story on record…but that intensity can almost go too far at points.  It’s almost like…like that situation where you start to wonder if the guy that’s been picked on…if the roles were reversed, would Chartt use his powers for good?  The chaos and emotion brewing deep in the back of these lyrics suggest that this is a man that has been HURT in the past…close enough to his dreams to touch them but still in the grind somehow, even with his tremendous skillset.

The result has tracks like “Chances” and “GOML“ standing out through their strong verbal portraits of the hard times that Chartt has gone through, and a debut album that sounds truly make or break.  It gives the album an interesting contrast in all corners; even on tracks like “One More Time,” “Keep It Real,” or “I’m Just Saying,” songs with more ‘playful’ beats – it’s almost as if there will never be a rainbow for Chartt, or a break in the clouds.  He’s lived a serious life, one that’s certainly had its fill of stresses; lyrically, that’s a tough thing to leave behind.  It can become tough to simply lay back and enjoy this music at times as it plays out through these personal struggles…there’s a heavy weight surrounding even the most upbeat tracks on this debut from Chartt.

After many full listens through this mixtape, I can safely say that Chartt is at his best when he’s telling you these stories from his own perspective and leaving the typical rap language behind.  There’s MORE than a time & place for ‘fuck-this’ and ‘fuck-that’ in rap music – but with the lyrical skills and gift that Chartt clearly has, there are definitely moments where you’ll find you wished he took those abilities a little bit further to express himself in the unique ways he’s shown you already earlier through the stories he tells on many other tracks off this album.

“DP Speaks” is a small, but wicked track that I loved.  It just kind of pops up out of left-field towards the end of this mixtape; a spoken word piece wonderfully recorded against a simple piano – it’s an effective break in the album and one that truly pulls you in to listen.  It becomes the perfect set up to “Another Shot,” which is another standout for sure.  Chartt attacks the mic against this extremely danceable club-beat as the album pushes into the final quarter with a burst of new energy.

“I’m me – and you don’t know what that’s like.”  That lyric comes late in the album off the second to last track “Sink Or Swim,” a subtle nod almost to that same quote that began this review.  We know his name…after we listen to this album, I’d even go as far as to say we now know quite a lot of his story – but we’ll never truly know what the measure of that impact has been on him, or really what it IS like to be him.  Chartt is focused & skilled to the point where, team or no team – he’s ready to take it all on his own shoulders…

Clearly an artist with something to say and something to prove, this album ends on a perfect note in a spoken word ending to “The 23 Year Outro” that lets you know he’s gonna be okay after all.  While much of this album sounds aimed at pushing people away from him and shedding those negative influences he’s encountered; this end piece serves to let you know that HE knows he can’t do this alone…that a story is no good without an ear to listen to it.  In an album clearly about redemption and seizing your moment…after all the hard times he’s been through – it’s inspiring to hear the triumph in this album and leave with the feeling that Chartt will never give up his moment now that he’s holding onto it.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Chartt at his official page:  http://chartt4life.com/   

 

June 20th, 2014 - Noobeats - Catharsis - EP Review

Noobeats
Noobeats – Catharsis – EP Review

You might just find yourself in need of somethin’ to get your rump bumpin’ tonight – so let’s unleash this meaty & beat-y EP called Catharsis by electronic producer Noobeats from Berlin, Germany.  Bringing six brand-new tracks to us through this latest effort; you’ll find them packed full of energy, hypnotic rhythms & beats, all produced & mixed perfectly into this short & sweet electro set.

I personally found an interesting ‘switch’ of sorts on this EP.  Now – while I’m certainly not knocking ANY of these well-assembled beats – I wouldn’t be doing my own job here through this review if I couldn’t spot certain differences…you’ll see what I mean…

Catharsis comes out with bright & fantastic, pulsing energy with the opening three tracks.  While each track definitely has its own stand-out electro hook to bring in listeners – I wasn’t sure I was hearing Noobeats the artist standing out yet at this point.  Title track “Catharsis,” and tracks to follow “Ups And Downs,” & “Find A Way” weren’t necessarily ‘typical’ of the genre…but you can ALSO hear easily that there’s a tremendous gift for production and song-construction – to the point where the first three tracks might leave you wondering just how difficult that would have been to record, or whether Noobeats challenged himself hard enough in those first three openers.  Much of the music reminded me of electro artists Linus Loves and Dada Life, some of it even reminded me of the instrumental breakdowns I’ve seen in live performances from Hot Chip.  Again – these opening three are all good, solid electro tracks…but I felt like I was still yet to hear some true musical identification from Noobeats at this point in the EP.

Is there redemption in the last half of Catharsis?  Will the true electronic identity of Noobeats be revealed?  You can bet your electronic-ass there is!

The fourth track in, “Come Around,” was where I truly felt that switch occur.  The opening three tracks almost became an extended introduction once this middle point of the EP kicked in; all of a sudden it felt as if some of the traditional chains of electro were cast off of Noobeats, and the innovation & creativity truly began to flow.  “Come Around” is a perfect, pulse-laden & tricky little electro beat.  It’s playful in all the right ways, changes in all the right spots and weaves in & out of your earholes right into your brainwaves.

I was also easily hooked on the incredible atmosphere of the following track, “Trains.”  On a first listen through, until the final track hits, “Trains” takes you on the largest departure away from the actual tones of the electro tracks before and right into the underground.  It’s a dark but energetic piece of electro with great synth pieces that tangle around it, as well as a nice change-up in that overall sound of the EP to round out its final third.

Now…understand that when I say things like ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’ they don’t always equate to being ‘easy to listen to,’ despite however happy these stretches in creativity make me personally…  Noobeats DID straightforward for the people that needed it in the first half of the EP…this entire last half was much more for people like myself.  “NUTS” is a perfect example of what I mean.  This is a moment in electro right here!  Truly losing himself in the music – this is the artist Noobeats let completely loose.  The result is absolutely fantastic, at least to me if not for everyone else.  This track stammers and pulses through its electronic nature both awkwardly and brilliantly at the same time and truly was the creative break this EP needed at the end.

It’s that subtle hint of MORE that haunts the entire atmosphere of this EP…so Catharsis finds itself ending on the right note with the largest changes hitting you in the final stages of the album that play out like a nod to a long & bright musical future…destination unknown, thankfully.  What may have started out somewhat typical turned itself into something much deeper, and by the final musical fireworks at the end show that the music of Noobeats could theoretically be limitless in creativity.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find Noobeats on Facebook!  https://www.facebook.com/nooBeats

Check out Catharsis direct on Soundcloud here:  https://soundcloud.com/noobeats/sets/catharsis-ep

 

June 19th, 2014 - Catalina Shortwave - Repeater - Album Review

CarolinaShortwave
Catalina Shortwave – Repeater – Album Review

You know for a second there…I was sure I heard a guitar solo…but…this is a NEW album from Catalina Shortwave isn’t it?  Instrumentation isn’t found on present-day records anymore is it?  Surely I must have been hearing something else in the background…no…wait…there it is again!  And again…and again!

That’s certainly always a defining factor for me on that first set of listens through any album that comes my way.  I don’t mind if a sound has been done before, I don’t mind if each song is verse/chorus/verse…but show us a little something!  A display of musical-chops is ALWAYS a good thing!  Catalina Shortwave have aptly titled this new album Repeater; they WILL show you that special something on this album based in old-school rock, clever hooks and great instrumentation.

This is a rock album made literally for the dance-floor crowd.  I don’t want to say “bar-band” but this album manages to bring that feel of your weekend nights right into this album, and you along with it.  But for those of you brave enough to get your drink on and get out there on the floor have all felt the pain of that rock band playing the awkward songs you can’t quite dance to…another issue you won’t find here on Repeater.  This is music you can completely visualize in a live context…these songs are designed for your maximum entertainment.

Songs like “Anne Boleyn,” and “Jennifer’s Paradise” make for great examples of Catalina’s capabilities.  While the popped-up “Anne Boleyn” highlights the smart songwriting in this rock band with a song that could be translatable to all kinds of genres.  A great pop/rock song in this one here, also giving you an early taste of the guitars from Brent Morton and Marty Stauffer early on into the album and the tasty crunch they put into the songs.  John Garvey, drummer for Catalina Shortwave, definitely deserves some credit for the energy in this music – this guy is punishing skins back there!  In a track like “Jennifer’s Paradise” you can hear the innovative rhythms he can bring into the music easily and really begin to understand just what a large role he must play in driving the music.

David Rizzo, the vocals…he’s going to make for an interesting discussion every time.  Some people will hear this album and find he’s the perfect mix between David Lee Roth and Steven Tyler…some people will hear this & think he might be off his nut altogether…and there will be just as many that think he’s the perfect fit for the music of Catalina Shortwave.  What I DO like a lot is the organic nature in Rizzo’s voice and that he’s unafraid to try new things and reach as far as he can as a songwriter.  I love the duet going on in tracks “Apart,” and “Starstruck” another set of great pop/rock tunes…I’d have definitely wanted more of her, or this combo on the album, it works extremely well!

The issue that Catalina Shortwave will face of course, is that polarizing vocalist of theirs…but there’s truly two reasons as to WHY that will be.  The one I’ve just explained, with some people thinking Rizzo is bang on and others feeling that contrast a bit too much – but the OTHER reason they’ll go through this is largely because of the production on this album and how it is made in that old-school traditional rock-mix.  On the one hand it’s fantastic because it’s bright, it has energy, great instrumentation and songs written for huge crowds with memorable hooks to sing along to.  On the other hand, because of that old-school feel to the album, this mix has Rizzo so far in front of the music that much of this album ends up resting on those shoulders of his.

Personally, I think he fits right in there as a sound to go with the music, and he writes smart lyrics that fit extremely well to these tunes…but to have him this far up front can at times make the music feel smaller than perhaps it should.  There’s perfect instrumentation going on back there, but quite often it can feel like they’re all turned down in comparison to the mix on Rizzo.  To be fair – show me an old-school rock album from the 70’s or 80’s that WASN’T made in this vein, and as much of Catalina Shortwave’s sound is based in that era…you kind of want to applaud them just as much for getting it all so close to the exact sounds of their influence through the production.

I’m interested in not only this album Repeater, but curious as to hear what Catalina Shortwave might do next as well.  You can hear how well they gel together in tracks like “Running On Vapor,” “Set My Horses Free,” and “Wintersong” – it sounds like a band that is comfortable and confident in the music they’re making…and after listening to Repeater, you’ll hear it – Caatalina Shortwave does rock very well.  But now that they’ve conquered that mountain…what they’ll do next in the future could be anything at all!

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Catalina Shortwave at their official page at:  http://www.catalinashortwave.com/ and find them on Facebook to give their page a liking at:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Catalina-Shortwave/667144919966061

 

June 13th, 2014 - Sam Gibson - Plastic Universe - Album Review

SamGibson
Sam Gibson – Plastic Universe – Album Review

Right off the bat – that’s an album title that resonates with me strongly.  With so many ideas recycled daily…almost like we’ve planned our own obsolescence…it can be tough to sometimes navigate through our valleys of malls and believe we’ve created anything significant here on planet Earth.  And if we’re getting all-kinds of philosophical here, well, your universe would be the same as mine, in that Earth itself…is really your universe.  Unless you’re one of the few lucky space travelers, this rock we’re on is what we’ve got…and arguably this thing is so packed full of plastic & hot air that it could float on water by now…

Hey here’s a great idea – maybe I should get down off this philosophical soapbox and push play on Plastic Universe by Sam Gibson… 

Beautifully played acoustic guitar gently eases you into this album through “Sunrise” the intro opener and into “Let Me Fly” the track to follow.  You can hear easily that Sam has held onto his guitar closely his entire life and get the sense quickly that these songs are born inside him; each song sounds like he knows exactly where he wants it to go, and with his skill-set makes sure to get it there each and every time.  “Let Me Fly” is a perfect example; Sam really lets loose a sweet and inventive vocal flow on this one that, quite frankly, sounds like he’s taking some chances in a sense at first…but following his instincts have paid off greatly for Sam not only on this track, but on this entire album.

It becomes all the more fitting when you hear “Be True,” the third song on this new album and one that really gives you some insight to what Plastic Universe and Sam Gibson are really all about.  It’s a fantastic song about realizing the potential that’s inside you…it’s about never giving in to conformity, celebrating diversity and just GOING for it…whatever “it” may be for YOU. 

“Starting off with an answer – is that the way to go on?” is such an excellent question posed by Gibson in “Be True.”  I can only suppose he’s referencing the sheer number of how many things have already been and done in this world…and we’re all fortunate enough to stand on the shoulders of these giants and their work as we push forward ourselves.  But that question he asks…well…it made me think!  I don’t know if I came out with an answer myself either…I’ve always encouraged authenticity and music that is truly organic – but I’ve also always said that more of a good thing can be a great thing too.  So is it the “way to go on?”  Maybe, maybe-not…but that ability to question it all is certainly part of what drives Sam to be as unique as his creativity allows him all over this album and push himself to break away from becoming yet another plastic copy of anything else out there.

Of course there are moments that still show the roots of his influences – but a carbon-copy he most certainly is not.  The passion in Gibson’s voice comes through completely solid on the fierce “Bitter End,” and especially on “Squeeze,” where you can also hear him fire up the electric guitar as well in this epic masterpiece.  This track recalls some of the epic sounds of Peter Gabriel, or found in the present tense through bands like TV On The Radio or Bon Iver; melodic, beautiful…and just a massive song in scale.  It’s tracks like this that allow you to visualize what an amazing song this would be in a live performance even from your armchair.

“Come On Through” will make for an interesting track to listen to for our Canadian readers for sure.  With an early Murmur-era R.E.M. style to it, this track also sounds almost like a lighter version of our own dark & troubled artist Matthew Good.  Whether or not any of these musical references have had an impact on Gibson along the way I do not know; but what I do know is that his own defining pop/rock style gives the right twist to any of these sounds to make them new and like musical tools entirely unto his own.

As an absolute sucker for sharp recordings, atmospheric-music and great ideas (Sorry, can’t help myself) – I’m a huge fan of “Nothing Here,” second to last track on the album; a short piece of wonderful pop confection.  By giving it that touch of the vinyl record sound, a bare piano and a simple but completely heart-wrenching & emotional set of vocals…this track works exactly as intended through the recording.  Not only is it a fantastic piece on its own – but with that extra vinyl effect on “Nothing Here” being so effective, the moment it cuts out for the final/title-track “Plastic Universe” is an incredible moment in listening all to itself.  It becomes quickly silent for a split second before coming back into that same well-produced, beautifully-melodic acoustic guitar tones that brought you all the way here in the first place.  You instantly snap back to just how well this album is made through its production.

“Plastic Universe” is another Gibson epic for sure.  Acoustic and haunting in the opening before exploding into the true climax of the album, Plastic Universe as a whole, plays fantastically well…like you’re right there and in on this whole ride with Sam from the beginning…and you knew it would all lead to these explosive final moments that are sure to make this album memorable. 

I think there’s a large comfort in that.  On this album really.  It sounds and feels incredibly close to you through its warm tones, melodic choices and a genuine feeling that Sam WANTS you to be right here with him, right now…

It’s the authenticity in Sam and his ability to genuinely communicate that’ll give you hope it’s not an entirely Plastic Universe after all.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Sam Gibson at Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sam-GibsonMusic/181437418542661

 

June 10th, 2014 - Cosmic Charley - Cosmic Charley - EP Review

CosmicCharley
Cosmic Charley – Cosmic Charley – EP Review

Despite being located in British Columbia, Canada…it feels like it’s been forever since I reviewed some good ol’ Canadian rock – so I’ve gone and got myself hooked on this band from Lethbridge, Alberta called Cosmic Charley to help fill this literary void.  After intense spins through this disc, I can only hope this review writes as easily as their new self-titled EP actually PLAYS; this is one intense ride packed into seven songs. 

To call it simply ‘rock’ would be a misstep on my part…there’s so much more here!  I love the twists and turns on this EP and truly found nothing on it predictable whatsoever.  The opening track sets the standard quickly; “Asexual” sounds like a traditional funk-rock start to it all – but just wait until you hear the attitude and the instrumentation.  The breakdown at the end of this opener really highlights immediately, the undisputable fact that these guys can PLAY.

So who ARE these guys anyway?  Well…if you check into their social media you’ll find that, officially, you’ve got Nathan Kunkel supplying the plucks and screams, Thomas Bird slaps da bass and Tony Arsenault beats da skins.  I can heartily confirm all of this.  They do all of these things and more.  The second track “Scream Like A Bear”, a jazz-meets-funk-then-has-a-backroom-brawl-with-rock piece (Like, obviously right?) that reminds me of Cake is another quick look into the depth of Cosmic Charley early into the album as this three piece demonstrates their diversity right out of the gate.

“Don’t Know What I’m Doin” might be arguably the most “straight-ahead” of the entire song-set, but there’s absolutely no argument that can be made against this absolutely rocking track destined for long drives at top speed and volume in your cars this summer.  Flawless rock, perfectly played with a wicked vocal hook and undeniable groove.  Talk about undeniable – the following track “Right Here Right Now” is insanely addicting for its guitar and vocal-riffage.   Nathan is clearly bringing the best of his plucking and screaming to this track right through and up to the final moments of this track; he’s singing this one like he’s barely hanging onto his own sanity!  Awesome.

By contrast – coming right after the beautiful freak-out of “Right Here Right Now,” you get a track that snaps together more tightly than the Lego Movie did at the box office – “Devil’s Wife” is Cosmic Charley at their blues-funk best.  Thom and Tony obviously communicate incredibly well in the rhythm aspect of this three piece, and keep it all moving so well that Nathan can bring in a solo or a change-up at any time and everywhere they choose to go with him sounds perfectly in place and incredibly natural.  And as previously mentioned – these guys can PLAY – their music is intensely written and there are several sharp cuts that require the level of skill these guys have to truly pull off well.

“No One Around” is another track I latched onto quickly.  Nearly hitting the tone of Scott Weiland through both music and the tone of Nathan’s vocals in the verse…it begins slightly reminiscent of the Tiny Music…Songs From The Vatican Giftshop era of Stone Temple Pilots.  Great hooks in this verse as well…but that chorus is for those who truly savor the special moments and places music can take you to.  I’ve been a big fan of the vocal arrangements from this band all the way through but the way Nathan attacked this chorus with full-out commitment, confidence and strength really sold the emotion in this track and made it a genuine stand out.

A large argument could be made for the case that they have saved the best for last, closing out on one killer finale with “Do This Alone.”  Trading screams for sweetness, this track purrs along, teasing at explosion.  Instrumentation again completely stands out; Tony is more than beating those drums back there, he’s practically laying the blueprint for impressive drum work.  With its bendy-ness and epic scale, played as well as it is, also reminds me of the massive songs of I Mother Earth, another fine Canadian band.  When I think back on the depth of this seven song set and the way it all comes together, it actually reminds me a lot of IME and in the best of ways; these songs from Cosmic Charley will take you on the sonically tripped-out adventure you’ve been waiting to have this summer.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check them out further and like the ol’ Facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/cosmiccharley

 

June 8th, 2014 - In The Whale - Nate - EP Review

InTheWhale
In The Whale – Nate – EP Review

Now this is music that will turn a Monday quickly back into your Friday!  With an EP loaded wall-to-wall with in-your-face rock, In The Whale is bound to make a lasting impression on you through the sheer amount of energy they’ve been able to pack into this four-song set.  If you’re anything like myself – you celebrated the official retirement announcement of “rock” band Jet and have probably been waiting for anything with some actual authenticity to come along ever since long before they stole off with the crown.  If you’re like me, when listening to rock – you’re not looking for that watered down – you want music that TRULY rocks…no bullshit counting-songs, tired-riffs or pretense…actual ROCK.  Wait no longer – listen to Nate.

A peek into their social media will drop visible clues as to what you’re in for during this listening.  You’ll see they’ve established themselves a new genre even!  The “Eargasm” section is where you’ll likely find the music of In The Whale if you’re at your local record shop…just ask if you can’t find the display.  But perhaps in the greatest, most fantastic description of a band I’ve ever personally read, existed but one simplistic sentence that summed it all up for me… 

Their band description reads:  “The Kenny Powers Of Music.”
ANYONE who gets that reference will come to the same immediate conclusion I did; I’m about to go for a fucking WILD ride.  And with that, I pushed play…

It was literally eight seconds before you could audibly hear the attitude you’ve now read about contained within the energy of Nate.  Through the vocals – you can hear instantly in the opening track “Robert Johnson” that vocalist/guitarist Nate Valdez is going to make sure you have a wicked time listening.  This guy is perfect whether screaming, shouting or singing straight-up; this opening track does well to serve up a good mix of his skills and abilities for you to sample instantly.

I brought up Jet for a reason…and no, I’ve never liked them.  I’ve always felt like they pulled back somehow…I felt like they became a commodity early, packaged and sold & refined into musical oblivion.  It’s not that there wasn’t something there…there certainly was; I just thought they never let it out fully.  Listening to In The Whale is what I always imagined they might have sounded like with all the chains off.  In that opener, hell – I’d even go as far to say that it nearly has an Elton John-ish melody to it all…but the bottom line is that In The Whale puts the ROCK back into the mix where it should be on “Robert Johnson,” and every tune after progressively.  The EP never lets up on the energy – and more importantly for you rock fans – it never lets you down.

“Wedding Bells” has that psychobilly aspect you hear rarely in music and once perfected through the tunes of Reverend Horton Heat.  They pull off that sound extremely well before once again exploding into their signature rock.  As mentioned, the tracks become increasingly intense throughout the four songs, which truly does make for an exciting listen.  “Lake Of Fire” shows this band going full out; Nate once again giving his all through the guitars and vocals – but also a real highlight of the drumming from Eric Riley.  Every track has this guy just pounding away with perfectly timed beats that drive the intensity in these tracks.

Closing the Nate EP out with the most intense track of the four – “Grandpa Pete” is nearly more reminiscent of the first EP from DDT in this dark-punk-rock explosion, or perhaps even Idiot Pilot from the late 2000’s.  It takes the EP on a departure from the previous three tunes and ends it on a riotously stomping note.

This EP has enough energy to power your entire household and all your electrical needs for a year.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check them out further at:  https://soundcloud.com/in-the-whale you’ll find a ton of great tunes as well as the Nate EP.  If you look closely…you’ll notice an excellent cover of “Sliver” by Nirvana.  Approved!

 

June 5th, 2014 - Shagpile - Outside In - Album Review

Shagpile
Shagpile – Outside In – Album Review

Well now!  I suppose a “Happy Anniversary” or sorts, is due to all involved today…

When we first started reviewing independent albums on the site, we were led to a tiny-two piece band way over in the UK called We Steal Flyers, and we reviewed their album Sidecars & Sideshows as we broke new ground of our own alongside this excellent duo.  And now after nearly a year has gone by, we get to experience another side of that band…errr…well, to be specific – one side of We Steal Flyers.  Jason Vare, aka “Shaggy” has come back to our site, in a new solo project called Shagpile with a debut album called Outside In – and we couldn’t be happier to have this gifted singer/songwriter find his way to our pages once again.

Now…I’d say that it’d be safe to tell fans of We Steal Flyers that they’ll certainly love what Jason has done here on Shagpile’s debut album.  The music is the beautifully toned and melodic mix you’ve come to know from him in WSF, but this album really goes the extra length in highlighting just what an important and integral part of the songwriting he is both in his band and in this new solo effort.  For fans of great storytelling in song, for those that like melody found in acts like Iron & Wine or David Gray – this new album, Outside In, is definitely made for you.

I’m a huge fan of genuine emotion in music – and I’m no dummy either.  Authenticity has been packaged and sold in the music industry for years and it can be tough to cut through all the bullshit we are served with daily.  I like it when music doesn’t sound forced.  I like music best…when it’s as REAL as this album is.

There is a fantastic quality in Vare’s voice that is completely addicting.  It’s not just the moments when his UK accent breaks through, no, it’s not that simple – this is a man that understands melody.  I think what I love most…that quality that I’m absolutely loving over here…are those tiny moments where he breaks slightly…or drifts away into the music.  Check out the Shagpile track “In The Morning” and you’ll get exactly what I mean.  On this track he attacks those vocals with powerful and trembling emotion…like…it almost sounds like these words meant so much to him that even recording them out loud nearly put him into tears.  Followed up by the isolated but hopeful-sounding “Smiles From The Dead,” I’m nearly in tears myself.  Vare should be incredibly proud of the beautiful recordings captured on Outside In, and the album itself should serve as a standard to the singer/songwriters out there; this is how you do it right.

Lyrically he’s writing from the inside-out to bring you from the Outside In.  Each track feels like he’s laying his soul’s-worth on the line; “You” and “Storytime” come along early in the album in real highlights.  Musically, this guy is always 100% spot on as well; a truly gifted and incredible acoustic-guitar player.  And it takes that kind of player to be able to make songs like “My Zombies” work!  I’m mean – this is acoustically driven music!  How in the hell did a zombie-reference get in here?  You’ll hear what I’m saying though – this track not only works, it’s a bloody-fantastic tune.

I’ll fully admit however, that when the tempo even picks up slightly…I’m almost waiting for him to drop it out and go slow again.  It’s not that tracks like “White Devil” or “My Zombies” will let you down – they won’t at all, and the album truly needs that diversity he’s planned into the flow to make the dynamics work as well as they truly do.  It’s just that Vare does SLOW so damn WELL!  Each example of him bringing it to a minimal place on tracks like “You” or “In The Morning,” show the real songwriter that exists inside him.  As the album closes on the epic “4am Lullacry” – it would take a lot to convince me otherwise…when this guy slows his music down, the world slows down with it…and it should.  It should stop completely…just for a moment, pause, think…and listen.

I’d go as far as saying you simply won’t find real emotions more genuinely recorded than you will on this album.  Vare has put his heart & soul into the songs on this Shagpile record, a common trait in all of the music he makes, which is something we now know ourselves.  Quiet, beautiful & acoustic doesn’t mean that music like this shouldn’t be out there making more noise all over the world, and it’s always my hope that truly fantastic songwriters like Jason Vare get recognized for their efforts by the masses one day. 

There’s a really talented artist here, everything I’ve heard from his band to this solo effort has shown a commitment and dedication to beautiful songwriting beyond compare.  If he stays on this path and continues forward strong with this same dedication and heart in his music, no matter which project he chooses will have a massive chance of becoming known worldwide.  And each time the track “You” comes on…I get chills just realizing I could very well be listening to one of the most recognizable voices of our musical future to come.  Beautiful.  This album…is purely beautiful.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Shagpile at Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ShagpileMusic
And be sure to check out what ELSE this guy gets up to in his band We Steal Flyers:  https://www.facebook.com/westealflyers

 

June 3rd, 2014 - Sandeep Khurana - Conscious Dance Rhythms - Album Review

SandeepKhurana
Sandeep Khurana – Conscious Dance Rhythms – Album Review

What an accurate title for an album in this style!  I can admit, I haven’t spent a lot of time in the drum’n’bass part of the world, but I’m well versed in all-sounds of the instrumental variety.  After a thorough listen, Sandeep Khurana has a lot in common with a lot of the artists I currently listen, even outside of his genre.  Conscious Dance Rhythms has plenty of groove and a variety of sounds that make this drum-led album closer to music you love already than you may think.

Now… I’ve let this album spin in every direction I can – it’s incredibly produced and absolutely easy to listen to over and over again on repeat.  I’m not kidding even remotely – this album has been helping me get things DONE here around the studio!
Conscious Dance Rhythms…like I mentioned, I love the name of this album.  I’ve been able to really let my mind go…just drift in and out of the music.  Seriously!  Go put on “Soul Purification Chants” towards the end of the album…which is built of…well…exactly what the title describes I believe!  I don’t know if I’ll even put my finger on it by the time this review is over to tell you the truth…but there’s empowerment rooted deep in this music I swear!

Not only is it produced extraordinarily well, but it has the perfect flow from beginning to end.  Starting ramped-up with danceable beats like “Neo Sacred Drum Circle” and “Indulgence Tribal Trance” was an excellent beginning to the album with the just-below-the-surface intensity of both tracks surging profusely.  Female vocal samples are incorporated dreamily into the music, each sample timed perfectly and fitting into the music like another instrument at Sandeep’s disposal.  “Heartbeat Trance” contains one of my favorite samples in this sense, with the “vocals” really just being a hum of sorts, but so inviting in its tone and so necessary for this track to work as well as it does overall.

“Sacred Vibes Of The East” is certainly a noticeable track in how it stands out from the previous three.  With wickedly assembled patterns and change-ups – this is where Khurana’s skills as a producer really shine through.  There’s a lot going on in this track, yet it remains spread out and minimal; it’s never over-crowded in sound and every random piece of audio coming at you fits the song in perfect time.  Less danceable, yes, but perhaps more imaginative overall; I mean, I dig this track and how almost…unconventional it is…but it WORKS.

“Hypnotic Rhythms,” is like the culmination of the sound on Conscious Dance Rhythms.  With a beat that’s complex in design, yet challenging to the ear much like “Sacred Vibes Of The East” was – it also incorporates the female vocal samples once again after a short break.  Sandeep truly uses this voice spectacularly, weaving it gently in and out of this trance-inducing beat.   “Hypnotic Rhythms” and the following track “Slow Rhythm Color Rainbows” will also make you appreciate just what a wonderful tone and sound Sandeep has been able to get out of these drum selections.  The low end of the drum comes in absolutely crystal clear – but taking you RIGHT to the edge each time it hits low, almost daring itself to break through the mix each time.  The recording of this entire album is just perfectly crystal clear, containing drum tones and sounds that would make any artist or band jealous.

The final two tracks from the album resonate with me in a similar way…in that they’re both AWESOME.  Consisting really only of chanting and sparse sounds – these vocals are just spot on.  “Soul Purification Chants” and “Expansion The Krishna Way” are two tracks I can’t wait for to come around in the rotation.  I’ll admit that yes, an entire album of this would probably have been too much for me, but as the final two tracks on Conscious Dance Rhythms they work beautifully.  Stepping completely aside from the drums and relying on vocals & effects was a great move to bring about a final change in sound on this album and end it with killer finale.  This album FEELS great to listen to!

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Sandeep Khurana at these links:
https://soundcloud.com/sandeepkhurana/sets/conscious-dance-rhythms-by-sandeep-khurana

https://www.facebook.com/sandeepkhuranaworldwide

http://skivamusic.com

 

June 1st, 2014 - CitySpeak - Audio Tech-Noir - Album Review

CitySpeak
CitySpeak – Audio Tech-Noir – Album Review

Reliable beat creator – Jesse Mason, whom we had met last year in a written interview on our pages in discovering the music of CitySpeak, was just getting ready to focus on getting this album finished and released when we had talked to him last year.  Now the fruits of his musical labor are here for us all – the CitySpeak album Audio Tech-Noir has been released, full of vibrant beats to fill your upcoming summer days.

Ever since we’ve learned about Jesse and his DIY approach to his music we’ve been impressed.  Every sample, every beat that has come our way from this young New Yorker has been completely worth the time in listening from day one –  to hear that the album was 100% finished was more than exciting!  I’ve come to know Jesse pretty well from our online correspondences and the past interview – don’t ever let a DIY tag on an artist fool you.  Much like CitySpeak – that very DIY music can sound every bit as good as a major-label’s largest-scale production if the artist in question knows their way around the soundboards.

…I’m pretty damn sure Jesse Mason falls asleep right next to them each and every night after a full day of getting every last node to light up…

Put on the track….hmm….put on “Fata Morgana” by CitySpeak for the next nearly four minutes…I wanna fill you in on some backstory between this artist and myself & this track will certainly act as a fulcrum to leverage the weight of this comment into your brainwaves…

Here’s the thing…  Post-interview, Jesse was kind & humble enough to seek out my advice on this upcoming release, Audio Tech-Noir, asking if I’d listen to the demos and provide some insight.  Loving the music as I already DID – I was happy to accept this offer and extremely grateful for the opportunity.  And then somehow…Mr. Jesse Mason and the music he was making for the upcoming album got placed indefinitely on the backburner.  Up to the point where this album you’re listening to now…is 100% critique-free…I have to admit…I didn’t get around to “helping” Jesse out on this endeavor…

BUT!  Again…please…before you start logging off…perhaps if I explain how my brain works in this whole indie-music-thing…it’ll help explain this heinous inattention…

I’ve always gone to where I felt I’ve been needed the most, whether in personal relationships, people I call friends, and certainly in this last two years, the independent musical community out there.  With countless artists and bands in contact with us all the time through recording, interviews, reviews and sometimes just seeking guidance on that next step…I’m the first to admit that it leaves me with about 30 minutes each day of “spare time.”  All of those other minutes go to wherever I feel like I’m needed most…

Now…if you’re following my bouncing-ball here – you’re listening to “Fata Morgana.”  I ask you humble listeners & dear readers…does this sound like an artist that requires ANY help?  I have to come clean and fully admit – the action of advising CitySpeak fell so far onto my backburner it nearly fell of my stove entirely.  There were others out there making music that certainly needed me more for guidance or direction.

In short – advising an artist like Jesse, whose instincts you completely trust…would be crazy!  Sure, it’s partly out of our own busyness – but the reality is, Jesse Mason has all the right instincts and techniques to achieve what he’s looking for AND in terms of what electro fans want to listen to.  Any additional feedback from me, I fear, at BEST…would have simply been an echo of his own insightful musings into the development of his music.

Starting completely strong on the short but emotional cut “Alpha” – Audio Tech-Noir shows all the belief in Jesse Mason will pay off immediately.  Electronic music can often provide a pulse and a beat, sure – but electronic music that finds its way to your heartbeat can be a totally different thing.  There are many moments of just gorgeous electro-music here on this album, with passionate displays coming notably in tracks like “C-Beams” and “Blush Response.”

When he wants to shift the gears into high-tempo, and give you something to move to, he does that with ease and the album drifts seamlessly from one track to the next with each song coming at you like the next logical sound or chapter to add to the experience.  Like I said – Mr. Mason knows what he’s doing.  Songs like “M. Machina,” “Pris,” and “Non Finem” are great examples of electro that will move muscles, in addition to the hot lead single “Rad Racer.”

As the album winds down, “Departure” makes for an excellent down-beat-electro listen.  With subtle vocal-samples and an excellent horn-line to go with its hypnotic beat and synth-sounds, it’s very reminiscent of Prefuse 73 through its jazzy-structure, or perhaps even Four Tet.  It acts perfectly as that nod to the final track coming – the epic “Omega.”  Orchestral in design, this track led in a piano vs. electro groove wraps up Audio Tech-Noir on the right note.  Highlighting all the abilities you’ve found within the album, CitySpeak crushes this final track right around the three minute mark and transforms the song into the epic ending the album deserved.

For an hour long electro album – this flies along.  The diversity is there, but there’s also enough identifiable moves from Jesse Mason in his CitySpeak style that it also packs an incredible consistency and recognizable flavor throughout.  Establishing a “sound” in electro can often prove to be an incredibly difficult thing – but I have no doubt in my mind that I could close my eyes and identify a CitySpeak track out of a musical line-up.

There’s a talent for assembly, song-writing and production that others just don’t have in this genre that are all over Audio Tech-Noir.  If this album proves anything at all – it’s certainly that Jesse can continue to trust his own instincts to lead him to musical victory.  The ability to connect emotionally with the listening ears, the ability to convey his love and passion for music without using words…the care, dedication and precision to make each song stand out….it’s all here.

All of these excellent musical attributes and qualities in Jesse also lead to one fantastic conclusion; with the dedication, love & respect he has for learning this craft and finding creative & inventive ways to assemble sound…I’m quite confident he’ll ALWAYS be around making more.  Awesome right?

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Jesse Mason and the music of CitySpeak by finding him here:  https://www.facebook.com/Cityspeakmusic

 

May 29th, 2014 - Jimmy Jax Pinchak - Make It Better - Album Review

JimmyJaxPinchak
Jimmy Jax Pinchak Band – Make It Better – Album Review

Now here’s an impressive backstory!

It seems that good ol’ JJP has not only found an ability to entertain through his music, but also through the Hollywood screens.  To name a few of the movies you’ve surely already SEEN with him in it could include The Polar Express with Tom Hanks, Hostage with Bruce Willis, or most recently, Ender’s Game with Harrison Ford.  Not moving away from the screen, but branching out his stellar résumé by taking a turn in the musical department – I already get the sense that Jimmy Jax really appreciates the ride his career is on, heading towards it full-on with an attitude ready and built to outwork us all.

Ohhhhh….. yeah.  Hahaha.  Sorry.  I almost forgot to mention this little tid-bitty piece of info…but umm… Did I mention he just turned EIGHTEEN earlier this year?

His old shoes have already accomplished more than I have ever, or might ever, in LIFE!

A long time ago…rocking a beard I probably shouldn’t have been proud of but at least free from grey-hairs, I remember hearing that a young blues rock artist was defying expectations at an extremely young age.  Even though I was bearded, I was still young myself…seventeen to be exact…and that young prodigy was only sixteen years old, his name was Jonny Lang.  Listening to the opening track of Jimmy J’s album, “There Is More” brought me back to that moment…that sense of wonder and…”How in the all-hell do these people have ALL this TALENT?” kind of feelings. Maybe he was born lucky, or genetically-gifted somehow… but I still get the sense from the style of his music and his approach to it all that he really is loving every moment. 

Anyone that doubts this can go have a listen to the cover of “Soul Sacrifice,” the classic Woodstock-famous epic song from Carlos Santana.  I mean…if this isn’t someone enjoying himself thoroughly, I don’t know what is.  Jimmy’s guitar playing and abilities are all there – you can hear easily that he’s a practiced and dedicated musician, presumably just as dedicated as he is to his cinematic craft.  Mind blowing really, as the album continues finishes on another cover and personal favorite song, “Draggin The Line,” the talent and tightness of his classic style is perfect for this track.  Tough competition on that one there for me personally – I loved the original by Tommy James & The Shondells and of course I loved it even more when my personal heroes R.E.M. covered it.  All that being said – this new version of the classic, timeless song from Jimmy absolutely holds up just as strongly as these other two.  And that’s a great confirmation of Jimmy’s own songwriting and dedication to his musical craft; the inclusion of “Draggin The Line” shows that he can also hear great songwriting in the history of his genre, in addition to writing his own new powerful tunes.

Blues-rock, as a genre has always been one of the toughest for me to dive deeply into, though of course, I’ve certainly spent my time in the genre.  But even as that seventeen-year-old patchily-bearded kid, my interest in Jonny Lang ran thin quickly, but that intro led me into some amazing future musical experiences.  The step was necessary and the respect for the genre never departed.  But truly, as any genre could literally resonate with any of us for any reason on a personal level…as long as it’s not actively trying to put me to sleep – I’m still game to listen any time.

You couldn’t possibly sleep listening to the energy coming off this disc from Jimmy.  The solos and freak-outs on “On The Run” are the recipe for success in this style of music, if you were to ask this outsider of the genre.  C’mon – that’s ENTERTAINMENT right there!  You can only imagine the show this guy must be able to pull off as well too eh?  What a combo…lead singer, guitarist, actor…someone call security cause there’s gonna be a pile of girlies lined up front to see this kid turn into a man through music right there on stage.  Fortunately for Jimmy, he’ll have the age-range of a lifetime to choose from out there in the crowd, as the timeless style of music he plays will attract them all from kitten to cougar.

“Into The Fire” was another standout to me.  It’s an interesting track for a number of reasons.  I really like the vocal flow that Jimmy has picked out for sure…but there’s almost something subdued about this track…almost like it takes itself a moment to decide if it’s going to be a rock, country, pop or perhaps even gospel-style track.  And WHY I find that interesting, is that element of shyness in the approach to which direction or style to go with is also every bit the indication that songs Jimmy are writing are largely universal and could appeal to all kinds of groups and people in large masses.

Don’t let the pretty Hollywood face fool you - Jimmy's here to rock and there’s a ton of talent here. 

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Jimmy Jax Pinchak and his new album, Make It Better at his official page:  http://jimmyjaxpinchak.com/  

 

May 27th, 2014 - Undocument - Pleasures - Album Review

Undocument
Undocument – Pleasures – Album Review

I don’t know about all of you out there – but I definitely know what I like as far as electro is concerned.  Brian Pampaselle – the genius behind Undocument, is making all of it – that’s right, ALL the things I like – and more on this second album, known as Pleasures.  Apt title, as there are many; this is album that rolls along with the very best of the well-oiled music machines.

Checking into his social pages, inlfluences and likes…there’s no reason I shouldn’t dig on what Brian has come up with.  Artists like Flying Lotus, Brian Eno grace the list, as do Prefuse 73 & Boards Of Canada…and this is all music I’ve digested thoroughly over my years of musical consumption.  What I really dug on, even before hitting play – was the subtle addition of some key names like Peter Gabriel, The Mars Volta and Radiohead.  Certainly the tie-in argument for electro can be made easily with Radiohead – but these other two listings, fairly unique from the rest also gave me a large indication that perhaps Brian listens to sound much like I do myself, in such that we listen to a staggering variety of sounds to make us happy…

There was another confirmation that I was in for something special, again, tucked quietly there on the Facebook page for us all to read…something there that truly shows a commitment to the way this album was written.  We all have time in the shadows…there’s a time in life where we all have to “wake up” and step out into our own spotlights…lest we rest in our own versions of mediocrity for the durations of our lives.  Undocument releasing this album Pleasures largely reflects that step Brian has taken to break free of the background and put this music at the forefront where it belongs in his life, and yours. 

"With my second album, I really wanted to break out of the mindset of ‘background music’ and do it a little more traditionally this time. I just wanted to put all these new songs front and center." – Undocument Facebook Page

Again – I can’t speak for you all – but that quote right there sold me on this album.  I knew I was in for something good.  I read a Dave Grohl (The Jesus of SBS) quote once that made a similar reference to songwriting…something to the effect of, once he had written a verse, then written a chorus, he would chuck the verse and the chorus he just wrote became the verse.  And after that, he’d write an even bigger chorus, creating the huge rock sounds we know and love today. 

That spirit of...almost like…how can I out-do….MYSELF…is all over Pleasures.  Let me tell you about that time I was listening to the new album by Undocument where I got to track #13 – “Threadbare” and my mind was blown for about the 13th time in a row…

That is a seriously incredible, must listen-to track, invoking a sense of one final influence I can infer for you all, one unlisted but one that to me has quite a lot in common with Undocument, which is Tortoise.  Tortoise has always made their music include a wide range of sounds, taking you all over the map, finding beautiful new melodies, often making them with lesser used-instruments in creative ways to get their unique sounds.  Tracks like “Threadbare,” “Promises Kept,” “Listless” and many others actually possess these same outside and jazzy qualities, the latter song certainly also possessing that strong influence of Prefuse 73.

It’s a dedication to diversity in sound, coming together in all kinds of ways that truly work 100% all the way through, that should be applauded.  And should be freakin NOTICED.  I’d be shocked if I wasn’t hearing Undocument songs fill many of the Hollywood soundtracks of movies to come in our future; these songs will make you feel something…they’re perfect for those movie moments we truly love the most – the ones that represent our lives.

If this seems BACKWARDS to you…this whole review…starting at the middle and going forward here to speak about the beginning of the album…I assure you it’s not.  I’m doing my best here to send you this now not-so-subtle-message about the strength of this album…  Ending on tracks like “Stars And Sky And Spun Gold,” which is beautiful enough as it stands, but the final track “Eastern” nearly crushed what was left of my soul and left me weeping in the corner.  As perfect of an ending to an album as you can get if you ask me – this is one of those truly amazing moments in music for me, no bullshit.  It reminds me of that often hypnotic element that Mogwai can often add into their space rock and brings an absolute sense of “the end” to this album.  Once it’s finished, there’s no doubt you just heard the final piece of what Undocument had to say on Pleasures.

In fact, the ONLY thing you’ll doubt at all most likely, is yourself. While you’re listening to this album you’ll hear yourself call out – “It’s not gonna get any better than this track!” right away, listening to the slow-burning opener “Elegy.”  Within five minutes, you’ll eat your own words as you head into “This Lullaby,” a song that features vocalist MaQui in a song that has every element of a standout and the perfect pieces in place to become a hit song or video.  MaQui is a completely amazing voice that adds so well to this song that, if you were to accuse Undocument of ANY misstep on Pleasures, it’s simply that you’ll wish you got her here on a few more tracks.  This is much more of a comment on just how GOOD MaQui is and much less of one against Undocument obviously – but count this certainly as a vote of hope for future collaborations.

“Oh no, wait…THESE tracks are my favorites FOR SURE…” you’ll say…

Tracks like “Scattered Things” and “The Bird Feeders” keep things incredible during the first third of the album.  I like the atmospheres in both, and again appreciate not only the diversity in the sounds between the two tracks alone, but the way that Undocument seems to make it all OK.  These change-ups become acceptable each and every time; and the ONLY way to achieve that is to truly write amazing song after song after song after song.  Brian Pampaselle – sir you have me thoroughly convinced.  I think it might have actually been “The Bird Feeders” that had done it…it’s such a beautifully strange combination in sound that I just couldn’t ignore.  Leading into the emotional powerhouse that is “Hiraeth” – I mean truly, well into the third of this album on those first listens and I was absolutely scratching my head, almost ready to take bets that Brian couldn’t keep this up forever.

“Pulses” begins the second third of this album in ways that just can’t be ignored; this is the electronic genre at the pinnacle with an absolutely killer stomping dark beat just made to make you MOVE.  Surely, it HAS to be that track that’s your favorite right?  Nope…you’re hooked on the vocal sample used in “Departures.”  Well I can’t say I blame you, I am as well – that is one seriously beautiful track.

You see where this is all going, where it has gone, and where it will definitely go again.  I’ve said it before, hopefully many times this year – but 2014 has been THE year for independent artists out there.  Absolutely fantastic and inspiring music is being made by some immaculate and undiscovered talent out there and I’ve certainly been sold on Undocument being included in this impressively growing list of present day visionaries. 

Pleasures is honestly, to put it mildly.  Brian is probably just too humble of a guy to have titled it as it should have been, Immaculate Musical Treasures.

  • Jer @ SBS

Go like the Undocument Facebook page!  https://www.facebook.com/undocument

 

May 26th, 2014 - Zero Verdict - Clarity - EP Review

ZeroVerdict
Zero Verdict – Clarity – EP Review

You may have seen this album cover pop up at the end of our internet show SBS Live This Week through postings of the recut episodes with Laura Kelsey on our new home at Vimeo.  You might have also noticed that although we’ve continued to review music at a steady pace this month, that if you were to go strictly by the ad placed at the end of the show, that you might have thought Zero Verdict would be the ONLY band we’re reviewing this month!  A subtle but mysterious ad for the review would come onto the show…and no one else, like they had already shattered their peers and competition!  Well played Zero Verdict, well played….

What?  I mean it!  Seriously – this is extremely well-played music!

Coming to our pages here in Canada all the way from Oulu, Finland – I was impressed by the prog-rock/metal sound in this band early on in the EP as the opening track “The Perfect White Lie” began.  Overall – once that EP had spun fully in complete rotation here at the studio for some time, I could hear a 70’s sound with a large update on it.  For some bands, that might be the kiss-of-death if you were to look on a social media page after somehow to find that the band in question was looking for that “now” sound…but that’s not the case here with Zero Verdict.  You can actually see right on their Facebook page that they display their 70’s influence proudly, all the way to modern metal.

And that explains that updated sound somewhat.  They have a penchant for the high-vocal & harmony combo that has always been the best friend of prog-rock and early metal.  Oddly enough, a lot of it, vocally reminds me of a more-aggressive & intense version of Def Leppard.  I had to check into that one, for reference sake, hoping to find them squeaking into the 70’s even though I was positive they existed only later on, which they did – the first album came out in 1980.  BUT – perhaps those out there who really know their stuff, know they also technically started in 1977 under the moniker of Atomic Mass…so maybe there is validity to this comparison in there somewhere after all.

Now – I’m not an idiot…I know who my readership is, quite well actually – I talk to about 70% of you out there one way or another!  If I left you with a Def Leppard comparison, and that was it – you’d all be here the later catalogue of DL…songs like “Two Steps Behind,” maybe something like “Make Love Like A Man.”  As DL began the road to pander to the over 40 & female crowd – they lost the edge they had into the bliss of commercialized success.  You won’t find evidence of that ANYWHERE here on the Zero Verdict EP Clarity – intensity reigns supreme.

Lead by the vocals of Sami Huotari, guitars of Tapio Mattila and bass of Juha Haipus – this band never stops pounding away at the intensity, even in their slowest-burning moments.  With ¾ songs clocking in at over 6 minutes long, including the incredibly-played title-track – I was more than pleased to hear the thought that has gone into this album.  Each track, I would have to imagine after listening, has come out EXACTLY as they would have wanted…or at least my imagination certainly isn’t vibrant enough to figure out anything else they could have stuffed into their music!  Each song is completely full-to-the-brim in sound, but thankfully still never overloaded or crowded in production or mix.

A song like “Lost In A Haze” is a perfect example – let’s talk about this as it highlights every strength this band is working with...

You’ve got Sami up front, always delivering at the top of his range and back again – I can tell you firsthand as a singer myself, that this guy’s lungs could potentially need all of the oxygen in a room to pull off what he does.  Not only does he have the perfect style to fit their music – he really does have an incredible set of pipes – but he ALSO has the technique required to pull this all off more than convincingly.  Quite often, with a singer as powerful as this, even with the sharpest production you’ll often hear evidence of that singer huffing and puffing, taking in the air required to hit that next powerful note…but you won’t hear any traces of that on this EP, or anywhere from Sami; these are clearly the vocals of a seasoned & well-practiced veteran.  In this track as well, you’ll get that perfectly-timed and toned bass from Juha holding the rhythm as guitar player Tapio lifts the guitars to the front of the mix during powerhouse solos. 

Basically – each member is performing at 100%, 100% of the time on Clarity – leaving you satisfied completely by the time the title-track plays out its final seconds.  I’ll be completely honest however…I’ve looked as best I can and I’m still not sure where the drums are coming from, but those rhythms, beats and intense play certainly hold these songs together with the perfect musical glue.  If they were programmed, they’ve done an excellent job – they sound completely real and perfectly played.  If it IS coming from a real person and not a robot – to this person I again say, well played!

There’s commitment all over this EP – you can hear how tightly produced each track is, but equally important – how tightly played each element that makes up that song is as well.  I’ve gotta say – the solos laid down on this EP, particularly the guitar-solo from Tapio on “Alone” were absolutely astounding – easily some of the best I’ve heard invade my ears in 2014.  If you’re looking for simple verse/chorus/verse, politely move along please…  Zero Verdict is looking to take you on a sonic journey through the musical territory & terrain they all know, love, and most importantly, PLAY so well.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find them on Facebook and get some more Clarity in your life!  https://www.facebook.com/zeroverdict

 

May 24th, 2014 - Carry Illinois - Siren - EP Review

CarryIllinois
Carry Illinois – Siren – EP Review

This is a fantastic and exciting year in independent music for eagerly awaiting ears out there.  2014 has had an unbelievable start to it so far, with many of the artists I’ve reviewed, seen live, or personally know making the best music they’ve made in their careers as of late.  This band in review today, Carry Illinois…well….let’s just say…in this year stuffed FULL of quality music…I might have found something  here on their new EP, Siren, that could very well raise the bar up from what was already a high-set standard.  In these new five creatively-crafted folk-rock tunes you can’t help but hear the sheer quality & care that have been put into the production – the perfect complement to their immaculate songwriting skills.

And you know – as awesome as it is….and it IS awesome, believe me….but even with all of the astounding quality and ingenuity within this genre and style on Siren…if you were to somehow see my bearded face right now, you’d see a very unsurprised one!  Let me explain…

Hopefully each and every one of my readers and follows remembers immediately going to check out the music of Lizzy Lehman when we reviewed her album, A Place I Know You’ll Love, on our site last year.  I mean…that review was a damn CALL TO ARMS – I sincerely hope you ALL took my advice on that one!  But here we are, reviewing and listening to Carry Illinois…together, you readers and I (Of COURSE right?) and what’s that sweet, sweet sound you can easily recognize?

Yep.  That’s Lizzy Lehman.  And while there are certainly MANY players on this EP making it the truly fantastic musical vessel that it is – you can certainly bank on the fact that even if there WAS nothing else – you’d still have this immaculate singer/songwriter upfront at the helm of these songs.  Believe me – she can’t possibly steer you wrong; her tone and use of vocal-effects on this album are incredible.  Left on her own without effects, she delivers compelling and emotionally strong performances in such a way that you KNOW that she really feels these rhythms deep inside.  Either of these routes = awesome.

“Jackson Square” I want to talk about first.  Perhaps my favorite vocal performance from Lizzy comes from her singing this one in a mixture of confidence versus the desolate, almost lonely themes in the music.  I mean…if I HAD to pick an absolutely FAVORITE sound she comes up with on this EP, then we’d end up talking about something different.  I’d immediately direct you to “Nothing To Despise” – easily one of the strongest tracks I’ve heard this year.

Without reading it over – I can tell you from memory that inside of that initial meeting of Lizzy Lehman in the review from last year, I had made a comparison of her work to my favorite band of all-time, R.E.M.  “Nothing To Despise” is another shining example of why I had felt that way then, and while I still do now.  This song gives me chills and contains that same haunting atmosphere that R.E.M.’s album Automatic For The People had.  At other moments, particularly the last track, “A Good Farewell” – Lizzy conjures up an incredible mix of Stevie Nicks-meets-Ann Wilson in this beautifully inspired moment.

So….alright….you probably picked up on the fact that Lizzy Lehman is not only a fantastic singer and a lyrical-visionary – but she’s also not solo anymore – this review is for the band as ONE…this new project I now know and love, Carry Illinois…

Let me say first off – you’re not going to find any missteps or mistakes.  This entire band is playing it all out with flawless precision – I want that on record.  BUT….there’s a few key things that really made this EP work for me beyond the singing and songwriting…some key sounds.  R.P. Oates on the banjo is honestly everything you could want!  I’m not going to lie to you – I’m looking at the studio banjo hanging RIGHT ABOVE the screen where I’m typing this...

Cause you know something?  I LOVE the sound of banjo!  Just not when it comes from me.  So there it hangs…relentlessly un-played and horrifyingly undisturbed…  Gonna have to get our man R.P. up here one day to show me how this thing is done RIGHT!

“Weakest Limb” is a great example of this entire unit working together; excellent string arrangements, percussion and vocals in this stomping first song.  Carrying into the sweet sounds of the title-track, “Siren” shows off some excellent keyboard pieces, the inclusion of even MORE incredible string arrangements and again – my main man R.P. bringing home the banjo in ways that fit each song so damn well.  You banjo-doubters out there will be blown away at just how well it all fits with the music, in particular, “Siren,” which works in electronic elements, gritty & sweetened vocals to somehow all work perfectly with the banjo.  Love it. 

What I’ve always appreciated about any of the music Lizzy Lehman has worked on, is the intense, REAL feelings that come across in the music she makes.  In this new project Carry Illinois, she takes you all the way down that emotional road and back again in just five songs – but it feels complete.

It all does really.  Like I said – I’ve always been a huge fan of Lizzy – but in these five songs here, you can really hear just how much of her soul she’s investing in this particular project.  It feels like a chapter of a story, yes, but one that you’ll certainly want to continue the minute you can.  It starts with energy and takes you on that journey towards the final heartfelt moments of the end – and it feels incredibly & perfectly complete.  You’ll be left wanting for nothing from this record by the end.

Nothing that is, except to play it again.

  • Jer @ SBS

You can also find out more about them here:  https://www.facebook.com/carryillinois

 

May 23rd, 2014 - Jacob H. Carruthers III - Jazz In My Soul - Album Review

JacobHCarruthersIII
Jacob H. Carruthers III – The Jazz In My Soul – Album Review

Yeah!  Let’s jazz it up this morning!

Meet Jacob H. Carruthers III, also known as “Trey.”  In addition to making excellent, entertaining and listenable jazz – it looks like he and I have something pretty major in common right at this moment…though we come from different genres; it appears as if both of our times are NOW.

I say this, with many of you already having heard about or listened to my own latest solo project dropping just last week with the release of The Cellophane Heart – “The Dark Becomes The Light.”  Comments began to come in from some extremely nice people that were now congratulating me on getting some of my own music out there after promoting the works of others for so long…but I’m not here to talk about me today…

I did find it extremely interesting to find his itunes page came with comments very similar to the ones I’ve been receiving myself.  Perhaps both Trey and I have been hiding too long.  With the official release of his new album The Jazz In My Soul happening TODAY according to itunes – it also appears we’ve BOTH come out of our shell to put some music out there into the world and are hiding no more.  As I mentioned – our time is now…

POUND it if you feel me Trey!

Well…okay…he’s not here for a fist bump – but I can tell from music and social media alone that this stand-up character would never leave me hangin!  Seems like this guy is either loved, like or at the very least respected in all his efforts and has a great network of support – how would that not lead to him making amazing music one day?

That question might be forever unanswered – the music he has made on The Jazz In My Soul is excellent.

Before you even click play on this album yourself jazz-fans with your eager jazz-hands – know that everything you’ll hear on this album was completely played by this one man himself.  Produced, recorded, mixed….all by Trey.  With the exception of a few guest spots on tracks like “Sweet Sweet Surrender,” “Hot Water Cornbread,” “Sloppy Joe” and “No How No Way,” every other moment exists entirely because he has embraced this time in his life and his creativity and wrote these delectable jazz numbers into their very existence. 

Now again – we might come from different worlds of music – but having just gone through the exact same process on my own side of the fence – I’ve got nothing but love and respect for a guy that can go out and cut incredible songs like Trey has all on his own.  You can hear the overflow of talent he has in all areas, be it guitar, piano, bass or drums…songs like “La Samba Loco,” near the beginning of the album or “Weekend Muse” really shine a light on his abilities in the jazz world. 

I mentioned in the intro…”listenable” jazz…and by that term I mean for YOU cause you know I’ll listen to anything and everything.  But one of the things I admire most in non-sporadic/frantic jazz like this, is the respect for space in the music and the relationship between those silent moments and key melodies coming through.  Trey understands good traditional jazz songwriting, clearly.  Now, because he’s the only one playing anything, he IS always doing something yes…but he’s been mindful not to clutter the songs and respect that more traditional style of easy-listening jazz.  There are no ten-minute trumpet freak-out solos…no drums that wander so far you wonder if they’ve just moved onto the next track ahead of the rest of the band…none of that noise.  This is jazz you can put on and relax to without any overblown or pretentious surprises.

I will say…that perhaps when featuring guests Trey finds himself on the thin line between jazz and R&B – but when you listen to how well tracks like “No How No Way” and “Sweet Sweet Surrender” came out, well….one would have to assume Trey is quite comfortable finding his music reaching a wider audience when the results are as smooth and refined as those two examples.

All in all – ask yourself right now when the last time you actually put on a jazz album…if you’re reading off our main page regularly and following us at sleepingbagstudios – well then chances are it has been a long, long time…let’s face it…we get a TON of rock albums sent our way even though we amply support ALL genres and styles of music.  In fact – I don’t even need to look it up – I know for a fact that this is the first actual jazz album we’ve reviewed on this site in our two years up and running.

What I’m saying, is that jazz is a tough gig nowadays.  It’s largely an “adult” style of music and sadly becoming more and more lost on today’s youth…you can all challenge me on that, but I’d still argue it to be true.  Pop, rap and rock have dominated not only radio, but movies and tv shows, commercials and more for over a decade now.  And you know what?

None of this makes jazz irrelevant. 

Seriously – of all the “timeless” styles of music…jazz has got to be number one.  There has always been so much freedom to it; whether it’s more traditionally played like here on The Jazz In My Soul or four guys playing on buckets and wood-flutes – the people that love jazz will ALWAYS love jazz, even if it’s not in regular rotation everywhere around us, everywhere we go.  Instead, it becomes musically appreciated like a fine wine.

Hearing this new album by Jacob H. “Trey” Carruthers III brought that moment on for me.  Songs like “Rush Hour” and “Thursdays” brought me right back to the days where I was first learning about what jazz even was from a father who was desperate to instill that knowledge in his son.  It’s a piece of my own history that I cherish and love…one that allows me to sit back, put on an album like The Jazz In My Soul and genuinely enjoy every minute of it.

It’s smooth in production and sound, completely relaxing, yet something you can still catch yourself grooving too every couple minutes in.  “Listenable” jazz – it certainly is – but it’s so much more than that.  Jacob put the hard work into every instrument and put a masterstroke on every note in production…”listenable” in the sense there’s no chaos in the mix here.  I could go on forever about how “listenable” this IS – but I HAVE listened!

And I will again for sure.  But right now it’s your turn.  Go check him out!

  • Jer @ SBS

You can find The Jazz In My Soul album released & ready to purchase on itunes at:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-jazz-in-my-soul/id833875493

 

May 22nd, 2014 - Skelley's Dream - We Are Amazing - Album Review

SkelleysDream
Skelley’s Dream – We Are Amazing – Album Review

Beautiful voices and musical dreamscapes swirl and captivate on this new album from Skelley’s Dream.  Started up by songwriter Winski and based in Holland; this project, along with each and every enthusiastic collaborator on board to record this album have achieved something truly fantastic here on this album.  No bullshit – there’s an actual magic you can hear on this record that you can’t hear in others and it’s not simply the talent and brightly-produced songs…you can hear the LOVE these people all have for this music they’re making.

Now, normally I’m stuck somewhere in the dungeons of dank rock quite often in these reviews, but today when I say bright, I mean BRIGHT…this album sparkles in its production.  And let me tell you something else – that wouldn’t have been EASY to do…no…not this time.  Imagine you’re producing…engineering…mixing….whatever….  Just imagine for a second you heard EACH of these absolutely incredible, lively performances coming through your headphones and into your soul.  Cause after that, and with what I’m hearing – each of these amazing collaborators gave the performance of their lives on this record…well, the pressure then switches to the control room to honor the songs and bring about sweet & swift musical justice.

Personally, I’d love to know who collected money from the pool during the recording process.  I don’t mean royalties or anything like that…I’m talking about the BET they must have made with each other!  You know the one…where Winski and all these collaborators are huddled together talking about who’s going to out-do the last amazing track that they just recorded…cause it truly seems like each song is nearly better than the one that played just before.  Someone HAD to have gotten paid…or maybe it was tied into some kind of like….I dunno….Survivor-meets-The Voice kind of reality series.

I get it.  Seems over the top right?  It’s NOT, I assure you – these are compliments well deserved.  And even the “reality series” comment isn’t a burn coming from me – you all know I love my talent shows.  Skelley’s Dream had me beyond convinced at track two, the title track, “We Are Amazing;” it would be the PERFECT anthem for ANY of those reality competitions.  Truly.  It’s a song that makes me want to stand up and cheer by the end, even when no one’s around.  One of those songs that truly just makes you feel happy to be this ALIVE…

The album continues to embrace this spirit as it plays, and to hear artists so focused and lost in the moment like this is a thing of beauty every single time.  “I Got My Hands Up” is an excellent example of how well this album has been made; with the majority of the lyrics coming from the title alone, you’d almost think you’d find it repetitive or uninspired.  Instead – through one of the most brilliant vocal performances on the album, this guest singer carries the song with each and every note, virtually becoming an instrument in the song.  Again, Winski has got this arranged and set up like an absolutely empowering anthem of inspiration. 

I mean, if it wasn’t for the need to type this out, I’d still have my own damn hands up and still be singing along.

“I Know Why You Say” nearly had me wondering if Nina Persson was guest starring on this album somehow, which again, is another compliment for sure.  Echoing the sweetness and grace of the former singer of The Cardigans and current solo artist – this particular guest can match those honey-dripping vocals note for note in a way that will always leave you craving more.  “Why Is This Happening To Me” is equally impressive, accompanied by a beautifully energetic but low-key beat – this female guest-star DELIVERS verse after verse after verse…wonderfully…perfectly…  To continue strengthening the female-led vocals section of this album, “I Have Seen Your Eyes (For Nova)” has one of the most truly inspired and emotionally connected performances – gorgeous.

And then it happened all over again.

“Softly Falling.”  You want to hear a voice that can make the ice on a bearded-guy’s heart like mine melt away, then listen to this.  We’re five months into this year and I think so far this might be the song I’ve heard with the most potential to stay with me for the rest of my life after one listen.  Since then, I’ve listened to it plenty for confirmation….and yeah...I don’t think I’m crazy at all – this is an absolutely astounding and incredible song, immaculately performed.  The song writing is impeccable – this is a major hit.

It’s not ALL up to the ladies…though I have to admit, they might have the edge here in my opinion!  But the guys bring it strong in tracks like “All Right Now,” “I Got My Hands Up” and the pumped up title-worthy track “We Are Amazing.”  And I can’t pass up the opportunity to mention the wickedly awesome “Just A Minute,” – another track just filled with LIFE, bursting with vibrant performances from all.  The main vocals are as perfect as you can ask for, it’s got a saxophone solo and a rap verse – this track is immeasurable fun from the start to the finish.  Towards the end – “So Good To You” features another strong performance in a song that really helps bring closure to this album.  You can almost feel the curtains ready to close as it draws towards the end in this second to last track.  Perfectly placed and fantastically genuine; it’s got some excellent guitar work to go with the passionate vocals.

All in all…there’s a somewhat subtle concept stamped right on the title of this album.  Even though it’s RIGHT there for all of us to look at and understand, it’s not until you hear the music that the entire concept begins to blossom in your mind.  This is the story of the everyman (Winski) that managed to break free of convention.  And once he found he could exist on this new beautiful musical plane, he invited others to come along and join in the sheer JOY he had found through his pursuit.  And together, they made beautiful music, from the inside of themselves and out into our world for you to hear.

And it’s through this album….this concept….that Winski is truly communicating to you all from behind the scenes.  He’s assembled this album full of collaborations to prove a point; that talent and ability, courage and passion exist strongly in us all.  That together, amazingly comfortable & inspired performances can come to an emotionally-charged conclusion in the creation of true art.  And that this project of Skelley’s Dream exists as a metaphoric reminder of the limitless and beautiful possibilities within us all…

We Are Amazing.

  • Jer @ SBS

Highly recommend checking this out further at:  http://skelleysdream.bandcamp.com/

 

May 21st, 2014 - Jer's Blog - 2014.004

SO MANY THINGS!

Like tons of you out there - I feel that weight and pressure to make it all happen. The physical aspect of the music studio was certainly one I had been expecting to see pick up a lot more over these past two years, but also to be considered in this equation is the undisputable fact that nothing about sleepingbagstudios has ever really gone the way we - or eventually I - had planned.

And also like many of you - I've made that decision to make this the rest of my life in whatever capacity I can afford to do that in. As a result of what is entirely too much downtime in the recording aspect of the studio I've both dropped our pricing for the summer, and quite likely I'll be finding my way back into the corporate world with a regular j-o-b for at least the remainder of this year to come.

The long and the short of it, is that I suffer largely from "Peter-Pan" syndrome. I don't want to grow up and make bills the priority - I want to stay here with you all and continue to support all of your amazing talent and music. I truly do. And for the most part - I should still be able to do much of what I do here through sleepingbagstudios without too much having to change, or be scrapped. And somehow, despite a large feeling of failure that comes along with this all - I'm also becoming more okay with the idea as it plays inside my brain.

The beginning stages needed that dedication of time for you to all learn about us, who we are as people and why we want to help the music so much - now that a year and a half has flown by with all of you amazing people, I feel I can safely say that those introductions have definitely been established. You know who we are - but better still - you also know what we're capable of.  We aren’t going anywhere – we’re still here and ready to make all kinds of noise…just looking towards more structure in planning and organizing recording times around whatever else I’ve got to take on in the meantime. 

HAPPIER THINGS:

Our event with Everyday Music TV went fantastically…I haven’t had a full chance to really explain how awesome that day really was…so check this out!

LauraKelsey

The morning started with our good friend & solo-artist LAURA KELSEY showing up to help out for the day, as well as record a brand new track first thing in the morning!  Before we go ANY further – I’m proud to say that song, “Spring Is Here” is available now for free to download on her Soundcloud page!  Awesome right?  That’s a huge positive and we’re honored to have been one of the studios to work with this amazingly talented artist, yes we are!  It also makes me happy – cause those of you who have seen my own performance as The Cellophane Heart on the EDMTV channel…well, you know I probably should have spent my morning in continual practice…but if the end result of me ducking out on that is a new Laura Kelsey track…that’s more than worth the trade I figure!

Once Rod Matheson from EDMTV got here, the day completely clicked into place for the rest of the day & into the night.  As MAN MADE LAKE got set up in the studio and began to crack into the whiskey bottles – Rod took me out to the woods to film my song “The Oxidation Process” so that I could be freed up for the rest of the day and keep it all rolling along smoothly.  I was um… beyond-not-ready.  Or at least not as ready as I had led myself to believe!  After about 20 minutes of attempts went by, that final performance after you can now see posted as day #750 out of the 1000 days that EDMTV is posting for.  It came out shaky, nervous…and full of the pure emotion and heart that I would have wanted to go with it…and as rough as I might have been, I’m proud to have been a part of this project through an actual musical posting…it’s truly something I never thought possible for me.

But enough about me!  There were plenty of REAL musicians on-hand that day worth mentioning.  First and foremost – Man Made Lake, who I had mentioned came all the way from the island to do this with us.  Now…only about 48 hours prior to them coming did I find out for 100% certain that they would be the only ones who needed the studio that night – but once I did, I offered them the space for the day basically, to make it more justifiable & worthwhile of a trip for them.  I had asked if they could play a few extras…but what we got was extraordinary.

Man Made Lake launched into a full 20-song set that included past album songs, a handful from their latest album Bodhicitta: The Shepherd and a TON of random jams that would have easily passed as “finished” songs for nearly anyone else.  At one point, Laura Kelsey joined them into the studio for an unforgettable collaboration on their song “She Wouldn’t Dance,” and stayed to rock through a full set of random jams taking turns with Colin from MML on the mic.

Sadly – Rod from EDMTV missed that part of the Man Made Lake set, but was there solidly for the eight songs before and you can see both “Lemon Cake” and “Nico” from their time here on the site now.  But he had good reason to miss it – we had plenty to do that day!  He was already back in the forest, recording a solo artist & friend to the studio by the name of JARED SWINGHOLM.  Really cool footage on this one – it was later & colder in the day, you could actually see Jared’s breath during the performance!  Huge thank you to him as well, he stuck it out for the rest of the night and even rocked a song with Nate and Steve from Man Made Lake in a moment where Morgan wasn’t guarding the drum-set. 

ManMadeLake

From there…we had a random dude show up at the studio!  No…wait…he wasn’t totally random – I had just unfortunately forgotten his name right at the moment of his arrival after making sure I knew it all morning long.  We had invited Chris Andres, a solo performer from the island to come over and perform, but due to circumstances beyond his control, he wasn’t able to make it.  Now here’s what a STAND-UP guy Chris really is…

Feeling bad about potentially putting a hole in our day, he tentatively filled that spot for us, with a friend of his named JOE TURNER.  He sold me on this guy immediately, not because I was desperate, but because he was apparently just like Chris, according to the man himself.  Sold!  But yeah – all of a sudden, hours later, there he is and I can’t for the bloody life of me remember his name.  Once introductions were made – he said the best line of our day…  “So yeah…I…well, I don’t really know what’s going on here today exactly….Chris just told me to show up with my guitar.”  I’m probably slightly misquoting him here, but that’s pretty close.

To which I said – “And that sir, is what makes you even cooler than you were five seconds ago.  No idea what you’re in for, and you came out anyway.”  You could see nods of approval coming from all over SBS on that play from Joe – really cool that he came out on such short notice.  I’ve been digging on his full-band ever since – a band called WEST OF MEMPHIS.  These guys are on the move right now, just putting out some new music for you all….quality stuff too.  If you dig that Black Crowes-ish, blues-rock vibe – you’ll want to get in on Joe’s band for sure. Huge thank you to Chris Andres as well for filling the impending hole with a stellar performer.

Now…Man Made Lake made it to the studio around two o’clock…so for your own reference sake – it wasn’t until TREV CONKEY, a solo-artist & regular collaborator in Vancouver, came by at 7pm that they finally exhausted themselves and their whiskey supply, packed up and headed out after a phenomenal set of songs.  And as quiet as we all tried to be – we kept interrupting poor Trev, who was already doing his best to satisfy Rod by playing in a hanging chair in the backyard of the studio.  In what was truly one of the funniest and most on-the-fly moments of this day, watching Trev do his best to squeeze into this chair in a way that still allowed him to play was nearly too funny.  He shifted and shifted and tried and tried, at the end of the attempts bailing mid-song once the chair moved a bit too much on about the third try through his song “Pink Daisies” – which you can find as day #757 on the EDMTV site.  But the guy is a true champion for putting up with all that…and even more-so for delivering some real highlight performances on this day.

Our hairy-heroes from the band CLOSER came by just as Trev was finishing up and we had a chance to see this noise-rock band in a completely different light.  Playing acoustically for the first time live as a band was something truly special to watch.  Putting their drumming BEAST, Tyler Hutton, on a single hand drum put the three guitarists from the band on a nearly even playing field by matching their volume and truly punishing that drum skin with his bare hands.  The end result of that performance, I’m very proud to say, is that Closer made the EDMTV site as Day #755 with an acoustic version of their cut “Empires” – one of my absolute favorites by this band and a really cool track to see adapted acoustically.

What a lot of people DON’T know….is that this was Closer’s second year out at this event and second attempt at making the site within their 1000 days of posting.  When we had Closer out at last year’s event – no joke – this was a band that was only DAYS old!  Still yet to play their first show, still yet to officially announce their very existence!  Even as seasoned veterans in the indie music scene, those are still pretty tough odds to overcome and for being only days old, they put on some killer early performances of their tracks “Lesula” and namesake-track “Closer.”  To think that in a way – we put them in that SAME very position by asking as many acts as possible to play acoustically that night.  It was out of their element – and completely awesome to watch.  They played four songs for the crowd around, including a solo performance from singer/guitarist Ryan Rutherford in a light we had all yet to see him in. 

My wife calls him “The BUN of rock,” after how he styles his hair 50% of the time on stage.  I maintain…if he let loose that full mane each time they played, gnome-sized people like myself might hide in the corners of the clubs rather than the front of the stage from fear of being trampled or eaten by this rock-giant.

Now picture THIS scenario.  Nearly a year ago, we booked a tremendous undiscovered talent, KAT HAMILL.  On our end – we were still finding our way, and poor Kat got caught in a crossfire of studio disorganization and cancellations…with the end result being we lost contact with Kat for nearly a year – again, nothing to do with her, and certainly not our fault.  We, as a company, were young…and completely stupid if we were to let this incredible talent go to waste somehow.

And for a YEAR….believe it or not – I’ve felt TERRIBLE about this mistake we made with such a promising young talent…and I’ve been waiting.  Waiting for the right time to make things RIGHT.  So…with a courage I don’t normally possess – I reached out to Kat in effort to correct this mistake and re-establish contact.  I am a firm believer even now, that it is ONLY because she is such a fantastic human being that she even thought twice about giving us another shot at making it right – and without hesitation, bringing up the past or any diva-demands – Kat Hamill agreed to come and play a song for us that night.

What I had no idea of – is really what a brave, unique and YOUNG soul she truly is!  Imagine this scenario – seriously – close your eyes and picture this…after you read it of course…

You’re 24.  You’ve been invited to a studio you’ve never really seen, by a person who you’ve never really met, and in that time that you DID know this person existed…things weren’t so organized or well-laid out.  But you’re courageous, and you’re brave – so you agree to go to this random place after a long day’s work at a day-job, it’s now nighttime and dark.  You ring the bell, thankfully it’s answered by a friendly female and you can hear music being played.  So far so good right?

Closer was just finishing up – and you come in, already standing out from the rest of the crowd with a spectacular new radiant-pink hair color.  Once Closer is finished playing – it becomes YOUR turn.  And here’s where it would get WEIRD for YOU, or for anyone, and more than likely…our new friend Kat Hamill

KatHamill

Rod from EDMTV had pretty much exhausted the downstairs area of SBS and the surrounding outside, which was too dark to film in now anyway.  So looking for a new location, we decided on the guest bedroom of the upper-floor where artists and bands tend to sleep while here recording.  This…well…this is not a glorified room in any way shape or form – we’ve actually been meaning to paint over the pulley-orangey-brown walls for years now and still haven’t.  It has space for the bed, and not a hell of a lot else.  I couldn’t help but think to myself on the way up the stairs with Kat, Rod and my wife…that this was the way most PORNO movies, or worse yet, college-campus rapes start!

And you know what?  I couldn’t do it…I just couldn’t hang out in that tightly squeezed environment or make this poor girl any more uncomfortable than we had probably already made her with this move into a private bedroom to film – so I removed my bearded face, resigning myself to see it on video-playback rather than live, as much as I would have liked to have seen it.  Call me crazy – but I STILL think that was the right move and hopefully one that allowed her a little more freedom to put on her best performance.

Again – I think it went more than well after seeing the footage and I’ll be happy to throw some of that on the show for all of you later this year.  She did a wonderful cover of the Oasis tune “Half A World Away,” and with some friendly coaching from Rod, even laid down an original track of her own.  She has such a unique quality in her singing I just can’t get enough of – it goes far beyond her accent – this lady flat-out has an amazing voice & style.

At this point in the night – around the ten o’clock mark, after a long day of non-stop music, we still had one final act.  Thanks to Man Made Lake making adjustments in their own schedule and arriving earlier in our day than we had originally planned at the outset, I was able to move things around all over the place to squeeze in a performance from LUNGFLOWER and our good buddy & lead singer for the band, Tyler Mayfield.  Bringing only lead-guitarist Marcus with him – these two were ready to rock an acoustic version of their song “Death On The Crowsnest” – another band attempting the acoustic and going where they had never been to before in a live setting.

And I mean that in all senses.  We literally put Lungflower in the dank and dirty shed out in the studios backyard.  Full of spiders and garden tools – we ran an extension cord and brought a massive lamp out there for lighting, and Rod went to work.  The inside of that damn shed is about as tight as the bedroom we put Kat into – so once again, I took to the outside of the performance.  This time – I was able to actually still watch and catch the performance, also film it through the gritty bug-screened tiny shed window.  That performance, hands down, was grunge as fuck.  There’s just no other way to put it.  Tyler and Marcus completely delivered the RAWEST performance you might ever see in there, or ANY shed for that matter!

I’d like to personally thank each and every artist and band that has come out for this event in the past two years – you’ve all made these days intensely memorable moments we’ll never forget.  Also like to thank ROD MATHESON for making us a preferred destination for him to shoot great local talent and for all his efforts to further the independent scene through what he has accomplished at Everyday Music TV.

PRESSING THINGS:

I have another shout-out I want to make – one that has become very important to me over this past week…

Through e-mail, I have been in contact with an incredible company known as PRESSING MEDIA.  If YOU don’t know them yet – and you’re in this indie-music-game – you should familiarize yourselves immediately!  I’ll even make it SUPER-EASY for you all – here’s a link to their page at: http://www.pressing-media.com/

Now – I’m pretty sure all of you out there know I’m not here to advertise by now.  Neither our show or our website have any on them to this day – so I assure you, I wouldn’t even bring this up at all if I didn’t think it was beneficial, cost-effective and designed to HELP you fantastic independents out there...

My experience with Pressing Media has already been nothing short of incredible – led by the absolutely PHENOMENAL customer service and approach by a wonderful rep – her name is SHEVONNE NEWTON.  Those of you out there who know I’ve been approached in the past for this or that, also know that I tend to ask a LOT of questions of the people that seek us out – always in an effort to make sure that if I ever WAS to bring this kind of information to you, that it would only ever be the best of the best...

PressingMedia

Shevonne, without a single doubt in my mind, is just what I’ve been waiting for all this time.  She literally is the BEST of the best.  Not only did she answer every question I had in immaculate detail, she CLEARLY loves being at Pressing Media and BELIEVES in what she does and the relationship it has to helping artists and bands like YOU.  And for yours truly – this impressed me beyond anything else.  You can really get a sense of what a passionate and involved player Shevonne is on her side of the screen and she has all the knowledge needed to be able to answer pretty much any question you could have about Pressing Media the company, or just pressing media (as in your latest upcoming CD’s) in general! 

Seriously!  Go ahead and TRY to stump her – or ask any questions you might have about your upcoming release and how to move it around the world…from my personal experience, there are no “stumpings” to be had – Shevonne knows her business well and understands this indie client-base completely – and she CARES.  That’s RIGHT!

It only took me nearly two years – but there it is – someone else tied to this music industry that I truly believe CARES about YOU, and getting you where you need to go as much as we do ourselves.  With a price-matching system in place on many of their products and a plant actually located in our own backyard of Vancouver – there’s zero for you to lose by checking into them and MUCH to be gained by simply reaching out to Shevonne at shevonne@pressing-media.com

And I fully recommend that you do.

LAST THINGS:

The beginning of May was just about the worst going health-wise, in addition to getting my solo project as The Cellophane Heart completely finished up.  Cancellations happened left, right and centre as I basically couldn’t move from the bed to the kitchen for a glass of water, without having a nap in between.  HUGE apologies however, need to be made specifically to the incredible prog-rock band from the island, SPACEPORT UNION.  This crew has been so hard at work on their upcoming album, and they booked a show in Vancouver – their first one.  I was on the list – hell, I had even CONFIRMED only 24 hours prior, feeling completely awesome, that everything was still on 100%.

TheCellophaneHeart

And then, pretty much immediately upon sending that confirmation I got the worst flu I’ve had in years – that wonderful kind that drags on and on and on.  Took three weeks before I felt like I was completely 100% again – I’ve never cancelled on so many potential shows.  I was lucky enough to be healthy by the time Failure came to the Rickshaw just this past weekend…and I’m ready to continue to let this heartbeat crank its motor for the rest of this summer.  Lots of great things coming up – you can find Closer, Laura Kelsey, Fey and This Day Burns playing all kinds of shows lately and it looks like a lot more coming up.

I’d also like to thank the band and management of Throttlecaster for hooking me up with tickets to the landmark showcase event coming up at the end of the month, where they’ll be playing with several other bands over two days at this massive event downtown.  We had guitar player Erko Nomm on the show way back when we first started, along with the same very manager – Katja, who just hooked us up with those tickets.  Aren’t they awesome?  Was totally out of the blue and a completely welcome surprise!  I haven’t seen them in over a year now, as they’re based out of Kamloops – stoked to see great people we’ve met in the past…music is my REAL family.

And again – thank you all so much for being a part of this journey.  I like to think that there’s not a reader out there that doesn’t know exactly how grateful and appreciative I am to be a part of your lives in some way, shape or form.  And in this month of shedding the dark and heading towards the light – believe me, hearing from ANY of you right now will certainly make my day and fuel me forward.  Reach out anytime to me at jeremy@sleepingbagstudios.ca – I’d love to hear from you all.

Be excellent to each other.

  • Jer @ SBS

 

May 14th, 2014 - Ugo Capeto - Short Stories - Album Review

UgoCapeto
Ugo Capeto – Short Stories – Album Review

Alright.  Simple as this; first person to tell me that they DON’T like this band gets a hard ham-fisted slap to the face without ANY love or good intentions behind it.  That’s right – the bad slap.  You don’t want that…no one does…

I figure the odds of having to dole this punishment out are virtually non-existent.  Ugo Capeto, is pretty damn tough to ignore and impossible not to groove to.  If I seem at all defensive today, that’s simply because my one-time studio partner and bandmate Rob would have sent me music exactly like this for me to sing along with.  Hearing these wonderfully pieced together electronic and experimental tracks has got me pumped right up now…this is gonna be a great day.

Though the songs on this new album, Short Stories, barely range over-top of a minute in length, their validity in existing is on full display each and every audible moment that goes by.  Inventive and creative – as far as I can read Ugo Capeto has actually created these beats from the infamous Fruity Loops studio program and a bunch of free available sounds.

Ok.  Wait.  What?

What that means is that this music is coming to you hot off the Ugo Capeto assembly line.  And for you people that don’t believe emotions can exist in music made in this method – go have a listen to this new album and recognize you CAN.  After a good look over the official site – Ugo has been at this for a while now, releasing several albums full of musical gold this year already.  No joke – unless my eyes are buggin out, it looks to be about the NINTH album released for UC this year alone!

Ok.  Wait.  What?  (Again!?!)

And here I thought I was taking on too much trying to release my latest solo project in five years, a double sided disc for a project called The Cellophane Heart.  One.  One solitary album.  And I’ve never felt like such a slacker until I started listening to UC and this album Short Stories.

Ugo Capeto – your dedication to music and to your craft well outshines even my own.  Congratulations!  At the time of this review, I’ve recorded well over 600+ songs with my instrument or voice on it…in my entire life, which is a HUGE accomplishment if I do say so myself.  And at the pace UC is currently on – that record is going to be broken by them in this year alone. 

And if all the music is as good as it is on Short Stories – I’ll happily accept this musical defeat.

I am wondering very much about the evolution of sound here in Ugo Capeto.  There’s literally not a single track on Short Stories I would have tossed away – each of these tracks are perfectly assembled – brimming full of LIFE and incredible beats.  I’ve heard a LOT of great music that personally appeals to me as of late – but this might be the winner for me, and UC is managing all that at barely a minute per song.  When I first started my own musical path over nearly twenty years ago, many of our tracks came out in a similar short but effective style.  When you talk about highly-repeatable music – Short Stories is the album you can reference.  “Story 03,” or “Story 09” are perfect examples of what I mean; they’re small track with hooks so large that by the moment you catch the beat fully you’re just about ready to say goodbye to it.  And the moment that happens…you’ll want to hear it again.

Over time – I found I really DID want to hear those sweet electronic sounds for a longer time period than we were recording them for.  Then eventually, we decided that we wanted to attempt to add vocals to the sweet electronic rhythms we were making, which led to me grabbing the mic officially for the first time in my life.  Couldn’t sing then, arguably still can’t now – but we evolved the sound even further with the additional time into the tracks and developing them as full songs with lyrics.  And that’s not to say they weren’t “finished” tracks before that stage – cause hell yes they were – but after finding our own limitations in what we had available to use for instrumentation and this was the best route to go for us.  Even if we didn’t have a real singer – we found a way to use my voice as another instrument.

After a bunch of thorough listens to Ugo Capeto’s latest here – I can only imagine where these sounds will go over these next several years.  The possibilities are completely limitless, with a work-ethic to match the creative process.  The FL studio-program is such a well put together, user friendly and amazing sounding tool to make effective music.  But even as well-thought-out as that program IS – it still takes an incredible amount of time, effort and skill to come out with a result as stellar as what you’ll find here on Short Stories.  You could listen to 1000 albums made from the same studio-suite and never come close to the precision and quality that you’ll find on this new album.

So….where DOES it go from here? 

That’s one question I really can’t wait for the answer for.  I’m beyond excited at the idea of anything coming across this desk from Ugo Capeto now that I’ve heard the latest album in full.  I want MORE.  Lots and lots more…

…but if my math and research are both correct here…you’ll never be waiting too long for that next album of brilliance from Ugo Capeto.  For now – go spend FIFTEEN whole minutes of your day in electronic bliss and take in some Short Stories to brighten up the long one you’re actually living!

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Ugo Capeto and check out some of the amazing back-catalog as well right here at the official page:  http://ugocapetomusic.blogspot.ca/

 

May 12th, 2014 - The Other Colors - O.R. - Album Review

TheOtherColors
The Other Colors – O.R. – Album Review

Hot damn - is this album ever tough to explain to the top-40 crowd!

Masters of atmosphere from France, The Other Colors are back with a new album FULL of intense soundscapes and sonic experiments.  Those of you that have known me from my musical past will know I absolutely lived, slept and harvested everything I could from the experimental electronica section at one point, going as far as comparing what I regularly listened to with a “steady chorus of broken answering machines…”

Done right…experimental electronica isn’t as crazy as it might seem at first.  Quite often there’s just as much purpose in every frequency or random sound as there is in any guitar lick.  As a genre it knows zero creative boundaries and the possibilities to turn music into ART become endless.  It’s a style of music that, though I might not listen to it as savagely as I once did in the past, will always be appreciated during present-day discoveries.

One of those current joys of the electronic world is certainly this amazing duo from France, Laurent & Marie, making music as The Other Colors.  Everything about this new album O.R. will test the very fabric of what you know to be “music,” but for those of you who have listened and still aren’t sure…YES…this IS music.  Is your grandmother going to like this?  NO!  She’s literally not going to even understand that her stereo is in fact playing incredibly flawlessly.  She’ll listen to this album, keep it on her shelf as a nice gift from an obviously awesome grandchild and promptly return the disc player, suspecting it’s faulty.

So yeah….it’s not for grandma.  That should be ok with at least 95% of you out there…

One of the aspects of The Other Colors that I truly love is their visionary creativity in their music.  You ever heard that phrase “so-and-so could read me the phonebook,” referring to a person with a beautiful voice…usually Timothy Olyphant…  Anyway… 

In these tracks, Marie Möör very well COULD be reading me the phonebook…I truly don’t know!  With all her lyrics in French…part of that visionary aspect that I think works so well for The Other Colors is that they are well aware that a large portion of their audience would certainly be English-based.  With that in mind, Marie is much more free to become an instrument with her voice, or to camouflage herself within the soundscape itself.  Whatever she decides…she comes through hauntingly with the purest of tones.  The opening track “Ce Magma” will demonstrate perfectly just how wonderful her voice can be as she delivers a passionate and devilishly-pronounced spoken word piece over top of the minimalist music.

Minimalism…minimalist….what kind of crap-ass words are these anyway?  Listening to music that might have “less” instrumentation involved….or that is stripped to the bare bones as it often is on O.R., should still not be referred to in any way that might imply they’re not getting the absolute MAXIMUM out of this minimal, cause they certainly ARE. Laurent has done a completely excellent job piecing together completely unique and vibrant soundscapes – listen to “Ayou” and “Nous” – these are too undeniably focused for them to be called “experimental” in any way. 

So how about we go and replace that for them and start them their own new genre:  Deftly Precise.

As well as they function on their own, this duo still shines their brightest in their moment intensely combined moments.  A track like “Share chère chair” demonstrates this perfectly as Laurent pushes the boundaries of soundscapes with dark low-end intensity as Marie delivers her vocals in a style that’s nearly like breathing itself.  Each word coming out and disappearing into the musical thickness…perfect.

Does it ever become “normal?”

I was pretty sure I told your grandma to go knit a sweater or something…

NO!  There’s no “normal” here of any kind!  Instead you’ll just have to put up with “new,” “artistic,” “groundbreaking…”  The closest you might get to “normal” of any kind might be the track “Nous Nos Os Danse” – but even that’s a long, long stretch to musical-normality.  It does pack a more energetic beat however, which also serves well to round out the expanse of sounds and styles they took in on recording O.R.

There are moments on the album that have reminded me of The Boards Of Canada…also moments like “Rouge 13” that remind me of some of the brilliant and dark soundscape work Orbital has done, much like on the album Octane.  A definite highlight for me and buried deep within this album…it was awesome to have The Other Colors step in and do this experimental electronica genre such musical JUSTICE.  This album has everything you could possibly want in its variety of sounds and maintains a completely captivating listening experience all the way to the end.  It’s the kind of album I would love to wake up to in the earliest hours of the morning…it would both freak me out and calm me down at times…but you know what?

I’d be FEELING something.

So ask yourself…honestly…is the music you’re listening to making you FEEL something?  Or are you just here to sing along?  I wouldn’t take points away from either of these measures of what makes great music…but I would suggest that if the music you’re listening to isn’t moving anything more than your mouth that you might be missing out on some fantastic experiences.  A song like “Notre Cirque En Notre Cercle” is such a complete burst of awesomeness to the ears that I can’t imagine anyone having to do WITHOUT.  And if you don’t dig the end of that track…well…we just listen to music um, extremely differently from each other and you can go back to hangin’ out with grandma.

After this album ended for me the first time I truly felt satisfied.  Not only that it was yet another brilliantly unique and creative effort from this reliable crew, but even more so just in the sense that it felt GOOD to hear something this different again.  It has been said many times that every song we hear, know and love can somehow be traced back to The Beatles…

I don’t know about that so much when I listen to the limitless creativity in The Other Colors…seems to me they at least have fairly different ideas in song-structure…oh but wait!  I can DEFINITELY think of a time period that The Beatles went through where they would have LOVED the music of The Other Colors…does that count?

Go find out what different REALLY is in the best way you possibly could and give the music of The Other Colors a spin or seven.

  • Jer @ SBS

You can find their albums and all kinds of music from The Other Colors right here:  http://goo.gl/mmvZPN

 

May 9th, 2014 - Secrets Of A Wooden Hut - From The Outside - EP Review

SecretsOfAWoodenHut
Secrets Of A Wooden Hut – From The Outside – EP Review

Australia…I’ve mentioned before just how much I LOVE you guys right?  I swear – your continent is more “plugged-in” musically…so ahead of the game in so many ways with what’s happening in your indie circuit right now that I can’t help but look forward to playing any file or disc that comes my way from that beautiful country.  Or horror movie for that matter…the Aussie-outback-set horror movies are the best by far….but that’s another story for another time…there’s absolutely nothing horrific about the music of Secrets Of A Wooden Hut except for the fact that I haven’t heard about them by now.

Cause that’s my personal definition of horrific.  Music like this should most definitely be heard and getting out there like a wildfire spreads.

You have to understand just how EASY any of us music-journalist people are.  While it might take years to prove the validity of any album or set of songs over time for any of us, impressions are still formed quickly and standing out can often be difficult sending  out tracks that are almost always 7-12 plain, boring old files on a computer.  Not the music, the actual “physical” part of the whole deal…just lifeless things to click upon.  And while this might seem like a small detail for all of you readers – for some this will become gold-star indie advice; Secrets Of A Wooden Hut sent me their new EP, From The Outside, via a video download link.  And while the video may be only an image…it doesn’t matter…my first impression was that this was a band already thinking outside of the box.

The opening of this EP starts with a dark and dirty drum riff that will remind you of Tool tracks like “Disposition,” or “Intolerance” before launching into a completely different direction full steam with charged guitars, powerful bass and the sickly sweet voice up front in the vocals…

…yeah…about that…sorry…gotta take a quick time-out/shout-out here for a second…

Samantha Sharpe is fucking incredible.  Let me just say, the minute her voice came over the mic and into that opening track “Madness” I was hearing everything I wanted to hear.  And as many of you out there already know, I click play, I listen, and as I’m doing so I’ve got every piece of info I can find about your band onscreen and I’m doing my best to visualize the scenario from conceptualization to recording.  So you have to imagine my surprise that Samantha was their least experienced member in the studio – she comes out flawlessly attacking each and every note with range, style and perfect tone.

…hmm…one more shout out…maybe more of a warning…

You JOURNALISTS out there are going to want to rush to your typewriter machines and start tippity-tappity-ing about Evanessence and start up your comparisons to that…blah bah-fuckin’-blah…  I’m just saying that anyone that’s hearing that comparison is only hearing an electric guitar with a powerful female vocalist up front…and also that the person reviewing in that opinion is completely hollow and dead inside with no musical opinion of any validity whatsoever…yeah…that’s what I’m saying!

Once fully assembled, rehearsed and ready to go – Secrets Of A Wooden Hut landed at their home on Invengo Productions…a label that should be extremely proud of this EP coming out from their grip, it has been made perfectly.  There is no doubt in my mind that no matter how GOOD Invengo Production THINKS Secrets Of A Wooden Hut are, that they REALLY still don’t know just what they’re about to have on their hands here.  SOAWH has every aspect of a world-wide sensation written all over them!  Get the discs pressed and ready Invengo Prod., cause the phones and e-mails for time with this band are about to go insane.  Full credit to all that had a hand in this immaculately recorded, mixed & mastered EP – I hope that each and every one of you realize just how perfectly it all came out.

Another aspect of what I loved about being sent the album via video-link is that there was less of an ability to “skip-through” or go back to listen to what somehow might have stood out more…instead, with a single solitary file to click upon, I get this full EP From The Outside from start to finish…as I truly believe it was intended.  The six tracks on this recording are chockfull of musical merit, and they certainly all belong in this set together.  Incredibly consistent and focused – if you’re into the first track you hear from Secrets Of A Wooden Hut, you’ll be there and hooked on right til the very end.

Much credit to their songwriting and assembly skills, their creativity and ability to make complex rhythms that are still catchy enough for people to catch onto is a true example of their focus.  This is a band that could have quite easily gone into a more intensely prog-rock route, rather than walk the line they are now.  Instead, you have a tightly focused band that never slips once in their perfection, delivering songs that are challenging but familiar to an ear on repeated listens.

I’m not sure what they call that in Australia, but here in Canada I call that a set of songs that will HOLD UP over time…this will be a band I not only want to listen to down the road, but I’ll be actively seeking them out and checking in for new music.  As far as rock goes – this is as excited as I was when I reviewed the album Dead Songs For A Live Soul by Sky As Skin here on the pages; between them and what Secrets Of A Wooden Hut have put here on record I’m a firm believer I’ve found two members in the core of rock-music futures to come.   Three if I count our very own homegrown band from Vancouver Island, This Day Burns…someone get me the phone…this is a tour that should HAPPEN!

The writing is intense, dramatic and musically diverse.  “Summer” is a great example of everything SOAWH is capable of from timing switches to the light & heavy, lyrically captivating and Sharpe fully takes her vocals to the extremes of her passion putting it all on the line.  Whatever little experience she might have had coming into this recording aside, she left that studio a veteran.  In fact, she is MORE than welcome to call us up anytime with advice on how to “get it right” in the vocal booth and on the page lyrically, like she is on this EP. 

Every band has a strength even if they don’t necessarily have a weakness.  Samantha Sharpe IS that strength…that piece that was needed to bring this band to that next level.  Original members Heath Mitchell and Scott Murdoch are always creative in their musical arrangements, assembling arrangements that truly highlight and demonstrate Sharpe’s abilities, talents and range. 

Their skills are flawlessly executed and punctuated with a real gift for melody; but it’s Sharpe that pushes them over the edge and into the fantastic with the sheer strength in her vocals and ability to write songs that allow her to expand fully and blow entire houses down.

I like everything I’ve heard from start to finish and can’t wait to hear it all over again.  I like everything I read from their bio to their influences to their active postings in their social media.  Each individual player is attacking their instrument with confidence, passion and perfect timing.  Every mix is bang-fucking-on.  I know it’s been said, but some clichés exist for good reason – for you rock fans out there – this is as perfect as perfect can get.

  • Jer @ SBS

Go learn more about Secrets Of A Wooden Hut at:  https://www.facebook.com/SecretsOfAwoodenHut

 

May 7th, 2014 - Gemstar - Open Skies - Album Review

Gemstar
Gemstar – Open Skies – Album Review

Allow me to beat this horse yet one more time…

You independent artists out there are truly kicking ALL of the ass right now; the mainstream ain’t got nothing on you right now.  Bands and artists are strengthening their skills, knowing that the best of the best will succeed in this day and age of accessibility.  If you have the skillset, it’s only a matter of time before those talents are recognized by someone out there, and as long as you’re putting yourself out there as much as you can.

You can bet our artist in review, Gemstar, is now included in my growing playlist of independent artists that are writing at the top of their game.  He has clearly seen and heard the sheer amount of music that truly is out there; but rather than settle for anything half-assed and risk falling into the sea of anonymity – he’s risen to every challenge, delivering this new album full of energy & excitement, Open Skies.

If you check into Gemstar’s sites and previous work, you’ll find he’s a mixtape master and has been for some time already.  When you listen to Open Skies, you can HEAR that amateur hour has long been left behind in Gemstar’s world – this is a seasoned musical veteran at this point.  While many rappers might claim to have many different flow styles in their pockets, the harsh reality is that most rely on one or two key flows to get them through the verse of an album’s worth of songs – perhaps the thing I appreciate and like the most about Gemstar is that you can really hear the work he has put into the writing and creating unique rhythms and flows.

The opening track is called “Perfect” for a reason – just listen.  But right away, this track sets an extreme bar way up high because in all honesty, Gemstar has done everything RIGHT to set himself apart and stand out among so many others.  “Never There” is another incredible example with help from a homie going by the name of Hard Target in an emotionally powerful track that can’t be missed.  You combine that track, with the next cut – the absolutely brilliant “Vortex” – and you’ll get what I’m saying regarding Gemstar’s abilities.  There’s endless amounts of proof on this record in tracks like “Bars,” “Tell Me,” and “Living In Sin,” to name a few.  Each time he steps up, he’s ready to suit the music and make the entire track work as one tight musical unit.  He can go wherever he wants to on the mic.

But more importantly, he’ll take you with him.

Each track is inviting and well-assembled, each beat is completely well-produced, mixed and cut ready for Gemstar to do what he does best.  At the end of the day, pass or fail, this album rests on his abilities, talent and skill – having the occasional guest-star can’t help hide that the connection with the listeners still resides squarely on his shoulders.  It's a challenge he clearly accepted and took full on, delivering at his maximum ability every time he rips a rhyme...but it certainly never hurts to bring in a homeboy to split a track with when you’ve surrounded yourself with a talented set of studio allies like Gemstar clearly has.

“Push” is a solid reference to much of this subject on the pass Vs. fail aspects of life in a track full of hope and redemption featuring Cryptic Wisdom.  You can hear that emotional connection he has to this track…the desperation…the hope…the eventual triumph that we now know as Gemstar nestled right there in our eardrums.  And you’ll be thankful he’s pulled you in so closely for this track, as immediately following “Push” is one of the liveliest jams in the set, once again featuring Hard Target – “Wave Your Hands.”  I’d have to say – this particular track has hit single written all over it; sparkling playful piano & bass jam with the sweetest of old-school feels.

I’m pretty sure it would have been called “Perfect” had that name not already been taken on the album.
All in all – Gemstar more than proves himself on Open Skies.  One would have to assume that title is a reference to the limitless possibilities an artist with a skillset as sharp as this truly has…
Gemstar is much more than potential on a record – this is an artist fully assembled.

  • Jer @ SBS

You can find this highly addictive hip-hop album Open Skies direct right here:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/open-skies/id735645321

 

May 2nd, 2014 - Ysimonis - Regular N*gg# - Album Review

ysimonis
Ysimonis – Regular N*gg# - Album Review

It hasn’t been since Snoop released Doggystyle that I’ve heard an album warrant the tag of explicit lyrics like this!  Ysimonis has got plenty to say on his new album Regular N*gg# and he is certainly unafraid of using his extended vocabulary to get the job done right.  The result is an album full of deep-gangsta-beats accompanied by a lyrical flow that’s smooth, on-point and even wickedly funny at times.

So – first off…is the explicit tag necessary?  With track names like “Pussy” and “Flash Dem Titties” – you can be the judge for yourselves…but I’d be lying if I said decisions like that aren’t one of the reasons I’m continually thankful to not have children.  I can remember a tinier version of me recording Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle over top of my store-bough tcopy of MC Hammer’s Please Hammer Don’t Hurt’em just so that I could listen to it without my mom catching on and freaking out about.  Picturing some young homie out there going through the same ordeal with this new album from Ysimonis…well…let’s just say that someone out there is going through this, and I myself have indeed got a bit of nostalgia goin’ on.  Music has and always will be worth breaking the rules for.

And really, when you listen to Regular N*gg#, you have to wonder if that isn’t really what this whole album is all about in the background…Ysimonis breaking free of the daily routine and making his own rules now through music.  Thematically this album largely deals with being deep in the rap game and owning your moment, breaking those rules of convention and literally saying whatever the fuck you want.  There’s a freedom in this music that I have always have a deep respect for, even if I don’t always necessarily agree with the politics of “thug-life.”  The simple fact is – today’s rapper…the one’s that own their style like Ysimonis does here…these are the modern-day outlaws of our time.

Whether real or fake, it can be like crafting a character out of the lyrics and flow.  If you own this image with style and confidence like Ysimonis does, it becomes convincing to the listener.  Everything I can hear on this record sounds like he has put the time into creating that character, even if it is a true reflection of himself; like I said, real or fake – he’s owning it like he’s living it every day.  Listen to tracks like “I Can’t” and “True-n-False” and you’ll get what I mean.

Cause c’mon – you can’t use a line like, “You’re girl likes my pickle…that’s true” unless you’re ready to commit.

I told a story here once about downloading the 8-Mile soundtrack way back in the day and ending up with three tracks that had been purposely mislabeled by a rapper going by Dirty Dave and his unknown posse backing him up.  And I swore to myself long ago, that anytime I heard someone with a similar flow I would send a quick shout-out of remembrance to this unknown homie, cause SOMEONE out there one day will have had the same experience I did and knows the familiarity and humor in the rap lyrics.  Dirty Dave is the man…so is Mickey Avalon…so is Snoop…and all three remind me of what Ysimonis is doing now.

It’s almost like taking it back to a time of “gangsta-purity” if you will…he’s kinda got the pimp-version of a Teddy Pendergrass album here.  That thematic sense of him owning his moment…well, let’s just say that 90% of the time he sounds like he’s owning that moment with a female companion.  Or two.  “She Got Me” is smooth like that, and again, “I Can’t” is great example of what I’m talking about with an incredible beat combined with piano to make it all that more real for you people listening out there.

We will be talking about this further when SBS Live This Week comes back to its new home on Vimeo, scheduled for late tonight/tomorrow morning after being away for nearly a month.  A ton of excellent videos in the line-up for you to watch, and I’ll go further with this review and drop a few more knowledge bombs on ya about this slick new album from Ysimonis.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find Regular N*gg# by Ysimonis on itunes now!  https://itunes.apple.com/album/regular-n*gg/id741084977

 

April 27th, 2014 - Swami Lushbeard - "Where The Sheep Are Led - Single Review

SwamiLushbeard
Swami Lushbeard – “Where The Sheep Are Led” – Single Review

Alright…the episode is long over but the rock continues!  Swami Lushbeard is back in another appearance here with sleepingbagstudios in print after not just surviving our extremely lengthy video-interview, but thriving through it!  If you haven’t caught the episode yet, be sure to check it out!  In fact, Part II of their episode will give you a chance to listen to the very song in question today, the latest single from Swami Lushbeard – “Where The Sheep Are Led.”

Now…as much as I like reviewing music, reviewing a single can often be a difficult thing.  Again many people are satisfied with a simple sentence and a thumbs-up from an opinion they value, and many independent journalists find themselves asleep at night feeling they’ve done more than enough through a byline blog mention…not us!  What was particularly cool about reviewing this new single is that so many people I personally knew came by during the making of the last video interview with Swami, that I’m BARELY able to retain my objectivity here.

Because I’m already FULLY aware of the public reaction to this new song from Swami Lushbeard; they LOVE it.

No joke – when I was creating backgrounds and piecing together a simple video to go with their single to put on our show, I was visited by people from all over at the studio who would watch along with me.  I got comments like: “That’s one hell of a band,” “That’s an awesome song,” and “Holy SHIT those guys can PLAY,” from other sources to help confirm the facts I knew so well already.  Swami Lushbeard IS an excellent band – I was dead positive after hearing and reviewing their last EP, A Burning Desire, but still, it’s nice to get that confirmation from the outside…now I know I’m not crazy!

“Where The Sheep Are Led” is rock-riff heaven.  Beginning in a daring fashion, a-cappela, the track amps up quickly into a chunky riff to build the verse.  Lead singer Don Sprouls delivers a vocal-flow perfectly timed and sung with intensity to match the music…he even finds himself in the middle of a deadly guitar solo towards the end of this track.  I wanna say personally, after meeting this crew through video and even having been privy to some underground Swami Lushbeard recordings…I KNOW this guy to be tough on himself when it comes to the vocals.  And after a thorough listen, fellow readers, I’m sure you’ll come to the very same conclusion I have about all that….

“Ummmmmm…..why?”

As he has always done in the past – Don fits perfectly atop the music of Swami Lushbeard with a solid and confident tone, supported in this song through the slick & skillful bass of Dre, a sheer beat-a-thon being supplied from drummer Ian and of course melodies from M@ on the keys that are at the core of the song itself.  Each of these pieces work together just as well off-camera as they do on it as far as I can personally tell!  “Where The Sheep Are Led” is a complex beast; while it might have some standard riffs that allow Don to sing and do what he does best on stage, the rest of the band is going full-out here at all times around those meaty hooks from his guitar.  It’s that very push/pull aspect between the rhythm and leads really give this song the vibrant qualities you need to have to warrant a single release.

And wait….didn’t I just mention something about the stage?

If you are in the LOS ANGELES area and you’re NOT going to TRiP on April 19th, 2014 to go and ROCK with SWAMI LUSHBEARD…well…well…well then you should find yourselves in a WORLD OF PAIN instead!  Hmmm.  I kinda like it…maybe it came off a little too harsh…  Yeah…actually….let me try that again….

On April 19th, 2014 Swami Lushbeard will be playing a show at TRiP in Santa Monica, CA….and get this – FREE PARKING!!!  How awesome is that?  And painless!

Oh wait…it gets even better….like, way better!  FREE ADMISSION = FREE ROCK N’ ROLL.  At that rate, it might very well work out for me in the positive financially if I was to walk OR bus there from here in BC, Canada…so if you’re within 2-3 states of this show….well I’m just saying I’ve got my shoes on….what could possibly be your excuse?  Get to that show!

  • Jer @ SBS

But before you go – get yourself a copy of the latest single “Where The Sheep Are Led,” by Swami Lushbeard off their official homepage so you can sing along at their upcoming show!  You can download it for FREE right off the page! Find that and all kinds of Lushbearded adventures here:  http://swamilushbeard.com/

 

April 21st, 2014 - Sonnet To Sleep - Affirmative Say Nothing - Album Review

SonnetToSleep
Sonnet To Sleep – Affirmative Say Nothing – Album Review

Right on!  I’ve TOTALLY got something for this!

Now…to many of you who follow my writing here at sleepingbagstudios and know my insatiable need for all kinds of new music, knowing that I’ve “got something for this” might not be so much of a surprise.  So here’s a couple fun-facts about ME before I bust into this review of Affirmative Say Nothing

  • Many genres come and go through these ears…but few have claimed the top spot on an ongoing basis over year-spans.  The “rock-ballad” was one of them…and that’s gonna come in handy here…
  • Not to toot on my own horn tooooooooooo much…but you all know I do my research as well, reading social pages and bios and whatever I can get my eyes on as my ears are listening…and quite often the case has been through these reviews that I find the REAL “sounds-like.”  Not the one the bands always want necessarily…bios and influences are usually abundant with so many comparisons that it becomes hard to establish where the band in question is REALLY coming from on a musical level.  I like to think my ability to cut through the bullshit is one of the reasons you all keep coming back – so I’ll just say it with confidence today; I am better than the “bio!”

And in the case of today’s band in question, Sonnet To Sleep…I will rise once again as your champion…hang on…we’ll get there together I promise….

I’ve got five EXCELLENT songs here on this new album from Sonnet To Sleep and a big ol’ nostalgia-chubby as this music takes me back to a time where the pop-meets-rock element was a little more pure at heart and I was listening with every free moment I had.  Four out of the five tracks on this short & very-sweet album could easily qualify as rock-ballads; beautiful in tone, melodic and emotional.  I’ll admit to being slightly shocked the songs weren’t 9 or 10 minutes long – 5 songs seems awfully short to me to declare it an “album,” but for real – who the hell am I to say when it comes to this?  If you call it an album, my internet friends…well…I’ll certainly review it as such!

One extreme benefit to the music on this disc from Sonnet To Sleep is the tremendous focus you get to have in making a short album or EP.  Let’s be honest here; if you can’t garner some control of the 4-5 songs on these short excursions and master the element of consistency…I’d have to say you were missing something big time!  Thankfully, this is not remotely the case here today with STS – this band has made their five so tight it’s NEARLY impossible to find a fault whatsoever!

But there is ONE…and thankfully, for many of you…you might never know it! 

In the bio…it references some “sounds-likes” that would throw your expectations were you to read them.  Listing Dave Growl, (Like OUCH on the misspelt JESUS of sleepingbagstudios guys – GROHL.  I even double-checked to make sure Dave Growl wasn’t someone ELSE, which I knew would be pointless…but it actually turned out incredibly awesome – did you know that typing in Dave Growl will ONLY lead you to EVERYTHING about Dave GROHL…I had to have a laugh here!) listing Jimmy Gnecco (of the band Ours) would all be a slight misrepresentation of what this music sounds like for real.  Now, chances are – Aaron Rios, the mastermind behind the beautiful songs being made in Sonnet To Sleep just really looks up to these singers and music-makers…and I mean, who could blame him? 

Personally, I never once heard the “hint of Dave Grohl” myself…or Dave Growl lol, though I’d admit to MAYBE a few moments reminding me of Jimmy from Ours (there’s a scream in “Promises” that should have been way more up front in the mix, but he NAILS the Gnecco gnarl in that) …but there was nothing that to me in that set of names that really brought the comparisons to a plane of actual existence…it didn’t completely fit, something still didn’t seem right…

So…time to put my money where my mouth is…if not these artists…what DOES the music of Sonnet To Sleep sound like?

The answer is simple.  Dishwalla, J.R. Richards and actually Thom Yorke from the very FIRST Radiohead album, Pablo Honey.  You can take these to the bank as a much closer comparison.  Aaron’s vocals are a nearly dead ringer for J.R. Richards, either on his own solo or with his band Dishwalla.  It’s UNCANNY.  Like, to the point where Aaron…I’m calling you out here – you’ve GOTTA be a fan right?  Listen to the opening track “Promises” and you’ll hear it instantly if you know the reference…it’s dead on until Rios deviates and adapts elements of this style uniquely in his own signature towards the chorus. 

There are also times…and especially if you dig into their other tunes outside this new album, you’ll hear the echo, crack and break in the vocals of that younger version of Yorke.  In either of these cases, or even his own comparisons, Rios has picked nothing short of AMAZING role models and through his own confidence and delivery – he’s finding a valid place to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of these great singers he has modelled himself after.

AND – like I said – rock-ballads were way up there for me at one point.  I remain, at least as far as I know, one of the most rampant fans of Dishwalla to this day.  I want more of that sound, even now.  Consider me extremely thankful to have stumbled upon this album from Sonnet To Sleep; make no mistake, I’ve given them PLENTY of a hard-time (All in good fun!) in this review but I do absolutely love this music on Affirmative Say Nothing
Listening to this on repeat – I’m extremely thankful for people like Aaron Rios.  If not for people like him, courageous enough to go against the musical-grain, many sounds that SHOULD have worked and maybe didn’t at the time, would never be resurrected.  Dishwalla didn’t work out commercially, neither did Ours…but that far from means that they did anything wrong – those are people built from the same very mettle as Rios – their sounds were in contrast to the musical climate of the time as well.

Yeah yeah Jer...but will it work?

Pffff.  C’mon – it DID.  Listen to any of these five tracks.  I’m on “So Beautiful” right now myself…somewhere in the 5th or 6th run through on this album…the title says it all.  Though it might refer to a person inside the lyrics, the song itself is a perfect example of how to do the pop/rock ballad RIGHT.  Rios also has guest stars popping in on these tracks from time to time, most notably the fantastic Miss Angie who lends a perfect set of vocals out on “Only For A Moment.”  It all works, every single moment of this album…nothing needs to be commercialized or profited upon to make it a success; this is as perfect of an effort in five songs as you could possibly ask for.  Consider me a big fan.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find everything you need and WANT to know about Sonnet To Sleep at their official page!  www.sonnettosleep.com

 

April 18th, 2014 - Fiona Hare - Keep Me Wild - Album Review

FionaHare
Fiona Hare – Keep Me Wild – Album Review

I actually get a lot of questions regarding my threshold of acceptance and ability to examine all kinds of music and styles.  I’ll be asked; “isn’t it difficult, or boring, or hard, or a pain to go through so much music in search of the good stuff out there?

To which my answer has been the same for years now – “No.  And how the heck do YOU do it?”

The truth?  Most people refer to sites like ours or other reliable sources out there to MINE and SCOUR the internet, take recommendations from friends, listen to every disc placed in our waiting hands and relay that information to YOU out there…and that’s exactly what I’m doing here today.  I want to tell you about a special artist out there I stumbled across through the Bandcamp website and HAD to tell you about.  Her name is Fiona Hare – all the way from South Africa.

This bearded face that writes to you all now…is an extreme fan of beautiful music.  Many of you who have seen our show SBS Live This Week are often taken aback by just how much this face can hold on a folacle-level, but let me just tell you all now…it’s great music that gives it the strength to push out hair after hair, and if I’m bearded at all in the eyes of this world, it’s all thanks to that same amount of amazing music I mine and hunt for daily.  I feel like I’ve put an extra inch to the bottom of my chin after listening to Keep Me Wild, the new album from Fiona.  This melodic and atmospheric album has all the right pieces in all the right places.

I’ve listened to this album many times at this point, even though I discovered it was only recently released at the end of March this year.  And truthfully, I am desperately wanting to start this review at the END of the album, but there’s so much to talk about in between pushing play and those final notes that it would be a misstep to take you there first.

Opening Keep Me Wild with a track called “Desert Rose,” Fiona opens up a musical vein right away and bleeds out right onto the record.  In a beautiful and isolated beginning, much becomes clear upon that very first sample – Fiona can certainly write an incredible song and perform them with maximum conviction. 

There are times in our lives, especially solo-artists, that require a little assurance from an outside source that we’re on the right track…

Well Fiona?  I’m here to do just that.  Nice to meet you, my name is Jer @ SBS…

For real though – she carries her initially displayed grace instantly into the tracks to follow.  “Ambulance For Hearts” and “Black Dog,” both sultry and sexy, slow-flowing jazzy/electronic tracks that showcase her ability for fantastic lyrics and passionate delivery.  One can only hope from this side of the screen & having never actually interacted with her, that Fiona somewhere out there knows just how truly good she IS.  These tracks will remind you of some of the best out there in the female-voice kingdom, notably Feist and Nina Persson, formerly of The Cardigans.  All three of these singers, Fiona included, have that beautiful tone accompanied by a soft whisper that comes in perfectly every once in a while.

One of the major reasons I’m loving this album is the song “Magick.”  With a gorgeously-sad piano background…Fiona sings quietly and perfectly over top of this song, letting us all into some of the truest feelings spread out over this album.  As hopeful as it is desolate – this track racks the full 100% of points for me…absolutely full of raw emotion and true-feelings.

In the tracks that followed, “Hands,” “More,” and “Deeper” – there was no drop in quality, no sense of becoming tired or any less interesting than when she started this album.  “Hands” plays out like a single-worthy song and “More,” along with “Deeper” take the proper measures to ensure that this album doesn’t become stagnant around the 7th & 8th track like so many albums out there unfortunately do.  Keep Me Wild sounds incredibly focused throughout and you get the sense pretty quickly in that these were songs that NEEDED to come out of Fiona, lest she might die with them and the feelings exploding inside her.

This is the thing:  “This Is The Thing” is a great reminder that she’s a folk-artist stepping into an electronic world…I think this track serves the album as a fantastic display of her roots before embarking onto the final two cuts off this excellent album...

And we’re HERE!  Like I said somewhere in there towards the beginning….much of me wanted to start the review at this point in the album, if only to highlight what creating a memorable and lasting impression on a listener truly sounds like.  Cause if you’re out there right now…and you’re wondering about that very thing…listen to these final tracks on Keep Me Wild, “Could I” and “Galilee” and you’ll have a blueprint for your own success cause Fiona Hare has absolutely done that here.  These two tracks are so well made that it becomes impossible to NOT talk about how strong this album becomes by the very end.

“Could I,” is an incredibly comfortable song for Fiona.  Catchy and thoughtful, bringing the electronic-influence to her folk-music a little more upfront once again but never becoming mechanical - her use of electronic sounds and beats have never been over-stepped on this album.  Always an accent, but never a trick she relies on, you can bet safely that if you find yourself liking any of these tracks on Keep Me Wild that the very reason is the main attraction herself – Fiona delivers flawlessly on every moment of this new album.

The final track, “Galilee,” is everything I want in the last song on an album to entice me to a repeat listen.  As haunting as it is beautiful, rich in tone and melody…straight up, this is a track I’ll never want to forget and an artist who will now be under our watchful eyes awaiting news and new music for the rest of time.  If an album were anything like the ABC’s of Sales (Always Be Closing) – this final cut puts the pen in your willing hands and gains your commitment in signature to come back for another listen.

So.  Yeah.  So there.  THIS is why I listen to anything I can that comes across this desk…because sometimes, not always but sometimes…you find an incredible undiscovered talent like Fiona Hare out there that makes the entire journey so fulfilling and worthwhile.

Go check this out!

  • Jer @ SBS

You can find her on Facebook right here at:  https://www.facebook.com/FionaJeanHare

 

April 14th, 2014 - Giant The Artist - HiberNation - Mix-Tape Review

GiantTheArtist
Giant The Artist – HiberNation: The MixTape – Review

Ahhhh the mix-tape; is there a genre with more potential for incredible atmosphere?  I’ve got one on right now – I’m checking out Giant The Artist and his new release HiberNation and it’s everything I was looking for right now.  Well-mixed and some incredible choices for samples, you add that to a tremendous flow and ability on the mic and you’ve found yourself right where I am now – chillin deep in HiberNation.

GTA comes out swinging quickly.  After a quick intro to let you know he’s comin, “Now Or Never” shows an absolute mastery of lyrics spit into the mic in an intense start to what becomes what a true mix-tape should be all about; variety.  True mix-tape mastery though?  It takes variety AND consistency.  It takes the ability to take the listener from one genre to another from sample to sample but retain that signature that still makes it undoubtedly recognizable. 

And Giant The Artist is doing that every time he mixes a beat or steps to the mic.

“Do It All Together,” instantly switches up the vibe to a pop/R&B vibe that works so sickly well you’ll start to wonder exactly which of this guy’s skills he considers his number one strength!  Get me an interview with GTA someone – I wanna know honestly, how you can jump from musical branch to branch like this with so much ease!  This track flows like Bacardi and Coke on a Friday night.

Again switching up the genres and styles of samples through “Person I’ve Become” and “One Step Closer” – Giant remains true at the mic with a dedicated & focused flow each and every verse, driving hook after hook into your ears.  His metering is absolutely dead-on though, as an MC, whenever you hit that one stutter…that one syllable too many in a verse, it’s completely noticeable; and you won’t find that ANYWHERE on this mix-tape.

No shit – I’m saying Giant The Artist is literally lyrically perfect.

One thing I also really dig about the whole mix-tape genre as a whole as well is that feeling that you’re listening to the underdog somehow.  I’ve never really understood it, I think it’s a music that has all the advantages any music could possibly want – but I’ve never been pushed OFF by it either…somehow it’s a vibe and an attribute that I can appreciate and it’s one that many of these mixtape artists seem to commonly share.  Listen to a track like “Perfect” and you’ll hear those themes & that struggle…that push vs. pull, and ultimately, the rise above and overcoming all the odds.

Without a doubt this guy can make the most of any sample of style and as soon as a new flavor starts through the music I’m stoked to see where he’s going to go next.  “Practice What You Preach” is another amazing example of owning your track; GTA is all-confidence here and he should be – his skills drip out of tracks like this, simply overflowing with entertainment value and memorable hooks.

“On My Own Grind,” one of my favorites on the mix-tape with a cool, chilled-out vibe and old-school flow, it also shows that Giant The Artist isn’t afraid to mix it up, adding effects to his vocals for the hook in the chorus and demonstrating that he understands how he wants to sound in these tracks just as well as he understands when to bust into them.

I have had what I will call the pleasure of listening to many mix-tapes since I first started this thang, the chronicles of which are all documented alongside this review here in our history; and I can say without hesitation that this has been the most enjoyable ride through a sound-collective I’ve had.  For real – this is the pinnacle of mix-tape enjoyment and it has all the necessary ingredients in skill, diversity &  consistency to make it hold up over time. 

That being said, I’m gonna to my best to wear that third track right OUT!  “Do It All Together” is the summer-jam I’m looking for you know?  I keep picking my head up when I hear that track, it a guaranteed winner along with so many others here in HiberNation. The album dives into some heavier emotional territory as it heads towards the end – “Eye Of The Storm” and “36 Hours” are a killer back-to-back set of songs that pack a real punch on the way to the end of this album through relatable lyrics and genuinely smart beats on point in the background.

“Paradise City,” second to last track on this mix-tape is a fantastic summation to this effort and a perfect snapshot of all the things GTA does best; his rhymes have emotion.  He might be perfect on the metering at all times, but he’s no robot – this is a voice that your ears will want to follow willingly wherever it goes and this track is every bit the proof of that.  HiberNation….this entire mixtape has exceeded every possible expectation that I could have had in this genre.  Awesome.

  • Jer @ SBS

Be sure to check into what Giant The Artist is up to - official page: http://www.gianttheartist.com/   

 

April 12th, 2014 - The Alpine Camp - Music Review

TheAlpineCamp
The Alpine Camp – Music Review

Thought I’d write a quick new intro on this review of The Alpine Camp…I wanted to have this out there yesterday in the early morning but that wasn’t meant to be.  As that’s one of the most silent moments you’ve seen me go through at sleepingbagstudios, especially through the written side, a quick explanation is in order…

So the quick one is that I’ve been to the emergency room, and no – not because the music of The Alpine Camp had put me there…they’re actually one of the only things currently making me feel any better at all.  Nah, as much as I try to barricade myself indoors and only let the music inside – something got through the defense and knocked me flat out during these past 48 hours.  That wonderful feeling where you can’t sit still, or stare forward….can’t get the energy to listen or to type even….we’ve all been there at times, even me….it’s just never put me into the emergency room before!

So…that’s where I’ve been…but just days before that I was in the middle of telling you all about this band The Alpine Camp from Los Angeles that I’d recently been switched on to…so let’s all get better together here and heal through this amazing new music.

And not JUST new music, but new music with a purpose!  From what I’ve read and researched while having a listen to – the last thing that this duo wants to rely on is a musical gimmick or fluke of their own genius.  With the quality of these songs, it’s more than apparent that the overall sound is every bit as important to The Alpine Camp as it would be to you.  And after two years of incubation – this project has found itself on the launching pad to some very big things.

Chris Bell on guitars & Charles Etienne on keyboards, both sing as well – they’ve found themselves on a mission here through their music; to combine their bluegrass & country skills and funnel them slyly into rock-based music.

They’re not trying to pull one over on you rock fans, they’re being honest about it on their social pages.  And besides – when you have a listen for yourself, you’ll realize that this is a combination that The Alpine Camp is pulling off exceptionally well.  Don’t be afraid, rock fans – embrace your inner twang!

You’ll have no issues with that mission, I can guarantee you that.  The music of TAC is ridiculously catchy.  From the low growlin’ drawl coming forth from the vocals to the well-played and ear-catching instruments assembled behind them – each component of what The Alpine Camp are incorporating into their work finds a way in there quite nicely.  Visiting their official site will hook you up with some of their music right away – three excellent glimpses into their musical future through tracks “Parents,” 400 Dollar Millionaire” and “Noose.”

As a set of songs, it’s an excellent sample of what these two are capable.  Fantastically written and played – “Parents” would be the first song to start out your experience at their homepage and that particular song is a real highlight of just how well they’ve gotten their vocals to come out.  You take that song, combine it with the following track “400 Dollar Millionaire” and you’ll also start to get a sense of just how much of a good time they’re having over there – and just how much it genuinely sounds like they want to share that with you too.  The songs are playful, bouncy and full-to-the-brim with the Americana-energy that you know and love.

That being said, their particular style and approach to this musical combination will definitely remind you of a particularly famous English singer/songwriter…..Elvis Costello anyone?  Have a listen to the final track on their site called “Noose” – the comparison here between The Alpine Camp and Costello’s music would be undeniable. 

And at the end of this brilliant song and opening set of tunes?  From over the mic you can hear at the end, “Well, that was kind of shit, I’ll take another one for sure.”

You can assume like I have – unless they used some studio-splicery, someone else out there was able to hear that was definitely not shit whatsoever, but indeed a brilliant take on an excellent song.  Ending a wicked introductory set to the music of The Alpine Camp on notes that have me absolutely looking forward to what comes out in the future from this impressive duo.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about them here at the official homepage of The Alpine Camp - http://www.thealpinecamp.com/

Did you know that you’ll find even MORE music from The Alpine Camp at their soundcloud page?  Check out songs that are somewhat hidden in the official homepage more easily by clicking here and listening to four more excellent tracks from this excellent band including “The Dealer,” “Strange West,” “Sixpack” and the vocally incredible song – “The Day Is Done.”

 

April 9th, 2014 - K-Bass - Faso - Album Review

KBass
K-Bass – Faso – Album Review

Cool!  I’d like to welcome back world-music superstar K-Bass to our pages back here at sleepingbagstudios!  We met this multi-lingual artist back in 2013 when we had a chance to interview him…and we can presume he was busy working on the material for his latest album Faso since we last spoke.  Ever a spokesman for positivity and the inclusion of ALL through his music – I gotta say…I think K-Bass has outdone my expectations of what was to come my way with his music on this new album.

Don’t get me wrong…no pre-judgements here…my ears always remain musically open to all kinds of genres, new sounds and new experiences into things I wouldn’t always gravitate towards on my own; admittedly here on our pages many times, the “world-music” genre is one of those.  Often incorporating sounds and rhythms I don’t normally identify with, it can be difficult for me to not only get into this genre on occasion, but also difficult to find the reasons and will to remain there.

Now…upon pushing play for this new album by K-Bass, I’m instantly reminded about his ability to create world-music that I CAN get into.  Right away launching into “Liberez L’Afrique” – this album becomes spirited with good time vibes in the music.  Later on throughout the album, as I came to “I Don’t Want To See You Sad,” I thought to myself, well surely this will be the “somber” moment of the album.  Quite the opposite really, it became one of my favorites on the album quickly.  It made me smile from ear to ear, and as a person from outside of the world-music genre, this was ultimately what lead my listening into genuine interest.

Cause you know something?  Even against the saddest of sentiments – K-Bass delivers the music and words with an upbeat and good time vibe.  I had to smile when I was listening to this track – it’s a beautiful love song literally designed to turn frowns upside down.  How can you not love that?

Honestly…if I’m ever going to receive bad news of any kind in my life, I’d like to personally ask that it now comes from K-Bass…he just has a way & approach in his delivery that really makes everything feel like it’s going to be alright!

And you see…perspective can change in an instant, which is why I encourage people to listen to as many things that they wouldn’t normally go for…because once you find a true way in, everything changes.  So in finding my way through “I Don’t Want To See You Sad,” I know the following tracks and re-listen of the first three will be like another experience altogether.  K-Bass has effectively pulled me into his album and into his music, and the moment that “Court International” begins, I can’t help but realize he has that magic ingredient that matters most…

I’m in now.  Now I want to stay here.

“Court International” is a real display of an artist at the height of the fun & the height of the creativity in recording.  And I can understand WHY.  A wicked horn-section and genuine party-beat, this track has the energy to really bring that extra spark out of K-Bass and let him do what he does best on the mic, delivering passionate lines and remaining the ultimate host, making you feel welcome at all times.

And that’s a feeling you can find on “La Galere,” a smartly electro-fused beat, with words not all in English, but tones and delivery that become entirely relatable to all.  Makes you pause and think for a moment…I mean….the whole “world-music” genre thing itself…

The moniker itself suggests the possibility that everyone around the globe would be able to find something to like and to appreciate about it.  That there’s truly a way “in,” for anyone.  I think that’s true when hearing an album like Faso and what K-Bass has put together here.  There’s French, English and other languages through the vocals….there’s music that has a classic reggae feel to it, and there are also updated versions on that sound you can find in “J’Ai Besoin De Ton Amour,” “They Pretend” and many others. 

It’s well-produced and mixed, there’s a lot of work that has been put in here into making Faso sound as clear and punchy through the soundboards, no complaints there.  K-Bass understands how to write catchy verses around the music and genuinely sounds enthusiastic about the music he’s making, with the end result being an album that can help turn the worst of days into audio-sunshine.

You’ll notice that the album cover lists it as K-Bass and Farafina Musiki, which is important to note; he has a tremendous supporting cast on this album.  Another facet of the feeling of being included on Faso is the incorporation of some fantastic backing vocalists and key players; “Nothing Left” is an excellent example of that with some excellent female backers helping out and a wicked guitar solo that can’t be missed.  And yet…somehow AGAIN…with this track actually being about things like our irreplaceable natural resources being taken away from the world…I’m STILL bobbing my head and grooving along here with K-Bass like the subject was cotton-candy and peace for all!

In many cases…music is supposed to take us away…to invoke and emotion and make you feeling SOMETHING.  Faso, as an album completely does that; it’s a fantastic look at the world through the eyes of K-Bass.  That’s a priceless gift – his views are certainly hopeful and his approach to unity through music is inspiring.  With all the good messages, positivity, love and one-for-all feelings throughout this album, I can only assume that it won’t only be me picking up on the great vibes from K-Bass, but that you will be too.

  • Jer @ SBS

Official homepage at: www.kbassmusic.com

Check him out further at:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/K-Bass-Music/397093760326013

 

 

April 7th, 2014 - Mr. Kito - Where Are The Lizards? - Album Review

MrKito
Mr. Kito – Where Are The Lizards? – EP Review

So………in case anyone is wondering what catches my attention straight off the bat...all the ingredients are intensely on display in moment one of this new EP from Mr. Kito, Where Are The Lizards?  Unique sounds and beats come immediately flying out of the first steps into these six songs and it doesn’t become any more “typical” from there!  Sold!

Of course…we’re big fans of artists & bands that challenge the very fabric of what you already know about music and expand our palettes.  As this very well might be the most creative six songs I’ve ever personally come to listen to – you have my personal assurance that I’m truly hooked on Mr. Kito.  In fact, this EP has been one of the only time-outs I’ve allowed myself to have while in the middle of recording my own latest solo project, The Cellophane Heart.

Someone out there tell me you GOT that last sentence.  Anyone?

Perhaps the ultimate compliment that doesn’t come up often can be applied here.  Many of you reading have made albums of your own…and when you’re in the very thick of it all, sometimes the last thing you want to do is take a break.

…but maybe I just need to start making music as good as our new friend Mr. Kito…

The truth is that the few short breaks I’ve allowed myself to take while in the recording process have been more than easy to justify spending with the amazing songs on Where Are The Lizards?  The first listen to this EP is as memorable as it can get for a set of ears; quite simply – there is nothing here that you’ve heard before.  Every ounce of my attention grabbed onto these slick electro-influenced grooves and beautiful vocal mixes & melodies.  Throughout the songs playing, I literally found each track to build upon the last, resulting in not only a sound that Mr. Kito can claim for itself and a cohesive EP that will literally help expand the limitations of your musical mindset.

EMBRACE this EP…hold it in your ears and whisper to it that you love it like no other…because it truly ISN’T like any other. 

Reviewers get caught often in the trap of claiming this special status for even the slightest deviations in a simple rock-band – but those of you who have followed my writing here at sleepingbagstudios know that I’d never try to pull anything over on you.  So let me just say plainly what the others will be afraid to:

Where Are The Lizards? is by FAR the strangest, weirdest, and most beautifully creative EP to come out into the musical open in 2014…and I LOVE IT. 

Is it going to be for everyone?  No.  But man SHOULD it be…I dream of a world where this is the mainstream music we hear outside our open windows in the summertime.  “In The Colour Of Your Eyes,” the opening track on the EP will confirm your allegiance instantly – it’s such a different sound than what you’ll be expecting that, well, if you’re anything like me will surge you forward with pleasure into the title track to follow and intense audio-treats to follow.  For some, the sounds will be almost too inventive; this isn’t simply verse/chorus/verse – this is organic music at its absolute best, it has LIFE.

“Where Are The Lizards?” is an absolute trip.  With a beat similar to the freak-out bests from the Radiohead catalog, Mr. Kito’s official brainchild Eric Michot continues to bend his vocals hypnotically throughout.  Spiraling into epic-ness – this is a track that is certainly title-worthy.  Followed by the sweet sounds of the pop-electro “Embrace Carelessness,” I can again tell you with complete certainty – the ideas he has for how he wants to sound through the lyrics and vocals has been flawlessly prepared and mapped out.  It’s incredibly well-mixed and such a brilliant & unique sound to have up front. 

A slight hint at an accent on these English words is slightly more noticeable on “All Is Near,” a must-hear track on an EP full of six memorable efforts.  Drawing out the vocals against a truly rad piece of electro-pop – for those of you that SOMEHOW might have struggled with the opening tracks, this would be the song for YOU.  This is the track that will hook in the people from the outside and bring them in to the world of Mr. Kito.

That electro-pop and vocal-style on “All Is Near” continues into the dark in the following track “Feel You In Me.”  Taking much of that accessible feeling found in the track moments before, Eric Michot brings the atmosphere into a dusky & hypnotic track that breathes in and out just like you do.

I mean really!  There’s so much LIFE in this EP it could get up and walk to your house on its own.

Closing with “Awaiting,” was…..well….perfect.  What about this EP wasn’t for me?  Another experiment in vocalization, this time with a combination of noise-guitar vs. incredibly smooth-guitars & ocean waves…it’s a genius ending to a brilliant set of six and when the song drops out at the end, I was stoked to find out there was a tiny bit more waiting for me there at the end, a real highlight of this unique vocal-style and succinct punctuation to this expressive set of music on Where Are The Lizards?

SO…do YOURSELF a favour and go get your headphones…then click this link here at the bottom to go find out more about Mr. Kito and get the music.  We’re all guilty of listening to what “we know” far too often…our comfortable and safe sounds…the classics we all love so much.

But in the background, people like Eric Michot are pushing the boundaries in projects like this one here in Mr. Kito, creating sounds that are ALL NEW…things you’ve yet to hear, conceptualize or try for yourself…amazing things...

Honestly…quit stalling…go put this in your face!

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Mr. Kito right here:  https://www.facebook.com/mrkitomusic

 

April 5th, 2014 - Rob Williams - A Place In The Sun - Album Review

RobWilliams
Rob Williams – A Place In The Sun – Album Review

How cool!

Here’s a nifty little piece of info on our new friend Rob Williams about this new album A Place In The Sun: that spur-of-the-moment, sound of inspiration that just hit the room that makes these songs come alive was no accident.  According to his main website – nearly all of these songs from Rob that involve a guest-star were only revealed to the players on the actual day of the recording sessions!

So heads UP session players – keep those skills up…you never know when a Rob Williams of your own is going to give you a call!

But in all honesty, when you’re listening to A Place In The Sun…keep that in mind and you’ll hear what a tremendous feat this might have actually been to pull off being recorded in this method.  What you’ll find for sure, is that those players were GREAT players – you won’t hear songs that sound “recently-learned,” because these are clearly songs that have been written with care and one can only suppose then handed over to these various guest-stars to execute his overall plans flawlessly.  You won’t hear mistakes – quite the opposite; you’ll hear Rob Williams’ vision come to life.

Throughout playing A Place In The Sun, one thing becomes extremely clear; a vision might come to life, but that life still needs a firm and steady heartbeat…and at the core of each and every one of these songs, Rob Williams reminds you time after time that the heart and the emotion in these songs come from him through a genuine ability to write songs you’ll connect with.

Here…I was hoping to avoid this…it can be difficult letting you into my brain though…just bear in mind there’s an explanation to follow this, but let’s see if you can follow me first….

Matthew Sweet, Cracker…..and Paul Simon……

Big fans of all three here personally, and certainly three artists/bands I can point to in reference to Rob Williams in this court of musical precedent.  First of all – Rob had reminded me somewhat of Matthew Sweet through his vocal tones and his style of songwriting.  Like Sweet, Rob Williams supplies much of the emotion through the actual performance rather than simply relying on heartfelt lyrics.  Sweet was more or less unafraid to pursue any place his voice would lead him and again, listening to tracks from Rob like “Just Like You” or “Norfolk Southern” proved to me he was similar to Sweet in these exact same ways.  Rob Williams roams over different styles of acoustically driven pop-rock, always delivering a passionate and inspired delivery to the music.

And it’s through that music you’ll find my reference to Cracker.  Especially the front-loaded part of this album in opening tracks like “Whiskey In The Morning” or “Nothing Good.”  Unknown to many, David Lowery and his band of Americana-bandits made a real laid-back and easy, acoustically driven ballads and rock-songs when they weren’t fully plugged in.  And like Sweet – Lowery could write an excellent story into his songs.  And like Sweet and Lowery – Rob Williams can deliver music written like a warm slice of home…“A Place In The Sun,” the title track is a fantastic example of this. 

Hmm… and writing music like a “warm slice of home…”

I mean…who didn’t feel like that listening to Paul Simon?  So like Simon and Sweet and Lowery….Williams clearly has that knack for being able to write in a style that could very well earn him a song that could steal your heart away forever. 

Ok – it’s crowded in here and these examples are clearly starting to snowball…time to shed these examples and “sounds-likes” – we ARE talking about a solo-artist here now…

“What You Gave” is definitely a track I’d feel comfortable in saying really represents Mr. Williams extremely well.  Honest and sincere in the delivery – Rob shines through once again on this beautiful ballad – highlighting some of the depth in emotion you can find on A Place In The Sun.  In contrast – the very next track on the album, “Cry Another River” shows you the up-tempo side of Rob at his best.  A rhythmic and playful track, again, I had to marvel at just how well this album has come out with many of these players only having learned the songs just in the hours before. 

ROB – you’re a genius buddy!  Whatever stick you poked all these people with was definitely the right one!

“Just Like You,” I found to remind me of another one of my all-time favorites, Pete Yorn, mixed with that up-tempo parts of the Counting Crows.  I’m all-smiles by the end of this album from Rob Williams – every artist or band he’s even vaguely reminded me of has a core of some extremely amazing songwriting; he’s keeping great company!  “Just Like You,” is to hear Rob at home completely; a song in “the pocket” for him, using the crisp and clean sounds of his voice beautifully in this track.

Sometimes you can hear a sound and it just makes SENSE.  I think at the heart of it all, that’s what I’ve learned here from listening to this music from RW.  You have to assume that he’s not only a great communicator through the stories in his songs, but also with these musicians that came in to make this album a reality.  Because these songs clearly made sense to them, or they wouldn’t have come out as stunning as they have.

Driven by that very heartbeat you’ll find residing still to this day in the very chest of Rob Williams, A Place In The Sun will make perfect sense to you too.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find the album here on soundcloud at:  https://soundcloud.com/robwilliamsacoustic/sets/a-place-in-the-sun
Official website of Rob Williams:  http://www.robwilliamsacoustic.com/

 

April 2nd, 2014 - Queen City Heist - Music Review

QueenCityHeist
Queen City Heist – Music Review

Queen City Heist…I gotta admit, everything from researching the band to listening to the actual music has been a grin-inducing pleasure…

I pushed play on the new album from Queen City Heist and I opened up the social pages as I would normally do.  The album starts with “Summer Time Affair” – an explosive pop-meets-soul track.  That’s where it starts of course…and now my interest has already be roused…I check into where they’re from, which is Clarksville, TN, USA.

So…we can assume they come by their sound honestly!

What pulled me in right away…was a wicked bass-line you can hear in “King Of The Castle,” it was so full of life, tone and bounce that it started me looking into the official roster for the band…let’s see here…

This is where it gets a little fun and I have to take a quick time out to poke at our new friends in Queen City Heist…

When you look them up on Facebook…there’s four official members listed…only one or two lines above where it states clearly that Queen City Heist is a 5-piece band.  As the FIRST piece to hook me in, the bassist, wasn’t listed along with the other four members up top…I assumed they had to be telling the truth about being a 5-piece.  Reading on further into their bio, we learn that this bass was provided via Matt Power’s fantastic work.  There's five people in their profile photo on Facebook...and so the plot thickened...

Many of these tunes become stripped down versions, acoustically driven vehicles to showcase Skye Mangrum’s voice that don’t necessarily require anything other than the one guitar…so in fairness to the roster, it makes sense that he might be a guest star right now…watch for Matt to crack this line-up on the social pages officially one day I’d say…he’s essential on “King Of The Castle” and certainly again on “Blooming Grove Rd.”
Skye Mangrum of course, is the dominant piece of Queen City Heist and for many great reasons.  There’s zero argument to made regarding her talent as a singer/songwriter – she’s incredible.  With tremendous skill for unique and beautiful vocal melodies, she attacks even the most basic, acoustic-only tracks like she’s singing from the very bottom of her toes and gives you everything she has on every track.  She comes through silky-smooth to open the album with “Summer Time Affair,” a track that not only does a great job starting up the disc with energy, but also gives off an incredible “live” atmosphere.  It’s a song you can visualize them starting a show with and easily picture it happening on-stage in your head.  It’s truly a fantastic opening that really highlights all the players involved – just have a listen to how much ass Mr. Bill McDonald is KICKING over there on the drumset!  Jason Mangrum also lays down a wicked set of keys spread wildly over this excellent introduction to QCH.

That live feeling…whether it’s a full-band set up like “Send Your Love” or leaving Skye to herself like on “Let Me Love You’’ – this album plays like a warm invitation to be in the front row of a Queen City Heist concert. 

And to be fair…Skye might not necessarily be alone as much as it might seem throughout the album.  Much of the lead guitar’s beautiful inventions come from Jacob Morrison as well trading off the lead with Skye…so though many of the acoustically driven tracks sound like they might be Skye on her own…you never know!

What can I say?  It’s just not common practice for anyone to say “Hello my name is, and I’m about to play the guitar on this one…” before a track begins…

But in this acoustic vein – have yourself a multiple listen to “Runaway,” one of the most beautiful songs of my year and certainly on this album.  You can hear a sharp distance between the production on a track like this and the following track – the single-worthy “Blooming Grove Rd,” but again…this is where it gets extremely interesting to me…

You see…what I LOVE about their BIG songs like “Blooming Grove Rd.” or “Send Your Love” is just how natural they’ve come out…how truly “at home” this band seems to be in their grooves.  So in many ways – I’m almost surprised at how authentic they still manage to sound in songs like “Lies, Lies, Lies,” or the gorgeous “Runaway” track.  It’s almost like one of these sounds should sound more forced than the other, but Queen City Heist manages to adapt and change and stay incredibly REAL no matter what the style of their song.  There’s an immense amount of talent here and the promising signs of some even better things to come in the future down the road for this band.

Yep.  After a ton of time listening to this rhythmic and exciting crew – I can definitely conclude that all the right pieces are here; great players, great singing, great songwriting, resulting in some really incredible tracks more than worth a listen.  Nearly every song on their list at their official homepage possesses a massive hit count and after only a single spin of their music you’ll certainly understand why on your own.

Beautifully catchy.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check Queen City Heist out further at their official homepage at:  http://www.queencityheist.com/

 

April 2nd, 2014 - Age Of Man - Ebeneezer - Album Review

Ebeneezer
Age Of Man – Ebeneezer – EP Review

Hey.

Hey you….pssssst.  Come here….

I want you to do something for me.  I want you to reach into your pocket and take out a new crisp twenty dollar bill.  Now…take a REAL good look at it to make sure it’s not fake…

My point?  My point is that some things are completely obvious from the moment you see or hear them.  You’d be wasting your time checking to see that your twenty bucks is authentic…it was like a given…if it was fake you’d have already found out.

I’d like to invite you all now (you can put your twenty bucks away…) to meet Age Of Man – a blues-rock trio from El Dorado, Arkansas that is so incredibly authentic that you’ll swear you’re right back in the heyday of the golden era, where blues-rock ruled the planet in the late sixties and much of the seventies.  Just like that genuine bill you’ve now put safely back in your wallet – you can take this music to the bank with you; Age Of Man is a solid investment in the real thing.

I have had COUNTLESS people come through our interviews and studio with one major concern in common:  HOW oh HOW do I get my LIVE sound on a recording?

The truth is that it’s certainly possible.  Listen to this new EP from Age Of Man; if you can somehow come out with the argument that it would STILL be impossible to capture that feeling on a recording, well, my firm suggestion would be to go and take the wax out of your ears and listen again – cause it would be COMPLETELY on YOU if you missed just how much work actually goes into making a sound like this.

All of the tracks possess this same commitment to the style and to the sound itself.  You see…that’s the whole thing here…it’s not as simple as a band gets to “play” their songs when you make a recording like this.  You can hear in a track like “Needles In Hay” that different methods and freedoms are used during this recording process.  Production becomes every bit the other instrument in the band when it comes to making an EP like Age Of Man has here with Ebeneezer.

To get that LIVE sound…they might very well have recorded in crazy environments to capture that extra open-air vibe that gives it such a classic feel….all kinds of different microphones most likely as well.  One has to assume that, even with the sound being as much of a throwback as it is – there’s gotta be a present-day genius behind these boards to come out with an album that sounds like it was literally ripped-out from that golden-age of blues-rock.

And let’s just face facts; without Jimi Hendrix that genre might never have found its way to the absolute top.  Here’s another fun fact for you:  If you like the music of Jimi…you’re gonna love Age Of Man.  Though I’m hesitant to say it, they ARE similar to The Black Keys…but with one exception…

“Whatchado” is a great example of that very exception.  You’ll hear it – sure, it’s a lot like The Black Keys…but ELSE is that you notice?  No bullshit….no pre-tense…..no…..”hipster-cool.”  Don’t get me wrong – I’ve put on The Black Keys many times – but when you hear the sheer depth in the difference between the commitment to the “then” as opposed to the “now” of this style of music…there’s simply no comparison.  The Black Keys took that music and brought it forward to a contemporary place; Age Of Man would much rather take you on a complete trip right back to when these guitar-strings were just first getting shredded.

Why is that distinction important?  Atmosphere.  One of THE most important elements you can ever focus on in your music.  How is it created?  What qualifies?  Ask yourself this:

Would you rather close your eyes and picture yourself in your room listening to music?  Or would you rather close your eyes and picture yourself listening to music in a place somewhere all-together?  That’s the difference, right there.  I don’t GO anywhere when I listen to the modern-day take on this style via the blues-rock of The Black Keys – but with Age Of Man I can pretty much close my eyes, zone out listening to the music…and somewhere in the fog I could even give Jimi a hi-five if I wanted to.

Matt Benson in particular needs a shout-out before his bandmates on this one…just ever so slightly.  Reason being, he just completely nails that guitar tone and style…absolutely just plays it like he was born to.  His vocals, also completely true to the style – again, I personally LOVE the production and how this EP has been recorded.  There are peaks and slight spikes in volume….crackles almost…..

……you know….the SAME ones you would have heard on ALL of your favorite albums from that time period?

And it’s FOR that reason that they not only become acceptable, but these slight “imperfections” actually become a pure joy to listen to – especially for anyone that has ever had the studio-cans strapped over their heads.  Ebeneezer is as close to the sound of a live recording as you could ever hope to find on a record and quite simply, it’s an audible pleasure to listen to.

To round out the sound goin down, you got Brandon Borden on the drums and Darryl Driskill on bass, keeping the rhythm section of this band in full control.  Not only do these two execute their own parts flawlessly, but doing so allows Matt to really shred that guitar and roam free to wherever he’d like.  “I Found You” is one of my favorite examples and tracks on the album for this reason. 

What might sound like wandering at first snaps crisply to full gear with all three members at their focused-best.

Absolutely stoked and excited to hear more from this band and I truly hope they retain this amount of authenticity with their future work.

I feel like I have more to say but it’s getting difficult to continue typing…thanks to Age Of Man I’m starting to see everything in Tie-Dye colors…

  • Jer @ SBS

P.S.  You still got that $20?  Go spend a bit of it on buying Ebeneezer by Age Of Man! 

Support them on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/Ageofman   

 

March 30th, 2014 - Jer's Blog - 2014.003

OOPS I DID IT AGAIN

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah. So I suck at properly announcing the official SBS Live This Week showtimes...I had promised March 26th, but as usual, things change quickly here all the time...

In preparation for the upcoming event here on April 19th, which will bring Rod Matheson from Everyday Music TV to sleepingbagstudios for the second straight year - I've been writing new material for the first time at the full controls in nearly six years! So complete apologies are certainly in order, and I AM sorry for this delay on our show...just know it has been for the best of reasons - making new music. After concentrating solely on the music of others for nearly two years straight here at SBS, I have to admit - I completely miss coming up with new creations through my own music.

So...as I'm expected to perform on April 19th among many others at the EDMTV event @ SBS...doing my best to be ready...songs have been written and recorded...videos are to come next...the project even has a name!

I'll be recording under the moniker of THE CELLOPHANE HEART- and this album, a "two-side" collection of songs written and recorded all within this last 6 months or so, most of them born completely within this past week spent with my ears between the headphones. 20 songs in total, the album is called The Dark Becomes The Light - keep it locked on the homepage here for details - more of those to come at the official page for The Cellophane Heart...right now it's just a blank space holding my new page but feel free to get started early and give it a like anyway so you'll be the first to know when the details come out.

As far as the show goes...I'll fully admit to tunnel vision when it comes to projects...so you'll know when I've finished the album...the show will be back. When we do, we'll finish the all-music episode's other half and continue on into Italy to meet a band through video known as LUNARSEA. They promise to make it a loud one!

Written content here on the page resumes again late tomorrow and throughout the week alongside picture-postings to compensate somewhat from the absence of SBS on your YouTube screen...for now...

All good things...can't wait to share my new stuff with you...been sooooooooo long!

- Jer @ SBS

 

March 23rd, 2014 - West My Friend - When The Ink Dries - Album Review

WestMyFriend
West My Friend – When The Ink Dries – Album Review

I’ve nearly had to dodge the internet in this past week altogether, preparing reviews for bands we’ve seen on our screens on SBS Live This Week…first Man Made Lake and here we have West My Friend.  Both extremely talented…both great people…both from Vancouver Island…and…well…I mentioned they’re both bands full of great people right?  So I hide to hold on to my objectivity and absorb myself in the music, shut my eyes tight and try to separate these fantastic personalities from the playing music…

So let’s start here…

Even if I had never met this band – the opening and title track “When The Ink Dries” might go down in history as one of my favorite album beginnings of all time.  When The Ink Dries begins like a treasure map unfolding…the excitement is instantaneous and there’s promise of pure gold right away from track one. 

Singer and mandolin player Alex Rempel…sir…I say SIR!!!

My hat is graciously off to your and your fine band of cohorts; “When The Ink Dries” is the most incredible of album openings…the tempo and intensity of the music build up so much that you can’t help but get chills and buckle up for the rest of the ride.  Alex’s voice & the back-up provided by the rest of the band (They all sing & hey, why not when you’re all this good!) set the perfect dramatic opening.  West My Friend is back with a folk-vengeance!

It won’t take you long to get to the lead single “Missing You,” slyly slipped into the third spot and not letting the energy drop whatsoever after Eden Oliver’s brilliant performance in the previous track “The Tattoo That Loved Her Anyway.”  “Missing You” is a song I had the privilege to hear last summer…a song I immediately noticed and have been desperate for them to record.  In a true case and example of what is worth waiting for – this single delivers in every aspect.  The band is at their absolute most flawlessness and at the height of their comfort as a solid group during this song, resulting in a laid-back but absolutely catchy-vibe you won’t be able to get enough of.

I mentioned to this band a long, long time ago slightly after meeting them for the first time…that if I could somehow bottle Eden Oliver’s voice and shampoo with it that I certainly WOULD….

Now go and have yourself a listen to “Thin Hope” and tell me you don’t want to get yourself a bottle...see how clean we all are now?

I’ve always had respect for this band as a group of focused musicians, but hearing the growth between their last album Place and their hard work and effort to out-do their last album is more than palpable and “Thin Hope” is one of the absolute finest examples.  The music again is just fantastic…you can always hear bassman Adam Bailey doin’ his THANG…he’s a stand-up bass champion, hitting every note with ease and beautiful tone and really tying these songs together for the band.  “My Lover” is a great example of his ability to hold the fort rock-steady while Alex basically gives the entire world a lesson on how to really make a mandolin sing.

“Troubles” is a beautiful song in this recorded version.  I’ve seen postings of this live on their YouTube channel before in the past as they readied this album…but this recorded version really highlights just how central the vocals are to this band…and how their best asset never once lets them down.  Harmonizing perfectly around Eden Oliver’s angelic verse and chorus – the sound comes out crystal clear and builds in a way similar to “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space…” for those of you who know Spiritualized out there… 

Seeing these songs from early live versions, to them taking their time and getting it this correct in the studio is a complete trip!  I LOVE seeing this band live and I’ve missed them the last couple times through town…they’re ALWAYS amazing to listen to and truly fantastic hosts…

…And then it hit me!  Am I being like, hosted right now?

This album plays with such a focus that you hear it like you see a movie.  It's like I stepped into their three-dimensional album of warm & inviting, interesting & thoroughly entertaining music. Everything is so clear…it’s as passionate as the best theatrical production you’ve ever seen and flat-out – THIS ALBUM IS PLAYED FLAWLESSLY. 

And NONE of it…sounds forced whatsoever.  It’s extremely rare to find an album that sounds like the people making it are all in the right place in life…connecting as one.  It sounds CARED for; these songs are well-written, with lyrics that tell beautiful, funny and heartbreaking stories.  An album of the purest emotions, When The Ink Dries is authentic of an album as you can ever hope for from a band as genuine, original and skilled as you can get. 

No joke world…wake the f*** up already…West My Friend is one of the most precious gems still undiscovered by many.  Strange enough that my bearded face ended up here away from the rock and absolutely loving this band, but there’s zero reason to be alone.

“Ode To Sylvia Plath…” well…yeah…

It doesn’t get any better for me.  End of review.

Ok…wait…

Yeah…no I shouldn’t go before mentioning this is truly one of the most beautiful songs ever written.  Eden Oliver once again is at her absolute best, delivering the sweetest of melodies through the verse and once again joined by her chorus of angelic harmonies through Jeff, Adam and Alex.  Alex shines in the backing vocals, Adam plays his heart out on the bass – and Mr. Jeff Poynter steps onto the pump organ and fills it with LIFE.  The emotion in this track is staggering.  Breathless.

“Baleen Whale” and “Dark And Deep” offer that traditional live feeling of seeing West My Friend perform.  Reminding everyone of their folk roots, they mix up the texture of sounds well as they head into the final track, another beautiful ballad called “Last Call.”  Poynter again brings in the ever-unpredictably-epic accordion once more, this time taking a well-timed and placed solo in this isolated, sorrowful, yet hopeful song.  A perfect ending to this wild, dramatic and theatrical masterpiece from this outstanding band.

There is ZERO reasons for you to not be getting this album right now.

Seriously…the review’s really over this time…

  • Jer @ SBS

Hey, how convenient!  A link to the West My Friend facebook page!  https://www.facebook.com/westmyfriend

P.S. - "The Cat Lady Song" is EPIC and awesome - a true stretch of their creativity and skills with results that paid off incredibly! Don't miss that song! Don't miss any of the other ones either though!

You can also find pictures of West My Friend from their time here on SBS Live This Week right here in our gallery - be sure to check out their full interview with us too - we had them here before the ink was even in the well!

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March 22nd, 2014 - HoneyTrash - Suit & Tie - EP Review

HoneyTrash
HoneyTrash – Suit & Tie – EP Review

I’ve always assumed it was a show that was televised everywhere…anyone out there remember The Friendly Giant?  What a nice man he was.  So tall though…you had to look way, way up to even see him!  I can’t be the only one…you remember…just admit it so I can carry on and get to the actual point…

Meet HoneyTrash! 

Wait…you can’t find them.  Sorry.  That’s completely my fault.  I had you looking up for the damn Friendly Giant – you’re NOT going to find this band up there in the clouds, no….

…look down….way, waaaaaaaaaaay down….

…not kidding….further still…..

Way down here in the dirt and grime of the grittiest of blues rock – you’ll uncover HoneyTrash like we did.  Suit & Tie – a solid EP of completely repeatable tracks; once you find this band you’ll want to take them with you everywhere you go…just keep in mind there’ll be NOTHING you can do to clean them up.

Here’s perhaps the best thing I can say about the music of HoneyTrash…that’s to say that Blues/Rock more or less is a genre I steer fairly clear of - but this three-piece has got me HOOKED.  In researching it all – I think I know why they’ve managed to do this like no other in this genre; they’re coming to us all the way from Boulder, Colorado…close to the place my very own hero Hunter S. Thompson ran for Pitkin county sheriff.

And you know what?  This SOUNDS like music for an outlaw.

There is style oozing and dripping from every moment of this EP.  While bands like The Black Keys continually remind you of what’s already been done, or even worse – themselves (yet again) by becoming stuck in their one-note groove – HoneyTrash is taking that framework and building a slow-burning fire inside it. 

Sierra Ramirez…what style!  What a voice!  What a way to USE it!  A voice with all kinds of personality and the lyrics to match – perfect fit for the guitar from Ric Miller and bass of Scott Hill, this is a combo that works tightly together like a well-oiled-machine that exists only to make vicious-dirty-sexy blues rock.  Her transformations are incredible – listen to “Hey You” and you’ll swear in the opening verse you might even be listening to the great Robert Plant himself.  That’s right – SHE sounds like HE does - amazing!

And both fit so well to their music that YES, they deserved all-caps there…

What a track though, and what a way to end off a fantastic debut EP; “Hey You” is as awesome as this genre, or any genre can provide – it’s a song from focused artists at the height of their comfort & creativity, recorded with maximum style & flair.  Everything about this track screams cool to me – and while my natural grunge instincts would have me run the other way from anything cool….

THERE’S…….SO MUCH…..DIRT….SWEET…..MERICIFUL DIRT….on this EP that I’d much rather embrace it.

They truly all stand out to me – I just think in particular they gave the last breath of everything they had into that final track, raising its status just slightly for me when all is said and done.  You’ll find this low-down, outlaw, blues-groove recipe on the others for sure.  “Hooray” is an epic song…a huge, huge sound and atmosphere in this scorcher.  Title track “Suit & Tie,” which actually leads this whole adventure off – is a song that represents this band and their skill-set very well.  Ric gets his chance to explode in a ripped up and shred-nasty chorus; crisp and crunchy and overdriven to the max – love it.  You get a real solid handle on Scott’s perfect-placement bass…which, let’s face it…your blues/rock bassman has got to be the GLUE, whether understated or over…gotta be THE MAN.  Cause if he wasn’t THE MAN…then Ric wouldn’t be able to be THE MAN on his guitar…Sierra wouldn’t be able to be THE WOMAN and do what she does so damn well! 

Fortunately for HoneyTrash – they’ve got a solid performer in Scott…bass you can lean-on…or lean-into.

We’ll be featuring “Suit & Tie” on episode 083 of SBS Live This Week, due out March 19th in the wee hours of the A.M….arguably the 18th nearly!  Which means we were ALMOST on time for our own schedule!  Anyway…come and check out a lyric video from HoneyTrash and learn a little more about this band through a video-review of this EP with some extra details I didn’t give you here!

In the meantime – check out this new EP and DIG into the dirt with HoneyTrash.  And don’t shower afterwards…they’d probably like you better dirty too.

  • Jer @ SBS

Like the HoneyTrash facebook page here at:  https://www.facebook.com/HoneyTrash
The Suit & Tie EP can be found here at:  http://honeytrash.bandcamp.com/

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March 21st, 2014 - Thomas Brunkard - A Never-Ending Album - Album Review

ThomasBrunkard
Thomas Brunkard – A Never-Ending Album – Album Review

Now here’s a concept I can fully get behind.

Mr. Brunkard has left behind the original formats and conventional ideas on how to go about releasing his music, deciding upon embarking on a life-long musical adventure instead….A Never-Ending Album.  To his credits at this stage of the review, there are nine spectacular songs to grace his pages – and certainly my earholes. 

What I NEED when I listen to music…not what I want….well, it IS, but also what I NEED from music…is all right here.  Each and every track has a completely different texture and flavor from the track before – taking you from what sounds like traditionally-rooted Irish classical to smooth jazz, to mournful instrumentals and outstanding electronica.  Just TRY to pin him down!

I can only hazard a guess, but after listening to these nine songs – I bet you’d find that task impossible.  One has to believe it serves as the absolute reasoning behind A Never-Ending Album…to NEVER be pinned down or to rely on one set of musical skills….to change, grow, expand, try & experiment….and to experience the joy of truly “getting it right.”

And it should be a non-stop party at Brunkard’s place right now.  If you put your ear to the wind just right, I bet you’ll be able to hear the faint sounds of “Mulligan’s Pyre” and the clanking of beer-steins all the way from Dublin, Ireland where you can find him making these genius creations.  I first viewed him through YouTube, experimenting on a “Guitarviol” – I say experimenting but the guy is already kicking ass on it and he JUST picked it up more or less in that video clip….

But that willingness to experiment with any sound or instrument is so completely translatable to any style he ventures into – these are skills that transcend musical genres.  Thomas understands composition, assembly and music overall at a genius-like level – and he has ALL the skills necessary to live up to these gigantic ideas in his brain.

You can find out more about what I have to say about the musical madness & genius of Thomas Brunkard of the recent episode of SBS Live This Week – episode 083 – SBS But No BS Part XI.  We’re spinning one of the most outstanding tracks in this set direct on the show – a song called “Sentient Beings Dance.” 

Now…when you LISTEN to it on the show…or at his pages…understand that I had been listening to these songs in the order of the playlist…and though he had put himself into the mix of many genres by this point – electronica had yet to be one of them.  Combining intensity, electro-hooks and a demon’s worth of guitar-shred…this track really made me appreciate just how translatable those skills of Brunkard’s really ARE.

If you’re not convinced by then – get yourself to “Monday Morning Blues” shortly afterwards and RECOGNIZE (YO!) that this was made by the same amazing mind.  As far as blues go – this is the genre at its absolute finest – I love this track; his guitar tone and playing are just jaw-droppingly awesome.  “1967 – Closing Credits” is another guitar highlight for this album, the last haunting song on a list of absolutely memorable stand-outs.

In talking briefly with Thomas Brunker – I completely understand how much care he puts into choosing which songs are making up the contents of A Never-Ending Album.  When you listen to it as one whole piece, you HAVE to respect this guy’s immaculate ear and understanding of what “getting it right” really is.  Each of these soundscapes like “Menaçant,” “GBH – Ghetto Baroque Hymn” and “Sad Pavan In C-Minor…” again, you could point to ANY of these nine songs…but these atmosphere’s he’s able to create could damn near change the PHYSICAL LAYOUT of the ground beneath your feet to wherever these songs take you in your mind.

What a skill to possess – you’ll be happy to know music is something he takes great pride in, yet remains completely humble and extremely willing to talk & share his knowledge with others.  An overall fantastic person and artist – I’m definitely looking forward to the future inclusions on A Never-Ending Album.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check him out at soundcloud!  https://soundcloud.com/thomasbrunkard/sets/a-never-ending-album

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March 20th, 2014 - Arsenal E' Vega - Ashes To Snow - Album Review

ArsenalEVega
Arsenal E’ Vega – Ashes To Snow – Album Review

Well…you got me.  I’ve searched my brain for a reference and come back with nothing – so we’ll have to officially call this the first mixtape OR album that I’ve ever heard begin with Dolby Sound.

Welcome to the musical world of Arsenal E’ Vega…filled with all of the things you need to put a good mixtape together; flow, creativity, diverse samples and hooks to make the people come back for more.  Often referred to as AR through the lyrics, Arsenal E’ Vega has put the work into this mixtape to make it run from one side to the other and stay entertaining throughout.

As far as I can research, that should be the case…this isn’t AR’s first musical-mixtape-rodeo…know what I’m sayin?  It’s the consistency in his work and sound…that real feeling that this music was meant to be played together is what makes this mixtape work as well as it does.  “Make It Vibe,” is a perfect track to point to in order to illustrate what AR’s capable of…so throw that on…

But for fans of the mixtape format…fans of dirty, low-ridin, back-alley-beats…you can’t ask for much more than what Arsenal has done on “Make It Vibe.”  Using wickedly edited samples, guest vocals and an undeniable beat, AR stays on-point throughout this track and remains that way throughout the album.  Immediately into a brilliant track called “Tree Of Life,” a song that makes the absolute maximum out of an incredible background.  Another incredible sample, a rap-flow that definitely hooks you in, and a subtle bass-line that is the absolute icing on the cake of this track. 

“Tree Of Life” really gives you a great idea of how AR approaches the mic.  There’s a thought-out and deliberate flow…there’s some true storytelling ability here, again – undeniable on this track.  Heading into a guaranteed hit on “Turnt Up,” halfway through this mixtape and you get a real appreciation for the layout, mastery and care that has been put into Ashes To Snow.  The energy on this album has organic life to it…and much like the deep swelling bass you’ll find throughout the album, this entire mixtape almost breathes along with you…like you’re living it with your homie E’Vega.

“Lords Of The Underground” highlights a lot of what I like about Arsenal E’ Vega’s style in particular.  His sly and well-spread out flow really uses the space of the music well…he’s got a great sense of timing and where exactly to be involved in the track.  As a result – the listener is in for something that doesn’t always come easy when spitting out a million words per verse – we can HEAR them.  Word-for-word, this rap flows smoothly throughout and you can really find yourself getting into the stories that AR weaves throughout these musical tapestries.

Now…I’ve got ONE severe complaint that really does nothing more than reveal the fact that I’m getting older…and it’s not so much that I’m bitching about AR specifically as it is a shout-out to the entire mix-tape community…

But whoever out there is responsible for the dude on the sidelines that gets to shout “REMIX” or “2000-WHATEVER-YEAR-IT-IS,” “NEW SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT” – you know what I’m talking about…that guy that somehow convinced the entire room that YES…it’s a FANTASTIC IDEA TO MAKE ME TEN TIMES LOUDER THAN THE REST OF THE TRACK…well…whoever that is, consider yourself warned because I AM coming…to punch you squarely in the face….you owe me a new pair of headphones!

Like I was saying…not a slam against Arsenal here, just picking on the genre itself…or again, maybe just showing the early signs of aging…

Ending on strong tracks “Greed Is Good” and “Teenage Crime” puts the final punctuation in perfect place once again on Ashes To Snow.  Arguably two of the best tracks on the mix – AR goes out on the right note here – the one that makes you want to repeat it all over again.  With this album swelling and building the way it does – but never bursting through that smooth feel, Arsenal E’ Vega has found a sound well-contained and original to himself.  Ashes To Snow has plenty of flavor for any listener to get down on.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Arsenal E’ Vega at his Facebook page and give it a liking!
https://www.facebook.com/arsenalevega87     

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March 18th, 2014 - Man Made Lake - Bodhicitta: The Shepherd - Album Review

ManMadeLake
Man Made Lake – Bodhicitta: The Shepherd – Album Review

“I’ve been here…I’ve been here too long,” echoes singer Colin Craveiro of Man Made Lake on the opening track “Lemon Cake;” and though it’s somewhat unrelated I suppose…I’ve been here too long myself, enjoying this new album from MML without sharing it with you!  For what it’s worth – I was PROTECTING you from a possibly hideously inaccurate review of their new album Bodhicitta: The Shepherd…let me explain…

Have you ever been taken in by fantastic personalities that just make you want to support them?  Take me for example, arguably one of the world’s biggest Batman fans, yet somehow I’m beyond stoked to see what Ben Affleck will do with it – just cause he’s always seemed like a pretty kick-ass dude.

And having both met and interviewed Man Made Lake in person and through video on our show SBS Live This Week – when “Lemon Cake” started to play on my car stereo…I knew at first instant I was going to fall in love with the most recent addition to the MML catalog.  I’ve absolutely supported the music of this band from the moment I first heard it – so I had to carefully examine this album…multiple, multiple listens through to make SURE that everything I was hearing, “Lemon Cake” and the album beyond…was REALLY as good as the first impression truly was.

If it WASN’T…I wouldn’t STILL be actively pushing this music on everyone I know…

Because I’m beyond sure; this is the best thing to have come out from Man Made Lake so far in their catalog – Bodhicitta: The Shepherd is an album full of diversity and musical-innovation, twisting and turning at every chance and pushing the boundaries of every genre they take on.  Thoroughly entertaining – I’ve had this album in my rotation for nearly a month and a half and there’s no foreseeable end to that in sight, or sound…turn it UP!

“Lemon Cake,” is just about as perfect of a start to an album as you can ask for.  Armed with universal appeal – I knew instantly that a track like this doesn’t just resonate with a bearded face like mine, but even with the “I-wear-sandals-even-in-the-snow-and-really-ONLY-listen-to-music-being-played-BY-people-in-sandals” crowd like my wife.  On the pop-rock side of life for the Man Made Lake catalog – they’ve absolutely got themselves a huge hit on this album in track one – go stick it in your ear!

Going right into an extremely interesting track called “Window Pane,” on album that has 10 songs and coincidentally, 10 of my new favorite Man Made Lake songs – this one stood out to me for a completely different reason.  What I know of this band…they’re quite “worldly,” in fact moving the entire contents of their band to China at one point…so to think that this particular track in question is a dead-ringer for the sound captured by another of my own favorite bands from clean-across the world and found in Australia…maybe shouldn’t be as much of a blissful surprise as it was.  But for those that know of the band Eskimo Joe…Man Made Lake have somehow found themselves in a similarly awesome groove here on this second track all the way over here on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. 

And that feel, and sound…particularly of the Black Fingernails, Red Wine-era of Eskimo Joe…can be found in continuation on this album.  Largely due to absolutely brilliant “background” layers in the music provided through subtle guitar parts and some truly immaculate writing in the keyboards.  Listen to them!!!  You might not even notice them in a lot of cases – but believe me when I say they’ll find a way into your brain to stick in your craw for life.  There are so many hooks contained within each single track on Bodhicitta: The Shepherd, that it’s almost like the musical equivalent of landing on a barb-wire fence.  Perhaps a lot more comfortable of a feeling…but you can’t shake this album loose once you’re into it.

It bounces between low-pulsing atmospherically-based tracks like “A.S.M.R.” and the playful “Zebra Tapes” to round out the beginning before you’ll find yourself in the midst of an album that doesn’t let up.  “Horsefly” is a track you can hear so vividly you can picture what a frantic freak-out this track could become in a live setting.

Much like the opening track, “Fallen Leaves” seems like a hit song.  Excellent guitar work & steady drums work perfect with Craveiro’s lyrical rantings, perfect flow and tone.  There’s no doubt about it, this track’s a mover – one you could hear can pack a dance-floor.  Keyboard solo, chorus-style chants…really – this is a track that has it all and a perfect representation of Man Made Lake at their focused best.

“Water” might very well be the track you “missed” in your first couple of listens, but also one of the largest indicators of the work MML have put in behind the scenes.  It’s a track like this that makes you appreciate how they could have gone in many directions musically, but instead chose their own.  It leans on Americana…it leans on stadium-anthem….it’s slightly blues-rock….it becomes more than all-rock… 

And it’s through this combination of sound that Man Made Lake has truly found their own within.

They crank it back up in “Last Brigade” and “Monet Makes Us Giants” towards the end of the album, along with an extremely haunting version of the opening track “Lemon Cake,” in a fresh take – a haunting acoustic version re-titled to “Nico.” 

I have NO clue as to the official version of why in particular it was re-titled – but from this listener’s perspective…the contrast between the original and the way this second version came out…

Well…let’s just say I haven’t heard an alternative-pop-rock song become such a unique and haunting version like this since…..well, since Blind Melon took many of theirs and re-constructed and re-built them on their album, Nico.  If the name is any sly reference to that, and not simply my brain’s crazy indexing…makes total sense to me.  Man Made Lake’s “Nico” is an absolute chiller.  Again…you can almost picture all the house-lights off…spotlight on the guitar and vocals…no other lights can be seen…  It’s really an amazing twist on what was already a wicked song to begin with – no matter which version you latch on to, you can’t lose.

That holds true of Bodhicitta: The Shepherd all the way through.  Ten tracks recorded, and after a relentlessly thorough listen…a virtual attempt at wearing out the songs…I can definitely say this album has more than held up for me.  It’s given me an even greater appreciation for where they’ve come from already, what they’re doing right now – and if you were to ask me, a very good indication of where they’ll be going to next.

I always expect great things from great bands and great people like this…but I also think that’s only fair!

Man Made Lake is a band that has never wasted a second of my valuable ear-time – Bodhicitta: The Shepherd surpassed all my expectations; this is an album that will never wear out.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check them out at Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/manmadelake

Physically speaking – you can find Man Made Lake onstage with legendary Canadian band The Spoons May 17th – check this link for details:  http://www.ticketmaster.ca/The-Spoons-tickets/artist/748986

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March 16th, 2014 - Jackson Caged - Entity - Album Review

JacksonCaged
Jackson Caged – Entity – Album Review

Right on.  It’s that GOOD kind of heavy.

You might be surprised, my hard-rockin friends, but the reality is they DON’T come along too often.  When you check into Jackson Caged, you’ll see they’ve got quite a following already going; and after hearing their new album, Entity…I completely understand why.

This band is TIGHT, explosive in all the right places and relentlessly right in your face throughout this album.  The drums are off-the-charts – just absolutely in the zone for the entire album strongly driven by these intense drum-riffs.  Vocally there’s a lot on the plate to keep up to this band, but as far as hard rock goes you couldn’t ask for a singer & back-up vocals more suitable.

After a thorough listen to the Jackson Caged album, I had to smile a little just thinking about how huge Papa Roach made it…way back when…

They never should have made it all.

And especially when you listen to a band like that in comparison with Jackson Caged; if you ARE somehow still a Papa Roach FAN, well, then DON’T put this in your player cause this Entity will kick the crap out of your stereos once and for all & teach you a musical lesson!  Papa Roach always should have been your “Last Resort” anyway…and besides…I’m not kidding around here – there’s just way more dedication and commitment on this album from Jackson Caged that it’s undeniable that this indie band is way more worthy of your earholes.

But I’m not here today to bash ROACHES – I’m here to talk about this kick-ass band, making music with such a powerful energy that it makes me want to jump back into my moshpit days.  I mean, I grew UP on the very sound that Jackson Caged is doing so very well now.  Being here in Vancouver, we’ve seen Finger Eleven, Three Days Grace and bands like Tool hit our stages throughout my concert-going age.  They could be fairly compared with all of these bands, along with other Vancouver favorites Billy Talent and Disturbed…what can I say…this is a city that has ALWAYS loved its hard rock and Jackson Caged would be right at home here.

Each song is LARGE.  Those drums really just pound away like their entire band’s existence depends on it in each song that demands they bring the energy – beyond impressive all the way through.  Listen to the opening of “Monster” and try to tell me this guy doesn’t have the chops!  He’s a BEAST and he proves it time and time again on Entity.

But each song is LARGE also in the sense that they’re actually extremely accessible for a hard-rock that is definitely on the heavier-side of the genre.  This is that kind of crossover album that will get a lot of “straight-ahead” rock fans craving music with a harder-edge.  “In Hell,” and “Darwinian” are great examples of songs that make this album have this appeal.  “Darwinian” is a machine with TEETH – it’s an incredible song; amazing vocals, unbelievable guitars and the aforementioned brilliant drums.  Everyone is at the top of their game on this track, a certifiable standout on an album that contains an incredible display of quality to choose from.

Even when they slow it down, they nail it extremely well.  But I’ll also admit – once “Liam’s Song” came on, I had to double-check and make sure that my Soundcloud page hadn’t jumped to a different band!  Almost like a track on the album designed to see if the reviewers out there are REALLY listening!

It’s a change-up for sure, but it works completely.  Great vocals and production…a stripped down version of Jackson Caged to make sure the people know they could come and take over the other genres at any time!

Look out for this band! 

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about Jackson Caged at:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jackson-Caged/25360383931

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March 14th, 2014 - Marty McKay - Sin's Disciple - Album Review

MartyMcKay
Marty McKay – Sin's Disciple – Album Review

This was an extremely interesting album to put into our reviews.  Marty McKay comes to us all the way from ZURICH, Switzerland (Holy are we GLOBAL or WHAT these days?) with a name ready for the radio and the songs to match.  Everything you’ll have on Sins Disciple is extremely well put together, tightly produced and performed with incredible skill.

Europe and the surrounding countries have always fascinated me personally.  I find it interesting which parts of the world the “North-American” musical influence has fanned out into, but more so, exactly WHICH pieces resonated and stuck with these other locations.  For instance, you can still find hair-metal running rampantly in Germany and Russia, the electro-wave that still consumes much of France, or here in the case of Marty McKay he found himself attached to the rap-rock era…maybe throw a little Evanescence/early millennium power-rock in there as well to round him out in this description…

But it’s interesting in the sense that Europe, at least from my Canadian perspective…can often be found either two steps forward, or two steps behind what’s happening here, rarely joining us in what’s happening currently in the present musical climate.  In the case of Marty McKay, this rap/rock is a style of music that we’ve long explored throughout the past two decades, but also one that never truly wears out and still has incredibly passionate fans.

McKay makes music for parties and good times.  His rap/rock combo mainly combines an old-school rap vibe against the power-rock of the early 2000’s.  When we’re talking about “old-school” rap – I’ve got some knowledge here.  As some of you already know, the first concert I ever went to was DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – and you can hear a lot of that classic-style rap-flow throughout much of Marty’s work.  Interestingly enough, if you check out his page at Soundcloud (Which includes clips from this album) you’ll find an interview clip from Swiss Radio towards the bottom…

Now…I’m not going to pretend I understood much, as I’m limited to English myself, BUT…I did actually listen to it.  There’s a music within the language we even speak daily…sometimes it’s just nice to hear the tone of a person’s natural voice you know?

Again – BUT…  If there’s one thing I COULD understand without a doubt, it’s that they made endless comparisons between Marty McKay and Vanilla Ice.  So, to all our readers and friends in North America who are certainly familiar with the Ice-man, I know this makes you think TWO things:

  • Alright, Vanilla Ice or anything that remotely sounds like that was from our late 80’s to early 90’s period in our musical timeline.
  • Every SINGLE time “Ice Ice Baby” comes on you STILL nod your head, shake your rump or jump to the dance floor.  At the VERY least you crack a smile.

So let’s be clear here – no one gets to make fun of Marty for being compared to Vanilla Ice – you all loved that guy.  Unless Marty starts re-building homes on a reality show…then I say have at him!

Like it or not, it’s a great comparison; and again with the accompanying update on the musical-side & guest-star side of things, there’s plenty of an update on that old-school sound for Sin’s Disciple to not sound like it has been done, or is simply redundant.  Songs like “Can’t Get Enough,” “Turn Up My Sex,” and “Sin” make the most out of exciting, dynamic music and beats as McKay delivers over and over and over again.  What’s even more cool, is that with a little digging you’ll find out that this particular rapper uses absolutely no samples.  Everything you’ll hear was made with real instruments, which has been pulled off so well you might actually think they WERE samples!  But the decision to go this route musically wouldn’t be the only challenge McKay would have to conquer to take his music to the world…

You gotta imagine first of all, that English is not his first language here.  He’s done a fantastic job of taking the lyrics and words to a place where it all feels natural for him.  I honestly think there are only a few spots that gave any hint of an accent whatsoever – I might not have even picked up on it had I not been aware of McKay’s geographical situation.  His delivery in the old-school rap style is flawless and on-beat, none of it sounds awkward or misplaced.  His tone is great and the enthusiasm & genuine love for the music comes through cleanly over the mic; what else can you ask for?

It seems like he’s content to continue the work as well.  Beyond this new album, Sin’s Disciple, he’s got something incredible brewing in something called Project 7, which sounds like quite a departure from what you’ll hear on the album.  At the moment you can find some instrumental songs on the Soundcloud page…I know I’m here to review Sin’s Disciple, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t turn over every stone…

And boy am I glad I did.  Check out the track “Lust II” and tell me that the band Zero 7 doesn’t sit at home wishing they wrote this track themselves.  Love this tune.  You’ll also find the single version for “Emptiness Returns,” which is another powerful tune with an excellent guest-star; a well-written song that certainly highlights the skills of these two contrasting vocalists and their ability to work together.

So….yeah….Sin’s Disciple….what can I say other than a time & place for music like this ALWAYS exists.  Listen to a track like “I Want Your Life,” and tell me you couldn’t find a moment in your OWN life where this would be the perfect track to become the soundtrack for it.  I suppose in a lot of ways that’s what I hear in this album…that ability for everyone to relate to it, WANT to hear it, smile and have a good time.

Accessibility; I don’t know TOO much about music, lol, but isn’t that kinda like, how we’re all kinda hoping our music would be received upon sharing it with others?

Well played Marty McKay…well played....

  • Jer @ SBS

Check him out further through his official site at:  http://www.martymckay.com/

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March 12th, 2014 - Hookman & The Ripper - Hookman & The Ripper Vol. 1 - Album Preview

HookmanAndTheRipper
Hookman & The Ripper – Hookman & The Ripper Volume 1 – Album Preview

Keep in mind, an album preview process is much, much different than your typical A-to-Z album review where you hit play and let the songs play out.  In a preview situation, such as the one here today with Hookman & The Ripper, we get a snapshot…a couple of tracks to let us know what’s all coming our way.  And let me tell you – for myself, it couldn’t have come at a better time!

Talk about judging this book by its cover though!  I’m not gonna lie – when I saw Hookman & The Ripper in pictures for the first time I was instantly through-the-roof excited.

For two guys in glasses you ask?

HELLZ YEAH!  Cause to me…and again, this is all pre-preview-judgements here…to me that picture meant INTELLIGENT rap.  Just cause I was RIGHT doesn’t make this snap judgement right – who knows…it MIGHT have been heavy-metal…

Ok…no…there was no chance of that whatsoever…

But in saying that it couldn’t have come at a better time was absolutely no joke.  Because I’m way behind on ANY show that I watch, I literally JUST got around to finally seeing what good ol’ Arsenio Hall has been up to after all this time and sat down to watch an episode from his recent comeback.  As it turns out, from the choices I had for viewing – the OBVIOUS choice was the interview with Prince himself…the symbol…”Christopher…”  You all know who I’m talking about and yes, of course, he was absolutely amazing!

So you’d have to imagine my surprise when only 24 hours later I came across the most genuine-sounding, Prince-like track I’ve ever heard!  And then it occurred to me what a true GIANT of music that guy really is – everyone listens but no one touches it.  You know what I mean?  Prince is PRINCE and no one else has ever come close.  As far as my earholes and brains are concerned – I really can’t remember anyone ever even attempting his sound.  And WHY NOT if we all love it so much?

And here we are.  With a sample-track simply called “Tony,” Hookman & The Ripper slip into Prince-mode at full-force.  It’s got the funk, the rhythm, the over-hyped synth sample and a delivery that could sell you a salesman.  This is an absolute winner and if the rest of this album turns out anywhere close to this you can bet your ass I’ll be listening and grooving to every note.  This is undeniable funk – any fan of the work Prince has done with the New Power Generation would jump on this track and ride it to the next live concert with Hookman & The Ripper.

Opening for Prince I’m assuming of course…

The other track that was slid our way was called “Go Down” – a totally different feel from “Tony;” this has that dirty-low-ridin feel to it with unbelievable rap verses that show all the ingredients in a recipe for another flawless track.  It might have an extremely different feel from the other track we’ve been turned on to, but both pack an undeniable set of hooks that have me looking forward to more, no doubt.  And besides – as far as rap is concerned, any track that works in a “skeet-skeet” gets the official seal of approval from me!

They approach the mic with confidence and skill, they have diverse & well-produced backbeats to rhyme over.  As it stands – there’s not much more we could ask for!

Aside from the rest of the album of course!  Can’t wait!

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out their official website for information and links to Hookman & The Ripper Volume 1!
http://www.hookmanandtheripper.com/

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March 11th, 2014 - Seashaped - A Pill For Everything - Album Review

Seashaped
Seashaped – A Pill For Everything – Album Review

Inoffensive!

At least that was the first thing that came to mind when pushing play on the Seashaped album!  You know what I mean though?  It’s…pleasant!  Music that I can’t see anyone ever frantically running over to a stereo to turn down the sound on…yeah – that’s what I’m trying to say!  Seashaped, from my experience, are not only extremely approachable and friendly as people, but apparently their music spills out of that same vein!

A Pill For Everything – a concept altogether too true of our society, mind you one that I’m not yet convinced is a totally bad thing!  I mean…I’m all in favor of holding two separate Olympic matches; one for the “straight & narrow” and the other for the pill & injection-heads that want to see just what the limits of this human-body-machine really are!  Think about it…it’d be awesome…

Sorry!  Music!  Seashaped!

This duo from The UK consisting of Alison Riley and Pete Gustard are creating some really inviting, warm and beautiful sounds.  Spread out deliciously over the span of A Pill For Everything, the album moves like reading a good story, sharing a “Kodak” moment with your friends, or the gentle soundtrack you’ve always wanted to wake up to in the morning.  Self-described as “easy-going,” dear readers – I couldn’t agree more with that!

What I like a LOT is the variety of sounds they’ve chosen while still retaining that easy-going feel.  You can hear in a track like “Kitchen Party,” which leaves behind the somewhat acoustic feel of the previous songs and takes the album into funk & disco territory.  It’s an interesting track to me for several reasons, the first of course being that it was such a radical departure from the feel of the rest of the album.  Don’t get me wrong – the layout of the tracks really does lead to that bursting point; it’s a well-planned album…

But it’s the first and I think only song on the album where if I had the studio-cans over my ears…I might have demanded that Alison give me that 10% I felt her holding back on this song! 

LOL.  It’s NOT a criticism – here’s why:

First of all – I think she has a beautiful voice.  There’s been nothing in any of the tracks that hinted at anything other than her own perfection; a fragile, delicate and passionate voice that delivers smoothly over each and every track she’s leading on, and adding the perfect harmonies on the songs backing up Pete, like “Will You Be Mine.”  On the former track in question, “Kitchen Party” – I felt like there were a few moments where she was caught in the flow of a really unique and wonderful song, something almost challenging their own version of “normal” and could have went for it just an edge more.  Cause what she’s doing on the track, is truly fantastic.

But perhaps that could be part of it.  With it being so far outside of the comfort zone, it sounds a little unsure.  Again – if this even WAS the case, she shouldn’t be.  She should have every bit of confidence in her fantastic abilities and voice, especially if you compare it to the way she attacks a track like “Slipping Down.” 

But in contrast…had I not ever heard such a solid & firm performance in “Slipping Down” – I might not have ever been so demanding for more in “Kitchen Party!”

Alison – it’s just that I know you’re MORE than capable of it! :)

Really!  “Slipping Down” - I mean if this isn’t a singer at their finest moment, then again, I haven’t heard it!  Alison hits her stride in this track, delivering with confidence, passion and conviction.

Pete’s an interesting cat on the vocals as well – I dig what he’s doing a lot as well.  Not limited to any particular sound or style; naturally he sounds like a cross between Michael Hutchence of INXS and the lead singer for Better Than Ezra – but he’s also not afraid to mix it up and try new effects.  Often harmonizing with Alison, they find a beautiful combination in their voices no matter which direction Pete chooses.  They’ve also done some immaculate work through production and subtle use of samples.

“Life Gets In The Way” – an absolute gem you’ll discover deep into the album, shows their deep affection for rhythm and putting together songs you’ll not only be able to relate to – but that will make you move, physically AND emotionally.  The evidence becomes even stronger in the title-track; “A Pill For Everything” swirls like an epic theatre performance…you can almost visualize them assembling shows with orchestras, amazing lights and an all-enveloping atmosphere. 

It’s an epic song, and one that certainly earned the right to title the album.  And while there might truly be A Pill For Everything in this day & age – you won’t need to rush to the medicine cabinet to endure this new album from Seashaped – far from it.

In fact, much like a drug…there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself hooked.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Seashaped further and give their page a like at: 
https://www.facebook.com/seashaped

DEFINITELY check out what ELSE I have to say about A Pill For Everything and this excellent band on SBS Live This Week Episode 082 when we take this album further into a video review!

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March 8th, 2014 - Aaron Baldes - Horizons - Album Review

AaronBaldes

Aaron Baldes - Horizons - Album Review

Ahhhhh…..music!

Food for the soul – that’s what “they” say isn’t it?  And much like your diet or what you might like to throw into your pie-hole year after year, those tastes can change & grow and become more expanded and accepting over time.  We should never have to be restricted to a certain style or genre – imagine for a second right now that you were only able to listen to the first five albums you ever purchased for the rest of time – how would that go for you?

Cause let me tell ya…it gets pretty ROUGH over here on MY side when I start to look at life like that…I’m thinking I’d end up with a bizarre set of five that would include the likes of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Richard Marx, M.C. Hammer, Suicidal Tendencies and Boyz II Men.

I was allowed to change.  Hell - I hope SOMEWHERE in me I WANTED to change! Look at that embarrassing/erratic list!  You should EMBRACE change!

So meet Aaron Baldes – a man that has done that very thing – change.  A self-professed former “metal head” – you’d have to dig for sheds of that evidence on his new electronic album Horizons, which is more or less the audible history of his last several years.  In talking briefly with Aaron, it seems that his whole musical landscape has changed of late, now choosing to play in jazz, classical, funk and of course this electronic genre here on Horizons.

If I can go back to that food reference for a second…I would think quite plainly that if you understand and KNOW how to eat breakfast, well, then at noon you’re probably inclined to be like, ‘bring on lunch – I GOT this…’  Adaptable skills you know?  It seems like Aaron has made the switch quite easily from metal or any of his other styles to this electronic format.

Does it WORK?  Yes it does I’m proud to say.  I’m not gonna lie – Aaron seems like a rad guy from our brief interactions and knowing that he’s all about the DIY and making it happen for himself & his music…well, I was pulling for him to have put out a great disc here with Horizons

He can rest easy on a mission accomplished – like I said – embrace the change!

I’ve always been a huge fan of the unique work put in on record and the trails blazed by innovative artists like RJD2 and DJ Shadow – two artists I could certainly cite here as influences on this album in many ways.  Horizons has that electro-pulse and rhythmic-beat aspect of the RJD2 catalog while bringing in the diversity and range of ideas that you can find on any of DJ Shadow’s work.  Case in point – one of the largest departures on this album – “In This Valley (Prelude),” is one of my absolute favorites based on how well it serves to take you away from the rest of what has been happening for a brief moment.  Like taking a sip of your favorite wine, refreshingly cleansing your palette before taking another sip to get that excellent flavor back.

After repeat listens, you can hear that Horizons is not only precisely programmed, but also carefully laid out in sequence – there’s a purpose to the order of these tracks and it flows like a good album should.  Each song is short and on-point; this isn’t electro that will drone on and rely on one beat or effect for minutes at a time.  Aaron has built excellent electro-grooves that build, swell & change in natural ways that make for an easy listen.  Check out “Darkness In The Groove,” only the second track into Horizons and he’s hit his full electro-stride here in this track and carries it right into a full on display of ability in “Prelude (Bloodsound)” – which is one step away from becoming a Venetian Snares track, hence “Prelude (Bloodsound)” is still more than listenable…in fact, it’s full on awesome.

The melodies Aaron has been able to create and the soundscapes in the songs on Horizons are a testament to that ability to change one’s taste & flavor.  I’m not saying this particular track was any indication with definite PROOF, but it would seem to me that if this is the aural history of Aaron, that a track like “A Change For The Better (Discord, Hate, Trauma, Malice),” might just have come along during that time of changing between genres and styles and realizing he has every right to be stepping into the electronic categories.  I’m not sure how his metal sounded…he seems to be talented in anything he does…but I’m assuming that this direction was in fact, “A Change For The Better…”

Doesn’t matter what track you choose, you’ll find an excellent idea contained within.  The execution, recording and production of the songs keep up to the ideas with no issues.  The amount of creativity is astounding…as you weave through the middle of the album into tracks like “Frost (Outside Looking In),”  “A Theme From Corelli’s Sarabande In D Minor” and “Electric Improv 1 In D Minor” - you can’t help but crack a wry smile at just how these songs line up back-to-back-to-back.  Each of them are so unique from one another, yet everything fits so well here as a full album.

Closing strongly into the electro through “Rapture” and “The Clap,” before giving us a SLIGHT hint at the former metal head who served this whole musical meal on the final track “VGM;” you’ll get a GLIMPSE – but don’t get ready to bang your head against the wall just yet.  There’s still more than enough electro in this track to keep it included and it’s a great idea as a closing song, bringing it up that one extra notch in energy to close out Horizons on the right note.

So you see?  Embrace the food! 

Wait!  I mean…embrace the CHANGE!  It can lead to amazing things and wonderful creations.  If you have any doubt about that, I suggest you listen to Horizons by Aaron Baldes immediately – you might just change your tune!

  • Jer @ SBS

Check him out further at his official homepage at:  http://www.aaronbaldes.com   

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March 8th, 2014 - Jer's Blog - 2014.002

AWESOME TO BE LIVING IN THIS DAY & AGE...

I've always considered myself a world citizen. I believe in a world without borders one day. I also believe in many ways, that this "world" I believe in already exists online...

Because aside from a few countries with internet restrictions, that ability for us all to break those borders rests firmly in our capable hands. I believe I might just live long enough to see this day happen. It's ALL completely up to us now - and it's only because as a fully functioning unit, our social consciousness is only now just having its morning cup of coffee.

But make no mistake; the people outweigh "the power" right now - it's time to find those common bonds between us all and figure out as a global society what the next step is.

It's as exciting of a time as one could live through...the world is slowly changing right in front of us in a true display of good Vs. evil intentions. We will all stand up together, as an entire planet. It takes time, oppression, empathy and leadership. Many of you out there reading this could very well BE one of those leaders...

Your time is now. Embrace your potential.

SBS LIVE THIS WEEK! - UPDATE FOR YOUR FACE!

HenryMcCordJr

I have to say...this whole SWAMI LUSHBEARD episode has been one incredible journey. I couldn't mean that more literally here as we approach the posting of Part III tonight, our most global episode ever.

Because friends...quite simply...sleepingbagstudios has ALWAYS been a place without borders. What started so long ago as a local idea has expanded further out into the globe than I had ever dreamed possible. Truth be told, we have about an equal share of our traffic coming from all the places we DON'T live in, which is incredible.

This episode on Saturday night might START in North America, but MAN does it go places! We'll see brand new videos from Russian band GreNOwar and Evoletah from Australia, as well as get to know band Seashaped from The UK who will be in our artist spotlight and in review here in print tomorrow! So...come on right? That's awesome. Not only do we get to finish off the interview in style with Swami Lushbeard, but we get to experience music (Our most common language) from around the world!

And THIS TIME YOU can watch it along with us! Some of the Swamis, including lead singer Don Sprouls, will be joining me in a live tweet-fest as soon as the episode posts at approximately 11pm. Rumor has it that we might very well hear from some of these other great locations...possibilities of members of Evoletah, maybe even Seashaped dropping by to make fun of my hairy chin & help comment on this episode!

So be there! I've personally never done this before and it'd be great to hear from any fans of the show and what we do here at SBS! Use #TheInterview and tweet your face off! You can find us at twitter directly here and Swami Lushbeard directly here.

Lots to say for sure and this episode is PACKED with so much I'm kinda scared to see just how MUCH of a LACK of brevity this episode will expose us for...but I promise ya, it's all worth it!

UP ON YOUR AMERICAN IDOL???

No. You know me well enoughto know I'm not about to go there on a regular basis, if at all! The absolute truth, is that I've actually only ever seen one single episode...a long time ago somewhere towards the end of the Jordin Sparks year.

Chances are - might have seen one fantastic singer-songwriter named Sarah Burgess.

In another strange (But AWESOME!) twist in my life - she reached out to us at sleepingbagstudios to see if we'd lend a hand to her campaign to cure the disease Duchenne. As it turns out, this is a brutally muscle-restrictive disease with no known cure - one her brother Jacob developed when he was only 6 years old.

Some of you may or may not know that my own brother has had a mental illness his entire life. Not Duchenne, but a strange twist in his chromosones left him with a learning disability so strong that by the end of his physical life, he might reach the age of 10-12 mentally.

I know what it's like to want to be able to do anything and everything you can.

So when Sarah reached out to us and told us about Jacob - I was happy to accept the invitation and went straight to work.

But here's what I DIDN'T know...and I mean this sincerely...

I did NOT realize that some of these American Idols (This means YOU Sarah) really have the amazing voices that this show has been supposed to find. I figured, from my naive perspective, that covering a song from an American Idol couldn't be any more difficult than any pop song out there with a decent singer. NO reason I shouldn't be able to pull this off flawlessly I figured...even after hearing it!

Jer@SBS

What a fool I truly can be...

As it turned out...by the time I was done doing my best to cover her song, I thought I might have to go to the hospital myself! I've never missed having a regular partner in production so much as realizing I was somewhere on my like, 60th attempt to do her song justice and any producer or engineer would have cut me off long, long ago...

But I pushed on. Somewhere in there, I feel like I did it justice. I added a sweet part to the song that at least confirms I'm not a total hack! But I can fully admit, this former American Idol could outsing me any day of the week and most others on a regular basis! By the time I wrapped the shooting that day, I had little to no voice left.

And as a person who NEVER sleeps - I crashed for 17 hours STRAIGHT afterwards. Coincidence? I think not. Trying to keep up to an incredible talent and do something worthy of this cause took everything out of me! The end result is certainly a video that we're proud of - she plans to start releasing them in April - who knows...you might just see a bearded chin you recognize covering a pop song one day...time will tell!

We wish Sarah Burgess all the best of luck in her quest.

HUGE shout-out to her brother JACOB - hang in there brother, we wish you all the best as well! And if you EVER need some great music that's a little...less...ummmm...."Idol-ish..." and your big sister won't hook it up for ya...you know where to find me bud! :)

OTHER INDIE NEWS!

WestMyFriend

WEST MY FRIEND have officially released their new album When The Ink Dries, along with dropping the video for their first single "Missing You." We'll have this album up for review next week, along with MAN MADE LAKE's new album, another band from Vancouver Island.

AHIMSA is rumored to be close to finishing the new album. This solo artist has got some excellent ideas and I'm excited to hear what comes next from this particular artist, cause it has the potential to take itself anywhere!

SKY AS SKIN (Featured in review right below this blog post...) and THE YELLOW DRESS continue to own my indie-music-lovin SOUL with albums that continually dominate my speakers and threaten their very existence at the volumes I crank these records to.

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March 5th, 2014 - Sky As Skin - Dead Songs For A Live Soul - Album Review

SkyAsSkin
Sky As Skin – Dead Songs For A Live Soul – Album Review

This excites me greatly.

As a long-standing fan of heavy/melodic bands, finding Sky As Skin as assembled and ready to rock as they are on this new album shouldn’t have been as much as a surprise as it was.  According to them, this “3 piece musical catastrophe” was formed in 2006; according to me – I should’ve heard about these guys kicking ass way back then considering how good they are NOW.

I should let you in on something before we continue however, dear readers, there’s something you’ll need to know about me in order to understand this entire review…
Vancouver left a hole in me years and years and years ago now…one that has never been fully filled.  There was a tremendously unnoticed band here called Sunlikestar (Anyone???) that put out a mind-blowing EP, did a bunch of local contest stuff and seemed like they were going to make it happen for themselves…and then burned out and faded away without a trace…no goodbyes.  And ever since then, I’ve been looking for something that can FILL that void.

And while I might understand that comparisons and references to The Deftones, Quicksand, Tool could be made towards Sky As Skin – I feel like this is much more like where Sunlikestar might have ended up today.

And in feeling that way, Sky As Skin – I’d like to thank you personally.  I can now consider the search for the sound I’m looking for officially over and hand ownership of said sound over to you.

Alright – enough madness…let’s talk about music and how incredible Dead Songs For A Live Soul is!  This album is a complete mover, so full of creativity, innovation and skill that it’s impossible to ignore.  Right from the moment the opening track “Satan Oscillate My Metallic Sonatas” kicks in they had me, no bullshit.  This album comes out punching hard with this Deftones-meets-Failure-meets-Kyuss slow grind that has a funked-out element to it.  You’ll notice skills ALL OVER the place…timing changes and tempo-switches…incredible drums, vocals, guitars…

BASS!  We have literally got an incredible bass-man in this band.  I don’t want to say he’s underused, understated or undervalued…but I DO want MORE of it…somehow…some way!  To take anything away from a single other member of this band as well, would be a crime – they are all pulling so much weight it’s astounding – I just particularly love the tone they’ve got going in the bass and the feel from the style coming out of it!

It really doesn’t matter which track you choose – if you identify with any other bands I’ve referenced so far, you’ll find something to like here on Dead Songs For A Live Soul.  Listen to “Iron Horse” and tell me that isn’t, like, EVERYTHING you want to hear!  It IS SO – don’t argue!  The vocals are just perfect; the drumming is stunning, challenging and inventive…and again – that BASS!  LOVE THAT BASS! 

But “Iron Horse” serves another purpose – it really gives you an amazing insight into the depth of talent in the songwriting of this band.  The way this song builds up into the smashing ending shows every indication that Sky As Skin is taking the writing incredibly seriously, and pulling it off perfectly through their dedication, hard work and talent.

“Rats Live On No Evil Star” is a perfect example of how this band won’t be tied down.  In an electro-infused slow-funk, this band really shows what they’re capable of, inventing a frantic and fully-new musical landscape for you to wrap your ears around.  “The Dogged Eye Of Hurricane Brutus” claims some really unique territory of its own as well with a ripping beat and almost hypnotic 60’s feel clinging to its bones.

Entertained, you will be.  There is zero doubt in my mind that if you heard the opening track and liked it that you wouldn’t find endless minutes afterwards equally entertaining if not more so.  For fans of our show SBS Live This Week – if you’ve seen our episodes with Vancouver band FEY – make sure you check this band out immediately, you’ll love Sky As Skin for sure.

And as for the rest of you out there that don’t go and listen to Dead Songs For A Live Soul immediately, just be comfortable in the knowledge that you’ll be filling your ear-space with something inferior until that time comes.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check Sky As Skin out at Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/SkyAsSkin
Find Dead Songs For A Live Soul here:  http://skyasskin.bandcamp.com/album/dead-songs-for-a-live-soul

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March 3rd, 2014 - Ain't No Other - Never Really Broke - Album Review

AintNoOther
Ain’t No Other – Never Really Broke – Album Review

Here’s the straight-up in one single sentence; I would be a way bigger fan of the entire rap genre if it was all as entertaining as this album is.

Ain’t No Other has had me paying attention non-stop since I pushed play on Never Really Broke – I honestly had no clue I was in for an album so packed with good times.  Halfway through my first listen through the album I was blown away at how the album refused to let up…how every single track I was hearing was “single-worthy”- almost like I had to pause and take this album in as two EP’s!

There are superb skills on the mic here, no doubt about it.  It’s tough to decide if Ain’t No Other is stronger as an MC or as a songwriter in general.  Cause if one thing is for sure – A.N.O. knows how to write and deliver a hook with full force.  I’m not even kidding – I’m damn near speechless at the skills this guy has to deliver a song straight to your brain.

And incidentally…in case you were wondering how the other half of that first listen went…

As well as the first half did! – are you kidding me?  I mean c’mon – if you’re listening to the same album I am right now those first six tracks should give you every ounce of confidence in the last half!  Never Really Broke GOES for broke on every track and pulls out unique beats left, right and center stereo.  Styles range epically over the history of hip-hop & rap; you can hear influences like Outkast, Mase and in my opinion – even P.M. Dawn.

Don’t get me wrong – that’s a compliment in my books.  Loved those guys…

Not to stretch the glowing commentary too much, but this album has about as much ingenuity as a Kayne West album.  Though their styles are quite different, they have one major thing in common - knowing your samples and how to use them to the absolute maximum.  Let’s cite some tracks here…check out “Hard On Myself,” “The Man,” or “Stay Away (Selfish)…” choose ANY of those as a benchmark and try to tell me I’m wrong!

Now…”Hoodie On (Feat. Phil A Gee)” definitely wins the award for best rap lyric.  All credit to Ain’t No Other here – his flow is both skillful and completely understandable no matter what temps he rhymes at.  But when he hits the hook in the chorus after a full rip through a sickly paced rap verse, and he utters the line “Yeah, I get my Frito-Lay on…” I almost died.   Ain’t No Other, it seems, can bust out a sense of humor at any time and throw down lyrically at will.  The flow is on-point, no matter what the subject – this guy FEELS the beat and literally lets it rip.  The skills come out sounding completely natural, unforced.  Overall, this album feels like the start of something that could genuinely hit it huge.

There are minor production flaws that peak tracks just slightly – nothing that makes anything unlistenable – just room to grow as this young artist continues to step into the limelight.  I look at it this way - someone out there is hearing what I'm hearing and was just trying to do us all a favor and turn it up!

As per the indie standard, one thing matters above all else; that the ideas are THERE.

And they are.  They’re here.  They’re ALL OVER Never Really Broke.

Ain’t No Other…might just be the most aptly-titled artist to come out this decade.  Trust me – you’ll be hearing this name all over, real soon.

  • Jer @ SBS

Ain’t No Other – Never Really Broke drops 03/11/2014 via itunes.  Make sure you know what’s goin down by staying connected with A.N.O. at:  https://www.facebook.com/anomusic

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March 1st, 2014 - Sprightly Moans - Demos III - EP Review

SprightlyMoans
Sprightly Moans – Demos III – EP Review

I feel like I almost need to give my head a shake here…

Sprightly Moans – it’s almost like I couldn’t HEAR you last time!  You know…like how in White Man Can’t Jump that dude could “listen to Jimi,” but he couldn’t HEAR Jimi…that’s the kind of feeling I’m getting here as I’m listening to the new demo EP from this power-rock duo.  These three songs are packed with just about everything I want to listen to in three songs and has me stoked on the future of Sprightly Moans like never before.

I know that the line-up hasn’t changed, but man do I feel like the songs have both tightened up in the writing and become a whole shitload more accessible to people out there.  I am overdue for a re-listen to the last EP anyway…but at this point…I’m not sure just how many times exactly now I’ve spun this latest offering…but I almost feel like I’m crazy!  Were the songs on the last EP THIS GOOD and I somehow missed it?  Cause I remember them being good and well done for the genre, but these new tracks from Demos III are just flat out awesome.

Like…I’m on the third song “Love Is Nothing Without Eternity” and I’ve got chills…that kinda awesome.  But we’ll get to all that…

This latest 3 track EP from Sprightly Moans opens with “Blushes All Around,” and, literal first impressions again…I wasn’t sure in those opening seconds that Sprightly had changed from their last go around all that much…and I found that my attitude changed nearly 20 seconds in.

While at first I was trying to keep up with the complexity in “Blushes All Around,” I found myself surrounded by a blissful rock-infused-pop chorus and swirling in a track that is a true musician’s delight.  The structure of the verse is jagged and sharp, and truthfully is still going to be a little difficult for the average listener to get their mind around – but that’s a hook in a chorus that can safely grab ANYONE.  Just an absolutely smokin’ tone on the guitars on this track and throughout the first tracks on the EP.

“I Wanna Be Afraid,” the second track on the EP is the unsung hero for sure.  I know just by my own natural tendencies that this will end up being the track I love the most.  There’s something about the approach to this track in the chorus…but that line in particular “I Wanna Be Afraid…” it’s almost like you can hear him searching his mind for the feeling each time he repeats the line.  Vocally, this EP again shows just how much a band can grow in a short time.  They are beyond spot on in all three tracks, beyond rock and into the beautiful.  They pull you in; it’s that same somewhat…I dunno…it’s a different approach…like…if you like the singer from The Cold War Kids, you’ll know what I mean I suppose.  They sound like there’s a struggle and a battle to be won each time the mic is switched on; full of raw emotion and a trembling hint that they could just as easily break as explode.

“Love Is Nothing Without Eternity…”

How on EARTH am I going to keep a review on a three song EP to a reasonable length if you people are going to put a track as amazing as THIS on your discs?

This third track is the most radical departure from the Sprightly Moans traditional sound as I’ve ever heard.  With a sparse background of minimal effects and ukulele, this last track floats along like the dream you always wish you’ll have right before you fall asleep.  As I mentioned earlier – literal chills.  Reminds me of that wonderful atmosphere and feeling you can get from a lot of Beirut’s music. 

Absolutely beautifully played, focused, lyrics match and the song is just under six and a half minutes long.  To listen to an attempt this far outside of the standard Sprightly explosive-rock-box is an extreme treat, they have pulled off an incredibly emotional and powerful ballad; I could honestly listen to a track like this every night.

Wow Sprightly Moans, wow.  I cannot express just how much of a difference I heard in these three songs and just how much you’ve won me over as a true fan of what you’re doing over there.  Be extremely proud of yourselves – this is a huge achievement and a sign of amazing things to come.

  • Jer @ SBS

You can find Sprightly Moans officially at http://www.sprightlymoans.com   

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February 27th, 2014 - Sin Twister - Sin Twister - Album Review

SinTwister

Sin Twister – Sin Twister – Album Review

Yep – I can be the bigger man here…I can admit when I’m stumped.  With as many traditional influences from rock & metal past can still be found prevalently all throughout this album – the sheer uniqueness of the vocals of Sin Twister are…not “throwing me off” necessarily,  but adding something into this combination that really seems to have made this sound become unlike anything I really listen to! 

And as you all know already – the “different” and the “unique” are two qualities we look for viciously, rather than push away back out of our comfort zones…

Now – as I’ve explained in several of my last reviews…my sensors have been way off the mark lately!  So in a quick scan of the titles on this debut, self-titled album from Sin Twister, let’s just say I was convinced I was in for a repeat of Bon-Scott era AC/DC-style music. It’s definitely not like that! As much as I might like those classic tunes myself, it was more than pleasant to listen to the full Sin Twister album and feel like I’m hearing music based on the old-school, but trying something new.

Musically – you’re looking at some pretty hard stuff here.  I’m thinking more along the lines of KMFDM…only turned a little down in the production.  If there’s any beef whatsoever with this album, it’s definitely surrounding this particular issue…let me explain…

You can hear quite easily that this is BIG music.  It’s meant to be loud and in your face.  I’m listening to a song off the Sin Twister album right now that’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about here…it’s called “Happy.”  Listen through the opening, and get yourself to the breakdowns and the solos.  Now notice something awesome – the clarity of the instruments.  Up until this point, much of this track -  guitars, bass, drums…they’re all recorded at nearly the same volumes and frequencies…resulting in a somewhat muddy sound.  Now – keep in mind, this particular track, “Happy” – is about as on the side of Alice In Chains that Sin Twister has gone to, and that band released the album DIRT – so a muddier sound might very well have been the intention here and throughout much of this album.

Something like “The Force Of Habit,” to me is a much better example of their sound separation, but even on this particular track, those guitars, drums and vocals absolutely bury the shit out of Isaac Hankinson’s bass whenever they get kickin.  And of course anytime the vocals come out this in front of the music - that largeness of the music completely goes away – no matter what band you’re in.  One of those most relentless questions plaguing Tool even to this day is the one of “How do you guys get such a big sound?”  The answer to that question lies mostly within the production…that ability for the vocals to become more of an instrument being played along with the others also allows for a mix that is a little more in favor of the music as a whole, which can also take some of that pressure off the front-man!

ALL of this being said – the vocals are by far and away the most unique element of this band.  There’s nothing wrong with ANY of the music really, you can hear it’s always well-played and tight to their style.  While much of it is a lot like music you have heard in the past, Shaman Crowe’s vocals come into each song much less predictably, which is great!  At any point, Crowe can switch between Layne Staley, Axl Rose and Bon Jovi; sprinkle in a little bit of Ozzy and Les Claypool, and serve.  As a long standing fan of grunge…well, you could definitely understand which of those tones from Crowe I’m personally looking for each time – but there’s zero way to tell which way he’s going to go with each track – call me crazy, but that makes things a little more exciting for me from song to song.  I like a band that can keep me guessing, or at least make me think – Sin Twister has managed to do both of these things quite well on this self-titled debut.

Definitely want to point out – Mark Lombard is an absolute beast on the guitar.  It is ALMOST to the point where I would want to ask him if he is responsible for the mixing and mastering of the album – the guitars on ANY of these tracks are easily the brightest sound you’ll hear, up highest in the mix every time instrument-wise.  Whenever he has the chance to grab a solo, he does; but better yet, Mark truly takes these moments for an excellent ride, fueled by superb skill.  And they fit!  Not only does he have a great sense of what to sound like in a solo moment, but he really fits those moments tightly into these songs.  If you’re one of those people who just wants your verse/chorus/verse, believe it or not – these solos fit in so damn well you won’t feel like you’ve “left the track” to simply go on a guitar-solo adventure.

Jared Scheelar on the drums is damn near a machine himself.  Quick beats that often use extremely well written, rhythmic parts and fills – it’s like this guy is always working out constantly back there, even in their slowest moments.  “Heretic Sons” is a completely wicked example of what he’s capable of.  In particular – this is a definite stand-out track for Sin Twister overall; excellent energy and an incredible beat.

Yeah…okay Sin Twister…at this point, I gotta come clean with ya…I just gotta ask ya straight up I think….

But…what….is the problem….with…..Isaac your bass player?  Why do you guys HATE him so much?

Ha!  Ok – just bugging you.  I know you obviously don’t HATE your 4th member – but let’s be HONEST here Sin Twister – you’ve got him turned down SO FAR in every mix that there are moments where people straight up are going to think he’s left the stage or stopped recording for a moment!  And from what I CAN hear, there’s no need for it.  Isaac is more than holding his own back there – we just have to supremely struggle to hear his contributions to the songs.  TURN HIM UP!

Overall – I think there’s some really good ideas here in Sin Twister that perhaps just aren’t getting the full respect in the mix to highlight just how good they might really be!  But hey – we’re all indie here, so production and super-slick recordings aren’t going to be what come out of 99% of us to begin our careers…you can’t fault them for anything here production-wise – those are the pieces as indie bands and artists that we need to take with a grain of salt and understand that some of us have that access to every person and every instrument we’d need to make an album, but many don’t.  And besides – it’s not nearly like the production makes any of these tracks unlistenable; far from it - they’re more than fine to listen to.

What IS important is that the ideas are there…that the pieces are there to be built upon, refined and continue to move forward.  There’s nothing about Sin Twister that would make me believe this project doesn’t take this excellent group of starting blocks, examine this first album after a year, and come back to the studio with a completely different approach to what they’re doing. 

Cause the pieces are all there – I can certainly hear that – and over time I think these guys all show the promise of being able to smooth out what are really small and understandable kinks in this debut and become even MORE solid from here in the future.  I can dig what I hear now – but let’s just say I’m looking even more forward to where this band might go from here!

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Sin Twister here at Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/sintwisterband

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February 25th, 2014 - The Hawthornes - More Than Eyes Can See - Album Review

TheHawthornes
The Hawthornes – More Than Eyes Can See – Album Review

Meet The Hawthornes!  Through their debut album More Than Eyes Can See, I’ve just been able to discover them recently as well – you’re not that far behind at all!  Push play and let’s examine this first full length effort from The Hawthornes.

And if you were initially thinking country music…don’t panic.  I kinda was myself – but I listened multiple times and I can safely say there’s no hint of the genre or resembling twang anywhere on here...

What I did get was a series of pretty spectacular jams!  But you know that already…you’ve pushed play – you’re already ear-deep in the opening track “Spare Me Your Sorry,” which gives you an excellent idea of what’s to come.  This opening track comes at you like a mixture of Living Color and King’s X, resulting in a heavily funked-out track that easily provokes the listening of the tracks to follow.

Walter Charles – the lead singer is a very flexible cat upfront on the mic.  His ability and skill in adapting to the needs of each song is a tremendous gift.  Who out there remembers The Verve Pipe?  Cause I do.  And if you listen to “Beautiful” and you’re sick like me and can recall the tone of the vocals in The Verve Pipe material (C’mon…you remember…”The Freshman” at least right?) – you’ll hear the dead ringer he becomes, adopting a more throaty-vocal style to this pop-rock jam.

But with each song, he finds a unique avenue and way in.  He’s clearly both not afraid to try anything AND his band has completely afforded him that ability to go with his instincts.  Take their track “Imagination” – he starts out nearly like Kele Okerele of Bloc Party before coming back to an almost Steely-Dan-meets-King’s X type-thang.  His writing style often reminds me of the band Feeder quite often as well in the spacey-style pop-rock songs often found in their fantastic catalog. 

Now of course which style he chooses might help dictate which of these 8 songs become your favorites, but the quality, consistency and skill never drop in any of his ventures or stylistic choices. 

And to the rest of you singers out there – do you have this same kind of freedom to branch out and do new things?  Cause if you don’t – you should WANT that.  Especially when you get results like this.

But again – credit to an incredibly tight band.  Mike Prescott has a wicked sense of what to put into these songs, often opting for being a prevalent piece of the music rather than the dominant one – though if he’s taking a solo watch the fuck out cause this guy can put enough electricity into a guitar to power it without an amp.  Chris Freeman – an incredibly gifted bass player, has the ability to really lead the songs in playing with Mike and you’ll often find him just ripping it up in their more funked-out grooves.

Seriously – these guys can PLAY.  But you know what’s REALLY awesome?  That you can HEAR them doing it!  Here’s what I mean:

Through both the production AND the way that their drummer Rob Bowser plays with style, patience and space really gives light to ALL of the players in this band.  It’s not that he’s a minimalist – he demonstrates all kinds of skills, but perhaps none such more than the choices he makes in his writing.  He doesn’t overplay – ever. 

His style truly allows for each member to take their own turns in the spotlight in a band that certainly harbors many skills to be represented.

BUT……

When I say these guys can play, (Really – no joke!) I also mean something else…

You can hear how well these songs would come off live, like to the point you can close your eyes and visualize it kinda clear…  Each of these tracks have such an excellent jam-like quality to them that I can only bet on-stage they take on a completely different life of their own.  It’s obvious that the skill from these musicians is something they can bank on – I’d be willing to bet that ANYTHING could happen out there on their stage on any given night.  Take a track like “Listen” and just imagine the glorious animal that song could become in a live venue!

All in all – definitely a band I’ll be keeping an eye on.  There are old-school-skills that run deep in this band with new ideas on how to bring them out in their songs; played with precision but still somehow able to keep that jam-like feel.  For a debut album, More Than Eyes Can See is tight enough to convince you it was their tenth album.

 You can SEE more of what I have to say about The Hawthornes on episode 079 of SBS Live This Week featuring Swami Lushbeard posting up late tonight!

  • Jer @ SBS

Find The Hawthornes here at Facebook and give their page a like!  https://www.facebook.com/TheHawthornesMusic

 

February 23rd, 2014 - Utuvis - Pathogenic Symphonic - Album Review

Utuvis
Utuvis – Pathogenic Symphonic – Album Review

Awesome, is probably a great place to start…

I’ve always been a huge fan of dark electronic soundscapes, and as many of you already know, I’m also a gigantic fan of melody in music, no matter the genre.  Utuvis has found a comfortable place in this rare combination, maximizing every opportunity to make these songs envelop and hold on to listening ears.  Pathogenic Symphonic is well put together, strikingly intense and as artistic as electronic music can be.

I often talk about my first impressions on an album.  This one’s an interesting story…

I had received the mp3 files, but noticed they weren’t in any order other than alphabetical.  So in effort to respect the artist as always, I jumped online to see if I could see where the album is sold and view the order.  And of course, google-play-store is still unavailable in Canada (Read: Get WITH IT Google!) so alphabetically was the order I was left to go with.  From there, I get to make a decision…I could play tracks at random, or I could play them straight alpha-style.

Those of you out there that have seen the movie High-Fidelity understand that it’s these very crucial decisions in one’s life that lead to being able to categorize your entire album collections in autobiographical order later on down the road…

I decided that there was no theoretical way that Utuvis had put out Pathogenic Symphonic in alphabetical order, so random was the obvious choice for me.  I clicked on the track “Dreaming” to start…

And within seconds I was in love.  It’s just such an incredibly BIG song.  The set-up, the bring-in, the beat itself, the emotion that STILL breaks through the distorted and effect-laden vocals…all the pieces were there, flowing beautifully right into my face.  I loaded in the other songs one after the other to the playlist and then noticed something else strange within this first experience with Utuvis…

According to my music player – this album was over two and a half hours long!

Keep in mind, at this point, the first track I’ve clicked on, “Dreaming” is still playing in the background, registering at around 5 minutes at length, meaning I still in theory had well over two hours to go on my first listen through the Utuvis material!

So I want you to know TWO things:

  1. Pathogenic Symphonic is just over a half hour in length – don’t be scared.  Media players fuckin lie.
  2. I was not the least bit sad at the idea of spending over two hours if I had to on that first listen to Utuvis.  If “Dreaming” was my example of what was to come on this album, I was getting my sleeping bag out and preparing to camp out beside my speakers for the night.

So I let the music play out, as it was, without actually knowing the album was much shorter than I had originally been led to believe; and when it ended so suddenly after expecting so many more minutes to come it was like I gained several hours in which to press repeat and listen to it again instead! Sweet deal!

Utuvis (pronounced Oo-Two-Vis) is making a wickedly tempered style of electronic music.  Comparisons become tough, it’s a blend for sure…you’ve got industrial sounds, electronic sounds, artistic pieces, vocal experimentation…  If I can get anywhere close for you by comparison, you’ll have to imagine something like Orbital-meets-Big Black Delta-and-has-a-dinner-&-editing-session-with-BT.  How’s that?  NAILED IT.

I suppose what I mean is that you’ll find that back-alley-darkness of Orbital in some of the atmosphere’s created.  You’ll hear some of that furiously intense music accompanied by vocals with incredible effects but tangible melody, much like Big Black Delta.  And if you’ve got the ear for it, you’ll really be able to hear the work in the editing room; there are sharp and precise cuts and choices all over Pathogenic Symphonic…digital creations so on-point that BT himself would be proud.

If you check out the main homepage of Utuvis, you’ll see an incredibly inspiring quote right there on the main page.  It ends with an incredible moving last sentence; one that I would hope would resonate with any set of eyes that might scan them over:  “Cease to exist, and LIVE.”  I love this quote for many reasons, but mostly for its direct challenge to satisfaction with mediocrity.  I too, believe that this life is all about pushing every moment you have to its maximum potential – so to read this encouraging statement to others was truly inspiring and also quite an insight into the overall character and nature behind the music of Utuvis.

“True Power” is another great example of his work on Pathogenic Symphonic, though I couldn’t find any real faults within ANY of these eight tracks.  And at the length the album ACTUALLY is, it plays tightly with no wasted space or filler.  You can play it and LISTEN to it without it becoming like 85% of the other electronic music that slowly fades into the background whilst you’re doing something else – this will keep your attention in full.  As far as “True Power” is concerned…it’s bizarre – I like it so much but I really feel like I can’t define properly in words exactly WHY – let’s just say this track DOES it for me - just this once ok?

But what came along with “True Power” for me, was also relief.  I’ll fully admit, once I heard “Dreaming,” I was like, “Oh shit – I DEFINITELY just went and clicked on the best track first for sure…”  Hearing “True Power” pop up only a track or two later as well as others like “Innocence Lost” and “They Are Coming” was a completely audible confirmation that there was much more in the tank.

Now, I’ve often said that I’m a SONG guy, not an ALBUM guy – and we all know what the difference is there.  That being said – I can hear consistency as easily as recognizing my own name spoken aloud, and Pathogenic Symphonic is exactly that - consistent.  If you start out the first track digging Utuvis like I did myself, you’re not going to find yourself let down by any of the other tracks to follow; it’s in his amazing capabilities for CHOICE itself that within reside the true magic of the music of Utuvis. 

These are songs that work together to form one overall artistic vision…one complete album…one musical chapter in the life of Utuvis…with a pulse so strong it demands a second chapter.

- Jer @ SBS

Check out the Utuvis official pages at:
http://www.utuvis.com/
https://www.facebook.com/utu.vis.3
http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC07PCINAIqyTGq2ONhcMStg

 

February 22nd, 2014 - Marga Lane - Expressions - EP Review

MargaLane
Marga Lane – Expressions – EP Review

Well, it’s close enough to Valentine’s Day, so I’m heading into the straight up club-pop section to find me something to love!  This particular V-Day of 2014, it just so happens that’s coming to us from Marga Lane – a deeply skilled and tremendous songwriter based in L.A. 

Understand me readers:  This is not simply cupid’s arrow at work – there is an absolute TON to love about what ML has done here on her Expressions EP.

How’s THIS for a first impression; I pushed play and the first thing that HIT ME IN THE FACE was outstanding songwriting.  It was literally to the point where I opened page after page socially and learned what I could about Marga Lane.  As it turns out – she has graduated from Berklee College of Music…

…and let me tell you that after a thorough listen, that is NO JOKE.

Every strength of songwriting could easily be cited in this review.  Though I haven’t spent a ton of time in the pop genre as of late – you never stop knowing what perfect is when you hear it.  Expressions is an outstanding and immaculate effort and there’s not a single hand involved in this EP that shouldn’t be proud of the work that has been done.

Listen to “Aftershocks” and tell me I’m wrong.  Hell – listen to ANY of them and tell me I’m wrong.  Each track is immaculately produced, each song superbly written and pure pop perfection.  If all these facts are true – all that studying certainly paid off and that my friends, was a degree extremely well-earned.

Right!  The best part.  I’m so sorry…I keep forgetting!

The best part is that Marga Lane has every bit of the talent necessary to keep up with her amazing songwriting skills.  This isn’t a songwriter that should ever be handing off her material for others to sing and perform; she has ounces of audibly-measurable talent and if this isn’t the sound of a determined artist giving it their all, well then I’ve honestly never heard it.

I’ve accused the genre of pop many times for its thorough lack of sincerity in contrast to its heavy themes…saying everything and nothing at the same time, but with no emotion.  I can absolutely say with 100% conviction that this EP from ML absolutely hits the spot the rest are missing.  You can hear the focus, determination, craft and skill.  You can hear she is ENJOYING herself and LOVING these songs – and why shouldn’t she be?  It’s that justifiable belief in her material that allows her to relax, sing and play with full confidence & full force.  You can HEAR the emotion, and it’s AWESOME.

As a sucker for melody – when ML hits the slower tracks like “Crime Scene” or “Finish Line,” I personally feel like she really nails’em!  And to say that they’re “slower” jams might even be unfair; one of Marga’s most solid songwriting capabilities is to make songs that build and change, starting slowly with a gentle idea before blossoming into full-on anthems to take immediately to the safety of your car to sing them out as loud as you can.

Debut EP eh?  One has to wonder…if her career-path goes anything at all like her song-structures…

Marga Lane will be huge one day – everything about the Expressions EP gives me full confidence that this is an artist that makes it. 

  • Jer @ SBS

Check her out further at her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/MargaLane

 

February 20th, 2014 - No - Meet Me After Dark - Album Review

No
No – Meet Me After Dark – Album Review

We were lucky enough to have interviewed No through our written work on the site in 2013, exposing us to a pure and melodic pop-rock sound led by the Jarzabek brothers in an interview that offered a lot of insight into the inner-workings of the band and details on this very album. 

And since that time…we’ve waited patiently…knowing that whatever No would come up with would assuredly be of the highest quality in production, songwriting and melody; all played with maximum conviction and skill.  Expectations for this indie band are almost abnormally high…I know how seriously they take their craft and how much dedication of their time and effort goes into what they do…does it pay off?

No…is a great band (See what I did there?).  Of course their hard work and ability for writing excellent songs shines brightly throughout their new album, Meet Me After Dark!

What amazes me every time I listen to the music of No is the sheer amount of focus they possess – it’s absolutely astounding.  You can hear easily that no mistake would have been accepted; this is music made tightly and without flaws. 

What surprised me the most about Meet Me After Dark though, was just how much this band has matured and defined their sound in such a short time.  To be completely honest – I was expecting something almost a little MORE Beatles-ish from No, but it seems that the steps have been taken in this band to truly define their sound as their own.  You can hear slight influences pop in and out for sure, but to listen to this new album is to really hear a band hitting their stride.  I can only imagine just how proud the members of No must be with this excellent end result in the final version of the album.

Whether it’s a gentle ballad like “Take Me All Apart” or “Tuesdays,” or a more up-tempo pop-rock track like “Climb,” or the title-track itself – that focus remains completely intact and never wavers; on either side of their musical map, No is completely comfortable.  I’ve heard many acts in the past “focus-up” and tighten their material, with the end result sounding like a forceful trauma for the band, but that is not the case here…not even close.  How natural their music sounds and how confidently they play it is a large part of the overall magic of No, and certainly, this album.

No continues to make moves - a great new album, a one-hour show called Mobbed that just dropped on Fox...even career advice from Bono of U2 himself! DECENT right?  They are making that maximum effort to live out this dream and with each carefully planned step, they'll continue on the right direction.

As for the album, after dropping the tempo slightly towards the later-half of the album they finish appropriately strong with “Bang And A Shout,” capping off an album that is absolutely worth a listen. 

THIS is what can be accomplished when you focus.  THIS is what you can achieve when the right pieces find their way together and you OWN your time.  THIS is what you get when you truly love what you do and dedicate yourself to your craft.

If there’s one thing I’m certain of…No is no joke.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find everything you need to No right here:  http://www.notheband.com/

Back To The Top

 

February 18th, 2014 - The Striped Bananas - Lady Sunshine - Album Review

TheStripedBananas
The Striped Bananas – Lady Sunshine – Album Review

Yep.  They just MIGHT have had me at their own description of their music:  “Psychedelic Basement Rock” – who doesn’t want to hear some of THAT?  Consider me all about it.  And after pushing play on Lady Sunshine, the new album from The Striped Bananas all suspicions are confirmed – this is definitely something I can dig on.

One could easily imagine The Striped Bananas as maybe what the modern-day Beatles would have become…had they continued to follow the marching orders of Sgt. Pepper.  Though the vocals come out a little more Crosby, Stills, Nash AND Young, the combination works well against a thick 60’s-70’s atmosphere that stays constant and true to the sound the entire album through.

There’s commitment here, and you can audibly hear it.  They’ve got many of the vintage tones and vibes long missing from modern day music; it’s almost as if this album was secretly written 40 years ago and just released now after a fantastic restoration and re-mastering.  Lady Sunshine is spectacularly vibrant in clarity.  Songs like “Wednesday Morning” and “Dark Peace” allow you to really hear that separation in the instruments through the mix, letting you really dig into each individual part being played.

“Black Velvet” sees this band switch up the vibe to a place the Beatles most likely would never have gone…perhaps as the title implies, this is a much more Lou Reed/Velvet Underground style that works extremely well for them and carries right on into “Oasis Of Time.”  No joke - this song NEEDS to have its own paragraph…

“Oasis Of Time” is pure fucking genius.  I know I try not to play favorites and it gets the better of me all the time…as you all know, I’m a song guy not an album guy…but this…THIS track is an absolute masterpiece.  Does anyone out there remember the song off the Beck album Mellow Gold called “Whiskeyclone, Hotel City, 1997?”  I know – completely different tracks in nature of the writing – but listen to those gorgeous similarities in the production and the atmosphere in that track.  It remains to this day one of the most haunting tracks in the Beck catalogue, and “Oasis Of Time” is a track that can match that spine-tingling sensation note-for-evil-note. 

A track like “World Can’t Be Won” with its themes of togetherness/love, anti-political/anti-guns, do a lot to show the inside of The Striped Bananas, what they have to say and why they’re here to do what they do.  Like I said, there’s a commitment here – I mean that in all kinds of ways.  Commitment to the style.  Commitment to their message.  Commitment to the people.

Commitment to that guitar solo in “Mistress Of Existence!”  Hot damn!

The vocals are stylistic…for some they might sound “off.”  If you’re a fan of that psychedelic basement rock sound though – just take a look at their influences on their Facebook page and you’ll know if you identify with their sound.  Nearly every one of the influences listed has a controversial vocalist at the helm that some would argue is genius, while the other half can’t seem to grasp it.  Personally I think it fits this music well – and considering musically they never let up I think that’s an accomplishment; to find vocal ideas and rhythms that fit in with all these creative ideas at all would be extremely hard work.

All in all, The Striped Bananas and their album seriously sent me back in time musically in a wicked way.  Lady Sunshine stands as a great reminder that a true “sound” can exist long outside of the decade it was born from and still be completely relevant today.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out The Striped Bananas at their Facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/thestripedbananas
You can find the Lady Sunshine album here:  http://thestripedbananas.bandcamp.com/

 

February 16th, 2014 - Jer's Blog - 2014.001

YES, YES...I'M ALIVE!

That was one hell of an absence from the official blog wouldn’t you say?  November!  Jeeeeeeez.  That’s honestly too long!  So Merry Christmas, Happy New Years and Happy Valentine’s Day – I’m back!  LOL…whatever…

Over these past months a lot of time has been spent in self-reflection, especially towards the end of 2013 throughout the holidays.  Always an interesting time to be had somewhere in my split-family lineage – this year was no exception.  A lot of time was spent thinking about the show as well, getting ready for the big 2014 launch with BLACKOUT LIGHTS and really spending some time on pondering where to take the show next.

BlackoutLights

I like to think all that thinking paid off!  The first two official episodes of SBS Live This Week in 2014 are now completed and both were an extreme success for all concerned.  And we’ve heard the feedback – you’re enjoying the show much more in 2014 it seems already, setting a record month here in January at the good old sleepingbagstudios homepage, and smashing our hit count from February last year in only nine days!  INCREDIBLE – and thank you!

For what it’s worth – we can see it too.  Blackout Lights was a perfect episode to lead off our year – a knowledgeable crew and a whole set of killer songs with some wicked video accompaniment.  We’re never trying to play favorites on the inside of a band, but we’ve already talked with Steve about coming back for our first genre panel this year…we’ll get to that in a bit…

How about CLOSER?  Did these guys tear it apart or what?  I can’t even begin to express just how much fun it was to hang out with those guys, or even how much fun it was to put all those videos together.  Tyler is still away at the moment and has yet to see the episodes but the feedback from the rest of the crew has been spectacular.  Justifiably so!  Those killer performances warranted some handy video work to go along with them and it seems like we were able to pull it off.  Absolutely STOKED to hear how this first album for Closer shapes out after hearing these songs as many times as I have – it is going to be IN YOUR FACE.

And speaking of Closer…you DID stay all the way through the credits and thank-yous of this last episode right?  Cause if you didn’t...let’s just say you’re missing out on a bit more vintage Closer footage…

Closer

WHERE TO NOW BOSS?

So where to now?  I’m very proud to say we’re continuing on at full speed in this excellent direction we’ve found ourselves in.  The show has certainly hit an excellent stride to begin this year, so for one more episode, we’re going to celebrate in the multiple of three!  Third episode, in three parts for the third and final time to lead off this year before we head back to our usual format of two-part shows.  Had to be done – the interview is absolutely incredible to watch and I couldn’t cut it down and justify that action against how much work I know was put in on the other side of the screen.  That’s right – it’s my favorite project back in action – a video-interview, with a band that just turned TEN years old (Holy shit right?) – SWAMI LUSHBEARD.

After watching the interview in full multiple times and talking back and forth with lead singer Don – I can’t say enough about this amazing group of people.  As far as the video-interview  project is concerned – this is certainly the vision fully realized.  Just astounding the amount of work Swami Lushbeard put into the filming alone, nevermind the absolutely mind-blowing editing they did on their end.  As this project allows YOU to be as hands on as you could possibly want, Don and his crew took the ball and ran with it the whole damn distance.  Everything you’ll see on screen that features the SL crew was completely shot and edited on their end.  You’ll see “interactive” questions!  Hell – I might even answer a question or two in this episode!

All in all, I couldn’t be prouder of the way things are going.  We’re seeing bands all the time from our site and our show make connections founded on this common bond and putting shows and tours together.  The idea was always for sleepingbagstudios to become that hub…that glue that helps hold the indie scene together…there’s still much work to do…but every step of the way has been encouraging enough to take the next.  The upcoming Swami Lushbeard episode is another episode I fully recommend that you watch and, well, basically study!  THIS is what YOU can do on your end of these video-interviews – they can be this fantastic – it’s all about how much you put into it. 

SwamiLushbeard

Swami Lushbeard gave it their 100% maximum effort – and every inch of it shows.  Subject-wise, we go all over the map and get a real sense of who the people in SL really are; we tackle the light, we tackle the heavy, and every response should find plenty of room in your earholes. Can’t wait for you to see it too!  We’re attempting to drop the first of three parts on the upcoming Tuesday, the 18th.  Be ready! 

AND AFTER THAT?

Beyond Swami, things look to stay the course of continued awesomeness.  We have video-interviews in the works with WARRIORS OF THE INFINITE and NICOLAS & THE ICENI that we know will turn out incredibly.  We’ve got live specials planned for AETERNA and THIS DAY BURNS.  We have our first genre-panel of our year and agreed-upon participants that make perfect sense; we’ll be talking about GRUNGE.  I mentioned earlier in the blog that we have Steve Barmash from Blackout Lights coming by for that – our other two guests scheduled for that episode are EQUALLY incredibly well-versed in this genre…as we get closer to filming that episode we’ll be sure to fill you in on the other two guests…we’re just waiting for someone to get back from their world travels so we can set the date in stone….*hint *hint.

The SBS official page here will see a LOT of action in between now and the end of February, with new album reviews planned for THE HAWTHORNES, MAN MADE LAKE, UTUVIS & more.  We stepped into Russia for the very first time as well!  We have a written interview with GRENOUER coming out in the next couple days…I know I say it every time but it’s just so freakin awesome to be able to talk to people from so far away!

Ok!  Believe it or not – I think that does it for now.  Feels good to get the first blog of the year finally up and out there…I’ll do my best to not simply make this a quarterly event.

Cheers homies.

  • Jer @ SBS

 

February 8th, 2014 - Young Coconut - Bieber Heads - Album Review

YoungCoconut
Young Coconut – Bieber Heads – Album Review

Nice.  We reviewed Young Coconut not too long ago and his latest album I Got A Vibe…and we definitely got our ears deep into the unique and creative sounds he had put to record.  So, in an effort to dig deeper into the bizarre world of Young Coconut – he’s back!  Well…sort of…

Bieber Heads, the album in review by Young Coconut here was released prior to I Got A Vibe but definitely still has that flavor you’ll find only YC can add.  Take the opening/title track itself – “Bieber Heads” instantly takes you for a trip into a world of sounds you won’t expect and vocals that will always make you crack a wry smile.

In what becomes one of the strangest turns on the album after repeat listens – the following track “Sabrina” is about as perfect as our indie songs can get these days, though much more “straight ahead” than you’ll find nearly another other track from YC to be!  It’s an absolutely beautiful song and incredibly performed.  The tightness in this track is impeccable…the groove is undeniable…I’m not a guy to just get up and dance but…

I…uh…just have to go get something….be right back…

..........

............

*cough

Right.  Ok.  Where was I?

How about this?  What I appreciate the most in Young Coconut’s music is the amount of strength he puts into his innovation.  Each track is a stretch of my own imagination just to keep up with where he might be going to next, and I appreciate that.  Whether it’s tracks like “Lazy Liars” or “Cup Of Snow,” each track brings out another arrow from his musical quiver and showcases an ability he seems to be able to flex like a muscle at any given time.  There’s thought behind the music here…an effort to not be “normal” while still somehow sounding effortless…

And much like the album to follow from Young Coconut in our previous review, this album has that blessed amount of atmosphere and ingenuity you’ve become accustomed to in his work.  “Koca Bebek” in all its shortness, is a wicked trip that again highlights some of that real atmosphere YC can create in a track…each of these tracks take you somewhere else than the one before just did.

In another somewhat bizarre turn (Like, what’s bizarre on a YC record right?) the final cut “Torch Bearer” has an interesting disco-like feel to it, mixed-in with some smooth vocals to go along with it.  Nearly a little “straight ahead” in the Coconut catalog as well, but a good song nonetheless and a great way to go out and leave a nice hook as a lasting impression.

All in all, to be honest, as a song guy…”Sabrina” alone would have made this album for me.  But as expected, Young Coconut, long before we met him through his latest album I Got A Vibe, had already put out all kinds of excellent songs in the past and many of them can be found right here on this album Bieber Heads.

Check it out!  http://youngcoconut.bandcamp.com/album/bieber-heads

  • Jer @ SBS

 

February 4th, 2014 - Paul Y Justin - Your Peaks Are Valleys - EP Review

PyJ
Paul Y Justin – Your Peaks Are Valleys – EP Review

I’ve got half of me convinced I might be listening to one of the best tracks I’ll ever hear in my life right now – the opening and title track to PyJ’s “Your Peaks Are Valleys” is such an atmospheric and original track that the song plays out like a full novel.  One of my absolute favorite things, as you readers know, is music that has the ability to take you somewhere when you close your eyes and listen.  I have been successfully transported into the musical minds of PyJ safely; this is a band that completely has the ability to write original and unique songs that have incredible life and pulse to them and I am digging on everything this EP has to offer.

We can start by talking title.  I don’t necessarily think they’re being arrogant so much as they might just be apt.  Your Peaks Are Valleys, at least to me in the context of listening to the innovation on this EP, is nearly a challenge to other musicians and artists out there…a comment on the state of creativity in the present day perhaps.  Again, the outset of the album nearly confirms this with an absolutely brilliant and crafty title track.  Reaching out and combining all kinds of various influences and sounds, this track is like listening to TV On The Radio with Serj Tankian guest starring on vocals and Peter Buck lending a hand on guitar.  The result is that haunting feeling, coming from the chant-like vocals, familiar in the System Of A Down mellow tunes or Tankian’s solo work.  This combination of simple acoustic guitar and the amount of space given in the production result in that eerie feeling you remember hearing when R.E.M. put out “Drive.”  Chills – straight up.

“It’s Not” has more of that TV On The Radio early-work vibe with the pace and skill of Bad Religion.  At only just over 15 minutes this EP rips by quickly, largely due to the explosive franticness found in tracks like this one.  Largely combining songs on electronics, guitars and a steady beat – they keep the energy up without losing that original magic they put forth on the opening track on the tracks to follow with “Waste” and “Never Enough” also being punk-inspired and played with controlled-chaos.

PyJ stands for Paul Y Justin – hailing from San Diego & Sacramento CA down in the ol’ USA.  For only two people – they are creating gigantic sounds here on Your Peaks Are Valleys.  To myself, as a person who has also spent his time in music in a band of only two, I not only understand the challenges that can present – but also the pure joy that comes along with getting something recorded that sounds like it was done by a full five-piece band.  These songs take WORK – and you can tell that PyJ has put plenty of that in here.  Each and every move, beat and idea are well placed, imagined and realized.  The scale of sound in this duo reminds me of listening to Big Black Delta for the first time in these last two years, realizing just how big, innovative and LOUD these tiny independent 2-3 piece acts have become.

“Ladders Up” is the track that will test you.  Are you WITH PyJ or not?  I instantly loved the beat – I honestly wasn’t sure about the vocals on this one on my first listens…now I seem to not be able to get enough of this finale to the EP.  The longest song in the set, nearly hogging the EP at four and a half minutes – this last epic track finds its way along big time.  With a NIN-inspired synth-bass line, wicked acoustic breakdowns and EPIC vocal freak-out towards the end, it might have taken me a couple of listens, but I can hear it now.  This was the ending that was needed for this set of 5…a culmination of the sounds brought forth in the previous four songs…a virtual melting-pot and swelling of sounds.

So…I know it’s kinda hard to pick up on throughout this review…but I suppose what you can infer is that you can definitely consider me a fan of what PyJ has put down here on record.  Truly captivating five songs that demand your attention. 

Don’t even try to resist; if you don’t willingly give these songs your attention - they’ll straight up take it from you.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check them out further at their Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/paulyjustin

 

January 29th, 2014 - Blindside Thunder - The Storm - Album Review

BlindsideThunder
Blindside Thunder – The Storm – Album Review

Okay – so even if I lied my hardest to you at this point, you all know me well enough to know that straight ahead rock’n roll is about the biggest challenge I can have thrown my way.  There’s no convincing you that I’m sitting here simultaneously reviewing this album from Blindside Thunder at the same time as re-watching Rock Of Ages for the 6th time today – I know that you won’t believe me… 

And though it might not be the particular genre of choice for your humble reviewer, as I have found with ALL music - there is ALWAYS something to like.

Sometimes you just have to be in the right mindset.  How would a typical fan of TRUE rock listen to The Storm?  LOUD.  So I cranked it.  Much better.

Within seconds you can identify two things through the crunchy guitars and crisp drums – Blindside Thunder is not out to go and redefine rock’n roll, they’re here to make the music that they and so many others still identify with and love more than any other.  Seriously – the fans of 80’s style rock’n roll and metal are still among the most passionate I’ve ever met when speaking about their genre.

You can easily hear that passion in Blindside Thunder.  With an up-tempo rock album that suggests you not only leave your pillows on your bed, but throw them out completely as there will be no sleep to be had while this album is on.  These are the rock-party anthems; certainly not to be confused with the vice-versa!  The production and the performances are geared up to rock the entire time, matching the energetic themes of the lyrics.  To pull it off as well as Blindside Thunder does is almost a tribute to those nostalgic times when rock rolled over the Earth. 

Musically, I’d put this band as right in the middle of David-Lee-Roth-era-Van-Halen-meets-Kiss.  They take the anthem-style rock approach that Kiss had to the writing of their hooks and through the vocals bring it to the more Van Halen side of things.  There are some deviations towards the end – “Say Goodbye” is a catchier pop-rock side of Blindside Thunder, whereas the track to follow “She Wants Sex” almost incorporates a Ramones-ish feeling and a little harder edge to the vocals.

While I might always be looking for bands to re-invent the wheel in the musical universe, I can never argue that more of a good thing ISN’T a good thing, cause it IS…a good thing.  If you’re a rock fan, if you’ve read through this review and you know and love the bands we’ve referenced in comparison, then there’s no reason you shouldn’t go out and get The Storm right now.  BlindSide Thunder play their music with complete skill & enthusiasm and could easily hold their own against the heavy-hitters of rock.

  • Jer @ SBS

 

January 22nd, 2014 - Oktayne - Prime Potential - Album Review

Oktayne
Oktayne – Prime Potential - Album Review

Eazy?  Eazy is that really you?

Rapper in review – Oktayne – references how he used to want to rap like Common, but after a thorough listen to his new LP Prime Potential you might come to the same conclusion I have here; Oktayne is much like what I’d imagine the legendary rapper Eazy-E might just sound like today if his was still on the M.I.C. (R.I.P. E.Z.E.!)

Our introduction to Oktayne actually came through putting his video & lead single “Turnt Down” on our show SBS Live This Week.  At that time and through that track we learned about ‘Tayne’s ability to create anthem-style rap tracks with hooks that stick deep in your memory.  Now that Prime Potential is out and available, on a personal level I was excited to see just what else Oktayne has been coming up with in the shadows of rap awaiting his turn in the spotlight.

What I appreciate a whole hell of a lot in rap right now are the rappers that are taking chances in the writing of their own hooks, ones that try something new and don’t just rely on samples or the chorus of a hit song to ensure their tracks are heard.  Right away on the first track “Prime Dreamer,” Oktayne comes in with a hook that at first sounds nearly awkward and over-complicated against a really minimalist background beat.

I mean…Yeeeeeeeeeeez!  Who does THAT remind you of?

That style of minimalism through the music and supremacy in the lyrical department has paid off big time throughout the last year of rap music.  While Kayne might not have had the commercial success through Yeezus that he had achieved in the past, hundreds of thousands of musicians well outside of the rap game still had to acknowledge the genius in that record and the way that it all came together.  Oktayne has taken a similar approach with Prime Potential – while the background beats are tight and banging out at all the right places, he never relies on the beats to make the tracks memorable.  That’s a responsibility he takes all on his own, every time he steps to the mic.

And whether it’s cuts like “Strong Like Hard Liquor,” “I Feel Good“ or “Do Your Dance Mama“ – that ability to write a memorable hook and deliver it with confidence, flair and style is there and on full display at every turn.  Some of those hooks seem like they were meant to be, others resonate with the true confidence of Oktayne, almost daring you to follow him through the rest of the track to find out how it all fits together.  There’s a lot happening through the vocal delivery, which might result in a little confusion on that first listen as you adjust to Oktayne’s style – but rest assured by only the second listen there’s a hook from EVERY track that has worked itself into your brain and the Prime Potential truly becomes realized.

It really is a perfect name for this album.  Prime Potential is a perfect description of Oktayne, where he’s at and how this music he has made is ready to launch him into a lifelong career.  The “blueprint,” so to speak.  Every rapper that has ever put a rhyme into a microphone has surely wished they took out a word (or seven) of a verse or a chorus to perfect the metering in a particular cut, but at the end of the day it’s all about what the true foundations in the writing ARE.  Oktayne is probably no exception to this – 99% of this LP flows flawlessly through the lyrics.  Sure there’s a bit of stretched out wordage to fit the scale, but again, as the title says – this is Prime Potential.  He’s well aware that there’s still room to grow and refine his skills, but confident enough to know that his current skill set should absolutely lead to him being sought out as a number-one music draft.

And who wouldn’t want a little extra Oktayne on their team?  There’s evidence all over Prime Potential that shows just how well he can play with others.  Featuring guest stars like Kareless MF’ah and Charlie Fingaz, Oktayne adapts and has no problem sharing the space in a track in order to strengthen the overall song.  A perfect example of this is “Ask Me Anything,” a guaranteed hit if ever there was one, featuring Kassanova.  Intelligently arranged and expertly produced and delivered – this should be all the evidence that you need to support the opening of your studio-doors if Oktayne ever comes knocking.

At his most playful – a track like “Murda Self Esteem” resembles the laid-back summertime vibe that surfaces in the rhymes and music of Shwayze.  Kareless MF’ah comes in to lay down-and-dirty verse in this combination of rap skills, vocal effects and good-times.  Oktayne delivers some of his best here once again, never letting up on his ability to make his songs leave a lasting impression.

Really.  Really, really, really, really, really.

Listen to Prime Potential – you’ll get it.  “Really Really” is a great example of what I’ve been talking about with Oktayne all along.  Listen to this track and tell me that you’re not saying “Really Really” for the next month in your house, in your car on the way to work, while you’re mowing the lawn, while you’re in the grocery store…I’m sure you get what I mean…really.

Finishing just as strong as it started, Prime Potential wraps up with rap tracks “Rockin And Rollin” and “Potential.”  Intense and geared to leave a lasting impression, these tracks being as strong as they are finalize an album laden with consistency and skill.  Oktayne is bringing excitement and enthusiasm into independent rap – that’s unquestionable.

And the best thing about the word “potential” itself?  It ALWAYS implies there’s even more to come. 

I’ll be looking forward to it, every time.

  • Jer @ SBS

Follow Oktayne at Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/oktayneoffical

 

January 17th, 2014 - Various Artists - Take Me Home And Love Me - Album Review

TakeMeHomeAndLoveMe
Various Artists - Take Me Home And Love Me – Compilation Review

Nothing makes me crack a smile like random creativity.  This multi-artist disc, Take Me Home And Love Me, is all over the musical map and full of ideas you could sit on your couch for years and still never dream up.  And I appreciate that!  So let’s check this out – push play!

Or if you want to – stare at the cover art a little longer...but don’t get any ideas – that dog is coming home to SBS!  Seriously – I NEED to find a way to adopt this SPECIFIC dog!

Right, right.  Music.  Concentrate on the music.  I get it.  You fiends…

Alright – the album stands an entire eight tracks in length and each one brings an entirely different sound and idea into this compilation.  What starts with “Housebroken,” a beautifully acoustic & sax track with lyrics and tone that match the sad, sad look in the eyes of the dog on the cover!  Rad right?  Any Grandaddy or Sparklehorse fans out there?  You’ll dig on this track from J. Marcien Caron for sure.

Following this forlorn but oddly beautiful track, this compilation throws its proverbial “nuts on yer chin” by sending the sound sideways in the first of two tracks from Moonshiner called “Banjo Boogie.”  This track absolutely begs the listener and asks – ‘Just how weird DO you want it?’ 

Well – if you’re anything like me, you like your music plenty weird.  Especially at the hours you know I keep!  I love the recording in this track…the banjo track sounds like it was recorded and then played on a phonograph.  Not gonna lie – this is about as weird as music can get short of Primus’ “Grandad’s Little Ditty.”  It’ll be beyond the scope of many; but definitely not mine!

The whole album comes out of left field continually, song after song.  Anthony Vincent brings the music back to something a little more familiar with a jazz/rock freak-out in “Deadman’s Hill.”  Up tempo and well put together – this will the song that those looking for something a little closer to their musical safety-zone will enjoy. 

But what’s this?  Storm’s a-comin…

Yep.  Here to make sure the instant you get comfortable…is Moonshiner again.  Again, production values absolutely KILL on this track – you can fully consider me a fan of Moonshiner’s work – this is atmospherically unique and just brilliantly put together.  So bizarre and unexpected upon those first listens that, well at least for myself – made it so I couldn’t wait to hear them again right away.

Francisco Benetiz is making some excellent music, fully rocking away on a piano-jazz influenced track known as “Oversize Load,” with that excellent saxophone coming through into this compilation once again.  He also shows up towards the end of the album on “Warm Sweet Darkness,” another example of some excellent ideas in melody and songwriting.  Truly – this is a phenomenally beautiful track.

Now…after Moonshiner showing up on the second and fourth track – naturally I braced myself for another dose of bizarre-meets-awesome, even though this time the track was from a different artist.  This magical, toy-box of a song hits the spot for me every single time I hear it.  Sarah Pountney – that’s the name – now go and re-affirm this amazingly talented artist!  “The Wire” is a short and astounding delicate song, full of heart-felt melody and beautifully performed.  An absolute stand-out gem.

BUT!  If there is ONE thing I’ve learned from what to expect of this compilation, it’s that if weird ain’t in the song I’m hearing…then it’s just around the corner.  And for one final time, it certainly was.  “Reeser’s Mountain” ends this absolute TRIP of a compilation with another banjo-laden, production-refined song that billy-goats of all-ages will cross the field for in this track from Sean Downey.

If you like creativity…if you like the bizarre...if you appreciate the true freedom of music and where even the craziest ideas can take you – forget about the dog on the cover and take this compilation home instead!

- Jer @ SBS

 

 

January 12th, 2014 - Qon J. Jamal - One Man Show - Album Review

QonJJamal
Qon J. Jamal – One Man Show – Album Review

There are two things I can really dig in rap verse spit WELL; commitment and style above all.  Qon J. Jamal has just recently dropped this album One Man Show – a complete rap set that leaves no room for doubt about just how much hard work went into every aspect.  Full of style, commitment AND flavor – Qon J. raps with an audible dedication to his craft, making the most of every verse on every cut.

The music itself is vibrant and full of change-ups in texture and tone from track to track.  The album uses a range of modern elements in production from fine chops to auto-tuned vocals but doesn’t shy away from showcasing his natural skills on the mic either.  The skills themselves are sharp, with lyrics pointed hard to their targets, creating stories and themes you can certainly follow along with throughout any of the tracks.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnd…while many of those themes would be dismissed by many as “typical” themes that show up in every second rap song (Bitches, money, guns, drugs etc…) – it’s the style of Qon J. that was able to get me past what might be “typical” about the songs and appreciate what he’s bringing to the table. 

In this humble reviewer’s opinion the best asset that Qon J. has going for him is that I could easily tell him apart from other rapper’s in the game.  To have a sound and style all your own in the rap universe is a tough thing to achieve, but Jamal knows how to find himself “in the pocket” on each of these tracks here on One Man Show.  Whether it’s a more straight ahead beat like the one used in “Headed To The Top,” or more on the unique side like in “Talkin To The Clouds,” he has a groove that he can easily slide into to deliver his intricate flow.  And yes, surely there are East-Coast rap all-stars you can hear that have influenced his style, but at the end of the day, Qon J. Jamal truly owns what he does.

Sample choices are varied enough to keep you plenty interested through this short but tightly made rap album.  And it doesn’t stop there either!  My first introduction to Jamal’s music was through the New Year’s anthem he just dropped on Soundcloud at the front of this year already.  The anthem itself takes you all over the map in just a single track, again highlighting Qon. J.’s ability to adapt his style to a whole variety of song-styles.

Versatility…the ability to adapt…style, commitment and skills to match…I mean…if those aren’t the ingredients that should lead to longevity in the rap game, I don’t know what they’d be.  You might just be hearing about Qon J. Jamal now, but if he keeps on the path he’s on at the rate he’s at with the dedication, care and time he’s obviously putting in…you might just have a few more albums in the “Q” section of your collection quicker than you think.

  • Jer @ SBS

Support Qon. J. Jamal at his Facebook page here: 
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Qon-j-Jamal/354477547979884

 

January 10th, 2014 - The Thiefs - It's Not You, It's Us - EP Review

TheThiefs
The Thiefs – It’s Not You, It’s Us – EP Review

Now here’s something interesting!

Through our show SBS Live This Week and here on the page at sleepingbagstudios.ca we’ve talked plenty about that quest for timelessness in songwriting; specifically pondering on how to go about achieving songs or albums that stand the test of time decade after decade.  Whether The Thiefs have done it with this new EP…well…as indicated – only time will tell...

But what made it instantly interesting to my ears personally was that right from track one – “Cue Up The Band” – I kind of did this weird mental checklist all of a sudden.  Mentally I began to check off decade after decade of music and its influence on the music of The Thiefs, and as I sat here listening I thought to myself:

“60’s, 70’s, 80’s check.  90’s and up, check that too.  Yep – if you listen to rock music from ANY of those decades, you’ll easily find something to like here...”

It’s Not You, It’s Us has that magical ability to appeal to nearly any age group and sound right for rock fans of any generation.   Well…okay…you can probably still write your grandparents off as fans, but any age under that is certainly fair game.  The music is BIG and designed to be turned up LOUD or most certainly seen live as well I’m sure.  Each track is electric with life and energy…these tracks are movers...

And while many might argue there’s a lot about The Thieves that are “straight ahead rock” – I think there’s more to them than that.  If I was to make musical comparisons…I’d say we’re looking at a combination of Fuel, Reef, Social Distortion and Pearl Jam.  The good Pearl Jam.  The one you all love from Ten.  Don’t believe me?  Check out the track “Headhunters” on It’s Not You, It’s Us and go about two minutes in…classic Ten vibe there for sure!

Each and every one of those bands I can hear in the third track “Liquor Store” – the centerpiece of the EP and a truly fantastic song.  I’ve spun the EP several times now and each time this track comes on it’s as welcome as having your best friend come over for a beer.  Also the longest track on the EP – there are no ideas they test out that fall flat; as the track twists and bends alongside the tremolo-effect guitar – Ben Wolfgang also displays some of his best vocal work and guitar abilities.  Definitely a standout track and certainly one that has all kinds of crossover potential while they tone the rock down slightly here in the middle of the EP.

But chilled out and toned-down is NOT where you’re going to typically find The Thiefs I suspect, as they instantly come back to the full-on rock with the next track “High Command.”  With this track, you could add Stone Temple Pilots in as a listed influence…thankfully Wolfgang hasn’t wussified himself like Weiland has and fits the track perfectly with a low rasp and powerful punch in his delivery.

“Good For My Age” also has that tremendous rock-anthem feel to it – though this is where I’d personally advise the band to be cautious.  I know, I know…I’m always the weird one in the room…

Cause if you listen to it – you’ll hear Mike Eudy absolutely stomping and kicking the crap outta those drums, perfectly written for the song and communicating perfectly with the bass of Matty Bryson…so what could be wrong, right?

Nothing.  Technically over the five songs there’s precious little I think anyone who likes rock would want to change – but I would PUSH them.  Some of you out there have read similar advice through these reviews on your own work as well – so at least some of you already know I mean this in the kindest possible way…  When I listen to The Thiefs track “Good For My Age…” well…it’s just that it sounds like they could rip that one out with their eyes closed and create another rock anthem equally as big right after. 

Personally, I heard four tracks that DID push – and again, no technical fault on the last track “Good For My Age” – it’s a damn good rock song too.  Maybe it’s just that they play it so well it sounds too easy for them…I dunno.  Maybe I’m just crazy…maybe it’s late…  But while I might have made comparisons to other bands throughout this review – it’s the way that they bring these influences and sounds together to create something unique and identifiable to The Thiefs.

EP’s are fantastic tools – you know that.  The feedback on this EP from all kinds of sources and earholes will certainly help guide this band to success in the future – they have all the right tools and a sound that’s still plenty relevant in today’s world.  There is as assuredly a place for them in rock music as there is for It’s Not You, It’s Us to stay in my own rock-rotation.

You can bet on it.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out the music of The Thiefs directly through:  http://www.thethiefs.com/

 

January 7th, 2014 - Young Coconut - I Got A Vibe - Album Review

I Got A Vibe cover art
Young Coconut – I Got A Vibe – Album Review

I’m not exactly sure why I assumed this was going to be an emcee ripping rhymes into the mic…I couldn’t have been farther off!  Well…for the most part at least.  Young Coconut is much more pop/rock/experimental…

This album is a musical project a long time in the making from Dave Fox - and MAN does this album have some LEGS! 

And I’ll fully admit – when the first track played I wasn’t sure about what would come out next.  “Pity Junction,” like many of the tracks on I Got A Vibe, isn’t necessarily instantly accessible – but it will LAST.  Keep in mind when I say not “instantly accessible” I should probably mention by thirty seconds in I knew I wasn’t just going to be hooked on that single song, but that this album would bear the fru-its of greatness.  And it does.

What I can DEFINITELY say – is that the entire time spent listening to Young Coconut has been spent grinning.  I mean really – when you hear innovation and idea and EXECUTION like this in music…this endless creativity and willingness to explore the NEW…well, how can that NOT make you smile?  Much like a band we recently loved in review called The Yellow Dress – this is music that gives me an incredible hope.  It hasn’t “all been done,” Young Coconut is proving that track after track.

Take for example, the track “Sumotuwe.”  Awesome right?  I’m assuming you’re listening to YC while reading this review…

And if you are – then you’ve found this…GEM…this…like….weird….Weezer-meets-Red Hot Chili Peppers-meets-Flobots kinda track.  But this track has it all – literally.  From rap to rock, slow to fast, trance-like to dance-like, it’s ALL here in one track and you know what?  Young Coconut is pulling this off incredibly.  The words are incredible in this track as well…also reminding me of the “tongue-in-cheek” style of Anthony Kiedis of RHCP as well through both the content and the delivery.  It might just be the final switch at the end of this track that does it for me though.  This is that classic case of someone who KNOWS (Yes Dave – you KNOW) just how strong this part is – it could have been its OWN song even!

But in the end – I’ve gained a tremendous faith in what he’s doing here.  As frantic as the ideas might come off to many listeners – there’s an unbelievable ear for music at work here and a truly gifted mind for composition.  He might only give you a little sometimes - but whatever sound hooked you will definitely make you want to come back to it.

I’ll tell you right now – I don’t know this for a fact (but I DO assume this for a fact!) but I don’t think Dave could possibly sleep with all of these swirling sounds going on for him in the forefront of his mind.  And if it all sounds like this in there anyway…who the hell needs sleep anyway?  In fact – get this guy a coffee and let him back in the studio!

Let’s talk about playing ability.  Good lord!  This album has so many components you can’t help but want to listen to it a whole shit-ton…there’s a full musical meal here on the table and it takes a while to digest it all!  Dave’s vocals are so incredibly adaptive to whatever the song calls for.  “Bye Bye Ninja” has him ranging inbetween a Mick Jagger-meets-Ian Asterbury style – just wicked.  At other moments, you can expect him to turn much more Kiedis-cool in tracks that call for that extra funk.   

And that extra funk is coming in from some truly incredibly well played bass.  If I HAD to choose an all-star stand-out instrument on I Got A Vibe – the bass takes the first place prize.  It’s just so incredibly well-written and well-played that its presence is completely noteworthy in any track.  All this being said – the drums, the guitars, the inclusion of saxophone & other various instruments…it’s all perfectly executed with precision in the timing.  The music of Young Coconut can go anywhere at any time – there’s no “forgiveness” for a musician…no respite… 

You have to be at the top of your game to be able to pull this off musically, you gotta keep your head up and be ready for the change to come - cause it definitely IS coming!  Young Coconut has shown skills on every track that have brought these complex ideas to life completely – YC has pulled it off. 

But you have to nearly come from another planet to come up with this whole album of amazing songs.  However Young Coconut got here – I’m thankful.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Young Coconut & what’s up at:  https://www.facebook.com/YoungCoconutMusic
And find the music directly here at bandcamp:  http://youngcoconut.bandcamp.com/album/i-got-a-vibe

 

January 4th, 2014 - Karina Vismara - Two Winters - EP Review

KarinaVismara
Karina Vismara – Two Winters – EP Review

Karina is coming to our page all the way from Argentina!  I racked my brain to think of any other act, artist or band that I know of that might come from that area and I can honestly say that this is the first time I think I’ve ever dealt with music coming from that region.  So in a true case of ‘I have no idea what to expect’ – come and join me as I push play on this latest EP, Two Winters, by Karina Vismara.

There’s a strong start in opening the EP with her song “Only You,” the first of four beautiful tracks.  Each of these short and sweet acoustically driven tracks fit incredibly well with Karina’s soothing vocals.  Every syllable of the wording is clear and pronounced with an emotional touch that matches the tone of the song.  “Spread Our Love Around,” the second cut on the EP really highlights this combination and goes beyond to show her imagination in songwriting.  She invents unique vocal patterns and challenges herself to incorporate extra melody into the music by using her vocals much like an instrument.

“Tied Up Tight” is another great example of what Karina is capable of.  Through this track, comparisons could be drawn to an act as modern as Feist, or as old-school as the project from Ann & Nancy Wilson that existed before their days in Heart – anyone remember The Lovemongers?  That project of the famous sisters once covered Led Zeppelin songs exclusively – and a lot of the acoustic guitar work at times hints at that sound if not only in tone but through production.

Karina’s EP Two Winters sounds so incredibly alone – but in a beautifully isolated way.  It’s music that is so sparse that it feels like you’d find it in the back of an empty cupboard in a boarded-up abandoned house; but everything we’re left with is excellent.  I’ve always loved that isolated, far-away-and-wanting that can come around in music, but it’s only ever done right so often.  Karina has played that well with this short EP that includes every sound it needs to make these songs effective.  They may sound alone and isolated – but they are incredibly full of heart and life.

The final track, “Sister,” is like the anchor of a great relay team.  This is the track that if you somehow weren’t convinced by now, you’d have to give in to Karina’s style & voice.  This wonderfully performed song wraps the entire EP up incredibly well and gives us Karina one last time at her ultimate best in this track that was recorded live at Dilute Studio.   

Overall – no complaints here, only compliments.  It started incredibly strong and finished even stronger. This is a beautiful EP to listen to and welcome to my eardrums anytime.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Karina further at:  http://www.karinavismara.com/

 

January 2nd, 2014 - Ian Marquis - Faces From The Static - Album Review

IanMarquis
Ian Marquis – Faces From The Static – Album Review

I don’t think I’ve ever wanted some structure to come into the music as badly as I did during the opening moments of Faces From The Static – yes it’s super-early in the morning but c’mon – that was all kinds of confusing!  Those prayers are answered quickly once “Hide And Seek” expands to its sonic maximum but quickly into the second track “Help Me Make It To The Night” I realize that Ian isn’t going to go the “normal” route on anything coming up.  And thusly – you KNOW I’m interested.

“Help Me Make It To The Night” is a huge song just waiting for radio, and if anyone is curious, hell YES I wish I wrote this one.  It’s a wicked song in a kind of Weezer meets The Police composition.  Using that choppy but soothing guitar-style that made The Police famous and updating it with a more pop-rock infused sound – this track has heart and excellent hooks.

GOOD LORD IAN MARQUIS – there you go AGAIN!  Three songs in, with three intensely different sounds.  “Slow Down” is a digital pop-frenzy that shows off some excellent planning and production in the songwriting as well.  Call me crazy but the following track “Call Me Crazy” has even more juice in the vibe than “Slow Down” has and that track MOVED!  But again – the pop hook in the chorus is something that seems to come quite naturally to Ian, and the switch in “Call Me Crazy” makes that track stand out that 10% more for me in this mini-battle of electronica-influenced pop-rock.

Marquis has game in any arena of music and could fit right in with the electronic or rock crowd.  Similar in ways to bands like Big Black Delta and Panic Channel – a track like “Venus Aphasia” supplies good reference to this style as well as an incredible blast of energy, whereas a track like “Paper Hearts/Paper Friends” provides another dose of electro.  Ironically, this particular track also reminds me somewhat of the band Faded Paper Figures.  Weird!

There’s an art to pop-rock and Ian Marquis is nailing it.  The key to great pop is figuring out how to make it LAST.  Most pop-rock is very one-dimensional and over time becomes flat upon repeated listens.  Marquis has attacked this by adding all kinds of elements in the sound to maintain interest and a fine tune on the production.  You can listen again and again and there will be something new to listen to each time.

“Heisenberg, Revisited” – I mean…title alone had me ready and waiting for this one.  As a huge fan of Breaking Bad, whether or not it’s a reference to the show or not – this song is incredible.  The chorus consisting of distorted/FX vocals…just INCREDIBLE and a perfect fit for the music.  A track that reaches out into the beyond and right to the fringe of his own style, “Heisenberg, Revisited” is a definite highlight on this album.

As the album winds down with “Triumph And Sin,” second to last track on the album, we get one more glimpse into the work and music of Ian Marquis…still adding new dimensions of sound to his album deep in at the eleventh song.  For this track, Ian takes everything down to the bare bones in an acoustically driven pop-rock ballad.  The result is a gorgeous track that nearly leaves you wondering how he ever got near a vocal effect of any kind to begin with – dude’s got a great voice! 

“Triumph And Sin” serves as the perfect set up for the final track “Lock Your Lips.”  Leave a lasting impression…that’s what they say right?  Consider this DONE on this album Faces From The Static.  Marquis brings back the energy, the pop, the rock and all of the things he’s done best throughout the album in this final cut.  It’s a final song that will leave you wanting to press play again to take the ride once more.

Personally, I’m glad the album had that effect.  It let me go back and hear that opening to the album once again.  What a difference context can make!  Repeated listens definitely helped that beginning come clear to me, and now that I feel like I “get it” – I can just relax and listen to the rest of this excellent effort from Ian Marquis.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Ian’s music further at http://ianmarquismusic.com/album/faces-from-the-static

 

December 30th, 2013 - The Yellow Dress - Faint Music Ordinary Light - Album Review

TheYellowDress
The Yellow Dress – Faint Music Ordinary Light – Album Review

When you look up The Yellow Dress on Facebook one of the first things you see and notice might very well be the same first thing that caught my eye.  At the top of the page, right by the “about” button where I usually go to check into all of you wonderful artists…you’ll see a simple, small quote that perhaps is somehow to encompass the entire feeling, theme and inner-band dynamics is all of five short words - ”It’s going to be ok.”

To see the quote on its own without the context of the music to go along with it simply wouldn’t make sense.  But to know that quote exists and THEN listen to this music helps to offer a completely different experience in listening to the music on Faint Music Ordinary Light, this new offering from The Yellow Dress.  In fact, from the moment that the rush begins with the opening track “Tummy In The Blood” you feel like you’re a part of this music…you can feel that desperation and genuine hunger to make this a career that lasts right there through the words and the frantic playing at the outset of the album.

I’ve had the opportunity to listen to The Yellow Dress throughout this past week and I can honestly tell you I’m incredibly excited about this band.  To me, if you were to take The Head And The Heart and The Airborne Toxic Event and tell them they had to live on a musical diet of The Pixies alone and nothing else…the music that could come out of that chance encounter and direction might sound exactly something like this new album.  Maybe a slight addition of some Cold War Kids, or The National, just to round it all out.

Led by Dan Weiss, the sole member that can be found on every album, The Yellow Dress is a project that could very well renew your faith that there is still plenty of amazing music left out there to be made.  With a combination of Folk/Pop that is frighteningly unmatched – The Yellow Dress personally have me believing by only halfway through the album that it’s actually “going to be MORE than ok” if bands like this continue to stretch their imagination and creativity.  The ideas that exist within this band are phenomenally unique in their composition and execution.

What hit me at first was that extremely strong folk element to the music, but what stuck with me and stayed was the immaculate gift this band has for pop songwriting.  NEW and EXCITING pop songwriting.  In many ways, pop music is much like the often referenced “seven endings to any comedy sketch” whereas even though it might sound new and exciting, it wears itself out quickly upon listening because it truly HAD been done before.  Somehow – The Yellow Dress have put together an entire album full of hooks that are guaranteed to own your earholes, but it truly is amazing at just how NEW all of this sounds.

“An Elegy For Laura Shain” is another wicked example of the argument that this band is the complete package.  The lyrics are incredible, tell a story and make you feel SOMETHING.  The music is inventive, creatively over-flowing and passionate.  The vocals are attacked like it’s the last song to be sung, with haunting harmonies creating an atmosphere that leaves you no choice but to become a part of it.  Guitar solos, a crazy bass line and stomping drums – this track has it all.

Now I’ll share a secret with you – so do the rest.  To single any track out on this album of completely ingenuity would be a disservice through review and I simply won’t be party to that.  Besides – that would also be like saying that “An Elegy For Laura Shain” isn’t instantly followed by the equally amazing “A Complete List Of Fears Ages 5-28,” which it most certainly IS and definitely cannot be ignored.  But like I said – I truly feel this could be argued for each of these tracks containing new qualities and experiences for your musical palette.

To close this – I want to remind you all that music can be this amazing if you want it to be.  The Yellow Dress are well ahead of the curve right now, offering music made completely new through some mind-blowingly unconventional ideas and combinations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch up!  Faint Music Ordinary Light excites me beyond belief because every moment, sound and instance was NEW but stuffed chockfull of pop that it contains an accessibility most “new” sounds don’t get to enjoy.  Break free of those conventional sounds and songs and IMAGINE where you might go if you were left only to your own devices and instincts.
“It’s going to be ok.”  Perhaps it’s advice for us all to go with our gut and see what spills out of our untainted souls onto record.  Whatever the case may be, however that comment was meant, there’s only one thing I can even think of that makes me question their logic…

I’ve come home from work in this past week with this new album in some pretty OK and average states…so how come every time I push play on Faint Music Ordinary Light my day goes from OK to INCREDIBLE?

Go check out this band!!!

  • Jer @ SBS

You can also find more info on The Yellow Dress here at:
https://www.facebook.com/Theyellowdress

 

 

December 24th, 2013 - Cinja - "Still Love You" - Single Review

Cinja
Cinja – Still Love You – Single Review

Cinja!  That’s a name that you just have to love.  Surprisingly, this singer/songwriter with a name that could just as easily fit in the punk-rock category, makes music that is incredibly sweet.  Coming to us all the way from Germany, Cinja has just released the heartfelt piano ballad “Still Love You.” 

That’s right.  I said HEARTFELT PIANO BALLAD.  What – you think a bearded guy can’t get down on a love song every once in a while?  C’mon now…I’m a lover not a fighter….

I can admit up front, this is a little outside of my genres of expertise and in 1000 ways it IS in my expertise overall, and yours as well.  Follow me on this one…

“Still Love You” is that kind of quintessential simple love song you can’t not like.  Whether it’s out at dinner with the one you love, or coming in as the background in that perfect movie-moment – this is a quaint and isolated track – and YES it really does sound heartfelt – quit making fun of me!

What I suppose I mean by that…is that I LOVE that isolated feel to this track.  Like Cinja is just sitting there on a piano and staring out the window, missing someone she used to love.  This is one of those songs that are kind of just made for winter; an in-front of the fire snuggled in your blanket kind of song – know what I mean?

The piano is pretty and well played…the lyrics are sweet and Cinja puts herself out there on every note.  Singing convincingly with the emotion of a second language can certainly be a challenge – Cinja pulls this off well.  There are some excellent starting blocks here that show promise for more beautiful music down the road. 

Production-wise, Cinja’s passion and taking charge in every moment also result in some slight peaking issues with the vocals within the track – not nearly troublesome enough to discard the recording, but something that can be slightly noticed when you’re listening to a single song on repeat!

The important thing is that the sweetness of this track comes through sparklingly clear and it certainly does.  Short, sweet and simply beautiful – check out CINJA and her brand new single “Still Love You.”

  • Jer @ SBS

Find Cinja here!
http://www.cinjafriends.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CinjaRePausewang

 

December 18th, 2013 - Kyle & Lisa - Impasse - Single Review

KyleAndLisa
Kyle & Lisa – “Impasse” – Single Review

At not even 2 minutes and forty seconds long, one might think there might not be a lot to talk about in today’s review…and one would be wrong!  A clever single from Kyle & Lisa called “Impasse” that has just dropped onto the net has caught my ear & I’ve been listening on repeat.  It’s dark, it’s melodic, and it has nestled itself quaintly within my eardrums never to leave – so I figure it’s only fair that I share my findings with you!

Understand, first of all, that this track lives and exists in the dark-back-alleys of your mind.  Makes for an interesting contrast against the brightness of tone in the guitars but the more I listened the more I appreciated the way this whole song came together.  The bass and drums communicate in a jazz-lounge rhythm, provided in part by their drum-machine ally A.K.A. “Lester.”  Providing a simple but solid base-track serves guitarist Kyle extremely well, allowing him to get truly inventive on his guitar.

Invention and innovation are two tough things to come by, but I think Kyle has done those well with a somewhat simple guitar rhythm absolutely maximized through extreme production.  It’s so crisp and crunchy – I just love the way the sound came out.  I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure that was going to work for me at first.

Now I just want to hit the amps and boards and twist knobs until I can find a similar sound to use myself!

When I first looked into Kyle & Lisa and had a scan over their pages, I became incredibly interested in hearing what the music would be like.  With influences listed like The Cure, Panic! At The Disco and Queens Of The Stone Age listed among others – I figured this single from Kyle & Lisa couldn’t miss for me.

And you know what?  I was RIGHT.

But you know what else?  This song “Impasse” didn’t remind me of ANY of the bands they listed as influential.  So what’s up with that!?!

Listen.  I’m not the band so you know I’ll be able to tell it to you straight, but this is what happened.  They BORROW and USE little snippets of these inspirations in their music and style but they absolutely did NOT allow themselves to become a copy of those that influenced them the most.  And when you think about it – that’s not an easy thing to do.  We all like what we like, we all listen to what we want to listen to…to take the music in a different direction, or to have it naturally go there will reveal itself to be a true gift over time as they continue to incorporate influences, grow and adapt but never have to fear the danger of being stuck into a specific style.

Let’s talk about Lisa.  Love this voice.  She has that same dark/sexy contrast in her voice that Shirley Manson or Poe has.  As a composition overall, “Impasse” could be a close relative from the band Curve as well; similar songwriting structure between both bands but with a different result in the texture of sound for each song and each singer. 

Lisa brings it all together though.  She has a great grasp on what her voice can do and where she fits in best during the song, showing her ability to use the space and her capable songwriting. 

Ha!  Yeah…I’ll probably get all-kinds of a hard time from my wife about this one, but I’ve just gotta say it on the record – that’s a damn sexy voice Lisa has.  Admittedly I felt that way about Shirley Manson and Poe as well…something about that rich, full, low and sexy tone that makes me always come back for more.  There's both an element of danger and sweetness in the style and tone, which makes for a fascinating combination and a true delight for the ears. And if Lisa is the latest to come out and do this as WELL as she is…I might just be able to forget the other two and finally move on….

IF!

IF Lisa and Kyle continue to make more music that is.  One track is simply not enough sometimes.  I’m very interested to hear where the rest of their music goes and what it will sound like.  I’m curious to hear if these influences they’ve listed creep their way into their music over time, or if they’ll continue to on the path set by this latest single “Impasse.” 

In any event, this single DOES what it’s SUPPOSED to DO.  And by that I mean it’s supposed to get us excited for more music to come.  “Impasse” absolutely does and I can’t wait to hear more from Kyle & Lisa in the future. 

One track to gain my attention.  One track to invade my ears.  Just shy of 2 minutes and 40 seconds - ONE TRACK.  Mission accomplished Kyle & Lisa – job incredibly well done.

And to the rest of you out there, well, at least those of you outside of the punk genre…  NEVER underestimate the impact you can have through your music and let this track from Kyle & Lisa along with this review be that lesson.  Sometimes short and sweet is best – keep it tight and within all of your creative control and you can open ears and turn volumes up across the globe. 

Your songs don’t have to be 10 minutes long for them to be good, just like my reviews don’t have to contain a million words and descriptions to….be….good…..

....Uh-oh.  I better wrap this up!  I’ve said too much!

CHECK OUT KYLE & LISA AND THEIR NEW SONG “IMPASSE!”  They just hit the Triple-J website in Australia – that’s no joke by any stretch – that’s big news and some great recognition for this band - hopefully a sign of some more excellent things to come or at least serve as the inspiration to continue making more music! 

  • Jer @ SBS

You can find them here at this Facebook link!
https://www.facebook.com/kyleandlisa

 

December 17th, 2013 - Bees In A Bottle - Quiet Room - Album Review

BeesInABottle

Bees In A Bottle – Quiet Room – Album Review

It feels oddly like it has been awhile since I’ve done a review, though we all know it hasn’t been long at all…  Whatever the case is, it’s great to be here and I’m stoked to be able to talk about this latest album, Quiet Room by Bees In A Bottle.  I wanted to get this review out the minute I finally heard the music amidst this extremely busy week we’ve had here at sleepingbagstudios; it took me much longer than I wanted to get to some dedicated time to listen to new music, but from the moment this album opened and set the tone with “Lost” my continued listening made me want to share my findings with you immediately.

First of all – I love this album.  We’ll get to that…

These references…these influences that they’ve listed…I had a chance to look into the band during my research into their music and I was nearly surprised by what I found!  Influenced by artists like Wilco and Tori Amos…Ani DiFranco…I mean, these are all heavy hitters…but none that honestly came to my mind.

In fact – the very reason I looked them up was because I was certain they were Canadian.  Listen to the immediate opening of the album and tell me that the Bees In A Bottle track “Lost” doesn’t remind you of the laidback tracks from our very own Tragically Hip like “Escape Is At Hand For The Travellin’ Man.”

And then I heard lead singer Christine McAllister’s absolutely gorgeous voice and it hit me.  It wasn’t so much The Tragically Hip this band reminded me of anymore – it was their close friend and ally, Sarah Harmer.  Compliment?  Here’s a reference for ya; Sarah Harmer’s last album would have easily been my pick for album of that year.  The other piece I can hear, at least for myself, is a slight twinge of Sarah Bettens of K’s Choice.  Whatever the combination, or however Christine comes by her sound, it’s completely brilliant, tone-rich and will definitely define the sound of this band in the years to come.

Overall, it’s a very crisp and smartly produced album that covers a lot of ground in between the worlds of acoustic-folk-rock and female singer/songwriter world.  Each track is extremely well put together – and all of them artistic in their composition and assembly.  I’d cite a track like “Not Like Ours” as a great example of what I mean here…and this might be what I love the most…someone get me a new paragraph!

That’s better.  Okay.  Here’s the thing…Bees In A Bottle aren’t writing “hits,” at least not one after the other.  Again, let’s use “Not Like Ours” as our example again…the track is GOLDEN in every aspect from the angelic guitars to the immaculate vocal harmonies.  The words crush hearts and tell a story and the way she sings it with a fragility that sounds near tears is incredible.  In fact, there’s nothing I’ve found yet NOT to like on Quiet Room…so what gives?

There’s certainly a market for this music, and critics/reviewers like myself everywhere will fall in love with this album because of the heart and soul you can FEEL in it…but that authenticity is largely lost on the mainstream…at least for now.  Independent acts like Bees In A Bottle make me truly believe that there’s every reason to believe in that day where the masses can resist the quality of the music no more, give up, surrender and listen with an indie-smile.

The middle core of tracks, “Not Like Ours,” “I Still See Your Face,” and “Summer Nap” reveal not only the diverse nature within their own style, but also truly reveal how comfortable this band is in going with a range of ideas in their music. 

As a husband and wife – Chistine and Chad (Guitar) McAllister make up 50% of Bees In A Bottle, so comfortable it SHOULD be…but…well…where’s the CHEESE?

I have to say that anything I’ve thought about Bees In A Bottle outside of the music, well…I’ve been wrong on my first hunch every time.  When I first saw that Christine and Chad shared the same last name, I automatically assumed brother and sister as the music was completely devoid of the CHEESE factor that comes along with 99% of the music made by lifelong companions.  It’s just not there anywhere on this album.

In fact, I’ll go on record saying this is a completely beautiful album.  Doesn’t matter what track you listen to or choose; the band is assembling perfect compositions that are captivating to the ear.  These well-written tracks tell a story and this band makes sure that each one is told in such a way that they demand your complete attention; that the story will be LISTENED to.

Ha.  Maybe that’s it.  Quiet Room.  It’s such an incredible title now that I think about it.  You could hear a pin drop hear in the studio.  I’ve come back to a track called “Eviction (Learning How This Goes),” I guess I just wanted to hear it once more real quick before I finished this…it’s the honesty and genuine feel in a track like this…this demonstration of pure heart on display that make this a great band and a force to be reckoned with.

It leads into “Space To Fill,” second to the end, a song that highlights the choices of Ian (Drums) and how conscious he has been with his drumming, again on display in the last track “Finally.”  Combined with Leland (Bass) and the McAllister songwriting duo, musically each player expresses their instrument with passion and true emotion, attention to detail and wise choices.  “Finally” – an instrumental end to this track shows that this band can be equally amazing without words as they can with them.

Bees In A Bottle.  There.  I’ve said it.  Now trust me – go get it!

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Quiet Room by Bees In A Bottle right here at:  http://beesinabottle.bandcamp.com/
And support them on Facebook!  https://www.facebook.com/BeesInaBottle

 

December 14th, 2013 - Jim Vierra & Friends - Untitled - EP Review

JimVierra
Jim Vierra & Friends – Untitled – EP Review

Well…the day has finally come fellow followers of SBS…Country music has made its way all the way from Nashville to our tiny corner of the internet.  Though I’ve never shied away from any style of music – here we are, into our second year and only now finally busting into the country scene!  Thankfully, we get the real deal here through this untitled EP from Jim Vierra & Friends and get the authenticity that comes with that traditional Nashville sound.

In all truth – Jim Vierra is actually a song-writer and producer.  This EP is comprised of scores of local talent from Nashville that truly help bring these songs to life in the recording.  I personally love it when I’m in contact with song-writers as it really allows you to close your eyes and hear where the songs themselves could go.  As a true songwriter – Jim might write in a certain style that lends itself particularly well to a genre like country; but that true talent for song-writing exists when they can be brought outside into other styles of music as well.  Adaptable songs.  Jim has done that here, and incredibly well.

This could be country…this could be power-pop…this could be rock…his writing has that versatility.  Truly on display through the song “Tonight” – a track written in such a style that even Avril OR her new husband Chad could cover.  And there is something special about that Tennessee tone in the guitar – I can’t explain that part well enough to do it justice…but there’s like, a secret sweet coil in the strings of those Nashville guitars, again on display through “Tonight” and throughout the rest of this untitled EP.

As played, these songs are plenty strong enough to fit in with the current climate of the world's country scene.  Each song is BIG and full of the heart and emotion that can make or break this style of music.  Ron Wallace and Mark Riddick jump in on this album through vocals; everyone comes through in a solid performance to do this song-writer’s songs great justice.  The production is completely on-point and solid throughout…except for maybe one thing I’ve noticed and I’m not sure that I blame Jim here…

Though I’ve looked into as much as I can, I couldn’t find the name of the female vocalist on his song “Drivin Me Crazy,” – which IS crazy, cause she’s crazy-good!  That being said, if anything I noticed production-wise I thought she rose a little too far in front of the music, more than likely due to an excellent performance that couldn’t stop those mixers from going up just one…more…notch…ok ok…one more… 

Throughout the four tracks I’ve taken in from Jim I can safely say there’s a genuine song-writer’s talent here.  I can appreciate what he’s going for on the writing of each and every track and I really think these recordings themselves turned out extremely well.  All of these artists working on them should be extremely proud of the way this all came out – job well done.

  • Jer @ SBS

 

December 14th, 2013 - Syndrome Of Fire - Save Me From Myself - EP Review

SyndromeOfFire
Syndrome Of Fire – Save Me From Myself – EP Review

Hard GARBAGE!

Hmmm.  Now that I read that opening, I’m thinking you might not all know what I mean…I better explain that better I suppose cause I’m certainly not implying this EP is bad in ANY way.  Polar opposite; this is a genius set of four songs together, performed by a band you won’t be able to hide from the name of very soon – Syndrome Of Fire.

What I was referring to in that opening was that this reminded me of the popular electro-rock band Garbage with a harder edge to it.  As a music journalist – I can absolutely hear where 99% of the comparisons are GOING to go for Syndrome Of Fire…they’re going to latch like vultures onto Evanescence comparisons…and they’d be wrong.

Part of that reason is that lead singer Cassie Goetzke could match Amy Lee’s tremendous vocal range any day of the week.  Listening as a music producer as well when I’m doing these reviews – I often hear that ONE line, or verse, or spot in a song that I wish the team recording my subjects had pushed the singer or band 10% more to get that maximum result and best performance.  In Cassie’s performance I truly hear perfection and a voice that was created to do exactly what she’s doing on this EP – I wouldn’t have asked for even a bit more – you can HEAR she put everything she had into every line.

And for the record?  This band would kick the crap out of Evanescence. 

More accurately – these guys remind me more of current bands like I See Stars and our own local band from the island, This Day Burns – both acts of extreme quality themselves and of a similar style for sure.  The hard-electro edge, fronted by the female vocals, is a style of music that is beginning to swell in the underground…poised and ready to spring into the spotlight again very soon in my opinion.

Cause much like Limp Bizkit had brought attention to and then ruined the genre of rap/rock, forcing it back underground until other bands came around to do it BETTER…that same thing could be said of what Evanescence did for the metal/melodic music of the 2000’s.  The immense over-popularity of that style of music sent it straight-up, and then eventually, straight-out of existence again, back into the underground. 

Waiting for bands to refine the sound. 

Waiting for the next generation to take it to the next level and be BETTER.

And to this, I say quite warmly – Welcome Syndrome Of Fire…really…WHERE have you been?

Bands putting music together as well written and creative as this aren’t getting LUCKY – they’re just that damn good.  On this EP they come out guitars BLAZING on the first track called “So Sorry,” in a sonic assault led by Ryan McMahan on a menacing riff and Cassie instantly demonstrating just how powerful she can be in the chorus of this opening song.  The energy, the desperation, the HUNGER and the LOVE of doing what they’re doing can so easily be heard not only on this track, but on this entire EP.  It is not every day that you’ll come across an EP so tightly made…where you can hear crystal-clearly just how harmonious the inner-workings of the band are.  It’s a relationship so special that when it exists you can hear it beyond the togetherness of the music itself and know that it has to exist in real life.

Now, you’ll hear the second track, “Sins” and you’ll think I’m the one who is wrong about comparisons.  You’ll hear the Evanescence side of the argument at the beginning.  But wait! 

First of all – have some FAITH in this beard you love!  Secondly – listen to the production as much as the structure and you’ll hear what I mean.  Or try the opening line of the chorus and the rest to follow…that’s not Amy Lee…that’s much more like the brilliant craft of Shirley Manson…

If you LIKE…I’ll concede that perhaps it’s just a great combination of many of those influences.  I STILL think they could blow Evanescence out of the water…I’m not taking that part back…

It’s in that combination, and their use of digital and traditional instruments that truly leads them to their own refined version of the sound of this genre.  Syndrome Of Fire gives me a tremendous amount of hope for this style of music and the breakthrough I predict we’ll see from this style in the coming two years.  Rock itself is on its way to that same comeback – but with the world’s attention on the digital superstars of today – it’ll be much more likely that bands like Syndrome Of Fire here will be the bridge to the gap between the those worlds.

The opening of the final track, the epic song that is called “The Fall,” is a musical masterpiece in itself.  Sonny Cutler (Keyboards) and Micah Oser (Drums) should have already been mentioned in this review, but now will have to do; they’re perfect.  Sonny has found an insane amount of ways to incorporate the keys into this music and make it sound like NOW instead of 1970 – a challenge still rampant among keyboard players of our present day.  The drumming is not only perfectly metered but extremely well written and played, bringing the songs into chaos or serenity whenever the feelings are called for.  As they open the final track with Cassie, you can hear that the possibilities for what they could make musically in their career is endless.

Ohhhhhhhhhh – OUCH!

You see…it pays to do your research in my line of work.  And if you do it PRIOR to your writing, it makes you look like less of an ass…like I’m about to do now… 

I just looked up their listed influences and saw Evanescence as their first named band.  Oops!

Influenced or not, I stand by what I said.  Syndrome Of Fire have taken that sound from Amy Lee & her crew and refined it, made it their own, more dynamic and powerful to listen to.  And while I’ve often questioned Lee’s passion for her musical career and effort on recordings – I haven’t had one reason on this entire EP from Syndrome Of Fire make me feel that way.  Cassie is explosive on every track,  entertaining and unbelievably talented – a voice surely to become an absolute necessity in today’s rock-electro world.  She has vocals strong as steel and a mastery of melody in a rock setting; she knows exactly when to turn it on and turn it off.

Four songs out of four on the Save Me From Myself EP struck me as completely killer – this band has definitely caught onto something special and I’m extremely excited to hear what they come up with when they release their new album, titled A New Beginning in 2014. 

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out and support Syndrome Of Fire at these pages!
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/syndromeoffire
Official:  http://www.syndromeoffire.com/

 

December 14th, 2013 - Broken Stems - We Are Home - EP Review

thebrokenstems’s avatar
The Broken Stems – We Are Home – EP Review

Wow.  First thought that came to my mind was ‘what IF Band of Horses and Cold War Kids had a children together…would it come out like this?’  Yeah, okay…that’s weird even for me, and as the EP from The Broken Stems plays on, it’s not nearly musically accurate enough.  The comparisons will come soon enough I’m sure – right now I’m enjoying my inability to pin down their sound and digging their beautiful melodies, harmonies and creativity in their song writing…press play and enjoy the We Are Home EP by The Broken Stems with me, I wanna dissect this one!

I mean, this is a truly fantastic EP, no bullshit.  You want a tightly played, diverse and well-crafted display of a great band’s skill-set, look no further.  Each song plays within a pop-rock perfection, well produced with excellent vocals throughout; powerful with thought-provoking lyrics.  Check out the middle of the EP and listen to “Maybe” and you’ll dig on what I’m saying.  This is an excellent, dramatic and theatrical piece of music and the fact that lead singer Jesse Gawlik drifts in and out of a Maroon 5’s Adam Levine through his vocal delivery and tone doesn’t hurt.

What amazes me is just how MUCH of something there is for everybody in this one EP.  You are a hate-filled, degenerate, no-taste music-mongrel if this makes you want to turn the volume down, off, or anything other than UP.  And you’re better than that.  So DIG The Broken Stems, says I!

How about the 4th track on the EP – what an amazing track.  So bluesy and ridiculously well-played on guitar, but with so many other parts…each and every time I draw comparison, it becomes useless.  The Broken Stems have a incredible ability to adapt and conquer not only a variety of styles and sounds within the five songs on We Are Home, but actually within the songs themselves.  “Castles” is another perfect example of this as it ranges through beautiful pop melody into malicious rock and stomping drum beats.  Guitar tones that are immaculate and really stand out well in the recording.

Easily one of the most repeatable EP’s I’ve heard in years, the moment this was done I pushed play again and so should you.  It makes much more sense on those repeat listens.  “The Only Way” starts so epically with simple guitar, beautiful harmonies and emphatic drums.  This song at the beginning sets the standard for the songwriting and it absolutely does not drop in quality from there no matter how much the musical landscape of The Broken Stems may change throughout. 

And it WILL change – LOTS.  That immediate straight jolt into the pop-choir-reggae combo of “Around The Bend” is just another example of this band’s ability to adapt to any style with success and produce something brilliant.  This warm and atmospheric track is one to certainly leave you wondering why you HAVEN’T heard The Broken Stems yet.

But in truth, they all really are songs of the highest quality and caliber.  I love this EP by The Broken Stems, I think it’s incredibly inventive and innovative in each and every track.  Couple that with their perfect production and flawless execution – this is a band I’ll be keeping a firm ear on from now on.

  • Jer @ SBS

Go get some!  You can find The Broken Stems at Facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/thebrokenstems
And at Soundcloud at:  https://soundcloud.com/thebrokenstems/sets/we-are-home-ep

 

December 14th, 2013 - Teni - Afrodisiac - Album Review

Teni
Teni – Afrodisiac – Album Review

I love how every time I think I’ve reviewed it all, another genre pops up that I’ve put on the shelf for a while only to be resurrected by all of you wonderful independent artists and bands.  Awwww!  That’s sweet right?  Well here’s something else that’s sweet – this album by Teni - Afrodisiac.

Ohhhhhh Teni.  If you only knew that my afro grows from my chin and consumes my face…

First of all, it has been a long time since I hit up the afrobeat vibe – that would date all the way back to my days at my former online magazine (Kludge, R.I.P.) and reviewing Steel Pulse’s album True Democracy; if you know the album you’ll know that was some time ago now…  Though my references might be a little thin in this category, Teni is also attempting something new, so a musical “guidebook” isn’t exactly needed either…

The question is, does it work?  There are several things about it that work extremely well.  The music is well chosen and the concept behind all of her music is fantastic; it’s nearly free-form poetry in accompaniment with diverse and rhythmic, jazzy beats. 

It’s all quite well-played; some of the drums perhaps programmed or just dead-on beat.  There’s a ton of innovation and originality in the music – check out the track “When Will It Be” and you’ll hear exactly what I hear.

The following track really says it all about Teni musically; “Wilderness” is a complete combo of jazz and reggae that works so well on all levels, with Teni herself fitting perfectly into this track.  On a musical level, it’s nearly impossible to fault this album for everything it’s attempting to do; the beats and the basslines are infectious and guaranteed to capture your mind.

However – to ignore the feature artist in favor of the music for the entire review would just be plain rude!  So let’s talk about Teni and her vocals, what she does and what she brings to these songs.  It’s throwback for sure – this is classic smoky lounge vocal style with an Africana twist.  If you were to ask me about nearly any of those artists of that time, from what I’ve seen, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t – but they always took chances and risks and weren’t afraid of the music.

Teni isn’t afraid whatsoever.  Each track, she comes at from multiple vocal angles with poetic lines that float along with the music.  “Surrender” is another example of Teni working well with the style of the track and doing what she does best.  She definitely has a sound and a style and I respect that – if I closed my eyes with a mix of 1000 songs on I could identify Teni’s music 100% of the time.  That’s something that can elude an artist or band throughout the duration of their career – so Teni is starting off on the right path, there’s no doubt.

Polarizing.  I love the word, I love the meaning, I love finding examples of it in real life and Teni’s vocal-style is going to be just that for listeners. 

There are times where the music producer in me wishes that the producers and engineers of Teni’s music had pushed her 10% more for a few smoother performances…but in the end I more than likely would have left this to Teni’s intuition for how she wants to sound, much the same as I am sure they did as well. 

That’s the difficult part in recording the vocals of the truly unique – who are we as producers to tell you when you “nailed it?”  I can tell you all day long what a hit song is; but when it comes to how a vocalist wants to scream, freestyle or wander through their tracks – who are we to judge?  At the end of the day a hit song isn’t always the end goal, and thankfully an artist like Teni has the integrity to stick to her style of artful music and not give in to sounding like anyone else.

Lyrically it flows like poetry.  Themes of love, life, death, spirits, ressurection run throughout the album in a combination that’s somewhere along the lines of Portishead meets Sade.

Hey.  C’mon.  I told you my references might be a little thin…

Afrodisiac kept my interest – this I can say without hesitation.  Whether it was the creativity and rhythm of the music or simply wondering what Teni would be up to next, I listened with full attention each time she’s come on this week in my rotation.  There’s more than enough uniqueness in concept, sound and execution to warrant Teni as an artist of merit.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check her out further at:  https://www.facebook.com/Tenimusic

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December 13th, 2013 - Joey Jive - Joey Jive - Album Review

JoeyJive

Joey Jive – Joey Jive - Album Review

Yessssssssssssss.  Remind me to thank Joey personally if I’m ever to meet him in person for making an album tuned to my particular ears.  With a brand new album full of music as interesting in the writing as it is in the texture and production – there’s so much to listen to in just seven songs that it’s a lock to keep your interest.

The lead single is called “Boardwalk,” the second track on the album with one of the best change-ups your ears can hear coming to life just after two minutes in and until the end.  Joey took a track rooted in a The-Cure-meets-The-Strokes style and turned it into an indie-pop sensation by the end.  The track to follow – “Foxes,” shows a more aggressive aspect to Jive’s music and the incredible ingenuity in his work.

Some of you out there…well…some of you are going to call what I love in Joey’s music “the noise.”  Jive displays a mastery of using effects and samples in his work, creating inarguable atmospherically rich tracks that take you somewhere.  “Starlight” is another absolute stand-out track; a brilliant vocal sample playing against a hypnotic sample/synth rhythm and guitar.  The story is as dark as the track is haunting; this particular cut shows a different side of the Jive we’ve seen on the record thus far and really starts to make you wonder just how deep the well of creativity runs over there in the UK, as Jive’s ideas appear to be endless.

I suppose I should have known from the opener “Summer Days” and it’s other-worldly-opening that this wasn’t going to be a typical album by any means.  The excellent vocal work mixed in with the bright distorted guitars and vocal samples…it doesn’t start “normal” in this cut or give any hint at becoming so at any point in these seven songs.  This is music for the fringe-listener.

Consider me one of them.

Ironically, when listen to Joey Jive’s album, the track that “separates the men from the boys,” so to speak, is actually called “Diner’s Girl.”  This is the moment on the album if you find out for sure if you’re WITH Joey and what he’s doing, or if you can’t hear it yet.  Because I can see it now…dismissive reviewers that don’t put a full listen in are going to say Jive’s vocals are “off” or “all-over-the-map.”  It will be easy for him to spot passive journalists as this track in particular shows Joey’s commitment to his style.  In fact, the moment the vocals hit the song I began to smile.

“This guy’s a genius,” I thought to myself.

And genius, or madman is how he’ll most likely be remembered by any listener.  To some, this music has such an intense attention to detail and creativity in every nuance that it’s more than captivating.  To others, this is going to be seven-steps too far into the beyond…he’ll be told he’s not writing “real” songs etc etc...  “Midnight Drive” will more than likely be their argument…a wickedly intense dark electronic that again contains a wicked vocal sample that is welcomed by the ear every time it invades the music.

So.  If you stuck with Joey and his unique style past “Diner Girl” then you’ll be in for a more than satisfying ending with the track “Jive.”  With a frantic and familiar guitar line, creative percussion and great ideas, Joey Jive boarders on the work of early Pink Floyd & Primus here.  Once again, can’t say enough about his choices for creativity in sound throughout these songs and again, this song is no exception.  Pushing his vocals to the limit against the contrast of a narrated vocal sample, this track of a Jive nearly yelling his words makes perfect sense to me as his choice to end the album.

It’s like a final statement, shouting loud to anyone listening, (And their neighbours…)

“I am here.”

No matter the direction, no matter the sound choice I felt like I was right there with Joey Jive the entire way through the album.  His ability to incorporate samples and sounds carries over into an ability for these songs to make you feel like you’re right there in the room with him while he’s recording.  Absolutely worth a listen.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out more info on Joey Jive and what he’s up to at:  http://www.joeyjive.com/

 

November 29th, 2013 - Ralph Conde - "I Love You So" - Single Review

 

RalphConde
Ralph Condé – “I Love You So” – Single Review

Perfect way to start this day!  I’m departing from my review on the first compilation album to come our way in yesterday’s review to today’s new jam from Ralph coming from the smooth-jazz genre.  Having yet to take on jazz through sleepingbagstudios – I’m excited to be able to listen to something unique to us and share that with you guys.  Let’s push play and talk about this new single “I Love You So.”

The first thing you can tell right off the bat is that Ralph has a major talent and feel for the guitar.  With a wandering lead-line that runs through the length of the track, it bends and solos through this jazz track with an inviting warmth.  Full of rich tone and expertly played, after some research I find that Mr. Condé has actually been playing guitar since he was a seven year-old child in 1976.  Those skills amassed during the years & that relationship and bond with his guitar serve as the centerpiece of “I Love You So.”  Against the beat and backing instruments – this guitar is upfront for you to hear it well and have it carry you through this song.

As far as the rest of the music is concerned, you can also hear the years of expertise in the assembly and production on this track.  The levels for the track are perfect all the way through and he has done really well to have the other instruments, drums, keys, & bass all pop up through the mix at different times as a gentle reminder that they too are well played and as much a part of this overall track as that beautiful lead guitar.

There’s a tiny bit of vocals, a “chorus” if you will…if there can be such a thing in jazz!  They come in subtly and understated – much of this track does really.  For the amount of talent on display through Condé’s “I Love You So,” it’s a great track in the sense that it doesn’t feel like it’s punching your ears drums begging you to like it.  This track is gentle, melodic and the more you listen to it the more you’ll tap your foot and start to smile.  His chorus of vocals helps to add that extra warmth to the track, and also makes us wonder who Ralph might have written this particular song for…

All in all – this IS jazz and it IS smooth!  Ralph Condé has written and recorded an excellent track with “I Love You So.”  Jazz as a genre spans miles; it can often wander out too far on the fringe for some and for others that very wandering makes them feel right at home.  Condé’s found a way to bring some of those amazing elements together to form a listener-friendly style of his own with this brand new single that truly highlights his talents in a tightly written song.

He has performed in bands and collaborated with artists from places all over the world.  Taking this time out to record this solo jam was a great idea and it’s a great introduction into the smooth-jazz world of Ralph Condé.  Check out his track “I Love You So” – if you’re a fan of easy-to-listen-to music – you might not even need to put on another song that day!  I’ve listened to it previously as well as had it on for the length of writing this review and found no reason or want to stop it from playing.  It’s well played, well produced and well thought-out; who would ever want to stop that? 

  • Jer @ SBS

 

November 28th, 2013 - Iggy Taylor - Ataraxis - Album Review

IggyTaylor
Iggy Taylor – Ataraxis – Album Review

I wasn’t prepared for this.  Maybe I’m still not…

Iggy – first off, I want to tell you direct it is completely WRONG of you to make a heavily-bearded man like myself enjoy a song called “Coochie Coo;” brother, that’s just straight evil! 

Ataraxis is an extremely interesting album that ranges in many sounds and styles.  Iggy Taylor clearly not only has a number of influences but he also listens to music in a way much different than most, but one shared by yours truly…

This album incorporates one major element time and time again – great pop-rock songwriting.  Each track has its own flavor and sound, just as each pushes the pop or the rock edge to a certain degree, exposing each as a lighter or a darker sound.  The production on the album by Iggy also plays a major starring role as with each touch of the controls, Taylor has morphed himself and his sound from track to track.  No matter how much of a musical chameleon he chooses to be – he still understands quite well how to write a hook and music that holds attention with each track that passes.

Now, because the sound varies so much between songs, it’s only fair to comment on what’s working well for Iggy Taylor on this album.  For instance, the fact that the sounds and songs vary so much is an achievement in itself.  Iggy has virtually set foot into many genres here and created many unique tracks within them on Ataraxis.  Musically – Iggy has a tremendous ear for the harder rock edge as displayed on tracks like “I Sit Alone” and “Psycho Bitch” – both of which take the middle of the album and pump it up with some energy where most albums tend to sag. 

“I Sit Alone” though I like a lot on an instrumental level; struggles a bit against the high-end vocals of Taylor.  The contrast might be a little too far spread to truly appreciate that there is definitely a song here, and a good one at that.   Although I like the vocal pattern – his vocals come awfully close to a “Weird Al” sound on this song and I’m just not sure that was the right sound for this particular track. 

Production wise, a track like “India Love” just can’t be beat.  This track lies in a weird spot between 54-40 and the oldest albums from The Tea Party and it sounds fantastic.  Simplistic and clean – this is a standout to me for sure; and Taylor sounds right at home in a heavily filtered vocal melody that fits perfectly with this anthem-style song.

He ends this album on another fantastic piece of pop-confection.  The ear-candy comes in the form of “It’s You” with beautiful sections of chorused out-vocals and harmonies and an immaculate guitar tone.  The vocal pattern and style that Taylor chooses on this track really expresses some of the highlights in the music Taylor makes.  The guitar solos towards the end of this track are out-of-control good and played with an excellent feel and touch, producing forth a tremendous tone and sound that fit perfectly within the song.  There’s a common strength you can find in Iggy Taylor’s music from track to track, whether he’s chosen a sound you like, or not.

Cause I’ll admit – I look at a title like “Coochie Coo” and I want to poke both of my eyes in with the closest plastic fork.  But I’ll also admit there’s no denying he’s written a catchy song and thankfully my eyeballs remain intact.  While the sound effects push it past the point of being taken as a “serious” track whatsoever, the meat of the song is a truly catchy groove that has a classic feel to it.  “Rosie, Rosie, Rosie” walks this line as well…again, completely well played but after breaking some truly new ground over the three tracks prior it comes in like an intermission between the chapters of the main event.

And for myself, I’m much more sold on the serious side of Iggy Taylor.  “Don’t Cry For Me” is a fantastic example of an epic acoustic track – one that you can hear the passion and depth…that extra 10% comes out big time from Iggy on this track.  “I Do,” a Beatles-esque track nearing the end of the album, comes across compellingly honest and real.  Focused.  It sounds like Badfinger met the Beatles and made the ultimate pop-rock song, another excellent example of songwriting found on Ataraxis.

What I like by Iggy Taylor, I like a LOT.  What sounds come out that I'm not as attached to are at the very least is still very well played and written with dedication to the craft and style.  It’s tough to always like a range of sounds when we all clearly have strengths and weaknesses in what we record and play.  At the end of the day, it really is that range of sound that makes Ataraxis the album that it is and really shows that the best attribute that Iggy Taylor possesses in addition to his songwriting ability is his courage to take on any sound with the maximum musical force he can bring to it, every time.

  • Jer @ SBS

You can find out more about what I thought about the Ataraxis album by Iggy Taylor when I go more in-depth for a video review on SBS Live This Week! – Episode 065 – SBS But No BS Part X.

You KNOW you want to!

 

November 22nd, 2013 - Morning Fame - "The Golden One" - Single Review

MorningFame

Morning Fame – “The Golden One” – Single Review

Long standing Canadian SBS favourites Morning Fame are back with a brand new single called “The Golden One.”  This new single has all the elements of their music that you’re familiar with…all that good stuff you know, love & expect from them in terms of great tone, songwriting and production.  And it SHOULD!  Not only is this band already known by us to release music with crystal clarity, but this particular single has Mike Turner former guitarist of Our Lady Peace overseeing the boards ensuring that this band from the East puts out a sound that can be heard from any direction.

“The Golden One” still has that trademark early 90’s feel to it…that wonderful time when bands like the Gin Blossoms, Toad The Wet Sprocket and even Better Than Ezra were having their day…it was a time of clarity in the music with subtle solos and desperate, thoughtful lyrics.  This new cut from Morning Fame has all of this and more and truly shows them maturing as a band in creating one of their tightest songs on record to date.

The real bottom line is this:  Though I was looking forward to the new Morning Fame album BEFORE I heard this new single – well…after listening to this track I am now incredibly stoked on what’s to come from Morning Fame.  The clarity of tone on “The Golden One” is just MADE to be listened to on repeat through headphones…the guitar work is just perfect and comes through beautifully clean.  The bass is incredibly smooth and inventive and really drives this track in each of its components.  The songwriting standard they previously set with their last album “Back And Forth” remains in their own classic style but with a little more magic than we’ve heard from them before…

So where does that come from?  What I hear in this track is not only harmony in a band that works incredibly well together, but one that’s working extremely well with Mike Turner and the production team.  “The Golden One,” sounds like everyone in the room was on the same page and is certainly a new highlight in the Morning Fame catalog.

The release of ANY single these days nearly has to carry a justification with it in our present day musical climate.  It has to promote a new sound, demonstrate a new strength or direction…sometimes it can be about defining a new musical standard for the music and sound.  I believe this song represents the latter…and that “The Golden One” will serve as “The Golden Rule” in their playbook and guide them to continue making music of incredible quality, into another brilliant album.  Excellent track from this band.

  • Jer @SBS

Check out this BRAND NEW SINGLE from Morning Fame called “The Golden One” here at this link! 
https://soundcloud.com/morningfametracks/the-golden-one

 

November 19th, 2013 - weRwe Records - Volume I - Album Review

weRwe
weRwe Records – Volume One – Album Review

A compilation album…I’m not sure how you all take one of those in, but for yours truly here – this is a gift and certainly help enable my obsession with listening to all kinds of music!  Brought to life by weRwe records, this album showcases talent from all over with a bunch of future superstars from all kinds of genres and styles making some incredible tunes.  I’ve had enough listens through it to be able to explain what’s happening the best I can – so let’s push play and do this thang!

Starting the multi-record is Athena with a song called “Movement” – a great choice to open this all-new experience with weRwe records and a decent insight into the level and caliber of artists they’re working with.  It sounds like it has a Spanish or Latin influence in the music and Athena puts her smooth vocals against some big-beating drums to help start this compilation off on the right note.

Rex Razor steps in immediately on track two with “Celebrate Life” – a track you MUST know already from this past summer…right?  RIGHT?  If you don’t know this track yet, you can’t consider your summer complete; you cannot pass go and collect $200.  The fact is – in all honesty I don’t know if you had access to this track, but I do know that this song possesses all of the qualities of any hit song on pop-radio stations right now.  No reason this shouldn’t be a huge hit in the clubs and I certainly expect to be hearing the name Rex Razor again in the future very soon….

At this point in Volume One – you’ll still feel like you’re listening to something you might expect from a compilation…but by the third track, coming from Janice Kephart and called “Cherry Whispers,” you’ll change your tune as the compilation diverts away from traditional song-structure into true art pieces like this song.  A combination of poetry, narrative and dance-music – Kephart brings something different to this collection and having that track sit so close to the front of the album leads me to believe that things will continue to be “different” from here on in…

The next two tracks confirm the suspicion.  KaiCarra brings in an operatic performance on her track “Lady,” in a track cut with an immaculate and isolated atmosphere.  In contrast to that, the following cut from Kari Tribble has the opposite effect; in a swirling feeling similar to Portishead or Massive Attack, this song envelops the listener and pulls you into another world.  With completely soothing vocals – this dreamlike track off Volume One is an extremely gorgeous track.

At just under halfway through the album we get yet another complete stylistic switch with Ryo Utasato and a wicked electro-mix on the track “Blue Montage.”  If the rest of the album has relaxed you so far, “Blue Montage” will wake you back up and easily convince you that there is far more to come on this mix.  And there certainly is.  And just like the rest of this mix – it comes at you right away.

Steven Buckner and I need to have a beer together.  I love this track he’s got on here called “Heaven Vs. Hell,” which is at this point in the album the largest departure from a “typical” song and into true soundscape territory.  Its subtle pulse and unique rhythm serve perfectly on its own and also as a set up to the energy explosion provided by MikeWhitePresents on “Abandoned On The Dancefloor” immediately following.  With a unique blending of electronic and guitars – this is a good idea from beginning to end.  Makes me think of tracks like “A Wash Of Black,” or “Restless” by U.N.K.L.E. – the use of actual guitar SOLOS is a supremely tough thing to pull off against the grain of electronica but MikeWhitePresents has found the path to doing this extremely well.

A HUGE credit to weRwe records for their hand in this mix.  As I head to guitar driven tracks from Mike Colin and L.O. Crocodile after getting just a taste of guitar in the MikeWhitePresents electro-track, I take a quick moment to truly appreciate the assembly in this compilation.  They’ve handled it expertly and it flows as perfectly as your favorite mix-tape.  It has taken us through all different genres and styles and has truly done it well by introducing pieces of what’s to come subtly within the sounds of the tracks you played only moments before.

Mike Colin does his thing.  In perhaps the most standard-sounding track within the confines of Volume One, it also ends up becoming the largest departure from the material on this album after a complete listen.  I can see this song easily packing the dance-floor with cougars aplenty to this track that sits somewhere oddly between Bruce Springsteen and The Flaming Lips.  While it’s more of a stripped down pop-rock melody, weRwe again cranks it up a notch when shifting into L.O. Crocodiles instantly catchy guitar-rock frenzy in a perfect example of one of those tracks that make you want to see what it would look like LIVE as well.  It has a perfect bouncy-rock beat that is sure to hook in any listener.

Heading into a track called “Smell Like A Supermodel,” it’s the first of the last three tracks on the mix but far from letting the energy on the album die down.   This mystic track from a band called MSG has a wicked mix on it with incredible background vocals happening against a hypnotic beat and guitar rhythm.  This track lives in the dark alleys of your mind, reminding us just how cool those places can be even if they are a bit scary sometimes.  As far as atmosphere in a track is concerned – they’ve nailed it here.  Listening to “Smell Like A Supermodel” is literally like stepping right into the perspective of the world of MSG.

It is Eugene Jacquescoley’s track “I Am What I Am” that even gives you a hint that this compilation is nearing the end.  After the all-encompassing atmosphere of MSG, weRwe again chooses to switch up the vibe and brings you into minimalist electro as the album progresses towards the final cut.  Eugene does what he does well and has assembled a decent slice of music here with “I Am What I Am,” again perfectly placed by weRwe to help set up the end of this album.

This final track, actually called “Volume One” comes to us from a band called Cannon and it is an EPIC ending to this expertly assembled mix.  This is the most chilling track on the mix and man does it sound BIG.  An instrumental track and as inventive as it can get in sound-choice and samples – this was an astoundingly perfect choice to end the compilation from weRwe Records.  Definitely looking forward to hearing more from Cannon in years to come; this particular track reminds me of some of the mellowed-out atmospherically HUGE tracks off of the album Drukqs by Aphex Twin. 

This entire mix started perfectly, never let up and ended immaculately.  Not only is weRwe Records showcasing a plethora of talent but they truly do showcase their own ability for being able to FIND this talent and better still – properly assemble it.  If the purpose of this mix is to simply introduce us all to these artists and make us curious enough to listen to more – weRwe and their talented artists and bands can consider that mission accomplished.  I want more.  Lots.

  • Jer @ SBS

 

November 18th, 2013 - Tommy Homonym - Uglier Than You - Album Review

TommyHomonym
Tommy Homonym – Uglier Than You – Album Review

Wow Tommy did you EVER catch me on a strange day to do this review!  I’ve spent the day with Vancouver hard rock band FEY and to say that your music is a switch in sound and style would have me surely winning the prize for understatement of the year!  But I both can and do listen to music of all genres – and now that the ringing in my head has stopped from the mind-blowing performance just put forth by Fey live in our studio, well…I think enough time has passed for me – time to switch genres and dive into this new album from Tommy Homonym!  Who’s with me!

What instantly struck me from my first moment listening was the “throwback” element Tommy’s music has in its production.  It was just like throwing on an album in the heyday of Bowie, The Turtles and Strawberry Alarm Clock…it has that same warmth in the sound…that same comfort.  Through the vocals Tommy actually finds himself drifting in and out of a younger Bowie, especially in the first track “What’s There To Eat?”  Oddly (But thankfully) that title is also reminding me that it’s 8:10pm and I still haven’t had breakfast…be right back…

What I like most about each track on this album is the dream-like atmosphere they all have.  It sounds distant…like a great memory recalled to all of your senses…something you can remember in your mind like you’ve been right there WITH Tommy before.  Atmosphere is not always an easy thing to create, nor is an identifiable sound as strong as Tommy’s.  The combination of his style and production make it no question to the listener as to who they’re listening to – and after multiple listens I feel like I too could now pick a Tommy Homonym track out of a line-up of songs with no hesitation and not be wrong one time in ten. 

If anything – for once I have an album here that is almost TOO consistent!  Many of the songs pulse along to a similar beat and pattern, creating an overall experience into the music of Tommy Homonym that really feels like it all belongs together.  Meeting somewhere between Paul Simon and that David Bowie sound, Tommy is definitely doing something different than anything else you can hear out there right now.

With that, of course comes the challenge of going against the grain.  It can be tough when the musical taste of the world has shifted past, or has yet to shift to a certain sound.  And though Tommy might find himself in either of these boats at times – there’s still enough here on the fringe to possibly attract fans of more current acts like Jesus And Mary Chain, Mazzy Star or maybe even Massive Attack.  “A Kind Of Freedom” actually reminds me a lot of the feeling I get from certain songs on Protection, one of the first albums from Massive Attack, way back when they had that jazzier, smokier lounge feeling to their music.

Being a huge fan of a great pop hook – check out the Supertramp-ish track from Uglier Than You, just past the middle, called “A Taste Of Your Flavor.”  It has this cheeky little keyboard line that runs through the background perfectly against this highlight on the album.  Tommy comes to life as he sings out “You’ve kept me waiting too long,” with the passion of a man who’s time to make his musical stand right here and right now.

I keep coming back to this whole idea of WHERE I might find Tommy’s music just simply playing in the background and I still can’t think of where that might be.  Life seems to have become nearly too busy in today’s internet age to take a proper chill-out and listen to an album like Tommy Homonym has put out here – so there’s still much battle to be won out there in terms of getting this music to the masses.

Thankfully – that can’t be the reason any of us really do this.  It really does take a certain type of extremely cold and robotic person to only want the achievement of fame through music.  Most of us out there all want the same thing: to share, to communicate with each other.  To SAY something…but more importantly, to be HEARD.     

The album closes on another strong track from Uglier Than You called “Undone.”  I’m a big fan of this track and how it really shows the best side of what Tommy does.  That atmosphere is definitely there.  The haunting narrative full of imagery you can see in your mind just from listening to the words.  In a very heartfelt performance to end this album, it almost sounds like this particular track meant 10% more to Tommy personally through the lyrics than the rest as he delivers sorrowful lines with strands of hope woven in between in an extremely genuine tone.

I don’t think that Tommy is out there making music for the masses; I don’t think he even gives it a second thought – nor SHOULD he.  He has music you can clearly hear he has dedicated himself to and believes in.  Masses or not – music is truly born from that need to express and communicate, and in this business sometimes all it takes is one person to listen with an honest ear to make it all worthwhile.

And for what it’s worth, Tommy my friend…I’m listening.

  • Jer @ SBS

 

November 16th, 2013 - Nearly A Year!

WHAT THE WHAT?

SBS Live This Week turns ONE YEAR old coming up here on November 17th and we're already in good shape for the upcoming year ahead of us. We have already had interviews and footage shot for SHMOLTS, FEY and AZTEC to name a few & we have more still to film and edit in November with BLACKOUT LIGHTS having just come in this past weekend as well as GOOD FOR GRAPES later this month. Exciting times, there's no doubt.

So...true achievement number one - this whole thing survived its first year handily. Establishing our credibility and continuing our longevity in the indie scene...we're staying the course...

I couldn't be happier with the way this first year has gone despite hiccups in nearly every relationship I have outside of the music. Passion can cross the line for anyone and I'm no exception; in that sense the year has been a pretty rough ride! So I try to look at it from what I've helped accomplish here with you all and your music...when I do that, there's no amount of beardage that can hide my smile.

What started as a local vision has truly branched out all over the world and that has been an incredible gift. Amazing to learn about other music and other scenes across the water on other continents than our own. Just flat out awesome.

There's a wicked picture posting up on our anniversary date...I've already seen it. Damn near brings a tear to this bearded eye; it's just a simple plain background that contains the overwhelming amount of bands and artists we've worked with in this first year. It's literally PACKED with names and I couldn't be more proud to have worked with each and every one of them.

Laura Kelsey
Laura Kelsey

I am however...a huge fan of this on-going tale we're all creating together...so I'm bringing back someone to help tie this all together nicely. LAURA KELSEY will be returning to SBS on our ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY weekend. EXTREMELY awesome! Where it began one year ago with an out-of-practice interviewer, (Me) a dog, (Tundra) and an indie talent we didn't know then, will come around full circle after an entire 365 days. Couldn't think of a better person to help us celebrate - we'll be working on some new collaborations together and if I can wrestle it out of her, you KNOW I wanna ask her some more questions!

SBS LIVE THIS WEEK!

No excuses - we were late again! You'll see a little of why if you watch the episode that just posted. Just updated the software we use which meant there were a few new bugs and hiccups thrown our way. The end resulted in the audio being out by a second or more throughout most of the episode - big time apologies to the bands in Part IX of SBS But No BS...we're looking into it and for what it's worth, trying to make sure we don't have the same issue when Part X is released.

It's another killer line up and a great way to end our first year. So happy with the way it has all turned out...despite any editing hiccups!

Excellent episodes in the works - we've had some phenomenal guests lately here in the studio and more still to come here in November. FEY and BLACKOUT LIGHTS will both be featured in full episodes later this year after we finish our upcoming episode with SHMOLTS through a video interview all the way from the UK which will mark the start of our second year. STOKED!

BlackoutLights
Blackout Lights

Both Fey and Blackout Lights put on incredible performances here in the studio...just awesome all the way through for both bands and I can't wait to show you some of what they've done! But without some key background assistance from our part-time SBS homies it might not have been pulled off - so I want to take some time here to shout out TIM STINSON for assisting in the filming of the Fey episode and to TYLER HUTTON for taking time out of his rock-schedule to help us film Blackout Lights. HUGE thank you to both of you - literally couldn't have done it without ya!

Video interviews still continue to go out on a semi-regular basis...though with each one sent the mystery surrounding these projects continues to grow...

For instance - I might just contact Neve from the reality show Catfish to hunt down Tourie of ALONG CAME LIFE just to ensure that it's really him I've been talking to! He accepted the invitation to a video interview a long time ago and we somewhat scrapped the idea when he let me know he was coming to the upper west coast for a possible visit. So sadly, I've yet to see with my actual eyes that this is in fact the man I've been talking to all along and the video interview has not been mentioned since...hoping that's still coming our way one day so the record gets set straight in my brain!

Or how about the often talked about yet still incomplete video interview for NICOLAS & THE ICENI? They've been extremely patient while we tried our hand at putting something new together. And though it has taken some time - we should hopefully be able to get them something in time for us to get some killer details on their upcoming album.

I'm just recently wrapping up the shooting on the LUNARSEA episode, filmed in blue for our new friends in Italy. This death-metal band has a different approach to the genre and as always I'm extremely excited to see what comes our way for responses from this band from so far away!

We just posted the latest episode of SBS Live This Week! - SBS But No BS Part X - the very last chapter in our first year on-screen. Not only does this episode include some more AMAZING bands through live performances and video but it will also give you a little more insight into my own video history as well! We'll be showing the first video I ever cut as well as the latest project I collaborated on myself through a unique video project.

INDIE NEWS:

Here's something awesome. Long time SBS favourites THE PIT will get together near the end of this month with original bass player Scott Lubchynski somewhere in Kelowna this November. We'll pass on more details to you as we get them, but from talking with Tyler Hutton (Drums) it sounds like this show is set up and ready to go. So...if you're in K-town anytime towards the end of this month, keep an eye out and go to this show!

ThePit
The Pit

Our friends way over in Eastern Canada - MORNING FAME - have just released a brand new single called "The Golden One." Always love hearing from these guys! Liking the new song right away on those first couple of spins through; I'm a big fan of the sweet tone in this band. I'll be talking about this single soon on the main page - keep an eye out.

Our absolutely crazy friend in WOLF COLONY, electro genius and masked-man-supreme, is back with a brand new EP that you can download for free. This guy makes some wicked music from what we've already heard in the past when we reviewed the last EP - go and have a listen to what he's up to now - you can rest assured I'll be doing the same!

WRAP THIS UP!:

Alright! The odds of another pre-year-old blog posting are fairly slim, I'll admit! You can count on us celebrating the day and having a great time, blasting the amazing music of yours that we've found over this past year. Looking forward to starting year two off RIGHT with our main man Jay from SHMOLTS on that first episode through video from the UK. The future seems closer than ever...and the past only feels like yesterday.

I love it here. Thank you everybody - you all make this possible for me, every day.

- Jer @ SBS

 

November 7th, 2013 - Colin Ward - Cappuccino - Album Review

ColinWard
Colin Ward – Cappuccino – Album Review

Alright readers – we’re not leaving this Americana subject quite yet.  Hot off the heels of our last interview with a blues-country-rock slice of Americana with Skinny Cool Kid – let’s get into this new album Cappuccino by Colin Ward with his folk twist on this classic style of music.  Though outside my genres of choice…I can’t help but crack a smile every time the album cycles through and I hear the track “Sometimes Sleep Don’t Come Easy;” as it never has for me…but I suppose that’s why I listen to as much music as I do…

I also watch a lot of stuff.  Not all of it good either if I do say so myself.  In fact, most of what I choose to view is just horrendously awful; endless sub-par horror flicks written with the flair of a third grader’s imagination…but I also catch a lot of great stuff as well.  You couldn’t get me off the couch when Breaking Bad was on.  Absolutely loving Sons Of Anarchy right now.  Love my cartoons too…like Family Guy for instance…still a classic…

This is all going somewhere, I swear…

Right!  My first impression.  Strange that it would come from a cartoon reference, but that was the immediate reaction to hearing the lyrics from Colin Ward from the opening track “The Emigration Song.”  Though listening securely on his CD Baby page with a “Recommended If You Like…” section that includes Jerry Garcia, Mark Knopfler and Tom Petty – I found that my immediate comparison came from the extreme amount of information related through that first song…and it made me think of the moments where Randy Newman has shown up in Peter Griffin’s world to tell a tale of what’s happening at that very moment through song.  If you’re not convinced by the opening track, listen to “I’m Amazed,” you’ll at least hear where I’m coming from…

And you can take that for what it is – it’s definitely not an insult, just a connection made through the lyrical style of Colin Ward.  No song on Cappuccino is an exception; Ward packs a full novel into every song.  And if you were to ask THIS bearded guy reviewing this album (Seems someone must have!) – this is an incredible gift from Colin to all of you who listen.  Let me explain…

Lyrics are tough!  Go ahead and try this right now and you tell me I’m wrong…

Out loud, you just go ahead and tell – you don’t even have to sing – your favorite story from your life, don’t spare any details…and take notice of the clock.  See if you can wrap up the most important, most beautiful or most heartbreaking moment of your life in under TEN minutes.  Every song is an opportunity for a lyricist to put their words to a fresh, untainted canvas – and in my heart-of-hearts I like to believe that we’re all trying to say SOMETHING.  I even like to believe that these writers try to recreate these amazing tales of their lives – just like the ones you all said out loud moments ago – into songs.  And they have to typically tell those quality tales between 3-5 minutes!

To write in the style that Colin Ward does is a freedom that the pen in most hands will never know.   Coupled with the easy-to-listen-to music, this album Cappuccino really feels like you’ve gotten to know Colin Ward personally by the time the album closes.  His lyrics truly reflect the world through his eyes giving you a genuine, true insight into the mind of Ward.  In OR out of song – I have the feeling Colin is definitely the storyteller in ANY group of people.

They say “write what you know” – and what Colin knows is a good story.  Whether it has come from his own personal autobiographical collection, or a fictional tale – his effort into relating these tales through song is a real testament to how much you really CAN make out of that 3-5 minute instrumental track when you focus and put your mind to those lyrics.

Musically I find I’m in nearly the exact same boat as our last review in this genre with Skinny Cool Kid.  Though I myself personally am always thirsting for new and unique sounds – I’m also not going to be the reviewer to knock everyone down who doesn’t go out and re-invent the musical wheel.  Americana, almost by the default nature of the very genre itself, might never sound NEW.  But much like with what Colin has done here on Cappuccino it can certainly sound plenty comfortable and familiar, relax and put you in a chilled out mood.

Is it well played?  Certainly.  There’s a ton to like about this project of Ward’s.  Beautifully toned and crisp guitar solos, there’s some sax I believe…some strings as well.  In a real tribute to the Americana genre – it’s subtle but if you listen to “Let’s Go Downtown” – you’ll definitely be able to hear an authentic organ in there as well, filling in the background quite nicely.  “Sometimes Sleep Don’t Come Easy” also features a stellar female back-up vocal that works very well – I’d be shocked if she didn’t have a career of her own somewhere out there as well…fits perfectly in this song.

Hmm.  Maybe it’s trumpet.  I should know this...  Nahhhhh…that’s a sax for sure…  “How Does Your Heart Feel Now” has just got some incredible stuff happening in this song from the keys to the sax (Yeah – I decided.) creating a real highlight on this album from Colin Ward.  He drifts from styles influenced by Clapton, Cash, and Petty…sometimes even nearing the edge of Cohen.  

But never to the point where Ward loses himself inside his influences; expanding on these sounds through great storytelling and dedicated lyricism, his style that cannot be confused for another’s.  It’s still Americana, yes, but it’s identifiably Colin Ward the entire way through.  Artists can go through their entire careers lost in the sea of sameness due to being audibly unidentifiable, but Colin will never have that problem.

All he has to do is stay true to himself.  After listening to his album Cappuccino multiple times, I feel like I know him like a musical-brother-from-another-mother, so I feel like I can almost say firsthand that this won’t be a problem for him.  Each of these tracks represents an honesty and a story genuinely felt by Ward and expertly passed on to you through song.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Cappuccino on CD Baby at:  http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/colinward5
And support him on Facebook at:  https://www.facebook.com/ColinWardMusic

 

November 2nd, 2013 - Skinny Cool Kid - No Risk - EP Review

SkinnyCoolKid
Skinny Cool Kid – No Risk – EP Review

At the outset of reviewing this new EP by Skinny Cool Kid from West Chester, PA – I was instantly welcomed into the warm country/blues-rock sound much of middle America is still well known for.  Beginning with the track “Just Like Me,” I was also full of worry in writing this article.  Throughout these pages of sleepingbagstudios it’s certainly well documented…the A.D.D. way in which I listen to music that is…  I’m always looking for more of a NEW thing, not always pausing to appreciate more of a GOOD thing, like what we have here on the No Risk EP.

The first tracks of these latest reviews on our site have thrown me a bit – I must admit.  “Just Like Me” is no exception to this run of late; it’s a good song to open with as the quality rises exponentially during the next tracks “All Over Creation” and the title track “No Risk” - ironically nestled safely in the middle of the EP.  During “I Roll On,” Skinny Cool Kid takes a turn towards melodic country rock before returning to a blues-rock-rooted final track in “Beyond An Orange Sky,” leaving you feeling like you’ve gotten some highlights from this band…a top-five, if you will…

It’s an almost bizarre feeling for a journalist to approach a point where there are no words, but this No Risk EP is so well put together and perfect through its production, song-writing, and performance that there’s almost nothing to pick on whatsoever.  You already heard my beef with the EP subtly in the intro paragraph anyway – I’d be the last to say that Skinny Cool Kid is breaking any new ground here; but they are doing something comfortable, something we all feel familiar with and pulling it all of perfectly.

And you know what?  I’ve got to just learn to chill out anyways.

On my re-listens through the EP, you can clearly hear some of the classic influences from George Thorogood, Steppenwolf and Elvis Costello, to name some of the giants.  Lead singer and overall project title “Skinny Cool Kid” seems to be able to drift easily into the spirit, feel and sound of Costello at any time he chooses.  And again – he pulls it off perfectly as a backing band of pro-musicians continue to play flawlessly throughout these songs. 

Seriously!  COSTELLO.  I’m telling you.  Listen to “All Over Creation” and don’t you dare tell me I’m wrong…

No Risk is like a 5-song EP tribute to great country/blues-rock songwriting.  Skinny Cool Kid is no fool – he can certainly READ; and through these pages he’d certainly realize that I’m on the fringe of this genre at the best of times.  This is music outside of the norm for me in my never-ending quest for new sounds and sonic experiments to fit into my earholes…I suppose I could say that.

But also in truth – I listen to a track like “No Risk” and think to myself – this absolutely IS something I would want to reach for and hear in my collection.  I’d like to hear it in anyone’s collection really, for that matter and especially if you’re a fan of that true Americana sound.

Skinny Cool Kid has done a great job in a short amount of time on this EP.  No Risk is accurate; I wouldn’t expect anything less that superb quality from him now or in the future.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out his latest EP at Bandcamp:  http://skinnycoolkid.bandcamp.com/

 

November 1st, 2013 - The New Ages - Piper Man - EP Review

TheNewAges
The New Ages – Piper Man – EP Review

This should make for an interesting review!

This new EP from The New Ages is full of influences you can audibly hear.  Part Rush, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Placebo and part UK altogether – this latest effort from the New Ages has a steady rock pulse pumping through the entire course of the EP.  It has complex beats and rhythms that never let up – these songs are all alive; vibrant, full of life and well written.

Musically speaking – Piper Man is very, very well played.  These are strong songs in composition – a perfect example of this is “Waterfall,” a cut near the end of the EP but one that is played with a ferocity and rare pop-intensity.  It’s also the track where lead singer Ant finds his place solidly and takes a steady foothold within his own place in this band of very talented players.

One of the influences they list is The Red Hot Chili Peppers…which is appropriate in a couple of ways.  When you listen to their track “Disguise” you’ll hear the capability Ludo has on the bass and decidedly agree that the Chili’s have a solid place in that sphere of influence surrounding The New Ages.  Guitarist Dan riffs along this song just like Frusciante did in his most intense moments, filling in with the random alongside the driving bass-line.  Guitar freedom at its best.

Unlike the Chili’s – the song “Disguise” is HUGE.  A real highlight and compliment to drummer Ben – this track absolutely showcases his uncanny rhythmic and inventive drums played flawlessly.  This certainly isn’t a slight on Chad Smith of RHCP – he’s incredible of course – but the Chili’s have never gone BIG in their sound production-wise.  This track “Disguise” shows that The New Ages have another gear they can slide into and provides some real hope for the future of their music altogether.

Ok.  Ok ok ok OK!  I’ll address once glaringly obvious piece of this puzzle – the vocals.  If you’ve paid attention so far – you’ll notice I’ve listed bands like Rush, Placebo and Red Hot Chili Peppers as sonic influences you can hear in their work…and ALL of those bands have ONE thing in common above all others:  A “Love’em or Hate’em” singer.  They might very well all be extremely talented – but they’re all polarizing.  Even Rush fans can’t put their finger on exactly WHAT they like about Geddy Lee’s voice, they just do.  The people that don’t like him find him nasally off-key for what their ears are expecting and that same can be said of Placebo.  Anthony Kiedis is notorious for walking the fine line edge of on-key and off.

Lead singer Ant fits in with all of these singers and their attributes.  Some of you will love what he brings to the music; others will be listening and expecting a different tonal quality than what comes out of Ant in combination with the music.  Like Rush or Placebo, much of it comes across nearly as narration, rather than traditional singing.  Regardless of which style in his repertoire he’s singing in – he inarguably brings with him an excellent vocal hook or two per track as well.

Coming back to “Waterfall” again makes me appreciate what a true BLEND this music is.  This particular track is such a superb combination of the old-school and new.  You can almost hear old-time bands like Mariliion or Gowan bonding with bands of today like Franz Ferdinand or The Killers.  Seriously – that makes for music that gives you something interesting to the ear.  I think this particular track grabs me as well as it has a haunting early R.E.M. feel to it as well, and of course you all know they remain my favorite band to this day.  Even the title track “Piper Man” has that same cryptic feeling and dynamic soft vs. hard edge to the music that has made alternative a timeless genre as valid as the rest.

Composition-wise, there’s no argument – The New Ages can certainly write tight, multi-faceted songs that really take you on a rock adventure.  And while the comparisons have led to polarizing singers that some respond to and some don’t – one thing can also be said for Rush, Placebo and The Red Hot Chili Peppers…they have ALL enjoyed massive success and careers with longevity. 

I think that recipe for success should hold just as true for The New Ages and here’s why:  It’s because I also think that if you were to go back to where all of those bands started and listened to those first albums all over again…well…I bet you’d come out of that listen and agree that this band The New Ages and their EP Piper Man shows every bit as much promise for the future as those now classic albums did when they were released for the first time.

  • Jer @ SBS

Listen to the EP Piper Man by The New Ages at their Soundcloud page at:  https://soundcloud.com/thenewages

And why not support them at Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/TheNewAgesBand

 

October 31st - Jimmy Mac - Lucky Star - Album Review

JimmyMac
Jimmy Mac – Lucky Star – Album Review

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy…WHAT are you up to here?

Immediately in my first listen I can hear a strong songwriter right off the bat.  Between the opening and title track “Lucky Star” and “Happily Wasted” I’m already convinced that Jimmy Mac has a complete gift for writing a song and a powerful hook.  These two songs certainly display that element, but they hit me in two completely separate ways.  Let me explain…

“Lucky Star” is an interesting track to me for several reasons.  Title tracks in general always are to me.  In theory, whether it’s track one or track eight – if it’s the TITLE track, it’s the “centerpiece” of the album…the crown jewel…the proudest moment.  To me – after a firm listen to this album on repeat – I found that “Lucky Star” was more of a jumping off point, rather than a centerpiece as I thought the content on this album as well as the performances became stronger as the album played on.

That’s not to say it’s a bad song – it’s the complete opposite.  It actually doesn’t matter what song you choose off this album, they all display a completely gifted songwriter.  But with “Lucky Star” the song, I found a blending of sound that I suppose maybe I wasn’t expecting.  It was like the lead singer for the band Cold had gone and joined a blues band for a second.  Much like the lead singer for Cold, Jimmy lethargically and hazily sings this track against a contrasting sound to really create a unique opening, almost deceptive…

Because immediately in the following track “Happily Wasted” you get a much better sense of what Jimmy Mac is capable of.  The pop sensibilities on this album showcased in songs like this, or later in “Lazy” are a far distance from the opening track.  And Jimmy…I’m talking to you directly now…you KNOW you can hear it too.  Listen to the ENERGY and the LIFE you’ve got in your performance on “Lazy” (LOL, of all tracks!) and you can hear quite easily this is your comfort zone for sure.

I’m not sure if anyone does this when listening to an album…but I do; when I can hear so quickly that I’m hearing an amazing songwriter, I don’t always expect a cohesive album.  I do expect amazing song after song, but not always connected in sound itself as these people tend to focus on the moment rather than the grand assembly at the end.  Cohesive albums are also the result of bands and writers that have millions of songs in the vault to pull from, and even in that instance they still have to stand the test of time and still be relevant to have that feeling of togetherness.  While I’m not all that convinced that this particular group of songs on Lucky Star all tie in together – there’s no disputing that each and every one of the songs that make up this album are brilliantly written as separate entities.

Listening to “Sweet Nothings,” deep in the middle of the Lucky Star, I am literally continually blown away by the ability this guy has to write a hook.  “Suckers,” another great example, is an explosive track with wicked vocal effects and a driven determination to not let the middle of the album sag.  Written in a familiar style, much like Gavin Rossdale of Bush and something you can also find in the song “Fly.”  Jimmy Mac has learned an incredible amount from his 90’s predecessors and really knows how to get the most out of each and every song.

“Boy And A Girl,” this is an all-kinds-of-interesting track for me.  Part Three Doors Down, part Silverchair and part blues-rock – this track walks a fine, fine line for Jimmy Mac.  I advise extreme caution here Jimmy!  There’s no disputing that this track is a hit song – again, I truly believe anything you’ve written can be off this album – but this particular track could catch fire with the bar crowd easily.  I’m just saying…if they love this and want MORE of it from you – you might get pulled into that!  And though again, it sounds comfortable and well-written, the majority of the album is different in sound…you don’t want to get locked into something permanently!

But perhaps therein lies the theme of the album, and also of the “songwriter” in general.  Thematically, the albums range so far between the extremes because they’ll never want to be locked down.  If that’s the case, I applaud you all – you as well Jimmy Mac!

The album closes on a pop note with “Happy Forever,” another song that could easily be heard on the radio station anywhere in your town with a remix happily fitting into any of the station’s formats.  It also has another shot at the “Lucky Star” track with an acoustic/strings rendition.  Does it succeed?  In a couple of ways…

The first being that the music works a little better with the vocals and the song seems to gel a little better in this style.  The strings are absolutely beautiful – and just like in the original, there is a bridge in this song where Jimmy breaks free of the hazy vocals and really lets loose at his full 100%. 

The second way is that it truly serves as the other “piece of bread” on this album.  And just like a great sandwich – what’s between the bread is everything you’re craving, but the bread's still good too! There’s an incredible amount of talent on display from Jimmy Mac on Lucky Star - you rock fans will definitely be big fans of this. 

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out Jimmy Mac’s new album on soundcloud at:  https://soundcloud.com/jimmy-mac-6

October 30th - Matthew Heller - Invitation - Album Review

MatthewHeller
Matthew Heller – Invitation – Album Review

I have taken longer in preparing this review than I’ve ever taken before.  If you’ve read these reviews in the past, you know I quite often start out with an apology on how long it has taken to get it on the page, but let me tell ya…Matthew Heller is not only an excellent musician, but he’s a completely patient gentleman and has literally waited nearly five times as long as anyone I’ve reviewed before him.

There’s a justified reason as to WHY I’m so last minute with everything…one that goes beyond my commitment to Hunter S. Thompson-style journalism; I listen.  You could find a million journalists and reviewers out there, but never one to take their role as seriously as I do.  Not everything can be understood, heard or written about during the course of a single listen, yet I can see 99% of the time from the writing of these reviews that this journalistic low-road has been taken again and again.

Let me explain.  I suppose if I had reviewed this new album Invitation that I wouldn’t have had as many good things to say about it.  That’s not a knock on Matthew, his music or anything other than a knock against ME.  Hopefully I’m not alone in this – but have you ever listened to that NEW album by your favorite artist and come out of that listening with a big ol’ “WTF?”  Then somehow, because you REFUSE to believe that your favorite band could do you so WRONG, you eventually listen again.  Only this time, the WTF is now pointed directly at yourself and you wonder how you missed all this amazing music the first time around.

I can admit when I’m wrong.  I missed Matthew Heller’s album Invitation when I played it the first time.  And Mr. Heller – you certainly have my apologies.  These (many) subsequent listens have put my brain on track – now I can hear this as I should have to begin with.  In fairness to myself, rock is not my genre of choice necessarily – but this is far from the “straight ahead,” and I should have noticed that right away.

The level of creativity and ability in this album has no limit.  There are so many of those things….aww shit…you know what I’m talking about…those…things…they used to happen all the time when the singer’s not singing…RIGHT – solos!  I’ll admit, through sleepingbagstudios we’ve dealt with a lot of progressive rock, which of course is laden with solos, but also expected.  In typical modern day verse/chorus/verse songwriting the solo and bridge have nearly disappeared entirely; with that, the ability to showcase not only the songwriting ability of a band, but the exceptional playing as well.

Invitation is such a complete break from the normal all the way through.  From the off-the-wall lyrics to this wonderful incorporation of extremely capable musicianship – this album is what I’d imagine Les Claypool to sound like and make once he’s retired and sitting on the porch of some backwoods ranch. 

Yeah…okay…that’s officially the WEIRDEST compliment I’ve ever handed out, but Matthew, I assure you, it IS a compliment.

The other comparison I drew to instantly was Stephen Malkmus after listening to the Matthew Heller track “Space Girl.”  After jumping into a riff-laden opening to the album, Matthew switches to a alternative-pop-indie-thing that reminded me a lot of the song “Pencil Rot” by Malkmus after he had left the lazy style of Pavement behind and tightened up the musicianship for his solo work.  “Space Girl” has that instantly recognizable feel and pulse and the moment I heard it, all of a sudden I could easily remember hearing it before when I had first spun the album.  Track after track, not only did this continue to happen, but I was actively SINGING ALONG.  Matthew Heller writes songs that have hooks that stick into your brain whether you realize it at first or not.

There are moments of the big and the small all over this album, but it’s the small that suits Matthew Heller and his vocal style the best.  His voice is that of the perfect indie hero; fragile and vibrating with energy, emotion and genuine belief in the music he’s making.  The end of this album is incredibly strong and really highlights the strengths of Heller’s voice with the music.  “Sink Or Swim” and “Dismay King” end this album in a musical splendor; fantastic songwriting, incredible emotional songs, one slow and one up-tempo to close out the album in a way that will instantly taunt you to play it again.

Incidentally, the fifth track on the album, “Interlude,” a song with no vocals is a cut that could easily bring tears to your eyes – listen with caution.  A piano and strings combination that truly solidifies the amount of skill in Heller’s songwriting, some songs don’t need words and he was right on that one.  Perfect track.

And as that track breaks, we get a 70’s rock production feel to “Howdy From Hades,” nearly Zeppelin-esque in the assembly.  There are nods to other greats as well, like Tom Petty and his song “Last Dance With Mary Jane” that bears a resemblance to the Heller track “Mercy.”  He never crosses over into being a copy, never even gets close to that line…Heller re-invents each and every sound completely as his own and plays them all with incredible skill.

Regardless of the time it has taken to put this together – I’m glad that time was taken.  Apparently my earholes had to adjust before I could fit this music into them properly, but now that they have, I don’t want to lose these songs or these moments.  I keep coming back to “Sink Or Swim” as THE example of why on this album…that sound…that one right there is the one I don’t ever want to lose in the soundtrack shuffle of my life.

Yeah.  Took some time but it was completely worth it and I’m thankful I came around to my senses.  Believe me when I say the next time Matthew Heller sends out an Invitation, I’ll be gladly accepting.

  • Jer @ SBS

See what else I had to say about Matthew Heller and his new album Invitation on SBS Live This Week! – Episode 61 – Part II With Kyle Truelove of Aztec!

And support Matthew Heller at these fine pages!
https://myspace.com/matthewheller
https://www.facebook.com/MHellermusic
https://twitter.com/MatthewHeller1

October 29th - The Jesus Clause - Downtime - Album Review

TheJesusClause
The Jesus Clause – Downtime – Album Review

YES.  You know what’s awesome?  This. New. Album.

This band The Jesus Clause is the sole work of a nineteen year-old wonder-kid named Trevor Hook and man has he stumbled onto some incredible sounds.  Each different from the one before, layered, looped and textured to a blissful musical state – if this is just “Downtime” for him right now he may as well pack his bags and get ready for a long life as a musician.  This guy has got it.

I’ll fully admit in the first two tracks he had me all over the map with an album opening with short bursts of sonic audio-experiment, before settling into the first full length track, “Halves.”  What starts in the bizarre becomes incredibly inviting to anyone listening the minute this track begins.  It sprawls out into an unbelievable loop-riff jam collective that is full of rich guitar tone and incredible ideas. 

Perhaps now is also a good time to mention that he has recorded all of this LIVE with no editing?

“Halves” continues on to show his ability to be creative and bring music to life right there on his own through looping and innovation.  From the initial riffs, to the breakdown, build-up and final break – this track put the full picture together and now I can see it all much more clearly.  As The Jesus Clause, Trevor has created some unbelievable moments, now recorded and out there for the world.  They exist, and so they should.

Equally incredible – “Waters” has that same melodic guitar beauty I can find in Explosions In The Sky.  There’s an absolutely wicked bendy guitar line in this track that is just one of the reasons I love it.  Between this song and “Halves” I was already more than sold on the creative talent of The Jesus Clause; Trevor can certainly write a song, but what else can he do?

The answer comes in right away with the next track “Navigate;” a track that shows the definition of what sonic texture is all about.  The main melodic line sputters and delays, creating a hazy, dream-like atmosphere that feels cozy…until near the end of the track…  Heading right in to the guitar work in “Warmm,” if you were to ask me, this is what they call “Right In The Pocket.”  On this album I can hear one of two things on each track – the effort to challenge what is “normal,” and the effort to do “normal” better than the rest.

For what it’s worth, I think The Jesus Clause has pulled this off insanely well.  Keep in mind – I’m a dedicated listener and certainly a little more forgiving knowing this is done right there and live with looping and all that.  There are admittedly a few awkward switches in a few tracks, but nothing that remotely snapped me out of wanting to listen to what was coming next.  “Functional” is a great example of this.  I could listen to this track 1000 times and try to imagine him recording these ideas all together like he has and it blows my mind.  I’ll never know how this track comes together as well as it has, but it did and there you have it.

I have an incredible amount of love for the song “Stocks.”  The idea on this track is perhaps even slightly better than this particularly recorded version.  The lead guitar comes in a little too over-the-top in volume in comparison with the rest of the track, just slightly but enough to make it so I’d personally want to hear this in a studio remix.  Not a knock against him at all, it’s a volume issue and a consequence of doing things live on the fly.  But in comparison, you can move to the very next track “Drafts” where the balance between it all is as perfect as it could be.  Absolutely killer track and base melody.

There’s an excellent, organized and jazzy feel to the music of The Jesus Clause and I dig that.  The final track on the album “Space” puts on a wicked display of loud vs. quiet with an overhauled musical-battle of a song.  Everything compared to the rest of the album has become bigger and stronger for this last epic song as the album closes out on yet another fantastic idea.

And in a wicked turn of events – we even get a bonus track, where unless I’m mistaken, Trevor even grabs the microphone for a second…  But like much of these short electronic bursts – it lasts for only a moment before finding one final excellent hook and finishing strong.  That forlorn piece on the microphone shows up once more at the very end to tie up the bonus track and full album on an interesting note; one that points to the amount of emotion in the overall album. 

At nineteen years old – this is well beyond where it typically starts.  What little sharp edges there are will smooth out quickly with Trevor’s ability to learn and adapt to his musical equipment.  The most important elements are all here soundly; the innovation, the creativity, original songwriting and melodies.  He reaches for complex structures and has truly not only challenged himself musically on this album Downtime; he has been every bit successful in finding new strengths.

  • Jer @ SBS

Find out more about The Jesus Clause at:  https://www.facebook.com/TheJesusClauseBand

 

October 28th - Human Behavior - Golgotha - Album Review

HumanBehavior
Human Behavior – Golgotha – Album Review

To be completely honest – at many times listening to this new album from Human Behavior, I found myself wondering HOW on earth it was able to retain its immaculate authenticity.  It takes nearly all of my concentration when writing lyrics to not write them in a sequence, a chronological order or a story that could be understood by even a four-year old child…I’ll admit quite easily, though I seem to write these reviews quite well – I still have a long way to go before lyrically I’d consider myself to be anything whatsoever original.  Today – I’m inviting you to learn about this completely inspiring album absolutely full of originality and beautiful uniqueness.  Golgotha by Human Behavior is an awesome effort that will be taken to instantly by fans of “true” indie music…not the pop-influenced “indie” many of us know today from its steady flow into the mainstream.

I’m a firm believer that you can’t fake authenticity…at least not for long.  On many an album you can find unbelievable songs that “stand-out” – another way of saying “they got it right,” and nearly suggesting that they didn’t “get it right” in others.  Sometimes that’s simply inconsistency, and other times it’s the internal struggle of a band trying their best to create something outside of their sound.  It can often lead to an album feeling incomplete – or even worse than that…hollow altogether.

Human Behavior will never struggle with this, never break from their character and as far as I can tell – they’re never going to release music that sounds forced whatsoever.  No matter what song you choose from Golgotha – you’re not only going to find unique sounds and compositions well played and thought out – but you’ll EASILY be able to hear how truly genuine this is.  I felt like listening to this album was a complete foray into the “new” of music in many ways.

Before this goes ANY further – I want to point out that this band came our way as a direct result of meeting another band we’ve had in review not so long ago – Electrician, also known as the brainchild of Neil Campau.  When hearing this band today, Human Behavior instantly struck me as a sound very closely related to what he was personally doing in Electrician and upon realizing that they had been sent to us by Neil…I started to think to myself, ‘This guy is not only a goddamn genius – he’s full on creating an entirely NEW music scene over there on his side of the screen.’
I could honestly rant and rave about the originality of this music for the entire duration of this interview just as much as I can turn up my volume on their music here at the studio – and it is LOUD in here right now!  Whether it is through the music or through the words – this music is so right up my alley it parked itself right in my driveway and put itself on blocks so as not to be moved.  It has ALL of the elements I love in the truest of the true Indies out there; beautiful melodic music, original invention throughout and lyrically wearing a straightjacket. 

I’ll point you to the perfect example of this, coming in at track #5 – “Drone” is such a perfect song that it becomes nearly hard to describe here in fact without sounding like fiction.  The music is so incredibly beautiful; well played and sparse, allowing for the fragile vocals of lead singer and band leader Andres along with the four-piece female choir you can find throughout this album.  Those two vocal components work fucking phenomenally together.  I apologize for the language, but there’s simply no denying how much this music makes me want to stand up on my console desk and shout “Oh Captain, My Captain” towards each and every member that has contributed to Golgotha.  I listen to something like this and it provides a personal assurance that creativity and originality are FAR from dead in music.  If you’ve ever heard someone tell you that it has “All been done” – you can now officially tell them to go and pound sand.  Human Behavior are not simply creating songs about chicks and cars. 

The most beautiful thing about this style of reaching so far outside of the box for the wording is that, when accompanied with beautiful music, they’re creating moments in time that will never be duplicated.  The kind of moments you will feel YEARS from now and wonder where you remember feeling that same way before, eventually coming to the conclusion that it was that band you listen to….that band Human Behavior CREATED that feeling you experience there in that moment, like déjà vu.

Where is my friend KYLE TRUELOVE of the band AZTEC on this one?  Now that this beard of mine has reached a certain length and I’m officially covered in old-moldiness – most of the excellent indie music I’ve been hearing has been the result of my conversations with Kyle about his music and influences…but not today!  Today I get to be the champion of this fantastic music by Human Behavior and I can assure you all I am going to put this personally into his EARHOLES because this is something I know that he would more than love, just like I do.  Today – I get to tell this particular indie hero about a band he might not have heard of yet, and knowing him to be a true fan of real Indie music – there’s no denying this is a fantastic and complete album from beginning to end.  In a nod to the universe agreeing with me – the song “I’m Sorry, You’re Saul” has been playing in the background and while writing that last sentence, echoed their lyrics, “We like the same bands, we like the same bands…”

Deep down we DO.  Not just Kyle and myself, but many of our supporters, readers, listeners and viewers are so accustomed to our search for the unique and beautiful, the original, melodic and diverse in sound.  Human Behavior displays all of these qualities in this span of their album Golgotha.  I’ve had this on a steady repeat and I really can’t get over this constant shock of just how new, but also just home much like “home” this album can feel like.  It has nestled itself into my ears like I was simply born to listen to it.

When you research this band through their official site – it becomes crystal clear to me that this IS what we look for at sleepingbagstudios.  You know I’ve said it countless times – be a band with something to SAY or with something to PROVE.  Human Behavior is one of those truly rare gems out there to have the distinct honor of being BOTH.  Not only are they saying completely new things through their lyrics that sound inexplicably close to that of reviews on the latest Mike Doughty album submitted by his fan base, but you can tell that this music is taken incredibly seriously in the background, regardless of the lighthearted sound or lyrics.  It is played with a preciseness that is golden and never loses that passion in the execution to ever sound sloppy.  This is literally music that COULD go horribly wrong – but Human Behavior have not let a single poor moment invade their music or this album; they’ve nailed it, creating one of the most original and highly likeable new sounds I’ve heard in a very long time.

If you can imagine The Arcade Fire went and sat down with the unchained Modest Mouse of ten years ago, went on a weekend drug-binge and wrote about what they saw on the inside of their heads…that might come close…but that’s about as close as you can get to for a comparison from me.  That leads me to believe that this IS in fact every bit as original and uncharted as music can get and I highly commend Human Behavior for their inability to be normal.  This has kept my attention in full upon multiple listens, and caused others around the SBS camp to prick up their ears and ask what the awesome music I’ve been playing is and where it comes from.  No one is complaining about listening to this as many times as I already have – each time it comes in fully new, vibrant and inviting.

Inviting.  That’s a great word for this album.  Often things that are outside of our own comfort zones do not have that feeling attached to it, but this entire album Golgotha truly pushes past any pre-conceived feelings you could possibly have and pulls you in through outstanding lyrical imagery and brilliantly played/assembled pieces.  I’ve asked many people over my decade of reviewing and interviewing – ‘just how hard IS it to create something that has never existed, never been done before?’  That’s an extremely RARE quality – go ahead and close your eyes and try it now if you don’t believe me!  Attempt to invent something that borrows nothing from anything you already know – it’s about the toughest thing anyone can do.  Somehow – Human Behavior has managed to create that very something and thankfully they’ve decided to share that vision with us all.

I wish that you could all sit here with me one day and see my bearded face radiate happiness when I find music like this, and I have to crack a sly-smile when I realize that yes, I AM about to post yet another positive review on our site.  You already know that no one puts this amount of wordage into a fluff piece, or music that no one could feel passionate about – so once again I ask you to all go out there and connect with each other…to bring the independent scene out of the shadows and into the spotlight it so clearly deserves.  Our reviews are positive for one reason and one reason alone – YOUR music is literally that good right now.  Human Behavior is a model example of expanding the boundaries of musical genres to create something all to themselves and lead the way in a new and beautiful sound – what’s not to be liked about that when you pull it off as incredibly well as they have here on Golgotha?

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out the official site, stream and buy the album here:  http://www.punksandcriminals.com/humanbehavior/
Support them on Facebook at:
https://www.facebook.com/HumanBehaviorAZ

October 27th, 2013 - Origin Story: The 3rd

Alright...it has been a long long time since I put out an origin story of the beginnings of SBS Live This Week...and the show turns ONE YEAR OLD on Nov. 17th - so here you go!

Shortly after the second interview we ever completed with IRON KINGDOM and deciding that I still had a valid place in music journalism, I immediately set out to really push what I could do and see just how far I could take it. So for the first time in my life, I set up multiple interviews in one day...something I'm certainly no stranger to now!

On my agenda: Pop-rock band A COLD CITY NIGHT, the sometimes independent/sometimes not Richard Fordham of THIS THING and later that day I had THE PIT coming into the studio for the very first time. This is a day that would eventually shape much of what we did at SBS for the show content and how we went about the interviews. I was in a rhythm of my own now...I felt, as always, that I was prepared and that I knew what I was in for.

As many of you already know - I'm out and about in cyberspace for much of my time and if we're doing a show, well, we talk. We e-mail or send carrier pigeons, whatever we have to do, but by the time you get here for an interview on SBS Live This Week, if you've reached out to me then I've more than likely sent you a 10-page e-mail response to even the most basic questions about the show.

Having talked to them all about the tight schedule I was on that day (Keep in mind the length of the show! 2 hours X 3 bands = One exhausted & hairy host!) I made sure they all knew when to roll into the studio, to allow not only time for the other bands to complete, but to allow time for me to charge my cameras and batteries...eat my Wheaties...that kind of thing... Didn't seem to be any hiccups coming, the schedule was laid out easily enough to handle...so I thought.

I had A Cold City Night coming in first at around noon, followed by This Thing at about 3pm and The Pit later on that night around 7 or 8. That's plenty of time in any scenario. Again...so I thought.

Talking with Richard from This Thing shortly before the day of the interview, he asked if he would be able to show up early. I apologized and said that wouldn't be able to happen this time due to the time needed to interview A Cold City Night and to charge up the batteries for This Thing. I had already sent out the "tight schedule" e-mail beforehand, but I suppose this e-mail was to re-affirm that, 'No Richard, I can't have you showing up early..." But if you've seen the episode with This Thing, well, you already know that RF is a cat of a different kind to say the least!

So shortly after noon, SBS is invaded by the young-punk kids of A Cold City Night. Now...I'm never going to be one to dictate HOW you represent yourselves - that's not my style...but be ready for some questions! I have no proof beyond my being a veteran BC stoner myself...but I'd suspect that at least a few of them had visited the...errr...herbs & spices cupboard...before coming to the studio. No judgements here! Other than I don't remember them sharing...and again, just a hunch...no proof or solid evidence, not even a roach!

The interview is going well. 3rd one into the show overall - it has some life + energy and I'm feeling like I can handle this day without error. As it turned out, I wasn't the only interview they were having that day and already having come a long way out to be at our compound, they had a long way back and were going to have to jet without performance. Ahhh, rockstar life!

Now, there's ALWAYS a lot on my mind in these interviews - there's stuff I want to know and there's always amazing things being said right there in the present to branch off of. Time itself, is the last thing on my mind.

Perhaps it was the nerves, perhaps it was my goldfish-like memory coming back to bite me again, but when Becky from SBS came into the studio to let me know my next act had already arrived...I was mind blown. My immediate first thought was 'Man - I have literally talked to these guys for forever,' which unbeknownst to me then, I actually hadn't. To this day the A Cold City Night interview is one of the shortest I've ever done and that was completely accidental.

All of a sudden, This Thing appears in our studio. Okay, it wasn't as scary as that sounds if you just say: All of a sudden, Richard Fordham appears in our studio. See? Not nearly enough ZING.

I boot out the guys from A Cold City Night and APOLOGIZE for keeping them so incredibly long. At this point, I was still convinced that I had interviewed them for over two hours. Time is apparently irrelevant in my musical space... I'm now freaking out because I've got no time to unwind my nerves and jitters from the first interview and next to no battery life. I also have a very odd fellow now in the studio who seems...strangely comfortable being in like...ANY environment. Interesting.

So I stalled as best I could to get what little battery life I could and just talked with Richard off camera for a while. That might be one of my biggest regrets as we just didn't have the battery life at that time of the studio to be able to continue to run them all for what I thought would now end up being a total of nearly five hours straight; but many of our best conversations never made it to the screen.

Then I saw the time. I had only interviewed A Cold City Night for a total of like, 40 minutes or so - the length of one half of our two part show. Richard, despite my request, was well over an hour early, and for a moment...I wasn't sure I could save that day from going under.

Then I saw it. It was PINK and it was WEIRD and it was BEAUTIFUL. Richard Fordham of This Thing had an authentic HELLO KITTY GUITAR. Unbelievable. Not only was I sure I had a great set of questions lined up, now I knew this would be my centerpiece. I wanted to talk about that guitar and get the amazing story! As it turned out...that particular story fell a little flat with a somewhat "normal" answer. It led to a conversation I had once with radio host and friend Jeff Jeffries who wisely told me "There's no such thing as a great question without a great answer." And no knock on Richard - that was an early lesson in my own expectations...he gave the best answer he could; the honest one.

ThisThing

This Thing - see more photos of his time on SBS Live This Week by clicking here!

Still, no lie here either, going from one band of five guys to a totally bizarre conversation with one guy totally drained me. By the time we had wrapped up Richard's performance in the studio, I was completely spent. DONE. I said goodbye to Richard once we wrapped and thanked him for his time, but here's the weird part...I never really SAW him leave. All of a sudden, he was just GONE. Not even kidding, I actually went out to the end of the driveway and took a look up and down the street and I DID NOT SEE HIM. Part of me is convinced he is living in the studio somewhere, even to this very day... Legend now has it that when you turn out the lights in the studio and they give off that final burst of juice before fading...that you can still see the flash of a Hello Kitty guitar and Richard Fordham giving you the thumbs up.

Enough of the campfire story. What's real was that at this point after two interviews and a much needed break in the day before The Pit showed up...well...I wasn't sure I was going to do this anymore after that second interview. I enjoyed it yes...but what was the overall POINT to what I was doing? What in the hell did I create?

I had apologized to Becky @ SBS - once The Pit got here I was convinced it was going to get LOUD, and that's not really her scene. We watched the video for "I Wanna Plant Bombs Everywhere" and though she enjoyed it, she was still fairly ready to sit the third shooting out. That all changed when we met Tyler & Trevor Hutton and Scott Lubchynski of The Pit. But then again, so did everything...

ThePit

The Pit - Live On Stage @ The Fairview Pub, Vancouver, BC, 2013 - Get in The Pit here!

All of a sudden I had what still remains to be the three nicest and most humble people this side of Dave Grohl. People with some BEARDAGE that I could relate to. Out of that moment in time, gave birth to their song "Closer (You NEVER go full babyface!)" in reference to Scott's bare chin at the time of the interview. And now, in recent times...CLOSER has become the name of the growing side-project of Tyler & Trevor with bandmates from ex-band Doc Holliday, Ryan Rutherford and Jake Cummins.

I mean...for a guy who's entire life goal is to exist between your liner-notes...it doesn't GET any better than that does it?

But during the course of that interview I learned just how much the independent scene did NOT have a voice that fully represented them, or gave them proper time of day. Here I am writing about an event that happened nearly a year ago now...talking about it AGAIN...still. And I realized a truth I had always known deep down...the good guys never get a break.

If you watch that interview with The Pit you'll see that moment where Tyler talks about not getting any real help out there during the course of their recording three EP's. They had this amazing video and song in "I Wanna Plant Bombs Everywhere" and still not nearly enough recognition to punch through to the spotlight. And for the second time that day...mind blown. These were the three most excellent people to meet and they hadn't had any help in making that incredible music.

They played their songs "Closer" and "Solar Powered Night Light" and rocked the walls out of the studio. Trevor, unknown to him, was using a faulty guitar from sleepingbag and still managed to make it work for 95% of the songs. Regardless of how the guitar held up - the performance was epic and completely made everything seem not only possible, but just flat out awesome when it all goes right.

I came out of that interview and began to draw up this insane plan to help the independent scene, what little I could, shouting from our corner of the internet. I'm proud to say that slowly but surely...it's working. My goal became to simply inspire creativity and encourage art...to connect as many of you together as I can in one unstoppable indie-music time capsule. We're all here, and in a million ways we're all in this together. Thank you for being here.

INDIE NEWS:

JOHN KEENAN - who we've met through review on this site for his album Imagination To The Nation, is sending us a completely new and yet-to-be released cut of his new DVD to review. This guy continues to be an absolute champion and a relentlessly hard worker. Absolutely love the passion John has for being a part of the music scene and with his songwriting skills and ability to write a hook - he's got every right to be in it.

AZTEC - Kyle Truelove's new project from one of our latest episodes of SBS Live This Week has just put out a free download of their latest track, "Feet Like Roots." Click it to get it!

SPACEPORT UNION - Hearing from lead singer Caroline is always an incredible treat. I'm quite happy to receive an e-mail or message from her at any time, she's an incredibly inspiring and genuine personality. And she has given the word that herself and her band of prog-rock specialists are refining tunes for that next recording session coming soon.

EXPAIN - Now THIS is awesome. They'll be sharing a stage with seriously not-famous-enough-though-he's-still-famous comedian Brian Posehn at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver this November. Check this link to find out details and GO TO THE SHOW!

Expain

Expain - Photo from their interview on SBS Live This Week - click here to see more!

SBS LIVE THIS WEEK UPDATE:

THIS DAY BURNS - They're back on the show up early this final week in October before we head into November to celebrate our first full year as a show! TDB was EPIC on that last interview and has drawn a lot of positive comments from you all out there regarding the new tracks we played on the last show. These guys are awesome and I can't wait to have them on again - coming very soon this week!

After that - we've got something special in the works before we take on upcoming interviews with BLACKOUT LIGHTS and FEY. We've seen both of these bands share a stage with our good friends in Closer and I can't wait to get them both here in the studio to immortalize their music within the SBS walls.

A year old already. I almost can't believe I survived it, alongside all of the written efforts here at sleepingbagstudios.ca, a tremendous amount of effort perhaps - but nothing I'd ever want to call "work." It has been, and will remain long into the years to come, an honor and a privilege to be with you on the frontline of the independent scene.

Long may you run.

- Jer @ SBS

 

October 15th, 2013 - Evoletah - We Ache For The Moon - Album Review

Evoletah
Evoletah – We Ache For The Moon – Album Review

I remember way back when I had first lived with my studio partner, Rob @ SBS, long ago before our studio ever existed and we were just tuning into the different talents for music that we possess.  It was one of those seemingly endless summers of youth; full of bright beautiful British Columbia colors, late nights and completely too much fun.  Completely identifiable as the year 2003…some things you just never forget…

I was in the most full-blown stage of my musical piracy that I would ever come to know.  I wasn’t just downloading a song or two at this time – I was downloading the ENTIRE internet.  It was back in that time where each of our internet providers promised an “unlimited service” – to which even to this day most people would believe to be true.  Then there’s me.

At that time – I had been downloading such a filthy amount that I had actually found the limitations of their “unlimited service.”  The providers would call the house and tell us that we were currently downloading at the rate of FIVE TIMES the average business, never mind a residential address.  All of those amazing songs and sounds we heard that summer remain firmly in our collections today, and for the most part Rob @ SBS was able to fend off their threats to shut down our internet service by asking them to hold for a moment while he would ask – “Hey Jer – are you almost done downloading the ENTIRE internet?”

To which I would assure him – “Yeah man, should only be another two weeks and I should have the entire thing.”  He’d get back on the phone and let them know it really wasn’t that far away until we had it all, and they just had to hang on a little longer.  There were so many new sounds that needed to be heard and absorbed – the process could NOT be interrupted.  We saw ourselves kicked off of one service only to join the next.  Only one thing was absolutely certain - we had to have it all.  And to this very day I still remain just two weeks away…

I’m bringing all of this up because in that time frame of listening to immense amount of music – it took a completely standout SONG and an unbelievable feel to the opening of an album to jump right into the line-up of already verified solid tunes we would be playing each day.  Many of you will know just how RARE it is to get that CHILL up and down your spine from hearing the opening notes of an album, and just how concretely that feeling will stay associated with the music over time.

EVOLETAH – the actual band supposedly being reviewed here today – brought me right back to the moment I heard “2+2=5” opening up the Radiohead album Hail To The Thief.  Looking at this page’s worth of pre-amble now…that’s a lot of build up just to get to this particular point and truly start the review on Evoletah’s new album We Ache For The Moon – but understand that a Radiohead comparison does not come easily for me…it’s a kind of musical hallowed ground and not something I want to throw around lightly.  But there it is, right here in print – this new band from Australia has created an album opening as incredibly haunting and chilling as pressing play was in 2003 listening to Hail To The Thief come on for the first time.  And my point?  I will just as easily remember where I was this week in my life while discovering the music of Evoletah, ten years down the road from now.

It also instantly invites the question for many of you; “If the comparison is to Radiohead – then what the HELL is there not to like?”  So I will respond pre-emptively by saying this; if you’re looking for negatives in this review you may as well click onto one of those other indie music sites for a review on something else entirely because you are not going to get that here today.  This album by Evoletah is nothing short of incredible.  In fact – that opening hit me SO HARD that I instantly jumped online to share some of these thoughts with the band the minute I had a chance to press play for the very first time.

Absolutely stunningly beautiful all the way through from moment one to the final ending of this nine-track album – the opening track “Halfway” puts all the elements and skill of Evoletah on the table within mere seconds.  The tone on the guitars throughout this track (And again, the ALBUM entirely) are pure gold.  Lead singer Matt Cahill asks the question “Will you meet me halfway?”  Let me answer by saying that if this is the quality of the music their making – I’ll go beyond the halfway point easily, in fact, I’m already THERE.

There are two other bands I’d like to include as sonic references for you that I believe echo much of the creativity in songwriting that Evoletah displays; a lesser known band called Paloalto and another that you might know already called Pink Floyd.  If you were to combine the production of Radiohead, the structure of Paloalto and the jazz-influence of the more artistic Pink Floyd songs – you’d get something very close to Evoletah.  And since merging those three bands is not likely to happen anytime soon – I’m EXTREMELY thankful to Evoletah for jumping in and filling this gap in the sonic universe.  Take the second track on this album called “Time” – this is literally the jazz version of “The Great Gig In The Sky” by Pink Floyd.  It has this incredible, smoke-filled lounge feel to it, with vocals coming from Katie Underwood this time in one of what becomes MANY beautiful and flawless performances on this album.

Really!  I’m in love with that voice.  She has the ability through her jazz-influenced background to really add herself in as another instrument and the contrast between her vocals with Cahill’s results in fragile sounds that evoke emotion, guaranteed.  Whether it’s the quiet, haunting desolation in a track like “The Eleventh Hour” or the dark & hopefulness of “Black & Blue” – these two complement each other fantastically and have really got themselves onto something spectacular here.  As far as I can see from their bio, Katie has been writing this album with Evoletah for this past year…but no word on her being a finalized part of this line-up that I can see…yet.  I can’t be the only one who can hear just how special this combination is and it would be my true hope that the collaboration continues into more albums in the future or becomes a permanent evolution in their sound.

You can also understand and hear just how well she fits into this band by listening to the track “Guillotine” – her voice along with the well-placed drums of Jason Eyers-White develop that audible tie-in…that moment in clarity where you can hear how well she fits in not just with Cahill – but with them all.  The addition of strings and saxophone take this track into new musical territory on the album, again highlighting their creativity and their immaculate songwriting together.

Now – as wonderful as she is – it would be extremely far-fetched to say that they don’t crack the musical bat just as hard without her prominently on a song.  A song written as strongly as “The Forgetting” is something a band can work at for years and years, come close and still NEVER achieve – but Evoletah displays through this song ANOTHER side to their music, one with lighter pop overtones that works unbelievably well.  Leading into “Everyone Waits For Nothing,” – a lyrical masterpiece and bone-chilling, sparse track that really highlights their clarity in sound and the true art of perfecting a track. 

Did I mention that was track number EIGHT on the album?  With only nine songs on We Ache For The Moon – there is NOWHERE for Evoletah to hide themselves.  They’ve made an album with such an unbelievable amount of consistency and depth that there is no need to bury anything in the mix – it’s all on display; each song is like a welcoming invitation to listen to the next.

The guitars of Andrew Boyce and bass from Michael Shanahan work together as a team solidly throughout this album and are once again put on crystal-clear display in the final track.  “Thirteen Moons” is such a perfect ending to this perfect album and nearly ventures into the sonic territory of post-rock bands like Explosions In The Sky, and much like that band – Evoletah continues to express the emotion through the music of the band and in complete harmony with the rest of their album but this time without singing a single word. 

There is nearly nothing I like better then when I absolutely KNOW I’m at the end of an album.  A consistent and well laid-out album is just like the experience of listening to an amazing speech – you want to KNOW when that speech is over; you want that finality in the statement.  If you’ve ever seen a speech where the speaker has no clear ending and the whole thing kind of just, well, ENDS – it can nearly drain the life out of much of what had been said previously – and the same can work for an album easily.  This is where we all get divided into the “album” listeners and those who listen for the “songs” they like.  I can happily straddle the fence between these for sure – but it is simply undeniable to me or to ANYONE when you listen to an ALBUM with an overall idea and not simply a set of new songs.

We Ache For The Moon is consistency at its finest hour; my words cannot possibly recommend this music to you all strongly enough.  This is music as art through and through; satisfying in every one of its elements…an album that after listening simply makes you feel like you’re a better person than you were before you heard it.

  • Jer @ SBS

Definitely go and check out anything you can by Evoletah!  Check out these links!

Official Homepage:  http://www.evoletah.com/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/EVOLETAH.Official
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/EVOLETAHBAND/
YouTube:  http://www.youtube.com/user/evoletahaustralia

 

October 12th, 2013 - Unified Giants - Rise - Album Review

UnifiedGiants
Unified Giants – Rise – Album Review

Heads up rap & hip-hop fans – this one’s for you!  In review today we have the new album from a crew from the USA; Unified Giants are on my playlist this morning with their new album – Rise.  When you check into this crew, it mentions right on their Facebook page that they “make hip-hop music for a specific group of people with specific taste about the rap music they consume;” there’s no questioning their specifics as I continue to read about them and listen to the new album – they’re not just from Long Beach, CA – they’re from NORTH Long Beach, CA - don’t forget it!

And it IS specific, as an album and style of music; this is hip-hop designed to bring out the gangsta in you.  Many of you that have seen our show SBS Live This Week, or read interviews with other hip-hop artists know I’ve asked many times…rap CAN’T be all about bitches, money and guns can it?  As the beginning tracks like “Til They Fall” and the title track “Rise” play through…it appears that maybe, just maybe it COULD be all about these three subjects!

I remember when the movie 8-Mile came out.  A proud music pirate well before the release of that soundtrack – the moment it came out I downloaded it straight away.  As it turned out – I didn’t actually RECEIVE the 8-Mile soundtrack on that first attempt…instead, I found I got myself a copy of some tracks by an indie rapper who went by the name of “Dirty-Dave” with an un-named crew to back him up.  I mention this, because much of this reminds me of that and someone out there in the rap game will understand the reference to the flow.  Like Dirty-Dave – Unified Giants display a definite skill in their ability to put together lyrics into entertaining and cohesive stories even though they tend to tread on subjects that have become common themes within the rap universe.  Like they said – straight up, it’s not music for everyone – it’s music for a specific group!

In terms of beats and samples – the minimalist approach is the hot idea of the year 2013 no matter what the genre.  Unified Giants have answered the call and put together straight ahead bass-heavy beats to rhyme over.  Minimalism is by no means a bad thing, but it CAN be a tricky thing to pull off WELL.  This crew from down south makes good use of the space in each track and execute it well, but tread the dangerous line of having tracks sound a little too much like each other in terms of tempo, beat and flow-style.  Like the case of the tracks “Let Live” and “Beautiful Life” – both solid tracks in their own respect, but back-to-back nearly make them feel like they’re together in one grandiose track. 

On the flipside there are some truly creative sounds and wicked samples used throughout this album.  In a local reference for those in my own hometown – Swollen Members come to mind.  When you listen to tracks like “Welcome-Here,” “The Business” or even “Outro” – you can hear easily that though they might reach for minimalist beats – they’re still looking for unique combinations of sounds to create their flows over.  The beats are often darker in nature, but not aggressively in your face; this is music to take out in your low-ridin, tinted-window pimp-mobiles…ridin’ dirty of course…  “Payin-Bills” is another great example of how a simple addition can make a track stand-out from the rest; the incorporation of horns into this track make this a track with a completely unique flavor and pulse – ridiculously fantastic track to rhyme over!

In delivering that flow, the other major influence I can hear in the delivery is that of the legendary Sen-Dog of Cypress Hill.  Many of the rhymes spit over top of these beats draw on that familiar and menacing style of one of rap music’s most iconic – not much to complain about when that’s the company you’re keeping on a peer-level!  And even your parents don’t need to worry about not being able to make out the lyrics; they might not like what they have to say but each line is delivered precisely and on-point, clear and with energy, moods and themes to match the track.

I found an interesting dynamic that exists between the personalities and the music however.  Much of the time, they’re shouting “world-wide” within the track somewhere – which I almost found odd, given their pre-determined course of making music for a specific group.  But let’s face it – there ARE huge fans of this style of music locally around you now and certainly across the globe.  More than likely they understand that no musical act out there reaches every household – but that shouldn’t stop them from finding enough fans out there from each city and country to dominate the entire map.

I’m no different than the next homeless-looking bearded guy in my neighborhood – every once in a while even we have to take our inner-thug for a test drive.  Unified Giants’ goal of going “world-wide” wasn’t meant to happen by blazing city to city without being able to take it all in, no; if this is the music they’ve made for the soundtrack to that journey across the globe – they’re going to get there cruisin’ with bass-beats pounding so hard that they’ll let you know they’re on their way to your hometown a whole city in advance of their arrival.

  • Jer @ SBS

Check out what else Unified Giants are up to and support them at their Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/UnifiedGiants

October 6th, 2013 - Leadsucker - Burn - Album Review

Leadsucker

Leadsucker – Burn – Album Review

I have to admit – it’s not every day that I’ll find an album with THIRTY songs on it that spans a total length less than any of the TEN-song Weezer albums out there, but that’s exactly what you’re in for here today in this review of the new album called Burn by hardcore punk band Leadsucker.  I’ll also admit that there have been many times where I THOUGHT I was listening to hardcore punk, but after listening to Leadsucker I’ve decided to redefine the parameters of that particular category.  THIS is as hardcore as it gets ladies and gentlemen; Burn is an album that EXPLODES straight out of the gate – and it never stops for a single second from there.  If you are looking for the next industry-fabricated super-ballad, well, you’re certainly in the wrong place today!

There are many completely fascinating elements at work on this album.  I think for myself – the one that peaked my curiosity more than the rest was the sharp contrast between the amount of knowledge displayed through the lyrics and the amazingly short track lengths.  I know, I know – I’m WEIRD.  I GET IT.  But follow me down this rabbit-hole for a second…

Leadsucker has made an album that has multiple facets and layers.  What could be instantly dismissed as music for the A.D.D. – is much more than you might think at first.  The songs are completely frantic, chaotic and PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE as hard as any song ever could.  But within all of these elements lie the puzzle of Leadsucker itself.  You could easily move-on from one song to the next – but the point of this album and the way that it is made is to hear SOMETHING that makes you go back and ask more questions about what you’re listening to.  This is not surface level music, even in the slightest.

Now – you all know what a giant fan of melody I am, and of bands like R.E.M. and The Cure; to claim that this album is in my musical wheelhouse would be nothing short of an extreme lie.  As I had said before, I once THOUGHT I had heard hardcore punk…but now…now I KNOW what it is, all thanks being to Leadsucker.

So what’s in it for me?  I like a challenge.  I like mystery.  I like bands with something to SAY and something to PROVE.  For as in-your-face as the music can be – there’s actually so much going on that I couldn’t help but to listen to the album in complete entirety at first and then believe it or not – I went straight back multiple times to listen to what each and every element of this band is doing.  The drumming is played with tremendous skill & genuine feel and the guitars and bass just totally feed and shred off that energy, creating songs that sound like the stereo you’re listening to it on might implode the minute the last song ends.  You can hear something like this and recall the mighty Lee Ving of the band Fear – known to many of the younger generation as the OTHER crazy maniac in Dave Grohl’s Sound City movie aside from Dave himself.

But what’s that you SAY? 

While specifically throwing you songs that rip by within literal seconds (No joke – only FOUR of the thirty songs are one-minute or longer…but never even close to two minutes!) the lyrics demand extra attention.  Burn is actually as political of an album as you can get with lyrics that don’t waste the meaning of a single word.

But for real – what’s that you SAY?

The words themselves would be hard to make out for most and here we find an element of exclusivity – you’d be missing much of the point of Leadsucker’s music if you couldn’t get past all the distortion and frantic delivery of the vocals.  But if you can – there’s a whole slew of information, passion and delivery in these words – don’t let titles like “The Color Of Justice Is White” throw you off like it did for myself upon reading the title for the first time (Read my blog post, Sept. 22nd!) – there’s no overtones of brutal hatred on this album so much as there is a desperation for change and social equality.

While the overall music that Leadsucker has put together for Burn might not be made for the masses – it IS made for those that want