Category Archives: Music Review

Music Round-Up: K.P. Wolfe’s ‘Exodus’, Michael Van & The Movers’ ‘A Little More Country’, Thorin Loeks’ ‘Thirsty Hearts’, April Martin’s ‘In the Blink of a Life’, and Dylan Tauber’s ‘Dolphin Trance 2’

K.P. Wolfe’s ‘Exodus’ EP

The main attention-grabbing element in K.P. Wolfe’s debut seven-track EP, Exodus, is her voice.  Her vocal range is wide and embodies a lot of attitude, firmly setting the tone throughout the entire set of attention-grabbing and catchy tracks.  While they do at times sound familiar, Wolfe’s special attention to writing thoughtful lyrics sets her apart—in a good way.

The pop rock title track is aggressive and passionate, with guttural vocals and a relentless beat.  The repetitive call to move on and the seeming push forward by the guitars and drums give it an anthemic quality.  Combined with Wolfe’s theater experience, a live performance of this song could be potentially unforgettable.

The slower “Icarus” delves deeper into the pop genre.  Here we see another side of Wolfe: her attitude towards life, for one, is not just one of angry sass; she is also hopeful, sunny, and almost sweet.  For another, her vocal range spreads out even more.  The throbbing “Louder” brings together elements from the first and second numbers on her EP: an aggressive front with a sweet, hopeful layer underneath.  The plucked electric guitar in the pop rock “Puppeteer” comes across as auditory metaphor for the being strung along, in one of two numbers that could pass off as an early Lady Gaga offering.  The second one, “Take Back The Ring”, is a lot slower and more intense, with the emotional range Wolfe’s vocals can touch upon on full display: hope, pain, despair, and even touches of joy.  Youthful angst is combined with a mature look towards the future, with tracks hopefully soon available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information can be found on the artist’s Facebook page.

Michael Van & The Movers’ ‘A Little More Country’

It’s well worth starting this part of the round-up with Michael Van’s rather tongue-in-cheek statement that cowboy boots hurt his feet.  Oh, and that he’s from the San Francisco Bay Area, a place that isn’t usually associated with country music.  How even more ironic is it, then, that, in so many ways, his album is so country that it can’t be in any way misfiled.  All 13 tracks on the December 2016 release, titled A Little More Country, are soothing and smooth, be they a slower ballad or a quick-paced festive number.  There is a richness in composition, lyricism, and delivery and yet, there is a certain straightforwardness that could be taken for a reflection of the simple things in life that Van wanted to explore in this work.  It might seem at first contradictory, to be searching for the richness in the simple things in life, or, for that matter, to create simple songs that embodies this richness.  But after a little thought (and a lot of slowing down), it becomes somewhat self-evident that each moment in one’s life is filled more than we could ever imagine.

Van explores the richness in the simple things in life, which can come across initially as a contradiction but only after a little thought, one realises how true it is. Fans of traditional country music will love this album.  It’s all about the good, old-fashioned, and well-know country “formula” that is well used and well performed.  From smooth numbers such as the title track to the fun, toe-tapping ones such as “Skeddadle Mountain Lullaby”, Michael Van and the Movers guide listeners expertly through a kaleidoscope of emotions and feelings.  Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the band’s Facebook page.

Thorin Loeks’ ‘Thirsty Hearts’

Canadian indie folk artist Thorin Loeks released in May 2016 his debut album, Thirsty Hearts, which brings together eight tracks inspired by years of struggles and growing pains.  Pensive, meditative, and ultimately uplifting, Loeks delves into various aspects of the human experience with the purpose of developing a greater understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world

The title—and opening—track sets the tone for the rest of the set.  Wistful and hopeful, it combines the delicate plucking of an acoustic guitar with a uptempo beat, accompanied by warm vocals that seem to embody that wise, loving friend everyone wishes they had (and some are lucky enough to actually have).  “For Love” is a slow and soulful, piano-driven ballad in which Loeks shares some of the higher notes in his register.  It is a heartfelt call for people to reach across the divide to create unity, a message that is quite à propos now more than ever.  Loeks also shares how such a thing could happen in “Bare Bones”, a brisk and to the point call for authenticity which can be achieved by stripping yourself to the bare bone to feel what’s real.

Listeners searching for thoughtful, insightful, and inspiring tracks should take a listen at Loeks’, available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the artist’s website.

April Martin’s ‘In the Blink of a Life’

Listeners thirsty for even more thoughtful, insightful, and inspiring tracks can give New York City’s April Martin’s In the Blink of a Life a try.  Released in December 2016, the folk-inspired album was put together by a woman holding a Ph.D. in clinical psychology who is maintaining a successful practice.  After the success of her first album, 2010’s Pennies in a Jar, Martin decided to continue her exploration of the human condition, sharing her thoughts and insights through honesty, humor, and gentleness.

Most of the tracks are built on softly played instruments and vocal harmonies.  Martin begins in a way by setting the tone, melodically, lyrically, vocally, and, most importantly, conceptually in the opening number.  “One Breath” sounds like the most cheerful and happy meditation session ever.  “Heart Break Doesn’t Come” is a refreshing love song based on the reality of love, in all its glorious imperfection, rather than the maudlin and romanticized one that is usually the focus of so many songs.  The harmonies are particularly attention-grabbing in “My Rock and My Rain” another number with a refreshing take on love.

The focus of the emotional “Looking Back” is on the life of a friend, with Martin’s vocals and the guitar work wrapping around each other beautifully.  The ballad “Everyday I Love You More” is another retrospective but this one on the singers’ own relationship which, although she couldn’t have known at the time, went from its humble beginnings to a beautiful, strong, and still growing relationship.

Knowing that Martin is a psychologist gives the album another unique layer of meaning—as if her perspectives on life, shared here in a non-threatening manner, as a type of therapy on their own.  Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the artist’s website and Facebook page.

Dylan Tauber’s ‘Dolphin Trance 2’

Israel’s Dylan Tauber is back with the release, in September 2016, of Dolphin Trance 2, the DJ’s tenth album to date.  On the one hand, it does come off a lot like its predecessor, 2015’s Dolphin Trance.  On the other hand, there is a lot that clearly was left unexplored in the first volume of Tauber’s dolphin series, to the point that one cannot help but wonder if there is potentially a third volume that could come out in 2017.

While overall the album can be filed under electronica, there are a lot of dance, ambient, chill, and trance influences throughout.  The pace is perfect, grabbing listeners just before their attention wanes by an expertly applied uptick or downturn.  Guest vocalist Enlia adds further smoothness and depth to the listening experience provided, with Tauber’s confident guidance.  There are so many uses to this album—the soundtrack to a summer party, an auditory backsplash to a fun get-together, or the backdrop of a quiet, introspective afternoon at home.

Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the artist’s website and Facebook page.

Music Round-Up: Danophone’s ‘Rerun’, Dino Jag’s ‘Breakthrough’, Joan Torres’ All Is Fused’s ‘Of The Musical’, Gert Taberner’s ‘Fallen’, and Coral Creek’s Self-Titled Album

Danophone’s ‘Rerun’

When a science journalist takes on a musical project, one doesn’t quite know what to expect.  Will said science journalist apply the same approach to his music as he does his work, or will he go in a completely new direction?  Danish Carsten Nielsen seems to have chosen the latter approach, exploring through his music a world complementary to that of his day job.  “Rerun” is all about the darker side of the emotional ride that is life; however, Nielsen never dips into depths from which one cannot return.  Rather, each of the numbers retains enough joy and hope to be considered as part of a soundtrack for the “hopeful-realist”, someone skillfully straddling the line between reality and utopia.  This is the kind of music to indulge in on a bad day–music that will embrace our dark cloud only to dispel it, one note at a time.  Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the artist’s website and Facebook page.

Dino Jag’s ‘Breakthrough’

With vocals that embrace something of both Adam Levine and Chris Martin, Australian Dino Jag ‘s six-track EP “Breakthrough” is brimming with energy, even on the slower and darker tracks.  Energizing pop rock fun from beginning to end, “Breakthrough”‘s only disappointment is in its length; the five tracks seem like a tease that whet one’s appetite for more.  The pop-laden “Two Young Hearts” is filled with optimism and very radio-friendly, potentially the most so after the rockier “You Make Me Feel So Good”.  Jag has fun experimenting within the pop rock genre with “Nothing But You”, while his vocals are particularly showcased in the title track.  Australia’s summer energy is something we just might need up here during another harsh northern winter.  Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud.  More information is available on the artist’s website and Facebook page.

Joan Torres’ All Is Fused’s ‘Of The Musical’

Eight tracks of almost experimental jazz goodness make up Joan Torres’ All Is Fused’s “Of The Musical”, Joan Torres’ latest release.  While the building blocks of good old jazz numbers abound, and solidly so, there are a lot of tweaks and turns that keep listeners engaged and on their toes.  Each of the numbers in the set is to be listened to as a number in a musical, and are separated in two acts.  Ups and downs are included, such as the rich and upbeat “Invaded”, the bass heavy “Demiurge”, and the deft keyboards leading “Explore”.  These contrast with the melancholic imagery of “Ultramarine”, and the eight-minute long languidly dark “Stream of Melancholy”.  Just like with some stories, the beginning of the album can sound at times a little halting and confusing, only for it to come all together in a satisfying ending that makes a whole lot of sense—even if you don’t agree with it.  Tracks are available for streaming on Bandcamp.  More information is available on Joan Torres’ website and Facebook page.

Gert Taberner’s ‘Fallen’

Having grown up in Germany before moving, after finishing school, to Vancouver, British Colombia, Gert Taberner is yet another hope-driven artist whose bright view of the world and its future is embedded at the core of most of his songs, even the darker ones.  The now New York-based artist melds folk, rock, and pop in his EP titled “Fallen”.  The combination of his soothing vocals, soothing melodies, and poetic lyrics makes for a potent elixir that evokes many an emotion.  The title track is gentle, builds up to a satisfying climax before ending with a lingering aftertaste.  Tarberner’s vocals, although enjoyable throughout, are best appreciated in “Places” which is also where his fun side is the most evident in its funk-flavoured fun.  Tracks are available for streaming on Bandcamp.  More information is available on the artist’s Facebook page.

Coral Creek’s Self-Titled Album

A different kind of fun inspired Coral Creek’s 10-track long self-titled album.  Feet will and heads will bob, without the listener even being aware of it.  That’s just how infectious this band is, creatively mashing its main Americana base with bluegrass, Cajun, country, folk, and rock, all of this come seamlessly together.  Rather than diluting its main genre, however, it adds a meaningful depth to it: Americans are, after all, a diverse group of people that have come together in one great nation.  A broad breath of inspiration was also blown into this releases’ lyrics, that tell quite the selection of stories that seem all relatable in some way or form.  The warmth and emotion behind every story is carried extremely well by Chris Thompson (guitar, vocals), Bill McKay (keyboard, vocals), Luke Bulla (fiddle, vocals), and Nathan Peoples (saxophone, vocals), not to take away though from Rob Garland (bass) and Jack Watson’s (drums) great work.  It is easy to feel despair when watching the news, but things will look far better just a few, energetic notes into this album.  Tracks are available for streaming on Bandcamp.  More information is available on the band’s website and Facebook page.

Music Review: Midwest Soul Xchange – ‘New American Century’

Midwest Soul XChange 'New American Century'Wisconsin and Arizona based Ryan Summers and Nate Cherrier’s band, Midwest Soul Xchange, have released their latest album, New American Century. Although we can file the album under Americana, there are a couple of notable strong influences in the mix that will make listeners pay attention in order to decipher. The two bandmates took care of everything on this album: both members contributed vocals and guitars. On top of that Ryan Summers took care of piano, synthesizers, mandolin, lap steel, and the accordion, while Nate Cherrier took care of percussion, bass guitar, and harmonica.

Many of the songs have a laid-back, Americana and folk rock feel. The album opens up with “Set A Course For Common Worlds”, a track built on guitars, an accordion, various percussive instruments including drums, and a harmonica that meld together in a melody from which harmonies emerge left and right. The entire thing has a very 1970s hippie vibe to it. The sparsely built “Roots”—vocals, percussion, harmonica, and guitars—attempts to be an inspiring track using the power of nature to demonstrate what perseverance and strength can build with a warning on the direness of the future if we do not care for what we have. It’s a track one can easily imagine being sung around a campfire.

Social consciousness comes through in some tracks such as “Revolt of the Guards”. The drum-driven track gives the impression of being at war, a war the band seems to indicate is being waged by greed, hoping to conquer all in its path. The organ-like keyboards give the track a very moody and almost eerie feel. Human consciousness is reflected in “She Flies” and “The Return” both calm, almost soothing tracks that seem to be reflections on our mortality more than anything else.

Some of the tracks have a more progressive rock feel to them such as “Truth Attention”, which alternates between almost-relaxed and hazy to choppy and aggressive. The sound works well in the almost-political, drum-driven “Occupy the Piper”, with harmonies reflecting the inequality between classes that the lyrics discuss.

The band also melds together different sounds such as in “Sun Dried”, where Americana comes together with psychedelic rock and, somehow, a grunge-like feel. It’s a weird mix that captures the listener’s attention. Had 1960s rock or pop rock bands infused their numbers with Americana flavors, they might have sounded a little bit like the tongue-in-cheek “Has Anybody Seen Bob?”

The band allows for unconventional instruments to take the lead on some of their tracks, giving them a unique feel and helping them stand out amongst the albums’ eleven tracks. “Kings Among Kings” for example is accordion-driven, with vocals dragging the same way the notes on the instruments do. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about the band is available on Facebook and on their official website.

Pictures provided by Independent Music Promotions.
First published on Blogcritics.

Music Review: Billy Crain – ‘Family Matters’

Old-school can swing both ways, either stagnating in the stifling melancholy of the past or blossoming thanks to experience. Nashville’s Billy Crain’s latest effort, Family Matters, seems to be a little bit of both. In its 10 tracks (released last September), listeners and lovers of classic rock are bound to find something that they will like.

Although the album can be filed under “classic rock”, there is still quite a selection of styles to choose from. Most of the tracks come off as lighthearted and almost cheerful, even if they have the most dire of names or are about the most dire of topics. The first track for example is anything but dark. Rather, “Dark Horse” is an upbeat and almost-cheerful country rock track one can easily imagine a big crowd singing along to at a concert. A woman is at the centre of yet another upbeat and almost-cheerful track, the follow-up titled “True Beauty”, although one would have expected a sad and forlorn or passionate and rhythmic track. Similarly, the almost-anthemic “Glory (Jim’s Song)” has a bit of a grandiose element to it—mostly due to the fiddle in the opening sequence—making it quite apt as a tribute to a close friend who died of cancer. Despite the unpleasantness of the topic at hand, Crain manages to pull off a relatively uplifting and cheerful number.

There are little touches here and there that give some of the tracks a unique feel. A bagpipe-like instrument (or it is actually bagpipes?) both opens and closes “Lucky Penny”, a mid-tempo alternative rocker that wants itself to be cheerful and uplifting just like the piano-driven “Family Matters”. The latter has a bit of a 1980s feel to it, what with the electronic elements added to it. One can feel the love Billy Crain has for his family in this track. The 1980s are also present in the up-tempo piano- and drum-driven “Road Warriors” which, more than the other tracks on the album, is centered on a story rather than a concept.

A pleasant listen, Family Matters does come off at times as an album by an optimist for an optimist, something that in this world we seem to need more of. Tracks are available on Billy Crain’s YouTube channel. More information is available on his official website and on his Facebook page.

Pictures provided by Independent Music Promotions.
First published on Blogcritics.

Music Review: Opium Denn – ‘Demarkation’

Opium Denn 'Demarkation'Demarkation, Opium Denn’s debut (released October 23) is a concept album clocking in at a little over half an hour that is meant to “invoke the deepest parts of the soul.” Reminiscent at times of Pink Floyd, at others of Blue Oyster Cult, and at times bringing to mind Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity” and Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”, the psychedelic progressive rock creates a framework within which the artist can explore “the multiple personalities contained within a single person” that he says he is.

The first track is the first of three versions of “I Am a Feeling”. It’s first iteration starts off with a slow drum-led build that goes from slow and intense to big and soaring. Vocals only hit around the three quarter mark. The piano that delicately pecks in the first installment takes centre stage in the second, slower one which is much shorter and features vocals much more prominently. The third installment features the fullest sound of the three, almost sounding like the two previous versions have been put together. I’m guessing that this is an attempt to make us think about how the same thing can sound both similar and yet different depending on what you focus on when you listen to it, much like a person can seem a certain way when we focus on a particular layer of their personality rather than taking in all the layers at the same time.

The blues-tinged, piano-led “Leaf” combines progressive rock with jazz-like influences. An electric guitar adds a little touch here and there. The upbeat, drum-led “So Many Faces”, which goes a little into alternative rock territory from the late 1980s, also features such touches. In the instrumental, drum-led “A Drone” guitars take center-stage albeit with a twang and some attitude. “Eyes to the Sky” features a marked increase in just about everything, from tempo to attitude. It’s the most straightforward rock track on the album after “Demarkation”. The title track is built on an electronic guitar-led melody that is at times intense and at others almost gentle. “Masks and Uniforms” brings things back down to create a spacy, languid sonic environment the various twists, turns, and embellishments of which will capture listeners’ attention.

Demarkation makes for a familiar yet interesting listen. I’m not sure if I just don’t get the concept Opum Denn was going for or it there is much more fuss being made than it deserves; either way, it makes for a good listen based on strong production values. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. While videos are available on YouTube. More information about the band is available on their Facebook page.

Pictures provided by Independent Music Promotions.
First published on Blogcritics.

Music Review: Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders – ‘Go By Myself’

Australia’s Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders released this month the 11-track Go By Myself, their latest album which blends country, rock, Americana, folk, and blues. Roberts (vocals, guitars), Alex Quinn (guitar, bass), Ed Glass (drums), and Billy Anderson (piano) have written songs about the daily struggle to survive, be it because of the breakdown of family to the hardships of a soul-breaking modern life.

While country does seem to define many—if not all—of the tracks on this album, it is well worth noting the little details that add to the experience, as well as the detours the band takes here and there. For example, there are a couple of things that hit listeners when “Beat Down and Broken” begins, the main one being how discretely dissonant the track is, which makes a statement in itself.

The mid-tempo, drum-driven track features a layer of heavy guitars that add a sense of weight to track, yet another nod to its theme. In contrast, there is a certain cheerful optimism in “Hard Times”, which makes one wonder how seriously we should take the warning that “hard times/are coming”.

Uptempo electric guitars drive the right kind of attitude that goes behind asking the question, “Who Do You Think You Are,” while the nasal vocals in the piano-driven ballad-like “Kayla” are hard to shrug off; the melody though is well composed. The horns in the mid-tempo, drum-driven “Driving” give it a strong blues flavour but “Seen It All Before” is a little hard to place. While there are definitely country vibes to it, there are also hints of keyboard-centered 1980s pop rock that makes it quite the smooth track.

Eerie, yet universal, Go By Myself is bound to make listeners question the way they live this supposed “modern” life. Tracks and videos are available on YouTube; more information about the band is available on their official website.

Pictures provided by Independent Music Promotions.
First published on Blogcritics.

Music Review: Cashavelly Morrison – ‘The Kingdom Belongs to a Child’

'The Kingdom Belongs to a Child' Cashavelly MorrisonCashavelly Morrison’s debut album, The Kingdom Belongs to a Child, is a collection of songs exploring the deeper side of the human experience. The journey she takes listeners on was born out of Morrison’s own painful experiences, which lend each track a level of authenticity that captures from the very first moments of the album. That Morrison channels her pain in the most constructive of ways—speaking up not only on behalf of those who suffered as she did, but also in the name of those suffering the consequence of social injustices such as police brutality and mining accidents—would already be inspiring in itself even if the resulting album wasn’t as beautiful as this one. Such acceptance of grief no doubt was quite empowering to the singer-songwriter and can help listeners deal with their own personal tests.

The sounds on The Kingdom Belongs to a Child, while mostly steeped in Americana, hold hints of folk and world music. The opener, “Long-Haired Mare,” does well to introduce the way Morrison melds Americana with hints of folk to her delicate yet rich voice. Just like with the following track, “Emory,” there is a hint of country that cannot be denied. The banjo-led “Emory” creates an interesting contrast between the somewhat subdued and raw vocals and the almost cheerful melody.

The song inspired by Morrison’s miscarriage, “May 5th”, starts with the honest and somewhat chilling lyrics: “You grew/Inside/You grew/A short time/Made a womb/Your tomb.” Each layer of this mid-tempo track is sparse, making the lyrics come through even more sharply, almost naked in their grief. “Pink Dress” and “Long-Haired Mare” deal with gender inequality in its most extreme forms. In the latter, a woman trying to protect her daughter from abuse is punished for it. The former explores society’s oppressive definitions of a woman’s worth. The acoustic guitars and Morrison’s voice seem to be dancing in “Made of Sand,” as do the subdued male vocals that join Morrison’s in “Breakwater.” The first couple is engaged in a waltz of sorts, whereas the second couple are teasing one another across the dance floor.

There is a sweetness that pierces through the melancholy throughout the entire album that makes the title quite appropriate and the lessons it contains all the more powerful. Information and updates about Cashavelly Morrison is available on her official website, her Facebook page, and through her Twitter account.

Pictures provided by Working Brilliantly.
First published on Blogcritics.

Music Review: Jordan Okrend – ‘World Keeps Turnin’

'World Keeps Turnin' Jorden OkrendThe latest offering of New York City-based Jordan Okrend is a six-track EP titled World Keeps Turnin’, a collection of comforting and uplifting songs that seem to be a form of therapy, be it for the singer-songwriter or for the listener. While the overall genre is deemed to be pop, there are soul, blues, jazz, folk, and rock elements peppered throughout. Okrend also puts efforts into developing lyrics that go beyond typical pop fare, even going into the socially conscious sphere of things.

The comparison to John Mayer and Ed Sheeran comes to mind as soon as the first notes of the EP’s title track play. “World Keeps Turnin” starts with an almost minute long acoustic introduction featuring a guitar and Okrend’s vocals; the comparison is reinforced when the piano, drums, extra guitars, and backing vocals kick in. The upbeat pop number has a certain bluesy feel to it reinforced by the guitar solo at the two third mark. The blues factor also clearly makes its mark in the more restrained, down-tempo “Never Alone With You”.

That is not to say that Okrend is all wide-open fields, balloons, and puppies; a certain raw, in-your-face attitude (blunted by the sweetness of the main vocals) comes through in “Too Much To Love”. There are hints of musical sophistication embedded in the tracks. In the mid-tempo, folksy “Keep Coming To You” there is some great guitar work—one can imagine fingers flying over the chords of a guitar in the quick succession of notes that becomes one of its defining touches. There is a certain patient acceptance of the fact that no wonder what he does, Okrend always finds himself coming back to the object of this song.

There is a warmth to all the songs, even those that broach more serious topics. “Go My Way” could have been such a dark and depressing track, as it touches on how tough things usually are in the challenging world of today. And yet, although admitting to all the difficulties that surrounding us, the ultimate message in this groovy, potentially anthemic number is that something is bound to go our way.

Okrend might not be bringing anything particularly cutting edge to the music buffet, but what he does bring is well executed. He also makes available to those looking for hope in dark times a bright ray of light of which one can really never have enough. The talent is clear in the acoustic version of “World Keeps Turnin’,” which has the potential to become a fan favorite. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about Jordan Okrend is available on both his Facebook page and his official website.

Pictures provided by Working Brilliantly.
First published on Blogcritics.

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Music Review: Idiot Grins – ‘Big Man’

A band name usually evokes something about the nature of the music it produces; in the case of Idiot Grins, one can imagine a set of songs that makes listeners grin like idiots at the sheer pleasure of listening to them.

Although it’s not certain that this is what Oakland, California-based Idiot Grins had in mind, this is the first thought that comes to mind when learning of their name. And while at times, members Michael Conner (keyboards), Evan Eustis (bass), John Hansen (vocals), Michael Melgoza (drums), and Randy Strauss (guitar) seem to have accomplished synergy between the name of their band and the music in their latest album—titled Big Man—no signature sound comes through. This means that listeners with very different tastes might find something they love in its 11 tracks.

Another name that deceives a little is “Paso Robles”; it could be named after a city in California. Or, if my friend’s Spanish is to be trusted, it might also be named after its meaning, which is “I pass oak trees”. Whichever it may be, the number sounds like nothing that either of these meanings would evoke. Rather, it’s a country tune featuring a simple guitar and drum-led melody around which twirl a piano and extra guitars.

The most unique thing about Idiot Grins’ work is how they use horns throughout their new album, released earlier this year. They go from leading songs like “How to Get to (Baltimore)” to subtle background details such as in “All Alone”.

Another interesting thing the band has done is to fit in horns in completely different-sounding numbers. In the playful rock-inspired “Poppy Piss”, the horns seem to have taken the place of the guitars one normally associated with the genre.

The up-tempo horn-led “Stack This” is all about creating a dynamic, cheerful, toe-tapping-worthy framework for a piece of art that doesn’t quite shine through, as the vocals are for the most part almost drowned out of the track. In the slow, guitar and drum-led “All Alone”, discrete horns lend gentle support to a simple melody. The song is about saying no to having an affair with one’s best friend’s brother’s wife, an act that deserves applause and pride but that instead is met with a self-deprecating and depressing thought that the protagonist only deserves to live a life alone.

Some of the most impressive horn work in the album comes into play in the soulful, energetic, mid-tempo “Hot to Get to (Baltimore)”. The song is in fact completely supported by horns, and given an extra je ne sais quoi with the help of more of them, especially with the horn solo around the two-thirds mark. It does, however, sound like the vocals have trouble keeping up, but in this case, it adds to the track instead of taking from it. The vocals in “Big Man” seem at times a little strained, perhaps as a reflection of the topic at hand. The piano-led slow tempo melody is again supported with gently placed and played horns.

In Big Man, Idiot Grins have put together tracks that span a variety of styles and genres. Some are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about the band is available on both their official website and their Facebook page.

Pictures provided by Independent Music Promotions.
First published on Blogcritics.

Music Review: Mleo – ‘Sunken City’

MleoAlternative Rock band Mleo, hailing from Los Angeles, released in the summer of 2014 an album called Sunken City. The 11-track offering put together by Audrey Reed (vocals), Victor San Pedro (guitar), Nick De La O (bass), and Elias Vasquez (drums) contains hints of funk, hip hop, indie rock, indie pop, jazz, punk rock, and R&B, a wide-ranging palette of influences the band manages really well. Sunken City often sounds like a collaboration between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and No Doubt in their earlier years.

From slow tempo and more emotional tracks such as “Paralyzed” and “Change Your Mind” to high energy ones such as “Bury Me There” and “Normal Guy”, all contributions to the album demonstrate each members’ skills, be it in songwriting, instrumentation, or vocals. Tracks like the energetic “Round Two (If You Feel It)” make each of these elements shine. From the first notes, played on the electric guitar, the energy is high and every member keeps up with it. The instrumentation is detailed and well-performed, while Reed’s lead vocals slide up and down quite an impressive range of emotions and rhythms. This seems particularly apparent in the mid-tempo “Hemlock Smile” each layer of which is sparser than in other tracks giving auditory space to listeners to really appreciate the contribution of each band member. These same elements make of slower tracks on the album, such as “How I Feel,” quite magnetic.

Mleo’s sounds will capture many a listener’s attention, while the talent of each member and the quality of the end product will no doubt make of many of them happy. The band currently has a new single out, titled “Ridiculous”. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud, and more information about the band is available on both its official website and its Facebook page.

Pictures provided by Independent Music Promotions.