Category Archives: Rock

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: We Are Ardent – ‘Bright Shadows from Dark Lights’ EP

We Are ArdentCanadian band We Are Ardent is releasing the EP Bright Shadows from Dark Lights in November. The six numbers from the EP are certainly “ardent”—they are enthusiastic and burn with passion. Josh Brazeau (guitar, vocals, bass), Kat Kerley (vocals, kalimba), Matt Dalton (bass, guitar), and Justin Brazeau (drums) have put together a set that provides listeners with well-executed, familiar sounds with unique twists that makes them stand out.

Bright Shadows from Dark Lights opens with “Low”, an alternative rock, heavy electric guitar-led melody which accompanies dual male and female vocals; the former is gritty and contrasts well with the latter’s more crystalline tone. The lyrics are empowering, of the “this too, shall pass” mindset, with the chorus promising: “Feel low/Sometimes/That’s all right/You’ll be fine.” The same electric guitar leads the way into “Young and Giants”, of similar build but with a different sound. It feels that there could have been a lot more power in this track, but something is holding the band back. It seems to be an ode to hopefulness and action that defined their younger years, when they “were young”, “were giants”, and “were lost” but “at least trying”. These lyrics are bound to make older generations think about what happened to their drive and ambition, and perhaps rekindle it.

The balance between the two sets of vocals is tipped in favor of the male ones in “Quiet Like Noise” which come off as husky and throaty. The band makes use of a kalimba in this song, a thumb piano from the southern parts of Africa. In contrast, “Vultures” puts the focus on the female vocals in a ballad like number led by plucked electric guitars. Despite some very dark lyrics—such as “Palpable misery/Air of despair/Pleasantry’s history/Long past repair”—there is a sense of power within the melody that leaves listeners with a sense of hope.

The slow burn of lead single “The Time Is Now” continues after the track is over. Starting off with a melody plucked on the kalimba, it builds up with an electric guitar, drums, and female vocals—which, although accompanied by the male ones, are the centrepiece of “The Time Is Now”. The EP closes off with “Nameless”, a rocking grunge number with a throbbing beat that features the male vocals once again. Despite the darkness of the themes in the EP, Bright Shadows from Dark Lights manages to stay somehow upbeat and optimistic. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about the band is available on their official website and Facebook page.

Pictures provided by Working Brilliantly.
First published here on Blogcritics.

Music Review: Debris of Titan – ‘On the Home Slope’

Founded in 2009 by two friends, Debris of Titan is an alternative indie psychedelic rock band from Newburgh (New York). Winston Dunlop and Michael Diaz apparently met in elementary school and soon after started making music together. It makes for a good creation story and, in the case of their album On the Home Slope, to be released next month, for some well-crafted music for lovers of the genre.

The short introductory track, “What’s in My Cocoon”, starts simply enough with a strummed guitar and a simple melody played on the piano. Dual vocals fill out the background and, at the halfway mark, are joined by a cacophony of drums and more guitars.

Debut single “Anime” also starts quite simply enough with the sounds of a bell joined by a band of strings which are soon distorted almost beyond recognition. The various layers of this track seem at times disjointed and at others completely in sync, in pure psychedelic form.

Somehow, an element of jazz pops into the driving “Where Did It All Go” which sounds almost like a freestyle jamming session between seasoned artists more than a carefully planned out track. The guitar solo near the two-thirds mark cuts through the layers with crispness, emphasizing its unique contribution to the overall sound.

Rather than sexual, “Sleep with Me” seems to be a waterfall sound-led meditation of sorts that encourages listeners into a restful, relaxed state. Being the shortest track, “Rara” has a little over a minute to make an impression. It seems to be a guitar-led wake-up call between its slumbering predecessor and more upbeat successor. Because of the sequence chosen by the artists, the frenzy in the closing “In Nova’s Bedroom” reminds me of a hectic morning that can occur after one has overslept.

Songs are available for streaming on SoundCloud, and more information is available on their Facebook page.

Pictures provided by Working Brilliantly.
First published here on Blogcritics.

Music Review: Rabid Young – ‘EP 1’

Las Vegas indie electro rock and synth pop band Rabid Young is releasing next month its first EP, titled quite simply enough, EP 1. Featuring Eric Rickey (vocals, keys, guitar), Jackson Wilcox (bass, vocals), Bobby Lee Parker (guitar) and Matthew Long (drums), the band has a distinct sound within which are enough fluctuations to grab and keep listeners’ attention.

Rabid YoungThe upbeat and cheerful, yet melodramatic “Pieces” kicks off the set. The synth pop love song’s driving beat gives it its cheer while lyrics like “I feel like pieces of me/Are falling out” and “I feel so incomplete/Without you around” put it straight in emo territory, where the lead vocals fit in perfectly. It is an extremely catchy track that encourages some pretty heavy dancing. It reminded me a lot of The Killers, albeit stripped of its rock element.

It’s followed by the anthemic “Not Enough”, the EP’s debut single which although less catchy than its predecessor is just as engaging, making for a good conduit for an important message. The rock element is increased while synths are slightly toned down. The melody is well built but what captures the attention are the lyrics: “It’s not enough to be exciting/It’s not enough to feel brand new/It’s not enough/Not enough/It’s not enough love for you”. No doubt many a listener, living in a society encouraging a state of constant discontent, will relate to this sentiment.

The synths are toned down even more in “Beautiful Things” where the cheerful, upbeat melody and uplifting lyrics seem to answer those of its predecessor: “Beautiful things never ask/For attention/Beautiful things never wait/For you to notice them”. The throbbing synth-led electronic melody reminiscent of the 1980s in “Some Time” winds things down a little, which seems quite à propos for a song asking “Can you make some time/Sometime”. While it also features a similar beat, closing track “Home” feels almost like a cozy lullaby, bringing the set to a satisfying close.

Fans of The Killers should give Rabid Young’s EP 1 a go. Band-related merchandise is available on their website; more information is available on their Facebook page.

Pictures provided by Working Brilliantly.
First published here on Blogcritics.

Music Review: DownTown Mystic – ‘DownTown Mystic on E Street’ EP

Music is a powerful form of art.  It always has an influence on our mind and on our soul.  In the context of constantly trying to contribute to one’s own personal development as well as to the development of our communities, music can be quite a potent ingredient.  But what kind of music?  How often?  How should we consume it?  I started reviewing music in an attempt to figure these questions out, and it’s even tougher than I thought it would be.  So: challenge accepted 😉

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DownTown Mystic, Robert Allen’s alter ego, released last June a four-track EP titled DownTown Mystic on E Street, which features members of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. Allen’s passion for old school rock and roll comes through in all four of these tracks, although it’s hard to pinpoint a specific influence to each one. There are hints of so many different artists and rock and roll styles that it creates a sound both very familiar but fresh, not original but still engaging.

“Hard Enough” touches on its more boisterous, loud, and rollicking side, while the mid-tempo “And You Know Why” is melancholic and emotional, running on a simple guitar and drum line and a three part harmony chorus. The groovy “Way to Know” is more rolling than rocking, the melody featuring a relentlessness that drives it forward no matter what, giving is an anthemic quality further enhanced by easy to follow lyrics. This is a track to be seen performed live; one can easily imagine the band members playing off each other on stage. And while it is apparently a demo, closing track “Sometimes Wrong”, which shows off some great drumming, sounds already pretty great, perhaps more so than if it had been an actual polished recording.

While all four tracks definitely have a strong retro feel, mostly in the way they are stripped of modern day production fanfare, they are not outdated and would make for a solid addition to rock lovers’ music libraries. More information is available on DownTown Mystic’s official website and on their Facebook page. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud.

Pictures provided by Working Brilliantly.

Music Review: The Liquorsmiths – ‘This Book Belongs To’ EP

The Liquorsmiths' 'This Book Belongs To'
San Diego folk rockers The Liquorsmiths have put together a six-track EP titled This Book Belongs To. To be released August 21, 2015, it is an emotional, sincere, and engaging collection. The mainly folk ambiance that Drew Thams (vocals, guitar), Ryan Fischer (keyboards, drums, percussion), and Clayton Payne (drums, percussion) is also imbibed with rock flavours, pop sounds, and the spirit of Americana.

The opening track, “Coy With Me”, is a mid-tempo folk/Americana ballad featuring smooth keyboards and guitars accompanied by gentle, groovy drums. There is an almost dissonant quality to the way the layers have been put together that captures one’s attention. “Get Well Soon” is an uptempo and catchy drum- and guitar-driven song with sweet, heartfelt lyrics: “The hardest part of my day/Is leaving/Leaving the room/In which you sleep/Cause I sleep with you.” The track purposefully ends just one note before a satisfying conclusion, leaving an itch in one’s ear quickly filled with “Iris’ Song”. This soft yet passionate slow folk rock track is almost poetic, with an emotional progression to the lyrics that is paralleled with a similar melodic progression. It only consists of three layers—strumming guitars, soft drums, and emotional vocals—and yet feels as complete as any track out there. “Iris’ Song” cements the band’s reputation as in-depth lyric writers who do not just scratch the surface of topics such as love, but delving into it: “Because home is not a place/it’s a family/Just like warmth is not a feeling it’s a state of mind/So from this point on I swear it/With my two hands in yours/We’ll build it/We’ll build it right.”

“Thief” sounds very different from what we have come to expect by now from The Liquorsmiths. It is an upbeat yet soft track that is more indie-pop than Americana/folk rock. Its intricacy fills the auditory space to its fullest, giving listeners something new to notice with every listen, but keeping well from the line that crosses into overwhelming. The drums are especially noteworthy. There is a certain attitude in “Devil I Do” that is nowhere else on this EP, an inspiring song about breaking free from the devils that plague us. The hope and joy of being able to break away from the devils that haunt us can be felt quite clearly and yet the track remains on the soft, almost humble side. “Day By Day” offers a sweet, gentle ending that sounds a lot like the opening track what with its similar dissonant layer building, and offers a satisfying conclusion to This Book Belongs To.

Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about the band is available on both their Facebook page and their official website.

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

Music Review: The Como Brothers – ‘Imagination’ EP

The Como BrothersLong Island, New York, brothers Matt and Andrew Como’s newest offering, the six-track EP Imagination, is for the most part, bright, airy, and cheerful, modernizing old sounds with pop-inspired flair. The music is both stripped down, yet full, what with Matt’s bass lines, Andrew’s guitar, Steve Jordan’s supporting drums, and Andy Burton’s keyboard work filling every inch of auditory space without overwhelming it.

After listening to this EP, which was just released this month, I wasn’t surprised to find out that the brothers grew up performing in a Beatles tribute band. Their love of rock and roll comes through in most of the songs, as does their appreciation for blues and pop music.

The cheerful, upbeat opener, “Good Enough for Me”, is a smooth, feel good track that sounds familiar but remains interesting. The vocals sound a lot like John Mayer’s, while the chorus is extremely catchy and becomes, after only a couple of listens, quite sticky. Its message is one of hope and consistent work in order to attain one’s life goals: “I’m riding with my eyes on the distance/Never going to bind my existence/I’m gonna take a shot with what I’ve got/And that’s good enough for me”. Of particular note is the excellent guitar solo near the end of the song.

The vocals are more notice-worthy in “Tell You I’m Fine”, a funky, cheerful, bubbly, and almost anthemic pop track with just as much of a sticky factor as its predecessor. We are now in Jason Mraz territory, although the melody contrasts with the lyrics. The repetition in “Chemicals” makes it also quite catchy, the title referring to the hormones involved in making a guy go crazy over a woman. It is the most pop-sounding song to date, this time bringing to mind Maroon 5. The Como Brothers choose to stay on the cute and bubbly side of the story rather than delving into its sensual and sexy aspects.

The upbeat and optimistic “Make My Heart Move” has a certain Americana feel to it. It is very sweet, yet again taking a cute and bubbly approach to the topic of love. “Imagination” brings back the John Mayer influence. The opening piano drives the entire track but it is the guitars that give it a groovy feel. The drumming is for the most part soft and supportive with the appropriate bursts of energy, complementing the smooth vocals. The Como Brothers close off the EP with a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold as Love”, which they obviously thoroughly enjoy playing.

The Como Brothers have talent and are not trying to reinvent anything. They are just playing the kind of music that they love. This makes the EP enjoyable, something that will remind listeners of something they have heard before without boring them. More information is available on their official website and on their Facebook page.

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

Music Review: Mark Kraus – ‘The Story of Everything’

Mark Kraus
New York City based singer-songwriter Mark Kraus has experimented with different ideas, bands, and projects for quite some time now. Coming after a five year break, his album The Story of Everything, to be released in August, can be taken as a sort of reawakening. Perhaps it was more painful than he had anticipated. For the most part, the tracks on this album are heartbreaking. Most of them would work well in a movie or television show if played during that moment of utter despair the protagonist has to go through just before something happens to shake things up. Some might describe the album as bittersweet, but the combination of hushed vocals and instrumentation with lyrics that seem fraught with darkness makes it much more bitter than sweet.

Not to say that the tracks aren’t well crafted, quite the contrary. Each one has clearly been put together carefully, each layer honed and meticulously stacked one on top of the other. The main features of all the tracks are hushed vocals, melodies, and instrumentation. The short introductory “The Depths” starts with a only a guitar and vocals, with a cello kicking in about a third of the way through and violins popping in at the halfway mark. The title track begins with a gently plucked guitar and a keyboard echoing in the background. The vocals have also been engineered to echo, albeit less. This is where listeners get their first taste of the dangerous mixture of melancholic sounding hopefulness, seemingly contradictory until one thinks about how an optimist would be after a beating.

The mid-tempo “You and The Boys” sounds a little pop rock with a tambourine adding a certain lightness, but not enough to overcome the album’s underlying woe. The opening line of “The Weekends” sums of the above-mentioned apparent contradiction between hope and despair embodied in this album: “Giving up on drinking/Except for the weekend/And a few days a week/‘Cause I’m going straight/For losing that streak”.

The sadness becomes even thicker with “Eveline”, which also features some of the best composition in the album. “Counterparts” has a little bit of a country flair, with the electric guitar a little over the third mark giving it a unique sound in this album. The lead single, “Put An Old Record On”, is basically a mixture of all of Kraus’ key musical ingredients: hushed vocals, gentle strings, a soft acoustic guitar, and self-loathing lyrics. Despite being uptempo and featuring a harmonica bordering on cheerful, “Little Brother” still manages to be just as bittersweet (with emphasis on the bitter) as its predecessors, as do the last two tracks of the album, “Broke Busted” and “The End of Everything”.

There is a sincerity to The Story of Everything that might keep listeners tuned in. However, the overwhelming and at times crushing sadness inherent in all the tracks might make this an album that can only be listened to in increments, despite the talent behind every aspect of it. Tracks are available for streaming on Bandcamp. More information is available on both his official website and his Facebook page.

Pictures provided by Working Brilliantly.
First published here on Blogcritics.

Music Review: Winter Calling – ‘As Darkness Falls’

Winter Calling
Tampa Bay (Florida) hard rock band Winter Calling released its first record last March, As Darkness Falls, which is described as an effort to take listeners on a highly melodic and cinematic auditory journey. True to promise, most of their tracks start slow with a heavy hint of threat that spills over with a crescendo built layer by layer, one of which is always powerful guitars and a dynamic drum line. Chris Hodges (vocals), Ian Medhurst (guitar), Tim Gilbreath (bass), and Wayne Hoefle (drums, piano, and keys) also included a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years” on the album that fits well amidst their original material.

As Darkness Falls opens with “A World I Can Feel”, the short piano introduction of which is joined by electronic guitars, with energy kicking into high gear thanks to some very energetic drums. One immediately gets a sense of the more operatic, symphonic feel the band is trying to achieve. “Self-Righteous Parade” again uses a dynamic drum line, also bringing in echoing that enhances some attention-grabbing guitar work. The vocals are a little too polished for such rawness and emotions, and it feels at times that the song’s layers have not been created to form a coherent whole but rather were pulled from different tracks. But overall, it works. The introduction to “The Stand” is more direct. It almost sounds like a hard rock album from the early 1990s. This is when listeners are convinced that the vocals can be raw enough to keep up with the rawness of the tracks yet melodic enough to fill the band’s symphonic side.

The delicate piano opening of “A Moment in the Sun” comes in sharp contrast to As Darkness Falls’ first three offerings. A little over a third of the song is vocals and piano only. Although the guitars and drums add wonderfully to the ballad, one is left a little disappointed over losing the simplicity it started with. In “Forever”, Winter Calling throws out its own formula of starting tracks slowly by throwing in their entire lot from the very first second. Electronic elements add a unique touch to “Leader of 1”, where the vocals take on an almost ballad like quality that makes it sound ominous what with its pulsating beat, making it an inspirational call to action.

The violin in “Find My Way” is a nice addition. Because of its almost pop-like ballad elements, it might be the most radio-friendly track on As Darkness Falls. “Wasted Years” starts again with a gentle piano introduction, the soft vocals underlying the melancholic and sadness well-fitting the title of the song. Only strings join in near the two-thirds mark, making this the calmest moment of the album and probably the most powerful. This is a great cover in a genre the band does very well in.

While “Make it Rain” also starts slow, it builds up with the same guitars and drums that defined the beginning of As Darkness Falls. Electronic elements return in the ominous and almost throbbing “Everyone Has a Story”. The band closes things up with the instrumental cinematic, symphonic “108” that puts on full display the talents of all the contributing musicians.

The band’s broad range can be filed under makes of this album one that many can find something they like. This is a name worth following as they hone their sound and commit themselves to whatever sound they decide is theirs. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about them is available on their Facebook page and their official website.

Images provided by Independent Music Promotions.
First published here on Blogcritics.

Music Review: Winter Calling – ‘As Darkness Falls’