Wetwood-Smokes-Earth-Tones-Red

The Wetwood Smokes – Earth Tones & Red

Wetwood-Smokes-Earth-Tones-Red

4/5

Release Date:  June 10, 2014
Genre:  Indie Rock
Record Label:  Independent


Indie alternative rock band, The Wetwood Smokes, garnered massive attention while playing with members of Panic at the Disco and opening for Bad Wolf. The band, consisting of stepbrothers Josh Bowman (lead vocals, guitar, piano, synth, bass), Steven Howard (drums, guitar, piano synth), and childhood neighbor Chrystian Cano (bass, drums, piano, synth, xylophone), create a thrilling experience with their signature mark of rotating instruments like a Chinese fire drill and deeply rooted organic chemistry.

Earth Tones & Red, a debut album whose title originates from the colors of instruments the trio bought with their own hard-earned money, showcases a flawless mixture of pop hooks and classic indie rock. The album, which was tracked at Pirate Rock productions with producer Kerie Roark, is a compilation of pieces that reveal the pure quality of the band’s uniquely defined sound, yet still gravitates perfectly towards the sound of bands like Kings of Leon, Blake Keys and Neon Trees.

Lead vocalist Josh Bowman shows his incredibly powerful vocal chops on the up-tempo initial track “Better Man. ” The song is inundated with catchy guitar riffs, clashing cymbals, and thumping drum beats as Bowman sings, “If I could find a better man for you, you know that’s exactly what I’d do. If I could find a better man I’ll leave and not come back again.”

“Madeline” is a soothingly sweet production as Bowman emphatically sings of a lover who “crosses the borderline from running into [his] mind.”

The alluring track “2 am” has a mysterious vibe emphasized by the instrumental production and the hauntingly captivating vocals of Bowman. However, it is the final track “Folk,” which was recorded completely live, that is one of the most emotionally inspiring songs on the album as it tells a dark account of drug addiction.

Overall, The Wetwood Smokes’ debut album beautifully displays that they are a talent beyond their years. Without a doubt, this is a band that will continue to succeed in creating powerful music by incorporating strong lyrical content, flawless vocals and masterfully crafted musical productions.


Tracklisting:

  1. A Better Man
  2. Madeline
  3. Cold
  4. The Boy with the Glass Eye
  5. I Am the One
  6. 2am
  7. Folks

Band Links:
Official Site || Facebook || Twitter

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Every Time I Die - From Parts Unknown

Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown

Every Time I Die - From Parts Unknown

5/5

Release Date:  July 1st, 2014
Genre:  Metalcore
Record Label:  Epitaph


This is an album of boisterous fury. This is a band that has pushed their limits and exceeded themselves every time they get a chance. Enlisting the help of producer Kurt Ballou (also guitarist of Converge), Every Time I Die has released an album of stark ferocity. With just one listener to opener “The Great Secret,” you can feel it as vocalist Keith Buckley screams “Blow your fucking brains out” over scorching guitars, courtesy of Jordan Buckley and Andy Williams, and frenetic drumming from Ryan Leger. This album, the band’s seventh, From Parts Unknown, is an absolute mammoth. You cannot help but give it your full attention.

Lead singles “Thirst” and “Decayin’ With The Boys” are prime indicators of what to expect here, the former – a lightning fast number showcasing the short and sweet tendencies of the band at a new level of exceptionality, while the latter emblazons the southern influences the band so expertly fine tunes. The chemistry the band has is desirable as the is never a moment where one member oversteps their boundaries. Take “Overstayer” for example. Riffs soar all over the track, while bassist Stephen Micciche keeps the erratic rhythm in check as Leger pounds away behind the kit as if he were playing with thunder.

From Parts Unknown never lets up for a second, even on the piano led “Moor.” The eerie piano gives Buckley’s voice an even spookier vibe just before the band comes crashing in behind him in a fit of rage. It is bound to become a fan-favorite as its presence on the album undeniable. The band takes risks elsewhere on the album with “Old Light” featuring guest vocals from Brian Fallon (of The Gaslight Anthem). His southern rasp fits in nicely as he takes control of the song’s chorus before Buckley comes back in to harmonize with him to make for a chilling performance.

Everything boils down to a bone-crushing finale with the one-two punch of “El Dorado” and “Idiot.” “El Dorado” exhibits a blistering performance from both guitarists as their work is undoubtedly impressive as Buckley proves his skills as a vocalists as he transitions between singing and screaming with a seeming ease before everyone comes together for a minute-and-a-half jam session to close the song out. Following is what must be one of the sludgiest songs Every Time I Die has ever penned, as “Idiot” has a pulsating brutality to it from start to finish that will leave you awestruck.

Buckley closes out the album with some of his most powerful lyrics yet as he passionately screams “All I want is for everyone to go to hell/It’s the last place I was seen before I lost myself/All I want is for everyone to come to hell/There we can be free and learn to love ourselves.” It is impossible to ignore the Converge influence over this chaotic album, as Ballou is the one who produced it (flawlessly, I might add) and he got more than just the best performance out of this band. With From Parts Unknown, Every Time I Die has crafted something absolutely stunning and something that cannot be overlooked. Not only is this the best album Every Time I Die has ever released, this is one of the best albums to come out in this year.


Tracklisting:

  1. The Great Secret
  2. Pelican Of The Desert
  3. Decayin’ With The Boys
  4. Overstayer
  5. If There Is Room To Move, Things Move
  6. Moor
  7. Exometrium
  8. Thirst
  9. Old Light
  10. All Structures Are Unstable
  11. El Dorado
  12. Idiot

Band Links:
Official Site || Facebook || Twitter

Buy the Album:
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Front Bottoms Rose Artwork

The Front Bottoms – Rose

Front Bottoms Rose Artwork

3.5/5

Release Date:  June 17th, 2014
Genre:  Indie, Pop-punk
Record Label:  Bar/None Records


Hailing from New Jersey, The Front Bottoms have been amassing a sizeable following on both sides of the Atlantic with their brand of acoustic-driven and highly propulsive punk. It seems the band have tapped into a particularly appealing nerve, transcending genre and uniting kids from otherwise disparate sub-cultures through the description of instantly relatable narratives that most late teenagers and early adolescents will have surely endured. It’s a music of intrinsic simplicity, designed for mass sing-alongs with arms held aloft, with lyrics of awkwardness and ill-fated love-related endeavours constituting a supremely relatable lyrical repertoire.

Perhaps the most accurate description of the band’s sound originates from charismatic lead singer Brian Sella, who declared Bright Eyes and Blink-182 as his biggest influences. Such a comparison cannot be bested, for The Front Bottoms deliver the quivery-lipped emotional fragility of Connor Oberst endowed with incessant inklings of the juvenile sense of humour that Blink-182 have peddled throughout their entire career. Sella opens himself up for examination, but his lyrics often stop well short of the kind of verbal self-flagellation consistent with emo, which also exists as a tangible influence upon the band. Rather, insight is provided through a series of astute observations which often focus on a series of seemingly inconsequential and minute details. “Awkward Conversations”, for example, details Sella’s discomfort at having to sit with the window open as an unnamed person smokes menthol cigarettes. It’s Sella’s attention to detail that makes ‘Rose’ such an enjoyable and rather edifying listen, his lyrical stylings citing a similar focus on everyday banality and adolescent tribulations as such folk-addled punk troubadours in Frank Turner.

‘Rose’ continues The Front Bottoms notoriety as an adroit party band, a rare type of act that can unite a room full of strangers through a sharply observed lyrical passage, dispelling inhibition and instilling a stringent positivity from scenarios that could easily be emotionally crippling. If there’s one message that can be learned from ‘Rose’, it’s that there are positives and humour to be found in almost every situation. Sure, life’s a bitch, but you may as well laugh in its face. Lyrics such as “I’m scared I’m gonna die, as lonely as I feel right now” could easily be torn from the tear-stained notebook of a die-hard emo purist, still hung up on Rites Of Spring. But Sella subverts the negativity and bellows these lyrics of alienation with an up-tempo vitriol that is both courageous and commendable.

With Sella’s vocal foregrounded to such a degree, the music often takes a backseat, although it rarely deviates from the age-old four-chord formula. Injections of brass, such as those that occur at the apex of “Jim Bogart” are inspired additions to The Front Bottom’s ‘less is more’ mentality. Elsewhere, understated female backing vocals add a soothing texture to the band’s aural palette and gently direct the focus away from Sella in the most unobtrusive of fashions. Oftentimes, the record consists of just Sella, his acoustic guitar and a narrow array of chords but when the full band enters in unison, ‘Rose’ really comes alive. The build up to “Jim Bogart”, for instance, is enacted with sublime awareness, the band exploding out of the starting blocks and surely inciting any crowd they play before into mass pogoing.

The Front Bottoms refuse to deviate from any formula, four chords and minimal dynamics whilst the simplistic musicality on display is fervent. Yet, the focus of The Front Bottoms has always been on the nasal tones of Sella’s sharp lyrics and here on ‘Rose’ they once again constitute the focal point of the record, bursting forth from the instrumentation and always maintaining the listener’s attention through their versatility as well as the firm conviction behind them. ‘Rose’ may seem on paper as simply a stop-gap, a selection of throwaways designed to keep fans happy between full-lengths, but its strength and consistency dispels this notion. ‘Rose’ is a great little record in its own right, providing essential additions to the band’s live set in the form of some truly anthemic compositions. If ‘Rose’ is supposed to be a stop-gap, their next full-length may just be a world-beater.


Tracklisting:

  1. Flying Model Rockets
  2. Lipstick Covered Magnet
  3. 12 Feet Deep
  4. Jim Bogart
  5. Be Nice To Me
  6. Awkward Conversations

Band Links:
Official Site || Facebook || Twitter

Buy the Album:
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curt

Curtis Harding – Soul Power

curt

4.5/5

Release Date:  May 16th, 2014
Genre:  Soul
Record Label:  Burger Records


Why would punks like soul music? Curtis Harding, strangely enough, did not release Soul Power through any conventional means, as far as soul music is concerned. Instead, he released it on cassette via the increasingly eclectic, ostensibly garage rock label Burger Records. Which, given that it sounds more like Curtis Mayfield than it does Frank Ocean, isn’t such a strange decision on his part. Stranger and riskier it is for Burger, whose biggest acts are, among other, street punks like FIDLAR and twee slackers like Cherry Glazerr. But his triumphal success seems to suggest that the risk paid off, not only paving the way for bigger and more interesting things for Burger, but huge opportunities for Harding, and the possibility that burnout teenagers all along the west coast might diversify their tape collection with something other than disgruntled white kids. And Harding certainly has a niche made out for him in the scene. Burger has already been known to associate with hip hop artists like Kool Keith and The Pharcyde, who at least dabble in soul and R&B, and if the music video for Soul Power’s lead single “Keep On Shining” is any indicator, Harding is able and willing to appeal to the alternative crowd, and being from the same town as Burger alumni Black Lips certainly doesn’t hurt his credibility.

But the music speaks for itself really. “Surf” sounds like it could have been on the Lips’ last record if not for Harding’s unique and charismatic vocal presence, even including a totally shredding guitar solo played by Lips frontman Cole Alexander, no less. In fact, rock instrumentation seems to dominate this album, even when their arrangement is more suggestive of classic soul. Even on the more straightforward R&B tracks like “Keep On Shining” and “The Drive,” the horns are quite subdued and play more of a supporting role than they already do in the genre as a whole. That is, perhaps, what makes this album so much more than simply an experiment in retro style. It may not be Cee Lo Green (with whom he worked as a supporting vocalist), but it’s certainly not the sound of someone who buries their head in the sand when it comes to music newer than 1979.

The album contains its fair share of experimentation. “The Drive,” in addition to an irresistible backbeat and the aforementioned horn section, has ethereal synths that recall space rock and perhaps as a contemporary touchstone in the work of labelmate Gap Dream. “Heaven’s On The Other Side” dabbles in disco, and “I Need A Friend” features an infectious falsetto that reveals Harding’s vocal talents to be impossible to deny.

This record is by all measures, adventurous, and a worthy victory out of left field for soul music and the underground in general. Splitting the difference between classic R&B and modern alternative, things seem more promising than ever for alternative music, injecting a much needed variety. Soul Power is as much punk rock as anything that King Tuff or Pangea might be doing, rejecting everything traditional about the territory that it treads and succeeding in spite of itself. Music media tends to paint Burger’s target demographic as slumming hipsters, but if my observations about the crowd at Burgerama (including the kids grooving to Harding’s set) say anything, it’s more accurate to say that a huge proportion of the fanbase here consists of teenagers who have yet to discover “Irony” in its most pernicious form. And, if Calvin Johnson’s observation that rock music is a “teenage sport,” then this bodes extremely well for the future of Curtis Harding’s career and the scene that gave it life.


Tracklisting:

  1. Next Time
  2. Castaway
  3. Keep On Shining
  4. Freedom
  5. Surf
  6. I Don’t Wanna Go Home
  7. Beautiful People
  8. The Drive
  9. Heaven’s On The Other Side
  10. Drive My Car
  11. I Need A Friend
  12. Cruel World

Band Links:
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Buy the Album:
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The Currys- Follow

The Currys – Follow

The Currys- Follow

4.5/5

Release Date:  April 29, 2014
Genre:  Folk Rock
Record Label:  Independent


The Currys, a folk rock band from the Florida Gulf Coast, released their spectacularly crafted debut album Follow. With breathtaking vocal harmonies, masterful instrumentation, and powerful songwriting, The Currys create spellbinding music that must not go unnoticed.Originally formed as an acoustic trio, The Currys now perform as a full band with Jimmy Curry (vocals, guitar), Tommy Curry (vocals, guitar, mandolin, harmonica), Galen Curry (vocals, guitar, keyboard), Matt “Trixx” Kauper (bass) and Johnny Humphreys (drums). Before the release of their debut album, the group received high praise and support by Grammy-award winning country artist Billy Dean, who personally invited them to perform in his headlining set at the 60th Florida Folk Fest.

2012 marked an exciting year for the then trio, who headlined 14 shows in 20 days for their Ireland tour that was shown in a regional PBS documentary called From the Heart Music Hour. It was the success of this tour that ultimately compelled the group to move to Charlottesville and work on their debut album. The Currys, who seem to draw inspiration from folk rock band Crosby, Stills & Nash, worked with producers Chris Keup and Stewart Myers (Jason Mraz, Parachute) to record Follow and even ended up recruiting fiddle player Jeremy Garrett of the Grammy-nominated newgrass group The Infamous Stringdusters to play on their final track titled “Nothing Good.”

Follow kicks off on a high note with the opening track called “Wrecking Ball.” A lively bluegrass sounding song, “Wrecking Ball” showcases gorgeous harmonies, exceptional instrumentation and cleverly written lyrics about letting go of an unhealthy relationship. The juxtaposition between the playfully upbeat instrumentation and the heartbreaking lyrical content brilliantly reflects a sense of relief in letting go of a destructive relationship, as the boys sing, “I won’t wait for you, nothing that you’ve done ever made me want to.”

“Water From The Well” is a soothingly sweet tune that glides through seamlessly with the fluid sounding instrumentation and angelic vocals, but it is the pop rock tune, “Coming Home,” that is one of the most memorable tracks on the album. “Coming Home’s” laid-back, yet powerful musical construction is reminiscent of a song Jason Mraz or John Mayer would release. The charming vocal harmonies, catchy chorus and the recurring lyrical theme of love and heartache, all contribute in establishing this piece, as one of that should definitely receive significant airplay.

While “Hollow Bones” is another captivating pop rock song, “Inches From You” offers a hauntingly stunning vibe that really reveals the group’s incredible vocal range as they sing about the pain of being only inches away from a former lover. The addition of the keyboard and guitar playing produce a beautiful backdrop to the emotionally driven track. Overall, Follow is an absolutely outstanding debut album that really proves the unquestionable talent of each of the band members. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, The Currys will touch an ever-growing fan base.


Tracklisting:

  1. Wrecking Ball
  2. Water From The Well
  3. You’re Getting Smaller
  4. Big, Cold Mountain
  5. Come on Home
  6. Rule of Desire
  7. Follow
  8. Inches From You
  9. Catharsis
  10. Hollow Bones
  11. How A Man’s Suppose to Die
  12. Nothing Good

Band Links:
Official Site || Facebook || Twitter

Buy the Album:
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MI0003713045

Thee Oh Sees – Drop

MI0003713045

3.5/5

Release Date:  April 19th, 2014
Genre:  Garage Rock
Record Label:  Castle Face Records


Thee Oh Sees have returned from hiatus to churn out another heaving lo-fi brain melter. Drop builds, if ever so slightly, on last year’s Floating Coffin in that it tends to eschew the incomprehensible psychedelic jams in favor of more accessible, pop-oriented fare, bearing much in common with fellow San Francisco exile Ty Segall’s most recent release with Fuzz, albeit with more whimsy in place of Segall’s requisite menace and anxiety. Not to say that this is a pop album – “Penetrating Eye” is the sound of someone smashing not through the door, but the ceiling to crash your shitty party – but the songs, more often than not, have an identifiable structure, and on one or two of them it’s vaguely possible to sing along.

Keeping to the form of having the first track on the album be, if not the strongest, then at least the most accessible, Drop opens with “Penetrating Eye,” a quasi-metal stomp, is as focused a mission statement as you will get from the band about what the album is about. It’s loud, it’s shrieking, and it’s visceral, but it’s also got a chorus that goes “la la la” and – you read that right – it’s got a chorus. And like most of what Thee Oh Sees try to do, the experimentation with pop song structures pays off spectacularly, in a sort of blustering, inelegant way. But just so we know this is still a Thee Oh Sees album, the next two tracks are drones, full of noodly guitar, random instruments like mellotrons and a saxophone played by Mikal Cronin, and a lingering sense of unease, with “Savage Victory” in particular managing to bring the jam down to a level of accessibility while still managing to feel incomparably strange.

The rest of the songs on the album reveal just how short and spasmodic this album is. “Put Some Reverb on My Brother” is a pleasant jaunty thing that has simple, repetitive lyrics and palatable instrumentals. On a past Thee Oh Sees album, this might have seemed like little more than a transitional, intermission-esque track. Here, though, it takes up almost 10% of the album length. “Drop” is a pretty straightforward rocker reminiscent of The Black Keys, and as unassuming as it might seem, that kind of makes it stand out within the context of a band that is almost defined by eccentricity. And it helps that the guitar solo is among the best in the Oh Sees canon. Meanwhile, “Transparent World” is a slow-burning track that plays around with a variety of instruments and dynamics, but despite appearing at first glance to be kind of an afterthought, in truth it contains a lot of insight into the thought process the band must have had writing the rest of the songs, and it’s a great listen by that right.

While I may not be giving this album an amazing score, that doesn’t stop Thee Oh Sees from being one of my favorite bands of the last ten years, and that this album, while not among their best, does nothing but improves on what the band has done, because even though it may at times seem like the band is just screwing around and making up mindless garage-psych goop, the truth is they never sit on their laurels. They are always working much harder than anyone expects them to, and the fact that they put out at least one new release every single year attests to that, like a bizarre union between Guided By Voices and The Stooges. The fact that they’re always willing to take chances, even if that means experimenting with pop song structures and melodic coherence, is what makes them so perpetually interesting.


Tracklisting:

  1. Penetrating Eye
  2. Encrypted Bounce
  3. Savage Victory
  4. Put Some Reverb on My Brother
  5. Drop
  6. Camera (Queer Sound)
  7. King’s Nose
  8. Transparent World
  9. The Lens

Band Links:
Official Site || Facebook || Twitter

Buy the Album:
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