James Lee Baker – Home Again

Countrified singer/songwriter James Lee Baker has become quite the cult favorite of the Midwestern indie folk and alternative country circuits over the last couple of years, and with his new album Home Again audiences worldwide finally have the opportunity to experience his ethereal charms in all of their magnetic glory. Divided into ten equally stylish tracks produced with the upmost care and attention to detail, Home Again is a supremely affectionate look at one of America’s most talented young songwriters in the prime of his career and ready to take on the whole planet one epic song at a time.

If any critics need confirmation of Baker’s incredible abilities as both a master composer and a skilled vocalist, I’d have to point them in the direction of Home Again’s “Disappear for the Weekend,” which is easily one of its most fascinating highpoints. Showcasing its songwriter’s knack for generating catchy hooks out of otherwise simple structures, “Disappear for the Weekend” might be the best candidate for a lead single from this record thanks to its memorable chorus and freewheeling beat. It’s far from the only alluring track on Home Again, but its strength alone makes the record a more than worthy acquisition.

James Lee Baker’s music is quite exotic in comparison to his peers and he incorporates a variety of intriguing influences into his sound. There’s a touch of rock n’ roll tenacity in his guitar play, but it isn’t laced with pomp or bravado. The same can be said for his country music edge, which is only implied through the twang of his instrumentation and not in the concentration of his subject matter. If you’re in the market for a predictable album that recycles the same themes and song designs as its contemporaries, you’d better look somewhere other than Home Again, which is possibly the most original album I’ve heard in years.

In the song “The First Time,” James Lee Baker shows us that he can shift the tempo towards a more sensitive, loving side without losing the vibrant energy that drives his more anthemic songs. The textured harmony between Baker’s voice and the backing band in “The First Time” is a fine example of his ability to mesh with any different set of musicians, regardless of style or background. Performers like him don’t concern themselves as much with the rules of songwriting as they do making impressive melodies at any cost, and we as an audience benefit from this attitude immensely in the resulting content.

After listening to Home Again a number of times in the last week in preparation for writing this article I came to the conclusion that the only way Baker could top this record would be to take it out on the road and play it live – which is exactly what he’s doing right now. This album would make for an amazingly nimble set list in concert, and I can’t think of any artist more adept and able to express its narrative than James Lee Baker. His devotion to his medium is evident in every note he pens, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for us next.

URL: https://jamesleebaker.com/

REVERBNATION: https://www.reverbnation.com/jamesleebaker/album/184063-home-again

Kim Muncie

Brown Kid – Rusty Strings (EP)

In his first extended play and fourth overall release, entitled Rusty Strings, Peruvian singer/songwriter Brown Kid struts with a swaggering confidence through a plethora of colorful material that is instantly memorable and contagiously optimistic. Rusty Strings sees Brown Kid’s signature style of easy going folk music and reggae-influenced pop advancing to a new level of conciseness and clarity that was hinted at in previous releases but comes to fruition in this latest offering, which could be described as his most streamlined and polished record to date. In the six songs it contains, audiences are given front row seats to a spectacle of audiological wonderment they won’t soon forget. Continue reading “Brown Kid – Rusty Strings (EP)”

Dangermaker unleash their most musically sophisticated album

California indie rockers Dangermaker unleash their most musically sophisticated album to date in Run, a twelve track smorgasbord of textured sonic bliss that will change the way you think about modern pop. Dangermaker have been quietly building up a cult following on the west coast over the last few years, and their latest record sees their sound evolving into a full color kaleidoscope of rich melodies that are unparalleled in 2018. I had the chance to listen to Run ahead of its October 5th domestic release date and was absolutely enamored with every stitch of brilliant audio it contained. Even if you’re not familiar with Dangermaker, this record will make you an instant fan of their unique blend of spacey psychedelic pop and primal post-punk nimbleness. Continue reading “Dangermaker unleash their most musically sophisticated album”

In/Vertigo – Bad Enemy (EP)

Rock music has never been about sucking up to trends and fads – no matter how fleeting or exciting in the moment they may be. Since the very beginning rock has been about giving the earth the sonic ferociousness that we need to remind us that we’re still alive, still kicking and still apart of the vitality of the universe. Rock was meant to transcend and transport us to another world, a place where sound and physicality are one and we are left at the mercy of the sage musicians capable of delivering such immense pleasure in only sparing amounts (for a truckload would surely kill us). In/Vertigo know what rock n’ roll was always meant to be, and they’re paying tribute to everywhere it’s been and the places it might be able to take us to in their new song “Bad Enemy,” a swaggering slice of dark heavy music intended to make everyone aware of who’s boss in Canada and beyond right now. Their native country can’t stop buzzing about their upcoming album, and down here in the States we’re starting to think that the future of rock will live and die by the hands of our brothers and sisters to the north. Continue reading “In/Vertigo – Bad Enemy (EP)”

The Fibs release new music

The Fibs come out of their corner swinging with this self titled sophomore release. “Waiting for a Train”, its title alone, recalls a vast tradition in 20th century songwriting that, despite the enormous stylistic differences, that The Fibs sustain for a modern audience. The singer and chief songwriter behind the band’s creativity, Preston Newberry, writes lyrics brimming over with a lean literary quality that makes for a notable contrast with the band’s musical identity and that dynamic fully evident in the album’s opener. It continues with the album’s second song “Cut Hands”, an even clearer invocation of the dark wave influences powering this ten song collection. The production for this self-titled effort often shifts focus from a mix placing the singing in a prominent position or else submerging Newberry’s voice under a wave of effects and instrumentation and “Cut Hands” certainly favors the latter approach. Continue reading “The Fibs release new music”

Jonathon Zemek – Hillcrest (LP)

In the history of pop music, there have been artists who built an entire identity around a single hook or style that critics and audiences fell in love with and were never able to put down. There are others though who take their creative ethos further; they push the envelope as far as they can in hopes of not only developing their core artistic profile but also advancing the evolution of music itself. Jonathon Zemek is definitely a member of the latter category, and in his solo album Hillcrest we hear not only who he is but what he wants his music to be (a rarity, to put it mildly, in the music business of today). Continue reading “Jonathon Zemek – Hillcrest (LP)”

Del Suelo – The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme

There’s quite a collection of musical voices on Del Suelo’s The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme. Erik Mehlsen, working as Del Suelo, is adept at chameleon like changes in texture, dabbling in a number of styles over the course of the album’s twelve songs. It’s to his credit as a songwriter, however, that the conceptual architecture for this album, illustrative of Mehlsen’s storytelling talents, is preserved despite the stylistic diversity. The opener “Second Encore” kicks off a storyline following a day in the life of a touring band and the obvious musical chemistry makes it slightly clipped melody stick even stronger in listener’s memories. The song starts off with a recurring device throughout the album, a smattering of sound effects, and the roar of a live audience accompanying the performance is a smart move and never overwrought.

I loved “Pack Rats”, an album single, on the first listen and fell deeper in love when I watched the video filmed for the song. It would be ideal if Mehlsen possessed the resources to make clips for each of the album’s twelve songs because the marriage of his songwriting with polished visuals and a video narrative enhances the power of his music. His guitar playing on “Pack Rats”, as well, will leave a mark on anyone who hears the song. It’s among the album’s highlights and the rock/funk influenced tone helps make it all the more memorable. The diversity mentioned earlier is in full evidence with the third song “Berlin Calling” and the fistful of punk rock inspired riffs gets to the point in short order and doesn’t go on for long. It’s indicative, in some ways, of the attention Mehlsen invests in getting things right with these songs and accomplishes more under two minutes than some songs pull off in four.

Buy The Novel: http://delsuelo.net/product/musicians-compass-the-novel/

Some of Mehlsen’s sense of humor comes across in his clever takeoffs on iconic song and album titles. “A Lust Supreme” echoes Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and provides the audience with a bit of context for Mehlsen’s fictional band in their corner of the music world. Mehlsen employs the same device for titling songs on the following track “A Panic! at the Disco/the Fulsome Prison Blues”, the album’s lengthiest track to this point, and his skill at framing compelling contrasts, one of his music’s greatest strengths, works well here. “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”has a loose, folk-songy feel during some portions of the song and Mehlsen makes dramatic use of the song’s vocal melody – among the album’s best.

URL: http://delsuelo.net/

The pace picks up for the track “Caress of Steel Wheels”, another melodic gem with a streak of the unexpected, but the track’s insistent refrain has a lasting quality impossible to ignore. The travel imagery of the song’s lyrics and title is a natural fit for Mehlsen’s storyline and balances an entertaining musical tone with serving the overall narrative. Del Suelo’s The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme has a carefully selected track listing and there isn’t a discernible misstep in the way Mehlsen orders the album. “Darn that Dream/Stairway to Eleven” is, arguably, the album’s showcase piece and takes nearly seven minutes to give listeners its most dramatic lyrical and musical statement. I’m very taken with the atmospheric and aching mood of Mehlsen’s voice during the song’s first part. You’ll have to give this album multiple listens to fully appreciate everything Del Suelo is attempting to do here, but few albums are worth such an extensive acquaintance like The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme.

Buy the Album: https://www.amazon.com/Musicians-Compass-Step-Programme-Explicit/dp/B07F225FMM

Lord & Lady – No Ghost (EP)

Someone much wiser and versed in the music business than I’ll ever be once told me something that I’ll never forget; good things take time, but great things happen all at once in this industry. Time and time again I’ve found this statement to be proven true, whether it concerns an up and coming rapper or a singer/songwriter trying to break into Nashville. When they’ve got a fair amount of talent, they’ve got the potential to grow into their sound over time. But when they’re amazing, we know from the very beginning of their career, and there isn’t anything that can be done to stop the momentum that ensues.

 

To say that Lord & Lady are the ultimate discovery of 2018 could possibly be the biggest understatement of the decade. Over the course of the last few months, they’ve been shot out of the woodwork and become one of the most instantly recognizable acts in indie music today, and their extended play No Ghost is already being buzzed about as a serious contender for record of the year (a rare achievement for an EP). Their music isn’t exactly made for the Macklemore crowd but more for fans of modern indie pop that is as intellectually stimulating as it is catchy, and in a twist of fate they’re proving to be more commercially viable than any of their more mainstream contemporaries.

No Ghost unfolds before us one minor complexity at a time, and I emphasize the word complexity above all others when it comes to describing Lord & Lady’s music. Much like a sophisticated symphony orchestra, this band doesn’t rely on a single instrument, tone or verse to be the centerpiece of its entire presentation. There are dozens upon dozens of skewed, manipulated notes that stereophonically modulate to create a wall of sound that becomes in escapable from the start of No Ghost, and as intimidating as that might sound it ends up creating a rather comforting, insular soundscape as a result.

 

Throughout all four tracks on No Ghost, Lord & Lady don’t hesitate to wear their emotions on their sleeve, and the vulnerability that they display is startlingly relatable. A lot of artists, especially ones who are on the cusp of major success, are extremely reticent to open themselves up in the way that this band does, usually for fear of becoming overexposed creatively. Lord & Lady bear it all in No Ghost, and I for one find this level of intimacy to be incredibly refreshing.

I don’t exactly know how they did it, but somehow, someway Lord & Lady managed to make a fifteen minute extended play sound and feel like an anthological LP. It actually makes me wonder whether or not the world’s palate is ready to embrace a full-length record from these two yet or not. Based on the aesthetical weight of No Ghost, I can only imagine that other indie pop musicians are doing some serious reinventing of their own sounds to try and learn the secret to Lord & Lady’s success, and it should be interesting to see how pop music is effected as a result.

 

SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/album/00GaaxEjB6AB6DapIIpZ9L?si=s9ZH312bTK-ini1ZvSjerg

 

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/lordandladymusic/

Oberon Rose release “No Stranger” video

The fiercely cutthroat New England indie rock scene has been going through a lot of volatile changes lately, particularly near the top of its creative hierarchy. The old guard is on their way out, and in their place a new group of skilled minds are looking to fill the void with their own version of the New England sound – a version, I should mention, that is far more lustfully ambient than anything their predecessors could have ever devised. There’s so much talent to talk about, but no one has been getting the kind of buzz that rock n’ roll crew Oberon Rose has been lately. Powered by the songwriting duo of Tommy Oberon and Rebecca Rose, this three piece neo-psychedelic thunderstorm released a music video for their song “No Stranger” this month to critical acclaim, and it’s not the first time that the band has gotten everyone in and out of their scene talking about their potential. That potential is finally beginning to blossom into a ferocious beast in its own right (ironically by adding a new layer of artistry to their sound via filmmaking), and just one view to the band’s latest creative piece should be enough to get any rock fan addicted to their potently mind bending musical formula.

The melody of “No Stranger” is suspiciously wrapped in so many layers of sonic gravity that one could mistake it for a lost My Bloody Valentine outtake if played at a loud enough volume. As it stands, this is far from a shoegaze piece in narrative, but it definitely offers the same peek into the druggy world of mysticism and enigma that so many of the group’s influences tried to tap into with somewhat mixed results. “No Stranger” takes advantage of the listener’s depth of audio and manipulates it so that we’re not listening to a rock song but rather an electric orchestra of melodic feedback. Watching the video only enhances the depth of the listening experience by taking us on a visual journey more akin to an acid trip than a music video where color and sound meld into a singular entity that cannot be easily discerned from one another. Fans of pumped volume will go crazy over this song’s glorious circulation, while critics of modern rock music will have to find some other genre to attack with their ignorant assumptions.

2018 has been such a good year for independent music, and with the rise of Oberon Rose it’s thrills don’t appear to be stopping any time soon. Unlike some of the folks who think that it’s getting harder and harder for bands to produce authentic, organic indie rock in this day and age of excessive technological input, I think that the future is starting to yield more evocative results than the past did almost exclusively because of this newfound diversity in the international scene. Oberon Rose is at the apex of crossing over into YouTube-topping (and Billboard-climbing) territory and they aren’t looking to sell out their DIY ethos for any price on the planet. They give us reason to believe that indie rock is advancing into the 2020s just fine, and if you need proof you can watch the video for “No Strangers” and judge for yourself; I don’t think you’ll disagree.

“No Stranger” video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6T2Kg-1Pss

PRIMARY URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6T2Kg-1Pss

Kim Muncie

 

Water & Man drop LP

Fresh off their relocation to New York City, space rockers Water and Man return with their new full-length LP Phantasie, the much anticipated follow up to 2014’s Into the Infinite. I’ve been closely following Water and Man’s journey since their inception almost five years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and I can assure fans of the group that Phantasie lives up to all the high expectations everyone had for their sophomore effort. What they’ve done with this new record isn’t just spellbinding but provocatively produced with such severe attention to detail that one could almost be overwhelmed with the endless intricacies in its presentation. No one takes their music as seriously as Water and Man do, and Phantasie just might be the record to finally bring their charismatic sound into the mainstream.

Water and Man don’t just bend the rules with their music, they set out to warp our minds with their melodic, chill vibes and exotically appointed harmonies.Phantasie goes a long way to cementing their status as the dreamiest band actively recording in a post-Pink Floyd world, and even the most casual of rock fans won’t have a hard time getting into the grooves that are dispatched in its eight amazing tracks. Whether it’s the stop-gap dirge of “Give it Time” or the scathing sizzle of the synthy “Dreams of Love,” there’s something for pretty much everyone to fall in love with on this record, and that’s not very common in pop music these days.

Other bands try a lot of different things to develop the magical chemistry that Water and Man sport as a unit, but what they don’t realize is that this kind of gelling can’t be taught or introduced into a group of musicians. It has to come naturally, much like the music itself, if it’s going to have any chance of keeping a band together and rendering decent content to boot. Take a song like “The Wanderer” for example. Water and Man are playing off of each other’s cues like twin siblings psychically communicating with just a glance at each other. Synchronicity of this caliber is a rare find, and it deserves to be treated like the treasure that it really is.

Music intellectuals of all backgrounds will have a particularly fun time listening to Phantasie and dissecting its countless twists and turns. I’ve already listened to the album in its entirety five or six times without interruption and discovered so many new layers each time I’ve done so. This record is precisely the reason why so many of us get into music; the thrill that comes with being entranced by an album, the pure of awe of finding something that you can tell is going to have a big impact on pop culture, it makes all of the hard work and not so talented bands we have to get through along the way worth it. Water and Man are doing some awesome things for music right now, and I know I’m not alone in saying that I love what they’ve created in their latest collection of sonic power anthems.

URL: https://www.waterandman.com/

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/phantasie-single/1390245571

Kim Muncie