Friday, December 8, 2023

Music Review // Rebel Kicks ""

Rebel Kicks have a sound of rock that borders on pop, but as they showcase with this EP- ""- the sound also can bring us back to the past.  I hear artists like Phil Collins in here, so I go back to those 1980's and 1990's sounds.  But at the same time, the way this music blends feels like it could go into the future.

The song "Past Life" quotes the album title and these songs are just so smooth.  "Flowering Dogwood" is moderately paced ballad, while "Feel Good" dives off deeper into the smoothness with a trumpt coming through as well.   The final song comes out more like an anthem, a big note to go out on, and it just overall demonstrates how Rebel Kicks have a complex sound.

Lyrically, these songs sing the titles in the chorus.  I am particularly fond of the song "Feel Good" because it discusses how we were told life was going to be something that it's not.  I think as children growing up we get this idea in our heads that when we're adults it's so much fun and we'll be able to do more things, but yet we spend our adult years longing for our youth.   How we become and stay happy, well, as the song says "Some day, I'm gonna find that answer".

What I like most about this EP and Rebel Kicks is that they're a surface level band that cuts deeper.  You can hear these songs and enjoy them and sing along without really putting much thought into it- if you don't want to.  But if you really listen to the music, you'll feel how complex it is- same with the lyrics.    This feels like pop of the future with hints of the past.  Perhaps the right now is that somewhere in between.  

Music Review // ROKI "Natural"

ROKI has created a radio friendly pop song with "Natural" that also feels like it can cross boundaries into R&B / soul as well as that coffee house sound.   This reminds me a bit of Norah Jones but I'm not sure who else it compares with.   There's this smooth way about the verses but then horns kick in and the chorus really livens up.

The song itself seems to be about how things done naturally turn out to be the best.  This is true and I think it's something we all need to learn about in life.   If you're someone on socially media who has tons of followers but little interaction, we all know you paid for those bots to follow you.  The way you can organically grow a following is much better and I'm sure most artists would rather have ten people really love their music than ten thousand bots not capable of caring.

But this song also has a distinct sense of being about a relationship.   With lines like: "We got time / Take it slow" it can demonstrate how people do tend to rush into things.  There are certain moments, certain milestones within a relationship that happen and when we try to force them it just doesn't make them as special.   Taking the time and letting them happen naturally is much more precious.

"Natural" as a song is just a wonderful piece of music.  You can put this on while you dance around the kitchen in your socks doing the dishes.  But if you really want to explore the depths of the sound and the lyrics, they are here for you.  I don't think everyone will do it because the world remains largely fake and rushed, but for those who do, they will find something special in life. 

Music Review // Raveen "In The Middle"

Raveen begins this song softly, but it ultimately kicks in with big beats.   There is something gothic about this electronic rock which can remind me of Hozier.  I don't think there is another artist as well known or as easy to compare this with as to say Hozier, so we can just stick with that.

Slow paced, this song feels sad and in some ways because as the lyrics point out, he is stuck in the middle.   One of the lines I particularly enjoy within this song is: "If I seem afraid / it's cause I mean what I'm saying" and people always underestimate how it can feel to really stand up for yourself and speak your mind.

At the same time, if you feel like you're in the middle of something and you don't want to be any more- you want to be on one side- then this song might help to get you there.  There isn't always an easy path from Point A to Point B, and Raveen might not be able to speed up your journey but at least this is a song to listen to on your way.

I also just enjoy that even though I can compare this with Hozier, that's really the only person I feel like I can compare this with.  The fact that more music doesn't sound this powerful and emotional at the same time, with layers while the sound itself comes out minimal, is strange to me, but Raveen is doing it right.  

CD Review // Bryan Day + Dereck Higgins "Woven Territories"

A slow slide into a sharp note.  This has air about it and can feel just as easily like it is outside, someone struggling to get into their car perhaps, as it can feel as if it is being launched into space.    The sound of rewind now and then that lead pipe roll.   This, in turn, becomes quite loud and distorted.   It feels mechanical as metal is being hit in a gong type way.   Slowly, this begins to feel as if it is expanding as well.

Electronic reels like rodents.   Squeaky hinges.  Walking through the mud.  A little bit of sonar now.   Harsh sounds come through now like a swarm of insects.   Big, electronic pinball type sounds drop now.   We go into the second song with bells ringing like The Undertaker.   Distorted static comes through.   Strings come through like magic but there's still that feeling of haunted space.  

A scraping comes through with delightful tones, making this feel both hollow and beautiful at the same time.  It's like being trapped down in a well but at least the sun is shining and you have happy thoughts somehow.   Strings also feel like they're ascending upwards and about to break.  Those same sounds of scraping and walking footsteps come into the next song.  Laser shots are being fired through.   Slowly beeping and rattling now, the song continues. 

Bottles sound like they are dropping and the feeling of that train engine begins to increase speed.   A scratching now which sounds almost like chickens.   This grows intense and it just feels like we're on our path.  I feel like I can hear that train whistle blowing in the background, but then the tone slightly changes and I'm beginning to feel something else.   Rather than some big explosion, this whole piece ends quietly, just sort of trailing off.  

CD Review // Dave Fugiewicz "Selected Works, 1990-1997" (NO PART OF IT)

We begin with a song which sounds like a pinball machine glitch but with static waves coming through supersonic sounds as well.   The synths come through like video games, but they also expand as if we're in space.  Overall, this has a very spatial sense of sound, which is weird because there is no sound in space.  It does feel like we're floating in space, stuck aboard an aircraft that might never return home.

"Tetrahedral Fusion" has these small beeps in it which remind me of robots and having those robots help you in space is just such the perfect genre for me.   The sounds can also feel like they're going up now and disappearing.   The sound grows a bit more mechanical now and also somehow wider on the next song.   That overall feeling of synths in space returns on "Anger In My Cries".

Sharp, loud blasts come through like fireworks.   The sharpness is also growing louder, even sharper.   Big organs are coming in now, like Phantom of the Opera, but this still feels like it's set in space somehow and I like that about it as well.  I imagine some gremlin type creature running around a spaceship, causing trouble and no one is really quite sure what is happening but they know that their fate is sealed.

The way these sounds whirr by can also make it feel like we're on some space highway or even something out of Tron.   More ambient tones come in now and it feels like we're floating.   Those Transformers synths come through like lightsabers now as well.   Delicate bell tones come through now as well and this always reminds me of Christmas.  I feel like elves are making toys at Santa's Village.

A door opens now.  Heavy breathing.   In a rapid fire pattern, the synth is transforming now.   This turns into a song now where the synths come in with this pattern that fades in and out.   There is that jingling again, such as the pinball machine.   This can also take on the sound like a carousel ride, but in an almost glitch manner.   "Vortex Generator" sounds like an intergalactic baby mobile while "Mutant Intervention" then takes us into the depths of space.  

CD Review // Arvo Zylo "Radio Feedback" (NO PART OF IT)

The idea of this being "Radio Feedback" is pretty neat.   There was always this concept of someone listening at home to their radio calling in, having their radio turned up too loudly and it created feedback to where the radio DJ would say "Whoa, caller! Turn down your radio!"  The way sound moves through all of these mediums is fascinating and Arvo Zylo explores it on this CD.

There is a lot of distortion in here.  It's static sounding.  At times there can be some Pong action, but then it can go into a more direct bug zapping sound.   This drones for quite a while and it can become overwhelming if you're not prepared for it.   There is also a certain feeling left on your ears when it stops playing and I need to know if there is a word for that (and if not someone needs to create it)

On CD this exists in five different pieces but if you listen to the stream on Bandcamp (or purchase the download part of it) you will get an additional three tracks which are about two and a half more hours of this!   Cassettes are part of vintage audio as is the radio and so this appeals to me greatly and I feel like it's something everyone who is a true fan of sound should have in their collection.  

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Music Review // Naghmeh "Burn"

A lot of what can be heard in this song by Naghmeh is the guitar.   There are other instruments in here, but it is so much just guitar lead that it really becomes the main focus other than the vocals.   And with the song being called "Burn" and singing about fire, it's only fitting that at times this sound seems to reflect that.

Fire is such a strange concept that I don't think people really think about enough.  If you have a piece of paper and you set it on fire, the fire can consume the entire piece of paper.  When you extinguish the fire, there could be no evidence left that either the piece of paper or the fire itself ever existed.   It definitely feels like the past in this song is meant to be burned in such a way.

With sweet guitar solos and just an overall vibe like Tracy Chapman, there are the lines: "Burn till there's nothing left but you and me / The fire will set you free" and that's really powerful.  I know there are fires which cause tragedies, but this song reminds me of someone putting their past into a garbage can and setting a controlled fire to erase all traces of that time.  It's remarkable how it can be done.

Even if you don't want to start an actual fire (because there are laws and the general safety to consider) this song could be that spark which helps you set your past on fire.  Listening to "Burn" by Naghmeh could be that means of burning it all down without actually having to get too close to the heat.  And sometimes, yes, it just needs to burn.  

Music Review // The Rumble Wagon "through the dark"


The sound of The Rumble Wagon begins like Counting Crows for me, but as it goes on it can change.   There is an element of folk/country within this rock but by the chorus you begin to feel the keys, hear the soul and think of an artist such as Bruce Springsteen or Meatloaf.  There is a big old revival within this sound.

There are a lot of great lines of wisdom within this song.   One says that you: "Gotta learn to turn your back on yesterday", which just feels like that sense of accepting that the past is over and you can't change it.  I feel like our obsession with changing the past comes simply from being human and making mistakes.   It'd be so much easier if we could all just admit we make mistakes and though we did that yesterday we'll try harder today and move forward.

We also have a line like: "You can't fake what you've got to earn".  I believe anyone who tries to do something and is not genuine about it is going to get found out.  I also believe that if you have a strong passion for something and people can feel that, then you're going to do well.  In music, for example, if you're really about the lifestyle you sing about then I think your music will catch on and you'll have a great future.

Overall, I just hear this song and it makes me want to move.  There aren't really songs in this style as much, though through the 1980's and 1990's it felt like it would've fit in more.  But then the messages within the song are also like these little words of motivation and inspiration being sent while enjoying the music itself.  It's definitely a song to get yourself hyped up with.  

Cassette Review // Jeffrey Alexander "Enchanted Undiscovered Places"

As this cassette begins with acoustic guitar strums, so come through these winding, alien-like tones that make me think of Porno for Pyros.   Guitar strums on the next song bring in this Old West feeling with the bells and the way it just feels dreamy yet also trippy.   You can hear acoustic guitar notes plucked now as the sax comes blaring through.   This whole cassette so far feels both dreamy and trippy, as it's just something you want to listen to outside on a warm summer day.

We end up in some just beautiful acoustic guitar sounds, which also have these sounds which make it feel like we're out in the middle of nature.   It's interesting how these songs can change pieces of them but certain pieces like the acoustic guitar can remain, and then carry over into the next song.  All of this can make it feel like we're in the same space, but then the idea of being out on the grass on a bright and a sunny day shifts to one of being in the middle of wilderness.  

On the flip side we begin with a pulsating sound, like an engine or helicopter blade.   This brings on a big western sound, like we're about to go have a shoot out in such a way, but there is also this croaking sound like a frog.   Vocals come in now as well.   It has those elements of us going through the desert on a horse with no name.   This becomes a walk through instrumental with some buzzing.

This takes us into this slower, more somber saxophone lead song now.   The longer it goes on, the more it just feels like it's taking us off into space.    This becomes a more upbeat song which has these rhythms and overall concepts such as Flaming Lips meets The Love Boat.   We shift into this dance of notes which start off like they're going to be played in full, but then they just get cut off like they're dancing and buckling at the knees.  It's an interesting idea for animation and I think this whole cassette can just put images into your head.  

Cassette Review // Folk Punk Dad "Brainstorm"

Folk Punk Dad stays true to his roots as being punk on this cassette because it is not available online.   That isn't to say that you can't buy the cassette online but you can still stream the songs on Spotify or Bandcamp.  Nope, these ten songs are all exclusive to this cassette and if you contact him nicely he might send you one but I got this at a show and suggest that you do the same.

This sound is mostly singing with an acoustic guitar, though on the second song the pace of words gets fast like rapping almost.  What I enjoy most about this cassette isn't just the lyrical content which appeals to me, as a person with mental illness, but also there is this raw quality to the cassette as well.  

At times, you can hear in between songs when the stop button is pressed and that just gives it this realness that I think can be found only on cassette.  But at the same time, I feel like it makes these songs that much more relatable.  You have to imagine Folk Punk Dad in his bedroom of his apartment just playing these songs into a tape recorder.  That's something we could all do, if we had the talent, and so that human aspect makes this cassette all the much more excellent as well.  

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Cassette Review // Vicky Von Vicky "Goodbye My Love"

Right away I enjoy this song by Vicky Von Vicky because at the heart of it, "Goodbye My Love" is a breakup song but it feels so upbeat and fun it makes me feel less sad if I was going through a breakup.   The music here resembles that of Buddy Holly, "That Thing You Do!" and even Weezer, but ultimately these guitar starts and stops are just plain fun.

People will come and go throughout your life for various reasons and I think it takes a lot of maturity and intelligence to recognize that.  I think people look at their lives as a movie or a book and so you expect these same characters throughout it, but when you look at your life as a series of books or movies then you can see where one ends and another begins.  

This music video is full of scenes such as cars driving off, birds flying away and even the train tracks left behind us.   There is the line: "But I thought I was the one", which goes to show how a lot of people can feel, but ultimately this song does a great job of coming to that realization of the two not being meant for each other and so they say goodbye.

I feel like I really like this song too because there is a mix of emotion and straight-forwardness to it.   On one hand, yes, it does feel like you're going through an emotion such as sadness because it's over and you're saying goodbye.  But at the same time, it feels like you're coping with it and so it feels like it's being accepted in a matter of fact way.  Regardless, this song should help you next time you have to say goodbye.  

Music Review // Dany Horovitz "Be Good"

Dany Horovitz has created a beautiful song with "Be Good" that is also just a message I think more people should hear.  Through acoustic guitar strums and some other strings behind it, this is very minimal but the words are there and should be focused on.   While the title is "Be Good", and that is in the song, there is a deeper meaning here as well.

I've always felt like whatever you believed in terms of morals, laws, religion, etc the end message should always just to be good and do good.  I also believe that you get what you put into the world, so if you're good then good things will come back to you.  In the chorus you can hear the lines: "Be true / Do your best" and I think in many ways that's what life is about.

Though I feel like social media has done more harm than good, I do think that there is this common bond people can form over social media  Even if it's just us thinking that we also stay up late at night thinking about something we said ten years ago and we see it in a meme.  Being able to relate with someone in that regard is huge and as the lines in this song say: "You'll always have regrets / And you'll always feel a little strange / But everybody feels the same / There's nothing we can change"

They say that depression is the focus on the past and whether or not you believe that, the past is done and we can't change it.   All we can do is try and do better, try and be good now and going forward.  I think this song is an excellent reminder of that.  I'm not the same person I was five years ago- no one really is- and if you're on the right path then hopefully people see that and you can sleep a little better at night.

Cassette Review // Mickey O'Brien "Orebody" (Hand'Solo Records)

This cassette begins with these bagpipes which sound like they're playing "Amazing Grace" with words being rapped over them.   With record skips, the first song comes on after the intro and it feels like something from Suburban Noize Records, though I can't place a specific artist within these beats and rhymes.  

A more upbeat song comes through but "It's so hard to say goodbye" is coming through the background like Boyz II Men.   On "Antipathy" and name drops Flint, Michigan saying that there's something in the water.  The sax is going hard now.   Everything is reduced to just words and then hard record scratching comes into start the next song.

At one point I thought I had misjudged what song was what, but then they started singing "On Guard", so I know where I am.  This song goes hard.   Name dropping Canseco in an A's hat on the next song is quite fun as well.  "I'm one bad day away from going Joker mode" is something I feel we can all relate with right now.

As these songs have big beats coming through, they also bring in elements of R&B which I definitely enjoy.  It expands on the hip hop concept into something else like other artists have done before, but also Mickey O'Brien certainly has his own stamp on this sound.   In typical Hand'Solo fashion, this cassette features bonus remixes on the flip side which are all the more reason not to just stream this one digitally but buy the cassette as well!

Cassette Review // Ambigere "I Fell In Love With That Smile How Am I Supposed To Forget It?" (MooseHaus Records)

This begins slowly, and with a quote from "Dark Shadows", as these synths come in with pulses and then everything gets increasingly louder, just wiping out all other sound around it.   Underneath it all, there is an eerie sense.  Driving now, it's growing in both size and speed.   The sharpness coming through feels like electronic wheels, and just when you feel like we might be driving fast enough to go off of a cliff we take this turn into further electronics.

It all slows down to this bugzapper way, sharpness, and then there is another quote about the world being in the daylight.   A blast of distortion comes through now.   Words come echoing through these sounds and then we go into an audio clip about there being fates worse than death.  Electronic distorted blasts now, like we're powerwashing with electricity.   Another audio clip and we go into this drilling / beeping mix.  

We begin the flip side with a flapping sound, as if something is stuck in the dryer, and then it goes into more mechanical screeches.   Everything feels like it's winding and floating through space, but then it comes crashing down with these huge blasts of distortion.   There is a locomotive sound to this now, but it is also screeching through sharply.   Words can be heard coming through here now.  

It feels like we're glitching now, but we're also just floating through the atmosphere.   We're swirling around now and some haunted tones come through.   As we screech our way up high, we begin to come back down with some sonar and beeps.  It just feels like we're in some sort of spaceship, but then the strings come through with modem distortion.   Everything gets much faster as we reach the end.  

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Cassette Review // Twins of El Dorado "Verses"

Twins of El Dorado have one of the most unique sounds you will ever hear.  Joe Moffett plays the trumpet during these songs while Kristin Slipp sings.  To think of this in a smooth jazz way would be one thing, but the way that these songs go is actually quite different.   The structure is all over the place and so are the vocals, which makes it perfect for me.

A sound like galloping can be heard at first and then slowly the singing comes in with the trumpet following along.   It's interesting because at first it can be a matter of singing a note and then the trumpet playing a note after it, but as the cassette goes on the two sounds can merge together, playing at the same time and becoming one.

There are moments when the trumpet is solo, the vocals take a break, and though there are clear lyrics in here at times there are also words that are mumbled/jumbled as well as just this breathing rhythm which produces vocal sounds but not words.   There is a song called "Cats" and it's about cats not wearing shoes, which I think is fun in an IASIP way.

In true contrast to this sound overall, sometimes it can sound like a slurping with the vocals and other times as the singing comes through it reminds me of someone classically trained such as Julie Andrews.  On "Dorsal", for example, the vocals go "ho" and then the trumpet plays a note.    Though you've likely heard singing and a trumpet before, I'm willing to be you've never heard them together quite like this.