CD Reviews

KIER BYRNES & FRIENDS

Blarney: A Compilation of Irish Music

14 tracks

Any lover of folk music has probably also cultivated an appreciation for traditional Irish tunes such as “The Irish Rover,” which opens this compilation. It is clear from the vocal gusto with which Byrnes attacks these numbers that he is a long-time aficionado of the form. “Star of the County Down” is notable for its traditional Irish percussion. “Jar of Porter” is a well-known Irish drinking song, here accompanied by a clarion mandolin and busy percussion. “Johnny MacEldoo” is a rapid-fire patter song – a novelty style of singing briefly popularized in the late 1940s by comedians such as Danny Kaye. “The Jolly Tinker” is a spirited and good-natured romp reminiscent of Steeleye Span. “The Moonshiner” is a traditional song also known in the American Folk tradition as “Whiskey Rye Whiskey,” among other titles. This rendition is performed in a suitably hillbilly-like quavery tenor, thus underlining the linkage. “Cruskeen Lan” is a rather sad lament, underscored by some more of that thundering Irish percussion. And what collection of Irish songs would be complete without (a rather subdued but altogether satisfying) rendition of “Danny Boy,” replete with fiddle and guitar flourishes? Byrnes does a creditable job with a varied range of traditional material; he approaches the songs with reverence, but also, more importantly, with care and love. Recommended. ( Note: If you buy the album online, you also receive the following bonus tracks by Three Day Threshold:  “A Toast to My Father”; “Leaving of Liverpool”; “Kelly, I’m Coming Over “; “Pub with no Beer”; “Haul Away Joe”; “Drunken Sailor”; “Whiskey, You’re the Devil,” and “Back Home in Derry”). (Francis DiMenno.)

STEPH BARRAK

Never Again

4 tracks

“Now, more than ever, it feels critical that we find ways to stay connected to our humanity, whether through art, family, friends, love, community, work, or whatever else opens your heart and gives you peace. For me, that connection often comes in the form of creating and celebrating music. Today, I hope to offer you a small piece of that with these new songs.”

A few years ago I was captivated by a new voice on the local acoustic scene – Steph Barrak. Her 2013 debut album, Words to Break Your Heart, hit me immediately with its sensitivity and youthful intentions. Under the guidance of her top-notch producer, Mike Davidson, the songs bloomed beyond their emotional intimacy and a string of live shows followed. Then, poof, she disappeared.

Suddenly, four years later comes Never Again, a four-song EP that shows her evolution as a singer and lyricist. She still deals with relationships and identity, seeking to explore both hope and resignation. She has also added a stronger instrumental base to her music, which supports her maturity. Under Davidson’s steady hand, pop influences still abound. The opening track, “So Familiar”, shimmers with harmonies, synths, and a hook drum beat that shifts the feeling in mid-song. “Never Again” is a tough kiss-off with a crunchy little guitar solo. “Bad Habits” features Lance Riley’s textural slide guitar amidst the EP’s central context, “Can’t find a reason to push you away/ So I’ll pull you in closer, pretend that I’ll stay/ And it’s such a bad habit, I’m trying to quit/ But they don’t make a patch or a pamphlet for this.” The final track, “Like You Predicted,” feels like an acoustic-soul break-up tune – it’s just missing some horn punctuation to add the tension, “Just like you predicted/ Most days are good days/But somehow I miss you more and more.” Once again, I am deeply impressed by Ms. Barrak and will continue to support her efforts.   (Harry C. Tuniese)

GOVERNOR                                                                                                             

A Commonwealth Songbook

8 tracks

Wow, I really love this offering by Governor! I have to admit that I was a bit surprised and perplexed by the packaging of this CD.  An interesting concept. This packaging is a limited edition – 100 copies. The disc is accompanied by a 24 page book, which includes lyrics, photography, and good old fashioned liner notes. How’s that for presentation? It’s a great touch. I’d love to see this kind of innovative packaging done more often. But enough about the very cool packaging. I suppose I was concerned that if anyone put this much effort into the exterior, that it might be trying to compensate for something that was lacking in the actual content. My concerns were completely unwarranted.

I was even more impressed by the music of Governor, than I was the unique presentation. As soon as this music, which is sort of alt/ indie/ stoner rock, kicked in, I knew this was going to work magic for me, and it didn’t let me down. The music hits hard. It’s stealthy, and wastes no time in coming in for the kill right from the start. Track 1, “Roxbury Girls,” pans in with with a nice edgy rock sound. A slick and cutting sound, as sharp as a well honed razorblade. “Behind the Wheel,” is in contrast, much lighter sounding, which they do equally well. There’s a late 90s, early 2000 vibe to this music.

The dark strains of track 6, “First Scolder,” were killer! I played this track four or five times consecutively. This is definitely my cup of black tea. Dark and hypnotic,  just the way I like it! Track 7, “Nickel Chaser,” was another one I played more than a few times in a row. I just couldn’t get enough of this addictive stuff, and I confess to listening to it much louder than is recommended. It’s heady and trippy, with touches of artfully distorted, staticky, crackly guitar work,  If I had to compare it to something else, saying that it is something akin to the sounds and vibes of Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot,” is about right, maybe just a whisper of Alice in Chains, too. There’s a lot more to it though.

They switch things up a good deal with, “There are no Skinheads on the MBTA,” which in spite of the title, is a softer, more lilting , dreamy sound, as odd as that might seem. It just works, and it works well.

The entire album takes a tour of the Boston area, comparing the way it was and the way it is now. Everything changes, and it’s rather a testimony to Thomas Wolfe’s saying, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” And alas, no, you can’t. Nothing is ever the same, and yet so much really doesn’t change. The accompanying book’s photos, well shot by John Savoia, seem to capture the energy of the songs, serving as “illustrations,” of what is being conveyed musically. I loved this concept.

As for the band. Again, just, wow… Brian George fronts on vocals, guitar, and keys. There is something about his voice that really pulled me in, and during the headier stuff, he emanates something of a mesmerizing presence and sound. Love it! Marcos Nava, on Bass and vocals plays a nicely grounding bass, deeply consistent and resonant, while not overpowering everything else that is going on. Nice work. Sean Joncas, on drums is a solid, and also provides, the trippy, self described “guitar noise,” which works so well for me in their music, in addition to vocals. Ryan Dougherty, and I am quoting the book’s liner note credits, “guitar… absolutely no vocals.” As to who is doing what, on which guitars, I have no idea. All I know is that it sounds awesome.

It all sounds fantastic, and it’s worth noting that these guys managed to pull off these great quality recordings, not in a recording studio, but in the band members’ basements and bedrooms, which only makes it all that much more impressive to me. I really have to say that as a reviewer, it’s at times like this, when something like Governor’s A Commonwealth Songbook comes along, that I am nicely surprised, and happily reminded of the magic that music can work. Listening to this CD more times than I can count, I can say in all sincerity,  it was a genuine pleasure. I am grateful to have had the opportunity, and am highly recommending this one – just in case you couldn’t tell.  (R.J. Ouellette)

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TWO VIEW REVIEW

SARAH & THE WILD VERSATILE    

Fall Into Grace

10 tracks

The album kicks off with the excellent, incantatory “Should’ve Known,” with strong and intense vocals by Sarah Seminski and powerful drumming by Derek Hayden. Melodic values are also to the fore on this well-thought-out, thoroughly professional arrangement. The second song, and title track, starts out as 60s psyche-pop and devolves into a touching and highly evocative Gospel-tinged tune, replete with rousing keyboards by Derek Dupuis and a spacy, chundering guitar attack by Eric Reardon. The textures are outstanding throughout and Ms. Seminski pulls out all the stops on this sanctified number. Other highlights include the slow-burning blues “Let You Go,” reminiscent in its grandeur of Otis Redding and his Stax/Volt backing musicians, with horn arrangements by Scott Aruda and suitably subdued bass by Steve Burke. “Kristine” starts out as a powerful new wave rocker with a galloping drum/keyboard impetus reminiscent of “Thank You For Sending Me an Angel” by the Talking Heads, while, as ever, Seminski’s vocals soar above the rhythm in melismatic croons and earthy growls. There’s even a thoroughly rocking guitar solo by Steve Burke. “Hands to the Sky” switches things up with a jazzy background over which Seminski contributes some sassy quasi-scat singing. The final song, “There Must Be a Rainbow Somewhere,” is a meditative ballad with new agey electric piano and violin touches by Vlad Stoicescu. This is a record by a phenomenally talented assemblage in which the instrumental work is exemplary and the vocal versatility – beyond exemplary. Highly recommended. (Francis DiMenno.)

SARAH & THE WILD VERSATILE

Fall Into Grace

10 tracks

This is a rock solid alt rock band that includes: Sarah Seminski on vocals extraordinaire, Eric Reardon on guitar, Steve Burke playing bass, Derek Dupuis on keys/vocals, and Derek Hayden pounding. Scott Aruda on trumpet and flugelhorn and Dana Colley blowing sax add their talents to the mix. All the songs are written by the first three artists and the first thing you notice about their music is the stunning vocals and nice harmonies.  Sarah screams. Sarah seduces. She soars. She roars! Check out the opener “Should’ve Known” with its great hook and her operatic and powerful vocals. The title track “Fall Into Grace,” “Sunday Morning,” “Kristine,” “Pleather Jacket Mambo,” ” Hands to the Sky,” and the closer “There Must Be a Rainbow Somewhere” all have a unique alt rock sound with nice guitar work, cool arrangements and a tight presentation. I really like the r&b influenced ballads “Let You Go” and “Dear Lee.” This woman can sing. (A.J. Wachtel)

HOWIE NEWMAN

Chin Music

When You’re Happy

10 tracks

“My Baby Can’t Parallel Park” is a gleeful, humorous song in a musical mode which might be characterized as Hippie Folk – think of Have Moicy! by the Unholy Modal Rounders, or of Jesse Winchester in one of his lighter moods, or of Pure Prairie league with just a little of the smoothness of James Taylor. The title track is an appealing bit of 1920s hokum whimsy; the song “Where Is Everybody?” is a witty compilation of the excuses which promoters make when turnout at a concert event is low, and “That Old Car” is a jaunty Western Swing styled number. There are also some more sentimental tunes such as the fiddle-driven “Our Kids Aren’t Kids Anymore”; the humble and melodically appealing “Low Tech,” and the upbeat love song “Reality Check.” This is a pleasurable romp sure to appeal to people who appreciate folk songs with a bit of gentle humor. (Francis DiMenno.)

LILY BLACK

Lily Black EP

6 tracks

I got this EP on a USB drive that also functions as a wristband. Though I don’t think I’ll ever wear what is essentially a high tech, black, rubber bracelet; in the age of the death of the compact disc, this band gets points off the bat for creativity. The EP kicks right in to full gear with “A Room for You.” The band has got a lot of energy, bonus points there as well. The songs are well recorded and composed. The vocal harmonies are tight and in every way this seems like a real polished band ready for some big shows.  Singer Lilly Senna remind me of a cross between Letters to Cleo’s Kay Hanley and Noelle LeBlanc of Damone, another couple of my local favorite female fronted, punk-pop bands. And like those two bands, I don’t think I’d pass up an opportunity to see Lily Black live. (Kier Byrnes)

ANEURYSM

Stop This Ride

4 tracks

Aneurysm is a noisy five-piece punk rock band from Boston. This brief mind explosion recalls such glorious bands as Mudhoney and Royal Trux. There are obvious echoes of Nirvana, and they even cover “Violet” by Kurt Cobain’s widow’s band Hole. These guys have been around a little while and are really hitting their stride. They play all over New England, so do yourself a solid and go see this amazing band at the height of their superpowers. (Eric Baylies)

JEFF HUDSON

Super Frosty

10 tracks

New wave electro synth artist Jeff Hudson’s celebration of the recently passed marijuana laws in Massachusetts and other states is eccentric, electronic and elegant in it’s conception, its celebration and it’s cadences. “What’s You Wanna Do?,” “Roll One Up,” “Planet Kush,” “Chill Man,” “Bloom Days,” and “Super Frosty” are all fast and smokin‘Hey” and “That’s Right” creep up on you and all the tunes go from foot tappin’ to spacey in a beat. In fact, most of this CD is instrumental but when there are vocals they sound like they are instruments too.  The words are used sparingly for greater effect and it works. Pretty wild. Pretty creative. Pretty good. Funky big beats and a thumping synthesizer with processed vocals. I won’t sound like a dope to say this is great music to listen to while stoned. (A.J. Wachtel)

ANTHEM NOISE

White Whale

8 tracks

Trained at the New England Conservatory of Music in 2004, singer John Russell and composer Jordan Montgomery weave a dreamy, trippy aural mix consisting of violin, keyboards and avant garde complementary drumming. The almost four-minute “Social Anxiety” features those beats with a layer of grunge keys embracing the unreal quality of the vocal that embraces these movements. The instrumental “Anthem” continues the melodrama with a similar edgy intro, this a segue that would shake up a house mix or two. Shuffling percussion perfectly placed so that “Locked In,” track three, can build on the theme.  Robotic trance pop with swirling textures make it radio friendly and a standout. “Help Myself” and “There is Nothing Wrong” come in at nine minutes together, twenty-two minutes and forty seconds up to this point on the CD, more than a single side of an LP.  “Help Myself’s” drone and the cosmic effervescence of “There is Nothing Wrong” are like diving slowly in a pool of water somewhere above the earth. The next three songs are another eleven minutes and twenty two seconds, “Apnea” glides along a dreamscape while the title “Flounder” is the closest thing you are going to get to the album title of White Whale. It would work nicely for Captain Ahab sailing the dark seas. “Out of Darkness” (featuring Conor Ebbs) with Stephanie Skor’s violin locking in with Russell’s vocal is more like into the Celtic dark – a nice concoction of world and other-worldly sounds. (Joe Viglione)

WHOREPAINT

Ultrasound

8 tracks

Providence power trio Whorepaint is back and this time they are screaming for vengeance. Singer Reba Mitchell sings sweet like Maria Callas before losing her mind and going bananas over a wall of noise akin to The Swans. Long one of my favorite Rhode Island bands, Whorepaint wansta destroy you, and I have little doubt they will. (Eric Baylies)

KATIE MCNALLY TRIO

The Boston States

10 tracks

Katie’s roots are from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada, and she  has lived in this area and played fiddle on the scene since graduating from Tufts in 2012. For many moons, Boston was the American home for expatriate Cape Breton Islanders far from the rich Scottish culture of their home and its Canadian dance halls. The title of this all-instrumental release, The Boston States, is the name their culture gives this city. McNally remembers the rich, traditional sound, but with locals Neal Pearlman on piano and Shauncey Ali on violin, the trio pushes the genre’s boundaries to include boogie woogie, Latin, jazz and bluegrass too. The music is a combination of originals and traditional songs and most of the tracks are two-song medleys bursting with tight Scottish Highlands jig music like, “Scotty Fitzgerald’s”/ “Hills of Glenanchy,” “Down the Burn”/ “Davie Lad,” “The Fir Tree”/ “Batmoreel,” “Johnny Ray Stewart”/ “Kenny Gillies of Portnalong, Skye,” “The Martlet”/ “Father John Angus Rankin,” ” Donald John the Tailor”/ “One More Week,”The McNallys of Francis Hill”/ “The Millers of Newbury,” and “The Polliwog”/ “The Claw.” I love the way this talented trio seamlessly shuffles from one song to the next; sometimes with just the briefest change in tempo. The fiddle and the violin have beautiful tones and the threesome play so well off each other that their great arrangements get the most out of the small group’s members. The fiddle and the violin present the message and the piano holds it together to communicate it to your ears. Fun fact: the fiddle and the violin are the same instrument but the difference is in their playing. The violin is basically thought of as a classical instrument while the fiddle is more of a folk instrument. Not as a rule, but in this case on this music, the fiddle is primarily Scottish and Cape Breton; and Cape Breton is Scottish in origin. The island’s isolation has made the style more rough and tumble in it’s feel. The bowing is really rhythmic and the music is mostly made for dancing. Whereas in Scotland the music evolved past being dance music to become more courtly, or military music. So the traditional songs included in this CD are often the same but they sound different. Produced by renowned Cape Breton fiddler Wendy MacIsaak I dig the music and can’t wait to see them live. (A.J. Wachtel)

BLUE CAT GROOVE

Blue Cat Groove Music

Unconditional

10 tracks

Not a few of the songs on this release put me in mind of the 70s-era LA school of rhythm and blues minded combos, what with its glossy production values, well-blocked-out arrangements and up-front vocals; Kimberly Hodgens Smith is a fairly powerful vocalist who manages to dominate the melodic line, leaving the rhythmic backing to the powerhouse drumming of Vinnie Depolo and bassist Jeff Oosterman, with guitarist Samuel Bowen applying power chords (as on the Pretenders-like “Attraction”) and guitar picking (as on “Common Ground”). Bowen has a remarkable aptitude for applying textures which make a song move with almost percussive force, as on the ZZ Top-like “By and By Blues.” The somewhat daring cover of the Beatles’ “Oh! Darlin'” is a blues-paced and almost sedate number, until it explodes into its raucous verse. The final song and title track is another Pretenders-like song; a power ballad which is immensely appealing. All in all, I would say that the production on this album gives an accurate rendition of what the this band is capable of.  (Francis DiMenno.)

RUSSIAN TSARLAG

Gagged In Boonesville

9 tracks

Carlos Gonzales aka Russian Tsarlag of Providence has done it again! He has sailed solo around his brain and brought back this slab of sonic architecture that would make Lamont Young or John Cage proud, while adding singer songwriter elements that evoke Coil or Nick Cave’s Birthday Party days. This is a concept album about an apartment building whose residents go insane from looking at a poster of Medusa, but the songs flow like hit singles! Well, kinda, but this is a masterpiece on any level. (Eric Baylies)

GUN MOTHER

These Golden Threads

9 tracks

It’s difficult to know where to begin in describing this album. It is powerfully emotional. Gun Mother could be called the newest musical incarnation of Reverend Glasseye, a Boston based band with an avid cult following. Gun Mother, is Adam Glasseye, on guitar and vocals and Georgia Young, also singing and playing guitar. They harmonize and interact with each other, beautifully. Trying to categorize this genre is not exactly an easy feat, as they seem to defy any clearly defined labels. Artsy, dark, alt/folk, perhaps? Perhaps…

The tracks are musically, and lyrically, full bodied. Strains of piano/ keys, violins and banjo, bass and horns, and hauntingly melodic strings waft in and out, well timed, and perfectly complimenting each other. Truly well orchestrated. The music is rich, mournful, and solemn. At certain times, almost dirge like. Just when you think you have it pegged as folk, another song will reveal tinges of Celtic, Spanish, and/or even Western influences, ultimately, encompassing all of these, and more.

The real stars of this show for me, were “Hispid Hare,” in which the emotional angst in Adam Glasseye’s voice is almost too painful, but beautifully so. It speaks of emotional conflict and guilt, felt to the very soul. Incredibly powerful and moving. If you really listen, you can feel the screams of the “moon hare.” There is a dark night of the soul in this song. One of my favorites was definitely,“Lucky Lee,” much faster paced, with a decidedly Celtic flavor. While still dark, there is a defiantly celebratory feel to this song, which I really liked.

“All in Hell”  is another powerful piece. I could hear the sounds that were so prevalent in Bob Dylan’s, “Hurricane” album in this one. Very much so, and I really liked it. I also loved the track, “Queen Bee.” The music just swells and flows along with the lyrics with such grace. Just beautiful, with something sounding very much like castanets, intoning just a hint of a Spanish sounding song, only to elude this, as the song progresses and unfolds. I just have to listen in awe, as I marvel at the whole song. Wow…

As you have likely gathered by now, this is no light ride. Gun Mother means to tell some very serious stories on “These Golden Threads,” and that is exactly what they have accomplished. I am at a loss as to what it can be compared to, as I really don’t think that it does quite compare to anything else beyond what I have tried to say. This is music of considerable substance and depth, played at its best, and I admittedly had to cast aside some initial trepidations of my own about this. I’m really glad that I did. If you are not down with that, you might want to pass on this, although given the quality deliverance here, you really might want to reconsider your stance. If you are onboard with that, then I am most definitely recommending this!  (R.J. Ouellette)

CONTAINER

LP

7 tracks

Container is the solo noise dance music project of Providence’s own Ren Schofield. Ren has been doing noise music for over 15 years now and is still a young man. He has branched out in the past few years with his project Container. Can you get the club kids to dance over fuzzed out noisy beats? I guess the answer is yes. After decades of playing to five noise kids in basements, Ren seems to be hitting the big time. I hate to use the word techno and turn off people before they give this a fair chance. This is like a remix album of itself. If you like the trance inducing qualities of artists like Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, Chic, and Can, then give this a chance. You’ll be dancing with tears in your eyes! (Eric Baylies)

RYAN SWEEZEY

Starting Over

7 tracks

The pure pop “Bartender” is the same theme as Richard Berry’s quintessential masterpiece, “Louie, Louie.”  People may think the girlfriend is Louie when songwriter Berry was actually telling the bartender he was overjoyed to be going back to the island –  that “Me see Jamaica moon above/it won’t be long before me see me love.”    Sweezey, as many a man with a glass in hand, is more concerned she’s not coming back…and unlike the Marvelette’s begging the postman if there’s any communique…or acknowledgment, Ryan wants the guy behind the bar to go fetch her.  Interesting since the Kingsmen’s 1963 hit and Marvellette’s 1961 smash were fifty seven and fifty nine years ago, but music is all so circular.   The single, “Alright (for a Little While,) goes Dan Fogelberg-touches-of-country with solid production and plenty of verve…with a terrific chorus.  Love it!   Unlike Santana’s mega album Supernatural, which shifted from genre to genre in a way which jolted at first spin, Sweezey moves gently from pop to country pop to blues in the first three tracks.  The live performances of songs on YouTube are engaging, but the studio work is superb. “Late is the Hour,” track 3, shows the complementary vocal and guitar skills: Sweezey is quite gifted! Soulful at one moment, Little Joe Cook falsetto the next tucked inside a composition that is well structured with much commercial potential.

“Sing a Song With You” borrows from the Beatles harmonies in “From Me to You,” but turns the corner quickly to a folk/country flavor.  “One of Two,” featuring a duet with Heather Woods – the rootsy vocalist from Boston with her own EP out, Let Me In.  The pairing generate a mellow, introspective piece that Elton John would find nice to add to Blue Moves Two – if he ever went in that direction.  Nice stuff. “Storytellers” and “Edge of the World” round out this E.E.P. (extra extra play,) the former an Americana essay on those who keep the attention of a world that craves entertainment – the latter song, a cosmic acoustic with dangling sounds that pretty it up like subtle starbursts to weave some magic under the songwriter/singer’s appealing vocal.  The ballad gains steam and is a strong finish to a well-planned and accomplished collection of solid material.   (Joe Viglione)

DIETRICH STRAUSE

How Cruel That Hunger Binds

11 tracks

Dietrich is a Boston based indie roots americana folkie guitarist with a long history of collaborating with national artists touring the U.S. including Anais Mitchell and 2017 Grammy Award winner Sarah Jarosz. He is also a good songwriter and vocalist: his delivery reminding me a bit of Dylan meets Frankie Avalon; sorta like a ’60’s pop star crooning ballads. Check out “Home From The Heartland,” “Boy Born To Die,” “Spring Has Sprung,” and “So Long So Far”  to hear what I mean. Some of the tracks sound like a New Orleans brass band covering folk. Listen to “Lying In Your Arms” and”Pennsylvania;” uptempo Americana ballads with horns. What’s not to like? Hickman plays bass, vibes and bass clarinet and sings, Dominic Billet plays drums, Alec Spiegelman plays woodwinds and nylon string guitar, Lyle Brewer is on electric guitar, Amy Correia and Mark Erelli on vocals and the album’s engineer, Sam Kassirer plays piano and organ. My fave cuts are “The Dove”  and “Rainy Days;” poetic, dreamy folk pop ballads with  really nice melodies.  The closing cut, “The World Once Turning,” is another slow, powerful ballad that almost sounds like a sea- shanty. I like it.  (A.J. Wachtel)

HEADROOM

With Jon

3 tracks

Headroom hail from the magical land of New Haven. This short but  amazing album veers between noise rock and psyche. The track “Bluish Green” starts all pretty, like a Space Needle or Spacemen 3 tune, before the Television like guitars take you away to another acid soaked dimension of space and time. “Sozo Dojo” is an amazing 12 minute odyssey of sonic bliss. I’m not sure how much of this is improv or rehearsed, but this record is a revelation. (Eric Baylies)

THE SUITCASE JUNKET

Signature Sounds Records

Pile Driver

12 tracks

Matt Lorenz is The Suitcase Junket and he is a very interesting and talented individual. The Suitcase Junket is a one-man band and in the studio with him on this release is a suitcase he uses for a bass drum, a high hat, a box of bones, a gas can, cook pot, circular saw, a nasty old guitar, his voice and a few amps. And if I didn’t tell you about this odd assortment of instruments you would never have guessed that on your own. Then include his Indian inspired harmonic throat singing technique which allows him to sing two tones at once and you get a very cool and ultra unique CD. In all the songs, Lorenz and his gritty, distorted guitar, first set up the vibe in his own compositions that are street variations of punk, Americana and folk influenced music. “Busted Gut” and “Swamp Chicken” with their twang, the rocking “Beta Star” with sister Kate on harmonies, and “Seed Your Dreams,” “Jackie,” “Evangeline,” “What Was I Gonna Say?,” “Red Flannel Rose,” and “Ten Rivers” are all catchy melodies with well-written images that he labels “Swamp Yankee” music – and we’ll  go along with that description. It is engineered and mixed by Justin Pizzoferrato and mastered by Carl Saff at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA.  Lorenz is a solo performer who sounds like a four-piece band. No shit !  A real needle in a haystack. Great stuff. (A.J. Wachtel)

DAEMON CHILI

Mercy of the Sea

10 tracks

Hailing from the Lowell, MA area, Daemon Chili is a tightly knit, well polished band whose sounds are firmly rooted in the country rock / blues rock genre. The material on “Mercy of the Sea,” all original, and  well written by frontman, Michael Dion. The theme of the CD’s title, runs through a lot of the songs and presents something of an oxymoron to my mind, in that when I think of all things nautical, seldom does a country vibe come to mind, but never the less it is here to a good extent, and Daemon Chili makes the unexpected fusion of the two work, and it somehow feels right at home in this, all while taking on somewhat different sounds  throughout while doing so.

Once the CD began to play, from the first track, I couldn’t help but hear a sound that is influenced by Robbie Robertson and The Band, with a healthy dose of The Charlie Daniels Band added. There are a lot of talented musicians lending their skills to this effort. Eleven are listed in the credits, five major players, with six additional players, and it sounds like a whole lot more than that to my ear. One tight band that doesn’t skimp on anything, in any way. Any music section that can be filled, has been filled more than amply. While I have never attended a live show of theirs, I can’t help but think that it would make for one great time. It’s“good time music” for sure. It strikes you that everyone playing is having a great time doing it, and that kind of vibe is just always going to shine through when you hear the music.

Daemon Chili’s sound is contagiously upbeat with a “take no prisoners,” tour de force style that just kicks it where it counts. Only the most jaded music fan will find a way to not appreciate at least some of the tracks laid down on this CD. High points among these tracks for me, were “Mercy of the Sea,” “Blues for Jimmy,” good old school bar music, complete with a honkytonk piano to get you up and moving if you need some inspiration, “Devil Woman,” heavily boozy blues at its best,  “Seven Deadly Sins,” no holds barred in the rockin’ out on this one, which is a live recording, and the kicking “Wicked Blues,” also a live recording. It all serves as a great substitute for one hell of a night (or day) out if you are stuck inside. Just BYOB, or whatever, if you’re so inclined.

And the well deserved and stellar credits go to all of the following : Michael Dion – lead vocals, rhythm gGuitar, harmonica, Steve Benson – pedal guitar / steel guitar, mandolin, Jay Moretti – lead guitar, Jay Breen – drums, Jay Samiago – bass. “Additional Personnel,” Jes Sheldon – supporting vocals, Max Chase – organ, Nick Heys – Piano, Seth Bailin – Tenor Sax, Mike Kaskiewicz – Trombone, and Alex Allman – baritone sax. These people really know what they are doing and they give it one hundred percent. Epic. Mercy of the Sea is  genuine feel good music, and the ocean’s waves never rocked quite like this.   (R.J. Ouellette)

ANTHEM NOISE

White Whale

8 tracks

Trained at the New England Conservatory of Music in 2004, singer John Russell and composer Jordan Montgomery weave a dreamy, trippy aural mix consisting of violin, keyboards and avant garde complementary drumming. The almost four minute “Social Anxiety” features those beats with a layer of grunge keys punctuating the unreal quality of the vocal that embraces these movements. The instrumental “Anthem” continues the melodrama with a similar edgy intro, this a segue that would shake up a house mix or two. Give a tip of the had to producer Andy Edelstein for making it so.  Shuffling percussion perfectly placed so that “Locked In,” track three, can build on the theme.  Robotic trance pop with swirling textures make “Locked In” radio friendly and a standout. “Help Myself” and “There is Nothing Wrong” come in at nine minutes together, twenty-two minutes and forty seconds up to this point on the CD, more than a single side of an lp.  “Help Myself’s” drone and the cosmic effervescence of “There is Nothing Wrong” are like diving slowly in a pool of water somewhere above the earth. The next three songs are another eleven minutes and twenty two seconds, “Apnea” glides along a dreamscape while the title “Flounder” is the closest thing you are going to get to the album title of White Whale. It would work nicely for Captain Ahab sailing the dark seas. “Out of Darkness” (featuring Conor Ebbs) with Stephanie Skor’s violin  melting between Russell’s vocal is more like into the Celtic dark – a nice concoction of world and other-worldly sounds. Credit also drummer Josh Weinberg, a staple on the local scene whose fine work is a plus here.   (Joe Viglione)

DAN CLOUTIER

Birch Beer Records

The Battle of Greenland

9 tracks

Dan Cloutier is an accomplished  singer/songwriter hailing from Upton, MA. One could say that his music falls within the realms of ambient/alt folk/soft alt rock. He has recorded thee albums prior to the release of “The Battle of Greenland.” This is the first album that he has released in five years, having taken that time out, to fully involve himself in addressing his son’s life or death battle with cancer, and it reflects the incredibly difficult and painful journey that he and his family have traversed during within this interim.

These songs sing of grief, fear, pain, hope, and thankfully, their triumph as a family, over this arduous battle. The album recounts the emotions lived through during these experiences, ultimately serving as a heartfelt catharsis through the words and music. It can all be felt within these songs. The bad, the sad, the better, and the best. Truly heart wrenching at times. Often, the experiences are expressed through metaphors – at other times, more literally so. As a writer myself, I feel that he is sharply skilled as both a writer and a story teller. One hopes never to connect with the dark muse whose inspiration is so painfully heard here, as he recounts these experiences.

Listening to the music, I preferred the tracks which focused on the determined “war spirit,” one must assume when battling such a formidable opponent. Track 3, “The Battle of Greenland,” is one such example, as it begins softly, and gradually works its way up to a powerful, and drum driven battle song, played with the brave spirit of a Viking rushing full on into that battle. I loved the powerful determination that I could feel equaling, or even outweighing the fear. Track 5, “The Morning When We Run,” with its touchingly hopeful strains, visualizing a happy outcome to be had, was also a higher point for me. Track 6, the only song on the CD, that was not written by Dan Cloutier, is another one I really liked. This song, is one that I know to be based upon an old Appalachian song, “Old Bangum,” whose origins are very old Celtic. Cloutier has replaced the traditional “Wild Boar,” of the original song, with a “White Wolf,” (which I could only imagine might be a metaphor for white blood cells?)  Again, very powerful.

The final song, “Day of Resurrection,” concludes the album, singing longingly, hopefully, for a fresh and new beginning. One which can’t come soon enough. Dreams of cold, white air on the ocean, recharging and cleansing. Renewing, and resurrecting.  I have thus far, written exclusively of what this CD is about. It would have been impossible to do it justice without having done so and aside from that, it can not really be separated from the experiences which inspired its creation. The music itself is beautifully played and sung, the production quality is excellent. Dan Cloutier has a nice singing voice, through which he clearly conveys feeling. He also plays both electric and acoustic guitars, upright piano, and the “phone bells,” which while so small, are so significant to the stories in these songs. Kim Jennings, on additional vocals, synth, electric piano, and melodica. Jon Glancy , on drums ( kudos to those incredible “battle drum” beats), Eric Salt, on Baritone guitar. Richard Barraza is credited as “Contra Code Man,” and I confess to having no idea what that means. What I do know, is that it all comes together beautifully, and seemingly without effort upon the parts of those involved, even though I know that this couldn’t have been the case.

This is not something that you would catch me listening to on a regular basis. It’s not that kind of music. But, “The Battle of Greenland,” could easily serve as a great source of inspiration and hope to those fighting their own battles. Ultimately, it was built upon hope, blood, sweat, tears, and fears. Ultimately, happily… the fears did not win this battle. I’m so very happy that in the end of this story, the good guys won.             (R.J. Ouellette)

Welcome The Noise’s new intern, Kathyrn Leeber, who aggressively sought out these local digital products to review.

PULITZER PRIZE FIGHTER

Everything That Makes You Feel Tired

5 tracks

Filled with simple, yet consistent and melodic instruments, Pulitzer Prize Fighter combines softer vocals with powerful guitars and drums. Lead singer Colin McDonald has the kind of voice that sticks in your head, in a positive way. His capabilities shine though in the opening song “Sugar.” Even though it is a simple song, lyrically, the instrumental adds a great support to McDonald, as do the supporting vocalists. “Wicked” has a similar sound, but is more pop-oriented in sound and in lyrics. “Dance With U” is a sweet and upbeat song that displays more of their self-described R&B sound. “Marsellus Wallace’s Wife” starts off sounding heavier than the other tracks, but once McDonald starts singing, the tempo evens out and the guitars and drums blend with the vocals more so than overpowering McDonald. It is evident the group has found their sound and is sticking to it. With layered vocals, the harmonies add a great contrast to the powerful drums and funky guitars. “Ricky Williams Post-Suspension” closes out the EP and utilizes cymbals, which had not been heard until this song. It adds a nice touch, especially when the drums quiet down. There are a few instrumental solos, as well as pauses where the vocals are the sole focus. This band does a great job of really using all of their sounds and making sure the listener can hear each and every component of every song.  (Kathryn Leeber)

FIRST FROST

First Frost

3 tracks

Even with just three songs, the debut EP from First Frost packs an emotional punch. Slow guitar work and minimal drumming in “No Sleep” continue to build until the instruments become the focus of the song. Near the end of the song, the rock elements become much clearer, even utilizing electronic sounds. “Why Shouldn’t I” sounds more pop-based, at least vocally, but the instruments continue to blend well and softly support the vocalist. “Wild in the Wake” is entirely instrumental. While it is enjoyable, it sounds too similar to the instrumental components of the other two tracks. With only three songs, an instrumental track was a bold choice, but adding vocals might have been a stronger idea. The group tries to combine various elements of genres such as rock, pop, and possibly jazz, and they do a decent job, but it is not very memorable. (Kathryn Leeber)

ARLENS

Negatives

8 tracks

The first full-length album from this four-piece group is quite impressive. Drawing inspiration from various sounds, the tone is powerful, yet has a calming feel. Mainly rock, the album relies heavily on drums and electric guitars, but there is also a melodic aspect. The consistent sounds of the guitars accounts for this sound that creates a calming effect. It is interesting that even with just these instruments and possibly some effects to them, there is such a wide range of sounds that this band creates. The vocals are not the strongest, but the effort and risks lead singer Paul Kenney takes are commendable. He pushes himself to stretch his range and tone, allowing the songs to each take a different direction. It is this aspect that gives the album its originality despite the instrumentals in the background sounding a bit commonplace. “Time” starts off with a strong bass line that adds drums and guitar to build the song and continue the pace when the vocals come in. The instrumental components feel as though they are overpowering the vocals at times. “Mistakes” really portrays the melodic component of the group, as it begins with a softer instrumental solo and the lyrics are powerful, but stay in line with the overall tone. All in all, it is not a bad debut record. The vocals could use a bit of improvement, but the sound fits the indie-rock style of the band. (Kathryn Leeber)

LENDERSON

Lenderson

3 tracks

Despite only being three songs in length, the debut EP from the rock duo covers a lot of ground. “Blastoff/Exploder” kicks things off with an instrumental track, utilizing electric guitars with plenty of effects, as well as smooth drums to add a mellow beat. Even without any vocals, the song has variation in its sound with a few, quick guitar solos and changes in the drumming pattern. “Cutglove” starts immediately with lead singer Jesse Brotter’s vocals that seem a little too calm compared to the instrumentals. The drumming is strong and, at times, feels a little more intense than the vocals and the rest of the song. The strongest parts of the song are when the guitar and drums are relaxed and allow Brotter’s vocal abilities to shine through. The song gets progressively better as the sound smooths out and finds a rhythm. It becomes more instrumental, much like the first track, which works well for the group. The final song, “Lender” is another instrumental track that utilizes more electronic elements, while still sticking to the sound of mostly electric guitar supported by melodic drumming. It is much shorter than the other two tracks, but it closes out the EP rather nicely. I did not like how abruptly it ends, I feel that with such a strong instrumental presence throughout the EP, the group could have found a way to slowly move into a much calmer ending. Even with such a short EP, Lenderson does a great job of covering many sounds, all while staying in the traditional rock environment. (Kathryn Leeber)

HORSE MODE

Defenestrater

3 tracks

This short EP starts off with funky guitar work backed by intricate drumming. The vocals take a back seat to the instrumental breakdown, but the singer’s voice is soft and smooth enough to balance out with the fast guitar work, especially in “Highly Respected and Esteemed Acquaintances.” There really is not much singing in this song, but the guitars support the song very well, until the end. The ending is very repetitive, but is too basic too be enjoyable. As the ending slows down, the speed picks back up in the next song, “Dummy,” only to slow down again. This is a softer son, instrumentally, but this time the vocals are more prominent. The singing is definitely rock-based with short sentences backed by instrumental solos. The vocals in this song are not that great, as the singer is more so softly yelling the words. “Rogue Genie” closes out the EP. The backing vocals provide a more melodic sound, while the lead singer continues with the soft shouting. The guitars continue to stand out, as does the drumming, especially half-way through when the whole song calms down a bit. Similar to the first song, there is a repetitive instrumental solo, but it again is not unique enough to actually sound good. It sounds like a typical rock song solo with nothing to differentiate the band from the next group. It does pick back up and the singing continues as it did in the beginning. Overall, the EP is short but does not have enough variation in sound to make it stand out. Perhaps with more songs and attempts at incorporating different styles, Horse Mode could distinguish themselves as a strong, modern rock group.  (Kathryn Leeber)

PLASTIC ANGELS

Kings of the World

4 tracks

Plastic Angels is comprised of singer Bethany Lawson and her husband, guitarist Jeff Lawson, who join to create an alternative pop/rock sound. Everything about their latest EP is quite impressive. The vocals sound as though Bethany has been singing for years, as she has incredible control of her voice and maintains a softness within her range to contrast the guitar and drums nicely. “Forever Lied” opens the EP and has a consistent guitar as a backing track which does a great job of supporting the vocals. This is one of the stronger song on the short EP. The title track, “Kings of the World” has more of the rock element due to the style of guitar and consistent drumming. Overall, the song is a bit too repetitive without much variation in style. The other tracks do a better job at this. “Drown” features some excellent vocals and the drums stand out the most. Again, it feels a bit too repetitive, but overall it is a powerful song with some instrumental solos. Rounding out the EP is the emotional “Holding Me,” which feels a bit darker than the rest of the more upbeat songs. With slow drums and somber guitar to start the song, it definitely packs a punch. The instruments pick up for the chorus and then return to a slower rhythm. This is another strong song on the short EP. Ultimately, the style and sound are fairly unique and with incredibly strong vocals, Kings of the World is a great start for this group. (Kathryn Leeber)

HANNAH CHRISTIANSON

Grow the World You’re Dreaming Of

12 tracks

The album begins with a simple piano, followed by Hannah Christianson’s smooth vocals. Her voice is deeper than I imagined, given the mystical and almost child-like album artwork. There is a great contrast of slow instrumentals and more powerful ones, especially in “New Day” where the drums do not come in until the first minute or so, and even then they are subtle enough to pair nicely with the piano. “Break the Frame” is empowering and heavily influenced by pop aspects. Christianson sings with hope and confidence in the chorus, “I want to break the frame, break the frame, break the frame. / ‘Cause I am not the same, not the same, not the same, / as I was before.” “Atoms” is a very simple song, yet it is one of the best on the album. Christianson gave the song its own introduction in the instrumental track before it. Again supported by minimal drumming and piano, Christianson’s voice shines through as the main focus and her style of singing makes this track so wonderful. The whole album has a hopeful and positive feel, even with sad tunes in the case of some of the songs. Given the album name, the powerful feeling and inspiring lyrics fit perfectly. For such a simple album, it has a wealth of power and emotion that is difficult to come by. Christianson noted the album was created and recorded over three years, and it is clear that she put all of her time and effort to create such a moving record.  (Kathryn Leeber)

BIRD.BIRD

Yellow Egg

9 tracks

This light-hearted indie pop record from Bird.Bird is quite strong even with simplistic lyrics and minimal instruments. With light backing guitar, “Return to Mine” is a sweet love song that helps jumpstart the album. “A Little Thing That Matters” features quirky piano work and layered vocals to create a folk sound. Song writer and vocalist Cooper Evans explains in a note to the listener that the record is split into three parts; three songs meant for commercials, three of some older songs he wrote, and three he, himself really enjoyed. The shift in sound is definitely evident as some sound much more emotional than the fun, upbeat songs. “I Stayed Up” is much slower and contains more emotion in the vocals and lyrics. This is one of the stronger songs off the record, as it features backing vocals from Sarah Krier that add a nice harmonic touch. Some songs feel a little forced, such as “Flow,” which has some electronic components that do not really fit with the song, although the chorus is very pop-oriented and the electronic sounds mesh well at that moment. The remaining songs continue the trend of eccentric pop songs with overwhelming instrumentals, at times, to pair with the unique vocals. Rounding out the record, “This Question” starts out a bit softer and picks up at the chorus, but there is a strong balance of piano and guitar playing and Evans’ vocals. For a pretty “all over the place” album, the group does a decent job of finding some semblance of balance and try to find an overall style and sound.  (Kathryn Leeber)

CARDINALS

Aftertaste

5 tracks

This acoustic EP from Boston-based pop-punk duo is incredibly powerful, despite being backed by an acoustic guitar and minimal drumming courtesy of a cajon, both of which are played by CJ Rarela. Lead singer Emily Ronna demonstrates excellent control of her voice, as well as utilizing her range to add some variation within each song. “When I’m Gone” is definitely more of a pop song lyrically, but the drumming adds a bit of a punk element. The bridge is not as powerful as it potentially could be, but as the instruments quiet down, it allows for Ronna to sing a powerful part of the song. “Remission” is another break-up song with the same overall tone as the first. “Of Montreal” starts off slow with minimal guitar from Rarela, backing Ronna’s voice. Some of the lyrics are a bit cliché, but the vocals remain steady for the most part, even with parts of the track featuring a higher reaching range. The next song, “In the Dust” is faster than the others, with more forceful vocals to match the emotion of the lyrics. The EP ends with “Human,” a much softer and sadder song than the rest of the tracks. The guitars are minimal but provide just the right amount of influence on the song. In some of the other songs, the instruments feel as though they overpower Ronna’s voice, but not in this song. Overall, the sound could generally be a bit cleaner and more put together, instrumentally. There is no doubt the vocals and lyrics are perfect for this genre, but the instrumental aspect just does not sound as solid as it could. (Kathryn Leeber)

JENNA LOTTI

Bad Habits

5 tracks

Joining some country and rock elements, Jenna Lotti creates a distinct sound powered by drums and guitars. At times, the instruments feel overpowering, but Lotti’s vocals have great range and stay consistent to even out the sound. “My Oh My” feels a bit too generic in terms of the instruments and rhythm, but Lotti’s vocals are definitely the highlight. The soulful sound in her voice pairs incredibly well with the heavier sounding instruments. There is definitely a pop-element throughout her songs, and is perhaps most prominent in “Drive.” This is a slower track compared with the rest of the songs and it allows Lotti to show off her voice a bit more. The lyrics are repetitive, but they are still strong. “Simple Man” starts off very slow with a simple guitar and drum line. The soulful nature of Lotti’s voice is most evident here as she shows her range. The tempo picks pack up with the final track “Passenger’s Seat.” Again, the country and pop-rock aspects are prominent, especially during the chorus. This song wraps up the EP in an energetic way. There is a consistent flow to the EP, but overall it feels flat. With more variety and experimentation in the instruments, the sound would be more unique. While Lotti does manage to establish a distinct sound for herself with soulful and pop elements, it is ultimately not enough. (Kathryn Leeber)

HELLO, ATLANTIC

Home

5 tracks

In typical pop punk fashion, Hello, Atlantic utilize heavy drumming and electric guitar to support the strained vocals. “Alcohol” is a strong opener with impressive vocals and drums, especially for a debut EP. There is a short guitar solo near the end that provides some relief from the repetitive nature of the rest of the track. “Call My Bluff” is a bit more melodic with seemingly more singing rather than near-yelling, but it is still a rather dull track. The drums really stand out in this song, especially towards the end when they get a bit more powerful. The next track features some screams which had not really been present in the beginning of the EP. It does not really fit with their sound, but it seems to work in “Tequila Mockingbird.” The verses have the singer singing much faster than he normally does, which makes the song feel unique. “Over Again” features guest vocals from Josh Herzer, the lead singer of another local pop punk/ rock band Lions, Lions. It’s another typical pop punk song, but it starkly contrasts the last track, “Beaches.” This song is acoustic and much slower. The vocals really stand out and allow for a much more emotional song. Being part of a genre with such a precise and recognizable sound, it’s difficult to stand out and make something a bit different. While I respect the attempt, Hello, Atlantic, does nothing to separate themselves from the other up and coming pop punk bands. (Kathryn Leeber)

SOFT CACTUS

Plum

4 tracks

This melodic EP features stellar vocals from lead singer Melissa Mills. Her soulful voice compliments the soft guitars provided by Joseph Dunajski in “Fade.” The track picks up when the drums come in only to slow back down with a simple percussion beat. For such a simple song, the power and emotion Mills adds with her voice is what truly makes it enjoyable. “Tongue Tied” has a more prominent beat, but still maintains the steady and relaxing rhythm. She sings a lovely verse after the chorus, “He was caught in her eyes/ And he, he saw the light that she hides/ And loved them despite.” The rest of the song feels a bit rushed. The title track “Plum” mirrors “Fade” to start the song, as it contains a calm instrumental introduction. Lyrically, the track is fairly boring with only a few verse surrounding a repeating chorus. The song does tell a tragic story, but the instrumental work does not match the emotion very well. The last song, “Peripherals” is, conversely, very strong. The guitar rhythm has some effects that allow it to stand out and support Mills’ voice is a powerful way. With only four tracks, this EP is surprisingly strong and gives the band a signature sound that is hard to mimic. (Kathryn Leeber)

PLEASE RESPOND

Toughen Up

6 tracks

With a unique style of acoustic rock, Please Respond elegantly combines soft vocals with a guitar and emotional lyrics. Singer and guitarist Nick Acquadro has a powerful voice that gives w way to a distinct way of singing in which he sings faster and some parts and slower at others. With just a guitar, Acquadro takes the risk of sounding dull and boring, but it pays off. His style of playing pairs so well with his lyrics and vocals. The simple acoustic nature of the EP somehow works due to the intricate strumming patterns he creates. “To the Moon” feels a little flat in the beginning, but the chorus finds Acquadro changing the pattern a bit and fluctuates his voice to vary the sound. In the first half of the EP, the songs do sound a bit too similar, but that is to be expected with such minimal tools. The heartbreaking and relatable lyrics support “Heaven” in which he sings, “If I had not asked, would I not have known? / Would we have sat on my kitchen floor all night?” “Sober” is the longest song on the EP and perhaps the simplest, but the vocals, again, are truly what makes the track so strong. This is quite an impressive collection of songs from Please Respond, especially given the fact that it is solely Acquadro’s voice and his acoustic guitar. (Kathryn Leeber)

FOSSY JAW

Fossy Jaw

8 tracks

Fossy Jaw takes sounds from all different genres to create a funky sound with calm vocals provided by Abi Flynn. The relaxed vibe of “Don’t Mind” starts the album with an upbeat tempo backed by the creative drumming and sharp bass line courtesy of Caleb Auwerda. The bass also compliments Chris Miles on the guitar. There is a short instrumental outro at the end of the track that puts the talents of Auwerda and drummer Mason Ostrowski on display. “Big Open” features a medley of complex sounds in support of soft vocals from Flynn. The juxtaposition of sounds is quite prominent and establishes a very unique style for the group. The album has many instrumental pauses that contain the funky style through a use of varied drum sounds and a noticeable bass line, giving the album a jazz and rock sound. Flynn’s vocals suit this almost acoustic, blues sound that the group is aiming for, as she has a soulful voice and draws out some of the lyrics to flow with the mellow tones. Nothing is really linear in this record, the drums can be all over the place at times, yet somehow Fossy Jaw pulls it off, due in large part to Flynn’s vocals bringing all the sounds together. “Killed Rosa” is a solid example of a track in which the instruments continue to vary throughout, but Flynn’s voice and lyrics feel as though they join the variety of sounds. (Kathryn Leeber)

NOAH DANIEL WOOD

Shy Guy

10 tracks

The mellow tone throughout the album stays consistent, as does Noah Daniel Wood’s voice. Supported by a subtle guitar and some keys, “Shy Guy” displays the soft nature of his vocals with repetitive lyrics. Wood is a seasoned musician, having released a few EP’s as well as a full-length. “Ever Mine” continues with the calming vibe, but adds some drums from Bryan Fennelly. The style of the album is a bit boring, as most of the songs have a similar sound, given the style of Wood’s voice. “I Won’t Let You” is a bit more pop-oriented than the previous songs and it has more instrumental and electronic elements. One of the more soulful songs is “Killer” which features a smooth drum beat and relaxed vocals. All in all, the album is definitely polished and it is clear that Wood knows how to adequately compile instruments to establish his sound, but his voice is almost too relaxed that it feels dull. “Eulogy” has some jazz components with a noticeable harmonica. This adds a nice touch, but feels a bit out of place. There is not much variation in sounds, depite trying to utilize various instruments, which makes it forgettable. Bringing in all sorts of musical influences can be challenging and while Wood does this at times, it still feels dull. (Kathryn Leeber)

FLAMINGO CLUB

Flamingo Club – EP

11 tracks (6 tracks with 5 instrumental versions)

The EP starts off with an instrumental track titled “Preface” which features haunting sounds that flow right into the next track “My Darling,” which starts off soft and picks up the tempo. With intricate drumming patterns and quirky vocals, the sound is definitely strong and unique. The verses of this track sound more jazz-like due to the melodic drumming, but the electric guitars pick up during the chorus giving it more of a pop-rock sound. “Park Drive” is a bit heavier with lead singer Gabriel Carvalho nearly yelling at some points. He especially strains his voice during the chorus and powered by the drums and heavy guitar work, the sound is very powerful, but almost feels like too much at times. While songs like “Headache” feel more like pop rock songs, they still have components of the indie rock style, especially with the guitars and their funky sounds.  The band channels lots of classic rock elements and their sound definitely has a retro vibe to it, especially in the song “Sadie Hawkins,” referencing the name of the dance. What is really interesting is that the band provides separate instrumental tracks for each of the five main tracks, so the listener can hear the tracks without the vocals. This is a unique aspect that allows listeners to connect even more with the group, since they can really hear all of the parts, almost individually. (Kathryn Leeber)

WE CAN ALL BE SORRY

Down the Hall

5 tracks

In a typical alternative rock collection, We Can All Be Sorry blends electric guitar with funky drums. “Itch” contains a few short instrumental pauses, as well as times where the vocals are the most prominent. Alec and Jack Pombriant share the vocal responsibilities and it sounds like each one sings the lead on a particular song. “Vision Quest” sounds similar to “Itch,” but the other is singing on this track, giving it a different tone overall, as this vocalist is a bit softer. The overall tone of the EP is very mellow and suave, but it stays consistent throughout. “To the Rest” features a bit heavier sound with more prominent drumming, courtesy of Stephen Biedrzycki. With a different drum pattern, the sound wavers a bit with “Sleep Song,” which finally gives some variation to this EP.  The softer vocals return but feel a bit edgier during the chorus as the overall sound gets heavier and the vocals increase in strength. Things slow down significantly in “For Now” which closes out the EP. There is another instrumental breakdown towards the middle of the song and afterwards, the sound continues to increase with heavier drumming and a more prominent guitar sound. There is nothing too complex about this EP, but it does a decent job of providing some alternative rock tracks with a hippie vibe. (Kathryn Leeber).

FIELD NURSE

Summer Spacecraft Motorhome

5 tracks

Relying heavily on the instruments, Field Nurse creates a sound of distinguished alternative rock musicians. With two guitarists, who both sing, there is a heavy presence of guitars. Lead singer John Kinnecome has his vocals supported by Amy Griffin in some songs, and their voices blend beautifully in “Almost Late.” This track and the title track sound very similar, but “Change of Plan” changes up the sound with a more prominent drum beat. The vocals are a bit more melodic and the overall tone feels more emotional, even with the classic rock elements. The end of the track has an instrumental breakdown with a guitar solo. Field Nurse does a great job of making the instruments really stand out and the vocals are almost secondary. “Hero Junction” is a solid example of this, as is it basically an instrumental track with some funky vocals in the background. The EP is definitely strong and enjoyable if this is the kind of music you like, but overall it feels very basic and does not utilize many new sounds or styles. Field Nurse could be even stronger with more variation in their style and possibly incorporating other instrumental or electronic elements. (Kathryn Leeber)

FALL RISK/ PEACH FUZZ

Fall Risk Peach Fuzz Split

4 tracks

In a split EP between Fall Risk and Peach Fuzz, each band released two tracks. Fall Risk has an aggressive rock sound with forced yelling vocals split between two singers in “You Will Be Missed.” The back and forth alternating vocals are quite unique but the group pulls it off. The next track, “I Don’t Care” is just as punk rock with possibly even more yelling. It is a bit off-putting at times, but they do a decent job of sticking to their sound and making it work. Peach Fuzz is not as punk, especially with the female lead singer’s soft voice. Their sound is more alternative rock with the prominent electric guitars and melodic drumming. Compared the Fall Risk, they are much more relaxed which gives the split an interesting vibe. “Snacking” starts off slowly, but definitely picks up in an even flow to end on a fast, aggressive note. Similarly, “Snaked” builds up the same way with prominent vocals that give way to the instrumental parts. With great vocals all around, as well as interesting combinations of instruments, this split EP has something for everyone and does an excellent job at it. (Kathryn Leeber)

LYNN BAILEY WITTY

Among the Stars

9 tracks

With a classical voice and range, Lynn Bailey Witty gives a twist to pop music in Among the Stars. “Refund on My Heart” kicks off the album, but the lyrics are quite dull and repetitive. With a simple drum beat and piano, Witty’s vocals are excellent. Most of the songs are very upbeat and lighthearted, but at times they feel a bit juvenile, as is the case with “Love is Our Only Hope.” Perhaps it is the simple composition of the instruments, but there is not much complexity in the songs. On one hand, the simplistic nature of the songs is enjoyable and much more relaxed, but it also feels a bit flat. Some songs are more complex and have somewhat of a country vibe, like “This Song’s For You.” Still, the lyrics are not that intricate, but Witty’s voice makes up for that with her style of singing. The title track is also more upbeat and is one of the more enjoyable songs on the record, but the lyrics are still just too repetitive. With such a strong voice and relaxing beats, this album is definitely pleasing, but feels a bit too relaxed and nothing really sticks out. For some mellow tunes, however, Among the Stars is just the album. (Kathryn Leeber)


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