Album-art-for-Someday-the-Moon-Will-be-Gold-by-Kalle-Mattson Kalle Mattson – Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold

★★★½☆

Under an umbrella label like folk-rock or Americana, it takes more than an acoustic guitar to make a name for oneself. Kalle Mattson fuses popular elements of each of those genres to adorn his specific region of folk-tinged, triumphant nostalgia and makes a solid case for his latest record being wheat rather than chaff.

Informed simultaneously by the sorrowful melodies of ghosts of country troubadours past and the still-kickin’ grit of genre-melding songsmiths his senior, such as Ryan Adams, Wilco, or undoubtedly Neil Young, Mattson bends the rules to create his brassy atmosphere on Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold.

In “Darkness,” the first single on the record, Mattson plucks a pack of chords that ride on the minor, while a horn section embellishes the choruses. It’s a good representation of the more fleshed out, foot-tapping moments on Someday, a clever reinterpretation of classic country Western atmosphere. Colored with some grit and the hint of an Edward Sharpe homage, it conjures imagery of stretched landscapes and a far-off sepia sunset.

Mattson and his players craft ambiance through skillfully layered instrumentation that supplements otherwise repetitive song structures.

This elaboration, along with the rich lyrical imagery, gives a sense of movement to the music, which otherwise might stagnate a bit, ebbing and flowing in the same manner again and again. His ability to narrate personal experiences in a relatable manner ushers the listener into the role of confidant more than audience.

Mattson navigates themes like lost love, lost homes, and death gracefully.

“Late summer in fields of gold/and a story sung is no story told/Waste the days away for the young and old/Waste them all up for you,” he pines at the beginning of “Eyes Speak,” weaving the melancholy and the silver lining into one thought.

Though consonant and unobtrusive to the ear, many of Someday‘s dynamics center around progressions that unto themselves are not persistently exciting. Reverberating guitars, buzzing harmonica, and a snare that rolls along like a tumbleweed do well to beef up melodies that might otherwise be little to write home about.

The vocals can come off a bit affected at times, notably on “Hurt People Hurt People.” But this track is a mostly upbeat romp, and Mattson’s control over his intonation and understanding of his range keep the patterns from veering into the cliche.

“Amelie,” the bare and tragic closing track, in some ways sets a tone for all of the songs that led up to it. With only an acoustic guitar and his voice, singing, “These are the words of a much younger man/I dream of your ghost just to feel you so close/and I don’t understand,” Mattson takes our hand and walks us through memories that play on raw nerves. It’s an acknowledgement of the point when one becomes too tired of wrestling with loss and a vacuum to keep fighting, but still finds themselves empty-handed, without closure.

The trails trod on Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold are not newly mapped territory. Mattson does manage to wind his way down some paths that were overgrown, but revisiting these trails does not constitute forging them. Sometimes, though, as we’re shown through Mattson’s melancholy and patient delivery, the most true way isn’t always a new one.

Kalle Mattson – Someday, The Moon Will Be Gold tracklist:

  1. “An American Dream”
  2. “Darkness”
  3. “The Living & The Dead”
  4. “Sound & Fury (A Dream Within A Dream)”
  5. “Hurt People Hurt People”
  6. “Eyes Speak”
  7. “The Moon Is Gold
  8. “God’s Only Son”
  9. “A Love Song To The City”
  10. “Pick Me Up”
  11. “In The Morning Light”
  12. “Amelie”
Album-Art-For-Kid-Tiger-By-Daniel-Ellsworth-And-The-Great-Lakes Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes – Kid Tiger

★★★☆☆

Kid Tiger, the sophomore album from Daniel Ellsworth & the Great Lakes, is a musical roller coaster—it’s unbelievably fun, raucous, and energetic. But that nonstop energy can actually make the music stale.

Following the formula of debut album Civilized Man, lead singer and guitarist Daniel Ellsworth continues to blend indie rock with hyper, aggressive synth-pop. Ellsworth’s unique high-pitch vocals soar along with vibrant time signatures and electrifying beats that will keep you on your toes.

Kid Tiger is all about quirky pop anthems and upbeat rhythms—it’s easy to imagine Ellsworth dancing along to each track, and his singing style is fittingly energetic.

Every single song explodes in your ear drums, urging you to get up on your feet.

With a sound similar to that of Minus the Bear and Fall Out Boy, Ellsworth & the Great Lakes blends punchy, rock anthems with power-pop ballads; Their guitar-driven track “Tourniquet” is the best song that exemplifies this unique sound. There’s fantastic chemistry between the classic guitar melodies and the pop hooks, along with stirring guitar solos that keep the momentum churning.

Another track, “Fits & Starts,” continues to kindle that momentum. It begins with colorful keyboard notes that ignite a strong beat, while a lush array of abstract noises provides depth.  The song oozes with a frenetic tempo, rolling beats, and a catchy chorus that would give Napoleon Dynamite plenty of dancing ammunition.

The production for the instruments is impeccable, but Ellsworth’s voice sounds somewhat muddled. He has one of the finest voices in the music industry, but on Kid Tiger, it sounds like he’s eating some of his words. It’s hard to understand him in some songs, especially on the occasions when the instruments overpower him, like in the chorus of opening track “Static.”

But that’s only a minor flaw. Perhaps the biggest problem with Kid Tiger is that it becomes a little stale. While the band’s high-energy, let’s-dance tone is fun, it gets tiresome eventually. Each song evokes the same old vibe. In fact, single “Sun Goes Out” simply feels like a regurgitation of the first five tracks.

Regardless, Kid Tiger deserves praise.  It generates a colorful and festive vibe, like watching a Broadway musical. The music is raucous and outstanding, but even more impressive are Ellsworth’s vocals.

His enthusiasm, along with the band’s penchant to infuse chaos and charisma into its work, deserves a standing ovation.

Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes – Kid Tiger tracklist:

  1. “Waves”
  2. “Idle Warning”
  3. “Phantoms”
  4. “Fits & Starts”
  5. “Tourniquet”
  6. “Sun Goes Out”
  7. “Ready/Set”
  8. “Static”
  9. “Echoes”
  10. “Little Light”
  11. “Frontline”
  12. “Backfire!”
Album-art-for-Psychic-Mess-by-Creative-Adult Creative Adult – Psychic Mess

★★★½☆

San Francisco post-punkers Creative Adult are anything but laid-back with Psychic Mess.

Harnessing the most essential aspects of ‘80s post-punk with influences that range from Joy Division to Black Flag, Creative Adult is a sterling representative of the Northern California hardcore and punk scene.

Preceded by a handful of EPs and collaborations, this full-length debut overshadows them all and marks a shift in style for the four-piece known for a harsher sound. Psychic Mess is a fuzzy, sonic, dark, and aggressive venture in post-punk and noise, all with a California vibe.

That vibe is most present on “Far Out,” a slow-growing head-banger with a string-bending riff akin to the opening of Nirvana’s “Come as You Are.” Creative Adult’s skewed style of building sound gives the album its playfully aggressive character.

Prominently featuring Goth-rock, haze, and the group’s staple method of piling of riffs on riffs, Psychic Mess demonstrates an ability to craft gripping hooks outside of conventions.

Released by Run for Cover Records (Modern Baseball, Pity Sex) and produced by Efrim Menuck of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, it’s a good album, but misses the mark when it comes to being memorable.

Album opener “Control My Eyes” is a rock-ish, feedback-heavy jam with crashing cymbals and snake rattles. Male belting à la Ian Curtis pervades much of the album, except for “Psychic Message.” The foursome takes the track title literally, omitting vocals and letting the far-out, psychedelic, hazy instrumentals speak instead. And using the opposite mentality, closing track “Haunt” is more rocking and rambunctious than it is haunting.

Arguably one of the most enjoyable tracks on Psychic Mess, “Flash” totes a chugging bass line and sick minor-key guitar riffs, demonstrating the group’s solid melodic and rhythmic sensibilities.

The Bay Area four-piece is a lot like a more sonic, effects-heavy Fugazi, only not as good as Fugazi. The potential is there, but the group is reaching for something it hasn’t gotten ahold of yet. It lacks a resounding hit like Fugazi’s “Waiting Room”; The infectious single “Deep End” comes close, but lacks the same punch. Regardless, it’s unlikely that something so trivial as a hit is of great concern to Creative Adult.

It’s a punk band with a taste for energetic brooding. A stand-out, raucous party-anthem, “Everyone Knows Everyone,” aptly features fast rhythms and vocals screaming, “Everyone knows everyone.” The track’s style is clearly an ode to raw, honest music played to audiences of flailing friends in pits and basements.

Creative Adult’s honesty and visceral, energetic songwriting brings a listener into the backyard, dark venue, or house party where the album was probably born. The foursome is obviously connected to its Northern California scene, its roots, and is still the same rough-around-the edges group that laid down the preceding, less-stylish EPs. Psychic Mess isn’t perfect, but perfection isn’t exactly punk.

Creative Adult – Psychic Mess tracklist:

  1. “Control My Eyes”
  2. “Charismatic Leader “
  3. “Flash”
  4. “Far Out”
  5. “Halfway”
  6. “Hyper-aware”
  7. “Public Transit”
  8. “Psychic Message”
  9. “Deep End”
  10. “Everyone Knows Everyone”
  11. ”Exposed”
  12. “Haunt”
Album-art-for-Ill'e-Grande-by-Analog-Rebellion Analog Rebellion – Ill’e Grande

★★★☆☆

A lot of pressure can come from being signed to a major label halfway through your senior year of high school, and that pressure is telling of Daniel Hunter’s early years as a Myspace darling with an Island Records imprint.

That brought Hunter’s brainchild, PlayRadioPlay! through the ether to much success within the  mid-2000 pop-punk and power-pop scenes. As these genres peaked and declined, Hunter’s musical visions changed in tandem with his departure from major label. To mirror this shift, he has been performing under the moniker Analog Rebellion for some years now.

The latest release from the North Texas native is telling of Hunter’s maturity as a songwriter and as a musician, as Ill’e Grande reaches for the heights of the self labeled “stadium lo-fi” medium as well as introducing diverse flows of tone and emotion.

There are moments of musical clarity here that demonstrate Hunter’s maturity since his early releases.

The album begins with the distortion-heavy, grinding title track. Hunter’s androgynous voice cuts through with the wail of far too much reverb (stadium lo-fi, alright), but confidently cuts through the thickness of the track.

“Goblin King” drives through as well, with prog sensibility inlaid in Bono-ian echoes, in continuing the album’s almost frenetic pace and grand size. The album’s middle and late sections aren’t as noteworthy, probably due to the lack of genre and tone shifts as compared to the front section. The level of musical consistency and a good ear for rhythmic blueprinting is strong, though, as no song is a total disappointment.

In the wake of Hunter’s abounded musicality, one cannot help but notice his tired use of motifs from the pop-punk age. “The Genre is Self-Aware,” while sonically impressive, is a lyric-less track that feels subjugated by a title that tries too hard.

These surface-level philosophical quandaries may have sounded cool on a PlayRadioPlay! album in 2005, but not today.

Hunter and his collaborators do well in appropriating different styles of alternative music without diluting too much of their own watermark, thus keeping true to a whole and consistent theme for Ill’e Grande—from the infectious groove of early New York millennium art-punk grinder “Hot Shit” to the jazzy flow of the wonderful closer “Sing with me Kelly.”

Many who attempt this end up sounding campy, seeming to try too hard to be something they can’t pull off. Analog Rebellion’s understanding of the difference and Hunter’s ability to treat that line is what makes an album like Ill’e Grande not only worthwhile, but actually noteworthy.

This should not go unnoticed, as Hunter’s musical evolution has allowed him to adapt to an ever-changing pop landscape. This isn’t to say that Hunter’s music has never been unimpressive, but he’s one of the few artists from his genre to be able grow with the musical trends of the 21st century, and do so without a complete 180 (looking at you, Sonny Moore).

The album may have some tried themes and motifs throughout, but they stand in homage to Hunter’s past more than eye roll-inducing triggers. Ill’e Grande is impressively mature and surprisingly enjoyable.

Analog Rebellion – Ill’e Grande tracklist:

  1. “Ill’e Grande”
  2. “Out of Your Mind”
  3. “Goblin King”
  4. “ATM”
  5. “Hot Shit”
  6. “Now I am a Cobra”
  7. “The Genre is Self-Aware”
  8. “Group of Theives”
  9. “Draw that Armadillo”
  10. “We’re Not Talking to Anymore Lawyers”
  11. “I am a Ghost”
  12. “Sing with me Kelly”
Cover-art-for-Steve-Hears-Pile-in-Malden-and-Bursts-into-Tears-by-Krill Krill – Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears

★★★★☆

Who knew an EP featuring both a life-threatening existential crisis and poop-based metaphors could be so good?

Experimental three-piece Krill set out to write a concept EP using the characters Steve and Mouth, both of whom are taken from Exploding In Sound labelmate Pile’s song “Steve’s Mouth.”

In the story, Steve wants to create something worthy of Pile’s praise, only to hear “Steve’s Mouth” and realize he and Mouth are characters in the song, hence the EP’s lengthy title, Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears.

It’s an interesting concept that ties the tracks together well, but in the end, the group’s innovative musicianship surpasses the story and ultimately makes for a bizarre, brilliant label debut.

Blending sounds from the likes of Fugazi and Pavement, Krill is definitely a handful.

The mixes are chaotic and dynamic; the lyrics are introspective and spewed lawlessly over heavily-distorted instrumentals; and the songwriting is intense and creative, all of which makes Steve one hell of a release.

Starting with the discombobulating intro to the title track, the story is introduced when Steve and Mouth are jealously discussing the greatness of Pile’s latest album. Krill’s unique skill becomes apparent from the beginning of “Steve Hears…”—the music is controlled mayhem, and Jonah Furman’s screeching, noisy vocals only become more severe as the EP progresses.

“Sweet Death,” the second track, is where things really pick up. Krill shows off its artistic, emotional side with Furman’s vocals looming fervent and intense, backed up by groovy bass lines and catchy guitar. Here, elements of Pavement singer Stephen Malkmus’s style begin to surface and Krill’s songwriting skill is fully realized. This track shows off everything great about the band, including both the obvious mastery of its instruments and the relentless passion expressed by each member.

However, “Sweet Death” throws the story off kilter a bit. Steve becomes pessimistic and suicidal, but this shift is never explained. The rest of the EP plays on that hopeless feeling.

Even though “Sweet Death” is the high point of Steve Hears, the EP never hits a slump afterward.

“Turd” is the most poignant song, and despite the inane metaphor, it’s a valid comparison as Furman sings, ”But I’ll never go down, ’cause that would just be way too easy/ I will never kill myself, but live forever.”

“Unbound Nameless Future” shows off the band’s more math-rock elements with its unpredictable timing and spastic drums. At this point, Steve feels lost and can’t see a future for himself, wishing he could live the simple life of a passing dog he sees on the street.

Krill portrays this disconcerting mental conflict through mass musical pandemonium as Furman aggressively begs a dog to take what’s left of a person he’s attacked.

After this outburst, closer “Fresh Pond” calms the EP down. Steve has seemingly given up, and drones on through life in a bored haze. Once again, musical dissonance gives the track an off-putting feeling, forcing listeners to empathize with the main character. Unnerving, jumbled, and repeated riffs close the last few minutes of the song, reflecting the monotony of Steve’s mind. It’s a fittingly uncomfortable, anticlimactic ending.

Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears works as a concept EP, but it also stands alone as five great songs. It’s hard to ignore the Bostonian three-piece, which hasn’t changed since its previous release, Lucky Leaves.

The EP plays as an ultra-meta joke, but Krill’s real skill and emotion bring it far beyond the realm of the sarcastic.

Krill – Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears tracklist:

  1. “Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts into Tears”
  2. “Sweet Death”
  3. “Turd”
  4. “Unbounded Nameless Future”
  5. “Fresh Pond”
Album-Art-for-DTCV-Hilarious-Heaven DTCV – Hilarious Heaven

★★★☆☆

About halfway through Hilarious Heaven, DTCV’s (pronounced “detective”) quirky and exploratory debut release, the murky picture that the band had painted of itself up to that point began to take a more defined shape.

Heaven, which packs 26 songs into just over an hour, is the work of seasoned players who are pushing the boundaries of their comfort zones. The 11-minute track “How Not to Be”–a winding journey through dissonant horns and stuttering drums punctuated with flute-driven breaks–attests to this point precisely.

Following the old-timey, top-of-the-hour radio introduction to the record, listeners are treated with two back-to-back songs that act as introductions to each half of the songwriting duo whose sounds bookend the wide range of tonality explored on Hilarious Heaven.

Guylaine Vivarat shows her hand first on “I Was Where Were You,” enchanting us from the offing with a throaty vibrato that will bring a blush to any bearded cheek. Laid over buzzing, bubblegum guitar that’s infectious in a Dinosaur Jr. kind of way, Vivarat displays DTCV’s ability to write a solid, catchy number—and thus the weird depths of the album will be given a little more credit.

James Greer, former member of the eminently credible rock band Guided by Voices, steps in on “Improving Ground” to relieve his female counterpart. Tinged with melancholy plucked straight from the early ’80s and a melody informed by that era’s brand of lo-fi rock, Greer’s matter-of-fact vocal manner brings to mind the image of a more refined–and possibly British–Frank Black.

Though the collaborative efforts on Hilarious Heaven are apparent, both Vivarat and Greer seem to remain consistent within their own bubbles, rather than working as a cohesive duo.

That’s not to say that they don’t complement one another—DTCV’s instrumentation melds with a heavy post-punk bent that tends to keep the album flowing no matter which pilot is in the jump seat.

Proof of that sturdy meeting point between Vivarat and Greer are tracks like “Alpha Waves in a Gelatinous Conductor” and “Tiptoe,” which demonstrate that while DTCV generally does not settle into an easily definable genre, the musicians know how to handle themselves no matter where they land on the spectrum.

Esoteric sound clips, many of which are in French and seem to be “found sounds,” act as intermittent bridges between tracks. Opting for this feature seems to better seat DTCV at the strange and conceptual intersection of weirdness that asserts itself through a widely cast net of influences. It allows for some kind of loose subtext to be on continuous repeat in the background, but can at times serve as a distraction.

Hilarious Heaven can be digested as a cerebral outing that, while long-winded, is well arranged into components of differing sizes, providing the audience with a wide array of context for DTCV’s sound. On the other hand, the process of wading through the protracted record can sometimes leave the aftertaste of a makeshift product composed of more carelessness than consciousness. Still, overall listenability and an abundance of personality will likely leave listeners’ appetites satisfied.

DTCV – Hilarious Heaven tracklist:

  1. “Everything Is Cinema”
  2. “I Was Where Were You”
  3. “Improving Ground”
  4. “Sundial”
  5. “Cars Missing Vol. 1″
  6. “Ghostery”
  7. “Hyperdoxxing at Dowager Inn”
  8. “Impostor Horse”
  9. “How Not To Be”
  10. “J’irai pas”
  11. “Alpha Waves in a Gelatinous Conductor”
  12. “Electrostatic Inc.”
  13. “(cis)x”
  14. “Soulsville USA”
  15. “The Sickness”
  16. “Contre Jour”
  17. “Cars Missing Vol. 2″
  18. “Windsor Hum”
  19. “Gone 2 Quickly”
  20. “The Wild Party”
  21. “Creative Class Dismissed”
  22. “Hotspurs of Nicely Light”
  23. “Los Angeles Street”
  24. “Tiptoe”
  25. “Gone 1 Quickly”
  26. “Shut Up”
Album-Art-for-Morgan-Delt-by-Morgan-Delt Morgan Delt – Morgan Delt

★★★★½

Morgan Delt doesn’t reveal a whole lot about himself. The Los Angeles-based musician and graphic designer hasn’t done many interviews, and the press photo that accompanies his self-titled debut looks like it was taken in 1968: the artist, in hippie hair and sunglasses, stands in front of trees that look painted into the scene.

Paired with the Morgan Delt record sleeve, on which he’s standing behind wildflowers, the phrase “lost classic” comes to mind—something reissue labels and record clerks like to toss off.

In just one listen, it’s clear that Delt is running with this paisley-decorated scenario. He could easily be mistaken for an old obscurity. On the other hand, he’s got a Facebook page, so he’s not exactly Sugar Man.

Delt’s debut full-length, which contains a chunk of the limited cassette, Psychic Death Hole (2012), is an acid-drop homage to Left Coast pop-psychedelia and folk—the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, the Byrds, and Tim Buckley come to mind, even the Beatles in their Meet the Maharishi period. He absorbs it all, then lays his own interpretation to tape.

Opener “Make My Grey Brain Green” is a Dalí-melt of sitar over vintage guitar fuzz, a bit of “Kumbaya” with one foot in the garage. Flanked by slaps of tambourine, “Barbarian Kings” invites a good bliss-out, but a dark undercurrent in Delt’s voice can keep the listener on edge.

He’s both sweet and sinister—selling you the brown acid with a smile but ducking out of sight before the trip.

It’s easy to dismiss a song called “Mr. Carbon Copy”—he’s got the aesthetic down pat—but one shouldn’t overlook its intricacies, like quick changes in tempo, a trick he also employs in “Little Zombies,” where a brittle quiver gives way to full-pluck chamber folk.

Delt nimbly moves from lush to lithe, never getting too serious, and the result is playful and listenable to the point of hypnotic repetition—a Fab Four-approved mantra.

“Sad Sad Trip” plays on atmosphere alone and doesn’t bring anything to the set but a little authenticity. Instead, “Little Zombies” and “Barbarian Kings” best lay out Delt’s expansive ideas.

Like a leather lanyard with collected beads, Morgan Delt is carefully crafted: tinkles of guitar are embedded in static, as from actual tape in a home recording. His trills, multiplied, echo fellow travelers of the British Invasion. Delt has done his homework, but the sound here is his own.

Morgan Delt – Morgan Delt tracklist:

      1. “Make My Grey Brain Green”
      2. “Barbarian Kings”
      3. “Beneath the Black and Purple “
      4. “Mr. Carbon Copy”
      5. “Obstacle Eyes”
      6. “Little Zombies”
      7. “Chakra Sharks”
      8. “Sad Sad Trip”
      9. “Backwards Bird Inc.”
      10. “Tropicana”
      11. “Main Title Sequence”
Album-art-for-Jesus-Sons-by-Jesus-Sons Jesus Sons – Jesus Sons

★★★★☆

Jesus Sons’ self-titled LP is a throwback to the days of affected rebelliousness, embracing the old-school mantra of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.” Their name is a reference to Lou Reed’s famed song, “Heroine.” The album is a raw, psychedelic rock fest enshrouded in gnarly vocals, badass guitar play, and a Western Gothic feel.

Jesus Sons’ debut is a nostalgic trip down a dusty, dirty memory lane, with a sound like legendary rock ’n’ roll artists like Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. Production is so sharp that every song from the beginning till the end feels and sounds old school, and lead singer Brandon Wurtz’s vocals sound intentionally fuzzy and abrasive.

Along with the old-fashioned feel and sound of the album, the tone makes Jesus Sons thrilling to listen to. The dark, haunting sound of the twangy, country music sprinkled with rattling melodies makes it the perfect soundtrack for Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy. Harmonicas are used extensively, giving the album an Americana flavor.

Some songs sound downright mean-spirited and rebellious.  On “Don’t Wanna Die,” Wurtz bellows huskily, “I want it all/I want it alive/Don’t do what I’m told/Don’t wanna die.”

“Don’t Wanna Die” is the perfect anthem for when it’s time to chug a bottle of Jack Daniels.

And once that Jack is about halfway down, it’s time to listen to “Ain’t Talkin Homesick.” Wurtz has a good time, going one step further and hollering Southern slangs like, “I ain’t got no money to spend/I ain’t go no women/I ain’t got no place to be.” The only turn off is the occasional “woooooo!” which is cheesy and annoying. If they had cut that whole thing out, it would have been better. Nonetheless, it’s a fun track with a catchy guitar riff and humpty-thump drum beat.

Other parts of the album sound like you’re walking into a ghost town. “Melt” evokes images of a barren wasteland laced with rattlesnakes and otherworldly screeches, warning anyone foolish enough to come to stay away.

“You Put a Spell on Me” is the ideal track to play driving along America’s loneliest highway, Route 50. It’s a repetitive, guitar-driven instrumental number that sets the scene for a lone cowboy to ride into the sunset.  Simple beats, rich guitar melodies, and a shake-and-rattle sound bring to mind America’s most rugged landscapes.

Jesus Sons is a straight-forward album that revives a genre popular five decades ago. The band is re-creating the soundtrack to the Wild West with classic guitar riffs, harsh vocals, and hard beats that will keep listeners on the edge. With a gritty, take-no-prisoners tone, it sounds like Jesus Sons wants to return to a time when music was dirty and aggressive, when wild head-banging was the best form of self expression.

It’s not for everyone, but for those who miss the good old days of rock ‘n’ roll, it’s got everything: a heart-thumping, head-banging, and foot-stomping hard rock attitude.

Jesus Sons – Jesus Sons tracklist:

  1. “All These Furs”
  2. “Who’s Around”
  3. “I Wanna Be Your Man”
  4. “You Put A Spell On Me”
  5. “Don’t Wanna Die”
  6. “Ain’t Talkin’ Homesick”
  7. “Out of Time”
  8. “Melt”
  9. “Going Down”
Album-art-for-Sun-Structures-by-Temples Temples – Sun Structures

★★★★☆

Temples couldn’t have picked a better time to release its debut LP, Sun Structures.

While it shares elements of beloved modern psychedelic rock bands like Tame Impala and MGMT, it also draws enormous influence from The Beatles, who are bound to be in the forefront of music fan’s minds worldwide as we come up on the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania.

Even though it draws from old-school influences, Temples sounds less like a blast from the past than the past projected into some mystifying, surreal, dream-like future. The charming elements of psychedelia  are still there: the hazy, high-pitched vocals and captivating instrumentals, the bizarre lyrics and clunky, distorted drums.

But the quartet adds an unending creative drive, bringing new elements to a relatively ancient genre. Whether it’s the exhaustive use of sounds and effects or supreme knack for making every song unique, Temples channels the energy of a number of influences to make one monster of a record.

Starting with the band’s breakthrough 2012 single “Shelter Song,” Sun Structures is immediately hypnotizing and engaging, never losing steam as it rattles and shakes through a psychedelic haze.

“Shelter Song” is a perfect way to introduce Temples, epitomizing all of its signature elements.

Singer and guitarist James Bagshaw’s voice is as warm and welcoming as ever, the recurring simple riff is both catchy and fun, and of course, the overall fuzziness ties the mix together with a shabby, vintage feel.

Temples’ other three singles are equally memorable, but there is much more to the debut than anyone could have predicted. The suave, melodic “The Guesser” jumps out as one of Temples’ best songs to date, along with the unforgettable chorus in “Test of Time,” which is undoubtedly the catchiest moment on the record.

It doesn’t stop here. Every track is memorable and sets itself apart in some way. Temples’ ability to do whatever the hell it wants is evident, especially in the invigorating “Move With The Season,” which could easily be the best song on the record. The group incorporates new influences into the song, namely Fleet Foxes, to make a groovy, fuzz-folk hybrid that shows each member’s skills.

But the insanity can’t go on forever. Slowing to an eerie, classical Spanish-esque hum, Sun Structures closes on its only soft number. In “Fragment’s Light,” Bagshaw sings sweetly and plucks alongside an overwhelming celestial soundscape, taking the music farther out into space than it already was. It’s a surprising change of pace, but a welcome one. Once it’s over, all there is left to do is play the album on repeat for the rest of eternity.

Trust the praise this band has gotten, not only here, but from countless others. If Johnny Marr and Noel Gallagher claim you’re the best new band in Britain, you’ve got to be doing something right.

Temples – Sun Structures tracklist:

  1. “Shelter Song”
  2. “Sun Structures”
  3. “The Golden Throne”
  4. “Keep In The Dark”
  5. “Mesmerise”
  6. “Move With The Season”
  7. “Colours To Life”
  8. “A Question Isn’t Answered”
  9. “The Guesser”
  10. “Test of Time”
  11. “Sand Dance”
  12. “Fragment’s Light”
Album-art-for-The-Unnatural-World-by-Have-a-Nice-Life Have a Nice Life- The Unnatural World

★★★★☆

Musicians and masterminds Dan Barrett and Tim Macuga (together, Have a Nice Life) are back with The Unnatural World, a follow-up to their critically acclaimed studio album, Deathconciousness.

It’s their take on post-punk, a unique blend of shoegaze, noise, ambient, and industrial influences, all with a heavy dose of darkness. Released by Flenser Records and the band’s own label, Enemies List Home Recordings, the album succeeds in filling a soul with foreboding.

Aggressive and thundering, feedback-heavy bass characterizes opening A Side track “Guggenheim Wax Museum” and gives the distinct impression that a giant lumbers slowly throughout.

While several songs could be the soundtrack to sinking into a lake of black sludge (see: “Music Will Untune the Sky”), “Defenestration Song” is a jam for wallflowers dressed in black.

Slow-burning B Side kick-off, “Cropsey” is emblematic of everything good about post-everything. Beginning and ending with an audio recording of an interview with a young boy who was sent away because he was experiencing “discipline problems,” it stands out in the middle of the album with its hazy, reverb-soaked instrumentals and gorgeous, echoing vocals: “A song that I can sing along, I’ll just wait and track the soot-tracks home where I can be alone/Because I’ve been waiting everyone that I’ve been waiting on to show up and throw me out of here.”

That being said, The Unnatural World’s pièce de résistance is its closer, “Emptiness Will Eat the Witch.” Less ominous than other tracks, its low melodic line is nevertheless gripping.

“Emptiness Will Eat the Witch” is what people must hear while they close their eyes and wait to die.

The track features Have a Nice Life’s staple droning with instruments that sing alongside an endless chant, muddling where voices end and mechanical music begins. The duo shows its hand here, revealing that it’s a little maniacal, building a track lasting almost nine minutes that ends abruptly, cutting off lyrical guitar strumming mid-phrase, jarring listeners back into reality.

Have a Nice Life’s brand of noise, shoegaze, and post-punk isn’t pointlessly cacophonous; it’s enthralling. While the subject matter could seem overwrought, the impeccable execution and unique sound more than make up for any melodrama.

This sophomore album is unsettling, dank, and haunting, but Barrett and Macuga are experts at weaving beauty into the destruction, be it the vocals calling through the darkness, a simple piano melody, or a two-note guitar line. The Unnatural World is a symphony for the hapless, the downtrodden, and the misanthropes puttering through hopeless lives and an endless sea of grey.

Have a Nice Life- The Unnatural World tracklist:

  1. “Side A: Guggenheim Wax Museum”
  2. “Side A: Defenestration Song”
  3. “Side A: Burial Society”
  4. “Side A: Music Will Untune the Sky”
  5. “Side B: Cropsey”
  6. “Side B: Unholy Life”
  7. “Side B: Dan and Tim, Reunited by Fate”
  8. “Side B: Emptiness Will Eat the Witch”
Cover-art-for-Visionary-EP-by-Rigbi Rigbi – Visionary

★½☆☆☆

Rigbi’s new EP, Visionary, has a title that is a bit of a misnomer. The group, local natives of North Jersey, has played together for the better part of 14 years, but went official in 2011. And while each member’s work on the EP is telling of their musical ability and chemistry as a group, their approach to indie rock and songwriting is nothing close to “visionary.”

The EP is good, sure, but nothing makes it stand out in the world of indie rock, not even in the world of Jersey indie rock. The group’s bio claims it’s sound is a derivative of some amalgam of Keane (whose pop sensibility they lack), Weezer (perhaps in a world where Rivers Cuomo disavowed distortion from 1993 through the new millennium), and Vampire Weekend (not even close).

This isn’t to say that Rigbi makes bad music—on the contrary, in its best moments the group is gloomily bright, musically provoking, and emotionally engaging. But the band’s own descriptions of itself completely misguide the listener as far as sonic expectation, and moments of musical brilliance and connection are few and far between on Visionary.

The biggest misstep made by Rigbi is in the opening track, “Come Up,” where its otherwise airy brand of indie rock is replaced by a tired drum machine beat and an abrasive buzz saw synth.

Nowhere else in Visionary does this sound, or any like it, emerge, causing both a jarring shift in flow and a complete misdirection of sound. The three tracks that serve as breaks throughout the EP (at both ends and in the middle) feel more like incomplete tracks than transitions in such a short piece of work. Of these, the title track is the best poised to have become something fully developed, and something that Rigbi could have used to express its voice.

Despite its misgivings, Visionary does end on a good note with the highlight “Leaving Home.” The track slowly, delicately drives through as the band finds the sweet spot that it’s been looking for throughout the EP. The lamentation that “everybody is leaving home” sounds both sad and optimistic, creating the emotional depth that a lot of Visionary tries to reach but just falls short of.

Of the remaining tracks on Visionary, none really stand out in any way. “Take the Blame” is the most fully developed, with interesting guitar riffs and a fully developed sound, but suffers from strained vocal work and a tempo-shifted coda that would serve better as another track altogether.

Again, “It’s Elementary” starts out well enough, with a dynamic guitar break and a driving rhythm section. But in what seems to be Rigbi’s seminal misstep, vocal strain, both in range and in forced rhythmic placement (“its e-le-men-tar-y”) feels awkward. In addition, the originally smart groove of the musical intro is flooded by the poorly placed high pitches of distorted guitar that, in its blockishness, negates the original groove. Even if it is for just a couple of seconds, it’s enough to jar the flow of the track.

To be perfectly honest, Visionary seems tried. Sure, the talent and the production are there, but what it has in those areas, it lacks in synergy and flow. Awkward in its use of transition tracks, Visionary doesn’t help itself by sabotaging Rigbi’s otherwise unproblematic brand of indie rock with poor instrumentation choices and attempted emotional depth.

There is a lot of potential in Rigbi’s sound, as seen in EP highlight “Leaving Home,” a simple but strong testament to the abilities of the group. But Visionary just doesn’t click, and Rigbi’s effort falls short. Still, with musical and lyrical capabilities present,  don’t count the group out of future evolved releases.

Rigbi – Visionary tracklist:

  1. “Come Up”
  2. “It’s Elementary”
  3. “Hostage”
  4. “Visionary”
  5. “Take the Blame”
  6. “Leaving Home”
  7. “(((Hearts in a Row)))”
Cover-Art-For-The-Wild-Family-EP-by-The-Wild-Family The Wild Family – The Wild Family

★★★☆☆

Breaking up is hard, as Chicago four-piece The Wild Family clearly knows. Its new self-titled, debut EP is all about ladies, relationships, and discovering oneself.

The Wild Family consists of two brothers, lead singer and guitarist Jake and bassist Zack Schweitzer, along with lead guitarist Graham Young and  drummer Kevin Koreman. Young and the Schweitzer brothers started writing music together as college roommates in Chicago. Since then, their live gigs have evolved into a five-track EP.

Musically, the release is a mixed bag. The Wild Family is composed of exceptionally talented musicians. They will touch your heart with guitar-driven melodies that blend country music with indie-folk rock.

But at the end of the day, this EP is worth hearing only once. There are no memorable tunes; every song sounds like it’s been heard before.

The soft, mellow rock with a touch of pop music hardly makes The Wild Family unique, and the themes are all too familiar. The lyrics, upon inspection, become stale and uninspiring. To be fair though, the simple notes, soaring vocals, and creative songwriting skills give The Wild Family a pleasant, if not overly creative, sound.

The opening track, “Depths,” is an impressive two-part song that displays a peculiar dichotomy. The first part starts off as a folksy, slow ballad. Schweitzer’s vocals say it all: he sounds innocent, naïve, and youthful as he steps into the real world (he’s still in college), shouldering new responsibilities. After a brief pause, the second part of the song expands and it sounds like the whole band comes alive.

Things change up a bit with the second track, “White Shirt.”  It’s more lively and spontaneous; it almost sounds like parts of it were recorded live, and the production brings it to another level. The twangy guitar, strong chorus, and howling in the background is reminiscent of the Deep South. Instead of Schweitzer singing, Young takes over the mic, bellowing out in not too deep, but very gentlemanly vocals. His voice is surprisingly pleasant and fits perfectly with the song.

Young continues to sing in a very manly voice in “Empty Promises.” It lacks the vivaciousness of “White Shirt,” but the chorus is instantly catchy. Young’s vocals are emotional and bitter as he repeats the powerful chorus line, “Now you are alone/Now I am alone/So what the hell.” This chorus is a standout moment on the EP, delivering not only a memorable hook, but an emotional punch as well.

If there are two words to describe The Wild Family, they would be “extremely talented.” The young band’s debut benefits from stellar, detail-oriented production and musical ability. But despite the band’s immense potential, The Wild Family is not mesmerizing.

The EP feels like going to a favorite restaurant, ordering a favorite meal, and leaving less than satisfied. All the right ingredients were used, but the dish just doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

The Wild Family – The Wild Family tracklist:

  1. “Depths”
  2. “White Shirt”
  3. “Gold”
  4. “Empty Promises”
  5. “Granmaris”