The California band Yellow Red Sparks exude a fresh new
perspective on the indie-folk genre. The duo, Joshua Hanson and Sara Lynn Nishikawa, emit a joyful and quirky vibe that immediately caught my ear from the start;
they don’t hesitate to embrace a full range of instruments making them sound
much bigger than themselves.
Yellow Red Sparks takes the core of the classic folk genre and runs
with it to make it their own in this EP through elements of an upbeat and
whimsical ambiance that is contagious. Paired with the lightness of their
music, comes with some seriously melancholy and heart wrenching lyrics.
The lighthearted first track “I Want My Knife Back” is a fun
introduction to the album as it encompasses their signature care-free energy.
There is true emotion, hardships and life struggles being discussed that are
all juxtaposed cleverly with their overall exuberance. The track “I’m Fine” is similar in theme and
is one of the only tracks where I clearly hear the voice of Sara throughout,
while most vocals seem dominated by Joshua.
The tracks “Seven Seas” and “If I Get It, Then You’ve Got It” is
a perfect example of the bands mastery of the depressingly beautiful theme of
love lost through the dramatic musical composition and somber lyricism. Other
slower tracks like “New Fangs (Darkling)” oozes of a classic love song that
highlights the vocals of Joshua paired with the acoustic guitar.
“Violet” is blunt and quirky love song framed in a haunting,
bitter light lyrically that contrasts perfectly with the joyous guitar and
percussion. Unexpected beachy-esque guitar riffs throughout the album added a
unique flare to their folk sound, especially in this track.
This band has the ability to take the mundane, every-day problems
of relationships and life and create an exciting, unpredictable whirlwind of
sounds revolving around pure jubilation. There is an honest and genuine
component to them that makes their music naturally relatable and lovable.
Release date: October 16th, 2015 Run time: 21 minutes Rating: 5/5
Track listing: 1. I
Want My Knife Back 2. Seven
Seas 3. If I
Get It, Then You’ve Got It 4. I’m
Fine 5. Violet 6. New
Some people have those voices I could listen to for hours
and never get tired of hearing. There’s something about the scratchiness or
smoothness in the way he or she sings that floods my eardrums with goodness.
Jaeger Wells has a smooth voice that oozes out a feel-good
sound. Wells, an indie singer-songwriter, recently released his new EP Forever Dream Anthology produced by The
Early November’s Ace Enders. This 5-track EP made me feel like I was transported to and from different points in time.
My toes started dancing along to the first track, “Sao Paulo
Liars Club,” immediately thinking it sounded like an indie Christmas song. The
song was a feel-good one, but the lyrics weren’t. He sang about loneliness and the
anxieties over the demons that are haunting. It was oddly comforting to hear
about something so dark but with an upbeat, good tune to drown out the bad
parts of waking up in the middle of the night by whatever haunts you.
“What It Feels Like” should
be in an indie movie soundtrack, and I’ll be that girl in the movie theater
singing along to this upbeat and quirky song. The beginning notes of the following track, “For The Jilted, For The Broken,”
reminded me of a funkier version of an Arctic Monkeys song. I replayed the
beginning of the song almost half a dozen times and my eyes turned into the
heart-eye emojis. Towards the end, Wells’ voice was a mix of haunting, funky and
strong. This is one of those tunes you listen to on a drive home, late at night,
probably on Halloween.
The guitar in “Rotten Apple (of My Eye)” had me envisioning
greasers in the 1960s. His voice in the bridge and transitioning into the
chorus was strong alongside the piano. My favorite part about this song was the
lyrics; he sang about a typical “love-hate” relationship. He found the love in
his heart, but realized how much this person was the (rotten) apple of his eye.
I loved it.
The last track on the EP, “East Coast Ghosts” resembled an
angsty early 2000s song. Jaeger’s voice, once again, reminded me of Arctic Monkeys mixed with some Modern Baseball. It was smooth, mixed well with the strumming guitar, while the drums
were booming powerfully and his voice jumbled up
Jaeger Wells sang lyrics that were so much more powerful
than basic love and heartbreak. He sings about heavier experiences with his
anxieties with love and life. Forever
Dream Anthology was an EP full of talent and haunting lyrics with a
powerful voice to top it off.
Release Date: November 20, 2015 Run Time: ~15 minutes Rating: 3/5 Ultimate Jams: “Sao Paulo Liars Club,” “For The Jilted, For
The Broken,” “Rotten Apple (of My Eye)
Track Listing: 1. Sao Paulo Liars Club 2. What It Feels Like 3. For The Jilted, For The Broken 4. Rotten Apple (of My Eye) 5. East Coast Ghosts
Every artist strives to make a connection with their listeners; the fine line between success and failure can be just that, a connection. New York based alternative-soul duo Brent Carpentier and Nicholas Goncalves fully wrote, produced and recorded their newest EP titled War Out There.After taking a break from music, it’s a definite improvement from the bands earlier released mixtape, yet it still lacks that connection that they long to make with their listeners.
This album seems almost cliché in the sense that it sounds like a typical alternative-rock anthem, playing out with a never-ending strain of overbearing emotions. The album is focused on love or getting hurt and every song is bound around the two different
sides; one with the idea of striving for that pleasure of love we all seek and the other being whether or not we’re strong enough to survive the pains of heartache. The theme was a back and forth charade that became somewhat tiresome towards the end. The album itself is a battle cry of emotion, taking in consideration the album title proclaims war. It’s a predictable story.
This five track EP begins with “Wolves.” The instrumentals match the fervor in the lyrics with the story revolving around survival of the fittest. The idea that only the strongest survive, leaving the rest to perish is a been there, done that statement. This album doesn’t quite reach its full potential to begin with but it’s a hopeful endeavor.
Criticism aside, there is greatness in 8 Graves. The recently released music video for “Two Wrongs” brought a beautiful visual to the lyrics showing how couples in love can be interpreted so simply in black and white all the while it was still thought provoking with controversial images; it was a good break from the cutthroat lyrics that only screamed pain. This story was more relatable, focusing on true love and the stages of each couples
A nice emotional twist in “I Won’t Get In” was a simple ending and almost a resolution to the constant struggle in this album. Slowing it down with a rock ballad, the song itself was endearing but it left an assortment of questions. There was no connection in the story itself; it seemed as if it was a very one-sided tale. The artists knew what they were communicating, but there was no real deciphering of the story for the listener. With such
simple instrumentals, there is more to be expected from the lyrics. It was almost like reading a book with just pictures. There was understanding in the words, but there was no depth, no impact, and no real story heard;both the artist and the listener have to understand the story. It may be interpreted in different ways, but that’s the beauty of music. There’s plenty of potential in this album, but the challenge now will be the band tapping into the right emotions and bringing greater depth to their story; this will be the deciding factor in making their connections.
Release Date: October 30, 2015
Run Time: ~18 minutes
2. Two Wrongs
3. You Love Me
5. I Won’t Get In
Icarus the Owl first took the pop-punk world with their signature technical style. After taking the time to refine their music and work with their new label [Blue Swan Records], the band has released their fourth album, Pilot Waves, which takes on a more clear-cut sound but keeps with their signature instrumental intricacy. The album provides what lead singer Joey Rubenstein calls, “a mental landscape.” The tracks are a mixture of heavy and light songs that maintain Icarus the Owl’s pristine quality, one that keeps the old fans coming back for while inciting newer fans.
Pilot Waves leaves a lasting impression with the eclectic group ranging from a screamo-esque style to softer folk-type elements. Songs like the album opener “The Mad Machine” set a more serious tone, stringing together intense guitar riffs with Rubenstein’s
incredible voice. Though not every song carries such intense notes – tracks like “Dinosword” and “Werewolf Tea Party (Who Invited Valeria Boone?)” bring out the lighter side and give a more infectious punk feel with tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
For those who aren’t used to the progressive punk sound, you’ll find moments where you are caught off guard by the weaving of unstructured and interestingly arranged vocals.
“Pearls and Blue” provides us with one of these surprise moments. The track starts off with an almost calming effect, but halfway through the song bursts into a charged melody, almost like listening to two different songs. Rubenstein’s voice knows how to cut through the artistic melodies as most pop-punk singers do, but he provides a level of intricacy that brings together odd time signatures and tempos that many don’t. The track “Peak and Valley Lines” showcases Icarus the Owl’s efforts by masterfully combining layered vocals and light guitar riffs to create a punk orchestra.
Icarus the Owl brings a crisper and more technological-based punk sound on Pilot Waves. While Pilot Waves is more polished than previous albums, there is more of a balance between complex instrumental notes and charged lyrics that really can only be described as a “mental landscape.” Pilot Wavespropels Icarus the Owl into the pop-punk world with a refreshing twist though it may take a second to get used to.
Release Date: October 16, 2015
Run Time: ~40 minutes
1. The Mad Machine
2. I Am the Delorean
3. Prague, 1842
5. Peak and Valley Lines
6. Werewolf Tea Party (Who Invited Valerie Boone?)
8. Pearls and Blue
10. Pilot Waves
I’m a sucker for concept records. The focus that goes into them, the sort of tunnel-vision
writing that it takes to continue with one constant story or theme, it’s always
such an interesting approach and it’s one that I and my oft-scattered thought
patterns commend. Though it’s not a new idea whatsoever, it’s one that always
stands out when it makes an appearance.
Nashville’s Clay Cages returned this year for their
sophomore EP The Lenses We See Life
Through, a five-chapter representation of one’s progression throughout
stages of life.
“Permanence” begins with smooth, echoing guitars as drums
filter their way in. The music softly builds, gently guiding into the light
both lyrically and in tempo. The bridge leads in with “I wonder what these eyes
will see / Just breathe it in.” repeated a handful of times. Tempo following
along with lyrics is a strong way of supporting the album’s conceptual path,
with the aforementioned lines backed by an increased speed, or a
softly-whispered “Patience … Slow things down. Look up, look around,” later
bringing the backing music to a rumbling crawl. Something that I missed on my
first listen, this was a beautiful technique that came about from a closer
listen and that I’m glad I caught a second time through.
Where “Permanence” is patient, allowing itself to build and
grow, “Burning” is anxious and eager, diving in without testing the water. An
anti-love-song, the subject frantically runs through the situations and memories
of a relationship and breakup. The opening verse races in, with our character
seeing the object of his affection and their eyes lighting up his sky as he
shouts “I’m in love!” A sudden tempo shift, and “life moves slower now, days
look the same … growing dependant on dependency.” “Am I really alone again?” “… Am I broken or bent?” “… Was it all just a punishment?”
The final one hundred seconds or so (about half) of the song
is a nearly-endless stream of questions and fast, succinct sentences, showing
us the deterioration within the character’s head. Song times aren’t necessarily a telling piece of an album,
but it shouldn’t go without saying that this sharp, fast, second-guessing recap
of a fleeting fling is also the shortest track here.
In the span of twenty minutes (give or take a few pesky
seconds), Clay Cages craft a beautiful story of the travelling we all do
throughout our lives. We’re introduced to the world; we learn, we grow, we
plan, we question, love, battle, doubt, fear. Things come full-circle, loose
ends get tied, endings are started. The
Lenses We See Life Through not only encompasses a life’s story, but helps
me form an opinion on this band that also reflects how we should approach each
day – eager to see what comes next.
Release Date: November 20, 2015 Run Time: ~21 minutes Rating: 4.25/5 For Fans Of: The Junior Varsity, Saosin, Boys Night Out
UK rock band, Lower Than Atlantis, has re-released their 2014
self-titled album with a new deluxe edition. Titled Lower Than Atlantis:
Black Edition, the deluxe album includes 15 bonus tracks with
fresh new songs, live sets, and four covers. The album is a spot-on portrayal
of the groups overall musical growth and versatility. The two discs showcase
the true evolution and experimentalism of the bands signature punk rock sound.
The raw, aggressive vocals from Mike Duce, guitar from Ben Sansome and Dec Hart, and percussion
elements from Eddy Thrower, are incorporated and manipulated in different ways that
haven’t been heard before on their previous albums.
The first disc containing their 2014 album can be summed up as
controlled chaos – the good kind. Lower Than Atlantis has their sound down to
a science; it is a perfect balance of energetic, catchy vocals and heavy
electric guitar flare that weave together a recipe for a classic punk pop rock
vibe. The first track “Here We Go” shows their
mastery with the electric guitar in constant sync with Duce’s smooth,
meets angsty vocals providing just the right level of a commanding, yet
The track “English Kids in America” tells the story of the bands
personal and professional journey as they packed up their lives in the UK to
pursue their musical dreams in the United States. This track embraces the theme
of the entire album which revolves around finding oneself and enjoying the ride
despite the challenges. Lower Than Atlantis naturally emits a strong sense of
nostalgia, lyrically. The band continually expresses the internal struggle of
wanting to hold on to one’s youth, reminding us all to live in the moment
making their overall message relatable, genuine and respectable.
The tracks “Criminal” and “Ain’t No Friend” highlight their pure
punk rock sound through Duce’s grungy vocals paired with the booming electric
guitar and drums. There is also a contrasting vulnerable side in the tracks:
“Words Don’t Come Easily” with a soft intro coming from the acoustic guitar
that crescendos to an unexpected punch of electric guitar and bass to remind us
of their signature rock roots. “Emily” is a similar, lighthearted track with a nostalgic pop rock
Lower Than Atlantis captures the aura of young rebellion so
effortlessly which isn’t a surprise considering the bands influence from
blink-182 that is reflective in the care-free tracks: “Stays The Same,” “Live
Slow Die Old” and “Time.”
Each track on the two discs are thoughtfully placed in order to
accurately tell their story. The last track on the first disc titled “Number
One,” belts out determined vocals with lyrics of hopes for the future. The
album concludes on an optimistic note as it leaves the past behind, ending with
the future at the fore-front of their minds that may be suggesting a potential
The second disc is a collection and representation of the bands
musical maturity as they incorporate more experimental sounds that veer to a
softer indie-rock influence with some jazz and soul sprinkled in for the hell
of it. However, the group still proves they haven’t abandoned their roots or
youth in the humorous tracks “Sewer Side” and “Superhero.”
The live lounge covers are one of the most unexpected and
exciting elements on the album. The influence of the live environment
highlights Duce’s true vocal talent. The track “Real Love” is a duet with a
female artist that is an impressive showcase of Duce’s raw vocal ability. His
voice is vulnerable and naked as it is complemented by the soulful saxophone.
Alternate versions of the popular tracks: “Here We Go” and “Ain’t No Friend” to
name a few, possess a fresh acoustic, almost reggae-inspired flare that highlights
the simplicity of the guitar and vocals.
The deluxe album Lower Than Atlantis: Black Edition is
a truly well composed documentation of the bands musical journey and overall
maturity. The thoughtful compilation and versatility of song decisions is
successful and will dub to be a timeless collection of pop punk rock music.
Release Date: November 20, 2015 Rating: 4/5
CD 1 1. Here We Go 2. Ain’t No Friend of Mine 3. English Kids In America 4. Criminal 5. Words Don’t Come So Easily 6. Emily 7. Stays The Same 8. Live Slow, Die Old 9. Damn Nation 10. Time 11. Just What You Need 12. Number One
CD 2 1. Get Over It 2. The Reason 3. I’m Partying 4. Superhero 5. Sewer Side 6. Real Love (Live Lounge Performance) 7. Am I Wrong (Live Lounge Performance) 8. Strong 9. Wish You Were Here 10. Everybody Wants To Rule The World 11. A Thousand Miles 12. Here We Go (Alt Version) 13. English Kids In America (Alt Version) 14. Words Don’t Come So Easily (Alt Version) 15. Ain’t No Friend (Alt Version)
It seems almost impossible to combine
more than two genres of music into one song. Kaleigh Baker, however, challenges
and accomplishes it beautifully. This Orlando-based powerhouse brings to her newest
album titled Weary Hours, an entirely
different blend of sounds. She somehow manages to completely transform the
meaning of genre. If you want a taste of country, rock & roll, blues, or
even jazz, she brings this all to her album and more.
New York native, Kaleigh Baker, is a songwriter with the bluesy soul of a 60-year-old music legend. She
encompasses full-fledged raw talent, so be prepared to maintain a constant
strain of chills. Throughout the playlist of tracks, she sets the mood of every
song with constant twists and turns, fueled by her powerful, sultry lyrics. If
John Mayer and Amy Winehouse were to fall deeply and madly in love, Raleigh Baker would be their outcome. Her style includes heartfelt ballads, rock &
roll anthems and unforgettable blues melodies, all alongside her guitar, of
The consistency in this album is
astounding. Hit after hit, every song has its own charm, its own story. After
listening to album opener, “What Tom Waits Would Do,” you’ll be on the edge of
your seat wanting to hear what else Kaleigh can bring to the table. After a
hardcore rock ballad, she slows it down in her song “Black Widow.” Expect the
unexpected with this singer, just when you think you have her figured it out,
she switches her tone with “Everyday.” You’ll get transported to the city of
lights, where the days of the “typical” pin-up girls were the scene in the
local clubs. You don’t know what you’re in for, all I can tell you is that it’s
This up-and-coming singer is the
complete package. Her lyrics and tones of music make listening to this album
feel like a rollercoaster ride. If you’re feeling adventurous, or you’re just
in the mood to relax and drink a cold one, go ahead, listen to this album… I
dare you not to like it.
Release Date: October 16, 2015 Run Time: ~35 minutes Rating: 4.5/5
Track listing: 1. What Would Tom Waits Do 2. Shoot Down 3. Down By The Sea 4. Black Widow 5. Sweater 6. Vagabond Preacher 7. Everyday (Come What May) 8. Growing Up is Growing Old 9. Big City Lights 10. Pittston Pistol
Women in the
music industry are constantly in competition with males; they are either
overlooked entirely or not credited enough. In contrast to the usual
same-gender lineups, or the occasional female-fronted group, Secret Someones is
a talented group of alternative rockers of females and one male. (Girl power!)
singer-songwriters, Bess Rogers, Lelia Broussard, and Hannah Winkler, play bass
and guitar while Zach Jones plays the drums. Their ten-track self-titled album
is filled with talent and passion and inspired by Weezer, Talking Heads, and
Opening track “I
Won’t Follow,” is a super catchy, fun tune and the harmonies are strong and passionate.
“Quit Pulling Me
Down” and “Let You Go” are two of the stronger, most empowering songs – two girl-power ballads about deserving respect
and standing up to someone each deserve a listen.
“Hey Hey Honey,” I noticed how powerful the guitar was, especially in the
second verse with the guitars getting stronger during the transition into the
chorus and once again with the guitar solo during the bridge.
The first two
seconds of “Headfirst” made me dance. Towards the end of the song, there were a
few seconds of instrumentals that beautifully transitioned into harmonic
voices. The beginning of this song, as well as “Only One I Want,” convinced me
I was at a rock concert in outer space, as weird as it sounds. It was cool.
They are two songs I would never get tired of listening to.
starts off with a slower, romantic vibe, then transitions into the upbeat
chorus and back into the slower verses. The voice was strong and the guitar was
played with such force, such passion influenced me in feeling like I had
complete control over my life and how I dealt with love.
The beginning of
“Dead Weight” sounds like the opening drums in “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne. Noticing
other bands in music proves how connected and talented musicians really are.
My favorite part
of “Surrender,” hands down, was the drumming. Jones did a fantastic job of
making me wish I knew how to play the drums. Instead, I played the air drums
with my fingers and pretended I was as talented as him.
The last track
on the album, “Chase Your Shadow,” started off slow and almost with a techno
kind of vibe. The singers’ voices were smooth and powerful, and
one heck of a talent to end the album. The harmonies were fantastic and I could
listen to it for hours.
identify as an empowering, strong-voiced, instrumentally talented group of
people. Do not let them
be a secret anymore. These someones
are worth a listen.
October 2nd 2015 Run Time: ~37 minutes Rating: 3/5 Ultimate Jams:
“I Won’t Follow,” “Let You Go,” “Dead Weight”
Track listing: 1. I
Won’t Follow 2. Quit
Pulling Me Down 3. Let
You Go 4. Hey
Hey Honey 5. Headfirst 6. Only
One I Want 7. Heartbreaker 8. Dead
Weight 9. Surrender 10. Chase Your Shadow
Back in July, I was able to sit down and chat with MC Lars for a bit while I was covering Warped Tour. It was interesting to meet someone
with both an English degree and a full-time job (and yeah, I’m aware I’ve made that joke before. But if you’re just reading it now and you laughed, ignore this; I’m hilarious and my material is always new). Anyway, after a few other questions, I asked: “So, new album? What can we expect?” to which he replied, I quote loosely, “Well, it’ll be about all the same stuff the other hardcore gangsters rap about – I’ve got a song about Roger Rabbit, some Star Wars and Game of Thrones stuff, there’s a rap about Hans Moleman from The Simpsons – the basics.”
I’ve been a fan of Lars’ music for a while, and he’s been one of the more creative artists around ever since he got started, so what surprised me about what he was saying wasn’t the content, but how badly we all needed to hear this record.
“Where Ya Been, Lars?” starts things off with a little insight into the recent doings of our favorite laptop rapper – touring, recording, producing, prepping an educational kids’ TV show featuring robots
and spiders teaching history, etc. etc. Again, the basics. He introduces us to his fourth album as the opener slides into “Zombie T-Rex,” an attack anthem packed with a scream-filled chorus and a hook resembling Matchbook Romance’s “Monsters.” Whether that’s intentional or not, it’s what I hear, and it is extremely fitting, because the track is a beast.
With the news broadcast at the track’s conclusion depicting the reanimated prehistoric behemoth’s assault on San Francisco, trashing coffee shops and food trucks, I was expecting the sequel to “Hipster Girl” to show up next. Before we learn more about the next chapter of our BoHo adventurer, “Sublime With Rome (Is Not the Same Thing as Sublime)” lends hard support to the idea that it is always better to burn out bright than to fade away. Sometimes you’ve gotta know when to hang it up, boys.
I was listening to this album in my car the other day, and “Forgot About Jack” came on. Since it’s November and still seventy degrees, because of course it is, I had the windows down. A group of youths (Ugh. Youths.) were hanging out on the sidewalk, and I saw them nodding their heads to the beat. Well, joke’s on them, because little did they know they were LEARNING. MUAHHAHAHAHA. Take that, hooligans! Go read a book!
That being said, the literary element in Lars’ music has always been what sets him aside from other artists for me. Hell, my senior thesis was on Moby Dick and I ended up dissecting “Ahab” in a final presentation, so Lars pretty much got me my degree. On “Never Afraid,” he and Watsky coauthor a trip through their storybook memories. You get to hear the two rappers tell you how they became
who they are, and you listen to them carrying their childhoods with them throughout their adult lives.
You can’t argue that he’s nerdcore nobility and the CEO of Lit-Hop, but when Lars trims down on the allusions and references and opens up as an artist, he really flexes his songwriting muscles and shows he can run with the best of them.
Closer “Triforce” is one of these examples. Earlier I mentioned myself driving around and catching the ear of a few kids, but this time, this one was for me. An empty road coated with leaves, in my ’99 Jetta
that was on its last legs a year ago but still rumbling along, and the soft
“Power, wisdom, courage” chorus coming through the speakers. Acting as an open letter to old friends, there’s a harsh balance between looking at the past through a rose tint and at the present in stark grey realism.
Two choruses in, it clicked in my head that, more likely than not, things were going to get harsher. I was bracing myself for another memorial to Pat Wood, Lars’ college roommate that inspired the beautiful “Twenty-Three,” which ruined me the first time I heard it. But, rather, he catches up with another friend – Andrew. Hearing an artist’s stage persona call out from the speakers to their place in the real world was a strong way to close an album and a sharp piece of writing.
For me, there has been a lot of music to come out from a handful of my favorite artists this year, and it has all been fighting for my attention. So, for a record to come along and pull focus away from others, it’s gotta be something special. Like the title alludes to, The Zombie Dinosaur LP is a force that can’t be stopped.
Release Date: November 6th, 2015
Run Time: ~41 minutes
Check Out: “Triforce,” “Never Afraid,” “Party With Lars”
1. Where Ya Been, Lars?
2. Zombie T-Rex
3. Sublime With Rome (is Not the Same Thing as Sublime)
4. Hipster Mom
5. Dragon Blood
6. If I Were A Jedi
7. Never Afraid
8. The Top 10 Things to Never Say on a First Date
9. The Ballad of Hans Moleman
10. The Dip
11. Party With Lars
12. Forgot About Jack
Blues music is boring. I love it, but that’s kind of the point,
right? It’s crazy that there’s a genre of music where such a big part of the
sound is defined by a certain chord progression and a specific
scale. It’s among the oldest of American music traditions, and somehow we’re
still interested in this down-and-dirty simple ditty that dates back to the
early nineteenth century.
But of course, it’s this consistency that has made blues so
wonderful. The thump works just as well as the stomp, and allows these little
changes to shine through as tectonic shifts that feel revolutionary. Blues-rock
was never that big of an innovation, but rock and roll has continued to be
influenced by the power of Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton for decades. The Black
Keys added Danger Mouse as a producer in 2008, and the shiny-but-distorted
sound of Brothers has become the
sound of not just recent blues, but half of popular modern rock since.
All this talk about the
seminal moments of the blues is probably setting up Courtesy Tier, the New York
City threesome that release their first EP, Little
Rock on November 6, a little too strongly. This is the first EP by a band
that, like the aforementioned half of modern rock bands, sound a lot like the
Black Keys. They have crunchy rhythm guitars, wailing lead guitars, drums with
lots of hi-hats and great little fills at the end of every measure and bass
that has a little extra feedback on it to give it a real thud.
Their lead singer sounds like he’s singing through a very bad
microphone even though it’s probably an excellent studio one with some effects.
They’re pretty good at all these things, which means…they mostly sound a lot
Black Keys and a few other current blues-rock bands.
Mostly. There’s something different here, and I’m going to
speculate wildly as to what.
The second song on the Little
Rock EP, “Green,” which is also their best in a not-even-competitive way,
sounds Israeli. No, that doesn’t mean it sounds like “Hava Negilah” or other
old-timey Jewish music, or even like the
songs that became Israeli folk music to the early Zionist movements.
It sounds like Israeli modern rock.
This makes sense, since singer/guitarist Omer Liebowitz is
apparently from Israel (and also West Africa). I don’t know the guy, so I hate
to speculate on whether there was a deliberate attempt to throw a bit of his
home country into this American music style with his American band-mates, but I
just listen to this song, and I hear Aviv Geffen, and Beit Habubot, and the
other artists I heard on Galgalatz radio for the several months I worked in the
greenhouse on a kibbutz.
I really have no idea what defines this Israeli sound. This
extends beyond my difficulty in writing this review. I noticed it years ago,
and I started to enjoy it, and then could never place what it was. There’s a
minor-key thing, and a rising, almost triumphant melodic style on the short
choruses, and a lot of reverb-y guitar picking, and then there’s something else
I can’t place. It makes for good music, and Courtesy Tier is part of that
The other two songs on the EP sound more like what blues sounds
like outside of Israel and that’s not a bad thing. They too have a little bit
of an edge to them, a little bit of a feeling that this is not just a standard,
a little bit of a feeling that the blues, which has survived since before the
time of sound recording by limiting the changes to I-IV-V, has added another
miniscule little quirk, a small veer in direction by just a few degrees that
could, in the long run, send it a completely different place.
Release Date: November 6th, 2015 Run Time: ~12 minutes Rating: 4/5
Track listing: 1. Little Rock 2. Green 3. Childish Blues