Review:: New Fangs Old Pangs | Yellow Red Sparks


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
3.  If I
Get It, Then You’ve Got It
4.  I’m
5.  Violet
6.  New
Fangs (Darkling)

Written by Kelsey Rzepecki

Review:: War Out There | 8 Graves


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
Rating: 2/5

Track listing:
1. Wolves
2. Two Wrongs
3. You Love Me
4. Home
5. I Won’t Get In

Written by Clarissa Meneses

Review:: The Lenses We See Life Through | Clay Cages


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
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

Track listing:
1. “Permanence”
2. “Stained Glass”
3. “Rust”
4. “Burning”
5. “Holidays and Strangers”

Written by Eric Riley

Review:: Weary Hours | Kaleigh Baker


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
something good.

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

Written by Clarissa Meneses

Review:: Little Rock | Courtesy Tier


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
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
like The
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

Written by Jon Hecht

Review: The Dare | Loren


Singer/songwriter LOREN, at only 15 years old, is rebelling against the stereotype of cliche teen pop. Her style is inventive and refreshing; but most respectably, it’s individualistic. She embraces an indie pop sound that pairs seamlessly with her soft vocals.

A single off of the EP,  “Broken Telephone”, is a charming example of
her youthful point of view – a story of a typical mean girls vs. outcasts
scenario. Free spirited guitar and drums emit a light and care-free sound despite the angst of the story being told through the lyrics. The hint of subtle angst in her lyrics mixed with lighthearted pop creates the perfect recipe for describing the high school challenges of growing up; good and bad.

LOREN’s EP provides a relatable and genuine perspective on the frustrating and awkward first love experiences in the tween years of life. The track “Love Birds” is a prime example about young love and growing apart with a duet with male singer, KRISTO framed as the significant other. The track “Echo” is similar in storyline, but channels a
more whimsical, alternative sound showcasing LOREN’s experimentalism.

LOREN’s influences include Sia, Florence and the Machine, and classical artists Bach and Chopin which explains the musical range she embraces using dramatic classical aspects of string instruments as heard in the track “Runaways”.

“Foreign Love” is one of the most eccentric tracks on the EP along with “Echo” which highlights her vocal talent through vulnerable, moody lyricism. Being young to the music industry, there’s no question LOREN can only grow more talented as an artist as time goes on.

Release Date: October 23, 2015
Run time: ~13 minutes
Rating: 3/5

Track listing:
1. Broken
2. Runaways
3. Love Birds
4. Echo
5. Foreign

Written by Kelsey Rzepecki

Review:: Tidal Wave | Marco With Love

A debut EP is basically a gimme, right? When studio time is
being doled by a salt shaker, the idea of coming up with any sound that’s
better than “competent” can seem unfair. The things that make a band matter—all
that junk about a specific sound that no one else has, and an energy and
delivery that makes it work perfectly is probably best judged once there’s a
full album, when being in the studio isn’t quite as much of a luxury.

So it’s especially impressive to listen to Marco With Love,
who apparently is a guy named Marco and his band named Love. Last year they
released the kind of first single, also titled “Love,” that does exactly what
it needs to. With a mix of 60s-reminiscent jangle pop guitars that prove the
band is living up to their namesake, a smooth
rhythm section that sounds much more modern, and an earnest gruff vocalist,
it’s got good style and tight song craft that should make anyone curious for a
full EP. There’s enough confidence and freshness in this lead single that an
entire five songs rehashing it could have easily been an okay start. Which is
why MWL’s Tidal Wave EP is so weird,
and more importantly, good.

Tidal Wave doesn’t
sound anything like “Love.” It sounds like country-fried alt-rock, which if you
want to be annoying about arbitrary genre specifications, differs from
alt-country because the latter pretends that it’s from the country when it’s
really from the city and this one doesn’t bother pretending. It sounds like Ryan
Adams’ most recent album. As someone who is a sucker for just about anything
that Ryan Adams does, this is a good thing. But even if you’re not as obsessed
with Mandy Moore’s ex-husband as I am, Marco With Love doing it is still
definitely a good thing.

The title track starts off the EP with an energy that keeps
the open road moving. “Leave It All Behind” simmers that down to a cocky
swagger, and the closer “Poor Young And Gifted” doubles down on the rough
sincerity in Marco Argiro’s voice for a tough ballad. And then there’s a cover
of Townes Van Zandt’s “Waiting Around To Die.” Covering Van Zandt is a smart
idea, since his sound and attitude pervade the best parts of the EP, but it
also highlights quite how not-quite-country the band is. When you’re living in
Brooklyn and considering Westchester to be the countryside, then then a
full-throated country ballad of love, loss, and time doesn’t quite connect.

But the weakness of Marco and his Love’s cover abilities
highlight exactly what is so impressive about Tidal Wave. They sound like themselves. They’re doing it in a
country rock style that should be old and repetitive, and they sound different
than the version of themselves that they were a year ago, but they’ve managed
to create a sound that is self-assured. They’ve done it twice now. To be
honest, I like their jangle-pop start more than the country-twang rock, but I’m
not complaining about either. Mostly, I’m looking forward to what they do next.

Release Date: July 17th, 2015
Run Time: ~16 minutes
Rating: 4/5

Track listing:
1) Tidal Wave
2) Leave It Behind
3) Waiting Around To Die
4) Poor Young and Gifted

Written by Jon Hecht

Review:: First Year On Earth | First Year On Earth


From what I’ve read in recent days, Ryan Murphy is not the type to let things hold him back. Moving to New York City with nothing more than his bucket list and a backpack, with his dream of becoming a recording artist as the top goal, Murphy let his ambition bring him to the city, with his heart eventually calling him elsewhere, leading him to a new home in Texas. Prompted by tragedy and driven by the simple question what would you do with your last year on earth?, Murphy set out to provide himself with not only answers, but a chance to make a name for himself.

Murphy’s singer/songwriter style, paired with the jazz and country upbringings of his trio of bandmates, provides the husk for First Year On Earth’s sound. The combination of alehouse piano and loose acoustics on opener “Georgia,” set as support for homesick, lovesick lyrics makes for a captivating introductory track. Murphy’s vocals are both clean and unpolished, hitting soft notes when needed, letting his voice soar when he has to make a point stick. Follow-up “I Want To (I Do)” showcases this further, this time set
to slower, softer piano and light percussion work.

Where the opening pair of tracks are [comparably] slower, the closing two are their foil. “Poor Man” kicks in right away, thumping and strumming and whistling away. Murphy sets aside the idea of the glitz and glamour lifestyle, singing about what life on the road is really like – “just in case you think I do alright / strumming guitars, singing late at night / I’m sure this won’t be a huge shock / but these shoes are the only ones I’ve got.” What’s
better than him shedding light on the reality of it is him hoping people can focus more on living the life for the passion of it rather than the perks – “You should ignore diamond rings / or that pack of fools chasing fancy things / if you want cash, go and join that line / ‘cause we can get more money, you can never get more time.” Damn right.

Closer “The Best Is Yet to Come” acts as both a finale and a beginning. While it wraps up the short EP, it suggests, or better yet urges, that bigger and better things are still on their way. It’s a basic thought that I’m sure almost anyone has had – “I don’t feel I’ve done enough / well, I’m still young / maybe my best is yet to come;” simple, succinct, optimistic, and relatable.

This project began with asking what would you do with your last year on earth. With that question, it brings with it the thoughts of mortality, endings, etc. You know, those
sorts of things. It was all about your last year on earth, what you would try to do before
things came to an end. This EP takes things in the opposite direction – what are you going to do from here?

Release Date: June 25th, 2015
Runtime: 19:43
Rating: 3.5/5

Track listing:
01. “Georgia”
02. “I Want To (I Do)”
03. “Poor Man”
04. “The Best Is Yet to Come”
Bonus Track: “Good Girls”

First Year On Earth is:
Ryan Murphy: Acoustic guitar, vocals
Kris Afflerbaugh: Bass, vocals
Jordan Birchill: Guitar, vocals
Jimmy Milner: Drums

Review:: Pretty Speeches | Poema

There’s something about sisters in bands that up the level of coolness, and Poema’s.  Poema’s new EP Pretty Speeches is perfect for those long summer night roadtrips that you will want to start taking after you listen to these five tracks.  Sisters, Elle and
Shealeen Puckett balance their angsty cool pop with a folky twang that keeps you hip and hipster at the same time.

The duo, who hails from Nashville, goes for more pop in Pretty Speeches, which we can hear in tracks “Get to Me” and “Forget You In LA.” The latter has a familiar message of heartbreak, but with mellow vocals and an experimental melody filled with west coast vibes.

However, it’s not the typical pop music you’d expect.  There’s a certain laid-back approach with angsty drawl vocals paired with folky, smooth melodies.  It’s like a combination of 80’s pop with early 2000’s pop.  You can hear edgier laidback vocals in “Enough Messing Around” which has a bit of authority and vengefulness behind the song.

The opening track “Go Away” has a Hawaiian twang that combines effortlessly with lazy-but-not-so lazy vocals. You can also hear a bit of alternative country twang that pay homage to their Nashville home. “Madeline” is a slow and smooth song to end the EP.  The vocals are enchanting that follow a simple and ethereal guitar melody.

Pretty Speeches
sums up what we expect from our perfect summer. They tease us with five songs that have us daydreaming about long cool nights, beach vibes, and endless time to do nothing. Poema manages to capture the essence of cool girl indie pop music in their new EP and leaves you wanting more.

Release Date: July 10th, 2015
Runtime: ~21 minutes
Rating: 4/5
Recommended songs: Go Away, Madeline

Track listing:
1. Go Away
2. Enough Messing Around
3. Get To Me
4. Forget You In LA
5. Madeline


Review:: Unseen | Tayler Buono

While it’s not the extraordinary, Taylor Buono’s new EP Unseen is definitely the breath of fresh air you need from the current state of music. In fact, I feel a bit nostalgic listening to her new EP. It has remnants of music from the early 2000s with its simplicity of
lyrics and melodies.   Unseen has six tracks that can appeal to any age group, especially a younger audience. However, Buono proves to be the rising artist who is still searching for her place in much with her new EP.

Only 20-years old, Taylor Buono comes with a very light and clean cut voice. It’s a voice perfect for songs about love and heartbreak as these six tracks show us. Her songs have a personal touch as draws from her own experiences. Some are about the highs of love like the track “It Only Gets Better”, which aspires the optimistic side of love that most singer/songwriters stay away from. The opening track “Lucky in Love” is very bubbly and makes you feel like you’re jumping on clouds.

Buono also shows a sadder side by opening up about past relationships.  The track “What If It Was” explores a relationship that couldn’t be and is accompanied by piano. She sings us through what could have been, but still keeps hope. Buono paints the picture of a
failing relationship in her title track “Unseen.” Buono showcases herself as the voice for teenagers who, right now, don’t have many singers advocating for them.

On its own, Unseen is simplistic and showcases Taylor Buono’s voice very well. However, with the advent of female singers, Buono might find herself swept up with the others. She might be able to hold her own if she refines the direction she wants to go with a full length album. Unseen has the potential to be something great, especially with Buono’s ability to bring bittersweet emotions come alive with her songs. There’s no clear path of what to expect from a future album.  However, I do know that Taylor Buono brings
back the simpler moments of music.

Release Date: Jan 13th, 2015
Rating: 2.5/5
Runtime: ~22 minutes
Songs to check out: Unseen, What If It Was

Track listing:
1. Lucky In Love
2. Let It Die
3. What If It Was
4. I Like
5. Unseen
6. It’ll Only Get Better