Indie-pop outfit “Planets” has a single out called “Reflections” which will also appear on their upcoming EP, Colors Alive. It’s somewhat rare for an indie pop band to pull out all the stops as far as production, but I have to say that the video for “Reflections” is incredibly well done, both in terms of production values and artistic direction. It features rising young starlet Elyse Dufour from The Walking Dead in the lead, she somehow manages to give a memorable visual performance despite not having to utter a word. No complaints about the music either. Planets’ singer Rae Anna Beauford has one of those voices that seems like it was genetically tailored specifically for the indie genre. It was an extremely wise decision for the other members (Matthew Morgan, Christian Haberkern and Tim Morgan) to bring her on board. She adds a dynamic which elevates the song’s emotional aesthetic, even though the music itself was already good on it’s own. It just rounds everything off nicely. “Reflections” is the kind of indie pop song that cool people would still like even if it became the radio hit it has the potential to be.
Singer-songwriter Reid Lee describes his latest track “Arrowheads” as “soulful and sweet Americana with a country heart.” It definitely comes across as a blended style derived from a variety of influences. The song really showcases his vocal ability and I found his pleasant and voice contributes to the calming, reassuring ambiance of the music. “Arrowheads” transitions from minimalist verses to epic chorus, and Reid’s emotive presence carries the song steadily throughout. This is very high quality stuff here, and Lee’s musical training at UCLA’s music school really paid off. Reid’s target audience will be thoroughly moved emotionally by this music, and more people deserve a chance to hear it.
The Judex, a rock n’ roll band out of Philadelphia, has just released a double A-Side single. It’s their only release so far, but it’s apparent after listening to it that these guys are focused on quality. My first thought while listening to the track “Witchface,” was that this music reminds me a lot of the kind of punk rock that you’d hear in 80s horror movies like Return of the Living Dead. The recording has that polished, 1980′s analog engineer professionalism that you just don’t hear anymore. It’s the sound of musical and recording pros that know what they’re doing. Mark Plati did a fantastic job mixing/mastering this and capturing the ambiance the band was going for perfectly. There are no corners being cut here.
The guitar work on here is incredible and the singer can really sing. You can’t really fake it with this kind of music. One of the reasons a lot of the bands from the 70′s and 80′s resented the grunge and “alternative” music of the 90′s was because a lot of the bands were not very good technically. For example, when I was a kid, people would often have debates over “who was the better guitar player” or “who is the better drummer” in popular punk or metal bands. In the 90s though, people never cared or talked about that stuff anymore. They just talked about personality or “meaning.” The Judex marks a return to the tradition of well crafted songwriting and superb technical execution in indie rock’n’roll. They have a new EP coming out in August. I recommend you check it out, because they are legit.
Florida based solo artist Nate Utley has a new single out titled “What Up,” off his new EP, “Infinite Potential.” Utley describes his music as “a combination of Rock, Reggae, RnB and Pop.” He also sports a rather impressive full beard, which is worth noting in itself. Though his music is acoustic guitar oriented, after listening to “What Up” I would have to concur that Nate’s artistic style is a blended one, which is more flavorful and peppy than what one would expect from the typical acoustic driven song. The track starts off making you believe it’s going to be a straightforward, Earthy vibed indie rock song, but it slowly intertwines elements of RnB and even light hip hop. It does this very skillfully and more importantly subtly through delivery and attitude so that nothing feels forced or out of place. The acoustic rings with a full, bell like, “chimey” tone and the backing drums give the song a substantive framework, that more minimalist indie guitar jams often lack.
The video is colorfully and beautifully shot in areas like Flagler Beach along the Florida coastline. Nate has clearly worked very hard on this release and accompanying video, and it all comes together nicely. If the rest of the songs on his new EP are even half as effortful as this one, it will be worth picking up a copy.
Wow and Flutter is a new album from Amilia K Spicer, a well established songstress with quite a few accomplishments so far in her career. If I had to describe her style it would be something like avant-garde country. Her music is very organic even while being flawlessly performed. The first track, “Fill Me Up” sets the bar pretty high for the rest of the songs on the album. Musicians often lead with their best foot first, but in Amilia’s case every song on the album is just as good as the opening one. There’s plenty of variation and some pleasantly creative surprises in these songs as well. This isn’t just your run of the mill “girl with an acoustic guitar” album. There’s some genuine artistic genius floating around in these songs. You just have to listen to them. She has a uniquely precise style of picking that creates a distinctive sound. My favorite track on the album is probably Windchill, which was so good it literally gave me goosebumps.
If you’re looking to catch a live performance, Amilia is currently on tour with John Gorka in Michigan from June 1-5 and in Massachusetts on June 9 and 11. Check out her website and social media to stay up to date with her upcoming performances.
London rock trio “Magazine Gap” has a video out for their new single, “Ran For Cover.” Their style draws from an eclectic variety of influences. This particular track has an overall jazzy feel to it, with some elements of alternative pop and adult contemporary. Basically this is like what pop music made by intelligent people sounds like. “Ran For Cover” is pristine and professional while managing to retain its organic quality. This is much harder to achieve than one might think. There’s no effects “smokescreen” or deficiencies that are being masked here. The production simply accentuates what would already be a solid song, even if it were recorded on 4-track. The horn parts are catchy and memorable, and I found myself looking forward to them on repeated listens. Shoutout to Binker Golding on saxophone and Jeffrey Brown on Trumpet, for contributing what I think is a crucial component to this song.
The video appears to be mostly footage of traveling around the streets of London but edited in a way that somehow manages to create an artistically poignant video. Great ambiance. There’s too much talent associated with this band and their production team to be able to talk about it in a review of this length, but honestly their music pretty much speaks for itself.
These Young Fools, an alternative rock/pop band from Seattle, have a new EP out titles “Awake.” The production quality is solid, and opts for clarity and precision rather than utilizing a lot of distracting filters and effects. It isn’t surprising to discover that the band was influenced by Jimmy Eat World and other similar groups, as I could detect a faint sort of late 90′s / early 2000 vibe to the music. This is particularly evident in the vocals, which have that distinctive, “elevated pitch” angst to them reminiscent of pop punk and screamo. However, what sets These Young Fools apart from those genres is that there is more of a synth element here. Also, the tone and pacing of the songs is more of a darker and brooding one, having more in common with classic alternative than something cheesy like pop punk. Probably my favorite song on this album is “Playing dead,” which is catchy and well constructed.
“Comes a Moment” is a brand new release from Jonathan Cavier’s new album, “Premier.” Both the video and the song itself are highly impressive. Cavier’s music reflect a contemporary sound, influenced by pop and rock of the 80s and 90s. Despite Jonathan’s 80′s influences, “Comes a Moment” doesn’t come off as retro or “gimmicky.” This is a polished and well put together track from a seasoned professional. The theme of the song seems to be how time flies, relayed through a story of two parents’ amazement at how fast their daughter has grown up. It deals with both the struggles of change and the promise of the future.
I’m always pretty stoked when I get the chance to review a metal band. In terms of contemporary music, metal sometimes seems like one of the only authentic genres. The artists tend to be less concerned with hype and superficiality and more passionate about music.
“Judgemetal” is a four piece metal band, based out of Essex, UK. Their new single, “Belong,” was just released on Hydrus Records. It’s a high quality, high energy track that doesn’t disappoint. It captures the ambiance of metal perfectly and the technical aspects of the song are all very solid. Wisely the band keeps with the traditional sound and doesn’t ruin the recording with a lot of obnoxious vocal effects (unlike so many newer artists.) What really impresses me though is the video for the song. It actually has the somewhat vintage aesthetic of a late 80′s-early 90s music video(whether intentional or not) and would not be out of place on an old episode of Headbanger’s Ball. “Belong” is a respectable release from an up and coming metal band. Expect to hear more from them in the future.
Gilbert Engle continues to display his music versatility and technical proficiency, the latest example to come across my desk being his 2016 “Piano Sonatas” release. These tunes maintain a feverish pace throughout and convey a lively, bright and upbeat mood. One can envision a scenario where crowds of people they are moving briskly through the sidewalks of a bustling metropolis, set to this music. “Piano Sonata 8,” one of the best tracks on the album, is an excellent example of this. All of the songs are simply numbered this way rather than given esoteric abstract titles. It gives a certain businesslike and perhaps modernist quality to the overall aesthetic. Engle delivers pure substance and never seems to rely on catchy titles or sloganeering in his work. His focus is entirely on creating the best piece of music possible. This is extremely refreshing when one considers that a good portion of contemporary music is almost entirely based around the marketing and image, with little attention paid to actual songwriting or even the music itself.
Engle’s piano handiwork is meticulously performed with an articulated precision. My favorite track is “Piano Sonata 4″ I listened to several times in a row. It gave off the vibe of a hypnotic roller coaster ride with it’s teeter-totter of highs and lows and ups and downs. Even though the piano is the only instrument being used, this is by no means a somber or light album. The fast forward pacing gives these songs all the heightened energy of a downtown afternoon. It’s a terrific collection of tunes which are yet another representation of both the prolific level of output and quality that Gilbert somehow manages to maintain.