Gilbert Engle is an established painter and musician who is impressively proficient in multiple instruments as well as a variety of musical genres. Recently he and a number of other talented individuals have completed some jazz fusion recordings. Gilbert plays guitar on the songs which instantly resonate as being of professional caliber. Performances are just incredible all around and the tracks are brimming with emotion and a smooth energy. Peter Fraize in particular stands out, with his tenor saxophone taking charge and setting the mood. The best way to describe the feeling Engle’s songs invoke, is that they feel as though they would fit well on a soundtrack to a 1980′s film set in New York(something like Arthur,) perhaps during a high society party scene. The music is too classy and upbeat for something like Zalman King’s Red Shoe Diaries or a 90′s erotic thriller.
It would actually be great if Gilbert were to release this on vinyl, as I get the sense this music would sound even better on some classic HiFi stereo. In fact, if I had a high end audio listening room at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I would consider using these recordings to demo my high end audio amplifiers to prospective buyers. The music is that good.
Described as having folk influences, Cranky George is an indie rock band from Los Angeles. The band actually features famous actor Dermot Mulroney, (known from contemporary classic movies like Young Guns and My Best Friend’s Wedding.) They have a new single out called “Nighttime,” which will also be part of their upcoming full length album, “Fat Lot of Good.”
Nighttime is a well polished release, that doesn’t show any of the lo-fi, abrasive, acoustic quality production that’s often associated with the indie folk genre. The music is reminiscent of a late 90′s, early 2000s flavor of indie music, but blending in some newer twists. The tone comes across as striking an even balance between melancholy and uplifting, reaching a comfortable and elegant middle. The vocals and overall sound are easy to listen to, and I found the melody to be one that stuck in my head after only two listens. I predict that their full length album will worth checking out.
Notable Detroit rock band, “Morrow’s Memory,” has a new EP out called “Take Control,” which features several solid tracks. They describe their music as a “mix of rock, alternative, and progressive. ” That seems about right. The songs do have a very alternative pacing and tone but don’t come off as 90′s “retro styled” alternative throwback. They have more of a contemporary sound with some diverse influences. While songs like Bloodlust have a heavy vibe to them, they retain their melodic appeal and never morph into simple noise. It’s a great balance. The band has managed to get these recordings to sound very polished and of radio quality, without being ruined with unnecessary effects and excessive processing. My favorite song on the EP was Sapphire, a catchy tune which struck me as having potential to be a mild hit.
The first thing that stands out with Kate Brown’s new single, “6 Shots” is the energy. It has a faster pacing than what I normally expect from the folk/rock genre, and it really engages you from the first second. It also isn’t depressing or bleak. The musical tone feels much more upbeat, even though the difficult subject matter deals with a caustic love and the sensationalism of violence in the media.
The singing is terrific and fits the style rather well. Kate has just the right amount of angst in her vocal delivery of these lyrics, and she doesn’t overdo it. She has a lot to be proud of with “6 Shots,” and I hope it is successful.
Pop singer Holly Elle’s new single “Flip that Script” is a catchy song about a girl reclaiming herself from a lover that presumably has treated her badly in the past. She’s a classically trained singer, and it’s apparent in her music, where her voice seems to direct all the action. She seems to be heavily influenced by Mariah Carey, but her style comes off slightly more European, and this is better in my opinion.
My favorite component of the song is the accordion in the background which is played by her father. In addition to giving it a little bit of Eastern European identity, it also provides another a layer of authenticity that most of these types of songs lack.
Top quality production here from Aiym Almas, an alternative pop artist from Kazakhstan. A good way to describe her sound is that it has elements of pop but without any of the cheapness or characteristiz sleazy vibe. Aiym has an incredible voice, which carries the songs in such a way that one would listen to them even if there were no other instruments. Her third single, “You Must Be True” has kind of a mysterious quality to it as it slowly builds to the main message. My favorite of her songs is “The Other Side,” which is like a blast of energy when the song kicks into high gear/dance party mode with the payoff.
Lizzy Small, a young up and coming pop star that you may recognize from her supporting role in the recent film “Spare Parts,” had a popular song out called “Gravity.” The first thing I noticed about it is that Elizabeth really does have a great voice. Lots of times these pop jams are comically overloaded with auto tune and pitch correction, but in Lizzy’s case the producer wisely left her voice (mostly) alone other than a few subtle effects here and there, and one can tell she’s a good natural singer. “Gravity” is a catchy song, and the part when the chorus kicks in you can visualize it being a club hit.
As a pop song, Gravity manages to achieve its appeal while taking the high road. The highly professional and well edited video comes across as a refreshingly innocent romance tale. It doesn’t utilize anything sleazy or cheap to get a reaction. It doesn’t rely on any of the shock value or preachiness we’ve come to expect in this genre of music. In fact, there is nothing cheap or shoddy about this production.
The same goes for her recently released track, “Always Be There,” which has a slightly more hypnotic feel to it as opposed to a club track. It reminds me of the sort of song a girl would listen to on a late night long drive home or afternoon road trip out of the city. It’s fitting that a captivatingly romantic song like this was released for Valentine’s Day. The echoey chorus can get stuck in your head pretty quickly after a couple of listens, and it’s no surprise the song currently has nearly 3 million plays on Soundcloud already.
Lizzy manages to achieve a respectable sound without appearing as though she’s “trying too hard.” From watching her videos and interviews, I get the impression that if anything, she is a tireless worker who takes care to consider every detail and genuinely takes her craft seriously. Either that or she just surrounds herself with good people and has terrific innate marketing skills.
Be on the lookout for more exciting stuff from Lizzy. I have a feeling these tracks will be just the beginning. Don’t be surprised if she makes it to the next level, and she does…remember you heard it here first.
So out of nowhere today I had something great to review. As I get older, I frequently get depressed because it seems like the indie pop and indie rock scene has kind of disappeared. The pretentious artsy and cultish zines of the past that I used to love seem to be nowhere to be found. Most indie music blogs today focus more on stuff like EDM and hip hop. With that in mind, it’s great to know that creative and incredible avant garde acts still exist. I’m just apparently too out of touch to know where their parties are.
Anyhow one of those groups that are making great new jams is “Kasket Club,” which consists of two guys that began working on music together in 2012. The duo is from Norway, so maybe I just need to finally bite the bullet and migrate back to Europe. Kasket Club combines acoustic instruments with electronic beats to create a flawless and positively energizing sound. They kind of remind me of some of the indie bubblegum pop bands of the 90s like Majestic, only with more electronic and synthy influences…somewhat resembling contemporary groups such as Magic Wands.
Kasket Club has a new EP called “The King of Cool and the Acrobat.” The first song, “Straight West” was a great choice to open with at it sets the mood with peppy and the kind of ultra catchy melodies you normally only get from television commercial jingles My other favorite song on the EP is “They Don’t Mind,” which has some radical grooves. The whole thing has a definite chillwave vibe, but slightly more fast paced than any actual chilling would involve. I’d recommend you support these guys, because their music is awesome, and I enjoyed it enough to write a longer review than I normally would.
I can usually tell within the first 10 seconds of listening to something whether I’m going to like it or not, and in the case with STV (Steve Counts) I already made up my mind it was great in even less time than that. “Suburban Function,” the opening song on his cleverly titled album “VCR,” is a terrific indie pop song. It doesn’t really do it justice to call it indie pop though, since the production quality is as a higher level than what you’d expect from this style of music. The chimey, xylophone like intro hooks you right into the song. The vocals are excellent, and this is just an all around well crafted song by an obviously talented individual.
Well traveled indie folk duo, “March to May” finally ended up settling in Seattle. Their music is a great fit for the Pacific Northwest. It’s finely tuned with nature, and if I had to describe the “mood” of their songs it would be something like an overcast fall afternoon in the woods, that good kind of cold rainy day feeling. It reminded me of trips to Flagstaff several years ago with an ex-girlfriend.
March to May’s recently released album, “The Water’s Edge” is everything you’d want in this genre. They really have their sound nailed down. The production quality is as good as anything you’d hear in the background playing at your local Starbucks during pumpkin spice season, but without any of the corporate insincerity and packaging. As artists, March to May seem to capture what almost every musician hopes to, which is just the right blend of authenticity and professional quality.
My favorite song on the album is probably “Count the Days,” which seems to stand out more for me. It’s catchy, upbeat and brimming with energy(as lively as this kind of music can get anyway.) Darren Guyaz plays the guitar, keyboard while Beth Wesche’s main instrument is a Celtic harp. They alternate singing, and both have beautiful voices. I’ve reviewed a lot of music over the years. I always try to find good things to say about whatever I come across, but it’s rare that I get to review something I like as much as this. It would be nice to see these two score a showcase at South By Southwest, in March. I think they would go over well.