Alex Allred is a singer/songwriter who has been entrenched in the North Texas music scene for a little over a decade now. He’s probably best known for fronting the hard rock outfit, The Aftermath Theory, a band that after five years, decided to go on an indefinite hiatus.
He’s working hard to change that, though, and in the late 2000’s he began writing some acoustic songs, readying himself for a solo career, and suddenly finding himself without band made this a good time to pursue this new musical outlet.
This new music was a vast departure from what he was used to, but it allowed him to test and push himself as a songwriter. A little over a year after his rock band had more or less called it quits, Alex was releasing his first album as a solo artist, and he had also welcomed two other musicians into the fold to back him up.
The album is titled “Born on 4/20”, which is his actual date of birth, and isn’t just a collection of random songs, but songs that chronicle his life.
The album begins with the title track itself, “Born On 4/20”, which is a promising, upbeat song that partly deals with Alex’s birth. It’s driven predominantly by the acoustic guitar, which eventually builds and hits a rather epic climax towards the end of the song. I feel the overall message of the song, though, is about chasing your dreams, regardless of what others may think, best summed up with the line, “…Count all your blessings and never attest to the world that dreams are only for the chosen…”, which Alex sings in his distinctive voice, which has nice, almost soothing quality to it.
The album doesn’t let up any, as it moves on to “Little Warrior”, a very melodic track where Alex continues to tell his life story to everyone, beginning with the (very) early days of his childhood. The drumming is often more simple on this one, often just a steady beat made by slapping one of the skins, but it mixes quite well with the guitar, creating a catchy music bed that will no doubt burrow its way into your head.
Things continue full-steam ahead with “Another One”, which mines a vein similar to the previous track, before offering a glimpse at his softer side of singing and writing with the longest song on the album, “Panic Attack!” which, despite the brief crescendo, is still more of a tranquil song.
“Phase”, which is the shortest offering on the record, comes next and finds Alex returning to his Rock ‘n’ Roll roots, albeit in more of an acoustic way. Sure, it may have a very stripped down sound, but it’s rather intense and could go up against some of the loudest rock songs and hold its own with ease, especially since it boasts a more noticeable rhythm section than previous song.
“I would do it if it takes me a lifetime. Good news, I’ve got nothing but time…” Alex croons at the start “#1 Scenario”, a song where he seems to reaffirm his love and dedication for his music career. It also finds him returning to a more traditional acoustic style of sound, different from the song that came before it, but that’s okay. His music doesn’t all have to be in-your-face to stick with you, in fact, this is one of the highlight tracks on “Born On 4/20”.
One of the cheeriest songs on the album is “Moments”, which emits a rather carefree attitude with its positive vibes, as Alex reminisces about growing up in his suburban neighborhood, before things take a more serious twist with “Biology, Not Chemistry”. “It scares me to say that we share the same DNA…” sings Alex, a line that perfectly summarizes how real and raw the track is.
There’s a slight reggae influence to “Just Breathe”, which is appropriate, given what the song is about. One of the lines from the chorus is, “…I could get used to this, faith, love and cannabis is happiness…”, obviously making marijuana what he is referencing to breathing. It’s not just a song about smoking pot, though, at least not in the sense where he’s simply stating that he does it. Rather, he kind of delves into what he gets from it, making a slightly more complex song than you might think it would be.
Aptly following it is “Young & Dumb”, where Alex bluntly recounts an indiscretion from his later teen years when a police officer caught him smoking a joint while driving down the highway. He’s very transparent about it all, matter-of-factly stating that it happened, though, essentially admitting that it was mistake of his youth, yet not showing any regret about the situation. Like he sings, “…Give it up for the young and dumb…” Oh, and the guitar chords are most excellent on this tune, too.
“Higher Learning”, a song that takes the listeners through Alex’s college years, is a real sing-along track, particularly on the chorus, “…Never said I didn’t do every little thing I wanted to…”, which I could see everyone shouting along with at one of his live shows. It’s just another fun song that “Born on 4/20” has to offer, and is a contender for best song on the record.
“Life & Times” concludes this nearly 40-minute long listening adventure, ending things on a chipper note, and this more love based song finds Alex meeting his (presumably) current girlfriend, and it comes across that he has an optimistic outlook on the future, as well he should.
“Born on 4/20” is a nice concept album of sorts, and it’s refreshing to see a musician write an entire collection of songs where he bares his soul, exposing who he is and informing everyone of what shaped him, rather than writing songs about ex-girlfriends and bad break-ups and such.
It’s also a record that will grow on you, trust me. I listened to every song at least five times each while working on this review, and with each listen, the music, from the beats to the chords, as well as Alexs’ one-of-a-kind voice, became more and more appealing to me.
These days, you don’t often see trios, and you probably wouldn’t think an acoustic one would be all that special, but Alex Allred and his band are one to get acquainted with, and “Born on 4/20” is the perfect introduction to their style.
The Alex Allred Band is:
Alex Allred - Vocals, Guitar
Kevin Broussard - Percussion, Vocals
Clinton Potter - Bass
Purchase the album on:
iTunes / Amazon mp3
Visit Alex Allred’s websites:
Offiical website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube
Saturday, June 29th at Liquid Lounge in Dallas, Texas
Said Kelley is a acoustic pop band based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota and the trio was founded by longtime musician, Kelley Larson, who serves as both the voice of the band and the guitarist. Setting her apart from most singer/songwriters I’ve come across is the fact that her main priority is her husband and children, not music.
Her love for music is quite obvious, though, and she uses her family as the inspiration for her songs on the bands current release, “Cupcake”.
The lead track is “Sbwdsufs”. It’s a very rhythmic song, driven heavily by the drums, though the bass works its way into the groove quite well, accenting it and giving it a rather hypnotic beat. To balance it out you have Kelley’s voice, which often soars on the song, and gives it an infectious pop quality. When it’s all said and done, it’s proved to be a splendid introduction to the band and their sound. So, if you listen to only one of Said Kelley’s songs, let it be this one. Then afterwards, you should find yourself hungering for more.
The next song, “Make Me Up”, carries a deep message with it, and one that I imagine could hit home with a lot of people (particularly women). “…I don’t need no makeup to make me up… I don’t need your scales to weigh my worth…” Kelly croons on the chorus, which is all about being who you are and “…breaking the mold created by society…”. It’s a must listen for anyone who may think they don’t belong for one reason or another. i.e. because they aren’t “supermodel thin”. Granted, it doesn’t carry as much weight with me personally (I think being a guy has a lot to do with that), but I can easily see how this could be an empowering song.
Following it is the shorter, acoustic song, “White Walls”. As good as their more Pop based music is, I think they sound their best on this one, and the other slower tunes that are scattered throughout the record. Since first hearing it, I’ve liked the percussion instrument known as a cajon, and it’s used to make a tranquil sound on this tune. And as amazing as Kelly’s voice sounds on the other songs, it’s most captivating here, having a very passionate quality to it and fills the song with emotion.
“Forbidden Lover” has a fiery sound, in a sultry sense, that behooves the atmosphere it’s trying (and successfully) creates. However, it gets a little repetitive to me. Don’t misconstrue that, I’m not saying it’s a bad song, it’s just not one of my favorites.
That brings us to the title track from the album, “Cupcake”. The song is dripping with metaphors, which in turn makes it one of the smartest songs I’ve ever heard. It’s a love song of sorts, probably best summed up with the opening line, “I wanna be your cupcake. Something you look forward to…”, but the best parts are found deeper in the song, like the bridge towards the end, “…Simply sweet, delightfully delicious. Your ultimate fantasy…”. It’s simply a brilliant song, and with the occasional, not so subtle innuendos, it walks a very fine line of being both a sweet song, and a slightly dirty one, which is precisely what makes it so enjoyable.
Things again hit a lull with “Alex Fred”. It’s pointed out on the chorus that, “…This is not a love song about you, it’s just the hard reality of how I really feel about you…”, but it sure sounds like a love song. And a pretty good one at that.
The pace picks up a little with the “Gray Cloud”, which is the longest track on the album. It’s still fairly soft, but the percussion is more much more pronounced on it, than say, the previous song. It’s another highlight song on this fine record, and also another one that showcases Kelley’s gift of penning songs. For instance, this part from late in the second verse, “…As the winds around me dictate the choices I make. A shower of tears puddles around my knees. As I look to my gray cloud for peace…”. Just pay attention to it, and the lyrics alone will drag you in.
Some rather somber bass notes get “Free” going, which is a fitting emotion. The song paints a picture of not being entirely sure who you are as a person, even possible trapped in your own skin, but longing to get out and be, as the title suggests, free. It’s really not as depressing as it might sound, though. Instead, it’s kind of uplifting, speaking of a person who does see all the good qualities, even if she might not have at the time.
The best love song on the record is the next track, “Long Enough”. She just plainly professes her love for her special someone, singing that, “…Forever isn’t long enough…”, It’s straightforward and simple, and that’s often the best way to say stuff of that magnitude.
“Pop Rock Lips” is the closest thing to a sappy tune on this record. I don’t feel that “sappy” is the best word to describe it, though. Like the other songs found on the album, it simply provides a clever way of saying something sincere. Helping it out is the more electric vibe it has, sounding pretty poppy and upbeat, which is very behooving of the lyrics.
“Beautiful” brings things to a close, which is an entirely acoustic song, with the exception of a violin which is added at various points. The lack of the other instruments leaves Kelley’s voice completely exposed, which allows it to sound better here than any previous song. It will most likely leave you awestruck, and the violin serves to only intensify its beauty on this more spiritual based tune.
Over all, I’d say “Cupcake” is an excellent album, simply because all the songs that comprise it are so honest and open.
Unlike some music from other bands, it’s very easy to conclude what the subject matter is about, but are clever enough that they aren’t just plain. Even better than that is the fact that none of these songs sound like anything you’ve heard before. That is to say, the lyrics are better than a majority of the songs out there, and by leaps and bounds at that. And by listening to it, I guarantee you will find at least one song that evokes some type of emotion in you.
Said Kelley is:
Kelley Larson – Vocals & Guitar
Heather Weideman - Bass
Holly Maczuzak – Drums
Purchase the album on:
iTunes / CD Baby
Visit Said Kelley’s websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube / Reverbnation
Nearly three years in to their career, The Virgin Wolves have accomplished more than most bands do, or even can in that time frame.
For starters, they expanded from a husband-and-wife duo of Chase and Jaimeson Robbins, to a well-rounded five-piece outfit that has the release of two EP’s under their belt. Both were crucial to capturing and subsequently growing their fan base, though the main draw to the band is probably what they are best known for; their fiery, brash live performance.
That has helped make them into an institution of the North Texas music scene, yet they’ve still lacked something that is key to any band, and that is a full-length record.
Well, they’re finally getting around to releasing one, and their debut full-length is titled, “Pretty Evil Thing”.
The record isn’t all brand spankin’ new material, nor is just the same old tracks from their previous EP’s added in as “filler”. Instead, they tweaked many older songs and peppered in some new offerings, too.
One song that has been tweaked is “Black Sheep”, which is not only the lead track on the record, but also the first single. A fury of drumbeats now begins the song, as some guitar feedback is laced over it and gradually swells, giving way to the series of chords that the fans should be all too familiar with. The big difference with them, though, is they bear a much slicker and more polished sound. Jaimeson’s voice also has more of a snarl to it and is loaded with attitude, which is more reflective of what the song has evolved into in the live setting. But one of the best revisions here is the instrumental bridge at around the 1:50 mark, which incorporates some more soulful notes, but done in a manner that only The Virgin Wolves can pull off.
“Crawl” is another song to receive a bit of a facelift, again beginning with some percussion, which is heavier on the bass drum now. The same can be said for it as the opening track, at least in the general sense that it, too, has been tightened up all the way around. But perhaps the best addition on this one is the layering of backing vocals, which are used at various points throughout and add a cool “echo” effect. That is at its best at the end of the second verse, on the line, “…Gave myself three cigarettes and whistled just like a bird.” It’s simply the way “bird” is enunciated, which sounds quite beautiful.
Your first glimpse (or rather, listen) of the bands new material comes with the next song, “End Of The Line”, which is intriguing to say the least. It’s a vast departure from the niche they’ve carved out for themselves, and, at times, has a certain Pop flare to it, which is something lacking in all of their other songs. There’s something to be said for a band that will push themselves and step out of their comfort zone a bit, though. The multiple vocals create an interesting dynamic that works surprisingly well, especially in the first half, which features a very simple guitar riff that will have you mesmerized. It’s also rather dark and moody, and occasionally makes the transition into an aggressive Rock that is sure to stick with you. All of that helps make it an exceptional song, and not just my personal favorite on this album, but any of the previous ones, too.
“What You Want To Hear” is another oldie that has undergone a drastic overhaul, and not just in the title change. The music bed is completely different and much slower on the verses, with more of a Classic Rock/Blues vibe to it. In contrast, the choruses are full of piss and vinegar, especially the way the lyrics, “No matter how hard I try, you see the guilty in my eye. And I tell you what you want to hear…”, are sung. It’s a beast of a song, and they managed to take something that was good and expand upon and transform it into something incredible.
Another completely new offering is “Same Familiar”. That’s an apt title in some ways, because it’s everything you have come to expect from the band. It’s unapologetic dirty, raw Rock ‘n’ Roll, which is no doubt what they specialize in, and is pulled off exceedingly well here. That’s all I’ve got on this one, because the song speaks for itself.
“Lies” has also gotten a few touch-ups, but nothing too major. The rhythm section isn’t quite as heavy on this new version (it’s certainly still there, though), but the most noticeable difference is the cleaner sound this one has. You can better hear the nuances of the bass and guitars, which does elevate the listening experience. Aside from that, it’s essentially the same song you already know, just with a more refined sound.
“Crooked Smile” is another new original, and is also the song where the album title comes from. It’s still gritty Rock, and on the surface it fits hand in hand with any of their other material. However, like the other new songs on the album, the bands growth is obvious upon close inspection. There’s just a subtle, more mature sound to it on every level. For example, take this line from the second verse, which, if I understand it correctly, is, “…Don’t break no lies, don’t fake no smiles, do only what you mean…”. It’s simple, yet unbelievably deep.
Another older song with a new sound and name is “Oh, Sugar”. The Blues sound has been poured on, even heavier than what it was, and what really jumped out at me are the guitars, which have a much crisper sound, and the stellar riffs are quite inspiring. There’s also a big difference on the vocals and how various parts are sung. It’s all for the better, as it complements the music much better now, and is another prime example of a decent song that they have turned into something that’s off the charts.
A lot of albums begin to lag around the ninth track or so, but not “Pretty Evil Thing”. At this point, you get to what is arguable their most powerful song live, “Virtue And Vice”. It’s also the one that benefits the most from being re-recorded, as they managed to perfectly capture the intensity and energy that you experience at a live performance. At two minutes and forty-five seconds, it is the shortest song on the record, but it’s also the most explosive. But what really makes this one is the edgy, in-your-face screaming, like on the chorus, “…But you better act real nice, I don’t want to tell you twice…”, which comes across more like a demand than anything, and one that you best heed.
The two remaining songs are also ones that have been revamped, one of which is “Vagabonds”. It’s very similar to the original version, but with a richer, fuller sound, and a little more incendiary, too.
“Bad” brings the record to a close, and it has a more well rounded sound this time around. There’s also a ton of ferocity in this version, and that brings this 39-minute long album to a sensational and powerful close.
I’m really astounded by “Pretty Evil Thing”, simply because it captures the bands spirit so well. For those who have yet to see the group, listening to this record will give you a spot on idea of what a show is like. And for those who have seen them, then you’ll finally have something to listen to that does the band justice.
I mean, really, how many albums have you listened to that you can say, “That captures that bands sound to the tee!” Personally, I’ve heard a small handful, but more often than not bands will use some “studio magic” here and there, which makes it where they can’t pull off a track live in the way their fans know it.
There’s nothing even remotely like that on this one, though. It’s simply The Virgin Wolves doing what they do best; rocking out.
Their more collected then before and even more mature sounding, which gives the impression that “Pretty Evil Thing” is the first real release from the band.
I think this has been of the more anticipated records of 2012, as far as the local music scene is concerned, and it lives up to both the hype and expectations. I can also see this album serving as a jumping off point for the band, (hopefully) taking them to a stage much larger than that of North Texas.
The Virgin Wolves is:
Chase Robbins - Lead guitar & backing vocals
Jaimeson Robbins - Lead Vocals
Kristin Leigh - Bass & backing vocals
Steve Phillips - Drums
Carson Coldiron - Guitar & backing vocals
Purchase the album on:
(I will update this when the album becomes available in digital format.)
Current shows include:
December 31st they will be at Wit’s End (Formerly The Bone) in Dallas. / January 11th they will be at Club Dada in Dallas. / January 18th they will be at Andy’s Bar in Denton. / January 19th they will be at The Prophet Bar in Dallas. / For their full calendar of show dates, go HERE.
Photo credit: Will von Bolton
Lindby may well be the most interesting band in the Dallas/Fort Worth area music scene… Perhaps even beyond. When I first heard of them I came across a little bio on their online EPK where one of the lines from the bio was something to the effect of, “…Linby doesn’t believe in playing the same song over and over…”, rather, each song is an entirely new experience. Their music mines in such genres as Rock & Roll, Jazz, Electronic, Folk and even Classical, and that vast array of genres is readily displayed on their latest release, “Erikson”.
If you would like to know where the title, “Erikson”, came from, and want the full, in-depth story, then read THIS. However, the short answer would be that it began in high school when one of the band members (and a friend) wrote a song about a famous Erikson. More recently, Lindby dusted it off, improved upon it and then turned it into a song about a different well-known, historical Erikson. That song then became the lead track on the record.
Clocking in at nearly 90-seconds, “Erikson, Leif” is like most of the songs from this album: Short and to the point. Plus, even the band has admitted that these songs Erikson songs are just meant to be “goofy”, which is shown in this song by the few sentences that are repeated throughout. “…You sacked and sailed and drank. You loved your mother. O-oh my Erikson.” And while they keep the mood light for the song, they don’t let that impede their musicianship. Four out of the five band members, Nick Spurrier, Nick Goodrich, Kyle Claset and Ali Grant, all serve as vocalists, and this song sounds like it features all of them. Easily the best moment of the song is at the end when they all harmonize on the final line, their voices mixing to create a gorgeous sound.
I find “Jing Ling Tam Blues” to be an interesting hybrid between Jazz, Blues and Rock. The keyboard part, which runs throughout the song, certainly gives a sound like those two former genres. Then the song explodes, and there’s no question that it becomes more of a Rock tune. It’s almost impossible not to get into this one, which sounds like it could easily be an anthem of the bands’, and you will most likely find yourself shouting right along with chorus, “JING LING TAM!”.
“King Of Condiments” is the longest song on this record (barely over four minutes) and, as the name might imply, it is an interesting song. There are three different distinctive parts to it, the first of which is light and fun, as well as being co-sung between one of the guys and Ali, lasting through the first chorus, “Hop on the gravy train, it goes only where the sun is shining…”. As the music fades out, some drumbeats count them into a much faster, more aggressive section of the song. The lyrics are spit out at such a rapid pace it’s hard to keep up, let alone even comprehend what is being said, as whomever is doing the singing alters their voice, I presume to imitate the “King of Condiments” character, who the second verse is written for. That then suddenly gives way to a more dreamy sounding verse, which Ali sings in a more classical manner, before returning to the same way it began. It’s a very unique mash-up of music, and despite how this might make it sound, they manage to give it a good flow so that it all fits together.
The next Erikson the band tackles is businessman, “Erikson, Sheldon”. It’s another short tune, which they made into a sultry Jazz number. The keys are definitely the backbone of this song, and while embodying the Jazz sound, they also give it a somewhat modernized Jazz sound. It is certainly unlike anything else heard thus far on the album, and is a definite standout.
“Piece Of Reese” is a fun little diddy that relies heavily on the synthesizer. It’s fun listening to simply to hear the various affects they use throughout it. At times the sound effects sound like they would have been perfect in an old school videogame (say, circa late 80’s to early 90’s), while at other parts it sounds more outer spacey. This one will definitely grow on you with each listen, and I started out thinking it was just so-so, but now, I really dig it.
“Across The Blue” begins with a stunning piano part, which sounds quite classical. The co-singing on this song is brilliant in the first place, but making it even more attention grabbing is the operatic voice that Ali taps into for a few fleeting moments. It gives the song a rather refined quality, as well as a certain level of elegance.
The previous song blends seamlessly into the next, “Erikson, Jon/Across The Blue (Reprise)”, a song that pays homage to a man who swam the English Channel eleven times. Some of the lyrics from the previous song carries over into this one, with the addition of a brass section (trumpets and a trombones) featured on this one. However, the song has a sound that is more reminiscent of Reggae, giving it a more tropical vibe. It’s just a happy, upbeat tune. And who knows, if you find yourself feeling a little blue, listening to this one just might make you feel a little better.
Possible the most original song on this entire album is “Gee! Sharp Diminished Over Bee”. It’s hauntingly beautiful, and the only instrument used is the piano. As pretty as the keys sound, I find a certain level of eeriness to them, too. The verses are sung in rounds, which I find extremely inventive, and adds a wonderful layer to the song. While the chorus’s are sung in sync, and are done in fantastic fashion.
“Deadlights” is an interesting song in the fact that I could hear it being performed as a Country song, and sounding very similar to what it does now. The opening line is, “Don’t cry for me, cause you’re gonna bring me down. Baby, please…”, and really, doesn’t that sound like an ideal opening line for a Country tune? I guess there are some subtle sounds where you can draw comparisons to the genre, but that’s as far is it gets. Also, the vocals for this song are often belted out with a deep fiery passion that is sure to reel you in.
The shortest track you will find on this record is about mix martial artist, “Erikson, Tom”. Lindby again achieves a sound that his fully unique to this song, by imitating an Oriental sound, and doing a great job of it at that. It’s very tranquil and the perfect harmonies, which are done more in a chanting manner, serve to make it only more relaxing.
Perhaps the most experimental song on this record is “The Shaman”. It utilizes a very electronic sound, on one hand sounding very futuristic, while on the other it sounds videogame-ish. It uses the same basic qualities as other Lindby songs (i.e. three-part singing/harmonizing), however, it strays so far from the style(s) of music I like, it’s the one song on the album I just don’t fully “get”. I’m not even saying it’s a bad song, because I don’t dislike listening to it, but it just doesn’t mesh with me like their other songs do. But if this is the only song I can say that about, out of fifteen, that’s not too bad.
With “Simple As That”, the bands style returns to some more Rock roots, similar to some songs you heard early on, on this concept album of sorts. There are some sweet guitar riffs that you can hear on this tune, which come across as walking that fine line between being both simplistic and fancy… And I mean that in a positive way. There are some solos that are very slick sounding, though it doesn’t come across, like, they wrote those parts to show off (Am I the only one who occasionally gets that feeling when hearing some guitar solos? As if the musician wrote it just to say, “Look what I can do!”). Instead, it just flows with the song, and gives it a lot of extra pizzazz.
As the album begins to draw to a close, there are a couple more “Erikson’s” to cover, such as “Erikson, J.S.”. Granted, it’s not based on a real person, nor is it a full body song, at least not in the sense that there are lyrics accompanying it, but it’s not some simple instrumental song, either. It’s a four-voice fugue they comprised, basing it upon the Erikson melody. It’s entertaining, and offers a good way to break up the other “true” songs that comprise this record. And that’s coming from the guy who usually dislikes instrumental songs with a passion, so you know it has to be worth listening to.
“Here We Are Now” offers a true end to the album, and is a fitting one at that. It’s a very up-tempo song, and despite what reading the lyrics would lead you to believe, it’s actually gives a pretty optimistic feeling. “My heart has no sense of tomorrow for you, but you’re calling and you’re singing the blues…” Ali sings, starting the first line. This is also another song that has a Classical vibe, and if you imagine it, you could easily hear this song being played inside some lounge circa the 1950’s. That aura is only personified by the piano part, which is the backbone of the song, and is also responsible for making this one of my most favorite tracks on the record
I said that previous song is the “true end” to the album, and I say that because the final song is what the band has admittingly said is them “…goofing around in the studio, having fun…”, and they aptly titled the minute and thirty-seven second long track, “Erikson, Jam”. That’s all it is, a jam of sorts, with the band just cutting loose and (quite obviously) having some laughs, which is what makes this a good fitting end to the record, because in the end, Lindby is a fun band.
“One-trick pony” is a phrase that can be applied to a lot of bands these days, when most bands seemed more concerned with trying to replicate what is “popular”, instead of expressing their own creativity. That is far from the case with Lindby, though.
Every song on “Erikson” has a sound that is truly all its own, and even with all the genres their music spans, it still manages to have a wonderful flow. It’s an album that’s all lighthearted and fun, but not to the point where it all comes across as if they aren’t being serious. Quite the contrary, these are five musicians who have some serious chops and know exactly what they’re doing.
I think we need more bands/songs/records like this. There’s nothing wrong with your typical Rock band (or any other genre for that matter) who makes music more along the traditional lines, with serious songs about broken hearts or whatever else. But it’s bands like Lindby, who weave these interesting tapestries of music, that break up the monotony of all those other bands out there. And sometimes, those are the best bands there are.
Nick Spurrier - Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals
Nick Goodrich - Guitar/Keyboards/Vocals
Kyle Claset - Bass/Vocals
Ali Grant - Vocals/Synth/Organ
Tanner Brown - Drums
Current shows include: For the bands full show calendar, go HERE.
The members of the Austin based band, Driver Friendly, have many years experience. Ten to be exact, and their debut full-length, “Chase the White Whale”, was highly successful, but, as paraphrased from their current bio, they found themselves at a crossroads last year. The shorter path would have led them to calling it quits as Driver Friendly, while the slightly more arduous journey would end with a new record.
They picked the latter one.
Through various outlets, including a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign, Driver Friendly got enough money to fund a record, and then retreated to the Appalachian Mountains to put themselves in seclusion, so writing this new material would be their primary and sole focus.
The result was eleven songs that would comprise their latest record, titled, “Bury a Dream”.
“Manivelle” opens the record and is a brief instrumental piece. I believe the main instrument used is a xylophone, which gives it somewhat of a childish quality, almost reminiscent of a tune a lullaby would be sung in. It’s an unexpected way to get things going, and if you don’t know what to expect from Driver Friendly, than you just might be surprised when the first true song starts.
As songs go, “Ghosts” isn’t the most complex of them all, but that will come later, and complexity certainly isn’t the only thing that makes a song good. This nearly two minute long tune is pretty poppy, from the opening guitar notes to the way the guitars, drums and keys fit so fluidly together in the final seconds. There is only one line in this song, though it’s repeated throughout the duration, as various members shout, “It’s not death that scares us; it’s the ghosts we cannot see.” And just like that, a running theme of the record has been set up.
Ghosts are also mentioned during the first line of “Messidona”, “I got unholy ghosts with their hands around my neck, a delicate reminder to never forget. To hold my tongue except when I try to pray…” This is where you get a better idea of Driver Friendly is capable of. For starters, the bands brass section, a trumpet and trombone, while subtle at times, is much more noticeable. Those are two instruments you don’t think of as being in a rock/pop band, but sound wise, they bring a lot to the table here. Speaking of rock/pop, the band dabbles in both genres, but more often than not, they combine them in a way unlike any other band I’ve personally heard of, and this song is a prime example of that, as it is about 50% rock and 50% pop. The sound is wonderful, and there’s something about it that just sounds so positive. Whether you are feeling down or not, listen to “Messidona” and it should put you in a happier mood.
The upbeat, poppy vibe continues with “Do Whatever You Want”, a song whose lyrics could be interpreted as corresponding with the situation the band found themselves in not long ago. “We’re not dying, if we got time to say.” goes the chorus, while they change it up slightly for one of the final lines, “No, we’re not dying, ‘cause we got a lot to say.” Just from listening to the lyrics of all these songs thus far, that’s pretty evident. And there are still seven songs left for them to get their messages out there.
“Younce Creek” is yet another song that, like so many other Driver Friendly tunes, will seep into your brain and hang around for awhile… And not in an annoying way. After the chorus, it shows the groups determination, “…I want to reach that mountaintop. Don’t you stop me before I start…” My interpretation of it is that it’s a song about chasing your dreams and not letting anyone get in the way and possible hindering you. And really, in one way or another, can’t we all take a message like that to heart?
They scale their pop sound back a little for “Shark Cave”, which musically strikes me as having more of an emotional pull then most of the songs on this record. They don’t leave their signature pop sound for too long, though, diving back into it head first with “Stare Into The Darkness”. This song could easily become a sing along (if it isn’t one already) and works the trumpet in quite well during the choruses, with some slick guitar playing towards the end that turns into a brief, soaring solo.
The longest song on this record is “Harsh, Harsh, Harsh”, which at the beginning speaks of a metaphorical storm. That said, the start of this song is quite fitting as it has a rather ominous sound to it, opening slower and then gaining a sense of urgency as the pace of the drums pick up with a few chilling notes on the trumpet, before the vocals tap into a level of ferocity unseen on any previous song. The line from the records first track also occasionally loops in the background, “It’s not death that scares us; It’s the ghost we cannot see.”, before the songs final line, “…Because if everything I build will surely fall down, I want to be a devastator so they all know that I was around.”
That track slowly fades out with “You’re A Legend, Sir” soon fading in. There is a similar urgent sound in this song, though different from the previous one. It has more uplifting vibe, with some cool lines from the keys/synth, and a very driven sound. “…I will carry this on my back. Don’t ever look down. Won’t let it weigh me down…” goes the chorus, with a lot of vigor thrown in.
“Why Don’t You Just Rain For Me?”, a predominately an instrumental track, culminates with a truly epic sound that reminds me of a large orchestra, serving to set up the final song nicely…
“Lost Boys” is a storybook ending to this record, though it doesn’t seem like an ending. “…We sing the songs we sing, ‘cause they’re in our hearts…”. That is just one of the many lines that fill this song where they flat out state why they make music: because it courses through them. When you are that passionate about something, it can’t ever end, which is probably why as this song nears its end, it sounds more like just the start of another journey.
The record’s title, “Bury a Dream”, certainly suggest a duality, the most obvious being too literally bury a dream and move on with your life. And yes, I suppose there is a chance that this could become Driver Friendly’s swan song, but then you read into the lyrics of “Lost Boys” and hear the whole line, not just what is taken out in context. “…Bury A Dream. Watch It Grow…”
I think that’s what the band did. I’ve only heard small bits of their older material, but the growth from then to now is substantial. Almost as if they buried it, nurtured it and dug it up a few years later, with this album being the resulting product.
All the work and effort that they have put in during that time shows, as the music has a deeper, more layered sound, while the lyrics are often very poignant and there is most likely as least one line in a song that will strike a personal chord with you.
The first time through listening to “Bury a Dream”, I enjoyed it, the second time, I liked it, and by the third time, I loved it.
Point is, if you initially like Driver Friendly than the album will only grow on you with each listen. And personally, I feel “Bury a Dream” is only the beginning of a whole new journey for this band.
Purchase “Bury a Dream” on: iTunes / Amazon mp3 / Bandcamp
Find Driver Friendly on:
Driver Friendly is:
EPs have their drawbacks. Aside from being short (depending on how many songs are on them) you typically only see one side of the band. Actually, that’s not necessarily just true for EPs, but also full-length records. Sure, bands typically do one or two slow songs, but for the most part, they all tend to be pretty straightforward and stick with what is comfortable to them.
The Greenville and Dallas, Texas based band, Light the Fire, decided to break that trend with their debut release, “Note to Self”. There may only be six songs on this EP, but in the twenty-two plus minutes it takes this record to play out, you also find out how versatile they are. In all, there are three different, distinct styles of rock you will hear. All of which the band pulls off as feeling right at home while playing them.
The first three songs mine more of a typical rock genre, with a bit of a harder edge at times, and beginning this EP is “Note to Self”. The instrumental lead in to this song is about as epic as the song itself, beginning with what to me sounds reminiscent of an older rock style, with the crashing of the cymbals finding their way in at just the right moments, before the drums pick up the pace as the remaining instruments then fire up. The song has more of a radio friendly sound to it, with both the music and vocalist Jamie Glasgow’s voice being similar to what you hear in mainstream music. I do think this has a little more depth and makes a better connection with the listeners than most of what you hear in mainstream, though. The chorus even has a slight pop feel to it, as Jamie sings, “We are the proud, we are the strong, and although we fall we’ll carry on…”. However, there are moments in which you catch their harder side, which really comes out on the bridge/outro. The song takes a sudden turn into being more metal, with the rhythm section rising up as Jamie sings the next few lines in a deep, throaty scream. Personally, I’m not a real fan of screaming like that, but in moderation it is certainly tolerable, and here it serves to add a great effect to the song. One last thing worth noting about this one is the guitar solo towards the end, which is just flat out shredding and sounds astounding.
“Thoughts” is next, and for the first thirty or so seconds it has you thinking you are going to hear the bands softer side, as there is a gentle plucking of the guitar strings creating a tranquil mood, further aided by what sounds to be a violin. The drums soon change all that, and after a brief guitar solo, the tune starts walking a fine line between being hard rock and metal. This is, especially lyrically, my favorite song on “Note to Self”, as Jamie begins it, “The hate’s taking you over, the nightmares will never subside, and here I stand in the shadows.” before belting out in a scream, “Kill the monster inside!” He then returns to his singing voice, “And I’ll be there through your sorrow, and I’ll be there through your pain. You are the victim.” then screams once more, “This will not happen again!” The chorus is the catchiest part of the song, just in the way the lyrics flow perfectly with the beats, while some brutal screams are included at various points throughout it. Like the first song, this too, has a bridge that, momentarily, turns it into a full-blown metal song.
With the next song, “Save Me”, you finally get a taste of what a slightly toned down Light the Fire sounds like. It begins more acoustic based, as Jamie croons, “Miles away from who I am. These mirrors reflect what I can’t stand…”. The calmness doesn’t last, though, as it ramps up by the first chorus, “Save me now, ‘cause I am lost. Guide me through these empty thoughts…” and the blistering little guitar riff that starts in the second half of each chorus is mesmerizing. This song definitely lacks the harder edge the past couple of tracks have, but that’s a good thing. Like I mentioned at the start of this, they show their versatility and that there isn’t just one certain style of music that they stick to. This is further shown with the next songs, and the several seconds of silence at the end of “Save Me” seems to serve as the “calm before the storm”, so to speak.
Things get very hardcore with “Don’t Fail Me Now”, during which Jamie unleashes his primal scream, showing the listener just what he’s capable of. This one does push the boundaries of my personal music tastes, but while I’m not crazy about, I can’t say I dislike it, either. The range that he has is also quite impressive. When singing, he has an amazing voice, but then he can switch gears at the turn of a dime. I find the best thing about this song to be its raw and unbridled sound, as you can tell that there are no holds barred on this one.
The same can pretty much be said for the next song, “Under My Skin”, though it does seem to have a few more singing parts than the prior track. It’s just a metal song the way metal should be played, where even if there is a lot of screaming involved, it can still be enjoyable.
“Your Song” ends the record, as the band does strip their sound down for a song that is a little more heartfelt. This one is purely acoustic guitars and vocals, making it the most breathtaking song on the record and the lyrics are the most amazing part of this song. “As I look back, as I recall, I can’t believe it’s been so long. It all seems like just yesterday we were kids, how I miss those days… And even though I’m far away, you’re in my heart everyday…” begins Jamie, sounding a bit sentimental, which comes across in his delivery of those words. Another great line comes in the bridge, “…This life is a gift, a delicate gift, and I will always love you…”.
The song is a fitting an end to a remarkable EP. Light the Fire does walk a fine line between hard rock and metal, but they have one thing a lot of hard rock and metal bands don’t these days don’t have; A singer who can legitimately sing. I’ve never been a fan of those styles of music because of what they are now, but after listening to some older hard rock and metal bands, I discovered what the genres have degraded into. I don’t like how a band can get up on stage and have their “singer” scream forty plus minutes of songs, with all of what he’s screaming being totally unintelligible, and then that’s called music.
Sure, Light the Fire’s music involves screaming, but they don’t solely rely on it, and once again, if it’s to add an effect to the song, I’m totally down with it.
I feel like with “Note to Self”, Light the Fire is trying to return those genres to the greatness that they should be, while still holding on to a little bit of what makes them modern. I don’t know if they are purposely going for that or not, but regardless, they do a damn good job of it.
Purchase “Note to Self” on: iTunes
Get a FREE download of: “Note to Self - Single”.
Light the Fire is:
Jamie Glasgow- Vocals
Ryan Dickinson- Guitar
Felix Lopez- Guitar
Andrew Penland- Bass
Paul Brown- Drums
As of this posting, Light the Fire as the following shows:
May 19th - The Boiler Room in Dallas, Texas
May 26th - Side Pocket Lounge in Kilgore, Texas
June 7th - Tomcat’s West in Fort Worth, Texas
Not to sound cliché, but a name is everything. So, upon hearing the title, “Mount Karma”, doesn’t it make you think that you may in for the journey of a lifetime?
Now know that “Mount Karma” is the first full-length album from the Dallas group, Dovetail, and listening to this twelve track record is indeed a journey.
The album comes nearly three years after the release of the group’s first EP, “Love is War”, and since I first saw the band in early 2010, they have been mentioning that their full-length would “be ready soon”. Now, two years later, it finally is.
Spending such time creating an album is an obvious sign of perfectionism, which could either count towards the quality or be a huge strike against it. For Dovetail, they pull off the former with ease.
Beginning the record is the song, “Heavy”, which starts with a very nice chord progression on an acoustic guitar. You can sense it is building to something, especially when some rather harmonious singing is heard. Then it happens. A wave of sound crashes against your ears as the song comes to life. There is a very nice part on the piano at this point, though one or two of the keys actually sound out of tune to me from what the rest are. It doesn’t subtract from the song however, instead adding to its character. As soon as he opens his mouth, it’s evident that Philip Creamer’s voice is immaculate, and as he sings the chorus “…You are heavy, you should know I love you. You are heavy, you should know I feel that way…” he forces his voice into a slightly higher register, but manages to display complete control over it. Also, in the second verse when he again sings the line, “…Then I see that golden sunrise, it brings a little hope and pulls us through…”, he, in conjunction with the music his band mates produce, do a perfect job of making you feel that emotion; hope.
The second song, “Listen, Children”, isn’t as much a song as it is more an interlude or segue into the next track, “Easier to See”. “Deep inside your heart, are you who you thought you’d be?…” asks Philip as soon as it starts. He again pushes his voice higher when singing the line that is the songs title, but this time he seems to reach his limits. His voice never cracks, and the fact that he has such an impressive range must definitely be applauded, though he just doesn’t sound as comfortable this time. The odd thing is the first time he sings that in the song is the only time it sounds that way. The chorus is where the song really shines, as drummer, Aaron Haynes, does some quick beats leading up to it before it takes off, and the way Daniel Creamer laces they keys into the end of each chorus is marvelous.
The album hits a bit of a lull (in a good way, of course) with “Story”. Love lost is the main theme of the song and the chorus tells you some basic but very wise words, “We write this story as we go, and we can’t take back the stones we throw…”. We could all learn from that, if we so choose. The highlight of the song comes at the bridge, when the music dies down a bit and Philip sings, “I can still remember how the sun fell on your face. The passage that you quoted when you said you’d never walk away.” The emotion he pours into that line and the desperation that can be heard in “…when you said you’d never walk away.” is palpable. Being able to stir emotions and make the listener feel is the single greatest effect a band could hope their music would have on its listeners, though so few these days are even able to achieve that. It’s even rarer that you find a singer who can not only do that, but convey it so well on a recording.
One of the many tracks that stand out to me is the next one, the aptly named, “Hurricane”, whose lines often mirror characteristics of the storm. The intro is quite catchy, especially the sole key that is repeatedly tapped. “…And I sit in silence with your ghost. I am afraid of you the most…” Philip sings, as the song takes a chaotic turn at the chorus. It’s of course repeated for the next verse and chorus, while the bridge is the “eye of the storm” so to speak, as it takes a more peaceful turn with a couple beautiful piano parts before getting back into the thick of it and making a very strong finish.
Things start slowing down with “See the Sun”, which has a very tranquil and serene vibe, while musically it often sounds rather holy, and then Dovetail explores a more minimalist approach to making music with “Can’t Feel You”. The main instrument on this one is an acoustic guitar, and if I’m not mistaken it sounds like a xylophone is used during the chorus, “I can feel you heavy on my mind, when nothings on my mind, when I’m not thinking…”. Many bands do slow songs to show their versatility, though many don’t sound fully comfortable while doing them, but with “Can’t Feel You”, Dovetail does. In fact, this could be one of the best offerings “Mount Karma” has.
They return to the rock music like that of the first handful of songs with “Get Down”, a song from their EP that has gotten a major facelift. For one, they’ve cut some time off of it, but that’s one of the more subtle changes. The pace of it has been sped up a great deal, and everything has been tweaked here and there, from the drums to the guitars (especially at the soaring solo towards the end), bass and keys. Philip also puts in a lot more force and character into his singing than on the previous version, and all of that makes it feel more like a completely new song.
“Speak” is another tune that shows the bands softer side and is a contender for being one of the most gorgeous songs you will find on the record. Also, the first line you hear in this song is yet another wonderful one that I am fond of, “Little flowers speak in tongues I never hear…”.
Let’s face it, by the tenth song a lot of records start lacking, and not just that, that may be where they put their slower songs. I mean lacking in overall quality, too. That is far from being the case with “Mount Karma”, and it actually has one final strong push with the lead track from it, “Julie”. No sooner does the acoustic guitar start and you know you are listening to something special, and then the guitar is layered over it, as Philip begins, “I want to meet you where the river overflows your thoughts and dreams…” The chorus is by far the most captivating portion of the song, and during the second one, Philip has another moment where he adds an emotional depth to it. “…Burning at both ends for you, Julie. I wasn’t bright enough, no!” he sings, clearly indicating his frustration during the latter sentence, which he also adds a bit of a soulful touch to. In listening to “Julie”, it is evident why it was chosen to be the first single, and the band definitely made the right choice.
“The Road” starts to bring things to a close, and musically speaking it is one of, if not the, best song on the record. Its ebb and flow is perfect, starting slow, but then at the chorus it sounds like things are about to take off, before subsiding. Only towards the end does the song reaches its climax, during which a trumpet enters the mix of instruments, helping the song achieve a real triumphant vibe. “… I don’t want to live forever, no. I just want to find a good way to go. I don’t to be a trending, never ending road…” croons Philip, his voice soaring to life at this point, over the more melancholy feel he added to it the first couple times of the song.
Ending this magnificent album is none other than the title track itself, “Mount Karma”, which sounds more like two different songs rolled into one that somehow blend perfectly. It goes from a softer opening where the acoustic guitar and piano are the most prevalent of all the instruments, to the drums establishing a completely different beat in the last two plus minutes of it. Honestly, I don’t think switching a song up like this should work, but in listening to it, they pull it off effortlessly. “…When I was younger, my life flashed before my eyes.” you hear Philip softly and slowly sing the final line, as the track soon fades to silence, ending this 41 plus minute odyssey.
I believe everyone can produce a masterpiece in their area of expertise. For instance, if you are an author, you are capable of writing the next great American novel. If you are a painter, you are capable of painting one of the most amazing pieces of art the world will ever see. If you are a musician, you are capable of creating some of the greatest music anyone will ever hear.
The keyword in all of those scenarios is “capable”. Just because you are capable, doesn’t mean you ever will make a masterpiece in anything. Nevertheless, Dovetail has managed to do something that at least 95% of all bands that every have or every will exist could spend their entire careers trying to do, and that is making a record that is a masterpiece, and a timeless one at that.
Rest assured, from start to finish “Mount Karma” will never cease to amaze you, and here’s to hoping this is merely the first of a long line of great albums to come from Dovetail.
Daniel Creamer - Keys/Voice
Philip Creamer - Voice/Guitars
Aaron Haynes - Drums
Scott Lee - Bass
Tucker Cauble - Primary Guitars/Backing Voice
Beau Bedford(GURU) - Production/Guitars/Backing Voice
Matthew McDonald - Backing Voice/Percussion
If you are familiar with the rock scene in North Texas, then chances are you know of Brandon Callies. He is known to many as the front man of Black Tie Vendetta, but he has another project you may or may not be aware of…
BTV shows are few and far between these days, plus take into account that Mr. Callies now resides in Austin, far removed from his band mates of that band. I assume those were two key factors that left him needing to fulfill his musical passion and the result was the formation of the Brandon Callies Band. This new groups sound is a huge departure from the other band he fronts, and in the final month of 2011 they released their debut effort, “The Gunner”.
“Whatever You Want” is the first track on the record and introduces you (quite well I might add) to the sound this band specializes in: a form of alternative country. It’s not country in its purest of roots, and it is FAR from being the Nasville type of music that claims to be country. I guess if I had to peg it as anything, I would say it is something along the lines of Texas country, though I almost don’t feel as if that’s right, either. Brandon is a wordsmith when it comes to songwriting, and becomes quickly apparent as he sings the first line of the song, “Rip down the stars, to light up your room tonight…” From that moment, you know you are in for a journey, a journey that will span about 50 minutes. Another highlight of this song is the soaring guitar solo after the second chorus, which has a southern sound, but almost more in a rock sense.
A few taps on the drums open up the next song, a ballad by the name of “Don’t Go”. His talent as a writer is further showed off here, particularly with one of my favorite lines from the entire album, “…The time that we wasted was priceless…”. The song is about longing for someone, though (at least that is my interpretation), and that feeling is conveyed perfectly towards the end of the song. “Don’t go.” Brandon sings with a real feeling of desperation, while the words from earlier, “…If all I could do was write a song for you…”, loop in background, adding a nice extra bit of emotion to it.
Perhaps the best part of the next track, “Who Are We to Say?”, is the intro. It slowly builds, as an electric guitar is layered over the acoustic, with some drumbeats coming next, all the while accompanied by some beautiful notes on the keys. And that gorgeous, almost peaceful sound that results serves as the structure for each verse. At times, “Who Are We to Say?” comes across as sounding like a ballad, but as much as it may sound like a love song at certain points, it also seems to carry an uplifting message. For example, the opening line of the song is, “Just think of a day when kind words could take a gun from your hand… Just think of a time when we could be fine with peace and good will to men.” Brandon also does an excellent job at capturing almost an unknowing disposition as he sings part of the chorus, “…Who are we to say that we’re not leaving room to grow? I guess the truth is we don’t know.”, but also giving the feeling that we don’t know, and that the possibilities are endless.
“Hey, it’s OK” is a much more stripped down song than anything thus far, and the often more delicate plucking of the guitar strings gives it somewhat of a dreamy quality, almost like that of a lullaby. And for anyone who has followed Mr. Callies over from his other band, you might find this one slightly reminiscent of some of the softer Black Tie Vendetta songs, especially as he croons the line, “…I’ll open up your eyes to share with you the bluest skies…”.
THE most experimental song on the record is the prelude to the records title track. It’s short (nearly two minutes) and features a lot of percussion, not really drums though, as it sounds more like lots of people clapping and stomping their feet. The vocals aren’t crystal clear, either, sounding distorted just a hair, and more like Brandon is standing a little further away from the mic, which adds a neat effect.
The beats suddenly stop as guitar picks up and leads you into the title track and easily the albums highlight song, “The Gunner”. There’s no doubt about it, this song has a real southern swagger to it, which pretty much makes it. Out of all twelve tracks, this is the only one I would liken to having a little bit of a Nashville country sound, a little bit because of the music, but also due to the vocal delivery Brandon gives, which is superb by the way. If you only listen to one song on this record, let it be this one and I promise you will find yourself wanting to hear more.
The title track may be the best song on the album, but it is followed quite nicely with two of my personal favorites. The first is another ballad by the name of “Beautiful Girl”. It has a real serene sound and the harmonica, which is played by lead guitarist, Chad Rocker, adds a great layer to it, especially at the start where it is the most prevalent instrument. I would also deem this a song that needs to find its way on to any playlist that any lovers make for one another, ‘cause how can you go wrong with a song that has the line, “…Because the sunset has nothing on you…”.
“Journey Without a Friend” follows that one up, and has the distinction of being the most western sounding song the band does. The music bed has a real desolate and lonely feeling to it, and I can imagine it fitting perfectly in almost any Western film. For example, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly… Or anything starring Clint Eastwood for that matter.
“On the Mind” is completely different from any other song on the album, and not just because it opens with a nice bass solo from Omarr Escoffie. It is an alternative rock song unlike any other you’ve heard from the band, and it just might get your blood flowing, too. However, in a stark contrast to that is the following song, “We Only Come Out at Night”. It’s another all-acoustic song whose main focus is the voice of Brandon, which sounds very delicate on this one, showcasing the soft and sweet side he is oh so capable of. There is also another lyric I find myself fond of in this song, “…Bring out the moon, spread all the stars out for me. Save the monotonous things for day…”.
“The Gunner” starts winding down with “A Good Feeling”, another amazingly beautiful song, before ending on a very uplifting note. The nearly five minute long “Where I Belong”, is about exactly that; finding the place you are happy in, both in the literal and figurative sense. It’s one of those songs every musician hopes to write, due to the emotions it could potentially stir in the listener. It’s just very positive, and in listening to it I can’t help but to find myself in a happier mood than I was in before the song began.
Brandon is definitely out of his element on this record… Or at least what I considered to be his element. But it is instantly clear in listening to it he feels right at home with the chosen genre. This style also better highlights his chops as a singer and songwriter.
“The Gunner” is a splendid piece of work, and for anyone who is like me and craves music with deep, passionate lyrics where the vocals are what drives each song, then it is a must listen.
Brandon Callies band is:
Brandon Callies – Vocals, guitar, mandolin and banjo
Chris Evans – Drums and backing vocals
Chad Rocker – Lead guitar and harmonica
Omarr Escoffie – Bass
Seth Payne - Keys
Short and to the point. Two words you probably wouldn’t typically think of to describe an album that lasts over an hour and includes twenty-three songs, but those do fit “Kebab: Live Off the Grill”, the latest release from the Ottawa based band, Clepto, whose members originally come from all across the world.
Those are two good words to use though, as over half of the songs clock in either at or under three minutes and they waste no time in delivering their message with a song before moving right on to the next one.
This massive collection of songs begins with “Meze”, an instrumental piece that starts off pretty melodic then dives into a slightly intense, heavy song with some wicked guitar shredding. It’s a nice way to begin things, and also serves as a lead in to the next song…
“Marhaba” introduces you to one of two distinctive and unique genres Clepto plays, in-your-face, fast paced, aggressive, hardcore, punk rock with even slight hints of thrash. Yeah, it’s a lot going on, but it never seems like it’s too much or is over the top. This one is also bound to get your blood flowing and your head banging to the beats, supplied generously by Philip Al-Hajj.
A drum beat patches the song over into “Frappe”, which stands out as being one of my favorite tracks from the record, and begins with a super heavy intro, before Alex Cabral begins to spit out the lyrics at a rapid-fire pace. Really, he’s so quick with the delivery it’s almost hard to understand him at times, unless you are giving the song you full, undivided attention
In the nearly eight minutes it takes those songs to play, you’re surely getting the idea that this style of music is Clepto. If so, than you are sorely mistaken. They have another sound, one that could be described as a type of gypsy inspired acoustic music, which the album detours into with “Sitting Here On the Porch Today”. It’s really strange from what it has been so far, but even more remarkable is how Clepto is able to pull this genre off. They still manage to sound totally in their comfort zone, despite the spewing of the words being slowed down to true singing, which sounds great by the way, and gone are the intense riffing of the guitars and ear splitting beats of the drums and bass. The song also ends with somewhat of a funny line “…And so you’ve come out to our show. Our band’s not great but just so-so. The more you drink the more you know, it’s Clepto.” That almost makes it sound like you need to be drunk to enjoy their music, and perhaps it helps, but is not necessary. Also, maybe they really are just so-so, but they are at a level of so-so that is better than a lot of the rest.
A track that is more politically charged is “Government Song”. It’s not a true acoustic song, but is more so than some of the bands material, and it quickly picks up speed like a freight train. For lack of a better word, I will say it is somewhat simplistic, with the main lyrics of first half of the song being “Your government tells you to hate.” which changes back and forth, to “Your religion tells you to kill”. I used the word “simplistic”, which I still don’t feel is the adequate description… Perhaps repetitive might be better. Regardless, I’m not usually into songs that repeat themselves like this one does, though this one is quite good, and may well be one of the best songs on the record.
You are then plunged back into the rock that Clepto crafts so perfectly, with some gritty guitar notes and semi-intense drum beats that begin “Public Park Predator”. It’s a fairly short song, clocking in at only a minute and forty-two seconds, and features some soaring guitar riffs at the end.
Following along the same general subject as the last song, the record then escalates into a reprise of “Pervert Song”. The song is originally found on “Acousticide”, which, as the album title suggests, is done acoustically. It’s the exact same song as the prior recording, though this one is done with a much faster pace and definitely falls into the rock category. I think it’s safe to assume the song describes a story of stalking a girl, and I’d be willing to bet most guys can relate to a line or two from the song. For example, “…Oh baby let me tell you my secret, I’ve got one hand on the phone one in my pocket. So talk to me in your sexy voice, while I’m sitting here and playing with my boys…”.
Thus far in the record you’ve heard hints of punk rock, but they are fleeting and still go more along the lines of rock and thrash. However, “Jezebelle” displays the punk rock sound quite prominently, showcasing just one more genre the band can pull off effortlessly. As it ends, it swells into “Thunderbox”, another punk rock tune.
“Cigarette Break Song” does, in a way, serve as a break track on the album. It has a very cool music bed, with the drums and guitars playing in perfect harmony. It only lasts two verses, which consist solely of the sentence, “Smoking my cigarette… all night long.”, but it proves to be much catchier than one might think.
Upon seeing the song title, “Psychadelica”, you probably think you’re in for a real trip. Well, you are, just not the one you undoubtedly have in mind. It’s not as psychedelic as the name might lead you to believe, and is actually quite a beautiful song. The music bed is beautiful and Alex’s voice is often breath taking on this track, which is in total contrast to everything else on the record.
The two shortest songs come next, though they fit together so well they can sound like one song. First you hear the aggressive rock tune, “Fuck Yourself”, which blends into “Shag Rug”, a more punk rock song.
“Heard it On the News” is another acoustic based song. It deals with all the negativity in the world that we see on the news, such as “suicide bombers…and natural disasters…” The chorus rings pretty true with things, too, “So it goes, every days the same sad song.” Can anyone really disagree with that? I mean, every time you watch the news you always hear about at least one of those two things, and a multitude of other tragic events, and seldom hear of anything uplifting.
One of the more experimental seeming songs on “Kebab…” is “Winter Blues”. It is, at least vocally, a bit of a blues song, and at the very beginning, before the music really comes in, the vocals remind me of famed singer, Steven Tyler, in a way. The music isn’t what you think of when you think blues however, and has more of a classic rock feel.
The laid-back “Josephina” takes things down again, before getting back into a mix of punk and thrash with “Nipple Rings”. The lyrics for the song don’t even last a minute and thirty seconds, as the band proceeds to rock and shred for awhile, before giving way to some mangled notes and distorted feedback in the final moments.
Immediately after, “Cry Me a River” begins. At first, you think it’s going to be another song that shows Clepto’s softer side, as the music is rather peaceful sounding, and Alex sings some pretty deep lyrics. “…You think you’ve found an answer. You slit your wrists because it’s quick. Your life’s a joke, there’s nothing left for you…” It’s pretty powerful stuff, but soon the guitar roars to life and the song explodes, covering a mix of all the genres they play, with part of the music bed sounding more thrash, others punk and then hardcore rock ‘n’ roll. Out of all twenty-three songs on this album, I think this might have the best message of them all. From the first set of lyrics, the song is obviously about a person attempting suicide, all because things aren’t going well in the moment. “…It’s not my fault your girlfriend left you…” the song goes, before describing some other small issues. “…At least you’re not dying of starvation…” he soon sings. I don’t want to give the wrong idea, the song is not trying to make light of suicide, but instead get across that things could be worse. And despite what might be going on at the moment, well, it’s just that, a moment.
Another song ranking high on my picks of must listen is “Padded Room”. The song builds up quite well and captures a sound and feeling of insanity quite well… Which I assume would be why you ended up in a padded room.
“Simple Girl” is yet another favorite of mine, as it is a rock song plain and simple. Done just as rock should be done these days.
The final three songs of the record span every genre Clepto does, with “Pink Guitar” being another quickie, hardcore song, while “Molson Brewery” is another slow and all around beautiful track. “Through the Night” concludes this epic record, and has an epic feel to it, at times sounding as if the band is going off to war… Perhaps in some ways they are…
I’ll be honest, the bulk of the music Clepto plays is not a style I’m a fan of… Typically. The gypsy inspired acoustic rock I liked from the get-go, but the more I listen to the punk, the thrash and the hardcore songs, the more they grow on me. I never hated it (like I usually do with those genres) but I didn’t love it right away, either. Point is, if they can make me a fan, than they can make you one, too.
“Kebab: Live Off the Grill” is truly a piece of work, and every member should be commended for their effort on it, as it shows.
The band is currently touring the United States before returning home to Canada, and has the following shows booked (subject to change):
March 24th at Grindhouse Gaming in Lompoc, California.
March 27th at El Rio in San Francisco, California.
March 28th at Eli’s Mile High Club in Oakland, California.
March 29th at Caravan Lounge in San Jose, California.
March 30th at Burnt Ramen in Richmond, California.
April 6th at Yayo Taco in Las Vegas, Nevada.
April 7th at Rips in Phoenix, Arizona.
April 10th at Burt’s Tiki Lounge in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
April 13th at Reno’s Chop Shop in Dallas, Texas.
April 14th at Rudyard’s in Houston, Texas.
June will see the band invade the UK. Get ready, and if you live in or around any of those areas, go see Clepto.
Find Clepto on:
Alex Cabral- Rhythm Guitar and Vocals
Niko Chantziantoniou- Lead Guitar and Vocals
Freddie Al-Hajj- Bass and Vocals
Philip Al-Hajj- Drums
With their debut, self-titled record, Echo of Insanity definitely carves out their spot in the Dallas-Fort Worth music scene.
You are thrust into the first song, “Just Let Go”, with a pulse-pounding drum intro and some thick, heavy bass notes before the gates open it really takes off. The song serves as good example for what’s to come over the next thirty plus minutes, as Echo of Insanity has crafted a sound that borders that of hard rock and is highly original. You’ll also hear something else on this song that, by albums end, you will realize the band has perfected… The guitar solo.
They aren’t all about aggressive rock songs though, as “Scars Remain” is more toned down on the verses, which allows the rougher, raw vocals of Rus Chaney to be prominently displayed, though it roars to life at each chorus, “I can’t see the sun through all of the rain, the bruises may fade, but the scars they still remain.”
“Strangely Comfortably” and “Never Be” are two other songs that seem to follow the same approach as the last mentioned song (with the verses being more relaxed), with the former having a real heavy rhythm section supplied by Mike Johnson and Clint Potter , and the song also houses another blistering guitar solo from Matt Massey. I find the latter of those two songs to be one of the most original sounding songs on the record, and Rus seems to take a much cooler, laid-back approach in singing the verses. More so than any of their other material at least.
Then you have “Won’t Go On”, which is, without doubt, the most engaging, hardest hitting, intense song the album has to offer. If you only listen to one of the band’s songs to get a feel for their music, then listen to this one and I guarantee that it will reel you in.
The lyrics for the songs are great, and all tell stories, but perhaps the best one told is in “Romeo’s Crying”, which begins with a stellar intro mixing the guitar and drums together. To me, the song takes a realistic, though sad, look at the state of the world, and how we as people seldom do things for others. “Violent attacks always missed in broad daylight, while no one goes out of their way.” Rus sings towards the end of the first verse, before ripping into the chorus, “Listen, now hear what I say, let’s make this world change today. Around us so many are dying, why Romeo is crying.” It depicts how we “…walk past each other on the street all the time, simply ignoring the crime…” instead of taking action. Surely we can all relate to that, and this song prompts its listeners to take action.
“Damaged Goods” is the slow song on the record that shows the band is not just a one trick pony, and it is a good tune to break up the intensity of all the tracks thus far. The song sounds fairly gloomy, while the lyrics paint a sad picture. “I wish you could see through my eyes. See all of the beauty you hide inside. Just see for yourself and then you’ll be no longer damaged goods.” Croons Rus on the choruses. It’s really an emotionally wrenching song and does something that a lot of music doesn’t these days… It makes you feel.
“No Ground Below” sees the albums return to what the band is best at, an in-your-face rock song, which begins with a killer guitar intro. Also on this song, I love the way that Rus’s voice flows and intertwines with the music… It’s very good stuff.
“The Wall Behind Him”, another fairly heavy tune, comes next, before the album wraps up with “Unlucky”. The song is a prime example of what straight up Rock ‘n’ Roll is and is destined to become a classic for the band.
I’ve mentioned throughout this the guitar solos, which can be found in practically every song, give them a sort of a classic rock vibe but with more of a modernized sound. The thing about those guitar solos is all of them flow with the song perfectly and never come across as being something that is just for show. To sum it up, the album is a wonderful listening experience and will only grow on you over time.
Purchase the album “Echo of Insanity” HERE on iTunes.
Clint Potter - Bass
Some people prefer quality over quantity… I am not one of those people. That’s not to say I like the quality to be crap, but rather that my preference is both of those two things. However, with “When the Dust Settles”, the long awaited debut EP from the Dallas hard rock band, Red Angel Theory, the quality outweighs the quantity by far.
The EP is comprised of six songs which span just a little over 23 minutes, but it is some of the best 23+ minutes of music your ears will ever hear.
Two immediate stands out to me when I listened to the record were “Inception” and “The Darkness”.
The former one begins with more of a unusual instrument to the band, as you won’t see any of them playing it live; a violin. It’s one of the most gorgeous violin pieces I have heard, though it is also quite ominous sounding, before it dies out and gives way to the rock music. I find this to be the most original sounding song of the EP, as it has the perfect build by beginning slower, ramping up at the choruses, and then slowly subsides at the tail end.
“The Darkness” is the longest offering on the EP, and goes along somewhat of the same lines as the previously mention song, with the opening guitar notes resembling that of feedback, and they set a ghostly, end of the world feel to the song, before Nick Sarabia’s drumming breathes some life into it. The softer side of Justin Ranton’s vocals are also shown on this song, at times sounding almost like an eerie whisper. Also, on the chorus, the song manages to break away from the vibe established on the verses, as it explodes out of nowhere and then tapers off just as quickly. I think the fact that they can pull such a transition off so flawlessly only displays their superb musicianship.
Another track on the EP is “Shattered”, which, like every song on the album, begins with an in your face intro and also has the most hard rock vibe of all the songs. I find this one, one of the more interesting songs on the record, as it incorporates Nick on lead vocals, who does his part in a rap style. Even more unexpected however is how well the rapping blends with Justin’s singing, as they intertwine quite well.
Something about “No Regrets” makes it come across to me like a classic rock song, just with a very updated and modern twist put on it, and I think it due time this will become a classic of the bands.
The guitars, bass and drums are obviously an essential part on every song, but on “It Often Lies”, Brandon Deaton guitar work, Nick’s beats, and Phil Sahs bass notes work in perfect harmony, with each instrument contributing an integral part to the track, as well as getting their own moment to shine.
Then you of course have the title track, “When the Dust Settles”. Justin has a vast vocal range, which can be heard throughout the album, but some of the most intense, hardcore screaming comes on this song and is supplied by Nick. “What is left?” he screams repeatedly in the final moments of the song, which is layered over Justin’s singing, “When the dust settles.” There is also a pretty stellar instrumental bridge featured on this song as well.
All the songs have a certain similarity about them that gives the entire thing a great flow, but don’t misinterpret that, as these aren’t the same song in a different packaging, much like mainstream radio is these days.
It’s truly a great record, and should stand an excellent chance at being named one of the best local releases of the year.
Until March 31st, you can pre-order the “When the Dust Settles” EP for $1 HERE.
Red Angel Theory will be performing at the Curtain Club on Saturday, March 31st. The show will serve as the launch party for Texas Music Unites and will include an staggering line-up of talent, with tickets costing only $5.
Since 2008, the progressive, hard rock act known as Moving Atlas has released three EPs. 2008’s “Elephant Gun” was nothing to take lightly, with all five songs being of a legitimate quality that most mainstream acts will never achieve, and its 2009 follow up, “Red Shelter”, only further exerted the bands skill and musicianship as they pushed their dominance in the Dallas music scene. However, with “Machina”, which was introduced to fans’ ears in the final weeks of 2011, the group has reached a whole new level.
It only takes a little over twenty minutes for the album to play out, and it starts with the title track, “Machina”. It begins slow and soft with some drum beats, while some guitar chords soon layer over it, before the song explodes and comes to life. It’s a full blown rock song at its finest, and relies heavily on the rhythm section of the group. Dunagin Gaines’s vocals seem almost relaxed, perhaps even soothing in a way, on the verses of the song, though it begins to ramp-up as they near the chorus and a certain element of ferocity suddenly appears. For example, on part of the chorus, “You will not stop, quit, lay down for anything. I’m willing to bet that you are the one…” Then there is the ominous line, “…I send you out as sheep among the wolves…”.
The guitar line that begins the next song, “Crawl Out In the Cold”, is definitely fitting of the song, as it does have a cold and barren sound to it. In fact, the whole song conjures a rather distant and cold imagery. “…Crawl out in the cold and see how it feels on your skin, it’s a lot like your knife in my back that I don’t feel…”, is part of the chorus, and is sung in almost a nonchalant tone.
When it ends, you are thrust almost immediately into what strikes me as the hardest hitting of the five songs, “Welcome Home”. “Can we please stop all the yelling…” it begins, then continues, “It’s getting us nowhere. Neither one of us will raise the white flag. Can we ever stop pretending, that we’re getting somewhere. I packed my bags and I ain’t ever coming back. And it don’t really make a difference to me…”. There’s some distortion on the vocals, giving it a pretty soupy sound, though it isn’t overdone, and is just enough to add a great texture to it. It comes across as being the best, most in your face song on the EP, an is destined to become a classic.
Every album needs at least one song that showcases the band softer side and provides a lull, and for “Machina”, that song is “Cracks In the Armor”. The vast majority of it is stripped down to the bare basics as some simplistic guitar lines play out behind the vocals. And though it may be simple, it is also beautiful and even haunting, and is something that will certainly stick with you for some time. That is also the reason I consider this the best overall song on the EP, because both the lyrics and music are able to stir something in your inner being that the other songs do not, and the chorus will also linger in your head. “…This concrete fixture is all worn out. There’s cracks in the armor and I won’t let you walk away alone. There’s cracks in the armor and I won’t let you swallow me whole.” Dunigan sings, as his voice flows in perfect synch to the plucking of the guitar strings, before the full band erupts for the final minute of the song, as it suddenly soars to life.
The longest song on the record, “Muse Accuser”, is the final tune, and ends this record in spectacular fashion. The whole song has an epic feel and sound to it, causing it to transcend any of the songs that preceded it. It dances on a fine line of being both melodic and gritty, and mixing them both together quite well, while Dunigans’ voice flows effortlessly on the chorus. But perhaps what truly makes the song is its nearly minute long instrumental bridge, where it takes a sudden turn, becoming extremely tranquil.
The previous two EPs from Moving Atlas were great, but the band has really out done themselves with “Machina”, as it will make you question the quality of those prior releases. And that is truly saying a lot. The record also serves as an example to any current and future progressive, hard rock acts in the North Texas area, and that is that the bar has already been set pretty high.
Purchase the EP on iTunes.
Visit their official website .
“Like” the band on Facebook.
Follow them on Twitter.
Aryn Michelle is a talented singer/songwriter who bears a remarkable voice that is often operatic, and is displayed prominently throughout her sophomore release, “Last One Standing”.
The title track begins this thirteen track album, as a mesmerizing key intro opens the song. That unique voice of hers is showcased perhaps best on this song, as she repeatedly taps into that opera like voice on the songs chorus, as she sings part of the line, “…I am, I am, I am…”. Her voice fluctuates at times, reaching a higher range, before growing slightly fiercer and really taking charge. By doing so, it fits well with the situation the song describes, though it seems to really reflect on one of the lines in particular, “…I was born to wage this war, but I wasn’t born ready…”.
While the songs may have a pop sound to them, it is unlike the drab that had infested mainstream music, which dilutes you mind with the same old lines about sex and other such subjects. No, these songs can actually be stimulating to the mind, and “End of the Renaissance” is one of the finest examples of that from this record.
The song takes a hard, compelling look at today’s society, and offers a good standpoint about how living in an age where we have everything at our fingertips has, to some extent, brought about a decline in our world. “…No one sees a need for the thinker or the poet…” she states rather blatantly, and repeatedly asks, “…Is this the end of the Renaissance?…”. You must pay attention to it. Truly listen to it and then ponder the lyrics. You may be surprised at what could result.
Aside from making you think about life, many of the songs also deal with relatable life issues, such as “Strike it Up”. It deals with working a job that you get no fulfillment from, instead of taking a chance and chasing your dreams to do what makes you happy. “… Do you sacrifice all of your dreams to a paycheck and a pension” she sings at one point, while at another, “…So surrender to pure pursuits and deny conventional life…”. There is also a cautionary line for anyone who doesn’t take heed, and it also exhibits the quality level of songwriter she is. “…‘Cause settling down in a practical rut might be easy, but believe me, the life that you get will be spent only once…”.
The entire record is also a smorgasbord of sound. You have “Nomad”, which proves to be the most catchy and upbeat song from the album relies heavily on the keys, which gives it more of a pop sound. “Desperate Times” seems to have more of an edge to it and she delivers some of the lyrics at a rapid pacing.
While in contrast, “Adam and Eve’s Daughter” has more of a gospel sound to it, and then you have “Genevieve”, which has more of a serene sound, almost like a lullaby of sorts, and then “Kindness” is a slower, almost peaceful song.
In its over 46 minutes, “Last One Standing” does cover most genres, even it’s just incorporating a small portion of each of them, and it is truly deserving of your ears giving it a listen.
Purchase the album from iTunes.
Visit her official website.
“Like” her Facebook page.
Follow her on Twitter.