Album Review: “Dangers” by Things of Earth

imageThings of Earth is a quartet hailing from Dallas; an instrumental quartet.

Generally (and any avid readers of my blog my well already know this), I’m not a fan of instrumental stuff. I’m open to anything, but that is one genre of music that usually fails to capture my interest. However, there have been an act or two in recent years that have slowly started turning the tides on that thinking of mine, and Things of Earth has what it takes to completely reverse those thoughts I’ve had for years now.

The five track EP, which fills right at half an hour of time, goes right from zero to sixty with opener “Shadows of Furniture and Ghosts”, which immediately shows how serious of a rock band this is. The drumming is absolutely incredible, and the sharp guitar tones and blistering notes help in making the songs transitions seamless as it ebbs and flows, and also boasts a beefy rhythm section at one point.

The intricate music beds continue with “Separate Digits”, which at times will have you banging your head along to the music, while at others it’s best to close your eyes and just really absorb what you’re listening to. The structure at the end serves for a nice lead in to “Dangers of Pretending to be a Warlock” (which would have to be my personal favorite song), and while it may start off semi-relaxed, it doesn’t stay that way. You’re suddenly bombarded with a furious assault on the drums in the latter portion of it, creating a nice euphoric rush not only in the music, but the listener, too.

Some sample audio can be heard (minimally) on other tracks, though they are perhaps best used on “Starboard List”, which—among other things—incorporates a biblical verse, specifically from Revelations (“And in those days, men shall seek death, and shall not find it…”). That line acts as the entrance to the heavier, even darker portion of the song, which flows into the eight minute long odyssey “Dead Body Water”. It’s as epic as a track of that length should be, and what was rather surprising to me was how fast those eight minutes can pass.

This really is a phenomenal album, and it had enticed me in just the first few moments, which, admittedly, was something I was not anticipating.

I know other people out there have to share my same sentiments when it comes to instrumental music, and the question, “Wouldn’t these songs be better with lyrics?” can at times be a fair one to ask, but not in the case of Things of Earth or their second EP “Dangers”. Why? Well, because words would be degrading to this masterful music these four guys have created.

Things of Earth is:
Benjamin Smith - guitar
Samuel Lomax - guitar
Brandon Butters - drums
Matthew Gillispie - bass

Purchase the album on: Bandcamp / iTUNES

Visit Things of Earths’ websites: Facebook / Twitter

Current Shows:
Friday, April 25th @ The Foundry presented by Parade of Flesh

image(Photo credit: Nick Sayers Photography)

Album Review: “Afternoon, and Early Evening” by Kevin Taylor Kendrick

imageThere’s a difference between being a singer/songwriter and a storyteller, and just because you’re the former, doesn’t necessarily make you the latter. It takes a special skill set to really convey a legitimate story to people through song, and while it’s hard to find (at least from my experience), Houston native Kevin Taylor Kendrick possess it.

That trait is prominently on display throughout his debut album, “Afternoon, and Early Evening”, and right from the very first track.

While 90% of the album is largely Kevin armed with his acoustic guitar, the lead track is much more fleshed out than that. The at times fanciful tale that is “Art of Ball and Chain” is complete with a harmonica, giving the song a bit of a southern sound when it’s played, to some rapid, simple percussion that truly is the songs backbone. Then you have the female vocals that can be heard on the chorus, which accentuate the song, without stealing any thunder away from Kevin. It’s easily the catchiest song “Afternoon, and Early Evening” has to offer, and will ensure the album hooks you from the start. And while the remainder of the tracks may be more stripped down, the most enticing thing about this song is the lyrics, revealing what a passionate story teller and incredible writer he is, and that’s the quality that binds all these songs together.

“Stolen by the Wind” is done in the true songwriter fashion, the lone instrument being the acoustic guitar, Kevin playing a series of chords that give the song a underlying melancholy vibe, which is behooving of the lyrics.  “…Oh it’s not that I’m jaded, I just can’t pretend to take part in your struggle or care who will win…” he sings during the first verse, later matching it with an equally blunt and honest line, “…It’s not that I’m bitter, it’s just to preserve what’s left of my memory and my weathered nerves…” The first song on the record may be a great example of his ability as a story teller, but it’s this song that showcases his talent as a songwriter, as he takes a personal story from his life and lays it out for all to hear.

“…Can’t you see, a storm’s a brewin’, behind my eyes…” Kevin croons at one point in “Ain’t Got Nothin’”, a song that traverses several themes, the most prominent of which is loneliness. It paints a sadder picture, while the subsequent track, “Whistles”, is more of a folksy sounding tune, with a chipper melody that will stick with you for awhile, taking you through another small portion of Kevins’ life, allowing you as the listener to feel like you know him just a little bit better.

“The Rider” again slows things down, Kevins’ voice piercing the largely placid guitar notes he’s playing. A at times distant, even slightly soupy effect is applied to his voice at times on the track, making it stand apart from the rest of the songs on the record, as it aids the mood the song is trying to (and successfully does) create.

“The Road” is somewhat of a reflective song, as Kevin looks back on life, while preparing for what the world is like, and in that, it’s one of the most relatable songs this record offers up. It’s very tranquil, allowing the lyrics to carry even more weight, and the words of wisdom keep coming at you, for example, you have the line, “…You lose life much faster when money’s your master…”.

“I thought life had just begun, I was finally on my own. Twenty-two I thought was young, I’d just left my mothers’ home…” he sings at the start of “On My Own”, building upon the nature of the previous song, though this one is more introspective. It’s also more ominous and dark sounding, dealing with the trials of life and the real world, such as the passing of time. “…I’m scared the next ten years will be gone before they’re here…” he confesses with one line, conjuring an image of death as sings of how fleeting time is.

If you’re feeling glum after that track, “The Brook”, a gentle and sweet love song, will relieve that feeling, reminding you that it’s the simple things in life that are the most important and memorable. The record than takes you to “The River”, an appropriate follow-up song, at least title wise. It, too, deals with love, though it partly focuses on more of the heartbreaking aspects of it. In the end, though, it’s not a sad song, but more of a triumphant one.

This nearly 44-minute long record comes to a close with the second to longest track that’s found on it, “Here’s to Hoping”, which is a departure from how it all began. The full band (i.e. drums, and even what sounds to be a pedal steel guitar at times) is utilized, but not to the same degree as the opening track. Instead, “Here’s to Hoping” is another more folk sounding song, whose beauty lies in its subtlety. From tender side of his voice that Kevin taps into, to the often delicate notes of the guitar, blending together beautifully, and offering a perfect end to this record. Especially with the guitar solo outro, which occupies the final forty seconds or so, giving closure to this story.

“Afternoon, and Early Evening” is an album you – the listener – can really get lost in. It’s compelling, and with the songs being so raw, it offers great insight to who Kendrick is as a person, since his personal life, struggles and/or thoughts are often laid out for you to hear.

Quality music like these is hard to come by these days, when so many acts are more concerned with copying the latest pop sound in hopes they’ll fit the mold of the artists who currently dominate the radio. However, substance goes much further than that, because substance allows fans to really connect with the music and have it resonate with them. And this collection of songs definitely resonates with you.

Kevin Taylor Kendrick is:
Kevin Taylor Kendrick, Nathan Quick and Chris Tallman

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit Kevins’ websites: Facebook / Reverbnation
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Album Review: “Full Moon” by SPCCMP

imageIt’s hard to believe, but it’s already been a little over a year and a half since the debut EP from SPCCMP (pronounced Space Camp) dropped, and ever since its release, the trip-rock outfit has been hard at work on their follow-up EP, making sure they wrote the best material they possibly could.

The result is the “Surrender to the Night” EP, and even though demo versions of the tracks have existed and been used in music videos made around a year ago, the professional recording quality the tracks now have makes them feel fresh and new.

Tomahawk Jonez (whose real name is Jeremy Rodriguez) has been an excellent hip-hop artist here in the Dallas music scene for some time now, and his skills are on full display on the albums first track, “Dancing with the Devil”. It’s a fun blend of electronic and pop flares that you can groove to, with Tomahawk spitting out the positive words of the track about chasing your dreams and standing tall even when things get tough, never losing sight of what you want.

The album takes a more serious turn with the next songs, including the title track “Surrender to the Night”, which focuses more on the turmoil the world is currently in. “Bombs are bursting in the air, bullets flying everywhere. Children watching children die; missiles lighting up the sky…” Paco Estrada (the groups other vocalist and acoustic guitarist) croons at the start, a nice gravely effect thrown over his voice on those first few lines, which seem to give it more weight. The two completely different styles of singing mesh and even complement one another on what is easily the most moving song this EP offers, and it really does have the ability to change minds (and even the world) if you take its message to heart.

“If This is Goodbye” is my personal favorite track, and it takes more of a rock approach, with some forceful drumming rounded out by some nice bass riffs, while the guitars create a mesmerizing music bed. Paco and Tomahawk again trade off on this song, handling the chorus and verses, respectively. As a person who gravitates most towards lyrics, I must confess I absolutely love the chorus, which is teeming with emotion, in the way that only Paco Estrada can muster. “How we ever gonna save the world, if we’re too afraid to try and change it?  …How you ever gonna say my name, without the memory of you throwing it all away? How you gonna fall asleep at night…” he sings, more matter-of-factly rather than somberly. It’s powerful, and in a completely different manner than the previous track, this time dealing with not being too quick to give up on a love.

When the music video was first released for “The Lover”, it got some flak, with some people saying they were tired of the suicidal sounding songs (one track from their first EP could be viewed in that sense, depending on how you perceive it.) With a line like, “…And the barrel’s to his head, like the trigger to his finger…”, it’s easy to see why people would view it that way (Paco even slightly busts a rhyme on that chorus, almost giving Tomahawk a run for his money), but it’s depth goes beyond that. It’s more about overcoming any demons you’re facing and fully realizing your self-worth, and that you’re perfect as who you are. Yes, they broach the subject in a darker manner, but the overall message shines through said darkness.

Speaking of that, that’s the big difference between their first EP and this one: it’s darker. There were a couple of tracks sort of like that on their first EP, but not to the extent as those found on “Surrender to the Night”, and that’s a good thing.

It depicts growth, and shows that the band isn’t afraid to tackle real life issues, all while putting an uplifting spin on them.

They’re incredibly original, too. Trip-hop may not be new, but they put such an interesting spin on it all, incorporating several different genres, all of which somehow fit with one another. Then you have the fact that Paco does some singing, and in an interview I did with Tomahawk sometime back, he noted that aside from being able to work with a musician he greatly respected, that also gave SPCCMP the chance to use live vocals on what might otherwise be just sample tracks.

It makes all the difference, because Paco is a master at making music emotional, and despite the difference in his and Jeremy’s styles of singing, they work amazingly well together.

You often hear bands that have a great sound, but it’s rare these days for any act to be original; however, SPCCMP really is. It’s fresh and exciting music that was written with the intent to change lives. That fact is evident on the “Surrender to the Night” EP, an EP that has the potential to let SPCCMP break out of the local music scene here and make the world their stage.

SPCCMP is:
Tomahawk Jonez – vocals
Paco Estrada – vocals & acoustic guitar
Mike Dove – electric guitar
A.J. “Irish” Blackleaf – drums
Joel Bailey - bass
Emsy Robinson - guitar

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit SPCCMP’s websites: Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube

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Album Review: “Fractures” by The Clouds Are Ghosts

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The Austin, Texas based The Clouds Are Ghosts may have started as just a little side gig, but it didn’t take long for the two founding members to realize they were on to something as they began writing and recording some of their song ideas.

Joseph Salazar ended up leaving the band, but Jason Morris stuck with it, bringing five other musicians into the fold; officially giving birth to The Clouds Are Ghosts.

Their debut album came in late 2009, with an EP following a couple of years later, and now, the band has released their anxiously awaited third album, “Fractures”.

Not only is it their newest record, but it’s also their most professional and solid collection of songs to date; and it begins with the atmospheric rocker, “Fifty Four”. The piano and drums at the start create a mix of beauty and force that is astounding, blending the best of both worlds. Jason Morris’s remarkable voice than
reaches out of the speakers and grabs you; growing more urgent as the pace of the music increases, ensnaring you and making sure you’re in this listening experience for the long haul.

The best quality “Defense” has is its ebb and flow. You can feel the song building to something, yet it tapers off each time you think it’s about to make its move. That highlights the more subtle elements of the track, like the smooth guitar lines, which complement one another, before it jumps into action during the final minute. It’s edgy in a way, and it’s a track not to be overlooked (or unappreciated.)

After reeling you in with those first two songs, the members of The Clouds Are Ghosts are ready to show off their softer side, and do so with “Leaman”. In comparison to those first tracks, it mines a little more of the ambient genre that the band classifies itself as. More though, it’s a serene track that’s designed to make you think. “…Now we fight, we kill, we don’t seem to know how to rise above. We think we do, so we blind the eyes of the young…” Jason croons, demonstrating a whole other side and range of his voice, often hitting some gorgeous falsetto notes.

After that little detour, the band brings things back up with eerie and dark sounding “Marionettes”. It doesn’t even take twenty seconds for them to make and establish the mood; while the semi-hushed vocals fit well with it. At least until it roars to life. That’s when it truly grabs your attention: when the guitars soar into action, and a solo is worked in nicely and at just the right moment to add some extra emphasis.

Things get al little more tender and heartfelt with “Angelface”, which, at almost six minutes, is the longest track from the album, before they get into one of the most attention getting songs.

“…There is no time for hesitation, for everyday we’re growing old.” goes a line from “Blue”, which is a song that focuses on how short life really is, and the need to live and experience it to the fullest. It’s a song that washes over you and resonates in your soul, particularly the line, “They say the road before you is long. They say that life is too short. So run…”

The dreamy, pop landscapes are back in “Singularity”, which is a rather soothing track, at least until its abrupt, vicious swell, when it transitions into one of the most intense offerings from “Fractures”, before waning as it leads into “Lavender House”. Just because the bass isn’t as noticeable or the drums aren’t as heavy doesn’t mean that latter one isn’t an impactful song, though.

Perhaps the most intricate track on the album is “Running Dream”. The guitars, bass, drums and yes, even the piano, all get their moment to shine and work in fine harmony with one another. It’s all carefully woven and acts as a nice setup for the tenth and final track on the album, “Decimeters”.

Of course, there can always be different meanings to the songs than the one each listener may interpret, but it strikes me as being a track about the impending end of a relationship. It’s not gloomy or done as a desperate plea, though. It’s actually a beautiful song filled with acceptance and a “light at the end of the tunnel” perspective.

To sum up “Fractures” in just one word: perfection.

The production quality on this thing is superb and deserves a major commendation in its own right. I mean, this thing is on par with what many of the most famous and wealthiest musicians crank out in terms of how polished and well mixed it is.

Aside from that, “Fractures” just has a very fluid feel to it; while the songs all mesh with one another, in the sense like this is more of a concept album rather than an assorted collection of songs they wrote.

While the six-piece outfit may identify as a mix of
ambient, electronic and pop styles of music, they are really so much more than that. It’s all in the way they fuse those different genres together, taking the best parts of each one and creating something that is entirely their own.

When you hear pop, you probably think of the generic and increasingly mind numbing stuff you hear on the radio, but that’s not the part that The Clouds Are Ghosts brings in. It still manages to be catchy, yet creative. It’s more or less the same for the other genres, too. There is a definite electronic vibe, but there music isn’t drenched in the sound, and they balance the ambient side of things in there just right.

With all the bands that are out there, I can’t say I’m shocked that I’ve never heard of The Clouds Are Ghosts before, though I am surprised they managed to avoid my radar for so long.

In listening to this album, it’s readily apparent that they are one of the shining stars in the Austin music scene, and “Fractures” should be the album that starts really taking them places.

The Clouds Are Ghosts are:
Erin Fillingame - piano
Jason Morris - vocals
Steven Paul – guitar and synths
Michael Parker - guitar
Earl Bowers - drums
Jon Klekman- bass

Download the album for free on: BANDCAMP / Purchase in iTUNES

Visit The Clouds Are Ghosts websites: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube

Current Shows: The band will be performing at SXSW this year. Dates include 3/11 @ Guero’s 5PM / 3/11 @ Soho Lounge 8PM / 3/13 Symphony Square 5PM. Visit their TOUR PAGE for full details.

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Photo credit: Ashley Treat

Album Review: “Pseudo Future” by Pseudo Future

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The only good thing that comes from the demise of one beloved band is the prospect that a new project(s) will hopefully follow, and that was precisely what was on my mind last May when Vinyl Pilot announced they were disbanding.

It didn’t long for a couple of members from the band (Jeff Lowe and Patrick Hunter) to get to work on a new project, calling it Pseudo Future. And while those two guys may have come from the same band, they didn’t bring any remnants from their previous sound along with them.

The short, 13-minute long EP gets going with a bang, in the form of the song “Loss Of Light”. It’s dynamic and even alluring, and I enjoy how prominent the bass is in comparison to other songs (by any band), when it tends to get drowned out by the other instruments. It’s a very nicely mixed song, and even features a killer, ever so slightly soupy sounding guitar solo towards the end.

“Drawing Board” is easily the heaviest song on this sampling from Pseudo Future, with some pulsating drum beats on the chorus, matched by some blaring guitar and bass lines, as singer and guitarist
Jeff Lowe fiercely sings/shouts on the chorus, “We take all that we make and throw it all away!” There’s a certain tinge of venom to it, too, found primarily in the frustration and anger Jeff packs into the lyrics.

A short piece, “Remnant (Interlude)”, acts as both a way to break up the album, as well as a transition into the next song, bleeding flawlessly into “All My Friends”. At a little over four and half minutes in length, it’s nearly twice as long as most other songs on the record. They gave it an excellent rise and fall, and best of all; it’s all done very fluidly and with relative ease, roaring to life on each chorus, before tapering back off.

The final song is the customary, slow, soft love song that nearly ever album from any band has to have. In Pseudo Future’s case, that song is “Love Of My Life”, a more acoustic based song done solely by Jeff. It’s a gentle and sweet song, as he croons about having found “the one”, and is more about him professing his love than being overly sappy. All in all, it makes for a great closing note for this EP.

It’s quite a solid EP, and I like the fact that this trio cut to the chase on all of these songs, not adding anything that seems unnecessary, while still having all the parts that are key to a song and managing to convey a message in a (very) timely manner.

And as a bonus for anyone who was a fan of Jeff and Patricks’ previous project; you get to hear a whole different side to their abilities.

Jeff taps into a previously unheard part of his voice, and like I said, does some fiery screams that are quite rock sounding, while his tone still has that certain pop/rock tone to it, resulting in a forceful mix. As for Patrick, he demonstrates complete mastery over the bass. His skills ooze out of the speakers and make it noticeable by simply listening to this EP, and he and drummer Justyn Gomez combine to make an exceptional rhythm section.

Pseudo Future is:
Jeff Lowe - Guitar & Vocals
Patrick Hunter - Bass & Vocals
Justyn Gomez - Drums

Get the album for FREE at BANDCAMP

Visit Pseudo Futures’ websites: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter / Youtube

Current Shows:
February 22nd @ Liquid Lounge in Dallas

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(Photo credit: Wettengel Photography)

Album Review: “Sidetracked - A Soundtrack For An Imaginary Motion Picture” by Darrin Kobetich

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Darrin Kobetich has been active in the music scene for awhile; a few decades to be exact.

While he’s always been a solo instrumentalist; much of his time in real bands was spent playing hard rock and thrash metal music.

However, in more recent years his focus has shifted back to his solo material; and he’s gotten truly creative with it.

His most recent album is “Sidetracked - A Soundtrack For An Imaginary Motion Picture”, which plays out exactly like the title suggests; as if it’s an accompanying soundtrack for a film. A film that doesn’t even exist.

The nearly eight and a half minute long track “The Order Within Chaos” starts you on this journey. It’s a semi-ambient sounding track; gradually intensifying the deeper you get into it, though there’s a certain level of serenity maintained throughout it. Some subtle yet thunderous percussion can also be heard in the latter half of the track; reminiscent of war drums from far off in the distance, before they die completely as the song recedes into “When the Rain Finally Came”.

A full-blown feeling of calmness washes over you while listening to the song, which is complete with the soothing sounds of raindrops mixed in, in the background. The tranquil guitar chords only accentuate the mood the song sets. It gets traded in for a banjo on the short “Banjer in the Bayou”. And while you would think that track would sound completely out of place given the previous songs; it doesn’t. In fact they go together quite well, and the transition into it is rather fluid.

The vast array of sounds continues with the low-key “Creeper”. It’s another song that’s worthy of the title it was given; and while it’s far from being ominous, it does just creep along, winding itself to an interesting end; an end that features good use of a theremin, which gives it a cool sci-fi like vibe.

Those first few songs manage to work together in ways you wouldn’t think possible until you actually hear it for yourself. However, they are but the calm before the storm.

With the acoustic intro, you might be thinking that “Giant Behemoth” isn’t going to live up to its name. Then you hear the shrill feedback, and Darrin brings forth the thrash metal sound of his earlier bands.  It’s as heavy as the album gets, with some mighty drumbeats joining the roaring and intense guitar lines. Then, it suddenly dies out: the song ending about as calmly as it began.

“Winging It” brings things into a more rock pace, still using the drums from the previous song. Gradually though, those are pulled back; setting the album up for a completely different sound.

“Counter Cultural Tribal Dance Theme” and “Percussion Concussion” go together perfectly. The former incorporates a nice use of some type of woodwind instrument at various moments, and it executes the tribal sound excellently. In fact, there’s some Indian flare to it; and while I’ve never watched a Bollywood film, it sounds like something that would fit in one of those style movies.

The latter of the two is more toned down, yet still aggressive and possess a certain hypnotic quality to it. That’s actually appropriate, seeing as “A Trance Harp Beach Party” is utterly mesmerizing. It may be somewhat simplistic in some regards, but it’s great.

The remaining five tracks on the album all play out as another segment of the story; a story that has reached the climax at this point and is now headed for the resolve.

“The Gift That Came Here” starts the still lengthy journey to the records close; and as uplifting as it is, you can’t help but feel good and know that the most tumultuous times (“The Giant Behemoth”) are far behind.

“An Air of Pall” takes that mellow mood to new heights, while “The August Moon” continues it; at least until a sharp rise pierces the tranquility. It’s by no means on the scale of previous songs and instead serves to show that there’s still some surprises to come on this album.

“In the Misty Forest On the Edge of Time” is more of an interlude than anything, and the 48-second track gives way to “The Man Who Came From Wales”, which is the ideal last song for this record. It oozes joy, creating one of those picture perfect endings in your head before the credits proceed to scroll by.

For those who frequent my blog at all, then you probably know I often mention that I’m not a fan of instrumental music. Yet that’s all “Sidetracked…” is.

I liked it the first listen through, and I must confess; subsequent listens made me downright love it.

This isn’t just instrumental music, though. It’s more like a composition and it plays out in an epic fashion.

It’s even more remarkable that just one person was able to put all this together, doing all the instruments – and of course, everything else - entirely on his own.

It was a big undertaking, no doubt; but in the end, it all came together perfectly. You can tell Darrin has a lot of natural talent as a musician, and that talent seeps out of the speakers, clearly noticeable.

In the end, “Sidetracked…” is an impressive piece of work, and even without any lyrics whatsoever, it still manages to make more of a connection with the listener than a lot of records these days do.

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Bandcamp / CDBaby

Visit Darrin Kobetichs’ websites: Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation

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(Photo credit: Scott Carson Ausburn)


Album Review: “A Pig Eating Past Love” by Johnny Beauford

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Johnny Beauford may well be one of the hardest working and most diverse musicians in the North Texas music scene.

He’s probably best known for fronting the Dallas rock band Bravo, Max!, and an abundance of material (and apparently time, too) also led to the start of Johnny Beauford & the Jack Kerowax.

But aside from being a capable rock musician, Beauford is also an accomplished solo singer/songwriter, whose solo music mines a more Americana/folksy vein. And now, a few years after his first solo album was released, he’s gotten around to recording and releasing his sophomore effort, “A Pig Eating Past Love”, which is rooted deep in the lo-fi, minimalist sound of his first release, and was recorded almost entirely all on his own.

Each song on “A Pig Eating Past Love” brings something different to the table, and for “Little Dance”, it’s the way it highlights Beaufords’ voice. His soft plucking of the guitar is barely audible for parts of the song, making it at times sound as if he is singing a cappella on this ethereal track. His voice shines on every single word, and he may well have you hanging on it, as he walks a fine line of being strong, yet restrained with his vocal delivery.

“S Is For Schizophrenia” is the catchiest offering on the album, boasting a more fleshed out sound from the previous song. Though a drum kit is the only new instrument added to the mix, it gives a much fuller sound than you’d expect to this fairly rocking number.

That pace is quickly changed with “Ann Marie”, where the only percussion effect comes from some of the chords Johnny plays on his acoustic axe. Songwritingwise, Beauford’s at is best with this track, which is teeming with emotions, and despite the sad, even at times downtrodden lyrics, there are also some glimmers of hope to be found in it.

The embodiment of the lo-fi sound is, without question, “Huck Finn’s Hideout”. The short, two and a half minute long track has that grainy quality to the vocals, giving it a simple sound, like perhaps it’s a home recording. There’s beauty in simplicity like that though, you just have to be able to appreciate it. The song has grown on me with each listen, and the heavy use of the harmonica is another nice touch that sets this song apart from the others on the record.

The pinnacle song on the album hands down has to be “Fire Fly”. With only his guitar, Johnny Beauford has created a ravishing and haunting music bed. It’s simple enough you’ll be singing along with it after a few listens, and there’s an odd duality in the fact that the song is also somewhat complex in some regards. It’s one that will stick with you, and it stands as unequivocal proof for any doubters that a full band sound is not a necessity when it comes to crafting a solid, excellent song.

The title track, “A Pig Eating Past Love”, is the longest track from the album, coming in a little shy of four minutes. Some may consider it to be a brilliant song, mainly because it kind of is. It surges forth at times, then recedes back, with that ebb and flow being the best characteristic of the song. Lyrically, it’s another emotionally charged number, even raw, and you can even hear a subtle dose of contempt in Beaufords’ voice at times, like on the line, “…Look me in these eyes when you curse me with those lips…”, before it comes to a nice tranquil conclusion.

That gives an appropriate lead in to the final song, “You’re Evaporating Anyway”, which ends things on a pretty note. It’s a soothing song to listen to, and ends this listening experience in a lovely way.

Honestly, this is a perfect album for a singer/songwriter – any singer/songwriter – to release.

It’s to the point and at only 21-minutes, it’s digestible for anyone who chooses to listen to it. Fans can listen to the whole thing with ease, while any new comers this release draws in won’t have to invest much of their time in seeing what “A Pig Eating Past Love” is about (though it will surely earn subsequent spins).

In all, it’s just a well-rounded album that showcases who Johnny Beauford is as a musician, and he did a great job selecting the songs that would make the cut, as they all show a slightly different side to him, revealing what he’s capable of.

As I said at the start, he may be one of the hardest working musicians in North Texas, and after hearing this sophomore album of his, it’s clear he is one of the best.

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES

Visit Johnny Beaufords’ websites:
Official website / Facebook

Watch the official music video for “A Pig Eating Past Love” HERE.
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Photo credit:
Rhombi Survivor Photo Safaris

Album Review: “Faith Healer” by Daylight Industries

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Growth and evolution are (or at least should) be evident in any bands music, and from my experience, it’s typically there to some degree. After all, it’d get tiring and bland if a band basically just keeps recreating their past music, right?

That’s something the Dallas based Daylight Industries seems to recognize, and they’ve taken it to the next level.

Their first EP was a good representation of the bands early days, playing more progressive and even slightly industrial sounding rock tunes, which ranged from about four minutes in length to six and a half plus. But even by the time it’s saw its release (June of 2012) the band was already heading in a different direction, cutting down on how long their songs ran, as they made the jump into being more of rock band.

It’s a style that’s on full display on the recently released “Faith Healer”, a five track EP that will leave you wanting a follow up record immediately.

The vigorous “Faith Healer” begins the eighteen plus minute long jaunt through the EP, luring you in with ease and compelling you to listen to the rest of the record. It’s as raw a rock song as you have ever heard, with unbridled amounts of energy, particularly on the hellacious chorus, which they managed to make perfectly capture the energy that they put into it at live shows. Even the verses, which are slower (considering how the rest of the song is, at least) is still hard hitting, and boasts some mesmerizing guitar riffs.

The only (slight) remnant from Daylight Industries past can be heard in “Aphasia”, which at just a little over four and a half minutes is the longest track on the EP. The progressive/industrial rock style featured so prominently on their first EP can at times be heard on the well-crafted song structure of this tune. That’s actually the best part of this number, the way that the drums, bass and guitar all act to truly accentuate one another. Sure, that’s something all songs do, but it’s a little different with “Aphasia”, and instead of merely complimenting one another, it’s more as if one instrument extends the reach of the others, while vocalist Keith Allen alternates between a serene crooning of the lyrics and forcefully belting them out.

“If I’m a saint then I’m the patron saint of fools. The prison guards that run this town have made up all the rules… And I nearly lost my life, I swear I’d been confused. How I lived with what I told to be the truth.” Logan shouts on the chorus of the blistering “Sit In”. Personally, I do have other favorites I like more on this EP, but if you know nothing about Daylight Industries and you’re only going to listen to one of their songs, this would be the one I’d recommend. Lyrically it’s very real and even relatable, being one of those songs that may well make you stop and think (i.e. “…I can’t just grasp reality outside my television…”). The drum parts of the song also get your attention, often being flat-out wild and crazy, while still having structure and sounding very fluid.

The final two songs the EP has to offer are the shortest ones both clocking in at a little under three minutes, which may be part of the reason they have even more kick to them. “Lesson Learned” is hands down the heaviest song on the record, with a slight hard rock edge to it. It still sounds very much like Daylight Industries, though, and it adds a nice diversity to the album.

Then you have “Junkie Logic”, which is quick and to the point, and it packs a fierce punch. It captures the band in their element (as well as in their prime), going full throttle as they deliver a smack down of Rock ‘n’ Roll on the ears of the listeners. It’s so easy to get lost in this track, that it doesn’t even seem like two minutes and fifty-one seconds pass by, and then it’s suddenly over, and that’s a quality few songs possess.

While “Faith Healer” is a departure from Daylight Industries roots, it’s a necessary one that has revealed a whole new layer and depth to the band, who already didn’t have much trouble standing out.

Keith Allen has one of the most unique voices I’ve come across, and it’s one that’s instantly recognizable, but that’s not the only trait the band has that makes them so prominent. The textures of the guitar notes and the solid, dominating rhythm section that is found on each track are full of character, to the point there’s no mistaken them for any other band than Daylight Industries.

The point is, they’ve somehow managed to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack, and in time, I think it’s safe to assume they’ll do even more than that.

Daylight Industries is:
Barry Townsend - Bass
Brandon Tyner - Lead Guitar
Keith Allen - Vocals
Stephen Smith - Drums
Ruvayne Weber – Guitar

Purchase the album on: iTUNES

Visit Daylight Industries websites: Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube

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Album Review: “Light the Fire” by Light the Fire

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There’s not a band alive that isn’t familiar with trials and tribulations, after all, it’s both critical and crucial to a bands development. The Dallas/Greenville based metal act Light the Fire is certainly no exception to that. In fact, their sophomore record, a self-titled EP, was forged out of such circumstances.

In late 2012 the band traveled to Massachusetts to record at Zing Studios, all under the guidance of producer Eric Arena, recording three songs that would be the basis of their second EP. Then, at the start of 2013, the band found themselves having to fill the suddenly vacated vocalist position, a change that ultimately meant the vocals for the songs they had laid down would have to be re-recorded. In the end, that worked out for the best, though, allowing them time to write a few more tracks to add to the EP, with the end result being an extremely well-crafted album.

“All Or Nothing” is the first offering on Light the Fire’s latest effort and it’s guaranteed to suck you in, making sure you stick around for the duration of this 22-minute long experience. It boasts an insanely tight, dominating and complimentary rhythm section, courtesy of Blake Hein and Andrew Penland, the drummer and bassist, respectively. Those two instruments shine especially bright on this track, though they are of course balanced out by the stellar riffs and solo from lead guitarist Ryan Dickinson. The whole chorus, “I get the feeling that you don’t feel anything. Every day is a brand new struggle for me. Right now it’s all or nothing…”, has a catchy quality to it, even inspiring, and taking that last sentence out of context, it also seems to paint an accurate statement of where the band is at right now. After all, this record could well be the make it or break it point for the group, so in a way, it kind of is “all or nothing”.

The five-piece outfit shows off their true metal chops on the next song, “Stick To Your Guns”, with Jeff Gunter screaming out the verses, his distinctive tone that is audible when he sings translating over, ensuring that regardless of what he’s doing, be it singing or screaming, you won’t get him mixed up with any other vocalist. Lyrically, it’s another poignant song, essentially about following your dreams, whatever they may be. “Believe in what you find inside yourself. We’re shooting for the stars and nothing less…” sings Jeff, a line that will no doubt connect with many listeners, while simultaneously again being reflective of these musicians and the journey they’ve all taken on their musical careers. There’s also a killer instrumental breakdown, albeit a short one, that begins around the halfway point of the song, giving everyone, including rhythm guitarist Felix Lopez, their own little moment.

The full-blown metal sound only accelerates with the next track, “Forever Grateful”, and the band reaches a new height with it. It’s arguably the heaviest thing Light the Fire has ever written, and it’s also an instant classic of theirs. Jeffs’ stentorian screaming is much more aggressive, even course in relation to the previous track, which is a large part of what makes the song so irresistible. Even more impressive, though, is his ability to change his tone at the drop of a hat, switching to his singing voice for the chorus, “…I hear your voice and I crumble to pieces. I fall into you…” That’s another thing about this heavy hitter, it’s a love song, and a rather moving one at that, showing that not all emotional songs need to be in a ballad form, or even slow for that matter. The raw intensity is offset with some occasional and subtle elements, though, including a serene sounding bridge.

“Reflection” is another more impassioned song, and the closest thing to a lull you’ll find on this record. It ebbs and flows very well, the guitars, bass and drums letting up on the verses to ensure the depth of the lyrics are properly conveyed, allowing it to make a real impact on the listener. That’s not to undercut the music, though, either, and when things take off, it can hold its own against the songs pretty well, making “Reflection” a true gem.

“The Masquerade”, which is the final original song on the EP, gets off to a roaring start with some fast paced instrumentalization that will no doubt have you banging your head about. It’s another powerhouse track, again showcasing a dazzling guitar solo and some strong bass lines, with their even being a short bass solo after the first chorus but before the second verse. I smell another fan favorite with this song, and for their original material, it’s a great way to conclude things, though Light the Fire does have one last song in store for everybody.

Now, for those familiar with the outfit, you know the band likes to have as much fun as possible (while still maintaining the professional showmanship a band needs), and the final song on this EP shows off that side. The band pays homage to the classic hard rock/metal band The Scorpions by doing a rendition of “No One Like You”. They leave their mark on the over thirty year old song, putting more of a current metal spin on parts of it, complete with searing screams. They aren’t simply covering the song; they are owning it, making it entirely their own, which results in a delightful end to things.

Before I’ve said that what sets the greatest bands apart from the good (and even great for that matter) is when a group can show growth, pushing themselves to another level. That’s a quality that abounds on “Light the Fire”.

At a pivotal point in their career (i.e. the member changes and such), they were forced to come together and strengthen their bonds more than most bands, and that solidified camaraderie is evident merely in listening to this album. On that note, so too is the blood, sweat and tears they no doubt poured into this. All the hard work they put into making this latest album comes through on every single note and every last word, and will make an impact on you.

I don’t mean this as a slight against their debut “Note to Self”, but these guys have truly outdone themselves with this self-titled album. Going back to band’s growth, this record is superior in every way. The songs are even deeper in terms of lyrics, and I guarantee everyone will form a connection to at least one of the tracks, while musically it sounds more mature and defined, like they’ve truly come into their own, while still retaining the elements that made their first EP so great.

In a just world, “Light the Fire” will be a key stepping stone in getting the band onto the national stage, but even if that doesn’t work out, I see this becoming one of the best, most solid releases from a North Texas based band, leaving its mark for years to come.

(Side note: For those who might be saying, “I don’t like metal, so I probably wouldn’t like Light the Fire.”, let me just say, generally, I don’t like metal, either. It’s just a genre that is heavier than what I prefer, and yes, LTF is a heavy band. They are also one of the only exceptions of metal bands I not only like, but love. So, regardless of musical preferences, just give ‘em a listen.)

Light the Fire is:
Jeff Gunter- Vocals
Ryan Dickinson- Guitar
Felix Lopez- Guitar
Andrew Penland- Bass
Blake Hein- Drums

Purchase the album on:
iTUNES / Bandcamp / For physical copies visit their ONLINE STORE ($3 + shipping)

Visit Light the Fire’s websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Instagram / Reverbnation / Twitter

Current Shows:
July 27th at Curtain Club in Dallas (CD release show!) / August 2nd at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas (Vans Warped Tour) / August 17th at Tomcats West in Fort Worth / August 24th at The Railhead Saloon in Lawton, OK / September 7th at Wits End in Dallas / September 21st at The Hanger in Greenville / September 26th at The Red Eyed Fly in Austin / September 27th at The Abby Underground in Denton / September 28th at The Railhead Saloon in Lawton, OK / October 12th at Zombies in San Antonio / October 25th at Gilley’s in Dallas / October 26th at Hailey’s in Denton
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Photo credit: James Villa Photography

Album Review: “Water in a Whale” by Jillette Johsnon

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It’s usually safe to say that most young musicians are still trying to find their niche in the business. From figuring out what style best suits them, to searching for their voice (literally and figuratively), and everything in between. However, that isn’t the case with twenty-four year old Jillette Johnson on her debut full-length album “Water in a Whale”.

A lot of that can probably be attributed to the fact that she has been performing live for around half her life, and while she may well still be finding her place (since that’s an ever evolving process for anyone), she’s certainly further along than most her age, and that becomes readily clear as you delve into “Water in a Whale”.

Torpedo” is the lead track of the album, and is quite an appropriate first song. Lyrically it perfectly capture Jillette’s determination and grit, like with the line from the chorus, “…But I will not lay down in the road, I will not make it easy…”, while musically, there’s a certain ethereal quality to it that will both enthrall and rouse you instantly, ensuring you’ll be listening intently to the remaining tracks.

The next song, “Cameron”, has a more bare bones sound, at least at first as the piano beautifully sets up this serious track, though there’s a nice build throughout the song that happens gradually before it erupts into an anthem of sorts. On the surface, the song is about a transgender friend of Jillette’s and the struggles faced in his youth. However, when you truly listen to the lyrics, they transcend that situation, applying to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, race, etc., who has ever just felt out of place, as if you don’t belong/fit in. The chorus, “…The world is full of aliens But you are a real, live human…”, is rather brilliant, and Jillette packs it full of emotion and meaning with her powerhouse voice.

A favorite song of mine on the record is “Flood the Ocean”, which is made abundantly cheery with its catchy melody, and it breeds positivity. While the following song, “When The Ship Goes Down”, breaks away from the semi-pop mold cast by the other songs, exhibiting a more classical vibe, which is quite behooving of the elegant mood the song creates, as Jillette croons about wanting to get the most out of her life.

I don’t know if pop is necessarily the best category to lump her music in, because there is a certain sophistication to it that is lacking in much of the pop music you hear on mainstream radio these days, but one song that certainly doesn’t fit that pop classification is “Last Bus Out”. It’s much more up-tempo than the other ten tracks that comprise the album, and is borderline rock, as the band cranks things up and cuts loose. There are some nice electronic elements (in the form of auto-tune) thrown in on a few words here and there, too, and along with the reverb, it adds some nice effects to the song. It’s one you’ll surely be hearing in your head long after you’ve hit the stop button (in a good way, of course.)

If you still have any traces of doubt about what a vocal dynamo Jillette truly is, then “Pauvre Coeur” will be sure to squash it. Her voice is the primary instrument on it, and the listener gets to hear her show off exactly what kind of vocal range she is capable of on this gorgeously sad song, and it may well leave you breathless. The heartache of the song is conveyed perfectly and in much detail, as she paints a very vivid picture for a song that is teeming with emotion, and could be best summed up by the final line, “…I am far too beautiful to be yours.”

Like you might infer from the title, “Peter Pan” is a short number about not wanting to grow up (or at least having a part of you that doesn’t want to.) This rocking little track begins with her (presumably) reminiscing about events from her adolescence, “We don’t get drunk on Tuesday nights anymore. We don’t have the stink from the weed with the towel on the bathroom floor anymore…” It’s yet another great (and infectious) tune this album has to offer, and one that many listeners could probably connect with, as it speaks of your friends growing up, going about their life, while you’re “…the only one left in Neverland…”

Another dazzling track is “Basset Hound”, which tells a tale of being infatuated with someone, and a splendid tale at that. One of the best things about the song, at least in my opinion, is one of its more subtle traits, specifically the way she enunciates “Basset”, putting a little extra emphasis on the “bass” portion of the word, which in turn makes the pronunciation of it completely unique. Sometimes it’s the little nuances like that, that are the difference between an already great song being an excellent one, and such as the case here.

“…Cut split ends to save our strands…”, that seems like the line that would best describe the breakup song “Butterfly Catcher”, which has a slightly more delicate sound than the songs that precede it, yet it manages to have a certain upbeat pop quality, while emanating a melancholy feeling. Sure, those sounds and moods may be a little contradictory, but weaving them together in the way she does is what makes it sound so fantastic.

“Heathen” is easily the most inspirational song on the album, and is another favorite of mine. Like the lead track, it has a certain piousness about it, probably because there are some not so subtle religious undertones to it, like on what strikes me as being a rather profound line, “Cinder blocks around my brain. Came to mock but I remain to pray…” The music bed also boasts a sort of orchestral sound, albeit a scaled back one, which is what really sets the song off.

Bringing this excursion to an end is “True North”, which is a fitting song to close with, and seems to bring the story the album tells full circle. As stated in Jillette’s current bio, it’s about “…coming home and accepting the failures that you endure…” And in the end, it’s the failures as much as the successes that make you into who you’re supposed to be.

All in all, “Water in a Whale” is an utterly flawless record from start to finish, including the two B-sides that are also a part of it (“17” and “Box of Crayons”), which are up to par with the eleven core tracks.

There’s not a song on it that sounds second-rate or inferior to the others, and because it’s so well rounded, I’d say this record is at a caliber that some artists could spend a decade’s long career trying to create and still not manage it.

It traverses between soft and sweet, raw and edgy, and at times, even a bit sultry. But through it all, it’s the passion that really makes “Water in a Whale” so outstanding. I mean, a lot of people can sing, but there’s a more limited number of singers that can squeeze so much emotion into their music, let alone capture that quality so well in a recording studio. That rare feat is something Jillette has accomplished, making each song seem incredibly significant to her, which allows the music to transcend to a whole other level.

She has no doubt set the bar high with “Water in a Whale”, but with such a plentiful amount of natural talent, when it comes time for a sophomore record, I don’t think either her or her fans will have to worry about the dreaded “sophomore slump”.

Purchase the album on:
iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon MP3 / Barnes & Noble / or physical copies from her Online Store

Visit Jillette Johnsons’ websites:
Official Site / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Youtube

Current show schedule:
July 12th at Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, California / July 16 at Joe’s Pun in New York, New York / August 23rd at Fountain Square in Cincinnati, Ohio

imagePhoto Credit: Rebecca Miller

Album Review: “Criminal Birds” by Criminal Birds

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Criminal Birds has been around a relatively short amount of time, only a couple of years, but in that short time the quintet of younger musicians have managed to make somewhat of a name for themselves, even earning praise like they are “on par with any big ticket national act.” as said by Auditory Asylum’s Stephen Ellis.

They’ve obviously been able to make an impression on those who have managed to hear about them, but now, with the release of their debut album, a four track EP released in March 2013, they’re in more of a position to get their name out there, and probably turn a few heads in the process.

Right from the ringing guitar chords that begin “Chill Out” you know you’re in for a treat, as the music bed manages to successfully stitch together the genres the band classifies themselves as. There’s a nice texture to the guitars, which give off more of an ambient sound at first, and the notes are simple, yet complex at the same time. The soupy sound rapidly disappears as they hit the chorus, though, and they show they can rock with the best of them, from aggressive drumbeats to soaring guitar riffs, all of which is matched with Reggie Hastings’s singing, his voice suddenly springing to life. Speaking of his voice, I also quite like the way he enunciates certain words, like “breathe” and “breeze” during the first verse, putting a nice spin on them.

“Wait” starts off with a dynamic rhythm section and builds on the momentum created from the opening track, starting off as a fairly powerful rocker. However, you soon realize the track has a brilliant ebb and flow to it, as it switches gears from a percussion driven indie rock song on the verses to a softer love song vibe on each chorus. All of that combines to make it not only the longest song on the EP (at 5-minutes), but also the most beautiful.

The end of the previous track bleeds perfectly into “Slow Down”, and does exactly as the name suggests, while also evoking a melancholy feeling. “…Bring me to my knees, crippling my feet. Show me you’re lovely, then take it right from me…” Reggie croons near the start of the song, his voice almost completely void of any emotion, which serves to magnify the heartbroken mood the song conveys.

The nearly 18-minute long jaunt through the bands sonic soundscapes comes to a close with “End Daze”, which mines a sound similar to the first track, so it ends almost like it began. It’s another fantastic mix of full-blown Rock ‘n’ Roll with some ambient layers thrown in, and the lyrics, particularly on the bridge, demonstrate how rather profound their writing can be. The line; “It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you’re still a product of your own design. … It doesn’t matter how hard you cry, there’s no pity for those who lie, tangled up in your wicked insides, in your denial.”

In the end, their self-titled debut EP is a wonderfully woven tapestry of sounds that shows off various sides to the group, and it’s hard to fit them into just one category of music.

The music is much more mature than you might think younger musicians (in their early to mid 20’s) would be capable of. That just speaks to their great musicianship, and they come across as sounding like an incredible tight and well coordinated band and you can probably listen to the songs dozens of times over and still discover something new that will catch you interest.

Granted, Criminal Birds isn’t reinventing the wheel or anything (though that could happen in the future), but they are putting a very intriguing and interesting spin on it.

Criminal Birds is:
Reggie Hastings – Vocals / Guitar / Keys
Taylor Dondlinger – Lead guitarist
Gunnar Ebeling - Bass
Grahm Robinson - Drums

Purchase the album on:
BANDCAMP (the EP is FREE to download)

Visit Criminal Birds websites:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE / FACEBOOK / REVERBNATION

imagePhoto credit: Zack Huggins

Album Review: “Born on 4/20” by Alex Allred

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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

Current Shows:
Saturday, June 29th at Liquid Lounge in Dallas, Texas

Album Review: “Cupcake” by Said Kelley

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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

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Album Review: “Pretty Evil Thing” by The Virgin Wolves

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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.)


Visit The Virgin Wolves’ websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Reverbnation / Twitter / Youtube


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.
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Photo credit: Will von Bolton

Album Review: “Erikson” by Lindby

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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.

Lindby is:
Nick Spurrier - Keyboards/Guitar/Vocals
Nick Goodrich - Guitar/Keyboards/Vocals
Kyle Claset - Bass/Vocals
Ali Grant - Vocals/Synth/Organ
Tanner Brown - Drums


Purchase the album on:
iTunes / Bandcamp

Visit Lindby’s Websites:
Official Website / Facebook / Soundcloud / Twitter / Youtube

Current shows include: For the bands full show calendar, go HERE.
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