Category Archives: Indie Albums

Music You Should Hear: The Stereo State’s new EP, ‘Crossing Canyons’

The Stereo State is a great band based out of Holyoke, MA, and features vocalist Andy Frongillo, Drummer Brandon Spence,  guitarist and vocalist Gabe Griffin, guitarist Matthew Spence, and bassist Patrick Kelliher. They combine to create a potent mix of what they call melodic punk. The band has just released their latest EP, Crossing Canyons which the band recorded in June 2012 in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and is being released by Creator-Destructor Records on CD, vinyl, and for download on the band’s Bandcamp page.

The EP starts off with “Across The Susquehanna” which starts with vocals and electric guitar, but soon the whole joins in and creates a great song about coming home. The next song is entitled “Beachball”, and I quite enjoyed this track as it brought me back to bands that came out in the early 2000’s. The third track on the EP is called, “American Bones” to me this was a track that represents how a lyrical narrative should be written. “Say it Again” is the next track on the EP, and I particularly enjoyed this track, but not as much as the next track, “ On The Next Time” which has a real kind of Four Year Strong Feel. The final track on the EP is “The Flood” which is probably my favorite track on the EP because lyrically and musically it has a very dark feel.

Check out The Stereo State’s new EP, Crossing Canyons if you enjoy fast melodic-punk music. Be sure to also check out their 2011′s  Have All My Friends Gone Deaf?

-B. Harlow

 

 

http://thestereostate.bandcamp.com/album/crossing-canyons

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Evan Pharmakis’ Wind In Sails Release Debut Album, ‘Brighter Days’

One of my favorite local artists over the last year has been Evan Pharmakis and his project, Wind in Sails. Pharmakis who was a founding member of the post-hardcore five piece, Vanna has been working on this new softer project since he left the band in January of 2012. Pharmakis has collected his first batch of songs and put them out on a record called, Brighter Days that was released independently through bandcamp.

Brighter Days is a real departure if you were expecting anything like Vanna. The songs are much more subdued and melancholy, but have the same type of power. The album features eight tracks starting with, “Abandon” which is a song that is mainly driven by acoustic guitars, but accentuated nicely by drums and electric guitars. “Deep Down” is the second track on the record, and this is one of my favorite tracks because of the subtle guitar and delicately voiced vocals. Pharmakis touches lyrically on a lot of things in this song mostly losing a friend and starting from scratch. “Live” is the next song on Brighter Days, and I have to say I like this song because of its very interesting verse structure that leads into a very open sounding chorus.

“Murder Backwards” is up next. What drew me to the song initially were the chords in the song. They bring about a bittersweet/melancholy feel. They also keep the song moving into the vocal in which we see Pharmakis excel. At first the vocals are one track, but eventually they split, and a sweet harmony is laid beneath the initial melody. The arrangement may be simple, but it is effective in portraying the mood of the song. The song lyrically seems to deal with moving on from the past and letting go. The song then goes on to speak about moving forward in a different direction.

“Set Adrift” is the next song on the album and features a multi-tracked strummed acoustic, a very nice layered acoustic, and a very bluesy solo played on an electric guitar. The track that is about five and a half minutes in length seems to have a somber feel and seems to reflect Evan’s inner conflict between home and his former band. “Set Adrift” is definitely another favorite off of the album, as is the next track, “Knowing.” “Knowing” is a great song with a very bluesy feel to it, and very dark lyrical content.

“Yours” is the seventh track on the album, and is a blatant love song. I liked the song, and especially what felt like natural reverb on the track. “Breathe” is the eighth and final track on the album, and I like how Pharmakis uses the lyrics of the song to tell a narrative about living a life that is worth living, and opening ones eyes to the world around them.

Brighter Days is a fantastic collection of eight tracks that are really poetry set in motion. Pharmakis does a great job of forming melodies around story lines which brings the listener in. Check this album and Wind in Sails out.

-B. Harlow

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Dispatch Release First Full Album in 12 Years, ‘Circles Around The Sun’

When you try to describe the music from the New England based trio, Dispatch it’s very hard to pigeonhole them to a specific genre. This makes them one of my favorite bands because you never know what you’re going to get. What you do know though is quality. Whether it be a slow song like “Turn This Ship Around” off their 2011 self-titled EP, or the funk inspired “Bats in The Belfrey” off of 1998’s, Bang Bang, you know you’re getting quality music. The band which broke up in 2004 got back together in 2011, and released an EP. Now in 2012 we have the pleasure of listening to their first full length album in 12 years.

The album is entitled, Circles Around the Sun. The album consists of 10 tracks which were primarily written by Chadwick Stokes. The title track starts the album off with a very upbeat guitar track, which is later joined by very upbeat vocals and drum. The song is very enjoyable, and a real curveball to what I was expecting. Next up is the blues inspired, “Not Messin’.”  The song starts off with what sounds like a resonator, this then leads into a very steady sounding guitar riff which is accompanied by a spitfire verse. This track to me is one of the best on the album. Moving on we have the third track on the record, “Get Ready Boy” which is an up-tempo folk sounding song. What drives the song is the constant banjo playing throughout. One of my favorite tracks on the album is the fifth track, “Josaphine” which is a really bluesy number with tremendous guitar and keyboard work. The lyrics are also very cool and narrate a classic love story. The very folk inspired, “Flag” was up next. The mandolin work on this track is simply fantastic, as is the vocal work which goes into multiple harmonies. My second favorite track is entitled, “We Hold a Gun” the song starts with keys, drums, bass, and vocal. This slowly builds to wonderful conclusion. “Feels So Good” finishes the album, and to me it’s a perfect conclusion with a very positive message and sing along chorus. The song may appear to stop around the 2:40 mark, but stay listening and be surprised by the awesome coda.

Overall this album is one of my top 10 so far this year. Stylistically and musically it simply works, and that’s all that matters.

-B. Harlow

Check Out The Music Video for “Circles Around The Sun” Below:

 

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Iceland’s Folk Export, Of Monsters and Men Release Debut Album ‘My Head is an Animal’

Of Monsters and Men is a six piece from the giant isolated island of Iceland. More specifically they come from Garður, a small town of 1,452 people. The band itself consists of singer/guitarist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, co-singer/guitarist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson, guitarist Brynjar Leifsson, drummer Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, piano/accordion player Árni Guðjónsson, and bassist Kristján Páll Kristjánsso. Together they create an intriguing mix of pop and folk music.

The band itself formed very organically as lead singer Hilmarsdóttir was trying to start her act, Songbird. As the music gained complexity built she added Þórhallsson, and eventually the project evolved into Of Monsters and Men. The band got its first big break at Músiktilraunir, when they won a battle of the bands, and since then have been gaining exposure slowly but surely. In 2011 the band released the song “Little Talks”, and by summer the track hit number one in Iceland. This led to exposure throughout the U.S. and eventually their first album, My Head is an Animal was released in Iceland, and in early April it was released in the U.S.

My Head is an Animal is a carefully crafted album featuring twelve tracks, and running at a very reasonable, 56 minutes. The first track is entitled “Dirty Paws” and starts out with a very soft acoustic guitar, and dual vocals by Hilmarsdóttir and Þórhallsson. Eventually the full band kicks in at the chorus. This quiet, then loud dynamic is continued until the song then ends triumphantly and fades. This is when the next track, “King and Lionheart” starts. This song start off with a lightly strummed acoustic guitar, which then gets a beautiful vocal by Hilmarsdóttir laid over it. The band builds its momentum, and then launch into a chorus that sounds like Lissie mixed with Mumford and Sons. The next track that really caught my attention was entitled “Slow and Steady”. “Slow and Steady” is a beautiful composition featuring a well arranged accompaniment, especially the drums which are actually very musical. I was also vert impressed with the layering of guitar parts that are set perfectly back in the mix, and give it a very open and wide feel. The jovial track “Little Talks” was the next track that grabbed my interest. It starts with an upbeat horn line which is followed by a verse with just guitar that builds towards a very fulfilling chorus.  “Your Bones” is the ninth track on the album, and features a beautiful vocal performance by Þórhallsson, with only occasional vocal input from Hilmarsdóttir. “Yellow Light” is the final track on the album and it ends the collection in a very serene and peaceful manner.

Overall I believe that My Head is an Animal is a genius collection of tracks, and I hope to see more from this tremendous act in the future.

-B. Harlow

 

Check Out The music video for “Little Talks” below:

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Something in The Way They Groove: Alabama Shake’s new Album ‘Boys & Girls’

If you took the Blues, Country, Soul, and Rock n’ Roll and then put them in a blender you’d get the amazing mix that is known as, Alabama Shakes. Alabama Shake’s is a great four piece from Athens, Alabama, and features soulful Vocalist/Guitarist Brittany Howard, Bassist Zac Cockrell, Drummer Steve Johnson, and Lead Guitarist Heath Fogg. They started very organically and wanted to obtain a certain sound that mixed James Brown and Ottis Redding with AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. What they got was a gritty, foot stomping, good time band.

The experiment was a success, and after performing at a Nashville record store buzz for the band reached an all-time high. The band then found themselves recording their debut record Boys &Girls. Boys &Girls is an eleven track masterpiece encapsulating all of the band’s influences. The first track “Hold On” reminded me of Creedence Clearwater Revival, mixed with The Rolling Stone’s bluesy swagger.  The second track “I Found You” is a great soul influenced track, where Brittany Howard shows her tremendous vocal ability. The third track is entitled “Hang Loose” this track is one of my favorites on the album it features a very Stones-esque groove, mixed with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s southern stomp. The next track is entitled “Rise To the Sun” which is a slow ballad reminiscent of 50’s and 60’s soul.  The next track to take note of is “Heartbreaker” which is an awesome Janis Joplin influenced piano driven ballad. “I Ain’t the Same” is the second to last song, and the last song I took notice of. The song is a great example, of when the rhythm section, guitars, and vocals combine to be more than the sum of their parts.

If you love Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Led Zeppelin this is the band for you. They follow in the footsteps of these great musicians and I have to give them major props for putting out an honest record.

-B. Harlow

Check Out The Music Video For “Hold On” Below:

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Max And The Moon’s new EP ‘The Way I See’

Today southern California’s Max and The Moon are planning to release their second EP entitled ‘The Way I See’. The EP will be a follow up to the band’s self-titled EP which they released in 2010. Starting in 2009 Max and The Moon had terrific musicians including Cal State, Fulerton, graduate, guitarist John Velasquez. The band also features brothers Matt and Dillon Couchois. The music itself features very smart reverb laden guitar playing, with tremendous piano and, very precise drumming and bass playing from Zachariah Weaver. The band also features exquisite dual vocals from both Velasquez and Couchois. The band also did something very interesting to fund the recording of the EP when they used the site kickstarter.com to raise funds for recording expenses.

The EP itself features four carefully put together tracks that are produced and mixed beautifully. The standout track of the EP is ‘Out of My Head’, but before that we have the intro track entitled ‘Light House’. ‘Light House’ is a great track that runs around four and a half minute mark. The song starts off with a very nice vocal arrangement that then leads into the whole band coming in. The song also features the dual vocal attack of Velasquez and Couchois which adds a certain light and dark contrast not seen in bands with a singular vocalist. The next track is the standout track ‘Out of my Head’ which is an amazing song. It starts out with a very cool instrumental section which leads into a heavily piano and guitar driven intro. The verse comes in next and is very soft compared to the intro. The chorus then picks up where the intro left off with great guitar playing and, bombastic piano playing. The next track is entitled ‘The Way I See’ the track has a very jazzy feel, along with vocals that move in and out to create an interesting big picture. The final track on the EP is called ’The Walk’ which is a slow ballad type song that features both a traditional blues swagger, along with reverb and delay drenched guitars reminiscent of U2’s The Edge’s guitar sound. These two elements give the track a spectacular indie feel.

Over all this is a great EP. I suggest you check it out and help these guys gain the recognition they deserve. Check out their Facebook page and buy their EP.

 

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