To call any new artist victorious may be a very bold move but when it comes to using that word when applied to their music, it couldn’t be any better. That’s what Tree Machines have done with their brand new self-titled EP, their debut release. Douglas Wooldridge and Patric Aubry know about the tricks of the trade, which means being able to pull up elements to emphasize on how to create auras and mysteries to make their songs efgective. It is pop music, no doubt, but they do so in a manner that’ll make you smile, smirk in laughter, and just make you go “wow, I can’t believe someone still makes music like this”. In a song like “Misunderstood” the lyrics may be about a relationship that went to a place you did not intend, but hearing it will make you feel it may be the opposite, or at least have fun while telling that story. As far as groups that are duos, Tree Machine may be as creative as the guys in Qui, even though they sound nothing like one another. I just like the fact that people are making music like this that are not only good if not great, but are a necessity that makes me want to say more people need this in their lives. The lyrics can be serious but are also not afraid in using humor in a subtle manner or sarcasm that may not be obvious at first. Everything on their EP evens out, let the songs take you in and then listen to it again. The seven songs here will have to hold until they decide to come out with another EP, or are ready for a full length LP.
(Tree Machine’s debut EP will be released on March 31st.)
IF you love pop along the lines of Ben Folds, you will love Hidden In The Sun. If you love the kind of bluesy rock that The Black Crowes became known for, Hidden In The Sun are your band. If you love your country with a bit of pop or rock attitude, Seven Seasons (self-released) will be one of your favorite albums of the year, and there are many reasons why. Hidden In The Sun, who are Lizzie Clapper (vocals), Scott Rouse (drums), Jason Vivrette (bass), Ciara McAllister (keyboards), and Sean Alexander (guitar), are a band who enjoy being a sponge and taking out their influences into their music, showing how it can be going from place to place while showing a level of consistently throughout. In a song like “Waiting On The Storm” it may make one reminisce about a powerful soul song heard years ago, but then they may turn into a blues rock dirge a in “My Magdeline” and keep it in the ground until it grows into something new. McAllister comes off like a bit of a John Medeski, Booker T. Jones, or Norah Jones with how she plays, where it can be anything from jazz to rock to blues and everywhere in between, she may become the group’s secret weapon, if she isn’t already. She isn’t the only one that stands out in this group, for being a tight group is all about interactivity with one another, a feeling where you know where your band mate will go to next or taking a risk by playing something to find out where they’ll head to. They sound like that type of band that could take off in that direction in the future, especially in “Waiting On The Storm”, where it seems they could get locked in a jam and stay there until they unfold somewhere that’ll surprise them, all while knowing when the conclusions are about to hit. With a group like Hidden In The Sun, you’re going to find them to sound like a number of your favorite groups, players, and singers, but in time they will become their own and you will not know where you were until they arrived in your life. Seven Seasons may not change the game in a cliched manner, but they have enough games to make you want to play your own with them as the soundtrack.
The last time you heard from Nick Lutsko, he came out with a folk debut that caused people to say he is an artist worth keeping track of. So what to make of a new album that may initially sound nothing like folk, at least at first? That is the nature of Etc. (self-released), as we are now being allowed to hear his et cetera, his “other things”.
He does get on the folk side with “Okay” but otherwise, he’s getting into rock and its different variations, a bit of groove in his style of funk, a bluesy vine where you might think John Mayer was in the room, or a bit of electronic inspiration. Despite the variations he is doing and undoing in these songs, his lyrical and songwriting inspiration remains the song, or at least what tempts him to write is still there, it just happens to be placed in new containers. I like it when someone twists things to fool with people’s perception, all while showing the heart Lutsko shows remains the same.
(Etc. will be released on March 17th.)
Work The Circuits (Twelve Inch) is the new album by Rick Valentin, whom you may know as a member of Poster Children or Salaryman. If you have enjoyed his contributions there, then you will definitely immerse yourself in the music found here. Work The Circuits sounds something straight out of the early 80’s with new wave textures and synth pop/rock, and while some audiences will be able to compare it with what worked, hearing songs like “In The Right”, “Shine Me On”, and “Bully” is nothing more than hearing songs that are composed exceptionally well. If the lyrics have a bitter sting, you’ll feel it verbally and musically. If there’s something that brings up feelings of joy, it may not be too obvious at times but it’s there. One may hear hints of nine inch nails, Thomas Dolby, Type-O Negative, Smashing Pumpkins, or Gary Numan but in time there will be people who will compare the new songs to Thoughts Detecting Machines, and you can have Work The Circuits to thank.
If Winter Bare (self-release) tells the tales of a man who fares and hates the moods of what winter can provide to the mind, then Jeremy Bass knows exactly how to get those stories and tales out of his head and into musical form, as a means to turn around the occasional melancholy and see better times in the forthcoming season. By the time this album is released in April, it will have been spring for almost a month but Bass is someone who takes to his pop with elements of rock, folk, and country to turn up a style of music that is rootsy, warm, and rich with the kind of textures where you’re able to see it breathe and watch its pores expand. Part of the reason why songs such as “One More Cigarette”, “Winterlude (Banjo For Annie”) and “Lift Me Up” sound as strong and powerful as they are is because they were written during a downtime in Bass’ life, including getting divorced and selling the home they lived in. Putting those feelings in words and music can be a rough one but we’re able to here what he was going through and what he did in order to get from an end to new beginnings. It’s a bit like listening to an album by The Band you had never heard of before but recognize the cover, only to realize this album should’ve been part of your life as a kid. His next album is set to be full of bossa nova influences but for now, listen to what a cold life can feel like when the only thing you’re able to is throw in a log in the fireplace, one by one, to let you feel the madness but hope that it is all you need to get by for now.
(Winter Bare will be released on April 14th.)
Jared Putman is back with his new set of music as The March Divide and if you got into him for the first time with his Billions album, he’d like for you to continue with an EP simply called +1 (self-released). At first, I thought his style of singing in the opening cut (“Forward Thinking”) was a strong as Lenny Kravitz’s on his 5 album and tour but then the attitude came off like what Green Day has become, a nice mixture of punk and pop. It caught me by surprise but it’s welcome to hear something that may come off as diverse but also familiar. “Slow Down” has a slight Elvis Costello swagger to it, but “The Breakup” sounds like a ballad ready to sulk into and eat your life away through crappy chocolate bars until someone better comes along. Putnam is someone who isn’t afraid to express his deep feelings, and whether they are direct and to the point or full of metaphors is something meant to be figured out during each listen. He sounds like someone you’d love to get to know more with his music and more importantly, to hear more of what he has to offer in the future because his stories equal to those you’ve felt before. If radio was smart, they’d put the songs of +1 in heavy rotation.
Artist Michael Williams Gilbert states that “much contemporary and electronic music suffers from a coldness or soullessness” so his response is to make something that brings back life into it, or that lives will be touched by the music he creates, and he does so with a deciphering system known as Secret Stories (GIBEX). The opening track is fitting of its title, “In Transit”, for it’s sommething that sounds worthy of a travel, perhaps intentionally funky in its own way like a Kraftwerk song, where one thinks “is this meant to be funky or is it just part of the pulse that ia meant to drive me to my destination?” “Dream Within A Dream” sounds like different elements or portions of other songs where you’re unsure where one thing begins or if we are interrupting something in progress, but it’s a bit on the instrumental side of Pink Floyd of the A Momentary Lapse Of Reason era. The classical touches are nice too and I also enjoy the counter-melodies when they are detected.
Gilbert is able to take his music to unique places and I wonder if the entire album is meant to have a running theme or a concept, as some of it reminds me of the works of Mike Oldfield. Perhaps he is inspired by those who were also inspired to take their music one step forward or higher, or to take what existed before and either continue it or start all over again with a new path. The material on Secret Stories would also be perfect for television shows or movies, as I could see this being used for tranquil scenes or thought provoking sequences and yet the album is something that is worth an intense listen or even a bit of meditation. Although I would find the intensity of portions of the album to be a bit more intense that could interrupt a meditative state, yet some of the songs are perfect for calm moods.
Now that Sonic Youth is officially over, we’re able to hear material from the other members, perhaps in a slightly different light. For Lee Ranaldo, perhaps it’s another way to hear his music and lyrics in a different way, away from the noise, the heaviness, and the occasionally ugliness although his music has always been very distinct from Thurston Moore’s and Kim Gordon’s. For Acoustic Dust (El Segell Del Primavera), the title basically tells the story, as the album has him playing acoustic guitars while being accompanied primarily by other acoustic instruments. It is his third album with The Dust, and if there’s something that makes these songs unique (if you want to call it that), it’s a distinct and simplified sound. One way to compare it is with the covers that are on here: Neil Young’s “Revolution Blues”, The Monkees’ “You Just May Be The One”, and Sandy Denny’s “Bushes And Briars”. You might expect to hear this at Farm Aid or the Bridge School Benefit, and perhaps jamming with Tom Petty or maybe choosing to do some ki ho’alu. Ranaldo sounds very comfortable in this mode but he has always done well with coverage a wide range of different textures, but it’s his stories that help pull you deeper into these songs and want to hear them over and over, or know that they will be there for you in the future when needed.
As someone who has followed Sub Pop Records for almost 30 years, it’s surprising and perhaps a bit of a shock that they have released something as soulful, moving, and powerful as THEESatisfaction and their album EarthEE but I’m glad they have done so. You might call this natural soul, neo-soul, earthy soul but personally, I simply want to call this soul that is able to branch out and find new things. The first person I am reminded of when I hear the voices of Stasia “Stas” Irons and singer Catherine “Cat” Harris-White is Georgia Anne Muldrow, as they’re all able to sing beautifully and with sensuality, then throw out dope rhymes without a fear of holding back words. They can be poetic in a romantic sense, then touch into the earth or the streets and tell you directly what they feel. You can also say this is along the lines of folks like Erykah Badu or Jill Scott but also with a slight OFWGKTA tendency, which means if they wanted to step out of the boundaries you expect them to remain in, they will do so. When you hear them rap in “Blandland”, you may immediately say “this would sound nice with Ladybug Mecca” and while she doesn’t show up, who does show up is fellow Digable Planets member Ishmael Butler, which is a chance for THEESatisfaction to extend their Seattle connection and show that family can be family when there is a sense of commonality. Me’Shell NdegeOcello finds her way nicely in “WerQ” and even with every cameo appearance the album features, it is still distinctively the sound of THEESatisfaction, and the song they’re creating/defining for themselves is enough to make people want to hang around for future endeavors.
Heavy Electricity (Sargent House) by Ireland’s No Spill Blood is proof that a band can still make angry music without sounding as if they’re trying to cater (too much) to anyone but themselves. In other words, the rage they play in their music sounds as if they’re giving each other last messages in case one of them dies, as if they’re saying “I want you to pass this to a loved one, I do so with confidence.” A lot of the riffs could be considered metallesque with sounds and rhythm sequences bordering on electronic mayhem, if not on the industrial side. Now mix that with punk or speed metal and it sounds like the perfect blend to down with the ship together and you feel the glory of the misery. “Harsh Route” even has some synth parts that sounds like something from a Foreigner, Styx Black Sabbath song, bright and moist but never out of place, especially when they morph that into something much uglier. The lyrics and and should be appreciated for those who may not be able to deal with the every day issues of simply living but there is always a small hint of brightness on the other side, if you’re willing to give it a listen.
(Heavy Electricity will be released on March 10th.)