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3.7 out of 5
By Ted Rogen
Jamie Benzine’s musical moniker simply called Benzine is a musical project that has produced three EPs over a year’s time. This creative endeavor, called Mechanisms, in which the first EP came out in January of this year. The second EP aptly named EP II, which we will be reviewing today, came out in September and the last one is slated for release in January of next year.
EP II is made up of three songs that combine elements of a rock opera as well as sludge metal and contemporary metal. The songs are technically and creatively ambitious as they weave a surplus of variation within the songs as well as between the songs.
The first sound you are greeted with is an ominous sole organ on “Devil’s Care.” Before you know it the song is bombarded with crashing drums and distorted guitars that cut through you like a knife. When Benzine sings in a lower octave you swear you were listening to Josh Homme but when he pushes his vocals he sounds like a maniacal metal singer from the 80’s. The song is pretty much a straightforward metal song except when you get a little past the 3:00 minute mark. Benzine breaks out a psychedelic riff that sounds like it’s emanating from a deserted amusement park that became haunted.
“Fireships” is a high-octane metal song showcasing some proficient guitar skills as well as some more experimentation into the rock opera vibe he created but it almost acts like a preemptive strike for “Vathek’s Tower.” The seven-plus minute epic sprawls with variation and grand visions throughout its entirety. It contains a piano riff that sounds like something the Phantom of the opera may be playing in his lair. The first three minutes of the song basically gets more intense as each moment passes. There's a slight breakdown but it quickly ramps back out to a visceral musical purge. The song leaves you slightly scared as if you were running through a maze trying to escape a masked chainsaw killer.
Mechanisms is an ambitious project and EP II has some fine moments on it that caught my attention.
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A Vegas Marriage
A Vegas Marriage
3.7 out of 5
By Dan Alcantara
A Vegas Marriage has been making rock & roll the old fashioned way – a guitar, a bass, some drums, and some singing. It's a tried and true formula that can't really get old. Since their inception, the New York City-based band has been playing in NYC and New Jersey and released their first EP A Vegas Marriage this year. They recorded at Red Room Studio in Staten Island and the result is pure 100% proof rock & roll.
When I started listening to A Vegas Marriage, I had an immediate sense of familiarity with their sound. It wasn't something that I could pin down to a specific aspect of the band, it was more like they were channeling a lot of stuff that I've listened to and enjoyed in the past and had distilled it down to what they felt were the essentials. And all of that was within the first two minutes of the opening track.
The start of "Don't You Ever" sounds like a Jet song and continues until you get to bassist/vocalist Matthew Pellicano's decidedly non-gravelly-voice singing about getting the upper hand in the failure of a relationship. It's a great song in spite of the chorus lacking something in the way of a hook or really sing-able melody. That's remedied in "The Outside" which features some really expansive, atmospheric background vocals during the chorus that beg to be heard again. The third track, "Breakthrough" begins in very Every Rose Has Its Thorn fashion and kind of continues that way.
The band turns the volume and the intensity back up with "Something To See,” a heavy rocker with a chaotic chorus. "Freight Train" feels just like that as it begins, with southern and blues inspired guitars driving the song steadily along. It's a brilliant use of musical alliteration and really ties the music and lyrics together. On the final track, the band moves onto a couple of acoustic guitars, turns up the reverb, and really shows the resemblance that Pellicano's voice has with Arctic Monkey's Alex Turner, albeit, Pellicano hasn't got Turner's accent. Then the guitar solo happens.
This is a pretty good record with some solid tunes, though it does feel like there's a bit of a chasm between the music itself and the lyrics sung over it on occasion. A bit more cohesion between the two would have been beneficial but besides this minor issue the record delivers.
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3.8 out of 5
By Eva Cantillo
Lark Remy brings us her latest EP titled Host. This three-track EP is just dripping with drama; one could call this music goth electronica or alternative pop with an industrial edge. The electronic music plus the addition of Remy’s sultry voice really adds a new-age feel to the EP and makes unique, original compositions that you will want to spend some time with.
The first track on the album titled “Host,” really showcases what this artist’s sound is all about. The song starts off with some seductive whisper-like lyrics and as the background beat builds, so do the vocals. The chorus of the song includes lyrics “I’m infected,” and it matches the sentiment that is presented by the sound of the song. There seems to be a bit of confusion in the melody of the background beat though, sometimes I feel as though it skips a beat or inertly repeats a beat, almost tripping over itself. I am not sure if this intentional. The song continues on with ethereal effects and is closed off with intense drama-filled lyrics.
The next song, “Phoenix,” follows somewhat of a similar vibe yet starts off with a more upbeat and hard-hitting string of lyrics. There is a reverberation of industrial sound that holds down the song and then the vocals of Remy effortlessly skim over the top of these deep, dark beats. There is intense determination in the vocals and there is passion within each facet of this song. The last song, “Light Me Up,” is very different from the first two songs. It is soft and mellow and she uses her vocals in an angelic way. There are still remnants of her industrial influences, yet they are almost non-existent in this song. It can be classified as alternative indie pop.
Both this album and this artist represent a unique genre that is seldom seen. She takes a new spin on industrial punk-pop music and adds more sultry passion and edgier electronic influences. The quality of the album is commendable; her sometimes-soft vocals do not get muddled in the heavy industrial sounds in the background. Despite this her voice is extremely attractive throughout to create a very enjoyable experience.
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Thinking Of Good Things
3.7 out of 5
By Dan Alcantara
I've got to say that taking on a review of this sort is a bit intimidating because I don't have as much context for funk music as I feel would be necessary to do a good review. But then, coming in with almost no experience does give me the advantage of judging the sound for what it is rather than what it's supposed to be. And my initial impression of The Huffers is that they remind me of The Specials with the energy of Madness. Many times during my work writing these reviews, I notice that the instrumental music seems to be without a purpose. Like the composer was throwing stuff at the wall to see what would stick and then would paint over the rest of the space with glue and keep throwing.
That simply is not the case with The Huffers, a post-punk influenced funk band. Though, that description combined with what I hear coming out of the speakers screams ska. The compositions that make up their EP Thinking Of Good Things feel like just that - compositions. The songs, with the exception of "Judges,” (the lone cover), were written by trombonist and bandleader Buford O'Sullivan. They've got such novelties as structure and movement, leading one to believe that these are actual songs rather than mood pieces. To ears that hear a lot of music, it's so refreshing to get outside of what I listen to on a daily basis and to have that rewarded by a band that's really working to make good music.
I know that it's a bit of a reach, but the very first measure of "Whole Steps" reminded me of the very first few measures of The Specials' “Do The Dog.” That resemblance quickly disappeared, giving way to a very present and very groovy bass guitar foundation underneath the horn section. The title track has much more of a 70's R&B disco vibe to it. Of the four tracks, it feels the most cinematic, like it's playing during the opening credits. The band plays with a backbeat and an even more relaxed feel on "Better With You.” Even with the loose nature of the song, it still manages to feel structured and deliberate. The opening to "Judges,” feels very spaghetti western until everything tightens up and the focus goes to the play between bass and guitar.
Overall, with my limited experience, this feels like an objectively good piece of music. I have no idea how it would stand up against what's considered canonical in the funk world, but it sure does sound good to me.
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The Pick Brothers Band
4.0 out of 5
By Matt Jensen
Pink Lemonade by The Pick Brothers Band is proof that you can still sound original in this day and age with traditional instruments (and some non-traditional ones as well since I am pretty sure I heard a kazoo). The Pick Brothers Band is actually three brothers who are extremely gifted songwriters as well as technically proficient musicians and use their skills creatively throughout the album. You are bombarded with rich instrumentation such as bass, horns, mandolin, guitar and much more, which creates a huge variety of sound in this eclectic surplus of sounds.
From the first moments of “Can’t Be You” you know you are going to be in for a treat. The song starts off with solid a drum beat with crazy hi-hat work that get catapulted into the next level craftsmanship when the bass and guitar enter (the bass line is great – it reminded me of Menomena). As the song progresses it tends to cross-pollinate between rock as well as ska. The title track “Pink Lemonade” has some of the best whistling this side of Andrew Bird as well as powerful yet subtle piano. As wonderful as the instrumentation is it’s the vocals that are exceptional. Towards the end of the song it veers to a gospel choir revival that Spiritualized would be proud of. Another exceptional song is “Circles,” which fuses together their technical prowess and creative ambition while “Hey Sugar!” is a funk-based bass thumper.
“Drunk Singing Happy” may be the best song on the album. The songs title feels absolutely like the song. I was sober while listening to it but it would be a great song to put on while drinking with friends to sing along with. The song explodes with beautiful string work and a stunning vocal performance. It is an essential listen on the album. “Stay With Me” is sung in a falsetto while utilizing some more impressive bass work as well vocal harmonies.The album closes with the exuberant “Moonlight,” which contains an ample amount of energy and ends with a bang.
From beginning to end this album is a good if not great album with very few flaws. Pink Lemonade brings you original music that demands any music fan’s attention. It is highly recommended.
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The Falling Birds
3.7 out of 5
By Ted Rogen
Stephen Harausz (guitar and vocals) and David Burton (drums and percussion) had been playing music together for about two years as a two-piece before meeting Nick Albury (bass, mandolin and lap steel). The synergy between the three was immediate and they formed The Falling Birds and quickly got to work on their first release entitled Native America. The EP is very diverse and they jump from genre to genre never quite landing on a specific sound within their five songs. They dabble in folk, bluegrass and hardrock to name a few and they deliver the goods.
Native America opens with a 1970’s inspired rocker called “Darling,” which utilizes some classic guitar hooks with crashing Bonham style drumming and solid bass work. I was impressed by the visceral vocal delivery by Harausz who sings from his gut throughout the song. Even when the band mellows out for a bit Harausz’s voice is subdued but still sounds as if it is yearning for his “Darling.” The second song “If Time Allows” can't be more different than the first. It is a beauty that combines five-to-one walking bass lines, clean guitars and harmonica to create a blend of country, bluegrass, folk and rock. As the song progresses it visits different shades of emotional ambiguity. Around the 2:00 mark the song is drenched in melancholy but by the end of the song it invites us to the local tavern to hoedown with your partner.
“Arms Out Wide” introduces us to some classic surf rock guitar and vocal harmonies that might sound right at home on the next Quentin Tarantino flick while “Dead Man Walking” is a straight up rocker song. The EP’s last song is an acoustic number free of percussion called “A New York Love Song” in which Harausz delivers an inspired performance that relies on nostalgia and melancholy.
The only real issue I have with this EP is the personality disorder it has. Every song feels a bit detached from the rest as The Falling Birds fearlessly jump from genre to genre. Despite the lack of fluidity the songs themselves are well written and showcase the talent these three men have. Native America has created a good foundation that explores the creativity the band will have to offer on their full length.
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4.0 out of 5
By Ted Rogen
I was playing the album Only Instinct by Colorado Youth in my living room with my girlfriend in the other room when she shouted, “Who is this? I love it.” The feelings she had were the same as mine as the album is full gorgeous of songs that are bursting with heartfelt emotion. It’s always a treat when you listen to an album that creates pop music that is done correctly and Colorado Youth hit it out of the park with this one.
Colorado Youth is the collaboration of Jacob Folk (the main songwriter), Sam Popkin, Beau Gordon and Dana Falsetti. Their tale is a bit of a redemption story in that were originally in a band called The Zealots separated by college only to reform in 2013 as Colorado Youth. How they managed to write and record these songs in less than a year is beyond my comprehension.
The album begins with a soulful song called “Tricks,” which puts the warm organ as the vital instrument to create the canvas for Folk to sing over. It’s really a beautiful melody that combines the perfect amount of melancholy, revival and optimism. A solid start if maybe a bit unusual way to start the album. The second song “Gila” is bit more loose and carefree. It’s a song full of catchy guitar lines and one of the most infectious choruses I have heard in quite some time. One of the most sparse songs “The Moon” was also one of the best on the album. The banjo and organ sounded warm against the acoustic guitar as Folk gives one of most emotionally charged vocal performances.
I really enjoyed Jacob Folk’s voice but Dana Falsetti’s vocal performance on “The Lucky Ones” was captivating. Her voice never strained but sounds deep and rich as it fills the air. My only complaint is that the song ended too soon. I was waiting for it and they delivered on “Fare You Well” where Folk’s and Falsetti’s harmonize to deliver a memorable vocal duet. They end with the epic seven-plus minute “When It's All Said And Done,” which reaches great heights and places in between.
Only Instinct is a well-rounded album that brings you pop songs with just the right amount of emotional resonance. Grab a glass a wine and immerse yourself.
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Band Of Broken Dreams
3.7 out of 5
Turn down the lights, put on a pair of nice headphones, grab a snack and a beverage, and toss on Band Of Broken Dreams By J Franke Band. The cover art is a stunning indication of what to expect from the album; simple and straightforward, the barebones drawing of musical instruments left abandoned and on their stands gives an impression of a dream forgotten.
Each song on the album has wonderfully well thought out guitar riffs and melodies working in cooperation with some of the most honest vocals I’ve ever heard. Eschewing auto-tune and fancy tactics, these were obviously meant to come straight from the heart to narrate a story. The lyrics in “Band of Broken Dreams” grab your attention immediately, and the supporting guitar work makes your head bob. This is an encompassing title song, and a great way to start the album. “Dylan Song” opens with a beautiful guitar riff, supported by simple drumming and bass that evens the higher parts of the song out.
A few of the songs are jam packed with energy and optimism. “If Only We Were Young” should be every young adult’s theme song. Later in the album, “Paradise City Song” appears with an exotic melody played with very intricate guitar work. This song also features an extremely creative riff, the kind that intertwines itself with your memory and reappears at a later time.
Some of the most heartfelt songs are also contained in the middle of this album. “Willie” wraps a valuable life lesson about facing up to your mistakes in a humorous, catchy, easy to remember chorus. “Just For You” is the love song of the album, and sounds like it was written for a significant other, someone who would hear it and would immediately understand it was just for them.
And then there’s “Man In The Moon”, probably one of the most entrancing songs on the album. It has a sinister, dark sound. I loved how the fast paced chorus does an uneven, tumbling breakdown into the steady tempo of the verse.
This was an enjoyable listen from beginning to end. The genuine, not-quite-perfect vocals offer a sense of humanity and a confidence that made it easy to identify with; the lyrical content was written from the heart, and clearly meant to impart a message to the listener. The guitar playing is crisp and the melodies were both complex and intriguing, and more than a few riffs have true staying power. If you’re looking for an artfully crafted story steeped in the realms of human nature and carried by refreshing melodies, look no further.
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Left Handed Orchestra
You Were Right
3.9 out of 5
By Matt Jensen
Michael van Veen is a one-man project from the Netherlands and makes music under the moniker Left Handed Orchestra. He recently wrapped up a fantastic five-song EP entitled You Were Right. The thought was to make it sound as simple and organic as possible. In order to achieve this he didn't use any virtual instruments or plug-ins for that matter and the results are splendid. The songs are filled with rich textures and sounds from a variety of instruments.
Van Veen is an exceptional songwriter who is able to create accessible songs while utilizing an experimental canvas to play in. Each one of the five songs puts different instruments in the forefront, which creates a good amount of variation between songs.
You Were Right starts with the gypsy sounding "Up In A Tree," which has the best string work on the album. Percussion surrounds the senses as it forms a symbiotic relationship with the guitars to create a bed of textures to be sung over. It all comes together when the vocal harmonies are introduced to the song.
“Illustrated Machinery” is the highlight of the album and reminded me of one of my favorite bands Sunset Rubdown. He even sounds similar to Spencer Krug on this song. The song has an unsettlingly vibe that is created through what sounds like organs and radio transmissions. Who needs computers anyways?
“Cardboard Caravan” has if I'm not mistaken some mean cowbells while “Soapbox Derby” is a lush song with some more exceptional string work. The album closes with a short but great song called “Obsolete.” This song without a doubt had the best vocal line that segues into a dreamlike soundscape filled with rich instrumentation such as horns.
Left Handed Orchestra is very well done and left me hungry for a full length. I hope to hear more from this talent.
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3.6 out of 5
By Ted Rogen
Forming in 2009 Magazine Society quickly built a following from their live shows that they were playing in Florida. The group is made up of Julio Berrones, Joe Lamberson, Danny DaSilva, Miguel Quintana and Kevin Kelley and they were constantly rocking out in venues such as Van Dykes, Churchill’s Pub, Tobacco Road and more. It wasn't long before the fans were demanding a recorded format so they could enjoy their songs whenever they wanted.
They recently released a six-song self-titled album Magazine Society that they worked on for three years. The album is a straightforward pop/rock record and can be compared to acts such as Kings Of Leon, The Killers and Coldplay. Even though the music is pretty straightforward there is a lot of variety between the songs. They rock out, get a bit emotional and even have a couple of moments that make you want to take out your dancing shoes.
The album opens with one of the best songs entitled “More Than Life” which is an upbeat catchy pop song. I thoroughly enjoyed the distorted lead guitar solo and anthemic background vocals. There was also a slight 80’s metal vibe to the song, which added a bit of nostalgia to the song for me. “Payback” was straight up rocker that utilized the same lead guitar with a slight delay as they had on the first song. The vocal melody was infectious on this tune but Berronnes gives his best performance on “Put It On Me” which is a slower ballad with an emotional anchor that rocks out in a nostalgic manner. The song could be considered a bit too grandiose in the same way some Coldplay songs are.
They end the album with an upbeat song called “Till You See,” which I’m sure is one of the best songs to see live. The song has a lot of changes throughout and even has a lead guitar line that reminded of the one from “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand.
Magazine Society is well written, eclectic and has great production. The only issue I have with it is that the songs sound a bit too familiar at times. Other than that Magazine Society has created a solid album for their long-time fans to finally embrace.