E.P. REVIEW: We Love Poograss by The Paraquat Boys

Screenshot_2021-01-01 Stefan Molyneux Responds To His YouTube Ban

The Paraquat Boys are a bluegrass/folk comedy trio consisting of two uncles and a nephew. Having just started out there’s not much biographical information about them but the three members consist of Uncle Lee on guitar, Uncle Jinx on mandolin and Baby Nephew on banjo. They have recently released their three song demo.

This E.P., We Love Poograss, captures their unique and highly amusing brand of stoner humour, as evidenced by the opening song Butt Mudd. Set to a simple 2/4 rhythm replete with bizarre percussive noises, the trio sing in unison delivering a hilarious story of dating ineptitude: “Made you a butt mudd cake, I hope it tastes really great …”. After the lucky recipient decides she doesn’t like it, the trio opine, “What else can my body make?“. I’ll let the listener hear where the song goes, but the melody is actually very catchy and soon sticks in the mind.

The following song The 3 Dubba Yous is similarly infectious and they know it, as evidenced by the opening lines: “Whisky and women and weed till I’m dead, won’t be long before this song’s in your head…”. The song is a very anthemic ode to the hedonistic pleasures of life and the verses are entertaining in themselves. You could imagine this being the big audience singalong song when The Paraquat Boys get to play live.

The final song, 1800Paraquat, is essentially their signature song featuring a bluesy and raw lead vocal expressing the downside of a marijuana habit: “Well I like pot, yeah I like it a lot, smoke all day with a cough, cough, cough…”.The second verse explains how the song got its title (Paraquat is a kind of weed killer) : “Doctor told he a horrible story , spraying pesticides from a laboratory over pot fields growin’ in their glory, now I got myself an upper respiratory…”. So now we know why they’re called The Paraquat Boys!

Overall, this is a hugely entertaining and enjoyable E.P. by a unique family trio who combine bluegrass and folk with their inimitable style of humour. All three songs are hugely infectious and some of the lines will make you laugh out loud. The Paraquat Boys deserve a wide audience.

VERDICT = 8.6 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Rough Draft by Psychopath Etiquette

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Psychopath Etiquette are a folk rock duo consisting of two brothers, David and Paul Sprague. Based in Southern Maine, U.S.A, they have been playing together for over a decade. They formed this band in 2019 and their music is the culmination of many years of work. They cite influences such as Bright Eyes, Damien Rice and Modest Mouse amongst others.

This EP, Rough Draft, contains six songs and is a precursor to their first full length release. It starts with the alt. folk of trash (treasure), bringing to mind the authentic, heartfelt and slightly tortured style of Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, captured succinctly by the title hook: “She was my treasure, I was her trash…”.

Second track line #9 really shows the innate melodicism of their music, combining the simple synergy of The White Stripes with the deceptively catchy off-kilter style of The Pixies and a punk pop band like The Buzzcocks. Third track all the time again shows their knack for instantly infectious vocal melodies, the acoustic guitar chords having a jazzy tilt.

Fourth track heart vs head is another joyous burst of garage rock, full of the ramshackle charm that you associate with a band like The Libertines. This is followed by show and tell, one of their folk rock ballads that strike the right kind of world weary melancholy note.

The EP closes with when anxieties attack. It’s a potent distillation of their unique style, an angst ridden epic contained within three minutes that begins with just guitar and vocal. The lyrics are deeply moving, offering the hand of friendship to someone at their lowest: “I’ll be there when you fall, if you call…when the shadows have stolen your spark…” The final lines are the sucker punch, as you realise the hand of friendship being offered is to the listener: “I’ll be there in your headphones so you never have to face it alone…”.

Overall, this is an excellent EP by a talented band of brothers. They encapsulate the charm of alternative folk/rock where words have meaning, vocals are heartfelt and instruments passionately played. With a consistently high quality across the entire EP, Psychopath Etiquette’s first full length album should be a major one.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Wash It All Away by Working Flakes

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Working Flakes are a three-piece indie/alternative rock band based in New York. The band consists of Chris Agar (vocals, guitars and upright bass), Collin Stanley (guitar) and Zach Simao (drums, tambourine). They had all been involved in various music projects but originally came together as members of the group DDWhite. Eventually, Working Flakes were formed from this nucleus. Their debut EP, Work Together, was released in the summer and reviewed very favourably by myself (read here).

This EP, Wash It All Away, consists of three tracks and was both recorded and produced by the band themselves. After their excellent debut EP, this one starts out with a noticeable change in their style, their nuanced alternative rock infused with an upbeat, very catchy “indie disco” vibe that brings to mind bands like Hot Chip and Franz Ferdinand, along with A.M. era Arctic Monkeys.

It grabs your attention from the first seconds, the title hook sung in octaves before a loping, hi-hat heavy groove and taut, funky guitar emerges. This is conjoined with an equally funky bassline. Dropping down to a sparser sound on the verse, we hear a classic spoken word quote by Rob Siltanen (often attributed to Steve Jobs): “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers...”.

Chris Agar’s assured lead vocals have a real energy on this track and it builds to their most instant and memorable chorus so far. The quirky counterpoint backing vocals made me think of another Britpop-era indie group, Supergrass and going back still further, Squeeze’s Cool For Cats.

After the second chorus it breaks down to a strident, anthemic section with the effusive spirit of the song succinctly summarised: “Who will stop us? Who will stop me?”. I Know What You Want is an obvious lead single off the EP and could open a lot of doors for them, commercially speaking.

Second track Rinse and Repeat is more akin to the angular and sophisticated alt. rock of their first EP but retaining the pop sensibilities of the first track. Snaking guitar lines swirl over a 6/8 rhythm then the music switches to straight 4/4 for the catchy but lyrically barbed chorus. The song is a sardonic commentary of the repetitive, Groundhog Day-esque nature of modern existence: “Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat the work week…copy and paste, copy and paste, copy and paste the weekend”.

The punchy, creative drumming of Zach Simao deserves credit here, along with some stellar rhythm and lead guitar work from Chris Agar and Collin Stanley. The song has another long breakdown section where we get the EP’s title, a cathartic refrain of “Wash it all away….”.

The final track Going Up is a demo version but has already taken shape as another fine track. With its sparse guitar lines and almost metronomic drum patterns it recalls the claustrophobic soundscapes of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures.

The echo-drenched lead vocals give it a haunting sound, though it gradually undergoes a metamorphosis into a major key for the final minute with the defiantly optimistic refrain, “We’ve got to climb….”. The track ends in a kaleidoscopic swirl of restlessly inventive production effects worthy of Radiohead’s OK Computer.

Overall, this is a strong creative leap forward from Working Flakes, a band with a unified artistic vision that they’ve brought to fruition. They manage to find a yin/yang balance both musically and lyrically, blending unexpected left turns and inventive arrangements with hooks that land in the memory upon first listen. In the past, bands that successfully walk that tightrope have been rewarded both critically and commercially, generally speaking. How the music industry will be in the post-Covid era we don’t yet know, but Working Flakes are giving us a superb soundtrack for the times we live in.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Someone Waiting At Their Door by Lorenzo Gabanizza

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COVER ART BY TOBE A. ROBERTS IV – All rights reserved

Lorenzo Gabanizza is a musician, composer, singer and songwriter from Italy. Having been in various groups, he formed a Queen covers group called Mantras which toured Europe and in 2004 joined the Vic Elmes group, Christie Again. His song Meet Me At The River was successful and featured on the album Christie Again, All The Hits and More. He then released his first solo album and an album of mostly Queen covers, Freddie Still Lives.

In 2016, he released a concept album called Celtic Bridge which was a success in both Europe and the States, reaching the U.S. Downloads Top 100. His version of Danny Boy gained him a place on the list of the best Celtic performers in Italy and he was compared to U2 and Angelo Branduardi in Germany. He appeared to 12,000 people at the Celtica festival. Since then, he has released a plethora of successful singles and in this he released a very successful EP, All The Love We Never Said.

The opening song, Someone Waiting At Their Door, is a very moving country folk ballad in waltz time, with a strong Celtic influence. Over an instrumental bedrock of mandolins/banjos, serene slide guitar and gentle drums, Lorenzo gives an affecting and heartwarming vocal performance relaying a tale of tragedy striking families: “Then they saw the eerie shadow, a sliding shadow up above, then the fire started growing, smoked poured slowly through the doors“. It builds to the poignant chorus, augmented with lovely vocal harmonies and accordion.

The message is still positive and life affirming despite the sadness of the overall song: “All the tears can’t replace all the waste of those lives, but the pain breaking our hearts cannot move love away….. The second verse is even more affecting with its particularly poignant imagery and seems to be about those who lost their lives in war: “All the children crying, “Father”, they will bear the heavy price, their beloveds are now heroes, straight to Heaven from freedom’s soil”. A beautifully written song, both musically and lyrically.

It’s Been is quite a contrast; an upbeat country track in 2/4 featuring some superb musicianship. Lyrically, it’s about the loneliness of winter and longing for a romantic relationship, which works dynamically with the effusive nature of the music. The opening lines capture the bleakness of the winter season: “It’s been a lonely winter and I remember that it’s been a great big sadness, the snow was falling down….”. It’s another well written song, but what makes this one stand out is the virtuosic display of some of the lead musicians, with fantastic mandolin and steel guitar solos punctuating the sung sections.

The last song on the EP, To Sing For You, is another contrast and one which highlights Lorenzo’s skills as a singer and guitarist. Consisting of just his vocals and picked acoustic guitar, it’s a very fine cover of a Donovan folk ballad. Here, Lorenzo’s vocal style is slightly reminiscent of Donovan himself but also brought to mind Bob Dylan and the little known but wonderful songwriter Sixto Rodriguez. The intimacy of his performance captures the caring, compassionate nature of the lyrics and the gentle burst of harmonica towards the end gives it an added authenticity.

Overall, this is an excellent EP from Lorenzo Gabanizza, whose skills as a singer and songwriter have been finely honed across his long career. With the two songs of original material he proves himself to be a writer of the highest calibre, both in terms of words and music composition. His distinctive voice is the perfect vehicle for communicating the emotive nature of his songs, and the cover of Donovan’s To Sing For You must count as one of the best cover versions of any of his material. Lorenzo Gabanizza is a songwriter that deserves much greater recognition and I hope this EP helps him to receive it.

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

E.P. REVIEW: Misery by Terry Blade

Misery EP Cover (Release) - Spotify(1)

Terry Blade is an award-winning singer/songwriter currently based in Chicago. His music is essentially a fusion of soul, RnB, jazz and blues, along with indie and folk influences. He has already drawn comparisons with such artists as Tracy Chapman, Keb’ Mo’ Meshell Ndegeocello and Amos Lee. His songs deal with many highly contemporary issues such as blackness, queerness, mental health and intersectionality. His single The Last MacBeth won the June 2020 Award for Best Original Song from both the New York Movie Awards and the Oniros Film Awards.

This EP, Misery, consists of six tracks and was released in May. It has already become highly successful, receiving over a million combined downloads and reaching “gold” status on DistributeKings. One track, The Widow, received the June 2020 Award for Best Original Song At The Florence Film Awards.

The EP begins with the poignant ballad, The Unloveable. Consisting of just acoustic guitar and vocals, it’s a fine introduction to Terry’s smooth baritone voice and his emotive, vulnerable delivery.

From the opening lines it becomes apparent that Terry wears his heart on his sleeve: “Doesn’t work and I can’t figure it out, about to go berserk from my own self-doubt…”. It’s a moving song about dealing with personal insecurity, the intricate guitar work making the perfect counterpoint to Terry’s affecting vocal performance.

Second track The Mentally Ill continues the emotional turmoil and soul-searching of the first song, this one set to a 6/8 rhythm that brought to mind the doo-wop style of the 50s/Motown era. On the verse Terry croons, “This smile is phony, and inside I’m lonely…”, and the whole song becomes a confession of extraordinary honesty and self-examination. The music is full of subtleties, with counterpointed vocals and layered harmonies backing up another stellar lead vocal. It’s 21st century doo-wop, a reflection of a troubled mind in a troubled era.

Equally hard hitting is another Motown-influenced song, The Widow. As the title implies, it’s about someone who has lost her husband and is written from her perspective. Beginning with just light piano and finger clicks, the track develops into a deeply moving depiction of grief, captured by the chorus lines: “I’m not a weeping willow, just a grieving widow who has lost her superhero…”. Filled with sweet, layered falsetto harmonies and major to minor chord changes, it’s a beautiful, painfully poignant song and no surprise to learn it’s already won awards.

The Broken is a return to picked acoustic guitar and another showcase for Terry’s distinctive style. Lyrically, it’s an interesting take on relationships and how our flaws can be attractors: “If I weren’t so needy would you know that I exist? And if I weren’t so greedy would I even make your list?” Here, Terry delivers another lovely vocal melody that resonates with the listener and he expresses the emotion behind the song with suitable delicacy.

The Other Side is one of the more understated songs on the EP, with a gorgeous guitar figure being the bedrock for a vocal delivered by Terry in his lower register, at the least on the verse. Though the music is gentle, the lyrics are barbed; they depict a relationship gone bad and the song’s protagonist is not mincing his words: “Stay away, keep me at bay, increase the distance but don’t delay….”. The sorrowful chorus captures heartbreak with simple but affecting lines: “You and I were just a lie…”.

The final track on the EP, Tick Tock (The Lonely) is the most experimental, musically. Set to a sparse 80’s-tinged backdrop of icy, haunting synths and disjointed, distant drums, it finds Terry at his most poetic and philosophical; “Time is finite like a hourglass, every grain of sand encapsulates our past…”.

It’s about how you suddenly become aware of the slow passage of time when you’re alone: “Tick tock, running down the clock, the door is gonna lock no matter how much you knock….your company is only for the lonely…”. It’s a suitably powerful way to end, a perfect marriage of words and music.

Overall, this is a striking debut EP by an artist who has emerged fully formed with a vocal and lyrical style all of his own. Possessing a voice as good as anything you’ll hear on the radio, it’s the way he fearlessly deals with life’s dark side that gives his work real emotional resonance and power. It’s a truly suitable soundtrack to the dark times the world faces, both on a global and personal level. Find some solace in the beautiful music of Terry Blade.

 

VERDICT= 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Work Together by Working Flakes

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Working Flakes are a three-piece indie/alternative rock band based in New York. The band consists of Chris Agar (vocals, guitars and upright bass), Collin Stanley (guitar) and Zach Simao (drums, tambourine). They had all been involved in various music projects but originally came together as members of the group DDWhite. Eventually, Working Flakes were formed from this nucleus. This EP, Work Together, is their first release and was collaboratively composed and engineered by the band as part of their DIY ethic and approach.

The EP consists of five tracks and starts out with the powerful call to arms of Ease Your Mind. Set to a taut 2/4 groove, it brings to mind Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall but with the more ragged, garage rock vibe of The White Stripes. Chris Agar’s distinctive, idiosyncratic vocals are augmented in various places with Arctic Monkeys-style falsetto vocals an octave higher, to good effect.

The lyrics are essentially a clarion call for people to wake up, and where we find the EP’s title: “We must work together, we have all the power, do not fear the haves, it’s the have-nots hour…”. Though this was released in the fall of 2019, the message seems more apposite than ever, especially in light of the American riots against injustice taking place at the time of writing.

Second track Cheap Love is sonically more in keeping with the gritty, glam rock style of The Black Keys, propelled by a memorable bassline and infectious vocal melody. The music fits the subject matter like a glove which comes across as a slightly sardonic depiction of the shallow nature of modern dating: “Tuesday night, swiping right and we match….”. As with every track, the arrangement is well structured with succinct guitar melodies alternating with crunchy chords. There’s also some great tumbling tom tom fills from Zack Simao.

The final anthemic refrain, “You’re a cheap love, not a deep love…” is a pithy summation of Tinder culture which has become the societal norm. A fun, super catchy and dryly humorous piece of ‘rough round the edges’ rock ‘n roll.

Are We Connected?, the third track, is a more serious and contemplative dissection of relationships in this era of technology that has made us more connected in one way yet has isolated us from each other in another sense. The song questions whether this has been beneficial or created an artificial existence lacking in genuine interaction: “Staring at your screen, what does it mean?”.The song’s main refrain hits the nail on the head, “Views are injected, no one respected, are we connected or are we infected?

Musically, it’s set to a loping, funky groove with a slick guitar riff. Agar sings in a lower register than previously, with all kinds of instrumental nuances and details that help to keep the music compelling throughout. The band have an excellent understanding of dynamics and can veer from subtle guitar effects to huge vocal refrains with consummate ease.

Fourth track Thank You is the highlight of the EP for me, personally. It’s a perfect marriage between Gang Of Four-style driving basslines and razor sharp guitars with the laid back, languid cool of The Strokes. The groove has a Stones-esque confident strut though lyrically it’s a little more opaque and difficult to decipher than the previous songs. Lines like these suggest the supposed gratitude of the title hook is meant sarcastically: “Disengaged with fits of rage you explode, drowning together feels like I’m drowning alone…”.

Final song Roll With The Punches consists of just vocals and acoustic guitar (with a little bowed upright bass)and displays more openly the dry sense of humour which has been present under the surface throughout.

From the lyrics to the first verse it soon becomes apparent that this was written with tongue firmly in cheek: “Stabbed in the heart tossed in the gutter, got better treatment from my former mugger who left me stranded picked up by a trucker, she couldn’t have known I was born to suffer.” It’s a light hearted and rather catchy song that rounds off the EP in a highly entertaining fashion, especially the dialogue at the end of the track.

Overall, this is an excellent debut release from a band who’ve emerged with a perfectly honed musical approach, combining a punk rock rawness and spirit with inventiveness and nuance. Similarly, the lyrics balance the serious with the humourous and the result is a very enjoyable set of songs that stand up to repeated listening. I look forward to hearing their debut album.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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E.P. REVIEW: The Troubled Boy At The Bonfire Disco

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Freddie Bourne is an American singer songwriter hailing from Jackson, New Jersey. He has been very highly placed in various talent competitions including winning Liberty Idol in 2010. He is known for fronting the bands Exit 22 and Sahara from Jackson and Manalapan, New Jersey, respectively.

His solo career began in 2012, and he has opened for acts such as Tyler Hilton from the television show One Tree Hill, Jersey Acoustic Music Award Winner Chelsea Carlson, and played for Gavin and Joey DeGraw’s bar The National Underground. He released his debut album, Only Human, in 2013.

This EP, The Troubled Boy At The Bonfire Disco, consists of four tracks and constitutes his fifth project. The style is essentially contemporary pop, a blend of Lewis Capaldi-style acoustic/piano singer-songwriting with some EDM aspects incorporated to give the sound a modern edge. This is perfectly encapsulated by the excellent opening track, I Hope You Don’t Forgive Me. Based around picked acoustic guitar, Bourne delivers a haunting vocal melody in his distinctive, emotive singing style.

You can hear the influences of songwriters like James Blake, Daniel Powter and Richard Marx in the melancholy, intimate nature of the music, at least at first. After the chorus hook, it breaks into an unexpected EDM section, before returning to the second verse augmented by warm strings. With its radio friendly sound and subtle but effective title hook, this has huge hit potential and also as soundtrack music.

Second track Jeni is another well crafted song, this one more straightforward stylistically, essentially anthemic pop/rock that brought to mind Paolo Nutini and Coldplay, circa A Rush Of Blood To The Head. Bourne gives another compelling vocal performance in his plaintive upper register, with subtle touches of electronica emerging in the second verse. The concise guitar solo working in tandem with synths was a nice touch and once again, the vocal melody sticks quickly in the memory. This would also make a fine single release.

The EDM production style returns to the fore on the intro to Pale Blue Sky, before breaking down to a sparse verse. This allows the vocals to dominate, backed by a minimal beat and haunting piano arpeggios. The simple hook of “I’ll fly with you…” proves addictive and the way the arrangement builds to an EDM finale is cleverly done. Again, the commercial potential is big, owing to the wide ranging appeal of the pop/dance crossover sound.

Final track Spacedust has an equally languid tempo, Bourne delivering a Chris Martin-esque falsetto vocal that sounds natural and uncontrived. Once again, it is something of a slow burning epic, gradually building in texture and rhythm towards an understated but highly intricate blend of picked acoustic guitar patterns and interweaving synths. This track will again have a large across the aboard appeal, particularly those who love Coldplay’s more recent output.

Overall, this is a consistently strong collection of songs by an upcoming artist gifted with both a unique style of his own and a contemporary, commercial sound. In an era where male singer-songwriters are dominating the charts worldwide, Freddie Bourne has everything it takes to make it to the top and this EP could potentially be a major step towards that goal.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: How Will I Justify This Habit Today by Made On Tape

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Made On Tape is the artistic moniker of a bassist currently residing in New York City with roots in Metro Detroit. He has been involved in several music projects in the past including being the co-founder of a female fronted indie rock group called DDWhite, helped Collin Stanley make his debut EP (you can read my review and listen here) and created a rock band called Working Flakes. He has also worked on Broadway.

Made On Tape is his first solo project, and it refers to the equipment used which involves a  TASCAM tape recorder, an 80’s Roland drum machine and a reel-to-reel recorder from the 1970’s. This EP, How Will I Justify This Habit Today, consists of five instrumental tracks. As mentioned above, all the music was recorded onto tape which gives the sound a distinctive warmth and “fatness”.

The opening track How begins with a swirl of reversed synths before a series of punchy drum breaks leads us into the main section. Naturally, being a bassist, the lead melody is provided by a propulsive, bouncy bassline which works in tandem with the taut groove of the drums. This is augmented by subtle but highly effective lead guitar lines and even more subtle synths that fill out the soundscape nicely. The stop-start drums makes for a fine dynamic, with handclaps adding further variety later on.

Will I is based around a four to the floor beat and another funky, swooping bassline which is doubled up with a morphing synth on the main melody. The beat gradually grows in intricacy, augmented by high end funk guitar. The staccato bass riffs are counterpointed by a jazz-inflected rolling bassline in places which makes for a nice contrast. Even the synths resemble wah-wah guitar at points and the result is a very catchy 70’s influenced funk instrumental that would sound great in a club or as a theme tune.

Justify is built around a slick 2/4 groove and another taut staccato bassline that brought to mind The Beatle’s Taxman, though the overall sound made me think of Another One Bites The Dust by Queen. It has a similarly infectious rhythm and melody, with the prominent lead guitar lines adding to the texture, sometimes working in tandem with the bass. Things turned somewhat psychedelic towards the end, repeated drum fills creating a mesmeric effect as they collide with a suddenly sinister bassline and eerie synths. Great track.

Fourth track, This Habit, starts with just an instantly memorable bassline and glockenspiel chords, which then doubles the melody. It creates a pleasing tension before the drums enter, and the sound brought to mind the famous Prince productions of the 80’s. The roaming bass melody keeps the ear interested throughout, with some fine counterpoint synth melodies in the background.

The EP closes with Today (perspicacious readers will have realised by now that the tracks spell out the EP title!). It’s the fastest and most intense track, featuring a truly virtuoso bass performance. Again, it has a distinct aspect of the psychedelic in certain sections, the interplay between the bass and metamorphosing, modulating synths creating a bewildering effect at times. The mysterious, haunting synth chords that end the EP leaves the listener dangling and wanting more. Once more, this could be very effective as part of a soundtrack and rounds off the EP in a strong way.

Overall, this is a very accomplished set of instrumentals with a unique vintage sound. Centred around consistently vibrant and inventive basslines, the music continually intrigues the ear and goes to some unexpected places. A blend of funk, jazz and various styles of electronica, the music is accessible yet unlike anything around at the moment. For anyone searching for something a little left of field and loves old school analog warmth, I can heartily recommend Made On Tape.

 

VERDICT= 8.8 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Entertainment by Isaac Grinsdale

Entertainment Cover

https://isaacgrinsdale.com/

Isaac Grinsdale is an acoustic/alternative rock singer and songwriter hailing from Leeds, England. Having been in numerous rock and hardcore bands, he gradually developed towards being an autonomous solo artist, including producing his own material.

His music combines the singer/songwriter style of an artist like Frank Turner, with musical elements taken from a wide range of alternative rock bands, from Jimmy Eat World to Radiohead. He has already supported artists such as Andy Mckee, Jon Gomm, Nick Harper and  Beth Orton, as we as having completed a 30-date tour of northern England.

This EP, Entertainment, contains four tracks and makes the perfect showcase for Isaac’s accessible yet idiosyncratic style. The first song, The Blind Leading The Blind, is an arresting opener. The lyrics address the parlous state of British politics in poetic style. Starting with brooding acoustic guitar and contrasted by melodic high end electric guitar lines, Isaac’s distinctive voice soon captures the attention.

He has a vocal style reminiscent of the lead singers in bands like Jimmy Eat World and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and the 7/4 time signature gives a gripping urgency to the music which fits with the words. Lyrically, he paints a bleak dystopian picture of political corruption and deception: “The suits fail to hide the facade and their words fail in their intended charm…and it all sounds so bizarre, like a lexicon based on Orwell’s Newspeak…”. A powerful and apposite song that will resonate with many.

Next comes the title track, and Entertainment is another sophisticated and accomplished piece of songwriting that juggles complex time signatures on the verses with a more straightforward and anthemic chorus section. Isaac shows what an excellent all-round musician he is, the drumming on this song particularly impressive. Lyrically, the song was inspired by a book called The Society of The Spectacle by Guy Debord, and Entertainment portrays a superficial world where everything is about appearance, inspiring the pithy line, “for a moment I understand misanthropy..“.

The third track Nullius in Verba (Latin for “not in any words”) is another cerebral and thought provoking song, this one about the importance of independent thought and having faith in science, rather than a blind religious faith. Having had a very religious upbringing, this is obviously a subject close to his heart.

Musically, it’s both highly intricate and hauntingly beautiful; cascading and interweaving guitar lines combine with Isaac’s understated but mesmeric vocal augmented by subtle backing harmonies.

The final song, Speed of Film, also has a certain emotional gravity and poignancy. It’s  about, in his own words, “how our memories make us into the people we are today”. The lyrics are highly personal and reflective, reminiscing on past experiences, both good and bad.

In terms of the expressive vocal melody, it brought to mind the lighter moments of Nick Drake’s canon and that similarity also applies to yet more of his superb, nuanced guitar work. The song is quietly epic, ending with the intriguing refrain, “I’m addicted...”.

Overall, this is an extremely accomplished EP by a highly gifted singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He’s managed to carve himself a unique musical niche by fusing elements of alternative rock with more a traditional singer/songwriter sound and approach. With an artist like Sam Fender bringing a little alternative into the mainstream, perhaps now the world is ready for the massive talent of Isaac Grinsdale.

 

 

VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

Visit his official website HERE

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Can’t Go Home by Collin Stanley

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Collin Stanley is a musician, singer, songwriter and producer currently residing in New York City. He was raised in Detroit, Michigan and his earliest musical influences were blues, classic rock and garage rock. Bands and artists such as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The White Stripes and Stevie Ray Vaughan were formative on the musical style he has today. He collaborates with bass player Chris Agar and drummer/pianist/producer Eric Hoegemeyer. This EP, Can’t Go Home, is the first fruits of their labours together

Opening track The Underground sets out their stall in emphatic fashion. Starting gently with just light guitar and Collin Stanley’s casually captivating vocals, the enigmatic opening lines draw you in: “I’ll take you down to the underground, everything is strange, so profound…it all goes down”.

After the brooding, restrained verse it bursts into a volcanic chorus of raw, razor-edged electric guitars duelling with primal and powerful White Stripes-style drumming. Atop of this Collin delivers a vaulting lead vocal, drenched in cavernous reverb. Musically, you can hear those formative influences but sublimated into a unique style that lies at the midpoint between classic, alternative and garage rock.

There’s a great understanding of quiet/loud dynamics with this song that brought to mind The Pixies and Nirvana, indeed, the arrangement brought to mind the latter’s Heart Shaped Box from In Utero. After the second chorus it enters an extended refrain section which delivers the knockout punch, where we find the EP title, Collin singing “I can’t go home anymore…” with resigned desperation. A superb song, put simply.

Second track Time Future is another song with an unusual but inspired arrangement that works perfectly. It begins with just a ghostly, distorted vocal and offbeat reggae style guitars, the haunting vocal melody bringing to mind Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs.

About a minute in and the music explodes into a chugging Black Keys-esque stomp with shades of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Again, it encapsulates an entertaining fusion of rock styles and the final section is joyously anthemic, which will be a lot of fun to hear live.

The last track I Came For You is brief at just over two minutes but packs a considerable punch. It’s a mid-paced blues rocker full of Led Zep-style riffs played in octaves and delivered with the laid back cool of Queens Of The Stone Age. It features another charismatic vocal performance from Collin Stanley, some excellent bass playing from Chris Agar and blistering energy behind the kit from Eric Hoegemayer.

Overall, this is an excellent trifecta of songs that fuses the genres of blues, classic and garage rock into a potent, hugely enjoyable amalgamation. Collin Stanley is a fine frontman, and, aided by talented musical cohorts, the result a memorable and vital sound that captures the spirit of rock ‘n roll with a healthy dose of modern day angst. Most importantly, with The Underground, they have their first classic song on their hands. I, for one, can’t wait to hear a full album in the future.

VERDICT = 9 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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