EP REVIEW: Killing Dinosaurs by Bad Mary

badmary1 https://badmary.bandcamp.com/album/killing-dinosaurs-ep

 

Bad Mary are a four-piece punk rock band hailing from Long Island, New York. Starting out as a covers band, they changed their name from Madame X in 2012 and Bad Mary was born. Their music is particularly inspired by the NYC punk movement of the late 1970’s and I would describe their music as a cross between bands like Blondie and The Ramones, combined with the more modern punk rock sound of bands like Paramore and Green Day.

Their debut album Better Days was a big success, with two tracks being used to soundtrack the NBA Finals. This EP, Killing Dinosaurs, consists of six tracks and is a great representation of their sound. They are led by the distinctive, throaty vocals of Amanda Mac, who delivers some blistering performances across the EP.

Opening track Soapbox kicks things off with a bang, David Henderson’s razor edged guitars sounding raw yet still slick, backed by Bill Mac’s thunderous drumming. Amanda has no problems imposing herself over this wall of sound, her vocals full of Debbie Harry-esque NYC attitude. It builds to a super catchy chorus and makes perfect sense as the lead track.

Want What I Want and Hanging Around are both Ramones-rapid punk rock bursting with killer guitar riffs and huge sky scraping choruses. The former is about Amanda’s frustration of trying to meet other people’s expectations of her and the modern problem of online abuse that every band receives to some extent: “Wear some make up, too much make up, make your mind up, tell me more, it’s too short, it’s too long, you look good, you’re a whore….”.

Next To You is a cracking punk rock version of a Police song that I actually prefer to the original, while Sucks To Be You is another sassy slice of guttural rock n’ roll that takes lyrical swipes at an ex-lover. The closing One More Song is an honest admission about trying to find creative inspiration, and a fine way to finish.

Overall, this is a highly entertaining and enjoyable EP from a band who are clearly already going places and in Amanda Mac have a charismatic front woman who could be a Debbie Harry for this generation. They have the songs to back up the attitude, and this EP will only enhance their reputation and fanbase further.

 

Alex Faulkner

VERDICT: 8.4 out of 10

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The Bright Wild EP by The Bright Wild

The Bright Wild digi cover http://thebrightwild.com/

The Bright Wild are an indie rock/alternative group that consists of a creative collaboration between lead vocalist Roy Shakked and fellow multi instrumentalist Tal Yardeni. After a chance meeting in 2014 they became friends, and they didn’t let living on different continents stop a musical relationship developing.

This five track eponymous EP was recorded in a very modern way; the two members bounced ideas and sound files over the internet, so the songs were not only co-written but co-produced. They brought in some musical cohorts to fill out the music: Lyle Workman (Beck, Sting), Blair Sinta on drums (Damien Rice) and Tim Lefebvre on bass (Tedeschi Trucks Band).

Opening track Supersonic is a perfect example of their unique sound. Starting with lush, atmospheric strings, it progresses into an epic sounding song that blends 80’s pop/rock like Prefab Sprout and Tears For Fears with the ambient, experimental soundscapes of Sigor Ros. Shakked has a perfect voice for the material, powerful yet ethereal worth effective use of falsetto. The lyrics are spiritual and seemingly stream of consciousness: “Supersonic beat in my lifeline… Technicolor dreams in my heart….Awake the dreamer…”

Run With Me is a contrast, set at a languid pace and starting with strummed acoustic guitar. It builds gradually, with an anthemic Coldplay-style chorus: “Run with me, run far away to places we dream of…”. After the third chorus the music ascends to a fireworks-in- the-sky climax of exultant strings. Superb.

Calling You is just as epic but more melancholy in tone, with some nice vocoder style effects on the vocals. It delivers another killer chorus, and any of these first three songs could be singles, if rather lengthy ones. Strange World is more upbeat and a little rockier, and actually brought to mind ELO’s classic Mr. Blue Sky. A fun song.

Final track Hello Again returns to the mid-paced epic style that is their signature sound. It features a particularly fine vocal performance from Roy Shakked, although they are consistently stellar throughout. It’s another romantic lighters in the air moment, and a fine finale.

Overall, this is an exceptionally well written, performed and produced EP. If you didn’t know the back story you would presume it was produced in a million dollar studio, in the usual way. If you quite like Coldplay, but ultimately find their music a little bland, The Bright Wild are guaranteed to light up your world.

 

Alex Faulkner

 

Verdict: 9 out of 10

https://soundcloud.com/the-bright-wild/run-with-me-the-bright-wild

E.P. REVIEW: Till The Grave by Flyer

Till_The_Grave_Cover_600x600

Flyer is a hip hop/rap artist residing in Orlando, Florida. This EP consists of five hip hop tracks that average around the four minute mark. His beats are languid and laid back which allows for clarity in his delivery and a smooth flow. He has his own unique style and an excellent command of rhyme and rhythm, showing real dexterity lyrical across the course of the EP.

First track Scott Jordan is a good example of his sound, opening with the track’s refrain “It’s been like a whole week, that I couldn’t get to sleep, this bitch is blowin’ up my phone…”. As that lyric suggests, Flyer is not overly concerned with being political correct, but this is more often humorous rather than offensive: “You can tell her bring her momma too….”.

Behind the rapping there is a finely constructed hip hop track, the beat punchy with intricate hi hats combining with subtle bass and atmospheric synths. Another nice production touch is Flyer layering his vocals on certain lines an octave lower, which works very effectively. An excellent start to the EP.

Second track Dancing Alone starts with a catchy low end synth riff and develops into a laid back 50 Cent style club track. Lyrically, it’s even more sexually explicit than the first track, which will please those who enjoy this kind of ‘bad boy’ hip hop. Musically, it’s a classy track which would set the right kind of sensual mood on the dancefloor.

Third track Fly is more serious; the memorable, poignant chorus is the first thing we hear: “All I got are these broken dreams, all I got are these broken things…Mama told me ‘Don’t fly’, Mama told me ‘Don’t try’….”. The emotional power of the lyrics brought to mind Eminem’s Cleaning Out My Closet and there is something similar in the sharp attacking rapping style he uses. The backing music matches the quality of the words, with backwards drums and all manner of vocal effects creating a nightmarish but thrilling soundscape.

Track four Presidential Suite is superb, beginning with swirling strings and breaking into a stately groove, ganged up with a tasty bass line and subtle brass. The track imagines becoming so famous that assassination becomes a possibility: “Make it big, they try to take you out like Kennedy… Tell my enemies that they better aim well…”. This track features some of his finest rapping, with a great chorus and some killer one-liners: “Baby when I spit, my residue is butane….”. Would make a perfect single.

Last track 4th Wall is a fine finale, with a meaty beat and EDM style synths that give it a modern edge, along with its dirty bass sound. It contains another addictive chorus hook that you soon find yourself singing along with: “Ain’t nobody ever gonna let you in, gonna have to break the walls down…”.

Overall, this is a very strong EP that shows Flyer can consistently cut it as a hip hop artist of high quality, and can be the rival of anyone out there. With Eminem past his best, and 50 Cent filing for bankruptcy, maybe it’s time for a new bad boy in town.

 

Alex Faulkner

 

Verdict: 8.5 out of 10

http://tillthegrave.com/

E.P. REVIEW: Hearticulate by J.P. Edwards

lwOOkFVXYZ_dn4349I4SJEoSGrWltcSd2ZPa7_8oM9k https://www.facebook.com/jpedwardsmusic

J.P. Edwards is a singer/songwriter originally hailing from Texarkana, Texas. Aided by the experiences of an itinerant childhood, he started singing and writing music at an early age. His music is essentially acoustic pop, though there are elements of folk, blues and jazz present also. He has the intimate style of singers like Ed Sheeran and John Mayer, with the versatile voice of Justin Timberlake.

This EP consisting of eight tracks that are a perfect showcase for his musical abilities. Opening song Destinations, about the journey of a relationship, is just vocals and picked acoustic guitar. He has a voice suited to the material and the song’s lilting vocal melody soon latches in the memory.

Second song Drop Everything is a male/female duet and strummed rather than picked. The song’s quality is instantly apparent, a short verse leading to a gorgeous chorus. The blend of their vocal harmonies is exquisite, especially on the middle eight and the lyrics are touching without being trite. An obvious choice as the track to take to radio, and could well be the one that breaks him into the big time.

Other highlights of the EP for me were the sophisticated, jazzy Grave, the epic pop of Stargazing and last track World Tour, which is a sweet song that uses the idea of musical stardom as a backdrop to a heartfelt love ballad that cleverly sidesteps cliché.

Overall, this a very assured and accomplished EP by a songwriter who sounds at the top of his game. There are several potential singles to choose from, and with Drop Everything he has a surefire hit on his hands. Record companies are no doubt searching avidly for the new Ed Sheeran, and I think J.P. Edwards may just be the man.

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.7 out of 10

E.P. REVIEW: Known To Wander by Known To Wander

11193383_1559440717652938_1445625717098267856_nKnown To Wander are a three-piece alternative rock/pop band hailing from Southern Wisconsin. Their music incorporates many influences from rock, and they sometimes have a bluesy Black Keys lilt to their music, but essentially they make melodic, accessible and commercial pop/rock. This five track EP is an excellent showcase for their sound, which is surprisingly big for a three piece.

You can hear the influence of Death Cab For Cutie in the dreamy lead guitar sound and melodic keyboards on superb opener Fade Out. The rockier element comes from Andy Stone’s intricate yet forceful drumming, while Peter Grau’s expressive, distinctive vocals and easy-on-the-ear tone brings a poppier side to the sound, which is no bad thing.

Only I Should Know starts out sounding like a thousand alt. rock bands, before developing into another finely crafted pop/rock with some effective backing harmonies. I enjoyed the instrumental section after the second chorus, which hints at future musical ambitions. Third track Watch The Stars is more mellow, and has a melancholy feel both musically and lyrically, with Grau reflecting on childhood dreams: “On the rooftop I can hear the promises I made….”. The simple hook is perhaps the most instant here, and shows this band can write good slower paced songs.

Track four Habit carries on their ability to write consistently infectious songs that you soon find yourself humming and also features a veritable whirlwind of drumming from Andy Stone. The way they alternate between half time and full time towards the end is classy, and that kind of versatility bodes well for the future. The closing Autumn is a more low-key song to close the EP, with tumbling toms toms and another excellent vocal performance from Grau, whose voice lends itself well to slower material. The tracks build gradually, and the brief section in 6/8 was a nice touch.

Overall, this is a very impressive debut EP from a band who have instantly found their own niche musically, and already sound fully developed as a band. They have a fine knack for writing strong pop songs, and shouldn’t have any hangs up about being too ‘pop’ or commercial. I could see them becoming like R.E.M. – they managed to be commercially successful whilst retaining their alt. rock credibility. I look forward to hearing a whole album in the future.

 

Alex Faulkner

 

Verdict: 8.6 out of 10

E.P. REVIEW: Specifics by DJ Shorte & LP

DJ_Shorte___LP__Specifics_unreleased_classic_

DJ Shorte & LP are a Miami based hip hop duo who made an album in 1997, Environmentalities that has become something of a cult classic. It featured the single Color Blind and a collaboration with multiplatinum artist Aaron Hall. DJ Shorte originally hails from the Bronx, while LP is from Hyde Park, Chicago. They met in South Florida through DJ Shorte’s brother who was LP’s first partner in music.

This EP consists of five hip hop tracks and a spoken word intro from Navigator, who is one of several rappers making a guest appearance. The EP also features Jocamoe Dundee, JLB, Incan Lama and Kevens. Rather unusually, every track from the EP is going to be put out as a single, with the full EP released in the New Year.

New Thought Status

This track starts with a sampled saxophone riff and some record scratching before a swinging hip hop beat kicks in allied with a warm, deep bassline. Rapper LP comes in on the beat, his delivery fast, confident and flowing. But perhaps what is most striking is the lyrical content. Where so much hip hop is about male bragadaggio, violence and misogynistic attitudes towards women, these lyrics have a much more spiritual, utopian vibe .

The catchy chorus hook runs “Everything you want you can achieve with ease, New Thought Status….no nationalities, don’t neglect what you need indeed, you see we proceed soul to the masses of the city…’. The sax break in the background adds to the hook. The second verse doesn’t let up the pace, with a real call-to-arms to society as a whole: “It’s time to realize that all the info we receive is 99.9 per cent lies….”.

Motivational Tactics

This track also has a very funky hip hop beat, and is quite lengthy at five and a half minutes. Along with LP, it also features the Peruvian rapper Incan Lama. During the first minute, we hear the title hook sung in a reggae style before the rapping begins. Once again, the lyrics are thought provoking and refreshingly different in their outlook: ‘At peace with yourself is the true claim to fame…’.

The track is about railing against all the things in life that thwart us from truly being ourselves. Incan Lama takes over for the second verse, with some well aimed digs at the powers that be: ‘Knock knock, let’s see who could it be, is it Big Brother watching over me?‘ . There’s even a short verse in Peruvian towards the end, which adds a little exotic flavour. Great track.

Cellular Memory

This track is perhaps the catchiest and most musically simple on the EP, yet with the most sophisticated and highbrow lyrics. Musically, it is built around a funky five note bass line, a syncopated beat, electronic swirls and the addictive vocal refrain ‘We can all do it together if we try, collectively with the intellect we must strive…’.

In between choruses, the ideas conveyed in this track are particularly intelligent and metaphysical. Guest rapper Jocamoe Dundee informs the listener :‘Every single event since the beginning of time is documented in the complex structure of the mind….This is reality, I’m talking fact not fantasy, atoms are solar systems, molecules are galaxies, metaphysical man programmed with the plan before life began….’. An excellent track, and so refreshing to hear hip hop with a smart, positive message.
Matters At Hand

This track is built around a sample from What’s Happening, Brother by Marvin Gaye from his classic What’s Going On album and the bass line is also derived from James Jamerson’s bass playing on that song. Like Marvin, DJ Shorte and LP have a spiritual message to convey: ‘Division? Never.. Multiply the endeavour… intellectual thought makes the ignorance sever’.

Not since De La Soul has hip hop produced a group that can make advanced spirituality sound like everyday common sense, but DJ Shorte and LP are taking up the baton and they effortlessly juggle delivering catchy vocal and melodic hooks with esoteric, thought provoking words.

Positivity

This track is a mellow style of hip hop, with a slinky beat that gets the toe tapping. It’s the shortest on the EP with most tracks clocking in at over five minutes, and has a sung chorus in a reggae style that you’ll find yourself humming after just one listen. It features Kevens as well as JLB and the central message is the power and importance of positive thinking: ‘If you ain’t feelin’ good, you’ve got nothing to prove…‘. Yet another high quality track and the one best suited to radio, in terms of length.

 
Overall, this is a fantastic hip hop EP that manages to combine first class beats, samples and production from DJ Shorte with super intelligent and socially aware lyrics from LP and his fellow emcees. Owing to the glamorization of violence and material possessions in hip hop today, it more than ever needs positive, inspirational music like this that encourages self-improvement rather than self-indulgence. A classic EP.

 

Alex Faulkner

 

Verdict: 9 out of 10

 

E.P. REVIEW: Closer To Reality by Room 24

Room24__Andy_Cooper__Michael_Cooper_James_Caton http://www.room24band.com/

Room 24 are a three-piece alternative rock band from hailing from Austin, Texas. They have been voted among the Top Ten Best U18 Bands in the Austin Chronicle’s Austin Music Awards poll for the past 2 years and won the 7th annual Jam Fest 2014. The bands consists of guitarist/vocalist Andy Cooper, bassist James Caton and drummer/vocalist Michael Cooper.

They cite their main influences as Incubus, Deftones and Foo Fighters, but consider their music is best described as “melodic alternative rock”. They have similarities to the 80’s rock band Husker Du, in that they are a 3-piece and both the drummer and guitarist share lead vocal duties. This EP, Closer To Reality, was produced and engineered by the noted producer Tim Gerron, due for release on September 26, 2015.

Consisting of four tracks, it gets off to a strong start with opening song Gravity and Reality. It’s driven along by a pulsing lead guitar riff, thick low-end chords and a complex, syncopated drum pattern over which Michael Cooper delivers a powerful performance in the upper part of his range. The bridge has a see-saw riff that brought to mind Nirvana’s classic Scentless Apprentice. The chorus is anthemic, though with opaque lyrics: “Where would you go? How would you know?“. There is a short section in 7/8 time after the second chorus, which shows the influence of bands like Tool and breaks up the rhythm effectively.

Second track Out There has a similar drum beat, though the guitar riffs are more rock than metal on this one, bringing to mind Foo Fighters. As with the first track, the band display an excellent understanding of dynamics and rhythmic control, which keeps the music gripping throughout. Room 24 do not write obvious choruses that get old after a couple of listens, but seduce the listener gradually with deceptively addictive vocal and instrumental melodies. This is the case here, with the outro featuring some effective backing vocals.

Third track Clone begins with an eerie, haunting guitar figure drenched in delay, a precursor to the brooding verse with Michael Cooper singing in a lower range. It has one of the most immediate vocal hooks on the EP, which latches in your head straight away: “There is no need for another clone, though it’s just unknown…”. It has another interesting instrumental section after the second chorus and this quietly epic song makes a case for maybe even being the lead track from the EP.

Fourth and final track Parade again features a brooding, minor key lead guitar figure though this song is set at a faster tempo, however. Guitarist Andy Cooper takes lead vocals on this one, and does a fine job. It builds from a quiet verse to perhaps the biggest, most anthemic chorus of the four here and the dynamic created from a low to high vocal melody is also effective. Unexpectedly, for modern alternative rock, it breaks into a highly enjoyable wah-wah drenched lead guitar solo that shows their rock/metal influences.

Overall, this is a very well written, performed and produced EP that displays a musical maturity above and beyond what you’d expect for a band their age. They have transcended their influences and landed on their own style, taking the aspects of rock/metal that they love and melding them with the songwriting style of Alt. Rock. A consistently excellent EP.
 

 

Alex Faulkner

Verdict: 8.7 out of 10