Indie Music Reviews – CDs, DVDs, Performances, & MP3 albums.

 

Geri X - Work Is The Wolf

Geri X is no stranger to the world of IMR.  Previously she was featured as one of the top 25 “Women of Indie” in a special issue of the magazine.  Her album Whiskey and Cigarettes was a lo-fi solo project that exudes grit, passion, and raw talent.  So here it is several months later and Geri has done it again with the release of her latest project Work Is The Wolf.

When an artist can grab the listener’s attention right off the bat, it is expected that an emotional ride will follow.  “You Can Have Me” opens this new folk rock album with a cool blues feel.  Those familiar with Geri’s work will instantly recognize her vocal dictation.  She leaves that as the focus of the song and uses her distorted voice to evoke a gritty, dark feeling.  With a heart pounding rhythm, strumming acoustic guitar, and an electric slide the song breaths life into Geri’s lyrics.

As an album, Work is the Wolf is driven by prominent rhythms along with tempo changes that aid Geri in telling her stories.  By provoking emotions, the title track forces the listener to move or sway with the beat.  With lyrics filled with metaphors and imagery, this track demonstrates Geri X’s ability to craft dynamic folk songs.

One of the standout songs on the new album is “Instigate Defeat.”  The vibe is unlike other tracks, as it opens with sense of surf rock.  With this fun and upbeat song, Geri sings about someone who makes her smile.  It demonstrates a fun side to the dynamic songwriter with its pop rock sense.

“F#!%” delivers an old country side with a rich Americana and folk feel.  Geri’s unique voice shines in these types of songs.  Her dictation allows her to put emphasis on words to create unique melodies.  Following “F#!%” with a song like “I’m Broke” allows the listener to really make the connection of what influences Geri.  Her sound stems from classic storytellers such as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Bob Dylan.

A highlight of all of Geri’s music is that it exudes a breath of fresh air into the music industry.  With so many artists looking to imitate the success of others, the amount of cookie cutter copy musicians out there is on the rise.  Not many can write songs that demonstrate a true ability to be a storytelling, rock woman of indie music.

Capping off the end of the album is “Live Fast, Die Young.”  Geri’s signature sultry voice is prominent but the real attention grabber is the distorted harmonica.  The listener can almost picture Geri on stage in a smoke filled club as she plays her spoons and sings her heart out.

It is clear that Geri X is a rare and genuine talent.  Her rocker vibe and free spirit make her an artist unlike any other.  With great releases such as Work Is The Wolf, Geri is sure to make her mark on the world as an artist.

Rating: 5/5 Stars!!!!

Album Name: Work Is The Wolf
Date Released: May, 2012
Genre: Folk Rock
Location: St. Petersburg, FL
Band Members: Geri X, Dan Stoeffles, Ellie Maybe, Tyson Mink, Allie Merino, Charlie Wells, Pat MacDonald
Website: http://www.gerixmusic.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Geri-X/109449409095160


Derrival - The Autumn Game / Modern Age Kids 7”

Today none of us could go a minute without texting, Facebooking, or playing a downloaded game. Technology has become so much a part of our lives it’s almost scary. We constantly move and sometimes miss what is right in front of our faces. Derrival sings about the modern age in the following lyrics:

Growing up in a modern age,
Taking pleasure in past art,
Love seemed so easy on the page,
The hardest is finding a place to start. 

I can’t shake this feeling we’re moving too fast,
Teach ‘em how to drive so they don’t crash,
Hold them youngsters close,
Where you’ll be in a year no one knows.

During Derrival’s second track of their album The Autumn Game / Modern Age Kids 7” “Modern Age Kids” the music is still rocking, but at times the song slows down and it seems as if lead singer Adam Mah’s voice slows, quiets, and sounds a little sad that the world is moving way too fast. They tell audiences to slow down and realize what’s right in front of you. The guitars, drums, and Mah’s voice mesh so well together and during the instrumental parts of the song you may find yourself tapping your toes and moving your head. Mah’s voice might remind listeners of Isaac Slade’s, the lead singer of The Fray.

Out of Langley, British Columbia, Derrival is made up of friends Adam Mah (Rhythm Guitar/Lead Vocals), Glen Jackson (Lead Guitar/ Vocals), Shane Stephenson (Keyboard), Deven Azevedo (Bass), and Daniel Kozlowski (Drums).

The album begins with “Autumn Game” in which the first few notes of the song features two dueling guitars, a bass and electric guitar that if you listen closely can be heard throughout the song. They are the background of the song, but the fuel for it. And then at the end, all the instruments start playing really loud and the entire band and a crowd sings Cause it’s a free, free for all, after all in the last few lines of the song.With how it’s recorded it sounds like a live recording, because of the echoes. It sounds like it was so much fun to record.

According to their Facebook biography, “Autumn Game” is about the transition between high school and real-life when all the decisions you make are your responsibility. The entire song sounds like it’s a party, because that’s really what high school is, until you have to choose your future.

Derrival’s next goal is to create an entire full length album and that’s the only thing listeners won’t like about The Autumn Game / Modern Age Kids 7” is it’s not longer. Their music and lyrics are so powerful listeners will want to come back for more!

Rating: 4/5 Stars!

Album Name: The Autumn Game / Modern Age Kids 7”
Genres: Alternative, Experimental, Indie, Rock
Location: Langley, British Columbia, Canada
Band Members: Adam Mah (Rhythm Guitar/Lead Vocals), Glen Jackson (Lead Guitar/ Vocals), Shane Stephenson (Keyboard), Deven Azevedo (Bass), Daniel Kozlowski (Drums)
Date Album Released: December, 2011
Website: http://derrival.ca/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Derrival/85038362438
Band Camp: http://derrival.bandcamp.com/
MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/derrival
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/Derrival?feature=watch
Tumblr: http://derrival.tumblr.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Derrival

Capkins - Sink Boat Sink

Artists are constantly trying to bring their own unique talent to the music scene in hopes of creating a new sound that no one has heard before. In some cases though, it’s alright if the music resembles another artist, especially if that musician or band has succeeded in the music industry. California based band, Capkins, is an example of a talented group of musicians who resemble the sound of great current rock bands like Arcade Fire, Modest Mouse, and The Gaslight Anthem. Each of those popular bands have experienced a lot of success, so why not try for the same sound? It’s like the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

On their premiere E.P., Sink Boat Sink, Capkins displays a classic indie rock sound with guitar driven tracks and catchy uptempo beats throughout each song. The songs tell a story, so Capkins forces you to really listen and pay attention to the lyrics. Sink Boat Sink is like reading a book. If you don’t listen to every lyric in each song, you’ll have to start it over again because you may miss an important part and then you won’t understand the rest of the song.

Capkins plays around with many beats on the second track, “Dissolution.” The song starts off slow with a single guitar, and then another guitar and the drums come in with a more uptempo beat. By the time the chorus arrives, the song takes another direction with a new beat. With a lyric like “this heavy heartbeat,” you almost feel as though Capkins is using these different beats to emulate a person’s beating heart and help convey the emotions showcased in the lyrics.

The first track off of Sink Boat Sink, “Slept,” has a fun beat that will have an audience dancing and jumping along with the chorus. At first listen, you may think Capkins is displaying a slower tempo on the track, “Everylight,” but this bass heavy song only starts off slow before picking up pace like every other song off of Sink Boat Sink.

While Sink Boat Sink has five tracks that display a great indie rock sound, each song sounds similar for the most part. Luckily, this new band has a lot of room to try and experiment with some new material. There is no denying that Capkins has the talent to stay around for many albums in the future. With those albums, hopefully the band will get even more creative with their music.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars!

Album: Sink Boat Sink
Release Date: May, 2012
Genre: indie rock
Location: Burlingame, California
Members: Jeremy Devee (guitar and vocals), Celia Aguirre (bass), Sam Street (drums), Brian Fritz (keyboards), Colton Whitehead (guitar and vocals)
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Capkinsmusic
Reverbnation: www.reverbnation.com/capkinsmusic

The Lips- Self-Titled

When listening to The Lips for the first time it sounds like an array of musicians are playing guitars, drums, and their lead singer has such a unique voice. And then with further research, it’s hard to believe, but The Lips is in fact a one man band.

Anthony Laido from Oakland, New Jersey wrote the lyrics, plays all the music, and produced the entire album. Laido’s self-titled full length album The Lips was released in May, 2012, and then he released two more tracks in June, 2012 on Liar Just Like Me (B-Side). 

Make sure she’s okay.
'Cause she ain't okay.
Okay? Okay.
Make sure she’s okay. 

I think by now she’s my new girlfriend.
My sex appeal, yeah, here’s a new trend.
Style and clothes so far out of my reach.
I’ve covered my life with my own bleach.

The Lips opens with “Bleach.” It’s a very quick song, but you get a feel for how the album will sound. A strong guitar plays throughout the entire album and Laido’s voice sounds a little stressed, but it works with the above lyrics. At the very end of the song you may think it’s over, but you can hear an echo of Laido singing “Make sure she’s okay.” It’s like a hidden treasure that might be overlooked if you listen fast.

In the beginning of “Keys Open Doors” you can hear voices, like a band is about to start practicing. And then this amazing electric bass guitar rift starts that some could say is repetitive, but it gives a groove to the song. When there is a musical break in the song it always comes back. Laido’s voice sounds more mellow that in other songs, but it’s just as powerful.

Even though the The Lips Facebook reads, “All of our songs sound the same,” most listeners will beg to differ. Each song sounds different from the last and keeps listeners guessing what will come next.

Here are a few questions I asked Laido.

ES: Tell me a little bit about your background in music and how your music began.

AL: My music began with an old band with an old childhood friend in which we tried some punk/experimental music. I thought we sucked until we won over 20 songwriting awards worldwide including 7 wins for Vh-1. I still thought our music sucked, so I quit the band before moving to London. I started “The Lips” in 2010 shortly after experimenting with electronic music, and released an album called “A Generation in a Jar.” The reception was good, and so were the sales, so I figured I should start being more serious and submit to labels. I then signed with awesome “Little Heart Records” in Louisville, Kentucky, and released my debut album, self-titled on May 29th.

ES: What’s it like being in a one man band?

AL: It’s AWESOME being a one man band, mainly because there is only one mind to deal with. Let’s be honest. Most musicians are way too f***ing arrogant and moody, and I don’t know if I can deal with anyone except myself. So I write, produce and occasionally play shows alone (although most shows are two-pieces due to a drummer). I aim to keep it that way!

ES: What artists are you influenced by and if could perform with anyone who would it be?

AL: It’s funny. I don’t think I have any artists that inspire me to write or try to aim for success. I just love sound. Any form of sound influences me, good or bad. But if I could play or meet anyone, I’d go back in time and chill out with Bradley Nowell of “Sublime.” He’s a dope songwriter and he seemed like a cool dude.

ES: Are you playing any live shows soon?? If they are in Jersey I could totally go, because I live in South Jersey.

AL: I actually just ended a tour just basically running through the Tri-state area last month. We played a ton in New York City, and now I’m taking a break on shows until the fall. However, you should definitely check out 105.5 WDHA in New Jersey on August 27th at 5 p.m., because I am doing a live interview and acoustic set thanks to my man Bryan Puckett at Little Heart.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars!


Album Name: The Lips
Genres: Indie/Punk/Surf
Location: Oakland, NJ
Band Members: Anthony M. Laido - all
Date Album Released: May, 2012
Label: Little Heart Records
Website: wearethelips.bandcamp.com
Pure Volume: www.purevolume.com/wearethelips
Myspace: www.myspace.com/wearethelips
Facebook: www.facebook.com/wearethelips

Indie Overdose - August 2012

Things are getting chaotic here at IMR, but one of our favorite moments is when we get to put together the month’s Dose of good music for our readers. Every month we are overwhelmed with great submissions and this month was no different.

Unfortunately, we can only take so many tracks for each version of Indie Overdose. The winners in all of this are you – the reader. We hope you find these tracks as rewarding as we did when we chose them.

Listen here: http://soundcloud.com/indiemusicreviewer/sets/indie-overdose-august-2012

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Without further ado, here are the August, 2012 Indie Overdose artists:

***** The Big Dose *****

Pebaluna – “No, I Can’t”
Location: Long Beach, CA
Genre: Singer/Songwriter
Band Members: Lauren Coleman, Matt Embree, Jessica Lankford, Jonathan Grillo
Website: http://www.pebaluna.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Pebaluna

The first single off of the upcoming album Carny Life, “No I Can’t” is the highest rated track we have had for Indie Overdose. Coleman’s vocals suck you in and the subtle groove on this track doesn’t let you go. The band’s bio talks of a wide range of styles and influences. This is one heck of an introduction.

The Relative Strangers – “What’s the Weapon of Choice?”
Location: Orange County, CA
Genre: Rock
Band Members: Daniel Alcala, David Alcala, Chris Garcia, Craig Garcia
Facebook: www.facebook.com/therelativestrangers

A true band of brothers, the quartet consists of the brothers Alcala and Garcia. The band is definitely influenced by the past, but not defined by it. One could pick out the various influences throughout this great track, but the boys from OC definitely make it their own. Put this fast-paced track on in the car, open the windows and let it rip!

The Beautiful Bodies – “She’s a Blast”
Location: Kansas City, MO
Genre: Indie/Punk/Dance
Band Members: Alicia Solombrino, Thomas Becker, Luis Arana, Aaron Crawford
Website: www.thebeautifulbodies.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheBeautifulBodies

Alicia Solombrino and the boys have played with some heavy hitters. If “She’s A Blast” is any indication, they’ll be headlining some of these big shows in the future. With fast-paced dance punk that will get your motor running, The Beautiful Bodies are on the verge of super stardom.

Ali Ingle – “Tornado”
Location: Liverpool, UK
Genre: Indie-folk, Pop
Band Members: Ali Ingle
Website: http://aliingle.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/aliingle

“Tornado” is a quirky little tune you could almost hear in a TV commercial. With vocals reminiscent of David Gray and strong heartfelt lyrics, Ingle has a timeless track that you can come back to year after year.

Scams – “Pyramids”
Location: Leeds, UK
Genre: Alternative, Pop, Rock
Band Members: Andy Morgan, Jamie Macneal, Adam Fenwick, Chris Burgess
Website: http://www.wearescams.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/SCAMS/104315960587

Working on a new album that will drop in October, “Pyramids” is a glimpse into the world of Scams. Heavy with Brit-pop and 80’s new wave influences, Morgan, Macneal, Fenwick and Burgess have quite the tasty morsel with this offering.

Youth of the Beast – “Shotgun Army”
Location: California
Genre: Alternative, Rock
Band Members: Adrian Symcox, Blake Craver
Website: http://youthofthebeast.bandcamp.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/youthofthebeast

With vocals that sound like Bowie and a retro feel, “Shotgun Army” is a song that will not be content with just playing in the background. It will command your attention and you will be thankful.

Max Jared – “We’re All Connected”
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel
Genre: Pop, acoustic, folk, funk
Band Members: Max Jared
Website: http://www.maxjaredmusic.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Max-Jared/131457780240092

With John Butler-like guitar playing, Jason Mraz’s vocal stylings and Jack Johnson’s environmental insight, Max Jared has all the ingredients for a drink that will pack quite a punch. This environmental anthem has a little bit of everything and will not leave you bored.

The Vineyard – “Docks”
Location: Charlotte, NC
Genre: Alternative, Indie Rock
Band Members: Michael Valeri, Danielle Souder
Website: http://michaelvaleri.bandcamp.com/

This is a song that sneaks up on you. The more you listen to it, the more interesting it gets. The dual vocals of Valeri and Souder work well, but it is her voice that catches you. Valeri handles all of the instrumentation duties and the early U2-like drums work well under the floating harmonies.

These City Limits – “A Different Shade of Red”
Location: Indianapolis, IN
Genre: Rock, Alternative, Power Pop
Band Members: Randy Vanderbilt, Brian Nichols, Adam Wilson
Website: www.TheseCityLimits.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/thesecitylimits

This power pop trio has been around the block a time or two. Claiming they have 45 years experience in the music business combined, they have definitely learned how to put together that tricky tune that rides the line between power pop and cheese. Not every track like this needs to be on the American Pie Soundtrack. Some of them deserve better. Enter These City Limits…

Varjen – “Shoreline Weeks”
Location: Sweden
Genre: Indie Folk
Band Members: Niklas Sibelius
Website: http://www.varjen.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Varjen

Here’s your language lesson for the day. “Varjen” is Swedish for “The Wolf.” Sibelius has done extremely well in creating this quintessential indie-folk track. Unassuming guitar work, deep lyrics, vulnerable vocals and just enough accompaniment to accentuate his playing provide all the right highlights in “Shoreline Weeks.”

Frenamie – “Self-Obsession”
Location: Baltimore, MD
Genre: Rock
Band Members: Allison Taylor, Nick Taylor, Whitney Wakme, Abs
Facebook: www.facebook.com/frenamie

Self-described as “ugly music for pretty people,” Frenamie delivers raw rock at its finest. With funkified guitar riffs that rip your face off and female vocals that are anything but dainty, put away the good china. Frenamie is about to trash the place, and we like it!

Jakob Deist – “Here Now”
Location: Essex, UK
Genre: Folk, Indie Folk
Band Members: Jakob Diest, Steve McGeary, Kirill Teslia
Website: www.jakobdeist.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jakobdeist

Originally armed with just an acoustic guitar, Jakob Deist has brought on a couple musicians to round out the sound. While previously successful, this will be a big boost going forward. “Here Now” still features Deist’s vocals and guitar work, but the added rhythm section creates the perfect back drop for his talents.

Gambit – “This Town”
Location: Long Island, NY
Genre: Indie Pop
Band Members: Lyle Kamesaki, Jeff Ballantyne, Dave Kaplan, Justin Parker
Website: www.gambitofficial.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/gambitofficial

It isn’t every day you get a submission from someone who went to Harvard, worked in finance and gave it all up to chase after their passions. Welcome to the story of Lyle Kamesaki and Gambit. We think he made the right choice. Chasing after your dreams CAN have positive results!

Girls Guns and Glory – “Mary Anne”
Location: Boston, MA
Genre: Americana
Band Members: Ward Hayden, Josh Kiggans, Chris Hersch, Paul Dilley
Website: http://www.girlsgunsandglory.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/girlsgunsandglory

Musically, “Mary Anne” combines all the best features of old school rock and country. The vocals are reminiscent of a young Roy Orbison or the Moody Blues in some way. There is one thing that is definite. This is a beer drinking tune. Hit the bar, find jukebox, grab a pint or six and let it go!

Soapbox Army – “Mountain”
Location: New York, New York
Genre: Rock
Band Members: Dan Tucker, Pheroze Karai, Bill McBreen, Simon Fishburn
Website: http://www.soapboxarmy.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/soapboxarmy

Upon first listen to “Mountain,” the track and band sound very close to an extremely under rated rock band of the 90’s – Tonic. Straight forward rock with anthemic vocals built for large audiences and a more than solid rhythm section drive this track. When you add in the guitar riffs that drift in and out, you have one of those tracks that can be listened to over and over.

There you have it – fifteen new tracks for your collection. Tell your friends, call your mother, slip a note to your server. They should all get in on these great songs. As always, please support these great independent artists. They need your support and love, so spread it like that rumor about your cousin…

Nitwits - Some Kind Of Bizarre Thing Happened

Nitwits are a very exciting band. Their sound can only really be described as experimental punk, the only other band that I can think of that comes close to sounding like them is Hawkwind.

With simple guitars - in true punk style - Nitwits are really forging their own sound. They do not hold the sort of snobbery that Pink Floyd-esque bands hold, which means their experimental nature is really left to run free, mainly through their loudness and messiness.

The first track on the album is ‘Riding The Space Cow,’ a track which starts off quickly and has these lovely little breaks in it. It is almost alike to pop-punk but luckily it isn’t refined enough and just gets carried away with the energy of the track. There are no lyrics, or at least none that are really meant to be heard and the vocals are just used as another instrument-rather than just being played around.

'Boom Tchika Poom' again has no comprehensible lyrics which works well because it allows the energy of the track to be what is most notable for the track, in true punkish style. This track really explodes later on because of the screaming vocals and the faster speed of the instruments.

Some Kind Of Bizarre Thing Happened is a blistering album which is exhausting to listen to simply because of the amount of energy it exudes. With ‘Cool Busy’ the next track on the album there is still no let up in the ravishing speed of it all. The DIY spirit of the band really shines here because of how unrefined it is, and because of how roughly cut it is.

'Monkey Song' really takes the experimentalism a stage further with what is basically a long interlude of playing along to monkey impressions. In a brilliant juxtaposition though the next track ('Wei Wu Wei') is the most normal and has a sort of Beatles feel to its simple melody powered by the jangling guitars and well played drums. Really this track dispels the myth that punk bands can't play, because here Nitwits have demonstrated they can play what they want - and do it well too.

Of course it wouldn’t be the same to stay with that sound so of course in ‘Tamburello’ they are back to the punk inspired rock with slight breaks and a quick pace. Its a quick track and is over within two minutes - it almost serves as a reminder of who they are and what their original sound was.

The intro for the next track ‘Bomb’ is indescribable because it almost sounds like something Fat Boy Slim could have written. But still it works, because it shows that Nitwits really do have range and anyway, they quickly pull it back into being pure punk - thrashy and quick. Of course it does return to the style of the intro which works even better because it makes it clever compositionally too.

This Nitwits album works well on a lot of different levels - from compositionally being very clever right through he album, to also being great from a punk/DIY perspective. Nitwits are a really exciting band because of their prowess to make a track explosive without much effort - essential for any punk band.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars! 

Album Name: Some Kind Of Bizarre Thing Happened
Date Released: May, 2012
Genre: Rock, Grunge, Punk
Location: Marseille, France
Band Members: Rudy (Vocals & Guitar)
Jean-luc (Guitar)
Mathis (Bass)
Vincent (Drums)
Record Label: Black Ghost
Bandcamp: http://nitwits.bandcamp.com/                                                                              Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Nitwits13

John Ellis - Rural

Sometimes there is more to one’s music than there seems. Some bands like to bury messages like they are burying pennies in the sand while others are honestly blunt and to the point. Johnny Cash was a musician who could send a message through his music like no other. Johnny set the standard for this kind of blunt honesty. John Ellis has released a collection of songs, fifteen of them, that will tell you like it is above the beautiful acoustic music he creates.

Rural is a beautifully produced, written and performed album with songs straight from the heart. I could go through every topic he sings about but then I would be doing an injustice to his new listeners. His songs range from the mere two minutes long to the nearly four and a half minutes long leaving him long enough to tell his story that he feels he needs to tell with each song.

He does through some blues into the song “Jack Kerouac’s Blues” with its old time bluesy swag. But that’s just one example, he throws some bluegrass in there as well along with straight out beautiful acoustic songs. Although these songs sound rather plain and simple, the fact is they are nowhere close to plain and simple. That’s the beauty of it all. When you have this album playing, you don’t know where John is going to take you, yet once the song starts it don’t matter where he takes you because chances are you’re going to enjoy it. There is never much simplicity in a journey; it’s all planned by those who create for those who listen to take. Once again, that is the beauty within Rural.

John Ellis has many stories to tell and from listening to this album, he is just getting started. I know this isn’t the typical review by any means. I’ve only mentioned one song throughout the whole review and that was just to tell you about the style of the song. But this is no typical album and John Ellis is an extraordinary musician and storyteller who deserves to be heard. I’ve had this album on circulation for over a week and it will remain that way for a long time. His music is truly inspirational and is a breath of fresh air when it comes to his style of acoustic storytelling. Whether he is playing his acoustic guitar, piano, harmonica or anything else he throws into his music, it’s what he creates with his words that showcase what John Ellis is all about. Don’t hesitate to be inspired.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars!

Album Name: Rural
Date Released: June, 2012
Genres: Singer-songwriter
Location: South Africa
Band Members: John Ellis
Website: www.johnellis.co.za
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnEllis.co.za
Myspace: http://myspace.com/johnelliscoza
Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/johnelliscoza

A Night of Live Music at Tin Angel with Matt Duke

[caption id=”attachment_6047” align=”alignleft” width=”201” caption=”Photo courtesy of Megan Baker Photography (2011)”][/caption]

There is a cardinal rule, according to IMR’s editor Victor Alfieri, not to ever write a review in the first person.  I’m going to break that rule!  Why?  Because sometimes a concert is about the experience that a person had and this time it’s MY experience.

Recently I made a last minute decision to go see a show at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia.  Any show at the Tin Angel is probably one worth seeing.  It has a great atmosphere and is a true listening room.  Downstairs the restaurant, Sorrano, is a quaint little place with murals painted on the walls.  Upstairs is the venue with reserved tables up front for dine-in guests and bar stools on the wall for other concertgoers.  One of my favorite nationally touring indie artists (who happens to be from a couple towns over from mine) named Matt Duke was playing along with his label mate Riley Etheridge Jr. and a female artist named Stephie Coplan.

Stephie opened the show with her humorous lyrical style.  Her songs are stories with direct lyrics.  Personally, I enjoyed her style and personality.  Of course, for me at least, she’s destined to be one of those artists who you like (not love) live but would probably never listen to the album.

Up next was Riley Etheridge Jr.  My experience with him previously was while interning at Rock Ridge Music.  I assisted in finding blogs, such as IMR, to submit his music to for review.  Finally getting to meet him and see a live show made some of the work I did feel a little more meaningful.  Previously I had only been able to listen to enough of the album to get a feel for what sites I should target.  The live show was a great treat.

Only a couple weeks before, Riley had played the same venue with a full band.  This time he chose to dawn the stage solo, just his guitar, a harmonica, and his voice.  Let me explain, Tin Angel is absolutely perfect for these kinds of shows.  The room cultivates an attentive, quiet audience and the sound is superb.  Riley told stories and connected with the audience in a way that can only happen in intimate venues like Tin Angel.  His performance allowed me to connect with his music in a way I previously hadn’t.

The night ended with Matt Duke, a singer-songwriter with a powerful and passionate voice.  Listening to Matt sing is like being in heaven.  Every time I hear his voice I fall into a trance.  Earlier in the year I saw him play during Rock Ridge Music’s Hotel Carolina – Philly festival.  In my review of that show I mentioned he had a rock quality that you wouldn’t expect from his voice.  Of course during that performance he was backed by a full band.  During this acoustic set at Tin Angel I was overwhelmed by the power in his vocals.  It’s sensual, mesmerizing, and stunning.

Of course Matt Duke isn’t only a great musician, his personality always leaves room for several audience chuckles.  He put the entire audience at ease and really made the room feel like a family.  We were privileged enough to hear several new tracks that Matt has never previously recorded before as well as old favorites.

At the beginning of the night I had thought I would go home and work on other articles.  In the end I had an amazing evening.  For the first time in months I felt genuinely connected to the music and the fans.  It served as a great reminder of why I love this industry.  The Tin Angel can create magic; and when you have artists such as Stephie Coplan, Riley Etheridge, and Matt Duke your night is bound to exceed expectations.

Location: Mt. Laurel, NJ
Genre: Singer-Songwriter
Band Members: Matt Duke
Label: Rock Ridge Music
Website: http://www.mattdukemusic.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Matt-Duke/14795879411

The Divide - Self-Titled EP

The Divide hail from Illinois but manage to capture a slice of country & western with this lovely little EP. It’s a very gentle record but one that is positively brimming with energy. From the start of the first track, to the end of the EP there is a very constant rhythm, an almost train-like quality to all of their songs. The band’s percussionist, Erick Eckstrom, provides an infectious style of drumming that does a very good job of carrying each track and the listener along with it.

The EP as a whole has a very reflective feel to it; each track is filled with a melancholic sense of whimsy and ‘what if?’ The Divide show a talent for penning lyrics that capture a great wealth of emotion, such as this line from “Colorado.”

So tell me how, tell me how, I could have been better
Remember how I sent you all my love from Colorado

The vocal harmony used for these two lines really hangs onto the syllables at the end of each line, building on the idea of desperation.

This is a very beautiful record but it definitely requires a certain mood to be able to play it from start to finish. The songs are not absolutely sad, more bittersweet, which lends them a lot of strength as folk records but are perhaps not going to have much success in the summer market as the tracks reflect a duller, cooler climate.

It is a very modern sounding sort of folk music, reminiscent of Mumford & Sons, which expertly blends the simplicity of a banjo with complex guitar riffs. The style of Ben Montalbano (Banjo) and Will Yanez (Guitar) complement each other well and consistently powerful bass lines, delivered up by Sam Peters, help to glue the whole record together.

The song ‘Country Line’ is where this works best, a pensive track that plays on traditional country and western themes of the lone wanderer, searching for lost love. The story of the song plays out beautifully, with a constant rhythm that shows the repetitiveness of a life on the road, occasionally broken up by the lively sound of strings whenever the lyrics talk of happy memories.

This is a very beautiful record, one with a lot of appeal. In spite of the band’s name, it is difficult imagining them being disliked or causing any sort of rift between friends. This eponymous EP is a fantastic debut, one the band should take great pride in and one that will hopefully push them into bigger and better things.

Rating: 4/5 Stars!

Album Name: The Divide EP
Date Released: June, 2012
Genre(s): Indie/folk/Americana
Location: Champaign, IL
Band Members: Ben Montalbano - Banjo, Will Yanez - Guitar, Sam Peters - Upright Bass, Erick Eckstrom - Percussion
Website: www.divideband.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/divideband
Bandcamp: http://divideband.bandcamp.com