Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Rants by Ryan Horky: “Self-Titled” by Edible Intention

Edible Intention: S/T
(Good Time Gang records/Silver Maple Kill records)

Ryan Horky comes back to LMTV with a review of Edible Intentions’ posthumous self-titled release. Check it out!

This is a posthumous release from a Lansing, MI band that was active from roughly 2007-2010. Once they got outta the practice space they were basically the house band for the Lansing art-space/all-ages show collective Basement 414. If you lived in Lansing at the time and were remotely plugged into the local punk scene you probably saw these guys a thousand times. I’m not sure they ever got outta town. They played a pretty intense mix of free-jazz informed Stooges wail and Minutemen anything-goes stomp. This album was recorded near the tail end of when they were active and sat on the shelf for a while until the all-around good folks at Good Time Gang Records decided to release it (and Lansing label Silver Maple Kill records pressing it up). I was pretty curious to hear this. As much fun as an Edible Intention show was, they could turn into a hot mess of noise pretty quickly. (Not an insult, by the way….) I wasn’t sure their sound could be translated to disc. Producer Tommy McCord did a great job of making them palatable without sacrificing the noise quotient. The vocals are definitely an acquired taste (and they’re mixed suitably low) but I dig ‘em anyhow. Even if you can’t take the caterwaulin’, the guitars are pretty raunchy in a Melvins/Nuggets kinda way and the songs are short and varied enough to hold your attention. The cover artwork totally reminds me of an early 90′s SST release. (You know, it looks sort of awesomely terrible.) I don’t think this CD would necessarily have the same impact on anybody who wasn’t around to catch ‘em in their prime, but it’s still well worth checking out if you’re into more adventurous (but still way rockin’) sounds.-

Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts “Self-Titled” review

Kalamazoo’s Jake Simmons and the Little Ghosts will be releasing their new self-titled album with a release show in Lansing on Nov. 17 at Mac’s Bar with Husband&Wife and Narc Out The Reds. The album will be released on vinyl by Lower Peninsula Records.

The band is Jake Simmons (guitar/vocals) along with Matt Blasco (guitar/keys), Ben Bojanich (bass) and Ian Cooper (drums).

Here’s a review of their album.

I love power-pop and this record splits the word right down the middle. Simmons’ guitar playing is simple yet crushing. The power chords on “The Bridge” punch right through you while the single note slices right through you in the chorus. He’s a regular killing machine with the axe (wow, puns). During the verses the guitars are pulled back in the mix but during the choruses they’re out in full force. The acoustic guitar bits add some texture to a great rock song. That’s what this band does well: good old fashioned rock and roll.

“Chloe” ups the pop factor with high pitched “oohs” from Simmons, showcasing his versatility as a vocalist with a gruff yet soulful voice. His croons get stuck in your head for days. I also love Cooper’s drumming. It’s really fun and simple; gets you moving. “Long Hair” is a fun song as well with its interplay of acoustic and electric guitar parts as well as Simmons’ layered harmonies. The band’s ability to equally complement their pop stylings (Simmons’ crooning and melodies) with the live, electric atmosphere of punk rock (fuzzy, distorted guitars and a great, energetic rhythm section) is astounding.

The production and recording (via John Krohn of Lower Peninsula Records) makes the record have a polish that doesn’t take away from the live, organically powerful atmosphere. The polish in this case reminds me of 1950s doo-wop groups and hit factory record labels like Motown Records. Every instrument has space but not enough to draw your attention toward a particular one. It, again, is a great balance of powerful instrumentation and pop sensibilities.

Drinking Mercury “Orcades” review

Drinking Mercury, by far the oldest Good Time Gang records-affiliated project at over 10 years old, has finally put out their first full length entitled Orcades. Here’s a review.

Opener “Grateful Day” has reverberated drums pulsating and guitars that sound like they’re planets away as swathing guitar fuzz dominates the left channel. “Barely Strung”, the following track, features loud (but not too overbearing) guitars and Michael Boyes’ distinct warbly falsetto. He even belts out some screams toward the end. “Pretend” has a Sonic Youth feel to it. Vocalist and guitarist Tommy McCord takes the lead vocal here. He doesn’t sound all that inspired and the track just feels a bit lackluster. I’ve heard a lot of the tones that they’re putting to tape on this track.

“Saydene” is by far the album’s standout track. I love the main guitar line here. It’s the audio equivalent of a Wild West duel. A swagger, sincerity and brittle toughness envelope the track via Boyes’ vocal and the excellent and dissonant walking bassline via Timmy Rodriguez. “Hey, Hey Sally” is also a great track. As I noted in my review of Drinking Mercury’s “Words” EP, I love Boyes’ vocal here. The version found on Orcades a re-recorded version which has a more “live” feel to it and Boyes’ vocal is more intense and dynamic.

Check this out for yourself here.

 

 

Small Houses “North” review

Small Houses‘ new full length, “North”, is a great record to listen to on a walk by yourself. It’s quietly beautiful and subtle, drawing on elements of classic country, top 40 country, indie rock and traditional folk music and even gospel music with a cover of “I and My Maker” by Jeremy Cassar. That’s not to say Jeremy Quentin, the man behind the Small Houses moniker, rehashes these styles. Quite the contrary. Songs like “Country Flowers”, with their whimsical banjo (courtesy of Frontier Ruckus’ Davey Jones) and mandolin (courtesy of Chris Bathgate) compliment Quentin’s choked up yet tuneful vocal delivery perfectly.
Less is more with “North”. A song like “Late July” with its subdued vocal by Quentin, quiet acoustic guitar melody, ringing piano chords and lap steel guitar, has more than a few musical elements but holistically they act as one quiet, emotionally subdued piece.
Even when more sounds are added, like on the title track, such as cymbal crashes, lap steel guitar or backing vocals on top of banjo, acoustic guitar and slide guitar, everything is mixed perfectly. The cymbal crashes sound off in the distance and the backing vocals are warm and soothing. Just because more musical layers are added, doesn’t mean the music can’t still be ethereal, quiet and beautiful.
The fastest track on the album, “In the Lawn”, draws on hoe down rhythms and a catchy violin melody alongside female backing vocals by Samantha Crain.
I had seen Small Houses perform in Brooklyn, NY in May by himself along with an acoustic guitar. I really enjoyed the intimacy of the performance and the album captures that atmosphere to a tee.

Happy Human “Pale is the New Tan” EP Review

Happy Human, a side project of Elliot Street Lunatic, is releasing a new EP this Friday at Mac’s Bar. The EP is entitled “Pale is the New Tan”. Happy Human is Jordan Hahn (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion) Jason Marr (drums, bass, guitar, vocals, synth, percussion) and Liz McDaniel (synth, piano, vocals).

Here’s a review.

I don’t like to describe things as “cute” but that’s really the only word I can use to accurately describe the overall feeling of this record. Everything about the record has a child-like innocence to it. The synths on “Like Robots Do” sound like they’re coming straight from a children’s cartoon like Blue’s Clues or something similar. The drums, all via a drum machine, are simple. The hand claps help add to the childish, cute attitude here.

The title track features a rotating, circular drum beat as well as a single kick drum as Hahn’s drone of a voice says “You’re cold but your heart is warm/you emit too much carbon dioxide/you’re pale just like me/soon you’ll see that you’ll be alright…”. His voice (as a few others have said) has a Lou Reed sing-talk, monotony to it. It, at first, is a novelty but then after a few songs it begins to lose its luster. Thankfully, the backup vocals from McDaniel and Marr (along with friends CJ Kjolhede and Elon Parker) helps to spice up the monotony.

My favorite song on this EP is “You Are the Best”. I love the summer-envisioning acoustic guitar chords and the kick drum pounding. “I can’t wait any longer/To get this off my chest/I just have to tell you/That you are the best” Hahn sings with an affirming, yet subtle vocal. Backing vocals from Marr help add to the catchiness. I love the instrumentation. A piano, acoustic guitar and a kickdrum are all that’s used here. I was starting to get sick of the cutsey synth and dancebeats. Unfortunately, this song is in the middle of the EP.

I am aware that this EP was written, recorded and totally finished in about a month, so I can understand why some of the instrumentation was not varied as there wasn’t much time to try new things. What I do like about the second half of this EP is the lengthy instrumental section on “New Feeling”. I love the guitar solo; the tone of the guitar is subdued yet bright and sunny.

Go see them play at Mac’s Bar with Roll Over Radio, This is My Suitcase and Commodore Cosmos this Friday at 6pm. Tickets are $6 in advance and $8 the day of. The show is All Ages.

Honah Lee “Life Won’t Let Me” Review

The newest addition to the Good Time Gang roster, Honah Lee, are back from the swamps of New Jersey with a new album, entitled “Life Won’t Let Me” (Good Time Gang Recordings). Having put out a split with The Plurals last year, do they go in the same epic and catchy direction or somewhere else entirely? Here’s a review.

This is pretty mid-tempo, catchy and overall good power chord driven punk. The guitars, as on “Bobby’s Dead” and “Leave It to my Goddamn Brain” are sharp and concise. Power chords are their best friends. Played by vocalists/guitarists Tim Hoh and “Dim”, they drive the melodies and add extra an extra kick. The occasional guitar solo is Ramones-esque where it stays within the songs key and melodic range without being too outlandish (they would do Johnny Ramone proud). The bass is punchy and sometimes fuzzed out. It helps enhance the rhythm from just a typical punk rhythm to something else…probably something like if Martin Hannett tweaked a few knobs here and there during production. The bass plays it’s part but also has its own space.

I really like the vocals and the lyrics on this album. Singer Hoh has a hookiness in his raspy voice that’s undeniable. Songs get stuck in your head with nicely placed melodies and “oh ho ho” vocables that make the record such a return listen. The lyrics are great here too. Lots of singing about beer, parties and mid-20s life. On “Bobby’s Dead”, Hoh sings “Gimme something with a badass tempo, gimme something that’ll stick in my head/Gimme something with some real emotion/Gimme something so I know I’m not dead”. This coupled with the “nah-na-na-nah” choruses are great party anthems. I can only imagine a room full of sweaty punks screaming along. This song will be a great live crowd pleaser.

If you’re looking for something that’s mostly uptempo, catchy and a great overall listen, I recommend this. Go pick it up.

Josh David and the Dream Jeans “Can You Believe We Landed On the Moon?” review

So, it’s been a little while since the album release for Josh David and the Dream Jeans‘ full length, “Can You Believe We Landed On the Moon?”. Here’s a review of said album.

The immediate difference between Josh David and the Dream Jeans and every other Lansing band that I’ve encountered is their front man, Josh David. When he performs with the band live, he goes wild, strangling himself with the mic and running around in his underwear. This live presence translates well to the record. David screams at the top of his lungs (and surprisingly) has the occasional bit of melody seeping out, like on “Tall Paul Rides Again”.

I really enjoy the lyrics on this album. They’re quirky yet meaningful. “Aware of the Riverman”, about fellow Lansing-via-Seattle friend and musician, Johnny Unicorn, mentions Unicorn by name. “His name’s John Benjamin Adams but you can call him Johnny Unicorn” David scowls. It’s really great that David is paying tribute to such a great friend in song. “Capitol City 2-Step” is about David’s hometown of Lansing, MI and the pride he has for the city and the mitten state. “Lansing Michigan’s where I call home” he screams.

Guitars here are noisy, dissonant. Blasts of noise and feedback occur frequently as well as power chords that chug throughout the album. Guitarist Nich Richard shreds with little regard for the well being of the instrument (or his own well being for that matter). The occasional solo happens but they’re kicked out fast. The bass, played by Michael Boyes, is audible and usually follows the guitar lines. Boyes reaches toward the top of the neck occasionally, adding a bit of dissonance on the low end too. The drums (played by Christian Urabazzo) are tight and fast. Usually following the hardcore 1-2 snare downbeat, they keep things moving.

My only complaint is with the length of the album. 14 songs at (mostly) under two minutes, with little changing musically throughout the album, can make it hard to sit through. My favorite tracks are “Capitol City 2-step” and “Aware of the Riverman”. I encourage full listen straight through to see what sticks with you but, in my mind, only a few tracks stand out. That’s not to say that all of the other songs are sub-par. It’s just that 14 tracks on a punk rock record is a lot to sit through.

If there’s an album that makes you think of old school Michigan punk (like The Meatmen or The Crucifucks), it might be this record. Regardless of what it makes you think of, check this out here.

The Plurals/Frank and Earnest “Funemployment” Split 7″ Review

So, the Good Time Gang has finally entered the world of vinyl with a split 7″ featuring The Plurals and Frank and Earnest with two songs a piece. About damn time!

Here’s a review.

The bands alternate tracks here, starting with The Plurals’ “The Best Years of My Life Were in College”. The song features everything you can expect from The Plurals: throaty melodic singing, tight instrumentation, noisy guitars and thumping bass. Bassist/vocalist Nich Richard’s signature line here is “Who gives a fuck about tomorrow?/Who gives a fuck about today anyway”. The song just kind of feels average. Nothing special; a good song but given the band just put out a full length, it just has B SIDE written all over it and rightfully so. Not a good or bad thing. It just is.

The next track by The Plurals fronted by vocalist/guitarist Tommy McCord, “Summary of Your Life”,  has a lot more going on than the previous track. McCord’s vocals are pretty standard. Melodic yet screamy; tuneful yet oddly stoic. Backing vocals by drummer/vocalist Hattie Danby and bassist Richard are a nice layer and counter to McCord. The song features lots of guitar textures from lone guitar notes feeding back to scratchy, high end wails and sawing guitar chords. “I recognize I’m not the one” is the chorus line here.

Frank and Earnest’s side of the split features two of my most favorite live tracks to hear from them at shows, “Turning Pipe Dreams Into Pipe Realities” and “GTG Fest”. McCheese’s humbucker guitar lines slice through the more solid chords of Hassenger. The drums are tight and the bass pushes the song along nicely. I really like the dueling vocal between McCheese and Hassenger as well. Hassenger sings “I don’t want a life of fame and fortune/I just want a world without the torture of politics, overtime, the red and black on the bottom line/World with borders and boundaries out of sight”. Hassenger thinks it could be his “pipe dream” while McCheese counters in shouts, “Fuck your pipe dream/it will never be your pipe reality”. The mental story in the song is really intriguing. It gives you a sense of the second thoughts we all face in our daily lives and our directions in life.

The second track by Frank and Earnest, “GTG Fest”, is a short and fast song about the Good Time Gang festival, GTG Fest. One of my all time favorite lyrics is in this song. The line “forget about tomorrow/this is where I wanna be” describes how I feel when I go to a great show, hanging with lots of friends having the time of my life. It’s that feeling when you walk away from the show just absolutely blown away and you’re living in the moment. It’s that feeling when you know you’ll never forget what you just witnessed. As heavy as I’m describing that one lyric, the song is short and sweet, which is apt. It can’t be too long or it loses its power. The power chords and single note guitar lines crunch and chime along. During the chorus, drummer Ryan Horky kills the bass drum and smashes the cymbals. A great song that describes a moment in time that you’ll never forget.

Overall, The Plurals side is a good set of songs but given that they just put out a full length, the songs have B side written on them. Nothing bad about that, it’s just the way it is. Frank and Earnest’s side features some live favorites on tape. Great lyrics and awesome instrumentation although hearing and seeing the songs live makes them even more special. Go pick this up here.

Johnny Unicorn “Sweet Edith Manton” review

OK, so I had intended to review this a long time ago but I could never fully put into words my thoughts on the album. Now, almost a year since I obtained the album from Johnny Unicorn during this interview, I feel like I can review it now…finally. So here we go.

The opener, Lady Drives, within the first 30 seconds sets you up for what you’re in for with a Johnny Unicorn album. As synths pulsate and the glockenspiel  rings, a sudden burst of drums and saxaphone leave their mark. Then it returns to the synth/glockenspiel motif. Throughout the song, swaths of calming spacey noises engulf your ears. But this doesn’t last long. Unicorn sings “lady drives her car into a ditch” as harmonic guitar lines string along, drums kick and Unicorn’s vocals take you on a ride.

“A ride” is a good and simple way of describing a Johnny Unicorn album (it might be an understatement). On Date Movie Fever, he belts out “date movie fever/I’m running in the wrong direction” while guitars rock out then all of a sudden a breakdown with the synth comes into play as Unicorn then utilizes his falsetto vocal range. Many musical movements and ideas are key to understanding Johnny Unicorn as a musician. Growing up on Frank Zappa and, later on, listening to They Might Be Giants, quirkiness is a great quality that Unicorn possesses and it shines on this album.

Science is my favorite track on the album. Drums kickstart the song like a heartbeat as Unicorn sings “We can travel in machines that take us to where we need to be”. As the chorus comes in, Unicorn has autotuned his voice which gives a robotic tinge perfect for the song. It’s geek rock personified. The music seethes with a quirkiness and twitch that fans of They Might Be Giants would love.

A close second for favorite track is 50 Times. The drums have a swing feel to them. They are my favorite part of the song. Their commanding high-hat/snare combo is so infectious. Unicorn sings “the moon is out of orbit” as guitar chords dryly wring themselves out. As the chorus comes in, synths march along and the guitar tremolos a quick line. Quick, dancy and to the point.

If you’re a fan of bands like They Might Be Giants or musicians like Weird Al, you will definitely love Johnny Unicorn.

Dizzy Dearest “All These Flowers EP” Review

Dizzy Dearest, a Lansing area indie/psych pop band, have released an EP entitled “All These Flowers”, which you can download for free at this link.

Here’s a review.

Amongst electronic beats and swaths of distortion, blips and blotches of quirky noises and (not to mention) the harmony vocals, Dizzy Dearest (synth player Jarod Emison, vocalist Maggie Emison and guitarist Nick Fox) make something pretty incredible here. On “Vacation (Flowers)”, a slow bassy drum beat pulsates among a sea of vocal harmonies, guitar bits and synth fluctuations. I almost have a hard time following everything going on all at once, which actually suits the band’s name and aesthetic quite well. The music leaves you in a blissfully bizarre state of mind. It’s almost best to concentrate on one piece at a time and come back later, and after multiple listens, everything will come full circle.

A favorite of mine from this offering is “Bell Oak Rd.” I absolutely love the blasts of guitar noise that occupy the breaks in this song. It adds an element of spontaneity to the band’s sound and allows them a bit of musical freedom to let loose from the confines of a beat (if only for about 16 bars). Maggie Emison’s harmonies through the noise add a beauty unheard as of yet on this offering. Her (as well as Jarod Emison’s) abilities to harmonize with pure noise is a great way to latch onto what little pop sensibilities that noise provide on its own. By adding that little bit of harmony, it makes it listenable and not overbearing.

The electronic beats found on this EP are creative and work well with the rest of the music. In an almost hip-hop fashion, the beats are just another part of the sonic collage that they’re creating (a la New Jersey experimental hip hop group Dalek). This is evident on “Light Pollution”. As a guitar strums along calm chords, the off-time beat is high on the snare adding a well-deserved punch.

“Capture Me” defines the band’s sound as they are looking to show it to the world. Full of almost 8-bit sonic entanglements in the intro and as guitars-like-clockwork stream along, Maggie Emison sings her way through the sonic jungle (although there’s too much reverb on them for me to intelligibly understand the lyrics). She sings “So capture me/behind the lens of a camera/I wanna see every little thing”. In the way that cameras capture a moment in time, Dizzy Dearest capture a lot of their emotions via sonic collages of noise, beats and harmonies on this EP.

Check this out. It’s worth it.

 

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