Posts Tagged ‘review’

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.

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.

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