album review

Album Review: “Keep Your Batteries Warm” by Josa Barck

The space-time that Danish musician, Josa Barck, lives, breathes and creates within is one of vibrant sound and color. Thankfully for us, he is willing to share that universe and invites us to find a place for ourselves within it. Josa Barck is the anagram for musician/producer, Jacob Rask, who following nearly a decade of working with other Danish musicians like Alphabeat and The Broken Beats, has sought out a new niche. For him, creating music is not only his passion but a need/void he must fill.

 

Jacob Rask: “To me, it is about taking responsibility to create the world I demand to live in, and taking control over the culture. I make the music that I feel is missing and that I wish to hear. It wasn’t there before, so I had to make it myself.”

 

The classically trained musician spent five of his 15-year career with his saxophone at the Royal Danish Academy of music and in 2015, Rask released his debut record, Eurkea, in which he swapped out his saxophone for a guitar. Eureka is a collection of eight subdued and thoughtfully created tracks with gentle vocals and introspective lyrics. Race forward to 2018 where we all anxiously await the release of his sophomore full length, Keep Your Batteries Warm. This record is built from the same scaffolding of Eureka but is reinforced, decorated and draped in new rich, exciting and decadent colors that celebrate this life we live within despite the trying times we all face. When Rask was asked about the title of this new record, he gave both a short and a long answer. The short answer was simple, he liked the way those words fit and flowed together. On the contrary, the title also goes below the surface.

 

Jacob Rask: “’Keep Your Batteries Warm’ is really just my own little 2018 updated version of the old saying ‘Keep Your Powder Dry’. To be prepared for battles ahead. But to me it’s a bit more two sided. I definitely believe there is battles ahead of us, if we hope to create a better world. Not necessarily fighting in the street and such, but one way or the other…At the same time, ‘Keep Your Batteries Warm’ is about optimism and hope. And that something good is on its way. Like: ‘Hang in there, everything will be all right.’”

 

Earlier this year, he released the second single off the album, “Everybody Everywhere.” It’s a fast-paced rolling track that features a completely different vocal quality from Rask compared to Eureka. His voice demands your attention not only to the sounds he’s creating but also the lyrics and the message he is conveying to you. Over and over again he says:

“That’s what everybody wants,

That’s what everybody hunts.”

 

 

The single is the second track on the record, following “Pattern Pageantry”, a pulsing instrumental introduction. It is about the lifelong search we all endure for love and how we all feel that we need to be everywhere at once, experiencing everything all at once in order to succeed. In the words of Rask, “I recognize the search for love as a driving force behind everything I do, but I am beginning to learn, that the search of love, is not so much about chasing something I lack in my life, as it is about perceiving the love that I am slowly realizing, is everywhere all the time too.”

 

Following “Everybody Everywhere” is “Salute”, which was the first single Rask released after Eureka. These two tracks give listeners who know Josa Barck’s music something familiar to suck them into the record before he launches them unforgivingly into the rest of the album. “Clandestine” is a celebratory and trilling track, while “Everywhere at Once” is a nod back to the single, “Everyone Everywhere.” It has overlap in mood, lyricism and concept but it is a slightly more restrained iteration. It is a reminder to the listeners of the message Josa Barck is trying to convey: keep looking for love, everywhere and you will find it because it is already there.

Other tracks like “Neverhours” and “Bantam” are adventurous, dream-like works of art that pull you deep into this effervescent universe that Rask has created on Keeping Your Batteries Warm. Repetitive lyrics, chants sung in harmonies and rounds, and whimsical sound effects bring a childlike sense of joy and revel to the record. Rask really taps into that sense of wonder on “People Reflect the Weather.” The track builds slowly to a most glorious place where it hovers, and gently returns to where it started.

Keep Your Batteries Warm is due out October 19th through Tangleville Records in cooperation with Wonderwhy Music Company and Pop-Up Records. You can follow Josa Barck on Facebook, Spotify, and his official website.

Debut EP from A Box of Stars: “Days Drunk Off Heat”

A Box of Stars hails from a college town in Western Vermont where four of the five band members live. Despite their proximity, the record was born of isolation. One of the lead vocalists and main drivers of the band, Macaulay Lerman, would visit each of the other members’ homes to focus on their part of each track, rather than have the entire band get together to work. This method created something very different than their initial expectations of what was to become, Days Drunk Off Heat. Just like the band’s name, their debut EP is a shimmering collection of stars. Each track just as sparkling as the last but each glimmers in its own color, pulses with its own beat. I feel that this is the result of the bands’ unique creative process. The band is made up of Macaulay Lerman (guitar and vocals), Claire Londagin (vocals), Jens Hybertson (violin), Eben Schumacher (bass, piano, and guitar), and Tim Halteman (drums). The EP was mixed by Josh Druckman.

 

The record is a carefully curated collection of seven tracks that are built on the idea that life is in constant migration, evolution and motion. It is a record that acknowledges our existence in this perpetual motion machine that is life, constantly pushing us forward but also recognizes that we can and will always look back no matter how quickly we are moving into the future. More specifically, the record is a reflection on a period of Lerman’s life where he hopped on freight trains and hitch hiked across the US in his late teens, early twenties. He let the motion of life settle him in some towns for several days, others for several months. Days Drunk Off Heat is Lerman looking back on this period of his life, wondering if he had stayed forever at any one of his stops, what would his life be like today? A question many of us ask ourselves throughout our lives about daily decisions regarding life, lovers, and our occupations.

 

The album opens with my personal favorite on the album, “Cornfields.”

 

 

Within seconds, I knew this was a record I wanted to spend some time with. It simultaneously sounded like something I had heard before, some combination of bands already out there, but also something completely novel. I could not and still cannot decide if Lerman and Londagin’s voices are perfectly similar or completely different. I cycle back and forth between hearing their voices overlap so flawlessly that it seems like both voices are coming from the same body while at other moments, their voices could not sound more dichotomous, almost dissonant at moments. “Cornfields” is a hazy lullaby intertwined with lyrics that are thick with that summer heat that leaves you feeling dazed. The following track, “Sunshivers”, picks the tempo up and is lazily playful, just like those insanely hot summer days that leave you unsure of what to do with yourself. You never completely wake up. That is how Days Drunk Off Heat leaves you feeling.

 

“Tongue Tied” is a lilting waltz that seems to highlight specific memories or moments from Lerman’s travels. Specific stops along the journey, tastes, smells, sights and scenes are captured in this track perfectly laced with Hybertson’s longing violin. Each instrument has its place in each song and I find myself having moments throughout each song with each instrument. The record also highlights Lerman and Longadin individually. “Migratory Birds” lets you get drunk off Lerman’s husky, whispering voice while “The Leaving” highlights Longadin’s pure, rich and soaring voice. On “The Leaving”, Longadin sings of how sweet is to leave, her voice the perfect means of conveying this message.

 

 

The record closes with, “Static Companion”, another favorite of mine, leaving you just as dazed as you began. Days Drunk Off Heat is meant to be listened to slowly. It’s like honey. It’s sweet and it can’t be rushed. This dreamy EP is out now and can be found on Bandcamp, Spotify,  and Amazon.

 

Album Review: Sam Evian – “You, Forever”

Sam Owens, stage name Sam Evian, brings us his sophomore record. You, Forever is a collection of gentle and supple tracks that easily nudge their way into your mind. Nothing on the record is overtly complex, just the way Owens wanted it. You, Forever is an ode to you, to all of us and the fact that we are who we are, forever. In the words of Owen:

 

“This is you, forever: deal with yourself,” he says. “It’s about accepting that you are responsible, that you are in charge of your actions. Everything that happens to you is because of you; no matter what happens, go there and learn from it.”

 

He approached writing and recording the album in parallel with the over all meaning of the record. Embracing who he was as a musician, he grabbed his family’s old instruments and wrote the entire album in his hometown in North Carolina. Just the way Owens describes owning up to your actions and accepting responsibility, he went about recording the album. In a rented house in upstate New York, his band mates Brian Betancourt (bass), Austin Vaughn (drums), Adam Brisbin (guitar), and Hannah Cohen (backup vocals) recorded You, Forever sans pedal tuning. Again, falling in line with the theme of the record, Owens made everyone in his band own up to their standards as musicians by removing a device that he felt made everything just sound too good and not real enough. The result is a work of art that is honest and approachable but not superficial.

 

The album opens with my favorite track on the record, “IDGAF.” I am not one to keep up with all the acronyms kids use these days but I get this one. If you don’t know what it stands for, listen to the song, it’s implied in the chorus. The track introduces you do the entire notion of the record, of accepting and owning yourself. Throwing your hands up, giving into yourself and saying:

 

I don’t care, I don’t care anymore,

Not like before

I don’t care, I don’t have to care anymore!

 

My one qualm with the track is that it’s over too soon. That being said, he IS able to pack in a fantastic underlying guitar melody that reels you in, a gentle build with chiming classic keys and a message that resonates. He certainly leaves you wanting more.

 

 

 

 

In stark contrast is “Health Machine” a head bobbing, rhythmic piece that is fully equipped with a gnarly saxophone exit. Comedically, the track is centered on our bodies and the chaos we put them through. About the track Owens says:

 

“It’s about the unattainable health that I would like to imagine for myself on tour. The line ‘We slither out on a Tuesday feeling tired and hopeless’ is such a hilarious picture: four people in a minivan slithering out of Atlanta, Georgia, stopping at a CVS and getting a bunch of Zicam. Health is your job if you’re touring as a musician, although it’s a job I don’t do so well.”

 

In todays world, we’re all trying to be good at a million things or maybe one thing, like being in a successful touring band like Owens. Regardless, we end up driving our poor bodies into the ground and if we’re lucky, we can keep our minds above the surface! “Health Machine” is another prominent example of how Owens can bring your attention to mundane topics of life like health and self-responsibility but do it in a way that makes you want to take some extra time to consider these topics.

 

Continuing to keep his listeners on their toes on this record, Owens delivers a nearly 5 minute ballad that slowly dissolves into an organized mess of instruments in the form of the track, “Anybody.” Immediately following is a delicate piece titled, “Apple”, not even two minutes in length. And from there he tugs you into “Country.” The track literally sounds like a road trip or a train chugging along down the tracks and that is just what it’s about. Many of the tracks on the album were lyrically inspired by a road trip him and his girlfriend (Hannah Cohen – back up vocals) took across the country.

 

Photo Credit Clockwise: Josh Coleman, Shervin Lainez, Josh Coleman

The latter half of the record is more swaying than the top of the album. It includes pieces like the title track, “You, Forever.” The meat of the track opens up to a glorious instrumental jam and that’s where it stays for the rest of the track. It’s the instrumental representation of, “This is you forever, deal with yourself.”

 

You, Forever is out on June 1st on Saddle Creek and you can catch him touring this June:

 

Sam Evian Tour Dates:
Thu. June 7 – Boston, MA @ Great Scott *^
Fri. June 8 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade *^
Sat. June 9 – Washington, DC @ Songbyrd ^
Sun. June 10 – Durham, NC @ The Pinhook ^
Tue. June 12 – Nashville, TN @ The High Watt ^
Wed. June 13 – Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop
Thu. June 14 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas
Fri. June 15 – Millville, PA @ Mr. Small’s ^
Sat. June 16 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s ^

* = with Katie Von Schleicher
^ = with Buck Meek

Album Review: “Modern Jukebox” by Of Gentleman and Cowards

Hamilton, Ontario fellows, Of Gentlemen and Cowards, released their debut record, Modern Jukebox, on January 27th of this year. After 7 years together Josh Dawson (bass, vocals), Simon Edwards (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Christian Fedele (lead guitar, vocals), and Jake Warren (drums) are sharing what hard work they’ve been up to.

Modern Jukebox begins with a handful of lighthearted pop tunes that roll by with ease. The album changes tune as it progresses, however. It gains a sense of maturity as new styles are explored and the instrumentation expands. By the time you reach “Make You Mine”, the guys are experimenting with blues and funk.

 

 

Then comes my favorite on the record, “Now That the Love is Gone.” The brass came as such a fantastic surprise. I have to admit I thought I had the album figured out after the first few tracks but the change in mood in “Now That the Love is Gone” was such a beautiful surprise! This kind of diversity within a single record is not only challenging but brave. It’s risky to combine genres within a single record but in doing so, you may increase your breadth of fans!

Altogether, Modern Jukebox is a danceable record that is sure to perk the ears of fans of rock, funk and even blues. The album is out now on Spotify, iTunes and Bandcamp. Follow the band on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and their official website.

 

 

Album Review: “Rock and Roll Bye Bye” by SKATERS

As a listener, you don’t really know what to expect when the opening track begins. It’s soft, simple, echoes in the back of your mind. Then it explodes, and blasts full speed ahead. You know you’re in for a wild ride on SKATERS’ sophomore full length, Rock and Roll Bye Bye. The trio is based in NYC and recently parted ways with Warner Brothers record label to take full control of their musical product. The new LP which is due out March 24th is going to be released on the band’s own label, Yonks Records.

 The opening cut, “Just Like Your Mother”, bleeds into the hippy dippy psych-rock track, “Northern Soul.” The track rides like a smooth wave, swaying the listener back and forth, eyes closed. But, at the same time it maintains a raw quality, a bit of an edge, gritty guitar and sandy vocals, smoothed over by psychedelic strings and fading out hand claps at the end.

“Head on to Nowhere” has a bit more of a grunge feel and retro rock tune, “Song 19 (Revisited)” is short and sweet, highlighting the true diversity in sound on Rock and Roll Bye Bye. Slower tracks like “Restless Babe” and “I’m Not a Punk” offer clever lyricism to make up for the lack in speed. “I’m Not a Punk” is a sweet little ballad where the band pleads, “Come on man, I’m not a punk! I’m a punk rocker,” as these two characters really are different.

My personal favorite on the album is “Respect the Hustle.” The track has a lighthearted darkness (yes this is possible) to it, and pushes the bands focus to a more electronic feel. They sing:

 

New York, New York, New York, New York

Is the city of dreams.

Some come from far and wide to see what that means.

It’ll take your heart out just to see how you bleed.

New York, New York, New York,

It’s a heartbreak machine.

 

Deep, gravely vocals, sliding electronic beeps and boops, and interesting chord progressions make the track a unique listen.

The record rounds out with the penultimate title track, perhaps paying homage to the infamous chamber choir vocals of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones and finishes with the single, “In Your Head.” The accompanying music video follows a young teenage girl who wanders through a rainy town, dancing, kicking and stomping in frustration but at moments expressing pure bliss and resolution. The video captures the complicated innerworkings of the human mind:

 

 

 

The LP leaves you feeling satisfied and refreshed, not bored or exhausted from listening to the same genre for 12 tracks. The full spectrum of rock-related genres is visited and at the start of each track, you don’t really know what you’re in for. Give SKATERS’ upcoming LP a chance because, they’re not punks! They’re punk rockers! Rock and Roll Bye Bye is due out March 24th on Yonks Records and you can pre-order on iTunes now.

Album Review: “Singing Saw” by Kevin Morby

Kevin Morby hadn’t spent more than a few moments with a piano in his lifetime until he stumbled upon an old upright in his new home in Mount Washington in LA. With the piano, was some simple sheet music and a book of fundamental piano chords, enough to instill in Morby a new love for piano and the spark that became his newest record, Singing Saw. Within his neighborhood in LA, a dichotomy arose, a striking bifurcation between the expansive city skyline and the complex beauty of the natural world surrounding him. This, too kindled what became Morby’s stunning lyricism and storytelling material, the duality simultaneously reflected in the blooming instrumentals on the album.

Singing Saw is the journey of a man through life, from wakefulness to dreaming, joy to sorrow, acceptance, relief and surrender. The record is stitched together with mentions of the singing saw, both its power as an instrument and a tool and mentions of tears, always streaming, gathering in his eyes. The record opens with “Cut Me Down”, the first sound you hear, a singing saw. It is the perfect introduction to the album. It displays his simple lyricism that is deeper than each word’s surface value:

Take me as I am, a man.

And they’re going to do,

what they came here to do.

I can see it in their eyes,

They’re going to cut me down.

The following track is a powerful ballad with a commanding bass line, decorated with prevailing vocals and of course, the piano. Like many of the tracks on the record “I Have Been to the Mountain” has a blossoming quality. Morby’s songs grow, expand and became something more beautiful and sprawling than what they were at the start. A unique music video accompanies this song. According to Morby, “‘I Have Been To The Mountain‘ is a song for those struck down by the hands of evil – senseless killings which have always overwhelmed our planet, but especially recently,” says Morby. “It’s dedicated to and inspired by the death of Eric Garner.” It stars dancer, Nathan Mitchell.

Besides “I Have Been to the Mountain”, “Dorothy” is the most up tempo piece on the album. Fuzzy guitars surprise you from the get go and hold steady through the track, while Morby plays tricks with the song, it slows to a crawl, piano holding it together and all of a sudden, it’s back at full speed:

Tears will gather in my eye.

Hold my hand, ah babe you know I’ll cry.

The title track, “Singing Saw”, is the first time Morby literally describes the duality of the singing saw. The track is a dream, the singing saw cutting down willows, destroying what’s in its path and chasing after him. The song lingers on and on for 7 minutes, like those moments between sleep and wakefulness where voices echo in your mind, leaving you unsure of what is real and imagined. The singing saw prominent in the track, eerie and ominous.

One thing that makes Morby unique is his singing quality, it’s somewhere between speaking and singing, giving his music a gentler feeling. My favorite display of this on the album is “Drunk and On a Star.” His voice rises and falls as though he’s telling a story but he simultaneously is singing, changing notes.

After “Dorothy”, the latter half of the album is rich, slow and gorgeous, ending with the celebratory track, “Water.” It builds, flourishes and grows while Morby begs to be put out like a fire:

If you find water,

Please call my name.

Put me out like a fire,

Cover me in rain.

The Singing Saw is a special album and is constructed in a way in which the listener is brought full circle from the start of the album to its end. The record is out now on Dead Oceans and is available on iTunes among other music-purchasing platforms.

Check Kevin Morby’s website for his fall European tour dates.

 

Album Review: “Down in Heaven” by Twin Peaks

Down in Heaven is the third record to come to us by Chicago fellows, Twin Peaks. They set out on a recording mission in the comfort of a friend’s home in Massachusetts where the goal was to focus on creating an album that they themselves would want to listen to. Not restrained by the sound of their previous records and inspired by bands like The Velvet Underground who created albums that were each unlike their others, Twin Peaks came up with Down in Heaven.

 The record is a celebration of heartbreak, triumph, being a loser and not really giving a f#ck. The record is acceptance and acknowledgment of the life you live, what you can and can’t have and what you do and do not want. In the track ‘You Don’t’, over and over again we hear them sing “I don’t wanna be yours.” Plain and simple, sometimes love just doesn’t work out in both directions. Melodically the track is fun and low key, an easy jam with hoots and hollers in between the verse and the chorus. This mellow attitude is the overriding theme for the record.

Tracks like ‘Butterfly’ feature a slightly more garage rock feeling with a catchy “Ba ba ba ba” bridge that sticks relentlessly in your brain. Twin Peaks’ ability to write catchy sound bites is apparent on Down in Heaven. The tempo is slightly more restrained on ‘Cold Lips’, ‘Heavenly Showers’, and ‘Stain’ but the boys’ energy is apparent, the record never losing steam.

They play with their musical abilities, featuring a variety of instruments on each track. The piano at the forefront of the whimsical track, ‘Getting Better’, and brass featured in ‘Lolisa’, the fellows showcase their knack for layering instruments and writing songs in a way that gives each track a unique sound. My personal favorite on this record is ‘Holding Roses.’ It has a familiar sound, there’s something retro about it but Twin Peaks puts their spin on it and creates the most ridiculously satisfying sound. Unfortunately, it’s one of the shortest tracks on the record! The chorus demands a belting sing-a-long.

Down in Heaven was the perfect record to kick off the 2016 summer and has remained a favorite of mine throughout. The record was released May 13th on Grand Jury and is available on iTunes, among other music-purchasing platforms. Catch them touring this fall!

9/06/2016 Columbus, OH @ The Basement
9/07/2016 Louisville, KY @ Headliners Music Hall
9/08/2016 Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight
9/13/2016 Orlando, FL @ The Social
9/14/2016 Tampa, FL @ Crowbar
9/15/2016 Tallahassee, FL @ Club Downunder / Union Productions
9/16/2016 New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
9/17/2016 Houston, TX @ Raven Tower
9/19/2016 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
9/20/2016 Austin, TX @ Mohawk Austin
9/22/2016 Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
9/23/2016 San Diego, CA @ The Irenic
9/26/2016 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Catalyst Club Atrium
9/28/2016 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
9/29/2016 Vancouver, BC @ The Biltmore Cabaret
9/30/2016 Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey!
10/8/2016 Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue & 7th St Entry