I Don’t Know If My 2006 Musical Self Would Recognize my 2015 Musical Self (Mid-month Mp3s)
1. “Started a War” – My Own Ghosts. Builds from a fragile, rickety beginning to a full-on indie-rock/shoegaze stomp without losing a deep sense of pathos. Oddly beautiful.
2. “Boys in Blue” – Inner Outlaws. Bass-heavy indie-rockers Inner Outlaws bring their genre-wandering sound to a fine point here, taking all sorts of sonic turns you wouldn’t expect.
3. “White Lodge” – The Kickback. “Hey guys, let’s phase the drums on this one.” “Why? Dark, serious indie rock bands don’t do that.” “Because wouldn’t that sound rad? It would sound rad. Trust me.”
4. “Show Some Shame” – Caustic Casanova. This is definitely the most amped up I’ve ever been while being told “we are doomed!” The innate melodicism of this riff-heavy rocker turns my head, even though I’m not that into heavy stuff anymore.
5. “Lint” – Teen Cult. I spent four years playing in a band composed of a metalhead drummer, a jazz pianist, a Radiohead-addled guitarist, and a pop-rock bassist. As a result, I am the perfect audience for Teen Cult’s sprawling, genre-mashing art-rock. It starts off in traditional Spanish guitar (and Spanish language!), then morphs into difficult-to-classify, Mars Volta-esque stuff (only slightly less heavy).
6. “Spirit of Discovery” – Have Gun, Will Travel. Sometimes I call things alt-country because it’s neither Sweet Home Alabama-style Southern Rock or hot country, even though it’s definitely not the Jayhawks. Whatever you call HGWT, there’s a sweet pedal steel and a workman-like approach and vibe to the song. It feels real, like it’s made by guys who you just want to hang out with.
7. “Next Life” – Tyler Boone. Dedicated to the victims of the Charleston shooting, this tune bridges the line between pop-rock (giant drums!) and alt-country (pedal steel!) but without dipping too deeply into hot country sounds.
8. “Belinda’s Cross” – American Elsewhere. Bon Iver and Gregory Alan Isakov are easy touchpoints for this charming acoustic tune that rides the line between warmly nostalgic and and remorsefully wistful.
9. “Wait” – Wyland. Goes from Lumineers to chiming U2-esque work back to horns-and-group-vocals folk-pop. You know who you are, readers.
10. “The Third Light” – The Left Outsides. Sway your shoulders/hips and bob your head to this folk-tune with a touch of gypsy magic in it.
11. “Sparrows” – Scott Krokoff. I’ve been getting an unusual amount of e-mail about ’70s soft-country and indie-soul recently; Krokoff’s easygoing acoustic tune fits in the former genre as a more full-sounding James Taylor, complete with smooth, smooth vocals.
12. “Education” – Cancellieri. Ryan Hutchens continues his hot streak of brilliant songwriting with this ethereal, floating-world gem. It’s a beautiful, expansive, warm tune that seems to color everything that’s happening while it plays with a bit of a softer tint. If you’re not listening to Cancellieri, you should be.
1. “Goldface” – Tussilago. This indie-pop tune just feels effortless: Tussilago slides along with a bass groove, a low-key dance vibe, and a great melody. It’s the sort of song that you forget when you heard it the first time: it seems timeless, like it’s always been there.
2. “Break the Chain” – Ultimate Painting. Classic popcraft here, hearkening back to songsmiths like McCartney, Lennon, and Nilsson.
3. “No More Hits” – The ZZips. Do you miss slacker acoustic/funk/groove Beck? Hit up the ZZips, who clearly do as well: the clattering beats and gentle acoustic guitar come together via the funky bass and chiming electric guitar.
4. “Firefly” – Jeremy Bass. The press for this says bossa nova, but all I hear is smooth, gentle acoustic pop with a genuine, earnest vocal performance. It sounds like the sun was shining when he wrote this one.
5. “A Weaker One” – The Henrys. Sometimes I just like a song, and don’t want to kill it with definition. Chill out to this calm, excellent acoustic tune.
6. “Mountain” – Crooked House Road. I know Mumford & Sons kinda killed the market on indie-rock/folk fusions, but I’m surprised that more people haven’t taken Nickel Creek’s bluegrass/indie-rock fusion route. Crooked House Road goes that direction, adding in some klezmer flair and dramatic female lead vocals as well.
7. “Austin” – Tyler Boone. There’s some sweet pedal steel action on this modern country tune, featuring (who else?) a down-and-out narrator.
8. “Eastern Time” – Runner of the Woods. Here’s a tune that appeals to all the old-school country vibes that it can: weeping pedal steel, plain vocals, and bouncy piano (with some John Denver twinkles thrown in). It comes together into a swaying, smile-inducing whole.
9. “Our Garden” by Fox Street. If Ray LaMontagne got a little more Needtobreathe Southern rock in his blood, he could have written this tune. Passionate, raspy vocals meet wailing organ in a mid-tempo ballad.
10. “Too Little Too Late” – Mi’das. I’ve been getting a ton of soulful songs thrown my way recently. Mi’das stands above the pack by delivering not just his vocals but his expressive guitar playing.
11. “Money in the Evenings” – Hermit’s Victory. This white-boy slow jam has a Iron & Wine rustic feel (just the vibe, not the arrangement), while maintaining its own flavor through the accents and Tyler Bertges’ unusual, carefree vocals.
12. “Tz, Ka” – Inner Tongue. More soulful slow jams, but with some major synth contributions that give this also a bit of a dance vibe. It’s, at least, super re-mix ready. The head-bobbing vibe is hard to beat on this one.
13. “Sadie” – Gold Star. Slurry, emotional, and passionate, this vocals-led tune dances around the genres of country, slow-core, and singer/songwriter. Whatever you call it, it grabbed my attention immediately.
And now we’ve made it through the full Konami code. Cheers!
Blimp Rock’s pop-rock tune “Let’s All Stay In Tonight” celebrates the joys of staying in your house, inviting your friends over, and drinking tea. I heartily approve. For those who have been to hundreds of shows, a sentiment I have echoed for years: “I see there’s more than two bands on the bill / so I don’t think, I don’t think I’m gonna go / I wish it started at seven / so we could get to bed by 11.”
The Life and Times also celebrates home life in “Passion Pit”: the central character brushes his teeth, washes dishes, gets covered in leaves and hangs out with a housecat. The rest of his rock band follows him around his house. Good times had by all.
Keeping the domestic theme alive, one of the oldest urban living tropes I know of is brought to life here in Tyler Boone’s “Take Aim”: meeting a romantic partner at the laundromat.
In stark, vivid, flamboyant contrast to the first three, Many Things’ video for “Holy Fire” concerns the atypical, unusual, and surreal in a single-shot video of remarkable oddity. It’s not what I expected from this song, but it works. Oh, it works.
Lylit’s clip for “Unknown” is basically a combination of those previous things: there’s a very domestic ’50s flair to Lylit’s wardrobe, hair and surroundings, but the pastel coloring of everything makes it just a bit off-kilter. It’s still a fantastic pop song, on top of that.
For the first review of the new year, I chose something upbeat and fun. Beginnings are important, you know? And Tyler Boone‘s Changing Pace is quite a good start to the year. Boone’s five-song EP features a strong beginning itself, as “Don’t Forget the Name” is a poppy, infectious tune that includes all the best parts of his Dispatch/Dave Matthews Band sound. A little bit of beach vibes, a few jammy tendencies, chill vocals and liberal doses of organ all come together for a tune that you won’t be forgetting any time soon. That is, until closer “Put It Down” rolls around. Featuring that organ again, but now with an enthusiastic horn section punctuating the proceedings, the song is even more peppy than the first. If you’re into fun, upbeat tracks, there’s not much better mixtape fodder than this.
In between the two standouts are three tracks that don’t hit as hard. “Stuck Between” and “All of This” lean more toward the rock persuasion, which isn’t as interesting to me as the pop tunes. (This style, however, may appeal to other listeners.) “Home,” at the very center of the EP, is in the poppy vein of the highlight tracks, but doesn’t have quite the same melodic impact due to its more pronounced efforts at being poignant. Boone is at his best when the vibes are just rolling off him; this recognition most likely led “Don’t Forget the Name” to be the very worthy single.
If you’re missing the summer and need a quick fix, I recommend giving Changing Pace a spin or two.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.