Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Best Of 2023: The New Music Year In Review

2023 was another stellar year of new music reviews here at DaveCromwellWrites.  As we come to the end of it, the annual Best Of is now presented for perusal.  Each month's entries are covered, featuring the best of the best artists who put out compelling new recordings.  Old favorites stand alongside brand new entries, all deserving of the in-depth analysis they received.  What ties every one of these artists together is their own high level of recording acumen and overall creativity.  With that said, dig in to the 2023 Best Of DaveCromwellWrites Features.    

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Monday, October 23, 2023

Enchanting Probe into Quality New Album and Single Releases

Trusted recording artists who've established themselves here in the DaveCromwellWrites universe over the last year or two serve as the main focus for this current Music Feature. As one releases an instant-classic full-length follow-up to their previous brilliant album, another dazzles with a single as a bridge between their long-players. All of the above receive the no-stone-unturned deep-dive review this site is known for.

It's been two years since the last DaveCromwellWrites track-by-track review feature on The Suncharms. Back then a thorough and detailed review was given on their magnificent “Distant Lights” album. Now they're back with a brand new full-length recording “Things Lost,” once again released on the fantastic Sunday Records label. The full Cromwell focus is now turned towards the essential sonic pleasures this release has to offer.

The first thing heard as the album begins is a light crackle, as if a vinyl LP is being played. Cymbals quickly enter and then the lush, hooky guitar melody of opening track “3.45” push everything into motion. Lead vocalist Marcus Palmer wastes no time planting his multi-layered, sandpaper vocals down in classic Jim and William JAMC style. A subtle xylophone (or marimba) counter melody emerges as “records start spinning” and “my heart is breaking.” There's a gorgeous, snaking guitar solo weaving it's way through the center of the track, up against that romantic chord progression. A harmonica enters the fray in the latter half as well, on this song that appears to be about a recurring dream. “It always end the same – at 3.45

The not-nearly-as-dark-as the title might suggest follow-up track “Satanic Rites” has more in common with Merseybeat than any kind of “devil rock.” In fact the title references British horror film “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” which apparently in this long-distance-love-lost song is the “only thing left behind” from their initial relationship. The guitar chords and vocals on this chorus combines power, beauty and melancholy.

On to album title track “Things Lost” pairs classic jangle guitar with smooth, low-key Reid-style vocals for maximum effect. A rumination on times past, “taking me back to my younger self” evolves into “boxes of light (that) have disappeared.” Wonderful interplay between an undulating bass guitar, light touch drumming and dominant hook guitars all contribute to a perfect listening experience. Special mention for the keyboards added at the end.  Fourth entry “Whitby” combines a romantic night in that North Yorkshire, England seaside town with more Dracula references. “Looking out at the abbey from Bram Stoker's room” and “no fresh blood on the scene” would suggest as much. Along with mentions of “an everlasting night” and “no reflection in the mirror” make this simultaneous “northern soul” homage an instant classic.

Daylight is Here” pivots off a reverberated “Be My Baby” drum into and easy-groove guitar line. With verses delivered in that now familiar Marcus style, the songwriting brilliance of having a guitar melody running simultaneously in-tandem with vocals is always a delight. A song about staying “to hear the bands last song” and missing your train is a truly relatable commuter choice. A lovely twangy guitar solo provides an audio link between night before reverie and this early morning comedown.   “Red Wine Kisses” powers along a 4 chord progression that melds bright chiming guitars with snaking bass progression and slap-crash drums. A lovely female vocal harmony pairs with Marcus on the wistful chorus that goes “Red wine kisses – I'm sure gonna miss you – even though it never began.” The appropriately placed guitar solo is once again, exquisite.

Dark Sails” rides over a bold and buzzy anthemic lead-guitar figure with acoustic guitars strumming underneath. Quaint lyrics about getting “a postcard yesterday – strange in this digital age,” are delivered with classic 90's MaryChain/Chapterhouse aplomb.  An angelic female voice returns to harmonically enhance the title-line chorus.  Additionally, subtle keyboard elements appear as backing on subsequent verses and again at the songs conclusion.  “Demonic Eyes” joins a plaintive guitar-melody hook with tambourine rattle percussion. An introspective look at oneself via train ride through nostalgia that includes actors circa 1964.   “Do you explore?” is the essential question. It's answered earlier on, with “people so intimate – I'm eager to explore.”

A shimmering guitar approximates the audio equivalent of what song title “Torrential Rain” might sound like. Straightforward hard charging bass guitar and drums lock down a solid rock rhythm. Lyrically referencing an “overgrown cemetery,” “angels with moss faces” and “broken tombs,” leads to a search for “something to make me feel alive.” The final minute instrumental end-out is truly magnificent and soooo MaryChainy.  Final cut “Last Tram” emerges out of distant clangs before laying down a bouncy, merseybeat groove.  A rising counterpoint bassline adds an unanticipated additional melody to the progression.  Further unexpected elements develops in the form of an intimate spoken word end-out. “I'm always chasing the girl with the Autumn coat,” he states - “and the last tram that never arrives.”

Listen to and find out how to acquire this dreamy recording here:

Follow The Suncharms on their Social Media  -  Facebook  -  Instagram

Previous Features on The Suncharms on this site can be found Here and Here

Check out what Sunday Records has to offer via their links  -  Official Site  -  Facebook  -  Instagram  -  TwitterX  -  YouTube

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Back in February of this year, the DCW audio-scope did a thorough listen and breakdown analysis of talented and multi-skilled artist Julian Shah-Tayler's full length album “Elysium.” With both that album and this particular deep-dive review receiving critical raves from the most discerning listeners, the hope for a follow-up combination was anticipated. We have now arrived at that point with a new single from the artist having recently been released. A full investigation into this new song and video for “Fall Apart” follows below.

As the video opens with morphing imagery of stylized boy and girl animation (credited to Kaiber AI), synthetic keyboard tones reminiscent of the classic AHA track “Take On Me” poke out an instantly catchy melody. Briskly paced percussion also conjures up an 80's feel, complete double-clap accents on the turnarounds. “You can watch my life fall apart - in broken hearts - before your very eyes” Julian sings in his familiar Bowie-esque style. A song of heartbreak, there's no bitterness here as the singer instead shows how much they still care, focusing on his lost lover's “beautiful eyes.”

An enticing synth-bassline stands out in the open sonic spaces as a second series of lyrics evoke images of “skin on skin” and “violence suffered all in silence.” The emotional churn continues where an attempt to “show you paradise” deteriorates into “ split our needs in two” ultimately leading to a dramatic audio peak on the final word of “a reality I just can’t face.” Classical strings (via synths) accent the lyrics on subsequent passages, along with fluttering percussion rising up underneath it all. A cascading buzzing drive to conclusion that includes real or synthetic guitars brings everything home.

Check out this amazing track here:

Connect with Julian Shah-Tayler/The Singularity via his Social Media here.

A Previous Feature on Julian and his music can be found on this site Here.

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Monday, September 25, 2023

Mesmerizing Recognition of Recently Released Music and Video

Compelling new releases kick-off the Fall/Autumn DaveCromwellWrites music review feature. Long-time indie-legend dreampop recording artists share space here with newer experimental ambient creators, and post-gaze, power-pop psych-rockers. Deep dives are the order of the day, with an attentive ear for sonic details still the primary focus. Audio, photos and video continue to provide the inspiration for this careful analysis.

We American's who haven't been afforded the luxury of traveling abroad and traversing the globe occasionally are unsure of exactly where certain country's are. Take Estonia for example – where exactly is that? Trusty internet searches are the charm these days and one can see it is one of those former Soviet Union locales that borders the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland – now considered Northern Europe. The reason for this particular curiosity is a relatively new release from Estonian dream pop band Pia Fraus. Having heard about them for years, it was eye-opening to discover they've been at it (off and on) for 26 years! Their latest album 'Evening Colours' is out now on digital, with a vinyl release set for September 28th. The Cromwell focus on these artists work is long overdue.

Opening cut “French Exit” comes on with an instantly romantic feel (which will extend through all the songs). The guitar riff hook is of the descend-then-rise, start-stop variety, with drums providing a counter motion throughout. An advance promo promise of “shimmering layered male-female vocals” makes an immediate entrance, bringing to mind what Sune and Sharin did so well with The Raveonettes. Chorus hits and the dreamgaze feel goes into overdrive, with full ambient washes and melodic guitar figures.

Follow-up track “Fog on the Hills” is quicker, breezier – giving off a more gentle, wistful vibe. That is until the chorus hits and then it's full-on gazer-romance, tugging at that music-to-fall-in-love-with-someone feeling. Frequent use of minor chords shows depth and sophistication in the songwriting. The drumming is once again, fantastic – as are the synths and voices. Album title track “Evening Colours” continue the sugar-coated voices and add subtle pitch-bended guitars to compliment that Raveonettes-style twang. Soaring strings lift everything onto a cloud of angels. There are higher vocal notes hit here, and the bass guitar makes its presence felt in positive groove-oriented ways.   

Sunny Afternoon” combines slashing guitars, synth highs and sophisticated phrasing that incorporates major, minor, 7ths (4ths?) voicings in their easy breezy sentiment. For those who can imagine a joyous day of wind in your hair and warmth on your face. “Who's the Envelope-Man?” relies heavily on orchestral synth washes, as those familiar sheering tandem female vocals push everything forward. Angular pauses within the song structure creates space for cleaner guitar lines. Drums, bass and piano skillful lock to each distinct rhythmic change.

Regret Everything” comes on quicker in pace, adding flute-y synths for instrumental expansion. Driving bass and drums propel the tandem female voices along against a bed of synth ambience. “Confidential Information” adds a level of pitch-bended “gaze” guitar to the now anticipated Swingle Singers style vocals and rapid-fire drums. Chunky, chiming guitar chords and a bit of organ emerges into the mix as well. The curiously titled “Another Artichoke” introduces a subtle new dimension by adding occasional horn sounds to the mix. Clearly discernable lyrics state “please hold my hand at least for one more year – I'm so tired and the end is near – you know you're better than nobody else . . . don't let me go that's all I ask of you.”  

Cloud Winterland” veers back into the gazey warble guitar world, with placid open spaces intermittently staged for dramatic emphasis. “We Melt” picks the pace up once again, with unexpected and refreshing sharp turns and quick breaks. The central chorus and lush and bathed in a dream-gazey wall of euphoria. “Lost in Nights” closes out the album with it's most romantic and soulful groove. Subtle pitch-bended guitars share space with more traditional strings. Those alluring female vocals strike the perfect balance between nostalgia and longing.

Much respect to guitarist Rein Fuks for writing and arranging 99% of this masterpiece.

Check out this incredible album here:

Find out all the ways to acquire it here.

Follow their Social Media here:   Pia Fraus   -  Sek Sound

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Back in May of last year, DCW had the opportunity to dig deep into advance track “Normal” by Héctor Caolo Alvarez run project Sueño Con Belugas (I dream of belugas – whales). That ambient tour-de-force is now included along with five other cuts on the recently released EP “Memoria Cósmica.” A cast of familiar names like María Lopez (Malow) on vocals and synths, Gardy Pérez on Guitars, Loops / Delays are joined an equally impressive group of various other contributors.  A full review of all six tracks follow below.

EP opener “52Hz / Agua Atómica” emerges quietly, floating on gentle guitar strumming with overlying noodling effects. A singular synth introduces the next movement about two and a half minutes in. A minute late a full drum beat kicks in, along with distant vocals over top of a ominous, crawling progression. Heavier guitars begin slashing their way momentarily into the mix, before the percussion drops out and female vocals become more prominent. The groove kicks in once more, with a throbbing bass leading the way over drum crack and layered male-female vocal tandems. Soaring vocals drive this mysterious over nine minute epic to it's conclusion.

Follow up track “Caracol” combines nature field recordings with Spanish language spoken word. Distant ambience is blended with the sounds of birds tweetering along with a rising level of otherworldly synthesis. A bass pulse emerges gently, before fading out with this relatively brief reverie. As mentioned above, third entry “Normal” receives a full detailed review HERE.

Fourth cut “Fantasma” starts quietly, with soft acoustic guitar that is soon met by additional laid back half-spoken, half-sung Spanish vocals. Ambience begin to build up underneath with loops and delays creating a magical dream world. “Gris” returns to more traditional rock stylings, with guitar, bass and drums pumping out the rhythms and progression for maximum effect. The chorus hits quickly, with elevated lead female vocals driving it all along. Male voices take their turn briefly on a line or two, before the blended voices mesh with soaring guitars on lofty passages. Extended instrumental segments emphasize the melody progression, driven by that ever present bass guitar, drums and chiming guitar hooks.

Epic final entry (the EP's longest at 9:45 in length) “Detrás del Volcán / Memoria Cósmica” builds up from a quiet hum, as female vocals slowly begin to shed light on the proceedings. Drums enter quietly, along with additional layers of vocals and shimmering guitars. The midway, separation point moves bass guitar out front in the mix, as everything transitions to an ambient world where beluga whales swim free through the cosmos. A final third movement emerges with pulsing percussion, shearing guitar textures and a clarinet move forward for the final fade out.

Listen to this dreamy recording here:

Follow the band and label releasing this record here:

El Gran E Records: - Facebook - Instagram - X/Twitter

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Finding their way into the DCW mailbox is the Seattle based guitar-centric band Guest Directors. They've just released their first full-length album “Interference Patterns” that features nine songs drawing from the bands entire lifespan. Building up to the complete album drop, the band has given some of the tracks video treatments. Most of the audio was recorded in a beautiful old church in Anacortes, WA. Released by Topsy Records in conjunction with Snappy Little Numbers Quality Audio Recordings. Available on Bandcamp, a few choice indie stores, and streaming everywhere.

The more recent (second) video put out for deeper track “Nico” kicks off with straightforward four-on-the-floor drum thump that's soon met by chiming guitars. Chords shift quickly while a melodic guitar line rings along over top. Female vocals emerge with a doubling effect, that gives it all a timeless vibe of 60's era rock. As the video shows appealing patterns of vintage psychedelic floating projections, subtle human images are briefly embedded in as well. A gorgeous, instantly hooky chorus is then revealed, with full-band enhancement and lovely multi-tracked vocals. As the second verse moves forward, a noticeable change in the drum pattern shifts to more two-hand, tandem strokes on the toms. The bass guitar also becomes prominent, with the open spaces allowed for that instruments melodic movements. A burst of guitar soloing emerges at the mid-point, reinforcing that 60's psychedelic-rock vibe. One more softer verse cycle through with busier drums and bass, before a final glorious chorus and sparkler enhanced end-out.

Check out this great track and imagery here:

The album's opening cut “From This Distance” was first to be given a video treatment, kicking the whole record off with appropriate style. As the drummer counts everyone in, visions of lofty mountain ranges are superimposed against colorized images of the band playing their respective instruments. It's a slithery-gaze groove that employs expectedly sheering guitars and an out-front rubbery bass pattern. Opening male lead vocals are soon met with female counterpart harmonies. It's a harder, heavier version of the “gaze” genre, with down-pounding strokes via those essential rock instruments – guitars, bass and drums.

Groove into this badass video and song here:

Follow up track “Perfect Picture” quickens the pace with a more frenetic approach, and the lyrical hook line “trapped inside your head.” Stimulating forceful sonic breaks keep the listener engaged, avoiding any level of predictability. “Raise a Glass” ambles along with an easy groove vibe. Female vocals stand out front in this near-ballad offering. The minor key driven hook “but you fall apart, and the cold winds blow” and again “when the sun shines through your window” suggests any “glass raising” isn't necessarily celebratory. A heavy guitar mid-section adds crunch to the overall proceedings. 

Blackout Dream Blues” lumbers along with doom-laden underpinnings as impassioned female vocals lay out a tale where you “drown, drown, drown.” Tasty guitar figures are never far from any of this bands songs, and this one is no exception. “Skinless” emerges out of twisted guitar phrasing, one entering from the right, followed by the second on the left side of the mix. Heavy bass guitar and drums drive a thundering rhythm down the middle. Those female voices deliver the lyrics in higher register, with an elevated level of passion.

Dig into the complete album, with info on how to acquire this record here.

Follow Guest Directors on their Social Media:

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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Thought-Provoking Assessment on New Full Album and Single Releases

A long-time favorite has re-entered the DaveCromwellWrites world with a brand new full-length recording. Alongside that is a previously never-before heard artist offering up their unique take on a 90's era classic. Finally an often reviewed, most-respected label has remastered and reissued an earlier catalog EP. Every song on all of the above mentioned releases now receive the infamous DCW track-by-track review.

Press releases indicating that new music from long-admired Cloudland Canyon had been trickling in over the last few months. Having already been a devoted fan of the purposefully vague and mysterious output from this creative force since the mid-2000's, each new single release added to the excitement. Now the full-length album is here, and for this reviewer it brings back all the memories and reasons for that initial fascination. Led by former New York and now Memphis based electronic music master Kip Uhlhorn, the artist has tapped into the mutual admiration of Spaceman 3/Spectrum's Sonic Boom (Pete Kember) for production assistance. The result is a magnificent collection of otherworldly music tuned into those dreamlike states some of us experience with each night's sleep.

Opening track “Circuit City” bursts out in full motion with no buildup, careening along at a bustling pace. Familiar deeply reverberated male vocals commence over (or is that under) a repeating AI voice pattern that sounds like the word “my, my, my” in perpetuity. There's a distinct pop chord progression at play, complete with a chorus (even if the lyrics buried beyond recognition). While the title line can be made out occasionally, that's hardly the point. Many wonderful sonic elements emerged throughout this over 6 minute opus. The percussion is busy, with bongo-like textures fluttering up (and then away). A driving synth-bass takes a dominant position at the 4 minute mark, with the previously bubbling sonics fading back. That sets the stage for a “battle of robotic sounds” (of sorts) to follow.

Follow-up cut “Internet Dreams” wraps itself in a dance-floor ready krautrock beat that pulls elements from both German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. Vocals come delivered with primary force from a strong female voice. “Losing time – barely there. Lose myself – light as air” are her opening lines. The hook comes in the form of a “Oh, Oh-A” vocal resolution at the end of each line delivered. “If I felt your touch – I might break apart” she initially concludes. Reading the artists statement that this song deals with something “you've already lost” and “our tendency to romanticize the past,” play out with the lyrics “old dreams light up my screen.” The suggestion that these “in tattered dreams” may be more “destructive” that we initially realized are summed in the the final repeated vocal hook “since you went away.”

Future Perfect (Bad Decision)” taps into the dreamlike state and relaxed ambient pastel groove that initially caught the attention of this reviewer on their previous releases. Even though the rhythm is clearly defined with strong percussion, there's something about those vague and heavily reverberated vocals that instantly satisfy. Perhaps it's the dream pop and “gazey” music of initial practitioners like The Jesus and Mary Chain (and later on The Raveonettes) that has forged a connection with this sound. Something about the shifting voices that are just out of reach (like in a dream) find an emotional touchstone. The melody is romantic and builds slowly, creating the sensation that some kind of angelic experience is just over the horizon.

SEA TACT / Whispering Waves” opens with a pulsating drone that continues while aggressive drumming thunders up from underneath in the mix. A variety of sound patterns begin to appear, some melodic and others adding to the hustling chaos. The halfway point introduces an elongated background vocal counterpoint to this otherwise hyperspeed sensation. Those vocals evolve into a more semi-coherent chanting phrase that sounds like “you don't say it's alright.”  

There's a distinctive (once again) Jesus and Mary Chain feel on the slow, rambling two-chord appeal of “Recursive Excursions.” Choosing an undistorted guitar tone (like much of JAMC's 2nd studio album “Darklands”) sawing easily between chords, rattling tambourine and backing synth pads join in. Vocal delivery comes on soft and casually harmonized “we're not disappointed – just look where we've been.” Continuing in the aforementioned Reid brothers style, harsher electric guitar chords commence. From this point on, the actual Velvet Underground inspired source is more clearly revealed.

Another focus track “Two Point Zero” takes the quicker paced dance-floor electronica of earlier offerings and combines that with the preceding JAMC style vocals. A deep twang tone serves as a sonic balance point within shifting cacophony. With all that intentional aural chaos, a vocal hook “I don't want anyone but you” is purely evident. Plucking synths are pared with just enough percussion to generate the necessary forward motion. A timeless 80's through 90's feel abounds throughout, as if everything Depeche Mode, Howard Jones and other synth-pop pioneers of that ilk were put in a blender and poured out into this song.

Reaching deeper tracks, “LV MCHNS” combines buzzing brass synths, mechanized rhythms and icy female vocals that taps into the realm inhabited by bands like Ladytron. “Spacebar Blues” comes off as a less calculated studio jam, based around Kip's guitar and voice working out this “blues” progression idea over a ticking drum beat. Additional sound layers added on give it a fuller off-kilter appeal.  Final entry “Gimme Tension” returns with full force everything that makes Cloudland Canyon so engaging. Swirling synths – check; forward charging percussion – check; anthemic dreamgaze vocals layered and distorted beyond recognition – double-check! Like most everything on this entire album – it's music to fall in love with someone - in an alternate AI universe.

Acquire this album at their label Medical Records HERE

Follow Cloudland Canyon on their Social Media 

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Every now and then you get a message from a contact on Social Media that you haven't really interacted with. Such is the case with an Italian musician who puts out recordings under the name I'm The Villain.  His latest release is a personal tribute cover of the song “Nutshell” by Alice in Chains.

Starting the track off with an acoustic guitar and 808 drum machine, an introspective, homespun feeling is the initial vibe. Getting right to the vocals, you can hear passion within his lyrical delivery. He's got Layne Staley's vocal inflections down, as he retells about “misprinted lies,” “the path of time,” and how “I fight this battle all alone.” Soon a series of slinky, echoed telecaster guitar riffs enter the mix adding depth and texture overall. Reaching the second verse and the desolate lines “my gift of self is raped” adds on to the guitar layering creating a near metal-slide feel amid the echo. While the acoustic strums throughout, those wirey guitar figures weave around with determined anguish. Building to an emotional sonic peak, the percussion, guitars and synths come together in a cacophony of sound. A single high-pitched guitar figure continues to rise, leading out the the ultimate conclusion of the strumming acoustic.

Check it out:

Find out more via their Socials - Instagram  -  Facebook  -  Soundcloud

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A recent release from our friends over at Shoredive Records find label boss Nicolas Pierre Wardell (a/k/a Nico Beatastic) reissuing his 2015 BEATASTIC EP number 2 in newly remastered form. As the record was originally the second in a series of four, it's title goes by the numerically accurate 02 2002 02020 2 (Remastered). A careful listen inspires ideas, thoughts and words below.

Epic opening track “Butterflies” clocks in a nearly 10 minutes in length. As one might expect, there's a lot going on in that timeframe. Buzzy brass synths kick it all with quick rhythm, panning back and forth the sound field. Other synths begin to wade in, creating a more drone-like effect. As Kraftwerk-ian percussion clips and hisses, a distinct bass guitar pattern emerges creating movement underneath. Gazey guitars begin strumming busily and the thump and crack of drumlike percussion enters the fray. At the 3:20 mark a momentary halt and held ambience serves to set up oncoming vocals. Delivered in elongated diction, it's more like a mantra, before something approximating a chorus emerges. That's followed by some hard-edged (and ear pleasing) bass guitar riffing. Halfway in and the drums, drone and vocals run through that melodic chorus once more. At six minutes the track breaks down to a synth only segment that reprises the songs intro. Backward looping over top always gives this reviewer a Jimi Hendrix-in-the-studio sensation (since that's where it was first heard) or perhaps even BeatlesWhite Album” vibe. Vocals float in and out with “ohhh ohhhh ahhhh” placement showing keen awareness of what a studio recording can accomplish. Pushing forward into the final 2 minutes, all the previous sonic elements return in full force for the grand finale.

Following cut “The Ebb And Flow” comes on with high-pitched synth pulses, before solid drumming and vocals join in with a full progression. Fast strummed “gazer” chords are positioned over top of it all, along with harmonized melodic vocals. A shearing guitar and drums instrumental breakdown adds powerful juncture to the final vocal conclusion. “Perfect Moment Perfect” emerges out of an ambient mist, before high-hat and snare percussion enter in. Vocals come on initially softer and introspective – as single line guitar figures weave around. As the synth pads rise and fall back, percussion stands out in front of the mix – as muted voices sing about taking a “moment” and “make it perfect.” More guitar lines step forward in a dominant way, as the song moves to it's conclusion.

After an ominous deep-buzzy synth intro, “Try Harder” quickly shifts gears as it bounces along bright strumming guitar and a solid drum pattern. Vocals come on in a softer, undistorted way, providing contrast to the bold rhythmic undercurrent. A Cure-like bass guitar and drum break provides thunderous reprieve before vocals return with the song's repeated title-line. “Stop Crossing Oceans” takes that bass guitar driven, matched with higher note six string guitar pairing and rolls it out in classic (once again) The Cure-style slow-build progression. Distinct forceful drumming joins in and the lyrical story commences. The dynamic chorus leans into gazey guitars (not really Robert Smith's thing) moving everything over to a more modern dreampop vibe. The song “ends” (then it doesn't) as a two minute coda floats everything away with textured guitar finesse.

The previously unreleased “Winter Bliss” emerges out of rising muted percussion before full-blown gazey guitar shear over top. The track then alternates between quiet verse passages of intimate nature (repeating the word “birthday”) and the shearing guitar enhanced chorus that goes “embrace me with a kiss – feeling the winter bliss.” Final cut “The Ebb And Flow (Country Version)” replaces the original's “fast strummed gazer chords” with down-home pedal-steel variations. Bass guitar and drums fall into an easy slow groove as the vocals are given an appropriately fresh reading as well. Country banjo pickin' can be heard within the mix, behind fiddles and those haunting pedal-steel strains.

Listen to and find out the multiple ways to acquire this album here:

Previous recent features covering Shoredive Records on this site can be found Here and Here.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Individualized Review Appreciation for Recent Single and Video Releases

The summer season is in full bloom with block parties, beach adventures and live show shenanigans. Gatherings with old friends inevitably lead to new contacts, which more often than not present fresh music review opportunities. Four separate recording artists become the recipients of these recent connections, motivated by an attentive listening (and viewing) of their current output.

Meeting creative new bands in personal, casual settings through mutual friends has become a preferred method of discovery. Spotting Singer, Songwriter and Record Producer Vanessa Silberman at a number of recent live events presented by like-minded artists led to some lively chats. Further investigations has now provided ample opportunity for discovery of her duo project LOVECOLOR. Collaborating with Musician, Drummer (and Actor) Ryan Carnes, the two member band strike the same kind of attractive visual imagery of acts like The Kills, The White Stripes and The Raveonettes.

The band themselves namecheck Sinead O’Connor, The 1975, Chvrches, Lana Del Ray, St. Vincent and M83 as guideposts. Having toured considerably over the last few years, Vanessa is also an accomplished studio engineer, producer, shredding guitarist and runs her own record label Diamond Heart Productions. Ryan is a well-known actor who also seeks an outlet for his musical passion. Playing drums live with this band allows for a different kind of artistic expression. LOVECOLOR has two singles out so far, written and produced by Vanessa, with capable assistance by Ryan. A detailed exploration of these two tracks now follow.

The current single “Pure Love” emerges out of a deep buzzing synth texture before kicking in fully with driving melody and percussive beat. Vanessa's vocals are ambient, reverberated and floating on the initial verse. Intentionally structured to pop criteria, a bridge is reached under the first minute with descending melody and echo keyboard line. That leads to the payoff hook chorus that lavishly states “Oh-wah-oh – can you feel it – can you see it – can you taste my pure love,” and “can you touch my pure love.” Returning to that 80's darkwave synth rise from the intro (bringing to mind classic albums like Human LeagueDare” and their more ominous tracks like “I Am The Law”).

Vanessa's vocals are powerful and yet ethereal in that Liz Fraser Cocteau Twins way. There are multiple overlays of distant backing voices to go along with a steady percussive thump. At 2:45 in, everything drops back leaving open space for a single keyboard line. That sets the table for backward run voices, creating a pleasant yet slightly unsettling textural mix. Like all great pop songs it closes out with a big, grand finale chorus (with the word “love” frequently pronounced as “lo-E-ove”). Crunchy guitar chords emerge at the very end for good measure. The band has been quoted as stating this track is meant to be “sultry,” while being about “a relational dynamic and see someone truly and purely for who they are rather than what we’re projecting onto them via our past experiences.”

Check out this brilliant track HERE

A music video for this song is promised to be coming soon.

In the meantime, we DO have a video for the bands previously released single “Dangerous.” Opening to the sound of a telephone ringing, the track bubbles to life as the image of a glittery, glamorous, neon-lit Vanessa descends the staircase to a club. “Taste the scene, make me weak – Dangerous,” she coos into a microphone as images of Ryan behind a clear drum-kit bathed in blue lighting emerges. Starkly lite in neon shades of purple and blue, Vanessa's face is enhanced by reflective jewels. We then see Ryan walking down the club's staircase like a secret agent in long leather coat. The bridge is again reached in under a minute with close-ups of Vanessa singing against keyboard rhythms and finger-snap percussion. Reaching the chorus, visual clues continue to emerge, specifically in the form of an origami crane which symbolizes hope, healing and wishes to come true. Ryan's video character is given this symbol in a drink glass from the bartender.

The musical rhythms are pulsating, with deep bassy synths driving a rough edge underneath. Vanessa exudes a sultry presence at the microphone, calling out to “set me on fire” and “you're all I desire” inbetween the singular repeated songtitle. With a minute to go we're treated to a brilliant blusey guitar solo that adds a perfect rock and roll element to it all. Deep saxophone style horns enter the mix as Ryan continues to ponder the origami symbol in his hand. The video ends with him dropping the crane down as audio pivots to the opening phone line, seemingly now gone unanswered. The band has explained how this song and video “is about a few things.” Like “being so drawn to someone that it's almost dangerous” - and how you should strive to “ being free and open with your sensuality.” About “being fully aware, alive and sharp in the world” where one can “fully embrace their whole true selves.”

Check out this awesome track and video here:

Follow LoveColor on their Social Media  -  Instagram  -  Facebook  -  Twitter  -  YouTube

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It's been a year since the ambient duo Cielo Oceano has provided this site with new material to dig in to. The Philadelphia and Baltimore based collective are now back with a brand new track “Cycle Eternal.” Released on Andres Alfonso Lugo's Jak Jonson Tapes label, the collaborative artists recorded this new composition at Laboratorio Soniko Studio Middletown, PA and Where Are We Going Studio Lab in Baltimore, MD. This synergistic process features Andres on guitars, and Tom Lugo on bass, guitars, synth, voice as well as composing the lyrics.

Deep synth pads and a tinkling sequential keyboard pattern over it are the initial sonics opening this track. Bold wind rushes quickly emerge and usher in layers of ambient guitars along with a timekeeping percussive drum beat. Busy bass guitar patterns join in, adding a melodic force to it all. Tom's vocals begin “I want to break free – get rid of the chains – I may have forgotten, how to play the game.” Synth backing is kept static at this point, with the snare drum shot standing out in the forefront. At this point the “gaze” takes over and a wall of ambient guitars create a driving force behind hook-filled lyrics “there is no beginning, there is no end - into to heavens, we will ascend.”

Soaring guitar notes are laid out in a slow and deliberate manner, while gentle chiming keyboards , hustling bass and strong percussion carry on underneath. The sonic field goes quieter once more as Tom delivers a second verse “lose yourself again, a small price to pay - with your eyes wide open, the illusions all fade.” Those lofty, climbing guitars return once more as the final chorus goes further into an ethereal realm, where bass and percussion become alternately buried in the mix. As those chorus lyrics are repeated over in a mantra-like manner, all the instruments come together for a lift-off into the sky.

Listen to this incredible track here:

Follow the band on their Social Media  -  Facebook  -  Bandcamp

Previous features of Cielo Oceano on this site can be found Here and Here.

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Back in February of 2021, this site did a deep dive track-by-track review of The Crushing Violets album “A Dream Without Color.” That enjoyable experience is now revived with the news of a brand new single from the band “Superflower.” Conceived by songwriters Antanina (vocals) and BP Brooks (guitars, vocals), the track was recorded at Lantern Sound Recording Rig, Manorville, NY.  Engineered and Mixed by Mick Hargreaves (who also played bass on it), co-production is shared between the band and Mick. The big surprise is getting legendary drummer (and local Long Islander) Corky Laing to feature his noteworthy skills on it. Nothing less than a thorough investigation is required.

The band wastes no time getting their special guest star involved with the tracks opening sounds involving tom-tom strokes. The guitars chime in and the percussion shifts to high-hat and snare-drum rim clack. It's an easy chord progression groove that sets the pace before Antanina comes in with her vocals. “Superflower magic finds the sun” she sings, with vibrato emphasis on the end word (“suuu-uuuun.”) The hint of rasp and Patti Smith-stylings in vocal tone provide central focus as this lyrical story unfolds. Visions of “oceans,” “timeless waves,” “the dawn” and “emotions” that show how “we are one” emphasize a metaphysical theme. With Corky high in the mix and delivering an emphatic lead-in, a big vocal passage of continuous “ahhhhh's” in rising progression elevates things further.

A second verse continues the odyssey as “constellations” and an “endless mental journey” can't help you “find salvation,” because “nothing in the world can turn back time.” A crisp snare-drum roll leads into the lyrical existential nature of the superflower's “magic” that “blooms” from a “garden of dreams where we sleep.” Mr. Laing's sensitivity and professional approach to this section is quite noticeable, with focused emphasis on high-hat work, leading the track out to it's coda. This is where guitarist BP Brooks is given room to shine with his tasteful, dominating blues licks.

Check out this soulful track (including how to acquire it here:

Follow The Crushing Violets on their Social Media - Official Website - Facebook - Instagram - Bandcamp

A previous feature of The Crushing Violets on this site can be found Here.

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Having written about the boundlessly energetic Tarra Thiessen's previous musical projects over the last few years, it only makes sense now to delve into her latest incarnation – Tea Eater. The debut single “Double” was recently released and is available everywhere via @adiamondheartproduction / Amethyst Trax (@symphonicdistro) in collaboration with @lafamrecordings & @jasnoswarez. With Tarra writing, singing, playing guitars, keyboards and even some percussion, the previously reviewed above Vanessa Silberman added her engineering and production skills to the vocals. This release also comes with a complimentary video directed by @tinehill that emphasizes amusing madcap imagery.

With the video having been shot in the rural settings of Lake Placid, NY, Tarra's mostly-white rock and roll outfit (complete with guitar) and single amp in the road stand out in stark contrast. The sound of crickets chirping are the first thing heard, before the clatter of sawing guitar chords commence. A variety of characters slowly emerge, such as mysterious individuals in hazmat suits – before the protagonist suddenly runs off to a cabin. There we encounter a “double” figure (also played by Tarra) in black, singing the lyrics. Meanwhile white-suited Tarra is quick-cut in to help the vocals along. Not content with just two looks – a third emerges in the form of a yellow rain slicker complete with mosquito-net covered hat and fishing pole. The instrumentation relies on a heavy fuzz-bass (played by main squeeze VramShabouh) and psychotic synthesizers. An individual dressed as a wine box adds one more level of absurdity, before the hazmat clad crew scoop up yellow-slicker attired Tarra and haul her off. The closing line “what is going on!?” perfectly sums up the farcical nature of this production.

See for yourself:


 The full album 'Obsession' is scheduled for an October 6 release via A Diamond Heart Production/Amethyst Trax and La Fam Recordings.

Follow Tea Eater via their Official Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube

Also connect with A Diamond Heart Productions / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter  

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