Great Lakes at Raised by Gyspies

As someone who listens to a lot of music, I can tell you that sometimes music should be simple.   It should be all that appears on the surface.   Now, many times that might seem like something you don’t want to hear in music and I agree, for the most part it is not.   Case in point, prior to writing this review I was eating cereal for lunch and listening to a digital album that reminds me far too much of The Church (only with some really bad qualities added in as well) to take it seriously and so we just kind of have to move on from there.

Great Lakes has three main influences that I can hear and in some weird way they all seem to be connected and not just because I listen to them.    One of perhaps the strongest influences I can pull out is the sound of Murder by Death except MBD can tend to be a bit dark and Great Lakes don’t seem to share that same darkness but just a similar musical style with brooding guitars and strings.

At the same time I hear something else on the side of folk and I can’t quite place it.  I think of those slide guitars and what not that made The Wallflowers popular and, well, that of course brings me back to The Eels as well.    But in a lot of ways, other than those two similar artists, I would have to say that the biggest folk side I hear on here really is from The Only Children, which for those who don’t know is the folk version of The Anniversary (look it up)

So, really, you could say that this is maybe 40% Murder by Death, 40% The Only Children and then 20% The Eels/Wallflowers and that might seem like too simple of a formula to make up such a great album as this (Because right now it is on my radar for Album of the Year) but I think a big factor is also the lyrics and, well, Great Lakes can sum this all up themselves the best: “I am just a man / She is a bird flying”.

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Great Lakes at Get It On Vinyl

Great Lakes’ newest album Wild Vision is the soundtrack of wanderlust and coming of age. The album sounds like it should run throughout the background of a Michael Cera movie where he takes a long road trip to nowhere while having conversations that pretend to be deep but are actually meaningless. The cover even has a southwestern motif with a burnt orange colored sunset across a flat and generic landscape. I don’t mean this as a bad thing but more as a descriptor.

Wild Vision is mid tempo take on the indie rock of the past ten years. This vibe is solidified quickly in the album when lead singer Ben Crum sings, “We’re not really free. We’re just drifting,” in the lead off track, “Swim the River.” The album continues with a dark set of somber tunes. At times, the band is quietly pushing the country envelope which creates an Americana vibe. This is due to superb slide guitar work in tracks like “Wild Again.” Great Lakes shines brightest in the stripped down moments that are sprinkled throughout the album. The moments with steady snare drum and acoustic guitar. These are the moments that come off as authentic. “Blood on My Tooth” is the standout track on the album. The song has an ominous southern gothic feel with its mild threatening lyrics, “You shouldn’t have lied to me, and then asked me for the truth.” It’s the kind of track I like when I hear it played as the opening to an HBO drama but would hesitate to admit to the room.

The first time I listened to the album, it didn’t wash over me correctly. I put it away and left it on the shelf for a week or so. The second and third time I listened to the album, the more I liked it. It has an early My Morning Jacket or A.M. era Wilco feel. Great Lakes never catches fire like My Morning Jacket or Wilco, but they are striking the flint hard and sparks are flying. If the band can catch fire, Wild Vision will be looked at as an album that offered promise.

You can pick up Wild Vision on vinyl at your local record store or fromhttps://greatlakesbencrum.bandcamp.com/album/wild-vision.

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deardarkhead at Dagger

My initial thought was, “Damn….no vocals sooo… it’s an instrumental record?!” I wasn’t real happy, but after several listens I really like this. Oh sure, I wish they still had a vocalist (their previous vocalist Mike Amper left several years ago and has yet to be replaced)  but I’m not complaining (too much). This South Jersey band (from my hometown of Linwood…woot woot!!) have been at it since the late 80’s and have weathered all sorts of things that a band goes through (line up change, addiction to Cheetos, their official vehicle, a ’74 Pinto, contstantly breaking down, etc.) It’s still drummer/founding member Rob Weiss, longtime guitarist Kevin Harrington and Kevin McCauley on bass (the new guy though he’s probably been in the band for 5-10 years for all I know). The Captured Tracks label released a terrific compilation of early stuff a few years ago, but this is the bands first new material in quite some time. Their influence comes from all things UK  and if you dig bands like the Pale Saints or Ride then what the DDH boys do will be ok with you. Cuts like the excellent moody opener, “Falling Upward”, the icier Sunshine Through the Rain”, the varied “Ice Age,” are as good as anything the band has done previously and to be honest, there’s not a bad cut among these six tunes. If you’ve never heard the band before give ‘em a listen, especially if you’re an anglophile searching for some new juice. I’m happy to say that Strange Weather is just great. www.saintmarierecords.com

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Eureka California at Here Comes the Flood

Watch the new Eureka California video for Sign My Name With An X, a track from their new album Versus (April 1st on Happy Happy Birthday To Me records). The clip was directed by Jordan St. Martin-Reyes.

Click through for the video!

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Bloody Knives at Impose

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Eureka California at Innocent Words

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High Violets at Drowned in Sound

Click through for the link!

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deardarkhead at AllMusic

​Long-running New Jersey shoegaze band deardarkhead gives us an exclusive first listen, plus a track-by-track rundown of their new EP, Strange Weather. Now an instrumental act, the band delivers six new tracks of propulsive, psychedelic rock, with plenty of big, ringing guitars and driving drums. So press play, then scroll down for commentary from drummer Robert Weiss. Strange Weather is due out March 25 on Saint Marie Records.

When our vocalist/bassist, Michael Amper, left at the end of 2009, Kevin Harrington (guitars) and myself were unsure about the future of the band. Although we had been seeking the right person to replace Mike, we had no luck finding anyone that could hold a candle to him, let alone make it to the audition. By the fall of 2010, Kevin McCauley had joined as our new bass player and we were determined to move forward as an instrumental, three piece. We’ve always done instrumentals in the past, but the lack of a vocalist is a constraint that has forced us to work harder in order to make things interesting. The guitar has to do all the heavy lifting melodically and I think the songs have become more complex because of that. Ultimately we try and write songs that we find entertaining, so we like to change it up from song to song.

The great thing about instrumental music is that you can decide what the songs mean to you as the vibe is the crucial thing. Usually when we write, one of us will create a rough Garageband demo and present it to the rest of the band. After that we all work on the song together, exploring ideas, adding new parts and finalizing an arrangement. The finished song is an evolution of the initial concept and it’s a collaborative, creative process. The end result is often very different from where we started. You can hear some of the demo work at ourSoundCloud page.

“Falling Upward”

This track started off as demo that Mr. Harrington created. He typically records many different lead sections and subtle variations on a theme, which he then refines down to his final parts. This one immediately felt like the opener for the EP, with the long and building guitar intro. We ran that part through a filter effect and added in some further atmosphere using more effects on a whistling tube that you twirl around at different speeds to create different pitches. The driving rhythm of the song, coupled with all the different section changes, creates a trippy, disorienting, dynamic tension. When we play it live I imagine the floor giving way and everything falling upward.

“Sunshine Through the Rain”

The title of this song is named after a segment from Akira Kurosawa’s movie Dreams. It’s a bit like a dark fairytale. There is an old legend in Japan that states that when the sun is shining through the rain, the kitsune (foxes) have their weddings. They do not like humans observing their ceremony. I felt the dreamy Cocteau Twins-esque quality of the chords worked well with the imagery from the film, which ends unresolved, on a somewhat sinister note. This is one of the first songs we did after going all instrumental. The guitar leads in the middle make me think of a Bond song for some reason.

“Juxta Mare”

“Juxta Mare” is Latin for “by the sea.” I’ve always lived by the Atlantic Ocean and it has been an underlying influence on me since I can remember. It’s expansive, dark and mysterious. We’ve often used underwater imagery in the past and this song is no different. Mr. Harrington plays a 12 string on this track and I especially love the long leads that he plays during the middle of the song, which propels everything towards the climax. It has a bit of a Cure/Echo and the Bunnymen feel to me. It came out a lot more hard driving than I had imagined. I picture being in a small boat that’s tossed about by crashing waves, narrowly avoiding being dashed on the rocks.

“March Hares”

I’m huge fan of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and I’ve always been intrigued by the phrase “mad as a March hare”.

“A long-held view is that the hare will behave strangely and excitedly throughout its breeding season, which in Europe is the month of March (but which in fact extends over several months beyond March). This odd behavior includes boxing at other hares, jumping vertically for seemingly no reason and generally displaying abnormal behavior.”

Something about the pounding drum beat suggested marching or perhaps hopping wildly out of control, hence March Hares. It’s a bit unrelenting and somewhat anthemic in tone. The main part of the song is basically a blues progression, but with the guitar played in a droning, psychedelic, sitar-like manner it takes on a very different feel.

“Ice Age”

Not necessarily about a geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere, but more of a personal cooling down. As one gets older, and hopefully wiser, the passion of youth settles down a bit. Things change, but that doesn’t mean you have to go quietly. I think that’s what it’s all about. The melodic bass line Mr. McCauley plays is a big part of the song. When we were demoing this, we kept adding more and more guitar leads toll the song just grew. It definitely has a dramatic, sense of urgency.

“Thinking Back”

Much like Falling Upward, this one automatically sounded like the closing track. Mr.Harrington worked tirelessly on this one, arranging and rearranging things till I was totally confused. There was a method to his madness though and I’m glad he persisted, as this is one of my favorite tracks. Going into the studio I was a bit nervous on this one, but I think it came out beautifully. It sounds shimmering, expansive and perhaps a bit nostalgic. It makes for great driving and sounds like classic DDH to me.

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Blessed Isles at Austin Town Hall

Going far out on a limb here, but you’re probably not going to find a finer piece of dreamy pop music this week than that of The Blessed Isles. There’s so many elements within the confines of this piece, yet it all comes off as if it’s something so simple. There’s a wash of guitars looping, atmospheric touches and synthetic beats…and that’s without even looking at the polished softness of singer Aaron Closson. This track is sure to be a centerpiece of the band’s debut, Straining Hard Against the Strength of Night, but it should also be a centerpiece to those of you who adore the finer bits of pop music. Look for the album on May 20th via Saint Marie Records.

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Eureka California at New Noise

With their third record in as many years – and third full length since 2012 – Eureka California are proving to be the Willie Nelson of indie pop; not a year goes by without at least something new.

Their latest, Versus, finds the Athens, GA duo at its best, playing quirky, witty rock with loud guitars and louder drums. Comparisons to a band like Pavement are obvious, but singer Jake Ward arguable sounds better. You can even hear someone like Jonathan Richman in a song like “Sign You Name With an X” or “Caffeine.”

The 11 tracks here are bursting with neurotic energy and self-doubt, which can be both cringe-worthy at times and easily relatable. Though distortion runs wild throughout the record, the band is just as powerful on the softer tracks, like “Everybody Had a Hard Year.”

Though 2014’s Crunch, as well as their debut Big Cats Can Swim, were both great records, Versus finds the band at its best, with one satisfying song after the next. (John B. Moore)

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