“Virtuosic guitar helps mend the wounds of war in this Malian insta-classic”
The title of guitar virtuoso Vieux Farka Touré’s latest album is translated as “My Country” in English. Originally conceived as an homage to his home country of Mali, the project assumed a new meaning as the ongoing conflict between Tuareg freedom fighters and the Malian government erupted in renewed combat last year.
Though it is mostly instrumental, Mon Pays conveys a message of healing and cultural preservation in the face of the destruction of war.
Son of the late Malian guitar legend Ali Farka Touré, Vieux has proven himself to be much more than just a worthy heir to his father’s legacy. Well-versed in Malian music and a master of its classical guitar styles, Vieux also has a keen ear for blending the traditional with the modern.
Two of the tracks, “Future” and “Peace,” are duets between Vieux and kora player Sidiki Diabaté. Their collaboration recalls that of their fathers: Sidiki’s father Toumani was also a prominent kora player, as well as a musical collaborator and close friend of Ali Farka Touré. With these virtuosic, yet delicate duets, the sons pay tribute to their fathers and take up the mantle as protectors and ambassadors of Malian music.
Vieux Farka Touré Mon Pays
(Six Degrees Records) Recorded by Yaya Diarra at Studio Yele in Mali Mixed by Jerry Boys Mastered by Tom Leader www.vieuxfarkatoure.com
“One-man band crafts LP like Cage the Elephant’s garage tunes”
This album is going to make it a long way, especially with these tracks sounding the way they do. The songs are versatile, featuring multiple sounds and layers. Why is this so interesting? Thunderbird is a one-man band!
Jonathan Vance began Thunderbird about a year ago and has been producing music ever since. Thunderbird is his first full-length album, and it’s not something to be missed. It’s a messy rock sound that features some fantastic guitar and drums and appeals to anyone who likes Cage the Elephant or remembers the good ol’ days of bands rocking out in their garage. It’s a fun album that was put out in time for the warmer months ahead and sets the perfect tone for anybody looking to jam with their own bands this summer.
Thunderbird is abrasive, loud, and gets you in the mood to party and jam in the heat. Don’t pass up this album, and if you’re in the Southern states this summer, look out for Jonathan Vance, currently on tour.
(Self-released) Engineered by Jeff Bakos in Atlanta, GA Mastered by Alex Lowe at Red Tuxedo, Atlanta thunderbirdatlanta.bandcamp.com
“Indie-pop that comes barreling out of your speakers at warp speed”
Canadian-bred Poor Young Things have just released their new LP, The Heart. The Head. The End., an album built on driving guitar chords, indie harmonies and sing-along choruses about the growing pains of life. The eleven pop-rock ballads compiled on this latest endeavor are a bit systematic, but they pack a wallop of intensity and passion.
The album shows a clear penchant for fervent composition and flows with a dynamic energy. From the opening track “Dress it Up” to later songs like “The State” and “Ghost Notes,” things don’t slow down. Even on the more polished tracks like “Revolver,” the band maintains a level of rawness and drive. The lyrics, at times sung by hoarse and strained vocals, explore common themes – love, loss and soul searching – but they do so in an unpretentious and unassuming way. They fit perfectly against the backdrop of heavy bass lines and crashing drums.
The release of The Heart. The Head. The End. comes hot on the heels of the band’s latest EP and demonstrates a prolific nature to their creative process and an eagerness to grow as musicians. The album barrels on until the very end with driving force and talent.
Poor Young Things The Heart. The Head. The End. Thunder Bay, ON
(Bumstead Recordings) Produced by Jon Drew Mastered by Joao Carvalho www.pooryoungthings.com
I can’t for the life of me figure out why the Moondoggies aren’t one of the largest independent bands in the country. What they do is simple; they write great songs for a guitar-based combo with a beat you can dance to.
They don’t seem to have many influences past 1969, but you could really say that about most guitar bands who don’t have the words ‘doom’ or ‘angular’ appear in their press. The vast majority of their songs sound like some one-hit wonder that you used to hear on the radio. You swear they’re ripping off someone more famous only they’re not.
Adios I’m a Ghost is their third LP, landing somewhere between their insanely catchy debut Don’t Be A Stranger and the more adventurous Tidelands. For this release, they lean more than ever on their fantastic harmony singing. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out they overdubbed themselves singing harmonies à la the Beatles and CSN [editor’s note – and sometimes Y]. The album opens and closes with two quiet and eerie harmony exercises. The other difference is that they expand their song structures, which means more guitar solos, especially in the two over-six-minute songs “A Lot To Give” and “Don’t Ask Why,” which means awesome.
The newest release from Milwaukee’s Elusive Parallelograms, Fragments, is a raw, energetic representation of the band’s DIY spirit and approach to producing records. Opening with “Lucidity,” a sub-90 second song, it is immediately clear that this act is something different and they’re not afraid to embrace it.
The EP dives into EP’s more traditional style with “Helium,” a dancing, driving track that features tasteful guitar licks and vocalist Andrew Foys’ powerful lyrics. “Semantics” stands out the second the track kicks in with its powerful intro and killer bass line. The energy that comes from “Semantics” perfectly embodies the band’s attitude towards the DIY approach and the conscious decision to not use big-name producers.
The non-traditional harmonies and the layered, raw sound from most of Fragments’ tracks are what set them apart from the perfect, clean, beat-mapped and heavily produced sound of most mainstream acts today. “8-Bit” and “Street Legal” sit together perfectly, leading to “Absolution,” a powerful song in 3/4 time that closes the EP on an energetic and lasting note.
Elusive Parallelograms have gone through multiple lineup changes since their start and claim that the music calls all the shots. Their DIY method of writing and recording in their self-built studio in Milwaukee’s Bayview neighborhood has definitely brought them places they might never have seen on the traditional route.
Engineered by Andrew Foys & Elusive Parallelograms
Mixed by Shane Olivo & Elusive Parallelograms
Mastered by Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering
Paris natives Wonderflu have released a new EP of hard-hitting, gritty and driving indie rock. No End in Sight is riddled with intense and piercing guitar riffs, thumping percussion and raw vocals. The band draws on an array of genres spanning punk, indie, metal and acoustic, which creates an album that is wholly unpredictable.
The record opens with “Fine Now,” a track containing all the elements of a true punk ballad – callous melodies and feverish progressions that end just as quickly as they begin. Up next is a slower tempo and substantially darker atmosphere on “Anybody.” Layers of menacing vocals are set to rock-anthem guitar ballads and it is the album’s emotional rock bottom moment. But just as quickly as listeners are brought down they are thrown right back up with the pop-infused indie melodies of “Flames” and the stripped-down acoustics of “Power of Time.” “Thunder’s Grave” is a fable-like track about the agony of love and relationships that grows from quiet guitar strings to electric harmonies and crooning backing vocals. The album finishes with a final darker track about mistakes and regret, entitled “Try to Try.”
No End in Sight is a rollercoaster ride. Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on the band’s intentions and where they might go next, an entirely new sound comes barreling out of the speakers. This lack of continuity is not always easy to pull off, but on a short EP such as this, Wonderflu accomplishes the tricky task of engaging listeners from start to finish. It’s an utter whirlwind, and well worth listening to.
Engineered and Mixed by Thomas Vierin, Yann Poupon and Quentin Toussaint
Milwaukee natives Victoriah and Hannah Gabriela Banuelos (Vic and Gab) use their sisterly voicing for startling harmonic effect. The singers meld their sound further with liberated instrumentation, in the vein of jangly mid-’90s pop (think Wedding Present, Life Without Buildings and Tegan and Sara).
Electric guitars weave the front and smoky harmonic embers unite the back. Love of Mine is a marvelously catchy release; the duo has a strong grip on hooks and melody, which are awakened by foot-stomping percussion and clean, chirping electric guitar rhythms.
The debut title-track “Love of Mine” is one of the catchiest. The song enters with a swaggering rhythm and misty vocals, which give way to a sweet, nearly-shoegaze guitar groove. Coupled vocals warm the verse and feature call-and-response and textured layers. When the chorus hits, the duo steps into its strongest form, singing jointly, “Love of mine / Run from me / Save your love for better company.”
“Call Me When You Can Be You” transitions smoothly and bubbles in colorful hues, near-conversational lyrics and a devastatingly hooky chorus, which builds into a shimmering finale. Simple songwriting maintains and offers the greatest strength and signature for this robust debut.
Some initial thoughts on 3PM: Unapologetic pop-punk from a very young group of dudes in B’More. Catchy guitar pop in the vein of early Blink-182 and (very) early New Found Glory. Definitely reminiscent of the radio circa 2000.
Due to the musicians’ ages (ranging from 15-21) one could maybe call this vintage. Let’s be realistic for a moment here, when Blink-182’s career-defining Enema of the State was released, one of the members of 3PM was 2 and one of them was 1.
This is possibly why the group is so quick to fly the flag of bands like Good Charlotte (a group who, for those who were there, was sort of a four-letter word during their peak). This isn’t a bad thing, just an interesting note on the potential for “timelessness” from the genre’s early albums. Again, this is millennium-era radio-ready pop-punk that completely bypassed the hardcore influence that crept up on bands like New Found Glory later in their lifespan (meaning fans of Set Your Goals or A Day to Remember can skip this one). Fans of Blink-182 should check out the riff at the top of “You Can Only Find Her in the Safari Zone,” and those who sided more with New Found Glory can get their fix with “Your Best Mistake.”
Jo Henley The Fall Comes Early
“Intimate exploration of beauty and the nature of life”
This very acoustic-focused album was produced following the passing one of the band member’s fathers, and is a beautiful collection of songs that explores the themes of nature – such as life, death and everything in between. Although it’s a more melancholy record, The Fall Comes Early highlights the strengths of Jo Henley. It also showcases the strengths of the band that many of their past albums touched upon.
Between the beautiful lyrics, the tangible emotions and the top-notch musicianship, the album earns itself a place on the shelf in any country-lover’s music room. The Fall Comes Early places a heavy emphasis on acoustic guitars with minimal electric highlights. But, the country roots are not lost in this album. In fact, they’re extremely potent on tracks like “Never Can See the Sun.”
Making the album that much more intimate, the track list is wrapped up with the instrumental acoustic number “Amazing Grace.” It’s a beautiful conclusion to a beautiful album that discusses issues that are very real to the artists who composed the music. With such fantastic musical features and such prominent lyrics, The Fall Comes Early is an album that can’t be passed up.
Produced by Tim Lynch and Jo Henley Additional Engineering by Rick Sullivan
Cody Beebe & The Crooks Out Here
“Take the cover off your Mustang and grab some beer”
Hailing from Seattle, Cody Beebe & The Crooks bring you the newest and the best in rock music. After a few member switches and up to 400 live shows, the group has just released their second album, and it is just as raw and real as the first.
With some songs featuring heavy electric guitar and others acoustic lullabies, this record has it all. It’s been a while since something this raw has been put out, and it’s an experience to fully take in. Each of the songs have their own distinct sound, but specifically tracks like “Never Too Young” make you want to jump into a Mustang convertible and drive through the desert, passing a skull and bones as you weave through a field of cacti. In some of the songs, such as “Circle” and “Out Here,” you can’t help but feel a bit of a Southern buzz.
The diversity of this LP leaves you wanting to listen to it more and more. It’s not too much or too little of anything; in fact it’s the perfect balance of rock, acoustic, jazz and blues. This unique take on American patriotism leaves us with an album that deserves to be heard.
Produced by John Goodmanson Recorded at London Bridge Studio