Les Paul - 1959 reissue

Les Paul - 1959 reissue

Monday, January 22, 2018

Blue Apollo - Light Footed Hours + Circles (2017)

Written by Daniel Boyer, posted by blog admin

With music to match the EP’s cover (a girl’s face with eyes closed surrounded by the infinite cosmos), Dallas three-piece Blue Apollo dig into spacey, gracious textures and serene melodies that collide head-on with rock n’ roll brawn on their debut, Light-Footed Hours.  It’s a delicious difference split of sound with some pop-vocal hooks, surprisingly complex instrumental threading and tougher movements that leave behind a memorable impact.

“Walls” kicks the EP off with Jeremiah Jensen’s big sound that practically throttles the toms while peppering the mixture with monster cymbal crashes and agile rim playing.  As his performance slips in more volume and rhythmic trip-outs, Luke Nassar colors in the gray space around the beat with head swimming melody chords blanketed in low-end warmth thanks to Rodman Steele’s prominent bass swagger.  The track works up a good head of steam, seemingly getting louder by the minute, until releasing all of its pent-up energy into a semi-progressive indie hard rock jam.  One moment the instruments will dip out and allow Nassar’s emotive voice take center stage and the next the band will lock onto a groove like a homing missile that ultimately explodes with crashing crescendos of epic soundscaping.  Subtle touches of keyboard mimics a clavinet and is probably the reason that the trio added a fourth member to handle all of the group’s various auxiliary instruments.  A superlatively rocking and careening lead topped off by a smacking snare-fill sends the tune hurtling towards a whirling, oscillating and truly exciting finale. 

“Feeling Right” is all about the groove and Nassar sips his guitar melodies from the tropics with some flamenco/funk/reggae flourishes that wouldn’t be out of place on a Sublime record (albeit more subdued than Nowell and company would mess with).  Ragtime piano maintains a lively atmosphere and the stop/start bass lines also toy with funk as the mix between straight timekeeping and syncopated jabs sprinkle some jazz into Jensen’s drumming.  Pitching yet another curveball, “Therapy” repeats its main guitar lick akin to a mantra and by doing so it becomes permanently ingrained in its audience’s memory.  It’s a cool amalgamation between pop punk’s instant immediacy and indie rock’s mind wandering charms.  Luke’s voice carves wonderful verse and chorus hooks as his guitar trades-off between being a lead instrument and a backing one.  A few craggy, jagged drum fills and scorching guitar licks give this piece an occasionally aggressive bite that fluidly transitions into the song’s more sugar sweet ideals.  

Album centerpiece “Avalanche” throws in the kitchen sink and everything else it can find into a sprawling piece that begins as just picturesque melodic singing and melancholic piano beauty.  Cellos, violin and a filled-out string section encompass a vast array of influences that unexpectedly sees the entire band joining in with smashing percussion (heavy on the crashing symbols), rubber burning guitar peel-outs, soul screaming blues guitar licks and quaking low-end grooves.  “Meant to Be” is mostly based upon Luke’s stunning lead vocals, his acoustic guitars and the return of an exotic string section, though it doesn’t forget to include a rock n’ roll finish for good measure.  The EP’s final cut and the band’s most recent single “Circles” mingles never-ending, kinetic tom-tom rolls, piano majesty and ringing melodic chords into a penultimate track that couldn’t have been a better closer; cementing Light-Footed Hours into a sweeping indie-rock release that pulls out all of the stops and succeeds at every single turn.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Man Called Noon - Everybody Move (2017)

Written by David Shouse, posted by blog admin

It’s evident from the shucking and jiving pop n’ rocky fury of lead-in number “Everybody Move” that Man Called Noon is intent on getting limbs swinging and bodies bumping with their danceable acrobatics.  Anthony Giamichael’s post-punk guitar shimmers and scorching solos work up a good melodic sweat set to a thrilling tempo ride set by drummer Josh Fontenot and bassist Dave Aitken’s well-oiled swagger.  Citing soul and Americana influences these elements ebb to the surface of Man Called Noon’s style thanks to the call n’ response vocal dynamics of Giamichael’s leads and Erin Piortrowski’s lavish back-ups; together the team makes the verbal component of the band’s sound airtight uber-contagious.  There’s a breathy, slightly nasally vibrato to Anthony’s leads that sounds a little like Tom Petty, but he keeps subtly shifting his tonality for a very original feel. 

The second composition “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” might be the EP’s best overall piece but with the quality of material on offer here, well, that’s a tough call to make.  Still this tune charges forth on a careening drum performance that embellishes punk rock tempos but twists them towards new wave’s lockstep syncopation and fluid bass work.  The guitars hang back in this one and seem to add extra notes to help complete certain grooves, embracing a near minimalist approach to the playing which delegates synth-player Nathan Crone to a pivotal role that sees his swelling, sonically tough keyboards riffs placed right upfront in the track’s production mix.  Speaking of the production there’s a fine sheen to the total package yet a certain amount of rawness is present on each instrument; rendering Man Called Noon as a rambunctious act who can take a wiry rock song and sand it to a smooth pop masterpiece.  Again the harmony vocals shine as the instrumentation delves into a complexity one seldom hears when exploring this style of music.  These cats should be all over rock radio and hopefully they are. 

This superb EP crosses the finish line with “One Last Ride’s” raucous punk n’ soul shakedown; Piortrowski steps into a co-lead vocal position providing some wordless blues melodies that wrap around Giamichael’s hooks like man-eating pythons as a throttling rhythmic groove nails everything down tightly.  Upper echelon vocal trade-offs and some of the most striking guitar work on the recording (marked by another killer little solo run) yields this jam a rowdy aura that will make you really want to bounce off your bedroom walls.  The alchemical split between soul, rock, punk and electronic music isn’t performed quite like anybody else out there.  Man Called Noon is fiercely original when stacked against their closest competition. 

All three tracks on this EP hit the bullseye with abandon and attitude.  Though pop elements prevail and the songwriting is tailor made for dancing and bedroom mirror vocal performances, there’s a sonic slap in the snout to this music that makes it a bit more in your face than anybody else that does it. Man Called Noon is poised to release the best album of their career based on the strength of Everybody Move; keep an eye on them!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Joe Olnick Band - Downtown (2017)

Written by Pamela Bellmore, posted by blog admin

The Joe Olnick Band’s sixth album, Downtown, builds on the artistic and critical success of his fifth release Defiant Grooves while extending the band’s instrumental reach in a way the aforementioned album never dared. The seven song collection is, like earlier efforts, an instrumental affair, but Olnick and his band mates avoid the typical self-indulgence often plaguing such releases. The collection is, likewise, united by a loose knit theme of life in a big city, circa 2017, and the music embodies it artfully without ever resorting to any bells and whistles in an effort to convey its narrative. The high quality production reflects the level of behind the scenes talent involved in assembling this collection, but it all begins with Olnick’s guitar work and the sterling interplay between Olnick’s rhythm section of drummer Jamie Smucker and bass player Jamie Aston.

The title song emphasizes groove and never hits an unconvincing note. Aston and Smucker’s chemistry is practically palpable and one can only imagine whether or not you are a musician, Olnick’s unbridled joy derived from playing alongside such superior musicians. There’s an easy confidence about this performance that allows the three piece to stay loose, yet precise, and maintains a deliciously natural feel. “Philadelphia Moonlight, Part One” features more tasty Olnick guitar work than the opener and has a bright, upbeat demeanor without ever coming across as forced or too saccharine. There’s some light funk propelling the third track “Food Truck” that definitely exudes a strongly urban feel without ever belaboring the point and Aston’s ear-popping bass line is ideally complemented by Smucker’s work on the skins. The trio’s stylishness comes through but it’s all the more impressive because they are able to couple it with genuine musical substance.

The band stretches out some on the song “Parkside” and its gradual accumulation of detail makes for an invigorating listen. Olnick’s six string inventiveness comes burning through on this track but never overreaches and he receives excellent accompaniment from Aston and Smucker. “Philadelphia Moonlight, Part Two” is much moodier than the first half and has some similarities to the previous song, but there’s an ambient edge to this performance that “Parkside” lacks. “Rush Hour”, the release’s second to last track, is busier than any of the earlier numbers and features some guitar pyrotechnics that never take an overwrought turn. Olnick and his band conclude the album with “Sports Complex”, a rampaging and raucous guitar work out that nonetheless goes from point A to Z in a logical, dramatic fashion. Downtown will more than please guitar fans, but there’s something here for anyone who enjoys challenging music that’s willing to take chances.