Mar 232013

I tell you, every time I hear this band I love ’em a little bit more. Just nine months ago, Denver neo-folk act Glowing House released their second full-length record Days Run Out (which I profiled here), and the songs played in my head for days after I heard them. This week, they have released a song a day from their new EP (entitled The Down And Out EP) until now the whole thing is available to stream and purchase on BandCamp, culminating with an official EP release show tonight at the Larimer Lounge here in Denver.

The core of the band, married couple Steve Varney and Jess Parsons, continue to grow as songwriters, and this new record is evidence of that fact. Also, since I last interviewed them, they’ve grown to a four-some, with percussionist Michael John McKee and cellist Phil Parker rounding out the sound and adding diversity. The result is some of the best stuff I’ve heard from these guys.

I’ve embedded two of my favorite tracks from the EP below. If you’re in Denver, try to catch Glowing House tonight at the Larimer Lounge, along with The Raven and the Writing Desk and Anthony Ruptak (but check ahead with the venue–there’s a snowstorm out thar today). If you like what you hear, go and buy the record. I personally think you’ll like what you hear.

Dec 022012

Just when you think you have your finger on the pulse of a music scene–something broadsides you and makes you feel like you don’t know nothin’.

So I finally take some time to catch up on my “listening stack”–the records I’m supposed to listen to but haven’t got around to yet–and I come across Double Four Time by Denver alt-rock band The Swayback. It’s a record they released back in July. I’d been hearing the name of this band around town for awhile, so I press play.

By the third song, I’m feeling really, really dumb for not mentioning these guys earlier. Where the crap have I been?

I hear a lot of bands with potential, but it’s a rarity that song after song on a record stirs me up, even on major releases. But that’s what I experienced listening to Double Four Time. Great guitar riffs, solid drum/bass lines, and Eric Halborg has that almost intangible quality with his voice that makes him practically perfect as a frontman.

It’s hard to pin down the band’s sound, mainly because they seem to draw influence from every season of rock from the ’60s to the ’90s. I hear some Beatles in there, as well as some Stones–and I suppose that makes sense given that the band tapped Andy Johns (who has worked with The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, and Led Zeppelin, among others) to produce Double Four Time. But however you categorize them, The Swayback just makes consistent, really good rock & roll. Definitely worth a listen or five.

I honestly had a hard time deciding what to share from the record, but I finally settled on a music video I found for “Die Finks,” and below that an embed for “Steamrolling” from The Swayback’s Bandcamp page. See what you think!


Jun 142012

I first mentioned husband-and-wife duo Glowing House about a year and a half ago, when I reviewed a record that was two years old back then. After a long wait, this Denver folk act has released their new album Days Run Out–and I can tell you, it was worth the wait.

I had the privilege of interviewing Jess Parsons and Steve Varney recently for an article on During that interview, they shared that they were originally two solo singer/songwriters who began joining each other on gigs, and the forming of Glowing House (and the marriage) seemed a natural evolution. Even so, they told me, their first album The Annual Demise of Every Aspen was essentially put together as a hodgepodge of songs each solo artist had brought to the table without much thought as to a collective band dynamic.

With Days Run Out, however, the merger is complete, so to speak. Not only is the overall sound of the album much more uniform, but the record shows exponential growth for both artists. They have arrived on a combination that is greater than the sum of its parts. Most of the record was recorded in an old church building, which only adds to its ambience.

Don’t look for a lot of “toe-tappers” here; the songs of Glowing House are more about reflection and thought and feeling. But there’s a raw beauty in their music that captured me the first time I heard them play, and their songs grow a little bit more on me every time I hear them. I was already familiar with most of the tunes on Days because I’m a frequent visitor to their live sets around Denver, but when I heard those opening harmonies on the first track “All That Matters,” I got chills.

Glowing House is currently streaming the new album for free on Bandcamp. (I’ve embedded a couple of my favorite tunes below.) If you like what you hear, pay the moolah and download this record. This is definitely a band worth hearing, and worth adding to your collection.


Oct 112011

Okay, I’m gonna be honest: I wasn’t too big on reviewing Sleeper Agent‘s debut record Celebrasion. I first heard this indie-rock act when they came through town on tour last spring with Cage the Elephant. Their set was energetic, but really sloppy, like they had just came out of the garage. I remembered wondering how in the WORLD they got an opening tour slot with a hot band like Cage.  When I found out they were from Bowling Green, KY, I put two and two together: they prob’ly got the gig because the two bands are friends. But I heard nothing in their music to make me think this band actually deserved this kind of tour.

So a few weeks ago, Sleeper Agent came through town again, this time on their own, playing a much tinier venue. Against my better judgment, I went to see them play–and they had definitely improved. At the very least, it felt like this smaller venue fit them, rather than swallowing them up.

And THEN I spun their record Celebrasion, and that completely turned my opinion in their favor. I’m now a fan.

Except for recognizing some of the tunes, I’d never know this was the same band I heard a few months ago. The production value is excellent, their melodies are totally singable, and their sound is raw but well put together–high energy, catchy alt-rock with a touch of retro. The tracklist is consistent throughout, a great selection of tunes that defines the band’s sound but also shows off its range.

It’s also interesting to note that Sleeper Agent has only been around since 2010, and that puts things a little bit more in perspective. When I consider that a band less than two years old has made this much progress–and I can personally tell the difference within the past few months–this band is growing rapidly, and is well on their way. I’d say Sleeper Agent has plenty of cause to celebrate.

Sleeper Agent: “Get It Daddy”

Sleeper Agent: “Some White Blinds”

Buy Celebrasion on itunes:
Celabrasion - Sleeper Agent

Jul 032011

Let’s begin at the beginning: Andy Palmer can’t sing.

I’m serious.

Think Bob Dylan. Think Tom Waits. Think Johnny Cash near the end of his life. That’s singer/songwriter Andy Palmer. All through his record Sometime Around (released under the moniker “Palmer”), he growls, squeaks and strains through the lyrics with a voice that sounds at times twice his age, almost like he spent the last ten hours screaming at the top of his lungs, or like he’s been smoking three packs a day since he was four.

Having said that…his record is excellent.  Sometime Around has high production value and a gritty, folk-rock vibe that stays with you after the songs end–and Palmer’s squeaky/gravelly vocals are just the icing on the cake.

You see, one does not have to achieve vocal perfection in order to be memorable. Solid musicianship, compelling songs and a passionate delivery can often grab and hold a listener’s attention even better than a perfectly executed vocal. Some of the world’s best performers and songwriters can utterly captivate their audience while barely carrying a tune in a bucket.

Think Bob Dylan. Think Tom Waits. Think Johnny Cash, even back when he could sing. That’s Andy Palmer.

Now, don’t misunderstand: I’m not equating Palmer with the stuff of legends–not yet, anyway. This guy is still near the beginning of what could be a long career, and has plenty of room to grow. But besides solid writing and great guitar work, the one thing he’s got going for him is that he’s memorable, and in a good way. Palmer can’t sing–but he also doesn’t sound like anyone else you’ve heard, which gives him an open field. Not legendary yet–but certainly there is enough musical substance here that gives Palmer the potential to connect with a larger audience.

Andy Palmer currently heads up a band in the Denver area called Grub Street Writer, and while his record doesn’t officially release until the fall, it’s actually available now on a name-your-own-price basis from his website. So if you like the sample track below, go pick up the rest of it.

Palmer: “Take It Down”

Feb 252011

When I was contacted by someone from Lindsay Aline‘s team to review her 2009 self-titled record, I have to admit I was a little skeptical. Taking a look at the website and reading the self-written bio, I couldn’t help but think, Oh, great–another young girl who thinks she’s got it.

Yeah, I know it sounds jaded. You want me to be honest, right? (Chalk it up to a combination of first impressions and the fact that I really do wade through a lot of sub-par material to find the good stuff.)

So then I listened to the sample track, and I had another impression….what’s the word?…


Yes, that’s it.  Stunned.  Surprised.  (Pleasantly surprised.) And put right in my place.  This girl has got it.

So I wrote the guy back and said, “Yes, yes YES, please let me review the album.” (Actually, I was a bit more professional and collected. But still.)

Listening to Lindsay Aline’s record, I’m reminded of so many things, but with whole different spin. There are elements that remind me of Enya, Evanescence, a female Josh Groban, and just about any female singer on any recent Disney animated film–it’s a piano-driven blend of classical, pop, Broadway and just a bit of jazz, but done in a contemporary style that will definitely appeal to a wide audience.  I kept feeling like I’d heard this girl before–but I knew I hadn’t actually heard this before. It’s a great combination of the familiar and the new. Well-produced, smartly arranged, and captivating.

That said, there’s only one glaring flaw I can find with the record.  The track “Belong”? Doesn’t. Amid all these intriguing classi-pop sounds is this blase song in the middle that just kind of sits there and doesn’t fit the overall vibe of the rest of the album. At all.  They’d do just as well to delete that song on any reprints of the CD, and they’d have a much more consistent and cohesive package.

Having said that, Lindsay Aline has demonstrated a solid vocal presence on this record, and tons of potential. It takes a lot of skill to successfully tackle this kind of genre-blending, especially with the classical elements involved. Because of the sheer magnitude of what she’s undertaking here, I can’t say Lindsay Aline has arrived–but she’s close. With a bit more maturity (both in sound and image), this girl has the makings of a world-class artist.

I’ve included the first track of the record, “Reach,” which I feel has the best of all the elements in the record. It’s also the track that won me over and got me to review the record in the first place. This album is definitely worth getting and listening to.

Lindsay Aline: “Reach”

Buy Lindsay Aline on iTunes:
Illusion - Lindsay Aline

Feb 162011

Okay, so I’m a sucker for a great hook.  I admit it.  Don’t judge.

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors is an up-and-coming indie-rock band, and hailing from Nashville, you can definitely hear the country sensibilities in their sound. But that’s not what won me over.  The opening track on their brand-new record Chasing Someday had me at the first few bars. “Fire and Dynamite is a simple love song, very catchy–the kind of song that makes you want to drive with the top down. And definitely the best song they could have opened with–a powerful first impression. Take my word for it–this song is a hit in the making.

The rest of the record ain’t bad, either. :) Produced by Andy Hunt, with additional production credits by veteran Nashville producer Brown Bannister, Chasing Someday has great production value and plenty more catchy hooks. But don’t confuse “hooky” for shallow.  While the record does suffer once in awhile from overly simplistic lyrics, there are also some really deep and moving moments. Besides “Fire and Dynamite”, personal faves of mine are “Live Forever” and the last song, “Weight of the World.”

Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors has been around for a few years and seen a bit of success, having their music appear on TV shows like “Parenthood” and “Oprah,” and currently touring with Marc Broussard. But this record is a marking point for them. They might be chasing someday, but IMHO, “someday” has already arrived for this band. It’s just a matter of time before the rest of us catch up.

Buy Chasing Someday on iTunes:

Chasing Someday - Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors

Feb 132011

Indie music fans might actually find something familiar in the sound of modern rock band Take to the Oars and their recent January 2011 release American Volume. Especially fans of Vonnegut.

Because it is Vonnegut.

In June of last year, Vonnegut officially changed its name to Take to the Oars, essentially saying that their sound and mission had evolved to the point that the old name no longer fit. Unlike Meese morphing into The Centennial, however, TttO’s name change doesn’t represent a completely new direction for the band–just growth.  Kind of like outgrowing your old clothes as a kid and having to get new ones.

However you describe it, I like this record a lot. The songs on American Volume carry a raw and honest sense of melancholy, and a good diversity of sound. The record ranges from driving beats and chunky guitars (“Learning to Breathe”, “Vanishing Act”) to more reflective grooves (“Why I’m Not Where You Are”, below) without losing its continuity. There are a few moments on the recording where the arrangements feel just a bit sloppy, but considering the emotion coming through, the sloppiness is forgivable, even appropriate–like it wouldn’t really be the same vibe if they’d cleaned it up.

That said, Take to the Oars has done more than just change their name–they’ve given themselves growing room with this record. It’s the same band, only more so.  The group of guys formerly known as Vonnegut have set out on the open waters, and…well…

This is my personal fave on the record. Take a listen and see what you think.

Take to the Oars: “Why I’m Not Where You Are”

Buy American Volume on iTunes:

American Volume - Take To The Oars

Feb 082011

A few weeks ago, I talked about the anticipation I’ve had about Churchill‘s long-anticipated release Happy/Sad. After getting hold of the full recording, I’m “happy” to say the songs have more than met my expectations. (Read a review here.) I’m even happier to say that as of today, you can get the record on iTunes–or if you’re a Denver local, you can pick up a hard copy at Twist and Shout Records.

Denver hometown boys The Fray graciously lent their personal recording studio for the tracking of Happy/Sad, which (as the album title suggests) explores the range of human emotions, particularly in the context of relationships. Besides the overall sound and chemistry of the band (of which I was already a fan), what I like best about this record is the songwriting. Creative lyrics and catchy melodies that stick in your head. After listening to this record just once, for several days afterward I woke up in the morning with several of these songs playing in my brain’s auto-shuffle. Along the first single “Miles” which I shared here, personal faves are “We Used to Be Happy,” “Loud,” “The President,” and “Think It Over.” The song “Burn It Down” is also heading to the top of my list. But really, imho, there’s not a bad song on the record.

Here’s another tune from Happy/Sad which I think you’ll enjoy. If you like it, go download the record from iTunes.  And if you’re in the Denver area this Friday, Feb. 11, be sure to check out their CD release party at the Hi-Dive.

Churchill “We Used To Be Happy”

Download Happy/Sad on iTunes:
Happy Sad - Churchill

Nov 012010

Typically, when a band labels themselves “Americana”, there is a certain amount of expectation as to what it’s going to sound like.  So when Denver-based “Americana” band The Congress sent me their self-titled EP for review, I got a bit of a surprise.  T’weren’t at all what I expected.

Don’t get me wrong. This is Americana; they haven’t mis-labeled themselves.  It’s just that sometimes we forget that our roots aren’t just folky; there’s a bit of fried chicken and soul mixed in there, too.  This is the part of America that The Congress captures–the blues/jazz/rock part–and the result is that mmmm-hmmm satisfying kind of music, like soul food (blue-eyed soul, to be exact)–or like a really good back scratch.

This band is relatively new, but it’s apparent these guys aren’t novices.  This record has a foundation of rock-solid musicianship and equally-solid songwriting, overlaid by near-flawless vocals.  This is an indie band that isn’t striving to be edgy–just really good. And they are.

The only potential downfall I found with the record isn’t with the quality itself. There’s a smooth Hammond B3 throughout the record that really helps define the record’s sound; the only problem is, there is no organ player in the band.  That part was added by co-producer Daniel Clarke, who isn’t part of the band. Thus, while this is definitely a solid recording, one has to wonder whether it is true to the band’s actual sound.  Of course, seeing them play live (which I plan to do) could settle all those questions; just saying.

Anyhow, check out The Congress and see what you think.

The Congress: “Queen Mary”

If you like this band, buy their EP on iTunes.
The Congress - The Congress