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!

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

Aug 152011
 

I know it’s probably stupid, but sometimes I feel a bit of apprehension in reviewing a solo artist posing as a band. I dunno, maybe I feel like it’s cheating if one guy played all the instruments on the record–because how the heck is he gonna play all of them LIVE?

And why can’t the guy get a band in the first place?

But the fact is, you can’t argue with talent. And besides, you shouldn’t judge. (After all, maybe someday I’ll be a solo artist with a pretend band name, and how would I like it?) Tongue out of cheek, the fact is, when I took a listen to The Sister Ruby Band (a.k.a., Johnny Ruby), I was honestly impressed. The debut CD In Cold Blood (which drops tomorrow) presents an interesting blend of psychedelic rock and shoegaze, resulting in a buzzy-retro kind of sound. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s got that sort of indescribable “oomph” that this blog is all about.  It’s more than the sum of its parts. Johnny done good.

I’m sorry. Sister Ruby. Sister Ruby done good.

That’s pretty much all I can say about it. The music sort of speaks for itself. Take a listen and see what you think.

The Sister Ruby Band “Straight Into Your Heart”

Jul 282011
 

Picking music to write about is not an exact science for any music blogger. Music is just too subjective for that. For me, out of the many music submissions I get, I choose not just to write about those artists who have all their ducks in a row, but also artists with potential. Also, contrary to common belief, I don’t just write about bands from Denver, although I keep a running joke about that. :) Generally what prompts me to write about a band or act is when something in their music captures my attention, and makes me want to hear more.

Days of Rae falls into that category.

When Cherie Rae Cobbs, part of the wife/husband team that heads up Days of Rae, contacted me to let me know their Minnesota-based act was relocating to Denver, and asked me for my thoughts about their record Naked Maché, I understandably had no idea who they were. But the first few seconds of the first song got my attention, and definitely made me want to hear more. The record contains moments of brilliance with interesting arrangements, catchy melodic hooks (which anyone who reads this blog knows I’m a sucker for), and a unique overall sound.

That isn’t to say the record isn’t without its flaws, or that the band doesn’t have some growing to do. In between those moments of brilliance I spoke of earlier, there are also places where the music feels kind of washed out. As I listened, I found myself sometimes losing interest by a mixture of bland melody lines, pitch/tuning issues and occasional rhythmic sloppiness…and then another moment of brilliance would come and wake me up again.

So, yes, Days of Rae makes me want to hear more–I want to hear more of those moments of brilliance that made me take notice. If I take this record as a snapshot of the band, I’d say Days of Rae definitely has what it takes to make it–they just need to evolve and grow a bit. The elements of greatness are present; now it’s time for those elements to be worked throughout the music like spices in a stew, so they appear throughout the songs, and not just in a few brilliant places.

Geesh, I sound like a chef or something.

So…more, please. I look forward to hearing more from Days of Rae, and since they’re going to be local, I look forward to watching their evolution from here.  Meanwhile, take a listen to “Paperdolls,” the opening track from Naked Maché. IMHO, it’s the catchiest tune on the record–and it’s the song that initially made me want to hear more. And if it makes you want to hear more, you can download the whole record here, and name your price for it.

Days of Rae: “Paperdolls”

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”

Jun 022011
 

After a bit of waiting, I finally got my hands on Changing Color, the debut full-length from Denver alt-rockers My Body Sings Electric. This is a band that has been playing a lot around town and gaining a lot of momentum and attention with their high-energy, indie-punk sound.

I had the chance to talk with these guys a few months ago (you can see the article I wrote here), and the impression I got from talking to them was that they are very purposeful, passionate, hard-working and focused. They want to get their music to a wider audience, and they are working a plan to get there.

Listening to their record, I’d say My Body Sings Electric is ready for the larger audience they are seeking. Recorded at Interlace Audio in Portland, Oregon, the record’s production value is outstanding, with quality audio and near-flawless execution. Tight, complex rhythms and riffs played with searing accuracy, overlaid with hooky, singable vocals, make this a great listen all around. The hard work is showing–these guys play extremely well together.

My Body Sings Electric

Take a listen to the record’s single (and my personal favorite), “Step Into the Light,” and if you like their vibe, the whole record is available pretty cheap from their website. Listen for the wailing guitar solo near the end of the track–gives me chills.

My Body Sings Electric: “Step Into The Light”

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?…

Stunned.

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