Album Review: “First Animal”

“First Animal” is the debut album of Trevor Bates, a musician from Little Rock, AR, self-released November 13th.

The Album is a one-man effort, as Trevor wrote, composed, sang and played all instruments, in a messy and heavy celebration of good old-fashioned Garage Psych, with lyrics that range from innocent, to cryptic, to mythological, with a background music where loud guitars, both lead and rhythm take center stage.

The opening track, and the album’s Highlight, “My Baby’s Cryin'” with a heavy riff in the opening bars that serves as a statement, as if to say “I arrived, and there’s nothing you can do about it”, with surprisingly innocuous lyrics about a significant other:

Let me hold your hand

Let me dry your cheek

Baby I’m around

You gotta tell me what you need

The following track, “Words”, is more of a split-personality affair, with stanzas alternating between raw screams and subdued vocals, with a start stop musical structure.

Trevor Bates, indie music blog,

The 6th track, “Mother” uses an unusual 3/4 time signature with a somewhat bluesy feel augmented by an organ, with lyrics that seem taken form a book of an unknown mythology:

Four thousand years

Nine un-worthies appear

Field, valley, reap

Wakes the mother from sleep

The 9th track, “(Don’t Put Out) The Candle” takes a detour toward a weirder direction, with slightly distorted vocals, strange guitar sounds in the background and a short fuzz guitar part.

The closing track, “All Along The Way” is the most accessible song, a folksy tune with minimal percussion and acoustic guitar, serves as an appropriate way to end the listening experience on good terms.

The album feels a bit uneven musically, but the overall result is a record packed with good tunes and no boring moments, the production effort is noticeable, the vocals are well recorded (the first thing on my checklist), and signals a very interesting musician that’s worth keeping an eye and an ear on.

Album Review: “Waiting Rooms”

“Waiting Rooms” is the debut album of Maeve Aikin, a singer-songwriter from Minneapolis, MN, released November 13th, on Corkscrew Records

The album is a very personal journey into the melancholic moods and feelings of its creator, a 17 year old singer-songwriter with a chronic condition known as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, I was hesitant at first to add this information, but to better understand the music, one must put himself into her shoes for a better context and POV.

The music is unabashedly DIY and lo-fi, what you’re getting is Maeve and her guitar, with small touches of keyboards in a handful of tracks, and nothing more.

The opening track, “Furniture” opens with Maeve taking a deep breath, as if to signal us about the emotional effort she’s going to put in revealing her thoughts to anyone who’s willing to listen, as her delicate voice enters the frame and shares with us a moment riddled with a deep sense of insecurity ending with the lines:

I could never make your pupils sore

I’m a sorry-eyed sight

I’m a sorry-eyed sight

I’m a sorry-eyed, sorry eyed sight

The repetition of lines is a recurring theme throughout the album, providing a sense of inner conflict, of a lack of self-assurance, while her delicate voice, which borders at fragility at times, gives us an occasional alternate glimpse at her pain, be it physical or emotional.

Indie Music Review

The 3rd track, “Bug”, gives us a very intimate look into her physical struggle:

the doctor didn’t believe me

until he saw me through the machine

the pulsing of my bloodstream

red ocean in my knees, heart on my sleeve

Maeve spares no punches with herself nor the listener, if the last song dealt with her physical side of her pain, the 5th track, “Park”, tells us a story of an unrequited love:

we left our shoes in the shed outside

you tell me all about the girl you like

I want to move to another universe

where you didn’t say that

The Highlight of the album, if I could pick one, is the 4th track, “Harriet”, a song part self-reflection, part unwritten letter to a friend, with a small glimmer of hope at the end.

Maeve did an amazing job of putting her inner turmoil to words and music, my listening experience of her debut left me with a sense of sadness and anger, both at the sheer unfairness that a person her age, on the verge of womanhood, has to deal with so much pain and suffering, my only hope is that her next offering will deal with happier, let alone positive, circumstances.

PRE-RELEASE EXCLUSIVE: “Memento Mori” BY Postrich Bear (USA)

Preorder the album on Bandcamp.

“Memento Mori” is the upcoming album of Postrich Bear, the musical project of Andy Alvarez from Salem, OR, and it’ll be released this October 30th, we (ok, me) at Qneydl had an exclusive access to the upcoming album.

The album is a very personal affair, Alvarez, a singer-songwriter, wrote, composed, sang (with Megan Blankenship featuring in a couple of tunes), played all instruments on it (except the Trumpet in another couple, courtesy of Matthew Mischke), and self-released it.

The personal effort reflects on the music, a collection of Indie-Rock songs contemplating feelings of love, loneliness, longing for a simpler time, and mourning (2 of the songs are dedicated to his grandmothers) giving the album a melancholic and autobiographical feel.

The 4th track “Dejame” tells a story of a separation, and keeping us in the dark about the person and the circumstances of it, leaving only what appears to be a open-ended clue in the lyrics:

Do you remember how we felt back in that summer?

Anoche soñé contigo y esta mañana no me quiero despertar

(Last night I dreamt about you and this morning I don’t want to wake up)

The lyrics in Spanish and the trumpet solo give the track a subtle Mexican vibe, without falling into clichés.

The 9th track “40 Miles with Wade” explores the feelings of sadness even further, a slow and sorrowful ballad, where the acoustic guitar serves as the main rhythmic component, the opening proclamation “Take 1” at the beginning is a perfect indication of its lo-fi spontaneity.

The closing track “Veritas Vincit” serves at a 2 part suite, the first part is a purging of personal demons and feelings of self-hate in what is likely the darkest point of the album, while the 2nd part is a calmer, gentler half, where the writer doesn’t give up on the possibility of hope for a better tomorrow.

My highlight of the album is the 2nd track “Cute” a charming love song with a self-deprecating twist, the jazzy trumpet flourishes throughout the song gives it an air of timelessness, of a tune that can feel comfortable in different decades, including this one.

The album ends with the spoken phrase “That’s really good, not bad”, in my opinion, the feeling is justified, as well as mutual.

“Gusty” BY Birdspotter (USA)

Stream or buy the album on Bandcamp

Philadelphia, PA band Birdspotter released this month their 3rd album “Gusty” on the Z Tapes label.

The album is a collection of short stories in form of poetry, of snapshots of life skilfully put to music and words, capturing unassuming moments before they fade away never to return, and finding the beauty of it while looking back.

The lyrics provide a look into the minds of people caught in the snapshots, expressing thoughts about love or loss, of stories in that particular moment captured in time, of places that are close and yet, can be distant at the same time, and sometimes of surreal musings, like in the 2nd track “Water”:

…But no God would let the railway workers’ union collapse

And I am still fitting both pieces together

Then in the water

I see Cherry,

I see reflected airplanes scatter in her wake and form again…

If the lyrics are reminiscent of snapshots, the 4 instrumental pieces take form of landscapes, like the 5th track “Dispatch From the Last Year With Seasons”:

The music itself feels very adequate and well balanced, no sudden changes and no sound or instrument moves abruptly to the forefront, giving the whole thing an overall pleasant vibe, for the most part.

My Highlight of the album, “Rumi” is an exception, an elegy to a friend, with slow verses, faster passages with loud guitars, mourning mingled with hopes for reunion in a faraway time and place.

This album is a great soundtrack for the autumn, it makes me think of going out and find a nice secluded spot where I can watch the clouds and just think about life.

“Myopic” BY Sewnshut (Norway)

Stream or buy the album on Bandcamp

Sewnshut is a one man project from Molde, Norway, and he released his 2nd album “Myopic”, last July 3rd on his own label, Sluggish Tapes.

The music in the album is a hypnotic concoction of Electronic lo-fi with Ambient elements thrown in for a good measure, all instrumental.

The album takes you on a trip through different moods, all achieved with changes of tempo, aggressive synth lines with minimal rhythms, aggressive rhythms with minimal synth lines, dreamy synths lingering from the background to disappear quickly again, melodies that appear from nowhere in the middle of the track to grab your attention, atmospheric pads to give a short burst of warmth, and so on.

This music is not danceable (to me anyways), this is not music to enjoy in the background or listen with a book, this is a record made to grab your consciousness by the shoulders and make you listen to it with your full attention and think throughout its duration, this is a record that if you listen in a dark room, you might develop synesthesia sooner or later.

If I have to choose a highlight from the album, it would be the opening track, “Rimb”, with a melodic chiptune-like lead synth, it invites you to join the trip with a strange grin in its face.

While I said earlier that the music is not danceable, at times this record somehow gives you the feel that you are dancing even while lying without moving a single muscle, a fascinating experience.

“Ornaments of Affection” BY The Soods (USA)

Stream or buy the album on Bandcamp.

The Soods, a collective of West Michigan musicians gathered around Jason Roy, released this month their latest album “Ornaments of Affection” on GTG Records.

The album is a celebration of jangly and raucous Indie Rock, accomplished by a rotating cast of musicians with Jason being the constant part of the different formations for the different shades of each song.

That variety is key to the album, while the main style is Indie Rock, there are tunes with elements of Power Pop, Dream Pop and so on.

Take the opening track: “Oh, Mersey Days”, for this song, the assembled musicians take the guise of an imaginary forgotten British band from the pre-Britpop days, the jangly acoustic guitar comes to the forefront, with vocalist Shane Tripp’s distinctive lead vocals and harmonies in the choruses, a fitting homage.

Or, in the 4th track “Hard to Conceal”, the fuzzy guitar that goes through the song takes it to a more psych-y direction, without straying too much from the overall line.

The title of highlight of the album, IMO, should go to the 5th track “Morning Harold”, a sunny gem with a Power Pop flavor that exudes fun and joy from beginning to end, from the laughter in the opening seconds.

A more Dreamy direction can be found in the 7th track “Begonias” where slide guitars, beautiful harmonies and piano arpeggios adorn the song.

The last Track “Melancholia” goes even further in that direction, with an atypical 3/4 rhythm and synths, and provided a very creative way to bookend the album.

My main issues with the album can be summed up in 2:

The first one is the mixing, although English is not my native tongue (Hebrew and Spanish are, long story) my English level is relatively above average, and yet I had a hard time understanding the lyrics with the vocals partially buried in the mix.

The second is closely related, as I had a hard time with understanding the lyrics by ear, I couldn’t find any written ones either, it was noticeable especially in the Bandcamp page where it should be first place to go and find them.

Issues aside, the music was wonderful, a great album from start to finish, the variety of styles didn’t felt out of place and felt like a trip through various places instead, I hopped aboard and enjoyed it.