Bret Welty: Unlimited Edition – A Music Review

Bret Welty LiveBret Welty is a jack of all trades when it comes to his musical abilities. He’s a blues and rock songwriter, singer and overall performer who has been honing his trade for over 25 years. August 23rd sees the release of his latest album Unlimited Edition full of blues and rock anthems founded in American patriotism, religion and all around good times.

There is so much in Welty’s musical genre styles that I love and each song has its very own uniqueness to it. The tracks do carry a lot of the religious sentiment that old school blues and country songs proselyted, but despite the overt religious context to many of the tracks there is definitely something for everyone on this album.

One track, Black and Blues, stands out as a sultry jazz ballad where the music takes a touch of a backseat to a much deeper lyrical exploration. It also gives Welty a chance to showcase a more subtle vocal set, where he demonstrates his range as a musician in every facet. It also features one of the albums best guitar solos at the mid-point, reminiscent of a Jeff Beck style solo.

 Bret Welty ArtBaby Come Back is just a whole lot of fun. Classic blues style where it’s just too much damn fun. Welty’s playful baritone vocals are accented by his skillful guitar playing that never seems to falter throughout this album.

A lot of the tracks feature great harmonica riffs, playful rhythmic guitar spots and a driving drumbeat that keeps everything on point. There are no weak tracks on this album, although there are a handful that just really stand out. Sunny Day is the perfect the song to follow Baby Come Back as it continues in the same musical vein. No Fakin It For You adds more of a classic rock feel to the album.

One of my favourite tracks on the album is Bring ‘Round That Chariot which mixes the lyrical feel of an old spiritual tune with a bluesy jazz baseline, a rocking rhythm guitar and a youthful exuberance to the content.  Finally you can’t have this album without its title track Unlimited Edition more of a country-rock anthem than anything else, but it really seems to capitalize on everything that Welty carefully unpacks as this album plays out.

Bret WeltyOne of the reasons I keep this website going is because I love to discover new music and I love to share what’s good… and what’s not so good. Bret Welty definitely fits into the: what’s good category! Unlimited Edition is an album that is definitely worth the time and could quite easily become an album that I feel obligated to pop into my car whenever I travel to the United States as it perfectly captures how I imagine all American Patriots want their music to feel and sound.

For more on Bret Welty check out his website!

Advertisements

Dog of Panic: Tip of the Tongue – A Music Review

Tip of the TongueDog of Panic is a prog-rock band out of Springfield, Illinois with a very cross-generational sound. With one foot in the 80’s rock scene and one foot breaking ground in today’s rock market Dog of Panic becomes a force to be reckoned with.  The three member band really pour their heart and soul into their most recent album Tip of the Tongue, released in February 2013.

Before listening to any album I always read over the titles of the track to see if I can figure out what I’m getting into. With titles like Big Fat Hissy Fit, Saurce or No Sauce? And Pee In Your Butt I truly wasn’t expecting much more than a juvenile album of beginner musicians going for shock value. Holy hell can I ever admit when I am wrong.

The Band (2)Dog of Panic’s Tip of the Tongue is a musical odyssey. The album is so well constructed and is musically flawless. With hat tips to all notions of musical genres Dog of Panic manages to mix an 80’s rock theme with current alt-rock genres, along with ties to funk, jazz and punk.

The second thing you are going to notice after the professional musicianship is the very distinct vocals for lead singer Dan Rohdhe. At first I found them off-kilter and felt like they clashed with the music, but the more I listened to the album the more they took on a life of their own. Rohde is able to take, what sound like, untrained vocals, and make them a significant part of the music. In the same way that Gordon Downie of The Tragically Hip has made his vocals the defining part of their band Rohde’s vocals stick out and really help guide the music.

The BandThere aren’t any really weak songs on the album, but some of the strongest ones include the opening track Stromboli, Admiral, Atoning Through Thought, Lysergic and Hurdles, which has a resonation very similar to one of my favourite bands out of Atlanta, Georgia, Rehab.

And, I was harping on titles earlier on this track earlier on in this review, but Sauce or No Sauce? is clearly one of the best musical tracks on this album. And despite the juvenile aspects of the lyrics of Pee in Your Butt, the music is once again a whole lot of fun… it’s a shame that the content of the song is so contradictory to the seriousness of the rest of the album.

Dog of PanicTo check out more of Dog of Panic find them on Facebook!

To check out some of their tracks find them on Bandcamp!

Music Review: Misha Kolesoski – Scenes from the Cold

Misha Kolesoski - Scenes from the COldScenes from the Cold is an adventure in sound from composer Misha Kolesoski who hails originally from Phoenix, Arizona but finds himself settled in Eugene, Oregon. Kolesoski’s sound carries many international and cultural influences that in and of itself it feels like a trip around the world. There is so much talent in this little album that it’s obvious he is definitely going to be going places. Currently Kolesoski teaches piano, voice and music theory, while writing music and scores for independent theatre and films.

Footsteps in the Cold is the first track on this album and its cadence is flawless. Steeped in oriental culture the orchestral track turns classical music on its head with an amazing hip-hop backing, bringing classical music into the modern age and accessible for all. The song definitely continues to build to a great climatic ending which I instantly imagined fitting perfectly into a Wachowski Siblings feature film.

The following track Her Hair at Dawn continues with the oriental influences but slows down the pace. It really relies on the simplicity of having two instruments play off each other.

One of my favourite tracks on the album is Church Hymns in Wintertime which picks up the beat again and really becomes a piece similar to a variations on a theme piece. The greatest aspect of this song is you expect a specific and certain resolution and right when you think its coming, Kolesoski changes where he is taking the track, making it an adventure you can’t help but find exciting to follow along.

What She Looks Like on the Horizon sounds like the start of an indie-rock folk song. I just found myself waiting for the lyrics to kick in before forgetting that this entire album is pure instrumental.  And once it finds itself around the 45 second mark it’s transcendent and reminiscent of the sound we experienced in Footsteps in the Cold.

Snow Reminds Us of Singing does to What She Looks Like on the Horizon what Her Hair at Dawn did to Footsteps in the Cold. It slows the instrumentation down and is much more of a reflective piece. It does pick up at the midpoint but still carries the very reflective and meditational thematic elements presented earlier on in the album.

The album closes on The Sound of the Bell almost doesn’t feel like it belongs on the album in comparison to the rest of the tracks. It’s light on the instrumentation. Its beats backing don’t seem to fit the mold. It’s still a very strong track, especially once the piano enters at the 1:20 mark, but it just feels out of place on this album.

Misha KolesoskiThe title of the album Scenes from the Cold fits the pieces well, although there is a coldness to them, there is also an awakening as the album progresses. The cold is romanticized, but hopeful. The album comes across with a message like, winter is coming to an end, the cold is ending, and there is hope for bright, sunny and warm days ahead. This is the first I’ve heard of Kolesoski’s material. But it definitely won’t be the last.

Check out Misha Kolesoski’s material on YouTube! 

Check out Scenes from the Cold on Amazon! 

Check out Misha Kolesoski on Facebook! 

Jesse Ronan: The Life & Times of Chicory Gibbs – A Music Review

Jesse Ronan CoverJesse Ronan, an acoustic folk artist out of Guelph, Ontario, released his full length album The Life & Times of Chicory Gibbs on November 19, 2013. DIY style artists are popping up all over the world now that technology allows us to literally record albums in our own bedrooms, so they are often hit or miss. Ronan proves that you can still bring big sound and talent to the DIY game in this great piece of art.

The album starts off with Old Reggae Album, there is nothing reggae about this track, but that is just a-ok, it’s a beautiful acoustic song with a pulsating organ synth in the background. This song, like many other songs on this album, tells a story. Many artists try to pump messages through their music, or showcase high levels of musicality, and while this song isn’t one that focuses on the music, despite the flawless feel to it, it really does focus on the story and lyrical content that utilizes vocal layering in a professional manner as well.

Jesse Ronan MusicOnce the rest of the album continues you find out where Ronan’s safe place is, usually somewhere between a harmonica intro and a raw acoustic guitar middle. Gemini creates this indie Western feel to the song as it powers through its harmonica opening. It puts the guitar in the backseat, despite the fact that it may actually be the most sophisticated musical aspect to the track. It allows the vocals and the acoustic to be front and take the lead in what comes across as a track that is reminiscent of the band Steel Train.

Flies (Out of My Ears) is a much slower, melodic track with almost an eerie feel to it. The harmonica doesn’t create the happy place we get used to on this album, it penetrates with a haunting presence. Ronan’s vocals are raw. The lyrics are deeper than most. It feels like it would have been a perfect accompaniment track to Matthew Good’s Hospital Music album.

Jesse Ronan LiveBy the time we hit Song in Mind (Part i: new move) I’m a little bored of the harmonica – it starts to sound the same. This piece is all music and nothing more. It’s a lot more experimental as the folksy feel evolves. It would definitely be a piece that probably plays well live, but doesn’t sit well as a recording.

The more this album continues the more you realize it’s an anthology of short stories. It’s very eclectic and each song is connected through the passion behind making the music.  The more you listen to the album the more you want to hear. The more captivating the songs are the more intrigued you are by the content. Cave of Bears has, by far, the most beautiful start to any song on this album, and it holds you captive from start to finish.

Jesse Ronan GuitarRonan seems to approach the music romantically. It doesn’t matter what the content of the music is, you can hear a love for it in the lyrics, in the vocals and in the instrumentation. Ronan doesn’t treat the music as if he were simply going through the motions for a payday, you can hear the purity in his musical style and appreciate some of the stronger songs that are placed near the end of the album including Bless My Friends  and Vision of a Mountain.

Jesse Ronan ArtIt wasn’t until Maiden of the High Hills that I realized how much nature played a role in Ronan’s music. This track has very strong to follow as it’s obvious that their career is only going to blossom and grow from here on out.

Check out Jesse Ronan on Facebook! 

Check out Jesse Ronan on Twitter! 

Zero Verdict: Clarity – A Music Review

Zero Verdict - The BandZero Verdict, founded in 2013, is a rock band from Oulo, Finland, made up of members from existing bands Myon, Vermivore, Machina and King’s Ruin. Zero Verdict’s first EP, Clarity, was released in digital formats just recently and boy will the sound ever blow you away.

The EP kicks off with a track The Perfect White Lie and it grabs you immediately. It has an 80’s rock feel in both the musical and vocal department. The lyrics feel like they’ve been transported from the 80’s as well with a very strong Journey meets Black Sabbath feel. For a three piece band, these guys sure have a very strong musical ethic that could transcend so many different rock genres. Zero Verdict hinges on being a hard-core rock band with Metal flairs, yet you can still hear subtle hints of Europa-pop rock in the backgrounds which would allow this heavy rock band to also co-exist in the alternative-rock world as well.  Tapio Mattila, who writes the music and most of the lyrics on this EP, is also the guitarist and he is phenomenal. His guitar solo in this opening track is mind-blowingly amazing. As much as Sami Huotari is strong on vocals there are just times that I want to listen to the band play with nothing else. By the end of the first track on the EP you know that this is a band that hinges on being as equally talented as they are professional and you can’t wait for what’s next.

Their second track, Alone, has a Trans-Siberian Orchestra feel to it. They slow down the musical elements right after the heavy intro and rock on the rock opera ballad feeling that is conveyed through Huotari’s vocals. The musicality is ever present and continues to bloom as the song progresses as it creates a pleasant cacophony of instrumentation that will leave the listener in a state of rock-induced euphoria. Alone is a beautiful song that truly highlights the bands talents and makes the instrumentation sound much larger than just 3 people.

Lost in a Haze is the band’s third track and by now you realize that the songs are longer than your typical rock song (this 4 song EP is nearly 30 minutes long), but that’s alright because the band takes the time to allow every member to show off their talents and it’s worth it. Lost in a Haze starts off with the beautiful vocals of Huotari who asks: “am I dreaming or am I lost in a haze?” Throughout the piece Huotari explores life through memories and the escape of haziness through sleep. It’s a beautiful song of self-exploration and it seeks answers on an existential plane. As the journey unfolds the music picks up and carries Huotari to the end, an amazing trip had by all.

The final track on the EP, Clarity¸ is unfortunately the weakest song on the EP. It feels that it drags on much longer than it needs to and is very dependent on its strong chorus. This is the rock ballad for the band and is the only one whose lyrics aren’t written by Mattila.

Clarity Album CoverOverall this EP is fantastic and definitely worth the listen to if you are into form of rock genre. I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more from Zero Verdict in the near future.

Check out Zero Verdict on Facebook!

Check out Zero Verdict on Youtube!

Check out Zero Verdict on Soundcloud!

The Steersmen: High Tech Low-Lifes – A Music Review

The Steersmen Album CoverHigh Tech Low-Lifes is the debut full length album for The Steersmen, an indie rock band out of Chicago, Illinois. The duo, made up of vocalist and guitarist Frank Guihan and drummer Kyle Engen, take us on a relatively short, yet emotional journey as they work at bridging the gap between the alternative rock subgenres of shoegaze and nu gaze. High Tech Low-Lifes is the follow up to their 2012 EP, Later That Night.

The album, released on April 29, 2014, starts off strong and carries itself from beginning to end with very few flaws. The first track, Bloomingdale is a quick musical based intro that feeds flawlessly into Upper Gloom which follows all the rules of retro hipster rock, strong rock backing, and muddied, detached vocals that blend into the melodies of the guitar. Making shoegaze is not an easy task because you have to create the perfect level of distortion between the vocalist and the guitars, you have to feel comfortable in the fact that not everything will necessarily sound as cohesive as what you may hear in any mainstream musical genre, and you can’t be afraid of hitting a wall of sound. Right off the bat you can tell that The Steersmen know what they’re doing, debut album or not.

As Upper Gloom turns into Lost Cause the techno rock fusion and amazing drumming take us on a journey followed by a lyrical tale of self-exploration.  The follow-up Hold Tight is driven by intensity, despite following up its predecessor with a significantly slower pace. The sound is more reminiscent of a classic rock ballad and is one of the more memorable ones on the track.

Later That Night is my favourite song on the album. It’s eerie and haunting, despite being an upbeat prog-rock journey. Guihan and Engen are very talented musicians and regardless of whether you like the music or not, you cannot deny that fact.

The Steersmen debut album reminds me of the early days of one of my favourite bands, The Shins. There’s a lot of highlights and a lot to look forward to from their future projects, but as the album progresses some of the music starts to feel the same, some of the lyrics start to feel cheap and easy, yet the duo never let up and still put out a superb psychedelic lo-fi  rock album.  The distorted vocals and the alt-rock fusion create a very niche genre that has its place, yet some will under appreciate the difficulty of creating something like this. I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeve next!

Overall though, High Tech Low-Lifes is a solid album that deserves attention.

Check out The Steersmen on the Web!

Check out The Steersmen on Twitter!