Feature: “Grace” – Nita Chawla

 

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Nita Chawla’s latest EP, Grace contains shade of Fiona Apple, Sara Bareilles and “Like a Bird”-era Nelly Furtado. But it’s Chawla’s set of pipes that set her apart. The simple and sparse arrangements – augmented by gentle acoustic chords – give Chawla plenty of room to dig deep on songs like “Bite the Bullet” and “All or Nothing”.   When she sings, “I’m going to pack my bags and tell myself everything will be alright,” you almost want to go with her just to see what’s in store. Her voice isn’t necessarily technical or perfect. But that’s hardly the point. It’s easier to identify with someone who has feeling behind the voice.

The two “pop” songs on the EP – “They Scream” and “Fantasy” – would probably help her achieve some attention for their accessibility, but they don’t do her voice the justice the way the rest of the set does.

Grace is available now.  For more info on Chawla, visit her web-site. Check out “All Or Nothing” below:

 

 

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Review: “My Depression is Always Trying to Kill Me” – Vince Grant

 

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“The pain makes it true,” Grant sings on “How Many Times You” off his latest release, My Depression is Always Killing Me. For Grant, his music is a life-line for personal salvation. Having dealt with depression and substance abuse throughout his life, each song on this EP offers an insight into Grant’s psyche.

While there’s a lot that Grant wants to come clean about on My Depression is Always Killing Me, he’s also not above slinging mud at those who he feels have done him wrong. On first single, “Melancholia” he seethes, “She’s always leaving me for dead.”  Later though, he seems to reconcile those feelings on “Edge of the World”.  The song acts an apology of sorts for all the wrongs that has done throughout his life: careless ways, selfishness, anger and his own ego.  As the list continues, he finally seeks atonement for the previously doomed relationship, declaring over layered guitars, “I’m sorry for all that has happened.”

While songs like these can offer catharsis for the writer, the question remains whether it can also be gratifying and compelling for the listener. Like his hero Elliott Smith, Grant has created a set that is musically satisfying while generating sympathy. The songs on My Depression is Always Killing Me are well structured, yet moody with choruses that offer release. The production highlights each song’s individual mood and vibe.  The mid-tempo rocker “Oceans II” offers a driving drum beat and crunchy guitars, while “Edge of the World” is given a darker shade to highlight its tortured lyrics.

My Depression is Always Killing is a solid EP from an emerging songwriter who uses his music to deal with his demons. Of course, the very things that make it memorable also work against it. Its subject matter makes it hard for repeated listenings. It might be hard for Grant to lighten his mood slightly, but if he did it might be easier to generate more listeners and subsequent replays.

For more information on Grant, check out his web-site.  My Depression is Always Trying to Kill Me is out now.

Listen to “Melancholia” below:

 

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Review: “Burden’s Landing” – Winchester Revival

 

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Post-punk and indie rock doesn’t always seem to mesh with the spacey and atmospheric vibes of bands like Pink Floyd. With that in mind, California’s Winchester Revival embraces both of these sounds on their latest set, Burden’s Landing.

Two of Winchester Revival’s biggest influences are Arcade Fire and U2. They sound nothing like either band, but embrace both artists’ penchant for not being afraid of being grand while still being experimental. Burden’s Landing is the sound of a band who wants the two extremes: thousands of adoring fans while also maintaining indie credibility.

The first two songs on the EP – “Last Night in Tokyo” and “Ides of January” are more aligned  with the indie/post punk side of the band. With a massive, sweeping chorus, “Last Night in Tokyo” begins Burden’s Landing with a bang. The wall of fuzz guitar contains enough noise that you can hear elements of Joy Division and Interpol (another influence).

Things get a little weirder after that with the psychedelic funk of “Diligence” that wouldn’t sound out of place on a My Morning Jacket album.  “Keep It Together” is a slow-burn of a song that fades in like the sun coming up over the ocean. It’s the set’s most experimental track with ambient sounds filling the speakers and lots of vocal effects.  The song segues into the mid-tempo “Salamander” whose chorus contains shades of Peter Buck’s trademark ringing guitars.  Closing out the EP, is the fast paced “Ice Water” which meshes the band’s two sides together.  Drummer Kirk Snedeker provides a sturdy back-beat that propels the song over distorted and textured guitars.

Considering the album has a mesh of different styles, it might be easy to assume that Winchester Revival don’t quite know which sound to chase. But that actually works to the band’s advantage since they’re able to make their avant-garde tendencies accessible. It’s not necessarily an easy feat, but makes for a compelling and intriguing listen.

Listen to “Last Night in Toyko” below:

For more info on Winchester Revival, check out their Facebook page here.  Burden’s Landing will be released on March 3rd via King of Sticks.

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New Music Premiere: “Maladjusted” – Ryan Link

 

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If you like Americana, do yourself a favor and check out singer songwriter Ryan Link. Born in San Francisco before growing up in the suburbs of Seattle, Link brings a down home vibe to his already laid-back songs.  Link’s newest single, “Maladjusted” is case in point: it’s an gentle as a morning breeze, complete with Link’s soft and sincere voice.  There’s some great acoustic picking, which adds some authenticity to the track.  ”Maladjusted” is the kind of song you’ll want to add to your list with spring around the corner: perfect for a warm afternoon.

The track can be found on Link’s newest EP, Reverbarations due out on March 3rd with release parties at Cheer Up Charlie’s in Austin on February 26th and Rockwood Music Hall on March 25th in NYC.  For more info on Link and info on the release parties, please visit his web-site.

Listen to “Maladjusted” below:

 

 

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New Music: “Ocean” – Buffalo Sunn

 

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Irish rock act Buffalo Sunn have just released the video for their latest release, the atmospheric “Ocean”.  With its layered production and reverb-heavy sound, “Ocean” hints at Buffalo Sunn influences such as the Stone Roses.

“Ocean” is an apt title for the song. With its slow start, it conjures the feeling of a morning by the sea. Just like waves getting bigger as the tide progresses, so does the song. Eventually, it builds into a crescendo resulting in a feeling of euphoria that sometimes comes by hanging out at the sea by one’s self. “I will be by the ocean,” Singer Daniel Paxton sings with a hint of triumph and a bit of a sadness in his voice. “I’m better off on my own,”

Buffalo Sunn will taking their live show on the 2015 Passport Approved West Coast USA Tour in February through March. For more info and dates, check out the band’s web-site.  The band’s latest album, By The Ocean By the Sea is out now.

Check out “Ocean” below:

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New Music: “I Am Alive” – Little Earthquake

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Little Earthquake is an Australian synth-pop duo composed of brothers Mathew and Justin Hyland. Perhaps because they’re brothers, but the duo manage to bring a humanity to a genre that is sometimes lacking in emotion and souk. “I An Alive” finds the duo combining their interlocking harmonies with electronic drums for a soaring anthem. The chorus seems destined to be played in big venues.

Little Earthquake have recently returned to the studio for their next release and plan to the tour the US later this year.

Check out the video for “I Am Alive” below:

For more info on Little Earthquake, check out their Facebook page.

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New Music: “Mansion on a Hill” – The Dough Rollers

 

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The Dough Rollers have been getting a lot of love from established rock acts like Jack White, The Black Keys and Billy Idol. The band recently toured with Idol, while The Black Keys recently enlisted the group for one of their tours as well.  The highest praises came from White, who declared guitarist Jack Byrne as one of his new favorite guitarists, saying, “I like this kid’s style. It’s more in the simplistic realm of guitar playing. He’s not trying to knock you over.”

With “Mansion On a Hill” it’s easy to see why these acts would heap praises upon the Dough Rollers.  ”Mansion on the Hill” is a mid-tempo rock song with tinges of country, indie rock and soul combined into a dose of sweet ear-candy. Byrne’s guitar is distinctive, yet never overpowering the beauty of the song even when he breaks away for a short, distorted solo. With each subsequent listen, the song’s simple power reveals itself more and more.

“Mansion on the Hill” is the kind of song that seems to exist out of time: it sounds like it could have been written yesterday or 30 years ago. It seems that the Dough Rollers aren’t chasing after trend or sound other than their own, which makes them all the more appealing and alluring.

Check it out below:

“Mansion on a Hill” can be found on The Dough Roller’s vinyl EP, Gone Baby Gone, released through Third Man Records.  For more info on the band and tour dates, check out the band’s web-site.

 

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New Music: “Bad Operator” – Swanky Tiger

 

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Swanky Tiger’s “Bad Operator” is a blast of old school punk and garage rock. It’s the kind of song for people who don’t care what the singer sounds like and are more into attitude. There’s plenty of that to be found throughout the song whether it’s the pounding drums, fuzz guitars or scorching solo. “Bad Operator” is the perfect accompaniment for a bad day when you just feel like throwing something to relieve the stress.

Check out “Bad Operator” below:

 

“Bad Operator” can be found on the band’s latest release, Empires. For more info, check out the band’s website.

 

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New Music: “Help Me Feel Something” – Eddie Cohn

 

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Eddie Cohn’s  latest single “Help Me Something” conjures a feeling of mid-90′s Radiohead with its swirling guitars, strings and piano. The song starts off slow in a wash of atmospheric sound with Cohn’s soft voice adding to the drama. When he reaches deep, the music follows creating an eerie effect. It’s an effect that works well because when Cohn moans “Help me feel something good” during the chorus you truly get the sense that he is overwhelmed.

“Help Me Feel Something” can be found on Cohn’s third album Guaranteed Love out now.

Check it out below:

 

For more on Eddie Cohn check out his website.

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An Exploration of Terrible Albums By Great Bands: “Around the Sun” – R.E.M.

 

 

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It’s no secret that R.E.M. became an entirely different band after the departure of Bill Berry in 1997. Up until that point, R.E.M. had released numerous classic albums (pretty much all their albums on IRS and Automatic for the People), some scattershot ones with great songs (Out of Time, I’m looking at you) and one polarizing one (Monster).

Without one of their founding members, you can’t really blame R.E.M. for going a different route. Their first foray without Berry was 1998’s electronic-tinged Up which has its merits but mostly finds the band finding its feet. 2001’s Reveal was a Beach Boys-style pop affair that attempted to recapture the some of glory days of Out of Time and Automatic for the People. Those two albums aren’t particularly good, but they merely tread water.

Which brings us to 2004’s Around the Sun. It’s the first time that R.E.M. ever sounded bored. Peter Buck’s trademark chiming guitars are almost entirely absent. Mike Mills’ background vocals have always been the band’s secret weapon and on Around the Sun, and with the exception of “Leaving New York” you have to search hard to find them. It seems that the Mills and Buck finally gave into Michael Stipe’s pretentious tendencies and let him guide the entire album.

If you’d ever like to imagine what a Michael Stipe solo album would sound like, Around the Sun is about as close as we’ll probably get considering he recently announced that he’s pretty much all but given up singing. Almost all of the songs are mid-tempo numbers that crawl along like a slug effectively becoming a showcase for Stipe’s wordy and for him, clearer lyrics.

At his best, Stipe is one of rock’s most gifted vocalists. Throughout most of R.E.M.’s career his voice managed to capture all kinds of emotions with lyrics that may or may not have meant anything. Almost all of Murmur means absolutely nothing, but his voice makes it seem like the lyrics are not only important, but also emotionally meaningful. Stipe has always been interested in the more heavy-handed aspect of art, but his bandmates almost always reigned him in. I’m almost certain if Stipe were in charge of most of the music from the beginning, R.E.M.’s first few albums would have consisted of songs akin to the spoken-word and avant-garde bridge of “Stumble” off of Chronic Town.

It’d be easy to put the blame of Around the Sun all on Stipe. But neither Mills nor Buck stepped up and gave him something to work with. Buck has gone on record to say that at various points he became frustrated that R.E.M. was turning into a part-time band. On Around the Sun, they don’t even sound like a band who are friends or musical partners.

1997’s R.E.M. Live attempted to prove that the songs on Around the Sun were actually decent, just soiled by the production. While the live incarnations have more guitar and R.E.M. attempt to sound like a band, the performances don’t make up for lackluster songs. As a good as R.E.M. was live, they were never like The Who or Bruce Springsteen who could turn their shortcomings in the studio into a revelation live. (Case in point: Tommy is actually a mediocre record, but live was it was incredible and could be a spiritual experience.)

The only good thing about Around the Sun is that is so bad, that it forced R.E.M. to take a good look at themselves and what they had become. Not content to be a dying band (because that’s what they were and sound like on Around the Sun), they wisely chose to bow out on a high note with two really good albums (Accelerate and Collapse Into Now). With that in mind, Around the Sun sounds more like the dark before the dawn, rather than the sound of a band dying as it comes through the speakers.

 

 

 

 

 

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