The Jackets – Be Myself/Queen of the Pill

The Jackets
Be Myself/Queen of the Pill

Voodoo Rhythm Records
Street: 06.30
The Jackets = The Seeds + King Khan and the BBQ Show + The Satelliters

Hailing from Bern, Switzerland, The Jackets are Jack Torera (aka Jackie Brutsche) on vox/lead guitar, Sam Schmidiger on bass and Chris Rosales on drums.  With a combined love for The Seeds, The Music Machine, The Lyre and The Gravedigger V, The Jackets boast an exposition of untamed garage rock that is uniquely executed.  It’s a style that is well refined, raw and carefully delivered.  I would have thought it would have been hard to top their last record, but it’s not necessarily a surprise that this single breathes new life into their already vibrant sound.

The Jackets’ single captures the ferocity of their sophomore album, Way Out, while blending together the freakbeat notions found in Shadows Of Sound.  Co-written with King Khan of King Khan and the Shrines, Be Myself/Queen of the Pill was recorded in Berlin, Germany by Nene Baratto of Movie Star Junkies.

The A-side, “Be Myself,” is an awesome assault on the senses. It’s immediately in your face with fuzzed-out guitars and vocals reminiscent of Shocking Blue. This track carries the damning urgency of punk while holding steadfast as a raucous 60s garage rock ripper. Like the title suggests, it’s a song that demands that one makes their own way in spite of any adversity. Despite a theme that is almost played out by those who have come before, The Jackets’ “Be Myself” own it by charging new life into rock n’ roll rebellion.

On the B-side is “Queen of the Pill.” In contrast to the straight garage punk tune on the A-side, this track comes out as a psychedelic stomper. This track superbly utilizes a straight and reverbed guitar that draws me in—it’s not through long-windedness, mind you, but with overwhelming, gritty heaviness.  If anything, this is the song that shows the maturity of Shadows of Sound. It’s still got a strong freakbeat feel, but with something decisively more wicked and distorted.

Rumor has it that this single is just a taste of a new album in the works from The Jackets. If this is true, then I can hardly wait. The Jackets are a group that does something actually interesting with garage punk. Their sound is that of an angst-driven rebellion that propels the desperation of punk while drumming up a sense of maturity suitable for teens in their garage.

All together and with the proper attention, this is music that should blow away any mediocrity muddling the contemporary garage rock genre.  The Jackets don’t mess about with dreamy notes. Rather, they lay bare what rock n’ roll should be taken as—sounds to provoke and move to.  

For me, it’s the long-awaited resurrection of music that is actually good and not contaminated by fast food-inspired, poppy trickery. As it was released through Voodoo Rhythm Records, a curious soul will find other likeminded projects that invigorate life into a true outlaw style. There are few other labels that release similar music, and it’s good to know that bands like these still exist—and that the sounds that invigorate sex into rock ‘n roll have yet to die. Now, go check out The Jackets. –Nick Kuzmack

Kapix | Prom Queen | Self-Released

Kapix
PROM QUEEN

Self-Released
Street: 06.09
Kapix = Defenders of the Faith–era Judas Priest + Jack Daniels + Motörhead+That Smell When You Wear a Denim Vest for too Long Without a Shirt

I have a tear in my eye. It’s been so long since SLC has had a new, rough-and-tumble RAWK band that I had all but given up hope. Just when I had folded up all my sleeveless Iron Maiden shirts and put away my denim vest, here come Kapix! Prom Queen was recorded by Mike Sasich at Man vs. Music Studios, and the production couldn’t be more spot on. This record is dripping loud-ass guitars, big, beautiful low end, driving drums and songs about everything from your mom, Barcelona and hitting the road on a Harley—get some! Born in Salt Lake City in 2016, I think we’ve yet to hear the best this band has to offer. I’ve listened to this about 10 times and have yet to find a track I don’t like. I hear tremendous potential from each member. With pressure, time and some hardcore touring on this album, I think they could become a real rock standout not only in SLC, but all over the place. One standout, for me, is the Judas Priest–like “Barcelona. The ’80s-style thrash metal riff coupled with singer Hagen Kearney’s lyrics about free cocaine and going off the rails will have you doing air guitar and rocking this mother out at top volume while driving a hundred miles an hour down Parley’s Canyon. The other tough-guy standout track is “Freeway. This one could come straight off Priest’s Turbo album, but without the silly keyboards and theatrics. One thing rock can clearly do without is synthesizer noise, and I am beside myself with glee that Kapix didn’t put one keyboard noise on this slab of rock n’ roll mayhem. For this alone, I want to hug all of the band members! Keep flying through the tracks and you’re sure to find joy in the high flying big rawk beat thrown down by drummer Lance Emmer. He’s on the cusp of becoming a bulletproof rock drummer. I’ve watched him in action, and I think he’s grown tremendously from just putting this album together. That’s what it’s all about. I like to hear things get better and better. Singer/bass player/guitarist Avery Ghaderi is a super-talented man of rock Action—he sings on blasters “Iron Horse,” “Dixie Line” and title track “Prom Queen.” He and Hagen have a great dynamic and complementary voices that bring it hard both live and in studio. Like I said, I am pretty excited to hear rock n’ roll get its due in Salt Lake City—the projects are few and far between. These rockers are just coming out of the gate, but I think there is a ton of great music to come. I’ll give this album a solid two thumbs up. Here’s to the revival of rock in Salt Lake City! –Jeremy Cardenas

My Friend Zero – Demo or Die

My Friend Zero
Demo or Die

Self-Released
Street: 08.01
My Friend Zero = (The Matches + Motion City Soundtrack) x The Flaming Lips

Based on their recent Demo or Die, it is clear that My Friend Zero is difficult to categorize. The demo seems like an in-depth sampler of a productive jam session. There are a lot of experimental sounds and lyrics going on throughout each song—the overarching theme seems to be uptempo beats, poppy keyboard, and a fair amount of unpredictability. Shrouded in mystery, the band does not go too in depth in their bio, describing themselves as “three dudes and a horse”, accompanied by a photo of three dudes, with one wearing a horse mask (you can’t fool me!). However, listening to the demo, there is something actually very serious about the way My Friend Zero plays with syncopation, keyboard solos, and sound innovation in each song.

For me, My Friend Zero’s uniqueness, especially within Salt Lake, is singer Ian Sherar‘s ability to really jump into the rhythms of each song and take off with them—specifically in “Siren Song” where he mimics the syncopation of the rest of the band with his voice and even babbles off in Spanish halfway through with the bubble-gum pop keyboard style of keyboard/bassist Jesse Ward backing him up. For me, “Siren Song” is the catchiest song of Demo or Die, with the keyboard solo really bringing me back to the days of Motion City Soundtrack. “Call of Cetus” has a less poppy, more serious sound  than “Siren Song” but is equally as strong in the demo, with the feeling of a continual build throughout the piece.

Though Demo or Die definitely has the lo-fi feel of a demo, it also contains the element of capturing the essence of what My Friend Zero is about, and personally, I had a lot of fun listening to it, due to the spontaneity in each song. There’s something very memorable about My Friend Zero’s melodies and rhythms that kept it stuck in my head after I was done listening. (Marmalade Library, 08.10) –Ali Shimkus

The War On Drugs | A Deeper Understanding | Atlantic Records

The War On Drugs
A Deeper Understanding

Atlantic Records
Street: 8.25
The War On Drugs = Bruce Springsteen + Slowdive

When Lost In The Dream was released three years ago, it felt as if The War On Drugs had finished pacing around their niche the way dogs pace around their bed. The band had found the perfect angle in which to explore their unique style of nostalgic, ambient rock n’ roll and with A Deeper Understanding they’ve honed in on what made their voice so great the last time. The pacing of the whole album is incredible, as the songs are never in a rush to leave you behind. They sprawl across the soundscape for six or seven minutes at a time, and each aspect of the music feels ready to fully own a “greater than the sum of its parts” aesthetic by allowing each of the six members of the band to roam around Adam Granduciel’s voice in a sort of planetary orbit. The effect of this type of movement of sound creates an entire sonic body that lacks empty space without ever becoming just a solid wall of noise.

The album could definitely be interpreted as a detailed exploration and perfection of a singular style instead of a voyage into new territory, but that isn’t to say that there’s nothing new here. The intros are more diverse, the guitar solos are energetic and there’s a dichotomy of subtlety and surprise that runs through much of the album. The first few songs seem to be a satisfying nod to their previous work, highly accessible and somewhat familiar, but once the standout song “Strangest Thing” comes into play, there is a sense that the band is playing with new levels of aggression and impact. The sound rises and crests like a wave, and the lyrics put this in to motion: “Am I just living in the space/ Between the beauty and the pain?” In the valleys of the wave, the music is thoughtful and driving. At the peak, the music carries you away into this reverie that brings to mind sweeping vistas and moments of honest ecstasy.

“Thinking of a Place” is a song that makes a distinct imprint on the album’s message. Spread across 11 minutes of texture and terrain, it feels as if the band is spinning thick thread to explore the album’s overall motif but in a way that diverges from the other songs. Much of the album’s motif feels like a rumination on how it feels to be separated from someone close to you—an end to a relationship or a futile search for someone. “Thinking of a Place” explores the feeling of what being with a lover does to separate you from the enveloping darkness that sometimes accompanies feeling alone. It’s a separation, but the separation is not from someone you love. It’s an unwanted separation from loneliness, that stands in distinct opposition to the rest of the album, which depicts loneliness as being the mindset that the album is trying to get away from but can’t. This creates a complexity in the release’s message, which provides a rare depth. When alone, you want to be with someone close to you. When you’re with someone close to you, you miss being alone. That emotional cycle is difficult to understand or even convey. A Deeper Understanding isn’t offering any solutions, but it manages to portray the confusion of these emotions with the level of detail they deserve in order to be understood. The whole project feels very human.@myster_patchouly

Creature Double Feature | Bone’s Groove | Self-Released

Creature Double Feature
Bone’s Groove

Self-Released
Street: 02.14
Creature Double Feature = Woods + Boz Scaggs + Foxygen

Creature Double Feature have released a new nine-track album, Bone’s Groove, which was recorded live in one day at Man v. Music by Mike Sasich. The band consists of Davis Johnson (guitar, vocals), Mason Johnson (vocals, guitar), Molly McGinnis (vox, autoharp, dulcimer), Stephen Bigelow (drums), John Hoang (bass), Tyler Webb (trumpet), Ivy Augusta Smith (upright bass), and Mr. Ghost (saxophone). 

The album ranges in genre from experimental psychedelic folk to jazz blues and indie-folk pop. The opening track “Heaven” is a dreamy song with a subtle background of distorted guitar and prominent saxophone. The steady drumming and vocal balance, which is tinged with subtle female backing vocals, add to the dreamlike elements of Bone’s Groove. At times, the music slows and pauses between the chorus, picking up speed but not volume at the bridge, before falling into a melodic electric guitar solo.

Other times, the band is jazzy. “Sly’s Blues,” is slower, jazzier and bluesier. McGinnis harmonizes over softer male vocals, and they wail and croon together over the slow rolling drums and the quiet twang of the electric guitar and bass. The trumpet penetrates the song about halfway through, before the beat slows again shortly after, eventually making another appearance as the track fades out.

Diverging from jazzy, “Swallowed Up” is a slightly uncomfortable experimental track. The song begins a cappella, with slight vibrato, then some normal drums and subtle trumpet and saxophone before slowing into an eerie display. There are quick, low-noted bows on the upright bass, with dramatic pauses and high-pitched notes on the trumpet as Johnson sings, “I don’t want to be swallowed up,” over and over again. The last minute and a half of the song fall back into normalcy with upbeat drumming and guitar.

“God’s Insides” begins quiet and instrumental with dissonant notes played on the dulcimers, periodic electric guitar strums, and percussions. Maybe it’s metaphorical—like God’s insides are complex and moving every which way. After a minute, the song becomes Doors-like, with a handful of trippy instrumentation with the guitar at the forefront and a few distant, nearly  monotone spoken vocals.

Creature Double Feature show their versatility by fusing jazz, blues and psychedelic folk. In its instrumental complexities, Bone’s Groove is full of depth and purpose. With lengthier tracks, Creature Double Feature create space to jam and show off their musical talent. –Lizz Corrigan

P.K. Workman | Simplicity | Self-released

P.K. Workman
Simplicity

Self-released
Street: 05.26
P.K. Workman = Gregory Alan Isakov  + Joe Pug

P.K. Workman, or Paul K. Workman, is a local singer-songwriter who just released his first full-length album: Simplicity, which, though similar to his 2015 EP release, Utah Sky, is a moodier folk album. Workman fills Simplicity with an enjoyable and aesthetic acoustic foundation, and Workman layers the songs with spurts of the harmonica, percussions, maracas and the electric guitar for a little folk rock atmosphere.

Simplicity includes three “simple” songs: “Simplicity Part 1,” “Simplicity Part 2” and “Simplicity Part 3.” These are short, acoustic, instrumental short tracks that frame the rest of the album. (”Simplicity Part 3” is only 33 seconds long.) These tracks drive Workman’s idea of “simplicity”: a song doesn’t necessarily have to be long, packed with lyrics or crazy instrumentation. Sometimes a simple song is still a good, impactful one.

The track “God Is Real” is a sentimental song and begins with softly played acoustic guitar, accompanied by maracas, which adds to the folk sensation of the album. The same acoustic riff continues, pausing periodically as Workman sings. The lyrics follow the theme of simplicity: “What I know is that I’m just / A simple man tryin’ to / Find my way back to / Heaven through my songs.”

“I’m Making My Way Home” is a more upbeat track. The track fades in (rather than out) and transitions into lower-note chord progressions and higher note riffs. This track emphasizes the instrumental rather than the lyrical. Workman hones in on the tone of the “feel good” in American folk music.

Simplicity is mostly acoustic, with the exception of “My Sons, which departs from the rest of the album as a moodier, electric folk song. About halfway through, in comes the high, moderately tempo electric guitar, played over the percussions and acoustic strumming.

Overall, Simplicity is just that: simple, with non-abrasive instrumental fillers and straightforward yet thoughtful lyrics. While his new and old album are similar, Workman walks this musical path well. –Lizz Corrigan

Indigo Plateau | The Heights Ep. | Self Released

Indigo Plateau
The Heights

Self Released
Street: 06.23
Indigo Plateau = Explosions in the Sky + Interpol + Shout Out Louds

On June 28, local art rock outfit Indigo Plateau treated many eager fans to a full live set of their new EP, The Heights. The band premiered their latest work in its entirety to a sold out crowd at Kilby Court and delivered an electrifying performance that left all in attendance in awe. This was in great part due to the incredible musicianship exhibited by each member of the band that night as well as the high caliber of compositional maturity on display for all to take in.

The EP opens with the slow pace “Intro” which introduces running thematic elements that are present throughout the rest of The Heights. These are suicidal and existential angst subject matter along with the bit crusher delay used on guitars and a drum sample pad. The next two tracks “Avion” and “ Girl Portraits” are the most instantly likeable songs on the EP. With upbeat drums, catchy guitar riffs and memorable vocal melodies the band makes it easy to dance along and not pay any mind to the gravity of the lyrics. Which could very well be the point, to make the music such that it distracts from the darkness of the perspective presented in the text in order to give the author a platform to express him/herself while maintaining a safe distance from the listener’s full comprehension. Fourth on this collection is “The Doctor’s Grip” which is easily the most disturbing song in The Heights. The song seems to speak from the perspective of someone who has been admitted to a medical facility due to his or her suicidal tendencies. The song closes out with guitarist/vocalist Michael Paulsen begging “lay me down” in a guttural and upsetting showcase of his vocal range. At the end of this voyage we find “Harbor”, a six-minute epic that seems to suggest our main character’s arrival at a place where he/she feels safe yet still not completely at ease. The treads new timbral territory by using an ebow on a severely effected guitar signal that anchors Indigo Plateau’s musical ship “in the harbor.”

Indigo Plateau have put forward a true work of art, one that is cohesive, thought provoking and high in production value. You can download The Heights at indigoplateauslc.bandcamp.com or find it in stock at Graywhale and/or Diabolical Records. –Arcadio Rodriguez

The Signal Sound | Broken Homes | Self-Released

The Signal Sound
Broken Homes

Self-Released
Street: 07.14
The Signal Sound = Green Day + The All-American Rejects + Yellowcard 

From the first track, The Signal Sound’s Broken Homes is like a warm dose of early-2000s high school nostalgia. Anthemic and jaded yet pretty alt—pop punk and classic aughts-rock are the stylings of this album from start to end. It’s perhaps an apt offering in light of the cyclical return of ‘90s popular culture and Gen X fashion sense. Listening to the album, there are heaps of visual imagery of skate parks, summer music festivals and wide-leg denim. The lyrics are evocative; the smart syncopation indicates that the band’s percussionist is an apparent pro; the vocals are clean; and the execution of their genre feels expert. As the album’s title would suggest, Broken Homes is a defensive ode to intimate relationship strife, and tracks like “Broken Homes and Stolen Hearts” and “Get Close reflect a resignation and retaliation by their spurned storyteller. A common challenge of this genre is a tendency toward redundant and formulaic songs, furthered by the sheer volume of tracks on offer. However, “Running In Circles,” “Be Still and “Seen A Ghost offer pleasant and acoustically rich respites from the driving tone of surrounding tunes. “Long Goodbyessmacks of a possible alternative radio hit via a solid and dynamic melody. Broken Homes is well-produced, likable, energetic, displaced heartbreak rock. Grab your skate shoes and your first-gen iPod and you’ll most surely enjoy this album.  –Paige Zuckerman

Nick Passey | Just Working Thru Some Shit | Self-released

Nick Passey
Just Working Thru Some Shit

Self-released
Street: 04.21
Nick Passey = Tom Waits + Johnny Cash + Folk Hogan

Nick Passey establishes his deep yet occasionally comical and crass EP with sparse acoustics, surprising sonic twists and vulnerable themes. The collection was inspired by the insight of his therapist that his life struggles would at least make for clever songwriting. From the first track, the album hits with a nouveau Johnny Cash cogitation with drawling Michael Stipe vocals. Title track “Just Working Through Some Shit” and its surrounding songs walk the line between thoughtful hipster folk and “my wife left me and my dog died” classic country. Passey transparently attempts to unpack the proverbial baggage rather than merely wallow in it.

The track list upholds a cerebral indie mentality yet remains firmly rooted in the country formula. Passey’s lyrics occasionally feel shoehorned and goofy, yet it’s apparently intended to be playful execution of even the heaviest of topics. “Non Believer” is a deep, existential meditation with quiet, marching snare drums in the background.

“Afterglow” and “Building Up My Tolerance” are an ode to heartbreak and love addiction supported with classic blues guitar and pleasantly staccato spoons for percussion. “Tears Me Up” is a lovely and melancholy tune with haunting echoes as if sung across a canyon during a desperate stop on a lonely road trip. Just Working Thru Some Shit is folk for Millennials, veering from acerbic wit to emotional weightiness. Passey is a skilled storyteller whose music never interrupts his narrative and cleverly accompanies it with a solid dose of heart. –Paige Zuckerman

Dearth | Self-titled | Self-Released

Dearth
Self-titled

Self-Released
Street: 06.04
Dearth = Piglet × Binkbeats

If I had to describe Dearth in one word, I would say “vision.” Fortunately, SLUG lets me use more than just one word, so I’ll expound by saying that Dearth is exactly what I want and expect from a solo project. Matthew “Matlas” Johnson put Dearth together to explore his musical vision, which is expressed in the personality of the album. Featuring Johnson on guitar, drums and bass, Dearth is a voyage into rhythmic, poly-rhythmic, pulsating musical powers, with more than a few ideas I’d never heard before!

I can tell that Johnson put a lot of effort into coming up with the sounds he used for each song. “Penumbra” starts the album off with reversed sound effects, and “Fenestral” follows up with a marimba plunking along with the melody. The sheer variety of string sounds that complete the album make each song unique and intriguing. There are no lyrics to hear on Dearth, and occasionally I wished that one more instrument would join the mix and drive a melody. “Volition Violation” in particular would have been less repetitive with a lead, but the groove between guitars and bass throughout the album is usually strong enough to hold my interest.

The first few songs remind me very much of solo artists who create their music live by looping guitar and bass lines over one another. “Dissolve” in particular evolves as more and more loops join and leave the mix. When Johnson kicks on the distortion in “Eudaimonia,” things really start rocking, and I can’t help but pound my head with the pulse. Dearth is a breath of fresh air in our age of intricately planned and processed music—Johnson’s music comes together so organically, each song growing and budding into a rhythmic jungle of guitar patterns and drum fills.

Rhythm is king, and fresh ideas are the currency that make Dearth rich. Dearth did something I like, and did it very well. Of course, I’m partial toward rhythmically driven music, but Dearth has groove and innovation packed all the way through. It’s pretty hard to find much about Dearth online, except that you can stream the whole album at adearth.bandcamp.com. Crazy rhythms, crazy song titles and my inability to stop tapping my foot with any of the syncopated beats for very long make Dearth a worthy title. –Alex Blackburn