Daniel Murtaugh = Jason Mraz + Sublime
Daniel Murtaugh began his musical maturation upon acquiring his first “real” guitar at age nine. Before he could drive he was performing his songwriting live. His The Daze of Irie is a chimeric collection of 15 tracks that surprise and aspire to inspire, with a resounding hopefulness and, as the title would transparently suggest, an island-reggae positivity.
The album opens with glistening electronics, strummed guitar and a radio voice preaching the universality and connecting potential of music, setting the stage for the overall tone of the LP. The eclecticism of the album is often impressive, showcasing ambient, reggae, folk and new age. Murtaugh is sometimes tough to pin down, yet his melodic skill and lyrical lovefest are just as tough not to enjoy. Tracks like “#3” are sweet and simple without being candied and cloying. The piano work on the album is impressive, especially when it’s met with glinting moments of electronics and programmed drums. “Little Things” is a lovely combination of poppy personality, folksy influences and clever sound engineering, with almost a mid-career U2 vibe. Throughout, it becomes apparent how Murtaugh transitioned from being a rock-folk artist into a more produced and polished persona.
Into the second half of the album, Murtaugh takes his stand in West Coast ska and dub that carries though to the end as performed unmistakably in “Black Flag” and “California.” Track 10 even treats listeners to the obligatory steel drum break. The island vibes hold steady to the end, to the extent that perhaps Murtaugh’s apparent perseveration on the Pacific lifestyle become a tad culturally problematic and a bit hard to connect with for local landlubbers. The Daze of Irie is something like your favorite icy. fruity mixed drink on a beach: sweet, tart, tasty and a little much if consumed too quickly or in excess. –Paige Zuckerman
In this episode of SLUG Soundwaves, Josh Harmon, lead singer of The Backseat Lovers, articulates their journey that led to winning Velour’s Battle of the Bands earlier this year. Based out of Heber City, The Backseat Lovers have diligently gone through the motions of embedded their indie rock (with a hint of folk) in the Provo and Salt Lake scene and continue to make their mark. Harmon also recalls the unique process that The Backseat Lovers went through to record their first album, Elevator Days.
Harmon discusses the relationship between bandmates Jonas Swanson (guitarist/backup vocals), Ethan Christensen (bass/backup vocals) and Juice Welch (drums). Harmon provides an endearing timeline of their development and, more importantly, their growth together as close friends and a band.
Harmon describes his source of inspiration that drives his songwriting to be a form self-reflection. Like most artists, Harmon elaborates on how creating music has been a method for personal growth and self-discovery. Harmon tells us childhood stories that instilled his passion for music and songwriting—an example being Harmon’s triumph at the Intermountain Acoustic Singer/SongWriter Competition when he was just 16.
Conquering this year’s Battle of the Bands was just the beginning for this eager and blossoming group of gentlemen. They intend on moving to either SLC or Provo soon and consequently putting in the work to bring their music to fruition. Harmon touches on the intent to tour and record their first LP within the next year. In the meantime, they aspire to play with Grey Glass in late July and have shows peppered throughout August with dates yet to be confirmed.
At the end of this episode, enjoy their single “Out of Tune.” You can find The Backseat Lovers on Instagram at @the.backseat.lovers.
Thanks for listening to SLUG Mag Soundwaves.
This podcast was created by SLUG Magazine and produced by Angela H. Brown, Secily Anderson
Associate Producers: Alexander Ortega, Joshua Joye, John Ford, Kathy Rong Zhou
Self-Released Street: 06.20 Picnics at Soap Rock = Squirrel Bait + Slint
Garden Tempo is the debut EP from local band Picnics At Soap Rock. The duo, consisting of musicians who simply go by Ethan (drums) and Chazz (guitar/vocals), make music that calls back to the high point of lo-fi emo with enough rage and turmoil in their lyrics to justify the appropriation of this style. Far from wallowing in adolescent angst and pity, the high points of Garden Tempo offer abstract portraits of the complicated nature of mental health with some raucous, borderline psychedelic rock music behind them.
At this point, anyone with access to a smartphone and enough patience can make what was considered a hi-fi record 50 years ago. The fuzzy, lo-fi quality of Garden Tempo is then a specific choice, one that gives the EP an anachronistic feeling. On “The Inside Of Your Wristwatch,” the blaring guitars melt into a wall of distortion, and the brittle cymbal lines are a perfect match for the strained, fading vocals. The screamed lyrics detail feelings of solitary anger and social disillusion before the narrator hits a talking deer—who might be the voice of Satan.
The opener, “Waste,” displays a knack for marrying a lyrical message with musical backing, one of Picnics’ strongest traits, the final vocal delivers a call for increased faith in life. After dealing in depression, suicide and familiar strife, the assertion that “every weekend from now on is a celebration of what you didn’t waste” offers an empowering conclusion as the music launches into a grandiose instrumental coda. This does lead the title track, the sole instrumental cut, to feel a little lackluster. The slinking guitar lines don’t feel nearly as potent as the riffs elsewhere, and the lack of lyrics leave the track feeling unfinished.
While Garden Tempo doesn’t necessarily end on a positive note, it does show signs of progress. Its lyrics deal with making changes, cutting away toxic parts of your life and admitting your errors. What sells the feeling even more than these words, though, is the triumphant music. Towards the end of the track, atop anthemic guitar riffs, the duo begin an off-key, off-rhythm harmony. The effect is that of Ethan and Chazz drunkenly swaying, arms around each other, finding a necessary moment of kinship and empathy after a slew of emotional distress. –Connor Lockie
Wednesday night at Metro Music Hall saw an appearance by 10-year tour vets Wye Oak, performing songs from their new album, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs. The new album, released in April of this year, is the sixth full-length record released by the trio in just over a decade and builds on the foundation they’ve laid with past albums like Shriek and Tween. Of course, a group that has been together as long as Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack will naturally evolve and progress over time, but the noticeable sheen of their live performance on Wednesday night, compared to past years’ performances, might be due in part to the addition of bassist William Hackney. For as long as Wasner and Stack have been performing together, they’ve been doing so as a duo, with Stack playing drums with one hand and operating loops or playing various synthesizers with the other, and Wasner crooning folksy, complex melody lines over guitar, bass and keys. This tour, however, has come with the addition of a third bandmate who, on Wednesday night at least, freed up Wasner to contribute new sonic layers to old songs or to spend more time interacting with the audience.
The crowd was in high spirits, too, despite the unusually hot climate inside the venue. In a rare moment of silence between songs, Wasner commented on the positive energy—“You guys take your woos very seriously around here”—which, in turn, elicited even more cheering. The crowd didn’t seem to be bothered much by the lack of any semblance of cool air either, as a large portion of them showed up early for Madeline Kenney’s opening performance and stuck around to the last notes of Wye Oak’s set. Overall, it was a fun and fresh performance that made for an idyllic summer show.
Swoody Records Street: 06.05 teenage sport = Snail Mail + Harvard
It’s nearly impossible to find local band teenage sport online because when Googling “teenage sport band slc,” all that shows up are KSL articles about teenage sport camps that have happened this summer. Though this makes them a little difficult to find, luckily their music is up and available on Swoody Records’s Bandcamp page. For a band with such earnest, honey-hearted motivations, “teenage sport” seems like a placeholder name while they figure out how to be who they are with a straight face. In the meantime, this record delivers a heavy dose of wonder, the kind you have when you’re young and discovering things for the first time, bundled up into fairly neat little songs.
That’s what they seem to be going for, anyways. Davin Abegg and McKenzie Smith switch offf vocal duties, crooning to themselves, introspective. On the first song, “Lungs,” Smith sings as though mantra-leading “Close your eyes / Let the drums fill the space / Though your heart is gone / You can focus on your lungs.” Toward the end of the song, with slight acoustic build behind their voice, they go on to sing, “This is how we learn how to live for more than words and yesterdays.” Continuing the self-revelationary theme with “I Try,” Abegg sings with a scratching and sincere voice, “I try to make it through the day without wanting to fade away / I try—sometimes it’s hard to.”
Each song follows along these lines. Sometimes it feels slightly melancholic, but all still lifted by little moments of atmospheric weirdness, such as the UFO-esque laser sounds whispering in the background on “Before We Vanish.” On “Trying to be Lonely,” piano pulses with the same timbre of a parlor piano as Smith sings about someone looking for love, or heartbreak—or both—only to realize that she’s “just trying to be lonely.” The album is a good one for those who love sincere and completely unabashed indie, full of the simplicity and authenticity of youthful self-discovery. Lungs is flushed with the big feeling of realizing how small you are, and the music itself is comparably small, a little answer from little humans to the big universe. –Erin Moore
Self-Released Street: 07.21 V A L E =Patrick Cowley + Drexciya
V A L E is the moniker of Nikola Mučkajev, a local electronic producer whose debut album dropped late last month. Across this record’s 13 tracks, Mučkajev engages with a highly overwrought approach to synthesizer music, both its dance-leaning tendencies and more drone-focused sounds. The result is an album of constant evolution, one that seems to move on to the next idea just as one gains momentum.
This style is apparent from the album’s opening moments. “DIASPORA” is a 30-second intro that ends abruptly, a trick that occurs many other times throughout V A L E. After over two minutes of ambient textures and industrial slabs of noise, a high-pitched melody finally enters “THE RAY,” just for Mučkajev to move on after 10 seconds. Listening to this record can feel a bit like playing catch up, and only across multiple listens does the logic of this unorthodox structuring start to unfold.
Some of the most interesting moments on V A L E occur when Mučkajev shifts his approach toward more abstract sounds. “SUBJECTIVITY” begins with a moving string of harpsichord harmonies before it becomes a somber piano and voice duet. Taken as a whole, the track is captivating and contemplative, as is the strange sound collage built out of clocks and telephones that closes out “PLEROMA.” These instances show Mučkajev breaking out of the mode of demonic synthesizers and drums and exploring a wider variety of sounds and styles to a great effect.
The sounds on V A L E reach for a maximal, high-budget pinnacle. This quality gives some of the more upbeat tracks like “AION” and “THE DAEMON” a threatening power, and here it feels like V A L E’s music should blare onto a crowded dance floor in the middle of the night. The latter is the album’s closer, which sends the music off on one of the heaviest, most sonically flooring moments here.
At other times, the production choice has some detriments to the listening experience. On “SPIN,” the digital mixing is so overwrought that the track’s individual parts cannot coexist equally. What starts as one of the deepest bass grooves on the whole album is buried under synthesized choirs and a strangely tropical drum groove.
Mučkajev’s debut does everything a debut should: It showcases everything he’s capable of, as well as his penchant for variety. It also leaves enough room for improvement and evolution, so anyone interested should stay on the lookout for the second V A L E release. –Connor Lockie
Self-Released Street: 08.18 XavierTheRapper = Lil Tracy + Lil Skies + Night Lovell
After releasing his first EP in 2017, XavierTheRapper hasn’t taken a break. Appearing on every music platform you could imagine, as well as releasing 43 additional tracks (yes, you read that right, 43 additional tracks), XavierTheRapper has just now released8 Man in early August.
The album’s execution and quality really start to back up and prove why XavierTheRapper holds the titles of 8God and “Utah’s next mainstream recording artist.” 8 Man clicks off with some flair and flavor with the aptly named “Caliente,” a track opening with a great flamenco-style sound that quickly transforms into a trap beat as Xavier’s vocals come in. The mood of 8 Man changes as “Caliente” becomes “Pain,” a more somber track with slow vocal samples, acoustic guitar and a heavy beat. Pain covers feelings of depression and anxiety, and as you listen through the rest of the tracks on this album, those themes carry through some of his most outstanding work.
The slower tone continues with the eerie and spacey “Fireman,” which comes in with one of the smoothest beats I’ve heard this year. As “Fireman” fades, 8 Man enters its crown jewel and the track that is gaining XavierTheRapper the most traction, “Won’t Change.” It’s a song about depression, feeling stranded and lost. These are themes that are not only resonating with people but also fit in with the modern scape of mainstream hip-hop. 8 Man closes off with “Boss Crown,” a freestyle on the album’s most mainstream-sounding beat. This is an interesting choice, but I think ending an EP with a freestyle that shows his lyrical chops pays off.
XavierTheRapper shows a lot of skill and potential to make it into the mainstream with his music from his subject matter, to his taste in beats and his voice. I recommend checking out 8 Man and the rest of Xavier’s extensive and expanding discography. –Connor Brady
Self-Released Street: 06.27 Follow the Weather= Estas Tonne + The Cinematic Orchestra × acousticChevelle
I can’t actually remember the last time that I was up early enough to witness first light, so it’s a convenient thing that Follow the Weather have packaged the experience up so concisely in their fourth release, First Light. Lively acoustic strumming, grand string sweeps and mounting keyboard chords paint the picture—a sunrise full of bright and jubilant melodies and mysterious, somber ones. First Light is an experience that feels honed—distilled into a savory ensemble of guitar strums, clean drumming and deep bass humming. This is the kind of album that could easily be listened to while studying. It’s full of soft-spoken interludes and slow builds—but also one that rewards deep listening, with its intricate harmonies, and subtle character. Needless to say, it’s an album that I can wholeheartedly suggest you check out.
I’m honestly a little surprised that I like First Light so much. The album is built upon slow and dramatic builds—think Explosions in the Sky—which don’t usually catch my interest. Coupled with excellent production quality, however, and it’s easy to hear the character of each instrument, lending the experience a much more intricate and intimate savor. The pulse of the album is intoxicating, inviting—nay, demanding that I tap my foot in time with the dance of each song. Acoustic guitar, piano and the occasional bit of drumming make up the bulk of the orchestration, but electric guitar melodies, interesting sound effects and warm bass lines bring the mix to great heights. A particularly impressive climax to the album, “New You You’ve Always Been,” had my jaw on the floor the first time I listened and heard the full might of Follow the Weather’s steady guitar riffage, vitalizing drumming and powerful bass lines.
I can tell that a tremendous amount of work went into the making of First Light, and it really paid off. The rhythms are strong and dancey, the melodies ring in my ears, and the quality of the mix is top notch. Best of all, you can stream the whole album for free on Follow the Weather’s bandcamp! If you’re in the mood for a solid—albeit short—set of instrumentals, then don’t miss First Light! –Alex Blackburn
With the luscious growth of Salt Lake City comes the entrepreneurial buzz from ambitious and unrestrained self-starters. Within this valuable group of people are locals—and business owners—Jacob Hall, Chase Worthen, Fernando Lazalde and Michael Askerlund. On the weekend of Sept. 4–6, these gentlemen kicked off their journey opening Downtown Salt Lake City’s latest watering hole, Alibi Bar and Place.
Attending on the Sunday of that weekend, I was able to take part in the fruit of their labor. Located on the corner Main Street and Fourth South in a classic Downtown brick-and-mortar within the New Grand Hotel, the presence of classic metropolitan characteristics—such as exposed brick walls and large windows providing a backdrop of a bustling Main Street—enrich the aesthetic of Alibi. It doesn’t overwhelm the space, setting it apart from being “just another Downtown bar.” The branding is clear. The main theme in the driver’s seat of Alibi’s branding is a bright aqua color present in all of their social media and the physical bar. Alibi’s logo, design and overall branding (designed by The Young Jerks) is a combination of an Art Deco temperament, cool-colored tones, a regal mural/wall hangings with an overall oasis-like feel.
After standing in an electric cloud of people clustering in front of the bar, I was able to finally order a refreshing beverage. Concocted by the creative bartenders/owners is a limited list of craft cocktails such as “Roller Derby”(gin, lime, raspberry and sugar) and more of a traditional cocktail like the “Paloma” (tequila, lime, grapefruit, sugar, spicy salt rim and Grapefruit Jarritos). Almost anyone can find what they are looking for with—in addition to house cocktails—Alibi’s satisfying collection of red and white wines, canned house sparkling rosé, bottled and draft beers and a small selection of bar snacks. And of course, they are environmentally conscious by providing compostable straws.
The bar is low enough that you can see all the materials the bartenders use to build your drink, creating a source of entertainment. Behind the group of bartenders whipping around their arms as they make drinks is an appealing, soft, baby blue tile backing to the bar in a rhombus shape. The seating opportunities for patrons seems like a challenge Alibi will overcome. Some people took turns sitting down, and others were animated about saving the seats they could find for their friends. Considering that it was the opening weekend, it’s very possible to imagine that on a less busy night, the bar would be a comfortable place to linger in conversation with friends with enough seating for all.
The social aspect and overall “vibe” of the space was welcoming and unassuming—it doesn’t feel like you had to be categorized as a particular type of person to fit in. With the small list, drinks cover a large spectrum of flavors (it is about quality not quantity), and one does not feel overwhelmed by too many options. It is a simple, open space ready to provide a service for customers wanting to treat themselves to a nice cocktail. It is a place where you can meet with friends to start off your night, with the option of a quick walk to places such as Quarters Arcade Bar or Green Pig Pub.
Down a dimly lit, deep-sapphire hallway at the east end of the bar are two doors. Each of them lead to an important aspect of every bar—the bathroom. Y’all know that’s a trendy, social media–driven responsibility to take cute-ass selfies in the bathroom with all your friends. Alibi gives patrons a lot to work with for the self-sponsored photoshoot. The contrast between the dark hallway and the well-lit, red-floral wall-papered restroom will knock you back. It’s like a door from Hollister leading to Target. Beneath the wall paper about halfway down the wall lies a powder-blue tile, each tile different sizes of rectangles, adding to the eye candy of the bathroom. It’s clever and well planned move on Alibi’s part.
Every element of Alibi brings patrons into a lush boozy nook in the heart of Downtown. Yes, there are a lot of bars popping up all over the city, which I see as a sign of a growing and thriving city excited to cater to the ever growing Salt Lake City nightlife. Alibi provides a different world within that and is worth adding to your Main Street bar-hopping list. You can follow Alibi’s spirited expedition through their Instagram at @alibislc and their Facebook page www.facebook.com/alibislc.
Dustin Wong Fluid World Building 101 With Shaman Bambu
Hausu Mountain Street: 09.14 Dustin Wong = Joe Zawinul’s Dialects + Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
The latest from Chicago-based experimentalists Hausu Mountain finds avant-rock musician Dustin Wong shifting his sound to fold into the label’s typical stylings. Unlike his work in the blistering prog outfit Ponytail or the chilled-out funk of his collaborations with Takako Minekawa, the music here takes on a colorful, sugar-coated sheen. Fluid World Building 101 With Shaman Bambu is nothing if not flashy. It often praises chaos over order and more over less, pushing nearly all of Wong’s ideas to their manic breaking point.
On most of the tracks, Wong forgoes easily discernable structure in favor of a stream-of-consciousness rush through layers of improvisations and disorienting loops. From the first track, “Nite Drive With Shaman Bambu,” Wong makes clear his love for vertical stacks of sounds instead of horizontal spatializing. Based around an ever-evolving, quasi-tropical groove, Wong piles on pitch-shifted guitars, electronic percussion, warped vocals and other sounds for a shapeshifting seven minutes. Often, this mass of instrumentation combines all at once, and the task becomes trying to pull any one focal point out of the crowded picture.
Because of how overwhelming the clutter can be, the most successful tracks are more spaced out and feature more economically arranged instruments. “Village Made of Zephyr,” in particular, has a welcome airiness. All of the elements that showed up in “Nite Drive” are here as well, but used more sparingly and with more apparent attention to interplay. There are languid melodies here, as well as dramatic chord changes—something that can get lost in the muck elsewhere.
When the air clears, the twisted fusion roots of much of the music on Fluid World Building shows themselves. If you’ve ever listened to Wong’s work with Ponytail, you’d know that he’s a highly skilled musician with a knack for merging memorable melodies with mind-bending guitar workouts. Here, that technicality is present, but it’s often combatted by a goofy electronic line or a kitschy video game aesthetic. “Dawn Thru the Marble Parthenon” pits clanking percussion samples and shimmery synths against rich guitar harmonies, making for a moment that sounds like the offspring of Bill Frisell and Super Mario Sunshine.
All this madness makes the album’s centerpiece and immediate standout, “はずかしがらないで (Don’t Be Ashamed),” feel like even more of a shock. The winding guitar solos and disorienting rhythms fall away, and a bonified pop tune emerges. The combination of plucked string counterpoint, Wong’s intimate delivery and a cosmic synthesizer solo to round the whole thing out make “はずかしがらないで (Don’t Be Ashamed)” a moment of truly ecstatic music.
Wong lives up to his promise of constructing his own reality in that it seems to have little reference to or patience for the outside world. The best way to digest the music, then, is to meet it on its own terms. Following the advice of the final track, titled “New Societies Interacting, Let’s Zoom In,” the music works best when it’s studied like a set of data. If you hyperfocus on “World Builder Imagines a City,” what seemed like the musical equivalent of rainbow vomit turns into a densely interlocking puzzle of seemingly at-odds ideas and gestures. Lean back, and everything muddles. Though it sounds cheery on the surface, the reality of Fluid World Building is some deeply complex and difficult music. –Connor Lockie