My Private Island

My Private Island

My Private Island
Self-titled

Self-Released
Street: 01.30
My Private Island = Soundgarden x Nickelback / Radiohead

The chords are ringing thick. A steady drum beat drives the pulse, and a bright chorus echoes out over the mix. Deep bass rumbles through the atmosphere—and there I sit, eagerly taking in all of it. My Private Island impressed me with their self-titled debut release featuring a heavy rock vibe and crisp guitar solos. This album is good at keeping a strong, driving energy, but what’s really amazing here are the few songs like “Landing in the Limelight” that climax into an epic guitar shred!

Amid clever guitar licks, this album keeps things noisy and riff-heavy. Songs are distinct from one another, but occasionally, I felt that some riffs outstayed their welcome. The opener, “Ridiculicious,” sets a quick, heavy energy for the album, which carries strongly on for a few songs. Then, out of nowhere, “Change in Seasons” introduces a completely different side of the band. Heavy riffs give over to a Thirty Seconds to Mars–meets–3 Doors Down vibe—which, in context, feels a little out of place. Right after that, the hard rock is back—but country undertones re-emerge in a couple slower tunes at the end of the album.

My Private Island can really deliver a climactic finale, but I sometimes felt like an extra instrument would help flesh the intermittently barren section here or there. Fast and heavy is no problem for the band, but their slower tracks, like “It Was You,” are well … slow. The mix is great, so there’s no trouble hearing everyone—I’m just not hearing enough at times.

If I showed up to a gig with no idea who was performing and My Private Island was playing, I’d be stoked. This album proves that these guys can rock a set, which makes me want to bang my head, dance and hold my girlfriend’s hand all at the same time. Quick, grungy guitar arpeggios lend an air of metal to this album and settle nicely over the heavy ambience, while slower, relaxed progressions still keep the beat going and provide a little respite before building into groovy, jumpy jams! My Private Island will perform with Quiet Riot at Liquid Joe’s on April 22, which is a combo that I certainly don’t want to miss. –Alex Blackburn

i Like My Trike: Implications

i Like My Trike
Implications

Red Light Recording
Street: 09.29
i Like My Trike = Beck / Sound Garden

I expected that a band with a name like i Like My Trike would have a goofy attitude toward their music. By the end of the first song, “Vulcans Are Really Just Space-Elves” (yes, it’s really called that), it’s clear that i Like My Trike are a double-edged sword of wit and carnage. The band dances on the edge of surf music, hard rock and “Stacey’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne. Above all, there’s a casual feel to what these guys put down, but the group is so confident that their music transcends simple garage rock and becomes something uniquely innovative.

You can’t put anything past a band that describes themselves as “Serial Killer Pop,” which means you certainly can’t put anything past i Like My Trike. Half of the time during “Bad Mr. Pickle,” vocalist Mike Christensen is talking nonchalantly about his tea preferences. The other half, he’s shouting sound effects as the rest of the band grinds through quick progressions. i Like My Trike really nailed the ratio of lightheartedness to thick groovy jam on Implications. The guitars have a terrifically messy style, which screams with personality. With two bass guitars active at all times, the band claims a sound of their own.

There’s a bit of harmonic dissonance in songs like “Into Your Home,” with each member of the band seeming to play in their own key. Once they come back together though, it’s clear that the cluttered intervals are just another flavor on the band’s two-toned style. The band transitions from toying around on their instruments to slaying spirited riffs with unheard intensity on a dime. Implications explores light-hearted sounds akin to the Foo Fighters, as well as the darker, more distorted tones, which remind me of The Smashing Pumpkins, all the while holding true to their unique vision of music.

i Like My Trike fit right into what I think of when I think Salt Lake City rock n’ roll. It doesn’t need to be sparkling clean, but it’s got to have personality behind every note, and by all accounts, i Like My Trike have succeeded. The band gigs all over the valley, so make sure to keep an eye on their Facebook page to find their next show, and listen to the whole album before you pick it up on their Bandcamp. Alex Blackburn

Big Blue Ox | Big Blue Ox

Big Blue Ox
Self-titled

Self-Released
Street: 06.25.17
Big Blue Ox = Tauk + Lettuce

It’s not often that I get to hear a funk album that is as fresh and groovy as Big Blue Ox’s debut EP. Hell, it’s not often I get to listen to any good funk albums that have come out in the past few years, and this album has filled that growing void with style and passion. Big Blue Ox use a solo-centric style, which is the cornerstone of any good funk album, and keep things distinctive with a superb sonic range. Blazing bass lines, fun synth sounds and a slew of laidback percussion grooves make Big Blue Ox an album that I can wholeheartedly recommend to all you funk lovers.

If wealth is measured by how fat and how deep you could groove (and when it comes to music, it probably should be), then Big Blue Ox are raking it in. A fiery, funky horn section takes the spotlight on this album, but bursts of organ, synthesizer and a full percussion crew keep the pocket so wide that almost anything would sound good over this mix. “Siamese Mud” is the flashiest intro I’ve heard this year, and it consistently sucks my body into the groove with its rich bass lines and a screaming synth solo.

I’ll be honest—I’m a little upset that this EP only boasts three tracks because the 20-minute experience is over far too fast. With a seven-minute average song length, Big Blue Ox are able to fully explore each of their ideas, and every one of them is fire. It takes more than just good ideas to make an album though, which is why I’m so glad that the band also has the musicianship necessary to bring it all together into a rock-solid release. The album flows from section to section and song to song so smoothly that I’m always caught off-guard when the solos stop and I’m left bouncing my head to the silence that ensues when the album climaxes and concludes.

There isn’t a dry moment to be had on this EP, and I’m left begging for more from this band. If you’re not convinced yet, I recommend you check out the entire release at bigblueox.bandcamp.com and hear the funky mayhem for yourself. And of course, watch your local venues for this soon-to-be funk legend! –Alex Blackburn

MediaJeweler

Media Jeweler
$99 R/T Hawaii

Fire Talk Records
Street: 09.18
Media Jeweler = (Battles + Modest Mouse) / Hella

If you haven’t heard of Media Jeweler, don’t be surprised. If you haven’t heard anything like Media Jeweler—well, that’s not surprising either. In their debut release, $99 R/T Hawaii, Media Jeweler make a bold entrance into the record boards and an even bolder entrance into eardrums like my own. From looped vocal ostinatos to extensive play with guitar harmonics, $99 R/T Hawaii tries out a bit of every technique known to the vastly expanding “rock” genre. While some of their sounds may come off as a little experimental, I was, overall, quite pleased with the variety and skill with which they made this album. Keep an ear out for superb trumpet melodies in “Autopilot” and “Looking Back,” or if you like to keep things a little math-y, “No Exit” or “Passport Invalid” might be just what you’re looking for. 
–Alex Blackburn

American Hitmen
Give ‘Em What They Want

American Hitmen LLC
Street: 07.10.15
American Hitmen = (Blue Öyster Cult + Deep Purple) x Chickenfoot 

It didn’t take me long to come up with a sizeable list of bands I’m reminded of while listening to American Hitmen’s latest release, Give ‘Em What They Want. That’s not because American Hitmen don’t have a unique style—they absolutely do, and it’s killer—this group nails the heavy, classic rock sound so perfectly that I would have been easily convinced this thing came right out of the seventies.

The guitar lines are cranked, the bass is on lock and the drums deliver constant creative fills—riff-heavy rock with the distortion turned up—that’s exactly what I wanted, and that’s exactly what American Hitmen delivered. By the end of the first song, I was already trying to sing along, and as soon as I finished the album, I had to spin it again at a louder volume. Be forewarned that many of these songs are catchy. More than once, I’ve caught myself humming the guitar part for “Contagious”—though that certainly could just be me, because I haven’t been able to stop listening to Give ‘Em What They Want for the past week!

While some of the guitar licks sound close to Joe Satriani’s modern style, I seriously can’t get over how much nostalgia this album evokes for me. Some of the song names even allude to classics: “She’s Like Heaven,” for example, features a phenomenal vocal accompaniment from Madeline VanLeuven. The album is closed by a spectacular cover of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun,” which rounds this album off into a verily welcome blast from the past.

From ballads to brutal chord progressions, American Hitmen have put together an exciting, catchy, modern take on classic rock in their latest release. Check out all the songs off of Give ‘Em What They Want on the band’s website , and get ready to pound your head to some radically reminiscent rock! –Alex Blackburn

Photo Courtesy of Rough Trade

Parquet Courts
Wide Awake!

Rough Trade Records
Street: 05.18
Parquet Courts = Weezer + Depeche Mode

It’s nearly summer, and Parquet Courts are determined to start the season off with a musical flair. Wide Awake! is a collection of just about as many musical influences as I’ve ever heard in an album, brought together with style and strong musicianship to create a solid release. A. Savage has a unique vocal style that drives the sound of the band, but sharp drum fills and sturdy guitar licks create a tight rock feel. If you’re into no-nonsense, faultlessly executed rock n’ roll, then Wide Awake! might be just what you’re looking for.

Listening to Parquet Courts is a lot like walking through a CD store. In fact, Wide Awake! is exactly the kind of album I want playing at Graywhale as I’m flipping through their racks of music. It’s like Parquet Courts give me little samples of a bunch of different genres. From funky grooves to head-banging grunge, it’s just as though I’m sampling different albums all across the store. It’s hard to identify consistencies across this album other than the vocal style and the quality of musicianship, but each song flows into the next so well that the journey is as seamless as it is diverse.

There is so much variety throughout this album that I can’t help but be impressed by Parquet Courts’ broad musical knowledge. Parquet Courts have a bit of it all, everything from crystal-clean piano lines to crushing electric guitars. Wide Awake! is almost like a musical time machine through the history of rock. “Violence” is reminiscent of those old Gil Scott-Heron vocals with a strong and direct message from “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,”. “Mardi Gras Beads,” on the other hand, kicks up the guitar effects and brings in a The Black Keys vibe. What really works for Parquet Courts is their ability to string together sounds and techniques from all walks of music. Savage’s vocal style is often grungy, but the band plays so tight that most of the songs on Wide Awake! are as clean-cut as any of the songs played by bands like The Strokes or The Presidents of the United States of America.

Parquet Courts know what good music sounds like, and each song on this release is skillful and entertaining, but Wide Awake! lacks the push that would help it stand out from the pack. In other words, every song on this album is good, but none of them are great. Every time I listen through, I long for a crazy guitar solo or a rhythmic break that sticks out as truly exceptional. Instead, it seems like Parquet Courts played it safe. Ringo Starr is renowned not because he was a superb drummer, but because he never played a wrong hit. In much the same way, Parquet Courts never play anything wrong on Wide Awake!, but the album began to feel a little lackluster after I’d listened through a half dozen times.

The fact that Wide Awake! is so impeccably executed makes it an easy album to recommend. Every song has a strong pulse, and the band’s sound—along with Savage’s unique vocals—just works so well. With their seventh studio album, Parquet Courts have taken a more exploratory approach for the release, and I think it paid off. There’s something for just about any rock enthusiast packed into this album, and the flow from song to song creates a unique journey that keeps bringing me back for more. –Alex Blackburn

TwinPonies

Twin Ponies
Friendly Pet Mass Graves

Self-Released
Street: 07.17
Twin Ponies = Enemies + This Town Needs Guns

Twin Ponies have found a permanent place on my iPod with their most recent EP release. Before long, they might find that same permanent place on my “most played” playlist. With some of the best synthesized bass sounds I’ve heard to date, drifting guitar lines and reverb-heavy vocals, I have a hard time stopping myself from listening to Friendly Pet Mass Graves on repeat all day.  Every song is a hit, so each time I reach the end of the last—and my favorite—song, “Griff,” I am left helplessly wanting more. Tune in for a surfy, riff-heavy, rock-solid release that delivers on every aspect of successful rock. While at first I didn’t think I’d like vocals in the heavy instrumental mix, I felt that Wayne Jones completely demolished that attitude by the end of the first track. –Alex Blackburn

Will Baxter Band
Believe

Self-Released
Street: 11.15
Will Baxter Band = Gil Scott-Heron * The Jimi Hendrix Experience

It’s not hard to enjoy a solid, funky groove, heavy with syncopated percussion, fat organ chords and a soulful, soothing mixture of vocals and trumpet, and Will Baxter Band certainly puts together that groove in their debut release, Believe. Lots of dynamic control, distinct phrasings, and more than a few creative bass riffs that had me chuckling make this an album absolutely worth picking up, especially in support of a great local group.

While the whole album has a great vibe, the real strength is certainly at the beginning with “Grizzly” and my personal favorite, “Think for Myself.” The band is adept at chilling out in a laid-back beat, and for the first few songs I couldn’t get enough of it. From drippy, bass-heavy jams to quicker, upbeat compositions, Believe keeps things fresh. My only real gripe with a few of the songs, though, is that they never really climax. Take “Frenchie,” for example. At the end, the trumpet is begging to take off on a climactic finale, but out of nowhere the players drop out and the song ends! Will Baxter certainly has a soothing voice, but a heavier build up here or there would help enliven and further complete some of these songs.

Every player comes through clearly in the mix, and the band is as tight as the best of them. There’s a lot going on most of the time because of the number of players, yet because each performer has such good control of their instrument, the group has no difficulty playing quietly when they need to—nobody plays over the top of anybody else, and each performer knows exactly when to throw down a fill. This ensemble plays so naturally together that the album listens like a live show, and more than once I’ve come back to sit through the whole thing again.

Honestly, I imagine it would be hard to not very much enjoy at least a couple of songs from this sweet release. If you’re not convinced, though, you can listen to all of the songs of this recording on the band’s website . If you’re interested in seeing Will Baxter Band perform, the band does weekly shows with Corepower Yoga SLC, and they gig around the valley frequently. –Alex Blackburn

Vid Nelson | Millenials | Self-Released

Vid Nelson
Millenials

Self-Released
Street: 02.11
Vid Nelson = Black Keys x Wilco

Vid Nelson must know my taste in music because this is exactly the kind of album I’ve been waiting for. The best concert I’ve ever been to was a My Morning Jacket show, and Millennials took me right back to that place—standing amid a foggy, stoned crowd, colors exploding from the stage as glow sticks flew through the air. Many of the tracks are soft and relaxing, while others are full of a deep, churning energy. Every track on Millennials is bursting with groove and emotion. Nelson’s passion for music shines clear through Millennials—the album is a mix between Evil Urges and Mac Demarco’s 2. Thick layers of sound are Nelson’s forte, and Millennials takes his lively style to the next level.

Millennials is sunny-day music—music that just makes me feel a little better and care a little less. Nelson still has the spunk that I remember from Taste Test Pity City, but his sound is more psychedelic than before. The bass is full of personality, the drums are laid all the way back—for that matter, everything is laid back. Above it all are the guitar licks and solos—be it the drippy bars of riff in “Overthinking” or the sharp fingering in “Don’t Let Go,” Vid Nelson knows how to handle the hell out of his six string.

Nelson explored a lot of sounds with Millennials. Hooting, humming, whistling, shouting—he sings it all. If you like the way Jim James sings, you’re probably going to like Vid Nelson. The panoply of guitar sounds are more than enough to surprise and satisfy—from clean acoustic to faded and filtered. Jared Cooley joints on harmonica in “J Rad,” showing off his smooth, sultry skills. Churning bass and thick vocals make “Growing Pains” my favorite track on Millennials, but every track has its own magic.

I’ll be jamming this album all year, but more than that, Millennials has made me optimistic about what 2017 has in store for our musical pleasure. Nelson uses Kickstarter to fund his albums, so if you’re as hyped by his music as I am, it’s easy to support the man’s craft. And if you’re not convinced yet, take a look at soundcloud.com/davidnelsonmusic, where you can find his musings, as well as a song or two from the album.

Alex Blackburn

Black Jupiter | Transcendentalism in Lofi-Infrared | Self-Released

Black Jupiter
Transcendentalism in Lofi-Infrared

Self-Released
Street: 01.30
Black Jupiter = Pink Floyd – Tool × Explosions in the Sky

I’ve noticed that what I really want from a new album is something that surprises me. It’s no surprise then that I’m enjoying Transcendentalism in Lofi-Infrared. This album is like a journey through the colorful, ambient expanses of outer space, with a lush thrumming pulse from bass, stringy cosmic whisperings from guitar, and distant explosions of light from drums. Black Jupiter is the solo project of Don Claxton, and he has surely put together an album with a lot of personality this time.

My favorite part of this album is the motion that occurs between songs. The journey begins with “Walls Melt (feat. Abizviq),” which starts with a mysterious and somber melody that spills into the vacant and moody atmosphere of “Fear Becomes a Faith.” Things get a bit spicier with “The Last Ocean” as the guitar playing heats up and the tempo rises. There are solid bass lines throughout the entire sonic voyage, but in “Still Alive,” the bass drives a relaxed pulse, which is perfect for the lo-fi, bubbly atmosphere created by the guitar. The album’s denouement with “Soul Manufacturer” and “Shadows” is decidedly more positive than earlier songs, and concludes the expedition on a high note with acoustic guitar and more substantial rhythms.

Though Transcendentalism in Lofi-Infrared has an occasionally slow pace, there are some great ideas that flourish in the ephemeral drumming and sporadic bass lines. For an album that touts itself as lo-fi right in the title, this is exactly the kind of experience I would have expected, and more than a few surprises, which got me hooked on the somber underpinnings that Claxton has created. There is a definite narrative that spans the album, and each time I take a ride, I notice different accents throughout the cosmic journey. Best of all, you can stream all of Black Jupiter’s music on Bandcamp before you buy. If you’re looking for a spacy, hazy voyage through fields of guitar melodies, forests of bass lines and valleys of echoing drum grooves, look no further than Transcendentalism in Lofi-Infrared. –Alex Blackburn