Hooded Fang
Venus On Edge

Daps Records
Street: 05.13
Hooded Fang = The Fresh & Onlys + Broken Social Scene

Four-piece Hooded Fang—the Toronto-based experimental rock group—are releasing their fourth, full—length album, Venus On Edge, on May 13 of this year. Hooded Fang’s band name alludes to a kind of hair-metal heavy rock group, but they are infinitely cooler and way more contemporary than that. Hooded Fang draw influence on Venus On Edge from a mixture of dirty punk rock and lo-fi, garage rock. They are forever aggressive with each smash on the drums and burnt out, drone-forward bass part, but frontman Daniel Lee keeps a mild melody in the music with his dreamy vocals that are ever so sweetly touched with reverb. Despite the album being full of surf rock, psych rock, experimental rock, strewn with a shimmery hint of pop rock, consistency is the key for Toronto’s Hooded Fang on Venus On Edge. Each song on could easily be shuffled out for another, as there is little diversity between each track on the album.

Since Hooded Fang’s last album, Gravez, the band has evolved into a less-polished version of themselves. It’s as if they wanted to see what it would be like to go in reverse of what a typical band’s evolution looks like, something like what The Beatles did between Help! and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Well, it worked for The Beatles and it’s paying off for Hooded Fang. They have blossomed into a dirtier, grittier, rawer version of their former selves, and it’s only further forcing their listeners to be more deeply entranced with the rock group.

“Tunnel Vision” opens up Venus On Edge with a quite literal bang. The drums crash as the guitar slides heavily through each riff. Lee sings, “We sleep to dream away obscene / We sleep to drown inside that sound.” The lyrics are equally as sporadic as the instrumentals on the track. The album flows directly into another scattered track, “Shallow,” which easily has one of my favorite bass parts: It’s fast and commanding. Lee sings in his best vampire impersonation: “It’s a sickness you can’t see what’s going on.” Through the haze of the noise and revamping their sound, Lee may be speaking from personal experience, engulfed by anxiety of the shift in direction the band underwent. “Miscast” transcends psychedelia with ’90s garage rock, two musical genres that are incredibly lovable. The bass line stays ever present in the background with a perfect hook while the guitar screeches and wails and freaks out. Even Lee’s voice, which is usually the calm amidst the storm, goes awry. An even grungier track than “Miscast” is the song that follows it, “A Final Hello.” The bass booms steadily as the guitar and keys dance together like a bad circus song. Lee’s voice is reminiscent of an ’80s new wave rocker on acid. “Venus” ends Venus On Edge on an awfully robotic, static note. The song lacks the fluidity that many of the other songs on the album have, but still roars and screeches enough to leave you feeling what the core of Hooded Fang have become.

Hooded Fang’s transformation may be a very calculated move. It may be their attempt to catapult into an underground scene that Toronto has already begun to tap into. It may be their attempt to steer clear of conventional pop. Whatever the reason behind it, Venus On Edge is a deranged, fucked-up success. –Alexandra Graber

The Black Angels | Death Song | Partisan Records

The Black Angels
Death Song

Partisan Records
Street: 04.21
The Black Angels = The 13th Floor Elevators + Holy Wave + Night Beats

“The Black Angel’s Death Song” was released by The Velvet Underground in 1967. The cryptic song teeters on the edge of hysteria with the piercing screeches of John Cale‘s electric viola throughout the track. Austin psych rock band The Black Angels are releasing their first full-length album in four years, aptly titled Death Song. The nod to their influencers, The Velvet Underground, is undoubtedly obvious in the album’s title, but also finds itself mimicking that same sense of hysteria speckled throughout the LP. Death Song is The Black Angel’s attempt to bridge the gap between some of the sugary successes on their last EP and their missteps on Indigo Meadow.

“Currency” is the first track and single released on Death Song, and it isn’t dripping with the same psychedelic reverb, heavy organs and long, spacey guitar solos like songs past. Instead, “Currency” plays like a political anthem to the current POTUS and his cabinet. As the single scolds greed and injustice, it anxiously rips through Alex Maas‘ lyrics, “You print and print the money that you spend / You spend and spend the money that you print / One day it’ll all be over.”

“I’d Kill For Her” is bubbling with electric guitars, shuttering with reverb between chorus and verse. Maas howls, “It was so brutal / the way she moved / the perfect sniper / 100 proof.” “Half Believing” slows the tempo from the last two tracks. Maas’ voice is clearly audible as he sings, “Why are you so dangerous? / … It’s like my spell is almost useless.” The torrent love affair is accompanied by a haunting, dragging guitar. It’s as if the guitar has its own shadow. “Estimate” continues with political musings. It is a tortured nightmare that sounds eerily similar to a modern-day story on the news. A consistent beat reminiscent of a drum line is the punctuation for the severity of the song while Maas pleads, “Never going to lose you darling / never let them shoot us down.” He goes on, “All we have is us and you and me / Everyone we know is converting / I would love to stay here in this town / but they’ve poisoned our water.” “I Dreamt” is an anxiety-ridden, bad trip. The 6-minute, 31-second track, “Life Song,” closes out Death Song leaving it as lost as it began. Maas cries, “How can I explain with no voice, with no change? / As I’m traveling upside down into a world of the unknown.” The echo lulling into a state of permanent hypnosis as the record comes to a fateful close. “I’ll see you on the other side.”

Death Song finds itself in a constant psychological state of questioning. The themes of the album twist through political turmoil, sexual deviance and love that hurts—and hurts good. Death Song never finds an answer to all of its questions, but instead finds itself drenched in a similar dilemma to the one The Black Angels were in back in 2006 when they released Passover—a dilemma that catapulted them into psychedelic success. The Black Angels skipped any semblance of pop that we’ve heard in recent releases in favor of heroine drenched rock n’ roll.

The Black Angels announced an East Coast tour, Death March, come spring. Though they haven’t released the dates for the western part of the tour yet, they plan on hitting Salt Lake. Death Song will be out April 21. Make sure to keep an ear to the ground for their Salt Lake City tour stop and snag yourself a copy of their newest release. –Alexandra Graber

Twin Peaks – Down in Heaven

Twin Peaks
Down In Heaven

Grand Jury
Street: 05.13
Twin Peaks = Strange Boys + BRONCHO + Tijuana Panthers

The boys of Twin Peaks are back! These Chicago natives are young, fiery and most definitely maturing musically with their most recent LP, Down In Heaven.

The name Down In Heaven drips with irony. Most people would argue that the theoretical heaven is above us and hell is below us. Possibly, the dudes of Twin Peaks are alluding to something that would say heaven is the actual hell and that it would be much more desirable to end up in the land of sinners, post–earthly existence.

Down In Heaven is a grown-up version of Wild Onion, Twin Peaks’ last record, which released in 2014. In the follow-up, they incorporate brass instruments on a number of songs, play bluesy guitar riffs, and vivaciously hum through keyboard parts. The lyrics tend to flow between heartbreak and young love, which was often what the band sung about on Wild Onion. What separates this new album from the last is the amount of growing Twin Peaks have done in the last two years—no surprise, considering that they are all in their early 20s. The early 20s are some formidable growing years: figuring out who we are, slipping into adulthood, fucking up the whole time and, without a doubt, falling in love and getting our hearts broken more times than anyone can count. Our 20s are a wild ride. Each song on Down In Heaven is bursting at the seams with adulthood lurking on the horizon, but still, there is no shortage of partying, rock n’ roll and sex.

“Walk To The One You Love” is the first single that Twin Peaks released off of Down In Heaven. The song itself is an upbeat rock n’ roll love song. Singer and guitarist Cadien Lake James sings, “I will let you walk to the one you love, but who is the one you love?” He continues on more aggressively: “… Tell me who is the one you love? / But I won’t cry or beg for you to stay.” The guitars are twangy, the beat is poppy and there is nothing unlikeable about this first single.

“Wanted You” follows up “Walk To The One You Love.” It’s as if the girl from the previous song has made her choice about whom she loves as James chants, “I wanted you, but you didn’t want me.” “Butterfly,” Down in Heaven’s second single, is more aggressive than a number of songs on the album, but not invasive. James croons, “And when The Zombies started singing about the season / You know your daddy got up to dance.” James is not referring to the girl’s father, but to her lover. The song’s sexual energy is electric.

“Heavenly Showers” sweeps through a melancholy melody that accompanies James’ singing: “I looked around my bed and saw the books and the records and the booze / And I shook the thoughts of you from my head and in the shower started singing a tune / No I don’t feel too sad, but I could.” People can relate to occupying our mind with a multitude of distractions to purge memories of somebody from our brain. The song is immensely relatable, and it’s beautiful. Brass instruments infiltrate the background of the song, allowing jazzy influences to shine dimly through.

Twin Peaks may not be touring through Salt Lake City, but Denver’s not too far, right (06.28)? Twin Peaks are worth the trip, and Down In Heaven is their best album yet. These guys are known for putting on an energetic live show, and these new songs deserve to be heard, up close and personal. –Alexandra Graber

Sonny & The Sunsets
Moods Baby Moods

Polyvinyl Record Company
Street: 5.27
Sonny & The Sunsets = The Babies + The B52s + Ariel Pink

Sonny & the Sunsets are fully weirding out on their newest release, Moods Baby Moods. With tracks titled “Well But Strangely Hung Man,” “White Cops On Trial,” and “Dead Meat On The Beach,” there is an air of the bizarre that exudes from the album’s pores. San Francisco, where Sonny & the Sunsets are from, has been far-out for decades.While the rest of San Francisco’s bands are getting fuzzier and noisier, Sonny is only getting folkier and, for a lack of a better word, sunnier.

Moods Baby Moods is never a bummer. No matter what Smith is singing about, the album maintains a lightheartedness that flickers throughout each track on the album. Take the song “Nightmares,” for example: The bass line is radically funky, the keys dance airily in the background and the occasional clapping sparks vitality into the beat. The grooviness of “Nightmares” is anything but what nightmares are made of. The song is more like a raunchy, ’80s party straight out of a John Hughes film.

The track “Moods” can be best described as an intricate trip down the Rainbow Road course in Mario Kart. The song is equipped with ambitious horn parts and peculiar sounds that are most likely generated by a synthesizer, all equating an elaborate, space-like experience. In modern age, an extremely introspective skit concludes the song. A man’s voice says, “So much crap up in my head, I don’t know why I have what I have. I don’t know why I am who I am. Just trying to live.” A woman, possibly in response, quips, “What the hell is this thing? You disgust me.” An alien-like voice exclaims, “Even on our planet, we don’t have anything as fucked up as that.” And finally, a deep voice speaks: “There is one thing I do know, son, and that is you are here for a reason.” Ah, the ever perplexing, lifelong questions of: Why are we here? Who am I? What is my purpose? Smith seems to contemplate those questions while simultaneously concluding that he has a purpose, even if he may not understand what that is.

“Well But Strangely Hung Man” is as funky and spirited as the title suggests. The song opens with a woman singing, “Well but strange man.” Smith then sings, “So he lowered his shaft into the shaft.” The lyrics are often nonsensical and in all truthfulness, I don’t have a clue what they could mean. “White Cops On Trial” is a song with a much clearer message. After the last year of disheartening scandals associated with innocent black victims and overly aggressive cops, it’s no surprise that Smith wrote a song about circling around those instances. He asks the simple question, “Why can’t we seem to put him away?”

Moods Baby Moods as an album appears to be trying to sort through the often bewildering aspects of life. Nonsensical lyrics symbolize the correlation of how mystifying and complicated everyday life can so often be. Life always has been and always will be a part of the unknown for us mere mortals. Maybe ultimately never having all the answers is the only thing that makes life worth living—or, if we do gain all the answers, we might be gravely disappointed. –Alexandra Graber

Night Marcher
Modern Maze

Self Released
Street: 5.20
Night Marcher = City And Colour + Desert Noises

Time can sometimes act like a pressure cooker. Some thrive amongst the stresses of everyday life while others falter and fall behind. Most of us have experienced the soaring highs, jarring lows, and everything in between. Rob Reinfurt’s project, Night Marcher, he has said was created after a time where life had crippled him. His hiatus from music didn’t permanently hinder his passion and he picked up the pieces to conceive the album Modern Maze. Modern Maze draws influence from both pop , indie rock, and blues to make an easy and balanced album. The record has one of fullest sounds out in Salt Lake City right now. Reinfurt’s use of classical piano, bongoes, and blues guitar make Modern Maze a admirable, local, rock and roll album.

“Broken Path” carries elements of gospel within it. The song is so full and big, and the addition of a woman’s deep voice harmonizing in the background adds even more religious context. In “Chin Up” Reinfurt sings the reassuring words, “Chin up, it’s what you got to do. Chin up, trouble comes, trouble goes. We’ll get through.” Night Marcher is the resurrection of Reinfurt’s musical career and “Chin Up” is a quiet reminder to himself to keep pushing through.

“Holy Ghost” is as the name suggests, heavily influenced by religion. “If heaven was a place we want to be, then why are people killing in the name of peace? Look at the agenda, it’s the only truth. We run ourselves down trying to hang with that crew.” Blues guitar riffs maintain a steady harmony in contrast to the heavier rock and roll guitar part. The consistent shaker and patter of bongoes keeps “Kro” ever rooted, while a funky bass line gives the song an extra hint of groove. “Screaming Jesus” is another religiously influenced track. Reinfurt howls, “People are screaming Jesus, I don’t know if he can hear us, it doesn’t matter just join your hands with mine.”

Modern Maze draws similarities to other local artists’s albums, so at times the record tends to lack originality. Heavy blues guitar and lyrics rich in response to religious oppression are not completely unexplored territories in the Utah music scene. Although Modern Maze has it’s missteps, they are few and far between. Reinfurt illuminates his talents throughout this LP per his rock niche. –Alexandra Graber

The Mad Doctors | No Waves, Just Sharks

The Mad Doctors
No Waves, Just Sharks

King Pizza Records
Street: 04.14
The Mad Doctors = Bass Drum Of Death + together PANGEA

Tune into The Mad Doctors’ newest release, No Waves, Just Sharks, and there is no question about where the band calls home. They open the album with the song “The Ballad of Jort Dad.” A muffled voice immediately comes over a megaphone starkly announcing, “Ladies and germs, we are The Mad Doctors from Brooklyn, N.Y. aka planet pizza, the pepperoni nebuloid. We are hear to assault your earholes with psychotronic fuzz, so sit back, relax and die.” The moment the voice curls up and sinisterly fades out the word “die,” the intro erupts into crashing drums, booming bass chords and reverb-drenched guitars. The album explodes like a test tube filled with catastrophic chemicals. The tone for their newest LP has been set. The Mad Doctors are back for a good time, a raunchy time—a dirty underground, no-fucks kind of time.

The Mad Doctors released their sophomore album on April 14 via Brooklyn-based record label King Pizza. There is no coincidence when The Mad Doctors call Brooklyn “planet pizza,” a blatant nod to their label.

No Waves, Just Sharks is dripping with fuzz, surf and garage vibes. It rises from the gutters and sewers of the unknowing city and spills out onto the streets, filling the air with its tastes and smells. The B-movie skits that litter the record are reminiscent of The Black Lips’ earlier work, but are far more present on The Mad Doctors’ release. Normally, filling so much space on an album with skits might be overkill, but on this record, it showcases the band’s personalities and creates a storyline for each song. It ends up being playful, as opposed to daunting. The vocals are hauntingly hollow, allowing for freedom for the hearts instruments to take control of the sound.

“Dead Beach” has both Seth Applebaum and Josh Park harmonizing on the chorus. They sing, “She’s a burn out, he’s a dead beat / Two dropouts burning in the sun.” “Lord of Garbage” rages through sludge-drenched vocals and harrowing, space-echo reverb. The filth-laden vocals of Applebaum spew, “I belong with the vermin.” The track is a science experiment in and of itself that just barely misses the mark. “She’s a Psycho” loops through another highly engaging skit pertaining to the title of the song. Applebaum howls, “She’s keeping secrets in the locks of her hair / You can see the demons living in affair. Some might say that she’s a psycho. She’s a psycho, but I don’t care.” The self-proclaimed “bearded, lab-coated creeps” aren’t afraid of a little madness in their music or their women.

The Mad Doctors are on to something. They created an album that is rooted in the filthy underground of New York City. The sophomore LP is good, but not great. I’ve heard Bass Drum Of Death do fuzz and rioting recorded better. The Mad Doctors are part of a scene in music that doesn’t need to be recorded perfectly, but it does need to ignite a fire when seen live. I’d guess, the band blows the roof off when they perform. No Waves, Just Sharks deserves to be heard—maybe even more so, it deserves to be heard live. The raucous album should not be contained solely to the speakers in our homes. –Alexandra Graber

Psychic Ills
Inner Journey Out

Sacred Bones Records
Street: 06.03
Psychic Ills = Golden Animals + Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

The resurgence of late-’60s-style psych rock isn’t a new thing, but the psych movement is undoubtedly gaining refreshed momentum within the underground music scene. Psych rock bands are popping up all over both coasts—and Psychic Ills are from the right coast. The New York City–based band is reminiscent of The Velvet Underground, without the boundary pushing. They are a safe version. Psychic Ills have been playing music together for over a decade, and they consistently make psychedelia and trance the core of their body of work. Their art form was decided over 10 years ago, and Inner Journey Out is an exploration that delves deeper within their chosen genre.

The third track on Inner Journey Out is the standout on the album: “I Don’t Mind” features young singer/songwriter Hope Sandoval, who complements Tres Warren’s vocals. The track is dreamy and whimsical while Warren and Sandoval sing, “I don’t mind all the time we had spent / I don’t mind I’d sure do it all again / I don’t mind the things that you’ve said / But I would’ve rather not have known.” Sandoval’s folk influences infiltrate the desert expansiveness that often fills the band’s sound. 

“Mixed Up Mind” features guitarist and keyboardist Tom Gluibizzi playing a classic ’60s guitar riff that forces the song into acute awareness as Warren mumbles, “We can go back home or go somewhere on down the road / You know I don’t care.” “New Mantra” begins with a howling woman and the soft drumming of bongos. The song paints a picture of a drum circle in the desert, coated with an epic amount of hallucinogens. The two-minute-and-six-second song drips with authenticity and leads into what Psychic Ills call “Coca-Cola Blues.” A harmonica opens “Coca-Cola Blues” in typical, Bob Dylan fashion. Warren does his best Dylan impression as he sings, “Might go out to a show / But I don’t care / Don’t wanna bump into you / See your long hair.”

“Ra Wah Wah” is over nine minutes of full-on, psychedelic blowout. The song is the tranciest on the album, boasting zero vocals and solely instrumental parts. The keyboard and guitar pulse to the slow, inhibited beat of the drums. Chimes flicker in the background. A saxophone loosely emerges about halfway through the song. The entire song loses itself amid explosions and a seemingly successful acid trip.

“Fade Me Out” closes the album. The guitar in the beginning of the song is reminiscent of the Garden State soundtrack. “Fade Me Out” itself seems to fade out of the album the entire time. It’s the sleepiest bang to any album I’ve ever heard. Warren hums, “You know I’ll miss you when you’re gone / I know you’ll miss me when I’m gone.” He chants the words over and over, as if to remind the listener to come back to him and Psychic Ills. Don’t miss him so much that you never join forces with Psychic Ills again. Instead, allow Psychic Ills to fade out for that moment in time until the next trip.

Inner Journey Out never fully expands and explodes the way one might expect it to. It dances along the edge of something profound but tapers off too soon to be heard in its fullest expression. “I Don’t Mind” and “Ra Wah Wah” keep the album afloat and interesting. Psychic Ills have yet to be the risk takers, but we are patiently awaiting that day. –Alexandra Graber

Quiet Oaks | Photo: Michal Chaplin

Quiet Oaks
Pretty Alright

Street: 03.17
Quiet Oaks = Wavves + Bad Suns + The Weeks

Utah locals Quiet Oaks have released their first-ever full-length album after a lengthy, highly anticipated wait. Their EP, Put Your Dreams Where They Belong, debuted back in September of 2015. After refining each individual, creative detail, Quiet Oaks decided it was the opportune time to release a full-length a year and half later. The local band has become a staple at SLC’s venues, gaining quite a ritualistic following. It’s no wonder, since the bandmates perform an explosive, enigmatic live show. Many of those same fans and friends had been waiting for Pretty Alright to hit the airwaves.

The vibrato in Dane Sandberg’s voice echoes throughout Pretty Alright. Sandberg’s vocals are often the main attraction on the tracks, highlighted by bluesy guitar parts and flickering keys. “The Go Getter” gets the record started with an upbeat nature that sets the tone for a number of the tracks. Spencer Sayer’s hi-hat chimes playfully in the background, never missing a beat. “Keep It Together” rises like an anthem out of the ashes as Sandberg screams, “It’s all for you honey / I’ll keep waiting for you to break my heart again.” Keyboard parts add vibrancy to the muted “Let Me Ignore You.” The lyrics are especially haunting. Sandberg sings, “Just let me destroy you—let me decide what I want / I could adore you, but I’d rather see you rot.” How often does love destroy us instead of building our senses of self up? It seems cliché, but the lyrics speak volumes to the doomed reality of love that many won’t admit.

Quiet Oaks refuse to end the album quietly. In contrast, they wrap up Pretty Alright with “Guns,” the most dynamic track on the record. The piano, combined with an intoxicating bassline, plays like a spitfire stoking Sandberg’s flame. And just like that, Quiet Oaks explode with their debut LP.

Pretty Alright is both polished and exuberant. There are moments when the instrumental parts could come further to the front of the sound, yet the vocals deserve much of the spotlight, which they certainly have. Time was good to Quiet Oaks—the wait has proven to be worth it. They have created an LP that focuses on their strengths, curating something that many bands don’t get right on their first full-length go-around.

Pretty Alright can be purchased at quietoaksmusic.com or at any of their upcoming shows. Tour dates can be found on their website. Go check it out, since Pretty Alright has achieved a status much more coveted than its title might suggest. –Alexandra Graber

Alex Calder

Captured Tracks
Street: 07.08
Alex Calder = Elvis Depressedly + Mac DeMarco

Lazy desert drifters looking down the mouth of an open road with no real destination in sight—this is how it feels to listen to Alex Calder’s newest LP, Bend. Bend floats effortlessly above the dreamiest of dreamers, lulling them softly to continue on the whimsical path to nowhere. Calder, the Canadian musical magician, recorded Bend in the confines of his living room. He is not only the creative genius behind all of his songs but also the mixer and the recorder of his albums—all without the finest, most grandiose equipment one can buy. The result is not a perfectly mastered record but an utterly drowsy one that maintains the rawness sometimes sucked up and regurgitated inorganically by a studio.

The first track on Bend, “Foam,” trudges through the swamps of Calder’s mind. It moves, slow and steady, in contrast to the second song on the LP, “Out Of Tune,” which awakens and rejuvenates listeners through its dreamy pop splendor.

The twangy “Someone” is filled with folk guitar parts that are a near contradiction to Calder’s lackluster lyrics. He sings, “I know I’m lazy / I’m laying around while the world’s spinning around.” His words reflect the overall tone of the album. Each song, in its own right, is lazy and sleepy, which often emulates how many millennials exist in our digital age.

“Real Life” begins with the boldest drumbeat on Bend. It ferociously sets the mood for the song. Noisy guitar riffs complement the drums to make way for each instrument’s dynamic part. “Real Life” is purely instrumental. The lack of lyrics makes for a perfect bridge between each half of the album. The connection flows seamlessly and maintains the listener’s steady interest.

The expanding and contracting that “Born In Another Time” embodies between the keys and the guitar are as edgy as much as they are anxious. The song speaks of the normalcies of everyday life. Calder remembers a time since past as he sings, “I used to watch so much TV back when things were so easy / What I did back then, when I was 14 / I’d pretend that I was born in another time.” He goes on to muse, “My parents were always stressed out / But they never scream and shout.” The lyrics speak to the life of many kids growing up middle class. There is nothing exciting about it, but not everything in music is meant purely to be riveting. Calder reminds us that there is something invaluable about reaching the masses through a message that is so often overlooked yet so relatable. “Shaking My Years Away” only perpetuates the message as Calder mumbles, “Time is forgetting me, taking my dreams away.” How true and cruel that sentence can be.

Bend is an oasis in the driest of climates. It is twangy, loose and sloppy. It was never meant to be perfectly mastered—only honest in its delivery. The quiet moments between Calder’s vocally driven songs and instrumental parts are where you find yourself hanging onto his every word, waiting for his next presentation of the boredoms of life. There is nothing glamorous about Bend, but there is everything to it, too. Calder can take us on the most transcendental summer road trip with his mythical Bend any damn time. Alexandra Graber

Tree Smith | Self-titled | Self-Released

Tree Smith

Street: 06.03
Tree Smith = BRONCHO + The Seeds + Pond

Tree Smith’s self-titled debut is that of many layers. For a debut release, Tree Smith pleasantly surprises the listener with twists and turns down both brightly lit beachside roadways and haunting, overgrown, forested paths. The album draws influence from many contemporary indie artists, as well as the classics that made waves during the Summer of Love. Oftentimes, the LP weaves through surf-drenched psychedelic chords while mimicking the feel of the popular underground L.A. scene.

It comes as no surprise that there is a track aptly titled “LA” on the album. It is the fifth song on the record, equipped with a mixture of Spanish and typical surf-rock guitar parts, lightly skimming on the surface of all that a great many L.A. bands stand for (like the Allah-Las.) The following track, “Levitate,” could even be confused for an Allah-Las song. The similarities are uncanny, but not troublesome. If anything, it firmly roots Tree Smith in the style and genre that he has carved out for himself with this new project.

“Living For Today” ups the tempo while deepening the vocals––Think blues, country, psych Burger Records band The Abigails. “Egyptian Beach” adds an instrumental break amid the summery album. African-inspired drum beats slowly hush the song along, continuing the steady pace of the incredibly intoxicating debut.

“I Hate Everyone” comes exploding with noise post the instrumental track. Tree Smith channels true  ’60s revival on this song. The chorus is both repetitive and mesmerizing. It’s the simplicities in the track that allow for it to be a true standout on the LP although “I Hate Myself,” the last song on the self-titled release, is considerably similar.

Tree Smith’s vocals could easily be compared to Brooks Nielsen‘s of The Growlers and Ryan Lindsey‘s of BRONCHO. All three have a knack for sultry, brooding singing voices. Smith’s vocals, combined with the surfy style of music he plays, makes for a fantastic first record. He is not caught up in trying to pave a new way for himself but instead has chosen a style of music that matches his talent and ultimately showcases it well. Alexandra Graber