Author: Benjamin Tilton

Active Strand
Hot Lava EP
Bossa Nomad
Street: 12.04.14

Active Strand =
 Arctic Monkeys + Audioslave + Ben Harper

Energetic local act Active Strand have released their first EP Hot Lava this last winter. Having developed a healthy following from their bombastic live sets and funk-meets-rock tunes, the EP is dropped on us in hopes of furthering the excellent Provo rock scene. The short description of the band on Facebook reads, “power trio with a new sound,” which would be the case if the 2004 English rock scene never happened. The music is executed well and the lead singer hits his notes, but his creepy lounge singer swagger makes the album feel like your watching dance moves by Giovanni Ribisi. The album shows good range and never sits too long in any one place, but sometimes you have to learn one good trick before wandering any further. Keep trying, guys—the talent’s there. –Benjamin Tilton 

Photos:
Black Jupiter cover

Black Jupiter cover

Black Jupiter
Salvation in a Self-Destructive World EP

Self-Released
Street: 01.16
Black Jupiter = A Perfect Circle + Radiohead + Pink Floyd

It was so wonderful to listen to such a calm and gripping strut through the melodic wanderings of Black Jupiter’s EP, Salvation in a Self-Destructive World. The heavily instrumental album takes me back to nights sitting at lookout points, wondering where it all ends. With the entire world rushing to the next big catchy thing, it’s nice to see a band confident enough to just be … and this album dwells in itself to a wonderful extent. Very few times in my listening career have I actually felt relief and peace after taking in a rock album, so thank you, Black Jupiter, for relaxing shoulders and giving the mind a place to explore. Local bands often trip over themselves fighting for attention—it’s good to see some bands haven’t forgotten that they’re simply entertainers. –Benjamin Tilton

Atris
Dawn

Self Published
Street: 05.31. 15
Atris = Black Sabbath + Pink Floyd + Queens of the Stone Age

If I told you one of last year’s hidden local gems sounded as if Tool and jazz music had a baby, then you probably would be curious about this baby. Well, to put that confusion at rest, I’m happy to report this baby is healthy, kicking and full of grit.

With a local music scene imitating much of its recent successes, we get breaths of trendy reprieve only so often. Atris’ album Dawn seems inspired by dark towers, wandering creeks and things that go bump in the night. As you listen to Dawn, you feel like a evil voyeur, nefariously plotting the most sinister of schemes while nodding your head to notorious beats. Multitasking music aficionado Alex Anglesey presents drums, percussion and a synthesizer with vocals. Next to him sits the equally tasked Stephen Beck on lead vocals and Corey Collatz on keys and guitar, both of whom bring wonderful melody to the whole group. This type of patience in song presentation is a bold move—being these are long songs—and makes you wonder if Rush passed through Ogden decades ago and left offspring on our musical doorsteps. The song length alone means these songs weren’t written for the radio, and that’s the bravest I’ve heard in some time.

The album furiously progresses in its haunt then calms like Ozzy croaking, “Oh nooo,” in his song about dark Sundays. Toward the end of Dawn, the dusk has set in and its six parts have turned my nodding head into a full on proud ’80s head bang. Then the tempo jumps up again, and we get some beach guitar rock solos that oddly work. Anglesey’s drums set this process off while guitar work from Collatz and Beck clash wonderfully as you listen to them fight over genres.

With such a rich first effort, you have to wonder what schemes these dark and whimsical gentlemen are up to now. With a local scene needing much more experimentation in its music, Atris seems ripe for exposure. A moody concert with deep red curtains sounds about right. Toss in some candles and jello shots for flare and you’ve grasped the quirky, dark depth of Dawn. Mind you, downloads can be a bit more practical, but this band can be streamed for free at thetravelersatris.bandcamp.com/releases for proof of prior mentioned sentiment. I hope you enjoy Atris’ Dawn … or plan something evil at least. –Benjamin Tilton

Citizen Soldier
Caroline

Self-Released
Street Date: 10.28.17
Citizen Soldier = Fuel + Three Days Grace + Nickelback

Have you ever wondered why musicians create catchy songs about sadness? We can almost assume the manipulative bastards want us to suffer. For the artist it’s a bit of channeling, but the residual attracts a group of fans relating over their collective misery. So why do some of us love this music so dearly? Why as kids did we scream into pretend microphone hands and unleash a fury? The answer is simple, really—it’s a release. The EP Caroline by Citizen Soldier is just such a thing: a loud, thrashing exorcism of glorious mental vomit, and it’s the best thing I’ve heard from this genre in some time.

The video for Citizen Soldier’s “Buried Alive” features a young woman drowning in a bathtub while she experiences a series of crestfallen moments. The water/world is slowly creeping over her mouth just before she pushes up, echoing the lyrics of the song. It’s easy to map out the depressive themes that recur throughout the album, but there’s an underlying fight in the depicted characters that ultimately makes this project rewarding. She doesn’t let her world consume her, and challenges the monsters in her head.

In the song “Caroline,” perspective becomes the focus and we get a moral understanding in relation to circumstances and where our feet end up. “Caroline” embodies the distance between what we know and where we are. It’s beautiful, sad and a lot of fun to sing along to.

The EP continues with “Soldier,” where crashing guitars imitate the world around outsiders. The fighting theme is most evident in this song, and the self-acceptance feeds the ones marching on. “15 Minutes of Fame” is a ballad in self-awareness, a joyous cry that would sit comfortably in progressive church youth groups.

“Let It Burn” closes out the record and feels like a montage of all the themes addressed in the album, as though they are being set free or let go. The importance of moving on ends this album with a very welcome and hopeful note.

For a continued understanding of these emotional juggernauts, I suggest seeing Citizen Soldier live. With shows at the likes of Kilby and The Royal, there are plenty upcoming opportunities check them out. –Benjamin Tilton

Burn Atlas
Self-Titled
Self-Released

Street: 09.10.14
Burn Atlas = Soul Coughing + Mazzy Star + Gorillaz – Del the Funky Homosapien

As a critic, writing reviews can be painful. In the case of Burn Atlas, I feel I’ve wandered into a poppy field. This self-titled album shows brilliant, creative promise. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but its clever arrangement makes it fun and lyrically amusing. The initial track, “Trigger Finger,” is poppy and thoughtful while at the same time hinting at mid-’90s post-grunge the way Beck did it so long ago. The production could use some polishing, but few first-time EPs are perfect creatures. The album is consistent in its theme, and the young band already has a unique sound. With a following just under 100 fans on Facebook, this unfound treasure is a refreshing splash among the tired indie-rock scene. –Benjamin Tilton 

Photos:
kyler art

kyler art

Kyler Slater
The Winter EP

Self-Released
Street: 03.02
Kyler Slater = The Fray + First Aid Kit – Justin Townes Earle

The Winter is an appropriate title for this album. This is not a cheer- ful, upbeat kind of album—this is a rainy-day, stare-out-your-window-and- wonder-where-it-all-went-wrong kind of album. The Winter plays beautifully and brushes over your head the way your mom’s hand would when you were a child on the worst kind of bad days. The tracks “On My Own” and “Losing My Mind” are patient and intimate songs that are reminiscent of things you may have heard before but they serve more as a comfort than a redundancy. Kyler Slater show a maturity that is unique for bands just starting out, and they are one of the few bands that can successfully pull off melody without succumbing to a hook. The Winter is a solid first step from these local guys, and I’m honestly curious what they’ll come up with next. –Benjamin Tilton

Quiet Oaks
Put Your Dreams Where They Belong

Self-Released
Street: 09.18.15
Quiet Oaks = Hudson Taylor + Walk the Moon + Ivan & Alyosha

You can almost hear the quintet that makes up Quiet Oaks smiling on their debut EP, Put Your Dreams Where They Belong. The Salt Lake City natives are extremely passionate about their music and this is demonstrated by their enthusiastic live shows and dedicated following. The key was to capture that raw feeling on the album and that is certainly apparent on songs like “Guns” and the title track “Put Your Dreams Where They Belong.” The relaxed, fun and creative side of Quiet Oaks is also present here on “Paint The Forest,” making straightforward rock sound wonderfully carefree. The album has the presence of your favorite classic rock band while still finding enough of its own footing to not step on any old school toes. I whistled throughout the album which gives you a good understanding of the tunes therein. It’s fun, but also bluesy. It’s soft but you can still jump around to it. It’s just an excellent rock album, so everyone download it and support awesome local music! –Benjamin Tilton

RuRu
Mother / Father
Self-Released
Street: 02.20
RuRu = David Gray + Radical Face + Vance Joy

Isaac Russell has been referred to as a raw talent, but there is nothing raw about this album—it is a simple perfection cooked with the exact amount of simmering, brooding and melodic scope. Mother / Father is not just tofu on a counter … it is a complete dinner. RuRu’s sound sits on the folksier side of acoustic and plays like a patient Lumineers. The pacing is slow and gradual, but never sad. It’s honest, which means it has somber points, but Russell is enough of an artist not to dwell. There is a consistent hope throughout the album that Gertrude Stein would be proud of and moments of catchiness that leave that hope in your head. “Love Don’t Leave Me” is an incredibly strong second track and really sets the pace for what’s to come. RuRu’s Mother / Father is a very complete project, and I encourage anyone with a set of feet to prop them up and enjoy. –Benjamin Tilton

Photos:
Heartless Breakers – The Great Giveback

Heartless Breakers – The Great Give Back

Heartless Breakers
The Great Give Back

Animal Style Records
Street: 03.10
Heartless Breakers = Sum 41 + Paramore + The All American Rejects

After one listen to the Heartless Breakers’ The Great Give Back, I packed my bags, plopped down at the local pool and turned the tunes back on. The album was emitting everything I remember about being young and full of life, including the realization that deep pools also have their shallow ends. The pool was perfect. Heartless Breakers carry all the excitement of a rocked-out alternative summer album, but they also carry the weight of summer’s fleeting themes. They present emotion with a perfect pitch of energy behind it. “Carbon Copy” is easily everyone’s favorite, but “Subdued” scored some points, and “Apartment 1E” was the song that stayed in my head the rest of day. The album carries a bit of hardcore nostalgia between its beats and heavy, rocked-out thumps. It feels like staring at a reflection of summers past, and by the time the album’s title-track finishes, you’ll be extremely satisfied and ready to start it all over again. –Benjamin Tilton

Elias Black
Self-titled

Self-Released
Street: 08.20.15
Elias Black = Nine Inch Nails + Marilyn Manson – Stabbing Westward

There have been attempts across the years to create a definitive passing of crowns between the dark alternative thrashings of the ‘90s and the current, pop-saturated guitar dribble of the present. The multi-functioning and talented Elias Black might not accept such a crown, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t look good on him. This self-titled album is a fascinating piece of design that you either stick with to fall madly and psychotically down its rabbit hole, or … find something else to listen to.

At its heart, the album feels like barbed wire wrapped around a baseball bat that is used to thump the hordes of mainstream, radio-friendly zombies. The poignant lyrics serve as energy for each swing and echo any less-flattering thoughts about the world. Are we the dolls and robots that checkout-line magazines seem to make us into, or are we the drowning skeptics missing out because our backs are turned to everything? This is Elias Black’s album; a dark, haunting and powerful swing at life and all its delusions. It’s a medium for frustration, a thought for tired heads and a fantastical bat for keeping the commercially bright skies at bay.

The album makes the most ground toward the end with “Black Flag” andCrash,” which are reminders of how grunge made cushy suburbanites depressed little basket cases. The emotion feels so real that it made me close my eyes and nod dramatically between bites of mac & cheese and vegan, free-range toast. Elias Black pulls listeners into this thing made of wonderful bass hooks and cheeky, screeching sentiment. Black’s years of mixing and producing gives this album a well-rehearsed presentation that allows it to operate with ferocity.

The only drawback to the album is that it’s not instantly appealing. There’s a learning curve here that newbies to the dark side of things might find daunting. Just give that old neck beard a bit more scratching, and the ambitions around your creative intuitions will certainly start to listen.

The songStill Alone” is passion at its lowest height and plays like the wayward keys that escaped from Trent Reznor’s neglected Moog Sub 37. “Into the Empty” is ultimately hopeful. “More Time” is already the longest song on the album. “35” is not about numbers, and “Saying Goodbye” introduces you to the album at the beginning. The point being: Expectations are pointless and only serve as cup holders for the much stronger substances inside. Black has finally created something that is purely his own, and it is a definitive measure of his brilliance and odd creative meanderings. The lessons from his past projects shine through on his first solo project, giving it an air of wisdom seldom achieved on freshman deputes.

Elias Black is not straightforward rock, which is fine, because straight is deafeningly boring. Elias Black is abandon if you’re reckless, upbeat if you’re downtrodden and a thundering herd of “not giving a fuck,” because this fuck only costs $7.92 online (or $20 for vinyl, if you’re sexy). So drop that book you’re pretending to read, tie your shoes and wander down this rabbit hole with the rest of us. Welcome to the underground. You’ll be glad you came. –Benjamin Tilton