Tarot Death Card | Moon | Self Released

Tarot Death Card
Moon

Self-Released
Street: 04.22
Tarot Death Card = Portishead +Jefferson Airplane

Tarot Death Card released Moon, an EP of four eager trip-pop songs in April. It is the band’s first release, and should be a hit among the group’s rapidly growing fanbase. The four tracks don’t even take a half an hour to listen to, so I was able to dive in for multiple sessions. The music is great—within minutes, I was hypnotized by the guitar work along with the drum tracks, bass lines and synth work. It all flows well collectively. The band has only been playing together for a short while, but I wouldn’t have guessed as much.

The first track, “Earth Rebirth,” never grabbed me tightly, even after the many goes I had at it. I struggled with the lyrics. I just couldn’t take them seriously. The song is about real things, real fears. The singer, Chloe Muse, sings with a lot of emotion, but none of that was enough to convince me.

I didn’t run into the same issue through the remaining three tracks, though. I particularly identified with the human interaction and struggles Muse alludes to in the second song. “Main Street” starts with some great string plucking by guitarist Aaron Moura. What he plays at the beginning of the song and in between the verses is fantastic. Austin’s play can be felt throughout the album and is one of the reasons it feels so easy to listen to, to almost get lost in.

“Sweet Revenge,” the third track, is worth listening to while in an angry mood. It’s dark and brooding, and Muse delivers some powerful imagery, like watching gleefully when retribution strikes. She mentions her tortured soul in this track, but I had been feeling it for some time already.

The final song on the EP is “No H in The End.” Here, Muse is vulnerable, pleading with an addict to realize their self-worth and their worth to others. It sounds like desperation—something a tortured soul would totally understand.

By and large, Moon is a good listen and worth your time. The first track isn’t for me, but I’m not for everyone. There is a lot here to be experienced: cataclysmic disaster, relationships, comeuppance, addiction and support. Moon’s subject matter is a deep pool of inspirational subject matter, which should be good fodder for the full-length LP that Tarot Death Card are said to be working on for early next year. –Billy Swartzfager


Editor’s Note: The original version of this article misstated the name of the “Main Street” guitarist mentioned in the review. The changes have been amended.

Cardboard Club | On Three!

Cardboard Club
On Three!

Self-Released
Street: 03.30
Cardboard Club = ELO + Hot Hot Heat

SLC’s Cardboard Club recently dropped On Three!, a short EP comprising only 11 minutes of material. Though brief, the album’s three tracks are filled to the brim—maybe just above it—with heart, good production and possibly the most fun that could be jammed into an EP.

Band members Taylor Terrill and vocalist Cristian Banner shared the workload to come up with these songs, with Terrill composing most of the music and Banner writing lyrics. Ricky Casanova, bass, and his brother Jared, guitar and keys, round out the quartet of pop rockers. Though On Three! is their first release, it feels as though they have been at it for years.

Each song is a catchy, hummable delight. The opening number is “Katy,” a solid piece from beginning to end. It has appealing synth work, and the transitions are seamless. The rapid “You Make Me Wanna” has a bass-heavy backbone and dance-paced hooks that are all accented by the sharpest of vocals. The cap on the end of the EP is called “Liberate.” It’s another gem, the culminating finale—though I wasn’t aware or prepared for time to be up and truly didn’t want it to be.

If this EP is any indication of what Cardboard Club can do in the future, they could really be heading places. They have everything needed to make it. The musicianship is great, the songwriting is top-notch, and the production value and understanding of all the moving parts is locked down. Young people will love this music—I’m not young, and I don’t generally listen to anything with this much of a pop vibe, but I loved it. It sounds like everyone in the band loves it, too. Next time, please give us more than 11 minutes. –Billy Swartzfager

The Dream Tapes | Self-titled | Self-released

The Dream Tapes
Self-titled

Self-Released
Street: 09.05
The Dream Tapes = Tired Pony + Eve 6

Ogden’s The Dream Tapes’ self-titled album was released early in the fall and would be the perfect fit for any young adult that’s head over heels from a summer relationship. It’s just as fitting for someone whose summer romance ended in heartbreak. There’s misty-eyed crooning, yearn-filled pining, glowing optimism and shattered expectations all within the 35-minute runtime.

It made me think about albums I listened to when I was dealing with those types of things. That’s what I love about music: its ability to take you anywhere you’ve ever been (or hope to go) in a matter of moments. An eerie blend of guitar and piano can have the power to carry a listener to another day, another time, good or bad. That’s something powerful, to be sure. The Dream Tapes isn’t entirely made of tracks that deep, but there is a lot there worth exploring, and I even played a few songs on repeat for an extended spell.

Jackson Reed handles lead vocals and guitar for the band and manages both well. His voice hints at Morrissey, but only slightly. There is some alternative pop in there too, like Third Eye Blind or Dashboard Confessional, maybe—odd, but not when I consider the openness and the directness of the lyrics presented. Bandmates Davis Bitton (drums) and Enzo Frassa (bass) both carry their duties at a topnotch level, as well. The instrumentation on the album is solid throughout, and I found myself humming melodies all over the place for days.

Some of the songs that stood out to me the most were “Basement,” which reminds me of something so specific, yet entirely elusive, and “Photograph,” which is a duet that’s absolutely stunning, featuring the pipes of Adaline Baron. She nails it, unquestionably. I also enjoyed “Clouds,” an upbeat song expressing the emotions one gets when love is novel and unjaded.

If I could, like one of the songs suggests, simply drive away to anywhere but here, leaving tomorrow, I would take The Dream Tapes with me for the journey. –Billy Swartzfager

   

Uvluv | Afterglow| Self-Released

Uvluv
Afterglow

Self-Released
Street: 11.23
Uvluv = Josh Ostrander-Mondo Cozmo

Afterglow is the sophomore follow-up album to Tranquilize from Salt Lake City’s Uvluv. The latest album is where I would like to see—or hear—an outfit take a second album. The band has grown in size as well as direction. The original trio added Christian Lucy on keys, and their sound within the second effort is fuller and better-rounded for their style. The piano play adds depth and stands out from the onset.

Upon first listen, the piano and the vocal delivery reminded me of a gig I saw years ago at Kilby. A band named Lagaurdia opened for Maura Davis, and they stole the show. They blew me away with their energy and atypical indie-band sound. Uvluv shares a lot of those qualities, though they may be a bit more of a pop outlier than the band I am comparing them to.

With tracks like “Prologue” and “Mr. Melody” to start the album, I was easily intrigued to follow along to see what else they had to offer. I wasn’t at all disappointed: Though Afterglow doesn’t pull out all the rock stops that their first album had, this one was definitely more introspective. They did let all of the instruments loose a couple of times, my favorite occurrence of which was at the end of “Grief.” Overall, the album is more subdued and somber, and pretty well-done. It’s thoughtful and poignant, at times, but not pretentious or overwhelming. Derek Harman does well with the vocals and guitar, showcasing a wide range here and there, like on “Totality.” Lucy handles the keys in a stellar fashion throughout, and Kona Ossana lights up percussion while Jake Bills sets a great pace slapping the bass.

Uvluv’s second album is a good listen and totally worth checking out. They also have a show to usher its release at Kilby on Nov 23. Who knows? Maybe they’ll tear it down like Lagardia did all those years ago. –Billy Swartzfager

Ban2.0 | For the Times, Vol. 1 | Self-Released

Ban2.0
For the Times, Vol. 1

Self-Released
Street: 06.09
Ban2.0 = AWOL One + Ab-Soul

For the Times, Vol. 1 is a worthy endeavor for hip-hop artist Ban2.0. It is clear throughout that he wishes to make a difference, or at least raise awareness in this difficult day and age when the shiny embellishments of commerce often prevail over the less glamorous and down-to-earth observations of conscience. Ban2.0 addresses certain struggles and difficulty found in society, but doesn’t glorify them.  What he does instead is stick to a theme of overcoming such obstacles through hard work, dedication and following one’s dreams.

The lyrics are quite decent overall, while some are downright good. Ban2.0’s rapid-fire delivery style found on most of the album’s six tracks worked well for me. There are a couple of slower numbers that took some of the intrigue I had for the more cognizant-sounding songs. Slowed down hip-hop isn’t bad—I just usually enjoy mine served obviously disgruntled.

I felt the same way about the beats on the album. Ban2.0 creates all of his own instrumentals, and they are nice, well-constructed and stratified. A couple of beats found here are straight up hard, head-nodding shit, which accompanied his quick style favorably, while others sounded restrained.

Ban2.0 does the whole intro, interlude and outro thing on the album, utilizing the time to speak about what he is trying to do with his music and what he hopes to accomplish in life. I tend to frown upon such rally-killing breaks on a lot of hip-hop albums, but I think it works on For the Times. Ban2.0 comes off as accessible—someone who writes lyrics about his own experienceswithout the need to exaggerate.

For the Times, Vol. 1 is good local hip-hop. The lyrics have a positive outlook and deal with life in the everyday. The production is solid, the beats garner immediate attention and Mr. Denton’s guest spot on “The City Kid” is well-done, with the narrative playing out nicely.

Overall, the album is worth downloading—it could come in handy when you feel yourself second-guessing your aspirations. –Billy Swartzfager

   

Field Division | Dark Matter Dreams | Bella Union

Field Division
Dark Matter Dreams

Bella Union
Street: 06.22
Field Division = Fleetwood Mac + Adrianne Lenker + a dash of psychedelia

Des Moines, Iowa, duo Field Division has followed up their splendid 2014 EP, Reverie State, with an equally moving full-length album, Dark Matter Dreams. The latter contains a lot of the dreamy, not-quite-folk, somewhat psychedelic beauty from the EP, but also moves forward to widen the band’s already expansive landscape and deep-reaching influences.

From the onset and at various points throughout, with tracks like “River In Reverse” and “Innisfree (Let’s Be The Peace Now),” there is a sense of the 1970s at the roots, driven by superb guitar play from Nicholas Frampton and the sultry ruminations of Evelyn Taylor. It’s all very Buckingham/Nicks-esque, though the poppiness on some Fleetwood Mac songs can be a bit campier than anything Field Division bring.

Taylor and Frampton exchange vocal responsibilities, too, both taking turns singing alone, exhibiting different perspectives and emotional positions, as well as teaming up for stunning harmonies on light tracks with almost nothing else verbally. One of my favorite songs on the album, “Big Sur, Golden Hour,” is one where they both chime in together. It’s somewhat of a siren song, instead of either one belting it out. It works so well and allows the listener to be fully encompassed by all of the new layers Field Division have discovered, like the strings and precisely plucked, singular guitar chords.

Dark Matter Dreams was written on the road, during which Taylor and Frampton peered into their lives and the ever-changing environments they were facing, both internal and external. The result is an honest look at who they are, who we are and where we all could go together and as individuals while we work through the turmoil. The album is full of life, acknowledging and addressing the past and the present while still remaining focused on what is just around the bend, probably a lot like writing an album on the road would be.

I feel the truest song to that motif, and the most gripping on the album, to be “Farthest Moon.” It is truly something to behold. Again, there are mesmerizing harmonies, backed by rich tiers of sound that—at the end, when they all come together—permeate the space with something that feels hopeful, powerful; a simple solution for a complicated problem.

And then there is “Siddhartha,” an instrumental that brings almost as much of the total package as “Farthest Moon” does. It is catching and stirringly beautiful—a complex piece of music, though it may be the sparsest on the entire project.

There are so many things to pore over here: the lyrics, the diverse percussion, tambourines, synths, effect pedals, strings and a lot of other eclectic accents. The finished product is strong from start to finish, but I’ll be surely rewarded over repeat listens, as this album most certainly makes my regular rotation. I truly enjoyed it top to bottom. There is a subdued but quite obvious give-and-take between Taylor and Frampton. It is seamless and touching. They seem to be on the same page while thoroughly bringing a ton of stuff from the pages of very different books to enhance what they clearly do so well to begin with. Check out Dark Matter Dreams; check out the EP. Field Division are great and should get a lot of love for a long time. –Billy Swartzfager

Steve Gunn | The Unseen In Between | Matador

Steve Gunn
The Unseen In Between

Matador Records
Street: 1.18
Steve Gunn = Jose Gonzalez + Donovan + Ryley Walker

Steve Gunn’s follow up to his 2016 LP, Eyes on the Lines, on the always savvy Matador Records, is stunningly rich, deep, layered, and, at times, very profound. One can listen to The Unseen In Between—or most of his releases for that matter—anywhere and feel as though they were hearing it being played in close quarters, almost like Nick Drake’s voice always being quiet no matter how far to the right the volume knob gets turned. That’s a unique characteristic, and Gunn is a unique character.

The artist has carved out a space for himself among the musically enlightened as an astounding songwriter, guitar player and producer. Here, Gunn has created an album that is more complex and vividly landscaped than much of his previous work. Driven by his rhythmic guitar, folkadelic tapestry of lyrics and overlain combinations of sound, Gunn takes listeners on a journey through what sounds like his very personal history, or histories he knows well enough to be his own—likely a combination of both.

Take, for instance, “Stonehurst Cowboy,” a track about Gunn’s late father in the middle of the album. The song weaves along a trail of memories and revelations both hard and pleasant regarding the relationship Gunn had with his old man, which, like all relationships, had its ups and downs, involving stuff that can only be alluded to in poetry for others to ponder but for the author never to forget. It’s a lesson about lessons. 

Other tracks with equally powerful subject matter and vivid representations of life across the spectrum of human situations are “Vagabond” and “Morning is Mended.” The former is a splendid display of Gunn’s understanding of the adversity that people in all circumstances deal with and is beautifully backed with vocals by Meg Baird. The latter is a rumination about moving forward after having witnessed or experienced the previously mentioned challenges in our existence. Add some stellar guitar play to that great lyrical content and you wind up with a few songs that could carry a sparse album. However, The Unseen is hardly sparse.

The album is thick from start to finish, with some highlights littered and stacked throughout. One of my favorite tracks in particular is “Chance,” toward the beginning of the album. It has a laid back sense of direction. Though it has a typical structure, I couldn’t help being reminded of longer jam-band tracks from decades passed. I also dig the end cap, “Paranoid,” which is a wonderful showcase of everything the album offers all rolled into one final song—a good way to close the album’s door.

Matador Records hasn’t failed me yet. The albums released by the label not only live up to my crazy expectations, but a lot of them go even further and surprise me pleasantly with releases that are so good, I can’t choose between bands or records. It’s totally a good problem to be stuck with, too. Gunn fits in perfectly with the lineup over there, adding another album to the stack I can’t pick from, at home amongst his contemporaries, coworkers and collaborators. His last album from two years ago was good, but this one is better. He is setting a precedent for a label that sets precedents. My hopes for the future couldn’t be greater. Billy Swartzfager

The Vandigue | Self-titled | Self-Released

The Vandigue
Self-titled

Self-Released
Street: 07.01
The Vandigue = Muse + Ian Anderson – The Flute

The Vandigue’s self-titled record seems to pull from an eclectic mix of potential influences, resulting in a densely stacked listening experience. The band consists of two guys, Devon Smith and Patrick Farrington, who have played together since they were children and are both formally trained musicians. Together, they hope to unify the world through music, beginning with the inspiration of the people around them. That goal may be a bit lofty, but their beginnings most definitely have potential. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the product of their ambition.

After my first walkthrough, I thought, at times, that I could have been listening to some pop alternative from a decade ago, but the songs suddenly stir themselves into a cocktail with

Ganja White Night and The Darkness along with some strings, classical elements and prog.

The first two songs alone had me thinking about all kinds of different music, but all of that was just an introduction to the variety The Vandigue offer.

The opening instrumental track on the album is complex and reminds me of some of Explosions in the Sky’s shorter pieces. It begins a bit slow but culminates into something you’d hear accompanying imagery in a commercial with an inspiring message. It’s a good beginning, but set me up to expect something I wasn’t going to get (which turned out just fine).

My favorite bit of music on the record, by far, is “Pigeon Parade.” I loved listening to this song. It feels so much larger than anything else on the album. It’s longer, too, but that isn’t what I mean. It dives deep, bringing everything together from the lyrics to the plethora of instruments and electronic components.  The vocals are lights out and take me places similar in scope to Glen Hansard’s on the Once soundtrack.

There are seven songs on the album, and all of them divergefrom one another. I heard stuff that was Flight of the Conchords–ish, sans the silliness. I am also pretty sure that these two are familiar with local music— I got some shades of Starmy throughout “Viper of Love.”

The Vandigue left an impression on me. I really enjoyed the release from the first go-around. Now, all they need is for everyone in the world to hear it, and their work will be done. –Billy Swartzfager

Danny Wildcard | Bring on the Moonshine | Loaded Deck

Danny Wildcard
Bring on the Moonshine

Loaded Deck Records
Street: 06.26
Danny Wildcard = Earl Scruggs + Sun Records Johnny Cash + Appalachia

Ogden’s very own Danny Wildcard is a unique voice in local music, at least as far as I am concerned. It isn’t every day that one runs into a dark-sided banjo player with a penchant for rock n’ roll on the scene. It’s certainly refreshing—I haven’t listened to anything else like it.

Bring on the Moonshine is Wildcard’s third album and one where he pushes the boundaries only he has established for himself. By combining his superb banjo play with just the right amount of synthesizer and effect pedals, Wildcard has carved a niche nobody else is occupying. Most couldn’t pull it off if they tried.

Songs like “Falling Down” and “Dark Dark Medicine” display musical sensibilities and experimentation not expected from a dude carrying a banjo, but it works well. Wildcard creates a solid ambiance while plucking strings, something that sounds like it has a story to tell.

“The Show, (Pt. 1)”—as well as Pt. 2 and Pt. 3, which form a triptych, one building upon the next throughout the album—is a prime example of Wildcard’s storytelling ability, both lyrically and with the strings he strums and manipulates. The combination solidifies the album.

As long as Wildcard isn’t done taking his music to new places on his singular journey, there will always be creative sounds exuding from his albums. And, I feel, as long as he is releasing albums, his fans will always have something special to look forward to. But for now, there’s Bring on the Moonshine, and it’s more than enough to occupy one’s speakers and mind for the time being. –Billy Swartzfager

The Poppees | Hot Dogs and Wine | Self-Released

The Poppees
Hot Dogs and Wine

Self-Released
Street: 03.23
The Poppees = The Poppees + The Flaming Lips

The Poppees from Salt Lake City are not the dreamy pop band from the early 1970s, though their name is spelled the same way and their sound is similar at various points throughout their debut album, Hot Dogs and Wine. Though similarities are present, the modern-day incarnation has thrown down some unique additions to make their music their own, which is certainly fun and full of life.

My favorite aspect of the band has got to be the way they use harmonies. It happens on every track, but never once does it feel overused, trite or like a coverup for the lack of something else. It makes all of the songs easy to hum along to. The title track is filled with it, and works out to be a worthy namesake for the album. The opening track, “Yuika Doesn’t Play in the Band Anymore,” uses harmonization just as memorably.

The guitar work on the album is pretty good as well. There is some heavy ’60s-guitar influences on many of the tracks, including “Come on Baby” and “Good Timez,” though the latter follows a slightly different formula that is still reminiscent of decades past. “Her Majesty’s Daughter” contains my favorite guitar pieces on the whole album. I think I can hear some ’90s grunge sounds, like The Pixies, in there on top of that electrified pop sound.

There are some nice instrumental additions peppered in, too, adding the perfect amount of flavor behind strong vocals and guitars. “Texas Rose” has some incredible harmonica, almost Dylan-esque. And “Teenage Wonderlust” has some decent-sounding saxophone highlights.

On “Come on Baby,” the vocals reach their most dynamic. The song is a great little duet that is heartfelt and one of the album’s strongest tracks.

In all, Hot Dogs and Wine is a good album. It will be interesting to see what adjustments and progress The Poppees make going forward. –Billy Swartzfager