Author: Blake Leszczynski

Joshua James
Well, Then, I’ll Go to Hell
Northplatte Records
Street: 11.12.13
Joshua James = (Brett Dennen x James Taylor) / Modest Mouse
I listened to this album six or seven times before I realized it—30 seconds into the second track, “Broke”—these are all Modest Mouse covers. Jesus, I am slow. But doesn’t that speak to how great Joshua James is? I had listened to reworked versions of some of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands of all time, and didn’t even notice. The entire nine-track offering is top shelf in every sense—production value, vocals, instrument arrangement—but the song that has been on repeat for me is “Gravity Rides Everything,” my favorite song from Modest Mouse’s The Moon & Antarctica. James’ take on it is everything a cover should be. Like most of this album, it’s not merely a copy of a song, but more a rediscovery of the original work, now being described from a new perspective, through a new set of eyes. –Blake Leszczynski
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The National Parks
Young
Self-Released
Street: 09.05.13
The National Parks = (The Avett Brothers + Grizzly Bear) x Alison Krauss
 
I listen to an album like this and think, “How in the hell is this band not on every single person’s iPod on the planet?” This three-piece Provo band has it all in Young. It’s heartbreaking, reaffirming, energetic and fun—all while being thoughtful. On every track, I caught myself shaking my head at how fortunate we are, on the Wasatch Front, to have such incredible music being made in our communities. “Ghosts” is the knockout here, a classic folk track with Brady Parks and Sydney Carling harmonizing over a simple banjo strum. There’s a moment, however, where Carling vocally goes off on her own, angelically proclaiming, “If you’re looking for light, just keep running to me/cuz you just might find it, where the river meets the sea.” I’m not 100-percent sure what she means, so I imagine she’s talking about this album. Because it’s damn good. –Blake Leszczynski
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Muzzle Flash
Delightful Suffering
Self Released
Street: 09.28.13
Muzzle Flash = Pearl Jam x Creed

The debut from the Salt Lake City–based post-grunge trio does all of the things you would expect from an outfit whose main influences include Queens of the Stone Age and the Foo Fighters—mainly gritty, angsty, power rock. The guitar riffs and slamming percussion here definitely hit hard, and often come off nicely—though, at times, the songwriting doesn’t. With lines like, “You won’t find love from a hooker, you might find yourself,” the lyrical content can distract from all of the great things Muzzle Flash are trying to do here. The result of all of this is a sophomoric-sounding effort that was hard to get all the way through in one sitting. For fans of rock who want a departure from the hipster scene, you could probably do worse than Delightful Suffering. For everyone else: pass. –Blake Leszczynski

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The Lazy Waves
Wavetable
Self-Released
Street: 02.18
The Lazy Waves = (Crystal Castles + Rooney) x Erasure
 
Indie electro-pop is the en vogue subgenre at the moment and that is totally OK with me. The Lazy Waves’ latest EP combines a lot of the genre’s best traits, things like space-age synth sounds backing earthy lyrics and vocals, to create this solid four-track EP. The three-piece group’s offering kicks off nicely with its best, most danceable track, “Tonight (Get On The Streets),” which features an unidentifiable (by me, at least) sample about human exploration mixed in with advice from The Lazy Waves’ lead singer, Michael Gross, urging listeners that, “If you want to be someone, then get on the streets tonight.” It’s just a fun, toe-tap–inducing album with four fantastic songs. Best part? Get it for $3.50 on thelazywaves.bandcamp.com. –Blake Leszczynski
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Golden Plates

Golden Plates

Golden Plates
Eugenics

Self-Released
Street: 05.11
Golden Plates = (Lenny Kravitz x Monster Magnet) / The Strokes

One of the toughest assignments I’ve had since I started writing for SLUG is the task of trying to define Golden Plates. Part blues, part distortion, part machismo rock n’ roll, it seems to be a music project borne out of the mind of Elder Brycen that spits in the face of pretentiousness and takes independent music back to its roots with grimy, gritty, guitar-lathered caveman rock. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is really in the ear of the beholder, but what can’t be denied is that Golden Plates has a style all its own. For the quintessential track, you don’t need to go much further than “Wanted,” a basic electric-blues song that all at once is incredibly simple and almost incomprehensible lyrically—asking questions like, “Am I your man? Am I the Son of Sam?” Despite it all coming off as borderline primitive, I actually kind of dig it and have gone back to the release several times—but I need to be in the right mood. –Blake Leszczynski

Officer Jenny
The Gods Must Be Giddy, a Gaggle of Unexceptional Songs Written for Unexceptional People
Self-Released
Street: 05.31
Officer Jenny = Sufjan Stevens + The Shins
 
Provo’s Stephen Cope, who performs under the Pokémon-inspired moniker, Officer Jenny, offers up an understated, personal and, at times, campy album in his debut. Gods starts off with the bouncy Beatles-esque tune “Sandcastle Dove,” which leads one to believe that this album is going to have a good amount of energy which, except for two other songs, is inaccurate. Even the silly tune “My Robot Boots,” which talks about “fancy fish at a funeral” dressed in coats and caps, never rises above a steady drone. Cope, however, has crafted a poignantly beautiful album overall, and songs like closer “Caroline, Dress in Blue” take on the heavy subject of death, ending with the lines “We’re taught to cry in the end/All dressed in black, eyes all red/But Caroline, dress in blue/So Caroline, I’ll know it’s you,” remind us how powerful the singer/songwriter genre can be. –Blake Leszczynski
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Kookie Lou
Kookielou EP
Self-Released
Street: 09.27.14
Kookie Lou = (Bat For Lashes * Zooey Deschanel) / Morcheeba
The reason music stays culturally relevant is because artists, both new and old, keep taking risks and doing things that aren’t expected. The unexpected is exactly what you get with Kookie Lou’s (aka Lily Wolter) debut EP. Over the swift four tracks, the Isle of Mannative showcases her ability to make unimaginably complex songs that glide over simple tones and sounds. In the opener, “Bottom Of The Hill,” we are treated to an ethereal medley of keys and strings that is methodically taken over by a menacing acoustic guitar riff, and shortly after, Wolter ominously sings, “Seeing from a distance/seeing from a hill.” It’s this sort of juxtaposition crawling throughout this far-too-short release that makes me look forward to following Kookie Lou to wherever she goes next. As for this EP—a smattering of smart songwriting and restrained vocals over jazz-inspired, chill-out tracks—it feels fresh, new and unexpected, while being completely accessible. –Blake Leszczynski
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Salazar
Saudade
Self-Released
Street: 05.29.14
Salazar = (Temper Trap + My Morning Jacket) / Wilco
There are plenty of folk acts around these days—so many that even incredibly talented groups’ works are forgotten as soon as the album ends. Saudade does not have this issue. Without going out of its own way, Salazar’s debut full-length album is one that will bore itself into that part of the brain that holds your most bittersweet, life-assessing moments and memories, and forever plays over them like some Zach Braff–curated soundtrack. It’s a 10-track dream-folk masterwork, every song distinct from the last but also a perfect complement to the sum. “At high tide/there’s a note/that I wrote down/I let it sink deep down,”: The opening lyrics of the album’s title track really tell the story. This is a work that will latch onto you and linger for weeks, even months. –Blake Leszczynski

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The Goldeneyes
Self-Titled
Self-Released
Street: 08.11.14
The Goldeneyes =
(The Killers * The Doors) / Jim Morrison

What we have here is a nifty, three-track package from a very tight pop rock outfit out of Salt Lake City. Though it’s short, the self-titled EP leaves a lot of hope for the future of these three lads. The first track, “Backseat (More Precious Than Gold),” which is later revised on the release with a “Chill Version,” starts out sounding like the theme song to some late-’70s blaxploitation flick. It evolves into a very cool little rock song that sometimes can even be compared to early Muse. The other track on the album, “Fool Me Again,” holds on to a lot of that laid-back, soul-inspired energy, but does come with a bit more of a bite. Of course, it seems to be a breakup song, whereas “Backseat” is a love song. All in all, this is a good release from a promising band. –Blake Leszczynski 

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Robert & The Carrolls

Everybody’s Famous EP

Self-Released

Street: 11.09.13

Robert & The Carrolls = (Rooney + Of Monsters and Men) + Phillip Phillips

The first time I pressed play on Everybody’s Famous, with its opener “Vintage,” I was transported to the PCH, driving fast no doubt, but still taking it all in around me—the smells, the sounds, the sun soaking into my skin. This is comfortable music, indie’s answer to meatloaf. Over the five-song offering, the Carrolls rarely make any missteps, mostly treading through themes of love and love lost—painted against the backdrop of their original home of California. For me, “Sow and Sleep” is the EP’s high point. It’s familiar, for sure—with acoustic guitars playing behind a heartbroken Robert Carroll singing, “If you need a man to hate, I’ll fill that place,” but also something very new—Miss Brooke LeBaron, with her cello and beautiful harmonies, brings the whole track together and makes it something special. All in all, this effort can be placed on the upper end of the never-ending pile-up of similar music. –Blake Leszczynski
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