This Box Makes Noise
There’s Been A Publishing/ U.S. Records
Joe Matzzie = Blitzen Trapper + Tyler Lyle
First things first: Joe Matzzie has a love for music. The inside of his newest album cover reads, “This record was made with love.” This singer/songwriter stays perfectly in tune with what he does best. He plays guitar riffs and chords that start and stop abruptly—the kind that are characteristic of modern folk styles. There are a few similar-sounding tracks, but, in general, Matzzie is incredibly versatile. He plays top tracks like “California Dreamin On Ya,” that are performed con brio with a unique rhythm. While keeping it simple and rhythmic, he also plays tracks like “Dies Irae” that showcase his talent to serenade in foreign languages. –Lizz Corrigan
I’ll Be Your Man
Lael Neale = Nico + Feist
For just under 42 minutes, Lael Neale mixes styles of folk and indie pop. The debut album, I’ll Be Your Man, consists of singer-songwriter Lael Neale on vocals, guitar and piano. Her voice, distant and longing, epitomizes a dreamy-sounding psych-folk vibe, but not without help in the background: Marlon Rabenreither (background vocals, guitar, lap steel, toy piano, harmonica, harmonium, percussion), Carlos Laszlo (drums, percussion), Tommy Schobel (drums, percussion), Kyle Vicioso (bass), Brady Leffler (organ), Erik Arvinder (violin) and John Schreffler (pedal steel). Together, these folks commit to a soft country twang; some songs sound beautifully alone and permissive, while others, like “Born in the Summer,” break it down with heavier electric guitar, irreverent and straightforward. I’ll Be Your Man forces one to feel something, even if it is to whisper, even if it is to scream. –Lizz Corrigan
Dan Fletcher = Passenger + Gregory Alan Isakov
Dan Fletcher is a solo artist who was born in Ithaca, New York, and is anything but a city slicker. Fletcher is a natural-born cowboy: tough on the outside, but gentle and sentimental on the inside. Raised on artists like Willie Nelson, his mama did, in fact, let her baby grow up to be a cowboy—at least, enough to write cowboy tunes and settle down in the Beehive State.
It’s clear that Fletcher crafted his first full-length album, Brooklyn Romantical, with some serious TLC. Brooklyn Romantical is not quite rock, folk or country. With a polished and obvious acoustic grounding, plus the occasional presence of soothing electric sounds, Fletcher is a quintessential Americana artist, finding balance and solace in writing and performing music.
Fletcher is, at times, more of a spoken word poet. With moments of little to no instrumental sounds, he is able to form total focus on his voice and effusive lyrics, especially on tracks like “The Man That I Am in Your Eyes,” where Fletcher speaks, rather than sings, above soft instrumentals: “On self reflection / I am constantly met with valleys of unconceivable emptiness / However, there was you / A contradiction / An immediate relief from zero / Cliché, but when I crossed your path / Something was born from nothing.”
Fletcher sings of the things he loves, finding joy in sweet, Western-sounding melodies: his wife, two sons and the West. As a staple Americana artist, Fletcher calls upon his old stomping grounds of New York City in his track “New York Nothing.” This track is a comical yet serious display of Fletcher’s discontent for New York, as he sings, “I’m about to punch a German tourist / In a fanny pack who just wants / directions to the Empire State to take a picture with his family for the fridge / I’m a dick, and it’s your fault,” followed by, “I wanna burn, burn, burn this city to the ground / Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, I’m out!”
Fletcher has an uncanny ability to write songs that are simple, but demonstrate his musical talent, and accomplish a pleasant listening experience. His music is like funeral potatoes: where the people with good taste go for comfort. Brooklyn Romantical is an eight-track preview of what Fletcher can do, and should keep on doin’. –Lizz Corrigan
My Eyes Are Wildflowers
JeniSage Sidwell = Ingrid Michaelson + Joanna Newsom
JeniSage Sidwell is a local indie-folk artist with a jazzy spin. She is a classically trained harpist who just released her debut album, My Eyes Are Wildflowers. Sidwell graces the album on the harp, shifting from what may have been a typical folk album to an enchanting display, replacing much of the instrumental space with the harp rather than the acoustic guitar, especially on tracks like “Cupid’s Disease.” Vocally, Sidwell’s voice is often high-pitched with frequent and quick dips into lower octaves, especially on tracks like “Silver Spoons,” which covers a range of vocal notes amid the harmonica, acoustic guitar, keys and accordion. Sidwell incorporates brass instruments into tracks like “The Curmudgeon Song” and “Wildflowers,” which have unique rhythms and harmonies, contributing a subtle jazziness to the folkness of the album.
Not all tracks are quite so folksy, however. Some tracks, like “Puppet Promenade,” are devoid of lyrics and instrumental variation, showcasing Sidwell’s ability to tell a story using simply the strings. What sounds like the standup bass coupled with the harp are a harmonious power couple, evoking a sense of movement with high-to-low and fast-to-slow patterns. Later in the album, Sidwell plays the same track, but with lyrics. She begins, “It’s been awhile since we were reptiles / Sticking our tongues in the air / I packed my car and drove until the world restarted.”
From start to finish, the album feels mystical and otherworldly—not a science-fiction world so much as one that is timeless, wild and enchanting—notably due to the harp on almost every track. Tracks like “Hot Tongue” feature soft guitar and percussion as the heartbeat of the song, paired with the harp and lyrics like “Your musical body enchants me” and “speechless whilst near you.” Using words like “whilst” play into the sense that the album takes place in a distant, more enchanting time.
Sidwell is poetic and philosophical. Tracks like “Brain-Rocks” are instrumentally rooted in the strings, primarily with acoustic guitar and added spurts of the violin after profound statements like, “You can smile in any language / It’s all the same / And together we’re alive / Like Alaska’s colored sky / But this planet is big / And we are small.”
My Eyes Are Wildflowers is both sweet and seductive, luring listeners into the dynamic, harp-infused world that Sidwell constructs, constantly shifting from folk to jazz and places in between. –Lizz Corrigan
Creature Double Feature
Creature Double Feature = Woods + Boz Scaggs + Foxygen
Creature Double Feature’s Tomorrow’s Weather is an eerie experimental album, that debuted before the release of Bone’s Groove in February 2017. Tomorrow’s Weather is a lengthy 16-track album, recorded partially in-home, in parking lots, in a forest and in a haunted basement—it’s the perfect soundtrack for the 1970s and ‘80s horror show, Creature Double Feature.
The album opens with “Green in Blue,” an upbeat, jazzy graveyard song that sings of “love in the graveyard” and “nocturnal ecstasy.” Between quick taps on the drums and a wailing saxophone, Meghan Johnson and Molly McGinnis sing, “Deep like the headstone, sinking under me.” Shortly after, they break into the same few lines sung quickly for a minute, building tension and chaos in the song before it just ends.
“Rainforest Television” is definitely a little creepy, beginning with deep low humming before the flute interjects and it becomes only the acoustic guitar as it slowly shifts between high and low notes. Creature Double Feature sing, “Spirits shout / And worry, too / Not so different from you,” drawing a parallel between worlds.
“I’ll Wait 4 U,” one of the more “normal” songs on the album, is upbeat, combining the drums and guitar with less-than-creepy lyrics. “Nightwalker,” too, is a surprisingly sweet-sounding song, devoid of computer-generated sounds, drums or saxophone. Instrumentally, the song is a continuous soft strumming on the acoustic guitar, with male/female harmony—but lyrically, it’s not so sweet: “Down down, down down / Into the core / To meet our maker in the warm / Screw my head on to my wet shoulders.”
Tracks like “Footsteps” and “Landslide” are equally creepy with high-pitched sounds on the toy keyboard, with infrequent lyrics until Fosburg interjects with spoken word poetry, which sound distant when spoken over distorted noises, fitting with the thematic strangeness of the album.
All in all, Tomorrow’s Weather is experimental, psychedelic and uniquely artistic, with the album ranging in genre and complexity. This band of creatures demonstrate their versatility and defiance to being pigeonholed into any particular sound or concrete style. –Lizz Corrigan
The Eleventh Door
The Eleventh Door = Cool Ghouls + Beach House
Local, funky duo The Eleventh Door—Catalina Gallegos and Rocky Maldonado—have released their debut EP, Venusian Gap. “Venusian” means “relating to or characteristic of the planet Venus,” which is quite fitting. The EP is a quintessential indie rock album, swimming through “the other world” of spacey dream pop and shoegazing. In just four tracks (with a fifth, downloadable bonus track on theeleventhdoor.bandcamp.com), Venusian Gap doesn’t feel short-lived—instead, it’s packed with funky sonic melodies and dynamic multi-instrumental layers.
The EP opens with “Tellement Tendresse,” a dreamy, sweet-sounding French ballad, sung by Gallegos. The title means “so much tenderness,” which is representative of the song: perfectly paced, trading off between acoustic strums, drumming and high notes on the electric guitar. The instrumentals often outweigh the vocals, which are overlaid with distorted sounds and textures, a staple of dream pop songs.
The title track is more electric-driven, beginning with electric riffs and subtle percussions, which dramatically strike and pause between note shifts. Maldonado croons in a distant yet forefront manner while Gallegos simultaneously hums in high pitches and lush tones in the background. Somehow, this track seems completely obscure yet familiar with staple instrumental loops and sporadic distortions.
“Song for Johnny” and “Fever Dream” are slower-paced tracks, with a greater kick drumming emphasis and slower movements between high notes and distortions on the electric guitar. “Fever Dream” is more instrumentally focused, but when Maldonado does sing—accompanied by Gallegos’ high-note ooh’s and ahh’s—the lyrics are more easily made out than on any other track, yet still distant and obscured.
From vocal and instrumental distortion to overwhelming volume and vibrant musical displays, The Eleventh Door delve into classic elements of dream pop and indie rock while creating a unique combination all their own. They pull listeners into a world of instrumental complexity and aesthetic simplicity, setting the bar high for what’s to come. –Lizz Corrigan
Max Pain and the Groovies
Psych Lake City Records
Max Pain and the Groovies = The Growlers + The Black Angels
I first saw Max Pain and the Groovies in 2010 at Kilby Court. I forgot who headlined because Max P. and the boys definitely stole the show. Since then, they’ve been jamming harder, as their debut full-length album, Electro Cosmic, was released this past New Year’s Eve—it’s a game changer. Much like their self-titled EP in 2013, Electro Cosmic is a cohesive, high-energy set from start to finish, but with 12 tracks, it’s three times as good. Here, psychedelic garage rock is taken to a new level: The boys go a littler harder, with the confidence to loosen up and let the reverb and mysticism flow. The interludes are undeniably groovier than before—even the song titles give it away: “Electro Cosmic Chronic Jam.” If you’re looking for a way to kick off 2015 the right way, don’t miss out on one of the best albums of the year. –Lizz Corrigan
The Growlers = Allah-Las + The Babies
The Growlers have coasted with albums like Gilded Pleasures and Hung at Heart, but deliver something a little different with Chinese Fountain. Chinese Fountain is an obvious attempt at maturity—with meta-narrative aside from the girl next door—and they’ve appealed to those who are attached to the pre–Chinese Fountain Growlers and to those who are interested in what else they can achieve. It’s still their classic psychedelic sound and beach-rat attitude, but cleaned up a bit on tracks like “Big Toe,” clinging to their roots on tracks like “Good Advice,” and sparking a new side on tracks like “Going Gets Tuff.” Chinese Fountain is a transition—showing that the band is another year older and wiser—but it is anything but a disappointment. –Lizz Corrigan