Cephas – Self-titled

Cephas
Self-titled

Self-Released
Street: 07.28
Cephas = The Lumineers + Daughter

If you were thinking that indie folk already had a sweet disposition, then Cephas’ self-titled debut album is about to make that disposition seem a whole lot sweeter. Although they’re new to the music scene, this Provo/Orem-based trio’s album is something you would expect to hear on the radio—it’s that good. Robert Speiser (lead vocals/guitar), Melissa Alexander (vocals/bass) and Weston Paul (drums) join forces to give those in the Utah music scene a self-recorded, fresh take on the indie folk we all know and love.

The first few seconds of the first track, “Giants Among Men,” consist of some obscure sounds that melt into swift guitar strumming, gorgeous harmonized male/female vocals and rumbling drums that resemble pounding footsteps. This song creates amazing energy that stays consistent throughout the entire album.

It was extremely difficult for me to decide on a favorite song from this album because all of them were so lovely to the ear. Each one had me imagining myself in a different scenario, whether it was waking up on a Sunday morning in the forest during “Creatures of Migration” or picturing myself on the beach during “Sweet Talk.” When I gave “I Am The Shoe” a few listens, I realized that it was my favorite, purely because it was just quirky and fun. It didn’t sound like a typical indie-folk song, and the uniqueness of the lyrics really grabbed my attention.

Cephas are definitely up to something good. Not only do I love how satisfying these songs are, but I also love the handcrafted sound of this album. You can hear the DIY aspect in every song, which I find refreshing. It’s like I’m listening to it on a turntable when it’s actually just blaring from my computer’s speakers, and I love that so much about this self-titled gem. I could picture a lot of the songs being featured in independent, coming-of-age movie previews. I’m excited to hear what else these three have in store. Cephas are playing a show in honor of their album release on July 28 at the Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo. In the meantime, you can download their single, “Giants Among Men,” for free on their Soundcloud. –Zaina Abujebarah

The Hung Ups | Panic Attack

The Hung Ups
Panic Attack

Pizza Girl Records
Street: 01.08
The Hung Ups = Screeching Weasel + The Lillingtons

Panic Attack screams with frustration, which is something I really enjoy about this release. It’s more than just an album about a heartbreak; it’s an album about an ongoing bad day. It’s hatred toward other people and ourselves, self-reflection and pondering bad decisions written into short, high tempo songs that grab the attention of the listener immediately. While the lyrical content is simple and the songs are brief, the messages are clear throughout the entire album.

One of my favorite songs on the album is Track 4, “Joe and Suzy.” The lyrics tell a story of a crumbling relationship and features guest vocals from Ashlie Longo, which adds a ton of personality to the song. I enjoy this track because it’s honest and relatable, and we get the perspectives from both parties in the relationship.

I think the two songs that represent the album the best are the opening track, “Make You Angry,” and the second-to-last track, “Hate.” They both sound like a glimpse into the mind of a frustrated kid who’s sick of wasting their time. The lyrics on these tracks are very to-the-point and in expressing the exasperation of not speaking one’s mind. They’re quick, with a beat you can bob your head to without even thinking about it. Whether you’re the type to get rowdy in a mosh pit or stand in the back at a show, there’s no denying the adrenaline rush that hits when these songs start to play.

This album is catchy, fast-moving and honest. There’s vulnerability hidden within the lyrics, underneath all the bass lines, pounding drums and quick, three cord riffs. The Hung Ups are so perfectly themselves, and that’s what makes this album so good. As a fan of punk and all of it’s glory, Panic Attack is an album I can really appreciate, and I look forward to reaching for it when I’m feeling like I need to relate to someone.

The Hung Ups will be playing at The Underground on April 20. Panic Attack, as well as all of their previous releases, are available on their Bandcamp: thehungups.bandcamp.com/album/panic-attack. –Zaina Abujebarah

Chelsea Wolfe | Hiss Spun | Sargent House

Chelsea Wolfe
Hiss Spun

Sargent House
Street: 09.22
Chelsea Wolfe = Susanne Sundfør + Darkher + The Soft Moon

Finally, the most beloved Queen of Darkness, Chelsea Wolfe, has released her brand-new album, Hiss Spun. Her classic, fan-favorite and attractive-to-the-ear folkiness shines through in her vocals as well as her drum beats, while hauntingly distorted guitars and thunderous baselines support that contrasting softness. Her influences of folk music, doom and goth are all beautifully represented throughout Hiss Spun, and it makes for a marvelously macabre release.

Hiss Spun opens with a chuggy, screechy track titled “Spun.” Right off the bat, it gives me the image of Morticia Addams covering a Lana Del Rey song. Wolfe’s vocals are so dreamy and airy yet strong, and they have that antique vibrato that blends seamlessly against the face-melting, high-pitched screeching of the guitars within the track. It’s a strong start that presents every wild, wicked thing that’s in store for the rest of the album.

As the album progresses, I get bits and pieces to chew on within every track. There’s always something to hone in on, whether it’s the arrangement of the drums against a catchy riff, the layering of the distortion within every element or her bewitching vocals. There’s something that specifically captures my attention within every song, and that gives variety to the album. Instead of listening to straight doom, folk or goth for the entire album, Chelsea Wolfe takes a piece from each and creates her own, fascinating sound that keeps me interested, song after song. Although it seems like there’s a lot going on, every piece of the puzzle comes together within this 12-track album.

Track 7, “Twin Fawn,” is one of my favorites on the album mostly because it takes a break from the aggressive distortion and focuses on the simpler side of things, at least for the first little bit. It’s so relaxed that it almost sounds like something you’d hear at an open mic night performance. The guitars sway and twinkle against the soft, supple drums and Wolfe’s vocals are breathy and tender, at least up until 1:47, when the heaviness hits me like a tidal wave. The buildup was unexpected, but so powerful and satisfying when it happened. The entire track is a continuous build-up, climax, come down on repeat and it is absolutely intoxicating.

Chelsea Wolfe never fails to deliver something unearthly. In Wolfe’s 2015 release, Abyss, as well as her 2013 release, Pain is Beauty, there’s a very experimental vibe that comes from each album, whereas Hiss Spun sounds well-rounded and full. While Chelsea Wolfe has always satisfied the itch of my inner-goth-kid, I’m very pleased with the diversity and the maturity of this album. It’s the perfect mix of electronic club-goth, folk and doom metal and I think that they all blend well together instead of having one element more pronounced, which is something I can’t ignore when listening to Pain is Beauty and even further back in The Grime and The Glow. With all of that said, Hiss Spun is a bone-chilling, hip-rocking, head-nod-inducing album. It’s hypnotizing, sexy and simply another banger from start to finish from Chelsea Wolfe. She never disappoints. –Zaina Abujebarah

Valentine & the Regard | Long into the Night

Valentine & the Regard
Long into the Night

ForeverKittenRecords
Street: 02.11
Valentine & the Regard = Elliot Smith + Elvis Depressedly + The Nerves

The first mesmerizing track on Valentine & the Regard’s 42-track album, Long into the Night, is a song called “Florida.” A twirling acoustic guitar played by Mike Maurer supports an intoxicating spoken word, by Julie Maurer. This was the perfect introduction for this release. Not only is it soft to the ear; it also incorporates all of the elements that make appearances throughout the rest of the album.

One of the songs that caught my attention on this release was “Means to an End.” It’s reminiscent of Elliot Smith and sounds exactly how a rainy day feels. The whispery vocals and poetic lyrics make for a gorgeous, vulnerable song that I could listen to over and over again. It’s a pleasant surprise and a truly amazing song to stumble upon within this album.

Since this release consists of 42 different tracks, there’s a little taste of everything Mike, Julie and Collin Jiron are capable of creating.  Long into the Night is a collection of songs that range from 2009 up to 2016, which showcases all of the experimental steps that Valentine & the Regard have taken. There’s everything an indie fan could want, all in one album. There are songs with a quicker tempo and playful vocals that stray more on the punk side, like “Brittle Candy”, more singer-songwriter-sounding tunes or songs that are quieter and more on the shoegazy side, like “Driving Across California at Full Speed.” Every element of this release is multifaceted, and every time the track changes, I never know what could be coming my way next.

While the size of this release may seem intimidating, it’s a treasure chest full of creative tracks from a band that’s not afraid to try different things. This band and this album are dreamy as hell, and I’m extremely impressed by it. Long into the Night is available at: valentineandtheregard.bandcamp.com. –Zaina Abujebarah

Alvvays | Antisocialites | Polyvinyl Record Co.

Alvvays
Antisocialites

Polyvinyl Record Co.
Street: 09.08
Alvvays = The Pains of Being Pure at Heart + Courtney Barnett

When I first discovered Alvvays, I immediately fell in love with their perfectly indie, sweet disposition. The vocals are soft and simple and sonically, their sound is beachy and vintage without pushing the envelope too far or putting themselves into a box they wouldn’t be able to break out of. Their second and most recent release, Antisocialites, still encases those same qualities that I’ve come to know and love, but they’ve added a few extra touches that refresh their classic, lovable sound.

The first track, “In Undertow,” begins with a cute, synth-y opening melody that leads into Molly Rankin’s iconic vocals, as well as subtle, dry drum beats that drop this album into the recent trend of reimagined ’80s new wave. I really see that in the next track, “Dreams Tonite.” It’s mostly just synth and drums, which is mesmerizing all on its own. Rankin’s vocals take center stage in this track, and it shines beautifully against the synthwhich is something I didn’t get to experience in their debut, self-titled album. Each song has a late ’80s tinge, which works well with their already fuzzy guitar riffs and simple song composition. If Blondie had emerged in 2017, this is exactly what I would imagine them sounding likepunk and dreamy with a catchy delivery. 

By adding in those lo-fi moments and slight distortion, like in Track 5, “Not My Baby,” Alvvays added a whole new facet into their sound. Instead of staying stagnant and comfortable in their 2014, indie-beach-rock sound, they grew with the genre. And with such influential bands in the scene like Tame Impala, Mac DeMarco and Real Estate, there’s a demand for indie rock that pulls inspiration from the past and re-molds it for the listeners of today. That’s exactly what Alvvays did with this release, and although each track varies in tempo, they all sound very similar—which makes for easy listening.


Antisocialites wraps up with a track called, “Forget About Life,” and it’s my favorite song on the album. The lyrics are melancholic, and the instrumentals complement them by being soft and subtle in the first 45 seconds. It slowly builds up to match the vocals that, again, shine in the forefront. A delicate rhythm from the synthesizer carries me through the song, and at the 26-second mark, the beat picks up to create a more ambient, uplifting feeling for the rest of the tune. The lyrics, combined with all of those gorgeous elements create such a comforting atmosphere, especially toward the end of the chorus when Rankin repeats, “Do you want to forget about life? Do you want to forget about life with me tonight?” It gives off such a comforting energy, and I love it so much.

While it may be easy to look at this release and compare it to their self-titled album, Antisocialites stands independently even though sonically they are very similar. I enjoy the incorporation of synthesizers and the extra attention Alvvays gave to Antisocialites to make this album just as enjoyable as their first release. They take the influential trend of playing with retro sounds and use it to their benefit while also staying true to their original sound and that is something I can hang with. Alvvays keep it coming with the lovable tunes and a few of these tracks i’ll have exhausted by the end of the summer.  Zaina Abujebarah

Andrew Goldring
Heritage

Soundcave Studios
Street: 06.24
Andrew Goldring = Turnover + Elliot Smith

By mixing his own style with the simplicity and tradition of the singer-songwriter genre, Andrew Goldring presents Salt Lake City with his new album, Heritage. Goldring creates a sound with this album that’s difficult to put my finger on but reminds me of something like the singer-songwriter sound we all know and love—like Elliot Smith, Andy Shauf or Sparklehorse—while mixing in the coolness and edginess of more recent alternative releases like Turnover and Into It. Over it.

“Skyline” is the second song on the album, and it immediately made me think that this is the kind of song I could hear playing in a coffeeshop: a nice, steady buildup from layered guitar and soft drums to everything at once. The instruments intensify as Goldring’s voice does, and then they mellow back down. It’s definitely something I noticed throughout the entire album. There’s consistency in Goldring’s sound because of this pattern, and it works incredibly well for him. Goldring also doesn’t hesitate to paint a picture for the listener not only with his songs but also with the titles. While listening to songs like “Cottonwoods” and “Early,” I could clearly hear and see where he found his inspiration.

Overall, I really love Heritage. The mix between the exciting alternative elements and the classic singer/songwriter parts is like adding creamer to a hot cup of coffee—they mix so beautifully. Between the richness of his voice and lyrics, the coolness of the electric guitar and the warmth of the acoustic, and the moments with and without the  upbeat drums, this album is dreamy as hell. It’s the perfect album to add to your playlist to transition you from the energetic summer to the cozy autumn. –Zaina Abujebarah

Brother. | Vol. 1

Brother.
Vol. 1

Self-Released
Street: 08.11
Brother. = Iron & Wine + mewithoutYou

There’s a certain, stereotypical idea that comes to mind when I see something described as being “indie folk rock,” which usually consists of quickly strummed banjos, singing that resembles classic European folk music and lyrics about summer days. Brother. do a perfect job of taking that idea and completely demolishing it (in the greatest way possible) with their new release, Vol. 1. Not only is it a surprising, refreshing take on the genre, but it brings so much more to the table with their lyrics, simply intricate arrangements and vocals that spellbind the listener.

“1000” is the album’s opening song, and it was a perfect fit for the job. The steady kick drum is consistent throughout the whole tune, and I can immediately tell that the emotional content quality will be rich and plentiful throughout the rest of this seven-song piece. The vocals complement the guitars so perfectly—they work together to drift me away. It’s an honest song with a softness to it that’s too sweet not to love.

The third song on the album is one of the dreamiest. Perfectly titled “Sunday,” this song is the embodiment of rainy autumn mornings. There’s a chilliness that the twinkling of the piano gives off, and the vocals are soft enough to almost be a hum. This is definitely a song to listen to when the windows are foggy, the tea is warm and when thoughts are thick. The lyrics are vulnerable and raw, which adds to the tenderness of this song. They allow their vulnerability to shine through without it being woeful and melancholic, which is so nice to hear for a change. This track is easily one of my favorites (if not my number one favorite) on this album.

I’m so excited about this album and for whatever else is to come from Brother. Every song on this album is complex while being effortlessly beautiful to the ear. This is everything I wanted to hear from an indie folk rock band right now. Everyone in the music scene is eager for something new and interesting, and Brother. accomplished that with flying colors. It’s a classic album that still provides the listener with freshness. Each song is powerful, emotional and strong and worth the listen. 

Vol. 1 is available on Brother.’s Bandcamp page, https://brother5.bandcamp.com. –Zaina Abujebarah

Brad Thomason | Sakura | Self-Released

Brad Thomason
Sakura

Self-Released
Street: 02.06
Brad Thomason = Mac Demarco + Lotus Plaza

Sakura is a 4-song EP and the first in a series of releases leading up to Brad Thomason’s upcoming LP. This EP has a big job on its shoulders, and that’s introducing the vision has for his album and how he executes it. It’s the perfect sampler for everything Thomason has in store, with some unexpected twists and turns upon my first listen.
According to Thomason’s Bandcamp page, “The Pacific Clone” is a tale about what music would become in a post-apocalyptic setting. The first song on the track is described by Thomason as “A snippet of a broadcast from KVWC 98.3, the ever popular laid back dad rock station.” It’s a quirky introduction to this piece, but its out-of-this-dimension feel truly sets the tone for the EP. The crumbly, staticky soundwaves tickle my ears until a cheesy drumbeat kicks in and welcomes a voice that very much resembles Tim Burton’s Beetle Juice. This definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, but it’s a crucial element when it comes to understanding this EP, and eventually the entire album.

The second track is a sweet indie jam called “You’ve Got What I Need.” It’s a dreamy track with adorable lyrics sung by whispery vocals. It’s a peppy song that reminds me of a sunny day, lemonade and admiration. Every element about the song promotes feeling good. The riffs are dance-y, and the drums are consistent and mellow—it’s the perfect taste of Thomason’s playful and fun sound.

Everything about this EP is satisfying. It’s a fun, out-of-the-box release that I can really appreciate. Having this backstory to hold the listener’s hand throughout (what will be) the entire album adds interest to the piece, rather than it just being a collection of songs. It’s attention-grabbing while also mellow, and easy to bob your head to. This EP does the job of building anticipation for the final LP release, and it showcases Thomason’s creativity in fun, simple ways. Sakura, as well as the second EP and the final LP are all pieces I’m looking forward to jamming to when I need something smooth, easy on the ears and enjoyable.

Sakura and the second EP release, The Pacific Clone, are available at bradthomason.bandcamp.com. —Zaina Abujebarah

Mini Golf | Missing Out | Self-Released

Mini Golf
Missing Out

Self-Released
Street: 10.03
Mini Golf = Bright Eyes + Elvis Depressedly

Straight out of his own imagination and notebook, Chazz Pitts brings a brand-new piece of acoustic melancholy to the ears of Salt Lake through Mini Golf. Missing Out is full of raw, truthful lyrics that are easy to relate to, emotional vocals and a guitar that shines among the simplicity of it all. There’s something about this nine-song album that not only offers a melody to bob your head to, but also a sense of emo nostalgia.

“Shoelaces” is a 53-second song that starts out the album. It’s completely instrumental and exudes a certain soft sweetness. The incorporation of clicking—which seems to be a cassette tape locking into place—and some slight distortion makes the acoustic guitar shine. All of the little details in the background create a unique sound that add more interest to such a short, simple song. It gives the listener a taste of what Mini Golf is all about in under a minute: just a singer and their guitar.

“Elephant in the Room” is a subtle piece that addresses the self-loathing feelings we’ve all felt before. Pitts describes the desperation that comes along with reflecting on life and ourselves and journeying through self-discovery.  The track that follows is an interesting piece that comes out as my favorite song on the whole album. “I’ll Be Here A While” is a slower song that consists of a recorded conversation between Pitts and a friend, with Pitts’ acoustic guitar strumming along. It’s a conversation we all have when we feel like there’s nowhere for us to go, that our lives have taken a sudden halt and we don’t know how to move forward. It’s an incredibly relatable song, and the lyrics left a heaviness on my chest.

In a way, a few tunes from Missing Out remind me of songs from Elvis Depressedly’s New Alahambra—specifically, songs like “Missing Out” and “People,” mostly because the mannerisms within the vocals and the guitars are similar. However, Pitts’ work on this album is an awesome blast from the not-so-distant past, reminding me of a time when I felt lost and spent a lot of time analyzing my feelings. Emo definitely is not dead, and even if it were, it’s been revived through the tender album that is Missing Out. –Zaina Abujebarah

Joshua James | My Spirit Sister | Williamette Mountain Records

Joshua James
My Spirit Sister

Williamette Mountain Records
Street: 04.07
Joshua James = The Lumineers + Hugo

While this is Joshua James’ sixth release, there is something that shines within this album. It’s all evident in the first track, “Broken Tongue.” This track greets me with a tender riff accompanied by a melancholy melody that matches the lyrical content. Once the instrumentals meet Joshua’s perfectly raspy vocals, there’s no ignoring the power that comes from this three-minute track. This song alone is just a little taste of what is to come: an emotional album that was a product of a trying time. It’s the perfect preface to the story Joshua James tells throughout My Spirit Sister.

Each song in this piece is eclectic, laced with sounds that remind me of the Old West, like I’m walking through a scene in a cowboy movie. Track 3, “Real Love,” is one of the songs where the cowboy vibe is pronounced the most, at least at the beginning of the album. It begins with an obscure sound that resembles a whipping wind, which is continuously featured as a transition between each verse. The drums pound behind every note from the piano and every twangy riff—definitely one of my favorite tracks.

“Millie” is the first single from My Spirit Sister. If I had listened to this song before all of the others, it would be a perfect example on what I should expect from the entire piece. It displays every amazing, unique element James has to offer on this album: vivid lyrics that tell a story, a tempo that slowly builds throughout the duration of the song and a melody that is just so damn catchy. He tells a story about his newborn daughter while also flipping through his fearful thoughts. It’s a very emotional song. His voice howls and flutters all at the same time. I have a million good thoughts about this song—it’s just so touching.

I think this album is a gem in my collection. When I first pressed play, I wasn’t expecting something so raw, unique and interesting. Absolutely enthralling and poetic, My Spirit Sister is an album I had no idea I needed. Every song is likeable and attention-grabbing and uses more than just the lyrics to tell a story. The use of the guitars, drums, harmonicas and all of the other instruments paint a picture for you in every song, which is something I love the most about James’ sound. It isn’t something I would have originally reached for, but I’m pleasantly surprised by James’ use of this special genre. It’s an incredible piece from start to finish. –Zaina Abujebarah