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

Little Barefoot | Never Always | The Sand Cave

Little Barefoot
Never Always

The Sand Cave
Streets: 11.14
Little Barefoot = She & Him + Life in Film

Logan, Utah’s Little Barefoot hit November with their brand-new album, Never Always. This quirky indie album is the perfect goodbye to the warmth of summer and an excellent welcome to the playfulness of winter. Taylor Ross Wilson (vocals, bass, synth, guitar, piano), Natalie Beck (vocals), Benton Wood (vocals, guitar, bass) Josh Miksesell (drums) and a handful of other featured artists came together to create a fresh, fun take on indie rock.

Never Always kicks off with a tune called “Good Wife.” Wilson’s calm, silky vocals greet the listener almost immediately, and the piano, guitar and drums build behind him as he describes the life and dreams of a young man. This song is a gorgeous story of young love—a message conveyed not only in the lyrics, but also in the lighthearted melodies of this piece. Beck’s vocals create a feeling of unity in the piece, like the young husband and the ‘good wife’ are singing the song together, or that the supporting vocals symbolize love and support. The trumpet shines among the guitars, shakers and subtle drumming throughout this song, creating a great amount of interest and a feeling of triumph. It’s a lovely song, perfectly chosen to open the album. In 6 minutes and 53 seconds, the talents and elements that will be featured in the next 12 songs are showcased perfectly.

My favorite song on the album is easily track three, “Party in Your Honor.” It’s a magical ditty that starts out with playful “roo-doos,” sung by Wilson’s family, and bouncy piano. Wilson’s vocals meet with his family’s and paint a picture of a garden party thrown in celebration of a certain someone. This song exudes so much sweetness that it’s impossible not to smile or dance. Through the classic indie tropes, this song is full of surprising, synth-y quirks and unique spins to make it sound like something you’ve never heard before.

Whether you’ve been listening to indie for the last 10 years, or if you’re just barely stepping foot into the local music scene, Never Always is the perfect album for anyone that needs a fresh listen. The lyrics are simple and to the point, which complements the intricacies of the instrumentals throughout the album well. There are feelings of sweetness, vulnerability and even innocence laced in each song, which is exactly why it’s going to be one of my top listens during this winter season. It’s a good album for “feeling the feels.” Never Always is available on littlebarefoot.bandcamp.com and any upcoming shows can be found at facebook.com/littlebarefoot.  Zaina Abujebarah

Manatee | Grotesque | Self-Released

Manatee
Grotesque

Self-Released
Street: 02.04
Manatee = Julie Ruin + Soft Kill

There are so many layers to this piece that it’s difficult to find a place to begin breaking it down. Grotesque is essentially an all-you-can-eat buffet. It’s full of different pieces that create one big chow-down. There are elements of punk, indie, electronic and lo-fi, and they all combine together IN this eight-track album that feature kicking drums, out-of-this-world electronics, fuzzy guitars and varying vocals.

Track 3, “Disorder,” is my favorite from this album. It all begins with drums and a subtle, beachy riff that plays underneath the sounds of a rainstorm. The lyrics are rich and poetic, and the steady, monotone vocals send me in a trance. “It’s late at night / 2:07 to be exact / I shouldn’t be awake this time.” They’re choppy lyrics, but it feels as if you’re reading their mind. The music matches the scene these words describe perfectly, something that I noticed in Track 5 as well. “Anxiety (Phase It)” is a little chaotic, but that’s exactly what I would expect from a song with that title. Behind the beats, melodies and relaxed vocals, there’s a screechy wave of vocals that add a pinch of spook to the song.

Each track on this album is whimsical, playful and interesting. Grotesque is a very creative piece all around. Some tracks emphasize having dream-wave, electronic melodies like “Crisis (Dead Feels),” while others focus on a punky, lo-fi vibe. Genuinely, I’m confused by this album. It’s so all over the place, but it’s just as intriguing. I thought that I knew what to expect as each song started, and but then takes a totally different route. It’s an artsy, experimental, mysterious release. I found it to be thought-provoking, even though I haven’t quite grasped it yet. –Zaina Abujebarah

Bird Watcher | Old Science | Self-Released

Bird Watcher
Old Science

Self-Released
Streets: 09.28
Bird Watcher = As Cities Burn + Manchester Orchestra

Within the first few seconds of the first song on the album, Bird Watcher send those who listen into a post-punk haze full of wonder, poetic verse and a desperate need to be heard. The Ogden-based band’s third release offers a more mature, evolved sound than their previous EP, The Luna Sessions, while still maintaining certain elements, like the rawness from the acoustic guitar. The overall composition of this piece is crisp and clean to the ear, which makes it that much more amazing.

This EP consists of six songs, and each shines for different reasons. “Hope” is the third track on the EP and sounds like the equivalent of staying up too late on a Monday night and getting lost in your mind.  It’s one of my favorites on the album, because although it seems calm and simple, the lyrics are heavy enough to leave a lasting impression. Just like reading words out of a journal, Aaron Peat sings, “Remember me / Remember us / Remember how clean we are underneath all the rust / There is still hope.” Another favorite of mine wraps up the album: “We Haven’t Located Us Yet.” This song is not only dreamy, but it also illustrates helplessness, something that anyone who listens could relate to, found in the lyrics as well as the overall buildup, climax and downfall of the song. It all coalesces into simple guitar plucking, layered vocals and distortion, which acts as the calm after an emotional storm. It’s simply a perfect ending to a complex, emotional album and I can’t get enough of it.

Old Science is available for download at birdwatchermusic.bandcamp.com. Keep up to date with Bird Watcher at facebook.com/BirdWatcherUT. –Zaina Abujebarah

Alkaline Trio | Is This Thing Cursed? | Epitaph

Alkaline Trio
Is This Thing Cursed?

Street: 08.31
Epitaph Records
Alkaline Trio = Nimrod-era Green Day + The Lawrence Arms

It feels as if Alkaline Trio are sending longtime fans reminders of why they love them. The first track, “Is This Thing Cursed?” starts off sweet and welcoming, then progresses into everything you’d expect from an innovative, modern-day punk band: punk-beats in a 1980s vein, crashing symbols with interesting, hypnotic riffs, a sturdy bassline and, of course, Matt Skiba’s dark vocals.

“Little Help” is probably the most fun and humorous track on the album. It’s the one song that isn’t super poetic or very emotional, but it’s high energy, entertaining and the embodiment of a punk boy matured. Hell, it’s even admitted in the lyrics: “Can anybody here buy this old fool a drink?” and, “Can anybody here give this old fool a lift?” While it may be a funny, filler piece for Is This Thing Cursed?, the boyish charm embedded into this track gives it that lovable trait.

While there may be some points that lose my attention—specifically: “Sweet Vampires,” “Pale Blue Ribbon” and “Heart Attacks”—there are a ton of other songs that stand out from the rest. “Goodbye Fire Island,” is filled to the brim with poetic lyrics, scenic descriptions and reminds me a lot of The Lawrence Arms in their Cocktails and Dreams era. It’s easy to listen to, beautiful and offers enough room for the lyrics to shine through the instrumentals.

“Demon and Division” is easily one of my favorite tracks on the album— it’s punky, it’s sweet and it doesn’t hold back emotionally. Within the first few seconds of the song, the wistful guitar lick in the chorus sweeps me away. Not to mention that Skiba’s voice blends perfectly into the noodling melodies, and it’s enough to melt my heart. This song has easily earned a spot in the “Play 20 More Times Club.”

They chose a perfect song to close out the album: “Kristilline.” It’s one of my favorites of the bunch because the toned-down acoustic guitar and vocals that open the track contrast rampantness of the rest of the album. It’s more relaxed sonically, but while it may be dressed-down, the passion continues to swell up to the chorus when Skiba shouts, “I want you, Kristilline.” His voice expresses desperation and longing—a perfect pairing to the airiness of this track. It’s a straightforward song that isn’t complex as far as construction goes, but it’s simple enough to sing along to, and the emotional heaviness of the track lingers long after the lyrics finish, into the outro. 

On their ninth studio LP, it’s evident that Alkaline Trio have matured along with their fanbase. Compared to their first release in 1999, Goddamnit, you can hear that their foundation is fixed in the fundamentals of ’90s punk—they’re just as edgy as the early days, but with a little more refinement. While overall, the tone of this collection doesn’t scream ’90s-punk revival and leans more toward alternative-radio punk—there’s a lingering presence of the Goddamnit days on Is This Thing Cursed? This progression reminds me a lot of what Blink-182 did, dare I say it. The only difference is that I think Alkaline Trio, while polished up, still haven’t (completely) uprooted their foundations in punk. They recognize their origins, and instead of rebranding themselves for a new audience, they grow alongside the one they already have. While there’s a bit more radio-friendliness throughout this album, there’s no denying that it’s still jammable. Even at their most mainstream moments on this album—such as “I Can’t Believe,” and the title track—Alkaline Trio still put their original, untampered-with signature on them. –Zaina Abujebarah

Jaron Yancey | Smoke Up Johnny | Psyche Lake City

Jaron Yancey
Smoke Up Johnny

Psych Lake City Records
Street: 03.15
Jaron Yancey = Grateful Dead + Eric Clapton + The Brian Jonestown Massacre

As expected, Jaron Yancey’s most recent solo release is nothing short of a hazy, bluesy modern take on a retro sound. All of the signature elements he brought to his former band Spirit Tribe, are highlighted in each song lyrically and melodically. His vocals are rich and dark, hiding behind the riffs, dry drum beats, keys and sweet Western harmonicas that tie each piece together by filling in any gaps left from Yancey’s guitar playing in the spotlight.

Melodically the album is a series of highs and lows which keeps the interest up within each song. By switching between acoustic and electric, Yancey pieces together an album that can suit any mood. “All For Show (Didn’t You Know),” the fifth track on the album, is a mostly acoustic jam with electric melodies woven in to add Yancey’s signature flair and guest vocals from Kiley Walter. Her subtle delivery comfortably rests within each strum, and is reminiscent of Nico from The Velvet Underground. It’s an absolutely beautiful song without all the bells and whistles.

Yancey’s sound has matured and grown since the days of Spirit Tribe. It’s obvious that Yancey has developed a sound that’s completely his own by mixing the blues, classic rock n’ roll and psychedelic rock together. The lyrics are so simple, straight to the point and remind me of what I would hear when putting on an album from the ‘60s or ‘70s. He adopted a vintage persona as well as a vintage sound, and it works incredibly well for him and his craft. Smoke Up Johnny is another head-nodder and hip-swayer in Yancey’s repertoire, and I can’t wait to hear what other sexy jams he has to offer. Zaina Abujebarah