Monday, February 18, 2019

The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina - Little King and the Salamander (demos)




When you take zany lyrics, spacey riffage and stylish, cosmopolitan drumming that owes as much to the old school jazz construct as it does contemporary experimental post-rock, you end up with Little King and the Salamander (demos), the masterpiece album from The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina, which is out now wherever independent music is available. Little King and the Salamander (demos) is, as its name implies, a demo anthology of unreleased material that the east coast three-piece developed in-studio, and it’s a golden moment for the band to put it mildly. “Jeepers Creepers,” “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina,” “Thinking of You” and “Together” are easily the most unruly and relentless sonic experimentations from the band to date, but alongside the other ten songs that make up the track listing, they bring us into the eye of the hurricane that is this profoundly engaging trio of musicians.

There’s a lot to be explored in Little King and the Salamander (demos), and it all starts with the folk songs “She’ll Do Anything,” “I’ll Be (Kisses at Your Door)” and the bristling balladry of “Fade into the Night.” The acoustic tracks are the cornerstone of this album’s charisma, and they pepper the contents of the record with a humble, accessible strain of folk-pop that is just as heavy and unforgettable as the more rock-centric songs like “Hey Everybody,” “Jeepers Creepers,” and the surreal “White Light and Lullabies.” Although it has a sprawling collection of different sounds for psychedelic aficionados to spend hours picking apart, the band included no filler nor throwaway tracks (a nice change of pace from what most so-called demo albums have to offer).

I’m halfway inclined to be skeptical as to whether or not some of these songs really are rough demonstrations of raw material, only because of how calculated a delivery they sport. Tracks like “Slip Away (Dreamin’ Again)” and “The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina” don’t sound like a band trying to find their groove and figure out the direction of a composition still in its infant stages of development; they sound like single-worthy powerhouses that could have just as easily made their way onto Act 3 in their present state of production. If any critics questioned whether or not The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina were firm in their style of attack prior to this album’s release, they’ve got a pretty assertive answer in these songs, which prove once and for all that this band is totally in touch with their creative direction and utilizing the full capacity of their collective talents.

For those of you who haven’t gotten into this group’s music yet, Little King and the Salamander (demos) offers the perfect segue into the universe of mind-bending psychedelia and folk balladry that The Merrymaker’s Orchestrina have singlehandedly conceived. Everything has been falling into place for this threesome to break into the mainstream American consciousness, and this record has a chance to bring the band a degree of international attention that their caliber of play demands and, quite honestly, deserves. They’re riding a wave of renewed interest in postmodernity to the top, and their latest LP ensures that they won’t be escaping the limelight anytime soon.


Joshua Beach

Friday, December 21, 2018

This Place by Angelo David




With “This Place,” the brand new single from buzzworthy pop singer Angelo David, the Boston-born vocalist invites us into his heart to stay and makes a strong case to support his high-ranking spot in the modern indie music hierarchy. “This Place” starts out simply enough with a fifteen second intro that is riddled with a mind-bender of a melody that unfolds into a club-style template for David to make his own. It doesn’t take long for him to sink his teeth into the words, which are reflective but suggest an optimism that is fleeting, if not almost too divine to be contained.

“This Place” lacks any of the aggression that has become commonplace in similarly designed indie pop songs, but that shouldn’t imply that it isn’t capable of delivering its signature grooves without a struggle. David takes his time building up a cinematic tone in the opening verses before totally coming undone in the chorus, which swings like a pendulum and careens into almost anything that gets in its path. The execution is spot-on and not rushed in the least; I get the idea that David knew exactly what he wanted to do with this single and made sure that every detail was up to par before giving it the okay for release.


The amount of care put into the production is more than evident even when taking a small glimpse at the meaty mix of the chorus. From the get-go these levels are clearly defined, but in the song’s climax we really feel the full force of the bass as it’s meant to be heard in a live setting. Overwhelming might be putting it mildly, and though the cranked volume comes out of nowhere and has no qualms with slapping us hard with a melodicism that is emotional and empowering, the transition is much smoother than one might expect.

Angelo David bears it all to us in “This Place,” and he doesn’t project even a hint of uneasiness in any portion of the track. His lyrics are steeped in soul-searching, at some points even feeling more like a diary entry than standard pop prose, and there’s never any question as to whether or not he’s being himself with us. He’s got no problem exposing his innermost thoughts to the world around him, which in itself is an inspiring quality for any person to have, but all the more essential when starting a serious career in pop music.

Whether you’re a hardcore Top 40 consumer or not is irrelevant when discussing “This Place” and the collective releases of Angelo David to date. His music is produced with top shelf technique that doesn’t exactly fall into every young singer’s lap, and through all of the excitement that he’s been creating with singles like this one and videos like the incredibly powerful “House is Burning Down” and “Mirror,” he’s maintained an candid, easygoing attitude that speaks volumes about his creative identity and barebones character. “This Place” is absolutely a worthy acquisition if you’re in the market for authentic grooves to start off 2019 with, and honestly I’m very eager to hear what David does with this awesome sound next.


Joshua Beach

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Davie Simmons feat. Andy Camp and Esa Lehti - Angel Lover Music



Davie Simmons feat. Andy Camp and Esa Lehti - Angel Lover Music 


Remember the first time that you fell in love? The quickening of your pulse, your heart flutters, and the calm you can't explain? The uncertainty of it all - will it last? Will it leave? Can you even trust that it's real? You don't even know it yet but your heart has already listened to “Angel Music Lover”, apparently. 
“Angel Music Lover “ is a timeless piece of incandescent music, a blend of too many genres to even try to explain to you, the listener, because it was meant for the ears and not for my words. You will have to stop reading, start caring, definitely start feeling, and let the rhythm take you away. But while we wait for your obvious decision in this Information Age to make the leap to Act 1 of the greatest story never told, how about a little background on the musical you won't be able to stop telling your friends about? Unless, of course, you're ready to just play the song and let the sounds take you away.
Once upon a time two kids had a dream to make it big in music, we've all been there. Who among us hasn't either been in a band during high school or pretended it one day out back in the parking lot with our friends’ music blaring? David Simmons and Andy Camp didn't just think it though, they tried to live it. The dream died, lost to the moment, forgotten about, and put away. Thankfully, however, anything written and not destroyed is never truly gone and recently old friends reunited, a former collaborator guitarist named Esa Lehti hopped on board, and a goldmine of Sixties poetry finally left the station. What we all received was a screenplay likely worth its weight in gold - Finding David. A tale of love lasting forever and the anxiety felt that it won't. Just like the fear of shooting for the sky and knowing you might come back down. 
The best way to introduce a musical is to let a promo video out into the world and that's exactly what the writers have done. “Angel Music Lover” hits on the notes of the power of love - asking if a flame can really burn blue for twenty years. None ever has for me, but the hope still lives. Love however resists the temptations of ego and regret and maybe, just maybe, any love is a worthwhile enough effort to expend the energy trying to get to that place of forever. We'll leave that up to the listener. The singers aren't even sure if you love them or the music. Simply let the melody tell the story while the words set the scene. A love that never stops, only slows to a trickle, but still continues to grow. Who wouldn't spend twenty years to understand something that true and real? And what person doesn't want to be loved that deeply that someone believes they're an impossible task? Feel all, let the regrets be taken away, and prepare for a musical like you've never heard before with David Simmons’ Finding David.

Joshua Beach

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Rob Alexander - “Long Road Coming Home” (single)


A percussive synth harmony seeps into the air like a thick fog, and before we know it we’re surrounded by providential sounds that are larger than life yet delivered unto us subtly. A palm muted guitar is barely audible but ominously wanders the outskirts of the synth, which is slowly getting bigger as we drift towards Rob Alexander’s exuberant vocal. His latest single “Long Road Coming Home” starts off patiently, but it doesn’t take very long for it to come undone from the gravity of Alexander’s rousing musicianship. “I find a gift to give you every day, and never look back at the years in between” he serenades, each word dripping with a honey-like melodicism that is instantly recognizable as unique and exclusive to his brand of adult contemporary pop alone.

With a kick of the drums, Alexander plainly informs us that though this road of life that we’re all traveling together is tough as nails and never getting any shorter than it is today, we’re going to have to press on if we have any hope of realizing who we really are when we’re at our most exposed. Home is where the heart is, and he’s willing to take us there if it means we all get a little closer together in the end. His voice echoes off of the percussion and melodies that are swirling relentlessly in the foreground, and it’s all too easy for us to get hypnotized by the harmony that is being conjured in the beautiful chaos that we’re witnessing firsthand.

Everything almost comes apart as we shift into the next stanza, but Alexander makes sure to reel us in from the fire before we get burned by the flames. Every note in “Long Road Coming Home” has its place, and even when the song starts to rock in the second chorus nothing ever escapes from where it was intended to sit. Rob Alexander is a very meticulous composer, and so far I haven’t found any of his music to be shapeless or off the wall in the least. As much as people say that today’s pop music fan demands elaborate songwriting that incorporates as many savage accents and twisted overdubs as possible, there’s something really satisfying about listening to a song like this one, which relies only on its self-conscious lyrics and literate textures to make fans fall in love with its grandeur.

“Long Road Coming Home” concludes in operatic fashion, fading into the ethers in a tizzy of bluesy guitar, symphonic synths and closing lyrics sung to us in a half-whisper. Devoid of the malevolent self-centeredness of the average pop single and packed with powerful melodies, ornate verses and a playful harmony that demands a reaction out of anyone within earshot, the fourth single from Rob Alexander’s debut album of the same name is yet another graceful effort from the Florida-based singer/songwriter, who is turning out to be one of 2018’s hidden treasures. Music enthusiasts who crave the soft rocking sway of traditional piano pop with the edge of modern adult contemporary would do well to give this song a spin.

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/long-road-coming-home/1348846070

Joshua Beach


The music of Rob Alexander has been heard all over the world due to the promotional services offered by Danie Cortese Entertainment & Publicity. Learn more here - http://www.daniecorteseent.com/

Monday, October 29, 2018

Abby Zotz - Local Honey




This generous, sunlit record left me feeling like a plant that had been watered. Abby Zotz’s Local Honey is a lot of things, but among those is an ideal listening experience for those times when misfortune seems to be bearing down from every side and heartache is a daily reality. It will pick you up out of the mire. It isn’t filled with cuddly sentiments or soft-pedaled clich├ęs and tropes, but the cumulative effect of this collection is to state, once more, that life has its difficulties, its ups and down, and it behooves us to bear them with whatever grace we can muster and turn our eyes towards moving on. The production for this album brings out every thread of color into sharp relief without every belaboring one aspect over another – balance is an obvious watchword and it pays off with a fully realized solo debut.

A strong sense of inspiration fills many of the songs and influences their energy. “Stability” is one such song and the album’s first. It kicks off Local Honey with some hard won, but enormously affectation sentiments gaining a lot from Zotz’s upper register emotion. She embodies the song’s emotional peaks with such detailed, measured simplicity that it cuts right through your defenses and draws blood. You have to know what instability is before you can write about recognizing some stabilizing force in your own life. The perhaps unexpected sound of an organ opens “Big Hope” and the song embraces a full band arrangement from the first. The spring in this song’s step gets a lot of its air time from the organ, a constant underlying presence in the song, and some electric guitar puts added teeth in the song.


Gospel is the guiding influence behind “Peace Sweet Peace”, but there’s no denying it has a jazzy tilt on it that may play unexpected for some. The spartan, well spaced arrangement gives Zotz ample room to work her magic. She captures our attention with a smokier vocal tone than previous songs, playing to the song’s bluesy roots, and the obvious dexterity of her voice is a marvel to me. The gently undulating pastoral sweep of “Good Bones” has an underrated commercial edge – this song wouldn’t be at all out of place on either retro or modern country radio. The vocals are exquisitely arranged.

“Be Here Now” is an ode of a sort to mindfulness and rates, in my mind, as one of the album’s best lyrics. Zotz has an unerring instinct for characterization coming through these words and the inevitable pay off with many of the verses has just the right amount of symmetry and unity. The song’s bridge and instrumental breaks neatly dovetail into the song as well. There’s a bubbling rhythm bringing “Sea Change” to life and Zotz’s voice has a spectral, almost ghostly aura. The same ghostliness runs though “All Through the Night” with an added dash of stately lyricism and vocal harmonies. “You’ll Never Know” ends Local Honey with another echo of jazz influences coming through the tune and the good natured gaze she casts vocally over the song’s bittersweet lyric makes it all the more appealing. Abby Zotz’s first appearance as a solo recording artist is the peak of her musical journey so far and stands to propel her art in a whole new direction.


Joshua Beach

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Blackmail Seduction - The Blackmail Seduction II




The Blackmail Seduction began their musical journey in Minneapolis, Minnesota and has since relocated to the Los Angeles area, but there’s a surprising amount of heartland influences making their way into band’s songwriting. The band’s second self-titled album, The Blackmail Seduction II, has an interesting mix of sounds and textures while maintaining its focus on well constructed tracks with a sharp lyrical bent. Lead vocalist Jess McClellan’s songwriting for The Blackmail Seduction has a strong autobiographical suggestiveness, but it’s well rounded enough to encompass an universality possessing across the board appeal. It’s quite a feat to balance clearly personal songwriting with mass market punch, but The Blackmail Seduction hits its mark with style time after time on this release.

“Dead Girl” builds to a steady boil, but The Blackmail Seduction keeps a firm grip on the reins throughout the song and never overplay. Newcomers to the band’s sound and songwriting will note how, despite McClellan’s songwriting dominance over the band’s material, they never fail to play as a cohesive unit. Newcomers will also gravitate towards McClellan’s emotionally powerful voice. Despite the emotiveness of his singing, he has an edgy rock tone in his voice that helps give it the right amount of attitude. “Tell the World” takes that to the next level with a forceful rock sound quite unlike anything else on The Blackmail Seduction II. Troy Hardy and McClellan’s guitar playing comes together better on this song, arguably, than anywhere else on the release and even unveil a double guitar attack different than anything else on the release.

“She’s Leaving Home” has a much more pensive demeanor than the preceding song and brings new sounds into the band’s identity, but the most striking aspect of the song for me comes across in the stately pace set rock in the song. There’s ample melodicism as well and the backing vocals during the song are critical to the song’s success. “Visiting Hours” shows us another turn in the band’s musical personality and has a more muted air than any of the aforementioned songs including “She’s Leaving Home”. I’m especially impressed by McClellan’s singing during this song – one can easily assume this song is ripped from the pages of his autobiography, but it isn’t difficult to relate to this song. He really lays it on the line with this track and it’s an invigorating listening experience.

The Blackmail Seduction has an uphill climb in the modern musical landscape, but I remain a believer that sincerity can still carry the day for listeners. You can’t help but respond to their obvious investment in these songs and there’s never any sense of the music or sentiments feeling forced. Instead, The Blackmail Seduction II hums from the first and doesn’t have a single apparent lull. It’s a more than worthy successor to the band’s debut and sets them on a course for even greater success in the future. Jess McClellan and his cohorts are poised for great things on the back of genuine talent.

Joshua Beach

Monday, October 8, 2018

Del Suelo - The Musician’s Compass: A 12 Step Programme




Del Suelo’s inspired musicality will hook you in from the first. The Musician’s Compass: a 12 Step Programme opens with the tune “Second Encore” and Suelo, a stage name for Erik Mehlsen, introduces the story of a traveling band’s day with intelligence and accessibility. The songwriting isn’t above embracing an array of influences but, rather than attempting to ape them, Mehlsen’s playing excellence infuses them with a distinctive melodic touch and wrings further changes to familiar sounds and themes. “Pack Rats” is a single release from The Musician’s Compass: a 12 Step Programme and a fun music video accompanies it, but it’s glossy and skillfully presented window dressing for one of the leading musical performances found on this studio album. Mehlsen boasts chops galore, obviously, but any technique he draws on informs, rather than interferes, with his ability to connect with listeners.

There’s a certain wry appraisal of character reflected in how Mehlsen cops so many twists on popular song and album titles for tracks on this album. The punk nod of “Berlin Calling” promises something Clash-like and Mehlsen delivers, in his own idiosyncratic fashion, while also advancing the album’s narrative. It would likely prove an interesting experience to read the accompanying novel of the same title, likewise written by Mehlsen, while listening to the album, but there’s no question the songwriting accomplishes much. “A Lust Supreme” expands further on this feeling and sweeps listeners up into its late night metropolitan swirl. Another standout chorus is the key hook for “A Lust Supreme” and creative keyboard work flashing like quicksilver over the drumming keeps things moving at a satisfying, measured rate.

“Nightstream” is, at first, a study in sonic contrast as its opening wash of white noise, akin to a raucous crowd, transforms into the album’s most meditative, pensive moment. There is a palpable pastoral shading coloring “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”and the consistency of Mehlsen’s approach to the vocals begins to pay off huge by this juncture as it continues strengthening an unified sound few artists of any stature can claim. Mehlsen, track after track, inhabits these songs with a rare combination of melodic presence and emotional rigor – he doesn’t spare anything plumbing the depths of “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” and the post production effects applied to his voice only enrich the overall effect.

Those melodic talents continue shining through on “Caress of Steel Wheels”. It’s a smart, well-written tune with another of The Musician’s Compass’ first rate choruses. He really throws himself into this one and reaches soulful peaks that make this one of the album’s best tunes. I can’t really say enough about the drumming for this release – the production never fails surrounding each beat with clarity and snap that sets a sharp tone for the song. The habit of five star choruses continues with “Enter the Tempel” and it’s one of a handful of moments on this sophomore release when Mehlsen’s singing is so good and evocative you forget he’s so young comparatively young and such a virtuoso musician as well. It’s likely a seldom discussed facet of his skill set, but the vocal performances on The Musician’s Compass: a 12 Step Programme is nothing short of breathtaking.  The album peaks in a breathtaking way with the extended tune “Darn that Dream/Stairway to Eleven”, a song that gives us a sense of his main character’s regret without ever belaboring the despair. There’s nuance and depth in everything Del Suelo does on this release; it’s really nothing less than a modern classic.


Joshua Beach