Saturday, March 25, 2017

Roadcase Royale - Get Loud


Roadcase Royale - Get Loud 


The stylishness and deceptive simplicity of Roadcase Royale’s first single, “Get Loud”, is a by-product of the principals involved and their considerable talents. The experience that guitarist Nancy Wilson of Heart and vocalist Liv Warfield bring to the table is also a critical factor in its success – with a top flight band accompanying them, this savvy musician and singer are able to steer this song to its fullest potential. Wilson and Warfield are accompanied by Heart’s veteran members Chris Joyner (keyboards), Dan Rothchild (bass), and drummer Ben Smith. Warfield brings her musical director and lead guitarist Ryan Waters into the fold for good measure and the six members of Roadcase Royale enjoy an immediate chemistry that goes far past Wilson’s familiarity with many of the members. Instead, this lineup and first single seem to be the results of an inspired masterstroke – rarely do musicians with such sympathetic interplay establish chemistry so quickly, but the majority of Heart and Warfield’s contribution mesh together quite nicely.  

Liv Warfield’s tenure with Prince and her long critically acclaimed career as an R&B singer doesn’t mean she sounds out of place on a track with decided rock leanings. Instead, she rises to whatever challenge this poses and gives over everything she’s got to making this performance work. The phrasing she employs is quite impressive – few lines move her in the exact same way and this variation in her approach makes this a lively vocal experience from the first. She shows fantastic timing as well – Warfield knows exactly when to come in, when to bow out, and the technical artistry she demonstrates throughout the track is, likewise, accompanied by tremendous passion. She reaches the peak of her performance during the song’s fine chorus. 

The music matches her passion and artistry. Experienced musicians like these know that what you play isn’t nearly as important as what you don’t play – to that end, “Get Loud” benefits from the right amount of space in its arrangement and orchestrates a comfortable weave of energy. The guitar work sparks the song further. Waters never overdoes his position as lead guitarist and the addition of acoustic guitar is a strong touch that adds much to the song. It’s the perfect musical environment for the song’s lyrics to flourish.  The arrangement pushes the inspired lyrical message with just the right level of brightness, the right tempo, and the musicians fix in on what each other is doing while remaining fluid and steady all the while. The rhythm section of Rothchild and Smith deserve particular note for the seemingly effortless swing they strike during the verses that really gives Warfield a hook to hang her killer vocals on. From the first seconds to the last, “Get Loud” is a winner. Some musicians just distinguish everything they touch. Nancy Wilson’s long and decorated career with Heart has proven her a consistent bet for great new material and she’s surrounded herself with a bevy of similarly talented musicians in Roadcase Royale. 


Dale Butcher

Monday, March 20, 2017

Leah Capelle - Joshua


Leah Capelle - Joshua 


The second EP release from Chicago headquartered singer/songwriter Leah Capelle, Joshua, is a luminous gem-sized marvel. This three song outing finds Capelle further refining the qualities distinguishing her first release and often evolving in deeper, emotionally resonate ways. The top flight production job on the album presents these songs in the best possible sonic light and does an excellent job placing Capelle’s compelling voice against these musical landscapes. While many three song EP’s might feel or seem a little slight in terms of what they offer their intended audience, Joshua never lacks for emotional and musical heft. Capelle doesn’t restrict herself to a narrow range of musical textures; instead, this brief release manages to touch on an impressive variety of sounds without ever sounding like it is losing its way somehow. Capelle, however, remains at the center of it all and her voice defines every performance with its combination of technical savvy and emotional depth. 

Both of those aforementioned attributes are on display with the EP’s first song. Capelle’s title song is a glorious stew of insightful lyrical observation, stunning details, and an investment of feeling few contemporary singers can hope to match. She is a breathlessly fine interpreter of her own writing, but she’s equally a magnificent singer who gets the most she can from a musical arrangement. She entwines her vocal with what the players offer up and their lockstep chemistry makes this a memorable listening experience. She keeps things gracefully brief as a songwriter, but it’s so skillfully handled that these relatively brief compositions don’t feel restricted in any way by their length. Instead, it’s a testament to her talents that she’s been able to condense such complex experiences on deceptively limited canvases. The EP’s second track “Out Now” has a much more deliberate sounding musical arrangement but hangs together quite well. The lyrics and tenderness of Capelle’s vocal certainly suggest a much more overtly personal air than the first track, which has a subject outside of the songwriter, but even the suggestion of this rather than the reality shows an artistry few performers possess and even fewer still capitalize on so effectively. Her deft ability as a singer to alternate between intimacy and open-hearted inspiration is put to its best use on this track as well. Much like the opener, “Out Now” doesn’t run on too long, but it manages to suggest and present much more in its allotted time than what you might presuppose as a listener. 

Joshua concludes with the rockier strains of “Who I Am”. This is a heel stomping rock and roll number with some country-like elements thrown in for good measure, but nothing is ever handled cheaply here. This is handled, instead, with the same immeasurable sincerity and passion defining the preceding songs and feels consciously, but never clumsily, fashioned as a closing number. There’s no question, as well, that these songs are built for the stage and probably no single track embodies that better than the final song. Joshua is a stunning success for this singer/songwriter and shows evidence there’s no appreciable end to the promise she shows.  


9 out of 10 stars   

Montey Zike

Kanisha K - Bet on Me


Kanisha K - Bet on Me 


Producer Joe Vulpis, known for his work with Lady Gaga among others, has shepherded Michigan born Kanisha K to another rousing musical success with her latest release “Bet on Me”. This condensed, sharply composed single, co-written by Kanisha and Vulpis, is an ideal new offering for Kanisha’s career at this point. It smacks of the personal while still offering up a compelling musical and vocal experience for any listeners who encounter her work. Kanisha, since her debut, has made a reputation for herself as a purveyor of top shelf pop music that doesn’t pander to its audience but, instead, shows enough vision to straddle the demands of connecting with listeners while still remaining hidebound to self-expression. It’s an impressive achievement from anyone, but particularly so from a young performer like Kanisha whose career trajectory is in the ascent, because of its self-assurance and the seamless presentation. She proves herself to be a heavyweight singing talent with this track. 

Vulpis really does an exceptional job setting this song up for Kanisha to get the most out of it. It begins in an understated fashion, but the full band soon enters the picture with the sort of significance and consideration that the song deserves. There’s a lot of ways you can take this song, but the backing musicians make a clear effort to complement her vocal and lyric with an equally emotive backing track. Their efforts are spellbindingly successful. There’s real warmth and passion oozing from the musicians and they hit all their marks at just the right point without ever lapsing into self-indulgent displays of their virtuosity. Instead, they serve the song first and foremost with the right amount of discernment and artistry. They have multiple chances, however, to add their own creativity along the way and the performance greatly benefits from those instances when they choose to seize the opportunities it presents.  

There’s a lot of opportunities presented by the lyric and vocal alike. Kanisha’s writing has outstanding clarity and never goes in for wordiness when it can accomplish the same goals with as few words as possible. Not all singer/songwriters understand the balance a good lyric should strike with all of its surrounding elements, but even a cursory listen to “Bet on Me” demonstrates that Kanisha K understands this quite well. Her vocals are perfect for the song. It isn’t long after listening to this that you’ll convince yourself, yes, this is a person everyone should be willing to take a chance on and the biggest reason for that is her obvious devotion to nailing this song without any room for error. There are no errors or missteps. Instead, Kanisha shows a luxurious, sure footed confidence throughout the track that makes the most of its promise and frequently reaches rousing heights. “Bet on Me” is, without question, Kanisha K’s best single yet. This is the sort of quality track capable of transforming a performer’s career and it’s likely to win her an abundance of new fans.  


Scott Wigley

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Angie and the Deserters – Stay


Angie and the Deserters – Stay 


Angie and the Deserters’ new single, “Stay”, further illustrates the strength of the band’s EP release You. This intelligently written and elegiac number has the sort of instrumental excellence we’ve been led to expect from this singer and collection of musician alongside the same emotive energy defining everything they touch. The center of everything, of course, is Angie Bruyere’s vocals. This is the sort of singing you are born with and can never teach. Bruyere’s voice wrings every drop of yearning in the lyric and fills the lines with tangible, down-on-her-heels gravitas. She has the sharp instincts for never over singing Instead, Bruyere reveals herself once again as a vocalist who mightily labors to bring her singing in accord with the musical arrangement so that the final seamless effect makes for an even more complete song. “Stay” has the sort of production that brings all of these intangibles into an impressive work of musical and vocal art. 

The artful touch with this song is evident from the first seconds on. It begins with a bit of a flourish courtesy of acoustic guitar and mandolin, but fiddle soon rises from the mix and establishes itself as the song’s dominant instrument outside of Bruyere’s singing. It weaves a delicate path across the face of the song and meshes in quite well with the straight-ahead nature of the remaining instrumental work. “Stay” conjures a lot of magic with a relatively limited sonic palate, but it is so gently threaded together that it might elude some listeners just how difficult it is to bring off such an intimate feel. Each of the players must be attentive and tuned in with their musical partners; there’s little question that Angie Bruyere and her band clear that bar with ample room to spare.  

Her voice works quite well with the instruments. Rather than singing against the playing and trying to create some dramatic tension, Bruyere wisely opts to bring the vocal melody and her phrasing completely in line with the band’s playing. The violin parts, in particular, match up with her extraordinarily well and make for a formidable musical pairing. Another critical factor in whether this song lives or dies on the vine is when she chooses to sing and let silence or the music speak for her instead. Her choices in this area never miss on “Stay”. She takes advantage of every musical high point and treats the song’s valleys with the same astute judgment. It creates a total listening experience for her audience and never over-indulges to flatter the performer’s ego.  “Stay” is one of the best tracks from an EP that exhibits more talent in a restricted space than even most long time musical veterans can dream of. Releasing this as a single isn’t representative of the assortment of styles she calls on to make the EP so satisfying, but it is representative of her finesse and spirit. This is a song that will grow on you more and more with each new listen.  


Shannon Cowden

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Spider Accomplice


The Spider Accomplice - Los Angeles: The Abduction 


The Spider Accomplice is a three piece rock band featuring the talents of VK Lynne on vocals, Arno Nurmisto on guitar, and Justin Lee Dixon on drums and vocal percussion. Their latest six song EP release Los Angeles: The Abduction is the second release in their Los Angeles Trilogy and accelerates their development as one of the superb rising rock acts today thanks to its stunning combination of melody, forceful rock posturing, unexpected rhythms, and dynamic arrangements that aren’t afraid to surprise the audience or subvert their expectations in order to further enliven the songwriting and performances. Few bands can claim to be as imaginative in the modern rock world and their appeal crosses across non-existent distinctions between mainstream and indie musical scenes. This is a collection sure to find favor, as well, with traditional rock fans and those who adhere to a much more modern sound.

The first track on the EP “Bromlaid” will strike some listeners as being some powerful hybrid of hard rock and orchestral pop. Melody is never in short supply on Los Angeles: The Abduction, but neither is the band’s capacity for twisting nominally ordinary song structures into something fierce and refreshingly original. “Messy Vampire” is the EP’s first real example of the hard rock excellence the band is capable of mustering with seemingly little effort. Lynne gives her vocal a ton of bite to complement the song without ever trying to outsize the band. Great singers sing along with the music, rather than against it, and she does that here with startling results. “Behold the Day” goes in an equally imaginative direction both musically and lyrically with some stunning and evocative guitar work and Lynne complements it with an exceptional vocal that further illustrates the aforementioned point about her vocal style. One of the album’s best tracks, “You Still Lie”, has been tapped as an EP single and it’s easy to hear why. It kicks off with a brief and lively simmer before springing to even greater life with one of the album’s most authoritative rock arrangements. Drummer Justin Lee Dixon deserves particular mention here for his powerful drumming.  

“Going Over” seems almost ballad-like, but The Spider Accomplice thankfully never succumbs to the standard clich├ęs and tropes inherent to the form. There’s some surprising acoustic textures on this track that offer up an interesting, but wholly consistent, variation on the form. Lynne shows her vocal flexibility here with a deeply felt vocal. The last song on the EP, “Hollywood Hotel”, easily outstrips the earlier “Messy Vampire” as the biggest rock track on Los Angeles: The Abduction and powers through thanks to its blood-drawing guitar lines and a full throated vocal from Lynne. There are few releases you will likely hear in 2017 with this range and that’s high praise considering the brevity of the EP. The Spider Accomplice bring considerable skill and imagination to everything they do and the end result doesn’t have an appeal merely confined to rock fans – this is bracing music that can be appreciated by all. 

9 out of 10 stars


Dale Butcher

Friday, March 10, 2017

Kirbie – Human

Kirbie – Human 


The first single from Melon Soup, “Human”, brings another creative high for its composer and performer Kirbie. Kirbie Rose Parker is based out of the Washington D.C. area and has been working at her art for the last nine years in an effort to build and expand on her audience. The discipline and hard work required have paid off with a fully integrated effort that works both musically and lyrically. The production highlights her highly individual blend of multiple genres and lays a thoughtful songwriting sensibility over it all that never panders to her target audience. One never gets the sense that Kirbie is confining herself to a narrow swath of the listening public. Instead, “Human” seems aimed for anyone who’s experienced their own frailty and consistently asks the big questions that each of us seeks answers for over the course of our lives. This immensely relatable subject matter and the fine musical accompaniment make this performance a winner from the outset. 

Everything begins, however, with Kirbie’s vocal. She comes in early and stamps her presence deep into the song with warm, even sultry, phrasing capable of tempering the thorniest patches. Her voice is tailor made for the musical backing and dovetails well into the interplay between the drumming and keyboard work while still maintaining her position as the song’s guiding musical force. Kirbie further distinguishes herself for being a vocalist that pays close attention to the material – rather than juxtaposing her voice against the song, she wants to play with the musicians and use her voice as it’s intended. She has a marvelous musical instrument, natural, with her voice alone. It’s lovely, as well, to hear how her voice picks up and relaxes with the various swells of emotion punctuating the lyric content. Kirbie is a clear and lucid writer who examines themes with a minimum amount of verbiage. Much like the musical backing, there isn’t a single wasted or extraneous word in the song’s text and Kirbie makes as much as she can of its brevity.  

The same focus is in play through the music. There’s a small plethora of instruments used to fully flesh out “Human”, but they are expertly tied together in a melodic and highly musical dance that captures the listener’s attention and never lets go. The atmospheric opening, wide swinging drums with some tasty echo laid over their sound, sets an early tone and nothing that follows indicates this interest in finding a strong groove is misplaced. “Human” has a deep groove, but the melodic virtues mentioned earlier gives the groove more meaning than it might otherwise possess. The easy movement of the song suggests the performance is captured live to recording, but even if this isn’t true, the fact they exhibit such chemistry despite overdubbing suggests that this will be an amazing live performance. Kirbie Rose Parker’s second album promises to far outstrip the merits of her first impressive effort and the opening single brings that promise into sharp focus.   


Shannon Cowden

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Flashpot Moments - s/t


The Flashpot Moments - s/t 


Tim Cawley, the musical force behind this project, is a one man songwriting factory on this release. He has a number of top flight musicians working with him on The Flashpot Moments’ eleven songs, but he’s the beating heart of the project and emerges from this release as one of the most compellingly talented figures in this genre at an indie or mainstream level. His mastery of the melodic hard rock form is total and it never comes off as sophomoric or shallow. This is a genre with some standard tropes, for sure, but Cawley’s songwriting and the gusto pushing his performances never cheapens these elements and, instead, reinvigorates them with the sheer force of his personality. This long-simmering project comes off not because it panders to the listeners. Instead, The Flashpot Moments works because it is unfailingly honest and doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t.  

“Places Unknown” is the anthemic curtain opener than Cawley undoubtedly hopes it is. He mixes up the musical approach enough to keep you listening, but getting the audience on its feet is the clear motivation here and he hits all the right notes to pull that off. The production brings these songs roaring out of your speakers, but there’s a warm intimacy in the sonic approach that never overwhelms you. “Strangers Dance” is a perfect example of that ideal. The pairing of guitars and keyboards on this gets its great melody off the ground from the start and listeners who move along with the piece will universally enjoy themselves. The two tracks “’Splode (The Party Prelude)” and “Abigail, Mispronounced (The Party Aftermath)” tell a story with varying tempos and textures invariably centered on the same sort of guitar work filling the remaining nine songs, but there’s much more of an unified vocal presentation between the two songs than you might find on the other tracks, or at least different. 

The album’s second half embraces more of a hard rock vibe than the first. “The Learning Curve” and “Hands Up!” are packed with a lot of explosive guitar and comes blasting out of the speakers with rambunctious energy that’s impossible to ignore, but there’s an even harder edge on the second tune that will impress fans of rough and ready guitar. “Satisfaction Isn’t” looks more back to the melodic end of the spectrum, but track “Can’t Wait To Find Out” strikes the best balance between melodic and hard rock on the album despite coming in relatively late. The unhappiness of the lyric is a late surprise, as well, but the song is never a drag thanks to the immensely engaging vocal from Cawley. The album closes with a big number, “The Last Stand”, far longer than anything that’s come before it, but Cawley handles the extended running time with every bit of the same absence of self-indulgence and the vivid spirit filling the album’s earlier songs. This is one of the best debuts in recent memory. The Flashpot Moments doesn’t content itself with imitating a style; it takes an established musical style, instead, and claims it as its own, as if they are the first to do it.  

9 out of 10 stars 


Dale Butcher

Friday, March 3, 2017

Jeremy Poland & Lantz Dale - Timeless Soul


Jeremy Poland & Lantz Dale - Timeless Soul 


Timeless Soul, the first studio release from the duo of Jeremy Poland and Lantz Dale, is the natural culmination of a 2016 touring schedule that saw these two superb young musicians logging in excess of a hundred live performances. These performances gave them a chance to expand on the dialogue they’d first established when working together on Jeremy Poland’s first album Southbound Heart. They forgo the electric guitars on this seven song release in favor of acoustic, but the songwriting still surges with a vital rock and roll spirit while retaining many of the pop leanings associated with the career trajectories of both musicians, but Poland in particular. The band uses a drummer and some other surprising instrumentation to help realize the potential of some songs, but this is largely an artistic enterprise shepherded and brought to completion by Poland and Dale’s talents alone. It makes for one of the year’s most satisfying new releases.  

Its ability to connect with its intended audience is obvious from the first. “All Yours Now” doesn’t come romping over the listener, but it’s enthusiasm is pretty infectious by the time it hits its chorus and the bright bounce never relents in those moments. They’ve found quite a lovely way of presenting the acoustic guitar work on this album without ever neutering the spirit they want the music to have. The exuberant energy level gets dialed back some with the second track “In The Light”. The percussion touches on this performance are unobtrusively artful, never calling too much attention to themselves, and echo in listener’s consciousness as the song moves  towards its inevitable conclusion. The seamless blend of Poland and Dale’s talents are illustrated throughout the entirety of Timeless Soul and it’s through studying the contrasting characteristics of its tracks that the full artistry of their teaming is revealed. Few songs show it off more clearly than “I’m A Wreck”. This is a startling blunt confessional type of tune that none of its predecessors prepare listeners for and, sensing this perhaps, the lyrics are wrapped inside a soft, warm musical landscape that comforts the listener rather than doubling down on the lyrical despair.  

“Where Did It Go?” has much more overt rock and roll spirit than the release’s opener, but the chorus remains tethered to a strong pop influence without ever sound slick or cheap. “Sunday Afternoon”, in some ways, is reminiscent of “In the Light” during its pensive opening, but Poland and Dale quickly pick up the song’s intensity in just the right amount and turn it into one of the breezier musical tracks on this album. The title song closes things up with a resounding personal statement that, nevertheless, has the good sense to never overreach either musically or lyrically. This is one of the more impressive efforts we are likely to hear in the indie scene this year and clearly merits wider attention. Both Jeremy Poland and Lantz Dale are memorably talented writers and performers who have that rare simpatico relationship where their individual talents, brought together, make an even greater whole.  

9 out of 10 stars 


Dale Butcher