Album Review: DOWNGIRL – Manic EP

In the turbulent ether of contemporary punk emerges the fierce femme-punk quartet, DOWNGIRL, with their vehemently awaited debut EP, ‘Manic’. This auditory manifesto, available on vinyl from September 22, is a raw, unbridled foray into societal diatribes and internal chaos, the band’s audacious ethos unraveling through eight relentless tracks.

‘Manic’ is a sonic kaleidoscope, pulsating with elements reminiscent of the ‘90s riot grrrls and contemporary nu-punk. It is a tempest of raw emotion, the band’s unrelenting dedication crafting an expanse where audacious rock commingles with provoking narratives. From the onset, the EP thrusts listeners into the tumultuous cosmos of ‘Fiend’, a grunge-infused concoction reflecting the intoxicatingly destructive allure of problematic love, setting the stage for a journey through profound emotional and societal landscapes.

Each track is a piece of the chaotic puzzle, embodying the manifold faces of DOWNGIRL’s intricate sonic identity. The title track, ‘Manic’, resonates as an emotional crescendo, a concoction of potent riffs and thunderous drumming echoing the escalating emotive tensions inherent in the lyrics. The frenzied euphoria of the noise-filled chorus leaves a lingering sensation, reminiscent of a sweet yet biting spiciness, a reflection of each band member’s soulful contributions.

The narrative continues to unravel through ‘Body’, a haunting portrayal of alcohol abuse and its resultant torment, seamlessly transitioning to ‘Beauty Queen’, characterized by a frenetic wall of noise. ‘Democracy Manifest’ serves as the instrumental interlude, capturing the juxtaposition of overwhelming unease and confident façade, preparing the auditory terrain for the politically charged dimensions of ‘2006’.

DOWNGIRL’s uncompromising exploration of societal norms and controversial realities reaches a poignant climax in ‘Boys’, the lead single interweaving ominous basslines, rolling drums, and overdriven guitar stabs, with Alexandra Neville’s powerful vocals and biting lyrics elucidating the contentious societal paradigms. ‘Malibu Stacy’, the concluding track, embodies the quintessence of thrash punk, marking the culmination of a journey through unrelenting punk fury.

Each of the eight tracks is a fragment of DOWNGIRL’s ruthless punk manifesto, a relentless pursuit of societal confrontation and self-reflection. ‘Manic’ epitomizes the essence of a band forging their path through the turbulent terrain of contemporary punk, maintaining an unyielding spirit and fierce individuality.

Lou Harbidge’s words elucidate the EP’s foundational essence as a diary encapsulating the band’s evolution from physical separation to omnipresent unity. ‘Manic’ encapsulates the turbulent infancy of DOWNGIRL, an unapologetic blend of sound that resonates as a metaphorical sonic riot, an unrestrained release of inner demons. The band’s transformation, delineated through their journey from the isolation of bedroom beginnings to pervasive proximity, echoes in every note, intertwining the individual and collective in a symbiotic dance.

The meticulous interweaving of the profound and the personal characterizes the ‘Manic’ EP. Each track, from ‘Fiend’s exploration of turbulent relationships to ‘2006’s raw political narratives, serves as a vivid tableau reflecting the intricate tapestry of human existence. ‘Manic’ is not merely a musical entity but a living, breathing philosophical exploration, a reflection of the inner and outer chaos inherent in human experience.

DOWNGIRL’s potency lies in their ability to embed profound social commentary within their music, their relentless dedication crafting narratives that reflect both the individual and collective psyche. The unrelenting punk ethos and dominant sound that characterize DOWNGIRL resonate in each track, crafting a multi-dimensional musical realm where the personal and societal intermingle, reflecting the diverse facets of human experience.

The EP’s visceral impact is heightened by its meticulous construction, the seamless fusion of raw emotions, and uncompromising confidence constructing a sonic entity that is both reflective and transcendental. Each track serves as a mirror reflecting the multifaceted dimensions of human experience, from the emotional turbulence of ‘Fiend’ to the societal reflections of ‘2006’ and ‘Boys’, ‘Manic’ stands as a testament to DOWNGIRL’s relentless pursuit of musical and philosophical exploration.

In conclusion, DOWNGIRL’s ‘Manic’ EP stands as a monumental contribution to the contemporary punk landscape, a relentless exploration of societal issues and personal struggles, all encapsulated within a fiercely individualistic musical realm. It invites listeners to a journey through the chaotic and the profound, the known and the unknown, offering a fleeting glimpse into the boundless dimensions of human existence. The release of ‘Manic’ marks a pivotal moment in the musical cosmos, etching DOWNGIRL’s fierce punk ethos and relentless spirit in the eternal symphony of the universe.

Album Review: Chief Broom – “hidden in plain sight”

From the vast, hauntingly ethereal landscapes of Idaho comes a debut that is as dense and compelling as the band’s rich history. CHIEF BROOM, hailing from Boise and led by multi-instrumentalist Shadrach Tuck, have sculpted an oeuvre that is at once devastatingly personal yet widely resonant in its debut album, “hidden in plain sight”, which you can order on vinyl from their Bandcamp.

The prologue “snuff” offers a subdued yet foreshadowing entry into the album’s intricate world. An immediate sense of weightiness pervades, leading us into the titular “hidden in plain sight (walked away)”, where listeners encounter a heavy-hitting blend of melancholic melodies reminiscent of Nirvana, combined with the enigmatic touch of Interpol. But CHIEF BROOM has something uniquely their own; it’s a rawness, a vulnerability that pervades each note.

By the time we get to the single “DFAH”, there’s a perceptible evolution in the record. It stands out not just for its compelling instrumentation, but for how it encapsulates the band’s overarching narrative. The intertwined histories of TJ Tuck’s profound impact, the Boise music scene, and the indomitable spirit of the band are all palpable here.

“if only” comes across as a melancholic, contemplative piece, drawing parallels to the contemplative rhythms of Low. Followed by “suspended in air (interlude)”, the album continues its journey, grounding us with familiar themes before launching us into the deeply introspective “bless my ignorance (outskirts)”. The emotional depth of this track, coupled with the poignant narrative of navigating friendships, addiction, and conflict, delivers a powerful punch.

By the time “saved(?)” begins, we are thoroughly steeped in CHIEF BROOM’s universe. This track is a testament to the album’s duality; while dealing with themes of trauma and pain, there’s an unmistakable undertone of hope and recovery. This is followed by “if only (reprise)”, a track that cleverly revisits and recontextualizes themes from earlier in the album, taking listeners on a circular journey, leading into the poignant “leaks (epilogue) [bonus]”. The album then rounds off with the reprisal of “DFAH”, a track that in its second rendering feels even more familiar and powerful.

Truly, this isn’t just an album; it’s an intimate insight into a journey of two brothers growing up in a changing world. The raw emotional gravitas of the album is further amplified by the tragic loss of TJ Tuck, a profound pillar of the Boise music scene. It’s evident that “hidden in plain sight” serves as both an homage to TJ and as a testament to CHIEF BROOM’s journey. The record reverberates with TJ’s drumming, his artistic vision, and snippets from the brothers’ childhood. It’s as if he’s right there with us, as we navigate this beautifully crafted soundscape.

An additional layer of depth is added knowing that the album was recorded in their childhood home and was then meticulously crafted by their father Terre Tuck, making it truly a family endeavor. The production expertise of Sonny DiPerri and Adam Gonalves adds polish without sacrificing authenticity, giving the project a sheen that elevates the already potent emotional experience.

Choosing to release the album on TJ Tuck’s birthday, September 29th, is a touching tribute, further solidifying the project’s intimate core. For those in Boise, the album release show promises to be an electric experience, a culmination of the band’s long journey to this pivotal point.

Drawing from the atmospheric alt-rock sounds of Built to Spill and the gritty intensity of bands like Codeine and Nirvana, CHIEF BROOM crafts a sonic palette that is uniquely their own. The ensemble of Shadrach Tuck, Will Cheeseman, Frankie Tillo, and the contributing cast gives life to a project that feels bigger than any one member. Every guitar riff, drum beat, and vocal harmony encapsulates the essence of their collective spirit.

In a world filled with fleeting digital moments, “hidden in plain sight” reminds us of the profound beauty of albums that demand our full attention. It’s a journey that requires listeners to sit down, listen, and truly feel. CHIEF BROOM has delivered a project that resonates with the deep echoes of personal history, pain, growth, and acceptance. It’s a debut that promises a bright future for the band and leaves listeners eagerly anticipating what they’ll do next. Don’t forget to get your vinyl from Mishap Records so you can listen to CHIEF BROOM the way it was intended.

Album Review: Diane & The Gentle Men – The Bad and the Beautiful

Diane Gentile’s latest album, ‘The Bad and the Beautiful,’ a tapestry of NYC rock ‘n’ roll and poignantly raw narratives, ventures into a realm marked by self-discovery and uninhibited expression. Released via Velvet Elk Records, the album is a sonorous voyage through the paradoxes of life, entwining the rebellious with the beautiful, rendering it a soulful symphony of timeless and transformative music. Amidst the pulsating rhythms and razor-sharp wordplay, the album stands as an ode to those who embrace their individuality, breaking boundaries and traversing life with a touch of tragic grandeur.

The album’s diversity is reflective of Diane’s expansive musical influences, ranging from the iconic vigor of David Bowie and The Rolling Stones to the literary brilliance of Henrik Ibsen and William Shakespeare. This eclectic concoction breathes life into songs that merge the raw energy of punk rock with the profound depths of classical literature, a symbiosis that imbues every track with an enduring resonance. This is exemplified in the multifaceted soundscapes of the album, from introspective folk-rock harmonies in “Dance ’til Dawn” to the gritty anthems of NYC, like “Shimmy” and “Sugarcane.”

The latest single, “Lace Up Your Sneakers,” is a riveting concoction of hauntingly pristine vocals and invigorating disco beats, vividly narrating a tale of an unrestrained slacker, punctuated by James Maddock’s complementary vocal and guitar harmonies. The music video for this track, filmed and directed by Dave Stekert, encapsulates the ethos of the album, blending vivid storytelling with captivating musical compositions. In an interview with thebigtakeover.com, Diane shared insights into the album title, elucidating her fascination with characters that embody a rebellious beauty, a nuanced blend of the “bad and the beautiful.” Drawing inspiration from figures like John Belushi, the album encapsulates stories of those with an insatiable zest for life, those who touch lives with their unbridled spirit and depth of character.

Each song on ‘The Bad and the Beautiful’ unveils a chapter of Diane’s journey, intertwined with her community of artistic eccentrics, echoing their stories, their struggles, and their undying zest for life. It’s a collection that mirrors the myriad facets of human existence, each track a reflection of life’s multifarious dimensions. From the poignant collaboration with Alejandro Escovedo on “Walk With Me” to the vibrantly rebellious “Kiss the Sky,” inspired by John Belushi, every note resonates with a harmonious dichotomy, a dance between the profound and the profane.

Diane’s narrative genius coupled with her quintessential NYC rock n’ roll flair renders the album a melodic tapestry of relatable human experiences. It’s a kaleidoscope of emotions, wherein each track is a color, a shade of human existence, painting a vivid picture of life’s beautiful chaos. The robust dynamism of Diane’s band, The Gentle Men, including Colin Brooks and Jason Victor, accentuates the lyrical profundity of the album, crafting a sonic aura that envelops listeners in a warm embrace, inviting them to explore their deepest selves.

‘The Bad and the Beautiful’ is more than a musical journey; it is a philosophical exploration, a dive into the ocean of human existence, resonating with the echoes of undying passion and ephemeral love. The album captures the essence of the unexplored terrains of the human soul, narrating tales of rebels, of dreamers, of those who dance on the edges of reality, living in the moment, embracing their transient existence. It’s a celebration of the indomitable human spirit, of the relentless pursuit of one’s essence amidst the ever-changing landscapes of life.

Diane Gentile captures NY sound like no one else.

The meticulous production by Merle Chornuk at Atomic Sound Studios elevates the album’s sonic experience, forging a seamless blend between the introspective lyrics and the captivating melodies. It’s a manifestation of Diane’s relentless pursuit of artistic excellence, reflecting her years of immersion in the vibrant tapestry of NYC’s musical heritage and her experiences sharing stages with legendary artists.

The journey of ‘The Bad and the Beautiful’ is akin to a walk through the labyrinth of human emotions, where each turn unravels a new layer of the soul, a new shade of existence. It’s a metaphysical odyssey, translating the inexpressible nuances of human experiences into the universal language of music, allowing the listeners to traverse their inner worlds, to dance in the shadows of their unexplored selves. It’s a rendezvous with the ephemeral beauty of existence, a harmonious embrace of the transient and the eternal.

In essence, Diane Gentile’s ‘The Bad and the Beautiful’ is a poetic symphony, a philosophical expedition through the meandering paths of life, filled with the whispers of the rebellious and the echoes of the sublime. It is a timeless piece of art, capturing the eternal dance between the bad and the beautiful, narrating the unspoken tales of the human soul, echoing with the timeless melodies of existence. It invites listeners to embark on a journey within, to explore the uncharted territories of their souls, to dance with their shadows, and to embrace the transient beauty of life. In ‘The Bad and the Beautiful,’ Diane Gentile has crafted a masterpiece that resonates with the eternal human quest for meaning, a musical mirror reflecting the unending dance of the soul in the boundless cosmos of existence.

Album Review – The Dandys – Sex and Feuds EP

Brisbane’s The Dandys are a refreshing gale in today’s alternative rock scene, and their debut EP ‘Sex and Feuds’ firmly establishes them as the torchbearers of the genre’s future. Riding in on the coattails of the lead single, ‘Gums’, this debut offers a fervent exploration into the tumultuous journey of adolescence, capturing both its fevered passion and the occasionally ironic detachment that defines the modern youth experience.

“Falling”, the opener, sets the scene perfectly. Clocking in at 4:35, this track resonates with the hesitancy of youth, the anxious precipice of the unknown. With an undercurrent of anticipation, it both tempts and warns of the pitfalls of youthful exuberance. Following suit, “Broke Me Down” uses its 4:15 runtime to evoke the spirit of recklessness, painting a vivid picture of the lows after the highs. It’s an evocative ballad, heavy with the weight of realizations and lessons learned the hard way.

Midway, “State of Mind” introduces a more introspective tone. The 3:38 track delves deep into the psyche, exploring the ebb and flow of youthful optimism and the accompanying shadows of doubt. The mood is contemplative, reminiscent of those nights spent staring at the ceiling, lost in thought.

This introspection gives way to the hopeful rhythms of “Temporary Fix”. A 3:46 ode to the short-lived joys and ephemeral experiences that come with growing up, it’s an anthem that encapsulates that quintessential desire to hold onto fleeting moments, even if they’re mere stopgaps to deeper issues.

Closing out with “Gums”, a track already familiar to their fans, The Dandys strike gold. Protheroe’s vocals, as raw as they are melodic, are juxtaposed against the grit of the instrumentals. The song’s ethos, which resonates with the tension between wanting change and resisting the mundane tasks required, forms the beating heart of this EP. The band’s knack for blending catchy melodies with profound messaging shines brightest here.

Throughout this five-track journey, The Dandys prove that their early acclaim was no fluke. Their exuberant energy is infectious, reminiscent of punk/alt-rock legends, while still carving a distinct identity for themselves. Their fearless approach to songwriting, which never shies away from addressing pressing issues, stands out in today’s musical landscape.

The Dandys’ ability to capture the zeitgeist of youth is noteworthy. In ‘Sex and Feuds’, they depict a world that is as much about the giddy heights of adolescence as it is about its inevitable pitfalls. Each track is a testament to the myriad emotions, from unabashed joy to heart-wrenching sorrow, that accompany this phase of life.

Their debut comes at a crucial juncture in their career. Following a successful run of singles, appearances at festivals like Splendour In The Grass, and a burgeoning reputation as a live act to reckon with, ‘Sex and Feuds’ had a lot riding on it. And it delivers. From the tongue-in-cheek songwriting that Protheroe mentioned, to their signature energy, the EP captures the essence of The Dandys in a way that few debuts manage.

In the world of indie rock and alt-pop, where authenticity often battles with commercial appeal, The Dandys stand out as genuine storytellers. ‘Sex and Feuds’ is more than just a collection of songs; it’s a snapshot of a band coming into its own, exploring its identity, and laying down the foundation for a legacy. For those who haven’t tuned in to The Dandys yet, now is the perfect time. As for those who have been on the journey from the beginning, ‘Sex and Feuds’ is a reaffirmation that the ride has just begun. With this debut, The Dandys are not just announcing their presence; they’re staking their claim.

Album Review: Ned Farr & The Good Red Road – The Master Plan

From the bustling streets of NYC in 1993 to the somber realities of 2023, Ned Farr & The Good Red Road have traveled a vast musical journey. Their fourth album, “THE MASTER PLAN,” encapsulates a pilgrimage through a global pandemic, distilling experiences from those isolating years into a poignant Americana tapestry.

With Ned Farr leading the project, one might have expected a cinematic quality given his long, lauded history in the film industry. And, true to form, this album plays out like an intimate indie film where folk melodies meet alt-country twang under the warm embrace of Americana. The detailed, narrative style of songwriting present on this album is a testament to Farr’s ability to craft stories, whether through visuals or, in this case, soundscapes.

Track opener “The Master Plan” sets the scene, drawing listeners into a world of uncertainty and resilience. There’s a potent atmosphere, with hints of what’s to come, musically and thematically. The shortest track, “The Captain Cries,” at just under a minute, serves as a somber interlude, reminiscent of an old ship captain’s lament echoing over an empty sea.

It’s hard to deny the palpable emotions and personal narrative throughout, reflecting the turmoil of recent years. “Hard Love” and “A Picture of the Sun” delve deep into relationships strained by the distance and stress of the pandemic era. They’re more than just songs; they’re diary entries set to melody. Cenovia Cummins’ virtuoso strings are prominent on “She Just Goes”, and she delivers a blazing violin solo in “Bulls”, highlighting her extensive prowess in both the classical and pop domains.

The soul of this album truly lies in its exceptional band members. With Jon Ossman’s seasoned bass lines providing a sturdy foundation, listeners get a taste of his illustrious musical past with icons like Chris Botti and Paula Cole. Jim Olbrys, with his Berkeley schooling, lends intricate guitar work that’s both emotive and technically splendid, weaving seamlessly with the cello tones of Juilliard-trained Evan Richey. And Joe Casalino’s drumming is precise yet impassioned, reminiscent of a teacher guiding his students with care.

Tracks like “Summer Break” and “Bulls” lean into the alt-country side, infusing an earthy grit to the mix. The former track, perhaps ironically named, suggests the transient nature of respite in these trying times, while the latter feels grounded, sturdy, and perhaps a bit defiant. “She Just Goes” and “Get Up” embody the ethos of moving forward no matter the odds, both thematically aligned with the broader album narrative.

“Bury the Stone” and “The Gift” round off the album beautifully, capturing the essence of remembrance and forward motion. They feel like closing chapters in this intricate musical novel, echoing themes of recovery, rebirth, and the determination to forge ahead.

This album is not simply a collection of songs; it’s a vessel carrying stories of pain, love, loss, and ultimately, hope. The craftsmanship is exceptional, from the instrumentals to the songwriting, reflecting the talent and experience of every band member. As the world tries to find its footing post-pandemic, “THE MASTER PLAN” serves as a poignant reminder of the power of music to capture, console, and inspire during even the darkest of times.

For those familiar with the band’s evolution, it’s hard not to reminisce about their pivotal track, “The Good Red Road.” This song isn’t just a hallmark in their musical odyssey but also the very inspiration behind the band’s name, setting a defining tone for their journey. From then to now, the evolution is evident, and Ned Farr & The Good Red Road continue to carve their unique niche in the vast world of Americana.

In conclusion, “THE MASTER PLAN” is a reflective, beautifully orchestrated homage to the human spirit. It’s not just about survival but about finding beauty amid chaos, hope amid despair. Here’s to the resilience of Ned Farr & The Good Red Road, who, despite the challenges, delivered possibly their best work yet.

Album Review: Christina Trocchio – journey to a higher vibe

As the world orbits around a constant state of emotional flux, artists have become our foremost soothsayers, illuminating paths through the darkest recesses of human experience. Into this tapestry of introspection comes Christina Trocchio’s “journey to a higher vibe” – a fervent exploration of self, love, and metamorphosis. It’s a 28-minute journey that navigates the turbulent waters of the heart, pushing its listener to confront the very demons Trocchio herself grapples with. A mere eight tracks in length, it’s both a testament to her compact storytelling prowess and a poignant probe into the mind of an artist unafraid to delve deep.

The album unfurls with “blinded by emotion,” a track that serves as an exposition to Trocchio’s emotive core. Here, she lays bare the vulnerabilities many of us cloak, allowing the listener an intimate glance into the soul of someone branded as “overly emotional.” Its rawness paves the way for “sunny days,” a blissful reverie recounting the rose-tinted honeymoon phase of a new relationship. Through Trocchio’s harmonious vocals and lush instrumental arrangements, one could almost feel the warmth of sun-kissed skin, the heart’s giddy palpitations, and the joyous abandon of being in love.

But as the album unfurls, it becomes evident that not all is idyllic. “I think love’s gonna kill me” peels back the curtain on a relationship gone awry. Its lengthiest track at over five minutes, it’s a somber reflection on the erosive nature of love, when it’s tainted with toxicity. The song serves as a turning point, marking Trocchio’s transition from infatuation to questioning.

The subsequent tracks see Trocchio wrestling with the dichotomies of the relationship. “perfect on paper” musically hints at the dizzying nature of being with someone who seems right yet feels so wrong. The nature-inspired production, with its ethereal, galactic undertones, underscores the song’s sentiment of finding oneself lost amidst a universe of emotions.

The album’s most poignant moment, arguably, is “I don’t know what love is, do I?”. It’s a universal contemplation, one that reflects humanity’s ceaseless quest to define that elusive emotion called love. With nature-influenced production elements subtly woven into its narrative, there’s a feeling of being adrift in a vast forest of feelings, searching for a familiar landmark.

“nobody” and “I don’t think that it goes like this” form a pair of empowering anthems, with Trocchio reclaiming her narrative from the relationship that once overpowered her. They’re songs of realization – a proclamation that love, in its truest form, should never wound so profoundly.

The album’s denouement arrives with “the smoke clears.” As the title suggests, it’s a climactic reflection on clarity and rebirth. Trocchio’s soaring vocals, harmonizing seamlessly with the ethereal production, signify a release from the shackles of past pain. It’s the epitome of catharsis, both for the artist and the listener, as one navigates the labyrinth of self-discovery and emerges anew.

It’s worth noting that the album’s backbone is its lyrics. Trocchio’s lyrical prowess is unparalleled, as she weaves complex emotions into verses that strike with precision. Coupled with the album’s nature-influenced production – echoing with ambient sounds reminiscent of rustling leaves, gentle waves, and distant bird calls – “journey to a higher vibe” transcends mere music, evolving into a meditative soundscape.

Ultimately, Christina Trocchio’s “journey to a higher vibe” stands as a luminous beacon in today’s musical landscape. It’s not just an album; it’s an emotional voyage that resonates universally, regardless of age or circumstance. As Trocchio undertakes her journey, she invites listeners to embark alongside her – to face their shadows, confront their past, and ascend towards a higher realm of existence. In a world often mired in superficiality, Trocchio’s authenticity shines through, making “journey to a higher vibe” a seminal work in the canon of introspective music.

Album Review: Ed Prosek – The Foreigner EP

Ed Prosek’s newest EP, “The Foreigner,” arrives like an autumn gust, ushering in introspection and ponderings about identity and place. Through six evocative tracks, the California-born, Berlin-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist crafts a contemplative masterpiece that delves deep into the very core of human emotion, intertwining his unique blend of chamber orchestration, Americana storytelling, and intimate pop. A classically trained musician, Prosek’s lifelong journey, encompassing diverse locales and musical styles, is palpable in each note and lyric of this 19-minute EP.

Beginning with “Hallelujah,” listeners are immediately embraced with a serenity and reverence, setting the tone for an emotional journey. There’s a touch of Leonard Cohen’s profound spirituality, but Prosek creates a unique space, providing a fresh perspective. “Man Overboard” picks up the pace, resonating with the feeling of being overwhelmed and lost amidst the raging currents of life. Its earnestness is balanced with soaring instrumentals, which seem to symbolize both struggle and hope.

“Ever After (Wedding Song)” is pure poetic intimacy. The track is an ode to love, not just the euphoric highs but the challenging lows, serving as a reminder that commitment is an ever-evolving process. Its subtle Americana influences give it an earthy touch, grounding it in Prosek’s roots.

Then comes “Vertigo,” which is where Prosek’s Berlin influence unmistakably shines. With a fusion of classical and modern, it conjures the image of someone teetering on the edge, in a constant battle with the anxieties and uncertainties of life. Its raw emotional intensity serves as a heart-rending prelude to the title track.

“The Foreigner” stands as the heart and soul of this collection. The song encapsulates the artist’s journey, his constant grappling with identity, and what ‘home’ truly means. His European lineage and American upbringing are woven into the narrative, echoing the sentiments of feeling adrift between two worlds. This track captures the essence of what it means to be a foreigner, not just in the geographical sense but emotionally and spiritually.

The closing track, “Tell A Lie,” offers a poignant end to a deeply introspective EP. Its melancholy tone and narrative question the truths we tell ourselves and the facades we put up. It’s a fitting culmination, bringing the overarching theme of self-exploration and acceptance full circle.

As a full listening experience, “The Foreigner” EP reveals Ed Prosek’s innate ability to transmute his experiences and emotions into music. Having studied classical trumpet and attended the prestigious San Francisco Conservatory of Music, it’s evident that Prosek’s classical training has deeply influenced his sophisticated songwriting. However, it’s his personal journey, from California to the UK, and eventually Berlin, that gives this album its soul.

His myriad experiences and cultural exposures, encapsulated in previous releases such as “Holy Water” and “The Mountain,” have culminated in “The Foreigner.” Prosek’s assertion that he’s currently the “best and happiest version” of himself can be felt in each track. This EP is not just a collection of songs; it’s a narrative, a diary of Prosek’s internal musings on belonging and identity, and his journey to find equilibrium in a world that often feels disjointed.

Ed Prosek’s “The Foreigner” is a testament to the universality of human experience. In a world that’s increasingly fragmented, Prosek offers a melodic sanctuary for listeners, a place where they can reflect on their own journeys, their own struggles with identity, and ultimately, find solace in shared human emotion. Through six songs, he has delivered not just music but a resonating message — that while we might all feel like foreigners in some capacity, music is the bridge that connects us. It’s an EP that demands repeated listens, each time offering a deeper understanding of the artist and, in turn, ourselves.

Album Review: Alan Chang – Check Please

Few journeys are as intriguing as those of the individuals behind the curtains, the ones who drive the creativity yet stay out of the limelight. Alan Chang, best recognized for his long-standing association with Michael Bublé, is a name that resonates in the music industry as a co-creator of some of the most memorable tracks of the past two decades. With “Check Please,” his debut solo album, Chang emerges from the shadows and strides confidently into the center stage, showcasing his profound depth as an artist.

Kicking off with “Natalie Explain,” the album starts on an electrifying note. The song is filled with infectious grooves, giving listeners a glimpse into Chang’s multifaceted musical world. It’s an entrée that stirs up anticipation for what’s to come. Following this is the already popular “Love As A Weapon,” where Chang deftly combines jazz overtones with contemporary vibes. With its sultry beats and a memorable chorus, it’s easy to see why this is the lead single. “Let’s Not Come Down,” the third track, is another tour de force. Radiating a smooth, contemplative aura, it’s a testament to Chang’s versatility and a beautiful end to what could be seen as the album’s impressive opening trilogy.

While the record starts off with a bang, it doesn’t mean the latter songs are any less compelling. “Rest of My Life” exudes a slower, introspective energy, perhaps alluding to Chang’s journey and self-realization during his transition from Bublé’s right-hand man to a solo artist. “Only Sight” and “Ms Finicky” carry the middle part of the album, both serving as clear indications of Chang’s deep-rooted jazz sensibilities. These tracks pay homage to his beginnings, his childhood love for the genre, and the countless hours he spent honing his craft on the keys.

The star-studded ensemble shines, especially with Pino Palladino’s bass riffs syncing harmoniously with Chang’s keys, while Dave Koz’s sultry saxophone adds a layer of elegance to the album, evident in tracks like “Aperitif.”

“Set Me Free” is a lyrical gemstone. There’s a hint of autobiography here, potentially reflecting Chang’s own journey, his ‘amicable divorce’ from Bublé, and his newfound freedom to express his authentic musical identity. “Favorite Of The Gods” stands out with its unique charm, while the closing track, “Wander,” acts as a poignant full stop to the album. It feels like Chang’s sign-off, a promise of more to come, and a note of gratitude for the journey so far.

A recurring theme in “Check Please” seems to be introspection. Chang’s work is an exploration of his personal and musical identity. While he admits lyricism sometimes feels like a “homework assignment,” it’s evident he has poured his heart into this project. Each song is a piece of Chang, a snippet of his life and his musings, infused with his passion for the piano.

For longtime jazz aficionados and fresh listeners alike, “Check Please” serves as a masterclass in modern jazz-pop fusion. The album’s 30-minute run time feels neither too short nor overbearing, making it a concise but deeply satisfying experience.

To sum it up, “Check Please” isn’t just an album; it’s Alan Chang’s soul laid bare, encapsulating his growth as an artist and his deep, unwavering love for jazz. It’s a testament to Chang’s brilliance, demonstrating that while he might have been a force behind Bublé, he’s a dynamo in his own right. Chang’s debut establishes him not as a background player but as a central figure in contemporary jazz, and one can’t help but eagerly await his next act.

Album Review – Workstuff – Half-Asleep, Devoted 2 EP

On August 17, 2023, Workstuff’s debut EP, “Half-Asleep, Devoted 2” is set to launch into the sonic stratosphere, an eighteen-minute-long journey packed with six distinct tracks. The EP is an exploration into the deep recesses of the artist’s psyche. It’s a profound probe into a world navigated through the lens of newly discovered neurodivergence. The journey through this EP is interwoven with melancholy and dark humor, echoing the artist’s personal tribulations and triumphs.

“Half-Asleep, Devoted 2” employs a unique blend of sounds, an auditory cocktail that mixes trip-hop, electroclash, early psychedelia, mid-century heartbreak tunes, and a dash of the avant-garde. Each instrumental is smartphone-produced, a testament to the contemporary artist’s adaptability and resourcefulness. The sonic landscape it creates feels intimately familiar, yet it hints at something unheard before, lending the EP a disquietingly surreal touch.

The work is produced in collaboration with Ste Cole (a.P.A.t.T.) in the historic St. Bride’s Church, Liverpool. This partnership sees the six tracks soar into an ethereal plane, showcasing influences ranging from the whimsical and ominous vibes of Captain Beefheart, the witty irony of Jarvis Cocker, and the enigmatic echoes of contemporary art-pop mavens like Cate Le Bon and Julia Holter.

The EP’s lead single, “Big Clam Shell”, is a peculiar musical mosaic. Its lyrics follow the intriguing pattern of disjointed confessions that define the EP. The song is a constant vacillation between a dreamscape and reality, between longing and letting go, between regret and acceptance. “I don’t dream of / oh, the one that got away / in a big clam shell” — the recurrent line is a beautiful paradox of yearning and rejection, the desire to hold on and the inevitable act of moving on.

The verse “If it’s in the charts / then I’ll do anything it takes / as long as it’s not gonna / inconvenience me”, indicates a sardonic commentary on the pursuit of fame and its often superficial facade. The lyrics hint at an existential yearning, a quest to understand life beyond conventional paradigms, and the struggle to reconcile with the human tendency to avoid inconvenience or discomfort.

Meanwhile, the line, “I’ve got a sore stomach and I don’t feel / remotely missed”, poignantly underscores the artist’s isolation and feelings of invisibility, further complemented by the song’s eclectic soundscape. The song is enigmatic, forcing listeners to dive into its many layers to extract its true essence.

The EP is steeped in the artist’s personal experiences, his past traumas, and life lessons. It’s a riddle that invites listeners to decipher its hidden meanings while appreciating its intricate soundscapes. In the world of “Half-Asleep, Devoted 2”, every revelation feels like an epiphany, every phrase a confession, every sound a marker on the journey of self-discovery.

Workstuff’s debut EP is more than just a collection of songs — it’s an auditory journey through the artist’s psyche, a trip that’s as disorienting as it is enlightening, as profound as it is playful. “Half-Asleep, Devoted 2” is not just an EP; it’s a testament to the human spirit’s complexity and resilience. Through its abstract lyricism and innovative sounds, the EP resonates with the listener, creating an enduring connection that extends beyond the mere act of listening.

In its totality, Workstuff’s “Half-Asleep, Devoted 2” is a breathtaking, mesmerizing journey that leaves a deep impact long after the last note has faded. The EP serves as a powerful debut, positioning Workstuff as an artist who isn’t afraid to tread uncharted waters, and in doing so, manages to craft something that’s profoundly unique and emotionally resonant.

Album Review: Brooks Dixon – Rhododendron Highway

With Rhododendron Highway, Brooks Dixon delivers an exquisite, masterfully crafted album that serves as a sonic manifestation of his life’s journey. It’s an 11-track musical odyssey, each song imbued with raw emotion, sincere introspection, and compelling storytelling. The album is an honest account of his life in the late twenties, the transition into fatherhood, and the re-evaluation of priorities.

From the opening track “Charleston,” it’s clear that Dixon isn’t shying away from revealing his innermost thoughts and experiences. It’s a song born out of Dixon’s post-college days, highlighting his longing for exploration and an inherent fear of settling down too soon. His lyrics evoke a sense of wanting to branch out while being tied down by the roots of his hometown, Greenville. The song’s playful melody, Dixon’s smooth vocals, and Sara Middleton’s harmonizing create an intriguing auditory landscape that captivates the listener right off the bat.

The exploration of self continues with “Stranger’s Bed.” The song delves deep into the uncomfortable feeling of alienation within oneself. It’s an introspective track, giving voice to those moments of life when we feel lost and disconnected from our own self-image. Dixon’s ability to turn complex, personal feelings into a relatable musical piece is evident in this track.”Midnight Shower,” co-written with Tim McNary, further exemplifies Dixon’s introspective songwriting. It’s inspired by a moment of contemplation following a late-night gig, causing Dixon to question his pursuit and its worth. The song expertly explores the dichotomy between dreams and their required sacrifices, creating a resonating anthem for all those who’ve ever questioned their life’s purpose.

With “Needles,” Dixon takes a bold step, candidly addressing his diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes and the subsequent shift in perspective. His battle with accepting dependence on medication, mourning the loss of his perceived freedom, and eventually embracing his new life is brought to life with raw authenticity. The poignant use of the mandolin by David Flint enriches the song, mirroring the melancholic, reflective tone of the lyrics.”Store Your Treasure” is a philosophical piece that asks the listener to introspect on what they value in life – material possessions, experiences, or acts of generosity. This introspection forms the backbone of the song, providing listeners with a chance to consider their own values.

The album takes a romantic turn with “Would You Say Yes,” a heartfelt song Dixon penned for his wife when he proposed. The beauty of the song lies in its celebration of the romantic question, even when the answer seems inevitable. It is a gentle reminder of the importance of questions in relationships and their contribution to the depth of connections.”Married in the Mountains,” a beautiful duet with Anna Stine, captures the resilient nature of love in times of uncertainty. Inspired by the love stories that persisted despite the pandemic, the song is a tribute to the simplicity of love and the grandeur of committing to each other, regardless of external circumstances.

Dixon’s rumination on the essence of art, its perceived disposability, and its inherent value comes to the forefront in “After All.” It’s a thoughtful song that underlines the significance of individual expressions in art, despite its mass production in the modern world.

The final tracks, “Hey Hey,” “Rolling Stone,” and “Good Conversation,” encapsulate Dixon’s journey to self-acceptance. “Hey Hey” and “Rolling Stone” serve as sonic narratives of Dixon’s introspective journey, while “Good Conversation” stands out as a compassionate letter to his past self. This song encourages appreciating life’s journey and emphasizes the importance of self-care and slowing down.”Rhododendron Highway” is the culmination of Dixon’s personal and musical journey. Recorded in Nashville and Greenville, South Carolina, with a host of talented musicians, the album encapsulates Dixon’s growth and maturity as an artist. It’s a testament to his songwriting abilities and his knack for weaving personal experiences into universally relatable narratives. This album, imbued with Dixon’s emotional nuance and raw honesty, invites listeners into his world and encourages them to find their own reflections within his songs.

Dixon’s dedication and passion are evident in every track of “Rhododendron Highway.” His storytelling prowess, coupled with his emotive vocals and the rich, layered instrumentation, make this album an immersive, memorable listening experience. It is an album that showcases Brooks Dixon’s growth as a songwriter and as an individual, leaving listeners eagerly anticipating where his journey will take him next.