New Music Tuesday: Silver Medal – The Trophy Room [EP]

 

Praise be to the indie rock/pop gods that have shone their eternal light on this lovely Tuesday. We have an absolutely wonderful record to share with you beloved followers and anyone who has lamented against the state of indie music in the modern age. Some of our old pals, as well as some new friends, that make up the incredible Portland based band Silver Medal have a wonderful EP that you should all know and love. And we are going to dig into it very quickly. But, first…..

I am sure that a lot of you can look back on the music we have showcased in the past, and may be noticing that there has been a shift in taste and definitely the amount of content and time we are putting into the world of independent music. I could apologize for this, but honestly, it’s just age, Folks. We are getting older, and after a dozen years of digging through the digital crates, it’s beginning to feel a bit taxing. Oh and speaking of taxing (watch out! Here comes the Segway!)….

If you can remember back to just over a month ago, you will remember a track that neared upper crest of our Top 100 Songs of 2019, which would be “Tax Season”. It is damn fine track, and an obvious pick for a single from this incredible 5 track opus. Silver Medal mashes the loud wall of sound structure that makes them special with a loud pop vocal superiority that makes their songs so damn catchy and easy to listen to, also a huge trait that makes the band shine.

 

 

But, as much as I love “Tax Season” as a single, it behooves me to recognize the fact that The Trophy Room is an EP that simply MUST be played as a whole. And with several listens back to back to truly grasp how truly unique and brilliant Silver Medal is as a collective. Even with just 5 tracks, there is so much to unpack on this album. Each track gets a bit longer in length, starting with a 2 minute introduction to aforementioned pop sensibilities with “Good Riddance” and wraps itself up nicely with the nearly 6 minute opus like cut “Upon Remembering and Ancient Curse”, which is definitely my favorite song of the batch. But again, this is an album that works best when listened to as a whole, and this may only be my favorite track because it’s the grand finale to a collection of brilliant songs.

Seriously Folks, Silver Medal the band with that indie pop sound that I feel like everyone can know and love. We’ve been covering the work of the band’s lead vocalist, Jared Brannan, for a lot of years. Many moons ago, I can remember comparing his song writing to what it would be like if Dostoyevsky were a folk singer. And while the sound has somewhat shifted, improved I would say, the same sentiment still stands. I’ve none Jared, and other members (former next door neighbor to Allen Anderson here, I wonder if he remembers that? Allen?), in different PDX incarnations over the years. Everyone in the group has been making delightful sounds in one way or another for so many years, and it really feels as though it has all cultivated to reach this point, with this very specific project that I hold very dear to my heart. They are an incredible act, and I implore anyone with the means to find yourself at one of their shows. I can only imagine it to be a hell of an experience that I wouldn’t want to miss.

So with that, pick up a copy of The Trophy Room wherever you buy your music. I’d suggest starting out at the band’s website,silvermedalmusic.com. Pick up a copy on vinyl even. Support those who create great art. Which is exactly what Silver Medal is, great, wonderful, and exciting art.

 

New Music Tuesday: The Wood Brothers – Kingdom in My Mind [Album]

 

Over the last dozen years or so that I have been listening to music with the intent of putting words to digital pages, I have had the great fortune to cover multiple releases from artists that I adore. It’s pretty great. Who doesn’t get ecstatic about hearing a new record from one of their favorite artists? It’s arguably more exciting than hearing a brand new artist and unknowingly falling in love with them. Sure those early days are exciting, but when the ones you already know and love have some new and incredible to share, it’s pretty damn great as well. But there is a conundrum that needs to be addressed when it comes to music reviews. It’s not really a terrible issue, but it is an issue nonetheless. And that would be, if a band creates an album that is so good, and evokes so many feelings and emotions and the yearning to make so many bold statements about how much you love this work and may consider it their “best work to date”, and then you realize…..you said the same thing about the LAST album they put out. Almost verbatim, actually. And that is the proverbial pickle I have found myself in listening to the absolutely incredible album Kingdom In My Mind from the beloved modern blues/folk rock heroes The Wood Brothers.

One thing I tend to do when I am gearing up to write about another album from an artist or group that I have already showcased here at TWS is to go back and read the last review I did. In this case, it has been two years (almost to the date!) since I talked about The Wood Brothers’s previous album One Drop of Truth. And lo and behold, I believe I could have probably done a copy & paste, and just changed album and song titles, and it would have all been true. Now, I obviously don’t mean this in a derogatory sense, I hope you that isn’t your takeaway, as it would mean you never read my previous review, and why would you not have done that? No, the issue is that a band like The Wood Brothers is ever evolving, bettering themselves, yet holding onto the elements of their own personal sound that have and will continue to make them so wonderful. Their ability genuinely infuse blues, rock, and folk music that interwinds with just about absolute perfection in such a manner that you can’t help but be impressed is absolutely beautiful. And the storytelling. Oh, the fucking storytelling! It’s truly phenomenal. And yes, I have said these same things in one form or another in a previous review, but the more I think about it, the less I care. The honor of knowing and enjoying a band that continues to evolve in the way that The Wood Brothers is an absolute delight and I refuse to feel any sort of guilt about enjoying a band that has a common trait of continuously taking their signature sound, and just making it better with each release. These cats are phenomenal, and Kingdom In My Mind is a phenomenal album.

 

THE WOOD BROTHERS

 

Now, while I did spend quite a bit of time explaining how I don’t entirely care about repeating some information, I do feel like my obsession with providing something new to the solid few readers who are here come hell or high water. I mentioned in my last Wood Brothers that I had the opportunity to see the band at Pickathon out in Happy Valley, Oregon in 2012 and it was incredible. But just to throw out a little bit of a fun fact: this was actually the second time I had seen drummer Jano Rix live. About 4 years prior, I first saw Jano flicking the sticks for The Gabe Dixon Band at Berbati’s Pan in Portland, Oregon, and was in love with his work from that day forward and was so excited to see him performing in this new Americana element that seems to fit him so damn well. And for regular readers, you will recognize the name Gabe Dixon form either his incredible solo work, or the fact that he is also a past interviewee guest here at TWS. And even more inside baseball knowledge for you: The Gabe Dixon Band was opening for none other than another prior TWS interview subject, the great Justin Nozuka. Isn’t it fun how everything can tie into a coincidental spider web of wonderful talent? There. I feel better, I gave you something a bit different for that proverbial ass.

But in all seriousness, Folks, Kingdom in My Mind is an absolutely amazing batch of songs that tell an incredible story of love, power, and the beauty of new beginnings. And while it’s damn near impossible to choose a favorite track, if hard pressed I would choose “Don’t Think About My Death” simply because it fuses just about every genre of music that is damn near imaginable, and is a prime example of how The Wood Brothers can really just do it all. Primarily it may be more rock n roll centric track, it’s as soulful and gospel like as you could really want. It’s a perfect track, on a pretty much perfect album. And I simply cannot recommend this gem of an album enough. It’s so damn good.

 

Kingdom In My Mind is available now wherever you purchase or stream music (please consider the purchase idea). The Wood Brothers will be partaking in an extensive North American (and Dominican Republic) tour starting January 29th.

New Music Tuesday: Shane Alexander – A Life Like Ours [Album]

 

 

I’m finally doing it, Folks! I have been pushing the release date of a review for Shane Alexander’s triumphant album A Life Like Ours for far too long. I’ve listened to and enjoyed the album in its entirety for close to 2 months now, but simply haven’t found the chance to tell you all about it and give it the credit it so deserves. From the opening chords of “Everything as One” to the dramatic conclusion of “Evermore”, Shane Alexander has created something absolutely mesmerizing. And now that the album is officially released, it’s about damn time I give it the proper credit.

If you have been a visitor to our site over the years, you can probably guess what exactly it is that I love about Alexander’s work so much. In my own opinion, there is nothing better than a beautiful listening session with a talented singer/songwriter. While I am not opposed to a huge guitar sound or a high tempo punk rock vibe, my heart will always be with the world of classic and modern folk music. When it’s done right, that is. And Folks, I’m here to tell you that Shane Alexander got it EXACTLY right. He is quoted as saying he hopes “that my fans will listen to A Life Like Ours top to bottom to get my full intent.” And I am here to co-sign on this idea and say that while every song has its own proverbial legs to stand on, this album works so great as a whole, and should really be listened to as such.

 

 

If I had to think of one word to describe A Life Like Ours as a whole, as weird as it may seem, I have to say “pretty”. Because it really is. His voice is obviously calming and motivating in a strange way, but between the acoustic pick style he has mastered, and the feeling of the entire earth and existence as we know it colliding in song format to remind us that there may still be some good in the world, I honestly can’t see this amazing album as anything short of pretty. Even if the subject matter turns a bit dark, it’s still just so, so, beautifully done. See incredibly catchy and skillfully down “Taxi Cab” for an example of the latter.

I seriously cannot recommend A Life Like Ours enough to you dear readers. And I think it’s fair to say that Shane will be making an appearance on TWS in the coming months when we begin to wrap up the year in telling what were some our favorite pieces of art to be released in 2019. In fact, I can guarantee it, as this is not only on of the best artistic experiences I have listened to this year, it’s probably the one I’ve heard the most. After so many nights of having Shane serenading my headphones while pounding the keys for other features, I am so happy that I could finally pay tribute to the cat who has helped motivate me through the summer. So, get on it yourselves, Folks! You simply HAVE to hear this incredible album!

 

A Life Like Ours is available now from Buddhaland Records wherever you get music.

 

New Music Tuesday: Honey Gentry – Dreamlover [EP]

 

 

Have you all ever had that experience where you hear something that is so intriguing, you can’t stop hearing it even when it’s not playing? A sound so sweet and captivating that it seems to seep deep into your subconscious and just sort of live there for a while? I’m sure you all have. Even if you don’t know that you have, it’s likely that it has happened, but you just hadn’t really thought about it before. I know that is how I feel sometimes. And I know that is how I felt after just one complete listen to Honey Gentry’s incredible EP entitled Dreamlover. But, to be fair, when an album this great comes around, there is no way that a sound like this can just come into your life and then be gone the next day. It’s just not possible with something this damn intriguing.

Honey Gentry is the type of artist I have personally been dying to hear for quite some time. I have always had an affinity for the power that a female singer/songwriter can bring to the world of music. And there have been so many wonderful artists to create such magic over the years. But, every few years, I am fortunate enough to become privy to some absolutely incredible artists that transcend the idea of “amazing”, and seem to move into a whole new dimension of fantastic and become an artist that I simply cannot imagine having never entered my life. Their sound so serene and perfect that it’s almost as though they are put on this earth just to bring me to tears based on their talents alone. Only a handful of artists of this nature have ever existed in this realm. Of course there is our beloved friend Lotte Kestner. Then there is Maddy Wyatt, Sara Schneiderman, Laura Gibson, etc. And now, Folks, please know that Honey Gentry is amongst the list of truly inspiring and absolutely brilliant singer/songwriters that have completely rocked my world with some truly brilliant talent that is undeniable and deserves to be the center of attention for decades to come.

Dreamlover is a beautiful depiction of incredible talent in Honey Gentry’s ability to write the shit out of a song based around a feeling of despair that still seems hopeful about the possibility of happiness. I love the EP as a whole, but I do have to say that there is without a doubt possibility that “Now I Wait” makes into our top ten singles list this year. Holy shit, it’s just so damn good.

So dive in, Folks. Dreamlover is an absolutely incredible EP that is sure to leave you wanting more. It is an incredible taste to what Honey Gentry has to offer, and let me tell you all, it’s ALOT. If Honey Gentry is not a household name in the upcoming decade, something is absolutely wrong with the world. I will forever stand by this statement.

 

Dreamlover will be available on August 22nd wherever you listen to music. 

 

New Music Tuesday: Crooked Ghost – Colors Bleed [EP]

 

 

Folks, I have been covering music on the wonderful interwebs for a dozen years, and I can honestly say that I have heard it all. I’ve acknowledged thousands of “RIYL” recommendations. Usually they are wrong, but I can see where they are coming from. I used to try to amplify word counts in album reviews by drawing comparisons to likewise artists, often mention in the “RIYL” sections. And sometimes I would try to amplify the review once again by using an exhausting amount of adverbs about how completely original a band was, and couldn’t be compared. But as I grow old and wary in what I put on this site, I am beginning to realize that familiarization isn’t such a bad thing, really. Take a band like Crooked Ghost, for instance. Crooked Ghost is hands down, without a fucking doubt in the world, something fresh and original, yet very familiar in all the right ways.

Colors Bleed is a post-punk (whatever the fuck that really means) band that has a sound that intertwines brilliant vocals that are backed by a bit of grunge-like (this makes more sense to me) guitar and drum work with incredibly strategic vocals that are both fascinating and goddamned intriguing. Colors Bleed is a 4-track collection of songs that are absolutely mind-blowing in their own individual ways, with each track sounding like a stand alone single with its own merit and understanding of what it is giving to the world. “Sinew in Red” could be considered the obvious single, and not just because it is the actual “single”, but it just has that type of catchiness that we as listeners are supposed to be looking for. There is so much to love in this track, it’s hard to imagine Crooked Ghost NOT making it the stand alone track.

 

 

But, being the ever pretentious asshole that I am, I will be calling the 7 minute opus that is “Golden Blue” the best fucking song on the album, and one of the best songs I have heard in quite a while. The range and movement that exists in this highly energetic track is absolutely compelling, and is something that really needs to be appreciated all on its own.

Colors Bleed is a phenomenal release in it’s own right, and it should definitely be enjoyed by all. If I truly needed to make the bullshit comparisons that tend to make the quotes of press releases and the social media renegades, I guess I would say it is a cross between Simple Minds and Soul Asylum. I’m not sure how much I would entirely agree with this, but I love both of these bands. And I now love Crooked Ghost. So I guess that isn’t nothing, right? If that is how you have to learn about new and wonderful music, let’s go with that!

 

 

New Music Tuesday: Fences – Failure Sculptures [Album]

 

Let just kick things off here by saying one statement that should sum up everything I am about to say: Holy Shit! I’ve found a new favorite songwriter in Chris Mansfield, and Fences is incredible! Now I will continue with the fluff, but honestly if you just stop reading this right now, and do your own research on Fences and their incredible album Failure Sculptures, I would not be mad. In fact, I would prefer it. Go away.

Still there? Alright, well, I guess I can say more. Failure Sculpture is basically that small, almost unnoticeable, diamond lying snug amidst the coal. But once noticed, and given further inspection, it may just be one of the most beautiful things you have ever seen. Mansfield actually says a line in the track “Same Blues” that is how I would describe the entire album: “It’s a burn that I like”. That’s what this album is at its core. It’s a collection of sweet yet melancholy tunes that sound as they were meant to be sung in a cigarette smoked filled barroom. Of course, I know that Fences is a Seattle based group, so their probably not doing that. But maybe a smoke filled studio apartment? Anyway, there is just so much singer/songwriter goodness happening throughout this album.

 

Christopher Mansfield. Photo by Christian Sorensen Hansen.

 

As of lately, I have tried to avoid singling out one particular track on an album, as I would like to appreciate the entirety of Failure Sculpture as a whole. And I really do. But, fuck, my hands can’t assault this MacBook fast enough to tell you all how much I love the cut “Paper Route”. I have probably ran through the album a dozen times, but if it were still possible, I would have worn out this track. Seriously Folks, every time Mansfield proclaims “Some people stay face down / they’re lucky that way”, my fucking heart straight up sinks. And while I don’t know the exact specifics of what he is expressing in this song, I know what it means to me, and it is a confrontation within my own soul that is thriving and desperately trying to overtake my body, but through a track as sweet as this one and some self-realization, I will overcome. Now, I know I kind of went of the rails there, but it truly is an amazing track, and I’m certain it will enter my rotation of one of the best songs of all time.

You gotta check out Failure Sculptures, Folks! I’m not kidding when I say it is one of the best albums I have heard in a very long time. We proclaimed in April that we had already found the best album of 2019 with Tom Speight’s masterpiece, Collide, but I have to say I am perplexed now. I guess we will see when the end of year lists start to roll out. Either way, Fences has had a real impact on me, and I won’t soon forget it! Check it out!

 

Failure Sculpture is available everywhere courtesy of GRNDVW. For tour dates and more information, check out the Fence’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

New Music Tuesday: Onesie – Umpteenth [Album]

 

First of all, I have to kick this thing off by stating that I have been listening to Onesie’s brilliant second album, Umpteenth, almost on a loop now for weeks. I had every hope to get something up here about it, damn near a month ago. Unfortunately, the time I was spending listening to this absolute gem of an album happened to be in while I was too busy playing on-line class-clown, and struggled to find the time to write about something I actually cared about. But, fuck it, here I am. And if there is something I truly care about, it’s letting you all know just how great Umpteenth is, and why you need to check it out ASAP, as it is now currently available.

As I stated earlier, I have listened to this album so many times that if Ben Haberland walked into my house at this very moment and told me that my cats were disgusting and should be put down….I would eventually be a bit hurt, but I would at first be starstruck. Having insults hurdled at me from the man who has sung the words of “Final Days Of Nineteen” to me for all this time is in my home! And full disclosure, I don’t believe he would actually ever do this.

 

In all seriousness Folks, the genre-bending group that is Onesie is hand’s down one of the those multi-faceted acts we are (or at least should) be looking for when it comes to listening experiences. There are so many different sounds on display throughout Umpteenth, yet it all blends ever so nicely to create a magical sound that is unique to them and them alone and it is a damn good one. With power-pop elements that clash perfectly with a big guitar sound, the entire track list of this album is destined to blow you away. But what I respect the most about Onesie and what they have done here is their obvious lack of “give a shit” in trying to fit into any sort standardized sound. And with that, I firmly believe that Onesie has created one of the best albums of 2019 thus far.

 

Umpteenth is available now from Dadstache Records wherever you get your music. And check out other releases available on the band’s Bandcamp page.