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Album review: “Eternal Horse” by Stafrænn Hákon

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In my time as a music journalist I have had the good fortune of coming into contact with some amazing music from Iceland. One more that I get to add to this growing collection is Stafrænn Hákon. Stafrænn Hákon is the stage name of musician Ólafur Josephsson whose most recent release Eternal Horse caught my attention.

Stafrænn Hákon’s music is described as “Alternative, Rock, Electronica, Ambient, Power-Ambient,” and nowhere is this more apparent than on Eternal Horse. Consisting of musicians Ólafur Josephsson (guitar), Árni Árnason (bass), Lárus Sigurðsson (guitar),
Róbert Már Runólfsson (drums), and Magnús Freyr (vocals & guitar); this record is the perfect definition of balance.

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Eternal Horse has so much going on at once in terms of sound, but it never overwhelms you. You don’t feel the blended styles trying to one-up each other, but rather working as a cohesive unit. From instrumental explorations to vocal compositions, Stafrænn Hákon presents an album that is just enough mainstream and just enough experimental to draw both schools of thought together.

The music on Eternal Horse can energize you, take you away to another world, calm your spirit, and make you think all at once. When I think of what an alternative rock band should sound like, Stafrænn Hákon presents all of the qualities I look for. Listening to Eternal Horse is a must for any alt rock fan.

Honestly it is a must for any music fan.

Stafrænn Hákon can be found at:

http://shakon.bandcamp.com/

Album Review: Aaron Holm “The Boy”

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Aaron Holm is a Seattle-based composer and producer interested in finding the most from the simple. As I listened through his record this is the description that most starkly presented itself. Throughout the looping beats, the various ambient effects that wash over you, and repeating melodic phrases, you realize how committed Aaron is to the ambient ethos.

The ambient composer, and I should know, is about constructing various worlds of sound from the most simple, yet transformative, materials. As The Boy plays, this concept is shown ever so perfectly. You are drawn in to this soundscape and allowed to dream. You are allowed to free your mind and totally immerse yourself in the music.

As Holm’s PR team stated, “Deeply influenced by electronic and ambient pioneers like Jon Hopkins, Roger & Brian Eno and Boards of Canada, his blissed-out compositions make use of abstract field recordings, as well as low, shimmering electronic tones.” Reich and Eno especially stand out to me here, as their approaches to music are followed in so many ways in The Boy.

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Aaron is not afraid, much like Reich, to explore complex topics. The track Catch a Falling Star explores “the story of the father’s love for his child and his heartbreak on hearing of the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown.  On the morning of the shooting, Holm’s daughter’s first grade teacher sent out a recording of the children singing ‘Catch A Falling Star.  The recording is heard at the track start.  Aaron says – ‘As I heard the news of the school shooting, first graders were the victims, I pulled to the side of the road and cried.  The voices in this track soothe broken hearts and the loss of innocence and brings the boy full circle from childhood to fatherhood.'”

If you are a lover of ambient music, you really should consider adding The Boy to your collection.

The Boy can be found at:

http://dissolverecords.com/project/the-boy/

Trash N’ Clean releases new video for single “Razorblade”

Hey guys, you remember my review of the awesome Italian punk group Trash N’ Clean? Well the guys have released a new video for their song Razorblade. It features the great punk sound you expect from them, as well as their sense of humor.This is definitely in the vain of early blink-182 videos like What’s My Age Again and Josie. You’ll see what I mean😉

Here is some background on the video:

 

“The video was shot completely live at a big private party called Lord of Spring. These crazy party monsters hired us to perform live at their event, and when we looked at the videos of their previous years’ parties, we thought that it would be absolutely sick to shoot the music video for our song Razorblade there

Razorblade is an absolute dumb song that talks about a stunning woman, who only needs some extra trimming down there for being simply perfect. We love the song for what it is, and only an even more stupid music video could have been appropriate for it.”

Album Review- “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!” by The Spitting Pips

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I remember when Gene Simmons, an over-the-hill rocker with a massive tongue, decided to declare rock music as dead. I was pretty surprised since my music journalism has introduced me to some incredible rock groups. Another group I get to add to this list is The Spitting Pips and their 2015 EP You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!.

Hailing from Rhyl, North Wales (since I’m Welsh here’s my obligatory “Cymru am byth!”), the band describes their style as “Acid Soul Rock n Roll” with influences from the 60’s and 90’s music scenes. You hear these sounds in You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!, with songs that remind you of groups like the Stone Roses, Primal Scream, Oasis, and others.

This band is not a derivative group, however, as the EP shows that The Spitting Pips are able to take you from the highest of reverb highs, to infectious melodies and grooves. The band is interested in making music that actually matters, in that, it is about good music over writing hits (and yes there is a difference).

Rather than chasing cheap sounds to make a quick chart topper, The Spitting Pips are making songs that are sonically deep and atmospheric. You are given the rock n’ roll sound you crave if you loved the 90’s UK rock scene and bands that were a part of it. The Spitting Pips have earned the respect of bands from that era, touring with Happy Mondays and the Inspiral Carpets (whose singer I interviewed here).

All in all this is a band I highly recommend as another reminder that rock is alive and well.

The Spitting Pips can be found at:

http://thespittingpips.bigcartel.com/

https://www.instagram.com/thespittingpips/

EP Review-“Wetness Delivery” by Trash’N’Clean

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What is so great these days about punk rock is that it is a global phenomenon. Every part of the world is producing all different types of punk music and this is so encouraging. Enter Trash’N’Clean, a punk band that hails from Milan, Italy.

Comprised of Fabio – Vocals, Danny – Lead Guitar, Mark – Rhythm Guitar, Marchino – Bass & Backing Vocals, Mario (The Horseman) – Drums; this group is carrying the torch of making great punk for a new generation. Their newest EP, Wetness Delivery, is a catchy and strong showing from this band.

The guitar riffs are heavy and melodic, the drums are crisp and powerful, the bass lines are driving, and the vocals are harmonious and infectious. As a guy that grew up in Southern California, I hear a great deal of influence of SoCal punk like Yellowcard, NOFX, Pennywise, early Thrice, and Bad Religion in Trash’N’Clean’s sound. Hearing the Wetness Delivery EP gave me such a surge of nostalgia and joy. I was in love with this band’s music in a couple of minutes.

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The only shame about this EP is that it is rather short (clocking in at only three songs), but at the same time maybe don’t mess with perfection? There is enough here to know what the band is about, and also to be left wanting more.

Give this band a chance if you love melodic punk, you won’t regret it.

Trash’N’Clean can be found at:

https://itunes.apple.com/it/album/wetness-delivery-single/id1118316381

 

Album Review: The Pleasure Routine “Sugar Mountain”

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The Oakland-based group The Pleasure Routine aren’t out to re-invent the wheel. As they state themselves, they are “a throwback to decades past, when bands meticulously crafted vintage tones and timbres, capturing their moody and dreamy sonic landscapes on analog tape.”

What shows in The Pleasure Routine’s music is a nod to past eras, but also an understanding of their own modern sound. Their debut LP Sugar Mountain is a wonderful blend of art rock, blues, and a California flair that shimmers on each track. This record is the kind of record that you play while driving down the PCH in an old Camaro with your best friends.

The topics range from coming-of-age to disillusionment, but throughout there is this undertone of optimism amongst the melancholy. The bright, clean sound of Sugar Mountain plays a major part in this. The band gels together in a way that you know they get each other as musicians.

When Sugar Mountain releases on 7/1/2016, I suggest you give it a try. It might bring out some nostalgia in you, especially if love bands like The Velvet Underground and The Stooges.

The Pleasure Routine can be found at:

 

Orlando

Here we are, another mass shooting. The biggest in US history. This time the target was the LGBT community who have had to face hate-filled rhetoric in this country for too long. Frankly our politicians are lazy and indifferent, yet they have the audacity to Tweet “Thoughts and Prayers” to victims they couldn’t care less for. If they cared they would have been taking action to stop shit like this. Fuck your insincere prayers you megalomaniacs; they are simply hollow words at this point. Gun violence is beyond anything we can fathom in America at this point. Instead asking your gods to do something, why don’t YOU try doing something since you have the power to do so. Fuck your lobbyists. Fuck your special interest groups. Fuck your kickbacks. If you don’t lift a finger to stop violence you don’t deserve to hold public office. I’m pissed. I’m done with an ineffective government feigning empathy for something that can be prevented.

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