By: Nick Manduley
Hartford, Connecticut alt-rockers Bonsai Trees independently released their latest record Learn to Grow on May 3rd, 2019. In a bit under 40 minutes, the 3-piece from New England takes the listener on an emotional, rock-and-roll, hook-fueled journey leaving them anticipating what they’re going to do next; and if you’re a new listener, chances are this record will make you want to go back and listen to their previous releases.
Filled with cheeky indie rock tendencies, biting riffage, and the occasional emotive ballad-esque tune, Learn to Grow has a dynamic that any alternative rock fiend will feel a sense of familiarity with. Vocalist and guitarist James MacPherson has a singing voice that at times evokes the same feeling in my gut that I felt when I first heard The Killers’ Hot Fuss or Taking Back Sunday’s 2011 self-titled record. His performance on the opening track “Don’t” left me without a doubt in my mind that this was going to be an album I needed to review. The hook-filled, harmony-heavy song starts off with an infectious beat from drummer Nick Sokol and is guaranteed to get people dancing.
As the song ends with the chorus still reverberating in the listener’s head, the album pushes into the vicious tune “Vice Grips.” The track explodes with a mean riff, showing off some of the superb guitar work featured on this record, not to mention that wailing solo. “Shotgun” is similar in the sense that it’s also riff-centric; these songs are rather reminiscent of the Arctic Monkeys’ work on their earlier releases Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare. But these tracks do not speak for the whole record; songs like “I Love an Artist,” “Dark Parking Lot,” and “We Talked” showcase a more pop-influenced side of the band’s flavor of indie rock. They add to the dynamic of the record; it’s a sign of quality songwriting when an album has songs with a diverse range of style and sound, but still sounds like the same band playing throughout.
The album offers a darker, more somber tone with the track “Away From Me.” The pain conveyed on the track can be sensed by the listener as lyrics about gasping for air and one’s skull hitting the bathroom sink give way to an explosive full band chorus ladened with the lyrical hook, “would you get away from me?”
As the album draws to a close with the mid-tempo banger “Rose,” the listener is left with a sense of satisfaction, as if they’ve just closed the back cover on a really good book. Learn to Grow is currently available on all major streaming platforms as well as Bandcamp. The band will be embarking on a 12-day tour on November 12th, kicking off in New Haven, Connecticut at Cafe 9, and concluding on the 24th at Muchmore’s in Brooklyn, New York. The tour will make stops as far north as Toronto and as far south as Birmingham. Tickets can be purchased via the band’s website.
Bonsai Trees November Tour Dates
11/13 Malta, NY @ Wired Coffee
11/14 Buffalo, NY @ Sugar City
11/15 Toronto, Ont CN @ Indie Week: Cherry Cola
11/16 Muncie, IN @ Be Here Now
11/19 Birmingham, AL @ The Nick Rocks
11/21 Chapel Hill, NC @ The Cave
11/22 Richmond, VA @ Garden Grove Brewing
11/23 Washington, DC @ Velvet Lounge
11/24 Brooklyn, NY @ Muchmore’s
By: Nick Manduley
Pennsylvania math-rockers Good Game’s latest release, Good Luck Have Fun, is a soundscape of inventive musicianship, melodic vocals, and haunting harmonies. The three-track EP starts promptly with the explosive track “Supercollider? I Just Met Her.” The listener is immediately bombarded by beastly clean-toned guitar riffage, chase by vocalist Addy Harris belting out unapologetic lines about the “heteronormative sleep-paralysis induced American Dream.” The track then gives away to a cacophony of guitar tapping as the drums begin to break and Harris paints the mix with her soaring harmonies.
Good Luck pushes forward with the track “Rat City” which starts with some fun syncopated clapping as Harris and guitarist Brock Benzel sing the oh-so-catchy chorus. The track then bursts into a full band arrangement. There is absolutely something to be said about the musicianship here; these songs are as busy as they are executed with deadly precision and feeling. Guitarists Nate Sherman and Brock Benzel demonstrate their musical prowess quite effectively; bassist Chance Wells and drummer Dan Getty hold down an absolutely air-tight rhythm section.
The EP ends with the mid-tempo jam “First Snow.” This track is easily a go-to for a breezy autumn afternoon spent on your porch wearing your favorite hoodie, sipping on your hot beverage of choice. As the winter months creep over the horizon, I’ll definitely want to have this song in my Apple Music queue when my roommate and I are making the first snowman of the season. While the track remains consistent in tempo, the band changes the dynamic at several points, varying in levels of volume and intensity, while also giving way to calmer, more atmospheric sections.
Good Luck Have Fun dropped in March of 2018 and the band has not teased much new music, outside of a playthrough video of some new material which was posted to the band’s Facebook page last November. I eagerly wait to see what Good Game has in store for the world next. In the meantime, Good Luck Have Fun is available on all major streaming platforms and is available for free download on the Good Game bandcamp page. Fans who download the EP get these three tracks as well as instrumental versions for anyone who wants to learn these amazing pieces. The band has a tab book available for purchase on their bandcamp site, which contains tablature for every song off Good Luck Have Fun and their July 2017 release Don’t Blow It.
By: Nick Manduley
New Jersey rock trio Shred Flintstone independently released their newest record Lois on June 21st. Lois showcases the band’s groovy, psychedelic take on gritty garage punk. The release opens with “The Flood,” which starts gently with a reverb-laden guitar riff before a jangly drum beat picks up the track as fuzzy vocal melodies begin to paint the mix.
The record picks up the energy with the tracks “Nemo” and “Dit Urself.” “Dit” is what’s known in the local music circuit as ‘straight fire’- the infectious, nasty guitar riff immediately grabs the listener’s attention. This song is a textbook example of how to get a crowd moving. “Nemo” is a fun track that brings some pop flavor to the garage rock style, not to mention some super sweet harmonies courtesy of vocalist and guitarist Dan Barrecchia. Tracks such as “Bad Art!” is an anthemic, fuzzy punk song that will bring a rebellious vibe to any basement venue in the country. “What Luck” cheekily pokes fun at those who habitually opt out of attending gigs on account of being “kinda tired.”
“Kirby” takes us into the final leg of this eight-track journey with a wall of harsh feedback before breaking into an oh-so-danceable guitar riff. As noisy guitars and reverby vocals paint the tune, it’s clear that this track is a standout powerhouse of rock. The title track “Lois” shows the band’s funkier side; the track opens with an infectious bassline courtesy of bassist Jack Walbridge before Barrecchia joins in with some funky-fresh lead guitar. Drummer Joey Giambra effortlessly clicks away with Walbridge’s bassline as the track enters a wild guitar solo that slowly descends into a cacophony of noise, before breaking into one final chorus of straight-up punk goodness. The track ends with the hazy high-energy jam “Where’s My Dog?” Clocking in at a whopping six and a half minutes, this fuzzy punk ballad serves as the perfect ending to Shred Flintstone’s Lois.
Lois is now available on all major streaming platforms. Fans can catch Shred Flintstone on stage at The Saint in Asbury Park, New Jersey on Halloween night. They will be sharing the stage with Jersey rock heroes America Part Two. Tickets can be purchased via the event page on the official Shred Flintstone Facebook account.
By: Nick Manduley
Seattle indie rockers Great Grandpa put out their new single “Digger” on September 11th. “Digger” is the second single (following August’s “Mono no Aware”) off their upcoming record Four Of Arrows, due out October 25th via Double Double Whammy.
“Digger” is a somber track that starts with the calming strumming of an acoustic guitar accompanied with vocalist Alex Menne’s emotive, dreamy vocal melodies. Clocking in at just under five minutes, “Digger” is a vast mountain range of musical dynamics. From soaring chorus melodies laden with fuzzy, feedback-heavy guitars to reverby verses, with a healthy dose of intricate acoustic guitar arrangements, “Digger” holds back nothing.
Four Of Arrows drops this Friday (10/25) and will be available on all major streaming services. The band is currently touring on the west coast in support of the new record. Their next performance will be this weekend, taking the stage for two nights in a row at The Chapel in San Francisco on the 25th and the 26th.
By: Nick Manduley
Emo math rockers Origami Angel released their latest EP Gen 3 at the end of May. The two-piece from the greater Washington, D.C. area packed their newest release to the brim with twinkly guitar riffs, indie pop hooks, vicious drumming, and cheeky pop culture references. Though Gen 3 is only a brief four tracks in length, there is not a single dull moment on the release.
“Ruby” starts infectiously with a memorable vocal hook that builds into an avalanche of upbeat drums and twinkling guitar riffs that weaves seamlessly through guitarist and vocalist Rylan Heagy’s melodic vocal sections. “Sapphire” is an unapologetically fun track which offers some memorably cheeky lyrics; if you find yourself at a basement show and hear kids shouting “I know you more than I know anything about Pokemon, or Star Trek, or Twin Peaks, or even Rocket League” then you just might be at an Origami Angel gig.
From the first second, “Emerald” is easily the emo punk powerhouse on this EP. It comes right out of the gate with an infectious guitar riff that’s bound to get crowds moving. The dance beats and math rock riffs on this track easily make the song into party fuel (as if the whole EP wasn’t party fuel to begin with; the album cover itself is a hilarious parody of a Pokemon video game cover). Drummer Pat Doherty brings the heat on the funky closing track “XD Gale of Darkness” as Heagy spits those fast-paced verses. “XD” takes a very a heavy shift as the drums begin to almost pulsate behind Heagy’s screams before the track descends into an aggressive beatdown, effectively ending the EP with a bang.
Gen 3 is available on all major streaming services. Fans will be able to catch the band in Fallston, Maryland at the DIY venue Grateful Acres. The venue address can be found by direct messaging @smmyhck on Instagram. They will be sharing the stage with other up-and-coming artists such as Sammy Heck, Monster Bad, Jack M. Senff, Bad Heaven, and Morning Dew.
By: Nick Manduley
Ocean County singer-songwriter Kelli Faith independently released her debut full-length album 21 on September 20th. 21 is filled to the brim with catchy choruses and cheeky melodies bound to leave the listener humming for days after the first listen. Faith opens the record with the emotional number “Sincerely,” which acts as a grandiose welcoming to the next 40 minutes of unfiltered boppage. It’s always great when artists start their albums off with a bang, a couple noteworthy examples being “The End” from My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade or “System…Meltdown” from Enter Shikari’s A Flash Flood of Colour.
The album pushes forward with the catchy mid-tempo tune “Bad News,” which is laden with encapsulating yet simplistic lead guitar melodies and relatable lyrics; once you hear this song you’ll be humming “Man, I really messed up this time!” for the whole day. And I’m not just saying that because it’s exactly what my roommate has been doing for the past week, driving me absolutely bonkers. Faith gets in touch with her rock roots on “Chasing Tails,” which is arguably one of the more memorable songs on the record. Faith asserts herself as the frontwoman she is on “Chasing.”
Tracks such as “Time Will Tell” and “Someone New” are bound to have people dancing with their infectious guitar progressions and vocal melodies. Faith delivers a wonderful vocal performance, painting the tracks with sweet harmonies. However, if we’re talking about dancing, it would be criminal to not shine a light on the songs “Him” and “All Parts.” “Him” was the first single released from 21 and immediately ropes in the listener with that insanely catchy chorus, ending with a powerful cacophony of harmonies and clashing vocal parts. However, Faith keeps the energy flowing as “All Parts” explodes right out of the gate with rippling beat courtesy of drummer Dee DiMeola, who also delivers all the infectious lead guitar on the record. Faith gets in touch with her pop roots on “All Parts,” utilizing dance beats and plenty of vocal hooks.
The record slows down for a bit with the ever-so-relatable tune “Love Myself” as well as “This House” which is easily the emotional powerhouse (no pun intended) on this record. The record pushes towards the end with “Still There” before ending with “21” and “More.” Faith delivers a tear-jerking ode to her late father on “Still There” before switching gears into the title track, which recounts the tale of overcoming of a toxic relationship in favor of a brighter future. We reviewed “More” some weeks ago as it was the second single off the record, but after hearing the full release, it’s clear that “More” isn’t just a romantic country tune with a face-melting guitar solo; it’s also the perfect ending to this little storybook called 21.