Reviews

Sleepy Zuhoski: Better Haze

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Submitted by Mark Druery

We are immediately confronted with Sleepy Zuhoski’s talents when listening to his debut studio album Better Haze. The first song of twelve, “Asleep for a Year”, invokes a side of Sleepy Zuhoski’s musical character recurring throughout the album and his woozy, slightly hallucinatory vocal is an ideal fit for the lyrical and musical mood. The folk influences informing this cut are obvious from the first but never clichéd. Those same influences exert a hold over the second song “Sour” with a focus on a cleaner presentation, specifically on the vocal, but greater clarity from the instruments as well. Zuhoski’s vocal phrasing deserves to be singled out for his skilful invocation of the song’s sentiment. “Muscle Memory” is one of my favourite Zuhoski performances and the understated musical arrangement accomplishes much without ever straining for effect. It’s one of the more completely realized numbers on Better Haze.

Sarah Patrick: The Woman I Am

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Submitted by Johnathon Klee

With a harmonious, symphonic bend of strings and simple, reverberating strums of an acoustic guitar, Sarah Patrick’s new full-length LP The Woman I Am opens with a bit of an old-fashioned kick that is slightly reminiscent of some of our favourite country artists of the late 1980’s. Through her lyrics, she writes a declaration to the world; this is who I am, what I stand for, and no one is going to contain the woman that I am. Her straight-forwardness doesn’t stop there; “That’s the Way Love Goes” follows a similar cue, calmly dismissing cares and concerns over what could, or should, have been in favour of a much simpler, relaxed outlook on the future to come. The electric guitars sparkle with a certain poppy luminosity, but this doesn’t feel overly pushy when it comes to striking a haunting note. “I’m Right Here” and the slow song “To Stay” share a common cordiality that if not accompanied by traditional country song structures, could possibly make for intriguing a cappella.

As It Is Unveil The Wounded World on Fearless Records

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

As It Is, have announced the release of their new album, The Great Depression, (out August 10th on Fearless Records) with new single, The Wounded World.

Speaking of the track and the accompanying video, frontman Patty Walters says, "The Wounded World is a commentary on the polarised and volatile modern reality, which we’ve allowed. The video depicts a not-so-distant dystopia, where present-day headlines and technologies are displayed in exhibits as the warning signs of an impending disaster. I feel that we as a society have embodied a destructive habit of talking without listening, surrounding ourselves with alternative facts and headlines, totally void of open-mindedness or empathy. Despite the labels and beliefs that all too often divide us, we are one people, and we’re all to blame.”

AN INTRODUCTION TO 'THE GREAT DEPRESSION' FROM PATTY:

“The Great Depression is about the societal romanticisation of depression, the disrepair of present-day human connection, told through the story of a man who finds himself face-to-face with Death. This album is about asking questions rather than offering answers, exploring the lines where consolation and glorification collide and asking if art is too subjective to offer a universal solution.

Avatar Country Out Now

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Citizens! If the message hasn't been clear enough already, the King of Kings above all Kings ruling in the realm of Kings has decided to speak directly to his flock and let them know that The King Welcomes You To Avatar Country! 

This beautiful truth shall shine upon the faces of those who follow the Majestic March to Immortality in the latest and greatest so-called "Music Video" with the Mighty Conqueror of Hearts and Land Alike and His orchestra, AVATAR.

Directed by long-time collaborator, Johan Carlén, this is the third music video we've heard from the King with Avatar from His new record titled, Avatar Country.

AVATAR released their seventh, and most Royal, full length, Avatar Country earlier this year via Entertainment One. The LP debuted at #2 Indie, #4 Hard Music, #8 Rock, and #25 on the Billboard 200 Chart.

Critics praised the release as well. New Noise Magazine said Avatar Country was "the culmination of the group’s evolution into a singular powerhouse, a trip into the heart of what makes metal so distinctively powerful."

Loudwire called the opening track, Glory To Our King sounds like, "it could’ve come straight off of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club, a warm and over the top introduction to the rest of the album." And finally, Metal Injection called Avatar Country "a wonderful ride."

Across the Board: Sonic Boom

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Submitted by Jason Hillenburg

Canadian rock act Across the Board returns with their second full-length effort, a follow-up to their EP Amends, featuring eight songs geared in the same pop-rock direction they explored with their first release. MC2 Music Media produced and recorded the album in Toronto and help present the conceptual ambitions of this album in such a way it strengthens the release’s chance of enjoying the rapturous critical reception it deserves. Musician and front-woman Jacqueline Auguste doesn’t obey rules of linear narrative with this self-proclaimed rock opera, but there’s a clear coherence emerging from the collection as a whole and the songs stand on their own as individually compelling and entertaining musical works. Her life and creative partner bassist Andy Ramjattan is a critical piece in Across the Board’s approach and complements Auguste’s talents in tangible ways. Sonic Boom consolidates Across the Board’s reputation as one of the more intelligent and musically rich acts working in the indie scene today.

Jake Allen: Deviant Motions

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Submitted by Mitchell Sauls

Who looks like a young Ralph Macchio and sings like a cross between Richard Marx and Christopher Cross? Who rocks harder than guitarist Andy McKee and puts you in the same headspace as Aphex Twin or Air?

The answer: Michigan’s Jake Allen.

Okay, those comparisons are a bit unfair, as Allen is truly in a world of his own. In a good way. Allen’s album, Deviant Motions, is a likeable blend of pop-rock, acoustic guitar and glossy musical waves. There are 14 tracks on the album, and while it’s heavy on quantity, Allen’s quality holds up to the challenge.

Starting off the album is “The Picture.” It’s an interesting choice to come out of the gate, but nonetheless a wise decision. Even if you were to stumble across this song, you will be grabbed by its cool layering and ethereal/progressive rock mood. Allen’s voice is really likeable and is radio-friendly. You can understand what he’s singing about, and he’s dreamy.

The second track “Bridges” has a bit of a stutter-step start. You’re ready to get going, and the music bed is still building up its momentum. Allen really belts it out in this song – I imagine him writing this while overlooking Lake Superior or even Lake Huron. He makes you feel like you’re part of something. I suppose this would be a great track one, but I’m glad it’s in the top three.

Parker Longbough: Left On Tri

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Submitted by James Olsen

Left On Tri, by Parker Longbough, is the new album on Wilderhood Music, featuring the songwriting of former Uncle Jesse band member Matthew Witthoeft. After leaving that band, he began to perform with various band members under the name Parker Longbough. And the name sticks as is, and the third album has culminated into the best collection of songs PL have recorded to date. There's no denying the chops Witthoeft, from Alaska possesses and these songs are all living proof of his talents. The songs on Left On Tri were written in an Alaskan cabin, which no secret is made of when you hear them.

"RNC 2000"
hits home with any current or former college student any day of the week, making it a must hear for students as much or more as anyone else. But it's easy to relate to if you're educated enough to follow the wisdom and wit of Witthoeft which often goes into some country flavor to mix it up with the other forms of music he sings over.

The lyrics get more attention-worthy on the next track, " Jack Ryan" and you start to see what gas Parker Longbough are cooking with. If you like stories of stars and cocaine, this suits the bill just fine with a track to commemorate it with some deep curiosity covered.

Rory Block Debuts New "Power Women of the Blues" Album Series with Bessie Smith Tribute

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Five-time Blues Music Award winner Rory Block will debut her new "Power Women of the Blues" album series with the July 6 release of A Woman's Soul, a dynamic new CD tribute to the legendary Bessie Smith, on Stony Plain Records.

"Power Women of the Blues is a project that has been simmering in my imagination for 54 years," Rory says. "It has been my longstanding mission to identify, celebrate and honor the early founders-men and women of the blues. This series is dedicated to the music of some of my all-time favorite iconic female blues artists, many of whom were shrouded in mystery during the sixties blues revival, while the recordings of others had simply disappeared."

Rory Block first heard Bessie Smith's life-changing voice in 1964 as a teenager living in New York City. "Filled with grit and incredible vocal prowess, it was the ultimate soulful wail," she recalls. "'I'm wild about his turnip tops, I like the way he warms my chops, and I can't do without my kitchen man …Stay away from my door Mr. Landlord, 'cause I'm down in the dumps!... That's the reason I, got those weepin' willow blues.' So compelling, so honest, so rich with meaning and information about the female soul."

The Twindows: Valkyrie 2.0

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Submitted by Gustave Carlson

Riding desert riffs and Seattle-style fuzz, Pennsylvania's Twindows have crafted an incredibly tight and nimble rock record in Valkyrie 2.0, out now on Amazon and streaming everywhere online music is sold. While some may contend that visceral rock n' roll is a thing of the past, the Twindows completely dismiss any such notion in these 11 blistering new tracks. Not solely reliant on primeval chest beating, there's plenty of self-aware lyrical exploration delivered with a fierce howl from frontwomanAster Grimm. What's more exciting is that, while backed by Kyle "Shaggs" Anderson on bass, guitar and vocals, KouqJ on guitar and bass and drummer Oskar Daoud, the Twindows create plenty of punk rock discord on Valkyrie 2.0 without stumbling into any pretentious scene politics, a feat not easily accomplished these days.

Keith Morris and The Crooked Numbers Psychopaths & Sycophants

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Submitted by Keith Morgan

Out of the underground and into the spotlight, folk singer Keith Morris and his band The Crooked Numbers offer a plethora of deep thinking songs on their latest effort, Psychopaths & Sycophants. The Virginia-based singer/songwriter (not to be confused with alternative icon Keith Morris of Black Flag fame), manages to balance darkness and light in the nine tracks on Psychopaths, although the overwhelming theme of this album speaks to the rebellious nature of the human spirit.

The opening track, "The Future," instantly evokes a Stooges-like blues swing in its swagger, never relenting in its dangerous sensibility. Keith's Dylan style crooning is peppered with organ moans and an able backing choir, whose chants seem to churn us deeper and deeper into Keith's haunting landscape. There are shades of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Nick Cave in his brooding, but none of this feels derivative in nature or style, mostly because of Keith's gritty descriptive lyricism. As he pleads for us to repent during the last stanza, one can't help but feel the ironic rit that brushes against the speakers. "What Happened to the Party" slows down the tempo a bit, but the darkness seems to give way to a foggy surrealism that makes perfect company or the spoken word layered over it. It isn't until "Thousand Mile Stairs" that the light seems to break through the clouds, as this bayou style folk song slinks by like an easy summer afternoon.

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