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Carry Illinois – Alabaster

carr

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Carry Illinois is an electric departure from the singer songwriter, acoustic guitar strumming scene that Lizzy Lehman has been a part of for years as she has developed as a musician. For this ensemble front woman Lizzy eschews her Martin Acoustic for a Fender strat. On the Alabaster organs swell and pianos sweeps chords providing the harmonic foundation while Lizzy’s lyrics and melody carve out the details above the sounds and rhythms of the songs. Lizzy draws on the everyday struggles and tedium of modern living on Alabaster. She has a knack for illuminating truths through a portrait of another as deftly as she can on her more autobiographical songs. For this album Lizzy leans more heavily on introspection and personal insight than with her previous solo work, which is an interesting irony. One might wonder if donning the costume of Carry Illinois has created a confidence that allows for more personal work to shine through in Lizzy’s song writing.
Musically Alabaster is an album that sits somewhere between Brandi Carlisle Americana and Dr. Dog’s breed of harmony infused indie pop rock. Alabaster is a big step forward from the Siren EP release in 2014. Both Alabaster and Siren represent a departure from the singer songwriter womb of the Austin via Kerville folk scene. I prefer the clean vocal sounds on Alabaster over the harmonica miked and red line hitting vocals on Siren. Lizzy’s is a voice that is best served clean and pure. While I preferred a safer choice for the vocal stylings, I found myself wanting a stronger step forward and reach just a little farther on most of Alabaster song arrangements. As a whole the album tends to lean a little too hard on the tropes and clichés of the Americana genre. Similar tempos and rhythm patterns blended songs together and listening to the album as a whole you’ll find yourself wishing for a break from the organ drones under sprinkles of piano.
There were three big stand out tracks for me. The first – Darkened Sky – hits all the notes of classic Americana. The track starts off with the recognizable strumming rhythm of Lizzy’s guitar and is quickly enhanced with a country train beat and layered strings and keys. The vocals are right in the sweet spot on this tune. Lovers of the Austin Americana scene will be drawn to this song like whiskey lovin’ hipsters to an Eastside Honky Tonk. Another of my favorites is the painfully sincere Lost and Found. Any listener with a small town childhood will connect with the message of emotional emigration in search of a meaning outside the comfort of youth. Lizzy grasps greatness on this song when the bridge crescendos from a pure, slow folk tune to a psychedelic, flanging power ballad.
In stark contrast to, and immediately preceding Lost and Founds psychedelic yearning we have the perfect pop gem that is Sleepy Eyes. From the first horn build to the last splash of the cymbals, this song had me hooked. Lizzy’s vocal sit nice and present in the mix, in a range high enough to make it immediately distinctive from the rest of the album. The dynamics are beautiful driven by a horn ensemble and the groove is wonderfully consistent with just enough sizzle on the cymbals. I should really let this song do the talking for me, so put it on right now, and while you add it go ahead and hit shuffle and let it ride. It’s an album that’s sure to grow on you and make it into the rotation of this year’s great Austin albums.

Kissing Party Score Pop Hit

kp1The opening guitar lines of this track are misleading, to a certain degree.  It sounds like you might get something a little heavier, something along the line of modern emo revival.  But, when Kissing Party‘s Dierdre tosses in her vocals, it switches the track straight into pop mode.  The band quickly blasts through the two-minute track, sweetly singing its way into your listening for the weekend. It’s reminiscent of recent works by the likes of Standard Fare or Eternal Summers, bordering between indie rock and indiepop; it’s delicious. They’ll be releasing their new album, Looking back it was romantic but at the time I was suffocating, via Fleeting Youth Records on June 30th.

New To You: Smooth Ends

smooth endsFriday’s are all about celebrating; the end of a work week for some, an excuse to get out and into town for others. Whatever your weekend has in store for you, do yourself a favor and take a listen to this sweet sweet jam from Smooth Ends below. It’s not a brand new track, but when I heard it I knew I had to share the kid jangle-jazz pop track with you, as it just simply screams summer. This group is a four piece based out of London, though formed by two gentlemen from Argentina, and they’ve recently put out an EP of five tracks called Magic Johnson. You can listen to the rest of that summer perfect EP here, and look out for these guys.

 

Funky Indie Rock From The Heart Strings

TheHeartStrings1The Heart Strings is the project of London based Todd Roache, and this track, “Beautiful Abyss” is a declaration of the eclectic and funky twist he’s put on alternative rock. This song is a grouping of musical layers that combine in a lush manner; the synths waft in and out along with “oohs and ahhs” while the percussion and guitars are somewhat crunchier, adding an extra layer of texture. When the chorus soars in, you can’t help but be taken aback by everything that’s working together to make for a delightful and interesting indie rock track. “Beautiful Abyss” is out officially on August 7th via Grandpa Stan Records.

Jangle Punk? Ask Vundabar.

gwkPretty sure whoever created this genre was going to aim straight for my heart.  You’re going to combine punk and jangle? Yeah, I’m in.  It’s a pretty interesting sound combination, though to be sure, I’ve really grown into this Vundabar song due to it’s varying changes within the track. Plus, the vocal inflections are pretty addicting; I love a good drawn out vocal.  Another thing the band has going for it in this song is the length of the track; they’re allowed to construct different feelings and emotions throughout the tune’s four minutes. They’ll be releasing their album, Gawk, on their own Gawk Records on July 24th. Give it a listen.

Bully – Feels Like

bully-feels-like

Rating: ★★★½ ·

It’s not too terribly often that you get word of a pop-punk band like young four piece, Bully who have origins in Nashville. But this group, led by front woman Alicia Bognanno, hail from Tennessee and have put together an album filled with crunchy punk guitar hooks with catchy pop choruses and beyond powerful vocals that will grab you by the collar and not let go for its entirety.

“I Remember” is the opening track to end all opening tracks– it’s a forceful introduction to the band’s sound. The fast paced percussion and shredding guitars are the first things you hear, and then you get Bognanno’s distorted and cutty vocals, which sound as though they may give out at any second as she screams out declarations of memories both crass and tender. There are also moments of reprieve on this number where these vocals are softened, but that is only for a second before you’re back with Bully as they rip though this punk-pop opener.

This first track is merely a bite of the bite that this band has in store for you on this debut album, and to me, the bite is where Bully shines the brightest. Songs that use the off/on switch to mix the two genres are the highlights for me, like “Trash.” This song is as about as metal as the band gets, starting slow, and the vocals are, dare I say, delicate, and then surging into the chorus with fiery heat and Bognanno’s growling vocals. Earlier on the record you get somewhat subtle, “Brainfreeze,” which falls third in the track order, and while the vocals are still grainy and gritty, this song is a bit more refined than the others. Here is where the band strikes the balance between punk and pop– this song sounds like what would happen if a punk band covered a radio ready pop song, which is far from a bad thing. Another definite highlight is late track, “Milkman,” which is a catchy track with a hardcore ending. The bulk of this album is a solid mix of tunes which will catch your ear with their unique sound.

Feels Like is a rapid fire blend of punk attitude mixed with the goodness of pop sensibility. For a debut album, it makes for a great introduction to Bully, and also a good summer album to turn up loud as the heat begins to turn up on us. I look to the future to see what Bully has in store for a sophomore effort.

Shimmering Indiepop from The Proctors

10616276_850893441590045_4372778612800772383_nI love the guitar sound on this track from The Proctors.  It’s got this crystalline quality, yet it definitely has faint hints of jangling about it.  Still, the song wouldn’t succeed if the vocals didn’t fit right inside the world crafted by the band; they’re not too high, nor too low, in the mix, as if everything is working in unison. The band’s last effort, Everlasting Light, was simply magical, but in this tune, I hear even greater things to come our way soon.  No word on exact release date, or title for the record, but you can be assured that indiepop fans are going to fall head over heels for anything the group put out.

Drifting Pop from Uncle Bobby

bobUpon pressing play on this new single from Uncle Bobby, I was immediately transferred to a semi-dream state, influenced by the opening moments, accentuated by the sitar in the background.  It’s an interesting tune in that I don’t really think there’s a precise genre that it fits into, though it definitely aligns itself with pop music.  There’s little tinges of psychedelia, but there’s also a bedroom pop aspect that really hits home with me.  It’s the first glimpse of the work of the multi-instrumentalist, who will be releasing a full EP later on this year.

Delorean Release A Great Track

DeloreanI owe you all an apology. This track was available as a free download for one day. I missed it. *sniffle* Sorry friends.

BUT, you can still play it all over the place on streaming services and I think this is the best Delorean song since the Ayrton Senna EP. “Bena”, featuring backing vocals from Hanin Zueiter, is the B-Side to “Crystal”; they got them backwards, IMHO. The band has their own label now, called PHLEX, so expect more stuff to hit whenever they feel like it.

Breezy Number From Sandy’s

Sandys_photo_Nick_AivesSan Francisco based songwriter Alexi Glickman has long been in the music game, but mostly as a member of critically acclaimed group The Boticellis.  Since the disbanding of that group, Glickman has branched out on his own with a solo project going by the name Sandy’s.  Serving as a preview of his new material is this mesmerizing new single called “Consolidated Identity”.  It’s a lovely and breezy pop tune complete with jangly guitars and quiet vocals best suited for cool afternoons sitting on your front porch.

Sandy’s new Prom EP will drop on July 24th.

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