Where is My Spaceship – Mostly Crocodile (self-released, 2015)

via mostly crocodile | where is my spaceship.

“I just want open arms forever.”

Let’s be honest: sometimes, life turns out to be not in the slightest like you would expect. Dreams aren’t quite as facile as you thought they were as a child. Instead, you’re thrust out into the world, forced to get by holding onto the past any way you can. In times like these, we can be thankful to have musicians like Joshua Evensen out in the world, and projects like Where is My Spaceship to escape into. Evensen heads the Hackensack folk-punk project, and has released music under this moniker since 2009. Latest release Mostly Crocodile showcases this unique cross-section of indie folk and pop-punk, recalling the brash energy of Against Me! and The Everymen on one end, along with the sparse, intimate aura and razor-sharp honesty of bedroom pop artists like Bellows and Elvis Depressedly on the other.

Right from Mostly Crocodile‘s album artwork, it is evident that Evensen is holding onto something distant. A drawing in homage to cult horror film Army of Darkness, Evensen seems to purport himself as the Ash to save the working man in distress. And that wouldn’t be further from the truth. Here are ten songs about flaws, broken dreams, breakups, growing up, and facing your darkest, innermost thoughts. “Sad Songs All Night” is a biting take on the end of a relationship, peppered with envy, yet sealed with resolved hate: “You can get lonely, and I won’t give a damn / Damns are for suckers.” “It Won’t Be Forever” is a haunting parable on how time-consuming a “temporary” work stint can actually be, and how it becomes your whole life. And “Anything” is a perfect, heartbreaking anthem instantly relatable for any nine-to-fiver out there toiling away the day. Evensen is a fascinating and brutally honest songwriter, one that I’m excited to hear more of in the future. He is just as inquisitive as the critical thinker he talks about on “Champion Swimmers”: “He doesn’t have answers/He just knows the question/And how to ask it/And that’s all that matters.” In a world as twisted and complicated as this one, speaking up from time to time is what makes all the difference. At the very least, to your own sanity.

Key Tracks: “Snake Juice Anthem”, “Sad Songs All Night”, “It Won’t Be Forever”, “Lemon Heart”, “Anything”, “Roll Away the Stone”

Where to Go from Here: The Front Bottoms – The Front Bottoms, Bellows – Blue Breath, The Dundees – Malice

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Will Wood and the Tapeworms – Everything is a Lot (self-released, 2015)

via Will Wood.

There is a novelty embodied in the truly weird. Personally, there has always been this tendency to embrace and relish music that deviates from the mainstream, that will mostly certainly evoke disconcerted reactions from most people. This is why it is important to listen to all kinds of music, because each and every genre has its own quirks, motives, and characteristics that make it truly lovable. So when I received contact from Will Wood to review his debut LP Everything is a Lot, it seemed very happenstance. Wood has a piano-rock, honky-tonk bar crawl feel that tethers somewhere between the genuine yet sarcastic songwriting of Randy Newman, and the kooky yet honest sound of Tom Waits. As a debut record, Everything is a Lot, is a lot to take in, but like anything else, absolutely worth it.

For starters, this record is absolutely insane. It’s a bipolar mix of crazy carousel antics and dark, sobering piano pop. At times Everything is a Lot has a snarky tone, reminiscent of My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade. Among this dark, circus-esque ride, there are some gorgeous indie pop melodies that recall the sound of Jon Brion. “Lysergide Daydream” is one standout that tackles dreams and getaways: “Ooh, I wanna be in a place I can call a place to get away from it all.” Wood also confronts the darkness underneath living, on “Jimmy Mushrooms’ Last Drink”. He best summarizes his life journey and remaining time in a succinct and affecting manner: “I might keep looking for nothing to find”. The title track is an incredible album closer, bringing to mind Randy Newman’s “Sail Away”, Jon Brion’s “Get What It’s About”, and Tom Waits’ “Lost in the Harbor”. Everything is a Lot is, most certainly, an impressive debut. It will undoubtedly turn some away, but if you are one of the lucky, patient listeners, you’ll be much the warmer, and the wiser. 

Key Tracks: “Skeleton Appreciation Day in Vestal, NY (Bones)”, “Thermodynamic Lawyer, esq, G.F.D”, “Lysergide Daydream”, “Jimmy Mushrooms’ Last Drink: Bedtime in Wayne, NJ”, “everything is a lot.”

Where to Go from Here: Shayfer James – Counterfeit Arcade, The Dresden Dolls – The Dresden Dolls, Randy Newman – Sail Away

WOOF. – Woof (Tree Machine, 2015)

via W O O F . | MUSIC.

Every Thursday, I’ll be reviewing one local artist/release that I believe deserves recognition. This week: WOOF. – Woof.

There is something frivolous and fun about Montclair, NJ artist WOOF. The solo project of indie pop artist Kelan Bonislawski, WOOF. is all about punchy synthesizers, melodic guitar lines, catchy drum beats, and an eccentric baritone. Opening track “My Device” offers a bit of social commentary on technology today: “My whole life in the cloud/But where it is, I don’t know.” And no statement better sums up the millennial generation than this: “But my device is my whole life.” Even though Bonislawski is local to me, it feels like he came out of nowhere. WOOF. is an impressive debut EP, found right in my backyard.

Bonislawski has been compared to Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, and Beck. I can hear both, but I also hear much more, as said in my Roundup from early February. On “I Got Away”, he all of a sudden reminds me of Wavves (it’s his vocal), Grizzly Bear (it’s the guitar), and The Killers (it’s the chord change before the second verse) all at once. The song, said to be a study of repetition reflecting the routine nature of everyday life, does so both musically and lyrically. The song repeats melodies and chord progressions, and Bonislawski finally trumps this mundane life with the statement, “But I got away from an avoidable day after day.” “Cold Comfort,” another standout track here, moves along at a rollicking pace, with a driving drum beat.

Bonislawski also toes the line between stalker and lover on “Hear Me Breathing,” where the lyrics communicate this claustrophobic, uncomfortable feeling of being watched, right from the first line: “I waited on the back porch/You couldn’t see me.” Things are also incredibly upbeat on this EP. Take “Gleamed,” a bubblegum pop number. The feel is immediately reminiscent of The Strokes, but a bit lighter and more electronic. At the same time, there’s a bit of vamping and tonal electronic explorations going on here. Take closer “Apophenia.” It starts with an arpeggiated synth pad, followed by a echoing drum loop, cutting in with some synth bass stabs, a reverbed drum kit, and eventually Bonislawski’s vocals. Woof, indeed. This is an act, and a record, worth barking about (haw haw).

Key Tracks: “My Device”, “I Got Away”, “Cold Comfort”, “Hear Me Breathing”, “Gleamed”

Where to Go from Here: Spearmint – A Week Away, Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line, The Strokes – Comedown Machine

Blahvocado – Suck Up All Your Guts (self-released, 2015)

via Suck Up All Your Guts | Blahvocado.

Matt Pignatore has to be one of the most prolific artists I’ve met as of late (full disclosure: I’ve known Pignatore since my college days, starting a club on campus for student musicians). As long as I can remember, he has been a person overflowing with ideas and potential. In his most recent singer-songwriter project Blahvocado, these ideas all take shape over the course of nine carefully crafted songs. Suck Up All Your Guts is his most cohesive work to date, a coming-of-age album from a young artist with a lot of promise.

Musically, there’s a certain playfulness that reigns throughout Suck Up All Your Guts. Between whooshing synthesizers, distorted kazoos, and overdubbed vocals, the feel is quirky, fun, and a bit aloof. Lyrically, however, there’s also something sincere. Pignatore takes the time to deliver frank, honest lyrics about relationships, both between others and within ourselves. Whether it is about how the rest of the world sees us on the title track (“Suck up all your guts/Blow em up, show you’re tough/Is that enough?”), or how we know ourselves to be despite the opinions of others on highlight “Moptop” (“Everybody says, ‘Cut your hair!’/But I don’t wanna be gold,”), Pignatore has a lot of personal insight. The playful ambiance is especially deceptive on “Cool” where, amid an upbeat kazoo melody and some mid-tempo guitar strums, there is an envious meditation: “What makes you so goddamn good?” One of the best numbers here, “Winner”, is a redemptive anthem for anyone finding themselves as their own worst enemies (“Gloom, let me know, He’ll let me go/When I show him I’m the kind of person that can win big”).

There’s a space-y ambiance that runs throughout the record, like the hand-drawn album art. While it is as much the aural embodiment of Pignatore, there is a reverence to singer-songwriters past and present. “Lay of the Land,” an observation on a post-breakup (“It’s not like you’re dead to me/Clearly, you’re not dead to everybody else”) sounds like the perfect synthesis between Alex G and Elliott Smith. At times, Pignatore’s vocal delivery is reminiscent of Dave Benton (LVL UP, Trace Mountains, etc.), particularly on opening track “Ditchin You”. The guitar/bass arrangement on “Moptop” also feels incredibly familiar, almost like early Magnetic Fields. Altogether, Suck Up All Your Guts is an excellent addition to the growing library of DIY releases, and one that deserves many plays and replays.

Key Tracks: “Ditchin You”, “Cool”, “Suck Up All Your Guts”, “Winner”, “Lay of the Land”, “Moptop”

Where to Go from Here: Elliott Smith – Either/Or, Alex G – Trick, Chad VanGaalen – Shrink Dust

Francie Moon – Glass House (Fake Art Fake Music/Gruff Beard, 2014)

via ▶ Glass House (7″ Vinyl EP) | Francie Moon.

Every Thursday, I’ll be reviewing one local artist/release that I believe deserves recognition. This week: Francie Moon – Glass House

Melissa Lucciola crafts messy, blues-tinged garage-rock in the Northern Woods of New Jersey as Francie Moon. I first caught wind of Lucciola when she was producing music under her own name back in 2012. Her exceptional record Make Yourself at Home astounded me, with tracks like “Dear Love,” “Be Me,” and “Grow.” In person, she may seem more reserved, but in performance she becomes an entirely different being, with a voice that is full of strength and emotion. Her latest release the EP Glass House is full of distorted vocals, impressive guitar work, and excellent songwriting that lies somewhere between the blues and folk music.

In terms of sound, much has not changed since Make Yourself at Home. The most noticeable change, however, is the increased attention to guitar solos. The guitar lines on this record are incredible, and feel both vintage and epic. On top of that, the lyricism here is on par, and Lucciola knows how to write a song that feels like her version of a blues standard. “One day I’ll get rid of all my worry and let my soul just be,” she desires on standout “Gave It All I Could.” Despite this hope, there is a great deal of realism: “But for now I’ve got to live with me.” This is music that feels like a love letter penned to past greats, from a truly versatile artist.

Key Tracks: “Gave It All I Could”, “Glass House”, “Rain Coming Down”

Where to Go from Here: TORRES – TORRES, The Black Keys – Rubber Factory, Karen O – Crush Songs

All Sensory Void – Secret Truth of the Universe (Sniffling Indie Kids, 2015)

via ▶ All Sensory Void.

Every Thursday, I’ll be reviewing one local artist/release that I believe deserves recognition. This week: All Sensory Void – Secret Truth of the Universe

Eric Goldberg has had quite a history with the NJ/NY music scene. From his days in the 90s-tinged “last wave rock” band The Nico Blues, to his current indie rock experiment All Sensory Void, Goldberg delves into different sonic explorations, whether straight-ahead or ambient. His latest effort, Secret Truth of the Universe, is no exception, and shows just how far Goldberg burrows into a universe of exquisite sound.

Secret Truth of the Universe feels more expansive than previous All Sensory Void releases. Goldberg has this knack for writing songs that are simultaneously accessible and obscure. The record often teeters between these two extremes, with standout dance-floor number “Feeling for You” hovering at one end, and the title track floating at the other. There’s a range of sounds and feelings here, from upbeat and poppy, to dismal and foggy. “New Year” is an especially spacey number, drenched in a plethora of ambiance, be it chorus and/or reverb. Much like the photograph in the album cover, this music feels like it’s from a distant time. Some of that can be attributed to the 90’s influence I hear in Goldberg’s music, and some of it is the effect-ridden fog that drenches these eight tracks. Either way, it’s a testament to the meaning an album can have as time captured in sound.

Favorite Tracks: “Feeling for You”, “A Day in a Daydream”, “New Year”, “Within You, I’m Without”

Where to Go from Here: Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lenses Alien, Beat Radio – Safe Inside the Sound, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – Madonna

Forth Wanderers – Tough Love (Seagreen, 2014)

Every Thursday, I’ll be reviewing one local artist/release that I believe deserves recognition. This week: Forth Wanderers – Tough Love.

Forth Wanderers are a 5-piece indie rock group hailing from Montclair, New Jersey, but they sound just about ready to conquer the DIY world. This is melancholic pop, both lyrically and melodically, yet it manages to tackle heartbreak and sadness gracefully.

Opener “Selfish” follows an intriguing A-B-C structure (no traditional verse-chorus here), with lead singer Ava Trilling’s gloomy warble flowing beautifully from section to section. She communicates a sense of vulnerability, as if in the back of her mind her worst fears could be coming true. The guitar work on this record is exceptional, adopting a great melodic sense. “Painting of Blue” in particular has spidery melodies that seem to crawl through the song, where Trilling makes an interesting observation on toxic relationships, namely losing herself in someone else: “You’re gonna paint me through.” The record is called Tough Love for a reason: these songs appear to say that love is at times an obligation, and in some ways by being with another person, you become what they see rather than what you are. The feeling of going about your day even though you feel completely broken inside is captured on “Fuck”, where Trilling comes to a sobering realization: “I can’t start anything with a full heart.” Tough Love finds itself housed between sadness and longing. On the title track, there is a moment of weakness that is immediately, if dramatically, brushed off: “I’m sorry for falling asleep on your shoulder/When I’m older I’ll grow colder.” However, one of the best moments on this mini-album of sorts is on closer “Television”, a song about how people, whether your musical idol or your boyfriend, will let you down. However, they will all be meaningless when you eventually rise to success. It’s about wanting to move past what weighs you down, and you can be sure you’ll be defiant when you finally do: “I’ve got some more ideas/You’ll be at home alone/I wanna make it big/That’s something you’ll never know”.

Favorite Tracks: “Selfish”, “Painting of Blue”, “Blondes Have More Fun”, “Tough Love”, “Come Clean”, “Television”

Where to Go from Here: Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy, Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt, Speedy Ortiz – Major Arcana