Can TikTok Create Talent?

You’ve definitely seen them: The teens (and even some adults) dancing and lip-syncing their way through fifteen seconds on an app that sprung up in the wake of Vine’s death. If you live under a rock and don’t know, I’m talking about TikTok.

In a short time, TikTok has become the new It app for a strong majority of today’s teens and young adults. Of course, this means there’s a whole new genre of influencer, one that, essentially, seems to have even less substance than the infamous YouTuber, or even an Instagram star.

So, why is it that musicians are using TikTok (and other questionable forms of social media) to launch music careers? Why are there so many articles out there telling them how to do so (really, Google it!)?

Obviously, transmedia has always had opportunities when used in a traditional marketing sense: Post some pictures and short videos on Instagram, put concert dates on Facebook’s events, and Tweet a few snarky comments to make yourself seem more relatable, and you’ll have fans. But apps like TikTok are an anomaly. What do fans get out of watching their favorite artists flossing (The dance kind, not the tooth kind. I’d be even more confused by the latter.)?

Before finding the answer in the present, we have to dig into the past.

If you’re around my age (21), you’ll likely remember when YouTube and Vine were the main sources of entertainment, and, as a result, the influencers that came from them. Yes, I’m talking about MAGCon.

I’m not here to make fun of the people who enjoyed MAGCon culture (or TikTok, or anything, really). In fact, I’ll admit it: I attended DigiTour, and I had fun! Yeah, some of the influencers didn’t really have a talent, and they just jumped around onstage, but there were some acts that I really enjoyed thanks to their charisma, comedy, or musical talent.

But, many people were there because they wanted to see those seemingly talentless influencers, the ones jumping around onstage. Why?

The answer is simple: They felt connected.

This could be the key to the TikTok phenomenon, too. When someone—especially a young, impressionable person—feels like they know someone’s personality online, they will want to know them in person, too. They will want to support this person, to feel like the relationship goes two ways. For many of these lucky fans, it can. For others, a “concert” is enough of an illusion to mask the true distance between creator and consumer.

So, we can understand this: People will support a creator with whom they feel a connection. But what about musicians on these apps? Would people still enjoy their music if the social media connection was severed? Should these performers stick to the apps, or expand their brand and play live?

From my own experience, and in my personal opinion, no—unless they’re extremely well-practiced and prepared to put on a show, not just a performance. The thing that breaks many social media-based artists in my mind is a lack of differentiation between a performance on an app, and a live show.

The perfect example is Brothers Page, a popular Instagram/TikTok team of brothers. Please take my critiques with a grain of salt, and remember that they are just that: critiques. As a music reviewer, this is my job, and it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy someone’s music.

And I do enjoy Brothers Page’s music! I think they have great voices and a lot of talent within the mashups they create on social media. Their vocals are very well-blended, trained, and suit the songs they choose to sing. I can definitely understand why they have (at this moment) almost forty thousand followers on TikTok and over a million on Instagram. I think it would be fair to say that they are, objectively, talented people.

That being said, I would not think so if I was only exposed to their live show. When I was first introduced to Brothers Page, it was via their opening act for Hot Chelle Rae’s Burlington, Vermont show on December 5, 2019. While it was mentioned that it was Brothers Page’s first live show, it was also completely obvious (at least to the trained eye) that they were completely unprepared. I can understand nerves and a lack of polishing for a first show. Heck, I can even sympathize with a train wreck. But it is my strong belief that bands who are not ready to play live should not do so until they are as bulletproof as possible, at least in rehearsal.

That’s not to say Brothers Page was a train wreck: Their vocals sounded very much similar to their social media videos, and nothing went explicitly wrong. But—and this is the Big But—they appeared as if they were performing for a phone camera, not a ballroom full of people. Marching in place and swaying back and forth may give videos a great sense of movement and presence, but it does the opposite on a large stage. Unless a social media musician understands this, their show will likely feel staged and small, much like this one.

That’s not to say that musicians who get their start online shouldn’t perform live. They should, but they should also keep in mind that live music is a whole new ball game.

In some ways, TikTok and other forms of social media can also truly benefit beginning artists, and this should be acknowledged. In fact, many artists that we know and love (Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, and Alessia Cara, the list goes on) gained fame because of social media. In fact, without TikTok, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” might have never gained popularity: Its viral success as part of the “Yeehaw Challenge” is what put him on the map as an artist. It will likely do the same thing for countless others before a new app replaces its fame.

Social media is becoming a bigger and bigger part of the music industry, to the point where, in coming years, I could see apps like TikTok becoming the place for fans to discover new music, and for artists to primarily create it. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

In the meantime, check out Brothers Page and decide for yourself:

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TikTok

 

Let’s go All-In on All In Moment’s Self-Titled Album

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[All images by Christine Trimarco]
Tired of New York-based cover bands? All In Moment could be just the group you need!

Formed two years ago in a Staten Island basement by fraternity brothers Chris Scott (Vocals), Dave Cohen (Guitar), Michael Funk (Bass), and Dan Luczak (Drums), All In Moment is a hard rock band that will be familiar to fans who frequent the tri-state area scene, now with a change in the lineup with the addition of Luke Lewis (Bass).

All In Moment enjoys producing tracks that challenge the normal themes of sex, drugs, and materialism that we often hear in modern music, instead focusing on ideas they feel are important to communicate to their audience. Their self-titled album, released in June 2019, features a broad array of ideas and musical themes that reflect the group’s wide range of personal influences.

The first track of All In Moment’s self-titled album is titled “Before the Bombs Drop.” Inspired by Rage Against the Machine, the song discusses today’s turbulent political landscape in a classic metal style. The influence is clear in the driving instrumentals that begin the track; stormy percussion and snaking guitar riffs lead us into clearly-delivered lyrics that ask “Who are these people that we’re choosing” to lead us? Perfect for fans of Rage Against the Machine, Green Day, and Anti-Flag, this politically-charged anthem is a powerful way to begin the album.

“Haunt Me” employs haunting, high-pitched guitar riffs paralleled by rolling, deep basslines to create a sense of duality in the instrumentals. Although I wish the vocals were a bit more forward in the mix, the balance between high and low is wonderfully done in this track, making for a full-feeling listening experience. “Haunt Me’s” phrasing is also well-fit to the rhythms in the instrumental, allowing the song as a whole to flow smoothly from beginning to end. Small details like the bass fills at 4:30 and strategic cymbal hits throughout the track add a lot to the mix, solidifying “Haunt Me” as one of the strongest tracks of the album in my book.

“Unstoppable” is the heaviest track of All In Moment’s self-titled album. Based on the theme of feeling so powerful that nothing can stop you (hence the title), the song is energetic and filled with classic metal-style instrumentals. Shaking waves of cymbals and shimmying guitar lines weave their way through the drawn-out vocals, chugging along through each measure in between. The main breakdown of the track emphasizes the screams and spaces between the notes that makes metal such an interesting genre to listen to.

The next track, “From Chaos Comes Clarity,” is a great follow-up to “Unstoppable” in terms of musical themes. A bit lighter, but faster and full of groove, the track is one of my favorites of the album for the way its energy, off-beat phrasing, and instrumentals interact. The lyrics of “From Chaos Comes Clarity” reflect on the idea that sometimes you have to lose it all in order to truly find yourself: “Sometimes we all gotta fall / To find ourselves / From chaos, from chaos, from chaos comes clarity / From chaos, from chaos, from chaos comes clarity / I turned to drugs and alcohol to fill this empty hole / I’ve become a lot colder to all the people I know.”

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“For You” is the track of the album that holds the widest appeal in terms of genre. Twinkling guitar notes and comparatively soft vocals tell a timeless story of a girl over well-placed kick drum and bass rhythms: “I don’t know what it is / About you, is it your pretty face? / Maybe the way you laugh, I know it’s made me want to dance…. / If I could, you know I would / Give you the world.” Although markedly different from All In Moment’s other tracks with more of a pop rock feel, “For You” has a lot of potential to be a fan favorite, and maybe even a track that introduces new fans to All In Moment’s heavier tracks, and heavier music in general.

“Refuse the Call” pays tribute to HBO’s Game of Thrones in its themes of familial betrayal. Beginning with haunting vocals soon joined by intense, rhythmic guitar lines and heavy bass notes, the track brings the album back around to All In Moment’s heavier style in dramatic juxtaposition to the previous song. The emotion in the vocals echoes that of each piece of the instrumentals, aggression and a sense of betrayal present in delivery and tone as strongly as it is in the lyrics. “Refuse the Call” is an effective track for storytelling and emotive energy.

The bassline at the beginning of “Oblivion” is attention-catching right away. Right in the pocket and effective at setting the tone of the track, the bass is used as more of a melodic instrument than a rhythmic one, which is always a refresher. Although the phrasing of the vocals of “Oblivion” could be mixed up a bit—nothing is truly emphasized when every word is dragged out—their rhythm flows well with the instrumentals, which really take the spotlight in this one. That being said, the chorus is well-done on all fronts, and definitely catchy in its simplicity.

“Not That Far Away” is the first song All In Moment created together, but the final one of the album. The song incorporates some of the softer guitar themes of “For You” to kick things off, soon to be set off by driving rhythms and aggressive staccato notes as we move along farther into the song. “Not That Far Away” is impressive for a first song, and does well placed last in the album for its inclusion of familiar themes from almost all of the previous tracks.

Connect with All In Moment:

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***Like the majority of my reviews, a submission fee was charged for this post.***

 

 

Bad Ties Makes Poetry Cool(er)!

During my freshman year of college, one of my favorite professors invited me to read at an event called “PoJazz.” If my freshman self had ever heard the musical creations of Bad Ties, I’m sure she wouldn’t have hesitated at all to join in!

Based out of Asheville, North Carolina, since 2017, Bad Ties takes PoJazz to a new level with their experimental mix of spoken word, jazz, and post-punk to create a brand new style of beat poetry. The work of Garland Wells (Poet), Jacob Moran (Producer), Billy Reed (Bass), and Jason Chrisman (Tenor Sax) is truly one of a kind.

The band’s latest release, titled Music 4 No One Vol. 1, is their fourth LP. The record, mixed and mastered by Sid Saravanan, focuses on themes of heartbreak, displacement, and substance abuse, and was released on December 14, 2019 at a celebratory hometown show.

“Just Goofin” plays with tempo and empty space in a way that crafts an utterly unique listening experience. Mixing white space with a dragging, stilted melody, the instrumentals of the track add a lot to the poetry’s lyrical twists and turns, creating layers of rhythm that the ear races to understand: “Tenuous, terrible, / Marble faced shame! / Ride along, bridal song, / Warbled mouth dame. / Step away, entry way / Nothing was the same. / Nonsense words, all preferred, / All parties were game. / Simmer down, abandon crown, / Gyges is dead. / Staccato walk, bravado talk, / Disregard what he said. / The ring was turned, Republic burned, / I’ve died a hundred times. / A monster’s life, this constant strife, / I’ve lied a hundred rhymes.”The saxophone outro takes the staccato backing and turns it on its head, producing a flowing, mellifluous contrast to give listeners a lot to think about.

“Critical” continues the flow of the ending notes of “Just Goofin’,” allowing Garland’s storytelling abilities to shine over a bed of twinkling notes. He tells of a kind of self-doubt and failure artists know all too well, and the sense of hopelessness that comes with it: “We found out on the long train ride back from Brooklyn, /  Reeling from a show that only sold seats / To staff and ghosts. And / A fear hits me in the chest / That grows from marble to fate / And all with the flick of a baton. / Were we doomed? / Is this early reaction a kindness from peers? / Do I see the words about to burst, only for them to ring all hollow? / What the hell are we doing here?”

“Critical” is one of those tracks that makes you wish you could come up with lines as nuanced as Garland’s. It’s easy, as a writer and a music lover, to appreciate just how much thought and skill was put into every word.

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[Image by Ivan Basil]
“Allure of the Abyss” continues the musical themes found in the previous tracks in the form of rhythmic white space and slightly off-beat instrumentals that create an ideal level of dissonance. Instead of storytelling, “Allure of the Abyss” focuses on character development. Avoiding cliches and relying heavily on metaphorical descriptions, the lyrics paint a picture of a woman in specifics: “She’s no believer, /
But she’s deeply spiritual. / She prays to her stones, / A rock solid miracle. / She says they enlighten her, / Clear away fog of mind. / Deep down she’s just lonely, / She has far too much time. / She’s a corpse during sunlight, / She’s radiant in the moonlight.
/ She hums arcane melodies, / Reads death dates for fun. / She struts down back alleys, / Dances down by the docks.” The characterization in “Allure of the Abyss” creates a woman I want to learn more about in future songs.

“Cigarettes and Coke” is another well-produced track that illustrates the offbeat talents of Bad Ties. Featuring the bass in prominence, the instrumentals are deep and psychedelic underneath dreamy spoken-word vocals. On the surface, “Cigarettes and Coke” is a strange and perilous journey into strangeness. When analyzed further, patterns emerge in the seemingly random musicality, all driven by the relationship between the bassline, following instrumentals, and rhythm of the vocals. “Cigarettes and Coke” is the perfect Alice in Wonderland track for poetry and music fans alike.

To many bands, a song the length of “A Lifetime Position” would be a throwaway interlude. To Bad Ties, it’s a whole new story, this time a rhyming ode to the life of a poet set to the deep drone of a bass: “I implore to you all, / Raise me up like Lazarus. / Though I have to warn you / This small man is hazardous. / Loud, quiet, / Sunk low, stuck in this canyon. / Committed for life, / The poet D’Artagnan.” The exploration of the speaker’s life juxtaposed with that of their peers creates a lovely dissonance within the track.

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[Album cover designed by Quin Terry]
The beginning of “Gods on the Fritz” features a 90’s sitcom-style voice over, including a laugh track. What follows are clubby wavelengths, overlaid by the story that reflects the title, which invokes many allusions and plenty of mythology: “Burnt to a crisp / Icarus carrying the sun. / You can call me Copernicus, / Party of one. / Fly me to Hermes, / I’m feeling this brandy. / Shrug on me, Atlas / I’m feeling Ayn Randy.” I enjoy the poetry of “Gods on the Fritz,” but the well-placed chaos in them makes the track one that I, personally, wouldn’t be able to just listen to without purpose.

“Wicked Eyes” brings back the slower flow of some previous tracks that I enjoy. Smooth, warbling instrumentals guide the song through its 1:40 running time, their continuity reassuring as we move through the story within the poetry. The delivery of the lyrics of “Wicked Eyes” is truly what makes the track unique. Garland’s intonation and attitude are clearly practiced, every bit of emphasis well-placed, especially through lines like “There are couples everywhere / These two, those two / Whose Boo? That’s MY Boo. / How can I be sipping / This witches brew? / At what point in the trajectory / Did I stray askew?” Songs like “Wicked Eyes” are great to really show a band’s personality and make listeners feel more connected to the group and their work.

The dark bell tones that kick off “Funeral” create a dramatic setting for the building of tensions within the song. The description of setting stands out within the poetry of the song: “The coffin coma, / An oft rotting aroma / The ropes creaking slowly, / The submerged bed eternal. / The 6’ by 2’ hole, / Was drowned in a flash, / The crowd disengaged, / The proud priest enraged. / The dirty river vertical, / My lost love now lateral.”Mournful, twisting saxophone notes emphasize the tangle of feelings found within the lyrics, a perfect combination and one of the most effective uses of the instrumentals of the album.

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[Image by Luke Gura]
“Soul and Time” brings back the rising and falling instrumentals and plodding beats of previous parts of the album. The slow, jilted rhythms and depth within the bass notes create an interesting ambiance for the vocals. Long lines and well-phrased lyrics make for a solidly-paced track with an abundance of rhetorical questions such as “Are you my Cleopatra? / Does venom flow within your pretty veins? / How does this love pretend to function? / How does her memory paint me in her mind? / Be it a charming villain? / Floundering nebbish? / Cynical fool? / And how did your portrait fare?” Bad Ties’ exploration of love and loss is definitely a deep one.

“Outward Hands” is the final track of Music 4 No One Vol. 1. White noise and birdsong lead us gently into lyrics, followed closely by a tense, deep thrum at the heart of the song. Although most albums typically end with a track that wraps things up nicely with a bow made up of the previous themes of the album, it is clear that Music 4 No One Vol. 1. is not meant for that. Instead, measures of gentle saxophone, the flutter of a page flip, and dark vocals leave us, all at once, both satiated and and starving for more.

Bad Ties plans to tour for Music 4 No One Vol. 1 throughout 2020. To catch a show in your area, stay tuned on their social media for updates!

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***Like the majority of my reviews, a submission fee was charged for this post.***

It’s No Surprise that Wasting Moonlight’s New Single is a Hit!

It’s no surprise that Wasting Moonlight’s new single is a hit! The four piece alternative rock band based out of Freehold, New Jersey was founded in 2018 by Brandon Glovich(Vocals / Rhythm Guitar) and Luciano Catuogno (Bass), soon joined by Joe Smith (Lead Guitar) and Dominick D’Aversa( Drums) that November.

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[All Images by David Garcia]

In November 2019, the group took their next big step with the release of a music video for “No Surprise,” the introductory track of their debut album, Honestly, I’m Just Angry, which was released December 21, 2019.

The video’s organic aesthetic is highly complementary to the track’s clean, honest rock vocals. With the camera’s positioning and smooth movements throughout the video, it feels like fans are at a show, watching Wasting Moonlight perform live.

“No Surprise” is definitely a track that would shine in a live setting; its catchy, classic instrumentals provide a solid backing for clean, clear vocals, making it easy for fans to follow along with the lyrics (“You take my hand / Guide me to the river / Watch me drown now / I can hear the voices serenade me….). Like most good rock bands, every piece of the puzzle works together to make the track solid as a whole, but each has their own individuality when listened to carefully. In the case of “No Surprise,” the complementary guitar tones were the first detail that caught my attention. The full-feeling rhythm guitar sets a solid foundation, twining with the growling bass to allow the lead guitar its time to add the perfect ratio of climbing riffs into the mix.

The rhythm section was also solid: The measured cymbal hits and energetic kick drum throughout the track blended well with the bassline. Although simple, the bass part does a good job at bridging the gap between rhythm and melody and plugging the gaps in the guitars with well-placed fills.

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As the song progresses through its 2:30 running time, the decay of the band in the video does, too! The little touches are what truly matter in a music video, and the gory makeup being layered on is definitely a great way to make a relatively simple performance into something unique and special for the band’s audience.

Perfect for fans of classic, alternative, and punk rock music, Wasting Moonlight’s single is sure to be a crowd-pleaser when played live, or even over the radio.

Connect with Wasting Moonlight:

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***Like the majority of my reviews, a submission fee was charged for this post.***

Best of 2019!

The new year is approaching, and with it comes new music. But how can we celebrate all of this year’s awesome releases while making room for next year’s?

By discussing the best overall singles, EPs, and albums of 2019!

In order to be eligible for any of the below categories, the piece must have been previously featured or reviewed on this blog during 2019, and have qualified for one of the quarterly “best of” prizes. One artist may not win multiple categories, even if they qualify,  but will be bumped up to win the higher-ranked category.

Without further ado, here are my best of 2019!

Best Music Video of 2019: “Tunnelvision” by Marley Wildthing

The music video for “Tunnelvision” is one that I would want for my own music! It is the perfect aesthetic match for the audio, too: “The song and video for “Tunnelvision” serve to “describe depression,” but also to show others who may be struggling that “There is always [a] light at the end of the tunnel!

The music video was produced by a team of Czech and Slovak professionals, [and] the visual mind and organizing force [behind the] video was David Dougles, who developed the script, directed, designed the sets,” and edited the final video.”

See the original review of “Tunnelvision” here!

Catchiest Song of 2019: “Kill Yourself” by The Cold Year

I just couldn’t stop listening to this one, even after finishing the original review! “Scratchy, swinging delivery makes the track incredibly catchy within just the first round of listens. Funky percussion and perfectly-executed phrasing are combined with just the right amount of guitar and bass in the mix to make “Kill Yourself” unforgettable even without the lyrics coming into play, although they add just as much to the track: “Take me from the people / Take me, break me / I ain’t worthy of your time / Waiting, laying / Thinking ’bout wonderful ways to die.” When the tongue-in-cheek lyrics are combined with the impossibly funny video, the track is somehow improved even further! “Kill Yourself” is not a track you want to miss.”

See the original review of Prey for Me here!

Best Bassline of 2019: Temporary Cemetery by Raid the Quarry

Raid the Quarry’s entire album is full of bass parts to be proud of. Their bassist proves that the talent is in the details, and definitely knows what he’s doing around a bass. The basslines of tracks like  “Liars and Thieves” and “The Return” enhance the tracks tenfold, making Temporary Cemetery an album that wouldn’t be the same without the low end.

“‘Liars and Thieves” keeps the momentum of “Swing for the Fence” while incorporating the clear, clean guitar tones Raid the Quarry specializes in. The bouncy, fresh guitar lines married perfectly with impressively steady basslines in a way that reminded me of Gaelic rock’s pressing force, particularly at the four minute mark until the final few bars. In terms of basslines alone, this song is technically striking. Although the part may sound simple at first listen, each note in the swinging rhythm is perfectly defined, unfaltering. Even with the addition of a few classy fills, I never lost sight of the bassist’s intentions for the piece. Hats off to you for this one, Mr. Farnsworth!”

See the original review of Temporary Cemetery here!

Most Creative Artist of 2019: Bishop LaVey

When I first saw Bishop LaVey perform at Jim’s Basement in Burlington, Vermont, I had no clue what “Doom Folk” meant, but I was rightfully intrigued. Bishop’s creativity in his songwriting, persona development, and performances is unparalleled.

“The guitar picking at the beginning of “Romulus” brings a flighty feel to the song before it quickly deepens and slows through plodding, resonating notes as the vocals enter. The heaviness of the instrumentals brings extra emphasis and focus to the lyrics and the dynamic storyline within them: “Well, I was born up on the mountain / And they’ll drown me in the lake / Well, I breathe in Armageddon / And they’ll die for my mistakes / If my body is a temple / Well, then it’s seen some better days / So you can throw me from this hilltop / I see no sacrifice in vain / Now I am coming home / You’ve seen how I / I stand alone….” The character that Bishop takes on is one that we get to know well through the lyrics’ twists and turns, and it is a sonic pleasure to do so—In fact, “Romulus” is one of my favorite songs of the album.”

See the original review of Bishop LaVey’s latest album here!

Most Impactful Artist of 2019: A Sunday Fire

In terms of social media presence, A Sunday Fire is hard to beat! Besides the usual promotion of their shows, merchandise, and music, A Sunday Fire uses their Twitter account to spread a sense of community and acceptance in the DIY scene as well as in marginalized groups. Just like in their music, A Sunday Fire strives to make a difference via reaching out to their listeners and fellow musicians on social media to encourage them and make the community stronger.  Don’t believe me? Check out their Twitter or listen to their music to let them brighten your day!

“‘A Mexican Love Story” is a wildly appropriate song for today’s political climate at the United State’s borders. With aggressive instrumentals and undeniable energy, the track really makes a statement even without the lyrics. With the addition of words, “A Mexican Love Story” doesn’t pull punches from the first line: “Lock all the kids in a cage / Maybe throw away the key / Maybe you can build a wall / Build up insecurities / We walk the streets and we don’t feel safe / Land of the free, the USA.” In a time where many people don’t have the common decency to care about human rights issues, songs like “A Mexican Love Story” are essential to help turn the tide.”

See the original review of A Sunday Fire’s album, An Open Letter, here!

Best Single of 2019: “No Place for People Like Us” by Opposite Box

“No Place for People Like Us” was one of my earliest reviews, but the track has really stuck with me despite all of the other music I have listened to in the interim.

“I loved the mix of styles showcased throughout the song; nothing felt out of place despite the wide range it covers. In the first four minutes, I felt the seventies come to life in a burst of jazz, but when this faded into a more stylistic progressive portion, I was equally as intrigued. I loved the heavier, swaying tones of the bass guitar that faded into the wide, sweeping synthetic tones towards the halfway point of the track as well.

When “No Place for People Like Us” picks back up after its intergalactic interlude, the tones blend seamlessly once more and the energy somehow increases, like a boost button was pushed. I didn’t want the song to ever end.

I would truly love to witness this being played live.”

See the original review of “No Place for People Like Us” here!

Best EP of 2019: Haven’t Found It by Elizabeth P.W.

Elizabeth P.W. blew me away with her sweet vocals and clear emotion in every track of her debut EP, Haven’t Found It. Elizabeth’s commitment to helping others makes her music even more powerful.

“In 2018, Elizabeth decided to turn her debut single, “Anyway” into a “fundraising and awareness campaign to fight rare mutations of Cystic Fibrosis” with Emily’s Entourage, a non-profit.  “‘Anyway’ is performed by two-time Tony nominee Laura Osnes (Grease, Cinderella, Bandstand), Gideon Glick (Spring Awakening, Significant Other), Christy Altomare (Mamma Mia, Anastasia), Javier Muñoz (In The Heights, Hamilton) and Sarah Levy (Netflix’s Schitt’s Creek).”

Between all of her other endeavors, Elizabeth still actively freelances as a trombonist, ukulele player, and music educator.

Clearly, Elizabeth is no stranger to the music industry, and it shows with her debut EP, Haven’t Found It….

“Emily Waits” showcases Elizabeth’s array of musical abilities, especially her knack for storytelling as she takes us on an adventure through Emily’s life: “Emily wants to feel free / To travel out west to where she’s meant to be / If she just had time….” The lyrics roll off of Elizabeth’s tongue with silky smooth intonation, gliding above the masterful instrumental parts in a way that leaves them pleasantly separate enough to be enjoyed as a package, or even individually. Although “Emily Waits” has a certain sadness to it, Elizabeth manages to give all of her songs a hopefulness, even as they describe situations that should be without hope.”

See the original review of Elizabeth P.W.’s EP here!

Best Album of 2019: Gibberish by Flagman

Flagman was definitely one of my favorite artists of 2019 thanks to their debut album, Gibberish. Everything about the record was impressive, particularly its Les Claypool-level basslines, which were some of the best I have heard in my time as a musician or music writer.

“As a whole, Gibberish is an extremely professional, well-recorded first album. If I had not known it was a debut, I wouldn’t have been able to guess. I am thoroughly impressed with this record, and if you don’t listen to it, you’re definitely missing out!

The first track of the album, “Headache Talking,” is like the powerful thrust of a rocketship lifting off to space. It leaves no room for gentle introductions; we’re all-in right away. The driving drum lines work to effectively drive the guitar and basslines forward underneath strapping vocals.”

See the original review of Gibberish here!

Artist to Watch Out For in 2020: RAGS AND RICHES

I was thoroughly impressed by both records I reviewed for RAGS AND RICHES, but also by their other releases, particularly their 2019 debut, “Speed of Sound,” which racked up some unsurprisingly impressive stats on Spotify and YouTube.

This band is doing everything right. Between their unapologetically powerful sound, uniform aesthetic, and skilled marketing and branding, RAGS AND RICHES should be held up an an example for modern-day bands everywhere. Many artists don’t take promotion or aesthetics seriously, but RAGS AND RICHES brings both to the next level. Their business-savvy nature and musical talent make RAGS AND RICHES a band to keep an eye on in 2020 and beyond, because they definitely have the momentum to go far in the industry.

Check out my reviews of RAGS AND RICHES’ Arrival and “Not a Stranger“!

Best Artist of 2019: Tie Goes to the Runner

From my very first listen, I knew Tie Goes to the Runner would be one of those bands that just stole my heart. Their music has that special something that demands to be felt with every listen, and that is why they are my Best Artist of 2019!

“Overall, I am beyond impressed by Tie Goes to the Runner’s self-titled collection. In fact (and I don’t say this lightly), they have become one of my new favorite bands just from listening to their music for this review. Their sound reminds me of a lot of other groups that I love—From Indian Lakes, Boston Manor, Glass Lungs—but at the same time, they remain utterly unique. I listen to a lot of music, so it takes a lot for a band to really stand out in a way that makes me add them to my daily listening. If you try out just a few artists from reading my reviews, you won’t regret it if Tie Goes to the Runner is among them….

“Thru” comes with the inspiration of preparations for a trip on the Appalachian Trail. “While the band was writing and recording TGTTR: A Self Titled Collection of Songs…CJ and Keith were preparing to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Thru-hiking [involves hiking] an established end-to-end long-distance trail with continuous footsteps, completing it within one calendar year. The 2,200 mile trail starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at Katahdin in Maine. The band released the album and played their [pre-hiatus] show on February 23,2019, and CJ and Keith began the thru hike in Georgia about three days after that.”  To celebrate the end of their hike, “the final video for…’Thru’ will be released on August 1st, right before they come back home.”

Besides its incredible origins, “Thru” is an incredible ending to Tie Goes to the Runner’s self-titled collection. The instrumentals are fun and crunchy, but still utilize the spaces between notes to create a sense of movement within every measure. The vocals are pushed more into the forefront in this track, but there are still an abundance of little details within each instrumental part that the song would still be interesting without lyrics. With the lyrics, a whole other level of depth is added to the song. Phrased beautifully, the words describe elements of CJ and Keith’s coming journey: “I don’t love all that I see / A world filled with hate / With dogs who have acquired a taste for only other dogs to eat /I think I’ll make like a leaf / And go live in the trees / At walking speeds I’ll be running from society / Look at me now.” While the lyrics discuss the serious problems of today’s world, they have a sense of humor about them that makes the track palatable at any level of analysis.”

See my full review of Tie Goes to the Runner’s self-titled record here!

Interested in seeing more of this year’s talent? Check out some of my seasonal Best Of lists below!

Best Albums of Winter 2019!
Best Singles of Fall 2019!
Best Singles of Summer 2019!
Best Albums of Summer 2019!
Best EPs of Summer 2019!
Best Albums of Spring 2019!