Knox Hamilton | The Great Hall EP Review

Knox Hamilton is an up and coming band hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas. Their brand of music could be described as indie dance pop, electronic or even 70s reboot disco. One thing’s for certain though, their latest EP The Great Hall, is quite a bit of fun. Filled with tight hooks and danceable melodies this EP is packed with excellent tracks. The first track Work It Out opens up with a bit of an instrumental portion that has a very full and consuming feel to it on account of the background synth. The chorus for this track is pop perfection. Belting out “I know we can work it out”, when pertaining to a relationship, as it does in the context of this song, carries with it both a sense of optimism and youthful naiveté that melds perfectly with the upbeat cadence of the song. Another notable track on the EP is Ameritown, which is a synth heavy dance song with a simple enough premise… dancing, and sometimes that’s enough.  This EP seems to be a perfect fit for summer listening, it’s short, fun and capable of making a pleasant memory.

If you have been paying attention to the imposing trends in much of the music that has come out in the last year or so, you most likely have noticed the influx of disco inspired intros, picking progressions and structure. This is the trend and Knox Hamilton has tapped into it and you can listen to them on their bandcamp page here.      


Micah P. Hinson And The Nothing | Review

As with bands like Deer Tick or Dan Mangan, Micah P. Hinson dances on the line between alternative and traditional country music. He manages to not dive headfirst into the pitfalls of current popular country music which relies heavy on gimmickry and pretty faces. Instead, Hinson focuses on storytelling and ornate melodies to complete his songs. This may seem like a simple method to apply but it can often go so wrong and quite exciting to hear when it goes as right as it does on …And The Nothing. This is Hinson’s seventh album his last being in 2010 with …And the Pioneer Saboteurs. That being said, you can hear the intentional subtleties laced throughout this album that only come with time. 
As a singer Hinson manages to produce a feeling that resonates on each track, his voice echoes and quakes with a manner that is distinctive to him alone.  The first track off of the album How Are You Just A Dream is a fury of energy. Unlike what we heard on Hinson’s previous album …And The Nothing has a few songs that just rattle and hum.  This is a stark contrast from I Ain’t Movin’ which is a delicate piano melody.  Another track, with a particularly long title called, The Life, Living, Death And Dying, Of A Certain And Peculiar LJ Nichols, calls to mind certain Neil Young songs through its storytelling. Then comes Sons Of The Ussr, a track which stands out as the most distinct out of the album’s entire track list. The distinctiveness in this track comes from the ambient background keyboard portions, which create a dream like atmosphere. 

There is something distinctive and appealing to Hinson’s music. Whether it’s the storytelling, the orchestral element or simply the voice, Micah P. Hinson is a force that is too often overlooked and one to be reckoned with.  


New Gods | Beloved Album Review

Good things are growing in Melbourne Australia.  New Gods are an up and coming five piece band that has just released their debut album onto digital cassette called Beloved.  It’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into the band’s first effort and it’s not often that you come across an album that has something to give on each track.  This album is being touted as a digital cassette. The word cassette may bring to mind a few things for people who had the privilege to live through the era of cassette tapes. You might feel inclined to write this album off as part of the recent lo-fi movement that co-opted this particular medium to distribute their grainy sounds born in the comfort of someone’s garage. You can’t though, the tracks may have a bit of background noise to them but the lyrics are not masked by an overwhelming layer of distortion. For a lot of those lo-fi bands this layer of distortion acts as a kind of camouflage for either a lead singer with little to no vocal talent or lyrics that ring hallow in the ears of listeners. Luckily, that is not the case with New Gods’ album Beloved, to miss the lyrics that populate this album would be at the loss of the listener. 

This album has a certain quality to it. Each track can touch the inner plaid wearing youth of a certain generation while also calling to mind even older musical eras which must have played a role in the development in New Gods sound. There are a few tracks that stand out on Beloved, Beneath the World is the lead off track and it creates an atmosphere that is both dreary and oddly comforting thanks in large part to the featured piano portion. Too High starts out with a mood setting bassline but what stands out on this track are the great background harmonies that will resonate with anyone into Fleet Foxes.
It isn’t a simple task, Beloved just hits all the right notes as a debut album. The final track, Deeper Love, features a prominent piano portion and ends with explosive horns and vocals. It leaves you with a sense of satisfaction that is hard to achieve for any song. It’s impressive that every track has something to offer and is undeniably good. Beloved is far from a youthful romp. The tracks on this album have a very serious tone, similar to that found on a The Mary Onettes album but without the 80s flare. All and all, you will be hard pressed to find anyone who does not like at least one of the tracks on this album.

If Beloved can gain an audience then you will be hearing about these guys in the months and years to come. You can listen or download the whole album at belovedalbum.com 


Neko Case | A Review of The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You

Neko Case has released a new album with perhaps the longest title in the history of albums. It’s called The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. If you are unfamiliar with Neko Case, she is one of the lead singers of indie darling, The New Pornographers but she also has a solo project under her own name. In fact, her latest album (insert huge title) is her sixth album as a solo artist. Case is excellent at writing lyrics with emotional force but all of her words would mean much less if not for her distinctive and soulful voice. Somewhere between a sultry lounge singer and a professional singing instructor, Case’s voice is uniquely beautiful.     

The latest album has a different tone from her 2009 album Middle Cyclone which was  well-received by music lovers and critics alike.  The lyrics in The Worse Things Get… have a directness to them, like there was very little time given to dress things up and make them pretty. Any crass lyrics or imagery are offset by Case’s vocal execution. This idea is exemplified in the track Nearly Midnight, Honolulu; here you can really see how raw and sometimes surprising this album can be.  It works, and pays credence to the idea that sometimes it is nice to be surprised.

There are a few standouts on this album that will no doubt live on as repeating lyric or melody in the minds of those who hear them. I’m From Nowhere is essentially just Neko and an acoustic guitar, but it is in the odd transitions and strange sentiment regarding the 80s that makes this song memorable. Then we have Where Did I Leave That Fire. This track articulates, in a abstract way, the realization that you have lost something that used to define you as a person and you cannot get it back. Ragtime, which is the final song on the album, has a very good bassline, trumpets have found their way on this track to great effect.

The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You is perhaps better than Middle Cyclone, and that is saying something.  


Deer Tick | Negativity Review

Deer Tick has released their fifth full length album called Negativity and it’s a worthy successor to the band’s previous effort Devine Providence. Stylistically, Deer Tick could be considered a country band but when you really get down to it they are more of an old fashion rockin’ roll band with a bit of a country flare. Over the years this band has been able to produce some very memorable tracks that have enough nuances to allow for a continuing appreciation.  Take a track from their 2010 album The Black Dirt Sessions, When She Comes Home. This track features strong lyrical imagery matched with a very compelling hook. The way that it plays out allows for multiple listens without disappointment, not unlike a good radio single, When She Comes Home just grows on you. The same can be said for the band as a whole, all the gravelly vocal timbre and stylistic tone of Deer Tick grows on you over time.  

One of the standouts on their latest album is Mr. Sticks; it really touches on what makes Deer Tick a consistently excellent producer of music. This track, just like When She Comes Home, has a tight hook that is matched with emotionally engaging imagery, all of this creates an atmosphere within the song that is hard to achieve and rarely this well done.  This album has a grander vibe than previous Deer Tick albums. The explosive horn portion featured on the album’s first cut, The Rock, sets the tone of the album as though the statement being made here is: we’ve been doing this for a while now and if you haven’t been listening so far it’s time to do so.  Negativity overall is not as playful as Devine Providence, which ranged from a very lighthearted drinking song like Let’s All Go To The Bar to the rather dark track Chevy Express.  But it’s also not as sombre as The Black Dirt Sessions, which dripped with sadness and melancholy from start to finish.  Negativity is a good representation of what Deer Tick can produce, even though it may not be their strongest album to date.