Artist on the Rise: Greenjeans

Greenjeans (@greenjeansband) is a decade-old Columbus, OH-based indie rock outfit who just missed out on this millennium’s garage rock invasion. These lads deserve to be stars based on what they have recorded thus far and it is only a matter of time before they break through and get a chance to shine.

The most recent lineup consists of singer/guitarist (and songwriter) Dave Durham, drummer Eric Slaback, guitarist Marko Skugor, keyboardist Johnny Riddle, and bassist Colin Giacalone. An earlier lineup recorded the 2014 album Cave Demos, which encompasses the raw, gritty style brought to the alternative radio stations for a time by The Strokes, Jet, among others. The mixing is unpolished, making it even more of a garage rock masterpiece. One should not mind if this record becomes re-mastered one day once the band gets a record deal, just so long as the suits do not tinker with Durham’s work too much.

Cave Demos features the eerie “Lullaby”, which is the album’s shortest tune and would be brilliant at the end of a horror film. “Something to Do” is one of the tracks that would be amazing on alternative rock radio back in the early 2000s and it would be great on today’s radio. “Sign of the Times” is the track that is the most Strokes-esque with Durham giving Julian Casablancas a run for his money. Other notable throwbacks from this record are “Sleezeball” and “Weirdos (Dumb & In Love)” The industry is cyclical, therefore maybe there is hope for Greenjeans to make the charts one day along with the resurgences of The Hives, The Datsuns, and the like.

In March of this year, Greenjeans released the new single “Vuvuzela” that is a departure from the group’s prior work. The track is more of a psychedelic surfer rock song that clocks in at over five minutes, which would warrant a radio edit version for it to make it to air. It, much like the Cave Demos tracks, is written and performed brilliantly. On Friday, October 20 the band will be gracing the stage in their hometown. Perhaps they will mix it up with some vintage and modern indie rock, but whatever they choose to play it should be an amazing night indie rock enthusiasts will want to be part of.

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Album Review: We Were The Vexies

Cleveland quintet The Vexies’ debut LP We Were The Vexies is a non-cookie cutter record indie rock enthusiasts will be proud of. Per their Bandcamp page, singer and rhythm guitarist Ray wrote most of the album, which was produced by Jimmy Wilkens and mastered by Gabe Swarts. Rounding out the five-piece are lead guitarist Wilhelm Bruening (and singer on the third track), vocalist/tambourine player Kelly Porter-Santamaria, bassist Michael Oswald, and drummer Matt Ebinger. Together, the group put together an album in which could see some major play with the right marketing.

The Vexies are a clone of no one, which makes their album a delight to hear in a multitude of places. The songs have a happy-go-lucky, free spirited feel to them. For instance, the last track on the 10-song record titled “Two Bullets” doesn’t tell a sun-shiny story but how it is executed by the band is sheer brilliance and will have folks singing along to the chorus on road trips and at live shows.

“Shhh!” is the album’s only tune to be written and sung by Bruening and has a real 1960s surfer rock vibe to it. Porter-Santamaria also has singing duties on this song and helps reinforce its beach party dance feel. Regarding the record’s other nine songs, Ray states on Bandcamp, “Some people can go through life blaming everybody else, but that doesn’t work for me. Facing these flaws and admitting they exist is the only way I can get to them. So I sing about it.”

Other notables from We Were The Vexies are the hoppy surf rock song “Whoa! Horsey”, the throwback “On 2nd Thought”, and “Big Bad Wolf”. The entire record is one that would not be out of place being played in a supermarket, doctor’s office, or local diner. The Vexies have concocted a series of tracks with substance that are soothing despite the grim subject matter. In a twist, because of how easygoing the songs are laid out, listeners will get a sense of pleasure from the songwriters’ pain. It is advised one access the album online or hear these tunes at a live show to get a taste of the storytelling Ray and Bruening have served up.

Review: Hello Luna – Ghost of You

In April of 2016, Columbus, Ohio-based alternative rock outfit Hello Luna (@hellolunaband) released the well-received debut single “Stitching Holes” leaving aficionados craving more. This year, the band dropped the EP Ghost of You in a sold out PromoWest venue and to solid reviews thus far. For those desiring a throwback to the late 1990s alternative sound with a modern twist, this record is the thirst quencher.

The bookend tracks on the five-song album are the most mainstream Alternative and Top 40 radio ready of the bunch. The first tune is “Sound & Sorrow” for which Hello Luna shot a spot-on video to premiere the song, directed by the company Loose Films. It starts slow with vocalist/lead guitarist Kenzie Coyne playing lightly and crooning and then drummer Michael Neumaier tickling the cymbals shortly thereafter. The song’s middle absolutely rocks listeners’ socks off with superb play from Coyne, Neumaier, and bassist Diego Villasmil before the band takes it down several notches to how the song started.

 

The fifth track “Half Asleep” is the other standout track that with label support will easily climb the charts. All three Hello Luna members play their roles vigorously with the image of each rocking out during the song’s recording. Performed live, this is clearly the most headbanging track of the night. This not a band to mess with and they are not one to miss on tour.

 

The EP’s middle tracks are solid works that fill the album out nicely. The bass-heavy “Empathy” is where veteran musician Villasmil really gets to shine and compliments Coyne’s dove-like vocals well as she repeats the album’s title multiple times. The third tune ‘Underwater” is a favorite live in concert with Neumaier’s drumming syncing up with Coyne’s guitar playing perfectly. As for Ghost of You’s shortest song “Tell Me”, figurative decapitation is mentioned on more than one occasion and Coyne is short and to the point with the guitar and vocals.

 

Hello Luna is back to being a quartet with the recent addition of Eric Morgan, giving them even more firepower when they record again. It certainly gives them a great deal more ammunition when gracing a stage. This four-piece is a hybrid of old school favorites Superdrag and new school favorites Wolf Alice and anyone lucky to hear Ghost of You via CD, live streaming, or in person is in for the ride of their lives.

Review: So Long, Stargazer’s ‘Look Up’

Columbus, Ohio’s So Long, Stargazer (@solongstargazer) is a young, energetic quartet consisting of Chase McCants (vocals, synthesizers), Kristin Green (vocals, keyboards), Nick Wray (drums), and Tommy Davis (guitars).  Founded two years back, the group played live to get the word out, which served as anticipation for 2016 debut LP titled Look Up. The album is unlike anything that has dropped in recent memory, making it one of the standouts on the indie music radar.

The record is the epitome of variety, featuring both McCants and Green sharing lead vocals on some tunes and then one or the other handling lead on others. Look Up comes with a late 1990/early 2000s sound to it, when radio was more diverse and bands could chart across multiple genres. The band deserves a great deal of success now, but had they released this album about 20 years ago SLS would be in the same conversation with Blessid Union of Souls, Sarah McLachlan, Keane, Anna Nalick, among others. That is great musical company to be in and they would have skyrocketed up the charts along with said acts.

For instance, the second track “Rewind” could do well on today’s Hot AC chart. The way all individual parts just melt together makes for a tasty musical grilled cheese sandwich. McCants’ canary-like vocals are on display here and blend in with Green’s keyboard work, Wray’s on-point drumming, and solid guitar play from Davis. On the other hand, carried by its vocals “Wreckage” is a spot-on tune that would fit at R&B stations. If only two minutes longer, “Drink the Sin” would slay on Hot AC or CHR Pop stations, giving SLS one of its more crossover tunes in today’s times.

Two decades ago, there was more diversity on the airwaves and that is where the bulk of Look Up would have fit like a glove. McCants, Green, Wray, and Davis should be commended for making the music they feel like making despite what industry big wigs choose to currently peddle. Here is hoping they can breakthrough and attract the attention they deserve. Even though the album is rock solid, their live events are a sight to behold and in this era of hip-hop, electronica, pop, and folk rock will be what carries them forward.

Further diversifying the album, Green gets to show off her singing chops on tracks such as “From Detroit to Toledo”, “To the Hour”, and “Weightless”. These tracks could do damage on AC and Hot AC stations with the right record company behind them. If/when either vocalist is ready to fly solo, those records are going to be in high demand on the scene.

Listeners should not let the LP being 14 tracks deter them as the different song lengths on Look Up balance out the album rather nicely. So Long, Stargazer’s musicianship is undisputed, however, due to the album’s hodgepodge and the current radio state a record company will have to work hard in marketing it. Outside of staunch metalheads, the record has just about something for everyone, which makes it appealing to fans who like multiple genres. The downside is by being so difficult to pin down to one radio format, major labels may not be up for the challenge. That would be a shame as the record is superb musically top to finish, but business is about calculated risks so it would be great for a label to step up and give these hard-working lads a chance. As far as the record goes, the listening public ought to follow suit.

 

Photo courtesy of the band’s website

Review: Two Years Later’s ‘Say It To My Face’

Columbus, Ohio’s alternative rock act Two Years Later (@2YLBand) ambitiously released two records in 2016 with the latest (and third overall) being Say it to My Face. As evidenced by the title, the record is themed as a revenge record with songwriter/lead vocalist/guitarist Jamie Rogers exacting payback against those who wronged her by way of melodic pop-punk music and a few ballads mixed in. In turn, these tunes can be relatable to others who have experienced similar dilemmas and seek healing, which they can also get through Rogers’ creative venting. Fans are forewarned that although disappointing relationships and/or life experiences are the norm on the album, one-third of the tracks is a departure of what they have heard on prior albums.

The title track is a brilliant clap-along 40-second intro to the album that takes one right to “#sorrynotsorry”, which was featured on the band’s first record. With its solid guitar and drum work, it is a rock anthem would fit right in on Alternative radio stations’ playlists. “That’s Not Ladylike” calls out the contradiction of women’s current beauty standards and Rogers’ vocals are on fire as she awesomely rants about the hypocrisy within mainstream and social media.

Say it to My Face’s fourth track, “Linger”, is different from Two Years Later’s trademark sound as it is reminiscent of the Santana and Michelle Branch collaboration “The Game of Love” sped up a tad. The song is one to salsa to and has potential to be a crossover hit across multiple formats. “Tonight, Tonight” is a standard part of Two Years Later’s playbook with sheer brilliance on guitar from Chandler Eggleston (also the tune’s co-writer), banging on-point drumming out of the group’s co-founder Zak Toth, and bombastic bass work and backing vocals by Mike Johnson. It is one of the album’s headbangers, making it a crowd favorite at live shows.

Yet another popular song at concerts that made the album is the call-out “Let Me Down Easy”, in which Rogers expresses self-depreciation for falling for false charms all the while chastising the culprit for his cons. Those not familiar with Two Years Later’s work should be warned that although Rogers writes and performs PG songs, this one contains strong adult language. Without approval of a radio edit, the song will not see the light of day on terrestrial radio stations. It makes those who love it obligated to hear it by attending a show or buying the album, but that is only a benefit to Two Years Later’s economic success.

An atypical track from Two Years Later, “California is Calling” slows the album back down as the ballad explores escaping a bad experience through an entire change of scenery. It also criticizes the antagonist’s actions and insufficient compensation attempts as the protagonist moves on with her life. Formerly a concert exclusive, “Never What You Wanted” is on millennials’ soundtracks as it deals with monkey wrenches getting in the way of society’s life manifests. The final tune on Say it to My Face is “Lullaby of Bitter Things”, which showcases Rogers’ vocals with some wicked ukulele playing. If the group wishes to take a huge risk, they can release it as a single and see it soar up the Adult Contemporary chart gaining them even more fans.

The band is on indefinite hiatus from touring and recording as for the time being, principal songwriter and lead singer Rogers is focusing on electronic/acoustic side project Kitty Pause. Thus, casual and diehard fans need to stay interested in the group’s work as it may encourage a reunion sooner versus later.  Much like Say it to My Face, when Two Years Later does return they will come back with a vengeance.

Review: Libby DeCamp’s Cross Sections

Multi-instrumentalist folk singer Libby DeCamp (@LibbyDecamp) lays all her cards on the table with her 2016 debut solo EP Cross Sections. Not only displaying talent, DeCamp expressed full creative control in that she wrote all six songs herself. In an industry big on hip-hop, country, and Top 40 pop rock right now, DeCamp’s contribution stands out as it is a dialed back, slower paced record for a country drive or relaxation after a stressful day. Listeners will learn quickly DeCamp poured her heart and soul into the EP as well as notice the craftsmanship and authenticity.

The lead-off track ‘Elroy’ starts off with some amazing bluesy guitar work along with DeCamp’s seductive vocals. It is noticeable right away the Detroit singer-songwriter is inspired by Norah Jones and perhaps Jewel. Although the song sounds peaceful, as evidenced from the lyrics the tune is violent in nature as DeCamp sings, I spit out my teeth, now the blood in the sink is boiling back at me.

On ‘Black Suit Man’, DeCamp provides a song which fits right in with the 1920 and 1930s. It is arranged and performed in such a manner that if one closes their eyes, it will be like being transported back in time to that era hearing this on an old school radio or live at Radio City Music Hall.

Cross Sections’ third song ‘Old Witch’ is the record’s most modern sounding track, worthy of radio play on Alternative and Hot AC stations and will have people hitting the repeat button for sure. It is also tied with ‘Charlie’ for the shortest tune on the album. Speaking of which, ‘Charlie’ is a sad song about a man grieving over the loss of a loved one. The organ and accordion work brilliantly as listeners empathize with the man and try to picture the tragic scene.

‘Put the Kettle On’ slows the pace down a couple of notches and is notable for its drum work and, of course, DeCamp’s sultry voice. It would be right a home on the Soundtrack from George Clooney’s hit film ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’. It could work on modern Country stations as a single with some Patsy Cline influence heard within in. The fifth tune ‘Seattle’ is the EP’s longest and would fit a modern-day romantic drama’s soundtrack like a glove. DeCamp has written and performed songs that cross genres, but Cross Sections does not veer all over the place as she elected to travel in just a couple of lanes on the album.

DeCamp got the chance to perform in Ohio recently with Jack and The Bear and has a couple of shows in her native Michigan coming up this month in Detroit on January 12 and Ann Arbor exactly two weeks later. Starting this past November, physical copies of Cross Sections’ proceeds go toward Sacred Stone Camp which fights against the DAPL. Thus, the EP’s buyers can support two causes: clean drinking water for citizens and pure, unadulterated independent music. DeCamp has created a CD gung-ho folk aficionados will want to add to their collection.

Open Your Mind to Conway’s Open Your Eyes

Quintet Conway (@conwayband) has paid their dues by touring across the U.S. in support of their unique take on pop-punk. Their most recent EP Open Your Eyes will get listeners’ attention as the Michigan five-piece demonstrate a great effort into recording it with its recurring main idea of relationships gone awry. This makes the band and their music more relatable to everyday people who can find solace knowing they are not alone in being broken.

 

The first tune ‘On Your Own’ is a song of love gone awry with splendid arrangements and spot-on vocals. It seems clear the band has spent some time listening to Simple Plan, A Day To Remember and The All-American Rejects for inspiration. It is an anthem that the heartbroken and neglected can relate to. The EP‘s longest track ‘All Wrong’ is another tune with the same imperfect relationship theme. Some of these songs will likely hit close to home with listeners who have experienced what the songwriter(s) have. It is often that the worst situations make the best stories.

 

Much like the previous two tunes, ‘Currents’ has surefire hit written all over it and maintains the album’s continuity of imperfect social situations. From start to finish, this track is their best chance at obtaining a Top 10 Alternative Chart hit off this record. Coming in at under two and one-quarter minutes, the finale ‘Meant To Seem’ is an ideal ending to the EP with solid musicianship on display and poignant lyrics such as, Sail away from the safe harbor / Catch trade winds to the east / Cause every part of me knows I should leave / But that’s not happening.

 

Open Your Eyes is a commendable effort from Conway as it cannot be easy to take dark subject matter and turn them into danceable, headbanging, songs. Although the lyrics are grim, the vocals and musicianship are on point and high energy from beginning to end. Another thing that is amazing is how they have managed to fly under the radar for so long. It is in every pop-punk fan’s best interest to pick up the EP and check the band out live. Their tour kicks off in Columbus, OH tomorrow, November 17 before they head back to their home state for a show and head west. Conway is in possession of four coping mechanisms for today’s depressed and confused youth and this EP along with their back catalog going unnoticed is a travesty.

With Album Release Upcoming, Cadence Blues Band Has Nothing to Cry About

The Cadence Blues Band (@TheCadenceBlues) may be a newcomer to the Columbus music scene, but their style and sound prove they have an old school mindset. There is already a buzz surrounding the trio as their EP The Seed officially drops next Friday, November 11 at a live show at The Shrunken Head. The young, psychedelic bluesy rockers have the talent to make a good run on the festival and dive scene, which means steady coin for years to come.

The EP starts off moody and haunting courtesy of the over five-minute piece titled ‘No Need’. This tune is a vehicle for vocalist Tony Gregorc to show off. It is the record’s ultimate campfire hippie anthem. This should be no surprise to its growing fan base as per the band’s Facebook profile, the group lists Hendrix and Zeppelin among their influences. One who pays attentions to the song’s lyrics will understand how relevant they were 50 years ago and now, especially with Election Day creeping up.

The pace picks up with track ‘So Damn Excited!’, a hybrid of blues meeting classic rock. If Q-FM 96 ever added this song into its rotation, it would fit into the playlist flawlessly. That stations’ avid listeners are people who thrived in the bar scene and Columbus needs to have throwbacks show millennials how it’s done.

‘Makenna’ is notable for drummer Ty Phillips-Bond’s on-point percussion, but of course he does a solid job from top to bottom on the album. Gregorc’s range gets put to the test on the track, despite this being The Seed’s shortest song. Taking the speed down a couple of notches is the song ‘(More Than) Just a Word’, which sounds like a sped-up ballad that people can move their bodies to.

Lastly, ‘How to Be a Rolling Stone’ is a genius mashup that demonstrates a 1970s attitude with 1990s arrangement. The song is so brilliant, it would be deemed a hit in both distinct decades. Gregorc and bassist Steve Simeon’s vocals are sheer perfection on the album’s final track.

When The Cadence Blues Band takes the stage in one week’s time, if the audience close their eyes and open their minds they will think they are back at the original (and best) Woodstock. They will be joined by solid opening acts Mystic Mamba and Punchdrunk Tagalongs. Per the group’s Twitter bio, Cadence describe themselves as, “A high energy, groove inducing, retro style blues-rock trio formed in Columbus, OH that creates soulful songs with a message, and performs them with feeling!” It is crystal clear The Seed captured this and a whole lot more, but that the live show will be even groovier.

Aiming For Average: Miles Better Than Their Name Dictates

Aiming For Average (@Aiming4Average) is a pop-punk quintet from Berwyn, IL (a western Chicago suburb) proving they do not live up to their tongue-in-cheek name. They are actually better. The group was founded in 2011 and has two records currently on Bandcamp (Icebreaker, which was released in 2014 and Blueprints the following year). Given what they have provided thus far on both EPs, the band is well on their way to joining fellow pop-punk groups A Day To Remember, Allister, and Taking Back Sunday on Active Rock radio and with a label deal.

 

The five-piece act consists of lead vocalist Nik Maniotis, guitarists Chris Perez and Christian Castillo, drummer Ruben Lopez, and bassist Zak Vhrel. On the seven-song release Icebreaker, the group primarily stays in high gear with heavy guitars and blazing drum work. The second track, ‘Sorry Not Sorry’, is a headbanging bitter love song relatable by anyone whose heart has been broken. The album’s final song, titled ‘3 Years, And All I Got Was A T-Shirt’, is another jaded relationship track in the band’s repertoire. With most tunes on Icebreaker being at warp speed, a standout track is their ballad ‘Man On The Moon’ in which Castillo gets to reveal his voice as the second coming of Chris Carrabba’s. This is their cigarette lighter/cell phone waving song at live events and the band will have ladies eating out of their hands after this is played.

 

On the four-song EP Blueprints, Aiming For Average keeps it short and sweet with fine results. Each track will have its place on rock radio, however, their best chance for a hit is the opening track ‘Feedback’, which is a brilliant toned down song similar to ‘Man On The Moon’. ‘IOU’ is another tune that will be pleasing to not only radio listeners, but to those who get to hear it live. The band has recorded themselves two fine pieces of work that at some point are going to attract the attention of labels big and small. Able to tour the Midwest this year, these guys are doing fine on their own, though.

 

Not only are Aiming For Average above-average musicians, they seem like swell gentlemen. Per Facebook, the group has raised money and performed on behalf of Autism Speaks and have had several write-ups recognizing their talent. Their summer tour is underway with stops in Shickshinny and Lansford, Pennsylvania on June 16 and 17, respectively. The big show of the week is on Saturday, June 18 as part of Columbus, Ohio’s Pride Weekend. Thousands of tourists will invade the capital city and once the marching and parading is over, Woodlands Tavern will feature three hours of in-your-face live music. They will be joined by indie rock darlings Sam and The Barbers and fellow pop-punk outfit Two Years Later. It is in one’s best interest to catch the band when they can and sample the music for themselves to confirm how good they really are.

Sam and The Barbers Definitely Make The Cut

Indie rock trio Sam and The Barbers (@samandbarbers) have provided a sample of what they have to offer the industry on their new four-song EP End of the World and alternative music’s future is great shape because of it. What vocalist/guitarist Derrick Walter, drummer Brett Williams, and synthesist Paul Strawser have constructed demonstrates a bright outlook for them in the years to come.

The band’s name is an ironic one as at no time since their inception has any band member been named Sam and none of them are or have been hair stylists. According to their October 2015 video interview with the university’s publication The Lantern, the band is named for American composer Samuel Barber, who Walter noticed had a noun for his last name and thought it was a good idea to keep the same band name format that has worked for Katrina & The Waves, Huey Lewis & News, among others.  The Columbus, OH band was formed by high school friends and former Ohio State University undergrads Walter and Williams. During their college stint and after several lineup changes, fellow student Strawser joined and magic has been made ever since. That has resulted in positive feedback for their high energy, spot-on live shows around town and now critical acclaim for the EP released just this year.

End of the World has potential radio hits across the board all the while maintaining musical integrity sometimes lost in mainstream music. The opening track titled ‘Everyone Here’ is a synthesizer and drum driven tune that has teenage rom-com soundtrack written all over it, and that is a good thing. Walter’s guitar-playing comes in about 90 seconds into it and takes the track to another level. His solid lead vocals give it a boost to create some static on the Alternative and Adult Rock radio charts.  The EP’s title track is a faster-paced synth-laden track that should also not be ignored by rock radio and by alternative music lovers.

It is End of the World’s middle two tracks that with the right people backing them will make Sam and The Barbers well-known. ‘I Promise I’ll Never Promise Again’ is a high-energy modern rock track that exudes influence from Vampire Weekend, Arctic Monkeys, and the like. ‘1982’, written by Walter, is a fun throwback that has a 1980s new wave vibe to it yet has enough relevance to be a surefire Top 10 Alternative smash and cross over to CHR Pop stations (you know, the ones that carry Ryan Seacrest’s ‘American Top 40’).

During their live shows, Sam and The Barbers have included a handful of other catchy rock tracks along with a unique take on the Talking Heads tune ‘Once in A Lifetime’. The next chance alternative rock enthusiasts can see and hear the hoopla for themselves is Saturday, June 18 when they invade Woodlands Tavern to open a show featuring Chicago pop punk quintet Aiming For Average and local rockers Two Years Later. It is in modern rock fans’ best interest to become familiar with these three upstanding and talented gentlemen before their careers explode and they become inaccessible.