Artist to Watch: Miller and The Hunks

Columbus, Ohio’s Miller and The Hunks (@millerhunks) perform highly prolific alternative music that is difficult to pin down. Some songs are slow, some go at three-fourths speed, and a few are pedal to the metal headbangers. One would imagine that was lead singer and songwriter Colin Miller’s mission from the start. It prevents the brand containing his namesake from going stale and being pigeonholed into one sub-classification. He has succeeded in ensuring listeners get a surprise with every song. Going back to the group’s origins a couple of years ago, the band has dropped seven different Bandcamp releases of synth-laden, guitar-rocking, and drum-banging alternative pop rock. Each record is more prolific than the previous. As the group gets ready to headline a show serving as a bouillabaisse of genres this Wednesday, November 15, here is a summary of each albums’ standout tracks in which some are sure to be part of their upcoming set.

From April 2015’s Purely Sexual, one outstanding tune is the surefire smash “I Want Out”, which is also a popular track the band plays live.  A major label would have to summon a radio edit version as the song contains Miller spouting the F-bomb a couple of times. Another fantastic one from this 13-song album is the piano-heavy ballad “Happy Days” which could be a Hot AC or Top 40 chart hit. “Blue Dream”, however, is one guitar-heavy gem that would be right at home at hard rock stations nationwide.

Later that year, Miller and The Hunks released two holiday-themed singles “Last Halloween” and “Hunkmas”. The former is a soothing, bluesy yet haunting tune that at the beginning sends a chill down one’s spine and picks up big time at the back half. The latter tune of 2015 is a Weezer-ish take on Christmas that just might be the best rocking song for the season. Parents be forewarned, much like the catchy “I Want Out”, listener discretion is advised for adult language. To be fair, it would not be authentic rock n’ roll without a little controversy from the band.

In August of 2016, the quartet which then consisted of Miller, guitarist Jon Leonard, bassist/backup vocalist Josiah Ogden, and now-defunct drummer Tommy Cheeseman commissioned the six-song EP Would You Like To Yes?. According to the Bandcamp page, the record is described as “a journey of an alt-rock EP, telling the story of the end of a life of a violent drug-addicted man.” The band turns what comes off as a tragedy in the blurb into some fantastic indie rock vibes that make people dance versus cry. “Drunk Driving” is a Walk The Moon-esque tune that will have folks dancing at live shows. They slow the pace down a few notches on “Good Heavens” a brooding bluesy song that shows some fantastic guitar work from Leonard and vibrant vocals from Miller and Ogden.

In the fall of that same year, Miller and The Hunks bestowed the single “Stapled Shut” upon indie rock enthusiasts. It is another one of their tracks that would warrant a radio edit, but this time it would be due to time constraints. The unedited version clocks in at approximately five and a half minutes. It would not be until July of this year that they released new music, providing the public with another live show favorite titled “Creativity”, although likely known at shows as “I Wanna Dance”. That is a tune that lives up to its lyrics and gets crowds going each time it is played at concerts.

Last month, this time with Ethan Joseph behind the kit, Miller and The Hunks released the eight-song album And Jeff: Part 1. It lives up to the group’s prior works while standing on its own merits. The record provides the Hunks’ standard mixture of alternative indie rock with a slightly heavier rock tune thrown in. On this album, “Wicked Tongue” is glorious hard rock presented only as the boys can do. “Gravity” is a melodic synth-pop jewel with provocative lyrics that the group has performed live and will likely do for Wednesday’s gig from the popular venue Spacebar featuring Los Angeles duo Dad & Steve, local project Golden Death Music, and Toledo-area post-hardcore band Castle No Kings. The sets will be limited in time, so fans will get only a sample of what Miller and The Hunks has to offer. Given Colin Miller’s ingenious songwriting and the band’s priceless execution, even an abbreviated set is sure to satisfy audiences.

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Review: “Get Loose” by The Old Adage

Detroit pop duo The Old Adage (@TheOldAdage) look to dance their way up the charts with their newest single.  24 seconds into the video for “Get Loose”, the party gets popping and craziness ensues. It is a trippy video with the cocaine scene from ‘Scarface’ re-enacted, people in animal outfits living it up, a live dog wearing a shirt, and glitter everywhere. Directed by the tandem of Justin Collins and Randy Williams, “Get Loose” is a very wild wide for approximately four minutes and it appeared everyone making the video had a blast.

Siblings Mimi and Nino Chavez express a great deal of charisma in the video and show this is not their first rodeo. The group has been around the block several times having formed the band nearly five years ago under a different name and with lineup changes along the way. They have started to find their groove, though, with two records under their belt. The first being the EP Matches and last year’s full-length Cycles, the latter of which contains “Get Loose”. Both albums are available at the band’s website and major streaming outlets everywhere.

On “Get Loose”, Mimi’s vocals are on par with the other pop divas invading Ryan Seacrest’s Top 40 each week. The beats are on point with the vocals making for a dance track sure to get clubs worldwide jumping and bumping. Although the album containing this gem has been released without label support, if it gets in the right hands or heard by the right ears, there is no reason “Get Loose” cannot become a bonafide smash. The chops and professionalism are certainly there to make it happen.

Ultimately, this single and accompanying video are about escapism and letting it all hang out. Those who hear and see it will surely get that vibe real quick and have themselves an awesome time.  The Old Adage will do their part in making sure they bring the party at their live shows and hopefully, dance pop fans will show their support by viewing the video, buying the record, and spreading the word to make it the hit it ought to be.

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.

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.

Mint Leopard is Ready to Pounce

Cincinnati’s Mint Leopard (@MintLeopardOG) consider themselves a psych-jazz rock n’ roll band and based on what they have released thus far, they live up to the hybrid description. Formed earlier this summer, the quartet of lead vocalist Jaxon Hughes, drummer Justin Van Wagenen, guitarist Alex Masset, and keyboardist Ben Bob Hammer have been getting their feet wet with live shows across their hometown and surrounding areas. They recently released the single “Progress in the Evenin’” and even created a music video for the track. Based on first impressions alone, the foursome should have a bright future ahead of them.

The video, directed by Hughes, was conceptualized and executed with sheer brilliance. Based on its premise and production, it would fit right in with the playlist of The Cool TV and MTV2’s 120 Minutes, when the latter network still aired the program. Released this past July, the video is primarily set in the desert, with three guys in business casual outfits searching for Hughes. The song is a melting pot of pop-rock psychedelic greatness that crosses over multiple decades. It would fit like a glove on playlists in the 1970s and 80s. With several acts in the 2000s inspired by music from 30 to 40 years ago, the track is just as relevant today as it would have been back then. Hughes’ harmonic vocals gel perfectly with the slick guitar and synthesizer work of Masset and Hammer. Van Wagenen’s drum work caps off “Progress in the Evenin’” giving the listener approximately four and a half minutes of a non-stop jam session.

Mint Leopard is seeking to expand its horizons beyond being their local territory and they are well on their way in doing so. The group looks to tackle Ohio’s capital, known for its diverse and embracing music scene. Cincinnati has produced good talent across different genres such as 98 Degrees, Pay The Girl, and Motherfolk. With upbeat on-your-feet tunes in their arsenal, Mint Leopard has an excellent chance to succeed anywhere.

*Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook page

Revised Review of Reva’s “Landslide”

Reva

 

English quartet Reva (@wearereva) recently sent out their latest single “Landslide” in advance to a select crop of individuals. The band had released a ‘raw’ version several weeks back, however, the newer version is different in several ways. That is not necessarily a bad thing as the group prepares to release it to the masses this Thursday (15 May).

 

The original recorded version clocked in at over four minutes while the version fans will get to hear soon comes in slightly under three. The group is currently without a record deal and although they are doing fine without one, they know the game and want to play it well. It pays to have a radio-friendly single that is long enough to have substance but will not lose those listeners in this day and age of shorter attention spans.  This was a change that the band felt was necessary if they are going to progress as a recording artist.

 

One thing Reva fans and soon-to-be converts will notice about “Landslide” is how notable the drums are on the track. From beginning to end, the work behind the kit is clear and distinct. This is another point the group clearly wanted to tweak to make the track stand out. There is a lot more clarity with the guitars, making it quite splendid. Overall, the newly mixed version loses its garage feel, but this is a sacrifice for the greater good as Reva is clearly thinking about their musical futures and putting out what they want and how they want.

 

Reva has scored with “Landslide” and if there is justice, it will go viral and earn the group a well-deserved recording contract that will lead to more live shows across the globe. The single is old school alternative that will remind listeners of the great days of Oasis and Kula Shaker’s dominance on rock radio stations. In a little over a day, music enthusiasts will have a chance to hear the greatness for themselves.

 

*Photo courtesy of the group’s Facebook page

Review of Reva’s newest single “Landslide”

Liverpool-based four-piece band Reva (@wearereva) have scored with their most recent masterpiece “Landslide”. This is a tune reminiscent of a time when alternative music charts contained tracks from names like Kula Shaker, Superdrag, and Manbreak. Band members Lewis Cromby, Jake Larsen, Luke Lawler, and David Duff have captured the classic alternative Brit-pop to the letter on “Landslide” The track’s harmony and arrangement are reminiscent of what you might hear on songs from other bands Oasis and Vertical Horizon. That kind of familiarity can only be a good thing as Reva continues to travel the road to success.

The song rocks musically, of course, but on “Landslide” the vocals are spot on. Unfortunately, the band is unsigned so this gem may not have the number of listeners it deserves. There is no doubt Reva will do its best to ensure the masses get to hear their music.  They have built a name for themselves as a local band and are ready to take the entire homeland by storm. One of these days, the hard work will pay off and “Landslide” could find itself as a major hit on worldwide Alternative charts soon once Reva has inked a deal. This single is a mere taste of what this quartet has to offer and it is in one’s best interest to check out all of their material to make an informed decision.

*Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook page.