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: “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.

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.

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.

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.

Review: Captain Kidd / Clubhouse / Personal Public (Skully’s: 4/8/16)

This past Friday night, three of Columbus’ up-and-coming indie rock groups took to the Skully’s Music-Diner stage not only to entertain the sea of concertgoers who braved the elements, but also to support a fantastic charity. Proceeds went to the non-profit Music Loves Ohio, which makes disadvantaged youths’ dreams come true with scholarships, songwriting workshops, and more.  Early into the evening, the doorman had a wad of cash in his hand and given the crowd’s size  by show’s end, thousands had to have been donated.

Spunky quintet Personal Public (@PersonalPublic) kicked off the night to a great sized audience for a nine o’clock start. All five guys seemed to be having fun performing their array of catchy, yet thought-provoking alternative rock songs. Their sound is a fresh mishmash of Kings Of Leon, Parachute, and Knox Hamilton, who are three acts that have earned respect within the genre. The coolest part of their set was the bassist showing off his drumming chops off stage in front of the crowd. Not to be outdone, Personal Public’s actual drummer took to the standalone kit on the concert floor and did his thing. Furthermore, the fact that the week prior these guys played the same gig as national alternative acts Declan McKenna and Best Coast demonstrates Personal Public is getting the right ears to hear them.

Clubhouse (@clubhouse_music) had big shoes to fill and this group held their own with no issues. These guys stood out with a hybrid of the romantic 1980s sound combined with the hooks and harmonies found in today’s alternative music (think UB40 + The 1975). Their music is cool enough to dance to by oneself, but it strikes the heartstrings enough that couples can be affectionate to it, too. It seemed quite obvious due to what Clubhouse brings to the table musically and aesthetically, they had the female-heavy audience from the first note. This is a band that is not too far from where Personal Public are in terms of opening for nationally known artists. On June 11, they will participate in LaureLive, a festival outside of Cleveland that features O.A.R, Grace Potter, Red Wanting Blue, to name a few.

Despite setbacks with the singer/guitarist’s monitor, once headliners Captain Kidd (@Capn_Kidd) started playing the mob quickly forgot about the snafu and hung onto every chord these guys cranked out. These gentlemen were spot on from beginning to end and their indie dance style caught on with ladies and gentlemen alike. Their best known tune, “Freaky Love”, was played next to last and sounded just as great as it does in the awesome video with over 26,000 YouTube views.

When the night was over, fifteen musicians had given their time, effort, and energy to execute something special. Those who witnessed the greatness exuded this past Friday were left wanting more. Perhaps Columbus festivals’ big wigs were in attendance for a prime scouting opportunity as these bands deserve to be considered for spots. If they were not, then they missed out on good music with a fun crowd for a great cause.