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

Critique: Midnight Coast Deserves to be Heard Coast to Coast

Released two years ago, Everything In White by Columbus, OH-based then-quartet Midnight Coast (@MidnightCoast) is a fantastic ride from start to finish. With such a polished recording under their belt, the band’s future looks extremely vivid. Despite the group citing Coldplay and Ben Folds as artists who influence them, the group has put together thirteen unique tracks that stand on their own merit. Some of their songs hint at piano-heavy group Keane as an inspiration, which is certainly a compliment. It is only a matter of time before the foursome’s hard work pays off and they get a brighter spotlight placed upon them along with an opportunity to tour throughout the country.

The instrumental first track ‘Drive’ clocks in at less than two minutes and should be part of an action movie trailer. The short, but sweet work of keyboardist Matt Stephan, drummer Kevin King, and guitarist Kevin Murray is a stroke of genius. If the band elected to add two more minutes to it, ‘Drive’ would be one of the rare instrumentals to become a Top 40 hit. The record’s second tune, ‘Runaway’, is the most reminiscent of Ben Folds’ influence on the group. Lead singer Liam Kirkpatrick’s vocals are on point and fit the song to sheer perfection. If Midnight Coast had a record deal in place, ‘Runaway’ would be one of the album’s standout singles with a chance of peaking high on Alternative charts.

The title track is the type of song that would fit right in on a serious indie film’s soundtrack. ‘The Hunter’ would have a fighting chance on the Adult Top 40 stations with its fusion of Ben Folds, Tori Amos, and Train from beginning to end.  ‘Brain Kicks In’, which is the final tune on the album, is the surefire gem that with the right backing would be the band’s best bet at a mainstream Top 40 hit. Kirkpatrick, King, Murray, and Stephan fire on all cylinders and save the record’s best song for last. It is a brilliant way to cap off a disc that has quality musicianship from start to finish.

Midnight Coast is a band that has been in existence for half a decade and they have paid their dues long enough. In short, the band has demonstrated in recording and in concert they are worthy of larger recognition for their talent. The band released an album that is not the flashiest in the industry, however, it holds up well compared to higher budget albums from their influences. While they would fit in on a bill with the likes of other local groups Truslow and Nick Tolford & Co., this now five-piece act deserves a chance to be heard from one end of America to the other and beyond. Now with bassist Nick Ewan in tow, it is only a matter of time before this unsigned group’s day will come and they have the success Red Wanting Blue, Twenty-One Pilots, and Watershed have had coming out of the capital city.

*Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook page

Review of Mary Lynn’s “Familiar Things & Places”

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Columbus, OH-based singer-songwriter Mary Lynn Gloeckle (@songsbymarylynn) wrote, co-performed on, and co-produced her latest full-length Familiar Things & Places. Mary Lynn put her heart and soul into each of the ten tracks on the record. The types of songs featured on the album should be required listening on a gloomy, rainy day. The music remains positive, even if the subject matter is not. If one is ever in a bad mood, this is the album to turn a frown upside down.

 

“Often” is a brilliant selection as an introduction to the album. It is the shortest song on the record, however, it is the sweetest and would make for a great theme song for a quirky TV series. Another standout track is “Only Human”, perhaps one of the more up-tempo tunes on Familiar Things & Places. If there was a track to make headway on alternative or adult rock radio, this is the one.

 

Mary Lynn is a very unique songwriter and the two artists she might be compared to the most are Ingrid Michaelson and Zooey Deschanel. “Time To Spare” sounds like it could have been written by either one of those established stars, but Mary Lynn beat them to it. This song and “Isn’t It Pretty?” have indie romcom soundtrack written all over them, and that is a good thing. Whether Mary Lynn wants her music to be licensed for such use is up to her as she is clearly making the kind of music she wants to make and it sounds like she is having a good time doing it.

 

Several of the albums tracks might be ballads and that is perfectly fine. That is the beauty of indie music in that an artist can write, perform, and record music on their terms.  For the dancers out there, there is another tune that is a bit more upbeat and has a toe-tapping vibe to it.  “Charlotte & Bob” is a personal favorite and is a must-listen as it bridges the gap between the slower, stripped down tracks and the songs on caffeine.  “Happy” is another sped up song that lives up to its title for sure.  Another point to make about the record as a whole is that it is family-friendly music.  These are the kinds of tracks that can be played during family road trips and youngsters can enjoy the sweet, uplifting sounds of Mary Lynn. There is not much cool music out there that is suitable for minors, but Mary Lynn’s masterpiece is an exception to this.

 

Indie music aficionados need to keep a look out for Mary Lynn and take a chance on “Familiar Things & Places”. She is already gaining a lot of steam this year. She was the winner of a battle of the bands competition for the privilege to perform in front of thousands at a concert headlined by highly regarded major label artists. Remember the name because this is going to be a breakout year. She already has a tremendous LP working in her favor.

R&B Singer-Songwriter On The Rise And Breaking Hometown Stereotypes

Seattle native Tess Henley (@TessHenley) is a force to be reckoned with as a soulful artist with a pop side. This is fascinating as the Seattle area is best known as the hotbed for artists such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden. It is refreshing to have an artist who has the ability to move the meter and break stereotypes. This is evident in her video “Who Are You”, which has Top 40 hit all over it. She has been part of shows that were headlined by R&B superstars Jill Scott and Anthony Hamilton. Alicia Keys, Fiona Apple, and Vanessa Carlton better look over their shoulders. There’s another piano player on the scene and she plays for keeps.

Henley, no relation to Eagles member Don (as far as we know), is ready to blow up and should be confident heading into this new year. Three years ago was a big period in her career, as she won the 2011 Independent Music Award for Best R&B Song (“Boy In The Window”) and the soultracks.com International Songwriting Competition. This demonstrates Henley’s ability to perform and pen tracks. There are complaints from the general public about one-dimensional musical acts. Henley is a breath of fresh air, clearly capable of being able to write her own music, play an instrument, and have the vocal chops to pull off the total package.

Henley’s debut full-length record High Heels & Sneakers is available now at online retailers and features “From The Get Go” and the song featured here. She is doing well with Twitter followers considering she is an independent artist and is #2 R&B artist in Seattle on ReverbNation. 2014 should be a huge year, so be on the lookout for Tess Henley to take the music world by storm. She can write, sing, play, dance, and look good doing it.