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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

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.

Critique: Kid Runner’s Wake Up Now

Kid Runner (@kidrunnerband) sent out a wake-up call to the music world, so to speak, in the form of their second EP Wake Up Now. Dropped this past October, the unsigned Columbus, OH quintet have delivered a series of tracks that stand up in quality to anything from Passion Pit, OK Go, Walk The Moon, and Fun., who perform a similar routine. If they had the same resources available to them those bands have, Kid Runner would hold their own on late night TV shows as well as the Alternative and Top 40 charts.

The opening track, which happens to be the title track, is disappointing in that it is relatively short but is a nice instrumental intro nonetheless in the same vein of The xx. ‘Thinking Out Loud’ is a would-be hit with fans of Sheppard with strong male and female vocals on display. According to their Soundcloud page, it is the EP’s second most clicked track behind ‘Move’. Speaking of which, ‘Move’ is the track that has earned the group local success as a winner of Radio U’s daily ‘Battle of the Buzz’ competition. Furthermore, the song is also licensed for use on MLB Network. The band also released a video for ‘Move’ that is equally as relevant as major label artists’ videos using a fraction of those groups’ budgets. These two tunes on their own ought to be enough to garner Kid Runner the industry-wide attention they are due.

Wake Up Now has three more tracks that have their own flavor and showcase the five-piece’s creativity and talent. ‘Breaking Away’ is a tune in which the lyrics imply it is a song about destorying figurative shackles and escaping a toxic situation and/or person. It is the EP’s most serious song and one that proves Kid Runner’s wide songwriting range. Even hair metal bands churned out the occasional ballad and life commentary with favorable results. ‘Killin’ Me Now’ is pop brilliance from start to finish with the incorporation of keyboardist Frances Literski’s backing vocals to compliment the strong drum and keyboard work. Litterski’s dove-like vocals are also included in “Higher”, the record’s most dance club-friendly tune.

Alt-pop music lovers willing to take approximately 30 minutes to check out Wake Up Now will experience proof Kid Runner is going places figuratively. Literally, the group is expanding their horizons outside of their local confines opening for Civil Twilight in Pittsburgh on May 28 and playing at Cincinnati’s Burnbury Music Festival on June 5. Those gigs are followed by a return to Columbus on September 5 for the Fashion Meets Music Festival. Alternative and indie music’s true believers and supporters must not miss out on a chance to hear Wake Up Now in addition to their self-titled EP. If this band has the success they have demonstrated they deserve, the alternative and pop rock genres are in great shape for years and years to come.

*Photo courtesy of the band’s Facebook page

Review of OneFortyThree, They’re Coming They’re Coming, and Jesse Wilkes at Scarlet & Grey Cafe (1/11)

This past Saturday night OneFortyThree (@OHonefortythree), They’re Coming, They’re Coming (@TCTCMusic), and acoustic soloist Jesse Wilkes put on a solid night of musical action. These artists could have easily phoned in their performances, given the fact that a fourth set from another band never materialized. It was quite pleasing everyone involved made an effort to put on their best shows to make up for the other group’s absence.

Image

As for ChilIicothe native Jesse Wilkes, he played as an acoustic soloist.  No beatbox, no computers, no synthesizers. It was just a man with a guitar and his natural voice.  Wilkes was the opener, designed to warm up the crowd for other acts, but he did more than just keep the stage warm.  After the performance Wilkes provided at S&G, one looks forward to what he has to offer in recorded material. He definitely earned his keep for the evening and people should keep a look out for his work in the future.  Wilkes is the #1 Folk artist in his region according to ReverbNation. Fans of singer-songwriters are best served looking up Wilkes to find out what he is all about. He is expected to have a big 2014.

Image

They’re Coming, They’re Coming is a four-piece Columbus outfit consisting of James Anderson, Louis Liphart, Griffin Brink, and Brad Guggenbiller. From beginning to end, these guys had the female-heavy crowd hanging onto every note. A stuffed ALF doll was present for the set as well and it could be considered an unofficial fifth member of the band. The doll did its job as a good luck charm for the group and the band even received a chant for “one more song”. They’re Coming, They’re Coming did a nice job with the BLACKStreet hit “No Diggity” and performed an alt-country song as their encore. The band has a small presence on the Internet and are ranked #22 at ReverbNation, where would-be Alternative Top 40 hit “The Tree” is available to hear. Here is hoping 2014 is a breakout year for this quartet.

Image

The third performance of the night was conducted by the #14-ranked alternative rockers in Columbus, OneFortyThree. This quintet was on point and is in the midst of working on a live album, which this past Saturday’s gig was part of.  Newcomer Kristian Wilson more than held her own with the charter members of the band. Boy, does keyboardist Randall Chafins know how to bring the energy or what? Everyone was on point and brought their A-game for one of their biggest performances.  This group should go places in the new year, especially after orchestrating the crowd’s participation in their live recording.  That is when a band knows they are on their way to new heights.  It was announced a new EP is in the works, so be on the lookout for it at online retailers.  OneFortyThree’s current material is available at their Bandcamp page and is downloadable to those who want to add it to their personal music players. Local music fans are best served going out and seeing this group before while they can.  It might not be too long before they are out on the road all over the place spreading their brand.

The music of the evening was all on the up and up and each artist brought something different to the stage, making for a diverse and fun night.  2014 is in its infancy and it will be a shock to no one if all three end up having a better year than 2013.  Music lovers are advised to do their research and learn more about these artists. Get to know them before they explode. Defeatists want to underestimate the central Ohio music scene, but it is not in their best interest to do that any longer.

Band In First Year Of Existence Is Destined For Sophomore Success

What a year it has been for Manchester, England’s Puppet Rebellion (@PuppetRebellion). Until this past January, the band did not exist and they are highly regarded for their latest record and their live performances. Based on the chatter going on about the group, 2014 is bound to be bigger and brighter.

Puppet Rebellion consists of vocalist Simon Monaghan, Paul Trochowski and Craig Gibson on guitars, drummer Chris Carcamo, and James Halliwell on bass. This past summer, the EP Chemical Friends was released, receiving praise from journalists and music aficionados throughout the UK. One of the bands biggest accomplishments thus far was having their music played during a Manchester United match. They are without a record deal at this time, but if the accolades keep coming they should have several offers thrown their way very soon.

The new year brings a new record titled No Means Yes that is due in the early part of 2014. To make oneself familiar with what to expect from the band, take a listen to Chemical Friends at iTunes, SoundCloud, and other online retailers. Furthermore, survey the group’s performance on local TV series ‘Quality Control’ as seen in the video above. Puppet Rebellion plays back to back shows in their home country (Liverpool and Birmingham on January 17 and 18, respectively). Rock fans in those areas are advised to check out those gigs as the only way to really know what the fuss is all about is to see it live. This quintet is garnering a buzz and it is only a matter of time before a world tour is warranted. Puppet Rebellion’s future is now and it looks and sounds awesome.

Stripped Down Indie Rock Done Right

Columbus, OH-based One Forty Three (@OHonefortythree) is a group that has been plugging away for seven years, but are on the verge of a breakthrough. Per the group’s Facebook page, they have done gigs featuring highly regarded groups A Day To Remember and Permanent Me. Their YouTube videos give raw versions of their tracks that stand on their own as brilliant works. The video version of “Tune In” has TV and movie soundtrack written all over it. The EP version, featured on the current release titled O’ You Evil, could also be a single heard on Alternative radio stations. Speaking of which, if WWCD 102.5, the hometown’s premier independently-owned Alternative station, should be playing this track as this fits right in with the tunes currently in rotation.

O’ You Evil EP is actually the quintet’s second release this year, following the album ‘This ‘Reaction, released in June. That is a very bold move, however, the group is clearly optimistic regarding putting out so much new music in a short span. There can never be too much high quality music, though.

In addition to a big year in terms of recorded music, the group has a full plate of local one-off live events planned for the next few months. For their next show, they will play at the famous Tree Bar (formerly Andyman’s) on Friday, November 15. Avid indie music lovers should take a look at the video and check out their music on Bandcamp to make an informed decision to come see what One Forty Three brings to the stage.