This Is What Happens – The Reign of Kindo (2011)

The Reign of Kindo

Album artwork for This Is What Happens

First things first, all of you should probably watch this.  You may have seen this video several years back when it gained quite a bit of circulation around YouTube.  This is the music of The Reign of Kindo, a jazz-rock group hailing from Buffalo, New York.  In April of 2010 they released their second studio album, and third release in total, called This Is What Happens on CandyRat Records.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the label, CandyRat is one of my most trusted sources for beautifully written modern acoustic music.  Musicians like Jon Gomm and Andy McKee, two of the most notable percussive fingerstyle guitarists, are represented by the label.  In short, its catalog is stocked to the brim with remarkable music quality.  So then, back to This Is What Happens.  What exactly is it that happens?  Press on, dear reader…

If you think about it, the world’s population of music enthusiasts can essentially be divided into two categories.  There are those who value originality and advanced musicianship above all else, sometimes to the point of pretentiousness and condescension towards “lesser” artists.  Then there are those who don’t care about any of that; they just want to dance around and sing catchy melodies.  Both groups have their limitations, but luckily that’s where The Reign of Kindo comes in.  Their music combines elements from both of these viewpoints into a single cohesive style, and the result is an extraordinarily melodic collection of tunes, rich in originality and soulfulness.

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Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm – Benjamin Francis Leftwich (2011)

Benjamin Francis Leftwich

Album artwork for Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm

Last Smoke Before the Snowstorm is just one of those records that makes you feel better almost immediately after pressing play. The soft, fingerpicked patterns on the acoustic guitar accompanying a dreamy male voice; it’s the classic combination for any typical singer-songwriter.  Something sets Benjamin Francis Leftwich apart from the crowd, though.  Maybe it’s the chorus effects on his voice, or the string arrangements overlaid on top of the guitar chords, or maybe it’s the artistically autobiographical nature of the lyrics.  I think the main point is that this album has a clear sense of authenticity to it.  Each song is a complete transference of Leftwich’s ideals and creative vision.  It’s remarkably intimate as well, and makes it easy to feel as if you are an audience of one, listening to a private music session.

For years, I could never bring myself to give much attention to the typical singer-songwriter. After all, what do they really do other than pluck a few chords on the guitar and write songs about love?  I’ve had a recent change in perspective, though.  While it may not be the most complex or musically innovative sound, it’s rich in emotional content.  What is music, if not the purest form of expressing oneself?  The act of taking the tangled mass of thoughts in your head, deciphering them, and channeling them through your own personal form of artistic expression…it’s an amazing thing.  If you’ve ever tried to write a song in the past, then you know how deceptively challenging it is.

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Wisdom of Crowds – Bruce Soord, Jonas Renkse (2013)

Bruce Soord, Jonas Renkse

Album artwork for Wisdom of Crowds

I always love it when two musicians who have both put in the time developing their individual careers and finding success with their respective projects decide to come together to create a collaborative album.  We saw this a few days ago with Storm Corrosion, the joint endeavor of Steven Wilson and Mikael Åkerfeldt.  Today, I’ve got another such project, just released about a month ago on Kscope, a sub-label of Snapper Music which specializes in “post-progressive” music.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with Wisdom of Crowds, an album released by Bruce Soord and Jonas Renkse.

Bruce Soord is most popularly known for his role as the founder and creative mastermind behind The Pineapple Thief.  Started in 1999, The Pineapple Thief has released nine studio albums over a thirteen-year career, including the most recent record, All the Wars.  The group has become well-known in indie and progressive rock circles as a result of their unique stylistic crossovers between the two styles.

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Ways to Forget – Clock Opera (2012)

Clock Opera

Album artwork for Ways to Forget

The indie scene in today’s music industry is as strong as ever.  What originally began in the 1980s with the rejection of mainstream synthpop tendencies in favor of much rawer, grunge-influenced sound has metamorphosed into a unbelievably diverse collection of bearded, flannel-clad modern musicians.  Of course, that’s a very simple way of describing it, but you get the idea.  The point is that the concept of the highly independent artist who has total control of the creative side of their music.  So now let’s dial our focus in quite a bit and shine the spotlight on a particular group from Great Britain named Clock Opera.

Although the band was first formed in 2009, they did not release their debut album, Ways to Forget, until 2012.  Some would say that three years is a long time to prepare an album, but I would argue that there is no standard duration for such a feat.  The one thing that can be said for certain is that the prolonged wait for the group’s debut was definitely worth it.  After listening to the record many times and letting it sink in, its true potential shines through.  Just as a fine wine matures with age, so too does Ways to Forget reap the benefits of its delayed release date.

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Act III: Life and Death – The Dear Hunter (2009)

The Dear Hunter

Album artwork for Act III: Life and Death

What is the music composer or songwriter, if not a storyteller? That has been the transcendent role of the musician throughout the many ages of human history.  From the first note that is struck, plucked, bowed, blown, or whatever else, we (typically) allow the performer to take over our attention until his story has finished.  While this is true for just about any kind of music, some artists have perfected the art of storytelling in a way that not only warrants our attention, but enables us to temporarily let go of everything else plaguing our mind while we surrender ourselves to its enthrallment.  Today we take a look at The Dear Hunter, one such group that has achieved mastery in this field.  The Dear Hunter originally began as a side project of Casey Crescenzo, who was a lead vocalist and guitarist for the post-hardcore band The Receiving End of Sirens at the time.  After writing the original demos for the first album to be released under this new name, Crescenzo elected to take leave of his old band in the interest of devoting his full attention to pushing The Dear Hunter forward.

This first EP, which was released in September 2006, came to be known as Act I: The Lake South, The River North.  This was the opening volume of a planned six-act story written by Crescenzo.  To quote his own words, “The Dear Hunter is the story of a boy, from his creation to his untimely end; the beautifully rapturous to the truly tragic.  Set at the dawn of the 20th century, the debut EP gives birth to a story, and attempts to make sense of the future by explaining.  Simply put, The Dear Hunter sings of things to which we can all relate: lust, deceit, greed, and hunting.”  I will not go too much into the depths of the intricately-crafted world of the story (that is something that you must do for yourself), but I can assure you that it is the kind of world that transcends time and exists completely in the surrealism of your own consciousness.

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Introducing Thrills (And The Chase) – Thrills & The Chase (2012)

Thrills & The Chase

Album artwork for Introducing Thrills (And The Chase)

Let it not be said that rock & roll is dead.  The current generation of youth may have transferred much of their rebellious energy to be channeled through electronic dance music instead, but by no means does that warrant the abandonment of such an integral part of modern culture.  After all, rock & roll was the first genre that rocketed the electric guitar into the mainstream world.  It was the genre that gave us our first taste of the true power of modern musical instrument technology.  The second half of the 20th century in popular music was without a doubt a golden age in music history.  That being said, there has been an unfortunate decline in the amount of classic rock music that continues to be produced today.  It’s understandable – the music industry is in a constant state of transition – but the truth will always remain: there is simply no substitute for some good ol’ rock & roll.

It’s in times like these, however, that the true believers in the genre shine through.  Today, I have the pleasure of presenting to you Thrills & The Chase, a four-piece band from São Paulo, Brazil.  Back in March of 2012, they released their debut EP, entitled Introducing Thrills (And The Chase).  Having gained a following in their home nation, they have begun expanding their musical mission across the globe.  Now, as a self-appointed representative of the aforementioned globe, I would like to personally thank Thrills & The Chase for doing so.  To put it bluntly, this is music that deserves to be heard.  This is rock & roll at its finest; music that is unique and draws inspiration from many different influences, yet somehow still presents itself with an air of nostalgia and familiarity.

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