Reviews
"Curse & Kisses"

Music can be many things to many different people. For a musician that can be even truer. When an artist really thrusts himself into his music and the lifestyle he becomes a man obsessed with exposing his music to the masses. One such person is the man behind Curse & Kisses.

The driving force behind Curse & Kisses is the powerhouse that is Rudy. He is the band’s main producer, singer, songwriter, and as of now, only official member. According to him he would have it no other way. The Orlando, Florida based act provides a hard rocking mix of styles that makes Curse & Kisses quite unique. As Rudy calls it “orgasmic rock – rock music that gives you extreme pleasure.” He works extremely hard when out of the studio as well, making sure his music is available everywhere and he has a presence on every social media site he can find. This is a man unwavering in his desire to have people hear his music.

Curse & Kisses has recently released a self-titled 4 song EP. Each song shows off a different side of the artist. The opener "Blue Eyes" is a sweet, possible ballad, with loving lyrics over a building musical track that goes from mellow to an all-out attack on the listeners ears. There is some interesting high-pitched metal guitar work here too. The metal yet funky "Stone Cold Freak" is a powerful song with influences all over the map. There is old school metal vocal stylings of Alice Cooper, guitar solos reminiscent of Metallica with a dynamic bass line that keeps the track fresh. On "Zombie" Rudy shows off his vocal range by mixing Lenny Kravitz and Rob Zombie into one wild performance. This album is a great beginning and demonstration of what is possible by one man with a mission. We look forward to what comes next.

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"No Surprise"

Phil Stoodley’s debut solo album No Surprise is a relaxing combination of pop, rock, electronic and disco songs that are perfect for a lazy afternoon or a drive on the open road. Originally from New Zealand, Stoodley got his start at age fifteen when he received his first guitar, and by age seventeen he was playing in rock bands making his way around the lower North Island of New Zealand. By the early 2000’s, Phil began touring with popular New Zealand rock band The Feelers, touring in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Asia.

With the release of No Surprise, Stoodley proves that he can hold his own by releasing pop songs in the vein of Jason Mraz, with a vocal sound all his own. The opening song on the record, “We Don’t Talk Anymore,” is a pop song with relaxed vocals with a piano that makes the song stand out. The song’s simplicity, along with its inviting and vibrant tone make it the perfect dance tune.

“Long Way From Home” has an intro that encircles the audience with its huge guitar sound. With a slight country bent, it is the perfect song to play on a long road trip as one traverses the open highway. The vocals on this track are as big as the music, giving listeners a glimpse into Phil’s wide vocal range.

“Feeling Strange” is a great pop number that deviates from the sound that Phil has crafted so carefully. Bringing in a reggae guitar riff halfway through the song, the audience can get a taste of Phil’s creativity. By bringing in many different styles to write songs that sound very distinctive, listeners will immediately be able to identify Phil Stoodley before he even begins to sing.

“Walk Forward In Motion” is perhaps the album's signature track. It's disco-like drum loop almost has a Bee Gee’s feel to it, joined by a myriad of different sounds that come together to create a darker, more haunting song.

No Surprise is a wonderful pop album that will let listeners discover something new every time they listen, and has a song for everyone. You can download the album for free at philstoodley.com.

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"Desert Wind"

In 2008, Irish singer-songwriter Richard Murray released Desert Wind, a mixture of acoustic guitars, pop music, and country music that spotlights his gift for writing music. If you didn't know he was from the UK, you might guess Murray was a contemporary of Central Texas native Steve Earle or the Mississippi-born Steve Forbert. Murray's storyteller songwriting style draws you in to hear his tales.

"Forgive Me Sera" is a bouncier song, merging a pop sensibility with an Americana vibe. The accompanying female vocal adds a pleasant contrast against Richard’s more raw, gruff voice. The second song on Desert Wind is a ballad, "Enlighten Me." While the acoustic guitar intro isn't remarkably in its originality (think Lifehouse's hit "You and Me"), the song offers a great deal lyrically in its call to be carefree and to wholly enjoy of life.

Something that stands out about Richard’s music is his lyrics, detailed in the imagery he paints for his audience. His words offer a window into his thoughts. It seems that Richard expresses himself best through his lyrics instead of his music, which serves more of a backdrop for the stories he tells. "Thinking of Cristina" picks up the pace and shows the side of Murray that is different and fun, as he shows that he has variety in his music by playing a more straight-forward country song.

Desert Wind is an enjoyable record, and it is nice to hear an artist go deep into songwriting to tell a compelling story with their lyrics. It is clear that Richard Murray only wants to give his fans and new listeners the best experience possible when listening to his albums. You can listen to Desert Wind on Richard’s Youtube channel.

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"These Seven Words Do Not Mean Anything"

The music scene in Russia has still been left pretty much untapped even after the fall of communism so many years ago. The craziness that ensued a few months back with the punk band Pussy Riot may be the exposure needed to expose the varied music being released in that country. Techno and breakbeat have been heard out of Russia before but now we discovered an energetic mash-up of styles that needs to be heard by the rest of the world in the band Insane Prototype.

The band formed by Dmitry “Dekeey” Kalinin, from well known Russian breakbeat band The Phase, and Andrey Knyazev creates a kind of dark epic metal heavily influenced by progressive rock. There seems to be a lot of suppressed aggression in their music that may be the result of being locked into their own corner of the world for too long.

Yesterday Insane Prototype released the album These Seven Words Do Not Mean Anything. The record begins with the minimalistic song "Interlude N3" to lull the listener into a false sense of security before tracks like "Demons Of The Past" and "Prey To Passion" attack the senses with a full on assault. There are touches of old Deftones and Korn here. Dark power rock at its best. "Void Reflection" seems to have some anger built into it as well with the intermittent screaming over powerful guitar chords. I found myself grinding my teeth as I listened. There is talent and attractive energy all over this record that would fit in well in any country with disgruntled youth. This is definitely a recommended listen for a good pump out before a night on the town. Go get some energy for yourself at: http://insaneprototype.com.

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"Home Free / Medicinal Hookers"

The latest creation by the Los Angeles electronica collective known as King Felix is Home Free / Medicinal Hookers. The mixes, released by Porcs Records, are now available on Beatport.

King Felix builds a sonic soundscape akin to Skrillex, minus the grating, edgy sounds that make you want to cut somebody. Their grooves would feel at home in the hands of a dance club DJ, or dropped into the middle of a rave at 4 a.m.

With Home Free / Medicinal Hookers, the group hopes to connect more deeply with the fans who inspired their collaboration in the first place. These tracks rock, vibe, and display the electronic and acoustic instrumental talents of King Felix members Jason Toth, Edgar Sandoval, Denis Madrigal, Raymond Milco, Antonio Venegas, and Shaun Ausmus.

Home Free / Medicinal Hookers represents a broad sampling of King Felix's dance music prowess. The tracks center on a dreamy trance vibe yet bump with enough bass to power an energized dance floor. The EP includes three tracks: the original mixes of both "Home Free" and "Medicinal Hookers," along with a remix of "Home Free" by London DJ, Aktix.

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"Crowe"

Crowe, a rock band from Burlington, Canada has released their self-titled independent debut, produced by the band. The invigorating thing about Crowe’s first album is how raw it sounds. Refraining from studio staples such as auto tune, pro tools and other studio magic, what the listener gets is four guys in a studio playing music because they enjoy it, not because they are trying to make a quick buck.

The first song, "Satellite," sounds similar to Dinosaur Jr’s record Beyond, with wailing guitars and pounding drums that have no frills attached. The vocals in "Satellite" are strong, though without much range, but serve the purpose in a hard-hitting rock song. Songs like "Charms" begin with a punch-in-the-face guitar riff that causes people to take notice of what Crowe has to offer musically—a feel good rock record ideally suited for a lazy afternoon with a beer in hand.

Songs like "Troubadour" have more of a garage band sound, with its fuzzy guitars and rougher vocals. "Troubadour" gets a bit lazy once the chorus hits, as if the band could use an energy drink, but still shows off the rock and roll riffs that drive the album as a whole.

Despite the weaker track, Crowe is slowing climbing the ladder when it comes to success—they have been included on playlists for local radio stations in their native Canada. Hopefully with continued airplay, Crowe will see success in the United States and beyond. You can download Crowe for free via crowetunes.bandcamp.com.

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Live at Dog and Duck Pub (Austin, TX)
"Live at Dog and Duck Pub (Austin, TX)"

I'll just say it: Piñata Protest is my favorite band right now. So take this review with a grain of salt and a shot of tequila because it's going to be really damned biased.

Piñata Protest played precisely 79 times during the week of South By Southwest 2013. Those shows included their official SXSW showcase, a night at Ballet Austin (right???), a day show for Hole In the Wall's bar staff, and a hometown show Sunday night in front of a shitload of people in San Antonio's Market Square (see photo below).

And each night that week, they'd drive back to San Antonio because, although their star is rising, their success hasn't quite yet afforded them a life of all-night revelry in their customized tour bus or suite at the Four Seasons.

So on Friday the 15th of March, right around quittin' time, Piñata Protest took the circus-tent covered stage in the parking lot of Austin's longtime watering hole, The Dog and Duck Pub. The stage was large, the sound system killer, and the crowd was growing from its lean afternoon numbers into a respectable smattering of music fans and fellow musicians.

Right away, Piñata Protest killed it: "it" being Marcus Cazares' bass rig. So after a slight delay with some awkward banter, the show began. Again.


In front of dozens or thousands
Piñata Protest bring it...every night

The beauty of Piñata Protest is their broad appeal. Make no mistake, they are a punk rock band. They play loud, aggressive punk rock. A couple songs even border screaming speed metal. But then there's the accordion. That damned accordion! Who doesn't smile at the fact that grandpa's (or abuelo's, in their case) favorite old instrument is staring at you front-and-center from a band who's simultaneously kicking your ass?

Singer Alvaro Del Norte's accordion buys the band a lot of leeway amongst potential new fans through the instrument's long history in Mexican folk music, not to mention its sheer kitsche factor. And when he slings the accordion aside, it's to pull out a mini-trumpet for a punked-up version of "La Cucaracha." What's not to love?

But it's not kitsche or gimmicks that fuels a Piñata Protest show. Del Norte, Cazares (both Marcus on bass and his brother Matt on guitar), and drummer JJ Martinez are passionate about their craft. They cover the traditional "Volver, Volver" and "La Cucaracha" out of deep respect of their cultural roots—roots that also feed off of San Antonio's rich hard rock and punk music history.

But before we get into a lame musicological analysis, remember this is rock 'n' f'n roll. Del Norte introduced "Volver, Volver" as "a real panty-dropper." And by mid-song, at a midday show no less, he was proved right. A pair of black panties sailed onto the stage and he wore them on his head for the last few choruses.

The week of SXSW 2013 saw Piñata Protest play the Austin Ballet and receive a nice write-up in the New York Times. The band has performed seamlessly alongside the Reverend Horton Heat's psychobilly, Brujeria's extreme dark metal, La Santa Cecilia's cumbias, and their hometown sisters-in-rock Girl In A Coma. At Dog and Duck today, they prepped the crowd for show headliners The Beaumonts, a traditional country band out of Lubbock, Texas. And despite obvious chasms of difference in genre, Piñata Protest pulled it off brilliantly. They are Texas and Mexico. Punk and Conjunto. Young and Old.

I'm going to bring my Dad to a Piñata Protest show in the near future. With his youth spent in New Braunfels, soaking in Tejano bands and Doug Sahm's blend of country and rock, Piñata Protest is clearly what he needs now. In his 70s, a shot of Piñata Protest should power him through the next 20-30 years. And with the band's youth and promising start to their career, they're poised to be around for just as long.

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"Live at Hole In The Wall (Austin, TX)"

After listening to Fetsum’s 45 minute set at the unofficial Coyote Music/Saustex Music showcase at Hole in the Wall during South By Southwest, the fire and energy that Fetsum displayed should set him on the path to a successful career. Coming to the Live Music Capitol of the World all the way from Berlin, Germany, Fetsum began writing music in his teens and hasn’t looked back.

Fetsum and his band opened their set with music that had a trancelike quality, which didn’t sound like it would make its way onto the average music listener’s iTunes playlist—just a bit too different for the casual music fan. The spacey feel of the song didn't seem to have enough zip to hold the interest of listeners who are glued to their radios. However, the band quickly changed up its style, moving into a poppy reggae groove that got the small crowd bobbing their heads.

Fetsum’s current single “Waiting For You” is a pop reggae song that is a good summer jam, its beat and Fetsum’s Marley-like vocals luring and inviting listeners to waste the day on the beach soaking up the sun. “Stay Who You Are” is a slower song, which flowed together nicely this afternoon. And while guitarist Leon Schurz made magic from his effects-laden acoustic guitar most of the set, the warbling guitar seem in conflict in this song, casting a shadow on what was otherwise a bright, happy vibe.

Fetsum’s band is also his studio and production team, evidence by the unity found within the sound coming from the stage. Schurz' guitar, Haze Haas' jazz-influenced bass, and the worldly rhythms of Benny Glass on drums were impressive. The band lived in every song, making sure the crowd felt their time watching the performance was well spent. Fetsum's quartet portrays a sense of passion not seen in typical line-ups, where a singer/songwriter is surrounded by for-hire studio musicians.

Having received coverage from Rolling Stone, NPR, and TEDx, Fetsum is on track to have a very successful music career filled with his heartfelt pop tunes and positive attitude. You can pick up his debut album The Colors of Hope on Amazon.com or in the iTunes store.

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"Who I Am"

Emma Shaka's Who I Am is a rock and roll album, complete with crunchy guitars, driving beats, and soaring female vocals grown from the stylistic seeds of Ann and Nancy Wilson. The album delivers its goods unapologetically, with songs crafted and produced in a traditional classic rock vein.

Backing Emma's lead vocals are David Ortola on bass, Vincent Perotti on drums, and James Le Joliff on guitar. The trio provide a suitable landscape for each track, their performances are tight, professional, and flawlessly executed.

The challenge faced by Who I Am will be its clinging too hard to tradition. In a day and age where popularity follows Skrillex's grating remixes and the retro-Americana strains of The Avett Brothers, Emma's path seems to follow straight-ahead rock. Whereas these songs and Emma's solid live performances can entertain more mature crowds, the mainstream has a collective attention span of a gnat. Finding a large-scale audience with the patience to soak-in new 4-minute rock songs could be a tall task.

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"Generica"

There’s a lot said about a band or musician that speaks the truth, one that goes against the grain, stands up and says: we weren't born to be clones, we weren't born to be greedy, to take everything and never think twice about what you could give back, we weren't born to cheat, lie, or make others miserable. Sadly it seems that so much of the world is becoming that way, sad, greedy and generic.

Generica by BUNKS is far from any of those things, in fact, this unique, honest hip hop group are like a breath of fresh air. Clean, full of promise, and they leave you wanting more.

The album consists of honest truths and wide eyed observations. BUNKS, which consists of Joshua Smotherman and Joshua Grosch don't just touch on subjects like improving American society, the struggles and heartfelt joys of being a parent, consumerism, chemical dependency, obesity, materialism and other social observations, they feel them! They have faith in the words and messages they convey, and so do I. Listening to this album made me realise that people are still seeing what's going on around them, that they care about what goes on around them and that there is hope for every one of them.

Apart from the lyrics and message of the album, Generica is also equipped with beautiful melodies that compliment these well thought out lyrics. Joshua and Joshua have obviously put their heart and soul into their music and it shows in the sound and quality of the tracks. The two musicians have sewn together an honest to god beautiful album.

I personally love how well their voices work together; just hand in hand it flows. That to me is how music should be, you live it, you breathe it, and you love it.

The thing I loved most about this particular album by BUNKS, is not just that every song within this album is filled with truthful observations, Generica is fueled with words from real people who live in the real world and see what's going on behind the glitter and the gloss. While the rich are living it up, they forget about the people who need a hand and are swallowed by greed and general lack of observation they stop seeing.

BUNKS puts a magnifying glass over the overlooked.

A stand out song for me was "Coffee Flavored Memories," it is a real down to earth song about their home town, “an ode to the great land known as coffee county” where Joshua. S and Joshua. G first met and put this plan into action.

BUNKS has donated all the proceeds from "Coffee Flavored Memories" to the Hillsboro Community Backpack Program. I hope that after reading this you go and check out this magnificent album as. Good work guys, it's an amazing album and an amazing cause.

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"Banksters (single)"

One of the most powerful things on earth is a musician with a message. Yes we all love music with no meaning just to bop our head to sometimes, but when an artist shares his true feelings about a subject in song there is a passion there that can not be falsified. The artist we found today plans to educate the world with his music. Welcome to Absoloot’s world.

He is an independent rapper that has made quite a name for himself by getting involved and working to improve his community. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native has devised his own style of hip hop based on positivity without the profanity and gangster speak that has become prevalent in the crowded rap scene. Absoloot uses intelligent lyrical content and live instruments to amaze listeners and offer them a deeper message through song. Everyday life and the injustices that he sees are his inspiration to do his part to make a better society. He was involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement penning the song "99%" which was named the theme song of the movement by Huffington Post. He is now involved with the Men2Boys organization (men2boysmentoring.com) to help influence kids to make positive decisions.

Last week Absoloot released his highly anticipated follow up to "99%" entitled "Banksters" featuring Khan. The track fits right along with his theme to wake up America and the world to the blanket that has been pulled over our eyes by the government and media. The truthfulness in his lyrics is abundantly obvious and the listener is invited to become a part of the tribe. The laid back piano and drum beat allow you to focus on the imperative lyrics. Flows such as “never thought about a white picket fence when the rent’s due, I got some issues, seems like I might blow another fuse, about to lose my cool” make the listener stand up and pay attention.

This is music that has to be more than just listened to, it has to be experienced and followed. Go enter the world of Absoloot and make a difference at absolootnow.com.

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"Close The Club"

Rog & Glenn had a blast with this one. Long-time friends and musicians, Roger Brandon and Glenn Hubbard essentially pulled a Blues Brothers and 'got the band back together' for one more hurrah. What resulted from that is their full-length semi-concept album, Close The Club.

Neither "Rog" nor Glenn had ventured into the realm of dance music before. So naturally, as musicians are wont to do, they set out to push the limits of their personal envelopes. Their initial session resulted in an amalgam of sounds—a mish-mash of prog rock, funk, fun, and jam-band. Yet what ended up comprising the album was far from an exploration into time signatures and key changes.

"[the two of us recording a dance album] was a bit like asking a science fiction writer to do a romance novel"
- Glenn Hubbard

Close The Club is fun. Is it destined for the Top 40? Not likely. Stylistically, the album has the feel of a recording done by two guys who first jammed during high school in the 1980s (I'm not knocking that either, since I first jammed during high school in the '80s). But don't look for Rog & Glenn to surpass Rihanna in album sales any time soon.

To their credit, Roger and Glenn are solid musicians. Their years performing are evident in the high quality of the musical performances on the album. It's tight, together, carefully arranged, and well-produced. Veterans of the studio, Rog & Glenn covered all their production bases.

Close The Club isn't as silly as Weird Al, nor is it as cliché as Steel Panther. But there is certainly a sense of humor in the album. These guys had a good time making this record. And if you're willing to travel with them down memory lane, Close The Club might just make you shake your booty in your day-job desk chair and think back fondly on your own 1980s high school dances.

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"The Witnesses EP"

Known for combining disco, digital funk, high energy live instrumentation and outspoken lyrics, newly reformed North Carolina based Electronic indie synth-pop band Wedlock seem to be ahead of their time, with an acclaiming yet delayed reaction from music lovers.

They’ve been around for almost a decade, and following the trend is their 2010, 6 track release, The Witnesses EP that’s peeking its head up into the music scene of 2013, reigniting the worn out environmental activists’ passion for issues such as the British Petroleum oil disasters.

"Octagonal (A.D.’s a Star)" is a rhythmic compilation of groove and funk, treating my eardrums to a delicious three minutes of inquisitive and semi-robotic-yet-whimsical instrumental, and "+/-" (Addition By Subtraction) is a lyrical kick in the ass to anyone of those attention seeking, soul sucking people that drain you of all the things you try to be.

Featuring the entrancing vocals of Bryanna Rain, "ST" (String Theory) has quite a few powerful lyrics that make you think, but for me, "Witnesses" is the kicker. Advocating for the mother planet and the irreversible damage that’s done to the earth, and with the upbeat, eerie seriousness and overall catchy vibe, makes you want to get up and really contribute to something worth saving.

Wedlock has had a succession of contributors, but band founder and singer/song writer Paul Allgood has remained involved, and is currently joined by key player Chris Scendo. As Wedlock changes and explores new elements, it’ll be exciting to see what this undervalued band can come up with next. So, in the fashion of being different, don’t make the mistake of waiting to find out what Wedlock will be doing next, jump on now and relish in their music that makes a difference.

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"The Coming and The Leaving"

Barrett Myers' six song EP, The Coming and The Leaving shows off some true originality from this singer/songwriter out of West Lafayette, Indiana. Barrett’s style approaches that of Relient K, Switchfoot, and Mat Kearney. The EP is filled with memorable hooks and catchy melodies, especially those set against his upbeat acoustic tempos.

Barrett has a handful of whole-hearted ballads about life, adoration, and exploration. A listener is able to connect with his lyrics in so many levels. Take “Boxes”—if you dissect the lyrics, he is about to make a journey to a whole new location.

Springtime comes today,
A new life found in a land far away
Friends and family are here to celebrate,
Unpack your lives as we pack it all away

“Sweet Breeze” expresses adoration for a special someone, with a complementary background of Barrett's acoustic guitar and some bongos playing along in the background. Another track, “Portland,” might be interpreted with several different meanings, depending upon why you think one might venture to that fair city.

We’ll take Interstate 90 out to Ritzville
And head Southwest to Kennewick and 84
The river runs downhill from there to Portland
Where we’ll find what we’re looking for

What defines Barrett’s originality has to be his vocals, which are difficult to compare to others—his voice is at once robust, sweet, and endearing. All in all, The Coming and The Leaving is a gratifying record, with enriched ballads about life, love, and adventures to which most everyone can relate.

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"Sweet Therapy"

Kelly Campbell, a singer-songwriter from Ohio, has released a five-song EP entitled Sweet Therapy. While Campbell herself claims not to have natural talent when it comes to music, this recording proves otherwise. Throughout the album, not not only does her musical skill stand out, but her band's tightness and fluidity add to the solid musical performance.

The record begins with "Sweet Therapy," a song that addresses how music can provide solace for many of life’s situations whether happy or sad. The song is a folk tune with shades of country, featuring Campbell's voice and showing off her talented backing band who support her well. The band paints a colorful backdrop for Campbell, allowing her to express herself, vocally, lyrically, and musically.

"Cody’s Song" is about accepting people for who they are. The song tackles some subjects that are not always happy, yet it maintains a hopeful and gleeful feeling musically. "Something Beautiful In You," a ballad about Kelly recognizing the beauty in those close to her, is a simple song. But in its simplicity expresses a deep, personal sincerity.

Sweet Therapy is an enjoyable musical venture. Kelly Campbell writes rich and vibrant songs sure to leave a lasting impression. And with Sweet Therapy, Campbell offers an album that both uplifts and inspires.

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"Love In Tent EP"

Love In Tent is a trio from Maui's West side, comprised of lead singer Junior Siqueira, bassist Keawe Witman, and Ian on drums. The group's sound is truly the finest, most easy going beachside pop/rock/dance music since the mainstream arrival of fellow islander, Jack Johnson. Unlike Johnson, though, Siqueira hails from from Brazil, but has lived on Maui for almost a decade.

The band's newest recording, an EP also called Love In Tent, sounds unlike many Hawaiian bands—Junior’s vocal style is at once familiar but unique, similar to Matt Costa, Ben Lee, John Butler, and G.Love, but rolled all into one. The songs are happy-go-lucky, combining dance music, acoustic guitars, uptempo beats, and a taste of rap styling to round things out. They separate themselves from many other bands by not only creating their bright, light pop music, but also by playing house and reggae music. Visualize Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, minus some pop glitz and having some island flavor.

Love In Tent is a radio-ready EP. With the right promotion and exposure, do not be surprised if you hear the band on mainstream airwaves soon! And when you find yourself driving to the beach with the top down, throw some Love In Tent into the mix to complete the experience.

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"Barclay & Ichinose I"

The Barclay and Ichinose debut album pulls influences ranging from 60’s and 70’s rock, as well as some punk, all mixed into a blender of sound. "Five Out of Four," the opening song on the EP has an interesting sound, but can be hard to follow. Drummer Randy Ichinose seems to channel the ghost of Keith Moon, which beyond the context of The Who is oftentimes challenging to the album's musicality.

"Nail In My Head" begins with an exciting pedal to the metal guitar riff played by Joe Barclay. It seems to indicate the start of an energetic anthem. The song takes a disappointing turn, as the adrenaline rush drops off and the song takes on the feel of a poor man's rendition of The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues." The lead guitar picks things up a bit, but isn't enough to save the song.

While Barclay and Ichinose come across as gearheads, listing their equipment on their website, their musicianship doesn't always live up to a gearhead's expectation. The band strives to emulate their idols (including The Who, Pink Floyd, and The Kinks), but this debut EP is at times a bit of a noisy mess. Ichinose's crash cymbals, alone, overpower the songs from time to time. Barclay's voice seems to be somewhere else sometimes, coming across distant, disconnected, and not matching the energy of the instrumentation.

The strongest song on the EP is "(the Clown) And the Giant Other Side." This song's production is the strongest, as is the performance; the songwriting is more mature, the sound more cohesive. If this song is indicative of the band's future course, they are on the right track.

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"Fade Away"

Brando Albers album Fade Away is a great album that treats the listener to a flood of sounds, leaving the listener wondering what they will hear next. This is an emotional album, epitomized by its nearly-title track, “Fading Away,” with its reverberating vocals adding an intensity to the song that glues listeners to their seats.

Brando works hard to make sure his listeners feel the emotions that flow through this, and each song on the album. Along that vein, "Nothing Left To Be Afraid Of" is a creatively appealing endeavor, and what stands out about it in particular are its lyrics.

As the world is falling apart, turn and look the other way.
He said... I've got nothing left to be afraid of.
He looked back into his life, there is nothing left for him now to reclaim.
He said... I've got nothing left to be afraid of.”

Brando’s lyrics take his audience into his head and paint a picture of sadness and love, with the music providing a beautiful and interesting backdrop to illustrate his joy, pain, and his entire life's experience.

"Lakes of Burden" paints a more dreary picture, speaking of friends severing ties, conveying that its narrator is mentally in a dark place. While this song drags on musically, its lyrics and composition convey a crystal clear state of mind.

Brando Albers is a talented artist who has taken computer-generated music to a higher mentally conscious level. Fade Away is carefully written, covering a range of tough emotions that listeners of all backgrounds might relate to.

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"Gazing At The Stars (EP)"

Gazing at the Stars is a three song EP by UK singer-songwriter Arron Brown, a talented electronic/pop artist whose music will appeal heavily to techno fans and followers of Owl City.

Gazing... effuses an electro/pop sound that lets the listener travel to dreamland, almost literally, as Brown writes about stargazing and sleeping the night away. Brown composes his own brand of electro-pop music, filled with pianos, strings, and electronic sounds, relying heavily on the influence of Owl City’s Adam Young.

The title track opens the EP with piano and vocals, setting the dreamlike and tranquil tone. Arron carries a vocal tune (with some effects to aid him). But while the effects are obvious, they do not make his voice sound inauthentic, though at times it can sound a bit one-dimensional and lacking some range.

The second cut on the album, "Miss You," is heavy on studio effects, making the songs sound glossy and polished, and giving the EP a nice edge. And while it is obvious in this track that Arron can sing, hearing him in a more raw form would be nice given the song's simplistic orchestration.

Bringing the EP to a close, "Sunrise" is more upbeat. Its bright and happy synth sounds are unlike the other songs, perhaps intending to wake up the listener up from their long, stargazing-induced slumber.

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"Qabeela’h"

If one were to take a trip to the Middle East, they will want to take Dahab’s latest record Qabeela'h along for the ride. The Dubai based band weaves rock, blues, jazz, and folk music, while immersing listeners with Arabic to achieve a sublime effort that does not disappoint.

Formed in 2004 to secure a spot on the bill for the Dubai International Jazz Festival, the band has gone on perform all over the Middle East, and has become a much sought after band for a variety of events.

Qabeela’h starts off on a good note with the song "Nuweiba." This song brings in percussion elements and a variety of ethnic instruments and sounds that will relax listeners soon after the song begins, with its meditation like vibe. The second song "Heal" deviates from the Middle Eastern influence and goes more in the direction of folk music. The vocals on this track are a bit raspy, but they fit the soft tone of the song nicely. The female vocals on this track sounded thin and do not add much to the song, though it is nice to hear a feminine touch incorporated into the song.

"Al Ras" is a song that brings the Middle East to the forefront. The song is heavy on the percussion and the flute adds hints of cultural ties for the group. The song sounds like something you would hear in a Middle Eastern movie, as this song is very reflective of the regional culture.

"Alice" is the one track that lets fans realize the depths of Dahab’s talent. Not straying from the claim that they intertwine different genres, "Alice" is the jazziest track, and the best song on the album. With a percussionist counting off “1,2,3,4” with the guitar coming in at “4”, it gives way for an intimate, easy listening experience. The piano and bass compliment the sound nicely, giving it a full-blown jazz feel.

Dahab is a band that is not to be missed and Qabeela’h is a record that will stay with the listener long after it ends.

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"Too Worn To Mend"

Too Worn To Mend deliberately steps to you with the mid-tempo'd "Snow Blind," bringing with it Jayhawks-like vocal harmonies and full-bodied production qualities. The album was mixed and recorded by Grammy Award winner Ducky Carlisle (Buddy Guy, Living Proof) and the honest sound shines through via crisp vocals, broad drums, and delicate guitars. Mastering duties were dealt to Roger Siebel (Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie), who gave the album a warm, friendly, and familiar feeling.

Hearing this album reminds me of when Andy Van Dyke handed me his self-titled Rainravens album in Austin, Texas a couple decades ago. Both records surprised me, embodying a mature and well-crafted musical quality without a hint of flash or pretentiousness. Just down-to-earth songwriting brought to life through solid musical performances.

Frozen by the years that we shared
Growing too familiar, forgetting what we had together
On the wrong the side of a wayward memory
Won't you look me in the eyes and tell me that you love me
- from "Tell Me That You Love Me"

American Beauties sing CSNY-inspired vocals and come to play, with a great deal of seriousness and respect for their craft. It's no surprise, then, that Too Worn To Mend is a quality album that masterfully blends its thoughtful singer/songwriter composition with an Americana-styled sensibility.

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"Surf Song 89"

Upon listening to "Surf Song 89" by English pop band The Unswept it is clear to that the band has talent, which apparently runs in the family since the group is comprised of cousins Charlie and Ryan O’Brien. While the two split musical duties, both are multi-instrumentalists.

The duo formed their first band, The Council Wales, when they were attending a London university. But after that group’s first single barely managed to chart in England, the band went their separate ways and the cousins moved to Chicago, where they now reside.

The Unswept's new Surf Song EP is comprised of carefree pop songs that seem to serve as a tribute to bands before their time, most notably The Beach Boys. The first single, “Surf Song 89,” conjures up a drive to the beach and laying in the summer sun. While the lyrics “I wish I was a Beach Boy, and I wish you were my girl” might come off as corny, The Unswept embrace youth and good vibrations with their music. The band is not likely to lose sleep, weighing themselves down with breaking new literary ground in their songwriting.

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"Robotic Lion Snapping Turtle Vol. 2"

Before releasing Robotic Lion Snapping Turtle Vol.2, Scabsallover released Robotic Lion Snapping Turtle Vol.1. In writing it, songwriter Jared Carmona attributed the creation of his debut to a great personal loss. After a breakdown, in tears, he banged on his machine, programmed everything live, and released all of his emotion into volume one.

After a two-year absence, Scabsallover prepares to make his splash in the independent EDM/Glitch-hop scene with the second volume in his Robotic Lion Snapping Turtle series.

In one sentence, Vol. 2 is a collection of aural sensations jumbled together to inspire the mind of the listener to strive for happiness through simplicity of thought and strength of will. In two words, you might arrive at "Soulful Glitch" (or at least that's what Scabsallover strives for).

This fourteen minute and twenty-one second electronica exploration travels from one movement into another—not divided so much into "songs" as into vibes, emotions, or conveyances of thought. In a way, it's a departure from the typical arrangement of an album, and is more interesting because it's not just a compilation of songs placed together. It's sort of like a rave, all packed into a 14-minute soundtrack.

Scabsallover - Robotic Lion Snapping Turtle vol.2 will be available digitally at www.SuperlativeRecords.Bandcamp.com on Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

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"Back to Plan A"

When listening to Howlin’ Alan’s album Back to Plan A, you can envision yourself going back into time with his peaceful, Tom-Petty-like guitar riffs and soulful Neil Young vocals. Alan Joyce (aka Howlin’ Alan) refers to his original creations as “Country Rock Americana Pop” (acronym not indicative). Those who might chuckle about this have to realize his sound is nowhere near C.R.A.P. Alan submerged himself in 60’s and 70’s classic rock, but his sound incorporates many genres including country, blues, and folk.

“One Man’s Misery” shows off Alan's union of country and blues. This ballad expresses the anguish, heartbreak, sadness, and pain of a man, through Alan's harmonica and blues guitar riffs. “Tom Petty (and the Highway)” delivers a remarkable tribute to the song's namesake. It follows a songwriter in search of a better life for himself and his girl. So he heads to Nashville, but gets lost along the way with his Tom Petty mix tape. Lyrically, the song interestingly incorporates a number of Petty's own song titles.

The remainder of the album enjoyably crisscrosses back and forth among blues, classic rock, and country/western. "Everything” brings to mind an old Western movie—you can almost see the cowboy riding off into the sunset.

Howlin' Alan's tells intimate stories with marvelous lyrics. And Back to Plan A is great to listen while having a nice cold brew, or might serve as a soul-soothing companion on a long voyage.

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"Reflections of Reality"

Chords of Truth's EP Reflections of Reality is a solid set of acoustic folk songs that contain powerful lyrics and wonderful vocal abilities which suit the serious-but-fun mood that the band is trying to express. While the guitar parts are pretty straightforward, songwriter and lead singer Jason Garriotte has the vocal and lyrical abilities to stand out amongst the crowd.

The first song, “Tune Your Mind,” has a simplistic guitar part that displays Jason's influences, Simon and Garfunkel and Peter, Paul, and Mary. The lyrics make this song. The song opens “Throughout history there has been ideas about how it all began/ What plane we have all come from/ And our existence from now on.” As the song plays on, it seems that Jason has taken tremendous care to ensure that his listeners get something out of the song, perhaps a reflective nature.

“Pop or Soda” is a fun song, allowing the listener to take a breather from the serious nature of the first half of the EP. This song displays one of the more complex guitar parts of all of the songs, allowing Garriotte's playing to shine.

The EP ends with “What Life Is About.” The beautiful intro shows the talent and depth of Jason’s guitar playing. This song is probably the best song on the album, and deserves earlier placement on the record to mix things up a bit more.

Jason Garriotte's Chords of Truth allows a singer/songwriter to shine. Catch Jason on tour starting in March of 2013, when he will release multiple remix albums of Reflections of Reality.

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