It is now time for my 2013 “Best Of” list. This time around, the list will be slightly different for me: There will be the usual best albums of the year; however, some of the selections did not appear on the Rock And Roll Report. Greater Alexander and Cole Hermer and the Ravens were reviewed over on my blog. I also have made the list slightly longer as I have also included two artists (Alert New London and May Stands Still) who I wanted to include in the list, but Alert New London put out a new EP since I reviewed their Youth album and I did the review of May Stands Still’s When You Come Home back in 2012 but decided to include it on my Best Of list this year because the album has grown on me throughout the last 12 months. For those reasons, the list contains the top ten reviews from me in the last year plus two extra. Check out these talented artists and their solid releases.
A Great Big Pile of Leaves is an Indie Rock band from Brooklyn, New York. The band is composed of guitarist/ lead singer Peter Weiland, bassist Tucker Yaro, guitarist Matthew Fazzi & drummer Tyler Soucy. Together, the band creates a sound that brings together sounds of bands like Taking Back Sunday, Motion City Soundtrack, Saves The Day, The Appleseed Cast and Hellogoodbye. A Great Big Pile of Leaves also incorporates some earlier rock sounds into their style to help bridge the gap between the modern-day rock sound and the sound of the rock music from a little earlier on. The combination of Indie Rock and Alternative create a sound that will grab the attention of many music lovers.
There are very few albums that grab your attention so hard and so completely that you just let the album play out because you are really enjoying the music, but You’re Always on My Mind from A Great Big Pile of Leaves is one such release. From the first note, you know you’re listening to something that really has that type of energy to it.
The purpose of this little article is to list a selection of some wonderful independent bands, all of which have inspired and fuelled my passion for good independent/unsigned music. As it is the season of good will all of the bands who I have listed below have music available as free downloads. On the Bandcamp links where you can ‘name your price’, please do give something if you possibly can. This will help to keep the independent scene alive and of course be a bonus to the bands. Obviously spreading good word about all of these bands will also be a great help. All of us here at the Rockandrollreport wish you a wonderful festive season.
Animals & Men
There is a saying that old punks never die which is very true although the same can be said for music enthusiasts and aficionados of all varieties.
This spotlights a great little band called Animals & Men who are based in Frome, South West of England On August 24th 2013 Animals and Men released an EP, To Live And Die In The West Country in downloadable format and also on vinyl.
This EP is a minor masterpiece in minimalist alternative punk. It is clear that each of the four EP tracks come directly from the heart of the band fuelled by their love and appreciation of the alternative post punk sound. These four tracks have a combined total play time of just under ten minutes making To Live And Die In The West Country a short but extremely addictive experience. Animals & Men have recently made available a CD copy of To Live And Die In The West Country.
Eletrika were formed in 1998 by Claudio David. They are a Brazilian metal band who combines Brazilian rhythms and Portuguese language in their own unique style. Eletrika have a unique style which is simply amazing. In 2005 Eletrika re titled their album V.S.F. to S.O.B. This was re worked during 2009 into an English version calling it ‘V3.1beta’.
Eletrika combine a powerful metal sound complete with sharp breaks along with that beautiful fusion of Portuguese and English languages. S.O.B. is an excellent album in all of is formats and I cannot rate this highly enough. You can get the complete S.O.B. album HERE. There is a huge selection of Eletrika tracks available as free downloads, you can check this out on Soundcloud HERE. Hey are also on My Space and Facebook. Their Facebook page has a very large selection of tracks to listen to and/or download for free thanks to the generosity of Eletrika.
Fabric are another band based in the South West of England, they are from Bath. The bands roots date back further but Fabric named themselves in 2005. I saw them live couple of years ago and was entranced by their performance. Fabric create a stunning atmospheric form of light electronic/pop/rock which is very easy listening. They have a style which is somewhat magnetic. Once you start listening you are drawn into the music – especially when listening to their most recent album from 2011. This is called The Wait.
The Fabric website can be found HERE. The band have kindly made their gorgeous music downloadable for free HERE. As always I urge you to show your appreciation and thanks, you could always be really appreciative and make a donation to the band via pay pal, there is a link for this at the bottom of the page. Fabric can be found on Facebook HERE.
Four Year Beard
This article would be far from complete without mentioning the mighty Four Year Beard. This is a musical project set up by Mike Frank to allow him some escape from the musical and artistic restrictions of playing in a band. This project grew into a stable of artists all of which can be found on the website 7thandbleeker.com – I strongly recommend that you go there and immerse yourself into the vast amount of aural insanity which is available, a great deal of it is for free. Enter at your own peril though as you may never be the same again!
Halfsleeper are relatively new band/musical projects who, to the best of my knowledge are based in Bristol, UK. I cannot tell you too much about them but their music is gorgeous form of light alternative rock. Halfsleeper are on Facebook and Bandcamp. You can name your price to download The Iowaska Demos three track EP through the Bandcamp link.
If you are a fan of good dynamic solid and pounding heavy rock then you need to take a look and have a good listen to Hark. Welsh heavy power-rock trio HARK (Jimbob Isaac (ex Taint - Guitar, Vocals Nikolai Ribnikov (ex- Whyteleaf) – Bass, Simon Bonwick (ex- WHYTELEAF) – Drums) have finished recording their forthcoming Season of Mist debut album, titled Crystalline. This has been recorded at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales (Black Sabbath, RUSH, Judas Priest, Portishead), and mixed by Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou (CONVERGE,High On Fire, KVELERTAK, YOUNG WIDOWS). Crystalline will be an absolute tour de force of a solid and heavy power rock album which will be released in March 2014.
Regarding the recording, front-man Jimbob Isaac has stated ’Fingers to the bone. That has been one of our mottos since HARK's inception, and it carried us through to the recording studio. Long days, little sleep and grim determination made this record the beast that we believe it to be. We pushed ourselves in all kinds of ways, and that commitment resonates throughout’. This rings so true when you listen to Harks first single, ‘Mythopoeia’. To give us a free taster Hark have made this single available as a free mp3 download through their Bandcamp page HERE. Their main site with European tour dates for 2014 can be found HERE. You can find Hark on Facebook HERE.
Gouranga are a four piece heavy grunge outfit based in Bristol, UK. They have a solid grungy sound which is guaranteed to shake your foundations. They have two albums, the four track Nature’s Knife and the earlier seven track Keep Your Colours along with the single live track ‘Dinosaur Apathy’, recorded at The Cooler in Bristol during May 2011. You can name your price for all of this kickass music at Bandcamp HERE and find them on Facebook HERE
Los Criptozoos are a five piece melodic and fun punk band rocking out of Castellon De Plana in Spain. They where born in 2009 and in 2012 the band released their album La Danza Del Cadaver. This translates to ‘The Dance Of The Corpse’ and it is a superb piece of low budget punk jollity. The lyrics are all sung in Spanish which I love, I may not have much or any idea about what the songs are about but they are all extremely infectiously inflective. Los Criptozoos have this album available as a free download HERE and can be found on Facebook HERE.
POHL are a powerful experimental rock duo based in Bristol, UK. Their style is a kicking combination of grunge, stoner and sludge with a hint of psychedelia. Their debut five track EP POHLSMOKER is available through Bandcamp. Once again you you can name your price HERE. You will also find them on Facebook.
Punk has evolved in many ways, one stupendous and sublime example of this is Sicknote who are from Cardiff, South Wales, UK. They are a kind of techno rave dance shamanic punk revolution who, in a relatively short space of time have gained a huge following. The bands formation was an entirely fortunate but haphazard affair. A group of friends met an all night after party spot and decided to ‘wing it’ on stage just to see what would happen. From here Sicknote were born and they have been doing their ‘thing’ ever since. Sicknote have very sadly and recently lost one of their members, Dr Conker who was their dancer and spiritual guide. Dr Conker passed away in his sleep, RIP and dance on forever Dr Conker. Currently all live dates have been cancelled. You can get a great taste of Sicknote on their website HERE, there is a page there where you can download a whole pile of free music. Sicknote are on Facebook HERE, you know what to do!
The Bastard Fairies
How could you not be intrigued by a band with a name as good as this? It was the name which caused me to check them out some while ago and if I had a Xmas tree in my flat then I would definitely have a bastard fairy on top of it! This band are a dangerous alternative pop band from L.A. who have a couple of stunning albums available as free downloads. Momento Mori is available through Bandcamp where you can name your price and Gutbucket Slims Blues Emporium is up for grabs in return for signing up to the bands mailing list. The Bastard Fairies can be found on Facebook HERE. If you like their music then I would strongly recommend you to also check out Well Hung Heart.
The Shanklin Freakshow
The Shanklin Freakshow are a top notch steampunk industrial circus rock band who have been blasting out from their home on The Isle Of Wight, UK. Their sound has been shaped by the likes of Marilyn Manson, Insane Clown Posse, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie etc. Their music is big, bouncy and buoyant with a full circus rock sound. I would love to see the live act sometime, it has to be one wild stage party. If you like the sound of these guys then check out their website HERE, there is a music player at the bottom of the page where you can listen to and download their music from. A large selection of it is available for free.
Based in London, UK Vodun are a three piece afro, heavy psych soul outfit who would also slip into the stoner/sludge metal genre. Their seven track album Eat Up The Sun is available as a free download HERE, Vodun are also on Facebook.
Thanks to each of the bands mentioned above for their musical generosity and good will
Back in the late eighties, four musicians came together to form a rock band for the purposes of bringing a little life back into the somewhat stagnant rock scene in America at the time. The band that was intent on adding that energy back into Rock And Roll was called The Del-Lords. Made up of lead guitarist/vocalist Scott Kempner, guitarist Eric Ambel, bassist Manny Caiati and drummer Frank Funaro, The Del-Lords had a short but lasting effect on Rock And Roll. The band released several albums of music that did just what the band wanted- they put a little life back into the music.
And then, the band called it quits. Almost as fast as they appeared on the scene, the band quickly ceased to be. The Del-Lords only existed as a band for eight years before the four members of the group went their separate ways to further influence music as part of other groups. The only thing that remained of the group when they split up was the four studio releases and one live album that they put out during their time together.
Stone Diamond is a rock trio made up of Cy on vocals/bass, Josh on vocals/guitar and The Tongue on drums. Having come together several years ago as a garage band, today, the three musicians create a rock band that has a lot of energy. The band also calls upon keyboardist, Toby Philippen to help flesh out their music. The resulting sound can be found on the band’s debut album We Stole the Stars from the Black Night.
We Stole the Stars from the Black Night begins with the track “Love Stays”. “Love Stays” is one of those tracks that starts off strong and just keeps going. The track features a straight-out rock feel that could easily find its way onto a Classic Rock radio format. The lyrics to the song are simple enough that the listener will find that they are singing along. When the band stops playing their instruments late in the track to sing a’cappella, the listener gets to hear the band harmonize. The track is very strong and is a great way to start off the new release from Stone Diamond.
Originally interested in making satirical hip hop, New Jersey’s EdTang got his moniker combing his own name with one of his favorite groups: the one and only Wu Tang Clan. It didn’t take long, however, for the Asbury Park-er to drop his hip hop aspirations and take on a completely different musical direction – in this case, folk punk.
Portland, Oregon musician Dustin Hill is a busy guy: With the fact that he has not one, but two bands in which he plays, he hardly has time to stop and relax. Hill can be found creating music in the band Black Pussy where he took the time to create every sound heard on the band’s 2012 release On Blonde. After he put the finishing touches on the On Blonde release, he called upon guitarist Ryan McIntire, drummer Dean Carroll, & bassist Adam Pike to help him recreate the sound of the music on stage.
Because the three other musicians are now as much a part of Black Pussy as Dustin Hill is, the four musicians went about creating their own music as a complete band. The resulting band (which also includes Chief O’Dell on farfisa organ) is known as White Orange. White Orange has just recently released a new three-song release called Onawa.
Dave Hill, a man who has made a name for himself as a comedian and writer, has returned to his rock and roll roots that he cultivated in Cleveland as part of several bands including Sons of Elvis and Uptown Sinclair, among others. Lately, Hill has been creating music with a New York-based rock outfit by the name of Valley Lodge. Along with Dave Hill on vocals and guitar, the rest of Valley Lodge consists of John Kimbrough on guitar, Phil Costello on bass and Rob Pfeiffer on drums.
One of the things that you will notice when listening to the music of Valley Lodge is that the band has a wide amount of influences that help shape the sound of their music. Because of that, the music of Valley Lodge moves from current rock to a more retro feel to the music. Valley Lodge has recently created a new album entitled Use Your Weapons.
California-based Heavy Glow is a power trio that features a certain amount of “heaviness” to their sound, which makes the band’s moniker rather appropriate. At times, the band sounds like early Cream and at other times, they take on a much harder feel to their music. The band currently features Jared Mullins on guitar/vocals, Joe Brooks on bass and Andrew Merkle on drums. The band’s most recent release is entitled Midnight Moan.
Midnight Moan begins with the track “Lose My Mind”. On this track, the band takes on the sound and feel of the band Cream. The majority of the tune has the classic “power trio” feel to it with all three instruments (guitar, bass and drums) centered to feel as if the band is playing in one room. The band then builds the track with additional guitars from Mullins on both the left and right channels to help fill out the tune.
Cleveland, Ohio’s Michael Stanley is probably best known for his time as the frontman for the Michael Stanley Band, a rock band that was active back during the years of 1971-1983. During that time, the Michael Stanley Band created its share of noise in the music industry with several albums of rock ’n’ roll music that ended up putting the Michael Stanley Band on the music charts.
During their time, the Michael Stanley Band released songs like “Lover,” "He Can’t Love You,” and “My Town,” which are all still very recognizable songs. Stanley even had a little more success as fellow Clevelander Joe Walsh included Stanley’s “Rosewood Bitters” on his album The Confessor. These and other songs, like a personal favorite of mine, “Falling in Love Again,” are still making Cleveland fans happy all these years later. In fact, 16 Michael Stanley Band songs have been compiled back in 1992 by the Razor and Tie label for the Right Back at Ya release, a sort of “Greatest Hits” for those who were looking for just a slice of the history of the band.
While it’s been 30 years since the era of the Michael Stanley Band (MSB), Stanley himself has never slowed down. Having continued to write and record under his own name, Michael Stanley has created a total of over 20 albums of original music, including 2000’s Eighteen Down. And now, in 2013, Michael Stanley has just released his newest album entitled The Ride.