Categories
Featured Review Reviews and Suggestions

Matheson Kamin’s Best of List for 2019

The year of 2019 is coming to a close. That means it’s time for everyone who reviews music to put together their Best Of lists. This one is mine. And like with many of the Best Of lists I have done through the years, this one comes in several parts.

The first part of the list consists of ten albums of original music that I had reviewed in 2019. The ten releases in the main section of the article are those releases that need to be mentioned one last time before the year comes to an end. Most of the reviews come from this site for the Rock and Roll Report. However, two of the reviews were originally posted in my own WordPress site called Matheson’s Entertainment Blog

The second part of the list consists of only two releases, but they still have great meaning to me. And coincidentally, both albums are from singer-songwriters that have the same first name.
The first album in this section,
Emily Mure’s Sad Songs and Waltzes, is a release that features Mure re-imaging some very good songs from days gone by. As it is a release of only cover tracks, I did not want to include it in the main portion of the list. Instead, I am placing it in the second portion of the article.
And with Emily Strand’s
Delay in the Connection, I had found a review from a long time ago that had never been published for one reason or another. I had given the singer-songwriter and this release some coverage around the time that it was out but had never actually created a full review that would appear online. Finishing and publishing what should have been the 2005 review of this strong release in early March of this year, I wanted to include it in the list for 2019, even if it is not from the same decade much less the same year. So I placed the 2004 release in this section. 

The third and final section of my Best of List for 2019 features some of the best songs that have remained with me throughout the entire year. These songs deserve to be promoted one last time before the year comes to an end.

With all of that in mind, may I present Matheson Kamin’s Best of 2019 List:

 

1 Benny Bassett “Words For Yesterday”

It was back in 2014 that the band Vintage Blue released their EP called No Going Back. That release would prove to be the band’s last release. Shortly afterward, lead singer Benny Bassett would take the next step and go on his own as a solo artist. And as such, Bassett has created releases that have stayed in a relatively close musical frame of mind as what had been created by his former band. To date, Bassett has released one album and one EP of original music of his own since the members of the band went their separate ways. Having just recently put out the acoustic EP called Rosemont Sessions – Volume One which finds Bassett segueing from older material to the newer songs, he has just released his newest EP called Words for Yesterday. Words for Yesterday from Benny Bassett finds the singer-songwriter in fine form. The new EP is perfect for any fan of Adult Contemporary music. The release gives the listener a good cross section of what Bassett can do. The EP comes with a lot of the same kind of Adult Contemporary flavor that was present in his music with his former band of Vintage Blue while it also shows off his ability to stretch as an artist. 

Read the entire article HERE

 

2 The Good Morning Nags “Hard Hope” 

Six-piece NYC based ensemble The Good Morning Nags dates back almost a decade as they formed back in 2010. Today’s version of the band consists of Tim Hassler (fiddle, vocals), Ben Quinn (mandolin, guitar, harmonium, and vocals), Titus Tompkins (percussion, mandolin, vocals) and Britt Reagan (guitar, dulcimer, vocals) as well as Mark Spitznagel (banjo, vocals) and Pete O’Neill (bass, vocals). This ensemble of musicians takes their various musical influences and creates a style that revolves around a Folk-Rock/Country-Rock style of music. Having already released seven-song self-titled EP back in 2017, the band recently returned with a new album of music. That 2019 album is entitled Hard Hope. The Hard Hope release from The Good Morning Nags finds the band building upon that earlier release. While most of this release falls into the Americana category, this is a solid album of music that actually outshines the earlier release, which indicates that the band is growing as a unit. 

Read the entire article HERE

 

3 Bird Streets S/T

John Brodeur is a New York-based singer-songwriter who has spent the last twenty years as basically a one-man band, creating several albums of Indie Rock. The last release to come from Brodeur came out in 2013 and that album was called Little Hopes. Cut to five years later and a new album from Brodeur was created. But this particular release was slightly different from what had come before. Right around the time he was wrapping up production on the Little Hopes album, John Brodeur found himself looking to create something new. This time, however, he decided not to go it alone. Brodeur got in contact with multi-faceted artist Jason Faulkner and talked Faulkner into helping him produce the music for a new venture. The result is a musical project known as Bird Streets, a moniker that came from a section of the area known as the Hollywood Hills. Brodeur spent time in both 2014 and 2016 working alongside Faulkner during which time they created the debut album for Bird Streets. The self-titled debut release from Bird Streets was released in 2018. As you make your way through the various tracks that make up the self-titled debut release from Bird Streets, there is plenty on the album to keep fans of John Brodeur happy. Plus, the inclusion of Jason Faulkner helps add new dimensions to his music that weren’t there before. Together, John Brodeur and Jason Faulkner create an album that fans of the eighties, nineties and today will truly enjoy as influences from all of those decades help to shape the music of this release.

Read the entire article HERE

4 Falling Stars “Let it All Go”

Falling Stars is a Cleveland, Ohio-based Rock and Roll band. The main backbone of the band, Chris Allen and Tim Parnin have been creating music within the Greater Cleveland area for around fifty years of combined experience. While Chris Allen and Tim Parnin have been kicking around the area for years, it was only when the two artists decided to collaborate that they actually played together. They called upon Dave Padrutt and Gary Porter for their new band. In 2017, Falling Stars put out their initial release called Stranded in the Future, an album that found the band drawing from several different styles and time periods of Rock and Roll in order to bring their song to life. What resulted was a release that was the perfect addition to any Rock and Roll lover’s music collection. Two years have passed. Chris Allen, Tim Parnin and the rest released the band released as their second release, an EP called Let It All Go. Let It All Go is rather short with only four tracks. And those four tracks contain only about eleven minutes of music as each of the four songs lasts for just over two-and-a-half minutes a piece. But no matter how short the EP happens to be, each track shows off the various musical influences that help to shape the sound of the band. Whether it is the genres of music that the band draws from, or the person behind the production board who helps to shape the sound of the tracks, the four songs contained within Let It All Go from Falling Stars combine to create an EP that shows off the progression of the four band mates of Chris Allen, Tim Parnin, Dave Padrutt and Gerry Porter as a group.

Read the entire article HERE

 

5 Griffin House “Rising Star”

Griffin House is a musician and singer-songwriter who went in the direction of music when he could have taken a much different path in life. He was offered a golf scholarship to Ohio University but chose Miami University in Oxford, Ohio instead. While there, he focused his free time on learning to play guitar and write songs. Griffin House has released a number of albums and other releases that contain his version of Americana music, which contains a strong, underlying Rock and Roll flavor to the music as well as other musical influences. The most current album from the singer-songwriter, released earlier this year, is entitled Rising Star. Like other albums in Griffin House’s discography, the ever-changing feel of the music within the Rising Star album keeps the album interesting. Much of the new release from Griffin House blends together, creating a loose storyline throughout the tracks. But since the album was created at the same time a documentary film starring House was being created, that’s understandable. And with the loose storyline running through the tracks, this ends up being one of the more interesting albums produced by the singer-songwriter.   

Read the entire article HERE

 

6 Erica Blinn “Better Than Gold”

Currently calling the city of Nashville, Tennessee home, Erica Blinn is a singer-songwriter from Columbus, Ohio. Performing for the musician started rather young as she was only a teenager when she started playing the harmonica which would lead to her exploration of other instruments which includes the guitar, the instrument that she plays on stage when in concert. As a songwriter, Erica Blinn has released three albums: 2011’s self-titled EP, 2014’s Lovers in the Dust, and her most current album, 2018’s Better than Gold. It is that last album on which Blinn is currently touring. The Better than Gold album Erica Blinn finds her creating songs that contain many different styles of music. From straight-out Rock and Roll to Pop-Rock with some funkiness to it, the various tracks on the album help give the album depth. And with those various musical elements, Erica Blinn’s abilities as a singer-songwriter comes through rather well. The album ends up being strong from beginning to end.

Read the entire article HERE

 

7 The Motels “The Last Few Beautiful Days”

The band known as The Motels has been creating music for almost fifty years. While the band has had a few hit singles over the years (which included “Only The Lonely,” “Suddenly Last Summer” and a few others), the band has been rather low-key. Between 1971 and today, the band has gone through several different versions, used several different names and has even gone through periods where there wasn’t a version of the band at all when lead singer Martha Davis was recording and touring under her own music. After an extended period where The Motels were not a thing, Martha Davis and others formed a version of the band. This band created the album Clean Modern and Reasonable in September 2007, the first album from The Motels in 22 years. The current version of The Motels consists of: Martha Davis, Clint Walsh Guitar, Nic Johns Bass, Marty Jourard Keyboards and Sax and Eric Gardner Drums. This version of The Motels have created the newest album under the moniker of The Motels, 2018’s The Last Few Beautiful Days. For those who have enjoyed songs like “Suddenly Last Summer,” “Remember the Nights,” and “Only The Lonely” from The Motels over the last forty years, then the band’s newest release of The Last Few Beautiful Days should be an album you will enjoy. The reason for that is because the new release from The Motels feels like much of the band’s previous albums as the music of this album find Martha Davis and band drawing inspiration from the past.   

Read the entire article HERE

 

8 The Persian Leaps “Electrical Living”

Drew Forsberg is the driving force behind the St. Paul, Minnesota-based band called The Persian Leaps. Having been created by Forsberg back in the early days of this decade, the band was mainly a musical outlet for Forsberg who used the moniker of The Persian Leaps to release his solo music. Eventually, however, it became necessary to create a real band to perform the music. And through the lifetime of The Persian Leaps, the musical outfit has gone through several stages, from the solo project to a full band, changing sizes depending on how many people were in the band at the time. Throughout the time that The Persian Leaps have existed, the musical outfit has released a generous amount of 5-song EPs. Then the band released its first full-length album, Pop That Goes Crunch, last year. And having already released one album of music, The Persian Leaps returns in 2019 with yet another one. This time, the new release from the band is entitled Electrical Living. Throughout the release entitled Electrical Living, The Persian Leaps create an album that alternates between Power Pop and Alternative Rock. When combined together, the eleven songs on the release create one solid album that features many radio-friendly tracks for those who like the music of the late eighties/early nineties. And while this particular album is a break from the norm for The Persian Leaps founder Drew Forsberg, the choice to go in a different direction resulted in a strong release that is absolutely worth checking out.

Read the entire article HERE

 

9 Gretchen Pleuss “Daughter of the Broader Skies”

Gretchen Pleuss is an Ohio-bred singer-songwriter who makes her home in Akron and performs regularly around the Northeastern Ohio region. Not only does she perform her own music in venues around the area, she also hosts an Open-mic night at the Uncorked Wine Bar. As a singer-songwriter, Pleuss creates music that is strongly based in Folk-Rock. And it is that style of music that can be found on Pleuss’ albums Out of Dreams (2013) and From Birth, To Breath, To Bone (2016). Pleuss recently added to that discography with her latest album, 2019’s Daughter of the Broader Skies. As a musician, Gretchen Pleuss is a guitarist that has developed a rather jazzy style to her playing. That jazzy playing style from Pleuss helps to shape the feel of her Folk-Rock music, which is very evident in her latest album of Daughter of the Broader Skies.  Pleuss’ new release contains many songs that have a light, bouncy feel to them. But the songs on the album that come with a message keep the release from getting too light and easy. The dozen tracks on the release show off the talent of Gretchen Pleuss as a singer-songwriter as well as musician.   
 
Read the entire article HERE

 

10 Hadley Kennary “Habits”

Chicago, Illinois native Hadley Kennary is a singer-songwriter who, like many trying to make it in the music industry, has moved to Nashville to be part of the vibrant music scene in that town. And being in Nashville, Kennary is starting to get noticed. That has to do with her strong vocals and her writing ability. Both of those qualities have led to many accolades such as winning second place in the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Troubadour Songwriting Competition, as well as being included in several other contests. To date, Hadley Kennary released a self-titled release in 2011, the In Fall album in 2013 and the Momentum EP in 2016. Just recently, Kennary released her newest EP of music. The 2019 release from the singer-songwriter is titled Habits. Habits from Hadley Kennary is a strong five–song release. And with the Pop-Rock, Alternative Rock, even Top 40 influences in the songs, the album gives the listener a short, but accurate indication of the talents of Kennary. Whether you are a fan of Pop-Rock, Alternative Rock, even Top 40 music, there’s something here for any lover of Rock and Roll music.  

Read the entire article HERE

 

Extra #1: Emily Mure “Sad Songs and Waltzes”

Having been classically-trained as an oboist, New York City’s singer-songwriter Emily Mure would later move to the guitar with which she would find her true calling as a Folk musician. Emily Mure has released three albums of original Contemporary Folk music. But now, the most current release from the singer-songwriter finds her exploring a much different idea. Mure’s newest release, entitled Sad Songs & Waltzes, is a short five-track release where Mure reinvents some of the songs that helped influence her, even if those songs don’t actually fall into the same musical category that she is classified under. The Sad Songs & Waltzes release from Emily Mure is a well-named release as all of the tracks (“Gone for Good” from the band The Shins, the album’s title track of “Sad Songs and Waltzes” written by Willie Nelson, The Cranberries’ song “When You’re Gone,” Wilco’s “The Lonely 1,” “No Surprises,” by Radiohead, and “Yellow” from Coldplay) contain rather sad lyrics to them. Together with the Folk-inspired arrangements, the six resulting cover tracks create a solid release that is familiar and intriguing at the same time. And although each track falls into the Folk category because of the arrangements of the songs, the release also belongs within the Rock and Roll music category because of the songs and the artists who created them originally being of the Rock and Roll style.

Read the entire article HERE

Extra #2: Emily Strand “Delay in the Connection”

Dayton-based Emily Strand is a musician who is currently creating music that is largely based in the Folk music genre. Her style of music blends together a large amount of Folk influence with an equal amount of Rock and Roll. That Folk/Rock blend created by Strand is matched up with her vocal talent to create a sound that is easily reminiscent of earlier female Folk artists like Joni Mitchell or Carly Simon. And while Strand does have a sound that is very similar to the likes of Joni Mitchell, her sound is slightly more commercial. Taking all of that into consideration it is not surprising that Strand’s music is as catchy as it is. Emily Strand has already released her own music. The singer-songwriter (and guitarist) released her debut release entitled Evansville. Strand added to her music collection with her latest release entitled Delay in the Connection. Delay in the Connection from Emily Strand is a solid release throughout the ten tracks that are included on it. The base of Folk music threads its way through the album, but the release has plenty of moments that contain a lot of energy.  And several of the tracks on the album contain plenty of promise as they feel like hit singles yet to be released. If you are a fan of artists like Ani Difranco, Joni Mitchell, Sheryl Crow or even Alanis Morissette, Emily Strand is one artist you need to add to your music collection. And you should start off with this album of Delay in the Connection. 

Read the entire article HERE


Top 5 Songs from 2019 (in no real order):

1 Bird Streets “Betting on the Sun”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJGftkNgaik

2 Hadley Kennary “Casual”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=63&v=-fZaqMRNrqE&feature=emb_logo

3 The Good Morning Nags “Birmingham”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fCTfClEy-4

4 The Motels “Punchline”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=x5ycH5rtMA4&feature=emb_logo

5 Falling Stars “Let it All Go”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4WL5h5wrWo&feature=emb_logo

Categories
Reviews & Suggestions

CD Review: Surreal Nation “I Know Better”

Surreal Nation is an Indie/Alt-Rock band that makes their home in the town of Smyrna, Delaware. The band consists of guitarist Paul Joseph, vocalist Nikki Nation, Jackson Vari (lead guitar), bassist Kevin Curry and drummer Gene Nelson. And while the musical ensemble currently creates that Indie/Alt-Rock style, Paul Joseph and Nikki Nation began the group as a simple duo that had been playing acoustic folk music. But with the addition of the rest of the group, the band’s sound began to take shape.

The band’s sound has continued to evolve as the band has gone along. Just recently, the band of Surreal Nation (a blending of the last names of the founding members) has created a new yet-to-be-released EP of music that helps to capture their sound. The new release from the band is called I Know Better.

For their new EP of I Know Better, Surreal Nation created a release that seems to tell a story. Each of the five tracks that make up the EP tell one part of the storyline contained within the release.

The first track on the newest release from Surreal Nation is the song “Would You Do Me The Honor of Becoming My Mexican Divorce?” The track features a strong, driving pace to the music as the vocalist Nikki Nation sings about making contact with someone she wants to get to know. With the clicking of the drumsticks at the beginning of the track, the track shows off the truly ensemble feel of the band. The inclusion of the guitar solo that features a slightly off-key tuning add to the band’s Indie Rock feeling.

Surreal Nation slows the pace down if only for a moment on the title track of the release. “I Know Better” starts off slow for the first minute or so before the band picks up the pace. Throughout the nearly six-minute playtime, the track changes tempos several times going from the original slow, gentle pace to the faster tempo. The lyrics to the song deal with the singer realizing she had made a mistake. Throwing him out, she then says she won’t make the same mistake by letting him back in. “I know Better” feels as much like part of a story as it feels like an anthem for women who are taking their lives back from abusive relationships.

With the song “I Can Feel the Night,” Surreal Nation changes the sound of their music. Instead of Indie Rock, the track takes on a musical approach that is closer to straight-out Rock and Roll that would have felt right at home in the eighties. The timeless feeling of the Rock and Roll from the band mixed with the vocals from Nikki Nation create a track that recalls the music of someone like The Motels who had a few hits in that decade. The “I Can Feel the Night” has enough of a commercial appeal to it that you could still imagine the track being played on Hot Adult Contemporary radio formats today. “I Can Feel the Night” ends up being one of the standout tracks on the five-song EP.

I Know Better from Surreal Nation continues with the track “Hangtime”. With this track, the band takes a more relaxed approach to their music as the song contains a slower pace to the music as well as a gentler feel to the intensity. The track finds the singer reflecting on the whole situation and what she’s going to do. The title of the song deals with the amount of time a person exists between the end of one situation and the time when everything simply falls apart.

The new EP of I Know Better from Surreal Nation comes to a close with the song “Spirit is Silent”. The track features music that, once again, has a gentle pace to the music. This time, however, the slightly jazzy feel of the music creates a definite Indie Rock sound. The gentle pace to the music goes well with the lyrics that find the singer coming to grips with the whole situation with her relationship and trying to move forward. With the gentle feel of the music, the track gives Nikki Nation the opportunity to show off the natural beauty in her vocals. The easy feel of the song and the slight feeling of closure in the lyrics easily makes the song of “Spirit is Silent” feel perfect as the final track of the five-song release.

I Know Better from Surreal Nation is a short, yet enjoyable release. While coming together to create a storyline, several of the songs could easily stand on their own. With the EP only consisting of five songs, the listener is left wanting for more. But sometimes, like with this release from Surreal Nation, that is a good thing because it means we will be paying attention for when there is more.

For a taste of the music from Surreal Nation, check out the video to “I Can Feel the Night“.

For more information, check out the band’s PR Firm, Whiplash PR.

The I Know Better EP from Surreal Nation is not yet available. The EP will be released early in 2018. Check out the band’s Facebook profile for updates on when the album will be available.