Music Submissions 10: Mathien / The Guru / Get Up Go / Wet Petals / Murk Daddy Flex / Ava Marie / Speaking In Shadows

Submission 106Submission 105Submission 104Submission 103

I’ve been away for the last two weeks, so I’ve developed a bit of a backlog of submissions, and I’ve featured a bunch of them below. If you’d like to send anything my way then please feel free, there are several ways to do so on my contact page.

Mathien – Unique Man (Album) I had a lot of love for Unique Man’s lead single You’ve Made A Stone Outta Me when I first heard it a few months ago and now I’ve a lot of love for the album it’s taken from. I connected with that song in particular because it was so patently heartfelt, and that’s very much the case with the thirteen tracks that precede it on Unique Man. Chris Mathien’s take on pop-infused soul music is entirely sincere, and throughout his fourth(?) album there’s there’s a strong, passionate undercurrent which carries it. Unique Man has heart, and heart’s a trait I always look for in the music I listen I to, and I found it in abundance here. Admittedly, I wouldn’t normally go for releases like this one (you could probably gather that from a lot of the content on this site) but there’s an appeal to Mathien’s music which perhaps makes it all the more compelling for someone like myself, who never really visits the ‘soul’ section of Bandcamp but scrolls through the ‘punk’ tag on a daily basis. If anything, that’s a testament to how good Unique Man actually is; it’s ability to capture someone who frequently overlooks the genre. Take it from me, this album is special, and not just because of that quality. On Unique Man Mathien has his feet firmly rooted on soulful soil, and for the most it’s blissfully upbeat, with tracks like Shine positively, well, shining as his powerful but sultry vocals climb over a great, shimmering backing. It’s electrifying, and in its brightest moments like this one Unique Man excels. That being said, it isn’t half bad during its mellower selections either. Ballads like Soul Down and I and Chemistry are delivered with a modest intensity, and the latter is the slowest on the record, a smoking, delicate and drifting track which peaks for a gorgeous chorus, unravelling elegantly. It’s a delight to listen to, as is all of Unique Man, and it really benefits from some brilliant production and instrumentation, with the guitar solo towards the end of the song a firm highlight – think John Mayer’s cameo on Channel Orange loosely. Heartbreak And Moonshine is another firm highlight, and it’s one of the better tracks lyrically speaking, spinning a story throughout. There’s a lot of thought gone into these songs, and there’s an interesting narrative to most of them, often dealing with relationships and life as a whole, and regardless of the topic it’s always covered with elegant craft and a clear attention to detail. Mathien cares a great deal about the music he plays, and it shows; this is a record which is rich in every way, textured with a variety of instruments all of which add something. I can’t comment on the genre a great deal, but I don’t think it’d be a huge jump to assume that Unique Man is one of the better records of this nature you’ll hear in 2014, it gets pretty much everything absolutely spot on. You can check it out and download it below. [9]
FFO: Jason Mraz, Paolo Nutini, music with heart (and soul)

The Guru – Pretty Things (Album) Did you have the pleasure of listening to last year’s You’re Always On My Mind by A Great Big Pile Of Leaves? If you did, do you remember how fucking cool that record was, how blissfully breezy? You likely do, and you’ll be very happy to know that Pretty Things is that record for 2014, blending psychedelic tones with a distinct indie feel and complementing them both with vocals that are slightly unusual, but lend themselves brilliantly. After two successful EPs Pretty Things marks Connecticut band The Guru’s debut, and it’s quite the debut. It makes for an incredibly smooth, almost soothing listen, content to wander along, often meandering during a few more adventurous tracks (Rejected Nunkie), but for the most part this record is sublime, chilled indie borrowing from a number of genres and throwing them into the mix. It makes for a varied, but also focused record of fourteen impeccably executed gens. Highlight and second track Co-Desire is absolutely delightful, coasting on some great guitar melodies and perking up for a low-fi but catchy chorus, and it’s impossible not to nod along, whilst tracks like Real Nice encourage a bit more freedom to dance, irresistibly funky. Some Things Die carries a feel reminiscent of AGBPOLs’ Ambiversion, pensive but upbeat despite it’s lyrical content. It’s great, as are the majority of tracks, and as a whole Pretty Things is a quirky, groovy and well-crafted good-time which I’d definitely recommend diving into, if only to float along with it after surfacing. [9]
FFO: A Great Big Pile Of Leaves, The Front Bottoms, Modest Mouse

Get Up Go – Calm Seas Never Made Good Sailors (EP) I don’t think the bands in the UK pop-punk scene get enough exposure, and it’s partly because the Americans across the sea have made the genre their own over the years. I can’t think of many UK pop-punk bands I’ve even featured on this site aside from Neck Deep, and I didn’t particularly enjoy their debut album Wishful Thinking. Manchester four-piece Get Up Go show that the scene still has a lot to offer in the face of its American counterpart, delivering six tracks of upbeat, catchy, hook filled pop-punk with an edge. The band label themselves partly as easycore on their Bandcamp page, and it’s fairly justified, with a few heavier moments cropping up every now and then. For the most part though, Calm Seas Never Made Good Sailors is fairly routine, surging along during energetic verses and then stepping it up for choruses filled with shout-back lines, occasionally backed up by gang vocals. There’s a definite bounce to proceedings, most notably on emphatic second track Wolves Amongst Us and the rockier Falling With Style, which both showcase some great vocals spinning downbeat, couch-camping imagery. Lyrically, and perhaps sonically you’ll have heard releases like Calm Seas Never Made Good Sailors before, but this doesn’t really detract from the EP’s quality. On their debut EP Get Up Go get almost everything right, with Good Life and opener Tonight In Stereo firm highlights. The latter makes full use of more technical guitars than the genre is perhaps known for, and as a whole the instrumentals carry some serious weight, at least for five of the six tracks. The EP ends with acoustic closer Drops Of Rain, and it’s the most forgettable track on the EP despite it’s obvious charm, toying with some weaker lines and rhymes, although it does display another side to the band’s music, it’s just one which is more hit-and-miss – mostly missing. This criticism aside, there’s a lot to enjoy on Calm Seas… and it’s a release full of promise and potential from another emerging up-and-coming band. You can stream and download the EP below; chances are you’ll like it. [8]
FFO: Hometown Advantage, Picture Perfect, We Still Dream

Wet Petals – Self Titled (EP) Next up, a promising debut EP from New York-based four-piece Wet Petals, with their EP carrying the same name. I struggle to review screamo releases, so it might be best if I just cut to the chase with this one. Wet Petals is pretty damn good – it’s loud, it’s abrasive, it’s chaotic, and it’s packed with emotion above all else, and if you know the genre better than I do that might be all you need to know, there’s not a whole I can probably say to persuade you more. Adopting the ‘skramz’ label the EP is reminiscent of 90’s artists like I Hate Myself and fellow New Yorker’s Saetia. The bands self-titled release isn’t as emotional as the former, or as raw as the later, but it falls somewhere in the middle, incredibly authentic and genuine. Highlight A Soft Prenatal Landscape begins delicate, floating along before erupting into enflamed screams and writhing instrumentation, packing one hell of a punch as it unfolds to rolls of melodic guitars amidst frantic drumming. There’s a range of moods captured across the EP’s 16 minute playtime, and these are separated by the occasional minute or so of spoken word entries from the likes of philosopher Terence McKenna, with Interlude featuring some passionate poetry courtesy of the band themselves. It’s a thought-provoking listen, and it’s just as compelling in its aggressive, furious moments; an experimental and engaging release which I’d highly recommend. Wet Petals is also available on cassette, and you can pick that up here, should you like what you hear. [8]
FFO: I Hate Myself, Saetia, iwrotehaikusaboutcannabilsminyouryearbook

Murk Daddy Flex – Genesis (Album) I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from instrumental hip-hop album Genesis going into it, with its creator Terence Chiyezan also playing guitar in post-hardcore outfit Nurture, who I featured in my last submissions based post. It seemed strange initially, but that being said I suppose Pete Wentz had Black Cards, so it isn’t too weird a jump, and considering how generally solid Genesis is it’s one that Chiyezan pulls off and lands two-footed.  The cover art (see below) for Chiyezan’s fifth album under the Murk Daddy Flex alias is a good indication of the sixteen tracks lying in wait behind it – a spiralling array of colours. Genesis offers up a rich plethora of styles and sounds which fall for the most part under the hip-hop label; it’s experimental, but not enough so that things become skewed and lose focus. Glass Music and Crayon seem happy to simply drift, threatening to blow but never really doing so, whilst the grittier tracks like Sidewinder and Cottonmouth providing a darker edge to proceedings. It’s an interesting and compelling concoction, and Chiyezan clearly knows what he’s doing, delivering consistently on Genesis, a record which is bolstered by pristine production and mastering throughout. It flows from start to finish without any real hiccups, and ends with the expansive, ten minute epic Copperhead, which compresses everything that makes the album so great into an absorbing closer, rife with samples and creativity – a stunning sprawler. Genesis is out now, and can be streamed and downloaded below. [9]
FFO: Ghostpoet, Gorillaz , instrumental hip-hop done very well

Ava Marie – In Our Garden. After The War. Your Eyes Close. I Breathe Out. (Album) I recently read a novel titled The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by American writer Neil Gaiman, and reading the brief biography on Ava Marie’s Bandcamp page there were a few comparisons. Both were written by adults creating a narrative using childhood memories and dreams as a focal point and in some sense both are equally whimsical, nostalgic but also magical. It’s probably a strange comparison to make, but I’m sticking with it. In Our Garden… presents a delicate blend of folk music and storytelling, and given the right amount of attention it’s an absorbing listen. It reminded me to an extent of Benji by Sun Kil Moon, especially during its drifting opener In Our Garden. After The War which makes use of the almost spoken word delivery of Macaulay Lerman over a lone acoustic guitar before the sing-song vocals of Shannon Saulsbury join his. It’s a gorgeously composed track, as are most of those that make up the record, and it doesn’t rely on too much to make it’s mark. Five members come together to form Ava Marie, but there’s a strong acoustic-centric backbone to the record which features primarily on most songs, with less of an emphasis on the other instruments. Highlight Fever, Sap, Skin is more dynamic, complemented by some great horns and violins, and it’s also the loudest entry, if you can consider Ava Marie’s music ‘loud’. It doesn’t lose any of the charm either as a result of this approach, and despite its often sombre, pensive nature In Our Garden… is a record which glows, almost eerily delightful.In Our Garden… is currently ‘name your price’ on Bandcamp, and you can stream / download it below. [7]
FFO: Sun Kil Moon, Kaninchen, Chuck Ragan

Speaking In Shadows – The Lies We Lead (EP) When Speaking In Shadows released lead single Technicolour Trainwreck from The Lies We Lead a few weeks ago it seemed as if they were well and truly onto a winner. It seems a shame then that none of the tracks on the EP it’s take from leave a mark in quite the same way. The Lies We Lead is a strange release to review, because upon initial listen there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot wrong with it. It’s loud, it’s energetic; it’s at times heavy yet constantly rich with hooks and melody. The members are clearly pretty good at what they do – Adam Smith’s vocals are strong, and the instrumental side of the record is dynamic. It’s only after finishing the EP and reflecting on it that I realised I couldn’t remember a great deal of it, which was the opposite of my thoughts when Technicolour Trainwreck dropped last month. In truth, The Lies We Lead is quite forgettable, despite the heart that’s gone into it. It doesn’t do enough to really set itself apart, and you could just as easily listen to the likes of Mallory Knox and Finch instead, two bands mentioned in its press release. Individually, each of the six songs on show are good, but as a whole they blend into each other, and the only standout appears to be the song I’ve mentioned twice already. The revolution-encouraging Misled Soldiers sounds entirely unconvincing, less so during a chorus which soars and features the line ‘If we fight tonight, it’ll be for freedom’. It’s tough to take seriously despite the bands intentions, and I couldn’t really get invested in it, although the climax of sorts towards the end is a small silver lining, one of the better moments. The largely acoustic Moths sounds diluted instead of spirited, and it’s the weakest track, again, despite the bands best efforts. Speaking In Shadows have all of the ingredients to make something special, but they need to do more with them, at least for me. [5]
FFO: Trade Wind, Framing Hanley, Mallory Knox

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