I was pretty surprised to hear that Love Coma was making a new album a few years ago. I loved their other two albums, so I was afraid that their new album might not measure up in my nostalgic mind. But wow is this album great. It feels like the opening track is an intentional callback to their earlier work, and then they pick up and grow from there as if they had never stopped making music. Which, okay, Chris Taylor has been making excellent music as a solo artist since back then – but the way they made this collection of songs a definite Love Coma album and not just a “Taylor put the Love Coma name on a solo album” thing that so many returning bands do is impressive. They are still mainly in the “alternative rock” category – but it feels like they defy that category in many ways as well. If you were hesitant about this album, be sure to check it out on BandCamp – you won’t be disappointed. Oh, and I would highly recommend the vinyl version – the beautiful artwork looks stunning at full size. I sincerely hope this is not just a one off recording, as I would love to hear more.[2020 Independent | Purchase: BandCamp]
After waiting for about 9 years, we finally have a new Jeff Elbel + PING release. And my, my was it worth the wait. While Elbel and company tend to run in the alternative rock circles, there is a certain quality to their music that also transcends that label. Plus add in a quirky sense of humor, and you have one of 2021’s must get releases (or 2023 if you missed it when it came out). Hopefully you have watched the fun video to the hilarious and catchy tune “Rhyme Dictionary” (recorded at the AudioFeed 22 festival) on YouTube. If not, go fix that right now. But there are also serious rocking tunes such as “Like Lightning” and “Mr. Madarakkis” that you just want to repeat over and over. There are even some hints of folk and Americana here and there – along with incredible musicianship of the regular and gust musicians. Oh, and this one is also available on vinyl – a great format to enjoy this opera on as well. Give it a listen at BandCamp and then get the record before they are gone.[2021 Marathon Records | Purchase: BandCamp]
While the date on this one says “2021,” it was actually released at the end of December and many see this as a 2022 release. Also, with nine full-length songs, it is technically longer that most LPs. But, regardless, Michael Knott is back and this EP is a great collection of songs. But it’s kind of hard to pinpoint why exactly – it is Knott doing some acoustic and some alt rock. A little experimental at times, a little pop at times. It even has won praise from some fans that didn’t quite like PTSD or Heaven High. I liked both, by the way – it’s just that this album is different than those, while still a familiar mix of Strip Cycle, Rocket and a Bomb, and Life of David. Songs like “Army” and “Love & Money” have a good amount of rock and guitar bite, while songs like “Dream Into You” that are haunting and beautiful. Also, Knott’s previously released song “Photographs in Time” is included here as well. Unfortunately, the limited edition CD-R copies seem to be all sold out, but you can still listen and buy the digital version on BandCamp.[2021 Independent | Purchase: BandCamp]
Since Moral DK made it on the cover and into an article for this issue, it is past time to review their killer debut album. At least, I should get this review out before their upcoming second album is unleashed. Moral DK played some new songs at AudioFeed 2022 and they were incredible. But this review is for their debut album. For those that don’t know, Moral DK is comprised of members of Undercover, Black & White World, Altar Boys, and other well known 80s/90s bands. Their sound is kind of a dark, heavy, gothic driving style – you can hear the influence of the various members’ bands on the sound. Of course, there are several current or former members of Undercover in this band, so that is one of the most notable sonic palettes in the mix. Several songs sounds like they could have been on a missing album in between Balance of Power and Devotion. But the DK boys also mix in many other styles as well. If you don’t have this CD, be sure to get a copy (I believe Boone’s Overstock has copies) before the new album drops soon.[2019 Independent | Purchase: Boone’s Overstock]
From New Orleans we have a good heavy rockin’ album from Kevin The Persian. This is hard-driving indie rock with Southern-leaning guitar tones. That bastard Mike Indest, who puts out the Down The Line podcast, placed this CD into my palms at the AudioFeed fest, and I have had it on my playlist at least a few times over the last couple months.
Be on the lookout for the interview with Kevin The Persian in the upcoming issue of DTL. It will fill in a few gaps for how his music finds its place amongst the zillion albums out there.
Framing cultural identity as a Persian living in a Confederate state in the US is a large part of this album. This album pulls that off convincingly. But even more convincing is his love of rock music and giving it his 110 percent. Did I mention he plays every instrument and sings every line on the album?
Not only is Southern Dissonance the title of the album, the theme also threads into a good portion of his songs. From “Coping Mechanism” contemplating purpose in life, lack of hope in “Suicide in K Minor” and “Persian Delta Blues”, dislocation in “Southern Dissonance,” and losing someone dear in “Two Minus One,” this is not music to knit to. Or maybe it is. My point is there is a healthy dose of the dark and stark realities life often deals us. This, however, is not stoner rock, nor is it blues rock. This is the stuff you would hear on alternative radio back in the 90s, bookended by the likes of The Headstones and Big Wreck. 2022 is the year we are privy to hear this platform with new ears, tying hard truths with music equally as hard. And a brilliant relationship it is.
I hope Kevin The Persian puts out more of this musical greatness. His song “Rock is Dead” is the best of contradictions because I find just the opposite when I put this album on. Long Live Kevin The Persian![2022 Independent | Purchase: BandCamp]
I am blown away by this cassette release from Portland’s Cicero, which have been around since 2007. This is the fun and adventurous indie rock I fell in love with in the 90s. Their BandCamp page says they were “fed from bands such as Sunny Day Real Estate, Mineral, Dear Ephesus, and Clarity era Jimmy Eat World.” While I think SDRE is in a league of their own, there is a raw yet experienced indie spirit backing this tape that I deeply miss in music from the last couple decades in general.
It appears Paul Hedrick is the longevity member of the band, though you also have Michael Bloodgood’s (R.I.P.) son Brian on bass (the apple does not fall far from the tree), and guest appearances from Greg Dimik (of Empty Tomb, Crux, and Gov’t Hate Mail fame) and Evan Way (who released an excellent worshipful CD awhile back). Not a lot of info on this band online, so apologies for not giving credit where it is due.
The emo influences are definitely present from the second one hits the play button. Wild energy builds on some songs, much in the way I recall in bands like Mineral or Live. It is indeed an artform to keep the listener in suspense of elevated energy building up, and Cicero manages this well.
One thing I would have liked is if the lyrics could have been included. A band like this have something to say, and some small but readable lyrics in the tape cover panel would have had me in the corner of my living room spending an extra twenty minutes diving in to find out what this band is about.
At the time of putting out this issue of DTL, there are still three variations of cassettes available at their BandCamp site.
If you need an excuse to get a tape player, you have found one here. Those of you who bought into tapes long time ago and never gave up, this one is for you.
Oh, and they also have a limited lathe cut 8″ square poly disk, for those of you who have turntables, and are even more adventurous than I.[2022 Independent | Purchase: BandCamp]
So when a release gets sold as “alt country musician goes heavy metal”… well, you have to admit that sounds a bit suspicious. Daniel Markham is a name I have heard, but never really listened to as I don’t get into a whole lot of the alt country scene. But when Velvet Blue Music helps promotes a release of any kind, I tend to give it a shot. VBM knows their music. The first track jumps out of the gate with a fuzzed out distorted guitar sound that really digs into the “power pop influences” that Markham mentions in the promo materials. Yeah, that is a pretty good sign that the alt country really is gone on this release. Markham kind of moves through everything from heavy fuzzed-out power pop to sludgy doom-inspired metal. Its kind of a bit of a unique take on metal, which to me is a welcome new direction in the ancient art of head banging. This is probably accented by the fact that vocally, Markham still fits in well with indie rock / VBM type bands. I’m kind of digging it, even if I can’t really find the best way to describe it. There are also songs like the title track where he just rocks out with little metal influence, so the hard rock label also fits as well. overall, Markham proves that he really does have a metal heart beating under all of the alt country music he has been playing all this time.[2020 Independent | Purchase: BandCamp ]
Pyramid, the new EP by Frank Lenz, is nothing short of magic. It’s not indie rock and it’s not a film score. It’s an intentional instrumental project with flawless fluidity. If you liked the more experimental side of Lenz’s 2013 Water Tiger, this one will not disappoint.
The primary instruments are analog synths, the kind that are clunky and sound oh so good. Frank also throws in drums like only he can. Additional synthesizers by David Vandervelde, and bass covered by Elijah Thomson, who also played in the three-piece on the Richard Swift’s (RIP) debut album. The sound variations are impeccably acute and well-planned.
For the best listening experience, I would recommend strapping on some headphones. Then pour yourself a nice beverage and be taken down mystical paths, dark caves and expansive valleys. There are even excursions into the funky and psychedelic. If you’ve dipped your toe into the streams of Brian Eno, say from a decade ago, or Amon Tobin, this is your ride.
I loved the “Metronix” track, which starts out subdued and somber. Chaotic drums work their way in and build up to a bass/key cacophony. “Ohm Eye God” continues with random piano playfulness, all the while an eery synth background gives it a horror story atmosphere. The EP ends on a majestic tone with “Tiger Beat Singalong,” a lush yet unapologetically busy display of electronic madness. This is Frank Lenz as Mr. Hyde behind his array of old school keys.
By the time you’ve fully immersed yourself in these tracks, you will be left wanting more.[2020 Velvet Blue Music | Purchase: velvetbluemusic.com]
Deni Gauthier is a longtime friend of Down the Line, and the fact that he released a new album should be enough to get you to go out and buy it. Well, unless you are in Coronavirus lock-down, then you should be going online to buy it ASAP. Gauthier’s work has always been lush, complex, and deep… but this release really takes it to the next level. Didn’t I say that for the last album? Well, Gauthier has done it again. To my ears, this release reaches back a bit more to the 80s/90s alternative music he obviously loves, while still keeping a firm hold on a modern pop sound (the non-annoying version, that is). It also feels like it rocks a bit more than past offerings, which really works well in the overall soundscape he is weaving here. The lyrical content is familiar but deep, with Gauthier looking at love and relationships through various lenses of hope through pain, reflections of loss, hard lessons learned, and determination to keep going even through life’s imperfections. I believe this is also available in CD and vinyl formats as long as the U.S.-Canadian border is open-ish. But oddly no cassette version, despite Gauthier’s love of that format (as evidenced by his Instagram feed).[2020 Independent | Purchase: denigauthier.bandcamp.com]
So many times I tell myself that I need to probably be done with punk rock, because I am getting up in age and I don’t deal with teenager issues or youthful angst anymore. But then bands like the Huntingtons come along and remind me that punk rock is so much more than the small boxes I put it in. Like they proclaim in the opening song “I’m Too Old to Care!” The question becomes: are they too old to be recording loud, fast music? The definitive answer is “not by a long shot!” I don’t know how a band can put out a ba-zillion albums decades ago and still find a way to pull off another one over a decade later. But at the same time, there is noticeable growth from past offerings as well. The catchy Ramones-influenced sing-along choruses are still there, as well as the fast-paced driving guitars. But there is also a sense that the band as a whole is at the next level. You can get this one in digital, or go to Burnt Toast to get the vinyl version with a bonus 7-inch. Trust me, you will want the bonus disc.[2020 Burnt Toast Vinyl | Purchase: btv.foxhole.info/btvstore/]