Kevin The Persian – Southern Dissonance

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 Minorand “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]

Cicero – You Can’t Outrun Your Mouth

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]

Daniel Markham – Burnout

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 ]

Frank Lenz – Pyramid

Jacket_FrankLenz_Pyramid

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 – He Said She Said

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]

The Huntingtons – ¡Muerto, Carcel, O Rocanrol!

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/]

Vicious Cousins – All Disappearing

One day I suddenly wondered why I had not heard any new releases from Kissing Cousins in a while. I looked around and found out that sadly, they had broken up. However, Heather Heywood and Amanda Siara from Kissing Cousins did form a new band, and this ep is their first output. Described as “heavier and spacier” than Kissing Cousins, I would say all fans of their former band should check this out. The overall feel is experimental in nature, metal in instrumentation, punk in attitude, and doom in all the right places. This all comes together in ” We Are Wolves” – one of my favorite tracks – but really, there is not a dud song on the whole ep. It seems like this was only released digitally, but a vinyl version would be sweet (if anyone out there is listening to me). I can’t really find any current information about this band online, so I don’t know if they are still active or not. It would be too bad if this was it.

[2017 Chain Letter Collective | chainlettercollective.com]

Stranger Kings – Blue

Nearly five years after gracing us with their debut Red, Strange Kings have returned with an even more impressive follow-up in Blue. The all-star line-up of Holly Nelson, Herb Grimaud, Brady Esquivel, and Campuzano bring the echoing, dreamy, driving alternative rock that we have come to know and love from them. The band describes their music as “Cali-gaze rock and post-punk bass,” and that really fits their sound the best. If it sounds like they are going for a retro 80s approach, then the mention of Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club on BandCamp confirm this. Starflyer 59 fans might also want to note that Jason Martin makes a guest appearance on lap steel in this album. The Lassie Foundation fans will note that this band was basically formed when that band broke up. Fans of good music should just take note, period. This one was unfortunately not released in vinyl like the last one was, but it sure would fit that format well. I find myself saying that a lot this issue. But you can still grab this one digitally or on CD.

[2019 Northern Records | purchase: store.northernrecords.com]

MAP – History, Mystery, and Gifts: Writer’s Block, Pt. 2

For those that missed it, this is the follow-up ep to 2017’s Hello Singularity: Writer’s Block, Pt. 1. Both releases are current digital-only eps that you can stream or buy at many of your favorite digital music outlets. If you have been a fan of MAP, this ep continues their development as a band into even tighter levels of awesomeness. For those that aren’t already fans of the band, MAP is an alternative rock band that does the whole dreamy / melancholy modern rock sound very well. MAP front man Josh Dooley has been a member of bands like Pony Express, Starflyer 59, and Fine China. A mixture of those three bands is kind of a good starting reference for the sound here as well. The only problem is that this kind of music screams for the vinyl treatment, and it is not like MAP music has never been released on vinyl. I would even settle for a cassette release just to hear this kind of music in a more natural format for it. But for now, it looks like these will be digital only, and VBM indicates that CDBaby is the best place to get those digital files.

[2019 Velvet Blue Music | purchase: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/map15]

The Blamed – The Church is Hurting People

The Blamed are back with their first full album in 17 years. The biggest question most people will have is what style will this be? Skate punk? Hardcore punk? Emo? The Blamed has moved through a wide range of styles. While I would say this emo-leaning hardcore punk, you still feel many of their other influences throughout the disc. Shouted gang vocals, angular break downs, metal pounding, punk attitude, and many other styles are thrown in the mix. But don’t think this is a disjointed album – they manage to mix everything well enough to keep it a cohesive whole. The title of the album has you wondering if they are going to take a hard-hitting look at the problems within the church that many turn a blind eye to. The first spoken word track gets into some both-side-ism that doesn’t really examine the very real power inequalities in our world today. It’s great to say we are all the same, but it doesn’t help to not acknowledge that different sides on various issues exist because of power dynamics. I can’t find a copy of the lyrics, so I don’t know which way they go. Hopefully they eschew the both side-ism that has generally protected the Church from any real critical examination. But no matter what the lyrics say, the music is a killer return to form of The Blamed. I can’t wait for my vinyl copy to arrive!

[ 2019 Indie Vision Music | Purchase: theblamedband.com]