Tir Nan Og – ‘Jack of Folk’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

‘If only the music I listened to had more mischievous and bizarre German-speaking leprechauns…’ is probably a sentence you haven’t yet to utter. You may now, though. The band is Tir Nan Og and their new record is ‘Jack of Folk.’ The five-piece outfit of four self-described ‘wannabe Irishmen’ and a woman from South Germany have created one of the more peculiar albums so far this year. Let’s check it out.

Tir Nan Og has been a band for quite some time, having spent time touring throughout central Europe since 2001. As a result of nearly three hundred gigs, they’ve mastered their sound quite well. It’s odd, though. The introduction of their album is in German, as is their website. Yet, the lyrics are all in English.

Immediately, you may draw comparisons between Tir Nan Og and some of the more popular bands that have contemporarized Irish folk rock. The group is reminiscent of acts like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys. The music is much more withheld than those groups, however, since it feels much more traditional. Both Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys have incorporated a punk-like element to their acts. Tir Nan Og feels much more traditional and reserved.

The band performs a number of original compositions and traditional folk numbers. You can’t really tell what is what on this record; everything feels like traditional Irish music. Their sound is quite excellent for the most part. Stand-out tracks like ‘House of Cards’ make the experience consistently memorable.

The most important part of ‘Jack of Folk’ is surely the instrumentation. The band has absolutely nailed the sound they’re endeavoring to pay homage to. The entire production is slick and solid; the band never misses a beat and wonderful folksy instrumentation shines on tracks like ‘Raise Your Glass’ and ‘The Storm.’

If I had an immediate concern about this record, it would probably be the predictability of it. When you decide to tackle a genre like Irish folk rock, you have to find a way to remain interesting throughout the album. Some of the tracks on this record some eerily similar to one another and the band may have been best putting out an eight or nine song long EP. With that said, there are exceptions. ‘I’m Yours’ breaks the mold enough to end the record on a particularly high note.

If it isn’t broke, you shouldn’t fix it. That’s why I can’t really count that critique against Tir Nan Og. I’d like to see them experiment a bit more in the future – They have the talent to do so and could probably create something dramatically more creative. This record is still excellent, though, it could just be a few songs shorter.

On another note, traditional Irish music has a tendency to become the plight of the common man, the proletariat. The band harnesses that mentality incredibly well, especially on ‘To Hell.’ I think that’s a pivotal part of Irish folk music; it often embodies some sort of political statement or champions the middle and under classes. It’s neat to see Tir Nan Og’s music continue this tradition.

Despite professionally reviewing fifty or sixty independent bands a month, I’ve only encountered Irish folk-rock a handful of times in the past six or seven months. It’s not a style that is commonly available in this community and I suspect that’s because it is really quite difficult to pull off… you don’t want to become an awkward parody of yourself if you can’t embody the Irish sound. Those other acts aren’t even in the same ballpark as ‘Jack of Folk.’ This record is impeccably good for what it is. Check it out at the links below.




Hooyoosay – ‘The Wrong Kind of People’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

The band is ‘Hooyoosay;’ their new four-song EP, ‘The Wrong Kind of People.’ Hooyoosay is a rather prolific project that has released quite a bit of content. Their music, as they say, is ‘music with no ego.’ Let’s delve into a brief look at the new collection of songs.

Right off of the bat, I’m not entirely sure what to think of Hooyoosay. The opening title track boasts a high quality production and a female and male vocalist bouncing off of each other blissfully. At first, I thought I was listening to something designed for children, but in actuality, it’s just an upbeat indie rock type style that’s just very loose and carefree. The lyrics are playful and remarkably intelligent as well, complimenting the unique sound they’ve crafted for themselves. They’re even doo-wopping in there! How cool is that?!

‘Illusionist At Work’ is folky and poppy at the same time. Harmonica riffing and cascading piano dance with masterful organ pieces. It’s an instrumental that contrasts the title track and exhibits massive musical versatility on part of the band. After the instrumental, ‘The Wrong Kind of Hello’ brings back the vocalists and their infectious harmonies. It’s also a great track, but it’s built on the back of ‘The Wrong Kind of People,’ which makes it feel like an extension of the first song rather than an entity of its own.

‘The Right Kind of Friend’ finishes out the EP with the second and final instrumental. Much like ‘The Wrong Kind of Hello’ and ‘The Wrong Kind of People,’ the song feels like an extension of ‘Illusionist at Work.’ It’s like the band had two very concrete ideas and stretched them into four songs. I’m not sure if that’s the best plan of action for this type of music.

‘The Wrong Kind of People’ is a catchy and wonderful little EP. At the end of the day, though, it’s essentially two songs: one instrumental jam and one indie pop track stretched out to be doubly as long. The record would have been better released as an A/B single rather than four-track EP. When you’re choosing to only utilize four songs, they should take you on a journey. The content here is great, but after you’ve heard the first two songs, the latter two become shades of two you heard. Creatively, this makes the record feel a tad lazy and uninspired. The music is great, but it’s much more suited to a more brief release.

Check out the band at:


Steve Benjamins – ‘Sightlines’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

On May 15, independent musician and songwriter Steve Benjamins will be releasing his junior effort, ‘Sightlines.’ The EP is a follow-up to ‘Disorientation Man,’ his well-received 2013 collection of songs. ‘Sightlines’ is an atmospheric, high-octane endeavor seeking to harness the power of the upbeat indie-rock appeal. For the most part, Benjamins succeeds on nearly every count. Let’s dig into ‘Sightlines.’

The single for the album is ‘We Used to Live,’ a track perfect for your summer playlist this year. It’s sharply produced with a heavy-hitting chorus that’ll be right at home on that old boombox you bring with you to the beach. Unlike most records, though, the single is not the best of this offering.

I love the title track of this record on quite a few different levels. Musically, it’s charming and captivating. Vocally and lyrically, it’s equally as gripping. Benjamin is an excellent lyricist, something that may get a bit lost on listeners if they only tune in to his single. The title track is the most gorgeous song of the bunch.

There are other songs that give it a run for its money, though. Benjamins harmonizes with himself beautifully on ‘Devotion.’ He’s really quite a great singer. His perfectly soft croons on songs like ‘Steamroller’ can send the listener into a dream-state. He’s mastered the soft ballad elegantly.

There’s two very different sides of Benjamins on this record. One side ponders through his emotions delicately with impeccable harmonies and silky smooth soundscapes. The other side is a bit EDM-tinged, erupting on tracks like ‘Exploding Boy’ and ‘We Used to Live.’ That keeps this EP continually worthwhile, though, so that’s a good thing. As much as I love the title track, six songs of it would be a monotonous affair.

While ‘Sightlines’ isn’t anything spectacularly new, it is spectacularly good. You’ve heard all of these sounds before, but Benjamins presents them in a way that is unforgettable. It seems like the late springtime has a tendency to breed these excellent summer jams. ‘Sightlines’ will be among the best of those.

Small Leaks Sink Ships – ‘Face Yourself, And Remove Your Sandals’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

There are certain cities and towns in America that are synonymous with a certain type of music. Chicago is the home of the blues, New Orleans is the capital of jazz, and Portland is, well, a hodge-podge of just about everything in a sensational mix of music that rounds out to some of the most interesting indie-rock in the world. The largest city in Oregon has become a cultural hub of epic proportions. The band Small Leaks Sink Ships has been passed the pivotal torch of the city’s indie rock. They’re running with it on their new album, ‘Face Yourself, And Remove Your Sandals.’

Of the multitude of things that differentiate this region’s eclectic sound, two prominent factors are exceptionally creative guitar banter and bodacious vocal harmonies. ‘Power Outage,’ the opening track of the album, is chock-full of both. It escalates into a gigantic sound of layering piano tracks, whopping percussion, and fuzzy electric riffing.

Perhaps one of the more interesting parts of Small Leaks Sink Ships’ sound is their use of audio sampling. ‘Power Outage’ and its use of a boating harbor and ‘Midnight Jim’ and its use of a respirator make the sound quite unusual. There’s a sample on ‘Iceberg’ that I can’t even quite make out, but I love it. This record feels like a sonic experiment more than anything. Vocally sparse tracks like ‘Orchis’ are a compelling exercise into diverse regions of aural pastures.

All ten of these tracks are incredibly different from one another, which makes for an excellent album-listening experience. I really dig ‘Snowball Fight Attack Formation,’ in particular. The beautiful harmonies and superb instrumentation are especially notable on the peculiarly named song. It probably best exhibits what this whole experience feels like, and would suit the band well as a single.

‘Face Yourself, And Remove Your Sandals’ is a wonderful record. Songs like ‘The Devil is in the Desert’ are cinematic events, whereas other tracks like ‘Orchis’ are more reflective and pensive. Though the indie-rock origins of this album are very clear, it feels fresh and inventive. This could absolutely pave the way for the next wave of music out of Portland; maybe it’s time for the city to shake it up once again.

Suburban Vermin – Press Release – April 26, 2015




The long-running independent Seattle-based punk rock band, Suburban Vermin, is planning to release their new full-length album, ‘Headless Over Heels.’ The album’s debut is significantly noteworthy because in addition to the fantastic new tunes, the band will be releasing a new music video and a companion comic book.

When you think of Seattle, its eclectic music scene is an immediate association. The birthplace of grunge music is still home to a vibrant alternative rock scene. Bands likes Suburban Vermin keep that fire burning with great new songs and frantic live shows. The power-trio consists of Amanda Gamino, Jason Vermin, and Greg Gibson. (Vocals/guitar, vocals/bass, drums, respectively.)

The band has been described as one that embodies a truly authentic punk rock sound. Critics have compared their music and live experience to that of the Ramones and the Clash – two of the most defining bands of the genre. Both of those bands reached their heights of success during the prime of punk music, a sound that was somewhat lost as punk endeavored on through the years and divided into different subgenres and niche followings. Punk fans can unite under Suburban Vermin for this very reason: they resemble the classic punk sound that everyone knows and loves.

The band’s catchy pop-punk songs and dramatic lyrics harken back to the heyday of the best punk music. Pseudo-childish lyrics and profanity accent their ‘wham, bam, thank you, ma’am’ style with a certain elegance. (As elegant as you’d want a punk band to be, mind you.)

‘Headless Over Heels’ consists of twelve tracks, eleven of which are original. The twelfth is a cover of ‘What’s Up,’ a song originally by 4 Non Blondes. It’s set for release this summer as it aims to be one of the most satisfying punk rock experiences of the season. The record was recorded at Pacific Recording Studios in Tacoma, Washington, and will receive a massive digital release to all major platforms. (iTunes, Amazon, and so on.) It’ll also be available as a physical CD.

The release of the companion comic will be both physical and digital. The digital release will be available in an array of formats, thus allowing for easy viewing on e-readers and tablets. Each song on ‘Headless Over Heels’ has been interpreted by a different artist. These artists range from the band’s hometown all the way to the Philippines.

The album release will also be celebrated with a professional music video shot in Southern California, directed by Eddie DaRoza. The video stars Scott Russo, the lead singer of the band Unwritten Law.

For more information on the release of the record and all information pertinent to Suburban Vermin, check out their website, which is listed below.


Jessica Domingo – Press Release – June 2, 2015



Rising Star, Jessica Domingo, To Release New ‘Masterpiece’ Album This Month

After intense labor, the popular YouTube performer, Jessica Domingo, is preparing to release ‘Masterpiece,’ her new EP that consists entirely of original work. The new collection is a follow-up to her widely successful, ‘Just Vibe,’ an album that elicited an array of rave reviews with its “natural, largely acoustic, warm, and intimate” sound.

‘Masterpiece’ has been recorded with multi-platinum Grammy award-winning producer Mikal Blue at Revolver Studios in Los Angeles. The song ‘Masterpiece’ is one of sixteen finalists in the ‘teen’ category of the International Songwriting Competition. (A category that receives over 18,000 entries.) The single has already been released with an exceptional accompanying music video.

Domingo’s successful studio outings have established her as one of the most powerful and elegant artists to rise from the YouTube community and into the public eye. A tour is planned along with future releases as Domingo continues to craft her individual creative identity. As such a young artist, she’s experimenting at every turn and her ever-improving musical prowess only results in each release being stronger than the last.

Aside from a very successful YouTube career and her new studio albums, Domingo has also delved into the world of competitive competition and songwriting. She’s been involved with Asian American Singing Idol, the Seattle Filipino community’s ‘Pista Singing Idol,’ and the Filipino-Canadian PNT TV5 Singing Idol. In each of these contests, Domingo was placed firmly in the top three competitors.

“My sound feels like a mixture of acoustic genres,” Domingo explained in an interview with the Pens Eye View News. She cites R&B inspiration along with folk and pop elements in her songs. “I write depending on my moods which is why I have trouble with sticking to one sound. I guess that’s what makes me different from others in my genre – I feel like the songs I have written have a variety of different styles…” [Click here for full interview.]

Her ambitious endeavors resulted in a sold-out tour of the west coast last August and the debut of her own Vevo channel, an industry-coveted video sharing platform that only signs noteworthy artists. Domingo is also a student, if her efforts weren’t impressive enough already.

Domingo maintains a wonderful presence online and can be sought out on every major social networking platform and every major music distribution shop. For all of those, see the corresponding links below the ‘Masterpiece’ music video. Follow Jessica Domingo online for continued updates on the release and all of her other projects.

Official Website: http://jessicadomingo.com 
Vevo: https://www.youtube.com/user/JessicaDomingoVEVO
YouTube Channel: http://youtube.com/jessicaadomingo
Facebook Pages: http://facebook.com/jessicaadomingomusic 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaADomingo
SoundCloud: http://soundcloud.com/jessicaadomingo 
Instagram: http://instagram.com/jessicaadomingo
Tumblr: http://jessicaadomingo.tumblr.com 
Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/jessica-domingo/id849563025
Spotify: https://play.spotify.com/artist/3ote0zYtTM5HzVyDKEJrzR

Vine: https://vine.co/JessicaDomingo

Jonas Martin – ‘Chokecherry Jam’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to be taking a deep look at indie rock artist Jonas Martin and his new full length record, ‘Chokecherry Jam.’ The album is an eclectic mix of wry storytelling, tight production, and excellent performances. The cigarette-toting Dallas-based songwriter pulls influence from the sarcastic elements of music the likes of Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson. The output, though, is more akin to something more like modern indie rock.

The first impression you may get from ‘Chokecherry Jam’ is that it is certainly laid back. The superb ‘Autumn Love’ dabbles with ‘la, dee, da’s,’ and soulful deliveries. In fact, all of the power of the album can be traced back to Martin’s vocal performances. They’re absolutely infectious and tight band he surrounds himself with accents him marvelously.

Despite the lighthearted atmosphere of songs like ‘Autumn Love,’ there is certainly something darker and grittier at play as well. ‘Wake Up’ is the first real instance of this. It’s a deep, foreboding garage rocker tinged with gospel influence. The lead guitar tears through your speakers and descends into sonic madness. Martin compares himself to the Black Keys – I get that comparison and lean into agreeance on it.

The production of this record has a lot going on. Stellar lead vocals, tight percussion, and snarling electric guitar aren’t the only stand-outs. There’s some wonderful back up vocals scattered throughout each track, a searing organ, and at some point, I even heard a string section and a saxophone. Often, independent musicians get a bit bogged down in semantics when their productions get this complex. Not Jonas Martin, though, no sir. The entire mix is professional and solid as could be. (Though, upon looking at the liner notes, that is entirely to be expected when your producer has produced for the likes of Beck and the Arctic Monkeys.)

Another area that ‘Chokecherry Jam’ succeeds is in the curated nature of the track listing. At ten tracks, it’s the perfect length. More importantly, though, the tracks are different enough that the record flows from one track to the next with ease. That’s an important part of a record that many critics don’t take into consideration: the whole in comparison to its fragmented parts. ‘Chokecherry Jam’ is much better a full movement than individual singles or tracks. The acoustic nature of ‘Jodie Lever’ is beautifully contrasted with the garage-blues nature of ‘Fishy Man,’ the following track.

‘Apple Peeling’ may be one of the ultimate highlights of the record. What a magnificently well done track. Martin honed some of his songwriting abilities when he was in a Beatles tribute band. That Lennon/McCartney influence is actually apparent here. The moody, atmospheric ‘No Wonder’ follows in an elegant fashion. The cataclysmic production style of this track in particular is intriguing to me: it feels dramatic, dire, and epic in every way. I absolutely love it.

The album closes out with ‘Where Did It Go?’ It’s a raunchy blues track with some neat contemporary influence. Again, it feels a whole lot like something the Black Keys would put out. There’s a wall of sound of sorts emanating from this record; no track is simple and each time you listen you get a slightly different impression of the song than from the previous listen.

‘Chokecherry Jam’ is one of the coolest independent records of 2015 thus far. It’s masterfully performed, produced, mixed, and written. It’s a treat to listen to and is a very satisfying full experience. If you’re in the Dallas area, I would highly recommend checking Jonas Martin’s live performance schedule. If you’re not, get on over to his website, which is listed below. Get this record. You can even get it on vinyl. (Do that; I bet this record is sweet on an analog system.)







Rich-P – ‘Taste’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, I’m going to be taking a brief, but insightful look at the hip-hop rap artist Rich-P. His new single is ‘Taste.’  It’s a bombacious track that seeps with Kanye West and Jay-Z influence. Let’s check it out:

Rich-P is the moniker of Julian Perkins, a lifelong rap fanatic with dozens of influences. He boasts a strong portfolio of lyrical outings, mixtapes, and videos that have garnered him several thousand views online. Similar to one of his influences, Kanye West, Rich-P connects his fashion with his music. “I’m a hipster meets high fashion type of style,” he explains. “I like being distinctive and standing out. A nice style is an excellent way to meet people.” He intends this style to carry on over in ‘Taste,’ which he is aiming to market as a jam for the summer of 2015.

The whole schtick of ‘Taste’ is pretty simple: Rich-P and his bros have good taste in women. They wear suits for sport and he’s got a thing for ‘bad bitches.’ The overall production is fairly simple, but quite good. I dig his beats and the whole song accents his rapping style really well. I like the slowly escalating synths that create a dire sense of epicness in the instrumentation.

I’m not sure if its the “generation defining single” that Rich-P wants it to be. It’s a rad song with some sweet beats and rather simplistic rhymes that will lend themselves well to blasting speakers on summer beaches. In that sense, this song will certainly succeed. I’d love to see what Rich-P can do with more meaningful content, though. I’m sure it would be even better. Check out ‘Taste’ now at the link below:


Nic Nassuet – ‘Eleutherios’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

The singer-songwriter genre can sometimes be a bore, oversaturated by melodramatic acoustic guitar performances and predictable lyricism that meanders through equally as predictable subject matter. Fortunately, the album in question for this edition of the Independent Spotlight is none of those things. Meet Nic Nassuet and his new record, ‘Eleutherios.’

I love a good Greek reference. ‘Eleutherios’ actually means ‘The Liberator’ and is present in much of Greek tradition. The album art is equally as complex, boasting a dark, Greek-inspired scene that fooled me into thinking I was about to delve into a metal record. When I queued up ‘Cross and Crown,’ I was met with something that completely surprised me.

The sound of this album is harder than your typical singer-songwriter debut. In ‘Cross and Crown.’ a moody, dark atmosphere compliments Nassuet’s acoustic guitar and dire lyrics. At times, it feels a bit like an 80s song and vocal performance with an acoustic guitar instead of an overdone production.

As the album continues, Nassuet consistently surprises the listener with a number of musical treats. There’s a splendid orchestral section in the backdrop of some of the music, and once the listener arrives at ‘Down,’ they’re introduced to a really tight backing band. The mystical, gothic sound is such an original approach.

‘Immured’ is the most beautiful track on the collection. Spine tingling violin, vocalist Catrina Grimm, and sparing acoustic guitar meld together into a ghostly apparition of a song. I actually prefer Nassuet’s soft side, though there is a certain likability to the angst of the more upbeat songs like ‘When it Falls.’

His strongest, though is when he serenades with his acoustic guitar. There’s such beauty and honest love behind ‘Goodnight, Goodbye.’ The song gives you shivers, plain and simple. ‘She Rides Moonlight’ is equally as gorgeous with an unforgettable mandolin and vocal performance.

Check out Nic Nassuet’s new record; it’s worth your time. It surprises around each turn and the nine tracks are a very satisfying, complete experience.

Check Out Nic Nassuet Online:


Gumshen – ‘Digibites’

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this edition of the Independent Spotlight, I’m going to be checking out the band Gumshen and their new record, ‘Digibites.’ The album is a follow-up to their 2014 release, ‘Progtronica.’ The band is an alternative indie fusion band that mixes progressive styles with electronica and pop. They hail from Seattle.

They describe this record an as exploration of sorts, one through the worlds of popular music and EDM. That becomes immediately apparent, but their music is even more complex than your typical EDM. In addition to heavy synths and a prominent drum machine, some keys, guitar, and vocals are intermixed throughout. I dig this, because it gives the record a few more layers of substance. When you hit the keys solo on the latter half of ‘A Scene Like That,’ you know you’re in for a very original ride.

‘Latency Head’ is a beautifully performed track; the climactic attack of the synthesizers combined with layering of vocal pieces makes for a truly intriguing listening experience. It’s nice to see an EDM group that pulls inspiration from such a wide variety of influences. There’s some new wave influence in there, too. Tracks like ‘Talk to Me’ sound like they’re off a Talking Heads or Joy Division record.

‘Cut From the Cloth’ is my personal favorite track. That track in particular is wonderfully creative. I adore the vocal and lyrical performance. It feels like a hard-hitting rock track more than it does EDM or pop. I’d love to see Gumshen explore this style even more, it’s an absolute treat as you come to the close of the record.

I thoroughly enjoyed all ten tracks of the ‘Digibites’ experience. It’s an eclectic sound that pulls the best of a handful of influences in a way that is unique and exciting. The album is a futuristic soundscape riddled with impressive production and catchy songs. As the summer of 2015 approaches, this is the independent record to put on your playlist.

Connect With Gumshen: