Elmont – The Self-Titled Debut EP

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 morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Elmont, a four-piece alternative rock band I previously lauded in December for having one of the stronger debut singles in recent memory. That single, ‘Home,’ was an early insight into their six song self-titled EP, a record that’s now complete and has a release date set for September 2. Here on the Spotlight, we received early access to the EP. Is it worth marking your calendar for? Let’s find out.

With a strong early single like ‘Home,’ Elmont had a high bar set for themselves. Fortunately, it’s immediately clear on the EP that they’ve not only reached that bar, but exceeded it in several ways. The introductory track, ‘Waiting on a Phone Call,’ harnesses a perfect suaveness that ties together Elmont’s brand of alt rock. The slick production is, similar to ‘Home,’ incredibly strong, and the lead guitar musings have hints of Southern influence, drawing parallels to, perhaps, the Allman Brothers or the like.

The beauty of this EP, though, is that the sound evolves throughout. After ‘Waiting on a Phone Call,’ ‘Falling’ arrives, a song that seems to draw stronger lines of lineage toward Modest Mouse in its instrumental style than the Allman Brothers. The lead vocals are in fine form on ‘Falling,’ too, especially when the band seeps in as back-up. ‘Falling’ also boasts the album’s strongest solo – it’s the kind of guitar solo one can listen to all day long. It’s so intensely smooth.

As the album progresses, the musical prowess of Elmont progressively builds, perhaps most notably showcased in ‘Nothing in Particular,’ a song that’s built around a brilliantly original guitar hook. The percussion pieces on this album are fantastic, too. All of the cohesive instrumentation that builds the band’s sonic tapestry lends further weight to the notion that they’re a tier above most of their independent alternative rock counterparts.

The centerpiece and most vital element of this self-titled record, however, is ‘Apartment.’ This sparse track which only utilizes a softly performed electric guitar and sporadic acoustic piano is stunning. It’s beautiful; it’s mystifying; it’s Elmont’s early-in-career masterpiece. After listening to the song a dozen times over, I still find myself in awe of the gem. It’s a somber break-up song, one that isolates the songwriter in a heartrendingly relatable way. ‘Apartment’ houses breathtaking performances worth listening to on repeat all night long.

‘Drama Queen’ is immensely satisfying, even despite following the album’s best track. It continues a running theme on the album, a relationship that fell apart, but in the case of ‘Drama Queen,’ that relationship’s elements are dissected as the woman falls into a similar pattern with another man. Typically, albums that linger too long in the despair of a fallen relationship suffer from those meanderings, but tunes like ‘Apartment’ and ‘Drama Queen’ thrive on their relatability and human nature.

‘Home’ closes the album, as excellent as it was when I originally reviewed it eight months ago. Oddly enough, ‘Home’ originally gave the impression that Elmont would have a folksy focus in their sound. That isn’t the case, though, as the song ended up being their only track of that nature. It suits them to have the song as the finale, though, and I’d love to see Elmont explore more folk and acoustic stylings in the future. ‘Home’ and ‘Apartment’ are indicative of a band that’s even more diverse than a simple “alternative” band. Check out a detailed run-down of ‘Home’ here.

‘Elmont’ is the perfect EP for the band to deliver on the heels of ‘Home.’ It’s superbly produced, beautifully performed, and teeming with authenticity. My only recommendation for Elmont would be to continue innovating with their sound. Continuing experimentation and boundary-pushing is a must for a band like this to continue to excel at what they do. As long as Elmont continues to do so, they’ll be well worth keeping tabs on.

Mark your calendar for September 2; ‘Elmont’ is an EP worth downloading when it arrives. If you’re local to the Dallas area, head on over to Hank’s Bar in McKinney, Texas that night, too, for the release party and performance. Connect with the band below:




Black Astronaut – ‘The Walrus, The Ninja, and The Gypsy From Sydney’

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.

One of the most frequent features here on the Independent Spotlight is Charles Luck, the driving creative force behind the Black Astronaut hip hop collective. His release style, at least until now, has consisted primarily of dropping random singles every few weeks, some incredibly thought-provoking, some incredibly loony. Now, Black Astronaut has released their first full EP, an endeavor entitled ‘The Walrus, The Ninja, and The Gypsy From Sydney.’

Essentially a concept record, ‘The Walrus, The Ninja, and The Gypsy From Sydney’ tells the story of an insomniac that takes a heavy dose of Ambien and enters a bizarre world of equally bizarre characters. This alone marks a massive creative departure for Black Astronaut, which is prone to releasing strings of unrelated singles. The opening track of the EP, ‘Staring at the Ceiling,’ introduces the story perfectly, however, and sets a strong stride for the short collection.

‘Staring at the Ceiling’ features and was co-written by InZane, one of the more notably excellent hip hop artists that Luck collaborates with at Black Astronaut. The eerie track feels like it’s right out of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as InZane muses about the ceiling staring back at him in the dark of night, unhinging his inner demons. If the concept of insomnia could be embodied into a single track, it would be ‘Staring at the Ceiling.’ (Granted, the song is also jam-packed with vivid insanity.)

‘Pawn My Kidneys,’ a track featuring Vedo, introduces the comical world the EP’s main character falls into after succumbing to his sleep aid. Frankly, the song makes absolutely no sense. The man loans his kidneys to the gypsy and the ninja, both who live in Sydney. He also wants to ride a dinosaur, and at another point, he confuses David Cameron’s penis-in-a-pig scandal Tony Blair and a dog. It’s a fever dream of a track, which in truth, is probably why it’s so hilariously fun.

‘Jipped By The Gypsy’ is, of course, fairly culturally insensitive. The track actually delves into a lot of questionable subject matter, albeit with a fantastic production backing it. At one point, Vedo even admits to the perverted nature of the subject matter, but insists that Black Astronaut pushing the envelope is what will get audiences to listen as they re-invent rap. Even though Black Astronaut is a perennial favorite here on the site, it’s worth noting that shock-and-awe showmanship rarely equates to longevity.

The next track, ‘Who Is The Ninja?’, is peculiar, recounting an array of sexual explorations, perhaps even with the ninja? Truthfully, nothing is fully clear on the song. Much like its predecessors, I imagine it’s the kind of material to arise out of a clouded Ambien-induced haze. That’s the central notion around the entire album, actually, and it continues onto the stunningly-produced ‘I Am The Ninja.’ It’s nearly impossible to follow the lyricism; it’s essentially stream-of-consciousness internal banter.

The final track, ‘Coming Home,’ utilizes a Guns N’ Roses ‘Paradise City’ sample, which surprisingly, isn’t kitschy or ridiculous at all. (Usually GNR is both.) “Rising from the couch like a phoenix from its ashes,” InZane raps on the track – a perfect send-off to a surreal EP. As always, Black Astronaut’s usage of a well-known sample is wonderfully executed, too.

‘The Walrus, The Ninja, and The Gypsy From Sydney’ is unlike anything else Black Astronaut has released. It’s very erratic, often confusing, and it doesn’t shy away from being entirely politically incorrect, if not even borderline offensive. The dream-induced narrative is, however, somewhat followable. This is an EP one will listen to and catch new lines each time; it’s not meant to be memorized or quantified. It’s ridiculousness in six crazy tracks. That’s its charm and why it’s worth tuning into.


Charles Luck ft. Tino Red – ‘Don’t Give A Shit’

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.

Here on the Independent Spotlight, Charles Luck and his Black Astronaut collective are one of, if not the, most common recurring feature. This, of course, is because Luck isn’t just incredibly prolific – he’s also very versatile. His music spans a slew of genres, always boasts terrific production, and his lyricism delves into a bevy of compelling themes. Every so often, however, Luck lets loose with Black Astronaut artists to record songs like ‘Don’t Give A Shit,’ his latest single featuring Tino Red.

‘Don’t Give A Shit’ is one of Luck’s most carefree lyrical efforts to date. His songwriting on the track is exceptionally witty as Red muses about a squirrel that bit him, his burnt toast, a relationship in ruins, amongst many other rather bizarre items. There’s something so freeing about the track: Luck is shamelessly self-deprecating in his songwriting and Red’s delivery exudes the perfect amount of apathy necessary to make ‘Don’t Give A Shit’ immensely amusing.

Musically, ‘Don’t Give A Shit’ is a bit unique in the grand scope of the Black Astronaut catalog. It’s as well executed as Luck’s music always tends to be, but the genre influences tie more heavily into pop, and perhaps to a degree, ska. There’s a heavy dose of ska inspiration soaked into ‘Don’t Give A Shit,’ making it reminiscent of acts like Sublime, back in the heyday of radio hits like ‘What I Got.’ The fantastic instrumentation complements this style with a brilliantly fun percussion section paired with a brass section and ska-style electric guitar.

There’s really no reason anyone should be offended by ‘Don’t Give A Shit.’ It’s Tino Red and Charles Luck having a good time together, and I’d go as far to argue that they do some of their finest, most personable work when they’re doing just that. It’s not profound like some of Luck’s songwriting, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a well-executed anthem about not giving a shit, and hey, that kind of music is necessary sometimes. Give the song a spin below; it’s well worth your time.


A.J. Harrison – ‘One Voice In Two-Part Harmony’

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 evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on A.J. Harrison, a veteran singer songwriter that has worked as a professional musician for nearly five decades. He has penned over 400 songs throughout his career, and more recently, became a published author with his well-received novel, ‘My Life He Did Touch: An Unlikely Friendship That Caught the Eyes of the World.’ In this Spotlight entry, we focus ourselves on ‘One Voice In Two-Part Harmony,’ an album Harrison released in 1999. Is the eighteen-year-old deep cut worth adding to your indie music collection? Let’s find out.

A.J. Harrison performs on a twelve string Ovation, his primary instrument aside from the occasional exploration into MIDI instruments. The latter is in full abundance on ‘One Voice In Two-Part Harmony,’ something exhibited immediately on ‘Long Distance Love Affair,’ the album’s opening tune. It’s doused in bubbly, bright synthesizers and drum-machine beats. Aside from Harrison’s vocals, which true to the album’s name, are in a two-part harmony, the song is populated primarily with what sounds like MIDI production. The intense nature of the synthesizers is becoming of Harrison, though, and makes ‘Long Distance Love Affair’ a bit infectious in its own way.

‘The Missing Piece To The Puzzle Of My Life’ suffers from some mixing issues; the two vocal sections aren’t mixed high enough, so they’re often drowned out by the reverberated synthesizer composition. That aside, however, it’s a lovable pop rock ballad with a memorable chorus. The album gets progressively stronger, however, with ‘For You And Me’ following, a track with ‘Pet Sounds’-like harmonies that showcase the range of Harrison’s vocals. They’re not traditionally exceptional, no, but they do feel genuine and authentic, which is ultimately far more important.

There are tinges of Everly Brothers influence at play, too, I’d argue, with songs like ‘The Other Man’ sounding like they’re right off one of the brotherly duo’s early records. Sonic lineage from the likes of Del Shannon, Simon and Garfunkel, and Frankie Valli is traceable in this sound as well, especially when Harrison harmonizes with himself in low and high keys for long “woah” sections like in ‘The Other Man.’ The song is snappy and catchy, a style that Harrison leans into heavily on the majority of songs on this album. Again, this draws influence straight from early rock and roll wham, bam, thank you, ma’am songwriting that doesn’t get weighed down in ostentation.

The cinematic ‘Dead End’ is likely the effort’s most complex piece, at least, instrumentally. Clocking in as the album’s longest song, ‘Dead End’ hones in on Harrison’s style of harmonies and synthesizers to create something particularly compelling. There are moments of pure beauty during the instrumental sections of the track, and that’s an interesting detour after several much shorter, more poppy endeavors. ‘When I See’ is similarly fascinating in this department, even having bouts of flute-like instrumentation that makes the song an intriguing listen.

‘I Love You’ is another bright ballad, similar to songs like ‘The Missing Piece To The Puzzle Of My Life’ and ‘For You And Me.’ For this reason, the album might have been tighter with it left on the cutting room floor; it doesn’t introduce any new thematic or instrumental themes. With that said, it’s still a enjoyable little tune. In contrast, ‘Unenhanced Relationship’ is probably the heaviest lyrical effort in the collection, delving deep into parental strife and leaving on a cautionary note pleading for listeners to avoid it in their own lives.

The naval-gazing ‘I’ve Tried’ is one of the album’s better tracks, offering one of Harrison’s most impressive vocal harmonies on the album. It’s another track that sounds a whole lot like it was written while listening to early Simon and Garfunkel. (I highly suspect the duo is an entity Harrison has derived influence from; the inspiration is just so obvious.) The album ends on one of its finest notes, too, with ‘It’s Just Not There,’ a fantastic departure from love ballads that instead favors the idea of breaking a relationship apart because the spark isn’t there.

‘One Voice In Two-Part Harmony’ is a lovely little record. Even if the synthesized soundscapes cause the record to sound a bit dated, it’s still chock-full of memorable hooks and harmonies. Harrison has lived and breathed his music and that authenticity is very noticeable, which of course, is a very high compliment.



Jesse Morgan – ‘Give Me Faith’

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 evening’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Jesse Morgan, a West African contemporary Christian performer that now works and resides in California. His latest studio endeavor is ‘Give Me Faith,’ featuring guest artist Israel Houghton, and it follows on the heels of his successful last release, ‘Here We Stand.’ For fans of both independent music and the contemporary Christian community, is Morgan’s new single worth picking up? Let’s delve into it and find out.

To put it bluntly, I don’t receive contemporary gospel/Christian music across my desk often, and when I do, it’s usually generic, cookie-cutter praise music that sounds like every other popular song spinning on K-Love. The community has created a very specific, incredibly recognizable sound that its own artists struggle to break away from. That is the key component of Morgan’s music worth lauding: he sounds like he’s crafting his own style by utilizing his faith as an authentic device for inspiration. That’s what makes him excellent.

‘Here We Stand,’ his last single, was a rather good praise piece that incorporated a beautiful choral section and dynamic lead vocals. Morgan draws upon traditional gospel influence at times, offering call and response relationships between him and his musical counterparts in his songs. This is continued heavily in ‘Give Me Faith,’ his new single, which is essentially preached, rather than sung.

The best Christian music performers are also excellent pastors because they’re masters of not only the spoken word, but effortlessly intertwining it with bouts of bombastic vocals. ‘Give Me Faith’ has a polished atmosphere to it, but ultimately the track and Morgan’s dynamic with Houghton and the choir is very reminiscent of black Baptist gospel music here in the US. One can imagine him being overtaken by the holy spirit in a small church with a fervent congregation, preaching the word of the Lord through intense music. Houghton’s brief appearance on the tune is powerful, too, offering a perfect bouncing board for Morgan’s impressively well-rounded vocal explorations.

When listening to ‘Give Me Faith,’ one can’t help feel like Morgan has lived and breathed the intense faith exhibited in the track. The track feels remarkably genuine, chock-full of both musical prowess and exuberant joy. This is no K-Love single – no Chris Tomlin single – this is quality, contemporary gospel music the way it’s supposed to be done.



Fiberoptic, Pastor C, and Charles Luck – ‘The Stairway’

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 morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we return our gaze once again to songwriter Charles Luck and his collective of talented artists over at Black Astronaut. For nearly two years now, Luck’s releases have been recurring features here on the Spotlight, best recognizable for their razor sharp lyricism, fantastic use of samples, and a rotating cast of great featured artists. Today, we look at ‘The Stairway,’ a Luck-penned song performed by Fiberoptic and Pastor C.

Luck, ever the fascinating songwriter, wrote ‘The Stairway’ after receiving a poem from a suicidal girl at a Waffle House early in the morning last year. The track explores the idea of climbing up or down the ‘stairway to heaven,’ and what doing so means for someone. One’s actions lead to their judgement at the end of the path, the song argues, and only they can take control of that. Oddly enough, the sample at play here isn’t ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ but rather, ‘Dream On.’ Yes, Black Astronaut has made the only cool sampling of Aerosmith under the sun. It’s a beautifully executed sample that fits the song perfectly.

For a song inspired by a suicidal girl’s poetry, ‘The Stairway’ is centralized largely around self-empowerment. While the subject of the tune sometimes feels invisible to others, their presence empowers those around them. One must wonder what kind of poem the girl wrote, and whether or not ‘The Stairway’ is Luck’s response to it and its author. It’s a song that stares self-doubt in the face and punches back. There’s a fire to ‘The Stairway’ that’s invigorating. 

Fiberoptic and Pastor C give masterful performances on the track and the whole production is superb, too. The ‘Dream On’ sample is focused entirely around the memorable Aerosmith guitar riff, which works well for the tune. Ultimately, that sample helps round out the song into a classic Black Astronaut track. Thoughtful, provocative lyricism and recognizable samples reimagined in exciting new ways are both hallmarks of the collective’s work, and they’re both here in spades.

‘The Stairway’ is well worth a listen; tune into it below on SoundCloud. Charles Luck and his Black Astronaut collective have another excellent addition to their catalog worth writing home about.





The Lovepools – ‘Animal Instinct’

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 morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on The Lovepools, a Californian outfit that draws influence from the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, and more. Their sound, which was concreted with 2016’s ‘Safety In My Loveseat,’ evokes Britpop stylings that have now been meshed together with “a brash American sexuality” on their latest EP. Entitled ‘Animal Instinct,’ the new record houses three tunes. Let’s explore them and see if they’re worth adding to one’s independent music collection!

The title track of the ‘Animal Instinct’ EP is indeed brashly sexual, but in a particularly lovable way. It’s chock-full of cheeky, zoo-themed imagery and innuendo. The punchy, infectious atmosphere of ‘Animal Instinct’ sounds like, perhaps, Mini Mansions or The Kooks. The aforementioned Oasis influence is abundantly obvious, and the suave nature of the Arctic Monkeys is present, too. (Though The Lovepools take themselves less seriously than Alex Turner and company have a tendency to do these days, which is very welcome.) The synthesized brass sections are brilliant, too, pairing perfectly with the thudding piano and organ.

‘I Might Jump Off The Deep End If You’re Mine’ offers up some of The Lovepools’ finest instrumental banter, boasting thunderous percussion and terrific electric guitar banter. The quick-paced riffs may remind listeners of acts like The Hives, and one can imagine The Lovepools putting on one hell of a live performance if their enthusiasm and charisma translates to the stage.

‘I Should Be Fallin’ In Love With You,’ the closing of the EP, is a bit of a mixed bag. It has the obligatory acoustic ballad style, which all rock EP’s seem to have at some point, and it lacks some of the charm of its predecessors. The introspective lyricism, while sometimes lovely, is overshadowed by predictable composition. The chorus “oh’s,” for example, are a hallmark of pop rock today, and it’s entirely unnecessary. It makes The Lovepools sound less like a quality rock act, which I’d argue they are, and more like a cheap version of Of Monsters and Men.

The first two tracks of ‘Animal Instinct’ are superb explorations of a quirky, instantly lovable indie rock outfit that aligns well with their counterparts in the American and British music scenes. The sharp lyrical and instrumental exhibitions are well worth a listen, and indicative of The Lovepools continuing to be an act worth keeping close tabs on. The final track of the EP is a bit lackluster in contrast, but nevertheless may prove fruitful for sing-along show finales when the crowd all pull out their smartphone flashlights.

Give the band a spin below.


Instagram: @TheLovepools


Press Release – Fennario’s Wolf – July 15, 2017



Fennario’s Wolf To Perform Free Concert At City Dock On July 27

On Thursday, July 27, the well-respected independent bluegrass outfit, Fennario’s Wolf, will perform a free concert at the City Dock in Annapolis, Maryland. The show, which kicks off at 6:30 pm, is the first of a series of performances Fennario’s Wolf has slated this summer influenced by bluegrass legends, The Del McCoury band. The group will be joined by Dave Brumberg of The Brummy Brothers on upright bass.

Fennario’s Wolf will be streaming their performance live on their official Facebook page the night of the concert, and furthermore, the show will be recorded and released at a later date. The band’s collaboration with Brumberg is part of a long lineage of special guest artists at live shows. The partnership arose from Edwin Lightner, Fennario’s Wolf’s vocalist, mandolin, and guitar player, meeting and working with Brumberg at the Delfest Academy. Lightner and Brumberg have previously performed together in a Delfest Academy outfit, Tiger Lightning Machete.

“Our goal is to take American traditional music and make it our own,” Lightner says of the band, which is partly why Fennario’s Wolf always has a special guest performer from a different musical background at each show. “Playing traditional and composed songs adding a guest from a folk, rock, or jazz music background ensures an extraordinary sound.”

Thus, despite being firmly rooted in bluegrass and Americana themes, Fennario’s Wolf is at its strongest when exploring how those roots interact with other sonic musings. From folk to jazz, Fennario’s Wolf unites a bevy of traditional and contemporary stylings together to energize listeners with a unique music experience like no other. Matthew Henry, the band’s previous lead guitar, has moved to banjo for this new series of shows.

As a mandolinist, Lightner has found significant acclaim throughout his career. He has previously played second mandolin in the Baltimore Mandolin Orchestra, and in 2007, he was a finalist in the CMSA Classical Mandolin Competition. The Jukebox Podcast, a show often lauded as one of the most popular programs highlighting independent music in the podcasting community, chose Fennario’s Wolf’s ‘Catch The Spirit’ as their theme song in 2016, continually showcasing the band in each new episode.

The performance at City Dock, Annapolis is hosted by the City of Annapolis as part of their Thursday Night with the Stars concert series. The free show begins at 6:30 pm and is set to end at 8:00 pm. Fans can connect with Fennario’s Wolf on their official website and social media listed below, and the show will be live streamed on Facebook for those who cannot attend!


Brice Sedgwick – ‘Pacifico’

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.

It’s not often a debut like ‘Pacifico,’ the first release from the alternative pop artist Brice Sedgwick, comes across my desk. The nine track endeavor isn’t just a polished sonic excursion through some fascinating themes, but rather, a solo artist’s surprisingly cohesive journey through combining a bevy of unlikely genre influences. While ‘Pacifico’ is “pop” in its core, it’s doused in alternative and psychedelic rock, hip hop, industrial, and so much more.

‘Tortoiseshell Sky’ sets the bar particularly high at the beginning of the collection, showcasing Sedgwick’s production style in grand form. Ethereal synthesizers and string sections rise and fall as Sedgwick croons lead vocals through a beautifully programmed auto-tune. The track reminds me of Kanye West, at least, in the sense that Sedgwick has used auto-tune stunningly. It can be utilized as a creative tool and instrument when implemented as such, versus a crutch. It’s a perfect tool used properly here.

The following track, ‘Midnight In Echo,’ has more jam-packed into its space than its predecessor, a weight that is carries very well. An electric guitar banters in the backdrop as Sedgwick provides an equally strong vocal performance in the second track, but this time, without auto-tune accents. The track is more pop-oriented, perhaps reminiscent of The Wombats or the like.

Of course, it’s very much worth noting that Sedgwick wrote, performed, and produced the entirety of ‘Pacifico’ in three different cities across the world. It’s a truly solo effort. This becomes increasingly impressive as the album continues, offering insights into Sedgwick’s incredibly broad range. If ‘Midnight In Echo’ may sound like its off the cutting room floor of a Wombats session, the melancholy, haunting, piano-led ‘Robyn On The Couch’ sounds like it’s off a Francis and the Lights record.

‘Pacifico’ is a record best listened to with quality headphones or monitors, something that’s most obvious on ‘Saturnalia,’ a gorgeous soundscape chock-full of intricacy that bolts in and out of both sides of the stereo mix. It’s short and sweet, but lovely – even if it is loudly mastered. ‘Saturnalia’ will require the listener to pull their speakers to half the volume they may have been at when listening to ‘Robyn On The Couch.’

With romance at the thematic forefront of ‘Pacifico,’ ‘Oh, Starry Night’ is one of the more sublime pieces of music that gives Sedgwick space to work through the emotions of a tragic relationship. He seems deeply in love with the person ‘Oh, Starry Night’ is penned to, but there was a rift in the relationship, a poisonous death knell, that Sedgwick hints at throughout.

The jangly, borderline bluegrass-pop style ‘Mandy Moore’ may steal the show on ‘Pacifico,’ however, giving Sedgwick’s album some much needed levity. There hasn’t been a mandolin riff this infectious since Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’ or Paul McCartney’s ‘Dance Tonight.’ On the opposite end, ‘Fresh Cut Grass’ is a compelling naval-gazing experience set to a sparse, but effective electric guitar without any percussion.

‘Next Round of Rum,’ a demo that was never supposed to make the record, is an interesting amalgamation of synthesized and traditional instruments in a bubbly, pop-heavy jam. It doesn’t have the weight of its predecessors, but it’s a fun ride accented by very thick synth pads. The finale of the album, ‘Holding On At The Start Of Summer,’ is a superb closer, too, a lengthy track that perfectly complements the opener, ‘Tortoiseshell Sky.’ (It has a fantastic hip hop verse, too.)

‘Pacifico’ is a beautiful record through and through. It’s remarkably rare to see an independent artist with this cohesive of a debut album. Aside from ‘Next Round Of Rum,’ which is a demo, anyway, the album doesn’t have any fat to trim. That’s very unique. It’s well worth the time of any indie music fan; it jams half a dozen genres into one and, amazingly, it works.


Mike Bee and the Dead Soldiers – ‘Jane’s Gone Into The Shadow’

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.

As an independent music critic, I’ll often get acts across my desk that attempt to explore ‘classic rock’ stylings to varying degrees of success. More often than not, the bands occupy a space that’s rather derivative, to a painful degree at times. In this transaction, self-identity can get lost, and potentially talented artists don’t reach their potential. Mike Bee and the Dead Soldiers, fortunately, avoids that pitfall and moves forward with his music elegantly and with an especially unique sound unto himself.

Mike Bee and the Dead Soldiers is a solo act, despite its name, and it draws influence from classic psychedelic, freakbeat, and acts the likes of David Bowie and Pink Floyd. There’s a whole lot at play in Mike Bee’s music, and that’s perhaps best exhibited by his newest single, ‘Jane’s Gone Into The Shadow.’ The punchy, powerful track embraces psychedelic rock influence, but it also has the brevity and tactfulness of a pop track.

The intriguing part about ‘Jane’s Gone Into The Shadow’ is the sonic amalgamation that Mike Bee has created, perhaps even unknowingly. The lead vocal stylization is evocative of David Bowie in the 1980s, the lead guitar riffs are reminiscent of harder 1970s and 80s hard rock, and the bass performance is remarkably funky. While Bee has culminated his influences into a single place, he’s done so in such a creative, beautiful manner as such to remain a creative entity of his own, not a copycat. The songwriting on ‘Jane’s Gone Into The Shadow’ is infectiously catchy, too; you’ll hear it once and not soon forget it.

‘Jane’s Gone Into The Shadow’ is also notable for its cohesiveness. For a one person act, the music sounds incredibly sophisticated – not a beat is missed. The production is excellent, superbly mixed and mastered, and Mike Bee and the Dead Soldiers does truly sound like a band, which is perhaps the highest compliment you can give a one-man-act.

‘Jane’s Gone Into The Shadow’ is a classic-infused track that doesn’t sound derivative of the artists and genres it pulls influences from, which immediately raises Mike Bee and the Dead Soldiers several notches above his counterparts. It’s a wonderfully executed single indicative of an artist worth keeping tabs on as he continues to release new music.