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Album Review

Bumpin Uglies – ‘Live at Sugarshack Sessions Vol. 2’ [EP] [Album Review]

Combining the swanky appeal of reggae, tight one-drop rhythms, and lush horns, Bumpin Uglies’ ‘Live at Sugarshack Sessions Vol. 2’ hits the sweet spot.

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Bumpin Uglies ‘Live at Sugarshack Sessions Vol. 2’ [EP] album artwork

Reggae-rock outfit Bumpin Uglies releases their EP, Live at Sugarshack Sessions Vol. 2, preparing the way for their next long player, slated to drop in September via Silverback Records.

Five of the six tracks on the EP are acoustic versions of originals, with the lone exception being a cover of Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up,” featuring frontman Brandon Hardesty on acoustic guitar and vocals, accompanied by Liz McBryde on violin.

More than a decade ago, Bumpin Uglies started making music, playing anywhere they could, including backyard parties, which reflected the band’s two-pronged philosophy of doing whatever was necessary to be successful and doing it their own way, without regard for critics or the mainstream music industry.

The EP begins with “Wild Girls,” opening on a punk-flavoured intro, followed by bright horns rolling into a mid-tempo reggae beat. Hardesty’s affluent tenor imbues the clever lyrics with tasty authenticity, narrating the veracity of heavyweight partying.

Highlights include “Serving,” riding a loose one-drop beat topped by skiffing guitars as creamy, glowing brass accents give the tune smooth, oozing coloration. While “Make It Through the Day” blends tints of rocksteady with pop-lite flavours, resulting in an upbeat, contagious, harmonic motion. A braying organ adds slick luminous textures.

“Cover Me Up” concludes the EP, delivering Americana-laced surfaces, simple yet oh so beautifully evocative. McBryde’s sad violin infuses the tune with despondent surfaces, permeating the melody with forlorn timbres and a poignant mood as Hardesty’s vocals reveal profound aching passion.

Bumpin Uglies in 2022, photo by Kyle Edwards

Bumpin Uglies in 2022, photo by Kyle Edwards

Hardesty explains, “‘Cover Me Up’ has been a favorite of mine since I first heard it, but it really became special to me when I sobered up a few years ago. I know Jason was newly sober when he wrote it, and to me, it feels like it’s a song about redemption. It’s a very special song to me and it makes me feel very deeply. I love to sing it.”

Combining the swanky appeal of reggae, tight one-drop rhythms, and lush horns, Live at Sugarshack Sessions Vol. 2 hits the sweet spot.

Live at Sugarshack Sessions Vol. 2 Track Listing:

1. Wild Girls
2. Lie To Me
3. Serving
4. Make It Through the Day
5. You Don’t Gotta Die
6. Cover Me Up

Run Time: 22:54
Release Date: April 21, 2023
Record Label: Sugarshack

Album Review

The Western Civilization – ‘Fractions of a Whole’ [Album Review]

The Western Civilization delivers expressive vocals and a wealth of stylistic aromas with an existential richness on ‘Fractions of a Whole.’

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The Western Civilization ‘Fractions of a Whole’ album artwork
The Western Civilization ‘Fractions of a Whole’ album artwork

It was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Applied to Texas-based indie-rock outfit The Western Civilization, the adage refers to the chemistry between Rachel Hansbro and Reggie O’Farrell, a chemistry on display in their recently released album, Fractions of a Whole.

Speaking about the album, Hansbro says, “The new songs were inspired by the amazing people who are part of my chosen family. Reggie has always been good at reminding me of the positive things. (He is) another voice saying, ‘Hey, it’s going to be okay.’”

Reggie O’Farrell and Rachel Hansbro first met while playing in separate bands. A friendship developed, resulting in two albums and performances at the Vans Warped Tour, SXSW, Halifax Pop Explosion, and, most importantly, an artistic alliance that survived a variety of obstacles.

Revolving around Hansbro and O’Farrell, The Western Civilization is a collaborative project with a rotating cast of musicians and collaborators who expose the actuality of Aristotle’s dictum.

The album opens with “Noctambulism,” a floating, folk-rock song with hints of Americana flowing through it. Driven by a sparkling piano topped by the voices of Hansbro and O’Farrell merging, the melody wafts and undulates like drifting clouds across the sky.

High points embrace “Bible Verses for Kids,” which reveals elusive Celtic flavors, a bit like The Cranberries. A rolling snare gives the rhythm a galloping motion as layered harmonies infuse the lyrics with choir-like textures verging on grandness.

A personal favorite because of Hansbro’s deliciously casual vocals, “Fool” resembles a child’s nursery rhyme reimagined as indie-rock – dreamy, drawling, almost discordant vocals riding over loose, garage rock harmonics. The imperfect, raggedy feel of the tune makes it wondrously genuine and gratifying.

Proselytism,” the closing track, travels on light, migrant surfaces as Hansbro’s soft, breathy vocals imbue the lyrics with subtle, eccentric whimsy, a kind of didactic reflection.

Expressive vocals, along with a wealth of stylistic aromas, invest Fractions of a Whole with an existential richness.

The Western Civilization in 2022, photo by Jack Potts

The Western Civilization in 2022, photo by Jack Potts

Fractions of a Whole Track Listing:

1. Noctambulism
2. Stitches (read our song review)
3. Bible Verses for Kids
4. She’s by the Sea
5. If You’re Lucky
6. Fool
7. My Mess
8. The Snake and The Saint
9. The Ocean’s on the Rise
10. Proselytism

Run Time: 42:18
Release Date: February 16, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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Album Review

Two Faces West – ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ [Album Review]

Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock. On ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.

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Two Faces West ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ album artwork
Two Faces West ‘Postcards From Lonely Places’ album artwork

Denver, Colorado-based blues rock trio Two Faces West released their debut album, Postcards From Lonely Places, in the middle of last year. The album’s title discloses a singular theme: stories of American lives and the daily grind of life experienced, in all its glories and defeats, tragedies and triumphs.

Produced by Glenn Sawyer and Rich Veltrop, the album was initially intended to be an EP but grew into an album after a change in personnel.

The band explains, “If Postcards From Lonely Places seems like a stylistic mess, it probably is just that. This album was originally conceived as a 5 song EP and slated for release in early 2020. Vince Carmellini joined Two Faces West in 2019, and the new line-up decided to write five additional songs. The result is a group of songs with essentially a very dynamic group of songwriters and players, with different flavors and moods.”

Made up of Kurt Ashmore (vocals, guitar, sax, banjo), Mick Knudsen (drums, vocals), and Vince Carmellini (bass, organ, vocals), Two Faces West’s sound merges rootsy blues rock, rock, and hints of funk into what the band calls ‘crankin’ rock and blues.’

Of the 12 tracks on the album, entry points include opener “Ain’t Got a Clue,” riding a funked-out rhythm topped by skiffing guitars and dramatic flourishes of braying brass. Because of its familiar, irresistible funk flavors, the song grabs listeners’ attention.

Rolling out on a cool drum shuffle, “Vegas at 3AM” features dark, dirty guitars giving off grimy tones as Ashmore vocals imbue the lyrics with cautionary timbres. The mood of the song conjures up suggestions of ZZ Top, especially in the solo section, highlighted by sleazy, virtuoso licks.

Hot Tamale Baby” ramps things up with its scorching textures of galloping blues-rock, radiating retro-infused energy. A personal favorite because of its muddy, growling guitars and Elvis-like vocals, reminiscent of “Jailhouse Rock,” “Brand New Suit” struts the pure essence of down-and-dirty blues rock.

Another grinder, “Moonshiners,” travels on a deep, gritty bassline and Mitch Mitchell-like percussion as Ashmore’s raspy vocals give the lyrics the dangerous savors of whiskey bootleggers. Whereas “Dirty Ol’ Man” snarls and grimaces on murky, sliding guitars that ride an austere, pummeling rhythm.

Freedom,” a live track recorded at The Bluebird in January 2020, recalls the grand live performances of Humble Pie, oozing low-slung, smoldering, bluesy surfaces and a jam band atmosphere.

Two Faces West knows how to play blues rock: they’re at their best when pumping out nasty, swaggering, trash-laced melodies.

Two Faces West, photo by Perks Photography

Two Faces West, photo by Perks Photography

Postcards From Lonely Places Track Listing:

1. Ain’t Got a Clue
2. Vegas at 3AM
3. Hot Tamale Baby
4. The Ballad of Jerry Davis
5. Rocks Like a Country Song
6. Mountain Sunrise
7. Brand New Suit
8. Moonshiners
9. Late Night
10. Spinnin’ Circles
11. Dirty Ol’ Man
12. Freedom (Live at the Bluebird 01/02/2020)

Run Time: 56:33
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Record Label: Independent

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Album Review

Gianfranco Pescetti – ‘DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL’ [Album Review]

Gianfranco Pescetti delivers a series of ambient/dance bangers, coalescing a nexus of complexity and intoxicating extracts on ‘DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL.’

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Gianfranco Pescetti ‘DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL’ album artwork
Gianfranco Pescetti ‘DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL’ album artwork

Composer and producer Gianfranco Pescetti recently unveiled his latest album, DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL, his first new album in almost a decade.

Speaking about the album, Pescetti says, “DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL is my attempt to explore the depth of emotions and create a profoundly personal and evocative sound without conforming to the rigid specifications of a particular genre, all while keeping an eye to the dance floor.”

Originally from the Tuscan Island of Capraia, he previously lived in France for a few years before moving to the United States to continue his music career. He currently lives on the Hawaiian Island of Maui.

Influenced by an eclectic range of music, including modern chillwave, Depeche Mode, and The Cure, Pescetti’s sound incorporates instrumental atmospheric electronica with dance vibes and elements of modern indie rock.

Comprising ten tracks, DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL starts with “Clownspunk.” Flickering tones shape a rising intro that evolves into a shimmering, ambient-flavored dance melody. As the melody progresses, a psychedelic-lite dance vivacity slowly takes over, pushing the ambient surfaces into the background.

High points include the changing emotional sensations of “Obsidian,” which utilizes amiable layers of shifting colors riding a galloping rhythm to fashion a warm, sparkling melody punctuated by glistening, chiming textures.

Gianfranco Pescetti, photo courtesy of Gianfranco Pescetti

Gianfranco Pescetti, photo courtesy of Gianfranco Pescetti

Sundog” places darker rhythmic pulses against the illumination of drifting, humming, twinkling blushes, thus giving the melody a lingering, hypnotic intensity, at once exotic and full of lavish refinement. “Be My Ghost” swings away from the ambient and pushes into the more muscular momentum of EDM, employing a driving kick drum and elusive tints of disco.

Capraia,” a blend of industrial and heavy, atmospheric dance components, molds a mechanistic mood, simultaneously shadowy and foreboding. “The Wake,” eerily haunting on one level, pours like a waterfall on another level, giving the tune dual interpretations: either a progressive lament or a celebration of natural beauty.

The album concludes with “Stopless,” traveling on a propelling rhythm topped by intertwining layers of scintillating, aerated percolations, heady with impetuousness. For some reason, the melody conjures up the impression of EDM gingered with hints of Ennio Morricone-like Spaghetti Western.

Gianfranco Pescetti delivers a series of ambient/dance bangers, coalescing a nexus of complexity and intoxicating extracts.

DAYSTAR NOCTURNAL Track Listing:

1. Clownspunk
2. Macchia, I’ll See You…
3. Obsidian
4. Sundog
5. Nostalgia Aime Le Rouge
6. Be My Ghost
7. Capraia
8. The Wake
9. Fogbound
10. Stopless

Run Time: 35:47
Release Date: January 25, 2024
Record Label: Independent

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