Author Archives: Mike Olinger

Needle Drop:
Roan Yellowthorn,

Roan Yellowthorn release thoughtful, dream pop LP Indigo.

Roan Yellowthorn is the moniker of Jackie McLean, daughter of iconic folk and rock & roll artist Don McLean, whose deft melodic sensibilities were not lost on his indie darling offspring.

Mining a deep ’90s vein of gorgeous Lilith Fair acoustic pop, Roan Yellowthorn’s Indigo LP manages to be both charmingly retro and confessional. Hooks abound throughout the record, but McLean really breaks out on “Mark My Words” with a devilishly distorted jazz vocal that is as raw and truthful as anything her father ever sung.

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Needle Drop:
Katie Barbato,
“The Art of Falling”

The title track to Katie Barbato’s forthcoming EP is a warm and wistful ballad, sown in the highly melodic folk style of The Beatles.

The peace-loving Philly native has an innate knack for soaring major/ minor key transitions, imbued with timely, sweet-spot lyrics and supported with rich, cinematic accompaniment. Comparisons to Neko Case and Gillian Welch are perhaps a little too obvious here, as Katie seems to carve out her own niche as a folk rock formalist who creates from a deep well of experience.

Barbato explains, “To me, ‘The Art of Falling’ concept came from the desire to go through difficult times with grace and stamina. It is not about coming out on the other side the same as you were. After a fall, you are somewhere distantly familiar but full of possibility. Let the grief and sadness move through you, honor it, and stand up tall.”

The track is accompanied by a set of rustic visuals from director Dan Collins which extrapolate upon the passage of time, catching key moments from all four seasons. It’s a perfect bucolic match to Katie’s homespun Woodstock vibe, which we could all use a little more of in our lives.

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Needle Drop: Ghost X Gardens, “Concealed Little Weapon”

NY-based art rocker Adam Rushfield, aka Ghost X Gardens, brings a whole new meaning to the word alternative. This idiosyncratic artist has his fingers in several disparate genres, often pulling from prominent East Coast rock artists of the past five decades. One can easily draw a direct line from the freewheeling influence of Lou Reed to the searing riffs of Smashing Pumpkins, and further towards the modern neo-psychedelia of Grizzly Bear.

What makes his album even more eccentric is its contextual emphasis on the legendary Chelsea Hotel, which was Rushfield’s permanent residence for a year, at which time the strange guests and goings-on seeped into his recordings. He even weaved in fascinating, gin-soaked chats with the cross-dressing matriarch of the Hotel, Storme’ DeLarverie, a famed performer and MC at the Apollo, who is credited with throwing the first punch of the 1969 Stonewall Riots.

All the late-night recordings and bizarre lyrical fixation on the hotel might not connect with all music lovers, but certainly provides a charming and totally original view into one of New York’s most fabled institutions and a wildly experimental musical journey to boot. “Concealed Little Weapon” might be the most traditional song on the album, but works as an excellent entry point into the strange and macabre world of Ghost X Gardens.

Grab a free download of the song from the Soundcloud stream above.

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TVD Premiere: Russian Baths, “Penance” EP

Ambient, ethereal noise pop quartet Russian Baths release “Penance” EP.

Incorporating dissonant guitar fuzz and heavenly vocals into traditional song structures, Brooklyn’s Russian Baths paint in wildly original strokes, finding beauty in towering, looming, incendiary noise-rock. The scope of their sound is marked by a decidedly unique approach, the stripped-down infrastructure oscillating between Jack and Jill vocals, unhinged feedback, and heady lyrics which conjure the Pixies. The subject matter is dark and brooding, laced with metaphors and bubbling with weirdness in all the right places.

“Penance” was recorded at Time Castle studio in Brooklyn where the band honed their signature sound with the help of a few haunted nooks and crannies. According to guitarist Luke Koz, “There is a concrete, quasi-utility closet at Time Castle that is a magical place to put an amp.”

Russian Baths’ “Penance” EP arrives in stores tomorrow, February 23, 2018.

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TVD Premiere:
The Minnesota Child,
“Fireflies” EP

Oakland, California-based indie folk troubadour Ethan Buckner creates the kind of lush sonic tapestries we have come to associate with Sam Beam, Justin Vernon, and Glen Hansard. Like those artists, Buckner has chosen to record under an elusive moniker, The Minnesota Child—a name that will surely serve the mystery and scope inherent in his lonesome whimsy.

The Minnesota Child’s first full-band EP, “Fireflies” is an exquisite debut. Produced by Jeff Saltzman (The Killers, Blondie) and Ethan’s brother Matt Buckner, the music is adorned with tasteful harmonies and rustic rhythms, while never taking its attention away from Buckner’s wispy vocals. The record is admittedly a bit frontloaded with the strongest material (songs that reflect the expansive nature of the Midwest) but it makes up for it in the intimate Simon & Garfunkel-esque closer “Love is Everything” which brings the singer-songwriter’s strengths back to the forefront in the form of a sumptuous, cosmic love ballad.

Of the subject matter, Ethan explains, “It’s been a beautiful process these past few years working with my brother Matt, who co-produced the record, to take the intimate, vulnerable, raw songs and infuse them with a full range of sound and color. Everyone who worked on this album poured so much soul and care into giving each song life and character. My hope is for folks to listen when they need to find some hope in these tumultuous times, to find light in whatever darkness they might be facing.”

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Needle Drop: Common Jack, “Restless”

PHOTO: NICOLE MANGO | Brooklyn-based folk rocker Common Jack is a straight shooter, and like his name indicates, a man of the people. But when you dig deeper into his music, it becomes apparent that he is using everyday language to reach a deeper meaning, endowing his music with the unique ability to paint personal stories with broad strokes.

The songwriter, who played a primary role in the Broadway show Once, worked directly with Glen Hansard and the rest of the Oscar, Grammy, and Tony winning creative team behind the motion picture before setting off on his solo career. His streamlined approach to his solo work reflects this schooling, blending rough-hewed folk with unabashedly utilitarian acoustic pop.

His newest single, “Restless,” makes no excuses for its anthemic take on Americana, already drawing comparisons to the Lumineers, Neil Young, and The Avett Brothers. It’s a joyous romp that lets its tight dynamics loose in all the right places.

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TVD Premiere: Hodera, First Things First

New Jersey quartet Hodera have honed their heartland chops over the course of two full length releases, striking a balance between vibrant indie-rock with rough-hewn Americana. It’s a delicate dance of influences that comes across as both confessional and universal.

First Things First could certainly be construed as a meditation on love, but quickly evolves into a dissertation on the growing pains of maturity, offering up lonesome musings that rise with the buoyancy of a late-night bar hop and settle as mercilessly as an early morning hangover. Lyrics often cascade over the nuanced fingerpicking with little regard for meter or structure, which often adds to their raw poignancy, resounding with an off the cuff, extempore thud to the heart.

Contrary to the seemingly unrehearsed impression one gets from the recordings, band spearhead Matthew Smith shares, “We’ve been working on this record for over 2 years now. Parts of it have been re-recorded like 3 times. This album is all about the angst and pain of growing up and becoming an adult; heart break, depression, addiction and the search for purpose and direction.”

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Needle Drop: Evening Darling, “Another Long Drive”

Alt-folk quartet Evening Darling crank out the kind of tunes that force you out on the highway.

The NYC-based bands newest single, “Another Long Drive” finds lead singer Erica Lane sparring with singer/guitarist Nick Lerangis over a perfected blend of top down, Tom Petty-ish Americana. Evening Darling has played up and down the Eastern seaboard and their music is seasoned with the kind of heartland rock vibes that area made famous in decade’s past.

There is a mutual longing in both Lane and Lerangis’ approach to their respective versus that is accentuated when they combine their yearning in a sensual harmony. The desperate search to find stability somewhere outside themselves is hard to shake and it’s even harder to decipher if they are addressing each other, a former lover, or the open road itself.

Evening Darling’s self-titled album is in stores on April 14.

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TVD Album Premiere: Almanac Mountain, Cryptoseismology

PHOTO: CHRIS COTE | Almanac Mountain explores universal minutia on new Cryptoseismology LP.

Fans of experimental bedroom pop will find plenty to love in Chris Cote’s new album and intellectuals who label themselves “secular humanists” will revel in his cryptic studies of the natural world.

Everything seems to take on a double meaning in the songs of Almanac Mountain. “Contingency Procedures” seems to be about the 2003 Shuttle Columbia disaster but Cote explains that a surface evaluation of his material will only cut skin deep and that the song is “really about the death of the hopes and ambitions of the 1980s.”

Luckily the heady nature of his music is tempered by an almost saccharine sense of pop which he uses to great effect on such stunning tracks as “Harborside,” a noirish flavored ballad with a string arrangement that appears to be plucked straight out of an old Hollywood movie and stretched onto an indie rock canvas.

It’s no surprise Cryptoseismology was tracked over the most brutal winter in recent New England history as its warm tones and otherworldly digressions feel like some kind of creative escapism. Lucky for us, the mind of Chris Cote is a strange and wonderful thing to behold.

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TVD Premiere: Panic in Eden, “Out For Blood”

Panic in Eden mine a sweet-spot, vintage rock vein on “Out For Blood.”

The LA-based quintet’s newest single throws down the gauntlet for other vintage rock revivalists, traversing the trail macheted by Band of Skulls and The Dead Weather. This is dangerous territory where the line between Zeppelinesque authenticity and The Darkness-like parody is very thin, but Panic in Eden prevail with their righteous indignation for the man and mind-boggling riffs which are distinctly their own.

“Out For Blood” is the first single from their forthcoming album, In The Company of Vultures, and the predatory species they reference is a direct dig on the establishment. The ten songs which comprise the LP take aim at the band’s collective disillusionment with the current state of the world and fire a blistering warning shot which essentially says “We have some serious rock ‘n’ roll here and we know how to use it.”

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Needle Drop: The Tigerlilies, “Bowie”

The Tigerlilies honor the master with a love nugget to David Bowie.

Cincinnati’s sole practitioners of post power punk, The Tigerlilies have pulled off quite a feat with their newest offering “Bowie” which manages to not only pay tribute to the departed genius but channel his punchy, understated pop leanings. There is plenty to love about this garage rock nugget, starting with the lyrics which rattle off a series of intelligent observations about the artist’s enigmatic life.

The unassuming lead vocal ends up sounding more like Bowie’s contemporary Marc Bolan which only adds an extra layer of nostalgic glam vibrations to the already glistening track. But besides the spot on performance, jangly melodies, and killer guitar solo drenched in tape echo, is the band’s ultimate ability to communicate their passion for songwriting, rock star persona, and rock ‘n’ roll in general through very raw and primitive means—no inflated production or fussy overdubs.

The band’s new EP “123456” is available now.

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Needle Drop: YJY, “Summer Lifeguard”

New Jersey based quartet bring morbid garage vibes to surf rock.

YJY don’t mind misdirecting listeners with their newest single “Summer Lifeguard.” Golden tremolo guitar lines collide with crash pad guitars and morbid punk lyrics to create a potpourri of summertime nostalgia.

The track is one part Beach Boys and one part Real Estate with a dash of Pixies—a distinct and subversive sound that is already cultivating a diehard fan base. The single drop comes paired with the announcement of the forthcoming release of their sophomore EP, “The Same Noise.” out August 19th via Sniffling Indie Kids.

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TVD Video Premiere: Loser’s Way Home,
“Place of No Return”

Loser’s Way Home communicate from beyond the grave with video for “Place of No Return.”

The Arizona-based quartet’s sonically adventurous Americana has a refined quality about it that transcends the rough edges often associated with other indie folk acts. Multiform harmonies and adept fingerpicking support their often elaborate storytelling that ranges from biblical first person narratives to unrequited love songs told by ghosts from beyond the veil.

The melodious and melancholy “Place of No Return” is one such tale which principle songwriter Randall Downs describes as “a fictional song about an individual living in a haunted house.” The twist here is that unlike most otherworldly visitations, this particular entity is not interested in haunting its new friend, preferring to strike up therapeutic conversations about the past. “The apparition has terminal nostalgia,” Downs reflects. “He is always regaling the resident with songs of his glory years.”

The video for “Place of No Return” was shot in their home state of Memphis by the band’s good friend Zach Seal. The song will be available on their new EP, “Love Songs for the Rest of Us,” due out July 22nd.

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TVD Premiere: Colton Kayser, “Save My Soul”

“I was flitting from job to job when I wrote this song, and I felt kind of stuck. I think I just needed to reset my situation, and this song was the first step for me to do that. I quit all the jobs I was working, took all of the money I saved, and made this record. I think sometimes people get so entrenched in their current situation, that they fail to realize they can change things anytime they want. It’s just taking that first step that’s tough, and once you do it, the rest is easy.”
Colton Kayser

Today we have the pleasure of premiering Colton Kayser’s newest single “Save My Soul” from his upcoming LP Place To Settle. The single’s nostalgic, worn out blues is beautifully captured by the swirling B3 organ and pristine vocal which walks along some well plotted guitar chords.

The themes of “hometown burnout” are treated with a compassionate sense of self-reliance, avoiding the venomous, no-accountability diatribes that Dylan imbues his kiss-offs with. And it is here where Kayser separates himself from the current pack of alt country troubadours—avoiding a put-on self-importance by adding a genuine sweetness and likability to his contemporary songwriting.

Place To Settle is out July 30th and can be pre-ordered through his website.

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TVD Premiere:
Kim Killspeed, “Inside”

“‘Inside’ is about hating work and quitting my job to rock on. It’s about having faith in yourself to go and pursue what’s in your head, in your dreams, even if it’s against societal norms. I actually wrote it for a heavy metal band that I was auditioning for a few years ago.

I’m not very heavy metal. Meeting Jeff Martin, I was so worried about looking like a big amateur! But he was very engaged in the music and very supportive, especially whilst we were tracking the vocals. I felt the most comfortable I’ve ever been whilst singing. He is the epitome of someone who lives and breathes music. If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that the dream is real and to keep pursuing it.”
Candy Cunningham

Aussie quintet Kim Killspeed go “Inside” for inspiration.

We have the pleasure of premiering the newest single from the Sydney-based rockers whose anticipated EP “Second Skin” is due out later this year. “Inside” finds the band reigning in their messy blues gravitas for a more streamlined approach and hook-driven sound.

The new direction might possibly have to do with producer Jeff Martin of The Tea Party whose signature jangly, open tuned stamp is written all over it. That said, the band’s distinct characteristics are still warmly accounted for—particularly Andie Davies’ and Bruce Stephens’ muscular guitar lines and Candy Cunningham’s earthy songwriting which prods the listener to throw caution to the wind and pursue the impassioned voices in their head.

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