Words by Tommy Johnson
When not writing as a Cleveland Browns apologist, Tommy Johnson has contributed features and reviews on musicians for Off Shelf, Ghettoblaster, and local Dayton print and web publications. His writing style is to try and capture the stories behind the music for those who want to share.
Forever Honey – Pre-Mortem High (self-released)
In the early stages of the year, Queue felt that it was time to make drastic changes. The group decided to pack up and move to NYC and rename themselves Forever Honey. Their video for the “Christine” – a direct piece of work that the late John Hughes would have supported without hesitation – became an instant classic and set forth the band’s trajectory to soaring heights. The rest of the EP is peppered with 80s guitar riffs and harmonies from years before us. Forever Honey have found their voice and are ready to explore.
The members of Eyelids have complied up a resume that includes having been in iconic groups such as Guided by Voices, Boston Starships, and The Decemberists. Having tapped into their influences of L.A. Paisley Underground and Rain Parade, the Portland-based ensemble has been creating pretty-pop/indie rock gems. For their latest effort, the band teamed with legendary writer Larry Beckett to write a bulk of the songs. While being hesitant about doing so, the band soon realized just how unique this opportunity could be. The Accidental Falls is the best Eyelids album to date. The songs flourish seemingly with lead singer Chris Slusarenko’s mollifying vocals. The string arrangement that crashes in the drums and keys for “Found at the Scene of a Rendezvous That Failed” presents this mash-up of Beckett and Eyelids as perfectly as it could. You also can hear Beckett’s devotion to bands such as The Byrds in the tracks, which is a nice touch to an already stunning collaboration.
Tracks like “Nude Prince” drive home a neurotic atmosphere that pushes a high level of urgency from the NYC ensemble. “Looming” has you immediately slipping into a cathartic trance. The tempo that is nothing more than persistent, along with kraut guitar riffs, make Activity’s debut a stunning piece of work. “Earth Angel” demonstrates the band’s detail to pushing forward in a calculating fashion and not allowing an inch to be given. Unmask Whoever is a stunning piece of work that explores human elements such as paranoia and flaws within ourselves.
For years now, we have been anticipating new material from Fiona Apple. Her library of deeply introspective songs has only aged gracefully but also has left a void in yearning for more. When we all thought Apple seemingly dropped off the radar, never to be seen or heard again, out of nowhere comes Fetch The Bolt Cutters. This ferocious bulldozer of an album drives home Apple going into a more industrial sound, and it fittingly encapsulated what we needed to hear back at the start of the pandemic. The tracks primarily have the feeling that they weren’t ballooned up with fattening production and it’s utterly brilliant. Yes, I know… Fiona Apple will be on many of the best albums of the year lists but Shameika says Apple has potential, and we all agree.
The backstory behind Krieger is genuinely one that should needs to be explored if you aren’t familiar. To give you a taste, the singer/songwriter was housekeeping at a Death Valley motel after breaking away from a robust Catholic-based life. The Joys of Forgetting Krieger’s growth since leaving home have, in turn, equipped her with finding her voice within the deep lyrics she writes. The arrangements are just as patient and elegant as the singer herself.
Amid the pandemic, we have seen bands having to configure ways to work around the unfortunate circumstances. Slow Pulp already locked in to record new material when an outbreak of life-changing events led to a total refocusing on what is now Moveys. Having to piece together the album with everyone in quarantine in different places, Slow Pulp produced a gorgeous piece of work that is awe-inspiring. Moveys is a showcase of resourcefulness and emotional cleansing that pulls you in more and more with each spin. Wave after wave of hyper-aware indie rock instrumentals splashes onto you with gentleness and moodiness that will undoubtedly win you over. I don’t think I am erroneous here when I say that Slow Pulp will be one of the most sought out bands to see once we get back to seeing live music. “Idaho” and “Montana” are going to be staples for fans forever.
Before the recording of Little Kid’s latest, Kenny Boothby began to be transfixed on the idea of transfiguration. Having his songwriting play within the Christian music category, Boothby and company find themselves exploring spiritual questions within the imagery. Transfiguration Highway has all the makings of an album needed to play during long road trips and during periods of finding themselves. The tracks are folk-driven with heavy Bob Dylan influence. The album’s opener, “I Thought That You’d Been Raptured,” is pure gold.
Ghost of Vroom – Ghost of Vroom 2 (Mod y Vi)
Being a junkie for one of the best decades for music, the 90s gave us bands such as NYC’s Soul Coughing. Lead member Mike Doughty’s distinctive delivery was impeccable and led to the band have a massive following. These days, Soul Coughing has become a distant memory, but Doughty has been hard at work. Ghost of Vroom can be viewed as a rebirth for the musician. The lyrics for “Rona Pollona” introduce a sad, biting reminder of what we should and shouldn’t do during the pandemic. Fans of Soul Coughing will find themselves feeling nostalgic when listening to Ghost of Vroom 2. I know I did.
stepmom – self-titled (self-released)
Lindsey Cox’s inner consciousness had been driving her to wonder why society was becoming beyond distorted. With the paralyzing demand for women to fit in a specific image, Cox became exasperated and decided to fight against the standards. stepmom’s self-titled album barrels through with raucous punk ethos and synths that are sullen. Going along with the three-part harmonies, the band sings about relationships, traumas, and the struggles of finding meaning within the ever-changing world. I can’t help but think that stepmom is an unapologetic band for how they go about their music.
There is something within Philly’s music scene that always gets me to fall madly in love time and time again. Discovering Corey Flood only intensified this narrative. Having dropped their 2018 EP Wish You Hadn’t, I wondered how the band would top themselves. What I found was the majority of Hanging Garden being a dreamlike venture that surpassed all my expectations. Immediately the band’s full-length features a growth within their writing. The opener “Heaven Or” presents a softness in the guitars and drums’ melodies and lushness. Clocking in at around twenty minutes, Hanging Garden sets the table for Corey Flood to be something special. You win again, Philly.