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EVO RAD Album Analysis
EVO RAD Album Analysis is a review of various Good Good musician's full length studio recordings. Below you will find our take on albums that we received either directly from Earth Tone Artist's during their appearances on the show, in the mail at our studio, or in hand to hand transaction at a concert. Take a moment to read the EVO RAD Album Analysis and check out these Good Good Artists.
Weather McNabb - Cubicle Zombie
Release date: September 2018
As someone who spent 20+ years trudging away in corporate office culture the concept of Cubicle Zombies hits close to home and is almost enough to elicit an acute bout of PTSD. Weather McNabb’s debut EP is steeped in that culture. It’s a dark dystopian musical set to the tune of a soul-sucking corporate treadmill—wake up, deposit a small piece of your dignity, smack your face against the computer screen for 10 hours, go to sleep, repeat. Fortunately for us Weather McNabb’s suffering gives rise to beautiful art.
“Good Morning” takes us through the looking glass. With horns and piano and hints of jazz and show-tunes we land in what feels like a Tim Burton movie set. Though slightly menacing, the cubicle zombies feel no more dangerous that Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas.
“Adapt” moves us quickly into crisis mode. The cartoony veneer has cracked, “This isn’t what I expected. This isn’t what I had planned. This isn’t what you told me would happen.” We’ve been sold a corporate dream but now the bait-and-switch has been revealed. With vocals reminiscent of Fiona Apple and a string section to amp up the tension the song teeters between resistance and resignation.
In “War Paint” there is an attempt to stage a coup. By the time the song ends it’s clear that the revolt has been put down. The warpaint is simply a mask behind which the cubicle zombies can hide.
The final tracks shift from the jazz and folk influences and introduces industrial flourishes with hints of Pretty Hate Machine-era Nine Inch Nails and Ruby’s Saltpeter album.
“Time Machine” is a sad statement from the #MeToo movement. While maybe not specifically about sexual assault it is a commentary on the systematic sexism baked into countless institutions, “You really did that all by yourself? What a good, good girl. You sure you didn’t get somebody’s help?” The will to resist remains though, “You think you built that all on your own? What an old, old man.”
The closing track, “User Error,” extinguishes the last gasps of hope. We slip instead into the throes of self-doubt, “Another user error. Another dumb mistake. I’m too tired for this fight.”
Most of us have engaged in the corporate wars at some time in our lives but Weather McNabb puts the pain, futility and drudgery of office work to music. While part of me wants them to continue to fight the good fight and turn it into more music, another part of me really hopes they find new day jobs before they are crushed and defeated.
Listen to Weather McNabb on your favorite streaming service or find them on YouTube at:
Brian Dolzani - Horse
Release date: June 2018
Brian Dolzani’s music pays tribute to a time when a songwriter might strap a guitar to his back and tramp up and down the California coast—hitchhiking from town to town playing dive bars for enough cash for a meal and a drink and maybe a place to lay his head for the night. You can almost hear the dusty road beneath his feet in the chug-a-lug rhythms of some of these new songs.
Brian has a knack for detail—a skill he’s no doubt honed exercising his plentiful skills as a photographer. The lyrics sometimes read like a narrative description of a single sepia-tone shot; other times like a tour journal of souls he’s met along the road. Many of those souls are sad and beaten but all are infinitely hopeful.
While Neil Young comparisons are hard to keep at bay, Brian takes the best of early-seventies roots rock and distills it into something uniquely his own. You’ll hear flashes of The Band, The Allman Brothers, and The Eagles along the way. When the slide/pedal-steel guitars or the chiming wah-wah guitar solos kick in you might even recognize a little Grateful Dead buried just under the surface.
Muddy Ruckus - Bellows to Mend
Release date: June 2018
Muddy Ruckus’ new full-length release, Bellows to Mend, finds singer/guitarist Ryan Flaherty and singer/drummer Erika Stahl bringing more of everything to the table. More blues. More dirt and grime. More fuzzed out guitar. More volume. And, as a pleasant surprise… more variety.
Flaherty’s guitar work is as unhinged as you’d hope. Like a man possessed and standing at the crossroads he threatens at any moment to tear the strings from the neck of his guitar while blazing through breakneck blues solos. It’s equal parts Jon Spencer, Jack White and Buddy Guy. The guitar is so thick and heavy on “The River” that the song veers off into great stoner rock territory.
Even when the subject matter is light the songs are dark. There’s a deep gothic tinge to the vocals and a dusty sheen over the guitar while the drums sound like a body being dragged down the stairs. It’s dark and it’s beautiful.
The standout surprise across these 11 tracks is Stahl’s chameleon vocals. Long has she been Muddy Ruckus’ secret vocal weapon—rounding out Flaherty’s punk/blues vocals—but across the entire record she shows new range and adventurous spirit. At one moment she digs into the country heart of June Carter, the next she rips up the rock-a-billy of Elle Manning then on a dime she channels the spirit of 90s-era PJ Harvey. The counterpoint to Flaherty’s vocals adds depth to every track.
Ryan and Erika bring their friend, cellist/fiddler, Daisy Castro along for a handful of songs. On their cover of Woodie Guthrie’s “Along in the Sun and The Rain,” Castro mimics Celtic fiddling and turns the murder ballad into something of a jig. On the closing instrumental track, “Wreck of the Hesperus” guitar and cello trade Middle Eastern licks over tribal drum beats to evoke the rhythms of the sea crushing a ship against the rocks.
Bellows to Mend captures the manic passion of Muddy Ruckus’ live performances while demonstrating how much depth just two musicians can pull from the studio. With much love to their previous efforts this is hand down their best work so far.
Olden Yolk - Self-Titled
Release date: February 2018
Shane Butler and Caity Shaffer pick up largely where Shane's former band, Quilt, left off—with a drink from the stream of the psychedelic 60s.
While the similarities are many, Olden Yolk is far from a reboot of the former band. Where Quilt’s music tended to live in the psych-rock vein and the interwoven vocals of of Butler and Anna Fox Rochinski leaned to the female side, Olden Yolk like to lace their psychedelia with more pop and folk influences and Butler/Shaffer’s interwoven vocals lean more heavily on Butler’s voice.
To the casual listeners/reader these will sound like subtle differences but I assure you the result is a unique new band with a uniquely new sound.
Close your eyes for a moment. Picture looking through a kaleidoscope; watching the sun shine through the damp branches of a forest after a recent rain. Add sheets of acrylic paint for color and a hazy fog to throw you slightly off balance. Got it? Okay, now you have an idea of what Olden Yolk sound like.
Standouts on their debut are plenty; the lead single, Cut to the Quick, which sounds like a mashup of Donovan, The Byrds, and Fairport Convention overlaid with modern pop sensibilities; Hen’s Teeth, which mixes repeating acoustic figures with droning electric guitars, violins and violas for a haunting meditation; and Takes One to Know One which ingeniously layers hopeful lyrics delivered in deadpan over a darkly electric sea of guitar—the incongruous delivery is both jarring and beautiful.
Find Olden Yolk on bandcamp at https://oldenyolk.bandcamp.com.
Roots of Creation - Grateful Dub
Release date: March 2018
Fans of Roots of Creation (ROC), the Grateful Dead and reggae music in general are going dig Grateful Dub. With a rotating cast of guests (ranging from Stephen Marley to Fortunate Youth to G. Love) and its veritable potpourri of the Grateful Dead’s greatest hits there’s a little bit of something for everyone.
What you get is a classic ROC-ification of the traditional Grateful Dead songbook with bright-n-sunny takes on “Fire on the Mountain,” “Friend of the Devil” and “Sugaree.” But alongside the happy reggae interpretations that you would expect you also get a handful of surprising explorations. Like the horn-soaked, ska-ified version of “Deal” with Jesse Wagner of The Aggrolites, or the instrumental version of “Shakedown Street” featuring Melvin Seals which retains all of the disco shmaltz of the original while adding a surprising dose of funk and soul, or the tender acoustic-folk rendering of “Standing on the Moon.”
The one constituency you may have noticed lacking from the list of folks who’ll be thrilled with Grateful Dub are fans of dub reggae. For an album entitled Grateful Dub, there’s surprisingly little of what I would consider traditional dub on this record. Conspicuously missing are the droning bass lines and studio fidgetry that one would expect from dub exploration of the Grateful Dead. Nonetheless, ROC have produced an album of Grateful Dead covers that takes these beloved songs to new and exciting territory.
Learn more at https://www.rootsofcreation.com.
Fire in the Field - War Bonnet
Release date: October 2017
We’re going to start the year off heavy here at EvoRad’s Album Analysis.
Fire in the Field dropped a scorching 6-track EP in October that escaped my immediate attention but that you should turn yours to immediately.
While digesting this Ep I found myself stepping through a veritable cornucopia of comparisons.
At first listen I was drawn to the Aerosmith influences tracks like “Swift Hoof.” Not the gag-reflex-inducing Love in an Elevator-era Aerosmith but the grimey, garagey Aerosmith of the early and mid-seventies.
Next time through I fell hard for the sexy, soulful grooves of “Elephant” and “ Peasant Once Passed.” When I was done I found myself reaching for my perennial favorite stoner rock band, Clutch.
A few more listens in and out popped the unhinged vocal style of The Mars Volta’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala layered on the crunching riffs of Rage Against the Machine.
In some ways this EP defies categorization but Fire in the Field’s ability to draw so many and such wide comparisons while maintaining a cohesive sound all their own is a feat unto itself.
The touchstones are pure rock gold and that ought to be enough to convince you to give a listen. Go find them now… www.fireinthefieldmusic.com.
David Wax Museum - A La Rumba Rumba
Release date: January 2017
A new David Wax Museum (DWM) album always gets my attention. Their ability to seamlessly cram a million old-timey styles into something that sounds at once old-fashioned, modern, and timeless, is always a pleasure to hear (and a pleasure to see performed live—which I recommend you do as often as possible).
When word came round that DWM were releasing an EP, mostly sung in Spanish, paying tribute to the hispanic folk traditions that have inspired them over the years, I was excited to hear what they would come up with. Well, what they came up with sounds like DWM playing DWM in Spanish! And that’s a great thing! The toss off a six-song shot in the arm that takes all of the traditional DWM components; banjos, mandolins, xylophones, castanets, etc. and runs them through a Spanish-folk filter. There’s still all of the same folky exuberance; all of the make-you-want-to-stand-up-clap-your-hands-and-dance-iness; all of the stomp-your-foot-on-the-floor farmhouse sing-a-longs, that one would expect from DWM—only this time out the vocals are in Spanish.
I don’t speak Spanish, but that doesn’t matter one bit. Music this fun knows no language. A couple of listens though and I was singing along—phonetically butchering the language like a complete moron.
Ancient Cities - Supermoon Blackout
Release date: June 2016
One of my life missions is to share the music I love with those around me. And for me, it doesn’t matter if the music is brand new or if it was released ages ago. If I hear something that moves me, I want you to know about it. For that reason, this week’s Album Analysis takes us back in time to June of last year—to Ancient Cities’ Supermoon Blackout.
Ancient Cities play the kind of indie rock that that makes hipsters weak in the knees—the kind that will make NPR Music DJs weep with joy.
Handclaps and a squawking guitar riffs a la the Black Keys open the album but “Marmalade” quickly pivots from garage/blues to Shins-like indie pop with a giant, swelling chorus.
Each song digs deeper into psych-pop, uncovering layer after layer of Revolver/Sgt. Pepper’s-inspired goodness. The Elephant 6 collective bands are clearly a touchstone for Ancient Cities. The Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, and Neutral Milk Hotel all live in the center of these explorations of pop and psychedelia.
Ancient Cities don’t simply mimic their influences though. They dive deeper—exploring grittier blues and darker psychedelics textures (“Sunburn”)—dropping keyboard breakdowns that would make Chris Robinson proud—twisting vocals into ethereal distortions (“Supermoon Blackout”). The textures on this album are absolutely stunning.
Don’t judge me for dropping a review of a year-old album. Instead, thank me for bringing you one of the best new albums of the last twelve months.
About The Writer...
EVO RAD Album Analysis is written by Evolvement Radio family member George Dow.
“When it comes to music, it’s not a question of whether you have good taste or bad taste. You fall passionately in love with everything you listen to. That amounts to having no musical taste whatsoever. But don’t get me wrong; that’s what I love about you.”
George spends far more time than is healthy chasing the perfect song. Looking deeply into all corners of the musical universe, he is equally enamored with punk and folk and jazz and psychedelia; far more interested in hearing passionate delivery than polished production. His knack for describing not only the sound of a song, but the experience of hearing it brings deep and entertaining insight to his reviews.
George has been a contributing writer for a variety of local and national music publications including Evolvement Radio, Amplifier Magazine, The Deli – New England, Hybrid Magazine, and The Noise Magazine.