Release Date: July 7, 2017
Riverdogs have been an on again/ off again band since 1989 when they made a mild splash due to the involvement of Vivian Campbell. Campbell was ex-DIO, and would, of course, go on to be part of multi-platinum rockers Def Leppard. California is their first release since 2011 and it’s an even-keeled album full of lead guitar, sharp melodies, and memorable choruses. If that’s not your thing, you may as well stop reading now.
My personal favorite here is “The Revolution Starts Tonight.” The song presents itself with wah-wah guitar pieces and soft vocals but has that big soaring chorus that anyone who lived through the eighties will immediately be drawn to. The guitar work is so dynamic on this one that it keeps me coming back over and over. There is just so much going on within the song. It’s absolutely masterful.
The more rockin’ “Searching for a Signal” is another excellent moment. It’s more aggressive and moves at a faster clip, though the vocal keeps it grounded in Rock and Roll, but, man oh man, that guitar riff is awesome and the soloing is as classic as it gets. The little Beatles-esque interlude gives it some depth as well and is entirely unexpected. It’s a great contrast to its bluesy follow-up, “Welcome to the New Disaster,” where the vocals lead the charge. The laid back “I Don’t Know Anything” takes the album out on a gentler note. Though it does have its louder moments, it plays like an intimate ballad and, again, like the rest of the album, the guitar work here is phenomenal.
I’ve said it before and I ‘ll say it again, there is no label better than Frontiers when it comes to recognizing the brilliance of bands that were a little behind the commercial trend the first time. Riverdogs brilliantly resurrect themselves here, much like we have seen from Tyketto, Hardline, and Harem Scarem in the last decade. If you like musicality, melody, and radio-friendly Rock then you should check out California. Riverdogs deliver the goods here in every way.
Reviewed by mark1340
Buffalo, NY’s Younger Then makes their debut with this self-titled EP. While definitely a Rock band, Younger Then have a poppy swagger that is both easy to digest and memorable. A good combination.
“December” kicks off the EP with some straightforward Rock and Roll (“Sweetest” returns to this sound later in the EP). The driving rhythm section pushes the song forward as the vocals sing the blues and the guitar creates some musical depth. It’s a short and sweet toe tapper and a nice way to kick the album off. “Ghost” and “Like Hell” find the band flexing their muscles a little more by adding in some funk and loosening up the vocals. These are probably my favorite songs on the record. “Forget Love” adds a little 90’s styles jangly guitar to the mix and has a spectacular melody that will stick with you for days. The EP ends with “Uproot,” and Emo tinged anthem that reminds me musically of The Gospel Youth and Jeremy Enigk’s poppier solo work.
Overall, this is a good start for Younger Then. There are a lot of moments I really enjoy here, but what I like most about it is the fact that I want to listen again when it finishes. The EP is slightly out of focus, but that becomes part of its charm to be honest. This EP is well worth a listen or twelve.
Reviewed by mark1340
The Gospel Youth
Release Date: July 14, 2017
Hailing from the UK, The Gospel Youth have been releasing music for the last few years in the form of EP’s and singles. Always Lose is their debut for Rise Records (a label you should definitely be paying attention to if you aren’t already). The band has been serving time on Warped Tour this summer and their passionate take on Pop Punk is most assuredly something you want to hear.
The word that best describes this album best is “powerful.” The band are pretty straightforward with their anthemic guitars, soaring vocals, and Pop Punk-tinged rhythm section. These guys have a really nice combination going on in my opinion. The music sounds fresh, yet slightly familiar, and the vocals are clean and passionate. In some ways, Always Lose reminds me of bands like The Maine, Jon Bunch era Further Seems Forever at times, and Fall Out Boy as it delivers anthem after anthem in a way that is easy to connect with emotionally.
The album’s opener, “I Will Deliver You to the Fireflies” is my favorite track, hands down. It’s got a gentle sway as the vocals and piano carry it into the anthemic ocean it eventually becomes. It’s almost got an Emo feel about it… and I mean that in the best possible way. “Your Love Was a Cancer” and “Gin & Black Coffee” are a bit more aggressive and have a much more recognizable Pop Punk influence. They are great songs to drive down the interstate blasting on a sunny day with the windows rolled down. They just feel like summer. The album’s lead single “Kids” is a highlight as well, partially hearkening back to 80’s Pop Rock with its big choruses and driving backbeat.
I really dig this album. I don’t listen to a ton of stuff in this vein, but, for me, this feels like something fresh. I’m a sucker for anthems and The Gospel Youth has them in spades. It’s powerful and contemplative and extremely intricate. Always Lose is the kind of album that you can put on ‘repeat’ and never get tired of.
Reviewed by mark1340
Release Date: June 30, 2017
American Opera is the musical meandering of singer/songwriter John Bee. Small Victories is his/their/its debut.
Small Victories is a pretty refreshing album to be quite honest. So much of the singer/songwriter genre is either slow and whiny or just barebone representations of what could be great songs with some production and some more instrumentation. Bee avoids all the clichés by offering up a great slab of fully realized songs with thoughtful lyrics. The songs are acoustic-based but they feature a full band sound and some spectacular horn work that quickly separates him from the pack.
There are a number of cool moments here but, for me, none more so than the title track. It’s got a great bar swagger and Bee’s voice is surprisingly both gravely and aggressive- something not too many singer/songwriters have. His passionate vocal delivery is peppered with horns and colorful expletives and it hits me in all the right spots. You get used to his voice as the album goes on, but those initial moments take you aback.
“Monsters Among Men” is another standout moment for me. It’s got a midtempo drive that has a bit of a darker feel to it that is perfectly complimented by a contemplative, and gentle, vocal and a catchy as hell chorus. It’s a bit jangly in the most impressive way. The acapella “Dear Devil” brings some variety to the album, I just wish it were longer. Still though, it leads perfectly into the more traditional singer/songwriter fare of “Empty Cup.” Female vocalist Meeko makes a guest appearance duetting on “Sidewalks.” It’s another more traditional moment with picked guitars and reserved harmonica, but the duet nature makes it impossible not to enjoy. The two voices play perfectly together and the big “Whoas” towards the end of the song give it a really anthemic feel.
While it definitely has a more authentic flare, it’s not a stretch to think that if you enjoy bands like The Lumineers, Needtobreathe’s more recent work, or Mumford & Sons then you’ll find a lot to enjoy about Small Victories. There is something both familiar and refreshing about American Opera and I look forward to hearing more.
Reviewed by mark1340
Barb Wire Dolls
Rub My Mind
Release Date: July 28, 2017
Greece’s Barb Wire Dolls have been punking it up all over the world since 2010. Rub My Mind is their 3rd full length album and their sophomore release for Motorhead Music. They also have an EP and an additional album consisting of the EP songs. You may have heard their name from the almighty Lemmy’s love for their music, but they have no problem standing on their own two feet once they have your attention.
The band’s image is slightly deceptive when you hear Rub My Mind. While they certainly have a Punk-ish lyrical feel, this album has a more Rock and Roll edge to it than you might expect. It’s sort of a Punked up fifties style Rock and Roll mixed with some more straightforward tunes.
Rub My Mind kicks off right with “Back in the USSA.” It’s a catchy tune that has a surfer riff and a sing-a-long chorus. If it doesn’t move your feet, you may want to check your pulse. “Gold” is another highlight (and my personal favorite song) here, and one of the moments where the band gets the rowdiest. It’s big guitars, atmospheric lead work, and pounding rhythm section are undeniably powerful! The acoustic “Fire to Burn” and “Waiting to Be Lost” are cool moments as well, as they help shape the album dynamically. It would have been easy for them just to play “Back in the USSA” repeatedly with different lyrics, but they don’t. I particularly like “Waiting to Be Lost” because it moves at a better clip and the atmospheric guitar pieces (as well as how they interplay with the vocals) are fantastic. “If I Fall” is another favorite moment, starting out as a great straight ahead rocker and transitioning to a sort of pounding Pop Rocker with a giant swing.
Admittedly, I had been listening to this for a bit before Warped Tour came to town and I was very much on the fence about it. Having now seen the band live, I totally get it. So, I would suggest picking up the album at a show to get the full effect!
Reviewed by mark1340