Top DIY Rock Songs & Albums of 2014, Vol. I – The Howler Weary, The Supplement, Matt Boroff, Zach Jones, Glitch Mouth
As we get close to wrapping up January’s coverage to get caught up, we’re listening to and sifting through all of the February submissions as well. As with so many of our features and playlists of new songs, albums and bands, we keep coming across fine music that simply is not available anywhere else on the web in any real accessible and organized format – such as DIY bands and artists’ releases for January. That’s why it’s so important we keep doing this because otherwise so much of this great music we feature on IRC from relatively unknown, but talented, artists and bands would go almost completely unnoticed. It doesn’t make any sense to have just another “indie blog” that rehashes what has already been featured on dozens of other blogs.
It’s been a daunting task; we sifted through over 150 (154 exactly) submissions for January alone. By the way, in some of the artist profiles, where there was a lack of information provided, we took the liberty to provide artists and bands with some basic, but essential, advice, using some of the artists we’re highlighting as an example to help other artists.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get to it.
We would love to hear which songs, and artists and bands, from this playlist post, that so much work went into, you like the most. Dig in and enjoy tracks from January releases by The Howler Weary, The Supplement, Tom Harrison, The Fake Vulgarys, Matt Boroff, Manic At Midnite, Zach Jones, Glitch Mouth, Canadian Hunter, One Eleven Band, Pictures, Tom Harrison, Urban Wildlife, and Gold Spectacles.
The Howler Weary Rip Out Blues Rock On Debut LP
One of the first bands to catch our attention in 2014 was Livingston, New Jersey blues and garage rock band The Howler Weary. This is a band of fine musicians, and friends, Jake Levine, Henry Yavorski and Trevor Fedele, who create amazing touching and somber acoustic songs – in the vein of Nick Drake and Elliott Smith – like “When I’m Loving You ” and “Summertime,” and also rock out on tracks like “High.” The trio formed last year to take an approach to rock drawing from the musical influences of the past 75 or so years, tapping into southern blues sounds (the true origin of rock and roll) as well as legendary bands like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, and iconic figures of the so-called ‘crooner’ era, such as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole.
While the band takes pride in their more delicate folk melodies, we also appreciate their ability to rock and roll too; either way, there’s a decidedly blues feel throughout all their tracks. Their own literature states; “The Howler Weary look to bring their own taste of rock and roll to a new generation.” While they’re a band less than a year in the making, their first recordings demonstrate that their confidence is not zealous as much as it is something this New Jersey trio take seriously; and so far, given they are new out-of-the-box, they’ve taken the first steps successfully. We’ll be watching; see their short video of them in the studio.
“When I’m Loving You” – The Howler Weary from Travel On
“High” – The Howler Weary from Travel On
“Don’t Hide Away” – The Howler Weary from Travel On
LA Punk Buzz Band Returns With Follow-Up to Hailed Debut
The Los Angeles punk band The Supplement kicked up a buzz in 2011 in the LA punk scene with the release of their eponymous debut album. The band is not strictly a punk band per se; in fact, the band describes their music as as a fusion of “southern California punk with high-octane ‘blue collar’ rock.
The buzz the band earned back in 2011 led to a series of high-profile shows supporting some of the biggest names in punk rock, including The Dwarves, Cro Mags, Generators, Fear and TSOL. The band took some time off in 2012 (a risky thing to do in the brutally competitive rock scene of southern California) and returned to the studio late last year with a new vocalist, Chris GySelinck, to record the tracks for their follow-up album with founding members, guitarist Brian Michaels, bassist Paul Ensley and Greg Yocum on drums. The new album, Step Up From Zero, was officially released on January 14th.
The album contains a number of standout songs, including “Nowhere,” which the band calls a “broadening of the scope” of their music, as well as songs closer to their punk and rock roots, like “Love Lie and Steal.” As evident in their music, the band listed their top musical influences as SuperSuckers, The DAtsuns,The Replacements, Wolfmother , The Cult, and Dinosaur Jr.
“Nowhere” – The Supplement from Step Up from Zero – Jan. 14th
“Love Lie and Steal” – The Supplement from Step Up from Zero
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Veteran Rocker Matt Boroff Teams Up with QOSTA/Screaming Trees’ Vocalist Mark Lanegan
For a quarter of a century, American-born, Austria-based songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Matt Boroff has shared the stage with bands like Nirvana, Calexico, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Bad Brains, among others. In the 1990′s he toured sporadically performing experimental noise rock, and by the mid-2000′s was garnering kudos from listeners and critics with his new band, Matt Boroff & The Mirrors, before releasing his first solo album in 2009. On January 14th, Boroff release his sophomore solo album.
Anyone who has made it through the insanity of the music business for more than two decades, and is still making a decent living at it, has earned their battle scars and cred. Throughout a storied career, Boroff has continued to take his passionate brand of music to new heights, which has journeyed through new and exciting musical landscapes and experiments – from cinematic noise rock to gardens of indie rock ambience. This time around, for his second solo full-length album, titled Sweet Hand of Fate, Boroff steps into yet another new direction, even bringing in the legendary vocalist for Queens of the Stone Age and Screaming Trees, the widely respected Mark Lanegan.
Boroff listed his biggest musical influences as Tom Waits, Nick Cave, The Gun Club, and Leonard Cohen. That’s definitely an interesting mix – wonder what a musical psychologist would say about such a specific, yet wide-reaching, group of names. We also like Boroff’s answer to “what is indie rock,” which he said “is a label that rightfully should refer to artists who are doing things on their own terms with their own unique signature. All too often that label is misused and attributed to things that are anything but that. That being said though, the independent spirit of music is still alive and well all over the world if one cares to try and discover it.”
While almost everyone has a slightly differing longer answer for what is indie rock, the most common theme, not surprisingly, is the idea that indie implies a DIY style and the ultimate independence and freedom to create what he or she wishes to without pressure and interference from label representatives and other commercial mechanisms. Boroff’s latest work is DIY, so that lends even more credence to his concept of indie.
“Lost” – Matt Boroff from Sweet Hand of Fate – Jan. 14th
“My Black Heart” – Matt Boroff from Sweet Hand of Fate
Brooklyn Band Manic After Midnite Release Tragic First Single
You could spend a life time reviewing and listening to musical artists and bands located, or relocated, to Brooklyn, and still never get to hear and absorb all of the talent the borough of New York City has contributed to indie and alternative rock, folk and whatever other sub-genre you can think of. While the newly formed Brooklyn “alternative soul/celestial” band, Manic After Midnite, has a pretty solid debut single to offer, we’ll reserve a more reliable, and fair, judgement once we’ve heard the other songs. One song is certainly shy of sufficient material to get a handle on an artist, but if the tragic beauty of “Faces (Can You Tell Me)” is an indicator of things to come, we’ll definitely keeping tabs on MAM. In the meantime, there is this little number to hold over potential admirers. MAM draws influences from The Sylvers, Snowmine, Kings of Convenience, Solex, KING, and Selda Bagcan.
“Faces (Can You Tell Me)” – Manic After Midnite from Faces – Jan. 7th
Brooklyn-Via-Virginia 20 Year Old Artist Drops Debut Album
Born and raised in the Virginia suburbs, like so many aspiring young musicians, Zach Jones packed up and moved north to the artist haven of Brooklyn. On January 1st (again, one of the worst day’s to drop a new release), Jones dropped his debut album, All That We Crave, from which we have taken interest in, especially the tracks below.
Without providing much of a bio, Jones did leave us with this description of himself and his music: “When he’s not cursing the masses or trying to combat his emptiness with yoga, he composes music with his guitar. His style ranges from ‘sad folk for sad folks’ to ‘pop rock for cynics,’ along with songs that embrace the absurd, welcome the void, but don’t sweat the small stuff. We’re a disillusioned generation and he’s learning to deal with that.” Presuming that was written by someone else, and not Jones himself, it really doesn’t say much of any consequence or usefulness at all other than some guy has some sad folk and cynical pop songs, and to sum it all up with the worst recycled cliche of the past 50+ years, he’s a by-product of a “disillusioned generation” – oh, boo hoo.
Again, we want to know about the artist – who are you; what do you write about and why?; when did you start getting interested in music; what is your musical background, and so on. People are naturally going to be more likely to appreciate and care about what you have to say if you make yourself human to them and not just a name to a song.
“All The Blue” – Zach Jones from All That We Crave – Jan. 1st
“Murder Muffins” – Zach Jones from All That We Crave
Canadian Hunter Releases Lo-Fi Pop Single Debut
The following are two artists who both DIY dropped their debut albums in January, and yet who we know almost nothing about because they failed to provide any type of a real bio or profile (which are always rewritten anyways, except when noted). It’s not really fair to other band’s that didn’t make the final playlist, but who worked diligently on writing their bios. Here’s what we do know of them (we’re not going fishing for more information about them; too many other submissions to review). First, DIY musician Jake Maas, who goes by the moniker Canadian Hunter, and lives in Denver, sent over a dreamy homemade pop song, “Hibernation,” his single debut, officially released on January 11th. While we are fond of Canadian Hunter’s woozy, lo-fi, organic sonic representations, we also see great potential for growth, even though he’s been diligently working on his music for the past four years. The process, and the time span, are less important to us, ultimately. At the end of the day, what we care about most is the music.
In the limited bio he did provide, this is what he provided, verbatim: “I’m a blend of flannel, plastic handles of whiskey, and nothing to do on a Friday night. My music is a blend of keyboard, reverb, and pessimism. I’ve never played a show and I’ve never been inside a recording studio. This song, in fact, is my debut, recorded in my apartment. And it’s damn good.” Confidence is good; more than that: not so good. You want to understate, or not at all, your own praise of your own music – it leaves much more to the imagination, and is more likely to be well received. And if people don’t agree with the artist’s self-review, especially considering how good “damn good” is, the disagreements tend to be magnified more than usual. Furthermore, humility, especially for an unestablished artist, is a big part of the game right there. Let the praise come to you – organically. As mentioned earlier, in this post we are providing feedback that is geared towards helping the artist in question while also serving as useful tips to aspiring musicians and bands who follow IRC.
Other important consideration for artists and bands – carefully chose your band name. For example, in this case, Maas did himself a disservice by enlisting the moniker Canadian Hunter. Do any search engine query for ‘Canadian Hunter’ and the results are dominated by results for the popular Canadian Hunter Whiskey, and other results, but nothing for the band. Of course adding ‘band’ or ‘music’ to the name helps, but in this case, not as much as one would suppose. Therefore, from a branding perspective, Canadian Hunter is not a name we’d go with, but we don’t really care. The point is we have his new single here for all to enjoy.
“Hibernation” – Canadian Hunter from Hibernation – Jan. 11th
The second band that we don’t know much about, and who literally just formed a month ago, is the London-based indie rock duo Pictures, featuring lead vocalist Alexandre Caulier and pianist Rosa Ullmann. The duo teamed up with producer and friend Garry Cosgrove from Newcastle to record their debut single, “Return,” and B-side track, “Echo”. The duo are apparently at work on their debut album and listed their top musical influences as Arcade Fire, The Fray, and Radiohead.
“Return” – Pictures from Return single – Jan. 16th
Las Vegas’ One Eleven Band Mixes Hip Hop, Reggae, Rock and Funk on Debut
The new-to-the-scene and unsigned duo, One Eleven Band, from Las Vegas, is headed up by Doc Jones and ‘master guitarist’ Daniel Moore. Jones and Moore met in 2013 and realized they had a mutual interest in the same types of music, and the desire to write and record their own tracks, combining hip hop, reggae, funk, rock and soul. After some time writing the songs, the duo huddled in Jones’ home studio. The duo recorded, mixed and mastered all of the guitars, bass, drums, as well as lead and backup vocals into one compelling collection of songs.
One thing that really stood out from the get-go was how much the opening riff on the “Awesome Fresh” single sounds so much like some of the riffs on Peter Frampton‘s “Do You Feel Like I Do,” but that’s beside the point. As a bonus, we have included yet another song from the EP. The only thing that some people might hesitate about, while others will rejoice, is that the band members are faith-based musicians.
“Awesome Fresh” – One Eleven Band from One Eleven Band EP – Jan. 11th
“Living Water” – One Eleven Band from One Eleven Band EP
Brooklyn Trio Glitch Mouth Fuse Old Skool Hip-Hop and Other Genres
Formed in 2009, Brooklyn trio, Glitch Mouth, set out to take hip-hop to places it had presumably not gone before while “still drawing influence from the 90s Golden Era,” which we take to be the height of the hip-hop sound when artists like N.W.A. and Run DMC dominated the hip-hop scene. But that’s another discussion entirely. The group listed their top musical influences as Wu-Tang, Big Pun, MF DOOM, Black Star, and The Fugees. According to the outfit’s producer, Sean Harold, Glitch Mouth’s new EP, Cure for the Common Flow, is “the incorporation of live instrumentation, classically-trained female vocals, and experimental studio techniques” with hip-hop, and “set[s] Glitch Mouth out[sic] from many of their contemporaries.” That is true, especially in how elements of jazz, rock and soul are spliced and fused in with the beats. In addition to Harold, GM, is comprised of MurMur, the MC, and vocalist Erin Pellnat. The EP, Cure for the Common Flow, was self-recorded in “DIY guerrilla studios” throughout New York and Connecticut.
“How I Feel “ – Glitch Mouth from Cure for the Common Flow – Jan. 12th
LA Musician and Composer Tom Harrison Drops New EP
DIY artist Tom Harrison is a young Scot who has taken his music all over the world, and recently settled into his new home in Los Angeles. In addition to writing his own music, Harrison has written songs for other artists like YouTube sensation Savannah Outen as well as music for a whole host of television shows, including CSI, Under The Dome and The Simpsons.
Harrison’s latest EP, Electric Postcards, was produced by Christopher Tyng, the man behind the music of Futurama, The O.C. and Suits. The EP is a coming together of Harrison’s love of high energy 90s rock and eccentric lyrical sensibilities reminiscent of artists like Squeeze. Add to that a bit of irony taken from cues by his musical hero, Paul McCartney, the EP breathes new life, and a younger interpretation, in between Harrison’s rock and roll riffs and beats.
“Far From Home” – Tom Harrison from Electric Postcards EP – Jan. 6th
“Meaningless” – Tom Harrison from Electric Postcards EP
Portland Band Urban Wildlife Release Sophomore Album
Consisting of Emily Logan, Ryan Mauk, Wade Morehead and Paul Notley, the Portland band Urban Wildlife blends the musical histories of each member to incorporate folk, country, pop, indie and alternative. Urban Wildlife manifested slowly, adding musicians from all over the Pacific Northwest and California until finally finding its perfect formation to release a second LP, Strangers, released on January 24th. Strangers takes listeners on a journey of birth, death and rebirth and explores the human experience through songs that vary from sparse to foot-stomping and sanguine.
“Strangers” – Urban Wildlife from Strangers – Jan. 24th
“Alchemy” – Urban Wildlife from Strangers
London Baroque-Pop Band Gold Spectacles Debut New Single
Gold Spectacles are a baroque-pop duo based in London, that produces sample-based alternative pop music. Formed in 2012, the band is a collaborative venture of two British songwriter/producers who draw on an eclectic range of musical influences from Paul Simon to Phoenix, Gold Spectacles write sample-based alternative pop music. The duo dropped their debut single, “Steal You Away” on January 25th.
“Steal You Away” – Gold Spectacles from single