In this installment of In Dee Mail:
Jack Kotz – Wilmington, North Carolina
Small Culture – San Diego, California
Benji Lewis – Melbourne, Australia
Tomlin Hill – Norfolk, Virginia
Amateur Eyes – Saline, Michigan
Code Pie – Montreal, Quebec
Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers – Lion, France
Area of Refuge – Saratoga, New York
The Polaris – Conventry, England
Drink Me – Jacksonville, Florida
Jack Kotz – What’s All The Fuss About?
North Carolina songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jack Kotz‘s debut album, What’s All The Fuss About? , is a musical compendium of amazing, mostly instrumental tracks featuring dreamy, soft grooves, sunny California rock melodies, funky beats, punk rock, and psych rock guitars with swirling, ambient keys.
The top single from the album, “Burning Sensation,” is a wonderfully upbeat that is fitting for spring – I could see a beautiful kite flying high and free against the royal blue sky. With the addition of the uplifting chorus (which should have been used more throughout), the song is just pristine – and reminded me immediately – and more so in subsequent spins – of Burt Bacharach’s score for Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.
Soon after, you’re airborne again, but this time, you’ll stay much closer to the ground, and hear the frogs and water, on the ambient tune, “My Intentions Were Not Intended,” a track that has some tones and shades that remind us of the legendary (although most people outside of music heads never heard of…) Michael Hedges (RIP).
Song after song on Fuss prove that Kotz is a multi-faceted, talented and expressive musician who has a particularly astute appreciation, and interpretation, of different styles, genres and sounds.
After dreamy and chill grooves of tracks like the gorgeous title song, and others like the airy, drifting notes of “I’m The Only Road You Know,” and “Pull The Level,” with its slapping bass lines and high-octane electric guitar – all wrapped in a very funky rhythm that propels the song forward – it becomes
And there’s more funky bass on “Melt My Way,” which fades out suddenly, followed by a pause and silence, and then all of a sudden, the peace is shattered by the hard grinding stomps and trippy, spooky guitar and keyboard riffs of the sinister “JR.” At another crossroads on Fuss, you’re listening to what sounds like the opening music to a tripped out 80’s episode of Miami Vice via “Depends On Your General Location.”
The sonic journey glides, sails and chugs through various sonic landscapes, further illustrating Kotz’s refusal to play into conformity for the sake of conformity, or to allow himself to be boxed in by one genre or sub-genre. His album title question is answered by the music itself.
Try this: kick back with headphones, fire this up, close your eyes and roll on those clouds with tangerine trees and marmalade skies.
Small Culture – “Synthetica”
Small Culture is an indie pop kaleidoscope rock band produced and fronted by Jerik Centeno from San Diego. The name ‘Small Culture’ derives from being raised on a small island with a long tradition of a strong and vibrate culture. “My music is a kaleidoscope of sounds influenced from world, classical, electronic, and indie rock,” Centeno says. His musical influences include Two Door Cinema Club, Bombay Bicycle Club, and Sigur Ros. He’ll soon release an EP. Check out Small Culture on Facebook.
Synthetica – Small Culture from single
Benji Lewis – “Reach You Where You Are”
Pretty much out of nowhere, we received the single, “Reach You Where You Are,” from Melbourne, Australian ambient/electro musician Benji Lewis. It hits you hard; it’s foreboding, and has an element of sadness that is also wonderfully beautiful complete with a Middle Eastern mystique.
Turns out he had some professional help along the way. “I have been lucky enough to cross paths with the right people who have then put me into contact with some really talented producers and production companies.” Lewis is currently working on his debut solo LP.
“Reach You Where You Are“ – Benji Lewis from Reach You Where You Are
Tomlin Hill – “True Side”
Tomlin Hill is an alt. rock DIY band based out of Norfolk, Virginia. Creating a classic, unique sound that spans across genres from rock and reggae, to funk and soul.
“True Side” features staggering guitar work and minimalist, reggae-like chords with sharp, understated vocals and a guitar and percussion jam in the second half of the song. The band has opened for Nico Vega and are fans of Foo Fighters, Killers and SOAD.
“True Side“ – Tomlin Hill from True Side
Amateur Eyes – “Borrowed Time”
After a short time at the University of Michigan, John Pederson decided it was not for him and set out to record a batch of songs he’d written as a teenager, and now as a young adult under the moniker of Amateur Eyes.
The ten songs on his debut album, incorporating influences from post punk, indie and alt. rock, were finally able to be “properly recorded” the way he intended them to sound using a collection of microphones, computers and other gear at Cleveland‘s Danger House studio with producer Dave Douglas. It’s an ambitious and spirited recording with many hook-filled moments and blazing guitar rock.
“Borrowed Time“ – Amateur Eyes from Amateur Eyes
Code Pie – “Rockets”
Code Pie is a rock band from Montreal. In the last nine years, the group has released three LPs, and a number of singles, including a well-received doo-wop version of Justin Bieber’s “Baby” and a companion piece to Tommy Wiseau’s much maligned film The Room.
The band’s new single, “Rockets,” represents a slight departure from the band’s past, offering a dreamy, 80s-tinged slice of radio-ready pop/rock sway.
“Rockets“ – Code Pie
Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers – “Nowhere Man”
Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers is a French indie rock band who are obviously influenced by their favorite bands, including Supersuckers, Kid Congo, The Warlocks, Nirvana and Led Zeppelin as evidenced on the hard-rocking “Nowhere Man,” a single from their latest release, #3. The trio features Archi Deep (vocals, guitars), Martin Leroy (bass), and Camille Sullet (drums).
Nowhere Man – Archi Deep and the Monkeyshakers from #3
Area of Refuge – “Leap of Faith”
In the upstate New York town of Saratoga, twenty-something songwriter, musician Christopher Morin took a break from making rock music in order to focus on creating an album of serene and easy listening music. It’s something different for us too, but we really enjoyed the brilliance of his musicianship.
He teamed up with local violinist very Jahna Stanton to craft these wonderful songs. Their duo is officially called Area of Refuge. Morin counts some of his musical influences, for this style, to include Philip Glass, Max Richter, Ólafur Arnalds, and Sigur Rós.
“Leap of Faith” – Area of Refuge from Series One
“Reptile” – Area of Refuge from Series One
The Polaris – “Nowhere To Run”
Based in Conventry, England, the DIY alt. rock band The Polaris have been working on their debut EP for many years, and perhaps it was well worth all that time. The lead track, “Nowhere To Run,” is an expansive, almost arena-sized, emotive track that has leanings to 80’s and 90’s rock, which makes sense since some of their top musical influences include The Stereophonics,The Smiths, Flickerstick, and Mogwai.
“Nowhere To Run” – The Polaris from A Beginning’s End
Drink Me – “Hi Ho”
Lo-fi, swaggering electro fuzz rock is the signature of Jacksonville DIY band Drink Me. The musical collaboration between Michael La Manna and Sadie La Manna started back in 2010 when they decided to record a few tracks in the living room, drawing from their love of bands like The Kills, The White Stripes and Smashing Pumpkins.
“Hi Ho“ – Drink Me from In The Living Room