Review

With Sails Ahead - Morning Sun Review

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We've been following With Sails Ahead for actual years now, and as one of the first bands to support The Hook, they'll always have a soft spot in our hearts. We recently watched them open up for bands like Emarosa and Jule Vera, which is our way of saying clearly our pals are going places, and it makes us so happy we could cry.

But we won't, and that's because Morning Sun, their brand new EP is out.

The NJ based five piece continues to impress us as they grow, and Morning Sun is an astonishing third addition to their discography, and their first release since June 2016's Years In Waiting. The 6-track EP is a heartfelt, passion infused open wound that With Sails Ahead lays out for listeners to witness and bare. 

Album Art: Caring Wong

Album Art: Caring Wong

Morning Sun Tracklist:
1. Dissappear
2. Willow
3. Always Clouded, Never Clear
4. Pixelated
5. Synapses Fire
6. Beesly


 

 

 

With Sails Ahead have solidified themselves as a force to be reckoned with, not only in their scene, but as they come up in the world of music. We're holding on tight for the journey, and you should be too!

Morning Sun is an emotional, angst ridden EP that keeps the listener in check. I was also sincerely impressed by the togetherness the band has shown in their growth, while maintaining the reason why we loved With Sails Ahead in the first place. Morning Sun is going to be more instrumentally technical and exciting, while also showing it's bravado and spirit in lyricism and contextual content. All of the tracks are superb, but my personal favorite would be closing track, "Beesly." For myself, this track really encapsulates this coming of age for With Sails Ahead. Morning Sun is the reawakening of the passion that this post hardcore quartet brings to the table.

With the recent announcement of a summer tour, you definitely don't want to miss an update from With Sails Ahead, so check out their social media links down below to remain up on the happenings of their lives!

We know we sure will be!

With Sails Ahead: Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Tumblr

Elephant Fire - Natural Heart Review

Photographer:  Melissa Lucciola

Photographer: Melissa Lucciola

To write an album is an undertaking, anyone will tell you this. Different bands have different processes to make albums happen - and Elephant Fire had their own, unique way of creating their most recent release, too.

Natural Heart is the September release from New Jersey band Elephant Fire. A rebirth since their last release back in 2014, a total of three years in between the two. The new album is a self proclaimed result of "a six month pilgrimage into the hearts of North America's national parks for this album. Guitar slung on my shoulder, the way of the coined “Natural Heart Tour" provided resonant rebirth in the desert vortices of red rock mountains, the great joys of the giant sequoia’s, and trillions of stars of the Milky Way galaxy fireside on the Rio Grande," says singer, Adam Wall.

Clearly an innovative, different process than most bands we've listened to. And what better way to inspire art than nature? We aren't sure. Either way, we've got the track list below so check that out before we delve into the belly of the beast that is Natural Heart.

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Natural Heart Tracklist:
1. Natural Heart
2.
Come With Me
3.
Lover's In The Bike Lane
4.
Burn Me Up
5.
It's Alright
6.  It's Rising
7. Karmic Siege 06:45

 

 

 

The 7-track LP is a psychedelic pop renaissance that came together with the help of Elephant Fire's four members. Adam Wall (Singer/Songwriter/Guitar/Synth/Percussion), Steve Wall (Guitar/Vocals/Synth/Misc. Instr.), Zac Colwell (Bass/Vocals), and Dave Heilman (Drums). In comparison to their 2014 EP, there are slight but important difference that Elephant Fire bring to the table in Natural Heart, and that's something to be excited about.

While they maintain their groovy, fun flare for psychedelic, indie instrumental sound, the band upgrades in technicality and emotional moments. Natural Heart is grown up Elephant Fire that is to be expected from a later release, and we're diggin' it. Normally we'd pull apart each track, but Natural Heart is pretty streamlined. Each track feels familiar and solid, nothing really stuck out to me which makes this album a nice background listen.

I do wonder what Elephant Fire's goal is. While the background information is interesting and helps make the listen more meaningful, I wanted more emotion in Natural Heart. I feel like a nearly 4 year difference between releases could've meant a growth - and while it's clear the technical aspect of this album feels better, more well done and fuller, it isn't satisfying the part of me that wants to connect to it. 

At it's base, Natural Heart is a good vibe. It's easy to listen to, has good intentions and is well versed instrumentally. I like Elephant Fire and what they're doing - and if making feel good music is where they're at, then I'm right there with them listening to this album while I sweat out whiskey at the gym. Definitely check out this album, and take a peek at their social media to never miss an update!

Elephant Fire: Facebook

Scooter Brothers - Lookin' Good! Review

Monmouth County seems to be a breeding ground for unique alternative rock bands. It is incredibly often I find myself finding out about a number of rock outfits that fit the mold of groovy, savvy rock bands akin to many groups that play Asbury Park. And after checking out their albums, I wonder to myself: why haven’t I seen this band around Asbury?! That probably speaks to the clique problem in that scene, but I digress - people who love the alternative rock camaraderie of Asbury bands but want something new should be listening to Manalapan-based band Scooter Brothers, specifically their album Lookin’ Good!

Lookin’ Good!
 is an energetic romp carried by four alternative rock tracks that keep you fully engaged and bobbing your head. Scooter Brothers released the EP on September 29, 2017 with the promise that half of the sales from their album would be donated to UNICEF’s Hurricane Maria relief fund for Puerto Rico. Listeners already had more than one reason to pick up this album, but that’s a truly wonderful added incentive to do so.

We've got the tracklist down below for you to follow along!

Lookin' Good! Tracklist:
1. No Diane
2. Beatch Boys
3. Mirror Me
4. Train Ride

 








Instrumentally, listeners will enjoy the nod to surf rock on the first two tracks “No Diane” and “Beatch Boys” (not a typo).  The last two tracks dig into a bit more of a rock n’ roll sound, with the guitars not only holding down melody but adding spacey auxiliary sounds by way of screaming leads and tonalities reminiscent of shoe-gaze. The bass and drums hold down the rhythm section, with drum fills and bass lines that contribute well to the sound the band is achieving as a whole. What I love about “Train Ride” is the occasional piano and organ parts that rear their heads to add depth to the track.

What stood out to me were the creative lyrics on each song, each sharing specific vignettes told by the lyricist while leaving interpretation completely open to the listener. “Mirror Me” seemingly shares the story of a relationship between two people who feel bound by their ties to each other and society’s expectations of their individual existences, though it could mean anything. I feel it is so important to note how hilarious “No Diane” is lyrically, a story about how the singer was told by a ghost that the woman he is destined to marry is named ‘Diane.’ At the song’s peak, the instruments peel back the volume only for the vocalist to admit in all his years of existing, there is no way this could be true unless someone wants to introduce him to a twenty-something year old woman named Diane; he hasn’t found her.

Anyone who is looking for a diverse alternative rock album should check out Scooter Brothers’ Lookin’ Good!, available now on Bandcamp. The EP is sonically engaging and incredibly creative.  Be sure to follow Scooter Brothers on their social media down below to stay up-to-date on future shows!

Scooter Brothers: Facebook // Twitter

Fox Hollow - The Dream Reel Review

NY locals, Fox Hollow, have been very busy this year - and before we end 2017, we're revisiting their April release of The Dream Reel. The 4-track EP is a glam rock tribute to the you we're all thinking about when we think about someone else. An indie, smooth moving EP this is definitely one you're going to want to put on while we whittle away at the end of the year.

Fox Hollow is comprised of memebers Michael Themistocleous (Vocals/Guitar), Joseph Oliveto (Guitar), Dan DeLucia (Bass), Chris Swift (Drums), and let's not forget Lyle the Corgi (Vocals). The EP was recorded and mixed by Ryan Meyers in Syosset, NY. With an emphasis on instrumental performance, the vocal feels secondary as you move through this album, but we'll get to that later. 

Check out the tracklist below to follow along!

Artwork: Brian Parisi

Artwork: Brian Parisi

The Dream Reel Tracklist:
1. The Dream Reel
2. June
3. Tennessee Whiskey
4. Strangers to Ourselves

 

 

 

 

 

Opening title track is going to introduce you to Fox Hollow with poise & grace. You've got a band that borders on pop rock, that groovy movement that bands like Medusa's Disco or Adventure Lost are also participating in. "The Dream Reel" drops listeners into the world of Fox Hollow, one in which you're always talking to someone else, yearning to get lost alongside them - good or bad. The rest of the album isn't going to disappoint, it feels similar in sound and lyrical content, but that makes The Dream Reel a solid consistent listen. As a listener I do wonder what else is in Fox Hollow's bag of tricks that isn't showcased here on the EP, but that's what 2018 is for, right!?

Closing track 'Strangers to Ourselves' is a 7 minute ode that is the culmination of Fox Hollow's goal. The lyricism on this track especially stood out to me in poetics and meaning. This track is one that I feel comes to you at a point when you need to hear it - and you want to bathe in all 7 minutes of it. Consider The Dream Reel Hook Approved. So check out The Dream Reel & Fox Hollow because we're gonna be following them right into 2018.

For more on Fox Hollow & The Dream Reel, check out their social media down below to never miss a beat!

Fox Hollow: Facebook // Bandcamp

Architect the Destroyer - Tiny Thoughts Review

We're coming out of our hiatus to talk to you about Architect the Destroyer. You might remember Architect the Destroyer, aka Justin Genzo, from The Hook Journal's, The July EP where we featured "Cherry Wine," but if not, let us re-introduce you.

With a background in music, but never a clear place of belonging, Architect the Destroyer was born in early 2017 with an aim to hone in on the cross between indie, folk, & alternative. With the release of The Daisy EP in April 2017, Architect the Destroyer was really only preparing us for
what was to come - a sweet, heartfelt little wound that begs to be heard and paid attention to.

Tiny Thoughts is a 10-track debut album that features The Daisy EP favorites like "Cherry Wine," "Daisy," and "Bedroom Talk." The consistency of Tiny Thoughts is a cohesive, impressive debut for Architect the Destroy that has carved out a special place in my library for a discography as lovely as this.

Check out the tracklist below to follow along!

Artwork: Thomas Louis

Artwork: Thomas Louis

Tiny Thoughts Tracklist:
1. Cherry Wine
2. We Are Stars
3. Paper Heart
4. Daisy
5. Bedroom Talk
6. Adventure
7. Oil & Water
8. Sleep
9. Golden
10. Birds

 

After listening to this album a few times over, I really was left with an overwhelming sense of fullness. Tiny Thoughts pushes listeners into uncomfortable spots without them ever knowing, tracks like "Paper Heart" or "Golden" that etch away at things you're trying to forget. Or maybe you're looking for the way to say that thing to someone you love, or used to love, or never loved at all even though it sure as hell felt like it - "Cherry Wine" or "Oil & Water" might make you feel more whole than before. 

Something that Architect the Destroyer is really good at is encapsulating smallness and making it as large as it seems when it's in our heads. Not only was I impressed by the production of this album, all of which completed by Genzo himself, but the lyricism and musicianship that accompanies it feels weighted and well thought out. Tiny Thoughts matters to the maker, and in turn it matters to the listener.

However, we're about to get real deep into track 8, "Sleep" so how about you stream it down below and we'll catch up with you after.

Is it on? Good.

"Sleep" is one of the most profoundly interesting and underwhelming tracks on the album at first glance. At over 8 minutes long, you may ask yourself what possibly could be happening that is 8 minutes long on this album? But, I recommend not dismissing this track in the slightest, as it truly felt like an embodiment of what Tiny Thoughts felt like as a whole. A dissonant, mellow track that clings onto every moment it exists within. It coddles you, it leaves you be, it gives you nothing to hold onto except for the echo of "sleep." 

Bottom line? This album is worth the listen. It's moving, it's fun, it makes you feel good. Tiny Thoughts is a beautiful addition to a year full of good music, and we're so happy Architect the Destroyer is here to add to that.

To keep up to date with everything they're up to, check out Architect the Destroyer's social media down below!

Architect the Destroyer: Twitter // Facebook // Instagram

The Afraid Brigade - If I Ever See Stars Again Review

Fantasy indie rockers, The Afraid Brigade, have released their latest EP If I Ever See the Stars Again back in June of this year, and it has become one of my favorite indie records of 2017. The 4-piece band from Woodbridge, New Jersey have crafted a diverse record filled with excellent songwriting, infectious choruses and melodies, and a theatrical story that takes the listener on a wonderful journey throughout its 6 songs, but is sadly over far too soon.

Consisting of lead singer Joe Ruff, guitarist Tyler Boland, bassist Ben Lander, and drummer Zach Lander, The Afraid Brigade is a group of very talented musicians who understand their inspirations well. Personally, I got a sort of Manchester Orchestra meets Modest Mouse sort of vibe from the band, but they cite mewithoutYou, Band of Horses, and Iron & Wine as main influences. It’s refined indie pop-rock filled to the brim with over the top emotion and attitude and everything about it just feels so right.

If I Ever See the Stars Again contains 6 very unique tracks that all come together to tell a cohesive tale of a weary space traveler experiencing some difficult situations. From the seamless transitions between songs that sound nothing alike to the deliberate choice of instrumentation to convey setting and atmosphere, everything about this record feels polished and well thought out making for an unexpected, but truly awesome journey. It also helps that these songs are really, really good. Nothing ever overstays its welcome on this record, in fact a lot of songs could have stayed a little longer (I’m looking at you, beautiful intro track).

Clocking in at roughly 16 minutes, this space voyage is over before you realize it, and leaves the listener wanting more. Check out the tracklist below!

1. Stars Intro
2. The World Don't Want You
3. Nothing Good
4. I'm in Hell 
5. Dead Wrong
6. Let's Die Alone Together







 

The album kicks off with literally an intro track, but it honestly is one of my favorite songs off the record. It’s only about a minute long, but the sense of space and loneliness it conveys is some of the most impactful material on the album. “Stars Intro” is really only comprised of 4 things: a bit of sound effects, a droning synth, a piano for subtle melodic effect, and Ruff’s vocal out in the forefront all by itself. The vocal on this track is the most vulnerable vocal throughout the entire record and it instantly hooks the listener in, which is perfect because this track smoothly leads into the second song “The World Don’t Want You.” 

This sort of anthemic emo song kicks off with a solid guitar hook and incredibly well-done harmonies to perfectly offset the depressed, solitary mood of the intro track. The stars of this song (no pun intended) are undoubtedly Boland’s unbelievably sick guitar work, which kind of feel just like a solo jam for almost 3 minutes, and Ruff’s vocals which come off as desperate in the best way possible.

The next track, “Nothing Good” can be seen as the pop-punk song off the record. Chugging rhythm guitars, mixed with driving beats are met with a lead guitar track that cuts through it all to give it a sense of attitude. A bridge that calms everything down only to come back up to a climax in the song is about as pop-punk as it gets. Once again however, Ruff shows just how versatile his vocal can be as he attacks these quick, syncopated lines with precision and tenacity. This is a hard-hitting track that somehow hits all the right notes despite its short run time. 

“I’m in Hell”, the next song off the album, is arguably the most different sounding song on the entire record. It’s a very early Beatles-esque vibe mixed with a sort of classic 50’s love song. This track comes fully equipped with a frilly piano that drives the whole thing, a whistle part to connect different parts, a horn section to serve as a call and response, and of course a key change. It’s all pretty intoxicating to be honest, and I couldn’t help but fall for the undeniable charm that came with everything. Through all of that throwback goodness though, my favorite part of the recording is actually the gang vocals. They purvey a real sense of camaraderie that make me feel like this band is having a lot of fun with what they are doing. It’s a subtle thing, but one I don’t hear a lot of anymore.

“Dead Wrong” is about as Modest Mouse as it gets for me. It’s a pop-oriented song that’s led by an off-kilter guitar and intentionally pitchy vocals to convey as much emotion as possible. Somehow The Afraid Brigade make it all work so well without ever sounding like some cheesy knock-off which is truly a testament to just how malleable this band truly is. 

Finally, If I Ever See the Stars Again reaches its finale with “Let’s Die Alone Together.” It’s a beautiful rock ballad with extremely big choruses and Queen inspired guitar solos that ebb and flow until it all just eventually fades away. It’s as fitting an end to a record as any I’ve ever heard. I don’t want to give anything away, but I highly recommend putting this album on ‘repeat’.

The Afraid Brigade deserve every ounce of praise, respect, and support they get for If I Ever See the Stars Again.

This record feels so thought out, and so professional, as if it came from a much more established band that’s been around for at least a decade. It’s such a fantastic EP that I really think everyone should listen to, and since it’s such a quick listen there’s really no excuse not to. Although I wish there were more to it, I really can’t find a single thing wrong with this record, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this band. 

The Afraid Brigade: Facebook // Bandcamp // Official Site // YouTube

Devon Goods - S/T Review

Glen Rocks, NJ is a tiny place in New Jersey that sits close enough to New York to have a constant identity crisis, and that's ok. Devon Goods is an indie punk quartet that embodies that very sentiment in their newest release, S/T. The 4-track self titled EP is a heartfelt, gut wrenching little album that is the perfect way to ring in Fall on this October evening. 

Devon Goods is Mike Beyda, Zach McCollum, Justin McCollum and Ross Greenberg. The EP was produced by Ryan Stack at Format Audio and we just can't stop listening to it. According to the band, "Justin McCollum and Michael Beyda started writing songs together at the ages of only 14 and 15 and soon after Justin’s brother Zach McCollum to join up on the drums. It wasn’t long until Ross Greenberg (bass) completed the line up and got his brother to help them record their first EP “Teeball” in his basement. Later, in 2015, the band decided to record and release a more polished EP entitled “Couldn't Ask For Anything More.” Focusing on live performances and honing in on their stage presence, the band went on to play a group of weekend tours until they began recording their latest release “Devon Goods” this past April." 

The EP released on June 23rd and Devon Goods say it is the epitome of where they are with their sound right now. Check out their tracklist below to follow along!

S/T Tracklist:
1. Jersey Shore, PA
2. 528
3. Cicada
4. Appleblossom

 

 

 

 


Opening track "Jersey Shore, PA" is a solid, math-y kind of track that hooks listeners immediately. As a New Jerseyian myself this track speaks to me (probably, right). Devon Goods quickly prove themselves as a hard hitting foursome that wants you to listen to what they have to say. The album boasts that half sung, half screamed mentality of indie punk and math rock. "528" is self described as the most popular song off the album, and to listeners this track does stand out amongst the rest as a nice middle ground.

Personally, I really enjoy "Cicada" because it is softer than the rest. This track leaves the most after the EP has finished, and maybe lyrically the track has more I can hold onto than others. 

Either way, you should check out Devon Goods for yourself and decide. Take our word for it and take the leap into it. We're sure you won't be disappointed with this one. In the meantime, check out their social media down below to catch up with their latest news.

As always, thanks for reading!

Devon Goods: Facebook // Bandcamp

Prototype:AT - Dreamscape Review

Picture Courtesy of  IndonesianBob

Picture Courtesy of IndonesianBob

Out of the depths of the internet, there is always something or someone to find. In our case we found Prototype:AT and their latest release, Dreamscape. A "father-son duo" which is made up of one human Dad and one robotic son - they make music together and it's a pretty interesting time to say the least!

Dreamscape is a 10-track album that was released in July and explores a ton of wild concepts and electronic ideas. It hits on a ton of different genres and also is very self-aware. I can't tell how I feel about this album, and I'm not sure I can tell you how to feel about this album, so how about just check out the tracklist below.

Dreamscape Tracklist:
1. Introductions
2. Alien Squid Illuminati
3. Interlude 1: Looking Forward
4. Sedimentary
5. Interlude 2: Slowdown
6. Into the well, the string of marbles falls
7. Interlude 3: Tension
8. Goodbye Zero Girl/exit (-1)
9. Interlude 4: Looking Forward (Reprise)
10. Blank Space (Cover)

 

"Introductions" is pretty self-explanatory in which you hear father & son introduce themselves on this conceptual album. The beat is reminiscent of 8-bit or video game tracks, which helps this album stick out especially with tracks like "Into the well, the string of marbles falls" (my favorite personally). 

This album asks questions and answers them quite a bit on it's own. More so an experience rather than something you can think about too harshly. This concept is one that takes listeners on a journey as long as they want to go on it. "Alien Squid Illuminati" is a track that has gotten a lot of praise, and it is a really retro, thrasher metal type of track that feels leagues above the rest of the album as a whole. 

I find the back and forth between father and son interesting, as a writer I love the idea of story telling in music, and this album just does it in the most obvious way possible - a theme that explores space and dreams and things eating other things! If you're into that, you should check out Dreamscape and Prototype:AT.

We've got the whole thing streaming for you up above, and then check out their social media to keep up with what Prototype:AT is up to!

Prototype:AT: Facebook // Twitter