Album Review: The Scenic Sound – Like A Fire

Like A Fire

 

Toronto-based singer/songwriter Tim Stead has musical roots in power pop and punk.  As The Scenic Sound, he strips things down and sells out for melody and meaning.  (“Sells out” is not meant in the usual derogatory, is-it-still-2003? fashion it typically references in music.)  TSS released sophomore EP Like A Fire March 21st, and the Murray Daigle-produced six-song effort builds on 2014’s Standing Still with hints of pop, rock, soul and R&B.

Like A Fire opens with “A Heart To Call Home”, a ballad that features some lovely orchestral backing behind vocals about longing for love.  First single “You & I” is next, which changes gears by kicking up the tempo while stripping down the sound.  The acoustic does the musical talking in this one, and the subject matter celebrates a great romance – it really is a 180 from “A Heart To Call Home”.  The drums also don’t really get going until the second chorus to great effect.  Up next is “Warmer With You”, which has great guitar that puts long, possibly whammy bar-influenced notes to work.  The drums also make great use of simplicity with the verses interjecting lazy snare rolls.  The line “I don’t care how cold it is outside/I can see your breath curling up with mine” is awesome, and the EP’s title gets a mention during this song too.

Speaking of the EP’s title, the second half of Like A Fire first dishes out “Sleeping Lullaby”.  The chorus’ off-time snare hits remind me of “Companion (Lay Me Down)” by Wide Mouth Mason – good stuff.  “Sleeping Lullaby” is also the first real guitar distortion we get on the EP, which is also good stuff.  “Author Of My Hope” follows, and really works the bass piano notes (notably, I mean…it’s pretty piano-centric anyway) while bringing the orchestral touch back.  It’s 2:38 of YOU being behind you with analogies galore, but the weight of it makes its length surprising.  Finally, a piano-based version of “Sleeping Lullaby” ends the effort.  It largely honours the main version, but adds an element of evocativeness to also make it its own.

For Like A Fire, Tim Stead talked about wanting to create “something important, something that people feel like singing and believing”.  It’s lyrically upbeat, hopeful and passionate, and very pleasing musically.  You get the feeling of Dashboard Confessional, Evan Taylor Jones, The Fray and others coming together in an unabashed pop-driven (scenic) sound.  Stead has a keen sense for songwriting, and Like A Fire is a strong second release.  It’s out now via iTunes and beyond (where you can also listen to a brand new remix of “Warmer With You”).  Go get it.

The Scenic Sound online:

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Weekendcore: Four Year Strong – “Bada Bing! Wit’ A Pipe!”

Bada Bing

Earlier I was thinkin’ about just how Boston-centric these few days are personally and otherwise.  Friday’s post featured the city’s Bellwire, as we did “Scenematography” for their new single “JAKL”.  My Toronto Blue Jays are in Boston playing the Red Sox (and losing, bah) and the weekend is bookended by Boston Marathon stuff, with Monday being the marathon itself and Friday being the third anniversary of the bombing.  All that said, why not let “Weekendcore” add to the theme?

Four Year Strong are from Worcester, Massachusetts – part of Greater Boston.  “Bada Bing! Wit A Pipe!” comes off Rise or Die Trying, which came out in 2007.  For me the pre-chorus is the standout, with its rapid-fire quiet-loud vocals building awesomely into the intro chorus.  It’s an apparent commentary on the scene, and overall is just the light-hearted pop-punk with a little something extra that Four Year Strong do (now without keyboardist Josh Lyford, of course).

Speaking of what Four Year Strong do, you can hear it on the entire Warped Tour this summer.  Warm up for that – oh, and while we’re Boston-centric the local date is July 13th in Mansfield, MA – with “Bada Bing! Wit A Pipe!”, and allow me to give mad props to the appearance of a San Jose Sharks jersey in the video (the parent team of the old AHL affiliate Worcester Sharks…RIP).  See I’m a Sharks fan, and I’m actually watching them play the Los Angeles Kings as I write this and…sorry, MUSIC:

Four Year Strong online:

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Interview: Dirty Hollywood

For his one-man rock project, Radley Lane – which is an awesome name itself – is known as Dirty Hollywood.  Lane indeed lives in Wyoming Hollywood so that’s fitting.  Debut EP Killed to Death came out yesterday, and is available on iTunes among elsewhere.  It brings to mind artists like Foo Fighters and Danko Jones, and Lane chatted with TPS about that and more.

You started as a drummer for artists like J*Davey and Ryan Leslie.  When was the moment that you said “I gotta become my own artist”?

I’ve been a drummer since I was about 11 years old and I played in every school band available and started bands with every friend that had an instrument… orchestras, jazz bands, garage bands.. then I got a bachelor’s degree in percussion and played in every performing group available… more orchestra, percussion ensembles, jazz bands, salsa bands, steel drum bands, Brazilian baterias, West African dance troops, weird found object experimental music bands, reggae bands, college rock bands.. and then professionally for major label artists.

A lot of great music happened during this time… but it was never balls out rock and roll and I had a hole in my heart that needed to be filled with distorted guitars and bashing drums.  When someone would direct me to play quieter or with less energy…. I’d do what they asked.. but think to myself “that seems like a mistake”… and “that’s not how I would do it”… and that was fine for their music.. but I just wanted to rock… and no one was letting me rock up to my potential.  At the same time I had already been deep into record producing.  In college I had bought a laptop and Pro Tools and watched YouTube videos to learn how to produce and record.  I constantly needed material to record so I started singing and songwriting as well as playing guitar and bass… piano was already a school requirement so I had a little of that too… I wrote songs so I would have stuff to record.. and as I got better at all of it I realized that I had songs and records that were actually pretty good.  I don’t know that there was a specific moment where I thought “I have to become my own artist” as opposed to “oh. I guess I am my own artist”.  After that happened I wanted to put all my focus and energy into pursuing it.

You recorded most instruments yourself for Killed to Death, but did enlist several guests including Michael Vincze of Mowgli’s fame.  Why did you pick who you did?

Well that was easy I just asked my friends!  HUGE THANKS to Michael Vincze, Andy Tubman, John Armstrong, Terah Gilbertson and Marc Aliana for putting their talents on these recordings.  And another HUGE THANKS to Christian James-Hand who co-produced “Killed to Death” with me and mixed everything.  All these friends are who I’ve played with live and they had come up with some really cool musical bits that I felt absolutely had to be included on the record.  For example, nobody needs or wants to hear me butcher a guitar solo right now.. maybe next year.. but for now I’ll call a friend.

Press for the EP has described Dirty Hollywood’s sound as “radio rock”.  Some people use that term negatively, but what makes you embrace it?

Well I’m a sucker for big hooks and catchy tunes… and all of my favorite bands are played on the radio.  If Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Royal Blood, Kings of Leon, Twenty One Pilots are “radio rock” bands then I want to be in that club… I don’t think that being “radio friendly” means the art has to suffer or its substance has to be watered down.  It just means that a lot of people like it or will like it.  If a band only wants a select few snobby music hipsters to like their music, that’s fine… I just have bigger goals, and a wider audience to entertain.  I feel strongly that all the songs on “Killed to Death” are “single” worthy and ready for any alt-rock or college radio station.  That’s why “Killed to Death” is only 4 songs.. I wanted them all to be able to hold their own on my first release.  I wanted to come out swinging… I don’t have a huge immediate fan base or audience so I need to win people over and the only way I know how to do that is to make the best music I can at the moment.

I’d say “My Name Is Love” is my favourite song on Killed to Death, it has so much swagger and is a fun listen.  What made you choose “Stay Up All Night” as the first single?  (Which is a good song in its own right.)

Thank you so much!  Yes I encourage everyone reading this to go listen to “My Name Is Love” right away!  Don’t even bother with the rest of this interview.. just go listen to it!  (Ed. note: Do both at the same time!)  When I first started playing these recordings for friends and mentors they were equally divided between those two songs as the first single… one reason I chose “My Name Is Love” as the second single is because if someone likes “Stay Up All Night” then they’re gonna like “My Name Is Love” as a follow-up… if someone likes “My Name Is Love” they might like “Stay Up All Night” as much but half the people will say “I like that first song better”.  They’re different styles from each other.. and I’d say they’re on opposite sides of the spectrum of Dirty Hollywood’s “sound”… it’s like.. Dirty Hollywood’s “sound” fits between those two songs.  I hope everyone likes both.

Any touring planned in support of Killed to Death?  What else is planned in Dirty Hollywood’s world for 2016?

More music all the time!  We’re playing shows in Los Angeles and then some West Coast touring this summer.  Hoping to add a lot more shows and get to the East Coast and even break into Canada?!  People of Canada!!!  Where should we play in your beautiful country???!!!  Realistically that may not be until the fall… and I may have to sleep on your couch.. I’m also recording the second EP that should be released later this year.  I wanted to get this first one out into the world so that there was music to point people to and then follow it up with another short but solid second EP.

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Weekendcore: The Scenic Sound – “Every Day That’s In Between”

Happy Valentine’s Day – or if you’re loveless, Singles Appreciation Day!  Sirius XM’s Alt Nation is doing an emo marathon if you’re the latter and have satellite radio, but otherwise – and either way, of course – this “Weekendcore” is for you!


The Scenic Sound
 are a Toronto-based pop act led by singer/songwriter Tim Stead.  Their 2014 debut EP Standing Still produced melodic, catchy and pretty songs that toned things down from Stead’s previous pop rock band The Ocean Buried.  However, one song brought bigger guitar in, and kicked up the tempo to make the EP’s biggest rocker: “Every Day That’s In Between”.  It sings about getting to the point where love can blossom, with a keyboard providing the main riffs that contrast beautifully with the distorted guitar.  The drums dominate the chorus, and get that distant, echo effect in the first part of each verse.

The Scenic Sound are set to release debut full-length Like A Fire in March, and with their latest bio describing them as a blend of “Soul, Pop, Indie, Rock and R&B” it’ll be interesting to hear what it sounds like (more eclectic, it would seem).  In the meantime, grab your special someone and listen to this little banger of a love song.

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Album Review: Evan Taylor Jones – The Sunray Sessions

Much of the music we cover on TPS (punk, metal, etc.) has no chill.  Orlando, Florida’s Evan Taylor Jones has chill.  His latest soul-infused rock comes in the form of EP The Sunray Sessions, a six-song effort that follows-up 2013 full-length Songs From an Old Soul.  

The Sunray Sessions begins with “Over Your Shoulder”, a current free download on Jones’ Soundcloud.  Featuring a palm mute-driven single-note main riff, it’s dark and bluesy sound makes for a badass opener.  Up next is the first of two covers, Queens of the Stone Age’s “Smooth Sailing”.  It stays pretty true to the original, but in my opinion improves it.  While the original has a very lo-fi sound, Jones’ version is fuller.  His voice and the beautiful harmonies provided by his female counterpart really make it sing, and the horns and that 4:00 mark…eee.  It’s really, really good.  “Closer Together” follows, and drastically changes the mood with a happy ditty – yeah “ditty”, trust me – about connecting with the person you love.  I really dig the guitar solo, which has that funky wah-like (or is it actually a wah?  I don’t know) effect that’s always great.It’s track four of The Sunray Sessions where the first no-chill moment happens. “Happy To Groove With You” has a faster intro, but then pulls back a touch – only speed-wise though – for a bombastic number that really feels like a jam session.  The next song is the EP’s second and final cover, the Zac Brown Band’s “Homegrown”.  It’s also pretty true to the original, and considering ZBB’s version really lends itself to Jones’ sound it’s a good choice.  Much like “Smooth Sailing”, I think Jones improves it too.  Finally, “Alike” closes out the EP with Jones’ richest, most resonant vocal performance being the track’s standout.  It features killer, wailing synths too – and a bunch of other cool stuff.  Much like the song’s subjects, they’re made for each other.

Evan Taylor Jones has a lot going on, and it’s all good.  Rock, soul, funk, and blues make appearances, with vocals reminiscent of Darius Rucker and the late Haydain Neale of Jacksoul, and a sound that evokes Wide Mouth Mason, Roxy & The Underground Soul Sound and the Dave Matthews Band.  The Sunray Sessions is live by the way and available now, so go rock the groove.

Evan Taylor Jones online: 

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Weekendcore: Story of the Year – Page Avenue


In the post-winter-break post I mentioned wanting a regular, time/day-specific feature.  Since TPS isn’t updated every day I wanted to create something with “appointment tuning”, something you could rely on and know when to check for.  (You can also subscribe to the new TPS RSS feed, it’s on the right-hand side with everything else!)  That feature is “Weekendcore”, a throwback-themed post that just remembers something cool – a little light, nostalgic reading for your weekend.  Look for it either Saturday or Sunday each week, and it begins on this Sunday with Story of the Year’s debut album Page Avenue.

The St. Louis, Missouri former five-piece (bassist Adam Russell has since left) dropped their first full-length in 2003 on Maverick Records.  Page Avenue’s assault of emo and post-hardcore was well-timed as that type of music was of course killin’ it back then.  Opener “And The Hero Will Drown” starts with a great build before Dan Marsala jumps in with dueling screaming/clean vocals.  Singles “Until The Day I Die” and “Anthem Of Our Dying Day” follow and are obviously solid, and so on and so on.  My two favourite songs on the album are probably “Sidewalks” (which was the final single) and penultimate track “Razorblades”.  Overall though, Page Avenue is a beast of a debut and still one of the better albums I own.

Since Page Avenue, Story of the Year have released three more albums and are working on their fifth.  They left Maverick after sophomore effort In the Wake of Determination and went to Epitaph, having since left that label as well.  They actually released Page Avenue: Ten Years and Counting in 2013, a re-imagining that gives the album a stripped-down, evocative feel.  I put the original on the other day and remembered how awesome it is, so I knew Page Avenue would be the first “Weekendcore” feature.  What a solid effort huh?

Story of the Year online:

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Album Review: Don’t Believe In Ghosts – Change Your Mind


Steven Nathan used to front New York City indie rockers Man On Earth.  He’s now struck out on his own with a solo project called Don’t Believe In Ghosts, and released the debut EP Change Your Mind.  It’s part one of the two-part EP Change Your Mind, Change Your Luck, and provides six songs of largely straight-ahead rock with complementary sonic flourishes.

Change Your Mind kicks off with “Run”, the EP’s biggest rocker that features a solid, choppy main riff with some nice delay on it.  Things slow down next with “Nothing I Could Do Is Ever Good Enough For You”, which follows up the title lyric with some nice, low-end phased synth in a barely there chorus.  “The Way I See It” comes after, with sassy vocals and call-and-response riffing that remind me of a more subdued Danko Jones.

The second half of Change Your Mind is where more of an epic feel comes in.  “Pick Up The Pieces” is track four, an inspirational number with a mix of clean and squealy keys.  Big vocals sing over simply strummed power chords to deliver the song’s positive message.  More clean keys follow in “What Took So Long”, and they’re accompanied by awesome, orchestral-sounding ones.  The drums and guitar kick in for the chorus, and all-in-all “What Took So Long” is a dark, ominous and epic 4:15 that fades out with a guitar solo that gives way to one final clean synth chord.  Finally, closer “Everyone I Know Is Going Crazy” brings the tempo back up with some of the EP’s best catchiness.  Aside from the main riff in “Run”, this song really provides the quirkiest moments.  It’s a perfect closer.

With Change Your Mind, Steven Nathan has put out well-written rock songs that never sacrifice melody.  The synth provides some great extras, and nicely complements the largely no-frills sound.  Having “What Took So Long” and “Everyone I Know Is Going Crazy” as the penultimate and final tracks respectively is a great combo too.  Song placement is almost as important as songs themselves I think, and they work really well where they are.  (For that matter, “Run” works well as the opener too.)  We’ll have to see about Change Your Luck, but Change Your Mind is definitely a good start for Don’t Believe In Ghosts.

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Album Review: Plastic Rhino – Recondition


Back in August TPS premiered “Big Man Baby”, the first single from Plastic Rhino’s new EP Recondition.  The album itself came out last week, and follows up last year’s Let’s Begin and 2013’s Confessions of a Nobody.  Like the EP it follows up, Recondition was produced by Tom Chandler and expands on the Los Angeles duo’s nineties vibe in even heavier fashion.

Recondition starts off with the aforementioned “Big Man Baby”, and to describe it we might as well refer to what was said in the premiere: “…is about being with a man who thinks he’s all that, and not being who he thinks you should be.  I love how the first part of the verses is just drums and very subtle palm-muting – that’s my favourite part of the song.  There’s also a great bass-laden interlude before the solo, and the chorus features wailing vocals and the refrain of “you always had to be the big man baby”.  Also as pointed out in the review, how about that potential double meaning in the title!?  Up next is “H2S”, which features some seriously low bass and guitar riffs that focus on two notes and descending.  “Like It” features verses that sound like uptempo blues with the sass of country’s (!) bad girl moments, a la Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert.  A soaring chorus sings about wanting to be loved as is, with the passion evident in frontwoman Atara Gottschalk’s vocals.

Recondition’s fourth song is probably my favourite.  “M.A.D.” is…spelled out for you d’uh!  It’s a brooding track that sings about the state of the world and who’s doing what, with lyrics like “try to make a difference/try not to explode” and “get going/we still haven’t blown up the world”.  Guitar work where every part has its own space to breathe works really well in combination.  “Make It Heavy” starts well with building drums before becoming – at least in the second verse – a seeming battle cry for the music Plastic Rhino perform: heavy-ass rock.  Overall I’d say it’s a song about making shit happen, regardless of what that may be.  It also features a technically simple but well-effected solo that’s pretty cool.  “Queen Crimson” is the penultimate track, a raucous number that sends both middle fingers towards the subject being sung to.  The chorus has great layered, call-and-response vocals and Gottschalk’s pre-solo spoken word piece of “and it’s just best to stay the fuck away from me”.  Finally, Recondition ends with “The Ballad Of The Last Rhino”, which slows things down but still features a big sound.  The six-minute track features the refrain of “’cause one-for-one is all we have/and all we have is one”, and just under four minutes in gets ca-razy and suddenly becomes a punk song.  It’s really an appropriate album ender for this band, actually.

Plastic Rhino play rock that’s loud and sweaty.  Atara Gottschalk’s vocals have range for days and a howl that would make any vocalist blush.  Jack Glazer’s guitar really keeps it no-frills, making use of effects at times but largely just letting the instrument be its natural heavy self.  If you like artists like Veruca Salt, Fireflight, Three Days Grace and Breaking Benjamin, Plastic Rhino are definitely for you.  Recondition is out now, so go get it.

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Scenematography: Whisky Stain – “The Lord’s Revolver”

Nottingham/London, England duo Whisky Stain are putting out their new single “The Lord’s Revolver” a week from today.  If you’re in the UK, you may have caught it in Sky TV promos for season three of Ray Donovan.  The accompanying video is out, so why not do a little “Scenematography” – you know, before I inevitably fall asleep on the couch while trying to stay up for the whole Jays/Angels game because damn you Pacific time! – and give it a watch and breakdown?

The video for “The Lord’s Revolver” starts with several people wearing scrambled TVs on their heads while the band plays.  There’s a quick shot of a woman sitting in a room, before she walks out to the main scene for verse two.  Then she’s back in the room, and then for verse three (what I’m pretty sure is) a clone of herself walks up to meet her standing, then kisses her.  After that, the TVs the others have on their heads actually unscramble and show something.  The girl holds herself for a time, the TVs scramble again and all the while shots of the band playing cut in.  It’s a simple video, but an effective one.

“The Lord’s Revolver” itself has a gospel tinge, with great fuzzy bass and not really a chorus – just four verses (with the first repeated at the end) and breakdowns in between.  If you like Royal Blood and Death From Above 1979, Whisky Stain is a band you’ll dig.  You can pre-order the single on iTunes, and in the meantime here’s the video for “The Lord’s Revolver”:

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Interview: Pullman Standard


The term “power rock” is pretty badass yeah?  That’s what Los Angeles’ Pullman Standard have been called, and when you hear their epic-sounding music it makes sense.  The band have been releasing songs periodically over the past several months, and released their newest single “Starting Static” last week.  In fact, TPS had that premiere – and now, the follow-up chat!

Please say the band is named after actor Bill Pullman.  C’mon though right!?

As much as I’d like to say yes and I think Bill Pullman played one hell of an American president in the movie Independence Day, the band is actually named after the Pullman Standard rail car manufacturing company founded by George Pullman back in the 1800s and pretty much dominated the industry during the railroad boom of the late 1800s into the early 1900s.  I like trains and I like history, seemed like a good fit.

Having been together several years, you’ve gone through some lineup changes that are largely attributed to the rigors of touring.  What’s been the best and worst thing you’ve experienced on tour to this point?

The band started in 2008 the original lineup stayed intact until 2012 which is when we started touring heavily.   You see a lot of cool things on the road but you also come across a lot of obstacles: at least seven flat trailer tires, two flat van tires.  One of the craziest things was when we were driving across the state of Missouri and all the electricity on the highway was nonexistent.  There was heavy rain and a lot of wind to the point where the van was getting pushed violently.  There were only a few cars on the road that we could even see because the rain was coming down so hard.  A couple miles outside of Kansas City we ended up getting a motel room and once we checked in, turned on the TV to discover a major tornado had just torn through the town we had driven through on the way to Kansas City.

You’ve been releasing songs periodically over the past few months that were worked on while touring.  Is it hard to write on the road, or is sitting in the van for hours just like a studio when it comes down to it?

Not only do you see so many things when you’re on the road but you experience so much, you go through so many emotions.  Sometimes you can’t write fast enough.  We made it a point to always try out new songs and new ideas during our sound checks and when you’re playing a different show every single day that’s a lot of sound checks to try out a lot of different material.

New single “Starting Static” has more synth going on than other Pullman Standard songs.  Are you hoping to have more of that in the future, or was that just “let’s see how this sounds”?

Pullman Standard has always had an ever evolving sound.  It’s always been a part of the ideals of the band to not stay stagnant with just one sound but try new things and keep moving forward with what feels right.  Although a couple of our new tunes that we demoed on the road are very synth heavy some of the other tunes are a lot lighter and more acoustic, and a few are very much more rock ‘n’ roll and guitar and bass heavy.

A running theme in your music is an epic feel.  Is that the band’s defining feature?

On our last EP Edge of the Clouds we were going for songs that were more anthemic – stuff that you could see being sung by massive crowds of people, songs that had choruses that were easy to sing to and easy to remember.  I would hope that our songs get stuck in your head and you can’t stop singing them, not because of simplicity but because it just feels right – it feels good to sing them.

Any concrete album plans for “Starting Static” and the latest songs?

Absolutely we are planning on heading down to Vybe Studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where “Starting Static” was recorded and working with Tai Vu, who co-produced the song as well as engineered it.  We have about 20 fully finished demos that we are ready to pick and choose from and turn into another EP – possibly a full-length pending on our budget.

You’re now taking time off from touring for Timmy D’s health reasons, and there have been recent personnel changes too.  Besides “Starting Static” now being out, what does the next while hold for Pullman Standard?

We had been on the road for 14 out of the last 18 months.  Fatigue had a lot to do with worsening in my body’s condition.  The band is moving forward with doing a short tour in October out to the Midwest to promote the “Starting Static” single as well as raise money for the recording of the new EP.

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