“Built It Up” by The End Men
Combining the deep, dark growl of a bluesman who’s been to Hell and back again with a crunching blues guitar and a swinging beat, The End Men put forth a sound that simply must be heard to be believed. Based out of musical hotbed that is Brooklyn, NY, the power duo comprised of Matthew Hendershot (vocals, guitar, bass) and Livia Ranalli (drums, percussions, vocals) knows what it does best and goes right for the jugular on their debut EP Build It Up. The real treat is delving into Hendershot’s raspy lyrics – a wild ride in their own right. “It ain’t who you are,” he sings on “Build It Up,” “It’s who you wanna be.” The End Men want to be a couple of beatniks who play down and dirty blues – a risk to be sure, but one that pays off in spades. With their debut full-length album due sometime this year, The End Men is one band you’ll certainly want to keep an eye (and ear) out for. -Matt Ascone, Staff Writer
“Dark Eyed Gypsy” by Wakah Chan
Sludge-core, electro pop-rock, dubstep–Welcome to the age of genres, where metal goes down on electronica and folk is taking hand jobs from punk. Now don’t take this the wrong way, I love musical intercourse, but sometimes I just want to cuddle. That’s why when I hear the sultry jazz of Wakah Chan I feel like an enlightened virgin (ok, maybe just enlightened.) The Asbury Park-based jazz fusion group has been promoting its community-based humble approach to the arts scene since their inception in 2009. With the addition of vocalist Chloe Demos this past year, Wakah Chan has said to of finally found their sound. And I can’t agree more. Demos’ vocals are the definition of sexy. Her soulful, yet fiery voice adds a powerful and passionate presence to the group. Wakah Chan has already started the year on great vibes, winning the Asbury Music Award for “Top Jam/Groove Band” and recently releasing a 5-song EP, The Art of Compromise, a great listen on a sunny afternoon. Smooth tracks such as “Dark Eyed Gypsy” are bound to put you in a good mood. The sax effortlessly anchors the tracks together as drummer Gabriel Bertolo holds a steady, yet funky beat giving each song a bit of groovy flare. This cohesive project is just as simple as it is evocative. -Jeanne Crump, Contributor
“Watching My Breath” by Town Hall
As its title might suggest, Town Hall’s Sticky Notes & Paper Scraps (Town Hall’s first full-band incarnation, listing 16 contributors) is a veritable collage of intimate odds and ends—a touching journey through dresser drawers and compartmentalized feelings voiced in a blend of gorgeously meandering harmonies, sonic textures incongruous to the folk genre, and evocative lyrics. In standout opener “Just Watching My Breath,” Town Hall offers perhaps their best example of the intertwining male-female harmonies that inhabit the EP. The voices of vocalists Stefan Weiner and Phoebe Ryan flutter like butterflies suspended in song, occasionally brushing wings in mid-air to create stunning harmonies that cross paths at just the right times. The mingling voices team up to promise “When I find you, I will take you far away,” evidencing the prevailing sense of idealized escapism that makes the longing lyrics sink in like the tattoo ink memento in “Charlie,” the dialed-down album closer.
The following track, “Alright,” introduces a slight taste of distortion to the EP’s sound palette, utilizing what sounds like slick guitar tapping technique reminiscent of math-rock band Maps & Atlases from guitarist Jesse Kranzler. When Weiner confesses, “I learned to love the wires in your eyes/all the many miles of pipes buried underneath the ground,” the listener becomes grounded in the roots that anchor Town Hall’s wonderful songs. “Pandora” reverts back to the band’s folksy pedigree, bringing out banjo and detailing the contents of both drawers and minds. “Mary A. Longden” appears as a new character in the mix, whose story is told atop Kranzler’s delayed and distorted guitar eighth notes that precariously ring out as if dangling from a table’s edge and poised to crumble to the floor.
Sticky Notes & Paper Scraps proves to be an album of intersections—of ideas, pipes, wires, winding-river harmonies, lush instrumentation (mandolins, cellos, clarinet, assorted orchestral strings, omnichord and honeytone among others), lives, and loves—and one characterized by the frailty of such constructions. The band erects their EP with a gentle grace, and while what they leave behind is beautiful, it serves as a reminder of the fragility of it all. As “Charlie” reminds: hearts break, friends fade like t-shirts, and lovers can fall in love…or fall down the stairs. Even tattooed skin withers away eventually, but Town Hall stresses the beauty of perpetual impermanence in this fine effort. -Joshua Holland, Contributor
“Bleach” by The Lips
Anthony M. Laido, better known by his stage name, The Lips, is the epitome of DIY music , booking his own shows, brokering his own record deals (Lillian Records), and playing every instrument heard on his recordings, which he personally engineers. The Oakland, NJ Indie-Punk produces an alluring wall of sound akin to that of the North Hollywood, California Garage-Rock duo Heavy Young Heathens that’s earned the one man band more than 20 song writing awards, including seven for such a reputable organization as VH1. The Lips self-titled debut is set to drop in mid 2012 and will be fronted by “Bleach,” a two-minute rage-tune that follows the “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus,” template. –Chris Rotolo, The Creator
“First Day On The Job” by Joe Miller
Recently, Joe Miller has emerged as one of Asbury’s most captivating solo artists, meshing vividly descriptive images of life and the spectrum of human emotion with minimalist fret-work and tempo alteration, most recently on the song writer’s new single “First Day On The Job,” an eerie piece about a protagonist going postal so he can feel alive again. However, Miller is able to achieve a form of artistic Stockholm Syndrome for his character as the listener is able to relate to this flawed being, accepting his actions rather than fearing them, a feat only the most talented of writers are able to accomplish…check it out below. – Chris Rotolo, The Creator