2015 saw the release of a number of albums hitting and missing the mark. It also had albums that were so far under the radar you may have missed them, kind of like the Orphans in a gangland meeting in the Bronx. Here we set on a course for adventure, driving and listening to music by relatively unknown bands that either gain or lose my attention. Occasionally these CDs are submitted with descriptions which include RIYL (Recommended If You Like) comparisons that sometimes becomes an abrasion for some.
Red Ray Frazier – Blood In The Water E.P.
This record isn’t very surprising. Red Ray Frazier follows a blueprint well established by a number of artists, taking up an R&B style familiarized by the likes of Maxwell, to the rock grooves of artists like Lenny Kravitz and Ben Harper. Focusing on a style of music by such contemporary artists could have clearly marked him for a musical death but the music he brings together is good enough to set him apart from the imitators. The title track here showcases Ray’s artistry as a seasoned musician with an added Hip Hop vibe, while “Follow Me,” well, that track there slowly builds momentum into one helluva beast! One thing that gets my attention there is how openly whimsical he can be on “If You Let Me.” This one could be one of those start-of-summer jams you need every year, when you can drive with the top down. My mood shifts after listening to this album, he gets the positive juices flowing. This one is a win in my book.
The Florals – Self-Titled (Poptek)
I wasn’t sure what to make of the band just on face value, but I’m glad I looked deeper into the band’s self-titled release rather than just feeling it was just a band with a cutsie name. The opening “The Blues & The Grays” clearly establish the female fronted band as pop powerhouse without filler. In all honesty, the band doesn’t remotely sound like a specific genre or have the RIYL prerequisite so many other bands come with. Their charm comes from a stylistic blend of 90s college radio and what “indie” rock should sound like. The Florals will leave a sweet taste on you your palette and you’ll probably want to listen to them over and over again.
Revolt Revolt – Wild Unraveling
I was pretty stoked when I saw this one in my pile. These guys are fans of Mark Lanegan and the like? Sign me up! Let’s give Wild Unraveling a spin. “Catch The Light” embodies that aesthetic from the get-go. Slowly driven song with an almost-Americana feel to them and a gruff vocalist that sounds like he knows his way around a fifth of whiskey. Great song. Unfortunately for me, that’s where it gradually went into another direction song after song. “Wilderness” was mellow enough but seemed to lack the dimensions the opening track was held together with. It meanders along, with changes in dynamics but no clear vision of where it should end. This is probably where my attention began to waver, with the remaining tracks bordering on jam sessions recorded for no reason.
Emily Gold – Recluse
This one here, may be a bit of an anomaly. The included press release made an effort to compare this L.A. artist’s music to that of 80s shoegazing & dream pop artists like My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and the like. I’m never sure if this kind of association is such a good thing but I guess for her it works in her favor. It begins with “Drowning” which give semblances of Elizabeth Frazier’s sweet vocal delivery, while the title track is insanely nostalgic giving you semblances of Chapterhouse’s Whirlpool. But then there’s “Cyanide Lollipop,” which gives a glimmer of groups like Opal and Mazzy Star. With such an eclectic array of musical influences you would think Recluse would suffer from an identity crisis but the crazy thing is, this all works to Gold’s benefit.
Where does this leave all the musicians here? Possibly in a positive direction for some and an aimless one for others. What I do know is I look forward to hearing what’s to come next in 2016.