I didn’t have any “resolutions” this year because for the most part, they’re a waste of time. I still keep hearing some complain about the diets or plans they’ve had which have been failures. I don’t do all that. My only goal every year is to be better than I was the previous year and so far so good. Staying on top of projects and taking on new ones. Challenging but hey, once you complete one goal you need to set another or else you’re remain stagnant, like my neighbor’s pool water. If you do that then all you’ll get is mosquitoes sucking the life out of you.
So I think I’m up for the challenge that is Eric Slick‘s new album Palisades (Egghunt Records). As a member of Dr. Dog, Slick has known perks with the success of the band. He’s also played as the drummer for Adrian Belew and was a part of Lithuania. Here though, Slick starts fresh and literally from the bottom, if you can call it that. Palisades is actually his second solo release which follows up the 2014’s Out Of Habit cassette. But this sophomore album is what’s showcasing as his explosive debut. Drummers aren’t usually at the forefront and success out from behind the drum kit only happens for a select few (Dave Grohl, Phil Collins, etc.) but Slick has already proven himself. He’s not afraid to cut loose on this quick paced opener “You Became The Light.” He sticks to a standard verse-chorus-verse formula and takes it to the bridge, but the large than life sound he gets from all the instruments is far from cacophonous, delivered impeccably and controlled. While his press release may read, “..a record that washes over you with both the power of a hurricane and the peace of light filtering through the trees,” I wouldn’t go that far but he’s able to pull a variation of styles, piece them all together and make it all sound singularly cohesive! He’s able to slow down the pace on “The Dirge” and “No” holding onto that expanse, and then later create a beautifully orchestrated track with your basic drums-guitar-bass-keyboard instrumentation on “You Are Not Your Mind” that would make Queen proud. In all honesty, this one song is what I find intriguing and is possibly the peak of the album that will have you wondering how Slick was able to incorporate so much beauty in just 3:46 minutes.
It doesn’t stop there though. Musically, “Evergreen” could have Slick acting as ringmaster to the rest of the world, that’s only because the world in 2017 is a circus. And “Slow Burn,” it’s captivating with the opening keyboard making way for the wall of guitars and rhythms that momentarily smother listeners with washes of sound. Eric Slick isn’t afraid. He isn’t afraid to take chances and reach into the deep corners of his mine to make Palisades such an amazing listen.
There isn’t much I can say about Tara Jane O’Neil… OK that’s not necessarily true because there’s a LOT I can say about her. In the early 90’s she became part of musical underground lore as a part of the Louisville, KY band Rodan. As part of the seminal group, they redefined a genre with alternating time signatures and creative dynamics. After the dissolution of the band she drifted with other artists, later collaborating with some then began recording her own material. Her self-titled release (Gnomonsong) is her 8th solo album and it seems she’s honed and refined her skills into what is possibly her most beautiful work to date. Her harmonies and beautiful voice on “Flutter” are accentuated only by the guitars she’s accompanied with. O’Neil can make it seem effortless. To simply categorize her as a folk artist wouldn’t seem fair considering her musical history but the way she creates beauty with “Blow” is just astounding. The ease and flow of the soft and tantalizing rhythm section assist in bringing her gorgeous voice to the surface. The song structure itself is one that would make Carole King blush, having her wish she thought of it first.
I’m not certain if I can pick anything from this release as a favorite, with one song better than the previous. There’s the sultry “Sand,” the easy flowing “Laugh,” but it’s “Great” that’s the one that puts a smile on my face. It’s as if O’Neil is left breathless after singing the opening “Holding onto life at these ends of time / what matters now anyway?” over a slowly-paced rhythm and sparse guitars that never move faster than a light summer breeze. Oh how O’Neil makes it all so easy and simple, but that’s only because she’s mastered her art. That much is obvious from the allure of her self-titled release here.
In all seriousness, I’m at a loss with Sixo. Why? Because it doesn’t seem like he fucks around. Scotty Trimble is a former professional motocross racer turned indie rap producer (in actuality, both careers ran concurrently) and here on his third release The Odds Of Free Will (Fake Four Inc.) we see yet another producer whose track manipulation is capable at handling more than one genre. While Sixo is known as a Hip Hop / electronic producer, some of his music defies singular genres. He’s able to create tracks that are fit for any singer or rapper. Although, one thing is predominant; there’s a sadness lingering around many of the tracks written here. Musically, it usually sits around a brooding timbre that’s accented by the artist he’s working with. “Eye Of The Needle” feels this way. Singer Grace Park does her best to stay on point with it as well. The sweetness of her voice makes that sadness bearable, it’s strength fighting through it…if that makes any sense. But then there’s “Christmas Past” where that sadness is overshadowed by a haunting dream on which Ceschi raps/sings over. Ceschi can make you cry with his words, accenting the music he’s highlighting, storming through in a controlled state.
But it’s Gregory Pepper that changes things up. The mellow work Sixo pieces together on “John Connor” – an ode to Terminator – is where Pepper can sing his heart out beautifully, although the cynicism of his words shouldn’t be lost on you. He’s one artist I’d like to hear record an entire album using strictly Hip Hop production. But it’s not all fun and games though, as that Grayskul / Dark Time Sunshine man Onry Ozzborn, takes the angst Sixo puts in his music and adds his words to it perfectly on “War Games.” Misconstrued love? Misunderstandings? Possibly, but Sixo and Ozzborn leave you wallowing in anxiety. His instrumentals like “Nothing’s Perfect” and “Nothing And Hell” are beautiful but again, dark, emotive, sad, etc. and require repeated listen. Other heavy hitters are found here as well like Josh Martinez holding things down on “Fire In The Sky,” or Awol One on the bottom heavy “Starlight City, which suits his baritone perfectly. You can’t forget those wordsmiths like Open Mike Eagle, Milo and Mike 9 as well. This is a lot to take in and I feel like I’m downing. The only thing is, I keep coming back to The Odds Of Free Will in an attempt to get more water in my lungs.