Tag Archives: ep

Blades of Steel to release “Frontal Full Nelson & the Boxcar Bolsheviks” EP

When Johnathan Stoddart moved to Calgary in 1999, the hip-hop scene was virtually non-existent in the city. In the fifteen years since he first set foot in the city, the scene has grown, and he has been front and centre for the ride. Stoddart made a name for himself as Ricca Razor Sharp, building a reputation as one of Calgary’s “go to” MC’s.

After building a solo career, Ricca has put his concentration solely on a collaboration between friends he has met along the way. Ricca is now part of a five piece crew, Blades of Steel, that continues to make their marks in a scene they helped cultivate.

Flanked by bassist Pastrami, Ricca Razor Sharp sits inside a bar in McKenzie Towne, crediting his band mates with his individual growth as an artist, and the production of a record every single individual in the band is happy with. With the help of the second MC Soleo, Shoez at drums, Roop at keyboards, guitarist Ru, and bassist Pastrami, Blades of Steel have created a 5-track EP that shows a progression of sound, without a regression in a music that has earned them a loyal following of folks who hit the clubs to have the time of their lives.

Their first EP released last year Like A Calf in a Tube Sock, was according to their new bassist, “a little more rock,” while their new release Frontal Full Nelson and the Boxcar Bolsheviks is defined by Pastrami as ,”a big shift towards the funk.” The minor change in genre is not something Blades of Steel fear, what matters is not the maintenance of a signature sound, it is what the songs do for their loyal fans.

“The energy within the band is why we have our fans; I don’t think our fans are here because we maintain a sound,” claimed Pastrami, whose MC agreed with the sentiment by adding, “I don’t think we are sitting down writing some style we don’t want to play just in order to fit in some niche.”

The stage is a different world; you come to this place of tranquility… as soon as you stare in the crowd, nothing else matters.

What carries the strictest of importance within the group is the fun they have on stage. No matter what personal problems they have in their private lives, or how much they drank the night before, once they hit the stage they express love and an energy that seeps into the soul of the crowd. In return, the audience leaves the show knowing they experienced a performance they will never forget. They went to a show and had the type of fun they often take for granted.

“The stage is a different world; you come to this place of tranquility… as soon as you stare in the crowd, nothing else matters,” said a reflective Pastrami a former fan who has had a front row seat in both worlds. He knows what Blades of Steel creates, and how they create it.

The group has created a diverse collection of songs that draws different personalities and tastes into their group. Blades of Steel favourites like H.E.M.P, and Do You In the 80s have become staples of their shows, but with the release of Frontal Full Nelson, fans will be drawn to new tracks that sound like music created by the love child of George Clinton, and Grandmaster Flash. Tracks like the opener So Fast, and the party track The Mexico Song will soon act as signature Blades of Steel tracks.

On May 31st, fans of Blades of Steel will know what to expect, and those expectations will be matched with a bone shaking energy that has created, and maintain a legend within the local hip-hop scene.

Blades of Steel “Frontal Full Nelson & the Boxcar Bolsheviks” EP Release
May 31 @ Local 522 – Show Details

Open Air – Extended Play

During the 1:06 instrumental introduction of Open Air’s newly released EP, I swear that I had a flashback to 1977. Suddenly I was 15 again, (long-hair, bad attitude and all), hanging at a friend’s house, doing bong hits and listening to tunes.

“Pulling from their musical influences, which include Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Jet and The Answer, Open Air brings back everything that was wonderful about 1970’s Brit Rock, but with an updated, modern taste.” So states the band’s website and clearly they have achieved their goal if my opening statement is anything to go by.

One of the interesting things about getting older is that one sees things go round and come back again, often repeating in cycles over a span of decades. Open Air is treading ground that has been trod before – in some cases with excellent results. When I first cranked Open Air through the Behringers the band that came to mind was Black Crowes, a band who had success in the early nineties – the singles from “Shake Your Money Maker” are staples on classic rock radio today.

Open Air’s newly released EP brings that same energy back with superb production that rocks hard with plenty of sparkle and enough bottom end to kick you squarely in your tender parts. After setting the tone with the introduction the band kicks it into gear with “Snake Charmer” the tune that brought to mind the Black Crowes reference. From this point it is clear that the riff is the thing which is hardly surprising considering the band’s list of influences.

The EPs next track, “New Design” rocks hard, bordering on metal, and is sure to get your head banging. The tune features some of the hottest wah-tinged lead work you’ll hear anywhere in any era. The frenetic pacing of this track really sets up a dramatic and effective mood swing as the EP moved to its next track, “Preacher Man”, a slower paced epic tribute to mid-70’s guitar greatness. The final track is the EPs lead single, “Golden Times”, a frolic in more hard-rocking, groove-riffing goodness.

If there is a seminary of 70’s hard rock then Open Air graduates with an M.Div. – they are masters of divination of all that made hard rock and the birth of metal in the 70’s great. Superb melody, songwriting, fretwork and production make this a release well worth your time and energy. 5/5.

Open Air - Extended Play

It is with great pleasure that Open Air and Indie403 present the official track listing for the Extended Play EP.

  1. Introduction
  2. Snake Charmer
  3. New Design
  4. Preacher Man
  5. Golden Times

Check out Open Air as Indie403‘s Artist Of The Month for April and for additional information on their CD Release Show.

Kyley Styles – “One Short of a Six Pack”

In anticipation of writing this review I checked out Kyley Styles’s Facebook page and was immediately struck by the line accompanying his profile pic: “Life is tough. Write a song.”  What struck me upon seeing this is the context it gives the EP’s lyrics which focus primarily on the perils of human relationships. That isn’t to say that they are dry, boring or the sort of navel-gazing drivel we get from some indie/alt acts – Styles presents his view of the world with tongue firmly planted in cheek but still manages to touch the heart.

The EP gets off to a kick-ass start with the infectious “Eye of the Beholder”, a groovy hook-laden tune that reminds me of little-known Canadian indie act Barstool Prophets, who had some brief success in the mid-90’s with the song, “Paranoia”. Stylistically (bad pun intended) these two tunes are of a kind and that is definitely a compliment. In fact, this track would have been my choice for release to radio, which is not to say that “Halo”, the track that was released to radio, is unworthy. It’s simply true for me that “Beholder” is a whole body groove out, head-banging, air-guitar, sing-along endorphin rush.  That, my friends, is worth the price of admission, especially at $4.99 from iTunes!

The balance of the EP is equally satisfying in different ways, although the tone softens somewhat on tracks 2, 3 and 5. Upon first listen I have to admit to being a little confused about what genre Styles fits into; however, on several repeat listens this became less and less of a concern due in large part, I believe, to the fact that Styles is the songwriter and the band all wrapped up in one: with the exception of drums on track 1 and Uncle Bill’s violin, Styles plays all the instruments on the EP himself. As a dabbler in home recording and a hack at multi-instrumentation I can tell you that is no small feat. Being the single creative force behind a project is really, really risky: when it works it can be magic but when it doesn’t…

Fortunately for Kyley Styles it works perfectly: to this ear the key weapon in the Styles arsenal is his ability to create memorable hooks. Lots of us can play a few chords, hum a melody, add a lyric and call it a song but few can weave the elements of a great song/great performance/great recording into an emotional experience that is memorable. What strikes me most about Styles’s songwriting ability is his sense of phrasing and rhythm, key elements in creating a memorable hook and it’s the hooks that, well, hook us (my editor is cringing).

The bottom line is that I love One Short of a Six Pack, and that is saying something coming from a middle-aged metal-head who doesn’t list indie/alt rock amongst his top 3 genres. Head on over to iTunes and invest $4.99 in some endorphin-firing rock ‘n’ roll. You’ll be glad you did.

p.s.  Once you buy the EP make sure you head over to the Kyley Styles website to download the accompanying .pdf EP booklet. Do that Here.

Kyley Styles - "One Short of a Six Pack"

I Am Machi – “Mammal Pants”

We hear a lot about band chemistry: how well members work together, how in-synch they are and whether they seem like a good fit. So when we hear the words “husband and wife duo”, we immediately assume there will be some real chemistry in their music. In the case of Edmonton-based I Am Machi, our assumptions are proven right and their debut EP Mammal Pants shows that some couples really do make sweet music together.

Jileane and Nathan Stokland discovered their musical and romantic chemistry while playing together in their first band, A Little Project. Now married and enjoying their wedded bliss, the duo has created I Am Machi and a fantastic four-track EP. It’s not what you might expect from a married couple; the general stereotype for “couple rock” is acoustic folk, not a very heavy or noisy rock sound. I Am Machi is different. In two words, they rock. With Nathan on guitar and Jileane on drums, the band is small in size but huge in sound, combining sweet guitar riffs and drums to create a really solid and passion-filled album.

The album doesn’t waste any time in getting to the good stuff. It kicks off with the opening track “8-8-4, Oh My!” and this is where we get our first taste of the band’s solid rock feel. Guitar, drums and vocals all come together without any effort, and there’s some super band chemistry at play here. It takes a really good partnership to be able to play this well together, and whether a result of the members’ relationship or something more deep-rooted and natural, it’s something special that can’t be ignored.

I Am Machi brings a distorted, garagey feel to their music, something they call “noise rock” but is a lot more than that. They sound perfectly imperfect, casual and unpolished without being sloppy, and this skill really deserves a lot of credit. They’ve got big sound and lots of diversity in their music, a sign of some major talent and huge potential as future stars. The band names Wintersleep and Mother Mother as major influences, and they definitely have the same sort of feel in songs like “Dance Like a Russian Sailor!” and “Snakes and Ladders”. You might also hear some Bloc Party in their instrumental bits, and even a slight hint of Tool or Chevelle in their heavier moments. This could be due in part to Nathan’s voice, which is almost a lighter, more upbeat version of Maynard James Keenan, sprinkled with Chris Cornell or Dave Grohl or something along those lines. The point is Nathan’s voice is fantastic — and it should be added that so, too, is Jileane’s, who contributes to “8-8-4, Oh My!” It would be great to hear more of her (hint!) on their next album, which, by the way, can’t come fast enough.

There’s something really, really special about this band. I Am Machi is a band to watch and Mammal Pants is an album you really need to hear; lucky for you, you can! Listen to it on Soundcloud or download it for free from NoiseTrade, and then go follow them on Facebook and Twitter, mainly to see what they’re up to but also because they’re funny and weird. I Am Machi is an incredible addition to the Canadian music scene, not to mention an inspiration to married couples everywhere.

I Am Machi - "Mammal Pants"

Thrill of Falling – “Thrill of Falling”

We all have bad days. We get frustrated by work, school or general society, and when that happens there is absolutely nothing better than hard music: that deep, heavy, feel-it-in-your-gut kind of rock that shakes your soul and makes everything better. When it comes right down to it, this is exactly what Thrill of Falling does. They rock. They show passion, talent and real depth, and their new self-titled EP is the answer to every type of pain and frustration.

To be officially released October 27, Thrill of Falling’s EP will get a lot of attention. It’s five tracks of nostalgia, full of nu-metal and progressive rock which would feel very much at home in the late ’90s and early 2000s. They have that sound that has created legions of passionate music fans — including musicians, promoters, and yes, reviewers — and their EP will find a permanent home with people who grew up in the ’90s and whose lives have been shaped by alternative music.

The tracks themselves are complex, powerful and intense. The opening track, “April”, is a great intro to what’s to come: heavy from the start, the album gets your head bopping in a way only heavy music can. At times they’re moodily atmospheric, bringing out elements of Tool in “My Turn” and “The Darkness” with haunting vocals, dense guitars and dextrous bass, and they effectively use vocal harmonies in most of the tracks (listen to the chorus of “Farewell” for an example) to create the album’s overall anguished tone. This isn’t the most “upbeat” album, but it’s not supposed to be: Thrill of Falling is mellow, mighty and serious, and they’re best listened to when you’re feeling the same way.

Other notable band comparisons include Deftones, Incubus, Disturbed and Chevelle, or maybe a journey through them all. Fans of these bands will love Thrill of Falling, and in a heavy mood they’ll be exactly what you want.

Stream and download the EP on Bandcamp or ReverbNation, or better yet, pick it up in person. The EP will be officially released October 27 at Calgary’s Blind Beggar Pub, and if you’re in the area you can’t miss this show. Check out Thrill of Falling’s website for more info, follow them on Facebook and Twitter and pay attention to them. Bands like Thrill of Falling do more than make music: they touch lives, they create passion, and with a sound that actually means something, they’re going to go far.

Thrill of Falling - "Thrill of Falling"

EyesWide – “A Little More A Little Less”

The brainchild of Barrie, Ontario, singer-songwriter Neil Crowe, EyesWide delivers exactly what Crowe says it will on their 2012 EP A Little More A Little Less:  Catchy, upbeat, driving acoustic rock.

Originally slated to be a full-length release, this five-song teaser boasts well-crafted and approachable tracks, yet not without a hint of darkness.  Musically strong, well-produced, and lyrically diverse and perceptive, A Little More A Little Less highlights Crowe as a gifted songwriter, musician, and vocalist.

The EP’s highlight, “Day Waster”, is a driving rocker with an intense rhythm and dark vibe that aptly compares to Radiohead’s “Jigsaws Falling Into Place”.  Crow’s smooth, breathy delivery offers a nice counter to the urgency of the rhythm as he sings about having the time to waste the day because his job is “turning on everyone at night”.

Crowe cites several influences behind his music, including the Dave Matthews Band, whose inspiration is subtly evident on tracks like “E-Dub”, “My Songs” and “Shadows”. “E-Dub”, an upbeat rocker, finds Crowe rationalizing ending a relationship, and features a sweet flamenco-tinged guitar solo.  “My Songs” bounces along to a similar beat as “E-Dub” — think Eagle Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight” — and finds Crowe longing to simply just play his songs and hoping you’ll sing along, through the good and bad. “Shadows” is highlighted by a Dave Matthews-esque guitar riff and a rhythm that, like all EyesWide songs, will get your head bopping.

The EP’s opener, “Sleeping in the Kitchen”, offers a departure in style from the other four tracks.  Driven by a Cowpunk-style shuffle, “Sleeping in the Kitchen” leans more to the Country end of the folk spectrum.

Check out more EyesWide on the band’s Website or on Facebook.  EyesWide also has a full-length release from 2010 entitled In Three Days, which is available here.

EyesWide - "A Little More A Little Less"