"45" - The Gaslight Anthem

New Jersey's soul punk pride The Gaslight Anthem recently finished recording their new album, Handwritten, here in Nashville and today they've just released "45," the gorgeously fierce first single via Rolling Stone. Firing on all cylinders and going for broke, The Gaslight Anthem come out with all guns blazing on "45" and the results are nothing short of straight up musical magic. All of Gaslight's signatures are present and accounted for in the double barrel guitarsenal, wide open vocals, pounding drum and bass lines, relational lyrics, hooky melodics riffs and invitational choruses. Brian Fallon's ever present slice-of-Americana steeped songwriting skills are on display in "45" as well, as the call to leave a bad relationship is expressed through automotive imagery and the analogy of a 45 rpm 7" vinyl record. Some bands unsuccessfully try to use car and musicology terms and the results end up sounding awkward and forced. Luckily, this has never been the case with Gaslight, proving their ability to write in the most down to earth and real world terms, without ever sounding like they're trying to be anything other then themselves. With "45," The Gaslight Anthem continue to make their unique impression in the grand rock and roll tradition and I can imagine that the full album will hold many more of those same magical moments. As if I wasn't looking forward to Handwritten enough already, "45" just upped the ante. 


Handwritten will be released on July 24th and "45" will be available for purchase on May 8th.


Sinai Vessel @ Rocketown (Concert Review)

It's always a good time when you can check out an up-and-coming band and help support a cool local venue. Last Saturday I had the opportunity to do both as I caught Cleveland, TN's Sinai Vessel as they made their Nashville debut at Rocketown. After quickly warming up the room with a little Skynyrd (trying to head off any potential "Freebird" outbursts later on I'm sure), the talented alt-emo-rock trio played an impassioned six song set that was filled with energetic playing, out-of-the-box musicianship and imaginative lyrics. Lead singer/guitarist Caleb Cordes, bassist Kenny Vanderberg and drummer Clark Medlin ebbed and flowed together to create a unified sonic roller coaster of loud, aggressive highs and quiet, controlled lows. Opening song "Drown Around" invited the crowd in with a welcoming jazzy shuffle and "Wisteria" followed along nicely with a Pedro the Lion flavored chorus and an incredible instrumental breakdown. "Heels of Lions" pulsated into an emotional, cathartic ballad and a killer, broken down cover of Tom Petty's "American Girl" drifted along on the flow of a drum loop and a glockenspiel. A song with the working title of "Cats" was next and it was the second song of the night that brought a Pedro the Lion or Dashboard Confessional vibe to mind with some mixed meter passages and a nice drum and bass breakdown. They closed out with "The Submariner," a driving song that had the crowd singing along with its multiple "liar" refrains before it was through. I was impressed with Sinai Vessel's ability to write songs that were not afraid to deviate from the comfortable confines of standard song structures and their ability to play within unconventional chordings and time signatures expressively and enthusiastically. By playing their songs well, throwing in a super cool cover and leaving the crowd wanting some more, they did everything right to make a lasting first impression on the crowd. I'm sure this will not be the last time Nashville will get to play host to a Sinai Vessel show and I hope I'll be lucky enough to catch the next one too!


You can hear more from Sinai Vessel on their Bandcamp page and you can follow them on their Twitter and Facebook as well.  

"This Head I Hold" Video - Electric Guest

I first wrote about Electric Guest back in January and since then, the jazzy, electropop duo has completed a residency at L.A.'s Echo, completed their first tour, made a splash at SXSW and released Mondo, their Danger Mouse-produced debut album. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better combination of talent, innovation, hard work and opportunities taken as Electric Guest. They've gotten some great momentum behind them and a quick listen will prove that the hype is well deserved. Mondo was just released this week and they also produced a video for the first single, "This Head I Hold." As I stated back in January, the song is absolutely fantastic and totally danceable with its throwback vocal tones and amazing loops. The surreal video compliments the vibe of the song really well and the offbeat visuals and abrupt middle break make the video a completely unique experience from just listening to the song by itself. Plus, it's pretty fun to just watch it a couple times in a row to either practice some new dance moves or contemplate the purchase of a new fake beard. Either way, "This Head I Hold" will be stuck in your eyes and ears for days.       





Also, keep your eyes peeled for Electric Guest when they make their major network TV debut on The Late Show with David Letterman on May 4th!

Record Store Day 2012



Ah yes, it's that time of year again kiddies! Record Store Day 2012 brought another breezy, overcast and EARLY April morning for me to enjoy picking up some ridiculously cool vinyl offerings from some of my favorite artists. Saturday morning I got up at 5:30am and traveled to my favorite (and STILL undisclosed) first location where I patiently awaited the store's opening. I was only the second one in line and took the time to go over my list one more time to try and whittle things down a bit. After 2 years of spending a bit more than I probably needed to, I was going to try to work within a little bit of a budget this year. It rained a little bit while we waited but the first four of us in line luckily had a canopy awning to shield us, much to the chagrin of the rest of the line. Early birds gets the vinyl worm... and gets to stay dry. When the store finally opened, I quickly made my way to the boxes of 7" singles. I always seem to be drawn to those a bit more than the 12" offerings and there were just so many cool ones to choose from this year. I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but somehow there was a logjam in front of the 12" boxes and I was able to completely shuffle through BOTH 7" boxes all by myself without any extra hands reaching and grabbing. I ended up scoring almost all of the 7" singles I was looking for, including: "Heartbreak A Stranger" by Ryan Adams, "Billie Jean" by The Civil Wars, "Hand Springs" by The White Stripes, "Milk and Honey" by Karen Elson and two of the Warner Brothers "Side by Side" releases with "You Be Illin'" by RUN-DMC and The Carolina Chocolate Drops and "Kick Out The Jams" by MC5 and Afrika Bambaataa. Sadly, they didn't have one of my main wants, the Live At Fingerprints 7" by The Horrible Crowes, so the search continued. I quickly hit up a second location, but they were completely wiped out of anything else I was even remotely looking for. There was no reason to be dismayed though, as any vinyl enthusiast worth their weight in wax knows there's treasure upon treasure to be found in the hallowed racks of Grimey's.

I made it to Grimey's with time to spare and there was already a pretty substantial line down the alley and up the side street. The weather was perfect for hanging out and everyone in line seemed pretty excited to be there. I didn't even overhear any pretentious arguments about who should and shouldn't of put out releases or how cassettes were really superior to vinyl. The wait was also made pretty bearable by the free swag they started randomly handing out. I ended up getting two incredibly cool posters of The Smiths and Fleet Foxes for my efforts. When we finally made it in, I was able to find The Horrible Crowes 7" pretty easy. Although I was pretty close to my meticulously calculated budget, I just couldn't pass up the other two releases on my list, the "Side by Side" of "Respect" with Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin and the 12" mint green "Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes" by Social Distortion. Before checking out, I rummaged through a huge box of free posters and surprisingly managed to uncover some beauties by Arcade Fire, Wild Flag, Superchunk and Archers of Loaf. Apparently, Merge Records sent a couple rare goodies and I just happened to be the first one willing to dig a little. If that wasn't enough poster goodness for one day, when I got home I discovered that my Social Distortion album was one of the ones that included a "Machine Gun Blues" poster that was signed by the entire band! Of course, there were also a ton of free stickers, compilation cds and other promo items stuffed into each bag as well. Grimey's NEVER disappoints and it was quite the haul all the way around. Eventhough all of the cool extras were nice, the only thing I needed to consider the day a success were the actual releases. When you combine awesome artists with incredible songs, super cool vinyl colors and tasty picture sleeves, you've got something pretty special on your hands. I hope everyone else had as much success getting the releases they were looking for and had as much fun spinning them when they got home as I did. Record Store Day is such an awesome concept and it's so cool to see it getting bigger and better each year. Like a kid waiting for Christmas, I'm already counting down the days until Record Store Day 2013!

Here's a pic of my RSD 2012 purchases so that you can see the cool translucent Coke bottle green of "You Be Illin'," the solid gold of "Respect," the splatter red on white of "Kick Out The Jams" and the Mike Ness signature on the "Machine Gun Blues" poster. As far as the other wax colors, Social Distortion is on mint green, Ryan Adams is on blue, The White Stripes is on translucent red with black wisps, Karen Elson is on goldish "milk and honey" blend and both The Civil Wars and The Horrible Crowes went with classic black.


Dave Barnes @ Marathon Music Works (Concert Review)


Since singer/songwriter Dave Barnes named his newest album Stories To Tell, it would make sense for the subsequent tour to feature his hilarious monologues, anecdotes and crowd interactions popping up between his soulful, R&B-flavored acoustic pop songs. This was certainly the case last Friday night as Dave held court in front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd at Marathon Music Works, by far one of Nashville’s coolest concert spaces. Switching effortlessly between a confident smooth operator while singing and a bust up laughing entertainer while telling stories, Dave kept the crowd engaged and wanting more through the spaces that are normally referred to as the “between song lull.” There were none of those Friday night as the crowd either sang along, laughed along or “aww”ed along to everything that came out of Dave’s mouth. Dave played a great mix of new and old songs, garnering the loudest crowd background vocals on fan favorites “Until You,” “Carry Me Through,” “Someday, Sarah” “Little Lies” and new song “White Flag.” In fact, during most of these numbers, Dave and most of the instruments would drop out completely and let the spirited crowd take a chorus or two. Dave was backed by a talented full band of electric guitar, bass, drums and keys that supported his songs with lush layers that allowed them to dynamically rise and fall at the perfect spots. Not just there for background effect, each instrument had a role to play as the keyboardist led “More Than A Man,” the drummer added some subtle percussive oomph to “Grace’s Amazing Hands,” the bassist made “Chameleon” dance and the electric guitarist added some killer solos to “Someday, Sarah” and “Little Lies.”
While the full band moments were exciting and sonically sound, there’s no doubt that Dave is one of those guys that can command a crowd with just his voice and a guitar. He played one of his love songs, “Nothing Fancy,” as a solo number and the crowd, many of them clearly on dates and in the moment, cuddled and swayed along. “Grace’s Amazing Hands” was also played in a mostly unaccompanied fashion, save for the addition of a tasty hand drum. During these moments and the storytelling interludes, Dave controlled the crowd with an amazing mix of hushed singing and exuberant talking. Whether he was introing “Mine To Love” with a funny story about trying to pick out his new son Ben in the hospital nursery or trying to discern where the unidentified background music was coming from after they had already stopped playing a song, his ability to effortlessly switch from sincerity to silly is both impressive and welcomed. After he tongue-in-cheekily alluded to the “possibility of an encore” (*wink*), Dave and the guys finished the main set and came back out to play “God Gave Me You,” his #1 hit by way of country music star Blake Shelton. After telling an amazing story of having to watch its television debut alone in a hotel and having his uncle offer to “steal the song back” from Blake, Dave and the guys closed the night out with a stunning version of the song that almost had to fight to be heard over the resounding crowd. It was a fitting response from an appreciative crowd for an amazing night of stories and songs.
Other highlights of the night included great opening sets from tour mate Andrew Ripp and local contest winner Robert Counts. Both artists won the crowd over with excellent covers including a laid back version of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” from Counts and a folksy cover of Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” from Ripp. Ripp also threw in snippets of The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” throughout the night as well. Another nice touch to the night was when Dave and his band took the stage to the sound of The Band’s “Rag Mama Rag” in honor of the recent loss of legendary musical giant Levon Helm. It’s always cool to see artists pay their respects to those who came before them, especially ones that were so influential and ones that also had great stories to tell themselves.

*Set List*
- How Long
- Heaven Help Me
- Until You
- More Than A Man
- Carry Me Through
- Love Will Be Enough
- Nothing Fancy
- Grace's Amazing Hands
- Someday, Sarah
- Chameleon
- White Flag
- Mine To Love
- Little Lies
- God Gave Me You

Tracks from the Attic EP - The Lumineers

(Here's my most recent post for the fine folks over at NoiseTrade.)

If you like the rustic stomp and clap of Americana folk revivalists and the raw, emotional vocal stylings of bands like The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show and The Devil Makes Three, then you’ll find much to love in the “tradition meets today” sound of The Lumineers. Acoustic guitars, mandolin, piano, back porch percussion, gang vocals and lots of heart all contribute to the fun, down home sound the trio creates. They just released their self-titled debut full length earlier this month and have also put their 4 song EP, originally called The Lost EP but redubbed here as Tracks from the Attic, up on NoiseTrade. Tracks from the Attic is a great peek into the earlier stages of a couple songs (“Classy Girls” and “Flapper Girl”) that made it to the full length and a couple (“Elouise” and “Soundtrack Song”) that are exclusive to this release. With pounding rhythms, singalong choruses and lyrics that mention Romeo and Juliet, Elvis and The Talking Heads, Tracks from the Attic will definitely put a smile on your face and a stomp in your boots. Also be sure to check out the video of “Ho Hey” below. It’s the first single from The Lumineers self-titled debut full length, currently available through all major retailers or directly from the band here.


One Man, Many Bands - Ethan Luck

(This is the third installment in my One Man, Many Bands feature. You can check out the ones I did on Aaron Sprinkle and Mike Herrera as well.)

When I first had the idea for the “One Man, Many Bands” concept, Ethan Luck was in the first batch of guys that came to mind. You could easily toss out Kevin Bacon and play a “Six Degrees of Ethan Luck” game with just about any band from the Christian punk/alternative music scene of the 90’s to now and he’s still adding degrees as we speak…type…whatever. Currently, his main gig is drumming for Relient K, but he has contributed guitar, lap steel, bass, drums, engineering/production work and even vocals for an insane amount of bands that he was either a member of or just friends with. I’m not sure even Ethan could draw out his “band family tree” perfectly, so I’ll do my best to just hit some of the main ones.
The Dingees – Although Ethan was in a few bands before The Dingees (including early incarnations of The O.C. Supertones and Pax 217), this was my first introduction to him. During the third wave ska craze of the mid to late 90’s, there were very few bands that nodded back to the 2 Tone and traditional ska that came before them. The Dingees could bring the punk flare when necessary, but their use of dub rhythms, horns and organ gave them that standout edge. Ethan’s drumming ability allowed them to play within different genres fluidly and I think that gave them something different from other bands of the era. Along with Rancid, MxPx and Dropkick Murphys, The Dingees were one of my “go-to” bands when I wanted to show my fellow classmates what awesome punk/ska music could sound like. After seeing The Dingees a few times in concert and them recording an awesome Christmas song (a sure-fire way to reach my musical heart), I was hooked.
"Could Be Worse" - The Dingees (Armageddon Massive)
The O.C. Supertones – Between great albums and incredible live shows, The Supertones were an incredibly big part of my high school years. I straight wore out Adventures of the O.C. Supertones and Supertones Strike Back and I got my first “concert concussion” at a MxPx/Supertones/SpudGun show in 1997. So, when Ethan joined up with them on guitar in 2000, it was an exciting fit for me. Ethan’s first album with them was 2000’s Loud and Clear and he played all the way through to 2005’s Faith of a Child, appearing on six albums in all. Just like with The Dingees, Ethan’s ability to effectively play within different genres allowed The Supertones the opportunity to mess around with ska, punk, rap, soul and rock. I got to see Ethan play with The Supertones on a few different occasions, with the best one being Bleach’s (not exactly) final show in 2004 in Nashville.
"We Shall Overcome" - The O.C. Supertones (Revenge of The O.C. Supertones)

Demon Hunter – After The O.C. Supertones called it quits in 2005, Ethan joined Demon Hunter in time for their third album, The Triptych. Employing his guitar talents in a distinctly separate realm from any of his previous bands, Ethan’s playing in Demon Hunter really showed off his well-rounded musical abilities and his creative spirit. Ethan only played on The Triptych and Storm the Gates of Hell, but the few years he spent in Demon Hunter definitely added some new sounds and tricks to his musical repertoire. I’ve always loved Ethan’s tone on their cover of Prong’s “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck.”

"Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck" - Demon Hunter (The Triptych)

My Red Hot Nightmare – As I’ve written on here before, this is my personal high point of Ethan’s illustrious career. My Red Hot Nightmare was a side project consisting of only Ethan and former-Supertones bandmate Dan Spencer. It was Ethan’s first time fronting a band and I was insanely excited when I heard their first recordings on the My Other Band, Vol. 1 album. They got the first three cuts on the compilation and after I heard them I was ready to become their fan club president. Unfortunately, nothing more ever materialized from them apart from a cover of Superdrag’s “I Can’t Wait” from 2006’s A Tribute to Superdrag. Nevertheless, I still smile when I spin their four fantastic songs and I pour a forty out to what might’ve been…
"The Worst In Me" - My Red Hot Nightmare (My Other Band, Volume One)


Relient K – In 2008, Ethan was chosen to take over on drums for Relient K’s departing stickman Dave Douglas. I was stoked because just like when he joined The Supertones, I was already a fan of both him and the band. He contributed to some of Relient K’s Christmas album, Let It Snow Baby…Let It Reindeer, and their compilation album, The Bird and The B-Sides, but 2009’s Forget and Not Slow Down was his first full album as a member. As Relient K has continually expanded their sound over the years, I think Ethan is a great fit and more than able to handle anything they could throw at him. Here is Ethan’s only Relient K song on lead vocals:
"No Reaction" - Relient K (The Bird and The Bee Sides)

Mixed in between all of those bands, Ethan has also appeared as a guest musician on stage with or on albums by (deep inhale)… MxPx, Fair, Mike Herrera (solo), John Davis, Value Pac, Flatfoot 56, Bleach, Project 86, Paramore, Gigantic, The Lonely Hearts, Roper, Guerilla Rodeo, Ginger Sling, Ruth, Kutless, Last Tuesday and many, many more. In May of last year, I got to see him play quite a few songs with Mike Herrera at Exit/In (show review here) and it was really incredible. When he’s not smacking or strumming anything that will make a sound, Ethan is also pretty adamant about photography, vinyl records, veganism and Vespas. You can keep up with Ethan at the following:
Personal Site: www.ethanluck.comPersonal Twitter: @ethanluck
(Bonus Band) Motorhome - On the side, Ethan fronts Motorhome, a very cool country band that covers heavy metal songs. We're talking Maiden, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax via stand-up bass, railroad drums and rockabilly guitar. They've only played a few shows here and there but if you get the chance to see a show, DO NOT MISS!! Here's a video of their "Tear In My Beer" take on Metallica's "Master of Puppets."

"All In A Day" - Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros

Lately, I've been doing a lot of focused posts like album reviews and new release type stuff. Sometimes it's good to just say "remember this song? It's really freaking awesome." Joe Strummer's "All In A Day" is one of those songs for me. It's off of Joe's posthumous Streetcore album from 2003 and it hearkens back to his innovative punk days in The Clash. Nashville's been sprinting into Spring lately and this is one of those Sun up, windows down kinda songs that begs for an open interstate. Eventhough Streetcore was released a couple years after Joe passed away, hearing him sing with such attitude and, dare I say, happiness made this album quite a eulogy for him. If you need a killer album to get you through spring/summer, Streetcore works perfectly. It's even got a Bob Marley cover on it!

"All In A Day" - Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros (Streetcore)

MxPx - Plans Within Plans (Album Review)

Loud. Fast. Heart. This formula has served MxPx well over the last 20 years and with their newest album, Plans Within Plans, they've once again proven that they've down right mastered it. With 13 tracks clocking in at just over 35 minutes, the boys from Bremerton have created another classic no holds barred, no note wasted punk rock record. Since the early 90's, MxPx has flirted with a variety of different moods within the punk vein, but I caution anyone to lazily use terms like "old school" or "return to form" when describing the ferocity of Plans Within Plans. While it's true that MxPx has always had one foot firmly planted on the shoulders of those who've rocked before them, they've continually been a forward-facing locomotive of powerful music and honest lyrics. There's no question that lead singer/bassist/principal songwriter Mike Herrera seems to be an unending source of songs, as he masterfully splits his notebook between MxPx, Tumbledown, Arthur and solo endeavors. (I know, I know fanboys, don't forget The Cooties!) But what's even more amazing than the sheer volume of his writing, is the quality and direction that each song takes. None of the songs on Plans Within Plans sound like anything other than MxPx songs. Granted the signatures sounds of Tom's Les Paul growl and Yuri's bombastic drumming help seal the deal, but at the core of any great band is their songs. A fact that is clearly not lost on MxPx or their fans for the last 20 years.


Of the 13 ignited songs on Plans Within Plans, none of them waste time trying to reach the "standard" three and a half minute mark. What that means for the listener is a "strap in and hold on" ride of super fun, singalong songs that will have you getting back in line for another round as soon as the ride's finished. Explosive track "Screw Loose" busts in like the Kool-Aid Man and just as quickly dips out in just a little over a minute! Songs like "Aces Up," "Nothing Left," In The Past," "Stay On Your Feet" and first single "Far Away" are half encouraging/half cathartic romps that will somehow leave you simultaneously spent and refreshed. Even when MxPx does one of their tried and true love songs ("Lucky Guy"), the energy is as palpable as the sentiment. While Mike's unmistakable bass tone, Tom's snarling guitars and Yuri's pounding drums are more than enough to carry this great album, they brought some friends along to help out for a couple of the songs. Special guests include Stephen Egerton (Descendents, All), The Swellers, Greg Bennett (Neutral Boy) and two of Mike's Tumbledown mates, Jack Parker and Harley Trotland. Even with so many additional folks, the cohesion between songs is flawless. The entire album has an amazing spirit to it, but to me, one of the most interesting tracks on the album is "Cast Down My Heart." The song was spawned from a poem of the same name that Mike found in a notebook given to him by his grandmother. He added his own spin on it but the hopelessness of the original poem's young girl dealing with a soldier boyfriend during WWII translates perfectly to the new song's characters. 2 minutes and 11 seconds of manic punk rock written around a grandmother's hand-me-down book of poems. Loud, fast, heart indeed.


You can pick up Plans Within Plans pretty much everywhere but you can also order it directly from the band on cd, vinyl or digital HERE.


"Cast Down My Heart" - MxPx (Plans Within Plans)


(Unfortunately some of the colored vinyl orders have been delayed at the plant. Once I get my gorgeous gold copy in, I'll post a pic of it as well.)

Jenny and Tyler - Open Your Doors (Album Review)

While some married couples might not be too keen on the idea of working together, the concept has yielded marvelous results for indie folk duo Jenny and Tyler. With Open Your Doors, their 4th full length release, Jenny and Tyler have once again created an authentic and organic collection of uncluttered songs that are full of gratitude, redemption, confession and reflection. Both are proficient vocalists and talented multi-instrumentalists, which gives Open Your Doors a unique sound and an intimate and eclectic vibe. While their tight him/her vocal blendings encompass both confident and vulnerable moments, the overall lyrical themes throughout the album play on both sides of that same coin as well. Open Your Doors is rich with vertical songs of worship and horizontal songs of encouragement, creating a cool "all access" invitation to anyone who'll lend an ear. If being able to make this type of album even just once in your career is a gift, being able to do it four times in a row is a down right windfall.

Open Your Doors consists of 12 transparent songs of heart-on-sleeve honesty that hits the heart and ears in a refreshing way. There's no facade or artifice of "got it all togetherness" in Jenny and Tyler's songs. Instead, you'll find an uncalculated candidness in songs like "Little Balloon," "Fear Thou Not" and "Kingdom of Heaven." Songs like "When Darkness Falls" and "Psalm 86" have such an openness to them that it feels like you've stumbled upon a journal entry or a personal letter. Musically, the songs are upheld by a foundation of acoustic guitar and piano, with flourishes of strings, xylophone, mandolin, drums and more adding depth throughout. There's even two instrumentals, "Lament" and "Selah," that offer a nice melodic moment of pause in the middle and at the end of the album. However, I think the song on Open Your Doors that best envelops the Jenny and Tyler experience is "You Keep Loving Me." Recorded live in a forest clearing with a flock of birds providing hallowed background vocals, "You Keep Loving Me" is a beautiful confessional that pits feelings of inadequacy and isolation against an unrelenting love. It's a powerful moment filtered through just a voice and a guitar and the outcome, much like the entirety of Open Your Doors, is as astounding as it is arresting.

Open Your Doors can be purchased from all major digital distributors or directly from Jenny and Tyler HERE.

"You Keep Loving Me" - Jenny and Tyler (Open Your Doors)

Kevin Max - Fiefdom of Angels (EP and Graphic Novel Teaser)

(Here's a new post I recently did for NoiseTrade.)

There’s no question that singer/songwriter/poet/creator Kevin Max is a bonafide renaissance man and a modern day agent of creative dissent. With his newest project,Fiefdom of Angels, Max combines a novel, graphic novel and an accompanying soundtrack to create an origin story for angels. While on paper that may sound daunting, Max delves deep into races, locations, connections and conflicts to shape characters worth caring about and a story worth telling. The graphic novel is rich in detail, plot and emotion and the soundtrack uses cover songs and Kevin Max originals to enhance the characters and arcs laid out in the story. Kevin has graciously offered a teaser of the graphic novel and Side One of the soundtrack here on NoiseTrade for a limited time.

Fiefdom of Angels: Side One is a five song EP comprised of four cool covers and one reimagined original. Using a spacious orchestral vibe and a haunting choir of layered vocals, each song breathes with atmosphere, melody and texture. With long intros, lush instrumental passages and airy moments of stasis, it’s no surprise that the listening experience, just like the overall story itself, is truly enhanced by a certain attentiveness. These songs do not want to get somewhere, as much as they want to create somewhere. While the new wave-esque cover selections were intentionally picked to relate to the story, they certainly could’ve been chosen on great song merit alone. Real Life’s “Send Me An Angel,” Joy Division’s “Shadowplay,” Queen’s “Dragon Attack” and Muse’s “Take A Bow” all get the same cinematic, chamber music treatment with inspiring results. “End of the Beginning” is the sole original composition on the EP and has been floating around in demo form since Max’s Stereotype Be days.

The graphic novel teaser included with the download is a stunning 28 page collection of arresting story frames, helpful angelic race cliff notes, detailed maps, elaborate character bios and a condensed prologue to get you up to speed. More than just a story, Max has unfolded an entire mythology that is dense with individuals, collectives, places, practices, cultures and clashes that will tug at your head, your heart, your beliefs and your imagination. No matter your religious leanings (or lack thereof), Fiefdom of Angels will certainly get you thinking, feeling, discussing and dreaming in ways that you may not have before. Max refers to Fiefdom of Angles as “my Magna Carta and my Opus, my Fifth Symphony and my White Album, all rolled into one” and with the magnitude of what he’s conveying, I think that’s dead on. I encourage you to simultaneously listen to the EP and read through the graphic novel, letting both the audible and visual elements weave together and reach you at the same time. With more stories and songs to come in theFiefdom of Angels collection, wouldn’t it be better to immerse yourself from the beginning instead of trying to cram it all in later? Zero Issue awaits…

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