June 2018

Sleepy Zuhoski: Better Haze

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Submitted by Mark Druery

We are immediately confronted with Sleepy Zuhoski’s talents when listening to his debut studio album Better Haze. The first song of twelve, “Asleep for a Year”, invokes a side of Sleepy Zuhoski’s musical character recurring throughout the album and his woozy, slightly hallucinatory vocal is an ideal fit for the lyrical and musical mood. The folk influences informing this cut are obvious from the first but never clichéd. Those same influences exert a hold over the second song “Sour” with a focus on a cleaner presentation, specifically on the vocal, but greater clarity from the instruments as well. Zuhoski’s vocal phrasing deserves to be singled out for his skilful invocation of the song’s sentiment. “Muscle Memory” is one of my favourite Zuhoski performances and the understated musical arrangement accomplishes much without ever straining for effect. It’s one of the more completely realized numbers on Better Haze.

The Refusers: Disobey

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Submitted by Michael Saulman

Seattle’s The Refusers are going to make some serious waves with their third studio release Disobey. The nine-song collection is another politically inclined entry in the band’s discography since first forming in 2010, but they are better than ever before at mixing their political messaging with appealing musical arrangements crackling with rock and roll spirit. Their musical excellence will allow many to enjoy the album that might otherwise disagree with the opinions of the band’s main songwriter Michael Belkin. It’s essentially a populist message the band pumps out, but they know how to shift gears without ever sacrificing a musical identity obviously meaning a great deal to them. The production frames the package in a physical package that has equal parts intelligence and attitude bubbling up from every line in the track. This new album will further solidify the band’s position as one of the most individualistic rock acts working today.

Cordovas Make Their Ato Record Debut with That Santa Fe Channel

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Rooted in triple-stacked harmonies, southern storytelling, and cosmic country twang, Cordovas create their own version of American roots-rock with That Santa Fe Channel, out August 10th on ATO Records. That Santa Fe Channel was produced by the Milk Carton Kids' Kenneth Pattengale in East Nashville, not far from the home that doubles as the band's rehearsal space, headquarters, and shared living quarters. The album is timely - and timeless - blurring the lines between rock, country, and amplified folk music. It's highlighted by unbelievable harmonies, loose-yet-masterful musicianship and undeniable songwriting chops.

Years before Cordovas' formation, bandleader Joe Firstman travelled the country as a solo musician. Raised in North Carolina, he moved to Hollywood as a determined 20-year-old, signing a major-label deal with Atlantic Records. When a dizzying blur of acclaimed shows - including opening dates for Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson - weren't enough to satisfy the expectations of a big-budget record label, Firstman lost his contract and took a new job as music director on Last Call with Carson Daly. It was good work, with Firstman performing nightly alongside first-rate musicians like Thundercat and Kamasi Washington.

BTW Dennis Ellsworth, Jim Andralis & The Syntonics, Jordan Officer, Terra Lightfoot, Yukon Blonde, Jonas Tomalty, The Greasemarks

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

The change has come for Dennis Ellsworth. It's in the title and in the grooves of fifth solo album Things Change, which finds Ellswort embracing a dynamic new power pop sound, as opposed to the roots rock approach he has previously been known for.

The Prince Edward Island native's currently taking it to the people on a national ticking all the major boxes. The approach can be credited in part to Ellsworth teaming up with Joel Plaskett, who assumed production duties and enlisted compadres Charles Austin (Superfriendz) and Dave Marsh (longtime drummer in Plaskett’s backing band the Emergency), to participate. The results on Things Change are a brilliant convergence of his irresistible songwriting chops with Plaskett and co.’s trademark vintage guitar-driven sound.

BTW Century Thief, Lief Hall, CARLO, Dee & The Grand Brothers, NXNE, Trent Severn, Betty Moon, Excuses, Excuses, Tara Shannon

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Submitted by Lenny Stoute

Here's a genre-defying crew with a lot of reach and some neat riffing.

For starters, check the ever-expanding orchestral folk-pop of ''Deaf Beneath The Waves" here: https://soundcloud.com/century-thief/sets/deaf-beneath-the-waves
Bandcamp: https://centurythief.bandcamp.com/album/deaf-beneath-the-waves
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/4Hg8Z90V37E4uuDj6cvd62?si=rTRxh3oeSoulYxXv__ytBw

Century Thief is a six-piece band based in Toronto, ON. They bring a blend of introspection and energy, sometimes soft, sometimes noisy experimental indie rock featuring brass, woodwinds, keys, guitars, bass, drums and multi-layered vocal harmonies.

Their favourite description comes from a sound engineer in Montreal, who described the band as trash lounge folk prog rock. Drawing on influences like Broken Social Scene, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Wilco, and Elliott Smith, it seems pretty apt. They are noisy and melodic, with a touch of salty nostalgia.