Articles for the Month of August 2015

The Meow Meows-‘Friends on Benefits’

It is time to show some love to the ska bands overseas. I would like to introduce the Meow Meows, a nine-piece from Brighton, UK. This past June they released a 3-song EP entitled ‘Friends on Benefits.’ Let’s check it out. Pushing play…now!

1. “Friends on Benefits”- Everything about this song is pure audio candy. Hypnotic vocals paired with tight horn section and organ will make this a truly unique tune. I have not been able to get this out of my head since I first heard it. Grade: A

2. “London Road”- The Meow Meows pull off another danceable number in this next tune. I really enjoy how the saxophone pulls away from the rest of the horn section. Also the harpsichord is another added touch. Great song! Grade: A

3. “Tits & Hatred”- This song is all over the map, from garage-rock-with-horns to some pretty kooky organ parts. Rather upbeat in nature like the other two songs, this will keep you dancing all night. Grade: A-

Several weeks before doing this review, I had heard the title track of this album and was blown away. The stand out here is the almost hypnotic vocals performed by the lead vocalist (known only as Danny) which have a softer, yet haunting quality at times. The horn section is amazing and the organ remains in the forefront during each and every song. Each ditty is upbeat in nature and defines the sub-genre of ‘danceable ska.’ Trust me, these songs will get stuck in your head as you skank the night away (and drive to work the next morning!). I normally don’t have an issue with a band releasing and EP as usually they unleash their best stuff, but three songs seem like a tease. Salivating ska fans have been given a small glimpse into the musical world of this exciting band which plays a truly unique brand of ska. Check out this album, it’s darn near purrrrrfect!

Overall Grade: A

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Things are Getting ‘Sketchie’

Hot of the presses is ‘Lost in Sedation’ by Sarasota, FL natives Sketchie. This latest release follows last year’s self-titled release. This 4-piece ska-punk unit has been hard at work seeing that they only formed last year. Let’s give ‘Lost in Sedation’ a little listen…

1. “Our Time”-Sketchie effortlessly switches from ska to punk with just a dash of surf from the start. The vocals fell a little flat with me, but overall this is a solid first track. Grade: B

2. “For Better or Worse”-There is certainly a ska element to “For Better or Worse” but the punk influences dominate. The vocals in this tune seem to be slightly more refined than on the first track. I dig it! Grade: B+

3. “Passing Phase”-Blistering fast punk rock! Don’t miss the killer guitar solo. Grade: B

4. “Freeze Up (Operation Ivy Cover)- I’ve never been a big fan of Operation Ivy, but in their cover of “Freeze Up” Sketchie pulls off an almost dead-ringer to the original, down to the guitar solo near the end. If I had to pick one as a favorite, I would lean towards Sketchie, as their version is a tad more polished than the Op.Ivy original. Grade: B+

If you like your punk with dose of ska then Sketchie is the band for you. Unapologetically loose in their style they remind me quite a bit of Operation Ivy. Including a cover song from this iconic band only seems fitting. At only 4 tracks in length, ‘Lost in Sedation’ gives both new and old fans alike a musical morsel that will keep them satisfied until the next full length is released. Although this album was apparently recorded in a garage, there is nothing lacking in sound quality. Musically speaking Sketchie plays a nice mix of straight up punk numbers as well as more ska-influenced tunes, sans horns of course. Vocally, Sketchie is what you would expect from a punk band, loud and gruff, but never grating. This being said, I did appreciate the vocals on the last three songs more so than the first. In summary, Sketchie pulls off a better than average collection of ditties on ‘Lost in Sedation’ that any punk purist will fall in love with.

Overall Grade: B/B+

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New Tunes from the Evokatones!

Do you know what is happening in September? The Evokatones are releasing their new self-titled album, that’s what! The Evokatones call Baltimore their home and have been bringing their brand of ska to the people since 2011. Let’s check out their sophmore release…
1. “To the Grave”-Cue the percussion and blaring percussion! Pleasant female vocals and Latin flavor start this album off on the right foot. Grade: A-

2. “Never Letting Go”- Lead vocalist Colleen Curran shares the mic with her male cohort in this slower skank-worthy number. I really dig the surf guitar solo at the halfway mark. Grade: B+

3. “Rudie”- While the term “Rudie” has obvious roots in ska and reggae culture, this song also brings in some musical influences from the easy listening tunes from the ‘70s. This song has definitely grown on me, with its chilled vibe and faux Jamaican vocals. Good stuff. Grade: B+

4. “On Your Way”- Get off your seat! This is the most straight-up ska number thus far on the album. “On Your Way” will turn any ska non-believer into an instant fan. Grade: A

5. “Back to the Living”- This horn-heavy number with classic ska guitar riffs will keep you skankin’ all night. Pleasant vocals and just a fun song overall. Grade: A-

6. “Roller Coaster”- Collen shares the singing duty once more. What a great example of ska mixed with soul. Grade: A-

7. “Against Me”- The Evokatones take a snarky turn in “Against Me.” The vocals here are amazingly edgy which pairs nicely with the brass and rockin’ guitar solo. Grade: A

8. “Conscious Beat”- “Conscious Beat” tends to be a bit repetitious at times, but the smooth vocals cannot be denied. Near the end of the song there is also great use of guitar and horn solos as well. A solid tune! Grade: A-

9. “Pipe Dreams”- Overall, this is not my favorite tune on the album, but it is a good song none the less. The horns are strong as usual, and vocally, The Evokatones keep the listener guessing. Grade: B

10. “Soul Police”-Colleen and Co. finish strong in this last number which is probably my favorite on the disc. Starting out slow, tension and anticipation builds, and then it switches to your classic upbeat ska tune. Amazing! Grade: A

For those of you have been reading my reviews for a while, you know that I am a huge fan of female-fronted bands. With Colleen Curran at the mic, the Evokatones are certainly no exception. Colleen’s voice shows a lot of range from the more Jamaican sounding “Rudie” to the more sweet, soulful take in “Soul Police.” This being stated Colleen does stay within her bounds and does not force anything she cannot pull off vocally. Musically speaking there are certainly influences from several different genres such as rock and Latin, but overall the main theme is ska. This is certainly refreshing, when it seems as if many bands try to redefine a genre of music instead of just putting their own little spin on it. The horns are prevalent in every song, and almost every tune features a guitar solo as well. Each of the 10 songs is distinct from the one before, giving this album a long shelf life. I know I have played this over and over on my commute to work and its enjoyability has not waned. Maybe you have not heard of this band before, but it’s time to start paying attention. This album is a skankin’ good time!

Overall Grade: A-

Check them out here:

So what did you think? Share it my friend!

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