Category Archives: Reviews

Slow Wave by It Hugs Back

When you love a band, you’re blissfully happy when every new album is as good if not better than the last. In that regard, Slow Wave by London quartet It Hugs Back signals a band that keeps getting better while holding onto what makes them great.

It Hugs Back
It Hugs Back

Slow Wave boasts alluring half-spoken baritone lead vocals and hypnotic guitars courtesy of songwriter Matthew Simms, also known for his work in Wire since 2010. Graceful keyboards and lush vocal harmonies, echos and responses are provided by Jack Theedom. Paul Michael delivers gentle basslines and drummer Will Blackaby rounds out the relaxed rhythm section. All combine to create layered, dreamy songs you can fall in love with. Or to.

It Hugs Back
It Hugs Back

It Hugs Back albums are recorded in Simms’ studio The Record Room, and sound just as good as any studio recording. In their early days, having formed in 2006, It Hugs Back was on Too Pure and 4AD record labels, but their last few albums have been released on their Safe & Sound imprint.

Slow Wave was first recorded live by the full band, then Matthew and Jack added 12-string guitars, mellotron strings, analog synthesizers and vocal overdubs. The songs were then sent through an old copi-cat tape delay.

It Hugs Back
It Hugs Back

Whereas past IHB albums like 2013’s Recommended Record featured up-tempo songs you can get a speeding ticket to — with plenty of noise-pop and psychedelic moments and heavy effects — Slow Wave is the prettiest release, more along the lines of Remember off their Inside Your Guitar release. It still sounds like the same band, just more hushed and halcyon.

Slow Wave comes out June 15. Pre-order today on iTunes and get an immediate download of Everything’s OK:

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Live Review: Matt and Kim at the House of Blues

Cleveland had been waiting oh-so-patiently for Brooklyn power-duo Matt and Kim after canceling their last appearance in support of Passion Pit in 2013. The couple more than made up for this by providing Cleveland the means to dance and sweat through  a 21-song set in support of their latest album, New Glow. “I’m giving you 200 percent because you motherfuckers deserve it!” whooped Kim Schifino after she explained in graphic detail the reasoning behind the last show’s cancellation (it involved a toilet.. and some Pepto…we’ll spare you the details).

And give it 200 percent, they did. Blasting through songs like “Cameras”, “Hoodie On” and “Get It”, Matt and Kim blew the roof off of the House of Blues with confetti cannons and balloons galore with a parachute dance party to throw in the mix. Having previously been injured from stage antics earlier in the week, Matt Johnson did not let that stop him from skillfully balancing himself on one foot and dipping forward into his keyboards while Kim twerked all the way across the stage.

The show closed out with crowd pleasers “Let’s Go” and “Daylight” before the one song encore of “It’s Alright” in which Kim crowd surfed and booty danced into the middle of the audience.

San Francisco-based Waters warmed up the audience with flowers and sunny tunes including “What’s Real” and “Stupid Games”. The 5-piece band also attempted a cover of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”, but redeemed themselves with original song material “I Feel Everything”.

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The Ignition from By Light We Loom

By Light We Loom’s debut EP “The Ignition” is more than a metaphor. It is renewal, discovery, faith testing, overcoming setbacks, and far more than just 4 songs. You can hear right from the start that even though they are a two piece husband and wife ensemble, they intend on continuing with the same full sound that they had with their former band, Bethesda.

IgnitionEP-Front-FINALEric has the ability to create multiple layers with his musical background and Shanna is sounding her best yet with clear, full and matured vocals. Put that together with their new recording partner, Jim Stewart, who engineered the sessions, and you will find yourself thinking they might have stumbled onto a great thing. This is especially true if you were saddened by their choice to move on from their band in 2014.

The EP starts off strong with the title track’s “Ignition” repeating the word “revelation” in the chorus, almost as if they had one of their own. Their spiritual background is very evident with so many of the lyrics lending themselves to biblical imagery, but they find a way to make it palatable as they douse it in wonderful melodies that you will find yourself singing well after the song is over.

“Stand” is more like the sound you will hear live as they like to fill their act out with a few samples. this may take you out of the song at first, as you may be used to a more organic sound, but Shanna’s haunting vocal accompaniment and lyrics do their best to draw you back in and the song gets right back on track.

BLWL 2Next comes “measure of us”. If “ignition” is their way of palleting their message, this is their gospel. You can feel their fiery spirit coming through and the vulnerability of living a devout life as they yearn to get that message out to others.

“Mason jars”, in my opinion, is the hidden gem of the EP. Tucked away at the end, this song could have been written recently or years ago, it feels as though they know this song very well. Their confidence abounds in the way they sing together and how the music drives this beautifully written song.

4 songs is not enough but it shows they are off to a good start. It is an enjoyable and fun EP. Look for their release party May 1st at the Euclid Tavern Happy Dog with Marcus Allen Ward and Nanopheonix.

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Live Review: Lightning Bolt/Metz/Chomp at the Beachland Ballroom

It may have been a good idea to bring a set of earplugs to the Beachland Ballroom Friday night as the aggressive chaos-inducing noise-rock of Lightning Bolt, METZ and Chomp emanated from the stage and penetrated concertgoers’ ears.

Cleveland’s own Chomp kicked off the night with Joe Boyer on vocals, Jeff Latimer on bass and Scott Reid on drums. Boyer’s voice ranged from melodic drifts to gravelly screams. Reid’s drumming reached a vomit-inducing high that did not deter him one bit except for a five second recovery period before delving into one of Chomp’s newest songs, “The Rational Anthem”. You can catch Chomp again at Mahall’s on April 30.

METZ hailing from Toronto took no time to create a sweat-filled haze over the crowd that literally fogged up lead singer Alex Edkin’s glasses. Edkin’s shredding matched bass player’s Chris Sloarch’s wild antics while drummer Hayden Menzies pounded away in a maniacal fashion. Edkin’s interactions was minimal but when prompted, the crowd responded back with mighty whooping before diving back into the mosh pit once a new song started.

Much anticipated headliner Lightning Bolt took to the stage – a rarity as their sets are usually performed on the ground surrounded by the crowd. Bassist Brian Gibson left the talking and crowd interaction up to drummer/vocalist Brian Chippendale as he stood off to the side quietly concentrating on his loops and tapping. Chippendale’s furious drumming threw concertgoers into a violent frenzy while he bellowed unintelligible lyrics into his masked microphone. Playing songs off their recently released album Fantasy Empire, it was not long before those in attendance mustered the courage to hop on stage and thrash along in usual Lightning Bolt fashion.

 

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Live Review: Foxygen at the Rock Hall

For April’s Sonic Sessions, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame brought glam rock group Foxygen to their main stage. Founded by duo Sam France and Jonthan Rado in 2005, the group has been touring in support of their album …And Star Power released in 2014. France’s unhinged dancing sprung him to the very edge of the stage to the screaming crowd while he and the equally enthusiastic back-up dancers kept up with the beat splaying their limbs wildly into the air. Rado focused on keyboards while occasionally standing on a chair to play guitar.

The group tore through their set with songs like “Hot Summer”, “Cannibal Holocaust”, and “Shuggie”. After a mock induction ceremony in honor of the Rock Hall’s Induction Week, Foxygen ended the night with a 2-song encore including crowd favorite “No Destruction” and “Everyone Needs Love”.

The show began with the extraordinary talent from Down Under, Alex Cameron, and his right-hand sax man, Roy Molloy. The duo impressed with synth-induced songs like “Happy Ending” and “Real Bad Lookin”. Molloy’s sax complimented Cameron’s Nick Cave-esque silky tenor and get-low-and-dirty dance moves.

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