EP Reviews: Hemmingbirds and Nate Leavitt


Hemmingbirds “Half A Second”

Chicago’s Hemmingbirds began as a solo project of singer/guitarist/violist Yoo Soo Kim, but has since emerged as truly talented band. On this latest EP, its blasts out of the gate on the title track a blend of indie rock and catchy power pop in the chorus. It grabs hold and doesn’t let go with subtle layers of instrumentation and balanced noise. “Mess of Things” follows with its tribal beat and rhythmic guitar riffs, in fact the album notes specify that it “isn’t necessarily a concept but more so a feeling. “

“Stay” has some dissonance and a repeating synth loop that reminded me of Tokyo Police Club a little, with a quiet break in between the frantic drums, and it ends with the solid ballad “Lover, You’re Out There” but even here the instrumentation drowns out the piano and lead vocals at some point. While way too short, this EP is highly recommended and worth repeat listens.


Nate Leavitt

Nate Leavitt & The Elevation “Someone Send A Signal”

Not power pop, but solid alt. country and blues pop. Nate Leavitt and bandmates entered the studio at Studio A in Somerville, Mass and coaxed out the spirits of Neil Young, Wilco, Butch Walker and even Alex Chiton here. “Relieve Me” opens up a painful story with longing in each riff and organ chord. It builds in intensity with each verse, and Leavitt’s guitar work is exceptional here.

The ballad “When I Was With You” is a detailed love story where both people connect to the music and then separate. “Take Me Back” is a rousing layered guitar gem with a catchy chorus that hits the sweet spot. Unfortunately, that bit of optimism is followed by mid tempo wallowing in sadness and then on the title track, moving on after heartbreak. “I Can Breathe Again” is emotionally draining, but ultimately this themed album is a gorgeously produced and performed. Highly Recommended.


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Freebie Saturdays: Emerging Artists

This is a little like speed speed dating for the musician and the listener. I get a TON of e-mails from bands, many not suitable for review or even consideration. Then I get the stuff that almost makes it. Maybe I only liked one or two songs, but these artists deserve an outlet once in a while. These artists offer their music as an Bandcamp download for FREE, and who knows you may like a lot of them more than I did.
New Paltz kids playing smelly old basement DIY punk pop backed by guitar and a single snare drum. It’s got some charm to it, and songs are under 2 minutes each!

Andy Ketch
Rough as hell Chicago guitarist with a melodic gift, plays both folk and rock.

Daveit Ferris
Irish Musician with a heavy alternative style of power pop offers up a pretty good EP. RIYL: Weezer, Green Day

Slow Buildings
Slow Buildings is the outlet for the songwriting skills of New Jersey singer Jason Legacy. Pretty cool melodic rock – a little like old school Joe Jackson in spots. Just listen to it.

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Freebie Friday: Moving To Ashbury, Grant Lindberg, Ben Lee

It’s been a while, but I have lined up some great FREE bandcamp music for you all. And more for you Saturday. Enjoy!

Moving to Ashbury – Swedish power pop along the lines of Green Day or NOFX. “Time to Let Go,” is a catchy guitar melody, the fast paced punk pop of “What Happened to Rock n’ Roll” has plenty of great energy in the guitar licks.

Grant Lindberg – Minneapolis popster Lindberg (Astropop) has been making good music for a few years now. Influenced by Superdrag, Brendan Benson, Cheap Trick, Jason Falkner, Nirvana and Ash. Well he’s consistently improved his songwriting each year. Super Mega has some real winners on it: “Sonic Blues,” “You Alone,” and “Blacked Heart”

And if you really get into Grant’s world – he’s got a collection of outtakes (a whole album’s worth) that’s also available.

Ben Lee – Musician Ben Lee is offering a mix tape for almost free ($1) and you get a pile of impressive guest stars like Zooey Deschanel, Angie Hart, Nina Persson, Sean Lennon and Neil Finn (to name drop a few). Lee wrote these songs specifically for each performer – so check it out.

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Emerging Artists: The Low Dose, Zaina, Janet Devlin, and AJR

Already a new group of releases have hit my desk, but before I get to it I wanted to post some new artists that may get some traction this year. Some have music available, and some just have a single. It’s a diverse group of styles, but you may like it!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRN08x9fvwU [/youtube]

New Jersey’s The Low Doses are lead by guitarist/singer/vocalist Ryan Masterson and bassist Joi La Cour are working on their debut album. This is the first single from it.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/a1goJr1UN4Y [/youtube] The girl with the purple hair is Zaina. While most of her work is soul or hip hop, this nicely written ballad caught my attention. Her voice is just mesmerizing. Hear more on Soundcloud.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/0hfNzBwGoAU [/youtube]

Northern Irish singer-songwriter Janet Devlin grew up outside the village of Gortin in County Tyrone, the only girl and youngest of four in her family. Inspired by bands such as Foo Fighters and Red Hot Chili Peppers, Janet learned to play the guitar and write her own songs at a young age. Check out Running With Scissors


Indie pop trio AJR had an EP drop this past September, and a full length is due in early March. They reminded me a little of Sunday Sun with their youthful energy. This is the new single “Infinity.” Infinity – EP

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Balduin and Flake

Tim Lee 3

Balduin “All in A Dream”

Balduin is a bit of a mystery man from Switzerland,  but for lovers of retro pop this is one of the best recreations of psychedelic music I’ve heard. Heavily influenced by British pop of the late 60’s, Balduin performs these songs on a plethora of period instruments (sitar, mellotron, harpsichord, harmonium, etc.) and if you didn’t know better you’d think this was a lost gem from the record bins of 1968.

“Love Is You” is a sunny baroque pop confection similar to late era Beatles, and most consumer friendly with its sly hook. Next is the sitar raga “Which Dreamed It” recalling George Harrison, and the folky “Autumn” is a reverb heavy folk number like the Byrds or Donovan. Fans of retro acts like The Sunchymes or Any Version of Me will marvel at the delicate arrangements that Balduin creates, bringing the era to life. You can also play spot-the-influences of Syd Barrett, The Moody Blues, and The Kinks. There is some instrumental filler scattered about the 16 tracks, but most of these are gorgeous (“Prisma Colora”). “Father” is another standout, like a lost John Lennon solo (the missing piece between “Mother” and “Beautiful Boy”). Fans of period baroque can do no better. Highly recommended.
power pop
Exclusively from Sunstone Records


Flake “Songs Without Words”

Okay, this weirdness isn’t power pop, but a Swiss duo Thierry Luethy, and Isabelle Ritter do make quality art-pop that deserves to be discovered. No label, no distribution, no publicity — just download the tracks from their website for free.

And while some stuff here is totally skip-able (“Everytime I Get The Shakes,”) there is enough here to make me appreciate the hard work Thierry and Isabelle put in. Check out the catchy “Hipster Girl” and the compelling chorus of “We Are The Night.” Ritter’s vocals are gorgeous and rescues the more ambient compositions, and more modern pop goodies are here too: “Shooting Star” and “As Time Goes By.” The method of discovery and price of admission are just right for finding new music.
power pop

FREE Download on Flake-Music.com


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