With what passes for rock and roll nowadays, who could really blame those that say the genre is dead or dying? But if you scratch just a little bit deeper, you’ll find there is a whole new generation of artists well versed in the finer points of classic rock, penning brand new messages in fifty year old ink. Greta Van Fleet may have garnered the lion’s share of hedgerow bustling from the mainstream, but there was a bumper crop of retro-leaning acts in 2018 proving there will always be plenty of room for bands that want to wrap themselves in velvets and party like it’s 1974. It was tough to whittle the whole year down to ten releases, and even tougher to rank them. But after countless hours of analysis, these are the best things I heard this year; if you don’t think they make ‘em like they used to, you need to check this shit out.
*This is part of our State Of The Art series, showcasing bands every Monday from the featured state.This month’s state is Wisconsin.*
Moon Rats was formed in 2016 by members of Calliope and Sonic J. The hard hitting 5 piece is dedicated to psychedelic stoner rock that is out of this world. The band is comprised of Al Kraemer on vocals and guitar,
Victor Buell laying down riffs on lead guitar, Brendt Dondero behind the kit on drums, Myles Coyne on bass, and
Nathan Toth on organ. The bands first release came in the form of a single back in May of 2017 with the track “Motor Sword”. The track would also appear on the bands debut full length ‘Highway Lord’ which released on June 23rd 2017. The album was recorded in the remote northern woods of Wisconsin. It was written, produced and recorded by the band and mastered by Justin Perkins at The Mystery Room. The album was released on cassette via Gloss Records, however the band is an independent/unsigned band. ‘Highway Lord’ is by far one of the best debut albums I have heard in years. To think this band formed and recorded this album themselves within a year is an astounding feat that deserves attention. I believe their ability to record on their own and the added ambiance that recording in the remote Wisconsin woods helps the chemistry of the band and keeps their sound unique with no outside influence. Moon Rats have also proved they aren’t lazy and have already released a new single since their debut. The track ‘Ride Or Die’ released in February of this year and claims to be the first glimpse at Moon Rats’ second installment into the Highway Lord mythology, ‘Lonestar.’
Ain’t No Shame, the eagerly anticipated second full-length from Norwegian trio Friendship, should be classified as a mood-enhancing substance. The first time I heard it, it pulled me out of the kind of piss-poor headspace that can only come from five hours cooped up in a car with two cranky children and an more than exasperated spouse. I was actually a little nervous to hit play that first time, for fear that my mental and physical exhaustion might negatively color my feeling toward the material. But by the end of the Monkees-and-Cream-playing-Cheap Trick opener “Are You Ready,” I was grinning ear to ear. Somewhere in the middle of the jazzy delight “Harmony Turns to Sound,” my dopey grin turned to slack-jawed awe. And within three seconds of the stomping funk-rock romp “Fire,” I actually laughed out loud from the combination of amazement and joy. I went to bed that night with a smile on my face and a sense of contentment in my heart, and I have Fredrik Skalstad (drums & lead vocals), Martin Morland (bass), and Sander Eriksen Nordahl (guitar) (along with their litany of guest musicians) to thank for that. It brought me up when I was down, and there’s not too many higher accolades than that.
The latest release from Cologne, Germany’s Mouth, the intoxicating Floating, marks the group as one of the most unique and singular in the wide world of retro rock. Like the very best of the genre, they take a pile of classic influences and combine them into something fresh and new and vital. A vibrantly kaleidoscopic blend of prog, pop, krautrock, and psych that pulses and throbs with a bright, crackling electricity, Floating clearly displays the musical telepathy the trio have developed in their near-twenty year existence. The eight songs here offer the full range of sonic experience, intricate structures and full, lush orchestration combining with joyful exuberance and rock-solid musicianship to make Floating one of the most rewarding listens you’ll have this year.
ArcadeMessiah is a solo project spearheaded by cult Hasting band, Kingbathmat frontman JohnBassett who currently resides in Sligo, Ireland. Born in Walthamstow, London, Bassett was raised by his ex-convent nun mother and meter reading father, who fed and looked after him as long as they could. By sixteen, he quit school and left home with little more than the clothes on his back. This left his employment opportunities limited to dull and mundane tasks; guitar and songwriting being his primary source of solstice. His love of music developed at a young age after picking up an acoustic guitar in the family home. Once able to figure out and play along with a number of songs, he found a guitar teacher in Tottenham to assist with chording. What John discovered was that he was playing a right handed guitar left handed, even though he was, in fact, right handed. Playing backwards was simply more comfortable. With this straightened out and a proper, left handed guitar was purchased, chords became natural and progressed directly into songwriting that has evolved into a life long passion.
Dark Buddha Rising are a Finland based band that has been creating music since 2007. They are preparing to release their fifth studio album titled “Inversum”. The album is the follow up to their 2013 release “Dakhmandal”. The new album will be hitting shelves on September 25th and marks the band’s first release on their new label Neurot Recordings. Dark Buddha Rising is comprised of six members and have a very unique sound that really puts them outside the box when compared to other bands in the metal world. Continue reading →