Review: Lizzy Farrall – All I Said Was Never Heard

Lizzy Farrall

Lizzy Farrall’s All I Said Was Never Heard fits right in with the likes of Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers. The EP is intensely personal in the same way. Plus, Farrall’s voice is a refreshing one to hear. “Broken Toy” is fairly stripped down, which puts a huge focus on the vocals. The song is one about being alone and trying to get over someone. “I’ll forever be that broken toy on your shelf” is a powerful line. A broken toy on someone’s shelf is usually there because there’s some sentimental value to it, but maybe it’s not quite worth trying to fix.

“Pack Of Wolves” has more meat to the music, but it’s not overbearing. The drums are pretty sparse, never taking over in any sort of flashy way. While the music sounds simple, the lyrics are the more complex part of the songs. In this song, Farrall sings of being a lone wolf, so there’s a theme of being alone or feeling that way, at least.

The next two songs, “Better With” and “Better Off,” tie into each other nicely. At the start of “Better With,” the guitars are more driven and there’s a prominent bass line once she starts singing. Farrall’s voice meshes well whether it’s a full band behind her or something more stripped down. For such a quick listen (the EP is about 17 minutes), she packs in a good variety of songs. “Hollow Friends” closes out the EP with a similar vibe that “Broken Toy” started it with.

Lizzy Farrall is an artist everyone should at least give a listen to. She’s a skilled songwriter who deserves the attention. All I Said Was Never Heard is solid all the way through and is an EP I’ll keep returning to. If you’re interested (and I hope you are), you can grab yourself a copy via Amazon.

Review: Toy Cars – Paint Brain

Toy Cars - Paint Brain

Toy Cars pack a lot of themselves into Paint Brain in just over half an hour. The albums starts with the title track and it sets the tone for the rest of the album. Each song tells a personal story and you can’t help but get invested in what the band is telling you. It’s as if you were just sitting around and getting to know them through various stories. When songs get that personal, it makes them enjoyable to listen to.

The band also has a consistent sound throughout the album. Even when a song slows down a bit, it gives off the same vibe that the faster songs do. The guitars certainly stand out in Paint Brain. In a song like “Swim,” the guitar is much quieter when the song starts, but about a minute in, it starts to hit a little harder. Plus, the full band fills out the song more. There’s a nice balance of knowing when to keep things simple with just the guitar and vocals and when to bring in the rest of the band. Instead of just having the song be one or the other, they make both work without making it feel like a totally different song.

The dynamics of the record make it a constant joy to listen to. You can tell that the band invested time into each of the songs. “Jimmy & Quinn” is an instrumental track that works as a nice bridge from “Erie” to “Tread.” It’s a relaxing little moment before going into the final two tracks.

I’ve been recommending Toy Cars to people quite a bit lately and it’s for a reason. This album is wonderful to listen to. With my podcast listening habits, I don’t come back to albums quite as often as I’d like, but I’ve already done so with this one. Give it a listen and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Book Review: Smoke City by Keith Rosson

Smoke City

Last year, Keith Rosson released The Mercy of the Tide. I dove into the book not knowing what to expect since he was an author I hadn’t read before. There’s always that moment when you try something new and you aren’t sure how it will go. However, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the book. When word got out that he had a new book, Smoke City, on the way, I knew instantly that it would be something I wanted to read.

Smoke City tells a tale of three strangers hitting the road together, traveling from Oregon down to Los Angeles, CA. Marvin Deitz is a complex character who has so much history to him that you never stop learning something new as you read through the book. Mike Vale is a bit more rough around the edges when we first meet him, but things smooth out along the way. Casper makes himself the third man on the road trip by hiding in the van before Mike and Marvin make it out of Oregon.

The three are an unlikely group, but that’s what makes the story so compelling. One wouldn’t think that a story that largely involves being stuck in a vehicle would be exciting, but the three different personalities and everything they see along the way makes it work. Not to mention, the “smokes” that are causing chaos in California play an interesting role.

What Rosson does is he makes you care about these guys who aren’t the best guys in the world, but they also aren’t the worst. Mike has so many problems piling up that it’s hard not to feel bad for him even if he had control over at least some of those problems. He writes these complex characters in a way that doesn’t feel dense. You aren’t getting everything all at once. Instead, things are coming piece by piece, just as if you were in the van with them and getting to know them. It’s a clever way to rope you in.

Smoke City is a journey. Three people who feel like they’ve hit rock bottom or just need a fresh start make a trip that changes all of their lives. Additionally, Marvin is a reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, which provides a separate storyline detailed in his journals. He doesn’t reveal why exactly he’s in LA until he tries explaining it to Casper at one of the studio parking lots. There’s always this anticipation with Marvin because he’s aware early on that he’s only supposed to have a limited time to live. The book keeps you on your toes and it all pays off in the end. This is a satisfying read, so be sure to check it out.

Smoke City is out on January 23, 2018 and you can grab a copy on Amazon.

Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Andy Weir self-published The Martian back in 2011, before it was picked up for a film and re-published in 2014 by Crown. Artemis is his next space adventure, that takes place on the moon. The story revolves around Jasmine Bashara, who goes by Jazz. She’s sly and her father typically never approves of what she does. At the start of the novel, her business is smuggling goods in for people. Despite that, she’s stuck in a tiny room that she rents, which she calls a “coffin,” because it’s that small.

Jazz is a wonderful character to center a story around because of just how witty and multifaceted she is. Sure, she’s good at smuggling things in, but if she just applied herself a but more, there’s pretty much nothing that she couldn’t do. She’s hired by a very rich man to sabotage a company for him. We’ve established that she smuggles things in, but it’s mostly things like cigars, not anything too terrible. She’s a criminal, but even this is going to be quite the challenge for her.

Friends are few and far between for Jazz, which is probably for the best as far as the story goes. There aren’t too many people to keep track of and it keeps the novel concise. She has a handful of people helping her out, despite how dangerous her task is because the company she’s going after is run by a cartel and they do not mess around.

Artemis brings high stakes to the moon and the world building that Andy Weir accomplishes is amazing. Before getting into all of the action, we learn what the tourists are like, what the living situation is like, what the main jobs are, and what type of food they eat. We also find out that Jazz has a pen pal back on Earth, who also helps her with a few things when needed.

This story has everything you would want in a space heist. Even though her goal is to sabotage something, she’s still stealing away the company for the cartel by doing so. Not everything goes as planned, but then again, how many heists go exactly as planned all the time? Artemis is a page-turner and a completely fun ride. You can now grab a copy of the book, which is out today.

Review: Best Behavior – Things That Happened

Best Behavior

Best Behavior are releasing Things That Happened on November 14th. The EP boasts four songs and when the title track kicks into gear, it took me by surprise. It reminded me of Hot Hot Heat circa Elevator. They have the same sort of pop sound and catchiness with their lyrics. “As I Wait” is about a relationship that feels like it met a one-sided ending. He even takes responsibility by singing “I know I’m the one to blame.” The underlying music provides a great beat for the song and the band continues to impress.

While “As I Wait” was somewhat about communication (or lack thereof), “Say” is certainly about it. “I don’t know what to say” frequently comes up and it’s something everyone can we relate to. Haven’t we all had those moments where we just have absolutely no clue what to say? “Catherine No Chaser” closes out the EP. It’s a fun, summer-like song and even though it’s being released in the fall, it still works. The song fits with the overall tone of the EP. The music isn’t drastically different, even though the lyrical content might be a little more on the bright side than the other three songs.

Overall, Best Behavior put together a fun EP. The production on it is solid from start to finish. It won’t take up too much of your time to check this out since it’s only four songs. Best Behavior are certainly a band to keep an eye on as they continue working on new music. If you’re interested, you can grab a copy of Things The Happened on their Bandcamp. I highly suggest you do so.

Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Krysten Ritter is largely known for playing Jessica Jones and starring in Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. She did have a brief role in Breaking Bad, too. Now she’s taking her talents to the book world. Her debut novel, Bonfire, is out on November 7th. As I was browsing around NetGalley and saw this book, I knew right away that I had to read it.

Bonfire takes you to the small town of Barrens, Indiana. The book’s protagonist, Abby Williams, returns to her hometown with a new perspective on not only her life, but that of the people in Barrens. She’s been an outsider for quite some time and it lets her piece together what ends up being a suspenseful mystery.

What Ritter does well is she takes her time with the story. The book isn’t long by any means. In fact, it feels like just the right length (it comes in just under 300 pages). She could have crammed a much more dense mystery in those pages, but she chooses instead to give you pieces here and there. Abby Williams is an environmental lawyer, so you would think things wouldn’t be too thrilling for her, right? Well, her return to Barrens proves otherwise.

Tying the present day story into Abby’s past is a delight. It’s the perfect opportunity to give background on the characters without making it feel forced. Without giving anything away, let me just tell you that this story won’t go where you expect it to. Whenever it felt like things were all figured out, another twist came up and changed everything.

Typically, I find myself reading a lot more non-fiction than fiction these days. So to get this book and thoroughly enjoy it is a huge plus. Fiction is so much fun when it works well and this book was a fun one to dive into. Plus, it was so engrossing that I finished it in two days. If you’re looking for a good suspense novel to check out this fall, go grab yourself a copy of Bonfire. It’s well worth the time.

Review: Weller – Weller

Weller

A few weeks ago, Weller released their debut, self-titled album. Even with the album having 10 songs, it comes in at a quick 24 minutes. Only two songs ever run over three minutes and despite it being short, a lot is packed into it. With your mainstream releases, it can feel like songs are shoehorned into that 3-4 minute runtime. Weller never makes their songs feel that way. They take time when they need it and make the point quickly when necessary.

The vocals throughout the album have an intimate feeling to them. You really get the sense that you’re getting a firsthand look into someone’s life. “Answer Anything” gives that feeling right away and is a good opening song to set the mood for the album. “Boroughs” talks about living in a cleaner place and not aging. The words give you a sort of image, frozen in time, of those two things. A cleaner place isn’t hard to imagine, but there’s still something personal about it. I’ve always thought you could tell a lot about someone just by walking into their place. This feels like it’s giving you a sense of that in a way. Like they deserve to live in a much cleaner place.

“Standard” is one of those three minute plus songs, but it never feels like it. It engrosses you so you don’t even notice that much time has passed. There’s a little bit of everything on this album. “Buck” starts with a more full feel to the music and then thins out as the vocals come in. It really allows you to focus on the lyrics and the dynamics throughout the song are great. “Point of Personal Privilege” rounds out the album in a nice fashion. There’s avoidance, which we’ve all experienced in one way or another, which leaves you finishing the album on a relatable note

You won’t find any filler on this album. Weller is a great addition to the ever-enjoyable Philly music scene. At times, I start to miss it and then realize, I can at least listen to it whenever I’d like. Not to mention, this is a nicely timed release because it brings those fall vibes throughout it. The band put out a solid release as their debut. Pick up a copy if you’re interested.

Book Review: Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson

Captain Phasma was introduced in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 and has made appearances in various Star Wars media since then. One of the most recent appearances is in Star Wars: Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson. The book covers a variety of stories from her time on Parnassos, her home planet, before she joined the First Order.

What Dawson does well with this book is that she tells the story from the perspective of Siv, who spent time with Phasma on their home planet. She tells the story to a rebellion spy, Vi Moradi, who ends up being captured by Cardinal in the First Order. He keeps her his little secret as he tries to find out how to get rid of Phasma. Telling the story that way gives you an outside look at Phasma, instead of seeing everything from her perspective, which would likely come across quite differently.

Having the outside perspective lets you know just how cold and calculating Phasma could be and how everyone around her perceives her. While we don’t get much of her own thoughts on her past, she says enough by the end of the book to make you realize exactly who she is and how accurate the stories about her are.

Throughout the book, you also see what Cardinal thinks of her and they’re supposedly on the same side. Both are trusted within the First Order to train the troopers, but Phasma is a step above Cardinal and that irks him to no end. Dawson portrays every character in the book with a great amount of care and detail. Switching between the stories and the present day gives a little break in the action, but also leaves you wanting to know more about Phasma, which is exactly how Cardinal feels when Vi finished up a story, too.

Overall, this book is a great look into the character and with Phasma appearing in The Last Jedi, I recommend checking it out if you want to know more about her. You can pick up a copy of the book via Amazon.

A Casual Fan’s Take on ‘Science Fiction’ by Brand New

Brand New - Science Fiction

Brand New is a band that I didn’t get into until after they released Daisy, so it’s hard to consider myself anything more than a casual fan. I haven’t listened to their albums hundreds of times. Despite that, I do happen to own Your Favorite Weapon and Deja Entendu on vinyl. However, there are albums I have bought before and haven’t ended up listening to the records as much as I thought I would. So buying vinyl isn’t always an accurate representation of how much I enjoy or listen to a particular album.

Their latest release, Science Fiction, piqued my interest. I remember telling Jason Tate on a podcast we did that they weren’t on my most anticipated list, but I would still listen whenever a new album came out (or something to that effect, anyway). And I honestly wasn’t in a rush for it to come out. When the limited edition vinyl dropped, I wasn’t concerned about getting my hands on a copy. When the album started showing up in the form of various rips on the internet, I started to get interested. Hoping it would be up on Apple Music shortly thereafter, I waited. It didn’t come right away so I gave a single listen to the hour plus file. Initially, I actually heard about 10 seconds on YouTube but stopped because it didn’t seem like it was great quality.

That first listen gave me an inkling that I’d enjoy the album more than I expected to. While listening to it, it’s like I forgot about everything else the band had done before, because frankly, it didn’t matter to me if this was or wasn’t like their previous stuff. My opinion on albums simply comes from whether I enjoy them to not. I’m perfectly fine with bands who change their sound over time and bands who don’t get a bit stale.

This album never went on repeat for me. I wanted to sit with it between listens so it all wouldn’t blur together. When it finally hit Apple Music, I gave it a second listen. Having the track listing was a huge plus, too. Now I actually knew what songs were playing, which is always helpful.

“Lit Me Up” starts with a spoken word bit, and I’m not a huge fan of those. It takes about two minutes to get to the actual music and once it gets there, it’s a wonderful opening track. It grabbed me and kept me interested in the rest. “Same Logic / Teeth” gives a new look at what Jesse can do with more screaming that expected.

It’s hard for me to sit and listen to albums that are over an hour long. I prefer the ones that run around the 40 minute mark. That feels like the sweet spot to me, but I will make exceptions, especially when the album flows like this one does. It never felt like it was an hour long album because I easily took to it.

If you’re wanting a full on breakdown of this album, you won’t find that here. I’m just a casual fan who really enjoys this listening experience. Is this the end of Brand New? If it is, that’s fine. And if it isn’t, that’s fine, too. Don’t get me wrong, I respect everything this band has done for music over the years, but I’m not a hyper-fan and there’s no shame in that. This is a great album and it feels like the band took their time because they wanted to get it right. And they sure did.

Grab a copy of Science Fiction over on Amazon.

Review: Envy On The Coast – ‘Ritual’

Envy On The Coast - Ritual

Envy On The Coast returned with Ritual on June 30th. It was a long wait from Lowcountry to the new EP. That album came out in 2010 and it somehow doesn’t feel like it was quite that long ago. That was also right around the time I actually found out about the band, so it was a shame when I didn’t get to hear anything new from that after discovering them. The current lineup consists of Ryan Hunter and Brian Byrne, so there have been some changes, but I’m still glad to have them back.

While I haven’t always enjoyed the direction a band takes when they make new music, I can understand it. Artists can’t keep making the same music with each release. Ritual sounds like Envy On The Coast, but it doesn’t sound exactly like their previous releases. It doesn’t have any extra audio bits like “Southern Comfort” does, and they’ve dialed things back just slightly. “Manic State Park” starts with a more upbeat feel to it than most of their songs before. Ryan and Brian did note that this wouldn’t be a reunion, but more of a reincarnation instead.

“Lioness” is a song that talks of wanting to make a mess again. The lyrics tell a story of essentially wanting to go back to a destructive way of living. The writing really stands out on this EP as it has in past releases. Overall, the six songs given here are just enough to keep me wanting more. Sure, it’s not the best thing that’s ever come from Envy On The Coast, but I’m okay with that given the circumstances. If you haven’t checked this out simply because of the lineup changes, I highly encourage you to do so. There are still some of those aspects of the previous incarnation of the band present.

You can grab a copy of Ritual via Amazon.