Review: William Ryan Key – Virtue EP

William Ryan Key - Virtue

William Ryan Key has a lengthy history of songwriting that feels intensely personal. Whether it’s his solo work or his work with Yellowcard, you can tell that he’s writing from a real place. He’s never one who will shy away from the tough subjects or extremely emotional moments. That’s something to be admired. Every now and then, I’ll listen to something mainstream on the radio and at times, it doesn’t feel like there’s much personality to it.

With Virtue, William Ryan Key is focused on the intimacy of these moments that he’s writing about. You can tell just with the lyrics that these songs really mean something to him. Even when the title track builds up to a full band sound, it doesn’t look the personal aspect to it and that’s something I love about the EP.

Earlier in the year, William Ryan Key released Thirteen and I’m glad he went with two EP releases versus one LP. He’s able to focus on specific sounds for each one and do something a little different. Both are enjoyable, but not necessarily for the same exact reasons, which is great. It gives you different flavors of what he can do as a solo artist and still keeps the songwriting as the core focus.

As a sucker for acoustic songs, I loved “Downtown (Up North)” the first time I heard it. It starts with just the acoustic guitar and builds up to a more filled out sound, but not necessarily that full band sound that we hear in “Virtue.” The string section is a pleasant addition as the song goes on and it’s very reminiscent of Yellowcard’s ballads.

The closing track, “No More, No Less,” is the most experimental track on the EP, but it ends it with a bang. It has an intensity that the other songs don’t really have and I’m all for it. The musicianship on it is still enjoyable and it brings you a little surprise to close things out.

If you haven’t had the chance yet, go give this EP a listen (and Thirteen, too). You can also buy a copy on Amazon if you’re interested. I highly recommend this as it’s one of my favorite EPs of the year.

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: 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.

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.

Review: Toy Cars – ‘Sleeping Patterns’

sleepingpatternsSleeping Patterns isn’t the first release from Toy Cars, but in a way, it feels like it is. Red Hands was the band’s first EP, but the lineup wasn’t quite filled out then. They also had a release between these two, but this is the first from the more permanent lineup. The band, however, is still relatively new with all of this happening between 2014 and now. This EP immediately caught my attention and I keep wanting to listen to it.

Matt DeBenedetti has a tendency to shout when the song calls for it and blends that in well with his singing. “Bjork” starts with his vocals and very little music, instantly giving you an idea of what you’re in for. Throughout the song, the pace changes between the verses and chorus. It’s a great tactic to keep your attention, even though it’s only a five song EP that runs about 15 minutes. “Dull” really switched things up and slows down the song. It oozes with a more intimate vibe, especially with the pairing of Matt’s voice with the acoustic guitar.

The EP comes to a close with a banger in “Albatross.” It builds into a high energy song and makes for a great ending to what’s been a fantastic EP. It does take a while for it to build, but that’s part of what makes the song great. The band didn’t feel the need to rush it, and it paid off. This 5 song EP will whiz you through a variety of emotions and will leave you still feeling all of them at once. Sleeping Patterns is a fantastic release from a great band.

You can grab a copy of the EP here if you’re interested.

Review: Hiding Place – ‘Hiding Place’

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Hiding Place have hit the emo scene with their self-titled EP. You know they’re making noise when they premiere a single over at Washed Up Emo. That single, “Slave To Your Name” opens up the EP and immediately sets the tone. You can expect heartbreaking lyrics with a mix of a slightly upbeat vibe; think of a blend between Death Cab For Cutie and Sunny Day Real Estate. Needless to say, if you enjoy either of those two bands, Hiding Place are well worth checking out.

Listening to this EP might emotionally drain you, which is the point of it. The band wants to make you feel what they felt while writing these songs and having those lyrics go through their heads. Thirteen minutes isn’t a big commitment, but within that short amount of time, Hiding Place will have you falling in love with their sound. “Desperate Desire” closes out the EP and starts with some calming acoustic guitar paired with the vocals. While it’s soothing, it will draw you in for a fantastic finale. I can’t recommend this band enough. Go check them out and if you’re so inclined, buy the record here.

Review: The Commuters – ‘Before I Was Born’

commuters_beforeiwasbornThe Commuters recently released Before I Was Born, which consists of four great songs. The title track opens the EP and makes it clear that this band is talented. The way the drums stand out, while fitting into the songs, is outstanding. Drums haven’t caught my attention as much as they did on this EP in a while. Typically the guitars immediately draw me in. That’s not to say the guitars are less enjoyable, but something about the drums just took me by surprise. “The Better Part of Me” is full of bass, which contrasts with the higher pitch of the vocals. This contrast works well and allows you to focus on both the lyrics and the beat without missing out on something.

“Pass It Along” has a catchy chorus, which the band built up to with an almost somber tone. The chorus then lifts up the song and there are plenty of high notes to be had. The vocals on this EP were fantastic throughout. Not knowing much about the band before listening, it was a pleasant surprise. “You’ll Stay Right Here” closes out the EP and begins with a solo piano. It’s a bit of a change from the more drum-heavy songs, but it shows their versatility. The vocals keep the same feel throughout and that’s really what’s key in this EP. The band is consistent and they kept the EP short and sweet. I’ll be wanting to hear more from them in the future.

If you’re interested, you can buy a copy of the EP here.

Review: Cloud District – ‘Summer Slam’

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Cloud District are back with their EP, Summer Slam, appropriately titled for a late June release. The band kicks off the EP with “You Are the Answer to My Security Question.” With that long title, comes the longest song on the EP. It begins with a voicemail from a girl and then goes into the music which describes a sense of being on the wrong path. The rest of the songs follow a similar theme. “You Will Never Be A Samurai” is over before you even know it, which to me is a shame. That rolls right into “Natalie Dormer,” which is an upbeat, catchy song. Both songs also include some fantastic trumpet playing, which was a nice surprise. Lyrics like “it just sucks to be alive when you don’t feel alive” contradicts that upbeat vibe, but I think the band makes it work extremely well.

The second half of Summer Slam consists of “Pillow Fort,” “Rosie,” and “Infinite Chaz.” “Pillow Fort” starts heavy with the guitar and plows through with the power chords until it suddenly switched to some acoustic guitar and a slower pace. This song shows the versatility of the band within a short two-and-a-half minutes. “Rosie” has a more intimate feel to start with just the vocals and guitar until the full band comes in to fill it out. “Infinite Chaz” was a good choice to close out the EP, which is fulfilling build that pays off. While the lyrics are intensely personal, it makes for a good summer jam and the short length will have you wanting to listen to it over and over again. Check out the album over on Bandcamp, where it’s available for name your price.

Review: The Pooches – ‘Heart Attack’

The Pooches are from Glasgow, Scotland and will be releasing Heart Attack January 29th. They’re making their way into the U.S. and working with Lame-O Records. The EP is a great introduction to the band and it kicks off with the title track. You get all four songs in under ten minutes, so this EP won’t take up a lot of your time. “Heart Attack” was the single off the release and is a perfect way to start off the EP. You instantly get a feel for the band and it’s very clear they have some Beach Boys influence, especially in those vocal melodies.

This EP is the catchiest release I’ve heard this month. With only four songs, it left me wanting to hear a lot more from the band. I could easily listen to Heart Attack over and over. If you’re even slightly into indie pop, be sure to check out this release. “Rhythm of The Rain” closes out the EP with an upbeat melody, but heartfelt lyrics, which fits the overall tone of the release. This is one you won’t want to miss out on.