Album Reviews

Rocket by (Sandy) Alex G takes a otherworldly approach to Indie Lo Fi Folk


Written by Jeff Simmonds, Music Director


Never being exposed to (Sandy) Alex G before this album, I was excited to dive into the sound from this Lo Fi Pennsylvania born songwriter. The album was nothing like I expected after listening to the opening few tracks, but this contrast means the album is never dull keeping you on your toes.

Three prep strums, banjo, and dogs barking is the opening to (Sandy) Alex G’s new album Rocket. The song title Poison Root, and it’s avant Garde strings, lyrics about poisons trees, and becoming wholly omniscient sets an ominous tone for the album to come. Proud is next on up, and it is filled with jangly guitar, and bright piano. Lyrically it seems to explore the feelings of doubt, and not wanting to fail love ones. County graces the 3rd spot, and it starts with a surreal soundscape, that feels Jazzier than earlier tracks. Synth organ, and multi vocal parts liter the mix, and immerse the listener within the vinyet. Lyrically exploring life within the jail system, and misfortune. Bobby is batting clean up 4th, and is back with the banjo, country jangle we’ve heard earlier. Introducing a female vocalist onto the album as well. I feel this is the first true love song of the album, and lyrically is “cute”, but also heartfelt. Ironically possibly Witch is the next track, with a harpsichord to start the mood off, and varied percussive sounds used to drive the sound. Giving into a more psych/indie sound is fresh within the middle of this folk album beginning. Laying vocals into the song as it moves to close, though it seems to end sudden. You’re greeted next to a cacophony of digitally created sounds, claps, clanks, and drones, along with a steady thump from the depths of the mix. The track is entitled Horse. Avant  Garde at its finest. Brick is just as the title implies, it comes through the album like a brick through a glass house. More uses of avant garde house flavors, distant vocals makes this track harshness less overwhelming. Sportstar leads us into space, changing the sound again, using peter frampton esque guitar, and vox. Judge is number 9 on the album, and it feels as heavy as standing in front  of one. Layered vox, eerie high melodies, and droning guitar. The track where the album might get its name sake is sprinkled in at 10, and it is littered with the motif of banjo, country strings, and another place. Powerful Man is my favorite song on the album, and it’s melding of genres, while being some of the finest uses of folk styling on the album. Alina softly graces the ending stages of this album, using hand drummed percussion, and other timekeeping devices to drive this floating sound aloft, and into space. Unlucky 13 is home to Big Fish giving us more of what we’ve been hearing, but rawer, and less symphonic. Bookending at 14, Guilty is back to the jazzy, organ filled style of earlier. Adding more instrumentation, and flavors.

Genre bending, Lo Fi generating, Indie darling (Sandy) Alex G ignites in this album that is 14 tracks with a shared goal of propelling the listener to a different world, and maybe help relax you in the process.

Joseph show’s that being vulnerable is powerful

Written by: Annie Kustasz, General Manager


I’m Alone, No You’re Not

This album from singer-songwriter sisters is absolutely stunning.The vocal harmonies are melodic and light, they add a rich tone to the genuine lyrics. If you like the other sister act First Aid Kit, then you will these girls. As they follow some similar folk like patterns that First Aid Kit has on their album, and they share producer Mike Mogis. But they aren’t folk, while they carry that singer-songwriter vibe their music has more tone’s of pop-rock. And pack some punches with some colorful rhythmic hooks.

The album begins with “Canyon”, and the lyrics grab you right away. They flow above the gentle guitar, and builds to a strong chorus where the harmony of the group is on full display. It’s a fitting first track that doesn’t hold anything back. The second song, “SOS (overboard)” might be a surprising choice to follow the power of “Canyon”, but a full listen through shows a gentler, but still powerful side of Joseph. One of the best song on the album is “White Flag”, which comes eighth on the album. The song is mixed with low smooth harmonies and belted notes. The drums carries this through a series of twisted guitar riffs, leaving you feeling breathless and excited.

This is how the album balances itself out. Each song shows the power in vocal ability and crafty lyrics in strong and soft ways. Even the dreamy folk song, “Planets”, still shows the group’s powerfulness. This album set’s to prove that being vulnerable, open and sweet is powerful. And Joseph undoubtedly proves that.

Noah and the Whale sophomore album shows the journey of heartbreak through idyllic lyrics

Written by: Annie Kustasz, General Manager


The First Days of Spring

You know a band or an artist has got some talent when their sophomore album isn’t a letdown. Noah and the Whale’s “The First Days of Spring” show’s that this band knows what kind of music it wants to write. The album is one hundred percent a break up album, so if you have a broken heart you might want to wait before diving into this album. But the songs never feel cliche, or overly sad. You don’t get tired of the tone of the album or what this band is trying to do. The lyrics of this album are the centerpiece. They are honest, hard, and beautiful. You can tell that a lot of time was spent on developing the lyrics because of how each word truly fits well into each song it’s in.  The music that the lyrics rest on is just as heartbreakingly stunning. The subtle violins add so much to the album as whole giving you wave after wave of somber peace.

The two best tracks on the album are “I Have Nothing” and “Blue Skies”. These songs really showcase the band’s harmonies, lyrical writing skills, and musical abilities. Both of these song have such a calming feel, even though the piano and drums are at full force. “Blue Skies” lyrics, are probably one of the most poignant on the album. It feels like it should be at the end of a movie, the last scene fading out and credits rolling type deal. There’s a strong sense of resolution within the song, and I think that’s part of the reason it comes across as powerful as it does.

This album really takes you on a journey of heartbreak going from sadness, loneliness, acceptance, and realization. It’s a good album to really listen to, it would be a shame to just ignore the idyllic lyrics on this album.

Ray Lamontagne finds the musical experience he always wanted to explore on “Ouroboros”

Written by: Annie Kustasz, General Manager



Ray Lamontagne continues to explore genres and how they can relate to his singer songwriter roots on “Ouroboros”. The album is divided into two parts. Although, the album connects as a whole, with each song flowing into the next. The artwork for the album is very fitting concept piece. With part one having a hallow feel, being the blood red moon and part two being the lighter sun coming to peek from behind. Lamontagne raspy whisper voice carries melodically over all the songs pulling the album together as a whole.

Part one is full of psychedelic rock guitar and dreamy lyrics. The third song in part one, “The Changing Man”, will really carry the weight of it’s name if your fan of his first three albums. The guitars are heavy and the whole tone of the song is very dark. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise as Ray Lamontagne had been experimenting with these tones and riffs on his later album. This album really feels like a musical point that Ray Lamontagne has been trying to experiment with and create over the past couple of years, and it’s come together beautifully.

Part two is arguably a bit lighter than part one. With softer notes and nods to his earlier and warmer singer-songwriter songs. The album ends with “Wouldn’t It Make a Lovely Photograph”, which truly feels very distant from the rest of the album in terms of sound. The lyrics are melodic and thought provoking, and make references back to earlier lyrical moments on the album.

This is truly an album that you have to listen to from first song to last song. Ray Lamontagne takes us on a journey of genre, lyrics, and guitar. It would be a crime to put this album on shuffle, because it would loss all of its magical and cosmic effect that this album carries.


Amber Arcades blends the darker side and lighter side of indie-pop for a summer time record

Written by: Annie Kustasz, General Manager


Fading lines

This dutch born musician, Annelotte de Graaf, makes her debut with Fading Lines. The album is beautifully simple. The vocals are spacey and light, giving this album a glowing feeling to it. Yet the guitar riffs feel darkly retro and carry some tones of today’s harder indie-pop. This album is a marriage of the darker and lighter side indie music can often bring. It’s a must play for summer, giving off vibes of afternoons spent by the beach or long drives into the sunset. If you’re a fan of Alvvays or Widowspeak this is a girl for you.

The album opens with “Come with Me” a song that has bit of harder edge than the rest of the album, so it makes for a fitting opener. Yet the chorus of the song build’s so blissfully with the vocals and guitar that you feel amazed these two elements of the song are within the same song. It works so well in feeling and tone. The third title song on the album, “Fading lines”,  is a true representation of what this album is trying to accomplish in marrying darker riffs to lighter vocals. The song ends with this leading guitar that speaks pure fun. It reminded me of how “Joke”, by Chasity Belt ends, just a slammin guitar breezing through melodic riffs. A personal favorite of mine is “Right Now”, which comes sixth on the album. The guitar has this pleasant melancholy tone to it. Which makes the light vocals stand out on this album a bit more. The song is bit more spacier than some of the other songs but it fits well within the album. Keeping in theme with lighter and darker notes, the chorus has an amazing guitar shift, with some colorful harmonies.

The album as a whole is a very impressive debut album for what it tries to accomplish. Annelotte makes a musical statement with “Fading lines” about what kind of musical elements she wants to explore and who she will be as an artist.

Crushed Beaks melts together genres and lyricism for a true indie pop rock feeling


Written by: Annie Kustasz, General Manager



Paul Simonon said “Pinkis the only true colour of rock and roll”, so it’s fitting that this album is pink. London trio Crushed Beaks blend dreamy indie pop sounds with aggressive guitar and gravelly vocals. “Scatter” feels like an essential indie college kid album. With lyrics that balance between poetic and being angsty-honest. “Scatter” is an apt name for the album. The album doesn’t feel scattered, but the genres, melodies and lyrics that Crushed Beaks has gathered from other genres feels scattered. But, it undoubtedly works.

The second song overgrown is arguable one of the best on the album. The melodic guitar riffs feel very light, while the drum really focuses in on feeling very brash 90’s. Replica. The third song the album feels very different, with its airy vocals and spacey guitar, yet the core melody feels the same. Feelers which comes sixth on the album is another beautiful example of how this band ties together different feelings that genres can bring. It feels like “The Smiths” in vocals, yet in guitar and drums it carries the whole other 80’s hard rock the vibe. It’s a stunning song on the album that is a good example of what this band is capable of.

What ties this album together is the melodic motifs throughout the album. The album dips a bit towards the end. The lose a bit of their up-beat rock tempo a bit, and become slightly calmer in feel. But it’s a good ending for the album as a whole.

“Pretty City” albums let’s waves of genres wash over you


Written by: Annie Kustasz, General Manager




Pretty City’s new album takes you on a journey of sub-indie genres. Every song has a different feel and sound too offer, but still feels very unified. The Melbourne trio, who formed back in 2012, have given an album that feels nostalgic for the late 80’s and early 90’s.

The opening track Melt really sets this tone of this album with its acid-rock vibes and dreamy guitar riffs. Yet the next track Running Around brings an almost rock-pop guitar hook with grunge like vocals. The albums then further breaks down into giving a very spacey ambient soundscape DIIV like track with (DEFT). But then pulls it right back to its 90’s grunge scene with soft airy vocals in Part of Your Crowd.

This album needs to be played in full, start to finish, with headphones. Each and every song of this 11-track release carries with it vibrant tones that you’ll be getting lost within the variety of melodies you hear in your headphones. The fascinating eclectic mix of sounds on this album gives every type of indie genre lover a chance to find something they like.


“Midnight Faces” album leaves you feeling like you were in an 80’s movie montage


Written by: Annie Kustasz, General Manager


Heavenly Bodies


This LA trio gives major 80’s electric dreamy pop vibes on this 9-track album. These songs are begging to be played in a scene that has neon lights and fast cars driving with their tops down. The ethereal sound mix of quick tempo synths and pop guitar’s leaves you feeling that you’re at the coolest summer party.

The albums open’s with Blue Haze a catchy wall-of-sound song that perfectly sets the tempo for the rest of the album. Sirens which is third on the album offers a quick-twitch guitar with light vocals that sit perfectly on the song. A surprise saxophone helps give the song that 80’s feel the rest of the album has. Space Boy, which is the 7th track on the album, gives a unique blend of sounds to create something that feel very spacey with vocals that feel very singer-songwriter.

This album refuses to conform to any dream indie pop genre of category. Just when you think you can pin down what a song might be or what might come next it surprises you. Every song demands to be heard as its own entity while at the same time being part of the larger story that is Heavenly Bodies.

“Oh Wonder” album brings up wonderous emotions

Written By: Christina Mora A&E Assistant Editor at the Western Herald
Infamous for selling out since their first performance in London at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in September 2015, London based duo Oh Wonder, is hitting the ground running.

Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht produce a mellow, R&B, keyboard/drum based alternative sound. The duo promised to write, record and release one song a month for a year starting in September 2014.
They finished the year with their do-it-yourself album, self named “Oh Wonder,” after signing with Republic Records. The band self-claimed their fame with their viral online streams.

In 2015, Oh Wonder was the second most blogged about band in the world. With 15 songs on the album, West and Gucht do a fabulous job at making each song original and intriguing. Due to the fact most songs on the album were written, recorded and released in one month, I am astonished I wanted to download all the songs on my iTunes library.

Their first single released, “Body Gold,” is the type of song you would see edited over a GoPro video of a crowd of girls wearing flower crowns dancing at a music festival. In my opinion, songs with this feel are the best way to get a band’s name out in this generation.

My favorite track is “Landslide,” which was their 10th single to be released. This song truly intoxicates me. Being the avid indie-pop and alternative music listener that I am, I live for songs that embody the quote “music sooths the soul,” which this song does ravishingly.

Josephine has a sweet but powerful sound to her voice. She mends perfectly with West’s mellow voice and overpowers him to the perfect extent without drowning him out. I praise the two for finding a perfect medium.

When I first heard “Whiteblood,” I instantly thought of the alternative England based artist, Birdy. However, iTunes compares Oh Wonder to The xx and The Weepies because of their shared alternative, R&B, indie-pop, and electropop genre.

Oh Wonder is making its way to to a handful of states in North America, including both Bonnaroo and Firefly music festivals. I would die to see this band at The Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado on July 21, 2016.

“Drive” is another song that brought up a lot of emotions for me. The majority of the album made me want to pitch up my ENO hammock by a lake and find my bliss while listening to it. Every song made me feel at peace, almost like the songs were made specifically for my life.

The album seems to be somewhat of a break-up album, which is a relatable concept. Even though I’m not currently going through a breakup, the songs dredge up past feelings. “Oh Wonder” steers my thoughts of my heavy heart toward my past relationship with the most tranquil approach that I am left grateful for.

The Duo appeared on the television show “Conan” this month and performed “Lose It,” which is the last song that stood out to me on a personal level. This is the kind of song I would listen to while walking around at night after a long day in my Michael Kors heels and black trench coat.

Oh Wonder’s album reached No. 26 in the Official UK Charts, No. 16 in Canadian charts and No. 80 in the United States Billboard. Hopefully, for my want of them to tour in Michigan, they will become more popular in North America. I am officially a fan of Gucht’s and West’s work and I adore the “Oh Wonder” album. I would rate this album a 10/10.

This album review is brought to you by the Western Herald.
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