Last Giant – Album Review

Last Giant has recently released its sophomore album “Memory of the World.” Check out the the opening song “Living in Photographs” here:

Last Giant began as a solo project by bandleader Ryan Heise (ex- System and Station) who collaborated with a group of touring musicians to take his “Heavy Habitat” debut album out on the road. He has since teamed up with Palmer Cloud on bass and Matt Wiles on drums to create “Memory of The World.”

The opening song “Living in Photographs” starts with a techno greeting before diving into the alternative rock sound that fans have come to expect from Last Giant. The riff is poppy and fun sounding, perfect for upbeat car rides. The chorus is catchy and the vocals by Heise are top notch, coming together to form a proper introduction to the album. The song is about the social media lifestyle many people live and how everyone is living in the pics they post online. “Diamond Decade” follows up with a heavy riff that is edgier and rocks harder than you would expect, truly being a representation of their louder inspirations such as Led Zeppelin.

“The Comedian” features some interesting keys in the beginning that soon delves into their trademark Jane’s Addiction style grunge with a breakdown featuring satisfying drums rolls that play off the guitar-work well.  The next song “Toys for the Devil” has a very 70s groove riff that can make anyone start head-bobbing and the song’s guitar solo adds substance to the overall album that has so far lacked any standout solos.

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Photo via Last Giant

After the four opening rock songs, “Inventory” slows things down with thought-provoking lyrics and a sentimental melody. This song shows Last Giant can go beyond the expected rockers by adding textures to their recordings and allowing their instruments to propel their message forward. Next up is “Drastic Plastic,” the fastest composition that is anchored on a strong rhythm section that carries everything along at quick pace. This track seems to have punk-inspired influences but mixed in a 90s alternative atmosphere.

“In the Calm” continues on with the trademark Last Giant sound of heavy groovers layered with clear, and determined vocals. The songwriting follows the pop format of catchy hooks yet has unexpected twists and turns that are reminiscent of the best progressive acts. Also, the end of the song is intense and one of the most aggressive performance heard so far. “Coverz” has the most bizarre opener with distorted vocals over a couple of guitars playing. It’s a welcome surprise and offers a change of pace to keep listeners on their toes. This hybrid track is part a loud-banger and part introspective toward the end, and illustrates their progressive influences well.

The electro vibes kick in to start “Blood on the Road” when suddenly the slow pounding drums introduce the guitars that sound straight from Soundgarden with head-banging riffs along the hard-jamming drum and bass. At this point the album has already proved its worth and any additional songs of high quality are just the cherry on top. “All the Same” features passionate screaming that demonstrate Last Giant’s dedication to their craft while the closer “Saint Paul” brings it all to a close with a bluesy riff that underlines the narrative about the murder of innocent Philando Castile at the hands of police officers. The song ends the album with an explosive finale.

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Photo via Last Giant

Mixing engineer Paul Malinowski (Shiner, The Life and Times, Riddle of Steel) and co-producer Larry Crane (Sleater-Kinney, Pavement, Tape Op) did a phenomenal job at putting the great talent that is Last Giant and making the instruments and vocals stand out while blending in. “Memory of the World” is a recommended listen to anyone who enjoys heavy jams and raucous riffs fronted by a legitimate singer who knows how to pen songs and bring us the rock.

To stay up to date with everything Last Giant, check them out on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, and their official website.

Avery LR – Mixtape Review

Avery LR is back at it again with a new single for his 2017 “Surviving” mixtape that features more than 20 underground and gangsta rap tracks. Listen to his latest single “They Don’t Like That” here:

The “Surviving” mixtape could draw comparisons to works from Avery’s inspirations such as Jay-Z and his contemporaries. He often raps about real issues and doesn’t shy away from topics that others are too scared to talk about. The mixtape features no holds barred lyrics throughout with occasional glimpses of softer, inspirational tracks.

The opener “What U Know Bout Dat” is a true Hip-Hop staple with its quick spitting rapping, sleek beats and haunting piano melody that all combine to form a song that recounts the tragic day-to-day reality of living in the streets. “They Don’t Like That” follows up as an anthem that puts the haters on blast. It’s an “us against them” narrative that is empowering and makes the listener want to take control of their own sense of justice.

The mixtape is a combo of hard core tracks that eviscerate the naysayers while also having calmer songs that hit straight through the heart. “One Dream” features 10asee and is a softer, humble tale that tells of the struggles they both had to endure to get their families ahead. Avery raps about how he never takes a day off for the benefit of his kids and how he wishes his grandma was around to see his successes. This song is a nice break from the heavier tracks and shines a different light on both Avery and 10asee, showcasing their fight to overcome the challenges they have faced along their rapping careers.  In the same vein, the song “7 Years” featuring Avery’s son Aries is an uplifting rap with verses about being a good dad and chasing dreams.

The mixtape goes back and forth between the tough and the delicate so you’ll be getting a varied listening experience every time. “Fight Night” is a standout track that has an addicting keyboard bassline with aggressive lyrics and “Loose Yourself” is an Eminem throwback that uses sampling in a unique way making it a highlight.

“Never Surrender” was previously reviewed by ETV, and it goes to show that Avery LR goes above and beyond the status quo of what is expected from rappers and tells the trials and tribulations he went through without holding anything back. This ability to be open about his experiences is really Avery’s calling card to who he is as a rapper as well as a person. You know that when listening to any one of his tracks you’re going to get the most honest interpretation of narratives that are wrapped up in clever, provocative and in-your-face lyrics.

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Photo via Avery LR

There’s a lot of songs on the “Surviving” mixtape and if you like any iteration of rap, Hip-Hop, or underground gangster rap, then every song will be tailor made just for you. Be sure to check out what Avery LR is up to in the coming months while listening to the sprawling mixtape available now. To stay up to date with all things Avery LR, be sure to check him out on Facebook and Twitter.

Nehedar – Album Review

New York City-based singer-songwriter Nehedar released a new album “Hello Abyss” last month. Check out a video for the album’s opener “The Story” here:

Nehedar’s latest album “Hello Abyss” is the first work she has done since returning from a three year-hiatus to raise her son. The album is optimistic, consistent in style, and an overall well-put together package. All vocals and instrumentation were done by Emilia Cataldo and Craig Levy.

“The Story” opens the album with a pop-infused track that has groovy bassline and simple synthetic drums. Swirling synthesizers gleam in the background calling back to the classics of the 80s yet this number is focused more on story-telling and less on pure dance. “Catacombs” keeps the optimistic vibes going, though the meaning of this song is less clear. The two opening tracks are an accurate representation of the overall sound to be had here.

Things change with “Shedding Skin,” a song that starts off slower, mysterious, and refreshingly different. It’s a welcome change in vibe, however, as the chorus and breakdown kick in, the song goes back to the cheery side. Although the album has consistency, the songs start to blend into each other and become just a little repetitive. The track “How,” which features Tim Rockmore on guitars, has emotion in its lyrics and vocal delivery. A catchy chorus and soaring guitar solo are the highlights on this one, and the rock-style drums give off a convincing full-band sound. This song is one of the best of the bunch, and its powerful approach takes the quality of the album to the next level.

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“Hello Abyss” album cover art

Nehedar’s songwriting would no doubt be influenced with her recent experience of raising her son, and the song “Happy Birthday” forms the centerpiece of the album’s journey. It’s a track that many parents could sing as a lullaby to their own kids. “You’re Beautiful When You Fall Apart” features Shaul Zuckerberg on lead guitar, who adds a lot of style and flare along with Nehedar who has a sassy-sounding chorus with “Hey Hey look at me, I’m the one you’re supposed to be.” It’s a side of her that shows off a lot of personality, giving the album enough diversity in songwriting and sound to make the listening experience varied each time.

“Fear and Love” draws on the style from the beginning of the album: warm, relaxed, and upbeat. Nehedar can write fun tunes at ease and has an affinity for catchy choruses and narrative-driven lyrics. The go-go inspired song “The Grudge” is fun and popping, another example of her trademark-pop feelings she’s injected into “Hello Abyss.” It fits in well with the other pop-sounding songs on the album.

The closing curtain begins with “Tonight Tonight,” a piano-driven ballade with synth-strings coming in to take the song to the next level. The poetic heartfelt rendition begins somber, but as Nehedar does, she invokes sunlight into her songs and shines hope to her listeners. The final song “Sotah” is a rock ballade and perhaps the most experimental attempt on this album, as it showcases fingerpicking acoustics, heavy guitars, and a Western-style interlude that is reflective and edgy. It’s a great way to close the album, but the song itself seems to cut off a bit short and a few bars may have offered a better sense of closure.

If “Hello Abyss” had to be described in short, it would be a fun, pop-infused journey with lyrics that transposes images into its listeners. The wondrous Nehedar manages to create a well-defined album that shows off her songwriting and it’s a welcome return after her hiatus. We here at ETV look forward to seeing what’s next in store for her!

To stay up to date with Nehedar, check her out on Bandcamp, YouTube, Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter, and her official website.

Dark Model – Album Review

Dark Model will bring the orchestrated electronica to a new all-time high with the release of “Saga” on March 24. Check out “Survivors,” one of the many highlights from the album here:

Originally from Hiroshima, Japan, award-winning music producer Tatsuya Oe’s project Dark Model is the result of more than 20 years of producing music from a variety of genres and collaborating with other artists to create memorable, stand-out remixes. On “Saga,” fans of both orchestral music and dance floor anthems will unite as this album does a masterful job at combining both genres seamlessly together. At times, there will be an epic, over-the-top choir that is filled with intense emotions and at other times, the pulsating beats will have the listener swaying to the infectious rhythms.

“Saga” begins with powerful violins that build anticipation for what’s to come. The opening track slowly builds as powerful electronic drums come thundering in at full force. The two following tracks, “Avalon” and “Rage and Redemption” offer equally invigorating landscapes in different ways, as the former begins with an epic burst of energy that flows at a steady pace and features a mysterious and intriguing middle section, while the latter blasts in with dance beats ready to hit the club scene. With added choir vocals in the mix, the track keeps the epic theme intact with fierce passions and body-moving drums.

The song “Survivors” is a stand-out that would be the best representation of what the album offers. It’s an upbeat track with soaring melodies and a beat that is steady to provide a solid driving force. The next song, “Inferno Suite,” features a larger-than-life choir and electronic bass clocked in a maximum. It’s a track that will easily pump up anyone working out to go the extra mile. Other tracks such as “Labyrinth” are delicate and sound as if performed straight off the stage of a live orchestra, with heart-tugging piano melodies that encapsulate the feeling of hope and despair all in one. The closing track “Dawn of Resurrection” serves as a satisfying closure to the range of emotions the listener has gone through – from the very highs of empowerment to the lows of self-reflection.

Most of the songs on “Saga” are bold and delve into pounding drums in upbeat, majestic and empowering ways that would not seem out of place as a background soundtrack to a movie scene displaying an impending invasion of massive scale. One track’s beats are industrial in nature to keep things fresh, while another has a Middle-Eastern desert atmosphere to show off a variety of influences from around the world.

The choir in most of the songs add to an elevated sense of drama and tension that defines the album’s sound, making it stand out from other typical electronic offerings. It’s the little things, like the soulful and melodic piano melodies that add thought-provoking layers to make the album a worthy listening experience. Dark Model has made each song a chapter to a new adventure. Although “Saga” may not be the go-to record to pull out at a nightclub due to its intense, dramatic instrumentation, this is the album to grab when wanting to venture on an unbelievable mind-altering trip (while dancing to the beats).

To stay up to date with Dark Saga, check out the project’s media on YouTube, Facebook, and official website.