Short Takes on 4 Songs

Monks Of Mellonwah - "Never Been Good"

Monks Of Mellonwah – “Never Been Good”

Monks of Mellonwah – “Never Been Good”

Australian alt-rock/pop four-piece Monks of Mellonwah has been going strong since 2009, releasing EPs (Stars are Out (2010), Neurogenesis(2012), and Sky & the Dark Night (2013)) and acclaimed debut album, Turn the People, in 2014.  John de la Hoyde (bass), Joseph de la Hoyde (guitar), Joshua Bassari (drums), and Vikram Kaushik (vocals, guitar) have also won awards for International Rock Band Of The Year (LA Music Awards 2012) and Best Indie Rock Band (AIM Awards 2012).  They went on a 3-month tour in the U.S. last year and were back again this past April.  The band members are currently recording their sophomore album, which is slated for a mid-2015 release, and have recently dropped their single “Never Been Good”.

Monks of Mellonwah has always mixed more polished pop vocals and synths and funky percussion with its grittier rock guitar ‘n’ drums sound.  The enjoyably catchy dance-pop track “Never Been Good” takes the pop sonics and laid-back funk even further, only incorporating some rock guitar and drums towards the end of the “sonic circus”.  The guys in the band get their groove on with a crisp, clapping beat, bright guitar notes, and foreboding bass line buzz.  The song’s subject matter takes on the rock star dream and the ‘worth’ of such a life. Vikram sounds downcast at the start, intoning a bit dejectedly “I’m not a serious kind of person / hardly working…”, but then he segues into sharply avid exclamations on the revealing chorus, questioning “…enjoy the circus / Is that your purpose?”  Halfway through the song, the tempo picks up and a prominent electric guitar line surfaces, along with bashed cymbals and the alternation of 2 to 3 vocal lines that heighten the intensity of the tune.

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Small Leaks Sink Ships - "Orchis"

Small Leaks Sink Ships – Face Yourself, and Remove Your Sandals

Small Leaks Sink Ships – “Orchis”

Small Leaks Sink Ships is an experimental rock band from Portland, Oregon that uses elements of avant garde music to create its spacious, but detailed soundscapes.  The quartet consists of London Van Rooy (vocals, drums, piano, samples), Judd Hancock (vocals, guitar, cello, piano), Jim Mandel Jr. (bass, guitar), and Ryan Garner (piano, samples, guitar). The band members recently released their sophomore album Face Yourself, and Remove Your Sandals seven years after their debut dropped with the stated goal of creating an ‘auditory painting’ with the fall and sweep of their instruments.  Their debut was described as an intricate math-rock album and the 10-track Face Yourself, and Remove Your Sandals progresses from there, creating songs that are full of immediate to noisy sonics, varied instrumentation, and complex song structures.

The slow-building, but stirring “Orchis”, the 4th song off the album, commences in a low-key manner with barely heard, gently murmured male vocals, accompanying vocal “Oohs”, and slowly strummed guitar.  A second, brighter guitar line surfaces, and in quick succession so do pronounced piano notes and a drum beat with occasional cymbal smash.  The tempo and intensity of these instruments increase as the sonic motif is shaped and cycled through into an ever-rising, whirlwind pace – until it rapidly tapers off with the striking of just a few placid piano notes.

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MPathy - "The Golden Boy"

Mpathy – “The Golden Boy”

Mpathy – “The Golden Boy”

Boston/Cambridge, MA-based scientist Mikael Hirsch, going under the Mpathy moniker, is an indie electro-pop artist who has a debut album and EP entitled Impossible Space under his belt.  He’s set to release his follow-up album, The Golden Boy, any minute now and the first single is “The Golden Boy”.  Mpathy finds that science and song are interlinked through the processes of creation and discovery.  On his sophomore album he has designed a set of 12 songs that combines the polished production of pop music with the dark edge of elemental rock music.

“The Golden Boy” turns towards the pop side and is only shaded by the darkness of some of Mpathy’s intriguing, incisive lyrics.  The sonics are up-tempo with a fast-clacking beat, smooth piano note runs, and wordless synth vocals on the verses.  Mpathy sing-talks in a tone reminiscent of a soft blend of Michael Stipe and Brian Molko, a bit uncertain, with a slight tremble to his vocal delivery as he disquietingly intones “The golden boy shares a space in my dreams / and reveals to me my inner fears.”  Mpathy’s vocals are at the forefront of this lyrics-centric song and his words carry the listener along through a sped-up chorus with synth flourishes and backing vocals airily shadowing Mpathy as he divulges that this ‘golden boy’ in his dreams is a double-edged sword because he “…breathes creativity / and…he shows me my psychosis is real.”

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Gumshen - Digibites

Gumshen – Digibites

Gumshen – “A Scene Like That”

The Seattle, WA electro-funk band melds electronic elements and synth-pop song structures with progressive rock styles on its latest album Digibites.  The quartet is composed of indie prog rock veterans Ron Hippe (vocals, keyboards, guitars, synths, percussion, theremin), Jan Ciganik (guitars, vocals, synths), Chip Reno (bass, vocals, synths), and Dennis McCoy (drums, vocals, synths, keyboards).  They are known for putting on a dynamic show while dressed in glowing apparel and projecting astral and electronic visuals in the background.

Album-opener “A Scene Like That” has the guys in Gumshen kicking a funky baseline bass line groove, stealthy electro-blips, and a quick-ticking beat.  The sing-talking vocals are direct and clearly enunciated as the singer emphatically states “This isn’t the time or place for you to make a scene like that.”  As the song continues, a skeining guitar line adds a scintillating rock facet to the mix.  And contrary to the lyrics, based on Gumshen’s video for the song, there’s quite an eye-catching scene going on when they perform live.

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