Scratching on the Wall

Hi all you loyal Scratchies,

I know it’s been quite some time since the (first) Golden Age of Linescratchers, but if you’re reading this, it means you’re still out there… somewhere.

Big things are happening at Linescratchers soon. Please arouse your faculties and subscribe, either here or at the Facebook page!

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Tiny Boats – No Tiny Feat

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Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been digesting the album “The Broken Vessels” from a new group called “Tiny Boats”. It’s been a somewhat humbling, stupefying, and inspiring experience, and by the time this review is done, you’ll understand why I chose those words.

When I review an album, I lean not only on my perspective as music lover, but also on my experience and insight as a songwriter, musician, music producer, and audio engineer. Perhaps that makes me more critical, as I tend to analyze the album rather than simply listen to it, but I find it actually helps me better understand the artistry and effort behind each project.

The first few seconds of this album made me nervous… as I heard a simple acoustic guitar part, drenched in an infinite sea of reverb I braced myself for the worst…. Oh please, don’t let this be painful to my tender ears!!! And then…just a couple of seconds into the song – I found myself completely entranced in the music. But, more on that later….

This album is hard to describe, but it is a fantastic blend of styles, ambitiously produced, with songs that have been crafted by lyrical and musical artisans – leaving them with a level of depth and artistry that is sorely lacking in so much of the cookie-cutter music that is popular today.

This may be the first album from Tiny Boats, but it is actually not the first time that the members have worked together. Jason and Jesse previously worked on a number of songs under the name of Herod the Fink. I don’t know why they chose to work under a new name on this project, but it was a good choice, as Tiny Boats reflects a maturity that leaves the old “Herod the Fink” tracks sounding pretty amateurish by comparison. This album represents a new beginning for them – not because they have abandoned their “old” sound, but because they have perfected it and taken it to an entirely different level.

Stylistically – where to begin? American and European folk, rock, pop, indie rock, even a little country and punk… somehow all rolled together in a fairly dramatic, sometimes theatrical format. At times they sound very “retro”, as if they were straight out of the early days of rock, and at other times they sound very progressive, even reminiscent of rock legends such as Rush. Still other times they flirt with modern pop rock sounds that typify bands such as Imagine Dragons, and still other times they bring to mind the quirky folk inspired sounds of Midas Whale.

The album production seems thoughtfully done, with layer after layer of sounds alternating with stripped down, intimate sections of music. The songs are dynamic from start to finish, and the fusion of many styles keeps the project interesting from one song to the next.

While some songs are certainly stronger or more enjoyable than others, I didn’t really feel that there were any “fluff” songs on the album – each song seems to hold it’s own. The first song on the album – “Burn in the Sun”- is a fantastic song that provides a very strong opening to the album, and quickly makes my favorites list. Next up is “Being and Doing” which brings to mind the “Rush” sound I mentioned previously. Midway through the album, the song “I Built These Walls” borders on chaotic at times as they push the boundaries of their eclectic style, starting with a slow, intimate, and produced sound and then working their way into a high speed, less polished “garage band” type of sound and then alternating back and forth several times between these two incredibly different styles. Strangely enough, they seem to do it with ease. As they dive into “We Waited for Sunshine” they give off a retro vibe reminiscent of the late 50′s and early 60′s. Skipping ahead to “Polaris”, they have a melancholy sound that is very sparse at some times, and richly layered at other times, with a creative approach to the production that helps it stand out on the album – this was definitely another favorite of mine. The album ends with “Broken Vessels” – a fast paced song that seems to blend folk and punk, a sound that is certainly a big part of their “signature” sound.

I mentioned earlier that my attempt at reviewing this album left me humbled, stupefied, and inspired. The stupefied part is that there is so much to say about this album that I’m at a loss for words. How do I communicate the interesting blend of styles? The very dramatic and theatrical moments in their arrangements? The way they effortlessly shift between a stripped down and intimate feel and a highly produced, layered feel? The genuine songs that are not written from formulas, but are written from the heart? I can only say – give it a listen.

As for being humbled, I sincerely am. Frankly, I was not a huge fan of “Herod the Fink”, (sorry guys!) and despite Jason’s long history with music and recording, my impression is that he is still a relative newcomer in the world of recording and producing. I’m humbled because his production work certainly doesn’t sound like that of a newcomer at all, but that of a seasoned pro. The passion and honesty of the songs are not lost in the production: at times, I can hear the little “human” elements in their performances that come from real musicians, which I truly enjoy. Clearly, as musicians and also as a production team, Tiny Boats is not afraid of blazing their own trail and doing so with style.

But mostly, I’m inspired. In this day and age of “bubble gum” pop, and cookie-cutter production, Tiny Boats offers a refreshing experience that draws on great musical inspirations from the past, and packages them boldly, with a modern sound and style all their own. With a fairly average voice, a home studio, and a band made up of only 2 people, Tiny Boats has created something special – not with gimmicks, but with good writing, good production, and obvious passion.

Tiny Boats isn’t “just” an album, it’s art.

Learn more about Tiny Boats and sample their music at http://tinyboatsofficial.com

By Matt Mylroie of Driftwood Tide Music
www.driftwoodtidemusic.com

 

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Deciding on Lindsey Stirling’s five best outfits of 2012 was such a difficult task it took eight months of careful consideration to finally decide

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Interview with Scott Zuniga, Austin-based singer songwriter

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Scott Zuniga is an emerging songwriter who has just released his first demo recordings—a small set of impressive, mature indie/folk compositions. But Scott has been involved with music internationally for years as a director and producer, among other roles. We were lucky to catch this talented neophyte to learn about his runaway successful kickstarter campaign for the new album, how the Loch Ness monster helped him come back from a difficult period, what it’s like to direct a music video for an Arabic rap star, and how having a Scottish mom can influence your dreams.

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Drone Strike

alanToday a friend of mine (who I didn’t know was a Low fan) posted a link that has had me smiling all day.

I had not heard this news but it was like candy to my reading eyes.  At this weekend’s Rock The Garden music festival in Minnesota, five indie bands were gathered together to play a long evening of rock ‘n roll.  Among the bands invited were Minnesota’s own Low, the very band that inspired this website (including the name).

The crowd had just been rained on so much that some were literally standing in ankle-deep water, and as Low took the stage certainly no one was expecting what would come next:  a 14-minute, droning, noisy, ambient tune from The Curtain Hits the Cast that was stretched out to fill their entire almost 30-minute set, followed by a simple three-word punchline.  “Drone, not drones.”

Apparently the majority of the audience weren’t amused (warning: foul language in that link).

Listen, folks, I understand that:

  1. the audience was filled with people that probably don’t know the iconoclastic side of Low and were looking for just a good night of music, and that
  2. this amounted to a preachy political statement at an inconvenient time, and that
  3. people paid a lot of money to see a night of what they hoped would be music, and
  4. Alan probably alienated some potential fans by making this statement.

That having been said, reading about it has reminded me once again what made Low so life-changing for me in the first place.  Here is a band who, from the beginning, wanted to be like nothing you’ve ever heard before.  They played quietly and slowly, with subtle harmonies and lots of ambience, to crowds that often sat while listening, and would often turn their volume down in hostile venues, during the era when Grunge was hitting the scene.  And they not only succeeded in doing it, but they’ve earned a throng of loyal fans, some of them quite high-profile, and managed to stay married and active in the church, while raising children, for over 20 years.  Perhaps Alan is right that it’s a fluke, but it gives me hope that I can stay true to myself and still find a niche in life.

Secondly, without getting too political here, the issue of drone strikes by the United States government is a concern to me, and it’s sensitive, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and interrupts my daily life and thoughts in a disturbing way.  Anyone that reads a lot about the subject should lose at least a little sleep over it.  It seems to me that Alan feels the same way, and what better way to bring awareness to the issue than point it out starkly to a crowd of art fans who might be receptive to the message?  And I’m noticing that this seems to be the overlooked point of Alan’s stunt.  So Alan seems to have miscalculated, perhaps, and a crowd of 5000 potential fans might have been the casualties of that bold risk, but I’m so glad he took it.  So glad.  Like, tonight when I put my kid to bed and he was brushing his teeth I was just beaming to myself the whole time, just thinking about it.

While many of the crowd probably wanted a refund on the money they spent on Low, I literally would have paid $100 to see it.  And you know, as far as I can tell, they seem to be the most-talked-about artist that played that show – and hundreds and possibly thousands of people are hearing the phrase “drone, not drones” for the first time (including me), so perhaps Alan knew what he was doing after all.

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Saturday Night, Sunday Morning…

Linescratchers-Friendly Album Compilation Project Announced

Driftwood Tide Music has recently announced intentions to produce a 2 album set of music written and/or performed by LDS artists. One album will focus exclusively on gospel themes, while the other album will focus on secular music.  Basically, the goal is to showcase LDS artists in two settings, which are being loosely described as “Saturday Night” and “Sunday Morning”.   Linescratcher artists may find the “Saturday Night” album to be a great fit, and a great opportunity to showcase their talents.

Many artists lack the funds to do a full album, or even an EP, and produce it at a professional level – thus preventing them from having a decent product to sell, and material to promote themselves with.  This compilation will hopefully help mitigate this problem, while  showcasing talent, and providing opportunities.  These opportunities include being introduced to new fans, networking with other artists, improving your professional image, having merchandise to sell, and more.

All writers and performers need not be LDS to participate.   A song written by an LDS artist but performed by a non-LDS artist is fine, and vice-versa.  Bands need not be all LDS, but should have a significant LDS presence in the band.  These situations will be looked at on a case-by-case basis to see if it makes sense.

Ideally, this album will be mostly upbeat and energetic, but a solid ballad could be a welcome addition.  Even though this is considered secular music, the lyrics, music, and performance should still be  LDS friendly.. In other words, no off-color lyrics or themes, and no music that would be considered dark or chaotic.   Style wise, a fairly broad and diverse sound is desired, while still managing to have some cohesiveness by presenting a marketable sound that the Teen to Thirties crowd could enjoy.  Popular music in many variations is encouraged – rock, electronic, folk, dance, indie, singer-songwriter, indie-flavored rock, and even modern pop-country are all ok, so long as they can at least loosely fit in with or be associated with popular music.   In selecting the songs, extremes will likely be avoided in order to create an enjoyable collection that can garner wide appeal, while still attempting to create a diverse collection of music that will expose listeners to new sounds and styles.

This is a pay-to-participate opportunity, meaning that the cost of the CD manufacturing will be split among the artists.  The exact fee is yet to be determined but will be reasonable – an amount that could be easily met by simply selling a small portion of the merchandise that the artist will receive.  Driftwood Tide Music will handle the mastering at no additional charge to the artists.  For their participation fee, artists will get a stack of CDs and Download cards that can be sold directly by the artist for any amount they desire, with the full proceeds going straight to their pockets.   Artists will also get online sales through iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, Spotify, etc.  Proceeds from online album sales will be managed by Driftwood Tide Music and will be divided among the participants. Artists are responsible to provide a high quality recording of their song(s) for the album(s). These can be produced in a personal or commercial studio as the artist deems appropriate.

If you’ve been holding off on putting out a professional release, or if you just need something to keep your fans engaged in between full album projects, this is a great way to get a professional product to promote and sell, and most importantly, to help keep your fans engaged while opening doors to a whole new potential fan base.

Production does NOT need to be done through Driftwood Tide Music in order to be on the album.  In fact, they stand ready to provide referrals to other producers, studios, engineers, songwriters, etc, who can assist you with your project.  Additionally though, they are ready and willing to provide recording, mixing, producing, or other services as needed.  It doesn’t matter if you record your project at home or in a big studio, so long as the quality is at a high level. You are welcome to use an existing recording already (please just be sure to provide the UN-Mastered original mix so that it can be remastered).

Hopefully, this will be an appealing opportunity that can help expand awareness of Linescratchers artists, and provide opportunities to create new fans, and have a high quality product to sell.   We hope to get at least one independent artist who is more well known and established to participate in the album project, in order to help increase the exposure and distribution of the albums.

While the “secular” album from the set is a pretty obvious opportunity, please don’t discount the “spiritual” album as a non-opportunity, as the hope is that this album will be pushing the limits of the “typical” LDS spiritual album sound & style a little as well, and may still be a good outlet for some slightly non-traditional LDS spiritual music.

To be clear – this is not an official linescratchers sponsored project, even though we hope it will create opportunities for feature articles and music reviews on the site for those who participate, and more importantly – we hope it will help generate some great new music, and garner more attention for the site and for our collective efforts in showcasing some of the great LDS talent lurking in the shadows. All questions should be routed to Matt Mylroie / Driftwood Tide Music, either through the contact information on Linescratchers.com, or through the “contact” page at www.driftwoodtidemusic.com.

Matt Mylroie is a producer/engineer/musician/songwriter based in Florida, and a semi-regular contributor to linescratchers. 
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Ready to Shake Things Up? Midas Whale!

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It usually takes years for a musician to become an “overnight sensation”. Such is the case with Ryan Hayes, also known as 1/2 of the epic and eclectic duo “Midas Whale”, who recently exploded on the music scene thanks to their strong performances and witty humor on the hit television show “The Voice”.

I sat down with Ryan to find out more about him, and what comes next for the folk duo.

Linescratchers first became aware of you when you were part of the brother-sister duo “Sunshine Brady and the Moonlight Lady“. Tell us a little bit about this project – how did it get started? Did you record or perform or both, and what was the music like?

RH: Sunshine Brady was my first performance project. I have always been a writer of music or musician of sorts, but to stand in front of people and play was an entirely foreign thing that I wanted to try out. I recruited my sister Becca because performing solo is very lame in my opinion. She has a way of making people comfortable and that made performing very easy. The music was fun and folky and we were a hit in Rexburg in no time at all. I think a lot of people were drawn to what we did because we refused to take ourselves seriously. We never recorded, though some live recordings do exist if you know who to ask.

Was that duo your first serious effort with music? If not – where did you really get your start with music?

RH: It was my first effort as a singer, but no. I played the trumpet since I was 11 and I had been writing music on the guitar since I was 14.

You mentioned you think playing solo is lame…

RH: I always work in groups. Like I said, I think solo artists are lame. For me, I get much more joy out of hearing one of my songs sung by another person than I could ever get from singing it myself. Deep Love is a prime example of this. It has grown into a family of 40+ people with many moving parts and I am content just being a part of the motion rather than the star.

How did “Midas Whale” get started, how long have you been together, and where do you see yourselves going?

RH: Jon convinced me to form a duo specifically for the show in August of 2012, so this is a brand new thing. Jon and I have collaborated for several years on producing a rock opera I co-wrote with Garrett Sherwood called Deep Love. We thought that going on national TV would help us to promote Deep Love, and even though it wasn’t talked about on the show we have certainly given Deep Love a sure future by doing this.   Midas Whale itself was an instant fan favorite on the show and our untimely departure was a shock to the nation. We are now entirely devoted to keeping Midas Whale a household name and actively increasing our reach. We are hard at work raising money for an album (via Kickstarter) and planning for a summer tour.

You have a sound that is very original, and yet completely classic at the same time. Tell us a little about what music and what artists have influenced you.

RH: My sound probably seems original because I don’t listen to much contemporary music. If you were to listen to music from the early to mid 1900′s you might hear something familiar to what I write. I am a big fan of the piano plunkers like Hoagy Carmichael and George Gershwin along with singers like Bing Crosby and Yves Montand. The writing and singing style of those days appeals to me for its melodic value and as a result can’t stomach much of the rhythm driven music of today.

How has being on “The Voice” this year impacted you personally and professionally?

RH: It has been very nice to see the degree of personal pride my friends, family and acquaintances all take from it. Many people I know personally who have had it rough this last year have found strength and pride in seeing me on TV. It’s weird how that happens, but I know I would feel the same way if I had seen some schoolmate of mine doing the same thing. If I can be the means of raising someone’s spirits then it’s all worth it. Professionally I would say that this season of the Voice has marked me as a musician. Before, I would have hesitated to call myself a musician. Firstly, I am a working geologist and secondly I don’t see myself professionally in the same rank as people who have striven all their lives to master an instrument. THOSE are true musicians in my opinion. The reality, however, is that I think more about music than any other thing, and being paid to do it makes me qualified for the title. I have started calling myself a musician, and it’s beginning to feel less weird.

What was your favorite experience/favorite part of being on “The Voice” ?

RH: I would say the most amazing part of it all is becoming familiar with and close to all of the singers on the show. I feel like many of them are my kindred spirits and I can’t even imagine not knowing them. I made relationships with people there that I will keep for the rest of my life. Initially I thought that they would all be the reality TV type that are competitive and arrogant, but what I found was quite the opposite. They are some of the kindest, most genuine and talented people I have ever met. I know that I’ll be working with many of them for years to come.

In my circles, people seemed pretty surprised and genuinely interested that a couple of young folkies were able to speak fluent Spanish with Shakira and that you had both lived in foreign countries.  Did this prove to be an opportunity to have conversations about the gospel, as part of your explanation of how/why you had these skills and experiences?

RH: Hardly. I don’t try to hide the fact that I am LDS, but I don’t try to advertise it either. When people would ask me how I learned Spanish I would simply say I lived in Ecuador, and that was usually enough for them. I am always excited to talk about the gospel but will only open up if I feel like the moment is right.

There were several LDS artists featured on “The Voice” this year…

RH: Yes, Ryan Innes and Amy Whitcomb were both on the show and I have grown rather close to both of them. Coincidentally we were all eliminated on the same week. I am so honored to have known both of them and we all plan to go on the road together this summer.

How has the public reacted to your music? Has the LDS Music community embraced you?

RH: I think the timing is perfect for our music. We are at the beginning of the new age of folk music, both nationally and internationally. Because of my lifelong love affair with the genre I feel somewhat like I do have something to contribute amid all of this. I feel right at home doing it. I think the LDS community in Rexburg stands very firmly behind us, but we’re working to win over Utah. We claim Rexburg because we met there, but the fact is we live and work in the Wasatch area.

I agree that the time is right for a new folk emergence – just look at the recent success of  groups like Mumford and Sons and others who have displayed clear folk influences in their music.  Even the commercially driven show American Idol produced a folk-flavored winner in 2012 with Philip Phillips. So – What is next for you?

RH: Kickstarter, then album/touring. We’re very hard at work to make sure this all happens.

Where can people find out more about you, buy your music, see your shows, etc etc etc?

RH: Follow us at https://www.facebook.com/MidasWhale and https://twitter.com/MidasWhale

and interact with us on our website http://www.midaswhale.com/

Midas Whale is in the last week of their Kickstarter fundraising campaign – if you enjoyed them and would like to support them, please act quickly to help make sure their album project becomes a reality.

Matt Mylroie is an independant music producer, audio engineer, songwriter, and musician from Tampa Florida and a semi-regular contributor to linescratchers.com.  You can connect with Matt via the contact info on linescratchers or at www.driftwoodtidemusic.com

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Da Korum asks: What I$ Reality?

da_korum_wirTo the joy of their fans, and the apparent dismay of their detractors, Da Korum has come out of hiding to release their latest and most ambitious Mormon Hip-Hop offering to date:  What I$ Reality?: Da Concept Album.  Instead of being discouraged by the Philistines who lack the high level of cognitive abstraction necessary to understand their work, Da Korum has stuck a metaphorical stick in those eyes and ears by creating a complex, deep concept album worthy to sit between your copies of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and its sister album Ringo the 4th.

Even more astonishing than the brilliant depths that this album has uncovered for the first time in all musical history is the fact that masterminds Valiant B and MC Hot Drankz were willing to sit down with me (for the second time) and talk about this momentous album and its inevitable future impact on the music industry.

(special note – the editor has kindly cleaned up the worst spelling and grammar errors found throughout this article) Continue Reading →

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The Ghost and the Guest: An Unexpected and Unlikely Album

Jake Workman The Ghost and the Guest is an interesting album that was recorded in a simple bedroom studio and was released last year by LDS artist Jake Workman. Loyal Linescratchers followers may recognize Jake from his days with the group “The Sweater Friends”. Prior to listening to this album, I had never heard any of his music, and knew little about him. So, it was with a completely fresh and unbiased perspective that I was able to sit down and listen to his music.

I reviewed the album in a digital download form and found that the download contained much more than just music. Graphics from the album are included, as is a scanned copy of a handwritten thank you note from Jake. Most interesting though was a large booklet, which was conveniently provided in a number of different e-reader formats. Right about here is where things started to get weird, interesting, or sentimental – depending on how you look at it. The included e-book comes in at over 40 pages. In the preface, we learn that the songs were inspired by the life of Henry Pickett Pratt, who was born in 1866, and left a journal about some of his early life – a journal which was read by Jake Workman. Something about this man and his experiences struck a chord (pun intended) with Jake, and provided the inspiration for the songs on the album. The e-book includes portions of the journal that provide a backdrop of sorts for the songs. Jake has intended for the journal and the music to be enjoyed simultaneously in order to get the full experience of what he intended to create and capture.

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Linescratchers Song of the Week: Crazy Horses by The Osmonds

Don’t watch the video. The video will distract you. The video has white boy dancing and an invisible drummer and horn players. This isn’t the video of the week. It’s the song of the week.

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Interview with Garrett Gibbons, visual storyteller and master of the music video

Garrett Gibbons describes himself as a visual storyteller. He’s actually an autodidact jack of all trades in the direction and production of film of all kinds. According to his bio, he has worked with clients from Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Island Def Jam Motown Music Group, and musicians from around the world. He has also worked with LDS musicians Colby Miller and Alma Sanjo. Garrett lent us some time to answer a few questions about Seattle-based Indie hip hop, the blending of dance, video, and music, and of course, Justin Bieber.

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2012 Linescratchers Awards* — Scratch and Win!

We had an excellent field of candidates this year: Many of the big LDS players had new albums out and we saw some old linescratchers friends come back from the dead. Without further ado, our results, based on a popular vote:

 

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Did Mormons save Morrissey?

Are Mormons responsible for saving Morrissey’s solo career? Kind of. Maybe. One might be.

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VOTE! Linescratchers Awards 2012 Release of the Year

Tell yer friends! Voting is now open and will close in one week (January 26th). Click on the band name for band information, the album name to listen to the album on spotify or band camp (where possible.) Nominees, in alphabetical order:

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Linescratchers song of the week: Abinadi by GOGO13

Everybody wants to burn up down the geezer, but nobody wants to see what they have done.

Amazing song, and it also features the best Arnold Friberg musical reference in recent memory (the flowerpot line.)

 

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