Band to Watch: Marmalade Sky

Bristol, UK's Marmalade Sky blends the rocking frustration of The Hives, The Kinks, and subtle hints of art/post-punk outfit Art Brut. They specialize in inflammatory, declarative lyrics and raging, infectious, crunchy guitars. As a result, Marmalade Sky captures the frustrations and volatile energy of youth well. The dirty, unadorned arrangements and compositions are fuel, as much as entertainment, for outcries against spurned love and homogenization of culture. The band also lashes out for complete cultural upheaval in "Rebelling Voices," but lyrics somehow the lyrics here are little too on-the-nose. They do their best work when the messages are more subtle, as in "Showmen" and "Work Till I Die." In both cases, a truly addictive riff, and catchy melody elevates the songs to what they seem to want to be, a sort of fiery post-punk. Both of those are anthems, and good ones. Damn good ones. With "Rebelling Voices" the anthem is there, but it seems too intentional, written to be something, rather than a powerful outburst.

That said, Marmalade Sky comprising Dan Warren (vocalist), Luke Mayo (guitar, vocalist), George Shelton (rhythm guitar), Mike Wilcox (bass guitar) and Jay Ham (drums) has some excellent, at times tongue-in-cheek insight to offer as well. The great "British Boy" is a lyrical masterpiece with vaguely Smiths-esque irony infused. Two versions are available on the band's SoundCloud page, and of the two, I favor the acoustic, where the lyrics resonate longer and the instrumentation is more lush and divergent. "Shaking Bars" is another winner, and the vocals really shine, with rowdy, stilted affectations. It's pure rock and roll. The kind that creates a combination desire to create and destroy... or more simply, fuck and fight. "I'm A Fool" is more power-pop and very reminiscent of the Kinks' stuff in the '60s. It's simple, direct and bold in the way that bold was bold before envelopes were pushed to great perimeters of explicitness. Really, it's refreshing.

Watch this band. Check out the videos embedded above, and hit up Marmalade Sky's SoundCloud page. Heck, "like" them on Facebook while you're at it. If they keep creating new music, some really, really cool shit is going to happen.
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Maudlin Magpie - Two Maple Keys

With shades of Bright Eyes, Denver's Maudlin Magpie's album Two Maple Keys opens with a somber, self-aware, story-telling hush. "The Garden" is an ornate, quiet track that feels like Spring or Autumn, a season when life is coming from nothing or beginning to resign itself to an end. As an opener it serves as an introduction, first to singer Jason Horodyski's voice, and second to an album wide tone that's poetic, beautiful and at times devastating.

Not to worry, things get brighter, louder and more lush over the course of these thirteen tracks. Importantly, even as the sound increases in volume and complexity, it never loses its intimacy. This is not a stadium rock album, nor is it even a stadium folk album (think later-career Neil Young sans Crazy Horse), but it's not as easily reductive as a coffee shop album either. Maudlin Magpie feels close, physically and emotionally. There's is a sound of Simon and Garfunkel, purposeful and lost at the same time. Don't confuse "lost" for a failure here: it's a point of success. Where bands like Fleet Foxes create epic, sweeping, brief narratives that feel sent down beside the unattainable manna of Heaven, Maudlin Magpie is very much of this earth.

"A Faint Light" exhibits incredible harmonies with Horodyski and Robin Walker whispering melancholy to one another. "Sunrise Cafe" has a similar elegance. In fact, Two Maple Keys is a treatise on elegance. Even as its quiet, philosopher's tone may discourage some, it's a soundtrack for the thoughtful person. If you imagine yourself walking through the rain, with the sun barely breaking through the thick clouds, soaked but smiling, that's the feeling this album creates. "The Wind-Up Bird" plays that role perfectly, contemplating time and space and life, but the highlight of the album for me is "Naomi's Song," a brilliant piece of call-and-response reminiscent of Stars.

At times fiery, but often beautiful reserved, Two Maple Keys is as much a book of poetry as an album. These songs would best accompany the aforementioned rain storm, or a nice quiet living room of friends with a bottle of whiskey as the centerpiece. The arrangements are gorgeous and often haunting. The vocals are smooth with subtle jagged edges that elucidate a quiet underlying urgency. And there's a lot of heart here, bleeding, pumping, fighting to live and love. If you aren't listening to this, you should be.

There is a release party for this album on Saturday July 14 here in Denver.
You can listen to the album via ReverbNation, here.
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ZAHAR - Untitled EP

Technically, this is a collection of tracks performed by a high school friend of mine. Honestly, it's really well done. ZAHAR is a genius of intellectual, poetic rock that builds from simple guitar riffs and plunking progressions into a sort of furious anger and emotion that's undeniable. This collection has shades of Weezer's power pop moments, the grinding force of Led Zeppelin's most heavy songs, and elements of speed metal. It's a hard music to truly qualify. Finding a name for it that isn't reductive is the most difficult task. ZAHAR weaves so many elements together, creating genuine pop melodies covered with blade-loaded armor plating. Since this isn't an official album, or even an official release in the traditional, "My album dropped" sense, it's a compilation that requires notice. Either way, these songs will rile you up. And you won't be sitting around after you've heard them. Word has it, there will be more songs coming up soon, too.

Check it out here: https://feedbands.com/zahar
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