Olivia Vita is a folk songwriter from Washington, D.C. (I think?). This 4 track EP has a lot to offer, mostly in the form of elegant song structures, vocal melodies and a certain sharp intelligent sadness. It’s almost cinematic in the writing, Olivia Vita knows how to write a song that cuts through any and all barricades and gets right to the heart of the listener. It’s a very personal EP, and that’s always an amazing accomplishment. To be brave enough to say exactly what you want in music, pulling from experiences and creating something that will live on as long as there are people listening. Water is a theme on this album, I related to that a lot. I grew up near a lake, and however directly or indirectly water has always been a motif in my art.
I think it goes beyond just me, as we are all composed of water after all. The way Olivia’s voice rings out gives this EP the sound of being recorded in a small and intimate setting. It reminds me a lot of Neko Case. It’s a well put together, well written, personal and sad EP. Sadness is something that isn’t explored enough these days, and Olivia Vita has obviously known pain. Songwriting and composition can be seen as therapeutic, to overcome the struggles of our lives we sing and write because we must. The Compass EP is short, ethereal and lovely.
Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/olivia-vita/sets/compass
Kabob-O-Taj is an experimental funky prog rock band from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. ADZE is like nothing I’ve ever heard, and I mean that in the best way. The songs ebb and flow like the waves of the ocean, never being stuck in one place and washing over the listener in an exciting and engaging way. That’s the beauty of experimental music, there’s no predefined ideas about how a song should go or what way it should be, it just is. I find that to be an exceptionally beautiful concept, executed masterfully on ADZE.
The drumming and percussion work on this album is incredible, adding a solid foundation to the intensity of the vocal harmonizing. The talent of every member of this band is obvious, and the songwriting is just as solid. Composition is something that isn’t given enough credit in songwriting, and composition is something Kabob-O-Taj has fascinating rhythm work and instrumentation. Their live performance is also something I’ve had the privilege of seeing on a number of occasions, and it really is something to behold. The talent present on this album radiates powerfully in their stage performance. ADZE is an album for no specific type of person. It’s psychedelic and haunting while maintaining a funk drive in the rhythms of the drum and bass. It’s really difficult to try to quantify an experimental work, but ADZE is a wonderful experiment that works in every way. It’s different and weird, but the things that make it different and weird are what make Kabob-O-Taj great songwriters, composers, and performers. Check out this album and see them live if you get the chance!
Listen here: https://kabob-o-taj.bandcamp.com
Kooked Out is a politically charged bluesy punk band from Boston, MA. There’s a lot going on in this release, and a lot of different sounds skillfully blended together. There’s the anger and politically charged rage up against smooth riffs and fuzzy bass lines. Kooked out is the kind of band that has to have a tight rhythm section. For as much as they say with their lyrics, the power of the drum and bass, and the space the guitar leaves for them to shine. The guitar work is very well executed and emotional, stepping back for the vocals to tell the story and coming in strong when the time comes. Every member of this band seems to know exactly when to step back or forward, and that’s a very admirable thing. There’s a lot of content in these songs, but the execution keeps it from ever coming across as busy or confusing to the listener.
There’s a definite modern rock sound to Kooked Out. The bluesy tone and the vocals can vary between talking, rapping, and singing. My favorite track would have to be Harlem. I love the darkness of that story, and the concept of growing and becoming more of it. Any song that talks about self doubt and growth, or personal experience takes a lot of courage. The courage to be oneself, and show that unabashedly to the world. I admire Kooked Out for their honesty. The EP never really gets too depressing, as the guitar work and vocal layering gives it a laid back feel. Kooked Out is a lot of different things, a range of emotions and sounds that make for a cohesive, well produced and engineered work. July is a damn catchy song, too.
Listen to the EP here: http://kookedout1.bandcamp.com/releases
Dee Calhoun is an acoustic artist from Frederick, Maryland. Rotgut is an acoustic folk/blues/doom album that transcends all three definitions. This is an album full of pain, anger, sadness, regret, and warning. This album is a reflection of a lifetime worth of experience. There is a lot of heavy on this album, but it’s heavy in a different way than might be expected. This album is heavy in the tangible weight of the sadness. It’s sorrowful, heavy as the weight of the train as it rattles down the rusted tracks. Dee Calhoun excels at crafting visuals and soundscapes.
Rotgut has echos and reflections of the last twenty years or more musically. There’s something for everyone in this album, from the sweetness of singing a song with his son to the mournful musings of Sincerely Yours. This is raw, honest, passionate music, from a raw, honest, and passionate man. I like to listen to this album alone, pensively. I want to learn from this album, take in what I can understand and use it to make myself a better person. Maybe not better, but more cognizant of the future that looms over me, as I look to what has been and try to idly gauge what will become.
Rotgut is streaming through Argonauta Records and is available on their website
Listen here on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/argonautarecords/sets/dee-calhoun-rotgut-full-album