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
http://www.driftwoodtidemusic.com

 

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Tiny Boats – No Tiny Feat

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

Ready to Shake Things Up? Midas Whale!

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.

Continue reading “The Ghost and the Guest: An Unexpected and Unlikely Album”

The Ghost and the Guest: An Unexpected and Unlikely Album

Interview – Brandon Kitterman of Fictionist

Linescratchers contributor Joseph Mecham recently interviewed Brandon Kitterman (guitar aficionado of Utah’s indie rock band Fictionist) for GuitarJunkie.net. Linescratchers gets to join in on the fun.

Brace yourself, dear reader, for a lesson in being awesome. Brandon Kitterman is what I would call a sonic knitting artist. You know those really ugly knitted blankets you always try to warm up with at your Grandparents house, and they’re so riddled with holes they have a 10% heat retention rating? Then you end up freezing to death on their couch while developing terminal asthma because they have 40 years of dust collected in the couch cushions? Well yeah… that sucks, and I share your pain. However, if Brandon were to knit for you a blanket with his sonic textures and tones, it would be made of silk, be your favorite color, smell like vanilla, have a 99% heat retention rating, and it would wrap you like an Egyptian mummy. Yep… he’s that good. Read on for everything you wanted to know about Brandon Kitterman’s guitar set-up and technique.
Continue reading “Interview – Brandon Kitterman of Fictionist”

Interview – Brandon Kitterman of Fictionist

Album Review – ELiZA WREN Returns to Oz

When I review an album, I listen with pen and paper. I take notes song-by-song, recording the vibe and mood of each song, how each flows, and how they work together to make a complete album.  While listening to ELiZA WREN’s Returns to Oz, I wasn’t able to do that, and I could not be more delighted.

This double album of 110 minutes of music is set to the movie Return to Oz, one of my childhood favorites.  If you are not familiar with Return to Oz, watch it right this minute. Otherwise, here’s a three sentence synopsis:  It’s a very dark, somewhat creepy non-musical 80’s sequel to the 1939 musical The Wizard of Oz in which an inexplicably younger Dorothy, played by Fairuza Balk (who I had a crush on as a kid and again later after watching The Craft), gets sent to an asylum by her loving aunt and uncle to get electroshock therapy to rid her mind of the Oz mumbojumbo that she won’t shut up about. Whilst escaping the asylum, she falls asleep and wakes up in Oz, only to find it has been ruined by the creepy wheelers (imagine less cool flying monkeys on rollerblades), a gnome king who is sporting the ruby slippers, and a headless witch who has a varied collection of heads she can swap.  Oz can only be returned to its former glory by stopping these evil characters, and the only ones who can stop them are Dorothy and her verbose chicken, along with the help of a robot soldier, a jack-o-lantern headed dude, and a flying couch with a talking moose head.

If that amazing preview didn’t immediately compel you to watch Return to Oz, I have yet another excellent reason: EliZA WREN’s album Returns to Oz.  Much like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz (the syncing of which is commonly known as Dark Side of the Rainbow), ELiZA WREN’s album can be synced with the film Return to Oz.  However, when playing Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz, coincidences are few and you really have to be generous in accepting things that seem moderately in sync. With Returns to Oz, the songs are purposefully and amazingly crafted to accompany the movie, and they do a fantastic job of enhancing each other.  The moods of the songs fit perfectly, and the lyrics are usually, though cryptically, describing what is happening in the movie.  I can’t quite describe the audio/visual aspect of the whole experience, all I can do is recommend you try it (start by watching the trailer).

Apart from the visual, the music definitely holds on it’s own.  The album uses ongoing motifs and recurring song themes that range from old timey bluegrass and folk music to indie rock to piano-based spacey tunes that would fit very well on a Pink Floyd record.  Whether you experience the album on its own or accompanied by a delightfully creepy Disney movie, I highly recommend giving it a watch and/or listen!

Album Review – ELiZA WREN Returns to Oz

Interview – Theta Naught

In a previous post I mentioned stumbling across this intriguing ensemble based in Salt Lake City.  I don’t know what rock I was hiding under in 2002 – I was living in Salt Lake City and did pay some attention to the music scene.  Oh well.  Their website has a lot of information about them as well as links to hear, see and buy some of their recordings.  So far their career has seen great fluctuations in personnel as well as collaboration with the likes of poet/sonosopher Alex Caldiero (I just saw one of his poems in an installation at USU) and My Education.  Ryan Stanfield was gracious enough to answer some questions and give an introductory physics lesson.

The following interview questions have been answered by Ryan Stanfield of Theta Naught.  The answers and opinions expressed are his alone, but are probably shared by most, if not all, of the other members of Theta Naught. Continue reading “Interview – Theta Naught”

Interview – Theta Naught

Fictionist and the Rolling Stone Experience

Editor’s note:  to vote for Fictionist in the contest, please click HERE!

As you may have recently heard or witnessed, Fictionist has reached the Elite Eight of a contest that will put an unsigned band on the cover of Rolling Stone for the first time in the iconic rock magazine’s history. Whether they move on to the next round will be determined by you, the music listener.

As part of their efforts to garner more votes, Fictionist has launched their own contest, which allows voters to win prizes including  autographed memorabilia, CDs, and a trip to Bonaroo Music Festival. Additionally, they have been playing shows and telling fans to get out and vote. We were able to catch up with the guys after a recent show in Provo and ask them about their experience thus far. What follows is an account of Aaron’s door-knocking, Robbie’s hair care tips, and Brandon’s foray into the legal field. Continue reading “Fictionist and the Rolling Stone Experience”

Fictionist and the Rolling Stone Experience