AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: NORMAN BROWN/HEART TO HEART

Like all musical genres, Jazz has many subgenres. And those subgenres have subgenres. From Bebop to Fusion, Swing to Bossa Nova, there’s a subgenre of Jazz for every mood and every phase of your life. One subgenre that has become very popular since the late ‘70s and early ‘80s is Smooth Jazz. Often considered ‘mellow’, Smooth Jazz is generally downtempo, filled with mood, atmosphere, and emotion. Artists who are most associated with the Smooth Jazz genre include Boney James, Dave Koz, Brian Culbertson, Rick Braun, and many others. One of the most prominent and respected guitarists in Smooth Jazz is Norman Brown

Born in 1970 in Shreveport, Louisiana, Brown began playing his brother’s acoustic guitar at the age of eight. Initially inspired by Rock and Soul artists, he switched his interests to Jazz after hearing legendary guitarist Wes Montgomery. Discovered by Jazz drummer Norman Conners, Brown signed with Motown Records and released his debut album, JUST BETWEEN US, in 1992. His 1994 album AFTER THE STORM won the Jazz Album of the Year Award at the Soul Train Music Awards. In the midst of his solo career, Brown was the co-founder of BWB a Smooth Jazz side project/super trio in 2002 with Kirk Whalum (saxophone) and Rick Braun (trumpet). By 2007, Brown had a #1 Smooth Jazz radio hit with “Let’s Take A Ride” (from the album STAY WITH ME). Brown has continued to release critically and commercially successful albums including SENDING MY LOVE (2010), the Grammy-nominated 24/7 (with Gerald Albright/2012), LET IT GO (2017), and HIGHEST ACT OF LOVE (2019).

Norman Brown returns in 2020 with the Shanachie Records release HEART TO HEART. Featuring musical assistance from Peter White and Jeff Lorber, HEART TO HEART is an album that showcases the many facets of Brown’s talents. A tasteful player, Brown only plays notes that need to be played. And he makes each note count. Even without words, his playing is emotional. In many ways, his playing says more than any review or interview can ever say. To be completely predictable (and proud of it), this is music from the heart. From the George Benson (and Wes Montgomery?) tribute “Heading Wes” to the funky, upbeat “Unconditional”, HEART TO HEART is a musical gift from Norman Brown to you. And it is one gift that you – we – should all be grateful for.

NORMAN BROWN

HEART TO HEART

8.7.2020

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: OHMME/FANTASIZE YOUR GHOST

Formed in Chicago in 2014, Ohmme – originally known as Homme – was founded by Sima Cunningham (vocals/guitar/keyboards) and Macie Stewart (vocals, guitar, violin, bass, keyboards). The duo met in high school and played in separate musical projects: Stewart was a member of Kids These Days, Marrow, and Marker while Cunningham played in various bands and curated music festivals. In 2014, they joined forces as Ohmme. The duo was excited about the prospects of combining their vocal harmony blend with an experimental musical approach. While both were trained on classical piano, they wanted to explore a different aural universe filled with guitars and the exciting ‘noises’ that they could make with them.

With drummer Matt Carroll – who previously played with Stewart in Marrow – on board, Ohmme released their self-titled debut EP in 2016. The duo’s harmonies were heavenly, but the experimental direction of their music took them into uncharted territories. A blend of Pop smarts and Art Rock, the EP was a critical success and immediately attracted an audience of music lovers looking for something different, unique, and exciting. In 2018, they released their debut full-length album PARTS. Again, the critics loved Ohmme’s blend of noise and beauty and the album was praised, raising their commercial profile even higher. They toured extensively, sharing stages with bands like Wilco, Iron & Wine, Twin Peaks, and others.

Now, Ohmme returns with their second full-length, FANTASIZE YOUR GHOST. The album was recorded in six days but there is a lifetime of passion, pain, and searching in these songs. Like a maniacal blend of soul-touching harmonies and Sonic Youth-inspired experimentation, this is Ohmme’s finest release to date. However, the FANTASIZE YOUR GHOST is not an album that avoids the magic of Pop melodies. In fact, it embraces them. There are plenty of hooks to be found here, although they are not weighed down by formulaic songwriting. This is a collection born from creativity and a desire to take music in unpredictable directions. Songs like “Ghost”, “Selling Candy”, “Spell It Out”, “Some Kind Of Calm”, and “Flood Your Gut” are very different from each other and very different from what is going on in the world of Top 40. However, FANTASIZE YOUR GHOST is just as delectable and exciting as anything else you’ll listen to this year.  

OHMME

FANTASIZE YOUR GHOST

7.31.2020

AMPED Distribution continues to surge as it bolsters its label roster with key signings!

INKS EXCLUSIVE DISTRIBUTION DEALS WITH ANTI-, BETTER NOISE MUSIC, EARACHE, EPITAPH, NUCLEAR BLAST, ORACLE MUSIC, ORG MUSIC, [PIAS], POLYVINYL, SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS, AND TOMMY BOY MUSIC

July 28, 2020 — While the world was shutting down in response to the pandemic, the team at AMPED Distribution dug in, rolled up their sleeves, and improvised with their labels to seize all available opportunities to maintain product and revenue flow, while bringing a much-needed escape to music fans around the globe.

As a result of its bullish approach, AMPED is celebrating its most successful 12 month run to date. AMPED’s high-water mark can be attributed, in part, to the addition of a multitude of new distribution deals with some of the hottest independent record labels, including Better Noise Music, Earache Records, Nuclear Blast, [PIAS], Polyvinyl, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and Tommy Boy Music.

AMPED’s growth is the direct result of having the largest sales force of any indie distributor in the U.S., coupled with the ability to ship product just about anywhere on the planet. Those attributes, leveraged with a network of global partnerships provided uninterrupted product flow across AMPED’s label base even during the height of the international shutdown.

Head of AMPED Dean Tabaac sees nothing but upside for AMPED. “AMPED just finished another record-breaking fiscal year (7/1/19 to 6/30/20) and we are defying and defining what physical sales can do on and offline. We were just about even with prior fiscal on CDs while the industry was down 30% and the industry was up 10.5% for vinyl while AMPED was up over 30%!

“In the new year, we think a critical campaign needs to focus on moving the new release street date back to Tuesday. The Friday street date has proven to be detrimental to maximizing sales across physical and digital platforms. Streaming remains strong and we feel it is actually helping physical sales since there are no longer cultural borders preventing anyone from listening and learning about any genre or artist they want.”

“We maximized our online presence as well as traditional accounts leading up to and during the COVID shutdowns. As a consequence of solid new release set ups at retail, and the ability to pivot to online and consumer direct fulfilled accounts, AMPED was able to continue to capture sales without skipping a beat. Without service interruptions, we continued to supply and meet the demand for great music through our online channels, traditional ecommerce and even brick and mortar that had curbside pickup service. If the appetite from consumer was there – we were able to fulfill the order,” adds VP of Sales Pip Smith.

While President of AWAL and Kobalt Music Group Ron Cerrito proclaims, “Our relationship with AMPED has always allowed us to be nimble, flexible and efficient with our artist’s physical business.  During this time of unprecedented uncertainty, these strengths have proven even more valuable.”

“The last couple years have been tough for everyone in the music industry,” declares Roy Culver, Head of North American Sales and Distribution at Nuclear Blast Records and Sharpetone Records. “Last year it was the distribution debacle at Direct Shot and this year the virus. Nuclear Blast is grateful to be working with a partner like AMPED who has been communicative, straight forward and on top of retail during this crazy time.”

Even with closed brick-and-mortar storefronts during the shutdown, AMPED’s artists led the way in supporting the growth of Broadtime, an aggregator and back end webmaster of more than 100 indie ecommerce websites. By providing solutions for online selling to more than 100 indie record store accounts, product was fulfilled by Alliance Entertainment (AEC) which preserved product flow and sales at independent record stores across the country. For retailers with closed physical storefronts, AEC was able to fulfill orders taken through the retailer’s online stores.

“To me, this was one of the biggest success stories in the physical business part of the industry, that emerged during the pandemic”, said Jocelynn Pryor VP of Marketing at AMPED. ”Not only were they [Broadtime] able to assist stores they already worked with, they were able to onboard new retailers and integrate their back end ecommerce sites within 72 hours, and in the first weeks of COVID shutdowns, that was a saving grace for some stores. Since then, they’ve been able to advance the work of the coalition marketing programs like CIMS and AIMS as well as assist with hosting virtual concert events and more.”

When Merge Records artist Waxahatche’s latest album, SAINT CLOUD, came out March 27, it debuted at #1 on Billboard’s “New Artist Chart” and was singer Katie Crutchfield’s strongest first week debut ever. Meanwhile, Testament’s TITANS OF CREATION, released April 3 on Nuclear Blast Records, debuted in the top ten on Billboard’s “Top 200 Albums chart. Also having impressive chart debuts at #5 on Billboard’s “Current Rock Albums,” “Independent Albums,” and “Current Albums” charts was the latest album by Danzig, DANZIG SINGS ELVIS, which was released April 17 on Cleopatra Records.

Other new titles from Adam Lambert, AWOLNATION, M. Ward, and Nightwish released over the last four months, all achieved significant chart positions and commercial success, proving that great music was still very much in demand by the fans. While the pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges, AMPED is proud of the performance of its retail partners, and its ability to adapt and preserve product distribution without interruption.

ABOUT AMPED WORLDWIDE:

AMPED is one of the fastest growing top tier independent distributors committed to developing and growing independent artists and labels worldwide. Being part of Alliance Entertainment, AMPED gives the indie community access to a global distribution system with a seasoned and skilled staff that provides a suite of services and data second to none. AMPED’s customer base is the largest in the industry directly servicing brick and click retailers large and small along with (DTC) direct consumers. AMPED’s growing roster of labels include labels such as AWAL/Kobalt Music Recordings including Glassnote, Alligator Records, Believe Digital, Better Noise Music (formerly known as Eleven Seven),  Backlot Records, Big Loud, Bloodshot Records, Broadway Records/Yellowsound, Cleopatra, Compass Records, Culture Factory, Earache Records, Empire, Epitaph Records & ANTI-, Gonzo, Hopeless Records, Inner Knot, Manifesto, Merge Records, Nuclear Blast & Sharpetone, ORG Music, [PIAS] including Harmonia Mundi, Polyvinyl, Prospect Park, Rat Pak, Renaissance Records, Ruf Records, Secretly Distribution, Shanachie, Smithsonian Folkways, Soulfood, Tommy Boy, Tuff Gong, Virtual, and more.

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: TED RUSSELL KAMP/DOWN IN THE DEN

Los Angeles-based singer, songwriter and musician Ted Russell Kamp’s 2020 album DOWN IN THE DEN is not his first rodeo – far from it. The album is Kamp’s 12th solo album in a career that spans 25+ years of hard work and great music. Born in New York, his musical career started once he relocated to Seattle, Washington. As leader of the trio Ponticello, he released four albums before stepping out on his own with his first solo album, DEDICATIONS, in 1996. Five years later, he moved to L.A. and started a new band called Union Pacific. While focusing on his own career, he also began to work with other artists and as a session musician. And then he met Shooter

Shooter Jennings is a Country Music outlaw. The son of ‘Outlaw Country’ pioneer Waylon Jennings, Shooter has carried on with his father’s musical legacy, taking it in new and exciting directions. When Shooter began putting together his backing band, the .357s, he brought in Ted Russell Kamp to play bass. Already a seasoned musician, Kamp was a perfect fit for Shooter’s band. Kamp’s first album with Shooter was 2005’s PUT THE ‘O’ BACK IN COUNTRY. That same year, Kamp released his next solo album, NORTHSOUTH. Since then, he’s recorded and toured with Shooter while also maintaining a prolific solo career as well. Which brings us to DOWN IN THE DEN

The follow-up to 2019’s WALKIN’ SHOES, DOWN IN THE DEN is an audio journey through American music. Some might want to classify the album as anything from Outlaw Country to Americana, but it stands on its own without being categorized in any one genre. The album is mix of Folk, Country, Bluegrass, Blues, and Rock, washed down with a shot of New Orleans sweat. From whisky-soaked ballads to blues-infused rockers, DOWN IN THE DEN is an unpretentious, free-wheelin’ collection of solid songs with both heart and soul. The album features guest appearances from Shooter Jennings (“Home Sweet Hollywood”), Kirsten Proffit (“Take My Song With You”), Gordy Quist (“Hold On”), Sarah Gayle Meech (“Word For Word”) and Shane Alexander (“Only Son”) but this is most definitely Kamp’s baby. DOWN IN THE DEN is what a modern Country Music album should sound like. In some ways, standing outside the walls of Top 40 Country Radio makes Ted Russell Kamp an outlaw himself. And he should be damned proud!

TED RUSSELL KAMP

DOWN IN THE DEN

7.24.2020

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: EMMURE/HINDSIGHT

Like any other musical genre, Heavy Metal can be broken down into many sub-genres. Many, many sub-genres. On one end, you’ve got commercially-accepted Heavy Metal, which is normally what you’ll find hanging out on the Billboard 200 Albums chart. Nothing wrong with that – often-times, bands like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest serve as ‘gateway’ artists, introducing listeners to a new musical universe to explore. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got the darker, heavier, and more violent sub-genres like Extreme Metal, Metalcore, and Deathcore. Technically, Deathcore is a combination of Death Metal and Metalcore, which, itself, is a mixture of Extreme Metal and Hardcore Punk. See what I mean about all the sub-genres? In any case, Metalcore and Deathcore are brutal and uncompromising sub-genres of music, which brings us to the band Emmure

Emmure was formed in 2003 in New Fairfield, Connecticut but eventually relocated to Queens, New York. Fronted by vocalist Frankie Palmeri – the only constant member of the band – Emmure’s music combines elements of Death Core, Nu Metal, Alternative Metal, and Metalcore. Their debut release was the independent 2006 EP THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO NEEDLEWORK. They then signed to Victory Records and released six albums including GOODBYE TO THE GALLOWS (2007), SPEAKER OF THE DEAD (2011), and ETERNAL ENEMIES (2014). Moving over to Sharptone Records, Emmure released LOOK AT YOURSELF in 2017. After a three-year wait, the band release their eighth studio album, HINDSIGHT. If you thought that Emmure would grow more mellow with age, then this album will prove that you were wrong. Very, very wrong.

HINDSIGHT is 2020. OK, maybe not literally but most certainly figuratively. The album reflects the mood of the nation – and even the world – today. Dark. Violent. Brutal. Scary. Uncompromising. Heavy. Confusing. Shocking. Both musically and lyrically, the album embraces the darkest parts of the human condition and sonically vomits it up into 13 separate slices of reality. HINDSIGHT features the key tracks “Pigs Ear” and “Gypsy Disco”, but the remaining 11 tracks are just as frighteningly brutal and honest.  Filled with the band’s trademark breakdowns, growls, screams, and straightforward lyrics, HINDSIGHT is the audio equivalent of the fear that we experience every day during this pandemic. The album is so in-your-face that you may even have to wear a face mask to protect yourself from the cold, hard truths contained within. HINDSIGHT is our reality. Deal with it.  

EMMURE

HINDSIGHT

7.17.2020

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: THE HU/THE GEREG (DELUXE EDITION)

Mongolia, located in East Asia, is a country that is not necessarily known around the world for its rich Rock music heritage. The country is better known for the lovely and more traditional music that has attracted World Music lovers for years. Influenced by nature, nomadism, shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism, the traditional sound of Mongolian music is inspirational and soothing. However, there has been a movement within Mongolia that has been growing for decades. The Beatles-influenced band Soyol Erdene, formed in 1971, was the country’s first Rock band. The Rock movement continued to grow, heading into many directions including the heavy and hard sounds of bands like Mungunhurhree and Haranga. While largely unnoticed by the rest of the world, Mongolia’s Rock music scene continued to thrive, giving birth to new generations of bands… including The Hu.

While they are referred to as a ‘Heavy Metal’ band, The Hu – formed in 2016 – is a band that exists in their own musical universe. Formed by Galbadrakh ‘Gala’ Tsendbaatar, Nyamjantsan ‘Jaya’ Galsanjamts, Enkhsaikhan ‘Enkush’ Batjargal and Temuulen ‘Temka’ Naranbaatar, The Hu may play a form of music that is heavier than Mongolia’s more traditional Folk but labeling them as a Metal band is not entirely accurate. Creating  dark and heavy sounds with Mongolian instruments like the Morin khuur,  and Tovshuur and then incorporating Mongolian throat singing, The Hu has labeled their music as ‘Hunnu Rock’, a name inspired by the ancient empire Hunnu (AKA The Huns). The band’s unique sound has garnered praise from VICE, GQ, The Independent, and even Pop/Rock legend Elton John.

The Hu released their debut album, THE GEREG, in September 2019. Receiving critical praise across the board, audiences all over the world fell in love with the band’s unique approach to heavy Rock. The album reached #11 on the Australian Albums chart, #7 on the Scottish Albums chart, #21 on the UK Albums chart, and achieved similar successes in other countries. Now, the band releases a Deluxe Edition of THE GEREG that not only features the original album in all of its glory, it also includes six bonus tracks: acoustic versions of three of the album’s tracks plus new versions of three songs featuring modern Hard Rock luminaries Papa Roach, From Ashes To New, and Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale. The fusing of old-world traditions and new Rock rhythms is inspiring, and The Hu is proudly representing Mongolia in a way that audiences would have never expected. The gates are open – welcome to the world of The Hu!

THE HU

THE GEREG (Deluxe Edition)

7.10.2020

Review: The Best of FINGERPRINTZ – Bullet Proof Heart

The Scottish music scene in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s was, for lack of a better term, amazing. While the ‘80s gave us glistening, glorious Pop from the likes of The Bluebells, Friends Again, Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, and loads of others, the roots of the Scottish Punk, Post-Punk, and New Wave scene started way back in 1977 or so. You know, when British bands like Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, and all the other greats created a musical revolution. Punk Rock re-wrote the rule book, leading to dozens of new genres being created in a short period of time. One of the most endearing and enduring genres to rival Punk was something called Post-Punk. Relying less on melody and more on experimentation and mood, Post-Punk artists like Gang Of Four and PiL could still be abrasive without resorting to the Punk Rock stereotypes. And then there were bands influenced by Post-Punk that transcended the genre, bringing something new and exciting to the mix yet never achieving the acclaim they so richly deserved. Fingerprintz is one of those bands… but the three Scottish members of the band had to relocate to London before luck would bring them together. While they never quite connected with a larger audience, they certainly deserved fame, fortune, and a lifetime of adulation…

SOME HISTORY…

Scottish singer/songwriter/guitarist Jimme O’Neill formed Fingerprintz alongside guitarist Cha Burnz, drummer Bob Schilling (AKA Bogdan Wiczling), bassist Kenny Alton, and vocalist Step Lang. Fingerprintz’s sound was angular, quirky, a tad bit dark, and remarkably melodic and fun. Signing with Virgin Records, the quintet released two EPs before Step Lang left and Jimme slid into the lead vocal position. At this point, the band really found their voice.

Their 1979 debut album, THE VERY DAB, was daring and different. Not exactly an album filled with Pop songs (it wasn’t supposed to be), O’Neill was still capable of writing some great tunes including “Tough Luck,” “Close Circuit Connection,” and “Hey, Mr. Smith”. Elsewhere, the band offered up great songs that leaned towards the angular and experimental. The distinct guitar sounds – reflected in the cool little riffs that floated in and out of the songs – fluctuated between menacing and melodic. Infused with the energy of Punk and a unique musical vision, THE VERY DAB was an impressive debut and sounded like nobody else at the time.

The following year, the band released their sophomore album DISTINGUISHING MARKS. Produced by The Motors’ Nick Garvey, this platter was a completely different ball of wax. Perhaps one of the finest Pop albums of the era, DISTINGUISHING MARKS was jam packed with hooks. While the dark, experimental bits were stripped away, the band still sounded very much like the Fingerprintz that made THE VERY DAB, only much more confident. Garvey’s big, bold production added power to the band’s sound and brought out their best side (just listen to The Motors, Bram Tchaikovsky, and The A’s second album for proof that Garvey had ‘the Midas Pop Touch’!) The single “Bulletproof Heart” brought the band much-needed attention but was far from the best song on the album. I mean, this album was loaded with classics including “Amnesia,” “Yes Eyes,” “Houdini Love,” and many more. While New Wave and Power Pop fans ate up every moment of DISTINGUISHING MARKS, success still eluded the band.

Now, here is where things get confusing. In 1981, the band released their third album, BEAT NOIR, in Europe. Sonically, the album sounded very much like the true spiritual follow-up to their 1979 debut album. The arrangements were once again sparse, the mood was darker and more experimental, yet the songs were more melodic and charming than some of the material on THE VERY DAB. The original 11 track BEAT NOIR is a phenomenal Post-Punk album that is filled with shade and shadows. And yet there, in the darkness, you could feel that something more rhythmic and funky was going on. It wasn’t blatant… but it was there. Once the album was released, Jimme wanted to explore the rhythmic funkiness even further so they recorded a few new tracks, and reshaped BEAT NOIR by removing a few tracks in order to add songs like “The Beat Escape” and “Get Civilized” to the running order. Rereleasing the album in many different territories, the new tracklist sounded like a shiny new beast, breathing new life into an already fine album. In the U.S., they removed a few more songs from the original tracklist, making it a shorter, more danceable album… which only confused the matter even more. Most U.S. fans have only ever heard the American version of the album which bared little resemblance to the original release.

And that was it. The band split and went their separate ways. Bogdan Wiczling and Cha went on to tour with Adam Ant on the FRIEND OR FOE tour as well as record and tour his VIVA LE ROCK album. Jimme and Cha later formed The Silencers in the ‘80s and achieved much more success than Fingerprintz ever did.

THE REVIEW:

Surprisingly, over the years, not one single track by Fingerprintz has ever been officially released on CD – not even on an ‘80s compilation! For two decades, I have made suggestions to reissue labels, requesting a ‘best of’ or expanded editions of their albums but could never get any of them to commit. One label released an unofficial compilation mastered from vinyl, which, for a short time, was the only chance of owning Fingerprintz on CD. However, the tides have turned and I’m pleased to announce that Rubellan Remasters has just released the inspiring and downright wonderful THE BEST OF FINGERPRINTZ: BULLET PROOF HEART. Anyone into Post-Punk, New Wave, and Power Pop needs to own this collection!

First things first: this collection is digitally remastered from the original tapes and it sounds great. You no longer hear the slight vinyl distortion from your well-played copies of the original Fingerprintz vinyl LPs and 7” singles – the sound is crystal clear and really brings out the power of the original recordings. Even if you own the complete Fingerprintz catalog on vinyl, the punchy remaster gives these songs new life.

OK, I admit that some of my favorite Fingerprintz songs didn’t make the tracklist, but I prefer to focus on what IS here and not what is missing. “Bullet Proof Heart”, “Changing”, “Amnesia”, “Tough Luck”, “Get Civilized”, “Houdini Love”, “Who’s Your Friend”, “Close Circuit Connection”, “Yes Eyes”, and “Remorse Code” are just some of the life-affirming tracks you’ll find on this very healthy 22 track compilation. This is undoubtedly one of the best ‘reissues’ of the year. Fingerprintz deserve your love, respect, and attention and it is time you give it to them!

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: CURRENTS/THE WAY IT ENDS

Metalcore is a genre that combines elements of Extreme Metal and Hardcore Punk. When listening to Metalcore, you’re likely to experience the pummeling audio experience of violent Metal yet the lyrics tend to be based in the real world of politics, personal tragedies, and other more emotionally dark topics. More often than not, the lyrics tend to be dark and shrouded in mystery and shadows. Some of the better-known Metalcore bands include Underoath, Silverstein, Shadows Fall, Of Mice And Men, and the oddly-named Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza. However, like any other genre, there are bands that may use Metalcore as a jumping off point, but they take it in new directions. Currents is one of those bands…

Currents was formed in Fairfield, Connecticut in 2011. Their first two releases – the VICTIMIZED EP (2013) and LIFE – LOST (2015) – were issued independently. The moody Metal quintet then signed with Sharptone Records and released THE PLACE I FEEL SAFEST in 2017. The album was followed by the I LET THE DEVIL IN EP in 2018. As the band’s sound matured, they began adding many elements into their sound. From Metalcore to Progressive Metal with a hint of Screamo, Currents charted their own musical course and set their phasers to stun! The band has had a few line-up changes but their ‘current’ configuration is their strongest yet: Brian Wille (vocals), Chris Wiseman (guitar), Ryan Castaldi (guitar). Matt Young (drums), and Christian Pulgarin (bass). And this line-up presents the band’s heaviest and strongest album to date, THE WAY IT ENDS.

THE WAY IT ENDS is a dark, angry album, but it is not completely without hope. Although written before the onset of a worldwide pandemic and the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the album now reflects the dark, cold, and tortured feelings that many people are experiencing at this time. The album is multi-layered, filled with emotional trauma that may shock the listener… but also help them realize that they are most certainly not alone in their own fears. This is an album that is focused on inner torment brought on by an unforgiving world. THE WAY IT ENDS is said to be ‘a thematic and spiritualsuccessor to their dense, bludgeoning, and smartly constructed full-length debut, THE PLACE I FEEL SAFEST, and a direct follow-up to the blistering and diverse EP, I LET THE DEVIL IN.’ While that may be the case, it certainly stands on its own as a massive punch to the gut in the best possible way. THE WAY IT ENDS may prove to be a prophetic title, or it could just end up being the best Currents album yet. Only time will tell.

CURRENTS

THE WAY IT ENDS

7.3.2020

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: KHRUANGBIN/MORDECHAI

Formed in Houston, Texas in 2009, Khruangbin is composed of bassist Laura Lee, guitarist Mark Speer, and drummer Donald ‘DJ’ Johnson. The band’s origins reach back to 2004 when Speer and Johnson met while playing in a church Gospel band. Three years on, Speer met Lee and he encouraged her to learn to play bass. They both ended up playing in Yppah’s live touring band. This experience encouraged the Speer and Lee to create original music together. The duo’s experimentation led to a unique Psychedelic sound that was bass-heavy and rooted in World Music. Speer brought in his old friend Johnson and Khruangbin (Thai for ‘flying engine’ or ‘airplane’) was born. The band’s initial musical output relied on the interplay between the instruments and vocals were not prominently featured on their recordings.

The trio’s first release was the 2014 EP THE INFAMOUS BILL, followed by their 2015 full-length debut album THE UNIVERSE SMILES UPON YOU. Influenced by Thai music, the album was nearly impossible to classify and defied all genres. Regardless, it was warmly embraced by music fans and critics. The band’s second album, CON TUDO EL MUNDO (2018), added Spanish and Middle Eastern influences, pushing the band further away from genre classification and making them one of the most riveting bands of the era. Playing small clubs and huge festivals alike, Khruangbin continued to tour and build a devoted audience. In 2019, they took a short break and focused on creating material for their next album.

Now, in 2020, Khruangbin return with their third album, MORDECHAI. Unsurprisingly, the trio adds new elements to their evolving sound including a stronger reliance on vocals. While the idea of emphasizing more vocals than usual on a Khruangbin album may seem to go against the flow of their previous releases, one spin of MORDECHAI and it all makes sense. This isn’t an album that finds the trio ‘selling out’ and aiming for the Pop charts. The vocals are a natural addition to their sound – they operate as instruments, adding a new layer of emotional depth to the songs. The grooves are as delectable as ever and the Psychedelic elements still keep the songs floating above the ozone, but the vocals help guide the listener through the ever-evolving musical world of Khruangbin. MORDECHAI is a unique listening experience that will keep you coming back for more helpings… and you will hear it differently with each spin. That is what music is all about.

KHRUANGBIN
MORDECHAI
(Dead Oceans)

6.26.2020

AMPED™ FEATURED ALBUM OF THE WEEK: NEW FOUND GLORY/FOREVER + EVER X INFINITY



While melodic Pop-oriented Punk has existed since the late ‘70s, the term ‘Pop Punk’ (or ‘Punk Pop”) wasn’t widely used until bands like The Offspring, Green Day, Rancid, and Blink-182 brought the genre to the mainstream, selling millions of albums in the process. MTV and radio embraced this new movement that was as hook-filled as it was loud and aggressive. It is hard to tell whether Pop Punk was a reaction against the slick Pop and smooth R&B that filled the charts at the time or a full-on musical revolution but whatever happened, happened. Another band that made their mark in 1997 was New Found Glory, the Coral Springs, Florida-based band that seemed to have a never-ending supply of anthems for the Punk kids. Within two years of their debut EP, the band were one of the biggest Pop Punk bands in the land.

New Found Glory’s first full-length album, Nothing Gold Can Stay (1999) set the wheels in motion and by 2000, they had signed to Drive-Thru Records and released their self-titled second album. Over the next two decades, the band has released a series of hit records and spent plenty of time on the road, promoting their albums and entertaining audiences everywhere. They signed with Hopeless Records in 2014 and released Resurrection. The band returned three years later with Make Me Sick.  In 2019, they released the third in their From The Screen To Your Stereo series. Unlike many of their Pop Punk contemporaries, New Found Glory have shown no signs of slowing down.

Forever + Ever x Infinity is their 2020 album and their 10th studio album of original material (the band’s catalog also includes covers albums, live releases, EPs, and a few ‘hits’ collections to boot). The songs on this new release combine the spirit of classic New Found Glory with the spit of heavy Rock. The melodies still soar, but the guitars have a meaner bite. The songs still come fast and furious, but the guitars have a lean Metal-like chug-chug that makes each song hit harder but without causing any damage to the listener. Produced by Steve Evetts, the album features key tracks like “Himalaya”, “Shook By Your Shaved Head”, and the first single “Greatest Of All Time”. Forever + Ever x Infinity, amen!

NEW FOUND GLORY
FOREVER + EVER X INFINITY