March 1, 2019. Put it in your calendar. It marks the release date of this debut EP and it makes me so beyond excited to dig deeper into the captivating Jenny Kern.
The EP is full of texture, nuance, and genuine talent. It’s not overly-produced that can be the mistake made by many understated artists. It’s perfectly balanced with melancholy and whimsy. Honestly, she’s reminiscent of other indie artists Julien Baker and Pheobe Bridgers, and shares a similar vocal tambre similar to Dido, but there’s something very interesting and exclusive about this work. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but she’s something kind of wonderful.
The first track, Build a Bridge starts with a homey, familiar stirring electric guitar that speaks to some other popular indie works or even movie music and her voice definitely leaves you wanting more. The guttural huskiness of her simple vocal tone is somehow powerful, yet quiet at the same time. Tumultuous love with the hope of making it work is a welcomed theme. After the second chorus, the additions of the echoed “toms” of the drums adds a depth of sound and feeling. It’s a great, hope-filled piece.
Slow Burn envokes ALL the feels and incites a melancholic view. The chorus says, “I think I lost my way. Broken in flames. And the ashes, they don’t come back. The ashes, they don’t come back.” It’s poetic sadness that still offers promise. Sometimes we have to just let go, let the flame burn, and start over. That concept hits me super close and for me, this feels very anthem-like. I don’t doubt that many others would agree.
The third song Carousel is full of lyrical satisfaction. Forvieness is a tricky cycle, music like a carousel. We go round and round and sometimes never get off and move on. Musically, it’s more energetic than the first two songs with the addition of drums, synth, organ, and guitars. It’s lends itself well to the theme.
Old Friend wraps up the EP with a darker, super fun tone. Demons and monsters lurk lyrically, vocally, and musically here. They wreak havoc in our minds like an old friend we can’t seem to turn away. Delicious lyrics, full of imagery and emotion move fluently between minor chords and a well-timed instrumental crescendo. The more we give in to the darkness, the louder it becomes. The background vocals are spectacular, truly. This is a fun, lasting way of ending this short, but very sweet EP.
Zachari Smith – “Homecoming” -This relaxing acoustic song will make you think of friends and family. Maybe, if you’re lucky, it’ll make you think of somewhere you grew up or spent a lot of time. The harmonies are rich and enjoyable. You’ll probably sing along with this one. It oozes positive vibes and we’re super glad to share it with you today.
The Drives – “Keep Warm” -I know not all of our readers live somewhere where it is cold this time of year, but it’s REALLY cold in Ohio right now. This song really hits close to home for the romantic, chilly time of year. It’s also a really sonically pleasing song with an easy going melody. It’s the kind of tune that feels like it could have been written any time in the last 25 years and we’re totally okay with that. It’s got plenty of chill… (get it?)
La Bella and Poole – “Evansburg” -Every once in a while I run across a track that has a truly timeless vibe and it makes me SO happy. Like, honestly, if you look at the charts these days there are so many songs that sound very 2019. But this song deep, thoughtful, personal, has incredible harmonies, and honestly people in your parents’ generation would love it too. How often do you find that? Sing along, clap along, and have some fun with this enjoyable folk tune.
Genevieve Racette – “Parachute” -Relax a bit with this beautiful classic tune from Genevieve Racette. I absolutely adore her voice and overall style. The feeling of the song is endearing, but doesn’t feel like it’s intentionally trying to be cutesy. There’s an authenticity to the musicianship and composition that rides the line between folk and country. I find it a refreshing track with thoughtfully abstract lyrics and a delightful melody.
Jon and Roy – “Where has my love gone?” -If you’re a fan of the raspy sincerity of Ray Lamontagne or the deep introspection of Penny and Sparrow, you need to give this track from Jon and Roy a spin. To throw another comparison out there, if the horns on St Paul and the Broken Bones tickle your fancy, go ahead and buy in to the Jon and Roy sound. This is such a rewarding song. I love everything about it and the production is exquisitely balanced.
Andy Frasco and the U.N. – “Waiting game” -Are you ready to swing? Then click play on this electrifying track about how “love is a waiting game.” It’s got a dash of cultural commentary and a whole lot of swagger. The feel good vibes overshadow the heartbreak at the core of the song. It’s a really fun that will have you singing along with the toe-tapping chorus.
The day that I heard “Hands on my body” by Mariya Stokes I sent my co-editor Matt Simon a note that said “I found a huge hit.” I immediately started contacting Stokes on social media because I am so excited for this track.
Stokes has a sultry vocal style on a song that’s a little bit sexy and a lot of fun. It’s just fun enough for a fling, but also serious enough for those of us in matrimonial bliss too. It’s not raunchy, but it’s provocative. I love that it’s a dancefloor groove but also could work in… uh… more intimate settings too.
Seriously listen to this song and tell me it doesn’t make you smile and think of someone you’re into. It’s perfect for Valentine’s Day weekend… just sayin’.
Songwriter Jessie Reid has a style you have to hear. Every now and then we come across an artist where words fail us in doing justice to what our ears hear. Bear with us please as we try.
The UK songstress has a near perfect sound that will flood listeners with feelings ranging from hope, to a cool calm in these uncertain times. Her matured sound is surprising given she released her debut single in December of ’18. Already, she has won audiences over and gained much deserved comparisons to Ben Howard and Andy McKee. Her finger picking guitar style is near virtuoso, while her vocals play out like the sweetest of memories pouring from your earbuds. Her new single, “Stay With Me”, is everything we love and wish to support as a music site.
Genre speaking we would describe her as a dreamy folk/acoustic vibe, but we think the talented artist is capable of transcending those titles as she continues to grow. With her career being in it’s infancy, we are excited to see how her sound will be shaped and tightened throughout her musical journey. She is already an accomplished musician, and we think what she has already learned will serve her to shape some of her most intriguing songs in the future. We cannot wait.
There’s a certain brand of folk rock that just suits us here at EarToTheGround and Mt Joy seem to have that sound figured out. It’s energetic and has some really great harmonies, thoughtful lyrics, and an overall enjoyable listening experience. Mt Joy is one of the most exciting rising folk bands we’ve found recently and we’re excited to delve into this fantastic debut self titled album.
“I’m your wreck” starts the album with some tangible energy. The lyrics are raw in places, talking about how life is not always easy. It’s about surviving with someone you love. It’s almost melancholy lyrically, even while you’ll be tapping your toes and singing along. It’s kind of what I wish country music still was.
“Dirty love” is probably not a track you’ll want to play at a family party, but it definitely conveys a particularly powerful emotion. It’s raw and real in the best way possible. Something about these songs feel like they were written in gritty green rooms on hard riding indie tours. We’ll have to get in touch with the songwriters and find out; this one sounds like if folk had a grunge side.
The following “Silver Lining” is one of the most commercially viable songs on the album. It’s one that we heard early in the process and were immediately hooked. There’s a litany of sins or vices or whatever you want to call them, but it’s ultimately about saying life is worth living and we need to hang on. Even though life is hard and we want to numb ourselves or escape it all, we need to stick with it. “Let the music play through the pain.” A-freaking-men.
“Sheep” explores a softer side of the band and one that, frankly, I could really get into. There’s a sweetness to the composition that allows it to permeate. Once the guitars hit, there’s a kind of 70s James Taylor feel to it. I appreciate the imagery and especially the sassiness in the lead vocal expressing pain and injustice.
“Julia” is a love song with a great groove. It reminds me a little bit of something from Ray Lamontagne. Then the album transitions to a track named for the band (or is the band named for the track?) called “Mt Joy,” a truly unique indie folk rock exploration. It rises and moves with a lot of passion. I love the way the electric guitar dances around the vocals, bringing everything together in balance.
The track “Astrovan” is about how Jesus drives and Astrovan and it’s pretty much one of my favorite things I’ve heard so far this year. It’s got a really cool comedic lyricism about spirituality and controlled substances. I’ll let you spin it for yourself to learn more, but it’s a hoot.
“Jenny Jenkins” starts off relaxed, but then builds with a ton of interesting energy. The lyrics are introspective, encouraging the listener to think about how you’ve gotten where you are in life. If you’ve ever had a past relationship that helped to shape you, you’ll enjoy this one. Musically it’s one of the most fun on a really fun album.
The final two tracks bring the album in for a nice landing. “St George” has a darker feel to it, but ultimately works well. It’s more minimalist, but the lyrical style will make you think of Kurt Cobain, no exaggeration. The final track “Younger Days” then is more typical of the Mt Joy style, with glowing guitars and a folk rock aesthetic. The lead vocal transitions into and out of the falsetto with ease, creating a delicate nature to the melody. It’s really a remarkable track to finish up a quality album.
If you’re not already a fan of Mt Joy, you will be after spending some time with this album. There are some references to drug use and some flippant relationships, but at the core of the album is a sincere search for meaning. I hope that our readers will enjoy the music and take the lyrics seriously; there’s some real meaning and nostalgia throughout the album that is deeply satisfying. This album is folk rock music done well.
An acoustic guitar is probably one of the most recognizable musical instruments known to man. Its use is widely accepted in most musical genres and its versatility makes it a pivotal role in most modern and even classical music.
For those of us who play music or make a living talking about music, its sound can be as familiar as a humming fan – white noise behind our busy and loud daily lives.
Its sense of home.
And all too often a strum of this instrument will mirror a million strums before it. (Especially in the genres we tend to favor around here, like folk, singer-songwriter, country, etc…)
How, in this endless sea of strums, can a song truly stand out among the rest?
An amazing vocal? (Of course.)
Fantastic lyrics? (Yes. Naturally, this is important.)
Smart and strategically layered additions of other nuanced instruments? (Duh.)
All these things and more. But there’s something, in my humble opinion, that takes an acoustic-led song from standard to spectacular — Heart.
Something Joy Williams has always, no matter the genre she’s singing, no matter the backing band she’s used, has presented in spades…
So much dang heart.
She has returned to the folk genre with her new upcoming album, FrontPorch, and the title track is a lovely preview of what to expect.
I’ve been a fan of Joy’s for so long that admittedly she could write a song about a paper bag and i’d be so there for it. But, she didn’t. She wrote a song about life and all its many choices. A heartwarming tale of having no regrets and learning from our bumps and bruises along the way. The melody is gorgeous, the music is calming and somber, and the vocals, especially the harmonies, are full of whimsy.
This new album is something I’ve been anxiously and excitedly anticipating and this new single is the icing on the proverbial cake.
St Buryan – “Giving In” -There’s a grittiness to the St Buryan sound that keeps me coming back for more. Where the vocals sometimes waver, the drum beat and driving guitars make up for. The overall sound is one that is dynamic and engaging. It’s a kind of rock that will have you tapping your toes and nodding your heads.
Ivan Hartle – “You Got Me” -This is ostensibly a blues song, but holy wowzer is this an incredible song. Hartle is one of the most promising vocalists we’ve found in 2019. The combination of that sassy vocal style and a tight blues combination makes for a style of classic rock energy that we rarely find. This is an absolute hidden gem and we’re astonished it’s not getting six or seven figure play stats yet.
Ivan Hartle - You Got Me (Official Audio) - YouTube
Ozwald – “Dream Child” -This energetic track from Ozwald has a ton of cool harmonies. It could have been a 60s rock anthem, but here we are celebrating it in 2019. The energy and dynamics on this track are really great. I feel like I should be at a big outdoor festival singing with all my hippie and hipster friends alike. It’s wonderful and melodic and fun to sing along.
John Shakespear – “Swinging for the fences” -This is a wonderfully enchanting indie rock track that borders on indie pop. I can’t understand why this isn’t a huge hit right now. There’s a sort of George Harrison meets Beck thing going on here that I can’t completely explain but I love it. The chill vibe on this track meets with this beautifully pop, organic chord progression on the chorus that I adore. Seriously who IS this guy?
*Editorial Note: Raise your hand if you’re proud of me for not making a Shakespeare pun about the last artist? “The blog reader doth protest too much, methinks.”
Walden – “Axioms” -Okay so the band name is a reference to Thoreau… I can’t help but wonder if these guys march to the beat of their own drummer. Sorry, really, I am. Moving on. But make no mistake, it is “evidently true” that these guys have a good handle on indie rock right now. This track has the magical formula that we look for; the vocals are good, the guitars are well balanced, and the sound feels new and fresh without being too experimental. I could spin this all day. Do they have wifi on Walden Pond?
Lane Simkins – “Cycles” -There’s so much light and space in this track that makes it incredible. The lyrics are philosophical and maybe even a bit existential. The central premise of working really had to break a negative cycle in your life is really intriguing to me.
Postscript – “Miles Away” -There’s an infectious, fun energy to this track. It’s ostensibly about distance, but it’s also about the emotions at the heart of relationships. The lead vocal is very distinctive, allowing the indie pop duo to stand out in a crowded scene.
RKCB – “Til We’re In the Sea” -This track reminds me of many good and beautiful things all wrapped into one. There’s a bit of early Bon Iver in there. There’s a bit of Sleeping at Last, too. But more than anything, RKCB bring this mix of energy and gentleness to this clap-filled track that will just flat out make you feel good. I haven’t enjoyed a track out of pure emotion like this one in a long time.
Sharlet Crooks – “Maybe Love” -At first blush you might think this is a country song, but it’s noooooot. This is indie pop all the way. There’s a pop sensibility to the chord progression and overall message. If you stick around ’til the chorus you’ll be singing along. This is a mesh of pop and blues for an Americana ballad that defies easy category. Crooks’ distinctive vocal sets it apart in a world that needs more powerful vocals like this.
Maybe Love (Official Music Video) - YouTube
Benjamin Dakota Rogers – “Better by now” -We cover a lot of acoustic singer songwriters around here, so when we do feature one it has to be good. Rogers is talented. The way he cranks up the intensity of the vocal on the “really oughta know better by now” on the chorus reveals something deep and satisfying. It’s disturbingly personal, yes just as disturbingly accessible for anyone to relate to the lyrics. This one might not make the top 40, but it’ll rip your damn soul out.
Benjamin Dakota Rogers - Better by Now (Official Video) - YouTube
“I feel displaced” contemplates songwriter Zack kardon (aka Southern Pine) on his new single “Sunrise”. The Asheville based songwriter has a unique gift of crafting introspective and compelling tracks, which are carefully layered and build to impressive ends. On his latest track, the songwriter showcases his spacey and meditative talent. The best songs illicit feelings within it’s listeners, and this one is no exception. “Sunrise” had us daydreaming of clarity and peaceful spaces outside this present state of walls, headlines, and deferred dreams.
Genre speaking, many clarify Southern Pine as dream folk. We agree, but it also had us feeling a little like a psych Kurt Vile track would. The swells and intentional expanse, gives the sound something intriguing and definitely worth listening to regardless of preference.
The new EP by Southern Pine is entitled Standing Still, and is out now.
Friends, readers, music lovers, thank you for taking time to read this address.
Let us first say thank you. We recently reached 700,000 all-time views on our website, a milestone that seems ridiculously impossible. Our social media continues to grow, with Instagram taking off in the past year. Our Facebook and Twitter following is slow and steady, but remains an important part of bringing traffic to our site.
We have some plans for 2019 to continue to develop the site. One of our early priorities is to bring back our merch for sale. Only the OGs will remember the tshirts we once sold. But now we’re going to bring them back with a vengeance… or maybe just with nice logos and sensible color choices. But what other types of merch should we have? Coffee cups? A must with this crowd. Let us know what else you might like to see.
We want to continue producing 5-6 articles every week, helping artists continue to share their new music and helping you, THE FANS, find new exciting music. We want to maintain that schedule and continue to improve the quality where we can. The depth of a well written review may not always reflect in the stats, but does our writing hearts good.
In a world that continues to feel dire, with the looming threat of nuclear war on the horizon, we can’t help but have even more reason to pour into this website. Whatever we do, may it be to help our neighbors near and far to love more deeply. May we be a bit of a bright patch on the earth, where people continue to learn about love and life, break ups and hook ups, the best and most beautiful moments remembered and cherished. That’s what music does for us.
We want to address a few specific crowds:
To the folks we have covered: Thank you for sharing our writing with your fans. Thanks for taking a chance to send us your music. We appreciate the several hundred artists we covered in 2018 and look forward to more music that we will share in 2019.
To the folks we have not covered: Thank you for your interest in our site and for sending along music. If you didn’t make the cut with your first crack at it, please PLEASE send us the next track. Send us your other project and your side project and that concept band you haven’t started yet, but will have a demo in a few months. We want that too. We want to hear all the music that you believe in and love and can’t wait to share with the world. We’re sorry if we might have disliked the production or the vocal or the electro blips that you put in the background. It’s not personal. It’s subjective and we know that. But we also hear a LOT of music and have a pretty good idea what is “new and different” and what is just a bit too funky for what our readers like. Keep being you. NEVER stop creating.
To our readers: THANK YOU for showing up daily or weekly or monthly or whenever it is you make time to read our humble corner of the internet. Thank you for the articles you share with your friends. Thank you for being excited about new bands that you find just like we do. We hope that you slow dance with your beloved to the love songs you find here. We hope that you cry when you hear a good heartache song. More than anything, we hope that reading EarToTheGround gives you an opportunity to feel more alive.
That’s why we’re here.
To abundant life in 2019, to good music with neighbors all over the planet, and to making our little corner of the Internet a little bit better than it was last year.