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Ogikubo Station – Okinawan Love Songs

We can only hope there will be plenty more of Ogikubo Station to come because Okinawan Love Songs is a great burst of musical joy.

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Ogikubo Station is the musical collaboration between Maura Weaver (of Ohio pop-punk band Mixtapes) and Mike Park (of Asian Man Records, Skankin’ Pickle, Bruce Lee Band, Chinkees) that is part jangly indie rock, part pop-infused punk. It’s an engaging combination that serves to show that collaborations can still come from an organic, genuine place. Instead of filling album titles with prominent feature spots, Ogikubo Station is what it sounds like when artists like making music together, whether far or near.

For Ogikubo Station, it has been quite far as there are some 2000+ miles between the two (California and Ohio). Their previous work has often seen the two send each other pieces of music that would be then pieced together. But if you’ve listened to their 2018 full-length, the wonderful We Can Pretend Like, you’ll know that they’ve made it work- managing to sound as organic as musicians in a studio together. What makes their latest 3-song EP Okinawan Love Songs even more rewarding is that Weaver and Park spent a good amount of time in the studio together to get these new songs done. It doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any music “over the wires”, Okinawan Long Songs features the bass work of Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano, who sent his bass parts in from Florida, all to be assembled by Park in the studio. The results are all worth the effort as the two original songs here are more than just a continuation of We Can Pretend Like, they are a measure of warmth and joy that comes from a genuine love for the art you craft.

The opening cut “Would I Break My Heart Enough for You” takes cues from Rainer Maria and The Anniversary; but with a sound that is a little more pressing. “Spend Some Time With Me” is a little more mid-tempo Midwestern, akin to the sounds that made waves in the late 90s and early 2000s and buoyed by the best of formulas: simple chords and simple melodies. The biggest improvement over their full-length is perhaps the tones of the guitars; sounding less distorted than before and finding this sort of jangly grace that doesn’t stray too far from that formula. In a way, it sounds timeless. The final track of this short outing is their rather wonderful, lo-fi cover of They Might Be Giants’ “Dr. Worm”. Meant to resemble TMBG’s “dial-a-song” sessions they made available from 1983-2006, it’s a nice analog touch to this mostly digital world. The cover itself does more than hold its own to the original and serves as a vehicle for both Park and Weaver to have some creative fun (and another opportunity for Weaver’s great vocals to shine).

What’s not so great about this EP? Well, it’s short- more a double A-side than an EP- but those grievances are superficial. Think of it as a quick teaser to what could be forthcoming.

Park’s legacy is one that continues on as both the proprietor of one of the most-loved independent labels in existence, but also a musician whose love for music above all else shows in the multitude of bands he’s done and is currently in (3… but maybe 4?). Ogikubo Station could be his best- in part because of the symphonic, almost perfect harmony he finds musically with Weaver. We can only hope there will be plenty more of Ogikubo Station to come because Okinawan Love Songs is a great burst of musical joy.

(Asian Man Records)

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Calvin Clone – Machines [single]

Meshed together with the cyber sounds of machines throughout, it’s a weird but working combination

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Calvin Clone Machines

The year is 2040. The war between human vs machine is at the forefront. Is it too late for humans to take back the world from Artificial Intelligence? Are we already outrun by machines? Have no fear, Calvin Clone is here. “Machines” is the first of three singles released by Melbourne artist Calvin Clone. This first track allows listeners to see into the future through song. Setting it simply, according to Calvin Clone, our world is taken over by machines, and I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound too crazy to me.

Founder and creator of Calvin Clone, Jack Alexandrovics, “combines dance, pop, industrial and rock to create a vision of cyberpunk.” This single shows a great connection music can have between modern and classic interpretation. There is a fantastic guitar riff throughout the song and really stands out when played. Meshed together with the cyber sounds of machines throughout, it’s a weird but working combination.

Alexandrovics’s theatrical voice adds yet another element to the song. He explains that his music is “closer to a theatre production than a conventional gig”. The vocal element in “Machines” exposes an ability to move up and down the scales flawlessly.

It is really exciting to see artists thinking outside of the conventional box. Calvin Clone explores modern and futuristic ideas yet keeps the integrity of a smashing guitar riff and untouched voice. There will be two more singles released by the end of the year which will all be part of his EP Kinetics. Calvin Clone is ambitious with visuals and sonics, and wants the live audience to be fully engaged in all aspects of his live performance. “Machines” has been stuck in my head for days. It’s catchy and engaging and I can’t wait to hear what else may be coming our way. This is only the beginning.

(self-released)

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.

“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.

Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.

“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.

There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.

(Out Of Line Music)

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