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The Gamits – Antidote

The Gamits remind me somewhat of Weezer with their catchy songs and clever lyric writing.



First listen to this album and you can definitely hear why the Beatles and the Beach Boys have influenced these guys. They have that solid structure of the Beatles and that fun in sun melody of the Beach Boys. This album falls into that amusing and full-of-smiles category of music. After years of success in other countries, I think it’s about time The Gamits make things happen here in the States.

You can listen to this album on the way to the beach on a bright, hot and sunny Thursday morning. You know, that long drive that is filled with anticipation as you know you are headed to the sand and water, a place that seems so unique and away from the hustle and bustle of every day life. You will easily find yourself singing or humming along to the words and music, as they are catchy in the most non-annoying way. With the windows rolled down and the wind in your face, this album can be the anthem to your summer.

The pace of this album is upbeat from beginning to end but not super fast where the songs fly right past you. There is a really nice consistency with the swiftness of the album that pulls all the songs together in a unique way. The Gamits let vocalist and guitarist Chris Fogal lead the way on this three-piece attack. The music really doesn’t do the talking here; it is the upbeat vocals that are the prominent weapon of choice. The music is fun and bubbly, yet rides on the banks of a mature, indie band sound; two things that aren’t all that connected when referring to either description. But for The Gamits, that’s what makes this album special.

The lyrics of Fogal are nothing Earth shattering but they do possess a clever quality that works within the musical style of the band. Coupled with the pace of the music, the lyrics vividly blend together. This is best displayed on the track, “Bloodstains / Picture Frames;” “Broken piano keys still make the same sound when they strike / Like they’re telling lies / They echo on and on / After a while they sound the same when they resonate / The truth was backwards in a note / The bathroom mirror told me so / Barely apart even a week / That’s how I know you lied to me”.

The Gamits remind me somewhat of Weezer with their catchy songs and clever lyric writing. There is a certain sense of taking something simple, like power pop music, and then turning it into something distinctive and adding your special spice into the music. I feel they have done that and in large part because of their front man, Fogal. They have also painted that image of heading down to that special place where the water sparkles off the sun and the sand is hot and smooth. You can’t go wrong with that.

(Suburban Home Records)


Berwanger – Watching a Garden Die

Josh Berwanger continues to evolve as a songwriter



At the height of Vagrant Records’ early success in the late 90s, the label was buoyed by the incredible draw of their two biggest names- The Get Up Kids and Saves the Day. And while those two bands took a chunk of the notoriety, there were plenty of great bands that called the label home. One of those bands was The Anniversary. The Lawrence, Kansas band shared musical similarities with both TGUK and Saves the Day, but were unafraid to branch off into slightly more synthesised terrain that gave their songs an added element. Coupled with their super easy to digest harmonies and fantastic male/female vocals, songs like “The D in Detroit” still has a place in countless “favorite playlists” all these years later.

Since their initial break-up, guitarist and vocalist Josh Berwanger has been busy writing and recording a bevy of music under the moniker Berwanger. His recent discography is a talented kaleidoscope of songs that traverse genres from folk and indie, to more rock and straight forward singer/songwriter fare. There was plenty to like on his 2016 album Exorcism Rock, an album that delved into a little bit of psychedelia and fuzzed out indie rock. His 2017 album And the Star Invaders saw a gradual move away from the more electrified to the imaginative kind of singer/songwriter we’ve seen from the likes of Devendra Banhart. True to form, Berwanger continues to evolve as a songwriter, and his latest, Watching A Garden Die, is the next chapter in his thriving songwriter cabinet.

The gloomily titled record is mostly upbeat and diverse. While he may have shown a kinship to indie/folk songwriting of the Banharts and Obersts of the world previously, Watching a Garden Die features the kind of seasoned and more classic toned work you’d find on a Crosby, Stills & Nash record, or even a Paul Simon record. Songs like the softly, almost whispered “Even the Darkness Doesn’t Know”, and quietly moody, introspective “Paper Blues” (until that electric guitar solo hits) harks back to a time long ago of unfettered hair and soulful folk music. The album’s best moment is probably a combination of the wistful, pedal-steel toned Americana of “When I Was Young” and the equally effective, spacey indie rock of “The Business of Living”. The latter giving Grandaddy a run for their money in that music department. These two songs in particular showcase an artist fully aware and capable of his abilities to craft music that’s personal but exhibits the kind of draw you want from a record this close to the heart.

The album doesn’t have the more ruckus moments Berwanger exhibited in his earlier work (outside of perhaps, the more upbeat power-pop, new wavy “Bad Vibrations”). At times the album takes just a few listens to grab you. But when you listen to songs like the spritely “Friday Night” and the somber reflection of the twangy “I Keep Telling Myself” a few times more, you find the depth of the record. There are elements that reveal themselves on the second, third, fourth listen, and that’s rewarding.

Berwanger’s songwriting ability was never in doubt, and his new material continues to expand his songwriting reach. Watching a Garden Die, while not a frantic effort, is quiet composure.

(Wiretap Records)

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Fences – Failure Sculptures

Failure Sculptures is a steady outing



Christopher Mansfield, under his alter-ego, Fences, has made himself well known through the collaborations with Macklemore and Tegan & Sara. It’s set him up with well-deserved excitement for his new album Failure Sculptures. The genre of pop scores a good reputation with artists like Fences. I wouldn’t necessarily categorize this album as pop, but Failure Sculptures has catchy songs that will appeal to a large scale, however it keeps the integrity of accomplished music. Each song provides a story that allows you to drift into your own thoughts. He also uses idioms like there is no tomorrow.

“A Mission” is a lower-toned song that launches the album with an echoing sound of voice and guitar, and it sets an example of the whimsical type of music that is shown throughout the album. Mansfield has a way with words and was definitely listening in English class. A+ for storytelling. OK, you twisted my arm, I’ll point out some idioms: “body sways like trees in a storm” sung in “Paper Route” and “lately I just pass by like a cloud” heard in “Brass Band”. It’s a great way to paint a picture in your listeners head.  

“Same Blues” exposes a folk side to Fences. It has a lovely addition of cello in the background. It is enchanting and flows so well, which makes a terrific inclusion to the album. The plucking and acoustic sound of “Wooden Dove” has a powerful effect, and suits the song well. It follows the theme of echoes and storytelling. Although “War Kid” is a song about divorce, it is a pleasant way to end the album, and it features more idioms; “tears falling like bombs“.

This type of music allows you to drift and flow in and out of your own thoughts. It’s a friendly haunting and emotionally driven set of songs (and don’t forget about the idioms), and while it is quite predictable in a pleasant way, Failure Sculptures is a steady outing.


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