Artist: The Katawicks

Title: In the Pocket

Format: EP

Release Year: 2020

Members: Allison Justice and Matt Washburn

Formed in 2011, indie soul duo The Katawicks have been receiving nothing but praise while building their fan base. With their late August EP titled In the Pocket, Matt Washburn and Allison Justice should continue to attract fans all over the place. The new record is a sample of what the group has to offer as pre-Covid, they were known for their fabulous live shows. Until gigging is conducted on a regular basis, the three songs they dropped last week are more than enough to tide lovers of quality music over.

On “Out on the Water”, Justice’s peppy vocals are perfectly blended with the song’s up-tempo pace. Her voice is so spot on here that it is in the same echelon as popular artists Jewel, Natalie Imbruglia, and Merril Bainbridge. The song tackles depression and unrequited love, however, it has a great deal of potential of radio airplay due to its poppiness. Per the duo’s Facebook page, the song was written during a drunken bender in Music City, U.S.A. and despite the subject matter, it is one of their favorite songs to perform live.

The EP’s second song “Don’t Ask Me Why” is a few gears slower in tempo, but equally as entertaining as “Out on the Water”. The tune is more folk than pop and the band’s use of string instruments really stands out among the vocals. It is the type of song to listen to while either laying in a hammock or sipping a colorful adult beverage on the beach. It may be the shortest track on the record at approximately two and a half minutes, but it holds its own with the other two making for a well-rounded collection.

The Katawicks take it all the way back to the folk genre with the slowest tempo tune on the EP, the appropriately titled “Sunday Morning.” When people think of the early part of the weekend’s last day, they think of peace and harmony. Washburn and Justice provide the absolute perfect song to lemonade on the porch as the birds feast and the squirrels forage. It is a terrific song to cap off In the Pocket and the pair should be proud of the hard work and talent put into making it happen.
The album was possible due to The Katawicks winning a Battle of the Bands competition in Dayton back in February. The prize was a chance to work with reputable Engineer and Producer Patrick Himes of Reel Love Recording Studios and it paid off. Everyone who had a hand in the record should be proud and folk pop connoisseurs will be proud they had a chance to hear it.



EKKOHAWK – “Weapons”: The Central Ohio quartet’s latest single is some finely constructed and much needed pop rock escapism that will take folks back the awesomeness of the early 2000s Top 40 airwaves. In today’s uncertain and unfortunate reality, this well performed bop is excellent ear candy as summer winds down. Comprised of Brent Billet (vocals), Bob Blackburn (bass), Shawn Huff (drums), and Derrick Zajac (guitar), EKKOHAWK has been cranking out alternative jams for years and each tune is worthy of constant head bopping and significant radio airplay. Billet’s vocals are a hybrid of Fred Durst and Steve Harwell’s and gel with the musicianship of Blackburn, Huff, and Zajac. When live shows are a go again, do not miss the band in action as they bring the sizzle and steak to every performance. Until then, previously released singles “Autopilot”, “California Chrome”, and “Farewell to Arms” are recommended to be played on repeat.


Starbenders – “Cover Me”: This Atlanta alternative rock outfit has a great sense of style, but musically they have an equal amount of substance. Kimi Shelter (lead vocals, guitar), Aaron Lecesne (bass), Emily Moon (drums), and Kriss Tokaji (guitar, backing vocals) each hold up their end of the bargain, making them an example of a world class glam rock band. Back on July 29, the band released the official video for this masterpiece off the record titled Love Potions and the video’s quality is on par with the song. Although the group gives off a Fleetwood Mac vibe, the band makes it clear they want to blaze their own trail on their own terms. Shelter, Lecesne, Moon, and Tokaji are totally in sync with one another parts-wise and Shelter’s passion and vigor shines through on the vocals. Sumerian recording artist Starbenders has a surefire attention seeker with this tune, but for a bigger sample size of what these four bring to the table other check out some other tracks such as “London” and their take on Depeche Mode’s “Precious” with help from Remington Leith.


Katie Davis – “I’m Right Here”: Less than two weeks ago, the Columbus, Ohio-based country singer released a video for this song chock full of tenderness and sweetness. Davis sings and performs the song very well and she will get the listener to believe in the song and in her. “I’m Right Here” is about the dearly departed being with grieving loved ones in spirit. The song is quite relevant given the current pandemic in which many lives have been lost. Davis has proven that she has as much heart as she has talent and has a bright future in the local music scene and the industry as a whole. In addition to her new single, Davis’ 2015 EP Steal My Heart has terrific songs to hear such as “You Said” and “Someone’s Someone”.


Avanti – “The Path Less Traveled”: Based out of Cincinnati, the five-piece post-hardcore band touts the new single as the heaviest they have ever released. The individual parts are brilliantly played by each member and the scorching vocals are perfectly executed on the song. “The Path Less Traveled” has every chance of being a breakout as the rage exuded by the band is relatable to metal fans everywhere. The group released a fabulously produced and directed video for the tune that matches the song’s intensity to the letter. Avanti demonstrates they are fabulous storytellers that have the musical skills to match. In addition to a bright future, the quintet also has a big heart as they are known for providing their time and resources to non-profits in their area. The group likes to take the initiative and it is almost certain they will challenge themselves to come up with a track as heavy and as loud as “The Path Less Traveled”. Until that song is released, genre lovers will dig Avanti’s earlier fare like “Dirt” and “28 Days Later”.


Unlawful – “Through the Wire”: Earlier this summer, the folk-rock trio premiered this ditty to much praise. The band used to call Central Ohio home, but relocated to Murfreesboro, Tennessee (near Nashville) to take their careers to the next level. The change of scenery seems to have paid off with a toe-tapper of a song that is catchy enough to make one forget about the harsh realities facing society. The group even made a delightful video for the tune which features bandmates and life partners Devin and Jeromy Sahr sharing the awesome vocals. The guitar play by Jeromy Sahr mixed with the workings of cellist Kyle Chatfield makes for a fantastic song from beginning to end. “Through the Wire” is equally as high-quality as the band’s prior songs from yesteryear “Mercy”, “Set It On Fire”, among others.


Carrie Whatley – “One More Dance”: The Western Ohio singer-songwriter created this uplifting and sincere song in honor of her companionship’s one-year anniversary. It is a wonderfully written and performed acoustic work that will make the lovelorn hold their respective partners a little tighter. It takes a great deal of skill to focus on creating positive art in the midst of a contagious virus, civil unrest, and economic despair. All the credit in the world goes to folk artist Whatley for coming up with such an emotion inducing song in a time of escalated divisiveness. Her dedication to her significant other tells listeners her heart is huge and perhaps that is something worth spreading in these trying times. Whatley bares her soul with this greatly crafted track and the more this song is heard, the more love she will get in return from folk music fans.


Careful Gaze – “When I Leave”: Best known for the powerful 2019 song “Rainbows”, the Minneapolis post-hardcore band returns with a song that is just as significant and relevant and it should catch on with rock enthusiasts. Made up of Gabe Reasoner, Preston West, and Aslan Denbow, Careful Gaze’s latest banger contains excellent vocals from Reasoner as when he sings, people pay attention. The band has something important to say and with their storytelling and musical execution, they get their message across well. The song has an accompanying book that further expands on what the band conveys in the tune. Hats off to the group for being able to put out music and literature during this modern-day civil rights movement as being in the town that started it all had to be taxing. “When I Leave” demonstrates the lads create songs of depth that leave people with something to reflect upon.


Motherfolk – “F.U.S.”: The Cincinnati-based indie quintet is back with this song of sheer beauty which just dropped today. The group utilized Instagram’s IGTV to premiere the video for the tune, which is more comedic than the song itself. The three-minute ballad entails terrific singing and musicianship with F-bombs sprinkled throughout, which gives a hint as to what the title’s initials stand for. The band feels just like most people these days as it pertains to the cards this year has dealt. Even if they are tongue-in-cheek with their latest track and accompanying video, on all other songs Motherfolk takes themselves and the music seriously. Their work ethic led to them earning a spot at this year’s Steadfast Festival, but current events indefinitely postponed the gig. “F.U.S.” is meant to be comedy to cope with a stressful way of life, but their arsenal is full of tremendous works indie rock fans will love including “Salt Lake City”, “Hiccups”, and more.

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Big Smile – “Killdozer”: Also from Cincinnati, the alternative rock band premiered their new single earlier this morning. Released on Anchor Eighty Four Records, the single exhibits familiar and popular pop punk greatness that with the new record deal should take the band to newer levels. Lead singer Scooter Smith, drummer Cameron Hayes, bassist John Morris, and guitarists Noah Jatczak and Ethan Saling have worked hard to obtain this deal and with the excellence of “Killdozer”, they mean serious business. All five members play their roles to the hilt, proving that Big Smile is ready for the big time. The band’s professionalism along with the song’s top-notch production values presents Big Smile as every bit as good as alternative rock mainstays Sum 41 and Thursday. If not for the postponement of live shows, these blokes would be able to bolster their profile with what they bring to the stage. Since what the band has to offer in the studio is on point, bet the house concertgoers will not be disappointed. Their back catalog of songs including “Pillbox Hill” and “Oscillate” are worth a listen to learn what they are all about.


Artist: Kill The Idealist

Title: The Unholy One

Format: EP

Release Year: 2020

Members: Steve Orr (lead vocals, guitar), Brad Brown (guitar), and Josh Raftery (drums)

Contributors: Brian Jones, Trey Ward.

Those who like their death metal loud, fast, melodic, and traditional will enjoy Newark, Ohio outfit Kill The Idealist and their first-ever record The Unholy One. Released earlier this year amid the outbreak, the album is chock full of six original bangers that will give death metal enthusiasts nearly a half-hour of heavy hitting entertainment. After a couple of streams of the EP, one should expect an immediate energy and morale boost as it is extremely upbeat from start to finish. Listeners will be mesmerized by the haunting vocals of Steve Orr, who is also the band’s lead guitarist. His on-point guitar play along with that of guitar work by Brad Brown and Josh Raftery’s perfectly paced drumming are constant on the album.

The album’s first track “Prelude to Tragedy” might be approximately one and a half minutes, but is still quite an impressive instrumental anthem to kick off The Unholy One. The second tune “The Demise of Augustine” is classic death metal galore and a mood swinging track to boot. Kill The Idealist comes together as a well-oiled machine as everyone plays their part to the letter, making for approximately five minutes of awesome rage. The EP’s third song is The Unholy One’s title track and is even heavier than the preceding tune. Strategic drumming and well-crafted guitar work combined with Orr’s blood curdling vocals make this a high-quality adventure for sure. Some credit for the result goes to Trey Ward, who had a hand in writing the masterpiece.

The second half of the EP is on par with the first three songs and people will not be disappointed in what they hear. The fourth track “Years of Silence” clocks in at six and a half minutes, making it the album’s longest song but the length does not impact the tune’s quality. With a little help from Brian Jones on vocals, the fifth song “Echoes” maintains the musical consistency as heard on previous tracks. On the final track “Leviathan”, the band continues to do what they do best throughout the album with more spot on drum work from Raftery, perfectly played guitars from Orr and Brown, and of course Orr’s raucous vocals mixed throughout the song.

Given the pattern of the EP, it is safe to say that Kill The Idealist took their time with the record to ensure each aspect was high quality and the output shows. The band prides itself as being a hybrid of various types of death metal and those who embrace the genre will appreciate what Kill The Idealist accomplishes on The Unholy One. The record’s escapism factor is sky high and is precisely what the jaded and frustrated have been clamoring for since the world turned sideways. Being a standout release in a sea of pop and softer alternative fare should get the Central Ohio boys some well-earned attention for the blood, sweat, and tears they obviously put into their freshman effort.




Chelsea Ravenn – “Steady Butterflies”: Things have come full circle for the Columbus-based singer-songwriter. After starting as a solo artist, pianist Ravenn founded the pop trio The Mean Somethings with drummer Kevie Bovaird, and bassist Dustin Miller to a lot of praise in the local scene. This year, Chelsea chose to fly solo once again and dropped “Steady Butterflies” earlier this month to much fanfare. Ravenn revealed she wrote the song in the spring of last year and in her own words per her official YouTube page, ‘I felt these lyrics with every part of my body, mind and heart. I love writing music and I love singing. I hope you can enjoy this piece of work that reflects a moment in time of me.’ The tune about being in awe exudes a hybrid of R&B and pop and is awesomely constructed with relatable lyrics, head bopping beats, fabulous piano play, and (of course), Ravenn’s soothing vocals. For those who are fans of Vanessa Carlton and Bridgit Mendler, they just might have found their new favorite pop prodigy.



Spice Jar – “Nothing”: Released on July 31, the Central Ohio duo of Zack Elswick and Alonso Zavala teamed up to deliver a lovely new wave-esque track for the summer. The bop is a throwback to alternative rock of yesteryear with enough modern relevance that lovers of recent indie pop tunes will enjoy it. Much respected Producer Jakob Mooney gets credit for assisting Spice Jar as he performed drums for the single. Per an interview from the band’s Facebook, Elswick explains the song is about giving respect and admiration to people, but not getting those things in return. Furthermore, the lyrics could be interpreted by the deeply hearted as an upbeat toe-tapper about love gone awry. “Nothing” is something to play over and over for months to come as the tandem is at work on recording more music. Along with their current release, folks can access Spice Jar’s debut single “Chapter 2” as a taste of what is to come from this talented twosome.



Captain Kidd ft. JXHLANI – “No Good”: Best known for the bop “Freaky Love”, the Ohio act from Cleveland but now based in Columbus is back with a hot new song. Formerly a quartet, nowadays the group is a duo and lately they have been going in a different direction musically from their breakthrough single. Captain Kidd recently collaborated with JXHLANI (pictured above in middle) for this slapping new single that should be in heavy rotation on Top 40 stations everywhere. “No Good” is the opposite of its title with its spot-on vocal arrangement and bombastic beats. The track is more hip-hop/pop oriented than the outfit’s early 2010s fare and their evolution as artists continues to impress. When it feels special to do it again, this band and JXHLANI (who is as tremendous as the day is long) ought to see if they can top themselves with another joint effort. Until then, “No Good” is a bop that deserves to catch on big time.



Bexley Moms – “My Space”: Comprised of Matt McCroskey and Brianna Snider, the Central Ohio duo dropped the tune last year but debuted a video for it back on July 31. The video is slightly over two minutes of grainy VHF-looking TV footage combined with the signature trippy suburban rock sound McCroskey and Snider are known for at live shows. The songs lyrics are as simple as summer, but that is what makes the song splendid. “My Space” is an anthem for the selectively social and slackers who just want to live their lives in peace. With the current state of affairs, this song is the ultimate quarantine jam and kudos to Bexley Moms for reviving it with the wild visuals. For those with a hankering of more from these two, accompanying single “Wildwater Kingdom” is close to three minutes of additional devil may care indie rock.



The Safest Ledge – “Grey Matter”: The latest track by the Youngstown, Ohio quartet is a taste of what is to come as the band prepares to launch the album The Space Between Words on August 14. Two weeks ago, the band launched a video for the track and it already has garnered close to 12,000 views. The quartet made up of Kennedy Conti (vocals), Mason Boano (guitar), Mike Orf (bass), and Joey Koval (drums) deliver beautifully concocted alternative rock that fans of early 2000s music will adore just as much. On “Grey Matter”, TSL shows that beloved rock outfits Thursday and Sparta have a slight influence on the song’s execution. All four lads play their individual parts awesomely and it makes for a banger that is every bit as good as anything cranked out by major label acts with more resources. Although they are releasing The Space Between Words independently, once the industry stabilizes again it will be a matter of time before big time labels show interest. Their latest effort is that damn good to warrant such attention.




Thomas and the Work-Men – “Sunshine”: The Columbus alt-jazz funk quintet have given music aficionados four minutes of escapism in the form of this upbeat tune. On Spotify alone, the song has nearly 10,000 streams after being released in late June. For a low-key and mellow band such as TWM, that is quite impressive. The jam is perfectly titled for the season and puts the band in the same breath as the legendary acts Sublime and UB40. Each member executes their role and compliment each other well. The song could not come at a better time and is the ultimate hype to their upcoming album Good Company. The band has experimented with drive-in live shows as of late, but for those unable to attend their recorded material is up to par to tide people over until normal gigs are a thing again.



Romeo Romero – “A Wolf Answers the Phone”: Last week, the Columbus act made up of members Steely John and Steely Scott released a video for this indie rock gem made of black and white stock film footage. The video makes a good use of the material and the song accompanying it has a throwback vibe to it as it would have been a surefire hit in the 80s. Romeo Romero consider themselves an experimental outfit, so listeners should expect future releases to be arranged and executed differently yet still fit into the alternative indie rock genre. Some bands like their songs to sound similar and others like to explore with each tune they crank out. “A Wolf Answers the Phone” is a winner and for those who want to sample more of Romeo Romero’s arsenal can hear prior songs up on Spotify right now such as their ballad “Jealous Guy” and their take on Tears For Fears’ iconic “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”.



Shape Of The Sun – “Where We Go from Here”: Released at the tail end of July, singer-songwriter Nate Linek’s latest single is the epitome of classic alternative that fans of the genre will yearn for. The talented lad started using the Shape Of The Sun moniker half a decade ago with the ambition of bringing in hired guns as a full band. Fast forward to now and the solo approach seems to be working just fine. “Where We Go from Here” is a less than three-minute trip back to the 1990s Alternative genre and every second of it is supreme. Linek should be immensely proud of his newest masterpiece and with this song sounding as awesome in recorded format, imagine when SOTS is able to play this and other diamonds on stage. It will live up to its praise and will leave indie rock connoisseurs seeking more from Linek.



Then Falls The Sky – “Blinded”: Hailing from Bainbridge, Ohio, the metal quintet released this standalone single earlier in the year as a precursor of what was to come later. The hard hitting song serves as the opening track on their new EP Break Free, which is available now. TFTS members Nick Barlage, Chad McElwee, Amanda McElwee, Oney Michaels, and Jacob smith all pull their own weight and provide metal lovers with four and a half minutes of hard rock bliss. “Blinded” is the epitome of a song that is on point as each member plays their role to precision, blending in with one another brilliantly. With multiple crises happening in the world today, hats off to the band for releasing such a well-crafted banger that matches just about any big budget label release in musicianship and recording quality. Listeners can expect the full record to be top of the line as well.



Blend – “Me, Myself & I”: The Central Ohio alternative rock quartet’s latest single starts off mellow with calming southern rock vocals and melodies giving listeners the impression they are getting one amazing ballad out of these blokes. Once the two-minute mark hits, though, Blend cranks it up and delivers the signature rock sound embraced at live events. Although high energy, entertaining concerts are what the band is best known for, Blend has demonstrated with each release that their recorded versions of tunes are equally as solid. These four fellas from the Buckeye state are proud of their progressive rock M.O. and they are getting fabulous feedback for what they have displayed thus far. The song tackles the struggle of identity and certainty, which makes it a single that is relevant to the unrest happening and globally. If Blend set out to drop a well-crafted and upbeat rock song about collective struggles, the lads have excelled with flying colors.



Sean Benjamin – “Find Your Own Way Out”: Today, the highly respected Cleveland area singer-songwriter dropped his brand new EP which includes this title track. Earlier in the week, the record was hyped with a promotional video featuring psychedelic art by Stefania Buzatu. The song is atypical for the Ohio State Alum as Benjamin is known for pop and funk infused originals and “Find Your Own Way Out” tends to go more down the road of jazzy blues. The veteran musician’s ambitions were to expand his creative horizons and demonstrate to music aficionados he has a variety of songs and styles to offer. The EP’s other offerings include a reprise of the title track (for which the video is based on) and the on point “Bring Love My Way”.


The Heisey Glass Company – “Orchard”: The Dayton trio’s latest single oozes with Black Keys-vibes early into it, with the drums, guitar, and vocals in precise harmony with one another. Those seeking old-fashioned, in-your-face, butt kicking rock n’ roll have found their summer anthem from these guys. The lyrics are understandable and digestible and with the world in turmoil, this tune is the absolute escapism many people are seeking. The band has succeeded in presenting a track that is easy to dig to lighten the mood a bit. Performers Sam Cannon, Clayton Piatt, and Jake Shook should be proud of their latest effort as it is sure to catch on with listeners. Rock connoisseurs who embrace it can get their fix of more traditional Midwest rock courtesy of the group’s past releases, “Jaguar Jam” and “Where Does the Mountain Live?” from last year’s album Glass Factory.




Damn The Witch Siren – “Love Song in D Major”: The Columbus electropop duo of Bobbi Kitten and Z Wolf recently released a video for this gem from their latest 10-song album White Magic. Shooting a video during a pandemic is not the easiest thing in the world to do, but with help from Stephen Takacs Photography the pair got the job done. The video looks every bit as good as those big budget numbers featuring major label acts and the song holds its own with anything played on Top 40 radio right now. The group provides brilliantly executed musicianship combined with Bobbi Kitten’s unforgettable vocals for a bop sure to get people dancing this summer. Already known for playing to packed houses around town, once concerts resume on a full-scale do not be surprised if this tandem gets offers to be the local opener for artists the caliber of Carly Rae Jepsen, Walk The Moon, among others.




Nick D’Andrea – “Look Up Close”: Known for fronting highly regarded bands Nick D’ & The Believers and Doc Robinson, the singer-songwriter genius flies solo for this song released earlier this month. D’Andrea keeps it simple with his nurturing voice accompanied primarily by an acoustic guitar, calming percussion work from Wet Darlings drummer Aaron Bishara, perfectly placed bass work from Seth Bain, and some violin play by Chris Topher James Shaw and it works like a charm. By sticking to the basics, D’Andrea proves to his followers his versatility which will lead to longevity in his career. “Look Up Close” is three and a half minutes of mid-tempo happiness that serves a breakthrough a lot of people need in these trying times. The Central Ohio performer made this song with love in hopes it gives people faith and it is safe to say he and his session players have absolutely succeeded.



RAGS AND RICHES – “Summer Nights”: Hailing from the college town of Lexington, Kentucky, the brothers Whitt (Tanner and Peyton) have themselves one of the best pop songs for the season. Peyton’s drum work matches Tanner’s vocals to the letter, making for approximately three and a half minutes of bliss. The lads might not have a record deal right now, but if they had a big budget label funding “Summer Nights” bet the house it would be all over Top 40 pop stations across the country and beyond. These musical thoroughbreds have the skills to back up their style and should ride high for a long time to come. For those who find their newly dropped bop to be a delight, check out other RAGS AND RICHES tunes released earlier this year like “Don’t Look Down” and “Blood Runs Cold”.




stop.drop.rewind – “Love, No Medicine”: This Valparaiso, Indiana alternative rock outfit always brings 100 percent to every endeavor, whether it be live performances or in this case their latest single. The strong vocals are in perfect sync with the guitars, bass, and drums making for a fabulous banger sure to get listeners’ adrenaline going. In unfortunate news, this is the last SDR single that will feature member Matt Alley, who recently departed on good terms. His bandmates Kris Lohn (bass, vocals), DJ Crenson (guitar, vocals), and Andy Sutton (drums) will carry on with the same vigor that has brought them praise thus far. “Love, No Medicine” is fabulous hard rock that alternative rock stations would be privileged to have in their rotation. The track’s structure combined with the band’s energy and effort makes for a very hard hitting four minutes. The band has been perceived as a hybrid of Weezer and Motion City Soundtrack, but it will be up to listeners to decide that. Given what the group has brought to the table with their latest tune, one might think that they are in a class by themselves and it seems the veteran power pop act will blaze their own trail on their terms.



Saltlick – “Sad Song”: Splitting her time between Columbus and Pittsburgh, performer Brianna Snider is the mastermind of this eclectic and prolific musical act. Her newly dropped single demonstrates a return to her experimental electronic roots that was the origin of the musical project when it started years ago. Over the years, Snider has released tunes and played live under the Saltlick name and as half of the beloved duo Bexley Moms. Over time, Saltlick evolved into an alternative rock group with session players but with the new single she is back on her own and it works. Per her official Facebook page, Snider said, ‘Lately I’ve been working on getting my passion back with music. That has caused me to come full-circle and embrace the electronic side of myself once again.’ “Sad Song” is a solid electronic ballad performed with sincerity and authenticity that might be suspect under a major label artist with a huge budget to overproduce. Snider is letting the listening public be part of this personal musical journey and what she expects is the utmost respect. Her latest entry puts her on par with other quirky independent artists like Laura Veirs and Amy Shark who write and play with authenticity.


Above The Sun – “Empty Words”: About a week ago, the Staten Island quartet premiered a video for this slickly produced and smoothly performed mid-tempo tune. The band comprised of Matthew Barouch (vocals, guitar), Shaun Gold (guitar, vocals), Omar Chowdhury (bass), and Gary Boardman (drums) has presented a dramatic and romantic story that would fit perfectly on a serious drama’s soundtrack. The New Yorkers have cranked out a semi-ballad from the heart, which just might be the song we collectively need as the world mourns and heals. “Empty Words” is touching and people making their way through these times of uncertainty will relate to it. Above The Sun should be proud of the song and video as “Empty Words” should resonate with romantics everywhere. Those seeking more of the band’s tremendous work can hear other quality tunes such as the speedy bangers “Lost & Found (End of the World)” and “Dumb”.


Artist: Andrew Theller

Title: Autoneuralcannibalism

Format: EP

Release Year: 2020

Best known as the drummer of the Ohio-based indie rock quartet Guest House, multi-instrumentalist Andrew Theller released an ambitious five-track solo EP unlike any other in recent memory. The Lancaster native nonchalantly expresses what is on his creative mind with maximum effort, making for one a unique trek through his genius. After numerous streams of each track, it is clear the EP is like assorted chocolates in that each piece is a surprise.

The opening tune of “Crush” may clock in at slightly over five minutes, but for listeners it will be among the best five minutes plus ever spent. It is a brilliant odyssey in which Theller displays melancholy vocals with a sense of vulnerability. “Paths” is a short and to the point cautionary tale about heartache and moving on. This may be the one tune that listeners who have experience similar shortcomings will gravitate toward the most. The record’s third song is “Getting Over” and is more instrument driven than the prior tracks, meaning that each note will be paid close attention to as listeners will want to discover where it leads. Although there are vocals throughout, Theller presents them in a chant-like manner that keeps the trippy music as the focal point.

The fourth track titled “Falling” is as instrument-driven that its predecessor and is haunting with Theller yelling backing vocals. This song is the most zombie apocalyptic of the bunch and will give goosebumps to those who hear it. The record closes out with the slightly mellower and appropriately titled tune “Baby”. It the type of tune that could comfort an adult let alone an infant with its tenderness accompanied by background level vocals that kick in.

With Autoneuralcannibalism, those who hear it must go in without expectations as Theller makes it difficult to categorize the record. He gambled on himself to create something out of left field that was a huge departure from Guest House and it paid off. The EP will make listeners think, feel, think some more, and then feel some more. Theller’s solo debut is a hybrid of emo, indie, and psychedelic music packaged into approximately 15 minutes of mind provoking art that just cannot be ignored. Multiple plays will have one clamoring for what they missed to see if they can uncover the meaning behind the songs. The thing about songs is that they are subjective to each person who encounter them with their own interpretations. This was another mission Theller accomplished with this record as although the songs all have come from his perspective, he respects the audience enough to empower them to draw their own conclusions.


Below is a roundup of nine new songs from musical acts who all happen to be connected somehow to the great state of Ohio, known for its vibrant music scene from city to city.


The Manatee Room – “Pastel”: This angsty tune is the Central Ohio-based indie pop trio’s eagerly anticipated debut single and lives up to hype for all four and half minutes. Also featuring backing vocals by Madison Richards, the song is an edict to an ex and serves as an anthem for everyone who has experienced toxic relationships. Listeners will empathize with lead vocalist/guitarist Kallan Imhoff when they hear the line, ‘You’re not the light of my life, you’re the sun in my eyes so find somewhere else to rise.’ The band currently consists of founding members Imhoff and Rob Shield (drums and backing vocals) along with newest member James Walsh (bass). Walsh takes over for charter member and bassist Zayn Dweik, who left earlier this year to focus on his roles in other bands. TMR takes their craft seriously and the proof exists in their musicianship executed on “Pastel”. The Manatee Room should be proud of a remarkable first effort that will leave fans looking forward to their future recordings which are also sure to impress.



The Paisley Bandits – “New Orleans”: Per their Facebook page, the pair considers themselves as a ‘Folk band from Columbus, Ohio with the intentions of spreading love and soul music with a twangy classic southern rock sound.’ With this fiddle-laden toe-tapper, the band has accomplished their mission and then some with their first ever single. The duo returned to the Capital city after extended time in Nashville and the influence shines through. In a time where people are experiencing sadness, TPB break through the monotony to present listeners with a ditty created with sincerity and passion. Week in and week out, the band is gaining traction and as time goes by folk music lovers will find “New Orleans” and get a kick out of it. For those aficionados of the genre who enjoy the likes of fellow Ohio groups The Castros and The Katawicks, they might have found their new favorite act who can talk the talk and walk the walk.




Guest House – “Monster Song”: Released back in mid-June, the Ohio quartet elected to take things in a seriously different direction than their previous released material. Inspired by current events and an uncertain future stemming from the fallout, GH cranks out a raging hard rock anthem that inspires advocacy and activism. With the lyrics by bassist/vocalist Brian Hodge and the music performed by drummer Andrew Theller, “Monster Song” calls out the authority who fails to listen to the people with an enough is enough attitude that implies that they will not go away quietly. The unapologetic banger stands out for not only being atypical of any of Guest House’s other songs, but for fitting in the anti-establishment punk rock genre flawlessly. The single is relevant, to the point, and makes listeners think of what has happened and what must happen in response to the epidemic of violence against the innocent.




Magoteaux – “Permanent Residency”: The single was written approximately a decade ago by Columbus musician/producer/entrepreneur Nick Magoteaux with assistance by Paul Laskey. Given life changes over the years, the song was tweaked from its past form by Magoteaux helped by Josh Brenneman, Tony Rice, and Evan Kieffer. According to a Facebook post, Magoteaux recorded “Permanent Residency” multiple times over the years to the point he could have released an entire EP of remixes. The 2020 version is a thing of pop rock beauty that measures up to songs released by the likes of popular artists The Fray, Andy Grammer, and Jon McLaughlin. The instruments are in perfect placement with Magoteaux’s vocals, demonstrating he holds his own in the local music scene. Although the proper release of “Permanent Residency” marks closure of this song 10 years in the making, here is hoping that Magoteaux is not finished making his own music as he shows here and on prior released gems he has talent and a half to share with the world.



Sarob – “Pleasures U Like”: Back in May, the highly respected Columbus R&B star dropped this gem with proceeds going to charity. This shows that Sarob’s heart is as big as his potential and he has a lot to offer the music world. On his latest song, Sarob croons with confidence and brilliance that one cannot help to pay attention and understand they are getting an earful of excellence. The soul singer has the world like putty in his hand and once the music industry gets back to a sense of normalcy, look for this lad to make a huge splash. “Pleasures U Like” checks all the boxes (all instruments in tune with one another, relatable lyrics, top notch vocals) and would garner Sarob a great deal of attention and coin if this song takes off. He is no one hit wonder as proof of his talent is evident on prior released tracks “24 Hours” and “White Moon”, with the latter having over a million Spotify plays.



The Fifth House – “Don’t Make Me Shout”: Clocking in at slightly over two minutes, the Cleveland alternative outfit’s latest single is as sweet as it is short. The song has excellent musicianship all around from every member involved. Bassist Julia Crow’s vocals are a total match for the song making this a sleeper pop bop for the summer. It is clear as the weather is hot this band has a very bright future with yet another radio friendly track on their hands. Earlier in the year, the band released a video for the equally as tremendous song “In My Way” as proof the band’s songwriting and execution are up to snuff.



AJ Gatio (ft. Tana Matz) – “Bad at Goodbye”: Under-the-radar country artist Gatio teams up with real-life partner Matz for a scorching pop duet with already over 56,000 Spotify streams in such a short time from its release. Formerly known as Pseudoname, Gatio moved from Cincinnati to Nashville and elected to give the country pop genre a try under his own name. The Miami University graduate is as gifted musically as he is academically and it shows with his latest release. The song’s musical arrangement combined with Gatio and Matz’s vocals makes for yet another terrific bop for the season. After hearing “Bad at Goodbye” the conclusion is that Gatio will draw comparisons to Ed Sheeran and that is a good thing. In conjunction with “Bad at Goodbye”, Gatio also premiered “Roll With It” which also shows his talent as a singer-songwriter who is worthy of moving up the industry’s ladder.



Spirit Of The Bear – “Summer Snow”: Best known to indie pop artists for “Run My Mouth”, the Ohio quintet go the new wave route on their latest single and it is a sizzler. SOTB has been making waves in the Buckeye state music scene for six years and continue to impress. Their current bop just might be their best effort yet and once live shows resume as normal, bet the house that this song will get the crowds going. Fans are surely dancing and bobbing their heads to this bop in quarantine. “Summer Snow” is a great three-minute escape from the world we currently live in and the band deserves a load of credit for creating such a fun track given the circumstances. Although the song is atypical of their past releases, those who love this diamond ought to check out SOTB classics “Why Can’t We Talk About It?”, “Bummer”, and the aforementioned “Run My Mouth”.



Ghost Train – “Sharp Dressed Man”: The band makes their love for bluesy rock known and ZZ Top should be proud OF their cover of that iconic trio’s 1980s smash. The Ohio act founded by Ryan T. Griffis (drums and vocals) and Eric Moss (guitar, vocals) has gone all out for this song by releasing a video for it on YouTube today. The guys make it their own while making sure to maintain the spirit of the original, which is not the easiest thing to balance with covers. Ghost Train’s version is modernized to fit their style, but the difference is that “Sharp Dressed Man” is done with respect and seriousness. Griffis and Moss make sure to pay tribute to the ZZ Top versus doing a karaoke version, which goes a long way in garnering them a legion of new fans. The musical talent is evident and with their efforts on social media, the marketing chops are there as well for Ghost Train to ride on for years to come.




Artist: Lisa Gain & The Rusty Silos

Title: (self-titled)

Format: LP

Release Year: 2020

Members: Lisa Gain (lead/backing vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboard), James “J.B.” Boza (bass), and Bryan Rupejko (drums/percussion).

Guest artists: Jonathan Kampfe (cello on select tracks), Chris Brooks (cello on select tracks), Joey Rauckis (lead guitar on select tracks), Ryan Larzelere (lead guitar on select tracks), Chris Shaw (violin), and Pete Vogel (piano)

Engineer: Keith Hanlon


The self-titled record by Central Ohio outfit Lisa Gain & The Rusty Silos serves new music lovers a baker’s dozen of fresh tunes crossing the Americana, pop, and indie rock genres. Industry veteran Gain is the talented mastermind who wrote all songs, handled all vocals, and played all the rhythm guitar parts on the album. Per an advanced copy of the LP, she is joined on the record by Rusty Silos members James “J.B” Boza (bass) and Bryan Rupejko (drums). As of late last year, Boza left the band and Efrum Imler has joined in his place.

The smooth opening track “Obsession” was written 22 years ago and Gain channels legend Grace Slick with spot on bellowing accompanied with impressive cello play by Kampfe. The tune is an excellent way to start the 13-track ride that provides 55 minutes of escapism of the outside world. A single released before the album’s debut, “Natural High”, is natural evidence of the expertise Gain exudes with terrific main and backing vocals with terrific acoustic guitar play throughout. Highly regarded local musician Joey Rauckis provides lead guitar work here and has a hand in three other songs spread throughout the album.

“Honesty” is where the band slows it down and the arrangement and execution are straight out of Louisville singer-songwriter Peter Searcy’s terrific arsenal. Gain and company pick the tempo up again on the record’s fourth tune “Time 4 You” that oozes a Lisa Loeb-vibe sure to get listener’s toes tapping and heads bopping. The 1990s sounding song is a strong contender for being spun by independent radio stations and would help the album gain much-deserved attention.

An even bigger indiepop bop is “The Surface” that gives off even more Searcy influence. The lead and backing vocals are amazingly blended here with the rest of the band on point with their parts. The good sounds continue with a slightly slower paced wonder titled “The Way You Said Goodbye”. Guest lead guitarist Ryan Larzelere is a major contributor here to this brilliantly crafted and performed track. Gain and The Rusty Silos slow it down even more with the ballad “Best in Me” which is about admiration in response to motivation. It is an excellent tune people can dedicate to those who inspire them, whether it be partners, mentors, parents, friends, and the like.

Ohio Music Award winner Gain demonstrates Americana roots with the song that won her said award, “2 Packs of Cigarettes”. The fact that this tune is recognized by a prestigious governing body is sure to turn up the curiosity factor in what Gain has to offer the music scene. The easygoing times roll on with the album’s ninth song “What if You Leave” which reiterates the genius the band has been demonstrating for years and will continued to do either in studio or on stage. The tune for which the band is named after “Rusty Silo” contains more folk delight courtesy of Gain’s top of the line bellowing and guest artist Chris Shaw’s violin play.

“Haunted Hotel” has a psychedelic aura about it that will transport listeners back to the original Woodstock days. If time travel were real, Lisa Gain and The Rusty Silos would fit right in at a festival with the likes of Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, to name a few. “Pretty Horses” is sheer Americana with Gain’s haunting vocals on display and perfectly placed piano work from guest Pete Vogel. The lead and backing vocals are synced to precision making for a song sure to give goosebumps. The final song is the chilling “Oh My Heart” and is the most recently penned by Gain with Rauckis, Vogel and Kampfe back as guest contributors in their respective roles.

Sponsored by the Greater Columbus Arts Council, this self-titled album from Lisa Gain & The Rusty Silos was money well spent providing listeners a bevy of poppy folk rock greatness. With a little help from some friends, the band provides nearly an hour of strategically placed original songs spanning decades. The LP was created at the studio known as Musicol Recordings in Columbus with mixing and mastering by Scioto Records. The record is well worth the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making it and listeners are sure to find a new overall favorite song among one of 13 tunes of substance with enough style to entertain.


Artist: Trying

Album: This Is Not a Disco

Release Year: 2020

Members: Cameron Carr (lead vox/guitar), Brady Costigan (guitar/bass/vox), Zayn Dweik (drums/ backing vox), Laura Lenhart (clarinet/vox/glockenspiel)

Producer: Cameron Carr

Artwork: PJ Mollenkopf


Columbus, Ohio’s indiepop wonder Trying have constantly earned praise for their crafty musicianship at live shows and for prolific recorded material. In the band’s own words, their debut LP This Is Not a Disco is the culmination of prior EP and single releases. According to the band’s Bandcamp page “This album is a consideration of struggle, in ourselves, in others, and in the attempt to help. Attempting to merge the light and dark of two preceding EPs, we let the expression and emotion veer.”


The title track, so to speak, lives up to its title yet is a danceable indiepop bop exploiting Carr’s soothing voice with bandmates Costigan, Dweik, and Lenhart performing their parts with sheer precision. It is certainly a contender for getting airplay on various independent terrestrial and Internet radio stations. Another brilliant up-tempo candidate for airplay is “That is Not Your Dirt” which gives off Flaming Lips vibes yet is catchy enough to catch on big time. The record’s fourth song “It’s a New Job” is performed with nonchalance that listeners can relate to. The album’s tenth song “I Just Can’t Feel the Rhythm” is an excellent fit at respected terrestrial station CD 102.5 FM, once of the few non-corporate alternative rock stations in the U.S. that plays the indie rock, classic and mainstream alternative, and local acts on a regular basis.


Infectious indie tunes are in abundance on the LP sure to get genre enthusiasts to fall in love with them. “Paint the Walls Yellow” is a gem that has a chance to break the band with its singalong potential when live shows resume. “Oh, What an Awful Way” may not have a positive title, but listeners should not let that fool them as the track is another prime example of songwriter Carr’s method to his brilliance. Although short at under 90 seconds, “Dog Videos” has a happy title and has its speedy moments before Carr and Lenhart quickly slow the pace down.


Throughout the record, Trying demonstrates they have a softer side and take things down a few notches with several ballads. “Blowing Wishes” is the album’s longest song clocking in at 3:49 and enables peace of mind in a period of unrest. “Don’t Worry” is formal dance worthy and the title itself is comforting in extremely uncomfortable times. “I Won’t Let You Lose the Rhythm” is not a track to necessarily dance to, but it is one that will make listeners stop and think. Clocking in at under two minutes is “What Have I Become?”, which is one of the LP’s most relatable songs in this time of need as people have changed in some way, shape, or form in the new normal.


Carr, Costigan, Dweik, and Lenhart have created one of the most emotionally transparent records heard in recent memory. The talented quartet as individuals are as full of ambition as they are smarts and empathy. This Is Not a Disco closes a chapter with some songs designed to get folks frolicking and other songs created to get people reflecting. Trying set out to create a musical rollercoaster with their newest release and have completely succeeded. The lady and lads should be proud of a job well done and indie music aficionados will enjoy consuming this worthy offering. In a year or two, the music listening public will look forward to what songs Carr and company have to offer as part of their evolution.



With in-person live music on hold for the foreseeable future, it is imperative to shine a light on up-and-coming artists in other ways. Many musical acts have not let the halt of concerts stop them from displaying their creativity to the public and some have probably drawn inspiration from the world on standby. It is time once again to showcase nine artists’ most recently released works that may have been overlooked due to media coverage and consumers’ attention on more pressing current world affairs. Listeners are being provided with temporary escapism and entertainment to assist them with coping in these troubling times.



Jeffrey Forrester Tobin – “Misery When You’re Gone”: Although the title might have listeners expecting something different, Columbus folk singer-songwriter Tobin presents a toe-tapping, happy-go-lucky clap-along single that definitely distracts from doom and gloom for approximately three minutes. No matter how temporary the euphoric state may be, it is cognizant to have works like this one to provide uplifting moments. Per his Facebook page, the former leader of The Jeffs states, “So I write songs that make me smile. Often, I play ’em for friends and audiences, and they smile, too. It doesn’t get any better than that.” The Ohio Music Award winner has been on this mission for over a decade to obviously positive results. Tobin clearly takes the songwriting and performing crafts seriously, but that does not necessarily mean he always takes himself so seriously.  Barenaked Ladies type humor is evident in this tune and “Old Rock Star”, both of which are available on Tobin’s Soundcloud page.




Deborah Crooks – “A Garden”: The video for this single was released on June 11 and is from this past December’s album The Department of the West. The Alameda, CA multi-instrumentalist co-produced and edited the video which includes live footage of her band’s last show before the outbreak put gigs to a halt. Crooks channels her inner Brandi Carlile on this track with fabulous harmonies and sincere vocals. As she puts it, “I started to write this song about how the broken parts of humans – our fear and shame and learned oppressions – keep us separate.” For curious ears, veteran artist Crooks has six total releases on her Bandcamp page spanning the past seven years. Much like “A Garden”, The Department of the West includes other solid songs like the title track, “Lit by the Mystery”, and “Long Roads”. The latter had a video made and distributed for it back in May.




Noah I MUA – “Different Keys”: Michigan-born Noah Nelson is the ringleader of this psychedelic bluesy rock trio which includes Brennan Brown (drums) and Johnny Ritchie (keys/synthesizers). The new single is a follow-up to the band’s debut tune “Final Daze”, which dropped back in April. At time, “Different Keys” is slightly slower paced but mostly demonstrates raging guitar and vocals that should help it find an audience. Clocking in at approximately four minutes also helps make the track radio friendly. For fans of Ohio prog rock outfit Blend, Noah I MUA’s new masterpiece is quite palatable and once live events resume these two bands on a bill is just a matter of time.




Vic Allen – “I Can”: The British country pop singer-songwriter released this marvelous tune back on June 12. There is no reason the song should not be make the mainstream as it contains amazing vocals and crafty musicianship found in radio-friendly pop tracks. At a time when people are seeking something uplifting, here comes Allen to give the people what they want and need. Only time will tell if “I Can” will surpass the popularity of Allen’s prior gems “Talk” and “Bittersweet”, but the song is on par with her past efforts. Hard work with positive effort to show for it demonstrate Allen’s future in music shall be long and bright.




Feed Us Snacks – “Ranger Johnny”: The Columbus punk rockers dropped this single back in April and it is sure to be a headbanger at live events once those are safe to do again. In a time where uncertainty and rebellion are occurring simultaneously, here comes the anti-establishment outfit with a tune that will make listeners want to raise their fists and reflect on the state of the world. Clocking in at less that three minutes, “Ranger Johnny” is loud, fast, to the point, and in your face. It is certain members Jameson Clark (guitar), Jake Vanhoorebeke (drums), Zach Colegrove (vox), and “Danny Boy” Flory (bass) accomplished their mission to get people’s attention with this song. The more people who hear this intense masterpiece from the band, the better and only time will tell if the song finds the widespread audience it deserves.




The Lunar Year – “Chime”: Released back on May 29, this well-produced single has excellent musical arrangement and soothing vocals by the face of the band Katie Bird. In times of people feeling a wide range of emotions, along comes the Philadelphia-based indie folk act with a calming, brilliantly performed tune sure to pull on heartstrings and provoke deep thoughts. The single serves as the follow-up to the band’s 2017 record Herodias, which features their best-known song to date “Porcelain”. In addition, Bird has maintained a solo career with equally high-quality songs that dropped last year such as “Put You Away”, “Heel”, and “Morning Song”.




Outsider Heart – “Leper’s Bell”: Although the Columbus, OH trio started in 2016, this song that dropped May 15 is their debut single. Members Doug Katula (vox), Kovy Arseneau (guitar/vox), and Jonah Young are off to an impressive start as an unsigned act with over 70,000 streams of the single in less than two months. The band should be immensely proud of what they have generated as “Leper’s Bell” features superb vocals, world class drum work, and perfect guitar arrangement making for a surefire rock radio smash. Word is the group is in the works on an EP which is sure to have more quality tracks ensuring the band’s respect and popularity in the scene.




Dying Desolation – “Child’s Play”: The Cleveland alternative metal quartet has been on fire this year with a few singles released in this unique new year alone. “Child’s Play” happens to be the latest and is their most streamed song on Spotify to date. The band’s big break came when they opened for Texas Hippie Coalition at the world-famous Agora Ballroom located in their hometown. Lead singer Gavin Kerr and guitarist/backup singer Gabe Gazic display phenomenal vocals here with bassist Simon Kanaris and drummer Jordan Gannon holding their end of the bargain with high quality work in their respective roles. The result is an unapologetic, heavy hitting anthem that must be heard by the masses. Those seeking evidence Dying Desolation have a long and successful future ahead of them will find evidence in the band’s other released singles “Parasite”, “Tick” and “Leave Me”, all follow-ups to last year’s self-titled LP.



Wicked Messenger – “Golden Eyes”: Formed approximately two years back, the Central Ohio psychedelic rock band has steadily built their fanbase due to fun and chipper live shows. With those in-person interactions gone for now, the band is relying on its talents as recording act with terrific results. “Golden Eyes” is the hybrid of funky indie pop that music aficionados did not know they needed in their lives. Leave it to the band comprised of vocalist/keyboardist Arshad Ahmed, guitarists Alex Estrada and Michael Error, drummer Doug Queen, and bassist Alex Day to provide good vibes and good times during a time when most people’s morale is understandably low. Major respect goes to the group for coming up with six minutes of uniqueness that will leave listeners feeling miles better than they did prior to pushing play. For those seeking more 70s-esque goodness from WM, their 2019 single “The Garden” is highly recommended to give off happiness.

Song and Album Reviews of Artists on the Rise