Battle Flags – Color Engine
The email I received from artist Jack Budd, the solo artist known as Battle Flags, was, puzzling at best, off-putting at worst. Budd stated that the album itself began as a stencil graffiti in what I assume was a dorm room in Richmond, Virginia. He described the music as a mix of sounds from “stolen pots, pans, shovels, empty kegs, and living room chairs.” I have listened to the album and find this an entirely inaccurate description of its sound. The whole thing has a lot more polish, a diversity of sounds borrowed from hip-hop, Daft Punk, than such a description evokes. “Her” is a simply breezy love song, filled almost to the brim with horns and hand-played percussion. More highly produced, synth-based tracks evoke hints of Justice as on “Catch a Fire.” The military-style drums, most effective on “Siren Sounds” and “Won’t Come Around Here,” lend a cohesiveness that lacks in the album’s overtones. When almost everyone can whip up an album with a Macbook Pro and a microphone, Color Engine shows that sometimes the results can be worth checking out.
Sounds Like: A pleasant stroll through his musical influences.
Listen To: Her, Siren Sounds, Won’t Come Around Here
Fate Lions – Good Enough for You
While it would be easy to say that the Texas-based Fate Lions had me at the witty copy splashed across their website, that’s not really fair. Yes, they have crafted a smart voice, and I appreciate that. But is their, ahem, “wannabe smarty pants fist pumping roller rink bubble gum downer pop” any good? Thankfully, the answer is yes. It is pretty good! The production is ultra-smooth, the arrangements lush but uncomplicated. Album-opener “Seen it All” energetically sets the stage with classic rock guitars and hand claps. If you like it, chances are you will be delighted the whole way through. Fate Lions clearly have a firm grip on their sound, and are not trying to reinvent the wheel. When “The Queen Himself” begins you fear you are about to hear a misguided Bowie homage, but the song stays true to their talents and might be my favorite on the album. “All You Do is Crazy” subtly showcases really lovely harmonies, which are another of the album’s stand-out highlights. There are, naturally, a few moments it could do without, including most of “Our Song,” which feels flat and borders on Junior Prom slow dance. For the most part, however, the album is full of the type of sunny, juicy arrangements for which the term “summer jam” was coined.
Sounds Like: The Foo Fighters, Weezer, and Ben Kweller’s love-baby.
Listen To: The Queen Himself, Seen it All