Ponloe – Late Bloomer EP Review

By Taylor Barrett

Ponloe released his debut EP, Late Bloomer, on February 27, 2021. The 5-song EP features vocals from Tess Carean, his sister, and his good friend Patch William. Late Bloomer was produced by Ponloe, with Patch William’s help for additional touches, mixing, and mastering.

Late Bloomer begins with Ponloe posing a contemplative question, asking Alexa, “do you think that the human brain is a mini model of the entire universe?” Alexa then responds, “I’m not sure.” The intro begins with an airy melody, accompanied by positive and uplifting lyrics, discussing how we have the seeds inside of us to grow into whatever we desire, so long as we stay ambitious and pursue our dreams. This message makes “Garden In Me” a perfect title for the first track, and overall, it spreads a strong message of growth and perseverance. 

The second track, “Lil Big Bang,” is 100% the banger of the EP, and it’s evident in both the title and beat. Instead of talking about success in the typical sense of rap lyrics, Ponloe explores a more organic way of living. He talks about how he aspires to grow his own food and live a sustainable life, where some might flex about commas and everything prosperity tends to entail. The song also talks about creating a new generation that is genuine and more than just a skeleton, but a “spirit in its element.” The message is made very clear: we should be aspiring toward a more efficient and sustainable way of living while also caring more about each other. This song, in particular, gives me strong Felly vibes.

“Space Stations” feels very similar to a Kid Cudi song, talking about how Ponloe feels like an astronaut inside his head or “innerspace” and how travel doesn’t always have to be in the physical sense necessarily. Also stating, “this ain’t make or break, I don’t need to be famous, I can change my wake and believe in my greatness.” Continuing with the line, “Good people gettin’ lost in the matrix, build spaceships, but haven’t mastered the basics.” Ponloe discusses how we should learn to understand what is in front of us before we venture too far off, and we should find balance in the give and take because that’s the only way the human race will grow and prosper.

Tess Carean is featured on “Crazy Is Real,” the smoothest and grooviest track on the EP, the type of song where you’d find yourself cruising in the car with the wind blowing through your hair. The harmonies between Ponloe and Tess are phenomenal, and the beat compliments the song with intricate electric guitar and bass licks. This song is all about finding appreciation in the little things of life and learning that love is everywhere.

The last track, “Humanature,” discusses the human experience and how it is up to us as humans to decide what to do as co-creators of the universe, singing “What came first? You or the universe?” Also stating, “You are the universe, you are the universe,” with an outro that leaves us with the sound of children on a playground, the very same age at which many of us started contemplating our own existence.

Listen to Late Bloomer on all streaming platforms!

high on you. – Soul Keeping, the EP

Out now, the latest EP from high on you., Soul Keeping. Combining elements of lofi, electronic, hip hop, and vapor soul, your ears are in for a treat! high on you. pairs his versatile lyrical and vocal abilities with us, sharing stories, experiences, and a little piece of his soul. Listen now on all major streaming platforms!

Follow high on you. on Instagram and Facebook

http://www.highonyoumusic.com

The Connection II – Album Debut

The Jonathan Kennedy Connection is back with a follow up EP to their release on March 13th.

This time we dive deeper into the electronic folk atmosphere created by Jonathan Kennedy, never halting on his exploration for new sounds and possibilities.

But this time things have changed, a lot has happened since the beginning of the year. From a global pandemic, to the perpetual police brutality that affects the streets of our country on a daily basis––the album’s contemplation runs deep. The Connections II takes us on a journey through many of Kennedy’s experiences.

Listen to The Connection II below and watch the official video for “Acid First”

The Connection – Album Debut

By Taylor Barrett

The Jonathan Kennedy Connection, as featured in our Hyalite Session series, is back with his debut self-titled album, The Connection. Previously touring with bands such as The Richard Lloyd Trio and Magic Castles, Jonathan Kennedy now finds himself working on a solo project where he writes and produces music in a quaint cabin, deep in the mountains just southeast of Bozeman. 

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Coining the term “electronic folk,” Kennedy is sure to bring something to the pallet that you’ve likely never tasted before–effectively meshing two genres of music that you might’ve never thought to mix. In the opening track, “Windward,” you will notice a strong blend of synthesizers, acoustic guitar, and vocals that reflect a strong 80s touch, with the song peaking around 1:42 with a combination of vocals, electric guitar, and acoustic guitar. 

The second track, “Strangetown,” begins with the twinkling of a keyboard and an ominous bowing of the violin in the background. Throughout the song, Kennedy reflects on the feeling of living in a town that seems to have come to a halt, never changing, and giving the emotion of being both lost and a stranger. 

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“The Crossing” feels much like the ballad of the album, with a driving rhythm, slow pace, and vocals that reflect thoughts of regret for time passed, but this is quickly followed by what might be the most lively song of the album, “Market and State St.” The song starts with a strong percussive beat, soon joined by a vocal harmony, featuring a wood block for extra flavor. This song is definitely the most accessible, discussing the wisdom and truth that lies within everything in the universe, Kennedy sings: “take a plane or take a spaceship / go get lost in what you know,” followed by a heavy electronic solo of intertwining synth melodies.

The song “Ruby Girl” takes it down a notch with a groovy vibe that will put you on the beach with a beer in your hand with heavy reverb and heavy reverb as Kennedy sings another vocal harmony. Next, on “Star Song”, we enter a trance of electric guitar, wavy synths, and percussion, accompanied by vocals that will leave you in outer space. 

Wrapping up the album, “Revolving Door” discusses the cycles that occur in life and how we often feel like we are stuck in place. Kennedy encourages his audience to break the cycle when he sings “You ever feel like your life is stuck in a revolving door? / Same thing day after day / week after week / month after month / year after year / We gotta put a door stop in that door.”

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For Kennedy, The Connection started as a concept way back in middle school. It’s the idea of an interaction between two things––whether that be spiritual, social, or even drug related. Kennedy is simply trying to make music that exemplifies the bond between two distinct entities, and through his music he seeks to spread his light and multi instrumental talents with the world.

The Connection is set to release on Friday, March 13th and will be available at Cactus Records on CD and Jonathan Kennedy is also available directly at mr.jonathankennedy@yahoo.com or (612) 209-4761. You can also catch The Connection’s CD Release show and grab a copy of the album on the day of its release, the show will start at 8:30pm at the Labor Temple.(https://www.facebook.com/events/536539150597742/)

Stream the album in full below!

The Lil Smokies – Tornillo Album Review

By Antonio Wellman

The Lil Smokies are a bluegrass band based out of Missoula, Montana, and have recently released their third studio album, Tornillo.

Our last album review was for the album, Muir Maid, by the Kitchen Dwellers, and it has been impossible to resist drawing parallels between the two albums. For example, both albums at their heart are bluegrass, the musicianship is impeccable, and neither are afraid to blend different musical elements and genres. Despite this, the end results of each album are totally distinct. While the Kitchen Dwellers fuse bluegrass with psychedelia, reggae, and electronic styles, The Lil Smokies third studio album, Tornillo, contains elements of folk, country, blues, and pop music while still remaining true to their roots as a bluegrass band.

The pop elements are the most surprising, but I find their inclusion to benefit the record. Die hard bluegrass fans and snobs such as myself may mistakenly take this as a bad thing, but recently I’ve become more open and accepting of pop music––even including two pop albums in my top 5 albums of 2019. With that being said, Tornillo certainly isn’t a pop album, but still, elements of pop shine through. The songs are catchy in both the vocal and instrumental lines, and I found myself singing and humming along.

Just like the Kitchen Dwellers did, the Smokies implement effects that bring certain sections of tracks into the stratosphere. The fiddle solo on “Carry Me” is a good example of this, as it employs a phaser that creates interesting rhythms and gives the solo a spacey feel. The dobro lead later in the song uses delays and reverbs to the same effect. The Lil Smokies share singing duty and one major strength of the vocals lies in the lush harmonies on the album. The vocal harmonies are crisp and full and the different timbres of the band’s voices blend together wonderfully. A high point in the album is on the track, “World’s on Fire”, when two vocal lines overlap and intersect while the instruments slowly build, climaxing into a final refrain.

The title track and final song, “Tornillo”, has a pastoral feel in the music, if not the lyrics, that brings to mind old country ballads. While the track is undeniably beautiful, it seems a bit out of place, dropping most of the instruments and replacing them with a piano. The strength of the album rests in the interplay between the different instruments and the delicate and intricate ways they wind their melodies and lines together, so the inclusion of “Tornillo” feels borderline incongruous.

In the end, Tornillo is full of little surprises––from unexpected synth lines to an eastern influenced dobro solo on “Blood Money”. It’s the twists and turns of what initially seems like a familiar road that keeps me coming back to listen to this album––the unexpected hiding within the expected.

 

Music Year in Review 2019

We love music at the Hyalite, and we listen to a lot of it, joining us as we make it through every day of the year. For all of us, music is a huge part of our lives. While 2019 has been, well, insane, we can’t say there was ever a shortage of great new music coming out of Montana, the United States, and all around the world to help us wake up in the morning, prepare for a party, or just get us through a Tuesday afternoon at the office. Because of this, we decided to share some of our personal favorite albums of 2019, as well as a curated list of our favorite new releases from some really talented Montanans.

It’s been a great year here at the Hyalite, and we look forward to bringing you more profiles, articles, and reviews in 2020. Thanks for all your support and we hope that our playlists might help you find some Holiday Slappers™ to coast you into the next decade. 

Happy New Year,

Taylor, Max, and Antonio

 

Montana Local Releases 2019

 

Taylor’s Top Albums of 2019

 

Max’s Top Albums of 2019

 

Antonio’s Top Albums of 2019

 

Thanks for listening!

Kitchen Dwellers – Muir Maid Album Review

By Antonio Wellman

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In Montana, The Kitchen Dwellers’ home state, the new age bluegrass band has grown beloved for their dynamic and energetic live performances filled with blazing fast solos and extended jam sessions. With their growing fame in Montana and around the country, The Kitchen Dwellers have returned with their second studio album, Muir Maid, to show us that they can capture the excitement of their live performances and transpose that onto a record––the only thing missing from the album is the smell of spilt beer and the stomps and hollers from the audience. 

Muir Maid was recorded and produced by The Infamous Stringdusters’ Chris Pandolfi. The band spent the last several years touring but still found time to write an album that is as tight as it is refined, an impressive feat in and of itself. While The Kitchen Dwellers are indeed a bluegrass band, Muir Maid blends bluegrass traditions with modern psychedelia, reggae, and electronic styles to create what has been dubbed “Galaxy Grass”. The album is familiar while filled with the excitement of the new, it’s a premonition of what bluegrass is becoming as it thoroughly roots itself in the culture of the American West.

Musical cross germination like this would be impossible without the musicianship each of the band members possess, and each song showcases the band’s talent with memorable riffs and lyrical lines. The main riff on the eleventh track, “Foundation”, asks listeners to dance and have a good time, but with other tracks on the album we’re reminded of the depth of the music with lyrics like: “Ghosts know that God casts shadows”. Muir Maid simultaneously achieves contemplation and thrill, a testament to The Kitchen Dwellers’ abilities as musicians and songwriters. 

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Lyrically, the album takes a page from the traditional bluegrass playbook, complete with themes of love, loss, and alcohol, but the Kitchen Dwellers update these themes for the modern age––painting vivid pictures and telling captivating stories that are relatable for the bluegrass listeners of today.

The second song on the album, “Broken Cage”, starts with a joyous and bouncy instrumental section before singer/banjo player, Torrin Daniels, tells a tale of a lonely life on the road. The juxtaposition of contentment and loneliness in the lyrics is mirrored by the juxtaposition of the reggae halftime intro and more traditional fiddle lines and solos dispersed throughout the track. Like much of the album, “Broken Cage” defies expectations through the seemingly effortless blend of both theme and genre.

Muir Maid asks us to be active listeners with its use of effects and minor keys you wouldn’t find listening to Earl Skruggs or Bill Monroe. This is exemplified on the instrumental track, “The Living Dread”, which liberally employs wah, whammy, and delay effects that send the breakdowns into space before more traditional solos bring the listener back to earth. Muir Maid feels like a celebration of music, what the American West has been, and what it’s becoming. The album takes us on a journey through genres that will remind you of the bluegrass of your grandparents while simultaneously being removed from that tradition. It’s uncanny, it’s beautiful, and frankly, it’s fun to listen to. Once again, the Kitchen Dwellers impress. 

Photos by Taylor Barrett

Learn more about The Kitchen Dwellers and find out about their upcoming shows here: https://www.kitchendwellers.com/

Stream the new album, Muir Maidon all major platforms.

Also, be sure to check out their new music video for “Shadows”, which debuted on Billboard.

Tylo $mith – Bingewatch Album Review

By Taylor Barrett

Although you may’ve known him as Kid Wavyy, he is back with his debut album as Tylo $mith. Entitled Bingewatch, the concept of this album is quite unique, including song titles that are inspired by TV shows of various sorts. From “The Office”, “F.R.I.E.N.D.S”, and “Drake ‘N Josh”, to “Deal or No Deal”, it covers it all.

Starting out smooth, $mith offers a great variety of mellow beats and intricate rhymes on “Who’s Watching?” and “Pretty Lil’ Liar”, and also comes in big with songs like “Parks & Rec”, “Deal or No Deal”, and “F.R.I.E.N.D.S”, with deliberate verses and heavy trap beats. Frequently referencing characters and scenes of different shows, the concept of the album weaves between storytelling and real life similarities to shows on TV–the shows that we’ve all grown up with.

You can find the album Bingewatch through the universal link below including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Play, iTunes, and Tidal.

hyperurl.co/bingewatch