Keep it Up
Keep it Up is available at:
The E.P. Boroughs is available at:
Keep it Up– 9.4
Stay With Me– 9.3
Give It Time– 9.4
Anytime– 9.2 (not available on SoundCloud)
Keep it Up; Give It Time; Enough
Keep it Up
WITH my featured act emanating from L.A., it is providing me the…
Opportunity to concentrate on U.S. music and a few other concerns. Among them are genres of Folk/Americana and the inspiration behind E.P.s. Recently I have been afforded the chance to check out American music and what is being produced out there. I have waxed lyrical about the range and diversity of U.S. music but it is hard to assess just how much great music is coming from here. The only exposure I have to American music is via the acts that come to me. Each time a new act comes to me (from the U.S.) it not only allows me to check out some great music; I get to investigate a new city/town and see what other acts are coming through in the area. Being based near London, I know how much great music is coming out of the capital. It is not just the quantity of sounds coming through but the range and originality too. Artists do not stick to a single sound and come across as overly-predictable. Other parts of the U.K. show less originality; when it comes to London there is so much variation and possibility. With 2016 almost upon us, now is the time to investigate acts coming though- to see which will be making waves in the coming year. Los Angeles (and California) has always produced some fantastic music in the past. Alongside New York- an obvious hotspot for terrific musicians- it is L.A. that is providing some of the most stunning and original acts in all of music. Like London, L.A. does not sit still and allow its artists to create lazy, insipid and predictable music. From the innovative and granite-edged Rock bands; the sunshine Pop movements to Alternative-Country fusions- no matter what your tastes, you are catered for. The U.K. media occasionally exposes us to Californian music, but by and large, we focus on British sounds and what is being produced here. Whether a website will be produced- that organises new music so it is easier to find great bands across the pond- I am not sure; yet there needs to be something better than what is out there. With the music world providing so many terrific acts; the Internet becoming more developed and user-friendly- what excuse are there not to utilize this fully? For my money there are no websites out there that are all-encompassing when it comes to music. We have smaller sites that do specific things; bespoke sites that do this and that- none that take everything under one umbrella for the consumer. I raise this point because Boroughs almost escaped my notice. A lot of times I rely on other acts- sharing a review often catches the attention of followers and fans (of the act) – or sheer dumb luck. It would have been good to come across Boroughs under my own steam, but there we go! Before I raise new concerns; let’s have a look at our featured act:
“In the span of less than a year, Boroughs have become one of Southern California’s most exciting and sought after Americana roots musical collectives. The four-piece blends elements of country rock, gritty folk and soulful Americana reminiscent of the likes of early Neil Young, Ryan Adams, and Wilco.
Charismatic singer-songwriter Kyle Neal poignantly sings stories of heartbreak, confusion, and love while guitarist JD Carrera adds an atmospheric back country feel to the record. Bassist Derrick Wong and drummer Tyler Johnson round out the four-piece with one of the most methodical rhythm sections in Americana music today.
After only a few months of playing Los Angeles area shows, Boroughs caught the attention of engineer/producer John Spiker of Tenacious D. Spiker went on to record the band’s self-titled debut EP. The six track release highlights Neal’s warm vocals with additional harmonies by guest vocalists Natalie Nicoles (Branches), Natalie Meadors (Valley Queen), and Nicole Vaughn (Ranger).
Kyle Neal’s ruthless yet relatable honesty is apparent throughout the release “the EP is inspired by me having a brain that isn’t always happy, altering my state to try to cope with that, making dumb decisions, regretting said decisions and then altering my state to cope.” The result is a record that is beautifully warm yet achingly relatable. The leading track “Keep it Up” narrates the story of a reckless youth, denial in that recklessness and struggling to keep it together in a world of expectation. In the catchy single “Alive” Neal struggles with the universal themes of abandonment and heartbreak. The final track “Enough” offers listeners hope with a powerful anthem of love and acceptance.”
Kyle Neal: Vocals / Guitar
JD Carrera: Guitar
Tyler Johnson: Drums
Derrick Wong: Bass Guitar
Produced by Boroughs
Recorded by John Spiker
Boroughs have released their self-titled E.P.: a chance for existing fans and new ones bear witness to one of the most unique and passionate coming from L.A. Americana and Folk are genres that are not often represented and talked-about when it comes to new music. A lot of focus still stands with Rock/Alternative in addition to Pop- and more mainstream sounds. Maybe not as profitable as other genres, what (Americana and Folk) does is gives you something both modern and vintage. If we think about the artists who have inspired Boroughs- Neil Young; Wilco- you have artists that stand among music’s very finest. A lot of people assume Country/Folk/Americana blends are going to be samey and predictable- there is this preconceived image that few shake off- which is not really fair. What you find is music with a lot of heart and passion; plenty of energy and catchiness- in addition to a glimpse into music’s past. Boroughs are an act that has a very modern sensibility yet they hark back to older days to produce music that will have mufti-generational appeal. Perhaps not as gritty and cool as a lot of Alternative-Rock bands, what you get is more depth and nuance. The songs across Boroughs demand close investigations; the songs do not tire or lose their appeal over repeated assaults- they keep revealing some new insights and diversions. When you combine genres together effectively- Boroughs splice Country, Folk and Americana into Rock territory- and you give yourself a better chance of sounding fresh and long-lasting. If you are too narrow with your framework then you have limited options when it comes to the music. The L.A. band has a busy next year ahead of them- the commitments of touring and showcasing their work- and will bring the E.P. on the road. I am not sure whether any European/British dates will be on the itinerary but let’s hope- it would be good to see the guys bring their music to the crowds over here. The American music scene is perhaps more competitive and startling than ours in the U.K. so it is always great seeking what the country has to offer. Later on I will be picking apart a Texan Hip-Hop artist. No two days are the same and when it comes to music, there is so much variation and difference. The band market is that compacted and sardine-tin-packed agenda that is showing overcrowding and suffocation right now. Those acts that want to remain in the consciousness and endure need to come up with something more distinct and exciting. On paper many might overlook Boroughs and assume they the band has nothing new to say. What you find- when you drill down to their bedrock- is a young band with a lot to say; and a long future ahead of them.
Boroughs is the debut E.P. from the L.A. band so it is hard to compare it with past work. The initial signs show a band that has a huge amount of conviction and confidence early on. Few acts really go in strong and compelling; there are no nerves of hesitations with our guys. The E.P. is packed with personality, memorability and terrific tracks that will translate into many more releases. Whether the guys will do another E.P. in 2016- or extend their music across an album- has yet to be seen but they will want to see how the E.P. does. If you need to find some comparable acts it may be worth checking their heroes out- Wilco, Ryan Adams, Neil Young etc. – for a good starting place. The Boroughs E.P. is available online- the five-track version (Anytime might be a track that features on SoundCloud soon). It is one of those records that highlight a lot of future promise whilst demonstrating authority and a true voice early on. There is no tribute to previous acts or pandering at all: the boys have such originality and uniqueness you cannot compare them to anyone else at all.
When it came to reviewing Boroughs, I was compelled to highlight its most memorable track, Keep it Up. Whereas some E.P. numbers look at heartache and personal destruction; some have a redemptive hope- this track seems to unite the band’s various themes, intentions and sounds into one. The most representative and whole song on the E.P.; it is a number that will speak to a lot of listeners. The spirited and captivating opening boasts yearning strings and hopefulness. Our man comes to the microphone quickly to look at “cheap consequences” and “drink ‘til we’re blind” look at harrowing and hard past days. There is a sense of beauty underneath the tales of self-destruction and abandon that helps keep the song level and controlled in the early phases. Our hero has had a hard past and is in music to explain and pour out some inner emotions. Whereas there has been depression, doubts and mistakes made; it seems Keep it Up is a song that explains things and offers the most immediate personal insight. With words like “white lines forever” and “early morning pride” get your mind racing and speculating and “those things that I told you” are being regretted. Our hero seems like he could hide the shame of the morning- “should have kept it all inside”- and you get scenes and senses of debauchery, chaos and drunken haze. Perhaps there are bust-ups and cruel words; maybe all-night drinking and rambunctious rabble- whatever it is, there is that need to bury it and move on. Perhaps the inevitability of youth or the necessity to numb a pain; when the morning comes there is a naivety and ignorance that is required. The track dips into a relationship that has its issues- the female backing vocal gives a great sense of story and dialogue here- that needs some repair and mediation. The duo are telling lies and keeping their heads up. After the hangovers and sobering moments, there is that sense of denial and the need to just keep going and pretend like nothing has happened. Perhaps not the most sage way to deal with things; you get the impression it is the only way forward. Among the tense and busy visions in the lyrics, the composition keeps the emotions in-check and stable. Pushing sunshine, heart and passion into the mix and you get a sonic representation of a comforting hand: something that is supportive and mature; it keeps things balanced and restrained. One part of my brain wonders about the song’s true meanings- whether it is a story from past days or a documentation of the present- and the other is engrossed in the proceedings and unfolding. The rousing vocal declares the need to keep the “morning composure” and dignity throughout everything. Whether the destruction and dulling is the way of quelling emotional pain- or a pattern of abuse that has been common- I am not sure but there is pain being hidden and a sense of refusal to accept the severity of things. Throughout the darker and more tormented thoughts there is that hope to improve things and change ways. The vocal is never suppressive and disturbed for a second. So much strength and urgency is conveyed it makes every word not only true and convincing- it offers some light and hopeful promise. Nothing is “quite as bad as it seems” (until it is, it seems). If you keep looking for the sun you will find it- and the worst of it will pass- it is declared. That vocal 1-2 and unity highlights those messages of self-betterment and strength-against-the-tide. One of the band’s most complex and fascinating numbers; you are hooked and fascinated from beginning to end. That composition provides stuttering and pulsating drums; a guiding and rhythmic bass alongside rousing and emotive guitar- the combination is the perfect soundtrack to a tale of hopefulness and personal struggle. A message and theme that can be appreciated by all listeners; you are powerless to resist the catchiness and addictive nature of Keep it Up. Within those notes and lyrics of pain and regret there is that abiding positivity and redemptiveness. Although nothing is quite as bad as it seems “until it is” you are still hopeful for our man- rather than see some hopelessness and defeatism in the words. It is true he has had a hard time- the relationship may be built on shaky ground- but there is going to be light at the end of this tunnel.
The entire band must be congratulated on a number that is the standout from Boroughs. A song that perfectly unifies their myriad themes- self-destruction, loss, heartache and hope- into an intoxicating blend; you have a song that could well prove to be a live favourite. Here we have one of the most urgent and complete performances across the disc. Each player and instruments seems to be at its peak and most compelling. Whereas other tracks see the vocal stand out too much- whereas the composition is in the background- this is the most balanced and brotherly bond on the record. There is no standout player or star here: each element is essential and equal in the song. The production is fantastic here and every word and note seems crisp and perfectly represented. Whilst not too polished or shiny, there is certainly sheen and professionalism that means the song explodes into life. This quality does not sacrifice authenticity and raw passion- this is all kept in place firmly. The lyrics are some of the most vivid and memorable you will hear; so many different emotions and possibilities come out- each listener will have their own perceptions and ideas. If you want a great starting song for the band- if you are a new listener- then I would recommend Keep it Up. It is one of those tracks that has some cynicism and doubts to it- you feel like our hero will never believe things will get better- but there is plenty of heart and hope among the darkness. For a band that deals with such heavy commodities- and has quite a lot of struggle and personal issues to explore- you need some optimism and uplift in the music. The composition’s crackle and sunshine keeps things appealing and compelling; the vocal is one of the most intriguing on the E.P. – a terrific song from one of the U.S.’s finest new acts.
It has been great to discover a new band with a very distinct sound. Boroughs have such a connection and passion in their music it is impossible to overlook. You can hear echoes of the past and the masters of Folk and Americana- the likes of Neil Young especially- yet there are modern sensibilities and flavours. Tying these strands together and you get music that is full of drama, love and vivid scenery. Although the band come up with some tried-and-tested song titles- every one of the E.P.’s five have titles used by other acts- that is not to say their music is unoriginal and predictable. Far from it in fact as the L.A. clan is intent on crafting a very distinct and personal sound. The Boroughs sound is one of contemplation, redemption and personal struggle. The songs stem from everyday concerns and anxieties; the struggles and issues we all face- eschewed and exorcised through melody, warmth and gentility. At no point throughout Boroughs do you switch off or lose concentration. The commitment and heart expelled in each song is stunning; the music digs deep into the soul and elicits something quite extraordinary. Before I do a ‘mini-review’ of the E.P., it is worth returning to those initial points of the review. I have raised concerns when it comes to the music media and their narrow focus. For us based in the U.K. there are few opportunities to discover acts outside of Britain. There are some fantastic acts coming out of the U.S.; I am excited to see which ones will transcend to the mainstream in 2016. Having reviewed some great American bands like The Falling Birds, I was excited to come across Boroughs and what they had to offer. There are too few innovative and nuanced bands it always nice discover an act that could be on the scene for a long time to come. Americana and Folk- tied in with some Country edges- are hard genres to make fascinating and popular. The media and music fans still favour something rawer and more urgent; it is a hard job for any Americana acts to instantly get into the public mindset. What is great about this type of music is the universality and the emotional effect is elicits. Listening to Boroughs and you get sounds that evoke fond memories and recollections; something dreamy and tender comes through. Whilst the lyrics go into some more haunted territory- the struggles of the mind and the need to be better- those are themes that will connect with the audience. Our Los Angeles band came into the studio to record their self-titled debut due to problems the band’s front-man was encountering. Someone who was making bad decisions and screwing up a little- altering his mindset to compensate for these errors- songs started to flow and there was a real need for that anxiety to be translated into something cathartic. A lot of bands go into the studio to meet market needs and just for the hell of it. Too many artists get caught up in that urgency and fear- if they do not record music they will be overlooked- a lot of inspiration and effectiveness is being lost or watered-down. Boroughs is an E.P. that shows an immense amount of bravery, reflection and sensitivity.
Alive begins with a rousing introduction that boasts great energy and promise. Our man began smoking to “feel what it’s like”; there is that emotional numb and sense of loss early on. You get the sense our man is going through struggles and a little self-destructive. Those paradoxical blends- the cherry compositions backed against introspective concerns- works wonderfully in the track. It seems a friend or heroine is being represented throughout the song. There have been moments for second chances and redemption somewhat. Whether there has been some friction and heartache, our hero is in firm and passionate voice. You get the idea a relationship has split and hit the rocks; there are split but you sense there is a chance for apology or a fix. Our man was drinking in the sun just to pass the time; perhaps a little emotional numb, there is that need to fill a gap and balm heartache. Various women came and went- a parade of possible one-night distraction and hollow encounters- to satisfy a part of him. Whether a way of papering over depression- or a way of getting over a lover- there is some ambiguity to the lyrics. You are always fascinated behind the true meanings and origins. Buoyed by that propulsive and driving composition, the song gets inside the brain instantly. Wanting to be strong enough to change things “I know” seems to be the standout thought from the song. There is that need to change things and improve life- rather than self-destruct. Self-destruction is the “only way I know” according to our hero. Trying to blank a broken love away, there is that desire not to be left alone- that tremulous and desperate plea breaks through the mist. With that hook-laden and catchy chorus standing out; the band elicit a raw and impassioned Blues-tinged riff in the final moments- it blends perfectly with the Country/Americana foreground. One of the tightest and most haunting songs on the E.P. it is a clear highlight.
Stay With Me starts with a beautiful and calm refrain that relaxes the listener in. The vocal from our heroine is passionately tender and memorable. Our man wants (his girl) to stay with him and not depart. Unable to find the true words to convince her; this song is his shout-out and testament. Backed by a swooning and urgent female voice- you get an uplifting and hugely effective number. The band produces one of their most interesting compositions on the E.P. Light and quite sparse it manages to provoke and promote a wealth of emotions and colours. Expertly backing and augmenting the vocals, you get lost in that racing percussion and aching guitar work. Our hero wants the girl to stay and forgive his short-comings and vanity. Maybe there is a history and past with the lovers- the heart is definitely on sleeve for this number- but nothing that cannot be worked out and mended. It is that central desire and purity that makes the song such a popular and universal number. Many listeners will be able to appreciate that sense of loss and hope that comes through; the need to keep someone special close to them. Although the song is just under four minutes long, you never feel like it bloats or wanders too much. Again, Boroughs make sure the composition is uplifted and energised enough not to drag the listener into maudlin territory. The confessional and honest outpourings are hugely emotional and direct; the composition balances things by injecting a romantic optimism into things. Never fake or needlessly positive, the score elicits plenty of emotion and support for our hero.
Give It Time is one of the most sensitive and touching numbers across the E.P. Whereas previous numbers have started with empathic and rousing introductions; here we get something a lot more concise and sensitive. Before you delve into the possibilities and emotions of the composition, our man comes to the microphone with a heavy heart. It seems like a girl (maybe the same as before or someone different) is heavy in his heart. With words like “felt the weight of you on my mind” you get the impressions a bond may be strained or broken once more. Making “us hate what we once had” suggests there has been an argument or catalyst that has compelled these expulsions of grief. By giving things time perhaps a resolution and mediation can be created. Wanting to be stopped from running- and simply abandoning any chance of meaning and honesty- our man wants to stay grounded and firm. In the past the hero may have run or retreated to the bottom of a bottle- this time there is more hope and that need to work things out. By working through problems and properly dealing with them, it will result in long-term benefits for him and his girl. The winds ae changing directions and our boy is a “stone for you darling”. Two people that need one another, you get that intensity and passion burst through the song. One of the E.P.’s most stunning and compelling performances; this song clearly has personal relevance to our hero. Supported by a noble and nuanced composition- little notes and threads reveal their beauty across time- and it stands as one of the best songs the band has come up with. Again the track boasts universal themes and messages everyone can appreciate.
A song not available on SoundCloud- a song that has recently been released- Anytime is one of those songs that has been garnering a lot of praise and review. Neal’s voice is at its most tranquil and emotive during this number: a song that is the most Country-sounding on record. Backed by some stunning female vocals (by Natalie Nicoles on this number) it recounts our hero losing his sense of time and perspective. There are those feelings of destruction and confusion still; together with the unity and unity of relationships and a guiding hand. It is one of the most yearning and aching tracks on the E.P.; whilst not the strongest of the set it provides another side to our hero’s voice- a chance to see new avenues explored and new subjects brought it. When it comes to Anytime, the band explain its origins:
“Specifically, Anytime is a song about a friend of mine who has consistently been there for me when I was a bit too out of my mind. I think on a broader level the song is about how we can tend to put friends in awkward or uncomfortable positions with our decision making, but the good ones always shrug it off and are there for you no matter what.”
Out of his mind in a local park- perhaps the effects of pot or drink have taken their toll- there is that dependable bond and reliability that sees him saved time again. Knowing the true origins and truths behind the song make it more one-dimensional but no weaker for it. It is good to know what inspires a song and Anytime benefits from a stunningly earnest and passionate central performance. The strength of the band is taking their mishaps and struggles and channeling them into the songs. Lesser acts would hide their emotions and cover them up- that is not the case with Boroughs. One of the most honest and brave bands out there; Anytime is one of their most revealing moments to date.
Enough is one of the most upbeat and rousing numbers on the E.P. – an appropriate emotional contrast to ensure proceedings end on a high note. With chorused vocals and hand-claps you get a celebratory flair to the opening moments. The opening words- “sometimes I get anxious”- are giving an oddly happy and electrifying delivery that compels you from the very off. Our hero thinks about the things not done; thinking about his girl and things are enough for him. A hopeful and pure message that leads to one of the most heartwarming vocals on the E.P. Whereas previous numbers have had a lot of personal struggle and loss; here we get something that is overtly contented. Years ago our hero might have wanted different things and not been happy with his lot. Being in the position he is in- and being of a certain age perhaps- priorities have changed and there is that need for a safe and solid relationship. It is nice to see love issues more stable here- whereas there has been heartache and breakup before- and comforting. Sometimes he thinks about things not achieved and conquered; when it is all said and done that doesn’t really matter. Our goals and ideals change as we get older- our hero is entering that stage of life- and it is not necessarily about dreams and ruling the world. Sometimes something safer and true is more meaningful than a list of achievements and accolades. Whilst still young, there is an old soul on the shoulders.
Throughout the six-track E.P.; Boroughs ensure that a lot of ground and sound is covered. Not just casting themselves in the arenas of love and heartbreak, there is a nice blend of positive and introspective. It means the balance of emotions is right and the E.P. has greater depth and range. The performances are consistently tight and focused meaning each song stands up to multiple listens. With no weak moments or questionable additions, the E.P. is a great achievement from one of the U.S.’s finest Country/Americana bands. The boys go back to the past and investigate artists like Neil Young- they have a similar reflective haunt and lyrical quality- whilst keeping their shine and sheen modern and contemporary. By blending fresh and polished compositions with something older and more historic creates music that will speak to a wide range of fans- from the younger to the old. It is music that could be a staple of mainstream radio or score an edgy Indie film. There are no boundaries and limits when it comes to the songs as there is a consistent universality and openness to the themes and sounds. If you are new to Boroughs then their self-titled E.P. is a great place to start- just jump in and discover what is on offer. Whilst there may not be enough grit and Rock flair to complete convert some listeners the E.P. will appeal to lovers of the genres (Boroughs play). A lot of bands and solo acts play the same genres and are not nearly as effective and memorable. It is the passionate vocals and colourful compositions that mean each track shines and remains in the mind. Make sure you check out the L.A. band who will ensure the winter days (and nights) are warmed up nicely. There is anxiety and pain to be heard in their music yet everything has hopefulness and a desire to change things. Not an E.P. that wallows and depresses; it has a radiance and energy that cannot help but lift the spirits. Get on board the Boroughs train and…
FOLLOW them wherever they head.