The thing with my relation to music is I am usually captured by sound first and lyrics later. If the surface sound of it all comes together in a way my soul savors I can be easily sold. My ears can spot gimmicks and lazy production in a second at this point in my listening life. Certainly some music takes time to get into your pores and under your skin. I doubt anyone immediately ever understood whatever Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band were doing. But at some point the music you hear clicks, however you came to it if given the chance. Though in today’s short attention span world it seems people don’t have the patience to wait for something to “click”. So most music today has to get people from the get-go.
If fact, I don’t think people even take time to be intrigued by album art anymore (another aspect of music the mainstream has decided to phone in or just abandon). And I often come to new music by way of the album art. And the album art for Baltimore solo artist Tim Lockemy’s (Lock-Uh-Mee) debut EP Kingdoms, is how I am here now writing this review. I was doing one of my Bandcamp rabbit holes cruising the lanes of Baltimore and saw the cover art with the chalk-styled crystals and the title “Kingdom”, which creates all kinds of images in my fantasy 16-bit RPG loving mind.
So I clicked the cover. Then I hit play. Then I said, “Well, it looks like I am buying this now.” I don’t remember, which song I played first (probably the first track, “Just Maybe”, as I do like to go in track order on these rabbit holes) but it sounded so complete and so solid. Yet, not overly-polished. There was room left for the human behind the music. Whatever vision for the music Tim Lockemy has I feel like he clearly achieved it.
The song, “Shadowcast” in a just world would be all over rock radio rotation if any stations were playing rock anymore. The opening guitar hooks and drum line are the perfect ear worm bait. Honestly though, any song on the EP would make a great lead single. “Blue Diamond Peaks”, hits a sweet spot for me because it is in 3/4 time! When was the last time the mainstream gave us a rocker in waltz time signature?
“Walking Away”, ends the 5 song EP with a nice downtempo send off. And the low track count is ultimately what makes the album VERY frustrating for me as a reviewer. It leaves me feeling like the album is not quite complete. 3-4 more tracks to would’ve satiated me better. Ahem- deluxe edition Tim- Hint. Hint. But I understand the eagerness to get the stuff out there just to get the ball rolling. I also understand some musicians don’t just want to dump every idea all on one album just to fill it out. Curating an album is another lost art in the mainstream.
But out of the 5 songs here, there are no skips. Also, and maybe even more importantly to my mind is, even with the low track count this is a GREAT driving album when you are out on the late night Baltimore streets of Canton or Fells Point on the way to or from a bar. Or driving down the west coast on the 101 under the moon to just think about things. I can feel the nighttime mood now even as I play it again at noon in my studio apartment. The whole movie is in my head. A man, played by Bryan Cranston is out for a drive in twilight on a mission to sort it all out, whatever “it” is. Also the music is a weird oxymoron of perfect low-key bar, game of pool material and arena festival epicness where the songs echo out into the night sky. I suppose the word here would be, versatile.
Those who have read my commentaries or reviews know I have writing style where I tie music to other music for a frame of reference. And Lockemy immediately brought to mind Coldplay (arena vibes) and other arena sounds of 00s, like LCD Soundsystem. Even some Killers may also may be lurking in twilight of Baltimore. But hell, pull some Stereolab (low-key pool game vibes) off the shelf and add a pinch of that as well if I may be so bold.
I am smiling, for it is just such a joy to hear something with intention made for the love of the art. No auto-tuned to hell vocals that are in some belting Olympics with every other singer going these days and actual instruments. The songs go somewhere, they take detours, they pull over to admire the scenery. They don’t just lay there bored and beating us with repetition for sake of repetition like so much of top 40. But I am also smiling because of the satisfaction that the web has opened up ways for musicians to sidestep the gate keeping of the major labels and foster GREAT local regional scenes and styles where artists like Lockemy, EgoSapien, Pinkshift, Myea, (ALL Baltimore acts you should check out BTW) and others can become hometown heroes. Current technology allows the artist to do what THEY want, not what some label head running on focus group polls thinks.
And most important of all it has allowed a west coast music mind like me to taste the local east coast Baltimore music scene. So if you are somebody who doubles down on, “new music sucks” I think you are just too lazy to look for the good stuff. OK, maybe you’re not lazy just… too busy and tired to go on the hunt. Well that’s why I’m here. And as your guide here is the link to where you can get the
And PLEASE, don’t just stream this on Bandcamp through your laptop/phone speakers that’s not the way to experience this music. Download the EP and put it on the stereo (loud as always) and let it be the soundtrack to your kingdom for a moment.
Blue Diamond Peaks