Best New Rock – Darksoft, Robert Kuhn, Sam Gifford, Kevin Rieth

Get lost in the dreamy guitar rock of Portland based Darksoft.  Their new single Looking Backward is a master class in Fender overtones, melodic voicings, and neck pickup tube toned gain.  It’s also a great song, one of many on the artists new album Cryo.   There’s a bit of shoe gaze that drips into these indie rock grooves, mostly attributed to the artists whispery delivery.  Dirty clean lush tones reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins mixed with Suburbs era Arcade Fire driving vamps that scream with early 2000’s indie rock swagger.  

  Lyrically Looking Backward is a reflection of how we struggle with time, how it is always moving, how it is unforgiving, how our perception of it changes with age.   “Like a crystal becomes opaque with age…time will never look the same moving forward.”  Darksoft provides the soundtrack to the greatest trial of human existence, the inability to control time.  He is trying to come to terms with all that it represents, fully knowing how it vexes us.  An interesting concept in these stagnant times where the moment is always fleeting and opportunities erased.  A pandemic swallowing basic traditions for some – No High School Graduation, No Prom, No Wedding, No Funeral.  The list goes on and on.  It’s the story for many and as these difficult times persist, the story for most.  You can’t ignore how in time it all comes back to haunt us, but we can control our perception. 

  The idea of the crystal ball is especially striking, as a lost generation looks to make plans for the years ahead.  The idea of making plans is becoming futile, and Darksoft knows a lot about it.  The artists also works as a manager for the label Look Up Records, and even helps organize Look Up Fest.  He is heavily involved in his communities music scene, and has had to navigate the ever changing protocols that have plagued the live music industry for the last two years.   

   “So much that I couldn’t see, looking backward, so much that I wouldn’t feel going forward.”   

For a lot of us it’s time to let go and go with the flow.  You can’t give up, but you can’t let it get to you.  Everything is a maybe now, we just hope for the best.  

  Enjoy Looking Backward now on our Best New Rock playlist 

Robert Kuhn

International troubadour and communitarian surfer Robert Kuhn is back with another single leading up to the release of his album Persevere.  The new song, Screen Savior, might be his best yet.  Kuhn’s weathered vocal is equally haunting and melodic.  Yes it is raspy, salty, smoky, and ashy but he knows how to command it, with melodic prowess that supports his vocal leanings.  The atmospheric layered textures supplied by his well travelled band conjure immediate comparisons to Phosphorescent, with the down home soul of artists like Justin Townes Earle.  He also has the indie psych blues cool kid feel of Kurt Vile, and shows a lot of this swagger on Savior.  

  The track is produced with deep dreamy layers and intergalactic sonic textures that together create a big sound.  Screen Savior features a fat droning under layer that’s boisterous in it’s own light.  Altogether the traditional chord progression becomes filled with harmonious overtones.  Kuhn is renting every piece of your auditory landscape on this thick production.  You will get soaked in these dreamy shoe gaze vibes.  

   His music is a fair mix of mystery and easily accessible.  It’s relative to Kuhn’s traditional leanings.  He understands the foundational legacies of our popular music, the standard arrangements known to Folk, the Blues, and Gospel.  Combined with his penchant for indie rock, Kuhn would sit well on a bill with recently popular indie favorites like The War On Drugs and Lord Huron. 

Hear Screen Savior now on our Best New Rock playlist

Sam Gifford

Songwriter Sam Gifford makes anthemic uplifting indie rock.  His new EP A Second Of Love is a big statement for the emerging artist. On his new single Gang of Thieves his affinity for whiplash choruses and driving arrangements are on full display.  You get a hint of possible indie punk roots similar to bands like Gaslight Anthem, with notable references to upbeat Coldplay and crossover Kings of Leon in the production choices.  It’s all traced back to the classic appeal of U2, with stadium potential meant to be played loud and get under your bones.  

  Sam has been getting around the festival scene and offers some high energy anthemic rock as an alternative to the new school of live music DJ imposters.  Much like his DJ contemporaries, his choruses utilizes the trademark drop, they are there to hit you just as hard, it’s what you’ve been asking for, and Sam is prepared to deliver.  And that’s his magic trick, he harkens back to the era when the chorus rules supreme, with all the youth and conviction to punch through the naysayers of Rock who insist that the scene is dead.  

  In the song’s bridge section there’s a non lyrical chant that feels like it was meant for a trademark concert moment, when everyone sings in unison.  Sam is absolutely aware of where this is headed and he knows how to cater his role.  You don’t have to give yourself to it, he’s going to win you over, with fearless confidence that’s infectious and real.    

  Enjoy Gang of Thieves now on our Best New Rock playlist.  

Kevin Rieth

Singer Songwriter Kevin Rieth has been dropping singles leading up to the release of his debut album, and Gamblers’ Delight is his best yet.  The catchy retro rocker clocks in right under 3 minutes and is non stop infectious catchy nostalgic pop.  The arrangement nails all of the nuances of the 60s sugar pop era with a grooving bass line, tambourine hits over the snare, choir backing vocals, and proper horn section.  The style compliments his writing and vocal delivery.  

  Rieth provides a Monkees style alternative to the retro soul 60s revival projects from producer Mark Ronson and associated acts.  He has the indie appeal of artists like Donavon Frankenreiter.   It’s full of finesse and authenticity, as Rieth and band display precise musicianship and an appreciation for the era. 

The genuine performance jumps out of the speakers, this band sounds like they’re enjoying themselves.  It makes sense, Gamblers’ Delight is a fun upbeat composition with playful subject matter, and producing it in the retro style provides a nice callback to the golden age of rat pack era casinos.   

  Enjoy Gamblers’ Delight now on our  Best New Rock playlist

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