It was love at first listen when I heard “B!tch” by Red Maker. This South Dakota band had me in the palm of their hand and I think they knew it when they reached out to me about covering their brand new self-titled album. I’m okay with it. I knew I wanted so much more from this band after hearing the one track I heard so let’s not waste any time and jump into this album!
Much like when I heard their single, I was instantly hooked as “Better in Time” took over my house. With nostalgic 90s tendencies that effortlessly blended into something just a bit more modern and fresh, this opening song lays out everything about Red Maker that I had expected. A powerful groove, almost pop-punk inspired vocals, and a fresh take on music in general. This opening track doesn’t really give you a feel for what the rest of this album will have in store stylistically but I loved that. It left a lot of questions in my mind. Was the album going to go heavy? Maybe stay a bit light with an indie influence heard in the background? Or will it go straight nostalgic? My head was spinning as I let the opening track play.
“Slip” brings a ballad-like vibe to this album but without going too soft or even soft at all. The only reason I want to use the phrase ballad-like here is due to the slower and intentional beat that reigns supreme throughout this second song. I felt like the vocals were really given their chance to shine as this song played through while not letting you forget or ignore the rest of the band. Although I don’t think this is going to be a favorite song of mine from my album, I loved how it showcased a side of this band that seemed completely different from what I experienced in the first track and “B!tch” (which is on this album so keep reading!).
The way “Slip” flows into “Hey Katie” is both perfect yet unpredictable. “Hey Katie” starts off with a super catch yet simple guitar part that kind of mirrors the slower technicality shown in “Slip” but it quickly turns into a boppy little, well, bop. This is such a fun track and was instantly a favorite of mine. From the infectious beat to the lyrics that seemed to just really resonate with me, to the amount of power that gets shown about a minute and a half in, this is one of those songs that just instantly made me smile.
One of the longer songs on the album, “Song of Wings” is the perfect “zone out” track. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all but this song just kind of drifted me off to another land which, after a day a frantic working that seemingly has no end, was just what I needed. Again, the style of this band completely shifts when compared to the previous tracks. This is more tender and seems to lean more towards the feeling of “Slip” while also leaning just a bit more emo when it comes to the lyrical content and presentation of the lyrics. I loved the heart and soul that came through so clearly throughout this track.
The tenderness and care continues into “Case of Blues” only this time it comes with just a hint of more heartbreak. This is an absolutely gorgeous track and not really something I thought I would get from Red Maker on this album. The first few songs I had heard form Red Maker definitely had more aggression and energy than “Case of the Blues” but, as the title mentions, it seems like the writer of this track just had a slight “Case of the Blues”. Don’t get me wrong, there is a true sense of energy throughout this track but the way it seems to match the ups and downs that is mental heath for some of us in a singular day is just as powerful and beautiful as it is deep and heartbreaking.
“Boxcar Bed” is the longest track on this eleven song album and it continues on with the gorgeous and calm vibe laid out by the previous couple of tracks. Honestly, with how exhausted I was feeling, this didn’t quite hit the spot for me right now but it is definitely one of those songs I will be keeping in my back pocket for those days when I am feeling manic and just need to calm down a bit. It’s an absolutely stunning track but I was ready for things to ramp back up and I could feel them start to as the album moved onto “The Stardust Ballroom”.
Although still a slower track, the vibe changes ever so slightly to something a bit more vintage. The recording quality throughout this album has this almost grainy value to it that fits so perfectly but I felt like it really enhanced this throwback of a track. I also felt like, when mixed with the song title, you literally transport to a different time while listening to this song. I can see the marquee of “The Stardust Ballroom” in my mind. The doors being flooded by people all dressed up and ready for a night on the town with their puffy dresses and their main squeeze hanging onto their arm. Weird, yes. But just listen to this track and I promise it will happen to you too! There’s a plot twist in this track too that I won’t be ruining for you but, even though it’s a five and a half minute long song, I found myself completely captivated throughout the track,
The energy and attitude I had been expecting from Red Maker comes back into play as the album moves onto the eighth track, “Toke ‘n’ Smoke”. With a little garage punk vibe and whole lot of energy, this song reminded me of some of the new bands out there in the pop-punk world these days. A little Iron Chic attitude mixed with the more accessible indie-rock nature of bands like Pinegroe and Hippo Campus, this was another instant favorite of mine just due to the blend of genres that shouldn’t work well together yet sounds absolutely flawless when done by Red Maker. This mix of genres continues into “Fool” but with a more old school pop-punk leaning skate-punk vibe. This song is quick but it absolutely packs a punch to it and shows the rougher side of this band which is just as flawless as all of the other sides that we have seen throughout this journey.
Finally we have come to “B!tch” and, after hearing all of the other songs from Red Maker, I am even more confused by this one. It has an almost southern influence that isn’t heard throughout the rest of this album but I love that. On top of that southern vibe, there’s just something a bit more sharp tongued about this song which reminds me of bands like Grad Life and PUP if they had been a thing back in the 90s. I love the fact that this band got me in the palm of their hand under false pretenses in a way but then proceeded to completely wow me. Even though I typically don’t pick songs I’ve already heard as my favorites because I also end up finding something else that I really love when listening to a full album, “B!tch” continues to be one of my favoirte tracks on this album.
Red Maker’s self-titled album ends with “It’s A Question”. With a Smashing Pumpkins feeling guitar part to introduce you to this song and a core that can only be described as Red Maker– this was a perfect way to end the journey that was this album while leaving you wanting so much more from this band.
Red Maker has been working on this album for a long time. I looked back and I first heard their single about a year ago. They took their time with this album and that is abundantly clear as you listen through. There’s thought and care put into every song, the order of the songs– everything. From what I can tell, this is Red Maker’s first “official” album (they have a demo out there with some rough mixes of some of these songs and more) but I truly hope it won’t be the last.
Okay, Red Maker– you still have me in the palm of your hand and I truly never want to leave. I live here now.
My Favorite Track(s): “Hey Katie”; “Toke ‘n’ Smoke”; “B!tch”
For Fans Of: Nostalgic 90s Vibes; Modern Pop-punk; Sounds that refuse to be classyfied into one particular genre
Mosh-ability: 6 out of 10
What My Cats Thought Of It: Alfie and Autumn slept upstairs; Poor Artie is still sick so he just laid on the back of the couch
How Badly I Want To See This Performed Live: 10 out of 10
My Overall Rating: 9.3 out of 10
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