AZTEC - 'Black Art and Star Charts'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on AZTEC, a four piece rock outfit from Canada that’s recently put out their sophomore studio endeavor, an EP entitled ‘Black Art and Star Charts.’ Their last release, 2014’s ‘Stitches,’ was a catalyst for the band to rise to a notable level of prominence in the Canadian indie rock music community. Do the band’s five new tracks continue to carry that torch? Let’s dig into them and find out.

The opening to ‘Black Art and Star Charts,’ the explosive ‘Southern Brother,’ is an absolutely infectious jaunt through the band’s unique style of rocking that exhibits a few vital elements. First and foremost, their production is excellent. The EP is one of the more fine-tuned exhibitions of indie rock to come across my desk this fall. Second, the band has an inherent chemistry that’s exuded from the opening notes of their music.

‘Southern Brother’ actually has a bit of a Wilco vibe to it, especially in regard to how lead vocalist Kyle Schepens delivers the material. There’s also some Modest Mouse throughout this whole EP, which makes sense, given the band does cite them directly as an influence. The melancholy ‘Wind Tunnel’ is an even more fascinating effort, one that champions one of AZTEC’s strongest traits: brevity. It’s a great rock track that doesn’t get inundated by ostentatious production or performance that would make it longer than it needs to be.

‘Feet Like Roots’ is another track on the album that lives and breathes on the band’s chemistry. The vocal harmonies are particularly interesting, and the actual composition is especially grandiose in the choruses. The band definitely embraces that ‘wall of sound’ production style on ‘Feet Like Roots,’ and it’s suiting to the track. ‘Your Plans’ emulates this a bit, almost to a fault, since the tracks are a bit too similar to be sequenced one after another.

The title track closes the album, arguably with the best track in the collection, perhaps with the exception of ‘Southern Brother.’ Like its two predecessors, ‘Black Art and Star Charts’ is a fiery track. It has some fantastic lyricism, though, which does set it apart from some of the other tracks on the EP. In this sense, ‘Black Art and Star Charts’ as a full EP begins and ends on its two highest notes.

This is great indie rock - plain and simple. It isn’t bogged down by any pretension and tunes like ‘Southern Brother,’ ‘Wind Tunnel,’ and ‘Black Art and Star Charts’ are particularly good. Check it out below on their site, social networking, and Bandcamp.