REVIEW: “Orange Crush” by Freeway Jam

January 1, 2021, will mark two important events: the release from the odd year that was 2020, and the official debut release of Freeway Jam’s new single “Orange Crush” on Full Force Music. Mixed and mastered by Leon Karpovich at Shadow Sound Design, this will be the first of several singles from Freeway Jam in 2021.

The 3-piece Pottsville, PA based rock trio is known for their tasteful guitar-driven instrumentals that delve into their jazz, funk, and blues influences. On “Orange Crush” we are treated to a laidback, yet engaging track that showcases the band’s signature sound.

Sterling Koch masterfully leads us through the track on guitar while Kate Koch on bass and John Goba on drums lock in a steady rhythm that drives the track forward. Flourishes of an extra recorded guitar part from Sterling are added in here and there to fill in the midrange between Sterling’s soaring leads and Kate’s driving bass foundations. The sound is reminiscent of cruising down the freeway on a warm summer day with the top down, a clear blue sky above you and a cool breeze blowing through your hair.

Halfway through the track we see a dynamic shift that brings the trio down to a calm restrain, almost standstill, until it’s built back up to a roaring highpoint. The guitar solo here from Sterling is passionate and fiery, showing that the veteran guitarist still has the same excellent melodicism and technique from his days playing leads in the Sterling Cooke Force. We’re then taken back to the main refrain of the song where the band rides us out to the end of the song.

“Orange Crush” is an enticing debut release from Freeway Jam and if the following singles are anything like this then there’s great excitement for 2021. It’s a classic sound for sure, but it’s a refreshing and satisfying experience with each repeated listen.

You can find more of Sterling Koch & Freeway Jam at https://www.facebook.com/freewayjam01

REVIEW: “Living in the Sad World” by Sal Fratto

Today [November 6th of the foul year 2020] marks the release of Sal Fratto’s solo debut single “Living in the Sad World” on his new label Fire Truck Records, which he co-founded with Elephant Jake bandmate Andrew Demarest. The single is the first track released off of Sal’s upcoming EP and is available on Bandcamp and all major streaming sites. I had the great pleasure of reviewing the latest Elephant Jake EP a few months ago and was beyond excited when I heard Sal was working on new music.

The track, clocking in at just over two minutes in length, features a much more laidback sound than fans of Sal’s work with Elephant Jake might expect, but make no mistakes, the clever artistry is as present as ever. The layered guitars in the verses provide a warm surrounding sound for Sal to serenade us with his trademark vocals as crashing cymbals wash over the rest of the soundscape. The tone is certainly autumnal and evokes a nostalgic feeling reminiscent of walking through strewn-about leaves in Fall.

There’s a particular intricacy to be appreciated in the tasteful approach to the chorus of the track. The acoustic guitar work is sparse here and leaves room for the bass guitar to really drive the melancholic mood of the song. When actively listening, you’ll find a soft flute-tone keyboard audible that floats atop the moody bassline, perhaps providing a leitmotif of lightness to the overall somber feeling of the track; we may be living in the sad world, but we are nonetheless living, and there is joy to be found in that.

Overall, the track shows great creative potential for Sal Fratto’s solo endeavors and we here at Punkstyria are eagerly anticipating the release of the full EP in the hopefully not too distant future.

Sal Fratto and Andrew Demarest, co-founders of Fire Truck Records

You can find Sal Fratto on Bandcamp at https://salfratto.bandcamp.com/releases

REVIEW: “Looking Good Feeling Good” by Elephant Jake


NY indie pop-punk darlings Elephant Jake return with the release of their latest EP “Looking Good Feeling Good” and they do not disappoint. Having been fortunate enough to have caught an EJ concert with a friend at the now-defunct Soda Bar in Philadelphia, PA in early 2020, I was familiar with the group’s inspired, but never cliched sound, but even I couldn’t have been prepared for what they have in store for us with this latest release.


Shipment Only Knifing“, a previously released single and live staple, kicks off the EP with all-around strong musicianship, catchy hooks from vocalist/guitarist Sal Fratto, and compelling lyrics. Perhaps it’s the subtly jarring drum fill that gives way to the sustained lead guitar lines that color the bridge of the song, but this is a new, adventurous sound for EJ. The outro solo from guitarist Colin Harrison over drummer Andrew Demarest’s passionate syncopated rhythms is a definite highlight. I often find myself tapping along to the rhythm in my subconscious thoughts.

Elephant Jake have always had a great ear for captivating melodies and “Looking Good” is no exception. With a strong driving pulse, provided by Andrew’s drum prowess and Kyle Mabee’s solid bass-work, the song propels us through the narrator’s struggles to make it as an artist while the world around him tries to tear him down. The unexpected, yet absolutely beautiful piano interlude takes us through the rest of the song. As the interlude builds up, we’re quietly questioned “Is it worth it?” until we are met with the resounding gang-vocal response “I can’t answer that for you / you’ve gotta take the time to find those answers for yourself”. It’s impossible not to get chills from the sheer power of this moment and it is most certainly a high point in EJ’s already stellar discography.

The Time I Brought You Soup” is a trip of a song if I’ve ever heard one. The journey begins with a warm fingerpicked guitar riff that builds up to a lively, almost jam band feel, then abruptly detours halfway through the track to a minimalist drum beat with psychedelic guitars washing over the soundscape, before ultimately returning to the friendly jam band chorus from before. It’s a journey quite unlike anything I’ve heard before; like a fine soup, it rewards you with different sensations and enriching feelings with each coming spoonful. I definitely like it, but it also leads me to wonder, just what kind of soup is this??

Feeling Good” as a song is mellower than EJ’s usual output, but in turn provides a sentimental closer to the EP. Whereas many of their usual songs are energetic and always have something going on at any given moment, this track features more dynamics and provides room to breathe in verses, then bursts to life in its grungy choruses. While this personally tends to be my least listened track on the EP, it’s still nonetheless an enjoyable experience that’s far from a detraction of the overall listening. It provides a very chill outro to a fantastically strong EP.


Looking Good Feeling Good” is a more than solid addition to the Elephant Jake discography and I eagerly await the day when I can see them live again in a cramped, decrepit basement and yell “40 hours at the factory!” at the top of my lungs along with my friends.

You can find Elephant Jake at https://elephantjake.bandcamp.com/

CONCERT REVIEW: The Customers @ The Rat’s Den, 8/28/20

“The boys are gonna warm you up and then I’m gonna come in and ruin it for ya!”

New Jersey indie rockers The Customers played at The Rat’s Den in South Jersey on August 28, 2020, to celebrate the release of their new single “Go Home”. Having seen them earlier this year at the now-defunct Soda Bar in Philadelphia, PA, I was familiar with the group’s inspired jangle pop sound and was excited to see them again.

With reverb-laden guitars and a slick lead singer who’s always donning his signature sunglasses, The Customers always entertain with ease. Throughout the course of their headlining set, the audience was treated to interweaving guitars that ranged from rougher distorted rhythms to beautifully shimmering leads while the crooning singer, the looming wall of sound behind him, serenaded us with his charm and presence. There was an intriguing sense of danger in his performance, though, that came to an apex when the band’s combined intensity overloaded the PA system speakers, distorting his voice and becoming one with the warm distortion of the guitars. A great contrast from the calming ambience that marked the start of their set, it’s fair to say the sound of The Customers is far from static.

Never a dull moment in their set, the audience present was constantly moving to the band’s grooving sounds. Despite being drenched in sweat from the ultra humidity of the elements (plus it was a basement in New Jersey, what would you expect?), the band obliged to fans’ requests for an encore and delivered another round of their signature songs. Truly a class act!

You can find The Customers at https://www.instagram.com/the_customers/?hl=en

REVIEW: “Homebody” by Phazed

August 7, 2020 marked the release of Pottsville, PA rock outfit Phazed’s latest single “Homebody” on the Punkstyria label, and what a release it was. Several weeks later after its official worldwide release and we’re still blown away by the furiosity and intensity of the track.

The song, produced and mixed by local acclaimed producer John Lesko, is very vocal in its intentions. With crushing in-your-face guitar riffs and strong lyrics of the alienation and social isolation felt by many during the “new normal” of the past few months, the result is easily one of Phazed’s most visceral songs. From the chilling vocal harmonies of the song’s chorus to the stripped-down second verse and, finally, to the song’s climactic breakdown featuring dual-growled vocals from lead vocalist/guitarist Mike Logothetides and longtime bassist Andy Kelley, Phazed holds back no punches on this track.

You can find Phazed at https://www.phazed570.com/