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As mainstream bands become more popular, it's hard to find a combination of things in music: lyrics, sound, good production and, of course, talent. Many styles of bands like pop, rap and punk are all starting to sound the same. It takes a true artist to create a new sound, and an idea to create an overall great band.

A Buffalo-based band called Almost Engineers released its third album, "Melodies & Madness," in December. The three members of this alternative folk band are Matt Swanekamp, Charles Dusel and Chris Becker. Also featured are Isaac Chapman and Joe Bunce on percussion, Phil Dusel and Lance Boos on bass and Nate Wolfe on keys.

"Almost Engineers started with Chris and myself playing in a stairwell at a Canisius dorm, just trying to fake our way through some Radiohead songs and avoid getting beat up by the angry guy on the floor above us who didn't care for the noise," Matt said in a recent interview. "We weren't able to steal Charles from his punk band for a few years."

"Almost Engineers started as a passing thought in the back of a linear algebra notebook -- but I guess you could say we really started when Matt convinced me that I could do more than just sing along with songs on the radio," Chris said, talking about how the band came to be.

Because recording an album, especially when you don't have a professional producer, can be the hardest part of creating an album, "My favorite part of doing the album was FINISHING the album; that moment when I had mixed down the very last song and knew I wouldn't be getting any more threatening e-mails from Matt," said Chris.

"Melodies & Madness" seems like a random name for an album, so Charles explained: "By the end of the recording process I think we could all agree that what we were left with was madness and melodies."

The band's older sound, when it was just the three guys and their acoustic guitars, sounded great, but when they added the other instruments, the band's sound shot up.

"We were looking to expand on the traditional "acoustic" feel from our past albums. I think the results were exactly what we were looking for," said Matt.

Overall, Almost Engineers has a great sound. When I first listened to the song "Reaching Out My Hand," I thought it sounded like Adam Sandler from "Saturday Night Live's" "Lunch Lady Land Song." Then I listened to it again and thought that it was better. The album has great lyrics and sound.

Chris, Matt and Charles all have some serious talent and should keep on going with music. This album has so many different sounds and styles that I'm keeping it all on my iPod. Someone who can't keep an album on their iPod should get the songs "Fools Gold Dreams," "Arrows In My Side," "Angels In My Bedroom," "Fall Like An Anchor" and "Kyrie."

The 14-song album can be bought at iTunes, eMusic, Amazon MP3 and Napster. I highly recommend this band to anyone. Almost Engineers is a great band and needs to be in the mainstream music world.

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Aaron Maser is a junior at Kenmore West High School.

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Almost Engineers

"Melodies & Madness"