CuriousHour – EP Review: “Explore”

Curious Hour ep

If you like soulful, blues-soaked rock accompanied by raw, passionate female vocals, then you should be listening to the music of UK band  CuriousHour. Formed two years ago, the London-based four-piece consists of guitarist Andy Grazebrook, vocalist Emily Grazebrook, drummer Wal Srankiewicz and bassist Aaron McIntosh. In July, 2017 they released their superb debut EP Explore, which I have the pleasure of reviewing today.

The first track “Lailah” arrives on sound waves of fuzzy guitars, strutting drums and a humming bass line. Then, Emily’s rich, bluesy vocals enter the scene and within seconds I’m blown away. Wow, what a voice she has! The kind of voice that demands your attention. She seems to channel the raw soulfulness of Tina Turner, the bluesy feels of Amy Winehouse, and the unrestrained passion of Janis Joplin. On “Lailah,” a palpable sense of tension and uncertainty simmers beneath the seeming coolness of her voice, occasionally piercing the surface as she croons about not knowing which direction to take: “Solo, solo, solo. Walking, walking walking. Don’t know, don’t know which way to go.” As the track progresses, Andy lays down some nimble guitar work, while Aaron gently strums his bass. It’s a great song.

The next track “Yield” is positively sublime. The guys are in perfect sync on their respective instruments, and Emily raises goosebumps as she fervently wails the lyrics expressing the depths of her hunger for another’s love: “I would do anything if you only lay your hands on me. / I’d cause a tidal wave to charge, wipe out all of humanity. Send them streaming from the land. Swallow them up into the sea. So that I could be with you. Oh I would give you the world if you’d love me.”

One of the things that strikes me as I listen to the EP is how beautifully each track flows into the next, sustaining the spell that CuriousHour have cast upon our ears, minds and souls. At times their bluesy sound reminds me a bit of Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother & the Holding Company. “Geraldine” is mesmerizing, and once again, Emily’s vocals are breathtaking. And no more so than on “Wanted,” where her jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics are on full display. She alternately seduces, snarls and wails the lyrics that speak to a detestable scoundrel: “You’re so quick on the draw, even your horse hates ya. Price on my head. Don’t stop til I’m dead. / You’re above the law but even your momma hates ya. How much to walk away?” The guitars, bass and drums on this epic track are all pretty amazing too.

The band dials up the energy on “Dark Surf,” a rousing rock’n’roll song with awesome fuzzy guitar work and thunderous drumming that make for an exciting listen. Two thirds in, the tempo slows to a languid, bluesy lull in the bridge, before ramping back up to full speed for an exhilarating finish. Emily’s refrain of “rise and fall” is an apt description of the song.

Explore is a wonderful EP that gets better with every listen, and every track is fantastic. There’s a lot of nuance in Andy’s intricate guitar work, Aaron’s subtle bass and Wal’s expert drumming, and each time I was able to detect something new I’d missed previously. Then there’s Emily’s mind-blowing vocals, which I could never tire of hearing.

CuriousHour have been gigging regularly ever since their inception, spreading their noise around London, the south of England and around the UK with plans to play in Europe. In the meantime, those of you in the UK can catch them at one of these upcoming shows:

JULY 11 7:30 & 10:30 PM  CURIOUSHOUR @ THE DUBLIN CASTLE

AUG 25 7:00 PM  NESTIVAL, The Birds Nest, London

Connect with CuriousHour:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp

Interview with UK Musician David Oakes

David Oakes

David Oakes is a fine (he hates when I say ‘talented’) musician and composer of electronic alternative rock music based in Wales, UK. In the early 2000’s, he was a guitarist with the British rock band Kotow, and since 2012 he’s produced a tremendous output of instrumental music as a solo artist, ranging from gentle synth-driven compositions to aggressive guitar-driven hard rock, and everything in between. In early May, he released his latest album TheMENACE, which I reviewed and you can read here. It’s a brilliant work that’s actually a double album, with the first containing 11 tracks, most with vocals, and the second being an instrumental-only version, plus two bonus tracks not found on the first.

I recently had a chat with David about his music background, influences and creative process.

1. Hello David. Thank you for wanting to talk with me about your music. You and I have spoken a bit in the past about your background, but for the sake of our readers, let’s touch on that again. You now live in Wales, but were born in England, then spent part of your childhood and early teen years in the Middle East. Living in Dubai must have been interesting, or at least an unusual experience I would think. What positive or negative things did you come away with?

Yes! I moved there when I was two so obviously I don’t remember relocating there. I remember a couple of the houses we lived in – mostly the 3rd one which is very strong in my memory. I can recall it in detail. We lived very near the sea and would go camping in the desert at the weekend. I had a little 50cc PW50 motorcycle that I drove everywhere :). It took me a very very long time to get over moving to the UK.

2.  Why is that?

Hot 365 and living by the beach, etc. to … Wales… Camping in the desert at the weekend, dune bashing to … oh, nothing.

3. At what age did you start playing guitar, or other instruments? I remember you saying you attended a music institute in England after you moved back there with your family. What did you study there?

We had an electric piano in the house from around 1988 and I taught myself stuff on that. Eventually I got my own keyboard and I was off. I played it every day and wrote my own albums onto cassettes. I don’t have any of them anymore. They wouldn’t have sounded very professional. I even bought card from the newsagent and printed out artwork onto them and chopped them into cassette sleeve size. You can see the lineage all the way back . The only difference to what I do now is I don’t print out my own artwork. Everything else is the same – the tech has just improved. I went to ACM (Academy of Contemporary Music) in Guildford in 2009 for 3 years to study guitar and music theory. I passed all my exams but I never attempted my dissertation so I never got the qualification.

4. You formed a rock band called Kotow with your brother and another friend, and released a pretty decent album “Demise of the Monsters.” How or why did you guys choose that band name, and how long was Kotow an active band? 

Rich wanted a Japanese name and so looked in a Japanese dictionary and found “Kotow” meaning to bow or acquiesce… We all liked the name. We formed around February 2002, whilst I was going back and forth to the city (Cardiff) to study music production on a “New Deal” course under the Labour Gov which lasted from 1997 until around 2004. Anyway – since Dad had re-married – they moved out of the house and the whole band lived in our big farmhouse so we could write and rehearse all day every day. After moving to the London area in 2004 or so, we realised that nobody really cared and got fed up with it and we split in 2006. 

5. I believe you played drums for Kotow. Tell me about your experiences playing in a band – both good and bad if you care to go there. Why did the band eventually split up?

You know me, I have no ego but I did believe we were the best band in south Wales. When we moved to London, nobody gave us the time of day and we all got tired of it. Plus I wasn’t happy with the direction our music was taking. My main thing was to write catchy riffs in odd time signatures and do my best to come up with complimentary drum parts. I’d get annoyed if I couldn’t play for the song and could only think of something ordinary. We liked being unconventional. We lost two guitarists for one reason or another and we got a new guy who was great, but he and Rich wanted us to sound more like the tech bands at the time and I really wanted to stick to our original ethos of being unlike anyone else. Oh well.

6. You obviously wanted to continue making music after Kotow ended. I know some of your favourite bands are Dream Theater, Mastodon, Green Day and Metallica, so am guessing your sound is greatly influenced by their music? 

I expect so. Not directly or deliberately. I just write music and what comes out, comes out. Exactly the same process as Kotow. I like making albums of different genres and styles since I listen to a lot of different genres and styles. I couldn’t imagine being in one of those metal bands who sound exactly like everyone else and only listen to that music. Boring.

7. When did you record your first solo album?

“The Juggernaut” in 2012. It was originally supposed to be the follow up to “Demise Of The Monsters” and Rich would play bass and sing and I’d produce since he’d done almost all the work on DOTM. I merely played guitar on that album. Since I’d never attempted a “proper” professional sounding album before and had only limited experience with Logic – I worked on it every day for about 6 – 8 months. I still enjoy it to this day but I think I’ve done better and I learn something new with each album I do.

8. You’ve been fairly prolific, recording and releasing quite a few albums and compilations over the past few years, several of which I’ve purchased. What inspires you to create a new album with a specific theme and sound?

I don’t like to create the same album twice in a row…So if I do a hard rock album I definitely won’t do one again as it kinda wears me out when working on an album. “Transmissions” was songs I wrote when I was learning guitar and some of those songs had been fully formed in my head for many many years until I could finally record them properly. “Transmission Part 1 & 2” was completely written and I had it all worked out in my head and even recorded a version of it way back in 1997 or so on my Dad’s 2-track reel-to-reel machine.

Every time I start an album I have to come up with something great first. That’s the springboard. If I like an idea – that’ll be the blueprint for the album. I could never just write 8 -10 random songs and that’ll do. None of my albums are fully fledged concept albums but I try to imagine they are. . . As I’ve said in the past – I like albums to sound/feel like *albums* and not just Here’s 10 tracks I wrote in any order…

Even if the idea doesn’t end up lasting the whole album – the initial idea is usually enough impetus. With “Strum Und Drang” I’d been listening to the 21st Anniversary of Leftfield’s “Leftism” pretty much on repeat and wanted to do something inspired by that. I pretty much listened to nothing but Leftfield’s three albums for the summer of 2017 and wrote at the same time. “The Menace” seemed to be the next logical step.

9. Your latest effort “The Menace” is one of your finest. Some of your previous works contained a few dark tracks, but most of the songs were more melodic, almost orchestral rock like that of Dream Theater. Also, for the first time you added lyrics and vocals. You told me it’s a loose concept album, and that you kept the lyrics intentionally vague, but what was your inspiration behind “The Menace” and it’s dark theme? Also, what made you decide to add a vocal component?

Thank You. I had so much fun making “Sturm Und Drang” that I wanted to do another in that style but – as I said at the time – I wanted it “tougher and harder sounding.“ One of the few times that the album has pretty much turned out exactly how I envisioned from the beginning. Once I had “ The Slammer “ – I knew I was onto something. Loose concept album in that…I didn’t intentionally write lyrics to mean anything – I just had my microphone there – played the track and improvised some stuff until I found something I liked.

After a while I realised all the improvs could be about a few things. Notably the “MeToo” movement, #45… all of these things that were going on in the news at the time. Completely subconsciously. Only the final two tracks “Finale Part I and II” I wrote to tie up this theme. All other lyrics are improvised. And yeah I kept it intentionally vague as I’ve never wanted to align myself with any party or politics or anything and I was not a fan of Kotow’s Anti-President Bush EP. I never wanted to be a political band – one of the other factors that led to our break up. As for vocals – people kept pestering me to include them and I thought if I do it, I’m gonna distort the crap out of them… Which I did on “The Slammer”. But as the album went on, I got more confident and I turned the distortion further and further down. I think I’ll do vocals again should I do another album at some point… Probably same style too.

10.  Besides my glowing review, what has been the response to The Menace?

Thank you! Well – same as ever. A few RTs from music accounts and a few more people saying they like it but nothing amazing really. About the same as it was for “Sturm Und Drang” or “The Dawn And The Dusk.” *shrug*

11. That leads me to the next question. You and I have shared our own frustrations over the lack of support from a majority of our so-called ‘followers’ on social media, who rarely if ever engage with our tweets, postings, etc. But in today’s music industry, an artist or band (or just about any other creative person) is all but forced to use social media to get people to learn about their music, unless they’re willing or able to hire an expensive publicist. Any thoughts about this?

Interesting subject since my degree course dissertation was basically gonna be all about this. “Do we need big recording studios now that people are making pro albums in their bedrooms“ etc etc… I THINK that the Internet has ruined a lot of music. Shops are closing because people are buying everything online, and it’s so hard to stand out when everyone and their dog has a band and a Bandcamp and a Soundcloud. It’s like whispering in a hurricane… And I’m not smart enough to think of some cool promo gimmick. And whenever I think I have something, it never works so…

12. Do you have any plans for a future album, or will you take a long break?

Ya know it speaks for itself – when I was putting out albums every month that I’d recorded in a week – the quality was dipping. You know how I feel about “Imaginary film soundtrack .“ I was so disappointed with it, I actually paid to have it taken down. I know I rushed it and it shows. I still cannot listen to it. Starting with “Juggernaut III” and then continuing with “Sturm Und Drang” and now “The Menace,” I’ve taken my time to craft an album over many months. Take a break..come back…listen to it….fix/adjust anything…etc. And as a result, those three albums I mentioned have a little extra going for them. I’m actually a huge fan of “The Dawn & The Dusk”. Its one of my favourite things I’ve done. And I seem to remember taking my time with that one too so… “The Menace” is still very fresh to me. It was released on May 4 – eight months after “Sturm Und Drang.” I’m not even thinking about another album and probably won’t until winter. I mentioned to someone once that i’d like to take a year to release an album at some point. Maybe I will for the next one. It won’t be a double though. I’d like to get down to doing only one album a year.

13. Anything else you’d like to share that I’ve neglected to ask?

I think that the “Sturm Und Drang” and “The Menace” “style” will be my default setting from now on. They were both really fun to create and I actually plan on buying a midi keyboard to make composing a lot easier.

I know James Lauters (a very supportive mutual friend of David’s and mine) likes the what I call the X&Y series. And I may do another one eventually but it would have to be really chilled out. Like “Dawn And The Dusk” but even more chilled. Lots more acoustic. Basically the exact opposite of “The Menace.”

Cheers !

Enjoy this guitar play-through by David of “The Monster,” one of many great tracks from The Menace.

Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  iTunes

Top 30 Songs for June 17-23, 2018

1. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (1)
2. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (4)
3. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay (2)
4. THIS IS AMERICA – Childish Gambino (3)
5. ZOMBIE – Bad Wolves (7)
6. THOUGHT CONTAGION – Muse (8)
7. HANDYMAN – AWOLNATION (5)
8. &RUN – Sir Sly (6)
9. CELEBRATE – Dirty Heads, Unlikely Candidates (10)
10. BROKEN – lovelytheband (9)
11. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (14)
12. SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! At the Disco (13)
13. WHATEVER IT TAKES – Imagine Dragons (11)
14. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY – Blue October (15)
15. UNWIND – John Defeo (16)
16. DEVIL – Shinedown (12)
17. FOUR OUT OF FIVE – Arctic Monkeys (19)
18. COLORS – Beck (18)
19. SILVER LINING – Mt. Joy (20)
20. LIFE TO FIX – The Record Company (21)
21. FAVORITE COLOR IS BLUE – Robert DeLong, K.Flay (17)
22. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (23)
23. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (24)
24. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (25)
25. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (27)
26. FRACTURED NATION – Future Theory (28)
27. GUIDE YOU IN THE DARK – RECKLESS JACKS (22)
28. DANGEROUS NIGHT – 30 Seconds to Mars (N)
29. KAMIKAZE – WALK THE MOON (N)
30. BLOOM – Troye Sivan (N)

NO MIND STATE – EP Review: “Rubber & Glue”

No MInd State EP

No Mind State is a very charismatic alternative rock band from Oslo, Norway, and they’re thrilled to release their debut EP Rubber & Glue, which drops today. The EP features four brilliant tracks, including two I’ve previously reviewed on this blog: “Hold Me Back, I’m Leaving” and “Fodder of Galaxies.” The band plays high-energy melodic rock, bombarding our ears with thunderous riffs, heavy bass lines, and speaker-blowing percussion. Making all this great noise are Henrik Posèbo Sørebø (Guitar, lead vocals), Vetle Berthelsen (Lead Guitar), Vegard Tveito (Bass, backing vocals) and Christian Gathe (Drums).

No Mind State 4

The title track “Rubber & Glue” is a fantastic hard-driving rock song about deceit and betrayal: “And I know you lied, ’cause your pants are on fire.” Stabbing riffs of fuzzy guitars interplay with a throbbing bass line and thunderous drumbeats. I love Henrik’s charming Norwegian accent that shines through in his raw, impassioned vocals.

Hold Me Back, I’m Leaving” is an exciting track, and their very first single. Henrik and Vetle lay down energetic riffs of gritty guitars over Vegard’s driving bass line, while Christian forcefully pummels the beat on his drum kit. Henrik’s sultry vocals explode into aggressive wails as he sings the lyrics about knowing you should get out of a dysfunctional relationship, but not being able to escape.

Up In The Air” is a beautiful rock song, and perhaps the most melodic of the four tracks. The guitar work is exquisite, and the riff that begins in the bridge and continues through the song’s end is absolutely breathtaking.

The magnificent “Fodder of Galaxies” starts off with sounds transmitted by a space station, then a gradual building of synths accompanied by a jangly guitar riff, humming bass, thumping drums and crashing cymbals. The biting lyrics speak to the evils of capitalism and greed, and the damage it’s doing to society and our earth:

What have we done
We’ve reaped all that we’ve sown
Still we crave for more
Galaxy dust is what we’ll swallow next just to quench our lust
Kill it faster – Grow more after
Villainous grab it – Hold it, Suffrage – Boring
Give me more
How can you say, that your way’s any better?
How can you know that we’re not just the fodder of Galaxies in my mind

Rubber & Glue is a great little EP, and I love this band. They’re currently working on their first full-length album, and I’m eager to hear more great songs from these talented musicians.

Connect with No Mind State: WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify or Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes or Deezer

GEORGIA FEARN – Album Review: “Perfect on Paper”

Georgia Fearn pic

Having no musical talents whatsoever, I’m always impressed by people who do, and especially when they’re also quite young. Needless to say, I was blown away when I listened to the debut album Perfect on Paper by Welsh artist Georgia Fearn. Only 17 years old, the singer/songwriter from Carmarthen has a remarkable artistry and maturity far beyond her years. She writes all her own songs and plays guitar and piano, with session musicians playing the other instruments.

Released in March through Grapefruit Records, Perfect on Paper sounds like the work of a seasoned artist, which is actually the case in a sense. Georgia began writing songs at the age of nine, and at 17 she’s an accomplished wordsmith, penning thoughtful and frank lyrics about the joy, pain and complications that arise when we enter into relationships. She’s already performed in many different venues, most notably the famous Cavern in Liverpool, and her songs have received airplay on BBC Wales, and other radio stations in the UK.

Georgia incorporates a myriad of music styles, including pop, rock, jazz, hip hop and even Celtic folk, to create songs that are surprising, unique and always compelling. The superb opening track “L’Amour” beautifully illustrates what I’m talking about. The song features all sorts of interesting sounds and instruments like accordion, banjo, horns and strings, and the result is delightfully saucy track with a sophisticated French vibe. As if all that weren’t enough, she injects a bit of a Celtic feel in the chorus interlude. Didn’t I say that she likes to surprise us?

The lyrics describe a relationship doomed from the start: “You told me you were leaving ’cause I smoked too many cigarettes. I broke the bad habit, and I drove straight to your address. I saw you pressing your lips to someone new. It’s time to break my other bad habit. You.” Bloody brilliant.

Perfect on Paper is an ambitious work with 12 tracks, all of them suberb. “Catch Me If You Can” is an infectiously catchy number that had me humming the melody long after hearing the song. “Misty Mae” was inspired by a character in the TV series American Horror Story. A beautiful mandolin riff and flute lend a bit of a gypsy flair to the rousing track, while distorted electric guitar adds an edgy feel. “Does It Make You Wonder” is a sweeping ballad featuring a haunting piano riff, mournful violins and a military drumbeat. Georgia’s heartfelt vocals are extraordinary as she croons: “I’m living in a glass house, where the person I used to be, she’s buried six feet under. She’s trying to scream. She’s blocked out by the thunder. Does it ever make you wonder, what could have been?

“Sharp Objects” is a dark rock song about the proverbial town without pity. The track opens with what sounds like helicopter blades and men shouting in the distance. Georgia snarls the biting lyrics about hypocrisy and evil that lie beneath a rosy exterior: “Home is where the lies are. Pretty quiet village, that’s where all the scars are. Tiny little village, that’s where all the hate is. / Ooh I’m gonna drown. Something about this nuclear town. Toxic.

And speaking of dark, one of my favorites is the dramatic, searing title track “Perfect on Paper,” about a woman serving prison time for killing the man that done her wrong: “I know he never loved me. He just loved the thought. He thought there was a girl out there who’d do what he wants. She’d smile in a loving manner to her man perfect on paper. Not knowing soon she’d see every awful heartbreaking, sickening, ugly thing he could be.” Wow, those are some of the best lyrics I’ve seen in a while!

Another great track is the bluesy “Master of Jazz.” The sensuous song speaks of the cool allure of a jazz musician who can sweep a girl off her feet: “Heart on his sleeve and mic in his hand. I heard he was a part of some out of town band. He liked to think he was the king of swing. And the king of swing would have you hanging by a string He’s a master of jazz, when he sings you come alive.” The melancholy “Emptiness” is a piano-driven track with mournful violin. The lyrics address the feelings of pain and loss when love has gone: “We judge people for judging, ’cause judging is wrong. The only way to stay OK is writing a song. Food has lost it’s taste. Get me out of this place. If you cut me open, I would bleed his name. It hurts so much.

Georgia injects a hip hop beat and lots of distorted guitar into “No Need to Hide,” while “Always Be Yours” is a lovely, uplifting ballad about how she was saved by another’s love and devotion. The Latin-infused album closer “You Wouldn’t Do This if You Did” is a kiss-off to a lover with a chronic drinking problem: “How am I supposed to love you, when you only see me through bottled eyes. And every time I smell the liquor, a little part inside of me dies. You’re not who you were when I first met you. / I know you don’t love me. Cause you wouldn’t do this if you did.”

Perfect on Paper is a brilliant album, and an outstanding debut from this gifted and promising young artist. I expect – and hope – we’ll be hearing more great music from Georgia Fearn before long.

Connect with Georgia:  Facebook / Twitter
Stream her music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunesAmazon / Klicktrack

PARTISAN – Single Review: “Oxygen”

Partisan Oxygen

I’ve been following Manchester, UK rock band Partisan for a couple of years, and I love their music. Like many bands, they’ve undergone a few personnel changes since their formation, but their music has remained consistently good. Partisan is now made up of Stuart Armstrong on guitar and vocals, Dan Albon on bass, and Leo Stanfield on drums. I previously featured their fantastic single “Juggernaut” on this blog two years ago, in the summer of 2016, and that October had the pleasure of meeting them when they performed at the legendary Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip. They’ve released several excellent tracks since then, and in May they dropped their latest single “Oxygen.

The new track nicely delivers more of their signature high-energy melodic rock. It opens with sounds of sirens in the distance, then Albon lays down a bass riff as Armstrong’s punchy guitar and Stanfield’s snappy drums enter the proceedings. Tasty intricate guitar riffs ensue along with heavier percussion, all the while anchored by Albon’s subtle bass line. Armstrong’s fervent vocals are positively sublime. I really love his distinctive tenor voice, which is a major component of Partisan’s unique sound that sets them apart from any other band.

My take on the song is that it seems to be about realizing that a relationship one took for granted is worth salvaging. That there’s enough oxygen – love – for two for the relationship to survive. “I was too blind to see. I was too drunk to feel. Denying ourselves the truth. There must be enough to breathe. Oxygen release. / Let me be the one that saves you. / Let me be the one to keep you breathing.

The dark, brilliant video shows the band performing the song in a dank, filthy room in a decrepit old building. As the song progresses, dust and smoke permeate the room as the walls begin closing in on them, sucking out the oxygen. By the end, Armstrong is shown trapped and curled up in a tightly enclosed space. An interesting side feature in the video is that among the various photos on the wall is one of a smiling President Trump (who can suck the oxygen and joy out of a room like a Harry Potter Death Eater). His photo is eventually shown pierced with darts. That brought a big smile to my face!

Catch Partisan at one of their upcoming shows in and around Manchester:

June 5             Gullivers, Manchester
June 30           Save the Children Charity event
Sept 27           Sonder Festival, Manchester

Connect with Partisan:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes

GOODNIGHT JAPAN – Single Review: “Rush”

Goodnight Japan single

Goodnight Japan is a three-piece band from Sydney, Australia with a distinctive sound they colorfully describe as “Shoegazy bedroom-pop dreamscapes to punchy post-punk laced with dirty whisky blues.” Formed in 2016 by singer/songwriter/guitarist Abel Ibañez and bassist Gemma Conroy, drummer Joel van Gastel joined the band a year later to complete the lineup. All three of these talented individuals are involved in other projects as well – Abel is founder and co-editor of ERRR Magazine, Gemma is also known as the international model Meluxine, as well as a science journalist, and Joel is also drummer for Australian rock band Jenny Broke the Window.

When I asked Abel about the band’s unusual name, he explained that he used to have a band with his brother in Mexico City, where they were born and raised, and his brother came up with the name. “It was a bit of a joke at the beginning, because we would fantasize (of course) playing to big audiences in big arenas or stadiums and starting the concerts with a “Goodnight America” or “Goodnight Russia” and then “Goodnight Japan.” And then he decided that Goodnight Japan was going to be the name of our band. And we played a couple of gigs in Mexico under that name. I later formed another band –also in Mexico– and used that same name but in Spanish and a bit modified: we were Adiós Japón (Goodbye Japan).  Some years later, when I came to Australia and started playing with Gemma, I told her the story about the name and she just loved Goodnight Japan, so we took it back.”

They’ve just released a lovely new single “Rush,” a touching song with a pleasing mix of fuzzy guitar, humming bass and gentle percussion, all set to a toe-tapping beat. Abel’s heartfelt vocals have an earnest vulnerability as he sings the poignant lyrics that speak to someone who keeps resisting committing to a relationship, pleading with them to get off the endless cycle of indecision and just let love in:

You say you don’t want to rush 
You say you don’t want to break 
You say you don’t really care 
No you don’t give a damn 
People keep losing their minds 
Going ’round and around on this ride 

But this time let go 
‘Cause this time I’ve got you 
But this time let go 
‘Cause this time I’ve got you 

They’re currently recording more songs to be included on their upcoming EP, and I’m eager to hear them. In the meantime, you can catch them at one of these upcoming shows in New South Wales:

June 15   The Townie, Newtown, 9 PM w/Deep Space Supergroop & Trouble Cruise

June 29  Botany View Hotel, Newtown, 9 PM w/Jonas Nicholls & Deep Space Supergroop

July 28  The Record Crate, Glebe, 7 PM w/E for Echo x DARBY

Connect with Goodnight Japan on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Rush” on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

TRUE THE GRAY – Single Review: “Greet Your Tragedy”

True the Gray is a metalcore band based in Denver, Colorado. Formed in 2016 from the ashes of metalcore band Me Against Sunrise, True the Gray consists of Peter Vaughn (guitars, vocals, percussion, keys) and Scotty Wilson (vocals, guitars, percussion). The guys are friendly and engaging, referring to themselves as “Just two friends making heavy, passionate music that features references to Transformers, chicken and rice stuffing, and crematoriums.” Works for me! They released a very respectable debut self-titled EP True the Gray in 2016, and now follow up with a face-melting, emotionally powerful new single “Greet Your Tragedy.”

The guys explain that the song “is about someone on the verge of madness, trying to hang on to what semblance they have of their former selves. An anthem for mental health.” It opens with a gritty distorted guitar chord, setting an ominous tone for things to come. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose as the song erupts into a maelstrom of bone-crushing staccato riffs, wailing distortion, and massive, ear-piercing percussion. These guys mean business, delivering a relentless onslaught of furious instrumentation that elevates the track’s emotional impact nearly to the breaking point. Their chilling vocals range from savage growls and furious screams to impassioned soaring harmonies. By song’s end, we’re left dazed and spent.

“Greet Your Tragedy” is a brilliant, flawlessly-crafted track, with compelling lyrics and superb instrumentals, vocals and production values. The guys really up their game on this mind-blowing powerhouse of a song, and it’s their best work yet.

Connect with True the Gray:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes 

Top 30 Songs for June 10-16, 2018

1. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (4)
2. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay (1)
3. THIS IS AMERICA – Childish Gambino (2)
4. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (5)
5. HANDYMAN – AWOLNATION (3)
6. &RUN – Sir Sly (6)
7. ZOMBIE – Bad Wolves (8)
8. THOUGHT CONTAGION – Muse (9)
9. BROKEN – lovelytheband (7)
10. CELEBRATE – Dirty Heads, Unlikely Candidates (10)
11. WHATEVER IT TAKES – Imagine Dragons (11)
12. DEVIL – Shinedown (12)
13. SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! At the Disco (13)
14. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (16)
15. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY – Blue October (14)
16. UNWIND – John Defeo (17)
17. FAVORITE COLOR IS BLUE – Robert Delong, K.Flay (18)
18. COLORS – Beck (19)
19. FOUR OUT OF FIVE – Arctic Monkeys (23)
20. SILVER LINING – Mt. Joy (21)
21. LIFE TO FIX – The Record Company (22)
22. GUIDE YOU IN THE DARK – RECKLESS JACKS (15)
23. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (27)
24. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (26)
25. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (27)
26. WITHOUT WALLS – Lyia Meta (20)
27. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (29)
28. FRACTURED NATION – Future Theory (30)
29. THE JOKE – Brandi Carlile (24)
30. THE NIGHT HAS AN ALIBI – Wons Phreely + the Horses (25)

BLACK BEAR KISS – Single Review: “Hooks”

hooks-single-cover

Black Bear Kiss are an Indie/Alternative Rock band from the West Midlands & Shropshire, UK. Formed in 2016, the band includes Chris Leech on lead vocals, Colin Haden on lead guitar, Rob Jones on guitar, Rich Sach on bass, and Chris Bagnall on drums. In the creation of their dynamic rock sound, the band draws influence from legendary blues rock bands The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, 90s Grunge, and more modern alt-rock acts such as The Black Keys, Jack White, Kasabian and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. In April, they released their debut single “Hooks” – aptly named because that’s exactly what the song does to us the moment we hear it.

The infectious track starts off with a simple riff set to a catchy drumbeat and thumping bass line, then Leech’s smooth vocals enter the proceedings. Everything ramps up in the rousing chorus, with Leech’s vocals growing more impassioned as he nearly wails the lyrics, accompanied by an explosion of more aggressive guitars and heavier percussion. The backing vocals in the chorus are especially good, and everyone in the band are in perfect sync on their respective instruments. It’s a great track, and an impressive debut for a Black Bear Kiss, who seem to have all the ingredients in their line up for playing some awesome rock’n’roll the way it’s meant to be played.

Connect with Black Bear Kiss:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Hooks” on  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes