Top 30 Songs for September 22-28, 2019

1. RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE DEVIL – Revolvers (2)
2. UNDER THE COLD LIGHT OF THE MOON – Crystal Cities (5)
3. COMING UP FOR AIR – Mars Motel (1)
4. 3 NIGHTS – Dominic Fike (6)
5. GO – The Black Keys (7)
6. SOCIAL CUES – Cage the Elephant (9)
7. CRINGE – Matt Maeson (8)
8. THE HYPE – twenty one pilots (11)
9. FALLING WITH STYLE – Heist At Five (3)
10. DOIN’ TIME – Lana Del Rey (4)
11. FOUR WINDS – Unquiet Nights (12)
12. RAGGED TOWN – Second Player Score (13)
13. THIS LIFE – Vampire Weekend (14)
14. HEAT OF THE SUMMER – Young the Giant (15)
15. GOOD THINGS FALL APART – ILLENIUM with Jon Bellion (16)
16. GOODBYES – Post Malone featuring Young Thug (17)
17. WHEN AM I GONNA LOSE YOU – Local Natives (10)
18. THE MIDDLE – Agency Panic (20)
19. SECRETS – The Million Reasons (21)
20. WHY DID YOU RUN? – Judah & the Lion (22)
21. DISSOLVE – Absofacto (23)
22. WANNACRY – Darksoft (25)
23. UNDER THESE SCARS – Falling Into Red featuring Dev (26)
24. BAD GUY – Billie Eilish (18)
25. ALLIGATOR – Of Monsters and Men (19)
26. DESERVING OF LOVE – Lyia Meta (29)
27. SOMEONE YOU LOVED – Lewis Capaldi (N)
28. FIGHTER – Joseph (N)
29. UNDERGROUND – MISSIO (N)
30. DRIFTING AWAY – Stereohaze (N)

New Song of the Week: SECRET AMERICAN – “Lonely”

This past March, I had the pleasure of featuring the delightful band Secret American when I reviewed their marvelous 2018 album Warmth & Shelter. Now they’re back with a wonderful new single “Lonely“, which I’ve selected as my New Song of the Week. The song is the first single off their forthcoming second album, and explores the age-old conundrum between being in a committed relationship and holding on to one’s freedom.

Secret American is a bi-coastal band, born from the collaboration of singer/songwriter and guitarist Derek Krzywicki, who lives in the small town of Carpinteria on the California coast east of Santa Barbara, and his long-time friend Todd Mecaughey, a producer/engineer who lives in Philadelphia. (Todd has stated that their name comes from them being simultaneously proud and ashamed to be American – a sentiment I currently share). Completing the band’s seven-member lineup are the very talented musicians Kevin Killen, Katie Frank, Tony Unander, Alex Baranowski and Rory Geoghegan.

Secret American3

Their refreshing, eclectic sound is at once retro yet contemporary, unique yet familiar. As I noted in my review, the retro aspect of their music evokes the carefree California pop-rock vibe of The Lovin’ Spoonful, while their contemporary side channels the laid-back grooves of Cage the Elephant. And though their song lyrics often address more serious, thought-provoking topics, they’re presented with sunny melodies, breezy instrumentation and pleasing vocals that make for happy listening experience.

“Lonely” features a rich mix of shimmery synths, layers of twangy and jangly guitars, soulful bass and crisp percussion, all wrapped in a captivating melody that envelops us like a warm blanket. Derek’s smooth, sultry vocals are so damn seductive and bewitching as he croons about how, despite the occasional loneliness, being single and free is preferable to being imprisoned in a relationship – or is it?

Cause if you wanna be like me, you better be lonely
You’d better think only of the woman you had
Cause if you wanna be like me, you better be lonely
You’d better think only of the man you had

Oh I’m not giving it up I said
Oh I’m not giving it up I said
Oh I’m not giving it up for you

I wanna be who I want to
I wanna see who I want to, baby yeah
I wanna feel them feels too
But I can’t have that with you

Can’t have my number
Can’t have my time
Though that I want you, you can’t be mine
You can lead me to water, but I wouldn’t drink
You can make me love you, but I’ll always think

Secret American make fascinating videos for many of their songs, and for “Lonely” they’ve produced not one, but TWO delightful videos, both created and edited by Todd’s wife Natalie Mecaughey. The first contains vintage footage from what appears to be a fifties film about a couple on a scenic bus trip across the U.S., who experience snags in their relationship. The second is a mashup of footage of couples enjoying romantic moments on a pier, juxtaposed with poignant images of Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander looking uncharacteristically reflective.

Catch Secret American at one of these upcoming shows:

Sep 25 – Milkboy Philly, Philadelphia, PA
Sep 26 – Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC
Sep 27 – The Royal AmericanCharleston, SC
Sep 28 – Primal Brewery, Huntersville, NC
Sep 29 – The Radio Room, Greenville, SC

Connect with Secret American on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

THE LOVEPOOLS – Single Review: “White Lies & Palm Trees”

The Lovepools single art

Though they’re located in Los Angeles, a roughly two-hour drive from my home in the Coachella Valley, it was through my Twitter friend Mark Winder (theretweeter) – who lives in Northern Ireland –  that I learned about indie pop-rock band The Lovepools. Formed in 2017, the undeniably charismatic trio consists of singer-songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Anthony Shea, bassist/vocalist Aria Cruz, and drummer Fabrizio Cavallaro. They call their music “indie rock for hopeless romantics”, and with their melodic, Britpop/shoegazey vibe, not to mention Shea’s vocal style, they do sound like they could be from the UK. Their music also reminds me a bit of Saint Motel, another L.A. band I really like.

The+Love+Pools++(27)

The Lovepools in short order released a couple of EPs, as well as a terrific single “See You In The Funny Papers” that was featured on the Season 9 premiere of the Showtime hit series Shameless. In July 2018, they released their first album The Catch, which included all of their recorded songs up to that point. One of the highlights is the gorgeous “A Dixie Cup to Save You”, but they’re all great songs, and I strongly urge my readers to check them out on one of the music platforms listed at the end of this review.

They returned in August 2019 with their latest single “White Lies & Palm Trees“, a beautiful, dreamy track that the band states is “a departure from their guitar-based indie-rock roots into a new synth-pop sound.” The song was written by Anthony Shea and Taylor Ravenna, and was inspired by Shea’s monotonous experiences living in L.A. (but honestly, I know from my own experience that monotony can occur pretty much everywhere). The track has a sunny, dream pop vibe, thanks to an exuberant, sweeping melody and lush, sparkling synths that offer a hopeful antidote to the numbing monotony expressed in the lyrics. Shea’s upbeat vocals are wonderful, as are the guys’ soaring harmonies in the choruses. It’s a fantastic song, and sure to be a hit for The Lovepools.

Living in a daydream
Dark eyes, eighteen
Trusting everyone you meet

Every day’s the same thing
White lies, Palm trees
Broken hearts on every street

Oh, light up and let yourself go
Oh, go make your way back home

Driving Sunset all night
Stoned eyes, red lights
Kissing ’til the light turns green

Every night’s the same thing
Dark skies, palm trees
Broken glass on every street

Oh, light up and let yourself go
Oh, go make your way back home

Lights upon the hillside
Fade away as you drive by
Time is on your side
Not on your mind
But it’s all you have to live by

The Lovepools are playing a show tonight at Mal’s Bar in Downtown Los Angeles, and another show on Wednesday, October 16th at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s in Hollywood.

Connect with The Lovepools: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Deezer
Purchase: Google PlayiTunes

STONED PIRATES – Album Review: “Flag, Skull and Rock n Roll”

Stoned Pirates album art

Stoned Pirates is the music project of Algerian-born Khaled Sahour, a creative and highly imaginative musician, visual artist and filmmaker. Growing up in a home where he was exposed to lots of music and art, he early on developed a love of rock, pop and disco, and taught himself to play music on a broken two string guitar. He started a band and sung his heart out to young Algerian audiences that seemed to connect very well, but eventually relocated to Los Angeles to further his career in music and film. On August 9th, he released his debut album Flag, Skull and Rock n Roll, which I’m pleased to be reviewing today.

Stoned Pirates’ unusual and eclectic music style comes from a wide array of influences ranging from classic rock acts such as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses, to the funk of Sly & the Family Stone, the dance grooves of Chic and Nile Rodgers, and the soulful pop of Michael Jackson – all spiced with an Algerian flavor. Not only does Khaled write, perform, record and produce all his music, he also creates his own visuals for his Stoned Pirates project. The album was mixed and mastered by Thomas Juth, and opens with “Turmoil (Intro)“, a brief track that sets the tone for the album. With a backdrop of otherworldly industrial synths and a hypnotic beat, Stoned Pirates chants “I’ve been waiting for the wind to blow. I guess it’s time to rock’n’roll.

Next up is “Nothing“, a dark, trippy song about feeling overwhelmed by loneliness and hopelessness, like one is powerless to change the sorry state of things. Stoned Pirates weaves a mesmerizing soundscape out of a fascinating kaleidoscope of synth instruments and exotic sounds. I love the xylophone, spooky keyboards, deep bass and guitar, accompanied by a cool, carnival-like synth riff. Khaled has a quirky vocal style in which he sometimes sings in a baby-like falsetto that I suppose could be off-putting to some, but once I got into his music I found it sort of charming. Using that falsetto, he sings: “Throw me a bone. Hit me with a stone, I just wanna feel something real.” But then, he sings in a deeper, almost menacing tone: “Nothing, absolutely nothing has changed today. Same old, same old sins and heartbreaks coming in new ways.

The surreal video he made for the song shows an astronaut floating aimlessly through dark space along with various objects like an old TV playing static, boxing gloves and pieces of furniture.

One of my favorite tracks is “The Devil in You“, a great kiss-off song to someone who’s deceived and caused hurt. The song has a sensual beat, with jazzy synths, funky bass, swirling guitar and some really terrific sax. Stoned Pirates bitterly sings “I didn’t see fully the devil in you. What are you truly, if not a foe? Don’t come back crying, knocking on my door.” Keeping with a similar theme, “Mr. Nice Guy” addresses someone who keeps taking advantage of a guy whenever she screws up: “If you cry for help, he will come to you. Convenient nice guy is always at your rescue.” Once again, Stoned Pirates employs a rich assortment of sparkling synths, along with a hypnotic dance beat to create a captivating backdrop for his colorful vocals.

On the bittersweet “In Time“, he laments of his regret about having broken up with a lover: “If I could I would go back in time, I would change the way we drew the lines. If I could I would go back in time. I would try harder to change your mind. Love will come to you in time. Just be patient, don’t cry.” The soulful track has a Michael Jackson vibe, featuring deep, sensual synths, highlighted by funky guitar and brass, all set to a strong, hip-swaying beat. The soulful, funky “Rebound” has him calling out someone who’s using him to get over another guy:  “Oh girl, who you think you’re trying to fool? Oh girl, who you think you’re playing here? Cause all the signs are clear. I’m talking about the rebound.”

Stoned Pirates uses a vampire metaphor on “Midnight Lover“, a sexy song about a seductress who preys on men to get what she wants. I love this lyric: “I saw her on the dance floor still trying to get more. Staring at me in the eyes while biting another guy.” Funky grooves abound on “Where I Belong“, another sultry tune with marvelous swirling synths and a beat so damn infectious it had me doing a lap dance in my chair! The aptly-titled album closer “The End” features a sultry Latin beat and jangly guitars drenched in reverb, accompanied by some tasty exuberant horns. Khaled employs his deeper vocals here, as he sings in an almost menacing whisper: “Sit back, relax, nobody is going anywhere. You think the end, but it’s only just the beginning.”

I’ve got to say that Flag, Skull and Rock n Roll is a marvelous album and a very impressive debut from Stoned Pirates. His innovative music is totally original, sounding like no one else I’m aware of. I love how he’s taken an eclectic mix of influences to create his own unique, fascinating sound. His beautiful, seductive melodies, compelling lyrics and use of a wide array of lush instruments and synths make for some really captivating songs that are pure joy to hear.

Connect with Stoned Pirates:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

Top 30 Songs for September 15-21, 2019

1. COMING UP FOR AIR – Mars Motel (2)
2. RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE DEVIL – Revolvers (3)
3. FALLING WITH STYLE – Heist At Five (1)
4. DOIN’ TIME – Lana Del Rey (4)
5. UNDER THE COLD LIGHT OF THE MOON – Crystal Cities (6)
6. 3 NIGHTS – Dominic Fike (7)
7. GO – The Black Keys (8)
8. CRINGE – Matt Maeson (9)
9. SOCIAL CUES – Cage the Elephant (10)
10. WHEN AM I GONNA LOSE YOU – Local Natives (5)
11. THE HYPE – twenty one pilots (11)
12. FOUR WINDS – Unquiet Nights (12)
13. RAGGED TOWN – Second Player Score (13)
14. THIS LIFE – Vampire Weekend (14)
15. HEAT OF THE SUMMER – Young the Giant (17)
16. GOOD THINGS FALL APART – ILLENIUM with Jon Bellion (18)
17. GOODBYES – Post Malone featuring Young Thug (19)
18. BAD GUY – Billie Eilish (15)
19. ALLIGATOR – Of Monsters and Men (16)
20. THE MIDDLE – Agency Panic (21)
21. SECRETS – The Million Reasons (22)
22. WHY DID YOU RUN? – Judah & the Lion (23)
23. DISSOLVE – Absofacto (25)
24. COMPLAINER – Cold War Kids (26)
25. WANNACRY – Darksoft (27)
26. UNDER THESE SCARS – Falling Into Red featuring Dev (28)
27. BROTHERS – Harroland (20)
28. LOVER – Taylor Swift (29)
29. DESERVING OF LOVE – Lyia Meta (30)
30. I SEE YOU – MISSIO (24)

EML’s Favorite Songs – EDDIE MONEY: “Take Me Home Tonight”

EDDIE MONEY AT TOY FAIR TO PROMOTE THE ALEKEN GAMES, NEW YORK, AMERICA - 14 FEB 2006
Photo by Dave Allocca/Starpix/Shutterstock (5633649d)

I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Eddie Money yesterday from a heart attack at the age of 70. He’d recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer, but his death was apparently related to complications from heart valve surgery a few months ago. He was a great artist who had a long career with its ups and downs, but I’m safe in saying he was beloved by many. I have a special fondness for him because he actually followed me on Twitter! Money had a string of hits, beginning with “Baby Hold On” in 1978, but my favorite of all his songs was “Take Me Home Tonight“. I loved it from the first moment I heard it, and it remains one of my favorite songs of the 80s.

Born Edward Mahoney in Brooklyn, New York, Money started out as a police offer for the NYPD. He relocated to Berkeley, California in the late 60s, where he began his music career performing in Bay Area clubs. In 1976, he met Bill Graham, then a major music impresario and concert promoter in San Francisco who would eventually become his manager. Money landed his first record deal with Columbia Records, who released his debut self-titled album Eddie Money in 1977. The album generated his first two big hits “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise”, both of which charted in 1978. Later that year, he released his follow up album Life For the Taking. The album did not perform quite as well, but it did produce one modest hit “Maybe I’m A Fool”, which is among my favorites of his songs.

Beginning in the late 70s and continuing on and off for many years, Money struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, including a 1981 incident in which he nearly died from an overdose of fentanyl. Still, he turned out some great work, most notably his albums No Control in 1982 and his 1986 comeback album of sorts Can’t Hold Back, which featured what would turn out to be his biggest hit – “Take Me Home Tonight”. His 1988 release Nothing to Lose was also very good, producing another of his greatest songs “Walk On Water”.

“Take Me Home Tonight” is a sexy, exhilarating song that’s brilliant on so many levels. Not only is it a spectacular pop-rock song from a musical standpoint, the lyrics are powerful and raw, and Money never sounded better. But perhaps the greatest thing about the song is the added performance by the legendary Ronnie Spector, who samples her 1963 Ronettes hit “Be My Baby”, taking the song into the sonic stratosphere.

From the moment we first hear those dramatic strings,  guitar licks and pounding drumbeats, the song hooks us in and never lets go. As Money begins to croon with a palpable sexual urgency, the music expands with more guitar, bass, heavier drumbeats and aggressive tinkling piano keys. When Ronnie Spector finally enters with “Be my little baby”, the sexual tension between her and Money is positively electrifying. The music continues to build to a crescendo with a wailing sax riff, and I’m covered from head to toe with goosebumps! “Take Me Home Tonight” is a masterpiece, and a classic for the ages.

I feel a hunger, it’s a hunger that tries to keep a man awake at night
Are you the answer? I shouldn’t wonder when I feel you whet my appetite
With all the power you’re releasing
It isn’t safe to walk the city streets alone
Anticipation is running through me
Let’s find the key and turn this engine on

I can feel you breathe
I can feel your heart beat faster, faster, oh
Take me home tonight
I don’t want to let you go till you see the light
Take me home tonight
Listen honey just like Ronnie sang: “Be my little baby”

I get frightened in all this darkness
I get nightmares I hate to sleep alone
I need some company
A guardian angel to keep me warm when the cold winds blow

I can feel you breathe
I can feel your heart beat faster, faster, oh

Take me home tonight
I don’t want to let you go till you see the light
Take me home tonight
Listen honey just like Ronnie sang:
“Be my little baby Be my little baby”

Just like Ronnie sang, I said just like Ronnie sang:
“Be my little baby, baby my darling. Oh oh oh oh oh”
I feel a hunger it’s a hunger

Take me home tonight
I don’t want to let you go till you see the light
Take me home tonight
Listen honey just like Ronnie sang: “Be my little baby”
Take me home tonight
I don’t want to let you go till you see the light
Take me home tonight
Listen honey just like Ronnie sang: “Be my little baby
Oh be my darling, oh oh oh oh

MORGENDUST – EP Review: “Storm Will Come”

Morgendust

So music for old people? No fucking way!” So say Dutch indie rock band Morgendust, who with an average age of 46 are “the perfect age to start a band. Musically skilled, no more stagefright and enough experience in life to tell a story.” Formed just a year ago and based in Zwolle, Netherlands, Morgendust consists of Marco de Haan (lead vocals, guitars), Ron van Kruistum (guitars, backing vocals), Iwan Blokzijl (keyboards, backing vocals), Dario Pozderski (bass, backing vocals) and Job Noordmans (drums & percussion). Their sound is influenced by 80s acts they grew up with like Talk Talk, Duran Duran, Pink Floyd, Tears for Fears and Peter Gabriel, as well as more current acts like Radiohead, Editors and Elbow.

All are seasoned musicians, having previously played in bands like Soulstar, City Jam & Band of Glory, and professionally as hired guns in the commercial music industry. Their music has a maturity and worldliness that comes from having lived on this earth for a while and experiencing the joys and pains of life, love and relationships. Through their intelligent, thoughtful lyrics, they tell stories that everyone can relate to, whether you’re 20 or 60, and bring them to life with exquisite rock melodies and lush, stunning instrumentation. They’ve just released their debut EP Storm Will Come, and it’s a beauty.

The EP opens with the title track “Storm Will Come“, a gorgeous and powerful anthem inspired by the “butterfly effect” – that small causes may have larger effects. And right away it’s clear that these guys are phenomenal musicians, as all the instruments are played to absolute perfection. The vibrant guitars, deep bass line, resounding percussion, and sweeping keyboard synths are all magnificent, and de Haan’s soaring vocals bring goosebumps as he passionately sings We’re waiting for the truth to land in everyone. And when it’s said and done, a butterfly relocates…and a storm will come.”

Anything” is even more beautiful, with sparkling synths, lovely piano and sublime guitars. de Haan’s vocals are deeply moving as he plaintively sings of the selfishness and cruelty of some people who enter our lives, fuck us over, then leave: “My head spins round from all these circular themes. Ones who come, disappear, leave you anything but stone cold and longing for more.” The backing vocal harmonies are especially nice, and I love how the music builds to a powerful crescendo in the chorus, making for a dramatic finish to a fantastic song.

Kind of Blues” really channels the 80s with its fast-paced, driving rhythms and swirling, new wave-flavored synths. The lyrics speak to coming to the sobering realization that perhaps your life hasn’t turned out they way you’d dreamed: “So, we never had a plan. Never thought we‘d lose to this kind of blues. So, when we were young we had a life or two to choose.  Just romantic fools.”

Keeping with that general theme, “Nameless” seems to address how we dream and have expectations and desires, then with the passage of time and how our lives unfold, look back with regret on our mistakes and misfortune: “My truth is what’s behind me. All the rest we cannot know./ You need a name to function. To live you need a dream./ I have hurt myself far too long.” I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but once again I’m blown away by the incredible beauty and power of this poignant song.

Love Lost (Again)” is a bittersweet song that touches on the pain of longing for the return of a lost love: “You’re my heart’s desire. You’re my sun and rain. You’re the ocean waves, please come back again. Love lost again. I can’t win.” The lovely piano keys and haunting guitar chords are highlights here, as are de Haan’s emotion-filled vocals. And speaking of bittersweet, the final track “Allright” really hits us in the feels. It has a darker vibe, thanks to deep, pulsating bass, reverb-heavy guitars and throbbing industrial synths, but there’s also beauty present in the form of delicate keyboard and jangly guitar notes. de Haan’s plaintively laments about the futility of trying to project a happy demeanor when their relationship is falling apart: “I dream all day and cry all night, ’cause we pretend – no we demand – it’s allright.”

Folks, this is a truly stunning EP. Every single track on Storm Will Come is spectacularly beautiful, so much so that it’s impossible for me to pick a standout or favorite. Morgendust are an amazing group of super-talented musicians who collectively create musical magic.

Connect with Morgendust:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play 

New Song of the Week: MARS MOTEL – “My House is About to Fall Apart”

Brooklyn, New York-based Mars Motel make some of the best alternative dream rock of any band around today, and are having quite a busy and successful year. In May, they released the stunning “Coming Up For Air”, the first single from their forthcoming album Passenger X, due out later this year. I reviewed that song, which has spent the past three months and counting on my Weekly Top 30. Two months later they released a second single “D’Ya Wanna Get Lost With Me?”, and recently played a triumphant show at the Bowery Ballroom in Lower Manhattan. They now return with their third single “My House is About to Fall Apart“, which I’ve selected as my New Song of the Week.

Formed in 2017 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Sarik Kumar, Mars Motel also includes Wes Wynne (Guitar), Justin Lieberthal (Bass) and Craig Stauber (Drums). Their beautiful music melds a dreamy 90s Brit-pop vibe with an immersive, guitar-driven wall of sound influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and The War on Drugs, and I love it!

Kumar explains that “My House is About to Fall Apart” is about a relationship on the brink of failure, but could also apply to the world as well – “that strange moment when you know it’s going to collapse, but you are still on the ride down.” Musically, the song has a languorous tempo, highlighted by shimmering synths and gorgeous layers of jangly and chiming guitars that create a lush, dreamy soundscape. The subtle bass and thumping drumbeats, accentuated with lots of crashing cymbals in the dramatic chorus, keep the perfect rhythm moving forward. Kumar’s lovely and powerful vocals beautifully convey a sense of sad resignation as he plaintively sings “I need to find a peace of mind I’ve lost. It’s deep inside, buried inside I know. My house is about to fall apart.”

Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

EML’s Favorite Songs – THE BROTHERS JOHNSON: “Strawberry Letter 23”

Strawberry Letter 23

One of my favorite songs from the 1970s, or of all time for that matter, is “Strawberry Letter 23” from R&B/funk band The Brothers Johnson. It was one of the defining songs of my summer of 1977, when I spent two glorious months in Portland, Oregon before starting college. The track was written by the brilliant singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis in 1971, whose own original version was featured on his album Freedom Flight.

It’s a romantic song with a dreamy, almost mystical vibe, thanks to the whimsical lyrics and his use of chiming guitars, xylophone, calliope and other sparkling synth instrumental sounds. For their recording of the song, which was masterfully produced by the legendary Quincy Jones, The Brothers Johnson embellished on all those lovely instruments and added their own funky guitar, bass, beats and smooth vocal harmonies, along with a dreamy backing vocal chorus. The result was a gorgeous and captivating track that took the song to the next level.

The song was included on their 1977 album Right On Time, and reached #1 on the Billboard R&B Chart and #5 on the Hot 100. It’s been featured in several films and TV shows, including Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Six Feet Under and Nip/Tuck. Otis’ version was featured in the film Munich.

I’d originally wondered why the song was titled “Strawberry Letter 23” when the lyrics speak of “Strawberry Letter 22” instead. The reason is that Otis intended for the song to be about a couple exchanging love letters in the form of songs. The singer is creating “Strawberry Letter 23” as a reply to the “Strawberry Letter 22” song he received from his lover and refers to in the song.

Hello my love, I heard a kiss from you
Red magic satin playing near, too
All through the morning rain I gaze, the sun doesn’t shine
Rainbows and waterfalls run through my mind
In the garden, I see
West purple shower bells and tea
Orange birds and river cousins dressed in green

Pretty music, I hear
So happy and loud
Blue flowers echo from a cherry cloud
Feel sunshine sparkle pink and blue
Playgrounds will laugh
If you try to ask “Is it cool? Is it cool?”
If you arrive and don’t see me
I’m going to be with my baby
I am free, flying in her arms
Over the sea

Stained window, yellow candy screen
See speakers of kite
With velvet roses diggin’ freedom flight
A present from you
Strawberry letter 22
The music plays I sit in for a few

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

For comparison, here’s the original version by Shuggie Otis:

GENRE-DEFYING AFICIONADOS, GET READY FOR SIFTING!

Check out this great article and interview of L.A.-based progressive metal/rock band Sifting by Michelle of The Symphony of Rock music blog.

THE SYMPHONY OF ROCK

SIFTING

BY: MICHELLE PEREZ-VEGA

Sifting is cocked and loaded to release its next opus, The Infinite Loop, and it is a guaranteed metal and rock barrage of all the eclectic and best musical elements the band has put forth.

Now based in the Los Angeles area, Sifting was originally
formed in Caracas, Venezuela in 2010 by vocalist/guitarist Eduardo Osuna Gil. According
to the band’s biography, Osuna Gil began writing original material as a coping
mechanism when his mother and grandmother were tragically killed in a plane
crash. Osuna Gil eventually gathered local friends to form a band and began
performing live. Gaining popularity, Sifting opened for Bullet For My Valentine
for the band’s Latin American Tour in 2011 and released its debut album, All the Hated in late 2013.

After moving to the United States in 2014, Sifting released a three-song EP, Blurry Paintings. Another album, Not From…

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