BLACK | LAKES – Single Review: “The Divide”

I’m back in the UK, this time to shine my spotlight on the band BLACK | LAKES, who just released their phenomenal debut single “The Divide.” The band is comprised of five members who hail from South Wales and Southwest England, including Will S. Preston (lead vocals), Scott Bradshaw (guitar, backing vocals), James Rowlands (guitar, backing vocals), Lee Harris (bass) and Dafydd Fuller (drums). Influenced by too many bands to name, they play an electrifying and melodic style of progressive alternative metal rock.

Black Lakes Promo 2

The single is the title track from their EP The Divide, which was produced and mastered by Romesh Dodangoda at Longwave Studios, and premiered along with a review on Down the Front Media, which you can read here. As the band explained in that post, “The Divide” is “about rejecting the predetermined path laid out in front of you by mainstream society. It’s about demanding your individuality in a world hell bent on making you the same.” The article’s author Claire Hill goes on to say: “Based on the band’s collective personal experience and persistent, bitter disappointment at being let down by those holding positions of power and authority, ‘The Divide’ is a pretty good assessment of what a lot of people feel about what is happening in society today.”

The song starts off with a delicate synth chord, then blasts open with a cascade of gnarly and wailing guitars, mammoth bass, and thunderous drums. As the song progresses, layers of jangly and distorted guitars are added to the already dynamic mix, propelling the track into the sonic stratosphere.  Will’s gorgeous vocals are filled with passion as he fervently sings the powerful lyrics, soaring to intense heights in the choruses that spread chills up and down our spines: “One by one we fall in line with docile obedience. In lies we trust, stand in line justified you’re one of us. Father forgive them for the lives they have stolen. Further we are taken down the paths they have chosen. One more time.”

It’s a monumental track, and as close to perfect as any rock song I’ve heard lately. The brilliant video was created by Yuvraj Imaginaria. Check it out:

Connect with Black | Lakes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream on  Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

Top 30 Songs for October 14-20, 2018

1. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (2)
2. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (1)
3. GHOST – Badflower (5)
4. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (3)
5. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (4)
6. NINA CRIED POWER – Hozier featuring Mavis Staples (10)
7. BETTER NOW – Post Malone (6)
8. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (7)
9. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (8)
10. CITY LOOKS PRETTY – Courtney Barnett (12)
11. PANIC – Agency Panic (13)
12. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (9)
13. TIDAL WAVE – Portugal.The Man (14)
14. BODY TALKS – The Struts (15)
15. SHE’S KEROSENE – The Interrupters (16)
16. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (11)
17. IN MY MIND – Draft Evader (19)
18. LOADING ZONES – Kurt Vile (20)
19. UH HUH – Jade Bird (25)
20. HAPPIER – Marshmello featuring Bastille (26)
21. MY BLOOD – twenty one pilots (27)
22. SHAME – Elle King (28)
23. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (17)
24. SUPERWOMAN SWAY – Brett Vogel (24)
25. GUIDING LIGHT – Mumford & Sons (29)
26. CRAZY – From Ashes to New (18)
27. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (21)
28. UNREALITIES – Dying Habit (30)
29. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Childish Gambino (23)
30. YOU’RE SOMEBODY ELSE – flora cash (N)

LOST IN THE CITY – Album Review: “Leaving Home”

Lost in the City Leaving Home art

More than two years ago, in June 2016, Kansas City, Missouri alternative rock band Lost in the City released their superb debut album Genesis. It’s a monumental work, with powerful, thoughtfully-written lyrics addressing the familiar subjects of love, relationships and break-ups, but also the travails of touring, anxiety and depression, delivered with blistering guitar riffs, thunderous drums and passionate vocals. (You can read my review of Genesis here.)  Later that year, in the fall of 2016, they began writing songs for their new album Leaving Home, which drops today, October 12. Two years in the making, Leaving Home reflects the band’s growth and maturity, and the many life changes individual band members experienced, including graduating from college, changing jobs, relationships, and literally leaving home by moving out of their parents’ house for the first time.

Lost in the City band pic

Lost in the City is Shane Radford (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keys, Synths), Dustin Proctor (Guitar), Cullan Wiley (Bass) and Kyle Constant (Drums).  For Leaving Home, Bret Liber, who’s also a musician in his own right, with the rock band Young Medicine, played keyboards in addition to recording, mixing and mastering the album tracks.

The album opens with “The Battle of Schrute Farms,” arriving in a barrage of raging guitars, humming bass and hammering drumbeats. Shane is joined by Jordan Rebman on vocals, and together, they’re an emotional powerhouse as they belt out the biting lyrics about cowardice in a relationship: “I’m forgetting the way you play, but I don’t regret anything. You’ll move on and so will the sun. Just take me for granted. Despite your efforts, you can’t take this from me.” At least that’s my take on it after Googling the song’s title, and finding this definition: “Thought by many to be the Northernmost battle of the American Civil War, The Battle of Schrute farms was instead a code name for the refuge for cowards escaping the the drudgery and conflict of war.”

From the Floor of an Attic in Portland” is an interesting song, with unusual chord progressions and instrumentation. Loud, fuzzy guitars, buzzing bass, piercing synths and complex percussion are dominant musical elements on this arresting track. Shane almost screams the hopeful lyrics “Tonight is the night to save a life. And I do believe that we all can change.” The soaring vocal harmonies in the chorus are wonderful, and I love the delicate piano riff in the outro.

As I continue listening to the album, one of the things that stands out is the sheer power and exuberance of the song arrangements, instrumentals and vocals. “Daylight” essentially captures the essence of the album – that embracing the inevitable changes that come our way is the key to surviving this thing called life.  The jagged guitar riffs and thunderous percussion are a perfect match for the uplifting lyrics: “The biggest decisions, I’ve made without a plan. Growth is the key to finding your purpose. I feel like I’m wandering away from old notions. / Everything looks better in the daylight. I’m taking time to forget what I’m seeing. My life’s been changing for some time now.”  The heartwarming video shows intimate scenes of the band just being themselves, playing, rehearsing and performing.

You Stopped This Train” is a hard-hitting melodic rock song about someone who’s chosen to abandon a relationship the singer believed was strong and lasting. Musically, the track features Shane and Dustin’s gritty, shredded guitars and Kyle’s furious drums, all anchored by Cullan’s powerful bass. The screaming guitars at the end of the track are fantastic, and perfectly convey the pain Shane expresses in his wailing vocals “You stopped this train when everything was going great. You walked away as you let it all fall apart.

With a barrage of jagged riffs and sweeping piano-driven synths, “Bangarang!” seems to call out the futility of war and conflict: “The tales of war aren’t exaggerated. The infighting ranks fall away./ Revenge should be used in no situation. It brings no change, just cold isolation.” The raucous “Into the Dark” features tortured riffs of gritty, distorted guitars and industrial-strength drums pounding out an exhilarating beat. Shane fervently sings of an optimistic light at the end of the tunnel: “No matter the changes, we’ll push through. Lifting our heads as we move on by. We don’t have time to doubt. Time will tell if we made it.” This optimistic outlook continues with “The Light Inside My Head,” as Shane sings of moving forward and not letting past mistakes hold you back: “I’m taking time to take note of where I am. Progress is progress, no matter how hard. I’m holding my future in my own hands, Bright sides are a brand new cycle.

One of my favorite tracks is “Metro Apartments,” with its haunting melody and grandiose instrumentals. Bret Liber’s guest vocals nicely complement Shane’s, and I love their vocal harmonies in the chorus. The lush, sweeping synths, thunderous drums and shredded guitars are positively spine-tingling. “The Upside Down” is a 48-second long interlude with dramatic piano-driven synths, and Shane’s repeated line “I’m sorry I grew up. I’m sorry I failed.” The brief track serves as an intro to the final track “Monsters Are(n’t) Real Pt. 2,” which is actually a continuation of the final track on their first album Genesis, “Monsters Are(n’t) Real.”  It’s a very dark and hard-hitting song, with piercing, tortured synths, raging guitars and furious drums that seem to grab us by the throat. All the optimism expressed in many of the previous tracks has been replaced with a overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair, resulting from a realization that the world is in fact a very bad place, and our futures are bleak (sort of how I’m feeling under our current presidential administration and Congress).

The world is worse than I thought it would be.
Filled with hope, I ran to the sea.
A sea of wanderers? Who could they be?
Filled with anger, who are we?

I’m sorry I grew up. I’m sorry I failed.
The monsters in our heads are so very real.
The doubts that fill us are the truth.
We’re just expendable pieces of youth.
War cries are louder than we need.
We take time to be free and see.

I’m sorry I grew up. I’m sorry I failed.
The monsters in our heads are so very real.
The sky is filled with dashed hopes and dreams.
“If you work hard, you’ll be whatever you want to be.”
We all know the truth as we march along.
We’re a piece of the puzzle, alone not strong.

It’s interesting that Lost in the City would choose to end their album on such a somber note. Nevertheless, Leaving Home is a brilliant and provocative work – a coming-of-age of sorts for this talented and thoughtful group of guys. Their songwriting and musicianship is outstanding, and I’m happy to watch them grow and mature as a band.

Connect with Lost in the City: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

THE UNDERGROUND VAULT – EP Review: “In the Water”

Underground Vault EP

Today I have the pleasure of introducing The Underground Vault, a fine rock band from London, England. They play a bluesy style of rock that’s hard and raw, with a bit of an old-school late 60s-early 70s vibe that calls to my mind such greats as Eric Clapton, Deep Purple and Ten Years After. Following up on the success of their 2017 debut EP Dawnbreaker, on September 15 they dropped their second EP In the Water, delivering six hard-driving tracks that solidify their status as a band on the rise. Making the noise are Blair Dollery on lead guitar & vocals, Jamie Dove on guitar, Pete Sadler on bass, and Dan Young on drums.

Underground Vault2

The EP opens strong with hammering drums and gnarly riffs announcing the arrival of “Colt.” Dollery snarls the dark lyrics warning an apparently very bad person that their days are numbered: “Got this gun in my hand. Gonna shoot you as fast as I can.” I’m not sure whether it’s Dollery, Dove or both who play the blistering riffs in the finale, but they’re fantastic. The guys rock and roll on “Everymans Fantasy,” a rousing song about a woman who’s driving him crazy with desire: “You’re in my dreams. I’m on my knees. You’re everyman’s fantasy.”

The band really settles into their groove by the third track “In the City.” This tune rocks the hell out, with an arresting melody that hooks us in from the get-go. Dollery and Dove set the airwaves aflame with scorching riffs of gnashing and wailing guitars, while Sadler’s humming bass and Young’s pounding drumbeats keeps things grounded. Dollery’s raw, passionate vocals at times are as fierce as the wailing guitars, raising goosebumps. “Heal the Wounds” delivers more hard-driving melodic rock with fuzzy riffs and lots of soaring vocal harmonies.

All the frustrations and angst seem to reach the boiling point on the hard-rocking “Love is Hate.” With exasperation in his voice, Dollery shouts the lyrics: “Going out, going out tonight. Getting drunk. Gonna have a fight. God you are getting on my nerves. It’s the end, it’s the end I suppose. Love is hate. Love is freedom. Love is hate. Keeps us human.” The fast-paced guitar work, deep bass and pummeling drums on this track are really terrific.

The guys save the best for last with the standout title track “In the Water” a beautiful song that’s also my favorite on the EP.  It starts off with a more relaxed cadence than the other tracks, with layers of gorgeous multi-textured guitars floating above a solid buzzing bass line, and accompanied by a military-type drumbeat. Dollery’s vocals are heartfelt as he sings about loss, possibly of a relationship that’s broken beyond repair: “Reach for the sky. Truth can not lie. All our dreams will be dead in the water. Drifting at sea, only you, only me. All our dreams will be dead in the water.” A little more than halfway into the track, the pace quickens, cymbals crash and guitars wail for about a minute, then everything slows back down for a while before cranking back up for a dramatic finish. It’s an epic song, and a perfect ending to a stellar EP.

 

Connect with The Underground Vault:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

VOX EAGLE – Interview & Album Review: “TriumAvium”

Vox Eagle2

Electro-psych pop music project Vox Eagle burst onto the music scene in 2017 with their infectious dance-pop EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. Previously comprised of Australian-born Andy Crosby and American Luke Hamel, Vox Eagle is now essentially Andy’s solo project (along with occasional collaborations with other musicians). Wanting an escape from the distractions and noise of Manhattan, in 2017 Andy made another life-changing move along with his new wife, this time to the Colorado Rockies. They purchased a piece of land with a cabin at 9,000 feet above sea level, and Andy quickly got to work building his own recording studio, which he dubbed “The Eagles Nest.” The pristine surroundings and new found freedom greatly expanded his creative energy, inspiring him to experiment with fresh sounds and take his music into exciting new directions. The result of all this is his brilliant genre-bending new album TriumAvium, which officially drops October 9th.

Vox Eagle album art

I’m chomping at the bit to talk about the album, but before getting into my review, I’ll share the recent insightful conversation I had with Andy about his career, life changes and the album. And now’s a good time to make special mention of the brilliant album art, which pays homage to Andy’s move from Manhattan to the mountains. The Manhattan skyline is shown upside down along the top edge of the cover, and a forest scene covers the bottom half, with a mountain-shaped outline intersecting its mirror image in the center.

EML:  Hi Andy, thanks for wanting to talk with me about your new album TriumAvium, which I absolutely love! First off, what’s the meaning behind the album title? I googled the words and found that trium is Latin for three, and avium is a solitary or lonely place. Am I close?

AC:  Hey Jeff, firstly thanks for checking out the album and doing the interview. Greatly appreciated as I know you’re getting drowned in submissions and new music these days with the writings of Eclectic Music Lover. Yes you were close with the title. Trium Avium is about a remote wilderness, perhaps with reference to my own new found remote wilderness in the Arapahoe Forest of Colorado. The Trium grew from my obsessions over the number three when writing and mixing the record and meditating on various frequencies and it just came out of that. It is Latin in origin.

EML:  You are Australian, and relocated to the U.S. in, when, the late-2000s? You settled in New York, and Luke lived in Los Angeles, but you guys would meet in various locations around the country to record songs for what would become your terrific debut EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. Eventually, you settled in the Colorado Rockies, where you built your own recording studio. What made you decide to settle in a such a beautiful but remote location?

AC:  I moved out here from Australia in mid 2012 after finishing a record with The Cracks and having a label deal gone wrong with the death of our A&R guy at the time. I was kinda in musical purgatory at the time so set my sites on the musical mecca of the United States.

I moved to Brooklyn, had a studio in Greenpoint, then lived in Manhattan for 6 years hunting down new sounds and production/mixing techniques. Luke always lived out in California. We had toured the East and West coast together in another band in 2014 (The Canyon Rays) so I got him in to do the Flamingo EP. I think Luke is a great writer/producer in his own right, however, in terms of work ethic and chemistry it was just never really there between us so we parted ways halfway through Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. The whole idea of VoxEagle in the beginning was to collaborate with various artists whilst settling into my new home in the USA. When I’m focusing on a project I need to immerse myself in 100% and that was impossible for us to do on separate coasts.

I decided to move out to the Colorado Rockies with my wife Paige, as we had just got some rescue puppies Prince and Charlie, and they needed space to run around bigger than our Manhattan studio apartment that was being torn up by Prince. So we ditched the concrete grind and decided to head for the Rockies, as we both had spent significant time there during college. We left NYC and got married in 2017 in Colorado, and settled in the little town of Evergreen on the top of Black Mountain where we border the Arapahoe state forest that’s just magical. We bought a piece of land at 9,000 feet above sea level so its real high up, with a cabin and a shed. I spent 3 months building the recording studio called ‘The Eagles Nest’. It has a 48-Channel Oram Analogue Console at the command and then I have a chain of guitars, drums, samplers, synthesizers, effects and outboard gear running through a sea of madness. We moved out for the space and it just magic out here, and less distractions than Manhattan. My studio in Manhattan was on 57th St. above the Late Show where Dave Letterman was in Times Square, so it’s a totally different vibe now. 9,000 feet above the clouds. It’s a totally different trip, which leads into the next question.

VoxEagle Studio 2

EML:  Flamingo Paradiso featured songs that were primarily electro-psych dance-pop, but many of the songs on TriumAvium have a more edgy, urban vibe, with quite a bit of hip-hop. I find that interesting, given the rural mountain-forest environment you now reside in. Where did the inspiration for the new songs come from?

AC:  I just wanted to do something completely new for this record. I could have easily spat out Flamingo 2; it’s sitting in a folder on the hard drive, however I just wanted to open the sound up a little more and give it a bit more breathing space. I wanted to make something completely new but also something people could go nuts to at a club gig or festival. Everyone out here is doing Americana, Jam band, folk or indie rock so I wanted to do something that was different to what everyone else was doing. I also wanted to learn a new talent and teach myself how to freestyle. I wanted to be able to battle anyone of any caliber.

So I spent several months (hard to say how many) testing various psychedelics in my garage basement learning to sing in freestyle by surrounding myself with white boards and vision boards hanging from the ceiling, with classic Nicolas Cage films rolling in the background and learning to rhyme from walking round the room with words and pictures everywhere and then getting ideas on whiteboards and reworking them. I also recorded most of those days/nights/session, so have loads of tape reels and hard drives I need to sift through some day… I was kind of all-out madness, but I think it worked.

If steve jobs was peering down the rabbit whole, this was more like burrowing out the warren, hanging some picture frames & getting a nice comfy sofa to call place home for a while.

I worked on TriumAvium when I was building the studio as well, so there are some recordings from all over the place that have made their way onto the record, or will be coming out soon in other material I am going to be releasing over the coming months. Some of it’s a bit more on the electro-psych/dance side. I’ve also been playing with some local Colorado musicians like guitarist Aaron Dixon to get the live show ready, so it’s all systems go at the moment. Firing up the engines. I have another 20 songs ready to go that were off cuts from this record, so am just compiling them into EPs at the moment and deciding what to release next.

EML:  One of my favorite tracks is the mesmerizing instrumental “Let’s Go Back – The Ballad of Randy Eagle in F#minor.” Given the song has no lyrics other than some chanting, what’s the significance of its title? 

AC:   “Lets Go Back – The Ballad of Randy Eagle in F# Minor” is a song about reminiscing and moving forward. Its about a race car driver recovering from a crash and getting back behind the wheel to race. My friends always called me Randy when I’d get out of control so that’s how it got to Randy Eagle. It’s kind of an alter ego I created. He’s a race car driver that’s a total dick and everyone hates, but he never gives up. As you may notice there’s a heavy racing theme that carries out through the album.

EML:  I also like the re-interpretation of “No Sleep” from the EP that’s now “No Sleep No Sleep” on the new album. Any story behind that one, or just having fun with a remix?

AC:  I wanted to have something from the original EP on this record as a nod, but was finding it really hard to get one of the old tracks to sit in with all the flow of this record. So I did a more upbeat version of “No Sleep” and played it to Aaron Dixon, and he was really vibing on it so we got his guitars down on the chorus and it was done. We kept it super simple. One vocal take, one bass line, so it was a very different approach to the original which was really a lot larger in production, like 6 Harmony per chorus, etc. So on this whole record I was really more jammin out with loop pedals, 808s, pianos synths. Everything on this record we can do 100% live with every part, so super pumped to get out and play it. I think our first show is in Arizona for MesaFestival on Saturday November 10th, so we’re super pumped to try the new stuff live and jam out the old stuff.

EML: I read on the website PopDust that you’ve landed deals with VW, Jim Beam, Toyota, Smirnoff, and Coca Cola, along with music production for Sony, Disney, and Universal. How did you manage to score those deals? Did those companies use your songs in their ads, or did you write new music for them?

AC:  Yes, I have been really fortunate to have a bunch of my songs licensed in TV, commercials and movies along the way. It definitely keeps the ship sailing, and helped me invest in some really awesome recording gear along the way. A lot of the projects have been solo specifically working with music supervisors, producers or directors to do a custom score or song. Sometimes a director/producer hears a tune previously recorded or in the works, and just has to have it in the film. So the dice can roll any way really, as long as you’re constantly working and connecting with people in the industry.

I’ve also been in a few other bands and projects – Soundcasino and The Cracks – and I write with a bunch of artists and still connect with those projects from time to time. My main focus now though is VoxEagle and smashing out a big live show this year. Am really stoked on those projects and happy to have been part of them and still create music with most of them, just have been taking a hiatus from everything else over the past year to focus on developing the new sound with VoxEagle, and trying to do something new and unique as an artist.

EML:  Since you and Luke have parted ways, is Vox Eagle basically you going forward, along with some collaborations like you did with Pierre Fontaine on the marvelous track “Wander”?

AC:  VoxEagle has always been my connection and collaborations with various artists across the US since I moved over here and now call it home. I’ve always enjoyed collaborating with new artists to get a new energy and vibe, and create something that’s unique and different. I bring some styles and flavors from my musical upbringings in Australia and can share that energy with a rapper from Brooklyn and create something totally unique.

For touring and playing live I use a bunch of loop pedals connected to my synths, drums and vocals so I can do the whole live show solo if I have to. I like sharing the stage with others though, so have got Aaron Dixon doing a bunch of live shows with me and have done a bunch of collaborations this year, my favorite of which has been “Wander” with Pierre Fontaine.

I heard Pierre Fontaine’s material through another artist I work with, Eman, and was blown away. We hung out and have since worked on a few tunes and beats together. He’s a really impressive writer, and his lyrics are always on point. He’s just one of those guys who has put the time in and knows every corner of the industry. He writes, sings, raps, plays killer drums, and he inspires an army of youngsters under him. He has a label FreshMind with a tonne of incredible artists on it so definitely check ’em out. Anyways, he’s a super impressive guy and I wanted him on a track, and then he heard me making the “Wander” beat on an Instagram story I put up and was like yoooo I want in on that! So I had kinda freestyled a melody and a rough first verse, sent it to him and then the whole thing was done super fast.

The whole record is kinda built around that track. I was so hyped on that song I was like its gotta be on the record, its gotta be on the record!! So it became the song that the whole record is built around. I must have scrapped 20-odd other tunes that were pumping coz “Wander” had to be on the record. That’s maybe why its such an eclectic record which I know scares a lot of people.

It goes from Electro to Dub, to Hip Hop to Indie psych to Rock, its like WTF. But at the end of the day it works for me and that was all I gave a shit about. Making a record I was happy with that was unique. It was the first record I have mixed, produced, engineered, and done everything solo for. It was a lot to take on for a first record doing all those things.. Maybe too much.. But fuck it, I like it, I learnt a tonne and have a swag of tunes ready to go with the studio now fully built and recording new material everyday and night. It’s all growing and building as an artist and I feel I now have a level of control over my material I have never had before through mixing and producing everything in-house.

The responsibility is all on me now, but better than having too many cooks and all that, which is what I felt on Flamingo. Must have had six different dudes mixing it, files everywhere… just an expensive nightmare coz Luke was never happy with the mixes.

The first incarnation of VoxEagle, before I’d even met Luke, had my friend Terence Conor on the drums. One night, October 1st 2012, after a rehearsal jam/recording session in Green Point we went to the Lucky Dog in Brooklyn for a few drinks to wind down. I tried to convince Terence to come back to our place as he usually did to chill and play some tunes, however he decided to ride his bike back to Bushwick, as he had an exam the next day. That was the last time I saw him, as he was tragically killed in a hit and run whilst cycling home down Metropolitan Avenue that night. I found out the next morning when my buddy Harald rang and was crushed to pieces. I am always thinking of him on this journey as he was such a talent on drums and in energy, and that needs to be carried forward. So VoxEagle is a musical energy; I hate to call it a band or whatnot. Its vibe I suppose is with me at the helm. Its just gotta have big melodies and be real energetic and vibey. Its ups and downs, highs and lows but a consistent, persistent energy that is going to get the crowd going at any gig. For 2018 its me Andy Crosby, and Aaron Dixon on guitars, heading out on the road. We got some vintage racing suits on ebay, so its gonna be wild. So hope to catch you somewhere for a show Jeff!

EML:  I would love to see you perform live! Anything else you’d like to add that I neglected to ask about?

AC:  I think we covered it all. Thanks for your time Jeff, love the blog and writings of the EclecticMusicLover. Look forward to chatting again soon.

EML: Thanks again Andy!

VoxEagle_Studio 1

Okay, let’s get to the music! The album kicks off with the sultry dance track “Stay A While,” instantly hooking us in with a throbbing deep-bass driven beat and dangerously sexy synths. Andy croons “Won’t you stay a while. Play those games a while. Imaginate a while. Fall over here,” and who could possibly resist? The track is a mere 2:11 minutes long, but man is it scorching hot!

As the next track “Wander” unfolds, it’s immediately clear Andy has somehow captured the magic of the forest surrounding his studio and transferred it into this enthralling song. The sparkling piano, xylophone and string synths are gorgeous, and paired with the dope hip hop beat, it all makes for a captivating soundscape. Andy freestyles about how communication has broken down in his relationship, his vocals going from sultry to falsetto as he sings: “We don’t talk no more, baby girl, we just wander.” Pierre Fontaine’s smooth rap vocals take over for the last third of the track, adding another element of texture to this marvelous number. It’s my favorite track on TriumAvium, and I can fully understand why Andy wanted to build the rest of the album around it.

Race Fever” is a great example of how Vox Eagle melds genres and styles to create incredibly dynamic and interesting songs that surprise and dazzle our senses. The track starts off with a trip hop beat and altered vocals, then alternates with an irresistible melodic hip hop dance beat, with sounds of speeding cars and screeching brakes thrown in. He freestyle raps about the thrill of driving fast and winning races: “Wheels keep spinning faster, they won’t catch us now.” “Salvation” is a trippy song, opening with a brief vintage piano riff, then settling into a slow hip hop dance beat with almost carnival-like psychedelic synths and gunshots from what sound like duck or pheasant hunting.

Another favorite of mine is “Let’s Go Back – The Ballad of Randy Eagle in F#minor,” a mesmerizing instrumental track with fantastic exotic-sounding synths and chanted electronically-altered vocals. As Andy explained in our interview, it’s about his out of control alter ago ‘Randy Eagle.’ “The Change” delivers spacey industrial synths set to a hypnotic EDM beat as he sings about living a hedonistic life: “Run away to Paris, we’re living life lavish. Popping champagne we can’t afford but we got to have it / I feel it coming, the change.”

No Sleep No Sleep” is a stripped-down reimagining of “No Sleep,” and a nod to the first single released by Vox Eagle that Andy wanted to include on TriumAvium. I love the original, but really like this cool and stylish version too. The guitar and bass are terrific. “Too Damned Awesome” is another trippy and unusual track, with trip hop beats and otherworldly, industrial-sounding synths. Sampled spoken words of a man’s voice saying “Hell, you don’t know where I’m at. You couldn’t possibly know where I’m at. It’s too damned awesome.” are repeated throughout the track, as Andy croons “Just trying to touch the sky.” I love his vocals, which have an earnest vulnerability that’s really striking. He keeps with the racing theme on closing track “Fast Car Fast Bitch,” a one and a half minute-long trip and a half! Andy pulls out all the stops on this short track, throwing in funky riffs, thumping bass notes, pulsating techno synths, and copious amounts of revving engines and screeching brakes that make for a fun and exuberant listen.

One of the things that most stands out for me about TriumAvium is its incredible flow, how each track so beautifully and seamlessly follows the next, leaving me almost breathless in the process. It’s a relatively short album, running only around 22 minutes in length, but it packs a major punch. It’s really a remarkable work of music brilliance, and I love Vox Eagle even more than I did after Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1. I cannot wait to hear more of his music.

Connect with Vox Eagle:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunes

MELOTIKA Releases New Video for “Bittersweet Reality”

Melotika is an indie/pop artist based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the alter-ego of singer/songwriter Mel Yelle. Born and raised in Montreal, Mel’s rich, smoky vocals remind me at times of fellow Quebecois Celine Dion, with whom she also bears a striking resemblance. She teamed up with electronic DJ/producer Jackman Jones (also known as Mista T Dot) to create urban beats for her debut EP Unaware, which dropped this past March. I reviewed her sultry single “Unaware Part II [Blindside]” in February, which you can read here.

Melotika

She’s just released a stylish new video for “Bittersweet Reality,” one of the tracks on Unaware. The song features cool synths set to a hypnotic dark wave dance beat, with hand claps, kick drum, bass and chanted backing vocals adding fullness to the sound. Mel’s vocals have a sense of bitter resignation as she sings about the conflict between our reality and the self-image of the persona we project to the world based on who we think we should be: “Doesn’t matter what we say, you won’t believe it anyway. Done my time but talk is cheap. Your bittersweet reality. Running back and forth at times can drain all my energy.”

About the video, Mel explains “‘Bittersweet Reality’ is about losing yourself in a synthetic realm of beauty and social media appearance. The character I am playing is a vulnerable side of me believing everything the media has taught me, and on the other hand rebelling against it.”

She’s shown scrolling through her social media accounts on her mobile device, elated one moment, then frustrated and angry the next as she reacts to either the attention she feels she deserves or criticism – or even worse, indifference – which pisses her off (sentiments I can certainly attest to feeling at times). Ultimately, she suffers a meltdown over all the conflicted emotions. Take a look:

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

Top 30 Songs for October 7-13, 2018

1. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (1) 3rd week at #1
2. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (3)
3. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (2)
4. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (4)
5. GHOST – Badflower (6)
6. BETTER NOW – Post Malone (8)
7. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (9)
8. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (10)
9. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (7)
10. NINA CRIED POWER – Hozier featuring Mavis Staples (25)
11. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (5)
12. CITY LOOKS PRETTY – Courtney Barnett (14)
13. PANIC – Agency Panic (15)
14. TIDAL WAVE – Portugal.The Man (16)
15. BODY TALKS – The Struts (17)
16. SHE’S KEROSENE – The Interrupters (18)
17. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (11)
18. CRAZY – From Ashes to New (13)
19. IN MY MIND – Draft Evader (20)
20. LOADING ZONES – Kurt Vile (23)
21. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (19)
22. SOMETHING HUMAN – Muse (12)
23. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Childish Gambino (21)
24. SUPERWOMAN SWAY – Brett Vogel (26)
25. UH HUH – Jade Bird (29)
26. HAPPIER – Marshmello, Bastille (30)
27. MY BLOOD – twenty one pilots (N)
28. SHAME – Elle King (N)
29. GUIDING LIGHT – Mumford & Sons (N)
30. UNREALITIES – Dying Habit (N)

THAT HIDDEN PROMISE – EP Review: “Drifted Hope e.p.”

That Hidded Promise EP Cover

I always find interesting the artistic monikers that musicians come up with for their music projects, and I’ve featured quite of number of such artists on this blog. My latest is That Hidden Promise, whose new EP Drifted Hope e.p. drops today. Based in Somerset, England, That Hidden Promise is the artistic alter ego of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Wayne Lee, who’s been performing live and recording under that name since 2011. The talented and versatile fellow writes his own songs, creates all his own music, including beats and percussion, and plays acoustic and electric guitar.

He’s produced an extensive catalog of alternative rock music over the past seven years, often incorporating blues, post-punk, folk, electronic, psychedelic and shoegaze elements into the mix, resulting in a highly eclectic sound. In May 2017, he released a single “All Things, All Will Come,” an upbeat rock song with exuberant guitar, percussion and synths, which I reviewed. Now, with Drifted Hope e.p., That Hidden Promise delivers five all-acoustic tracks that are darker and more introspective.

He kicks things off with “If I,” a song that seems to ponder the meaning of his existence within the universe, which in and of itself is almost beyond comprehension to me. His strummed guitar chords are strong, clear and lovely, and his vocals earnest as he wistfully sings the thoughtful lyrics:  “If I could sit still for a minute more than I can. Would I lose all of myself for that minute, though now it’s gone, it’s gone. But now, if I had that minute back, what’s the point in that? / Why should I think the universe contracts a while to a single point of nothingness. And is this cycle infinite? Can we know?

The Drop” has a melodic folk-rock vibe, with heavily strummed guitar and slightly off-kilter vocals that seem to channel Bob Dylan. He sings of how he’s done with someone who won’t give him a break: “You know I don’t know what I did to offend you. Seems if you could bring me down you do it. You sneaky little sh**.”  On “The Gallery of Drifted Hope Acoustic,” he laments over past mistakes that have taken his life down the wrong path, negatively impacting friendships and his future: “And I remember when the world seemed bright and new. Now see a gallery of drifted hope, of things I blew away.”

Though essentially an acoustic folk song, “See, Hold It, Feel” has a slight Pearl Jam grunge vibe, at least to my ears. It’s a wonderful and moving track, with some really fine intricate guitar work. “We Can Come Together Acoustic” is an upbeat, hopeful song about putting aside petty differences and focusing on the good in each other: “We can’t do much about deception. We can’t do much about the lies. Misinformation all around us.So put your arms around me, I’ll put my arms around you. And we can dance all night and we can gaze at the moon. And when it’s all said and done, we might not agree. But I believe that we can come together.” Positive words that I could do well to follow myself in these rather divisive times.

Drifted Hope e.p. is a solid work by That Hidden Promise. I really like his contemplative lyrics, and his ace guitar work is sublime. His vocals can be a little flat in spots, but at the same time they reflect an honest vulnerability that’s very appealing, and work well with his emotive acoustic style.

To learn more about That Hidden Promise, check out his Website and connect with him on Facebook & Twitter
Stream his music on  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Tidal / Napster
Purchase on  iTunes /  Amazon / Google Play

FIELDCREST – EP Review: “Canvas”

Fieldcrest EP

Guitarist/songwriter Will Thacker and singer/songwriter Jena Jones were both artists from small towns, each struggling on their own in the search for someone to work with to bring their songs to life and get them heard. After nearly giving up hope, Will almost jokingly posted an ad in his home town of Casper, Wyoming, and to his surprise and good fortune, Jena answered and Fieldcrest was born. (Jena is now based in Wyoming, and Will in Georgia.) Incorporating elements of their shared love of music influences ranging from 70s classic rock to grunge, they developed their own hard-driving style of modern rock, and began fleshing out songs Will had written, which they presented to the world with the release of their debut EP Meadowlark this past April. Building on the success of that EP, they continued writing and recording new songs, which are featured on their second EP Canvas, which dropped on September 14.

The songs address themes of self-identity, life changes and loss. First up is “Strange Girl,” a rather dark-sounding but optimistic song about female empowerment. Jena’s clear vocals are filled with urgency as she sings the lyrics encouraging a woman who’s marching to her own beat but unsure of her path: “You’re a little unconventional, strange girl. Don’t be discouraged, you are wonderful. I know you’re scared, but you will be OK. There is nothing in your way, except you.” Will’s guitar work is impressive as he delivers an array of textures ranging from delicate strums to jagged, gnarly riffs, all nicely layered over a throbbing bass line and anchored by a strong drumbeat. The track closes with a gently strummed guitar that gradually fades to quiet but, curiously, continues for another 30 seconds after the music ends.

Perhaps it’s to provide a moment of calm before the storm, which arrives like a thunderbolt in the form of the next track “Tuesday.” The song blasts through the gates with bombastic riffs of Will’s raging guitars and pounding drums. Jena emotionally sings of being stuck in a rut, feeling like she’s losing herself: “Sitting in the same place, same chair as I did last year. You’re in the same place. Hey do I know you? I don’t think so. Life’s too short for this.” The heavy modern rock goodness continues with the hard-hitting “The Silence,” a song about a couple who’ve gotten to the point where they’re no longer able to communicate with each other. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but Will’s guitar work is so fucking good! He shreds and distorts his six string, coaxing riffs that sing, wail and soar, bringing goosebumps. The song has an Evanescence vibe, partly due to the fact I think Jena’s stong, passionate vocals remind me a bit of Amy Lee.

Transitional” is a lovely instrumental interlude consisting only of a simple piano movement, along with the sound of falling rain at the beginning and end. It’s sublime, and I’d love to hear more music like this from Fieldcrest, as one of them is a pretty good pianist.

The final track is the dark and mournful “Empty.” a powerful song about dealing with loss. Will’s jagged and wailing guitars, combined with Jena’s emotionally-wrought vocals, dramatically convey the heartbreak and desolation that remains after the death of a loved one. It’s a phenomenal song.

In my grief I just can’t accept this
It’s a blow that knocks me to my knees
In my grief I held you last night but then I woke up empty
I’m gonna miss you forever
I would have never pictured life without you
You helped hold me together
How can I be strong without you
People keep talking at me about how God has called you home
A Part of me hopes they’re right cause you had so little time
It seems so unfair, I wasn’t ready to let you go

I will admit that it took a couple of listens for these songs to really click with me, but once they did, I was hooked on this band. Jena’s sultry and emotive vocal style is utterly beguiling and Will’s guitar-playing is positively badass! Canvas is a solid EP, and I look forward to hearing more from Fieldcrest very soon.

Connect with Fieldcrest:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase on cdbaby / iTunes

TEISAN – Album Review: “Headspace”

Teisan2

TEISAN is an exceptionally talented and prolific young singer/songwriter from Mannheim, Germany. He started playing guitar at the age of 14, and quickly began writing songs in a predominantly ambient acoustic style. His songs tend toward a more introspective side, with deeply personal lyrics delivered with smooth, heartfelt vocals. In his bio, he states “I like to make music about things I experienced in my life. What I write down in the lyrics helps me in dealing with past events.” In early 2016, when he was only 17, he released an excellent debut album Different Point of View, then quickly followed that August with a five-song EP Wait For Autumn. In October 2017, he released his second album Impatience, and this past August (2018) dropped his third full-length album Headspace, an ambitious and stunning work featuring 14 tracks.

With the new album, TEISAN explains that he “wanted to be more creative with his music by experimenting with new sounds and melodies.” The title Headspace symbolizes exploration into someone’s head, “going deeper into a personality and diving into a new world that only exists in their mind. This year was really stressful for me. I had to work on some personal stuff and didn’t have much time for music. But that’s what I needed the most in that time. So I tried to fit it all under a roof and realized it doesn’t matter how much stress I’m in – I need music and the process of music making [is] a way to relief this stress.”

The album starts off with the brief title track “Headspace,” which at first sounds like an instrumental only song, with shimmery synths highlighted by sweeping strings and tender piano keys. But a more careful listen reveals that what sound like spacey synths are actually TEISAN’s heavily distorted vocals. Next up is the sweet acoustic ballad “Anchor Pt. 2,” which I reviewed in June. Delicate, airy synths are layered over a pleasing acoustic guitar riff, along with sounds of finger snaps, gentle percussion and added subtle guitar chords that create a serene and beautiful backdrop for his soft and earnest vocals.

TEISAN uses synthesizers and acoustic guitar to great effect in the creation of gorgeous soundscapes on most of the album’s tracks, and a perfect example of this is the beautiful “Fade Into Me.” The lush, multi-textured synths are sublime, with delicate piano keys and subtle guitar notes that make for a captivating listen. The spare lyrics on this track are loaded with meaning: “Maybe I’m giving up on my life. Maybe… , but I’m giving it time.” On “Coins,” he weaves together beautiful sweeping synths with rather harsh industrial sounds to create feelings of discord, yet manages to add calm with his soothing acoustic guitar. So too with his vocals, that start off as a soothing falsetto as he croons “Sinking down,” but turn raw and impassioned as he confronts the one who caused him pain: “It’s so hard standing next to you, you think you can tell me that. I remember the times in my head, I was paralyzed and you didn’t help.”

Oceans” is a short and simple, but moving, track with only piano and subtle background synths providing the riveting sounds for TEISEN’s bittersweet lyrics: “Another sleepless night alone, you only open up when the bottle loses weight.” Such a great lyric there! He continues with the themes of sadness and loss, and trying to move on after a failed relationship on the mellow “I’m Okay, I am Alright,” and the wistful “Strangers In A Parking Lot,” a lovely song with acoustic guitar and the gentlest of synths. TEISEN’s vocals have a pleasing vulnerability as he sings “I count the stars, you count what’s yours, and it’s tearing me apart. And all I wanna be is in your arms, like we were never lost.

Keeping with the subject of exploring the mind’s deepest thoughts, TEISAN senses a former loved one’s presence on “In My Room,” and thinks of a girl he’d just as soon forget on the folk track “Daydreams“: “Take back the seasons to relive, it never happened, didn’t exist. You know I can’t resist the pity to forget, I couldn’t remember you as well.” One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Hate Me and Run Away,” a short but captivating song with a marvelous jazzy piano riff and bluesy guitar notes. The lyrics are simple but powerful, and his slightly distorted, breathy vocals have an air of cool detachment that makes them all the more compelling: “I’m trapped inside my head, all the time that I spend for you, it is all gone, all gone. Hate me for this, I’m begging you, please hate me for this.”

Crystals (Groundlevel)” has an almost psychedelic-rock feel, with sweeping spacey synths, distorted guitar, a strong bass riff and heavier percussion. I even detect traces of what sounds like sitar. TEISAN’s breathy vocals are slightly altered, adding to the otherworldly vibe that’s quite marvelous. “Ice Red” is an interesting song, both musically and lyrically. It starts off with a church organ, then transitions to layered acoustic guitars with gauzy synths. The lyrics seem to speak of helping someone in need of healing support, though the singer’s not sure he’s up to the task: “Maybe you need someone to lead, maybe even a place to hide. We can put our anger aside to make things right. All my friends are deep underneath, happiness is all make believe, I can’t put my sadness aside to make things right.” But then he acknowledges the support he was given, and decides he needs to repay the favor: “I’m seeing you’re constantly feeling so down – I can’t leave you behind. ‘Cause you stitched all my wounds, and I made a wish and you filled me with love, so I can sleep in the nights.” “Moon and Sun” is a lovely folk rock song that made me think of John Mayer, a good thing as I’m a big fan of his.

TEISAN returns to experimentation in big way for the album closer “Headache.” The track starts off with numerous skips that give the feeling your listening device or CD player has developed a malfunction, then at 15 seconds it all settles down and we hear his smooth vocals and acoustic guitar, but with unusual assorted background noises that suggest dissonance as he sings about changing. At the one minute mark, the song transitions yet again, this time to a hauntingly beautiful piano riff, backed by atmospheric echoed synths that gradually fade to the outro. What a superb ending to a magnificent, stunning album!

Headspace is a gorgeous album – dare I say, a masterpiece – and I continue to be blown away by TEISAN’s skill at writing such compelling, poetic lyrics and composing incredibly beautiful instrumentals, and his arrangements and production values are impeccable. For a man of only 20, his music and lyrics exhibit a remarkable maturity. This young man is destined for greatness, and his music needs to be heard by millions of ears.

He touches on his future music plans: “I don’t know which way I’ll go on my next album – if it’s some old work I want to get out, or if it’s new stuff – but I sense it that the next one is going to be more “me” . I’ve been reading a book called “Nada Brahma” and It’s quite interesting and changing my perspective when it comes to the world and of course music.

Connect with TEISAN on  Facebook / Instagram
Stream/purchase his music on Bandcamp or YouTube