FROM THE CAVE – EP Review: “Medieval”

Medieval EP Art

London-based From the Cave is one of the most distinctive and special bands I’ve come across, and I know a lot of bands! Their very eclectic style of alternative rock covers a broad range of influences, incorporating punk, pop, shoegaze, blues, funk and ethnic folk elements into their exuberant mix. They debuted with their self-titled EP From the Cave in 2016, and in 2017 began releasing a series of singles, some of which are now included on their new EP Medieval, which dropped on September 10. I’ve previously featured two of the tracks – Halloween and “Cavalier” – on this blog, and am now reviewing the EP.

Band front man Kristian Møller-Munar says the EP is “a big hug to all their influences and puts them in one place where they can express themselves.” As such, each track is totally unique and completely different from every other track on the EP, making for a fresh and surprising listen. In addition to Kristian, who plays guitar and sings most lead vocals, the other band members are Mikaela Lindgren on vocals, keys and percussion, and Josh Scriven on guitar and vocals. Johan Crondahl (bass, percussion and backing vocals) and Anton Vysotsky (drums) also played on the EP, but recently left the band to return to their home countries, so From the Cave is now a three-piece. The bass and guitars for “Medieval”, “Halloween” and “Wasting Time” were recorded by Jules Gulon.

The EP kicks off with the rousing title track “Medieval (Pánico)” a delightful high-energy Latin-rock tune. Fast-paced riffs of scratchy guitars are paired with Anton’s assertive drums and swirling synths to create a powerful backdrop for Kristian’s commanding vocals, which are sung in Spanish, one of his two native languages (he was born in Copenhagen and partially raised in Majorca). The word Pánico signifies that there’s no reason to panic. The guitar work on the track is electrifying, and I love the harmonic backing vocals. It’s a fantastic song, and Kristian said it’s one of the tracks he’s most proud of.

Cavalier” was inspired by a London cabaret bar the band members have frequented, and basically tells a saga of falling in love with one of the waitresses there. The band employs all kinds of exotic synths and strings, including guitar and violin but also possibly zither or mandolin, to create an intriguing Eastern European sound that’s incredibly catchy and marvelous. Kristian’s vocals are captivating as he expresses his frustration that the object of his desire keeps rebuffing his romantic intentions. “I could be your cavalier if you like me. I’m sitting by the cabaret but you don’t mind me. / But angel, I’ve been waiting for long. Still I’m writing you songs.” I love it!

Next up is “Joshstafari,” a reggae-infused rock song inspired by an encounter Kristian had with a homeless man on the street while living in Hammersmith. The track opens with strange synth noises and a frantic guitar riff, then a rising choral yell signals a change in tempo to a languid reggae beat as Kristian begins to tell the tale of Joshstafari. I love his vocals, which sound so different on each song. Here, he seems to channel a bit of Sting, consciously or not, as if in homage to the early Police reggae tunes. The guitar work on this track is fantastic, speeding up then slowing down as the track progresses. In the bridge, Josh lets loose with a scorching punk-like guitar solo, then everything slows back down to a relaxed reggae beat in the outro.

Kristian has produced brilliant, imaginative videos for five of the six tracks on the EP, which I strongly recommend my readers check out on the band’s YouTube channel. Here’s the one he made for “Joshstafari”:

The hauntingly beautiful “Halloween” was actually my first introduction to From the Cave’s music, and I loved it at first listen. The song was written by Mikaela, and addresses the theme of death in a general sense, as in the death of a relationship or friendship. The track starts off with quiet, mysterious synths and plucky guitar accompanied by gentle percussion and a soft chorus that set a lovely tone. Mikaela’s beguiling vocals enter as the music swells with shimmering synths and layered chiming guitars, and Kristian’s vocals join in, harmonizing beautifully with Mikaela’s. The guitars, bass and drums become more intense as the song progresses, making for a dramatically sweeping soundscape that raises goosebumps. Be sure to watch this magical video:

Maybe Not Today” is a straightforward but upbeat pop-rock anthem about putting off an inevitable breakup of a relationship for another day: “The energy when we’re combined, always leaves me magnetized. So how could we still give it up. Maybe not today oh.” The final track “Wasting Time” is a sunny and carefree-sounding pop song with somewhat darker lyrics about remaining stuck in a less than optimal situation. “There’s a million voices telling me that I’ve got to get away from this empty space.” It’s catchy as hell though, with sparkling synths and jangly guitars, and the lovely harmonizing vocals of Josh and Mikaela are oh so pleasing, a word that perfectly describes the entire EP. It’s absolutely sublime, and a testament to the band’s fearlessness in creating music that strays beyond the alternative rock box. I adore From the Cave.

Connect with From the Cave:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

CHEDDR – Album Review: “Three Sheets: To the Wind”

Cheddr is the music project of Jeff Hines, a talented and innovative composer and producer of electronic music. Based in the state of Connecticut, Jeff has written and played music for over 20 years. But recent improvements in the technology of music production have enabled him to work on this music anytime and anywhere, which has in turn led him to become extremely prolific over the past year, recording and releasing numerous singles, albums and EPs. He released Bear Beat Vol. 1 in October 2017, and Bear Beat Vol. 2 in May 2018, then quickly followed with Three Sheets: To the Wind a few weeks later. In August he dropped yet another EP For the Skies, but I will be reviewing Three Sheets: To the Wind.

Cheddr image

Influenced by Tycho, Bonobo, Emancipator, Gramatik, Ratattat and Madeon, Jeff likes to think of him self as a post rock composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. Encouraged by recognition he’s received from independent music supporters from around the world, he’s continued to produce increasingly more advanced and complex music, which has been featured on music programs in the U.S., UK and Germany.

Before getting into Three Sheets: To the Wind, let me state right here that, though I’ve written about a number of artists who create electronic music, I’m far from being an expert about it and all its microgenres, which can get pretty esoteric and abstract. It seems the more I read about it, the more confused I become, but I’ll try my best to sound like I know what I’m talking about.

The track listings differ between Spotfy, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and iTunes, but I’ll discuss them in the order they appear on Soundcloud for the convenience of my readers. Cheddr kicks off the album with “Falling Into You,” a rather brooding but bewitching chillwave track with fuzzy, almost spacey synths overlying a deep bass-driven beat. Sparkling piano keys and soaring string synths are gradually added, transporting us into a dreamy soundscape we’re hesitant to leave.

As the second track “Unification Theory” envelops my eardrums, I’m struck by his skill at drawing out such interesting and exquisite sounds from his synthesizers, and weaving them together into gorgeous chord progressions and captivating melodies. The intricate sequenced piano and lush strings are breathtaking, and he adds lots of assorted otherworldly synths and deep bass to create a complex and stunning track that’s one of my favorites on the album.

The mesmerizing “Our Hearts are Beating Together” features sampled electronically altered female and male vocals, in a style that Cheddr states are “hypnagogic, approaching vaporwave.” (According to Wikipedia, vaporwave is defined by its appropriation of 1980s and 1990s mood music styles such as smooth jazz, R&B and lounge music, and typically involving sampling or manipulating tracks via chopped and screwed remixing techniques.) In addition to the vocals that chant the title words “Our hearts are beating together,” the track features glittery sequenced piano and lush synths.

Cheddr’s lovely sparkling pianos are a dominant element on the next three chillwave tracks. On “You’ll See,” he adds extra layers of delicate piano over the main riff, along with fuzzy, almost psychedelic-sounding synths. “Reach In” features a throbbing bass line and a mix of glittery and siren-like synths, and “The Winding Road” is brimming with pulsating wobbly synths and lots of plucky strings.

The trippy “Vapors” is the most experimental track on the album. It starts off with a similar vibe as most of the other tracks, with chill piano chords and delicate xylophone synths set to a languid beat, but gradually, Cheddr introduces quirky distorted and spacey synths that change the complexion of the song to one of discordance and unease, as if to symbolize having ‘the vapors.’ It’s a beautiful song nevertheless. The final track “Understory” has a solemn vibe, with a somber piano riff that continues throughout the song. At approximately one minute in, dark synths are added, then a rat-a-tat tat drumbeat kicks in. More synths are added as the pace quickens, then we’re hit with a brief flourish of mournful distorted electric guitar before the track closes with the same somber piano riff that opened the song.

I’ve listened to a lot of Cheddr’s music, and though I do like his Bear Beat Vol. 1 and 2 albums, I feel he really takes things to the next level on Three Sheets: To the Wind. His piano-driven melodies are glorious and more fully-developed, and I love all the lush and varied synths that he uses to create different moods, sometimes within the same song. If you like electronic music, this is an album you should add to your collection.

Connect with Cheddr:  Website / Facebook / Twitter
Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

Top 30 Songs for September 16-22, 2018

1. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (1)
2. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (2)
3. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (4)
4. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (5)
5. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (3)
6. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (8)
7. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (7)
8. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (11)
9. GHOST – Badflower (12)
10. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (6)
11. BETTER NOW – Post Malone (16)
12. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (10)
13. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (15)
14. SOMETHING HUMAN – Muse (17)
15. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (18)
16. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (19)
17. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (9)
18. CRAZY – From Ashes to New (20)
19. UNWIND – John Defeo (13) 22nd week on chart
20. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (14) 49th week on chart
21. CITY LOOKS PRETTY – Courtney Barnett (21)
22. DEAD TO ME – Reality Suite (24)
23. PANIC – Agency Panic (25)
24. TIDAL WAVE – Portugal.The Man (27)
25. BODY TALKS – The Struts (29)
26. SHE’S KEROSENE – The Interrupters (N)
27. IN MY MIND – Draft Evader (30)
28. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Childish Gambino (N)
29. LUCKY YOU – Eminem featuring Joyner Lucas (N)
30. SUPERWOMAN SWAY – Brett Vogel (N)

CHIO – EP Review: “Unlearned Lessons”

Chio EP

Chio is the artistic name of singer/songwriter Anthony Chiofalo, and this is his debut EP Unlearned Lessons, which dropped in August. The New York City-based artist plays rock music influenced by a whole assortment of alternative, grunge and garage bands, but with a style all his own. He recently had this to say regarding his sound: “People continue to ask specifically what artists my music sounds like. Fair enough, but I’m usually at a loss with that question. I had come up with some answers, but nothing that felt accurate. I also didn’t like to try to fit what I did into some other artist’s slot. That’s missing the whole point of writing original music. I have influences. Tons of them. But I never want to imitate, replicate or steer too close towards someone else’s creations. Otherwise I might as well just play their songs.

Well, to these old ears of mine, I hear bits of the Gin Blossoms, Counting Crows (specifically the vocals of Adam Duritz), and Tom Petty – all great bands I really like, so it would follow I’d like Chio’s music. He wrote all the lyrics and music, arranged all the songs, and played guitar, keyboards and sang on Unlearned Lessons. Jerome Giancola played bass and Justin Hofmann played drums, and both guys produced, recorded and engineered the songs.

About the EP’s title Unlearned Lessons, Chio explains that it comes from a lyric in one of the tracks called “Into the Waves“: “We all still feel it, subtle heat. Unlearned lessons, always repeat.” It’s the final track on the EP, but I’ll discuss it first. He goes on to state: “The song… is about growing up and feeling the pressure of so many different aspects of life, and getting fed up to where you just want to get away from it all. In the chorus, I use surfing as a metaphor for escape, singing ‘I just want to jump into the waves.’  Surfing’s my metaphor, but the line itself represents anything that helps you get away from the seemingly endless challenges we all have to deal with. It seems that until we figure out how to remove ourselves from whatever cycle we’re playing out, and find a way to move past the continuous and familiar problems we face time and time again, there is only temporary escape in whatever you do to get through it. Until you understand why you’re going through the same patterns and what’s at the root of it, your ‘unlearned lessons’ will always repeat.

Using layers of fuzzy and jangly electric guitars, Chio creates a palpable sense of tension, made even stronger with the addition of his own eerie electronically altered backing vocals.

The opening track “The Rebel Inside” touches on his self-image as a badass, at least while he was coming of age, but also that he has a vulnerable side, and his loved one’s hurtful actions may turn him away: “So maybe I’m not as hard as I thought I was at age 15 when I caught my first real buzz. But that don’t mean my mind won’t break when you put my pride at stake. But you seem to see right through me. You’re all that I’ve got and it’s gonna consume me. But I know it’s good to be choosy. Watch out maybe you’re about to lose me.” The track starts off with a gritty, reverb-heavy guitar riff and Chio’s earnest vocals setting a rather dark mood, then the music breaks open with gnarly guitars, humming bass and heavy drums and loads of crashing cymbals. It’s a great rock song.

Out of My Head” is a hard-driving kiss-off song, and Chio’s terrific guitar work is on full display. With bitter resignation, he tells is ex he’s done with her: “I think I’ll take it easy on myself and keep you out of my head. We threw so many words upon each other. Petty things better left unsaid. Now I only feel peace in myself. This moment’s my only future, and there’s no time left for you.” And speaking of kiss-off, he really goes for the jugular on “Haunted“: “There’s a special place in hell for people like you. The ones that take my heart, but don’t see it through. And I’m just vulnerable if you look too close. A sheet in a dark room, but you think that I’m a ghost. Now I’m haunted. I’m haunted by your ghost.” It’s an interesting track, beginning with a funereal organ synth that seems to represent the feelings of being haunted by the death of the relationship. The song then blasts wide open with shredded guitars and heavy drums, intensifying the emotions expressed in the lyrics. I especially like the catchy little guitar riff Chio plays in the choruses.

Chio tackles obsessive, unrequited love on “Long Distance,” where he addresses someone who’s obsessed with a guy she’s never even met: “You know you love him, but you won’t say a word. And if you love him well, why hasn’t he heard. Know the reason why you keep your feelings inside. When you see him, you run and you hide.” I love the Tom Petty-like guitar work on this track.

Unlearned Lessons is a great little EP and an impressive debut effort from Chio that should make him proud. His honest, thoughtful lyrics are written from the heart, and his ability to set them to dynamic melodies and bring them to life with his skillful guitar playing make for some very solid rock songs.

To learn more about Chio, check out his Website/Blog

Connect with him on Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

HOUNDWOLF – EP Review: “Tempted to Abuse”

Houndwolf

HOUNDWOLF is an outstanding hard rock/metal band based in Witten, Germany. Influenced by some of their favorite rock and metal bands like Metallica, Motörhead, Pantera, Slayer, Black Stone Cherry, Trivium and Black Label Society, they play melodic and aggressive metal-infused rock’n’roll, with some of the best guitar work I’ve heard from any band. Comprising HOUNDWOLF are four gracious, cool and funny guys: Milan Schloßmacher (Lead Vocals & Guitars), Tobias Maienschein (Guitar & Backings), Daniel Teuchert (Bass & Backings) and Thomas Neuhaus (Drums).

In early 2016 they released a debut 3-track EP Fast and Loose, then dropped their first studio album Beware of the Dog that November, which I reviewed in December 2017. This past April, they followed up with a new four-track EP Tempted to Abuse, serving up more of their signature aggressive, high-energy rock’n’roll. They kick things off with “Roll,” a simple but effective ode to what they do, and Milan makes sure we don’t forget it as he shouts “We are determined to rock, so you better roll!” Milan and Tobias crank out red hot riffs while Daniel lays down a solid bass line and Thomas pounds out the beat on his drum kit. They perform a studio playthrough of the song on this video, and it’s fun to get a close-up look at them playing their respective instruments.

The guys seem to channel Metallica on the hard-driving title track “Tempted to Abuse,” tearing up the airwaves with extended riffs of blistering guitar work. Milan’s raw vocals even remind me a bit of James Hetfield on this track. Dial up the volume on this banger! Next up is “The Second,” a great bluesy rock song that’s probably my favorite of the four tracks. As always, their guitar work is terrific, but what really stands out for me are Milan’s great vocals. They have just the right amount of raw power when he sings the aggressive verses, then he injects a little humor into his more spoken vocals, when we can also hear a bit of his German accent. It’s clear from his body language and facial expressions that he really gets into playing and singing, which is a joy to watch.

Pursuit of Ambiguity” is straight-up metal rock’n’roll, with rapid-tempo heavy riffs, pounding drums and tons of crashing cymbals. The guitar work in the bridge is absolute fire, and Thomas seems to beat the living hell out of his drums! These guys are amazing musicians and it’s always a pleasure listening to their dynamic rock’n’roll music. I love HOUNDWOLF!

They’ve produced several entertaining videos of themselves playing their songs, as well as some behind the scenes footage of the recording of this EP, which you can check out on their YouTube channel.

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

HANNAH CLIVE – Single Review: “Remember to Breathe”

Hannah Clive2

Hannah Clive is a lovely and charming singer/songwriter based in London, UK, and I’ve been meaning to feature her on this blog for a while. Influenced by such legendary ladies of song as Adele, Carole King, Kate Bush and Janis Ian, Hannah writes heartfelt songs that cross many genres, including indie rock, folk, pop, alt-country, blues and even a bit of jazz. She released a gorgeous single “Remember to Breathe” in November 2017, and I’m finally getting around to reviewing this wonderful song.

The track opens with an ominous synth chord that draws us in, then Hannah’s exquisite piano riff enters and we’re instantly hooked. Wow, this is stunning! A delicious assortment of sparkling synths are added along with subtle guitar and gentle percussion, courtesy of producer Brian Tench, creating a dreamy soundscape that’s the perfect backdrop for Hannah’s captivating vocals. I’m blown away by her ability to seduce us one moment, then nearly move us to tears the next. It’s all incredibly breathtaking, so her admonition for us to ‘remember to breathe’ is entirely apropos! The song is so utterly mesmerizing that I keep hitting replay.

The lyrics speak to the concept of having faith and believing in yourself, casting aside obstacles that try to stand in your way, and finding your own truth and path in life:

And when the power of love is greater than the love of power
So it’s said, then my friends we might find some peace
And though it sounds naive –
It’s a direction in which I could set my feet…but just
Remember to breathe

Connect with Hannah:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  Bandcamp / iTunes

9fm – EP Review: “Little House”

9fm - Jarrod Pedone

I recently learned about an outstanding musician who goes by the artistic name 9fm – short for Ninth Floor Mannequin – after he posted his music on my friend Roy’s music sharing website Chatsong. 9fm is the moniker for the solo music project of New Jersey-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jarrod Pedone, and I was instantly moved by his arresting sound the moment I heard it. He melds folk with alternative rock, injecting bits of synth pop here and there to create incredibly pleasing music that seems to draw influences from such artists as Fleet Foxes, Paul Simon and Sufjan Stevens. And not only is his music brilliant and captivating, his poetic lyrics are so deeply compelling and filled with meaning that they seem almost Shakespearean. He’s just released a five-track EP Little House, and it’s marvelous.

Before getting into the EP, a bit of background about Jarrod to provide some context for his music, in his own words:

Before 9/2/12, I was a full-time musician, recording engineer and composer. On that evening while out for a run, I was struck by an intoxicated driver. I suffered a laundry list of injuries, the most concerning of which was the traumatic brain injury. When I eventually woke up, I learned that outpatient physical and mental therapy understandably left something to be desired in regard to musician’s skills recovery. I naturally resumed my career path. Little did I know that creating music was now going to be by far the most significant source of therapy that I’d experience.”

9fm2

9fm writes, performs, records, mixes and masters all this own original music, and to my ears, I’d say he’s recovered from his injuries quite admirably. He released his debut album Green & Blue for Blackness in 2016, and followed in late 2017 with the EP 5 Characters (In Search of an Exit), both of which are superb. Little House dropped on September 3.

The title track “Little House” kicks off the EP with layers of shimmering synths and fuzzy guitars set to a galloping drumbeat, gently transporting us into to a dreamy soundscape. Jarrod’s warm vocals are lovely, and even more so when backed by his own soaring harmonies as he plaintively sings of letting down his guard and being honest with his true feelings – that he wants to settle down and be married to the one he’s loved for a long while: “To say it all aloud. The things that I had thought for years. I wouldn’t want a change. I wouldn’t change. I want a little house & rings.”

Tin God” sees him coming to the realization that his lifelong quest to be the best, to be on top, to win, has come at a price, and in the end, did not bring the happiness he’d expected: “The goal was clear from day one. Perfect the game, sharing first place with no one./ Sleep in the hall. No time at all for love now. A legend or a tin god. I risked my life for just one try to dethrone. Well in the end, I did win best of all time. Not worth my time, you keep it, you can keep it.” The track has a progressive rock feel, with reverb-heavy chiming guitars, industrial sounding synths, assertive percussion and echoed vocals. I love the rather haunting melody that weaves throughout the song.

And speaking of melodies, “Allow Me” has one that’s absolutely captivating, in stark contrast to the song’s dark theme. The track opens with glittery, pulsating synths, then expands into a gorgeous soundscape of delicate guitar chords and sparkling keyboards, led by a gentle, driving beat. Jarrod’s layered harmonic vocals are beautiful, bringing chills as they soar. The biting lyrics speak to the facades people create to mask their fears, phoniness and uglier sides, and that doing so only diminishes them: “Lies & smiles are all we are. I think that I can’t keep up. Allow me to let loose, to scream it all. It feels so good to yell out all the truth & the hate that we hold.

Good People Bad” was inspired by a Twilight Zone episode called “The Shelter.” In a nutshell, a group of neighbors are at a dinner party at the home of the only family to have installed a bomb shelter (nuclear war hysteria was rampant in the late 50s-early 60s). After hearing a news bulletin warning of an impending nuclear attack, the neighbors panic and turn against the family that installed the shelter and, eventually, each other. (Quite frankly, this episode should be required viewing for everyone right now.)  Once again, the song’s hauntingly beautiful melody and music contrast with the dark lyrics. “The radio sent us all a noose. We pass it around ’til it’s right. The power of numbers can drive good people bad. Left no choice but to fight.”

The meaning of the final track “Absences V2.0” was a bit ambiguous to me, with my best guess being that it’s about how we identify ourselves and others through the prism of all the factors that comprise our belief systems and biases. But 9fm told me it relates to his accident, specifically about getting blood transfusions and how he lost some of his senses that were damaged: “We exaggerate the loves we lost on the way. Missing less each day, the pain, smell, touch & taste. The times that we had seems like they were fine. The saying isn’t true. Absences & hearts go fine.” Musically, the song is the most experimental of the five tracks, with mesmerizing chord progressions, otherworldly synths, and interesting guitar work.

To sum up, I can’t gush enough over this beautiful little EP. I love everything about 9fm’s songs; his lyrics, melodies, instrumentals, vocals, track arrangements and overall production values are all exceptional. I am a dedicated fan!

Connect with 9fm:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  SpotifySoundcloud / iTunes
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

Top 30 Songs for September 9-15, 2018

1. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (2)
2. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (3)
3. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (1)
4. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (6)
5. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (7)
6. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (5)
7. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (9)
8. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (11)
9. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (4)
10. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (8)
11. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (13)
12. GHOST – Badflower (14)
13. UNWIND – John Defeo (10) 21st week on chart
14. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (12) 48th week on chart
15. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (17)
16. BETTER NOW – Post Malone (20)
17. SOMETHING HUMAN – Muse (18)
18. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (19)
19. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (21)
20. CRAZY – From Ashes to New (24)
21. CITY LOOKS PRETTY – Courtney Barnett (25)
22. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (15)
23. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (16) 22nd week on chart
24. DEAD TO ME – Reality Suite (27)
25. PANIC – Agency Panic (28)
26. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (22)
27. TIDAL WAVE – Portugal.The Man (30)
28. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (23)
29. BODY TALKS – The Struts (N)
30. IN MY MIND – Draft Evader (N)

DVR – EP Review: “Down”

DVR pic

DVR is a studio project by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Olav Christensen. Originally from Denmark, Olav is now based in Brooklyn, NY, and writes, records, produces and masters all his music. He’s been recording music for a number of years, and began releasing singles in 2015, and dropped his first full-length album California in 2016. That work was inspired by memories collected by Olav when he lived in Santa Monica, and was a collaborative effort with bassist/synth musician Ancelmo James.

In late July, he released a new EP Down, which he describes as “five depressing songs for the kids, guaranteed to make you feel better.” While the songs’ themes do address the down sides of love and relationships, his wonderful music is generally upbeat, having the effect of softening the raw emotions expressed in his dark, poetic lyrics.

The first track “Precious Little Time” is a lovely pop-rock ballad that seems to be about regret over past transgressions that resulted in the loss of a loving relationship. The instrumentals are a pleasing mix of acoustic, electric and slide guitars, accompanied by gentle percussion, that perfectly complement the wistful lyrics:

Precious little time makes me lose my head
It’s not that you did wrong, I’m just hanging by a thread
Running out of time and I keep slowing down
Beat and broken down, knees to the ground
I’ll send you love from the great beyond
To take the edge off breaking my bond

Low” has an edgier rock sound, with fuzzy and psychedelic guitars, heavy bass and industrial synths set to a driving beat. DVR’s electronically distorted vocals give the track a bit of a Peter Gabriel vibe. It’s a brilliant song, and probably my favorite on the EP. “Another Year” is a soulful pop-rock track with some fine, intricate electric guitar and a strong thumping drumbeat.  His smooth vocals are really nice, as are his own backing harmonies, which he very effectively uses on other tracks as well. He sings about his shortcomings and how he always fails to live up to his best intentions: “I won’t make no resolutions. There really is no point. Cause when it comes to execution I just disappoint.”

He speeds things up on “Your Shoes,” a peppy, upbeat-sounding rock song with great guitar work and decidedly dark lyrics. Spoken from the point of view of someone who’s completely cynical and emotionally dead, his words offer a bit of empathy to another who’s suffering, though from what we’re not told. His earnest, emotionally-charged vocals almost reach a falsetto level at times.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow 
But I’ve been dead for a while 
My spirit’s dull and hollow 
My soul is dark and vile
But here 
Close to the ground 
Flat on my back 
Nothing to lose 
Here 
I realize what it’s like 
To be in your shoes

On “Undetected,” DVR employs a wide assortment of rich guitar textures, and layers them over a thumping bass line and strutting drumbeat to create an uptempo backdrop for his heartfelt vocals. With a sense of sad resignation, he laments about how the object of his desire doesn’t seem to care about him:

I’d like to be on your radar
It’s my favorite place to be
But all the while, here you are
Not looking for me
I’m always undetected
As I drift across your scope
I’ll always be neglected
Here at the end of my rope

Down is a great little EP that left me wanting more from this versatile artist. Though he refers to himself as a “shitty” guitarist in his Twitter bio, I’d say he’s a pretty good one! And given his rather prolific output over the past few years, I’m sure we’ll be hearing new music from DVR soon.

Connect with DVR:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream on Spotify
Purchase Down on Bandcamp

I FIGHT FAIL – Single Review: “Silhouettes”

Silhouettes

I Fight Fail is an Alternative/Electronic/Emo/Rock band from Canton, Ohio. Consisting of Andy Potter on lead vocals and bass, Daryl Johnson on guitar and backing vocals and Anthony Carter on drums, the band formed in 2014, after the guys had played together in previous bands. Their band name is about perseverance, in their words “a state of mind or an idea that you have to keep going forward even when you fall down.”

Fusing alternative rock with an electronic/pop sound, I Fight Fail creates music that’s fresh, smart and incredibly pleasing. They released their debut EP Move Me in 2014, then followed two years later with their second EP Voyages and Vantage Points, both of which are excellent. In January 2018, they dropped a new single “Silhouettes,” which will be included on a forthcoming third EP, to be released in 2019.

The song is a sort of coming of age anthem, spoken from the point of view of teenagers eager to jump headlong into adulthood, but still struggling to find their way forward and forge their identities: “You were skipping school and I felt cool cause I was older. We broke all the rules, and I let you cry onto my shoulder. / And we can’t wait to start planning our escape. We’re all lost, we’re all lost in our heads. Bring us back. Bring us back from the dead. We are silhouettes.”

Musically, the guys make generous use of glittery synths, delicate keyboards, chiming guitars and snappy drums to create a joyful sense of hopefulness and optimism, but with a serious undercurrent that keeps the song grounded in reality. Andy’s smooth, earnest vocals are really nice, as are the guys’ soaring choruses that appear later in the track. It’s a wonderful song.

Connect with I Fight Fail:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes