THE KILLERS release brilliant new video for “The Man”

I’m a huge fan of The Killers and love their fantastic new single “The Man.” I also have a significant man-crush on band front man Brandon Flowers, but I digress… The single, the first from their upcoming fifth studio album Wonderful Wonderful, is also the first non-Christmas song to be released by The Killers in five years. (They released a greatest hits album Direct Hits in 2013 and Flowers released a solo album The Desired Effect in 2015.)

The band released their brilliant new video for “The Man” today,  June 28. Directed by Tim Mattia, the video shows Flowers cavorting about Las Vegas (where the band is from) as a number of characters who all think very highly of themselves: a player in a tuxedo, a lounge lizard in a gold lamé suit who’s not impressing the few watching him perform, a down on his luck gambler who bets it all and loses, a guy pumping iron outside his trailer in the desert who heads to the casino and sings karaoke, trying to impress the ladies, and an Evel Knievel wannabe. It’s great fun!

Connect with The Killers:  Twitter /  Facebook

Stream “The Man”:  SpotifyGoogle Play

Download or purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Deezer

LOST IN THE CITY Release New Single “You Stopped This Train”

One year ago, Kansas City alternative rock band Lost in the City released their monumental debut album Genesis, which I reviewed and you can read here. Now, after toiling in the studio with Bret Liber at Red Roof Productions (who’s also a musician in his own right, with the rock band Young Medicine), they just dropped the first single “You Stopped This Train” from their forthcoming album Leaving Home, due out later this year.

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). They play dynamic post-punk alternative rock loaded with thunderous chords, blistering guitar riffs, heavy drums and passion-filled vocals.  For their new album, Bret Liber also played keyboards in addition to recording, mixing and mastering the tracks.

“You Stopped This Train” is a hard-hitting rock song about someone who’s chosen to abandon a relationship the singer believed was strong and lasting. Musically, the track features Radford and Proctor’s gritty, shredded guitars and Constant’s pounding drums, all anchored by Wiley’s powerful bass. The screaming guitars at the end of the track are fantastic, and perfectly convey the pain expressed in the biting lyrics. Radford’s vocals are full of raw emotion as he wails “You stopped this train when everything was going great. You walked away as you let it fall apart.” And I love the guys’ soaring harmonic choruses.

It’s a terrific first song, and based on the quality of four other tracks I’ve been given the pleasure of hearing in advance, I can tell you that Leaving Home is going to be a killer album!

Show Lost in the City love and support by following on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes

EMPIRE TO ASHES – Single Review: “My Own Phantom Limb”

Empire to Ashes is a new ambient / post-rock / alternative electronica project of Jamie Denton, a former member and bassist of the now disbanded New Zealand five-piece Poison Skies (who I loved and featured a year ago on this blog, which you can read here). So far, Empire to Ashes has been a solo project, but Jamie states that it may possibly end up as a collaborative project with other New Zealand musicians at some point in the future.

Through his music, Jamie explained that his aim is “to explore how far melodies can be bent or removed before they break.” He added that his “project is designed to produce questions, not answers.” And after listening to his debut single “My Own Phantom Limb,” which dropped today, I would attest that he fulfills his objective. The nearly six-minute long track takes us on a journey into a gorgeous soundscape of moody synths that chime and soar.

The track opens with what sounds like distorted, static-filled voices coming from a radio not fully tuned into a station, then chiming synths wash over us as Jamie’s otherworldly spoken word vocals enter the picture. His expertise as a bassist comes into play as he lays down a heavy throbbing bass line that gives the track weight, sharply contrasting with the airy synth chords. A hypnotic drumbeat settles in as the synths begin to soar, while a simple piano riff weaves in and out. Along the way, we hear sounds of gentle winds blowing. As the music fades, the song comes full circle, ending with a repeat of the static-filled voices.

The equally gorgeous and compelling video includes footage of frenetic urban life interwoven with calm scenes of nature, such as a forest with falling snow, and sunsets. Halfway through, a woman is shown sleeping, curled up in a fetal position on a bed of fresh snow, as the shadow of a person’s hands move over her as if to shield her from the elements. The imagery then returns to scenes of nature and the city which continue through to the end of the video.

I love this song, and look forward to hearing more from this project. Connect with Empire to Ashes on Facebook and stream “My Own Phantom Limb” on Spotify or purchase on iTunes

Top 20 Songs for June 25-July 1, 2017

1. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (1)
2. HIGH – Sir Sly (3)
3. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (2)
4. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People (5)
5. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (6)
6. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (8)
7. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers (7)
8. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy (4)
9. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (11)
10. IN COLD BLOOD – alt-J (12)
11. J-BOY – Phoenix (14)
12. GIVE ME REASON TO DIE – Dyslexic Postcards (13)
13. REVEREND – Kings of Leon (9)
14. DIG DOWN – Muse (16)
15. SILENT SUN – Morning Fuzz (18)
16. REDBONE – Childish Gambino (19)
17. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire (N)
18. THE MAN – The Killers (N)
19. THE VIOLENCE – Rise Against (20)
20. LIGHTS OUT – Royal Blood (N)

ANDY K LELAND – Single Review: “Home Grown Muck”

Andy K Leland is an Italian singer/songwriter with a wicked sense of humor. In his bio, Andy – who was born Andrea Marcellini – calls himself Andrea’s “shadow-self,” adding that “the two selves fear each other.” Andy released his debut single “The Kingdom” in February, which I previously reviewed, and has now dropped his follow-up single “Home Grown Muck.” Like “The Kingdom,” “Home Grown Muck” offers up rather negative, biting lyrics that sharply contrast with Andy’s pleasing, upbeat acoustic guitar and quirky vocals. It seems he may be telling us to not take life so seriously after all.

Andy K Leland

About “Home Grown Muck,” Andy explains: “Can’t tell much about the song since it came out itself. And that’s cool. The only thing I remember is how dark was all around me. As for the meaning, guess it’s about me, interaction, disillusionment, sort of…Also, I do think we all need a real, actual “share button.”

Once I was clever
Now I’m the same
But I’m just frying and it’s not a blast anymore

There’s a lack of sharing
However we just pretend we’re gold
But the point is that we’re just home grown muck

Once I was clever
Now I’m more than numb
But I’m just trying to oh…
I’m trying nothing at all

There’s a lack of sharing
However we just pretend we’re gold
But the point is that we’re the scum of the world

Oh, lord please bring me something warm just like opium
But don’t dare to keep the change

Oh oh uh-oh-oh oh

Show Andy some love by following him on: Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream his music on  Soundcloud or purchase on Bandcamp

WILDCOHEN – Single Review: “Jacksons Son”

Indie duo WildCohen make music that’s hard to categorize. The Sheffield, UK duo, comprised of producer and multi instrumentalist Jody Wildgoose and songwriter and multi instrumentalist Rob Cohen, play songs that run the gamut from new wave psychedelic to folk and pop to alternative rock, and everything in between.  Jody plays bass and sings, and Rob plays guitars and also sings. According to an interview with Local Sound Focus, both guys were in previous bands (Jody in Various Vegetables, and Rob in Marmalade Sun), and decided to record together starting about two years ago out of mutual admiration for each others’ work.

WildCohen-Photo-by-Carl-Rose-696x462

Their debut album BloochyKoo, released through indie label Spoonjuice Records, features twelve eclectic tracks, and “Jacksons Son” is the first single. The song is a bouncy psychedelic romp that immediately forces the head to bob and hips to sway. Razor sharp synths, accompanied by crisp jangly guitars and crashing cymbals, move along a humming bass line. Gritty distorted vocals and a tumultuous mix of airy and chaotic choruses add to the track’s otherworldly vibe.

The fantastic video features an artful phantasmagoria of colorful psychedelic images of planets interwoven with Jody and Rob performing the song. Check it out:

Follow WildCohen:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Website

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon /  Bandcamp

MEN WITHOUT ARMIES – EP Review: “Strapped & Loaded”

Men Without Armies is a hard rocking, guitar-driven metal band based in Nashville, Tennessee. The band was formed in 2013 by Canadian guitarist/composer/producer Brennan Dylan, and now includes lyricist Dude Diablo and drummer Derek Bachtold. The band is set to release their new EP Strapped & Loaded on July 20, 2017.

Before I get into my review of their EP, I want to provide a little background on the band and its founding member Brennan Dylan. Born in Vancouver, B.C., raised in Ottawa and then Toronto, he’s had a love and aptitude for music since early childhood. He began playing sax and composing music at the age of 10, and performed classical, jazz & swing in school stage bands. In his bio, Dylan states “When I was 14 I picked up a guitar for the first time; it was like I’d inherited freedom. My high school music teacher told me that guitar wasn’t an instrument. I ignored him and studied rock/metal guitar for the first year.

Brennan D as boy

He wrote rock and metal songs and, while still in high school, performed jazz, rock & blues improv guitar at a local club. He branched out and studied everything from Motorhead to Dick Dale to Bach. He was in a surf band one summer, then moved into electronic music, which he incorporated into hard rock/metal compositions. He eventually moved to Boston to study Performance Guitar at Berklee College of Music, then headed west to LA where he played the Sunset Strip as a solo artist, performing with some major acts, including Michael Angelo Batio, DeathRiders and Gorillaz at the Whisky a GoGo.

In 2010, Dylan released his first self-produced CD Bullet Ride, followed two years later by Broken Glass, which received positive reviews and radio play, including a CBS Radio interview and press in Performer Magazine, NME & Guitar World. In 2013, he dropped his third CD Raining in Berlin. Still restless, he relocated to New York City that same year, where he formed Men Without Armies, about which he explained:

That simple 3 man band was the formula I’d been searching for in the trees rather than the forest. Pure rippin’ metal has been coursing through my veins since I first picked up a guitar. My adventures to incorporate every genre that has a beat into my metal compositions was very necessary and still is. I want to study it all but most of all I want to become a better guitar player and composer. By straying from the herd I think that I can accomplish that…no one has a monopoly on anything, even a flat tire kicks off a beat. I may not like all music genres but I’ve always been able to find great guitar players and/or composers in all I’ve studied.

brennan dylan

Men Without Armies released their debut self-titled EP in 2014, and followed up in 2016 with Walking Through Fire. The band won the prestigious IMEA (International Music and Entertainment Association) award for Best Metal Group in October 2016. They’re now based in Nashville, and ready to drop their third EP Strapped & Loaded next month.

Dylan states that the songs on Strapped & Loaded took more than a year to create and, in the process, he literally became a ‘man without an army’ after the band’s original drummer and bass player/vocalist abruptly quit to follow other pursuits. He had written 53 new songs, which he whittled down to 20 and finally 12 that he fully developed into complete works. With his drummer and bassist now departed, Dylan played all instruments but drums (guitar, bass, keyboards and synths) and hired a session drummer for recording of the songs, as their time at Vibe Studio had already been booked. The vocals were sung by Vibe Studio owner Johnny Burke.

Dylan and Diablo eventually landed Derek Bachtold as their new drummer, and they’re currently recruiting for a new bassist/vocalist. They decided that Strapped & Loaded will now be a six-song EP instead of a 12 song album. But they also recorded the remaining six songs without vocals. Those six instrumentals have been amped with searing guitar solos which have become their trademark and something their fans have come to expect, so they will also be released as a follow up EP to be called Strapped & ReLoaded once they have a new vocalist on board to sing the lyrics.

About the new EP, Dylan explains: “Strapped & Loaded speaks about our times, and three of the songs have a military theme. The song “Strapped & Loaded” is the single and has a double meaning. Dude also wrote it to help give my mom strength and courage to battle her cancer. “Crash ‘n Burn” is all about Vegas. The title for “Fast Life in Hollywood” says it all. “The Gun Show” was written to help bring more awareness of living life inside of our inner cities, to those living the great life in places like Man Hat Tan – grab a coat, got a plane to catch, see ya man.”

Track listing:
1. The Desert Haunts Me
2. The Gun Show
3. Strapped & Loaded
4. Crash ‘n Burn
5. Fast Life in Hollywood
6. A Day in The Life

The Desert Haunts Me” kicks things off with a rousing, hard-driving beat and killer riffs. “It’s the trigger that sets me free. The trigger that sets me free. Bang bang bang bang. Brings the bullets right out of me. The bullets right out of me. Bang bang bang bang. Forced to kill. Enough to thrill. The desert haunts me.” “The Gun Show” ramps up the energy with a frantic beat and awesome rapid-fire riffs that really show off Dylan’s amazing guitar playing skills. The in-your-face lyrics speak to the endless bloodshed of gang violence: “Welcome to the gun show baby, with bullets flying. We’re all locked and loaded, spilling blood with people dying. Welcome to the gun show, and no one’s keeping count. It keeps rising, and rising and rising and rising.

Dylan unleashes his sonic weaponry on the title track “Strapped & Loaded,” with scorching hot riffs that do justice to the intense lyrics that describe the band’s mission and also Dylan’s mother’s battle with cancer. In his gritty vocals, Burke snarls: “Crashing through the gates, a burning hell. Never quit, always with horns up, never ring the bell. Punching stars, we’re rippin’ metal. This is our story for us to tell. Strapped & loaded we will go. There is silence in screaming. There is violence in dreaming. Bullets riddle my mind.

Crash ‘n Burn” offers up more hot, bass-heavy riffs and thunderous percussion, before all hell breaks loose on “Fast Life in Hollywood.” Frenetic guitar riffs, crushing bass and hammering drums make this track a real head-banger that gets the blood pumping, and Dylan’s guitar solo at the finale is jaw-droppingly fantastic!

My favorite track is “A Day in the Life,” a complex song with two distinct melodies. The track opens with a mysterious atmospheric synth chord, then explodes with snarling guitars, crashing drums and Burke’s gruff vocals singing the defiant lyrics: “Fearless we live, yeah, fearless we fight. Fearless we live, yeah, fearless we die.” The tempo abruptly changes to a beautiful melody, with gentler guitars, snare drums, and softer vocals, before the gruff, hard-driving melody returns for two more cycles, making this a musically exciting and compelling song. Dylan lays down one of his signature blistering guitar solos in the bridge.

If you’re a fan of heavy, guitar-driven metal rock, Strapped & Loaded needs to be part of your collection. Show Men Without Armies some love and support by following them on:

Facebook /  Twitter /  YouTube

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Reverbnation

Purchase it:  Reverbnation

Rusty Shipp “Mortal Ghost”

I discovered the band Rusty Shipp through fellow blogger Zezrie of Jealous Sounds and I love their music! Check out her review and Rusty Shipp’s awesome, hard-driving music.

Jealous Sounds

image

On Oct. 24, I wrote up a piece about them crowd funding their latest album “Mortal Ghost”. Rusty Shipp did it! They succeeded, and now, “Mortal Ghost” is here for us to enjoy. It was worth the wait.

The first time Rusty Shipp graced Jealous Sounds was July of last year, when I reviewed their last EP “Hold Fast To Hope” . For the sake of brevity, I’m quoting myself here:
“First the facts: The guys came from all parts of the country to Nashville, found each other (Russ found Andrew on Craig’s list), and formed Rusty Shipp in 2014. The band consists of Russ T. Shipp (honestly his real name!) on lead guitar/ vocals, Andrew Royer on drums, and Dustin Herres on bass. The band has an eclectic range of influences, from 60’s-90’s rock, Hardcore Metal to surf rock. Their first EP, Hold Fast To Hope, was released in 2014…

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Top 20 Songs for June 18-24, 2017

1. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (1)
2. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (3)
3. HIGH – Sir Sly (4)
4. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy (2)
5. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People (6)
6. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (10)
7. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers (8)
8. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (17)
9. REVEREND – Kings of Leon (9)
10. SIGN OF THE TIMES – Harry Styles (5)
11. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (12)
12. IN COLD BLOOD – alt-J (13)
13. GIVE ME REASON TO DIE – Dyslexic Postcards (14)
14. J-BOY – Phoenix (16)
15. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids (7)
16. DIG DOWN – Muse (19)
17. BLAME – Bastille (11)
18. SILENT SUN – Morning Fuzz (20)
19. REDBONE – Childish Gambino (N)
20. THE VIOLENCE – Rise Against (18)

YOU’RE AMONG FRIENDS – Album Review: “As We Watch the Years Go…”

Cleveland, Ohio band You’re Among Friends wants their fans – and everyone else for that matter – to feel welcome and comfortable when hearing their music or watching them perform. Comprised of Anthony Doran (lead vocals and guitars), Kevin Trask (bass, keyboards and backing vocals) and Chris Szuch (drums), You’re Among Friends play a laid-back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock that just makes you feel good while being entertained.

You're Among Friends

You’re Among Friends was born in 2007 when Anthony and Kevin, who’d both played in another band, rechristened it with the new name and began reworking songs from the previous band’s repertoire, all of which had been written by Anthony. When I asked him about how they came up with their band name, he explained:

Kevin was the one who first suggested ‘You’re Among Friends’ while we were kicking around some ideas for a band name.  Around the time we started playing together, Kevin had a roommate who played guitar in a band called ‘Wisconsin.’  At one point, [the state of] Wisconsin was using ‘You’re Among Friends’ as a tourism slogan on their bumper stickers and stuff.  So I guess Kevin’s initial idea for our band name was meant to be a subtle nod to his roommate’s band, but I think it was us wanting to be welcoming to listeners and fans that ultimately won me over.

The band’s had five drummers over the past ten years, and Anthony and Kevin have been through many life changes during that time period as well.  Anthony described the bonds that have kept them together as a band:

“Kevin and I have been through a lot together over the years.  We’ve watched each other get married, start careers, buy houses, have children, etc.  Sadly, we also both had younger brothers who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  Over the decade that this band has been around, Kevin and I have gone from being carefree kids in our early twenties to being in our thirties with all sorts of adult concerns, regrets and responsibilities.  Oddly enough, we seem more committed than ever to our friendship and making this band work.

Our outlook on playing in this band has changed drastically over the years.  We used to take a lot of things very seriously and get all bent out of shape when things didn’t work out exactly the way we planned it.  We’ve learned to take it easy and go with the flow, especially when the situation at hand is out of our control.  We appreciate all of the opportunities that come our way to be able to share our music with people.  We also just thoroughly enjoy playing together.  Some groups of guys go bowling or go to ball games together. We go out, drink a few beers and play our songs for people.  This isn’t a bad way to hang out with your friends if you can pull it off.  Sometimes we even get paid for it!”

Based on the kindness and gratitude Anthony has shown me in our conversations by email, I would definitely like to hang out with him and the band over a few beers.

You’re Among Friends released their debut self-titled album in 2007, a solid effort featuring 11 songs. They followed a year later with a six-track EP In Due Time, then dropped a double-sided single Enjoy Life & Half a Thought in 2010.  You can check out these earlier releases on Spotify or Bandcamp.  The band took a hiatus in the early 2010s and didn’t play for four years. As Doran explained to Scene Magazine: “There wasn’t a falling out; it just happened. We started to have kids and had a lot going on at that time.”

Kevin & Anthony

Once they reconnected in 2015, they began working on a new album As We Watch the Years Go…  Seven of the ten songs on the album had previously been written by Anthony and three – “A Way to Get Away,” “Calling Anyone” and “Dreaming of the Past” – were co-written by Anthony and Kevin. As evidenced by its title, the album explores life and the passage of time, and how it’s affected friendships, relationships, and the band itself. Anthony stated that “being able to record those songs for this album in 2016 seemed like we were finally wrapping up unfinished business.” The album’s cover – a photo of a baseball field – is a tribute to their brothers, who both liked the sport, and the album is dedicated to them.

As We Watch the Years Go… was released at the end of July 2016. The band’s previous drummer Adrian Higgins played drums on all the album tracks. Chris Szuch joined the band as the new drummer in July 2016, just in time to play his first show at the band’s CD release party.  The band’s music features nimble guitar riffs, anchored by sturdy bass lines and just the right amount of percussion to keep everything moving along smoothly. I hear touches of Steely Dan, Elvis Costello and The Grateful Dead in their sound, and Anthony’s vocals really channel Randy Newman at times.

The album kicks off with “Years Go,” which serves as the title track and really sets the tone for the album. Lively guitar riffs, accompanied by a bluesy bass line and gentle percussion, make for a mellow rock and roll song. The lyrics are upbeat yet nostalgic, addressing the inevitable passage of time that seems to move ever faster as we age:  “Remember when we were younger, and the summer seemed to last for years. Now the years are passing, summer moves so fast now. All those days disappear. June turns into July, July turns into August. Soon there is the fall, as pumpkins go to harvest. Then comes the snow, where did the year go? Now I’m an age I never thought I would be. It’s not so bad growing older, because you’re here with me.

Kevin’s funky bass has a starring role on “Any Day Now,” a song about staying optimistic in the face of life’s adversities, both big and small. Anthony lays down some tasty riffs on this track. Being an irresponsible, immature screw-up is the theme of “Building Bridges to Burn,” while “Dumb Complaints” is an honest admission of a chronic whiner (a song I can identify with, being a whiny-ass complainer myself). Anthony plaintively sings: “I can hear you loud and clear babe, you’re sick of all my complaints./ I complain no matter what’s going on. Reach for the moment, and it’s gone. ‘Cause I wasted it on dumb complaints.

One of my favorite tracks is the funky “A Way to Get Away,” an ode to the preference for personal freedom rather than romantic entanglements. “Sneak attack, you’re trying to back me against the wall. You got me under siege, but you’ll never get to watch me fall./ I need a way to get away. I’m looking for a way to get away.’ The terrific distorted guitar solo at the end of the song is pure ear candy.

The guys play the blues on “Sour Grapes,” with some nifty Southern blues-rock guitar riffs over Kevin’s buzzing bass line. And the intricate, layered guitar work on “Calling Anyone” is awesome.

Another of my favorite tracks is “Dreaming of the Past,” a melodic ballad that’s a bit of a departure in sound for the guys. The song begins with lovely synth chords that continue throughout the song, overlain by Anthony’s skillful handling of his guitar, proving without a doubt that he’s quite the axeman.

The album closer “Rope” speaks to ridding your life of toxic people who’ve used you and brought you down.  “Give them enough rope, maybe they’ll hang themselves. You won’t have to blame yourself anymore. Don’t make another excuse for the way you’ve been used, by all of your so-called friends.” I really like the jangly strummed guitars on this track. But then, I love the guitar and bass on all their songs!

As We Watch the Years Go… is a fun and mellow album that makes you think a little bit about life in all its craziness as you’re enjoying the music.

Follow You’re Among Friends: Website/Blog /  Facebook /  Twitter

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Napster /  Google Play /  YouTube

Purhase it:   Bandcamp /  iTunes /  Amazon