CANDID – Single Review: “Rumours”

Candid is an up and coming indie band from Coventry, England who play ridiculously good alternative rock. Following up on their wonderful debut single “Moving On,”released in the fall of 2016, the four-piece just dropped an exciting new single “Rumours” on May 12. Making the music are brothers Rob (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Dan Latimer (lead guitar),  Sam Baines (bass) and Ben Williams (drums). Hallmarks of their dynamic sound are catchy melodies, outstanding guitar work, wicked percussion and Rob Latimer’s commanding vocals.

Candid

“Rumours” starts off with a tasty little riff, then explodes with multi-textured guitars, guided by Sam’s throbbing bass and Ben’s rapid-fire drums pounding out the driving beat. Rob and Dan’s guitar work is exceptional, employing layers of intricate riffs and solos that give the track a complexity that’s incredibly satisfying to the eardrums. Rob’s vocals are beguiling as sings in earnest about people acting ignorant and spreading hurtful rumours: “So let ’em talk if they’re gonna, pick you up when they want to. And pass you up like a stranger, as soon as they’re done with you. ‘Cause all they talk about, is what they think about, the way we go about our lives.

Candid’s sound has been compared to Catfish and the Bottlemen, both with regard to their music styling and Rob’s vocals, which at times bear a striking similarity in tone and delivery to Bottlemen lead singer Van McCann.  I love Catfish and the Bottlemen, so it goes without saying that I would also love Candid – which I do based on just their two released songs. At any rate, similarities or not, they’re four talented guys who play some terrific music, and I’m eager to hear more from them soon.

Take a listen to this awesome song:

Follow Candid:  Facebook  /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube

Purchase:   iTunes

Top 20 Songs for May 21-27, 2017

1. SIGN OF THE TIMES – Harry Styles (1)
2. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy (4)
3. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (5)
4. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal.The Man (8)
5. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids (3)
6. HOT THOUGHTS – Spoon (2)
7. BLAME – Bastille (6)
8. COLD COLD COLD – Cage the Elephant (7)
9. SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS – The Chainsmokers, Coldplay (10)
10. HIGH – Sir Sly (13)
11. MIDDLE FINGERS – MISSIO (12)
12. LOST ON YOU – LP (9)
13. GREEN LIGHT – Lorde (11)
14. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People (16)
15. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers (17)
16. REVEREND – Kings of Leon (N)
17. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (N)
18. ON HOLD – The xx (14)
19. IN COLD BLOOD – alt-J (N)
20. GIVE ME REASON TO DIE – Dyslexic Postcards (N)

UNDER AEGIS – EP Review: “[Extinct]”

Under Aegis is a Progressive Djent Metalcore band with a lot to say. Their brutal in-your-face sound, born from generous amounts of crushing bass, explosive guitars, speaker-blowing drums and ferocious vocals, bulldozes a path of sonic destruction. At the same time, they launch a frontal assault on societal evil, hypocrisy and bullshit with their violent but compelling lyrics.

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin based foursome includes Nik Dennee on vocals, Bao Vo on guitar, and brothers Avery Gaitens on bass and Parker Gaitens on drums. In December 2016, they released their hard-hitting EP [Extinct] (two years after their debut EP The Narcissist). We’ve followed each other on Twitter for more than a year, and I’m finally getting around to featuring them on this blog.

Under Aegis 2

[Extinct] confronts a dystopian world where violence, corruption and despair reign. The opening track “Apex Predator” sets the tone with a full-blown attack on every one of our senses. Avery lays down a bass line so intense you can feel it pounding against your chest, while Bao shreds and distorts his guitar nearly to the breaking point. With his jackhammer drums working in tandem with the crushing bass, Parker seems intent on blowing out the speakers – or our eardrums! Nik growls and screams the lyrics like a rampaging T-Rex: “I am a savage fucking beast at the prime of my killing spree. Brutal. Savage. Controlled by instinct. I always wondered what fed this thirst. Pull yourself together. You won’t feel a god damn thing.”

Unbelievably, the band somehow manages to dial up the intensity on “Born Sick.” The drums and bass are even heavier, and by now I’m certain my head’s gonna explode. The lyrics seem to be about the belief that man is born cursed with original sin, and in a continuous struggle to make it through life in one piece. Nik unleashes his fury as he screams “It’s never safe to say that tomorrow is another day. Live and learn and love and respect, because every breath you take is just another fucking side effect. I’m lost, an empty shell, living in fear.” 

Invective” speaks to someone contemplating taking their own life as a way out from dealing with their problems. “You said you’d give anything for a good night’s sleep. Now you have found a solution not so temporary. You’re a fucking coward taking the easy road to eternity. Listen close, no need to be nervous. Just relax it’s only self disposal. Every tragedy begins with a simple idea. You fucking coward. You worthless waste of fucking flesh. Why don’t you close the door. Roll up your fucking window. And just fucking give up.” The track has some seriously good guitar work, and Nik comes close to tearing his vocals chords to shreds as he whips himself into a vocal frenzy.

There’s no letup to the sonic onslaught on “Total Void,” a depressing song about the futility of life in a dystopian society: “We’re all born with broken bones. Suspended, hanging from a rope. So just lose all fucking hope! The ground is breaking beneath us. Sanity controls us. The ground is breaking behind us. Be free and follow me into nothing. Losing your mind could be the end of your struggle.

Nomad” is the most melodic and, at nearly five minutes, longest of the tracks on the EP.  It starts off with a mysterious guitar riff, then heavy percussion and bass ensue, accompanied by layers of shredded and distorted guitars. Nik passionately screams the lyrics that speak to man’s eternal search for meaning and purpose on an earth that’s increasingly being degraded by his own selfish actions:  “All the lines that we used to know they have all been crossed. In this world nothing is fair. No one belongs anywhere, We are all thieves. Searching for our piece of this rotten world long that has been long deceased. Overgrown cities, self absorbed drones. I’m not a miracle, I’m a walking crime scene. Outline me in chalk. Write my obituary.

Under Aegis demonstrate with [Extinct] that they are not only amazing musicians, they’re also adept at writing deeply powerful, relevant lyrics that speak to social and personal upheaval. Bao told me they’re now working on new songs that will address political and governmental issues, and I can’t wait to hear them.

Follow Under Aegis:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify

Purchase:  Bandcamp /  iTunes

Single Review: THAT HIDDEN PROMISE – “All Things, All Will Come”

I seem to keep featuring UK artists and bands on this blog, but there are just so many good ones to choose from! Another artist I recently stumbled upon is a solo act that goes by the name That Hidden Promise. Based in Somerset, That Hidden Promise is the artistic alter ego of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Wayne Lee, who has been performing live and recording under that moniker since 2011. The talented and versatile fellow creates all his own music, including beats and percussion, and plays electric guitar.

That Hidden Promise

He’s produced an extensive catalog of alternative rock music over the past six years, often incorporating blues, post-punk, electronic, psychedelic and shoegaze elements into the mix, resulting in a decidedly eclectic sound. Overall, though, I’m reminded of Oasis when listening to several of his songs – a good thing to my ears. The last few months have seen him writing and recording new music. He released a track for a Blackpool charity album (Goodbye Avenue), a lovely instrumental track “To Drift and Dream,” and what he calls a ‘non-Christmas’ Christmas single “Snow Won’t Fall/A Day Can Change Your Life.”

Now, the release of “All Things, All Will Come” on May 12 marks the first new material of 2017 for That Hidden Promise, with more planned for the coming year. He also intends to go on tour later this year to promote his new music. He explained his inspiration for the new single: “It was written in a moment of boundless optimism, in the belief that despite what’s going on, despite what you feel is keeping you down, despite the negativity clouding the world, if you keep going, things will come right for you.” The single was self produced, with all instruments played by him, and mastering was done by Audio Animals.

“All Things, All Will Come” storms out of the gate, instantly bombarding us with gritty riffs of shredded guitar, awash in crashing cymbals. This hard-hitting track is adrenaline-raising rock at its finest, with some awesome guitar work, and the production is first-rate. He fervently sings “Thought a crowded web of lies, I can see the truth. I can see the path ahead, so leave your binds behind. / In time you know that all things, all will come to you someday, my friend.” It’s a great song.

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 /  YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes /  Amazon

Top 20 Songs for May 14-20, 2017

Foster the People are back with a new song “Doing it for the Money” (meaning four of my favorite bands are represented on this list – Foster the People, Cage the Elephant, Coldplay and twenty øne piløts). Bleachers debut with another money song “Don’t Take the Money.” Harry Styles is #1 for a second week, Portugal.The Man’s “Feel it Still” leaps to #8, and Sir Sly’s “High” debuts at #13.

1. SIGN OF THE TIMES – Harry Styles (1)
2. HOT THOUGHTS – Spoon (2)
3. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids (3)
4. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy (4)
5. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (5)
6. BLAME – Bastille (7)
7. COLD COLD COLD – Cage the Elephant (8)
8. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (15)
9. LOST ON YOU – LP (6)
10. SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS – The Chainsmokers, Coldplay (12)
11. GREEN LIGHT – Lorde (9)
12. MIDDLE FINGERS – MISSIO (13)
13. HIGH – Sir Sly (N)
14. ON HOLD – The xx (10)
15. LOVE ON THE BRAIN – Rihanna (11)
16. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People (N)
17. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers (N)
18. HUMAN – Rag’n’Bone Man (17)
19. HEAVYDIRTYSOUL – twenty øne piløts (14)
20. HOW DID YOU LOVE – Shinedown (16)

Single Review: MIDDAY SWIM – “Hold On Tight”

Toronto, Ontario, Canada has a thriving music scene, and I’ve featured a good number of artists and bands based there on this blog. Indie dream pop-rock band Midday Swim is my most recent find, and I’m happy to feature their gorgeous new single “Hold on Tight.” The band combines exceptional, multi-layered guitar work, smooth keyboards, superb percussion and lush vocals to create music that’s both dynamic and sublime.

Midday Swim consists of five seasoned musicians: David Mitchell (lead vocals, guitars), Stephan Ermel (keyboards, vocals), Sebastian Shinwell (guitar, vocals), Craig Saltz (bass, vocals) and Max Trefler (drums). Several were previously involved with other bands, while Saltz has scored music for over 30 films, and Ermel is a classically-trained pianist who’s performed a number of one man shows. They formed as a band in 2014 and a year later released their self-titled debut EP Midday Swim, which is excellent and I highly recommend my readers check it out. 

They’ve now recorded new music for their follow-up EP Climbing Out of Caves, due out later this year. “Hold on Tight,” recently released on May 4, is the first single from that EP.

Midday Swim

The bittersweet song is a plea for a loved one not to give up on a relationship by recalling poignant memories of their youth. With heartfelt vulnerability in his lovely vocals, Mitchell sings: “Hold on tight to me, can you reach before our boat goes down? All that time while we were sinking, I thought of what you meant when you said lets behave like we were those bear cubs climbing out of caves like we were made for this./ You better find your way home.”

Musically, the song features beautiful jangly guitars, backed by warm synths and lots of crashing cymbals. Delicate keyboards can be heard throughout, and at the bridge, we’re treated to a brief but tasty shredded guitar solo. Mitchell’s soothing vocals are backed up by sweet harmonic choruses.

For the clever, beautifully-filmed video, the band and director Pedja Milosavlijevic found inspiration from films like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Pulp Fiction, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, with their intrigue and crazy plot twists. Both the song and video aim to capture the spirit of childhood, with the main character on an adventure into the mountains, carrying his red suitcase and escaping a bear. He ultimately ends up back with his other band mates, whereupon they all jump into the opened suitcase.

To learn more about Midday Swim, check out their website.

Follow them on Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes /  Amazon

Single Review: SORICAH – “Waiting”

I had the pleasure of connecting with the talented young singer/songwriter Soricah when she reached out to me about her music. Now living in Dublin, Ireland, Soricah is of Irish/Mauritian ancestry and spent various times of her childhood and early adulthood living in Ireland, Africa, Mauritius and London. Those rich experiences give her music a unique sound that’s not tied to any one genre, in her words “taking the melodies of Ireland and the Soul of Africa to produce some truly original and captivating music.” She provided the following bio info that gives a good snapshot of her music background:

“Soricah has gigged on the London circuit as a solo artist, and is a former member of the band Rebekah Met Sarah. She has supported musical acts such as The Palma Violet and renowned celloist Jo Quail, and has been a frequent collaborator with members of The Artist Community of Studio 180 and the rich artistic warehouse scene of East London. She has also been featured on a wide variety of different artistic projects and her collaborations have been aired on Freakfm, BBC Radio One and a variety of Irish and international radio stations.”

Soricah

She recently completed recording of her debut EP Let Me Know, planned for release later this year. Her first single from the EP, “Waiting,” was just released on May 11. It’s a beautiful song, with a soothing, languid melody that conjures up images of a beach bathed by tropical breezes, at least to my mind. A distinctive element of the track is the gorgeous cello, played by Gary Molloy, which gives the track a haunting, dreamlike sound. Soricah’s strummed acoustic guitar and smooth, sensuous vocals are complemented by gentle percussion and bass, courtesy of Daniel Doherty.

Both musically and vocally, the song reminds me of Lana Del Ray. The song lyrics speak of intense passion and longing for someone. In her captivating voice, Soricah seductively croons “Come a little closer. Feel my body move. My heart is beating faster, waiting for you. / You take me away into the stars. This is where I’ll stay waiting for you, waiting for you.”

Follow Soricah on Facebook.  Stream “Waiting” on  Spotify or Soundcloud, and purchase on  Bandcamp,  iTunes  or  Amazon.

MICCOLI – EP Review: “1/2”

I’m back in the UK to shine my spotlight on Miccoli, a wonderful adult alternative/pop band from Birmingham, England. The band is comprised of three talented and strikingly attractive siblings: twin brothers Adriano and Alex Miccoli and their sister Francesca. Adriano plays guitar, Alex plays piano and guitar, and Francesca plays piano and harmonica, and all sing – quite beautifully I must say. In fact, their extraordinary harmonizing vocals are a hallmark of their sublime music style.

They’ve been making music together for many years, but 2017 is turning out to be a break-out year for Miccoli. In February, they released a gorgeous single “Idle Stranger” to rave reviews, and now deliver a lovely four-track EP entitled 1/2 which drops today, May 12. The songs deal with love and relationships, and the challenges they bring. In addition to the smooth vocals, their music features beautiful melodies, soft piano and stellar guitar work that make for an incredibly pleasing listen.

Miccoli

The first track “Idle Stranger” is a bittersweet plea for someone to not toy with your affections, acting like they love you but unable to fully commit: “So hear me now cause I don’t wanna be loved by you, if you’are gonna be an idle idle idle stranger. I’ve told you now cause I don’t wanna feel love like this cause you will always be an idle idle idle stranger.” The intricate, layered guitar work is exceptional, and nicely paired with gentle piano and percussion.  The beautiful video produced for the song was filmed in Venice.

The emotionally-charged “Undo” speaks to a loved one who’s slipping away from the relationship: “Every time that I get close to you, you’re a world away and I just can’t get through. All you do all you do is try, to undo. But this heart beats for you.” The track starts off slowly, with a gentle strummed guitar and Miccoli’s soft vocals, then breaks open with an assertive drum beat and lots of fantastic layered guitars.

Lights” is a lovely song with a catchy melody and hopeful lyrics: “Cause when the lights go out and I’m all alone, and I feel like there’s nowhere to turn, I will close my eyes and I’ll think of you. ‘Cause you are every beat of my heart.” The jangly guitars on this track are especially nice. The band just released a great new video for the song that was filmed in Las Vegas, famed for its lights and thus perfectly suited for the track.

The final track “Devices” is breathtakingly beautiful, with mellow strummed guitar and delicate piano. Miccoli’s beguiling harmonic vocals register just above a whisper, giving the song an ethereal quality. It’s my personal favorite of their songs, though I think every one of them is superb. This terrific EP is well-crafted and definitely worth owning.

Follow Miccoli:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

BAD LLAMA – EP Review: “Shedding Skin”

Sometimes I wish I lived in the UK, as so many of the artists and bands I like seem to be located there. I’ve featured many of them on this blog, and today I introduce Bad Llama, an alternative metal five-piece based in Burton Upon Trent.  I was happy they contacted me about their EP, because I became hooked on their music at first listen.

They formed little more than a year ago in early 2016, and in fairly short order released their debut EP Shedding Skin last September. Blending 90s rock, funk and metal with modern industrial and progressive sounds, Bad Llama creates music overflowing with intricate melodies, complex arrangements, powerful instrumentals, intelligent lyrics and impassioned vocals.

Making all this great music are Kyle Jordan (Vocals), Lewis Hutchings (Bass), Gaz Waddell (Drums), Dan Houlbrooke (Guitar) and Sam Wyatt (Guitar and Backing vocals). The band made their first live appearance at the 02 Academy 3 in Birmingham in October 2016 and have since played there again. They also appeared on Johnny Doom’s show Amp’d on Birmingham TV (a video of that appearance is at the end of this review), and have played a number of venues throughout the Midlands.

Bad Llama

From the moment we hear the mysterious haunting synths at the beginning of the stunning first track “The Healer,” the song begins to cast its spell. Then jangly guitars, heavy bass and pounding drums enter the picture, drawing us in until a waterfall of swirling and snarling guitars rain down upon our dazed ears, leaving us helplessly in thrall. After just one track, it’s safe to conclude that these guys are masters of their respective instruments. Jordan’s powerful vocals are mesmerizing, going from vulnerable one moment to passionately raw the next as he implores: “Your silence speaks volumes to me / Maybe everything isn’t as it seems.”

The Wolf You Feed” takes a darker turn, with gritty, wailing guitars and cymbal-heavy percussion creating a foreboding sense of doom. Jordan’s vocals once again run the gamut from smoldering to anguished screams, adding complexity and power to the track.  The video was filmed in an abandoned warehouse, and features menacing images of ghoulish characters tormenting the band, alternating with scenes of them performing the song outside the warehouse.

Houlbrooke and Wyatt show off their guitar-playing chops on the exhilarating “Paint in Sound,” as the song opens with a rapid-fire riff before we’re treated to layers of shredded, swirling and distorted guitars. Hutchings’ throbbing bass adds heft to the track, while Waddell pounds out the driving beat. Jordan pleads “Is this prison? Give me something to live for.” His captivating vocals take center stage on “10 Years Time” as he goes from tender falsetto to fiercely intense and everything in between. As to be expected, the instrumentals on this track are outstanding.

Last, but certainly not least, is “Exile,” a brooding, six minute long epic. The intricate guitar work on this track is extraordinary, at once both powerfully intense and achingly beautiful. Hutchings’ bass is so heavy I could feel it pressing against my chest. And it goes without saying that Jordan’s incredible vocal range is on full display, rising to an ear-splitting crescendo before things calm back down by song’s end.

There isn’t a standout track on Shedding Skin, as all five of them are superb. It’s a great EP, and I’m confident we’ll soon be hearing more phenomenal tunes from Bad Llama.

Here’s a video of their appearance on Johnny Doom’s Amp’d:

Follow Bad Llama:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud
Purchase it:  iTunes

Single Review: LITTLE TRIGGERS – “Silly Cigarettes”

Liverpool-based indie rock band Little Triggers is on an upward trajectory of late. Following up on their exuberant punk romp “When the Lights Are Going Out,” they’ve recently dropped a terrific new single “Silly Cigarettes.”  The delightful but emotionally wrenching song further cements the quartet’s status as one of Liverpool’s most exciting bands.

Little Triggers is Thomas Hamilton-Hughes (lead guitar & vocals), Chris Carragher (bass), Sam Gallacher (drums) and James Crawford (keyboards, backing vocals).  Their music is a happy mix of garage rock, punk and new wave influences, giving it a retro, yet freshly current sound that’s candy for the eardrums.

Little Triggers

Photo by John Latham Photography

Silly Cigarettes” opens with a strummed guitar solo and Hamilton-Hughes’ melancholy vocals expressing the heartache of knowing his girlfriend is cheating on him: “Everybody knows, you’re wearing last night’s clothes, and that you’re probably acting up again. And I know where you’ve been, no you thought I hadn’t seen you’d been ’round again.” The intensity of the music rises as the song progresses, with lots of cymbal-heavy percussion, thumping keyboards and jangly guitars. Hamilton-Hughes’ vocals become more emotionally wrought as he sings the chorus: “Cause I’ve heard everyone is taking off your party dress, while I’m sad on the outside smoking silly cigarettes. Oh don’t you know?”   The guitar solo in the bridge is wonderful, and the powerful backing vocals in the chorus call to mind those of a classic ELO song.

Have a listen to this great tune:

Here’s a video of a great acoustic version of the song that’s less intense, but still emotionally poignant.

Connect with Little Triggers: Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes