NO MIND STATE – Single Review: “Hold Me Back, I’m Leaving”

No Mind State 3

No Mind State is an alternative rock band from Oslo, Norway, and they’ve released their first single “Hold Me Back, I’m Leaving.” It’s an exciting track, and an auspicious debut for the band. Making the music are Henrik Posèbo Sørebø (Guitar, lead vocals), Vetle Berthelsen (Lead Guitar), Vegard Tveito (Bass, backing vocals) and Christian Gathe (Drums). From some of their photos, as well as posts on Instagram, the guys have a strong sense of humor, something I always find appealing in a band.

The song is hard-hitting, melodic rock at its finest. Henrik and Vetle lay down energetic riffs of gritty guitars over Vegard’s driving bass line, while Christian forcefully pounds out the beat with his thumping drums and a barrage of crashing cymbals. Henrik’s sultry, aggressive vocals are impassioned and raw as he sings the lyrics that speak to knowing you should get out of a dysfunctional relationship, but not being able to escape:

Hold me back, I’m leaving
Couldn’t shake off the feeling of being wrong, but that’s alright.
Drag me down, I’m breathing
Suffocation’s relieving, feels so right but I am wrong
Raise the bridge and shackle me then I’ll be here for you
Don’t dare to rest an eye, or you know the end is nigh
Lock the door and throw the key, then I’ll be here for you
Build a castle for the night, know its wrong but that’s alright

Connect with No Mind State:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify or purchase on iTunes

JOHNNY KOWALSKI AND THE SEXY WEIRDOS – Album Review: “European English”

European English

Being the EclecticMusicLover, I enjoy a wide variety of music genres, and have a special appreciation for artists and bands that meld lots of different influences in the creation of their music. Well, Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos – a self-described “body-snatching carnival punk band” from Birmingham, UK – are eclectic on steroids! And, honestly, who could possibly resist a band called ‘The Sexy Weirdos?!’ Fusing Celtic, Balkan and Gypsy folk melodies with reggae, ska, mariachi, punk and rock’n’roll, they create a uniquely eccentric sound that’s totally original and deliriously entertaining.

Like many bands, they’ve undergone some changes in membership over the years since forming in 2009. The current lineup consists of frontman Johnny Kowalski (Vocals, Lead Guitar), Chris Yates (Bass), Ilias Lintzos (Percussion), John-Joe Murray (Violin), Matthew Osborne (Drums) and Katie Stevens (Clarinet, Tenor Sax). They released their debut album Victory for the Monsters in 2012, and followed two years later with Kill the Beast. In October, they dropped their third album European English, an extraordinary work that reflects their experiences touring across Europe, as well as time spent amongst Romani gypsies and artists in Josefov, Czech Republic, where many of the album’s songs were written.

Sexy Weirdos2

Things get off to a rousing start with “Megahorse,” a lively tune that conjures up images of a Yiddish folk dance, and sets the overall tone for the album. A careful listen reveals a rich diversity of instruments at play, most notably guitar, violin, and a chirping clarinet, anchored by thumping bass and a frantic drumbeat. In his distinctive spirited vocal style, Kowalski sounds like he’s singing at a Jewish wedding as he wails “If everyone thinks it, it must be right, ’cause everyone can’t be wrong. The lies that we fight to feel safe at night, are the lies that help keep us strong.”

The band’s sense of playful silliness and love of camp is charmingly evident on the zany video, as they take turns dancing to the song (with varying amounts of success).

A seductive Latin-infused bass line introduces us to “Relative Rudeboy,” then a playful violin and drumbeat ensue, accentuated by Stevens’ jaunty sax and a bit of cowbell thrown in for good measure. It all makes for a fun romp that’ll have even the biggest wallflower on their feet. The hips keep swaying with the infectious “Serbian Rumba.” Murray’s sultry violin takes a starring role, and Kowalski’s low, smoldering vocals are a delight as he sings: “Why should I be thinking of you right now? Not in this place and not in this time. And now he will preach at me for a long eternity. And I will be forced to agree, that I’m an asshole yes I see.”

The band evokes the Scottish Highlands with a bit of a gypsy vibe on the exuberant instrumental “Sicilian Stallion.” I love the festive violin, flute and electric guitar work, all propelled forward by a peppy drumbeat. They keep the energy flowing with the “Minor Calamity” and bouncy “Didn’t Find the Money.”

Raggadub (Manifesto in Three Parts)” is an interesting and complex track, with added dubstep and hip-hop elements, courtesy of guest artists Anne-Marie Allen, Smut Rakhra and Jugganaut. The first part beckons us to feel a connection with each other and the earth through music and dance: “Mother earth and sister of soul. Feel that connection and let your body roll.” Part two speaks to social injustice and corruption: “Idled masses yearn to breathe free. Fat on bread for 26p. A trace of fruit, sugar and bleach. Fluoride toothpaste from the pharmacy. Rotisserie chicken is pumped with fat. The sanctity of life is on a wire rack.” The vocals in the frenetic third part are sung so fast I couldn’t understand them, but it’s certainly a climactic end to an amazing track!

The lively instrumental track “Matthew, Matthew” brings an explosion of fluttering clarinet, violin, guitar and crashing cymbals. Kowalski seems to channel the late Joe Strummer on the boisterous “Flight of the Juniper,” which to my ears sounds like a song that could have been done by The Clash. The guitar work on this short but powerful track is wonderful.

Closing out the album is the captivating, psychedelic-tinged “Chinese Icicles,” a real tour-de-force and one of the standout tracks. The violin in all its forms takes center stage, with electric guitar in a strong co-starring role. The band employs all sorts of exotic instruments to lend a mysterious Asian vibe to an essentially hard rock track. The song is so compelling it seems shorter than its five and a half minute length. It’s a dramatic finish to a remarkable album, which you can listen to here:

Connect with the band:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify and purchase on Bandcamp

Top 20 Songs for December 10-16, 2017

1. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (1)
2. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (4)
3. WITHOUT YOU – Disciples of Babylon (5)
4. THE SKY IS A NEIGHBORHOOD – Foo Fighters (6)
5. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet (2)
6. I LOVE YOU BUT I’M LOST – Tears For Fears (9)
7. ONE FOOT – WALK THE MOON (8)
8. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids ft. Bishop Briggs (3)
9. KINKY – Oli Barton & the Movement (10)
10. WALK ON WATER – 30 Seconds to Mars (7)
11. LAY ME DOWN – Candid (12)
12. DEVIL IN THE DETAILS – VERIS (13)
13. RX(MEDICATE) – Theory of a Deadman (14)
14. UP ALL NIGHT – Beck (16)
15. NO ROOTS – Alice Merton (11)
16. ANGELA – The Lumineers (18)
17. I ONLY LIE WHEN I LOVE YOU – Royal Blood (17)
18. SOBER UP – AJR ft. Rivers Cuomo (20)
19. THUNDER – Imagine Dragons (15)
20. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal. The Man (N)

SKINNY WIZARD – Single Review: “Phantom Pain”

Skinny Wizard builds houses by day, but come nightfall his musician alter-ego takes over. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Skinny Wizard – whose given name is Bill Cherry – is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who began playing guitar at the age of six.  As he tells in his bio “I took it seriously during my high school years, but then I moved away from home and life took over. I didn’t really understand how the music industry worked and it was easier to make money building houses to make someone else rich.” It’s a sentiment I’m sure a lot of musicians can attest to.

Now that he and his wife are empty-nesters, Skinny has taken up his six-string again, and gotten back to expressing himself through his music. He plays mostly folk and blues-rock, genres he seems most comfortable with as a solo artist. He’s just released a new single “Phantom Pain,” a moving song he felt he had to write to honor the death of a friend from suicide.

The track starts out with sounds like being in a thunderstorm or possibly a subway train, then he begins strumming his acoustic guitar and singing the honest, heartfelt lyrics expressing bittersweet feelings of pain over the loss of a good friend:

I woke last night and I thought I heard you talking
But that’s absurd ’cause you’ve been gone over a year
And I remember all the good things we done together
A new definition for a thing called Phantom Pain
And that’s the way it goes sometimes you don’t know what life brings
You just keep pressing on in spite of all the odds
I hope to see you again someday

He has a casual, pleasing style of guitar playing, and though not overly strong, his vocals are well-suited for a gentle folk ballad like “Phantom Pain.” Check it out:

Connect with Skinny Wizard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Purchase “Phantom Pain” on cdbaby

DRAFT EVADER – Single Review: “The Devil’s Disguise”

One of my objectives in writing this blog is giving exposure to indie artists and bands, many of whom are struggling to get their music heard by a wider audience. Today I feature the young singer/songwriter Ryan Loree, who goes by the artistic name Draft Evader. Following up on his debut single “Blue Lies,” which he released in June 2017, he dropped a new single “The Devil’s Disguise” in October.

Draft Evader

Based in Chicago, Draft Evader plays straight-up rock’n’roll with a hint of punk. When I asked him about his moniker, he explained the he was not happy about our current President (neither am I) and “the name ‘Draft Evader’ was kind of like a middle finger to the whole system, kind of like ‘you can’t tell me what to do.’ So in a sense it means freedom. Freedom to be who you are and do what you love, no matter what anyone says.

He writes his songs and records them with his good friend Joe Scaletta. He explained their process in developing songs: “I write all the songs by myself at home, so I’ll come into the studio with lyrics and rhythm guitars done and from that we’ll lay down the base of the song. Then we start working on the drums together (there’s a shortage of drummers around here so unfortunately we write them together using the computer). Next we’ll take care of the bass, and Joe happens to be a bassist so I let him take the reigns on that unless I know exactly what I want the bass to do. After that we’ll add some guitar leads or maybe I’ll improvise a solo in the bridge of the song. Then I’ll jump in the vocal booth and try to sing/scream to the best of my ability. Very simple stuff until I get a full band going.

“The Devil’s Disguise” is a hard-hitting rock song with biting lyrics about suffering from personal turmoil and demons that have caused him to commit violence, and wanting an escape from the environment he inhabits, hoping it might help him change:

I’m turning my back on sweet home Chicago
Packed up too fast and blew out my ankle
I’m letting go of all the get to know
I’m stuck in place staring out the window
There’s blood on the streets of downtown Chicago
There’s death in the air and holes in the windows
There’s ghosts in my head digging a deep hole
There’s demons inside slowing my blood blow

The devil’s disguise hiding in plain site
Seein’ through evil eyes
Live my life in disguise
Pushin’ through trying times
Shedding my disguise

Musically, the track is well-crafted, with some excellent riffs of shredded guitars, anchored by a solid buzzing bass line and crisp percussion. Draft Evader’s vocals are earnest, with a hint of melancholia that befits the dark lyrics. All in all, a fine effort from a young artist who I believe has a lot of promise. He writes thoughtful and compelling lyrics, has a good grasp on song structure and production, and plays a mean guitar.

Connect with Draft Evader:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

His songs may be streamed on Spotify and purchased on Bandcamp or itunes

HOUNDWOLF – Album Review: “Beware of the Dog”

Houndwolf album cover

I turn my spotlight back to Germany, this time on HOUNDWOLF, an outstanding hard rock/metal band based in Witten. 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 rock’n’roll, with some of the best guitar work I’ve heard any band play. Comprising the band are Milan Schloßmacher (Lead Vocals & Guitars), Tobias Maienschein (Guitar & Backings), Daniel Teuchert (Bass & Backings) and Thomas Neuhaus (Drums).

Houndwolf

In early 2016 HOUNDWOLF released a debut 3-track EP Fast and Loose, then dropped their first studio album Beware of the Dog that November. The album includes the original three tracks that were on the EP, plus seven new tracks. It’s a real tour-de-force, with seven tracks running more than five minutes in length. Three of them clock in at over eight minutes, with impressive extended riffs that will satisfy even the pickiest lovers of metal guitar.

The album kicks off with the rousing “The Banner of Rock’n’Roll,” establishing right up-front that this band means business about carrying the banner for rock’n’roll. To an onslaught of blazing guitars, buzzing bass and pummeling drums, Milan snarls “We have come to kick your ass, to blow your mind today! With a sound that’s razor sharp, as a steely knife” – and do they ever! Milan and Tobias lay down some formidable riffs that make for an exhilarating rock’n’roll song.

Metallica’s influence is strongly evident on many of their songs, especially the title track “Beware of the Dog,” “Paintheatre” and “Fast and Loose” – all down and dirty high-energy rock’n’roll tracks with frenetic metal guitar riffs, heavy bass lines and rapid-fire drums. “Crematories of Hell” is a moody heavy metal ballad with stunning intricate guitars that shred and wail. Milan’s smoldering, gritty vocals add to the dark feel of the track as he bitterly sings: “So you laid me down into the crematories of hell. You drained all my joy, I’m pain in a human shell.”

Die Laughin‘” is fantastic hard-driving rock at its finest, opening with a blistering extended guitar riff, backed by pounding drums and throbbing bass. After about a minute, Milan’s powerful vocals enter the proceedings as he growls: “I wanna die laughin’, with a smile on my lips,” though it sounds like he’s singing “I wanna die lovin.'” Double meaning perhaps? At four minutes, the song slows to a ballad-like interlude with beautiful guitar, then ramps back up with a return to the frenzied tempo for the remainder of the track. (HOUNDWOLF does this on several of their longer songs, giving them a monumental quality.) Milan reaffirms his intentions: “I wanna die with a smile on my face.” It’s an awesome song with stellar guitar work, and one of my favorites on the album.

Sweet Goddess of Fire” is a great hard rock song, with more amazing guitar work. Milan sings about a woman who’s definitely caught his attention: “Pretty smile, she’s not that tall. But she really is the opposite of small.

It seems the guys are saving the best for last, as the tracks get better and better as the album progresses. Another favorite of mine is the gorgeous but melancholy rock ballad “Goldminer’s Dream,” a powerful song about feeling like a failure despite working so hard, but vowing to never give up trying to achieve your dreams:

I’ve been working all day and all night long
Searching every mountain’s mine for gold
Hoping to have my work, and money making it tenfold
Cause I like the dust and I like the dirt
For I desire the end of all my indefatigable work
I have to go on as it seems
But I won’t give up, I won’t bury a goldminer’s dream
Sorry that none I brought to you was gold
Glittering emptiness is all that I hold with these shattered hands
Again I lost, Again I commit a blunder
Again I feel this pain trying to pull me under

The track starts off slowly, with beautiful strummed guitars over a solid bass line and gently tapping drums. At about 3:30 the music intensifies with stronger electric guitar and heavier drums. Milan’s vocals also rise in emotion to a grittier delivery, in tandem with the music, then all settles down at 4:50 for around 45 seconds. Everything ramps back up again to a powerful crescendo before calming back down at the end. It’s an amazing song.

Speaking of amazing, next up is “Deathtiny,” an epic work featuring jaw-dropping guitars worthy of Metallica or Slayer. It’s ironic how riffs this scorching hot can bring such chills. Milan and Tobias shred their guitars nearly to the breaking point, while Daniel lays down a mammoth bass line. Thomas attacks his drum kit like a pile driver, crashing his cymbals with all the force he can muster. The track is almost nine minutes long, but so fucking good it seems over in an instant.

Here’s a video of Daniel doing a wicked bass playthrough of the track:

The guys pull out all the stops on the autobiographical album closer “Houndwolf.” It’s a rock’n’roll head-banger, delivering a barrage of frantic metal guitar riffs, crushing bass and thunderous percussion. Milan’s gruff vocals are fierce as he sings about what they’re gonna do with their music: ” We’re Houndwolf! We’re gonna take the stage! We’re gonna bring ya into eternal rage. We’re Houndwolf! Give us your hand! We’re gonna bring ya into  a fallen land.” Take me, I’m ready to go!

Here’s a video of Milan doing a guitar playthrough of “Houndwolf.”

HOUNDWOLF play hard rock’n’roll that’s every bit as good as many of the big-name heavy metal bands, and Beware of the Dog is a superb, monumental album. They’re writing and recording new music, which should be gracing our ears in 2018.

Connect with Houndwolf:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Purchase Beware of the the Dog on itunes and other sites offering music for download or purchase.

Top 20 Songs for December 3-9, 2017

1. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (1)
2. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet (2)
3. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids, Bishop Briggs (3)
4. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (4)
5. WITHOUT YOU – Disciples of Babylon (5)
6. THE SKY IS A NEIGHBORHOOD – Foo Fighters (6)
7. WALK ON WATER – 30 Seconds to Mars (7)
8. ONE FOOT – WALK THE MOON (8)
9. I LOVE YOU BUT I’M LOST – Tears For Fears (9)
10. KINKY – Oli Barton & the Movement (10)
11. NO ROOTS – Alice Merton (11)
12. LAY ME DOWN – Candid (13)
13. DEVIL IN THE DETAILS – VERIS (14)
14. RX(MEDICATE) – Theory of a Deadman (15)
15. THUNDER – Imagine Dragons (12)
16. UP ALL NIGHT – Beck (18)
17. I ONLY LIE WHEN I LOVE YOU – Royal Blood (19)
18. ANGELA – The Lumineers (20)
19. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs (16) 21st week on list
20. SOBER UP – AJR ft. Rivers Cuomo (N)

CANDID – Single Review: “Breathless”

UK alt-rock band Candid is on a roll. In little more than a year, the Coventry, England foursome has released a total of four singles, beginning with “Moving On” in the fall of 2016. They followed up with the fantastic “Rumours” in May, which I reviewed, then dropped their third single “Lay Me Down,” in August, a superb song I also reviewed. Today they released a fourth single “Breathless” and, as we like to say here in the U.S., they’ve hit another one out of the park. It’s so stunning that it leaves me breathless!

candid new
Photo by Ruby Nixon

Candid consists of brothers Rob (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Dan Latimer (lead guitar), Sam Baines (bass) and Ben Williams (drums). Their dynamic sound features arresting melodies, outstanding layered guitar work and wicked percussion, all of which are on full display on “Breathless.” The exuberant jangly and chiming guitars are magnificent, soaring to great heights and creating a full, sweeping soundscape that’s truly breathtaking.

Their lyrics are always thoughtful and intelligent, and on “Breathless” they address feelings of losing one’s grip on reality, and wanting a return to sanity by moving on to a better place mentally.  Rob’s vocals are captivating as he plaintively sings:

I feel there’s something on my mind I’ve got a lot to say
Guess I can stay and fight the fire or I could walk away
I feel there’s something creeping up I got no place to hide
From the corners of my mind
So let me up for air I, cause I don’t understand why
All these things in my mind leave me breathless

Follow Candid:  Facebook  /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube
Purchase:   iTunes

FROM THE CAVE Release a Gorgeous Video for their new single “Halloween”

From the Cave

From the Cave is an alternative indie rock band based in London, UK, and on 31 October they appropriately released a stunning new single “Halloween,” along with an equally stunning video. I’m only getting around to featuring it now, as I just discovered it a few days ago. I was instantly blown away by both song and video, which is quite honestly one of the most interesting and visually captivating videos I’ve seen in a long while.

The five-member band consists of Kristian Møller-Munar on vocals and guitar, Mikaela Lindgren on vocals, keys and percussion, Josh Scriven on guitar and vocals, Johan Crondahl on bass, and Anton Vysotsky on drums. They released their self-titled debut EP From the Cave in 2016, and in 2017 have followed up with a series of singles, the fourth of which is “Halloween.” They plan to released a full album in early 2018.

From the Cave2

“Halloween” starts off with quiet, mysterious synths and plucky guitar, followed by gentle percussion and a soft chorus, then Mikaela’s lovely vocals enter the proceedings. The music swells with added synths and layered jangly 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 song that raises goosebumps.

I may be off-base, but my take on the song’s meaning is that it’s about a relationship where the partners are hiding behind a mask of sorts, unable to be open or honest with each other – hence the title “Halloween.”

I try to see you from the outside
But you were hiding in my mind
I’m walking over to a brighter light
The door is closed I hear a voice
Do we ever have a choice?
Halloween Halloween

The gorgeous and intensely colorful animated video, which was created by Kristian, shows a vehicle traveling across an ever-changing fantasyland of earth, water and sky. It’s like a psychedelic trip through the Land of Oz with Harry Potter and his friends. I love it!

Connect with From the Cave:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase: Bandcamp