RONNIE THE BEAR – Single Review: “Do You Feel That?”

Ronnie the Bear is the music moniker of Joshua Rukas, a talented and charismatic young singer/songwriter and musician from Grand Rapids, Michigan. He’s also a member of the punk/emo rock band MUSCLEMAN, as well as a former member of alt-rock band Dancing On Pluto, who I reviewed a couple times prior to their splitting up in August 2018. On September 9th, he released his stunning debut single “Do You Feel That?“, the first track from his forthcoming EP.

Josh composes, performs and produces all his own music, as well as the mixing and mastering, and I must say he’s done a masterful job (no pun intended) with “Do You Feel That?” Starting with a languid, seductive synth bass beat, he skillfully layers a lush array of shimmery and grainy-textured synths, accompanied by gorgeous chiming guitar notes, then bathes it all in just enough reverb to create a dreamy, atmospheric soundscape that carries us off to an enchanting faraway place.

He has a smooth and warm singing voice, and his somewhat echoed vocals are really lovely and soothing, perfectly complementing the song’s atmospheric aura. Halfway through the song, he briefly transitions to rapping a verse of lyrics, pulling it off quite nicely. Then, during the final minute, his vocals are electronically altered, giving them an otherworldly feel that enhances the song’s overall dreamy vibe. I love it!

The song seems to be about living life to the fullest and in the moment, being independent and free to make your own decisions, and unafraid of what the future might bring:

It might be time to shake things up a little
No longer feel the danger 
I'm just trying to feel myself a little 
So glad I'm on my own 
I think I want to dance just for a little 
Not a care if it's been raining 
I'll leave my shoes behind and let my body be my guide
I'll get by
 I'm just strolling through life

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THE RARE OCCASIONS – Single Review: “Alone”

I recently got a notification in my inbox for the new single “Alone” by an indie rock band called The Rare Occasions. Being the dutiful music blogger that I am, I gave it a listen and liked it so much that I started delving into their impressive music catalog. Well, I’m happy to report that I love their music and am now a big fan. Fashioned with colorful melodies, sparkling arrangements, exuberant instrumentals and endearing vocals, but with contemplative and often biting lyrics, their songs are immediately memorable and deeply addictive. It’s not surprising they have a sizable following; their song “Notion” has been streamed over 1.7 million times on Spotify, with another six of their songs garnering between 100,000-800,000 streams.

With origins in Providence, Rhode Island and now based in Los Angeles via Boston, The Rare Occasions was formed by childhood friends Brian McLaughlin and Luke Imbusch after they moved to Boston to form a band. They soon met bassist Jeremy Cohen and guitarist Peter Stone, and with McLaughlin on vocals and Imbusch on drums, their lineup was complete. In 2013, they released their debut EP Applefork, then followed up a year later with Feelers. Their song “Dysphoric”, one of the tracks from Feelers, won the ‘Song of the Year’ award in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. They released more singles and a third EP, the wonderful Futureproof, in 2016.

Fiercely independent, the band has always recorded and produced all their own music, getting help only with final mastering. Wanting to devote their full energies and earn a living from music by doing studio session work and songwriting, they relocated to Los Angeles in 2017, and would go on to record their exquisite full-length album Into the Shallows, which they released in 2018. After a national tour to promote the album, The Rare Occasions saw the amicable departure of guitarist Peter Stone. Now forced to reinvent themselves as a three-piece, they continued writing and recording new songs featuring, in their own words, “three-part harmonies, wall-of-sound instrumentation, and a pointed sense of cheekiness.”

Since becoming a three-piece, they’ve released three singles, “Control”, “Set It Right”, and their latest “Alone” which dropped September 16th. It’s an infectious, anthemic banger, highlighted by an aggressive foot-stomping beat and explosive instrumentals. The thunderous mix of jangly and gnarly riffs, punctuating by lunging guitar notes, and driven by Jeremy’s powerful buzzing bass line and Luke’s smashing percussion, create an electrifying wall of sound that serves as a dramatic backdrop for Brian’s wonderful plaintive vocals. I especially love the soaring vocal harmonies in the choruses. It’s a fantastic song.

The lyrics are a defiant repudiation of an affluent and controlling parental figure who wants their son to toe the line and adopt their status symbol-based materialistic lifestyle, or face being cut off from the family fortune:

I take time kicking it down the line
I don’t know where I’m going where I’m going
I think twice before taking your advice
‘cause I can see your ignorance is showing

you say “real estate is what you need
a little place beside the sea
if you don’t fall in line
then you’re no son of mine”

so I swing my shoulder through the thick of it
and face tomorrow alone
because you own me and I’m sick of it
but you don’t own me no more

where’ve we seen this before?
the age was gilded; cronuts weren’t to blame
your world is purely transactional
why don’t you look around and think
before you blurt out gems like:

“jewelry is what you want
a sterling piece that you can flaunt
if you don’t fall in line
then you’re no son of mine”

so I swing my shoulder through the thick of it
and face tomorrow alone
because you own me and I’m sick of it
but you don’t own me no more

And here’s a cute video of them performing the song at their virtual release party:

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EML’s Favorite Albums – GREEN DAY: “American Idiot”

American Idiot is my favorite album by punk rock band Green Day, who also happen to be one of my all-time favorite bands. Their seventh studio album, it was released 16 years ago almost to the day, on September 21, 2004. Since 1990, the three primary members of Green Day have included Billie Joe Armstrong on lead guitar and vocals, Mike Dirnt on bass and backing vocals, and Tré Cool on drums.

American Idiot was a comeback album of sorts for them. Thanks to the massive success of their 1994 breakout album Dookie, as well as follow-up albums Insomniac and Nimrod, Green Day became one of the most popular rock bands of the 1990s. Unfortunately, despite garnering mostly positive reviews, their 2000 album Warning was a commercial disappointment. By 2003 they were experiencing internal strife, as well as beginning to feel like “elder statesmen” of the pop punk scene, even though they were then only in their early 30s.

They’d spent much of 2002 writing and recording songs for their next album to be titled Cigarettes and Valentines, but the demo master tapes were stolen from the studio (they were eventually recovered). After consulting with their longtime producer Rob Cavallo, the guys decided to scrap the old material and start fresh on a new project, with the goal of writing their best material yet. They also decided to use louder and heavier guitars for the record. For a story in a June 2005 issue of Guitar Legends, Armstrong told Alan DePerna: “We were like, ‘Let’s just go balls-out on the guitar sound—plug in the Les Pauls and Marshalls and let it rip’.”  

Each band member began crafting their own 30-second songs in a kind of competition. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Armstrong recalled, “It started getting more serious as we tried to outdo one another. We kept connecting these little half-minute bits until we had something.” These bits would become the nine-minute long suite “Homecoming” consisting of five connected songs. They went on to write another nine-minute long suite, “Jesus of Suburbia”, also featuring five connected songs. 

Armstrong then wrote the title and opening track “American Idiot” in response to the American public’s patriotic support of the Bush Administration’s war against Iraq. He was not only infuriated by the war itself, but also angered at how the mass media orchestrated support for the war by sowing paranoia and idiocy among the public through their news broadcasts. His anger carried over to the aggressive riffs and explosive percussion they employed on the track. That song, combined with the two suites they’d written, led to a change in the direction of the album, with the guys viewing the songs more as chapters or movements in a larger work. They decided to make it a concept album, also titled American Idiot, addressing sociopolitical issues of the day, and in a format they would call a “punk rock opera.” The title track was the first by Green Day to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at a paltry #61, however, it would spend six weeks at #1 on the Alternative chart.

For the creation of the album, Green Day drew inspiration from other notable rock operas such as the Who’s “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia” and David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust” and “Spiders from Mars”, as well as the Broadway musicals West Side Story, The Rocky Horror Show, Grease, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

American Idiot explores the disillusionment and dissent of a generation that came of age in a period shaped by traumatic events like 9/11 and the Iraq War, and essentially follows the story of Jesus of Suburbia, a lower-middle-class suburban American teen, raised on “a steady diet of soda pop and Ritalin.” He hates his town, his family and everyone around him: “Everyone is so full of shit! Born and raised by Hypocrites.” He eventually escapes to the big city. His story is laid out in the nine-minute long “Jesus of Suburbia”, a hard-driving punk-infused suite consisting of five songs: “Jesus of Suburbia”, “City of the Damned”, “I Don’t Care”, “Dearly Beloved” and “Tales of Another Broken Home.”

Following the “Jesus of Suburbia” suite is “Holiday”, a protest anthem inspired by the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq. To a powerful driving beat, Armstrong emphatically rails against the neo-conservatives who pushed for war and their strategy of pitting one group against another. According to Armstrong, the chorus’s refrain – “This is our lives on holiday”— was intended to reflect the average American’s ambivalence of the issues of the day, and is spoken from the point of view of Jesus of Suburbia, who’s now high from endless partying in the big city.

The song immediately segues into “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, a fantastic and bleak song described by Armstrong as the “subsequent morning after hangover”. He wrote it to describe the feelings of loneliness he sometimes felt during his time living in New York. The incredible musical arrangement with scratchy, tremolo-laden guitar set to a constant, mesmerizing beat, and accompanied by Armstrong’s almost mournful vocals, create a strong sense of isolation and disillusionment. One of my all-time favorite songs, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” ranks #3 on my Top 100 Songs of the 2000s list. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it Green Day’s most successful song in the U.S. It also topped the Alternative chart, spending an astonishing 16 weeks at #1, and the Adult Top 40 chart, where it spent 11 weeks at #1. The song was awarded a Grammy for 2005 Record of the Year, and was the ninth-highest-selling single of the decade, with worldwide sales exceeding 5 million.

The second character introduced in the story is St. Jimmy, a badass “suicide commando that your momma talked about / King of the 40 thieves and I’m here to represent the needle in the vein of the establishment.” The third is Whatsername, introduced as a nemesis of St. Jimmy in the song “She’s a Rebel”: “She’s a rebel, she’s a saint / She’s the symbol of resistance and she’s holding on my heart like a hand grenade.” St. Jimmy and Whatsername represent the album’s underlying theme of “rage versus love”, with St. Jimmy turning out to be the rebellious and self-destructive facet of Jesus of Suburbia’s personality, explained to him by Whatsername in the song “Letterbomb”: “The St. Jimmy is a figment of your father’s rage and your mother’s love.” In choosing a more righteous path forward, Jesus of Suburbia eventually causes the figurative suicide of St. Jimmy. The album’s final song “Whatsername” touches on the passage of time, and that Jesus of Suburbia has lost his connection with Whatsername as well. He remembers her fondly but can’t recall her name.

The most poignant track on the album is “Wake Me Up When September Ends”, a beautiful and moving song written by Armstrong to convey his feelings of loss for his father, who died of cancer when Armstrong was 10 years old. The song seems like an outlier, in that it doesn’t directly relate to the rest of the album’s tracks or narrative, although the video made for the song addresses the loss of soldiers deployed in the Iraq War, so there’s that tie-in. The song also came to be used as a memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attacks, and in an independently made video, the song was used by a blogger to symbolize the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The guitar work is especially good on this track.

American Idiot is Green Day’s most successful album, selling more than 16,000,000 copies worldwide, and charting in 27 countries, reaching #1 in 19 of them. It spawned five successful singles: “American Idiot”, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”, “Holiday”, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and “Jesus of Suburbia”. Its success inspired a Broadway musical and it has appeared on several lists of the best albums of the year and the decade. In 2012, Rolling Stone ranked it #225 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, and Kerrang named it the best rock album of the 2000s, and 13th best of all time. I would place it among my 20 favorite albums of all time.

Given the ongoing fear-mongering by the media, increasingly intense political divisiveness, and chronic stupidity of the American public, American Idiot remains quite relevant in 2020.

Top 30 Songs for September 20-26, 2020

  1. FEEL YOU – My Morning Jacket (1)
  2. CARDIGAN – Taylor Swift (3)
  3. MONSTERS – All Time Low featuring blackbear (4)
  4. HALLUCINOGENICS – Matt Maeson (2)
  5. MY OWN SOUL’S WARNING – The Killers (6)
  6. IT’S YOU – The Frontier (7)
  7. CAN I CALL YOU TONIGHT? – Dayglow (8)
  8. DOWNS – Roadkeeper (9)
  9. BLACK & WHITE LOVE – Beating Hearts Club (5)
  10. WATERMELON SUGAR – Harry Styles (14)
  11. IS IT TRUE – Tame Impala (20)
  12. SOMEONE ELSE – Rezz & Grabbitz (12)
  13. MY FUTURE – Billie Eilish (17)
  14. ZEN – X Ambassadors, K.Flay & grandson (15)
  15. BACK TO HIM – Soricah (18)
  16. HOODIE UP – MISSIO (19)
  17. HONEYBEE – The Head and the Heart (10)
  18. PSYCH FILM – Strangely Alright (11)
  19. HEAVEN IS HEART – Jaded Jane (13)
  20. WHAT YOU GONNA DO??? – Bastille featuring Graham Coxon (23)
  21. GIANTS – Dermot Kennedy (24)
  22. FOR SURE – Future Islands (25)
  23. FAULT LINES – Callum Pitt (26)
  24. I GOT YOU – Michael Franti & Spearhead (22)
  25. FRIDAY NIGHT – Heist At Five featuring Francesca Confortini (27)
  26. FIRE – Black Pumas (16)
  27. HERO – Weezer (N)
  29. ARE YOU BORED YET? – Wallows featuring Clairo (N)
  30. MARIPOSA – Peach Tree Rascals (N)

STRANGELY ALRIGHT – Single Review: “Maybe If”

Strangely Alright is a wonderful and wildly-entertaining psychedelic-punk rock band based in Seattle-Tacoma, Washington. Referring to themselves as an “Eclectic Traveling Minstrel Magic Music Medicine Show”, they’ve built a loyal following not only through their great music, but also for the positive messages of humanity, love, kindness and acceptance in their songs. Their quirky and unique style of punk-infused rock is inspired by such iconic British artists as David Bowie, T.Rex, Pink Floyd, the Jam, Suede, the Buzzcocks and Supergrass. The band is fronted by Regan Lane, who does much of the songwriting and sings lead vocals, Sean Van Dommelen (lead guitar, backing vocals), Ken Schaff (bass), Raymond Hayden (keyboards, backing vocals) and Jason Bair (drums).

They’ve released a number of recordings over the past several years, including their debut album The Time Machine is Broken in 2013, as well as a compilation album All of Us Are Strange (The Singles) and an EP Stuff, both of which were released in 2018. Since then, they’ve dropped a number of terrific singles, one of them the brilliant and trippy “Psych Film”, which has been streamed nearly 75,000 times on Spotify. The song has also spent the past four months on my Weekly Top 30 list, peaking at #4. (You can read my reviews of Stuff and “Psych Film” by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.)

Now Strangely Alright returns with their marvelous new single “Maybe If“, a beautiful song of hope, love and gratitude. About the song’s message, the band states “In a world of pointing fingers, we have decided to look inside for the answers. And let’s be kind! It matters in ways we often never see.” Running nearly eight minutes long, the song has an epic, otherworldly feel reminiscent of some of Pink Floyd’s music. The intricate guitar work is fantastic, alternating between jangly, chiming and grungy textures, and accompanied by sparkling piano keys, measured percussion, and a colorful mix of spacey and sweeping orchestral synths. It all comes together beautifully to create a dreamy cinematic backdrop for Regan’s wonderful Bowie-esque vocals.

Feeling like an alien
Who fell and landed here
Maybe if I face my pride
The answers will be clear
Maybe if I ride a cloud
Into the sun my darkness disappears

Everything I never had
I’d give it all away
If I have to steal a smile
I’ll wear it for the day
If I have to tell where I have been
I have to sell there’s nothing left to win

Maybe If I look inside
I’ll see the things I’ve always tried to hide

Maybe everything I have
Is everything I need
And I can’t control the world outside
And I hate who I can be
If I lose control will I disappear
And will I fade away to the nothing
In the mirror

Galaxies of brokenness that fabricate what I have missed
Peculiar thoughts I died when I was young
Can’t escape what might have been
The atmosphere is getting thin
I’m out of gas
Maybe If

Maybe If my gratitude is greater than my faith
If I see myself in everyone will I share a little grace
And I want to trust all the things I see
And I want to feel just a little peace
There’s a million no’s deep inside of me
If I let em go
I just might end up free

Strangely Alright hit the ball out of the park yet again with “Maybe If”, further cementing their reputation for putting out stellar tunes with the power to both dazzle our senses and stir our souls.

To learn more about Strangely Alright, check out their website
Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

BEATING HEARTS CLUB – Album Review: “Freedom & Rebellion”

One of the benefits (and challenges) of being a music blogger is discovering lots of music by an ever-expanding number of indie and up and coming artists, more than I could possibly ever write about, let alone listen to it all! There’s a surprising amount of real talent out there, and I’ve had the pleasure of writing about quite a few artists and bands who are making some truly great music. And every now and then, one comes along that stands out among the crowd, such as Australian folk-rock band Beating Hearts Club. Since learning about them this past April, they’ve become one of my favorite indie bands. I’ve already featured them twice on this blog earlier this year, when I reviewed their singles “Black & White Love” and “Round the Bend” (you can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post). I’m now pleased to review their stunning debut album Freedom & Rebellion, which drops today, September 18th.

Based in Sydney, Beating Hearts Club is comprised of Duncan Welsh (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Ciaran Loughran (lead guitar/backing vocals), Lukas Thurner (bass) and Trent Miller (drums), who joined the band a few months ago after their previous drummer left. With their shared love of rock, folk, country and blues, the talented foursome create exceptional music characterized by beautiful melodies, stellar arrangements and intelligent lyrics, and delivered with superb instrumentation and Duncan’s sublime vocals.

As suggested by the title, the album’s theme seems to be about the ups and downs of love and relationships, and the eternal struggle between wanting freedom and wanting to belong to someone. The album opens with “Heroin“, the very first single the band released back in April 2019. It starts off as a gentle ballad, with Duncan’s earnest vocals accompanied by strummed and chiming electric guitars as he sings to a loved one who’s saving him from falling into a downward spiral: “You are my heroin, a shot to the veins / You’re my therapy, you’re the cure.” Then the song expands into a full-blown rocker, with rapid-fire riffs of reverb-soaked guitars, humming bass and thumping drums. Duncan’s vocals rise to the occasion, become more impassioned in their urgency, and Ciaran’s blistering guitar solo in the bridge is fantastic.

Next up is “Black & White Love“, a gorgeous love song that instantly became one of my favorites of the year. I love it so much it’s spent the past four months on my Weekly Top 30, recently going all the way to #1. The instrumentals are stunning, with some of the most achingly beautiful guitar work I’ve heard in a long while. Duncan’s plaintive vocals are lovely and heartfelt, and when the music builds to an anthemic crescendo in the final chorus, I’m covered with goosebumps. The moving lyrics speak of how finding true love in the right person can be a force for healing in our sometimes broken lives: “Could you be the reason? You know I need you, Seen my last chance die but I’m still breathing / Do you feel what I’m feeling? You know I need you shook me upside down and I saw meaning.”

When I didn’t think the guys could top “Black & White Love”, along comes “Crying Wolf” and I’m quickly blown away. What a magnificent song this is, with lush, intricate guitar work and beautiful layered vocals. I also love the mournful organ riff in the outro that gives the song a country rock vibe. The lyrics are about being stuck in a dysfunctional relationship with a partner who constantly complains and threatens to leave, but never does: “Thought I’ve heard, heard it all before / You got me shook, shaking to the core / Why am I the subject, why am I the cries? / Well everybody knows you’re the one who made you cry.

Beating Hearts Club are adept at making both hard-rocking bangers and gentle ballads. A great example of the former is “First Sight of the Rain“, a dark rock’n’roll song about a romantic partner who’s afraid of commitment and wants to bolt from the relationship at the slightest hint of a problem: “You’re running from yourself, it’s you who won’t make a change and no one else / You gave it all to me, then turned and ran away.” The exuberant, hard-driving rhythms and fuzz-coated guitars that break into a scorching solo in the bridge are sensational. Likewise, “Homemade” and “Round the Bend” are rousing folk-rock tunes with resonant jangly guitars and galloping drum beats, punctuated by terrific guitar solos, pummeling drumbeats and ample flourishes of wildly crashing cymbals that make for a lively and highly satisfying listen.

Turning to the ballads, one of my favorite tracks is “Freedom Pt. 2“, a lovely Americana song with strummed acoustic guitar, beautiful piano and strings, and is that a didgeridoo I hear in the background? I may be way off, but the lyrics seem to speak of a man who’s been released from prison, and facing his newly-found freedom with some apprehension: “Heaven knows that I’ve paid my dues / Bring back a feeling, I forgot to use / And from here we’re going wherever I might choose / I know, it’s gonna take a lifetime.” “Olivia” is an equally beautiful song of love and devotion, highlighted by gorgeous strummed guitars and sparkling piano keys.

As the album continues to unfold, it’s clear these guys can do no wrong, as every track is perfect. I’m sounding like a broken record, but on “The Reaper“, the intricate guitar work is spectacular, and when combined with the organ at the beginning and the mournful piano later in the song, the results are breathtaking. Special mention must also be given to Lukas for his wonderful bass line that gives the song such incredible depth. Album closer “Stockholm” is a hard-rocking song about being in an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship similar to Stockholm Syndrome. I love the frantic riffs of grimy guitars and strong, driving beats that nicely convey a sense of tension expressed in the lyrics: “Stockholm Syndrome’s got a hold of me / She takes me down and she won’t let me breathe / I don’t believe in anything I see.”

What more can I possibly say to gush any further about this beautiful work of musical art? Freedom & Rebellion is easily one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and I love every one of its tracks – something that doesn’t happen very often. It’s an impressive debut from this extremely talented band, and they should be very proud of their magnificent accomplishment.

Follow Beating Hearts Club: Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase: Google Play / Amazon

CALLING ALL ASTRONAUTS – Single Review: “Divided States of America”

British electronic goth punk rock band Calling All Astronauts have never shied away from writing provocative lyrics about the dark underbelly of politics, culture and society, and calling out authoritarians, fascists and racists as often and as loudly as possible. Drawing from an eclectic mix of genres and influences ranging from electro, alternative rock, goth, punk, metal, rap and dub step, the London-based trio create music that’s exhilarating, melodic, compelling and often in-your-face. Making this musical mayhem are vocalist/songwriter/programmer and producer David Bury, guitarist J Browning and bassist/keyboardist Paul McCrudden.

Since forming nearly a decade ago, Calling All Astronauts have released numerous singles and EPs, as well as three excellent albums – Post Modern Conspiracy in 2013, Anti-Social Network in 2016, and #Resist, which dropped this past June. (It’s hard to believe that nearly four years have passed since I reviewed their single “Life As We Know It”!) They’re now set to release one of the tracks from #Resist – “Divided States of America” – as their 19th single on September 18th. The single, being released via Supersonic Media, is a scathing attack on the current political situation in the U.S. As someone who loathes President Donald Trump and what’s become of the Republican Party that’s enabled him (not to mention the millions of delusional Americans who still support him), this song strongly resonates with me.

Musically, the song features a powerful punk-style dance beat that gets our blood pumping and emotions appropriately riled up. Paul McCrudden’s throbbing bass line is deliciously heavy and deep, pummeling our senses as he drives the rhythm forward like a battering ram, while J Browning lays down a swirling deluge of grungy guitars, punctuated by some nicely-placed stabbing chords. With his characteristically gruff vocals, David snarls the blistering lyrics with a venom that reflects my own sense of outrage and despair.

Society falling in a downward cycle
We checked it’s pulse, it’s signs ain’t vital
Decay. Decline. Sodom and Gomorrah
No matter what they tell you, there’s no tomorrow

Divided States of America
Didn’t know what they were voting for
Divided States Of America
Shut down, locked down, close the door

Two percent looking down at the rest
And the guy in the store wears a bulletproof vest
White folks offended by “Black Lives Matter”
But it ain’t their kids, whose blood is getting splattered

Divided States of America
Didn’t know what they were voting for
Divided States Of America
Shut down, locked down, close the door

Men in suits, above the law
Another refugee pushed against the wall
“The country’s fantastic, we’re doing great”
The President declares a De facto State

Divided States of America
Didn’t know what they were voting for
Divided States Of America
Shut down, locked down, close the door

For the single version used in the video, David’s three-year-old daughter Daisy is heard talking at the end. Engineer Alan Branch (NIN, Depeche Mode, U2) was mixing the track and asked David to record a straight version of the chorus for the end. As Daisy heard her daddy doing the lines over and over, she proceeded to run round the studio singing the chorus, whereupon a mic was quickly handed to her and she happily contributed a few words.

Here’s the slightly longer album version of the song:

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EML’s Favorite Songs – THE SMITHS: “How Soon is Now?”

The other day I heard “How Soon Is Now?” by the Smiths on the radio, and was reminded of what a brilliant song it is and how much I love it. The highlight of the song is Johnny Marr’s mesmerizing and wailing tremolo-heavy guitar riff. The song was difficult to record and was even more difficult for the band to perform live. In 1990, Marr explained the recording process to Guitar Player Magazine: “I wanted it to be really, really tense and swampy, all at the same time. Layering the slide part was what gave it the real tension. The tremolo effect came from laying down a regular rhythm part with a capo at the 2nd fret on a Les Paul, then sending that out in to the live room to four Fender Twins. John (the band’s producer) was controlling the tremolo on two of them and I was controlling the other two, and whenever they went out of sync we just had to stop the track and start all over again. It took an eternity.”

Co-written by band vocalist Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, the song was initially released in August 1984 as a B-side of the single “William, It Was Really Nothing”. The band and their producer John Porter felt that with “How Soon Is Now?”, they had a potential hit on their hands, and wanted it released as a single. However, their record label Rough Trade felt it was too different from the Smiths’ signature sound and released it as a B-side instead. Porter later angrily recalled “They totally threw it away, wasted it.” Fortunately, several British radio stations began playing the song, and it soon became the most-requested track. The song was subsequently included on the band’s compilation album Hatful of Hollow, which was released in November 1984.

The song was released in the U.S. via Sire Records that same month, with “Girl Afraid” as the B-side. It was expected to sell well and, for the first time, a video was made to promote one of the Smiths’ songs. It was also re-released as a lead single in the UK in January 1985, with “Well I Wonder” as the B-side. Unfortunately, the single failed to chart in the U.S., and peaked at only #24 in the UK.

In a 1987 interview with Creem magazine, Morrissey expressed his disappointment: “It’s hard to believe that ‘How Soon Is Now?’ was not a hit. I thought that was the one.” He also stated that he hated the video Sire Records produced for the song: “It had absolutely nothing to do with the Smiths. Quite naturally we were swamped with letters from very distressed American friends saying, ‘Why on earth did you make this foul video?’ [After] we saw the video we said to Sire, ‘You can’t possibly release this… this degrading video.’ And they said, ‘Well, maybe you shouldn’t really be on our label.’ It was quite disastrous.

Well, as with a lot of great songs that were not big hits at the time of their release, the Smiths have been vindicated with “How Soon Is Now?”, as it has endured as their most popular and beloved song. In 2014, NME ranked the song #4 on its list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Pitchfork named it the 10th best song of the 1980s, and in 2010, Rolling Stone ranked it #477 on its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list.

The song lyrics were inspired by Morrissey’s own crippling shyness and how it made finding a romantic partner difficult. His vulnerable, haunting vocals beautifully convey his loneliness and despair.

I am the son
And the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
Of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

There’s a club if you’d like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home and you cry
And you want to die

When you say it’s gonna happen “now”
When exactly do you mean?
See I’ve already waited too long
And all my hope is gone

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

And here’s the offending video:

SEPRONA – Single Review: “Rose Tinted Eyes”

Seprona is a British indie pop-rock band based in the music city of Liverpool. I first learned about them when they recently followed me on Twitter, and I’ve had their music on repeat all weekend! From what I’ve been able to gather from their social media accounts, the five-piece formed in 2010, and currently consists of front man Daniel Badger on vocals, Lewis on guitar, Christopher on bass, Niall on keyboards and Mike on drums. Together they make outstanding music that’s lively, melodic and catchy as hell.

They released their first single “Monsters” in 2015, then followed up with a series of terrific singles, culminating with their impressive debut self-titled EP Seprona in 2018. 2019 saw the release of the beautiful and rousing “The World’s End”, followed a year later with “Lost in the Lonely Hearts”, a wonderful, hard-driving track. In August, the guys returned with their latest single “Rose Tinted Eyes“, and it’s a deliriously infectious slice of dream rock.

The song has a bit of a retro 80s new wave/punk vibe, with an exuberant dance beat that grabs us firmly by the hips. I love the swirling riffs of chiming guitars, shimmery keyboards and galloping drum beats that build to a frenzy in the choruses. They all work in tandem to create an electrifying soundscape for Daniel’s sultry, emotionally-charged vocals.

The bittersweet lyrics speak of having chronic wishful thinking, and viewing a dysfunctional and dissatisfying relationship through ‘rose-tinted eyes’: “As I replay the tears baby I fantasize through rose tinted eyes / I create an illusion maybe / Though I try baby, I just cant believe you’re too blind to see / I’ll recharge those batteries / Through all your lies baby I think I must concede that my self esteem is detached from reality.

Follow Seprona:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

MICHAEL LANE – Single Review: “Coming Home”

Michael Lane is a German-American indie-folk singer-songwriter and producer based in Germany, near the city of Nuremburg. He was born in Germany to a German mother and an American GI father, but spent much of his childhood and teenage years living in America, before moving back to Germany as an adult, where he now lives with his wife and son. Michael himself served in the U.S. military, and was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. A talented and prolific songwriter, Mike writes thoughtful lyrics inspired by his own life experiences, sets them to sublime melodies, and delivers them with fine guitar work and pleasing vocals.

Beginning with the release in 2014 of his debut album Sweet Notes, Michael has made a name for himself in Germany and beyond, even having his single “Liberty” chosen as the official song of the 2015/2016 Four Hills Tournament, Europe’s biggest international ski jump event. He followed up over the next five years with three more albums, his most recent being the outstanding Traveling Son, released in October 2019. He now returns with a lovely and moving new single “Coming Home“, released via Greywood Records on September 11th. Inspired in part by the COVID-19 quarantine that confined many of us to our homes for several months, Michael thought about how being at home has different meanings for each of us, in both positive and negative ways. And as different as people are, so are the emotions at the thought of coming home just as unique.

“Coming Home” is a message of hope and assurance that, in times of crisis, people will return to the important things in life. Michael explains: “The song ‘Coming Home’ isn’t just about coming home, but more about the feeling you get or have when you’re at a place that you would consider your home. Growing up I moved around a lot, and never really had a steady place that I could call home until I started my own family, and now I do have my own place to call home. It really is a sanctuary for my soul, where I can relax and enjoy the finer things in life.”

It’s a beautiful song, opening with Michael’s gently-strummed guitar and soothing vocals. He gradually layers additional sparkling guitar notes, along with subtle percussion, delicate synths and his own backing vocal harmonies, creating a dreamy soundscape evoking the warmth and comfort of home. He softly croons of his tender feelings for his loved one and their home: “Your smile warms me up like a fire inside / Our home is like a sanctuary for the soul / It will never get old when we’re here in our home.”

The beautiful video shows Michael walking along a path in the countryside at dusk, the fading light of the setting sun softly illuminating his face as he sings the song.

Follow Michael:  FacebookTwitter / Instagram

Stream/purchase his music:  SpotifyApple Music / Google Play