EP Review: FLOODHOUNDS – “Look What You’ve Started”

It’s back to the UK to shine my spotlight on the incredibly talented indie-rock band FloodHounds. Hailing from Sheffield, the 3-piece band plays some really exciting guitar-heavy alternative rock infused with ample amounts of blues and funk.  Making this awesome music are Jack Flynn (lead guitar and vocals), Rhys Owens (bass) and Lauren Greaves (drums). Flynn and Owens, who’ve known each other for years, started FloodHounds after the band they were previously in broke up. They needed a drummer, and lucked out when they discovered Greaves, who joined them in late 2014 to complete the current line-up.

In 2015 they released their debut EP Bare Bones, featuring three well-crafted bluesy rock tunes. Now, the band has returned with an ambitious new EP Look What You’ve Started. Let’s dig in to see what it’s all about.


The EP bursts open with the hard-driving “A&E.”  Greaves’ pulse-pounding drums immediately set the pace for this powerful track, with lots of crashing cymbals adding excitement.  The stop and start composition of the track creates dramatic tension, with Flynn’s alternating scratchy and swirling guitars matching the ferocity of Owens’ heavy bass line. The guitars are really quite amazing, and Flynn’s vocals are mesmerizing.  The lyrics speak of someone – a friend or lover, perhaps – who’s going through tough times and in need of support:  “All the people look so tall, when you’re down on your luck and you fall. And though I know you’re on  your way, you need a little push to meet me halfway.

FloodHounds go all bluesy with “State of Mind,” a standout track about escaping a boring, mundane existence. Flynn sings: “Time has passed us slowly from one day to the next / All my friends are 9 to 5 and cashing their checks / And I’m running round in circles again, why do we try? They never said at school that we’d amount to much / You’re barely there it seems like you don’t give a fuck / And you’re wasting all your time outside, why don’t you try?  Makes you wonder if you’re ever gonna make it in this world alive.

The band keeps the bluesy vibe going while adding a bit of funk to the mix with “The Fear” and “Soulmates to Cellmates.” We’re treated to more stellar plucky guitar work, and Greaves’ formidable percussion skills are on full display. “The Fear” speaks to overcoming self-doubt and negativity that are holding the subject back: “Now I can’t help but wonder where you got your point of view / I don’t want to watch it bury you.”  By the time we get to “Soulmates to Cellmates,” it’s clear the EP’s theme is about dealing with inner conflict and the relationship troubles it causes.  In that track, the loved one becomes the oppressor, leaving the partner feeling shackled. “Being yours means I just have to wait / I don’t care how long it will take.

The more rock-oriented “End of the Road” offers up funky bass and shredded guitars, and the EP closer “Greatest Mistake” wraps everything up nicely with a slower, bluesy feel. The guitar riffs in this song call to mind those of the legendary Eric Clapton – at least to my ears. This is another standout track.

To sum up, Look What You’ve Started is a solid EP, with a bit of an Arctic Monkeys vibe – a good thing, as I love that band.  Support Floodhounds by checking out their website and following on Twitter and Facebook. Stream their music on Spotify and Soundcloud, and purchase on BandcampiTunes and other music purchase sites.

Top 20 Songs for October 16-22, 2016

1. BANG BANG – Green Day (1)
2. LIFE ITSELF – Glass Animals (2)
3. HEATHENS – twenty øne piløts (4)
4. ALL WE EVER KNEW – The Head and the Heart (3)
5. HYMN FOR THE WEEKEND – Coldplay & Beyoncé (6)
6. YOU DON’T GET ME HIGH ANYMORE – Phantogram (7)
8. WASTE A MOMENT – Kings of Leon (17)
9. HARDWIRED – Metallica (12)
10. RIVER – Bishop Briggs (9)
11. FEEL INVINCIBLE – Skillet (13)
13. WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE – Grouplove (14)
14. GOOD GRIEF – Bastille (5)
15. TONIGHT – Matto Rules (16)
16. TROUBLE – Cage the Elephant (10)
17. STARS – Wons Phreely + the Horses (18)
18. CHEAP THRILLS – Sia and Sean Paul (11)
19. WISH I KNEW YOU – The Revivalists (20)
20. CLEOPATRA – The Lumineers (N)

EP Review: CURE FOR GRAVITY – “Cure For Gravity”

From the moment I first listened to the opening song “Tonight” on alternative rock band Cure for Gravity’s new self-titled EP, I was bowled over by the sheer magnificence of their sound.  On October 14, the Berkeley, California based group dropped Cure For Gravity, a collection of six exceptional tracks that combine lush atmospheric synths with dazzling guitar work and strong percussion. The EP – and band for that matter – are aptly named, as their music soars straight to the heavens.

The band consists of three highly-skilled musicians – Joe Markert (Vocals, Keyboards, Guitars), Chris Gamper (Drums & Percussion) and Dave Walcott (Guitars, Wall of Sound, Backing Vocals). They released their first EP Fallen Stars in 2012, which featured four solid tracks with a mix of acoustic and harder rock sounds. They’ve taken a more experimental approach with Cure For Gravity, and the results are pretty incredible.


“Tonight” opens with sounds from a rocket launch, then segues into distorted guitar, heavy bass and crashing cymbals before the track settles into a gorgeous sweeping affair with a Pink Floyd vibe. The song seamlessly transitions into the awesome second track “Sunspots,” by which time I was helplessly in love with this band’s music. The blistering guitar riffs in this six-minute long song are a wonder. Markert’s urgent vocals rise and fall perfectly with the music. The two tracks combined run over ten minutes, yet they’re so good they seem over in an instant.

“Just Like Candy” is pure delight, filled with playful guitar riffs that dance across big synthesizers and a buzzing bass line. With equal playfulness, his voice alternating from smoldering to falsetto, Markert sings of a woman who drives men crazy with her teasing indifference: “Violence on the dance floor / She wants less, but he wants more / They move left to right like an underwater knife fight / You’re blowing me down / She’s just like candy / Wearing a hole in me.”  At 3:25 the song erupts with a rapid, hard-driving guitar riff that reminds me a bit like the ending guitar flourish of an Allman Brothers song.

Things turn dark and heavy with the psychedelic-tinged “BlackMetal.” Once again, the band’s nimble guitar work is amazing. And the music and vocals are so gorgeous in the moving rock ballad “Push” that I’m nearly blown away. The superb closing track “Killing For the Queen” offers up more soaring synths and mind-bending guitars that prove without a doubt that these guys are masters of their craft.

To sum up, I love this fantastic EP and am now a huge fan of Cure For Gravity. Learn more about them by checking out their website, and support these guys by following on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to their YouTube channel. Stream their music on  Spotify and Soundcloud, and purchase on iTunes or Bandcamp.

Album Review: A BLUE FLAME – “What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains”

British singer/songwriter Richard Stone – who goes by the artistic name A Blue Flame – doesn’t consider himself a musician, but rather a compulsive writer of songs who also happens to play the guitar. For him, the song lyric is supreme, not the music or sound. On his album, What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains, he tells compelling stories using straightforward lyrics about life, love, faith, loss and heartbreak. And though he’s not as concerned about the music or sound of his songs, I think they’re superb, representing an amazingly eclectic range of styles from doo-wop and old-school pop to easy listening ballads and hard-driving rock.  Plus, his smooth, clear vocals perfectly suit his thoughtful lyrics.

When I asked Stone about his artistic name, he explained that ‘A Blue Flame’ just came to him, but he also liked “the balance in the name between the heat of a flame and the sadness of feeling blue. Blue flames are the hottest of all flames and they are also linked with strange, other worldly experiences like will o’ the wisps. It’s a name of contradictions between the scientific and paranormal, just like my music is a mass of contradictory influences.”  He said his songwriting has been influenced by some of the great songwriters such as Bob Dylan and the Beatles, but essentially any great song from one of any number of artists.

Stone writes all his songs and plays guitar. He arranges them with help from Adam Ellis, who co-produces and also plays guitar.  Other session musicians add their skills to the mix as needed, including Damon Claridge on drums, Andy Robertson on bass and keyboards, and Tony Robinson (who’s also played with the Manic Street Preachers and The Beautiful South, among other bands) on keyboards and horns.


The passage of time and the challenge of keeping the faith – both in God and yourself – are recurring subjects in A Blue Flame’s songs. The album opens with the sublime track “When Time Slowed Down.”  The song features beautiful piano, gentle guitar and snare drum, along with a captivating trumpet solo. With a hint of sadness in his voice, Stone wistfully sings of the fleeting nature of time, and the need to stop and savor the precious moments: “When all is said and done, and we’re just words upon a page inside a book that never opens / How will we be found?  We lucked out, the year we found the days when time slowed down.

Time’s passage is again alluded to on the tracks “Our Memories Fade” and the anthemic “Everyday Yesterday,” where an upbeat melody belies a deeper meaning: “Everyday, yesterday gets further away. I was born for the ninth time, a fool amongst the fools. Running in the nighttime and breaking all the rules. Till I saw I was the dullest stone in a box of golden jewels. It was clear that I knew nothing and my promises were cruel.

Stone plaintively urges self-belief and acceptance in the bittersweet ballad “Be Kind to Yourself” – “You know that your hate is a weakness, you know that you need to be brave. You’re scared of that something inside you that cries in the night to be safe” – and in the edgy, hard-rocking “I Don’t Know,” where Stone’s raw vocals seem to channel an exasperated Billy Joel. In “Feeling the Same,” he expresses empathy for someone feeling lost and alone with their pain and self-doubt.

Faith in God is questioned in the rousing “From God on Down.” Stone defiantly proclaims “I have been here a billion years, and I am so tired. I may, I may not exist. You might believe, you may well laugh. We’re all in the dark, from God on down.”  So too with the catchy pop-rock track “Out There Somewhere.”  Love and loss are the theme of the wonderful but rather mournful doo-wop tune “The Sun Refused to Shine.” The guitar solo in the last third of the song is great.

One of my favorite tracks is “Marlborough Park Avenue,” a poignant tune that calls to mind the incredible storied lyrics and singing style of Harry Chapin. To a gorgeous arrangement with gentle percussion, violin and multi-textured guitars that swirl, twang and chime, Stone fervently sings of a lost loved one “Though you’re not here, you still hold me together. The blossom is swimming around me / I think I’m in heaven.  I wish you were walking beside me, but you’ve gone on ahead.

Another standout is the hard-hitting kiss-off “The Girl Inside of You.” As with some of the other songs on the album, the upbeat, high-energy music – complete with “sha la la la, ooh sha la la las” – contrasts sharply with the fiery lyrics. Stone practically spits the lines “Rain falls down from a cloudless sky / I look up and I wonder why / It seems strange to me / It’s a motherfucking mystery / Farewell from the boy in me, who so fell for the girl inside of you.

What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains is an album that keeps getting better with each listen, as the poetic beauty of the lyrics continues to sink in. Learn more about A Blue Flame by checking out his website. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and stream his music on Spotify and Soundcloud. His music is available for purchase on CD Baby.

Top 20 Songs for October 9-15, 2016

1. BANG BANG – Green Day (1)
2. LIFE ITSELF – Glass Animals (3)
3. ALL WE EVER KNEW – The Head and the Heart (2)
4. HEATHENS – twenty øne piløts (4)
5. GOOD GRIEF – Bastille (5)
6. HYMN FOR THE WEEKEND – Coldplay featuring Beyoncé (6)
7. YOU DON’T GET ME HIGH ANYMORE – Phantogram (9)
9. RIVER – Bishop Briggs (11)
10. TROUBLE – Cage the Elephant (7)
11. CHEAP THRILLS – Sia & Sean Paul (8)
12. HARDWIRED – Metallica (12)
13. FEEL INVINCIBLE – Skillet (13)
14. WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE – Grouplove (14)
16. TONIGHT – Matto Rules (16)
17. WASTE A MOMENT – Kings of Leon (18)
18. STARS – Wons Phreely + the Horses (20)
19. WAKE UP CALL – Nothing But Thieves (17)
20. WISH I KNEW YOU – The Revivalists (N)

Song Review: Shelita Burke – “Belong”

Singer/songwriter Shelita Burke is one of those artists who come along every so often and, upon first hearing her music, you immediately wonder “wow, who is this woman with such a unique and beautiful voice?” Originally from Seattle, Burke spent a few years traveling in Europe, soaking up influences from a myriad of cultures and developing her singular music style in the process, until settling in Los Angeles.  Out of that journey was born her brilliant, highly-acclaimed debut EP Transfixed.  Released in late 2015, The EP features five gorgeous tracks, plus a remix of the title track. The jazz-infused songs offer up mesmerizing strumming guitar and Burke’s captivating, ethereal vocals that transport the listener to a dreamy otherworldliness.

In an excellent review of Transfixed, Lisa D’Arrigo of Indie Minded noted that Burke’s vocals “combine the pulsating delivery of Alanis Morissette with the sultry smoothness of Sade, the calmness of Nora Jones, and the high pitched runs of Joni Mitchell.”  I can’t come up with a better description than that to convey the feel of Burke’s amazing vocal styling. Take a listen to the title track “Transfixed” to get an idea of what Lisa and I are talking about:

Now Burke has completely changed things up with her hot new single “Belong.” Departing from the jazzy, ethereal sounds of Transfixed, Burke dives headfirst into EDM territory, creating a steamy dance track that proves beyond a doubt that, not only is she a vocalist with considerable range, she’s also one with a lot to tell us. In “Belong,” Burke submits herself willingly over to passion while seducing her lover to own her: “Let’s get it on, and on and on and on. Belong. What’s wrong with belong?  I can’t resist all you needed to say. You get me, you get me, you got me. You find me sweet and pretty. If you would own me, I’m easy to please. If you would use me, I would never leave. Crawling, for that something more.”  Whew!

Propelled by a hypnotic, driving beat, swirling synths and bold hand-claps set the tone for Burke’s smoldering, seductive vocals. This is one sexy number that will lure even the biggest wallflower onto the dance floor!  With nearly 700,000 plays on Spotify in less than three months, Burke has a certifiable hit on her hands.

Show Shelita some love by following her on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribing to her YouTube channel.  Stream her music on Spotify or Soundcloud, and purchase it on iTunes and other online music sites.

Top 20 Songs for October 2-8, 2016

1. BANG BANG – Green Day (2)
2. ALL WE EVER KNEW – The Head and the Heart (1)
3. LIFE ITSELF – Glass Animals (4)
4. HEATHENS – twenty øne piløts (3)
5. GOOD GRIEF – Bastille (6)
6. HYMN FOR THE WEEKEND – Coldplay featuring Beyoncé (8)
7. TROUBLE – Cage the Elephant (5)
8. CHEAP THRILLS – Sia & Sean Paul (7)
9. YOU DON’T GET ME HIGH ANYMORE – Phantogram (9)
11. RIVER – Bishop Briggs (12)
12. HARDWIRED – Metallica (13)
13. FEEL INVINCIBLE – Skillet (14)
14. WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE – Grouplove (17)
16. TONIGHT – Matto Rules (18)
17. WAKE UP CALL – Nothing But Thieves (10)
18. WASTE A MOMENT – Kings of Leon (N)
19. SEND MY LOVE (To Your New Lover) – Adele (15)
20. STARS – Wons Phreely (N)

Featured Song: Neil and Adam – “Walk Away”

In August, I reviewed the song “Everything is Alright” from the talented St. Louis-based singer/songwriter duo Neil McCloskey and Adam Hilligardt (see that review here). The guys have just released a lovely new single “Walk Away.”  The rather melancholy song is more introspective and piano-driven, with gentle guitar and percussion adding depth to the track. It was recorded in St. Louis, and the mastering was done by Miles Showell at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London

The song seems to address a wasted or lost opportunity for love, as he watches her walk away and out of his life.  The piano movements are simple but hauntingly beautiful, and Neil’s heartfelt vocals are sublime. Take a listen:

Follow Neil and Adam on Twitter and Facebook, and stream their music on Spotify or Soundcloud. “Walk Away” may be purchased on iTunes and other music purchase sites.

Album Review: Above The Skyline – “Go For Broke”

South Florida has a vibrant music scene, thanks to a diverse, multi-cultural population with a tremendous mix of influences. Several months ago I wrote a feature on the Miami-based indie rock band SunGhosts, and now I shine a spotlight on the young, incredibly talented five member collective Above The Skyline. They play an edgy style of alternative pop/rock with touches of R&B, funk and punk. Following up on their acclaimed 2015 EP A Different Breed, the young band (all are in their early 20’s) have released an ambitious new album Go For Broke.

Their bio states “the band prides itself on being different but yet producing a sound that everyone can love and listen to with ease.” That’s certainly the case, as Go For Broke is chock-full of melodic tunes that feature catchy hooks, complex, multi-layered guitar riffs, dynamic percussion and really fine vocals.  Making this great music are Chloe Santiago on drums, Eric Green on guitar, Zach Wood on keyboards and vocals, Alec Enriquez on bass, and Peach Martine on vocals.  Chloe and Eric, who’ve known each other since they were kids and have been playing together for more than 12 years, formed Above The Skyline in 2013. Within a year, Zach, Alec and Peach joined the band, completing the current lineup. 

Despite their youth, all have extensive musical backgrounds. Eric began studying music history and theory at the age of five, along with taking piano lessons, and at nine he began studying guitar. He met Chloe while taking lessons at Music Depot, and eventually was part of a couple of hardcore metal bands. Chloe started playing drums at seven, and played in marching bands in middle and high school. Zach is grateful his mother forced him to take piano lessons, which eventually led him to learn saxophone and percussion as well. He also played in middle and high school marching bands. Alec began studying guitar in high school, and eventually fell in love with the bass. Peach, who not only sings, but is also a songwriter and actress, has been writing and recording since penning her first song on the piano at age six. She plays piano, guitar, some violin and harmonica.


The album opens strong with “Another Side of Me,” a power-ballad that introduces us to the band’s killer guitars and highly melodic music style. Buzzing guitars work in tandem with a driving drumbeat and Alec’s heavy bass, resulting in a crazy-good track. Zach fervently sings “All I want you to do is stop being you. You’ve got another side of me that I don’t want none of.”  The catchy, energetic “Counting Heartbeats” comes at us with a thumping drumbeat and shredded guitars, then we’re hit with Peach’s commanding vocals and, halfway through the song, assertive piano is introduced, adding complexity to the track.

“Do I Really Look Like I’m a Guy With a Plan Margot” is a standout track, and one of my favorites on the album. Its incredible arrangement – featuring thunderous guitar riffs, pummeling drums, intricate piano and soaring violin – give it a rock opera vibe. Zach’s powerful vocals match the intensity of the music. Plus, it’s a great song title!  The band channels the Red Hot Chili Peppers a bit on “Entitled,” with guitar chords similar to the awesome ones used in their classic “Dani California.” Peach’s vocals soar, aided by Zach’s backing harmonies, and the organ solo is terrific.

Peach’s considerable singing talents are on full display on the beautiful anthem “Feel the Light.” Her vocals soar (there’s that word again, but it so applies here) with the lush orchestration. It’s Zach’s turn to shine on the hard-driving “Fireball,” on which our ears are treated to more killer guitar work and Chloe’s powerful drums. The title track “Go For Broke” features harmonizing vocals by Zach and Peach, accompanied by a driving beat and gnashing guitars. Synth chords are introduced two-thirds of the way into the track, giving it a bit of a psychedelic feel. This is a great song.

“See Where We Go” is the first single, just released in advance of the album, and it’s definitely a radio-friendly track with a catchy hook, energetic upbeat melody and sizzling harmonic vocals by Zach and Peach. Watch the lyric video here:

The gorgeous ballad “Strength” is another standout track, and my absolute favorite. Musically, the song is very different from the others on the album, with only beautiful piano and violin, and Zach’s heartfelt vocals are captivating.  It’s the type of song that will have many people – me included – tearing up halfway through. The lyrics are so powerfully moving: “And I know it’s so hard when these walls are caving in. But I stare and wonder at this war you’re gonna win. Cause you give me the strength just to make it through the night when we’re with you. I’m in awe of all your wonderful acts of courage that you do. But this time we have is not all that’s left.

With an abrupt jolt, the album closes with the hard rock gem “Tonight.” Blazing machine gun riffs intertwined with Eric’s shimmery guitars, heavy bass and crashing cymbals make this one exhilarating badass tune, proving beyond any doubt that Above The Skyline is a band with formidable talents. With an exceptional EP and full album now under their belts, they have a promising future, and I’m certain we’ll be hearing much more to come from them.

To learn more about Above the Skyline, visit their website. Support them by liking them on Facebook and following on Twitter. Subscribe to their YouTube channel and stream their music on Soundcloud. Go For Broke is available for purchase on iTunes and other platforms offering music for purchase.

EP Review: SHIKOBI – “Pull The Trigger”

I continue to be blown away by the huge number of incredibly talented bands and artists making music these days.  And whoever claimed rock was dead just isn’t listening!  And so I turn my spotlight to Shikobi, who play a powerful mix of edgy – and often topical – alternative hard rock, hip-hop, grunge and funk.

The band started out as a duo at the beginning of 2014, with Australian brothers Aaron and Luke Hession writing songs and playing local clubs, and within a year they were selling out larger venues as the headliner act. The brothers relocated to Los Angeles in early 2015, and by that April, enlisted drummer Dylan Hayden and bassist Marco Barrientos to complete the band’s lineup. Both Aaron and Luke sing and play guitar. Since then, Shikobi has steadily built a following in the U.S.

They’ve now released their debut EP Pull The Trigger, containing four red-hot tracks that showcase the band’s dynamic rap-infused hard rock sound, backed by heavy, explosive guitars and speaker-blowing percussion. Listening to their songs, it’s immediately clear they were influenced by Rage Against the Machine, Linkin Park, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.


Shikobi quickly establishes that they mean business with the lead single “Here We Go Again.” The track bursts open with pounding drums and blistering guitars. Anyone who follows my blog knows I’m a sucker for awesome, hard-driving guitar riffs, and this song has them in spades. These guys wield their guitars like weapons, shredding, pummeling and distorting the sound waves. Aaron’s raw vocals match the intensity of the music – he rapid-fire raps one moment, then practically snarls his lyrics the next. Take a listen to this firecracker:

The title track “Pull The Trigger” is a hard-hitting anthem addressing an issue the band feels strongly about – gun control and the lack of gun laws in the U.S. A complex, discordant arrangement with furious, gnashing guitars and thunderous drums perfectly evoke the troubling seriousness of the subject. Luke’s impassioned vocals are chilling in their ferocity. “We’re never gonna stop this happening, until the gun laws get changed again.  There’s too many people with twisted minds. Too many people to commit these crimes… What’s it going to take, until we make a change.”  The guitars on this track are positively monumental.

Slower in pace than the first two tracks, “Alive” and “Fight To Be Free” still feature the band’s signature killer guitars and heavy percussion. Throw in Aaron and Luke’s fervent, soaring vocals, and you’ve got two highly-compelling in-your-face songs. “Alive” has a distinct Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe, while Rage Against the Machine is evident in the politically-charged protest song “Fight to be Free.”

Pull the Trigger is an excellent debut from a very promising band of talented musicians who know how to play awesome hard rock. Show Shikobi support by following them on TwitterFacebook and Soundcloud. Their EP will soon be available for purchase on iTunes and other online music sites.