DENSE – EP Review: “Third Eye”

I continue to be astounded by the sheer number of talented young bands today that are making some really great music. Another recent find is DENSE, a psychedelic garage rock band hailing from Leeds, England. Their music is unlike any other band I’ve heard lately, with a sound that’s at once retro and futuristic. They claim as their inspiration such bands as Wand, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and Queens of the Stone Age, and though it may be entirely unintentional, I also detect hints of 60s Yardbirds and early 80s Billy Idol. But whatever their influences, their sound has what I would describe as an ‘industrial surfer metal rock’ vibe, and I love it.

DENSE

Making this awesome music are Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums).  Despite their youth, their intense music style exhibits an impressive maturity and complexity that would be expected from a more seasoned band. In March, DENSE released their debut EP Third Eye, which according to their bio “was crafted by Charlie Fossick in his bedroom one summer.” And while it may be lo-fi, it certainly makes up for it with a thunderous wall of sound.

DENSE2

The title track “Third Eye” kicks things off with a barrage of gritty, distorted guitars and throbbing bass steeped in reverb, while Heffer hammers out an aggressive beat on his drum kit. Fossick’s electronically enhanced, otherworldly vocals are mesmerizing, and hold their own with the power and intensity of the music note for note. This is one hell of a song!

The video is awesome, with clever psychedelic visuals that perfectly complement the song and its theme.

Distorted buzz saw guitars are in full force on the scorching psychedelic instrumental track “Glutton Free.”  At times, the guitars wail and scream like a raging elephant. Metcalf’s pulsating bass gives the song incredible strength, with added help from Heffer’s pounding drums and crashing cymbals.

Stone” starts off with what sounds like small explosions or basketballs hitting the court on heavy reverb, then a nifty little bass line ensues, followed by an eruption of frantic shredded guitars. At roughly the two minute mark, we’re treated to a catchy guitar riff before the onslaught of shredded, gnashing guitars return to close out the track, which immediately segues into “Shade.” Almost as if DENSE didn’t want “Stone” to end, “Shade” sounds like a continuation of it, but with a slight change up in the melody, and minimal vocals. It’s OK by me, as I didn’t want “Stone” to end either.

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram /  Website

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase the EP on iTunes or download for free by joining their mailing list.

Top 20 Songs for May 28-June 3, 2017

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

GHOST COLOR – EP Review: “American Book of the Dead”

Ghost Color is a band that likes to make music their way, without following convention or what anyone else seems to be doing. No catchy hooks for them, but rather complex, nuanced melodies that always deliver the unexpected, compelling you to lean in and really listen. The band’s music can generally be described as Post-alternative or Progressive Rock, but one can hear strong influences of hard rock, shoegaze, post-punk, psychedelia and even jazz in their arresting sound.

Based in the California state capital of Sacramento (where I happened to live from 1989-94), Ghost Color consists of Chris Winstead (Drums/Lead Vocals), Eric Davis (Guitar) and Bryan Harty (Bass/backing Vocals). They released a pretty solid debut self-titled EP in 2015 with a decidedly experimental rock sensibility, and are now set to release a new EP American Book of the Dead on May 30th. The EP features four tracks that draw inspiration from the band members’ personal experiences with life and relationship challenges, making for a darker and more lyric-driven EP than their previous effort.

Ghost Color
Photo by Damion Hellstrom

To my ears, Ghost Color’s music style is reminiscent of Incubus, who’ve long been one of my favorite bands. Aggressive shredded and gnashing riffs layered with beautiful jangly guitar, and driven by buzz saw bass lines, are a defining characteristic of their music. Furthermore, Winstead’s superb vocals at times bear a striking resemblance to Incubus lead singer Brandon Boyd.

The first track “In Other Words” launches with a powerful riff, then jangly quitars enter the scene, aided and abetted by crashing cymbals, pounding drums and Harty’s weighty bass. Davis’ intricate guitar work is jaw-dropping as he coaxes forth sounds ranging from gritty to gorgeous. Winstead’s earnest vocals soar as he sings “Tortured and beaten, according to life. You can’t run.”

Endeavour” seems to address the differing emotional reactions of each partner in the aftermath of a breakup, with the singer still in pain while the one being sung to appears to have already moved on:  “Pour out your heart, you almost shed a tear. A bridge between our hearts. You blew me away, all away.”

More stellar guitar work is on display on “Stay Asleep,” with Davis shredding his guitar nearly to the breaking point. So too with “Grieves,” teeming with psychedelic riffs and wailing guitars making sounds like human screams. The heavy bass has a noticeable jazz vibe at the beginning of each chorus, as Winstead moans “So I grieve again, feeling nothing normal now.

American Book of the Dead is a brilliant EP, and my only criticism is that it’s over too quickly, leaving me wanting more. But that’s not a bad thing, really, as it never overstays its welcome.

Follow Ghost Color:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Reverbnation / YouTube

Purchase:  Bandcamp /  iTunes

OLI BARTON AND THE MOVEMENT – Single Review: “Sleeping With the Enemy”

Oli Barton and the Movement is a London-based indie alternative rock band with a winning combination of talent and personality. They released their terrific debut single “Photograph” through Coke & Dagger Records in late 2016, and in April they dropped their brilliant new single “Sleeping With the Enemy.” The band deftly melds alt-rock with a bouncy psychedelic punk groove to create a complex song that’s equal parts catchy and menacing.

Oli Barton

The four member band is headed by Oli Barton, who does the majority of the songwriting, plays guitar and sings lead vocals. Their hilarious Facebook page bio cleverly introduces each band member, so rather than attempt to paraphrase, I’ll just copy and paste as is for my readers’ enjoyment:

“Oli is an alternative musician who is the only modern artist to truly inherit classic British eccentricity. By utilising a unique sense of humour and an unequaled songwriting talent, along with the Movement [he] creates a sound that is personal yet anthemic, alluring yet pensive, and enjoyable yet thoughtful.

The Movement are:
Guy Monk – Drums
Guy is a strange fellow, ridiculously talented but crazily articulate for a drummer. He likes to spend his time going into toy shops and rearranging stuffed animals into a Circle of Life arrangement.
Marco Paone – Bass
Marco is the resident Italian Stallion. Famed for his close friendship with Gary Barlow, he is known to enjoy country walks and simply adores taking the time to visit zoos and pet the penguins.
Ryan Wilson – Lead Guitar
Apparently an admirer of fine wines, Ryan’s expertise are most credible playing lead guitar. He is said to have a pedalboard longer than the Great Wall of China and is also said to be the finest guitar player in the South of England. One of these statements is true.

Oli Barton & the Movement

The band has been playing lots of gigs in and around London over the past year or so, building a loyal fan base with their engaging performances. In an interview with  Johnny’s New Music Lowdown Blog, drummer Monk said “Our gigs are just mental. We have amazing crowds. That connection on that night when its just us and the audience is extraordinary. We get into the crowd and pull fans up on stage. The vibe of the audience is contagious and it pushes us even further!” The band took some time off from performing while finishing up on the album and making the videos, but has several shows lined up in the coming months.

In the same interview, Oli said of “Sleeping With the Enemy: “I hate to say it’s about Trump because everyone’s making tracks about Trump.” My personal take is that the song is essentially about rampant duplicity in politics of late that always seems to leave people feeling like they’ve been screwed, and the biting lyrics get right to the point: “And I know what it’s like, to be stabbed in the back with a knife. It’s just my life, and I’d better learn to take it from behind. Sleeping with the enemy. Denied any sympathy.  Sincerity will soon erode, when you’ve got nowhere to go.

Musically, the song alternates between an aggressive, fast-paced beat and a slower, almost hypnotic cadence. Wilson and Barton’s guitar work is awesome, with lots of shredding and distortion going on, and Paone’s bass anchors the track without overpowering. Monk’s drumming is spot on, matching the bass line note for note, while Barton’s fervent vocals convey his sense of powerlessness and exasperation with the state of things. At the bridge, it all builds to a cacophonous barrage of heavy buzzing bass, distorted guitars, pounding drums and impassioned vocals.

The dark video for the song was filmed in a dismal abandoned factory. The band is shown performing outside the factory, interspersed with scenes of Barton running through the woods and ending up at the factory, appearing to be fleeing some unseen tormentor. At one point he’s shown blindfolded and kneeling with his hands tied behind his back.

The band plans to drop their third single “Kinky” at the end of June, and their debut album soon after. I’m looking forward to hearing both.

Follow Oli Barton and the Movement:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify
Purchase:  iTunes /  Amazon

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