DRUIDS – EP Review: “Pink Aliens”

Pink Aliens

Druids are an indie psychedelic punk rock band from New Orleans, and I’m completely smitten with their music! I can’t remember the last time I’ve had as much fun listening to a band as I do with their terrific debut EP Pink Aliens. Released back in February, it’s an adrenaline rush from start to finish, and I was hooked the moment I heard it.

All longtime friends with roots in the Crescent City, Druids consists of Brandon on guitar and lead vocals, Eric on bass, and Jeff on drums. Their hyper-kinetic lo-fi sound is built on elements of punk, psychedelic, surf, garage and doom rock, and influenced by some of their favorite bands like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Thee Oh Sees, Wand, Black Sabbath, Ty Segall, The Doors and Black Flag. These guys are beyond high-energy, and with their charisma and sense of humor – just look at those silver pants! – I’m sure they’re a blast on stage.

Druids

Cult of the Pink Aliens” kicks things off with buzzing guitars, crashing cymbals and hazy echoed vocals. At the two-minute mark it abruptly erupts into a driving punk beat with surf-rock guitar riffs that occasionally venture into distortion, aided and abetted by pounding drums and an onslaught of crashing cymbals. But hold on ’cause things really ramp up a notch on “Black Magic,” a frantic head-bopping punk-soaked romp that’ll have you thrashing about the room with abandon. Brandon’s skillful guitar and Jeff’s pulse-pounding drums keep the energy flowing at full throttle, making this my favorite track on the EP.

Not skipping a beat, “Endless Maze” offers up over five minutes of punk rock goodness, with an infectious stop-start beat and killer guitar work. Brandon’s extended guitar riff will leave you breathless. A throwback to late 60’s psychedelia, but with a late 70’s punk vibe, “Lightning Bolt” will have you yearning for pink sunglasses and striped bell bottoms. Once again, the guys amaze with their awesome guitar work.

Ty Dye Rain” is a psychedelic beach party on steroids, with exhilarating stop-start guitar riffs and lively percussion. Two-thirds of the way through, the tempo slows a bit and we’re treated to more extended riffs of shredded and distorted guitars. Opening with a cacophony of distorted guitars and sharp cymbals, “The Hex” continues the slower bass-heavy tempo, but the guys seem to like surprising their listeners by changing things up to a frenetic punk beat halfway through, and it sure makes for an exciting listen.

The song’s about an evil temptress who casts her evil spell on men:

So I see you’ve learned some tricks
Dabbled dark arts, became the witch
I can see you’re planning something causing trouble whats comes next
I can see you contemplating planning evil, pass the hex

There are numerous bands out there playing psychedelic and retro punk rock, but Druids take it to another level, and deserve greater recognition. I hope they’ll keep making more music, because I can’t wait to hear it. Those in the Kansas City, Missouri area can catch them in concert on October 13 at the Riot Room, where they’ll be performing with The Crystal Method and other bands.

Connect with the Druids on Facebook and stream or purchase Pink Aliens on Bandcamp

LE POISSON – Single Review: “Crush/You”

Le Poisson

Today I have the pleasure of featuring my first ever band from Germany, a three-piece from Erlangen, Bavaria called Le Poisson.  They formed in 2012 and, like many bands, underwent some personnel changes over the years, but now have a solid lineup consisting of Louisa Stegmeyer on Vocals, Michael Le Noir on Guitar & Bass, and Antonis Kop on Drums. They play an eclectic style of progressive rock, with elements of hard rock, metal, and what they refer to as ‘vampire’ rock. Following up on their 2016 EP One in a Million, they just released a mesmerizing new single “Crush/You.”

The song opens with a beautiful guitar riff, immediately hooking us in with a captivating and rather haunting melody before Louisa’s lovely vocals enter the proceedings. With an earnest longing in her voice, she sings of the fervent passion we feel when falling for someone, but insecure and uncertain of their feelings for us. We search for a light that will reveal the truth:

There’s a light that shines on, shines on everyone
We hold on
We can reach an understanding
Dreams are ascending
Life is so demanding

Michael’s layered guitar work is really quite exquisite, going from a gentle riff to a more intense hard rock sound at the halfway point that conveys feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Louisa’s vocals become more impassioned along with the music, as does the intensity of the percussion. The instrumentals and vocals calm back down in the outro, leaving us with a sense of resolution. It’s a wonderful song.

Connect with Le Poisson: WebsiteFacebook / TwitterInstagram

Stream or purchase their music on Soundcloud / Bandcamp

Top 20 Songs for September 24-30, 2017

1. THE MAN – The Killers (1) 5th week at #1
2. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs (2)
3. UNFORGETTABLE – French Montana, Swae Lee (5)
4. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire (3)
5. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age (4)
6. THE NIGHT WE MET – Lord Huron (7)
7. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids, Bishop Briggs (8)
8. LITTLE ONE – Highly Suspect (9)
9. SUIT AND JACKET – Judah & the Lion (12)
10. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (13)
11. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet (20)
12. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (6)
13, CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (11)
14. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (16) 21st week on list
15. RUN – Foo Fighters (10)
16. IT’S A TRIP! – Joywave (17)
17. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (18)
18. WALK ON WATER – 30 Seconds to Mars (19)
19. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (14)
20. HIGH – Sir Sly (15) 20th week on list

GUY PAUL THIBAULT – Album Review: “It’s About Time”

It's About Time Album

Listening to the music of Guy Paul Thibault, it would be easy to assume he’s from somewhere like Nashville, Tennessee. In reality the singer/songwriter/guitarist – who plays tremendously satisfying folk music with strong country and rock influences – hails from beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada. An accomplished musician, Guy Paul has written, recorded and produced six albums on his own. He’s also played acoustic, electric, bass and slide guitar, and sang vocals for original acts and cover bands. In June he released a new album It’s About Time, an appropriate title given the span of 17 years since his last solo album.

I’ve always loved songs that tell a story, and It’s About Time is loaded with them. Let me state right here that Guy Paul is an incredible wordsmith. Through poetic, heartfelt, and sometimes humorous lyrics, his songs address the oft-covered subjects of life, love and heartbreak, but in ways that reveal the contradictory facets of good and evil inherent in each of us. Furthermore, these colorful stories are delivered with his sublime vocals and accompanied by some pretty nifty acoustic and electric guitar. I usually like to highlight a few song lyrics in my reviews, but in this case I’ll be featuring quite a lot of them.

Guy Paul Thibault

Here She Comes” kicks off the album with a pleasing country-rock rhythm. Guy Paul instantly hooks us in with his laid back vocal delivery and nimble acoustic guitar. Gentle percussion sets the beat and the sweet violin in the bridge is a nice touch.

One of the best ‘story’ tracks is “Misdemeanor,” a catchy, guitar-driven and wry tune about an older woman who’s still got it, and always out looking for a good time:

Takes the complications with a delicate smile
Avoids one night affairs, well she has for a while
That’s what she says
Well, hello boys is her natural style
Moves on her prey like a cat in the wild

With a closer look, well she’s showing her age
But she’s still got her wit and she’s still got those legs
Ahh those legs

Guy Paul turns serious with “Hills,” a compelling song about people living a hardscrabble existence in rural America who’ve endured more than their fair share of military service and the consequential casualties, PTSD and societal breakdown:

You can hide a body forever in these hills
A thousand square miles and a hundred little stills
They took us from our homes and taught us how to fight
Now justice comes in the middle of the night
Now terror comes in the middle of the night

He strums his guitar with a forcefulness to match the searing lyrics, backed by an assertive military drumbeat and mournful harmonica. The generous use of electric guitar and bass also lend greater impact to the track.

The poignant “Tallest Man on Earth” addresses the realization that the father you once idolized, thinking you wanted to be like him, wasn’t so high in stature after all:

When I was just a young man, trying not to fall
The only thing that seemed to matter was growing up and being tall
Growing tall brings great things, like seeing past the trees
You can’t hear the whispers, your head up in the breeze
He seemed the tallest man on earth

His heart died alone they say, running against the wall
He never could comprehend life wasn’t about being tall
He seemed the tallest man on earth
The smallest man on earth

Another powerful and standout track is “We Just Don’t Care,” a hard-hitting country-rock anthem that speaks to the apathy and sense of futility caused by feelings of betrayal by society and our government. Those sentiments are expressed by an attitude of entitlement – ‘I want what’s owed to me, and to hell with everyone else’:

Sacrifice is such a lonely word
There’s not much left in this world
We’re all trying the best we can
Can’t see the beach for the grains of sand
Belief is just a long-lost dream
Slowly fades from what I’ve seen
Lack faith in our fellow man
Lost in time a simple slight of hand
This is how we are now
And we just don’t care

Guy Paul shows us his rocker side on “Saving Grace,” a rousing song with a driving beat and lots of terrific electric and rhythm guitar riffs. One of my favorite tracks is “Saturday Night,” a catchy and breezy country song about hooking up with strangers to avoid being lonely. The lyrics are rather bittersweet until he lightens things up at the end:

It’s alright, I still got my friends
That’s what I’m talkin’ about
Hey wait a minute, is that another bottle over there?
Same time next week?

Stay (For Riley)” is a lovely but wistful ballad about saying goodbye to a loved one – or a pet perhaps? “You were my best friend, chased all of my fears. Now you live in every tear. Stay.”  Guy Paul serves up jangly guitar riffs on “If I Had,” a really nice folk tune about dreaming of enjoying life by hitting the road in his car with a girl and guitar. Wrapping up the album is the sorrowful “How Far Could I Fall.” The country song speaks of hitting bottom after his girl left him and he sought comfort with booze and drugs.

It’s About Time is well worth the wait of 17 years, as it’s superb on every level. In addition to Guy Paul’s impressive songwriting and musicianship, he was assisted on the album by the musical talents of David Bradshaw and Shawn Cherry.

Connect with Guy:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Google Play

Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp / cdbaby

CARY BALSANO – Single Review: “Horizon”

 

Cary Balsano

Cary Balsano is a talented young singer/songwriter originally from Italy who’s now based in Liverpool, England. He’s written and recorded scores of songs both as a solo artist and in collaboration with others, and recently released a beautiful new single “Horizon,” accompanied by a stunning video.

The song and video convey a sense of powerful connection with the world and, to my mind, the title “Horizon” symbolizes the brief but meaningful time we spend on this earth. Cary’s deeply personal and moving lyrics speak of life, love and loss, most notably of his father:

Living by the day, dealing with your grace
All I want is a kid to name
Hoping for some fun, looked in a grave where I saw my father’s face
We got a love and I made my mistakes
And I’ve got nothing to prove to you
We’ve got a lot to learn ’round this fire place
It’s called life and I have lost

Musically, the track has a quiet intensity, with soothing acoustic guitar and gentle percussion that keeps the track grounded but never overpowers. Cary’s beguiling vocals are filled with emotion, yet comforting at the same time. Take a listen:

Connect with Cary:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music on  Spotify

Top 20 Songs for September 17-23, 2017

1. THE MAN – The Killers (1)
2. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs (6)
3. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire (4)
4. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age (5)
5. UNFORGETTABLE – French Montana, Swae Lee (7)
6. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (2)
7. THE NIGHT WE MET – Lord Huron (8)
8. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids, Bishop Briggs (13)
9. LITTLE ONE – Highly Suspect (14)
10. RUN – Foo Fighters (3)
11. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (9)
12. SUIT AND JACKET – Judah & the Lion (16)
13. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (15)
14. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (10)
15. HIGH – Sir Sly (11) 19th week on list
16. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (12) 20th week on list
17. IT’S A TRIP! – Joywave (18)
18. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (19)
19. WALK ON WATER – 30 Seconds to Mars (20)
20. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet (N)

THREEFOLD MAZE – Album Review: “Dollar of Dust”

Dollar of Dust

Threefold Maze is an indie progressive metal/hard rock band based in Fort Worth, Texas. Formed by long-time friends Doug Whittenberg and Mike Smith, who originally called their fledgling band Aura Caelestis, they released a respectable self-titled album in 2010. Moving forward, as they state in their bio: “it was decided that the next album needed more production, better gear, and a much better name.” After an exhaustive name search, they decided upon Threefold Maze, and spent several years writing and recording songs for their debut album Dollar of Dust. Regarding the album title, Mike explained that it’s “the approximate value of all the stuff in the human body – if dried up. Kinda morbid but sounded cool.” Indeed it does!

Dollar of Dust was released in July 2016, and it’s an ambitious work containing 12 tracks and running an hour in length. Both Doug and Mike played guitar and keyboards on the album and Doug also played bass and provided the lead vocals, while Mike sang backup. Doug’s son Derek Whittenberg was recruited to play drums, and Caitlin Smith provided guest vocals on some of the tracks. The album was self-produced by Threefold Maze, and mastered by Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki, Finland. The band chose Mika based on his work with other bands that fall into the same genre, and the wide-open dynamic sound he delivered that they wanted for Dollar of Dust.

Threefold Maze

I’ve given the album multiple listens and discover another melody, lyric or instrumental nuance each and every time. It’s truly monumental in scope – the kind of album Styx, Boston and Dream Theater would create if they combined their talents and music styles. (In fact, to my ears, Doug’s vocals are reminiscent of Dennis DeYoung.)

From the ominous heavy sounds and eerie tinkling piano at the beginning of the opening track “Phear,” it’s clear we’re about to hear some amazing music, and Threefold Maze does not disappoint. They deliver an onslaught of blistering, razor-sharp guitar riffs, thunderous percussion and soaring harmonizing vocals. Toss in some amazing keyboards and exuberant orchestral synths, and we’ve got songs of incredible complexity and depth. This is strongly evident on “Hope,” one of the many standouts on Dollar of Dust. The guitar solo at the bridge is mind-blowing.

Many of their song lyrics address the search for meaning and purpose in life, and the challenges we face in finding our own truth. With pummeling bass and guitars blazing, the hard-hitting “To Visit the Darkness” tackles this head on:

Speculation about the world around me.
Never knowing what might be found.
I try to find my way.
Struggles of the mind are great.
Love and fear and often hate permeate my thoughts and take control.

The guys serve up more killer riffs and pulse-pounding drums on the melodic tracks “Lost My Way” and “Frozen in Time.” In fact, the brilliant “Frozen in Time” is pretty darn close to being a perfect progressive metal anthem, and is my favorite track on the album.

Next up is the beautiful instrumental interlude “Caelestial Intermission,” a nod to the band’s previous name and album. This track is loaded with magnificent guitar work and mesmerizing synths, and is another one of my favorites. The relative calm is abruptly shattered by the pummeling heavy metal sounds of “Vacant Eyes.” At 2:30, the song shifts to a soothing 30-second interlude featuring keyboards, sweeping synths, and the sublime guest vocals of Caitlin Smith, before the metal riffs return for the outro. Caitlin appears again on “If I” and the epic “What Truth,” a seven and half minute long tour de force of rhythmic shifts, chord change ups, hammering percussion, buzzing bass lines, intriguing synths, mindbending guitar work and lovely vocal harmonies. The track is so melodically and musically complex that it has the feel of a mini rock opera.

At this point, one would think the guys would begin to run out of steam, but nothing could be further from the truth. Their phenomenal musicianship continues to shine on “Beyond the Grey” and “This Moment Calling,” another standout track with jaw-dropping power riffs. The fantastic hard-driving “Neverwake” is a reworking of a track that originally appeared on Aura Caelestis, and a fitting closer to a superb album.

Connect with Threefold Maze:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase on  iTunes / Amazon / Bandcamp / cdbaby

Top 20 Songs for September 10-16, 2017

1. THE MAN – The Killers (1)
2. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (2)
3. RUN – Foo Fighters (3)
4. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire (6)
5. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age (7)
6. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs (8)
7. UNFORGETTABLE – French Montana, Swae Lee (11)
8. THE NIGHT WE MET – Lord Huron (10)
9. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (4)
10. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (5)
11. HIGH – Sir Sly (9)
12. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (12)
13. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids, Bishop Briggs (14)
14. LITTLE ONE – Highly Suspect (15)
15. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (17)
16. SUIT AND JACKET – Judah & the Lion (19)
17. ONE OF US – New Politics (13)
18. IT’S A TRIP! – Joywave (20)
19. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (N)
20. WALK ON WATER – 30 Seconds to Mars (N)

Top 20 Songs for September 3-9, 2017

1. THE MAN – The Killers (1)
2. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (4)
3. RUN – Foo Fighters (5)
4. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (2)
5. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (3)
6. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire (6)
7. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age (8)
8. HOLDING ON – War on Drugs (9)
9. HIGH – Sir Sly (7)
10. THE NIGHT WE MET – Lord Huron (12)
11. UNFORGETTABLE – French Montana, Swae Lee (14)
12. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (10)
13. ONE OF US – New Politics (11)
14. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids, Bishop Briggs (17)
15. LITTLE ONE – Highly Suspect (18)
16. LIGHTS OUT – Royal Blood (13)
17. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy (20)
18. DIG DOWN – Muse (16)
19. SUIT AND JACKET – Judah & the Lion (N)
20. IT’S A TRIP! – Joywave (N)