MAX KOFFLER – Single Review: “May I Ask”

Max Koffler is a talented indie singer/songwriter from Berlin, Germany who’s been making music since his teens. A year ago, he released his ambitious second album GAMES, which I reviewed in January. The album features 14 wonderful tracks drawing from an eclectic mix of music genres and styles, including alternative rock, pop, EDM, and jazz. One of those tracks is the deeply contemplative “May I Ask,” which Max will be releasing as a single on April 4th.

The song is short, lasting only one minute and 42 seconds, but powerfully moving. Feeling conflicted about love, at once afraid it will elude him, yet unsure as to whether he’s deserving of it, Max plaintively implores a loved one to let him know if she still has feelings for him. The music is spare, with only a simple piano riff backed by delicate guitar, synths and drumbeat. It’s beautiful.

I’m so young again who I’m still that little boy
who doesn’t want what he could get and distrusts his heavenly joy
And I am so afraid, wounded and disarmed
You decide if I shall live or starve from lovelessness
And so I say may I ask if you still want me the way you once promised
Well there’s something that I learned
Could you please help me to escape the cave that I’m in and that I am
Please don’t leave me unreturned
My fear has gone

Connect with Max:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Deezer
Purchase:  iTunes 

GHOSTLY BEARD – Album Review: “Inward”

I’ve noted in previous posts that one of the things I like about Twitter is the huge amount of new music I’m exposed to from the many musicians and bands who follow me. And in addition to all the terrific music, I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know some truly kind and generous people who I can call friends. They’ve not only supported me and my blog, they’ve also shown themselves to be strong supporters of other artists. One of those musicians is singer/songwriter Patrick Talbot, who goes by the artistic name Ghostly Beard.

Somewhat of an enigma, Ghostly Beard is originally from France but now calls Montréal, Québec, Canada home. Preferring the focus to be entirely on his music rather than him, he’s chosen to remain physically anonymous, so he never shows his image on any of his albums or social media, nor does he perform live. That said, he’s a creative and talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a lot to tell us, which he expresses so beautifully through his intelligent lyrics, sublime vocals and dreamy, mellow soundscapes that draw from soft rock, jazz, pop, progressive rock and fusion, among other influences. When listening to his music, one can hear his inspiration from such legendary artists and bands as Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Michael Franks, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Genesis, XTC, and Weather Report.

Ghostly Beard has been a busy man, recording and releasing lots of music over the past year or so, including his superb album Invisible, which dropped last October (of 2017). More recently, he’s released two new songs that will be featured on his forthcoming album Inward, which is scheduled to drop on May 4th, and the subject of this review. The album contains ten tracks that have more of a soft-rock vibe than the jazzier Invisible, though jazz elements are still well-represented on Inward.

Like all his music, the album is entirely self-produced.  He wrote all the music and lyrics, played all instruments, and recorded, mixed and mastered the songs at his own Studio GB in Montréal. He sang all vocals, other than for guest vocals provided by Emma Caiman on “Night Train” and his daughter Sarah Talbot on “Going Away.” The imaginative album cover photography is courtesy of Pol Ùbeda. Also, it must be noted that all proceeds from album sales will be given to MusiCounts – – a Canadian charity organization that promotes music education through a wide variety of programs, including scholarships and providing musical instruments and equipment to after-school music programs and other community non-profit organizations.

Inward Album

The album opens with “How Does It Feel?” a laid-back tune with rather pensive lyrics about feeling that your life hasn’t mattered…that your existence has made no impact on the world: “When you’re so invisible what do you do in the title role? And when you know it’s far too late to take your place again in the human race. How does it feel? To be less than real.” The gently strummed and chiming guitars, accentuated by just a hint of reverb, are really pleasing, and the electric guitar riff that begins in the bridge and continues through to the end adds a nice complexity to the track. The languid drumbeat is accompanied by lightly crashing cymbals and a sweet xylophone that’s heard throughout the track. Ghostly Beard’s smooth vocals are warm and comforting, and seem to lessen the sting of the unhappy lyrics.

The warmth of his vocals, a major characteristic of his overall sound, are strongly evident on the bittersweet “The Love in Your Eyes,” an easy-going song dedicated to his mother, Christiane. His words beautifully express his feelings of loss and missing her in a way that everyone who’s lost a loved one can identify with: “Out of the blue I felt your absence. And into my heart an empty place. I reached for your light, I couldn’t find it. What would I give to see you now! And I had to say goodbye when I knew it would be for the last time. However hard I tried I couldn’t see all the love in your eyes anymore.”

In addition to his smooth, comforting vocals, another signature element of Ghostly Beard’s music is his layered, multi-textured guitar work that imparts a rich, fuller sound. His skillful use of strummed acoustic guitar alongside chiming and distorted electric guitars, all grounded by subtle bass lines, are exquisitely showcased on tracks like the Country-tinged “Gone,” the soft-rock ballad “Let Go” and the jazzy “It Doesn’t Matter.”  And his ace guitar playing really shines on the sparkling instrumental track “Autumn Blues,” where his fantastic bluesy guitar work seems to channel Steely Dan.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Night Train.” The captivating song tells the story of two unhappy people on a train fantasizing about a chance encounter: “We were strangers on the night train riding in the dark. Going nowhere to speak of, just escaping from the past. / And the tears started falling down. Was it yours or was it mine? / As the train was heading north, I thought of all I’ve left behind. Who knows what crossed your mind when your eyes crossed mine?” The dream is disrupted by a explosive riff of distorted guitars, then the music calms back down to its previous languid pace as reality returns: “Never spoke and never will. It all happened in a dream. During that fleeting moment in the world that passed away. / We leave so little trace but a memory in the dark. Ooh, taking the life train. Ooh, riding the long way home.” I love the instrumentals on this track, and Ghostly Beard’s vocal harmonies with Emma Caiman are marvelous.

Another standout is the darkly beautiful “9 to 5 (Barely Alive).” Nearly eight minutes in length, the influence of Pink Floyd is clearly evident, with extended guitar riffs floating above a somber but lovely piano movement. The track opens and closes with the sounds of voices as if at a gathering, adding to the sense of isolation. Ghostly Beard sounds resigned as he wistfully sings of the soul-crushing tedium of a 9 to 5 job: “9 to 5, you leave your soul behind and drag your worried mind to earn your place back in the line. / You’re barely alive. Just another day to make it through. All you do is give your light away.

Let It Rain” is a pretty but very sad song about being heartbroken over a loved one’s betrayal:  “I’ll never trust another one. I need some time to be sane again. My whole being out of hand. Entire world just turned to sand.” Not wanting to end things on a down note, Ghostly Beard delivers upbeat feels on the bouncy album closer “Going Away.” With assistance from his daughter Sarah on backing vocals, he sings about the thrill of getting away from life’s daily routines and problems, and going off on an adventure filled with possibilities. It’s a fitting closing track to an aptly-titled album filled with beautiful, introspective songs.

Track listing:

1. How Does It Feel?
2. The Love in Your Eyes
3. Gone
4. Autumn Blues
5. Night Train
6. Let Go
7. It Doesn’t Matter
8. 9 to 5 (Barely Alive)
9. Let It Rain
10. Going Away

Connect with Ghostly Beard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase his existing music or pre-order Inward on iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon

Bandcamp Sales Grow While Other Music Streaming Platforms and Industry Sales Continue to Decline

Music platform Bandcamp appears to be the best bet for indie artists, as the site experienced double-digit growth in 2017 in every aspect of their business – digital album and individual track sales, merchandise, and physical sales of vinyl, CDs and even cassettes – while most stand alone music streaming platforms and industry-wide record sales continued to decline.

They also note that “allowing the distribution of an entire art form to be controlled by so few has troubling implications. The streaming giants exert tremendous influence over what music gets heard, and must primarily serve their most important supplier, the major labels. The result is that independent labels, and especially independent artists, are far less likely to be discovered on those platforms.”

To read more of this informative article, click on this link:

The Bandcamp 2017 Year in Review

Top 20 Songs for March 18-24, 2018

1. ALL THE STARS – Kendrick Lamar, SZA (2)
2. SAFARI SONG – Greta Van Fleet (1)
3. LOS AGELESS – St. Vincent (4)
4. WORLD GONE MAD – Bastille (6)
5. TWO HIGH – Moon Taxi (7)
6. PAIN – The War on Drugs (3)
7. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal. The Man (5)
8. RUN FOR COVER – The Killers (10)
9. BROKEN – lovelytheband (12)
10. BORN FOR GREATNESS – Papa Roach (11)
11. SCARY LOVE – The Neighbourhood (8)
12. YOU WORRY ME – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (14)
13. &RUN – Sir Sly (15)
14. SEVERED – The Decemberists (16)
15. SOBER UP – AJR ft. Rivers Cuomo (9)
16. BEST FRIEND – Sofi Tukker ft. NERVO, The Knocks & Alisa Ueno (17)
17. THE NIGHT HAS AN ALIBI – Wons Phreely + The Horses (18)
19. HAPPY HOUR – Weezer (13)
20. WHATEVER IT TAKES – Imagine Dragons (N)

COLT48 – EP Review: “II”


London, UK hard rock duo Colt48 have existed as a band less than a year (they formed in June 2017), but are wasting no time making an impact on the indie rock scene with their aggressive, grunge rock sound. Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Adam Jerome and background vocalist/drummer Matt Savini, Colt48 have quickly gained exposure and fans by opening for such bands as Puddle Of Mudd, Fozzy, Trapt and Crazy Town, as well as issuing an impressive output of songs in quick succession.

In November 2017 they released their debut self-titled EP featuring three hard-hitting tracks, then soon followed up on New Years Day 2018 with the beautiful rock ballad “Start Again.” They’re now back with a new EP simply titled II, and it’s a banger! Keeping with the sentiments so vividly expressed on their first single “Hate Hate Relationship,” with II the band delivers three blistering songs that speak to the emotional toll caused by betrayal and deceit.

The guys get right to the point on “The Fire,” blasting the airwaves with an onslaught of gravelly shredded riffs and hammering drums. The guitars shift to machine gun mode on the verses, where Adam furiously snarls the biting lyrics:

I don’t care for the things you said
Don’t know what is in your head
I know, you left me for dead you’re just another liar.

Don’t matter how you try to fake
No difference in the drugs you take
Can’t say that it’s a mistake you pushed me on the fire.

Out of Habit” is melodically complex, with outstanding guitar work. The track starts off with a gritty extended riff, transitioning to gorgeous jangly guitars on each verse, only to shift back to powerful shredded riffs in the chorus. Matt keeps the beat, adjusting the force of his drumming to match the changing intensity of the melody and guitars.  Adam’s vocals are especially good on this track, sounding a bit like Chris Daughtry at times as he passionately sings of breaking free from a cycle of pain and regret from past mistakes in order to become a better person:

No, holding back now, breaking out of habit, time revealing now 
Days or if years, through the tears we shed we have to carry on now, 
Taking the best of me.

The anger boils over on “Never (Let You Live It Down),” a seething ‘fuck you’ to someone who’s hurt you beyond any hope of redemption or forgiveness. Raging guitar riffs, pummeling drums and crashing cymbals convey the seriousness of the situation, as Adam wails the brutal lyrics:

You think it’s OK to lie 
Playing games always on the winning side 
You’ve got a simple design 
Crush them down, hold them by the windpipe 

Been too long, hate so strong, you broke the straw with a hammer blow.

I will kill you, break you, never let you live it down
Make you, regret, everything you ever said
Think you’re winning, never strive for anything
Victim ,victor, all the same to me, you’re dead to me.

As the vocals end with an air of pained resignation, we’re suddenly head-slammed by a thunderous barrage of gritty bass, guitar and pounding drums that extends for a minute and a half until gradually fading out. It’s a mind-blowing end to an awesome little EP that really packs a wallop in under 11 minutes.

Connect with Colt48:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp

JD & THE STRAIGHT SHOT – Album Review: “Good Luck and Good Night”

Good Night and Good Luck

JD & The Straight Shot is a folk rock/Americana band based in New York City, and in September 2017 they released their sixth studio album Good Luck And Good Night.  Drawing inspiration from such legendary acts as The Beach Boys, Pink Floyd and The Beatles, along with traditional Irish folk music, Country and classic rock’n’roll, JD & the Straight Shot deliver pleasing and sometimes topical songs that range from introspective folk ballads to catchy bluegrass foot-stompers.

The band is comprised of musicians with impressive credentials. Front man Jim Dolan, (lead vocals/guitar) is also CEO of the Madison Square Garden Company, which owns the New York Knicks and New York Rangers; guitarist Marc Copely has worked with B.B. King and Rosanne Cash; bassist Byron House with Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton; violinist/fiddler Erin Slaver with Martina McBride and Rod Stewart; drummer/percussionist Shawn Pelton with Sheryl Crow, Levon Helm, and the Saturday Night Live band; and backing vocalist/guitarist Carolyn Dawn Johnson with Miranda Lambert and Kenny Chesney. The all-acoustic Good Night and Good Luck was produced and mixed by Copely and engineered by Chuck Ainley at Soundstage Studios in Nashville. 

The album kicks off with “Redemption Song,” a rousing bluegrass number about searching for salvation and forgiveness. Slaver’s exuberant fiddle is one of the highlights on the track, and plays a major role in the band’s overall sound. Keeping with the gospel theme of finding redemption, “Ballad of Jacob Marley” is a an updated interpretation of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. The lyrics speak of making amends with one’s greedy ways before it’s too late. “Every day another link, you’ve taken yourself to the brink. / Time is short to right what you’ve done wrong.” Banjo and fiddle are the standout instruments on this great track, and Dolan and Johnson’s vocals harmonize well together, as they also do on “Moonlight” and the lovely “I Know You Know I Know.

One of my favorites on the album is “Run For Me,” a stirring song with a delightful Irish folk melody. The track opens with a sound imitating a galloping horse, followed by a catchy guitar riff and charming fiddle that continue throughout the song. The lyrics are a plea of hope that a bet on a horse race will pay off, easing worries about how to pay the bills: “Gotta pay my bills, running out of time, I’ll never get ahead. It’s all riding on the line. God help me win this time, just once to feel alive. Come on take the lead, come on baby bring it home to me.”

Referencing the phrase that the legendary early TV newsman Edward R. Murrow uttered at the end of every newscast, the compelling title track “Good Luck and Good Night” addresses the political divisiveness that permeates today’s news. “Hear a rumor make up a quote. Put it out there to see if it floats. Found your secret, told everyone. Doesn’t really matter as long as we won. Black and white. Must be right.” The languid country/folk song features a child chorus similar to that used to dramatic effect on Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”

The deeply moving ballad “Tonight” takes on the horror of domestic abuse: “From up above comes a terrible scream. Woke me up, I thought it was a dream. Sounds of breaking dishes and slamming doors. One big thud as something hit the floor. / She says she’s going to heaven, that’s right. I hope she’s not going tonight.” The band pays homage to their departed friend Glenn Frey with a lovely cover of the Eagles’ song “It’s Your World Now,” and incorporates lines from Maya Angelou’s poem Alone on their contemplative, gospel-like “Never Alone.”

The only miss on the album for me is their cover of the Three Dog Night hit “Shambala.” The song just feels lifeless and flat compared to the original, and lacks the energy or emotional depth of their other songs. Oddly, JD & the Straight Shot chose to perform “Shambala” when they appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on March 8. They would have been better served performing one of the many better tracks on Good Luck and Good Night, an otherwise terrific album.

The band kicks off a month-long tour in Chicago beginning this evening, March 14, where they’ll be opening for The Eagles. They’ll also open for Chicago and The Doobie Brothers for some shows. I will be seeing them in Rancho Mirage on April 6th.

3/14 Chicago, IL @United Center w/ the Eagles
3/15 Grand Rapids, MI @Van Andel Arena w/ the Eagles
3/17 Thackerville, OK @Winstar Casino w/ Chicago
3/18 St. Louis, MO @Scottrade Center w/ the Eagles
3/23 Nashville, TN @Bridgestone Arena w/ the Eagles
3/24 Nashville, TN @Bridgestone Arena w/ the Eagles
3/30 San Antonio, TX @Majestic Theatre w/ Chicago
3/31 Sugar Land, TX @Smart Financial Centre w/ Chicago
4/6 Rancho Mirage, CA @Agua Caliente Casino w/ The Doobie Brothers
4/7 Las Vegas, NV @ Chelsea at Cosmopolitan w/ The Doobie Brothers
4/8 Columbus, OH @Nationwide Arena w/ the Eagles
4/10 Lexington, KY @Rupp Arena w/ the Eagles
4/11 Charlotte, NC @Spectrum Center w/ the Eagles

Connect with the band:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes / Amazon

LOVEPROOF – Album Review: “Neon Blood, Volume One”

Neon Blood album art

Loveproof is a studio project by singer Ciaran Megahey and instrumentalist & producer Brendan McGarvey. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the duo have a long, albeit interrupted, history together. The two met in high school while living in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, formed a band that quickly fizzled, and eventually went off on separate music career paths. Ciaran is also a member of Canadian indie band The Autumn Stones, which I featured on this blog in 2016, while Brendan is or has been involved with Jerkbank, Stereohoax and Sugarkill. As luck would have it, one day in 2013 the two ran into each other on the street as Ciaran was headed to an open mic. That reconnection got them reminiscing about old times, and ultimately deciding to once again collaborate musically. 

Ciaran Megahey
Ciaran Megahey

They began writing songs and soon had an interesting collection of dark and cryptic doom pop on their hands. Originally setting out to create a sound that would combine some of their early favorite bands Joy Division, Guided by Voices and My Bloody Valentine, they later decided to throw in some dub for good measure. They named their project Loveproof, in honor of the My Bloody Valentine classic “Loveless.” Referring to their sound as “Dreamy, Dubby Doom Pop,” the songs they wrote and recorded culminated in the production of their debut album Neon Blood, Volume One, which dropped on December 5, 2017. Ciaran sang all the vocals, while Brendan, who’s primarily a bassist, played and programmed all instruments and produced the album. The album was recorded at Brendan’s home studio in Toronto and mastered by Harris Newman (Handsome Furs, Craft Spells).

Many albums require a couple of listens for the music to grow on me, but this gorgeous album dazed my eardrums the moment I heard it. It kicks off with “The Power,” a dreamy soundscape of crystalline synths set to a hypnotic beat. Ciaran’s smoldering, breathy vocals are captivating as he asks “Couldn’t we do this over? Shouldn’t we do this over? / From your tower, feeling sour by the hour. Have you got the power?” The beautiful track really sets the tone for the album’s moody vibe. The songs deal mostly with relationships that are uncertain or fraught with danger, and the music is darkly mysterious or even sometimes menacing, but always stunning and never depressing or maudlin.

Ciaran dials up the thermostat a couple notches on the sultry “Sister Moonlight,” where he seductively sings of the spell a woman has cast over him: “Sex at dawn. Her every movement turns me on. In her arms I’ve found shadows and light.” Though a bit haunting, the instrumentals and Ciaran’s vocals are breathtaking. The fitting video features scenes from the 1961 B-movie The Devil’s Hand, a horror film about a man who falls in love with a woman who turns out to be involved in a satanic cult.

The mesmerizing “Post” delivers more shimmering synths and a bass-driven beat, and in his soothing, breathy vocals Ciaran reassures an insecure loved one of his eternal support and commitment: “And I am your signpost? With our worlds entwined. Post. Am I just in time? Post. When I make you shine. Post.” Their video for “Post” contains footage from the 1957 film Here Comes Tobor.

The Vortex” features Brendan’s enchanting Spanish-sounding guitar floating above layers of mysterious synths and a determined drum beat. Ciaran sings of a doomed relationship that seems to be based on lustful passion but filled with bitterness and anger: “Hold you close just like a keepsake. Slow to learn. Quicker to slash and burn when we dance into the vortex. Blinds on. Pile on. The lights came on. That’s when I came around. The sounds we made of hate gone twice insane. Dying on the vine.

Now is a good time to point out that Ciaran’s sublime vocals are strikingly similar to Bryan Ferry’s on several tracks. And some of those tracks even seem to channel Ferry’s sound and music style, especially the spellbinding “The Lowdown,” “Tabula Rasa” (which reminds me of “Don’t Stop the Dance,” a song I adore), “Modern Ecstacy” and album closer “Death’s Flower.”

The mysteriously moody “Clever As” has more of an electronica feel, with pulsating synths and a languid kick-drum beat. The biting lyrics speak to the damage caused by people who cleverly lie and intimidate to get what they want:  “Anyone can break your heart in two, mind you. Anyone as clever as you. Where ‘benign’ lecherous tribes prattle on ‘heaven won’t take long.’ When the crude credulous boob follows through all over the news.” That last line seems to perfectly describe the sociopath currently occupying the U.S. Presidency.

The title track “Neon Blood” is perhaps the most haunting song on the album, both musically and lyrically. The brooding, razor-sharp synths and crisp percussion create an icy aura that’s beautiful yet menacing. The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but my take on their meaning is that people in search of fame – represented by ‘Neon Blood’ – will cheat, lie and prostitute themselves to get it: “Faceless plagiarists, aimless and dangerous playboys, movies stars grovel at your feet. You’re serpentine inverted mind. My Neon Blood.” In reality, those searching for fame are actually the victims: “Howling at your wounds. But you’re the sheep and I’m the wolf.” Some pretty heavy stuff there, and a great example of Loveproof’s exceptional songwriting.

Neon Blood, Volume One is a marvelous and flawlessly produced album that provides a stunning listening experience that draws you in, enveloping your senses in a dreamy, otherworldly soundscape.

Follow Loveproof on Facebook
Stream their album on Spotify and purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

Top 20 Songs for March 11-17, 2018

1. SAFARI SONG – Greta Van Fleet (1)
2. ALL THE STARS – Kendrick Lamar, SZA (6)
3. PAIN – The War on Drugs (2)
4. LOS AGELESS – St. Vincent (5)
5. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal. The Man (3)
6. WORLD GONE MAD – Bastille (9)
7. TWO HIGH – Moon Taxi (8)
8. SCARY LOVE – The Neighbourhood (4)
9. SOBER UP – AJR ft. Rivers Cuomo (7)
10. RUN FOR COVER – The Killers (11)
11. BORN FOR GREATNESS – Papa Roach (12)
12. BROKEN – lovelytheband (13)
13. HAPPY HOUR – Weezer (10)
14. YOU WORRY ME – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (14)
15. &RUN – Sir Sly (16)
16. SEVERED – The Decemberists (N)
17. BEST FRIEND – Sofi Tukker ft. NERVO, The Knocks & Alisa Ueno (18)
18. THE NIGHT HAS AN ALIBI – Wons Phreely + The Horses (20)
19. GOD’S PLAN – Drake (17)

LYIA META – Single Review: “Without Walls”

Without Walls cover art

I receive lots of submissions from artists and bands asking me to listen to their music or, hopefully, write a review of it. Most of the time the music is decent or better, and I rarely turn anyone down (which is why I’m always running behind schedule). But every so often, I’m immediately blown away the moment I hear their music. Such is the case with Malaysian singer/songwriter Lyia Meta, a lovely woman with a voice to match. Her rich, soulful vocal style is impressive, with a powerful arresting quality reminiscent of the legendary Shirley Bassey.

Lyia released her debut EP This is Lyia in 2016 to wide acclaim, garnering airplay on radio stations in Europe, as well as indie internet music radio stations in the UK, U.S., Germany and Australia, including Radio Wigwam (UK), Home of Rock Germany, LA Rocks Radio, Banks Radio Australia and many more. In August of 2017, she won the award for Best Female Artist from Radio Wigwam. In January of this year, she dropped a new single “Without Walls,” and it’s fantastic.

The track opens with soft, mysterious synths and Lyia pensively singing “I’m thinking of yesterday. She’ll find a way. And everything I remember, would stay. ‘Cause life without walls, feels like it’s love.” The music builds into a powerful soundscape of shimmering synths and a sensual, bass-driven dance beat, while Lyia’s smoldering vocals raise goosebumps as they soar to the heavens. Those moments of exuberance alternate with interludes of relative calm, where lovely synths with piano and strings dominate. She sings: “Forever in my mind, forever in my heart. Promises that came undone. We played it from the start. This life without walls. It feels like it’s love. We’re bending rules and skipping stones. Know your worth.” It’s a gorgeous song that I guarantee will have you on your feet dancing and hitting the replay button.

Lyia is also an accomplished visual artist. Check out her work on her art website.

Connect with Lyia: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

BRAVE YOU – Album Review: “Places”

Brave You

I’m back in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (having just written about progressive metal band UNDER AEGIS) to shine my spotlight on Brave You, one of my favorite indie bands that I’ve also previously featured on this blog. In 2016 I reviewed their outstanding debut Six Songs EP, and now have the pleasure of reviewing their new full-length album Places, which dropped in late February. Released through Halloween Records, Places is a concept album. The band’s guitarist & lead vocalist Alex Meylink explains: “Places is entirely about addiction, but we tried to avoid ever mentioning drugs or alcohol. We focused primarily on how addiction interacts with one’s emotional state and relationships, so I think it’s applicable to anyone suffering a mental health issue. These are songs written across a few years: in the early stages of recovery, in relapse, at ‘the bottom’, and finally coming to a place of good mental health and sobriety.”

Brave You plays alternative rock that’s highly melodic, but with an honest, post-grunge sensibility that gives them a distinctive style all their own. In addition to Meylink, the other band members are Noah Snyder on bass & backing vocals, and Erik Burtraw on drums & backing vocals. Outstanding, complex guitar riffs, aggressive drums, and really fine harmonizing vocals are the defining elements of their sound. Add their solid songwriting to the mix, and the result are songs of exceptional quality and depth. And if all that isn’t enough of a winning combination, they’re also pretty nice guys.

Places is aptly named, as each track title is about a specific location, whether it be a geographical one or simply a bedroom. The album kicks off with a distorted riff and voice over of a guy inviting his friends to go to the amusement park on “Lake Michigan.” Swirling guitars, Snyder’s humming bass and Burtraw’s crashing drums ensue, as Meylink earnestly sings of being in a precarious mental state: “So I’m safe for now. Even if it’s just one moment I could crack a smile, goddamn it.” Determined to make it, he defiantly sings “So I’m safe for now. So let’s burn that fucker down and build it up from better ground.”

I may be off base, but my take on “The Hospital” is that it’s about being depressed over the impending onset of winter, which symbolizes the possibility of having a relapse that would necessitate going back into rehab. The lighthearted video puts a happy face on a rather serious subject, namely trying to stave off winter, or preventing a downward spiral and keeping an upbeat attitude by having fun playing sports with friends. By video’s end, the band members are all wearing giant teddy bear heads, indicating they’re getting ready to hibernate, another metaphor symbolizing the inevitability of returning to the hospital for rehab.

One of my favorite tracks is “Mound St.” It starts off with Meylink’s echoed vocals and a gentle riff and drumbeat, then explodes with a barrage of wailing guitars and thunderous drums. Still in a fragile mental state and feeling pessimistic, Meylink sings: “I’d spent a few years treading water in stagnant pools. You asked me where my head had wandered off to. I’ve been lost. / If these are the best days of our lives then we are fucked. I am fucked. / On Mound Street, I let my losses pile up. Refused to claim stake in the rubble and the sum of the stories I told you and to myself: that I’m alright and getting by. So I coasted on hope or the concept of having it. Got myself dry as a bone til mine were cracking, but I couldn’t help but sink into quicksand and pits. A morass of “faultless” debt I could never hope to pay back.

Wind Lake” and “King Cross” are a couplet, with the latter being a precise continuation of “Wind Lake.” It’s interesting the band would create a separate track in “Kings Cross,” as it begins with the exact same riff that “Wind Lake” ends with. Both tracks feature Meylink’s gritty, screaming guitars and Snyder’s deep, droning bass line, sounding fantastic.

The guys’ wonderful harmonizing is well represented on “Washington.” The nimble guitars and bouncy drumbeat lend an optimistic tone for lyrics that speak to a resignation that though things aren’t going so great, we’ll just continue acting like they are: “So let’s just make it through this winter. Toss off the sharp and jagged splinters. No matter, all of this is fine.”

Hometown” speaks to the depression that began while growing up, and wanting to escape that environment in the hope things will get better:  “Always remember how you felt at this moment, in this placeAlone and inconsolable in the house that you grew up inYou wanted to burn that fucker down. Erase twenty years on solid ground.” The track has a great melody, and is filled with loads of jangly guitars and gritty bass. “South Milwaukee” is a short and beautiful track with chiming guitars and warm bass, but sad lyrics about feeling hopeless and alone. Meylink sadly sings “Overworked and underfed, in need of rest, I drove the twenty minutes to South Milwaukee instead, to you and your shitty friend. Towards a beacon of light in an otherwise meaningless night. / Selfish, I expected too much of your company. That just one night could fix me. It didn’t help me at all.

Bedroom” finds him trying to escape his demons by isolating in a safe place:  “Me and these ghosts, still talking until I’m finally sleeping. I just want to stay home, stay in my bedroom alone. Me and these ghosts, still talking until I’m finally sleeping. I just want to be whole.” As always, the frenetic instrumentals and vocal harmonies are first-rate.

The hard-driving, bittersweet “Your Bedroom” speaks to the pain and feelings of loss after the sudden death of a friend. “You’re no ghost, you’re a warmth. A ringing in the ears. A reminder. Stay in motion now. Make the movement matter. And this will freeze and crack, thawed only by the embers. You’re twenty seven forever. By the back door, your old pair of blue Tiger shoes we didn’t throw out, as if after a day or two like Lazarus you’d come from your room. We’d get a sandwich at Lulu’s. God, I’d do whatever you want to. I’d get clean. I’d sing loud. Just come on out.”

Places closes on an optimistic tone with the anthemic “Everywhere.” He’s now confident things will be OK: “I wanna take back this city from dead memories, take back my body. Call off the funeral procession for all these loves that built me. Those years searching for something greater than these homes. Well, I found it. Found it in my bones.” It’s a gorgeous track with layered guitars that start off as tender strums, gradually building to celebratory jangly riffs. Likewise, Meylink’s heartfelt vocals build along with the music, eventually soaring to a crescendo of spine-tingling harmonies. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a brilliant effort from a really fine band. I love Brave You and hope they continue making music for years to come.

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