ROADKEEPER – Single Review: “Old Man’s War”

Roadkeeper

It always makes me happy when I discover a new band and instantly love their music. I was so impressed by the beautiful songs of the band Roadkeeper that I had to write a review of their latest single “Old Man’s War“. The Tyler, Texas- based group was formed less than a year ago by producer/vocalist John Eric Hetherington and drummer Nick Cogdill, who both previously played in the post-punk group Knifight, as well as guitarist Trevor Tull and bassist Daniel Griffith, all of whom are long-time friends. Roadkeeper is completely independent and self-produced, doing their recording, producing and mixing in John’s studio – dubbed ‘Yacht Country’ – and releasing their songs on their own label Equal Temperament.

Blending dreamy shoegaze with dramatic psychedelic rock, Roadkeeper crafts exquisite songs that envelop us with complex melodies and lush soundscapes, while delivering compelling lyrics that give us something to think about. Beginning in the fall of 2018, they released a series of singles, starting with “God in the Light of the Bar”, a laid-back song with shimmering guitars, horns and breezy synths, and “The Creeps”, a beautiful, anthemic song about emotional manipulation and abuse. In February 2019, they released their mesmerizing third single “Gushers”, which the band explains “deals with recent years’ murders of unarmed black people by police officers, and the way law enforcement and apologists reframe the job of police officer as a war or conflict between the just and unjust. Also how privileged people are starting to reframe their own lives and minor struggles as heroes journeys.”

Now the band follows up with their fourth single “No Man’s War” a melancholy but beautiful song about anxiety and worry over things, both real and imagined. The song starts off with a mix of both chiming and strummed acoustic guitars, as John sings in soft, breathy vocals of his fears:

I’m afraid of so many things
What the hell am I doing
Waiting for a change
People never change
And I’m stuck inside my heart
Waiting for someone to pick me up
And tell me everything’s OK
That it’s only just a dream
Wait and see

The music swells with lush shimmery synths, fuzzy bass and chiming guitars as he tries to convince himself that all is right with the world and he’s got nothing to worry about:

No disease is coming for me
And no conditions waiting to take you from me
And the world is happy
No one is dying
The ice isn’t melting
And everyone can be themselves

The dramatic sweeping synths continue during the bridge, then abruptly end, leaving us with just a simple strummed acoustic guitar as John reaffirms his anxieties and feelings of pessimism in the final verse:

I’m afraid of so many things
Every time I read
What’s breaking in the world
I lose a piece of me
To an old man’s war
They won’t be around to pick it up
When everything falls down

With “No Man’s War”, Roadkeeper continue to bat a thousand, delivering their fourth consecutive win in the form of a perfect song. I’m happy to be following this talented group of guys, and excited to hear what they come up with next!

Connect with Roadkeeper:  Facebook / Twitter  / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

FOSTER THE PEOPLE Release Dark & Surreal Video For “Style”

Foster the People Style Art

Foster the People are one of my favorite bands (see the header photo on my Twitter page), so I’m always thrilled when they release new music and videos. For those not familiar with the band, the members include front man and lead vocalist Mark Foster, drummer Mark Pontius, and multi-instrumentalists Isom Innis and Sean Cimino.

Foster the People

Their latest single “Style“, which dropped on March 22nd, is a departure both musically and stylistically (no pun intended) from their last few singles “Worst Nights”, “Ride or Die” and “Sit Next to Me”, all of which had a more laid-back and upbeat pop sensibility. “Style” is darker in tone, with gnarly synths, buzz-saw riffs and deep, pulsating bass that give the track a gritty, heavier vibe. As the track unfolds and Foster’s fervent vocals enter, a catchy, toe-tapping beat kicks in, along with additional spacey and melodic synths that provide a nice counterpoint to the driving bass line. I’ve had this song on repeat all morning, and can’t get enough of it!

Lyrically, “Style” sees the band taking a stand on issues facing society today, and is a clarion call for people to speak their truths with courage, and rise up against the tyranny imposed by those seeking to keep us enslaved through fear, thought control or craven appeals to greed. About the song, Foster recently explained on Twitter: “I’ve been wrestling with certain themes since we put out “Torches”. I guess it’s my way of processing the law of chaos and random happenings in our universe. There is hope for the underdog. I like to fight from the ropes. I never like to feel like I’m on top of the hill…this song is another facet of that same story. When we face the question of our own mortality, we are free to live our lives without fear.”

The surreal, richly chromatic video for “Style”, which was written and directed by Foster and produced by Sam Canter & Julia Rudyak, opens with Foster sitting with the other band members in a red-lit room, then getting up and walking over to balcony, whereupon he addresses a rapt crowd in a dark warehouse/club (reminding me a bit of Evita speaking to her public from a balcony). Foster sings to the crowd: “We’re born to die so I’m gonna fight for how I wanna live. Spark up the riots, I guess I’m a criminal and futurist. Well the charges I’ve caught won’t stand your trial. You can take it out on me.”

Foster the People Style pic

We’re next transported to the floor of the warehouse, where Foster and the band confront a large, glowing orb surrounded by ornately-dressed people who seem to be worshiping it like a scene out of Game of Thrones. Walking through a line of people with the band members behind him, Foster proclaims: “We’re in the lions den, consumption is our medicine, And so I’m high again, you can say I’m a true American, Well the sweetest revenge is being set free. But you can’t take it from me, yeah.”

Foster the People Paperheads

Meanwhile, a group of men in business suits with stacks of paper for heads are seen walking toward the warehouse, then ram their way into the building. Once the Paperheads are inside, the band pours gasoline onto the orb and sets it afire, whereupon the worshipers flee the building while Foster sings “Take me out, take me out in style. If you’re gonna fight me Fight me in style. If you’re gonna hate me Hate me in style. If you’re gonna love me Do it in style. Yeah, just do it in style.” The Paperheads then take bits of ash from the burnt up orb, place it into an ornate silk-lined box, and take it to a dark, red-lit room where there’s a thin and bald man in leather pants chained to the wall next to a chubby Paperhead sitting in a chair, smoking a large joint. They place a spoonful of ash into a chalice and feed it to both men, at which point the video abruptly ends. Could the ash represent truth or something that will enable free thought? Watch the fantastic video and decide for yourself:

Connect with Foster the People:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Apple Music /  Google Play /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes /  Amazon

DAY – Single Review: “Keep the Euro, Keep the Pound”

Day single art

Like many people, British singer/songwriter James Day, performing under the artistic moniker Day, has become weary of the deep political divide that’s plagued The United Kingdom over the past several years with regard to Brexit. Wanting to spread a message of hope and understanding, he released a new single “Keep the Euro, Keep the Pound” in March 2019, along with a video showing him performing the song in the studio and on the streets of what I’m guessing is London, along with images of different cities and peoples throughout the UK and Europe. Taking a neutral stance, Day advocates that people must come together for the greater good, and that democracy must always prevail to ensure the continued trust of the people in their democratically elected government.

Day3

About the song, Day explains “‘Keep The Euro, Keep The Pound’ is about our modern world, it’s togetherness, love, hope ingenuity and inventiveness. Over the past 12 months we’ve been touring Europe and doing art and music. Learning the different cultures and traditions and seeing the history and landmarks whilst interacting with the locals who all are so friendly. Europe is such a rich and diverse mix of cultures and traditions, steeped in history that captivates tourists the world over every year by it’s beauty and ability to intrigue romantics. Visiting Malta, Milan, Sicily, Cyprus, Barcelona, Malaga, Bruges, Paris, Kiev, Lviv, Kharkiv and London to name a few, the 12-month tour of Europe was eye opening and enriching, and helped ideas flow for the new album called ‘Day the Album’ that we are currently working on.”

Musically, the song is a catchy rock tune with some nice guitar work, accompanied by subtle bass and snappy drumbeats. Day’s vocals are commanding as he passionately urges people and politicians to stop fighting with one another, find common ground and complete the will of the British voters.

So why’s it so hard to complete?
Are we controlled by the elite?
Keep the Euro, Keep the Pound
I’m sure we’ll find some common market ground

People want their country back
The farmers want their farms
The fishermen to fish again between Dover and France
It’s easy to forget, that just with half a chance
We liberated all of it by entering through France

Why we diluting all the truth and screening bad press news?
No use in going a second round
We gotta find us some common market ground

Keep the Euro, Keep the Pound
I’m sure we’ll find some common market ground

People got their voices so, give ’em sound
stead of controlling situations by just keeping ’em down
Keep society together with the freedoms they’ve earned
and improve their way of living with the lessons we’ve learnt

We’ll trade with you anyway, just gotta go our own way.
Live in the future, ain’t to live in the past
It’s your people gonna make the EU last

And see the gathering crowd, why don’t you give ’em sound?
They all got choices, they all got voices
and they can make their countries proud

Keep the Euro, Keep the Pound
I’m sure we’ll find some common market ground

Connect with Day:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase on  Soundcloud / iTunes 

RUBBER CLOWN CAR – Album Review: “Horse Logic”

Rubber Clown Car album

One of my absolute favorite-named bands has got to be Rubber Clown Car.  Based in Oswego, Illinois, on the far western outskirts of greater Chicago, they were one of the earliest bands I featured on this blog, three years ago in April 2016. The band is the brainchild of singer/songwriter Dirk Prysby, a wildly imaginative and zany guy who creates songs that are thoroughly original, sometimes serious but often hilarious, and unlike anything else you’ve ever heard. He also happens to be a thoughtful and creative lyricist who’s quite skilled on the six-string. His quirky, off-kilter vocal style wouldn’t get him very far on The Voice or American Idol, but that’s okay, as it’s perfectly suited for their eccentric songs. Besides Dirk, Rubber Clown Car includes Fred Beasley (drums, backing vocals, guitar) and Tony Pantalones (bass, keyboards and everything else).

Rubber Clown Car

Their sound has been compared to a mixture of XTC, Bob Mould, the Damned, the Who, GBV, the Replacements, and Matthew Sweet, with one reviewer observing they’re like “the Beatles on Quaaludes”. Formed back in the mid-2000s, Rubber Clown Car started out making fairly straightforward music drawing from rock, grunge and punk elements. Their first release was the excellent 2006 album Make the Noise, featuring one of my favorite of their songs “Home in the Suburbs”, a clear-eyed commentary on the American Dream. They subsequently began experimenting with their sound and lyrical themes, incorporating more psychedelic and alternative elements into their music. This can be clearly heard on their follow-up 2008 release Music “They” Don’t Want You To Hear, with songs like “The Boy With the Plexiglas Head” and “Gene Pool Party”. Since then, they’ve been prolific in their output, releasing eight more albums, including such wonderful titles as Jesus is not a Weapon, Cake Solves Heartaches and Let’s Go Bowling.

Their latest effort is Horse Logic, an ambitious and trippy tour de force featuring 18 tracks, which dropped in March. It’s perhaps their most experimental and eclectic work yet, with songs ranging from rock to psychedelic to blues to ballads, and everything in between. Employing lots of unusual sound effects and discordant melodies, and incorporating snippets of song, voice, sound, and spoken-word contributed by several of the band’s Twitter friends, they’ve created interesting and sometimes outlandish compositions. Because it’s such a long album with so many tracks, I’ll discuss what I feel are the highlights, along with a few others that provide a good representation of the work.

Kicking things off is the delightfully psychedelic “Where Have All the Mushrooms Gone?“, an appropriately-titled song that sounds pretty much like what I would expect an hallucinogenic trip on magic mushrooms to sound like. It begins with a woman in a distinctly British accent saying “Right. So, what shall I see?” followed by sounds of a horse neighing a response to her question. We’re then greeted by an onslaught of exuberant cinematic rock, accompanied by dramatic soaring choruses, bouncy xylophone, and a colorful assortment of weird sound effects you might hear in a carnival funhouse, along with more of those neighing horses. The guitars, bass and percussion are all perfection, more than ample proof that Rubber Clown Car are incredible musicians. Dirk croons the whimsical lyrics that include “Rub-a-dub, where the dub, where do I put my bubba? Wubba wubba it’ll come out if ya scrub it. And the clouds all turn to oil. Telepathic banana.” The song closes with horses neighing in rather diabolical-sounding tones.

The next track “Unusual Ducks and Rainy Days” is even trippier, opening with a creepy voice declaring “I don’t want a goddam robot serving me a chicken!” A slow drumbeat kicks in along with riffs of funky guitar and bass, and Dirk’s quirky vocals backed by his own choruses. From there on out, the song becomes an extended psychedelic trip that lasts nearly 11 minutes, growing increasingly strange with the addition of all sorts of crazy carnival, barnyard and zoo sound effects, including honking horns, buzzing mosquitoes, monkeys and elephants. Through it all, the guys lay down some fine bluesy guitar runs.

Abruptly changing the vibe, the band turns wistful and serious on “Girl I Left Behind“, a sweet but melancholy song about a lost love. The twangy guitars and keyboard synths are really wonderful, and Dirk’s heartfelt vocals are great, with nice backing vocals by the Inflateable Girls, who also appear on several other tracks on Horse Logic. “Sandbox” sees the band getting in touch with their playful inner child:  “Didn’t matter what anyone would say. We only want to play in our sandbox.” Musically, the song features a catchy tempo, upbeat jangly guitars and effervescent spacey synths, accompanied by sounds of children having fun at a playground.

The lovely title track “Horse Logic” is a brief instrumental interlude with beautiful jangly strummed guitar and sweeping string synths creating an enthralling atmospheric soundscape. Next up is “Action Brats“, one of the more bizarre tracks on the album. It starts off with the opening lines from the Elvis Presley classic “Heartbreak Hotel” sung by The Quiet Professor (the band’s and my Twitter friend Logos Pilgrim, who’s an author, artist, blogger and singer). Then a repetitive thumping drumbeat and funky bass line take over, accompanied by an eerie assortment of sounds, including creepy childrens’ voices, gregorian chants, and munchkin-like noises. The track ends with a snippet from what sounds like a Japanese song. That magic mushroom trip that started off the album is now on full-blown steroids!

Dirk sings the blues on “The Hanging Mess“, baring his soul with heart-wrenching vocals lamenting his fragile state: “Blue, oh I don’t know which way to turn / I just can’t get through to you.” The bluesy, twangy and distorted guitar work is really outstanding. “Evil Shrimp” is another bizarre track that had me thinking ‘what the hell?’, yet loving it’s great hard-driving noise rock vibe. The song features some terrific gnarly guitar work and snappy percussion, accompanied by sounds of wailing police sirens and strange muffled vocals that are completely unintelligible.

One of the best rock tunes on the album is “Our Magic Sauce“, a musically complex track featuring a killer psychedelic guitar solo by British musician Leg Puppy. There are some background murmuring vocals that are indeciferable, so this is essentially an instrumental track. On the folk-rockish “Turn the Wheel Earl” Dirk yearns for home, sampling lines from the Beatles “A Hard Days Night” (“when I’m home, everything seems to be right“) and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” (“home, where my thought’s escaping“).

My personal favorite on the album is the captivating ballad “Sleep Tight“. The jangly and chiming guitars are gorgeous, and I’m elated that the band did a duet with The Quiet Professor, who has a voice like spun silk. Her vocals harmonize beautifully with Dirk’s as they croon “Your heart will be broken a thousand times. By words unspoken or a thousand lies. You’ve got it all behind you, dream away, dream away.” The charming video for the song was created by another Twitter friend of the band’s and mine – Sherry Ruth.

Closing the album is “Cabbage” a quirky two-minute long rock’n’roll ditty that ends things on a fun, upbeat note. The song consists of just strummed guitar and Dirk crooning “If you wanna be my baby, this is what you gotta say”, followed by a lot of melodic gibberish. At song’s end, he exclaims “Woo, that was in interesting tune!

I think Horse Logic is brilliant, and their best work yet.  Rubber Clown Car won’t appeal to everyone, but if you’re the type of person who goes for music that’s offbeat, completely original and fun, you’ll enjoy this album. I certainly do!

Connect with Rubber Clown Car on  Twitter 
Stream:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp  / iTunes / cdbaby

Top 30 Songs for April 7-13, 2019

1. READY TO LET GO – Cage the Elephant (1)
2. POWER OVER ME – Dermot Kennedy (3)
3. TRAMPOLINE – SHAED (4)
4. SUPERPOSITION – Young the Giant (2)
5. SIGUE CON EL AMOR – John Defeo (6)
6. VOLCANO – Feather Weight (7)
7. ASSUME FORM – James Blake (9)
8. S.O.S. (Sawed Off Shotgun) – The Glorious Sons (5)
9. HOME – morgxn featuring WALK THE MOON (10)
10. CHLORINE – twenty one pilots (16)
11. LONGSHOT – Catfish and the Bottlemen (13)
12. DISAPPEAR – Western Jaguar (14)
13. EXITS – Foals (15)
14. HARMONY HALL – Vampire Weekend (17)
15. MOVEMENT – Hozier (12)
16. CHANGE – The Revivalists (8)
17. FEAR THE FUTURE – IAMWARFACE (20)
18. DARK PLACES – The Frontier (21)
19. DELTA BLUES – Jetstream (11) 19th week on chart
20. TIME – Morosity (24)
21. BURY A FRIEND – Billie Eilish (25)
22. SECRET THAT LIES BEHIND – The Gear (19)
23. ESCAPE – Ships Have Sailed (26)
24. LOVE CRAZY – Karolina Rose (27)
25. NORTHERN LIGHTS – Death Cab for Cutie (18)
26. LO/HI – The Black Keys (30)
27. SUNFLOWER – Post Malone & Swae Lee (23)
28. HURT – Oliver Tree (N)
29. STILL FEEL. – half alive (N)
30. GENERATION Y – Guide Dog (N)

THE IVINS – Single Review: “Certain”

Certain (Cover Art)

Two years ago, Nashville, Tennessee alternative rock band The Ivins blew me away with their monumental debut album The Code Duello, which I had the pleasure of reviewing. Now they return with a hard-hitting new single “Certain“, which I’m certain will further advance their star within the Nashville music scene and beyond. The Ivins is comprised of the handsome Ivins brothers Jim and Jack (with Jim on guitars & vocals and Jack on drums), Hatton Taylor on lead guitar, and Regan Akers on bass & vocals.

The Ivins Promo 2

“Certain” was recorded in Nashville with producer Matt Leigh at the legendary Tracking Room (U2, Beach Boys, Bon Jovi). Jim told me that, musically, the track is a re-imagining of an ancient Lebanese folk song. For the video’s premiere on the website Pure Grain Audio, he further explained “The song’s creation actually stems from an audition we had for a cultural emissary program with the U.S. State Department, where we were asked to update an old international folk song. We chose ‘Bektob Esmak,’ a folk song from Lebanon, and off we went. The audition never panned out, but [we] knew we had a great skeleton of a song.”

Also in the Pure Grain Audio article, Jim described the song’s meaning: “’Certain’ is a commentary on the world of infinite options in which we live in 2019. Whether its jobs, relationships, music, what-have-you, at our fingertips all times, we have an unending sea of options for whatever we want out of life. Some people really take to this, and relish in never committing to anything, hence the lyric in the song, ‘Connection calls for arson, potential hangs a noose.’ Me, on the other hand, I crave certainty. I need it. It is my safety blanket. But certainty is scary, and sometimes it can bring you down a path you never thought you’d travel. For me, the lifestyle of unlimited options is the one that is claustrophobic and that’s why the hook of the song is, ’my one wish is to be certain’.”

The song storms through the gates with an explosion of blistering guitars, rumbling bass and thunderous drums, letting us know from the get-go that we’re in for a real ripper of a tune. After 30 seconds, the tempo calms as Jim starts to sing “Paralyzed, paralyzed by choice.” From there, the music alternately swells to a raging storm in the choruses, only to slow back down in the verses, keeping us on the edge of our seats as the track unfolds. The guys’ impressive musicianship is on full display here as they deliver a flawless performance, their respective instruments totally in sync to create an exhilarating and powerful track that raises goosebumps. During the song’s most dramatic moments, Hatton rips his guitar until it wails, while Jack is a literal beast on his drum kit. This photo perfectly captures the ferocity of Jack’s power drumming, which is also clearly evident in the video of their electrifying performance.

Jack Ivins drums

The Ivins will be performing at their home base of The Basement Nashville to rock New Faces Nite on Tuesday April 9. They also have a show at The Back Corner in Nashville on April 24.

Connect with The Ivins:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify /  Apple Music
Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

THIRD TIME LUCKIE – Single Review: “Love and Violence”

Third Time Luckie single art

Third Time Luckie – is that a great band name or what? – is a 3-piece alternative rock group based in the southern England resort town of Bognor Regis, Sussex. Formed back in 2006 by founding member Chris Horner (guitar & vocals), like many bands, Third Time Luckie has undergone some personnel changes in the intervening years, and now includes Carl Swietlik (drums) and Andy Clare (bass & vocals). Drawing influences from some of their favorite bands like Blink-182, Green Day, Alkaline Trio and Sum 41, they play a high-energy style of melodic pop/punk rock.

The band has recorded a number of fine tracks over the years, including their recent single “Wide Eyed Thinking” (you can check them out on their Soundcloud page). Their latest release is “Love and Violence“, a terrific song that will be included on their forthcoming EP Face the Beast, due out later this Spring.

Starting things off with a flourish of drumbeats, they quickly hook us in with an arresting guitar riff overlying a driving bass line and accompanied by a gentle drumbeat. The music then explodes into a stirring crescendo in the choruses, thanks to a speaker-blowing barrage of raging guitars, wildly crashing cymbals, and deep, buzzing bass. The guitar work is fantastic, and there are some nice piano keys in the final chorus as well, providing another texture of sound that makes for a really interesting and highly satisfying listen. Chris has a pleasing vocal style that sounds great whether he’s earnestly crooning the calmer verses or passionately wailing the dramatic choruses. The guys’ backing vocal harmonies in the choruses are wonderful too.

The poignant lyrics are a plea from one partner in a fraying relationship to another, urging her to stay with him and try to work out their problems. The words “love and violence” represent the highs and lows – the good times and bad – of a relationship.

Stay with me now
Cause I know we’re forever
And evermore it’s you and I in love and violence

Cry with me know
It doesn’t really matter
We’re living for today
Come on let’s run away

The guys’ skill at songwriting and crafting memorable melodies is strongly evident on “Love and Violence”, and they’ve got a bonafide hit on their hands. I really like this band, and am looking forward to hearing Face the Beast when it comes out.

Connect with Third Time Luckie:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes