I just reviewed musician Michael Lane, a singer-songwriter who was born in Germany, raised in America and now living in Germany. Now I’m writing about another musician based in Germany named Rod Fritz, who’s actually an Australian born and raised in Hobart, Tasmania, but now living in Germany as well. Rod has been involved with music for nearly 30 years, both in bands and as a solo artist. He started out in the early 90s playing saxophone with Australian band Death & Disease. After they disbanded, he began writing songs and recorded his first solo album Send Help in 1996. He later re-recorded many of those songs, plus some new tracks, for his 2011 album Clouded, which garnered critical and commercial acclaim, as well as airplay in Australia and beyond. In 2014, he embarked on a world tour that took him through the U.S., UK and Germany. His mother is originally from Germany, and while there he visited her and a number of family members. While playing a show, he met a woman with whom he eventually entered into a relationship, and he’s been in Germany ever since.
Hi pleasing music style draws from country, folk, pop and rock, with memorable and often catchy melodies, heartfelt lyrics and bold instrumentation. He followed Clouded with two more albums, Fritz in 2014 and Hold On in 2018. Since then, he’s released a number of singles, the latest of which is “Take the World with Me“. It’s an upbeat, feel-good song with a bouncy melody and joyful vibe similar to the Jawaiian (a Hawaiian style of reggae) sound of the Jason Mraz hit “I’m Yours”. Rod employs a lively mix of jauntily strummed guitars, sparkling synths, finger snaps, xylophone and other charming little instruments to create a carefree, sunny soundscape. His smooth, light-hearted vocals are comforting as he assures a loved one to have faith in him, and that he’ll be there to take care of and protect her: “Come and take the world with me, and I’ll be right there by your side. Come and take the world with me. Don’t cry, everything will be alright.”
It’s a sweet and happy song, and can’t we use more of those right now?
Last September (of 2020), I first featured German-American indie-folk singer-songwriter and producer Michael Lane on this blog when I reviewed his beautiful heartwarming single “Coming Home”. I also wrote a bit about his upbringing in both Germany and the United States, how his life experiences have shaped his songwriting, and of his growing success as a musician. A prolific artist, over the past seven years he’s released four albums, as well as numerous singles, helping him build a large and growing following in Germany and beyond. On Spotify alone, he has over 30,000 monthly listeners from countries like Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the U.S. Shortly after I published my review, Michael released another exquisite single “Moment” and now returns with his latest single “Good Times“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.
As I customarily do when writing a review, I listen to some of the artist or band’s back music catalog, and once again I’m really impressed by the beauty and quality of Michael’s songwriting and vocals. His honest, relatable lyrics are consistently delivered with pleasing melodies, exceptional guitar work and soothing vocals. Released via the label Greywood Records, “Good Times” offers a message of hope and assurance that times of crisis will lead people back to the important things in life. Michael explains further: “Although ‘Good Times’ is a very upbeat and happy song, it still has a more serious and deeper meaning. Without getting too much into it, in the song I’m basically saying that, just because you surround yourself with a new house or nice car, doesn’t mean it will give you more happiness in the long run.“
The song has a breezy, toe-tapping melody, with an enchanting mix of gently-strummed and chiming guitars, accompanied by just the right amount of percussion and subtle bass to drive the rhythm forward, while still allowing Michael’s beautiful guitar work to shine. As always, his warm and clear vocals are heartfelt as he sings the poignant lyrics, backed by his own lovely harmonies. It’s another stellar addition to his unbroken string of outstanding singles.
You like drama but you never did like the truth
You sing songs to free the pain inside of you
Big house, new life helps to forget
All the memories that you regret
Act so tough, but you're really just scared
Yeah you're really just scared to live
All these walls, and you took what I had
Yeah, you took all I had to give
Yeah, you took all I had to give
Good times never die, don't you agree
What's life if you can't live life for free
You have a heart , so just hear what it has to say
Everybody hurts, don't give up and run away
Act so tough, but you're really just scared
Yeah you're really just scared to live
All these walls, yeah you took all I had
Yeah, you took all I had to give
In case it hasn’t been apparent to frequent readers of this blog, I’m a massive fan of MISSIO. On the strength of their phenomenal music catalog, as well as their honesty and openness with their fans and followers, in the space of a few years the Austin, Texas based duo have earned a place among my favorite music acts of all time. With the combined talents of singer-songwriter and producer Matthew Brue and songwriter/producer and instrumentalist David Butler, their edgy, thoroughly original sound is an eclectic mix of gritty alternative electronic rock, hip hop and dreamy emo vibes. Then there’s Matthew’s beautiful vocals that register in the higher octaves just below a falsetto, giving them a distinctive sound unlike any other singer, and making their music instantly identifiable as only MISSIO’s.
They exploded onto the music scene in 2017 with their outstanding debut album Loner, featuring the great singles “Middle Fingers”, “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea” and “Everybody Gets High”. They quickly followed with two EPs, Skeletons: Part I and Skeletons: Part II, both featuring stripped-down, more meditative versions of tracks from Loner, plus a few new songs. In April 2019, they released their magnificent second album The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man, which I called a masterpiece and the best album of 2019 in my review. The album includes my favorite MISSIO song “I See You” (which I also named my #1 song of 2019), as well as “Rad Drugz”, “Temple Priest” and “Underground”. Since then, the duo have continued to put out a tremendous amount of new music. In March 2020, they released a beautiful and cinematic mostly instrumental soundtrack album for their documentary film Love Me Whole, a collaboration with videographer Jeff Ray about their struggles of what it means to be artists in America. That October, they followed with their brilliant fourth album Can You Feel The Sun. The gorgeous title track spent several weeks atop my Weekly Top 30 earlier this year.
On April 23, they returned with Skeletons: Part III, the third in their series of stripped-down versions of previously released tracks. Only this time, they decided to give them a more classical feel through the addition of strings and other orchestral instrumental touches. The guys explained their approach on their social media: “It’s been a dream of ours to be able to create music alongside a real string quartet, and we finally had the chance on this project. These re-imagined versions of our songs speak a bit more direct to the soul. It won’t be as good as sex however, with the right headphones/speakers it will get you close.”
Well, I have to say they’re absolutely right, because Skeletons: Part III is a 15-minute-long eargasm. Listening to its five tracks is an immersive experience, transporting you to a dreamy faraway place through breathtaking atmospheric soundscapes. Four of the tracks are from Can You Feel The Sun, along with one new track “Do You Realize??” The guys produced and arranged these re-imagined versions with the assistance of composer/arranger Fiona Brice, and with lush strings performed by the Tosca String Quartet. I love classical music and luxurious orchestral arrangements, so it’s no surprise that I’d love this EP. The tracks were mixed by their long-time collaborator Dwight Baker, and flawlessly mastered by Dave McNair.
They also produced stunning, artful videos for each of the tracks with footage filmed in and around Joshua Tree National Park, which is located about an hour from where I live in the Coachella Valley, in the Southern California desert. With its starkly beautiful landscapes and spiritual aura, Joshua Tree has long been a popular location for shooting music videos.
“Vagabond (Stripped)” is probably the most-changed of the four re-imagined tracks from its original version, which features a hard-driving dubstep beat, grungy and distorted industrial synths, and verses sung by rapper Esoteric of the hip hop group Czarface. The stripped-down version is darkly beautiful and contemplative, with eerie, echoed synths coupled with mournful strings, strummed guitar, and exquisite keyboards that gradually soar to a dramatic crescendo. Matthew’s strongly emotive vocals keep pace with the intensity of the music as he sings the lyrics that were inspired by David and his wife Amanda’s relationship, specifically, his feeling like he’d disappointed her by failing to live up to his promises due to the excessive time he spent touring with MISSIO, which kept him away from her: “I once made you a simple promise, that I would share my dreams with you. Maybe this all became a big mess when everything I dreamed came true. Hurting people, hurt people, it’s hard to understand. There’s a million ways to fix us, screaming like a broken man. Vagabond, is that what you want? I’m a vagabond, is that what you want?“
The second track “Losing My Mind (Stripped)” shaves a minute off the original, which features a bold, beat-driven melody and dramatic otherworldly synths. The new stripped-down version is more atmospheric and dreamy, with lovely plucked guitar notes and strings. Yet it still retains some of the dark overtones of the original, this time beautifully expressed through cinematic synth bass and melancholy piano keys. The spare lyrics speak from the viewpoint of someone losing their grip on reality, thinking back on happier times: “On dreary days, I like to think about the joy that I had as a young and reckless kid. On dreary days, I used to drown it out. A sociopath ’cause I had nothing left to give.” Matthew’s vocals in the chorus are electronically altered to the point where they sound like horns, making the lyrics barely recognizable: “I’m losing, I’m losing, I’m losing my mind. I’m fighting, I’m fighting, I’m fighting for more time.”
My favorite track on the EP is “Roman Empire (Stripped)“, both for its stunning arrangement and biting lyrics. The somber piano and strings are utterly captivating, accompanied by throbbing ethereal synths, all of which create a hauntingly beautiful soundscape. The lyrics are a scathing denunciation of powerful corporate interests and corrupt government leaders with authoritarian tendencies (Trump administration anyone?), equating them with the ill-fated Roman Empire: “You’re building cities on the backs of all the people working hard to build a home with memories. This moral ground you think you own is frankly dangerous when you’re ripping kids away from what they need. Roman Empire is what you are, Roman Empire is who you are. You’re an empire, Darkest of empires, The Roman Empire.” Two thirds of the way into the song, the music and mood turn more introspective, with Matthew questioning God’s existence: “What if God’s not real and everything we are is just a moment here where we’re only growing older? What if God is real and everything I’ve done pushed me down this path, and it’s only growing colder?“
I adore the original album version of “Can You Feel The Sun“, with its lush and bold sweeping orchestration, but the stripped down version is equally beautiful. The gorgeous instrumentals are highlighted by strummed acoustic guitar, warm piano keys and blissful strings, all melding together to produce a thoroughly enchanting backdrop for Matthew’s sublime ethereal vocals. I realize I’m overusing the words ‘gorgeous’, ‘stunning’ and ‘beautiful’, but damn it, they bear repeating for every track! The introspective lyrics speak to reassessing one’s prejudices and shortcomings, and trying to be more open-minded and accepting: “Below the willow tree is where I hide the darkest parts of me. They’re hiding underneath the broken lies that I just still believe. Below the willow tree is where I sit and hate on my enemies. I drown ’em in my dreams, I think it’s me who needs some humility.”
The fifth track “Do You Realize??” is a stripped-down reworking of the beloved original by American psychedelic rock band The Flaming Lips, using only four verses from the beginning of the song. But truth be told, it doesn’t really feel stripped at all, as it builds to a cinematic orchestral crescendo in the middle, before calming down to only a somber piano note as the song fades out. In his breathy vocals, Matthew softly asks seemingly simple questions that are actually filled with deep meaning: “Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face? Do you realize we’re floating in space? Do you realize that happiness makes you cry? Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?“
What more can I add, except to say that Skeletons: Part III is a bewitching little slice of sonic heaven. I love MISSIO, and hope at least some of my readers will love and appreciate their music even half as much as I do.
Johnny Ritchie is an engaging and thoughtful young singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist I recently learned of when he reached out to me about his song “Social Robots“. Born and raised in Wabash, Indiana and now based in Great Falls, Montana, Johnny has had a lifelong interest in, and love for, music. He started learning to play piano and drums as a young child, and went on to study Contemporary, Urban, and Popular Music at Columbia College Chicago, and last year earned a B.A. degree in Music at Western Michigan University. He now has his own business teaching others to play piano, keyboards and drums, as well as providing lessons in music theory, songwriting and improvisation.
Released on March 19th, “Social Robots” is Johnny’s debut single. He states it was “inspired by human behavior regarding social media consumption following the tragedy of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL in 2018.” In a recent interview with Noah | MUA, Johnny explained that he originally wrote the song three years ago as a way for him to process the tragic event, and never planned on releasing the song as a single. But the events and traumas of the past year led him to decide to release it after all, as the lyrics seemed especially relevant to the times.
For the song, Johnny played piano and drums, and sang vocals, with guitar played by Charlie Petralia, and bass by Dale Guernsey. The track was produced by fellow Columbia College Chicago alumnus Brett Grant, who’s own single “Reanimate” I wrote about just last week (it was after seeing that review that Johnny reached out to me). The beautiful artwork for the single was created by Attie Schuler, who Johnny attended high school with in Wabash.
The song opens with sounds of a phone ringing, accompanied by a man’s voice slowed down to the point where it sounds creepy and disturbing as he speaks the first stanza addressing the pernicious effects of social media:
It is not the habit which addicts me, But rather the enveloping feeling of escape. It digs its fangs into my brain, Slowly spreading its roots, Hooking me eternally.
The song then abruptly transitions in both tone and feel, as Johnny sings his pointed lyrics about how we become social media robots to sounds of his lovely but melancholic piano keys. Soon Charlie’s chiming guitar, Dale’s subtle bass, and Johnny’s measured drumbeats enter the mix, creating a resounding backdrop for his plaintive vocals that grow more impassioned as the song progresses, only to calm back down at the end as he sings the final line “We’re all sad motherfuckers” with a sense of bitter resignation.
“Social Robots” is a fascinating and brilliant song, both musically and lyrically. While not immediately catchy or melodic, it has an unusual meandering flow that’s quite compelling, keeping a firm grasp on our interest as the song proceeds and the narrative unfolds. It’s an impressive debut from this promising young artist, and I can’t wait to hear more of Mr. Ritchie’s music.
Shackles on all our lives Not on our wrists but on our minds Tiny little screens with big fat lies of light Oh don’t you think Yeah don’t you mind Just keep on scrolling you’ll be alright
Distractions, I see them in every way They tell us the right thoughts to think and the words to say But nobody ever goes outside to play No don’t you think Yeah don’t you pray Just pretend like it’s still a beautiful day
Tell me no, we’ll see about that Kick me down, I’m wiser if I don’t fight back Oh I’ll learn from you and be better off You may laugh or scoff but just go jerk off You robot, you sad motherfucker
The crutches we lean on everywhere They help us breathe in all this polluted air They help us choose our favorite style of hair Oh don’t you think Yeah don’t you care Just be a copy and no one stares
The voices we seek out for advice We’re taking all their bullshit as something that’s wise But nobody is ever thinking twice So don’t you blink Just take your vice Just play your part, you’ll be alright
Robots looking for something that’s real They’re all trying to think out what to feel And kisses help, and so do hugs And not to mention all the drugs But we’re all robots We’re all tied up in the same cords from our own plugs We’re all robots We’re all sad motherfuckers
London-based alternative rock band Oli Barton & the Movement are a long-time favorite of mine, and I’ve featured the marvelously talented five-piece several times on this blog since first learning about them four years ago. (You can read some of my reviews by clicking the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.) So it goes without saying that it’s always a happy day when they drop new music, and on April 23rd they released a fantastic new single “Martyr“. The song is a bit of stylistic departure from their previous offerings, and I loved it at first listen.
As indicated by their name, the band is headed by hyper-creative and charismatic singer-songwriter Oli Barton, with the Movement consisting of four outstanding musicians – Ryan Wilson on lead guitar, Jamal Lagoon on rhythm guitar, Marco Paone on Bass, and Josh Needham on drums. Their eccentric yet sophisticated style of alternative rock is a colorful mix of post-punk, psychedelia, funk, grunge and pop, and always totally original with a sound like no other band I know of. “Martyr” follows their previous single “Get Out” released last October, which became their most successful single to date.
About the new single, Oli elaborates “This last year has really proved something to us. You have to look beyond the negativity, beyond the politics, beyond the media and you will find that people are ultimately always there for each other. We’ve seen these amazing people laying their lives on the line for others and being completely selfless. Lyrically, I wanted to pay tribute to these unsung heroes because they prove that we are always stronger together. The production on this track too is my favourite yet, utilising multiple synth layers and huge drums to bring that pure 80s vibe.“
Well, I’m a lover of a lot of 80s music, with their big synth sounds and anthemic choruses, so “Martyr” is right up my alley. The lush synths are gorgeous, and when paired with Ryan and Jamal’s stunning layered guitars, Marco’s throbbing bass and Josh’s bold drumbeats, the result is a gloriously cinematic and uplifting soundscape that soars to the heavens. I love Oli’s distinctive, resonant singing voice and rich accent, and he’s never sounded better as he passionately sings of his admiration and devotion for another who’s given him support: “But when I’m alone, more will come to me. And when I’m alone, suffering the c’est la vie. Well I say, I’ll just be a martyr for you, if you would be a martyr for me. And when I’m lying flat on the ground, it’s your face I want to see.”
It’s a brilliant song on every level, and I’m confident it will become their biggest hit yet.
It was a year ago almost to the day when British band Young Decades released their beautiful debut single “Islands”, on April 24, 2020. A few weeks later, I wrote a review of the song, in which I went into some detail about the band’s back story, which you can read about here. Formed during the early onset of the Covid pandemic, like every other artist and band around the globe, they were unable to tour or perform live. The guys decided to make the most of their down time, setting themselves on a frenetic mission to build up a catalog of songs and get them out to the listening public. Following the massive success of “Islands”, they released four more excellent singles, as well as several collections of remixes and alternative versions. On March 5th, they released an EP Let You Down, which featured all five of their singles.
A few months after I wrote my review, the band parted ways with their drummer, and soldiered on as a three-piece. Since they weren’t able to play live, not having a permanent drummer did not prevent them from recording new music. Nevertheless, just this week they’ve recruited a new drummer named Lee Cameron, so they’re back to being a foursome. In addition to Lee, their lineup consists of James Tidd (vocals), Scott Harvey (guitar, keyboards) and Liam Downey (bass). The various band members are scattered about the Midlands and North West England, but meet up for rehearsals and recording in the city of Stoke on Trent.
Today, April 23, they drop their latest single “Sinner“, which I’m pleased to name my New Song of the Week. The track was produced by band songwriter and vocalist James Tidd, with assistance from Human League bassist Ian Burden and long-time friend and engineer Tom Longworth, and mastered by Mike Marsh, who’s also worked with such bands as Phoenix, Chemical Brothers and Empire of the Sun. The song is a gorgeous sweeping anthem, with exuberant swirling synths and layers of roiling and jangly guitars. I love the throbbing bass and strong thumping drumbeats that make up the track’s powerful driving rhythm, and the dramatic piano flourishes add wonderful texture and depth.
The song’s buoyant, uplifting melody contrasts with the rather cynical lyrics. As I previously noted in my review of “Islands”, James has a phenomenal singing voice, and his vocals are beautiful and heartfelt as he plaintively sings of his personal failings, admitting he’s a sinner who doesn’t want to be saved. “A funny thing is this life. You only get what you take. Ever feel you’re surrounded by wolves? Cause I do, I saw them in the news. But I’m not that guy. I’m not that good. I pray you do. I say not what I do. I’m a sinner now. I’m a sinner. And I don’t need saving.”
“Sinner” is a stellar track, and I think it’s Young Decades’ best single yet. So long as they keep making outstanding music like this, their star will surely continue to rise.
One of my favorite female vocalists is Malaysian singer-songwriter Lyia Meta, who I’ve featured numerous times on this blog over the past three years. (You can read some of my previous reviews listed under “Related” at the end of this post.) Based in Kuala Lumpur, Lyia is an exceptionally talented, gracious and strikingly beautiful woman, with a dazzling powerhouse voice to match. I honestly believe she could sing just about anything! She’s also a highly accomplished visual artist, and you can check out some of her phenomenal work on her WordPress blog.
With her deep, soulful and smoky vocal style, combined with a masterful ability to cover multiple genres ranging from blues, rock and metal to pop and country with ease, she’s become an international music star, winning numerous awards over the past several years, including the 2018 Josie World Music Artist Award, and 2019 Artist of the Year (multi Genre), both of which were presented to her in Nashville, Tennessee. More recently, she’s been nominated for a Texas Sounds International Country Music Award 2021, and her hard rock song “We Are Lords” has been nominated for a Munich Music Video Award, is a finalist for Best Original Song in the UK International Music Video Awards, and made the first ballot for consideration of a Grammy for Metal Performance by The Recording Academy. And on April 18th, Lyia participated in the Ladies Who Rock For A Cause Virtual Music Festival, whose goal was to raise awareness and funds for ataxia, an incurable and rare neurological disease.
A prolific artist, Lyia released six singles in 2020, and has already dropped two this year, the latest of which is “This One’s For You“. While she often writes her own songs, she also collaborates with other songwriters and musicians from time to time, not only to broaden her own musical horizons, but also to support other songwriters. “This One’s For You” was written by Los Angeles-based songwriter Denise Dimin, and produced by Nashville-based Bob McGilpin, who also played guitar, bass, piano and drums.
The song is sublime, with a retro adult contemporary feel similar to some of the great torch songs of the 50s and early 60s by such artists as Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, Nat “King” Cole and Frank Sinatra. Bob McGilpin’s musical arrangement is brilliant, and I love his tinkling piano keys and guitar notes that give the track a cool jazzy vibe. Lyia’s smoky vocals are smooth and lovely, perfectly complementing the track’s mellow arrangement. But they’re emotive and heartfelt too, conveying a sad resignation as she sings the bittersweet lyrics addressed to the woman who’s now with the man she once claimed.
This one's for you
You're the one who has taken my place
You won, guess I should bow out with grace
Be happy with my pride
My hat is off to you
You did what I just never could
Though you know I always thought that I would
God knows I've tried
If you think you'll make him happy
Go on, you got the best
Give him good times
Give him love
And for me, there's nothing left
I raise my glass to you
You succeeded where I always failed
Guess things are good, but oh what the hell
I guess you're satisfied
Thanks to you, I'm free
I do what I please
Right now, I'm just not sure what that means
Sometimes it hurts so much inside
I didn't think this could happen
It's all a big mistake
You've got him now
You've got his love
And who is to blame
Cause if you think you'll make him happy
Go on, you've got the best
Give him good times
Give him love
And for me, there is nothing left
The official video shows Lyia in her element at a recording session at Big A Productions in Kuala Lumpur.
Paul Renna is a singer, songwriter and guitarist based in Dallas, Texas who’s been writing, recording and performing music, first with bands and later as a solo artist, for more than 25 years. His signature music style draws from folk, Southern rock and Americana, with his songs resting comfortably among all three genres. He released his first solo album Portrait in 2003, then after a quiet period lasting seven years, Paul returned in 2010 with his second album Freedom. In the years since, the prolific artist dropped two more full-length albums and three EPs, and in 2019, he released two singles, “Bound to Love” and “All My Life”, both of which I featured on this blog (you can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post). Now he returns with his latest single “Fire“, a blues-soaked gem that sees Paul delving deeper into Southern roots rock.
Paul actually wrote “Fire” a number of years ago, and originally featured an acoustic version of the song on his 2013 album Unplugged. For the single release, he teamed up with producer Paul Soroski in the creation of an edgier, more hard-rocking vibe befitting the song’s title. The two Pauls get right down to business, as the song opens strong with jarring guitar chords and wailing organ. Things quickly settle into an almost funky groove, as Paul lays down some bluesy guitars, accompanied by that terrific meandering organ and just the right amount of drums. As the song progresses, he layers more aggressive guitars, giving the song a heavier rock feel.
Paul has a commanding and emotive singing voice, with a slightly raspy quality that works especially well on this song, leaving us little doubt as to his lusty intentions: “I don’t need to be adored, up against the wall, down on the floor. We can set this place on fire.” It’s a wonderful bluesy rocker.
With the lifting of Covid restrictions in Texas, Paul is back performing live at venues throughout the Dallas-Ft. Worth region. Check out his Facebook and Twitter pages for dates and locations of upcoming shows.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a Fresh New Tracks post, and today I’m featuring three recently-released songs by three totally different acts I’m particularly fond of on a personal level: Chicago alternative electronic rock artist brett.grant.5, indie singer-songwriter Marc Schuster, and Texas hard rock’n’roll band The Metal Byrds.
“Reanimate” by brett.grant.5 featuring Emma Young
brett.grant.5 is the artistic name of Chicago-based singer-songwriter and composer Brett Grant, who’s been active in the Chicago music scene for many years, both as a member of several bands and as a solo artist. Drawing from a wide and eclectic range of musical sources and genres, ranging from 1920’s jazz and classical to electronic and experimental progressive rock, his sound is bold, unorthodox and always fascinating. Over the past couple of years, I’ve written about both his solo music as well as that of his band A Million Rich Daughters. Last June, I reviewed his single “Burning Fire”, a biting song repudiating the religious dogma that keeps people enslaved on so many different levels – mentally, socially, culturally and physically. He recently returned with a new single “Reanimate“, which features guest vocals by singer-songwriter, actor, model and producer Emma Young, who Brett got to know while they were students at Columbia College Chicago. They’d also played together in the band Sleep For Dinner, who released a self-titled EP in 2019.
“Reanimate” is a deliciously dark electronic track with a throbbing, super-gnarly bass groove overlain by an eerie mix of spacey, wobbly, and tortured psychedelic industrial synths, all working together brilliantly to create a dramatic and unsettling soundscape befitting the subject matter, which seems to me to be about how mankind keeps repeating the same destructive behavior over and over again, never learning from past mistakes. Brett has a distinctive singing voice, with the ability to sound vulnerable as well as diabolical, which he does here to great effect as he rails “Pretend you forgive, pretend you forget, pretend that it’s just another thought to repress.” Emma, on the other hand, has a lilting vocal style which provides a nice contrast as she hauntingly chants the chorus “I’m not trying to invalidate. I know they could soon eradicate. I can hear them start to salivate. Breathe in the undead, reanimate.”
The beautiful artwork for the single was created by Brett’s wife Ashlee.
Marc Schuster is a talented and creative renaissance man who I got to know through blogging (he has a WordPress blog called Abominations, which you can check out here). In addition to teaching English at Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania, Marc has written several books, written scripts for two short films, writes songs and records music as both a solo artist and with music projects Plush Gordon, The Ministry of Plausible Rumours and experimental electronic music project Android Invasion. On April 6th, he released his latest single “Before the Boys“, a song that speaks to, in his own words, “the tyranny of gender identity, wrapped in a bubblegum pop sensibility reminiscent of the Monkees. The song is about a free-spirited eleven-year-old girl who becomes self-conscious when someone pulls her aside and tells her to be more reserved and feminine because ‘boys are watching’. It’s told from the point-of-view of the eight-year-old boy who is crushed when the girl gives up her tomboy ways.”
It’s a sweet song, with a simple but catchy piano-driven melody, punctuated in the choruses with quirky synth sounds that create an endearing vibe. Marc’s low-key vocals are smooth and pleasing as he croons the lyrics from the perspective of an eight-year-old boy now disappointed that the eleven-year-old tomboy he had fun with has changed, and not for the better in his opinion:
Muddy knees and a bloody lip the day she turned self-sabotaging, A well-meaning grandmother pulled her aside and said, “Girl, don’t you know boys are watching?” She was tough and she was cool, And she wasn’t afraid to make noise. Before the makeup, before the hair, Before the laborious ploys. Before, before, before the boys.
“Before the Boys” will be available on all streaming services by the end of the month.
The Metal Byrds are a female-fronted rock band based in Austin, Texas, who play a hard-hitting style of rock infused with healthy doses of rock’n’roll and power pop, along with enough metal in the mix to give their songs a dark, edgy quality. Formed in 2018, the band consists of London-born singer-songwriter Suzanne Birdie, as well as guitarist Sly Rye, bassist Kevin Kurts and drummer Alex Romanov. Over the past two years, they’ve released three EPs – The Song Byrd in April 2019, Byrds on a Wyre in June 2020, followed by Life in 20 in October, which I reviewed. On April 4th, they dropped “Spitfire Pete“, the first single from their forthcoming album 4, due for release later this year. The song is dedicated to an autistic boy from Lincolnshire, England named Pete, who’s a big fan of the band and rock’n’roll.
With blazing riffs and driving rhythms that would make AC/DC proud, The Metal Byrds fully engage their sonic weaponry to create a rousing rock song befitting the vintage film footage of British fighter pilots flying their Supermarine Spitfire aircraft during World War II and waging air fights against the Germans at the Battle of Britain. Sly Rye shreds the airwaves with fiery riffs and wailing distortion, while Kevin and Alex keep the pummeling rhythms moving forward at full throttle. Suzanne’s powerhouse aggressive vocals rise to the occasion as she fervently wails “All guns blazing, all night long. Pulling the trigger. Pulling the trigger and dropping the bomb. Spitfire Pete, whoa-oh. Never retreat, he’ll make a stand.” It’s a kickass banger!