Album Review: “Head RUSH”

This is perhaps the most ambitious and unusual album I’ve reviewed yet, as it’s an extensive compilation work consisting of 15 tracks by different artists contained in three vinyl LPs (or two CDs), plus a bonus CD featuring another seven tracks, for a grand total of 22 songs! All of them are electronic instrumentals in various styles, but all essentially influenced by early 70s krautrock and motorik beat music made famous by such German acts as Can, NEU!, Kraftwerk and Harmonia. The collection, entitled Head RUSH, is being released by British independent label Fruits de Mer Records on May 17th.

First off, I must state that I’m astonished by the huge number of artists still producing electronic music, particularly krautrock and all its variations. Many artists featured on Head RUSH are accomplished acts with sizable discographies and followings, while some are relative newcomers. It’s truly an international compilation; represented are acts from England, Wales, France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Russia, Peru and California. All were carefully selected for inclusion by Fruits de Mer Records head Keith Jones based on their quality and appropriateness for the overall theme. Because there are so many tracks – nearly all of which are over five minutes long, with one running over 30 minutes! – I won’t be boring my readers or making myself crazy by discussing all of them in detail. I’ll try to touch on as many as possible, albeit briefly, and include samples of songs for which the artists have made audio videos.

The album kicks off with “Sunrise, Part 7“, a shimmery homage to the music of NEU! by Giacomo & Carolina, the collaborative music project of California-born and now Berlin-based singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Anton Barbeau, and California-based singer Julia Boorinakis Harper. German electronic artist Das Blaue Palais dazzles with a mesmerizing “Dusseldorf Motorik” remix of his 2016 single “Zeitfeld”. The otherworldly synths, plucked strings and colorful guitar notes are exquisite and haunting.

Welsh-based English composer and multi-instrumentalist David Oakes, a long-time favorite of mine who I’ve featured numerous times on this blog, is represented here by his brooding track “The Sahara (2020 Remix)“. David layers a thrilling mix of exotic and gritty, reverb-laden guitar riffs over Nine Inch Nail-esque industrial synths and a pulsating groove to create a cinematic soundscape that beautifully conveys the vast and often terrifying expanse of the Sahara Desert.

Another terrific offering is “Getaway” by English space rock band Sonic Trip Project, who layer haunting spacy synths over a hypnotic EDM beat, creating a gorgeous sweeping soundscape.

Opening the second LP is Welsh psych space rock outfit Moon Goose with their trippy song “Shiny Man“, followed by the deliciously captivating “Obsession is the Mother of All” by Italian avant-rock trio Oslo Tapes. I said I wasn’t going to discuss every track, but the next one – “Ecstatic Engines” by California composer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer Jay Tausig is so good that I must give it mention too. I also realize I’m overusing the words “mesmerizing” and “cinematic”, but both words strongly apply to many tracks. I wish I had a sample of “Ecstatic Engines” I could share on this post, as it’s incredible. I love the strong, driving beat, spacy synths and otherworldly sound textures he employs. In preparation for reviewing this album, I researched every artist and found that Tausig is especially prolific, releasing a full album and two EPs in February and March alone!

Netherlands is well-represented by “Telefunken Baby!“, a nearly 13-minute-long tour de force by electronic composer Son of Ohm. The track was originally featured on his 2019 album Zeitgeist. His psychedelic guitar work is fantastic.

Next up is the wonderfully spacy “Martine à la Plage” by French experimental psych-rock duo Alber Jupiter, the music project of Nicolas Terroitin and Jonathan Sonney. The song was also originally included on their excellent 2019 album We Are Just Floating in Space.

Wales is once again represented, this time by Fruits de Mer favorite The Lost Stoned Pandas and their sprawling psychedelic extravaganza “Motorik Wah Nine“. The reverb-soaked psychedelic guitars would make Jimi Hendrix proud, and the wobbly synths and undulating rhythmic grooves are pretty amazing too. I’m sorry I couldn’t find a video or link to the song. I do have one for the phenomenal “MOTOR!K” by Belgian krautrock trio Tyrants, however. The hypnotic song features a relentless driving motorik beat, a 4/4 beat originally pioneered by Jaki Liebezeit, drummer for the German experimental rock band Can.

From Lima, Peru hail space rock trio Culto al Qondor, with their trippy and dark “E1“, an epic 12-minute-long track originally featured on their 2019 album Electricidad. The spooky synths, wailing psychedelic guitars, pummeling rhythms and explosive percussion are pretty spectacular.

London krautrock trio (many of these acts seem to consist of three members) Psychic Lemon dazzle our senses with “Jam 7“, one of a series of studio jams they’ve recorded, in which all instruments were recorded live into a single microphone. Band guitarist Andy Briston lays down a barrage of super-gnarly distortion drenched in reverb, while his bandmates keep the track grounded with a powerful thumping rhythm. The face-melting track closes out the three LP set.

The Bonus CD serves up over 76 minutes of additional music contained in seven tracks, including “Vuh Parts 1 and 2” by British electronic outfit Taras Bulba, another terrific Jam by Psychic Lemon, the wonderfully psychedelic “69 Wheeler” by prolific British artist and guitarist Vince Cory, and the delightfully trippy “Grobmotorik” by Hungary-based Audio Cologne Project (a krautrock inspired music collaboration between Uwe Cremer (Level π) on guitars and keyboards, British musician Dave Pearson (computerchemist) on bass, keyboards and sequencers, and Zsolt Galántai on drums).

Closing out the Bonus CD are the two longest tracks of this entire project, the meandering and beautiful 14:14 minute-long “der Wald” by British composer and guitarist Icarus Peel, and the 30:25 minute-long live version of Harmonia’s 1974 motorik classic “Watussi” by Russian electronic band The Legendary Flower Punk. They’ve taken the original six-minute-long song and refashioned it into a magnificent and epic fantasia of atmospheric soundscapes, highlighted by psychedelic riffs, eerie synths and colorful sonic textures, all darting in and out like sprites over pulsating EDM rhythms. It’s a fitting end to this ambitious compilation of extraordinary compositions, and a testament to the enduring legacy and popularity of krautrock. If you like getting lost in spacy electronic vibes, then you will really enjoy Head RUSH.

Track List:

LP1:
1. Giacomo & Carolina – Sunrise, Part 7 (5:05)
2. Silver Vials – Follow The Sun (6:05)
3. Das Blaue Palais – Zeitfeld (Dusseldorf Motorik Mix) (8:11)
4. The Love Explosion – Anarchy! (3:58)
5. David Oakes – The Sahara (2020 Remix) (5:04)
6. Sonic Trip Project – Getaway (11:10)

LP2:
1. Moon Goose – Shiny Man (5:41)
2. Oslo Tapes – Obsession Is The Mother Of All (5:54)
3. Jay Tausig – Ecstatic Engines (8:42)
4. Son Of Ohm – Telefunken Baby (12:52)
5. Alber Jupiter – Martine A La Plage (7:15)

LP3:
1. The Lost Stoned Pandas – Motorik Wah Nine (10:16)
2. Motor!k – Tyrants (10:28)
3. Culto Al Qondor – Ei (12:19)
4. Psychic Lemon – Jam 7 (7:01)

Bonus CD:
1. Taras Bulba – Vuh Part 1 (3:56)
2. Vince Cory – 69 Wheeler (7:53)
3. Psychic Lemon – Jam 5 (8:26)
4. Audio Cologne Project – Grobmotorik (6:51)
5. Taras Bulba – Vuh Part 2 (5:15)
6. Icarus Peel – Der Wald (14:14)
7. The Legendary Flower Punk – Watussi Live (30:25)

Head RUSH may be purchased on the Fruits de Mer website: https://www.fruitsdemerrecords.com/

Top 30 Songs for May 16-22, 2021

  1. SHY AWAY – twenty one pilots (1)
  2. ENEMY MINE – Roadkeeper (3)
  3. BREATHE – Ships Have Sailed (4)
  4. LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN – Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic (2)
  5. ALL MY FAVORITE SONGS – Weezer (6)
  6. NOT DEAD YET – Lord Huron (7)
  7. MY EX’S BEST FRIEND – Machine Gun Kelly featuring blackbear (5)
  8. ROSE HIPS – Dawning (10)
  9. I NEED YOU – Jon Batiste (11)
  10. METRONOME – Polarizer (12)
  11. FOLLOW YOU – Imagine Dragons (13)
  12. ESTELLA – Kenny Hoopla featuring Travis Barker (9)
  13. AT HOME IN THE DARK – Au Gres (15)
  14. SAVE YOUR TEARS – The Weeknd (16)
  15. HYPOTHETICALS – Lake Street Dive (17)
  16. BREAK MY BABY – KALEO (18)
  17. BED HEAD – Manchester Orchestra (19)
  18. SLEEP – The Frontier (8)
  19. BLACK DAYS – Amongst Liars (21)
  20. FLATLINE – Two Feet (29)
  21. THE BANDIT – Kings of Leon (14)
  22. WAY LESS SAD – AJR (23)
  23. PATCHWERK – Sub Urban & Two Feet (24)
  24. CAN WE GO BACK – The Frontier (25)
  25. TYPHOONS – Royal Blood (26)
  26. WELCOME TO THE PARTY – Jack Droppers & the Best Intentions (28)
  27. PEACHES – Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon (22)
  28. COME FIND ME BACK – Philip Morgan Lewis (N)
  29. MARTYR – Oli Barton & the Movement (N)
  30. SINNER – Young Decades (N)

YELLOW SHOOTS – Single Review: “SIRENS (Mermaid Version)”

Yellow Shoots is the music project of singer/songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Greg Matthews. The Brooklyn, New York-based artist was one of the very first I wrote about, way back in March 2016 when my blog was still in its infancy. His artistic name comes from his experiences with synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway, such as sound, leads to an automatic, involuntary response in a second sensory or cognitive pathway, such as sight. He sometimes sees vivid yellow colors when hearing music (a common form of synesthesia is known as chromesthesia, for sound to color), hence his name “Yellow Shoots.” With his distinctive vocal style and skillful fusing of R&B, soul, funk, jazz, electronic, hip-hop, alternative and psychedelic, he creates his own unique neo-soul sound that envelops listeners in raw sensuality and emotion.

Beginning with his debut single “Pieces” in 2014, the prolific artist has released an extensive amount of music in the years since, including his marvelous Prince-influenced album everything in 2018. One of the singles “make it to the summer” has garnered nearly half a million streams on Spotify. Last May, I reviewed his single “Wonderful Day”, which was featured on his EP Naked, released in July 2020. He’s also collaborated with numerous other artists, most recently last September with fellow Brooklyn singer-songwriter, producer and engineer Johnny Burgos on their single “Fun Tonight”. Now he returns with “SIRENS (Mermaid Version)“, the first single from his forthcoming sophomore LP The Green Album, due for release in July. He programmed synths, played all instruments, sang vocals and produced the track. His brother Jason Matthews did the mixing and Dan Millice did the mastering.

Release via his label La Reserve Records, the song is a totally reimagined version of his 2018 single “Sirens”, a silky and mesmerizing R&B/hip hop song about a long-distance love affair. Yellow Shoots uses the beguiling but dangerous Sirens of Greek mythology as a metaphor for the intense, all-consuming longing that comes from being far away from the one you love. He elaborates “They’re singing you to shipwreck. You put yourself in harm’s way because you’re so in love.” On “SIRENS (Mermaid Version)” he shaves about 30 seconds off the song and dials up the tempo from the previous version’s chill, musically-spare vibe to a faster-paced, more sonically complex track. About the new version, he said “This song is me drawing from my many influences, and not trying to fit into one style.” 

Yellow Shoots’ shimmery, psychedelic-tinged guitar notes take center stage here, as he layers them over a kaleidoscope of lush analog synths and skittering R&B grooves. I love all the colorful synth textures and quirky sounds he adds to the mix, and when accompanied by his electronically-altered falsetto, it all makes for an enchanting and fascinating listen. The more dynamic arrangement lends a greater sense of urgency to the lines he sings in the chorus “blind my eyes, tie my hands, I’ve got nothing left to lose“, symbolizing a complete surrender to lustful desires. It’s a great track.

Follow Yellow Shoots:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / Tidal
Purchase:  Amazon

STRANGE SOUVENIRS – Single Review: “Nothing2”

Strange Souvenirs is an electronic/alt-pop duo from Berlin, Germany comprised of brothers Thomas and Matthias Juhnke. In their own colorful words, they “blend influences from 80s new wave, 90s trip hop, post-millennial electronica & indie with science fiction soundtracks, video games and nuggets of nerd culture into a schizoid selection of danceable, delicate and disorienting songs.” Three months ago, I reviewed their enthralling single “Pixels”, and now they’re back with “Nothing2“, their sixth consecutive single release since their December 2019 debut of “Scrape”. The song is a dramatic tour de force, and one of their best yet.

Matthias wrote the lyrics for “Nothing2”, and the music was co-written by him and Thomas, along with their frequent collaborator Cameron James Laing, a talented Berlin-based producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist who also recorded, produced and mixed the track at The Famous Gold Watch Studios in Berlin. Thomas and Matthias programmed the synthesizers and Matthias sang lead vocals. Cameron played acoustic guitar, bass, piano, organ, mellotron, renegade triangle, and the orchestral string arrangement, Gidon Carmel played drums and percussion, Héloïse Lefebvre played violin and viola, Tim Hook played electric guitar and Heidi Heidelberg sang the glorious choir backing vocals. The track was mastered by Davide Ruffini at Wisseloord Studios Hilversum, Netherlands. The cover art “20/20 Eye” was created by Michelle Marie-Lou Nuerk.

The guys state “Nothing2” is “A jilted yet strangely joyful sprawl about feeling nothing at all and everything all at once. A five and a half minute emotional outburst full of misery & magic, gut-wrenching punches, beautiful bruises, abrupt endings & unexpected new beginnings.” Matthias elaborated to me that the lyrics were inspired by two unexpected and unrelated life events in the space of six months that left him at the edges of nothings, but the details are unsavoury and quite distressing, so he kept things intentionally vague. But from what I can discern, they seem to speak of a relationship that ended very badly, and just wanting to make a clean break from the past and move on.

The song opens on a somber note, with strummed acoustic guitar and droning keyboards, accompanied by Matthias’ rather melancholy vocals. Gradually, the music expands with horns and what sounds like mellotron into a more upbeat feel, though the melancholy undercurrent remains. Héloïse’s warbly strings add great texture and an eerie, disconcerting vibe to the proceedings. The song seems to end at 2:21, then abruptly starts back up with greater urgency, as more instruments and synths are added to the mix. Everything continues to build into a magnificent cinematic soundscape that calls to mind some of the mid-career songs by the Beatles. The dramatic music continues for the remainder of the song, conveying a strong sense of cathartic release from troubles of the past. It’s a phenomenal track.

There’s nothing to
Take back or undo
I thought you’d know by now
There’s no point in stalling
There’s no point in stalling

Would you please stop calling me

This is what it all amounts to
When the day is through
This is what it all amounts to
When the night’s through
Absolutely nothing
Absolutely nothing

Would you please stop calling me

There’s nothing to see
There’s nothing to say
There’s nowhere to be
So just go away

We couldn’t see the cracks in the surface
And the nothing seeping through
Watch the walls come down on the life you knew
Here comes the wrecking crew

This is what it all amounts to
When the day is through
This is what it all amounts to
When the night’s through
Absolutely nothing

Follow Strange Souvenirs:  Facebook / Instagram

Stream/purchase their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / YouTube / Bandcamp

HEAD NOISE – EP Review: “CONSEQUENTIAL QUASARS!”

South Wales-based Head Noise are a self-described “Oddball DIY electro trash punk band, spitting out angsty garbage about junk culture, broken technology and modern art.” Listening to their zany music, which sounds like it could have been created by the love child of Devo, The Vapors and Dr. Demento, I’d say that’s a pretty spot-on assessment. I first featured them on this blog almost exactly one year ago, when I reviewed their single “200,000 Gallons of Oil”, one of the tracks from their trippy debut album Über-Fantastique. Now they’re back with a new five-track EP CONSEQUENTIAL QUASARS!, serving up 13 minutes of non-stop musical mayhem for our listening enjoyment. The EP was released on April 23rd via the independent Welsh label Dirty Carrot Records.

Since I last visited Head Noise, they’ve grown from a threesome to a quartet, with the addition of a drummer. They now consist of Mitch Tennant (primitive keyboards & shouting), Wayne Bassett (guitar & synths), Jordan Brill (more guitar & synths), and Andres “Topper the Pops” Walsh (drums & percussion). Bassett is also involved in other music projects, including a recent collaboration with Dunkie, who’s wonderful EP The Vanishing and Other Stories I reviewed in March. The songs on that EP could not be more different than those on CONSEQUENTIAL QUASARS!, which features their signature ambiguous and surreal lyrics, unorthodox instrumentals and quirky vocals. 

About the EP, the band explains “The idea for the EP was to have more of a rough and ready, raw and energised approach to the recording for bit more of an experimental flair. The inclusion of the electronic drums alongside some much thicker and fuzzy guitars have given the latest batch of songs a certain kick to them, which the band are finding quite exciting to play with. The band thinks that this will transpose to the live arena very well, so are very much looking forward to debuting these songs when live music makes its eventual comeback.”

The EP kicks off with “Alaska Later“, a delicious punk gem with a frantic, driving beat, chugging riffs and colorful, fun-house synths that create a deliriously upbeat vibe. I’m not sure what the song is about, but it seems to speak to the foolishness of poseurs, idiots and wannabes: “We’ve got this shared hatred of idiocy. But now they’ve missed the bus for a slice of new-age hogwash./ Imitator. Alaska Later. Instigator. Alaska Later.” But later in the song, Tennant sings “The only thrill that I consider that is greater than this, is a smaller heating bill, and a bathroom that doesn’t smell like piss“, so it’s anyone’s guess. Then, in his twisted Dr. Demento voice, he chants “Liquidator, see you later. No you won’t. Dead.”

The wild and crazy vibes continue with “Cubist Ballet“, a frenetic punk ode to the early 20th century cubism art movement that shook the art world. Like all ground-breaking trends, it was met with much derision, expressed in the lyrics “But then they booed and hissed like proto-anarchists. Art is subjective. Then I have something to say. No matter the outcome from those zany days. The collaboration was wild and abhorred. So I think innovation deserves an award.” Things turn a bit more gothic on “Drift“, with a beat that reminds me somewhat of The Cure’s “Lovesong”. I really like the spooky, almost psychedelic synths, aggressive drumbeats and and mix of jangly and gnarly guitars. Tennant’s vocals sound more conventional here, though still delivered with the cheeky playfulness we’ve come to love and expect.

The trippy “Queztalcoatl’s Axolotl” has a bouncy retro 80s punk/new wave vibe, and rather nonsensical lyrics alluding to Greek and Aztec statues and enjoying the good life: “Like I tried to convey, I lust to compile with an Aztec flavor, and a salamander smile. You see my garden lacks a prophetic shrine, a kind of je ne sais quoi. Behind the concrete of hidden landmines, we’ll be sharing beluga caviar.” Whatever it’s meaning, it’s a fun tune.

Tracey Emin” is the most melodic of the five tracks, with a terrific guitar-driven new wave groove. And like many of their songs, it’s features an abundance of the band’s signature zany psychedelic synths, stellar guitar work and strong, thumping rhythms. The lyrics speak of the English artist Tracey Emin, specifically her 1997 work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, a tent appliquéd with the names of everyone she’d ever shared a bed with, including family members, friends, drinking partners and lovers: “Did you only mean to shock? Tracey Emin! Opening Pandora’s lock, and then throw away the key. Bringing you closer to me. Would you ever be content, hiding your life in a tent? Showing the state of your bed. Do you ever feel exposed…”

CONSEQUENTIAL QUASARS! is a thoroughly delightful little EP, and another fine release by this highly creative and eccentric group of guys. If you enjoy quirky, out of the ordinary music and vocals, you will like this record.

Follow Head Noise: Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

Top 30 Songs for May 9-15, 2021

  1. SHY AWAY – twenty one pilots (6)
  2. LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN – Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic (1)
  3. ENEMY MINE – Roadkeeper (4)
  4. BREATHE – Ships Have Sailed (5)
  5. MY EX’S BEST FRIEND – Machine Gun Kelly featuring blackbear (3)
  6. ALL MY FAVORITE SONGS – Weezer (8)
  7. NOT DEAD YET – Lord Huron (10)
  8. SLEEP – The Frontier (2)
  9. ESTELLA – Kenny Hoopla featuring Travis Barker (7)
  10. ROSE HIPS – Dawning (11)
  11. I NEED YOU – Jon Batiste (12)
  12. METRONOME – Polarizer (13)
  13. FOLLOW YOU – Imagine Dragons (14)
  14. THE BANDIT – Kings of Leon (9)
  15. AT HOME IN THE DARK – Au Gres (18)
  16. SAVE YOUR TEARS – The Weeknd (19)
  17. HYPOTHETICALS – Lake Street Dive (20)
  18. BREAK MY BABY – KALEO (24)
  19. BED HEAD – Manchester Orchestra (25)
  20. FIRE – Two Feet (16)
  21. BLACK DAYS – Amongst Liars (23)
  22. PEACHES – Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon (21)
  23. WAY LESS SAD – AJR (26)
  24. PATCHWERK – Sub Urban & Two Feet (27)
  25. CAN WE GO BACK – The Frontier (28)
  26. TYPHOONS – Royal Blood (29)
  27. ALL ABOUT YOU – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (15)
  28. WELCOME TO THE PARTY – Jack Droppers & the Best Intentions (30)
  29. FLATLINE – Two Feet (N)
  30. WAITING ON A WAR – Foo Fighters (17)

G. SAMEDI – Single Review: “Icarus”

There’s so much great musical talent out there that it sometimes makes my head spin. I’ve recently written about quite a few exceptional artists and bands, and today I’m pleased to introduce another – silky-voiced Australian singer-songwriter Sam Dawes, who goes by the artistic moniker G. Samedi. Sam’s actually no stranger to this blog, as he’s also the lead vocalist and songwriter for Sydney band Thunder Fox, who I adore and have featured numerous times. While still actively involved with Thunder Fox, who will be releasing their second album later this year, Sam decided at the beginning of 2020 to record and produce some of his songs as a solo artist. In little more than a year, he’s already released seven singles (the first was actually a double single), all of which are fantastic. His latest is “Icarus“, which dropped April 30th.

Curious about the name G. Samedi, I asked Sam how he came up with that moniker. He told me it’s “just a silly amalgamation of my real name, Samuel George Dawes. People would call me Sammy D at school, I liked the character ‘Baron Samedi’ from James Bond, and it just came together nicely.” Well, I think G. Samedi is an ideal name, as it suggests an air of sophistication and sexual mystery, both of which are characteristics of his wonderfully unique sound.

Drawing from R&B, soul, trip hop, electronic and alternative rock elements, Sam creates moody and sensuous soundscapes for the expression of his bold lyrics addressing the darker and more introspective aspects of love and relationships. Then he delivers them with his distinctive soulful vocals that go from smooth, sultry croons to plaintive falsetto. He writes all his own music and lyrics, records and programs all instruments, sings all vocals, and produces and mixes all tracks. The only think he outsources is the mastering.

“Icarus” is a stunning and fascinating track, featuring a complex, almost progressive arrangement and a colorful array of instruments and synths. The song opens with stirring synths and an almost gospel-like organ, accompanied with tinkling piano keys. I love Sam’s expressive vocals, which sound especially vulnerable as he laments about falling out of love for his partner and the resulting pain he caused her and the damage he did to their relationship, while admitting he still has strong feelings for her: “I still needed her after all / I fell away, wings like Icarus melting on my bleeding lust. I knew I’d fly too close for us.” As the organ recedes, the melody settles into a languid R&B groove, highlighted by a mix of shimmery and gritty guitars and a thumping drumbeat. His layered vocal harmonies are really beautiful too, turning more plaintive and heartfelt as he implores her to reconsider: “I just love you, isn’t that enough?” The song ends with sounds of a droning synth and pounding drum.

“Icarus” is wonderful, and another in an unbroken string of really stellar singles by this talented artist. If you like it, do take a little time to listen to some of his other songs as well on one of the music platforms below.

Follow G. Samedi: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music: SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

Purchase: BandcampAmazon

STARGAZY PIE – Album Review: “Butterfly Hand Grenade”

As someone who has zero musical aptitude or talent, I’m always impressed by those who do, and even more so when they’re as young as the guys in the band Stargazy Pie. Formed in 2019, the Tacoma, Washington-based foursome are all still in their teens, ranging in age from 15-19, but their music and lyrics have a level of quality and maturity well beyond their tender years. In January, they released their debut album Butterfly Hand Grenade, and I must say that it’s quite good! I also love that they named their band after a traditional Cornish fish pie. Traditionally, stargazy pie is filled with potatoes, eggs and whole pilchards (sardines) – yuk! – and baked with the fish heads poking though the pastry crust so that they appear to be gazing at the stars. Hence the band’s logo:

Making the great music are Jack Stoker (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), Logan Chernoske (lead guitar, bass, backing vocals), Logan Neville-Neil (bass, piano, backing vocals) and Sulli Olson-Rexroat (drums). The album was produced and engineered by Regan Lane and Sean Van Dommelen of the band Strangely Alright, whose music I’ve also featured a number of times on this blog. The beautiful album art was created by band guitarist, Logan Chernoske, who edited together two NASA photographs of butterfly nebulas with a shadowy image of the lead singer Jack.

The album kicks off with “Kinda Lame“, a rousing tune that takes me back to the 90s with a groove that reminds me a bit of songs by the Gin Blossoms or early Jimmy Eat World. The upbeat, driving rhythms contrast with the more serious lyrics that speak to the disappointment of unrequited love and coming to terms with the fact that the one you love just doesn’t feel the same about you. The instrumentals are all top-notch, and Jack’s vocals are in fine form, transitioning from smooth croons to soaring entreaties with ease as he laments “I think you’re making a big mistake. But I know that we can’t control these things. And baby if you just don’t feel the same, I think that’s kinda lame.”

Paranoid” is a terrific hard rock song, with marvelous chugging riffs of gnarly and distorted guitars, accompanied by galloping rhythms that create a heavier, more urgent sound for the bitter lyrics giving someone who’s betrayed you the big kiss-off: “So don’t come crawling back in shame. Cause I just can’t be friends with someone who wants to see me in pain. But now I’m Paranoid, Cause I know what you’ve done. If I can’t trust you then I can’t trust no one.” Once again, Jack’s vocals are outstanding.

The wonderfully-titled head banger “why’dyouleave(girl).wav” really channels Jimmy Eat World, with frantic rhythms and rapid-fire riffs a la “The Middle”, only faster and with lots more distortion. Jack’s vocal dexterity is impressive as he feverishly spits out the lyrics in perfect sync with the frenzied pace of the instrumentals as he implores ” Why’d you have to walk away? All I need is one more day. So much more I had to say. Things will never be the same. It didn’t have to end this way, oh I just want you to stay.”

The next three tracks address the guys’ anxieties and experiences as a young band, and once again I have to say that I’m both impressed and touched by their intelligent and introspective songwriting, especially given their young ages. The buoyant “Constellations” speaks to the healing powers of making and performing music: “I can’t erase these things that I’ve done. I’m on the run, oh I’m on the run. And I just won’t face what I’ve become. None of it’s fun, oh none of it’s fun. But I’ll go to waste if I don’t move on. I’ll make a name, I’ll be someone. Oh I know a place where we belong. We will be constellations. And we will sing to the nations.

$25 Guitar” is a sweet and poignant ode to the singer’s very first guitar that got him where he is today musically, and though it makes him sad, it’s now time for him to move up to a better model: “My twenty-five dollar guitar. Oh I knew you were a star. And it must be so very hard to hear, but my twenty-five dollar guitar, you just weren’t up to par. So leaving you shouldn’t leave me in tears.” In keeping with the sentimental subject, the song’s arrangement is more laid-back, with charming strummed guitars, however, the rhythm section is still rather spirited, though it doesn’t detract from the track’s mellower feel.

And on the boisterous garage rocker “Going Under“, they touch on the perils of falling prey to acting like a ‘rock star’, being full of yourself and disrespecting others and, ultimately yourself. “Lars Ulrich, he’s a prick. Ain’t got no talent on him. I think he’s full of it. But maybe that’s my problem. I can say you’re not great but you can say the same thing. Why do we wanna hate when we can just walk away? Making me wonder am I going under? / It’s not about what you decide to do with your life. It’s more how you treat stuff and if you do what is right. Don’t hate me, if you’re angry. Cause that’s exactly what I do. I hate that I’m angry and I keep disrespecting you.” Jack and Logan C. set the airwaves afire with face-melting riffs, while Logan N. and Sulli deliver non-stop pummeling rhythms.

The guys slow it back down on the title track “Butterfly Hand Grenade“, a lovely, bittersweet song about missing someone special. “Butterfly hand grenade. Got me feeling this way. Never know what to say cause I get lost when you smile. / Falling deep in denial. And it feels so wrong cause my heart still longs. And you’re not here.” The instrumentals are quite gentle, consisting mainly of strummed guitar and warm keyboards. When the song seems to end at around 2:48, the music returns with added percussion as Jack sadly ponders “So oh, I gotta know. Was this all real? Or was it for show? Oh, I gotta know. Was this all real? Or was it for show?

Everything comes full circle on the closing track “Pretty Great“, a call-back to the opening track “Kinda Lame”. Jack now concludes that he’s okay with the way things ended in the relationship after all, and that he’ll be alright: “Don’t worry about me, I’ll find someone who’ll be, oh all that I’ve dreamed. I once had this feeling, but now that I’m healing I’m finally set free. And that’s not to slight you. I still adore you, just not in that way. And now, everything is pretty great.”

Pretty great is an apt description for this delightful album. Butterfly Hand Grenade is a solid work, and a very impressive debut for this remarkably talented young band. Of course, some credit must be given to producers Regan Lane and Sean Van Dommelen. Still, it’s heartwarming to see a young act put out such a well-crafted work as this, and I hope we’ll be hearing more great music from them.

Follow Stargazy Pie:  FacebookInstagram

Stream/purchase their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudBandcamp

Top 30 Songs for May 2-8, 2021

  1. LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN – Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic (1)
  2. SLEEP – The Frontier (2)
  3. MY EX’S BEST FRIEND – Machine Gun Kelly featuring blackbear (4)
  4. ENEMY MINE – Roadkeeper (6)
  5. BREATHE – Ships Have Sailed (7)
  6. SHY AWAY – twenty one pilots (17)
  7. ESTELLA – Kenny Hoopla featuring Travis Barker (8)
  8. ALL MY FAVORITE SONGS – Weezer (9)
  9. THE BANDIT – Kings of Leon (3)
  10. NOT DEAD YET – Lord Huron (11)
  11. ROSE HIPS – Dawning (13)
  12. I NEED YOU – Jon Batiste (14)
  13. METRONOME – Polarizer (15)
  14. FOLLOW YOU – Imagine Dragons (16)
  15. ALL ABOUT YOU – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (5)
  16. FIRE – Two Feet (10)
  17. WAITING ON A WAR – Foo Fighters (12)
  18. AT HOME IN THE DARK – Au Gres (19)
  19. SAVE YOUR TEARS – The Weeknd (20)
  20. HYPOTHETICALS – Lake Street Dive (22)
  21. PEACHES – Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon (24)
  22. BEAUTIFUL DISGUISE – Melotika (18)
  23. BLACK DAYS – Amongst Liars (28)
  24. BREAK MY BABY – KALEO (29)
  25. BED HEAD – Manchester Orchestra (30)
  26. WAY LESS SAD – AJR (N)
  27. PATCHWERK – Sub Urban & Two Feet (N)
  28. CAN WE GO BACK – The Frontier (N)
  29. TYPHOON – Royal Blood (N)
  30. WELCOME TO THE PARTY – Jack Droppers & the Best Intentions (N)