After being unable to perform live or even see one another during most of 2020, Vancouver, Canada-based alt-rock band Bealby Point are having quite a productive 2021. Starting with the release in February of their debut single “I’m So Bummed Out Right Now” (which I featured in a Fresh New Tracks post), they followed up in April with their second single “Telescope”. On July 15th, they dropped their third single “Talk To Me“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. All three songs will be included on their forthcoming EP, due out later this year.
Named after their favorite beachside vacation spot, Bealby Point consists of four childhood friends, Jack Armstrong (lead vocals), Jordan Studer (bass), Clayton Dewar (lead guitar) and Zack Yeager (drums). Drawing inspiration from fun times spent at Bealby Point, the guys aim to create music “that captures the most cherished memory of your favourite summer and turning it into the perfect sound.” Their buoyant, high-energy garage rock sound has earned them favorable comparisons to The Strokes.
As with their previous singles, “Talk To Me” was recorded with veteran producer Matt Di Pomponio. About the song, the band explains “It’s about balancing heavy emotions with stifled logic – doing something you have reason to believe is wrong, but it feels right because you want it. The track follows a pair who previously revealed their intimate feelings to each other. Now, they have closed off their real feelings and resist the urge to speak from an open heart, in order to save themselves from the perceived consequences of revealing their true thoughts. They long for things to go back to how they were.”
The song opens strong with a wonderful swirling guitar riff, accompanied by a superb rhythm section, courtesy of Zack’s assertive thumping drumbeats and Jordan’s prominent chugging bassline, which is fucking fantastic! The dual guitar work by Clayton and Jack is brilliant, highlighted by what I’m guessing is Clayton’s blistering guitar solo in the final chorus. Jack’s colorful, emphatic vocals are marvelous, with a hazy lo-fi quality that reminds me a bit of The Strokes lead singer Julian Casablancas, even when they soar to a falsetto. We can feel his exasperation when he implores his partner to just communicate with him in an open and honest fashion: “Talk to me and I’ll talk back. I never lied to you. I don’t want that. But if you have to lie to me then I’ll lie back. And that’s the back and forth I can’t stand.”
“Talk To Me” is a terrific song, and with three excellent singles to their credit, Bealby Point have firmly established themselves as one of Canada’s best indie bands. Hell, they now rank highly among my own favorite indie bands as well. I look forward to hearing their upcoming EP.
Band photo by Sam Fazio, and single artwork by Quinlin Gustin.
Blight Town are a five piece alternative/math rock band based in Nottingham, England. Formed in 2019, the band consists of brothers Jake (vocals) and Sam Hough (guitar), Will Emmerson (guitar), Scott Taylor (bass) and Joseph Smith (drums). Together, they combine elements of progressive, math, pop and metal rock with bold instrumentation, complex time signatures and a dramatic mix of screamo and melodic vocals to create their wildly explosive sound. In short order, they dropped their debut single “Jejunum” in September 2019, but since then have taken their time releasing new music. Nearly a year later in August 2020, they followed up with their second single “Argument Bargument“ (which I reviewed), and now return with their self-titled debut EP Blight Town, which dropped July 16th. The EP features the two aforementioned singles, plus two new tracks.
The guys get right down to business with the opening track “Frostilicus“, instantly demanding our attention both musically and lyrically with an unrelenting thunderous barrage of grungy guitars and pummeling drums as Jake screams “She needs to listen to us right now!” I have no clue as to what the song’s title means, but the lyrics seem to be about confronting a duplicitous and self-destructive person: “Such whack shit is going down. The bullshit she’s churning out. If you don’t say the words to her then I will. Such a shame that you haven’t got the guts to still. Tell me where do I go? I wish that I didn’t know. A slave to the wages of sin. Where do I begin?” The scorching, intricately layered guitar work is fantastic, and a testament to the guys’ impressive musicianship.
“Jejunum” continues on a similar theme, delivering another onslaught of fearsome riffs and explosive percussion, accompanied by a marvelous, almost skittering bassline. Once again, the intense, richly-textured guitars are mind-blowing, turning hauntingly beautiful at the breakdown that occurs at the 1:06 minute mark. Jake’s vocals are downright fearsome throughout much of the song, but also soften to an enchanting ethereal calm in the interlude. As for the song title, a quick Google search revealed that ‘jejunum’ is a part of the small intestine in both humans and most higher vertebrates, including mammals, reptiles, and birds, so it’s anyone’s guess as to the title’s meaning. The lyrics seem to speak to a similar type of unpleasant person we were introduced to in “Frostilicus”, who Jake roundly denounces: “You already know you made my life a living hell.“
The cheekily-titled “Argument Bargument” is a prog-rock gem, opening with an atmospheric strummed electric guitar that gradually becomes enveloped in wobbly reverb. Suddenly, we’re hit with a burst of chaotic gnarly riffs, throbbing bass and aggressive drumbeats as the song evolves into a rousing, melodically complex and discordant banger. Amid some terrific guitar noodling punctuating the otherwise tumultuous proceedings, Jake’s vocal gymnastics are a thing of wonder as he transitions from pleasing croon to scary screams. The band states that the song is “A wistful retrospective on the transient nature of modern relationships and the lengths we will go to in order to rationalise our lived experience.” Jake emphatically snarls “You never wanted an argument, well now you’ve got it. And that’s why they call me the cynicist.”
The guys unleash their full arsenal of sonic weaponry on the final track “Don’t Touch Me I’m Covered in Poisons“. The instrumentals are heavier and more intense than ever, with Sam and Will’s dual intertwining guitars laying waste to the airwaves while Joseph nearly blows the speakers with his smashing drumbeats. Then there’s Jake’s feral vocals, which are positively spine-tingling as he screams like a wild beast. It’s a wonder he has any vocal cords left!
Blight Town is a great little EP, a literal bundle of explosive TNT packed into 12 minutes and 51 seconds, beautifully showcasing this band’s outstanding songwriting and composition talents, as well as their impressive technical skills. Though their music is both complex and intense, it’s still surprisingly accessible and melodic.
Blight Town also offers an array of merchandise, including tee shirts, hoodies and caps made from sustainable and vegan-friendly materials, which you can purchase at https://slugapparel.com/.
One of the more uniquely fascinating acts I’ve written about in my nearly six years of blogging is Rubber Clown Car (I love their name!) Based in the far western Chicagoland suburbs, the band is the brainchild of singer/songwriter and ace guitarist Dirk Prysby, a wildly imaginative, creative, and all-around nice guy. His songs often feature zany titles, but with deeper lyrics touching on the minefields of love, relationships and this crazy thing called life. As I’ve previously noted, his quirky, off-kilter vocal style wouldn’t get him very far on The Voice or American Idol, but it’s incredibly endearing and well-suited to his eccentric songs. Besides Dirk, Rubber Clown Car includes Fred Beasley (drums, backing vocals, guitar) and Tony Pantalones (bass, keyboards and everything else). Their eclectic alt-rock sound has been compared to such acts as XTC, Bob Mould, the Damned, the Who, GBV, the Replacements, and Matthew Sweet, with one reviewer describing them as “the Beatles on Quaaludes”.
Formed 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 no-holds-barred commentary on the American Dream. They subsequently began incorporating more psychedelic and alternative elements into their music, which can be 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 quite prolific in their output, releasing ten more albums and EPs, featuring clever titles like Jesus is not a Weapon, Cake Solves Heartaches, Let’s Go Bowling and Slave to the Algorithm.
In May 2019, I reviewed their brilliant eighth album Horse Logic, an ambitious and trippy tour de force featuring 18 tracks ranging from rock to psychedelic to blues to ballads, and everything in between. Two years later they’ve returned with their latest album Go.Do., which dropped on May 28th, and I’m finally getting around to reviewing it. The delightful album features 11 tracks, including seven original songs and four covers – the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Long Way Down”, the Association’s “Never My Love”, the Gin Blossoms’ “Found Out About You” and the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride”.
The album opens with “Everything to Everyone“, a terrific guitar-driven banger, fortified by a fast-paced punkish groove punctuated with gnarly psychedelic guitars. The lyrics speak to the futility of always trying to please everyone: “You bend over backwards with your head up your ass. Nothing in the world kills attraction so fast. You give and give and give and ask not in return. And wonder why you’re alone, won’t you ever learn?“
Among the album highlights for me are “The Math in Her Head“, with it’s slow, infectious guitar-driven melody and Tom Petty vibe. The lyrics address a woman who’s reassessing her feelings about the relationship, and not for the better: “She’s doing the math in her head. I’m starting to wonder, is it something I said? She won’t talk to me. She won’t talk to me. She won’t talk to me anymore.” Another song that seemingly channels Tom Petty, with a bit of the Beatles and Jayhawks thrown in for good measure, is the hopeful “What If“, with lyrics written by Natalie Rose, who also provides backing vocals. “What if I said ‘I loved you’? Would you say that you loved me too? What if I said I need you? Would you say that you need me too?“
Dirk’s skill for writing cheeky lyrics and hard-driving bangers is nicely showcased on the rousing “Out of State Plates“, my favorite track on the album. The song touches on the joys and perils of playing the field, and how it sometimes gets you into trouble: “Out of state plates keep me coming back for more. Out of state plates keep me coming back for years. Out of state plates got me running out the door. Out of state plates probably make me lose my mind. She’s coming round in a wedding dress. I probably should have been a little clearer I guess.” I love the song’s frantic punk-like beat, thunderous percussion and intricate, mind-blowing riffs that set the airwaves aflame! The way the guitars fade out in a wave of distortion and reverb is fantastic.
Rubber Clown Car does a fine job on the four covers, but my absolute favorite is “Found Out About You“. Their interpretation is slower and more introspective than the original by the Gin Blossoms, with Dirk’s lovely acoustic guitar and plaintive melancholy vocals providing the only sounds we hear. The result is a beautiful and deeply moving song that really captures the heartbreak and disappointment expressed in the lyrics in a way the Gin Blossoms’ version did not (though I do love their original too).
Another standout is “Great Guns“, a grungy, psychedelia-tinged tune about a woman’s fears and paranoias that led her to buy a gun for protection. Dirk serves up dark and heavy riffs dripping with gnarly distortion, brilliantly conveying the disconnect between the woman’s fears and her false sense of security that owning a gun brings: “She bought a gun. She liked the way it fit her fingers, and she’s #1. She’ll never feel this way again cause Great Guns are coming round./ She found a way out of her problem situation.”
Album closer “Mannequin Casino” starts off with tribal drum beats, then launches into a reverb-soaked barrage of grungy psychedelic guitars and trippy vibes. My take on the song’s meaning is that it’s about being abandoned by a lover at the Mannequin Casino, which seems to be a metaphor for a dead, lonely house without love or even the presence of an honest human being. Dirk laments “Something was wrong, you couldn’t find a way to say it. You couldn’t make me understand. All alone at night at a Mannequin Casino. What goes at night at a Mannequin Casino? Something just ain’t right at this Mannequin Casino.“
Go.Do. is a very fine album, and while I don’t think it’s quite as strong or innovative as Horse Logic, Rubber Clown Car nevertheless delivers more of the offbeat alternative rock we’ve come to love and expect from them. The outstanding guitar work, catchy melodies and relatable lyrics all make for a fun and thoroughly enjoyable listen.
The wonderful album artwork was created by Logospilgrim, a talented and lovely writer, artist, singer and fellow blogger from Canada who’s a friend of both mine and the band. Check out her blog at https://logospilgrim.com/
This is a second guest post by Nicole McCray, a freelance writer based in San Francisco. Nicole writes articles on a wide range of topics, including health & wellness, lifestyle & beauty, music, movies, TV & filmmaking, and animals & pets. You can check out some of her work at https://www.nicolemccray.com/. Her previous post was “Five Up and Coming Artists To Expect Big Things From”, which you can read here. The idea for her second post came to her after attending an event at her son’s college, where he was performing as a rapper. She was impressed by many of the underground artists who gave exceptionally good performances, inspiring her to write about some promising new hip-hop artists.
I’ll admit that hip-hop is not one of my favorite music genres, however, as EclecticMusicLover I feel it’s worthwhile to expose myself to music I wouldn’t normally gravitate toward, as well as feature some of it on this blog from time to time. With that in mind, I’m pleased that Nicole chose to write this post.
Six Emerging Hip-Hop Artists To Watch This Year
The hip-hop scene has definitely been further solidified in 2021, with chart dominance by standout artists like Rod Wave and Jack Harlow. Rookies have made their stamp on the hip-hop and R&B genres as well, with other artists proving that music still managed to make its way forward even in a problematic year. It’s difficult to predict which of these artists will emerge as big stars in the coming year, as we learned quickly from last year how things can change in a second.
The music industry certainly got hit hard during the pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped artists from finding creative ways to make sure their music and influence are heard by the masses. Public recognition doesn’t always make or break a thriving artist’s journey.
Suppose you are a musician or independent artist looking to develop new ways to monetize and keep incoming customers coming in. In that case, you should research some of the artists below and see what methods they are taking to broaden outreach. It can also help you organize and utilize a platform for managing your links to keep yourself on track.
Here are some of the greats we’ve discovered and expect big things from in the upcoming year and how they make their mark in the music world.
Los Angeles-based hip-hop artist born Matthew Burdette, known professionally as Blxst (pronounced “Blast”), gained considerable success in 2020 with his debut EP No Love Lost. The EP tackles complex topics, including relationship woes that leave us wondering how close to home this plays out in his own love life. The journey unfolding within the album paints a clear picture of his life and covers the failure of a relationship. The song and video for “Overrated” shows him speaking to her, asking if she will “bleed the streets” with him to prove her loyalty. Later in the album, it depicts him trying to deal with the loss of his lover while they still are living together.
Blxst grew up listening to other hip-hop influencers like Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. His style is compared to other rappers such as Ty Dolla Sign and Nate Dogg. He received a lot of underground support and has become a fan favorite with soul, impacting his fans everywhere, and we are anticipating some full-length albums to emerge next.
Hailing from Chicago, Lil Eazzyy seemed to come from nowhere with an EP entitled Underrated, which, just like in the name, was entirely true for him getting some buzz on social media and then being picked up by underground fans. He ignites a bouncy, almost chattery rhyme style, which captivates his audience, and has us all excited for more.
His hit song “Onna Come Up” demonstrates his confidence and self-awareness. It went viral and has garnered over 69 million streams and counting on Spotify, while a remix of the song featuring G Herbo has been streamed nearly 30 million times. His next mixtape, Rookie Of The Year, injects even more style to his buzz, telling stories of overcoming the odds while growing up on the Southside of Chicago. It is clear that this artist has his sights set on being the next success story, stating, “I’m trying to be MVP.”
Rapper J.I. (born Justin Irvin Rivera in Brooklyn) declared himself the “Prince of N.Y.”, but now wishes to be more than that, not loving that television rapper name he was pinned with from the start. His music has been well-received in the hip-hop world, getting nods from stars like A Boogie, Drake, and Lil Tjay. His sing-like rap style gives him star status, and his hit song “Need Me” is an excellent demonstration of his potential in the Latin hip-hop scene. It has over 100 million streams on Spotify.
He already has stated that he hopes to break all preconceived assumptions about him as an artist and his music. He doesn’t like to be labeled, so he will continue to be whatever he wants to be. He has earned much of his success as an internet sensation, with huge followings on YouTube and Instagram. Because of his large fanbase, he included some of his fans in the video for “Why U Mad”, which is a great tribute to his impressive lyrics that showcase how well he stands with seasoned artists. We can surely expect this young artist to bring us more spirited drills in his new releases to come.
Milwaukee-based WebsterX is a leader of the hip-hop renaissance, with his original music picked up and promoted by a licensing agency. He has tapped into the powerful practice of yelling together as a central part of his music, and he loves to work with other artists in collaboration to create something new. His performances often consist of multiple artists playing solo songs as a group. His lyrics have a way of plunging deep into the soul while also inviting you to sing along. He has no problems diving into deep-rooted emotions and putting them on display.
His hit single “doomsday” and its accompanying video are what provided this artist with his breakthrough. The rapper developed a keen interest in poetry while he was in high school and said that an integration program opened up his world, helping him promote racial and cultural unification. Although he also says that each project he tackles takes on an experience that he has endured. His 2017 album Daymares addresses his feeling anxious and depressed when he dropped out of school and told his parents he would pursue being a musician, while his latest single “HUFFY”, released in April, touches on his experiences growing up and “riding his huffy through the hood”.
Erica Banks is a leader with her song “Buss It,” taking a sample from Nelly’s super-popular “Hot in Herre,” and blowing up on Tik Tok to become one of the first (and biggest) dance challenges in the new year. It also helped her song to land on the Billboard chart.
She’s been compared to Megan Thee Stallion because of their shared Texas roots, which she has laughed it off on her Twitter account and stated that they have a similar accent because of where they are from. Erica has recently signed with Warner Bros entertainment, so we are excited to see if there might be another dance challenge on Tik Tok in the works. Maybe a collaboration with another Texas hip-hop artist like Tara, perhaps?
Putting out not just one but two albums last year – Platinum Heart and Poetic Pain, as well as recording a large number of collaborations with artists like DaBaby, Summer Walker, and Lil Durk – Toosii has encumbered an enormous buzz around what’s to come next for the Syracuse, New York-born rapper. He made a name for himself by releasing projects independently, and earning a lot of his fans through social media followings.
The rapper dropped out of school at 17 years old to pursue his dreams, and his most recent album Thank You for Believing is his way of singing praises to his family, friends, and fans for supporting him and helping him to achieve success. He said he just wanted to demonstrate that the music isn’t always just about the artist – it’s about the people who help get you to that status. His song “shop”, a collaboration with multi-platinum rapper DaBaby, has him delivering multiple witty one-liners.
He is described as having the “sound of tomorrow,” which leads us to know that there will be more to come soon from him. The release of Poetic Pain in 2020 exceeded all expectations, so there is a lot of anticipation to see what he will do next to top it.
Many other ground-breaking artists will make their hip-hop sounds heard in the coming year. These are just some of the standout artists we’ve highlighted to look out for, since they’ve made such a massive impact on their fans and boomed into the hip-hop scene. 2020 was a rough year for artists, and with 2021 showing more promise, it will be great to get things back to the normal we’re used to, including live concerts with some of these fantastic and talented hip-hop artists.
As I’ve stated in previous posts, one of my favorite indie artists is The Frontier, the music project of singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer Jake Mimikos. Based in Fairfax County, Virginia, Jake is an enormously talented guy with a kindness and sense of humor to match, and I’m quite fond of him both as an artist and human. Since 2015, he’s released an impressive amount of music both as a solo artist and as a band under The Frontier moniker, and we’ve been following each other on social media for nearly that long. As with many bands, the members and lineup of The Frontier have varied over the years, but the act is at this time mostly his solo project. Drawing upon elements of pop, folk, rock and electronica, his music is always incredibly pleasing and flawlessly crafted.
I’ve featured The Frontier several times on this blog, most recently last December when I reviewed his gorgeous single “Sleep”. (You can read that and previous reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.) Since then, he’s been on a mission to release new music as often as possible, and followed a month later with an acoustic version of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”, then a live EP, followed by “Can We Go Back” in March. “Sleep” went to #2 on my Weekly Top 30 and “Can We Go Back” is currently in the top 10, and between the two songs, he’s continuously appeared on my Top 30 since mid-January! In May, he dropped his single “Ghost” and now he returns with another brand new single “Shattered“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.
About “Shattered” Jake confides “It’s about trying to understand how someone can say they love you and then leave you, and trying to find clarity after a difficult break up. It’s really just about these strong emotions I was feeling at the time and trying to process through writing about it. I imagine a lot of people will be able to relate or have experienced this type of heartbreak before. These last few songs have been the most personal and vulnerable I’ve written to date.”
I’ve enjoyed seeing The Frontier’s musical style progress over time, and it’s clear his musicianship and songwriting continue to grow stronger and stronger. His skill for crafting uniquely distinctive melodies ensures that each new song sounds totally different from the rest. He’s also gotten quite adept at programming synths to create captivating soundscapes that quickly draw us in, then hold us in rapt attention all the way to the finish. The chiming synths combined with what sounds like a strummed ukelele at the opening of “Shattered” instantly let us know we’re in for something special, and as the song unfolds we’re not disappointed. The song is exquisite and haunting, and I love the mix of ukelele and guitar that add such rich texture, as well producing a sunny vibe that contrasts with the darker lyrics about feeling abandoned by a loved one. As always, Jake’s vocals are heartfelt and genuine, conveying the hurt and despair expressed in the lyrics. It’s another winning tune.
She said it doesn't matter
All the feelings that I had for you
Now my heart is shattered
And I'm drowning in a sea of blue
Why you got to run away?
What are you really running from?
All you had to do is say we could be lying in the sun
Some people tell me, love is just a four-letter word
Nobody seems to understand
All these lines get so blurred
What is love without lust?
What is lust without us?
You just lit up a fire, girl
Just so I could get burnedShe said it doesn't matter
All the feelings that I have for you
Now my heart is shattered
And I'm drowning in a sea of blue
Why you got to run away?
What are you really running from?
All you had to do is say we could be lying in the sunHere is my confession
I was ready to die for you
You were my obsession
It's not healthy but it was so true
There is some pleasure in pain
There is a measure to save
I know we both had our issues
But who doesn't these days
It’s time for another installment of Fresh New Tracks, as there’s so much great music being released. Some of the best of it continues to come from the UK, so I’m dedicating this edition to that island kingdom. I’ve chosen three outstanding new singles from British acts I’ve grown especially fond of: Young Decades and Liam Sullivan, both of whom I’ve previously written about on this blog, as as well as The Banshees, who I’m thrilled to feature for the first time.
“Mediterranean” by Young Decades
Born from the ashes of Liverpool-based band COLOUR, Young Decades formed at the early onset of the Covid pandemic. Like every other artist and band around the globe, they were unable to tour or perform live, so they made the most of their down time by setting themselves on a mission to build up a catalog of songs, and I can emphatically state that they’ve succeeded quite nicely. They released their beautiful debut single “Islands” in April 2020, then quickly followed with four more excellent singles, as well as several collections of remixes and alternative versions. On March 5th of this year, they released an EP Let You Down, which featured all five singles, then soon dropped their sixth single “Sinner” on April 23 (you can read my review of “Sinner” here.) The stunning anthem has spent the past two months and counting on my Weekly Top 30.
They also gained, then quickly lost, a drummer, but in April they recruited a replacement, so their current lineup consists of James Tidd (vocals), Scott Harvey (guitar, keyboards), Liam Downey (bass) and Lee Cameron (drums). 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. Now the prolific group is back with a wonderful new single “Mediterranean“, a jubilant celebration of being able to travel more freely again. The band elaborates “Think back to that one perfect trip: the first dive into the water and the feeling of escape. With travel limited, the need for escapism has reached fever pitch. ‘Mediterranean’ is a blistering expression of that bottled-up feeling. Starting like some beachside dream, it kicks you right back to everything good about getting away and the lyrics are dotted with glimpses of holiday life: sleeping on the beach, burnt skin, foreign coins, full moons on open sea and diving into some warm Mediterranean waves. Another anthem built for live gigs… somewhere warm.”
All Young Decades songs are uplifting, melodic and beautiful, with exuberant synths, driving rhythms and stellar guitar work. But for me, the real highlights of their music are Scott’s dramatic piano keys and James’ impassioned vocals that make their sound distinctive from any other band and instantly recognizable as only Young Decades. They don’t disappoint with “Mediterranean”, delivering another top-notch song and a fine addition to their perfect string of exceptional singles.
One of the standout artists I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in the past year or so is singer-songwriter Liam Sullivan. The Leeds-based musician is a fine songwriter and guitarist, with a vibrant and warm singing voice that’s both beautiful and comforting. His music can generally be classified as alternative rock with folk and singer-songwriter elements that make for an incredibly pleasing listen, and I love every one of his songs. Liam’s been writing and performing music for well over a decade, both as a member of various bands and, more recently, as a solo artist with a back-up band of musicians he assembled to help bring his poetic lyrics to life.
Like Young Decades, Liam has set for himself an ambitious goal of releasing a new single roughly every 6-8 weeks. While he hasn’t quite met that frantic schedule, he has released six singles over the past year, the latest of which is “Jerusalem“. (I’ve reviewed three of his previous singles, most recently his beautiful song “Stadium and Churches” in April, which you can read here.) The song has a harder rock vibe than his last several singles, with a faster tempo, a stronger driving rhythm and edgier guitars. Liam’s always emotive vocals have an even greater sense of urgency here as he sings about his faith and spirituality using biblical references. The song was inspired by his being asked to be a godfather to his friend’s twin babies. While he never considered himself to be religious, he was greatly honored and took being a godfather very seriously. It prompted him to explore what it means to have faith in a broader sense, and also search for answers and question his own faith and spirituality. It’s a beautiful and heartfelt song.
The Banshees are an indie alternative pop-rock duo based in Liverpool, and comprised of Vinny Pereira on vocals & guitar and Paul Holligan on lead guitar. The two met through a mutual friend at a party in Liverpool, hit it off and eventually formed as a band in December 2018. They soon began playing gigs in Liverpool and in May 2019, released their debut single “Self Medicated”. Over the next two years, they’ve continued to release a string of outstanding singles, earning praise from critics and fans alike, along with features in prominent music publications and websites like NME, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Kerrang, Guitar Player, Stereogum and Spin, as well as TV music stations MTV and VH1. Their sound has been favorably compared to The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys and Talking Heads. I love all three of those acts, and after having The Banshees’ music on repeat in preparation for writing this review, I can confidently state that I love their music too.
On July 1st, they dropped their latest single “4AM“, a song the band describes as “harking back to the club scenes of the 90s panic, punk and angst all mixed up into a journey of the mind. Nobody wants to be nobody, or maybe it’s just that now we live in a world where self perception of importance carries more weight than the bigger life picture of just being happy.” To my ears, the song has an almost punk aesthetic, with a frenetic dance beat, a strong, thumping bassline, and emphatic gnarly guitars. The guys’ superb musicianship really shines through, with first-rate production values and powerful pulsating rhythms pulling us willingly into an exhilarating soundscape that compels us to throw all our preconceived notions and bullshit out the window, just let loose and be. With a wry matter-of-fact tone, imbued with a touch of cheekiness, Vinny emphatically laments “The habits you created to survive will no longer serve you when its time to thrive. No focus on yourself for a change. Woulda’ coulda’ shoulda’ kept your goal in range.I’m so tired of bein’ tired. I’m so hard to please. Just gimme the truth, so I can go back to sleep.” Give me more of this!
From the moment I first heard their single “Old Man’s War” back in the spring of 2019, I’ve been a big fan of Texas alt-rock quartet Roadkeeper. Blending dreamy shoegaze and dramatic psychedelic rock with complex melodic structures, they craft lush soundscapes that are a perfect backdrop for their intelligent, socially conscious, sometimes political, and always thought-provoking lyrics. Formed in 2018, the band consists of songwriter/producer John Hetherington (vocals, synths, rhythm guitar), Trevor Tull (lead guitar), Nick Cogdill (drums) and Daniel Griffith (bass). All long-time friends, Roadkeeper is completely independent and self-produced, doing their recording, producing and mixing in John’s studio, and releasing their songs on their own label Equal Temperament.
I last featured Roadkeeper in January when I reviewed their magnificent single “Enemy Mine” (which spent more than four months on my Weekly Top 30). The song is a scathing attack on far-right white nationalist professional pundits who radicalize vulnerable young people by feeding them propaganda on social media and YouTube. Continuing in a similar vein, on June 24th, they dropped their 8th single “Take the L“, which addresses the ongoing immigrant and refugee crisis along the US/Mexico border, which has had an especially profound impact on Texas.
Written during the Trump administration and recorded in the Biden administration, the song shines a light on the fact this issue hasn’t gone away with the change in the White House. In an article in the webzine Clash, John explained “The song serves as an important reminder that the two major political parties in the US are just punting this issue back and forth to one another, so when is real change going to happen?“
Roadkeeper never fails to amaze me, and with “Take the L”, they once again deliver an exceptional single. The layered mix of psychedelic and shimmery guitars are gorgeous, backed by sparkling atmospheric synths and thumping rhythms, all creating a melodic and captivating backdrop for the powerful lyrics. John has a wonderful and mellifluous singing voice, and here his smooth vocals remind me at times of Mark Foster (of Foster the People) as he laments “Just take the L and go, so we both get our way. We’ll burn at both ends and say ‘Who started it anyway?’. All these stolen kids who die in their sleep don’t mean anything.”