Though they’ve been around since the mid 1990s, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I didn’t come to fully appreciate the music of Spoon until 2017, with the release of their fantastic album Hot Thoughts. I love their distinctive sound that incorporates elements of rock’n’roll, art rock, post-punk revival and experimental rock, not to mention the raspy vocals of frontman Britt Daniel, who at 50 is still going strong. The Austin-based rock band’s gnarly stomper “The Hardest Cut” has been around awhile, and finally reaches the top of my Weekly Top 30. The song is from their 10th and latest album Lucifer on the Sofa, which was written by Daniel during lockdown.
Adele’s “Oh My God” enters the top 10, and both “B-Side” by Khruangbin & Leon Bridges and “Caviar” by Two Feet leap eight spots to #19 and #20, respectively. Three new songs debut this week: “Black Summer” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Love Brand New” by Bob Moses, and “Won’t Stand Down” by Muse. Though I really like Muse, most of their songs take a while to grow on me. I often dislike them upon the first few listens, but almost always end up liking or even loving them, and “Won’t Stand Down” is no exception.
THE HARDEST CUT – Spoon (2)
I SEE THE SUN – Solar Eyes (1)
TWO CAR FAMILY – Apollo Junction (4)
ONE AND THE SAME – Future Theory (6)
WAKE ME UP – Foals (7)
CHAPSTICK – COIN (8)
THE OUTSIDE – twenty øne piløts (9)
THE ONLY HEARTBREAKER – Mitski (10)
STARTS WITH YOU – Shimmer Johnson (3)
OH MY GOD – Adele (14)
HEAD IN THE CLOUDS – Thunder Fox (13)
CRUTCH – Band of Horses (5)
JUST LIKE ALWAYS – Oli Barton & the Movement & Maella (15)
REDCHURCH STREET BLUES – Philip Morgan Lewis (16)
MAGNIFICENT HURT – Elvis Costello & The Imposters (17)
I’LL CALL YOU MINE – girl in red (22)
BROKEN HEARTS – Ships Have Sailed (20)
SOMETHING FROM NOTHING/POINTS OF LIGHT – Secret Postal Society (21)
B-SIDE – Khruangbin & Leon Bridges (27)
CAVIAR – Two Feet (28)
LOVE DIES YOUNG – Foo Fighters (24)
GIVE A LITTLE LOVIN’ – Jamie Alimorad (26)
TIME IN DISGUISE – Kings of Leon (11)
GOOD FRIEND – dwi (12)
I DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE – The War On Drugs feat. Lucius (18)
IF YOU EVER LEAVE, I’M COMING WITH YOU – The Wombats (29)
Plains of Silence is a progressive/post-rock act based in Lincolnshire, England, and comprised of the very talented double threat of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rick Whitehead and bassist/guitarist Geoff Standeven. The busy duo have also been active with other bands and music projects both in the past and present. Both were members of alt-rock band The Saboteurs (who I’ve previously written about and are now on hiatus). Rick also records music under his music project Sparralimb, and was previously a member of now defunct rock band Tripswitch, while Geoff also plays bass with metal rock band Sleepless.
As Plains of Silence, Rick and Geoff create exquisite instrumental compositions that incorporate elements of progressive, alternative, grunge and metal rock. Rick plays lead guitars, keyboards/synths and drums, while Geoff plays rhythm guitar and bass. Last August, they released their debut single “Jeremiah”, a darkly beautiful 8-minute, 40-second long tour-de-force of melodic guitars, meandering rhythms and cinematic crescendos. Now the guys are back with their debut EP Archangel, which they’ve released on Bandcamp. The EP will be available beginning March 4th on all major streaming sites.
Archangel features “Jeremiah”, along with four new tracks, each of which sounds uniquely different and most of which are fairly long, running well over five minutes. Kicking off the EP is the gorgeous title track “Archangel“, which Geoff told me is dedicated to all mums everywhere, and in particular his own mum who’s currently battling cancer. He said he wanted to write something from the heart that people could connect with, and after listening to the track, I think he’s succeeded quite nicely. The song begins with a somber but lovely acoustic guitar riff, backed by a rather mysterious gravelly background synth of some kind that provides a fascinating contrast with the haunting guitar notes. Two minutes in, the music expands into a glorious and almost spiritual Pink Floyd-esque soundscape, with shimmery guitars, throbbing bass and emphatic drumbeats.
Plains of Silence switch things up on the next track “Redded“, a moody rocker with a blend of grungy and melodic riffs layered over a strong driving rhythm. Rick lays down a tasty psychedelic guitar solo in the bridge, before the song fades out. This is followed by “Jeremiah“, which I think is my favorite track on the EP. As I alluded to earlier, the song is a monumental tour-de-force and a feast for the ears. The song starts off with a simple but arresting acoustic guitar riff lasting slightly over a minute, at which point it’s joined by a rhythm section of subtle bass and measured drums. Soon, the guitar becomes more intricate and melodic up to around 3:45, when the tempo increases with edgier riffs and more forceful drums and bass. The instrumentals continue to build until everything erupts into a dramatic crescendo of grinding gnarly riffs, pummeling bass and assertive, military-style drumbeats that transition to a barrage of thunderous percussion. The music calms back down to just strummed guitar and thumping drumbeats for the final minute as the song ends on a somber note.
As its title would suggest, “The Saint of Killers” is the darkest, most intense track on the EP, with strong progressive and alternative metal underpinnings. Much of the song features a furious barrage of grinding buzz saw riffs, crushing bass and explosive percussion, interspersed here and there with brief interludes of beautiful chiming guitar notes and subtle drumbeats, all of which serves to create a powerful and sonically fascinating track.
The final track “Starlight” is a wonderful melodic rock song, highlighted by Rick’s impressive guitar work and Geoff’s gorgeous driving bassline. The first two-thirds of the song is hard-hitting, with an onslaught of heavy riffs, bass and drums. But at around 3:45, the tempo abruptly changes to a serene, contemplative mood, with lovely strummed guitar notes and ambient natural sounds of birds chirping in the breeze all that we hear. It’s a fine, soothing close to the EP, ending it as it began with the first notes of “Archangel”.
Archangel is a stellar EP, and a testament to the creativity and talents of these two musicians Rick and Geoff. Anyone who’s a fan of progressive rock or alternative metal, delivered with outstanding musicianship, will enjoy this record.
Irish post-punk band Fontaines D.C. (the suffix D.C. in their name stands for Dublin City, to distinguish them from L.A.-based alt pop-rock band The Fontaines) formed in 2017, but it wasn’t until summer of 2020 that I learned about them, when I heard their mesmerizing single “A Hero’s Death”, from their brilliant second album of the same name. I loved it at once, and after listening to the entire album, I became a fan of this exceptional band. Comprised of Grian Chatten (vocals), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan III (bass), and Tom Coll (drums), Fontaines D.C. met while students at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute in Dublin, and bonded over their common love of poetry. They began recording and self-releasing singles, as well as performing locally, and were ultimately signed to Partisan Records in 2018.
Since the release of their debut album Dogrel in 2019, Fontaines D.C. have garnered widespread critical acclaim as one of the best bands making music today. The album was named Album of the Year on the record store Rough Trade’s website, voted Album of the Year by presenters on BBC Radio 6 Music, and nominated for both the Mercury Prize and the Choice Music Prize. Their second album A Hero’s Death, which was written and recorded in the midst of extensive touring for Dogrel, was nominated for Best Rock Album at the 2021 Grammy Awards, losing to The Strokes’ The New Abnormal. They just released their darkly beautiful single “I Love You“, which I love so much, I’ve chosen it as my New Song of the Week.
The song is the second single from the band’s forthcoming third album Skinty Fia, due for release April 22. The album’s interesting title translates to “the damnation of the deer” in English. Fontaines D.C. bassist Conor Deegan III further elaborates about the band’s intent: “The Irish giant deer is an extinct species, but ‘skinty fia’ is also used as an expletive, in the way you’d say ‘For fuck’s sake’ if you bang your arm on a table or whatever. We just thought there was something really beautiful about that, because it’s representative of Irish culture in some sense. We were interested in the idea of something really precious or sentimental and attached to family, but also something that’s been taken away from us. Which doesn’t mean we can’t cherish it.”
“I Love You” follows lead single “Jackie Down The Line” which was released a month ago, and is described by band frontman Grian Chatten as “the first overtly political song we’ve written”. In one sense, it’s a love song to their home of Ireland. Chatten, along with the rest of the band, relocated from Ireland to London to further their music careers, and the first two verses of the song address his guilt at becoming successful and leaving his beloved homeland. He explained to Rolling Stone: “I’m in a position there where I’ve made something of a career from trying to connect with and render the culture and country that I come from and try and express it, [and] in doing so, understand it myself and help other people understand it. [But] I’ve moved from that country, and I’m now living in a country that is responsible for a lot of the chaos in the country that I’m from, that still kind of looks down on that country. I feel guilty for having left. I feel like I’ve abandoned Ireland to some extent. Not that it can’t survive fine without me, but I feel like I’ve taken all this crap from it creatively, and then I’ve just left. I have this kind of strange feeling of guilt toward my leaving of Ireland.”
But the song also speaks to Chatten’s seething anger and disappointment over the current political climate in Ireland – expressed in the lyrics condemning two of its major political parties: “I will tell them ’bout it all / About the gall of Fine Gael and the fail of Fianna Fáil“- as well as one of Ireland’s grimmest historical atrocities, namely the decades of tragic brutality at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home in Galway, where a mass grave containing the remains of 800 babies was later discovered decades after the home’s closure. He rebukes both those responsible for the atrocity, as well as those who turned a blind eye, which he references in the scathing words “This island’s run by sharks with children’s bones stuck in their jaws.”
Musically, the song is gorgeous and brooding, opening with Conor Deegan III’s somber bass riff, which is soon joined by a glorious mix of O’Connell and Curley’s shimmery and jangly guitar notes reminiscent of The Cure. As Chatten begins to sing “I love you, I love you, I told you I do” in his signature captivating drone, the music expands with Tom Cull’s assertive thumping drums, keeping perfect rhythm with Deegan’s immaculate bassline. A little past the two-minute mark, the song turns darker, with heavier instrumentals and an intense repetitive drumbeat to match the rising anger in Chatten’s vocals, in which he practically spits the bitter lyrics, eliciting chills in the process.
I love you, I love you, I told you I do
It's all I've ever felt, I've never felt so well
And if you don't know it, I wrote you this tuneTo be here loving you when I'm in the tomb
I've eddied the heart now, from Dublin to Paris
And if there was sunshine, it was never on me
So close, the rain, so pronounced is the pain
YeahWell, I love you, imagine a world without you
It's only ever you, I only think of you
And if it's a blessing, I want it for you
If I must have a future, I want to with you
Systеm in our hearts, you only had it before
You only opеn the window, never open up the door
And I love you, I love you, told you I doSelling genocide and half-cut pride, I understand
I had to be there from the start, I had to be the fucking man
It was a clamber of the life, I sucked the ring off every hand
Had 'em plying me with drink, even met with their demands
When the cherries lined up, I kept the spoilings for myself
'Til I had thirty ways of dying looking at me from the shelf
Cloud-parting smile I had, a real good child I was
But this island's run by sharks with children's bones stuck in their jaws
Now the morning's filled with cokeys tryna talk you through it all
Is their mammy Fine Gael and is their daddy Fianna Fáil?
And they say they love the land, but they don't feel it go to waste
Hold a mirror to the youth and they will only see their face
Makes flowers read like broadsheets, every young man wants to die
Say it to the man who profits, and the bastard walks by
And the bastard walks by, and the bastard walks by
Say it to him fifty times and still the bastard won't cry
Would I lie?I love you, I love you, I told you I doIt's all I've ever felt, I've never felt so well
And if you don't know it, I wrote you this tune
To be here loving you when I'm in the tomb
System in our hearts, you only had it before
Echo, echo, echo, the lights, they go
The lights, they go, the lights, they go
Echo, echoSelling genocide and half-cut pride, I understand
I had to be there from the start, I had to be the fucking man
It was a clamber of the life, I sucked the ring off every hand
Had 'em plying me with drink, even met with their demands
And I loved you like a penny loves the pocket of a priest
And I'll love you 'til the grass around my gravestone is deceased
And I'm heading for the cokeys, I will tell them 'bout it all
About the gall of Fine Gael and the fail of Fianna Fáil
And now the flowers read like broadsheets, every young man wants to die
Say it to the man who profits, and the bastard walks by
And the bastard walks by, and the bastard walks by
Say it to him fifty times and still the bastard won't cry
Would I lie?
The dramatic, beautifully-filmed video was directed by Sam Taylor, and shows Chatten strolling through a dark, candle-lit church as he sings the first few verses. Two minutes in, he abruptly turns to face the camera, whereupon he launches into his scathing attack on the things that infuriate him about the country of his birth. By the video’s end, blood can be seen issuing from his chest.
British psychedelic pop/rock band Solar Eyes retain a firm grip on the top spot on my latest Weekly Top 30 for a second week with their beautiful track “I See the Sun“, and Spoon’s “The Hardest Cut” slides up to #2. Entering the top 10 are twenty øne piløts’ “The Outside” and Mitski’s “The Only Heartbreaker”. Sometimes it takes a while for a song to really grow on me, and after a slow start, Adele’s “Oh My God” leaps 10 spots to #14. Four great songs by artists I love make their debut this week: “B-Side” by Khruangbin & Leon Bridges, “Caviar” by Two Feet, “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You” by The Wombats, and “What, Me Worry?” by Portugal. The Man.
I SEE THE SUN – Solar Eyes (1)
THE HARDEST CUT – Spoon (3)
STARTS WITH YOU – Shimmer Johnson (2)
TWO CAR FAMILY – Apollo Junction (5)
CRUTCH – Band of Horses (4)
ONE AND THE SAME – Future Theory (8)
WAKE ME UP – Foals (9)
CHAPSTICK – COIN (10)
THE OUTSIDE – twenty øne piløts (11)
THE ONLY HEARTBREAKER – Mitski (12)
TIME IN DISGUISE – Kings of Leon (6)
GOOD FRIEND – dwi (7)
HEAD IN THE CLOUDS – Thunder Fox (15)
OH MY GOD – Adele (24)
JUST LIKE ALWAYS – Oli Barton & the Movement & Maella (18)
REDCHURCH STREET BLUES – Philip Morgan Lewis (19)
MAGNIFICENT HURT – Elvis Costello & The Imposters (20)
I DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE – The War on Drugs feat. Lucius (13)
UNTIL I COME HOME – Two Feet & grandson (14)
BROKEN HEARTS – Ships Have Sailed (26)
SOMETHING FROM NOTHING/POINTS OF LIGHT – Secret Postal Society (27)
I’LL CALL YOU MINE – girl in red (29)
LEFT BEHIND – a million rich daughters (16)
LOVE DIES YOUNG – Foo Fighters (28)
U&ME – alt-J (22)
GIVE A LITTLE LOVIN’ – Jamie Alimorad (30)
B-SIDE – Khruangbin & Leon Bridges (N)
CAVIAR – Two Feet (N)
IF YOU EVER LEAVE, I’M COMING WITH YOU – The Wombats (N)
I recently learned about Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Rick Sabatini when he reached out to me on Facebook about his album There Goes the Van Man. Released on New Year’s Day, the album features nine wonderful tracks with lighthearted relatable lyrics addressing the emotional minefields of romantic entanglements and responsibilities of young adulthood. It’s his second album, marking an eight-year span since the his first release Album 1 Demos back in November 2013. A delightful collection of lo-fi acoustic songs, Album 1 Demos is available for free download on his Bandcamp account.
Rick, who’s also been a member of The Band Sheep for the past several years, told me he composed most of the the songs for There Goes the Van Man five or six years ago on his iPad, but didn’t have the money to properly record it in a studio at the time. So, he started his own business doing painting and carpentry to earn money to fund the record, as well as earn a living, since he’d gotten married and had a child along the way. He finally recorded the album in a studio with the help of session musicians, and the result is a really enjoyable and well-crafted work.
Rick’s pleasing, highly accessible music can generally be described as indie pop with elements of folk, rock and jazz, and characterized by catchy melodies, lots of great guitar work and his endearing laid back vocals. The album opens with “At Your Service“, a sweet song about finding romance while working at a shoe store: “Just another day at the shoe store, the meet and greet, the fit your feet and send you out the door. Some of them I know by first name, and last name too. / If there’s anything that I can do for you baby, I’m at your service like a godat your church while you’re preachin’.”
Next up is “Van Man“, a terrific auto-biographical song about Rick that also serves at the de-facto title track, given its refrain “There goes the van man.” He croons about his workday routine “I was the van man today, I took the van real far away. I did stuff and got paid. I brought something that I made. I blasted sports radio. That’s just the way that I go when I’m driving down the open road.” The song is fantastic, with a wonderful, breezy melody and lots of cool instruments like organ, banjo and exuberant sax, adding nice Americana and jazz elements, as well as incredible texture to the overall sound. If all that’s not enough, there’s also a great guitar solo in the bridge too.
“The Office” is a fun Americana song with a lively piano-driven melody and more of that great banjo. The cheeky lyrics speak to the drudgery of working at a dead-end office job: “I don’t like to drive when it’s dangerous. Roads are pretty treacherous, but the boss man, he doesn’t give a shit. He says ‘I want you in’, well if I crash would you pay for it? I’m desperate, strapped for cash, and I can’t afford another accident. It’s a lot to risk, just to waste my day away in the office.“
On the bouncy “Tax Return“, Rick sings of the joys of finally being able to treat his girl to a nice evening out, now that he’s gotten his tax refund: “Baby relax I got my tax return. Girl let’s go out, I got some cash to burn. We’re gonna find somewhere nice to eat. The government paid me real good this week.” The musical highlights of the track are the great bassline, guitars, organ and piano keys, and I love the vocal harmonies.
One of my favorite tracks is “Talk to Me“, with its smooth and sophisticated jazzy vibe. I love the intricate, funky guitars, cool keyboards and subtle snare drums, but for me the biggest highlight are Rick’s lovely soothing vocals, backed by gorgeous Beach Boys-esque harmonies. This song really showcases his strong songwriting, musicianship and vocal abilities. “Colleen” is another great song, opening with a gospel-like organ riff and Rick’s voiceover speaking as an airline pilot to a plane full of passengers. That wonderful organ riff continues throughout the song, serving as its driving force and overlain with guitar, strings, sax and crisp percussion. Rick sings to a woman named Colleen of his desires for her affection: “Colleen, I might not be your man right now, but someday I will.“
“Devils” is a fascinating track, and much darker than the other songs on the album. Musically, it has a languid trip hop beat, with spooky synths, somber piano keys and skittering drumbeats, and in the background can be heard a man’s voiceover, speaking about LSD. It all serves to create an unsettling vibe. Rick’s vocals, which remind me of Mark Foster of Foster the People on this track, have a sense of sad resignation as he laments about trying to overcome drug addiction, or possibly a relationship that’s falling apart because of a partner who’s either addicted to drugs or cheating on him: “I’m trying to quit the devil, but he’s got his grip so tight on me it’s hard not be deceived and made of fool of. Well I’m wrestling with the devil. It’s not something that I’m proud of, but do you have to be so loud in the restaurant? I’m just trying to get back to normal.Well I caught you with the devil. You smelled like his cologne. All those moments you were alone, his smoky breath, the telephone. I thought we were getting back to normal.“
On the upbeat “Principal Problems“, Rick sings from the perspective a high school kid frustrated with his principal, who’s trying to make him quit his aggressive behavior that’s earned him a reputation as a tough guy on campus: “I’m gonna punch my principal in the face, if he tries to stop my fight with Tony Robinson./ You’ve got an occupation, I’ve got a reputation to hold up.” And on the delightful album closer “Tel Aviv Blues“, he sings of a woman he loves and how her ambivalence is making him crazy: “At night I’m wonderin’, about what you’re doing. You’re my baby, but only in my dreams. Only kissing me when I fall asleep. I told my best friend, a real good Christian, he said ‘You don’t need her love, you need the Lord’. But the Lord ain’t never kissed me good before. I’m back to drinkin’, I’m tryin’ hard to rid you from my mind.” The song has a lively Southern rock feel, with a colorful mix of twangy guitars and banjo, accompanied by swirling organ, sax and a great toe-tapping rhythm.
There Goes the Van Man is a marvelous album, and I’m so glad Rick reached out to me about it. He’s a talented guy who knows his way around a song, and here he delivers nine superb tracks. Each one is different from the next, a testament to his eclectic sound and the quality of his songwriting. This album needs to be heard by as many people as possible, and I hope some of my readers will enjoy it as much as I do.
One of my favorite humans on the planet is Marc Schuster, who’s not only insanely creative and multi-talented, but also incredibly generous, funny and kind. I first got to know him several years ago through blogging (he has a terrific WordPress blog called Abominations), and he’s been among the most consistently loyal supporters of me and my blog.
A true renaissance man, Marc is an educator, author, literary critic, songwriter, musician and even a pretty decent visual artist. In addition to teaching English at Montgomery County Community College in southeastern Pennsylvania, he’s written several books, scripts for two short films, and numerous book reviews. He’s also a prolific musician, writing songs and recording music both as a solo artist and as part of multiple music projects. In just the past six months, he’s not only released several of his own singles and EPs, but also recordings by The Ministry of Plausible Rumours, a joint project with his cousin Vincent Zabielski, who put out a terrific album Summer Again last October, an outstanding improvisational instrumental album Simmons and Schuster that he made with fellow musician/educator Tim Simmons (you can read my review of that album here), and the single “In the Pink” by his collaborative music project Plush Gordon this past December.
Though Marc likes to experiment with different sounds, styles and textures, most of the songs he records as a solo artist have a delightful, indie bedroom-pop sensibility. Not only are his songs infectiously catchy, he has a wonderful knack for putting a youthful, often tongue-in-cheek perspective on everyday situations and problems many of us have faced at one time or another. On his new EP There Is No Down, which dropped February 2nd, he delivers five optimistic tracks (actually four plus an acoustic demo of one of them) assuring us that, no matter how crappy things may seem at the moment, there’s always reason to celebrate. For the recording of the EP, he was assisted by Paul Sanwald and Tim Simmons, who I’m guessing played piano.
Case in point is the trippy opening track “Funky Underpants“, wherein ‘funky’ refers to colorful and fun, not, well, you know… Over a languid bass-driven groove, Marc layers some lovely shimmery guitar notes and thumping drumbeats to create a jazzy, psychedelic backdrop for his dual auto-tuned vocals, half of which sound like Mick Jagger. He sings of wanting to pull himself out of the doldrums by letting loose in a pair of funky underpants: “Wishing I could dream, dreaming I could fly. Waiting on a world where we never die. I could be a saint or I could live in sin. I could live forever if my life would just begin. I want to sing. I want to dance. I want to wear a pair of funky underpants. I’ll take a drink. I’ll take a chance. I’ll take the world on in my funky underpants.”
Along a similar vein, “Feel Free” explores misbehaving, even if just for the night, in order to have a bit of fun: “Everyone says we should know better, but I never could tell wrong from right. Let’s hit the town like we won’t remember it. Let’s disappear into the night. I’m up to no good, and you’re just as bad. This could be the best time I ever had. I’m looking at you, you’re looking at me. Is this what it’s like to feel free?” Musically, the upbeat song has a bouncy pop-rock sound with a lively mix of jangly and fuzzy guitars.
“All We Are” has more of a rock vibe, with Marc’s marvelous fuzz-coated reverby guitars taking center stage. On this song, his vocals sound a bit like the late, great Tom Petty as he sings about the impermanence and brevity of our lives on this earth, and that we might as well make the best of things while we’re here: “The clouds roll in. The seasons change. We disappear. The world remains. All we are is right now.”
I think my favorite song on the EP is “Elevators“, a bittersweet piano-driven affair. I love the melancholy but beautiful piano keys, and the electric guitar solo in the bridge is superb. The lyrics speak of reminiscing about what seemed like simpler, more innocent times, yet not wanting to wallow in the past, but instead remain hopeful about the future: “So keep the fire burning to get us through the night. The wolves are creeping closer, but I think we’ll be all right. We used to ride in elevators, look down on the world below. We used to ride in elevators though we had nowhere to go.”
The fifth track “All We Are (Demo)” is an acoustic version of the third song on the EP, with only Marc’s gentle vocals and guitar. The spare treatment of the song nicely fits the simple and direct message expressed in the lyrics: “All we are is right now.” It’s a fitting finish to a lovely little EP.
There’s lots of movement on this week’s Top 30. One of the downsides of curating a weekly list is that all songs must eventually move down, then off. I hate dropping songs I still like, but it must be done in order to make way for new ones on their way up. I’ve loved the music of British psychedelic pop/rock band Solar Eyes since first learning about them last summer, and have written about two of their singles, “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship” and “I See the Sun”. Inspired by the Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, “I See the Sun” is a glorious cinematic gem, highlighted by gorgeous spaghetti western-style guitars that would make Ennio Morricone proud. The stunning song takes over the #1 spot on my Weekly Top 30.
Spoon’s “The Hardest Cut” climbs three spots to #3, British band Apollo Junction’s “Two Car Family” moves up two spots to #5, and three songs enter the top 10: “One and the Same” by British alternative psychedelic rock band Future Theory, “Wake Me Up” by British alt-rock band Foals, and “Chapstick” by Nashville pop-rock band COIN. After a sluggish few weeks, twenty øne piløts’ “The Outside” and Mitski’s “The Only Heartbreaker” leap eight spots to #11 and #12, respectively. Debuting this week are “I’ll CallYou Mine” by girl in red and “Give a Little Lovin’” by Jamie Alimorad, which enter at #29 and #30.
I SEE THE SUN – Solar Eyes (2)
STARTS WITH YOU – Shimmer Johnson (1)
THE HARDEST CUT – Spoon (6)
CRUTCH – Band of Horses (3)
TWO CAR FAMILY – Apollo Junction (7)
TIME IN DISGUISE – Kings of Leon (4)
GOOD FRIEND – dwi (5)
ONE AND THE SAME – Future Theory (13)
WAKE ME UP – Foals (14)
CHAPSTICK – COIN (17)
THE OUTSIDE – twenty øne piløts (19)
THE ONLY HEARTBREAKER – Mitski (20)
I DON’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE – The War on Drugs feat. Lucius (8)
UNTIL I COME HOME – Two Feet & grandson (16)
HEAD IN THE CLOUDS – Thunder Fox (18)
LEFT BEHIND – a million rich daughters (9)
SMILE – Wolf Alice (10)
JUST LIKE ALWAYS – Oli Barton & the Movement & Maella (22)
REDCHURCH STREET BLUES – Philip Morgan Lewis (23)
MAGNIFICENT HURT – Elvis Costello & The Imposters (24)
THE TIPPING POINT – Tears for Fears (11)
U&ME – alt-J (12)
JOURNEYMAN’S BALLET – Sam Rappaport (15)
OH MY GOD – Adele (26)
INDUSTRY BABY – Lil Nas X featuring Jack Harlow (21)
BROKEN HEARTS – Ships Have Sailed (28)
SOMETHING FROM NOTHING/POINTS OF LIGHT – Secret Postal Society (29)
KÅRP is a rather enigmatic band based in Gothenburg, Sweden who make fascinating electronic music they describe as “death disco”. Fronted by breathy-voiced singer Anna-Maria Lundberg, their dark, ethereal sound has been compared with fellow Swedish acts The Knife, Kite and Lykke Li. Their love for the paranormal, outer space and the apocalyptic state of current affairs are recurring themes in both their music and lyrics. They released their debut single “Therapist^2” in 2017, followed by several more singles that culminated in the release of their beautiful self-titled debut album KÅRP in 2019. They dropped the single “Left Handed” in 2020, then in December 2021, they released “It Looks Bad”, the first single from their planned triptych of EPs to be released throughout 2022. The first of the three EPs KRIS, released on January 27, is the subject of today’s review.
The triptych series are intended to represent the three stages of the apocalypse: Chaos, Silence and the New World Order. KRIS explores the downfall of society, with all it’s attendant chaos and disorientation, and thus sounds the darkest of the three. KÅRP elaborates: “The world is burning. The police are shooting innocent people to death. Natural disasters and wars are forcing families to flee for their lives. The barbed wire gets sharpened by the wealthy nations’ borders and a pandemic is closing our societies down in a way that’s never been seen before. We started working on this trilogy after the release of our debut album in 2019. At that time you could sense the downfall like a darkness at the end of the tunnel. We soon realized that the apocalypse was already here. That’s why the first leg of this triptych of EP’s is pretty dark sounding. The next one will be slightly more mellow. And on the last one, we’re allowing ourselves a few major chords and some hope.“
The EP opens with the enchanting title track “Kris“, relatively brief piece that seems to serve as an introduction to this first installment of the triptych. KÅRP layers skittering eerie synths over a undulating synth bass groove to create a lovely but unsettling backdrop for Anna-Maria’s bewitching ethereal vocals. As its title suggests, things turn decidedly darker on the next track “It Looks Bad“. The harsh industrial synths are both spooky and beautiful, hovering over a powerful beat and heavy, pulsating rhythm, nicely conveying a sense of global upheaval. Anna-Maria laments to her child of the impending chaos and uncertainty that’s about to turn their world upside down: “Oh sweetheart, what to do with your pictures from school. The butterfly collection and your wild diaries, the family tree.Bring out the matches ‘cuz nobody will be here. No more grounds to stand on, nothing to grow here.”
I can’t quite make out the meaning of “Humdrum“, but it’s a sonically gorgeous track, with a colorful soundscape of intricate spacey synths, galloping beats and Anna-Maria’s fervent ethereal vocals. And on the marvelous “Honey Play“, KÅRP reaches deep into their sonic arsenal to produce a haunting, cinematic song befitting a soundtrack for an epic sci-fi or apocalyptic film. The sweeping industrial synths, powerful driving rhythms, and Anna-Maria’s soaring vocal harmonies are spectacular. The lyrics speak of standing up to dark forces trying to divide us: “I’ve already decided you can’t force me. You don’t understand all that matters. I’ve already decided you can’t force me. Youwant us to play under your division.”
I’m a big fan of electronic music, and KÅRP makes some of the most dramatically beautiful that I’ve heard in a while. KRIS is a stunning work, and I’m really looking forward to hearing the next two installments of their tryptich.
Jonny Ash is a wonderfully-named band from North Wales who make an exciting, hard-driving and melodic style of indie rock. Comprised of brothers Callum (lead vocals, guitar) and Dan Gaughran (bass), Peter Roberts (lead guitar) and Mike Jones (drums), their big, high-energy sound is influenced by some of their favorite acts like The Stone Roses, Thin Lizzy, Oasis, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. Formed only a year ago, they wasted no time getting down to business by releasing their fantastic debut single “We Are The People” in August, followed two months later by the ripper “Boys With Black Eyes”, quickly earning them recognition throughout the UK, and radio play on BBC Wales, XS Manchester and Amazing Radio.
Now the Wrexham four-piece are back with a rousing new single “Disco“, a banger of a tune the band states has already become a favorite among their fans. Though the song sounds nothing like typical disco, the band says its BPM is the same as actual disco music, however, most people hearing the song would never realize it as they fall in line with the driving beat. Band lead guitarist Peter Roberts elaborates: “We are really excited to release our new track ‘Disco’, as it’s one of our favourite tunes to play live, based on the interaction we get from our amazing crowds. It’s usually saved to the end of our set because of how well It goes down regardless of where we are playing.”
The song opens with Dan’s super gnarly bass riff, to which a nice tapping of Mike’s drumstick is added before the music explodes into a roiling barrage of grungy riffs, throbbing bass and pummeling drumbeats, all of which become even more intense in the choruses. Peter lets loose with a blistering guitar solo in the bridge, leaving no doubt this is anything but a disco song, but rather a full-on rock stomper. Callum has a terrific singing voice, with the perfect amount of sexy swagger the song requires.
Like many songs of the disco era, “Disco” is about having a good time and letting loose at a club, having drinks, dancing to hot music and flirting with people you’re attracted to. “I see you come in all the time. If I had three wishes, then I would make you mine. Come on get closer, get right in my face. I want to see you dancing all over the place. The bar’s still open, the night is only young. When you get home, say hi to your mom. / And I fell in love with you at the disco.“
“Disco” is a great track, and along with the guys’ two previous singles, showcases their impressive musicianship and skill for putting out solid rock songs. I’m happy to have learned about Jonny Ash, and look forward to hearing more from them soon.
Branwell Black is a charismatic young singer-songwriter, producer, dancer and model who creates alternative electro pop-rock influenced by some of his favorite artists like Kate Bush, Madonna, Charli XCX, Kerli, Evanescence and Tokio Hotel. Born in Oxford, England, raised primarily in France, and now based in London, Branwell has recorded music both in French and English as a solo artist, and as part of the band Brothers Black/Posie that he formed with his brother Morgan. Both he and Morgan developed a love of music at a young age, as their father was an accomplished rock drummer.
In September 2019, Branwell released his debut single “J’attends L’amour”, then quickly followed up with “What You Want”, as well as an EP Posie with his band Brothers Black/Posie. In May 2020, he released his sultry single “Love Life” (which I reviewed), then followed that October with a marvelous electronic cover of the Verve classic “Bittersweet Symphony”. Now he’s back with “Lay On Me“, the first single from his forthcoming Lay On Me EP, due for release by the end of the month. That EP will also feature a rave remix of “Lay On Me”, as well as a live version of “What You Want”.
About the new song, Branwell explains: “‘Lay On Me’ is the first song I’m releasing which features my live band [with] Harvey on guitar and my insane drummer Alexandra. It’s a sonic reintroduction of sorts, as it’s a little heavier than my original music, and also a tease into the direction I’ll be going. We’ve been touring the UK and have grown our sound into something even more exciting as a bridge between rock and pop. The song also takes influences from the Vogue scene with elements of ballroom vogue songs, and is a sexy number about taking control of situations and appreciating your beauty and knowing how to use it. The lyrics ‘But I’ll be me’ represent a realization that you’re always in control of your own enjoyment and knowing what you want.“
When I first listened to “Lay On Me”, it seemed to be primarily a catchy dance-pop song. But with repeated listens, the brilliance of Branwell’s songwriting was revealed as I detected elements of house, trip hop, electro and psychedelic rock he’d artfully injected into the mix. Though the song’s driving dance groove is undeniably hypnotic, it’s the variety of stylistic elements and textures that make it such a compelling and sonically fascinating track. I love the thick synth bass groove, Harvey’s funky riffs, Alexandra’s galloping drumbeats, and the colorful blend of gnarly and spacey industrial synths. Branwell’s bewitching and breathy vocals have an understated seductive quality that perfectly complements the captivating instrumentals. It’s a terrific song.