MACHINEKIT – Album Review: “I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND”

Album artwork by Jaydee Buege at Wire Mark Design

MACHINEKIT is a techno-punk band based in Los Angeles. Originally founded as Dharma in 2012 by John Rojas, Dave Cayetano and William Buege, as their sound evolved they made the decision in 2016 to change their name to MACHINEKIT, and the following year released their self-produced debut album Dysappearencer. They followed with two EPs and several singles, and in 2021, drummer Ryan Janke and multi-instrumentalist Ivan Garcia were added to their line up. All veterans of previous bands, the five musicians quickly bonded to become an even stronger musical force, combining their years of collective expertise and array of influences to create what they quite appropriately describe as “an agglomeration of chaos”. Now they’ve released their second album I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND, and it’s dark, aggressive and brutal, yet also strangely beautiful and sexy.

In early February, Rojas reached out to me about reviewing the album, and though it’s not the type of music I’m normally drawn to, I liked the songs and agreed to review it, even though I wasn’t quite sure how to write about this music. Soon after, I was hit with another bout of burnout, this time so serious that I decided to stop writing reviews altogether, though I would still honor the commitments I’d already made. To further complicate things, Rojas himself is a terrific writer who does reviews for the website Tourworthy, and after reading a few of his, I felt even more intimidated. But he was gracious and encouraging, and also generous in providing me with his thoughts and inspiration for writing the album, along with the lyrics, and I will do my best to give this album the credit it deserves.

Photos by Katie Viola

Before I get into discussing the songs, I’ll share some of Rojas’ eloquent words to provide context for I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND. “I started writing the album back in March of 2020. We had just gone into lockdown and I had nothing to do, so I just wrote music. Track 1, “In March of Nothing”, was actually written first and its title paves the way for what would be the concept of the entire album: loneliness. The title is both literal and figurative because 1) I literally had nothing to do in March, and 2) life felt so overwhelming that it confused my beliefs

During most of 2020 and 2021, I was dealing with a lot of personal issues that gave me a sense of emptiness and boredom. Eventually, I went sober, and for some reason, that exacerbated my loneliness, so I just got into making the album and it just so happened that I had something to say. With all the weirdness happening in politics and society, I felt more isolated, but I wanted to merge that confusing feeling with my personal life. I decided to be cryptic and discuss my childhood in La Puente, my drug use, my current relationships with people, and my interactions with my community and the public. I was also tired of feeling fear and resentment over the toxic behavior that was and still continues to come from the world, so I wanted to talk shit when I felt compelled. By the end of the creative process, I realized each facet was contributing to my loneliness in ways that I still don’t fully understand, but when it came to writing the words, I tried my best to be viscerally honest with myself.

I grew up going to punk shows and raves, and wanted to merge my love for both sounds, which inherently allowed me to push my musical boundaries while I was being inspired by nostalgia. It was definitely a weird formula, but it worked. Also, I had just opened my recording studio, MachineHouse Audio, so I had the privilege to experiment in all capacities with the sound, which I believe helped me get where I wanted to go. With starting the studio and dealing with lockdown, the economy and the world were flipped on their ass in all dimensions, and having trouble in my personal life, the message came back in full circle. The only thing that really stood out to me was that weird ambivalent type of loneliness that wasn’t negative nor positive. It was just filled with anxiety and equanimity, and I just happen to document where I was at the time.” 

As previously noted, the opening track “In March of Nothing” describes Rojas’ feelings of ennui and loneliness, as well as setting the overall tone for the album. The song starts off with ominous pulsating synths, portending rough times ahead. The music is gradually joined by a strong synth-bass beat as Rojas sings in a seductive, yet menacing voice “I am Jack’s lonely heart club band. Info news feeds me shit on high demand. The common clutch for the plastic adults. Programmed into the culture of cults. Hit me where it hurts. Enough to feel the burn.” As the song progresses, the music and vocals grow harsher and more intense, finally erupting into a bone-crushing maelstrom of dystopian madness as Rojas screams “They want my fun! They can have my fun! But the party is over!”

And speaking of dystopian madness, “LoveFuck” is a two-minute, 56-second-long psychedelic trip into hell. Machinekit unleash their sonic weaponry with a furious barrage of raging guitars, tortured industrial synths, crushing bass and explosive percussion. Rojas channels his inner beast as he savagely rails of his disillusionment over romantic love: “Young adults have all the fun. Pop-stars with fake luck. Click-bait when you’re done. Is it better than a morning fuck? Oh, What I wear fits. Oh, What I fear hits. Fear of missing out throughout those years. I don’t know where the feeling lives!” His vocals are so intensely feral, he’s left panting by song’s end, while I’m covered with goosebumps!

Distressor” sees Rojas questioning our belief systems and why we follow leaders who don’t seem to know what they’re doing either: “Who’s your modern angel of death? Aren’t you fuckin’ bored to death with picking someone to reform your thoughts? Public figures conduct chess fights. Do you really know wrong from right? I want a sign in full-form.” And on “Divebomb“, he ponders the soul-crushing impacts of the covid lockdowns: “Are you bored of staying in? Is your air getting thin inside your head, your home? Your head is a dead home.” In listening to the song, as well as the entire album, I was struck by its strong Nine Inch Nails vibe, and in fact, Rojas told me he’s a huge NIN fan. He really seems to channel Trent Reznor on this track, as his vocals go from seductive breathy whispers to brutal screams.

One of my favorite tracks is “Purge“, with its frantic, hard-driving techno/dance groove and glitchy industrial synths creating an intense, otherworldly soundscape. In a similar vein, “Glue” features loads of spacey distortion, glitches and blips layered over a hypnotic dance beat, punctuated with jagged, gnarly guitar riffs. Everything erupts into a bone-crushing crescendo in the choruses as Rojas wails “Your bloody thoughts have bloody clots. I can sense your dirty thoughts. Our bloody clogs have bloody spots. I can feel them when I’m not.” On the moody and psychedelic “Anti Anti“, Rojas seems to question his faith, acknowledging the sobering thought that whatever he or any of us believe, we’re all going to end up the same at the end: “And I’ll make my own damn bed at the very end. Cause the dirt is my home. I’m all alone, and I will belong to the worms.” I really like the haunting piano and trippy synths on this song.

One of the standouts is “Whore On The Floor“, a very dark song about the inner conflict between using our guile and physical beauty to get what we want, but also willingly submitting ourselves to those who take advantage of us. Rojas elaborates: “The song and the video for “Whore on The Floor” are intentionally explicit. As the first lyrics says, “Am I a whore on the floor? When I want to,” I have a conversation with myself of how I feel like a whore in many forms. The video portrays me being submissive to a beautiful woman, so I use my sexuality or sexuality in general to illustrate that concept. That song is very literal but can be associated with many things, ie: sex, love, life, money, power, friendship, etc. This again is tied to how the act of being submissive makes me feel like shit and lonely.” The ominous glitchy industrial synths, combined with Rojas’ menacing vocals – which culminate with his screams of “And what you want from me, won’t come for free!” – creates a dangerously sexy vibe.

The instrumental track “__X__” features a repeat of the glitchy synths heard in “Whore On The Floor”, accompanied by hauntingly beautiful sounds that serve as lead-in to the gorgeous closing track “Stressor“. Nearly six minutes long, the song is a magnificent tour de force, with a glorious kaleidoscope of shimmery guitars, spooky industrial synths, grinding bass and thunderous percussion, all of which blend in perfect alchemy to create a darkly cinematic wall of sound that’s at turns both breathtaking and terrifying. Rojas defiantly calls out those who threaten our individuality and identities with their judgemental, soul-killing influencer bullshit: “And then these gatekeepers intervene. They kill our dream with their social scenes. And I stare off in disbelief. So called decent motherfuckers just act like thieves./ And press the stress into my voice. I hear my name inside the noise. Outgrow each god and their brands. I am still Jack’s lonely heart club band.

Like many albums I’ve reviewed, it took a couple of listens for me to fully appreciate I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND. With each successive listen, I heard more nuances in the myriad sounds and textures of its instrumentation, as well as the complex rhythms and melodies that give the songs such incredible impact and depth. Besides, who doesn’t need some brutally intense music to work out those aggressions now and then! Rojas and company have much to be proud of here, as they’ve created an exceptional, beautifully-crafted record. If you’re a fan of bands like Nine Inch Nails or Daughters, you will enjoy this album.

Follow MACHINEKIT: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase on Bandcamp  

Top 30 Songs for March 27-April 2, 2022

Well, it was only a matter of time until my favorite artist Two Feet landed atop my Weekly Top 30 again. This week, his hauntingly beautiful song of a futile unrequited love “Caviar” becomes his ninth single to reach #1 on my weekly chart. I love the song’s smoldering trip hop groove, captivating Latin-style guitars, cinematic synths, and his vocals that transition from seductive purr in the verses to vulnerable falsetto in the choruses. Like many of his recent videos, this one was also created by Allison Michael, and features vintage black and white film noir footage that nicely captures the song’s moody vibes. Two Feet is currently on tour in South America.

On a very sad note, like millions of others I’m shocked and heartbroken over the untimely death of Foo Fighters‘ beloved drummer Taylor Hawkins, which happened while the band was also on tour in South America. It’s a terrible and tragic loss not only for the Foos and Taylor’s family, but also the entire music world. Their latest – and rather prophetically-titled song “Love Dies Young” moves up a notch to #13.

In other chart developments, Portugal. The Man‘s “What, Me Worry?” leaps 10 spots to #3, and the enchanting “B-Side” by the amazing Texas duo Khruangbin, with silky vocals by equally incredible fellow Texan Leon Bridges, enters the top 10. “Deception”, by British producer/composer Noodle Beard, with dramatic vocals by Hannah Reem, continues its rapid ascent, climbing six spots to #14. The lone debut this week is the lovely and mellow “La Cienega” by British post-rock band Chief Springs, one of the many acts I discovered as a guest moderator for Fresh On The Net.

  1. CAVIAR – Two Feet (2)
  2. THE ONLY HEARTBREAKER – Mitski (1)
  3. WHAT, ME WORRY? – Portugal. The Man (13)
  4. HEAD IN THE CLOUDS – Thunder Fox (6)
  5. JUST LIKE ALWAYS – Oli Barton & the Movement (7)
  6. REDCHURCH STREET BLUES – Philip Morgan Lewis (8)
  7. I’LL CALL YOU MINE – girl in red (9)
  8. BROKEN HEARTS – Ships Have Sailed (10)
  9. CHAPSTICK – COIN (3)
  10. B-SIDE – Khruangbin & Leon Bridges (11)
  11. ONE AND THE SAME – Future Theory (4)
  12. TWO CAR FAMILY – Apollo Junction (5)
  13. LOVE DIES YOUNG – Foo Fighters (14)
  14. DECEPTION – Noodle Beard featuring Hannah Reem (20)
  15. GIVE A LITTLE LOVIN’ – Jamie Alimorad (17)
  16. BLACK SUMMER – Red Hot Chili Peppers (18)
  17. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (19)
  18. SOMETHING FROM NOTHING/POINTS OF LIGHT – Secret Postal Society (15)
  19. OH MY GOD – Adele (12)
  20. BROKEN HORSES – Brandi Carlisle (24)
  21. ONCE TWICE MELODY – Beach House (25)
  22. CHEER UP BABY – Inhaler (26)
  23. I LOVE YOU – Fontaines D.C. (27)
  24. SLEEP – Gooseberry (28)
  25. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (29)
  26. THE HARDEST CUT – Spoon (16)
  27. WAKE ME UP – Foals (21)
  28. IF YOU EVER LEAVE, I’M COMING WITH YOU – The Wombats (23)
  29. I SEE THE SUN – Solar Eyes (22) 18th week on list
  30. LA CIENEGA – Chief Springs (N)

Fresh New Tracks, Vol 13 – The Orphan The Poet, Gooseberry, Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster

After devoting my previous two Fresh New Tracks posts to artists and bands from the UK, I’m back in America to shine my spotlight on three great new singles by four acts I’m particularly fond of – The Orphan The Poet, Gooseberry and Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster. So, without further ado…

THE ORPHAN THE POET – “Feelin’ Good (Could Be Better)”

Alternative pop-rock duo The Orphan The Poet are one of the most delightful acts I’ve come across in a while. Based in Columbus, Ohio, they consist of vocalist and guitarist David Eselgroth and bassist Jake Floyd, both lifelong friends. With a winning combination of irrepressible charm, high energy and zany playfulness, they leave a trail of joy and color in their wake. Plus they make some pretty terrific music too! I first featured them on a previous Fresh New Tracks post in February 2021 when I reviewed their electrifying single “The Moxie”. Now they’re back with a new single “Feelin’ Good (Could Be Better)“, and it’s catchy, upbeat and fun, which is what their music is all about.

Written and recorded by David and Jake, with assistance from their producer and long-time collaborator Matthew Bach Squire, and musician Jacob Virgil, the song is about feeling generally okay about your life, but not allowing yourself to settle, instead always striving to do and be better: “Don’t stop, now or never / Call up my fortune teller / On top, but it’s whatever / Feelin’ good, but could be better.” Musically, the song is an exuberant stomper, with bouncy riffs, driving bass and snappy drums, accompanied throughout by a jaunty organ riff that adds some great texture. David’s fervent vocals, backed by his and Jake’s soaring harmonies, dial up the song’s overall energy.

The guys will soon be embarking on a national U.S. tour with Weathers and Moontower, so click here for dates and cities.

Follow The Orphan The Poet:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

GOOSEBERRY – “Broken Dance”

And speaking of irrepressible charm, Brooklyn, New York-based Gooseberry have it in spades. Formed in 2019, and comprised of Asa Daniels (guitar/vocals), Sam Rappaport (keyboards/vocals), Will Hammond (bass) and Evin Rossington (drums), together they blend indie rock, R&B and light jazz to create their own distinctive sound that’s both incredibly pleasing and sophisticated. And having two lead singers is another big plus, as both Asa and Sam have wonderful voices. I first learned about them late last summer when Sam followed me on Instagram, and I quickly became a fan of both him and Gooseberry. Their immense talent, strong charisma and playful sense of humor won me over. Besides, how can you not love these guys after seeing this photo of them with their heads together?

I wrote about Sam last November when I reviewed his terrific solo single “Journeyman’s Ballet”, and am now thrilled to feature Gooseberry’s new single “Broken Dance“. Their fifth single, it follows “Sleep”, which they released only a month ago, and is the title track from their forthcoming debut EP Broken Dance. (“Sleep” recently debuted on my Weekly Top 30, and is assured to have a long run.) It’s beautiful and contemplative, with a languid, jazzy vibe, highlighted by Sam’s lovely, melancholic piano keys and pensive, beguiling vocals, and nicely complemented by Asa’s sparkling guitar notes, Will’s subtle bass and Evin’s perfect drumbeats. 

“Broken Dance” touches on ambition, failure and regret. Sam further elaborated to me: “The song is the tale of an idealistic young artist who sets off with a romantic partner to find success on the horizon. What unfolds is not only an account of the failure of those dreams (‘We tried to make it, but somehow time was taken away from me.’), but also an admission that the pursuit of those dreams came at the expense of someone else (“….and I never let you breathe…This dance, let’s break it. The dreams we shared were all mine anyway.”). [It’s basically] a song about the man who sets out to be someone, and the woman who finds herself but a prop on which to lean.” It’s another superb song from this great band on the rise.

Follow Gooseberry:  FacebookInstagram

Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster – “Kids”

Brian Lambert is an engaging, thoughtful and prolific singer-songwriter and musician based in Denton, Texas. He’s been writing and recording music for many years, and according to his bio, he’s “reinvented himself more times than he can count.” He even tried his hand at country music for a while, but came to the realization that it just wasn’t for him. More recently, he’s been making indie rock music inspired by some of his favorite acts like Spoon, Gang of Youths and the Replacements. He used to play gigs all over the DFW metroplex, but beginning in 2021, he challenged himself to writing, recording and producing a new song every week for a year.

Marc Schuster is an insanely creative and multi-talented renaissance man. Not only is he an educator, author and literary critic, he’s also a prolific songwriter and musician, recording both as a solo artist and as part of multiple music projects and collaborations with other musicians. He’s also a pretty decent visual artist, and if all that wasn’t enough, he’s 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. I’ve featured him three times on my blog, most recently last month when I reviewed his wonderful EP There Is No Down.

Supportive of other artists in his own right, Brian was recently inspired to write his latest song “Kids“, after hearing “This Can’t Be It”, a moving song by Oklahoma country singer-songwriter Matt Moran, with spare lyrics addressing the struggles of trying to make it as a musician. “Kids” further explores those struggles, urging us to hold onto our youthful sense of innocence and wonder, expressed by the lyrics “And when everything went wrong, we sang a brand new song. I want y’all to sing along, like we did when we were kids.”

After writing the song, he felt something was missing, so he reached out to Marc, asking for advice and thoughts as to whether his song needed synthesizers or something else. Marc came up with a great synth accompaniment for Brian’s fine guitar work, as well as some backing vocals that enhance Brian’s plaintive vocals, nicely filling out the song and giving it a wonderful anthemic rock vibe. I think it’s one of Brian’s best songs yet.

Marc also created a fantastic poster for the song, which Brian used for its cover art. 

Follow Brian:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Follow Marc:  BlogTwitterInstagram

Irish Singer-Songwriter Brí releases video for her beautiful song “Time”

It was almost exactly one year ago, on March 19, 2021, that I first introduced Dublin-based singer-songwriter Brí to my readers when I reviewed her hauntingly beautiful song “More Than”. Her pleasing style of indie pop features folk and electronic overtones which, combined with her heartfelt lyrics and lovely, resonant vocals, results in deeply compelling songs of incredible beauty and emotional depth. She followed “More Than” with two more singles, “If I Wasn’t Scared” and “In My Head”, then in October (2021), she released her debut full-length album Hide, an outstanding record that includes those three aforementioned singles, as well as the beautiful song “Time“, for which Brí has just released a new video.

About “Time”, Brí stated that it’s “the song I hold most dear from my album Hide. Written about a heart that’s taking too long to mend, ‘Time’ is what I thought that feeling would sound like.” For the recording of the song, which was mixed and mastered by Asta Kalapa, the understated but stunning piano was played by Jake Richardson, and the lovely cello by Kaitlin Cullen-Verhauz.

Brí’s beautiful but melancholy vocals powerfully convey her frustration and sadness as she laments to someone who cannot fully commit to a relationship: “Cause you told me you missed me, you want me back. And you smiled with your eyes as you held my hand. Now you’re saying you need time to think again. Oh, what am I to you, cause I’m not your friend. No, I’m not your friend. Do you need time, do you need time, you can have all mine.” 

The music video, filmed in black and white in a single take by Mark Doyle at Windmill Lane Studios, shows Brí singing the song in a dimly lit room. I like that the focus is on her, with soft backlighting against a blurry background, which makes for a more impactful visual.

Follow Brí:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream/purchase her music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Bandcamp

Top 30 Songs for March 20-26, 2022

Mitski‘s bouyant but lyrically compelling dance-pop single “The Only Heartbreaker” remains at #1 for a second week on my latest Top 30, while Two Feet‘s darkly beautiful and sultry “Caviar” closes in at #2. Entering the top 10 are “I’ll Call You Mine” by young Norwegian artist girl in red (aka Marie Ulven Ringheim) and “Broken Hearts” by L.A. pop-rock duo Ships Have Sailed, who’ve had numerous songs appear on my Weekly Top 30 lists over the past three years.

The biggest upward movers on this week’s chart are “What, Me Worry?” by Portland-based alt-rock band Portugal. The Man, which jumps seven spots to #13, and the haunting James Bond-esque “Deception”, by British producer/composer Noodle Beard, with captivating vocals by Hannah Reem, which climbs eight spots to #20. After 10 songs having made their debut over the previous three weeks, there are no new entries this week.

  1. THE ONLY HEARTBREAKER – Mitski (1)
  2. CAVIAR – Two Feet (5)
  3. CHAPSTICK – COIN (4)
  4. ONE AND THE SAME – Future Theory (3)
  5. TWO CAR FAMILY – Apollo Junction (2)
  6. HEAD IN THE CLOUDS – Thunder Fox (8)
  7. JUST LIKE ALWAYS – Oli Barton & the Movement (9)
  8. REDCHURCH STREET BLUES – Philip Morgan Lewis (10)
  9. I’LL CALL YOU MINE – girl in red (11)
  10. BROKEN HEARTS – Ships Have Sailed (12)
  11. B-SIDE – Khruangbin & Leon Bridges (13)
  12. OH MY GOD – Adele (7)
  13. WHAT, ME WORRY? – Portugal. The Man (20)
  14. LOVE DIES YOUNG – Foo Fighters (17)
  15. SOMETHING FROM NOTHING/POINTS OF LIGHT – Secret Postal Society (16)
  16. THE HARDEST CUT – Spoon (6)
  17. GIVE A LITTLE LOVIN’ – Jamie Alimorad (19)
  18. BLACK SUMMER – Red Hot Chili Peppers (21)
  19. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (23)
  20. DECEPTION – Noodle Beard featuring Hannah Reem (28)
  21. WAKE ME UP – Foals (14)
  22. I SEE THE SUN – Solar Eyes (15)
  23. IF YOU EVER LEAVE, I’M COMING WITH YOU – The Wombats (22)
  24. BROKEN HORSES – Brandi Carlisle (24)
  25. ONCE TWICE MELODY – Beach House (25)
  26. CHEER UP BABY – Inhaler (26)
  27. I LOVE YOU – Fontaines D.C. (27)
  28. SLEEP – Gooseberry (29)
  29. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (30)
  30. THE OUTSIDE – twenty øne piløts (18)

Fresh New Tracks, Vol 12 – IAMWARFACE, Paul Iwan & Lines of Flight/The Ocean Beneath

It’s back to the UK for my latest edition of Fresh New Tracks, and today I’m featuring three powerful new singles by acts I’ve previously featured on this blog – IAMWARFACE, Paul Iwan and The Ocean Beneath, as well as Lines of Flight, an act I’ve not written about before, who collaborated with The Ocean Beneath on the track I’m including.

IAMWARFACE – “The Black Room”

British nu-rock band IAMWARFACE are one of my favorite acts, who I’ve happily featured on this blog many times. From the moment I first heard their explosive debut single “Say My Name” in 2016, I’ve been a devoted fan. Based in Brighton and London, and fronted by the immensely talented and flamboyant singer/songwriter and producer Matt Warneford, their aggressive name is a fitting metaphor for their bombastic groove-based style of electro-rock. Warneford has a commanding presence and powerhouse singing voice, with the ability to raise our adrenaline with his dramatic impassioned vocals. Since their debut, they’ve continued to deliver one incredible song after another. Three of their singles – “Say My Name”, “Closer” and “Fear the Future” – have reached #1 on my Weekly Top 30 chart, with “Closer” ranking #58 on my Top 100 Songs of the 2010s.

With their latest release, “The Black Room“, IAMWARFACE deliver more of their signature incendiary rock we’ve come to love and expect. I love their massive sound, highlighted by searing riffs, grinding basslines, explosive percussion and moody industrial synths, all of which blend together in a combustible alchemy to create a darkly beautiful backdrop for Warneford’s fearsome vocals. The song was actually written a couple of years ago, and has been played by the band in their live set for a while. They decided it was time to have it fully mixed and mastered, and released to the world, and we fans are glad they did! It’s another sparkling gem in their unbroken string of superb singles.

Connect with IAMWARFACE:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

PAUL IWAN – “CONTROL”

Another long-time favorite of mine is singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Paul Iwan, who’s based in Liverpool. We’ve been following one another on social media for nearly six years as well, and I’ve also written about him and his music numerous times. Paul’s an outstanding guitarist and songwriter, with a strong, resonant and emotive vocal style. His powerful single “Reward”, which was a cover of the song originally recorded by Liverpool new wave band The Teardrop Explodes, spent four months on my Weekly Top 30, and ranks #50 on my Top 100 Songs of 2020.

Paul has just released a powerful video for “CONTROL“, one of the songs from his forthcoming album PRESENT, due for release on April 8th. The video, filmed and directed by Scott Mealey in Waterloo Methodist Church in Liverpool, shows Paul performing the song against a backdrop of historic imagery of troubling events and strife, courtesy of TechNoir. Of special note is that Paul is playing his beautiful 1965 lime green Framus guitar, once owned by The Teardrop Explodes frontman Julian Cope, which he purchased in a broken state and lovingly restored. Paul, who has struggled with PTSD and addiction, states that the song is a confrontation of fear, and a reminder of the power within us all to overcome those fears. For the recording of the track, Paul played the blistering guitars, haunting piano keys and sweeping synths, Jim Duncan played additional guitar and Steven Burkert played drums.

Connect with Paul Iwan: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

THE OCEAN BENEATH & LINES OF FLIGHT – “Strands”

The Ocean Beneath is the electronic music project of Leeds-based musician, composer and producer Matt Burnside. Influenced by bands such as Gunship, HVOB and Talk Talk, he combines 80’s synthpop elements with modern recording techniques, analogue synthesis and huge melodic grooves to create music that sounds retro, yet fresh. Like many electronic artists, he often collaborates with other musicians and vocalists, and has released a sizable amount of terrific music, some of which I’ve reviewed previously. His enchanting collaborative single “Skin”, with Leeds-based singer-songwriter and electronic musician Fran Minney, earned a spot on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list.

Lines of Flight are a Leeds-based dreamwave/synthpop/electro-folk duo comprised of Matthew Henderson and Helen Whale. They started collaborating as strangers at the beginning of the lockdown in March 2020, recording songs using only iPhone handsets & headphones. Their sound is influenced by Depeche Mode, Joy Division, OMD, Gary Numan, The Cure, New Order and Eurythmics, all acts who are also strong influences for IAMWARFACE. In the two years since they began, they’ve released 10 singles. Their latest single “Strands“, a collaboration with The Ocean Beneath, is their eleventh.

The origin of “Strands” began as a series of 20 tweets written by Matthew starting around Christmas 2019 and continuing through 2020 and 2021, about his personal struggles, painful memories of the loss of his father that seemed to cast a pall over every Christmas, the fact he was about to be a father for the first time, and the value of music to help him get though it all. After publishing them as one coherent piece he named “Strands” in December 2021, The Ocean Beneath urged Matthew to record these tweets as a spoken word piece. Together, The Ocean Beneath and Lines of Flight then composed a hauntingly beautiful ambient instrumental to go with the written piece. There are two tracks, the first with Matthew’s spoken vocals, and the second an instrumental-only piece.

Connect with The Ocean Beneath: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Connect with Lines of Flight:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Fresh New Tracks, Vol 11: Amongst Liars, FloodHounds & Mount Famine

As some of my regular readers and Twitter followers know, my recent bout of serious burnout caused me to decide, for the second time in six months, to quit writing music reviews. The fact that I actually do not enjoy writing, combined with a relentless and often overwhelming flood of submissions and requests for reviews from artists and PR firms, have time and again caused me tremendous anxiety and stress. On the other hand, I do enjoy lending support to indie artists and bands who follow me on social media in whatever small ways I can. Obviously, giving them a bit of press is an important part of that support. I’d like to continue doing so, but the challenge is finding a way to accomplish that without burning myself out again.

In order to continue featuring new music, I’ve decided to resurrect my ‘Fresh New Tracks’ series, which has been on a hiatus since I last wrote one in October 2021. For the series, I feature three or four new songs by various artists, with a few paragraphs about each one, rather than a full-blown review. Though they were generally well-received, I got the sense that some artists were not happy sharing the limelight with other artists or bands. But as more than a few musicians have told me, artists and bands should be grateful for any press, especially when I’m giving it to them for free.

Also, many of my reviews tend to be rather wordy and long, and being a slow, meticulous writer, they take me quite a while to get done. This seems to be a counter-productive approach in this day and age, where most people have the attention spans of a gnat. Although most artists and bands love when I write extensive and detailed reviews of their music, I’m guessing that few people actually read those long reviews in their entirety. Therefore, a short, concise description of each song would seem to be more appealing to a lot of readers who are pressed for time. With that in mind, I will make a valiant attempt to write a Fresh New Tracks post each week going forward. Today I’m featuring songs by three outstanding rock bands with great names from the UK, two of whom, Amongst Liars and FloodHounds, I’ve previously written about, as well as one that’s new to me, Mount Famine.

AMONGST LIARS – “Cut It”

Photo by Duncan Tyler

Hailing from Brighton & Eastbourne, Amongst Liars play a fiercely aggressive style of melodic hard rock, forged from a powerful trifecta of alternative rock, grunge and punk. Comprised of Ian George (lead vocals, guitar), Leo Burdett (guitar, backing vocals), Ross Towner (bass, backing vocals) and Adam Oarton (drums), they formed in September 2019 from the ashes of two successful previous bands – Saint Apache and Katalina Kicks. Not only are they all highly accomplished and talented musicians, they’re nice guys too. Ian in particular has been very supportive of me and my blog, which of course makes me a loyal fan who’s more than happy to support them as much as I can.

I first learned about them in early 2020, and was immediately blown away by their explosive debut single “Over and Over”. In the two succeeding years, they’ve followed with six more outstanding singles, many of which I’ve reviewed on this blog. Their latest is “Cut It“, a clarion call for people to stand up to abuse in all its forms. While they don’t consider themselves a ‘political’ band, Amongst Liars are not afraid to tackle some of the biggest socio-political issues of the day, including war mongering for financial gain, poverty, greed, fake news, deceitful politicians, election fraud, human rights abuses and climate change, and they’ve been outspoken advocates for social justice on several of their songs. About “Cut It”, the band explains: “These are difficult times behind many closed doors – words and actions can cause a lifetime of damage. Speak up for those being abused and bullied, and be kind – always.

The song is a ripper, overflowing with the signature searing riffs and pummeling rhythms we’ve come to love and expect from Amongst Liars. Then there’s that droning bass riff by Ross, creating a menacing vibe that chills us to the core. Ian has a beautiful singing voice that turns deadly when he needs to get his point across: “This violence bleeds silence, bleeds silence / Pray, lead us astray! Pray, just cut it!” I love the dark video, which shows the band performing the song surrounded by curtains of sheer fabric, creating powerful feelings of suffocating claustrophobia. “Cut It” will be included on their forthcoming self-titled debut album, due for release July 8th.

Follow Amongst Liars:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

FLOODHOUNDS – “Panic Stations”

Photo by Eleanor Freeman

FloodHounds are a terrific rock band from Sheffield who play a high-energy style of guitar-driven alternative rock, drenched in blues, punk and grunge influences. Formed in 2013, the band consists of Jack Flynn on guitar and vocals, Lauren Greaves on drums, and Anna Melidone, who replaced Joel Hughes on bass in summer of 2021. I’ve been following them for nearly six years, and they’re among the earliest bands I wrote about when my blog was still in its infancy, way back in October 2016 when I reviewed their excellent EP Look What You’ve Started.

In the years since, they’ve released numerous singles and a second EP Always in Sight, in 2019, and have toured extensively throughout the UK, including performances at the Isle of Wight and Liverpool Sound City festivals in 2019, as well as twice in Paris. FloodHounds remained active during the repeated lockdowns, putting out live streams and sessions for platforms such as Jagermeister, God Is In The TV Zine and Wentworth Festival, as well as self-producing a 10-track acoustic album. They also made the final shortlist of Record Store Day’s national video competition, and their innovative video for their single “Take It Too Far” garnered high placement at the London Music Video Festival 2020. Also in 2020, they released a brilliant single “Something Primeval“, a hard-hitting song about tapping into our inner resolve to survive in this world, which I also reviewed.

Now FloodHounds are back with “Panic Stations“, a stomping banger fueled by Jack’s jagged fuzz-soaked riffs, Anna’s grinding bassline and Lauren’s fearsome drumbeats. The biting lyrics call out those who spread lies and misinformation to sow fear and divisiveness, urging them to instead put their energy into trying to bring people together for a common good. “Panic Stations touches on the air of uncertainty we’ve all been labouring under“, explains Jack. “I wanted to write a song that echoed us roaring out of lockdown, and back into real life. The takeaway is that sticking together will serve us better than alienation and blind panic. It’s great fun to play live, it’s heavy but catchy, so people seem to really get on board with it.” In his arresting vocals, Jack emphatically implores “Give me something with meaning. And I will show you something to believe in. But if you just try and deceive me with all the lies that you hear blaring out your TV. It is your mission to heal division, so go and rally all the people who will listen.” It’s a great song.

Jack is also a photographer and graphic artist, and created the artwork for the single.

Follow FloodHounds:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

MOUNT FAMINE – “Distance”

Mount Famine are a rather enigmatic post punk/synth infused indie rock’n’roll project based in Derby. From what I can tell, they formed in 2019, and according to their bio, their sound is inspired by 80s bands such as The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs and Pet Shop Boys (all of whom I personally love too), and 90s bands like Manic Street Preachers, Pulp & Suede, along with “the same desire to tell stories that produce the adrenaline-fueled highs of indie disco dancefloors.” They have no photos of themselves on any of their social media, and I was told by band member Martin Stanier that they’ve steered away from photos, wanting the focus to instead be on their music. They’ve released four outstanding singles thus far, beginning in January 2020 with “Faith”, followed that July with “Pulse”, then “Lost” in February 2021, and now “Distance“, which dropped March 11th.

Martin reached out to me about “Distance” after seeing posts of my recent Top 30 song lists on Instagram, thinking it would be to my liking. Well, he was correct, as it’s right up my alley. With it’s rousing, guitar-driven melody, swirling cinematic synths and exuberant dance groove, all creating a glorious 80s-influenced wall of sound, it’s exactly the kind of sound I love. The band says the song was written and recorded on an old Roland synthesizer and beaten-up drumkit, which gives it that wonderful vintage 80s feel. The lyrics speak to the speed of life, and how it passes by with the blink of an eye, a sentiment they beautifully capture in the frenetic video.

Follow Mount Famine:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Top 30 Songs for March 13-19, 2022

Another week, another new #1 song, as there are so many great ones to choose from right now. Mitski‘s exuberant dance-pop gem “The Only Heartbreaker” takes over the top spot on my latest Weekly Top 30. From her latest album Laurel Hell, the brilliant track was co-written by Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson, marking the first time she’s ever teamed up with another songwriter. She told Apple Music that her collaboration with Wilson came about because she’d been struggling with the track for ages: “I was just sitting on it forever. I have so many iterations of it. Nothing felt right. He helped me solve so many of the problems and kind of lead me out of the labyrinth of it. And yeah, I’m really glad that I took that chance with him.

Mitski wrote most of the songs for Laurel Hell in 2018 before finishing the album during the covid lockdowns, and she struggled to find a coherent theme for the overall album. In an interview for Rolling Stone, she explained: “This album has been a punk record at some point, and a country record. Then, after a while, it was like, ‘I need to dance.’ Even though the lyrics [for ‘The Only Heartbreaker’] might be depressing, I need something peppy to get me through this.” For the recording of the song, she programmed synths and keyboards and her longtime producer Patrick Hyland played guitar and percussion.

Holding at #3 and #4 are “One and the Same” by British alternative psychedelic rock band Future Theory, which features some of the most stunning guitar work I’ve heard recently, and the sexy “Chapstick” by Nashville pop-rock band COIN. And speaking of stunning guitars, Two Feet‘s sultry “Caviar” jumps five spots to #5. Entering the top 10 are songs by three acts I’m particularly fond of: “Head in the Clouds” by Australian soul-funk band Thunder Fox, “Just Like Always” by British alt-rock band Oli Barton & the Movement, and “Redchurch Street Blues” by London singer-songwriter extraordinaire Philip Morgan Lewis.

Four gorgeous new songs make their debut this week at #s 27-30: “I Love You” by Fontaines D.C., “Deception” by British producer/composer Noodle Beard, featuring breathtaking vocals by Hannah Reem, “Sleep” by talented and charismatic Brooklyn four-piece Gooseberry, and “Chasing Trains” by British artist HULLAH. I learned about Noodle Beard/Hannah Reem and HULLAH a week ago when I heard their wonderful songs as a guest moderator of Fresh On The Net.

  1. THE ONLY HEARTBREAKER – Mitski (5)
  2. TWO CAR FAMILY – Apollo Junction (1)
  3. ONE AND THE SAME – Future Theory (3)
  4. CHAPSTICK – COIN (4)
  5. CAVIAR – Two Feet (10)
  6. THE HARDEST CUT – Spoon (2)
  7. OH MY GOD – Adele (9)
  8. HEAD IN THE CLOUDS – Thunder Fox (11)
  9. JUST LIKE ALWAYS – Oli Barton & the Movement & Maella (12)
  10. REDCHURCH STREET BLUES – Philip Morgan Lewis (13)
  11. I’LL CALL YOU MINE – girl in red (14)
  12. BROKEN HEARTS – Ships Have Sailed (15)
  13. B-SIDE – Khruangbin & Leon Bridges (16)
  14. WAKE ME UP – Foals (6)
  15. I SEE THE SUN – Solar Eyes (7)
  16. SOMETHING FROM NOTHING/POINTS OF LIGHT – Secret Postal Society (17)
  17. LOVE DIES YOUNG – Foo Fighters (19)
  18. THE OUTSIDE – twenty øne piløts (8)
  19. GIVE A LITTLE LOVIN’ – Jamie Alimorad (20)
  20. WHAT, ME WORRY? – Portugal. The Man (21)
  21. BLACK SUMMER – Red Hot Chili Peppers (22)
  22. IF YOU EVER LEAVE, I’M COMING WITH YOU – The Wombats (25)
  23. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (26)
  24. BROKEN HORSES – Brandi Carlisle (27)
  25. ONCE TWICE MELODY – Beach House (28)
  26. CHEER UP BABY – Inhaler (30)
  27. I LOVE YOU – Fontaines D.C. (N)
  28. DECEPTION – Noodle Beard featuring Hannah Reem (N)
  29. SLEEP – Gooseberry (N)
  30. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (N)

ALEXIS GERRED – Double Single Review: “Unbreakable” feat. MiG Ayesa & “Mary Go Round”

Alexis Gerred is an engaging and multi-faceted artist based in London, England. He began his career on stage, performing in productions of American IdiotOur House, Dreamboats and Petticoats, The West End Men, and Rooms, but his true passion is for music and singing. I last featured him on this blog in November 2018, when I reviewed his wonderful debut album Alexis (which you can read here). Now, I’m pleased to share his new double single “Unbreakable“, featuring vocals by MiG Ayesa, along with “Mary Go Round“, a cover of the song originally recorded by The Struts. 

“Unbreakable” was written by Gerred and produced by TylaJoe Connett, and is the lead single from his forthcoming EP, due for release later this year. The song features guest vocals by MiG Ayesa, the acclaimed Australian-Filipino singer and actor who’s performed on Broadway and London’s West End in such mega hits as Rock of Ages, Thriller Live, Annie, and We Will Rock You. It was Ayesa who’s responsible for inspiring Gerred to become an entertainer himself.

When Gerred saw his very first musical We Will Rock You, based on the career and music of Queen, in London’s West End and starring Ayesa, it was a revelation. He recalls: “I watched MiG Ayesa take to the stage and his delivery, passion and charisma flipped a switch inside me. Although I had never even attempted singing a note before, I knew I wanted to emulate him and follow a path that would one day see me up on that stage, too. I’ve followed his career and plucked inspiration from so many things he’s done. One that stands out in particular was his time on ‘Rockstar: INXS’ where I loved his rock ‘n roll style of showmanship.”

Having Ayesa record a song with him was a dream come true for Gerred, as not many artists get the opportunity to collaborate with the star who inspired them to make music to begin with. And let me state that the combination of these two talented and charismatic vocalists results in sonic fireworks. “Unbreakable” is the hardest rocking song Gerred’s ever done, and he really summons his inner beast to great effect, his raw vocals nicely contrasting and complementing Ayesa’s somewhat smoother vocal delivery. Musically, the song has an aggressive stomping groove and deliciously funky vibe reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I love the thunderous, driving rhythms and blistering guitars that hit full throttle in the bridge, highlighted by a screaming guitar solo that’s matched by note for note by the guys’ explosive vocal alchemy. Wow!

Collaborating on “Unbreakable” with Ayesa is even more meaningful given the personal nature of the song, which is based on a negative experience with a former acting agent. The song is about staying driven and focused on one’s dreams, an important message for many of us in today’s challenging, uncertain world. Gerred elaborates “This song is about resilience and determination. If I can inspire someone to take charge of their own lives and bounce back from adversity, that’s my goal.”

On his beautiful cover of the Struts song “Mary Go Round”, Gerred does great justice to the original, while making it his own. His vocals are a powerful combination of vulnerable and raw, beautifully conveying the feelings of pain and heartache of a broken relationship expressed in the poignant lyrics. “How long before my little pill starts kicking in. How long before your broken heart starts giving in? Here we go up, here we go down. Mary go round and round and round.”

It’s great to see Alexis Gerred back and sounding better than ever. Both “Unbreakable” and “Mary Go Round” are superb, and if the rest of the tracks on his upcoming EP are even half this good, it’s going to be a winner.

To learn more about Alexis, check out his website
Connect with him on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

Top 30 Songs for March 6-12, 2022

After a long, steady climb, the wonderfully ebullient “Two Car Family” by Leeds five-piece Apollo Junction has reached the pinnacle of my Weekly Top 30. The song is from their latest album All In, which is so full of great songs, I could just as easily have chosen some of its other tracks to place at the top of my list. I love their melodic, high-energy brand of electro pop-rock, and so do thousands of adoring fans. I’m so happy to see their star continue to rise.

In other major chart developments this week, the captivating song of unrequited love “Caviar”, by my favorite artist Two Feet, leaps 10 spots to #10. I love the sultry vibe and gorgeous Latin-flavored guitars. Counting both his solo tracks and collaborations with SubUrban and grandson, Two Feet has continuously had a song on my Weekly Top 30 every single week since early November of 2020! Portugal. The Man‘s “What Me Worry?” and the Red Hot Chili Peppers‘ “Black Summer” both climb six spots to #21 and #22, respectively. Finally, there’s so much great new music out now, I wanted to add at least eight new tracks this week. But that would have required dropping eight from my list, which I just could not do. So, I had to settle for only three stellar new additions: “Broken Horses” by Brandi Carlisle, “Once Twice Melody” by Beach House, and “Cheer Up Baby” by Inhaler.

  1. TWO CAR FAMILY – Apollo Junction (3)
  2. THE HARDEST CUT – Spoon (1)
  3. ONE AND THE SAME – Future Theory (4)
  4. CHAPSTICK – COIN (6)
  5. THE ONLY HEARTBREAKER – Mitski (8)
  6. WAKE ME UP – Foals (5)
  7. I SEE THE SUN – Solar Eyes (2)
  8. THE OUTSIDE – twenty øne piløts (7)
  9. OH MY GOD – Adele (10)
  10. CAVIAR – Two Feet (20)
  11. HEAD IN THE CLOUDS – Thunder Fox (11)
  12. JUST LIKE ALWAYS – Oli Barton & the Movement & Maella (13)
  13. REDCHURCH STREET BLUES – Philip Morgan Lewis (14)
  14. I’LL CALL YOU MINE – girl in red (16)
  15. BROKEN HEARTS – Ships Have Sailed (17)
  16. B-SIDE – Khruangbin & Leon Bridges (19)
  17. SOMETHING FROM NOTHING/POINTS OF LIGHT – Secret Postal Society (18)
  18. MAGNIFICENT HURT – Elvis Costello & the Imposters (15)
  19. LOVE DIES YOUNG – Foo Fighters (21)
  20. GIVE A LITTLE LOVIN’ – Jamie Alimorad (22)
  21. WHAT, ME WORRY? – Portugal. The Man (27)
  22. BLACK SUMMER – Red Hot Chili Peppers (28)
  23. STARTS WITH YOU – Shimmer Johnson (9) 19th week on chart
  24. CRUTCH – Band of Horses (12)
  25. IF YOU EVER LEAVE, I’M COMING WITH YOU – The Wombats (26)
  26. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (29)
  27. BROKEN HORSES – Brandi Carlisle (N)
  28. ONCE TWICE MELODY – Beach House (N)
  29. WON’T STAND DOWN – Muse (30)
  30. CHEER UP BABY – Inhaler (N)