Given my hiatus from writing reviews (notwithstanding my recent 30-day song challenge), it’s been over three months since I’ve written a Fresh New Tracks post. Now that I’m feeling more rested, I’ve decided to dip my toes back into the turgid waters of review-writing, steadfast with determination going foward to not allow myself to become overwhelmed or burned out. With that in mind, today I’m featuring new songs by three great bands I’ve previously written about on this blog – British rockers Black Bear Kiss, and two female-fronted rock bands from Texas, The Metal Byrds and Tough on Fridays.
BLACK BEAR KISS – “Chasing All I Know”
Black Bear Kiss have been a favorite of this blog for over four years, since June 2018 when I reviewed their terrific debut single “Hooks”. Over the succeeding four years, they’ve released a number of fine singles, most of which I’ve also reviewed. With their exhilarating, guitar-driven rock sound, strong charisma and rowdy live performances, they’ve built a loyal following in their home base of the West Midlands/Shropshire region of England and beyond. In June of last year, the band was shaken by the tragic and sudden passing of one of their guitarists Rob Jones from a previously undisclosed heart ailment. Now soldiering on as a four-piece, Black Bear Kiss consists of Chris Leech on lead vocals, Colin Haden on guitar, Rich Sach on bass, and Chris Bagnall on drums.
To honor Rob, as well as to help raise funds for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), a charity aimed at raising funds for cardiac screening, research and the support of families affected, the band released a single “The First Time” this past February. Now they return with their latest single “Chasing All I Know“, which was one of Rob’s favourite songs. The track was recorded at the iconic Foal Studio in Wales, with Rob’s cousin Mike playing rhythm guitar using Rob’s own Gibson Les Paul. About the song, band vocalist Chris Leech explains: “We all have different pressures in our lives. This track is about feeling like you’re at the centre of everything and trying to get back to a place or feeling that you know – it’s also got some grunt which is what we are all about!” Black Bear Kiss delivers their signature driving rhythms we’ve come to love and expect, overlain with roiling riffs of grungy guitars and thumping drumbeats. Leech’s expressive vocals sound better than ever as he fervently sings “There’s all these people standing by my side. I just want you to tell me it’s alright. I’m at the center of it, I’m chasing, I’m chasing all I know now, whoa.”
THE METAL BYRDS – “Vicious Circle”
The song is an exhilarating banger, driven by a hard-charging rhythm, courtesy of Mac’s brilliant chugging bassline and Charlie’s pummeling drums. Sly lays down an aggressive onslaught of gnarly riffs, highlighted by a blazing guitar solo in the bridge. And Suzanne’s powerful, resonant vocals are in fine form as she fervently wails the lyrics describing the torture of insomnia, keeping her awake with worries and anxiety that she’ll never be able to sleep: “Here we go again, a vicious circle. Can’t get it started. Round and around again.” It’s a fantastic song, and I think it’s one of their best yet. The wonderful video shows Suzanne suffering the agonies of insomnia, interspersed with rather humorous scenes of her bandmates performing the song while on her bed, adding to her sleepless misery.
The Metal Byrds are a female-fronted rock band based in Austin, Texas, who play a hard-hitting style of rock, infused with healthy doses of rock’n’roll and power pop, along with enough metal in the mix to give their songs a dark, edgy quality. Formed in 2018, the band has undergone a few personnel changes, and now consists of founding members London-born singer-songwriter Suzanne Birdie and guitarist Sly Rye, along with bassist Mac Jacob and drummer Charlie Breeze. Over the past three-plus years, they’ve released three EPs – The Song Byrd in April 2019, Byrds on a Wyre in June 2020, and Life in 20 in October 2020 (which I reviewed) – and an album simply titled 4, in September 2021. On July 15th, they released “Vicious Circle“, the lead single from their forthcoming album BIRDIE LANE, due for release later this year.
TOUGH ON FRIDAYS – “Growing Pains”
Hailing from Georgetown, Texas, not far from Austin, grunge pop-rock trio Tough on Fridays have been on an upward trajectory since forming in 2017. Now consisting of Caleigh Oceguera on vocals & guitar, Carly Fairchild on bass & vocals, and Chris Schreck on drums, they’ve garnered an enormous base of loyal fans through their memorable music, relatable lyrics and high-energy live shows. Blending elements of indie, alt-rock, pop and grunge, they create their own unique style of edgy rock ‘n roll. Since 2017, they’ve released numerous singles and EPs, which culminated in the release of their outstanding debut album A Fantastic Way to Kill Some Time, in September 2020 (my review has been viewed more than 1,100 times, making it the fourth most-viewed album review I’ve written.)
In the two years since, they’ve released several singles, the latest of which is “Growing Pains“, which dropped August 15th. The song has a pleasing folk-rock vibe, highlighted by Caleigh’s lovely strummed guitar work, while Carly and Chris keep the lively rhythm on their bass and drums. The subtle piano keys are a nice touch, adding to the song’s melodic sound. Caleigh’s slightly echoed vocals have a vulnerable quality, providing a rather melancholy undercurrent to the track as she plaintively sings the lyrics directed to a former loved one that she’s moving on from the relationship: “Growing pains. Sick of hearing how I’ve changed. Cause I’ve outgrown you, I don’t need you. Cause I’m pulling all your weight. Done cleaning up the mess you’ve made. You always made./ Am I bitter? Just feeling better.” It’s a wonderful, beautifully-crafted and masterfully-arranged track that nicely showcases Tough on Fridays’ continued growth and musical maturity.