FUTURE THEORY – Single Review: “Fractured Nation”

Fractured Nation

I seem to be revisiting a lot of artists and bands lately that I’ve previously featured on this blog, as many of them are releasing new music. One of them is the astonishingly talented UK band Future Theory.  The Lincolnshire-based foursome consists of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Rex Helley on bass, and Rohan Parrett on drums. Drawing inspiration from bands such as Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Audioslave, Queens of the Stone Age and The Verve, they’ve developed a lavish sound built on elements of alternative and progressive rock, shoegaze, psychedelia and funk. I’m not exaggerating when I use the word ‘astonishing’ to describe them, as their outstanding music has a complexity and depth that’s impressive for such a young band. And if that weren’t enough, Max’s amazing vocal style exhibits a nuanced emotional intensity that seems mature beyond his years.

future theory

Future Theory released their magnificent debut EP Fool’s Dream in 2016 (which I reviewed), and now follow up with a brilliant new single “Fractured Nation,” which dropped today, the 27th of April. The songs on the EP were all spectacular, setting a very high bar for the band, and “Fractured Nation” not only reaches but leaps over that bar.

The track is fantastic, with exuberant layers of chiming and distorted guitars, sparkling synths and Rohan’s wildly crashing cymbals. Max’s sultry impassioned vocals are captivating as he croons “There’s no syncopation in this fractured nation. It’s like druids spinning around. Zone in zone out. I feel the whole world slipping inside out. Is that what people dream about?” At about the halfway point, our eardrums are greeted by riffs of chiming guitars so stunning they bring chills. The music continues to build to a crescendo, before ultimately dissipating into an extended distorted guitar note lasting fifteen seconds to close out the track. It’s perfection from start to finish, and I’m elated that Future Theory has delivered such a marvelous song for our listening enjoyment. I’m excited to hear what musical delights they come up with next.

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Google Play /  YouTube
Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

JON MAGNUSSON – EP Review: “Always a Rebel”

Jon_Magnusson

Jon Magnusson is a songwriter and musician from Stockholm, and the first Swedish artist I’ve featured on this blog. He’s been writing and producing his own songs for over twelve years, but more recently has been putting a greater emphasis into playing, singing, recording and producing music. His sound could best be described as folk with touches of rock, pop and occasional punk influences and, as he muses, “an occasional jazzy beat thrown in to keep listeners on their toes.” His primary instrument is the guitar, both acoustic and electric, but he’s also adept at programming drums, strings and keyboards.

Another big interest of Jon’s is languages and literature. Speaking and reading Swedish, English and even Spanish, he’s found inspiration in different cultures and has recorded songs in all three languages. In addition, as a professional social worker he also appreciates how interpersonal relations can affect humans in a positive direction and he brings that to his music as well. And finally, though he’s not quite as passionate about politics as when he was younger, his sensibilities still lie left of center, and he’s always striving for a more equal society, which is reflected in some of his lyrics, and something that definitely has appeal for me.

In March, he released his latest effort, a five-track EP titled Always a Rebel. The first track “Rely on Me” is an upbeat message of unconditional support to a friend or loved one. The fine layered guitars, sparkling synths and peppy drums make for a really warm and pleasing song.

I’m Not the Only One” is a pretty, bittersweet song that’s rather sad but hopeful. About the lyrics, Jon explains “I wrote this song the summer 2011. I had just finished my social worker degree. I was feeling a bit tired living in Stockholm and wasn’t really sure what to do with my life. On top of that I had a period with quite a lot of anxiety so life was actually kind of rough. Luckily I had some great people around me, family and friends and most of all my to-become wife and the line “I can not sleep tonight, but I’m not the only one” was more or less literally written a night when I couldn’t sleep but at least I had someone with me to keep me company.

Musically, the track features glittery synths that create a cheerful, sunny soundscape, conveying a strong sense of optimism. The guitars and percussion are just right, and Jon’s vocals (which can be a little flat at times) sound really good on this track. It’s a beautifully arranged song, and my favorite on the EP.

The third track “Set Me On Fire” is an interesting song that touches on three subjects – mental illness, existentialism and the need to keep on creating. Jon explains “The song is totally built around the first line ‘Put something in my bloodstream to take away the pain, attenuate my anxiety, make me go astray.’ I actually came up with this one day thinking back a few years when I was dealing with a lot of anxiety… I got a lot of help thanks to a fantastic doctor and to some anti-anxiety medication, and so that line is somewhat of a tribute to those pills that made such a difference for me. I also remember how much I got helped thanks to other people being open, breaking the stigma around mental health issues.”

The second verse goes into a bit of a mined ground, challenging the concept of a god and an inherent meaning to life. ‘Don’t preach about eternity, while life is fairly well. Don’t lie to us I know that there’s no heaven there’s no hell. If Jesus is your savior, cross me off your list. In the end I might get burned, but I gladly take that risk.‘ Personally I define my self as somewhat of an existentialist. I don’t think there is any basic meaning to life that you are able to find through soul searching or religion. Life itself is rather pointless; you’re born and then you live, and then you die. What’s important is to create meaning to your life yourself, and most of all together with others.” Being non-religious myself, I totally identify with Jon here.

The third verse – “And keep that fire burning, don’t tuck me in to sleep. Whisper softly in my ear, that I’m the one you’ll keep. I might get overheated, I might put on a show.
But what’s the point in holding back, I never liked it slow.” – speaks to Jon’s feelings that he can’t be still, and always needs to find outlets for his creativity, no matter how exhausting it can sometimes be.

Musically, the track has a languid, pleasing melody that slowly builds to a crescendo. Jon and his sound engineer Ruben utilized chiming guitars, synths and crisp drums to create the beautiful sound, as well as a distorted glockenspiel that adds to the song’s charming quality.

The title track “Always a Rebel” is a lovely folk song that’s featured in two different versions. Both sound fairly similar to my ears, with a pleasing mix of acoustic and rhythm guitars and gentle synths, along with a sublime organ riff. The first version has a slightly more polished feel, whereas the second has a more relaxed folksy vibe, but both sound great in any case.

The lyrics speak to someone who enjoys the freedom and independence that comes from being an unconventional, rebellious sort, but at the same time missing out on some of the meaningful things in life: “You see yourself as disengaged, so casual and smart. And pity for the working man stuck in his car. No bills to pay, no gallows swaying over you now. But deep inside you’re longing for a life where you will never be a part. But a rebel, always a rebel you are.”

Always a Rebel is a very nice little EP that actually grew on me the more I listened to it and delved deeply into the compelling lyrics, many of which strongly resonated with me.

Connect with Jon:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes

OLI BARTON & THE MOVEMENT – EP Review: “How Would I Know”

UK band Oli Barton & the Movement have been making quite the splash on the London music scene over the past year and a half. Beginning with their deliciously menacing debut single “Photograph” in late 2016, they dropped two more singles in 2017, then released their smashing album Into the Back Room that August, which I reviewed. They now follow up with a new EP How Would I Know, featuring three new tracks plus a live performance of the title track “How Would I Know?” that originally appeared on Into the Back Room.

The five member band is headed by the brilliant mastermind Oli Barton, who does the majority of the songwriting, plays guitar and sings lead vocals. The ace musicians helping Barton bring his songs to life include Ryan Wilson on lead guitar, Jamal Lagoon on Rhythm Guitar, Marco “Fuzz” Paone on Bass, and Josh Needham on Drums. With a winning combination of talent, creativity and personality, their eccentric style of alternative rock is a crazy-good mix of post-punk and psychedelia, fortified with touches of funk, grunge and pop. They employ all sorts of instruments, sounds and textures to create music that’s original and unconventional, and their direct, tongue-in-cheek lyrics are delivered with an abundance of irony and humor.

This is immediately evident on the frantic head banger “Stayed In.” The wild track has a bouncy punk/rock beat with a cacophony of plucky distorted guitars, galloping drums and tons of crashing cymbals. I love it! The amusing lyrics are a litany of bad shit that happens on those nights when you go out, drink too much, and get into trouble, thinking afterwards that you should have just stayed home to begin with:

There’s blood on the dance floor
I’m fighting Mickey Mantle
for the last place in the queue

There’s puke down your shirt
from that girl who’s a flirt
and said she’d only had a few

Yeah you should have just stayed in
And no one would have thought any worse oh yeah

How Would I Know?” is a terrific live performance of the song at the University of West London. The song speaks to teenage relationship angst, specifically the frustrations of a 16-year old boy wishing he was older so he could marry his girlfriend and “cause everyone just seems so cool.” Then, with much exasperation, Barton implores ”But are you happy? “Cause that don’t seem such an awful to me. Yeah, did you ever try to deceive me yeah? How would I know?” It just occurred to me that the song has a bit of an early Weezer vibe, sort of like a more punkish take on “Say It Ain’t So.” I love the barrage of jangly and heavily distorted guitars and Paone’s funky bass, and Barton’s wonderful animated vocals are passionately delivered with his charming British accent. It’s a fantastic song.

As I listen to each track I decide that one is my favorite – until I hear the next one, causing me to reassess my earlier decision. “Turning the Noose” is a phenomenal track that really showcases the band’s outstanding musicianship and Barton’s jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics. God, I love this band!

The rousing “44” is a hard-driving rock’n’roll song that addresses the debauchery of celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey who use their fame and power to abuse others to get what they want. Wilson, Lagoon and Barton dazzle us with their adept guitar work, and Needham pounds his drum kit with abandon. Barton snarls the frank lyrics that get right to the point:

Would you ever so mind if I put it in raw, I’m 44
I’m sorry young girl but I’m wanting more, and I’m 44
And I look 26 but I am much more, I’m 44
I eat up every guy on the dance floor, I’m 44
Will you mind me closing that bedroom door, I’m 44
I’m sorry young boy but I’m wanting more, and I’m 44
My best friend told me the other night
This ain’t the way to be
If you swallow me I’ll give you the right
And I’ll show you how to get your kicks for free

How Would I Know is a tasty little EP that packs a hell of a punch in just four tracks. Oli Barton & the Movement excel with every single song they’ve ever recorded, and I’m excited to hear what they come up with next.

Follow Oli Barton and the Movement:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Google Play

ALEXIS GERRED – Single Review: “Sweet Angel”

Alexis Gerred

Alexis Gerred is a hard-working, multi-faceted artist based in London, UK. A seasoned performer, he has appeared in numerous stage productions in The West End, on national television, and on various tours around the UK and Asia for over 10 years. Some of those productions include American Idiot, Our House, Dreamboats and Petticoats, The West End Men, Rooms, and many more. He loves being creative in any area of performance, but his true passion lies with singing. He explains “Having grown up listening to some of the greatest musicians of all time, I’ve always dreamed of someone enjoying my own music in the same way. Over the past ten years I’ve been lucky enough to receive some incredible support through TV and theatre, but I’m excited to show everyone who I am as an individual, rather than the part or role I’m playing.

Alexis album

Alexis has penned numerous pop/rock songs over the past several years for what will be his debut album Alexis. Ranging from hard-hitting ballads to catchy up-tempo tunes, his songs are influenced by some of his favorite artists like Train, Goo Goo Dolls, 3 Doors Down, Gavin DeGraw and Walk the Moon, as well as the legendary Queen, Rod Stewart, Bad Company and Michael Jackson. He’s recorded the first two songs, “Sweet Angel” and “Hold You Close,” and is now appealing to fans and supporters to help him cover some of the costs of producing the album through a crowdfunding campaign which, at the time of this review, has raised 60% of the goal thus far.

To coincide with the launch of the crowdfunding campaign, Alexis has released his first single “Sweet Angel,” a beautiful, uplifting song about unconditional love and support. Originally written as a thank you to his parents for their support and guidance, Alexis says it now also reflects how he wishes to bring up his own children. “My parents have been a constant support, always showing me the way forward in whatever situation I found myself in, and I like to think I am now offering that same love and guidance for my own children. Having said that, I hope anyone who has received support from others during tough times will relate to the lyrics of ‘Sweet Angel’.”

Layers of gorgeous chiming and fuzzy guitars, delicate piano and just the right balance of percussion provide the perfect backdrop for Alexis’ heartfelt vocals on the track. And what beautiful vocals they are – raw and intensely passionate one moment, then a gentle falsetto the next – as he sings the stirring lyrics “I know you’re falling. I see you falling deeper down. I’ll show you how to fly with broken wings. Sweet Angel.

The heartwarming video shows scenes of Alexis performing the song against a black background, interspersed with film footage of him and his family when he was a baby and later at various stages in his childhood. By the end, he’s shown in the present with his own two young children.

Connect with Alexis:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Pre-order his debut album Alexis at http://www.alexisgerred.co.uk/
Crowdfunding link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/alexis-the-debut-album-rock#/

THE HIGH RIP – Single Review: “Wasted”

The High Rip is a four-piece indie band from Liverpool, UK who play a deliriously infectious mix of alternative rock and post punk that just makes you feel good. And can’t we use some more of that right now! They also have a wry sense of humor – always a big plus for me. They state in their bio “The most notorious Liverpool gang of the 1890’s was The High Rip. Fast forward 120 years and it would seem little has changed.” Making up this current crew of Liverpool gang members are Ivan on lead vocals, Graham on guitar, Paul on bass and vocals, and Jo on drums.

They’ve released several excellent songs over the past year (I’m especially fond of “Best Holiday” and the T.Rex-ish “System Doesn’t Work”), and just dropped a terrific new single called “Wasted.” The rousing track has an upbeat 80s new wave vibe that reminds me of some of the great songs from The Cure and A Flock of Seagulls, two of my favorite bands from that era. The most arresting element for me is Graham’s exuberant jangly guitar riff that continues throughout the track, as well as some tasty little flourishes of distortion later on. Ivan’s lusty vocals are wonderful, as are Paul’s driving bass line and Jo’s masterful drums pounding out the irresistible beat. It’s a fantastic song that had me hitting replay, and so will you, my kind readers.

Despite the track’s upbeat vibe, its serious lyrics seem to speak of an approaching soul-crushing technocratic and authoritarian state, sort of like the one envisioned in 1984 (and which we’re sadly beginning to see glimpses of today):

And in the future, there will be no understanding
Just a series of rules to obey
And in the future there will be no together
No tomorrow, no today
Waste what you like, waste another lifetime
Wherever you stand you are in the way

And now this feels like, feels just like I always knew it would feel
Like the way that I was told
And in the future, there will be no happy ending
No way of coming in out of the cold
So waste what you like, waste another lifetime
Wherever you stand, you are in the way

Connect with The High Rip:  Facebook / Twitter
Stream their music on Soundcloud

Top 30 Songs for April 22-28, 2018

1. BROKEN – lovelytheband (1)
2. WHATEVER IT TAKES – Imagine Dragons (3)
3. THE JOKE – Brandi Carlile (6)
4. WORLD GONE MAD – Bastille (2)
5. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay (12)
6. YOU WORRY ME – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (5)
7. &RUN – Sir Sly (7)
8. HANDYMAN – AWOLNATION (10)
9. SEVERED – The Decemberists (8)
10. THE NIGHT HAS AN ALIBI – Wons Phreely + the Horses (11)
11. TWO HIGH – Moon Taxi (4)
12. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (17)
13. THOUGHT CONTAGION – Muse (13)
14. THE GOLD – Manchester Orchestra (14)
15. ALL THE STARS – Kendrick Lamar, SZA (9)
16. ALREADY GONE – Brett Dennen (18)
17. GUIDE YOU IN THE DARK – RECKLESS JACKS (21)
18. SATURDAY SUN – Vance Joy (22)
19. MY MY MY! – Troye Sivan (23)
20. IRREVERSIBLE KNOT – DENSE (24)
21. SAFARI SONG – Greta Van Fleet (16)
22. RUN FOR COVER – The Killers (15)
23. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (28)
24. PAIN – The War on Drugs (19)
25. SORRY – Nothing But Thieves (N)
26. WITHOUT WALLS – Lyia Meta (30)
27. SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! At the Disco (N)
28. DEVIL – Shinedown (N)
29. DOUBT – Joywave (N)
30. UNWIND – John Defeo (N)

DRAFT EVADER – EP Review: “Heel Turn”

Heel Turn

As a blogger, I’ve gotten to know a great many indie artists and bands, a number of whom I’ve featured on this blog. It’s a real pleasure to follow them on their musical journeys, keeping up with new music they produce over time. And it’s especially heartening for me to watch the younger artists and bands get better and better as they mature and gain more experience. One such young artist is Draft Evader, an earnest singer/songwriter and guitarist based in Chicago who plays rock music with rock’n’roll and punk overtones. Draft Evader is the artistic name for the music project of Ryan Loree, who writes the songs, plays guitar and sings all vocals, with assistance by his good friend Joe Scaletta on bass and drums.

Draft Evader

Following up on his last single “The Devil’s Disguise,” which he released in October 2017 and I reviewed, he’s just released a new EP Heel Turn. “The Devil’s Disguise” is a fine, well-crafted single, but he really ups his game on Heel Turn. His song melodies are more fully developed, the instrumentals more expansive and complex, and the production values tighter. But the biggest improvement is in his vocals, which sound really great on the EP.

Heel Turn contains four new tracks that deal with darker themes like insecurity, depression and problematic relationships. He told me “I don’t write love songs, I write hate songs.” And what a songwriter he is, penning such relevant lyrics that perfectly express the pain and anguish he – and many of us – have felt at one time or another. The first track is “Warpath,” a powerful song about not wasting any more time dealing with duplicitous backstabbers who drive you crazy, and making the decision to just let them go. “…to speak my mind is a waste of time. Light up one more cigarette. We’ll walk the hall of hypocrites. And I will bite my nails to the skin. Burn all my fingertips. / A heel turn’s the only way.” The gritty riffs, thunderous bass and pounding drums powerfully convey the raw emotion expressed in the biting lyrics and vocals. I like the little piano riff that appears late in the track, and the strummed electric guitar in the outro that seems to symbolize the sense of sad resignation.

Complaints” is a terrific hard-driving song that was released as a single in March. The track’s arrangement and production are pretty close to perfection, and Ryan’s guitar work and vocals sound fantastic, as is Joe’s drumming. The lyrics speak of being an overly negative person, unable to see the good in anyone or anything and always complaining (something I’m sorry to admit I’ve been guilty of a few times myself):

Tell me all your secrets
Now I know too much
Don’t know what I’m thinkin’
or what I’ve become
I’ve got nothing better to say
Just constant complaints

Hell bent on a mission
Objective self-destruct
I’ve got nothing better to say
Just constant complaints

On “Stutter” he addresses insecurities that cause him to stutter in just about every life situation, except when he’s alone with himself or singing:

Well I stutter when I’m nervous
Well I stutter when I’m stoned
Well I stutter giving bad news
I don’t stutter when I’m alone

Well I stutter when I’m happy
And I stutter when I’m weak
Well I stutter in good company
I don’t stutter when I sing

The poignant rock ballad “Petty” is my favorite of the four tracks. Not only are the instrumentals stunning from start to finish, but Draft Evader’s heartfelt vocals are wonderful, with a raw vulnerability that makes the painful lyrics seem all the more powerful. It’s a gorgeous song. The lyrics are from the point of view of a person saying a final goodbye to someone who just doesn’t want to be with them any longer:

You are so different these days
I hope that the old you remains
Mistaken for friends, means to an end
I know things cannot stay the same
Petty that’s how you make me feel
Mending my wounds, need time to heal
Petty can’t hide, here’s something real
I’m ready, now serve my final meal

Though brief, with only four tracks, Heel Turn is monumental in scope. All four tracks are outstanding, powerful and flawlessly executed on every level. I’m so proud of Draft Evader, and look forward to hearing more awesome music from him!

Connect with Draft Evader:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify and Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp or itunes

AFTER ARISTOTLE – EP Review: “A Guide To Open Minds”

After Aristotle album art

After Aristotle is an indie alternative rock band based in Austin, Texas, and in late January they released their debut EP A Guide To Open Minds. Formed in 2016, the band consists of Kera Krause on vocals & ukelele, Cam Lamother on guitar, Tyson Zaria on bass, Ethan Schrupp on guitar & synth, and Zach Melvin on drums. The title of their EP encapsulates their collective approach to making music. In their bio they state: “We’re all about open mindedness. With a wide range of influences, our sound ranges from soft, indie rock to in your face punk. We let the music decide where it wants to go. We make the music we feel like making and have a great time doing it!”

After Aristotle3

The EP has a rather heavy, dark theme. With their intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics the band takes on subjects such as depression, fake news and betrayal by both friends and our leaders, and our attempts to find solace through denial and/or self-medication. Setting the tone is opening track “I’ve Got No One to Brush My Teeth For,” a melancholy song about feeling lonely and depressed, unable to see a way forward. With painful resignation, Kera sings “It’s so sunny outside I don’t think I’m getting out of bed. All day under the covers that hope that the day goes away with all of my fear and self hate. Light up the medicine, kill my adrenaline. So scared I don’t know where I’ve been.” The melodic track has some excellent guitar work that goes from jangly to blistering and everything in between, and Zach’s aggressive drumming is on-point.

The hard-rocking “Fakes and Escapes” is my favorite track on the EP. Propelled by Tyson’s driving bass line, Cam and Ethan’s frantic shredded riffs and Zach’s thunderous drums make for a really exciting hard rock song. Kera spits the lyrics that speak of duplicity and betrayal: “Well did you ever bite the hand that fed? Last thing we need is another fake smile. But we’ve all been learning to not feel for a while.”

The band incorporates a bit of Americana on the poignant track “Substance,” featuring some lovely violin courtesy of guest artist Ethan Thayer.  Kera plaintively sings “We’re all pleading for a world we’ll never see, while the one where we live passes by like a dream. / We shouldn’t suffer to fuel their greed. And they wonder why we’re popping pills to get some peace. And they wonder why we’re drowning to feel clean. What dragon are we chasing?

The fast-paced rock song “Shallow Folk” is about having the courage to admit that the lies and stubborn false beliefs you shouted loud and often in order to convince others they were true has been a sham (if only a certain occupant of the White House would do a bit of this self-actualization):

Well what did I think I knew about the world or anything it consumes
Appointing answers as if I could back up my stances
If I shout it so loud will it earn me my chance now
Keep my head held high to combat the downspin of my selfish mind
Keep the crowd’s attention just until I believe in my own words
I’m still getting used to admitting when I’m wrong

You know what drives me crazy?
People who talk with nothing to say
See I couldn’t live another day with lips sewn shut, lungs black with regret
Mind shut so tight, I suffocate inside of it
But I’ve been shallow like water that’s two inches tall
It’s no surprise that I’ve been feeling so small

Escaping Handcuffs” ends the EP on a hopeful note. The lyrics speak to overcoming self-doubt and fear that are holding you back from achieving your potential and living a fuller, more satisfying life. “Don’t let the little things take up your time. Calm down your fight. Pull back the curtain. There’s a whole world and you’re acting so blind. Don’t be scared.” The horns are a nice touch on this soft rock tune.

A Guide To Open Minds is a strong debut effort from After Aristotle that showcases their skillful songwriting and musicianship. I’m curious to see what compelling topics they’ll set to music next.

Connect with After Aristotle on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on SpotifyApple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

Top 30 Songs for April 15-21, 2018

1. BROKEN – lovelytheband (3)
2. WORLD GONE MAD – Bastille (1)
3. WHATEVER IT TAKES – Imagine Dragons (4)
4. TWO HIGH – Moon Taxi (2)
5. YOU WORRY ME – Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats (6)
6. THE JOKE – Brandi Carlile (11)
7. &RUN – Sir Sly (9)
8. SEVERED – The Decemberists (10)
9. ALL THE STARS – Kendrick Lamar, SZA (5)
10. HANDYMAN – AWOLNATION (13)
11. THE NIGHT HAS AN ALIBI – Wons Phreely + the Horses (12)
12. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay (15)
13. THOUGHT CONTAGION – Muse (14)
14. THE GOLD – Manchester Orchestra (16)
15. RUN FOR COVER – The Killers (7)
16. SAFARI SONG – Greta Van Fleet (8)
17. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (26)
18. ALREADY GONE – Brett Dennen (20)
19. PAIN – The War on Drugs (17)
20. LIVE IN THE MOMENT – Portugal. The Man (18)
21. GUIDE YOU IN THE DARK – Reckless Jacks (21)
22. SATURDAY SUN – Vance Joy (22)
23. MY MY MY! – Troye Sivan (24)
24. IRREVERSIBLE KNOT – DENSE (25)
25. LOS AGELESS – St. Vincent (19)
26. SCARY LOVE – The Neighbourhood (23)
27. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (27) 33rd week on list
28. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (N)
29. BEST FRIEND – Sofi Tukker, NERVO, The Knocks, Alisa Ueno (28)
30. WITHOUT WALLS – Lyia Meta (N)

BOOGIE BOARD – Album Review: “Ferric Tape Noir”

Ferric Tape Noir

I’m a sucker for surf guitar grooves, and am really enjoying what seems to be a resurgence of surf rock in all its variations, whether it be garage, psychedelic, punk or even grunge. So I was pleased when the musician Stephen Denning reached out to me about his music project Boogie Board, and his latest album Ferric Tape Noir, which dropped at the end of January. Denning is a solo artist from Chicago who describes his music as “fuzzy midwestern garage/ psych/ surf rock.” He writes, performs, records and masters all his music directly onto a 4-track tape machine in order to achieve a lo-fi sound, and I after listening to the album, I’d say he succeeds quite nicely.

Screen shot 2018-04-10 at 1.13.52 AM

Before getting into the music itself, I’ll provide a bit of background about music tape. Curious about the words “Ferric Tape” in the album title, I Googled it and learned “ferric” refers to ferric oxide, one of the oxides of iron that happens to be magnetic. That quality makes it an ideal coating for tape that allows both the recording and removal of sound. The tape coating on most cassettes sold today as either “normal” or “chrome” consists of ferric oxide and cobalt mixed in varying ratios. According to the website Cassetro, “ferric tape offers deep booming bass, warm mid-range and excellent high frequencies up to 16 kHz (the upper end of most people’s hearing range).” Now I understand why Boogie Board would choose ferric tape to record his music.

He’s been a busy guy the past year, releasing his debut 12-track album Surf N Turf in May 2017, then following up with a five-track EP Dream Telepathy in September. He dropped Ferric Tape Noir at the end of January 2018, then two months later released a double single Portal Window & Infinity Stairs.

Most of the tracks on Ferric Tape Noir are brief, generally running one and a half to just over two minutes, with the exception of “Moon Waves,” which is three minutes long. Also, many are simple instrumental compositions, beginning with album opener and title track “Ferric Tape Noir,” where Boogie Board delivers a repetitive gritty bass-like riff to a rat-a-tat drum beat. I say ‘bass-like’ because though the heavy, gravelly riffs on his songs sound like they come from a bass guitar, he told me they’re all actually only guitar. He added that one track is guitar run through an amp and another features guitar through a bass amp, with the remaining tracks dedicated to drum machine and vocals.

Moon Waves” is more fully-developed, with an intricate little surf guitar riff flitting over another sustained gravelly riff and frantic drum beat. His extremely distorted vocals add an interesting, rather spooky dimension to the song. The psychedelic “Flying Shadow” is a lively romp, with jangly and fuzzy guitars following a bouncy punk dance beat. We can hear Boogie Board’s distorted repeating chants of “flying shadow” in the background. One of my favorite tracks is “Magic Swamp,” with dense, gritty riffs and a hypnotic beat. I love the bluesy guitar riff in the song’s second half.

Cowabunga” and “Abyss With Me” are straight-up lo-fi surf rock at its best. The latter track has more distorted vocals of him repeatedly wailing the song’s title. “Night Walk” is very short, basically consisting of a repetitive riff over a gentle tapping drumbeat. Another favorite of mine is album closer “Spectral Glide.” It’s one of the more melodic tracks, with an intriguing guitar riff floating above what sounds like a very gritty bass line and muffled drumbeat.

I thought I’d also touch on his latest two tracks. “Portal Window” has a great little riff along with his highly distorted vocals that are basically unintelligible, but highly effective in giving off a mysterious vibe he seems to want to achieve in his songs. “Infinity Stairs” delivers a fast-paced tempo with rapid thumping drums and more of his awesome fuzzy guitars, along with some tasty added side riffs. I can hear him sing “infinity stairs” but can’t quite make out the rest of the lyrics.

Overall, I like Boogie Board’s interesting style of lo-fi surf/garage rock, and the roughness of his sound. I think he’s a talented guitarist, and would like to see him try some more fully developed melodies and guitar riffs that would make his songs even more intriguing.

Stephen is also a talented graphic artist. You can check out some of his work on his Instagram page.

Connect with Boogie Board:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify
Purchase on Bandcamp