Song Review: THE CLEAR – “The Planets”

I recently had the pleasure of discovering the terrific UK band The Clear when they contacted me about their new single “The Planets.” The Sheffield three-piece plays an incredibly pleasing style of what can best be called “West Coast Dream Pop” (‘West Coast’ referring to my home state of California, thank you very much).  Their utterly beguiling sound is like no other artist or band I know of. Among the many positive attributes of their music, the thing that really stands out for me are their sublime harmonizing vocals.

Formed in 2013, The Clear consists of Chris Damms, Jules Buffey and Bryan Day.  “The Planets” is taken from their outstanding debut album Patchwork, which they actually released in 2016. In preparing to write this review, I listened to the entire album and found myself enveloped by a dreamy soundscape that’s at once beautiful and spellbinding. Patchwork is honestly one of the best albums of 2016, and I’m sorry I didn’t learn of it until 2017.

The Clear

In describing “The Planets,” the band states it’s “a quirky analogy of dying love, with stars burning out, and satellites fading and crashing to earth. We like to describe the song’s style, as Nancy Sinatra in 1950’s space!” Indeed it is! The song has a distinct James Bond movie theme feel and, to my ears, sounds most like “The World is Not Enough” by Garbage. It’s a captivating song with a retro 60s vibe that whisks you back in time to an imaginary party at a mid-Century modern home in the Hollywood Hills. With a hint of a Latin beat, the song features lush, soaring orchestration and mesmerizing electric guitar, accompanied by Buffey’s incredibly seductive vocals.  She croons:

“Tears in my eyes once again. Torment and lies spell the end.
Planets they turn, mine collide. Look to the stars , they burned out long ago.
Love is a flame but quick to burn. When satellites fade they fall to earth.
Planets they turn, mine collide. Look to the stars , they burned out long ago.”

The brilliant video combines scenes from old science fiction films and TV shows, including 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek, with actual footage of early space exploration as well as an orchestra performing. Check it out:

To learn more about The Clear, take a look at their website.

Connect with them:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube
Purchase it:  Bandcamp /  iTunes /  Amazon

Top 20 Songs for April 23-29, 2017

1. HOT THOUGHTS – Spoon (3)
2. ON HOLD – The xx (1)
3. LOVE ON THE BRAIN – Rihanna (2)
4. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids (4)
5. SIGN OF THE TIMES – Harry Styles (14)
6. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy (8)
7. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (9)
8. HEAVYDIRTYSOUL – twenty øne piløts (5)
9. LOST ON YOU – LP (11)
10. HOW DID YOU LOVE – Shinedown (6)
11. HUMAN – Rag’n’Bone Man (7)
12. BLAME – Bastille (12)
13. GREEN LIGHT – Lorde (13)
14. SHAPE OF YOU – Ed Sheeran (10)
15. COLD COLD COLD – Cage the Elephant (16)
16. SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS – The Chainsmokers, Coldplay (18)
17. THAT’S WHAT I LIKE – Bruno Mars (15)
18. MIDDLE FINGERS – MISSIO (19)
19. HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar (N)
20. NIMBLE BASTARD – Incubus (N)

Song Review: MAD MACHINES – “Once I Was a Lion”

Mad Machines is a five-piece band based in Toronto, Canada. Their high-energy music melds elements of Hard Rock, Funk, Punk-Noir and Dream Pop – with a bit of Disco thrown in just to mix things up – and their lyrics are always entertaining. They released an excellent debut EP Re-Humanizer in January 2016 (which I highly recommend my readers check out), and in March dropped a fun new single “Once I Was A Lion.

Mad Machines

The band line-up includes Jordan Lassalle (Lead Vocals, Guitar), Raymond Cara (Drums, Percussives, Backing Vocals), Jordan Quinn (Keyboards, FX, Backing Vocals), Neil Culbert (Guitars, Backing Vocals) and Joseph Slegtenhorst (Bass).

Regarding the backstory for the song, Lassalle explained: “Once I Was A Lion is a strange departure of a song for us; it was actually initially inspired by Disney’s The Lion King. I woke up one day with one of the songs from that film in my head and it got me to thinking something along the lines of, ‘what if Simba turned out to be a fuck-up drunkard of a king? Wouldn’t that be funny!’ Since then, the song has evolved; I found myself also writing a reflection piece on how at some point or another, we all feel like kings and queens of our respective kingdoms. It’s a feel-good tune and a real fun pop-rocker to play.

Indeed it would be, as it’s all that and more. The infectiously catchy song kicks off with a distorted guitar solo, then things bust wide open with crashing drums, heavy buzzing bass and lots of killer bluesy riffs. The guys are terrific musicians! Lassalle’s vocals are wonderful, occasionally soaring into a pleasing falsetto, and backed by his band mates’ harmonizing choruses. He croons the tongue-in-cheek lyrics that can’t help but put a big smile on your face:

Once I was a lion, yeah once I was king, crushing my problems between my teeth. Ruler of my kingdom with an iron paw. Rolling through the jungle like an atom bomb. All the lady lions used to stop and stare, hoping I would try and take ’em to my lair. Once I was a lion and life was sweet, until she came and took that crown away from me. / They took my fangs, they took my claws. / And I’m the king of the jungle baby. At least I was before.

Listen to “Once I Was A Lion” here:  Soundcloud

Connect with Mad Machines:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Purchase their music on Bandcamp

EP Review: JORDAN HERBERT – “Just Recently”

Jordan Herbert is a talented, soulful young singer/songwriter from Northampton, UK. In 2016, Jordan’s released his debut EP Roots to wide acclaim, reaching #6 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter charts. Throughout the rest of the year, Jordan and his five-piece band, which includes musicians Harley-Joe Arnold, Jason Smith, Sam Thorne and Tony Young, toured extensively throughout the UK to promote the EP and build a fan base. In February, Jordan released a follow-up EP Just Recently through Spoilt Brat Records (what a great name for a label!) and it’s brilliant and beautiful.

Jordan Herbert

The four-track EP showcases Jordan’s abilities as both a superb wordsmith and vocalist, not to mention the great musicianship of his band. The title track “Just Recently” kicks things off in a big way with exuberant jazzy guitars, funky bass and a healthy dose of drums and crashing cymbals. Jordan vocals are captivating as he passionately croons the hopeful lyrics:

The way it’s looking now, I’ve been running around, chasing dreams I know that just can’t come true. And I’ve been running around and puttin’ it down, makin’ a sound, standing around with my head in the clouds, I was screaming it loud and I hope you can scream it too. Just recently I’ve, got it stuck in my mind, and I cant let go no no, it’s playing games in my mind.”

Next up is the sublime “How Could You” – to my ears is as close to perfection as a song can be. Floating above what sounds like an extended organ riff with snare drum are delicate guitars of varying texture and nuance, accompanied by Jordan’s intoxicating vocals that reach in and grab hold of your soul. This song is gorgeous. With pain in his voice, he sings:

How could you still end up getting it wrong, movin’ along without you. See lately, I’ve been thinking about you lately. Is there something that can save me? ‘Cause I’m done and I’ve quit foolin’ around.”

The pace quickens at around four minutes, with a flourish of guitars and vocals that are at once both sad and beautiful. The video for the song is fantastic. Shot in black and white and directed, produced and edited by Pete Cobbe, the video shows Jordan singing the song with his guitarist playing beside him in front of a black background. They’re the only things visible, conveying a poignant sense of aloneness.

Don’t You Worry” brings a return to the upbeat jazzy vibe of the first track, with an irresistible groove and funky guitar riffs. This song is just begging to be performed in a nightclub! Things take a more serious turn on the lovely folk-infused ballad “You,” a bittersweet song about trying to hold on to a relationship that’s falling apart. “When you feel like you’re not strong, just know that I’ll keep on holding on. When I’m fallin’ I keep calling I can’t get through.

Just Recently is a terrific EP, and I give it two big thumbs up! Every song is wonderful, and with only four songs, it leaves me wanting more. Guess I’ll have to wait for Jordan’s next release.

Connect with Jordan: Facebook /  Twitter  /  Instagram

Stream his music on Spotify  and purchase on iTunes or Amazon

Song Challenge – Day 2

I was nominated for a Daily Song Challenge by fellow blogger and friend Lisa Amaya, who has a wonderful blog Life of an El Paso Woman.  If you don’t already follow her, do check it out.

The rules of the challenge are:

Post a song a day for five consecutive days.

Include the name of the song and a video.

Post what the lyrics mean to you. (Optional)

Nominate 1 or 2 bloggers each day of the challenge.

My song choice for Day 2 is California Dreamin’ by the Mamas & Papas. The song was written by ‘Papa’ John Phillips, who was inspired to write it when his wife Michelle was feeling homesick for California. They were living in New York City at the time, and she missed the sunny Southern California weather. All four members of the band – John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty & Cass Elliott – harmonized beautifully on their songs, and especially so on California Dreamin’. Everything about the song is perfect – the arrangement, lyrics, vocals and instrumentals, most notably the gorgeous flute in the song’s bridge. It’s magic, really, and literally one of my top five favorite songs of all time.

Even though I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, the song really resonated with me. I still vividly remember as a little kid hearing it on the radio while riding in the car with my family from our home in Santa Clara up to San Francisco. We were going to “The City” to watch the Chinese New Years Parade in Chinatown, but things weren’t looking very promising, as it was a gloomy day with rain in the forecast. To this day, I think of that trip to San Francisco whenever I hear California Dreamin’ –  and yes, it ended up raining on our parade! LOL  Many years later I spent 17 years living in St. Louis, which has a lot of cold, gloomy weather in winter. I often found myself California dreamin’ during those periods.

All the leaves are brown, and the sky is gray.
I’ve been for a walk, on a winter’s day.
I’d be safe and warm, if I was in L.A.
California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.

Today I nominate Zezrie, who has a terrific music blog Jealous Sounds. Check it out.

EP Review: ONESTEP – “Haunting Satellites”

OnesteP is an alternative heavy metal band based in Kiev, Ukraine that plays hard-hitting rock with a message. I reviewed their excellent debut single “In War We Rust” in February, which you can read here, and they’ve now released a four-track EP Haunting Satellites.  Formed in 2011, OnesteP consists of Siddy on vocals, Eugene Sikoza on guitar & production, Taras Kolomoiets on guitar, and Bogdan Korol on bass. (The band also has a session drummer.)  Strongly influenced by the great bands Korn, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, their intense music style is both fierce and melodically beautiful – always a winning combination in heavy metal. Having two guitarists plus a bassist also gives their music an incredibly powerful, complex sound that reaches all the way down into the core of your soul.

onestep

For their EP, the band stated they wanted ‘songs with deeply emotional lyrics about existential malaise and trends in modern society,‘ and do they deliver! The first track “In War We Rust” is a blistering protest against war, its lyrics a searing attack on mankind’s inability to change its behavior or take any responsibility for continuing to engage in wars: “Your satellites are haunting me and making me blind and I’m losing sight. Now look around and find your waste that you’ve made of this another site.

The instrumentals are as powerful as the lyrics, with razor-sharp shredded guitars, bone-crushing bass, and thunderous drums that are hallmarks of OnesteP’s sound, and setting the tone for the entire EP.  Siddy’s impassioned vocals are almost terrifying as he screams: “Crawl! Dig em’out! Fall! Pick em’ up! Destroy! Build it up! Got bored? Heat it up!

The ferocity of the music remains at full throttle on “Cold Revenge,” with the added bonus of rapping vocals, both clean and hardcore (that are also employed on the other two tracks “Illusion” and “Torment Chapter”).  I love the melody on this track, and the guitar work is outstanding. So too with “Illusion,” where the instrumentals and chord change-ups are quite good. I especially love the melodic flourish at the end of the track. On “Torment Chapter,” dramatic, menacing synth chords compete for our attention with thunderous shredded guitar riffs and an exuberant hard-driving beat, making for a great song.  Hell, they’re all great songs, and Haunting Satellites is a terrific EP.

Connect with OnesteP on Facebook,  stream their music on Soundcloud and  YouTube, and purchase on Bandcamp.

Song Challenge – Day 1

I’ve been nominated for a Daily Song Challenge by fellow blogger and friend Lisa Amaya, whose wonderful blog Life of an El Paso Woman I strongly recommend my readers check out (if they don’t already, as Lisa’s pretty popular).

The rules of the challenge are:

Post a song a day for five consecutive days.

Include the name of the song and a video.

Post what the lyrics mean to you. (Optional)

Nominate 1 or 2 bloggers each day of the challenge.

My pick for the first day is “No Such Thing” by John Mayer. The song was his first break-out hit, in the summer of 2002 when I had a milestone high school reunion. Not only is he a fantastic guitarist, John always writes deeply compelling lyrics, and for “No Such Thing,” he takes a hard appraisal of high school with a bit of cynicism but also hope. He wasn’t defined by high school, and acknowledges that his best years are ahead of him, and the song lyrics really resonated with me on a personal level, especially since it was getting a lot of radio play at the time my reunion took place. I was never all that popular in high school, being a bit of a dork and lacking confidence, and didn’t go to the junior or senior proms, nor associate with any of the cool kids. It wasn’t until after high school, when I started working and attending college, and meeting a whole new set of friends, that I “blossomed” into a more confident, interesting guy lol!

Here’s a sampling of the song’s lyrics that hit home for me:

Well I never lived the dream of the prom kings and the drama queens.
I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.
They love to tell you stay inside the lines
But something’s better on the other side
I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as a real world
Just a line you got to rise above.

Today I nominate Hope, who has a great music blog LIVELIFETHRUMUSIC, where she interviews up and coming artists and reviews their music.

Top 20 Songs for April 16-22, 2017

1. ON HOLD – The xx (1)
2. LOVE ON THE BRAIN – Rihanna (2)
3. HOT THOUGHTS – Spoon (6)
4. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids (5)
5. HEAVYDIRTYSOUL – twenty øne piløts (3)
6. HOW DID YOU LOVE – Shinedown (7)
7. HUMAN – Rag’n’Bone Man (4)
8. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy (9)
9. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (11)
10. SHAPE OF YOU – Ed Sheeran (8)
11. LOST ON YOU – LP (13)
12. BLAME – Bastille (15)
13. GREEN LIGHT – Lorde (16)
14. SIGN OF THE TIMES – Harry Styles (N)
15. THAT’S WHAT I LIKE – Bruno Mars (12)
16. COLD COLD COLD – Cage the Elephant (18)
17. RUST TO GOLD – Council (10)
18. SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS – The Chainsmokers, Coldplay (20)
19. MIDDLE FINGERS – MISSIO (N)
20. I NEED A LIGHT – Run With It (14)

Artist Spotlight – COLD REVIVE

Cold Revive is on a roll. Over the past few months, the Fresno, California-based rock band released two songs and have been interviewed on two radio programs (one local and another in Chicago) to promote their music. Now they’re back in the studio working on new songs, which they’ll be releasing soon. I had the good fortune of discovering them when they followed me on Twitter, and quickly became a big fan – not only because of their great music, but also because I was impressed by the band members themselves. Despite their badass rocker image, they’re actually genuine, down-to-earth guys. If the kindness they’ve shown me is any indication, it’s clear they appreciate and support their fans, which is a significant part of being a successful band at the end of the day. One of their main goals is to connect even more with their fans – to touch their lives in a positive way with their music.

Cold Revive

Cold Revive consists of Brent Stevens (vocals), Jason Fischer (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Gentky Vang (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Chase Hagerman (drums, keyboards, backing vocals).  All are seasoned musicians who’ve been previously involved with other bands and music projects. Jason and Brent actually met on Craigslist when each was interested in connecting with other musicians who might be interested in forming a band. Inspired by bands they both loved such as Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Hinder, Three Days Grace, Buckcherry and Korn, they joined forces in early 2016 and formed Cold Revive. Subsequently, Gentky and Chase came on board to complete the band lineup.

Like many hard rock bands these days, Cold Revive’s hard rock sound draws from alt-rock, punk, metal and grunge influences. Brent is especially fond of Halloween, horror films and such, so his dark lyrics reflect that.

The band’s first single “Sik’ Hellish Us,” is a dark and brooding hard rock song about being trapped in a toxic relationship you’re unable to break free of. Sinister guitars and heavy bass set an ominous tone, then a slow, thunderous drumbeat adds tremendous power to the track, which rises in intensity as the song progresses. Brent’s gritty vocals are delivered with a menacing vulnerability as he snarls “I’ve made my bed in hell, now I need to lie in it, ’cause it serves me well. As you held me there, my heart’s not escaping.

Diary” is an even darker song about finding a significant other’s diary after their suicide, and discovering how much your actions hurt them. The lyrics are gut-wrenching: “What I read on that page, tore me down I saw my own mistakes. All the pain I caused you is insane…   Suicide drove our love to an end. Those words killed us, was I always to blame? I’m so sorry!” The song has a Buckcherry vibe in both music and tone. Brent’s raw, heartfelt vocals match the emotional intensity of the gnashing guitars and aggressive percussion, making for an emotionally-charged song.

Here’s a live acoustic performance of “Diary” that isn’t quite as intense or sorrowful.

Cold Revive will be releasing their two new singles “Twisted Fright” and “Cold Dark Coma” in the next month or so. In the meantime, connect with them on Facebook and  Twitter, and stream their music on Reverbnation.  Subscribe to their YouTube channel for their videos and band updates.

Their music is not yet available for purchase, but I will update this post when it is.

Album Review: MUDD – “Look What I Found in Your Mom’s Top Drawer”

MUDD is a young pop-punk rock band from Kingston, Ontario, Canada. And by ‘young’ I mean young! The three band members are all just 16 years old and still in high school. They are:  Seth Hunt on lead vocals & guitar, Reilly Clark on bass & backing vocals, and Devin Pierce on drums & backing vocals. And even at their young ages, the guys already have a long history with music. According to their bio, Seth has been playing guitar since he was seven, Reilly started playing bass at the age of ten, and Devin has hit the drums since the age of seven. They formed as the band MUDD in 2014, and released their first full-length self-produced album on Bandcamp this past February.

MUDD

They recently approached me about reviewing their album and, upon seeing its title – Look What I Found In Your Mom’s Top Drawer – I had to say yes! Besides, I was impressed by their earnest belief in themselves, plus the fact they produced their own album and put themselves out there. The album features nine zany tracks that incorporate elements of punk, pop and garage rock into a wild stew of fun and crazy tunes about girls, sex and teenage angst that one would expect from 16-year-olds. The tracks are unmastered, so have a raw, unfinished quality that makes them sound essentially like live recordings, and it’s clear the guys had a blast recording them.

On tracks like “Twitch,” “SOB,” the electronic “Interlude (Not Today TM),” “Going Nowhere Fast” and “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” the guys show off their skills on their respective instruments. Lots of shredded guitars and frantic drumming are on display, making for some real head bangers guaranteed to get the party started and keep the energy flowing at high speed. Their vocals are a bit weak, but I think that’s mostly due to their young age. Their voices haven’t yet fully developed, and will likely improve as they grow, both in age and experience.

Some of their lyrics are hilarious. On “Interlude (Not Today TM),” Seth sings “This unicorn fell upon me, as it raced toward me with its horn, driving it towards my anus. I clenched my anus as I blocked the horn and I said ‘Not today.’ And then, I took out my sword of Avalon once again…” On “Japananoque,” the guys seem to just be fooling around, laying down some frenetic riffs as they sing “The women are fine, the women are fine, the women are fine everywhere.  They are not greasy, they’re very pretty. Japananoque. Suck on my cockque.

The guys can get serious too. “Where Are You” speaks to missing a lost love after a broken relationship. “I toss and turn, thinking about you sleeping in my bed. Old memories return and pictures they burn, except for the evidence of you in my bed. Where are you, and why can’t I see clearly now?”

Track listing:

  1. Twitch
  2. No Looking Back
  3. Where Are You?
  4. SOB
  5. Interlude (Not Today TM)
  6. Punk Rock Chick
  7. Going Nowhere Fast
  8. I Don’t Wanna Go Home
  9. Japananoque

https://mudd3.bandcamp.com/album/look-what-i-found-in-your-moms-top-drawer

MUDD’s songs are only available on Bandcamp at this time, and they don’t yet have any YouTube videos.  They’re currently in the process of recording a new EP with the provocative title No Peeing In The Pool. It should be another head banger! Connect with MUDD on Facebook and stream or download their EP on Bandcamp.