MORGENDUST – Album Review: “Morgendust”

Morgendust is an engaging and talented Dutch alt-rock band based in Zwolle, Netherlands. Formed in 2018, the quintet is comprised of Marco de Haan (lead vocals, guitars, drums), Ron van Kruistum (guitars, backing vocals), Iwan Blokzijl (keyboards, backing vocals), Dario Pozderski (bass, backing vocals) and recent new member Patrick Pozderski (drums & percussion). All seasoned and accomplished musicians with years of collective experience playing in other bands and as session musicians, their music has a maturity and worldliness expressed through intelligent, thoughtful lyrics that tell stories everyone can relate to, and packaged with exquisite rock melodies, outstanding instrumentation and beautiful vocals.

They released their stunning debut EP Storm Will Come in September 2019, and since then have dropped a string of excellent singles, as well as their wonderful 2022 album 14, in which they reimagined eight iconic songs from the 70s, 80s, and early 90s that had a major impact on each of the band members when they were 14 years old. I reviewed both the EP and album, as well as several of their singles, some of which you can read by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.

Now they’re back with the self-titled Morgendust, their first full-length album of all original songs, which dropped March 24th. The guys wrote, recorded, produced and financed the album all by themselves, making it a true DIY indie effort: “We wrote over 30 songs, rented an old school, stuffed it with the best gear and started recording. We had no restrictions with time, budgets or record labels telling us what to do.” Morgendust includes what they’ve deemed the 13 best tracks of the bunch, and after listening to the album, I can’t take issue with any of their selections, as they’re all solid songs that nicely showcase their signature sound and strong storytelling abilities. The album was expertly mixed by Guido Aalbers (Coldplay, Muse, Queens of the Stone Age) and flawlessly mastered by Andy VanDette (David Bowie, Deep Purple, Beastie Boys, Steven Wilson).

Many of the songs on Morgendust have a distinct 80s feel, which makes sense since most of the band members came of age in that decade. (I came of age in the early 70s, but I love a lot of 80s music.) The guys tackle a variety of topics, including oft-covered subjects like life, love and emotional well-being, but also socio-political issues of particular relevance today, as evidenced by the powerful opening track “No Clear View“. The lyrics seem to address the conundrum of social media, namely how addictive it is and how it elevates and rewards those who shout the loudest, or are the most outrageous and selfish, leaving many of us feeling disoriented or alienated: “When there is no clear view, you stumble over your shoes. There’s something out there with the size of Donald’s ego. We all want a piece of fame, and what it can or won’t do. And when our 15 minutes fade, we’ll star in fake news. There’s one thing better than no view at all, and that is no clear view. Heaven holds a place for those who waste.” Musically, the song features a strong guitar hook that instantly grabs our attention, keeping hold of it as the song’s melody and instrumentation ebb and flow.

One of my favorite tracks is “1982“, a beautiful and rousing radio-friendly anthem that Marco wrote to honor the memory of a childhood friend who suddenly disappeared. The story is set against a background of global and national political and cultural issues of that time, some of which are still topical today. Events touched upon in the song include the Falklands war and political demonstrations, the film E.T., and The Clash song “Rock the Casbah”. I love the swirling synths, driving rhythms and gorgeous guitar work, as well as the video of the guys performing the song, which shows their endearing sense of playfulness.

Those 80s vibes are particularly strong on the melodic pop-rock track “Modern Daydream“, while affairs of the heart are explored on “Would it Hurt You?“, in which Marco makes a heartfelt plea to a romantic partner to make more of an effort to salvage a troubled relationship: “Would it hurt you to try a little more?” And on “The Losing End“, the guys employ a grungier, harder rock sound with tortured psychedelic riffs, heavy bass and thunderous percussion to drive home their point about how life seems to be stacked against most of us: “All the sinners here scream away their fears. I hope you won’t forget we’re on the losing end.”

Another favorite of mine is “We Set Sail“, an exuberant anthem with a commanding foot-stomping beat, gorgeous bluesy guitars and soaring vocal harmonies. The lyrics, which Marco delivers with an arresting emotional fervor, speak of setting off on a search for a brighter future: “Grab your belongings. Take hold of your loved ones. Fight for a place in line. Face the adventure and prepare for failure. But hold on to your hearts. Chasing the clouds. If the time is right, and the spirit’s high, we’ll come out of our homes tonight. We set sail. New land is all we hope for.”

A song that particularly resonates with me from a lyrical standpoint is “The Years“, as it speaks to the inexorable passage of time and how life’s disappointments can add up: “The years will slowly get you. Months of slow decay. Weeks we’ll never see the sun. Days will wash away. The hours will crawl and turn on you. Minutes melt away. Midnight makes a new day.” After the rather bleak introspection of “The Years”, “Red Handed” comes blasting through the speakers with a barrage of roiling guitars and driving rhythms. Marco emphatically sings from the perspective of a Machiavellian figure who envisions himself as a savoir “My philosophy will save the world“, when in actually they’re an opportunistic oppressor: “Who knew my new heresy can chain the world? I’m bad enough, sad enough to blame the world. Caught red handed while I claim the world.” Sounds like some of the vile and nefarious political leaders we’ve had recently…

On the electrifying stomper “Racing the Clouds“, Morgendust sings the praises of the excitement of cities “Lights in the city, shine so bright. Life in the city at night. Clouds keep filling my head with all these sounds.” I really like how the song calms at the end with a beautiful closing piano riff. In sharp contrast, “These Shadows” sweeps in upon an eerie soundscape of menacing industrial synths and edgy distorted guitars, but then brightens with melodic piano chords in the verses, lending an optimistic vibe before the grungy guitars return in the chorus, only to fade out again. Marco passionately sings of his hope for better days ahead: “I hope for us we’ll lose our fear of all these inner storms. I pray our love won’t fade away. I hope my love. I hope for us. I hope for you these shadows disappear.”

The gospel-like “A Way Out” closes the album on a contemplative note, with hopeful lyrics about climbing out of a depressive state of mind: “I’ve tried to fill the days with love and laughs and play. I’m not there, although my heart gave me a warning, shook up my senses… I will find a way out, a way out of here.” It’s a fine ending to a superb, wide-ranging album from this very talented group of men. Morgendust have outdone themselves here, and should be immensely proud of what they’ve achieved.

Morgendust will embark on their upcoming New Land Tour ’23 starting on April 15th. Here’s the schedule:

Connect with Morgendust:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Find their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / YouTube / Bandcamp / Amazon

Top 30 Songs for March 26-April 1, 2023

British four-piece The Zangwills are an immensely-talented indie band who make exceptional melodic pop-rock with a maturity of songwriting and musicianship as fine as many top big-name bands around today. Based in Cheshire, they consist of Jake Vickers (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Ed Dowling (bass), Sam Davies (lead guitar) and Adam Spence (drums). They’ve been actively making music since 2017, when they were all still in their teens, and have released a total of 13 singles and two EPs. Listening to their back catalog, I can emphatically state that every one of their songs is outstanding.

I didn’t learn about them until summer 2021, when I was blown away by their magnificent single “Never Looked Back”. I loved it so much that it went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30, and ended up at #24 on my Top 100 Songs of 2021 list. Now, after a long 15-week climb, they once again reach the top of my chart with their latest single “Backpatters and Shooters”. It’s a gorgeous track, with a haunting piano-driven melody, cinematic orchestration and achingly beautiful guitar work that make it one of their most impactful songs yet. Then there are Jake’s powerfully emotive vocals, which convey an incredible vulnerability as he croons the lyrics addressing the pursuit of love and how it far outweighs the importance of anything else: “You know that I’d be the first to plant roses in your face, and frame beauty with beauty. And though I’m dying of thirst, I’m still running in your race with the men who pat my back, and the men who would shoot me. And when I look up, if I squint I see love. But it’s never that much, and no it’s never enough.” 

In other chart developments, “Transmitter” by Sea Power and “Tropic Morning News” by The National move up to #3 and #4, respectively. Entering the top 10 are “New Gold” by Gorillaz featuring Tame Impala and Bootie Brown, at #9, and “Ghosts Again” by Depeche Mode, at #10. The biggest upward mover this week is “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus, leaping eight spots to #14. The two debut songs this week are by artists making their first appearance on my chart: “Wolf” by New York indie/art rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs, at #28, and “the perfect pair” by sweet-voiced Filipino-British singer-songwriter beabadoobee (born Beatrice Kristi Ilejay Laus), at #30. The song’s been out a while, and finally clicked with me.

  1. BACKPATTERS AND SHOOTERS – The Zangwills (2)
  2. LOVE FROM THE OTHER SIDE – Fall Out Boy (1)
  3. TRANSMITTER – Sea Power (5)
  4. TROPIC MORNING NEWS – The National (6)
  5. TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (3)
  6. PAGES – White Reaper (4)
  7. JUST BEFORE THE MORNING – Local Natives (7)
  8. PEPPER – Death Cab for Cutie (10)
  9. NEW GOLD – Gorillaz featuring Tame Impala and Bootie Brown (12)
  10. GHOSTS AGAIN – Depeche Mode (13)
  11. SUREFIRE – Wilderado (11)
  12. YOU GOTTA DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO – Darksoft (9)
  13. SOFTEN – Alex Southey (18)
  14. FLOWERS – Miley Cyrus (22)
  15. NIGHT BUS – Caitlin Lavagna (8) 19th week on chart
  16. EYEZ – The Arcs (20)
  17. WEIGHTLESS – Arlo Parks (21)
  18. THE WALK HOME – Young the Giant (24)
  19. BLUEBELL WOOD – Frank Joshua (25)
  20. I WANT YOU DEAD – Two Feet & Allie Cabal (26)
  21. MODERNISE – Slow Readers Club (23)
  22. SLEEPWALKING – All Time Low (17)
  23. KID – The Revivalists (29)
  25. MAYFLY – Callum Pitt (15)
  26. THE LONELIEST – Måneskin (16)
  27. PAID OFF – Oli Barton & the Movement (30)
  28. WOLF – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (N)
  29. EVERGREEN – Mt. Joy (19)
  30. THE PERFECT PAIR – beabadoobee (N)

WINACHI – Single Review: “FOR YOU I’D KILL” feat. Natalie Wilde

Another favorite act of mine, who I’ve written about numerous times over the past five years, is British electro-funk/soul collective WINACHI. Based in and around Manchester, they originally formed in 2015 as The Winachi Tribe, and now consist of founding members Liam Croker (lyrics and vocals), Antony Egerton (keyboards, programming) and Inder Goldfinger (percussion), along with Andy McKay (lead guitar), Richard Ritchie (bass) and Paul Lawrence (drums), all accomplished musicians with diverse musical backgrounds. With their love of funky beats and for having a good time, their infectious sexy grooves – which they describe as “swaggering Mancunian tenacity spliced with smooth Californian G Funk soul” – are guaranteed to have you shaking your ass with a smile on your face.

Three years ago, in March 2020, WINACHI teamed up with iconic Italian fashion brand Pantofola d’Oro for a marketing collaboration involving the company’s handsome and sporty Pantofola d’Oro Winachi Collection Trainers, which were released alongside WINACHI’s single and video “Funky But Chic” (which I featured). Now, they’ve once again collaborated with Pantofola d’Oro for the exclusive release of a new Winachi Collection Trainer shoe, along with their latest single “FOR YOU I’D KILL“, featuring additonal vocals by L.A.-based singer-songwriter Natalie Wilde. Co-produced by the band’s frequent collaborator, the legendary John X (David Bowie, U2, The Rollings Stones) at Earthstar Creation Centre in Venice, California, the song is the second single from WINACHI’s upcoming album Sympathy For The Future, as well as the lead single from the FOR YOU I’D KILL EP, which also features three outstanding remixes.

Like many of WINACHI’s songs, “FOR YOU I’D KILL” is a deliciously-upbeat dance track with a message of positivity, love and support. Starting with an infectious thumping bass groove, they add an exuberant kaleidoscope of soulful swirling synths and snappy percussion, and top it off with a glorious blend of funky and gnarly guitars. Liam’s always distinctive vocals, which occupy a sweet spot between sultry and raspy, are perfectly complemented by Natalie’s backing harmonies as he croons his words of love and encouragement “Remember I love you, I always will. For you I’d take a bullet, shit, for you I’d kill. I believe in you.” The song is flawlessly crafted and produced, and I love it!

All three remixes are superb too. The first is by Atari Safari (British DJ/producers and brothers Keef and Ben Booker), who speed up the tempo and inject a sensuous Latin flavor to the track, dialing up the energy with a force that compels us to get up and dance!

Next up is the remix by Warriors Of The Dystotheque (DJ/Producers/Engineers/Musicians Jonny Mac-Sean Graham [France] and Mike & Nick Rufolo [Ireland & NYC] who make electronic downtempo house music). The longest track of the four, running 6:13 minutes, it’s a terrific electro-funk song featuring a dominant bass groove that sounds a bit like the one used in No Doubt’s “Hella Good”. The guys incorporate lots of trippy sounds and musical effects, and Natalie’s vocals are much more prominent here.

The final remix, by Julian Shah-Tayler (England-born and now L.A.-based electro-pop artist who recently released his album Elysium), has a more sophisticated, cinematic and soulful feel. While not a true ‘disco’ song, it nevertheless features some of the beautiful orchestral touches I loved in many of the great disco hits of the 70s.

While they were in Los Angeles last year to record music with John X and film a video, WINACHI also played a gig at the landmark club The Mint, which, other than for a couple of brief closures, has been in almost continuous operation since 1937. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Liam, Antony and Inder, and seeing them perform some of their songs that I love.

Connect with WINACHI: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Find their music on  Spotify / Apple Music / SoundcloudBandcamp / Amazon

SKAR DE LINE – Single Review: “A Way”

Quite a few music bloggers I follow seem to have favorite artists and bands they like to write about, and I’m no exception. I’m partial to certain artists and bands not only for their music of course, but also because I genuinely like them as people, so am happy to support them however I can. One such artist who falls into this category is Skar de Line, the solo music project of singer-songwriter, producer and composer Oskar Abrahamsson.

A thoughtful, charismatic and intensely creative guy born and raised in Sweden and now based in London, England, Oskar draws inspiration from his love for cinematic soundtracks and blends those influences with pop, hip-hop, electronica and alternative rock to create dark, unconventional music that takes the listener on a sonic adventure while also giving us a lot to think about. A renaissance man of sorts, the multi-talented fellow writes, performs, records and produces all his own music, as well as writing, directing and editing all his imaginative music videos. I’ve featured him on this blog him more times than I can remember over the past five years, both as a member of his former band Heist At Five as well as his solo act Skar de Line. 

Oskar is endlessly fascinated by the concept of boundaries and the human need for self-understanding, so with that as a guiding principle, in May 2022 he released “Reset”, the first chapter in his autobiographical suite of music that aims to explore those concepts. That song addressed the notion of wanting to become a better person through continually evolving and reinventing oneself, but fearing that nothing will ever be good enough. He followed a few months later with the second chapter “New Silhouettes”, a song about having the freedom to make your own choices to become whoever or whatever you want to be, with no limits on how many different options you can choose. Last November, he released the cinematic “No Eyes in Paradise”, the third chapter in which he pondered his own sense of self-worth as an artist, believing he’s creating works of value and merit, but fearing that if no one else sees nor acknowledges them, does any of it mean anything? (I reviewed both “Reset” and “No Eyes in Paradise”.)

Now he returns with the fourth chapter of his autobiographical suite in the form of the single “A Way“, a hauntingly beautiful song inspired by a real-life event in Oskar’s life that occurred one night in London. He witnessed a man about to commit suicide by leaping off a ledge, intervening at just the right moment and saving the man’s life. But instead of feeling relieved that he’d helped avert the demise of this man, he was hit with conflicting emotions he hadn’t expected. Rather than feeling positive, caring thoughts over having saved the man’s life, he also harbored feelings of deep selfishness. Regardless of the outcome of the situation, he experienced a sense of excitement from the event, which gave him a new story to tell.

To convey this sense of emotional conflict, dissonance and guilt, Skar de Line layers eerie, wobbly synths over an emphatic beat as he croons: “With my hands on your shoulder looking down, this feeling is creeping up on me. The excitement I just can’t deny. Twenty feet above the ground, I’m scared, just how little I care. It’s almost like I’m thrilled to be here. Maybe it’s no longer about your fall. Maybe it’s about mine. Up or down, I can’t control it. I don’t know where I’m going. Up or down, I can’t control it. I don’t know what I’m doing.” The music turns more cinematic in the choruses, his vocals rising to a lovely plaintive entreaty as he sings “And if you would let go just for a moment, that would change our lives tonight. A bridge to a new life. Another step now, and you’ll take my breath away.”

This music video was entirely created, storyboarded, and edited by Skar de Line, and filmed on location in the Swedish countryside. The scenes were shot in the middle of summer in bright daylight, and later color corrected in dark blue hues to make them appear to have occurred at night, as was done with quite a few films made in the 30s, 40s and 50s before the advent of computer generated effects and more sophisticated cameras (“Sorry Wrong Number”, “From Here to Eternity” and “South Pacific” are a few that come to mind).

The story depicted in the video takes a different turn from reality, reflecting how Skar de Line truly felt about the night. He’s shown sitting on a ledge overlooking a lake with another man, and when the man finally leaps off, Skar de Line reaches out to grab him too late to stop him from tumbling over the precipice. The outcome of the event leads him to question his core sense of morality, his perspective on what is up and down, and ultimately, if there could have been another way to go.

Connect with Skar de Line: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Find his music on Spotify / Apple MusicAmazon / Soundcloud

JOHN ROJAS – EP Review “Amongst the Glass Trees”

I seem to be on an electronic music kick lately, and today I’m pleased to present another artist making interesting and innovative music in that broad genre – Los Angeles-based John Rojas. The singer-songwriter, engineer, producer and multi-instrumentalist has been a fixture on the L.A. music scene for more than a decade as part of techno-punk band MACHINEKIT (originally founded as Dharma in 2012), whose 2022 album I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND reviewed nearly a year ago, as well as his work with the bands La Bella, Brainfreeze and Badmouth. He created his own recording studio MachineHouse Audio in 2020, and if all that’s not enough, he’s also a terrific writer who does reviews for the website Tourworthy. 

In late 2022, Rojas decided to start recording music as a solo artist, and released a two track electronic instrumental EP IN THE THICK OF IT last December. Now he returns with his second EP Amongst The Glass Trees, featuring four new electronic tracks in which he further explores his love for electronics and composition, creating a raw sense of overwhelming tension in the process. As I alluded to earlier, he’s a talented wordsmith with a gift for describing his music in much greater detail and with more colorful language than I possibly could, so I’ll simply quote his own words about the new EP:

The sequential trip across the instrumental tracks needs no vocals to convey their lyrical and poetic content as the dark ambient tones submit to elegant arpeggiations layered over earworm bass throbs, and succumb to minimalist piano hiding underneath the skittering programmed beats. This EP is split into four-parts as it embraces vicious modalities that indirectly illustrate the fundamental theme of confusion. The only semblance of the subject is the name of each track that surreptitiously creates one elaborate, yet ambiguous sentence to pose as animated thesis. This four-piece epic is an ambivalent mood changer that non-verbally tells the tale of a lonely man lost within the chaos of fake love, while being influenced by his own skepticism and vanity.”

The EP opens with the title track, which starts off tentatively, slowly building with a subtle throbbing synth bass groove overlain with glitches and bleeps, accompanied by occasional gentle guitar strums. At around two minutes, they’re joined by more pronounced sharp percussive sounds as the track evolves into a fully-formed, dissonant soundscape of otherworldly synths, snappy drumbeats and wobbly bass. Late in the track, the music turns more melodic with the addition of haunting piano keys as we transition into “Inside The Rabbit Hole”. A gentle pulsating groove ensues, punctuated by distant horn-like sounds and occasional jarring blasts of harsh alarm-like sounds, giving a sense of impending danger ahead. Halfway into the track, the tempo increases to a near-frantic pace as the industrial synths become darker and more harsh. Everything comes to a dramatic climax as Rojas adds a heavy percussive EDM beat for the final minute of the track.

The third and fourth tracks – “Lovers Paradise Is” and “An Ocean Full of Brains” – are a sort of couplet with a strong Nine Inch Nails vibe. “Lovers Paradise Is” starts off with a quick, head-bopping beat overlain with more of those trippy glitches and bleeps, which are eventually joined by hypnotic pulsating synths that lend a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Around the three-minute mark, some lovely keyboard synths are added as the tempo calms a bit. The music immediately segues into “An Ocean Full of Brains”, which has a more relaxed, introspective vibe, though the glitchy reverb, ominous synths and rather unsettling piano keys still convey an edgy undercurrent. Halfway into the track, the tempo increases to a EDM dance beat as the droning, glitchy synths continue. The tempo calms down in the final minute of the track as the music gradually fades away, leaving us feeling relieved yet still somewhat uneasy.

With Amongst The Glass Trees, John Rojas has created a darkly beautiful and brilliant little masterpiece. In its 20-minute-long run time, he takes us through a sonic journey that’s both beautiful and bleak, filled with an arresting array of sounds and textures to startle our senses and waken our imagination.

The EP artwork was designed by longtime collaborator, graphic designer Jaydee Perales at Wire Mark Design Studio.

Find John’s music on Bandcamp SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

REBEL TRAMP – EP Review: “Intra Dimensional Frequencies”

Rebel Tramp is the music project of Bob Prince, an imaginative songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Petaluma, California, a bucolic city north of San Francisco. Playing guitar, bass and keyboards, he creates his own unique sound by weaving together elements of blues, hard rock, psychedelic rock and electronic music. In a great interview last August with Marc Schuster for his Abominations blog, Rebel Tramp commented on the vast array of artists who influence his sound: “I’ve played in lots of blues bands and have a huge blues influence. BB king, Albert King, Mike Bloomfield on and on. Also, Hendrix, Jaco Pastorius, John Coltrane, Any Jazz Fusion from the 70’s, Metallica, and Sound Garden are probably my biggest influences.”

In addition to Rebel Tramp, Prince has also collaborated with several other artists, as well as being involved in another music project Amplitude & Frequency, which includes British musician SD Charlton on vocals and Taylor Allum on drums. Together, they put out an EP Urban Frequencies last June.

On February 3rd, Rebel Tramp released his latest EP Intra Dimensional Frequencies, and let me just say that’s it’s a psychedelic trip on steroids! He wrote the EP last year for the Lights And Lines Album Writing Club, a community event in which more than 50 artists signed up for the challenge of writing and recording an album or EP in a month. The brain child of Brighton, UK-based Mike Five, a guitarist, podcaster, and curator of the Off The Record Independent Music Festival, Lights And Lines is a music collective and independent record label whose mission is “to share new and exciting music from the underground with music lovers everywhere.”

Rebel Tramp decided to take part in the competition to – in his own words – “be my weirdest self“, and Intra Dimensional Frequencies was the result. The EP depicts a phantasmagorical songwriting journey, overflowing with wild experimentation and reflecting a strong desire to expand his creative boundaries to their fullest. Well, he achieved that and quite a bit more. Intra Dimensional Frequencies went on to win ‘Best EP’ in the competition, and was later released through the Lights And Lines label.

Most of the tracks are instrumental-only, with sci-fi themed titles like “Deep Space Blues”, “Intergalactic Spies”, “Robotic Fantasy” and “Funky Jupiter”. The lone track with vocals is “Deep Space Blues“, where Rebel Tramp reminds me a bit of Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys and The Arcs), as he sings “There’s a place in deep space, where the roses are red./ I’m gonna sing my blues away.” Musically, the track is a languid bluesy number highlighted by a dramatic mix of tortured psychedelic riffs, gnarly blues guitar runs, sharp percussion and feedback-infused synths.

Intergalactic Spies” sounds like it was recorded at a jam session in heaven between Albert King, Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix. Rebel Tramp’s double-barreled fusillade of wobbly blues and screaming psychedelic guitars are truly a thing of wonder, layered over a bed of crushing bass and accompanied by smashing drumbeats. “Robotic Fantasy” lives up to its title, with droning industrial synths, discordant guitars, electronically-generated and otherworldly robot-like vocal sounds, and an abundance of snappy drums and crashing cymbals.

On “Funky Jupiter“, Rebel Tramp uses a colorful mix of skittering keyboards, wobbly guitar notes, funky bass, assertive percussion and lots of fuzzy reverb to create a somewhat chaotic soundscape, though he ends things on a gentle, atmospheric note in the outro. “Same Channel” is perhaps the most melodic of all the tracks, with a wonderful soulful groove, highlighted by glittery spacy synths and dual funky and bluesy guitars layered over an assertive drumbeat.

The final track “Wavetashia“, which was the first single released in advance of the EP, is described by Rebel Tramp as “a psychedelic, blues rock electronic rollercoaster we must be this tall to ride‘”. The powerful combination of crunchy synths, wailing psychedelic guitars, deep throbbing bass, snappy drums and otherworldly female vocals create a euphoric and trippy soundscape. The video he created for the track, using royalty-free video clips from Cottonbros, Koolshooters and Pavel Danilyuk, shows an array of glamorous people getting lost in the music being spun by a DJ.

Intra Dimensional Frequencies is a superb EP, and a testament to the impressive creativity, imagination and skillful musicianship of Bob Prince – aka Rebel Tramp. I’m confident we’ll be hearing more great, innovative musical creations from him in the future.

Connect with Rebel Tramp: Twitter / FacebookInstagram

Find his music on BandcampSpotifyApple MusicYouTube

Top 30 Songs for March 19-25, 2023

Fall Out Boy remain at #1 for a second week with their monumental “Love From the Other Side”, while British band The Zangwills inch up to #2 with their cinematic “Backpatters and Shooters”. Entering the top 10 are “Tropic Morning News” by The National, jumping six spots to #6, “You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do” by Darksoft, moving up two spots to #9, and “Pepper” by Death Cab for Cutie, which climbs three spots to #10.

Three great songs make their debut this week: “I Want You Dead”, a duet by blog and chart favorite Two Feet, along with his fiance Allie Cabal, entering at #26, “Kid” by New Orleans alternative/roots rock band The Revivalists, at #29, and “Paid Off” by another favorite of mine, London-based alternative pop-rock band Oli Barton & the Movement, at #30.

  1. LOVE FROM THE OTHER SIDE – Fall Out Boy (1)
  2. BACKPATTERS AND SHOOTERS – The Zangwills (3)
  3. TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (2)
  4. PAGES – White Reaper (5)
  5. TRANSMITTER – Sea Power (6)
  6. TROPIC MORNING NEWS – The National (12)
  7. JUST BEFORE THE MORNING – Local Natives (9)
  8. NIGHT BUS – Caitlin Lavagna (4)
  9. YOU GOTTA DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO – Darksoft (11)
  10. PEPPER – Death Cab for Cutie (13)
  11. SUREFIRE – Wilderado (14)
  12. NEW GOLD – Gorillaz, Tame Impala & Bootie Brown (16)
  13. GHOSTS AGAIN – Depeche Mode (17)
  15. MAYFLY – Callum Pitt (8)
  16. THE LONELIEST – Måneskin (10)
  17. SLEEPWALKING – All Time Low (15)
  18. SOFTEN – Alex Southey (19)
  19. EVERGREEN – Mt. Joy (18)
  20. EYEZ – The Arcs (22)
  21. WEIGHTLESS – Arlo Parks (23)
  22. FLOWERS – Miley Cyrus (27)
  23. MODERNISE – Slow Readers Club (28)
  24. THE WALK HOME – Young the Giant (29)
  25. BLUEBELL WOOD – Frank Joshua (30)
  26. I WANT YOU DEAD – Two Feet & Allie Cabal (N)
  27. SHADOWS IN THE DARK – The Star Crumbles (20) 21st week on chart
  28. THIS IS WHY – Paramore (21) 19th week on chart
  29. KID – The Revivalists (N)
  30. PAID OFF – Oli Barton & the Movement (N)

DARKWAYS – EP Review: “Neon Lights”

I’m a long-time fan of darkwave and synthpop music in all its forms, and so are millions of others it seems, given the enduring popularity and influence of such legendary acts as The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joy Division/New Order, The Psychedelic Furs, Echo & the Bunnymen, Cocteau Twins, Gary Numan and Clan of Xymox, to name but a few that come to mind. Another lesser-known, but every bit as good, act is Darkways, a rather enigmatic act from Barcelona, Spain that’s the solo project of a singer-songwriter and musician named Marc. His music is influenced by his love of synthwave, darkwave and all 80s music.

I first learned about Darkways way back in 2016 when he followed me on Twitter. He’d just released his debut eponymous album Darkways, and as I did for all musicians and bands who followed me back then – when I only followed a few hundred accounts – I listened to his album and messaged him about how much I liked it. He replied with a thank you for having listened to his album and enjoying it. Fast-forward to six and a half years later, he messaged me a few days ago that he’d recently released a new EP Neon Lights, asking me for feedback. Well, it was love at first listen, and I’m thrilled to share it with my readers.

Whereas Darkways had a somewhat more garage rock vibe, with lyrics sung in Spanish, Neon Lights is beautifully-crafted darkwave, with a more polished sound and lyrics sung in English. The EP features five excellent songs, the first of which is the title track “Neon Lights“. The song is darkly beautiful, with swirling industrial synths layered over a sensuous, pulsating dance beat, all of which create a lush cinematic soundscape evocative of a few songs by the Pet Shop Boys (who I also love). The lyrics speak of casting off the bonds of oppression and enforced conformity in order to live a freer, more honest existence “They scorned us and now we want to set the world on fire. They have belittled us. It’s time they see the flames in our eyes. We will not obey.”

I like the night (and the night likes me)” has a faster tempo, led by an urgent driving beat and overlain with shimmery chiming guitars and mysterious percussive synths. Marc’s vocals have a somewhat ominous, drone-like quality that perfectly complements the song’s moody vibe as he sings of embracing and finding comfort in the darkness and danger of the night: “I like the night. Darkness is my only friend.” Along a similar vein, “Dark & Light” speaks to the evil and good that exists within each of us, albeit to varying degrees: “They don’t understand the beauty of dark & light inside us.” With it’s deep, pulsating groove and spacey shimmery synths, the song has a strong Joy Division vibe.

Young Again” is classic darkwave at its best, with a throbbing synth bass beat and beautiful icy industrial synths. Marc’s vocals call to mind those of Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs, only with a Spanish accent. The final track “More than dreams” features a chugging synth bass groove, overlain with swirling cinematic synths and wonderful jangly guitar notes. I really like Marc’s vocals here, particularly the exuberant harmonies in the chorus.

Neon Lights is a marvelous, immensely enjoyable little EP. Darkways recently signed with the RetroReverbRecords label, which will hopefully help bring him the notice he so deserves.

Connect with Darkways:  FacebookFacebookInstagram

Find their music on BandcampSpotifyApple MusicYouTube

“Till There Was You” – from “The Music Man” to The Beatles

I watched the film The Music Man last night on Turner Classic Movies, and was reminded of how much I love the song “Till There Was You”, both the version sung by Shirley Jones in the film, and the later cover by the Beatles. After reading a post by Randy of MostlyMusicCovers blog for yet another blog PowerPop, about the Beatles’ song “Ain’t She Sweet”, I decided to write a post about “Till There Was You”.

The Music Man, which along with Singin’ in the Rain is my favorite movie musical, began as a stage musical written by Meredith Willson. The show opened on Broadway in December 1957, and became a huge hit, running for 1,375 performances and winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The film version, released on June 19, 1962, also went on to become one of the biggest films of the year and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. (I still remember seeing it in the theater as an 8-year old kid, and loving it.) The film’s composer Ray Heindorf won the film’s sole award for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment.

Both stage musical and film were directed by Morton DaCosta, with actor Robert Preston playing the title role of the charming traveling salesman and con artist Professor Harold Hill both on stage and in the film. The film also starred the stunning Shirley Jones as town librarian Marian Paroo, along with Buddy Hackett, Paul Ford, Hermione Gingold, Pert Kelton, and a young Ronny Howard. 

“Till There Was You” appears late in the musical and film, when Marian reluctantly agrees to meet Harold at the footbridge during the ice cream social, a big event in the small town of River City, Iowa where the story takes place (the footbridge was a spot where couples met for romantic encounters). After having previously spurned all of Harold’s attempts to woo her, Marian makes a 180-degree turn with regard to her feelings about him, telling him how much he’s come to mean to her, which she expresses in the song. Jones had a beautiful singing voice, which earlier had landed her coveted roles in the film musicals Oklahoma! and Carousel (she also won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for portraying a prostitute in the 1960 film Elmer Gantry), and her rendition of the song is deeply moving and heartfelt.

Turn your speaker volume up for this movie clip, then be sure to turn it back down for the Beatles’ version:

The Beatles version was produced by George Martin and recorded at Abbey Road Studios in July 1963. It was released that November in the UK as part of their second album With the Beatles, and was also included on their American debut album Meet the Beatles!, released in the U.S. in January 1964 (it was the first album I ever bought, as a 9-year old besotted with the Fab Four). It was the only song from a Broadway musical ever released by them. For the recording of the song, Paul McCartney sang vocals, accompanied by George Harrison and John Lennon playing acoustic, classical guitars in a Spanish style over a bolero bongo beat played by Ringo Starr. I like how Paul sings “soar” in place of “saw” in the lyrics.

Interestingly, Paul first heard “Till There Was You” from a 1961 cover version by Peggy Lee, when it was played by his older cousin Bett Robbins. He said that he “had no idea until much later” that it was from The Music Man. The song was part of their pre-recording repertoire in 1962, and they performed it at the Star Club in Hamburg. Also, Meredith Willson’s widow later remarked that her husband’s estate eventually received more income from the royalties of the Beatles recordings of “Till There Was You” than it originally received from the actual play. (Wikipedia)

There were bells on a hill
But I never heard them ringing
No, I never heard them at all
'Til there was you

There were birds in the sky
But I never saw them winging
No, I never saw them at all
'Til there was you

Then there was music and wonderful roses
They tell me in sweet fragrant meadows
Of dawn and dew

There was love all around
But I never heard it singing
No, I never heard it at all
'Til there was you

Then there was music and wonderful roses
They tell me in sweet fragrant meadows
Of dawn and dew

There was love all around
But I never heard it singing
No, I never heard it at all
'Til there was you
'Til there was you

SOLAR EYES – EP Review: “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship”

I first learned about British psychedelic pop/rock collective Solar Eyes in the summer of 2021 when they initially released their fantastic single “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship”. I loved it at first listen, happily featuring the song on this blog. They subsequently dropped an even better single “I See the Sun”, which I loved so much, it went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30, and ended up ranking #18 on my 100 Best Songs of 2022 list.

The Birmingham-based trio is comprised of singer-songwriter, musician and producer Glenn Smyth, drummer Sebastian Maynard-Francis and guitarist Tom Ford (who still records with the band, but moved away so no longer performs live with them). Their music is an arresting style of pop/rock awash in dramatic psychedelic grooves, twangy Western-style surf guitars and dreamy cinematic synths, giving them a distinctly unique sound. Their music has been featured in numerous televised sporting events, including Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Match Of The Day and Birmingham City Football Club, as well as traditional alt-rock radio channels such as BBC Introducing Hereford, BBC 6 Music and The Guardian.

In February 2022, Solar Eyes signed to Fierce Panda Records, and as is common with many labels and management companies, they had the band take down, then gradually re-release, their previously released material under the new label. Solar Eyes released their debut EP Dreaming of the Moon in April 2022, which I also reviewed. They re-released “I See the Sun” that September, then followed in October with a second EP Alcatraz, which featured “I See the Sun” along with five new tracks. Now they’re back with their third EP Naked Monkey on a Spaceship, featuring four new songs plus the title track that first introduced me to the band. 

Glenn was inspired to write “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship” after hearing a friend proclaim “life is like being a naked monkey on a spaceship, with no control.” The song is darkly beautiful and mesmerizing, with a Depeche Mode-esque vibe, highlighted by a pulsating bass groove, and featuring lush, eerie synths, propulsive drums and swirling riffs of psychedelic guitars. I love Glenn’s gentle droning vocals that have an almost sensual, otherworldly quality.

The cool animated video for the song was created by Birmingham-based videographer, lighting and visual design producer Matt Watkins, who’s also created videos and produced visual design & lighting for live performances by numerous acts, most notably Gorillaz.

Their signature twangy Western-style guitars make an appearance on “Lucifer’s Child” a dark cinematic gem about a devil woman who spreads evil and darkness wherever she goes. Glenn calls out her evil nature: “They schooled you well in the art of deceit. It’s second nature to your evil dreams. She sends the light, the light away“, then warns “But don’t you mess with me again.” The track ends in a discordant flurry of fading distortion in the outro.

Next up is the hauntingly beautiful “Someone Else“, a departure from their usual harder-driven style, and an instant favorite of mine. The multi-textured guitars and dreamy synths are gorgeous, as are Glenn’s melancholic but lovely vocals. About the song, he explained “I’ve been tinkering around with ‘Someone Else’ for years. Initially I wrote it after reading the book ‘Marching Powder’ – I’m sure Brad Pitt bought the rights to it and was going to do a film about it, so I was ready to jump in with it if needed, haha. But as time went on it sort of took on a life of its own, with that feeling that you’re turning into someone else, someone you’re not… going down a dark path. The path of least resistance. Blaming others and then a realisation it’s all on you.”

After the relative calm of “Someone Else”, we’re launched headlong into “Roll The Dice“, which the band calls a “tub-thumping call to arms in the midst of these troubled, rubbled times, top loaded with that Chemical Brothers/Primal Scream mashed-up sound, with the drive and swagger of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club as well as a sly nod to the sonic mysteries of Messrs Morricone and Pizzorno.” The video, created by Tom Wagstaff, features surreal black and white kaleidoscopic images interspersed with scenes of a young woman dancing in a bucolic park setting.

The final track “Rabbit Hole” is a psychedelic trip of ominous swirling synths, distorted guitars and spacey sound effects layered over an almost sinister stomping beat. Glenn’s echoed vocals have a menacing, otherworldly feel, perfectly complementing the songs overall spooky vibe as he drones “I’m going down rabbit holes. Looking for what, I don’t know. To know the answers. I’ll keep on searching, I’ll find a cure. I’ll find a lover, won’t that be cool./ I’m on a trip to a different world.

When I first wrote about their music more than a year and a half ago, Glenn told me he’d written lots of songs he was eager to get out into the world. With Naked Monkey on a Spaceship, Solar Eyes now has a total of 16 songs to their credit, all of them superb. I can’t wait to hear what they still have up their musical sleeves!

Glenn and Sebastian are currently in Austin, Texas, where they’ll be performing their songs at the legendary South By Southwest music festival.

Connect with Solar Eyes: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Find their music on Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloudYouTube