NEVER APART – Single Review: “Hold On Hope”

Never Apart

Never Apart is a female-fronted rock band based in Coventry, England. Rising from the ashes of Operation Guillotine, who disbanded in spring 2019, Never Apart plays a hard-hitting style of rock, showcased by their November 2019 debut single “Damaged”. Comprising the band are Alice (Al) Clarke (lead vocals), Rhys Scott (rhythm guitar), Ben Ollis (lead guitar), Nathan Gummery (bass) and Jake Dalton (drums). Today, May 22, they’re back with their second single “Hold On Hope“, and it’s another banger.

The song storms through the gates with a barrage of gnarly guitars and pummeling drumbeats, then a strong, thumping beat kicks in and we’re off to the races. Ben and Rhys slice through the airwaves with chugging riffs of shredded guitars, while Nathan and Jake deliver a hard-driving rhythm with a deep, buzzing bassline and smashing drums, respectively. Though her singing voice is not terribly deep or powerful, Al does nevertheless have a commanding vocal style that’s well-suited to the band’s heavy sound. She nicely holds her own as her vocals rise and fall to match the intensity of the music, without ever being overpowered. As the song progresses, the music and her vocals build to a dramatic crescendo in the final chorus, then fades out with an extended reverb.

The lyrics seem to be about a woman struggling to free herself from an abusive situation or relationship.

Do you ever close your eyes and try to hide the pain inside your mind?
Do you ever long to be so far from this
Your life, it’s hard to hide what’s inside?
You’re the only girl in the lonely world
Fighting to be heard tonight, tonight

Do you ever fake your smile and dry your eyes because it’s all you know?
(Don’t know where to go)
You fell so hard, you fell so fast, your heart shattered like glass
In time it’ll pass
You’re the only girl in the lonely world
Fighting to be heard tonight, tonight

They beat you up, tired to the bone
Fight so hard to be so strong
Hold on hope, you’re not alone
Hold on hope, you’re not alone

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CHANTY TRÈS-VAIN – Album Review: “AUTREFOIS”

Chanty Tres-Vain Autrefois

Chanty Très-Vain is a creative, hard-working and super-talented young English singer-songwriter and guitarist now living in Berlin, Germany. Her pleasing, accessible style of music draws upon an eclectic mix of folk, Country, alternative rock and art pop, and her honest, poetic lyrics express sentiments and situations we can all relate to. She released her debut EP Daffodils in 2016, which was produced by her brother Minky Très-Vain, front man of the London scratch rock band Brain Ape (who I’ve featured numerous times on this blog). In 2018, Chanty began releasing a series of singles, starting with “Home” and following up with three more – “Miss My Friend”, “Cup of Tea” and “From Hello”.

On May 8th, she dropped her wonderful debut album Autrefois via her brother Minky’s label Scratch Rock Records. The album was once again produced by Minky, who also played some of the instruments on many tracks, and the drums and percussion were performed by The Siberian Alien (who was drummer for Brain Ape from 2013-15). The album features the four previously-released singles noted above, along with seven new tracks, all exploring such themes as platonic and romantic relationships, cultural identity, heartbreak, and mental health. Chanty states that the album was inspired in part by “times gone by” and her own past: “Each song on ‘Autrefois’ is a moment that changed me in some way. To have these mementos is very important to me, and I’m so glad to have them to remind me of the lessons. They also remind me of the good moments that might otherwise have got lost among the bad.” Autrefois is a French word meaning “once upon a time”.

The first track “Shine” has a rather quirky intro consisting of clicks and what sounds like a kitten or some other baby animal cooing, accompanied by a muffled lo-fi recording of Chanty singing and playing acoustic guitar. After 55 seconds, the song bursts open with fuzzy electric guitars, thumping drumbeats and her clear, fervent vocals singing of a relationship that has survived its ups and downs to become stronger than ever: “Don’t give up, carry on, feel the beauty in the air. Hold my hand, keep me close and I know that I’ll be fine. I know we’ll survive. Cause you and I are stronger than before. You and I shine.”

The moving song “Undone” is a fine example of Chanty’s excellent songwriting and vocal abilities. Over a haunting melody, she’s layered a mix of acoustic and electric guitars, including delicate chiming guitar notes that give the track an enchanting feel during its quieter moments. Her vocals are lovely, going from tender croons to impassioned pleas as she sings to someone struggling with mental health issues: “I know I’m one to talk, I’ve been there, I’m still there… but please, stop blaming the weather. Stop blaming the alcohol. Cause I know you better and your smile is coming undone.”

The delightful “Cup of Tea” speaks to cherishing the little things, both good and bad, about a loved one and feeling really in tune with who they are: “The day you don’t want your morning cup of tea is the day I’ll start to worry. The day you decide to stay inside is the day I’ll drag you out. The little things that annoy me about you, make up who you are. And given the choice, I would not change a thing, flawed as we are.” The song features sweetly-strummed guitars, delicate keyboards and gentle percussion that make for a pleasing listen. Chanty’s produced videos for several of her songs, and one of my favorites is the one for “Cup of Tea”. She designed and created the figures and wonderful dollhouse set for the charming stop motion video:

And here’s a cute behind the scenes video showing her painstaking creative process:

Home” is a poignant song that strongly resonates with me for a couple of reasons. First, I too have lived in several cities I felt close connections with, yet still felt restless while living in each of them. Secondly, I believe that only through people and nations working together in cooperation can we have lasting peace and make progress toward solving some of the major problems facing humanity and the world. I personally mourned both the election of Donald Trump and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. OK, enough of my soapbox.

About her inspiration for the song, in an interview with Music Interview Magazine, Chanty explained: “I am a ‘third culture kid’. I grew up in a culture that is different from my family’s culture. I feel loyalty to both while finding it difficult to answer the question, ‘Where are you from?’ I went through a bit of an identity crisis a few years ago, but found comfort in the fact that no matter what happened, I was still connected to both of them through the European Union. However, in June of 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the union. This inspired ‘Home,’ because the only safety net I had in terms of belonging and the one thing I found comfort in, would soon be gone. The song is me trying to figure out where my loyalties lie, where I should live and where to call home.” She beautifully articulates these sentiments in her lyrics:  “Torn between my family tree and where to find my friends / It’s a country I come back to time and time again / It’s divided, yet united, it’s more than I can say for a place called ‘United’ that tears itself away / Should I go back to the country I never called home? / Go back to the heart of where I feel like I belong?

The video for the song opens with scenes of Chanty feeling restless in her apartment, then transitions to frenetic scenes of six cities she has either lived in or felt a deep connection with: London, Brussels, Brighton, Edinburgh, Dublin, and Berlin.

The bittersweet “Miss my Friend” is one of loveliest tracks on the album, and also one of my favorites. Another deeply personal song for her, Chanty said it describes a very specific evening when she was stuck in a spiral of sadness, anguish, and loneliness. She was missing someone dear to her, but unable to tell them at the time, so wrote a song to express her feelings. The song has a gentle, languid  melody with strummed guitars and restrained drumbeats, forming a somber backdrop for her emotionally-charged vocals that reveal a deep sense of sadness, even breaking at times as she sings “I’d like to think you’re alright now. That you’re healing fine. But there’s one last thing I want you to know. I never wanted to be the source of all that pain. But I tried to do what was right when both of my hands were tied. I hope that you will see that someday, and I just want you to be OK. But I miss my friend sometimes.”

Chanty dials things up a notch on “From Hello“, which has more of a rock feel thanks to a harder-driving beat, more electric guitars, and heavier bass and drums. The faster tempo and her impassioned vocals convey the pain and heartache of realizing a relationship that started out with such promise is now in tatters: “Oh how easy is was to just dive head first. Oh how easy it was to fall for you. Then we woke up and realized that life’s greatest gift is battle lines. To hurry to survive being torn apart, and with one just blow everything fell to dust. Now we see the end of us. We’re drowning at the deep end.”

Promise” is a tender ballad about making a commitment to another to stay with them no matter what, while “Cambre” is a languid, bittersweet song with lyrics reminiscing about happier times. Both songs consist only of Chanty’s lovely strummed guitar and plaintive vocals, though “Cambre” features what sounds like a mellotron later in the track.

It’s back to a harder-edge vibe on “Silence” and “To Goodbye“, both musically and lyrically. Both tracks feature Minky’s gnarly guitar riffs and The Siberian Alien’s frenetic drumbeats, and both speak to problems with commitment and communication that sadly doom far too many relationships. On “Silence”, Chanty laments “You say you never wanna hurt me. But then you just disappear. All those words that you said to me, about how we can make it work. Were those lies, or were you sincere?” “To Goodbye” sees her at the end of her rope, and giving her lover the heave-ho: “I won’t wait around for you to decide when you want to stay and when you want to hide. I won’t stand by and watch you create walls to my heart and tears on my face. I deserve more than the silence you gave. You walked all over the trust that we made. I won’t stick around for you anymore. So take this goodbye. I’ll show you the door.”

Album closer “With You” is an unusual track, with a harsh and reverby lo-fi quality that gives it an unfinished demo feel. Chanty’s echoed vocals sound quite different, and are accompanied by strummed guitar and what sounds like a sharply-plucked string instrument, probably another guitar. I don’t understand why she and Minky chose to record the track in this manner, unless they intended the sound to go full-circle to the album’s beginnings, or simply wanted a more unorthodox sound. Whatever the reason, it pains me to say that I don’t care for it. Otherwise, the rest of Autrefois is outstanding, and a beautifully-crafted album. Chanty Très-Vain is an extremely talented and imaginative musician, lyricist and vocalist, and listening to her songs is a real pleasure.

Follow Chanty:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream her music:  SpotifyApple Music 
Purchase AUTREFOIS at  Scratch Rock Records

TREMENDOUS – Album Review: “Relentless”

Tremendous Relentless

As I noted when I first featured them on this blog back in March 2019, it takes some balls for a band to not only call itself ‘TREMENDOUS‘, but also use all caps in their name. Fortunately, the Birmingham, England-based trio deliver the goods with their colorful and exuberant style of Glam Rock that’s heavily influenced by such legendary artists as T.Rex, David Bowie, Journey, Slade, Def Leppard, Mott The Hoople, Cheap Trick, New York Dolls, The Babys, Heart, and Aerosmith. As my guest blogger David Thurling so beautifully articulated: “The swagger and confidence of this band is infectious. They have all the down and dirty of Jagger and Richards at their best, the showmanship and vocal power of Steve Tyler and a sense of fun not often seen amongst young and emerging bands.”

TREMENDOUS are Mark Dudzinski (Guitar/Vocals), Ryan Jee (Bass) and David Lee (Drums). In early 2018, they released their first single “Like Dreamers Do”, and over the next 22 months, followed with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Satellite”, “Don’t Leave Our Love (Open For Closing)” and “Copycat Killer”, the last two of which I’ve previously featured on this blog. (You can read those reviews under the “Related” links at the bottom of this post.) Now they’ve dropped their debut album Relentless, released via the Horrendous Records label on May 15th. The album contains those four singles, along with six new tracks, all of them dealing with the perilous minefield of love and relationships.

Kicking off the album is “Don’t Leave Our Love (Open For Closing)“, a wonderful track that makes for a great introduction to TREMENDOUS. I’ve already written about it pretty extensively, but I’ll just restate that it’s a melodically beautiful and hard-hitting song with terrific guitars, driving bass and aggressive percussion. Mark’s emotive and colorful vocals register in the higher octaves, occasionally venturing into a soaring falsetto that raises the adrenaline. About the lyrics, Mark stated “Its just an age old tale of heartbreak but with a bit of tragedy (as shown in the video). A relationship gone toxic.” He explained that the seemingly contradictory lyrics “don’t leave our love (open for closing)” are actually a plea to not leave things in such a way that the relationship is open to ending. The song’s video is beautifully filmed and entertaining, but also pretty dark, and ends on a rather violent note.

One of my favorite tracks is their first single “Like Dreamers Do“, a lovely romantic ballad that shows the band’s softer side. The chiming guitars and warm piano keys are highlights for me, and Mark’s wailing guitar solo in the bridge is superb, as are his impassioned, heartfelt vocals as he croons “We dream of a million things me and you / as we stare outside and dream like dreamers do.” The rather quirky video produced for the song is really sweet.

The guys get down to their glam rock roots with the rousing tune “Rock’n’Roll Satellite“, delivering a fusillade of fuzz-coated riffs, throbbing bass and lively drumbeats. Mark sings to someone who appears to be his muse, inspiring him in his quest to be a rock star: “You’re my rock’n’roll satellite / light up my tunes and I’m living on your rock, rocket to the moon / You glitter my bones, you glamour my shoes.” On the intense and bluesy “Bag of Nails“, his vocals start off sounding a bit like Alex Turner, but soon return to their usual form as he sings to a woman who treats him like shit: “And I wake up puking over you / And your heart it beats me black and blue / Dreams that I’m chasing my tail / But I’m waking up as your bag of nails.” His guitar work is fantastic, with Ryan and David laying down flawless bass and drum rhythms, respectively. 

Another favorite is “Daniela“, with it’s frantic melody and gnarly, hard-driving riffs. It’s exhilarating balls to the wall rock’n’roll at its finest. “Take a Good Look at My Good” is a slower anthemic ballad with lyrics asking a loved one to show some compassion and mercy: “Letting go of my pride to hold on to your tide.” I like the languid beat, and Mark’s fuzz-coated jangly riffs are great.

The guys ramp up the rock’n’roll vibes in a big way with “Heart Sinker“. Mark furiously shreds his guitar as he emphatically wails “You give love heart disease. You’re just another heart sinker. But you make my heart a little bit pinker.” They keep the hard-hitting rock’n’roll grooves coming on strong with “Fightin’ to Lose“, a frenetic little tune with a lo-fi garage rock vibe, thanks to a grimy mix of surf and distorted guitars and fuzzy drums. “Hell is Only a Blessing Away” has a varying melody that goes from relative calm to frenzied and back again. The guys deliver more of their signature gnarly riffs and driving rhythms that keep the adrenaline flowing.

The album closes on a high note with the frenetic “Copycat Killer“, a raucous, guitar-driven orgy of glam rock goodness. The song opens with the main chorus refrain “I go outta of my head, I go outta of my mind. Now she’s in for the kill and claws out for mine”, tongue-in-cheek clues to a pending doomed relationship. The music then shifts up through the gears of ascending power chords before settling into the verses with chugging riffs, buzzing bass and smashing drumbeats. Mark fervently exclaims “She’s a Copycat Killer, Copycat Killer / Headlines cry over this milk spiller / She’s a Copycat Killer, Copycat Killer / With nine lives she’s the new shock thriller.” It’s rather interesting how the song ends very abruptly.

Relentless is a pretty apt title for this record, as it’s chock-full of non-stop glam rock goodness from start to finish. The three guys who make up TREMENDOUS are all skilled musicians, adept at delivering exceptional rock’n’roll that never lets up during the album’s 28-minute run time. Furthermore, band frontman Mark Dudzinski is a fine singer, with a powerful, wide-ranging vocal style that’s perfectly suited to their exuberant sound.

Connect with Tremendous on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunesGoogle PlayAmazon

Top 30 Songs for May 17-23, 2020

1. LEVEL OF CONCERN – twenty one pilots (2)
2. CAUTION – The Killers (1)
3. BLACK MADONNA – Cage the Elephant (4)
4. LOST IN YESTERDAY – Tame Impala (5)
5. DELETER – Grouplove (6)
6. BLINDING LIGHTS – The Weeknd (3)
7. BAD DECISIONS – The Strokes (9)
8. YOUR LOVE (DÉJÀ VU) – Glass Animals (10)
9. MARIA – Two Feet (12)
10. SHINE A LITTLE LIGHT – The Black Keys (7)
11. OH YEAH! – Green Day (8)
12. LEMON DROP – Absofacto (16)
13. LET’S FALL IN LOVE FOR THE NIGHT – FINNEAS (13)
14. ME & YOU TOGETHER SONG – The 1975 (14)
15. HELL N BACK – Bakar (21)
16. OVER AND OVER – Amongst Liars (11)
17. IF NOT FOR THE FIRE – The Million Reasons (20)
18. LONELINESS FOR LOVE – lovelytheband (22)
19. HOW WILL I REST IN PEACE IF I’M BURIED BY A HIGHWAY?// – Kenny Hoopla (24)
20. RUN – Joji (23)
21. USED TO LIKE – Neon Trees (15) 22nd week on list
22. HALF YOUR AGE – Joywave (25)
23. EVERYTHING I WANTED – Billie Eilish (17)
24. LAY YOUR HEAD ON ME – Major Lazer featuring Marcus Mumford (27)
25. ADORE YOU – Harry Styles (18)
26. DON’T START NOW – Dua Lipa (19)
27. SHANGRI-LA – EOB (29)
28. BLACK & WHITE LOVE – Beating Hearts Club (30)
29. BE AFRAID – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (N)
30. EXPECTATIONS – Katie Pruitt (N)

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/040nmtq3f6k3dH0dYWgK5L?si=gPEXsaH3S1ejY82g5I-8Pg

SILENCE THE CROW – Single Review : “State of Mind”

Silence of Crows State of Mind

Silence the Crow is a female-fronted groove metal band based in Houston, Texas, with a sound that’s been described “as if Marilyn Manson and Evanescence had a one-night stand in Amsterdam”. I can’t find much information on them, other than that the front woman is Jordan Crowe. They released their debut single “Crucify” last September (2019), a feral blast of metal mayhem calling out another’s betrayal and their duplicitous actions.  On May 1st, they dropped their second single “State of Mind“, released via Silent Nightmare Records. The song was written by Crowe and Don Rollins, arranged by Artem Efimo, who tracked and edited it at Red Ghost Studios, and was mixed and mastered by Kane Churko (Papa Roach, Five Finger Death Punch, Ozzy Osbourne, Skillet).

“State of Mind” seems to continue on the theme established on “Crucify”, with Silence the Crow now deeply wanting to exact revenge for all the hurt and pain she’s suffered. Her sadness and hurt have now turned to anger and hate, expressed by the lyrics “I’m dancing with the demon you woke inside of me / too late for your compassion / my companions come from hell“. She’s now left with thoughts of “murder in my state of mind.” 

The song is quite melodic, with outstanding and intricate guitar work that ebbs and flows between hauntingly beautiful notes during the few moments of relative calm, and an explosive barrage of chugging riffs and screaming distortion for most of the hard-hitting track. The interplay between the jack-hammer metal guitars and pummeling drums is fantastic, and the wailing guitar solo in the bridge is absolute fire.

But the real highlight of the song are Crowe’s incredible vocals. Not very many women can successfully carry off singing metalcore, but Crowe does it better than most I’ve heard. Her vocals start off as a low, sultry croon that nicely convey a sense of vulnerability and deep sadness, then erupt into fearsome metalcore screams that fully express the raw fury of the searing lyrics, chilling us to the core.

Take your hands off me
I’m beyond your touch
all you are to me is the smell of blood
I’m dancing with the demon you woke inside of me
too late for your compassion
my companions come from hell

Love is so good, so good
carved into my skin with stone from my heart
but I’m falling from grace and I am poison, but I don’t care
I wonder why you’re standing there
there’s murder in my state of mind

Don’t you wish you had seen the pain in me
isolation made everything you see
your empathy is empty your tears lost in my rain
rage is my last emotion
broken hope just feeds the flames

Love is so good, so good
carved into my skin with stone from my heart
but I’m falling from grace and I am poison, but I don’t care
I wonder why you’re standing there
there’s murder in my state of mind

Take your hands off me
fuck you and what you need
voices are whispering
they want to see you bleed

Silence the Crow released a darkly beautiful video for the song on May 15th. It was filmed and directed by Charlie G. at Cold Creek Studio.

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YOUNG DECADES – Single Review: “Islands”

Young Decades

Young Decades are a new English rock band based in Manchester who released their beautiful debut single “Islands” on April 24th. Before I get into discussing the song I’ll provide a bit of background on the band members, who’ve had a bit of a journey to get to where they are today. Prior to forming as Young Decades earlier this year, three of the four current band members were part of Liverpool-based band COLOUR, which itself was formed early in the 2010s from the ashes of two previous acts – Liverpool band The Changes, and Manchester band Red Light Motion. As COLOUR, they released a number of terrific singles and EPs, including “Strangers”, “Kafé” and “The Famous Boy Making Things”, winning a BBC award and national radio play along the way.

With their sound moving in new directions in early 2020, the band in short order lost two girlfriends and their drummer, and decided to relocate to Manchester. With a COVID-19 lockdown looming, they rushed to hold auditions for a new drummer, posting ads everywhere they could around Manchester. After only 20 minutes into their first audition with one of Northwest England’s best percussionists in the form of YouTube drummer, Luke Bolger, the decision was made to bring him into the fold. The four immediately reformed as Young Decades, in reference to the first two decades of the century from which the band was formed. The official lineup now consists of James Tidd (vocals), Scott Harvey (guitar, keyboards), Liam Downey (Bass) and Luke Bolger (drums).

Young Decades’ music is a glorious mash-up of rock, synth pop and EDM elements, and “Islands” is the very embodiment of their lush, dreamy sound. The gorgeous song was co-produced by the band and Tom Longworth, and mastered by renowned mastering engineer Pete Maher (U2, The Killers, Nick Cave, The Pixies). The song has a sweeping, synth-driven melody reminiscent of some of The Killers songs that I love. The galloping riffs and thumping drumbeats beautifully evoke the urgency expressed in the lyrics about two people struggling to save themselves by running away to find a place they can be free. I love the richly colorful synths throughout the track, and one of the song’s highlights for me are Scott’s hauntingly beautiful piano keys.

James has a wonderful, emotive singing voice, and his vocals sound amazing as his earnest croons in the verses soar to passionate heights in the chorus, accompanied by stirring harmonies that bring goosebumps. “Islands” is a stunning record, and a spectacular debut for this talented band of musicians.

I’m On The Run, I’m Hanging On
Just Hold Your Breath, And Grab My Open Hand
A Hurricane, An Aching Pain
Is Closing Down, Shutters On Everything
Oh My Love Is, Ever Burning
Build It High, As the Seasons Turn In
[Oh
My Love] Oh My Love, [Time Is Up] Time Is Come
[Oh My Love] To Build Something From the Sea
Build An Island, Where We Can Be
I Need The Dry Land, Just You And Me

Can We Build That High, Can You Say You’ll Try
Don’t Just Sit And Stare, I Can Almost Feel It
The Cooking Sand, Falling Through My Hand
Like The Time We Waste, Being On A Different Page
Oh My Love Is, Ever Burning
Build It High, As the Seasons Turn In
[Oh My Love] Oh My Love, [Time Is Up] Time Is Come
[Oh My Love] To Build Something, From the Sea

Build An Island, Where We Can Be
I Need The Dry Land, Just to be…
All Ours, It’ll Be All Ours, It’ll Be
All Ours, It’ll Be All Ours, It’ll Be
All Ours, It’ll Be All Ours, It’ll Be
Build An Island, Where We Can Be
I Need The Dry Land, Just to be…

On May 2nd, Young Decades released a special EP Islands Audio Negatives, featuring five alternate versions of the song, including acoustic, instrumental and slowed-down versions the band is calling “audio negatives”. They’re all really beautiful, so do check them out:

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Purchase: Google PlayAmazon

HEAD NOISE – Single Review: “200,000 Gallons of Oil”

Head Noise

Born from a love of inane junk culture and modern art. Here to disorientate, but also to captivate.” So say Welsh new wave/electro/art-punk band Head Noise about themselves and their deliriously fun retro-80s music that sounds like a crazy mash-up of Devo, Erasure and The B-52s. Formed in 2016 and based in Aberdare and Mountain Ash in southern Wales, Head Noise consists of Mitchell Tennant (Keytar/Vocals), Wayne Bassett (Guitar/Synth) and Jordan Brill (Guitar/Synth). The band started out as a duo act with Mitch and Wayne performing an original set of songs at an art exhibition, which according to their bio was described by an attendee as “David Lynch meets the Pet Shop Boys”. Jordan joined the band in 2017 as a second guitarist and synth player, giving their music a fuller sound.

In October 2017 they released their debut EP Special Effects Improves The Defects, which includes some hilariously-titled songs like “The Meat People” and “The Man With the Rubber Head”.  That was followed in August 2018 with the Microwave EP which, along with their humorous and entertaining live performances, catapulted them to notoriety (or infamy, depending on who you ask), throughout South Wales and Southwest England. They’ve also had the good fortune to open for bands like Wolf Alice, Public Service Broadcasting and Electric 6. This past November (2019), they dropped their debut album Über-Fantastique, an ambitious and marvelously trippy work featuring 14 tracks. The album release was accompanied by a limited run of CDs which quickly sold out.

Head Noise has just released one of the album tracks “200,000 Gallons of Oil” as a single, along with a wacky video that nicely showcases their zany, playful nature. (Be sure to check out their other imaginative and quirky videos on YouTube.) The song is catchy as hell, with a thumping synth bass-driven beat that immediately sets our toes tapping and head bopping. The guys layer a cool assortment of spacey, psychedelic synths to create a trippy vibe, then add crisp percussion and subtle, funky guitar notes to fill out the sound. I like how they top things off with some well-placed cowbell near the end for good measure.

The lyrics are rather silly and make no real sense to me, unless they’re singing about an unfortunate oil spill. But whatever their meaning, they’re perfectly suited to the lively music and band’s quirky persona. Mitch has a great singing voice, and delivers the lyrics with a cheeky sense of urgency:  “200,000 gallons of oil. Fill up the bath, you grotesque gargoyle. 200,000 gallons of oil. There is a potential cause for concern. Sit by the side of the road and get wet. Cut off the area with hazard tape. I’m just not ready to deal with it yet.”

Follow Head Noise: Facebook / Twitter/ Instagram
Stream their music: SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google PlayAmazon

YOU’RE AMONG FRIENDS – Album Review: “Start Making Sense”

You're Among Friends Start Making Sense

Cleveland, Ohio-based band You’re Among Friends are most definitely among friends at this blog. Their laid back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock seems to channel Steely Dan, The Grateful Dead and even a bit of Elvis Costello, and always makes for a pleasurable listen. That comforting low-key vibe, combined with their thoughtful, down-to-earth lyrics about this crazy thing we call life, has a way of making me feel that everything’s gonna be alright. And boy, we can all use more of that right now!

I’ve had the pleasure of featuring them twice on this blog, first in June 2017, when I reviewed their 2016 album As We Watch the Years Go…, and again in January 2018 when I reviewed their EP One Day You’ll Look Back. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.) They’ve just released their latest album Start Making Sense, which dropped May 8.  It’s their first release in two and a half years, and they sound better than ever.

You’re Among Friends was born in 2007 when guitarist and vocalist Anthony Doran and bassist Kevin Trask – who’d both played together in another band – rechristened it with a new name and began reworking songs from the previous band’s repertoire. They released their debut self-titled album in 2007, then soon followed up with an EP and double single. As the demands of life, work and starting a family took more of their time, however, the band went on a hiatus in 2011 that lasted four years. Once they reconnected in 2015, they began working on the album As We Watch the Years Go…, with songs inspired by their life experiences as well as the passage of time and how it affected friendships, relationships, and the band itself. Their follow-up EP One Day You’ll Look Back continued to explore some of the themes first addressed by the album.

Like more than a few bands, You’re Among Friends has struggled since their beginnings to find and keep drummers. They’re now on their seventh drummer in the person of Mike Janowitz, who appears to be a perfect fit. In a recent interview with Jeff Niesel of Cleveland Scene, Anthony commented “Mike is great. We have had some drummers who are great technical drummers and skilled, but they often treat us like we’re a stepping stone to the next gig. And then, we’ve had some cool, nice guy drummers, who aren’t that great at drumming. Mike is the best of both worlds. He’s the best drummer we’ve ever played with.”

You're Among Friends composite

Anthony wrote the music and lyrics for most of the songs, and all three members worked out the arrangements together. They began recording songs together for Start Making Sense this past January and early February at Kevin’s house prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Anthony later overdubbed his guitar parts and vocals at his home from late February through early April, then Kevin mixed the recordings from late April through early May at his home. Anthony noted: “We haven’t been in the same room since February. It’s really weird, but we kept going with the album and let it happen naturally.” Mike came up with the album title, and Kevin designed the artwork using a photograph he took during one of their sessions.

Opening track “Trying to Take It All In” speaks to the pressures of trying to keep up with the constant flood of information that can be downright overwhelming these days, and coming to the conclusion that’s it’s really not all that important in the end: “Things move fast these days. And folks who try to say if you’re not keeping up the pace, you’re in the wane. But I’m beginning to think that I could handle the shame. Getting kicked out of the race might be okay. But if I ever move too slow, you should probably know I’m trying to take it all in. It doesn’t matter who’s the fastest, when there’s this much information to process. The avalanche rolling down the mountain is gonna bury us all just the same.

Their song titles let us know exactly what the songs are about, and I really enjoy the almost conversational flow of their lyrics, which are easy to understand and relate to. On the toe-tapping “Waiting For Life to Start Making Sense” they tell us to lighten up a bit and not take everything so seriously: “Take life as it comes. Don’t get uptight. Just keep moving on. Never know about what’s coming next. Seems like the worst could turn out to be the best.” I like Anthony’s guitar noodling on the track as he lays down a catchy little riff, as well as his endearing vocals that remind me of Randy Newman.

The short and sweet “Once the Toothpaste is Out of its Tube” uses a simple but brilliant metaphor to describe how our words and actions can sometimes have more impact than we might realize: “Stuff you put out into the world, might come back around to you. So don’t forget what happens once the toothpaste comes out of its tube.” “Why Do I Dwell on Things?” asks why some of us (me included) focus on the negative rather than all the good things in our lives. “Why do I dwell on things that I can’t change? What good does it do, it just winds me up, and life has to go on anyway.” The funky guitars and bass on this track are really good.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Hills You’re Willing to Die On“, not only for Kevin’s wonderful bass-driven groove and Mike’s jazzy drums, but also its message about how so many people today choose to blindly cling to their political beliefs: “Carefully choose the hills you’re willing to die on. Those coattails you ride on get more torn and frayed by the day.” About the song, Anthony explained to Cleveland Scene: “It was during the impeachment hearings that the lyrics came to me. We’re all divided, and we can’t communicate any more because we’re all set in our ways.”

The first thing we hear on “Just Keep Being Nice” are the faint spoken words “That does not count against me. This is the one.” Whether intentional or not, it reveals, to me at least, how funny and real these guys are. They also serve up more funky guitars and jazzy rhythms as Anthony advises us to not let the blowhards and assholes get to us:  “Life is too short to give anything they say a second thought. Smile and pretend you agree that their message has value and meaning as it goes in one ear and out the other. Just keep being nice. And pretend to play the game. Act like you want to win, although none of this means anything.”

On the sweet “On Again, Off Again“, they touch on how some friendships and even love affairs can wax and wane, yet endure through time: “We go from the closest of friends  to the coldest of strangers. But whenever we find our way back here again it seems like no time has passed and nothing’s changed between us.” From a musical standpoint, “String a Few Nice Words Together” is one of my favorites, as I love Anthony’s funky guitars and Kevin & Mike’s cool, jazzy rhythms. The lyrics, however, speak to the singer’s shortcomings with regard to his actions not living up to his words: “Talk is cheap, but that’s always been good enough for me. I understand when you say that my apologies don’t mean anything because things never change. They always go right back to the way they were before.”

Kevin wrote the lyrics for the final track “My Best Friend Is Never Coming Home“. It’s a poignant song about remembering a best friend who’s gone: “So much has changed since you left us. I’ve got kids now. You would have loved them. They would have loved you too. But now you’re gone. I’m all alone. My best friend is never coming home.” It has a languid melody that suits the wistful lyrics quite well, without sounding maudlin or depressing.

With Start Making Sense, You’re Among Friends have delivered yet another thoughtful and pleasing album for us to enjoy. As their name implies, it’s like the return of an old friend with whom we’re able to pick right back up from where we left off. And that, my friends, is a mighty good thing indeed.

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DRAWING ON SCARS – Single Review: “Pressure”

Drawing on Scars is an alternative rock music project based in Atlanta, Georgia. The creative brainchild of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Will Thacker, Drawing on Scars collaborates with guest vocalists from across the U.S. in the creation of ever-changing music in which the vocalists bring their own unique approach to each song. Generally, Thacker writes and performs all the music, and the different vocalists write the lyrics, which they then interpret in their own distinct style. The result is a music repertoire that always sounds fresh and delivers the unexpected.

Formed in 2012, the project produced an EP featuring seven artists, then went on hiatus in 2017, during which time Thacker formed the band Fieldcrest. He resurrected Drawing on Scars in early 2019, and began releasing a series of singles in quick succession. In August 2019, I reviewed his single “Rewrite”, which featured vocals by Jena Jones, and am now pleased to share his fifth and latest single “Pressure“. The track features dramatic vocals by Julian Michael, whom Thacker had worked with previously.

Once again, Thacker’s masterful musicianship is on full display here, as he wields his guitar like a jack hammer, pummeling us with an unrelenting barrage of jagged riffs. Solely responsible for all the instrumentation, he also does a superb job delivering a pulse-pounding bass line and heavy, thunderous percussion that create a massive wall of sound for Michael’s fearsome vocals. It’s a fairly short track, but sure packs a dynamite stick’s worth of explosive metal rock in under two and a half minutes.

Michael got the inspiration for his lyrics from imagery contained in the dark and surreal video, which was created a few years ago by animator Gabrielle Azi. He explains: “I wrote these lyrics during a time of self exploration and growth. I had joined the Army and experienced new relationships, all which required open mindedness and action while setting aside my fears and insecurities. The barrier in my way was mostly pride and narcissism, as it’s hard to be a genuine person when you weren’t brought up to be available to those sorts of things. This song is about how I forgot what it was like to be, in my eyes, that broken person. It’s about forgiving yourself, learning from mistakes, and overcoming trauma. While the implication of the lyrics may be about death and destruction, they have more of a subtle and less disturbing meaning. This contrast is to paint a picture of what it felt like, versus how simple it all really was. Regardless of what “Pressure” means to me, I want a listener to be able to heal and know that growth happens every day. We can’t change our outside world very often, but we can change how we see ourselves and our perceived worth. Most importantly, we can always treat ourselves and others better.”

I walked in line, I should be dead
Yet I felt the pressure grow
Saw it leaking out of my head
Thought it time for me to go

Cold, dark, lost and crying
He’s not one worth finding
I will never miss his face
Despite what we have found

I have forgotten what was said
There is more that I should know
Evil lying in my bed

Long road, old forgotten
Feet hurt, gross and rotten
I will never miss this place
No matter where this road is bound
He’s lying in the street but I still let him bleed

Sweet silky breeze, sweet silky dreams

I disregarded all my head
I am all I need to know
Auras filling out the edge
Time for this tired soul to go

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DYING HABIT – Single Review: “Solutions”

Dying Habit2

Dying Habit is an alternative rock band from northern Wales, whose electrifying and melodic sound is influenced by such bands as Dead Letter Circus, Katatonia, Biffy Clyro, Therapy?, The Wildhearts and Karnivool. Hailing from Anglesey Island, they started off as a group of friends who bonded over a shared love of music. Eventually coming to realize they had a special musical chemistry between them, they officially became Dying Habit in 2016. Beginning as a four-piece, they now consist of brothers Nathan (vocals & bass) and Mark Jones (drums), and Alan Hart (guitar).

In August 2018, they released their first official single “Unrealities”, a magnificent and stunning rock song (you can read my review here). More recently, they’ve been writing and recording songs for their forthcoming debut album Until The Air Runs Out, due out later this year. In April they released the first single from the album “Out of My Hands”, and on May 6 they dropped the second single “Solutions“. The song has a moody, contemplative feel, with Alan’s superb, layered guitar work that forms the backbone of the track’s hauntingly beautiful melody. After the departure of the band’s previous bassist, Nathan took over duties on bass and does a fine job laying down a pulsating bass line that keeps the track on solid footing. Mark’s measured drumbeats strike the perfect balance of percussion, never overpowering the sometimes subtle instrumentals and intricate guitar notes.

Nathan has a low-key vocal style with a vulnerable, emotive quality that’s well-suited to the music and introspective lyrics that speak to feelings of regret over past mistakes and hurts inflicted toward others, and yearning to make things right but not fully knowing how.

I’m reading every word
All the wires in my heart
And the memories lay dead
But not in the eyes of everyone
This is what we’ve learnt
Is that I feel
My mind still hurts
But yes I’m fine
Yes I’m fine

Whatever my mistakes were
Whichever lies I told
The heat is overwhelming
But my skin’s remaining cold
This serenity engulfs me
Yet the world keeps passing by
I long to find solutions

I never get the use
Of letting people in
Of giving them your pain
Don’t let them breathe you in
Breathe you in

When we’re lost
There is no right answers
There is no cost
There’s no cost

“Solutions” is a well-crafted and beautiful song. I like the direction that Dying Habit seems to be going with their latest music, and look forward to hearing their album when it’s completed.

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