KAROLINA ROSE – EP Review: “INVICTA”

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Falling in love with a song or artist the moment you first hear their music is among life’s greatest pleasures – certainly for me anyway. And that is precisely what I felt when I listened to the new EP INVICTA by Karolina Rose. Inspired by the music of artists such as Kate Bush, Debbie Harry, Florence Welch, The Cranberries, David Bowie and Madonna, the Brooklyn, New York-based singer/songwriter writes songs about her own experiences and presents them with beautiful commanding vocals.

Born and raised in Philadelphia to Polish parents, Karolina graduated from the prestigious Wharton Business School and had a successful career on Wall Street, which she ultimately left to pursue her dream of making it as a full-time musician. (I can identify with her life-changing decision to leave behind a successful career for which she spent years of study, as I left my job as a city planner to own and operate a bed & breakfast inn.) She began writing songs on her acoustic guitar, and performing them in clubs in and around New York City, gradually building a loyal following. Realizing she needed to take her music to the next level, she teamed up with Grammy Award wining producer/engineer/mixer Andros Rodriguez (Madonna, Shakira, Florence + the Machine) for her debut EP INVICTA, which dropped on February 1st.

Speaking on the meanings behind the title and theme of INVICTA, Karolina explains: “The word ‘INVICTA’ means unconquered, and is found on the coat of arms of Warsaw (the city where my parents come from), so the title represents my strength and who I am. From quitting my job on Wall Street to having to navigate a brand new industry, there was a lot to learn on the journey towards INVICTA’s creation. Following your truth is not always the easy choice. And for that I call the record INVICTA; it is to say ‘I did it’ and I am ready to fight for what I love.”

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The EP kicks off with the anthemic “Crystal Gem“, a hopeful declaration of Karolina’s determination to pursue her dream, no matter the odds. Backed by shimmering synths and a driving dance beat, she confidently sings: “No one can stop me now, from doing what I want to do. How nice it would be, to be taken care of endlessly. ” The track sounds like a song Katy Perry could have sung, only better. “Love Crazy” is a sultry affair that speaks to how we throw caution and common sense out the window when the pangs of love hit us like a ton of bricks. The track features lush swirling synths and fluttering percussion, creating a beautiful backdrop for Karolina’s fervent vocals that convey the blind passion of falling madly in love, helpless to resist its siren call: “Love, it makes you do crazy things. / Nothing else matters.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Going to Berlin“, a fantastic dance pop anthem that tells the tale of a woman who overcomes heartbreak by going off and jet-setting the world’s greatest cities. Karolina explains: “The concept first came to me when I was hanging at the Russian baths in downtown Manhattan with a good friend discussing her growth and how much she’s changed. She had left an old love behind in Europe to move to NYC and fearlessly follow her dreams. She then, of course, went to Berlin…” I love the throbbing EDM beat and Karolina’s wonderful layered vocals, and this lyric is so good: “She was lip-smacking good. Hold her tight if he could. But he lost her. Regret seeps in. She’s not coming back.”

Downhill” is a slow, moody track filled with powerful sweeping synths and mesmerizing percussion. In an interview with webzine CelebMix, Karolina states that the lyrics speak to the “simultaneous feelings of excitement and fear when pursuing something entirely new and unknown.” She passionately sings “I’m on the edge, lost and found. Can you hear the screaming sounds? We reach the skies before we go downhill.”

A standout track is the sad but beautiful “Goodnight, Mr. Moon“, inspired by Karolina’s experiences of exploring grief through dreams and nightmares. On her Facebook page she explained: “I have suffered from nightmares for many years. I often have hallucinations when I sleep. I wake up and see things in my bedroom or projected onto the walls or something within my room takes a different shape and moves. The first verse of the song takes inspiration from one of my nightmares where I woke up and it literally looked as if the moon was projecting a spotlight onto my wall and it looked like a scene was playing out. It may sound magical, but it was quite frightening. I started coming up with the visualization of someone hallucinating in the middle of the night, bringing back their loved one by talking to Mr. Moon. She communicates with her lost love in the nighttime. She processes her grief through dreams. She thinks it’s real until the end of the song when she wakes up from the dream and knows it’s really time to say goodbye.

The dreamy synths, gentle percussion and her mix of soft and soaring vocals are a perfect match for the poignant lyrics: “How do I get it all back? All the pieces of my heart? How do I get it all back? All the pieces came apart. How do I get you back?

The final track “Move With Me” was actually Karolina’s very first single, which she released two years ago, in February 2017. The song has a wonderful throwback 80s New Wave vibe that’s become so popular again recently. I love the bouncy EDM beat that aims straight for the hips, along with the glittery techno synths that remind me of songs by A-ha and New Order. Karolina’s vocals exude seduction as she implores the object of her desire to quit wasting time and get busy loving her: “Check my pulse. Am I still alive? / Do you know you took me by surprise? Fragile, young love. What will be, will be. Move a little bit faster now. Go a little bit faster now. There’s no time to waste, so baby pick up the pace and move with me.

INVICTA is an outstanding EP that beautifully showcases the impressive songwriting and vocal talents of this very lovely artist. Every track is superb, making for a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. I want to give special thanks to fellow blogger Hasan Bayez of SheBOPS for recommending Karolina. Check out his great blog too!

To learn more about Karolina, check out her Website
Connect with her on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / AmazonBig Cartel

WIDE EYED BOY – EP Review: “Sun Again EP”

Wide Eyed Boy Sun Again EP

Since first hearing their incredible debut single “Wolves” two years ago, I’ve been totally smitten with British band Wide Eyed Boy. I’ve featured the charismatic Liverpool foursome on this blog three times now, beginning with my review of “Wolves” almost exactly two years ago, in February 2017, then a review of their magnificent follow-up single “Loving You is So Easy” that July, and an interview in May 2018, shortly after the release of their third single “Sun Again”. They’ve just dropped their first EP Sun Again EP, and it’s my pleasure to feature them for the fourth time.

Wide Eyed Boy consists of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitar, keyboards) and Tom Taylor (Drums). They all met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and quickly bonded over their shared love of music. They made the decision to release a series of singles to get their music out there and heard, and they’ve succeeded quite nicely. Since the release of “Wolves”, they’ve earned a reputation as one of Britain’s best indie bands, and have gained a large following of loyal fans.

The EP includes their three aforementioned singles, plus two new tracks. It opens with the title track “Sun Again,” an exuberant affair, with roiling riffs of Jonny and Kobi’s fuzzy guitars and bass, propelled by Tom’s furious drums and wildly crashing cymbals. Oliver has one of the most beautiful voices around today, and his smooth, clear vocals are dazzling, soaring along with the instrumentals as they build to a goosebump-inducing crescendo. About the song, the band states: “It’s about escape. Breaking out of that vicious cycle of mundane life and getting back that sense of freedom to go do whatever the hell you want.”

The beautiful new video just released for “Sun Again” features actor Daniel Donskoy, and alternately shows scenes of Wide Eyed Boy performing the song, and scenes of Donskoy portraying a man who’s angry and in distress, racing his car through the English countryside, then running from the car into a field and collapsing on the ground, spent and finally feeling free.

I loved “Wolves” the moment I heard it, and made me an instant fan of this band. Everything about this phenomenal track is perfect – the haunting melody, compelling lyrics, flawless arrangement and production, propulsive drumbeat, gorgeous sweeping synths, nimble, layered guitars, and Oliver’s incredible vocals that are absolutely mesmerizing. Oliver stated the song ‘is about letting people in that are bad for you.’ He passionately sings “Why can’t I leave it all behind? Why can’t I save myself this time? I fall just a little bit, don’t wanna be a part of it. Wolves are the only friends I know.”

“Wolves” was so awesome that I didn’t think the guys could top it, but I was even more blown away by their magnificent follow-up single “Loving You is So Easy“. The swirling guitars, sultry bass line, sweeping gnarly synths and Oliver’s captivating vocals are all positively breathtaking. The song lyrics are fairly straightforward – “I don’t care the way you care. I can see it in your stare. But the way that we collide, it’s getting harder every time. Loving you is so easy. Easy when I’m down, down, down” – but Oliver delivers them quite seductively, before launching into a soaring falsetto in the chorus, adding more chills to the ones already covering my body. I love this song so much it ranks #13 on my Top 100 Best Songs of 2017 (“Wolves” was #17).

Next up is “See the Light“, yet another beautiful song from this amazing band. This track is slower in tempo and more ballad-like than their other songs, with acoustic guitar, shimmery synths and gentle percussion. The song is about a relationship that’s failed past the point of return and the desire to move on. Oliver’s heartfelt falsetto vocals are sublime as he plaintively sings the poignant lyrics: “I’ve gone missing. Something’s not alright. I don’t wanna run but I’m struggling to see the light. / Can’t you see what I’ve become? Stay away from me.”

The band closes out the EP with the rousing pop/rock banger “Fire“. The radio-friendly track features a catchy melody, pulsating synths, chiming guitars and pummeling drums that all build to an exciting crescendo in the chorus. The lyrics are a plea to someone for whom the singer has strong feelings to save him with their love and support: “Fire! I’m burning now. I really need you now. Fire! Don’t let me down. Pull me from the ashes.

Sun Again is an awesome little EP with five outstanding tracks, and a testament to Wide Eyed Boy’s impressive songwriting and musicianship. I cannot wait to hear what new songs they come up with next to dazzle our eardrums.

Connect with Wide Eyed Boy: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

SAMUEL ASHTON – EP Review: “Spreading Light”

Samuel Ashton EP

Samuel Ashton is a singer/songwriter based in Canterbury, England, who makes what he beautifully refers to as “acoustic soul.” Drawing inspiration from such artists as Michael Kiwanuka, Paolo Nutini, Leon Bridges and Nathaniel Rateliff, Samuel blends smooth blues, soul and country to create uplifting and powerful songs. He’s also spent years travelling around the world, and the various different cultures he experienced and came to embrace also strongly influence his music.

In January, he released his debut EP Spreading Light through independent label 2728 Records, and received a warm response at his EP launch show in Canterbury on the 19th. He’s also been playing at venues throughout Kent and southeast England, including Brighton and London, and is currently booking future shows throughout England for this Spring.

Samuel Ashton

First up is the title track “Spreading Light“, a moving and hopeful song about staying positive in the face of adversity and troubled times, and spreading truth and goodness through our actions. The song’s melody is rather simple, driven by a strummed acoustic guitar and light percussion, but a closer listen reveals lots of added subtle textures such as somber piano keys, bluesy electric guitar and delicate, moody synths. In his deep and resonant vocals, Samuel urgently sings “Said we got to keep on spreading light. Even in the dark and lonesome night, we gotta keep on spreading light. Oh how I moan, when my heart feels woe when there’s such injustice and pain.”

Send Me Angels” has a bit of a gospel feel, with a prominent organ providing the basis of the melody, and Samuel’s emotional vocals pleading “Send me angels, come on save my soul.” I like the way he uses both acoustic and jangly electric guitars to achieve a fuller, multi-textured sound. On the slow and bluesy “Freedom Never Lies“, his intricate layered guitar work is outstanding, creating a sultry mood for his soulful, fervent vocals. He sings about surrendering oneself freely to passion: “There’s a light that’s shining in your eyes. There’s a fire that burns inside you that you just can’t disguise. Let it burn. Freedom never lies. / I’m so close to the edge, I’m still wanting more.”

Love is in the Sun” is an uplifting folk song about the presence of love everywhere we look and in everything we do. “Love is in the earth, love is in the sea. Love is in the power, power that heals.” The track has a pleasing gospel-like melody, with acoustic guitar and gentle hand claps. The Americana song “Medicine Music” speaks to the healing powers of music, something I think everyone who loves and appreciates music can attest to. “Healing my soul, my heart is full of love./ Medicine music, purify me. Medicine music, show me freedom. Medicine music heals.” The backing choruses have a Native American sound, as if being sung by a Shaman. And once again, Samuel’s guitar prowess is on full display, as his riff that closes out the track is marvelous.

Spreading Light is a wonderful EP and a fine debut effort from this thoughtful and talented musician who’s intent on spreading his positive message of love and healing in our troubled times. Samuel’s compelling lyrics, outstanding guitar work and soulful vocals make for pleasing songs you want to hear again and again.

To learn more about Samuel, check out his Website
Connect with him on  Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
Stream his music on  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

LOUD HOUND – Single Review: “Youthful Stranger”

Loud Hound Youthful Stranger

I’ve featured hundreds of artists and bands on this blog over the past three-plus years, and it seems half of them have released new music since the first of the year! Today I’m writing about LOUD HOUND, the music project of Tommy Florio, a talented young singer/songwriter from Ventnor City, New Jersey. The self-described “beachy boi extraordinaire” fuses elements of garage, surf and psych rock to create wonderful songs filled with catchy melodies, honest lyrics and irresistible guitar grooves.

In early 2018, he released his debut single “Fine By Me” – a lo-fi, high-energy, surf rock gem, then followed that May with the outstanding introspective single “Runnin’,” which I reviewed. Now he’s back with a great new single  “Youthful Stranger“, delivering a somewhat moodier dream pop vibe than his two previous singles. It really showcases his skill at writing songs with diverse melodies and instrumentation, and keeping his music sounding fresh.

Starting with a mix of strummed acoustic and jangly electric guitars as the primary drivers, LOUD HOUND adds some distortion, fuzzy bass and low-key percussion to create an intriguing backdrop for his slightly seductive echoed vocals. The music and vocals build as the song progresses, with some nice riffage in the chorus, then slows back down toward the end, with an interesting watery reverb effect on the guitars.

The lyrics seem somewhat ambiguous, but my take is that they speak to depression in a young adult who takes drugs to make it through life, feeling invincible once they take effect:

Youthful stranger watch as your dreams fall apart
Little blue pills keeps your friend up at night
The lonely dreamer survives the night
The lonely dreamer survives the night

Youthful stranger watch as your dreams come to life
Let’s pretend and play God
My life ready to stand tall
The lonely dreamer survives the night
The lonely dreamer survives the night

Connect with LOUD HOUND:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp

Top 30 Songs for February 3-9, 2019

1. WANDER – Vox Eagle with Pierre Fontaine (3)
2. HIGH HOPES – Panic! At the Disco (1)
3. IN THE WATER – The Underground Vault (5)
4. HURT PEOPLE – Two Feet featuring Madison Love (2)
5. BACK DOWN – Bob Moses (6)
6. DELTA BLUES – Jetstream (7)
7. GUIDING LIGHT – Mumford & Sons (4)
8. FAST TALK – Houses (8)
9. SUNFLOWER – Post Malone & Swae Lee (10)
10. APOCALIPSTICK – Lazy Queen (11)
11. PRESSURE – Muse (12)
12. SUPERPOSITION – Young the Giant (13)
13. LOVE IT IF WE MADE IT – The 1975 (15)
14. NORTHERN LIGHTS – Death Cab for Cutie (16)
15. MY BLOOD – twenty one pilots (9)
16. WORST NIGHTS – Foster the People (20)
17. LIGHT ON – Maggie Rogers (21)
18. CHANGE – The Revivalists (22)
19. SIGUE CON EL AMOR – John Defeo (23)
20. POWER OVER ME – Dermot Kennedy (24)
21. THANK U, NEXT – Ariana Grande (14)
22. VOLCANO – Feather Weight (28)
23. YOU’RE SOMEBODY ELSE – flora cash (18)
24. HOME – morgxn featuring WALK THE MOON (29)
25. THESE ARE MY FRIENDS – lovelytheband (17)
26. NEW BIRTH IN NEW ENGLAND – Phosphorescent (19)
27. MOVEMENT – Hozier (N)
28. YOU’RE THE ONE – Greta Van Fleet (N)
29. LONGSHOT – Catfish and the Bottlemen (N)
30. DISAPPEAR – Western Jaguar (N)

BOOGIE BOARD – EP Review: “Rippers Only”

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Last year, I wrote about Chicago-based surf/garage rock artist Boogie Board and his album Ferric Tape Noir, along with two extra singles (which you can read here). Boogie Board is the music project of guitarist and composer Stephen Denning, who describes his music as “fuzzy midwestern garage/ psych/ surf rock.” He writes, performs, records and masters all his music directly onto a 4-track tape machine in order to achieve a gritty lo-fi sound. I’m a big fan of surf guitar and all it’s permutations, so am pleased to feature him once again, with his latest release Rippers Only.

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He’s produced quite a lot of music the past couple of years, starting with his debut 12-track album Surf N Turf in May 2017, followed by a five-track EP Dream Telepathy that September, then Ferric Tape Noir in late January 2018, and a double single Portal Window & Infinity Stairs two months later. On January 19, he dropped a new EP Rippers Only, delivering four new pieces of grungy surf rock candy for our listening enjoyment.

Most of Boogie Board’s tracks are on the short side, generally running approximately two minutes, give or take. At a total of only seven minutes, the EP comes and goes in a flash, but it’s a fun ride! The first track “Slow Roller” is catchy as hell, with a peppy drumbeat and a deep, gravelly riff that feels like bass, except it’s not. Denning likes to occasionally run his guitar through a bass amp to achieve a heavier sound. His vocals are as heavily distorted as the guitars as he chants “Slow roller. Go slow gonna take a drive. Slow roller. Gonna take my time.” Next up is “Keep It In Line“, with dense, grungy riffs set to a driving beat. Once again, Denning chants lyrics in heavily distorted vocals, however these I can’t make out. The track closes with lots of reverb.

Play It Cool” features very gnarly guitars over a repetitive frantic beat. Denning adds tasty little guitar flourishes to the mix as he shouts “I’m feeling good! Got to slow it down. I’m playing it cool!” The track leaves us feeling pretty good too. He closes things out with the title track “Rippers Only“. It’s very brief, running only 45 seconds, but it’s a gritty little banger overflowing with pulsating distortion. I really like it, but wish he’d made it into a more substantial track, as there’s a lot going on for him to work with.

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

THE GEAR – Single Review: “Secret That Lies Behind”

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Liverpool is one of the most legendary centers for music on the planet, and I’ve featured a number of artists and bands from that historic city on the Mersey. My latest is the immensely talented young alternative rock band The Gear. Comprised of Callum Thompson (vocals, guitar), Ben Harper (lead guitar), Jack Crone (bass) and Ben Wall (drums), since forming in 2017 the band has been amassing a passionate fan base with their exciting, guitar-driven sound built upon the their love of blues, psychedelic, grunge and progressive rock.

They released a stunning debut single “There’s a Place” in Summer 2018, and it’s already garnered over 66,000 streams on Spotify. Today they drop their new single “Secret That Lies Behind“, and it’s fantastic! The song opens strong with a barrage of raging guitars and Ben’s thunderous drumbeats, then settles down a bit as Callum’s plaintive vocals implore to a loved one about why they’re unable to communicate with him, instead running off to find consolation in another: “Why didn’t you tell me the secret that lies behind? Where did you run to? Or did you go to a friend? I was trying to find my faith in you.”

As the track progresses, the guys employ several tempo change-ups, keeping our attention firmly in their grasp and thrilling our senses. Things reach a climax with a blistering guitar solo starting at 2:35, before calming back down to a gorgeous soundscape of chiming guitars, pulsating bass and razor-sharp percussion that continue to the end. The guys’ skilled songwriting and musicianship is impressive, and they’ve got another hit on their hands with “Secret That Lies Behind”. With two superb singles to their credit, I’m confident we’ll be hearing more great music from The Gear – soon I hope!

An interesting side note about the photo used for the single: it’s a double-image of a scene at one of my favorite places on earth, Sedona, Arizona. The photo and artwork were done by Anton Eager and Paddy Clegg.

Connect with The Gear:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify
Purchase on iTunes

AISHIA – Single Review: “Aura of Gold (The First Meeting)”

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As EclecticMusicLover, I’m always thrilled when given the opportunity to write about artists from around the world. Today I’m featuring a second artist from Malaysia – the lovely and talented young singer-songwriter Aishia, who just released her beautiful debut single “Aura of Gold (The First Meeting)“. Born and raised in Mumbai, India, she now lives in Kuala Lumpur (like the Malaysian artist Lyia Meta who I featured earlier this month). Only 17 years old, Aishia has a golden voice, with maturity and vocal ability that seems far beyond her tender age.

She began writing songs at the age of 12 and started proper vocal training at 15, though she had performed in small events and gatherings in Kuala Lumpur, which helped her gain experience performing. Like most artists, Aishia loves music, and had this to say: “Music is a part of me; no matter where I go, I need to be able to create music. It’s who I am and something I love doing. I’m also always listening to as many different kinds of music I can get my hands on. It keeps me inspired and motivated to create new things.”  Some of her musical inspirations include such varied artists as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift, Estrella Morente, Stromae, Sofia Ellar, Henry Mancini and Michel Legrand.

“Aura of Gold” is the first single from her forthcoming debut album of the same name, scheduled for release in March. The album is an experimental concept album, co-written and produced by Malaysian composer and music producer Zameer. Her main aim in putting the concept album Aura of Gold together was to create an almost cinematic environment through which its music could successfully tell the story of two people who fall in love, but eventually have to part ways due to events beyond their control.  Zameer told me they used mostly orchestral instruments to create the organic sounds, with no modern synths or FX.

The enchanting song has a lush, sweeping soundscape of Indian and Middle Eastern influences, delivered by a rich array of instruments, including sitar, tabla, flute, violin and other Indian and Middle Eastern string and percussion instruments. The music evokes the mystery and romance of the legendary stories of Scheherazade and the Arabian Nights. Aishia’s clear, strong vocals are beautiful and captivating as she sings to a new lover: “You came with the fire of life in your eyes. Walking towards me like some heavenly sight. I recalled your face from those ancient times. Aura of gold, silvery lights.”

“Aura of Gold (The First Meeting)” is a gorgeous song, and a promising debut from this very talented young woman. She and Zameer have created something quite wonderful, and I cannot wait to hear the whole album.

Connect with Aishia:  Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
Stream/purchase “Aura of Gold” on  Spotify / SoundcloudiTunes 

PHYSIA – EP Review: “Physia”

physia

I continue to be amazed and a little amused that I’ve gained a reputation as a music blogger who artists and bands reach out to in hopes I’ll listen to and write about their music, especially given the fact I play no instruments, cannot read music, have never written a song, and know zero about computer music programs or synthesizers. Hell, I only learned a few years ago that a bass guitar has only four strings as opposed to a standard six-string guitar! That said, I’m immensely impressed by people who can do all those things. I also try to keep an open mind about all kinds of music, and (almost always) know a good song when I hear it.

With that in mind, I’m pleased to feature a young, promising musician from Canada who goes by the artistic name PHYSIA. It’s the basement project of 19-year-old college student James Bings, who just released his self-titled debut EP Physia on the 25th of January. Now based in Victoria, James grew up in the small city of Williams Lake, deep in the Cariboo region of British Columbia, and learned to play guitar and bass at a young age. He developed his skills performing live with his late grandfather, mostly jig and waltz songs. Drawing inspiration from bands like Mac Demarco, HOMESHAKE and Mild High Club, he wrote the songs for Physia during his freshman year of university, and recorded, produced and mixed them by himself. He played guitar and bass, and used synthesizers for the percussion.

james bing

His songs are all instrumentals, characterized by his lush-sounding reverb-drenched guitars, subtle bass and gentle percussion. The first track “Cool Cat” is an aptly-named, pleasing song with jazz-infused jangly guitars and just a hint of percussion. The title track “Physia” is sublime, with a lovely melody and terrific jangly and chiming guitars. I especially like the watery guitars that appear later in the song that add a bit of funkiness to the track. “Beach Interlude” is a short track, only 1:16 minutes long, but it’s a beauty, with some fine guitar work that conveys images of a romantic night on the beach.

Nice Dog” is a mellow, happy tune with jazzy, reverb-heavy riffs, accompanied by a pleasant little percussive beat. The song seems to end at the 3-minute mark, then suddenly starts back up with a sped-up version of the same melody and guitar riff, ending on an exuberant note. “Floral” is another brief track, but James’ intricate guitar work is really beautiful.

My favorite is “Drag Queen” which has the most complex and fully-developed melody of all the tracks. The sweeping jangly and chiming guitars are gorgeous, and I love the effect of James’ soaring vocals that meld so beautifully with the guitars, creating a wonderful glittery soundscape. I asked James why he gave the track that title, and he said he was inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race, which he and his girlfriend enjoy watching. The laughter of who I’m guessing is James and his girlfriend at the end is a fun touch.

Physia is a great little EP, and a very respectable debut effort that James should be proud of. He’s a fine guitarist and composer, and I really like his sound. I’m confident his skills will continue to grow and improve as he matures, and I’d like to see him use more complex melodies, guitar riffs and synths,  and perhaps even try writing lyrics and adding more vocals to his songs.

The cool artwork for the EP was created by graphic and digital artist, editor/motion designer and composer Harrison Ames Barrett  https://www.ames.digital/

Connect with Physia on Instagram / Facebook
Stream/purchase his music on Spotify / Bandcamp / Soundcloud / iTunes

WARMER – Album Review: “Anthropocene”

anthropocene

I always enjoy learning about talented artists who’ve been making really great, innovative music for years that somehow slipped under my radar, then making up for lost time by listening to their back catalog of songs. One of the more interesting artists I’ve discovered recently is Warmer, the solo project of singer, songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Gunn. Based in the bucolic Western Oregon city of Eugene, Warmer fuses elements of Alternative, Metal, Industrial, Electronic and Art Rock to create singularly unique music that pushes boundaries, stirs our emotions and gives us a lot to think about. He cites as some of his influences the likes of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Ros, The Black Heart’s Procession, David Bowie, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Interpol, Spanking Dynamite, Faith No More, Beck, Diffuse, 16 volt, Depeche Mode, The Cure, “and a bunch of bad pop I don’t want to admit to.” Hey, we all have our guilty pleasures!

warmer (jesse gunn)

Since releasing his debut self-titled EP in 2005, Warmer has been quite prolific, dropping seven albums – some containing between 15 and 22 tracks! – as well as writing several soundtrack scores for films and video games. His latest effort is Anthropocene, a brilliant and scathing diatribe on the current fucked-up climate situation on several fronts – political, social and environmental. His songs are filled with powerful and biting lyrics, set to often dense and complex soundscapes.

Before getting to the music, I thought I’d provide a little geology lesson to explain the album’s title. Though not yet an officially recognized geologic time period, the term “Anthropocene” has been proposed by earth scientists to define the current period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment as a new epoch in the Geologic Time Scale. The word combines the root “anthropo”, meaning “human” with the root “-cene”, the standard suffix for “epoch” in geologic time. Debate has raged for years as to when this epoch began, with some placing it as early as 12,000 years ago with the rise of agriculture (which would generally coincide with the current Holocene epoch), the late 1700s with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, or even as recent as 1945, with the detonation of the first nuclear bomb (though most dismiss this later date). But what is agreed upon is that the Anthropocene identifies Earth’s most recent geologic time period as being human-influenced, or anthropogenic, based on overwhelming global evidence that atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric and other earth system processes are now being significantly altered by humans.

The album opens with “Anthropocene Theme“, a somber and haunting piano instrumental that sets the tone for what’s to come. Then Warmer launches into an epic take down of humankind and the abuse we heap upon our planet with “Our Mother“. Starting off with a simple piano riff, moody synths and harsh percussion gradually enter the mix, creating a strong sense of foreboding. Warmer’s raw vocals are filled with anger as he lists the ways we are hurting our mother earth: “The earth our mother, she’s really sick, and its no wonder she’s got a hit on us. We drain her blood right from out of the ground. We drop our bombs and we leave our shit around.” He then shifts to a falsetto as he sings about how so many people are more concerned with their own personal appearance and well-being than the earth they live on: “I want to live forever. I want a real good health plan. I wanna stay looking so young with botox and collagen.” His vocals are backed by his own whispers, adding a menacing feel to the dirge-like track.

The brilliant and provocative video opens with American currency floating down, then scenes of nature, both beautiful and brutal, are shown until the song is abruptly interrupted by jarring images and a dire announcement of a possible attack from space – a nuclear attack perhaps? This is followed by the sound of a man screaming, then footage of President Trump calling global warming a hoax. As the song resumes, we’re shown images of man’s destruction and pollution, followed by scenes of space and a volcanic eruption. Once the song ends, we see a static-covered scene of an American flag, with the camera closing onto an expanding hole within it, accompanied by an increasingly distorted and harsh refrain of the song’s somber melody.

On “Pretty Bait Click Machine” Warmer addresses our manipulation by social media to the point of obsession (I’m sadly guilty as charged), and being perfectly complacent about staying in our own information bubbles “It’s so safe on the inside of this echo chamber that I hide. Cuz I will never see a different point of view other than me. It’s engineered algorithmically feeding the pretty click bait machine./We are just meat machines eating the programming. Notify me with dopamine. I’ll keep on posting endlessly.” This track is more guitar-driven, with light industrial synths and a rather upbeat melody that belies the serious lyrics. And by this point, I’m already hooked on Warmer’s rich and varied vocal style, which at times reminds me of Rufus Wainwright and Matt Berninger (of The National and EL VY).

Gimmie” speaks to man’s bottomless greed and willingness to destroy anything and everything in order to get more material things: “We’re just a bunch of animals raping the world we love. Don’t kind yourself, we’re not cultured and civil. Killing for the gods above. Gimmie precious oil and nicotine. Killing in the name of greed./Whatcha gonna do with all that stuff? When is enough really ever enough?” “Sugar” is about the conflicting feelings of employing a hooker: needing the sexual pleasures they provide, yet condemning the life choices they’ve made. Warmer’s vocals are seductive as he croons: “Be my vacation in this sea side hotel room. A skin destination I’m gonna crawl all over you. Please be my sugar baby. I need you so bad honey. Evolution is dead. It’s all about the money. Oh my sugar baby this is no way to live.” The track features gritty industrial and psychedelic synths and a low-key surf guitar. On “Lip Service” he ruminates on life choices and paths taken, wondering about different outcomes: “In times like these we analyze. we pick apart our very lives. Oh what could i have become if my fears had not won.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Orange Maniac“, a bitter renunciation of the vile cretin currently occupying the American White House, whom I despise with every fiber of my being. The song is dark, with a beautiful but mournful piano riff and an alternating mix of glittery (beautiful) and harsh (ugly) synths. Warmer’s vocals also vary, going from plaintive when he sings “Orange maniac he’s ruling me” to sneering: “You had better fall in line. You had better know your place. My world has become Anthropocene because my tiny handed president is an illiterate.” On the bleak and discordant “adaywhennothinggoeswrong“, he sings of wishing for a problem-free day. The track has a bit of a Nine Inch Nails vibe.

Channeling both Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode, Warmer delivers gnarly guitars, gravelly bass and ominous industrial synths on the dark instrumental track “This is Your Warning“. “The Great Dying” opens with sounds of his labored breathing, then he forlornly laments of the coming end of humanity: “Life used to be much more simple. I knew of less tragedies and friends were real people. Oh honey I’m not a rich man. I won’t be able to save you in the end. When they come to your home for your genome, crispr’s gonna take a piece out of you. We will draw the line that defines who survives the Great dying.” The music alternates between a gloomy piano-driven melody and a barrage of thrashing industrial synths and fierce percussion. It’s a hard-hitting and monumental track.

The video combines both tracks, first showing only explosive flashes against a black backround for “This is Your Warning”, then psychedelically distorted scenes from old TV shows and commercials for “The Great Dying”. Credit for both this video and the one for “Our Mother” goes to Jon Curry.

Warmer gives us a much-needed interlude with the hauntingly beautiful piano instrumental “Waltz for Bonnie“, which showcases yet another aspect of his impressive musicianship. He closes out the album on a jolt back to cruel reality with “House of Slaughter“, a very depressing song about the horrors of working in a slaughterhouse that really speaks to the larger issue that animals must die to satisfy mankind’s appetite for meat. Musically, the track is simple, featuring only Warmer’s strummed acoustic guitar and mournful vocals that convey a sense of numbness and sad resignation as he sings: “Damn the clang of the bell. Jolts me back into hell, my dreams my only escape. I try to wash off the stink from my face into sink. It hangs in the air like a mist. Off to another day, deaf to cries of helpless. Their calls heard for miles around. Yes this is, a house of slaughter. Yes this is hell on earth. It sticks inside my clothes. It’s always in my nose, the evidence of my cruel day. And if it comes down to it you know that i’d do it. Just know that i’ll eat you first. Cuz you are the sweetest meat, the sweetest I’ve ever seen.

OK, now I’m feeling pretty numb myself, yet also blown away by the sheer power of this dark and brilliant album. Warmer holds nothing back as he stirs our senses with incredible soundscapes, while punching us in the gut with his brutally honest and compelling lyrics. Anthropocene is an important album that needs to be heard by as many ears as possible.

Connect with Warmer on Facebook / Twitter
Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes