SECOND PLAYER SCORE – Album Review: “Glorified”

Second Player Score Glorified

Second Player Score is a terrific rock band based in Vancouver, Washington (located across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon), and nice guys too. They play hard-driving, melodic music they humorously refer to as nerd punk, influenced by two of their favorite bands Green Day and Bad Religion. Making the music are Brian Tashima (guitar, lead vocals), Daniel Downs (bass, backing vocals) and Kyle Gilbert (drums/backing vocals). The guys released a fine debut album Fortress Storm Attack in late 2014, and followed up two years later with the monumental Nobody’s Hero (which I reviewed in July 2017). They’re now set to release their third album Glorifed on June 21st via No Pants Records.

Like Nobody’s Hero, Glorified is another concept album. Band drummer Gilbert explains, “The heroine of the story is a woman named Gloria. She was raised to be the best soldier of her generation, and ends up fleeing her oppressive hometown and reluctantly helping people as she traverses a post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of answers about her past. The story is similar to other stories like the latest Mad Max and Alita Battle Angel.”

Eye of the Needle” kicks off the album in a big way with an onslaught of chugging, gnarly riffs. crushing bass and tumultuous percussion. As Tashima shreds his guitar nearly to bits, he fervently sings the lyrics spoken from Gloria’s perspective, in which she comes to the realization that she can’t take any more of the oppressive bullshit she’s been living under: “I’m always such a good little soldier, following your every command./ But I don’t need this anymore./ Cause now I see just how sweet it is to be living free of all your drama and your sorrow. I don’t know why it took so long to go. But I’m finally looking forward to tomorrow.” He then lays down a scorching-hot riff while Gilbert beats the crap out of his drum kit. These guys know how to rock!

Next up is the hard-driving “Ragged Town“, which sees Gloria bitterly decrying her town and the people who live in it: “One day you’ll see reality lies somewhere out beyond this ragged town./I hate you now, I always will. You’re like the ones I love to kill. But tonight you’ll be my clown. Something’s wrong, something’s amiss. I don’t know why I feel like this, but burning scars have worn me down.” The guys deliver more of their signature furious riffs and aggressive rhythms, providing a thunderous backdrop for Tashima’s impassioned tirade.

They slow things down a bit on “Broken Ecstasy“, though it’s still a great rock track. We now find Gloria addressing her broken spirit, not knowing exactly what’s next for her, nor where she’ll go: “Don’t ask where I’m going to go. I said that I do not know. Don’t analyze or fantasize. Just relax and enjoy the show./ Be sure that you comprehend there is no goal, I have no soul. On that you can depend. I don’t want to see your face. We’re all just a big disgrace.

The guys dial it back up to full throttle on “Liberty’s End“, with chugging riffs of fuzzy guitars, heavy bass and speaker-blowing drums. Gloria laments about her shitty world and wanting to escape both it and herself: “Don’t you know the world cannot be saved. With good deeds the road to hell is paved. I just want to live my life for me, and wallow in my pit of apathy. Hello, I’m running from liberty’s end.” Brian makes great use of the talk box in the bridge, providing another texture of sound to the track. The amusing video shows the guys’ playful side, as they act zany in scenes of them running a race, interspersed with them performing the song in a garage.

Gilbert’s fantastic pummeling drums are a highlight on “The Last Trigger“. Wow, this man is a beast on his drum kit, giving new meaning to the term “power drummer”! Tashima’s scorching guitar and Downs’ powerful bass are pretty damn amazing too, as are their vocal harmonies. “Shiny Rebellion” sees Gloria confronting her oppressors and vowing to lead the fight to defeat them: “See I know that underneath your fancy crown, is a skull that’s full of nothing but decay. So I go, cause I can’t take this lying down. I’m a leader in the war against your way.”

The guys continue on their sonic rampage with the hard-driving “Into the Ruins“, in which Gloria assesses the wasteland before her: “Welcome to the ruins of a paradise gone wrong”, and the dark”Desolation“, with its tortured riffs, grinding bass and blasting drumbeats. Tashima snarls the bitter lyrics spoken from Gloria’s point of view: “And I don’t care how much you might stare now. It doesn’t matter anymore. No. Cause I don’t care now!” “More Than I Can Give” starts off like a heavy metal ballad, then explodes into a storm of frantic riffs and rapid-fire drumbeats, with a melody that reminds me a bit of Green Day’s “Bang Bang”.

On “Long Road Home” Tashima really shows us what he can do with his guitar, delivering killer riffs that set the airwaves afire, while Downs aptly lays down a bass line so heavy we feel it in our cores. And it goes without saying that Gilbert nearly blows our speakers with his frenzied drumming. The lyrics speak to Gloria’s determination to stand up and fight in her lonely mission to defeat the evil forces: “When this all started I fled and I ran. Now I must finish what they all began. I understand your master plan. Nothing can stop me when I’m all alone. I’m going home to claim your throne.” “Death and Glory” is a continuation of Gloria’s plan to vanquish her oppressors once and for all: “Now this time you’ve gone too far. It doesn’t matter where you are. I’ll be coming after you. You won’t even have a clue./Cause I am here to end your story. Drown your fear in death and glory. Close your eyes, this might get gory tonight!

They close the saga and album with “Some Of Us Were Meant To Be Alone“, an eight and a half minute long epic that ties things up without an actual resolution or happy ending. To a somber, gritty guitar riff, Tashima sadly wails: “There’s nothing left to say. I don’t know why it has to be this way. There’s nowhere left to go. I didn’t think that time would fly so slow. I hate to say the answer’s still unknown. Why some of us were meant to be alone. I’m giving up it’s true. Sometimes that’s all I ever want to do. I know it isn’t fair. I wish I could forget I even care.” At around 3:40, Tashima begins shredding his guitar and Gilbert pummels his drums at full blast to the same forlorn, start-stop melody as before.  Then, at 5:39, the song erupts into a fury of shredded and distorted guitars, pulsating bass and hammering drums that continue to the end. It’s a breathtaking finale to another monumental album from this badass band!

Track listing:
Eye of the Needle
Ragged Town
Broken Ecstasy
Liberty’s End
The Last Trigger
Shiny Rebellion
Into The Ruins
Desolation
More Than I Can Give
Long Road Home
Death And Glory
Some Of Us Were Meant To Be Alone

Here is a link to the email list sign up that will provide a free download to the full Glorified album:

https://t.co/dqu9CcdeGF?amp=1

Connect with Second Player Score: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Steam their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase: Bandcamp / iTunes

DAVID VIVIAN – Single Review: “Weekend”

David Vivian

David Vivian is a young graduate student and budding singer-songwriter and guitarist from the beautiful coastal California city of Santa Barbara. Writing and recording songs in his bedroom studio, David has released three singles over the past few months, the latest of which is “Weekend“, which drops today, June 14th.

The lyrics speak to how many of us seem to live for the weekends, yearning for the promise of thrills and the respite they bring from the routine and drudgery of our weekday lives, always aware that they’re doomed to come to an end way too quickly. David opens the song with a strummed guitar riff, sunny synth and perky xylophone, giving us a sense of hopeful optimism that another weekend is upon us. Abruptly, the music turns sour like a smile suddenly becoming a frown as reality sets in, but then it all perks back up to a breezy, upbeat tempo that continues through to the end of the song. Along the way, David lays down some fine guitar work, accompanied by pleasing keyboards, bass and percussive synths, and I especially like the horn synths he inserts after the final chorus.

His soft, echoed vocals have an ethereal quality, and mesh quite nicely with the lush instrumentals, giving the song a dreamy atmospheric quality.

[Verse 1]
How the hell’d it get so late?
Hold on, please wait
I’ll do, what it takes
Go all in, raise the stakes

Another weekend’s here
I’ll call you darling, call you dear

[Chorus]
Hey babe
That’s no reason to stay
I’ll come up w/ words to say
And we’ll always find a way to play
Come back and let’s do it right
We’ll get lost in the endless night
So come play just one more hand
I’ll take you to the promised land

[Verse 2]
How the hell’d I get this way?
Sun comes up, it’s another day
Time goes on, takes our pay
Doesn’t care what we have to say

Another week ends here
Oh I’ve felt freedom, I’ve felt fear

[Chorus]
Hey babe
That’s no reason to stay
I’ll come up w/ words to say
And we’ll always find a way to play
Come back and let’s do it right
We’ll get lost in the summer night
So come play just one more hand
I’ll take you to the promised land

Connect with David on Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on  Bandcamp / Apple Music / Google Play

FIONA GREY – Song & Video Review: “Saviour”

Fiona Grey is a colorful and charismatic singer-songwriter with a lot to say about the current state of affairs. With her sassy, sultry vocals and glamorous, yet playful style, she defines her dynamic sound as “dirty pop.” To my ears, her sound is a mash-up of Charli XCX, Gwen Stefani and early Madonna. Alternative newspaper LA Weekly recently named Grey the best pop singer in Los Angeles.

Chicago-born and now based in Los Angeles, Grey draws inspiration for her songs from the world of Hollywood, namely, it’s unrealistic expectations and the vices that people use to escape their anxiety and pain. She hopes her music will help listeners aim to be the most pure and honest versions of themselves. “There is a lot about living in a pop culture centered world that we deem as normal behavior“, she explains. “I hope that the music can remind the listener that this follower-centric, alternate persona universe we live in is all temporary happiness.”

Fiona Grey

She released her wonderful debut EP Belladonna in 2014, then followed with a series of singles, culminating in the release of her second EP Cult Classic in September 2018. That EP addresses the cultural issues Grey feels strongly about, expressing her vulnerability and anger towards the world we’re living in, and her desire to make it a better place. She states, “Each song has its own identity and story it wants to tell.” She’s just released a brilliant video for “Saviour“, one of the tracks off the EP.

It’s a gorgeous, compelling anthem about female empowerment, that women don’t need a man to ‘save’ them. Musically, the song features sweeping cinematic instrumentation, including lush orchestral strings, piano and glittery synths, backed with soaring vocal choruses. Grey’s beautiful vocals are amazing, exhibiting a broad range that goes from soulful croon to impassioned cries. The track also includes lovely guest vocals from singer Emma Cole.

And you can’t be my saviour
I don’t care what they say
All the rules you’ll have to break
You watch me fall apart
And you can’t come and save us
All the times you failed to try
I won’t be a trophy wife
And you can’t be god

The stunning video is an ode to Fellini, Marie Antoinette and the dark and dreamy black and white films of the 1960s. Says Grey, “This video is a stylized version of relationships I felt weak in, and this song was the inspiration to regain strength.” The story was written by Grey, Josh Allen and Sean Berger, filmed by Colin “Stinky” Trenbeath, choreographed by Kevin Stea, styled by Alexandra Mandelkorn, and directed by Sean Berger. Besides Grey, the other women dancers include Kelly Powers, Leslie Duner, Alexa Russo, Megan Campbell and Charlotte Smith. The Lover Boy was played by Conner Floyd.

The video depicts people at what appears to be a reception after the wedding of a couple portrayed by Grey and Floyd. Grey sings of her love, but also her refusal to bow down or be a trophy wife to him, as she and the other women dance and cavort about. There are some tense moments, but with a fresh understanding, they come together in peace and love at the end.

Connect with Fiona:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase on Fiona Grey Music Shop / Apple Music

New Song of the Week: UNQUIET NIGHTS – “Four Winds”

Unquiet Nights Four Winds

Unquiet Nights is an outstanding rock band based in both Northern Ireland and Italy. Begun as a solo project for singer-songwriter Luke Mathers, Unquiet Nights relocated from Belfast to Rome in 2010, where his debut album  21st Century Redemption Songs was finished and released a year later. Mathers eventually brought Italian musicians Matteo Bussotti and Francesco Piciucchi on board, and Unquiet Nights officially became a band. In 2015 they released a second album Postcards in Real Time, a beautiful work that I strongly recommend my readers make an effort to check out by using one of the links at the end of this review. One of the singles from that album, “George Best City”, recently passed a quarter million streams on Spotify. About that feat, Mathers stated “That’s really satisfying for us considering we’ve never worked with a PR company during the history of the band or had any budget to help promote our stuff.”

Mathers moved back to Northern Ireland in 2016, though he has continued recording and releasing new music with Bussotti and Piciucchi as Unquiet Nights. In February 2018 they released a fantastic single “Promise of You” (which I reviewed), then followed two months later with another banger “Young Believers.” Now they return with “Four Winds“, a superb single that keeps their perfect score of releasing excellent guitar-driven songs fully intact. The song was produced by Mathers, and mixed and mastered by Neal Calderwood, who also mixed and mastered all previous Unquiet Nights releases.

“Four Winds” opens with an ominous synth chord and pounding drum beat, then we’re suddenly plunged headlong into a gorgeous reverb-drenched soundscape of swirling guitars, dramatic sweeping synths, throbbing bass and muscular, thumping drumbeats. Mathers’ vocals are wonderful as he plaintively sings about betrayal and deceit: “Don’t leave me to the four winds. I only got myself to blame. Things like these don’t seem to change.”

Connect with Unquiet Nights:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud 
Purchase on Bandcamp / Unquiet Nights Online Store

MOONLIGHT BROADCAST – EP Review: “A Cynic’s Guide to Dying Happy”

Moonlight Broadcast EP

I’ve stated in previous posts that one of my favorite aspects of social media is learning about new musicians and bands, and another recent find is Moonlight Broadcast, a rock group from the fair city of Melbourne, Australia. They released their debut EP A Cynic’s Guide to Dying Happy back in February 2018, but I’m reviewing it today, as it’s a stellar work that’s highly deserving of peoples’ attention.

Now a four-piece, Moonlight Broadcast is comprised of Cameron (lead vocals), Adi (guitar), Craig (bass, backing vocals) and Ash (drums & mojo). Influenced by such greats as Crowded House, The National and Death Cab for Cutie, they write songs with memorable guitar-driven melodies and poignant lyrics about (in their own words) “the winding, bumpy road we’re all travelling on.”

The EP kicks off with “Breathe Easy,” and as we press play, our ears are greeted by an arresting jangly guitar riff that immediately grabs our attention. Once the rhythm section enters the mix, the song settles into a really pleasing soft-rock groove. Cameron has a fine singing voice, and his heartfelt vocals nicely convey his love and devotion for a partner who’s put up with his shit over the years, and still chose to stay by his side:

I will be, I will be yours
Until I, until I die of a coronary from poor lifestyle
I hope that, I hope before I go
I’ll give you some days that make it worth your while

All those dark roads I may have dragged us down
I’m surprised you’re still around
All those dark roads I know I dragged us down
I’m so glad you’re still around

Stay with me, stay with me now
So I can breathe again

The beautifully-filmed video shows the band performing the song on a beach, with the tide gradually encroaching and ultimately engulfing them at the end.

Next up is “Harm Min (Josie)“, a bittersweet song about finally ending a tempestuous relationship with a mercurial lover named Josie. The jangly guitar work is gorgeous, and Cameron’s fervent vocals express a sad but detached sense of resignation that they’re both better off apart.

As wonderful as the first two songs are, my favorite is the hauntingly beautiful ballad “Sorrow Pass Me By.” Gorgeous twangy guitars and a somber drumbeat create a stirring backdrop for Cameron’s emotionally-charged vocals as he laments about his string of bad fortune, hoping his life will make a turn for the better: “I’d like to be lighthearted or even optimistic. Might be more to life than just getting through. I’m asking for once, sorrow please pass me by. It seems like you have been there, breathing down my neck for a real long time.”

The guys serve up more of their signature jangly guitars and driving beats on “The Ballad of Cognitive Dissonance“, a rousing tune with some great harmonica that give it a Country-rock vibe. The lyrics speak to being in a destructive, co-dependent relationship, knowing it’s destined to fail but unable to get out of it: “We’re driving in the dark with no headlights. I think there’s someone in the back here with us. I’m like a moth and you’re a buzzing street light. I’ll break my head in against you, over and over. / Sometimes I stick to my guns. Other times I turn tail and run.

Square One” is another take on being stuck in an unhealthy, one-sided relationship where the other person keeps a firm hold on your emotional attachment, making it impossible for you to let go: “It costs too much of me to keep you outside. I open the door and now I find, we’re back to square one. Your voice dancing through my brain, and I come undone. / It’s not so simple. It all hurts more than it should./ I will always be your alibi.” Musically, the song opens with a pensive, reverb-heavy guitar note, then settles into a slow, bass-driven tempo. The music gradually builds with more guitars, keyboards and heavier percussion, as Cameron passionately refrains “It’s all or nothing!” The guitar work is fantastic, and I love the extended run that continues straight through to the end, reminiscent of the great O.A.R. song “Shattered”.

A Cynic’s Guide to Dying Happy is a solid debut effort by Moonlight Broadcast. Every track is high quality, and the instrumentation, vocals and production values are all first-rate. These guys need to get busy recording some new songs ASAP, because we need their music in our lives!

Connect with Moonlight Broadcast:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase on Bandcamp / Amazon

GG FEARN – EP Review: “Black Mirror”

gg-fearn-black-mirror-cover-ep

Some of the more interesting and provocative songwriting these days is coming from young female artists such as Billie Eilish, Courtney Barnett and Jade Bird, as well as indie artists like Erin Incoherent (who I featured last December) and GG Fearn, a remarkable 18-year-old singer-songwriter from Carmarthen, Wales. With a singular talent and maturity beyond her years, GG (short for Georgia) first started writing songs at the age of nine, and has become quite the wordsmith, penning thoughtful and frank lyrics about life and the darker aspects inherent in many of us. She’s already become a seasoned performer, having played at many different venues, most notably the famous Cavern in Liverpool, and her songs have received airplay on BBC Wales, and other radio stations throughout the UK. She’s just released a terrific four-song EP Black Mirror, which dropped on May 28.

In the creation of her music, GG melds elements of folk, pop, alternative rock, jazz and hip hop into a unique sound stew that could best be described as ‘dark folk-pop.’ She also has a clear and lovely singing voice brimming with character and confidence, while still retaining a touch of vulnerability. When combined with her compelling lyrics, it gives her songs a worldliness and sophistication that’s very relatable.

She gets right down to business on the EP opener “Deal With the Devil“, an upbeat-sounding song that belies its dark theme. The lyrics address the subject’s awareness of her wicked nature, and her feeling perfectly okay about it: “Another day. Chaos parade. Domestic life comes hand in hand with a knife, to use on you, your partner too. I looked in the mirror one night. Suddenly my soul takes flight. I made a deal with the devil. I don’t know why he picked me. I guess that something clicked. But living without your soul, it ain’t so bad. I never really had one anyway.” Musically, the song features crisp, bouncy synths that have an almost industrial feel, punctuated by glittery keys and subtle bass kicks. GG’s layered vocals are backed by a gruff, barely audible male vocal in the chorus, sounding as if the devil himself is singing in unison with her.

The superb title track “Black Mirror” opens with a simple, almost dubstep beat, then settles into a catchy bass-driven tempo that has us bopping our heads and swaying our hips. I love the intricate funky guitars, and GG’s layered vocals are really quite marvelous as she croons about not being happy with the current state of things. The black mirror seems to reflect all the stuff that’s troubling her, and she’s not liking what she sees: “I think I’m going crazy. Vision’s going hazy.  I know. I hear the shotgun ring, but you don’t hear a thing. Harm can be a comfort when poison is your king. A necklace made of pearls, and artificial girls. I’m stuck in a black mirror.”

I love all the tracks on the EP, but my favorite is “Teen Queen“, an in-your-face declaration of “Attention: someone new is now in charge!” Or, as fellow blogger Lakisha Skinner so beautifully put it in her wonderful Klef Notes review, it’s the “I’m the girl who will wear black to the prom and nobody betta say one thing to me about it song!”

Starting off with a magical little xylophone riff, the song quickly bursts open with lush, glittery synths and thunderous percussion, as if symbolizing a fairy princess making her grand entrance. As GG defiantly proclaims, “Now the deed is done, done, done, done…” a strutting dance beat kicks in and I’m hooked! She continues making her newfound dominance clear: “I’ve traveled through hell and all of its towns. God only knows where I’ve been. I’m the only girl that can wear the crown. Yes, I’m your new teen queen. You can call me narcissistic, but please don’t forget sadistic. I, I am your new teen queen. Nothing that they’ve ever seen. Your time on stage is through. Make way for someone new, new, new, new…” 

The rather cynical “Famous Last Words” speaks to our impermanence, regardless of how important we think we are while we’re alive: “Legacies they can be cruel whether you wear rags or jewels. I want mine to beat them all, so that when I fall, I want to be remembered. I want to go down in history. I want to be the greatest. I want to be the best.” The cold reality, however, is that most of us will be forgotten: People won’t remember when you’re dead. All the brilliant things that you have said. You can be known all around, but that don’t mean you’ll keep your crown even if you stitch it to your head. /And her famous last words were…(what were they?)”  The song has a catchy hip hop/trap beat, with sharp synths and deep bass. It’s a good song, and sounds like one Taylor Swift could have done, only better.

Black Mirror is a great little EP, and GG Fearn is an immensely talented songwriter, composer and vocalist with a lot to say. Hopefully, she’ll continue expressing herself with more wonderful songs very soon!

Connect with GG: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase “Black Mirror” on Amazon / Google Play

New Song of the Week: MONZA EXPRESS – “In the City”

Monza Express In The City

Monza Express are a five-piece guitar band from Aberdeen, Scotland who formed in 2017 from the ashes of several other bands. As they humorously state in their bio, they’re “all the wrong side of 30 [and] no strangers to live music, having played in various bands in Aberdeen over the years.” Drawing on influences from a variety of sources depending on which member you speak to, the band includes Fraser Bateman (lead vocals & rhythm guitar), “Mr Glass” Shaun Reid (lead guitar), Greg “Mercury” Burgess (bass), Kris Fraser (keyboards, backing vocals) and David “Deco” Smith (drums). (I love that ‘Fraser’ is the first name of one member and last name of another.)

Following up on their 2018 double-single release “Sunshine/Big Dumb Rock” – both terrific songs that I urge my readers to check out using one of the links below – Monza Express just dropped a delightful new single “In the City“, which I’ve selected as my New Song of the Week. The song has a rather serendipitous little back story. The recording session was a runner-up prize in a Facebook competition put out by Aberdeenshire-based Floortom Studios, inviting acts to submit their rough song demos for possible selection by studio producer Steve Curtis. The band submitted a live GoPro rehearsal recording of “In the City”, and were delighted to learn they’d been awarded one of the coveted spots. The song was recorded, mixed and produced by Curtis, and mastered at Metropolis Studios in London.

The sweet song addresses themes of escapism from the standard 9 to 5. Fraser explains:  “I called it ‘In the City’ as both The Jam and The Who have songs [with that title] and I love those bands and what they stood for.” Bateman adds: “The composition came from a bass line Greg had been playing and we went from there. I like the almost early 60s style of the arrangement, especially when Shaun is just playing the main melody. It gives the song a little familiarity.”

The lighthearted song has a bouncy, guitar-driven melody that’s just too damn infectious! It’s the perfect feel-good song for summer, and it’s made me a big fan of Monza Express.

When you’re living in the city
And the bar looks so so pretty
Running shelter from the weather
Beer, pool and ripped up leather
I can take you miles away
Circle JFK for the day
Come and climb the Empire State
We’ll have ourselves some cake
We’ll have ourselves some cake

When you’re living in the city
And the barmaid oh so pretty
Running shelter from the thunder
Fill your glass with endless wonder
I can take you miles away
Eurostar to Paris today
Come and sail the Seine with me
We’ll have a cup of tea
We’ll have a cup of tea…and whiskey

The equally delightful and endearing animated video is a good indication that the guys don’t take themselves too seriously. Says Bateman: “I went on the website Fiverr and commissioned an animator in Pakistan to make us a video. I sent the song, the lyric sheet and photos of the band and left him to it. What resulted was an almost literal translation of the lyrics that we couldn’t not use. We think it’ll get laughs and multiple views.” I love it!

Connect with Monza Express:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Apple Music

ELLIE FORD – Album Review: “Light. Repeated.”

Ellie Ford album art

British singer/songwriter Ellie Ford is quite possibly the only harpist in the music world to head up a band. In addition to being an accomplished harpist, the multi-talented Brighton, England- based artist also plays guitar and sings like an angel, using her voice almost like another instrument. Assisting Ellie in the creation of her uniquely innovative Alternative Folk music are Fred Hills (drums & percussion), Andrew Stuart-Buttle (violin, mandolin, bass and backing vocals), Harry Haynes (guitar and backing vocals) and Freya Bowes (clarinet and backing vocals).

Ellie Ford band

Ellie first graced the airwaves in 2013 with her debut EP Show Night In, then followed up with a full album The Other Sun in 2016. Now she’s back with a lovely new album Light. Repeated., which dropped on 17 May. Featuring eight exquisite songs, the album sees Ellie further exploring themes of life, love and relationships through her poetic lyrics, unconventional melodies, richly layered instrumentals and the marvelous interplay between her glorious harp and enchanting vocals. Listening to the album is an immersive experience, and it’s easy to become enveloped by the enthralling soundscapes she and her band so skillfully weave.

The album opens with “Gold“, a captivating song in which Ellie’s shimmery harp strings take center stage, but with ample help by Freya’s clarinet, Harry’s strummed guitar, Fred’s gentle percussion, and Andrew’s violin, which gives the track a bit of a Celtic vibe. Ellie croons in her lilting vocals, “Kicking and calling and bracing for falling as I leave. But for a little gold, I could tide it over.”

Next up is “Light. Repeated.“, a bewitching tune that’s probably my favorite track on the album. The highlights for me are Fred’s hypnotic, seductive drumbeats and Freya’s jazzy clarinet, but Andrew’s bass, Harry’s guitar and that infectious rattle are all pretty terrific too. And it goes without saying that Ellie’s harp adds a magical component. Freya’s soulful clarinet takes a starring role on “Tired Eyes” with Ellie’s harp strings providing a strong counterpoint. The interplay between her fluttering vocals and Freya’s gorgeous clarinet notes is breathtaking, and the guitars, deep bass and drums are perfection.

My Bird Won’t Sing” is a re-imagining of a song that was originally included on The Other Sun. The previous acoustic version featured only Ellie’s vocals and her strummed guitar, but for this new version she lengthens the track by one and a half minutes, and gives it the full instrumental treatment by her band, yet keeping the vibe decidedly understated. The result is an intriguing song that holds our interest with unexpected melodic shifts that almost border on progressive jazz. Ellie’s ethereal vocals are sublime as she sings the lyrics that seem to speak of the thin line between reality and escape:  “My bird won’t sing. Have no idea what it means. And that’s OK, I don’t mind./ My diamond ring shines like the real thing. And that’s OK, I don’t mind. Comin’ off a little blind. What are we doing? Don’t you know that’s the ruin of our kind? I’m beginning to think that I might have lost my mind.

Ellie Ford by Chloe Imbach

The beautiful songs keep on coming. Another favorite is the bittersweet “All That is Left“, which features some of the most enthralling instrumentals of any song on the album. The mix of harp, piano, guitar, violin, clarinet, drums, and what sounds possibly like dulcimer, are absolutely stunning, and so are the vocal harmonies between Ellie and the guys. The lyrics speak to a relationship that’s over: “There will come a day when you’ll return. Dirt in your hair and your clothes all torn. And I’ll be gone. And all that is left, will be left to the dogs.” As its title suggests, “A Strange Brood” is a languid, brooding song lasting nearly six and a half minutes. Its  mysterious, spacey synths, tinkling piano keys, bluesy guitars, plucky harp, deep bassline and lots of crashing cymbals make for an enthralling listen.

Woods” starts off with an Eastern European Folk vibe, thanks to the Gypsy tones of Andrew’s violin and Freya’s clarinet, accompanied by Ellie’s plucked harp strings. But with the addition of heavy electric guitars and pounding drums in the bridge, the song transitions to a more intense rock feel. Album closer “The North Wind” really showcases the incredible synergy between Ellie’s harp playing and unique vocal style, and how she so beautifully complements one with the other. Other instrumentation on the track includes guitar and Fred’s kick drum and percussion, as well as the introduction of Andrew’s violin at the end.

I’ll admit that Light. Repeated. took a couple of plays to really grow on me. Though the songs sounded lovely and interesting when first hearing them, their complexity and unusual melodic structures required more than just a casual listen for me to fully appreciate. There’s an incredible amount of nuance and depth to the music and lyrics that are revealed with each successive listen, and even after hearing some of the songs five or six times, I discovered new sounds and textures. The production and song arrangements are flawless, and I’m impressed with the skilled instrumentation by the supporting musicians who help Ellie bring her magical songs to life.

Connect with Ellie: Facebook / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

IGNITE THE FIRE – Single Review: “Echoes”

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Alternative metal band Ignite the Fire play some of the most electrifying rock I’ve had the pleasure of hearing recently. Based in the state of Maryland northwest of Baltimore, the band was formed in 2011 by guitarist Mark Quinn and drummer Caelan Gregory while they were still both in high school. Their phenomenal vocalist Jack Gurecki joined a short time later after responding to a flyer put out by the band looking for a singer, and was soon joined by a second guitarist Michael Nelson, who serves as the band’s resident “unclean” vocalist for their harder-edge songs. The fifth and newest band member is the amazing bassist Holly Smith, who came on board in 2017.

That same year, Ignite the Fire released their debut EP Trial and Triumph, an outstanding work featuring their hard-hitting single “Criticize”, which was named 2017 Song of the Year by Z98 and iHeartRadio. They followed up in late November 2018 with a second EP Between Shadows and Solace, featuring six mind-blowing tracks. “This whole EP is about what it means to be human,” says band drummer Caelan Gregory. “We don’t want to just connect with listeners on a musical level, but an emotional one as well, and in doing that we hope to connect with people in a real and significant way.” Guitarist Mark Quinn adds “The title ‘Between Shadow and Solace’ speaks for itself. We are writing about battling the darkness but also about the hope that is there. You see that in the world we live in. There’s this feeling of dread and darkness around us but also there’s hope.

In April, they released an outstanding video for “Echoes“, one of the most popular tracks from the EP that strongly resonated with their fans and followers. The video shows scenes of a man returning to an empty house he once occupied with his significant other, and remembering past moments they shared in better times, interspersed with scenes of the band performing the song. At the end of the video, he sees her standing on the beach, and runs toward her, only to disappear just before reaching her. We’re left to determine the scene’s meaning for ourselves, but my take is that it’s too late to salvage the relationship, and he can no longer reach her, literally and figuratively. The video was directed by Tom Flynn and stars Jimmy Donohue and Kris Doscher.

“Echoes” is a stunning rock anthem, starting off with a gentle melodic synth and strummed guitar line. The song then expands in the first verse with jangly guitars, strings, keyboards, and crisp percussion as Jack begins singing in his beautiful, clear vocals. When the first chorus arrives, Holly’s deep bassline melds seamlessly with Mike’s guitar riff into a thunderous mix, accompanied by Caelan’s power drums that send the song into the sonic stratosphere. Jack’s commanding vocals – which have been favorably compared to Shinedown frontman Brent Smith’s –  rise to the occasion, bringing chills as he passionately sings the deeply poignant lyrics:

Cause I fear that I’m right
But I pray that I’m wrong
I’ll echo this silence
And I won’t let go
You left me uncertain
Don’t leave me alone
I’ll search through the darkness
And I won’t let go

The band just released a ‘Behind the Song’ video where they discuss their process and inspiration for the writing of “Echoes”.

Since 2018, Ignite the Fire has performed on numerous stages, supporting the bands Otherwise, Shaman’s Harvest, BadWolves, From Ashes To New and Diamante via Live Nation.  This year they provided direct support to Stone Horses and Another Lost Year, and headlined shows in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Those of you in the Middle Atlantic region can catch them at one of these upcoming shows. I would love to see them along with another one of my favorite bands The Mayan Factor, but alas, live 3,000 miles away.

SAT JUNE 8  –  ROCK FOR ROB! 2019 @ KC’s Music Alley, Fredericksburg, VA

FRI JUNE 14  –  With Stone Horses, The Mayan Factor, After the Broken @ Fish Head Cantina, Baltimore, MD

FRI-SAT JUNE 22-23  –  With Defending Cain, Seventh Seal @ Break Away II Sports Lounge, Hagerstown, MD

Connect with Ignite the Fire:  Website / Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

BEN PRIORY & CHARLIE PEREIRA – Single Review: “Here We Go”

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Aside from the thrill of seeing one of my posts go viral (which almost never happens), my biggest joy about having a music blog is writing about music I really love. And boy, am I in love with the stunning debut single “Here We Go” by two young artists from Portsmouth, England: Ben Priory and Charlie Pereira. What’s especially astonishing about the quality of the song and vocals is that they’re both only 17 years old!

Ben and Charlie started making music together at the age of 12, when they’d have drum battles in Ben’s bedroom. Ben wrote the music for “Here We Go” last September (2018), then recorded all the instruments, including synths, piano, bass and drums. Charlie wrote the lyrics, and recorded the vocals over two sessions, the first in December 2018, and the second in February 2019. Ben produced and mixed the song, then sent the track to Peter Maher (U2, The 1975, Snow Patrol, Katy Perry) for mastering.

The song is perfection from start to finish. It opens with night sounds of crickets and waves crashing on a distant beach, setting a rather pensive mood. Then a somber piano riff, accompanied by finger snaps and bass, enter the mix as Charlie softly sings with an air of sadness in his voice of the hurt and disappointment someone’s caused him:

So I’ve been sitting here for the longest time
And it’s just not fine with me
But what you’ve done
And how you thing it’s all fun
But it just can’t run
You made that sacrifice
And I had to pay the price
For you to do what you do but it makes me blue
And you don’t even have a clue

Suddenly, the tone shifts in the chorus to a joyful, upbeat vibe with the addition of lush, shimmery synths, guitar and a bouncy bass drum beat. Charlie’s vocals are now more ardent and hopeful as he sings of the pleasures of making music, providing an escape from the sadness he was feeling earlier, and perhaps giving the relationship another go:

So here we go now
Hearing our soft sound
Hear the bass drum pound
But we don’t know til we will hit the ground
But hear the bass line flow
It’s faster yeah, never slow
Let’s do the show
Here we go, here we go, here we go

Yeah let’s take it back
Listen to the sweet guitar
It’s not a competition you’re my superstar
Just go for a drive
Let’s get away
We can take my car

Ben and Charlie have created a beautiful song that’s the perfect summer tune. I’m quite impressed by the quality and maturity of their sound, especially given their youth, and hope to hear more music from these guys very soon!

Connect with Ben:  Facebook / Instagram
Purchase “Here We Go” on iTunes