REVOLUTION RABBIT DELUXE – Album Review: “Swipe Left”

RRD Swipe Left

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe (RRD) is an indie rock band hailing from south Wales. Their innovative, alt-rock sound draws from Brit-rock, pop and punk influences, with meaningful lyrics tackling topical issues ranging from politics, culture and environmental justice to mental health. RRD started out as a solo project for founder and guitarist Rev Rab, but gradually evolved into a four-piece band. With the exception of Rev Rab, the band has an entirely new lineup since I last visited them a little over a year ago, when I reviewed their terrific debut album Tales From Armageddonsville. They’re now comprised of Rev Rab (guitar, lead vocals), Dan (guitar, backing vocals), Ben (bass, backing vocals) and Nick (drums), and recently dropped their sophomore album Swipe Left.

The album contains 12 tracks, and I’ll touch on what I think are the highlights. RRD gets right down to business on the opening track “Doomsday Clock/Cornucopia Croaked“, a rousing foot-stomper about mankind’s relentless assault on our planet. The track starts off with what sounds like a huge ticking clock in an empty room, backed by distant sounds of civil unrest. At the 30 second mark, the clock stops and we’re hit with a barrage of gnarly distorted guitars and hammering drums, driving home the urgency of the subject. Rev Rab issues a scathing assessment of our destructive tendencies: “We tore down the hills. We dug up the valleys. We pulled up the trees. Replaced them with concrete. And it’s goodbye world. Cornucopia croaked. Strangled by plastic. All our footprints soaked. Need to do something drastic.”

Keeping with the theme of earthly degradation, “Gods of Folded Bills” speaks to how our greed, over-consumption, and the downside of capitalism in general have led us down a path toward the looming prospect of our own demise: “We sold out to darker powers, and all the while, we pray to gods of folded bills. There’s no return, we’re driving down a one-way street. There’s no concern, as the rhino joins the queue.” The song has a cheerful synth-driven melody that belies the darker lyrics. So too with “Superglue“, its catchy new wave/psychedelic grooves in contrast with the more serious subject matter.  “Can’t you tell this fragile shell on which we live…is gonna give./The edifice you build is in your heart. A monument to pride. A prisoner inside. A prisoner to hide. The prisoner is you. And my advice is pull it down, tear it down, smash it down.

Picture of a Man” is a rather somber song about a man who puts forth a charming, gallant image that’s at sharp odds with his substantial shortcomings and cruel nature: “Don’t you paint a fine, fine picture of a man. So subtle, so refined, so charming, so cultured, so well-groomed. / A player, you play her well. You beat her, you cheat her./ Please leave her, relieve her. Just walk away. But freedom is what she wants from you. The one thing you can’t give.” “Guess Which Number” is a sweet tune, with sparkling synths and a lovely piano-driven melody, while “Father of Lies” seems to pay homage to David Bowie’s “Heroes” with its similar iconic driving riff early in the song.

One of my favorite tracks is “Punk Rock is Dead“, a bouncy punk-infused song about how societal pressure to conform killed off the free-thinking, anti-establishment spirit embodied by punk rock:  “Take a message. Subvert it. Pump it out as truth. Take a free man, create dependence, and roll away identity. Millions like him share the uniform. A corporate rebellion. Punk rock is dead. Who killed it? Punk rock is dead. You killed it. Punk rock is dead. We killed it.

Steel September Skies” is a complex and haunting track. It begins with a gently strummed folk guitar, then a thumping drumbeat ensues as Rev Rab describes what starts off as a bucolic scene that quickly turns ominous, perhaps symbolizing a nation formerly at peace but now plunged into an authoritarian regime or perhaps civil war: “A picture-perfect parade winds down my street. As idols clap and children cheer, frozen in time. I hear the crash of jackboots black. Let’s change the scene. Ignore the screams. My mother’s arms holding me tight, keeping my safe. I try to smile, but my belly aches, there’s flies in my eyes. And then the screams, my mother screams.”

The music intensifies as his vocals turn urgent: “I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” Suddenly, things turn around to a more positive, hopeful tone: “Parade’s rewind and jackboots fade. All our wrongs are being undone, the guilty can’t run. It’s time to live, it’s time to love. I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” The music calms back down to the gently strummed guitar as the song fades out. It’s such a powerful and stirring song.

Swipe Left is another strong work by Revolution Rabbit Deluxe. Given their unique, sometimes unorthodox sound and deep, thought-provoking lyrics, their songs often require a couple of listens to unpack and fully appreciate all the nuance to be discovered within them. Putting forth the effort pays off nicely once you come to realize the high quality of their music.

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Stream on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase hereBandcamp

INWATER – Single Review: “Nobody Else Than Me”

Inwater Nobody Else Than Me

Although the vast majority of artists I’ve featured on this blog are from either the U.S. or the UK, I do from time to time write about artists and bands from other countries. Just a few days ago, I reviewed a band from Italy, and now turn my spotlight for the first time on lovely Portugal, to Lisbon rock band Inwater. Formed in 2014, the band is comprised of songwriter/producer Miguel Moreira (lead guitar, synths, programming &  backing vocals), songwriter/producer Rui Duarte (rhythm guitar, synths & lead vocals), João Barbosa (drums, percussion & programming), and André Pires (bass & backing vocals).

Although they identify their music as generally falling into the broad category of alternative rock, Inwater draws from a wide range of influences to create their own unique sound, and prefer to not be labeled any one particular genre. As they so eloquently put it, “[We] can be sweet as a little boat on the sea, or as frightful and dreadful as Godzilla emerging from the deep ocean. What best describes our sound is the fact that we recognize in ourselves the ability to reach out and discover what each song needs, and let them always show us the way. This approach gives us the chance to explore an infinite amount of possibilities driven by the song’s potential, and with patience and perseverance, it grows by itself and leads us to a different sight every time. We just have to come ashore and breathe the new air that is waiting for us.” An interesting aspect of their sound is that, listening to their songs, I’d never guess they were from Portugal.

Inwater has spent the past couple of years writing and recording songs for their forthcoming debut album Wet Dreams, and began releasing singles this past February, starting with the lovely and bittersweet “My Tragedy”.  In June, they followed up with a beautiful love song “Plain Heart”, featuring guest vocals by Caroletta The Girl From Chiado, and on November 15, they dropped their third single “Nobody Else Than Me“, which I’m reviewing today.

True to their desire to remain eclectic, the song starts off with an 80s new wave vibe that reminds me a bit of Depeche Mode. The hypnotic melody, deep bass and jangly guitars are fantastic. Then the chorus kicks in, and the song transitions to a faster, pop-rock tempo that’s equally satisfying. The guitar work and lively percussion are terrific, and the 30-second guitar solo in the bridge is particularly good. The track’s arrangement and production values are really outstanding as well. There were many hands involved in its production, including Nuno Oliveira and Pedro Isaac Ribeiro on bass, Ribeiro again on electric guitars, and João Tiago Fernandes on drums. The track was produced, mixed and mastered by Moreira and Duarte.

The lyrics, written by Duarte, speak to the protagonist’s inability to love anyone but himself, and his desire to remain free, enjoying only the physical pleasures from a sexual encounter. But they also reveal in inner turmoil, and the self-realization that he’s not necessarily a good person.

Don’t you understand?
Love means nothing to me
So, take it easy
Your love means nothing for me

My Freedom
Runs threatened by your love
My Freedom
Loves to walk alone

So please take a step back
I hate being followed

Can’t you see?
There’s nobody else than me
Nobody else
Nobody else than me

I’m not sweet
I’m not gentle and kind
I’m hungry
I’ve a battle inside

I need passion
I just wanna be surprised
I need passion
I just wanna take you higher 

Here are all three singles for those so inclined to take a closer listen to Inwater:

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Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

New Song of the Week – DENSE: “Fever Dream”

DENSE - FEVER DREAM (ARTWORK)

DENSE is a remarkably talented psychedelic garage rock band from Leeds, England, who combine thick, fuzz-soaked grooves with explosive riffs and intricate melodies to create music that’s incredibly intense and badass. As their name would imply, their sound has an impressive maturity, complexity and density, which I like to describe as ‘industrial surf-metal psychedelic rock’.  The trio consists of Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums).

A favorite of this blog, I’ve previously featured DENSE numerous times over the past two and a half years, most recently this past March when I reviewed their mind-blowing single “Displaced Face”  Now they’re back with another new single “Fever Dream“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The single drops today, December 6th, via Leeds label Come Play With Me. DENSE were selected for this release by a panel of judges which included BBC Radio 1’s Phil Taggart, Adele Slater (agent to Liam Gallagher and Dream Wife), and Paul Riddlesworth from Dipped In Gold Recordings and Too Pure Singles Club.

About the track, Sam explains “’Fever Dream’ is based on a dream our singer Charlie had when he was really ill a couple years ago. In it, a withered man was left to die by a burning window before being dug up and forced to relive the tormenting experience all over again. The artwork relates to the introduction and later repetition of the agonising circumstance which the protagonist is in, left immobile in a chair being burnt by the scorching sun and unable to break the cycle of his suffering. The rocking chair left in the unused wasteland represents the isolation of this suffering against nature’s elements, visually encapsulating the track’s overall atmosphere.

The song immediately bursts forth with an intense barrage of gnarly guitars, throbbing bass and bombastic percussion. Charlie uses his guitar like a battering ram, pummeling the airwaves with relentless riffs of gritty, reverb-drenched distortion. At times, his guitar sounds like a buzz saw, while other times it mimics a machine gun. Dylan lays down a jaw-dropping bass line so heavy and deep I feel it in my core, while Sam smashes his drum kit like a man possessed. It all serves to create a massive, nightmarish wall of sound for Charlie’s demonic wails and screams. Wow, what a phenomenal track, and once again, DENSE blows our minds and ears with their brilliant musicianship.

“Fever Dream” is also being released on 7” vinyl, and is backed on the other side by fellow label mates Sea Leg’s single ‘Favourite Doll’. Limited signed copies of the vinyl can be ordered from http://cpwm.awesomedistro.com/.

DENSE will be launching “Fever Dream” at the following show tonight, 6 December, at Hyde Park Book Club.

DENSE show poster

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunesBandcampGoogle Play

 

MAYOBA – Artist Spotlight & Review

I get so tired of hearing that ‘rock is dead’, because as far as I can tell by the huge number of bands throughout the world making great kickass rock these days, the genre seems to be very much alive. One such band doing their part to keep rock going strong is Italian crossover metal band Mayoba. Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Gojira, Opeth, Meshuggah, Lamb of God, Pantera, Killswitch Engage, Megadeath, Helmet, Biohazard and Alter Bridge, they serve up a face-melting, yet highly melodic, stew of hardcore and groove metal.

Based in the southern Italian city of Trani on the Adriatic coast, they’re a fairly new band, forming just last year (2018). Guitarist Francesco Di Bitonto and drummer Mimmo instantly clicked upon meeting each other at a casual jam session, and started playing music together and working on some ideas for songs. They were soon joined by vocalist Luca Bove, and Mayoba was officially born. Their lineup was completed in early 2019 when Enrico Povia joined the band as bassist.

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They released their first single “Through the Fire” in September, and the title’s certainly fitting, as Mayoba sets the airwaves afire like a rampaging flamethrower-wielding beast. The track starts off with dark, ominous synths that conjure up images of a gathering storm, then all hell breaks looks once the guys unleash a furious barrage of pummeling riffs, buzzsaw bass and speaker-blowing drums. Luca’s hardcore vocals are downright fearsome as he screams and growls the lyrics “Where should I go? I’m walking through the fire, where I belong!“, sending chills up and down our spines. They produced a video that shows them performing the song at a nighttime outdoor concert, juxtaposed with dramatic footage of explosions and civil unrest. Be sure to turn the volume all the way to maximum on this!

On “Falling“, Mayoba delivers an unrelenting onslaught of explosive, chugging riffs, scorching basslines and thunderous drumbeats that really showcase their impressive musicianship. I love the song’s powerful, driving melody and, once again, Luca makes his vocal chords bleed with his spine-tingling feral screams.

Savior” is another banger, with a frantic, pulse-pounding tempo that really gets the blood pumping! Man, these guys blow the fucking roof off with some of the most intense grooves I’ve heard in a long while. Francesco shreds his guitar to the breaking point as he lays down heavy doses of scorching machine-gun riffs. Enrico and Mimmo keep the pace with their relentless assault of pummeling rhythms, while Luca continues to melt our faces with his savage vocals. A little past the 3-minute point, the song transitions to a haunting guitar solo by Francesco that’s quite beautiful and melodic. It’s a striking finish for a phenomenal track.

Mayoba plans to continue performing live and touring as much as possible in 2020, joining many big festivals throughout Italy. Then they plan to return to the studio again at the end of next summer to record an EP or possibly even an album. Their music is not available for purchase yet, but is available for streaming on Soundcloud and Reverbnation. They hope to eventually find a label to support their music and help them grow. In the meantime, I’m happy to do my small part to help promote them to a wider audience. I’m not the biggest fan of hardcore/metal music, but Mayoba’s songs are so melodic and well-executed that they’re beautiful to my ears.

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LIEMBA – EP Review: “Ever Evolving”

Liemba EP art

Today I’m pleased to introduce Brighton, England-based music act Liemba. I learned about them when one of the band members Simon Gledhill reached out to me about their new EP Ever Evolving, on the recommendation of another artist Fred Hills, who I’ve previously featured on this blog.  Primarily a three-piece acoustic act, Liemba was formed in early 2015 by Gledhill and Nelson Day, who share a love for folk-rock acts such as Crosby, Stills and Nash, early Fleetwood Mac, Kings of Convenience and The Staves.

Capitalizing on their skillful guitar work and sublime vocal harmonies, they released their beautiful debut EP All Costs in March, 2016, then toured throughout the UK and Europe promoting the EP. Vocalist Damien Best joined the lineup later that year, his own distinct vocals providing an added texture for what would become their wonderful signature three-part harmonies. They also began experimenting with drums and bass to create a fuller sound, and in February 2017 released their second EP Burning Wicks, another terrific work. I highly recommend that my readers check out these songs, which are available on all major music streaming sites, some of which are listed at the end of this review.

Liemba2

They followed up with a live acoustic EP Liemba Brighton Electric Sessions at the end of 2017. Moving ahead to 2018, wanting a bigger full-band sound, they recruited Brighton musicians Alfie Weedon on double bass and the aforementioned Fred Hills on drums to record some new material. The result was four stellar tracks recorded and released in 2019 that were ultimately included on a fourth EP Penlands. Subsequent to that project, the band retained drummer Hills and brought on bassist Joe Woodham to record their fifth EP. Gledhill told me this EP represents a new milestone in Liemba’s development, hence its title “Ever Evolving”.

Ever Evolving was recorded this past July at Ford Lane Studios (Royal Blood, Just Jack, Fickle Friends) in Arundel, West Sussex. The band recorded the tracks live to capture the dynamic essence of their sound, then Gledhill and Day spent the next month adding subtle texture and mixing the tracks, which were mastered by Simon James at Homesick Studios. Alice Humphreys filmed the recording process, creating live videos of each of the three tracks that give us a close-up view of the band working their magic.

The first track “PIP” really showcases their superb guitar work and vocal harmonies, both of which are so good they take my breath away. It’s not often that we see a band with three vocalists who can harmonize this beautifully, and Liemba are quite honestly one of the best at this that I’ve heard since Crosby, Stills & Nash. The layered chiming guitars are gorgeous, backed by crystalline synths, Woodham’s subtle bass and Hills’ flawless drumming. The lyrics speak of the heartache and sorrow brought by an evil woman you want to forget: “She’s cruel. The pip in my fruit. Swallowed she grows into the lump in my throat.”

Mirror Man” delivers gorgeous jangly and chiming guitars, along with more of those sublime harmonic vocals. The song is about conquering self-loathing, and learning to accept and love oneself in order to be able to love others: “Mirroman, I hate to bring the mood down. You’re the one person I should learn to love.”

The title track “Ever Evolving” speaks to how as we change (evolve), so too can our relationships, sometimes to the point where our divergence is too great for the relationship to survive. “Coz we are ever evolving. People only help or hinder. Revelations occur, make you realise you’re changing. Me oh my I’m bored of this life on a carousel. I felt like I’d moved but the scenery had too. And to my behest so had you.” Despite the rather bittersweet lyrics, the song has a bouncy, upbeat melody, with cheerful riffs and peppy drumbeats.

Ever Evolving is a marvelous little EP, and my only criticism is that I wish it contained more tracks! I’m so glad to have discovered Liemba, as I love their music. They’re incredibly talented songwriters and musicians, and I especially like Gledhill’s intelligent, thoughtful lyrics that speak to feelings we can all identify with.

Connect with Liemba:  WebsiteFacebookTwitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  BandcampiTunesGoogle Play

PETER KLEINHANS Releases New Video for “Something’s Not Right”

Something's Not Right cover

Peter Kleinhans is a New York-based singer-songwriter who, after spending 30 years as a professional harness horse racer and announcer, decided to turn his love of music into writing and recording songs. His music is a pleasing mix of pop, folk and rock, with thoughtful lyrics and catchy melodies. He doesn’t have a particularly strong singing voice, but his distinctive vocals are warm and comforting. In February 2018 he released his debut album Something’s Not Right to critical acclaim. LA Music Critic hailed it “one of the best debut albums we have reviewed“, while Neufutur Magazine called it “an album that blends together Dave Matthews with the protest tradition of performers like Neil Young and Phil Ochs.”

Last October, Peter wrote a fascinating guest article for this blog about his song “91st Street”, which you can read here. Now I’m happy to feature him again for the release of his brilliant and compelling new video for the title track from his album “Something’s Not Right“. The song speaks to the general sense of uncertainty and unease that many Americans seem to be feeling about their country and their own future, while still trying to remain optimistic and grateful for what’s good. His video, produced by Peter and directed by filmmaker Harrison Kraft, brings his powerful lyrics to life with an entertaining, yet at times troubling, narrative. Peter explains his inspiration behind the song, as well as the making of the video.

“Something’s Not Right” was one of my first songs, and ended up being the title of my first album. I wrote it in 2013, and it reflected the sense of unease I was getting from many of the previously-comfortable friends I had made during my years of announcing horse races in Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. I’d taken the couple of years beforehand trying to understand the forces underlying the economy, and became convinced that although the economy was officially ‘in recovery,’ things were not improving for average Americans. This was confirmed for me by the universal sense I was receiving from everyone I knew that there was a deep unease and lack of security brewing from a thinning sense of stability and sustainability.

This song was written three years before the election — it’s not a political song. What interested me was that feeling of unease, the sense of something-not-being-right, and how it emanated not just from economic forces but also from the impersonal face of what the nation was presenting its citizens. The song begins by invoking Applebee’s and Lowe’s as the workplaces of the protagonist, and ends with a desperate appeal to Walmart as the only viable destination for the drive he takes (ostensibly to escape the mundanity of his experience) in the middle of the night.

I am very happy and lucky to have connected with Harrison Kraft and his brilliant and young set of filmmakers, who completely got the idea and brought it to life in this music video. They used the conceit of a July 4 celebration — a party that has lost its true feeling of celebration, and even the reason for celebrating — to convey this overall all-consuming sense of disillusion. It was Kraft’s vision to use mannequins to convey characters playing their roles in life but without really ‘being there’. The protagonist’s girlfriend oscillates from real to a simulation and so do many of the background characters. Reality starts to take on a disturbing turn in a number of ways: the hand flipping the burger suddenly turns to plastic, the son’s firecracker goes the opposite way- it’s supposed to be fake, but it becomes a real explosive. These ideas were all in the hands of the video production team; I’d discussed what I thought the central themes of the song were, and then I gave them free rein to take it wherever they wanted to go. They took the ball and ran with it, and I’m thrilled with the result. Sometimes you have to know when to give up control, but you’ve really got to have trust in your team when you’re doing that. I hope you enjoy the result, and be on the lookout for more music videos forthcoming from Harrison Kraft and his team!”

Peter Kleinhans – Something’s Not Right from Harrison Kraft on Vimeo.

Peter is currently finishing up his second album, due for release in early 2020. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Facebook /  Twitter  / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunesGoogle Play

ASHRR – Single Review: “Sacrifice”

ashrr-sacrifice-final

Though a relatively new band formed just last year (2018), Los Angeles-based ASHRR collectively have a long and impressive music pedigree. Comprised of singer-songwriter Steven Davis and artists/producers Ethan Allen and Josh Charles, the accomplished trio have a seasoned and eclectic musical background, combining their wide-ranging experience and diverse stylistic influences. Davis has headlined at the famed Rainbow Room, sharing the stage with Diana Krall and Tony Bennett, co-written songs with pop legend John Oates, and had his music featured on several TV shows and films, including Criminal Minds. He’s released numerous albums, including his jazzy, easy-listening What Happened to Romance and This is Christmas in 2015, a collection of great standards The Way You Look Tonight in 2016, and his tribute to 80s pop-rock classics Departure in 2018.

Allen is a record producer, mixer, engineer, writer, and multi-instrumentalist musician originally hailing from Austin and New Orleans. His credits include Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Ben Harper, The 88, Tricky, Luscious Jackson, The Cult, Gram Rabbit, Sheryl Crow, Tim Finn, Brant Bjork, Donita Sparks, Meg Myers, Patty Griffin and Better Than Ezra, as well as many licensing placements in film and television.

Charles is a critically acclaimed piano prodigy, guitarist, singer, producer and songwriter, mentored by the legendary Dr. John. He has recorded for Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment, Island Records and Elektra Records/Warner Music Group, and has produced/co-produced and written/co-written seven albums, including his own Love, Work & Money (2010) and 1974. He’s also produced exclusive sound content for Native Instruments and Splice, and has had many of his songs played on radio, film and TV, including several cuts with the aforementioned John Oates.

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ASHRR joined forces after meeting through mutual musician friends, seeking to collaborate to create the kind of music they all wanted to make. Charles explains “Our collective love of analog synth pop, classic new wave melodies and songwriting, and taking modern production to the limits, defines us. We all come from different backgrounds, which is what can be heard inside the music.” Their sound is strongly influenced by Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem, among others.

In October 2018 they released their first single, the captivating “Don’t Wait Too Long”, which premiered at NPR.org and garnered regular airplay on famed Los Angeles alt-rock radio station KROQ. They dropped their self-titled EP ASHRR a few months later, then followed this past May with their debut full-length album Oscillator, which contained all the tracks from their EP, plus five new tracks. In October (2019) they released a stellar new single “Sacrifice“, which I’m reviewing today. The song was co-written by all band members, vocals were sung by Davis, and instruments played by Allen and Charles, except for Blair Sinta on drums and Grant Curry on electric bass. Allen and Charles produced the track, which was then mixed by Allen and mastered by Dave Collins.

The uplifting song seems to me to be about looking back on one’s life, realizing that all the hurdles we faced, all the pain we may have experienced, were worth going through to get where we are now, to be the better person we’ve become. Davis’ rich, beautiful baritone vocals are backed by a dreamy soundscape of sweeping orchestral synths. Sinta and Curry provide a mesmerizing rhythm accompaniment with their jubilant percussion and resonant bass lines, respectively. It’s a gorgeous song.

The rain it will come
And the wind it will blow
You wanna stay true
Don’t forget what you know

Haunted with memories
Blinded by noise
Too much to take
A crack in the voice
You lost the hope in your eyes
Was it worth the sacrifice

Preachers preach
Poets rhyme
The years tick slowly out of time
Angels watch while devils stare
We took the poison without care
The ferryman will name his price
We all know the sacrifice

Innocence is all you have when you are young
Darker days have come to pass
And we are stronger
looking back now
on all those dreams denied
It was worth the sacrifice

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Stream their music: SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  iTunesGoogle Play

New Song of the Week – CARL THORNTON: “Let Me Fly”

Carl Thornton

Carl Thornton is a multi-faceted singer, songwriter, actor and dancer based in Brooklyn, New York.  From the very first moment he stood up on stage as a member of his elementary school chorus at the age of seven, Carl knew he wanted to be a singer. He later studied at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, H.B. Studios, and the Broadway Dance Center, and went on to star in the national tour of RENT, where he played the role of Benny. He also performed in the musical 5 Guys Named Moe, as well as From My Hometown, and You Shouldn’t Have Told.

He’s had a successful music career over the past five years, beginning with his 2015 debut dance single “Get Up!” The Carlos Sanchez and Sami Dee remix of the song has garnered over 154,000 views on Spotify. Carl followed up with a number of excellent EDM and pop singles, which culminated in his 2016 EP Destined. He released a wonderful, inspirational dance single “I Depend on Me” in 2018, and now returns with another joyously uplifting new dance track “Let Me Fly“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The lyrics speak to not wallowing in negativity and defeatism, instead choosing a more positive outlook to help guide our way forward. And we can all certainly use a great song with a positive message right about now!

The single, released through Casa Rossa Records, features a lush soundscape of shimmery orchestral synths and percussion, set to an exuberant and hypnotic deep house EDM beat. Carl has a beautiful, resonant singing voice, and his powerful soaring vocals have a commanding, almost gospel-like quality that give the inspiring lyrics even greater impact. It’s a terrific song.

There were times, moments in my life when I felt shattered
My mind is weary, so completely battered
Not willing to go on, I felt defeated
All alone with the voices in my head
I couldn’t shake them
Much negativity, I was surrounded
Kept thinking to myself I might not make it
But then I heard a voice, and let me fly, yeah
Let me fly, yeah

Connect with Carl:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  iTunesGoogle PlayBeatport

ISOLDA – Single Review: “Night Time”

Isolda is a London-based singer-songwriter and musician who recently dropped her debut single “Night Time” on November 13. It’s a captivating track, and an impressive debut for this promising young artist, who began writing songs as a child. Classically trained on the violin and piano, she spent her formative years playing in orchestras, then later performing her songs at the piano in and around London. Inspired by those classical influences, as well as her interest in EDM, synth pop, psychedelic pop and trip hop, she began experimenting with electronic and acoustic elements to create her own unique sound, even learning to produce her own music in her north London home.

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With the assistance of Dave De Rose on drums and Ami Kirby on violin, Isolda recorded her first EP Night Time, from which the title track is the lead single. The EP was mixed by noted sound engineer Shuta Shinoda at Hackney Road Studio, and is scheduled for release in early 2020. About “Night Time”, Isolda explains “The song is a hypnotic electronic beat-driven piece, written on sleepless nights and dreamlike states of realisation as time pulls us further away from the persons we loved and the places we have been. [It’s] a contemplation on the identity lost, and the resulting wakeful alertness that persists when the psyche has been disturbed from such reflection during a dark night of the soul, inspired by the inability to sleep when the past haunts someone as they press on towards an unknown future.”

“Night Time” has a rather unusual opening, starting off with a muffled synth chorus that quickly fades out as if the power source has been cut. After a second of silence, a delicate synth riff begins, then the music swells into an enchanting, ethereal soundscape of lush atmospheric synths. Isolda skillfully chooses from a bold palette of sparkling orchestral and percussive sounds to create a dreamy backdrop for her spellbinding, breathy vocals. She gently croons “And on this long road, no turning back. No, there is no, no, no going back. I was in a lifetime, away. It wasn’t my time to find a way. / It’s the night time, but I can’t get back to sleep.”

The fascinating video shows footage of traveling through city streets at night, interspersed with surreal images of Isolda in different settings that one could imagine her experiencing in a dream. Have a look and listen:

Connect with Isolda:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Night Time” on Spotify 
Purchase:  iTunes  

A MILLION RICH DAUGHTERS – Album Review: “Hidden Parents”

A Million Rich Daughters

Today I’m happy to introduce my readers to a terrific band with an equally terrific name: a million rich daughters. Hailing from Chicago, they play an interesting and totally unique style of, in their own words – “garage/industrial/horror inspired alternative post-punk – music that transcends the typical boundaries of the observable universe.” That sounds about right. The band was founded by brothers Brett and Jake Grant, with Brett on vocals, guitars and synths, and Jake on drums. They were later joined by Matt Clepper, Rene Gutierrez and Taylor Ford, and just released their new EP Hidden Parents, which dropped November 15. After recording the album, Gutierrez and Ford left the band, and were replaced by bassist Josh Victor. Brett also has a solo project under the moniker brett.grant.5, and released his own EP disqui.etude this past June (which I reviewed).

The first track “Hitting Backspace” is a reworking of a song that was originally featured on disqui.etude. This time the mesmerizing track has been expanded by more than a minute, and gets a heavier full-band treatment. Starting off with moody, throbbing synths and shadowy bass chords, the music gradually builds into a spine-tingling crescendo of swirling jangly and psychedelic guitars, accompanied by harsh industrial synths and a deep, thumping percussive beat. Brett has a quirky, distinctive singing voice, and here he sings in a kind of plaintive monotone that grows more dramatic as the music intensifies. His vocals perfectly express the desperate feelings of being buried alive by the staggering weight of one’s problems:  “It wasn’t like I anticipated facing all this in the time since yesterday. Sands keep falling. Feels like I’m slipping away, and trapped hitting backspace./ It wasn’t like I could keep up pacing, keep up pacing through the sands of yesterday.”

The next track “Love Me After” is a feast for the ears, and possibly my favorite on the album. It begins with an enticing mix of plucked guitar strings, delicate snare and a delicious little bass riff that really does it for me. Then a thumping drumbeat ensues, punctuated by jarring jolts of what sound to me like intensely amplified guitar chords. As Brett’s vocals enter the proceedings, the music explodes with equal measures of heavier guitars, synths and percussion. Brett passionately laments of a relationship heavily damaged by a long history of hurt and verbal abuse, yet still holding out hope that perhaps it can be salvaged: “Just like you said, I’m as good as dead, yet you call my words slander. One day we’ll break these goddamn mistakes. Maybe you’ll love me after?” The wailing guitar solo after the final chorus is wonderful.

Melancholia” is a bit of a musical tour-de-force, as it takes us on a delightful four minute long sonic journey. The first part of the song features a frantic punk rock tempo, with rapid-fire riffs and pummeling drumbeats, all anchored by a killer bass line. At around 2:30, the song transitions to a languid, synth-driven melody, with crisp percussion and that lovely bass taking center stage. Eventually, the frantic punk vibe returns in the final chorus for a great, head-banging finish. The lyrics seem to be about not allowing yourself to be defeated by depression or the oppressive forces imposed upon us by others, and to instead speak up and fight for one’s rights: “If you feel like you’re captive in a boat with no captain, speak up! Well I can’t just forget it, and I’ll always regret it, come on. Melancholia’s passion is a pit of distraction, come on. Now we’ve lost all our assets and we can’t pay for access, speak up!

Truth Be Told” is another track from disqui.etude that’s given a fuller instrumental treatment here, with spooky synths, muscular thumping drumbeats and intricate layered guitars. The stabbing guitar chords add a dramatic touch to the mix to great effect. I think this remake nicely enhances the impact of the haunting lyrics that speak to feelings of misery and guilt over the death of a loved one. Brett’s heartfelt vocals are really moving as he sings “Truth be told, I never thought that you’d be dead. Truth be told, I just can’t get you out my head. Truth be told, I’ve been obsessing for so long, I’d give anything to write a different song. Truth be told, I should’ve been the one to go. Truth be told, this burden’s getting hard to hold.

A million rich daughters dial the energy back up with “Possibly a Problem“, delivering furious riffs of jangly guitars and hard-driving rhythms. My take on the song’s meaning is that it’s about how as more aspects of ourselves and our past are revealed in the early stages of a new relationship, we fear the other may lose interest in us, given our shortcomings. In this case, alcoholism appears to be the possible problem: “Lost so many to elixir, don’t you disappear. I just want to make sure, if I’m sick again, be my cure. Possibly a small problem, but I just want to be your man.

The title track “Hidden Parents” has a wonderful electro-psych rock groove, and I love the haunting lead melody. Once again, there’s a lot going on here musically speaking, with numerous tempo and melodic change-ups. At times the song has an 80s new wave vibe, only to later veer headlong into frenetic punk rock beats. Backed by dark, sweeping synths and aggressive rhythms, the intricate, multi-textured guitar work is fantastic. Brett’s distant, echoed vocals convey a vulnerable sense of desperation as he seems to be asking for forgiveness for the wrongs he’s done: “Oh things, have changed, the damage done. Oh look, at what, I have, become. Now I, am lame and most probably not sane. There is, no me, no in-between. There’s still, one thing, I want, to do. And what, I want is to get a little closer to you. Oh it’s always for you.”

I must admit that this was one of the most challenging reviews for me to write in my four years of doing this. Despite having only six tracks, there’s a whole lot to unpack in each song. Not being a musician, and having no music ability nor training of any kind, I sometimes have a difficult time articulating what I’m hearing. Hidden Parents is an experimental work, teeming with unconventional, ever-changing melodies, deep, often abstract lyrics, and loads of innovative, complex instrumentation that give it a compelling and fascinating sound. Indeed, Brett himself told me the album “is fucking weird; there’s a lot going on technique-wise in the music theory, as well as a lot of layers.” That’s for sure, and while it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think it’s brilliant.

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