THAT HIDDEN PROMISE – EP Review: “Drifted Hope e.p.”

That Hidded Promise EP Cover

I always find interesting the artistic monikers that musicians come up with for their music projects, and I’ve featured quite of number of such artists on this blog. My latest is That Hidden Promise, whose new EP Drifted Hope e.p. drops today. Based in Somerset, England, That Hidden Promise is the artistic alter ego of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Wayne Lee, who’s been performing live and recording under that name since 2011. The talented and versatile fellow writes his own songs, creates all his own music, including beats and percussion, and plays acoustic and electric guitar.

He’s produced an extensive catalog of alternative rock music over the past seven years, often incorporating blues, post-punk, folk, electronic, psychedelic and shoegaze elements into the mix, resulting in a highly eclectic sound. In May 2017, he released a single “All Things, All Will Come,” an upbeat rock song with exuberant guitar, percussion and synths, which I reviewed. Now, with Drifted Hope e.p., That Hidden Promise delivers five all-acoustic tracks that are darker and more introspective.

He kicks things off with “If I,” a song that seems to ponder the meaning of his existence within the universe, which in and of itself is almost beyond comprehension to me. His strummed guitar chords are strong, clear and lovely, and his vocals earnest as he wistfully sings the thoughtful lyrics:  “If I could sit still for a minute more than I can. Would I lose all of myself for that minute, though now it’s gone, it’s gone. But now, if I had that minute back, what’s the point in that? / Why should I think the universe contracts a while to a single point of nothingness. And is this cycle infinite? Can we know?

The Drop” has a melodic folk-rock vibe, with heavily strummed guitar and slightly off-kilter vocals that seem to channel Bob Dylan. He sings of how he’s done with someone who won’t give him a break: “You know I don’t know what I did to offend you. Seems if you could bring me down you do it. You sneaky little sh**.”  On “The Gallery of Drifted Hope Acoustic,” he laments over past mistakes that have taken his life down the wrong path, negatively impacting friendships and his future: “And I remember when the world seemed bright and new. Now see a gallery of drifted hope, of things I blew away.”

Though essentially an acoustic folk song, “See, Hold It, Feel” has a slight Pearl Jam grunge vibe, at least to my ears. It’s a wonderful and moving track, with some really fine intricate guitar work. “We Can Come Together Acoustic” is an upbeat, hopeful song about putting aside petty differences and focusing on the good in each other: “We can’t do much about deception. We can’t do much about the lies. Misinformation all around us.So put your arms around me, I’ll put my arms around you. And we can dance all night and we can gaze at the moon. And when it’s all said and done, we might not agree. But I believe that we can come together.” Positive words that I could do well to follow myself in these rather divisive times.

Drifted Hope e.p. is a solid work by That Hidden Promise. I really like his contemplative lyrics, and his ace guitar work is sublime. His vocals can be a little flat in spots, but at the same time they reflect an honest vulnerability that’s very appealing, and work well with his emotive acoustic style.

To learn more about That Hidden Promise, check out his Website and connect with him on Facebook & Twitter
Stream his music on  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Tidal / Napster
Purchase on  iTunes /  Amazon / Google Play

FIELDCREST – EP Review: “Canvas”

Fieldcrest EP

Guitarist/songwriter Will Thacker and singer/songwriter Jena Jones were both artists from small towns, each struggling on their own in the search for someone to work with to bring their songs to life and get them heard. After nearly giving up hope, Will almost jokingly posted an ad in his home town of Casper, Wyoming, and to his surprise and good fortune, Jena answered and Fieldcrest was born. (Jena is now based in Wyoming, and Will in Georgia.) Incorporating elements of their shared love of music influences ranging from 70s classic rock to grunge, they developed their own hard-driving style of modern rock, and began fleshing out songs Will had written, which they presented to the world with the release of their debut EP Meadowlark this past April. Building on the success of that EP, they continued writing and recording new songs, which are featured on their second EP Canvas, which dropped on September 14.

The songs address themes of self-identity, life changes and loss. First up is “Strange Girl,” a rather dark-sounding but optimistic song about female empowerment. Jena’s clear vocals are filled with urgency as she sings the lyrics encouraging a woman who’s marching to her own beat but unsure of her path: “You’re a little unconventional, strange girl. Don’t be discouraged, you are wonderful. I know you’re scared, but you will be OK. There is nothing in your way, except you.” Will’s guitar work is impressive as he delivers an array of textures ranging from delicate strums to jagged, gnarly riffs, all nicely layered over a throbbing bass line and anchored by a strong drumbeat. The track closes with a gently strummed guitar that gradually fades to quiet but, curiously, continues for another 30 seconds after the music ends.

Perhaps it’s to provide a moment of calm before the storm, which arrives like a thunderbolt in the form of the next track “Tuesday.” The song blasts through the gates with bombastic riffs of Will’s raging guitars and pounding drums. Jena emotionally sings of being stuck in a rut, feeling like she’s losing herself: “Sitting in the same place, same chair as I did last year. You’re in the same place. Hey do I know you? I don’t think so. Life’s too short for this.” The heavy modern rock goodness continues with the hard-hitting “The Silence,” a song about a couple who’ve gotten to the point where they’re no longer able to communicate with each other. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but Will’s guitar work is so fucking good! He shreds and distorts his six string, coaxing riffs that sing, wail and soar, bringing goosebumps. The song has an Evanescence vibe, partly due to the fact I think Jena’s stong, passionate vocals remind me a bit of Amy Lee.

Transitional” is a lovely instrumental interlude consisting only of a simple piano movement, along with the sound of falling rain at the beginning and end. It’s sublime, and I’d love to hear more music like this from Fieldcrest, as one of them is a pretty good pianist.

The final track is the dark and mournful “Empty.” a powerful song about dealing with loss. Will’s jagged and wailing guitars, combined with Jena’s emotionally-wrought vocals, dramatically convey the heartbreak and desolation that remains after the death of a loved one. It’s a phenomenal song.

In my grief I just can’t accept this
It’s a blow that knocks me to my knees
In my grief I held you last night but then I woke up empty
I’m gonna miss you forever
I would have never pictured life without you
You helped hold me together
How can I be strong without you
People keep talking at me about how God has called you home
A Part of me hopes they’re right cause you had so little time
It seems so unfair, I wasn’t ready to let you go

I will admit that it took a couple of listens for these songs to really click with me, but once they did, I was hooked on this band. Jena’s sultry and emotive vocal style is utterly beguiling and Will’s guitar-playing is positively badass! Canvas is a solid EP, and I look forward to hearing more from Fieldcrest very soon.

Connect with Fieldcrest:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase on cdbaby / iTunes

TEISAN – Album Review: “Headspace”

Teisan2

TEISAN is an exceptionally talented and prolific young singer/songwriter from Mannheim, Germany. He started playing guitar at the age of 14, and quickly began writing songs in a predominantly ambient acoustic style. His songs tend toward a more introspective side, with deeply personal lyrics delivered with smooth, heartfelt vocals. In his bio, he states “I like to make music about things I experienced in my life. What I write down in the lyrics helps me in dealing with past events.” In early 2016, when he was only 17, he released an excellent debut album Different Point of View, then quickly followed that August with a five-song EP Wait For Autumn. In October 2017, he released his second album Impatience, and this past August (2018) dropped his third full-length album Headspace, an ambitious and stunning work featuring 14 tracks.

With the new album, TEISAN explains that he “wanted to be more creative with his music by experimenting with new sounds and melodies.” The title Headspace symbolizes exploration into someone’s head, “going deeper into a personality and diving into a new world that only exists in their mind. This year was really stressful for me. I had to work on some personal stuff and didn’t have much time for music. But that’s what I needed the most in that time. So I tried to fit it all under a roof and realized it doesn’t matter how much stress I’m in – I need music and the process of music making [is] a way to relief this stress.”

The album starts off with the brief title track “Headspace,” which at first sounds like an instrumental only song, with shimmery synths highlighted by sweeping strings and tender piano keys. But a more careful listen reveals that what sound like spacey synths are actually TEISAN’s heavily distorted vocals. Next up is the sweet acoustic ballad “Anchor Pt. 2,” which I reviewed in June. Delicate, airy synths are layered over a pleasing acoustic guitar riff, along with sounds of finger snaps, gentle percussion and added subtle guitar chords that create a serene and beautiful backdrop for his soft and earnest vocals.

TEISAN uses synthesizers and acoustic guitar to great effect in the creation of gorgeous soundscapes on most of the album’s tracks, and a perfect example of this is the beautiful “Fade Into Me.” The lush, multi-textured synths are sublime, with delicate piano keys and subtle guitar notes that make for a captivating listen. The spare lyrics on this track are loaded with meaning: “Maybe I’m giving up on my life. Maybe… , but I’m giving it time.” On “Coins,” he weaves together beautiful sweeping synths with rather harsh industrial sounds to create feelings of discord, yet manages to add calm with his soothing acoustic guitar. So too with his vocals, that start off as a soothing falsetto as he croons “Sinking down,” but turn raw and impassioned as he confronts the one who caused him pain: “It’s so hard standing next to you, you think you can tell me that. I remember the times in my head, I was paralyzed and you didn’t help.”

Oceans” is a short and simple, but moving, track with only piano and subtle background synths providing the riveting sounds for TEISEN’s bittersweet lyrics: “Another sleepless night alone, you only open up when the bottle loses weight.” Such a great lyric there! He continues with the themes of sadness and loss, and trying to move on after a failed relationship on the mellow “I’m Okay, I am Alright,” and the wistful “Strangers In A Parking Lot,” a lovely song with acoustic guitar and the gentlest of synths. TEISEN’s vocals have a pleasing vulnerability as he sings “I count the stars, you count what’s yours, and it’s tearing me apart. And all I wanna be is in your arms, like we were never lost.

Keeping with the subject of exploring the mind’s deepest thoughts, TEISAN senses a former loved one’s presence on “In My Room,” and thinks of a girl he’d just as soon forget on the folk track “Daydreams“: “Take back the seasons to relive, it never happened, didn’t exist. You know I can’t resist the pity to forget, I couldn’t remember you as well.” One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Hate Me and Run Away,” a short but captivating song with a marvelous jazzy piano riff and bluesy guitar notes. The lyrics are simple but powerful, and his slightly distorted, breathy vocals have an air of cool detachment that makes them all the more compelling: “I’m trapped inside my head, all the time that I spend for you, it is all gone, all gone. Hate me for this, I’m begging you, please hate me for this.”

Crystals (Groundlevel)” has an almost psychedelic-rock feel, with sweeping spacey synths, distorted guitar, a strong bass riff and heavier percussion. I even detect traces of what sounds like sitar. TEISAN’s breathy vocals are slightly altered, adding to the otherworldly vibe that’s quite marvelous. “Ice Red” is an interesting song, both musically and lyrically. It starts off with a church organ, then transitions to layered acoustic guitars with gauzy synths. The lyrics seem to speak of helping someone in need of healing support, though the singer’s not sure he’s up to the task: “Maybe you need someone to lead, maybe even a place to hide. We can put our anger aside to make things right. All my friends are deep underneath, happiness is all make believe, I can’t put my sadness aside to make things right.” But then he acknowledges the support he was given, and decides he needs to repay the favor: “I’m seeing you’re constantly feeling so down – I can’t leave you behind. ‘Cause you stitched all my wounds, and I made a wish and you filled me with love, so I can sleep in the nights.” “Moon and Sun” is a lovely folk rock song that made me think of John Mayer, a good thing as I’m a big fan of his.

TEISAN returns to experimentation in big way for the album closer “Headache.” The track starts off with numerous skips that give the feeling your listening device or CD player has developed a malfunction, then at 15 seconds it all settles down and we hear his smooth vocals and acoustic guitar, but with unusual assorted background noises that suggest dissonance as he sings about changing. At the one minute mark, the song transitions yet again, this time to a hauntingly beautiful piano riff, backed by atmospheric echoed synths that gradually fade to the outro. What a superb ending to a magnificent, stunning album!

Headspace is a gorgeous album – dare I say, a masterpiece – and I continue to be blown away by TEISAN’s skill at writing such compelling, poetic lyrics and composing incredibly beautiful instrumentals, and his arrangements and production values are impeccable. For a man of only 20, his music and lyrics exhibit a remarkable maturity. This young man is destined for greatness, and his music needs to be heard by millions of ears.

He touches on his future music plans: “I don’t know which way I’ll go on my next album – if it’s some old work I want to get out, or if it’s new stuff – but I sense it that the next one is going to be more “me” . I’ve been reading a book called “Nada Brahma” and It’s quite interesting and changing my perspective when it comes to the world and of course music.

Connect with TEISAN on  Facebook / Instagram
Stream/purchase his music on Bandcamp or YouTube

Top 30 Songs for September 30-October 6, 2018

1. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (1)
2. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (2)
3. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (4)
4. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (5)
5. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (3)
6. GHOST – Badflower (8)
7. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (7)
8. BETTER NOW – Post Malone (9)
9. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (10)
10. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (11)
11. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (6)
12. SOMETHING HUMAN – Muse (13)
13. CRAZY – From Ashes to New (15)
14. CITY LOOKS PRETTY – Courtney Barnett (18)
15. PANIC – Agency Panic (19)
16. TIDAL WAVE – Portugal.The Man (20)
17. BODY TALKS – The Struts (21)
18. SHE’S KEROSENE – The Interrupters (22)
19. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (14)
20. IN MY MIND – Draft Evader (24)
21. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Childish Gambino (25)
22. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (12)
23. LOADING ZONES – Kurt Vile (30)
24. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (23) 51st week on chart
25. NINA CRIED POWER – Hozier featuring Mavis Staples (N)
26. SUPERWOMAN SWAY – Brett Vogel (27)
27. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (16) 18th week on chart
28. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (17)
29. UH HUH – Jade Bird (N)
30. HAPPIER – Marshmello, Bastille (N)

JENNIFER DOLL – EP Review: “With Everything”

Jennifer Doll is a young singer-songwriter from New Jersey who, in her own words, strives “to make music that makes me feel how my favorite songs make me feel.” She released her debut EP The Crystal Hours last November (2017),  and was recently featured on a remix of electronic music composer Manipulant’s “What Good are the Stars” (which I reviewed). Now she returns with a brand new EP With Everything, which dropped on September 21 via WEATNU Records. On her Instagram page she posted her feelings about its release: “I am so excited – and slightly melancholy – to finally be releasing this EP. These songs were written between graduation and starting life, but most of those days are now behind me. They are now yours. Take care of them.”

Jennifer Doll

And what powerful and emotionally compelling songs they are. Jennifer has a fascinating sound and vocal styling that, to my ears at least, sounds like the product of a collaboration between Phantogram, Lana Del Rey and Lorde. She uses intriguing chord progressions and melodies and complex synths to create songs that are fresh and uniquely original. She wrote, produced, mixed and mastered most of the tracks, with the exception of the two remixes, and “Siren Song,” which was mixed by electronic music composer and engineer Almark, who’s vocals are also featured on the track “Cosmo.”

First up is the mesmerizing “Siren Song,” a hauntingly beautiful track about a woman desperately trying to escape her demons. The track opens with sounds of waves washing onto the shore and church bells ringing in the distance, then pulsating synths and a thumping drum beat ensue as Jennifer sings “She had to find a way to get away from the horrors of herself. She had to find a way to keep away darkness as it fell.” Her ethereal vocals start off gentle and breathy, but gradually become more impassioned along with the arresting synths and horns as the track progresses, soaring to spine-tingling heights in the chorus.
 

Jennifer injects a bit of dubstep into the mix on “Secrets for the Dance Floor, ” employing industrial-sounding synths, deep bass and echoed vocals to create a trippy, otherworldly vibe. She sings about the emotional emptiness of being stuck on the endless merry-go-round of partying: “One more drink for some clarity, then throw it back at me, but do we really even care?  One more party, do it all again. Forget as much as we can. All we crave is the end. Can anybody hear it? All the broken dreams and hollow lies?

The gorgeous “Cosmo” features dazzling synths and guitar work that are a lush, glittery soundscape for Jennifer’s beautiful, fervent vocals. Additional vocals are provided by electronic music composer and producer Almark. And “Heavy” is a brooding, yet beautiful track, with deep bass and dark, sweeping synths, punctuated by an enchanting piano trill, xylophone, and an occasionally recurring beat that sounds like a gentle foot march.  Her vocals are dreamy as she croons “Let me go, trust I’m better on my own.

The EP features three bonus tracks, the first of which is “glitter tits,” which speaks to the aftermath of the excessive partying that Jennifer sang about on “Secrets for the Dance Floor.” Accompanied by sparkling synths set to a slow dance beat, and backed by her own vocal harmonies, she laments: “Now there’s glitter on the floor, our remembrance of the night before. Tonight all we have is glitter tits.” Next up is “glitter tits (OneManStanding R3M1X),” a remix by electronic music composer/producer OneManStanding. He takes the same song, but significantly slows down the tempo, drawing it out to more than twice its original length. His synths are more spacey, and Jennifer’s vocals make the lyrics seem all the more compelling at this speed.

The third bonus track is “Cosmo The Little Girl Found (Jigsaw Sequence Remix),” a loose and greatly extended remix of “Cosmo” by Scottish synthpop musician and composer Jigsaw Sequence. At nearly six minutes, this track is the longest and most complex on the EP. Jigsaw Sequence seems to channel the 80’s with his glorious sparkling and pulsating synths, and hypnotic dance beats. Jennifer’s amazing vocal gymnastics are on full display here, breathy and gentle one moment, then piercing and powerful the next, raising goosebumps. It’s a marvelous tour de force.

With Everything is a beautiful, expertly-crafted EP, delivering music that’s innovative yet accessible, with lyrics we can all relate to. Jennifer and everyone involved in its production should be very proud.

Connect with Jennifer on Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase With Everything on Bandcamp / iTunes

STRANGELY ALRIGHT – EP Review: “Stuff”

Strangely Alright Stuff

As all of us who use it know, social media can sometimes be a major source of aggravation, but it also has its rewards, one of which – for me at least – has been to connect with scores of musicians and bands from around the world. With some of them, that connection has run deeper and become more personal for a myriad of reasons, but most often due to the warmth and magnanimity of the artists themselves. One such band is a five-piece from Seattle, Washington with a delightfully quirky name – Strangely Alright. Not only do they play great rock music, they also project a strong message of love and acceptance in their songs, while clearly having a lot of fun in the process.

The band is headed by Regan Lane, who does most of the songwriting and sings lead vocals, Sean Van Dommelen (lead guitar, vocals), Ken Schaff (bass), Raymond Hayden (keyboards, vocals) and Jason Bair (drums). Their wildly-entertaining style of punk-infused rock is inspired by various generations of British iconoclasts such as David Bowie, T.Rex, the Jam, Suede, the Buzzcocks and Supergrass.

They’ve released a number of recordings over the past several years, including their terrific album The Time Machine is Broken in 2013, and a compilation album of singles All of Us Are Strange (The Singles) earlier this year.  On September 20, they dropped a fantastic new EP simply titled Stuff. The band describes the EP as “six songs about love, working together, setting boundaries, the digital age and the change that’s coming.” The tracks were written in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, and speak to “walking the tightrope of acceptance and resistance, of not giving in to the overwhelming forces of hatred and turmoil.” I could sure use some pointers on that subject.

The opening title track “Stuff” speaks out against our materialistic ways, namely, our thinking that acquiring more things will bring us happiness when, at the end of the day, it’s the love and support we extend to others that will bring our lives meaning and a real sense of contentment: “And I have learned through the trials and the times. That I need to look inside if I want to stay alive. All of the things that I gather are things I will leave when I am gone. It’s all just Stuff. It ain’t enough. Without the love in my heart it’s all just Stuff.

I love the silly opening with ukelele and a bit of jibberish, and how it then erupts into an explosion of gnarly and screaming guitars, set to Jason’s infectious hard-driving rock beat that grabs us by the hips and gets our asses moving! The guitar work is so good and, combined with the gritty synths, throbbing bass and Regan’s feisty vocals, “Stuff” is one hell of an awesome rock song!

Building Bridges” is an admonishment for us to work together to build things up rather than fighting to tear things apart. The track starts off with a portion of the famous and moving speech given by Bobby Kennedy at the time of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination: “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country.” It then launches into a thunderous volley of gritty riffs, assertive keyboards and pounding drums that form a lively soundscape for Regan’s fervent, at times distorted, vocals.

The kiss-off song “Wave Goodbye” starts off with Regan saying in an almost smarmy voice-over “Dinner is served,” then organ synths and fuzzy guitars take over as he sneers: “I thought you were my friend but I can see you’ve been pretending from the snide remarks that drip from you tongue.  Walking with a shovel, you’re surprised that you’re in trouble while you’re piling dirt on people you love./  Even when you say you can change. hey, we don’t trust you. Maybe you should just float away./ Wave goodbye.

Strangely Alright takes on misinformation and fake news on “Information Game.” The track has a wonderful T.Rex glam rock vibe, with psychedelic synths and layers of distorted and wailing guitars. Regan’s vocals actually sound a bit Bolan-esque as he snarls: “Liars thieves and pretty faces. TV stars that run the nation. Maybe there’s a quiz at the end. Same old show a different station. Fairy tales and race relations. Cherry pick the good and the bad. The more I see the less I know. The less I know the more I see. It’s clogging up my brain.

Whatcha Gonna Do?” is straight-up rock’n’roll with an irresistible head-boppin’ beat, and one of my favorite tracks on the EP. Keeping with their penchant for quirky intros, the track opens with what sounds like a merry-go-round , symbolizing the circus-like atmosphere we now seem to be living in. Sean’s guitar work is fantastic, as are Raymond’s jazzy keyboards, Ken’s bass and Jason’s drums. And Regan seems to channel early David Bowie on this track as he croons: “Well I vote in the elections and I feel no real connections with the humans that we trust with our lives. Baby baby It just feels like lies lies lies lies. Who hoo hoo hoo. Whatcha gonna do? when it all just breaks in two.

The EP ends on a upbeat note with the psychedelic-rock “Don’t U Know.” The lyrics speak to the optimism of youth, and that change for the better is coming, even though those of us who are older may feel cynical and pessimistic about it: “Well my children tell me that a change is gonna come. Hiding in the sunlight is the truth that we are one. Open doors of freedom. Doors of dialogue. Freight train and I feel it’s coming coming coming.

I have to say that the more I’ve listened to their music, the more I’ve come to love Strangely Alright – not only for their uniquely quirky sound and impressive songwriting and musicianship, but also for their humanity and kindness. Stuff perfectly exemplifies all those admirable qualities that make them a very special band indeed.

To learn more about Strangely Alright, check out their website
Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple MusicReverbnationSoundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

LOUIE JAMES – Single Review: “Yellow Doors”

Louie James single

I recently stumbled upon a talented young singer/songwriter from Wakefield, England named Louie James, and was immediately struck by his fresh and honest take on folk rock. He started making a name for himself last year with the release of two stellar singles “Different World” and “Tonight,” and has now returned to grace our eardrums with his heartwarming new single “Yellow Doors.”

The track opens with a tender acoustic guitar riff that quickly drew me in, and once Louie’s soothing vocals entered I was totally hooked. It always amazes me when such a simple guitar riff can have the ability to move us so deeply. Louie’s earnest vocals have a breathy quality that’s pleasing and calming, yet at the same time so powerful. The recurring deep piano chord and whistled chorus are especially nice, adding lovely textures to the track.

The song lyrics speak to his feelings for his new love and how she’s made his life better.  “We’re chasing yellow doors, dreaming of the days. Keeping track the score of when our dark times slipped away. Before she came along, there was a shadow in my life. And I’m glad she stuck around. Made something right.” Take a listen to this beautiful song:

Connect with Louie:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

Top 30 Songs For September 23-29, 2018

1. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (2)
2. NATURAL – Imagine Dragons (3)
3. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (1)
4. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (4)
5. NEVERMIND – Dennis Lloyd (6)
6. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (5)
7. WHEN THE CURTAIN FALLS – Greta Van Fleet (8)
8. GHOST – Badflower (9)
9. BETTER NOW – Post Malone (11)
10. BURN THE HOUSE DOWN – AJR (15)
11. ALL MY FRIENDS – The Revivalists (16)
12. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (7)
13. SOMETHING HUMAN – Muse (14)
14. RIDE OR DIE – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (13)
15. CRAZY – From Ashes to New (18)
16. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (10)
17. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (12)
18. CITY LOOKS PRETTY – Courtney Barnett (21)
19. PANIC – Agency Panic (23)
20. TIDAL WAVE – Portugal.The Man (24)
21. BODY TALKS – The Struts (25)
22. SHE’S KEROSENE – The Interrupters (26)
23. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (20) 50th week on chart
24. IN MY MIND – Draft Evader (27)
25. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Childish Gambino (28)
26. DEAD TO ME – Reality Suite (22)
27. SUPERWOMAN SWAY – Brett Vogel (30)
28. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (17) 19th week on chart
29. UNWIND – John Defeo (19) 23rd week on chart
30. LOADING ZONES – Kurt Vile (N)

FIE! FIE! FIE! – Album Review: “No Light For Lies”

Fie! Fie! Fie! album art

Fie! Fie! Fie! is a gloriously-named alternative rock band who make glorious music. Based in West Yorkshire, England, the band was formed in 2013 by seasoned musicians Daniel Varley and Pete Long, both of whom play some pretty mean guitar. Later joining the band were bassist Avon Blyth and multi-instrumentalist/percussionist Matt Burnside. (Burnside recently departed the band, though he’s played on all their recordings, and Marcus Ambler is a new addition to the lineup.) Daniel sings lead vocals, and the other band members provide backing vocals.

Fie Fie Fie

They’ve released a number of tracks and albums, including Can You Hear This? in 2015, and Live at St. Mary’s and a terrific single “Hit the Spanish Main” a year later. In August 2017, they released a double A-side single “Edge of Space/Everything I Told You”, which I reviewed, then followed with another single “Famous Liars.” This August (2018) they dropped a new album No Light For Lies, which includes all four of the aforementioned singles.

The guys describe the album as being about “Courage, Truth & Love – that there is no light for lies – yet there is light for the truth.” It opens with “Intro Venus,” a brief but captivating instrumental that immediately draws us in with a haunting guitar riff paired with dark synths. Having gotten our rapt attention, Fie! Fie! Fie! proceeds to blow our minds with the stunningly beautiful “Edge of Space.” Oh man, this song has one of the most arresting guitar-driven melodies I’ve ever heard. What sounds like lush synths is actually an effect that Pete put down on one of his guitar tracks, along with an achingly beautiful guitar riff that burns itself into your mind. It stayed with me long afterward, leaving me humming the melody and wanting to hear the song again and again.

Using metaphors of space exploration, Daniel fervently sings about finding enough forgiveness to salvage a damaged relationship, or possibly a damaged world: “Could you find a way, a way to see past this. Past the mess that we both left, could you see through it. Gliding through the stratosphere, could fall off, float away. There’s bigger fears alone up here as we try to find our way.” The song ends with snippets of what sound like old recordings of astronauts speaking from their spaceships, and a final dramatic flourish of distorted guitar.  It’s fantastic, and my favorite track on the album.

Another highlight for me is the fun and bouncy “Hit the Spanish Main.” As it’s title suggests, the song features lots of tasty Latin guitars, but the guys spice things up with jolts of gritty and distorted guitars in the choruses that have the effect of Tequila shots on a beer buzz. Daniel sings about leaving their troubles behind when they reach Panamanian shores: “Got red-faced about everything. Still it all gets better when we hit the Spanish main.” The guys change up the tempo again with the mellow folk-like ballad “Everything I Told You.” The silky layered acoustic guitars floating above a smooth bass line and gentle percussion are sublime, and I really like Daniel’s earnest vocals, backed by a dreamlike harmonizing chorus. Here’s a lovely live performance of the song:

Famous Liars” is a fascinating tune, with sweet acoustic guitars, gentle snare drums and an enthralling background whistle set to a delightful galloping drumbeat. The delicate whispered vocals add a nice bit of mystery to the track. “From the Wreck” speaks to overcoming adversity and moving on with your life, becoming a stronger person for it: “Come on, you’re that long lost mother’s son. Her unwanted Caesarean. Who’s skull she loved to smash against the paisley walls in the living room. / And after all that, and after all this, hearts still beat. Could care less.” The pleasing acoustic guitars seem to give a feeling of reassurance.

The guys shed light on hypocrites and phonies on the Americana folk songs “Bullet Points for the Bullet Proof“: “Your sped-up lines just don’t rhyme, so unctuous and overrated. If you could see past your nose, you’d be better off castrated.So declare your manifesto, then we’ll decide if we’ll abide you or throw you over the side”, and “Bleeding Obvious“: “Who do you think you are telling us not to go far. With your snide remarks and your half-assed retorts. Is it stating the bleeding obvious you made such a stink and a fuss? About whether we have the right. Well our needs are a must.”

The hard-driving “Bloody Lane” is a moving protest song against the senseless jingoism and profiteering that lead to war: “bunkers filled with bankers playing with remote controls. Squares count lives in dollars...”  They close out the album with “Outrospective,” a biting but optimistic clarion call for us to rise up against the tyranny and bullshit being foisted upon us by our so-called leaders and big corporate interests: “They bankrupt and bleed you more. Disrupt their aims, move to settle the score. / You pay your dues, they burn your soul. You’ll run them out, run into the light. Become free, become one. You can’t submit. Cast out the bullshit. / Come out, come on. We are so strong! Get it together, you’re not alone. Morning coming, we are the light!”

No Light For Lies is a wonderful album from start to finish, and every track is stellar, with not a single filler. I’ve had a few conversations with Daniel by internet, and I found him to be generous, thoughtful and kind. I admire this band’s philosophy and dedication to their craft, and love their music and lyrics, so they’ve got a huge fan in me!

To learn more about Fie! Fie! Fie!, check out their website

Connect with them on  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase their music on  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon / cdbaby

FROM THE CAVE – EP Review: “Medieval”

Medieval EP Art

London-based From the Cave is one of the most distinctive and special bands I’ve come across, and I know a lot of bands! Their very eclectic style of alternative rock covers a broad range of influences, incorporating punk, pop, shoegaze, blues, funk and ethnic folk elements into their exuberant mix. They debuted with their self-titled EP From the Cave in 2016, and in 2017 began releasing a series of singles, some of which are now included on their new EP Medieval, which dropped on September 10. I’ve previously featured two of the tracks – Halloween and “Cavalier” – on this blog, and am now reviewing the EP.

Band front man Kristian Møller-Munar says the EP is “a big hug to all their influences and puts them in one place where they can express themselves.” As such, each track is totally unique and completely different from every other track on the EP, making for a fresh and surprising listen. In addition to Kristian, who plays guitar and sings most lead vocals, the other band members are Mikaela Lindgren on vocals, keys and percussion, and Josh Scriven on guitar and vocals. Johan Crondahl (bass, percussion and backing vocals) and Anton Vysotsky (drums) also played on the EP, but recently left the band to return to their home countries, so From the Cave is now a three-piece. The bass and guitars for “Medieval”, “Halloween” and “Wasting Time” were recorded by Jules Gulon.

The EP kicks off with the rousing title track “Medieval (Pánico)” a delightful high-energy Latin-rock tune. Fast-paced riffs of scratchy guitars are paired with Anton’s assertive drums and swirling synths to create a powerful backdrop for Kristian’s commanding vocals, which are sung in Spanish, one of his two native languages (he was born in Copenhagen and partially raised in Majorca). The word Pánico signifies that there’s no reason to panic. The guitar work on the track is electrifying, and I love the harmonic backing vocals. It’s a fantastic song, and Kristian said it’s one of the tracks he’s most proud of.

Cavalier” was inspired by a London cabaret bar the band members have frequented, and basically tells a saga of falling in love with one of the waitresses there. The band employs all kinds of exotic synths and strings, including guitar and violin but also possibly zither or mandolin, to create an intriguing Eastern European sound that’s incredibly catchy and marvelous. Kristian’s vocals are captivating as he expresses his frustration that the object of his desire keeps rebuffing his romantic intentions. “I could be your cavalier if you like me. I’m sitting by the cabaret but you don’t mind me. / But angel, I’ve been waiting for long. Still I’m writing you songs.” I love it!

Next up is “Joshstafari,” a reggae-infused rock song inspired by an encounter Kristian had with a homeless man on the street while living in Hammersmith. The track opens with strange synth noises and a frantic guitar riff, then a rising choral yell signals a change in tempo to a languid reggae beat as Kristian begins to tell the tale of Joshstafari. I love his vocals, which sound so different on each song. Here, he seems to channel a bit of Sting, consciously or not, as if in homage to the early Police reggae tunes. The guitar work on this track is fantastic, speeding up then slowing down as the track progresses. In the bridge, Josh lets loose with a scorching punk-like guitar solo, then everything slows back down to a relaxed reggae beat in the outro.

Kristian has produced brilliant, imaginative videos for five of the six tracks on the EP, which I strongly recommend my readers check out on the band’s YouTube channel. Here’s the one he made for “Joshstafari”:

The hauntingly beautiful “Halloween” was actually my first introduction to From the Cave’s music, and I loved it at first listen. The song was written by Mikaela, and addresses the theme of death in a general sense, as in the death of a relationship or friendship. The track starts off with quiet, mysterious synths and plucky guitar accompanied by gentle percussion and a soft chorus that set a lovely tone. Mikaela’s beguiling vocals enter as the music swells with shimmering synths and layered chiming guitars, and Kristian’s vocals join in, harmonizing beautifully with Mikaela’s. The guitars, bass and drums become more intense as the song progresses, making for a dramatically sweeping soundscape that raises goosebumps. Be sure to watch this magical video:

Maybe Not Today” is a straightforward but upbeat pop-rock anthem about putting off an inevitable breakup of a relationship for another day: “The energy when we’re combined, always leaves me magnetized. So how could we still give it up. Maybe not today oh.” The final track “Wasting Time” is a sunny and carefree-sounding pop song with somewhat darker lyrics about remaining stuck in a less than optimal situation. “There’s a million voices telling me that I’ve got to get away from this empty space.” It’s catchy as hell though, with sparkling synths and jangly guitars, and the lovely harmonizing vocals of Josh and Mikaela are oh so pleasing, a word that perfectly describes the entire EP. It’s absolutely sublime, and a testament to the band’s fearlessness in creating music that strays beyond the alternative rock box. I adore From the Cave.

Connect with From the Cave:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon