TONI SIDGWICK – EP Review: “Lions”

Toni Sidgwick is an indie singer-songwriter based in County Durham in northeast England. She was born and raised in the remote Shetland Islands northeast of the Scottish mainland, and began her musical journey by busking on the streets of Edinburgh. Her unique style of folk/pop draws from influences by artists such as Ben Howard, London Grammar and Bruce Springsteen. And like those artists, her lyrics are often deeply personal and introspective, speaking to the complexities of life, relationships and her place in this world.

Toni released her debut EP Lions in June, having worked with the brilliant young producer, Lauren Deakin-Davies, and I have the pleasure of reviewing it. Delicate strums of her acoustic guitar introduce the first track “Carry My Heart,” a gentle, lovely ballad in which Toni acknowledges her independence, but also desire for a romantic connection: “I can carry my life, I’ve been doing it for some time. I can carry my life, will you carry my heart. Her vocals are understated and soft, yet reveal a quiet intensity that makes the lyrics feel all the more powerful.

Toni ramps things up a notch on “Only One Way,” a lively track about being honest and true to your feelings toward another. Toni’s vocals are clear and confident as she emphatically sings: “And I gotta stay true to me. And I gotta stay true to you. There’s only one way, only one way, only one way…that I can be.” I love the fast-paced jangly guitars and toe-tapping percussion. Just like the lyric “it makes me happy,” this song makes me happy and is my favorite on the EP.

Dance” is a beautiful, tender ballad with acoustic guitar, gentle percussion and a beguiling harmonica riff. With heartfelt emotion, Toni sings “Oh dance with me. Don’t you dare stop moving our two left feet. Slow dance, dance. We’ll go higher and higher than we dare to chance.” The title track “Lions” is a peppy little number with plucky guitars, crisp snare drum and just a hint of bass. Toni sings of drawing on one’s inner strength to make it through this crazy world: “We are lions, we gotta roar.

The folk-rock song “Be Anything” speaks to holding on to another’s love and support that enable you to be a better person: “You pull me closer. And in your heart, I can be anything.” A combination of strummed acoustic guitar, a sturdy bass line, and light percussion make for an intensely satisfying track. In fact, all five songs on Lions are intensely satisfying, and it’s clear that Toni poured her heart and soul into its creation. It’s a debut effort she can be proud of.

Connect with Toni:  WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream her music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes

DISCIPLES OF BABYLON – Single Review: “Without You”

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L.A. alternative rock band Disciples of Babylon have released their first official single “Without You” from their forthcoming album The Rise and Fall of Babylon, scheduled to drop this October. I recently wrote a piece announcing the album, which you can read here. As I’ve stated in previous posts about them, Disciples of Babylon (DOB) are one of my favorite indie bands, so I’ve been anxious to hear new music from them, and “Without You” does not disappoint.

DOB consists of Eric Knight on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Ramón Blanco on lead guitar, Gui Bodi on bass and backing vocals, and Chris Toeller on drums. All are seasoned musicians who collectively bring a lot of talent to the band, creating a dynamic signature sound defined by epic melodies, Ramón’s killer guitar work, Gui’s monumental bass lines, Chris’s nimble percussion, and Eric’s commanding vocals. Their song lyrics are always deeply compelling, whether addressing social injustice, troubled relationships or the personal struggle to find truth and meaning in our lives.

“Without You” is loaded with all those signature elements, immediately blasting through the speakers with a soaring chorus and an assault of powerful instrumentals. Chris aggressively pounds out the beat while Gui lays down an impressive bass line, establishing a solid foundation for Ramón’s mind-blowing riffs. This man can play guitar, and I’m confident that as his career continues to grow, he’ll be included among the great guitarists of today.

With his impassioned vocals, Eric snarls the biting lyrics that speak to someone who’s betrayed you, killing the love you once felt toward them: “Without You, I can’t get past these lies that I lived with you. I doubt you could ever feel the same as I’ve felt for you. But this fight, has spiraled me out of control.”

It’s an awesome track, and a harbinger of more to come from The Rise and Fall of Babylon.

Follow Disciples of Babylon:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

Top 20 Songs for July 30-August 5, 2017

1. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (1)
2. HIGH – Sir Sly (2)
3. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (3)
4. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (4)
5. THE MAN – The Killers (7)
6. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (6)
7. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People (5)
8. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire (9)
9. RUN – Foo Fighters (16)
10. J-BOY – Phoenix (8)
11. SILENT SUN – Morning Fuzz (12)
12. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers (10)
13. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age (13)
14. LIGHTS OUT – Royal Blood (14)
15. ONE OF US – New Politics (15)
16. DIG DOWN – Muse (11)
17. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs (19)
18. SONG #3 – Stone Sour (18)
19. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (16) 21st week on list
20. THE NIGHT WE MET – Lord Huron (N)

KOSMONAUTS – EP Review: “Kosmonauts”

KOSMONAUTS is a young indie band from Manchester, UK, a city rich in music history and home of legendary rock bands Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, New Order, and Everything Everything, as well as a couple of great indie bands I’ve featured on this blog – Partisan and Puppet Theory. As far as I’m concerned, KOSMONAUTS are poised to become an equally great band, based on the quality of their debut self-titled EP that they released in April. Their infectiously upbeat and dynamic guitar-driven style of alternative rock hooked me at first listen, with terrific melodies, intricate riffs and compelling lyrics. And what makes them even more appealing is the level of maturity in their music and lyrics given their young ages (all are in their early 20s).

After a few early fits and starts, the band as it now exists was formed at the beginning of this year. As bassist Callum Hollingsworth explained to me: “We formed properly in 2016 but went through some changes at the start of 2017 where we got a new guitarist and this totally changed the band. As a group we now class this as ‘the start of the band’.” In addition to Hollingsworth, the band includes Rob Snarr (Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitar), Kieran Wilkinson (Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals) and Dean Chadwick (Drums). About the band name, Hollingsworth stated it came from a bar in Manchester called Kosmonauts.

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Our introduction to Kosmonauts begins with a brief but lovely instrumental track titled “Untitled.” Gentle guitars and airy synths create a delicate, intriguing soundscape that immediately draws you in, wondering what kind of music this band is going to deliver. That question is abruptly answered with the arrival of the hard-driving “Night Of Our Lives,” with rapid-fire, layered guitars, hammering drums and buzzing bass lines that never let up as the track segues into the lively “When We Were Young,” which the band released as a single. Though only two and a half minutes long, this firecracker is packed with so much energy you’re practically left breathless. The frantic riffs are awesome and I love Snarr’s charming vocals as he sings about making the most of your youth, living life to the fullest while still young.

Without skipping a beat, “Store Bought Town” rains down with a volley of jangly guitars, pounding drums and crashing cymbals, all grounded by Hollingsworth’s powerful bass. Snarr sings of struggling to escape a relationship in a town that keeps drawing him back: “I say I’m leaving, cause I’ll do better on my own. And we both know that that’s true. I’m sure you’ll survive without me too. But we both know I’ll be back one day, in the same shit place, in the same shit town…” He hopes that if he does return, things will be different: “Please, just say you’ll change.”

The melodic “Lady Lovesick” offers up more fantastic, intricate guitar work, with a beguiling little riff that permeates the track. Chadwick’s drumming is particularly good on this track, as are the guys’ soaring harmonic backing choruses. It’s a lovely rock song.

The final track “When it Suits” is the longest song on the EP, and one of my favorites (though I honestly love them all). I’m blown away by the exuberant jangly guitars, which are gorgeous, and remind me a bit of The Cure. The lyrics painfully confront a partner in a relationship that’s broken: “You always say it’ll be the last time, but we both know that you’re wrong. I always seem to believe the lies that you tell, and just forget what you’ve done. Just one drink, one drink is all it takes. One drink to forget about me. / Now don’t you stay just until you sleep. If you don’t feel the same then you need to leave.

Kosmonauts is an outstanding, well-crafted EP from start to finish, and an impressive debut for a young band with a lot of promise. I look forward to hearing more from these guys soon!

Follow KOSMONAUTS:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Bandcamp

One More Light: Living Without Chester Bennington

One of the most eloquent and heartfelt posts I’ve read about Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, from the blog Saint Audio.

Saint Audio

Content Warning: sexual assault, suicide, death

One week has passed since news of Chester Bennington‘s untimely death sent shockwaves through the internet, devastating fans all over the world. I’d say that what’s stunned us most is the manner in which he left this world—all too familiar, but never expected, and always jarring.  As Linkin Park‘s frontman since 1996, Chester’s voice became a voice for many who may not have been able to express or convey their own inner turmoil through words, or who felt too ashamed to do so.

I first learned of Chester’s suicide via Twitter, and instantly panicked. I cried for a good hour, then on-and-off throughout the rest of the day. And a few times more this week. I initially didn’t realize how many people felt the same way I did—I almost felt embarrassed over how upset I was, how hard it was hitting…

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SECOND PLAYER SCORE – Album Review: “Nobody’s Hero”

Second Player Score is one of those rock bands whose music gets better with each listen. When I first played their album Nobody’s Hero I thought “This is pretty good, with some terrific riffs and bass lines.” But as I listened for a second, third and fourth time, I discovered more surprises like nuanced chord change-ups, riffs that aren’t just terrific, but freaking amazing, and percussion that’s perfectly in sync with the melodies, bass and guitars. Throw in the compelling lyrics and you get an idea of how good Second Player Score’s music is.

Based in Vancouver, Washington, a medium-sized city across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, Second Player Score consists of Brian Tashima (guitar, lead vocals), Daniel Downs (bass, backing vocals) and Kyle Gilbert (drums/backing vocals).  They play hard-driving, melodic rock/pop/punk influenced by 90s Green Day and Bad Religion, two of their favorite bands. They released a fine debut album Fortress Storm Attack in late 2014, and followed up with a sophomore effort Nobody’s Hero late last year.

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Nobody’s Hero, as described on the band’s website, “is a quasi-concept album in the spirit of Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son or Green Day’s American Idiot.” The album is quite an ambitious effort, and plays out like a rock opera. Specifically, Nobody’s Hero tells the Dungeons & Dragons-esque story of a man who’s granted magical powers by an evil spirit, and ends up abusing those powers until he realizes the error of his ways.

Tashima explains “Basically, this guy gets seduced by a female demon who gives him these special abilities, and initially, he tries to help people with them, but then he eventually succumbs to the temptation of using them for selfish and corrupt purposes. Having done that, he becomes worthy of being her consort and siring her child – a daughter who will grow up to continue the cycle. The demon then betrays and abandons him, leaving him for dead. He survives, though, and uses what’s left of his powers to stop her in the only way possible, which is to cause an apocalypse that wipes everyone out, including them. It’s like a Greek tragedy.”

Bonestorm“kicks the album off to a rousing start with Tashima’s scorching, rapid-fire riffs, as he emphatically sings: “I know you dream about me. Can’t stop, you never doubt me. Your heart the price of freedom. Your soul will keep on breathing. / I’m nobody’s hero, some day you will see.” Gilbert pounds his drums with abandon, and the screaming distorted guitars at end are awesome.

Shredded guitars and Downs’ thumping bass usher in the hard-driving “Deep.” Though hesitant to connect with the woman to avoid being hurt again, the man’s willpower is beginning to weaken: “I’m still afraid to get deep into someone. I can’t take the pain so I make myself numb.” In “Circles” he sings: “Running circles round my mind. It’s like I’m dreaming all the time. Nothing ever feels the same. And I know that you’re to blame.” The bass-heavy melody abruptly changes to a rapid flourish at song’s end, furious riffs and pummeling drums signaling a dramatic shift in the story.

By “Demon’s Kiss,” he’s fallen under her spell, believing she’s his salvation: “I’ve always hoped I would know the glory of your warm embrace. I couldn’t cope til you came to me and saved me from the chase. And now I’m sure that I’ll worship you until my dying day.” Cause you’re the cure for the ills that led me far astray.” The band’s signature riffs, hard-driving bass and hammering percussion are on full display here.

One of my favorite tracks from a musical standpoint is “Hooked,” a high-energy rock-n-roll gem from start to finish, and the title’s self-evident. Tashima coaxes blistering riffs from his guitar and you can literally feel the buzz of Downs’ bass in your core. Next up is “Interlude Fall From Grace,” a three-and-a-half minute long instrumental that provides a dramatic bridge from the man’s seduction to his turn toward the dark side.

The man realizes the full extent of his capabilities in “Origin Story.” He’s now invincible to threats from outside forces, but also drunk with power. Tashima wails “No one can hurt me now, as long as I have you inside my mind. It’s like I’ve died and been reborn. This permanent intoxication gives me the courage now to look for something more.”

On “Head of Sin” he confesses that he’s used his powers for evil and now deserves to be cursed to hell: “It’s all a mess, I’ve crossed the line. I only  want what’s rightly mine. And I don’t care much anymore. So shut up now, don’t say a word. Before your cries become absurd. You know I’ve heard it all before. Cause now the only way to go is down. To hell that’s where I will be found.” The instrumentals on this track are as intense as the lyrics, and the guitars and bass in the outro are killer, perfectly conveying the chaos his life has now become.

Another standout track is the tumultuous “Drink the Poison,” which has a definite Green Day vibe. The man realizes the woman is not what he thought she was, that she’s duplicitous: “So cry your phony tears, you’re so insincere that I forgive you. I’ll die before I let you make more regrets.” I love the frenetic hammering drums that accompany the line ‘Your lies go on and on and on and on and on.” On “Never Let Me Down” he confronts the demon that he knows she’s betrayed him and now she will pay. Tashima snarls “You broke all your promises, left me to drown like this.

The album closes with “Comets,” an epic seven-and-a-half minute tour-de-force that proves without a doubt that these guys are masters of their respective instruments. Tashima’s guitar skills are positively mind-blowing, offering up a dizzying array of layered riffs and extended solos. One minute he’s ripping his guitar to shreds, the next he’s playing a jangly melodic solo, and everything in between. Downs lays down bass lines so heavy they threaten to blow out the speakers, and Gilbert pounds his drum kit with all he’s got. It’s my absolute favorite track on the album. They once again channel Green Day; at various times within the track I hear the influence of songs like “Basket Case” and “Novocaine,” which is fine by me as I love Green Day. The song lyrics describe a variety of apocalyptic disasters the man is capable of unleashing on the world, including comets, earthquakes, hurricanes and nuclear war. It’s a dramatic end to a superb, monumental album.

Follow Second Player Score:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / SoundcloudReverbnation

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Bandcamp / cd baby

Tell Everyone You Know!

Had to share this tremendous post from one of my favorite bloggers Buffalo Tom Peabody.

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A short story about Dreams…

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Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz, known professionally by his stage name Danny Thomas had a dream…

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Danny Thomas was born in 1912, the son of Lebanese immigrants and raised in Toledo Ohio.
As the founder of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Danny’s dream came true. Groundbreaking for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital…

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A magnificent dream come true, saving children’s lives at zero cost to the families! St Jude Children’s Research Hospital also finding cures and developing therapies that save children’s lives.

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At this very moment Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and Congressional Republicans have a nightmare for you… ending Medicaid and taking Healthcare away from over 30 million Americans.

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I choose to stand with an American Hero, Danny Thomas! I choose to make the dream come true for all!

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Your best friends,
Buffalo Tom, Gunther, Iggy & Larry
July 21, 2017

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Top 20 Songs for July 23-29, 2017

1. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (3)
2. HIGH – Sir Sly (1)
3. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (4)
4. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (2)
5. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People (5)
6. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (7)
7. THE MAN – The Killers (9)
8. J-BOY – Phoenix (8)
9. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire (10)
10. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers (6)
11. DIG DOWN – Muse (12)
12. SILENT SUN – Morning Fuzz (13)
13. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age (14)
14. LIGHTS OUT – Royal Blood (15)
15. ONE OF US – New Politics (17)
16. RUN – Foo Fighters (18)
17. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (11) 20th week on list
18. SONG #3 – Stone Sour (19)
19. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs (20)
20. IN COLD BLOOD – alt-J (16)

WIDE EYED BOY Release New Video for “Loving You Is So Easy”

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Wide Eyed Boy is an exceptionally talented New Wave/Indie Pop band that’s quickly becoming one my favorites.  The Liverpool, UK based four-piece is comprised of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitars, keyboards) and Tom Taylor (Drums).  They released a gorgeous debut single “Wolves” last March, which I reviewed, and you can read here. (It’s one of my favorite songs of 2017, reaching #1 and spending 18 weeks on my Weekly Top 20.)

The guys recently dropped their follow-up single “Loving You Is So Easy,” a track slower in tempo than “Wolves,” but every bit as beautiful. I didn’t think it possible they could come up with another song as magnificent as “Wolves,” but how foolish I was to think that, because Wide Eyed Boy have pulled it off nicely. Lush sweeping synths, Ball and Pham’s swirling guitars, Taylor’s on-point drums, and Nagy’s captivating vocals are all simply breathtaking. The song lyrics are fairly straightforward – “I don’t care the way you care. I can see it in your stare. But the way that we collide, it’s getting harder every time. Loving you is so easy. Easy when I’m down, down, down” – but Nagy delivers them quite seductively, before launching into a soaring falsetto in the chorus that raises goosebumps.

The video produced for the track is stunning. The minimalist set and subdued lighting, accentuated with background fluorescents, create the perfect mood for the sensuous track. I much prefer music videos that show the artist or band performing the song, rather than an acted-out story, unless it’s directly relevant to the lyrics. Of course, it’s always a plus when the band is charismatic, and Wide Eyed Boy has it in spades. Nagy has a magnetism that calls to mind the legendary front men Jim Morrison or Michael Hutchence.

Take a look:

Connect with Wide Eyed Boy: Facebook / TwitterInstagram

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Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

VOX EAGLE – EP Review: “Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1”

Australian-American indie electro-psych pop duo Vox Eagle exploded onto the music scene in 2017 with some of the most enjoyable tunes of the year. Since joining forces in 2015, Andy Crosby and Luke Hamel, who make up Vox Eagle, spent time traveling throughout the U.S., writing and recording songs for their debut EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1., which drops on July 24. They’ve released three of the tracks as singles thus far, the first of which, “No Sleep” I reviewed in May.

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They humorously refer to their style of music as ‘jungle disco,’ but other descriptors could well include tropical pop, dance pop or dream pop – or a melding of all of them. But whatever you call it, their catchy sound is deliriously upbeat, and just makes you feel good. It washes over you in a gorgeous soundscape, like being under a waterfall on a tropical island.

The lead single “No Sleep” offers up bouncy grooves, with swirling synths floating over an irresistible bass-heavy dance beat. Jangly guitar and drums round out the instrumentals, while Andy’s smooth vocals occasionally rise to a stirring falsetto as he croons: “Is it any wonder? The current pulls us under. No sleep no sleep for the wicked no./ I keep on counting sheep. Days into nights, nights into weeks. Out of sight, out of mind, never mind.

The guys seem to channel Tame Impala on the atmospheric dream pop gem “Come Over.” Otherworldly synths and a powerful thumping bass kick things off, then a seductive dance beat takes over, compelling you to get those hips swaying. Echoed, reverb-heavy synths and Andy’s wonderful vocals add an exotic vibe to the track that really does sound like ‘jungle disco.’

Summer Now” is a breezy, upbeat track about longing for a return of those sun-kissed days on the beach, and that romantic summer fling you had. Andy sings “Take us back down to the summertime by the seaside. Where the city girls got the wildflowers in their hair. Never told you it was gonna last forever anyhow. So we keep waiting, we keep waiting for these clocks to start winding down.” The warm synths and guitars, along with soaring harmonic choruses that remind me of early Beach Boys, are perfectly appropriate for the song’s theme.

The guys get a little funky on “Sweet Temptations” while maintaining their signature infectious beats, heavy bass and sweeping choruses. There’s a terrific bass-heavy break down in the bridge, and the guitar riffs are incredibly satisfying. Fun, eerie synths abound on the quirky joyful romp “Jungle Song,” It’s the most experimental track on the EP, with dynamic African beats, electronically altered echoed vocals and lots of interesting synthesized animal sounds.

The EP closes with “Plastic People,” a somewhat mellower track with a languid beat and dreamy synths. There’s a hint of a Calypso vibe that immediately conjures up images of a tropical island. The mix of instrumentals are perfect, and the guys’ harmonic choruses are sublime as always. In fact, their gorgeous vocals are one of the primary components of their incredible sound. The song lyrics speak to getting in touch with nature and avoiding fake people.

Though I don’t usually grade albums or EPs, I have to give Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1 a solid 10. There isn’t a standout track, as every one of them is outstanding and meticulously crafted. Vox Eagle’s attention to detail is strongly evident on every level, yet the tracks never feel overproduced. I love their music, and can’t wait to hear what they have in store for Part 2!

Follow Vox Eagle:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloud

Purchase it:  iTunesAmazon