EP Review: ALL TAKEN – “Accept This”

All Taken is a two-piece alternative rock band based in Los Angeles. Comprised of long-time friends Daniel Daghlarian and Avo Karapetyan, the duo formed in late 2015 and released a strong debut single “Burning Red” in 2016. The guys have now followed up with Accept This, a five-track EP which dropped on March 18, 2017.

All Taken meld electronic and hard rock components, along with a bit of 90s grunge, to create their infectious alt-rock sound. Daniel plays guitar and sings lead vocals, and Avo pounds the drums and sings backup. Listening to Accept This, the thing that stands out the most for me is their exceptional musicianship. Daniel lays down some fine, nimble guitar work, and Avo’s drums are right on point. Also, the guys have written melodies that are both compelling and overflowing with irresistible hooks.

All Taken

House of Wolves” kicks off the EP with some really terrific riffs, set to a catchy, start-and-stop beat put down by Avo’s hammering drums and a generous dose of crashing cymbals. The song seems to be about having a nightmare: “The house of wolves, they call your name. They’re baring their fangs at you.”  The great second track “Hollow” opens with a nice strummed guitar, then aggressive shredded guitars and strong percussion take over. The song’s melodic beat at times reminds me of “No One Knows” by Queens of the Stone Age.  The song’s lyrics speak of someone who’s a shell of their former self: “Remember me for who I was. Not as I am – Hollow.

Rather Not” has a mellow, almost acoustic vibe (albeit done with gentle electric guitar) until, at the bridge, Daniel unleashes an awesome blistering guitar solo before the slow acoustic vibe returns to close out the song. The change-up creates tension that fits the lyrics: “Shadows in an empty room Why would you leave so soon? Do you feel uneasy? My vision is hazy.

Secret” is loaded with hooks and more awesome guitar work, and the guys harmonize especially well on this track. The song’s about not being able to escape the person you really are: “Running from your secrets, whisper words they are the sweetest. The words you confessed are now regrets. You can run, you can hide, but you can’t change what’s inside.” The final track “Restless Nights” has a bit of a psychedelic feel, courtesy of the slow, distorted guitar that’s overlain by shredded riffs, buzzing bass and muscular drums.

All Taken have produced a very good debut EP that showcases their solid songwriting and impressive music skills. Check it out here.

Connect with All Taken:   Facebook / Twitter /  Instagram

Purchase Accept This on iTunes and Bandcamp

Top 20 Songs for April 9-15, 2017

The gorgeous “On Hold” by The xx knocks Rag’n’Bone Man’s “Human” off the #1 spot after a 3-week run. Rihanna climbs to #2 with her magnificent soulful throwback song “Love on the Brain.” “Heavydirtysoul” is in the Top 20 two years after “Tear In My Heart” made it’s debut, showing the astonishing staying power of twenty øne piløts’ brilliant album Blurryface. Run With It’s “I Need a Light” spends its 15th week in the Top 20, the longest-running song on this list. And the collaboration “Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay debuts at #20.

1. ON HOLD – The xx (3)
2. LOVE ON THE BRAIN – Rihanna (5)
3. HEAVYDIRTYSOUL – twenty øne piløts (4)
4. HUMAN – Rag’n’Bone Man (1)
5. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids (6)
6. HOT THOUGHTS – Spoon (9)
7. HOW DID YOU LOVE – Shinedown (8)
8. SHAPE OF YOU – Ed Sheeran (2)
9. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy (10)
10. RUST TO GOLD – Council (7)
11. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (11)
12. THAT’S WHAT I LIKE – Bruno Mars (14)
13. LOST ON YOU – LP (19)
14. I NEED A LIGHT – Run With It (15)
15. BLAME – Bastille (17)
16. GREEN LIGHT – Lorde (18)
17. 7 – Catfish and the Bottlemen (12)
18. COLD COLD COLD – Cage the Elephant (20)
19. SHINE – Mondo Cozmo (13)
20. SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS – The Chainsmokers & Coldplay (N)

Why I miss my MTV

Sharing this great post from the Rock’n’Roll Shaman about how MTV lost its way.

The Church of Rock 'N' Roll.org

It was a month before my 7th birthday and when Radio Killed the Video star came on, MTV was alive. For the next decade if you wanted to make it, you had get video play on MTV. To some this new channel and way of exposing the masses to the music also provided the opportunity to shoot a movie. A lot of the most memorable videos from MTV’s history were the ones that were the most cinematic. It was in 1983 that Michael Jackson’s video for Thriller set the bar high for anyone who wanted to dominate the video air waves.

For over a decade it was pretty much a forgone conclusion that if you turned on MTV you saw music videos then something happened that changed all TV not only MTV forever. The Real world was the first reality TV show and it aired on MTV.

In the 90’s I…

View original post 519 more words

EP Review: RUN WITH IT – “How to Start a Fire”

Run With It is one of the hardest-working bands I know. The Kansas City three-piece has been touring and gigging throughout the Midwest, East Coast and Southern U.S. nearly non-stop since Summer 2016 – even playing a concert at Doha Air Force Base in Qatar! – yet somehow managed to also record a superb new EP How to Start a Fire, which dropped on March 24. I’ve been following them for quite a while, and featured them on this blog in February 2016. The band recently signed with the Southern Valley Record label, and I’m thrilled to see their star grow.

Making the music are Miguel Caraballo on Lead Vocals and Guitar, Ben Byard on Bass and Backing Vocals, and Daniel Cole on Drums. (Ben replaced Clint Velazquez who left the band last September to devote his full attention to his Base Academy of Music.) They play accessible pop-rock that draws influences from rock’n’roll, alternative rock, R&B, folk and even a bit of blues. Their song lyrics touch on oft-covered themes of life, love, and relationships, as well as the struggle to find one’s own truth and way in the world.

Run With It
Photo by Chris Mullins Photography

The EP opens strong with the gorgeous rock song “I Need a Light,” which was released as the first single. The track’s arrangement and production values are perfect, and together the dynamic instrumentals and strong vocals create an incredibly tight, compelling song. Musically, the song begins with a lovely piano riff that continues on and off throughout the track, then heavy bass, thunderous percussion and dreamlike synths take over, accompanied by intricate guitar work. Miguel’s impassioned vocals rise and fall with the music’s intensity, and the powerful guitar solo toward the end gives me goosebumps every time.

The emotionally hard-hitting lyrics speak to feeling lost and alone, in search of a path forward and someone who can be counted on: “I need a light so bright that the sun seems dim. I need something that will not fade. Held tight like the hand of a friend. I need someone that won’t runaway.

I love this song, which has spent 15 consecutive weeks on my Weekly Top 20 Chart.

On the pleasing track “Don’t Waste My Time,” the guys skillfully mesh delicate circular piano movements with a lovely guitar riff.  I’m impressed by the generous use of the piano in their music, giving it a fuller, highly melodic sound. Also, some of their songs have an anthemic quality, with complex, layered instrumentals and soaring choruses. A good example is “Time,” a track with beautiful music that contrasts with biting lyrics about how the passage of time can be cruel: “Time, she’s a liar, a thief. Her teeth in my flesh, How do I get free. Blood, the taste in my mouth. Her bloody fist, gonna knock me out.” Another is “One More Fight,” an uplifting song with a sweeping melody and some terrific bluesy guitar riffs, not to mention Miguel’s heartfelt vocals.

Move On” speaks to letting go of a failed relationship and moving on. Again, beguiling piano, layered guitars and just the right amount of percussion make this a great track.  The infectiously upbeat “On Your Own” has a bit of a folk-rock vibe, with robust acoustic and electric guitars, and Miguel’s earnest vocals expressing the hopeful lyrics: “There’s a song deep in your heart. It’s like a raging lion is gonna tear you apart.”

How to Start a Fire is a well-crafted EP with six solid tracks, and I look forward to hearing more from these busy guys. They’ve already begun working on new music for us fans to enjoy.

To learn more about Run With It, check out their website and follow on Twitter /  Facebook /  Instagram. Watch their videos and vlogs on their YouTube channel.

Stream How to Start a Fire on Spotify and purchase on iTunes.

EP Review : FUTURE THEORY – “Fool’s Dream”

To prepare for writing a music review, I start by immersing myself in the artist or band’s music in order to fully understand and evaluate the various elements of the lyrics, instrumentals, vocals and production values. In most cases, I come to more greatly appreciate the music the more I listen. And every now and then, I find myself falling deeper in love with the music each time I hear it. Such is the case with the incredibly talented UK band Future Theory. Last October, 2016, the foursome dropped their debut EP Fool’s Dream, and it’s nothing short of spectacular.

Future Theory is made up of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Rex Helley on bass (although Jake Scarbro was bassist at the time the EP was recorded), and Rohan Parrett on drums. Taking inspiration from such bands as Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Audioslave, Queens of the Stone Age and The Verve, the Lincolnshire collective have developed a lavish sound built on elements of alternative rock, shoegaze, psychedelia and funk. Furthermore, their skillful musicianship and intelligent songwriting are all the more striking given their youth (I believe they’re all under the age of 21).

Future Theory

Fool’s Dream starts off with “Eye of the Storm,” a dynamic and beautiful track overflowing with intricate, jangly guitars, sharp percussion and soaring melodies. Sander’s mesmerizing vocals have a sultry vulnerability as he sings the lyrics “Here I stand upon the sands. Stranded here in no mans land. Said I’m through with lies, but now I see.”  The track closes with a scorching guitar solo and a brief flourish of distorted guitar at the very end that conjures up images of a storm that has finally spent itself.

Now is a good time to state flat out that Sander’s sensuous and startlingly mature-sounding vocals are a thing of wonder and, to my mind, a defining element of Future Theory’s sound. It’s astonishing that a man of his young age could vocalize with such nuanced emotional intensity. When combined with the band’s dazzling instrumentals, his captivating vocals result in songs of exceptional caliber.

The title track “Fool’s Dream” is an achingly gorgeous song about realizing that your love interest isn’t quite what you’d hoped, thus shattering your dreams. Sander moans “Why is the glass always half empty when you’re around? Sense of frustration now, stretching my mind. Oh I feel all down.” The swirling guitars and crystalline synths are, well…dreamy.

The guys lay down some terrific psychedelic grooves on “Horses.” Shredded and distorted guitars duel with thumping bass, crashing cymbals and glittery synths, creating tension as Sander seductively croons “See the horses, they’re the only ones who know motive. / Another scene, another slaughter, when enemies hold their line. / Woah oh oh oh horses, why won’t you take me away.” They funk things up on “Listen Closely,” with lots of jangly guitars layered over funky bass and a driving beat. The guitars on this track are so good!

The final track “Horses (Koncide Remix)” is a spellbinding EDM/techno re-imagining of “Horses.” Gone are the layered guitars, and in their place are complex, multi-textured synths that create a dramatic, yet dreamy, soundscape. It’s the perfect ending for a fool’s dream.

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Google Play /  YouTube

Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ – Album Review

Sharing this excellent review by fellow blogger 2Loud2OldMusic of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s new album “Flying Microtonal Banana.”

2loud2oldmusic

For those that follow my blog, they might remember one of my first Music Challenges where I listened to an album based off the band’s name, album cover or name of the album.  I picked King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard’s album strictly because of their band name.  And to my surprise, I really loved the album.  When I saw they had a new album out, I naturally gravitated toward it and gave it a spin…a lot of spins.

Their new album is called ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’ and is their 9th studio album since 2012..that is right…9th!!  They also are planning on releasing not one, not two, but FIVE albums this year. Pretty ambitious and we will wait and see if they actually able to achieve said goal.

The band is out of Australia and actually has seven members.

  • Stu Mackenzie – lead vocals
  • Ambrose Kenny Smith – keyboards/synthesizer

View original post 1,000 more words

Featured Song & Video: CRYSTAL CITIES – “Who’s Gonna Save Us Now”

Every once in a while you hear a song for the first time and it’s instant love. That was my reaction upon first hearing the breathtaking new single “Who’s Gonna Save Us Now” by Australian band Crystal Cities. Musically and lyrically, the song is absolutely stunning, and it’s arrangement and production are flawless.

Based in Sydney, Crystal Cities is Geoff Rana on vocals & guitars, Jared King on bass & backing vocals and Daniel Conte on drums. The guys call their music “Dream Rock that sounds like Death Cab For Cutie had a War On Drugs with The Beatles.” It’s a perfect description of their music style.

Crystal Cities

The beautiful video was directed by Vittoria Merlino-Dentice and, as explained in notes for the video, is “set in the 1940’s, [and] follows the journey of two young child compadres as they escape from their well-to-do life, exploring the Australian countryside, and searching for truth from a perspective of innocence and vulnerability.

Connect with Crystal Cities:  Twitter /  Facebook /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube

Purchase:  Bandcamp /  iTunes

Top 20 Songs for April 2-8, 2017

1. HUMAN – Rag’n’Bone Man (1)
2. SHAPE OF YOU – Ed Sheeran (2)
3. ON HOLD – The xx (3)
4. HEAVYDIRTYSOUL – twenty øne piløts (4)
5. LOVE ON THE BRAIN – Rihanna (5)
6. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids (8)
7. RUST TO GOLD – Council (7)
8. HOW DID YOU LOVE – Shinedown (10)
9. HOT THOUGHTS – Spoon (14)
10. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy (12)
11. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (13)
12. 7 – Catfish & the Bottlemen (9)
13. SHINE – Mondo Cozmo (6)
14. THAT’S WHAT I LIKE – Bruno Mars (16)
15. I NEED A LIGHT – Run With It (11)
16. I FEEL IT COMING – The Weeknd, Daft Punk (15)
17. BLAME – Bastille (20)
18. GREEN LIGHT – Lorde (N)
19. LOST ON YOU – LP (N)
20. COLD COLD COLD – Cage the Elephant (N)

EP Review: LIAM B. SMITH – “Confessions”

I have a soft spot for young indie DIY musicians who put themselves out there, trying to get their songs heard, and it’s especially heartening when they’re talented. Such is the case with Liam B. Smith, a 20-year-old guitarist and songwriter from Loudoun County, Virginia. He released his debut EP Confessions in February 2017, and I’m glad he reached out to me for a review, because it’s excellent. Not only is the music terrific and lyrics compelling, the production is first-rate.

In the creation of his hard-hitting sound for the EP, Liam drew inspiration from Nirvana, Foo Fighters, The Struts, Goo Goo Dolls, Jack White, and “(above all) ONE OK ROCK.”  On his website, he explains the meaning behind Confessions and how it represents his own conflicted feelings about making music:

In this EP, I lean away from all of the pop-rock, modern influenced sounds I love and into my punk-ish and Nirvana-esque vibe. Confessions is both insecure and extremely audacious. It confesses my deep self-doubts about my life and talents (NOMANSWAR, Drift) and also confesses my elitist scorn for modern music culture (Crowdfunding). The songs are those of a semi-depressed, pessimistic artist. The EP is not meant to leave anyone feeling warm and fuzzy, but it is meant to hint at all of the greater things which (God willing) are yet to come.

Liam B Smith

Liam wrote the songs, performed and recorded them, and produced the EP all by himself. His lyrics are pretty serious for such a young guy, as he addresses head-on the self-doubt and his feelings about the music industry that he described above. His strong guitar-playing skills are showcased on every track, and he has a fine voice that crackles with just the right amount of vulnerable intensity. But not least of all is his knack for arranging and producing his songs so that they sound every bit as tight and professional as a lot of music put out by seasoned artists working with big-name producers.

The first track “NOMANSWAR” starts off with slow electric guitar riff overlain by strummed acoustic guitar, as Liam mournfully sings “We had it all but we wanted more. Now we’re fighting nomanswar.” At about one minute, the pace quickens with aggressive hand claps and percussion setting the rapid beat, accompanied by robust electric guitar. Liam unleashes some blazing guitar riffs as he repeatedly laments “I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”

Drift” is a great hard rock track loaded with shredded and distorted guitars, and lots of punchy drums. Liam sings about just throwing the towel: “Who knows when you’re coming or leaving? Who knows when you’re healing or bleeding? Who knows when you’re sick of the feeling?Never coming home, never coming home. / I might just quit, check in and check out.” On “Crowdfunding” Liam employs furious guitar riffs to match the cynical lyrics he snarls:  “And if you give me money, I’ll give you my soul. You can make me famous.”

If you purchase Confessions on Bandcamp, you’ll be surprised by a fourth hidden bonus track that suddenly appears one and a half minutes after “Crowdfunding” ends. Just goes to show that sometimes you gotta listen all the way to the end.

Check out Liam’s website to learn more about him, and follow on Twitter /  Facebook /  Instagram

Stream his music on Soundcloud and purchase Confessions on Bandcamp.

Album Review: THE DIOMEDES – “Traps”

When I was approached a month ago by UK two-piece indie band The Diomedes about reviewing their debut album Traps, I gave a few songs a listen and thought ‘these are pretty good.’  But when I fully immersed myself into the album in preparation to write my review, I was bowled over by its intense power, complexity and raw beauty.  An incredibly well-crafted album, Traps is an ambitious effort with 12 synth-driven tracks, and quite simply a brilliant work of musical art.

The Diomedes began as an alternative electro-rock studio project by friends David Myers, who plays drums and synths, and Mark Champion, who covers guitars and vocals.  In their own words, they wanted to “create an album of soaring indie melodies with punk energy, soundscapes, riffs and howling synths.” This reviewer can attest that they succeeded and then some!  They finished recording Traps in mid 2016, then decided they needed to become a live act and tour in order to promote their album. As with a lot of music that relies heavily on synthesizers, the challenge was recreating the level of detail found in the complex sounds of their recordings into their live performances. So, the guys employed a sampler, a custom built synth rig and a laptop, and started playing gigs in and around London in the Fall of 2016. Traps was formally released on March 17, and the duo are continuing to play live as often as they can.

The Diomedes

The influences for their vastly textured sound, listed in the bios on their website and Facebook page, read like an extensive who’s who of alternative, classic and hard rock over the past 50 years. A sampling of names include such greats as Joy Division, Arcade Fire, Flaming Lips, Queens of the Stone Age, R.E.M., Chemical Brothers, Radiohead, Phillip Glass, Muse, New Order, Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, Gorillaz, Blur, DJ Shadow, Bloc Party, White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hans Zimmer, Deftones and INXS, along with old classics like The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and The Beach Boys. Whew! And when you listen to their music, many of those myriad influences can be clearly identified. I would add Peter Gabriel to the list as well, especially since Champion’s vocals at times sound eerily similar to Gabriel’s.

There is much to describe about Traps, but one of the things that most stands out for me is the exceptional flow of the album. Each track seamlessly transitions into the next, so that the momentum and power of the music is never lost nor even diminished in the slightest. The album plays almost like an alternative electronic rock symphony, as if Phillip Glass and Nine Inch Nails joined forces to re-imagine one of the great symphonies of Prokokiev or Rachmaninoff. This is not to say the music sounds “classical,” but rather that it employs nuanced melodies, intricate chords and complex instrumentation, all working in tandem to create a rich tapestry of sound that’s consistent, yet never feels repetitious.

Speaking of repetitious, I’m aware that a track-by-track review of an album can sometimes be a pretty dull affair. But this album is so remarkable that I feel compelled to touch on each and every track. So let’s dig into Traps to see what all the fuss is about.  The instrumental-only “Open Arms” kicks things off with delicate but ominous-sounding synths that build until distorted, scratchy guitars and percussion take over. At around the two-minute mark, a pleasant synth chord is introduced, lending a more hopeful feel to the track before instantly transitioning into the exuberant “No Sleepwalking.” Sleepwalking is clearly not an option with the aggressive rapid-fire drumbeats and guitar riffs that are all but guaranteed to wake even the comatose. In his insistent gravelly vocals, Champion sings “So what we fighting for? An idea, that somewhere there is something more. So what we fighting for? For our lies, only this and nothing more.

The guys inject a frenetic punk groove into the proceedings on the outrageously energetic “Masquerade.” This catchy dance track will have you bobbing your head and moving your hips within seconds. The lyrics speak to getting in touch with your true self rather than hiding behind a trap of your own making, which seems to be the overarching theme of the album: “Masquerade into a perfect storm. Shed existence to prove you were born. Hold together all the madness come. Find your feet and then find out where they areEndings never hurt much at the start.” The upbeat vibe continues uninterrupted on “Gasp.” Shredded guitars, heavy percussion and some glorious synths – all set to a driving beat, make this an especially good track.

All hell breaks loose on “Tension Head,” one of the standouts on the album. This cacophonous tour-de-force starts off with the sound of a very big clock being tightly wound, and a loud distorted guitar making the sound of a motor that’s suddenly overwhelmed by an explosion of hammering drums and frantic guitar riffs. Champion screams some lyrics, then the tempo quickly shifts to a relatively calm and steady beat until the frantic riffs make an abrupt return, before shifting back to the previous steady tempo. Champion sings “I don’t know where I am, where I am. And I can’t tell you that I’m only looking for something.” His closing chorus is rather intimidating: “Don’t get along with me.” All this chaos and negative energy creates a strong sense of tension of course, living up to the song title.

The rather tense vibe continues on the instrumental composition “Part 2,” courtesy of Myers’ skillful mix of discordant and sweeping synths, including what sounds like rotating helicopter blades. Not missing a beat, we’re swept headlong into “Our Dying Glow” – two minutes and 49 seconds of punk rock goodness filled with gravelly guitars, tumultuous percussion and heavy buzzing bass.

Next up is the seven and a half minute long rock opera-esque “Tower.” This epic song has it all: a mosaic of dramatically soaring synth chords, strange sound effects, graceful tinkling piano (including toy piano), loads of crashing cymbals, and robust, multi-textured guitars, all set to an elaborate, ever-changing  melody. Champion’s gritty, impassioned vocals rise and fall with the intensity of the instrumentation as he wails: “Higher and higher, climbing the walls. Higher and higher, harder we fall. / We’ll know what’s true, when they come back for you.” The song is so good that it’s over sooner than its seven and a half minute length would suggest and, with scarcely a break, quickly segues into the vitriolic hard rock “Spoiling.”

The ghostly instrumental track “Howl” would make a fantastic soundtrack opener to a horror film, but it also provides the perfect intro to “This Place is Electric.” The song is aptly titled, as it’s a feverish EDM romp that goes straight to the hips. This amazing song seems to represent one last fling before cold, hard reality comes rushing back. Boisterous, grainy synths, shredded guitars and pummeling drums rain down like thunderbolts until the gorgeous but rather melancholy six and a half minute closing track “Wishing Games” arrives – quite appropriately I think – upon sounds of distant thunder and falling rain. Champion channels Peter Gabriel more than ever as he emotionally sings “You are only ever right. You’re the one thing I cant leave behind.  So no saving anticipation. I’m always boring,  No pulling sense out from a truth or lie.  So it’s good bye i’m ready./ Be careful with your wishing games. You’ll only have yourself to blame.” The bittersweet lyrics tie the album up quite nicely, yet seem to leave some things unanswered.

To learn more about The Diomedes, check out their website.  Connect with them on  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

Subscribe to their YouTube channel, and stream their music on  Soundcloud and  Spotify.

Trap may be purchased on BandcampiTunes or other sites offering music for download or purchase.