SAM CLARK – Song Review: “Out of Reach”

Sam Clark is a talented and charismatic singer/songwriter/actor with a long list of professional accomplishments in TV, film and music. Born and raised in Australia, Sam is now based in Los Angeles, and has just released a terrific new single “Out of Reach,” along with a beautifully-filmed, heartwarming video.

According to his website bio, Sam rose to fame in Australia with his starring role in the long-running TV show Neighbours, for which he was nominated for several awards during the program’s 850+ episode run. He released a debut album Take Me Home in 2010, which generated two singles, “Broken” and “Devastated,” that garnered #1 spots on the ARIA Physical Singles Sales chart. A year later, he dropped the excellent five-track EP my own way…  Sam went on to star in his first feature film Mental, for which he also wrote and performed several original songs. After moving to Los Angeles he starred in the Emmy-winning FOX/Paramount production Grease: Live. He’s now in production on his next album with his Grammy award-winning songwriting partner Bill Grainer. “Out of Reach” is the first single from that album, which is planned for release later this year.

Sam Clark

“Out of Reach” is a lovely pop song about discovering you’re blessed with love you never thought you’d find. Sam explained his inspiration for the song: “I want my songs to be catchy without compromising their lyrical content. If I had to choose a single theme that runs through all my songs, it would be love.

Musically, the track has a catchy, upbeat melody, with crisp percussion and warm acoustic guitar throughout. Sam’s charming vocals are incredibly pleasing, and perfectly suited for the positive, heartfelt lyrics: “A hopeless dreamer but I’m wide awake. I never thought that it could feel this way. You are beyond my wildest disbelief. I always thought this kinda love was out of reach.

The delightful video was filmed by Carlos PenaVega and Giovanny Lago, and directed by David Del Rio. It shows Sam arriving home on the day of his birthday, only to be disappointed when he learns all of his friends and family are busy or unable to get together to celebrate with him. He then discovers a pair of hiking boots in a gift box, along with a note that starts him on a treasure hunt that ultimately leads him to a spot in the hills where his friends and girlfriend are waiting for him. Then he gets a big surprise when his parents show up, making him realize he has love in all its forms – romantic, friendship and family.

Both song and video left me feeling happy, and that all’s right with the world. And that’s something we can sure use a lot more of right now!

To learn more about Sam, check out his Website

Show him some love by following on:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes

Top 20 Songs for June 11-17, 2017

1. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (3)
2. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy (1)
3. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (4)
4. HIGH – Sir Sly (6)
5. SIGN OF THE TIMES – Harry Styles (2)
6. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People (9)
7. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids (5)
8. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers (10)
9. REVEREND – Kings of Leon (11)
10. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (19)
11. BLAME – Bastille (7)
12. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (14)
13. IN COLD BLOOD – alt-J (15)
14. GIVE ME REASON TO DIE – Dyslexic Postcards (16)
15. SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS – The Chainsmokers, Coldplay (8)
16. J-BOY – Phoenix (N)
17. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon (N)
18. THE VIOLENCE – Rise Against (17)
19. DIG DOWN – Muse (20)
20. SILENT SUN – Morning Fuzz (N)

Ten Huge Hits I Hate

Whatever our own individual tastes in music, everyone dislikes or viscerally hates certain music for our own particular – or peculiar – reasons. When songs or artists we despise are immensely popular, it can sometimes be isolating; others may think or even say out loud “are you serious?!” when discovering we hate a song or artist they love. As an example, I love Coldplay and most of their music output, but know some people who just don’t care for them or even hate their music. While I can understand some not finding Coldplay their ‘cup of tea,’ I cannot for the life of me understand how someone could ‘hate’ their music. But at the end of the day, how each of us hears music and makes a determination as to whether we like it or not is really quite subjective.

That being said, there are a number of songs that I hate, and many of them were massive hits, which makes them all the more loathsome to me. In thinking about why I hate those songs, it mostly comes down to the fact that they sound very displeasing to my ears. Some of my most hated songs are downright painful to listen to. I usually try to keep an open mind about music, and realize I’m judging it through my own biases and idiosyncracies, but I like what I like, and dislike what I dislike, just like all my kind readers. Though it was a major challenge, given the number of hit songs I find repulsive, I’ve chosen ten that were #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Interestingly, many are from the 1970s, an otherwise incredible decade for music.

1.  YOU’RE HAVING MY BABY – Paul Anka (1974)
Quite possibly one of most insipid songs ever recorded, this stinker from Paul Anka is so bad it’s – well, bad! The music is the worst kind of boring milquetoast that was popular in the early to mid 1970s, and the lyrics would be laughable if they weren’t so bizarre. Among other things, they touch on the fact his woman could have chosen to abort her unborn baby, but didn’t. The dumbest line is “You’re having my baby. What a lovely way of saying how much you love me.” Anka started out in the late 1950s with a string of really good pop hits, but he hit bottom with this one. Nevertheless, it was one of his biggest hits, spending 3 weeks at #1 and offering proof that, sometimes, majority should not rule.

2. CONVOY – C.W. McCall (1976)
Oh man, how I hate this song! Hated it the first time I heard it back in 1976, and I hate it to this day. It was recorded at the height of CB radio popularity. The insipid chorus is so unbelievably bad that it sounds like a parody. If you’ve never heard it, take a listen and you’ll see what I mean. Ugh!

3. ONE BAD APPLE – The Osmonds (1971)
One of the biggest regrets of my life was the time I said to my younger sister while watching the Osmond Brothers perform on the Andy Williams show as a dumb kid: “They’re good, and should record some songs.” What the fuck was I thinking?! They did record some songs – lots of them – and they all stank! “One Bad Apple” was the biggest and worst of them all. This performance of the song is especially painful to watch and listen to, especially Donny Osmond’s horrific screeching and their embarrassing dance moves. They were a pathetic white-bread version of the infinitely more talented Jackson 5.

4. RING MY BELL – Anita Ward (1979)
I was a big fan of disco in the late 70s, but I always loathed “Ring My Bell.” Though it has a catchy beat, Anita Ward’s awful baby-like falsetto vocals were like nails on a chalkboard for me. And that annoying “boo” sound that continues unabated throughout the song drove me nearly to madness.

5. THE NIGHT CHICAGO DIED – Paper Lace (1974)
How can a song be this awful? Everything about “The Night Chicago Died” is terrible: lyrics, melody, music, and vocals. The ending chorus “Na na na Na na na Na na na na na” is positively sickening. This piece of crap immediately preceded “You’re Having My Baby” at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1974. What a shitty month for music that was! Thankfully, Eric Clapton’s “I Shot the Sheriff” shot those two turds from the top spot!

6. LOW – Flo Rida featuring T. Pain (2008)
Just a really stupid song with stupid lyrics and a prominent stupid clap machine setting the boring, mind-numbing beat. What makes it particularly hateful for me is that it was the #1 song of 2008. What the hell?

7. JOY TO THE WORLD – Three Dog Night (1971)
Three Dog Night was one of my favorite bands of the late 60s and early 70s, and I loved many of their songs, especially “One,” the gorgeous “Easy to Be Hard,” “Eli’s Coming” and “Mama Told Me Not to Come.” But I despise “Joy to the World,” which was far and away their biggest hit. I realize it’s one of those songs that nearly everybody LOVES, probably because it’s just so darn catchy, but it annoys the living shit out of me. If I never hear it again for the rest of my life, it would be a very good thing.

8. DARK HORSE – Katy Perry featuring Juicy J (2014)
I like Katy Perry well enough, and really do like a few of her hits, including “Teenage Dream,” “Firework,” “Wide Awake” and “Roar.” But oh how I hate “Dark Horse.” The lyrics are ridiculous, and Juicy J’s parts of the track are terrible, serving only to inject some street cred like some other white pop artists have done by adding a rap element to their songs (see Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift). But what really sets me off about this song is Juicy J’s line: “She’ll eat your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer.” That is so offensive and tacky, especially to relatives of Dahmer’s victims. Few seemed to mind, though, as it spent four weeks at #1. The YouTube video, which I’ll admit is visually stunning, has been streamed nearly 2 billion times!

9. Anything from Milli Vanilli (1989)
Beginning in the summer of 1989, two German guys named Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus, who went by the artistic name Milli Vanilli, had a string of forgettable #1 hits: “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You” and “Blame it on the Rain.” I didn’t care for any of them, and was honestly perplexed as to why they were so popular. Needless to say, I felt vindicated when it was later revealed that Morvan and Pilatus had not sung any of the songs, and were stripped of their Grammy award.

10. AMERICAN PIE – Don McLean (1972)
“American Pie” was one of the most popular songs of the 1970s, so as with all big hits, it was played to death on the radio. To make matters worse, it was so damned long, clocking in at over 8 1/2 minutes, and seemed to go on forever. I liked it OK at first, but after a few months of non-stop airplay (back in the day when hearing songs on the radio was our main form of listening to music besides playing them on our stereos), I came to loathe it. As soon as I’d hear “Long, long time ago…” my finger pressed the station selection button on the car radio quicker than a pitcher’s fastball. If I were the DJ of my own radio station, “American Pie” – along with all the other songs on this list – would not be allowed in the building.

Dishonorable Mentions:

Imma Be – Black-Eyed Peas
Fergalicious – Fergie
Bills, Bills, Bills – Destiny’s Child
Bad Blood – Neil Sedaka & Elton John
Go Away Little Girl – Donnie Osmond
The Streak – Ray Stevens (yet another dreadful song from 1974)
I Am Woman – Helen Reddy
Crank That (Soulja Boy) – Soulja Boy Tell’em
I’m Real – Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule
Bad & Boujee – Migos featuring Lil Uzi Vert

CALAIS – Song Review: “Seeing It All”

Australian indie rock band Calais strike gold with their fantastic new dance-rock single “Seeing It All.” The gorgeous synth-driven track has a melodic hook big enough to catch a whale, yet is so much more than just an EDM song, thanks to the band’s skillful musicianship.

Formed in 2013, the Brisbane five-piece includes Tim Lollback (Vocals, Synths), Joseph Fleming (Lead Guitar), Guy Stacey (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals), Liam Roberts (Bass), and William Mogg (Drums).  They released their debut single “Animalistic” that same year, then followed up in 2015 with an EP Silhouette, which featured the outstanding single “Time & Space.” Calais has been on an upward trajectory ever since, building a loyal fan base in Brisbane and around the world.

Calais

“Seeing It All” starts off with a gentle throbbing synth chord, then erupts into a powerful dance beat, driven forward by pulsating bass and strong percussion. Nimble guitars enter the picture, accompanied by Lollback’s captivating vocals and backed by soaring atmospheric synths, all meshing beautifully to create an exceptional track. The arrangement and instrumentation are superb, and the guitar work is so richly textured and nuanced that I hear new sounds with each listen.

The song’s lyrics speak to a relationship in which each partner has lost their own individual identity in their quest to be the perfect couple: “I’ve been looking for you in my reflection, and time is passing me by. I’m seeing it all. I’ve been looking for you in my direction, and I don’t know why. I’m seeing it all.

The dark but gorgeous video for “Seeing It All” shows the band performing the song, interspersed with scenes that tell the story line using scattered reflections in shards of broken mirror of a couple who can’t see one without the other when standing together, but become confused and disoriented when they’re by themselves.

Follow Calais:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube

Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

THE IVINS – Album Review: “The Code Duello”

Nashville rockers The Ivins have been making music for quite a while – both together and separately – and after years of challenges, roadblocks and frustration, they finally realized their dream of producing an album of songs that they could share with the world. In late April they released their debut album The Code Duello, and it’s quite an undertaking, with 13 tracks. The various tracks were recorded between September 2013 and January 2017 in New York, Virginia and Nashville, with the assistance of a number of important producers in the music industry, including Michael Rosen (AFI, Papa Roach), Mark Needham (Imagine Dragons, The Killers), Bill Leverty (Firehouse), Beau Hill (Alice Cooper, RATT) and Anthony “Rocky” Gallo  (John Legend, Carrie Underwood).

The Ivins 2017 Promo Photo 2

The Ivins are brothers Jim and Jack Ivins. They share songwriting duties, and Jim plays guitar and sings lead vocals (and also bass and keyboards on the album), and Jack plays drums (as well as guitar, mellotron and backing vocals on the album). More recently, they’ve been joined by Hatton Taylor on lead guitar and Regan Akers on bass and backing vocals to complete the band’s stellar line-up.

In describing The Code Duello, Jim stated “stylistically, I call this a ‘3:00 A.M. album,’ [with] the vibe of the music as the sound of walking through the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 3:00 A.M., inebriated and wearing sunglasses.” When I asked him about the meaning and inspiration behind the album title and theme, he explained:

“A Code Duello is a set of rules for a duel. A fight, if you will. The title couldn’t be more appropriate because this album is about a fight. A fight to get the album made. A fight between us and the music industry. A fight to make rock music viable to an audience increasingly disinterested in the medium. A fight with society’s expectations about what we “should” be doing with our lives. A fight to be heard. A fight for a connection. Much of the album’s lyrical content deals with those themes and our struggles with the music industry.”

The Ivins 2017 Promo Photo 1

Hallmarks of The Ivins’ music are complex melodies, brilliant, multi-textured guitar riffs, and aggressive percussion (courtesy of Jack’s athletic agility with his drum kit) that create a rich and dynamic soundscape. Their unflinching, intelligent lyrics about love, relationship and career struggles are delivered by Jim’s skillful vocals that go from tender and heartfelt to raw and impassioned.

The album kicks off with a siren announcing the arrival of “Freefall,” a powerful song about coming to terms with a partner who’s no longer emotionally invested in a relationship that’s failing. Jim bitterly sings “Your sloth a hurdle in my way. Your passion is clearly concealing apathy. My back’s broken from your weight.” The layered shredded and swirling guitars are outstanding, and Jack’s hammering drums (he’s jackhammer!) and crashing cymbals add heft to this blistering track.

Heartbreakers” erupts with explosive percussion and guitars, and Jim’s vocals are fervent one moment, then a screeching crescendo the next. This hard-driving track is about being interested only in casual sex, not wanting to get emotionally involved but feeling empty afterward: “Didn’t realize they were the same. Didn’t know that they were playing the same game. Didn’t realize nobody cared. Was surprised when they didn’t get hurt. Was surprised when it didn’t work. If this is what I wanted it to be? Then why’d I wake up feeling empty?” Along a similar theme, “Lay Me Down” speaks to looking for an emotional connection in casual encounters, but never finding it: “If you lay me down, thought I’d see God. But all I see’s a nameless face staring at me.

The guys’ awesome guitar work really shines on “Stockholm Syndrome,” where they throw down a cascade of razor-sharp riffs that snarl and chime. Jack pounds the hell out of his drum kit, while Jim’s electronically-altered vocals implore: “Building me up to tear me down. You say I’m not what you crave, and yet now here you are, but I’m screaming stop. You may be gone but you’re living a lie ’cause you could never fully give up and let this die. Standing on shoulders just to say that you’ve grown, but I won’t be your Stockholm syndrome.

A catchy, upbeat melody belies the bittersweet lyrics in “Masquerade.” The track features lovely, intricate guitar work and the guys’ wonderful harmonizing vocals that contrast with its story line about realizing your partner doesn’t really love you and has just been going through the motions. The lyric “If love is blind, then I’m wasting my time with eyes” is especially poignant.

A standout track is “Roam the World,” with instrumentals so terrific they honestly send shivers down my spine. Upon hearing the opening jangly, reverb-heavy guitar riff, it’s clear this song is going to be something special. There’s a lot going on musically, with amazing multi-layered guitars, heavy buzzing bass and power drums, along with some well-placed synths. Jim’s captivating vocals match the music’s power note for note as he sings: “And I can’t stop running away. But even if I die I know I’m home with you. If I die I’ll roam the world with you.”

The band just released a fantastic video for “Roam the World.” Directed by Kylie Rebecca and filmed in black and white, the video stars Ivy Rhodes & Jordan Fitzsimmons as a couple with a complicated relationship, juxtaposed with footage of the band performing the song in an airplane hanger.

One of my personal favorites is “The Seeker,” a stunning rock song with one of the most beautiful guitar hooks I’ve heard in a while. The track opens with dreamy synths, followed by haunting chiming and jangly guitars and heavy doses of strong percussion. Jim plaintively sings:  “Come follow me into the dark. Come and be the second heartbeat for this vagrant life, that which I chose.” I love this song.

The guys ramp things up with frantic riffs and rapid-fire drums on “Nothing Left to Say,” then segue into the melodically complex “Mountains.” I continue to be blown away by the Ivins brothers’ musicality, as the guitar work on this powerful track is impressive. The lyrics speak to persevering in the face of obstacles and self-doubt: “We’ve come too far. We fell so hard. We’ve come too far to pay for a loss of who we are.

Another standout track is “Tell Me,” perhaps the heaviest and darkest of them all. The story line has the singer on an airplane that may crash, thinking about his past transgressions and regretting things he never got the chance to do. Wanting to atone, he asks for God’s forgiveness. “And life flashes before our eyes. But all I could see was all I hadn’t done. I couldn’t tell the wife I never had goodbye. Love was always what I wanted most, but kept from me through lies.” The song features the guys’ signature intricate, guitar-driven melodies and strong percussion.

Closing out the album is the heartfelt “Bring Life,” about finding the strength to go on after the death of a loved one by holding onto memories of them. “Even though your grave lies in the shade, I know the grass still grows, and brings life to this place of the dead. You bring life to this place of the dead and ease my mind, ’cause even in death you bring me life.

The Code Duello is outstanding from start to finish, and even with 13 tracks, none seem like filler as is sometimes the case with other albums of this length.  The Ivins have a great album on their hands, and it should also be in yours.

Track list:

  1. Freefall
  2. Heartbreakers
  3. Lay Me Down
  4. Out Of Air
  5. Stockholm Syndrome
  6. Made Up Mind
  7. Masquerade
  8. Roam The World
  9. The Seeker
  10. Nothing Left To Say
  11. Mountains
  12. Tell Me
  13. Bring Life

Show The Ivins some love by following them:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify /  Apple Music

Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

Top 20 Songs for June 4-10, 2017

1. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy (1)
2. SIGN OF THE TIMES – Harry Styles (2)
3. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (3)
4. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (4)
5. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids (5)
6. HIGH – Sir Sly (7)
7. BLAME – Bastille (6)
8. SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS – The Chainsmokers, Coldplay (8)
9. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People (11)
10. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers (12)
11. REVEREND – Kings of Leon (14)
12. HOT THOUGHTS – Spoon (9)
13. COLD COLD COLD – Cage the Elephant (10)
14. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (15)
15. IN COLD BLOOD – alt-J (18)
16. GIVE ME REASON TO DIE – Dyslexic Postcards (19)
17. THE VIOLENCE – Rise Against (20)
18. MIDDLE FINGERS – MISSIO (13)
19. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National (N)
20. DIG DOWN – Muse (N)

DENSE – EP Review: “Third Eye”

I continue to be astounded by the sheer number of talented young bands today that are making some really great music. Another recent find is DENSE, a psychedelic garage rock band hailing from Leeds, England. Their music is unlike any other band I’ve heard lately, with a sound that’s at once retro and futuristic. They claim as their inspiration such bands as Wand, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and Queens of the Stone Age, and though it may be entirely unintentional, I also detect hints of 60s Yardbirds and early 80s Billy Idol. But whatever their influences, their sound has what I would describe as an ‘industrial surfer metal rock’ vibe, and I love it.

DENSE

Making this awesome music are Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums).  Despite their youth, their intense music style exhibits an impressive maturity and complexity that would be expected from a more seasoned band. In March, DENSE released their debut EP Third Eye, which according to their bio “was crafted by Charlie Fossick in his bedroom one summer.” And while it may be lo-fi, it certainly makes up for it with a thunderous wall of sound.

DENSE2

The title track “Third Eye” kicks things off with a barrage of gritty, distorted guitars and throbbing bass steeped in reverb, while Heffer hammers out an aggressive beat on his drum kit. Fossick’s electronically enhanced, otherworldly vocals are mesmerizing, and hold their own with the power and intensity of the music note for note. This is one hell of a song!

The video is awesome, with clever psychedelic visuals that perfectly complement the song and its theme.

Distorted buzz saw guitars are in full force on the scorching psychedelic instrumental track “Glutton Free.”  At times, the guitars wail and scream like a raging elephant. Metcalf’s pulsating bass gives the song incredible strength, with added help from Heffer’s pounding drums and crashing cymbals.

Stone” starts off with what sounds like small explosions or basketballs hitting the court on heavy reverb, then a nifty little bass line ensues, followed by an eruption of frantic shredded guitars. At roughly the two minute mark, we’re treated to a catchy guitar riff before the onslaught of shredded, gnashing guitars return to close out the track, which immediately segues into “Shade.” Almost as if DENSE didn’t want “Stone” to end, “Shade” sounds like a continuation of it, but with a slight change up in the melody, and minimal vocals. It’s OK by me, as I didn’t want “Stone” to end either.

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram /  Website

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase the EP on iTunes or download for free by joining their mailing list.

Top 20 Songs for May 28-June 3, 2017

1. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy (2)
2. SIGN OF THE TIMES – Harry Styles (1)
3. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man (4)
4. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons (3)
5. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids (5)
6. BLAME – Bastille (7)
7. HIGH – Sir Sly (10)
8. SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS – The Chainsmokers, Coldplay (9)
9. HOT THOUGHTS – Spoon (6)
10. COLD COLD COLD – Cage the Elephant (8)
11. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People (14)
12. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers (15)
13. MIDDLE FINGERS – MISSIO (11)
14. REVEREND – Kings of Leon (16)
15. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer (17)
16. LOST ON YOU – LP (12)
17. GREEN LIGHT – Lorde (13)
18. IN COLD BLOOD – alt-J (19)
19. GIVE ME REASON TO DIE – Dyslexic Postcards (20)
20. THE VIOLENCE – Rise Against (N)

GHOST COLOR – EP Review: “American Book of the Dead”

Ghost Color is a band that likes to make music their way, without following convention or what anyone else seems to be doing. No catchy hooks for them, but rather complex, nuanced melodies that always deliver the unexpected, compelling you to lean in and really listen. The band’s music can generally be described as Post-alternative or Progressive Rock, but one can hear strong influences of hard rock, shoegaze, post-punk, psychedelia and even jazz in their arresting sound.

Based in the California state capital of Sacramento (where I happened to live from 1989-94), Ghost Color consists of Chris Winstead (Drums/Lead Vocals), Eric Davis (Guitar) and Bryan Harty (Bass/backing Vocals). They released a pretty solid debut self-titled EP in 2015 with a decidedly experimental rock sensibility, and are now set to release a new EP American Book of the Dead on May 30th. The EP features four tracks that draw inspiration from the band members’ personal experiences with life and relationship challenges, making for a darker and more lyric-driven EP than their previous effort.

Ghost Color
Photo by Damion Hellstrom

To my ears, Ghost Color’s music style is reminiscent of Incubus, who’ve long been one of my favorite bands. Aggressive shredded and gnashing riffs layered with beautiful jangly guitar, and driven by buzz saw bass lines, are a defining characteristic of their music. Furthermore, Winstead’s superb vocals at times bear a striking resemblance to Incubus lead singer Brandon Boyd.

The first track “In Other Words” launches with a powerful riff, then jangly quitars enter the scene, aided and abetted by crashing cymbals, pounding drums and Harty’s weighty bass. Davis’ intricate guitar work is jaw-dropping as he coaxes forth sounds ranging from gritty to gorgeous. Winstead’s earnest vocals soar as he sings “Tortured and beaten, according to life. You can’t run.”

Endeavour” seems to address the differing emotional reactions of each partner in the aftermath of a breakup, with the singer still in pain while the one being sung to appears to have already moved on:  “Pour out your heart, you almost shed a tear. A bridge between our hearts. You blew me away, all away.”

More stellar guitar work is on display on “Stay Asleep,” with Davis shredding his guitar nearly to the breaking point. So too with “Grieves,” teeming with psychedelic riffs and wailing guitars making sounds like human screams. The heavy bass has a noticeable jazz vibe at the beginning of each chorus, as Winstead moans “So I grieve again, feeling nothing normal now.

American Book of the Dead is a brilliant EP, and my only criticism is that it’s over too quickly, leaving me wanting more. But that’s not a bad thing, really, as it never overstays its welcome.

Follow Ghost Color:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Reverbnation / YouTube

Purchase:  Bandcamp /  iTunes

OLI BARTON AND THE MOVEMENT – Single Review: “Sleeping With the Enemy”

Oli Barton and the Movement is a London-based indie alternative rock band with a winning combination of talent and personality. They released their terrific debut single “Photograph” through Coke & Dagger Records in late 2016, and in April they dropped their brilliant new single “Sleeping With the Enemy.” The band deftly melds alt-rock with a bouncy psychedelic punk groove to create a complex song that’s equal parts catchy and menacing.

Oli Barton

The four member band is headed by Oli Barton, who does the majority of the songwriting, plays guitar and sings lead vocals. Their hilarious Facebook page bio cleverly introduces each band member, so rather than attempt to paraphrase, I’ll just copy and paste as is for my readers’ enjoyment:

“Oli is an alternative musician who is the only modern artist to truly inherit classic British eccentricity. By utilising a unique sense of humour and an unequaled songwriting talent, along with the Movement [he] creates a sound that is personal yet anthemic, alluring yet pensive, and enjoyable yet thoughtful.

The Movement are:
Guy Monk – Drums
Guy is a strange fellow, ridiculously talented but crazily articulate for a drummer. He likes to spend his time going into toy shops and rearranging stuffed animals into a Circle of Life arrangement.
Marco Paone – Bass
Marco is the resident Italian Stallion. Famed for his close friendship with Gary Barlow, he is known to enjoy country walks and simply adores taking the time to visit zoos and pet the penguins.
Ryan Wilson – Lead Guitar
Apparently an admirer of fine wines, Ryan’s expertise are most credible playing lead guitar. He is said to have a pedalboard longer than the Great Wall of China and is also said to be the finest guitar player in the South of England. One of these statements is true.

Oli Barton & the Movement

The band has been playing lots of gigs in and around London over the past year or so, building a loyal fan base with their engaging performances. In an interview with  Johnny’s New Music Lowdown Blog, drummer Monk said “Our gigs are just mental. We have amazing crowds. That connection on that night when its just us and the audience is extraordinary. We get into the crowd and pull fans up on stage. The vibe of the audience is contagious and it pushes us even further!” The band took some time off from performing while finishing up on the album and making the videos, but has several shows lined up in the coming months.

In the same interview, Oli said of “Sleeping With the Enemy: “I hate to say it’s about Trump because everyone’s making tracks about Trump.” My personal take is that the song is essentially about rampant duplicity in politics of late that always seems to leave people feeling like they’ve been screwed, and the biting lyrics get right to the point: “And I know what it’s like, to be stabbed in the back with a knife. It’s just my life, and I’d better learn to take it from behind. Sleeping with the enemy. Denied any sympathy.  Sincerity will soon erode, when you’ve got nowhere to go.

Musically, the song alternates between an aggressive, fast-paced beat and a slower, almost hypnotic cadence. Wilson and Barton’s guitar work is awesome, with lots of shredding and distortion going on, and Paone’s bass anchors the track without overpowering. Monk’s drumming is spot on, matching the bass line note for note, while Barton’s fervent vocals convey his sense of powerlessness and exasperation with the state of things. At the bridge, it all builds to a cacophonous barrage of heavy buzzing bass, distorted guitars, pounding drums and impassioned vocals.

The dark video for the song was filmed in a dismal abandoned factory. The band is shown performing outside the factory, interspersed with scenes of Barton running through the woods and ending up at the factory, appearing to be fleeing some unseen tormentor. At one point he’s shown blindfolded and kneeling with his hands tied behind his back.

The band plans to drop their third single “Kinky” at the end of June, and their debut album soon after. I’m looking forward to hearing both.

Follow Oli Barton and the Movement:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify
Purchase:  iTunes /  Amazon