DEF STAR – Artist Spotlight & Interview

I’ve mentioned it several times before, but it bears repeating that one of the things I love about Twitter is all the interesting people I’ve met and continue to meet. And since my account is primarily about music, I follow and am followed by several thousand musicians and bands. One that I’ve had the distinct pleasure of getting to know is a hard-working singer/songwriter who goes by the artistic name Def Star. Based in the Chicago area and born Mike Purcell, Def Star is an incredibly creative, talented and nice guy with seemingly boundless energy. In just the past couple of years, he’s recorded an impressive output of songs in a variety of genres, including hip hop, rap, rock, alternative rock, electronic, industrial, trap and pop. He’s also very supportive of other musicians, as well as his fans and followers, plus he has a wonderful sense of humor – all things I greatly admire in an artist.

Def Star 4

I recently sat down with Def Star (well, we were actually sitting at our respective computers 2,000 miles apart) to discuss his love for music, what inspires him, and his creative process. I was blown away by his thoughtful, articulate and deeply honest responses.

EclecticMusicLover: Hi Def Star. Thanks for agreeing to an interview! We’ve followed each other on Twitter for a while now, but I don’t really know a whole lot about you. Tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to be interested in making music.

Def Star:  First & foremost, thank you for taking an interest in my music! About me: both of my grandpas sang (one jazz/lounge & the other church songs).  I witnessed the power song has over women at a very young age when I saw U.S. Navy pilots perform a very well-choreographed lip sync of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”  In middle school, girls would call me and ask that I sing “If I Ever Fall in Love” by Shai – great song! My tastes were and are in complete & utter disarray – the only file left up there in my mental rolodex is labeled chaos and I think it’s empty.

Really though, I remember absolutely falling in love with whole eras of music and the two that stick out most are grunge rock and gangsta rap.  Comin’ up the outside of the track was always R&B. Regardless, ever since I can remember, there have always been songs that absolutely knock me over and latch their claws into my soul and leave these beautiful scars or bandage ones that were already there.  Anyway, what I’m intending to get at is this: it never mattered what genre these great works of art were labeled, or what style or culture or anything else anyone could say right here… to me, I’m thankful that I was exposed to an incredibly vast variety of music by people who genuinely loved the music they love and that I’ve been fortunate enough to have had experiences that later on change from mere memory into what is recalled as these moments.  I don’t know if they’re milestones so much as they are simply stars in the night sky we call our life; the point is they matter because the chords get struck and they run deep. Not only that but they’re like little shortcuts or portals straight to the heart – for better and worse. 

EML:  I can identify with how you developed a passion for music at an early age. My much older brother loved artists like Elvis, Fats Domino and Little Richard when he was in his teens, so I got exposed to that music as a baby and danced to those songs as soon as I could stand up on my own lol.

DS: I love the magic that is music and its effects on every single person it touches from inception on.  For some, that’s the name of this game, really: the best songs never die. In my experience, it can feed twisted delusions of grandeur not limited even to the absurd such as immortality.  Flipside of that? Oh, but all of the rest about it – any which way ya cut it – music is escape, hope, consolation, companionship, love, hate, nothing, everything. I love how some songs can plant themselves firmly in one specific moment in time and other songs are ethereal, transcendent, and timeless.

I’ve said this from the very beginning: “Music Speaks, I Translate.”  At the time that I first started saying that (whenever people would ask about how I write lyrics or develop melodies) I wasn’t trying to brand myself or come up with some sort of catch phrase.  Today, it’s mine & I own it. It began because that’s how I feel it happens most of the time for me. I get an instrumental from one of a few incredibly talented producers I’m blessed enough to be close, personal friends with; it may be one of a handful of different genres or a unique mix of two or more; I like to consider what the emotion of the beat’s describing or even “saying.”  Sometimes the producer says I hear this here or I kept thinking of that there, other times he or she says what they were thinking or feeling when they made it. Most often, I’ve been entrusted with free reign to build whatever I feel like building on the allotted real estate, whether only one verse for a collab or promo, or an entire track for a solo.

I started out rappin’ in 1999, singin’ in 2001, rockin’ in 2003 and from there, there have been mixtapes, groups, bands, shows, writing, recording and finally an artist who realized that if he doesn’t light the fire, no one will ever even have a chance to carry the torch.  So now, I have a catalog of recorded songs somewhere upwards of the mid-300’s, I may or may not be currently working on an official album or two right now as I type this, there is always new promo material popping up like my first actual music video that came outta nowhere just last week on YouTube:

I’m all over Twitter & InstaGram like a fool, lol! Cliché alert: I figure we have this one life to live, just one. That’s it! So, do I really, truly, genuinely, whole-heartedly, sincerely believe that there’s something going on with my music that’s worth at least giving it a little air and a little light? Yes, I do. If it grows, maybe give it a little more food, air, and light?  DEFinitely. Next question: what am I waiting for?!

EML: Well, shedding a little light on your music is my aim! You state that grunge and gangsta rap were the two genres you really felt passionate about – which makes sense as you came of age in the 90s – but I hated them back in the day. I’m much older than you, and in the early 90s I felt music quality had gone over a cliff. I absolutely hated all rap, and just didn’t get the appeal of grunge. I was in my 30s by then, and figured I was already too old and that music no longer mattered as much to me – something that seems to happen to a lot of people as they get older. Most of my friends are now in their 50s and 60s, and few of them have the slightest interest in hearing new music anymore. They think it’s great I have a music blog, but they’re not at all interested in reading it or learning about new music.

I’ve since come around about grunge, hip hop and rap, though I still don’t like gangsta rap. It’s just too much for me.

DS:  Re: grunge & gangsta rap… A couple things (& I completely relate to where you’re coming from)… I, too, (now in my late 30’s) have felt like “new” or newer music, style, content (especially rap) has just fallen off & it’s all garbage… I have felt like that at times. But, that’s typically before I’ve given any of which I’m judging an honest chance. There’s usually something about it I like, or I might shockingly end up loving it, or at least then I have legit reasons I don’t like it. But that’s me.

I have since fallen madly in love with other bands & even genres entirely! My journey has seen so many chapters or phases & most often, even if I move on to a new thing, chapter, or phase, I don’t just stop having this place in my heart that a previous love carved out. It’s still there & feels good when filled again with that old love. But I crave the new, too! So, yeah, I went through Emo, Screamo, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Death Metal, Post-Hardcore, Electronic Rock, EDM, Pop, Pop Punk, and more. It’s been a TON of fun & I’ve picked up a lotta things along the way that have positively influenced my approach on music and just my overall enjoyment of life. There’s a few artists that are like guilty little pleasures of mine that I don’t talk about often but I love their albums too. Never thought I’d see these particular artists albums in my personal iTunes but they’re there & I’m happy about it, lol.

Gangsta rap today? Not so much. Strangely enough, though I myself am a rapper of sorts, I don’t listen to rap often. I don’t listen to much Grunge today either. Maybe some “classics” here & there or the Temple of the Dog album I absolutely love, but it is the exception rather than the norm.

Last thing I’d love to touch on & it sounds like you’ve experienced a bit of this: your friends have less interest in reading your blog than you’d hoped or expected. I can absolutely relate – simply switch out the words “reading your blog” with the words “listening to my music”… lol! My buddy I make music with and I have discussed how funny it is that people I don’t know at all will oftentimes support my work and my social media sites more than my own friends & family – I’m crazy thankful for any & all interested & supportive, for certain! THANK YOU ALL!!! But some of the people I just kinda expected to pick up some balls and run with ’em just haven’t. And even the whole family thing… some have come around, most haven’t given it the time of day, and some ask from time to time but very few have listened let alone tell others about it. Oh well! Living & learning. It really does take a village though & I do have the greatest family, friends, followers, and supporters.

EML:  Your songs encompass an eclectic mix of genres, including hip hop, rap, alt-rock, metal, trap and even pop. Who are some of the artists who inspire or influence you to create the type of music you make?

DS:  Some of the artists that influence(d) me: Chris Cornell, Eddie Vedder, Lane Staley, Scott Weiland, Corey Taylor, Method Man, Mos Def, Tupac, Twista, Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Aaron Lewis, Craig Owens, Biggie, Hayley Williams, Do Or Die, Joan Jett, Lynn Gunn, Eminem, I.V., Pistol Pete, Bogus, Chavi, J-Slay, Koncept, Ace, Halsey, Alan Walker, 112, Boyz II Men, Wretched, Tool, Eyes Set to Kill … I could go on & on, and the current list doesn’t even begin to think about beginning to scratch the scratch of the surface!

Def Star (2)

EML:  When did you begin writing and recording songs? What is your process for creating new music?

DS:  I began writing lyrics way back when I was in elementary school. I loved wordplay, puns, and especially rhymes. My first song? Not 100% sure but one of the first that’s coming to mind in the moment is freshman year high school, History class.  Two of my classmates and I played a modified version of George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” called “Bad History.” We shoulda just called it what it was: “Bad Song.” Ha! Seriously.  I did have a sweet Fender Squier – the bumper car of electric guitars – but I did not invest the effort early in high school to learn it nor take the time to truly appreciate it.

EML:  What, if any, instruments do you play?

DS:  I wanna say vocals but part of me feels like that sounds pretentious.  The other part of me feels that the first sentence of this response, along with this sentence, sound really pretentious already so we passed that point long ago.  Now that that’s been established, I do not play any instruments. Sit me down in front of a keyboard or piano and I can wing some cool shit but I’ve been lucky enough to have this sort of relatively steady flow of instrumentals or other opportunities for collabs in multiple genres which has kept me very busy and growing through the challenges of constantly pushing the borders of my envelope and testing the limits of my comfort zone.  I don’t know which it is but I either don’t have a comfort zone at all or my comfort zone is just that whatever-it-is to where I have yet to face a challenge musically that struck me as so uncomfortable or outside of any alleged comfort zone that I didn’t or couldn’t do it (and end up turning out something really cool in the process).

EML:  I see that quite a few of your songs are collaborations with other artists, which I think is great. In fact, it seems that a lot of hip hop artists tend to collaborate with other artists on their songs. What do you find appealing about the collaborative process?

To me, I have held this view since day one: any way the music can reach ears that it wouldn’t have otherwise reached of my own accord, I’m in.  Even if it means that I spend time or money of my own to get it out there, I’m in. I’m not currently in a position to demand nor expect money for my music.  I will be. And it will be soon.. Until then, I will continue to post FREE MUSIC on MY YouTube CHANNEL!!! My apologies, I digress (as per usual). To answer this question directly, my goal with collaborations is three-fold: A) to reach not just my audience with a new song but the other artist’s audience as well.  Then, sometimes, one plus one results in a sum greater than two. It’s funny what happens when a flash of excitement in the pan of good timing, for example, can ignite the whole skyscraper. And, B) the challenge of making an impression such that these new listeners want to find my stuff & hear more. Lastly, C) the ability to work with friends and have a damn good time along the way.  One of the countless things I love about music is that, generally, the people I’ve known that have anything to do with music and its creative process from A to Z are really great people with a lot to offer the world but they’re not on that mission. They’re not out to take over the world or clutch at status for the sake of status. They have beliefs. They don’t fall for shit. They can typically see through the bullshit or at least have reasons they believe what they believe even after examining both sides of a coin.  They’ve got their priorities straight. I need people like this in my tribe.

EML: What artists would you especially love to work with, and why?

DS:  I already work with the sickest buncha straight-up artisans so I will respectfully pass on answering this question with names of popular, mainstream artists and provide a glimpse at a few names that are already poppin’ or are right around the corner:  I.V. , WavRiders, J-Slay, Red Focus, Chavi, Koncept, Swilly.

EML:  Ah, Swilly’s awesome, and I love the collaboration you did with him and guitarist Kevin Campbell on “Right or Wrong.” And “Change Your Life” with J-Slay and Koncept is another fantastic collab.

EML:  What are your thoughts about the current state of music and/or the music industry?

I LOVE the state of music right now!  I feel like this: whether we recognize it or not, and as much as many may complain about the lack of anything original and a void of any artists aiming at a new paradigm or even daring to shake things up for fear of public opinion and sales quotas, there are so many talented, unique, incredible artists and bands that are out there killin’ shows, slayin’ audiences, rockin’ mics, sellin’ merch, packin’ venues, puttin’ out EP’s and albums, promotin’ it on multiple social media platforms like crazies just like me … that ARE making music that sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard and moves me in new ways.  And that’s a big goal with my music is to create a truly genreless, timeless product that is a cohesive album yet plays like a playlist of your favorite songs over many years and genres of music, all in one, ready to go from the point of purchase & play. An instant classic. A soundtrack to the movie that is your life.

EML:  Have you performed live very much?

DS:  I have performed live and I love it!  I wish I could say I’ve done it a bunch of times or been on tour before but I can’t yet.  I’m that new – to the “scene.” As far as experience, the Romans would say I got a couple of X’s under my belt.  Specifically, live performances of mine I could count on my hands. More importantly, I got miles traveled beneath my feet and even if they high now, the message is still deep.  Plans to do more live performing? Absolutely. AB. SO. LUTELY!!! I made up this little diddy and I do believe it applies here: “Whatever lights your fire, rock it to infinity.”  So, HELL yeah!!! I’m taking this thing as far as life allows, much of it is outta my hands but I gotta keep trying to do whatever I can. Hmmm, lyrical… “much of it is outta my hands… but I gotta keep – try’na do – whatever I can”… sweet, lol.  Hashtag lit AF, am I right? rofl.

EML:  You’ve recorded quite an impressive output of tracks, but haven’t released a full album yet. Why not? Do you have plans to release an album anytime soon?

I have a secret.

But first, thank you!  I’ve said it before and I will happily repeat it ad infinitum: I appreciate that you have taken the time to even know enough to ask these great questions!  This has been a serious trip & thanks for humoring me, I hope my tangents aren’t unbearably obnoxious. I’ll wrap it up here now, sorry! LOL! (I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve had some days upon which to think about this thing and it’s finally coming out now, or if I’m just in a zone, OR if I just think this is SO cool because your platform – the Eclectic Music Lover – it’s the most comprehensive music review site with these exquisitely written pieces on songs, albums, artists, bands… it’s an honor to be a guest, as it were.)

Now for the secret, and now that I think about it, I touched on this earlier too but here it is again and it’s really working in my favor: over the years, I may not have been doing much self-promotion but I have been writing, recording, and amassing a killer library of songs that I have at my fingertips to release here & there while I’m currently, possibly, confidentially, secretly, hypothetically, theoretically, not really but maybe actually, recording two albums right now concurrently.  One or both of these maybe’s, if what I just wrote were true, will be out sometime during the Year of the Earth Pig.

EML:  You are hilarious, and I’m really touched by your kind words about my blog! Is there anything I’ve neglected to ask that you’d like to tell your fans & followers?

DS:  Great question, once again.  And thank you for offering the opportunity for the interviewee to chime in with somethin’ he might’ve hoped to have show up in the piece – very considerate, I like your style my friend!  I think we’ve really covered a good amount of ground here. I’m not sure if I’m ready for a full-blown commitment so we’ll just keep it casual for now, mmmkay?! LMAO jkjk!!! I have a broken machine in my head that plays with words, thinks it’s funny, and gets me in trouble cuz it never shuts off.  A constant stream of comic genius; can you imagine?! The HORROR!!!

Nah, but on a serious note, I suppose I would love to just know that anyone who comes across this article and wants to find out more about me or hear more music, knows where & how they can do that.  For me, I have my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCExzLvLnZIgpzZ2Gfa4cXDA and they can connect with me on Twitter and Instagram. (Some of his music can also be streamed on Soundcloud.)

Thank you, thank you, thank YOU!

EML:  And I thank YOU my friend for being such a great subject, and taking the time to share your detailed thoughts and perspectives with me and my readers. You’re awesome, Def Star, and I can’t wait to hear that album – or two!

Here are a few more of his songs I especially like that showcase the broad range of his music style:

THE PUSS PUSS BAND – Single & Video Review: “We Should Be”

Puss Puss Band We Should Be

I’m back in Wales (having just featured Welsh band Dying Habit), this time to talk about the lovely new single “We Should Be” and it’s delightful video from The Puss Puss Band.  Based in Cardiff, and consisting of multi-instrumentalists Asa Galeozzie and Lee Pugh, the band is named for Asa’s cat Puss Puss. Both are accomplished musicians who’ve worked with numerous artists and bands in the UK and Welsh music industry over the last ten years as writers & session musicians. They perform every aspect of their music: songwriting, instrumentals, vocals, arranging, engineering, producing and mixing. Asa plays guitar, bass, percussion, piano and melodica, while Lee plays lead guitar, bass and piano, as well as sings lead vocals.

In April 2017, with help from seasoned musician John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, the guys released their beautiful debut album Echoes Across the Cruel Sea. I reviewed the album along with an interview with Lee, which you can read here. Over the past six months or so, they’ve been writing and recording songs for a second album, and “We Should Be” is the first single. It’s a wonderful song, delivering the pleasing jazz and folk-infused pop we’ve come to expect from these talented guys. And once again, Mr. Bundrick lends his expertise on the keyboards.

The bittersweet song is about missing someone and wishing they were back in love with you so you could be together. Layers of gently strummed guitar, crisp percussion and delicate synths create a sparkling backdrop for Lee’s smooth, breathy vocals that convey a sad resignation as he sings the poignant lyrics:

Lighted excited waiting in the rain
Two minutes ‘til I see you again
Near misses, longed for kisses
An everlasting wait
The magic word that is her name

We stole our days away
Wishing by the sea
Wrapped up in you
Wrapped up in me

The way you see the world
Is just the same
It’s just the way you feel about me that’s changed

But we should be….
We should be in love
We should be in love…
See you’re all I’m wishing on

Dying, just trying to find
The words to say
The few minutes that I’ll see you today
Near misses, longed for kisses
An everlasting wait
The tragic word that is my name

If the way you see the world
Is just the same?
Maybe there’s no need…
To hurt in vain?

Is it right?
To close up tight?
To feed this cold divide…
Between you and me?
Is it so hard to see?…
That we should be

We should be…
We should be in love…
We should be in love…
You’re all I’m wishing on
We should be….in love

The video is one of the most delightful I’ve seen in a long while. It shows a man in a cat suit (played by Lee) sitting or standing in various locations on a busy street in Cardiff, holding a large flip chart printed with words that are directed at his love interest. By and by, he walks past a busking musician (played by Asa) and throws a few pieces of dry cat food into his guitar case. I love the scenes where he’s chasing pigeons, riding the merry-go-round, and when he sits on the bench, offers some of his food to a man who politely turns him down, then proceeds to eat it out of the bowl. At the end, the busker sees him sitting forlornly on the ground next to the merry-go-round, offers his hand, and they walk off together down the street holding hands. What a sweet story, and I love both the song and video!

Connect with The Puss Puss Band:  Website / Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music on Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

BLACK BEAR KISS – Single Review: “Secret Side”

Black Bear Kiss 2

Black Bear Kiss is an alternative indie rock band from the West Midlands/Shropshire, UK, and are made up of the very talented Chris Leech on lead vocals, Colin Haden on lead guitar, Rob Jones on guitar, Rich Sach on bass, and Chris Bagnall on drums. Hot on the heels of their awesome debut single “Hooks,” which dropped in April (and I reviewed), they now return with a great follow-up single “Secret Side.

The track opens with Sach’s funky little bass lick, then layered guitars and Bagnall’s snappy drums kick in with a catchy toe-tapping beat. Haden and Jones lay down some tasty melodic riffs in the break that continue through to the end of the song. Leech has a fine singing voice, and his earnest vocals nicely convey equal parts mischief and emotion as he sings of the blurred lines between reality and fantasy: “There’s something strange with how I feel. Like choosing right from wrong but what is real, yeah. My compass points to what I know. But now I’m lost and I just don’t know where to go.”

The song essentially speaks to some of the fantasies many of us harbor at one time or another – our ‘secret side’ if you will. The opening lyrics are directed toward a woman “dressed head to toe with curves and all in black” who’s the object of his desire. Eventually, they speak of wanting to escape the drudgery of a frustrating job and have fun hanging out with friends. The clever and highly entertaining video shows the guys performing the song at their workplace and later, outdoors, interspersed with scenes of their abusive boss tormenting them at work, and them ultimately exacting revenge by chasing him with a tank! And who of us hasn’t fantasized about coming to the rescue or punishing the bad guys while riding into town in a tank?! It’s a funny and satisfying accompaniment to a terrific song.

Catch Black Bear Kiss at one of these upcoming shows. Click the event names for the event pages.

August 17   7:00 pm   Dana Prison Shrewsbury
August 25   3:00 pm  Bridgnorth Music Festival
August 25   7:00 pm  Telfest

Connect with Black Bear Kiss:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their songs on  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes / cdbaby

DYING HABIT – Single Review: “Unrealities”

I keep featuring bands and artists from the UK on this blog, but there are just so damn many good ones! Another promising band I’ve been following for a while is a four-piece from the town of Bangor in northwestern Wales who call themselves Dying Habit. They play a highly melodic style of alternative rock influenced by such bands as Dead Letter Circus, Katatonia, Biffy Clyro, Therapy?, The Wildhearts and Karnivool. The band is comprised of Nathan Jones (vocals), Alan Hart (guitar), Aled Hughes (bass) and Mark Jones (drums).

Dying Habit

Since forming in 2011, Dying Habit has been fine tuning their music style and songwriting, and performing in venues throughout Wales and northwest England. More recently, they’ve been recording songs for their forthcoming debut album Unrealities, and just released the fantastic lead single, also titled “Unrealities.” The band explained their inspiration for the song and it’s meaning: “We all have some kind of goal we aim for, be it a job, a passion or a style of life we really want. Hopes and dreams is what keeps us all going. Many of us do the shitty jobs we do to get us closer to whatever we want to achieve, whilst [others] are content with our jobs and feel content with who we are. Whatever the case, our ambitions are unrealities …an illusion in societies eyes. Our single “Unrealities” is about never giving up on your dreams, as unreal as they may seem. Unreal means failure and failure leads to success. Be true to yourself and never stray from the path your heart puts you on.”

Musically, the song is magnificent. It starts off with Hart’s haunting guitar note that expands into a somber riff, accompanied by Hughes’ humming bass and Mark Jones’ crisp percussion. At around the minute mark, the music explodes into a fusillade of wailing guitars and thunderous drums, before settling back down to the somber melodic riff that’s so arresting it bores right into your brain. Wow, it’s gorgeous and covers my body with chills! Nathan’s vocals, while not necessarily powerful, have a vulnerable, emotive quality that are perfectly suited to the music and lyrics. They’re especially moving and beautiful when they soar in the choruses. I love this song, and am so looking forward to their album.

The gripping, beautifully-filmed video shows a young woman struggling with her inner demons – her “unrealities.”

Connect with Dying Habit:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

“Unrealities” will be available for purchase on all music platforms on August 15

THE AUTUMN STONES – Album Review: “Emperor Twilight”

Autumn Stones

The Autumn Stones are a Toronto, Canada-based band who play music that’s difficult to label as any particular genre, but who cares, really, so long as it sounds great. Their beautiful, pleasing sound incorporates elements of alternative rock, dream pop, jazz, and what the band refers to as “literary rock,” which I take to mean songs built around intelligent, thoughtful lyrics – which theirs have in abundance. Rather unique in their music style is their use of a wide array of instruments, especially saxophone and organ that, along with their gorgeous jangly guitars. creates a lush soundscape that serves as the basis for their wonderful songs.

Since forming in 2009, the band’s undergone a number of changes in personnel, and the current lineup consists of founding member Ciaran Megahey (vocals & guitar), Marcus Tamm (bass), Gary Butler (sax & keyboards), Raymond Cara (drums & percussion) and Dan Dervaitis (guitar & organ). They released their debut album Companions of the Flame in 2011, followed by Escapists in 2015, which I reviewed in 2016. Now they’re back with a stunning new album Emperor Twilight, which dropped on June 22. The album was recorded at Andy Magoffin’s House of Miracles studio in Cambridge, Ontario, and co-produced by the band and Magoffin, who also engineered and mixed it. Harris Newman did the mastering, and I have to say everyone involved in the recording and production of Emperor Twilight did a fantastic job, as The Autumn Stones have never sounded better.

In describing the album’s sometimes doleful theme, Megahey explains: “I’m a little preoccupied with exploring human nature’s dark side. I guess I have always thought of that as the artist’s role in culture. I think, for all the gloom easily pointed out, there’s a lot to be hopeful over and cheered by in the world. Emperor Twilight is also about being grateful for that and resisting the temptation to be cynical.

Kicking off the album is “Nightmares,” a beautiful track that speaks to utopian visions and the tribal and hypocritical aspects of our nature that give rise to authoritarianism.  “Pale as a ghost. Hungry again. Nightmares are born again.” The splendid jangly guitars and Butler’s soulful sax, both defining elements of The Autumn Stones’ appealing sound, are on full display here, as well as on the bouncy “Living in a Dream.” I love Megahey’s smooth, emotive vocals that have a vulnerable, yet seductive quality.

I thought those first two tracks were beautiful – and they surely are! – but the romantic and incredibly melodic “Fontana” is honestly one of the loveliest songs I’ve heard this year. The jangly guitar work is stunning, the swirling keyboard and organ riffs are sublime, and Megahey’s vocals are positively captivating. It’s my favorite track on the album, though quite frankly, I love them all.

Lovebomb” has more of a rock feel, with reverb-drenched and fuzzy guitars overlying a solid buzzing bass line.  Megahey sings of our natural carnal instincts: “There’s a sin in our skin. Can you blame us? Lovebomb.” On “The Bigger They Fail,” their gorgeous jangly guitars seem to channel The Cure, and Butler’s smooth sax is sublime.  I’m running out of superlatives to describe their songs, but damn this is a beauty, and yet another favorite of mine. The upbeat “Lovelife” has a breezy Style Council vibe and, as always, the guitars, bass, sax and percussion are perfection. Megahey croons the positive lyrics about embracing the good things about your life, and letting go of the bad: “You’ve go to love life down to the bitter end. Cause you don’t get a second chance. It’s so late, but is it too late?

The album’s marvelous lead single “Mandatory Love” is an exuberant gem that seems to tell us that love should liberate, rather than imprison, the heart and mind. The instrumentals are dazzling, and the lyrics poetic:

It was an idea unrare
Breathes like solid air
A total flop, a keystone cop
Agents of despair

This little heart, you’re set upon
This little heart, it can’t beat wrong

Our gilded prologue
Drives a wedge
Fills our ancient cup
This little dove locked up
She cannot be tamed
By mandatory love

It was an idea unsound
Feels like shaky ground
A total bore, a ‘less not more’
The undead overground

Closing out Emperor Twilight is the sweeping anthem “Every Little Shadow.” Dervaitis’ lovely organ work takes a starring role on this moving track, and the guitars are superb. It’s the perfect ending to as close to perfect an album that I’ve heard this year. Every track on this beautiful album is outstanding, and I cannot heap enough praise upon it. The guys that make up The Autumn Stones are all gifted musicians, and I hope they continue to grace our ears with their music.

Connect with The Autumn Stones:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunesBandcamp

Top 30 Songs for July 29-August 4, 2018

 

1. UNWIND – John Defeo (2)
2. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (1)
3. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (3)
4. SUCH A SIMPLE THING – Ray LaMontagne (5)
5. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (19)
6. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (4) 42nd week on chart
7. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (10)
8. COLORS – Beck (8)
9. FOUR OUT OF FIVE – Arctic Monkeys (7)
10. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (12)
11. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (13)
12. LIFE TO FIX – The Record Company (9)
13. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (14)
14. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (15)
15. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (25)
16. SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! At the Disco (6)
17. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (11)
18. BLOOM – Troye Sivan (20)
19. GIVE YOURSELF A TRY – The 1975 (21)
20. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (22)
21. KAMIKAZE – WALK THE MOON (18)
22. FLAWLESS – Dorothy (23)
23. BROKEN – lovelytheband (17) 24th week on chart
24. ZOMBIE – Bad Wolves (16)
25. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (28)
26. TRANSITION – The Winachi Tribe (27)
27. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (29)
28. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay (24)
29. LASH OUT – Alice Merton (30)
30. DIZZY – The Million Reasons (N)

Disciples of Babylon Release New Video for “Without You”

L.A.-based alt-rock band Disciples of Babylon are one of my favorite indie bands, and I’ve featured them numerous times on this blog. They’ve just released a superb new video for their fantastic single “Without You,” which came out almost exactly a year ago, at the end of July 2017. (You can read my review here.)  The song was a huge hit on my Weekly Top 30, peaking at #1 for two weeks at the end of December into early January 2018.

The video shows the band performing the hard-hitting song in a warehouse setting, and really showcases the raw power and charisma of front man and lead vocalist Eric Knight as he belts out the biting lyrics. Making the music are Ramón Blanco on lead guitar, Gui Bodi on bass and backing vocals, and Chris Toeller on drums. The video was filmed by Marco “Toma” Tomaselli and edited by Knight.

Follow Disciples of Babylon:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Bandcamp

BRETT VOGEL – Single Review: “Superwoman Sway”

Brett Vogel is an immensely talented and hard-working singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles. We’ve followed each other on social media for nearly three years, and I find Brett to be a warm, kind and gracious guy. He was one of the very first artists I featured on this blog, way back in January 2016, and you can read that post here. Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, he grew up listening to his father’s records and became a fan of music at a very young age – something that I closely identify with, as I was listening to my parents’ Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Elvis Presley records as soon as I was able to walk.

Brett describes his passion for music: “Music is within every fiber of my being! I sincerely believe without music I’d be doomed. Music has kept me alive. Music, I believe, has saved my life. Music is love to me. Music helps people heal. It’s what connects people, and for that I’m grateful!” Blessed with a large vocal range and beautiful tone, Brett showcases his sweet and soaring falsetto in many of the wonderful songs he writes.

Brett Vogel

Brett released his first album Lonely Traveler in 2004, and subsequently moved to LA. He eventually became discouraged about the music industry and returned to Illinois, but after three years he decided to move back to L.A. and give music another go, and has never looked back. In 2015 he released his second album Never Giving Up, a superb effort featuring 11 beautiful tracks that are a celebration of his passion for – and dedication to – his dream of making music. Since then, he’s released several singles and remixes, the latest of which is his delightful new single “Superwoman Sway,” which dropped July 20th.

It’s an upbeat, happy tune with an infectious reggae/dance beat that aims straight for the hips.  The carefree guitars, lively synths and snappy drums transport us to a sun-kissed tropical beach, making it a perfect song for summer. Brett’s earnest vocals are lovely as he sings of his devotion for a loved one who brings so much joy to his life:

There you go brightening up my day 
You wouldn’t know it but it’s true
What you’ve got is that Superwoman Sway
I wouldn’t have any other

Through the thick and thin when I’m dashed upon the rocks
You stay close to me and give me all you’ve got
Through the lightning clouds
The sorrow and the rain
You take away my blue, brighten up my sky
To see the light again

Every little thing you do is so so you
I couldn’t have it any better no
Every little thing you do is so so you
I couldn’t have it any better

Connect with Brett:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase: iTunes /

Top 30 Songs for July 22-28, 2018

1. HUNGER – Florence + the Machine (2)
2. UNWIND – John Defeo (3)
3. I FEEL LIKE I’M DROWNING – Two Feet (1)
4. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People (4) 41st week on chart
5. SUCH A SIMPLE THING – Ray LaMontagne (6)
6. SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) – Panic! At the Disco (5)
7. FOUR OUT OF FIVE – Arctic Monkeys (9)
8. COLORS – Beck (11)
9. LIFE TO FIX – The Record Company (12)
10. GOLD RUSH – Death Cab for Cutie (20)
11. BAD BAD NEWS – Leon Bridges (7)
12. RED MOON SKY – Face of Stone (13)
13. 44 – Oli Barton & the Movement (14)
14. HI HELLO – Johnny Marr (16)
15. QUARTER PAST MIDNIGHT – Bastille (17)
16. ZOMBIE – Bad Wolves (8)
17. BROKEN – lovelytheband (10) 23rd week on chart
18. KAMIKAZE – WALK THE MOON (19)
19. JUMPSUIT – twenty one pilots (N)
20. BLOOM – Troye Sivan (23)
21. GIVE YOURSELF A TRY – The 1975 (24)
22. HUMILITY – Gorillaz featuring George Benson (28)
23. FLAWLESS – Dorothy (29)
24. PINK LEMONADE – James Bay (15)
25. CLOSER – IAMWARFACE (N)
26. I HOPE YOU’RE HAPPY – Blue October (18)
27. TRANSITION – The Winachi Tribe (30)
28. FEVER PITCH – Rainbow Kitten Surprise (N)
29. LIVING IN THE FUTURE – Dawes (N)
30. LASH OUT – Alice Merton (N)

LUNA ROSA Release Fundraiser Single & Video “Fear, Filth, Dirt & Death”

Luna Rosa Single Art

Luna Rosa is an outstanding Alternative/Psych/Indie rock four-piece formed in 2015, and hailing from Corby, Northamptonshire, UK. Making the music are Rory McDade (guitar, lead vocals), Aidan Furey (guitar, moves), Jack Connolly (drums, howls) and Charlie Thorneycroft (bass, noises). They released a superb self-titled EP Luna Rosa that same year, and followed up in 2017 with a fantastic double single “Mercurial Man/Vessels.” They now return with a powerful new single “Fear, Filth, Dirt & Death.

The song is a scathing attack on the negative aspects of Capitalism that helped make the fire at Grenfell Tower all the more deadly. (The cheap – and highly flammable –  insulating cladding used for the building renovation in 2017, just prior to the fire, is now believed to have caused the fire to spread much more rapidly.)

Musically, the track starts off with a galloping drumbeat and a scratchy guitar note, then explodes into a furious barrage of roiling guitar riffs and thunderous drums that seem to channel The Clash. The hard-driving music perfectly fits the harsh lyrics:

Fear Filth Dirt & Death
There’s fucking nothing left
The rest is left for the one percent at best
Look out for yourself
Prisoners of the State

Fear Filth Dirt & Death
You take away our NHS
It’s cause we matter less and less I know
It’s in your best interest

Heroes are buried in paupers graves
The money worth the morals you trade?
How come the ivory towers ain’t burning?
Grenfell fell for your earning
Prisoners of the State

The band explained their intent behind the song: “All money generated from the single as well as merchandise sales will be going to the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster. We are under no illusion that we can give these people what they need or deserve, but we feel the need to make the gesture and let them know that we stand with them.  Although dubious on whether to release this, as we didn’t want to cause anymore hurt, we thought there’s no better way to bring people together and show support than music.”

If you can donate £1 via our justgiving page, leaving your name and email we will get the song over to you:  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/luna-rosa-single

Or you can buy it through our Bandcamp page and we will make sure everything goes over:  https://lunarosa.bandcamp.com/track/fear-filth-dirt-death

If you cant spare the £1 then please share!

Further Merchandise sales will be going to Firefighters & NHS Nurses. Thank you to Jordan Cameron for creating and donating the artwork to the cause.

Catch Luna Rosa at one of these upcoming shows:

Saturday, July 21  –  Percy’s Cafe Bar, Whitechurch, England w/Porcelain Hill

Saturday, July 28  –  Wrexfest 2018, Wrexham, Wales

Thursday, August 2  –  Kaleidoscope, Birmingham, England 

Friday, August 17  –  Shout About It, Liverpool, England

Saturday, August 18  –  Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, England w/Failsafe, Ten Years Dead

Friday, August 31  –  The Cookie, Leicester, England w/Oddity Road

Saturday, September 8  –  Rocked Up Hootenanny 2018, Rockingham Motor Speedway, Corby, England

Connect with Luna Rosa: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes