AMONGST LIARS – Single Review: “Kill the Tide”

I’ve noted many times on previous posts that some of the best rock music today is coming out of the UK. Perhaps it’s the rich musical legacy, the prickly politics or even the persistently dour skies that spurs such incredible creativity, but whatever the reason, there’s no denying the consistently high quality of British rock. One of the indie bands that stands out among many for me is Amongst Liars. Their fiercely aggressive style of melodic hard rock, forged from a dynamic and colorful trifecta of alternative rock, grunge and punk, has earned them a dedicated and passionate following, me included. With support from Kerrang Radio’s Johnny Doom, Moshville, BBC Introducing and Great Music Stories, their songs have garnered airplay on local and national radio throughout the UK, and have been collectively streamed over 177,000 times on Spotify.

Based in the Brighton/Eastbourne area along the southern English coast, Amongst Liars consists of Ian George (lead vocals, guitar), Leo Burdett (guitar, backing vocals), Ross Towner (bass, backing vocals) and Adam Oarton (drums). I’ve written about them numerous times, but to recap, they formed in September 2019 from the ashes of two successful previous bands – Saint Apache and Katalina Kicks. Not only are they all highly accomplished and talented musicians, they’re nice guys too. Ian in particular has been very supportive of me and my blog, which of course makes me a loyal fan who’s more than happy to support them as much as I can.

Beginning with the release of their spectacular debut single “Over and Over” in February 2020, they’ve followed with five more singles, the latest of which is “Kill the Tide“, which dropped October 8. All six singles will be included on their forthcoming self-titled debut album, due out in Spring 2022. I’ve previously reviewed four of them – “Over and Over”, “Wolf Machine”, “Burn the Vision” and “Black Days” (you can read some of those reviews by clicking on the related links at the end of this post) – and three have charted on my Weekly Top 30. All of their songs, along with the entire album, were recorded, produced and mixed by David Radahd-Jones at Red City Recordings in Manchester. “Kill the Tide” was mastered by Grant Berry at Fader Mastering.

While they don’t consider themselves a ‘political band’ per se, Amongst Liars have been pretty outspoken on some of their songs about what’s happening in the UK and beyond. Band vocalist Ian George explained “We’re not preaching at anyone or trying to change the world. We’re just saying these are the things that affect and concern us.” On “Wolf Machine”, they called out inept and ineffectual governments led by power hungry politicians, while “Burn the Vision” denounced those who’ve sought to profit from the misfortune of others by distorting the media with fake news to spread their own narratives and lies. “Black Days” railed against the last 10 years of Tory rule in the UK, calling out austerity measures, questionable decision making, incompetence, lies and self-serving political bias.

On “Kill the Tide”, which was the very first song they wrote together after forming in late 2019, the band reflects on their own personal traumas they experienced over the collapse of their previous bands that ultimately led up to their formation as Amongst Liars. They describe the song as an “anthem of rebirth” that tells the story of their formation and determination “to dig deep and come back even stronger.” Ian explains: “Our new single has its genesis in our beginnings, yet it also marks a new chapter for the band. Despite the enormous challenges during lockdown, we used the time to focus on our songwriting and to issue new material regularly. During this process, we found our sound, we pushed ourselves, and we grew as songwriters. ‘Kill the Tide’ marks that evolution.”

In an interview with VENTS Magazine, Ian elaborated on their experiences: “Originally I was in a band for many years that imploded in mid 2019, and was really let down over the space of six months by a succession of people I really trusted. The other guys were in a different band who had a similar experience, being let down by people too, and we kind of knew each other before that having played a show together, so I reached out, we met up and it just clicked. It’s what bonded us so quickly I think, when you go through similar things. The title for the song came from a group chat when we were looking for a band name. Someone suggested ‘Kill the Tide’, which we didn’t like as a band name, but I thought that it would make a great song title. And with that title, the lyrics for this song just flowed and came quite easily – and helped me personally move on from the past, so it was very cathartic writing it!

Tonight we’re gonna demonstrate
So long – we nearly got it right
Those eyes they want to self-assure
Your side I can’t give any more
Those lies you’re not the only one
No end without a setting sun
Alive – you’ll never take it
When your hearts not in it – your head’s on fire
For what’s it worth
This wreck of hurt
I cast it all aside
I will embrace, I will insist
You are no friend of mine
In all I am – and all I see – I’ll bring it back to life
Don’t kill the tide, don’t kill the tide

The song was originally recorded in late 2019 with a long intro, but this past April, the band asked David Radadh-Jones to cut the intro and remix the song to make it more ‘fresh’ sounding. The result is a tight, beautifully-arranged melodic track that delivers the powerful driving rhythms and fearsome riffs we’ve come to love and expect from Amongst Liars. The song begins rather tentatively, with Adam’s gentle drumbeats and Ross’s soft vocal chorus, then Ian’s raw vocals enter the proceedings as the music ramps up. At 34 seconds the songs blasts open with Leo’s heavy chugging riffs layered over Ross’s throbbing bassline and Adam’s pummeling drumbeats. Ian’s vocals rise to the occasion, displaying the spine-tingling emotional ferocity that makes him one of the finest and most exciting vocalists in rock music today. I love the contrast between his intense vocals and Ross’s gentler backing vocals in the verses. Leo lets loose with a terrific guitar solo in the final chorus that takes the song to the next level.

“Kill the Tide” is another fantastic banger, and further proof Amongst Liars are a band to be reckoned with.

The official video shows the band giving an electrifying performance of the song in a studio space at the Congress Theatre in Eastbourne. It was produced, directed and edited by Josh R Lewis, with assistant editing by Robert Ruardy, the same team who produce all Amongst Liars videos.

Along with “Kill the Tide”, Amongst Liars has also released an exclusive (and elusive) B-side “Crucify”, a blistering song of protest. Their raging guitars, crushing bass and thunderous drums are positively mind-blowing, and Ian’s already feral vocals sound more fearsome than ever. The track will not be available on streaming sites, but only by download for one week only, via their website at https://www.amongstliars.com/

Those of you fortunate enough to live in the UK can see Amongst Liars at one of these upcoming shows:

Follow Amongst Liars:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Amazon

New Song of the Week – SHIPS HAVE SAILED: “Love in October”

One of my very favorite indie bands is Los Angeles-based duo Ships Have Sailed. The brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Will Carpenter, who originally formed the band in 2012 with a few other musicians who’ve come and gone over the succeeding years, Ships Have Sailed has for the past five years or so consisted of just him and drummer Art Andranikyan. They play a pleasing style of alternative pop-rock characterized by beautiful melodies, intelligent, uplifting lyrics, and sublime arrangements and instrumentation. I love their music, and have written about several of their songs on this blog over the past three years. Two of them – “Escape” in 2019 and “Breathe” earlier this year – have reached #1 on my Weekly Top 30, with “Escape ranking #19 on my Top 100 Songs of 2019 list. And their last single “Take My Money” is currently enjoying an extended run on my Weekly Top 30. On September 30th, they dropped a brand new single “Love in October“, which is so special, I’ve chosen it as my New Song of the Week.

Will told me the song and its accompanying video were born out of both a long daydream of his, and their 2020 tour that was abruptly cut short by the Covid pandemic. He elaborates: “A lot of my songs come from a real, personal experience, [but] that actually isn’t the case here. This loss I’m describing in ‘Love In October’ didn’t happen in real life, it happened in a long and involved daydream (kind of a waking nightmare if you will) that prevented me from making a series of decisions that would have led straight to the actual situation. I’m grateful for that and for the fact that such a beautiful song came out of it.

One of the many things I like about Ships Have Sailed is that every song of theirs sounds uniquely different. Some of them, like “Escape” and “Breathe”, are uplifting ballads, while “Skin” has a laid-back folk vibe, and “Take My Money” is fun, bouncy pop. “Love in October” is one of their most musically complex songs yet, with a dramatic blend of cinematic and alternative rock elements that make it particularly compelling.

The song begins with a gorgeous orchestral instrumental intro that slowly builds into an almost religious experience. At about 55 seconds in, a rather haunting guitar note enters as the song transitions to a mid-tempo beat, accompanied by the introduction of bass, percussion and more guitar. Will’s beautiful vocals are heartfelt and vulnerable as he gently sings to a loved one, admitting he’s made mistakes and asking her to not abandon their relationship “Don’t walk away, I want you back. It seems I’ve stumbled in the wrong direction, on the train but off the track again. Ooh, I’d do anything to keep the leaves from falling. You know I’m all in.” When the chorus arrives, the song explodes into a full-fledged rock track, with blazing guitars, driving bass and Art’s aggressive drumbeats. Will’s vocals rise with emotion along with the more intense instrumentals as he fervently implores “How did we get here, love in October. Same old sun is so cold. But I don’t wanna let go.”

“Love in October” is a stunning track from start to finish. The gorgeous instrumentation and vocals, dramatic arrangement and flawless production make it one of their best songs yet.

With regard to the video, in March 2020, after much planning and preparation, Ships Have Sailed embarked on what was to be a 10-show tour across the Southwestern U.S. with fellow L.A. band Quitting Whitney. After playing only the first show in Las Vegas, their tour came to an abrupt halt the next day as Covid suddenly began spiraling out of control. Will explained “When we realized (in Denver) that our tour was going to completely fall apart, we had a choice to make: turn around and slump back to LA, or follow our non-refundable tour route and create as much content as possible along the way…really telling our story. We were sharing a van and all gear with another duo (Quitting Whitney) and we all agreed to find a silver lining and create some content and art along the way. We outlined two music video treatments on our way from Denver to Albuquerque, one for them and one for us, and I had Danny (my co-producer on ‘Love In October’) print me the rough production of the song (which wasn’t even totally finished yet) so we could have playback.” 

Each band shot video of the other playing their instruments at the AirBnB where they were staying, while the owner, who was staying in an adjacent guest house, thankfully didn’t mind the noise. They captured film footage from the road, and managed to turn a ‘ruined’ tour into something of an adventure, making two new friends in Matt and Ryan of Quitting Whitney along the way, and Will and Art becoming closer through the experience as well. Will also said that this is their first video that his wife Payal (via their wedding photos) has ever been willing to appear in.

Follow Ships Have Sailed: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Pandora
Purchase:  iTunes  / Amazon

FUTURE THEORY – Single Review: “Hang Your Hat”

I’ve featured hundreds of bands on this blog since I began writing reviews in early 2016, and have to say that some of the best hail from the United Kingdom. And among all those great British bands, one that impressed me from the start is alternative psychedelic group Future Theory. Blending elements of alternative and progressive rock, psychedelia, grunge, shoegaze and funk, they write especially compelling songs characterized by lavish, complex instrumentation, intelligent lyrics and mesmerizing vocals. Like many bands, the Lincolnshire-based foursome has undergone some lineup changes over time, and now consists of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Jacob Brookes on bass and Tom Paton on drums, although for the recording of their latest single “Hang Your Hat“, former band members Rex Helley played bass and Rohan Parrett played drums.

I first wrote about them in April 2017 when I reviewed their fantastic 2016 debut EP Fool’s Dream, then twice in 2018 when I reviewed their excellent singles “Fractured Nation” and “Peace of Mind”. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.) Now the Lincolnshire-based foursome are back with “Hang Your Hat”, their first new single in more than three years. The lead single from their forthcoming self-titled debut album, the song is a biting kiss-off to a romantic partner who’s been unfaithful, and broken the bonds of trust in the relationship. The track was recorded at 2fly Studios by Alan Smith (Arctic Monkeys, Reverend & The Makers, 65daysofstatic), mixed and produced by Koncide (aka Chris Hengmith), Max and Chris, and mastered by Yves Altana and Chris Ree.

Musically, “Hang Your Hat” is a marvelous feast for the ears, with some of the more dramatic and varied guitar work I’ve heard packed into one song in a long while. The song opens with a fairly intense instrumental flourish like you’d normally hear in a bridge or chorus, with a barrage of fuzz-coated psychedelic guitars and lots of crashing cymbals. At around 25 seconds, the music calms to a languid bass-driven groove, accompanied by strummed guitar and light drums as Max begins to sing in his distinctive sultry croon. Those gnarly guitars and aggressive rhythms ramp back up in the chorus, then transition back and forth in another verse and chorus, punctuated with beautiful chiming guitar notes and highlighted by a killer reverb-soaked guitar solo in the bridge.

I love Max’s vocal style that’s equal parts sensuous and raw, and enhanced by echo and reverb that render them particularly effective here in conveying the bitterness and pain expressed in the lyrics: “I don’t want to do this anymore. Where did you go last night? I said I’d lose my mind, where did you go last night? Got to be, where did you hang you’re hat? You’re gonna need that some day, pick it up wrap it up, just for today.” In the calmer moments, he almost sounds a bit like Anthony Keidis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, not a bad thing at all.

With “Hang Your Hat”, Future Theory return in fine form, proving they haven’t lost their stride one bit during their hiatus. It’s a very strong track, and I’m confident we’ll be hearing more gems from them in their forthcoming album.

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud /  YouTube
Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

LOWRY LANE – Single Review: “Angel Falls”

Back in November 2017 (hard to believe it’s been nearly four years!), I first wrote about the young German artist Lowry Lane and his wonderful debut single “Find a Way” (you can read my review here). Based in Regensburg, an historic mid-sized city in eastern Bavaria, Lowry was born Paul Friebe, but chose to name his solo music project after English painter L.S. Lowry as a way of exploring “his musical self discovery, which aims to recklessly unfold the inherent conflicts he finds within himself and in the world around him.” He names an extensive and eclectic list of artists and bands as influences for his melodic and complex style of alternative rock, including The Smiths, Fugazi, The Pixies, Sonic Youth, The Libertines, Joy Division, The Cure, Nirvana, Wavves, Pavement, The Strokes and Kurt Vile. 

The earnest and talented singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist followed his debut single with “Why Bother” in early 2018, and had planned to release a full-length album later that year. However, his struggles with personal and financial issues, as well as trying to juggle university studies with making music, led Lowry to put the album on hold, though he continued writing and recording new songs. Now, I’m happy to report that he’s back with new music, and sounding better than ever. In July, he dropped “New Waves”, his first single in more than three years, and quickly followed a month later with “Ghosts”, then “Angel Falls” on September 10, which I’m reviewing today. The songs will be included on his forthcoming debut album Lonely War, due out later this year. I’m fortunate to have been allowed a preview of the album, and it’s quite marvelous.

Many of the songs on the album deal with darker topics like failed relationships, loss and mental health, while still offering glimmers of hope and optimism, and “Angel Falls” is no exception. The lyrics may be open to one’s own interpretation, but my take is that they’re about someone who’s losing touch with reality, and possibly having a mental breakdown or experiencing a drug overdose: “Messy wiring, Flashing images, Neurons firing, Hidden messages, Thoughts expiring, Brain cells in distress, Oh so tiring, Oh so limitless.” Lowry then softly repeats the line “I’m coming home” numerous times, which is barely audible against the droning bass, guitars and synths before he sings the chorus: “Voices in the walls, Haunting silent calls, Echo through the halls, Another angel falls.

To drive home his message, Lowry uses a rapid driving beat that to my ears sounds like a glorious hybrid of new wave and punk, with elements of Joy Division and early The Cure. He’s a fine guitarist, and I love his edgy mix of psychedelic and jangly riffs, which are perfectly layered over a chugging bassline, assertive drumbeats and ominous swirling synths, all creating a dark, almost menacing soundscape. His vocals are understated, and sung in a somewhat monotone manner, expressing just the right amount of emotion for the music and lyrics. It’s a superb track.

Connect with Lowry:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Find a Way”:  SpotifyApple MusicYouTube
 Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

New Song of the Week – MARS MOTEL: “Don’t Move On Yet”

One of my favorite indie bands is Brooklyn, New York-based Mars Motel. Formed in 2017 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Sarik Kumar, their beautiful music melds a dreamy 90s Brit-pop vibe with an immersive, guitar-driven wall of sound, and highlighted by Kumar’s captivating vocals that remind me of Young the Giant’s Sameer Gadhia. They’ve undergone a few changes in lineup over time, and are now a duo consisting of Kumar and bassist Justin Lieberthal. I previously featured them on this blog twice in 2019, when I reviewed their gorgeous singles “Coming Up For Air” (which ranks at #16 on my Top 100 Songs of 2019 list) and “My House is About to Fall Apart”, almost two years ago to the day. You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.

After a nearly two year absence, Mars Motel is back with a brand new single “Don’t Move on Yet“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. It’s their first official release since their debut album Passenger X in October 2019, and sees them going in a slightly different direction in terms of their sound and music style. “Don’t Move on Yet” has a somewhat more introspective, laid-back feel, while still featuring their signature exquisite melodies, outstanding instrumentation and stellar arrangements. I’m glad they’re still making music, and that they haven’t lost their touch.

The music was written by Kumar and Lieberthal, and the lyrics by Kumar and his long-time friend Samuel Arnoqyan, with whom he’s been collaborating since their high school days, but never on a Mars Motel song. For the song’s recording and production, they enlisted the help of Los Angeles-based drummer Dana LaMarca to play drums, and their friend Matt Maroulakos who produced, mixed and engineered the track. Mastering was done by Mike Piacentini.

The song is haunting and beautiful, with a languid groove propelled by Liebenthal’s marvelous smoldering bassline and LaMarca’s measured, perfectly syncopated drumbeats. Kumar’s intricate chiming and psychedelic guitars are gorgeous, accompanied by spacy atmospheric synths that give the song a bit of an otherworldly feel, especially toward the end. As always, Kumar’s vocals are lovely and heartfelt as he plaintively sings the simple, yet powerful lyrics spoken from a man to his partner, trying to reason with her that he works long hours in order to make them a better life, and pleading with her to not abandon him: “I explained I worked all for you. All for you. You say that’s all I ever do. Ever do. Don’t you see that it’s only me, trying to say. And how can I show you why you should stay? Don’t move on yet.”

The arresting video was created by Noah Wilskey.

Mars Motel will be performing the single at a show on September 17 at the Mercury Lounge in New York. Check this link for ticket info.

Connect with Mars Motel: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase: Bandcamp / iTunes

SATIN – Album Review: “Origami Heart”

Satin is a Los Angeles-based alternative rock band, whose music is influenced by a range of rock subgenres, including but not limited to classic, alternative, progressive, hard and even Southern rock. Fronted by singer-songwriter and guitarist Robert Cross, the group also includes David Bucci (lead guitar), Scott Wintermute (bass) and producer Tim Frantz (drums, keyboards). Cross also plays keyboards and synthesizers. They released their debut album Drop Dead Gorgeous in 2019, and on September 2nd, dropped their follow-up album Origami Heart, which they’ve asked me to review.

The album’s fairly long with 13 tracks, many of them addressing the minefields of love and relationships, and the heartache and pain that result when love dies or things go terribly wrong. But for the most part, the band lives up to their Satin moniker, delivering honest, relatable lyrics with pleasing melodies, tight rhythms, outstanding guitar work and Cross’s mostly laid-back vocal style.

Case in point is the pretty opening and title track “Origami Heart“, with it’s gently upbeat Southern rock vibes. The sweet lyrics celebrate the euphoria of feeling strong romantic love for another: “Oh I can’t escape the joy of being close to your nape. Feeling the softness of your skin as I catch your scent as I breathe in. As I fold you in my arms like an origami heart.” But the euphoria turns to sadness on the lovely Tom Petty-esque “Sabotage“, as Cross laments about how his actions damaged his relationship beyond repair: “It didn’t happen by accident. It didn’t come without cause. But I’ll never hold you again, as our love’s come to end. Yes I’m a master of sabotage.”

Continuing on that theme of feeling remorse, the dark “My Every Nightmare” speaks to the negative outcomes resulting from one’s self-destructive behavior: “Somehow it seems that by chasing my dreams, I made my every nightmare come true.” And on “Useless“, Cross sings of his sad realization that it’s now too late to make up for his bad behavior: “Cuz it tears at me from the inside out, knowing I was so naïve and clueless somehow. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that any love I have for you is useless now.”

Satin dip their toe into prog rock on the stunning “In This Wonderland“, one of my favorite tracks on the album. The layered jangly and psychedelic guitars are gorgeous, and the bass and measured percussion are perfection, flawlessly transitioning from subtle to tumultuous. The lyrics are filled with fairy tale references to describe feelings of losing touch with reality, unable to make sense of anything anymore: “Madness descends and surrounds me like a prison cell, As harlequins all around me chase white rabbits and dragon’s tails. This nonsense is hard to believe So forgive me if I don’t understand Cuz nothing is quite what it seems In this wonderland.”

They channel their harder rock side on “My One and Only“, where they let loose with a volley of heavy riffs and driving rhythms. Similar to “My Every Nightmare”, the lyrics speak of being unable to escape from self-destructive behaviors: “I constantly find myself wasting my precious time engaged in actions destructive to me. Deep down I know I’ve been holding on to something selfishly. My one and only love.” “Music Box” is a brief but grandiose cinematic instrumental interlude that immediately segues into “Love to Be Loved“, a lively head-bopping rocker about wanting another to love you as much as you love them.

Another favorite is “Move On“, a beautiful anthemic ballad with stirring orchestral strings and twangy guitars that lend a bit of a Western feel in the vein of great songs like “Wichita Lineman”. The poignant lyrics speak to coming to terms with the fact that a relationship is over and that it’s time to let it go and move on: “Those times went by so fast and now they’re gone. Left with the right choices and the wrong. And I’ve spent a long time waiting… And now it’s time to move on.”

Album closer “Fearless” ends things on a decidedly pessimistic note. The biting lyrics are somewhat ambiguous in that they could be directed by the singer toward another or perhaps to themselves: “Could you take a look at the lines on your face and recognize them as your own? Could you realize the scars, they can’t be erased? They only get worse as you sit there alone within your home. And there’s not a thing you can do to save your soul. Fearless as you are, you’re still out of control.” This song has a bit of prog rock feel as well, with interesting time signatures and dramatic guitar runs.

I’ll be honest, it took a couple of listens for this album to really grab me, but once it did, I came to more fully appreciate the many nuances of the music, as well as the album’s fine arrangements and production values. This is why I’m a strong believer in giving music a chance before hearing it once and quickly dismissing it. So listen to Origami Heart with open ears and an open mind, and hopefully you’ll come to like it as much as I do.

Connect with Satin:  TwitterInstagramFacebook

Stream/purchase their music:  SpotifyApple MusicBandcamp

DYING HABIT – Single Review: “Think”

Dying Habit is an alternative rock band from the Isle of Anglesey in northwest Wales, and comprised of brothers Nathan (vocals & bass) and Mark Jones (drums), and their best friend Alan Hart (guitar). Formed in 2016, they play an intense and grungy style of melodic alternative rock steeped in progressive undertones and teeming with complexity and nuance. I’ve followed them pretty much since their beginning, and have written about them several times on this blog, most recently last November when I reviewed their excellent debut album Until the Air Runs Out. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.)

In August, Dying Habit returned with a terrific new single “Think“, which will be included on their forthcoming EP Antidotes, due for release later this year. It’s a darkly beautiful banger, featuring the signature melodic time changes, compelling lyrics and brilliant instrumentation we’ve come to expect from these talented musicians. Alan’s intricate guitar work is fantastic, with so many different layers and textures at play – from lovely chiming chords to thunderous fuzz-coated chugging riffs to flourishes of screaming distortion – that it sounds like there are three guitarists instead of only one. Meanwhile, the Jones brothers drive the powerful rhythm forward with a pummeling bassline and explosive drumbeats, all working in a glorious alchemy to create a spine-tingling backdrop for Nathan’s plaintive vocals.

The band states the lyrics describe the thoughts of someone after having killed themselves: “It’s morning. I don’t know. Turning to the light for something. The sunlight is getting in my eyes. There’s only one way this day is going. Memories are coming back but I don’t know what to do. There’s blood on my face and I’m lying next to you. / I think they’re going to take me straight to hell. Demon’s taking over everything. What the hell am I supposed to do. I got a bad feeling.” While the subject is arguably grim, the song is great, and I think it just might be one of Dying Habit’s best yet.

Connect with Dying Habit:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Apple Music / SpotifySoundcloud

Purchase their music:  AmazonBandcamp

Drawing on Scars with Jodie Reid – Single Review: “Take It”

Music collaborations between artists seem to be more popular than ever, especially with recording and production technology that makes long-distance collaborations possible. A fine example is the new single “Take It” by Atlanta-based music project Drawing on Scars and South African singer-songwriter Jodie Reid. It’s their third collaboration together, following “Here Comes Some More” in November 2020, and their haunting single “If Only for a Little While”, released this past April.

Drawing on Scars is the creative brainchild of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Will Thacker, who for the past decade has collaborated with vocalists from across the U.S. and beyond in the creation of superb alternative rock songs. Generally, Thacker writes and performs all the music, and the different vocalists write the lyrics, which they then interpret in their own distinct style. The result is an ever-changing music repertoire that always sounds fresh and unique. Since 2019, Drawing on Scars has dropped nine singles, the latest of which is “Take It”. I’ve previously reviewed two of them, “Rewrite” and “Pressure”, which you can check out by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the bottom of this post.

Jodie Reid has had music in her blood since childhood, writing her first song at the age of 12 and playing her first live performance while in college, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours in Music Performance in 2018. With her strong songwriting and emotive vocal style firmly planted in a sweet spot between a pleasing lilt and impassioned wail, the Johannesburg-based artist has garnered accolades and a growing base of fans. In just two years, she’s already released three albums, most recently Robust Rebellion in July, for which Thacker performed the bass and drum parts.

“Take It” is about choices, namely the difficulty of having to decide which is the better option or road to take, which can sometimes become a paralyzing burden on both yourself as well as those around you. Reid, who wrote the lyrics, elaborates: “‘Take It’ is about a person’s inability to choose a course of action; wanting the best of both worlds but lumbering along without direction. It explores the effects of indecisiveness in close relationships and was inspired by the phrase ‘one lump or two?’ commonly used when a host is offering their guests beverages.

The song blasts open with a barrage of scorching riffs and pummeling rhythms, before catching its breath as Reid’s vocals enter the proceedings. Sounding a bit like Paramore’s Haley Williams, she ruefully sings “Limp in as I struggle to lift the weight that your shoulders seem to carry, just by your indecisiveness. One lump or two? Given time I just might erase the burden that you bear, or maybe I’ll just yell in frustration waiting for you to choose.” Thacker’s a fine musician, and his hard-driving jagged riffs and chugging rhythms return with full force in the choruses as Reid passionately implores “Oh, tell me how do you take it? When you can’t decide which road you’re going down? Oh, tell me now do you fake it? When someone’s trying too hard to figure you out? One lump or two?

It’s a powerful rock banger, and with three very different but equally outstanding singles to their credit, Drawing on Scars and Jodie Reid make a highly successful dream team. I hope they’ll continue to collaborate together on many more songs.

Connect with Drawing on Scars: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase on  Bandcamp 

Connect with Jodie: FacebookTwitterInstagram 

Stream her music:  SpotifyApple MusicYouTube

THE ZANGWILLS – Single Review: “Never Looked Back”

The Zangwills (from left to right): Ed Dowling, Adam Spence, Jake Vickers, Sam Davies. Photo by Steve Forrest.

I seem to be stuck in the UK, as I’m now writing my 9th consecutive review about a British act. But as I’ve stated many times, there’s so much incredible music talent in the UK, and today I’m thrilled to feature Cheshire-based indie rock band The Zangwills. Though they’ve been releasing music since late 2017, I wasn’t familiar with them until their PR rep reached out to me about their latest single “Never Looked Back“, which dropped on Friday the 13th of August. Contrary to the infamous date, it was most definitely my lucky day, as I’ve fallen head over heels in love with this band. To prepare for writing this review, I listened to their entire back catalogue of songs and can emphatically state that I love every single one of them. Their exciting, highly melodic music is outstanding, with a maturity of songwriting and musicianship as fine as many top big-name bands around today. As they say in Britain, these guys are dead good!

The Zangwills are Jake Vickers (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Ed Dowling (bass), Sam Davies (lead guitar) and Adam Spence (drums). Formed in May 2017 while in college, they cite David Bowie, Arctic Monkeys, The Cure, The Rapture and The Strokes among their influences. And while those influences can be heard in their music, their sound is still uniquely their own. Thanks to their high-quality music, charismatic, high-energy live performances, and Jake’s distinctive vocals, they’ve amassed a growing army of loyal followers throughout northwest England and beyond. They’ve opened for such acts as Yungblud and The Charlatans, and have performed at festivals like Dot 2 Dot, Focus Wales, Sound City and Wychwood Festival 2019. Their fantastic debut single “New Heights” has been streamed nearly half a million times on Spotify, with several other singles garnering over 100,000 plays.

“Never Looked Back” was produced and engineered by Mark Winterburn (5 Seconds of Summer, The Script, Plan B, James Arthur, Don Broco), and mastered by Ben Booker (Bob Dylan, Elton John, PJ Harvey, Scissor Sisters, 5 Seconds of Summer). The band states that the song is about change, “highlighting the cyclical nature of human life, and the ‘limbo’ between the stale and the fresh, and perfectly balancing out the anxiety caused by change and anticipation of a more positive future. While the verses describe the narrator’s bleak acknowledgment of an inevitable situation, the hook and the refrain illustrate a newfound hope.”

The song is utterly breathtaking, highlighted by a dramatic pulsating beat overlain with gorgeous cinematic keyboards and thunderous percussion, and punctuated throughout by piercing trill-like flourishes that raise goosebumps. The layered jangly and shimmery guitars are spectacular, and together with the aforementioned synths and percussion, burst forth into an explosive spine-tingling soundscape. Jakes fervent vocals are equal parts captivating and chilling, backed by glorious soaring choruses that send the song into the sonic stratosphere. He passionately laments about a relationship that’s deteriorated to the point that there’s no going back: “I don’t know how to spot the truth in that bag of smiles you gave me. There was still a frown or two, and through trust, I’m sat here sifting through. There’s not enough to swallow, and there’s far too much to chew. And now I see in ways I’ve never seen before. So I took that vision by the waist and I danced it to the door. And I never looked back.

“Never Looked Back” is a magnificent song, both brilliantly arranged and flawlessly produced, and instantly one of my favorite songs of 2021. The Zangwills also now rank among my favorite indie bands, and I’m so happy to have finally discovered them.

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Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicYouTube

THE MARIGOLDS – Single Review: “Smash and Grab”

The Marigolds are an alt-rock group based in Liverpool, a city rich in music history and the birthplace of many a band. I’ve featured more artists and bands from Liverpool than I can recall, and The Marigolds are the latest. They formed in 2018 when bassist/vocalist Joe Green and guitarist Joe Morgan met at the University of Liverpool, and bonded over their love of such acts as Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Weather Report, Stevie Wonder and Tame Impala. Drummer Lucas Pidgen was soon added to the mix, and they began writing songs together and playing gigs in and around Liverpool. Their rather bucolic sounding name stands in contrast with their music, which is an intense, high-energy blend of punk, funk and psychedelic elements, delivered with blistering riffs, crushing bass and fierce vocals.

The guys released their terrific debut single “Magnetic” in May, which was well-received by fans and music publications alike. Now they’ve returned with an explosive new single “Smash and Grab“, which dropped July 12th. The song’s title is a fitting description, as the song literally blasts through the speakers, laying waste to the airwaves and sending shivers up and down our spines. Wow, these guys really know how to rock! The song opens with Green’s deep, gnarly bassline, then erupts into a hard-driving, fast-paced onslaught of Morgan’s scorching, fuzz-coated riffs and Pidgen’s smashing drumbeats that never let up for a single moment.

Green’s vocals are downright fearsome as he wails and screams the lyrics touching on themes of insecurity, loneliness and poor self-esteem, viciously railing against those who are making him feel this way: “It’s a smash and grab at my feelings! Eat me, cause I feel numb. Just tear into my flesh cause I’m so done. Consume me, and swallow me whole. Keep me inside you in that deep, deep fucking hole!” Two and a half minutes into the song, the tempo abruptly shifts to a frantic punk groove that’s even more intense than before. Now Green screams with such ferocity, it’s a wonder he has any vocal chords left! I’ve written about some pretty hard-hitting music lately, but this song blows them all out of the water, and I love it!

Now that restrictions against live performances have lifted in the UK, the guys are excited about returning to the stage and sharing their new songs at their first scheduled gig on the 7th of August at Jimmy’s Liverpool.

Band photo by Joseph Conlon.

Connect with The Marigolds:  FacebookTwitter

Stream their songs: SpotifyApple Music / Soundclouddeezer