Rusty Shipp “Mortal Ghost”

I discovered the band Rusty Shipp through fellow blogger Zezrie of Jealous Sounds and I love their music! Check out her review and Rusty Shipp’s awesome, hard-driving music.

Jealous Sounds

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On Oct. 24, I wrote up a piece about them crowd funding their latest album “Mortal Ghost”. Rusty Shipp did it! They succeeded, and now, “Mortal Ghost” is here for us to enjoy. It was worth the wait.

The first time Rusty Shipp graced Jealous Sounds was July of last year, when I reviewed their last EP “Hold Fast To Hope” . For the sake of brevity, I’m quoting myself here:
“First the facts: The guys came from all parts of the country to Nashville, found each other (Russ found Andrew on Craig’s list), and formed Rusty Shipp in 2014. The band consists of Russ T. Shipp (honestly his real name!) on lead guitar/ vocals, Andrew Royer on drums, and Dustin Herres on bass. The band has an eclectic range of influences, from 60’s-90’s rock, Hardcore Metal to surf rock. Their first EP, Hold Fast To Hope, was released in 2014…

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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

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

CANDID – Single Review: “Rumours”

Candid is an up and coming indie band from Coventry, England who play ridiculously good alternative rock. Following up on their wonderful debut single “Moving On,”released in the fall of 2016, the four-piece just dropped an exciting new single “Rumours” on May 12. Making the music are brothers Rob (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Dan Latimer (lead guitar),  Sam Baines (bass) and Ben Williams (drums). Hallmarks of their dynamic sound are catchy melodies, outstanding guitar work, wicked percussion and Rob Latimer’s commanding vocals.

Candid

“Rumours” starts off with a tasty little riff, then explodes with multi-textured guitars, guided by Sam’s throbbing bass and Ben’s rapid-fire drums pounding out the driving beat. Rob and Dan’s guitar work is exceptional, employing layers of intricate riffs and solos that give the track a complexity that’s incredibly satisfying to the eardrums. Rob’s vocals are beguiling as sings in earnest about people acting ignorant and spreading hurtful rumours: “So let ’em talk if they’re gonna, pick you up when they want to. And pass you up like a stranger, as soon as they’re done with you. ‘Cause all they talk about, is what they think about, the way we go about our lives.

Candid’s sound has been compared to Catfish and the Bottlemen, both with regard to their music styling and Rob’s vocals, which at times bear a striking similarity in tone and delivery to Bottlemen lead singer Van McCann.  I love Catfish and the Bottlemen, so it goes without saying that I would also love Candid – which I do based on just their two released songs. At any rate, similarities or not, they’re four talented guys who play some terrific music, and I’m eager to hear more from them soon.

Take a listen to this awesome song:

Follow Candid:  Facebook  /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube

Purchase:   iTunes

Single Review: THAT HIDDEN PROMISE – “All Things, All Will Come”

I seem to keep featuring UK artists and bands on this blog, but there are just so many good ones to choose from! Another artist I recently stumbled upon is a solo act that goes by the name That Hidden Promise. Based in Somerset, That Hidden Promise is the artistic alter ego of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Wayne Lee, who has been performing live and recording under that moniker since 2011. The talented and versatile fellow creates all his own music, including beats and percussion, and plays electric guitar.

That Hidden Promise

He’s produced an extensive catalog of alternative rock music over the past six years, often incorporating blues, post-punk, electronic, psychedelic and shoegaze elements into the mix, resulting in a decidedly eclectic sound. Overall, though, I’m reminded of Oasis when listening to several of his songs – a good thing to my ears. The last few months have seen him writing and recording new music. He released a track for a Blackpool charity album (Goodbye Avenue), a lovely instrumental track “To Drift and Dream,” and what he calls a ‘non-Christmas’ Christmas single “Snow Won’t Fall/A Day Can Change Your Life.”

Now, the release of “All Things, All Will Come” on May 12 marks the first new material of 2017 for That Hidden Promise, with more planned for the coming year. He also intends to go on tour later this year to promote his new music. He explained his inspiration for the new single: “It was written in a moment of boundless optimism, in the belief that despite what’s going on, despite what you feel is keeping you down, despite the negativity clouding the world, if you keep going, things will come right for you.” The single was self produced, with all instruments played by him, and mastering was done by Audio Animals.

“All Things, All Will Come” storms out of the gate, instantly bombarding us with gritty riffs of shredded guitar, awash in crashing cymbals. This hard-hitting track is adrenaline-raising rock at its finest, with some awesome guitar work, and the production is first-rate. He fervently sings “Thought a crowded web of lies, I can see the truth. I can see the path ahead, so leave your binds behind. / In time you know that all things, all will come to you someday, my friend.” It’s a great song.

To learn more about That Hidden Promise, check out his Website, and connect with him on Facebook,  Twitter.

Stream his music on:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Tidal /  YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes /  Amazon

BAD LLAMA – EP Review: “Shedding Skin”

Sometimes I wish I lived in the UK, as so many of the artists and bands I like seem to be located there. I’ve featured many of them on this blog, and today I introduce Bad Llama, an alternative metal five-piece based in Burton Upon Trent.  I was happy they contacted me about their EP, because I became hooked on their music at first listen.

They formed little more than a year ago in early 2016, and in fairly short order released their debut EP Shedding Skin last September. Blending 90s rock, funk and metal with modern industrial and progressive sounds, Bad Llama creates music overflowing with intricate melodies, complex arrangements, powerful instrumentals, intelligent lyrics and impassioned vocals.

Making all this great music are Kyle Jordan (Vocals), Lewis Hutchings (Bass), Gaz Waddell (Drums), Dan Houlbrooke (Guitar) and Sam Wyatt (Guitar and Backing vocals). The band made their first live appearance at the 02 Academy 3 in Birmingham in October 2016 and have since played there again. They also appeared on Johnny Doom’s show Amp’d on Birmingham TV (a video of that appearance is at the end of this review), and have played a number of venues throughout the Midlands.

Bad Llama

From the moment we hear the mysterious haunting synths at the beginning of the stunning first track “The Healer,” the song begins to cast its spell. Then jangly guitars, heavy bass and pounding drums enter the picture, drawing us in until a waterfall of swirling and snarling guitars rain down upon our dazed ears, leaving us helplessly in thrall. After just one track, it’s safe to conclude that these guys are masters of their respective instruments. Jordan’s powerful vocals are mesmerizing, going from vulnerable one moment to passionately raw the next as he implores: “Your silence speaks volumes to me / Maybe everything isn’t as it seems.”

The Wolf You Feed” takes a darker turn, with gritty, wailing guitars and cymbal-heavy percussion creating a foreboding sense of doom. Jordan’s vocals once again run the gamut from smoldering to anguished screams, adding complexity and power to the track.  The video was filmed in an abandoned warehouse, and features menacing images of ghoulish characters tormenting the band, alternating with scenes of them performing the song outside the warehouse.

Houlbrooke and Wyatt show off their guitar-playing chops on the exhilarating “Paint in Sound,” as the song opens with a rapid-fire riff before we’re treated to layers of shredded, swirling and distorted guitars. Hutchings’ throbbing bass adds heft to the track, while Waddell pounds out the driving beat. Jordan pleads “Is this prison? Give me something to live for.” His captivating vocals take center stage on “10 Years Time” as he goes from tender falsetto to fiercely intense and everything in between. As to be expected, the instrumentals on this track are outstanding.

Last, but certainly not least, is “Exile,” a brooding, six minute long epic. The intricate guitar work on this track is extraordinary, at once both powerfully intense and achingly beautiful. Hutchings’ bass is so heavy I could feel it pressing against my chest. And it goes without saying that Jordan’s incredible vocal range is on full display, rising to an ear-splitting crescendo before things calm back down by song’s end.

There isn’t a standout track on Shedding Skin, as all five of them are superb. It’s a great EP, and I’m confident we’ll soon be hearing more phenomenal tunes from Bad Llama.

Here’s a video of their appearance on Johnny Doom’s Amp’d:

Follow Bad Llama:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud
Purchase it:  iTunes

Single Review: LITTLE TRIGGERS – “Silly Cigarettes”

Liverpool-based indie rock band Little Triggers is on an upward trajectory of late. Following up on their exuberant punk romp “When the Lights Are Going Out,” they’ve recently dropped a terrific new single “Silly Cigarettes.”  The delightful but emotionally wrenching song further cements the quartet’s status as one of Liverpool’s most exciting bands.

Little Triggers is Thomas Hamilton-Hughes (lead guitar & vocals), Chris Carragher (bass), Sam Gallacher (drums) and James Crawford (keyboards, backing vocals).  Their music is a happy mix of garage rock, punk and new wave influences, giving it a retro, yet freshly current sound that’s candy for the eardrums.

Little Triggers

Photo by John Latham Photography

Silly Cigarettes” opens with a strummed guitar solo and Hamilton-Hughes’ melancholy vocals expressing the heartache of knowing his girlfriend is cheating on him: “Everybody knows, you’re wearing last night’s clothes, and that you’re probably acting up again. And I know where you’ve been, no you thought I hadn’t seen you’d been ’round again.” The intensity of the music rises as the song progresses, with lots of cymbal-heavy percussion, thumping keyboards and jangly guitars. Hamilton-Hughes’ vocals become more emotionally wrought as he sings the chorus: “Cause I’ve heard everyone is taking off your party dress, while I’m sad on the outside smoking silly cigarettes. Oh don’t you know?”   The guitar solo in the bridge is wonderful, and the powerful backing vocals in the chorus call to mind those of a classic ELO song.

Have a listen to this great tune:

Here’s a video of a great acoustic version of the song that’s less intense, but still emotionally poignant.

Connect with Little Triggers: Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes

EP Review: FOSTER THE PEOPLE – “III”

Foster the People are one of my favorite bands (see header photo at the top of my blog and Twitter pages that I took at their L.A. concert in November 2014), and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of new music from them. It’s been three years since their last album Supermodel, and now they’re back with a fantastic three-song EP called III. It dropped on April 27, as a preview of their upcoming album planned for release this summer. Their new sound is a slight departure from Torches and Supermodel, with the introduction of hip-hop influences, though their complex melodies and generous use of synths are still well represented.

III is the group’s first recording after the departure of original bassist Cubbie Fink in 2016, and Isom Innis and Sean Cimino – who’ve toured and played back-up for Foster the People for several years – are now attributed as official members of the band. The current line-up is front man Mark Foster (lead vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, synthesizers), Mark Pontius (drums, percussion, backing vocals), Isom Innis (piano, keyboards, percussion, backing vocals) and Sean Cimino (guitar, piano, keyboards, backing vocals).

Foster the People

Regarding their new songs, Mark Foster noted “One of my favorite things about music is that it’s unifying. We wrote these songs to reflect joy in a time where people have needed it more than ever, and we thought it was a good time to share them with you.” Well, I can say unequivocally that hearing new music from Foster the People makes me very happy. I love every song they’ve ever recorded, and these new ones are no exception.

The first track “Pay the Man” features a dub step beat and Foster’s rapping, backed by a mix of otherworldly synths and pixie-ish voices. These verses are interspersed with melodic, sweeping choruses more in keeping with the band’s signature sound. As with many of their songs, there’s an abundance of intricate synths, underlain by strong bass and percussion. Foster sings: “Say what you love, it’s alright. Don’t be afraid to find your light. Embrace the day, like night. We hear the fire, we all go wild again. And you have the name of someone I love.”

Doing It for the Money” features a bass-heavy hip hop beat and crisp synths. I love Foster’s vocals, which include a bit of rapping, and rise to his signature falsetto during the chorus: “So close your eyes, we’re gonna run this light. We live our lives, yeah, we’re not wasting time. Baby, we lost our minds.  We’re gonna get, gonna get, get what we can. We’re not doing it for the money.” To my ears, the track has a bit of a quirky Beck vibe.

My favorite of the three is “SHC” (short for Sacred Hearts Club), possibly because it reminds me of some of the songs on Torches, with exuberant, swirling synths and beautiful chiming guitars. Honestly, the instrumentals on this song are gorgeous, and Foster’s vocals are beguiling. The lyrics seem to address Foster’s relationship with a loved one as well as God: “I’ve been numbing my thoughts for hours. I know you wanted to save me from myself. We’ve been wilting and young for seeds, and I can’t compete until I’m strung to the field. What’s real?

Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to the release of the full album this summer, In the meantime, I’ll have to enjoy these tracks. To stay up to date with Foster the People, check out their website.
Follow them:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Apple Music /  Google Play /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes /  Amazon