MADE OF EYES – Single Review: “Room to Breathe”

As I’ve noted in some of my recent posts, a great many artists and bands that I’ve previously featured on this blog are releasing new music in 2019, and another is the Scottish alternative rock band Made of Eyes. I last wrote about them way back in November 2016, when I was blown away by their gorgeous emotionally-charged single “Wishing Well” (you can read that review here). They subsequently released their EP Bonds in 2017, which included “Wishing Well” and three other excellent tracks. Following that release, the Glasgow-based act went through a period of transition due to the departure of two of the band’s four members, resulting in a what front man JR refers to as a ‘mental hiatus’. In 2018, they acquired a new bassist, so the current lineup now consists of JR Campbell on guitar & lead vocals, Jason Stewart on lead guitar & vocals, and Liam Browne on bass.

Made of Eyes has just released their first single “Room to Breathe” as a newly-configured band. With their new single, the band states they “aim to mark a new direction, delivering a pop element, experimenting with dreamy chords, electronic sounds and memorable melodies.” Listening to “Room to Breathe”, I say they succeed quite nicely. The song is somewhat more pop-oriented than their previous harder-hitting songs, though it still features their signature dynamic guitar work and strong percussion. Opening with an airy synth, the song quickly expands into a beautiful soundscape of chiming guitars and lush, shimmery synths, backed by a pulsating bass line and galloping percussion. The layered guitar work is really impressive, threading its way among the sweeping synths and powerful drumbeats.  JR’s resonant vocals are filled with raw emotion as he sings to a loved one about trying to recapture the spark that initially drew them together, in the hope of saving their troubled relationship:

It’s been a weight on my shoulders for days
It’s been the choices we failed to make
We’re like a book with a missing page
Unless we find it, we can’t be saved

And I believe in you
And I believe in us, I believe in trust
And it’s you and I tonight
And these moments will pass by
And just remember the promises
That you made to me
We needed room to breathe

It’s a great song, and an excellent harbinger of more great music to come from Made of Eyes. Nice work guys!

Connect with Made of Eyes:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes

ROADKEEPER – Single Review: “Old Man’s War”

Roadkeeper

It always makes me happy when I discover a new band and instantly love their music. I was so impressed by the beautiful songs of the band Roadkeeper that I had to write a review of their latest single “Old Man’s War“. The Tyler, Texas- based group was formed less than a year ago by producer/vocalist John Eric Hetherington and drummer Nick Cogdill, who both previously played in the post-punk group Knifight, as well as guitarist Trevor Tull and bassist Daniel Griffith, all of whom are long-time friends. Roadkeeper is completely independent and self-produced, doing their recording, producing and mixing in John’s studio – dubbed ‘Yacht Country’ – and releasing their songs on their own label Equal Temperament.

Blending dreamy shoegaze with dramatic psychedelic rock, Roadkeeper crafts exquisite songs that envelop us with complex melodies and lush soundscapes, while delivering compelling lyrics that give us something to think about. Beginning in the fall of 2018, they released a series of singles, starting with “God in the Light of the Bar”, a laid-back song with shimmering guitars, horns and breezy synths, and “The Creeps”, a beautiful, anthemic song about emotional manipulation and abuse. In February 2019, they released their mesmerizing third single “Gushers”, which the band explains “deals with recent years’ murders of unarmed black people by police officers, and the way law enforcement and apologists reframe the job of police officer as a war or conflict between the just and unjust. Also how privileged people are starting to reframe their own lives and minor struggles as heroes journeys.”

Now the band follows up with their fourth single “No Man’s War” a melancholy but beautiful song about anxiety and worry over things, both real and imagined. The song starts off with a mix of both chiming and strummed acoustic guitars, as John sings in soft, breathy vocals of his fears:

I’m afraid of so many things
What the hell am I doing
Waiting for a change
People never change
And I’m stuck inside my heart
Waiting for someone to pick me up
And tell me everything’s OK
That it’s only just a dream
Wait and see

The music swells with lush shimmery synths, fuzzy bass and chiming guitars as he tries to convince himself that all is right with the world and he’s got nothing to worry about:

No disease is coming for me
And no conditions waiting to take you from me
And the world is happy
No one is dying
The ice isn’t melting
And everyone can be themselves

The dramatic sweeping synths continue during the bridge, then abruptly end, leaving us with just a simple strummed acoustic guitar as John reaffirms his anxieties and feelings of pessimism in the final verse:

I’m afraid of so many things
Every time I read
What’s breaking in the world
I lose a piece of me
To an old man’s war
They won’t be around to pick it up
When everything falls down

With “No Man’s War”, Roadkeeper continue to bat a thousand, delivering their fourth consecutive win in the form of a perfect song. I’m happy to be following this talented group of guys, and excited to hear what they come up with next!

Connect with Roadkeeper:  Facebook / Twitter  / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

FOSTER THE PEOPLE Release Dark & Surreal Video For “Style”

Foster the People Style Art

Foster the People are one of my favorite bands (see the header photo on my Twitter page), so I’m always thrilled when they release new music and videos. For those not familiar with the band, the members include front man and lead vocalist Mark Foster, drummer Mark Pontius, and multi-instrumentalists Isom Innis and Sean Cimino.

Foster the People

Their latest single “Style“, which dropped on March 22nd, is a departure both musically and stylistically (no pun intended) from their last few singles “Worst Nights”, “Ride or Die” and “Sit Next to Me”, all of which had a more laid-back and upbeat pop sensibility. “Style” is darker in tone, with gnarly synths, buzz-saw riffs and deep, pulsating bass that give the track a gritty, heavier vibe. As the track unfolds and Foster’s fervent vocals enter, a catchy, toe-tapping beat kicks in, along with additional spacey and melodic synths that provide a nice counterpoint to the driving bass line. I’ve had this song on repeat all morning, and can’t get enough of it!

Lyrically, “Style” sees the band taking a stand on issues facing society today, and is a clarion call for people to speak their truths with courage, and rise up against the tyranny imposed by those seeking to keep us enslaved through fear, thought control or craven appeals to greed. About the song, Foster recently explained on Twitter: “I’ve been wrestling with certain themes since we put out “Torches”. I guess it’s my way of processing the law of chaos and random happenings in our universe. There is hope for the underdog. I like to fight from the ropes. I never like to feel like I’m on top of the hill…this song is another facet of that same story. When we face the question of our own mortality, we are free to live our lives without fear.”

The surreal, richly chromatic video for “Style”, which was written and directed by Foster and produced by Sam Canter & Julia Rudyak, opens with Foster sitting with the other band members in a red-lit room, then getting up and walking over to balcony, whereupon he addresses a rapt crowd in a dark warehouse/club (reminding me a bit of Evita speaking to her public from a balcony). Foster sings to the crowd: “We’re born to die so I’m gonna fight for how I wanna live. Spark up the riots, I guess I’m a criminal and futurist. Well the charges I’ve caught won’t stand your trial. You can take it out on me.”

Foster the People Style pic

We’re next transported to the floor of the warehouse, where Foster and the band confront a large, glowing orb surrounded by ornately-dressed people who seem to be worshiping it like a scene out of Game of Thrones. Walking through a line of people with the band members behind him, Foster proclaims: “We’re in the lions den, consumption is our medicine, And so I’m high again, you can say I’m a true American, Well the sweetest revenge is being set free. But you can’t take it from me, yeah.”

Foster the People Paperheads

Meanwhile, a group of men in business suits with stacks of paper for heads are seen walking toward the warehouse, then ram their way into the building. Once the Paperheads are inside, the band pours gasoline onto the orb and sets it afire, whereupon the worshipers flee the building while Foster sings “Take me out, take me out in style. If you’re gonna fight me Fight me in style. If you’re gonna hate me Hate me in style. If you’re gonna love me Do it in style. Yeah, just do it in style.” The Paperheads then take bits of ash from the burnt up orb, place it into an ornate silk-lined box, and take it to a dark, red-lit room where there’s a thin and bald man in leather pants chained to the wall next to a chubby Paperhead sitting in a chair, smoking a large joint. They place a spoonful of ash into a chalice and feed it to both men, at which point the video abruptly ends. Could the ash represent truth or something that will enable free thought? Watch the fantastic video and decide for yourself:

Connect with Foster the People:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Apple Music /  Google Play /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes /  Amazon

THE IVINS – Single Review: “Certain”

Certain (Cover Art)

Two years ago, Nashville, Tennessee alternative rock band The Ivins blew me away with their monumental debut album The Code Duello, which I had the pleasure of reviewing. Now they return with a hard-hitting new single “Certain“, which I’m certain will further advance their star within the Nashville music scene and beyond. The Ivins is comprised of the handsome Ivins brothers Jim and Jack (with Jim on guitars & vocals and Jack on drums), Hatton Taylor on lead guitar, and Regan Akers on bass & vocals.

The Ivins Promo 2

“Certain” was recorded in Nashville with producer Matt Leigh at the legendary Tracking Room (U2, Beach Boys, Bon Jovi). Jim told me that, musically, the track is a re-imagining of an ancient Lebanese folk song. For the video’s premiere on the website Pure Grain Audio, he further explained “The song’s creation actually stems from an audition we had for a cultural emissary program with the U.S. State Department, where we were asked to update an old international folk song. We chose ‘Bektob Esmak,’ a folk song from Lebanon, and off we went. The audition never panned out, but [we] knew we had a great skeleton of a song.”

Also in the Pure Grain Audio article, Jim described the song’s meaning: “’Certain’ is a commentary on the world of infinite options in which we live in 2019. Whether its jobs, relationships, music, what-have-you, at our fingertips all times, we have an unending sea of options for whatever we want out of life. Some people really take to this, and relish in never committing to anything, hence the lyric in the song, ‘Connection calls for arson, potential hangs a noose.’ Me, on the other hand, I crave certainty. I need it. It is my safety blanket. But certainty is scary, and sometimes it can bring you down a path you never thought you’d travel. For me, the lifestyle of unlimited options is the one that is claustrophobic and that’s why the hook of the song is, ’my one wish is to be certain’.”

The song storms through the gates with an explosion of blistering guitars, rumbling bass and thunderous drums, letting us know from the get-go that we’re in for a real ripper of a tune. After 30 seconds, the tempo calms as Jim starts to sing “Paralyzed, paralyzed by choice.” From there, the music alternately swells to a raging storm in the choruses, only to slow back down in the verses, keeping us on the edge of our seats as the track unfolds. The guys’ impressive musicianship is on full display here as they deliver a flawless performance, their respective instruments totally in sync to create an exhilarating and powerful track that raises goosebumps. During the song’s most dramatic moments, Hatton rips his guitar until it wails, while Jack is a literal beast on his drum kit. This photo perfectly captures the ferocity of Jack’s power drumming, which is also clearly evident in the video of their electrifying performance.

Jack Ivins drums

The Ivins will be performing at their home base of The Basement Nashville to rock New Faces Nite on Tuesday April 9. They also have a show at The Back Corner in Nashville on April 24.

Connect with The Ivins:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify /  Apple Music
Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

EML’s Favorite Songs – THE CURE: “Just Like Heaven”

I’m starting a new blog feature “EML’s Favorite Songs”, in which I post an old classic that’s an all-time favorite of mine. A few weeks ago, I wrote about “Nature Boy” by Nat “King” Cole, and today my pick is the brilliant “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure. The song is from their 7th studio album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, and along with “Lovesong” is my favorite among their scores of great songs. It was released in October 1987, and was the band’s first song to break the top 40 in the U.S. though, shockingly, only peaked at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100! Over time, the song has come to be recognized as one of The Cure’s finest, and Pitchfork ranked it as the 12th best song of the 1980s. It certainly ranks among my favorites of the 1980s.

Band frontman Robert Smith was inspired to write “Just Like Heaven” after a trip to the seashore with his girlfriend and future wife Mary Poole, who he met in high school and to whom he’s been married for over 30 years. The song immediately grabs hold with Boris Williams’ fantastic opening drumroll, then Smith’s jangly descending guitar line enters, chiming its way through waves of glittery synths, tinkling piano keys and crashing cymbals, sweeping us headlong into a gorgeous and dreamy soundscape. Simon Gallup’s pulsating bass line and Williams’ powerful thumping drumbeat provide a solid rhythmic vibe, propelling the song into the sonic stratosphere. It’s a masterpiece!

Smith’s distinctive vocals, which occasionally sound off-kilter on some of their songs, are perfection here as he sings of the dizzying love and lust two people feel for each other:

‘Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick
The one that makes me scream’ she said
‘The one that makes me laugh’ she said
And threw her arms around my neck
‘Show me how you do it and I promise you
I promise that I’ll run away with you
I’ll run away with you’

Spinning on that dizzy edge
I kissed her face and kissed her head
And dreamed of all the different ways I had to make her glow
‘Why are you so far away?’ she said
‘Why won’t you ever know that I’m in love with you?
That I’m in love with you?’

You, soft and only
You, lost and lonely
You, strange as angels
Dancing in the deepest oceans
Twisting in the water
You’re just like a dream…

Daylight licked me into shape
I must have been asleep for days
And moving lips to breathe her name
I opened up my eyes
And found myself alone, alone, alone above a raging sea
That stole the only girl I loved
And drowned her deep inside of me

You, soft and only
You, lost and lonely
You, just like heaven

The Cure are finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame today, March 29, 2019.

APRIL ART – Single Review: “You Want it All”

April Art

April Art is an exciting and attractive alternative/modern rock band based in Geissen, Germany who formed in 2014. Comprised of Lisa-Marie Watz on vocals, Chris Bunnell on guitar, Nico Neufeld on bass, and Ben Juelg on drums, the quartet has been making a name for themselves in Central Hessen and beyond with their hard-driving melodic sound and powerful, charismatic live performances. 

They released their first singles “You Remind Me (Of the Things I Hate)” and “Comeback” in 2015, and followed in 2018 with the anthemic “We Got the Wheels”. In October 2018, they released “Not Fair”, the first single from their forthcoming debut album Rise & Fall, due for release in late April. The album was recorded at the Horus Sound Studio in Hanover and in the legendary Principal Studios, under the guidance of producers Fabio Trentini (Donots, Guano Apes) and Frank Bornemann (Scorpions). In late December, April Art dropped their second single “You Want it All“, and like “Not Fair”, it’s a monster of a tune, and a good indication that Rise & Fall is going to kick ass!

The band play their respective instruments at full throttle, immediately slamming us against the wall as they engulf us in a torrent of thunderous sound. Chris delivers intricate, jaw-dropping riffs of blistering guitar while Nico lays down a solid bedrock of pulsating bass. Ben beats his drum kit with the ferocity of a rampaging beast, skillfully holding back when necessary for greatest effect. And then there’s Lisa’s vocals – wow, this woman can sing! One moment she draws us in with her seductive croons, then hits us with a battering ram of raw, impassioned screams the next. Like all their songs, April Art keeps us fully enraptured by their exhilarating sound from start to finish. It’s a brilliant song guaranteed to raise goosebumps on any lover of rock.

The biting lyrics speak of someone who surrenders their principles and demeans themselves for material gain and power, not realizing that they’re enslaved by that which they seek:

Ain’t no kids no more
Nobody protects this open door
Living a lie right now
But the truth you can’t allow

You made it
Now you must lie in it

You want it all
But you just fall
Why can’t you see
That you’re not free, so
You want it all
But you just fall
you have agreed, yes you’ve agreed to crawl

Was it an obligation?
Or was it another temptation?
You think you’ve chosen the right way
But this is not a game we play

The fantastic video, which was filmed and edited by Ben Juelg of Loud & Proud Studios, really showcases the band’s charisma and powerful impact.

Catch April Art at one of these upcoming shows:

MAY 4              Rise & Fall Album Release Show – Geissen, Germany
MAY 25            Weil’s Rockt – Weilmünster, Germany
JUNE 15            Rock the Wolves – Wolfhalden, Switzerland
JULY 6              Erlensee Rockt Open Air Festival – Erlensee, Germany
AUGUST 2       Big Day Out Festival – Anröchte, Germany
AUGUST 10     Music Forge Festival – Gambach, Germany
SEPT 27           Papalala Festival – Treis, Germany

Connect with April Art:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify
Purchase on iTunes

OCTOBERS – EP Review: “Summer Waste”

Octobers EP

Octobers is an alternative/dream pop/postpunk band from British Columbia, Canada who formed in 2015. Comprising the band are brothers Nick and Joel Ellsay (guitar, synths, vocals), Hayden Shea (drums) and Liam Rhynolds (bass). They released their excellent debut Misfits EP that same year to positive reviews, also garnering airplay on indie and college radio stations throughout Canada and the U.S. The band went on a brief hiatus in 2017 after a few major life changes, but are now back and better than ever with a new EP Summer Waste.

The EP kicks off with the sunny and upbeat “California“. The song opens with a blast of drumbeats, then settles into a pleasing soundscape of chiming guitars, sparkling synths and a humming bassline that evokes images of a summer day at the beach. The pace quickens in the choruses with an exuberant jangly guitar solo and pummeling drums. The song lyrics seem to have dual meaning, with the singer possibly expressing his love for both ‘California’ a girl and the state: “Hey California. Something about ya. You are the sweetest sound. California, always did love ya. You’re the summer all year round.”

Sunshine” has the singer pondering the love that brightens his world: “Are you my sunshine? Are you my starry sky? Are you these glowing lights, cause you burn so bright.” I love the thunderous jangly guitars and percussion, and the Ellsay brothers’ vocal harmonies are really marvelous. The sunny vibes turn darker with “Be Still“, a heartfelt plea to a loved one to try and meet him halfway, and salvage their damaged relationship: “Just be still, don’t say a word, cause you’ve been talking all your life. The tables turned, now tell me what that feels like. / Lay down your gloves, I don’t wanna fight.” Once again, the guitar work is fantastic, and the rhythm section nicely complements with pulsating bass, thumping drumbeats, and lots of crashing cymbals.

Summer Waste ends on a positive note with “Higher“, a jubilant anthem about not giving up, and reaching as high as you can to reach your goals: “Once you start you never can stop. You go higher and higher and higher. Oh yeah!” Their jangly guitars on this track sound a bit like The Cure, which is never a bad thing. Overall, it’s a terrific little EP, with a title that could be misleading as it’s anything but a waste. The lyrics, while not necessarily deep, are honest and heartfelt, and the instrumentals are all outstanding, as are Nick and Joel’s sublime harmonies. Nicely done guys!

Connect with Octobers:  Facebook /  Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

GUIDE DOG – Single Review: “Generation Y”

Guide Dog Generation Y

Guide Dog is an alternative rock band from Cardiff, Wales I recently learned about when I received a submission for a review of their new single “Generation Y“. I instantly fell in love with their music, which they refer to as “sponge grunge”. Fusing elements of alt-rock, grunge, punk, and electronica, they create songs that are fast, fun, irreverent and in-your-face. They’ve also got a wicked sense of humor.

Comprising Guide Dog are Peter Roberts (Guitar, Vocals), John Maloney (Drums) and Ian Russell (Bass), who describe themselves as “a bunch of wankers who can’t sing and can’t play our instruments. Like the Spice Girls with moustaches. All or some or one were formerly members of Robots In The Sky, Tetra Splendour, People In Planes and Cold Specks.” Well, I’m here to say that, not only can they sing and play the hell out of their instruments, they’re way better than the Spice Girls!

In July 2017 they released their fantastic debut album Lovely Domestic Bliss, a collection of 10 banger tunes. I highly recommend my readers give it a listen, and trust me when I say you’ll be glad you did! They’re now working on a second album Generation Y, to be released later this year on Roberts’ label Hi-Vis Records. It will be accompanied by a book of poems entitled Thou Shalt Stare Into Space. In December 2018, they released the first single “Dead Beat” from the forthcoming album, and now follow up with a second single “Generation Y”, a protest song of sorts against the current fucked-up state of affairs in both the UK and USA. If these two tracks are any indication, Generation Y is going to be a phenomenal record.

About the new single, the band explains: “‘Generation Y’ comes at a time when children are bunking off school to protest outside Parliament about Westminster’s flimsy and inadequate response to climate change – prompting a swift and aggressive backlash by the politicians who dismissed the adolescents and ridiculed their irresponsibility; and the American president staging an imaginary state of emergency in a vein attempt to bludgeon Capitol Hill into funding a giant border wall whilst triumphantly filling his house with branded cheeseburgers to feed his unpaid staff and denying climate change is even happening… so it’s probably an appropriate juncture for a protest song!

“Generation Y” is a tasty little slice of sonic confection, featuring an irresistible bouncy drumbeat, and presented with a lo-fi vibe that keeps the song from bouncing too high. It starts off with a gnarly guitar riff, accompanied by quirky synths, fuzzy bass and very snappy drums. All of the aforementioned instruments explode into bigger, louder and heavier versions of themselves in the choruses, along with an injection of furiously crashing cymbals that turn the track into a real belter. I love Roberts’ wonderful fervent vocals, which sound like a cross between Dave Matthews and Adam Duritz. And the point in the song at 2:29 minutes where he goes “wooh” is a special highlight for me in what is overall a perfect track.

Like all their songs, the lyrics are refreshingly direct and colorful, pulling no punches in calling out bullshit as warranted:

Why did we get up to die generation,
I got a toupee on my mind generation,
Suck it ’til it all runs dry generation,
Why why why…?

When you get so high but you don’t know what it means,
Like a vandalised slush puppy machine,
Like the fashionable rips appearing in my jeans,
Wave a plastic flag at a golden carriage.
I’m a psychopath with a bunch of keys,
I’m a paper jam with 2.9% APR,
I’m an ass licker,
I’m a soul sucker,
I’m oozing out of a sausage and bean melt,
Waving my plastic flag…

Why did we get up to die generation,
I got a toupee on my mind generation,
Suck it ’til it all runs dry generation,
Why why why…?

I don’t drink and drive or have the odd line once in a while,
I don’t dress up like a lady in secret,
I never think about blowing up the White House,
I got hope for salvation but I don’t know why.
I felt sick so I took an anti sickness pill,
I felt disconnected so I bought a new telephone,
Got a payment plan and a fake sun tan,
Some health and safety regulations,
But I just can’t relax…

Why did we get up to die generation,
I got a toupee on my mind generation,
Suck it ’til it all runs dry generation,
Why why why…?

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

PHANTOM SUNS – Album Review: “Caldera”

Phantom Suns album

Based in the bucolic New England city of Burlington, Vermont, Phantom Suns is an indie band who play alternative rock heavily influenced by grunge elements, with traces of metal and progressive rock to create their distinctive raw sound. The band consists of Seth Gunderson (guitar & vocals), Chris Knauer (bass & backing vocals) and Chris Mathieu (drums, percussion & backing vocals). Ryan Cohen previously played bass but was recently replaced by Chris Knauer, however, Cohen will continue to provide production and engineering assistance to the band. 

I’ll admit up-front that I’m not the biggest fan of grunge rock, and didn’t care for it when it became popular in the early 1990s. I generally prefer rock music that’s highly melodic, with fuller, more polished arrangements, and just couldn’t get into the dissonant, sludgy and rather depressing sound of grunge. In time, however, I came to recognize and appreciate its groundbreaking influence in reshaping the sound of rock, and music in general, and learned to like some of it. I also get why its honest lyrics and darker themes addressing social issues like alienation, disillusionment, substance abuse and depression, along with its lack of flash, pretense and overt sentimentality, made grunge so popular and accessible, especially to young people who more closely identified with the messages expressed in the songs. Like rap, grunge music reflected what many of them were feeling.

That said, it was with a bit of trepidation that I agreed to review Phantom Suns’ album Caldera after their drummer Chris Mathieu reached out to me. Though I am EclecticMusicLover, and try to always keep an open mind about all kinds and styles of music, I feared I may not be the right person to judge their music. But I gave the album several listens and am happy to report that not only do I really like it, I’m also blown away by their skilled songwriting and musicianship. And as much as I like their raw, gritty sound, it’s their intelligent and compelling song lyrics, written by Gunderson, that most impressed me. I’m glad they included them with the songs on their Bandcamp page, and I encourage my readers to check them out.

Caldera was released in November 2018, and follows the band’s 2014 debut EP Parhelia. The album features 12 tracks, the first of which, “Forget“, starts off slowly with a moody strummed guitar, then erupts into a barrage of gnarly riffs, buzzing bass and hammering drums. Gunderson’s raw vocals match the grittiness of the music as he advises us to not overthink things: “Searching for the key to unlock all your potential when you don’t know what you think. But what you think you know is only your opinion. Soon as I make up my mind, I’ll be all set. Maybe start chipping away at all this debt. Stop regretting things that haven’t happened yet ’cause you never know.

It’s a good song, but the guys really hit their stride on the hard-driving, melodically complex “Lazuli“. The track storms out of the gate with dark, sludgy riffs loaded with raw power and grit. Two-thirds of the way through, a furiously distorted guitar solo announces an abrupt change in the melody. With his grimy guitar ablaze, Gunderson snarls “You don’t have a clue but you fake it so well.

One of the standout tracks for me is “Disposable“, both in terms of it’s more melodic, progressive rock vibe, and it’s scathing lyrics attacking man’s greedy, wasteful ways that imperil our future: “Watch your castle crumble all around you. Just because you want more than you can handle. Disposable culture. Blatant disregard for the future. You’re disposable.” The video they made for the track is fantastic too, a psychedelic trip of colorful imagery superimposed over footage of the band performing the song that nicely complements the rough textures of the instrumentals.

As I continued diving deeper into Caldera, some of the tracks sound similar to one another, which is to be expected on an album with 12 tracks. Nevertheless, there are many more gems to be found here. I really dig the metaphor of “Knotweed“, symbolizing someone the singer just can’t rid himself of: “You just keep sprouting up. You return even though I dug you right up by the roots. Invasive foliage. I wage an all-out war. You’ve clearly overstepped the boundary. Can’t eradicate you. You’re so damn resilient.” And the heavy chugging guitar riffs, fuzzy bassline and boisterous drums are as dirty as the soil from which the knotweed’s been pulled. “Probably Wrong” ventures into rock’n’roll territory, with moments where Gunderson’s raging guitar and Mathieu’s frantic drumbeats propel the song into the sonic stratosphere.

Another standout is the face-melting “Trial By Stone“, an homage to Jim Henson’s classic film The Dark Crystal. As is befitting the film, the song is heavy and dark, with dense, gritty riffs teeming with distortion and reverb, deep, crushing bass and thunderous drums. Gunderson’s guitar work is fucking incredible, and Mathieu is a veritable beast on his drum kit. Gunderson’s vocals are chilling as he sneers “A dying world. A dying race imprisoned within themselves.” The video superimposes scenes from The Dark Crystal over footage of the band performing the song.

Perpetual Motion Holder“, “Hush Money” and “Brontoscorpio” deliver more gnarly riffs, fuzzy basslines and speaker-blowing drums. “It Won’t Stop” is a serious head-banger, opening with Gunderson shrieking words I can’t quite make out, followed by an explosion of raging guitars, heavy buzzing bass and furious drums. Gunderson all but screams the lyrics advising us to just accept our fates: “Your best bet is to just accept it. A warm welcome as it explodes. There’s no hope of getting out of the way. The kind of fury that can never be tamed. It will envelop, it will engulf, entirely. No! It won’t stop!

The album closes on a high note with the mostly instrumental “Olympus Mons“, an epic track that offers definitive proof that these guys are supremely talented musicians. The track starts off with a somber guitar riff, then a simple drumbeat kicks in as the guys sing in harmony: “One of these days I’ll write some words.” With that, a very gritty, reverb-drenched riff ensues before calming back down for the second harmonic vocal: “I was so bummed out. Another Olympus Mons.” The gritty guitar and bass return, only this time distorted into a maelstrom of tortured riffs, accompanied by an abundance of crashing cymbals that add to the drama. Eventually, a wailing guitar solo is layered over the stormy distortion, blowing our minds and speakers before it all spirals downward into oblivion at the close. Wow, what a masterpiece this song is, and a fitting conclusion to this superb album by Phantom Suns. If you’re a fan of grunge-infused alternative rock, then you will enjoy Caldera.

Phantom Suns has a show coming up on on April 19 at Monkey House in Winooski, VT.

Connect with Phantom Suns on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify 
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

INFINITE EIGHTS Release New Video for “Off the Rails”

Infinite Eights is an incredibly charismatic and astonishingly talented indie alternative pop/rock band based in Tampa, Florida. They were one of the first bands to follow me on Twitter back in the fall of 2015, when I was just starting out as a music blogger and still a complete unknown. At the time, two of the band members, Parker Wilkson (guitar, keyboards & vocals) and Tyler Hanks (drums & percussion) were still in high school, and Davin Norman (bass) was in college. I was immediately impressed by the high quality of their songs, as well as their kindness and gracious humility, and wrote a feature about them for this blog in April 2016, which you can read here.

They originally formed in 2012 while still young teens, and have released numerous singles over the years, as well as a six-track EP Unfound in 2015. Their music is characterized by gorgeous melodies, sparkling synths, lush keyboards, intricate guitar riffs, and nimble bass and percussion. Infinite Eights has performed in several music festivals alongside some of the biggest names in music, including The 1975, Phantogram, AWOLNATION and Sir Sly, among others, and has opened for Kaleo, AJR, In the Valley Below, and The Relationship. It’s given me great pleasure to follow them on their musical journey, witnessing their growth and maturity as a band on an upward trajectory.

One of their recent singles is “Off the Rails“, an achingly beautiful, bittersweet song about how one partner is giving up on the relationship. The song is magnificent, and a perfect example of their superb songwriting and musicianship. It opens with a stunning guitar riff, backed by shimmery synths, Davin’s pulsating bass and Tyler’s gently pummeling drumbeats. Parker’s guitar work is impressive, and he lays down a breathtaking guitar solo in the bridge that literally brings tears to my eyes. His heartfelt vocals are lovely, ranging from breathy to impassioned as he fervently sings “Cause you’re going off the rails. Know just what that entails. Gonna let our love go stale. You’re going off the rails now.”

Infinite Eights video cast
The cast of the “Off the Rails” video

Infinite Eights has just released a wonderful new video for the song, their first ‘official’ video.  The action tells the story laid out in the lyrics, about a young woman giving up on the relationship and saying goodbye to her partner, played by Parker, as she boards a train that will carry her away. The outstanding video was skillfully directed by band friend Ashley Acevedo, and is dedicated to Parker’s beautiful mother Natalie, who tragically passed away in January.

Connect with Infinite Eights on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes