CANDID – Single Review: “Breathless”

UK alt-rock band Candid is on a roll. In little more than a year, the Coventry, England foursome has released a total of four singles, beginning with “Moving On” in the fall of 2016. They followed up with the fantastic “Rumours” in May, which I reviewed, then dropped their third single “Lay Me Down,” in August, a superb song I also reviewed. Today they released a fourth single “Breathless” and, as we like to say here in the U.S., they’ve hit another one out of the park. It’s so stunning that it leaves me breathless!

candid new
Photo by Ruby Nixon

Candid consists of brothers Rob (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Dan Latimer (lead guitar), Sam Baines (bass) and Ben Williams (drums). Their dynamic sound features arresting melodies, outstanding layered guitar work and wicked percussion, all of which are on full display on “Breathless.” The exuberant jangly and chiming guitars are magnificent, soaring to great heights and creating a full, sweeping soundscape that’s truly breathtaking.

Their lyrics are always thoughtful and intelligent, and on “Breathless” they address feelings of losing one’s grip on reality, and wanting a return to sanity by moving on to a better place mentally.  Rob’s vocals are captivating as he plaintively sings:

I feel there’s something on my mind I’ve got a lot to say
Guess I can stay and fight the fire or I could walk away
I feel there’s something creeping up I got no place to hide
From the corners of my mind
So let me up for air I, cause I don’t understand why
All these things in my mind leave me breathless

Follow Candid:  Facebook  /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube
Purchase:   iTunes

LOWRY LANE – Single Review: “Find a Way”

Lowry Lane

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, one of the things I love about Twitter is that every single day I learn about at least a couple of new artists or bands I wasn’t previously aware of. And it’s an added treat when some of them turn out to be really good musicians, as well as nice people. So it was when I got acquainted with the talented young German singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lowry Lane, who released his debut single “Find a Way” in late September.

Born Paul Friebe, Lowry named his musical project after English painter L. S. Lowry. He’s been writing poetry and music for more than a decade, and states in his bio that he “was inspired by the naive and bold simplicity of Andy Warhol and the sobering and disillusioning insights of Hunter S. Thompson.” He goes on to describe Lowry Lane as “the vehicle for his musical self discovery, which aims to recklessly unfold the inherent conflicts he finds within himself and in the world around him.”

The first thing that comes to mind when listening to “Find a Way” is how much it reminds me of Nirvana. The melodically complex track shifts back and forth from quiet to loud, with grungy guitar riffs over a strong bassline and aggressive percussion. Further, Lowry’s gritty vocals sound strikingly similar to Kurt Cobain. He laments the gloomy lyrics about feeling numb and hopeless about his life:

I haven’t found a way to find a way to live
I haven’t found  a way to finally forgive
I can’t feel it anyway
Maybe I was never meant to be OK

He lays down some scorching hot riffs in the bridge, and I love when at 3:45 he suddenly pauses and shouts “Holiday on the pavement! Fell in love with a vagrant!” as if he’s in a brief manic state of mind. It’s a great song, and Lowry exhibits a dark charismatic quality as he performs the song in the video. And that awesome hair!

Lowry is currently writing and recording more songs and plans to release his first album in Spring 2018, and I can’t wait to hear it!

Connect with Lowry:  WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Find a Way”:  Spotify / Google Play
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

KNIFEY – Album Review: “beached”

beached cover art

I love musicians with a sense of humor, especially when they also make terrific music. Toronto, Canada-based foursome KNIFEY fills the bill quite nicely. Describing themselves on their Twitter page as ‘drinking and drunk at all the wrong places,’ they play high energy lo-fi surf rock with a healthy dose of punk. Bringing all this joyful noise to our eardrums are Max Trinz (vocals, guitar), Ammar Karam (drums), Kyle Marcovecchio (bass) and Phil Linton (guitar).

KNIFEY
Photos by Mike Mangov

At the end of September, the guys dropped their debut album beached, a collection of eight exuberant tracks that will have you leaping about with abandon while wistfully remembering that summer romance and days spent on the beach. In their press info, KNIFEY explains that beachedis a window into the seemingly endless juggling of relationships and responsibility that is big city living. The songs were meant to be straightforward and honest, and the work’s essence is fun and upbeat. Lyrically, the songs cope with the trials of growing up, the coming and going of relationships, and express a weariness with the city’s hedonistic bar culture. Pervading both the sound and lyrics is a nostalgia for summertime and for the beach, and a reckless optimism that that simpler life might be just around the corner.”

KNIFEY3

It’s a short album, clocking in at a mere 21 minutes, but it packs a hell of a punch. Opening track “Beached Lightning” arrives with a burst of explosive percussion and a frenzy of gritty guitars. It’s a rousing head banger tailor made for a psycho beach party, and I loved it at first listen. The high energy level is sustained throughout the entire album, with no let up in the frantic riffs and galloping percussion. “Rio” serves up jangly surf guitars hovering over a bouncy bass line.

Next up is the hard-driving punk gem “Sophie,” the first single released in advance of the album. Max fervently sings to the imaginary Sophie, telling her he misses her and pleading for her to get back together with him:

I want to run to California, I need some energy in my life
I want to feel the beach beat, hear the drums pounding in the night
I’m never gonna make it there when you’re screaming in my ear
I’m falling to pieces baby, help me out here

The delightful video produced for the song features lots of pet reptiles at play, including lizards, iguanas, geckos, snakes and turtles, along with a few bewildered cats, dogs and burros.

Serf” is a play on words, describing both the roiling surf guitar riffs and the singer’s desire to serve his girl. Punk rock grooves are abundant on “Weekend” and “Tanlines,” both of which feature some amazing rapid-fire riffage. “Summer Girl” is a great track about a summer love affair. The song starts off boisterous, but ends at a languid pace as Max sings about how good he feels when he’s with his girl.

Long Lost Dreams” is the most poignant track on the album, with more of a rock vibe, thanks to an abundance of shredded and plucky guitars and heavier bass. The bittersweet lyrics speak to the sad realization that your dream relationship has ended:

You were fuckin’ living, I was out with the boys
Now I’m stumbling home to you with glazed-over eyes
Call me young and stupid, we all know it’s a lie
Are you done with your toy, are you done with your toy?
These are long lost dreams on a Saturday night
They’re all gone, they’re all gone…

The song symbolizes a return to the cold realities of life, and is a fitting close to the album’s theme.

Connect with KNIFEY:  Facebook / Twitter/ Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
KNIFEY are offering beached as a free download on Bandcamp

MOROSITY – Album Review: “Low Tide”

Low Tide Album Art

Unusual. Exotic. Captivating. Haunting. Stunning. Those are all words that come to mind when I listen to the album Low Tide by Morosity, a genre-bending band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Formed in 2001 by childhood friends Jesse Albrecht (Lead Vocalist/Guitarist) and Dave Rowan (Guitarist) as a two-man acoustic group, they spent their early years developing a sound uniquely their own, and playing local gigs and opening for national bands. Wanting to expand their sound and musical reach, they added bassist Sean Bachinski in 2007, and two years later, Jason Wolfe (Violin, Guitar, Mandolin) and Nick Johnson (Drums) joined the band to complete their lineup.

Morosity released an ambitious debut album Misanthrope in 2011 to wide acclaim, and nearly six years later, in February 2017, they released their second album Low Tide, which I’m finally getting around to reviewing. While retaining many elements of their signature sound – complex song structures and melodies, richly layered guitars, crisp percussion, and generous use of the violin – with Low Tide the band takes a more eclectic and decidedly darker approach. Melding rock with tribal, psychedelia, folk and Middle Eastern influenced music through use of the mandolin and hammered dulcimer, they’ve created a powerful work of extraordinary beauty and depth. The album was produced by Albrecht, who records, mixes, and masters in his home studio Evensong Studios.

Morosity

The album starts off with “Mind Over Matter,” a brief but mesmerizing track dominated by a gorgeous dulcimer riff. The song elicits several images and feelings for me, but I mostly think of a beautiful belly dancer moving to the captivating Middle Eastern music. The song immediately transitions to the mysterious “The Answer.” One of my favorite tracks on the album, the song features haunting guitar work that’s so incredible it gives me goosebumps. Furthermore, Albrecht’s vocals are amazing; he seductively croons the lyrics about questioning one’s belief system: “My eyes tell me that the truth’s not being told. What if all I see is just a lie?” He finally concludes that it’s all a sham as he wails “You’re all wrong” to a hard-driving guitar riff at the song’s end.

Without skipping a beat, we segue to “Ouroboros,” another mesmerizing (there’s that word again, but it’s just so fitting) track with a Middle Eastern vibe. The instrumentals on this track are rich and varied, and Albrecht’s smoky vocals have a chant-like quality. “Moon” has more of a traditional folk-rock sound, with some tasty layered guitars floating over Bachinski’s solid bass line.

The album plays like a rock symphony, with each track a string of movements, one flowing into the next. “Moon” transitions directly into “Smoke & Mirrors,” a powerful five-and-a-half minute long tour-de-force of a track about self deception. The guitar work is outstanding, and Albrecht’s raw vocals, which remind me a bit of the late Chris Cornell on this track, perfectly convey the biting lyrics:

Is all your smiling make-believe?
Who is it that you are trying to deceive?
What is it that you plan to gain?
A life of misery, false heightened sense of fame. It all goes away…

The most powerful, and dark, track on the album is “Death Grip,” which speaks to the epidemic of gun violence that’s become so pervasive in America today. The folk-rock song is chilling, yet has an interlude containing whistling that comes off as almost carefree, in sharp contrast to the subject matter. A similar treatment was used by Foster the People on their hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” The disturbing lyrics are from the twisted perspective of a mass shooter:

Lately I just wanna kill someone
You can hide away the ammo Lock up all the guns
But if I really wanna have some fun
There ain’t nothing gonna stop me til’ the job is done
I wanna kill someone
In a crowded theater
In the church of nuns
In a school for children
In front of everyone
You think that you can stop me
You say you’re good with guns
If you try to kill me I’m gonna blow up everyone

The video shows serene images of the countryside and a cemetery, interspersed with a shadowy figure walking, driving, and at a shooting range. At the end, people are shown having fun riding bikes, bowling, and at a demolition derby, presumably oblivious to any potential danger.

Limbo” features Wolfe’s sublime mandolin work, accompanied by lovely violin and subtle guitars. Albrecht’s urgent vocals are marvelous, as are the backing chorus. The violin and acoustic guitar take center stage on the melancholy title track “Low Tide.” The gloomy lyrics speak to feelings of being worn down, and that life is slipping away, but you’re not yet ready to give up:

From stone to sand, I feel it all sifting through my hands.
Worn to bone, nothing left just a skeleton.
Bottoms up and cut me down to size.
Drag me out and wash me in the tide.
Give me life now no I don’t wanna die.
Low tide

But by song’s end, the feelings of hopelessness, regret and despair have become too great to bear, thus death would be a welcome relief:

Can not maintain the pain the rain is welling in your eyes.
Pleasure came back down the drain swallowing the light.
Playing blame insane it’s you that’s done this to your life.
Missing sane tired and drained thoughts of the other side.
Pick me up and bathe me in the light.
Drive it down and bleed me dry.
Take my life I’m ready to die.
Washed away in the low tide.

The band keeps with an oceanic theme on the funereal album closer “Adrift.” The languid track is moody, yet peaceful, with the sound of waves drifting in and out as a somber guitar plays. Like the music, Albrecht’s low, echoed vocals are dirge-like, yet somehow comforting. The music and vocals end at 3:30, and we’re left with sounds of the surf for another 20 seconds, followed by birds singing in a gentle breeze, as if to signify the gradual and peaceful passing away of a life. Morbid, but beautiful at the same time, which fairly well sums up the album.

Morosity is currently working on a third album, and I eagerly look forward to hearing more songs from these exceptionally talented and creative musicians.

Connect with Morosity:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampMorosity Store

RUSTY SHIPP release new video for their single “Treading Water”

Screenshot 2017-11-14 18.37.16 (2)

One of the great things about being a music blogger is getting to know other music bloggers, who frequently turn you on to new artists and bands that they write about. So, it was my lucky day this past June when I happened to read a post on my friend Zezrie’s blog Jealous Sounds about a Nashville rock band called Rusty Shipp and their monumental tour de force of an album Mortal Ghost. I was so impressed with them I became an instant fan and reblogged her review.  The band has just released a new single “Treading Water” from Mortal Ghost, along with a brilliant animated video.

Rusty Shipp calls itself a “Nautical Rock’n’Roll” band, with a sound influenced by the melodic chord progressions of The Beatles, the surf guitar of Dick Dale, the grunge rock of Nirvana, and the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin, among others. Their music is characterized by a dark, underwater sound, haunting vocals, and unconventional heavy riffs. The band has undergone several personnel changes since forming in 2014, and now consists of singer/songwriter and front man Russ T. Shipp (literally his birth name) on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, Michael Craft on bass, and AJ Newton on drums. (Jake Adams was bassist on the recording of Mortal Ghost.)

Like many of the songs on Mortal Ghost, “Treading Water” is an exhilarating and powerful hard rock track. Rusty Shipp employs frantic riffs of gritty shredded guitars, fortified with heavy buzzing bass and hammering drums, to create a song that’s hard-hitting yet beautiful. The wonderful guitar change-ups that occur throughout the track demand, and hold, our attention, making for an impressive, melodically complex song. Shipp’s impassioned vocals are enthralling as he sings the nautically-themed lyrics that address feelings of hopelessness about life and one’s place in this world:

I’m alone in this world, drifting like a lost ship at sea
The more I live the less I feel at home
Treading water just to keep from drowning
All creation ’round me groans, till the sea and all that’s in it is undone
Something’s nipping at my toes. Treading water till the angels come
Give me that ancient feeling, the kind of love that David felt, shining through the jaws of holy war
I want to go behind the curtain, to where the golden cherubs dwell, find something worth us fighting for
Something in these endless waves feels dead, cold and lonely as the stars
It’s sad that some believe this liquid pendulum could put together someone’s heart
If I find in myself a desire nothing in this world can fill,
The only explanation left is I was made for another world

The imagery depicted in the fascinating and visually captivating video symbolizes the feelings of alienation and hopelessness caused by a cold and increasingly technological world.

Connect with Rusty Shipp: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase: iTunes / cdbaby / Bandcamp

BAD LLAMA – Single Review: “Apocrypha”

Apocrypha

Bad Llama is a talented and charismatic alternative metal band based in Burton Upon Trent, UK. Blending 90s rock, funk and metal with modern industrial and progressive sounds, they create music overflowing with intricate melodies, complex arrangements, powerful instrumentals, intelligent lyrics and impassioned vocals. The band is comprised of Kyle Jordan (Vocals), Dan Houlbrooke (Guitar), Sam Wyatt (Guitar and Backing vocals), Lewis Hutchings (Bass) and Gaz Waddell (Drums).

Bad Llama photo 1

In September 2016, they released their outstanding debut EP Shedding Skin, which I reviewed and you can read here. Building on the solid foundation established by that EP, Bad Llama have now released a new single “Apocrypha” and it’s brilliant!

Roiling guitars, thunderous drums and throbbing bass set the tone for the hard-hitting song. An eerie synth that sounds like distorted violin strings lends a menacing, psychedelic vibe, while Jordan’s powerful, raw vocals raise goosebumps. Having two axe men gives their music incredible strength and complexity of sound, and Houlbrooke and Wyatt don’t disappoint as they deliver an onslaught of shredded and distorted riffs. It all builds to a powerful crescendo in the outro, and the soaring chorus is a perfect finish to the superb track.

Connect with Bad Llama: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Spotify

Purchase: iTunes

PHILIP MORGAN LEWIS – Album Review: “Grief Harbour”

Grief Harbour

I’ve written about quite a few excellent albums in recent weeks, and I’m pleased to feature yet another outstanding one, this time from UK singer/songwriter and producer Philip Morgan Lewis. The London East Ender just released Grief Harbour, an ambitious undertaking with 13 stellar tracks. Melding alternative rock, blues, garage rock and folk influences, Lewis has created an exciting, bluesy rock sound that complements his unique, raspy vocal style.

Lewis released his debut EP Karma Comedown in 2013 to rave reviews, and received extensive radio support in the UK and US. With Grief Harbour he firmly establishes himself as an extraordinary musician with a lot to say. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he writes and produces his songs and plays most of the instruments, including guitars, banjitar, bass, piano, and percussion. For the album, which was released through Moonalizer Records, he received assistance from Vick E and Little A (his daughter), who supplied backing vocals, as well as Jon Harris on drums, Nick Miles (Neek) as drum session engineer, Rob Updegraff, Charles Slevin and Gavin Bowers (Elêphant) on additional guitar work, Clive Smart on slide guitar, and Ben Jones on bass.

Philip Morgan Lewis

The hard-hitting title track “Grief Harbour” kicks off the album in a big way, with an aggressive pounding drumbeat blasting through the airwaves, letting us know right away that we’re in for a wild sonic ride. A barrage of gritty guitars ensue, along with some down and dirty bass and Lewis’ emotionally-charged, gravelly vocals that grab hold and shake us out of our complacency. Mysterious backing vocals combine with a distorted riff, adding a hint of danger to the track.

Grief harbour population one is a spit on the map at the end of the line
Welcome to desolation lane take a walk down the pier to the Laidback hotel 
Grief Harbour Six Feet avenue get a pint at the Fox and just settle your dues

I wanna burn like a thousand suns and set this town on fire if only for one night
I wanna rise like a dying star and set this world alight if only for one night

It’s a fantastic song, and the mesmerizing black and white video shows a shadowy image of Lewis dancing rather seductively in front of the album cover art (which was painted by his father). Not only is he an amazing musician and songwriter, he’s also a pretty good dancer!

And speaking of dance, you can’t help but move when listening to the sultry “Seven Deadly,” or “Six Foot Tambourine,” with its irresistibly catchy driving beat that aims straight for the hips. Layers of gritty guitars and a heavy buzzing bass line are driven by a thumping drumbeat as Lewis implores the lyrics that speak of a recurring nightmare:

A Six foot tambourine came down crashing on me
As I lay down in the tube somebody’s loading me
My feet are cold I can’t breathe but now I see
Though the nurse is kinky I’d rather she would let me be
Stay out of my head. I’d rather be dead
Stay out of my head, ain’t already dead

It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album. Lewis has produced interesting and provocative videos for a number of songs on Grief Harbour, and posted them on YouTube just prior to the album’s release. Here’s the one for “Six Foot Tambourine”:

Swing By Your House” is an emotional plea to a friend who’s thinking of killing themself, followed by the gorgeous and haunting “Foxes On Red Leaves,” a standout track and my absolute favorite on the album. The powerful, bluesy track soars with layers of jaw-dropping guitar work that goes from shredded to chiming to jangly to wailing, bringing chills from start to finish. Lewis captivates us with beautiful piano work and impassioned vocals about trying to hold it together and not lose your mind, seeking relief by self medicating with drugs:

Am I losing it babe. Just got a lot on my mind
Foxes on red leaves sink their jaws in my veins
As they go for the kill and I can feel no pain
Foxes on red leaves keep on calling for more
As I roll up my sleeve I shall fear them no more

A break from the heavy subject matter arrives with “Laidback Hotel, ” a delightful, bouncy track with honky tonk piano, lively guitars and snappy drums. Next up is the rousing ear worm “Karma Comedown 2.0,” a reworking of a track from the Karma Comedown EP.  The blues-infused rock song has an infectious foot-stomping dance beat guaranteed to have you on your feet and swaying your hips.

Phantom Pain” is a bluesy folk anthem with hard rock overtones. Buzzing bass and assertive percussion, replete with an abundance of crashing cymbals, provide a sturdy backdrop for layers of acoustic and electric guitar and some fine piano keys. Another favorite is “GYB (Got You Babe),” a sexy head-banger of a tune with a pulse-pounding beat and incredible bluesy guitar work that’s so good it brings goosebumps. I love songs like this with a powerful driving beat. The fantastic video features Lewis playing guitar and stomping his feet all over London, with his little daughter making a few appearances.

Whistleblower” delivers more foot-stomping goodness and bluesy guitars, with powerful lyrics urging us to rise up and speak out against tyranny:

Would you talk would you tell it all
Would you face the nation and be the whistleblower
When dirt hits the fan there’s a place and a time for you to rise
There’s no rest for the wicked and the whistleblower

The bluesy gospel-sounding “Sinner” serves up some tasty distorted guitar work, while “Don’t Care if You Don’t Mind” is a pleasing, romantic folk ballad. Closing out the album is “Bring Down Heaven,” a powerful five-minute-long anthem. Lewis employs all kinds of instrumentation – piano, shredded and screaming guitars, heavy bass, synths, and aggressive percussion, not to mention the sound of a thundershower – creating a melodically complex hard rock song with a gospel vibe. That takes some skill, something he has in abundance.

Grief Harbour is a brilliant, meticulously-crafted album, and one that Lewis should be very proud of. His heavy, blues-infused style of rock is among the finest I’ve heard, and a testament to his incredible musicianship.

Connect with Philip: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music: Spotify / YouTube / Google Play

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Deezer

REDRAM – Album Review: “Perception”

Redram band

Not long ago, I read somewhere that the album is a dying format in music. Reasons given had mostly to due with the overwhelming popularity of streaming, as well as the availability of millions of songs on streaming services that allow people to make their own personal “mixtapes” of songs they like, without having to buy an entire album. Another reason offered was the decline of concept albums, or albums with an overall theme.

Well, I have to say that, based on the huge number of albums that continue to be produced, the album format is not only still alive, it’s thriving. A fine example of that is the brilliant debut album Perception by indie alt-rock band Redram. The Los Angeles, California-based duo have crafted an amazing collection of provocative and compelling songs addressing the deception foisted upon us by the media, and the acceptance of corruption in our society.

Redram is Chaz Gravez (Charles Graves) and Modiso Mike (Michael Coddington), both multi-instrumentalists who refer to their music as “shamanic trip-rock chillwave” – a pretty apt description. They employ unusual and complex melodies, a wide array of instruments and electronica, and lots of different vocal styles and sounds to express their deeply contemplative lyrics with powerful impact.

Regarding their name, in conversations via Twitter messaging, Chaz explained that Redram “is a combination of symbols in one title. First we used a software called Redrum for a lot of our drum parts. Also, we are both big fans of The Shining and the metaphysical meaning behind that film (redrum). And then also, I’m an Aries/fire sign and we love good ol’ satanic rock and roll imagery.”

Chaz also stated that the nine tracks on Perception are arranged to flow as one coherent piece of music, and he kindly explained the meaning behind each song. Beginning with “Electra,” a psychedelic trip of gnashing, distorted guitars, eerie synths and discordant tinkling piano keys, the overall theme is established for the album. The song’s about a young woman trying to define her identity and role in an increasingly technological world of changing archetypes and symbols – something we all must face to some degree or another if we’re going to survive in a tech-based society.

Next up is the mesmerizing “The Program,” with weird synths, acoustic guitars, and a mix of falsetto and echoed spacey vocals chanting “The Program, the program” and “Perception is all my love / What you see is what you believe.” Chaz explained that the musical concept of “The Program” is the use of Mantra, or repetition of theme, to describe the theory suggested by a scientific study conducted a few years ago that there is a 49% chance that this realty we live in is just a computer program.

The hard-hitting “Press” alternates between frenetic riffs of jangly guitars and a slow, hypnotic beat, filled with all kinds of synths and gritty guitars. The lyrics speak of a press that’s manipulative and owned, and we have the power to change it but we’re too divided and distracted to make it happen. “We’re walking around with dollar bill eyes. We can stop the press. We can stop the mess. We move to the sound that pays for our time. We can stop the press, but it’s a full court press.

Sheriff” is another Mantra with the repeated phrase “I want to make you sweat,” delivered by an odd, almost disturbing electronically-altered voice. It’s intended to represent a duality of the archetypal character of a ‘Sheriff’ who wants to make you sweat in more ways than one. Musically, like several of Redram’s songs, the track has a powerful hypnotic beat, with guitars and dark synths used to great effect to create a sense of tension. Despite the disturbing vocal sounds, some of the instrumentals are hauntingly beautiful.

One of my favorite tracks is “Chillmilton,” with a fantastic trip-hop beat, rapping and shamanic chant-like vocals. As Chaz explained, the song “is about a young guy at his first music festival (Coachella) trying to decide between positive and negative choices in the devil’s den.” They sing “One pill two pill three pill four. What you gonna do when you hit the floor? It’s not lyrical, we’re hysterical. What will you find on a stage of miracles?Chill Milton, chill.”

70 Versions” employs trippy synths and layers of reverb-heavy and mildly distorted guitars to create dissonance. The lyrics speak to religious dogma vs. spirituality: Is the true value of life material or spiritual? “Speak the truth. You’re personal truth. Your spiritual truth. A miracle. My god.” The title phrase “70 Versions” seems to be a double entendre, as it sounds like they’re singing “70 virgins.” Mysterious, spacey synths and otherworldly vocals lend a sci-fi vibe on “To Space,” a song about depression and disconnection from others.

More spacey synths, accompanied by a continuous mournful organ, deliver “Fake News,” a biting attack on media and politics. Chaz stated that, specifically, the song was inspired by the lies of the media with regard to the Syrian conflict. “Western mediaThat’s old news. That’s fake news. Which side are the real good guys on? Which lie is the moral lie?

The powerful video features scenes of conflict in Syria and Iraq, as well as several U.S. Presidents, leaders of Middle Eastern countries, and other media figures.

Album closer “The Machines” is an homage to Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine.” (Chaz and Modiso are both big fans of Pink Floyd.) The song represents the complete evolution of a technological society, in which the people have been transformed into machines, with all of their behavior and responses pre-programmed. The track has some great bass and guitars, along with dark, eerie synths that perfectly convey the creepy situation.

Perception is a work of musical art, both conceptually and in its execution. The creativity and musicianship of the two men of Redram is impressive, as is their ability to transmit powerful messages into music that’s incredibly complex yet accessible, and an amazing listen to boot.

Connect with Redram:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Reverbnation / Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp

Oli Barton & the Movement – Album Review: “Into the Back Room”

Into the Back Room album cover

As a music blogger, I’m exposed to a continuous supply of new tunes by scores of musicians, and it’s always refreshing to discover an artist or band with a unique sound that sets them apart from the crowd. London-based indie outfit Oli Barton & the Movement is such a band. With a winning combination of talent, creativity and personality, their eccentric style of alternative rock is a crazy-good mix of post-punk and psychedelia, fortified with touches of funk, grunge and pop. They employ all sorts of instruments, sounds and textures to create music that’s original and unconventional, and their direct, tongue-in-cheek lyrics are delivered with an abundance of irony and humor. I love those lyrics so much that I’ll be quoting them heavily throughout this review.

The five member band is headed by Oli Barton, who does the majority of the songwriting, plays guitar and sings lead vocals. The ridiculously talented musicians helping Barton bring his songs to life include Ryan Wilson on lead guitar, Jamal Lagoon on Rhythm Guitar, Marco Paone on Bass, and Guy Monk on Drums.

Oli Barton & the Movement 2

They released their debut single “Photograph” through Coke & Dagger Records in late 2016, followed by “Sleeping With the Enemy” in April 2017 (which I reviewed) and “Kinky” at the end of June. On August 11 they dropped their first full album Into the Back Room, and it’s nothing short of brilliant. Most the of album’s nine original tracks  address subjects of duplicity and betrayal, whether it be in romantic entanglements, personal relationships or politics. In a terrific interview with Rebecca Singer for her blog Read Between the Lines, which you can read here, band front man Oli Barton explained: “‘The Back Room’ to me is that place where you lock away all those things you’re not supposed to think about or talk about. I felt like I was locked in there for a long time.”

The psychedelic album opener “Cold Call” arrives with distorted strings that have an effect on the ears quite similar to nails on a chalkboard, conveying a sense of impending menace. Then a heavy bass line enters, along with a hypnotic drum beat and gritty guitars, those tormented strings still audible in the background. At one point, we’re even treated to a bit of cow bell. The chorus has a carnival vibe as Barton laments: “There’s a cold call to your name. There’s a cold call and it’s just a game. There’s a cold call and no one’s to blame. Let me hear you breathe.” The reverberated guitar plucks at the end are a nice closer.

Next up is my absolute favorite track “Kinky,” an exuberant ball of fire that’s amazing on so many levels. It starts off with a little guitar lick, then an irresistible Spanish guitar riff takes over as Barton sings the hilarious ironic lyrics about a naughty girl in a co-dependent abusive relationship:

Oh I saw you, saw you in the playground
And I saw your boyfriend, I saw him push you down
Doesn’t it hurt when he pulls your hair?
Doesn’t it hurt when he beats ya there?

The music suddenly erupts with heavy percussion and surf rock guitar riffs as he belts out the racy chorus:

But you’re ki-i-i-inky  You’re ki-i-i-inky
You’re ki-i-i-inky  You’re ki-i-i-inky

Afterwards, a funny munchkin-like voice can be heard in the background singing “Yeah, you’re kinky baby.” The verses continue with a delirious mix of Spanish and surf rock guitars, then we’re treated to some lovely strings in the bridge before a frenzy of distorted guitars and Barton’s out-of-control vocals return for the rest of the song. Barton is clearly having fun on this wild track, as he can be heard laughing at the end. For me, it’s a blast from start to finish every single time I hear it.

The upbeat tempo belies a decidedly unhappy situation on “How Would I Know?” The song addresses the frustrations of a schoolboy that the girl he used to go with is now seeing another guy. With much exasperation, Barton implores”But are you happy? ‘Cause you don’t look like you’re getting enough to me. Yeah, did I ever leave you feeling needy? How would I know?” I love the jangly guitars and Barton’s fervent vocals that are delivered with his charming British accent. (I’m one of those crazy Americans who would enjoy hearing someone with a strong British accent read the phone book.)

To an ominous heavy rumble announcing the threat of something very bad at the beginning of “Photograph,” Barton warns us that “This is where it’s gets a little darker.” Indeed it does, as crushing bass, layers of shredded and distorted guitars, and furious crashing cymbals lend a dismal vibe. With bitterness in his voice, Barton confronts his once-girlfriend of her betrayal:

I thought I saw you in a photograph
You looked so good, yeah you were having a laugh
I though I saw you in a photograph
But who was he? ‘Cause he sure ain’t me, yeah he sure ain’t me

The hard-hitting psychedelic “Sleeping With the Enemy” takes on rampant duplicity in politics that 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. The instrumentals are awesome, and 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, distored guitars, pounding drums and impassioned vocals. It’s a great song.

The bouncy “Waste of Time” touches on a relationship with someone who drives you completely crazy, but you just can’t quit them:

I seem to be a prisoner of war
She is the worst part of my day
I’m just a fool stuck in her way
Her skinny jeans just make me look like a whore

Talk is Cheap” is a trippy little musical atomic bomb contained in just under four minutes. There’s so much going on: en eerie opening with music and vocals played backwards, strange spoken vocals “George the elephant like mastadons…”, loud industrial reverb sounds accompanied by screams that abruptly end with a slammed door. Next come mesmerizing plucked strings accompanied by a gently tapping drumbeat. Barton’s vocals enter with guitars, then the tempo ramps up with heavier guitars before calming down with added violins, then back up again in a frenzy of gnashing guitars, humming bass, thunderous drums and crashing cymbals.

The band takes a pensive turn with “Rebecca,” a bittersweet song about a woman with a troubled past who’s really good at heart, and deserves to be freed from her prison:

And while they talk about what you’ve done
They didn’t know that could be anyone
A poor young girl without a clue
There’s a story here that no one knew

A hauntingly beautiful piano is the dominant instrument on this track, and band friend Katie Mallinson provides soft echoed vocals as Rebecca.

A lovely mandolin introduces us to the languid “Coming Back for Nothing,” then a sharply strummed melodic guitar and a captivating echoed chorus ensue. It sounds like the kind of song that could have been done by Paul McCartney & Wings back in their heyday. Lyrically, it speaks to the singer’s depravity and how he screwed up his life:

Wishing I could be with a better one
I tried it off with your brother but we disagreed
But then I took the game to your mother
And she left me with nothing but dreams and some fucked-up disease

The album closes with a fantastic EDM remix of “Photograph.” This version has a great retro 80s feel that reminds me a bit of The Pet Shop Boys or even New Order. It’s not as dark as the slower original, but an interesting interpretation nonetheless.

Into the Back Room is a marvelous album, and an auspicious debut for Oli Barton & the Movement. Every track is fantastic and I love them all. Barton is an incredible wordsmith, and one of the most creative young artists I’ve come across since starting my blog more than two years ago. If they maintain the high calibre of music they’ve established with this album, they have a very promising future. Barton says he’s already written songs for their next couple of albums and I eagerly await them!

Follow Oli Barton and the Movement:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

WATERGOD – Album Review: “Watergod”

As I’ve stated before, one of the things I love about Twitter is finding out about new indie artists and bands; in two years I’ve discovered over 5,000! I’ve also made friends with more music lovers and bloggers than I can count, who’ve turned me on to even more musicians and bands. So it was my lucky day when Robert Horvat, who has an excellent blog called Rearview Mirror, contacted me about the indie band Watergod.

Based in Austin, Texas – a city with a thriving music scene that’s produced scores of country, blues and rock artists and bands – Watergod rose from the ashes of their previous psychedelic space rock band Psychonaut. They developed a fresh sound, but retained a bit of their psychedelic sensibility. Comprised of Ethan Schrupp (guitar, vocals), Justin Wilson (bass) and Nicholas Key (drums), Watergod takes an organic, highly collaborative approach to their songwriting and the development of the sound for each track. They’re essentially DIY, but enlisted the help of friend Sean Lochridge in the recording and mixing of their self-titled debut album Watergod, which dropped on the 1st of August.

Watergod 2

In an interview with Robert Horvat of Rearview Mirror, which you can read here, Ethan explained the inspiration and/or meaning behind the band’s name, album title, and each of the tracks:

“To me [Watergod] represents renewal and rebirth. We had taken some time off after our last band [Psychonaut] dissolved, so when we came back together we wanted a fresh start. The inspiration [for the album] was what was going on in my life at the time. Amygdala is about a breakup,  Whaler and Causality were about a girl I was hooking up with after that,  Helios is about being burned by someone you’re trying to help, Motion is about being ostracized for being yourself, Vectors is about succumbing to temptation, and Spirals is about dealing with anger.”

Interestingly, all the song titles consist of a single word. Their music is unconventional, delivering unexpected melodic shifts, guitar change ups and quirky vocals. All this works beautifully to capture and hold our attention, not only within a song but throughout the whole album. We’re compelled to really listen to each nuanced sound and vocal twist and turn, keeping us in a continual state of surprise and wonder. Not one thing about their songs are predictable, and Ethan’s vocals seem to sound different on every track.

Watergod performing

Ethan’s falsetto crooning introduces us to the opening track “Amygdala” then some really lovely guitar work enters, accompanied by snare drums and a light touch of cymbals. All instrumentals ramp up as the track progresses. The guys inject just a touch of jazz on “Causality,” featuring some really fine nimble guitar work, a smooth subtle bass line and lots of gently crashing cymbals. There’s something about Ethan’s vocals that are so beguiling as they go from smooth and comforting to soaring falsetto and back again. The little guitar solo in the last 30 seconds is pure delight. “Vectors” borders on psychedelic with an underlying funky groove, making for an unusual and fascinating track. Ethan’s fuzzy vocals occasionally become echoed with vibrato, adding an otherworldly aura.

Helios” is a perfect example of how Watergod delivers the unexpected. Starting off with a gorgeous, delicate and somewhat melancholy riff, the track has a bit of the psychedelic feel of The Doors’ “The Crystal Ship.” Ethan sings of seeing a deceitful person’s true self in the light of day: “With you nearer, I see you clearer. I see you for what you really are. In the sun.” Halfway through, the guitars become heavier and grittier, as Ethan shrieks his vocals, some of which are distorted. It’s an epic track.

So too with “Whaler,” which flows back and forth from a languid beat with a dreamy atmospheric vibe to a faster tempo with bluesy guitar and heavier percussion. “Motion” is the most psychedelic-sounding track on the album, with heavier bass overlain with shredded, distorted and reverb-heavy guitars. And just as we’ve gotten used to the slow tempo that predominates, the guys dial it up at the close.

Album closer “Spirals” is more melodic, starting off with jangly guitars over a pleasing steady beat. The lyrics speak of letting go of anger: “It will hurt you so much more before you finally learn to let it go. / It’s hard to see the change when it’s so slow.” Ethan’s vocals rise in emotional impact as the guitars become grittier and the percussion more aggressive, until he literally shouts the lyrics later in the song.

If you like music that’s experimental and unconventional, Watergod delivers it in heaping quantities on this stellar album. It has some of the most unusual and intellectually stimulating music I’ve heard in a while, yet it’s still accessible and incredibly satisfying.

Connect with Watergod on Facebook and purchase their music on Bandcamp