DARKSOFT – Single Review: “Cybersecurity”

Darksoft Cybersecurity

Darksoft is the music project of Bill Darksoft, an imaginative and talented singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Seattle, Washington who I’ve featured twice on this blog in 2019. Inspired the by the high-tech industry of his hometown, he writes songs that address timely and relevant social and cultural issues related to technology. He also operates his own label and website Look Up Records (for which he also writes some pretty awesome reviews), and in addition to his music project, has played with many Seattle acts over the years.

Last February, I reviewed his brilliant debut album Brain, a concept work named for the very first computer virus to attack the internet back in 1986, with each track titled after infamous viruses that followed. Then in July, I reviewed his single “WannaCry”, which addressed the deep cultural and political divide in America, fed by our tendency to stay stuck in our own echo chambers. The enthralling song spent more than three months on my Weekly Top 30. Today. I’m happy to premiere his haunting new single “Cybersecurity“, where he touches on another thorny technological issue.

Like his previous tracks, “Cybersecurity” was written, performed and produced by Darksoft, and mixed and mastered by Mathieu Riede of L453RL4Dy Studios. Using a rich palette of cinematic synths as a foundation, Darksoft layers gauzy riffs of chiming and jangly guitars, along with a perfect balance of snappy percussion, to create a dramatic and sweeping backdrop for his captivating vocals. As I’ve stated in previous reviews, I really like his velvety, almost breathy vocal style, which adds a dreamy, ethereal quality to his sound. He also excels at writing beautiful, compelling melodies, and though I would not label this one as being “catchy”, it nevertheless stayed with me long after hearing it. It’s another winning song.

The lyrics cast doubt on the assumption – or is it really a myth? – that all our data floating around out there in cyberspace is somehow being kept safe. What’s more, it can even be used to control and manipulate us in harmful ways that we hadn’t imagined.

The past is dying
In saturation
Confusion breeds control
Two points for the man
One humanity
We’re digits in a dream
Cybersecurity

Who can hide the past controls The Now
Information Age playing mind games

There’s something wrong
This picture’s off
What’s under your profile?
Did I do wrong?
Who can tell
When truth is gone
There is no cybersecurity

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REVOLUTION RABBIT DELUXE – Album Review: “Swipe Left”

RRD Swipe Left

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe (RRD) is an indie rock band hailing from south Wales. Their innovative, alt-rock sound draws from Brit-rock, pop and punk influences, with meaningful lyrics tackling topical issues ranging from politics, culture and environmental justice to mental health. RRD started out as a solo project for founder and guitarist Rev Rab, but gradually evolved into a four-piece band. With the exception of Rev Rab, the band has an entirely new lineup since I last visited them a little over a year ago, when I reviewed their terrific debut album Tales From Armageddonsville. They’re now comprised of Rev Rab (guitar, lead vocals), Dan (guitar, backing vocals), Ben (bass, backing vocals) and Nick (drums), and recently dropped their sophomore album Swipe Left.

The album contains 12 tracks, and I’ll touch on what I think are the highlights. RRD gets right down to business on the opening track “Doomsday Clock/Cornucopia Croaked“, a rousing foot-stomper about mankind’s relentless assault on our planet. The track starts off with what sounds like a huge ticking clock in an empty room, backed by distant sounds of civil unrest. At the 30 second mark, the clock stops and we’re hit with a barrage of gnarly distorted guitars and hammering drums, driving home the urgency of the subject. Rev Rab issues a scathing assessment of our destructive tendencies: “We tore down the hills. We dug up the valleys. We pulled up the trees. Replaced them with concrete. And it’s goodbye world. Cornucopia croaked. Strangled by plastic. All our footprints soaked. Need to do something drastic.”

Keeping with the theme of earthly degradation, “Gods of Folded Bills” speaks to how our greed, over-consumption, and the downside of capitalism in general have led us down a path toward the looming prospect of our own demise: “We sold out to darker powers, and all the while, we pray to gods of folded bills. There’s no return, we’re driving down a one-way street. There’s no concern, as the rhino joins the queue.” The song has a cheerful synth-driven melody that belies the darker lyrics. So too with “Superglue“, its catchy new wave/psychedelic grooves in contrast with the more serious subject matter.  “Can’t you tell this fragile shell on which we live…is gonna give./The edifice you build is in your heart. A monument to pride. A prisoner inside. A prisoner to hide. The prisoner is you. And my advice is pull it down, tear it down, smash it down.

Picture of a Man” is a rather somber song about a man who puts forth a charming, gallant image that’s at sharp odds with his substantial shortcomings and cruel nature: “Don’t you paint a fine, fine picture of a man. So subtle, so refined, so charming, so cultured, so well-groomed. / A player, you play her well. You beat her, you cheat her./ Please leave her, relieve her. Just walk away. But freedom is what she wants from you. The one thing you can’t give.” “Guess Which Number” is a sweet tune, with sparkling synths and a lovely piano-driven melody, while “Father of Lies” seems to pay homage to David Bowie’s “Heroes” with its similar iconic driving riff early in the song.

One of my favorite tracks is “Punk Rock is Dead“, a bouncy punk-infused song about how societal pressure to conform killed off the free-thinking, anti-establishment spirit embodied by punk rock:  “Take a message. Subvert it. Pump it out as truth. Take a free man, create dependence, and roll away identity. Millions like him share the uniform. A corporate rebellion. Punk rock is dead. Who killed it? Punk rock is dead. You killed it. Punk rock is dead. We killed it.

Steel September Skies” is a complex and haunting track. It begins with a gently strummed folk guitar, then a thumping drumbeat ensues as Rev Rab describes what starts off as a bucolic scene that quickly turns ominous, perhaps symbolizing a nation formerly at peace but now plunged into an authoritarian regime or civil war: “A picture-perfect parade winds down my street. As idols clap and children cheer, frozen in time. I hear the crash of jackboots black. Let’s change the scene. Ignore the screams. My mother’s arms holding me tight, keeping my safe. I try to smile, but my belly aches, there’s flies in my eyes. And then the screams, my mother screams.”

The music intensifies as his vocals turn urgent: “I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” Suddenly, things turn around to a more positive, hopeful tone: “Parade’s rewind and jackboots fade. All our wrongs are being undone, the guilty can’t run. It’s time to live, it’s time to love. I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” The music calms back down to the gently strummed guitar as the song fades out. It’s such a powerful and stirring song.

Swipe Left is another strong work by Revolution Rabbit Deluxe. Given their unique, sometimes unorthodox sound and deep, thought-provoking lyrics, their songs often require a couple of listens to unpack and fully appreciate all the nuance to be discovered within them. Putting forth the effort pays off nicely once you come to realize the high quality of their music.

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INWATER – Single Review: “Nobody Else Than Me”

Inwater Nobody Else Than Me

Although the vast majority of artists I’ve featured on this blog are from either the U.S. or the UK, I do from time to time write about artists and bands from other countries. Just a few days ago, I reviewed a band from Italy, and now turn my spotlight for the first time on lovely Portugal, to Lisbon rock band Inwater. Formed in 2014, the band is comprised of songwriter/producer Miguel Moreira (lead guitar, synths, programming &  backing vocals), songwriter/producer Rui Duarte (rhythm guitar, synths & lead vocals), João Barbosa (drums, percussion & programming), and André Pires (bass & backing vocals).

Although they identify their music as generally falling into the broad category of alternative rock, Inwater draws from a wide range of influences to create their own unique sound, and prefer to not be labeled any one particular genre. As they so eloquently put it, “[We] can be sweet as a little boat on the sea, or as frightful and dreadful as Godzilla emerging from the deep ocean. What best describes our sound is the fact that we recognize in ourselves the ability to reach out and discover what each song needs, and let them always show us the way. This approach gives us the chance to explore an infinite amount of possibilities driven by the song’s potential, and with patience and perseverance, it grows by itself and leads us to a different sight every time. We just have to come ashore and breathe the new air that is waiting for us.” An interesting aspect of their sound is that, listening to their songs, I’d never guess they were from Portugal.

Inwater has spent the past couple of years writing and recording songs for their forthcoming debut album Wet Dreams, and began releasing singles this past February, starting with the lovely and bittersweet “My Tragedy”.  In June, they followed up with a beautiful love song “Plain Heart”, featuring guest vocals by Caroletta The Girl From Chiado, and on November 15, they dropped their third single “Nobody Else Than Me“, which I’m reviewing today.

True to their desire to remain eclectic, the song starts off with an 80s new wave vibe that reminds me a bit of Depeche Mode. The hypnotic melody, deep bass and jangly guitars are fantastic. Then the chorus kicks in, and the song transitions to a faster, pop-rock tempo that’s equally satisfying. The guitar work and lively percussion are terrific, and the 30-second guitar solo in the bridge is particularly good. The track’s arrangement and production values are really outstanding as well. There were many hands involved in its production, including Nuno Oliveira and Pedro Isaac Ribeiro on bass, Ribeiro again on electric guitars, and João Tiago Fernandes on drums. The track was produced, mixed and mastered by Moreira and Duarte.

The lyrics, written by Duarte, speak to the protagonist’s inability to love anyone but himself, and his desire to remain free, enjoying only the physical pleasures from a sexual encounter. But they also reveal in inner turmoil, and the self-realization that he’s not necessarily a good person.

Don’t you understand?
Love means nothing to me
So, take it easy
Your love means nothing for me

My Freedom
Runs threatened by your love
My Freedom
Loves to walk alone

So please take a step back
I hate being followed

Can’t you see?
There’s nobody else than me
Nobody else
Nobody else than me

I’m not sweet
I’m not gentle and kind
I’m hungry
I’ve a battle inside

I need passion
I just wanna be surprised
I need passion
I just wanna take you higher 

Here are all three singles for those so inclined to take a closer listen to Inwater:

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ASHRR – Single Review: “Sacrifice”

ashrr-sacrifice-final

Though a relatively new band formed just last year (2018), Los Angeles-based ASHRR collectively have a long and impressive music pedigree. Comprised of singer-songwriter Steven Davis and artists/producers Ethan Allen and Josh Charles, the accomplished trio have a seasoned and eclectic musical background, combining their wide-ranging experience and diverse stylistic influences. Davis has headlined at the famed Rainbow Room, sharing the stage with Diana Krall and Tony Bennett, co-written songs with pop legend John Oates, and had his music featured on several TV shows and films, including Criminal Minds. He’s released numerous albums, including his jazzy, easy-listening What Happened to Romance and This is Christmas in 2015, a collection of great standards The Way You Look Tonight in 2016, and his tribute to 80s pop-rock classics Departure in 2018.

Allen is a record producer, mixer, engineer, writer, and multi-instrumentalist musician originally hailing from Austin and New Orleans. His credits include Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Ben Harper, The 88, Tricky, Luscious Jackson, The Cult, Gram Rabbit, Sheryl Crow, Tim Finn, Brant Bjork, Donita Sparks, Meg Myers, Patty Griffin and Better Than Ezra, as well as many licensing placements in film and television.

Charles is a critically acclaimed piano prodigy, guitarist, singer, producer and songwriter, mentored by the legendary Dr. John. He has recorded for Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment, Island Records and Elektra Records/Warner Music Group, and has produced/co-produced and written/co-written seven albums, including his own Love, Work & Money (2010) and 1974. He’s also produced exclusive sound content for Native Instruments and Splice, and has had many of his songs played on radio, film and TV, including several cuts with the aforementioned John Oates.

ASHRR2

ASHRR joined forces after meeting through mutual musician friends, seeking to collaborate to create the kind of music they all wanted to make. Charles explains “Our collective love of analog synth pop, classic new wave melodies and songwriting, and taking modern production to the limits, defines us. We all come from different backgrounds, which is what can be heard inside the music.” Their sound is strongly influenced by Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem, among others.

In October 2018 they released their first single, the captivating “Don’t Wait Too Long”, which premiered at NPR.org and garnered regular airplay on famed Los Angeles alt-rock radio station KROQ. They dropped their self-titled EP ASHRR a few months later, then followed this past May with their debut full-length album Oscillator, which contained all the tracks from their EP, plus five new tracks. In October (2019) they released a stellar new single “Sacrifice“, which I’m reviewing today. The song was co-written by all band members, vocals were sung by Davis, and instruments played by Allen and Charles, except for Blair Sinta on drums and Grant Curry on electric bass. Allen and Charles produced the track, which was then mixed by Allen and mastered by Dave Collins.

The uplifting song seems to me to be about looking back on one’s life, realizing that all the hurdles we faced, all the pain we may have experienced, were worth going through to get where we are now, to be the better person we’ve become. Davis’ rich, beautiful baritone vocals are backed by a dreamy soundscape of sweeping orchestral synths. Sinta and Curry provide a mesmerizing rhythm accompaniment with their jubilant percussion and resonant bass lines, respectively. It’s a gorgeous song.

The rain it will come
And the wind it will blow
You wanna stay true
Don’t forget what you know

Haunted with memories
Blinded by noise
Too much to take
A crack in the voice
You lost the hope in your eyes
Was it worth the sacrifice

Preachers preach
Poets rhyme
The years tick slowly out of time
Angels watch while devils stare
We took the poison without care
The ferryman will name his price
We all know the sacrifice

Innocence is all you have when you are young
Darker days have come to pass
And we are stronger
looking back now
on all those dreams denied
It was worth the sacrifice

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DYING HABIT – Single Review: “Into Colour”

Dying Habit is an alternative rock band from northern Wales, whose electrifying, dynamic sound is influenced by such bands as Dead Letter Circus, Katatonia, Biffy Clyro, Therapy?, The Wildhearts and Karnivool. Hailing from Anglesey Island, they started off as a group of friends who bonded over a shared love of music and began jamming together around 2011. They finally became an official band in 2016 when they realized they had a special musical chemistry between them. Previously a four-piece, Dying Habit now consists of Nathan Jones (vocals), Alan Hart (guitar) and Mark Jones (drums).

In August 2018, they released their first official single “Unrealities”, a magnificent and powerful song that I featured on this blog, which you can read here. I liked it so much that it ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2018. They followed up with a second single “Into Colour” this past July, which I’m now getting around to reviewing. It’s another hard-hitting banger, with a heavier, more modern rock vibe than “Unrealities”. It’s not quite as melodic, but still an impressive track, with a thunderous barrage of blistering riffs, pummeling bass and smashing drums. The guys play as a tight unit, their layered gnarly and distorted guitars nicely enhanced by powerful driving rhythms. Nathan isn’t the strongest vocalist, but he handles the more dramatic parts of the song quite well, and his wails at the end are spine-tingling.

About the song, the band states “It is when we are at our lowest point that we find an inner strength we never knew was possible.” The hopeful, poetic lyrics urge us to turn toward the light – ‘into colour’ – to find a reason and the strength to continue and fight for our survival in this difficult and challenging thing called life:

Float above the surface
Think about tomorrow
Digging up the past it’s becoming real
We are getting somewhere
No more living in shadows
You got to show your face just get it done
On the edge of a dotted line, about to end it all
Wandering why I’d leave it all behind

Sink below the bottom
There’s not much to uncover
Behind the walls we’re finding all the clues
I’m on the edge for a second time, about to end it all
Wandering why should I turn away
But I’m melting into you
Into colour we flow, Into colour we flow
Screaming the words at you, all because of you
Gripping onto the edge, about to end it all
Wandering why should I turn away

Connect with Dying Habit:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase on Bandcamp

ISAAC GRINSDALE – EP Review: “Entertainment”

Isaac Grinsdale EP Art

I recently learned about British singer-songwriter Isaac Grinsdale when he reached out to me about his new EP Entertainment. I’m so glad he did, because it’s a terrific work. Inspired by such artists as Jimmy Eat World, Radiohead, Placebo, Frank Turner and American Football, the Leeds-based musician writes songs with thoughtful, compelling lyrics and unconventional, yet enthralling melodies. Isaac learned to play the guitar in his early teens, and got heavily into hard rock music, which led him to play in several rock and hardcore bands. Now a bit older and wiser, he’s transitioned into making more introspective, singer-songwriter acoustic-driven music, which has culminated in the release of his debut EP Entertainment.

About his new music direction, Isaac explains “I was really inspired by the ethos of the band Refused: That as musicians we should be playing at the edge of our ability, and pushing the boundaries of our music at all times. Otherwise, we’re not playing the kind of music we should be. It’s always stuck with me and frames how I write.”  Entertainment provides ample evidence that he was right to follow his instincts, as all four tracks are beautifully-crafted and deeply honest. A skilled multi-instrumentalist, Isaac played all the instruments himself, and even produced and mixed the recordings.

Isaac Grinsdale performing

The first track “The Blind Leading the Blind” was also one of the first songs Isaac wrote and recorded. It’s a lovely tune, with a peppy guitar-driven melody that belies the withering lyrics that speak to the divisive rhetoric and false promises of our political leaders. In an interview with the webzine imPRESSED, Isaac stated that the song “is basically about growing up and realising the world we live in is fucked up – completely removed from what I was taught as a child.” His intricate strummed and chiming guitar work is exquisite, and all the supporting instruments are perfectly balanced, providing a strong, albeit understated soundscape that allows the guitars and Isaac’s clear, earnest vocals to shine.

They’re words that I have heard since a child
I hear them now: ‘I promise change!’
I once had no reason to doubt
Oh how strange it all seems looking back

Because now…

The suits fail to hide the Facade
And their words fail in their intended charm
And it all sounds so bizarre
Like a lexicon based on Orwell’s Newspeak

They are words that I have heard since a child
I hear them now again
But here where the blind lead the blind
It will all fall on deaf ears, that’s all they’ll find

In the great deception, our language will strip us, and the world, of any sense of the plural. Now we’re left to speak in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’

Inspired by a book by author Guy Debord: The Society of the Spectacle, the title track “Entertainment” is about how music, or any other art form for that matter, can provide a small counterbalance or escape to the depressing political bullshit touched on in the first track. Isaac based the cover art for his EP on the book’s cover art of the book, which he explained “captures perfectly the idea that we tend to look at the world through a distorted lens/framework.” The song has a rather interesting and unconventional, but pleasing melody that to my ears has a late-90s vibe reminiscent of artists of that period like Duncan Sheik and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Nullius in Verba” is my favorite of the four tracks, not only because of it’s hauntingly beautiful melody and sublime instrumentation, but also the message of the song, which I strongly identify and agree with. The title is Latin for “not in any words” – essentially “take nobody’s word for it”, and is also the motto of the Royal Society, the British national academy of sciences. Isaac touched on the song’s meaning in his imPRESSED interview: “[It’s] about the importance of science, and rational thinking, slowly creating a more progressive and liberal culture from our draconian past. I had a very religious upbringing, but as a late teenager, I started to discover a lot more about how science, over time, has largely overturned our ideas from our past. One example that springs to mind is that human beings have evolved, rather than being created by a supreme being. For me, these are some of our greatest achievements.” Isaac urges us to view things through open eyes and an open mind: “Take a close look at all the terms we lay down. To look at this as objectively as we can. Just not in words, just not in opinion. No don’t you tell God what to do with his days.”

The first thing that came to my mind when hearing the fourth track “Speed of Film” was Joni Mitchell, arguably one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time. Isaac’s unusual chord progressions and guitar notes call to mind many of Mitchell’s songs, and with his distinctive guitar-tapping technique, the song has a marvelous, fascinating sound. He explained that the song “is about how our memories make us into the people we are today. Lyrically, it’s packed with anecdotes of my friends and family: The great (and not so great) experiences we’ve had together.”

Entertainment is a wonderful debut effort by this skilled musician, who I admire not only for his impressive musical talents, but also for his unflinching stances on social and political issues. An interesting little side thing I noticed about the EP is that the four tracks are arranged such that each one is progressively longer than the one before. The first is 2:30 minutes long, while the last is 4:00 minutes. Isaac just finished recording his second record, an eight-track album titled Paper Crowns that he hopes to release in Spring of 2020, and I really look forward to hearing it. He’s supported acoustic greats such as Jon Gomm, Nick Harper and Beth Orton, and is now gearing up for a major UK Tour in support of his EP.

Follow Isaac:  Website / Facebook / Twitter 
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RUSTY SHIPP – Album Review: “Liquid Exorcist”

Rusty Ship Liquid Exorcist

One of my favorites of the many artists and bands I’ve featured on this blog is Nashville four-piece Rusty Shipp. (You can read my reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.) The brain child of front man Russ T. Shipp (his honest to God real birth name), Rusty Shipp is a self-described “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, immersive sound, high-octane riffs and haunting vocals. Like many bands, they’ve experienced changes in lineup since forming in 2014, and now consist of the aforementioned Russ T. Shipp on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, AJ Newton on drums and Andrew “Speedy” Speed on bass. Together, they’re an immensely talented group of musicians who truly know how to deliver the hard rock goods.

Rusty Shipp

Following up on their phenomenal and highly-acclaimed 2017 album Mortal Ghost, Rusty Shipp has put out a new album Liquid Exorcist, which dropped on November 7th. In keeping with their nautical theme, it’s a concept work built around the subject of sea mine terrorism. It also plays somewhat like a rock opera, with one song seamlessly transitioning into the next without skipping a beat. Liquid Exorcist has a relatively short run time of only 26 minutes, exactly half that of Mortal Ghost, as several of the tracks are transitional or connectors between longer tracks. Nevertheless, it still makes an incredibly powerful statement and packs quite a wallop in it’s relatively short run time. Also, whereas Mortal Ghost has a heavier grunge feel, Liquid Exorcist sounds more melodic, sweeping and epic. The first time I listened to it all the way through, I was blown away.

It opens with the 42-second-long “Mine Factory“, an ominous-sounding instrumental intro that builds into a frantic barrage of gnarly riffs and smashing drumbeats as it immediately segues into “Liquid Pendulum“, a fantastic song with blistering guitars and intense, hard-driving rhythms that ebb and flow like waves on a stormy sea. Apperson and Shipp’s intricate guitar work is terrific, and Newton’s power drums provide just the right amount of propulsive thrust. Shipp has a beautiful singing voice that registers in the mid-range, occasionally rising to a just shy of a falsetto. The biting lyrics are a denunciation of the terrible legacy of countries filling the oceans with explosive mines: “Aren’t your wars waged on land enough? Why don’t you just keep your mankind to yourself? Leave behind your mess for someone else. Sharks will gladly come to your help.”

The track transitions into “Mindsweeper” a dark instrumental with chugging, distorted riffs, throbbing bass and harsh industrial synths. Then, watery plucked guitar strings and Speedy’s pulsating bass riff announce the arrival of “Detonator“. Suddenly, the music explodes into an electrifying maelstrom of swirling, fuzzy and wailing guitars, driving bass and thunderous percussion. It’s a spectacular song.

Rusty Shipp is not a Christian band per se, though Shipp is up-front about his Christian faith, as is evident in lyrics like “Raptured from the shrapnel in the twinkling of an eye. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said the end was near.” Overall, the lyrics address the dangerous work of those attempting to dismantle sea mines: “Disconnect the wires, before we all expire, but the water is turning into fire now. Everybody down, the bombs have stopped their ticking sound, five seconds till Heaven’s all around.

SS Naronic (Reprise)” is a ghostly revisit of the original track featured on Mortal Ghost, chronicling the White Star Line ship lost at sea in the north Atlantic in February 11, 1893, along with all its 74 passengers on board. To echoed, underwater sounds, Shipp’s electronically altered vocals lament “O God, please tell me there is more than this. That this cold abyss is not the end. Tell me it’s more than an accident, a warning to teach a lesson. Show me how it’s all part of the plan.”

Rusty Shipp then pays homage to Audioslave with a well-executed cover of “Show Me How to Live“, doing great justice to the powerful classic.  Once again, there’s a religious reference with the lyric “Nail in my hand from my Creator. You gave me life now show me how to live.”  Though different from Chris Cornell’s, Shipp’s vocals are just as effective in conveying the raw passion expressed in the lyrics. That segues into the face-melting and aptly-titled instrumental interlude “Blow Your Mine“. This intense, minute-long track perfectly showcases the band’s impressive skills.

Hundred Crosses” is, I think, the most beautiful song on the album, with a dramatic, sweeping melody that switches from calm to exuberant and back again, making for a very exciting listen. The multi-textured guitars are sublime, accompanied by Newton’s snappy drums and wildly crashing cymbals, all working in tandem to create a glorious soundscape for Shipp’s soaring vocals. Next up is “Breaking Waves“, the first single released in advance of the album last July, which I featured on this blog. It has a dark but catchy melody, with layered riffs of gnarly and distorted guitars, throbbing bass and pounding drums. Shipp explained that the song “describes the battle between technology and nature in a tortoise-and-the-hare-like metaphor, where mankind’s mightiest technology won’t stand a chance in the long run against the simple, steady erosion of the ocean’s immortal waves (i.e, nature) breaking it down.” 

Liquid Exorcist closes with another religious nod on the nautical poem “Navy Hymn“.  “Eternal Father, strong to save. Whose arm doth bind the restless wave. Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep. Its own appointed limits keep. O, hear us when we cry to Thee. For those in peril on the sea.” The brief track features stirring a capella choir vocals, accompanied only by sounds of the sea, and it’s a fitting end to the album.

Folks, this is a stunning and masterfully-crafted record on every level. Given it’s relatively brief run time and riveting listening experience, it seems to end far too quickly. That’s a good thing, and certainly preferable to some albums that overstay their welcome with too many filler tracks. Rusty Shipp continue to impress me with their incredible songwriting and musicianship, and deserve to be huge.

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

BRAIN APE Release Trippy New Video for “Stop Sulking”

Brain Ape is a talented, wildly imaginative, and highly entertaining London-based rock band who skillfully fuse punk, stoner rock, grunge, noise rock and shoegaze to create their unique sound they call “Scratch Rock.” Originally formed at the beginning of 2012, the trio now consists of Minky Très-vain on guitar & vocals, Sol Alex Albret on bass, and Jamie Steenbergen on drums. In August 2017, they released their second album Auslander, which was released through Schlimbum Records, an independent record label started by Très-vain and Dydy Haynes. (The label was rebranded as Scratch Rock Records this past August.) It’s an ambitious work, containing 12 brilliant tracks and running nearly 55 minutes in length. I reviewed the album in January 2018, which you can read here.

Brain Ape 3

Brain Ape has just released “Stop Sulking”. the third and final single from Auslander, along with a trippy new video. The video, which is alternately disturbing, amusing and heartwarming, was filmed by frequent band photographer Nuri Moseinco, and produced by Alex, Minky and Dom Bolton. The dark song has a strong Nirvana vibe, with sharp, clipped verses, fuzz-soaked gnarly guitars and deep bass. I had a little chat with Minky about the track and video.

EclecticMusicLover:  First off, I really like your video for “Stop Sulking.” What made you & the band decide to make a video for that particular “Auslander” track?

Minky:  Glad you liked the video. For us, it’s a very defining end to our ‘Auslander’ experience. That record came out a couple of years ago now, and we’re very ready to move on from it. It’s been a terrific journey, and the band has turned into something much larger than we could ever have imagined. It’s still on an incredibly small scale, and I can’t stress that enough, but when we were recording the album we were in a band that nobody cared about, making music that was too harsh for most listeners, and due to a succession of drummers that didn’t work out we found ourselves playing live a lot less often than we would have liked. But ‘Auslander’ changed that. We’re now on the road more often than not, taking our music to places we’ve never been to before. We always took our little project as seriously as possible and have been dedicated to the music that we put out, so it’s nice for people to take our band seriously now too.

This video marks the end of that transition for us. It was important for us to do, for us. The reason we chose ‘Stop Sulking’ is because when we sat back having just completed ‘Auslander’ there was some debate as to what the first single should be off the record. ‘Give Me My P45’ won out as the lead single, but its only contender was ‘Stop Sulking’. So now with hindsight and the context of what the album means to us several years on, it felt only right to chose ‘Sulking’ as the finale.

EML:  The song seems to describe a depressed, petulant person who’s unhappy with his situation, feeling like he’s losing his mind or sense of self, that he has no control over what’s happening to him – am I close? I like how you’re shown wearing a straight jacket to convey these feelings described in the lyrics.

Minky:  It’s always interesting to me when I hear how people are interpreting our work. I’m a product of our genre in that I prefer to keep my own personal meaning to myself when it comes to lyrics, and I find it far more interesting to hear from other people about how our words have affected them. That’s the beauty in art: there is no right or wrong answer. As far as your interpretation? I’d say it’s not a terribly inaccurate description of where I was when we were making the record. The album ended up becoming a ‘coming of age’ story, but as we’ve lived with it for several years it’s come to mean something completely different to the band. Our lyrics tend to be ambiguous enough that they can lend themselves to different perspectives, even if those perspectives are coming from the same person years apart. My own interpretation can change from hour to hour, depending on my mood and environment. I’m a fairly rash person, and my mood can 180 at the flip of a coin.

For the video, we collaborated with the great Nuri Moseinco. He’s an amazing videographer and photographer, and our walks of life have been different enough that our views on the track were very varied when we sat down to brainstorm ideas for the video. I can’t remember who exactly came up with the idea for the straight jacket, but it plays off the rest of the footage. I’ll leave the meaning up to the viewer, as I think that’s important. No one wants to know how the magic trick is done once they’ve found out. They’d rather re-experience the wonder of not knowing. But once you know, it’s too late to go back. Ignorance is bliss, and art is ignorance.

EML:  The interplay between you and Sol & Jaime in the scenes where the three of you are together is interesting. Sometimes you’re all playing your instruments, and other times you’re sitting around looking serious or you are horsing around with Sol. Was there any conscious intent in the filming of those scenes?

Minky:  Everything we’ve ever done has always been very deliberate. In our view, if something’s worth doing at all then it’s worth doing right. The world needn’t be filled with people like us who take our art too seriously, as there’s always room for comedy, satire, and absurdity. For the most part, in fact, it’s very necessary to have those things. We’d all go mad, otherwise. But for whatever reason, Brain Ape has always been a serious deal to us. I don’t think we take ourselves too seriously, mind you. But we’d rather not make a mockery of a product that took years, blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of sacrifices to make. So when it comes to those scenes; yes, there was intent. My intent was probably different to Sol’s, and his probably different to Jamie’s. But every detail was thought out. The choice of camera, for example, was a deliberate artistic choice. It held a lot of meaning for us. We wouldn’t half-arse anything. The only thing I didn’t mean to do was dye my hair green before shooting the straight-jacket scenes. That was almost a complete fiasco.

Here’s the video, so enjoy!

Catch Brain Ape at one of their upcoming shows in the UK, beginning tonight:

NOV 14 – IVW Launch w/ Brain Ape, Manalishi, Junky Love, Indigo, 7 PM, Dublin Castle, Camden, London
NOV 15 – w/Gutterflower, Manalishi, & The Kecks, 8 PM, The Pipeline, Brighton
NOV 16 – A Northern Underground Liverpool, 2 PM, The Jacaranda Club, Liverpool
NOV 17 – A Northern Underground Manchester, Aatma, Manchester
NOV 26 – RAMS Presents II: Brain Ape, 7 PM, The Cavern Club, 83 Queen Street, Exeter

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

ALL TAKEN – Single Review: “Monsters Anonymous”

All Taken is an alternative hard rock band based in Los Angeles. Formed in 2015 as a duo by long-time friends Daniel Daghlarian (guitar, lead vocals) and Avo Karapetyan (drums, backing vocals), they released their debut single “Burning Red” a year later. In March 2017 they followed up with their EP Accept This, which I reviewed, then later that year, David Eye joined the band as bassist. They released a fantastic head-banging single “Smells Like Mistakes,” in summer 2018, which I also reviewed, and on October 25th, just in time for Halloween, they dropped their latest single “Monsters Anoynymous“.

The hard-hitting song opens with fuzz-coated gnarly guitars, then explodes into a frantic barrage of hard-driving rhythms, anchored by a David’s deep, humming bass line and Avo’s muscular pounding drumbeats. Daniel lays down kickass scorching riffs that cover me with goosebumps while he fervently sings the colorful, horror-themed lyrics that speak to a loss of identity and self-worth – of feeling anonymous and invisible. It’s a great song, and I think All Taken continues to get better and better with each release.

Hey guys, I’m a zombie, been undead for weeks
My flesh is rotted and green
I crave brains and spleen
Just check out what happened last week

In the dark of the night , tryin to grab a bite
spot a meat bag looking so fine
I lunge at her and she screams
Oh my gawd are you from that zombie show?

I’m a spirit bound to this earth
Been struggling with my self worth
I used to love the scaring work
Now boos don’t get a second look

I’m not the monster I used to be
All these things tearing at me
What scares me is I don’t scare you now
What scares me is I don’t scare you anymore

Connect with All Taken:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play

OUTTAKE13 – Single Review: “Warrior”

Outtake13

Outtake13 is a recently-formed alternative rock band based in Wilmington, North Carolina. The three-piece is comprised of identical twin sisters Michaela and Annabelle Sanchez, and Calen Barbour. Michaela plays acoustic guitar and bass, Annabelle plays electric guitar, and Calen plays drums. Both sisters sing the lovely vocal harmonies.

Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Michaela and Annabelle began writing and singing songs when they were only eight years old. While in their early teens, they formed their own two-piece act Entangled Dreams, and went on to release two studio albums, an EP, and multiple singles. They earned awards for their music and played over 200 shows, all before the age of 17! After continually being asked “where’s your drummer?”, they decided to bring Calen into their act, which they rechristened Outtake13. On November 4th, they released their first single “Warrior“, an uplifting song of inspiration. The track was produced by Will Baker, front man of Wilmington band Hollow Intent, who I featured on this blog this past September.

About “Warrior”, the band explains “It’s meant to inspire the notion that nobody is alone in their troubles. This song discusses the power of art. How writing, composing, or just simply creating can give you purpose. With every bad moment, a fire is brought to the surface with the purpose to fight negativity. ‘Warrior’ portrays many messages but with one meaning: you can bring purpose to your life through a craft of your choosing, to take you from a dark place to a space with inspiration and drive. You can do anything, because YOU are a Warrior.”

The song starts off with Michaela’s strummed acoustic guitar, giving it a folk vibe, but soon Calen’s snappy drums and Annabelle’s resonant electric guitar enter the mix, taking things toward a heavier rock sound. It’s clear the sisters are both fine guitarists, and the interplay between their acoustic and electric instruments is really wonderful. Toss in their skill for writing an arresting melody, and Calen’s tight drumming, and the result is a powerful, uplifting backdrop for their vibrant harmonies. It’s a terrific debut for Outtake13.

Look into these eyes and tell me you don’t see a warrior
Don’t forget, I’m really no different than you dear
Overcome what you’ve yet to face and you’ll feel it too
Together let’s stand and become something beautiful and new

A blank space
That’s where it all begins
We’ve turned something meaningless
Into something colorful

Follow Outtake13:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream/purchase:  Spotify / Apple Music / Bandcamp