THE COMMON VIEW – EP Review: “Man on the Moon”

The Common View EP art

Early this year, I featured young British alt-rock band The Common View on this blog after learning about them and becoming impressed by both their outstanding music and outspoken advocacy for social justice. Formed in 2018, the Leeds four-piece consists of Dom Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jose Ignacio Barrera (guitar), Jacob Lindsay (drums, vocals) and Joe Sykes (bass). (After recording their latest EP, Jacob took a hiatus from the band to study abroad for seven months, and has been temporarily replaced on drums by Venezuelan native Marco La Fata, who may remain with the band long-term).

They released their self-titled debut EP The Common View, Vol. 1 in December 2018, then quickly followed with a provocative single “Fuck Them”, a scathing critique of the failure of British society and the government to adequately address the chronic issues of health care, poverty and homelessness. In May of this year, they released their single “A Perfect Bridge” (which I reviewed), then followed up with the stunning Coldplay-esque “The End of Time” in July.  Now the prolific guys are back with a wonderful new EP Man on the Moon, which dropped October 7.

True to their passion for writing and recording topical, socially relevant songs, the title track “Man on the Moon” speaks to the issue of climate change. They drive their message home with a dramatic and gorgeous soundscape of chiming and jangly guitars, accompanied by swirling synths, a deep, throbbing bass line and crisp percussion. The arrangement and production values are superb, and I think this is one of their finest songs yet. I really love Jacob’s vocals, and here he fervently makes his case for standing up to the empty rhetoric of many politicians and climate change deniers and doing what each of us can to affect meaningful change.

Hey, we need to talk
I’m getting tired of politicians and their speeches and their forked tongues
They put a man on the moon
But now they’re blinded by the money from the gasses filling our lungs
Stand your ground, as you turn it upside down
Let the tide roll in as a solid rain
And don’t mind me
I’m just another one who’s nobody
But I’ll just do my best to make a change

Annabelle” is a delightfully rousing, guitar-driven head banger, and a further testament to these guys’ incredible musicianship. Dom and Jose slice through the airwaves with an exuberant mix of jagged and swirling riffs, while Joe and Jacob keep the hard-hitting rhythms pumping at full throttle. If this track doesn’t get you going, then you must be dead! The lyrics speak to a woman named Annabelle who’s driving him crazy with her teasing and indifference, making him fall for her but withholding her affections. It’s a misery many of us have experienced at one time or another.

You’re putting me down
You got a real sick mind to take my time
Hearing the sound of your voice inside my head
You took my heart and left me underneath your spell 

The third track “What Can I Say?” delivers more of the band’s signature driving melodies and mind-blowing guitar work. The chiming guitars in the bridge are absolutely breathtaking, leaving me dumbstruck by their beauty. The song is about a relationship that’s beyond repair, and Jacob laments of the hurt and betrayal he feels:

I used to think that it was all okay
But, if you are gonna treat me in that way
You got another thing coming girl
You’re not the only person in this world
So stop, cut the shit and let me find my way
Feel like I’m living in a dream
With all the shit that I’ve seen
Who ever knew it could get that dark?

Even with only three tracks, Man on the Moon is a spectacular little EP. I’ve stated it before, but it bears repeating that there’s nothing common about The Common View, as these guys are phenomenal songwriters and musicians. I’ve loved every single track they’ve released, and these three rank high among their collection.

Catch The Common View at one of these upcoming shows:

18 October – Bar 21, Manchester, England, w/Bluelights, The Notion, Friday Forever & Skinner’s Lane
8 November – 360 Club, Leeds, England, w/LØE & Pathways

The cool artwork for the EP was designed by Rachel Wilcox.

Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play

New Song of the Week – PAUL IWAN: “Reward”

Paul Iwan Reward

Paul Iwan is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Liverpool, England who’s been involved in music since his early teens, playing and touring with numerous bands and, over the past few years, writing and recording his own songs. He released his debut album Reveal in September 2016, which I reviewed, and followed up in early 2019 with his second album RESISTER, an autobiographical work addressing his newfound sobriety. In October 2018, I reviewed the first single “Parasite” from that album. Now Paul returns with a wonderful new single “Reward“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

“Reward” is actually a cover of a song originally recorded by Liverpool new wave band The Teardrop Explodes. Written by band members Julian Cope and Alan Gill, the song was a big hit in the UK in 1981. About the song, Paul explains: “Reward is one of the greatest songs to ever come out of Merseyside. Musically incessant and lyrically off kilter, I’ve adored this song all my life – I wanted to pull the lyrics out and expose their darkness. I always felt it was about loss of control, shame and regret which really resonates with my experiences with addiction. Music wise, I focussed on that bass line which drastically changes the atmosphere from parpy stomper to rumbling impending doom.”

What makes the song even more special is that Paul bought Julian Cope’s iconic (but broken) 1965 Lime Green Framus guitar, which he lovingly restored and used to record this track at Studio 45 in Liverpool. Paul elaborates: “It’s a really weird story: Bill Drummond was a big believer in what he called interstellar ley lines. He said Liverpool had this direct line into the energy of the universe and you could feel it if you stood on a certain manhole cover in Matthew Street (under the bust of Carl Jung). He’d send the Teardrops and Bunnymen off on tour and stand on this manhole cover soaking up this cosmic energy as they performed. Now, I’m not one to believe that sort of stuff but when I got the message about Julian’s Lime Green Framus guitar, I was stood on Matthew Street….under Carl Jung’s bust…. on that manhole cover! To say I was a bit freaked out is an understatement.”

Paul Iwan guitar

Well, Paul does great justice to both Cope’s guitar and song, blowing our minds with his gorgeous, resonant guitar notes. Based on his previous songs, I’ve always considered Paul a skilled guitarist, but on “Reward” his guitar-playing rises to a whole new level. And about that rumbling bass line; It’s so deep, intense and melodic, cutting straight to our cores! Add in the dark, almost psychedelic synths and thunderous percussion, and the song has been transformed into a dramatic, almost grandiose production that soars straight to the heavens. It’s a magnificent song, and Paul’s finest work yet.

I also love his clear, powerful vocal style that registers in the higher octaves. He belts out the lyrics with a fervent passion that elicits chills.

Prisoner, stand accused, I stand accused
Live in solitude like Howard Hughes
All wrapped up the same
All wrapped up the same
Silence has it, arrogance has it
I can’t have it until I learn to accept my reward

For context, here’s the original recording of “Reward” by The Teardrop Explodes, which is a faster-paced new wave/punk style song:

Connect with Paul Iwan: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on  AmazonMusic Glue

REVOLVERS – Single Premier: “Confusing Times”

Revolvers single art

One of the best indie rock bands I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in 2019 was London, England four-piece Revolvers. Formed just three years ago in 2016, Revolvers was comprised of singer-songwriter James Thurling (guitar/lead vocals) Will Oliver (guitar/backing vocals), Steven Morrison (bass/backing vocals) and Rhys Kibble (drums). I say ‘was’, because they recently disbanded due to a number of factors, some of which are the cause of many a band breakup that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say I was gutted, because I really love their high-energy, guitar-driven melodic rock music.

I’ve featured them twice on this blog over the past nine months, when I reviewed their fantastic singles “True Love” and “Rubbing Shoulders With the Devil” (the latter of which has spent the past four months on my Weekly Top 30). Fortunately for us, they’re releasing as their swan song a terrific new single “Confusing Times“, which I’m thrilled to premiere. The hard-rocking song speaks to the crazy times we’re now living in. Like their last three singles, “Confusing Times” was recorded at Kore Studio in London, and produced by George Apsion (White Lies, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Ellie Goulding). 

Revolvers go out on a high note, pulling out all the stops on this exhilarating head-banger. The song instantly blasts open with a frantic barrage of fuzz-coated jangly guitars and pummeling rhythms that never let up. They sound better than ever, delivering layers of intricate melodic riffs and explosive percussion that raise goosebumps. Thurling passionately sings of his frustration with the current state of things, and the mind-control that media exerts over society, aided by corrupt and incompetent politicians who prey on a deeply divided public. The lyrics include a reference to John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine”, and later on state “life goes on like a Beatles song“, giving a nod to the enduring cultural significance of classic songs of yesterday as a symbol of hope for a better future.

I can’t hide from the TV screen
The old days are dead and gone
Whatever happened to Lennon’s song?
It goes on, it goes on
We live in confusing times
Least to say confusing times
And I don’t want to listen to this politician

The self-produced and highly entertaining video draws its source material from popular political and cultural GIFs, memes and footage found on the internet. It makes for a compelling and provocative snapshot of our very confusing times.

Finally, though Revolvers are no more, band frontman and songwriter James Thurling will continue to feature some of the their songs in his new rock band project Bitter Lime, so stay tuned.

Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes

GLASS VIOLET – Single Review: “Chemicals”

Glass Violet Chemicals

Glass Violet is a fairly new band from Bristol, England that I’ve recently come across, and I really like their sound. Formed in 2018 by guitarist/lead vocalist Tom Hurdiss and guitarist/vocalist Alex John, and influenced by acts like Kasabian, The Killers, Foals and Catfish and the Bottlemen (all bands I love), the two began writing songs together. They soon added Josh Walsh (bass), Matt West (drums) and Declan Pollard (synths, keys) to complete the band lineup.

They released a hard-rocking banger of a demo track “North Sentinel Island” this past March (2019), and followed up with their official debut single “Chemicals” on August 16th. The song’s an upbeat anthemic tune, with exuberant layers of jangly and swirling guitars, accompanied by a deep, buzzing bass line, aggressive percussion and melodic keyboards. Tom’s clear, earnest vocals have just the right amount of fervor, and I love how his charming British accent shines through. It’s a terrific song.

About the song’s lyrics, Alex told me “We basically wanted to just write a song that sort of soundtracks a night out. The lyrics aren’t anything special and they don’t mean much. But it’s catchy and it works. Our lyrics normally have more meaning and are quite conceptual, so we’re looking forward to getting that across in the future releases.”

Connect with Glass Violet:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / deezer / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Google Play

New Song of the Week: SECRET AMERICAN – “Lonely”

This past March, I had the pleasure of featuring the delightful band Secret American when I reviewed their marvelous 2018 album Warmth & Shelter. Now they’re back with a wonderful new single “Lonely“, which I’ve selected as my New Song of the Week. The song is the first single off their forthcoming second album, and explores the age-old conundrum between being in a committed relationship and holding on to one’s freedom.

Secret American is a bi-coastal band, born from the collaboration of singer/songwriter and guitarist Derek Krzywicki, who lives in the small town of Carpinteria on the California coast east of Santa Barbara, and his long-time friend Todd Mecaughey, a producer/engineer who lives in Philadelphia. (Todd has stated that their name comes from them being simultaneously proud and ashamed to be American – a sentiment I currently share). Completing the band’s seven-member lineup are the very talented musicians Kevin Killen, Katie Frank, Tony Unander, Alex Baranowski and Rory Geoghegan.

Secret American3

Their refreshing, eclectic sound is at once retro yet contemporary, unique yet familiar. As I noted in my review, the retro aspect of their music evokes the carefree California pop-rock vibe of The Lovin’ Spoonful, while their contemporary side channels the laid-back grooves of Cage the Elephant. And though their song lyrics often address more serious, thought-provoking topics, they’re presented with sunny melodies, breezy instrumentation and pleasing vocals that make for happy listening experience.

“Lonely” features a rich mix of shimmery synths, layers of twangy and jangly guitars, soulful bass and crisp percussion, all wrapped in a captivating melody that envelops us like a warm blanket. Derek’s smooth, sultry vocals are so damn seductive and bewitching as he croons about how, despite the occasional loneliness, being single and free is preferable to being imprisoned in a relationship – or is it?

Cause if you wanna be like me, you better be lonely
You’d better think only of the woman you had
Cause if you wanna be like me, you better be lonely
You’d better think only of the man you had

Oh I’m not giving it up I said
Oh I’m not giving it up I said
Oh I’m not giving it up for you

I wanna be who I want to
I wanna see who I want to, baby yeah
I wanna feel them feels too
But I can’t have that with you

Can’t have my number
Can’t have my time
Though that I want you, you can’t be mine
You can lead me to water, but I wouldn’t drink
You can make me love you, but I’ll always think

Secret American make fascinating videos for many of their songs, and for “Lonely” they’ve produced not one, but TWO delightful videos, both created and edited by Todd’s wife Natalie Mecaughey. The first contains vintage footage from what appears to be a fifties film about a couple on a scenic bus trip across the U.S., who experience snags in their relationship. The second is a mashup of footage of couples enjoying romantic moments on a pier, juxtaposed with poignant images of Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander looking uncharacteristically reflective.

Catch Secret American at one of these upcoming shows:

Sep 25 – Milkboy Philly, Philadelphia, PA
Sep 26 – Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC
Sep 27 – The Royal AmericanCharleston, SC
Sep 28 – Primal Brewery, Huntersville, NC
Sep 29 – The Radio Room, Greenville, SC

Connect with Secret American on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

New Song of the Week: MARS MOTEL – “My House is About to Fall Apart”

Brooklyn, New York-based Mars Motel make some of the best alternative dream rock of any band around today, and are having quite a busy and successful year. In May, they released the stunning “Coming Up For Air”, the first single from their forthcoming album Passenger X, due out later this year. I reviewed that song, which has spent the past three months and counting on my Weekly Top 30. Two months later they released a second single “D’Ya Wanna Get Lost With Me?”, and recently played a triumphant show at the Bowery Ballroom in Lower Manhattan. They now return with their third single “My House is About to Fall Apart“, which I’ve selected as my New Song of the Week.

Formed in 2017 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Sarik Kumar, Mars Motel also includes Wes Wynne (Guitar), Justin Lieberthal (Bass) and Craig Stauber (Drums). Their beautiful music melds a dreamy 90s Brit-pop vibe with an immersive, guitar-driven wall of sound influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and The War on Drugs, and I love it!

Kumar explains that “My House is About to Fall Apart” is about a relationship on the brink of failure, but could also apply to the world as well – “that strange moment when you know it’s going to collapse, but you are still on the ride down.” Musically, the song has a languorous tempo, highlighted by shimmering synths and gorgeous layers of jangly and chiming guitars that create a lush, dreamy soundscape. The subtle bass and thumping drumbeats, accentuated with lots of crashing cymbals in the dramatic chorus, keep the perfect rhythm moving forward. Kumar’s lovely and powerful vocals beautifully convey a sense of sad resignation as he plaintively sings “I need to find a peace of mind I’ve lost. It’s deep inside, buried inside I know. My house is about to fall apart.”

Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

STEREOHAZE – Single Review: “Drifting Away”

Stereohaze

Stereohaze is an alternative rock band from Manchester, England who I first featured on this blog this past May when I reviewed their excellent debut EP Fight For Your Future. Now they’re back with a terrific new single “Drifting Away“, which dropped on September 7th. Formed in 2017, the band consists of Charlie Whittaker (guitar/vocals), Ryan Webb (guitar), Harry Wilcock (bass) and Diesel Evans (drums). Despite their relatively young ages, they play some wicked guitar-driven rock laden with hooks, intelligent lyrics and electrifying instrumentals.

The song opens with Diesel’s pounding drumbeats and Harry’s throbbing bass, then we’re suddenly hit with an explosion of grimy riffs and the song is off and running. Charlie’s commanding vocals enter the mix as he fervently sings of a troubled relationship that’s driving him crazy, but he hopes can still be salvaged: “I just can’t shake the infection of your poisonous affection. Indecisions, contradictions are part of my condition. We’re drifting away, so come a little closer. And we’re falling apart, so let’s come together.” Charlie and Ryan’s dual guitars are fantastic as they blast through the airwaves with intricate layers of gnarly fuzz and blistering distortion, making for an exhilarating rock tune.

It bears repeating that I really love Charlie’s vocal style. I’ve found that weak vocals are often one of the biggest liabilities for an artist or band, but his vocals are wonderful, and an integral part of Stereohaze’s great overall sound.  The guys are all skilled musicians, and I’m so happy they’ve delivered another outstanding song. “Drifting Away” is further proof that Stereohaze is most definitely a band on the rise.

Connect with Stereohaze:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase their music on iTunesAmazon / Google Play

New Song of the Week: ROADKEEPER – “Narcissistic Peoples”

Roadkeeper

This past April, I featured Texas band Roadkeeper on this blog when I reviewed their single “Old Man’s War”, a stunning song about anxiety and worry over things, both real and imagined. I loved the song so much it spent 18 weeks on my Weekly Top 30. Formed only a little more than a year ago, the Tyler, Texas- based four-piece consists of songwriter/producer John Hetherington (vocals, synths, rhythm guitar), Trevor Tull (lead guitar), Nick Cogdill (drums) and Daniel Griffith (bass), all 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 and often socially relevant lyrics that give us a lot to think about. Since forming, they’ve released four outstanding singles, and now return to grace our eardrums with a beautiful new single “Narcissistic Peoples“, which officially drops September 6th. About the song, the band states: “This song was originally meant to be a satirical take on sci-fi future fascist recruitment propaganda but lyrically it ended up personal and political. It was inspired equally by the erasure of and actions against American indigenous cultures by the ruling class as well as the current refugee crisis at the southern US border.”

Musically, the song features exuberant layers of richly-textured guitars and shimmery synths, nicely driven by Griffith’s subtle bassline and Cogdill’s crisp, thumping drumbeats. It all provides a dreamy, melodic backdrop for Hetherington’s smooth falsetto vocals. The music feels light and breezy, belying the seriousness of the rather biting lyrics. Though brief, running scarcely more than two minutes, it’s an incredibly impactful song nonetheless.  “Narcissistic Peoples” is another in a string of perfect singles from this exceptionally talented band, and I’m delighted to make it my New Song of the Week.

If you could be someone else just for a day
Would you wash their cares away
Or does the thought that they have it worse
Make your feelings hurt because you like to feel
Like a warrior fighting to save the world

Do you feel it?

It eats you alive but you’re not alone
There are millions of people, bitter and selfish
Narcissistic people waiting on a future
Where everyone looks like them
Everyone has power
Everyone has religion
There’s no one left to conquer

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

WHALE HOUSE – Album Review: “Clowder”

Whale House Clowder art

Whale House is a psychedelic rock band that got its start in 2007 when Caleb Price and Clayton Brice met while students at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. Sharing a love of both classic 60s counter-culture rock and the 90s alternative/grunge rock of their youth, they quickly bonded and began writing and producing songs together in Clayton’s apartment. Their music combines these two rock influences, while experimenting with structure and timbre to create their own unique modern rock sound. Wanting to take their music to the next level, they moved to the recording studio, where they could benefit from the expertise of a professional production team.

Whale House 2

Between 2009 and 2015 they released three EPs, and in 2016 dropped two singles, “Freeway” and “Think of Me”. That November, they released awesome videos of live performances of “Think of Me” and another of their tracks “Red Sun”. I reviewed those videos, which you can read here. Now, nearly three years later, Caleb and Clayton return with their first full-length album Clowder, which will be available on all streaming platforms September 7th, with CDs and vinyl shipping now.

The songs for Clowder were constructed over the course of a year from (in their own words) “sound bytes flung back and forth through the ether across the 300 miles that now separate Caleb and Clayton.” The album was recorded direct to tape at Drum Farm Studios, a re-purposed organic farm in northwest Wisconsin. With the help of drummer John Richardson, they recorded most of the tracks live as a three-piece to recreate the spontaneity of a live show. Veteran producer Tom Herbers produced and mixed the songs, and John Golden did the mastering.

Into the Bluffs” kicks off Clowder in a big way with a burst of Richardson’s pummeling drumbeats accompanied by melodic piano keys. Layers of fuzzy guitars, bass and more keyboards are soon added as Caleb and Clayton sing with a harmony as near-perfect as any I’ve heard in a while. The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but seem to speak to tapping into one’s spiritual being: “Give me a sign. Search yourself and follow me in. Look into the bluffs. Ghosts are gathering in the upper atmosphere. Spirits calmly watch me yeah.

Next up is “Doll“, a dark song inspired by Caleb’s experience spending time in the hospital with his mother while she was in a carbon monoxide poisoning induced coma. “And I know it’s over. I’ll pull the plug and let her go. After it’s over, I’ll start the engine, shut the door.” The song’s melody and structure give off a Nirvana vibe, with an ever-changing tempo that goes from chugging riffs of gnarly guitars to aggressive stop-start chords. Caleb’s plaintive vocals are wonderful, and I like how they rise with emotion along with the guitar notes. It all makes for a fascinating listen, and is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

A Great Fire” beautifully showcases the guys’ skill at writing complex melodies and using rich instrumentation to create an interesting soundscape that continually evolves and surprises our senses. The track opens with a strong thumping drumbeat and ominous synths, creating a mesmerizing backdrop for Clayton’s rather mournful vocals as he sings of far-off cosmic storms, possibly symbolizing unrest or even the end of the world. Gradually, guitar, bass and piano enter the mix, then everything ramps up in the chorus with jagged riffs and crashing cymbals as Clayton launches into an impassioned wail: “The pores of my skin are dripping acid. The dogs are fighting, the snakes are biting. The back of my eyelids explode with lightning!” It’s a fantastic song.

The lead single “Milk” was released on August 15th, along with a surreal and vividly colorful video. It’s a terrific grunge song, featuring a torrent of gnarly riffs set to a powerful driving beat. Caleb explained that the lyrics speak of someone bogged down in a sea of ego-driven minutiae while the the rest of the world keeps on moving forward: “Near the belly digesting away. Far away, and deep inside, visions of hell. Paralyzed from the food that has yet to metabolize. And it’s been so long. And the world moved on.

The guys take a melodic turn on the captivating “Elephant“, my absolute favorite track on the album. The lush mix of chiming and twangy guitars are drop-dead gorgeous, as are Clayton’s heartfelt vocals that express a deep vulnerability. At 2:22 minutes, a beguiling flute enters, giving the song a momentary Celtic vibe. “Spine” veers into folk-rock territory, but still retains a grunge sensibility thanks to the strong guitar work, and once again the guys’ vocal harmonies are really impressive. And speaking of strong guitar work, the guys dazzle us with their mind-blowing guitar skills on the trippy psychedelic gem “Shapeshifter“. We’ve barely had a chance to catch our breath before they return to hammer us with exuberant jangly riffs, deep, buzzing bass and frantic beats on the hard-driving banger “Papercuts“.

The title track “Clowder“is an intriguing song with fuzzy, reverb-soaked guitars and tumultuous percussion. Caleb explained the song’s meaning: “The song ‘Clowder’ is based on an old children’s book called ‘Millions of Cats’. It’s about a guy who goes out looking for a single cat and ends up being followed home by billions of them. We enjoy simple surreal imagery like that. The story ends up being about the destructive power of pride and the importance of being humble. That kind of suppression of ego is something Clayton and I aspire to and I think its a theme that pops up in a lot of our writing.” The song opens with sounds of Caleb whispering “Don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you“, then the music intensifies as Clayton’s vocals take a more insistent tone. In time, with guitars wailing and cymbals crashing in the chorus, Clayton emphatically repeats the line “Hundreds. Millions. Thousands. Billions.

Twilight Sleep” is an enchanting track, highlighted by a pleasing acoustic guitar and wonderful sweeping orchestral instrumentation that imparts an almost ethereal quality. The little piano riff in the chorus is especially good, and nicely complements Caleb and Clayton’s fervent vocal harmonies. Guest musicians on this track included violinist Ryan Young of Trampled By Turtles and cellist Hilary James of We Are The Willows. At the very end of the track, we hear Ryan Young state “I played one wrong note”, though it all sounded pretty damn perfect to my ears. The album closes with “Asleep On A Plane“, a brief but sweet love song. The music consists only of a resonant jangly guitar and bass, but combined with Caleb’s earnest vocals, the song packs quite an emotional punch.

I must admit that many of these songs took a couple of listens for me to fully connect with them, but once I did, I came to realize that Clowder is a brilliant and stunning album. Unlike a lot of pop and classic rock, with their catchy hooks and melodies that quickly bore into our brains, modern and experimental rock music requires us to really listen to hear and appreciate all the little nuances of the more complex melodies, innovative instrumentation, and somewhat abstract lyrics that Whale House have so cleverly written. If you’re willing to expend the time and effort to dig deep into their music, you will find a lot to enjoy on Clowder.

Their Record Release Party will take place Saturday SEP 14 at Brewery Nønic, Menomonie, Wisconsin

Connect with Whale House:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

IAMWARFACE – Album Review: “Year of the Dragon”

I’ve stated it before, and will say it again – British electro-rock band IAMWARFACE can do no wrong when it comes to making music. From the moment I first heard their debut single “Say My Name” in 2016 – which I likened to being hit by an atomic blast – I’ve been a huge fan. Their aggressive name is a fitting metaphor for their bombastic, groove-based sound, and in the three years since their debut, they’ve continued to deliver one incredible song after another. Three of their four singles: “Say My Name”, “Closer” and “Fear the Future” (all of which I’ve reviewed) have reached #1 on my Weekly Top 30 chart, with “Closer” finishing in the top 10 of my Top 100 Songs of 2018. Now, they’re set to finally unleash their first album Year of the Dragon, which drops September 6th. The album contains their first four singles, as well as six new tracks and four remixes.

IAMWARFACE new
Photo by Caitlin Stokes

Based in London and Brighton, England, IAMWARFACE consists of founder and frontman Matt Warneford (songwriting, vocals), Lou Matthews (guitars), Tom Howe (DJ synth), Mike Smith (bass) and Adam Stanley (drums). Influenced by some of their favorite bands and artists such as Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Kasabian, Muse, Big Black Delta, Nero, Queens of the Stone Age, Tears For Fears, MGMT and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, IAMWARFACE creates music that’s aggressive, melodically complex and always exciting.

The opening track on Year of the DragonSay My Name” certainly embodies those qualities, with an explosive barrage of gnarly guitars, screaming synths and thunderous percussion, driven by a deep, buzzing bassline. Warneford’s fierce, mind-blowing vocals are almost frightening as he wails and shrieks the lyrics. This incredible song still gives me chills three years later!

Next up is the gloriously bombastic kiss-off song “You Don’t Love Me Anymore“, which was their second single. Once again, they live up to their name by delivering a furious onslaught of jangly guitars, heavy bass and smashing drumbeats. It’s loud, in-your-face, and melodically beautiful, and the hard-driving guitar work is fantastic. Warneford’s impassioned vocals are positively chilling as he wails “Whoa oh oh, you were right, you don’t love me anymore!” The cool video shows the band performing the song wearing fluorescent body paint.

To Die For” is one of the new tracks, and I love it! The song immediately hooks us in with an assault of crashing drumbeats and a deep, wobbly bassline, then a mesmerizing spacey synth riff kicks in, creating a mysterious soundscape for Warneford’s marvelous vocals. The music intensifies with tortured guitars and piercing synths in the chorus as he laments “Seems like I’m alive for, something I could die for.

Fear the Future” was their most recent single, released this past February, and one of their best songs. The biting lyrics speak to the banal music and entertainment, bullshit and fear-mongering being fed to the masses in a pernicious attempt to dumb-down and divide us. Musically, the song features the band’s signature aggressive instrumentation and massive, driving rhythms, making for a incredibly powerful and exhilarating song that slams us against the wall. The disturbing video brilliantly brings the dark lyrics to life.

Now we get to what I consider to be their greatest song, the monumental and gorgeous “Closer“. Wow, this song is a masterpiece! It opens with a mysterious throbbing synth chord that slowly builds into a stunning and dramatic soundscape that envelops us as Warneford laments of an obsessive and destructive relationship. The song then erupts into a maelstrom of tortured wailing synths, grimy guitars, buzz-saw bass, and explosive percussion, punctuated by almost violently crashing cymbals that emphasize the feelings of desolation expressed in the bitter lyrics. But then, Warneford fervently sings that their love affair that now lies in tatters might still be salvageable: “Feel I’m walking on shattered glass. This romance just has to end, to reset, erase, begin again. And I’ll move, move closer. Yes I’ll move closer to you.” The spooky, strangely beautiful video shows a woman in a shabby gossamer dress dancing in a filthy abandoned warehouse as Warneford sings the song.

From this point on, all the tracks are new to us, and all of them superb. The rousing “Get So High” seems to channel a bit of MGMT with its trippy and melodic synth-driven grooves and chugging riffs of gnarly guitars. “Atomic White Gold” brings a pulsating mix of chiming and reverb-drenched fuzzy guitars, swirling synths and blasting drumbeats, wrapped in a dark, captivating melody. Smith’s deep, throbbing bass is a highlight here, giving the track incredible depth. Warneford’s vocals soar as he sings “Atomic white gold. Just like the real thing.” The extended wailing guitar run in the outro is awesome, sounding like a cross between an air-raid siren and incoming bombs.

Bleed Out” starts off with heavy, distorted reverb, then a driving punk rock beat kicks in, compelling us to take to the dance floor. Matthew’s furious riffs and Stanley’s pummeling drumbeats are so fucking good! I really love songs with this kind of hard-driving beat. At the three-minute mark, the tempo slows as Howe’s throbbing industrial synths take over, giving the song a dark, intense vibe that sounds like something Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails could have cooked up together. The track ends with the same heavy, distorted reverb it began with.

IAMWARFACE continue delivering the goods with the hard-hitting “Red Queen“. With a nod to Queens of the Stone Age, the chugging riffs of grimy guitars and massive driving rhythms really get our blood pumping. Matthews is an amazing guitarist, and his work here is nothing short of phenomenal. Warneford laments about his low status in the eyes and heart of the woman he desires: “You are the red queen. I am the lone dog. I would do anything to win back your heart. You are something, I am nothing to you.

Trigons” is a long (7:13 minutes) mostly instrumental track that really showcases this band’s impressive musicianship. Each member is allowed to shine, as the guitars, bass, synths and percussion are distinct, yet meld together beautifully to create a mesmerizing psychedelic fantasia. Warneford’s soaring vocals are sparse, entering only in the latter part of the track, but are powerfully compelling as always.

The Paris Alexander remix of “Closer” is particularly stunning, giving a the song a different, somewhat lighter feel through a captivating dance beat and dreamy, ethereal synths. Alexander is a music producer and composer, and has collaborated with Antipole, a Norwegian post punk band I’ve previously written about on this blog.

Year of the Dragon is a phenomenal album that feels almost like a greatest hits compilation, as every single track is outstanding. I loved IAMWARFACE before, and love them even more after hearing this album. Year of the Dragon drops September 6th, but you can pre-order it here.

Track Listing:
1. SAY MY NAME
2. YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE
3. TO DIE FOR
4. FEAR THE FUTURE
5. CLOSER
6. GET SO HIGH
7. ATOMIC WHITE GOLD
8. BLEED OUT
9. RED QUEEN
10. TRIGONS
11. SAY MY NAME (PAUL PARSONS REMIX)
12. CLOSER (PARIS ALEXANDER REMIX)
13. YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE (CROSSFLOW REMIX)
14. CLOSER (CONTROL FREAK REMIX)

Catch IAMWARFACE at one of these upcoming shows:

30 August 2019 – Bournemouth, UK (with The Kut, HAWXX, Black Tree Vultures)
7 September 2019- Twickenham, UK (with How To Live, Nick Swettenham)
26 September 2019- London, UK (with The Insect, Graves)
17 November 2019 – Brighton, UK (with Legpuppy, Androids In The Mist)

Connect with IAMWARFACE:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play