Fresh New Tracks Vol. IV

It’s time for another installment of fresh new releases, and today I’m featuring three songs by (in alphabetical order) Ronnie the Bear, Tarraska and The Orphan The Poet.

“Moon Eyes” by Ronnie the Bear

Ronnie the Bear is the music project of Joshua Rukas, a charismatic and silky-voiced singer/songwriter from Grand Rapids, Michigan. A talented and versatile musician, he’s also drummer for punk/emo rock band MUSCLEMAN, as well as a former member of alt-rock band Dancing On Pluto, who I reviewed a couple times prior to their splitting up in August 2018. Last September, he released his stunning debut single “Do You Feel That?“, which I love so much that it ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list. He followed up at the end of October with his wonderful EP Lucid Dreams, and on February 14th he dropped his latest single “Moon Eyes“, a sweet song of young love that’s the perfect tune for Valentine’s Day.

Josh’s music is a pleasing blend of lo-fi alternative pop-rock, hip hop, psychedelic, synth pop and emo that he describes as ‘bedroom pop’, as he composes, performs, produces, mixes and masters all his own music at home. Over a lovely humming synth that sounds like a mellotron, he layers a colorful mix of swirling keyboard synths, crisp percussion, guitar and xylophone to create an enchanting backdrop for his soft, comforting vocals as he tells a lover of his strong feelings of devotion for her: “I want to melt into your arms / Your eyes are bigger than the moon / I’ve got a blanket built for two / I know I’ll find some warmth in you.”

Follow Ronnie the Bear on Twitter / Instagram

“Renegade” by Tarraska

Tarraska is a rock band based in Bournemouth, England. Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Alter Bridge, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Foo Fighters, Van Halen, Tremonti, Five Finger Death Punch and Guns N Roses, their music is a blend of classic and modern hard rock, characterized by heavy riffs, hard-driving rhythms and aggressive vocals. Originally formed in 2014 by lifelong friends Jack Lande and Ben Parker as a primarily acoustic cover band, the duo began writing their own songs in 2016, incorporating more electric guitars and heavier bass into their sound. They started touring around the UK, performing their own songs, and by the end of 2019, they had played more than 300 gigs in all manner of venues – pubs, clubs, restaurants, festivals and at private events. Jack plays rhythm and acoustic guitar and sings vocals, Ben plays lead, rhythm and bass guitar. Shaun Brown assists the duo on drums.

The guys released their excellent debut single “Trailblazer” in May 2020, and followed up in December with their second single “Renegade“. The two singles will be included on their forthcoming debut album, due out later this year. Both songs were recorded and mixed at Absolute Studios and GMMix in Bournemouth by Gareth Matthews, and mastered by Grant Berry at Fader Mastering in Manchester. Like a rampaging beast, “Renegade” storms through the gates with a barrage of fiery riffs and thunderous rhythms. Jack and Ben dazzle our senses with their strong musicianship as they unleash an unrelenting arsenal of guitar power, while Shaun shatters the airwaves with his powerful drum fills. Jack’s commanding vocals hold their own throughout the track with the hard-hitting instrumentals.

Jack told webzine Rock Regeneration that the song “deals with the emotions felt for a forbidden love and serves as a warning against lowering your guard in the face of real but ephemeral desires”. He further elaborates on the song’s press release: “For me, ‘Renegade’ is our most ambitious and musically expansive track to date, incorporating so much of the music we love and outlining what we want the band to become in the future. As for the song itself, the lyric tries to capture the intense and confusing emotions felt when caught up in a whirlwind love that, whilst genuine, may have or lead to destructive consequences.”

Follow Tarraska:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

“The Moxie” by The Orphan The Poet

The Orphan The Poet is an alternative rock two-piece from Columbus, Ohio consisting of vocalist and guitarist David Eselgroth and bassist Jake Floyd. Though we follow each other on Twitter and Instagram, I don’t know a whole lot about them, other than that they’ve been putting out great music for around five years, and seem to have a hell of a good time doing it. They released their debut EP Terrible Things in 2016, and have followed up with number of singles and a second EP in the years since. Two of their singles have garnered more than a million streams on Spotify: “Terrible Things” with over 1.8 million and “Queen Cobra” with over 1.1 million.

Their latest single “The Moxie” was released on February 12th. The song was written and produced by David and Jake, with the help of frequent collaborator and music producer Matt Squire, mixed by Joe Costable, and mastered by Mike Kalijian. According to a feature article I found in Earmilk, the guys wrote the song over Zoom during the early days of quarantine. The lyrics were inspired by their feelings, their positive outlook on life, and determination and self confidence that are the very essence of the word “moxie”. David confided “There were times when growing up I very much identified as a nerd to be honest. At the same time, I was a confident nerd. Looking back at the song now I’m like ‘oh, that’s what it’s about. This is what it means to me. These are the times that I’ve known I was a big dork but that didn’t change the strut in the step or whatever it was. I could see so much of myself in the lyrics just from my own experiences of being the nerdy kid. He wasn’t in the cool crowd, but he thought he was cool.”

The song is a tasty slice of exuberant alt-pop, highlighted by swirling synths, thumping bass, bold hand claps, and a riotous cacophony of fuzz-coated wailing guitars. David’s intense, spirited vocals are every bit as fun as the music. The lyrics are basically nonsensical, but speak to having a joyous, unabashed confidence: “Crash my car just to cause a scene / I’m gonna flip my spliff like I’m Steve McQueen / Soak my shoes in gasoline, I got these Motown moves from a magazine / (And all I wanna do is) Two step, marmalade, fever shake / I’m like a juiced up, tidal wave, every day (I got it) The Moxie.”

Follow The Orphan The Poet:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

New Song of the Week – AU GRES: “Nervous”

Au Gres is the moniker of Michigan-based singer-songwriter Joshua Kemp, who’s just released his charming debut single “Nervous“. With a wry sense of self-deprecating humor, he states that “Au Gres was conceived, like many of us, in a bedroom, on a flimsy desk, with unimpressive equipment.” That may well be, but I say the results are quite impressive. Melding elements of indie rock, lo-fi and synth pop, with “Nervous”, he’s created a delightfully dreamy soundscape for his warm, pleasing vocals. His beautifully strummed acoustic and electric guitar notes are nicely complemented by sparkling synths and gentle percussion, resulting in a really lovely song that I’m happy to name my New Song of the Week.

About the song, Au Gres explained on his Instagram page: “‘Nervous’ is about allowing yourself to be vulnerable. It’s awfully fitting, as releasing music often feels vulnerable to me, but some of the best things happen when we let ourselves be vulnerable.” “Nervous” celebrates the relationships that go deeper, for without opening ourselves up and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable to another person, a relationship can never fully blossom. This is expressed by the honest and simple lyric “Cause you oughta know, nothing about you makes me nervous. I feel right at home.

I asked Joshua how he came to name his music project ‘Au Gres’. He responded that Au Gres is a town in northern Michigan. “Northern Michigan in general is a special spot for me. My family and I would vacation up north a lot when I was younger. Au Gres has Michigan roots, but it’s also French for “of sandstone” or the clay-like substance found in rivers. I felt like this name gave me permission to mold my sound into whatever I wanted, much like how clay can be molded into different shapes.”

“Nervous” is the first of many songs Au Gres plans to release over the next year or so, and I’m eager to hear them!

Follow Au Gres:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream “Nervous”:  SpotifyApple MusicTidalSoundcloud

Purchase: BandcampAmazon

New Song of the Week – HAZY: “Swimming Closer”

Hazy

Since the release of his debut single “Dragonfly” in 2017, Manchester, England-based singer-songwriter HAZY has watched his star rise on the British music scene. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Chalfont St Giles, he’s loved music since he was a young child, and taught himself to play piano by ear. He followed “Dragonfly” with his gorgeous dream pop single “Silverplate” in 2018, receiving play on BBC Radio Stoke, and in 2019, he launched his debut EP Crystal Disguise to a packed crowd at the iconic Manchester nightclub Gullivers. This past April, he released his single “Arcade”, which has received airplay on numerous radio stations throughout the UK and on KB Radio Canada. Now he returns with a brand new single “Swimming Closer” which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

He wrote and recorded the song at home in his bedroom during the COVID-19 lockdown, as a reaction to the cabin fever he was feeling. He explains “I wrote the track when I was feeling pretty down about the whole lockdown situation, and since then life has been unbelievably strange. Whilst the song is light and energetic to the unsuspecting listener, there is a deeper connection to the struggle that we have all endured during the lockdown. The song helped me feel more optimistic. I hope it makes you feel the same way too.

The track was co-produced by Andy Gannon, who has worked with such artists as Robbie Williams, Rudimental and Clean Bandit, and hearkens back to the beautiful and melodic sounds of “Silverplate”. With its catchy melody and infectious toe-tapping beat, the song has a sunny vibe that makes it a great track for summer, despite its rather poignant lyrics. The colorful swirling synths that continue throughout the song are terrific, and I especially love the piano and guitar notes in the choruses. HAZY’s vocals are great too, with just a hint of reverb effect that works really well on this song. He beautifully expresses both a sense of frustration and vulnerability in the verses, and a hopeful optimism in the choruses. It’s a wonderful song that stayed stuck in my mind long after hearing it, and that’s a good thing!

Think I’m losing my mind
If I’m never gonna get this chance at life
I lie awake at night
I’ll figure out if it was real or right

Oh yeah, I’m swimming closer than I’ve ever swam before
I’m scared of swimming closer than I anticipated 

Hey, through the radio most of you will never know
The problem of losing your faith
We’re all a statistic, but let’s stay optimistic
So I don’t have to cry to sleep

Oh yeah, I’m swimming closer than I’ve ever swam before
I’m scared of swimming closer than I anticipated 

I’m all messed up today
I’ve got to find a way so I don’t fall asleep in the streets
Didn’t get the memo so I didn’t say hello
And now I’m feeling less complete

Oh yeah, I’m swimming closer than I’ve ever swam before
I’m scared of swimming closer than I anticipated 

Think I’m losing my mind
If I’m never gonna get the chance at life
I lie awake at night
I’ll figure out if it was real or right
I’m swimming closer than I’ve ever swam before

Oh yeah, I’m swimming closer than I’ve ever swam before
I’m scared of swimming closer than I anticipated

Follow HAZY:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase: Google PlayAmazon