New Song of the Week: THE MILLION REASONS – “Secrets”

The Million Reasons Secrets

Chicago rock outfit The Million Reasons has been a favorite indie band of mine ever since I first heard their magnificent song “Dizzy” almost exactly one year ago today. I featured the song on this blog, and loved it so much it ended up at #10 on my list of Top 100 Songs of 2018. They followed “Dizzy” with another fantastic single “Battle of Sound” in early November 2018, along with a humorously charming video. (I reviewed both singles, which you can read by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.)

The guys now return with a brand new single “Secrets“, which finds them taking a somewhat darker tone than their previous songs. Drummer Colin Dill explained: “We wanted to surprise people with a darker, heavier song than expected. We are all a little angry about the current state of affairs and this song represents letting people into the frustration that can be hidden deep down.” Besides Dill, The Million Reasons is comprised of Scott Nadeau (lead vocals), Ken Ugel (guitar), Mike Nichols (guitar), and Jason Cillo (bass). They’re all phenomenal musicians, consistently delivering arresting melodies, killer riffs, tight rhythms and powerful vocals. “Secrets” was produced by guitarist Ken Ugel along with Adam Beck, and mixed by Ugel and mastered by Nick Stetina.

The song starts off with a somber, bluesy guitar riff, moody bass line and pounding drum beat as Scott sings the first verse with his beautiful, understated vocals:

It’s hard to keep the days in line
And it’s hard to tell the time
When your mind is far away from here
When the light begins to fall
And your thoughts begin to stall
What do you do to entertain yourself?

Follow me a little deeper, and I’ll show you all my secrets that I keep inside
Follow me a little deeper, and I’ll show you all my secrets in this state of mind

Suddenly, Scott’s vocals erupt into an angry wail as the music intensifies with a barrage of gnarly and distorted guitars, chugging bass and tumultuous drums. He passionately rails against the current socioeconomic conditions in America (and elsewhere) that keep a sizable percentage of the population stuck in financial limbo:

Welcome to the modern age
Where there’s no jobs, no decent wage
But that’s OK
You can have some debt for free
All the problems of today
(They) never seem to go away
And the light
Is still so far from me

Follow me a little deeper, and I’ll show you all my secrets that I keep inside
Follow me a little deeper, and I’ll show you all my secrets in this state of mind

The song ends on a bombastic note, driving home the frustration and anger the band feels about this subject with powerful ferocity. It’s another winning song from The Million Reasons, offering further evidence that they’re an immensely talented band who are skilled at producing exceptional music with compelling and relatable lyrics. I love these guys, and look forward to hearing more from them soon.

Catch The Million Reasons at one of these upcoming shows:

July 19 – Beat Kitchen, Chicago
August 3 – Wedgestock 2019, Middlebury, Indiana
August 9 – Cubby Bear Wrigleyville, Chicago

Connect with The Million Reasons:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

OPERATION GUILLOTINE – Single Review: “Good Times”

Operation Guillotine Good Times

This is a rather bittersweet post I’m afraid. Operation Guillotine is/was a blues rock band from Coventry, England who described themselves as “five lovable rogues from the Midlands that just aim to bring good vibes” but, alas, they are no more. They had a great run since forming in 2016, releasing a number of excellent, hard-hitting singles, but after experiencing the loss of their drummer and bassist, they’ve decided to officially put an end to Operation Guillotine. However, fear not, because surviving members Alice Clarke (vocals), Rhys Scott (guitar, backing vocals) and Ben “Fogal” Ollis (lead guitar) will soon be forming an entirely new band with a new direction and sound.

reviewed their previous single, the stonking “No Victory”, just before Christmas 2018. They just dropped their final single “Good Times” on June 28, and it’s a fitting swan song. Even though it was actually one of the first songs they wrote as a band, it perfectly encapsulates their music legacy with the lyric “We’re here for a good time, not for a long time.” They really go out with a bang, delivering explosive riffs of distorted, reverb-drenched guitars and pounding drumbeats.

Alice is a fantastic singer, skillfully matching the intensity of the instrumentals note for note with vocals that range from fiery passion to a sensual purr. Though we may be upset that Operation Guillotine is done, she admonishes us to keep a stiff upper lip: “So turn it around, bring your frown upside down, ’cause baby it’s a good time we made.” And so they have.

Connect with Operation Guillotine:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream, download or purchase their music on Spotify / BandcampiTunes

OPERATION GUILLOTINE – Single Review: “No Victory”

Operation Guillotine single art

Operation Guillotine is a delightful blues rock band from Coventry, England who describe themselves as “five lovable rogues from the Midlands that just aim to bring good vibes”. And their wonderful moniker is entirely fitting, as they sonically slice the airwaves with their dynamic, hard-hitting sound. Formed in 2016, the band is fronted by vocalist Alice Clarke, and includes Rhys Scott on guitar and backing vocals, Ben Ollis on lead guitar and Ben Addison on drums and backing vocals. (Their bassist Chris Sizer just recently left the band, and will be sorely missed, but the band has a replacement lined up ready to assume the mantle of bassist.)

They’ve released a number of excellent singles, beginning with “Underneath the Lights” in 2017, and their latest is “No Victory” which dropped yesterday, 21 December. It’s a fun, hard-driving banger, with chugging riffs of gnarly guitars, pummeling drums and loads of crashing cymbals that make for an exhilarating listen. I love the little flourishes of distorted guitar that add a bit of sexual tension in the beginning. But for me, the most interesting aspect of the track are Alice’s intriguing vocals, which register in the lower octaves here than on their other songs. She exudes a raw sensuality that perfectly captures the band’s intent in the suggestive lyrics.

The song is about failing to score on a date. As Rhys explained to me: “It was written after our friend went on a tinder date that went horribly wrong and he said all the wrong things. They were both determined to do stuff but it didn’t go as planned. We tried to catch a sleazy vibe in the music as well as the lyrics.” I think they succeed quite nicely, and have a hit on their hands.

Ooh come on over, baby what you got
Give me everything I like it or not
Strip me down to my underwear
Show me everything I’ll never care

So drink it down my sister
Down my brother
Sinking in this feeling is there nothing at all
So drink it down my sister
Down my brother
Meet you at the end I will be taking you home

Drop down to your knees (repeat)

Connect with Operation Guillotine:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream or download their music on Spotify / iTunes

JETSTREAM – Single Review: “Delta Blues”

The other day my friend Susan tweeted about a new song “Delta Blues” by a band I’d not heard of before called Jetstream, tagging me along with several other music-loving friends as she customarily does to help spread the word about indie bands. Well, let me say that every single one of us were immediately blown away when we clicked on the YouTube link and listened to the song. Wow, “Delta Blues” is one hard-rockin’, foot-stompin’, gritty blues-rock mutherfucker! And though Jetstream sound like they’re from Tennessee or Mississippi, they’re in fact originally from the Rock of Gibraltar, and now based in the UK!

Jetstream
Photo by Eye Candy Photography

Like many bands, Jetstream has undergone some personnel changes since their formation in 2008, but the current lineup consists of Nolan Frendo (vocals), Stu Whitwell (guitars, keys), Tristan Tonna (drums), Justin Pou (bass), Aaron Ignacio (guitar) and Tristan Tonna (drums). Among some of their many musical influences are such greats as Aerosmith, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Kooks, Counting Crows, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Coldplay and Green Day – all awesome bands I also love. They released their first EP in 2014, and have followed with a number of singles since then, the latest of which is “Delta Blues,” which dropped on October 26 (a date that interestingly saw a tremendous number of new releases by several artists and bands, a few of which I’ve recently reviewed).

“Delta Blues” kicks off with Tonna’s pounding drumbeat as Whitwell and/or Ignacio lay down deadly riffs of gnarly guitar, backed by a sinister pulsating synth and Pou’s throbbing bass line that set an ominous tone. Frendo’s gritty vocals deepen the tension as he tells the unfortunate tale of a woman named Delta Blues who swept him off his feet, only to betray him.

Way down in Mississippi I found the sweet Delta Blues
She strut so very pretty, I knew I had nothing to lose
She made her name in this town when her mama was 17
Knocked down a whiskey jigger, make eyes across the room
Be first to pull the trigger, don’t trust what you assume
She made a name in this town when her mama was 17

The guys dial up the heat of the instrumentals to boiling as Frendo passionately wails the chorus, sending chills up and down our spines:

And I, I met her in a dusty tap room
I kissed her in the Southern sun
I shot her in the darkest alley
I miss her in another’s arms

The rampaging guitars, bass and drums continue laying waste to the airwaves as Frendo’s raw vocals keep heaping new layers of chills upon us straight through to the end. What a great song! Take a listen and dial up the volume to full-blast!

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

THE MILLION REASONS – Single Review: “Battle of Sound”

The Million Reasons New Lineup

I’ve been revisiting a lot of artists and bands lately on this blog, and today I’m featuring another one for the second time – the incredible Chicago rock band The Million Reasons. The band is comprised of Scott Nadeau (lead vocals), Ken Ugel (guitar), Mike Nichols (guitar), Colin Dill (drums) and their newest member Jason Cillo (bass). Following up on their outstanding 2017 debut EP The Runaround, they released their gorgeous single “Dizzy” in July, a magnificent song that went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 (you can read my review here). Today they return with another fantastic single “Battle of Sound,” which I’m pleased to review.

The song has a hard-hitting old-school rock vibe, starting off with punchy riffs of gnarly guitar that provide the driving force for the track. The song expands as layers of guitar are added, accompanied by a solid bass line and power drums, then suddenly erupts into a furious maelstrom in the bridge as the guys let loose on their respective instruments. It all makes for an exhilarating and highly enjoyable rock song.

Scott has a wonderful singing voice, with a raw power that’s perfectly suited to the music and biting lyrics that speak of a relationship that’s irreparably broken to the point that further communication is now impossible.

I didn’t know that we were fighting
I didn’t know that the lines were drawn
But here we are with our weapons at the ready
And the sides have been decided upon

If it’s a battle of silence, I’m winning
Never see me come around again
If it’s a battle of sound, I’ll take the crown
You’ll never see me come around again

You didn’t come prepared for battle 
You didn’t expect me to react 
You didn’t know that I own moments like this 
Where the lights go out and the power blows 
You’re in the black 

Who do you think kicks the power back on? 

The humorously charming video opens with the guys pulling up in a van, where they pick up a guy waiting by the curb who’s the new band member Jason Cillo. They hand him a bass guitar, whereupon he immediately gets into the groove as they all begin to play the song, heads furiously bobbing to the beat. As the video progresses, they’re shown alternating their seating positions and instruments, while the poor drummer Colin Dill gets tossed around a bit in the back as he tries to play his drums. The guys clearly had fun making this video.

Connect with The Million Reasons:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

THE UNDERGROUND VAULT – EP Review: “In the Water”

Underground Vault EP

Today I have the pleasure of introducing The Underground Vault, a fine rock band from London, England. They play a bluesy style of rock that’s hard and raw, with a bit of an old-school late 60s-early 70s vibe that calls to my mind such greats as Eric Clapton, Deep Purple and Ten Years After. Following up on the success of their 2017 debut EP Dawnbreaker, on September 15 they dropped their second EP In the Water, delivering six hard-driving tracks that solidify their status as a band on the rise. Making the noise are Blair Dollery on lead guitar & vocals, Jamie Dove on guitar, Pete Sadler on bass, and Dan Young on drums.

Underground Vault2

The EP opens strong with hammering drums and gnarly riffs announcing the arrival of “Colt.” Dollery snarls the dark lyrics warning an apparently very bad person that their days are numbered: “Got this gun in my hand. Gonna shoot you as fast as I can.” I’m not sure whether it’s Dollery, Dove or both who play the blistering riffs in the finale, but they’re fantastic. The guys rock and roll on “Everymans Fantasy,” a rousing song about a woman who’s driving him crazy with desire: “You’re in my dreams. I’m on my knees. You’re everyman’s fantasy.”

The band really settles into their groove by the third track “In the City.” This tune rocks the hell out, with an arresting melody that hooks us in from the get-go. Dollery and Dove set the airwaves aflame with scorching riffs of gnashing and wailing guitars, while Sadler’s humming bass and Young’s pounding drumbeats keeps things grounded. Dollery’s raw, passionate vocals at times are as fierce as the wailing guitars, raising goosebumps. “Heal the Wounds” delivers more hard-driving melodic rock with fuzzy riffs and lots of soaring vocal harmonies.

All the frustrations and angst seem to reach the boiling point on the hard-rocking “Love is Hate.” With exasperation in his voice, Dollery shouts the lyrics: “Going out, going out tonight. Getting drunk. Gonna have a fight. God you are getting on my nerves. It’s the end, it’s the end I suppose. Love is hate. Love is freedom. Love is hate. Keeps us human.” The fast-paced guitar work, deep bass and pummeling drums on this track are really terrific.

The guys save the best for last with the standout title track “In the Water” a beautiful song that’s also my favorite on the EP.  It starts off with a more relaxed cadence than the other tracks, with layers of gorgeous multi-textured guitars floating above a solid buzzing bass line, and accompanied by a military-type drumbeat. Dollery’s vocals are heartfelt as he sings about loss, possibly of a relationship that’s broken beyond repair: “Reach for the sky. Truth can not lie. All our dreams will be dead in the water. Drifting at sea, only you, only me. All our dreams will be dead in the water.” A little more than halfway into the track, the pace quickens, cymbals crash and guitars wail for about a minute, then everything slows back down for a while before cranking back up for a dramatic finish. It’s an epic song, and a perfect ending to a stellar EP.

 

Connect with The Underground Vault:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

THE MILLION REASONS – Single Review: “Dizzy”

The Million Reasons2

I think everyone who loves music will agree that one of life’s supreme pleasures is hearing a song for the first time and having it move us in some powerful way – which could be to bring chills, tears, joy, laughter or make us want to dance with abandon. Chills were what I felt when I first listened to the new single “Dizzy” from Chicago rock band The Million Reasons, which dropped July 13. Wow, what a powerful and gorgeous song it is, and I was so moved that I had to feature it on this blog.

The Million Reasons is comprised of Scott Nadeau (vocals and guitar), Ken Ugel (guitar), Mike Nichols (guitar) and Colin Dill (drums). Their dynamic sound – which they refer to as “rock and roll for summer nights and long rides” – draws influence from such legendary bands as Led Zeppelin, Queen, Thin Lizzy, Aerosmith, The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Foreigner and Rush. The guys released their debut EP The Runaround in 2017, featuring six outstanding hard-hitting tracks that I highly recommend my readers check out. But with “Dizzy,” they’ve really struck sonic gold.

The track opens with an enthralling guitar riff that immediately pulls us in with the promise that something really beautiful is about to unfold. As the song progresses and the music expands with added layers of intricate guitars and percussion into a soaring anthem, we’re not disappointed. The guitar work is simply amazing, and by the time the chorus arrives with jaw-dropping riffs of screaming guitars and thunderous drums, we’re left gasping for breath.

With his raw, earnest vocals, Nadeau passionately sings about a relationship in which both are blinded by an obsessive desire for one another:

If you’ve got something to say
I wanna hear you speak
Because girl
You’re gonna be the death of me

And you make me dizzy
You confuse me
And I make you dizzy
Because you don’t know what to do with me

“Dizzy” is a magnificent song from start to finish, and even at 5:41 minutes in length, it seems over far too quickly. I love it, and I love this band! I also love the beautiful video that was directed and edited by Stephanie Battista. I usually prefer videos that show the band or artist performing the song, instead of an acted-out story that sometimes has little to do with the actual song.

Catch The Million Reasons at one of these upcoming shows:

Saturday, July 28 – House of Blues, Chicago w/Young Pioneer + 2 others
Wednesday, August 22 – Emporium, Chicago w/Shiver + 1 other

Connect with The Million Reasons:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

CuriousHour – EP Review: “Explore”

Curious Hour ep

If you like soulful, blues-soaked rock accompanied by raw, passionate female vocals, then you should be listening to the music of UK band  CuriousHour. Formed two years ago, the London-based four-piece consists of guitarist Andy Grazebrook, vocalist Emily Grazebrook, drummer Wal Srankiewicz and bassist Aaron McIntosh. In July, 2017 they released their superb debut EP Explore, which I have the pleasure of reviewing today.

The first track “Lailah” arrives on sound waves of fuzzy guitars, strutting drums and a humming bass line. Then, Emily’s rich, bluesy vocals enter the scene and within seconds I’m blown away. Wow, what a voice she has! The kind of voice that demands your attention. She seems to channel the raw soulfulness of Tina Turner, the bluesy feels of Amy Winehouse, and the unrestrained passion of Janis Joplin. On “Lailah,” a palpable sense of tension and uncertainty simmers beneath the seeming coolness of her voice, occasionally piercing the surface as she croons about not knowing which direction to take: “Solo, solo, solo. Walking, walking walking. Don’t know, don’t know which way to go.” As the track progresses, Andy lays down some nimble guitar work, while Aaron gently strums his bass. It’s a great song.

The next track “Yield” is positively sublime. The guys are in perfect sync on their respective instruments, and Emily raises goosebumps as she fervently wails the lyrics expressing the depths of her hunger for another’s love: “I would do anything if you only lay your hands on me. / I’d cause a tidal wave to charge, wipe out all of humanity. Send them streaming from the land. Swallow them up into the sea. So that I could be with you. Oh I would give you the world if you’d love me.”

One of the things that strikes me as I listen to the EP is how beautifully each track flows into the next, sustaining the spell that CuriousHour have cast upon our ears, minds and souls. At times their bluesy sound reminds me a bit of Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother & the Holding Company. “Geraldine” is mesmerizing, and once again, Emily’s vocals are breathtaking. And no more so than on “Wanted,” where her jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics are on full display. She alternately seduces, snarls and wails the lyrics that speak to a detestable scoundrel: “You’re so quick on the draw, even your horse hates ya. Price on my head. Don’t stop til I’m dead. / You’re above the law but even your momma hates ya. How much to walk away?” The guitars, bass and drums on this epic track are all pretty amazing too.

The band dials up the energy on “Dark Surf,” a rousing rock’n’roll song with awesome fuzzy guitar work and thunderous drumming that make for an exciting listen. Two thirds in, the tempo slows to a languid, bluesy lull in the bridge, before ramping back up to full speed for an exhilarating finish. Emily’s refrain of “rise and fall” is an apt description of the song.

Explore is a wonderful EP that gets better with every listen, and every track is fantastic. There’s a lot of nuance in Andy’s intricate guitar work, Aaron’s subtle bass and Wal’s expert drumming, and each time I was able to detect something new I’d missed previously. Then there’s Emily’s mind-blowing vocals, which I could never tire of hearing.

CuriousHour have been gigging regularly ever since their inception, spreading their noise around London, the south of England and around the UK with plans to play in Europe. In the meantime, those of you in the UK can catch them at one of these upcoming shows:

JULY 11 7:30 & 10:30 PM  CURIOUSHOUR @ THE DUBLIN CASTLE

AUG 25 7:00 PM  NESTIVAL, The Birds Nest, London

Connect with CuriousHour:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp