PAUL RENNA – Single Review: “Fire”

Paul Renna is a singer, songwriter and guitarist based in Dallas, Texas who’s been writing, recording and performing music, first with bands and later as a solo artist, for more than 25 years. His signature music style draws from folk, Southern rock and Americana, with his songs resting comfortably among all three genres. He released his first solo album Portrait in 2003, then after a quiet period lasting seven years, Paul returned in 2010 with his second album Freedom. In the years since, the prolific artist dropped two more full-length albums and three EPs, and in 2019, he released two singles, “Bound to Love” and “All My Life”, both of which I featured on this blog (you can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post). Now he returns with his latest single “Fire“, a blues-soaked gem that sees Paul delving deeper into Southern roots rock.

Paul actually wrote “Fire” a number of years ago, and originally featured an acoustic version of the song on his 2013 album Unplugged. For the single release, he teamed up with producer Paul Soroski in the creation of an edgier, more hard-rocking vibe befitting the song’s title. The two Pauls get right down to business, as the song opens strong with jarring guitar chords and wailing organ. Things quickly settle into an almost funky groove, as Paul lays down some bluesy guitars, accompanied by that terrific meandering organ and just the right amount of drums. As the song progresses, he layers more aggressive guitars, giving the song a heavier rock feel.

Paul has a commanding and emotive singing voice, with a slightly raspy quality that works especially well on this song, leaving us little doubt as to his lusty intentions: “I don’t need to be adored, up against the wall, down on the floor. We can set this place on fire.” It’s a wonderful bluesy rocker.

With the lifting of Covid restrictions in Texas, Paul is back performing live at venues throughout the Dallas-Ft. Worth region. Check out his Facebook and Twitter pages for dates and locations of upcoming shows.

Connect with Paul on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Reverbnation
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Philip Morgan Lewis – Single & Video Premier: “Come Find Me Back”

As I’ve noted numerous times on this blog, there’s a tremendous amount of music talent in the UK, and one of the more creative and imaginative artists among them all is singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Philip Morgan Lewis. The London East Ender boldly experiments with a wide array of genres and influences, ranging from alternative rock, blues, garage rock and folk to R&B and EDM, in the creation of his exciting and eclectic style of blues-soaked rock that nicely suits his distinctive raspy vocals. And he isn’t afraid to address the darker side of humanity and the emotional wreckage of failed relationships, love gone bad and our sometimes self-destructive ways, while also offering glimmers of hope and redemption. His unique sound is instantly identifiable, as he sounds like no one else I know of.

He’s released a fair amount of music over the past decade, including his debut EP Karma Comedown in 2016, followed a year later by his brilliant album Grief Harbour, which I reviewed. In the years since, he’s dropped a number of singles, two of which – “Blowtorched Dreams” and “Rock That City” – I also featured on this blog (you can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post). Now Philip returns with another great new single “Come Find Me Back“, along with a terrific video which I’m happy to premier. Released via label Tx2 Records, the single was written, produced, performed and mixed by Philip, and mastered by legendary mastering engineer Pete Maher. The backing vocals were sung by Annick.

“Come Find Me Back” is a heartfelt song that speaks to someone’s fall from grace and the break up of a family. Philip elaborates “The song is about the breaking up of families and single parenting in an era where it’s simply easier to separate than to fight for your love and try to do everything you can to mend relationships. And someone trying to find his grace back in the spiritual sense, in a way to become stronger, accept past errors, and try and reunite and fix things.”

Philip brings his poignant lyrics to life with mournful piano keys, intricate guitar work and gently soaring horns, all working together brilliantly to create a beautiful and haunting soundscape. A close listen reveals how he skillfully layers multiple guitar textures to create both nuance and depth of sound, with subtle bass and percussion nicely transitioning to bolder rhythms in the anthemic choruses. His plaintive, blues-soaked vocals are powerfully emotive, conveying his despair and pleas for forgiveness and acceptance back into the fold with a heart-wrenching rawness. 

Love it's just just a couple of lines
To let you know I miss you babe
And it's just just a couple of bars
To let you know I messed things up

All that is left inside of me
Is the thought of our crazy little family
And it feels so warm 
But time keeps on passing us by
And I wanna hold you both so tight
Until that one fine day
Until I find my way

Hope is all I have
Grace come find me back
Until that one fine day
Until I find my way

I can't make you feel like I do
Though I wish you could see me now
Now I know that you couldn't love me
Like the man that I used to be

All that is left inside of me
Is the wrong that I did and a mystery
How to learn to forgive myself
What a mess
Time keeps on passing us by
And I wanna hold you both so tight
Until that one fine day
Until I find my way

Hope is all I have
Grace come find me back
Until that one fine day
Until I find my way
Hope is all I have
Love don't count me out
Until that one fine day
Until I find my way back to you


The beautiful video, which Philip directed and edited, was filmed in London’s East End, and shows scenes of mostly empty streets, parks and playgrounds, as well him in what appears to be an empty house. All serve to represent his feelings of isolation and loneliness, both at home and within the larger context of a big city that should be teeming with life. The child’s drawing of a family of three, shown blowing around on the sidewalk, is a particularly touching element.

Connect with Philip: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / YouTube / Apple Music
Purchase:  Amazon / Deezer / Bandcamp 

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #22: “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys

The song at #22 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is the rousing “Lonely Boy” by Nashville-based duo The Black Keys. I love their bluesy garage rock sound, and “Lonely Boy” is one of two songs by them on this list (“Fever” ranks at #57), as well as my favorite of their many great songs. It’s also one of their biggest hits, reaching #1 on the Billboard Rock, Alternative and Adult Alternative charts, as well as in Canada, though it peaked at only #64 on the stupid Billboard Hot 100. It won Grammys for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance of 2012.

“Lonely Boy” is from their seventh studio album El Camino, and was co-written and produced by Danger Mouse. Dan Auerbach’s grimy, bluesy riffs are fantastic, chugging along to Patrick Carney’s aggressive thumping drumbeats as he laments about his love that keeps him waiting, making him a ‘lonely boy’.

The quirky but charming video features actor, musician and part-time security guard Derrick T. Tuggle dancing, lip-syncing and acting out the lyrics to the song in front of the Pepper Tree Motel in North Hollywood, one of the many communities that make up the city of Los Angeles. The video, shot in a single take, went viral upon its release on YouTube. The original video produced for the song had a script and a cast of more than 40 people, but the guys were not pleased with the results. Auerbach recalled, “A couple of weeks after we shot it they sent us the edit and it was awful. We sent it back… they sent us another edit and it was terrible. That’s when we said ‘what about that one guy, the extra who had that one dance scene’ and that’s the video – the most expensive single shot ever recorded.”

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #57: “Fever” by The Black Keys

The song at #57 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Fever” by The Black Keys. Originally hailing from Akron, Ohio, but based in the music city of Nashville since 2010, The Black Keys consists of childhood friends Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. The duo have been putting out fantastic music for nearly 20 years, and I love many of their songs – two of which are included on this list. The first of them is “Fever”, released in March 2014 as the lead single from their eighth studio album Turn Blue.

The song, along with many of the tracks on Turn Blue, was co-written and co-produced with noted producer Danger Mouse. The recording sessions for the album coincided with Auerbach’s divorce from his wife, which inspired many of the album’s lyrics. The songs on Turn Blue are generally more melancholy and introspective than those on their previous album El Camino, and represented a continuation of the duo’s departure from their earlier blues/garage rock roots, much to the chagrin of some of their fans.

“Fever” has a slicker, psychedelic rock vibe, with an infectious dance beat and greater use of lush, throbbing synths in addition to driving guitar riffs and snappy drums. And that deep bass line is fantastic! The song was nominated for two Grammy Awards, for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. “Fever” was one of my favorite songs of 2014, and was a big hit on the Billboard Alternative, Adult Alternative and Rock Airplay charts, spending 11 weeks at #1 on the Alternative chart. Unbelievably, it peaked only at #77 on the Hot 100.

The unusual video features Auerbach portraying a sweaty televangelist preaching to an audience as drummer Patrick Carney sits nearby.

New Song of the Week – THUNDER FOX: “Smokin’ on Loosies”

Thunder Fox is a wickedly funny and intensely creative group of guys hailing from Sydney, Australia who skillfully blend generous helpings of funk, blues rock, soul, hip hop, jazz and pop into their delectable music stew. In their own words, they serve “gooey hot horntastic shreddage, the best sauce for your ears ‘n eyes, causing sonic copulation worldwide“, which pretty much describes their devilishly entertaining sound. While their sometimes bawdy lyrics and playful antics would seem to indicate a juvenile zaniness, their music has a stylish and jazzy sophistication that reveals what skilled songwriters and musicians these guys really are.

They’ve been making music since around 2015, but I first learned about Thunder Fox when they reached out to me exactly one year ago today with their hilarious single “Been Busy”. They released their album Love at First Sniff a week later on Halloween and I loved it so much I wrote a review. The title was certainly apropos, as it was ‘love at first sniff’ for me! Since the release of that album, the band has undergone some changes in lineup, and now consists of Sam Dawes (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Travers Keirle (Smooth Sax/Vocals/Rhymes), Jesse Tachibana (Trumpet/Vocals/Synths), Max Vallentine (Drums), and newest member Casey Allan (Bass).

They followed up this past August with their single “Communicate”, and now return with yet another brilliant single “Smokin’ on Loosies“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The track was self-produced by Thunder Fox, mixed by long time mixing partner Daniel Willington, (Battlesnake, Good Lekker, Florian) and mastered by Steve Smart (Ocean Alley, Midnight Oil, Alex the Astronaut) at Studios 301 in Sydney. With their signature soulful and bluesy funk-infused grooves, the band delivers a powerful condemnation of greed and misinformation.  

Lead vocalist Sam Dawes elaborates on the song’s meaning and intent: “‘Smokin’ on Loosies’ represents a shared disgust at western society’s unaddressed flaws that are leading to widening class division, planetary destruction and a failure to address the ongoing systemic persecution of marginalised groups within our communities. Mostly, the song is about being able to see clear as day what is causing these issues – be it the greedy elite, susceptible conspiracists or casual, misinformed hatred – and feeling powerless against it because it just keeps happening, all the time. It’s not exactly a happy song – it’s not supposed to be – but it’s full of honest grit and angry words that help me deal with some of the more fucked up problems that our world faces on a day-to-day basis.”

Over Casey’s deliciously funky bass line, the band layers a colorful mix of grimy guitars, tinkling piano keys, and crisp percussion, highlighted by Jesse’s soulful trumpet blasts that really make this a great song. I love Sam’s silky vocals that go from sultry croon one moment to cheeky falsetto the next as he sings “Money, power, keeping us blind / Everybody steppin’ in line / I think about it all the time / The cash cow that you worship got a shriveled-up teat / Pass the wealth through generations, but forgot to pass the heart.” The song seems to end at around 2:50, then starts back up with a terrific 30-second-long bluesy guitar solo that fades out with distorted reverb. I love it!

Follow Thunder Fox:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Deezer
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

FLOODHOUNDS – Single Review: “Something Primeval”

Floodhounds2

FloodHounds are a massively talented and charismatic rock band based in Sheffield, England. Formed in 2013, they’ve built quite a reputation and following with their exciting guitar-driven alternative rock, infused with ample amounts of blues and punk. The band consists of Jack Flynn on guitar and vocals, Joel Hughes on bass and Lauren Greaves on drums. I first featured them on this blog way back in October 2016 when I reviewed their fantastic EP Look What You’ve Started. In the years since, they’ve released numerous singles and have toured extensively throughout the UK, including performances at the Isle of Wight and Liverpool Sound City festivals in 2019, as well as a show in Paris last November.

In May, they dropped their latest single “Something Primeval“, a hard-hitting song about tapping into our inner resolve to survive in this world. I’d somehow missed its release, but finally learned about it on July 30th, when they released a terrific video for the song. I instantly liked it, and as it had been far too long since I’d last written about them, I decided to remedy that situation with a review of this song. With “Something Primeval”, FloodHounds deliver yet another in an unbroken string of outstanding songs with their signature high energy indie rock. All three members are great musicians, and in fine form here. Flynn lays down chugging riffs of fuzz-coated jangly guitars, while Hughes and Greaves drive the rhythm forward with a strong, thumping bass line and assertive drumbeats. Flynn has a clear and commanding singing voice, and I like the way his British accent shines through. His fervent vocals sound particularly good on this track.

The lyrics include references to an array of wild animals to serve as metaphors for both the external pressures and demons that work toward weakening our resolve and making us crazy, and our inner ‘beast’ or strength that we muster to keep our sanity and persevere through life’s challenges.

Is there something Primeval
Buried deep in our core
Give me the wings of an eagle
You’ve got the lions roar

And now you’re getting hungry
You feel the call of the wild
The jungle takes no prisoners
It’s just a matter of time

Cause soon the vultures are circling
The snake is stretching his bite
The buffalo are stampeding
Into the dark of the night

Have you ever felt hunted
Or easily corrupted
Be like the creatures, from tigers, to leeches
They wouldn’t stand for it no

You could be my saviour
But I won’t change my behaviour
Cause in Nature’s Cathedral,
We’re wild, Primeval
So eyes, on the prize,
if you hope to survive at all

Now if you can take refuge
From the driving rain
swim your way through the deluge
Harness the animal brain

Come together, come together
Come together, it’s all primeval now
Come together, come together
Come together, it’s all or nothing now

The video for the song that was filmed in the “Bear Pit” at the Sheffield Botanical Gardens. Directed by Tom Flynn, with assistance by Jeremy Eggar, it shows the band performing the song in the pit, with some cool “eyes in the darkness” scenes.

Follow Floodhounds:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
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Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

PHILIP MORGAN LEWIS – Single Review: “Rock That City”

Philip Morgan Lewis3

British singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Philip Morgan Lewis is one of the more creative and adventurous artists I know of. The London East Ender isn’t afraid to explore a wide range of genres and influences for the creation of his own eclectic sound. Drawing from alternative rock, blues, garage rock, folk, R&B and EDM, he crafts exciting blues-soaked rock that nicely complements his distinctive raspy vocal style. He’s one of those artists you immediately recognize upon hearing his songs.

He’s released a fair amount of music over the past decade, beginning with his 2013 EP Karma Comedown. He then released a number of singles, and in late 2017 dropped his brilliant album Grief Harbour, which I reviewed. In 2019, he took a stylistic departure from his usual comfort zone and released a fun album House Works, featuring eight House/EDM tracks. He then followed a few months later with a fantastic bluesy single “Blowtorched Dreams”. Now Philip is back with a great new single “Rock That City“, released on July 13th via label Tx2 Records.

Written and recorded during the COVID-19 lockdown, the song is an ode to many of the social things we’ve all been missing these past several months. Philip says it’s “all about release and freedom”, and the lyrics speak to breaking loose and having a fun night on the town: “Gonna rock that city where life’s so crazy / And I go make it right / Gonna rock that city tonight.” A talented multi-instrumentalist, he plays all the instruments himself, and does a fine job here delivering some  bluesy rock’n’roll. With it’s strong, driving beat, buzzing bassline and grungy guitars, the song reminds me a bit of the great Black Keys song “Fever”. His unusual raspy vocals register in the higher octaves, resulting in a unique style and sound unlike any other singer I’ve heard.

The accompanying video was artfully filmed in black and white on the streets of London during the lockdown. A number of famous sites featured in the video that are normally filled with tourists were totally devoid of people. Philip is shown making his way through buildings, parking garages or the streets, completely alone.

Connect with Philip: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / YouTube / Apple Music
Purchase:  Amazon / Deezer / BandcampGoogle Play

THE SLYTONES – Album Review: “IT IS CALLED”

The Slytones It_Is_Called_FRONT

From the moment we first hear the sounds of someone sniffing a bottle, dropping ice cubes and pouring liquor into a glass, then taking a swig at the beginning of the opening track on the new album It Is Called by British band The Slytones, we just know we’re in for a good time. And quite frankly, can’t we all use a few more good times right now?!

Influenced by their love of The Doors, Mr. Bungle, Queens Of The Stone Age and Jimi Hendrix, as well as a colorful mix of Motown, psychedelia, gospel, blues, jazz and Afrobeat, the Brighton-based sextet make wildly entertaining music that’s bawdy, irreverent and funny as hell. Their hilarious, tongue-in-cheek lyrics tackle the minefield of love and relationships, and how they have a way of often exploding in our faces. As they so eloquently state in their bio, their sound “encompasses everything from schizophrenic fairground avant-pop and queasy skanking swamp-ska to crunching left-brain hard rock and mad scientist anti-funk.” To top things off, they dress in natty attire with their faces covered in black and white greasepaint, looking like six dapper mimes in their animated and theatrical performances.

Formed as a trio back in 2006, The Slytones eventually expanded to six members: Ashley Edwards (lead vocals/guitar), Bradley Wescott (guitar), Chip Phillips (keyboards, backing vocals), Chris Warren (bass) (though Carl Brothwood played bass on many of the album tracks), Freddie Hills (drums), and Robin O’Keeffe (percussion/backing vocals). They released their debut EP The Psychedelic Sound Of in 2011, then began recording new songs in 2013 for what was to be their first full-length album.

According to band drummer Hills (whose music I’ve previously reviewed both as a solo artist and as a session musician with fellow Brighton artists Ellie Ford and Liemba), The Slytones “spent three years slaving over it meticulously with a lot of love and attention to detail until it was finished around 2016. Despite all of this work, we got a bit fed up of playing the music industry game (and each other) and went on an indefinite hiatus. Now that we all have time on our hands, we decided to finally release it.” I’m glad they did, because it’s the most fun I’ve had listening to a record since last year’s Love at First Sniff by Australian band Thunder Fox.

The Slytones2

It Is Called was recorded at Ford Lane Studios in West Sussex, under the guidance of Rob Quickenden (Royal Blood, Tigercub, Demob Happy, Fickle Friends), who produced, mixed and mastered the album. Seven years in the making, the album was at last released on May 1st, and features 12 stellar tracks.

Kicking things off is “She Said She Came From the Sea“, which The Slytones first released back in 2015 as a double single with “Time Won’t Wait For Strangers”.  Opening with the aforementioned sound effects of liquor being poured and consumed, it’s the perfect drinking song about what appears to be a vexing mermaid who’s intruding on the singer’s free-wheeling ways. Lead singer Ashley Edwards has a raspy, sardonic and emotive vocal style that’s well-suited for their songs. We fully believe him when he sings “The truth is a stone. My heart is a rock. The women that surround me only long for my cock.” The accompanying video showing the guys performing the song on a pier and in the sea is delightful.

The Slytones are terrific musicians, adept at writing complex, ever-changing melodies and delivering them with an eclectic mix of instruments, sounds and stylistic elements that make for a fun and exciting listen. “Empire” is a great example of this, with a melody that alternates back and forth between a bouncy Latin-funk dance beat and a bluesy, guitar-driven groove that seems to channel the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”. In fact, Edwards sounds alarmingly like Jim Morrison when he wails the lyrics “Break down the walls, your empire falls!” The instrumentals are fantastic, especially the bluesy guitars and exuberant horns.

Another favorite of mine is “Sleeping Beauty Blues“, an appropriately bluesy track with everything from glittery synths, funky bass and blues guitars to honky tonk style piano, organ, jazzy drums and even a bit of cowbell for good measure. Then there’s Edwards cheekily crooning the lyrics about his girl not being all that she appears: “I got the sleeping beauty blues. / She sleeps like a beauty, but she snores like a fool.” There’s more musical mayhem to be heard on the rousing “Come Gigolo“, a wonderful tune with a feel similar to “Master of the House” from Les Misérables (at least to my ears). It also has some of the best lyrics: “I’m feeding all the lions to the dogs. As the idiots sleep, we massage their wives. Come gigolo my body ’cause my time is for sale. / Your mother should have slapped you before you were born.” The rousing vocal harmonies in the chorus are marvelous.

The Doors’ influence continues to be felt on many tracks. “Time Don’t Wait For Strangers” is another song with a complex, evolving melody. Opening with a peppy Latin beat, the song transitions after a minute into a languid and beautiful melody, with watery guitars and shimmery keyboards that remind me a bit of “Riders on the Storm”. At around 3:15, the song transitions once again, this time to a more psychedelic vibe with organ and heavier, distorted guitars. “Green Jacket” is a hard-hitting psychedelic and bluesy rocker, with some great fiddle, accompanied by Phillips’ lively keyboards and organ, and O’Keeffe’s gnarly percussive instruments. “The Seed They’d Sewn” has a bluesy vibe similar to “Love Me Two Times”, with lyrics that seem to describe a woman who’s turned out to be the Bad Seed: “She once was an angel, with skin so divine. Now the lizards congregate.. / The seed they’d sewn should not have grown / The sound they found, they should have drowned.”

Silver Harpoons” is a jazzy, bluesy and psychedelic fantasia. Edwards’ raw vocals are almost feral as he screams “Silver harpoons in the water. Night made to slaughter. Who are you?!” Later in the track, amid eerie synths and distorted riffs, his malevolence is palpable as he snarls: “Where is my goldmine? This corporate clothesline. I’m in a circus full of thieves. You’d kill a whale to feed your tart. I’ll fuck your wife to break your heart.” The infectious honky tonk piano makes a return appearance on the spirited “Shake the Cage“. Edwards and Wescott’s intense, bluesy guitars, Brothwood’s driving bass and Phillips’ piano are fantastic, and Hills does a fine job pounding out the lively rhythm.

Don’t Leave Me Alone” has a wonderful tango melody, punctuated with flourishes of bluesy, roadhouse-style grooves. On the amusing but dark “King of the Castle“, the band reference nursery rhymes to describe what appears to be a power-mad father. Edwards sounds rather diabolical as he croons “I’m king of the castle / Do you want to grow big and strong like your daddy? / Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin. Well I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.” The song starts off with a jaunty fun-house vibe, complete with ghoulish clown laughter. Edwards repeatedly sings “Come sing, come sing as we’re dancing“, then in the last minute of the track, the music turns darker and downright menacing, with distorted guitars, crashing cymbals and a wailing organ riff.

The guys pull out all the stops on the final track “Pull Your Finger Out“, a complex and meandering 7:52-minute long extravaganza with more melodic change-ups than I believe I’ve ever heard in one song. It starts off with a slow, organ-driven melody punctuated by a bluesy guitar riff, then shifts to a bouncy melody with honky tonk piano, then to a bluesy, guitar-driven vibe, featuring flute and quirky percussive instruments. Various instruments come and go as the tempo continues to change, with even a flourish of gypsy guitar at the halfway point, and later on, a harpsichord. The lyrics are ambiguous to me – and I’m probably way off base – but they seem to describe a vampire’s love life: “We dance in the wretched moonlight. Sing me a wicked lullaby. Like wild men, we scream at the moon. Conscious in mind, but body aloof. Pull your finger out. / I sleep in the day when the moon is away. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.” Whatever their meaning, it’s a great track.

I love this album and I love this band! It Is Called is 54 minutes of non-stop aural mayhem, and a blast to listen to from start to finish.  The Slytones are all amazing musicians, and I hope the release of this album will give them an impetus to reunite and make more music that brings a smile to our faces.

Follow The Slytones: FacebookTwitterInstagram
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New Song of the Week – THESE WICKED RIVERS: “Floyd”

Three years ago, British rock band These Wicked Rivers blew me away with their phenomenal album II (you can read my review here). Since forming in 2014, the Derby, England-based four-piece have gained a huge following in the UK and beyond with their melodic and riff-heavy blues-infused style of rock’n’roll. Making the music are John Hartwell (lead vocals/guitar), Arran Day (guitar, vocals), Sam Williams (bass) and Dan Southall (drums, vocals). It’s been a while since they’ve put out new music, but thankfully, they returned to the studio to record their second album Eden, which is due for release on May 22nd. In February, they released “Shine On”, the first single from the forthcoming album, and now follow-up with their second single “Floyd“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

These Wicked Rivers get right down to business, as “Floyd” blasts open with a thunderous onslaught of gritty distorted guitars and smashing drumbeats. I love the contrast between the calmer verses, with their bluesy riffs, throbbing bass and softly pummeling drums all creating a menacing vibe that adds to the building sense of tension, and the explosive choruses where all hell breaks loose. It’s fucking amazing rock played the way it should be played! The guys are highly-skilled musicians who play as an impeccably tight unit and deliver the rock goods to perfection. Hartwell has a powerful and vibrant singing voice that’s well-suited to their hard-driving style of blues rock. The way he transitions back and forth from earnest croons to impassioned spine-tingling wails is impressive.

Floyd seems to be a metaphor for the conscience of the town – which appears to be sadly lacking these days. All sorts of bad behavior – drinking, drugs, gambling, stealing and sexual affairs – are shown occurring in the video under the watchful eyes of a mysterious bearded man named Floyd. The band told me that most cannot see Floyd, but those who do/can see him, know why. As soon as they see him he’s gone, yet haunts their conscience. The photos we see him throw onto the ground in the woods at the end are of some of the people he’s observed committing their transgressions.

Floyd sits still on the cold wet night
Shackled to the sins he’s indebted to find
the fake facade printed in their eyes
Is what he heeds of the people playing out their lives
But Floyd knows the truth
He knows the lies
He knows all of the evil that you lock down inside

Floyd don’t come around here no more
Been seen in town once or twice before
The people speak of his judging eyes
But Floyd don’t come around here no more, Floyd don’t come around here
No more

People see Floyd around the town
He moves from street to street blending in with the crowds
But those who stop and catch his marble eyes
Usually know the reason why
‘Cause Floyd knows the truth
He knows the lies
He’s the judge, jury, councillor of freedom and exile

“Floyd” is a wickedly good song, and one of the best yet from this talented band. Based on the high quality of it and “Shine On”, Eden looks to be another stellar album.

Follow These Wicked Rivers:  WebsiteFacebookTwitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  iTunesGoogle Play

TWO FEET – Album Review: “Pink”

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Amidst all the bad news of late regarding rogue viruses and collapsing financial markets, one of the few bright spots has been the release of the new album Pink by singer-songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Two Feet. Released via Republic Records on March 13th, I’ve had Pink on repeat for the past several days, and can emphatically state that it’s the best album of 2020 so far. I’m writing this review with a bit of trepidation, as I hope to do justice to this magnificent work.

For those unfamiliar with Two Feet, he’s the musical alter-ego of New York City-based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Zachary William “Bill” Dess, who I think is one of the finest guitarists around today. His songs are slow burns, characterized by soulful, smoldering vocals, intense, bluesy riffs, cool jazz and hip-hop undertones, and booming synth bass grooves that cut straight to our cores. He also writes brutally honest and compelling lyrics that resonate with many of us. As beautifully described in his Google Play bio, “his songs are the soundtrack for staying up late into the night, aching to figure out how to remedy heartbreak, anxiety, and uncertainty.”

Two Feet first gained notoriety in 2016 with the release of his single “Go Fuck Yourself”, which quickly went viral on Soundcloud. He soon followed up with a couple of EPs (the cleverly titled First Steps and Momentum), then hit the big time in the summer of 2018 with his breakthrough hit “I Feel Like I’m Drowning”. The gorgeous song went to #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart, and ended up at #18 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the Decade. That October, he released his extended EP A 20 Something Fuck, which featured “I Feel Like I’m Drowning” and the beautiful track “Hurt People”, a deeply personal and haunting duet with Madison Love.

I had the pleasure of seeing him perform in Los Angeles in November 2018 (you can read my review here). He spent the first few months of 2019 touring with Panic! At the Disco, which exposed him to a whole new audience who hadn’t heard of him previously. I relished reading all the tweets from people who’d gone to see PATD and came away enthusiastic new fans of Two Feet. In fact, I have to say that his are some of the most fiercely loyal and devoted fans I’ve seen for any artist. He’s made a point of being open and honest with his fans and followers about his own personal struggles with depression and anxiety, and engages with them fairly regularly on Twitter. That’s pretty rare for artists once they become well-known, so it shocked the hell out of me a few months ago when he tweeted words of encouragement to me in response to my tweet about feeling depressed and overwhelmed. Needless to say, I was deeply touched, and it made me love him even more.

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He started writing songs for Pink in the fall of 2018, some of them influenced by events happening in his life. In September 2019, he began teasing his fans by dropping a series of tracks in advance of Pink’s release, beginning with “Lost the Game” – though it falls squarely in the center of the track listing. In a heartfelt statement, he expresses his hope that the album will touch us in a meaningful way, also recommending that we listen to it in its entirety, from beginning to end: “With the way the world is going right now, I hope listening to it gives you some peace, or makes you cry, or makes you feel sexy, or makes you happy, or briefly brings you to a different world. As long as you feel SOMETHING, I’m good with that. I worked hard on the track list. This isn’t an album of singles, it’s a ‘thing-in-itself’. Please listen in order. Front to back.”

Two Feet records and performs his music with the assistance of his longtime keyboardist/drummer Geoffrey Hufford (aka Huff), who is adept at delivering the deep, floor-rattling synthesized bass that gives his music such incredible depth. This can clearly be heard on the minute-long opening track “Intro“, with chest-thumping beats surrounded by swirling psychedelic synths and Two Feet’s bluesy guitar notes. Up next is the title track “Pink“, a song that beautifully encapsulates the album’s overall theme. He states “A lot of the songs deal with the passage of time and how you interpret it.”, a topic nicely articulated by the song’s introspective lyrics: “25 don’t feel the same way… / And I keep getting older / My mind is getting colder / The things that all once mattered, I know for sure won’t last.” His intricate guitar work is stunning, and even if you didn’t listen to another track on this album, you’d still have to concede that he’s a phenomenal guitarist.

For this album, Two Feet incorporates a wider range of elements into his songs than ever before, resulting in a more diverse and exciting overall sound. “BBY” is a good example of this, with its bouncy EDM beat that builds as the song progresses. Once again, his guitar work is fantastic, and I love the sweeping spooky synths and his seductive, breathy vocals. “Call Me, I Still Love You” is a gorgeous and bluesy instrumental interlude that provides a perfect segue to “You?“, a dark scorching-hot song about coming to the realization that the relationship was always one-sided: “So tell me the truth was it me then, who needed you?” I realize I’m sounding like a broken record, but once again the intricate guitar work is breathtaking, and I love how the music alternates from a sultry vibe in the verses to a bombastic explosion of fiery riffs and earth-shattering percussion in the choruses. “You?” is perfection from start to finish, and easily my favorite track on the album. It spent five weeks at #1 on my Weekly Top 30 from late December through late January.

Two Feet had an official video made for the song, but I like this live studio performance better, as it features a killer extended guitar solo that really showcases his fearsome guitar skills. You can hear the original version on the Soundcloud playlist at the end of this post.

On the moody, synth-driven “44 Lies“, he seems to touch on how we delude ourselves in order to help us fit in, feel accepted, feel ‘normal’: “44 lies / Told in your 20s / Keep you alive / Make you feel empty / All of the guys / Wearing the same shoes / Telling me things / Praying they ain’t true.” Figuratively speaking, the melancholy “Lost the Game” represents the emotional low point on the album. The lyrics speak of coming to the painful realization that the relationship is over for good, with no hope of reconciliation: “And what can I do, I do, I do I know it’s over / Cause I lost the game, I can’t get lower / Caused you pain, it’s taking over.” With all hope now gone, “Grey” sees him rationalizing his fate and accepting that he must move on. Likewise, his mood has evolved from black into something a little less bleak – a shade of grey: “Before I fall away I feel like I should say I’ve always liked your eyes / But now I’ve got to leave / It’s okay It’s alright / I feel good I feel fine.” Musically, the song is dominated by a deep, buzzing bassline set to a mesmerizing hip hop beat, over which Two Feet serves up some of his signature bluesy riffs.

The smoldering track “Maria” was apparently a last-minute addition to the album. Overflowing with menacing synths, throbbing beats and haunting choruses, it’s one of my favorite tracks. Concurrent with the album release, Two Feet released a dark and sexy video for the song, his first to actually tell a story to fit the narrative of the lyrics. It opens with an ominous image of just his eyes, then shows him having a drink in a rather seedy bar, along with an assortment of shady-looking characters. Maria saunters into the bar, orders a beer and sensually dances while all the men gaze at her longingly. She eventually goes home with one of the guys as Two Feet laments “Oh oh oh while you’re getting in his bed, I’m alone without a friend tonight / Maria Maria, I tell ya I need ya..” Maria and the guy start to have sex, and she ties him to the bed. Sadly, he doesn’t get lucky, as she ends up stealing his valuables, even ripping his gold chain from his neck and leaving him tied up. We’re left wondering whether she’s just a gold digger who breaks men’s hearts (and wallets), or if she’s working in cahoots with the guy portrayed by Two Feet.

After the intensity of “Maria”, we need a bit of relief, which he nicely delivers with the captivating and soulful instrumental “Felt like playing guitar and not singing part 2“. The song is a nod to a similarly-titled track that appeared on A 20 Something Fuck. “I Can’t Relate” is a lovely, bittersweet tune that sees him revisiting what went wrong in the relationship: “The winter wind when we first fell in love was cold / You touched my face, my mind began to run, yeah / But you don’t care now, you tell me its all set and done / I’m numb ’cause I can’t relate / Oh, I can’t relate to you.”

Another favorite of mine is “We Will Be Alright“, a poignant and hopeful song reassuring a loved one that your love will endure til the end, and all will be well: “And I, I want you by my side / And I, I need you ’til I die / And when that day comes you will be alright / Because we will love through time. The lyrics could represent either a coming full-circle back to the beginning, or else the birth of an entirely new relationship, but either way, it ends things on a more upbeat and positive note. Musically, it’s more low-key and stripped back than most of his songs, with the only sounds coming from his gently strummed guitar and comforting vocals.

The album closes with “Pink Reprise“, a bewitching instrumental track that revisits and continues upon the haunting melody first introduced with “Pink”. It serves as a fitting closure for the album, and a vivid reminder of Two Feet’s spectacular guitar-playing skills. Properly listening to Pink is an immersive experience that needs to be done in a single sitting for maximum enjoyment, and to fully appreciate it’s immense power and beauty. I don’t normally grade albums, but I would give this an unequivocal 10/10.

Two Feet is donating $1 from every sale of Pink to the Siegel Rare Neuroimmune Association, which benefits those diagnosed with rare neuroimmune disorders like his own sister, GG.

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