Fresh New Tracks Vol. VII

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Fresh New Tracks post, and today I’m featuring three recently-released songs by three totally different acts I’m particularly fond of on a personal level: Chicago alternative electronic rock artist brett.grant.5, indie singer-songwriter Marc Schuster, and Texas hard rock’n’roll band The Metal Byrds.

“Reanimate” by brett.grant.5 featuring Emma Young

brett.grant.5 is the artistic name of Chicago-based singer-songwriter and composer Brett Grant, who’s been active in the Chicago music scene for many years, both as a member of several bands and as a solo artist. Drawing from a wide and eclectic range of musical sources and genres, ranging from 1920’s jazz and classical to electronic and experimental progressive rock, his sound is bold, unorthodox and always fascinating. Over the past couple of years, I’ve written about both his solo music as well as that of his band A Million Rich Daughters. Last June, I reviewed his single “Burning Fire”, a biting song repudiating the religious dogma that keeps people enslaved on so many different levels – mentally, socially, culturally and physically. He recently returned with a new single “Reanimate“, which features guest vocals by singer-songwriter, actor, model and producer Emma Young, who Brett got to know while they were students at Columbia College Chicago. They’d also played together in the band Sleep For Dinner, who released a self-titled EP in 2019.

“Reanimate” is a deliciously dark electronic track with a throbbing, super-gnarly bass groove overlain by an eerie mix of spacey, wobbly, and tortured psychedelic industrial synths, all working together brilliantly to create a dramatic and unsettling soundscape befitting the subject matter, which seems to me to be about how mankind keeps repeating the same destructive behavior over and over again, never learning from past mistakes. Brett has a distinctive singing voice, with the ability to sound vulnerable as well as diabolical, which he does here to great effect as he rails “Pretend you forgive, pretend you forget, pretend that it’s just another thought to repress.” Emma, on the other hand, has a lilting vocal style which provides a nice contrast as she hauntingly chants the chorus “I’m not trying to invalidate. I know they could soon eradicate. I can hear them start to salivate. Breathe in the undead, reanimate.”

The beautiful artwork for the single was created by Brett’s wife Ashlee.

Follow Brett: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

Follow Emma:  FacebookInstagram

“Before the Boys” by Marc Schuster

Marc Schuster is a talented and creative renaissance man who I got to know through blogging (he has a WordPress blog called Abominations, which you can check out here). In addition to teaching English at Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania, Marc has written several books, written scripts for two short films, writes songs and records music as both a solo artist and with music projects Plush Gordon, The Ministry of Plausible Rumours and experimental electronic music project Android Invasion. On April 6th, he released his latest single “Before the Boys“, a song that speaks to, in his own words, “the tyranny of gender identity, wrapped in a bubblegum pop sensibility reminiscent of the Monkees. The song is about a free-spirited eleven-year-old girl who becomes self-conscious when someone pulls her aside and tells her to be more reserved and feminine because ‘boys are watching’. It’s told from the point-of-view of the eight-year-old boy who is crushed when the girl gives up her tomboy ways.”

It’s a sweet song, with a simple but catchy piano-driven melody, punctuated in the choruses with quirky synth sounds that create an endearing vibe. Marc’s low-key vocals are smooth and pleasing as he croons the lyrics from the perspective of an eight-year-old boy now disappointed that the eleven-year-old tomboy he had fun with has changed, and not for the better in his opinion:

Muddy knees and a bloody lip the day she turned self-sabotaging, 
A well-meaning grandmother pulled her aside and said, “Girl, don’t you know boys are watching?”
She was tough and she was cool,
And she wasn’t afraid to make noise.
Before the makeup, before the hair,
Before the laborious ploys.
Before, before, before the boys.

“Before the Boys” will be available on all streaming services by the end of the month.

Follow Marc:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

“Spitfire Pete” by The Metal Byrds

The Metal Byrds are a female-fronted rock band based in Austin, Texas, who play a hard-hitting style of rock infused with healthy doses of rock’n’roll and power pop, along with enough metal in the mix to give their songs a dark, edgy quality. Formed in 2018, the band consists of London-born singer-songwriter Suzanne Birdie, as well as guitarist Sly Rye, bassist Kevin Kurts and drummer Alex Romanov. Over the past two years, they’ve released three EPs – The Song Byrd in April 2019, Byrds on a Wyre in June 2020, followed by Life in 20 in October, which I reviewed. On April 4th, they dropped “Spitfire Pete“, the first single from their forthcoming album 4, due for release later this year. The song is dedicated to an autistic boy from Lincolnshire, England named Pete, who’s a big fan of the band and rock’n’roll. 

With blazing riffs and driving rhythms that would make AC/DC proud, The Metal Byrds fully engage their sonic weaponry to create a rousing rock song befitting the vintage film footage of British fighter pilots flying their Supermarine Spitfire aircraft during World War II and waging air fights against the Germans at the Battle of Britain. Sly Rye shreds the airwaves with fiery riffs and wailing distortion, while Kevin and Alex keep the pummeling rhythms moving forward at full throttle. Suzanne’s powerhouse aggressive vocals rise to the occasion as she fervently wails “All guns blazing, all night long. Pulling the trigger. Pulling the trigger and dropping the bomb. Spitfire Pete, whoa-oh. Never retreat, he’ll make a stand.” It’s a kickass banger!

Follow The Metal Byrds: Facebook / Twitter 

BRETT.GRANT.5 – Single Review: “Burning Fire”

Brett Grant

One of the joys of having a music blog is being able to give independent and unsigned artists some free press and hopefully expose them and their music to a wider audience. An artist I’m particularly fond of is Chicago-based singer-songwriter and composer Brett Grant, who goes by the artistic moniker brett.grant.5. Drawing from a wide range of musical sources and genres, ranging from 1920’s jazz and classical to video game music and experimental progressive rock, his sound is edgy, unorthodox and fascinating. And his brutally-honest and personal lyrics explore some of the darker sides of life, society, and mental health.

Brett’s been making music for many years, both as a solo artist and as a member of several bands. He plays guitars & synths and sings vocals for A Million Rich Daughters, and previously pounded drums in Sleep For Dinner and TOOFUNCHILD. In addition to his work with the aforementioned bands, as well as earning a B.A. Degree in Music last year, he’s released two solo EPs – digital dirge in 2016 and disqui.etude in 2019 (read my review here). Now he returns with “Burning Fire“, his first new single in a year.

The song is a repudiation of the religious dogma that keeps people enslaved on so many different levels – mentally, socially, culturally and physically. Brett explained that the song “is about rejecting concepts we’ve been force-fed, and trying to unveil the truth through all the lies. The ‘burning fire’ [refers to] the self-righteous light that the hyper-religious shine upon the world, casting dark shadows that create monsters.” As someone who was raised Catholic but am now Atheist, the lyrics strongly resonate with me. I’m always suspect when people invoke god and religion to legitimize their oppression of others, or to further their hateful racist, homophobic or exclusionary agendas.

Musically, Brett uses a complex and dramatic mix of harsh, psychedelic and spooky industrial synths, along with a hypnotic drumbeat to create a dark, ominous soundscape befitting the scathing lyrics. His vocals are equally menacing as he practically snarls his verses, yet there are moments of haunting beauty too, especially in the bridge where he plaintively implores “the world ends with you / the world ends with me / the world ends with us / at least we’ll all be free.”

Like many electronic songs with experimental and progressive rock elements , I found that “Burning Fire” gets better with each listen, as I discovered more nuances in both its melodic structure and the array of instruments and sounds used in the song. Brett will be donating all proceeds from purchases of the song to Black Lives Matter Chicago.

in underlying tunnels in my head
disqualifying thoughts all painted red
creatures undying I can’t regulate
identifying efforts to castrate

your burning fire’s been oscillating
the shadows discharged are starting to take hold
your burning fire is suffocating
nightmarish monsters eroding self-control

emulsifying actions and my thoughts
i’m patronizing the stations of the cross
the underlying message won’t come clean
but I’ve been spying actions so obscene
yeah I’ve been trying to fight this dissonance
by qualifying the sacrifice I’ve spent
the mystifying stories I’ve been told
unsatisfying, removing my blindfold

your burning fire’s been oscillating
the shadows discharged are starting to take hold
your burning fire is suffocating
nightmarish monsters eroding self-control

the world ends with you
the world ends with me
the world ends with us
at least we’ll all be free
the world ends with you
the world ends with me
the world ends with us
at least we’ll all be free
the world ends with you
the world ends with me

your burning fire’s been oscillating
the shadows discharged are starting to take hold
your burning fire is suffocating
nightmarish monsters eroding self-control

Follow Brett: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music on  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / Apple MusicGoogle Play

A MILLION RICH DAUGHTERS – Album Review: “Hidden Parents”

A Million Rich Daughters

Today I’m happy to introduce my readers to a terrific band with an equally terrific name: a million rich daughters. Hailing from Chicago, they play an interesting and totally unique style of, in their own words – “garage/industrial/horror inspired alternative post-punk – music that transcends the typical boundaries of the observable universe.” That sounds about right. The band was founded by brothers Brett and Jake Grant, with Brett on vocals, guitars and synths, and Jake on drums. They were later joined by Matt Clepper, Rene Gutierrez and Taylor Ford, and just released their new EP Hidden Parents, which dropped November 15. After recording the album, Gutierrez and Ford left the band, and were replaced by bassist Josh Victor. Brett also has a solo project under the moniker brett.grant.5, and released his own EP disqui.etude this past June (which I reviewed).

The first track “Hitting Backspace” is a reworking of a song that was originally featured on disqui.etude. This time the mesmerizing track has been expanded by more than a minute, and gets a heavier full-band treatment. Starting off with moody, throbbing synths and shadowy bass chords, the music gradually builds into a spine-tingling crescendo of swirling jangly and psychedelic guitars, accompanied by harsh industrial synths and a deep, thumping percussive beat. Brett has a quirky, distinctive singing voice, and here he sings in a kind of plaintive monotone that grows more dramatic as the music intensifies. His vocals perfectly express the desperate feelings of being buried alive by the staggering weight of one’s problems:  “It wasn’t like I anticipated facing all this in the time since yesterday. Sands keep falling. Feels like I’m slipping away, and trapped hitting backspace./ It wasn’t like I could keep up pacing, keep up pacing through the sands of yesterday.”

The next track “Love Me After” is a feast for the ears, and possibly my favorite on the album. It begins with an enticing mix of plucked guitar strings, delicate snare and a delicious little bass riff that really does it for me. Then a thumping drumbeat ensues, punctuated by jarring jolts of what sound to me like intensely amplified guitar chords. As Brett’s vocals enter the proceedings, the music explodes with equal measures of heavier guitars, synths and percussion. Brett passionately laments of a relationship heavily damaged by a long history of hurt and verbal abuse, yet still holding out hope that perhaps it can be salvaged: “Just like you said, I’m as good as dead, yet you call my words slander. One day we’ll break these goddamn mistakes. Maybe you’ll love me after?” The wailing guitar solo after the final chorus is wonderful.

Melancholia” is a bit of a musical tour-de-force, as it takes us on a delightful four minute long sonic journey. The first part of the song features a frantic punk rock tempo, with rapid-fire riffs and pummeling drumbeats, all anchored by a killer bass line. At around 2:30, the song transitions to a languid, synth-driven melody, with crisp percussion and that lovely bass taking center stage. Eventually, the frantic punk vibe returns in the final chorus for a great, head-banging finish. The lyrics seem to be about not allowing yourself to be defeated by depression or the oppressive forces imposed upon us by others, and to instead speak up and fight for one’s rights: “If you feel like you’re captive in a boat with no captain, speak up! Well I can’t just forget it, and I’ll always regret it, come on. Melancholia’s passion is a pit of distraction, come on. Now we’ve lost all our assets and we can’t pay for access, speak up!

Truth Be Told” is another track from disqui.etude that’s given a fuller instrumental treatment here, with spooky synths, muscular thumping drumbeats and intricate layered guitars. The stabbing guitar chords add a dramatic touch to the mix to great effect. I think this remake nicely enhances the impact of the haunting lyrics that speak to feelings of misery and guilt over the death of a loved one. Brett’s heartfelt vocals are really moving as he sings “Truth be told, I never thought that you’d be dead. Truth be told, I just can’t get you out my head. Truth be told, I’ve been obsessing for so long, I’d give anything to write a different song. Truth be told, I should’ve been the one to go. Truth be told, this burden’s getting hard to hold.

A million rich daughters dial the energy back up with “Possibly a Problem“, delivering furious riffs of jangly guitars and hard-driving rhythms. My take on the song’s meaning is that it’s about how as more aspects of ourselves and our past are revealed in the early stages of a new relationship, we fear the other may lose interest in us, given our shortcomings. In this case, alcoholism appears to be the possible problem: “Lost so many to elixir, don’t you disappear. I just want to make sure, if I’m sick again, be my cure. Possibly a small problem, but I just want to be your man.

The title track “Hidden Parents” has a wonderful electro-psych rock groove, and I love the haunting lead melody. Once again, there’s a lot going on here musically speaking, with numerous tempo and melodic change-ups. At times the song has an 80s new wave vibe, only to later veer headlong into frenetic punk rock beats. Backed by dark, sweeping synths and aggressive rhythms, the intricate, multi-textured guitar work is fantastic. Brett’s distant, echoed vocals convey a vulnerable sense of desperation as he seems to be asking for forgiveness for the wrongs he’s done: “Oh things, have changed, the damage done. Oh look, at what, I have, become. Now I, am lame and most probably not sane. There is, no me, no in-between. There’s still, one thing, I want, to do. And what, I want is to get a little closer to you. Oh it’s always for you.”

I must admit that this was one of the most challenging reviews for me to write in my four years of doing this. Despite having only six tracks, there’s a whole lot to unpack in each song. Not being a musician, and having no music ability nor training of any kind, I sometimes have a difficult time articulating what I’m hearing. Hidden Parents is an experimental work, teeming with unconventional, ever-changing melodies, deep, often abstract lyrics, and loads of innovative, complex instrumentation that give it a compelling and fascinating sound. Indeed, Brett himself told me the album “is fucking weird; there’s a lot going on technique-wise in the music theory, as well as a lot of layers.” That’s for sure, and while it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think it’s brilliant.

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