JONNY POLONSKY – Album Review: “Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death”

This past April, I wrote a feature article about Brooklyn-based artist Jonny Polonsky, along with a review of his marvelous album Kingdom of Sleep, which you can read here. An accomplished singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, he’s been actively involved in the music industry for over a quarter century, both as a solo artist and as a session musician and/or member of a number of bands, including Big Nose (with Audioslave/Rage Against the Machine drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford) and Puscifer. On November 13, Jonny returned with his eighth album Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death, featuring eight songs touching on the good, the bad and the ugly of this thing called life. He wrote, arranged, recorded, produced and engineered the album at home during the pandemic lockdown in Spring and Summer 2020. Mixing was done by Mike Tholen and mastering by Dave Collins. 

Jonny Polonsky3

The album kicks off with “Electric Tears“, a foot-stomping psychedelic rocker that seems to touch on the vow “til death do us part”. With lyrics like “To the sound of thunder we’re torn asunder / O, Dulcinea! So sweet the vulture / The main offender, the plane descender / We fall together and live forever!“, I’m guessing the two lovers are about to perish in a plane crash, confirming their love for each other. On the timely and topical “In Between Worlds“, Jonny lobs a scathing attack on racism and bigotry, and those afraid or unable to accept that America continues to evolve, both socially and demographically: “I think your thinking is deranged / I see the sadness in your soul /Morbid, bent /And strange how you still fail to see that these changing times are not your enemy.” In the terrific video, he plays both a TV newsman reporting the news and a musician performing the song on a television show stage, accompanied by footage of street protests and a defeated-looking Trump. Musically, the song has an urgent, piano-driven melody, with gnarly guitars, organ and dark synths. The piano work is especially good here.

Imitation Life” is a lively power pop gem, with a strong driving beat and wonderful jangly guitars that give the song a retro 60s sound. Jonny admonishes another to let go of phoniness and superficiality, and live her truth: “Sad eyes, you shouldn’t waste your time / Realize, this is no imitation life. You’re alive.” One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Summer Soldiers“, a melodic tune featuring lovely vocals by singer-songwriter and former member of the Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin. The song’s uplifting lyrics seem to be telling us not to let others define us, nor keep us from living our full potential: “Don’t let ’em lay you down and roll you out / And when you’re alone and don’t know who to trust / Tempted to self destruct / Discarded and left to rust.” The song starts off with a brief snippet of Little Richard’s hysterical laughter, then settles into a pleasing mid-tempo beat, with enchanting spacy synths, shimmery keyboards and crisp percussion. I really like how Jonny and Jane’s vocals are in perfect harmony.

On the brooding “Under Your Spell“, Jonny uses sweeping industrial synths and beautiful distorted guitars to create a haunting cinematic soundscape that gives the song a bit of a David Bowie vibe. He has an unusual vocal style that’s both raspy and breathy, which he uses to great effect on this track. The lyrics speak to him having fallen for someone who seems to be emotionally unavailable, insecure and afraid of revealing their true self:  “How’d you end up on the inside? How do you know me so well? With your eyes on fire and your coat made of eagle, now I’m under your spell.” Another standout track for me is “Completely Surrounded by Love“, with its gorgeous blend of twangy and jangly guitars that give the song a folk-rock feel. The song seems to be a thank you to someone who helped him overcome his personal demons through their love and devotion: “I was afraid, so afraid of my own mind / I believed in you / I couldn’t think for my own self / But I know I am completely surrounded by love.

Jonny saves the best for last with the stunning and bittersweet “Where the Sunset Sets“. Starting with an achingly beautiful melody, he layers shimmery keyboards, chiming guitars and airy synths to create a breathtaking atmospheric soundscape. His vocals are deeply heartfelt as he sings to someone who seems to be slipping away, possibly from dementia or even on the verge of their death: “And everything that had binded me to you, just leaves you sad and confounded / What once had been a folie a deux, is just a memory you detest. Your name, it doesn’t matter / Your face, you will soon forget / Our eyes, beaming into one another / Leave a trace in anyone you’ve ever met .” The seven-minute-long song has an epic and cinematic quality, and is my favorite track on the album.

Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death is a wonderful album that gets better with each listen. I like how Jonny keeps things sounding fresh and varied by using different music styles, tempos and sounds on each track, and as always, the production values and arrangements are first-rate.

Jonny will be releasing a deluxe 12-inch vinyl version of the album, pressed on transparent red vinyl, with a full color cover and lyric insert with photos, and including a 16.5″x23″ fold out poster and free digital download card. Purchase of this deluxe album includes unlimited streaming of Power and Greed and Money and Sex and Death via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more. Shipping is anticipated on or around February 1, 2021.

Connect with Jonny: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  BandcampAmazon

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

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

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

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

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

MARS MOTEL – Single Review: “Coming Up For Air”

I’ve been following Brooklyn, NY-based alternative/dream rock band Mars Motel for a while now and love their captivating music, but somehow neglected featuring them on this blog. After hearing their gorgeous new single “Coming Up For Air“, which dropped on May 10 and premiered on the music website Substream Magazine, I quickly had to remedy that sorry situation.

Mars Motel

Formed in 2017 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Sarik Kumar, Mars Motel’s roots actually go back more than a decade earlier. While visiting his parents in Long Island in the summer of 2016, Kumar found some nearly-forgotten demos of songs he’d recorded in his bedroom and saved on his old computer during his senior year of high school.  The rediscovery of these songs inspired Kumar to pursue his love for creating music and form a band he named Mars Motel. Kumar brought the demos to producer Tommy Eichmann at Mission Sound in Brooklyn, NY, where they reworked them into five singles that melded a dreamy 90s Britpop vibe with an immersive, guitar-driven wall of sound influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd, Radiohead and The War on Drugs. These singles, including “The Enemy”, “Green” and “Living in the Moment”, were released over a period of months in 2017 into early 2018. I strongly recommend that my readers check them out, as they’re all pretty incredible.

Along with Kumar, the band lineup now includes  Wes Wynne (Guitar), Justin Lieberthal (Bass) and Craig Stauber (Drums). Following the critical and commercial success of their initial single releases, the band released a live EP The Eclipse Sessions, featuring live recordings of some of those singles and two previously unreleased B-sides. The EP was recorded on, and named for, the Great American Solar Eclipse that spanned the entire United States on August 21, 2017. The band is now working on their forthcoming album Passenger X, which was recorded at Virtue & Vice Studios in Brooklyn with engineer Rocky Gallo, and scheduled for release later this year. The first single off that album is “Coming Up For Air”.

It’s a stunner of a tune, with swirling riffs of chiming guitars backed by shimmery synths and a pleasing rhythm section of gentle bass and confident thumping drumbeats. They all meld into a breathtaking soundscape for Kumar’s beautiful, soothing vocals. He told SubstreamThis song is about an android-like being longing to be human and attempting an alteration. It captures the universal need for connection and the loneliness one can feel in being viewed as an outsider.” With just the right balance of smooth crooning and soaring passion, Kumar sings: “D’you see me now, floating. D’you see me now, walk on water. Nobody’s watching today. Nobody’s watching my ways. Can you feel it now? Electric heartbeat running parallel. One more spark and I’m through. I can’t wait to be with you. I’m coming up for air.

“Coming Up For Air” is a marvelous song, and offers a promising glimpse into what we can expect to hear on Passenger X. I can’t emphasize enough how much I love every song Mars Motel has put out thus far, and I’m eager to hear more great music from this exceptionally talented band.

Catch Mars Motel at one of these upcoming shows:

Thursday 30 May 2019 – Pianos, New York, NY
Mars Motel with Loona Dae and Sundaes (US)


Mars Motel with The Exits (NYC)


Mars Motel with Above The Moon and PLZ RSPND


Mars Motel with Heavenly Faded

Cover photo by Andrew Segreti.

To learn more about Mars Motel, check out their  Website
Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

MORNING FUZZ – Single Review: “I’ll Be Around”

Morning Fuzz I'll Be Around

As I mentioned in a recent review, so many artists and bands that I’ve previously featured on this blog seem to be releasing new music in 2019, and another is Morning Fuzz, an outstanding rock band from Brooklyn, New York. Nearly two years ago, in April 2017, I reviewed their fantastic hard-hitting single “Silent Sun” (which you can read here). They subsequently dropped a great rock ballad “Fellow Creep” that December, and I’m thrilled they’re back with a new single “I’ll Be Around“, which drops today.

The band has been around for 10 years now, and has released a fair number of excellent recordings, including two EPs, a 2013 album Chasing Ghosts, and several singles. Formed in 2009 by singer/songwriter & guitarist Frank Fussa and his childhood friend, bassist Chris Johanidesz after the breakup of their previous band Ultra High Frequency, Morning Fuzz was later joined by longtime friend and guitarist Michael Cullari, but has been hampered by several changes in drummers (something that’s plagued several other bands I’ve written about). In Spring, 2018, new drummer Dan Leo came on board, putting them back on track and in the studio recording new music. “I’ll Be Around” is their first single on what will be their forthcoming album that the band hopes to release later in the year. It was expertly produced and mixed by Lou Giordano, and engineered by Frank, Aaron Bastinelli, and Benny Grotto.

It’s an exuberant, upbeat song, filled with the dynamic riffs, tight rhythms and melodic grooves we’ve come to expect from Morning Fuzz. Frank and Michael’s intricate guitar work is impressive, and I love how they make them chime in the bridge. Chris drives the song forward with his deep, strutting bass line while Dan deftly keeps the beat on his drum kit. Frank possesses a beautiful and powerful singing voice with considerable range, and sounds fantastic whether he’s crooning or wailing. One of the most striking aspects of the track is the guys’ sublime four-part harmonies that call to mind the Beatles or Beach Boys. I really love their sound, and found myself loving this song more with each listen. “I’ll Be Around” is superb, and I’m excited about hearing more new songs from them.

The lyrics seem to speak of the struggles we face with regard to making choices about which paths to take in life, and both giving and getting love and support from others through good times and bad along the way.

I’ll be around
Even in that crazy part of town
And I’ll figure out
Even when the rain is pouring down
We’ll work it out
When there’s not a drop of love to be found
Don’t run away
No hide and seek, no roads to stray

Which way to go 
Another fork splits up the road 
Futures untold 
Get on my side 
And we will float above the tide 
Might not make it through the night 
But it’s alright

Their song premiered on Thresher TV with a wonderful video of the band performing their song in Frank’s basement studio. Their natural charisma and joy of playing music is clearly evident. He also speaks a bit about how they started out writing and playing songs way back in 1999, and of his love for making music. Take a look:

Morning Fuzz has an upcoming show on Saturday, March 30 with Flak Jacket at The Rail in Smithtown, NY

Connect with Morning Fuzz:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud / Spotify /  YouTube
Purchase it:  iTunes / Bandcamp

DVR – EP Review: “Down”

DVR pic

DVR is a studio project by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Olav Christensen. Originally from Denmark, Olav is now based in Brooklyn, NY, and writes, records, produces and masters all his music. He’s been recording music for a number of years, and began releasing singles in 2015, and dropped his first full-length album California in 2016. That work was inspired by memories collected by Olav when he lived in Santa Monica, and was a collaborative effort with bassist/synth musician Ancelmo James.

In late July, he released a new EP Down, which he describes as “five depressing songs for the kids, guaranteed to make you feel better.” While the songs’ themes do address the down sides of love and relationships, his wonderful music is generally upbeat, having the effect of softening the raw emotions expressed in his dark, poetic lyrics.

The first track “Precious Little Time” is a lovely pop-rock ballad that seems to be about regret over past transgressions that resulted in the loss of a loving relationship. The instrumentals are a pleasing mix of acoustic, electric and slide guitars, accompanied by gentle percussion, that perfectly complement the wistful lyrics:

Precious little time makes me lose my head
It’s not that you did wrong, I’m just hanging by a thread
Running out of time and I keep slowing down
Beat and broken down, knees to the ground
I’ll send you love from the great beyond
To take the edge off breaking my bond

Low” has an edgier rock sound, with fuzzy and psychedelic guitars, heavy bass and industrial synths set to a driving beat. DVR’s electronically distorted vocals give the track a bit of a Peter Gabriel vibe. It’s a brilliant song, and probably my favorite on the EP. “Another Year” is a soulful pop-rock track with some fine, intricate electric guitar and a strong thumping drumbeat.  His smooth vocals are really nice, as are his own backing harmonies, which he very effectively uses on other tracks as well. He sings about his shortcomings and how he always fails to live up to his best intentions: “I won’t make no resolutions. There really is no point. Cause when it comes to execution I just disappoint.”

He speeds things up on “Your Shoes,” a peppy, upbeat-sounding rock song with great guitar work and decidedly dark lyrics. Spoken from the point of view of someone who’s completely cynical and emotionally dead, his words offer a bit of empathy to another who’s suffering, though from what we’re not told. His earnest, emotionally-charged vocals almost reach a falsetto level at times.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow 
But I’ve been dead for a while 
My spirit’s dull and hollow 
My soul is dark and vile
But here 
Close to the ground 
Flat on my back 
Nothing to lose 
Here 
I realize what it’s like 
To be in your shoes

On “Undetected,” DVR employs a wide assortment of rich guitar textures, and layers them over a thumping bass line and strutting drumbeat to create an uptempo backdrop for his heartfelt vocals. With a sense of sad resignation, he laments about how the object of his desire doesn’t seem to care about him:

I’d like to be on your radar
It’s my favorite place to be
But all the while, here you are
Not looking for me
I’m always undetected
As I drift across your scope
I’ll always be neglected
Here at the end of my rope

Down is a great little EP that left me wanting more from this versatile artist. Though he refers to himself as a “shitty” guitarist in his Twitter bio, I’d say he’s a pretty good one! And given his rather prolific output over the past few years, I’m sure we’ll be hearing new music from DVR soon.

Connect with DVR:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream on Spotify
Purchase Down on Bandcamp