Single Review: MIDDAY SWIM – “Hold On Tight”

Toronto, Ontario, Canada has a thriving music scene, and I’ve featured a good number of artists and bands based there on this blog. Indie dream pop-rock band Midday Swim is my most recent find, and I’m happy to feature their gorgeous new single “Hold on Tight.” The band combines exceptional, multi-layered guitar work, smooth keyboards, superb percussion and lush vocals to create music that’s both dynamic and sublime.

Midday Swim consists of five seasoned musicians: David Mitchell (lead vocals, guitars), Stephan Ermel (keyboards, vocals), Sebastian Shinwell (guitar, vocals), Craig Saltz (bass, vocals) and Max Trefler (drums). Several were previously involved with other bands, while Saltz has scored music for over 30 films, and Ermel is a classically-trained pianist who’s performed a number of one man shows. They formed as a band in 2014 and a year later released their self-titled debut EP Midday Swim, which is excellent and I highly recommend my readers check it out. 

They’ve now recorded new music for their follow-up EP Climbing Out of Caves, due out later this year. “Hold on Tight,” recently released on May 4, is the first single from that EP.

Midday Swim

The bittersweet song is a plea for a loved one not to give up on a relationship by recalling poignant memories of their youth. With heartfelt vulnerability in his lovely vocals, Mitchell sings: “Hold on tight to me, can you reach before our boat goes down? All that time while we were sinking, I thought of what you meant when you said lets behave like we were those bear cubs climbing out of caves like we were made for this./ You better find your way home.”

Musically, the song features beautiful jangly guitars, backed by warm synths and lots of crashing cymbals. Delicate keyboards can be heard throughout, and at the bridge, we’re treated to a brief but tasty shredded guitar solo. Mitchell’s soothing vocals are backed up by sweet harmonic choruses.

For the clever, beautifully-filmed video, the band and director Pedja Milosavlijevic found inspiration from films like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Pulp Fiction, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, with their intrigue and crazy plot twists. Both the song and video aim to capture the spirit of childhood, with the main character on an adventure into the mountains, carrying his red suitcase and escaping a bear. He ultimately ends up back with his other band mates, whereupon they all jump into the opened suitcase.

To learn more about Midday Swim, check out their website.

Follow them on Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes /  Amazon

Song Review: MAD MACHINES – “Once I Was a Lion”

Mad Machines is a five-piece band based in Toronto, Canada. Their high-energy music melds elements of Hard Rock, Funk, Punk-Noir and Dream Pop – with a bit of Disco thrown in just to mix things up – and their lyrics are always entertaining. They released an excellent debut EP Re-Humanizer in January 2016 (which I highly recommend my readers check out), and in March dropped a fun new single “Once I Was A Lion.

Mad Machines

The band line-up includes Jordan Lassalle (Lead Vocals, Guitar), Raymond Cara (Drums, Percussives, Backing Vocals), Jordan Quinn (Keyboards, FX, Backing Vocals), Neil Culbert (Guitars, Backing Vocals) and Joseph Slegtenhorst (Bass).

Regarding the backstory for the song, Lassalle explained: “Once I Was A Lion is a strange departure of a song for us; it was actually initially inspired by Disney’s The Lion King. I woke up one day with one of the songs from that film in my head and it got me to thinking something along the lines of, ‘what if Simba turned out to be a fuck-up drunkard of a king? Wouldn’t that be funny!’ Since then, the song has evolved; I found myself also writing a reflection piece on how at some point or another, we all feel like kings and queens of our respective kingdoms. It’s a feel-good tune and a real fun pop-rocker to play.

Indeed it would be, as it’s all that and more. The infectiously catchy song kicks off with a distorted guitar solo, then things bust wide open with crashing drums, heavy buzzing bass and lots of killer bluesy riffs. The guys are terrific musicians! Lassalle’s vocals are wonderful, occasionally soaring into a pleasing falsetto, and backed by his band mates’ harmonizing choruses. He croons the tongue-in-cheek lyrics that can’t help but put a big smile on your face:

Once I was a lion, yeah once I was king, crushing my problems between my teeth. Ruler of my kingdom with an iron paw. Rolling through the jungle like an atom bomb. All the lady lions used to stop and stare, hoping I would try and take ’em to my lair. Once I was a lion and life was sweet, until she came and took that crown away from me. / They took my fangs, they took my claws. / And I’m the king of the jungle baby. At least I was before.

Listen to “Once I Was A Lion” here:  Soundcloud

Connect with Mad Machines:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Purchase their music on Bandcamp

Album Review: MUDD – “Look What I Found in Your Mom’s Top Drawer”

MUDD is a young pop-punk rock band from Kingston, Ontario, Canada. And by ‘young’ I mean young! The three band members are all just 16 years old and still in high school. They are:  Seth Hunt on lead vocals & guitar, Reilly Clark on bass & backing vocals, and Devin Pierce on drums & backing vocals. And even at their young ages, the guys already have a long history with music. According to their bio, Seth has been playing guitar since he was seven, Reilly started playing bass at the age of ten, and Devin has hit the drums since the age of seven. They formed as the band MUDD in 2014, and released their first full-length self-produced album on Bandcamp this past February.

MUDD

They recently approached me about reviewing their album and, upon seeing its title – Look What I Found In Your Mom’s Top Drawer – I had to say yes! Besides, I was impressed by their earnest belief in themselves, plus the fact they produced their own album and put themselves out there. The album features nine zany tracks that incorporate elements of punk, pop and garage rock into a wild stew of fun and crazy tunes about girls, sex and teenage angst that one would expect from 16-year-olds. The tracks are unmastered, so have a raw, unfinished quality that makes them sound essentially like live recordings, and it’s clear the guys had a blast recording them.

On tracks like “Twitch,” “SOB,” the electronic “Interlude (Not Today TM),” “Going Nowhere Fast” and “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” the guys show off their skills on their respective instruments. Lots of shredded guitars and frantic drumming are on display, making for some real head bangers guaranteed to get the party started and keep the energy flowing at high speed. Their vocals are a bit weak, but I think that’s mostly due to their young age. Their voices haven’t yet fully developed, and will likely improve as they grow, both in age and experience.

Some of their lyrics are hilarious. On “Interlude (Not Today TM),” Seth sings “This unicorn fell upon me, as it raced toward me with its horn, driving it towards my anus. I clenched my anus as I blocked the horn and I said ‘Not today.’ And then, I took out my sword of Avalon once again…” On “Japananoque,” the guys seem to just be fooling around, laying down some frenetic riffs as they sing “The women are fine, the women are fine, the women are fine everywhere.  They are not greasy, they’re very pretty. Japananoque. Suck on my cockque.

The guys can get serious too. “Where Are You” speaks to missing a lost love after a broken relationship. “I toss and turn, thinking about you sleeping in my bed. Old memories return and pictures they burn, except for the evidence of you in my bed. Where are you, and why can’t I see clearly now?”

Track listing:

  1. Twitch
  2. No Looking Back
  3. Where Are You?
  4. SOB
  5. Interlude (Not Today TM)
  6. Punk Rock Chick
  7. Going Nowhere Fast
  8. I Don’t Wanna Go Home
  9. Japananoque

https://mudd3.bandcamp.com/album/look-what-i-found-in-your-moms-top-drawer

MUDD’s songs are only available on Bandcamp at this time, and they don’t yet have any YouTube videos.  They’re currently in the process of recording a new EP with the provocative title No Peeing In The Pool. It should be another head banger! Connect with MUDD on Facebook and stream or download their EP on Bandcamp.

Artist Spotlight: THE ELEGANT DEVILS

Elegant Devils

I’ve been featuring quite a few artists and bands from Canada recently, and The Elegant Devils are the latest. The talented four-piece rock band hails from Ottawa, Ontario and, like many bands, has experienced some personnel changes over time. Their current line-up includes Drew James (lead vocals, guitar), Rob Frank (drums/vocals), Josh West (guitar), & Josh Barkley (bass/vocals). They’re all seasoned musicians with divergent backgrounds, and each of them embrace their unique individual styles while coming together to create some really fine rock music that’s intelligent, powerful and often fun.

The Elegant Devils recorded their debut EP Guilty Pleasure in 2015, followed a year later by a five-track EP Live at Zaphod’s that contained some tracks from Guilty Pleasure along with a few new ones.  Their songs range from hard-driving rock to poignant ballads, and always with deeply compelling lyrics that speak to the complexities of life, love and relationships. These guys write from their own experiences and, as a result, their songs come off all the more personal and heartfelt. In addition, their arrangements, instrumentation and production values are all first-rate.

Their strong musicianship is vividly apparent on all their songs, but especially shines when they really get rocking. On their harder rock tracks “Lie With Me,” “Divebomb” and “Loaded Gun,” they coax some amazingly intricate and formidable riffs from their guitars, while Josh Barkley lays down some heavy thumping bass lines and Rob keeps the pace with his assertive drums and crashing cymbals. Drew’s powerful vocals are always delivered with raw emotion, whether he’s expressing anger, pain or loving devotion.

“Divebomb” in particular is a real head-banger and one of my favorites. The thunderous shredded guitars are scorching hot, and when combined with powerful buzzing bass and pounding drums, nearly succeed in blowing out the speakers. “Loaded Gun” – a rock bombardment packed into a mere two minutes that fully lives up to its title – is also pretty awesome, but then, so are all their songs!

The band shows its softer, more romantic side with the gorgeous love ballad “Amaranthine,” about which the band states “We cracked open the heart of a devil and found a love song – a song written as a message to the person you love most in the world.

In an interview with Jacqueline Jax on A.V.A. Live Radio, Drew explained the origin for Amaranthine:  “[It] is as pure a love song as you can get. It was written as a wedding gift for one of my very best friends. He asked me to perform it at the wedding itself, and they had their first dance to the song. It was written at a time when I had almost given up finding a happy ending for myself. I had just been through a really bad break-up and while I was going through it, I was so happy to see that my friend and his wife were able to find something so…solid. So inspiring. I wrote Amaranthine to tell them how proud I was of them finding love, how scary it must have been for them to commit completely to another person, and to say thank you to them for giving me a reason to still believe in love when I had given up on it myself. Thankfully, the hope they gave me tided me over until I found my own Amaranthine. And so now, every time I sing it, I sing that song as much for her as I do for them.

Take a listen to this beautiful track:

The Elegant Devils are in the process of writing and recording more songs for what will be a full-length album to be released later this year. In the meantime, check out their website, connect with them on Facebook,  Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to their YouTube channel where you can watch their weekly sessions. Stream their music on Soundcloud,  Reverbnation or  Spotify, and purchase it on iTunes.

Album Review: The Autumn Stones – “Escapists”

I stumbled upon the Canadian band The Autumn Stones a while back on Twitter, so had to check out their music. I was immediately struck by their amazingly compelling sound that’s retro, yet fresh, with an 80’s vibe. Perhaps it’s the lively sax that’s heavily featured in their songs, or the fact that they seem to channel The Smiths or Blow Monkeys a bit in their style, but their music is definitely current.

Formed in 2010, The Autumn Stones have been though several personnel changes – not uncommon with bands – and are now comprised of Ciaran Megahey (vocals, lead guitar), Gary Butler (saxophones, guitar) and Marcus Tamm (bass). Their sophomore album Escapists dropped in July 2015, four years after their excellent debut album Companions of the Flame.  (Michael Newton played bass and Matthew McLaughlin hit the drums on Escapists, but have since left the band.)

According to Megahey in an interview for the website Pop Matters, “Lyrically, Escapists is a celebration of life, love and liberty. It’s also a flick to the nose of naughty faith-based ideologies.  Although that may sound super-heavy and serious, we aren’t delivering sermons—just trying to give people a compelling listening experience.”  He added that the addition of saxophonist Butler gives their songs on Escapists more character and nuance.

Regarding that amazing sax, Butler explained to The Quietus, “Our sound is the sum of many parts. We’re very early-alt rock influenced but at the same time we keep our feet firmly planted in modern subgenres, especially dream pop.”

Three singles included on the album were released in 2014, prior to the album’s launch a year later. The first, “End of Faith,” is brilliant. The subtle yet topically relevant lyrics – “This is the end of faith/the poisonous talk enslaved/freedom at last/chains of the past/what took so long to write this song,” – are expressed through Megahey’s smoldering vocals, and empowered by gorgeous, throbbing guitars reminiscent of Johnny Marr’s jangly riffs in “How Soon is Now?”, plus Butler’s assertive, wailing saxophone.


Their most recently-released single “Endless War” has a catchy, uptempo melody. The combination of both shredded and gentle guitars, punctuated by rapid-paced sax, contrast with the song’s darker lyrics “Gotta endless war on our hands.”

One of my favorite tracks on the album, “Time Is a River,” has a mellower, jazzy vibe, with nimble guitar riffs and funky sax that still manage to keep the energy level high.

“In With the Out Crowd” and “Dark Age” keep the jazzy energy flowing, while the track “Sweet Libertine” slows things down to a languid pace with acoustic guitar and mellow sax. The beguiling “Ooh La La,” another of my favorites, seems to channel early 80’s Smokey Robinson, as does “Creatures,” with their gentle, jangly guitar and wobbly sax.
You can learn more about the Autumn Stones on their website. Follow them on Twitter and listen to their music on Soundcloud or Spotify, or purchase on itunes.
A special thanks to Alison Waddell for the use of her photo.