CRYSTAL CITIES – Single Review: “Under the Cold Light of the Moon”

Crystal Cities Single Pic

‘Dream Rock that sounds like Death Cab For Cutie had a War On Drugs with The Beatles.’ That’s how Australian band Crystal Cities describe their enchanting sound, and it’s spot-on. Their wonderful songs feature thoughtful lyrics and stunning melodies delivered by superb instrumentation and vocals. In March 2017, the Sydney-based three-piece released their outstanding and critically acclaimed debut EP Who’s Gonna Save Us Now. The gorgeous title track and lead single “Who’s Gonna Save Us Now”, which I featured on this blog that April, reached #1 on the Unearthed Overall Charts within a few days of its release, and ended up on my 100 Best Songs of 2017 list. Now they’re back with a stunning new track “Under the Cold Light of the Moon“, the lead single from their forthcoming album of the same name, set for release on 31 May.

Crystal Cities is comprised of the very talented Geoff Rana (Vocals, Guitars), Jared King (JK) (Bass, Backing Vocals) and Daniel Conte (Drums). Since the release of their EP, the guys have had a productive two years and have come a long way, from a garage in Sydney to Abbey Road Studios in London. First, they signed a record and publishing deal with global music company Audio Network (one of a group of companies owned by Toronto, Canada-based multinational mass media and entertainment company eOne). Second, through that partnership, the band had the opportunity to record their debut album Under the Cold Light of the Moon at the prestigious Abbey Road Studios.

According to Rana, the new single “was inspired by the plight of young North Korean girl Yeonmi Park who escaped North Korea in search of freedom.” After seeing her moving speech at the One Young World Summit 2014 in Dublin, Ireland, where she told the audience “When I was crossing the Gobi desert, scared of dying, I thought nobody in this world cared. It seemed that only the stars were with me. But you have listened to my story. You have cared. Thank you very much”, Rana felt compelled to interpret her story through a song.

Crystal Cities Yeonmi Park

And what a beautiful, uplifting song it is! Starting off with a faint whisper of synths and delicate tapping of cymbals, a chugging riff of jangly guitar, set to a thumping drumbeat, soon enter the mix along with Rana’s raspy, yet lovely vocals. The music gradually builds as layers of guitar and percussion are added, backed by lush orchestral strings that create a stirring, cinematic soundscape for the hopeful lyrics:

Made my way out through the desert
Made my way across the sand
Under cover of the night I’m face to face
I’ve been thinking of a place
I’ve been making my escape
Under the cold light of the moon

Rana’s intricate guitar work is gorgeous, while King and Conte keep a tight rhythm with their defty-played bass line and drums. The song, along with the rest of the album, was flawlessly mastered by Paul Stefanidis at Viking Lounge Mastering, engineered by Adam Alexander and John Romeo (assisted by Tayla Gibbs), and mixed by L.A.-based engineer Paul Lani (David Bowie, Prince, Megadeath). Regarding the provocative photo for the single and album which shows the guys blindfolded, Rana explained: “This album will have plenty of lyrical references to themes of escape, resistance, and limited/restricted views. Having us positioned in a sort of prisoner-like scenario with blindfolds on seemed a great way to represent these themes.” The photos are courtesy of Amy Benjamin Photography.

The beautiful animated video for the song tells the adventure of Yeonmi Park’s harrowing nighttime escape. It was created by Jordyn-Rae Morrison (The-F0X).

Connect with Crystal Cities:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

DEREK SCHMIDT – Album Review: “Major Arcana”

Derek Schmidt Major Arcana

Derek Schmidt is an imaginative and talented queer composer, songwriter, and sound designer based in San Francisco, and he’s created one of the most uniquely wonderful and ambitious musical works I’ve ever come across. With over 15 years experience working and performing in the Bay Area in solo performances and as front man for three different acts – folk band All My Pretty Ones, queer electronic band Adonisaurus, and Oakland electronic band Partyline  – Derek has produced numerous albums across many genres, and has been a featured composer on independent film and performance art projects, including the feature length film Home And How To Break It. Most recently, on March 1st he released an opus concept album Major Arcana, a monumental 22-song interpretation of the trump cards (or major arcana) of the tarot deck.

The album was a five-year-long undertaking made possible through the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Individual Artist Grant, one of the city’s most prestigious awards for individual artists. Each song explores one of the 22 trump cards, from 0 The Fool to 21 The World (Universe). As Derek explains: “Each card is a meditation on the symbolism within that card, as well as my own personal relationship to the card. Utilizing samples as a form of sympathetic magic, a mixture of both personal and more transcendent lyric writing, acoustic and electronic arrangements in combination with lush harmonies, Major Arcana has become a set of exploratory rituals attempting to capture the wisdom of each card, for myself and for everyone.

Derek Schmidt2

With a running time of one hour and 38 minutes, listening to this album is an immersive experience. If you allow yourself the freedom to do so, you can easily get lost in its enthralling soundscape of electronic dream pop magic. Musically, the album features a bold array of synthesizer sounds and textures, complemented by Derek’s enchanting ukelele. I’ve never fully appreciated just how beautiful music from a ukelele can be, but Derek draws forth sounds that are exquisite and utterly charming.

I generally tend to discuss or at least mention every track on my album reviews, but with 22 of them on Major Arcana, doing so would turn this review into a thesis. So, I’ll instead touch on some of what I consider to be highlights or my personal favorites. The album opens with “0 The Fool”, named for the first card of the tarot deck. One of my favorite tracks on the album, it perfectly showcases Derek’s skill at using synthesizers to create richly complex musical compositions. He employs all sorts of exotic and quirky synths, pulsating drumbeats and clicks, over which he layers his lovely strummed ukelele, and the result is an absolutely captivating song. Derek’s pleasing vocals have an earnest vulnerability as he sings: “Before I begin, and after I’m gone. That’s where I’ll be. That’s where I belong. Not afraid anymore, my arms open wide./ What is real, always was. And cannot be destroyed. And a fool for me. I’m a fool for you.”

Derek continues to explore each card in the tarot deck, artfully tailoring the synth sounds and song lyrics to the card’s themes.  Swirling spacey synths highlight “I The Magician” and “II The High Priestess”, with the latter featuring sharp thunderbolt-like sounds that conjure up images of spells being cast. The exuberant horn synths at the beginning of “IV The Emperor” symbolize the power and majesty of the position, and Derek’s ukelele riff later in the song is sublime.

On “VI The Lovers”, Derek uses sunny, whimsical synths as a backdrop for his lyrics extolling the joy of his love affair: “I love to love my lover so. To understand all that I don’t. It’s his fluency, won’t scare me. We laugh like kids, we find out things./ Where I am and where do you begin?” “IX The Hermit” sees him pondering loneliness and isolation: “It all comes down to a room of one’s own./ And all I need is a little more time. A few more hours in the day, and then I’ll turn to everything I’ve put aside. / Rearrange the furniture and open windows, give yourself some air.” And on the gorgeous “XI Lust”, he expresses ardent desire and passion through dramatic, soaring synths.

As would be expected, “XII The Hanged Man” is dark, with moody synths, a mournful backing chorus and a pensively strummed ukelele, accompanied by a funereal march drum roll. Derek sings of things from the point of view of a man about to be executed: “Hanged man sees it differently. Upside down, blood rushing to my head. Unfriendly faces become smiles instead. How many times have I been here before? Caught up, emotionless and always wanting more.” “XIII Death”, on the other hand, is not at all depressing, and in fact is one of the more beautiful songs on the album, with glittery, uplifting synths and Derek’s soaring ethereal vocals. He envisions life’s end as a new beginning: “A great unknown, behind the door. The ocean floor. A mystery yet to solve. The ones unmet. The tears unshed.”

A standout track is the mesmerizing and powerful “XIV Art”, for which Derek has created a fantastic video with the help of visual artist Video Hole (J Mason Buck).

Another of my favorites is “XVI The Tower”, one of the more musically complex tracks on Major Arcana. It’s a rather melancholy song, yet contains many beautiful and melodic passages that continually surprised and held my interest at it unfolded. And “XVII The Star” is pure delight, with its spacey sci-fi synths, sweeping melodies and lovely ukelele. “XVIII The Moon” is another highlight, and was the first song Derek wrote for the card cycle. In an interview with webzine Out Loud Culture!, he explained: “I was inspired by the meaning of the card, which usually involves ideas around intuition, illusion, and a general mystery. To me the moon is an ever present set of symbols like all of the cards that capture some aspect of the human condition. It’s a playful card but it can be bewildering, and I loved writing a song about that mystery. It was like a meditation.”

Closing the album is “XXI The Universe”, an appropriately epic six and a half-minute-long fantasia of glorious sound. Derek pulls out all the stops in creating a song of such incredible beauty and nuance that it takes my breath away. He uses a dazzling array of intricate synths ranging from glittery keyboards and shimmery strings to sharp industrial, sci-fi and atmospheric sound effects. All of this is of course accompanied by his beautifully strummed ukelele and richly-layered ethereal vocals. It’s one of the most spectacular tracks on the album, and a fitting conclusion to this magnificent and monumental work.

Connect with Derek:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream on Spotify
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby

OCTOBERS – EP Review: “Summer Waste”

Octobers EP

Octobers is an alternative/dream pop/postpunk band from British Columbia, Canada who formed in 2015. Comprising the band are brothers Nick and Joel Ellsay (guitar, synths, vocals), Hayden Shea (drums) and Liam Rhynolds (bass). They released their excellent debut Misfits EP that same year to positive reviews, also garnering airplay on indie and college radio stations throughout Canada and the U.S. The band went on a brief hiatus in 2017 after a few major life changes, but are now back and better than ever with a new EP Summer Waste.

The EP kicks off with the sunny and upbeat “California“. The song opens with a blast of drumbeats, then settles into a pleasing soundscape of chiming guitars, sparkling synths and a humming bassline that evokes images of a summer day at the beach. The pace quickens in the choruses with an exuberant jangly guitar solo and pummeling drums. The song lyrics seem to have dual meaning, with the singer possibly expressing his love for both ‘California’ a girl and the state: “Hey California. Something about ya. You are the sweetest sound. California, always did love ya. You’re the summer all year round.”

Sunshine” has the singer pondering the love that brightens his world: “Are you my sunshine? Are you my starry sky? Are you these glowing lights, cause you burn so bright.” I love the thunderous jangly guitars and percussion, and the Ellsay brothers’ vocal harmonies are really marvelous. The sunny vibes turn darker with “Be Still“, a heartfelt plea to a loved one to try and meet him halfway, and salvage their damaged relationship: “Just be still, don’t say a word, cause you’ve been talking all your life. The tables turned, now tell me what that feels like. / Lay down your gloves, I don’t wanna fight.” Once again, the guitar work is fantastic, and the rhythm section nicely complements with pulsating bass, thumping drumbeats, and lots of crashing cymbals.

Summer Waste ends on a positive note with “Higher“, a jubilant anthem about not giving up, and reaching as high as you can to reach your goals: “Once you start you never can stop. You go higher and higher and higher. Oh yeah!” Their jangly guitars on this track sound a bit like The Cure, which is never a bad thing. Overall, it’s a terrific little EP, with a title that could be misleading as it’s anything but a waste. The lyrics, while not necessarily deep, are honest and heartfelt, and the instrumentals are all outstanding, as are Nick and Joel’s sublime harmonies. Nicely done guys!

Connect with Octobers:  Facebook /  Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

HARROLAND – Single Review: “Home”

Harroland Home

Harroland is an alternative indie-rock band from Reading, England, comprised of siblings Michael (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Kate Kennedy (keyboards, backing vocals),  Steve Tabor (lead guitar) and Sam Tranckle (drums). They’ve just released a new single “Home“, the first of a number of releases planned for 2019. They wrote and self-recorded the track on a shoe-string budget in a freezing cold converted laundry house outside Reading, and had close friend Liam Memmott do the mixing. Mastering was done by two time Grammy Award-winning analog mastering engineer Andres Mayo.

The song opens with an ominous synth chord, then expands into a darkly beautiful soundscape of shimmering keyboard synths, chiming guitars and smooth percussion. The moody piano riff is particularly sublime. Michael has a unique vocal style that’s incredibly appealing, and Kate’s lovely backing vocals harmonize beautifully with his, making for a wonderful listening experience. I found myself wanting to hear this song again and again, liking it more with every listen.

According to Michael, “‘Home’ is told from the viewpoint of someone who gained power using empty promises and feeding on other people’s hopes and dreams. The lyrics reflect the mindset of the kind of person that only wants to enrich themselves, no matter who gets hurt because of their promises. We think it’s important to question who you can and should trust, or if they’re just telling you what you want to hear, especially in the political climate we’re all in at the moment. We’ve all been burnt by people like that.”

The lyrics are extensive, but here’s a snippet of verses that drive home the song’s message from someone intent on holding onto their own power while disregarding the hopes and dreams of others (perfectly describes the vile Liar in Chief currently occupying the White House):

Flip up the table,
But it don’t move,
Now they say,
They’re threatening,
My home, your dreams,
My right to rule

So move aside,
I won’t play no part,
I’m better to be someone with no broken heart
Don’t you ever feel it’s
Best I stake my claim.

And I got my home,
and I got my ways,
and I’ll take your dreams,
In some old fashioned way

“Home” is the band’s last collaboration with drummer Sam Trackle, who is stepping down to spend more time with his family. He will be replaced by Stu Roberts, who will debut with Harroland at their March 16th show at the Rising Sun Arts Centre.

Catch Harroland at one of these upcoming shows:

Saturday, March 16       Rising Sun Arts Centre, Reading
Saturday, March 23       Hope & Anchor, Wokingham
Wednesday, March 27  Purple Turtle, Reading
Saturday, May 18           Rising Sun Arts Centre, Reading
Saturday August 10       A Different World Festival, Abbey Rugby Club, Reading

Connect with Harroland on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Home” on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

WESTERN JAGUAR – Single Review: “Disappear”

western jaguar disappear

Western Jaguar is an alternative indie rock band I’ve followed awhile, and I absolutely love their music. Hailing from the picturesque Fraser River Valley of British Columbia, Canada east of Vancouver, they combine the best elements of alternative rock and dream pop to create beautifully moving and memorable soundscapes they describe as “sad indie rock”. Like many bands, they’ve recently undergone a number of changes in personnel, and the current lineup consists of Jeffrey Trainor (lead vocals/guitar), AJ Buckley (guitar), Davis Zand (bass) and Dave Montgomery (drums).

They’ve dropped a number of stellar releases, starting with their debut EP Glacia in 2013, then followed two years later with the album Wayfarer, and a second EP Memorial in 2017, and I’m proud to say I own them all. (The guys have generously made their music available for a reasonable sum on their Bandcamp account, so do check it out.) In September 2018 they released a hauntingly beautiful single “Darker Days”, and started off 2019 by dropping a gorgeous new single “Disappear.” The exuberant song has more of a pop-rock feel than most of their other songs, but still features the signature reverb-heavy guitars, throbbing bass and high-voltage percussion we’ve come to love about their music.

About the song, Jeff Trainor explains: “The overall theme of the single centrally focuses on changes that have occurred in our band. Over the past year we ended up losing a few band members and having some changes to our lineup. It happens over time with a band, but I saw this as an opportunity to get into the head space of change. Through “Disappear,” I wrote about the perspective of this change as a sense of relief. In some occasions, losing someone or something can end up freeing you in a lot of ways. The song deals with the struggle of cutting that weight loose, but also the feeling of making that negativity disappear once and for all. Musically, it’s the most pop friendly track we have in our repertoire, but with that being said, we still [believe] the feel and style of it connects to some of our biggest inspirations such as bands like Foals, Catfish and The Bottlemen and Modest Mouse.

The song is fantastic, with a bold, complex melody that grabs and holds our attention from start to finish, and the instrumentals are stunning. The guys employ layer upon layer of richly-textured guitars, delivering a glorious and powerful mix of fuzzy, jangly and chiming riffs that bring chills. The throbbing bass and sparkling synths are perfectly balanced with the muscular drums that give heft to the track while still allowing the guitars to shine. And I especially love the little Foals-inspired riff in the bridge (being a massive Foals fan myself). Trainor’s vocals have an earnest vulnerability that’s really wonderful as he sings to someone for whom he no longer has strong feelings: “I just needed reason to stay. But you were gone. What was I supposed to do? There’s nothing left here for you. I’ll make you disappear.”

The stylishly-filmed video shows three of the charismatic band members performing the song in a chilly interior setting, as evidenced by the steam emitting from their mouths.

Connect with Western Jaguar:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

FEATHER WEIGHT – Single Review: “Volcano”

feather weight

Feather Weight is a fairly new band from Toronto, Canada who play music that incorporates elements of Garage Rock, Dream Pop and Psych. They’ve released only two singles thus far – their debut “Just Take the Pill” in May 2018, and “Volcano”, which dropped in late November – and I can unequivocally state I’m already a big fan of theirs. When their drummer Raymond Cara (who I know from his also being part of Toronto bands The Autumn Stones and Andrew LaTona & the Nightshades, both of which I’ve featured on this blog) shared “Volcano” with me the other day, it was love at first listen. In addition to Raymond on drums, the other band members include Alistair Bundale on lead vocals & guitar, Neil Culbert on guitar and backing vocals, and Jordan Quinn on bass and backing vocals. All are accomplished musicians who’ve been involved with other bands in the thriving Toronto music scene.

The song starts off with a subtle but intriguing little guitar riff, then a pounding drumbeat enters, leaving us anticipating what’s coming next. Suddenly, a gorgeous chiming guitar arrives, immediately engulfing our eardrums in a shimmering soundscape. The tempo adjusts to a gentle driving beat as more guitar is layered over the primary riff that continues throughout the song. Alistair’s passionate echoed vocals enter the mix and the result is a song so sublime it brings goosebumps. Given the perfection of this and their first single, I expect we’ll be hearing more fantastic songs from Feather Weight – and soon, I hope!

I asked Raymond about the song’s meaning and how they chose the vintage footage for the wonderful video. He told me it was actually from an old GM promo from the early 1960s for an electronics and car showcase. About the song’s meaning, he explained: “I would say a lot of the basis of this song deals with the pressure of human repression building up underneath and the process of liberating ourselves from that pressure. The way we framed the video is in a way to show a woman finding her liberation at a time when women’s roles were strongly defined by positions occupied in the home. I would think of this more though as an analogy for the meaning of the song rather than the actual point of the song. [But] even though we may find a sense of liberation, that doesn’t mean we are free. The human condition in the cultures and societies we have created foster isolation and alienation and cause many mental health issues, so at some level she is running a fool’s errand, so to speak.” Watch, listen, and prepare to be blown away by this marvelous song.

Connect with Feather Weight:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream their songs on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

SARAH MAY – Single Review: “Nothing to You”

London-based singer-songwriter Sarah May has had music in her blood nearly all her life. She began writing songs at the age of nine, and taught herself to play guitar and keyboard. She recorded her first song when she was 14, and released her first CD of original songs at 17. Since then, she’s continued to write, play and release music, also managing to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice along the way. To date, she’s written over 100 songs that touch on many of life’s perplexing issues such as love and heartache, depression, addiction, politics, sexism, partying and financial hardship.

Sarah has just dropped a gorgeous and haunting new single “Nothing to You.” It’s a rather long track, clocking in at 5:22 minutes, but is so lovely and compelling I don’t want it to end. Opening with a somewhat mournful keyboard synth, the song gradually expands into a captivating soundscape of moody synths and gentle percussion as Sarah’s smooth vocals wash over our ears. Her voice is stunning and understated as she earnestly sings the lyrics addressing the pain of unrequited love, of being obsessed with someone who has no feelings for you:

Sittin’ here missing you knowing I’ve not crossed your mind
Things still remind me of you regardless of the passing time
Trying to find out what you’re doing without having to get in touch
Feeling like a stalker, Never knew I liked you this much

I wanna go wherever you are right now
Though I know it’s not a good idea
Or I could drink alone at home
Find someone else on Tinder

I want you to see me and fall in love with me
I want you to be near and sense that I am here
But dream is all I do, because I mean nothing to you

The backing choruses, which I’m guessing are Sarah’s own vocals layered over her main vocals, are sublime, giving the track a dreamy ethereal quality that beautifully emphasizes the sense of loneliness expressed in the lyrics. It’s a marvelous song.

Connect with Sarah May: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase “Nothing to You” on Spotify / Soundcloud / iTunes

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT – EVERY LOVELY THING

I’m always intrigued by the names musicians and bands come up with for themselves, especially when they’re interesting, clever or unusual. I recently ran across an act with a particularly nice moniker – Every Lovely Thing, an aptly-named music duo from Dayton, Ohio consisting of singer-songwriters Marianne Kesler and Kate Stanton. Long-time friends, the two share a passion for music, and one day in 2015 while having coffee together they decided to collaborate on writing a song. Marianne was already an established singer-songwriter, having written and recorded her own songs, but it was the first time she collaborated with another to write songs, and it was a totally new experience for Kate.

One song eventually turned into twenty and, now that they had a repertoire of songs, they decided they needed a name for their project. In an interview with Ohio-based webzine The Crazy Mind, the ladies explained the inspiration behind their name: “Our tagline is ‘songwriting duo creating beauty out of brokenness one note at a time’ and the name Every Lovely Thing is echoing that concept. It came to mind while reading lines from the Bible, “ … Whatsoever things are lovely … think on these things”.” Their pleasing sound can be best be described as ambient dream pop, characterized by beguiling melodies, delicate instrumentation and sublime, harmonizing vocals. Kate plays piano, keyboard, and synths, while Marianne plays acoustic guitar on most songs. Kate sings lead vocals on many of their songs, with Marianne providing the counter-parts and harmonies.

In August 2016, they headed to St. Louis to record their first single “Running” with producer Ben Kesler at Red Pill Studios. The song was released later than month, with the accompanying video released on October 1st. It’s an arresting song with a quiet intensity. The simple but hauntingly beautiful piano-driven melody, accompanied by gentle percussion and spare synths, create a somewhat somber, yet hopeful mood for the poignant lyrics. “Thinking of who I used to be. My brokenness is all I see. I keep pretending to be free. The past has made a fool of me. / How far? How long? I keep running.” They explain that the song is about toxic relationships, but rather than the term “running” meaning to flee from problems, it’s intended to represent “a healthy acceptance of ourselves, and of moving (or running) toward the freedom of positive life-affirming boundaries.”

Their follow-up single, “Not the Only One” was released in April 2018. About this track, the ladies state: “We feel the song is very accessible … probably everyone can relate to feeling like they are the only one in some situation during their life. One favorite line is ‘weighed down with sorrow so much deeper than our own’.” The enchanting song has a similar haunting quality as “Running,” with Kate’s delicate piano notes, but this time includes Marianne’s soothing acoustic guitar and pleasing drums played by Luke DeJaynes.  Kate’s vocals are soft and lovely, and when combined with Marianne’s backing harmonies, the result is an incredibly moving and beautiful song.

The ladies have recorded a number of songs, five of which are available for streaming or purchase on Bandcamp, and have been performing them and additional songs at gigs in and around Dayton. Here’s a video montage of a performance in Springfield, Ohio in October 2017:

They just released a new video of their latest single “Can You Show Me,” and strike gold once again with their compelling lyrics, sweet melodies and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Marianne’s acoustic guitar takes center stage on this song, accompanied by Kate’s delicate keyboard and other synth sounds. The song speaks of searching for  spiritual guidance to help overcome fear and self-doubt, and guide one’s path forward in life:

Black hole blinding vision obscured 
Panic rising terror incurred 

Fallen trembling shaken and stirred 
Waking wanting awaiting your word 

Watching wondering 
Longing listening 
Breathing, beholding everything that’s You … 

Where will I go? 
How will I know? 
Which way leads home? 
Can you show me? 

The lovely video for the track, which they produced, shows scenes of Marianne wandering around her town as if in search of something, discovering clues painted on rocks hidden in various spots.

Every Lovely Thing are two very talented singer-songwriter-musicians who together create beautiful, uplifting music that’s pleasing to the ear and soothing to the soul. I look forward to following Kate and Marianne on their musical journey, and hearing their new song creations.

Follow Every Lovely Thing on Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music  
Purchase on Bandcamp / cdbabyiTunes / Amazon

THE AUTUMN STONES – EP Review: “Into the Light”

Autumn Stones EP

The Autumn Stones are a Toronto, Canada-based band who play music that’s difficult to label as any particular genre, but who cares, really, so long as it sounds great. Their beautiful, pleasing sound incorporates elements of alternative rock, dream pop, jazz, and what the band refers to as “literary rock,” which I take to mean songs built around intelligent, thoughtful lyrics – which theirs have in abundance. Another aspect of their music is their use of a wide array of instruments, especially saxophone and organ that, along with their signature gorgeous jangly guitars, creates a lush soundscape for their wonderful songs.

Autumn Stones

Formed in 2009, the band’s current lineup consists of founding member Ciaran Megahey (vocals & guitar), Marcus Tamm (bass), Dan Dervaitis (guitar, keys, piano), Gary Butler (sax & keyboards) and Raymond Cara (drums & percussion).  They released their debut album Companions of the Flame in 2011, followed by Escapists in 2015, which I reviewed in 2016. In June of this year, they dropped their third album Emperor Twilight, a stunning work that I also reviewed. Now they’re back with a new four-track EP Into the Light, which dropped November 23. Like Emperor Twilight, the EP was co-produced by The Autumn Stones and Andy Magoffin, and is described by the band as a companion piece to the album.

First up is the title track “Into the Light.” Band frontman Megahey explains about its creation: “We were working on ‘Into the Light’ around the same time as the album sessions, but it wasn’t quite ready to record. Simultaneously, we all felt it was among our strongest songs and couldn’t wait to realize it fully. I’m glad we took the time to fine-tune it and now the track gets its own spotlight in this EP release.” The wait was certainly worthwhile, as “Into the Light” is magnificent. The gorgeous track features layers of exuberant jangly guitars, along with warm saxophone, both hallmarks of The Autumn Stones’ beguiling sound. Megahey’s smooth vocals are sublime, with a seductive quality that also manages to convey a sense of vulnerability. The lovely sax notes on this track were played by Paul White.

The second track “Hardwired” is a terrific pop-rock song with jazzy undertones, courtesy of Gary Butler’s wonderful strutting sax. The guitar work is great too, and the distorted flourishes at the end make for a nice finish. Megahey sings of his hedonism: “My dirty brain is like a slave. It’s like a beatnick. I’ve seen the light. I found the truth. It doesn’t hide. It doesn’t need to. I’m hardwired.” “Higher” soars with lots of soulful sax and fantastic jangly guitars, accompanied by Marcus Tamm’s deep bass and Ray Cara’s crisp percussion.

The Bigger They Fail” is an acoustic version of a song by the same name that appeared on Emperor Twilight, and was previously released as a B-side to that single. Like the original, it’s a hauntingly beautiful dreampop song that reminds me a bit of “Under the Milky Way’ by The Church. This stripped-down version features only acoustic guitar, piano and a bit of tambourine, but is still every bit as stunning and compelling as the original. And it goes without saying that Megahey’s vocals are bewitching as always.

Like all their releases, Into the Light is perfection from start to finish. I love the Autumn Stones’ music, and will likely continue to feature all of their future musical offerings. They will be launching Into the Light with a show at Toronto’s Monarch Tavern on December 8, with guests TBA.

Connect with The Autumn Stones:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunesBandcamp

THE PUSS PUSS BAND – Single & Video Review: “We Should Be”

Puss Puss Band We Should Be

I’m back in Wales (having just featured Welsh band Dying Habit), this time to talk about the lovely new single “We Should Be” and it’s delightful video from The Puss Puss Band.  Based in Cardiff, and consisting of multi-instrumentalists Asa Galeozzie and Lee Pugh, the band is named for Asa’s cat Puss Puss. Both are accomplished musicians who’ve worked with numerous artists and bands in the UK and Welsh music industry over the last ten years as writers & session musicians. They perform every aspect of their music: songwriting, instrumentals, vocals, arranging, engineering, producing and mixing. Asa plays guitar, bass, percussion, piano and melodica, while Lee plays lead guitar, bass and piano, as well as sings lead vocals.

In April 2017, with help from seasoned musician John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, the guys released their beautiful debut album Echoes Across the Cruel Sea. I reviewed the album along with an interview with Lee, which you can read here. Over the past six months or so, they’ve been writing and recording songs for a second album, and “We Should Be” is the first single. It’s a wonderful song, delivering the pleasing jazz and folk-infused pop we’ve come to expect from these talented guys. And once again, Mr. Bundrick lends his expertise on the keyboards.

The bittersweet song is about missing someone and wishing they were back in love with you so you could be together. Layers of gently strummed guitar, crisp percussion and delicate synths create a sparkling backdrop for Lee’s smooth, breathy vocals that convey a sad resignation as he sings the poignant lyrics:

Lighted excited waiting in the rain
Two minutes ‘til I see you again
Near misses, longed for kisses
An everlasting wait
The magic word that is her name

We stole our days away
Wishing by the sea
Wrapped up in you
Wrapped up in me

The way you see the world
Is just the same
It’s just the way you feel about me that’s changed

But we should be….
We should be in love
We should be in love…
See you’re all I’m wishing on

Dying, just trying to find
The words to say
The few minutes that I’ll see you today
Near misses, longed for kisses
An everlasting wait
The tragic word that is my name

If the way you see the world
Is just the same?
Maybe there’s no need…
To hurt in vain?

Is it right?
To close up tight?
To feed this cold divide…
Between you and me?
Is it so hard to see?…
That we should be

We should be…
We should be in love…
We should be in love…
You’re all I’m wishing on
We should be….in love

The video is one of the most delightful I’ve seen in a long while. It shows a man in a cat suit (played by Lee) sitting or standing in various locations on a busy street in Cardiff, holding a large flip chart printed with words that are directed at his love interest. By and by, he walks past a busking musician (played by Asa) and throws a few pieces of dry cat food into his guitar case. I love the scenes where he’s chasing pigeons, riding the merry-go-round, and when he sits on the bench, offers some of his food to a man who politely turns him down, then proceeds to eat it out of the bowl. At the end, the busker sees him sitting forlornly on the ground next to the merry-go-round, offers his hand, and they walk off together down the street holding hands. What a sweet story, and I love both the song and video!

Connect with The Puss Puss Band:  Website / Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music on Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes