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

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

Featured Song & Video: CRYSTAL CITIES – “Who’s Gonna Save Us Now”

Every once in a while you hear a song for the first time and it’s instant love. That was my reaction upon first hearing the breathtaking new single “Who’s Gonna Save Us Now” by Australian band Crystal Cities. Musically and lyrically, the song is absolutely stunning, and it’s arrangement and production are flawless.

Based in Sydney, Crystal Cities is Geoff Rana on vocals & guitars, Jared King on bass & backing vocals and Daniel Conte on drums. The guys call their music “Dream Rock that sounds like Death Cab For Cutie had a War On Drugs with The Beatles.” It’s a perfect description of their music style.

Crystal Cities

The beautiful video was directed by Vittoria Merlino-Dentice and, as explained in notes for the video, is “set in the 1940’s, [and] follows the journey of two young child compadres as they escape from their well-to-do life, exploring the Australian countryside, and searching for truth from a perspective of innocence and vulnerability.

Connect with Crystal Cities:  Twitter /  Facebook /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube

Purchase:  Bandcamp /  iTunes