THUNDER FOX – Single Review: “Sunday”

Thunder Fox is a wickedly funny and intensely creative band of guys hailing from Sydney, Australia who artfully blend generous helpings of funk, soul, blues rock, hip hop, jazz and pop into their delectable music stew. While their often bawdy lyrics and playful antics would seem to indicate a juvenile zaniness – not to mention the fact they all still look like teenagers – their music has a stylish and jazzy sophistication, thanks to their great songwriting and musicianship, including having both a saxophone and trumpet player in their lineup.

They’ve been making and releasing music since 2015, but I first learned about them in 2019 when they reached out to me about their hilarious single “Been Busy”, one of the tracks on their devilishly entertaining debut album Love at First Sniff. I became an instant fan and loved the album so much I wrote a review. Since the release of that album, the band experienced a few lineup changes, and now consists of the very talented Sam Dawes (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Travers Keirle (Smooth Sax/Vocals/Rhymes), Jesse Tachibana (Trumpet/Vocals/Synths), Max Vallentine (Drums), and Casey Allan (Bass).

Thunder Fox has been working on a new album, and have dropped three singles thus far – “Communicate” and “Smokin’ on Loosies” (which I also reviewed) in 2020 – and their latest “Sunday” on March 4th. It’s a sweet song of love and devotion to someone who makes you happy to be alive. Lead vocalist and songwriter Sam Dawes explained: “I was inspired to write the song on one of those sunny Sunday mornings when you wake up next to someone you love and the birds seem to sing even sweeter than ever before. It’s about having the whole day to spend with the one you love, doing whatever you want.” The song features many of the band’s signature music touches we’ve come to love – a deliciously sultry vibe, funky laid-back grooves, and bold flourishes of jazzy brass, all coming together to create a warm, sexy backdrop for Sam’s silky and seductive vocals that hover between a come-hither croon and saucy falsetto. I love the song and I love this band!

The sweet video, which was produced by band member Jesse Tachibana, who also directed it along with Lewis Clark, stars Sam as a man walking the streets and alleys of Sydney, gradually removing articles of clothing as he sings. A young woman, played by Natalia Hutchen, starts to follow him, eventually picking up and putting on his discarded white shirt, at which point she walks alongside him as he offers her one of his earbuds.

Follow Thunder Fox:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Deezer
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

The Winachi Tribe – Single Review: “Time For Love (David Tolan Remix)”

British electropop/funk band The Winachi Tribe make some of the most deliciously catchy and cool music of any artists around today, and I love them! Formed in 2015 and based in and around Manchester and Leeds, the group is comprised of Liam Croker (vocals), Antony Egerton (keyboards, programming), Inder Goldfinger (percussion), Jamie McGregor (lead guitar),  Ritchie Rich (bass) and Mr. Whommit (drums). Drawing from an array of legendary influences such as Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly & The Family Stone, Primal Scream, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Massive Attack, The Stone Roses, Talking Heads, D’angelo, Prince and Daft Punk, they create their own infectious style of funk-infused electro/dance pop.

I first featured them in 2018 when I reviewed their fantastic dance song “Transition”, and then again this past March when I reviewed their single “Funky But Chic“, a delightful song released as a marketing collaboration with iconic Italian fashion brand Pantofola d’Oro. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.) Now, to celebrate the 5th year anniversary of their debut single “Time For Love”, they’ve released a new remix by Grammy nominated producer David Tolan, who’s produced records for Tears For Fears and Primal Scream, among others. The single is being released today, December 4th, via British independent label A1MRecords.

The original song has a wonderful, hip-swaying Kool & the Gang-Chic vibe, but on the new remix, David Tolan dials up the energy with a heavier dance groove, lots of swirling spacey synths, and more pronounced Nile Rodgers-style guitar riffs that take the song to the next level. Liam’s raspy vocals are low key, yet overflowing with a sexy swagger that’s just too damn irresistible. I also like that the backing female vocals and jazzy trumpet flourishes are still prominent on the remix. It’s a superb track all the way around, and guaranteed to get even the most stubborn wallflower onto the dance floor.

The great cover artwork for the single was created by Pete Phythian.

Follow The Winachi Tribe:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

New Song of the Week – THUNDER FOX: “Smokin’ on Loosies”

Thunder Fox is a wickedly funny and intensely creative group of guys hailing from Sydney, Australia who skillfully blend generous helpings of funk, blues rock, soul, hip hop, jazz and pop into their delectable music stew. In their own words, they serve “gooey hot horntastic shreddage, the best sauce for your ears ‘n eyes, causing sonic copulation worldwide“, which pretty much describes their devilishly entertaining sound. While their sometimes bawdy lyrics and playful antics would seem to indicate a juvenile zaniness, their music has a stylish and jazzy sophistication that reveals what skilled songwriters and musicians these guys really are.

They’ve been making music since around 2015, but I first learned about Thunder Fox when they reached out to me exactly one year ago today with their hilarious single “Been Busy”. They released their album Love at First Sniff a week later on Halloween and I loved it so much I wrote a review. The title was certainly apropos, as it was ‘love at first sniff’ for me! Since the release of that album, the band has undergone some changes in lineup, and now consists of Sam Dawes (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Travers Keirle (Smooth Sax/Vocals/Rhymes), Jesse Tachibana (Trumpet/Vocals/Synths), Max Vallentine (Drums), and newest member Casey Allan (Bass).

They followed up this past August with their single “Communicate”, and now return with yet another brilliant single “Smokin’ on Loosies“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The track was self-produced by Thunder Fox, mixed by long time mixing partner Daniel Willington, (Battlesnake, Good Lekker, Florian) and mastered by Steve Smart (Ocean Alley, Midnight Oil, Alex the Astronaut) at Studios 301 in Sydney. With their signature soulful and bluesy funk-infused grooves, the band delivers a powerful condemnation of greed and misinformation.  

Lead vocalist Sam Dawes elaborates on the song’s meaning and intent: “‘Smokin’ on Loosies’ represents a shared disgust at western society’s unaddressed flaws that are leading to widening class division, planetary destruction and a failure to address the ongoing systemic persecution of marginalised groups within our communities. Mostly, the song is about being able to see clear as day what is causing these issues – be it the greedy elite, susceptible conspiracists or casual, misinformed hatred – and feeling powerless against it because it just keeps happening, all the time. It’s not exactly a happy song – it’s not supposed to be – but it’s full of honest grit and angry words that help me deal with some of the more fucked up problems that our world faces on a day-to-day basis.”

Over Casey’s deliciously funky bass line, the band layers a colorful mix of grimy guitars, tinkling piano keys, and crisp percussion, highlighted by Jesse’s soulful trumpet blasts that really make this a great song. I love Sam’s silky vocals that go from sultry croon one moment to cheeky falsetto the next as he sings “Money, power, keeping us blind / Everybody steppin’ in line / I think about it all the time / The cash cow that you worship got a shriveled-up teat / Pass the wealth through generations, but forgot to pass the heart.” The song seems to end at around 2:50, then starts back up with a terrific 30-second-long bluesy guitar solo that fades out with distorted reverb. I love it!

Follow Thunder Fox:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Deezer
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

Song of the Day Challenge – Day 3: “Hot Fun in the Summertime”

Song A Day Challenge

Today’s Song of the Day Challenge theme is “a song that reminds me of summer”. There are so many obvious and great songs celebrating summer that I love, so it was really tough to choose only one, but choose I must! My pick is the wonderful Sly & the Family Stone classic “Hot Fun in the Summertime“. The song came out in the summer of 1969, and I remember it being a hit during the start of the fall semester of school.

I loved the funky soul music of Sly & the Family Stone and this was probably my favorite song from them, though I also loved “Dance to the Music”, “Everyday People” and “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” a lot too. The insistent piano riff that serves as the driving force for the song’s melody is fantastic, as are their signature horns and Larry Graham’s funky bass. Sly Stone’s smooth, soulful vocals contrast nicely with the more passionate vocals of his sister Rose as they sing the joys of summer vacation, love affairs and picnics in the sun.

TUNGZ – Single Review: “Can’t We Just Be Friends Again”

Tungz single art

I recently learned about British band Tungz when their PR rep reached out to me about a possible review of their latest single “Can’t We Just Be Friends Again“, and after listening to a few of their songs I’m now a big fan of this charming foursome. Formed in early 2017, and based in Bristol & London, Tungz is comprised of Jamie Maier (guitar, vocals), Nicky Green (keyboards, vocals), Ollie Horne (bass) and Rick Holland (drums). Drawing from elements of pop, funk, soul and disco, they create wonderful music that’s upbeat, melodic and overflowing with smooth, soulful grooves. Having two vocalists also gives their songs extra vibrance and color.

Tungz

They released their enchanting debut single “Window Love” in 2018, then followed up with the delightful “Fruit”. In October 2019, they dropped their self-produced EP Okay, featuring four outstanding tracks that are far and away better than okay. They now return with ‘Can’t We Just Be Friends Again’, released via their label Heist Or Hit on March 12th.

About the song, the band states “The track is an open dialogue about wanting to snap back to being happy with someone you’ve only ever really been cool with before. [The opening line] ‘This is BS and we said this was golden paradise’ expresses the weird frustration that comes with trying to argue with someone you don’t know how to argue with because you’ve never had need to do so. It’s about two people who’ve never really started an argument trying to end one. This track feels like a statement to us. But it’s also a question. That’s why we left off the question mark. We went heavy on the production – it’s gonna be a nightmare to work out how to play it live.

Starting with a lively mix of bouncy percussive drum beats as a foundation, the guys add layers of swirling and warbling synths, funky guitars and throbbing bass to create a sexy and soulful sound with a retro 80s vibe. As I listened to the song, I sensed a familiarity that took a bit of thinking, but it eventually dawned on me that it sounds like some of the songs by 80s British bands Go West and Scritti Politti. Jaime sings lead vocals on this track, and I love his smooth voice and fervent delivery that beautifully conveys the urgency expressed by the lyrics:

This is BS
And we said this was golden paradise
Pretty pointless
This isn’t even what we are like

It doesn’t have to be so hard (Can’t you see what you’ve done to me?)
Aren’t we both on the same team? (Take a look what you did to me)
Can’t we just skip this part (Can’t you see what you’ve done to me?)
If we both want the same thing? (Take a look what you did to me)

(Blame myself but it’s bad for my health to blame myself when you’re not blameless either)

Can’t we just be friends again?
Can’t we just be friends again?
You know it’ll be easier on me

Sadly, due to the nasty virus now plaguing the world, their tour to promote the new single ended after the first show at Bristol venue Rough Trade. They hope to restart the tour this summer, music gods willing.

Follow TUNGZ:  WebsiteFacebookTwitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicYouTube
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

THE WINACHI TRIBE – Single Review: “Funky But Chic”

Winachi Tribe Funky But Chic

British electropop/funk band The Winachi Tribe make some of the catchiest and fun music of any artists around today, and I love them! Based in and around Leeds, they draw from a ton of legendary influences such as Parliament-Funkadelic, Sly & The Family Stone, Primal Scream, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Massive Attack, The Stone Roses, Talking Heads, D’angelo, Prince and Daft Punk to create their infectious funk-infused style of electro/dance pop. In 2018, I reviewed their fantastic song “Transition”, and am thrilled to feature them once again with the release of their latest single “Funky But Chic“, which dropped on March 6th. The delightful song is a marketing collaboration with iconic Italian fashion brand Pantofola d’Oro, and coincided with the release of the very handsome and sporty Pantofola d’Oro Winachi Collection Trainers, pictured in the heading.

Formed in 2015, The Winachi Tribe is comprised of Liam Croker (vocals), Antony Egerton (keyboards, programming), Inder Goldfinger (percussion), Jamie McGregor (lead guitar),  Ritchie Rich (bass) and Mr. Whommit (drums) (although their previous guitarist Mike Bee played on “Funky But Chic”). All accomplished musicians in their own right, they’ve collaborated with musicians and producers in both the UK and Southern California, and have released a number of critically acclaimed singles.

Winachi Tribe2

As with many of their songs, they start off with a bouncy dance beat that aims straight for the hips, immediately hooking us in and commanding that we get up and get moving! Then they serve up generous helpings of wobbly psychedelic synths, funky guitars, throbbing bass and snappy percussion. The result is a delicious and upbeat tune with more funky grooves than a boxful of Funkadelic records. Liam’s wonderful vocals exhibit equal amounts of humour and sexiness as he croons with a cool and casual air:

I got a pair of shoes I swear that somebody gave me
My mama says I look pretty fruity but in jeans it feels rockin’
I don’t wear nothing that’s too fussy on me
I just want something so I can walk down your street
Eh, come on baby, let’s get on down to the boutique
Let’s bring back something that’s funky but it’s chic

The entertaining video was produced by John X of Earthstar Creation Center, and directed by Pro Direct Select, and shows some of the band members sneaking into a warehouse to steal several pairs of the trainers. They then go on a high-speed chase with a police car through the countryside, finally eluding the police and connecting with a guy played by Liam who’s waiting for their haul in a parking garage.

Connect with The Winachi Tribe:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunesGoogle Play

Junie & TheHutFriends – Single Review: “Ammonia Baby”

Junie & HF-Ammonia-Baby

I receive a lot of submissions for possible reviews, so it’s always a pleasure to discover artists or bands with a fascinating and totally unique sound. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based indie outfit Junie & TheHutFriends are such a band. Describing themselves as “an art pop musical dumpster fire, operating at the intersection of art, music, and technology” they consist of frontwoman, lead singer and robot enthusiast Junie Grey and her literal band of cloaked “Hut Friends”. Inspired by acts as diverse as Kate Bush and Kool & the Gang, their aim is to “craft a technicolor universe, explored through layered synth pieces, (too many) harmonies and narrative music videos featuring robotic props. Through the use of unorthodox melodic structures, a colorful instrumental palette, arresting vocal harmonies, and lots of unusual sound effects, they achieve their musical objective quite nicely.

Following up on their terrific 2019 singles “AngstMode3000” and “The Witches”, they recently dropped their third single “Ammonia Baby“. The song will be featured on their forthcoming debut EP Diary Of A Chaotic Neutral, to be released this Spring. Starting off with a funky bass line and powerful stomping drumbeat, Junie & TheHutFriends add a lavish array of guitar, strings, horns and hand claps to create a vibrant, trippy soundscape. The richly-textured strings and horns are especially good, giving the song an intriguing experimental art pop vibe that’s both jarring and pleasing. Junie’s layered vocal harmonies are wonderful, sounding like several singers delivering a range of complementing voices.

I’m not certain as to the song’s meaning, but my guess is that it celebrates the singer’s independence and fearlessness, that’s nothing’s going to stop or hinder her from reaching her goals: “Keep them coming, they start running, they got nothin’ on me. I told ya, I’m ammonia!” I think it serves as a great anthem for Junie & TheHutFriends.

Connect with Junie & the Hut Friends: Website / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicYouTube
Purchase: Google Play

THUNDER FOX – Album Review: “Love at First Sniff”

Thunder Fox album art

Thunder Fox is a wickedly funny and talented group of guys from Sydney, Australia who’ve just put out a devilishly entertaining new album Love at First Sniff. It’s the most fun I’ve had listening to a record in a very long while, and the title is apropos, as it was definitely ‘love at first sniff’ for me! As EclecticMusicLover, I always enjoy when artists and bands mix things up genre-wise, and this band does it better than almost anyone, tossing in generous helpings of funk, blues rock, soul, hip hop, jazz and pop into their delectable music stew. In their own words, they serve “gooey hot horntastic shreddage, the best sauce for your ears ‘n eyes, causing sonic copulation worldwide.” Indeed they do! Their music is fun and bawdy, yet with a sexy sophistication that makes it incredibly appealing. It’s like Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Prince, Nick Jonas and Anderson .Paak all joined forces in one gigantic, over-the-top jam session!

Thunder Fox

Making all this saucy music mayhem are Sam “Sewad” Dawes (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Sam “Gnars” Frank (Lead Guitar/Vocals), Connor “Ronnoc” McCool (Bass), Max “Mecks” Vallentine (Drums), Travers “Full Travers” Keirle (Smooth Sax/Vocals/Rhymes) and Jesse “Jizze” Tachibana (Trumpet/Vocals/Synths). They’ve been prolific in their music output, releasing quite a lot of it over the past five years. From what I can tell, the first music they released was their very respectable six-track EP Cosmic Pudding in early 2015. They followed up with a few singles and dropped their second EP Mother Machine in December 2016, a great collection of songs including the brilliant “Vanilla Chinchilla”. More singles followed in 2018 and 2019, culminating in the release of their first full-length album Love at First Sniff on Halloween, which I have the distinct pleasure of reviewing today.

About the album, the band states: “The record muses on subject matter with a discernible sense of growth and progression while stretching across a canyon of mixed emotion surrounding love, existentialism and everything in between.” Lead singer Sam Dawes adds: “In our fast-paced, modernity-obsessed society, it has become apparent that some cornerstones of humanity, such as love, can alter on their surface yet remain unshaken at their core. ‘Love At First Sniff’ (and ‘Been Busy’ from it) is an elegy to and an observation of human connection and love in a world shaped by excess.”

Thunder Fox 2

Excess is the byword here, and more is most definitely better! The album opens with the title track “Love at First Sniff“, a rather sultry-sounding intro piece with ominously spoken lyrics and sparse, almost spooky instrumentals. The track ends with sounds of someone sniffing, our first clue that this isn’t going to be just any old conventional record. Thunder Fox then launches headlong into “WTF is This“, and we’re off on a phantasmagorical sonic adventure. Tachibana’s exuberant blaring trumpet is the highlight here, driving the track forward while a stop-start guitar riff provides the melodic substructure. Dawes’ colorful, silky vocals are an absolute delight to my ears as he croons “Be careful what you put in your mouth though. But that’s not just style, now is it sweetie pie? Oh yeah, I said it, and you didn’t think I would. But you did it, and you lied, and I didn’t think you could. /What the fuck is this? You got some nerve! But when you block my ears with those legs, it’s the warmest sound, yes I’ve ever heard.

As the song progresses, Dawes breaks into some brief high-speed rapping, then halfway through, the tempo changes to a languid, sultry groove. Horns and sax still blaring, our ears are now bathed by intricate funky guitars, wobbly bass and psychedelic synths as Dawes’ vocals turn seductive. It’s like the song has two completely different parts, with so much going on musically that I find it difficult to fully articulate all that I’m hearing. It’s really a phenomenal song, and I’m already blown away by this band’s astonishing musicianship.

Next up is “Been Busy” the second single from the album, and my first introduction to Thunder Fox. The song is a catchy as fuck earworm, with an upbeat, head-bopping tempo and more of those wonderful exuberant horns. Once again, the guys employ several melodic change-ups throughout the song, keeping us in a continual state of surprise. An interesting aspect of the song is that it starts off with the chorus “Ooh, I’ve been busy, not helping my health, but helping myself.” Dawes croons about having as much sex as possible to get over his pain: “When your heart is broken, only one thing left to do. Open up your kitchen, start taking those orders baby.”

As great as the song is, the hilarious video’s even better! Thunder Fox are definitely not afraid to put themselves out there. Wearing very suggestive wrestling singlets and white crew socks, the guys dance around against a number of spacey backdrops. Eventually, they spar with, and are ultimately vanquished by, the opposing team dressed in red singlets. How can you not love these guys?

On “Hot Tub“, the guys really channel their inner James Brown and Prince, with more soulful, funked-up grooves than should be allowed in one song. Have I mentioned how much I love this band? Their guitar work is fantastic, and the bass, synths, horns, sax and percussion are all perfection, creating a dynamic, funk-drenched backdrop for Dawes’ gorgeous vocals. Their lyricism is wonderful, and here’s an example why I think that: “My brain is a trickle-down economy, temptation’s so damn bitch. Yeah, so many issues but tissues won’t fix it. There’s a cream for every itch./ My baby’s boiling, she should sit down. There’s a line she don’t need to cross. It’s me here sitting in a hot tub…

Squeedup Vol. 2” is a twisted one-minute-long answer to their 2018 single “Squeedup”, and the first of three transitional interludes featured on the album. It quickly segues into the sexy and soulful love song “Look at U“, for which the guys have produced one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen. It stars the two Sams (Dawes & Frank) as characters hooking up on a dinner-date, with other band members making cameo appearances, These guys are crazy! Dawes’ sultry vocals remind me of Nick Jonas, and no more so than on this track.

The guys keep delivering the funky grooves with the jazz-infused “Every Single Day“, and I’m starting to run out of superlatives to describe them and their music. Once again, I’m loving Tachibana’s trumpet and Keirle’s sax, and Vallentine’s drumming is particularly awesome here. And it goes without saying that Dawes’ always impressive vocal gymnastics really shine on this track. “#fuck” is a dark instrumental interlude consisting of a reverb-heavy guitar riff, industrial synths and a pummeling drumbeat. It’s an interesting segue into the dark and sultry “I’m Your Man“. This song also has a jazzy vibe, with vibrant horns and sax, and a slowly building tempo. Dawes’ vocals sound increasingly diabolical as he warns “I’m your mutherfuckin’ man, so don’t you make no other plans.”

Baby, I’m Famous” opens with one of the guys saying “We’re running out of tape“, then another yells “Shut the fuck up and play! Bitch“, at which point McCool’s very funky bass enters the picture, and soon joined by the rest of the band jamming their respective instruments. The song has a strong Prince vibe, with some terrific guitar licks and psychedelic-tinged synths. I love Keirle’s tasty sax riff in the bridge that pays homage to the Average White Band’s classic “Pick Up the Pieces”. “360p” is the third interlude track, starting off with what sounds like someone searching for a radio station, finally settling on one where Thunder Fox is jamming hard.

The album closes with the eight and a half minute-long gem “Feels So Good“, a slow and sexy love song. It’s a beautiful track, reminiscent of some of the great soul songs of the 70s by acts like Earth, Wind and Fire and The Originals. The guys play as an incredibly tight unit, delivering soulful grooves that transport us to a state where we ‘feel so good’. The song has a dramatic extended run that reminds me of the Isaac Hayes masterpieces “Walk on By” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, and of course, Dawes’ silky smooth vocals are perfection.

It’s a fitting end to a terrific album, which I cannot gush about nearly enough. I’m now a massive fan of Thunder Fox, and in a funk that I’m half a world away in Southern California, because I would love to see them perform live. Those of you fortunate enough to be living in eastern Australia can catch them at one of their upcoming shows:

Thunder Fox 2019 Tour Dates

Fri 22 Nov – The Basement, Canberra
Sat 23 Nov – Yah Yah’s, Melbourne
Sat 7 Dec – Cambridge Warehouse, Newcastle
Sun 8 Dec – North Gong Hotel, Wollongong (free entry)
Thu 12 Dec – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay (free entry)
Fri 13 Dec – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
Sat 14 Dec – Imperial Hotel, Sunshine Coast
Sat 21 Dec – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Follow Thunder Fox:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Deezer
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon / Google Play / iTunes

STONED PIRATES – Album Review: “Flag, Skull and Rock n Roll”

Stoned Pirates album art

Stoned Pirates is the music project of Algerian-born Khaled Sahour, a creative and highly imaginative musician, visual artist and filmmaker. Growing up in a home where he was exposed to lots of music and art, he early on developed a love of rock, pop and disco, and taught himself to play music on a broken two string guitar. He started a band and sung his heart out to young Algerian audiences that seemed to connect very well, but eventually relocated to Los Angeles to further his career in music and film. On August 9th, he released his debut album Flag, Skull and Rock n Roll, which I’m pleased to be reviewing today.

Stoned Pirates’ unusual and eclectic music style comes from a wide array of influences ranging from classic rock acts such as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses, to the funk of Sly & the Family Stone, the dance grooves of Chic and Nile Rodgers, and the soulful pop of Michael Jackson – all spiced with an Algerian flavor. Not only does Khaled write, perform, record and produce all his music, he also creates his own visuals for his Stoned Pirates project. The album was mixed and mastered by Thomas Juth, and opens with “Turmoil (Intro)“, a brief track that sets the tone for the album. With a backdrop of otherworldly industrial synths and a hypnotic beat, Stoned Pirates chants “I’ve been waiting for the wind to blow. I guess it’s time to rock’n’roll.

Next up is “Nothing“, a dark, trippy song about feeling overwhelmed by loneliness and hopelessness, like one is powerless to change the sorry state of things. Stoned Pirates weaves a mesmerizing soundscape out of a fascinating kaleidoscope of synth instruments and exotic sounds. I love the xylophone, spooky keyboards, deep bass and guitar, accompanied by a cool, carnival-like synth riff. Khaled has a quirky vocal style in which he sometimes sings in a baby-like falsetto that I suppose could be off-putting to some, but once I got into his music I found it sort of charming. Using that falsetto, he sings: “Throw me a bone. Hit me with a stone, I just wanna feel something real.” But then, he sings in a deeper, almost menacing tone: “Nothing, absolutely nothing has changed today. Same old, same old sins and heartbreaks coming in new ways.

The surreal video he made for the song shows an astronaut floating aimlessly through dark space along with various objects like an old TV playing static, boxing gloves and pieces of furniture.

One of my favorite tracks is “The Devil in You“, a great kiss-off song to someone who’s deceived and caused hurt. The song has a sensual beat, with jazzy synths, funky bass, swirling guitar and some really terrific sax. Stoned Pirates bitterly sings “I didn’t see fully the devil in you. What are you truly, if not a foe? Don’t come back crying, knocking on my door.” Keeping with a similar theme, “Mr. Nice Guy” addresses someone who keeps taking advantage of a guy whenever she screws up: “If you cry for help, he will come to you. Convenient nice guy is always at your rescue.” Once again, Stoned Pirates employs a rich assortment of sparkling synths, along with a hypnotic dance beat to create a captivating backdrop for his colorful vocals.

On the bittersweet “In Time“, he laments of his regret about having broken up with a lover: “If I could I would go back in time, I would change the way we drew the lines. If I could I would go back in time. I would try harder to change your mind. Love will come to you in time. Just be patient, don’t cry.” The soulful track has a Michael Jackson vibe, featuring deep, sensual synths, highlighted by funky guitar and brass, all set to a strong, hip-swaying beat. The soulful, funky “Rebound” has him calling out someone who’s using him to get over another guy:  “Oh girl, who you think you’re trying to fool? Oh girl, who you think you’re playing here? Cause all the signs are clear. I’m talking about the rebound.”

Stoned Pirates uses a vampire metaphor on “Midnight Lover“, a sexy song about a seductress who preys on men to get what she wants. I love this lyric: “I saw her on the dance floor still trying to get more. Staring at me in the eyes while biting another guy.” Funky grooves abound on “Where I Belong“, another sultry tune with marvelous swirling synths and a beat so damn infectious it had me doing a lap dance in my chair! The aptly-titled album closer “The End” features a sultry Latin beat and jangly guitars drenched in reverb, accompanied by some tasty exuberant horns. Khaled employs his deeper vocals here, as he sings in an almost menacing whisper: “Sit back, relax, nobody is going anywhere. You think the end, but it’s only just the beginning.”

I’ve got to say that Flag, Skull and Rock n Roll is a marvelous album and a very impressive debut from Stoned Pirates. His innovative music is totally original, sounding like no one else I’m aware of. I love how he’s taken an eclectic mix of influences to create his own unique, fascinating sound. His beautiful, seductive melodies, compelling lyrics and use of a wide array of lush instruments and synths make for some really captivating songs that are pure joy to hear.

Connect with Stoned Pirates:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

EML’s Favorite Songs – THE BROTHERS JOHNSON: “Strawberry Letter 23”

Strawberry Letter 23

One of my favorite songs from the 1970s, or of all time for that matter, is “Strawberry Letter 23” from R&B/funk band The Brothers Johnson. It was one of the defining songs of my summer of 1977, when I spent two glorious months in Portland, Oregon before starting college. The track was written by the brilliant singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis in 1971, whose own original version was featured on his album Freedom Flight.

It’s a romantic song with a dreamy, almost mystical vibe, thanks to the whimsical lyrics and his use of chiming guitars, xylophone, calliope and other sparkling synth instrumental sounds. For their recording of the song, which was masterfully produced by the legendary Quincy Jones, The Brothers Johnson embellished on all those lovely instruments and added their own funky guitar, bass, beats and smooth vocal harmonies, along with a dreamy backing vocal chorus. The result was a gorgeous and captivating track that took the song to the next level.

The song was included on their 1977 album Right On Time, and reached #1 on the Billboard R&B Chart and #5 on the Hot 100. It’s been featured in several films and TV shows, including Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Six Feet Under and Nip/Tuck. Otis’ version was featured in the film Munich.

I’d originally wondered why the song was titled “Strawberry Letter 23” when the lyrics speak of “Strawberry Letter 22” instead. The reason is that Otis intended for the song to be about a couple exchanging love letters in the form of songs. The singer is creating “Strawberry Letter 23” as a reply to the “Strawberry Letter 22” song he received from his lover and refers to in the song.

Hello my love, I heard a kiss from you
Red magic satin playing near, too
All through the morning rain I gaze, the sun doesn’t shine
Rainbows and waterfalls run through my mind
In the garden, I see
West purple shower bells and tea
Orange birds and river cousins dressed in green

Pretty music, I hear
So happy and loud
Blue flowers echo from a cherry cloud
Feel sunshine sparkle pink and blue
Playgrounds will laugh
If you try to ask “Is it cool? Is it cool?”
If you arrive and don’t see me
I’m going to be with my baby
I am free, flying in her arms
Over the sea

Stained window, yellow candy screen
See speakers of kite
With velvet roses diggin’ freedom flight
A present from you
Strawberry letter 22
The music plays I sit in for a few

Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh

For comparison, here’s the original version by Shuggie Otis: