YARD OF BLONDES – Single Review: “Do You Need More?”

From humble beginnings in France as a folk pop duo making mostly acoustic music, Yard of Blondes have faced some of the same challenges and struggles as many young artists and bands experience since relocating to Los Angeles in 2014. Now a four-piece, they’re finally on an upward trajectory and making a name for themselves with their exciting and edgy style of alternative rock. The band is comprised of the hard-working French-born singer/songwriter and guitarist/vocalist Vincent Walter Jacob and bassist/vocalist Fanny Hulard, guitarist Burak Yerebakan, originally from Turkey, and Northern California native Forrest Mitchell on drums.

I’ve previously featured Yard of Blondes twice on this blog, first in July 2019 when I reviewed their marvelous bilingual single “Je veux danser tout l’été”, along with two alternative versions, then again this past February when I reviewed their single “Lowland”. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.) Now they’re back with “Do You Need More?“, the third single from their forthcoming debut album Feed the Moon, due for release early next year. The single and album were produced by Billy Graziadei (Biohazard, Powerflo), mixed by Michael Patterson (Nine Inch Nails, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and mastered by Maor Applebaum (Faith No More).

In a recent interview with music blog TrueStyleMusic, Vincent provided some background on “Do You Need More?”: “It was one of the first songs we wrote for our upcoming album, and it’s the song we always play first at our shows. It’s a song that seems very straight forward, but it evolves into a more complicated piece as Fanny is adding more and more layers of vocals, and as we end up breaking the installed routine with some surprisingly heavy bridge. Regarding the lyrics, it’s also a tricky song. It feels like a love song at the beginning, but it’s actually a toxic love story where one gaslights another, and it ends up with kind of a Stockholm syndrome situation.

The song is a rampaging beast, storming through the gates like a bat out of hell with furious riffs of grimy guitars and a thunderous barrage of explosive rhythms. Fanny’s throbbing bass line propels the song forward while Forrest keeps pace with his pummeling drumbeats. Meanwhile, Vincent and Burak are busy laying to the airwaves with their aggressive, intertwining guitars, delivering chugging riffs of shredded distortion that threaten to blow out the speakers. Vincent and Fanny’s expressive vocals rise to the occasion, becoming downright feral in the chorus as they wail “Do you need more? Do you really need more? Gimme, gimme, gimme some more! I want it all!” Finally, everyone spent, the song fades out in a hum of reverb.

If the three singles released thus far – “You and I & I”, “Lowland” and “Do You Need More?” are any indication, Feed the Moon is guaranteed to be a terrific album.

Connect with Yard of Blondes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
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Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

TOUGH ON FRIDAYS – Album Review: “A Fantastic Way To Kill Some Time”

Tough On Fridays is a female-fronted grunge-pop rock band based in Georgetown, Texas, a mid-sized city 30 miles north of Austin. Since forming in 2017, they’ve built an ever-growing fan base through their infectious music, relatable lyrics and high-energy live shows. Blending the best of indie, alt-rock, pop and grunge, they create their own unique style of edgy rock ‘n roll . Making the music are Caleigh on vocals & guitar, Carly on bass & vocals, and Chris on drums.

Since forming in 2017, they’ve released numerous singles and EPs, and beginning this past March, they dropped a series of three double-singles – “Simplicity I”, “Simplicity II” and “Simplicity III” – every two months. On September 4th, they released their long-awaited debut album A Fantastic Way to Kill Some Time, featuring the six previously-released singles along with two new tracks. Showcasing their most mature and refined sound yet, the album was recorded at Empire Sound in Carrollton, TX under the direction of Matt Kennedy, who engineered and mixed the tracks. The album was produced by Eric Nielsen, and mastered by Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The album touches on the myriad challenges of young adulthood like self-identity, mental health, and the perilous minefield of relationships and dating. Opening track “Party Scene” sets the tone from both a musical and lyrical standpoint, with urgent riffs of grungy guitars, driving bass and pummeling drums creating an angst-filled vibe for the lyrics decrying the downsides of the party scene. Caleigh bemoans of her general distaste for parties, and how going to them makes her feel more lonely than when she’s alone: “I don’t know why I go all on my own where no one really knows you. Everyone acts drunk too. I just wanna go home all alone / The Party Scene it’s so obscene. The Party Scene it’s not for me.”

Pleased to Meet You” speaks to the anxieties that often occur when meeting new people, that perhaps they won’t like us. At the listening party for the album, Caleigh said “Pleased to Meet You” is a callback to their previous song “Summer” about being a burden, and is a sort of warning to people you meet that they may not want to know you because of your faults and shortcomings: “Maybe I’m different. Maybe I’ve changed. Maybe I’m just a little sad and deranged.” The gnarly guitars on this track are really good.

On “Out of the Blue (The Deep End)“, Tough on Fridays addresses body dysmorphia, a mental condition in which a person obsesses about a perceived flaw or defect in their appearance that’s either non-existent or so minor that others can’t see it. In a late night phone call, the singer expresses her insecurities to a friend: “Dear friend, are you up tonight? I just don’t feel quite alright. I know it’s out of the blue, but I got another shit tattoo. Haven’t slept since god knows when, and I think I’m going off the deep end. / You know it’s hard to stay beautiful.”

Problematic relationships are the subject of several tracks on the album, starting with “My Favorite Mistake“. The song was written and sung by the band’s previous bassist Kelly, who was a senior in high school at the time. (She has since graduated and is now in college at Belmont in Nashville.) To a rousing beat and heavily-strummed grungy guitars, she wistfully sings to a former boyfriend of her conflicted feelings: “You were my favorite mistake. You were the feeling that I love and that I hate. Still think about you, but I still feel you in these walls.”

On “Last Chance to Lose Your Keys“, Caleigh gives her undependable boyfriend the kiss-off: “I shoulda seen it all along. It’s guys like you that make me think I’m better off home on a Saturday night with all my doors locked up tight. I won’t be thinkin’ about you, baby.” The song was originally written by the now defunct band Brand New; Tough on Fridays bought the rights to the song so they could record it and Caleigh spun the lyrics. And on “Patches“, she laments of a boy she’s crazy about, but doesn’t think he feels the same toward her: “All he seems to be, a fucking mystery. Do I mean anything? ‘Cause to me you are everything. / You know you have me. You’ll always be my mystery You look so good to me.” The gentle jangly guitar gives this song more of a folk-rock feel.

Lonely Eyes/Pines” is a low-key grunge song with reverb-soaked fuzzy guitars and restrained percussion that create a somber backdrop for Caleigh’s melancholy vocals. The poignant lyrics speak of regrets over past mistakes and wanting to find a little peace of mind, yet knowing that she’ll keep fucking up: “The sins I repent I will commit all over again. And these pines I will frame. I know it’s seen better days.” “Bad Memories and Wishful Thinking” is a grungy little tune that perfectly encapsulates those times when you feel like everything sucks and you just want to wallow in your misery and self-pity: “If it would rain all day I would be happy just for one day. And I will change my name. For one day if only it’ll rain.”

A Fantastic Way To Kill Some Time is a fine debut album from this hard-working and earnest young band. I like the honesty that shines through in both their relatable lyrics and down-to-earth style of grunge. Plus, it’s always gratifying to see women making great rock music.

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FACE OF STONE – EP Review: “Sex, Guns, Race and Money”

Face of Stone3
Marc Palmer & Brad Schecter

Face of Stone is a Los Angeles-based collaborative music project of songwriter, guitarist and producer Marc Palmer and singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Brad Schecter. Each has years of professional experience both as solo artists and with other bands. Marc has been a musician for over 30 years, also serving as lead guitarist for venerable Grammy-nominated L.A. band The Busboys. Brad was previously in Scarred and Blue Embrace, and has also released music as a solo artist, including his acclaimed debut album Live Your Dreams in 2015 (read my review here). With Face of Stone, they combine Marc’s talent for writing hard-hitting guitar-driven melodies and bringing them to life with his prowess on the six-string, and Brad’s talent for penning compelling lyrics, vocal melodies and harmonies, as well as his strong vocals and musicianship. Their mission is to produce their own unique brand of metallic hard rock.

After years of hard work and a few setbacks along the way, Face of Stone has at last dropped their long-awaited EP Sex, Guns, Race and Money, released on the 4th of July via their label Black Grunge Records. The EP is not only hard-hitting and dark, but also socially and politically relevant, exploring subjects like political unrest, sexism, the struggles and mental abuse of love gone wrong, as well as larger themes of biblical significance, and the illusion and slow death of the American Dream.

Kicking off the EP is “Hurry Up and Wait“, an interesting track with a long, musically complex and dramatic intro that borders on progressive rock. After a minute or so, a darkly beautiful melody settles in, highlighted by Marc’s intricate layered guitars and a relentless onslaught of crashing cymbals. Brad’s powerful, resonant vocals express a sense of exasperation as he laments about what seems to be our overall lack of control over the external forces that affect our lives: “Shiny objects don’t just mesmerize. more times they often lie. Too bad it doesn’t matter what we give or if we try. We find out what’s important, hopefully before we die. Through all the pain and sorrow, hurry up and wait.” I especially like the soaring vocal harmonies in the final chorus.

Continuing on a similar theme, “United Shutdown (Sex, Guns, Race and Money)” is a scathing attack on the political and economic forces that have gained power by dividing us and force-feeding us an endless stream of lies and hate. The song is kind of a metal rock answer to Public Enemy’s classic “Fight the Power”, with lyrics strongly advocating us to take back the power: “See what pawns we have become. Surrendered our power, must be undone. Only you can seek the truth. Fight back now or forever be used.” Once again, Marc dazzles us with blistering guitar work as Brad’s commanding impassioned vocals drive home the urgency of the lyrics.

Dark Rocker” is a hard-driving kiss-off song to an old flame he’s fallen out of love with. Brad stated that he wanted the choruses to sound like a Trump tweet: “But something happened to you, I guess you just got old. You never left me, but you’re a dark rocker, not anymore. Sad!” Musically, the song features a frantic, pummeling rhythm that hits a sweet spot between punk, metal and rock’n’roll. Marc’s reverb-heavy distorted guitars are fantastic, and Brad’s colorful, spirited vocals are terrific as always.

Red Moon Sky” was the very first single released by Face of Stone back in April 2018 and it’s a belter. (You can read my review here.) The song blasts open with a barrage of raging riffs, chugging bass and pummeling drums, punctuated by tasty bits of distorted guitar that give the song added punch. Marc’s electrifying riff in the bridge is fire, and Brad’s raw, impassioned vocals bring chills as he snarls the lyrics that touch on the thin line between love and hate that can occur in a tempestuous relationship plagued by bad feelings and distrust: “Not one to deny what you need to feel fulfilled. Just not the one to do it. You’re not someone who is capable of change. No matter what, you stay the same.” The song spent more than four months on my Weekly Top 30 over the summer of 2018, and ended up at #50 on my Top 100 Songs of 2018 list.

The gorgeous “Through the Wildnerness” touches on the story of the Jews’ escape from Egypt. At first glance, it seems like a rather odd song choice in the EPs lineup, but the more I thought about it, I believe it fits in with the overall theme of seeking freedom from oppression. It’s a grandiose song of near-epic scale, with dramatic instrumentation highlighted by a haunting jangly guitar riff, and accompanied by a thunderous mix of chugging gnarly and distorted guitars, heavy buzzing bass and explosive percussion that make for an electrifying listen. Brad’s plaintive vocals are chilling as he sings “Hand of god, delivered us. He will guide the way home today. He brought us out of Pharoah’s land. Destroyed him with his hand.”

Sex, Guns, Race and Money is a great little EP that nicely showcases the immense talents of the two musicians of Face of Stone. There’s a lot of power and intensity packed into the EPs 20-minute run time, and if you like great guitar work and expressive vocals combined with exquisite songwriting, you will enjoy this record.

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FOLLOW DEEP – Album Review: “Will You Still Love Me…”

Follow Deep album art

Follow Deep is a young indie/alternative rock band from Hull, England who are making quite a name for themselves on the UK music scene with their dynamic, innovative music and high-energy performances. Making the music are Luke Bushby (vocals, guitar & bass), Joe Ingram (bass, keyboards & saxophone), and Jed Pearson (drums, vocals). The talented trio skillfully blend elements of alternative, progressive, psychedelic and grunge rock to create their unique, eclectic sound, with an added bonus of having two vocalists and a saxophonist in the mix.

They released their debut single “Bad Influence” in December 2017, then dropped an EP of the same name in July 2018. They followed up with several new singles in 2019, and in December, released their debut album Will You Still Love Me, which I’m finally getting around to reviewing. The album features ten songs addressing the highs and lows of love, along with the myriad perils of entering into romantic relationships.

Follow Deep

The brilliant opening track “Before The Storm” is a shining example of Follow Deep’s solid songwriting and musicianship. The song has everything I love in a great rock song: a complex melody, a strong, driving bassline, intricate, multi-textured guitars, explosive percussion and superb vocals that span a wide emotional range. The aggressive gnarly riffs contrast nicely with the more subdued jangly guitars and deep bass during the track’s calmer interludes, and along with the dramatic stop-start breaks in the melody, keep the song’s overall tension on a high level. I really like Luke’s voice, which goes from a seductive croon as he sings “You’re a fan of Mozart / I love him too / But it’s now your time to…“, then launches into a chilling full-blown scream with “Sing!” I also love his well-placed shouts of “Woo” and the harmonica riff that comes later in the track.  The lyrics seem to speak to our darker impulses, and possibly someone suffering the effects of PTSD. In an voice electronically altered to sound evil and menacing, we hear the words “Do you know what it is to be a monster? You have no idea.”

The band has released two videos for the song, first a lyric video to coincide with the album release last December, then an official video at the end of February. I’ve included them both, as the film footage in the lyric video nicely complements the lyrics, whereas the official video shows the band performing the song.

Next up is the album’s lead single “Alive“, a terrific rock song about the overpowering feelings that hit us when we fall hard for someone: “Cuz you are the reason that I’m not OK. Cuz you are the reason that I’m in pieces.” The dual contrasting vocals of Luke and Jed are highlights on this track and also the sexy and grungy “Sweet Innocence“, one of my favorites on the album. A torrent of grimy guitars and crashing cymbals are layered over a deep, throbbing bassline, creating a sizzling-hot backdrop for the guys’ sultry mix of falsetto and deeper vocals as they alternately croon and wail: “Cuz I don’t wanna behave anymore. There’s no good in your heart.” “Press Rewind” is a bittersweet song about a couple facing the fact their relationship is over, and needing to move on. The track has a pleasing guitar-driven melody, backed by some gentle, sweeping keyboard synths.

Another standout for me is “Hearts In Hands“, with its outstanding bluesy guitars and the guys’ passionate vocals making for a really stellar track. “Lifeline” is a hard-driving rocker, with fuzz-coated jangly guitars, crunchy bass and lots of crashing cymbals. But the real treat is Joe’s lively saxophone solo in the bridge, injecting a bit of a jazzy flourish to the track. “Steal A Flower” is a dark, grungy song with a strutting bass-driven melody. Luke laments about a relationship that began with promise, but ended badly. “How did it get so dark? You are not my destiny. I know what we could have been.” The intense, gnarly riffs and heavy percussion that erupt in the final chorus are fantastic.

Paradise” is another fine example of how Follow Deep expertly fuses grunge with progressive and psychedelic elements to great effect. The track starts off with a fairly straightforward grunge rock melody, with some fine guitar work setting the tone. At 2:23, the guys inject a blast of grinding psychedelic riffs and spooky swirling synths that last about 28 seconds before calming back down to the previous melody. Luke admonishes: “I’ve told you once, won’t tell you twice. I’m sick of being nice. Why do you think you’re making it to paradise?” With that, the music abruptly launches back into the psychedelic trip, only this time with an onslaught of screeching, heavily distorted guitars that continue to the end.

The guys pull out all the stops on the final two tracks, beginning with the bombastic “Start A War“. Luke’s blazing guitar work is positively mind-blowing, accompanied by Joe’s lush, ominous synths that seem to channel Depeche Mode. Jed attacks his drum kit like a man possessed, adding tremendous power to this glorious track. On the 7:18 minute long “The Same“, they complete the question they began asking in the album title “Will you still love me the same?” This monumental track has more of a prog-rock feel, starting off slowly with a hauntingly beautiful little acoustic guitar riff. Gradually, the music expands into a thunderous soundscape, then Joe enters with a terrific, moody sax solo that’s pure bliss. At 3:50, the music calms down to the gentle acoustic guitar of the beginning, while Luke repeatedly croons the question in a lovely falsetto: “When I’m no longer here no more, will you still love me the same?” The music intensifies again, this time into a gorgeous extended instrumental, highlighted by a stunning guitar solo that continues for the last two minutes before fading out. It’s a magnificent track.

Will You Still Love Me… is a superb album from this very talented and creative trio who make up Follow Deep. I don’t know their ages, but I’m guessing they’re barely in their 20s, and their music has a maturity and complexity that’s quite impressive. With so many elements in the mix, there’s a lot going on here from a musical and compositional standpoint, and I found myself discovering something new with each listen. The guys are great songwriters and musicians, and have much to be proud of with their first full-length album. My lone criticism is that I wish a few more tracks featured Jed’s saxophone, but that’s pretty minor in the overall scheme of things.

Catch Follow Deep at one of these upcoming shows:

Sunday, March 8 – w/Bone Broke Kings, Slackrr & King Boa
West Street Live, Sheffield, UK

Thursday April 16 – w/Dude Trips
The Polar Bear, Kingston upon Hull, UK

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New Song of the Week – MINUS CUBE: “Into the Air”

I’ve been following alternative rock band Minus Cube for a long while now, but have somehow egregiously neglected to feature them on this blog. Today I’m remedying that sad situation by choosing their stunning new single “Into the Air” as my New Song of the Week.

An international band of sorts, Minus Cube is comprised of vocalist Michael Martin, who’s based in the U.S., and guitarist Joe Weinstock and drummer Glyn Rolmanis, who are both based in the UK. Influenced by bands like Alice in Chains, Audioslave, Soundgarden and Tool, their style of alt-rock is characterized by strong grunge and progressive rock elements. Since forming in 2013, they’ve released three excellent albums and numerous singles. If you like the aforementioned bands, I highly recommend that you check out their music on your favorite streaming service, some of which I’ve listed at the end of this review.

It’s a bit ironic that I’ve chosen “Into the Air” as my New Song of the Week, as it’s actually several years old. The song was first recorded in 2014 and was the title track from the band’s debut album Into the Air, however, it was never released as a single. The band wasn’t completely satisfied with the original recording, so they’ve updated it with some newly-recorded guitar tracks, as well as remixing and remastering it to give the bass and drums greater definition. The result is an epic song of breathtaking grandeur lasting nearly eight minutes.

The song opens with Weinstock’s resonant jangly guitar riff setting a rather somber tone. Then Martin’s plaintive vocals enter the scene, accompanied by a subtle bass line and Rolmanis’ intricate drumbeats. As the song progresses, the marvelous guitar work ebbs and flows, climaxing in a gorgeous solo in the bridge. The guys add a backdrop of sweeping orchestral synths to the mix, beautifully conveying a sense of soaring into the heavens, as described in the lyrics. Martin has a wonderful singing voice with an impressive range that’s perfectly suited for their grunge/prog-rock sound. One moment he seduces us with a soothing croon, then brings chills with an impassioned wail the next.

The lyrics seem to speak to breaking the suffocating bonds that tie us to our earthly existence, and escaping into a freer state of mind:

The tides will cry
As time leaves our side
Far and far
And we’ll chase the stars
It’s just the start

Arise into the air with me
Where archaic worlds are yet to see
Arise into the air with me
Illuminate the galaxies

We know they lead a bitter life dream
And have called it free, but it’s not free
So climb the vine at the destined time
Shatter away, Break away
Breach this day, Decrypt the names

We know we’re free, We’re not deceived
We know they lead a bitter life dream
We are free

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RUSTY SHIPP – Album Review: “Liquid Exorcist”

Rusty Ship Liquid Exorcist

One of my favorites of the many artists and bands I’ve featured on this blog is Nashville four-piece Rusty Shipp. (You can read my reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.) The brain child of front man Russ T. Shipp (his honest to God real birth name), Rusty Shipp is a self-described “Nautical Rock’n’Roll” band, with a sound influenced by ‘the melodic chord progressions of The Beatles, the surf guitar of Dick Dale, the grunge rock of Nirvana, and the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin’, among others. Their music is characterized by a dark, immersive sound, high-octane riffs and haunting vocals. Like many bands, they’ve experienced changes in lineup since forming in 2014, and now consist of the aforementioned Russ T. Shipp on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, AJ Newton on drums and Andrew “Speedy” Speed on bass. Together, they’re an immensely talented group of musicians who truly know how to deliver the hard rock goods.

Rusty Shipp

Following up on their phenomenal and highly-acclaimed 2017 album Mortal Ghost, Rusty Shipp has put out a new album Liquid Exorcist, which dropped on November 7th. In keeping with their nautical theme, it’s a concept work built around the subject of sea mine terrorism. It also plays somewhat like a rock opera, with one song seamlessly transitioning into the next without skipping a beat. Liquid Exorcist has a relatively short run time of only 26 minutes, exactly half that of Mortal Ghost, as several of the tracks are transitional or connectors between longer tracks. Nevertheless, it still makes an incredibly powerful statement and packs quite a wallop in it’s relatively short run time. Also, whereas Mortal Ghost has a heavier grunge feel, Liquid Exorcist sounds more melodic, sweeping and epic. The first time I listened to it all the way through, I was blown away.

It opens with the 42-second-long “Mine Factory“, an ominous-sounding instrumental intro that builds into a frantic barrage of gnarly riffs and smashing drumbeats as it immediately segues into “Liquid Pendulum“, a fantastic song with blistering guitars and intense, hard-driving rhythms that ebb and flow like waves on a stormy sea. Apperson and Shipp’s intricate guitar work is terrific, and Newton’s power drums provide just the right amount of propulsive thrust. Shipp has a beautiful singing voice that registers in the mid-range, occasionally rising to a just shy of a falsetto. The biting lyrics are a denunciation of the terrible legacy of countries filling the oceans with explosive mines: “Aren’t your wars waged on land enough? Why don’t you just keep your mankind to yourself? Leave behind your mess for someone else. Sharks will gladly come to your help.”

The track transitions into “Mindsweeper” a dark instrumental with chugging, distorted riffs, throbbing bass and harsh industrial synths. Then, watery plucked guitar strings and Speedy’s pulsating bass riff announce the arrival of “Detonator“. Suddenly, the music explodes into an electrifying maelstrom of swirling, fuzzy and wailing guitars, driving bass and thunderous percussion. It’s a spectacular song.

Rusty Shipp is not a Christian band per se, though Shipp is up-front about his Christian faith, as is evident in lyrics like “Raptured from the shrapnel in the twinkling of an eye. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said the end was near.” Overall, the lyrics address the dangerous work of those attempting to dismantle sea mines: “Disconnect the wires, before we all expire, but the water is turning into fire now. Everybody down, the bombs have stopped their ticking sound, five seconds till Heaven’s all around.

SS Naronic (Reprise)” is a ghostly revisit of the original track featured on Mortal Ghost, chronicling the White Star Line ship lost at sea in the north Atlantic in February 11, 1893, along with all its 74 passengers on board. To echoed, underwater sounds, Shipp’s electronically altered vocals lament “O God, please tell me there is more than this. That this cold abyss is not the end. Tell me it’s more than an accident, a warning to teach a lesson. Show me how it’s all part of the plan.”

Rusty Shipp then pays homage to Audioslave with a well-executed cover of “Show Me How to Live“, doing great justice to the powerful classic.  Once again, there’s a religious reference with the lyric “Nail in my hand from my Creator. You gave me life now show me how to live.”  Though different from Chris Cornell’s, Shipp’s vocals are just as effective in conveying the raw passion expressed in the lyrics. That segues into the face-melting and aptly-titled instrumental interlude “Blow Your Mine“. This intense, minute-long track perfectly showcases the band’s impressive skills.

Hundred Crosses” is, I think, the most beautiful song on the album, with a dramatic, sweeping melody that switches from calm to exuberant and back again, making for a very exciting listen. The multi-textured guitars are sublime, accompanied by Newton’s snappy drums and wildly crashing cymbals, all working in tandem to create a glorious soundscape for Shipp’s soaring vocals. Next up is “Breaking Waves“, the first single released in advance of the album last July, which I featured on this blog. It has a dark but catchy melody, with layered riffs of gnarly and distorted guitars, throbbing bass and pounding drums. Shipp explained that the song “describes the battle between technology and nature in a tortoise-and-the-hare-like metaphor, where mankind’s mightiest technology won’t stand a chance in the long run against the simple, steady erosion of the ocean’s immortal waves (i.e, nature) breaking it down.” 

Liquid Exorcist closes with another religious nod on the nautical poem “Navy Hymn“.  “Eternal Father, strong to save. Whose arm doth bind the restless wave. Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep. Its own appointed limits keep. O, hear us when we cry to Thee. For those in peril on the sea.” The brief track features stirring a capella choir vocals, accompanied only by sounds of the sea, and it’s a fitting end to the album.

Folks, this is a stunning and masterfully-crafted record on every level. Given it’s relatively brief run time and riveting listening experience, it seems to end far too quickly. That’s a good thing, and certainly preferable to some albums that overstay their welcome with too many filler tracks. Rusty Shipp continue to impress me with their incredible songwriting and musicianship, and deserve to be huge.

Connect with Rusty Shipp: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase: iTunes / cdbaby / Bandcamp

BRAIN APE Release Trippy New Video for “Stop Sulking”

Brain Ape is a talented, wildly imaginative, and highly entertaining London-based rock band who skillfully fuse punk, stoner rock, grunge, noise rock and shoegaze to create their unique sound they call “Scratch Rock.” Originally formed at the beginning of 2012, the trio now consists of Minky Très-vain on guitar & vocals, Sol Alex Albret on bass, and Jamie Steenbergen on drums. In August 2017, they released their second album Auslander, which was released through Schlimbum Records, an independent record label started by Très-vain and Dydy Haynes. (The label was rebranded as Scratch Rock Records this past August.) It’s an ambitious work, containing 12 brilliant tracks and running nearly 55 minutes in length. I reviewed the album in January 2018, which you can read here.

Brain Ape 3

Brain Ape has just released “Stop Sulking”. the third and final single from Auslander, along with a trippy new video. The video, which is alternately disturbing, amusing and heartwarming, was filmed by frequent band photographer Nuri Moseinco, and produced by Alex, Minky and Dom Bolton. The dark song has a strong Nirvana vibe, with sharp, clipped verses, fuzz-soaked gnarly guitars and deep bass. I had a little chat with Minky about the track and video.

EclecticMusicLover:  First off, I really like your video for “Stop Sulking.” What made you & the band decide to make a video for that particular “Auslander” track?

Minky:  Glad you liked the video. For us, it’s a very defining end to our ‘Auslander’ experience. That record came out a couple of years ago now, and we’re very ready to move on from it. It’s been a terrific journey, and the band has turned into something much larger than we could ever have imagined. It’s still on an incredibly small scale, and I can’t stress that enough, but when we were recording the album we were in a band that nobody cared about, making music that was too harsh for most listeners, and due to a succession of drummers that didn’t work out we found ourselves playing live a lot less often than we would have liked. But ‘Auslander’ changed that. We’re now on the road more often than not, taking our music to places we’ve never been to before. We always took our little project as seriously as possible and have been dedicated to the music that we put out, so it’s nice for people to take our band seriously now too.

This video marks the end of that transition for us. It was important for us to do, for us. The reason we chose ‘Stop Sulking’ is because when we sat back having just completed ‘Auslander’ there was some debate as to what the first single should be off the record. ‘Give Me My P45’ won out as the lead single, but its only contender was ‘Stop Sulking’. So now with hindsight and the context of what the album means to us several years on, it felt only right to chose ‘Sulking’ as the finale.

EML:  The song seems to describe a depressed, petulant person who’s unhappy with his situation, feeling like he’s losing his mind or sense of self, that he has no control over what’s happening to him – am I close? I like how you’re shown wearing a straight jacket to convey these feelings described in the lyrics.

Minky:  It’s always interesting to me when I hear how people are interpreting our work. I’m a product of our genre in that I prefer to keep my own personal meaning to myself when it comes to lyrics, and I find it far more interesting to hear from other people about how our words have affected them. That’s the beauty in art: there is no right or wrong answer. As far as your interpretation? I’d say it’s not a terribly inaccurate description of where I was when we were making the record. The album ended up becoming a ‘coming of age’ story, but as we’ve lived with it for several years it’s come to mean something completely different to the band. Our lyrics tend to be ambiguous enough that they can lend themselves to different perspectives, even if those perspectives are coming from the same person years apart. My own interpretation can change from hour to hour, depending on my mood and environment. I’m a fairly rash person, and my mood can 180 at the flip of a coin.

For the video, we collaborated with the great Nuri Moseinco. He’s an amazing videographer and photographer, and our walks of life have been different enough that our views on the track were very varied when we sat down to brainstorm ideas for the video. I can’t remember who exactly came up with the idea for the straight jacket, but it plays off the rest of the footage. I’ll leave the meaning up to the viewer, as I think that’s important. No one wants to know how the magic trick is done once they’ve found out. They’d rather re-experience the wonder of not knowing. But once you know, it’s too late to go back. Ignorance is bliss, and art is ignorance.

EML:  The interplay between you and Sol & Jaime in the scenes where the three of you are together is interesting. Sometimes you’re all playing your instruments, and other times you’re sitting around looking serious or you are horsing around with Sol. Was there any conscious intent in the filming of those scenes?

Minky:  Everything we’ve ever done has always been very deliberate. In our view, if something’s worth doing at all then it’s worth doing right. The world needn’t be filled with people like us who take our art too seriously, as there’s always room for comedy, satire, and absurdity. For the most part, in fact, it’s very necessary to have those things. We’d all go mad, otherwise. But for whatever reason, Brain Ape has always been a serious deal to us. I don’t think we take ourselves too seriously, mind you. But we’d rather not make a mockery of a product that took years, blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of sacrifices to make. So when it comes to those scenes; yes, there was intent. My intent was probably different to Sol’s, and his probably different to Jamie’s. But every detail was thought out. The choice of camera, for example, was a deliberate artistic choice. It held a lot of meaning for us. We wouldn’t half-arse anything. The only thing I didn’t mean to do was dye my hair green before shooting the straight-jacket scenes. That was almost a complete fiasco.

Here’s the video, so enjoy!

Catch Brain Ape at one of their upcoming shows in the UK, beginning tonight:

NOV 14 – IVW Launch w/ Brain Ape, Manalishi, Junky Love, Indigo, 7 PM, Dublin Castle, Camden, London
NOV 15 – w/Gutterflower, Manalishi, & The Kecks, 8 PM, The Pipeline, Brighton
NOV 16 – A Northern Underground Liverpool, 2 PM, The Jacaranda Club, Liverpool
NOV 17 – A Northern Underground Manchester, Aatma, Manchester
NOV 26 – RAMS Presents II: Brain Ape, 7 PM, The Cavern Club, 83 Queen Street, Exeter

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

EMPTY FRIEND – Single Review: “Falter”

Empty Friend Falter

Many of the artists and bands I’ve written about recently seem to be from the UK, but there’s just so damn much great talent there that I can’t help but showcase some of it! My latest find is London-based rock band Empty Friend. Formed in 2015, their name was inspired by a song from one their favorite bands, L.A. alt-rock group Failure. Influenced by acts like the aforementioned Failure, as well as Queens of the Stone Age, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Incubus, Empty Friend fuses elements of hard rock, grunge, stoner and even a touch of metal to create music that’s heavy and loud, yet melodic and riveting. The current lineup consists of songwriter/vocalist David Kirk, guitarist Ryan O’Hare, drummer Karl Morgan, and bassist Daverage Norman.

They released their debut EP Saltwater in 2018, a fine work featuring five tracks steeped in grunge/stoner grooves. Two of the tracks, “Hanging On” and the title track “Saltwater” are especially good, and I encourage my readers to check them out on one of the music platforms listed below. Now Empty Friend return with a fantastic new single “Falter“, which dropped October 26th. The song is a hard-hitting protest song of sorts, with dramatic instrumentals and vocals that match the fiery intensity of the powerful lyrics.

The song opens with chugging riffs of fuzzy guitars, as Kirk’s fervent vocals command the proceedings. O’Hare’s gnarly guitars grow more intense as the song progresses, with flourishes of wailing distortion accompanied by Norman’s throbbing bass and Morgan’s tumultuous drumbeats. Now Kirk’s powerful vocals reach a crescendo as he emphatically screams the scathing lyrics calling out the ruthless, cynical leaders who prey on societal fears and divisiveness to gain and hold on to their power. Eventually, the masses will turn on these demagogues and drive them out (something I hope happens soon with assholes like Trump, Johnson, et.al.):

You rode the wave and made them love you
Stoking discontent
Whipping up the people into
Choices they regret

Now they hate you all the more
And they watch your every step
It’s one thing to forgive
And another to forget

Next you weaponised your lies
And you cracked down on dissent
You grew weaker with your pride
While the people gained their strength

Well enjoy your last sunrise
While the knives
Are being sharpened
In the shadows

Well the day’s gonna come
When you falter and run
All the people as one
Baying for blood

I’m glad that more artists are writing songs that speak to our current socio-political upheaval, and “Falter” is one of the best I’ve heard yet. It’s a brilliant track both musically and lyrically, and Empty Friend are surely a band to keep an eye on.

Catch Empty Friend at one of these upcoming shows:

Nov 23 – The Constitution, London, UK
Dec 07 – The Monarch Pub Camden, London, UK

Connect with Empty Friend:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play / Bandcamp

LAGPASS – EP Review: “Ostrich Approach”

Lagpass EP art

Lagpass is the new music project of a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Chicago who’s previously recorded under the name Draft Evader. I’ve featured Draft Evader’s music a number of times on this blog over the past two years, and have always been impressed by his deeply personal lyrics addressing his struggles with depression and self-doubt, then set to aggressive guitar-driven melodies, and backed with bass and drums. I’ve also enjoyed watching him grow and mature as a songwriter, musician and vocalist. Now, wanting his songs to feel even more honest and raw, he’s opting for an essentially guitar-only sound, recording under the new moniker Lagpass. When I asked how he came up with that name, he explained “Lagpass is a term my brother and I used to say when we would play National Hockey League video games. It’s basically just a missed pass after you hold down the pass button too long. It’s bound to happen at least once or twice a game and I catch myself saying “lagpass” all the time.”

He’s just released his first recording as Lagpass, a new EP titled Ostrich Approach, featuring four relatively short tracks that get right to the point with only his guitar and vocals providing the sounds we hear. First up is the title track, which seems to speak to solving your problems by eliminating the shit that’s complicating your life. His resonant, jangly guitar notes provide all the music needed to create a dramatic backdrop for his earnest, almost raspy vocals as he sings:

you can take your numbers
divide them by your clutter
then you should burn that old ski mask
you can take that platform
& add it to your ant farm
then you should dump it in the grass

so sick of hamsters, ghosts, zombies and vampires
I think it’s time that I light a match
but I’m allergic to sulfur
no need to sulk & suffer
here’s a lighter, it’s time to detach

On “Reassurance“, he ponders conflicted feelings of wondering if he’s going crazy, or just going through some difficult times, that everything’s basically okay, and you just got to deal with it. Musically, the track has a folk-rock sound, with fuzz-covered strummed electric guitars.

this constant stress and voices in my head
always talking questioning my sanity
something’s wrong with me
nothing’s wrong with me

replaced eating with dry heaving
two little devils resting on my shoulder blades
reacquainted with high maintenance
you gave your two cents
but you’ve still got hell to pay

i’m exhausted, still nauseous
just looking for a way to enjoy the day
reassurance is just a burden
can’t change nothin’ cept the way you handle fate

Old Ashes” speaks to the difficulties of maintaining a relationship, of the compromises we must often make to keep it alive, worrying about whether it can survive, and struggling with constant doubts. His clear, heavily-strummed electric guitar work here is wonderful.

I take up smoking again
just so I can be with you
I’m overthinking this mess
seems to be all I can do

do you love me?
she said prove that you love me

she got a new address
moved into her granny’s house
on an air mattress
with John Prine and Houdmouth
she said: “prove that you love me
do you love me?”

She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” addresses the sad reality that she’s moved out, leaving you to contemplate what went wrong, and realizing that perhaps it was doomed from the start, given each of your troubled pasts. Man, these lyrics are heavy, and so packed with meaning!

she doesn’t live here anymore
opened my mouth and held the door
scattered across the kitchen floor
she doesn’t live here anymore

don’t wanna live here anymore
too paranoid for close quarters
there’s silence down the corridor
she doesn’t live here anymore

two children both from broken homes
borrowing tape to mend their own

Once again, I’m really impressed by his intelligent and thoughtful songwriting and great guitar work, and look forward to following him on his latest musical journey as Lagpass.

DUNES – Album Review: “Take Me to the Nasties”

Dunes Take Me to the Nasties

I’m back in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England (having recently written about folk singer-songwriter Holly Rees), this time to feature another act from that city, a stoner rock band called Dunes. Formed in late 2016, the trio consists of John Davies (guitar, vocals), Ade Huggins (bass, vocals) and Nikky Watson (drums). In their own words, they play “desert-riff-blues-tinted-disco-tinged-rock, which draws on influences such as Queens of the Stone Age, Torche, Death From Above 1979 and Clutch.” During their first 18 months as a band, they recorded and released two 5-track EPs, then began releasing singles in advance of their wonderfully-titled debut album Take Me to the Nasties, which dropped September 6th.  The album was recorded at the Sandcastle in Newcastle under the guidance of Graham Thompson, who also worked on the band’s previous EPs, and mastered by Dave Draper. It was released via Sapien Records (We Are Knuckle Dragger, Big Lad, Tank Engine, Scott Michael Cavagan).

The album blasts open with the rousing title track “Take Me to the Nasties“, and from this point forward, Dunes never let up on their relentless onslaught of head-banging stoner-punk rock’n’roll grooves. Here, their barrage of jagged riffs, crushing bass and pummeling drums leave us little choice but to pogo about like crazed banshees. I can’t quite make out all the lyrics, but as the title implies, Davies sings about sexual frustration, telling someone they can keep their tinder and grinder, and he’s going to the nasties.

Without skipping a beat, they launch headlong into “SOS“, a bombastic tune with a chugging guitar riff that reminds me a bit of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”, though overall, the song sounds very different. Besides the great guitar work, I also really like Davies and Huggins’ vocal harmonies as they implore “I’ll tell you what we all need. This shit to stop happening!” “Been Expecting You“, “Release the Clowns” and “Danger Mouth” keep the heavy, guitar-driven vibes coming on strong with thunderous riffs and speaker-blowing rhythms. I’m a sucker for hard-driving rock grooves, and gotta say I’m loving every track on this beast of an album!

And one of my favorites is “Phantom Head“, a moody, near-epic grunge song that ventures into progressive/hard rock territory with its melodic change-ups, tortured gnarly riffs, intense, reverb-heavy bassline and explosive percussion. The fierce guitar solo in the bridge is fucking spectacular, covering me head to toe with chills. On “Shakamoto’s Revenge“, “Lantern” and “Denim Casket“, Dunes seem to channel the early Foo Fighters with frantic, grungy riffs and powerful, driving rhythms. In fact, Davies’ vocals even sound a bit like Dave Grohl’s at times, including his scream at the end of “Shakamoto’s Revenge.”

Everything is Blue” closes the album on a high note with some mighty tasty psychedelic reverb-soaked guitar work that’s freakin’ fantastic! The song also has a somewhat progressive rock vibe, with interesting time and melodic changes and intense instrumentation, giving the track a complex, fuller sound that makes for a riveting listen.

Take Me to the Nasties is a solid album filled to the brim with hard-hitting rock tunes, all of them superb. There’s not a single throwaway or filler track to be found here, as every track could be a hit single. Davies, Huggins and Watson are three incredible musicians at the top of their game who should be very proud of their latest creation. I love it!

Connect with Dunes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play