GUIDE DOG – Single Review: “Generation Y”

Guide Dog Generation Y

Guide Dog is an alternative rock band from Cardiff, Wales I recently learned about when I received a submission for a review of their new single “Generation Y“. I instantly fell in love with their music, which they refer to as “sponge grunge”. Fusing elements of alt-rock, grunge, punk, and electronica, they create songs that are fast, fun, irreverent and in-your-face. They’ve also got a wicked sense of humor.

Comprising Guide Dog are Peter Roberts (Guitar, Vocals), John Maloney (Drums) and Ian Russell (Bass), who describe themselves as “a bunch of wankers who can’t sing and can’t play our instruments. Like the Spice Girls with moustaches. All or some or one were formerly members of Robots In The Sky, Tetra Splendour, People In Planes and Cold Specks.” Well, I’m here to say that, not only can they sing and play the hell out of their instruments, they’re way better than the Spice Girls!

In July 2017 they released their fantastic debut album Lovely Domestic Bliss, a collection of 10 banger tunes. I highly recommend my readers give it a listen, and trust me when I say you’ll be glad you did! They’re now working on a second album Generation Y, to be released later this year on Roberts’ label Hi-Vis Records. It will be accompanied by a book of poems entitled Thou Shalt Stare Into Space. In December 2018, they released the first single “Dead Beat” from the forthcoming album, and now follow up with a second single “Generation Y”, a protest song of sorts against the current fucked-up state of affairs in both the UK and USA. If these two tracks are any indication, Generation Y is going to be a phenomenal record.

About the new single, the band explains: “‘Generation Y’ comes at a time when children are bunking off school to protest outside Parliament about Westminster’s flimsy and inadequate response to climate change – prompting a swift and aggressive backlash by the politicians who dismissed the adolescents and ridiculed their irresponsibility; and the American president staging an imaginary state of emergency in a vein attempt to bludgeon Capitol Hill into funding a giant border wall whilst triumphantly filling his house with branded cheeseburgers to feed his unpaid staff and denying climate change is even happening… so it’s probably an appropriate juncture for a protest song!

“Generation Y” is a tasty little slice of sonic confection, featuring an irresistible bouncy drumbeat, and presented with a lo-fi vibe that keeps the song from bouncing too high. It starts off with a gnarly guitar riff, accompanied by quirky synths, fuzzy bass and very snappy drums. All of the aforementioned instruments explode into bigger, louder and heavier versions of themselves in the choruses, along with an injection of furiously crashing cymbals that turn the track into a real belter. I love Roberts’ wonderful fervent vocals, which sound like a cross between Dave Matthews and Adam Duritz. And the point in the song at 2:29 minutes where he goes “wooh” is a special highlight for me in what is overall a perfect track.

Like all their songs, the lyrics are refreshingly direct and colorful, pulling no punches in calling out bullshit as warranted:

Why did we get up to die generation,
I got a toupee on my mind generation,
Suck it ’til it all runs dry generation,
Why why why…?

When you get so high but you don’t know what it means,
Like a vandalised slush puppy machine,
Like the fashionable rips appearing in my jeans,
Wave a plastic flag at a golden carriage.
I’m a psychopath with a bunch of keys,
I’m a paper jam with 2.9% APR,
I’m an ass licker,
I’m a soul sucker,
I’m oozing out of a sausage and bean melt,
Waving my plastic flag…

Why did we get up to die generation,
I got a toupee on my mind generation,
Suck it ’til it all runs dry generation,
Why why why…?

I don’t drink and drive or have the odd line once in a while,
I don’t dress up like a lady in secret,
I never think about blowing up the White House,
I got hope for salvation but I don’t know why.
I felt sick so I took an anti sickness pill,
I felt disconnected so I bought a new telephone,
Got a payment plan and a fake sun tan,
Some health and safety regulations,
But I just can’t relax…

Why did we get up to die generation,
I got a toupee on my mind generation,
Suck it ’til it all runs dry generation,
Why why why…?

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

PHANTOM SUNS – Album Review: “Caldera”

Phantom Suns album

Based in the bucolic New England city of Burlington, Vermont, Phantom Suns is an indie band who play alternative rock heavily influenced by grunge elements, with traces of metal and progressive rock to create their distinctive raw sound. The band consists of Seth Gunderson (guitar & vocals), Chris Knauer (bass & backing vocals) and Chris Mathieu (drums, percussion & backing vocals). Ryan Cohen previously played bass but was recently replaced by Chris Knauer, however, Cohen will continue to provide production and engineering assistance to the band. 

I’ll admit up-front that I’m not the biggest fan of grunge rock, and didn’t care for it when it became popular in the early 1990s. I generally prefer rock music that’s highly melodic, with fuller, more polished arrangements, and just couldn’t get into the dissonant, sludgy and rather depressing sound of grunge. In time, however, I came to recognize and appreciate its groundbreaking influence in reshaping the sound of rock, and music in general, and learned to like some of it. I also get why its honest lyrics and darker themes addressing social issues like alienation, disillusionment, substance abuse and depression, along with its lack of flash, pretense and overt sentimentality, made grunge so popular and accessible, especially to young people who more closely identified with the messages expressed in the songs. Like rap, grunge music reflected what many of them were feeling.

That said, it was with a bit of trepidation that I agreed to review Phantom Suns’ album Caldera after their drummer Chris Mathieu reached out to me. Though I am EclecticMusicLover, and try to always keep an open mind about all kinds and styles of music, I feared I may not be the right person to judge their music. But I gave the album several listens and am happy to report that not only do I really like it, I’m also blown away by their skilled songwriting and musicianship. And as much as I like their raw, gritty sound, it’s their intelligent and compelling song lyrics, written by Gunderson, that most impressed me. I’m glad they included them with the songs on their Bandcamp page, and I encourage my readers to check them out.

Caldera was released in November 2018, and follows the band’s 2014 debut EP Parhelia. The album features 12 tracks, the first of which, “Forget“, starts off slowly with a moody strummed guitar, then erupts into a barrage of gnarly riffs, buzzing bass and hammering drums. Gunderson’s raw vocals match the grittiness of the music as he advises us to not overthink things: “Searching for the key to unlock all your potential when you don’t know what you think. But what you think you know is only your opinion. Soon as I make up my mind, I’ll be all set. Maybe start chipping away at all this debt. Stop regretting things that haven’t happened yet ’cause you never know.

It’s a good song, but the guys really hit their stride on the hard-driving, melodically complex “Lazuli“. The track storms out of the gate with dark, sludgy riffs loaded with raw power and grit. Two-thirds of the way through, a furiously distorted guitar solo announces an abrupt change in the melody. With his grimy guitar ablaze, Gunderson snarls “You don’t have a clue but you fake it so well.

One of the standout tracks for me is “Disposable“, both in terms of it’s more melodic, progressive rock vibe, and it’s scathing lyrics attacking man’s greedy, wasteful ways that imperil our future: “Watch your castle crumble all around you. Just because you want more than you can handle. Disposable culture. Blatant disregard for the future. You’re disposable.” The video they made for the track is fantastic too, a psychedelic trip of colorful imagery superimposed over footage of the band performing the song that nicely complements the rough textures of the instrumentals.

As I continued diving deeper into Caldera, some of the tracks sound similar to one another, which is to be expected on an album with 12 tracks. Nevertheless, there are many more gems to be found here. I really dig the metaphor of “Knotweed“, symbolizing someone the singer just can’t rid himself of: “You just keep sprouting up. You return even though I dug you right up by the roots. Invasive foliage. I wage an all-out war. You’ve clearly overstepped the boundary. Can’t eradicate you. You’re so damn resilient.” And the heavy chugging guitar riffs, fuzzy bassline and boisterous drums are as dirty as the soil from which the knotweed’s been pulled. “Probably Wrong” ventures into rock’n’roll territory, with moments where Gunderson’s raging guitar and Mathieu’s frantic drumbeats propel the song into the sonic stratosphere.

Another standout is the face-melting “Trial By Stone“, an homage to Jim Henson’s classic film The Dark Crystal. As is befitting the film, the song is heavy and dark, with dense, gritty riffs teeming with distortion and reverb, deep, crushing bass and thunderous drums. Gunderson’s guitar work is fucking incredible, and Mathieu is a veritable beast on his drum kit. Gunderson’s vocals are chilling as he sneers “A dying world. A dying race imprisoned within themselves.” The video superimposes scenes from The Dark Crystal over footage of the band performing the song.

Perpetual Motion Holder“, “Hush Money” and “Brontoscorpio” deliver more gnarly riffs, fuzzy basslines and speaker-blowing drums. “It Won’t Stop” is a serious head-banger, opening with Gunderson shrieking words I can’t quite make out, followed by an explosion of raging guitars, heavy buzzing bass and furious drums. Gunderson all but screams the lyrics advising us to just accept our fates: “Your best bet is to just accept it. A warm welcome as it explodes. There’s no hope of getting out of the way. The kind of fury that can never be tamed. It will envelop, it will engulf, entirely. No! It won’t stop!

The album closes on a high note with the mostly instrumental “Olympus Mons“, an epic track that offers definitive proof that these guys are supremely talented musicians. The track starts off with a somber guitar riff, then a simple drumbeat kicks in as the guys sing in harmony: “One of these days I’ll write some words.” With that, a very gritty, reverb-drenched riff ensues before calming back down for the second harmonic vocal: “I was so bummed out. Another Olympus Mons.” The gritty guitar and bass return, only this time distorted into a maelstrom of tortured riffs, accompanied by an abundance of crashing cymbals that add to the drama. Eventually, a wailing guitar solo is layered over the stormy distortion, blowing our minds and speakers before it all spirals downward into oblivion at the close. Wow, what a masterpiece this song is, and a fitting conclusion to this superb album by Phantom Suns. If you’re a fan of grunge-infused alternative rock, then you will enjoy Caldera.

Phantom Suns has a show coming up on on April 19 at Monkey House in Winooski, VT.

Connect with Phantom Suns on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify 
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

LOUD HOUND – Single Review: “Youthful Stranger”

Loud Hound Youthful Stranger

I’ve featured hundreds of artists and bands on this blog over the past three-plus years, and it seems half of them have released new music since the first of the year! Today I’m writing about LOUD HOUND, the music project of Tommy Florio, a talented young singer/songwriter from Ventnor City, New Jersey. The self-described “beachy boi extraordinaire” fuses elements of garage, surf and psych rock to create wonderful songs filled with catchy melodies, honest lyrics and irresistible guitar grooves.

In early 2018, he released his debut single “Fine By Me” – a lo-fi, high-energy, surf rock gem, then followed that May with the outstanding introspective single “Runnin’,” which I reviewed. Now he’s back with a great new single  “Youthful Stranger“, delivering a somewhat moodier dream pop vibe than his two previous singles. It really showcases his skill at writing songs with diverse melodies and instrumentation, and keeping his music sounding fresh.

Starting with a mix of strummed acoustic and jangly electric guitars as the primary drivers, LOUD HOUND adds some distortion, fuzzy bass and low-key percussion to create an intriguing backdrop for his slightly seductive echoed vocals. The music and vocals build as the song progresses, with some nice riffage in the chorus, then slows back down toward the end, with an interesting watery reverb effect on the guitars.

The lyrics seem somewhat ambiguous, but my take is that they speak to depression in a young adult who takes drugs to make it through life, feeling invincible once they take effect:

Youthful stranger watch as your dreams fall apart
Little blue pills keeps your friend up at night
The lonely dreamer survives the night
The lonely dreamer survives the night

Youthful stranger watch as your dreams come to life
Let’s pretend and play God
My life ready to stand tall
The lonely dreamer survives the night
The lonely dreamer survives the night

Connect with LOUD HOUND:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp

COLT48 – EP Review: “II”

Colt48

London, UK hard rock duo Colt48 have existed as a band less than a year (they formed in June 2017), but are wasting no time making an impact on the indie rock scene with their aggressive, grunge rock sound. Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Adam Jerome and background vocalist/drummer Matt Savini, Colt48 have quickly gained exposure and fans by opening for such bands as Puddle Of Mudd, Fozzy, Trapt and Crazy Town, as well as issuing an impressive output of songs in quick succession.

In November 2017 they released their debut self-titled EP featuring three hard-hitting tracks, then soon followed up on New Years Day 2018 with the beautiful rock ballad “Start Again.” They’re now back with a new EP simply titled II, and it’s a banger! Keeping with the sentiments so vividly expressed on their first single “Hate Hate Relationship,” with II the band delivers three blistering songs that speak to the emotional toll caused by betrayal and deceit.

The guys get right to the point on “The Fire,” blasting the airwaves with an onslaught of gravelly shredded riffs and hammering drums. The guitars shift to machine gun mode on the verses, where Adam furiously snarls the biting lyrics:

I don’t care for the things you said
Don’t know what is in your head
I know, you left me for dead you’re just another liar.

Don’t matter how you try to fake
No difference in the drugs you take
Can’t say that it’s a mistake you pushed me on the fire.

Out of Habit” is melodically complex, with outstanding guitar work. The track starts off with a gritty extended riff, transitioning to gorgeous jangly guitars on each verse, only to shift back to powerful shredded riffs in the chorus. Matt keeps the beat, adjusting the force of his drumming to match the changing intensity of the melody and guitars.  Adam’s vocals are especially good on this track, sounding a bit like Chris Daughtry at times as he passionately sings of breaking free from a cycle of pain and regret from past mistakes in order to become a better person:

No, holding back now, breaking out of habit, time revealing now 
Days or if years, through the tears we shed we have to carry on now, 
Taking the best of me.

The anger boils over on “Never (Let You Live It Down),” a seething ‘fuck you’ to someone who’s hurt you beyond any hope of redemption or forgiveness. Raging guitar riffs, pummeling drums and crashing cymbals convey the seriousness of the situation, as Adam wails the brutal lyrics:

You think it’s OK to lie 
Playing games always on the winning side 
You’ve got a simple design 
Crush them down, hold them by the windpipe 

Been too long, hate so strong, you broke the straw with a hammer blow.

I will kill you, break you, never let you live it down
Make you, regret, everything you ever said
Think you’re winning, never strive for anything
Victim ,victor, all the same to me, you’re dead to me.

As the vocals end with an air of pained resignation, we’re suddenly head-slammed by a thunderous barrage of gritty bass, guitar and pounding drums that extends for a minute and a half until gradually fading out. It’s a mind-blowing end to an awesome little EP that really packs a wallop in under 11 minutes.

Connect with Colt48:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp

RUSTY SHIPP Release New Video for “SS Naronic”

Nashville rock band Rusty Shipp released their monumental album Mortal Ghost in 2017 to wide acclaim. Over the past several months they’ve been producing videos for different tracks off the album, and last November they released a terrific animated video for “Treading Water,” which I reviewed. They’ve now released an amazing new video for another track “SS Naronic,” a dramatic song about a ship that sank on February 19, 1893. The band chose today for the release to commemorate that fateful event.

Rusty Shipp calls itself a “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, underwater sound, haunting vocals, and heavy riffs. The band consists of singer/songwriter and front man Russ T. Shipp (literally his birth name) on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, AJ Newton on drums and Michael Craft on bass.

Rusty Shipp2

The SS Naronic was a steamship built in Belfast for the White Star Line. Eight days after leaving Liverpool for New York on February 11, 1893, the ship was lost at sea, along with all 74 people on board. According to Wikipedia, the exact cause of the ship’s sinking was never determined. However, messages found later that had been written by passengers and placed in bottles once they realized their ship was sinking seemed to indicate that it hit an iceberg. Rusty Shipp based their lyrics for the song on some of those actual messages. A particularly poignant line is “Oh god please tell me there is more than this, that this cold abyss is not the end.” Another is “Cattle and charcoal jettisoned to save the boat. But we won’t stay afloat.”

The hard-hitting song features intense, gritty guitars, heavy bass and lots of crashing cymbals, perfectly conveying the horror of the awful tragedy. The superb illustrated animation video was created by Hein Zaayman of Vohnic Music LLC, the same artist who illustrated the Mortal Ghost album cover. The brilliant use of sepia tones gives the video an historical feel.

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

VERITY WHITE – Album Review: “Breaking Out”

Verity White Album

Verity White is a singer/songwriter from Cheltenham, UK, and can this woman rock! She plays a bluesy style of alternative rock which, combined with the ferocity of her sultry vocal styling that at times reminds me of Pat Benatar and Joan Jett, makes for a hell of an exciting listen. Verity has been a backing vocalist with the UK band Pendragon, and performed with them on their European tour in 2017. Last November, she released her debut full-length album Breaking Out, which serves as a bold metaphor for this evolutionary next step in her career. With assistance from her husband Alex on guitars and production, Breaking Out delivers 10 stellar tracks.

Verity White

The album kicks off with the audaciously sexy title track “Breaking Out.” Gritty, blues-infused guitars engage in a seductive dance with the steamy bass line and drum beat. The tinkling piano keys in the bridge accentuate Verity’s sultry vocals as she defiantly declares her independence: “I’m worth more than you know. I’m stronger than you know, and I’m better on my own.” Indeed she is, and who are we to argue!

Verity’s amazing vocal range is showcased on “Zeroes and Ones,” where she really seems to channel Pat Benatar. It’s one of the album’s standout tracks, with fantastic instrumentals that complement her powerful vocals that go from soothing to raw.  The dark “Demons in Your Head” offers up fuzzy synths and a heavy buzzing bass line set to a thumping beat. The song’s lyrics speak to personal struggles with emotional issues: “Pop another pill into your mouth. Crumbling because you can’t let it out. Every day’s a constant struggle with the demons in your head. Trying to control you, so you just go back to bed instead.”

Verity let’s her rock goddess alter ego loose on the rousing “I Don’t Care.” With raw energy in her vocals, she sings about not giving a damn and casting aside all self-control on a night of partying: “Gonna drink ’til I can’t remember my name. Gonna drink ’til I can’t be the one to blame.”

See Through” features Alex’s beautiful intricate guitars, mesmerizing synths and Verity’s beguiling vocals, all set to a melodic dance beat. It’s a great song, and one of my favorite tracks on the album. The synth-heavy “Face It” is another gem, and Alex really shines as he lays down lots of gritty riffs. The duo pull out all the stops on the raw, melodically complex “Exhale.” Damn if this isn’t another standout track! Mysterious sweeping synths, snarling guitars, loads of crashing cymbals and a pulse-pounding bass line work in tandem to create a speaker-blowing soundscape. Add generous amounts of Verity’s passionate soaring vocals and you’ve got all the ingredients to raise goosebumps.

Your Darkest Secret” is a hard-driving rocker, with more of Alex’s shredded guitars and Verity’s saucy vocals, while the bluesy “Slow Fall” brings a hypnotic piano riff backed by fuzzy guitars and thumping drums. Album closer “Overcome” is a terrific rock song with awesome multi-layered guitar work. With her raw and sultry vocals on full display, Verity sings “Let the feeling overcome you. Til they’re right into the core. Changing all our dark perceptions. As you ask again for more. Why can’t I feel this way without you?

Breaking Out is a superb debut for Verity White, showcasing not only her mind-blowing vocal abilities, but also her skill for writing songs with compelling lyrics and outstanding melodies. She’s set the bar quite high with this album, but I’m confident she has what it takes to come back with more great music in the future. For now, she’s been touring the UK to promote Breaking Out, and you can catch her next at Mr Wolfs in Bristol, England on January 18th.

Connect with Verity:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes

BRAIN APE – Album Review: “Auslander”

Auslander Cover Artwork

As I’ve stated in previous posts, being the EclecticMusicLover, I like when artists and bands incorporate lots of different influences to create genre-bending music. One such band is Brain Ape, a London-based outfit who skillfully fuse punk, stoner rock, grunge, noise rock and shoegaze to create their unique sound they call “scratch rock.” In August 2017, they dropped their second album Auslander, which was released through Schlimbum Records. It’s an ambitious work, containing 12 brilliant tracks with some of the best titles I’ve heard, and running nearly 55 minutes in length.

Brain Ape consists of Minky Très-vain, who plays guitar and sings lead vocals, and Sol Albret who plays bass and sings backing vocals. Jacob Powell played drums and sang backing vocals on Auslander, but is no longer with the band due to other commitments. In an interview with Rebecca Singer for her blog Read Between the Lines (which you can read here), Minky explained the strong influence of Nirvana on Brain Ape’s sound:

“It’s incredibly cliché, but the album that changed my life musically was “Nevermind.” After hearing that album, I knew exactly what type of music I wanted to make. I think one of the most interesting things about [Nirvana] is the legacy that they’ve left behind having only made a handful of albums.”

And regarding their unusual name, Minky explained:

“I really like the name because everyone seems to have their own ideas where it comes from and what it means. For me, there are about three contradicting ideas bouncing against each other, all within two words. I like how abrasive it sounds, yet to me sounds rather beautiful too. But the core idea for me, when we were coming up with a name for the band, was that what we do is very instinctual: neither Sol nor I are classically trained musicians. We’re not even particularly good at what we do. It just so happens that when you put the two of us in a room together with instruments we seem to think along the same wave lengths. Genetically we’re all apes, and when you remove any conscious thought you end up just creating from instinct. That’s why our logo is a chromosome. I guess we feel like the music we make comes from our very own genetic makeup.”

Brain Ape [6]_preview
Photo by Gregory Hesse-Wagner

Brain Ape gets right down to business with the outstanding album opener “Give Me My P45,” a rousing punk-infused number with grungy guitars, a dominant buzzing bass line and loads of crashing cymbals. Minky’s echoed and distorted vocals add to the song’s gritty texture.

Next up is “Watercolour,” a grungy track that shifts back and forth from hard-hitting verses with gritty guitars and hammering drums to softer interludes with delicate chiming guitar, a characteristic of many of Brain Ape’s songs. Minky’s plaintive vocals rise and fall with the intensity of the music, wailing “I don’t know why I still breathe” during the heavier verses. Nirvana’s influence can clearly be heard on the six minute and 22 seconds long “Graphomania.” Quiet, melodic verses with gently strummed guitar alternate with intense, shredded guitar riffs, heavy bass and powerful drums. Minky emphatically sings “He doesn’t know what he should be.”

Respect Your Icons” is a fast-paced punk rock gem with frantic riffs of shredded guitars and pounding drums. Halfway through the tempo slows to a thumping drumbeat and psychedelic reverb-heavy guitars. The guys deliver more psychedelic goodness with “The Quick Brown Dog Jumps Over the Lazy Fox.” And what an awesome song title is that!  The track has a mesmerizing melody with awesome guitar work and a buzzing bass line so heavy you feel it in your core.

The sublime “I Could Use Some Food” opens with gentle strummed guitar and Minky’s quiet, almost whispered vocals, then explodes into a crescendo during the last minute of the track before quieting back down at the outro. It’s one of my favorites on the album. “Stop Sulking” is another track having a definite Nirvana vibe, with sharp, clipped verses, gnarly guitars and heavy bass. Minky repeatedly wails “I don’t want to play.

Punk makes a return appearance on “Das Krokodil Will Barfuß Sein,” with shredded guitars and fuzzy bass over a frenetic drumbeat, and “Extra-Tourette’strial,” a psychedelic head banger punctuated by Minky’s screaming vocals and distorted, reverb-heavy guitars. Brain Ape offers up some heavy metal on “Blood Blister,” with crushing bass and shredded guitars over an aggressive, hypnotic drumbeat. With his echoed, distorted vocals, Minky shouts “It wasn’t me, you got it all wrong.”

Oh, David” is an ominous sounding track with throbbing, speaker-blowing bass and fantastic guitars that go from jangly to gritty and back again. Album closer “Hunger”  is a complex, retro-sounding track that seems at times to channel 60’s bands The Yardbirds or The Doors. The track features psychedelic-sounding echoed vocals and more of Brain Ape’s signature guitars that alternate between jangly and shredded, with an extended reverb-heavy outro. It’s a dramatic finish to an exceptional album.

Connect with Brain Ape:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream Auslander on Soundcloud or purchase on Bandcamp

LOWRY LANE – Single Review: “Find a Way”

Lowry Lane

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, one of the things I love about Twitter is that every single day I learn about at least a couple of new artists or bands I wasn’t previously aware of. And it’s an added treat when some of them turn out to be really good musicians, as well as nice people. So it was when I got acquainted with the talented young German singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Lowry Lane, who released his debut single “Find a Way” in late September.

Born Paul Friebe, Lowry named his musical project after English painter L. S. Lowry. He’s been writing poetry and music for more than a decade, and states in his bio that he “was inspired by the naive and bold simplicity of Andy Warhol and the sobering and disillusioning insights of Hunter S. Thompson.” He goes on to describe Lowry Lane as “the vehicle for his musical self discovery, which aims to recklessly unfold the inherent conflicts he finds within himself and in the world around him.”

The first thing that comes to mind when listening to “Find a Way” is how much it reminds me of Nirvana. The melodically complex track shifts back and forth from quiet to loud, with grungy guitar riffs over a strong bassline and aggressive percussion. Further, Lowry’s gritty vocals sound strikingly similar to Kurt Cobain. He laments the gloomy lyrics about feeling numb and hopeless about his life:

I haven’t found a way to find a way to live
I haven’t found  a way to finally forgive
I can’t feel it anyway
Maybe I was never meant to be OK

He lays down some scorching hot riffs in the bridge, and I love when at 3:45 he suddenly pauses and shouts “Holiday on the pavement! Fell in love with a vagrant!” as if he’s in a brief manic state of mind. It’s a great song, and Lowry exhibits a dark charismatic quality as he performs the song in the video. And that awesome hair!

Lowry is currently writing and recording more songs and plans to release his first album in Spring 2018, and I can’t wait to hear it!

Connect with Lowry:  WebsiteFacebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Find a Way”:  Spotify / Google Play
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

MOROSITY – Album Review: “Low Tide”

Low Tide Album Art

Unusual. Exotic. Captivating. Haunting. Stunning. Those are all words that come to mind when I listen to the album Low Tide by Morosity, a genre-bending band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Formed in 2001 by childhood friends Jesse Albrecht (Lead Vocalist/Guitarist) and Dave Rowan (Guitarist) as a two-man acoustic group, they spent their early years developing a sound uniquely their own, and playing local gigs and opening for national bands. Wanting to expand their sound and musical reach, they added bassist Sean Bachinski in 2007, and two years later, Jason Wolfe (Violin, Guitar, Mandolin) and Nick Johnson (Drums) joined the band to complete their lineup.

Morosity released an ambitious debut album Misanthrope in 2011 to wide acclaim, and nearly six years later, in February 2017, they released their second album Low Tide, which I’m finally getting around to reviewing. While retaining many elements of their signature sound – complex song structures and melodies, richly layered guitars, crisp percussion, and generous use of the violin – with Low Tide the band takes a more eclectic and decidedly darker approach. Melding rock with tribal, psychedelia, folk and Middle Eastern influenced music through use of the mandolin and hammered dulcimer, they’ve created a powerful work of extraordinary beauty and depth. The album was produced by Albrecht, who records, mixes, and masters in his home studio Evensong Studios.

Morosity

The album starts off with “Mind Over Matter,” a brief but mesmerizing track dominated by a gorgeous dulcimer riff. The song elicits several images and feelings for me, but I mostly think of a beautiful belly dancer moving to the captivating Middle Eastern music. The song immediately transitions to the mysterious “The Answer.” One of my favorite tracks on the album, the song features haunting guitar work that’s so incredible it gives me goosebumps. Furthermore, Albrecht’s vocals are amazing; he seductively croons the lyrics about questioning one’s belief system: “My eyes tell me that the truth’s not being told. What if all I see is just a lie?” He finally concludes that it’s all a sham as he wails “You’re all wrong” to a hard-driving guitar riff at the song’s end.

Without skipping a beat, we segue to “Ouroboros,” another mesmerizing (there’s that word again, but it’s just so fitting) track with a Middle Eastern vibe. The instrumentals on this track are rich and varied, and Albrecht’s smoky vocals have a chant-like quality. “Moon” has more of a traditional folk-rock sound, with some tasty layered guitars floating over Bachinski’s solid bass line.

The album plays like a rock symphony, with each track a string of movements, one flowing into the next. “Moon” transitions directly into “Smoke & Mirrors,” a powerful five-and-a-half minute long tour-de-force of a track about self deception. The guitar work is outstanding, and Albrecht’s raw vocals, which remind me a bit of the late Chris Cornell on this track, perfectly convey the biting lyrics:

Is all your smiling make-believe?
Who is it that you are trying to deceive?
What is it that you plan to gain?
A life of misery, false heightened sense of fame. It all goes away…

The most powerful, and dark, track on the album is “Death Grip,” which speaks to the epidemic of gun violence that’s become so pervasive in America today. The folk-rock song is chilling, yet has an interlude containing whistling that comes off as almost carefree, in sharp contrast to the subject matter. A similar treatment was used by Foster the People on their hit “Pumped Up Kicks.” The disturbing lyrics are from the twisted perspective of a mass shooter:

Lately I just wanna kill someone
You can hide away the ammo Lock up all the guns
But if I really wanna have some fun
There ain’t nothing gonna stop me til’ the job is done
I wanna kill someone
In a crowded theater
In the church of nuns
In a school for children
In front of everyone
You think that you can stop me
You say you’re good with guns
If you try to kill me I’m gonna blow up everyone

The video shows serene images of the countryside and a cemetery, interspersed with a shadowy figure walking, driving, and at a shooting range. At the end, people are shown having fun riding bikes, bowling, and at a demolition derby, presumably oblivious to any potential danger.

Limbo” features Wolfe’s sublime mandolin work, accompanied by lovely violin and subtle guitars. Albrecht’s urgent vocals are marvelous, as are the backing chorus. The violin and acoustic guitar take center stage on the melancholy title track “Low Tide.” The gloomy lyrics speak to feelings of being worn down, and that life is slipping away, but you’re not yet ready to give up:

From stone to sand, I feel it all sifting through my hands.
Worn to bone, nothing left just a skeleton.
Bottoms up and cut me down to size.
Drag me out and wash me in the tide.
Give me life now no I don’t wanna die.
Low tide

But by song’s end, the feelings of hopelessness, regret and despair have become too great to bear, thus death would be a welcome relief:

Can not maintain the pain the rain is welling in your eyes.
Pleasure came back down the drain swallowing the light.
Playing blame insane it’s you that’s done this to your life.
Missing sane tired and drained thoughts of the other side.
Pick me up and bathe me in the light.
Drive it down and bleed me dry.
Take my life I’m ready to die.
Washed away in the low tide.

The band keeps with an oceanic theme on the funereal album closer “Adrift.” The languid track is moody, yet peaceful, with the sound of waves drifting in and out as a somber guitar plays. Like the music, Albrecht’s low, echoed vocals are dirge-like, yet somehow comforting. The music and vocals end at 3:30, and we’re left with sounds of the surf for another 20 seconds, followed by birds singing in a gentle breeze, as if to signify the gradual and peaceful passing away of a life. Morbid, but beautiful at the same time, which fairly well sums up the album.

Morosity is currently working on a third album, and I eagerly look forward to hearing more songs from these exceptionally talented and creative musicians.

Connect with Morosity:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampMorosity Store

RUSTY SHIPP release new video for their single “Treading Water”

Screenshot 2017-11-14 18.37.16 (2)

One of the great things about being a music blogger is getting to know other music bloggers, who frequently turn you on to new artists and bands that they write about. So, it was my lucky day this past June when I happened to read a post on my friend Zezrie’s blog Jealous Sounds about a Nashville rock band called Rusty Shipp and their monumental tour de force of an album Mortal Ghost. I was so impressed with them I became an instant fan and reblogged her review.  The band has just released a new single “Treading Water” from Mortal Ghost, along with a brilliant animated video.

Rusty Shipp calls itself a “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, underwater sound, haunting vocals, and unconventional heavy riffs. The band has undergone several personnel changes since forming in 2014, and now consists of singer/songwriter and front man Russ T. Shipp (literally his birth name) on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, Michael Craft on bass, and AJ Newton on drums. (Jake Adams was bassist on the recording of Mortal Ghost.)

Like many of the songs on Mortal Ghost, “Treading Water” is an exhilarating and powerful hard rock track. Rusty Shipp employs frantic riffs of gritty shredded guitars, fortified with heavy buzzing bass and hammering drums, to create a song that’s hard-hitting yet beautiful. The wonderful guitar change-ups that occur throughout the track demand, and hold, our attention, making for an impressive, melodically complex song. Shipp’s impassioned vocals are enthralling as he sings the nautically-themed lyrics that address feelings of hopelessness about life and one’s place in this world:

I’m alone in this world, drifting like a lost ship at sea
The more I live the less I feel at home
Treading water just to keep from drowning
All creation ’round me groans, till the sea and all that’s in it is undone
Something’s nipping at my toes. Treading water till the angels come
Give me that ancient feeling, the kind of love that David felt, shining through the jaws of holy war
I want to go behind the curtain, to where the golden cherubs dwell, find something worth us fighting for
Something in these endless waves feels dead, cold and lonely as the stars
It’s sad that some believe this liquid pendulum could put together someone’s heart
If I find in myself a desire nothing in this world can fill,
The only explanation left is I was made for another world

The imagery depicted in the fascinating and visually captivating video symbolizes the feelings of alienation and hopelessness caused by a cold and increasingly technological world.

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