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

As their name implies, follow them deeply on FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music on SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase on Google PlayAmazon

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

Follow Minus Cube:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicReverbnation
Purchase: BandcampGoogle PlayAmazon

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

STEREOHAZE – Single Review: “Drifting Away”

Stereohaze

Stereohaze is an alternative rock band from Manchester, England who I first featured on this blog this past May when I reviewed their excellent debut EP Fight For Your Future. Now they’re back with a terrific new single “Drifting Away“, which dropped on September 7th. Formed in 2017, the band consists of Charlie Whittaker (guitar/vocals), Ryan Webb (guitar), Harry Wilcock (bass) and Diesel Evans (drums). Despite their relatively young ages, they play some wicked guitar-driven rock laden with hooks, intelligent lyrics and electrifying instrumentals.

The song opens with Diesel’s pounding drumbeats and Harry’s throbbing bass, then we’re suddenly hit with an explosion of grimy riffs and the song is off and running. Charlie’s commanding vocals enter the mix as he fervently sings of a troubled relationship that’s driving him crazy, but he hopes can still be salvaged: “I just can’t shake the infection of your poisonous affection. Indecisions, contradictions are part of my condition. We’re drifting away, so come a little closer. And we’re falling apart, so let’s come together.” Charlie and Ryan’s dual guitars are fantastic as they blast through the airwaves with intricate layers of gnarly fuzz and blistering distortion, making for an exhilarating rock tune.

It bears repeating that I really love Charlie’s vocal style. I’ve found that weak vocals are often one of the biggest liabilities for an artist or band, but his vocals are wonderful, and an integral part of Stereohaze’s great overall sound.  The guys are all skilled musicians, and I’m so happy they’ve delivered another outstanding song. “Drifting Away” is further proof that Stereohaze is most definitely a band on the rise.

Connect with Stereohaze:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase their music on iTunesAmazon / Google Play

New Song of the Week: A VOID – “No Rest”

It may be 2019, but the enduring legacies of grunge – especially that of Nirvana – and punk continue to have a significant influence on music. I’ve reviewed a lot of artists and bands who’ve drawn their influences from those two groundbreaking genres, and am pleased to feature another today – a young band called A VOID. With members from both France and the UK, and currently based in London, the attractive female-fronted trio refer to their wild, unorthodox sound as “sonic grunge.”

They claim as their inspiration a decidedly eclectic mix of artists and bands, including the aforementioned Nirvana, as well as Sonic Youth, Smashing Pumpkins, Hole, Kaaris, Babes In Toyland, Patrick Sébastien, Deftones, Silverchair, Björk, Tokio Hotel, Lady Gaga, Céline Dion and even Charles Aznavour! Making the music are Camille Alexander (guitar, lead vocals), Aaron Hartmann (bass) and Marie Niemec (drums, backing vocals).

A VOID2

A VOID released their debut EP Roses As Insides in 2016, when they consisted of Camille and two previous band members. The current lineup released an excellent full-length album Awkward And Devastated in 2018. One of the tracks on that album is “No Rest“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week, as the band just dropped a hilarious and wildly entertaining new video for the song.

Camille’s a terrific guitarist, dazzling us with intricate, melodic riffs of jangly and grimy guitars. Early in the track, her riff calls to mind Nirvana’s “All Apologies” as well as Silversun Pickups’ “Lazy Eye”, but picks up the pace later on when her playing turns more aggressive. Aaron and Marie keep a tight rhythm with their resonant bassline and snappy drumbeats, respectively. Camille’s vocals are really wonderful, with a deep vibrancy that’s youthful, yet worldly, and I love how her French accent shines through. She shrieks “No rest” quite nicely in the frantic punk rock-like final chorus, matching the wailing guitars note for note.

The lyrics speak to the stress and anxieties that stem from relationships, being in a band, and the myriad responsibilities of young adulthood:

Bullshit over bullshit
I’ve lost my drive again
I’m all over the place… ace
Addicted to your sweet words and your belonging
I can’t replace

No Rest
No Rest
No Rest for me x2

Utterly broken
Keeping fading away
Completely wasted
I can’t believe myself

Unstable and insecure I try
Creating like the only way to survive
Holding on to everything as if you died today
All these lines I didn’t write
Now they come chasing me

No Rest
No Rest
No Rest for me x2

The music was so loud
So loud that I can’t hear the thoughts inside my head
The whispering voices
Silence violated

Can’t risk to deny
Responsibilities lie for you to take
Caught up into choices
It’s not my place to make

I wish I was more like you
Disregard and pass on through
I wish I had a clue
Of what I’d get myself into

No Rest
No Rest
No Rest for me

Connect with A VOID:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

WHALE HOUSE – Album Review: “Clowder”

Whale House Clowder art

Whale House is a psychedelic rock band that got its start in 2007 when Caleb Price and Clayton Brice met while students at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. Sharing a love of both classic 60s counter-culture rock and the 90s alternative/grunge rock of their youth, they quickly bonded and began writing and producing songs together in Clayton’s apartment. Their music combines these two rock influences, while experimenting with structure and timbre to create their own unique modern rock sound. Wanting to take their music to the next level, they moved to the recording studio, where they could benefit from the expertise of a professional production team.

Whale House 2

Between 2009 and 2015 they released three EPs, and in 2016 dropped two singles, “Freeway” and “Think of Me”. That November, they released awesome videos of live performances of “Think of Me” and another of their tracks “Red Sun”. I reviewed those videos, which you can read here. Now, nearly three years later, Caleb and Clayton return with their first full-length album Clowder, which will be available on all streaming platforms September 7th, with CDs and vinyl shipping now.

The songs for Clowder were constructed over the course of a year from (in their own words) “sound bytes flung back and forth through the ether across the 300 miles that now separate Caleb and Clayton.” The album was recorded direct to tape at Drum Farm Studios, a re-purposed organic farm in northwest Wisconsin. With the help of drummer John Richardson, they recorded most of the tracks live as a three-piece to recreate the spontaneity of a live show. Veteran producer Tom Herbers produced and mixed the songs, and John Golden did the mastering.

Into the Bluffs” kicks off Clowder in a big way with a burst of Richardson’s pummeling drumbeats accompanied by melodic piano keys. Layers of fuzzy guitars, bass and more keyboards are soon added as Caleb and Clayton sing with a harmony as near-perfect as any I’ve heard in a while. The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but seem to speak to tapping into one’s spiritual being: “Give me a sign. Search yourself and follow me in. Look into the bluffs. Ghosts are gathering in the upper atmosphere. Spirits calmly watch me yeah.

Next up is “Doll“, a dark song inspired by Caleb’s experience spending time in the hospital with his mother while she was in a carbon monoxide poisoning induced coma. “And I know it’s over. I’ll pull the plug and let her go. After it’s over, I’ll start the engine, shut the door.” The song’s melody and structure give off a Nirvana vibe, with an ever-changing tempo that goes from chugging riffs of gnarly guitars to aggressive stop-start chords. Caleb’s plaintive vocals are wonderful, and I like how they rise with emotion along with the guitar notes. It all makes for a fascinating listen, and is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

A Great Fire” beautifully showcases the guys’ skill at writing complex melodies and using rich instrumentation to create an interesting soundscape that continually evolves and surprises our senses. The track opens with a strong thumping drumbeat and ominous synths, creating a mesmerizing backdrop for Clayton’s rather mournful vocals as he sings of far-off cosmic storms, possibly symbolizing unrest or even the end of the world. Gradually, guitar, bass and piano enter the mix, then everything ramps up in the chorus with jagged riffs and crashing cymbals as Clayton launches into an impassioned wail: “The pores of my skin are dripping acid. The dogs are fighting, the snakes are biting. The back of my eyelids explode with lightning!” It’s a fantastic song.

The lead single “Milk” was released on August 15th, along with a surreal and vividly colorful video. It’s a terrific grunge song, featuring a torrent of gnarly riffs set to a powerful driving beat. Caleb explained that the lyrics speak of someone bogged down in a sea of ego-driven minutiae while the the rest of the world keeps on moving forward: “Near the belly digesting away. Far away, and deep inside, visions of hell. Paralyzed from the food that has yet to metabolize. And it’s been so long. And the world moved on.

The guys take a melodic turn on the captivating “Elephant“, my absolute favorite track on the album. The lush mix of chiming and twangy guitars are drop-dead gorgeous, as are Clayton’s heartfelt vocals that express a deep vulnerability. At 2:22 minutes, a beguiling flute enters, giving the song a momentary Celtic vibe. “Spine” veers into folk-rock territory, but still retains a grunge sensibility thanks to the strong guitar work, and once again the guys’ vocal harmonies are really impressive. And speaking of strong guitar work, the guys dazzle us with their mind-blowing guitar skills on the trippy psychedelic gem “Shapeshifter“. We’ve barely had a chance to catch our breath before they return to hammer us with exuberant jangly riffs, deep, buzzing bass and frantic beats on the hard-driving banger “Papercuts“.

The title track “Clowder“is an intriguing song with fuzzy, reverb-soaked guitars and tumultuous percussion. Caleb explained the song’s meaning: “The song ‘Clowder’ is based on an old children’s book called ‘Millions of Cats’. It’s about a guy who goes out looking for a single cat and ends up being followed home by billions of them. We enjoy simple surreal imagery like that. The story ends up being about the destructive power of pride and the importance of being humble. That kind of suppression of ego is something Clayton and I aspire to and I think its a theme that pops up in a lot of our writing.” The song opens with sounds of Caleb whispering “Don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you“, then the music intensifies as Clayton’s vocals take a more insistent tone. In time, with guitars wailing and cymbals crashing in the chorus, Clayton emphatically repeats the line “Hundreds. Millions. Thousands. Billions.

Twilight Sleep” is an enchanting track, highlighted by a pleasing acoustic guitar and wonderful sweeping orchestral instrumentation that imparts an almost ethereal quality. The little piano riff in the chorus is especially good, and nicely complements Caleb and Clayton’s fervent vocal harmonies. Guest musicians on this track included violinist Ryan Young of Trampled By Turtles and cellist Hilary James of We Are The Willows. At the very end of the track, we hear Ryan Young state “I played one wrong note”, though it all sounded pretty damn perfect to my ears. The album closes with “Asleep On A Plane“, a brief but sweet love song. The music consists only of a resonant jangly guitar and bass, but combined with Caleb’s earnest vocals, the song packs quite an emotional punch.

I must admit that many of these songs took a couple of listens for me to fully connect with them, but once I did, I came to realize that Clowder is a brilliant and stunning album. Unlike a lot of pop and classic rock, with their catchy hooks and melodies that quickly bore into our brains, modern and experimental rock music requires us to really listen to hear and appreciate all the little nuances of the more complex melodies, innovative instrumentation, and somewhat abstract lyrics that Whale House have so cleverly written. If you’re willing to expend the time and effort to dig deep into their music, you will find a lot to enjoy on Clowder.

Their Record Release Party will take place Saturday SEP 14 at Brewery Nønic, Menomonie, Wisconsin

Connect with Whale House:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play