DUDERAMA – Album Review: “New Views:

Duderama is the instrumental music project of Melbourne, Australia-based Liam Stack and Pierce Brown. The two met in the 1990s while both part of the alt-rock music scene in the capital city of Canberra, and played together in the alt-rock band Narco Wendy and lounge-rock act Coocoo Fondoo. Their collaboration as Duderama began in 2015 when Pierce was living in Melbourne and Liam in Ethiopia. Back in those days, the two created their musical collaborations remotely through phone apps and compressed files that, in their words, “were barely able to squeeze their way through the intermittent (or non-existent) internet of the authoritarian regime at the time.”

Their first release, in July 2015, was the EP The Mask, followed by a couple of double singles and their debut album Peace Fire that November. The duo continued with their prolific music output over the next two years, releasing four more albums by the end of 2017, as well as a couple more double singles and an EP, just for good measure. In July 2019 they released their excellent sixth album Quiet Life, and on January 22nd, they returned with their latest album New View, which they describe as “an elixir for these dark and strange times, where deftly executed and inventive guitar rock interplay can provide a simple joy amidst an era of mass anxiety. A lesson in the joyousness of lo-fi indie rock made with passion.” The guys’ skills for remote collaboration came in handy once again, as the album was recorded and produced during the Covid-19 lockdown. Liam mastered the album, while Pierce designed the art work.

New View features 11 guitar-driven instrumental tracks drawing upon numerous elements of rock, including alternative, progressive, grunge, electronic, psychedelic, and experimental, as well as jazz and funk. They kick things off with “Progtronic Man“, a moody lo-fi track dominated by a super-gnarly droning guitar riff and pulsating bass, punctuated here and there with more melodic guitar notes that add a bit of color to the proceedings. “Deepening Sky” features a funky head-bopping bass line overlain with wonderful jazzy guitar notes, accompanied by the perfect amount of percussion that make it one of my favorites on the album.

The title track “New Views” has a greater sense of urgency, with heavier rhythms, more pronounced synths, and multiple guitar textures, all blending to create palpable tension while still keeping things on an optimistic note. The mood shifts with “No Looking” to a languid, dreamy vibe that conjures up images of a romantic interlude on a sun-drenched tropical island. The warm synths and mix of shimmery and gnarly guitars are all exquisite. “Collapse Away” picks up the pace with an irresistible thumping groove that had me doing a lap dance on my chair! This song has it all: a terrific funky bass line, dynamic percussion, glittery atmospheric synths, and superb intricate guitar work. And speaking of superb guitars, the interplay between the guys’ shimmery and grungy guitars on “Entanglement” is positively mind-blowing.

As it’s title suggests, “Space Yacht” features spacey synths and gnarly psychedelic guitars set to a mid-tempo groove. Those super-grungy, buzzing guitars are back on “Light of a Billion Suns“, heavy, meandering lo-fi track that still manages to sound hopeful, thanks to well-placed melodic guitar notes. “High Life” is a fascinating track, with sort of a low-key Nirvana-esque grunge vibe as its foundation (at least to my ears), and embellished with a mix of late 60s psychedelic guitar notes along with some progressive elements. “Hollow Point” is rather pretty and melodic, with more of the guys’ marvelous intertwining guitar work and some really nice piano keys adding warmth to the track.

The album closes on a high note with “Liquid Beret“, a wonderfully mesmerizing track that’s another of my favorites. I love that powerful walking bass line that gives the song its deep, pulsating groove, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, once again I must gush about the brilliance of the guys’ intricate, multi-textured guitar work. I’m not even sure how to describe it, but that persistent undulating riff is fantastic.

I’ve written about many instrumental albums, a lot of them heavy on synthesized electronic music, which is perfectly fine as I really like that kind of music. But what I especially love about Duderama’s music is how they put their guitars front and center, then build the rest of the music around them. New Views is an outstanding and expertly-crafted work, filled with instrumentally-complex tracks that captivate and surprise with every listen.

Pierce also writes a terrific music blog The Press Music Reviews, so do check it out.

THAT HIDDEN PROMISE – Album Review: “Who Knows Now?”

That Hidden Promise is the music project and alter ego of British singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Wayne Lee. Based in Somerset, England, he’s been recording and performing under that moniker since 2011. The talented and versatile fellow writes his own songs, plays acoustic and electric guitar, and creates all his own music, including beats and percussion. He’s produced an extensive catalog of outstanding alternative and pop-rock music over the past nine years, often incorporating blues, post-punk, folk, electronic, psychedelic and shoegaze elements into the mix. The result is a varied and eclectic sound, delivered with exceptional guitar work and distinctive vocals that remind me at times of a young Bob Dylan.

I’ve featured That Hidden Promise on this blog a number of times over the last three-plus years, most recently just two months ago when I reviewed “You Can Have the World”, the lead single from his new album Who Knows Now?, which dropped October 2nd. The album is an ambitious and meticulously-crafted work featuring 12 tracks that, in Lee’s own words, “explores what it is to be in these times, through the joys, the frustrations, the anger, injustice and how do we even know what our place is in this world anymore?” The album was recorded and entirely self-produced, mixed and mastered by Lee between March-May 2020.

The album opens with “Intro“, an ominous instrumental track with a harsher and more psychedelic feel than any previous songs I can recall hearing by him. The spooky industrial synths and mix of wailing and distorted guitars set a darkly beautiful tone for what’s to come, and I love it. Next up is “You Can Have the World“, and as I wrote in my review of the song, Lee’s intricate layered guitar work is nothing short of spectacular as he delivers an explosive torrent of ever-changing textures that go from melodic to aggressive buzz-saw to screaming distortion. It’s an electrifying and powerful wall of sound for his plaintive vocals, driving home the urgency expressed in his biting lyrics that speak to finding strength through one’s confusion and rage over a corrupt and unjust system in order to survive and ultimately rise above it: “You can have the world if you’re gonna pay / Though have you got the nerve to fail again and again / Those who lead won’t keep you down / They may seek acclaim but it’s clear / If I win, If I fail in this world, Ain’t a damn thing to do with them.” I think it’s one of the best songs he’s ever recorded.

On “Your Own Enemy“, he urges us to live our own truths and forge our own paths forward in life: “Cut out all the voices, all the actions not working for you / Act free Act simply Act in your best interest / Forego your ego / Your shackles, release them / Construct your own self, not one projected for you.” Over a driving rhythm of throbbing bass and urgent toe-tapping beats, he layers a mix of gnarly and jangly guitars, all of which makes for a rousing and satisfying folk-rock song.

Caught in Yesterday” is a breezy and pretty tune, with lots of great guitar work and pleasing horn synths. The lyrics are an assurance of unconditional friendship, acceptance and standing by someone,: “You’ve got nothing to prove to me / If the world should split in two I’d be on the side with you / If the world should break in four we’d belong for evermore.”

Following on that thread, “End Game” is pre-apocalyptic, and speaks to finding acceptance and peace of mind when the end does arrive: “As we reach the end game / As we near our time don’t let fear sweep over / Just learn to free your mind / So take me with you to paradise / Away from conflict Away from these times.” It’s a musically complex and stunning song, and a real testament to Lee’s impressive songwriting and musicianship. The song opens with an ominous-sounding drumbeat, accompanied by gentle industrial synths, then a lovely strummed guitar enters along with shimmery synths, softening the mood as Lee begins to sing. Eventually, the languid vibe is briefly interrupted by a flourish of screaming guitar, only to calm back down. This back and forth continues through to the end, punctuated by some really stellar guitar work. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album.

As the album progresses, I’m struck by how really good every track is, as well as the variety of melodies, textures and sounds he’s used. It holds our interest from one track to the next, keeping the record from ever feeling monotonous or predictable. “One Day Other Than This” is a melancholy but lovely song with his heartfelt vocals accompanied by gentle string synths and beautifully strummed guitars, whereas the gorgeous “Stop Praying For the Sun” has a sweeping cinematic feel like a song you might hear in a Western movie soundtrack. Lee explained to me that lyrics are about not waiting for things that are out of your control to happen (praying for the sun), and also whether what you’re doing or where you’re headed is just delusion: “A new delusion of false design / If the best of times will come / Stop praying for the sun.”

Not In This World (Or the Next)” has a folk/Americana vibe, with a bouncy, head-bopping beat and lively riffs of jangly guitars. That Hidden Promise seems to ponder about our purpose on this earth: “I’ve given more than I can take / How much longer should I have to wait? / There’s time to come, there’s time to try / You give your all, but is it right? Alright.” The hauntingly beautiful “What Lies Beneath” is another favorite of mine, thanks to its eerie melody, piercing synths, and incredible guitar work.

That Hidden Promise turns more hopeful with “Calling All You Seekers“, a poignant ballad about holding on to our sense of adventure and optimism, and never giving up: “Calling all you seekers / The places yet to go / The majesty of wanderlust forever taking hold.” And even more so on “In the Night Time“, a celebratory folk-rock song about grabbing hold of one’s dreams and trying to make them real: “In the night time I’m inspired, and I just can’t settle / On fire / And this fever burns inside.

The closing track “Screaming in My Soul” seems to be somewhat auto-biographical, or at the very least, touches on some of the demons that plague musicians and songwriters if I’m reading these lyrics correctly: “Do you know what’s it’s like? To have a demon strip your soul / Well I know /All the songs that are trapped in my head / All the words that are lost in some black hole / I wish I could know how to bring them home / Got a screaming in my soul now.” Over a pulsating hypnotic groove, he layers swirling synths and a mix of intricate guitar riffs and textures to create a mesmerizing track.

With “Who Know Now?, That Hidden Promise has created his best work yet. It’s an exquisite album filled with exceptional songs, and his impressive songwriting, musicianship and production skills are evident on every track.

Follow That Hidden Promise:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Tidal / Napster
Purchase on  iTunes /  Amazon / Google Play

BRENNAN DYLAN – EP Review: “Walking Through Fire”

As a music blogger, I follow thousands of artists and bands on social media, and have written about several hundred of them on this blog. Many are extremely talented musicians, songwriters, composers and/or performers, and one of the guitarists who really stands out in the crowd is Brennan Dylan. Originally from Canada and now based in Nashville, he’s a beast on his six-string, and has been compared to Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Jeff Beck. Today I’m shining my spotlight on his 2016 EP Walking Through Fire, a fantastic work featuring six guitar-driven instrumental tracks.

Born in Vancouver, B.C., raised in Ottawa and then Toronto, Dylan has had a love and aptitude for music since early childhood. He began playing sax and composing music at the age of 10. He told me that, by playing sax, he learned how to play individual note melodies and to improvise. His parents encouraged him to think outside the box and explore music by writing his own creations. In his bio, he recalls: “When I was 14, I picked up a guitar for the first time; it was like I’d inherited freedom. My high school music teacher told me that guitar wasn’t an instrument. I ignored him and studied rock/metal guitar for the first year.

Brennan D as boy

In high school, he started writing rock and metal songs, and performed classical, jazz and swing in school stage bands. He also performed jazz, rock and blues improv guitar at a local club 2-3 times a week with local/touring acts. He studied classical guitar, delving into everything from Motorhead to Dick Dale to Bach. He was in a surf band one summer, then moved into electronic music, which he incorporated into hard rock and metal songs he wrote. He beautifully articulates his passion and inspiration for rock and metal:

“Pure rippin’ metal has been coursing through my veins since I first picked up a guitar. My adventures to incorporate every genre that has a beat into my metal compositions was very necessary and still is. I want to study it all but most of all I want to become a better guitar player and composer. By straying from the herd I think that I can accomplish that…no one has a monopoly on anything, even a flat tire kicks off a beat. I may not like all music genres but I’ve always been able to find great guitar players and/or composers in all I’ve studied.

He eventually relocated to Boston to study Performance Guitar at Berklee College of Music, then headed west to LA where he played the Sunset Strip as a solo artist, performing with some major acts, including Michael Angelo Batio, DeathRiders and Gorillaz at the Whisky a GoGo. In 2010, Dylan released his first self-produced CD Bullet Ride, followed two years later by Broken Glass, which received positive reviews and radio play, including a CBS Radio interview and press in Performer Magazine, NME & Guitar World. In 2013, he dropped his third CD Raining in Berlin. Still restless, he relocated to New York City that same year, where he formed his band Men Without Armies. They released a self-titled EP Men Without Armies in 2014, but then Dylan literally became a ‘man without an army’ after the band’s drummer and bassist/vocalist abruptly quit to follow other pursuits.

Men Without Armies Walking Through Fire

He had written a number of new songs and wanted to record some of them for a second EP, but with his drummer and bassist/vocalist gone, Dylan decided to release six of the songs as instrumental-only tracks. For the recording of what would become Walking Through Fire, he played all instruments, including guitar, bass, keyboards and synths, and hired a sound engineer to program the drums. He also produced all his own songs.

An imaginative and creative songwriter, Dylan told me he composes in his head, mentally hearing all the melodies, instruments and sounds, then laying them down in the studio. “I go into the studio with ideas only. I compose as Mozart composed. ‘Falling Through Skies’ is a perfect example. On my final day [of working on] Walking Through Fire, I created ‘Falling Through Skies’ on the way to the studio.”

Each of the six tracks are fairly similar, melodically speaking, starting with a foundation of sweeping synths, and highlighted by spectacular extended guitar solos that serve to showcase Dylan’s extraordinary guitar-playing skills. The first track “Drowning Tide” is a great example, with jaw-dropping shredded riffs of swirling and distorted guitars. As someone who cannot play a single instrument, watching Dylan play his guitar in the video is a religious experience for me. He literally owns his instrument, his fingers running up and down the fretboard like a true jedi master as he makes it wail and sing. No lyrics or vocals are necessary here, as the explosive riffs and melodic keyboard synths more than speak for themselves.

On “Conquer the Emperor” he delivers staccato machine-gun riffs that bring chills, backed by beautiful, haunting piano keys. “Breaking Away” opens with lovely melodic synths, then expands with a dramatic and intricate guitar solo, accompanied by a deep, buzzing bass line that continues throughout the track, finally calming back down to the synths we heard at the open. “Courage Before Glory” and “Resistance” are gorgeous extravaganzas of wailing guitars, staccato riffs and inspiring piano keys, all evoking a strong sense of courage as inferred by the song titles.

The final track “Falling Through Skies” is fantastic, with breathtaking guitar work that truly boggles my mind and ears! He coaxes sounds from his six-string that somehow manage to musically capture the adrenaline rush fighter pilots must feel as they zoom through the air at top speed, aiming their fire at opposing targets while trying to evade incoming fire. Holy shit, this man can play the guitar! He created the perfect video for the track using dramatic World War II film footage of fighter pilots conducting bombing raids and engaging in aerial battles.

Track listing:
1. Drowning Tide
2. Conquer the Emperor
3. Break Away
4. Courage Before Glory
5. Resistance
6. Falling Through Skies

Walking Through Fire is outstanding, and if you love intense, guitar-driven metal rock, you will enjoy this EP. Dylan will soon be heading back into the studio to record songs with Men Without Armies for an upcoming EP.

Follow:  Facebook /  Twitter /  YouTube
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Reverbnation
Purchase:  Reverbnation

TWO FEET – Album Review: “Pink”

Two Feet 2

Amidst all the bad news of late regarding rogue viruses and collapsing financial markets, one of the few bright spots has been the release of the new album Pink by singer-songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Two Feet. Released via Republic Records on March 13th, I’ve had Pink on repeat for the past several days, and can emphatically state that it’s the best album of 2020 so far. I’m writing this review with a bit of trepidation, as I hope to do justice to this magnificent work.

For those unfamiliar with Two Feet, he’s the musical alter-ego of New York City-based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Zachary William “Bill” Dess, who I think is one of the finest guitarists around today. His songs are slow burns, characterized by soulful, smoldering vocals, intense, bluesy riffs, cool jazz and hip-hop undertones, and booming synth bass grooves that cut straight to our cores. He also writes brutally honest and compelling lyrics that resonate with many of us. As beautifully described in his Google Play bio, “his songs are the soundtrack for staying up late into the night, aching to figure out how to remedy heartbreak, anxiety, and uncertainty.”

Two Feet first gained notoriety in 2016 with the release of his single “Go Fuck Yourself”, which quickly went viral on Soundcloud. He soon followed up with a couple of EPs (the cleverly titled First Steps and Momentum), then hit the big time in the summer of 2018 with his breakthrough hit “I Feel Like I’m Drowning”. The gorgeous song went to #1 on the Billboard Alternative chart, and ended up at #18 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the Decade. That October, he released his extended EP A 20 Something Fuck, which featured “I Feel Like I’m Drowning” and the beautiful track “Hurt People”, a deeply personal and haunting duet with Madison Love.

I had the pleasure of seeing him perform in Los Angeles in November 2018 (you can read my review here). He spent the first few months of 2019 touring with Panic! At the Disco, which exposed him to a whole new audience who hadn’t heard of him previously. I relished reading all the tweets from people who’d gone to see PATD and came away enthusiastic new fans of Two Feet. In fact, I have to say that his are some of the most fiercely loyal and devoted fans I’ve seen for any artist. He’s made a point of being open and honest with his fans and followers about his own personal struggles with depression and anxiety, and engages with them fairly regularly on Twitter. That’s pretty rare for artists once they become well-known, so it shocked the hell out of me a few months ago when he tweeted words of encouragement to me in response to my tweet about feeling depressed and overwhelmed. Needless to say, I was deeply touched, and it made me love him even more.

Two Feet 3

He started writing songs for Pink in the fall of 2018, some of them influenced by events happening in his life. In September 2019, he began teasing his fans by dropping a series of tracks in advance of Pink’s release, beginning with “Lost the Game” – though it falls squarely in the center of the track listing. In a heartfelt statement, he expresses his hope that the album will touch us in a meaningful way, also recommending that we listen to it in its entirety, from beginning to end: “With the way the world is going right now, I hope listening to it gives you some peace, or makes you cry, or makes you feel sexy, or makes you happy, or briefly brings you to a different world. As long as you feel SOMETHING, I’m good with that. I worked hard on the track list. This isn’t an album of singles, it’s a ‘thing-in-itself’. Please listen in order. Front to back.”

Two Feet records and performs his music with the assistance of his longtime keyboardist/drummer Geoffrey Hufford (aka Huff), who is adept at delivering the deep, floor-rattling synthesized bass that gives his music such incredible depth. This can clearly be heard on the minute-long opening track “Intro“, with chest-thumping beats surrounded by swirling psychedelic synths and Two Feet’s bluesy guitar notes. Up next is the title track “Pink“, a song that beautifully encapsulates the album’s overall theme. He states “A lot of the songs deal with the passage of time and how you interpret it.”, a topic nicely articulated by the song’s introspective lyrics: “25 don’t feel the same way… / And I keep getting older / My mind is getting colder / The things that all once mattered, I know for sure won’t last.” His intricate guitar work is stunning, and even if you didn’t listen to another track on this album, you’d still have to concede that he’s a phenomenal guitarist.

For this album, Two Feet incorporates a wider range of elements into his songs than ever before, resulting in a more diverse and exciting overall sound. “BBY” is a good example of this, with its bouncy EDM beat that builds as the song progresses. Once again, his guitar work is fantastic, and I love the sweeping spooky synths and his seductive, breathy vocals. “Call Me, I Still Love You” is a gorgeous and bluesy instrumental interlude that provides a perfect segue to “You?“, a dark scorching-hot song about coming to the realization that the relationship was always one-sided: “So tell me the truth was it me then, who needed you?” I realize I’m sounding like a broken record, but once again the intricate guitar work is breathtaking, and I love how the music alternates from a sultry vibe in the verses to a bombastic explosion of fiery riffs and earth-shattering percussion in the choruses. “You?” is perfection from start to finish, and easily my favorite track on the album. It spent five weeks at #1 on my Weekly Top 30 from late December through late January.

Two Feet had an official video made for the song, but I like this live studio performance better, as it features a killer extended guitar solo that really showcases his fearsome guitar skills. You can hear the original version on the Soundcloud playlist at the end of this post.

On the moody, synth-driven “44 Lies“, he seems to touch on how we delude ourselves in order to help us fit in, feel accepted, feel ‘normal’: “44 lies / Told in your 20s / Keep you alive / Make you feel empty / All of the guys / Wearing the same shoes / Telling me things / Praying they ain’t true.” Figuratively speaking, the melancholy “Lost the Game” represents the emotional low point on the album. The lyrics speak of coming to the painful realization that the relationship is over for good, with no hope of reconciliation: “And what can I do, I do, I do I know it’s over / Cause I lost the game, I can’t get lower / Caused you pain, it’s taking over.” With all hope now gone, “Grey” sees him rationalizing his fate and accepting that he must move on. Likewise, his mood has evolved from black into something a little less bleak – a shade of grey: “Before I fall away I feel like I should say I’ve always liked your eyes / But now I’ve got to leave / It’s okay It’s alright / I feel good I feel fine.” Musically, the song is dominated by a deep, buzzing bassline set to a mesmerizing hip hop beat, over which Two Feet serves up some of his signature bluesy riffs.

The smoldering track “Maria” was apparently a last-minute addition to the album. Overflowing with menacing synths, throbbing beats and haunting choruses, it’s one of my favorite tracks. Concurrent with the album release, Two Feet released a dark and sexy video for the song, his first to actually tell a story to fit the narrative of the lyrics. It opens with an ominous image of just his eyes, then shows him having a drink in a rather seedy bar, along with an assortment of shady-looking characters. Maria saunters into the bar, orders a beer and sensually dances while all the men gaze at her longingly. She eventually goes home with one of the guys as Two Feet laments “Oh oh oh while you’re getting in his bed, I’m alone without a friend tonight / Maria Maria, I tell ya I need ya..” Maria and the guy start to have sex, and she ties him to the bed. Sadly, he doesn’t get lucky, as she ends up stealing his valuables, even ripping his gold chain from his neck and leaving him tied up. We’re left wondering whether she’s just a gold digger who breaks men’s hearts (and wallets), or if she’s working in cahoots with the guy portrayed by Two Feet.

After the intensity of “Maria”, we need a bit of relief, which he nicely delivers with the captivating and soulful instrumental “Felt like playing guitar and not singing part 2“. The song is a nod to a similarly-titled track that appeared on A 20 Something Fuck. “I Can’t Relate” is a lovely, bittersweet tune that sees him revisiting what went wrong in the relationship: “The winter wind when we first fell in love was cold / You touched my face, my mind began to run, yeah / But you don’t care now, you tell me its all set and done / I’m numb ’cause I can’t relate / Oh, I can’t relate to you.”

Another favorite of mine is “We Will Be Alright“, a poignant and hopeful song reassuring a loved one that your love will endure til the end, and all will be well: “And I, I want you by my side / And I, I need you ’til I die / And when that day comes you will be alright / Because we will love through time. The lyrics could represent either a coming full-circle back to the beginning, or else the birth of an entirely new relationship, but either way, it ends things on a more upbeat and positive note. Musically, it’s more low-key and stripped back than most of his songs, with the only sounds coming from his gently strummed guitar and comforting vocals.

The album closes with “Pink Reprise“, a bewitching instrumental track that revisits and continues upon the haunting melody first introduced with “Pink”. It serves as a fitting closure for the album, and a vivid reminder of Two Feet’s spectacular guitar-playing skills. Properly listening to Pink is an immersive experience that needs to be done in a single sitting for maximum enjoyment, and to fully appreciate it’s immense power and beauty. I don’t normally grade albums, but I would give this an unequivocal 10/10.

Two Feet is donating $1 from every sale of Pink to the Siegel Rare Neuroimmune Association, which benefits those diagnosed with rare neuroimmune disorders like his own sister, GG.

Connect with Two Feet:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream/purchase his music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music / Google Play 

SWILLY – Album Review: “Size Matters”

Swilly Size Matters

When I last featured rock band Swilly on this blog back in January 2018, they had just released their debut 13-track album Play It Loud (you can read my review here). Since then, they’ve been on a creative tear, releasing four more albums, the latest of which is the provocatively-titled Size Matters, an ambitious work featuring 14 tracks that dropped on September 30. It boggles my mind that a group of musicians can write that many songs over such a short period of time!

Swilly is the nickname of singer/songwriter and guitarist Steve Williams, but also the name of his band, which includes lead guitarist and songwriter Kevin Campbell and drummer Carl Holz. They’re an international band of sorts, as Williams and Campbell are based in British Columbia, Canada, while Holz is from Colorado, USA. They’re occasionally joined by Austrian guitarist Klaus Passegger who provides lead guitar on a few songs, and have also collaborated with scores of other artists from time to time. Heavily influenced by some of their favorite bands like ZZ Top, The Cult, Nickelback and Theory of a Deadman, Swilly has a bawdy sense of humor and like to have fun, playing the kind of down and dirty, kick-ass rock’n’roll you wanna hear on a Saturday night, throwing down a few beers with friends at the local Roadhouse.

Size Matters tackles the universal subjects of love, sex and relationships in all their messy variations – more specifically, how they can bring us immense pleasure, deep sadness, or be a colossal pain in the ass! The album features songs ranging from in-your-face, kiss-off rockers to heartfelt love ballads, and I’ll touch on some of the highlights. Kicking things off is “Stomping Around“, a clarion call to stand up and fight against injustice, whether it be guys cheating on their women or governments oppressing their citizens: “You let yourself down when you’re fooling around, and the girls’ gonna stomp their feet. /Not that I insist, but the world is pissed at the people getting pushed around. Government’s weak, and the future is bleak. So we gotta start stomping around.” The guys deliver blistering riffs of gnarly guitars accompanied by strutting rhythms and gritty vocals.

One of my favorite tracks is “Deep“, a raucous, bawdy tune with an infectious rockabilly vibe. Swilly extols the virtues of his hot babe with hilarious, straight-to-the-point lyrics and some terrific guitar noodling as he croons in his raspy drawl: “My girl loves to go down. She loves to wear that crown. Don’t get me wrong, she ain’t cheap. But dammit I love being balls deep!

He expresses his romantic ardor in a somewhat more conventional manner on the sultry track “I Love You“: “Do you know you’re my everything? I’m so in love with you, the crazy stuff you do.” To a languid tempo that compels some serious swaying of the hips, Swilly lays down an appealing mix of melodic guitar textures and percussive rhythms. It all makes for quite an arresting rock ballad, and I really like the contrast between Williams’ raw vocals and smooth humming.

Another great track is “My Bitch” an ass-kicking rocker about comeuppance and payback. Hard-driving riffs of snarling guitars, throbbing bass and pummeling drums, not to mention raspy vocals that really channel Billy Gibbons, give the song a strong ZZ Top vibe. The lyrics start out with Swilly yelling “You little bitch!” at his woman after she’s stayed out late carousing and acting inappropriately, vowing to repay her in kind and sending a clear message that she’d best not fuck with him: “Yeah I was out late. Yeah I lost track of time. I didn’t think it would be seen as a crime. I should have planned it out. I found money out back. I even made 100 bucks just to show my dick. Suck my dick! You little bitch!

Suck It Up” keeps the driving rhythmic grooves flowing with strutting riffs of gnarly guitars. The song seems to be about accepting the shit life throws our way, dealing with it as best we can, not letting it get the better of us, and trying to have a little fun now and then: “Suck it up. You do what you got to do./Big tears don’t make it better. Dirty love just makes it wetter./ Don’t whine, it makes you ugly. Don’t worry, the world loves ya honey. Come here, I’ll hold you tight.”

Swilly turns introspective on the bittersweet “I Let You Lie“, a poignant song with lyrics written by Tammy Throneberry, a Twitter friend of both the band and mine. The song speaks to the sadness and desolation resulting from a relationship that’s ended. In his raspy, heartfelt vocals, Swilly laments “You said you can’t live without me. But I’m alone. I long to hear your footsteps coming through that front door. You promised me forever. Now forever I wait. How much more I wonder can these two lives take?

Keeping with the theme of desolation, the heartbreaking “My Abyss” speaks to the enduring pain and emptiness from the loss of a loved one: “Never thought it would come to this, that love would be such an abyss. They say that you live on. How can I if you’re gone? Everywhere I look, I see you. You are everything that I do. Everything that I miss, have become my abyss.” I love the haunting guitar-driven melody, and the interplay between Williams’ acoustic and Campbell’s electric guitars is so damn good.

Album closer “Dirty Boys” is a rousing, hard-hitting track that showcases Swilly’s superb musicianship, with scorching guitar work, tumultuous percussion and tasty classic rock grooves. Quite frankly, it beautifully encapsulates the raw power and unbridled energy of the entire album and the band. Size Matters shows us yet again what a talented collective of musicians these guys are, delivering more of their great tunes that have the ability to thrill, and make us laugh, cry or just stomp our feet as we yell ‘fuck yeah’.

Connect with Swilly: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunes / Bandcamp / cdbaby

New Song of the Week: MONZA EXPRESS – “In the City”

Monza Express In The City

Monza Express are a five-piece guitar band from Aberdeen, Scotland who formed in 2017 from the ashes of several other bands. As they humorously state in their bio, they’re “all the wrong side of 30 [and] no strangers to live music, having played in various bands in Aberdeen over the years.” Drawing on influences from a variety of sources depending on which member you speak to, the band includes Fraser Bateman (lead vocals & rhythm guitar), “Mr Glass” Shaun Reid (lead guitar), Greg “Mercury” Burgess (bass), Kris Fraser (keyboards, backing vocals) and David “Deco” Smith (drums). (I love that ‘Fraser’ is the first name of one member and last name of another.)

Following up on their 2018 double-single release “Sunshine/Big Dumb Rock” – both terrific songs that I urge my readers to check out using one of the links below – Monza Express just dropped a delightful new single “In the City“, which I’ve selected as my New Song of the Week. The song has a rather serendipitous little back story. The recording session was a runner-up prize in a Facebook competition put out by Aberdeenshire-based Floortom Studios, inviting acts to submit their rough song demos for possible selection by studio producer Steve Curtis. The band submitted a live GoPro rehearsal recording of “In the City”, and were delighted to learn they’d been awarded one of the coveted spots. The song was recorded, mixed and produced by Curtis, and mastered at Metropolis Studios in London.

The sweet song addresses themes of escapism from the standard 9 to 5. Fraser explains:  “I called it ‘In the City’ as both The Jam and The Who have songs [with that title] and I love those bands and what they stood for.” Bateman adds: “The composition came from a bass line Greg had been playing and we went from there. I like the almost early 60s style of the arrangement, especially when Shaun is just playing the main melody. It gives the song a little familiarity.”

The lighthearted song has a bouncy, guitar-driven melody that’s just too damn infectious! It’s the perfect feel-good song for summer, and it’s made me a big fan of Monza Express.

When you’re living in the city
And the bar looks so so pretty
Running shelter from the weather
Beer, pool and ripped up leather
I can take you miles away
Circle JFK for the day
Come and climb the Empire State
We’ll have ourselves some cake
We’ll have ourselves some cake

When you’re living in the city
And the barmaid oh so pretty
Running shelter from the thunder
Fill your glass with endless wonder
I can take you miles away
Eurostar to Paris today
Come and sail the Seine with me
We’ll have a cup of tea
We’ll have a cup of tea…and whiskey

The equally delightful and endearing animated video is a good indication that the guys don’t take themselves too seriously. Says Bateman: “I went on the website Fiverr and commissioned an animator in Pakistan to make us a video. I sent the song, the lyric sheet and photos of the band and left him to it. What resulted was an almost literal translation of the lyrics that we couldn’t not use. We think it’ll get laughs and multiple views.” I love it!

Connect with Monza Express:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Apple Music

BLAIR DOLLERY – Single Review: “Strange Kind’

Blair Dollery3

Blair ‘Misty Red’ Dollery is a British singer/songwriter and guitarist from the western London suburb of Twickenham. A phenomenal guitarist, Blair has been playing and performing for nearly 20 years in a number of different bands, as a session musician, and also as a solo artist. He currently serves as lead guitarist and vocalist for the outstanding alt-rock band The Underground Vault, but has also recently begun releasing singles again under his own solo project. In March (2019) Blair dropped a gorgeous single “Dream On”, and now follows up with another single, the hauntingly beautiful “Strange Kind“.

The only sounds we hear are Blair’s stunning layered acoustic and electric guitar work and resonant, heartfelt vocals, yet the track has an incredible lushness and depth. It’s a testament to his skill at coaxing such rich and full sounds from just his guitars. The dark lyrics seem to be about someone contemplating drowning himself in the ocean due to feeling heartbroken over losing the love of his life.

Follow me down to the ocean
To the deep blue sea
No time for reflection
The end is near, can you see
Some will say I have lost my mind
Some will say I’m a strange kind
Strange kind

Watch the sea growing quickly
She is everything to me
All my love, all my life
Unconditionally
Some will say I have lost my mind
Some will say I’m a strange kind
Strange kind

Connect with Blair:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase: Amazon / iTunes / Google Play Music

NOREiKA – EP Review: “Still Falling”

Peter Noreika

NOREiKA is Peter Noreika, a singer/songwriter from western New York state, near Buffalo. He started out his music career as a guitarist for a few heavy metal bands, but eventually quit the business to become gainfully employed, get married and start a family. He never lost his passion for music, though, and eventually picked up his guitar once again and returned to making music, this time as a solo artist. In 2015 he released his debut EP METACOUSTiFOLK, a three-track work in which he combined his love of heavy metal and acoustic guitar and interpreted it in a folk music style. As he describes in his bio, “I’m a blue collar guy in a white collar world. I’m a heavy metal shredder with an acoustic guitar. The music I write and play is not of the style I typically listen to. I stopped trying to be specific things, and instead started going where the wind would take me. I’m not bound by genre. I’m free to do what I want, and that’s what I’m going to do: Make “MY” music. 

He followed METACOUSTiFOLK a year later with Throw the Switch to Begin, featuring four acoustic and melodic rock songs. In 2017, he released his third EP BoXaRoX, on which he departed from the fuller sound of his previous EPs by stripping down the music to just acoustic guitar and vocals. I also reviewed that EP, which you can read here.

Keeping to his pattern of releasing a new EP each year, NOREiKA has just dropped his latest effort Still Falling. The new four-track EP sees a return to heavier instrumentation, with the addition of electric guitars and synthesizers, as well as more serious subject matter. As with his previous releases, he wrote and performed all music (guitar, bass and synths) with the exception of drums, which were played by the legendary Joe Goretti (who also played drums on the first two EPs).

Noreika EP

Finding My Way” kicks off the EP with layers of fast-paced intricate guitars, accompanied by just the right amount of percussion to keep the beat, while letting NOREiKA’s awesome guitar work shine. In his urgent vocal style, he sings about the struggles of being an aging rock musician. Not one to handle the routine of a 9 to 5 career, you’re living your dream of doing what you love and playing music, but time and the endless grind of touring and performing take their toll on the body and spirit too.

Living the dream, I never run out of steam. 
Get to pick and choose, I got nothing to lose. 
I can do no wrong when I’m rockin’ my song. 
Having a blast, when I’m playing fast. 
Then it’s off the stage to turn the page, 
on another day, in my own way. 

It faded away and left me in decay. 
There was nowhere to go, after the show. 
So I roamed for a while, mile after mile. 
Time passed by with no reason to fly. 
I never did jive with the 9 to 5, 
but it sucked me in and here I begin. 

How do I find my way back home? 
It’s been too long, and I’ve grown too old. 
How do I find my way, to where I belong? 

Tightrope” is a rather dark sounding song with chugging riffs of jangly and chiming guitars, spooky synths and a powerful thumping beat. The hopeful lyrics offer encouragement to a loved one to have faith, be honest, and not give up in their search for their own truth and path forward. “Moving on, facing fear, to soar you will defy. Speak your mind, say your truth, and never, ever lie. Closer to the other side, claim the prize that you can’t buy.”

The subject definitely turns darker on “Moment in Time,” a song about coming to terms with one’s self-destructive behavior and the damage it’s caused to his life and relationships. “Tried to tell me, but I walked on past, to one more day that could have been my last. You had enough, and taken all you could, so you gave up on me though I never thought you would.” The hard-driving beat and NOREiKA’s muscular, layered guitar riffs make this a real banger of a track.

On “View From the Heights,” NOREiKA sings of the rebelliousness of youth and the yearning to be free:

Hitting the streets, not sure where we’ll meet. 
I got a place in mind that’s hard to find. 
In the back of the park where it’s always dark. 
We can take a toke and share the smoke. 
I can see the lights coming. 
Got to run to be free. 
I can see the lights coming. 
Won’t they let us be. 

Once again, he dazzles our senses with his skillful guitar work, weaving together multiple textures to create a rich, guitar-driven soundscape that’s both dynamic and incredibly satisfying to lovers of guitar rock like me. I love Goretti’s aggressive drumming on this song, and the well-placed wobbly synths are terrific as well, lending a bit of a psychedelic vibe to the track. In fact, all four tracks are superb, and I think Still Falling is NOREiKA’s finest work yet.

Connect with Peter:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Reverbnation / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

DEH-YEY – Single Review: “Death and Politics”

Death and Politics

Deh-Yey is a fairly new band from Chester, UK comprised of guitarist Cash Burns and drummer Tom Maude, and they’ve just released a brilliant new single “Death and Politics.” The hard-hitting track takes on the politics of gun culture in America with thunderous instrumentals as tumultuous as the subject matter. Using only layered guitars and percussion, the duo create a heavy, dynamic sound that blasts through the airwaves.

“Death and Politics” opens with banging drumbeats that sound like rapid gunfire, then a barrage of grimy distorted guitars and wildly crashing cymbals arrive like a thunderbolt, jolting us out of our complacency. The guys employ a complex melodic structure with numerous change-ups that serve to keep us in a constant state of unease. Cash’s intricate guitar work is jaw-dropping; he makes his six-string hum and chirp one moment, then wail and scream the next. And Tom attacks his drum kit like a demon, generating pulse-pounding, speaker-blowing power that penetrates all the way to our inner core. Cash sings the biting lyrics with an arresting authority, and together their soaring harmonies in the chorus are superb. It all makes for a phenomenal track.

Time is wasted on everyone, and still the world turns,
Moving house with you’re youngest son, no one around who cares,
Blatantly flashing a hand made gun,
Such a sore sight
What about the young and dumb
Can we amend your right?

Start another fight, Terminate a life,
Come together when it’s too late,
Sing Oh oh oh ooooooh

You look surprised when you opened up your eyes and you seen the special prize at the end of the trail,
Some say you had it all, but you wanted more control and the gods you fucking worship set you up to fail,
The ruler of them all, and he’s still inclined to fall as he sees a sign of war from the very ledge that gave him life,
You’re still burning down my furniture,
Just to piss in the light.

Deh-Yey certainly set the bar high with “Death and Politics,” and I for one cannot wait to hear fresh tunes from them very soon.

Connect with Deh-Yey:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

SWILLY – Album Review: “Play It Loud”

Album_Play_It_Loud

I’ve stated in previous reviews that one of the things I like about Twitter is how it enables me to learn about so many great artists and bands from far and wide. And though a lot of them are based in large urban centers like Los Angeles, Miami, Toronto and London, many are located in smaller, out-of-the-way locales. One such artist is Swilly, a Canadian singer/songwriter (born Steven Williams) from the northwestern British Columbia town of Kitimat.

Heavily influenced by some of his favorite bands, especially ZZ Top, The Cult, Nickelback and Theory of a Deadman, Swilly is a rocker with a huge sense of humor. He writes the kind of down and dirty, kick-ass songs you wanna hear on a Saturday night, throwing down a few beers with friends at the local Roadhouse – something he in fact sings about on the track “Canadian Beer.” Just good old rock’n’roll, baby!

Swilly

He’s been a busy guy, writing and releasing lots of songs over the past few years, and in December 2017 he dropped his first full-length album Play It Loud. It’s a long album, featuring 13 great tracks and clocking in at just over an hour. Swilly played rhythm guitar, bass, keys and drum tracks, and sang vocals for all the tracks. He had assistance from Kevin Campbell, who played lead guitar on all but one track (“Breaking some Glass”) where he only played some rhythm guitar, and guitarist Klaus Passegger played lead guitar.

The album gets off to a strong start with “Let the Fire In,” a superb rock track propelled by snarling riffs and a hard-driving beat, the kind that breaks your will to keep still. The influence of ZZ Top – a band I also happen to love – is strongly evident, and this song would do them proud. And not only do the beats and guitars have a ZZ Top vibe, but Swilly’s vocals at times sound a lot like Billy Gibbons. He also channels ZZ Top on the appropriately-named title track “Play it Loud” and the high-energy “Start Talking.”

Swilly slows it down on “Baby I’m Back,” a smoldering rock tune with some terrific bluesy riffs that’ll have you swaying your hips with your honey. Those dirty, bluesy guitars come roaring back even stronger on the deliciously satisfying in-your-face track “You’re a Dick.” Swilly snarls the lyrics informing an A-hole of just what he thinks of him – something I’m certain we’ve all wanted to tell someone:

It’s plain as day to the rest of the world, oh yeah
You’re a dick and everyone knows it, oh such a dick
You’re a dick. The kind of guy who knows it all
You’re a dick. The kind of guy who beats on little girls

Wasted” delivers some awesome screaming guitars, while the rousing “Who Says” is a little slice of rock’n’roll heaven. Accompanied by tasty riffs of shredded guitars, Swilly defiantly proclaims: “Who says we have to behave? Who says that you gotta be in by 10? I ain’t livin’ someone else’s life, I have to live my own.” Employing generous helpings of funky bass, he dials the thermostat to a slow burn on the sexy tracks “Feels Like” and “Sun Girls.”

Guest guitarist Klaus Passegger lays down some great guitar noodling on the melodic “Breaking Some Glass.” The song’s about letting loose and having a good time: “It ain’t a party if we don’t see you shaking your ass.” Indeed! “Batman” is a real head-banger, with superb gritty and distorted guitar work. Swilly informs his girl of who’s she’s dealing with: “I’m your batman. I’m not always you’re good guy.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is the lovely ballad “Friends.” It’s a departure from Swilly’s typical hard-rocking style, and the guitar work and vocals are positively sublime. The touching lyrics are about friends who’ve grown from children to adults with children of their own, affirming that their friendship will endure:

We’re all older now, and have kids of our own
And we watch with wonder as they find the unknown
And the sweet sound of laughter echoes through our yards
Recall all the things we thought so hard
We’ll all be friends to the end of our days. Our days
Cause you and I will always be friends
And I will be there when you need me

Play It Loud is a terrific album, chock-full of great tunes that will satisfy your thirst for rock’n’roll the way it was meant to be played. Swilly’s a prolific songwriter, and I’m confident we’ll be hearing lots of new music from him in 2018.

Connect with Swilly:  Website Facebook / Twitter
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / ReverbnationApple Music
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp / cdbaby