Top 30 Songs for May 8-14, 2022

Some have asked me how I come up with my Weekly Top 30 lists – i.e., what my song rankings are based on, and how and why I include the songs that I do. Well, it’s simple: it’s basically a list of my 30 current favorite songs for each week. If I had my own radio station, these are the songs I’d play most, along with favorite older songs, of course. I’m a big fan of alternative rock, dream rock, pop-rock and synthpop, so my lists are strongly influenced by the Billboard Alternative and Adult Alternative Airplay charts. I also write about and like to promote indie artists as much as possible, many of whom are putting out outstanding music, so each week I try to include at least 10 songs I really like by indie artists and bands.

It’s not often that a song that reaches #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 also tops my chart, as a lot of them are crap, but every once in a while a great pop song comes along that I also love, such as last year’s “Drivers License”, “Levitating” and “Leave the Door Open”. Harry Styles‘ “As It Was” is another such hit song, now in its third week at #1 on the Hot 100, and #1 for a second week on my chart. The Black Keys‘ “Wild Child” closes in at #2, while Florence + the Machine‘s gorgeous “My Love” rises to #4. Entering the top 10 are songs by two indie artists I’ve come to really like: “Sleep” by Brooklyn four-piece Gooseberry, who just released their wonderful EP Broken Dance, and the achingly beautiful “Chasing Trains” by British singer-songwriter HULLAH. The lone debut this week is “Animal” by British rock group Partisan, a long-time favorite band of mine.

  1. AS IT WAS – Harry Styles (1)
  2. WILD CHILD – The Black Keys (3)
  3. DECEPTION – Hannah Reem & Noodle Beard (2)
  4. MY LOVE – Florence + the Machine (6)
  5. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (5)
  6. WHAT, ME WORRY? – Portugal. The Man (4)
  7. BLACK SUMMER – Red Hot Chili Peppers (7)
  8. BROKEN HORSES – Brandi Carlile (8)
  9. SLEEP – Gooseberry (11)
  10. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (12)
  11. WILD – Spoon (13)
  12. BROKEN HEARTS – Ships Have Sailed (9)
  13. GIVE A LITTLE LOVIN’ – Jamie Alimorad (10)
  14. I LOVE YOU – Fontaines D.C. (17)
  15. LA CIENEGA – Chief Springs (18)
  16. ON MY KNEES – RÜFÜS DU SOL (19)
  17. THE HURT WITHIN – Holy Coves (20)
  18. VIRGINIA (WIND IN THE NIGHT) – The Head and the Heart (21)
  19. DISTANCE – Mount Famine (22)
  20. BLOODRUSH – The Amazons (23)
  21. A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE – Weezer (24)
  22. 2am – Foals (25)
  23. JUST LIKE ALWAYS – Oli Barton & the Movement with Maella (14)
  24. I’LL CALL YOU MINE – girl in red (15)
  25. CHEER UP BABY – Inhaler (16)
  26. SHUT OFF THE LIGHTS – Bastille (27)
  27. MIRACLE MILE – Head Noise (28)
  28. SYNCHRONIZE – Milky Chance (29)
  29. THAT’S WHERE I AM – Maggie Rogers (30)
  30. ANIMAL – Partisan (N)

Top 30 Songs for May 1-7, 2022

Harry Styles‘ delightful synthpop song “As It Was” takes over the top spot on my latest Weekly Top 30. Though I was not a fan of the boy band One Direction, I think that most of its members are pretty talented singers in their own right. That said, Harry Styles stands head and shoulders above the rest, and I’ve really liked a lot of his music as a solo artist. “As It Was” is the lead single from his forthcoming album Harry’s House, to be released on May 20.

In other chart highlights, entering the top 10 are Florence + the Machine‘s gorgeous “My Love”, which climbs five spots to #6, and Brandi Carlisle‘s haunting “Broken Horses”, which moves up four notches to #8. Two songs make their debut this week: “Synchronize” by German duo Milky Chance, and “That’s Where I Am” by the amazing American singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers.

  1. AS IT WAS – Harry Styles (2)
  2. DECEPTION – Hannah Reem & Noodle Beard (1)
  3. WILD CHILD – The Black Keys (4)
  4. WHAT, ME WORRY? – Portugal. The Man (3)
  5. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (6)
  6. MY LOVE – Florence + the Machine (11)
  7. BLACK SUMMER – Red Hot Chili Peppers (5)
  8. BROKEN HORSES – Brandi Carlile (12)
  9. BROKEN HEARTS – Ships Have Sailed (7)
  10. GIVE A LITTLE LOVIN’ – Jamie Alimorad (10)
  11. SLEEP – Gooseberry (14)
  12. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (15)
  13. WILD – Spoon (16)
  14. JUST LIKE ALWAYS – Oli Barton & the Movement & Maella (8)
  15. I’LL CALL YOU MINE – girl in red (9)
  16. CHEER UP BABY – Inhaler (13)
  17. I LOVE YOU – Fontaines D.C. (19)
  18. LA CIENEGA – Chief Springs (20)
  19. ON MY KNEES – RÜFÜS DU SOL (21)
  20. THE HURT WITHIN – Holy Coves (22)
  21. VIRGINIA (WIND IN THE NIGHT) – The Head and the Heart (23)
  22. DISTANCE – Mount Famine (24)
  23. BLOODRUSH – The Amazons (25)
  24. A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE – Weezer (26)
  25. 2am – Foals (27)
  26. CAVIAR – Two Feet (17)
  27. SHUT OFF THE LIGHTS – Bastille (29)
  28. MIRACLE MILE – Head Noise (30)
  29. SYNCHRONIZE – Milky Chance (N)
  30. THAT’S WHERE I AM – Maggie Rogers (N)

Top 30 Songs for April 24-30, 2022

The mysterious and smoldering “Deception” by British singer-songwriter Hannah Reem, with stunning cinematic music by producer-composer Noodle Beard, is my favorite song for a second week. I think Hannah’s powerful, sultry vocals would hold their own up against many of today’s top-rated female singers. This song is so good – to my ears anyway – that I want it to keep going for nine or ten minutes. I guess I’ll just have to keep hitting replay!

Harry Styles jumps eight spots to #2 with his exuberant earworm “As It Was”. Though I was not a fan of One Direction (the boy band he was a member of in his teens, for those who are somehow unaware), I really like a lot of his music as a solo artist, and his latest single is terrific. According to an article in the webzine Stylecaster, though Styles hasn’t confirmed the song’s meaning, many believe it’s about his relationship with fame and how his life isn’t “the same as it was” since becoming a music star, expressed by the lyrics “In this world, it’s just us. You know it’s not the same as it was.” The song also alludes to his loneliness and concern from others as he isolates himself from the world, opening with a child’s voice (an actual phone recording of his goddaughter Ruby Winston) saying: “Come on, Harry, we wanna say goodnight to you,” and in the second verse Styles acknowledges “Answer the phone. ‘Harry, you’re no good alone. Why are you sitting at home on the floor? What kind of pills are you on?’

Otherwise, just the typical chart movement this week as older songs slowly move down to make way for newer ones on their way up. The Black Keys‘ “Wild Child” climbs four spots to #4, as does Florence + the Machine‘s “My Love”, which moves up to #11. Yet again, I wanted to add at least five new songs to this list, but only had slots for two: Bastille‘s delightfully upbeat Calypso-infused “Shut Off the Lights”, and the mesmerizing “Miracle Mile” by Welsh electro-punk band Head Noise, which enter at #29 and #30 respectively. I love Bastille lead singer Dan Smith’s distinctive vocals, and am glad they’re still going strong after 10 years. And I’ve been following self-described oddball band Head Noise for a couple of years, and for me, the epic “Miracle Mile”, from their recently-released EP SCRAM, is their best song yet.

  1. DECEPTION – Hannah Reem and Noodle Beard (1)
  2. AS IT WAS – Harry Styles (10)
  3. WHAT, ME WORRY? – Portugal. The Man (2)
  4. WILD CHILD – The Black Keys (8)
  5. BLACK SUMMER – Red Hot Chili Peppers (6)
  6. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (7)
  7. BROKEN HEARTS – Ships Have Sailed (4)
  8. JUST LIKE ALWAYS – Oli Barton & the Movement & Maella (3)
  9. I’LL CALL YOU MINE – girl in red (5)
  10. GIVE A LITTLE LOVIN’ – Jamie Alimorad (9)
  11. MY LOVE – Florence + the Machine (15)
  12. BROKEN HORSES – Brandi Carlisle (11)
  13. CHEER UP BABY – Inhaler (14)
  14. SLEEP – Gooseberry (16)
  15. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (17)
  16. WILD – Spoon (18)
  17. CAVIAR – Two Feet (12)
  18. THE ONLY HEARTBREAKER – Mitski (13)
  19. I LOVE YOU – Fontaines D.C. (19)
  20. LA CIENEGA – Chief Springs (22)
  21. ON MY KNEES – RÜFÜS DU SOL (23)
  22. THE HURT WITHIN – Holy Coves (24)
  23. VIRGINIA (WIND IN THE NIGHT) – The Head and the Heart (25)
  24. DISTANCE – Mount Famine (26)
  25. BLOODRUSH – The Amazons (27)
  26. A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE – Weezer (29)
  27. 2am – Foals (30)
  28. B-SIDE – Khruangbin & Leon Bridges (20)
  29. SHUT OFF THE LIGHTS – Bastille (N)
  30. MIRACLE MILE – Head Noise (N)

HEAD NOISE – EP Review: “SCRAM”

South Wales-based electro/art punk band Head Noise, self-described purveyors of post-apocalyptic synthpop, are one of the more unusual acts I follow. Comprised of Mitch Tennant (primitive keyboards & shouting), Wayne Bassett (guitar & synths), Jordan Brill (more guitar & synths), and Andrew Topper Walsh (drums & percussion on some tracks), their unconventionally quirky music sounds like it could have been created by the love child of Devo, The Vapors and Dr. Demento. I’ve previously featured them twice on this blog, most recently last May when I reviewed their delightful EP CONSEQUENTIAL QUASARS! Now the guys are back with a terrific new EP SCRAM, which appropriately dropped on April Fool’s Day. The EP has been released by independent Welsh label Dirty Carrot Records. 

Photo of Mitch Tennant courtesy of Elis Widgery Media

For their latest effort, they’ve ditched the guitars and, inspired by music from early iterations of The Human League, Depeche Mode and (of course) Devo, they’ve decided to go fully electronic. While still awash with their signature zany screwball flair for the absurd, exemplified by songs about cataclysmic death-derbies (“Screwball Scramble”), unfinished David Lynch movies (“Ronnie Rocket!”), and mangling the English language (“Alliteration, Again”), SCRAM also explores darker topics like hidden surveillance (“Candid Camera”) and nuclear evacuation (“Miracle Mile”).

Opening track “Screwball Scramble” is a fun listen, with throbbing spacey synths and quirky baby-like vocal flourishes, in sharp contrast with it’s decidedly bleak subject matter: “They drop me into this barren place, a wasted space for an extinction race. A four wheel powerhouse of pain where chunks of flesh fall down the drain. Terminate, to seal our fate with blisters coming from the throwing flames.” “Candid Camera” has a funky techno vibe, with a strong, catchy beat overlain with more of those wonderfully spacey, sci-fi synths. In an altered voice at times sounding almost diabolical, Tennant sings “Smile, cuz you’re on candid camera. Yessir!

On “Ronnie Rocket!“, Head Noise employ a hypnotic EDM beat and swirling sci-fi industrial synths to create a futuristic soundscape in a nod to David Lynch’s film Dune, but the song’s more generally about a film Lynch never made. Tennant said it’s “a mad mash up of Salvador Dali, Monty Python and the Looney Tunes.” An electronically altered voice sounding like Stephen Hawking says “The concept of absurdity is something I’m attracted to” – which could well be the definitive descriptor for Head Noise – followed by Tennant’s more ‘normal’ voice repeating the lines “Let’s Lynch again. We are the saboteurs.” “Alliteration, Again” is a silly and lighthearted new wave song with strong Devo influences, replete with a bouncy pogo-like beat and colorful psychedelic synths.

Far and away the best track on the EP is “Miracle Mile“, with it’s stunning Depeche Mode-esque sound. Running 6:20 in length, the song is magnificent, with a complex and lush mix of sparkling and haunting synths layered over a hypnotic pulsating dance groove. Tennant’s vocals sound more pure here, revealing a beautiful voice that’s often hidden beneath the quirky Dr. Demento-like vocals so prevalent on many of their songs. Still, in a somewhat electronically-altered voice that could be his or someone else’s, we hear the chilling lyrics “You’ll find us fossilized, in a dilapidated museum, burning with a strange fire that you can never put out.”

Special shout outs for the song’s phenomenal sound go to guest musician Andrew Llewellyn for his gorgeous synth lines, and Liz Bassett (Wayne’s wife) for her captivating backing vocals, both of which greatly add to the song’s overall dreamy vibe. Being a sucker for heavily melodic music, I think “Miracle Mile” is a triumph, and the best song Head Noise has ever recorded.

SCRAM is another impressive work by this talented group of musicians, who never fail to amaze us with their boundless creativity, imagination and musicianship. The marvelous nuclear-inspired artwork for the EP was created by Anthony Price, who’s own music, under the moniker Dunkie, I’ve also written about previously.

Those of you in the UK can catch Head Noise at one of these upcoming shows:

Follow Head Noise: Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Apple Music 
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

New Compilation Album “V4Velindre” to Raise Funds for Welsh Cancer Center

Welsh music journalist Kevin McGrath has embarked on an ambitious effort to raise funds for Velindre Cancer Center in Cardiff, Wales, where he’s received treatment for his own cancer. A regular contributor to Wales Arts Review and New Sound Wales, McGrath came up with the idea to create a massive 40-track digital album release as a way to not only raise money for a worthy cause, but also pay back in kind for the life-saving care he’s received.

Accordingly, he reached out to some of his favorite musicians in Wales, as well as in places such as Italy, Finland and America, to donate a song, old or new, released or unreleased, toward the creation of a 40-track mixtape album. Well, the response was beyond what he expected, and the album, entitled V4Velindre, now has a whopping 50 tracks by some of the best bands in Wales, including Bandicoot, Climbing Trees, Campfire Social, and Head Noise, as well as established singer/songwriters such as Jodie Marie, Evans McRae and Dan Bettridge.

McGrath explains his mission for creating the album: “V4Velindre exists because from the minute that we are born our lives intersect with the National Health Service. We all have stories (happy and sad) of the crucial role the NHS plays in our very existence. Nothing, though, could have prepared us for the sacrifice that NHS staff all over the country made to keep us safe during the COVID pandemic. Just between March 2020 and December 2020 883 NHS staff members died from COVID doing their duty and so much more. As the NHS, and the nation, seeks to rebuild in the wake of the pandemic we need to come together and make our contribution. As Nye Bevan famously said, ‘the NHS will last only as long as there’s folk with faith left to fight for it’. That fight comes in many measures – some will work for the NHS, some will vote for the NHS, some will protest for the NHS, and some will help finance its upkeep through jumble sales and sponsored walks. Please consider purchasing V4Velindre. Every single penny of the proceedings that comes to me from the sale of this album (minus the Bandcamp commission) will be passed straight to the Velindre Cancer Centre, where I have been cared for as an outpatient for the past eight years.

Among its 44 tracks, the album features songs by the last three winners of the Welsh Music Prize, including “O Silly Me” by young singer-songwriter Boy Azooga, “Brassneck” by indie legends The Wedding Present (an exclusive re-working of one of their all-time classics), “Who You Are” by BOB and “Enemy of Promise” by the Nightingales. In addition, the album includes songs donated by outstanding new Indie bands from Italy (Smile) Finland (That Forgotten Band) and the U.S. (Walter Etc, Eggs on Mars and Parker Woodland). Two of the songs are by Welsh artists I’ve previously featured on this blog: “Deal With the Devil” by the hyper-talented singer-songwriter GG Fearn, and “Stage Fright!” by electro-punk band Head Noise. There are also some newly-recorded tracks from Armstrong, Silent Forum, Burning Ferns and Y Dail that cannot be heard anywhere else but on this album.

Here’s a sampling of the wonderful songs included on V4Velindre:

V4Velindre will be available exclusively through Bandcamp as a digital-only release on October 1st, and may be pre-ordered here. If you pre-order, you will get five tracks now (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more).

HEAD NOISE – EP Review: “CONSEQUENTIAL QUASARS!”

South Wales-based Head Noise are a self-described “Oddball DIY electro trash punk band, spitting out angsty garbage about junk culture, broken technology and modern art.” Listening to their zany music, which sounds like it could have been created by the love child of Devo, The Vapors and Dr. Demento, I’d say that’s a pretty spot-on assessment. I first featured them on this blog almost exactly one year ago, when I reviewed their single “200,000 Gallons of Oil”, one of the tracks from their trippy debut album Über-Fantastique. Now they’re back with a new five-track EP CONSEQUENTIAL QUASARS!, serving up 13 minutes of non-stop musical mayhem for our listening enjoyment. The EP was released on April 23rd via the independent Welsh label Dirty Carrot Records.

Since I last visited Head Noise, they’ve grown from a threesome to a quartet, with the addition of a drummer. They now consist of Mitch Tennant (primitive keyboards & shouting), Wayne Bassett (guitar & synths), Jordan Brill (more guitar & synths), and Andres “Topper the Pops” Walsh (drums & percussion). Bassett is also involved in other music projects, including a recent collaboration with Dunkie, who’s wonderful EP The Vanishing and Other Stories I reviewed in March. The songs on that EP could not be more different than those on CONSEQUENTIAL QUASARS!, which features their signature ambiguous and surreal lyrics, unorthodox instrumentals and quirky vocals. 

About the EP, the band explains “The idea for the EP was to have more of a rough and ready, raw and energised approach to the recording for bit more of an experimental flair. The inclusion of the electronic drums alongside some much thicker and fuzzy guitars have given the latest batch of songs a certain kick to them, which the band are finding quite exciting to play with. The band thinks that this will transpose to the live arena very well, so are very much looking forward to debuting these songs when live music makes its eventual comeback.”

The EP kicks off with “Alaska Later“, a delicious punk gem with a frantic, driving beat, chugging riffs and colorful, fun-house synths that create a deliriously upbeat vibe. I’m not sure what the song is about, but it seems to speak to the foolishness of poseurs, idiots and wannabes: “We’ve got this shared hatred of idiocy. But now they’ve missed the bus for a slice of new-age hogwash./ Imitator. Alaska Later. Instigator. Alaska Later.” But later in the song, Tennant sings “The only thrill that I consider that is greater than this, is a smaller heating bill, and a bathroom that doesn’t smell like piss“, so it’s anyone’s guess. Then, in his twisted Dr. Demento voice, he chants “Liquidator, see you later. No you won’t. Dead.”

The wild and crazy vibes continue with “Cubist Ballet“, a frenetic punk ode to the early 20th century cubism art movement that shook the art world. Like all ground-breaking trends, it was met with much derision, expressed in the lyrics “But then they booed and hissed like proto-anarchists. Art is subjective. Then I have something to say. No matter the outcome from those zany days. The collaboration was wild and abhorred. So I think innovation deserves an award.” Things turn a bit more gothic on “Drift“, with a beat that reminds me somewhat of The Cure’s “Lovesong”. I really like the spooky, almost psychedelic synths, aggressive drumbeats and and mix of jangly and gnarly guitars. Tennant’s vocals sound more conventional here, though still delivered with the cheeky playfulness we’ve come to love and expect.

The trippy “Queztalcoatl’s Axolotl” has a bouncy retro 80s punk/new wave vibe, and rather nonsensical lyrics alluding to Greek and Aztec statues and enjoying the good life: “Like I tried to convey, I lust to compile with an Aztec flavor, and a salamander smile. You see my garden lacks a prophetic shrine, a kind of je ne sais quoi. Behind the concrete of hidden landmines, we’ll be sharing beluga caviar.” Whatever it’s meaning, it’s a fun tune.

Tracey Emin” is the most melodic of the five tracks, with a terrific guitar-driven new wave groove. And like many of their songs, it’s features an abundance of the band’s signature zany psychedelic synths, stellar guitar work and strong, thumping rhythms. The lyrics speak of the English artist Tracey Emin, specifically her 1997 work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, a tent appliquéd with the names of everyone she’d ever shared a bed with, including family members, friends, drinking partners and lovers: “Did you only mean to shock? Tracey Emin! Opening Pandora’s lock, and then throw away the key. Bringing you closer to me. Would you ever be content, hiding your life in a tent? Showing the state of your bed. Do you ever feel exposed…”

CONSEQUENTIAL QUASARS! is a thoroughly delightful little EP, and another fine release by this highly creative and eccentric group of guys. If you enjoy quirky, out of the ordinary music and vocals, you will like this record.

Follow Head Noise: Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

HEAD NOISE – Single Review: “200,000 Gallons of Oil”

Head Noise

Born from a love of inane junk culture and modern art. Here to disorientate, but also to captivate.” So say Welsh new wave/electro/art-punk band Head Noise about themselves and their deliriously fun retro-80s music that sounds like a crazy mash-up of Devo, Erasure and The B-52s. Formed in 2016 and based in Aberdare and Mountain Ash in southern Wales, Head Noise consists of Mitchell Tennant (Keytar/Vocals), Wayne Bassett (Guitar/Synth) and Jordan Brill (Guitar/Synth). The band started out as a duo act with Mitch and Wayne performing an original set of songs at an art exhibition, which according to their bio was described by an attendee as “David Lynch meets the Pet Shop Boys”. Jordan joined the band in 2017 as a second guitarist and synth player, giving their music a fuller sound.

In October 2017 they released their debut EP Special Effects Improves The Defects, which includes some hilariously-titled songs like “The Meat People” and “The Man With the Rubber Head”.  That was followed in August 2018 with the Microwave EP which, along with their humorous and entertaining live performances, catapulted them to notoriety (or infamy, depending on who you ask), throughout South Wales and Southwest England. They’ve also had the good fortune to open for bands like Wolf Alice, Public Service Broadcasting and Electric 6. This past November (2019), they dropped their debut album Über-Fantastique, an ambitious and marvelously trippy work featuring 14 tracks. The album release was accompanied by a limited run of CDs which quickly sold out.

Head Noise has just released one of the album tracks “200,000 Gallons of Oil” as a single, along with a wacky video that nicely showcases their zany, playful nature. (Be sure to check out their other imaginative and quirky videos on YouTube.) The song is catchy as hell, with a thumping synth bass-driven beat that immediately sets our toes tapping and head bopping. The guys layer a cool assortment of spacey, psychedelic synths to create a trippy vibe, then add crisp percussion and subtle, funky guitar notes to fill out the sound. I like how they top things off with some well-placed cowbell near the end for good measure.

The lyrics are rather silly and make no real sense to me, unless they’re singing about an unfortunate oil spill. But whatever their meaning, they’re perfectly suited to the lively music and band’s quirky persona. Mitch has a great singing voice, and delivers the lyrics with a cheeky sense of urgency:  “200,000 gallons of oil. Fill up the bath, you grotesque gargoyle. 200,000 gallons of oil. There is a potential cause for concern. Sit by the side of the road and get wet. Cut off the area with hazard tape. I’m just not ready to deal with it yet.”

Follow Head Noise: Facebook / Twitter/ Instagram
Stream their music: SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google PlayAmazon