BetaPSI – Single Review: “Psychosomatic”

betapsi psychosomatic

BetaPSI is the music project of Italian singer/songwriter/producer Barbara Benedetti. Based in Trieste, BetaPSI (also symbolized by the characters βψ) is a fascinating woman and artist who creates innovative alternative electronic rock music that’s thoroughly unique and unlike anything I’ve heard from any other musician. She provides a wonderful description of herself and her music in her bio that I can’t improve upon, so will just quote her words:

“I am β. an Italian songwriter. I grew up listening to all music genres, I love music itself. Suddenly, around March 2016, all the music I’ve listened to throughout my life, started pushing to get out… so here I am. I still don’t know how it works but my half neuron (I called it ‘Half’) started spiking music and lyrics. So I took my electric guitar and my bass, I bought a micro (micro, very micro) synth, and started torturing them. Then I learnt how Ableton works… it is a long story… the point is I’m a nut and weird so I started making songs. Due to the “features” above mentioned, all BetaPSI songs in some way are different from one another. They are all original songs, written, played with my beloved instruments, performed, recorded and mixed by BetaPSI aka me.”

betapsi2

She’s also a gracious and generous artist who actively supports other artists, and is always open to working with them to combine their creative talents and produce fresh and exciting music. In her short time making music, she’s already collaborated with several musicians from around the world, including GJART (Spain), thommo (UK) and Vizualye (USA). She has also produced an astonishing output of music in her own right. One of her latest singles is “Psychosomatic“, a darkly thrilling EDM track about mental illness that she released on January 4th.

The song blasts open with an onslaught of grinding industrial synths, then a hypnotic driving beat hooks us in as BetaPSI’s eerie, seductive vocals enter the mix like a siren’s call, pulling us willingly into a swirling vortex of ominous sounds from which we’re powerless to escape. As the track progresses, she adds layers pf pulsating spacey and psychedelic synths and her own spooky echoed backing vocals, further amplifying the already menacing, otherworldly vibe. The result is an impressive EDM track that skillfully conveys the sense of a mind tortured by dark thoughts: “Call the doctor, take a pill. There’s no cure, the mind is ill.”

Have a listen to this brilliant song as you watch the great video she made to go with it:

Connect with BetaPSI on FacebookTwitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Deezer

ERIN INCOHERENT – Album Review: “Medusa”

Erin Incoherent LP

Erin Incoherent is a unique artist with a great name and a colossal talent to match. The self-described ‘singer, musician, poet, writer, mental health advocate, model, artist, makeup junkie, loudmouth and strong woman’ is a force to be reckoned with. Ever since her publicist Radio Ready PR contacted me about a possible review of her latest album Medusa, my initial intrigue about Erin and her music has grown into full-blown admiration as I’ve learned more about her. Through her honest, provocative lyrics, her writings for the webzine The Punk Lounge, and her involvement with the Trigger Warning program in Philadelphia, I’ve found her to be an unflinching and outspoken champion for mental health and issues like domestic violence and sexual abuse. She’s also a great vocalist and pretty damned skilled on the guitar and ukelele.

Born Erin Cookman, the young singer-songwriter got her start in Fort Collins, Colorado, writing folk songs and making a name for herself on the local music scene. In 2013, she released her debut album Ha Ha Ha, a collection of eight terrific folk-rock songs featuring only her acoustic guitar and strong vocals. She followed up in 2015 with a second album Miss Shitskey, which included four of the tracks from Ha Ha Ha, and later that year, released a 3-song collaborative EP she recorded with artist CinderBlock, simply titled CinderBlock and Erin Cookman. In December 2017, Erin moved to Philadelphia and in April 2018 dropped her third album Medusa, an 11-song manifesto on anxiety, trauma and pain.

Erin Incoherent

Erin’s music style tends mostly toward folk/indie rock, with punk sensibilities. She played guitar, ukelele, xylophone and sang most vocals on Medusa (with the exception of three songs she co-wrote with CinderBlock, who also sang with her on those tracks).  Tenaya Heredia played bass and Chris Beeble, who also recorded and mixed the album, played drums. The album opens with the title track “Medusa“, a catchy but rather harsh song about drug addiction, with Medusa symbolizing the monster of addiction. Erin’s aggressively strummed guitar and fervent vocals convey the powerful and conflicting emotions expressed in the lyrics:

I’ll take a, laid back, panic attack 
some Xanax mixed with, a tonic and Jack 
two and one makes three, keep your eyes on me 
20mg of Sertraline 

I’ll take one for the anger and one for fatigue, 
one for the restlessness, and one just to sleep, 
and if after half the bottle, your symptoms increase, 
don’t you worry too much, just call me. 

Medusa! Destroy me, my love forevermore 
the most beautiful thing I will see, 
Medusa turn me to stone
oh Medusa, leave me alone!

Ulcer” speaks to the pain and desolation from a failed relationship where love has died. Once again, Erin uses a metaphor, this time a broken home to symbolize her emotional state, and her lyrics paint a stark picture: “and the carpet was torn up to serve as a shortcut for people who’d rather have an easy way out / and the faucets are all rusted, don’t try them, just trust me / the last living occupants died from the drought.” The track opens and closes with a beautiful folk-sounding strummed acoustic guitar, but for the main part of the song, Erin’s more aggressive guitar riffs have a bit of a Spanish vibe.

Erin reunites with the singer/songwriter CinderBlock on three tracks, the first of which “How to Cope” speaks to struggling to keep it together and not let life’s problems from the past bring you back down: “I just need to stay off of that street at least until I’m strong enough to not sink to my knees. But every heartbreak song, like the falling leaves, are drifting through the branches of the very same trees of this rotten town, this rotten old temple.” “Lose Myself” is about weighing the consequences of surrendering yourself to romantic and emotional desires for another, and “Stronger Man” addresses the inability to get over an old flame: “I wrote ‘I miss you’ in your notebook, cause most days I do. And I don’t wanna see you, but it’s all I’m looking forward to. I remember drinking whiskey, making love, and making plans. I guess I’ll never be the stronger man.” Erin and CinderBlock’s vocals complement each other beautifully, melding together into sublime harmonies on all three tracks.

On “Destroy“, Erin sings of the damage she’s caused to a relationship, and wanting forgiveness yet knowing it may already be too late for that:  “I wish you’d forgive me. Cause I fucking hate this. The end of the rope, yeah, we’ve tied both the nooses unless you’ll have mercy AND JUST FUCKING SHOOT US! Give me a sign that’s conducive to Spring. Unless it’s too late and I’ve destroyed everything.” Her guitar work on this track is exceptionally good. “Fallen” seems to be about not allowing others’ expectations and possible disappointments in you keep you mired in guilt, and preventing you from moving forward on your own path: “Now I’m left with these scars that will not heal. The pain it devastates, but tell me, is it real? Sworn to a creed, their tired old motif. But this is not my cross to bear.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Echoes“, a dark song about a relationship that’s broken beyond repair. Erin’s skill at writing biting and meaningful lyrics is impressive, and I offer as evidence this line that so poetically expresses how two people who once loved each other could become enemies: “A smoke screen was raised, we could not smudge one another with no time to waste, how easy are foes found in lovers.” Her ukelele on this track is hauntingly beautiful, as are her emotionally raw vocals. And I love the excellent video that shows her singing the song in a graffiti-covered abandoned building that’s as bleak as the lyrics.

Splinter” speaks to the loss of self-esteem inflicted in large part by someone you once held up on a pedestal: “Oh girl, he’s just a splinter, his eyes whisper just a glimmer of the story you once told of gold in him” and the desire to feel good about yourself again: “Please, tell me I can be enough for anybody else. Please, cause I was so much happier when I could love myself.” Self-esteem takes a nosedive on the grim “Cheerleaders Smoke Crack“, another song about the struggles of addictive behaviors, with some brutally frank lyrics:

I watched myself burn out on the wrong side of the tracks,
I hitched a ride back, then watched myself fall off the wagon
It’s no use, I’ve tried, to hide in plain sight
This weight in my heart makes me try
a suicide attempt 26 stitches wide

Punk rockers, they never survive
They either burn out young or they change their mind
Not a safe place to be, for you or me
And junkies, they never grow old,
They either clean up their act or they overdose
And I guess, as long as they’re happy, I don’t mind

Alcoholics, truth be told, 
They only see their future in a bottle of Skol 
And I don’t wanna know those fools no more, 
I don’t wanna be that fool no more

And you scared me nearly half to death, 
You don’t look the same since you’ve been smoking meth, 
But we all have different ways that we lose sleep. 
We all have different ways that we lose…

The final track “Disturbia Suburbia” is also pretty unsettling. Erin plays ukelele, guitar and xylophone on this track, accompanied by a bouncy melody that sharply contrasts with the troubling lyrics about how suburbia is not all sunshine and green lawns: “An old friend killed himself before the start of Spring, I wonder if he left the weight of the world or if the weight of the world just left him hanging. / Leave it to me to get strung out, and freak everybody out then say, ‘I won’t do that again’. These days there’s nobody here, it feels surreal, so many years spent with kids I don’t even think I know, do they know me?  Disturbia Suburbia, and I hope we all get out, and I hope we all feel free.

Erin Incoherent covers a lot of heavy subject matter on Medusa, but it’s all deeply relatable and compelling, and sounds fantastic too. She’s an incredible songwriter and lyricist, and her guitar and ukelele playing are first-rate. I also like her strong, clear vocal style, which makes listening to her songs a real pleasure. All in all, I give a big enthusiastic thumbs up on this album.

Follow Erin on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

ANDY K LELAND – Single Review: “Ticking Madness”

Like most singer-songwriters, Italian folk artist Andy K Leland is a poet of sorts. He pens lyrics loaded with meaning and delivered with a droll sense of humor, and expresses them through only his acoustic guitar and sparse vocals. Though he hails from the Adriatic coast of Italy, he sounds like he’s from the English Midlands, especially given his artistic moniker. In his bio, Andy – who was born Andrea Marcellini – calls himself Andrea’s “shadow-self, and the two selves fear each other.” That dichotomy is clearly evident in his songs, where his often dark, depressing lyrics sharply contrast with his simple, catchy melodies and pleasing acoustic guitar.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Andy’s sound is his quirky, off-kilter vocal style, in which he clips his words, sometimes dropping a letter or two. It all sounds charming in an off-beat sort of way, and perfectly suited to his mellow lo-fi sound. Despite his cynical, often bleak lyrics about life and relationships, his songs seem to tell us to not take life so seriously after all, or at the very least resign ourselves to life’s inevitable travails without losing our minds in the process.

Andy K Leland2

In early 2017, Andy began issuing a series of singles that were ultimately featured on his debut EP Happy Daze, which he released that September.  (You can read my review of Happy Daze here.) Keeping with his penchant for dark themes set to only an acoustic guitar, Andy’s just released a charming new single “Ticking Madness“, which dropped on December 4. Andy had this to say about the recording of the song on his Facebook page: “I’m broke as fuck and can’t handle any music recording software. Luckily, a friend of mine got me an old Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. I instantly fell in love with that machine and started fiddling around with it straightaway! Here’s what I’ve come up with. Sound quality is pretty rough, but really… who cares?! That’s love at first sight.”

Andy explained to me that the song is about time, specifically how quickly it passes (don’t I know it!)  The lyrics are pretty surrealistic, with each verse like a snapshot coming from the subconscious. They were inspired by a couple of events which happened to him over the last nine months that made him aware of how time is passing by so fast. “They kind of changed my perspective about time and… life maybe. This song is some kind of a turning point. As an artist and as a human being. I can say it’s the first time I have ever happened to write down some lyrics and be totally aware of what I really wanted to say.” Andy said he’s quite fond of this song, and I have to say I am too.

At 6.20 in the morning 
I did hear nothing 
When later on he told 
He told me he’s dead 
Now back at 4.12 pm 
I was feeling cool 
Until those stripes they spoke 
They spoke the truth, they all said 

Now you’re a man 
You’re a man 
That’s kind of crazy 
Mate c’mon don’t be lazy 
But that’s alright 
Oh no it’s not 
I love you mum XO 

Well now you are crying on my shoulder 
Feels good as the clock tower with no hands is timing out 
The graveyard of my mind 
Now how, how, how does it feel? 
Now how, how, how do you feel? 
And what will, what will I feel for you? 

Now I’m a man 
I’m a man 
That’s kind of crazy 
Things have grown so hazy 
But that’s alright 
Oh no it’s not 
I love you mum, break 

Ha-ha ha-ha 

Now fuck you all she’s my lady 
But I’m cheeky cheesy I call her baby 
And what if time goes out of mind 
Out of sight? 
Well that’s alright, well that’s alright 
Oh yeah

Follow Andy:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / itunes

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT – EVERY LOVELY THING

I’m always intrigued by the names musicians and bands come up with for themselves, especially when they’re interesting, clever or unusual. I recently ran across an act with a particularly nice moniker – Every Lovely Thing, an aptly-named music duo from Dayton, Ohio consisting of singer-songwriters Marianne Kesler and Kate Stanton. Long-time friends, the two share a passion for music, and one day in 2015 while having coffee together they decided to collaborate on writing a song. Marianne was already an established singer-songwriter, having written and recorded her own songs, but it was the first time she collaborated with another to write songs, and it was a totally new experience for Kate.

One song eventually turned into twenty and, now that they had a repertoire of songs, they decided they needed a name for their project. In an interview with Ohio-based webzine The Crazy Mind, the ladies explained the inspiration behind their name: “Our tagline is ‘songwriting duo creating beauty out of brokenness one note at a time’ and the name Every Lovely Thing is echoing that concept. It came to mind while reading lines from the Bible, “ … Whatsoever things are lovely … think on these things”.” Their pleasing sound can be best be described as ambient dream pop, characterized by beguiling melodies, delicate instrumentation and sublime, harmonizing vocals. Kate plays piano, keyboard, and synths, while Marianne plays acoustic guitar on most songs. Kate sings lead vocals on many of their songs, with Marianne providing the counter-parts and harmonies.

In August 2016, they headed to St. Louis to record their first single “Running” with producer Ben Kesler at Red Pill Studios. The song was released later than month, with the accompanying video released on October 1st. It’s an arresting song with a quiet intensity. The simple but hauntingly beautiful piano-driven melody, accompanied by gentle percussion and spare synths, create a somewhat somber, yet hopeful mood for the poignant lyrics. “Thinking of who I used to be. My brokenness is all I see. I keep pretending to be free. The past has made a fool of me. / How far? How long? I keep running.” They explain that the song is about toxic relationships, but rather than the term “running” meaning to flee from problems, it’s intended to represent “a healthy acceptance of ourselves, and of moving (or running) toward the freedom of positive life-affirming boundaries.”

Their follow-up single, “Not the Only One” was released in April 2018. About this track, the ladies state: “We feel the song is very accessible … probably everyone can relate to feeling like they are the only one in some situation during their life. One favorite line is ‘weighed down with sorrow so much deeper than our own’.” The enchanting song has a similar haunting quality as “Running,” with Kate’s delicate piano notes, but this time includes Marianne’s soothing acoustic guitar and pleasing drums played by Luke DeJaynes.  Kate’s vocals are soft and lovely, and when combined with Marianne’s backing harmonies, the result is an incredibly moving and beautiful song.

The ladies have recorded a number of songs, five of which are available for streaming or purchase on Bandcamp, and have been performing them and additional songs at gigs in and around Dayton. Here’s a video montage of a performance in Springfield, Ohio in October 2017:

They just released a new video of their latest single “Can You Show Me,” and strike gold once again with their compelling lyrics, sweet melodies and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Marianne’s acoustic guitar takes center stage on this song, accompanied by Kate’s delicate keyboard and other synth sounds. The song speaks of searching for  spiritual guidance to help overcome fear and self-doubt, and guide one’s path forward in life:

Black hole blinding vision obscured 
Panic rising terror incurred 

Fallen trembling shaken and stirred 
Waking wanting awaiting your word 

Watching wondering 
Longing listening 
Breathing, beholding everything that’s You … 

Where will I go? 
How will I know? 
Which way leads home? 
Can you show me? 

The lovely video for the track, which they produced, shows scenes of Marianne wandering around her town as if in search of something, discovering clues painted on rocks hidden in various spots.

Every Lovely Thing are two very talented singer-songwriter-musicians who together create beautiful, uplifting music that’s pleasing to the ear and soothing to the soul. I look forward to following Kate and Marianne on their musical journey, and hearing their new song creations.

Follow Every Lovely Thing on Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music  
Purchase on Bandcamp / cdbabyiTunes / Amazon

THE AUTUMN STONES – EP Review: “Into the Light”

Autumn Stones EP

The Autumn Stones are a Toronto, Canada-based band who play music that’s difficult to label as any particular genre, but who cares, really, so long as it sounds great. Their beautiful, pleasing sound incorporates elements of alternative rock, dream pop, jazz, and what the band refers to as “literary rock,” which I take to mean songs built around intelligent, thoughtful lyrics – which theirs have in abundance. Another aspect of their music is their use of a wide array of instruments, especially saxophone and organ that, along with their signature gorgeous jangly guitars, creates a lush soundscape for their wonderful songs.

Autumn Stones

Formed in 2009, the band’s current lineup consists of founding member Ciaran Megahey (vocals & guitar), Marcus Tamm (bass), Dan Dervaitis (guitar, keys, piano), Gary Butler (sax & keyboards) and Raymond Cara (drums & percussion).  They released their debut album Companions of the Flame in 2011, followed by Escapists in 2015, which I reviewed in 2016. In June of this year, they dropped their third album Emperor Twilight, a stunning work that I also reviewed. Now they’re back with a new four-track EP Into the Light, which dropped November 23. Like Emperor Twilight, the EP was co-produced by The Autumn Stones and Andy Magoffin, and is described by the band as a companion piece to the album.

First up is the title track “Into the Light.” Band frontman Megahey explains about its creation: “We were working on ‘Into the Light’ around the same time as the album sessions, but it wasn’t quite ready to record. Simultaneously, we all felt it was among our strongest songs and couldn’t wait to realize it fully. I’m glad we took the time to fine-tune it and now the track gets its own spotlight in this EP release.” The wait was certainly worthwhile, as “Into the Light” is magnificent. The gorgeous track features layers of exuberant jangly guitars, along with warm saxophone, both hallmarks of The Autumn Stones’ beguiling sound. Megahey’s smooth vocals are sublime, with a seductive quality that also manages to convey a sense of vulnerability. The lovely sax notes on this track were played by Paul White.

The second track “Hardwired” is a terrific pop-rock song with jazzy undertones, courtesy of Gary Butler’s wonderful strutting sax. The guitar work is great too, and the distorted flourishes at the end make for a nice finish. Megahey sings of his hedonism: “My dirty brain is like a slave. It’s like a beatnick. I’ve seen the light. I found the truth. It doesn’t hide. It doesn’t need to. I’m hardwired.” “Higher” soars with lots of soulful sax and fantastic jangly guitars, accompanied by Marcus Tamm’s deep bass and Ray Cara’s crisp percussion.

The Bigger They Fail” is an acoustic version of a song by the same name that appeared on Emperor Twilight, and was previously released as a B-side to that single. Like the original, it’s a hauntingly beautiful dreampop song that reminds me a bit of “Under the Milky Way’ by The Church. This stripped-down version features only acoustic guitar, piano and a bit of tambourine, but is still every bit as stunning and compelling as the original. And it goes without saying that Megahey’s vocals are bewitching as always.

Like all their releases, Into the Light is perfection from start to finish. I love the Autumn Stones’ music, and will likely continue to feature all of their future musical offerings. They will be launching Into the Light with a show at Toronto’s Monarch Tavern on December 8, with guests TBA.

Connect with The Autumn Stones:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunesBandcamp

DAVID OAKES – Album Review: “Elevation”

I’m still in Wales (figuratively speaking, having just reviewed the Welsh band Revolution Rabbit Deluxe), this time to shine my spotlight on musician David Oakes. Based in the coastal town of Aberporth, he’s a creative and prolific composer of electronic alternative rock music, as well as a damn fine guitarist. Over the past five years or so, he’s produced a tremendous output of instrumental music, ranging from the guitar-driven melodic rock of his brilliant 2014 work The Calm and the Storm, to the gorgeous atmospherics of The Dawn and the Dusk, the dark experimentation of Sturm Und Drang, and the aggressive hard rock of TheMENACE, for which he also added his own vocals for the first time.

My regular readers may recall that I’ve previously featured him on this blog twice this year, first in May when I reviewed his fantastic album TheMENACE, then a month later when I followed up with an interview. David has now recorded a new album Elevation, which is scheduled for official release in early January, but is available for digital download now on Bandcamp.

David Oakes2

Elevation is structured in eight parts or tracks, sort of how a long classical piece is arranged into movements. Part 1 is a great introduction, setting the tone for what’s to come with moody ambient synths, a pounding drumbeat and an ominous-sounding mix of jangly and distorted guitar riffs that gradually build to a crescendo by the four-minute mark. It all calms back down to the hypnotic cadence we heard in the introduction, and continues through to the outro, accompanied by bits of David’s intricate guitar work that make for a satisfying listen.

Part 2 continues to build on the tension introduced in Part 1, and really showcases David’s stellar guitar playing, not to mention his impressive drum skills. Part 3 brings more jaw-dropping guitar work, with some tasty bits of funk occasionally injected into to the mix. I also love the hard-driving drumbeat, always a big plus for me. Part 4 conjures up images of the Arabian Nights, with layers of intricate guitar and exotic-sounding synths lending a somewhat dangerous vibe. This feeling continues in Part 5, with gritty chugging riffs augmented with chiming guitars, and a deep buzzing bass line providing a sturdy foundation for this powerful track.

Part 6 features moody synths and layers of multi-textured guitars that create an ominous soundscape. I especially like the dark piano synths that appear later in the track, further adding to the song’s overall brooding vibe. David shifts direction on Part 7 with a somewhat jazzy feel and catchy as hell tempo. He uses horn synths, bluesy riffs and a deep, humming bass line to create a fantastic and exhilarating song.  It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album, as I love its urgency and deliriously infectious melody. He really lets loose on the final track Part 8, with furiously pounding drumbeats and frantic riffs of joyously upbeat guitars. It’s an exuberant and celebratory head-banger, and the perfect track to finish the set.

I love this album, which gets better with each listen, as there’s a lot of nuance to David’s compositions and guitar work. If you’re a fan of guitar-driven instrumental rock, then Elevation should be part of your collection.

Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Elevation will be officially released on all major music platforms on January 4, 2019, but is currently available for download on Bandcamp

PAUL IWAN – Single Review: “Parasite”

Paul Iwan

Paul Iwan is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in the music mecca of Liverpool, England. He’s been involved in music since his early teens, playing and touring with numerous bands and, more recently, writing and recording his own songs. In 2008 he was mentored and championed by Ray Davies of The Kinks, and continues to collaborate with other artists and friends across the UK. He released his debut album Reveal in September 2016, an impressive tour-de-force that I reviewed, and encourage my readers to check out. Now, Paul is back with a powerful new track “Parasite.” It’s the first single off his forthcoming second album RESISTER, a autobiographical work of sorts that will address his newfound sobriety.

Paul told me that not long after the release of Reveal, “I was involved in a motorcycle accident, just as I was preparing to gig, which set me back quite a bit. In the following 18 months, I got clean and now I’m in recovery… I didn’t realise I had an issue, until I did! ‘Parasite’ is a warning, a lesson and a true story. Like all of the songs on RESISTER, this song is a fragment of my life prior to getting clean. It’s a song about addiction becoming a permanent fixture to solve issues, to erase memories and repress feelings.

“Parasite” was written, performed and produced by Paul, with Steven Burkert on drums. It was recorded at Studio 45 and SPACE in Liverpool, mixed by Andy Fernihough and beautifully mastered by Pete Maher (U2, Rolling Stones, Depeche Mode). The song opens strong with a gnarly guitar riff and Burkert’s pummeling drumbeat, accompanied by an echoed backing chorus repeating ‘OH!’ as Paul sings in his urgent tenor vocals of his internal struggles: “My head begins to spin, my double vision taking me. My soul, my body, my mind, I wish I could control it all again.” The music builds with heavier guitar and bass, hammering drums and glittery piano synths, ultimately exploding with Paul’s frantic riffs of jagged guitar in the chorus as he fervently agonizes: “I’m a pulsar. I’m paralyzed. Pulled apart by the parasite. A stranger in my own skin.

Eventually, a male voice over speaks of the pathology of alcohol addiction:  “Nobody quite knows which drink it is that takes him over the edge of being a merely social, hearty, laughing drinker into a morose and hungover wretched creature.” Paul laments of his inability to shake off his addiction: “The shame I feel is all too real. I know that I’m addicted. I’m too weak to stay in the fight. I’m down.” The guitars and power drums continue to rage and roil through to the end, making for a dramatic finish to a spectacular and deeply moving song. The lyrics, instrumentation, vocals, and production are all superb, and I look forward to hearing RESISTER upon it’s completion.

Connect with Paul Iwan: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on  Amazon

LOUIE JAMES – Single Review: “Real Friends”

Louie James3

Louie James is an outstanding young singer/songwriter from Wakefield, England who’s quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. I featured him on this blog only a month ago, when I reviewed his lovely acoustic single “Yellow Doors” (which you can read here). Now this prolific artist is back with a moving new single “Real Friends,” along with a brilliant companion video. On “Real Friends,” Louie departs from his usual mellow acoustic style, employing layers of glittery synths to create a beautiful and haunting track.

In the verses, Louie sings in his gentle vocal style, accompanied by delicate electronic synths that convey a sense of sadness amid the lovely sounds. His vocals become more impassioned in the choruses as the synths swell into a lush soundscape brimming with emotional intensity.

The mournful lyrics speak to a bitter realization that the friends you thought you had don’t really care about or support you:

Who needs enemies with friends like these?
Talk all the shit you want
They’re out for blood and…
A lonely life when you trust no one.

Walk around with a chip up on your shoulder
21 but I don’t feel any older
Run me off, take another stab shot
Tear it all down, this is everything that I’ve got

Real friends are with me til the end but…
Woke again to another fatal head shot
Don’t forget me, this thing you’re making
Real friends but I know you’re only snaking

The video opens with Louie staring into a mirror, crossing out the eyes of his forlorn reflection with lipstick. As the video continues, he’s shown singing while soaking in a bathtub or standing in front of the mirror, where he writes “Real Friends” on the glass with lipstick, eventually crossing out the words. I love the song and video!

Connect with Louie:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

ITHACA BOTTOM BOYS – Album Review: “Ithaca Bottom Boys”

Ithaca Bottom Boys album

Being EclecticMusicLover, I love discovering interesting new music, so it was my lucky day when I was contacted by Leo Maniscalco, a member of the band Ithaca Bottom Boys, about reviewing their album. Hailing from the bucolic college town of Ithaca, New York, the five-piece formed seven years ago while still in high school, and ever since have been honing their craft by playing together and writing songs. On September 1st, they dropped their eponymous debut album Ithaca Bottom Boys, and what a delight it is! Their infectious eclectic sound is refreshing, surprising and lots of fun as they weave stories about the travails of life, love, substance abuse and relationship hell.

Comprising the Ithaca Bottom Boys are Tenor Caso (drums, vocals, aux percussion, acoustic guitar), Tristan Ross (guitar, vocals, aux percussion, piano ), Leo Maniscalco (guitar), Joe Hayward (banjo, vocals) and Abel Bradshaw (bass). In introducing his band, Leo had this to say about their music:  “Its difficult for me to describe our sound in a concise way, and no one song fully gives a representation of it, but here’s a go: we have four singers and songwriters, do a lot of vocal harmonies, and the songs are very dynamic with many changing parts and moods. They are also highly textural, featuring five musicians (two guitars, banjo, bass, and drums) each with unique yet congruous playing styles. It’s kind of folk and country meets rock and punk meets funk and soul, with splashes of other things thrown in, like hip-hop, jazz, psych, and prog.”

After listening to the album, I’d say his description pretty well nails it, and I love their eclectic music. I always try to include a few lyrics in my reviews, but the Ithaca Bottom Boys’ lyrics are so colorful and hilarious that I’ll be quoting them a lot.

Ithaca Bottom Boys 2

The album kicks off with “Blues in a Bottle,” a bluesy Rockabilly romp that sets a light-hearted tone and plants a big smile on my face, even though the lyrics address the guy’s messed-up woman who’s into some bad shit: “Blues in a bottle, blues in a bottle. Where do you think you’re at pretty mama. You went and kicked my dog, and now you drown my cat.Goin’ to silly-putty, goin’ to silly-putty. Sorry I can’t take you pretty mama. I don’t abide no woman, who goes round sniffin’ glue.” The song immediately segues into “Gasoline n’ Kerosene,” a very catchy tune with very morbid lyrics about how he killed the woman who double-crossed him, burned down her house, and was hung for his crime: “When I went to that house you said that you’d be, you took one look into my eyes, and you began to flee. And I said gasoline n’ kerosene you owe me money for. You bad ol’ broad you shot me down, and now you’ll be no more. / Well… Just before that lever did let my gallows swing, I saw my aged mother a weepin’ after me. And I said gasoline n’ kerosene I can’t believe my sin, My soul shall burn as you have done and never…Will I see your sweet face again.”

Winter Biking” sees the singer riding his bike into town on icy roads, taking a spill, and wishing he’d listened to his momma about taking the bus instead – all metaphors for the risks we take in life. “Thirty bellow but I’m still sweatin’. The devil only knows what I am gettin’ into. Well up a hill down a hill the struggles that I’ve been through. The thing about life is the road always continues.” The guys’ vocal harmonies on this track are especially wonderful. The guys change gears (pun intended) to an R&B vibe with the delightfully soulful love song “Baby.” The opening bass riff that continues throughout the track reminds me a bit of The Temptations’ classic “My Girl.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Hail to Dale,” which humorously takes on the perils of heavy drinking with a rowdy mix of music styles ranging from blues to bluegrass to funk. The lyrics are both funny and poignant: “Well… if I don’t dale a beer tonight, I might as well start a rowdy bar fight. Cause I hate myself and I hate my life. Pain and pleasure’s the same to me, and that all started when I was three, ’cause my daddy switched the bottle.

Continuing with the theme of substance abuse, the guys veer off into psychedelic madness on the marvelously trippy “Salvia Apple.” The zany track sounds like what we’d expect from the bastard children of Frank Zappa and Dr. Demento, with all sorts of melodic change-ups, quirky instrumentals and crazed vocals. The lyrics are hilarious yet deeply poetic, as if from a fractured Shakespearean comedy: “Salvia apple and a bottle of jack. All I’ve had to eat or drink and that is a fact. Don’t care if I go hungry I’m just lookin’ to get smacked. Pass out in the jungle by the railroad tracks./ I’m a derelict, no one cares if I’m recked or sober. Grown colder, shouldered at the might of a globe wide society. So deprived of life yet so maniacally living. My state be so squalor I take whatever I’m given.”

Flip That Record Jhonny” is a rousing Bluegrass/Rockabilly mostly instrumental tune that makes you want to kick up your heels. The guitar work and vocal harmonies are really terrific. And speaking of Dr. Demento, the guys get downright scandalous on “Demented Family.” The highly provocative lyrics seem to poke fun of a certain demographic, calling out incest and religious fanaticism: “Well my family tree’s got lotsa knots, and I get a lot o’tention from the cops, Cause incest on the ranch is plain to see. Pappy loved his sister and that made my daddy. And my daddy loved his sister too and that made little ol’ me. Well I never had no sister so I just loved my niece. I lessend my genealogy by stickin’ my D in her crease.” Oh my! They turn mellow as they sing the virtues of toking up on “Reefer Makes Everything Better,” a funny ditty with an early Lovin’ Spoonful vibe.

Perhaps the wildest track is “Summer Beavers,” the title being a play on the leading lyrics “Some are beavers, some are people…and most don’t really understand.” This long track is a real tour de force, with a mix of genres that go from blues to punk to country to funk to rap – sometimes all in the same stanza, kinda like The Red Hot Chili Peppers have done on some of their songs. The guys go crazy with bizarre lyrics that sound like being on an acid trip: “Rippin’ and a skippin’ like a minnow in the river. Susquehanna wit’ yo mama, catchin’ tuna on a canoe. Hock at me I’ll lock you in a rock up in Chautauqua. Yo hablo con Jorgito, necesito mucha agua. Pappy’s down the road in a jalopy popin’ poppy seeds, cruisin’ past the stoppers, coppers crackin’ down on acid droppers. Baller all are things, some are beavers. Tall like cedars, small like skeevers. We be eaters, feeders, bleeders, breeders, breathers, and beasts like golden retrievers, whaddap? ha-ha-ha.”

The guys seem to channel The Red Hot Chili Peppers again on the languid “No Regrets,” with jangly guitars, funky bass and vocals that sound a bit like Anthony Kiedis. They then abruptly change things up again on “Surfer NY,” an exuberant tune with awesome surf-rock guitars and a frantic punk beat. The explicit lyrics speak for themselves: “Surfin’ New York, yes I’m surfin’ New York. Havin’ sex on the rocky beaches. I’ve got lotsa rocks in my breeches. No I don’t know how they got in the laundry. No I’m not doin’ the nasty momma. No mama no mama no mama no. No those aren’t crack rocks don’t be silly. That’s just some crusty jizz from my willy. No mama no I’m not abusin’ myself. No mama no don’t kick me outa the house.” It’s an insanely wild trip from start to finish!

I must say that Ithaca Bottom Boys is unquestionably one of the most unusual and enjoyable albums I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing, and I love this crazy band! If you like unique, eclectic and unorthodox music, then this album should be in your collection!

Connect with the Ithaca Bottom Boys:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

Guest Post: ‘The Ghost of Graffiti Past and The Allure of the 91st Street Subway Station’ by Peter Kleinhans

Peter Kleinhans

This is a guest post by Peter Kleinhans, a musician based in New York City who this past February released his debut album Something’s Not Right. After spending 30 years as a professional harness horse racer and announcer, at the age of 50 he decided to turn his love of music into writing and recording songs. He explains a few thoughts about his new-found music career:

“I wish I’d begun writing music at an earlier age, because as a father of two who also drives harness racehorses, bets thoroughbred horses professionally, raises organic beef, chicken, and lamb, and is engaged to be married for the third time, I find that the music often gets squeezed to the sidelines. But I’m happy with what I have had the time to create, and I hope that listeners will find something to enjoy here.

Although I’ve only started with music over the past couple of years, I credit the years of racing horses, often in the Midwest, hanging out with the Runyonesque characters of that business, and sharing their daily travails, for much of what I’ve written. I was born and raised in New York City, left it for twenty years, and am now back. It’s an amazing city, full of amazing people, but New Yorkers are just as often oblivious to the daily existential struggles of a family in Indiana as the other way around. The horses aren’t my full-time business anymore, but I still drive occasionally.”

In his thoughtfully-written article, Peter discusses his inspiration behind a new song he’s recorded called “91st Street,” in which he describes the storied past of the former 91st Street subway station.

The Ghost of Graffiti Past and The Allure of the 91st Street Subway Station

At the time of writing, I have a gig in six weeks, and three unfinished songs to get done for it.  If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, you might be familiar with the fact that it’s easier to write about what you’re working on instead of working on it.  It’s a variation on that disastrous first-line-of-a-poem that goes something like “I sit here, waiting for ideas to enter my failed brain.” But the song I’m currently writing, about the abandoned subway station on 91st street and Broadway, begs for context.  It’s written for those people who know about the history of New York’s subway system and graffiti’s place in it. But I realize that those people are becoming further and further between, so for those who don’t know much about that history, here’s some context, here’s something of what I’m trying to get at.

Kleinhans 91st St Platform
The view of the 91st street platform recalls a different New York.

If you ride the 1 train in New York regularly, there’s a good chance you’ve been riding past an iconic piece of the city’s ever-changing history without ever noticing it.  Between the 86th and 96th street station is what some New Yorkers call the “Ghost Station.”  When the subway was built in 1904, trains were shorter, and stations were built at 86th, 91st, and 96th.  With longer cars entering the scene in the 1950s and no real justification for three stops within such a close proximity, the IRT company, who then ran the 1 train, made the decision to close the station in 1954. The station has remained dormant since.  However, its relatively easy access combined with a healthy dose of  spookiness, intrigue, and mystery, have made it a magnet for subway connoisseurs, especially those with a hankering to remember what New York looked like just a few short decades ago.

In 2002, Henry Chalfant, along with co-conspirators Tony Silver and Martha Cooper, released the twentieth-anniversary edition of Style Wars, regarded by many as the iconic documentary piece on the emergence of hip-hop, most specifically the then-emergent phenomenon of subway graffiti.  The anniversary edition contained a treasure trove of new material, most excitingly a seemingly never-ending montage of Chalfant’s photographs of the city’s most creatively-bombed subway cars.

But 16 years have passed, even since the twentieth anniversary of Style Wars. Nevertheless, a fascination continues with the work and culture from the 70s and 80s, and one of the few places to actually feel a bit of that old texture is the 91st street station. I haven’t had the guts to jump down onto the tracks from 86th street and run along them for five blocks to visit the station, at least not yet. I don’t have a bucket list, but that would be on it.  Although it doesn’t take much to find graffiti, it’s increasingly hard to remember that graffiti and subways used to be inseparable as medium and message.

But the trains are now gone as the artists’ primary canvases, ever since the MTA claimed victory over subway graffiti in 1989. The subways, once seen by some as “masterpiece art galleries” and which tourists had once come New York to witness, were now clean and cool – a huge quality-of-life improvement from the point-of-view of most New Yorkers. For some, nostalgia lingers.  I grew up riding the subway in New York and I miss the graffiti deeply.  The subways may have had a bad last couple of years as far as ‘signal problems,’ but anyone who remembers the subways in the 70s would be quick to point out that they encompassed an entirely other level of dysfunction.  Graffiti grew out of these difficult and dangerous times in a city on fire, and to completely glamorize it as an art, while glossing over its flipside of danger and violence is to sanitize it in a way completely counter to its original intentions.

As a New York Times review of the 20th anniversary edition of “Style Wars” put it back in 2003, Absent the urine-soaked subway platforms and pervasive sense of danger that accompanied the rise of graffiti art in New York in the 70’s and 80’s, viewers can happily sit back in their parlors and decipher the green and brown polka-dotted caterpillar scheme that unites ‘’Seen’ and ‘Doze,’’ or Quik’s inventive letter-ending arrows pointing sideways, outward and upward to a seemingly endless universe of graffiti.

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Dondi’s legendary “Children of the Grave”, 1980; it ran two days before being painted over.

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The “white elephant” car used as one of the first in a series of graffiti-control measures that started in New York City under Mayor Ed Koch, circa 1981.

The subway train cars were quite literally whitewashed in the 1980s, marking the beginning of the end of subway graffiti. The closure of 5 Pointz in Queens in 2013 – a graffiti landmark substantial enough to  draw crowds – marked another dramatic victory of the corporate over the merely creative. 5 Pointz is now being developed into a 40-story luxury residential building in Long Island City.

5 Pointz was painted over — with no advance notice to the artists whose work had been displayed there for years — over the course of one night.

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5 Pointz, in its glory, April, 2013

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5 Pointz, whitewashed, November, 2013

My inspiration for writing the song “91st Street” was to honor this fading culture.  Although graffiti is everywhere now, the culture has been commodified, made clever, palatable, and digestible like everything else.  You can create a masterpiece on your computer using only your brains and your fingers; once you had to straddle a parked train and decorate it from top to bottom, with paint you had stolen, in the middle of the night, the police or a rival gang around a curve and ready to pounce.  And you knew that even if you succeeded, your work had no permanence — it would be painted over within days.

What makes the 91st street station important is that it’s one of those weird lost-in-time places that, from simple benign neglect, has become a repository for a fertile period in the history of New York art.  Taggers continue to make the short pilgrimage to view and perhaps to tag one spot in the one place in the New York subway system that is more like a shrine to the past here than just about anything else.  After all, cleaning it up wouldn’t make anybody any money, and therein lies its durability. Like a root cellar where one can imagine all manner of unnameable fungi finding a foothold, it maintains its spirit of dankness and chaos in a world that would love to be done with such inconveniences. It holds a special place in my heart and some day I hope to stand on its platform like the anachronism I suppose I am.

“91st Street” has a progressive/jazzy vibe, with a simple but cool drumbeat, funky bass line and fuzzy guitar riff. Toward the end of the track, Peter injects a quirky psychedelic synth that makes for a great finish. You can listen to “91st Street” by clicking the link below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzMXix1s0HGeZk9meVBoRExwcVN1YU1rcGg2SDlVeEFmWVo0/view?usp=sharing

To learn more about Peter, check out his website and connect with him on Facebook /  Twitter  / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes