New Song of the Week: TITUS CALDERBANK: “Mistakes”

Titus Calderbank

Titus Calderbank is a remarkably talented young singer/songwriter from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and he’s just released a beautiful and moving new single “Mistakes“. The song has a bit of a gospel quality, with a haunting piano-driven melody fortified by a soaring organ riff, celebratory drumbeats and Titus’ gorgeous vocals, backed by anthemic choruses. His deeply resonant vocal style is quite marvelous, with a power to stir our hearts and souls.

About the single, Titus explains “‘Mistakes’ is a song about failure and regret. A song about missing the mark. It’s also a song of redemption and asking for forgiveness. Humans often fall short. At the end of the day, we have to accept that we’re all trying our best. What I hope to communicate through this song is that mercy and forgiveness are always an option. We can either be slaves to our past mistakes or make peace with them and move on. We can grace our enemies with forgiveness or we can die with bitter hearts.

Choices I made
Long ago they
Bubble up
And they surface to my soul

But darling then
Was I myself
Was I who I wanted me to want to be

Won’t you take a part of me
Won’t you take a part of me
Place it deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, See if I still make mistakes

Here’s a video of him performing the song live, with his lovely piano as the only instrument to accompany his beautiful vocals that remind me a bit here of Rufus Wainwright.

Also released in conjunction with “Mistakes” is a second track “Could Have Done Better“. It’s a bit lighter in tone, with a catchy guitar-driven melody, but still features that lovely organ, strong percussion, and Titus’ arresting vocals. Like “Mistakes”, it also deals with atoning for one’s past wrongs and asking for forgiveness. It’s a wonderful song too.

Connect with Titus on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes /  Bandcamp

TWO METERS – EP Review: “The Blue Jay EP”

Two Meters EP art

While most musicians generally tend to express themselves through their music to one degree or another, Two Meters really bares his heart and soul on his songs. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Two Meters is the music project of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Costolo. Starting off with deeply personal and often brutally honest lyrics – which he expresses through vulnerable, slightly off-kilter vocals that go from barely a whisper to impassioned screams – he adds layers of heavily-textured guitars, harsh industrial synths, and other lo-fi ambient sounds to create impactful songs that elicit strong feelings from the listener. I’ve been replaying his songs for the past few hours and hear new details with every listen.

I asked Tyler how he came to call his project Two Meters. He explained “I have been playing water polo for about 15 years now. I did in college, and I was coaching too when I first started recording. Two Meters is a reference to the sport; it’s kinda similar to an offsides in soccer. I thought it sounded cool and was relevant to my life.”

Two Meters released his debut self-titled EP in June 2018, and now returns with The Blue Jay EP, which drops today. Released via the label Very Jazzed, The Blue Jay EP features five tracks that continue to explore the dark themes of loss and death that Tyler first introduced on Two Meters. He wrote and sang all lyrics and played all instruments on the EP (other than drums, for which he used sample loops or drum sounds from his  production software). Mixing was done by Yuuki Matthews and mastering by Warren Hildebrand.

The EP opens with “The Morning Train“, a brief lo-fi instrumental track consisting of dark, gnarly synths, pulsating bass and an ominous drumbeat that set a somber tone. This is followed by “Pools“, a powerful track that speaks to thoughts of drowning by suicide. Tyler explained: “I really was spending a lot of time by pools while I wrote that song and I was constantly having ‘call to the void’ type visions. I tend to gravitate toward darker themes in the music I listen to, so it makes sense that’s what I end up writing too.” The track starts off with a captivating twangy guitar riff, then moody, throbbing synths are added as Tyler sings in a morose tone “I spend a lot of time by pools. Looking deep in the water. Thinking how easy it’d be to slip under./ Just as dark sets in, it’s too late to swim back up.” Suddenly, we’re bombarded with an explosion of tortured, grinding synths and reverb-heavy distorted guitar that would make Marilyn Manson proud, as Tyler repeatedly screams “It’s too late!

Next up is “Ground“, a song about feelings of worthlessness. Tyler explained its meaning:  “At the time of writing the EP, I was feeling incredibly worthless. The idea being that in the grand scheme of everything, my life was the same as the poor bird I saw that died overnight.” The track opens with layers of heavily-strummed guitars and Tyler’s somber humming, followed by him singing in a monotone, as if to convey his emotional ennui. Then, with the introduction of distorted guitar notes, the tempo abruptly shifts as Tyler refrains the line “I am the bird, alone on the ground” in dual voices – one a dispassionate monotone, the other a desperate wail. Man, it just rips at your soul!

The appropriately-titled “Intro to an Attack” is another brilliant instrumental track. Like many Two Meter songs, it starts off with gentle synths and a bucolic strummed guitar, but 30 seconds in, the calm is shattered by that promised attack of glorious bone-crushing industrial mayhem and distortion. The final track “In the Wake” is a decidedly more hopeful song, despite its rather bleak vibe. Tyler said it speaks to his problems with panic attacks and anxiety, and how having his girlfriend Margo Dellaquila (who real life sings the reassuring vocals to him on the track) around really helps to keep him grounded.

The Blue Jay EP is a brief but astonishing work of incredible nuance, contrast and emotional honesty. Two Meters is skilled at lulling us with soothing melodies and vocals one moment, then punching us in the gut with brutal ferocity at others. The more I listened to this EP, the more I loved it.

Connect with Two Meters: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify 
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

CRYSTAL CITIES – Single Review: “Under the Cold Light of the Moon”

Crystal Cities Single Pic

‘Dream Rock that sounds like Death Cab For Cutie had a War On Drugs with The Beatles.’ That’s how Australian band Crystal Cities describe their enchanting sound, and it’s spot-on. Their wonderful songs feature thoughtful lyrics and stunning melodies delivered by superb instrumentation and vocals. In March 2017, the Sydney-based three-piece released their outstanding and critically acclaimed debut EP Who’s Gonna Save Us Now. The gorgeous title track and lead single “Who’s Gonna Save Us Now”, which I featured on this blog that April, reached #1 on the Unearthed Overall Charts within a few days of its release, and ended up on my 100 Best Songs of 2017 list. Now they’re back with a stunning new track “Under the Cold Light of the Moon“, the lead single from their forthcoming album of the same name, set for release on 31 May.

Crystal Cities is comprised of the very talented Geoff Rana (Vocals, Guitars), Jared King (JK) (Bass, Backing Vocals) and Daniel Conte (Drums). Since the release of their EP, the guys have had a productive two years and have come a long way, from a garage in Sydney to Abbey Road Studios in London. First, they signed a record and publishing deal with global music company Audio Network (one of a group of companies owned by Toronto, Canada-based multinational mass media and entertainment company eOne). Second, through that partnership, the band had the opportunity to record their debut album Under the Cold Light of the Moon at the prestigious Abbey Road Studios.

According to Rana, the new single “was inspired by the plight of young North Korean girl Yeonmi Park who escaped North Korea in search of freedom.” After seeing her moving speech at the One Young World Summit 2014 in Dublin, Ireland, where she told the audience “When I was crossing the Gobi desert, scared of dying, I thought nobody in this world cared. It seemed that only the stars were with me. But you have listened to my story. You have cared. Thank you very much”, Rana felt compelled to interpret her story through a song.

Crystal Cities Yeonmi Park

And what a beautiful, uplifting song it is! Starting off with a faint whisper of synths and delicate tapping of cymbals, a chugging riff of jangly guitar, set to a thumping drumbeat, soon enter the mix along with Rana’s raspy, yet lovely vocals. The music gradually builds as layers of guitar and percussion are added, backed by lush orchestral strings that create a stirring, cinematic soundscape for the hopeful lyrics:

Made my way out through the desert
Made my way across the sand
Under cover of the night I’m face to face
I’ve been thinking of a place
I’ve been making my escape
Under the cold light of the moon

Rana’s intricate guitar work is gorgeous, while King and Conte keep a tight rhythm with their defty-played bass line and drums. The song, along with the rest of the album, was flawlessly mastered by Paul Stefanidis at Viking Lounge Mastering, engineered by Adam Alexander and John Romeo (assisted by Tayla Gibbs), and mixed by L.A.-based engineer Paul Lani (David Bowie, Prince, Megadeath). Regarding the provocative photo for the single and album which shows the guys blindfolded, Rana explained: “This album will have plenty of lyrical references to themes of escape, resistance, and limited/restricted views. Having us positioned in a sort of prisoner-like scenario with blindfolds on seemed a great way to represent these themes.” The photos are courtesy of Amy Benjamin Photography.

The beautiful animated video for the song tells the adventure of Yeonmi Park’s harrowing nighttime escape. It was created by Jordyn-Rae Morrison (The-F0X).

Connect with Crystal Cities:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

New Song of the Week – GHOSTLY BEARD: “Tell Me”

Ghostly Beard Tell Me

In an effort to try and showcase more artists and bands on this blog, today I’m launching another new feature “New Song of the Week”, where each week I’ll post a newly-released single. For my first selection, I’ve chosen the poignant new song “Tell Me” by Canadian artist Ghostly Beard, which dropped yesterday, May 6th. Ghostly Beard is the artistic moniker of French born, but now Montréal, Canada-based, singer/songwriter Patrick Talbot, who I first wrote about in March 2018 when I reviewed his beautiful album Inward.

Somewhat of an enigma, Ghostly Beard prefers the focus to be entirely on his music rather than him, therefore, has chosen to remain physically anonymous, and never shows his image on any of his albums or social media, nor does he perform live. That said, he’s a thoughtful and talented songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist with a lot to tell us, which he beautifully expresses through his compelling lyrics, sublime vocals and dreamy, mellow soundscapes that draw from soft rock, jazz, pop, progressive rock and fusion, among other influences. When listening to his music, one can hear his inspiration from such legendary artists and bands as Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Michael Franks, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, the Beatles, Genesis, XTC, and Weather Report. All his music is entirely self-produced at his own Studio GB in Montréal.

“Tell Me” starts off with a somber piano riff and strummed electric guitar, then as Ghostly Beard’s smooth, comforting vocals enter, gentle percussion and bass are added to the mix, creating a rather melancholy yet lovely soundscape. The bluesy guitar solo in the bridge is especially nice, and I love the glittery keyboard synths in the final minute that end the song on a high note.

My interpretation of the lyrics are that they speak of a troubled relationship that’s breaking apart, and that only through their shared love can they try and salvage what remains. Ghostly Beard told me that on a broader level, they’re generally about how things in the world seem to be upside down these days.

The beast is crawling
A darker looking future
You can’t live without a tear
The door is closed, alone it ends, tonight
Hiding the light, oh no!

Now tell me what’s knocking me down
And why were you screaming so loud
Tell me what’s knocking me down
While the world is spinning around

There’s only one thing left
To stop this pain
With all our loving
We could try

Connect with Ghostly Beard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase his music on iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon

FROM THE CAVE – EP Review: “City Life”

From the Cave City Life

As I’ve noted previously in other posts, one of the best things about being a music blogger is getting to know a lot of really wonderful artists and bands. One of my favorite indie bands is London-based alternative rock outfit From the Cave. With a singularly unique and eclectic sound drawing from a broad range of influences, including punk, pop, shoegaze, blues, funk and ethnic folk, they have a distinctive sound like no other band I’m aware of. I love their music, and have featured them on this blog several times over the past few years. They’ve previously released two EPs, their self-titled debut From the Cave in 2016, and Medieval two years later, which I reviewed last September. Now they return with their third EP City Life, which drops on 30 April, and which I’m pleased to introduce to my readers.

Comprising From the Cave are the wildly creative front man Kristian Møller-Munar, who plays guitar and sings most lead vocals, Mikaela Lindgren on vocals, keys and percussion, and Joshua Scriven on guitar and vocals. Each of them is a major talent in their own right, actively involved in all aspects of the creation of their music, including songwriting, playing instruments and singing, and as they continue to mature, so too does their music. As its title suggests, the songs on their new EP have an edgier, more sophisticated vibe, and deal mostly with topics that are current and socially relevant. City Life was written and produced by the band, and expertly mastered by Tim Debney. The songwriting, instrumentation and arrangements are all superb, sounding better than ever, and all three band members’ vocals and harmonies are marvelous.

The first track “Get a Life” is a scathing take down of someone who’s always complaining and whining, yet doing nothing to solve any of their problems, and you’ve had just about all you can take of their bullshit.

It’s just mind games and control
It’s just plain dumb lack of soul
Get a backbone, get a grip
Your self-importance makes me sick
Get a life! (Cause I’m really fucking tired of your shit though)

Besides the great, brutally direct lyrics, the song’s really interesting from a musically standpoint too, with a catchy, trap-like beat and an exotic Eastern European folk vibe in the chorus. The spacey synths and jangly guitars are great, and I love Kristian’s deep vocals with his Danish accent, backed by the all three members’ harmonizing choruses. The clever and colorful animated video was created by Kristian, who does a fantastic job on all their videos.

Freedom” seems to suggest that freedom comes with a price, enabling us to fall victim to our darker instincts. The song starts off on a fairly light air with a funky beat, but eventually turns more menacing, with sinister synths and a harsh, almost foreboding drumbeat. As always, the guitar work is brilliant.

Have a Nice One” really showcases From the Cave’s impressive musicianship, with an enchanting strummed mandolin taking a starring role, and once again, their vocal harmonies are absolutely sublime. The positive song lyrics advise us to not beat our heads against the wall trying to change things over which we have no control, and instead just try to enjoy our lives:

Don’t worry about the things you can’t change anyway
They float as they like, and then they go away
Don’t try to fix anything
Have a nice one, have a nice one

The band changes things up a bit with “City Lights“, a gorgeous and sultry song that’s my favorite track on the EP. From the opening zing of spacey synth, I love everything about this breathtaking song – the shimmery chiming guitars, ethereal synths, entrancing drumbeat, and most of all, Joshua’s captivating vocals, backed by Kristian & Mikaela’s dreamy backing harmonies. Thought I’m not certain about the song’s meaning, to my mind it seems to celebrate the allure of the city and the romantic spell it casts upon those who surrender themselves to its possibilities.

The rousing, uptempo track “Justice” sees the band taking a political stance, calling for people in our sharply divided society to open their minds to a broader point of view, and try to find common ground so that we can hopefully solve some of the problems plaguing society.

You hate the news and you hate a long a drive
You don’t like the things that will waste your time
You love your mum, and you love your son
You love your dog, and you keep your gun
We’re not alike, we’re still the same
We shouldn’t have to feel ashamed
We feel so wrong, we feel so right
A common ground is worth the fight

Forgiveness is missing
It’s like it’s been beaten to pieces
And the middle, and justice is kicking and kicking
Living for the living, for the living right now

City Life is another fantastic release from this amazingly talented band, and proof that their creativity and musicianship keeps growing ever better and stronger. That makes me very happy, as I hope they continue making music for a long time to come.

Connect with From the Cave:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

TED KENNEDY – Single Review: “Not Enough”

Ted Kennedy is a producer/composer of electronic music based in Toronto, Canada. He’s been producing and recording music for several years, and released his first EP Late in 2014, and followed two years later with a second EP Lost, both of which contain some very solid tracks. He also curates a weekly live show called Frequencies, featuring live sets from forward-thinking electronic artists, producers, and MC’s. The shows take place on the third Thursday of every month at Handlebar in Toronto.

After a bit of a hiatus, Ted is once again recording more songs, and released a new single “Forty” earlier this year. Now he returns with another single “Not Enough“, which dropped on April 12. About his latest single, Ted told me “Like a lot of music I have been writing recently, ‘Not Enough’ is inspired by the sounds of Toronto’s underground electronic music scene. Curating Frequencies, I’m constantly blown away by the amount of talent here. It’s tough to be an artist in this city; rents are high, venues are closing, and platforms big enough to give artists any meaningful exposure are nearly non-existent. Everyone has day jobs, roommates, and bedroom studios. Despite the challenges, artists put in the work and create great things. This song is inspired by those artists, their sounds, their creativity, their energy. I just hope I did them justice.”

On “Not Enough”, Ted employs a strong thumping EDM beat and moody, pulsating synths that give the track a bit of a Depeche Mode vibe. In fact, his deep, sultry vocals even sound a bit like Dave Gahan’s here. The driving dance beat is hypnotic and seductive, compelling us to move as it carries us away to a dark, yet dreamy place. Throughout, Ted uses deep bass and fuzzy, otherworldly synths to give the track added texture and depth. I found myself getting lost in the music, not wanting the song to end.

The lyrics speak of a love affair in tatters, in which the love they had is no longer enough to sustain the relationship:

Damn taste of love is all I know
It’s always on, not enough
Your love is my own ruin
A quiet knot undone

Our love is all in cinders
Our love is not enough
I’m always in the windows
I’m always on the run

Ted will be performing “Not Enough” at Handlebar on Thursday, April 18 as part of his Frequencies series.

Connect with Ted on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud

MADE OF EYES – Single Review: “Room to Breathe”

As I’ve noted in some of my recent posts, a great many artists and bands that I’ve previously featured on this blog are releasing new music in 2019, and another is the Scottish alternative rock band Made of Eyes. I last wrote about them way back in November 2016, when I was blown away by their gorgeous emotionally-charged single “Wishing Well” (you can read that review here). They subsequently released their EP Bonds in 2017, which included “Wishing Well” and three other excellent tracks. Following that release, the Glasgow-based act went through a period of transition due to the departure of two of the band’s four members, resulting in a what front man JR refers to as a ‘mental hiatus’. In 2018, they acquired a new bassist, so the current lineup now consists of JR Campbell on guitar & lead vocals, Jason Stewart on lead guitar & vocals, and Liam Browne on bass.

Made of Eyes has just released their first single “Room to Breathe” as a newly-configured band. With their new single, the band states they “aim to mark a new direction, delivering a pop element, experimenting with dreamy chords, electronic sounds and memorable melodies.” Listening to “Room to Breathe”, I say they succeed quite nicely. The song is somewhat more pop-oriented than their previous harder-hitting songs, though it still features their signature dynamic guitar work and strong percussion. Opening with an airy synth, the song quickly expands into a beautiful soundscape of chiming guitars and lush, shimmery synths, backed by a pulsating bass line and galloping percussion. The layered guitar work is really impressive, threading its way among the sweeping synths and powerful drumbeats.  JR’s resonant vocals are filled with raw emotion as he sings to a loved one about trying to recapture the spark that initially drew them together, in the hope of saving their troubled relationship:

It’s been a weight on my shoulders for days
It’s been the choices we failed to make
We’re like a book with a missing page
Unless we find it, we can’t be saved

And I believe in you
And I believe in us, I believe in trust
And it’s you and I tonight
And these moments will pass by
And just remember the promises
That you made to me
We needed room to breathe

It’s a great song, and an excellent harbinger of more great music to come from Made of Eyes. Nice work guys!

Connect with Made of Eyes:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes

ROADKEEPER – Single Review: “Old Man’s War”

Roadkeeper

It always makes me happy when I discover a new band and instantly love their music. I was so impressed by the beautiful songs of the band Roadkeeper that I had to write a review of their latest single “Old Man’s War“. The Tyler, Texas- based group was formed less than a year ago by producer/vocalist John Eric Hetherington and drummer Nick Cogdill, who both previously played in the post-punk group Knifight, as well as guitarist Trevor Tull and bassist Daniel Griffith, all of whom are long-time friends. Roadkeeper is completely independent and self-produced, doing their recording, producing and mixing in John’s studio – dubbed ‘Yacht Country’ – and releasing their songs on their own label Equal Temperament.

Blending dreamy shoegaze with dramatic psychedelic rock, Roadkeeper crafts exquisite songs that envelop us with complex melodies and lush soundscapes, while delivering compelling lyrics that give us something to think about. Beginning in the fall of 2018, they released a series of singles, starting with “God in the Light of the Bar”, a laid-back song with shimmering guitars, horns and breezy synths, and “The Creeps”, a beautiful, anthemic song about emotional manipulation and abuse. In February 2019, they released their mesmerizing third single “Gushers”, which the band explains “deals with recent years’ murders of unarmed black people by police officers, and the way law enforcement and apologists reframe the job of police officer as a war or conflict between the just and unjust. Also how privileged people are starting to reframe their own lives and minor struggles as heroes journeys.”

Now the band follows up with their fourth single “No Man’s War” a melancholy but beautiful song about anxiety and worry over things, both real and imagined. The song starts off with a mix of both chiming and strummed acoustic guitars, as John sings in soft, breathy vocals of his fears:

I’m afraid of so many things
What the hell am I doing
Waiting for a change
People never change
And I’m stuck inside my heart
Waiting for someone to pick me up
And tell me everything’s OK
That it’s only just a dream
Wait and see

The music swells with lush shimmery synths, fuzzy bass and chiming guitars as he tries to convince himself that all is right with the world and he’s got nothing to worry about:

No disease is coming for me
And no conditions waiting to take you from me
And the world is happy
No one is dying
The ice isn’t melting
And everyone can be themselves

The dramatic sweeping synths continue during the bridge, then abruptly end, leaving us with just a simple strummed acoustic guitar as John reaffirms his anxieties and feelings of pessimism in the final verse:

I’m afraid of so many things
Every time I read
What’s breaking in the world
I lose a piece of me
To an old man’s war
They won’t be around to pick it up
When everything falls down

With “No Man’s War”, Roadkeeper continue to bat a thousand, delivering their fourth consecutive win in the form of a perfect song. I’m happy to be following this talented group of guys, and excited to hear what they come up with next!

Connect with Roadkeeper:  Facebook / Twitter  / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

RUBBER CLOWN CAR – Album Review: “Horse Logic”

Rubber Clown Car album

One of my absolute favorite-named bands has got to be Rubber Clown Car.  Based in Oswego, Illinois, on the far western outskirts of greater Chicago, they were one of the earliest bands I featured on this blog, three years ago in April 2016. The band is the brainchild of singer/songwriter Dirk Prysby, a wildly imaginative and zany guy who creates songs that are thoroughly original, sometimes serious but often hilarious, and unlike anything else you’ve ever heard. He also happens to be a thoughtful and creative lyricist who’s quite skilled on the six-string. His quirky, off-kilter vocal style wouldn’t get him very far on The Voice or American Idol, but that’s okay, as it’s perfectly suited for their eccentric songs. Besides Dirk, Rubber Clown Car includes Fred Beasley (drums, backing vocals, guitar) and Tony Pantalones (bass, keyboards and everything else).

Rubber Clown Car

Their sound has been compared to a mixture of XTC, Bob Mould, the Damned, the Who, GBV, the Replacements, and Matthew Sweet, with one reviewer observing they’re like “the Beatles on Quaaludes”. Formed back in the mid-2000s, Rubber Clown Car started out making fairly straightforward music drawing from rock, grunge and punk elements. Their first release was the excellent 2006 album Make the Noise, featuring one of my favorite of their songs “Home in the Suburbs”, a clear-eyed commentary on the American Dream. They subsequently began experimenting with their sound and lyrical themes, incorporating more psychedelic and alternative elements into their music. This can be clearly heard on their follow-up 2008 release Music “They” Don’t Want You To Hear, with songs like “The Boy With the Plexiglas Head” and “Gene Pool Party”. Since then, they’ve been prolific in their output, releasing eight more albums, including such wonderful titles as Jesus is not a Weapon, Cake Solves Heartaches and Let’s Go Bowling.

Their latest effort is Horse Logic, an ambitious and trippy tour de force featuring 18 tracks, which dropped in March. It’s perhaps their most experimental and eclectic work yet, with songs ranging from rock to psychedelic to blues to ballads, and everything in between. Employing lots of unusual sound effects and discordant melodies, and incorporating snippets of song, voice, sound, and spoken-word contributed by several of the band’s Twitter friends, they’ve created interesting and sometimes outlandish compositions. Because it’s such a long album with so many tracks, I’ll discuss what I feel are the highlights, along with a few others that provide a good representation of the work.

Kicking things off is the delightfully psychedelic “Where Have All the Mushrooms Gone?“, an appropriately-titled song that sounds pretty much like what I would expect an hallucinogenic trip on magic mushrooms to sound like. It begins with a woman in a distinctly British accent saying “Right. So, what shall I see?” followed by sounds of a horse neighing a response to her question. We’re then greeted by an onslaught of exuberant cinematic rock, accompanied by dramatic soaring choruses, bouncy xylophone, and a colorful assortment of weird sound effects you might hear in a carnival funhouse, along with more of those neighing horses. The guitars, bass and percussion are all perfection, more than ample proof that Rubber Clown Car are incredible musicians. Dirk croons the whimsical lyrics that include “Rub-a-dub, where the dub, where do I put my bubba? Wubba wubba it’ll come out if ya scrub it. And the clouds all turn to oil. Telepathic banana.” The song closes with horses neighing in rather diabolical-sounding tones.

The next track “Unusual Ducks and Rainy Days” is even trippier, opening with a creepy voice declaring “I don’t want a goddam robot serving me a chicken!” A slow drumbeat kicks in along with riffs of funky guitar and bass, and Dirk’s quirky vocals backed by his own choruses. From there on out, the song becomes an extended psychedelic trip that lasts nearly 11 minutes, growing increasingly strange with the addition of all sorts of crazy carnival, barnyard and zoo sound effects, including honking horns, buzzing mosquitoes, monkeys and elephants. Through it all, the guys lay down some fine bluesy guitar runs.

Abruptly changing the vibe, the band turns wistful and serious on “Girl I Left Behind“, a sweet but melancholy song about a lost love. The twangy guitars and keyboard synths are really wonderful, and Dirk’s heartfelt vocals are great, with nice backing vocals by the Inflateable Girls, who also appear on several other tracks on Horse Logic. “Sandbox” sees the band getting in touch with their playful inner child:  “Didn’t matter what anyone would say. We only want to play in our sandbox.” Musically, the song features a catchy tempo, upbeat jangly guitars and effervescent spacey synths, accompanied by sounds of children having fun at a playground.

The lovely title track “Horse Logic” is a brief instrumental interlude with beautiful jangly strummed guitar and sweeping string synths creating an enthralling atmospheric soundscape. Next up is “Action Brats“, one of the more bizarre tracks on the album. It starts off with the opening lines from the Elvis Presley classic “Heartbreak Hotel” sung by The Quiet Professor (the band’s and my Twitter friend Logos Pilgrim, who’s an author, artist, blogger and singer). Then a repetitive thumping drumbeat and funky bass line take over, accompanied by an eerie assortment of sounds, including creepy childrens’ voices, gregorian chants, and munchkin-like noises. The track ends with a snippet from what sounds like a Japanese song. That magic mushroom trip that started off the album is now on full-blown steroids!

Dirk sings the blues on “The Hanging Mess“, baring his soul with heart-wrenching vocals lamenting his fragile state: “Blue, oh I don’t know which way to turn / I just can’t get through to you.” The bluesy, twangy and distorted guitar work is really outstanding. “Evil Shrimp” is another bizarre track that had me thinking ‘what the hell?’, yet loving it’s great hard-driving noise rock vibe. The song features some terrific gnarly guitar work and snappy percussion, accompanied by sounds of wailing police sirens and strange muffled vocals that are completely unintelligible.

One of the best rock tunes on the album is “Our Magic Sauce“, a musically complex track featuring a killer psychedelic guitar solo by British musician Leg Puppy. There are some background murmuring vocals that are indeciferable, so this is essentially an instrumental track. On the folk-rockish “Turn the Wheel Earl” Dirk yearns for home, sampling lines from the Beatles “A Hard Days Night” (“when I’m home, everything seems to be right“) and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” (“home, where my thought’s escaping“).

My personal favorite on the album is the captivating ballad “Sleep Tight“. The jangly and chiming guitars are gorgeous, and I’m elated that the band did a duet with The Quiet Professor, who has a voice like spun silk. Her vocals harmonize beautifully with Dirk’s as they croon “Your heart will be broken a thousand times. By words unspoken or a thousand lies. You’ve got it all behind you, dream away, dream away.” The charming video for the song was created by another Twitter friend of the band’s and mine – Sherry Ruth.

Closing the album is “Cabbage” a quirky two-minute long rock’n’roll ditty that ends things on a fun, upbeat note. The song consists of just strummed guitar and Dirk crooning “If you wanna be my baby, this is what you gotta say”, followed by a lot of melodic gibberish. At song’s end, he exclaims “Woo, that was in interesting tune!

I think Horse Logic is brilliant, and their best work yet.  Rubber Clown Car won’t appeal to everyone, but if you’re the type of person who goes for music that’s offbeat, completely original and fun, you’ll enjoy this album. I certainly do!

Connect with Rubber Clown Car on  Twitter 
Stream:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp  / iTunes / cdbaby

THE DIOMEDES – EP Review: “Rabbit”

The Diomedes Rabbit

As I continue to revisit artists I’ve previously featured on this blog, today I’m happy to discuss the exciting new EP Rabbit by alternative electronic rock duo The Diomedes. Based in London, England, The Diomedes is the studio project of friends Mark Champion (guitars and vocals) and David Myers (drums and synths). Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote a review of their phenomenal debut album Traps. I was so impressed by it, I was inspired to write what I consider to be one of my finest reviews, and you can read it here.

For Rabbit, which was recorded at Narcissus Studios in North West London, the guys teamed up with John Catlin (who’s produced albums for the likes of Led Zeppelin, Nine Inch Nails, Foals and The Killers) and Drew Smith. The influence of NIN is strongly evident, as all three tracks are intense, gnarly and loud, with rather bleak lyrics that speak to feeling used, unloved or losing one’s mind. It’s music that raises the adrenaline, and I felt my heart race every time I listened to the songs.

The title track “Rabbit” sets the overall tone for the EP, with a barrage of Mark’s gravelly riffs and David’s tumultuous percussion that build and build to an ear-splitting crescendo. Along the way, piercing industrial synths add to the sonic cyclone that evokes images of swirling down a rabbit hole. Mark practically shrieks the lyrics that seem to address the feelings of someone under siege by everyone and everything, and the only thing worth living for – that which will plunge him down the rabbit hole – is the love he needs and desires from a certain woman.

I’m taking punches
Pressures building stack up the bricks
I’m feeling hammers
Sculpting a hole in what was me
Tear me up
Tear me up into bits
Tear me up, up, up into pieces
The only thing I need they can’t take from me

Eyes that turn my world
Something that’s worth fighting for
So they can tear me up
I’m taking shots, blows
Bruised to my core
But I only need her glance to fall down the hole

The Diomedes really show what they’re capable of with “Con Debris”, a magnificent slice of melodically complex, industrial noise rock. Things start off gently with some jangly guitar chords and reverb, then the song explodes into a thunderous maelstrom of grungy riffs, swirling synths and hammering drums. Mark’s intricate guitar work and David’s powerful drumming are impressive, and I love Mark’s resonant, quirky vocals and strong British accent as he sings the lyrics:

Come in from the cold
Rest your feet, warm your bones
Build a fire, take my chair
Put my kettle on
Make yourself at home

We’ll pretend like we’re old friends until you’re OK
Until you move on again
Because I think that you just need a little help and a day or two won’t hurt
In any case, you’ll help yourself to everything I’ve left
It’ll always be this way

With nary a second to catch our breath, we’re instantly bombarded with sounds of pummeling drums and very grimy guitars announcing the arrival of the hard-hitting “Bring Out Your Dead”. The guys deliver roiling riffs of fuzzy, distorted guitars, blustery percussion and pulsating industrial synths, punctuated by occasional melodic flourishes, all making for an electrifying listen. The song seems to address the eternal struggle to maintain one’s sanity in this crazy thing called life:

And in the end crazy makes sense
So just kiss goodbye to shattering up inside
All heart and soul and head
All you’ve left is bring out your dead

While short in length, Rabbit packs an enormous punch in its 12 1/2 minutes. Mark and David are creative and talented songwriters and musicians, and their work continues to impress me. If you like alternative electronic rock that’s intense and out of the ordinary, you will enjoy this EP.

To learn more about The Diomedes, check out their website.
Connect with them on  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Subscribe to their YouTube channel 
Stream their music on Soundcloud and  Spotify
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes