NOVUS CANTUS Creates a Stunning Video for their NPR Tiny Desk Contest Submission

Novus Cantus

Yesterday, I wrote about COUNCIL, a band from New York State consisting of three brothers, and today I turn to another music act from New York State and also consisting of brothers, known as Novus Cantus. Comprised of Alexander (vocals and guitar) and Christian Herasimtschuk (drums and percussion), they’re also one of the more unique acts I’ve had the pleasure of featuring on this blog. (You can read my prior reviews under “Related” at the bottom of this post.)

Hailing from the Hudson River Valley in and around Poughkeepsie, Novus Cantus draw from an eclectic mix of influences including traditional ethnic music like flamenco and Hungarian folk, classical Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque, and rock – particularly that of Jethro Tull, Gipsy Kings and Metallica – to create their rich and exotic sound. They’ve been performing and recording together since 2010, and have released a number of superb songs that I urge my readers to check out on one of the music sites listed below.

The duo recently submitted a stunning video performance of their captivating song “Sophia” to NPR for their 2020 Tiny Desk Concert competition. Capitalizing on the Medieval sound of the track, which is itself a celebration of the famed Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul, Turkey, they created a video showing them performing the song in a Renaissance setting. The video starts off with them portrayed as if they were in a classic old-world painting, then one by one each of them comes alive to perform the song. It’s like a beautiful painting of two troubadours come to life. They produced the brilliant video with the artistic and technical insights of James MacBrien and Julie Casper-Roth, who also provided the necessary equipment to make it all come together.

Watch the enchanting video:

Connect with Novus Cantus:  Website / Facebook / Twitter
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  cdbaby / Reverbnation / iTunes

DEBRIS DISCS – Single Review: “We Never Die”

Debris Discs is the solo music project of British singer-songwriter James Eary, former front man of Manchester, England alternative dream pop band Coves & Caves. Last October, I featured his first single “Animals“, and now he’s back with his third release “We Never Die“. It’s a beautiful and poignant song that touches on the notion that love is a powerful and enduring component in the cycle of life. The song is part two of his hope and survival themed audio triptych, the first of which was his previous single “Daniel and the Apocalypse”, which he released in January.

Eary states that the song was inspired by a visit to his grandparent’s memorial bench on a windswept day on the Northwest English coast. “‘We Never Die’ is an attempt to find comfort in the despair of loss. It tells the story of lifetime lovers so entwined they reach their end of days in tandem. They search for solace in the legacy they leave behind and a love that burns in perpetuity. It’s a message to each other and their families that this is not the end. There are no goodbyes.

“We Never Die” is an enchanting dream pop gem, fashioned from a rich palette of swirling glittery synths, subtle guitar chords and gentle percussive grooves. Debris Discs skillfully incorporates all these musical elements into a lush, sweeping backdrop for his sweet vocal harmonies, resulting in an achingly beautiful track that captures the power and romance of an enduring love. He has a marvelous singing voice that registers in the higher range, just below a falsetto, and it’s positively sublime on this track.

It’s ok we never die
They keep our dreams
And our names they engrave in aluminium
On a park bench plaque
For all to see
Who we were, what we did, where we’ve been

Muscles knotted
All our words forgotten
Milky eyes, milky eyes
We’ve come too far
So now we wait for stars
And no goodbyes, no goodbyes

It’s ok we never die
No eulogy
Just a spark, flickers free from the embers
To illuminate and help them see
Who we were, what we did, where we’ve been
Who we were, what we did, where we’ve been

Connect with Debris Discs: Twitter
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

THE AMERICAN MAN – Single Review: “The Last Valentine”

The American Man

“You live / You Love / You Learn / And You Lose.” A pretty cynical observation about the nature of life, this, but these words were in fact an impetus for the man who wrote them to change his life going forward. So states the Chicago-based singer-songwriter and musician who goes by the moniker “The American Man”. Like a lot of musicians who choose to identify themselves with an artistic moniker rather than their given names, he desired to disappear behind the name and have his songs speak for themselves.

He’s a massive Bob Dylan fan, and as such his music and sound is heavily influenced by Dylan, both musically and lyrically. His music consists only of his acoustic guitar and harmonica, and his lyrics are poetic, honest and heartfelt. And what’s more, his vocals sound alarmingly similar to Dylan’s, right down to their raspy texture and pitch.

In November 2019, he released his marvelous debut album Life & Times of Thomas Francis Bernasol, featuring eight tracks that touch on aspects of life, love and loss identified in the opening words of this post. On February 14 he appropriately dropped his latest single “The Last Valentine“, an understated, yet magnificent song which I’m pleased to feature today. He explained the song’s background:

The song was written four years ago this very week. Trump wasn’t yet in office, mass shootings were taking place, tension was in the air, and I was waking up in the middle of Chicago on Valentines day on the street. It was 15 degrees or so, and I walked across the city in the cold. My wallet was stolen and my phone was stolen and I was bleeding down my head. Halfway home I laid down in an alley and cried. But I wasn’t jumped; I was in the deep end of my alcohol and drug problems that stretched on relentlessly for five years. And then I got sober, let go of song writing, put this song on the back burner and had to do the hard work work of building my life. I spent three years off the internet, and a few weeks ago it dawned on me that I had this song tucked away. So I dug through several hundred pages of old lyrics over a few hours to find it, set up my iphone and hit record. Then I thought I gotta share it with the world, so I bought a lap top and made this video. I thought that the song was interesting because [even though] it’s four years old, it still holds up.”

“The Last Valentine” is inspired both melodically and lyrically by Bob Dylan’s 1962 song “Let Me Die in My Footsteps”, which Dylan wrote after he watched construction workers building a bomb shelter one day. He was struck by the insanity of peoples’ upside-down reasoning during the Cold War – that instead of us learning how to live, we were learning how to die. In that same vein, The American Man explores the similar irrational, hateful and destructive thinking occurring in America today:

I met a young boy who was free in his soul
They beat him so bad and left him dead on the road
But he stood up and walked led by his mind
He stumbles on home as the last Valentine
As he wars through the ruse
You live, you love, you learn and you lose

I watched all the red-blooded American folk
Swallow their leader and violently choke
And neath their red eyes was a heart filled with hate
If you do not act soon it might be too late
There a war without truce
You live, you love, you learn and you lose

Outside the Trump rally
Within the great wall
A homeless man fell to all that he saw
And with his stained shirt he wipes his watery eyes
Some are learning to live, some are learning to die
Oh young boy here’s old news
You live, you love, you learn and you lose

All incredibly powerful and brilliantly-written words that deeply resonate with me! For the compelling and provocative video, he used footage of actual events and scenes and images from popular films and music videos (some of which may result in removal due to copyright infringement, though I certainly hope not). Take a look and have a listen:

Connect with The American Man: Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

CAYLEY THOMAS – Single Review: “Blue Jean Baby”

Cayley Thomas 2

Cayley Thomas is a singer-songwriter and guitarist born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and now based in Toronto. With a beguiling singing voice and talent for writing songs with arresting melodies and compelling, heartfelt lyrics, she’s been recording some very fine music for the past several years, beginning with her debut EP Ash Mountains in 2013. She followed up in 2016 with the excellent album Weird Love, then dropped an enchanting single “Midnight Hours” in November 2019. She’s now back with a great new single “Blue Jean Baby“, which along with “Midnight Hours” will be included on her forthcoming album How Else Can I Tell You?, due for release on May 1.

About the song, Thomas explains “‘Blue Jean Baby’ explores the pattern of feeling responsible for the emotions or actions of others at the expense of our own wellness. It’s like when you’re on an airplane and they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting other passengers. The accompanying video takes a sobering look at this. I think we can become preoccupied trying to do someone else’s work for them as a means to avoid our own self reflection.

Musically, the song has a languid, doo wop beat, and features a rich mix of instruments that produce an interesting and pleasing soundscape for Thomas’ sublime vocals. She plays the subtle organ work on the track, and has the assistance of several other talented musicians, including Connor Snell (who plays her boyfriend in the video) and Josh Beatty on guitars, Ben Whiteley on the terrific bass, Robin Claxton on drums, James Hill on synth, and Naman Cale adding an enchanting musical element to the song with his marvelous vibraphone.  Josh Eygenraam and Aaron Parker provide the cool sci-fi sound effects that arrive at the end like an alien spaceship.

eyes closed against the passenger window
everything in slow motion
barefoot high heels in hand
and i’m stumbling home to him

my blue jean baby
don’t worry baby
a love like yours will do me in

tv static and hazy
a dreamer of pictures and moonlight
everyone knows that you’re headline news baby
but stumble back home to me

my blue jean baby
don’t worry baby
a love like yours will do me in

The brilliant video, which stars Thomas and curly-haired musician Connor Snell as her too-cute-for-his-own-good boyfriend, along with a number of her Edmonton friends, was also produced and directed by Thomas, and edited by Thomas and Ryan Gullen. It shows Thomas and Snell at a party with friends, where everyone’s drinking and having a good time – with a few of the guys, including Snell, drinking too much. The mood changes as Thomas and her girlfriends become sullen, staring coldly at their boyfriends who are getting increasingly drunk. Eventually, Snell passes out, and she now has to be the adult and carry him home and put him to bed. Disgusted, she goes out into the cold night and ponders her situation before going back inside. After the credits, she and Snell are shown sitting at the breakfast table the next morning, him trying to eat some breakfast while she quietly writes in her journal and avoids looking at him. Watch the video:

Follow Cayley:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream her music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

DUNKIE – Album Review: “Working to Design”

Dunkie Working To Design (front cover)

As a music blogger who’s been at this more than four years, I still marvel at the fact that artists and bands would want me to write about their music. I receive a continuous flood of music submissions every week to sift through, sometimes overwhelming me to the point of despair, but every now and then some of it stands out in the crowd. One such artist is Dunkie, the music project of Welsh singer/songwriter Anthony Price. Hailing from the town of Mountain Ash in the South Wales Valleys, Price has written and recorded songs for many years, and at the end of December (2019), he released his debut album Working to Design. It’s an exquisite and monumental work, featuring 17 tracks exploring the universal subjects of life, love, the passage of time, death and loss, but also healing, hope and rebirth.

It’s a concept album, with songs partially inspired by the books and works of author Richard Matheson, but also an ambitious and deeply personal labor of love. Price has spent the past two years of his life, toiling countless long hours writing and recording the songs and meticulously working to get each track just right, as well as making imaginative videos for a few of the songs. In advance of the album, he released four of the tracks that are featured on Working to Design, beginning with “Can a Song Save Your Life?” in May 2018, and subsequently dropping another single every few months.

The songs were all written by Price and flawlessly produced, engineered, mixed and mastered by Wayne Bassett at Robot Recordings in Aberdare, Wales. Besides Price and Bassett, who played numerous instruments on many of the tracks, more than 30 other musicians and vocalists performed on various tracks, making it a truly collaborative effort on a near-epic scale. Another interesting aspect of the creation of this album is the use of dramatic artwork by Welsh artist Michael Gustavius Payne. The album is dedicated to the memories and lives of many of Price and his family’s loved ones, including some of their beloved pets, one of whom (Flea) is named in a song title.

Just over a year ago, I wrote a piece on Dunkie which included a review of the first four tracks he released, which you can read here. But now that the album is out, it’s a revelation to hear it in its entirety, as it flows seamlessly from one track into the next like a journey through song. The album opens with “∼Introduction∼So Little Time∼“, setting the stage for the musical and lyrical beauty about to unfold over the next one hour and 14 minutes. It’s immediately apparent that Price put an incredible amount of thought and care into creating the stunning instrumental soundscapes for his thoughtful, and sometimes brutally honest lyrics. When he sings “So much to do, so little time. It’s nice to know you’ll wait a while“, we willingly follow him along on this journey.

With 17 tracks, there’s a lot to unpack on Working to Design, and I’ll try to keep my review as succinct as possible – never an easy thing for a detail-oriented writer like me. “The White Hole” has an alt-rock vibe, with layered electric guitars, psychedelic synths and a gentle drumbeat driving the song forward. To my ears, Price’s soft vocals remind me at times of John Lennon in tone and style, only a bit higher in octave. In fact, it sounds like a song The Beatles could have recorded in their later, more experimental phase. The song immediately segues into the lovely “Can A Song Save Your Life?“, an optimistic song about the healing power of music. Price explains his inspiration behind the lyrics: “The concept behind this song is trying to find a little hope; when all really seems a little lost. When the deepest, darkest moment seems to smother over you, when it suffocates you. But then the littlest gesture lifts, the smallest moment lifts, a piece of music, a film or song you love just lifts you.” 

Rabbit Hole” is a poignant song about coming to terms with the agonizing pain of the loss of a loved one. Price wistfully sings: “Tumble and fall, this rabbit-hole is funnel-webbed and soaring. I fear I’ll never reach this endless horror I fold upon myself…  Another pill dissolves; I’m crawling faster to the edge. To the edge for you.” The track has a serene, rather bittersweet melody with gentle guitar, synths and percussion, and the vocal harmonies are really nice.

The beautiful and endearing video shows a large group of family and friends coming together for a picnic to remember a loved one. About the people in the video wearing rabbit masks, Price explains: “I wanted people to be wearing masks. I loved the metaphor of hiding behind many a mask. Oscar Wilde once said ‘Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth’. The ‘dunkie’ name and music is my mask. So I wanted to represent the mask in these videos. In particular I wanted to represent them by the use of Wintercroft Masks. Each mask is a downloadable PDF template, each mask has to be created individually, and each mask can take about 2-4 hours each to create (longer if you’re me!!). Added here was the decorative design I wanted to include by adding my own song lyrics, in multiple languages (and the entire pages of Crime and Punishment) upon each mask face.”

One of the more musically interesting and lyrically enigmatic tracks is “I Don’t Wanna Die in Minnesota (Part II)“. Though I’m not sure, the lyrics seem to be about not wanting to waste one’s life: “I don’t wanna die in Minnesota. All liberties lost and the walls move in closer. ‘When I need you to jump I’ll give you the order!’ Dead diaries day to day – for how long do I stay? I’m afraid to waste my life down in Minnesota.” “I Think I’ve Been Asleep (All My Life)” is a folk-rock song with a gospel vibe, thanks to the sublime organ work. The lyrics speak to sleepwalking through one’s life, barely connecting with those around you: “Never knew your life, never knew you long. Regretting all the silence now that you’re gone. What a fool to be. Blind faith and empathy.” I really like the soulful guest vocals of Lucy Athey and Cat Southall on this track.

∼Intermission∼an Ode to a Flea∼” is a lovely little song in honor of one of Price’s beloved departed pets. “(W.A.L.L.S.) Within a Little Love Song” is a stunning and heartfelt ode to a loved one, affirming that even though you may not say it as often as you used to, your love for them is as strong as ever: “(You know) yesterday I loved you. (Don’t forget) I have and always will. (But through) the years I spoke it lessened. (Know this) my love’s never subdued. So I’ve found these words to sing and they’re all for you, they’re all for you.” The chiming guitars and soaring vocal harmonies are gorgeous.

I think my favorite track on the album is “Ten“, an enchanting, mostly instrumental song. It opens with sounds of a bird chirping, followed by an acoustic guitar and lovely a cappella vocal harmonies. Gradually, an achingly beautiful flute (played by Tony Kauczok) and cello (by Isobel Smith) enter, accompanied by Wayne Bassett’s delicate piano keys and Price’s lovely falsetto vocals, transporting us to a dreamy state of mind. The only lyric is “I’m just working to design. Perfectly flawed…“, which Price repeats throughout the song. I’m guessing it’s his philosophy for his life, and the overriding theme of the album. The song is so beautiful and moving it brings tears to my eyes.

1896” is an introspective look back at life, family and career, and of choices and decision made, for better or worse: “I’ve been a Father, and I’ve been a Brother. I know now that decisions may have been wrong. I have imploded and I’ve fought with self-control. I’ve seen my children grow. I’ve taken all I can from the love of this band.” The majestic orchestral instrumentals, highlighted by a trumpet played by Charlotte Jayne Goodwin and Mellotron by John Barnes, make this a spectacular song.  “Sugar” is a sweet (no pun intended) love song of thanks to a partner who has stood by you through good times and bad, with unconditional love.

Another favorite track of mine is the haunting “71-41-11“, a deeply moving tribute to Price’s father, who passed away from cancer in February 2015. The song, along with the following track “The Memory Tree“, were an effort by Price to come to terms with his pain and loss, and help him to move forward.  The song’s title consists of the age of his father when he died [71], Price’s age when his father died [41], and the age of his eldest son when his grandfather died [11] – each 30 years apart. The mournful, but beautiful song has an ethereal feel reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens.

A particularly poignant aspect of this song is how Price, through the help of another musician (Scottish musician BigRoundBaby aka Stephen McKinnon, who’d experienced his own grief over the death of his mother), managed to include his father’s voice on the track. Price recalls “During the 60’s I remember my Father and Mother made a spoken vinyl 7” ‘Record’ together when they were first dating.  They went into a portable recording booth and just playfully and awkwardly sang, and coaxed each other to say words into the microphone.  I remember as a teenager listening to the recording, it was very crackle but thankfully my friend was able convert the vinyl recording into a MP3 file. I wanted the song to have my Father’s voice, to keep him close by always, and I wanted it to be accompanied with my own children, his beloved grandson’s, to just create a time capsule moment.” Their voices can be heard at the end of the track. Also, McKinnon played electric guitar, bass and percussion on the track, and along with his daughters, sings backing vocals.

The gorgeous track “The Memory Tree” is a song of celebration about the power of memories, inspired by the book of the same name by Britta Teckentrup – Illustrator. An example of Price’s phenomenal songwriting are these touching lyrics: “From a child… you towered above me. You never once made me feel at all small. You’d fall to your knees, just so I’d feel the same size. And one by one these stories will climb through…A tree made of memories and full of love (for you).”

37 The Memory Tree - Art
‘The Memory Tree’ by Michael Gustavius Payne

The final track “∼Closure∼1972∼” revisits the lyrics of “1896”, only this time told from a woman’s perspective: “I’ve been a mother, and I’ve been a lover. I know now that decisions may have been wrong.” It’s a gorgeous song, with lovely vocals by Jennifer O’Neill Howard, lush piano and mellotron played by John Barnes, acoustic guitar played by Price, an enchanting Glockenspiel played by Wayne Bassett and a stunning choral vocal arrangement by Matt Williams.

I cannot gush enough about this magnificent album. I realize the word sometimes gets overused, but I feel safe in saying that Working to Design is a true masterpiece in every respect. It’s quite honestly one of the most perfectly-crafted albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. Anthony Price, Wayne Bassett, and all the musicians and vocalists who assisted in the creation and production of this gorgeous work have much to be proud of.

Connect with dunkie on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase his music on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play / Spotify / Soundcloud

THE TRIMS – Single Review: “Bending Time”

The Trims

San Jose, California-based indie post-punk band The Trims have been making great music for ten years now, and were one of the first bands to follow me on Twitter back in 2015 when I was an unknown blogger with only a handful of followers. Accordingly, they were one of the first bands I featured on this blog, and I’ve written about them a few more times since then, most recently in February 2018 when I reviewed their outstanding album Julian Street. This past December (2019), they released their latest single “Bending Time“, which I’m finally getting around to reviewing.

The Trims were founded by singer-songwriter and guitarist Gabe Maciel, who sought to “trim” out all the bad music he was hearing on the local music scene by writing good songs with catchy, groove-laden melodies, exciting instrumentation and relatable lyrics. Their sound draws influences from the likes of Joy Division, The Cure, The Doors, The Strokes and The Killers, but is uniquely their own. Like many bands, The Trims has seen several changes in lineup over the years, and now includes Maciel on vocals & guitar, Billy Brady on drums, Jerry Lozano on guitar, and Frank Hernandez on bass. Through their on-stage charisma and high-energy performances, they’ve built a loyal fanbase in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

The influence of Joy Division and The Cure are immediately evident on this track, with a brooding bass-driven melody, thumping drumbeats and mesmerizing guitar runs. The Trims sound better than ever, with an impressive command of their respective instruments. Hernandez’ nimble bass line and Brady’s assertive drumming establish a solid rhythmic foundation, over which Maciel and Lozano layer a tasty mix of guitar textures, including a terrific surf guitar that adds tremendous color and depth to the song. I love Maciel’s clear, resonant vocals as he croons the lyrics that speak of a relationship that’s falling apart. He sings of being unable to reason with or break through to his partner as he tries to salvage their relationship, describing it as impossible to accomplish as ‘bending time’ itself:

You tell me it’s over, well that’s your point of view
Foolish and lonely, I wait around for you
I lie and lie and lie awake praying for your call
Foolish and lonely with nowhere left to fall
It’s like bending time

“Bending Time” is a great song, and yet another in an unbroken string of solid tunes from The Trims, who continue to deliver on their mission of crafting high-quality music. Those fortunate to be in the San Francisco Bay Area can catch them at one of these upcoming shows:

2/15/20 – The Branham Lounge, San Jose
3/13/20 –  Jam Cellars, Napa

Connect with The Trims: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
“Bending Time” may be downloaded for free on their website

Junie & TheHutFriends – Single Review: “Ammonia Baby”

Junie & HF-Ammonia-Baby

I receive a lot of submissions for possible reviews, so it’s always a pleasure to discover artists or bands with a fascinating and totally unique sound. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based indie outfit Junie & TheHutFriends are such a band. Describing themselves as “an art pop musical dumpster fire, operating at the intersection of art, music, and technology” they consist of frontwoman, lead singer and robot enthusiast Junie Grey and her literal band of cloaked “Hut Friends”. Inspired by acts as diverse as Kate Bush and Kool & the Gang, their aim is to “craft a technicolor universe, explored through layered synth pieces, (too many) harmonies and narrative music videos featuring robotic props. Through the use of unorthodox melodic structures, a colorful instrumental palette, arresting vocal harmonies, and lots of unusual sound effects, they achieve their musical objective quite nicely.

Following up on their terrific 2019 singles “AngstMode3000” and “The Witches”, they recently dropped their third single “Ammonia Baby“. The song will be featured on their forthcoming debut EP Diary Of A Chaotic Neutral, to be released this Spring. Starting off with a funky bass line and powerful stomping drumbeat, Junie & TheHutFriends add a lavish array of guitar, strings, horns and hand claps to create a vibrant, trippy soundscape. The richly-textured strings and horns are especially good, giving the song an intriguing experimental art pop vibe that’s both jarring and pleasing. Junie’s layered vocal harmonies are wonderful, sounding like several singers delivering a range of complementing voices.

I’m not certain as to the song’s meaning, but my guess is that it celebrates the singer’s independence and fearlessness, that’s nothing’s going to stop or hinder her from reaching her goals: “Keep them coming, they start running, they got nothin’ on me. I told ya, I’m ammonia!” I think it serves as a great anthem for Junie & TheHutFriends.

Connect with Junie & the Hut Friends: Website / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicYouTube
Purchase: Google Play

VOX EAGLE – Single Premier: “Can’t Stop”

Regular readers of this blog know I write about a lot of indie artists and bands, as one of the things that drives me is wanting to support them in what little way I can. One of my absolute favorites – both from a musical and personal standpoint – is VoxEagle. Essentially the music project of Australian-born and now Colorado-based singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Crosby, VoxEagle first burst onto the music scene in the beginning of 2017 with the release of the electro-pop single “No Sleep”. The terrific song has been streamed over 279,000 times on Spotify. He then followed up with a second single “Come Over”, both of which were featured on his debut EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1., released in July 2017. I loved both songs so much they ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2017 list.

Also in 2017, Andy and his wife relocated from bustling Manhattan to the bucolic solitude of Evergreen, Colorado, high in the Colorado Rockies west of Denver. There, he built his own recording studio, which he dubbed “The Eagles Nest”, and set to work on his first full album, the brilliant genre-bending TriumAvium, which was released in October 2018. You can read my album review and interview with Andy here. One of the tracks on the album titled “Wander” went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 this past February.

Now he returns with a wonderful new single “Can’t Stop“, which I’m thrilled to premier today. The song officially drops on December 16 on all major digital music sites, some of which are included at the end of this post. “Can’t Stop” has a soulful dance pop vibe, and captures the infectious energy we first encountered on “No Sleep.”

VoxEagle Studio 2

That energy is the essence of VoxEagle’s unique, yet eclectic, sound. In our interview, he told me “VoxEagle is a musical energy; I hate to call it a band or whatnot. It’s vibe I suppose is with me at the helm, [though] the whole idea of VoxEagle in the beginning was to collaborate with various artists.” He added that his main overriding objective in making music is that “It’s just gotta have big melodies and be real energetic.

The track opens with spacey, almost seductive synths that quickly expand like a giant flower unfolding its petals into a beautiful explosion of sound and color. Starting with a deep, thumping bassline as a foundation, VoxEagle layers a rich palette of sparkling, dreamy synths, guitar, and percussion, including what sound like bongo drums, to create an exuberant groove that just makes you feel good. He has a fine, casual singing voice, and I like when he freestyles some of the lyrics. It all builds to an exhilarating crescendo before fading out with those spacey synths and pulsating bass. I love it!

Although “Can’t Stop” was written prior to the occurrence of a personal tragedy Andy recently experienced with the death of his best friend of 30 years, it really hits home for him, serving as a sort of anthem for his philosophy about life and his music career. He became so despondent over his friend’s death that he actually considered throwing in the towel on making music. Thankfully, he came around to realizing it would be impossible for him to stop, as making music is the one thing that keeps him sane at the end of the day – a sentiment I and many others I know can strongly identify with.

Those feelings are perfectly expressed in the lines “Every time I get the hook wrong, I stay back all night just to fix it cuz we can’t stop until we catch the feeling. All I know is that we’ve come too far. Too far to turn back now. Can’t stop these feet when they start moving, no.” I hope VoxEagle never stops making songs for us to enjoy.

Connect with Vox Eagle:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunesGoogle Play

REVOLUTION RABBIT DELUXE – Album Review: “Swipe Left”

RRD Swipe Left

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe (RRD) is an indie rock band hailing from south Wales. Their innovative, alt-rock sound draws from Brit-rock, pop and punk influences, with meaningful lyrics tackling topical issues ranging from politics, culture and environmental justice to mental health. RRD started out as a solo project for founder and guitarist Rev Rab, but gradually evolved into a four-piece band. With the exception of Rev Rab, the band has an entirely new lineup since I last visited them a little over a year ago, when I reviewed their terrific debut album Tales From Armageddonsville. They’re now comprised of Rev Rab (guitar, lead vocals), Dan (guitar, backing vocals), Ben (bass, backing vocals) and Nick (drums), and recently dropped their sophomore album Swipe Left.

The album contains 12 tracks, and I’ll touch on what I think are the highlights. RRD gets right down to business on the opening track “Doomsday Clock/Cornucopia Croaked“, a rousing foot-stomper about mankind’s relentless assault on our planet. The track starts off with what sounds like a huge ticking clock in an empty room, backed by distant sounds of civil unrest. At the 30 second mark, the clock stops and we’re hit with a barrage of gnarly distorted guitars and hammering drums, driving home the urgency of the subject. Rev Rab issues a scathing assessment of our destructive tendencies: “We tore down the hills. We dug up the valleys. We pulled up the trees. Replaced them with concrete. And it’s goodbye world. Cornucopia croaked. Strangled by plastic. All our footprints soaked. Need to do something drastic.”

Keeping with the theme of earthly degradation, “Gods of Folded Bills” speaks to how our greed, over-consumption, and the downside of capitalism in general have led us down a path toward the looming prospect of our own demise: “We sold out to darker powers, and all the while, we pray to gods of folded bills. There’s no return, we’re driving down a one-way street. There’s no concern, as the rhino joins the queue.” The song has a cheerful synth-driven melody that belies the darker lyrics. So too with “Superglue“, its catchy new wave/psychedelic grooves in contrast with the more serious subject matter.  “Can’t you tell this fragile shell on which we live…is gonna give./The edifice you build is in your heart. A monument to pride. A prisoner inside. A prisoner to hide. The prisoner is you. And my advice is pull it down, tear it down, smash it down.

Picture of a Man” is a rather somber song about a man who puts forth a charming, gallant image that’s at sharp odds with his substantial shortcomings and cruel nature: “Don’t you paint a fine, fine picture of a man. So subtle, so refined, so charming, so cultured, so well-groomed. / A player, you play her well. You beat her, you cheat her./ Please leave her, relieve her. Just walk away. But freedom is what she wants from you. The one thing you can’t give.” “Guess Which Number” is a sweet tune, with sparkling synths and a lovely piano-driven melody, while “Father of Lies” seems to pay homage to David Bowie’s “Heroes” with its similar iconic driving riff early in the song.

One of my favorite tracks is “Punk Rock is Dead“, a bouncy punk-infused song about how societal pressure to conform killed off the free-thinking, anti-establishment spirit embodied by punk rock:  “Take a message. Subvert it. Pump it out as truth. Take a free man, create dependence, and roll away identity. Millions like him share the uniform. A corporate rebellion. Punk rock is dead. Who killed it? Punk rock is dead. You killed it. Punk rock is dead. We killed it.

Steel September Skies” is a complex and haunting track. It begins with a gently strummed folk guitar, then a thumping drumbeat ensues as Rev Rab describes what starts off as a bucolic scene that quickly turns ominous, perhaps symbolizing a nation formerly at peace but now plunged into an authoritarian regime or civil war: “A picture-perfect parade winds down my street. As idols clap and children cheer, frozen in time. I hear the crash of jackboots black. Let’s change the scene. Ignore the screams. My mother’s arms holding me tight, keeping my safe. I try to smile, but my belly aches, there’s flies in my eyes. And then the screams, my mother screams.”

The music intensifies as his vocals turn urgent: “I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” Suddenly, things turn around to a more positive, hopeful tone: “Parade’s rewind and jackboots fade. All our wrongs are being undone, the guilty can’t run. It’s time to live, it’s time to love. I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” The music calms back down to the gently strummed guitar as the song fades out. It’s such a powerful and stirring song.

Swipe Left is another strong work by Revolution Rabbit Deluxe. Given their unique, sometimes unorthodox sound and deep, thought-provoking lyrics, their songs often require a couple of listens to unpack and fully appreciate all the nuance to be discovered within them. Putting forth the effort pays off nicely once you come to realize the high quality of their music.

Follow RRD on FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase hereBandcamp

HERO WARSHIP – Double-Single Review: “Therewithal / Halcyon Then Gone”

Hero Warship is the solo music project of Joey Doyle, who’s also front man for the Irish band Fiction Peaks, a terrific alternative folk-rock group I’ve featured on this blog a number of times in 2016 and 2017. He released two singles “Chrysanthemum” and “Lesser of Evils” in May (2019), and now returns with another wonderful double single “Therewithal” and “Halcyon Then Gone“, which drop today, October 24. The talented Dubliner is a great songwriter and guitarist, with a beautiful singing voice too. (He’s also a pretty good visual artist.)

Doyle takes a stripped down approach on these two songs, using only guitars and piano to create a captivating soundscape for his gentle vocals. The first track “Therewithal” features layers of cheerfully strummed acoustic and rhythm guitars, accompanied by more somber piano keys that give the song a contemplative air. He earnestly sings the poignant lyrics that seem to me to speak of the ephemeral nature of happiness and contentment. “By the way, I think I thought I had a handle on life suspended on a sunbeam infinitely calls, to an individual sense of therewithal.”

“Halcyon Then Gone” is a simple but lovely song with a haunting piano-driven melody providing the only music for Doyle’s heartfelt, falsetto vocals. He told me the song is a kind of tongue and cheek look at making millions by cheating the casino (casino as a metaphor for a kind of consumer driven, shallow life style). but then giving all the money away and doing it all over again: “When I make my millions I’ll call you, to meet me at the end before we start. This time I’m sure, I’m on to my surefire winning streak, loading the dice, cleaning the house out of countless funds, then give it all away again.

Connect with Hero Warship: Twitter / Instagram
Stream:  Spotify / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play / cdbaby