New Song of the Week – ROADKEEPER: “Downs”

Roadkeeper

There are a lot of really talented indie bands around today making great music, and I enjoy giving at least some of them a bit of press to hopefully introduce them to a wider audience. One of my favorites is Texas alt-rock band Roadkeeper, who since forming in 2018 have consistently put out a string of exceptional singles. I featured them twice on this blog last year (you can read my reviews under ‘Related’ at the bottom of this article), and especially loved their single “Old Man’s War”, a stunning track about anxiety and worry over things, both real and imagined. It spent 18 weeks on my Weekly Top 30, and ended up at #51 on my Top 100 Songs of 2019 list. They’ve just released their sixth and latest single “Downs“, a beautiful song that I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

Based in the eastern Texas city of Tyler, Roadkeeper consists of songwriter/producer John Hetherington (vocals, synths, rhythm guitar), Trevor Tull (lead guitar), Nick Cogdill (drums) and Daniel Griffith (bass), all 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 and dramatic psychedelic rock with complex melodic structures, they craft lush soundscapes that are a perfect backdrop for their intelligent and topically relevant lyrics that give us something to think about.

With that in mind, the band states that “Downs” “is a personal contemplation of impostor syndrome and not finding one’s place within the cultural and sociopolitical zeitgeist.” The lyrics speak to feeling disconnected with one’s surroundings and the people we interact with: “I feel so disconnected from the qualities of people. My sense of self is out of style. I dread to leave my house and the comfort of this down. I just wanna stick around. I just need a better life.”

Musically, Roadkeeper starts with a simple two-chord progression and layer a lush palette of glittery analog synths and beautifully-strummed acoustic guitars to create a dreamy soundscape. The track opens with an enchanting minute-long introduction of atmospheric synths, then a toe-tapping beat kicks in, along with the aforementioned acoustic guitars and a sublime piano riff that are really gorgeous. John has a smooth and pleasing vocal style that’s well-suited to the band’s sound, and his slightly echoed vocals are especially wonderful here. “Downs” is a superb song, and one of Roadkeeper’s best yet.

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

SORICAH – EP Review: “Let the Fire Burn Free”

Soricah

Soricah is a singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer whose music is influenced by her rich international and multi-cultural heritage. Being of Irish/Mauritian ancestry and having spent various times of her childhood and adulthood living in Ireland, Africa, Mauritius and London, her exposure to a wide range of music and people give her music a unique sound that’s a blending of genres and styles. Formerly a member of the band Rebekah Met Sarah, Soricah has also performed as a solo artist in London and Ireland. She has supported musical acts such as The Palma Violets and renowned cellist Jo Quail, and has been a frequent collaborator with members of The Artist Community of Studio 180, and the East London artistic warehouse scene. She’s also been featured on a number of projects with different artists, and her collaborations have been aired on Freakfm, BBC Radio One and a variety of Irish and International radio stations.

She currently splits her time between Kent, England and Dublin, Ireland, and recently dropped her debut EP Let the Fire Burn Free, featuring four tracks written and sung by her. She also played acoustic guitars on the tracks, and co-produced the EP with Daniel Doherty, who played electric guitar, bass and drums. Gary Molloy played cello and piano, and the songs were mastered by renowned British mastering engineer Pete Maher. The artwork was designed by Valerie Pezeron.

The first track “Waiting” is a beautiful song, with a sultry melody that conjures up images of a beach bathed by warm tropical breezes. Both musically and vocally, the song has a definite Lana Del Ray vibe. A distinctive element is Gary Molloy’s gorgeous fluttering cello, which gives the track a haunting, dreamlike sound. Soricah’s strummed acoustic guitar and smooth, sensuous vocals are complemented by Daniel Doherty’s sultry bass line and crisp percussion. The lyrics speak of intense passion and longing for someone, which Soricah seductively croons “Come a little closer. Feel my body move. My heart is beating faster, waiting for you/ You take me away into the stars is where I’ll stay. Waiting for you, waiting for you.”

Back to Him” is an interesting song, and a perfect example of how Soricah skillfully blends a mix of cultural elements into her music. The song has a delightful, exotic-sounding Latin or gypsy folk melody. The colorful and spirited acoustic and electric guitars are fantastic, and I love Daniel’s distinctive bass line and assertive drumbeats. The lyrics are also interesting, spoken to a lover – either a man or woman – who appears to be confused and conflicted about their sexuality: “You change your faces every day. One minute you’re in love, then you’re running away. Back to him.”

On the title track “Let the Fire Burn Free“, Gary’s vibrant cello takes a starring role, giving the song a lush classical feel, though the lively guitars, bass and drums keep it in folk-rock territory. The song seems to be about freeing oneself from the judgments of others that diminish your own sense of self-worth: “How could you blame yourself, when it was good it was the best. And how could you be such a mess, when you tried to be honest? And how could you cause so much stress, with the family there’s no contest.”

Juliette” is a lovely song of affirmation and self-worth, with lyrics assuring a woman that she doesn’t need a man to make her whole: “And Juliette, you don’t need no Romeo. You’d be better off alone.” The beautiful tinkling piano keys and soaring cello are the musical highlights here, and Soricah’s warm vocals are sublime as always.

Let the Fire Burn Free is a wonderful little EP with four excellent tracks, each having a distinctively different sound. Through a rich mix of stylistic elements and lush instrumentation, Soricah and her fellow musicians have crafted a highly satisfying work.

Follow Soricah:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream her music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

FIREGLOW – Single Review: “Won’t Forget You”

Fireglow

Fireglow is a rock and roll band based in Sydney, Australia. Through their fun, upbeat style of 60s and 70s-inspired music and lively on-stage performances, they’ve built quite a local following since forming in the spring of 2018. Making the music are Chris (guitar/vocals), Sean (guitar/vocals), Bruno (bass), Catherine (keyboards) and Frankie (drums). Starting with the release of their first single “Back of Her Blue Eyes” in June 2019, they’ve been on a creative tear, dropping three more singles over the next six months. This past April (2020), they released their debut EP Fireglow II, featuring four new tracks. One of those tracks is “Won’t Forget You“,  which they released as a single on June 12, along with a video.

Even though it was released at the beginning of winter season in Australia, “Won’t Forget You” has a sunny vibe that makes it the perfect song for summer. Opening with the lines “She was fresh out of school, and she blew my mind like a virgin stone blowing down the sands of time / Summer sun wasn’t kind, it blistered our skin”, it’s a lighthearted song about the ups and downs of a summer romance. Over a toe-tapping groove courtesy of Bruno’s warm bass line and Frankie’s snappy drums, Chris and Sean layer a colorful mix of rhythm and jangly electric guitars, while Catherine’s ukelele and swirling organ riff adds a nice touch to the proceedings. Chris and Sean’s vocal harmonies are really wonderful too. It’s an incredibly pleasing tune that seems to channel the music of 60s bands like The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Turtles, as well late 70s Tom Petty.

The sweet video shows the band’s playful nature as they perform the song and frolic outdoors in the woods or by the seashore, waves crashing at their feet. It’s clear they like to deliver a little fun with their music.

Follow Fireglow:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple Music
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

AGENT JOHNNY RED – Album Review: “Run Against the Sequence”

Agent Johnny Red album art

Agent Johnny Red is an electronic musician, singer-songwriter and composer based in Portland, Maine. He’s been fairly prolific in his music output over the past five years or so, recording and releasing several singles, EPs and compilations, most of which are available on his Bandcamp page. At the end of May, he dropped his first official album Run Against the Sequence, a concept work inspired by his own personal life experiences.

He explained that the album “is about how humans get stuck in recurring behavior patterns or programs that are based upon past events. This is an album about Agent Johnny Red running against the sequence or patterns that were ultimately controlling his life. Addiction to bad relationships, food and drugs are all part of the sequence.” He added that the word ‘Against’ stands for how difficult it is to overcome these bad habits: “Kind of like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, no matter what you do you can’t escape it. But the character in this story does eventually escape at the end.”

The album opens with sounds of a man speaking the words “I won’t deny that there’s some strange, evolutionary process going on, but mankind won’t be destroyed. The fact that you and I are already here today is evidence of that“, and thus begins the first track “Just keep Repeating“. Agent Johnny Red uses an array of dark, yet beautiful swirling synths set to a pulsating EDM beat to create a mysterious atmosphere that conveys a feeling of being in a kind of twilight zone. Eventually, the man’s voice returns to say “Another day is done all over again.” “Figure out this Mess” has an equally ominous vibe, with harsh swooping and pulsating industrial synths forming a psychedelic backdrop for Johnny Red’s droning moody vocals.

On “Lightning in a Black Hole“, Johnny Red seems to be speaking to someone who can save him from himself and his troubles: “Tell me what you want me to be. I’ll tell you I’m all that I can ever be. / I just want to go out for a drive. Just to see the sky. I know it’s crazy, but we’ll be fine if we forget about time.” I really like the lush combination of synth sounds and textures he uses in this and other tracks, and how well his music pairs with his vulnerable, rather melancholy vocals.

The album features a number of terrific instrumental tracks, including “Videodrome“, with its fascinating mix of synthwave, sci-fi, EDM and dubstep elements; the uptempo and otherworldly “Destination of Red“; the mesmerizing, psychedelic and spacey “Save Some Space“; the techno-heavy “Survival is Changes“; and one of my favorites “Don’t Destroy the Water“, a wonderful futuristic fantasia of swirling sci-fi synths and haunting female chorale-like vocal drones, set to captivating dubstep beats.

The title track “Run Against the Sequence” encapsulates everything the album is about, which is the struggle to reach a point of mental clarity and emotional freedom from bad habits and addictions that have kept you enslaved: “Every step that I take will get me closer to awake. Every love that you find will get you closer to rewind. I know that time’s confusing. What if it’s an illusion?” Musically, the song has a haunting piano-driven melody, with a colorful mix of wobbly and stabbing synths, accompanied by hand claps.

Hack Time (You Work Harder)” has an eerie, almost goth-like vibe, with throbbing industrial synths set to a hypnotic rhythmic beat. The tinkling piano keys add a nice textural contrast, keeping the track from sounding too dark.  Johnny Red’s electronically-altered echoed vocals sound pained as he laments of wanting to feel better and be free of his demons and addictions that offer only temporary relief from the pain: “Break free from the things in your brain. / You fell asleep at the wheel. You’re happy when you can feel. You’re happy when you heal. / I just wanna move around the sequence. I just wanna hack time.” It’s another one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Save the Light” is the point of escape, when Johnny finds the truth in the pain of not succumbing to addiction. His vocals are auto-tuned, giving them an even more haunting feel as he sings of being trapped by his addiction, and wanting to break free. ‘Seven seas’ are a metaphor for his freedom: “Back when you thought you could be everything, you saw something great in the seven seas. You ran benediction through your head but addiction had you dead. But you were here and you were sure that if you come back to the seven seas. Come back and let me be. I believe this is a dream come true.” He realizes he needs to be strong, keeping freedom from addiction at the forefront of his goals: “Think the way that you can feel. Fight the urge to make the deal. All these scars that will not heal are just dreams, they are not real.”

Yet he continues to struggle with self-doubt and guilt over pain he’s caused others: “No I don’t want to go back home. I want to stay on this earth. I wanna stay on this earth but you keep killing it. I am telling you I don’t want to see them die. I don’t want to see them cry just so I can feel alive.” He ultimately comes to the realization that he wants to live a life free from addiction: “And if I save the light, then the dark might take me tonight. And on the seven seas everything might be alright.” Johnny Red uses complex and lush industrial and psychedelic synths and some lovely guitar notes to create a somber, yet hopeful mood. It’s a magnificent and moving track.

The album closes on a more upbeat and positive note with “A Puzzled Picture“. The track has a lighthearted vibe, thanks to a lively mix of skittering spacey synths. The man’s spoken voice we heard on the opening track returns to offer a few lines of wisdom, though I’m unable to make out exactly what he’s saying.

Not being a musician, nor very knowledgeable about music theory, technique or mechanics, it’s often hard for me to fully articulate what I hear when listening to electronic music. That said, I have nevertheless written about quite a lot of it, and can confidently state that Run Against the Sequence is in the top tier of electronic music albums I’ve reviewed. Agent Johnny Red is a highly creative, talented and imaginative composer, as well as thoughtful songwriter, and should be very proud of his latest work. This is an album that requires a couple of close listens to fully appreciate all of it’s many nuances, but you will be rewarded for your effort.

Follow Agent Johnny Red on Instagram
Stream/purchase his music on BandcampSpotify / Google PlayApple Music

BEATING HEARTS CLUB – Single Review: “Round the Bend”

I first learned about Sydney, Australia-based indie rock band Beating Hearts Club two months ago when they reached out to me about their gorgeous single “Black & White Love“. Comprising the band are Duncan Welsh (vocals/rhythm guitar), Ciaran Loughran (lead guitar/backing vocals), Peter Holt (drums) and Lukas Thurner (bass).  Even though they’ve released only two songs, I was impressed by their beautiful sound, intelligent songwriting and outstanding musicianship, and became an instant fan. “Black & White Love” is a stunning love ballad (you can read my review here) that’s currently enjoying a long residency on my Weekly Top 30.

Now Beating Hearts Club return with their third single “Round the Bend“, which along with “Heroin” and “Black & White Love”, will be included on their forthcoming debut album, due out later this year. With its rousing melody and catchy, toe-tapping beat, the song has more of a folk-rock feel than their two previous songs. The fuzz-coated jangly guitars are terrific, and I really like the subtle organ work that gives the track a bit of a folk vibe. Thurner’s solid bass line and Holt’s pounding drumbeats keep the driving rhythm, ensuring that the song stays firmly in rock territory, and the guitar solo in the bridge is so good. As always, Welsh’s vibrant vocals are wonderful as he plaintively sings the lyrics that seem to me to be about difficulties with commitment “Chase me round the bend. Thought I’d never see the end.”

“Round the Bend” is a great song, keeping Beating Hearts Club’s perfect score for delivering superb singles fully intact. I love every one of their singles, and look forward to hearing more from this exceptional band.

Follow Beating Hearts Club: Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase: Google Play / Amazon

BRETT.GRANT.5 – Single Review: “Burning Fire”

Brett Grant

One of the joys of having a music blog is being able to give independent and unsigned artists some free press and hopefully expose them and their music to a wider audience. An artist I’m particularly fond of is Chicago-based singer-songwriter and composer Brett Grant, who goes by the artistic moniker brett.grant.5. Drawing from a wide range of musical sources and genres, ranging from 1920’s jazz and classical to video game music and experimental progressive rock, his sound is edgy, unorthodox and fascinating. And his brutally-honest and personal lyrics explore some of the darker sides of life, society, and mental health.

Brett’s been making music for many years, both as a solo artist and as a member of several bands. He plays guitars & synths and sings vocals for A Million Rich Daughters, and previously pounded drums in Sleep For Dinner and TOOFUNCHILD. In addition to his work with the aforementioned bands, as well as earning a B.A. Degree in Music last year, he’s released two solo EPs – digital dirge in 2016 and disqui.etude in 2019 (read my review here). Now he returns with “Burning Fire“, his first new single in a year.

The song is a repudiation of the religious dogma that keeps people enslaved on so many different levels – mentally, socially, culturally and physically. Brett explained that the song “is about rejecting concepts we’ve been force-fed, and trying to unveil the truth through all the lies. The ‘burning fire’ [refers to] the self-righteous light that the hyper-religious shine upon the world, casting dark shadows that create monsters.” As someone who was raised Catholic but am now Atheist, the lyrics strongly resonate with me. I’m always suspect when people invoke god and religion to legitimize their oppression of others, or to further their hateful racist, homophobic or exclusionary agendas.

Musically, Brett uses a complex and dramatic mix of harsh, psychedelic and spooky industrial synths, along with a hypnotic drumbeat to create a dark, ominous soundscape befitting the scathing lyrics. His vocals are equally menacing as he practically snarls his verses, yet there are moments of haunting beauty too, especially in the bridge where he plaintively implores “the world ends with you / the world ends with me / the world ends with us / at least we’ll all be free.”

Like many electronic songs with experimental and progressive rock elements , I found that “Burning Fire” gets better with each listen, as I discovered more nuances in both its melodic structure and the array of instruments and sounds used in the song. Brett will be donating all proceeds from purchases of the song to Black Lives Matter Chicago.

in underlying tunnels in my head
disqualifying thoughts all painted red
creatures undying I can’t regulate
identifying efforts to castrate

your burning fire’s been oscillating
the shadows discharged are starting to take hold
your burning fire is suffocating
nightmarish monsters eroding self-control

emulsifying actions and my thoughts
i’m patronizing the stations of the cross
the underlying message won’t come clean
but I’ve been spying actions so obscene
yeah I’ve been trying to fight this dissonance
by qualifying the sacrifice I’ve spent
the mystifying stories I’ve been told
unsatisfying, removing my blindfold

your burning fire’s been oscillating
the shadows discharged are starting to take hold
your burning fire is suffocating
nightmarish monsters eroding self-control

the world ends with you
the world ends with me
the world ends with us
at least we’ll all be free
the world ends with you
the world ends with me
the world ends with us
at least we’ll all be free
the world ends with you
the world ends with me

your burning fire’s been oscillating
the shadows discharged are starting to take hold
your burning fire is suffocating
nightmarish monsters eroding self-control

Follow Brett: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music on  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / Apple MusicGoogle Play

New Song of the Week – HAZY: “Swimming Closer”

Hazy

Since the release of his debut single “Dragonfly” in 2017, Manchester, England-based singer-songwriter HAZY has watched his star rise on the British music scene. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Chalfont St Giles, he’s loved music since he was a young child, and taught himself to play piano by ear. He followed “Dragonfly” with his gorgeous dream pop single “Silverplate” in 2018, receiving play on BBC Radio Stoke, and in 2019, he launched his debut EP Crystal Disguise to a packed crowd at the iconic Manchester nightclub Gullivers. This past April, he released his single “Arcade”, which has received airplay on numerous radio stations throughout the UK and on KB Radio Canada. Now he returns with a brand new single “Swimming Closer” which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

He wrote and recorded the song at home in his bedroom during the COVID-19 lockdown, as a reaction to the cabin fever he was feeling. He explains “I wrote the track when I was feeling pretty down about the whole lockdown situation, and since then life has been unbelievably strange. Whilst the song is light and energetic to the unsuspecting listener, there is a deeper connection to the struggle that we have all endured during the lockdown. The song helped me feel more optimistic. I hope it makes you feel the same way too.

The track was co-produced by Andy Gannon, who has worked with such artists as Robbie Williams, Rudimental and Clean Bandit, and hearkens back to the beautiful and melodic sounds of “Silverplate”. With its catchy melody and infectious toe-tapping beat, the song has a sunny vibe that makes it a great track for summer, despite its rather poignant lyrics. The colorful swirling synths that continue throughout the song are terrific, and I especially love the piano and guitar notes in the choruses. HAZY’s vocals are great too, with just a hint of reverb effect that works really well on this song. He beautifully expresses both a sense of frustration and vulnerability in the verses, and a hopeful optimism in the choruses. It’s a wonderful song that stayed stuck in my mind long after hearing it, and that’s a good thing!

Think I’m losing my mind
If I’m never gonna get this chance at life
I lie awake at night
I’ll figure out if it was real or right

Oh yeah, I’m swimming closer than I’ve ever swam before
I’m scared of swimming closer than I anticipated 

Hey, through the radio most of you will never know
The problem of losing your faith
We’re all a statistic, but let’s stay optimistic
So I don’t have to cry to sleep

Oh yeah, I’m swimming closer than I’ve ever swam before
I’m scared of swimming closer than I anticipated 

I’m all messed up today
I’ve got to find a way so I don’t fall asleep in the streets
Didn’t get the memo so I didn’t say hello
And now I’m feeling less complete

Oh yeah, I’m swimming closer than I’ve ever swam before
I’m scared of swimming closer than I anticipated 

Think I’m losing my mind
If I’m never gonna get the chance at life
I lie awake at night
I’ll figure out if it was real or right
I’m swimming closer than I’ve ever swam before

Oh yeah, I’m swimming closer than I’ve ever swam before
I’m scared of swimming closer than I anticipated

Follow HAZY:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase: Google PlayAmazon

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