DAY – Single Review: “Keep the Euro, Keep the Pound”

Day single art

Like many people, British singer/songwriter James Day, performing under the artistic moniker Day, has become weary of the deep political divide that’s plagued The United Kingdom over the past several years with regard to Brexit. Wanting to spread a message of hope and understanding, he released a new single “Keep the Euro, Keep the Pound” in March 2019, along with a video showing him performing the song in the studio and on the streets of what I’m guessing is London, along with images of different cities and peoples throughout the UK and Europe. Taking a neutral stance, Day advocates that people must come together for the greater good, and that democracy must always prevail to ensure the continued trust of the people in their democratically elected government.

Day3

About the song, Day explains “‘Keep The Euro, Keep The Pound’ is about our modern world, it’s togetherness, love, hope ingenuity and inventiveness. Over the past 12 months we’ve been touring Europe and doing art and music. Learning the different cultures and traditions and seeing the history and landmarks whilst interacting with the locals who all are so friendly. Europe is such a rich and diverse mix of cultures and traditions, steeped in history that captivates tourists the world over every year by it’s beauty and ability to intrigue romantics. Visiting Malta, Milan, Sicily, Cyprus, Barcelona, Malaga, Bruges, Paris, Kiev, Lviv, Kharkiv and London to name a few, the 12-month tour of Europe was eye opening and enriching, and helped ideas flow for the new album called ‘Day the Album’ that we are currently working on.”

Musically, the song is a catchy rock tune with some nice guitar work, accompanied by subtle bass and snappy drumbeats. Day’s vocals are commanding as he passionately urges people and politicians to stop fighting with one another, find common ground and complete the will of the British voters.

So why’s it so hard to complete?
Are we controlled by the elite?
Keep the Euro, Keep the Pound
I’m sure we’ll find some common market ground

People want their country back
The farmers want their farms
The fishermen to fish again between Dover and France
It’s easy to forget, that just with half a chance
We liberated all of it by entering through France

Why we diluting all the truth and screening bad press news?
No use in going a second round
We gotta find us some common market ground

Keep the Euro, Keep the Pound
I’m sure we’ll find some common market ground

People got their voices so, give ’em sound
stead of controlling situations by just keeping ’em down
Keep society together with the freedoms they’ve earned
and improve their way of living with the lessons we’ve learnt

We’ll trade with you anyway, just gotta go our own way.
Live in the future, ain’t to live in the past
It’s your people gonna make the EU last

And see the gathering crowd, why don’t you give ’em sound?
They all got choices, they all got voices
and they can make their countries proud

Keep the Euro, Keep the Pound
I’m sure we’ll find some common market ground

Connect with Day:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase on  Soundcloud / iTunes 

GUIDE DOG – Single Review: “Generation Y”

Guide Dog Generation Y

Guide Dog is an alternative rock band from Cardiff, Wales I recently learned about when I received a submission for a review of their new single “Generation Y“. I instantly fell in love with their music, which they refer to as “sponge grunge”. Fusing elements of alt-rock, grunge, punk, and electronica, they create songs that are fast, fun, irreverent and in-your-face. They’ve also got a wicked sense of humor.

Comprising Guide Dog are Peter Roberts (Guitar, Vocals), John Maloney (Drums) and Ian Russell (Bass), who describe themselves as “a bunch of wankers who can’t sing and can’t play our instruments. Like the Spice Girls with moustaches. All or some or one were formerly members of Robots In The Sky, Tetra Splendour, People In Planes and Cold Specks.” Well, I’m here to say that, not only can they sing and play the hell out of their instruments, they’re way better than the Spice Girls!

In July 2017 they released their fantastic debut album Lovely Domestic Bliss, a collection of 10 banger tunes. I highly recommend my readers give it a listen, and trust me when I say you’ll be glad you did! They’re now working on a second album Generation Y, to be released later this year on Roberts’ label Hi-Vis Records. It will be accompanied by a book of poems entitled Thou Shalt Stare Into Space. In December 2018, they released the first single “Dead Beat” from the forthcoming album, and now follow up with a second single “Generation Y”, a protest song of sorts against the current fucked-up state of affairs in both the UK and USA. If these two tracks are any indication, Generation Y is going to be a phenomenal record.

About the new single, the band explains: “‘Generation Y’ comes at a time when children are bunking off school to protest outside Parliament about Westminster’s flimsy and inadequate response to climate change – prompting a swift and aggressive backlash by the politicians who dismissed the adolescents and ridiculed their irresponsibility; and the American president staging an imaginary state of emergency in a vein attempt to bludgeon Capitol Hill into funding a giant border wall whilst triumphantly filling his house with branded cheeseburgers to feed his unpaid staff and denying climate change is even happening… so it’s probably an appropriate juncture for a protest song!

“Generation Y” is a tasty little slice of sonic confection, featuring an irresistible bouncy drumbeat, and presented with a lo-fi vibe that keeps the song from bouncing too high. It starts off with a gnarly guitar riff, accompanied by quirky synths, fuzzy bass and very snappy drums. All of the aforementioned instruments explode into bigger, louder and heavier versions of themselves in the choruses, along with an injection of furiously crashing cymbals that turn the track into a real belter. I love Roberts’ wonderful fervent vocals, which sound like a cross between Dave Matthews and Adam Duritz. And the point in the song at 2:29 minutes where he goes “wooh” is a special highlight for me in what is overall a perfect track.

Like all their songs, the lyrics are refreshingly direct and colorful, pulling no punches in calling out bullshit as warranted:

Why did we get up to die generation,
I got a toupee on my mind generation,
Suck it ’til it all runs dry generation,
Why why why…?

When you get so high but you don’t know what it means,
Like a vandalised slush puppy machine,
Like the fashionable rips appearing in my jeans,
Wave a plastic flag at a golden carriage.
I’m a psychopath with a bunch of keys,
I’m a paper jam with 2.9% APR,
I’m an ass licker,
I’m a soul sucker,
I’m oozing out of a sausage and bean melt,
Waving my plastic flag…

Why did we get up to die generation,
I got a toupee on my mind generation,
Suck it ’til it all runs dry generation,
Why why why…?

I don’t drink and drive or have the odd line once in a while,
I don’t dress up like a lady in secret,
I never think about blowing up the White House,
I got hope for salvation but I don’t know why.
I felt sick so I took an anti sickness pill,
I felt disconnected so I bought a new telephone,
Got a payment plan and a fake sun tan,
Some health and safety regulations,
But I just can’t relax…

Why did we get up to die generation,
I got a toupee on my mind generation,
Suck it ’til it all runs dry generation,
Why why why…?

Connect with Guide Dog:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

DRAFT EVADER – EP Review: “Cashed”

Draft Evader Cashed

Draft Evader is an earnest and talented young musician from Chicago who I’ve been following for a while, and it’s been gratifying to watch him grow and mature as an artist. An interesting name for the music project of singer/songwriter and guitarist Ryan Loree, Draft Evader aptly describes his independent and rebellious nature. I first featured him on this blog in December 2017 when I reviewed his single “The Devil’s Disguise”, and at the time he explained “the name ‘Draft Evader’ is kind of a middle finger to the whole system, like ‘you can’t tell me what to do.’ So in a sense it means freedom. Freedom to be who you are and do what you love, no matter what anyone says.

Draft Evader plays a dynamic and accessible style of what he calls “pessimistic punk rock”, with rock’n’roll and grunge overtones. He writes all his songs, plays guitar and sings all vocals, and his good friend Joe Scaletta plays bass and drums, as well as mixes and masters the tracks. His deeply personal lyrics are brutally honest and always relatable; he openly addresses his struggles with depression and self-doubt, something a fair number of musicians and others involved in the arts also experience (as does yours truly).

He released a great little EP Hound Dog in the fall of 2018, featuring four stellar tracks – one of which, “In My Mind” was particularly outstanding. I loved the song so much it went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 last December. On February 12, he dropped a new two-song EP Cashed – a double-sided single of sorts. Interestingly, both tracks are 2:36 minutes long. Cashed was inspired by Ryan’s involvement in a car accident: “Ever get into a car accident during an existential crisis only to lose your job right after? Me too, and I wrote a couple songs about it.”

On the hard-rocking title track “Cashed“, he candidly speaks of depression and self-destructive behavior that often leads to additional problems, contributing to a cycle of ever deeper depression. Yet he also yearns for comfort and reassurance from a older and wiser voice. Ryan’s an impressive guitarist, and he delivers an onslaught of gnarly riffs from the get-go, driving home the seriousness of the subject matter. His scorching little guitar solo in the bridge was written by fellow musician Martijn Frazer, and I love his soaring vocals in the chorus. In fact, Ryan’s vocals have really improved with time and experience, and here he beautifully conveys the frustration and anger expressed in the biting lyrics:

Cashed my check to fill my tank up
Slow down over one more speed bump
Blowing stop signs with no license
Crash my car then stepped in dog shit
Covered in shitty ink
What would my grandma think
Kill for an old-school opinion
Pickin’ up missing teeth until my knuckles bleed
Falling deeper into a depression

On “Sunnyside“, he addresses the self-doubt about his music that sometimes plagues him. He released an EP Heel Turn in April 2018 (a very respectable effort that I also reviewed) but being a perfectionist, Ryan wasn’t satisfied with the songs or EP artwork. He incorporates the EP and song titles in the opening verse of “Sunnyside”, describing his struggle with self-confidence and feelings of not belonging:

Heel turn, I’m on a warpath
If I stutter more, I’ll complain less
All I have are some petty songs
Trying to write out all my wrongs

And I think I died in the old world
Because here I just don’t belong
And I left my soul in the old world
Behind yellow bars and heineken

Once again, he lays down chugging riffs of gritty guitar, while Joe handles the rhythm section with skilled precision. Both tracks are excellent, with catchy melodies that immediately hook us in, and driving riffs to keep us in thrall while we enjoy the ride. It’s a testament to Draft Evader’s continuing growth and ability to put out terrific rock music. I admire this young man and am happy to help promote him and his music however I can.

Connect with Draft Evader on Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase his music on Spotify and Bandcamp

THE COMMON VIEW – Artist Spotlight & Review

The Common View (2)

I continue to be amazed at the sheer volume of musical talent that exists today, with so many really fine musicians and bands making outstanding music. A recent find is a young four-piece from Leeds, England who call themselves The Common View. I liked their music at first listen, and as I learned about their social and political views and willingness to be outspoken advocates for social justice, being an unapologetic progressive liberal myself, I’ve also come to admire them and am proud to feature them on my blog today.

The band was formed in 2018 by three University of Leeds students with a shared love of music: Dom Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jose Ignacio Barrera (guitar) and Jacob Lindsay (drums, vocals). Bassist Joe Sykes joined a bit later, filling out the band’s sound and completing their lineup.  Their indelible and dynamic style of alternative rock is influenced by indie pop-rock, post-punk revival and Rockabilly.

They released their self-titled debut EP The Common View, Vol. 1 in December 2018, featuring three outstanding tracks. The guys recorded, mixed and mastered the EP themselves, and I must say that the production values are first-rate, sounding very professional for a debut effort. They also have a terrific little blog on the website musicglue, where they share news about themselves, their music and coming events, so do check it out here. Dom has quite the sense of humour (I thought I’d be cheeky and use the British spelling), and provides entertaining insight into the creation and meaning of the songs, some of which I’ll quote below.

The first track, “I Can’t Get Your Face Out of My Mind” is a delightfully sultry affair, with pulsating riffs of swirling guitars, throbbing bass and snappy drums delivering moody vibes and a captivating melody. Dom describes the song’s genesis: “My memory is somewhat comparable to a goldfish, but if I recall correctly, the song started off with a vaguely similar chord progression and a completely different strumming pattern. It was admittedly a bit of a mess, but I distinctly remember the moment it all came together; For some unknown reason I started to try a bit of a Ska rhythm, akin to something The Specials would use in their hits, and it started to sound really good! After that, the rest of the song started to fall into place and we worked on the progression and the voicings (which usually consists of Jacob’s best whale impression to the sound of the song), with the solo and actual wording being sorted much later on.”

I confidently state that it all came together quite nicely. The tight instrumentation is a clear indication of this band’s impressive musicianship, and I really like Jacob’s sultry, yet heartfelt vocals that convey a sense of sad resignation as he laments to someone who broke his heart: “Oh, if you’re feeling low, don’t come running. I’m moving on now, you can’t keep me down. Got my head spinning round. Your words are poison. You’re killing all the boys, and I’m intoxicated, Hear me out. And you led me on, said I was the only one for you. But you were lying through your teeth. How could you do that to me.

The socially relevant “Ignorance” greets our eardrums with a rousing mix of jangly and fuzzy guitars, accompanied by a frantic punk-rock beat that makes for a exhilarating listen. About the track, Dom explains: “At the risk of sounding like a dickhead, I am actually quite proud to say I wrote the lyrics to ‘Ignorance’, even if it was at 3 am in a disgustingly dirty kitchen in student halls (This will become a trend). They draw from the general idea that there are so many things in the world that seem so obviously wrong (whether it be Global Warming, genocides, racism or terrorism to name a few) that to anyone who ignores, pretends or simply doesn’t understand the fundamental basics is so glaringly ignorant, I’ll never understand them. Ignorance may well be bliss, but we really should be better than this!

On “The Hollow“, Jose and Dom deliver a languid, soulful groove, with shimmery riffs of chiming guitar that are drop-dead fucking gorgeous! And if all that beauty wasn’t enough, Jacob and Dom’s vocal harmonies are positively sublime. Dom discusses their creative genius behind the song’s captivating melody: “‘The Hollow’, despite being the slower track of the EP, will always hold a special place in my heart. It came about as we were recording our music in Jose’s apartment in Manchester and were looking for another song to go on the EP. Jose and I picked up our guitars and were messing about with a few ideas and eventually one of us (I think it was me) started to use the 7th chords which sounded a little jazzy, and Jose immediately picked up on it. We worked together to form the verse, then he started to add a little bit of lead to it and Jacob worked his magic, moaning like a buffalo in the plains of the wild west in tune to the music, to find some voicings that worked, and then altering some of Jose’s proposed lyrics to fit the tune. Then all of a sudden we had it – a completed song, from start to finish, composed by all of us together, in the space of about 20 minutes. Then, in about half an hour we had it all recorded and had to rush to the coach station to head back home to Leeds. It truly was ‘made in the studio’!”

Shortly after the release of their EP, they dropped a provocative new single “Fuck Them“, where they call out the failure of British society and the government to adequately address the chronic issues of health care, poverty and homelessness: “We are sick of the way the NHS is so poorly funded and mismanaged. We are sick of the rising levels of homelessness and the complete neglect to do anything about it. We are sick of the glorification of food banks as a solution rather than proof of failing policy. We can’t change the government, but we can let them know that we don’t want them!” 

Musically, the track has an exuberant tempo that belies the scathing lyrics, with roiling riffs of jangly and gnarly guitars, sparkling synths, bouncy drumbeats and an abundance of crashing cymbals. Jacob coldly sings: “Everyone is in despair. Hard to find someone who cares. People dying in their beds, cause there’s no money for their meds. We’ve got to work and do it right. But all you ever do is fight. / We don’t, we don’t want you. We don’t, we don’t need you. We don’t, we don’t believe you. We don’t, we don’t need you here.”

This brilliant song was expertly mixed and mastered by Alexander Elegger, a young audio engineer and producer from Tula, Russia who began working in sound engineering at the tender age of 14! And the photo used for the video is by Matt Collamer for Unsplash, and was published on February 12, 2018.

Lastly, here’s a video of the band playing an acoustic version of their latest track, a love song called “A Perfect Bridge“. These guys are supremely talented songwriters and musicians and I’m helplessly hooked on their music. Even at their young ages, they’re already masters of their craft, and I expect we’ll be hearing even more incredible music from them in the future. There’s nothing common about The Common View, and I’m excited about following them on their musical journey.

Connect with The Common View on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / ReverbnationApple Music
Purchase on iTunes

REVOLVERS – Single Review: “True Love”

Revolvers True Love Art

Revolvers are a four piece indie band based in London who play high-energy guitar-driven melodic rock. Originally formed in 2016 at the London College of Music, the band now consists of James Thurling (guitar/lead vocals) Will Oliver (guitar/backing vocals), Steven Morrison (bass/backing vocals) and Rhys Kibble (drums).  They released their debut EP Your Indie Heroes Will Betray You in January 2018 to positive reviews, and now return with an exuberant new single “True Love” which drops today, February 20th. 

It’s a terrific, hard-hitting song that reflects the band’s trend toward a heavier rock sound. The thing that really stands out for me is the fantastic guitar work. James and Will deliver an explosion of lush, reverb-drenched jangly riffs that continue throughout the track, punctuated by a tasty little gnarly guitar solo in the bridge. Steven lays down a solid bass line while Rhys pounds his drums and crashes his cymbals like a banshee, adding tremendous impact to this exhilarating song. James has a commanding vocal style, and I really like how his strong British accent shines through when he sings.

The lyrics seem to address dual themes of the impermanence of romantic love, and how as we grow and change, we can never go back to what once was. It’s a rough thing to come to grips with, as anyone who’s moved away has experienced upon returning to a place where you used to live, or to an old flame you once loved, but for whom the feelings have faded or disappeared for at least one of the parties.

Letting go has never been so easy
You know that more than anyone
Cause I don’t believe true love ever exists
It’s a game made up by mankind

Say farewell to small town agendas
Streets and corners where you surrendered
All those days
Racing through your life without warning
Then you realize that you never belonged here
You don’t belong here

True love never makes it to midnight

The wonderful video for the song shows a man back visiting the town he grew up in, and seeing himself in various situations with old friends and girlfriends but feeling lost and out of sorts, no longer fitting in.

Catch Revolvers at this upcoming show:

ondon

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

HARROLAND – Single Review: “Home”

Harroland Home

Harroland is an alternative indie-rock band from Reading, England, comprised of siblings Michael (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Kate Kennedy (keyboards, backing vocals),  Steve Tabor (lead guitar) and Sam Tranckle (drums). They’ve just released a new single “Home“, the first of a number of releases planned for 2019. They wrote and self-recorded the track on a shoe-string budget in a freezing cold converted laundry house outside Reading, and had close friend Liam Memmott do the mixing. Mastering was done by two time Grammy Award-winning analog mastering engineer Andres Mayo.

The song opens with an ominous synth chord, then expands into a darkly beautiful soundscape of shimmering keyboard synths, chiming guitars and smooth percussion. The moody piano riff is particularly sublime. Michael has a unique vocal style that’s incredibly appealing, and Kate’s lovely backing vocals harmonize beautifully with his, making for a wonderful listening experience. I found myself wanting to hear this song again and again, liking it more with every listen.

According to Michael, “‘Home’ is told from the viewpoint of someone who gained power using empty promises and feeding on other people’s hopes and dreams. The lyrics reflect the mindset of the kind of person that only wants to enrich themselves, no matter who gets hurt because of their promises. We think it’s important to question who you can and should trust, or if they’re just telling you what you want to hear, especially in the political climate we’re all in at the moment. We’ve all been burnt by people like that.”

The lyrics are extensive, but here’s a snippet of verses that drive home the song’s message from someone intent on holding onto their own power while disregarding the hopes and dreams of others (perfectly describes the vile Liar in Chief currently occupying the White House):

Flip up the table,
But it don’t move,
Now they say,
They’re threatening,
My home, your dreams,
My right to rule

So move aside,
I won’t play no part,
I’m better to be someone with no broken heart
Don’t you ever feel it’s
Best I stake my claim.

And I got my home,
and I got my ways,
and I’ll take your dreams,
In some old fashioned way

“Home” is the band’s last collaboration with drummer Sam Trackle, who is stepping down to spend more time with his family. He will be replaced by Stu Roberts, who will debut with Harroland at their March 16th show at the Rising Sun Arts Centre.

Catch Harroland at one of these upcoming shows:

Saturday, March 16       Rising Sun Arts Centre, Reading
Saturday, March 23       Hope & Anchor, Wokingham
Wednesday, March 27  Purple Turtle, Reading
Saturday, May 18           Rising Sun Arts Centre, Reading
Saturday August 10       A Different World Festival, Abbey Rugby Club, Reading

Connect with Harroland on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Home” on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

DARKSOFT – Album Review: “Brain”

Darksoft Brain

Darksoft is the music project of Bill Darksoft, a smart and creative young artist from Seattle, Washington who’s produced one of the most interesting and brilliant concept albums I’ve heard in some time. Brain, which dropped in November 2018, is named after the very first computer virus to attack the internet back in 1986, with each track named after infamous viruses that followed.

He operates his own label and website Look Up Records (for which he also writes some pretty awesome reviews), and in addition to his music project, has played with many Seattle acts over the years. About his inspiration behind the creation of Brain, he explains: “Distanced through haunted screens, we rely on spooky contact that we don’t fully understand. At times, dark forces lurk on the other end, with a motive to con. Always a silhouetted hooded presence, the hacker has become our modern portrayal of Death; captor to the mind and its web of memories. As we stare deeper and deeper into the glowing comfort of this synthetic deception, trust has become the challenge of our modern paradigm, and the cyberscape the new Great Unknown. At its core, Brain is a story not only of the brain, but of the heart, as both confront trust and deception, the real and the synthetic, the mind and the motherboard, and the dark web connecting it all where the matter of our endless identities can be created as quickly as it can be erased, infected, encrypted…or simply revealed for what it truly is, beneath the hood.”

Brain opens with “Mydoom” a pleasant track with gauzy riffs of jangly guitars, subtle bass and gentle percussion. The lyrics speak to the seemingly harmless but insidious virus that keeps a watchful eye on one’s internet dealings: “I’ll just pop up in your window to see how it’s going. From time to time I will drain your battery life… Track you close, I’ll watch your move. Mydoom A has put a bug on you to stayIt’s ok to be vulnerable if you’ve got nothing to lose.” Darksoft has a velvety smooth vocal style that’s incredibly pleasing, giving the track a rather dreamy vibe. On “Elk Cloner“, he first warns about a virus that works to take over our thoughts: “They will enter your world. They can infiltrate microchips. They will stick like glue. They will modify you.” But then it’s as if the virus itself tells us not to worry and just remain calm: “No cause. No cause for alarm. No harm. We just occupy thought. No cause for alarm. No cause, just be calm.” The track has a lovely, mesmerizing melody and his vocals are really soothing, belying the rather menacing message.

Darksoft quickens the pace on the bouncy “Conficker“, though it still has a somewhat moody undertone with a mix of fuzzy and jangly guitars, shimmery synths and a determined drumbeat. The lyrics allude to the algorithms that control what we’re fed on social media, shaping our world view in the process: “We choose what you feel. No view into reality. Your life is ours… permanently.

With gnarly guitars and spooky synths propelled by a strutting bass line, “Lamex” speaks to how easy it is to escape into an artificial online world: “If you want a lame existence. They will send you a virus or two. Lamerism is the name of the tool I use”, yet yearning to break free and think clearly and independently: “I need to get out…To free my mind…To quit this code and leave the app I knew behind. If you look away you’ll open your eyes.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Heartbleed“, with its enthralling melody, irresistible drumbeat and gentle psychedelic groove, thanks to deliciously eerie synths. The jangly guitars are marvelous, the bass line’s sublime, and I absolutely love Darksoft’s warm, captivating vocals. I honestly think I would be perfectly happy listening to him sing the yellow pages!  My take on the song’s meaning is it seems to compare the feelings of someone who’s emotionally dead inside to that of a computer – a machine who only does what it’s programmed and directed to do: “Matter is a thing. You focus it’ll bring you life and pleasure. Just wait and see. Let your lead heart bleed.  Silicon and hardware respond.  Nothing really matters when you’re a machine… You live to be used by others.”

Another favorite is “Cryptolocker“, a darkly gorgeous song with dreamy and sometimes eerie synths that create a lush atmospheric soundscape. The gently-strummed chiming guitars are exquisite, as are Darksoft’s ethereal vocals that are seductive, yet menacing, as he coldly warns another not to fuck with him: “You don’t know who you’re dealing with. You don’t understand who you’re messing with. Lock me away and I will pull the plug from under you.”

I distinctly remember the virus for which “ILOVEYOU” is named. Darksoft uses it as an allegory for the emptiness and futility that can result from using online dating websites: “Every fuckin day is the same. Can’t look up from the screen. Crushes breakin over the phone. Guess that I’ll be alone. Til I see your message titled ‘love confession’. Feeling’ tempted by a lie; it’s a misdirection. You were nothing more than spam. My little love connection. Engineered to phish my soul. Been spoofed again by a false confession.” The song has an infectious drumbeat and some fine, intricate guitar work.

Code Red” is a beautiful, languid song featuring Darksoft’s resonant, pulsating guitars and sublime vocals, backed by his own harmonic choruses.  The lyrics seem to speak of clearing one’s mind of self-destructive thoughts and behaviors: “Everyone has a code. Some write them, others they follow a worm. Everyday, take a chance. Decrypt all the bullshit and break from the trance.” The final track “NightShade” is a mellow, anthemic rock song with jangly guitars and humming bass, accompanied by snappy drumbeats. NightShade seems to be a metaphor for drugs taken to numb the pains of life: “Where you’re from, how you came as I take it all away with NightShade. / If I can survive maybe then so can you. Aren’t we all playing role games? Infect the database with NightShade.”

Brain is a great album, and I love pretty much everything about it – Darksoft’s clever lyrics inspired by each of the computer viruses, his beautiful melodies, outstanding guitar work, first-rate production values, and stunning vocals. He’s an amazing talent, and I eagerly look forward to hearing what he comes up with for his next music project.

Connect with Darksoft on Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Google Play
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby

LOUD HOUND – Single Review: “Youthful Stranger”

Loud Hound Youthful Stranger

I’ve featured hundreds of artists and bands on this blog over the past three-plus years, and it seems half of them have released new music since the first of the year! Today I’m writing about LOUD HOUND, the music project of Tommy Florio, a talented young singer/songwriter from Ventnor City, New Jersey. The self-described “beachy boi extraordinaire” fuses elements of garage, surf and psych rock to create wonderful songs filled with catchy melodies, honest lyrics and irresistible guitar grooves.

In early 2018, he released his debut single “Fine By Me” – a lo-fi, high-energy, surf rock gem, then followed that May with the outstanding introspective single “Runnin’,” which I reviewed. Now he’s back with a great new single  “Youthful Stranger“, delivering a somewhat moodier dream pop vibe than his two previous singles. It really showcases his skill at writing songs with diverse melodies and instrumentation, and keeping his music sounding fresh.

Starting with a mix of strummed acoustic and jangly electric guitars as the primary drivers, LOUD HOUND adds some distortion, fuzzy bass and low-key percussion to create an intriguing backdrop for his slightly seductive echoed vocals. The music and vocals build as the song progresses, with some nice riffage in the chorus, then slows back down toward the end, with an interesting watery reverb effect on the guitars.

The lyrics seem somewhat ambiguous, but my take is that they speak to depression in a young adult who takes drugs to make it through life, feeling invincible once they take effect:

Youthful stranger watch as your dreams fall apart
Little blue pills keeps your friend up at night
The lonely dreamer survives the night
The lonely dreamer survives the night

Youthful stranger watch as your dreams come to life
Let’s pretend and play God
My life ready to stand tall
The lonely dreamer survives the night
The lonely dreamer survives the night

Connect with LOUD HOUND:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp

BLACK BEAR KISS featuring LEO GOLDEN CHILD – Single Review: “Follow Me”

black bear kiss follow me

Black Bear Kiss is an alternative indie rock band from the West Midlands/Shropshire region of England who’ve built quite a loyal following since forming in 2016. Comprised of Chris Leech on lead vocals, Colin Haden on lead guitar, Rob Jones on rhythm guitar, Rich Sach on bass, and Chris Bagnall on drums, they released a fantastic debut single “Hooks” in April, 2018, then followed three months later with another banger “Secret Side”. (I reviewed both songs, which you can read here and here). Now they’re back with their third single “Follow Me“, which sees the band going outside their usual rock’n’roll comfort zone, adding a hip hop element in a collaboration with acclaimed Birmingham rapper and motivational speaker Leo Golden Child. And they succeed quite nicely, delivering a lively multi-dimensional track that’s fresh and fun.

The song speaks to pressures of modern day life and how we cope with constantly changing expectations, delivered by an upbeat rock groove with hip hop elements. The band’s signature bass-driven, guitar-heavy sound is on full display here. Both Chris and Leo are great vocalists, and Leo’s rap verses meld beautifully with the rock melody. Leo asks “How we sounding?” to which I emphatically answer “Awesome!”

The wonderful video is filmed in a what appears to be a hallway of an industrial/commercial building, with alternating footage of each of the five band members and Leo shown performing the song. They all clearly appear to be having fun, and their strong natural charisma shines through, with band front man Chris Leech achieving heartthrob status. Leo’s big smile at the end perfectly expresses my feelings for both song and video. I love this band!

Catch Black Bear Kiss at one of these upcoming shows:

February 2      7:00 pm    The Station, Cannuck, England
February 22    7:00 pm    Bath Uni Student Union, Bath, England
March 2           7:00 pm    Boars Head, Kidderminster, England
March 8           7:00 pm    O2 Academy, Birmingham, England
July 27            10:00 am    Shropfest 2019

Connect with Black Bear Kiss:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their songs on  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes cdbaby

Artist Spotlight: THE MAYAN FACTOR

mayan factor collage names

As I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog, one of the redeeming qualities of Twitter is the astounding number of musicians and bands I continue to discover, a great deal of whom are really talented. One such band I recently had the good fortune of learning about is The Mayan Factor, a five-piece alternative rock outfit based in Baltimore, Maryland. They’ve been around since 2002, and after listening to their music I was perplexed as to why I’d not previously heard of them, because they’re phenomenal.

Their first release, the 2003 EP In Lake’ Ch, is a veritable masterpiece, featuring the powerful and stunning tracks “Warflower” and “Beauty and the Beast”. They followed up two years later with an equally stellar album 44. Then tragedy struck a hammer blow in 2011 when the band’s lead singer Ray Schuler died suddenly, leaving a void that sent the band and their fans reeling. They’d been recording songs for a third album Yesterday’s Son, which they went ahead and released in 2012. I strongly urge my readers to check them all out, because they’re fucking fantastic, and you’ll literally be the poorer if you don’t!

Not quite sure what to do after Ray’s death, the band considered going their separate ways, but the love and dedication of their fans persuaded them to soldier on. They eventually found another musician to be the band’s lead vocalist in Lenny Cerzosie Jr. Besides Lenny, who also plays rhythm guitar, the band lineup consists of Brian Scott (guitar), Kevin Baker (bass), Dan Angermaier (drums), and Jason Sage (percussion, backing vocals). Dan told me that Lenny has worked out very well as the band’s lead singer, bringing his own style to the mix. “Ray was unique. Lenny doesn’t try to be him. I think that’s why he works so well. He makes Ray’s words work for him.

the mayan factor stage shot (2)

With their re-invigorated lineup, the band began writing new songs and in 2016, they released an epic single “Ascension“. Wow, this 7:13 minute-long song is a religious experience! Layer upon layer of gorgeous intricate guitars are combined with a strong bassline, exotic percussive synths and pounding drums to form an intense and lush soundscape, evoking the drama and color of an ancient Mayan ritual. Then there’s Lenny’s raw, passionate vocals, soaring to the heavens and adding to the chills already covering my body.

In January 2018, they released “Whispers“, a deeply moving song that was inspired by Lenny’s mother’s struggles of living with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or “Lou Gehrig’s disease”, which my mother-in-law also died from). Once again, the guitar work is stunning, and the bass, drums and synths are perfection, making for a formidable powerhouse track. Lenny’s fervent vocals at first remind me of Michael Stipe’s, but as the track progresses they grow more impassioned as he wails of the pain of watching a loved one gradually slip away: “I thought we had another day. Another day just passed away. Azaleas grow along the way. I thought we’d have another day. I’ll meet you in the other place. Heaven couldn’t stay away, Angels wouldn’t sing that day.”

Their most recent single “hOpe” was also inspired by Lenny’s mother’s battle with ALS. About the song’s title, the band explains “The definition of the word HOPE is ‘to cherish a desire with anticipation’, but the word truly takes on different meanings to each of us as individuals. However different the meaning of the word is to us, it all connects us together with the promise of change and the promise of light after darkness. Even though friends and family may not be with us, they remain as long as they are in our hearts. They speak to us but without words. We created this song as an anthem to those traveling through darkness of illness, grief and any type of difficult time.”

It’s a lovely, bittersweet song with beautiful jangly guitars, anchored by a sturdy humming bassline and pounding drums. Lenny’s passionate vocals have a raw vulnerability as he sings the poignant lyrics:

I remember the sound. 
Not the words but the sound of her voice 
trembling, trembling 
I remember the things she said to me 
All this life is lost into the night, too soon 

Tonight… 
I remember her eyes, so sweet so sweet 
Lovingly, so lovely 
Don’t let me fall, don’t let her fade

The beautiful animated video shows scenes of a young boy moving through a colorful dream-like landscape with what appears to be his grandmother and, in one scene, his grandfather.

They released a beautifully moving alternative video for “hOpe” that was shot in Mexico as a symbolic tribute to Lenny’s mother. It shows us the faces of #hOpe, of survivors who didn’t give up hope to keep living.

And so, dear readers, my hope is that you’ll give these songs a listen, and end up loving The Mayan Factor as much as I do. Not only do they make incredible music, but their resiliency and strong sense of humanity are admirable. They’re true survivors, and I hope they’ll continue making more great music for years to come.

Connect with The Mayan Factor on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby