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

WESTERN JAGUAR – Single Review: “Disappear”

western jaguar disappear

Western Jaguar is an alternative indie rock band I’ve followed awhile, and I absolutely love their music. Hailing from the picturesque Fraser River Valley of British Columbia, Canada east of Vancouver, they combine the best elements of alternative rock and dream pop to create beautifully moving and memorable soundscapes they describe as “sad indie rock”. Like many bands, they’ve recently undergone a number of changes in personnel, and the current lineup consists of Jeffrey Trainor (lead vocals/guitar), AJ Buckley (guitar), Davis Zand (bass) and Dave Montgomery (drums).

They’ve dropped a number of stellar releases, starting with their debut EP Glacia in 2013, then followed two years later with the album Wayfarer, and a second EP Memorial in 2017, and I’m proud to say I own them all. (The guys have generously made their music available for a reasonable sum on their Bandcamp account, so do check it out.) In September 2018 they released a hauntingly beautiful single “Darker Days”, and started off 2019 by dropping a gorgeous new single “Disappear.” The exuberant song has more of a pop-rock feel than most of their other songs, but still features the signature reverb-heavy guitars, throbbing bass and high-voltage percussion we’ve come to love about their music.

About the song, Jeff Trainor explains: “The overall theme of the single centrally focuses on changes that have occurred in our band. Over the past year we ended up losing a few band members and having some changes to our lineup. It happens over time with a band, but I saw this as an opportunity to get into the head space of change. Through “Disappear,” I wrote about the perspective of this change as a sense of relief. In some occasions, losing someone or something can end up freeing you in a lot of ways. The song deals with the struggle of cutting that weight loose, but also the feeling of making that negativity disappear once and for all. Musically, it’s the most pop friendly track we have in our repertoire, but with that being said, we still [believe] the feel and style of it connects to some of our biggest inspirations such as bands like Foals, Catfish and The Bottlemen and Modest Mouse.

The song is fantastic, with a bold, complex melody that grabs and holds our attention from start to finish, and the instrumentals are stunning. The guys employ layer upon layer of richly-textured guitars, delivering a glorious and powerful mix of fuzzy, jangly and chiming riffs that bring chills. The throbbing bass and sparkling synths are perfectly balanced with the muscular drums that give heft to the track while still allowing the guitars to shine. And I especially love the little Foals-inspired riff in the bridge (being a massive Foals fan myself). Trainor’s vocals have an earnest vulnerability that’s really wonderful as he sings to someone for whom he no longer has strong feelings: “I just needed reason to stay. But you were gone. What was I supposed to do? There’s nothing left here for you. I’ll make you disappear.”

The stylishly-filmed video shows three of the charismatic band members performing the song in a chilly interior setting, as evidenced by the steam emitting from their mouths.

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

NOREiKA – EP Review: “Still Falling”

Peter Noreika

NOREiKA is Peter Noreika, a singer/songwriter from western New York state, near Buffalo. He started out his music career as a guitarist for a few heavy metal bands, but eventually quit the business to become gainfully employed, get married and start a family. He never lost his passion for music, though, and eventually picked up his guitar once again and returned to making music, this time as a solo artist. In 2015 he released his debut EP METACOUSTiFOLK, a three-track work in which he combined his love of heavy metal and acoustic guitar and interpreted it in a folk music style. As he describes in his bio, “I’m a blue collar guy in a white collar world. I’m a heavy metal shredder with an acoustic guitar. The music I write and play is not of the style I typically listen to. I stopped trying to be specific things, and instead started going where the wind would take me. I’m not bound by genre. I’m free to do what I want, and that’s what I’m going to do: Make “MY” music. 

He followed METACOUSTiFOLK a year later with Throw the Switch to Begin, featuring four acoustic and melodic rock songs. In 2017, he released his third EP BoXaRoX, on which he departed from the fuller sound of his previous EPs by stripping down the music to just acoustic guitar and vocals. I also reviewed that EP, which you can read here.

Keeping to his pattern of releasing a new EP each year, NOREiKA has just dropped his latest effort Still Falling. The new four-track EP sees a return to heavier instrumentation, with the addition of electric guitars and synthesizers, as well as more serious subject matter. As with his previous releases, he wrote and performed all music (guitar, bass and synths) with the exception of drums, which were played by the legendary Joe Goretti (who also played drums on the first two EPs).

Noreika EP

Finding My Way” kicks off the EP with layers of fast-paced intricate guitars, accompanied by just the right amount of percussion to keep the beat, while letting NOREiKA’s awesome guitar work shine. In his urgent vocal style, he sings about the struggles of being an aging rock musician. Not one to handle the routine of a 9 to 5 career, you’re living your dream of doing what you love and playing music, but time and the endless grind of touring and performing take their toll on the body and spirit too.

Living the dream, I never run out of steam. 
Get to pick and choose, I got nothing to lose. 
I can do no wrong when I’m rockin’ my song. 
Having a blast, when I’m playing fast. 
Then it’s off the stage to turn the page, 
on another day, in my own way. 

It faded away and left me in decay. 
There was nowhere to go, after the show. 
So I roamed for a while, mile after mile. 
Time passed by with no reason to fly. 
I never did jive with the 9 to 5, 
but it sucked me in and here I begin. 

How do I find my way back home? 
It’s been too long, and I’ve grown too old. 
How do I find my way, to where I belong? 

Tightrope” is a rather dark sounding song with chugging riffs of jangly and chiming guitars, spooky synths and a powerful thumping beat. The hopeful lyrics offer encouragement to a loved one to have faith, be honest, and not give up in their search for their own truth and path forward. “Moving on, facing fear, to soar you will defy. Speak your mind, say your truth, and never, ever lie. Closer to the other side, claim the prize that you can’t buy.”

The subject definitely turns darker on “Moment in Time,” a song about coming to terms with one’s self-destructive behavior and the damage it’s caused to his life and relationships. “Tried to tell me, but I walked on past, to one more day that could have been my last. You had enough, and taken all you could, so you gave up on me though I never thought you would.” The hard-driving beat and NOREiKA’s muscular, layered guitar riffs make this a real banger of a track.

On “View From the Heights,” NOREiKA sings of the rebelliousness of youth and the yearning to be free:

Hitting the streets, not sure where we’ll meet. 
I got a place in mind that’s hard to find. 
In the back of the park where it’s always dark. 
We can take a toke and share the smoke. 
I can see the lights coming. 
Got to run to be free. 
I can see the lights coming. 
Won’t they let us be. 

Once again, he dazzles our senses with his skillful guitar work, weaving together multiple textures to create a rich, guitar-driven soundscape that’s both dynamic and incredibly satisfying to lovers of guitar rock like me. I love Goretti’s aggressive drumming on this song, and the well-placed wobbly synths are terrific as well, lending a bit of a psychedelic vibe to the track. In fact, all four tracks are superb, and I think Still Falling is NOREiKA’s finest work yet.

Connect with Peter:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Reverbnation / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

REVOLUTION RABBIT DELUXE – Album Review: “Tales From Armageddonsville”

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe

Being a music blogger who’s earned a reputation for writing reviews, I receive a continuous stream of requests from indie artists and bands to listen to – and hopefully review – their music. So it was a pleasant surprise when I was contacted by Welsh band Revolution Rabbit Deluxe (is that not a great band name!) about their debut album Tales From Armageddonsville. I gave a few songs a listen and was immediately intrigued by their lively, Brit-rock sound and deep, thought-provoking lyrics.

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe began as a solo act by guitarist & vocalist Revolution Rabbit (RR), but eventually grew into a four-piece band with the addition of three very talented ladies: May Dupp (guitar, vocals), Una Corne (drums, vocals) and Chanda Lear (bass, vocals). How can you not love a band with such a sense of humor? In their bio, they describe themselves thusly:

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe live in one house, just like the Monkees, and in between writing, recording and gigging, they tour the world looking for suitable crimes to solve. They lost their summer jobs as archaeologists on Time Team after a drunken lunchtime argument with Tony Robinson led to an unfortunate incident with a toilet, some dynamite, and a very angry, wet, red-faced, tender-assed TV host. To this day, Tony twitches violently when he passes a lavatory.

The album kicks off to a rousing start with “Tarred and Feathered,” a pointed attack on racism and inequality that are institutionalized by the state: “When you’re judge and jury to approve but are disapproving. / Our best qualities are arrogance and pride.”  The band delivers chugging riffs of gritty guitars set to a hard-driving beat and strutting bass line. The piano keys used throughout the track provide a nice melodic counterpoint to the guitars, making for quite an exciting and powerful song.

The band takes on cultural and media mind-control on “Pavlov’s Dogs,” driving home their message with a barrage of punchy guitars, fuzzy riffs, screeching synths and thumping drumbeats. RR fervently laments of the false expectations we fall victim to: “See that girl, she’s so unhappy. Thinks her life should be like the silver screen. Sometimes she wants to scream./ The video is so seductive. Feeds the dream, but denies the needs.”

One of my favorite tracks is “In God We Trust,” a song that calls into question one’s faith in God with an air that exists somewhere between a catchy Beach Boys-esque vibe and a darker psychedelic tone. RR implores “Save me, why don’t you save me?” He goes on to ask why not save a whole assortment of entities that society deems ‘undesirable’ – like the hookers, the pushers, the pimps, the dealers, the one-parent family and the union local. He finally caustically beseeches “And while you’re at it, you can save the man. And while you’re at it, save the man in the moon!

I Can’t Change Your Mind” speaks to mental illness, with jangly guitars and spooky synths that lend a strong 80s feel. RR laments of his feelings of loneliness and irrelevance: “I’m alone here in the dark. / Please don’t throw in scraps of hope. / Fade away, I fade away. A shadow lost on sunny days” while a backing chorus whisper/sings the refrain “I cannot take much more. I cannot change your mind” throughout the track.

The terrific lo-fi guitar-driven tracks “Going Solo” and “Chords Played All Wrong” would have been right at home on the Beatles’ White Album, and “Blackwood Calling” has a throwback 60s Brit-rock vibe, but with an early 80s New Wave sensibility. More grungy lo-fi goodness abounds on “Helen Needs,” a song about a woman looking for relief from her negativity and self-pity. “Helen needs another love song. Spitting sweetness from her headphones.” I especially like the quirky little guitar notes and powerful drumbeat that continue throughout the track.

Another favorite of mine is the hard-hitting and provocative “Whore?” – a song that, in the band’s words, “deconstructs the modern Western family and asks why so many people in the Third World suffer to give us our standard of living.” “You perfect family, for you it’s milk and honey, while for others it’s a river of blood.” The song has a bit of a Depeche Mode vibe, with its strong, crunchy guitars, spacey synths and the kind of heavy, mesmerizing beat that I love. “Catechisms Cataclysms” urges us to change our wicked ways for the betterment of the world, delivered with a barrage of gritty guitars and a hard-driving beat.

Armageddonsville” closes out the album with an ominous warning of the consequences of our wicked ways. The track opens with late 80s-sounding techno synths and a strummed guitar as RR cautions: “It’s getting hotter and they say we’re gonna fry. The ice is melting, polar bears are gonna die. Spilling blood for oil, it makes me want to cry.”  The guitars, bass and drums intensify to become a tumultuous onslaught, driving home the seriousness of the subject matter. RR wails “Welcome stranger, take a seat and say a prayer. There’s nothing else to do in Armageddonsville.”

Tales From Armageddonsville is a fine work, and succeeds quite nicely as a concept album that speaks to a number of thorny issues currently facing Western societies. The songwriting, lyrics, instrumentation and arrangements are all exceptional, and I enjoyed this album immensely.

To learn more about Revolution Rabbit Deluxe check out their Website and follow them on Facebook & Twitter
Stream on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes