New Song of the Week – MARVIN DEE BAND: “Sweetlake City”

Until recently, I wasn’t aware that The Netherlands had such a thriving music scene. Last month, I featured Dutch indie rock band Morgendust on this blog, and am now pleased to introduce the Marvin Dee Band. With their pleasing folk rock sound, influenced by such acts as Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, Gavin DeGraw, Sting and John Mayer, they honestly sound like they could be from Nashville or Austin, rather than Rotterdam. Although it was released a few weeks ago, I’ve chosen their latest single “Sweetlake City” as my New Song of the Week.

The Marvin Dee Band has been through many changes since forming earlier in the decade. These changes were the inspiration for their new album, simply and appropriately titled Changes. This wrenching period of unrest continued for more than two years, during which the band parted ways with three band members while in the middle of recording the new album. The lineup now consists of front man and songwriter Marvin Dee (guitar & lead vocals), Quintijn Kuypers (bass, backing vocals), Cas Ronckers (keyboards, backing vocals), Karsten Klemm (electric guitar, backing vocals) and Jonas Nieuwenbroek (drums).

Marvin Dee Band 2

The album was written and produced by Marvin Dee, and released on October 6th only in physical form on CD and Vinyl. It will be released on all streaming services soon. In addition to their new lineup, the band went all out for the recording of the album.  Wanting a fuller, more sophisticated sound, they recruited Ben Rodenburg for horn arrangements, Myrthe van de Weetering for strings arrangements, and Age Kat for additional electric guitar. I’ve listened to Changes, and it’s a beauty. Each of the 11 outstanding tracks reveal a little bit of the band’s story, reflecting the turbulent times the band went through these past two years, and emerging stronger then ever before.

The fourth single from Changes, “Sweetlake City” speaks to chasing dreams while also being thankful for what you already have. The band explains the inspiration behind the track: “A few years ago, Marvin traveled to America for a short solo tour. There, he met with Susan Rogers, former engineer/producer for Prince and the Barenaked Ladies. Susan told him about the ‘slingshot’: that part of your life that feels like it’s holding you back, but what eventually will prove to be the driving force and motivation to make music, launching you forward to where you want to be. For Marvin, that slingshot is his ‘Sweetlake City’ of Zoetermeer – the place where he works five days a week to provide himself with a steady income, in the hopes of one day making a living from music.”

The song has a rousing Americana vibe, thanks to a stellar blend of rhythm, electric and Country-style guitars, accompanied by a vibrant mix of lively piano keys, exuberant horns and smashing drums. The instrumentals are all fantastic, each one of them standing out, yet perfectly balanced to create an exhilarating backdrop for Marvin’s commanding, heartfelt vocals. It’s a wonderful song.

You spend all day doing work that doesn’t pay enough
And you don’t even like enough
You want to get away from this Sweetlake City
We’re all drunk in the morning on dreams that you don’t even dare to tell
But in the light every evening it seems like they’re right there
We’re all hooked up on plans made by someone we hardly know at all
But it’s hard to get up in the morning when life drags you down

Show me how, well tell me now
Sing out loud, want to live a little more
You want to live a little more

Connect with Marvin Dee Band:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Deezer
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

PHILIP MORGAN LEWIS – Video Premier: “Blowtorched Dreams”

Philip Morgan Lewis

It’s hard to believe that nearly two years have passed since I featured British singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Philip Morgan Lewis on this blog in November 2017, when I reviewed his brilliant, meticulously-crafted album Grief Harbour. The London East Ender melds alternative rock, blues, garage rock and folk influences to create his exciting, bluesy rock sound that complements his unique, raspy vocal style. Following up on Grief Harbour, he released a fun album House Works that featured eight house/EDM tracks. Now Philip is back with a bold video for his new single “Blowtorched Dreams“, which I’m honored to premier today. The single will be officially released on the 28th of October as a digital download and 7-inch vinyl.

Philip Morgan Lewis3

Philip wrote the lyrics and music, performed all the instruments and sang vocals on the track, as well as produced the song, which is being released via label TX2 Records. Backing vocals were sung by Vick E and his daughter Little A. For the recording of the track, Philip built a one-stringed instrument to play all the twangy slides, adding a rather dark country-folk vibe to his bluesy guitars and bass, all of which sound so damn good. He’s a remarkable musician and vocalist who manages to wring out every last drop of emotion with his deft, passionate guitar-playing and distinctive, raspy singing voice. When he sings of his pain, you believe every word, and the deep, almost tortured guitar work only serves to intensify those moods. It’s a brilliant track.

The dark lyrics speak to a sense of despair and hopelessness, of a life gone down the tubes as a result of having lived a self-destructive existence. Or, could it be the bitter realization of having expected too much from a cold, cruel city that eats up and discards you?

I wander night and day
Sidestepping all the way
No brighter light is gonna come
Is gonna come for me baby
Trapped in an altered state
With somebody else’s fate
No kingdom come no kingdom come
The road is done for me baby

When the chips finally fall on the ground
And the sod is just you hangin’ round
You know what’s it all about

Blowtorched dreams
Leaving blood on the pavement still
Blowtorched dreams
Leaving lives in the gutter still

I step into the dark
Draw from a crooked stack
The light is gone the light is gone
The light is gone and it ain’t coming back
No one but me to blame
I’d do it all the same
The time has come the time has come
The time has come and I don’t feel no shame

The fascinating video was directed, produced and edited by Philip and Vicky Crawley, and features black and white footage shot in and around Los Angeles, juxtaposed with scenes of Philip sitting in a darkened room singing the song. The video starts off with scenes of arriving by plane at LAX, followed by beautiful images of the sun-drenched city, evoking a sense of promise (we’re even shown a billboard with images spelling out ‘I love LA’). Suddenly, there’s a flash of light and a spacey synth chord, at which point the images become distorted with a kind of static effect that Philip refers to as “singularity distortion”, conveying a sense of tension and discord. Eventually, the scenes transition to the darkness of night, with images of raging wildfires and rather disturbing views of a long, dark tunnel leading down into the bowels of an old building, suggesting that the dreams have gone up in flames.

Connect with Philip: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / YouTube / Google Play
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Deezer / Bandcamp

THE COMMON VIEW – EP Review: “Man on the Moon”

The Common View EP art

Early this year, I featured young British alt-rock band The Common View on this blog after learning about them and becoming impressed by both their outstanding music and outspoken advocacy for social justice. Formed in 2018, the Leeds four-piece consists of Dom Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jose Ignacio Barrera (guitar), Jacob Lindsay (drums, vocals) and Joe Sykes (bass). (After recording their latest EP, Jacob took a hiatus from the band to study abroad for seven months, and has been temporarily replaced on drums by Venezuelan native Marco La Fata, who may remain with the band long-term).

They released their self-titled debut EP The Common View, Vol. 1 in December 2018, then quickly followed with a provocative single “Fuck Them”, a scathing critique of the failure of British society and the government to adequately address the chronic issues of health care, poverty and homelessness. In May of this year, they released their single “A Perfect Bridge” (which I reviewed), then followed up with the stunning Coldplay-esque “The End of Time” in July.  Now the prolific guys are back with a wonderful new EP Man on the Moon, which dropped October 7.

True to their passion for writing and recording topical, socially relevant songs, the title track “Man on the Moon” speaks to the issue of climate change. They drive their message home with a dramatic and gorgeous soundscape of chiming and jangly guitars, accompanied by swirling synths, a deep, throbbing bass line and crisp percussion. The arrangement and production values are superb, and I think this is one of their finest songs yet. I really love Jacob’s vocals, and here he fervently makes his case for standing up to the empty rhetoric of many politicians and climate change deniers and doing what each of us can to affect meaningful change.

Hey, we need to talk
I’m getting tired of politicians and their speeches and their forked tongues
They put a man on the moon
But now they’re blinded by the money from the gasses filling our lungs
Stand your ground, as you turn it upside down
Let the tide roll in as a solid rain
And don’t mind me
I’m just another one who’s nobody
But I’ll just do my best to make a change

Annabelle” is a delightfully rousing, guitar-driven head banger, and a further testament to these guys’ incredible musicianship. Dom and Jose slice through the airwaves with an exuberant mix of jagged and swirling riffs, while Joe and Jacob keep the hard-hitting rhythms pumping at full throttle. If this track doesn’t get you going, then you must be dead! The lyrics speak to a woman named Annabelle who’s driving him crazy with her teasing and indifference, making him fall for her but withholding her affections. It’s a misery many of us have experienced at one time or another.

You’re putting me down
You got a real sick mind to take my time
Hearing the sound of your voice inside my head
You took my heart and left me underneath your spell 

The third track “What Can I Say?” delivers more of the band’s signature driving melodies and mind-blowing guitar work. The chiming guitars in the bridge are absolutely breathtaking, leaving me dumbstruck by their beauty. The song is about a relationship that’s beyond repair, and Jacob laments of the hurt and betrayal he feels:

I used to think that it was all okay
But, if you are gonna treat me in that way
You got another thing coming girl
You’re not the only person in this world
So stop, cut the shit and let me find my way
Feel like I’m living in a dream
With all the shit that I’ve seen
Who ever knew it could get that dark?

Even with only three tracks, Man on the Moon is a spectacular little EP. I’ve stated it before, but it bears repeating that there’s nothing common about The Common View, as these guys are phenomenal songwriters and musicians. I’ve loved every single track they’ve released, and these three rank high among their collection.

Catch The Common View at one of these upcoming shows:

18 October – Bar 21, Manchester, England, w/Bluelights, The Notion, Friday Forever & Skinner’s Lane
8 November – 360 Club, Leeds, England, w/LØE & Pathways

The cool artwork for the EP was designed by Rachel Wilcox.

Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play

REVOLVERS – Single Premier: “Confusing Times”

Revolvers single art

One of the best indie rock bands I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in 2019 was London, England four-piece Revolvers. Formed just three years ago in 2016, Revolvers was comprised of singer-songwriter James Thurling (guitar/lead vocals) Will Oliver (guitar/backing vocals), Steven Morrison (bass/backing vocals) and Rhys Kibble (drums). I say ‘was’, because they recently disbanded due to a number of factors, some of which are the cause of many a band breakup that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say I was gutted, because I really love their high-energy, guitar-driven melodic rock music.

I’ve featured them twice on this blog over the past nine months, when I reviewed their fantastic singles “True Love” and “Rubbing Shoulders With the Devil” (the latter of which has spent the past four months on my Weekly Top 30). Fortunately for us, they’re releasing as their swan song a terrific new single “Confusing Times“, which I’m thrilled to premiere. The hard-rocking song speaks to the crazy times we’re now living in. Like their last three singles, “Confusing Times” was recorded at Kore Studio in London, and produced by George Apsion (White Lies, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Ellie Goulding). 

Revolvers go out on a high note, pulling out all the stops on this exhilarating head-banger. The song instantly blasts open with a frantic barrage of fuzz-coated jangly guitars and pummeling rhythms that never let up. They sound better than ever, delivering layers of intricate melodic riffs and explosive percussion that raise goosebumps. Thurling passionately sings of his frustration with the current state of things, and the mind-control that media exerts over society, aided by corrupt and incompetent politicians who prey on a deeply divided public. The lyrics include a reference to John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine”, and later on state “life goes on like a Beatles song“, giving a nod to the enduring cultural significance of classic songs of yesterday as a symbol of hope for a better future.

I can’t hide from the TV screen
The old days are dead and gone
Whatever happened to Lennon’s song?
It goes on, it goes on
We live in confusing times
Least to say confusing times
And I don’t want to listen to this politician

The self-produced and highly entertaining video draws its source material from popular political and cultural GIFs, memes and footage found on the internet. It makes for a compelling and provocative snapshot of our very confusing times.

Finally, though Revolvers are no more, band frontman and songwriter James Thurling will continue to feature some of the their songs in his new rock band project Bitter Lime, so stay tuned.

Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes

BLUE VINES – EP Review: “Fever Dreamy”

Blue Vines

Blue Vines is a young indie rock duo from New York City, comprised of singer-songwriter Nick Gonzalez on vocals, guitar and drums, and Andrea De Renzis on bass. A new act who only formed earlier this year, they released their debut EP Fever Dreamy this past August. It was recorded at Cobra Sun Studio in Staten Island, N.Y., engineered and produced by Gary Nieves Jr., and mastered by Josh Kaufman at Local Legend Recording in Grand Rapids, MI.

Fever Dreamy is rather short, running just under nine minutes total, but its five tracks are so musically intriguing and packed with deep meaning they made quite an impression on me. With their vibrant indie pop-punk sound, Blue Vines’ songs seem to touch on themes of youthful angst, romance and self-doubt. The titles of all five tracks are interesting in that none of them are actually included in their song lyrics, which themselves are somewhat ambiguous, requiring a bit of imagination and concentration on my part to decipher as to their meanings.

The EP opens with the 43-second-long title track “Fever Dreamy“, a sweet tune consisting of just a simple acoustic guitar melody and Nick’s lovely vocals as he searches for meaning in his life after a period of painful unrest and awakening: “Ill equipped inquisitor descending over everything I do. Shine your light upon a year laid bare, and salt the wounds.

Next up is “Lanch Party“, which seems to speak to the fears and anxieties one feels when becoming romantically involved with someone, worrying about whether they’ll still like you as they get to know the ‘real’ you: “Do you still regard the statue as a work of art, once you’ve spotted all the cracks? Maybe a work in progress? I’d settle for that.” The track has a bass-driven, kick-drum beat with flourishes of gnarly guitars, accompanied by Nick’s urgent vocals.

Great Kid! Don’t Get Cocky!” is a bouncy rock tune that seems to be about struggling to keep it together in an increasingly bewildering world: “Breaking, climbing up the walls, start shaking. Skin begins to crawl. A tin can phone between our padded rooms. I’ll forever call for you.” Nick’s layered guitar work and emotion-charged vocals are great. I’m guessing “I’m A Whole Damn Town” is about the healing power of love: “Call it whatever. Things of the heart could put back together and mend what was pulling apart.” To a frantic punk-rock beat, Nick lays down intricate riffs of swirling and jagged guitar while Andrea keeps a steady rhythm with a smooth bass line.

The final track “Big Knife” is a terrific post punk tune, with a rapid guitar-driven beat that gives it a bit of a Green Day vibe. The lyrics seems to express the crippling self-doubt many of us have experienced while growing up (or even later in life like I have): “Despite a focused regimen of mental calisthenics, I could never hope to comprehend what it’s like to feel settled”, but gaining comfort through the presence of a loved one at your side: “I’m always on the edge of hyperventilating. It’s your hand on my hand that helps me breathe easy again.” Nick pours the full force of his emotions into his vocals here as he goes from a heartfelt vulnerability to plaintive wails.

Fever Dreamy is an amazing little EP that packs a lot into its 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Every track is relatively brief, yet each one of them makes an indelible impact in their economical running time. We’re left wanting more as each song ends before launching into the next lively track. Nick and Andrea are fine musicians, and Nick is quite the poetic wordsmith and vocalist. I’m anxious to hear more from this talented duo.

The lovely artwork for the EP was created by Nick’s cousin Ryan Gonzalez.

Follow Blue Vines:  Twitter
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Tidal
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon / Google Play

SWILLY – Album Review: “Size Matters”

Swilly Size Matters

When I last featured rock band Swilly on this blog back in January 2018, they had just released their debut 13-track album Play It Loud (you can read my review here). Since then, they’ve been on a creative tear, releasing four more albums, the latest of which is the provocatively-titled Size Matters, an ambitious work featuring 14 tracks that dropped on September 30. It boggles my mind that a group of musicians can write that many songs over such a short period of time!

Swilly is the nickname of singer/songwriter and guitarist Steve Williams, but also the name of his band, which includes lead guitarist and songwriter Kevin Campbell and drummer Carl Holz. They’re an international band of sorts, as Williams and Campbell are based in British Columbia, Canada, while Holz is from Colorado, USA. They’re occasionally joined by Austrian guitarist Klaus Passegger who provides lead guitar on a few songs, and have also collaborated with scores of other artists from time to time. Heavily influenced by some of their favorite bands like ZZ Top, The Cult, Nickelback and Theory of a Deadman, Swilly has a bawdy sense of humor and like to have fun, playing the kind of down and dirty, kick-ass rock’n’roll you wanna hear on a Saturday night, throwing down a few beers with friends at the local Roadhouse.

Size Matters tackles the universal subjects of love, sex and relationships in all their messy variations – more specifically, how they can bring us immense pleasure, deep sadness, or be a colossal pain in the ass! The album features songs ranging from in-your-face, kiss-off rockers to heartfelt love ballads, and I’ll touch on some of the highlights. Kicking things off is “Stomping Around“, a clarion call to stand up and fight against injustice, whether it be guys cheating on their women or governments oppressing their citizens: “You let yourself down when you’re fooling around, and the girls’ gonna stomp their feet. /Not that I insist, but the world is pissed at the people getting pushed around. Government’s weak, and the future is bleak. So we gotta start stomping around.” The guys deliver blistering riffs of gnarly guitars accompanied by strutting rhythms and gritty vocals.

One of my favorite tracks is “Deep“, a raucous, bawdy tune with an infectious rockabilly vibe. Swilly extols the virtues of his hot babe with hilarious, straight-to-the-point lyrics and some terrific guitar noodling as he croons in his raspy drawl: “My girl loves to go down. She loves to wear that crown. Don’t get me wrong, she ain’t cheap. But dammit I love being balls deep!

He expresses his romantic ardor in a somewhat more conventional manner on the sultry track “I Love You“: “Do you know you’re my everything? I’m so in love with you, the crazy stuff you do.” To a languid tempo that compels some serious swaying of the hips, Swilly lays down an appealing mix of melodic guitar textures and percussive rhythms. It all makes for quite an arresting rock ballad, and I really like the contrast between Williams’ raw vocals and smooth humming.

Another great track is “My Bitch” an ass-kicking rocker about comeuppance and payback. Hard-driving riffs of snarling guitars, throbbing bass and pummeling drums, not to mention raspy vocals that really channel Billy Gibbons, give the song a strong ZZ Top vibe. The lyrics start out with Swilly yelling “You little bitch!” at his woman after she’s stayed out late carousing and acting inappropriately, vowing to repay her in kind and sending a clear message that she’d best not fuck with him: “Yeah I was out late. Yeah I lost track of time. I didn’t think it would be seen as a crime. I should have planned it out. I found money out back. I even made 100 bucks just to show my dick. Suck my dick! You little bitch!

Suck It Up” keeps the driving rhythmic grooves flowing with strutting riffs of gnarly guitars. The song seems to be about accepting the shit life throws our way, dealing with it as best we can, not letting it get the better of us, and trying to have a little fun now and then: “Suck it up. You do what you got to do./Big tears don’t make it better. Dirty love just makes it wetter./ Don’t whine, it makes you ugly. Don’t worry, the world loves ya honey. Come here, I’ll hold you tight.”

Swilly turns introspective on the bittersweet “I Let You Lie“, a poignant song with lyrics written by Tammy Throneberry, a Twitter friend of both the band and mine. The song speaks to the sadness and desolation resulting from a relationship that’s ended. In his raspy, heartfelt vocals, Swilly laments “You said you can’t live without me. But I’m alone. I long to hear your footsteps coming through that front door. You promised me forever. Now forever I wait. How much more I wonder can these two lives take?

Keeping with the theme of desolation, the heartbreaking “My Abyss” speaks to the enduring pain and emptiness from the loss of a loved one: “Never thought it would come to this, that love would be such an abyss. They say that you live on. How can I if you’re gone? Everywhere I look, I see you. You are everything that I do. Everything that I miss, have become my abyss.” I love the haunting guitar-driven melody, and the interplay between Williams’ acoustic and Campbell’s electric guitars is so damn good.

Album closer “Dirty Boys” is a rousing, hard-hitting track that showcases Swilly’s superb musicianship, with scorching guitar work, tumultuous percussion and tasty classic rock grooves. Quite frankly, it beautifully encapsulates the raw power and unbridled energy of the entire album and the band. Size Matters shows us yet again what a talented collective of musicians these guys are, delivering more of their great tunes that have the ability to thrill, and make us laugh, cry or just stomp our feet as we yell ‘fuck yeah’.

Connect with Swilly: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunes / Bandcamp / cdbaby

GLASS VIOLET – Single Review: “Chemicals”

Glass Violet Chemicals

Glass Violet is a fairly new band from Bristol, England that I’ve recently come across, and I really like their sound. Formed in 2018 by guitarist/lead vocalist Tom Hurdiss and guitarist/vocalist Alex John, and influenced by acts like Kasabian, The Killers, Foals and Catfish and the Bottlemen (all bands I love), the two began writing songs together. They soon added Josh Walsh (bass), Matt West (drums) and Declan Pollard (synths, keys) to complete the band lineup.

They released a hard-rocking banger of a demo track “North Sentinel Island” this past March (2019), and followed up with their official debut single “Chemicals” on August 16th. The song’s an upbeat anthemic tune, with exuberant layers of jangly and swirling guitars, accompanied by a deep, buzzing bass line, aggressive percussion and melodic keyboards. Tom’s clear, earnest vocals have just the right amount of fervor, and I love how his charming British accent shines through. It’s a terrific song.

About the song’s lyrics, Alex told me “We basically wanted to just write a song that sort of soundtracks a night out. The lyrics aren’t anything special and they don’t mean much. But it’s catchy and it works. Our lyrics normally have more meaning and are quite conceptual, so we’re looking forward to getting that across in the future releases.”

Connect with Glass Violet:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / deezer / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Google Play

THE LOVEPOOLS – Single Review: “White Lies & Palm Trees”

The Lovepools single art

Though they’re located in Los Angeles, a roughly two-hour drive from my home in the Coachella Valley, it was through my Twitter friend Mark Winder (theretweeter) – who lives in Northern Ireland –  that I learned about indie pop-rock band The Lovepools. Formed in 2017, the undeniably charismatic trio consists of singer-songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Anthony Shea, bassist/vocalist Aria Cruz, and drummer Fabrizio Cavallaro. They call their music “indie rock for hopeless romantics”, and with their melodic, Britpop/shoegazey vibe, not to mention Shea’s vocal style, they do sound like they could be from the UK. Their music also reminds me a bit of Saint Motel, another L.A. band I really like.

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The Lovepools in short order released a couple of EPs, as well as a terrific single “See You In The Funny Papers” that was featured on the Season 9 premiere of the Showtime hit series Shameless. In July 2018, they released their first album The Catch, which included all of their recorded songs up to that point. One of the highlights is the gorgeous “A Dixie Cup to Save You”, but they’re all great songs, and I strongly urge my readers to check them out on one of the music platforms listed at the end of this review.

They returned in August 2019 with their latest single “White Lies & Palm Trees“, a beautiful, dreamy track that the band states is “a departure from their guitar-based indie-rock roots into a new synth-pop sound.” The song was written by Anthony Shea and Taylor Ravenna, and was inspired by Shea’s monotonous experiences living in L.A. (but honestly, I know from my own experience that monotony can occur pretty much everywhere). The track has a sunny, dream pop vibe, thanks to an exuberant, sweeping melody and lush, sparkling synths that offer a hopeful antidote to the numbing monotony expressed in the lyrics. Shea’s upbeat vocals are wonderful, as are the guys’ soaring harmonies in the choruses. It’s a fantastic song, and sure to be a hit for The Lovepools.

Living in a daydream
Dark eyes, eighteen
Trusting everyone you meet

Every day’s the same thing
White lies, Palm trees
Broken hearts on every street

Oh, light up and let yourself go
Oh, go make your way back home

Driving Sunset all night
Stoned eyes, red lights
Kissing ’til the light turns green

Every night’s the same thing
Dark skies, palm trees
Broken glass on every street

Oh, light up and let yourself go
Oh, go make your way back home

Lights upon the hillside
Fade away as you drive by
Time is on your side
Not on your mind
But it’s all you have to live by

The Lovepools are playing a show tonight at Mal’s Bar in Downtown Los Angeles, and another show on Wednesday, October 16th at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s in Hollywood.

Connect with The Lovepools: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Deezer
Purchase: Google PlayiTunes

STONED PIRATES – Album Review: “Flag, Skull and Rock n Roll”

Stoned Pirates album art

Stoned Pirates is the music project of Algerian-born Khaled Sahour, a creative and highly imaginative musician, visual artist and filmmaker. Growing up in a home where he was exposed to lots of music and art, he early on developed a love of rock, pop and disco, and taught himself to play music on a broken two string guitar. He started a band and sung his heart out to young Algerian audiences that seemed to connect very well, but eventually relocated to Los Angeles to further his career in music and film. On August 9th, he released his debut album Flag, Skull and Rock n Roll, which I’m pleased to be reviewing today.

Stoned Pirates’ unusual and eclectic music style comes from a wide array of influences ranging from classic rock acts such as the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Guns N’ Roses, to the funk of Sly & the Family Stone, the dance grooves of Chic and Nile Rodgers, and the soulful pop of Michael Jackson – all spiced with an Algerian flavor. Not only does Khaled write, perform, record and produce all his music, he also creates his own visuals for his Stoned Pirates project. The album was mixed and mastered by Thomas Juth, and opens with “Turmoil (Intro)“, a brief track that sets the tone for the album. With a backdrop of otherworldly industrial synths and a hypnotic beat, Stoned Pirates chants “I’ve been waiting for the wind to blow. I guess it’s time to rock’n’roll.

Next up is “Nothing“, a dark, trippy song about feeling overwhelmed by loneliness and hopelessness, like one is powerless to change the sorry state of things. Stoned Pirates weaves a mesmerizing soundscape out of a fascinating kaleidoscope of synth instruments and exotic sounds. I love the xylophone, spooky keyboards, deep bass and guitar, accompanied by a cool, carnival-like synth riff. Khaled has a quirky vocal style in which he sometimes sings in a baby-like falsetto that I suppose could be off-putting to some, but once I got into his music I found it sort of charming. Using that falsetto, he sings: “Throw me a bone. Hit me with a stone, I just wanna feel something real.” But then, he sings in a deeper, almost menacing tone: “Nothing, absolutely nothing has changed today. Same old, same old sins and heartbreaks coming in new ways.

The surreal video he made for the song shows an astronaut floating aimlessly through dark space along with various objects like an old TV playing static, boxing gloves and pieces of furniture.

One of my favorite tracks is “The Devil in You“, a great kiss-off song to someone who’s deceived and caused hurt. The song has a sensual beat, with jazzy synths, funky bass, swirling guitar and some really terrific sax. Stoned Pirates bitterly sings “I didn’t see fully the devil in you. What are you truly, if not a foe? Don’t come back crying, knocking on my door.” Keeping with a similar theme, “Mr. Nice Guy” addresses someone who keeps taking advantage of a guy whenever she screws up: “If you cry for help, he will come to you. Convenient nice guy is always at your rescue.” Once again, Stoned Pirates employs a rich assortment of sparkling synths, along with a hypnotic dance beat to create a captivating backdrop for his colorful vocals.

On the bittersweet “In Time“, he laments of his regret about having broken up with a lover: “If I could I would go back in time, I would change the way we drew the lines. If I could I would go back in time. I would try harder to change your mind. Love will come to you in time. Just be patient, don’t cry.” The soulful track has a Michael Jackson vibe, featuring deep, sensual synths, highlighted by funky guitar and brass, all set to a strong, hip-swaying beat. The soulful, funky “Rebound” has him calling out someone who’s using him to get over another guy:  “Oh girl, who you think you’re trying to fool? Oh girl, who you think you’re playing here? Cause all the signs are clear. I’m talking about the rebound.”

Stoned Pirates uses a vampire metaphor on “Midnight Lover“, a sexy song about a seductress who preys on men to get what she wants. I love this lyric: “I saw her on the dance floor still trying to get more. Staring at me in the eyes while biting another guy.” Funky grooves abound on “Where I Belong“, another sultry tune with marvelous swirling synths and a beat so damn infectious it had me doing a lap dance in my chair! The aptly-titled album closer “The End” features a sultry Latin beat and jangly guitars drenched in reverb, accompanied by some tasty exuberant horns. Khaled employs his deeper vocals here, as he sings in an almost menacing whisper: “Sit back, relax, nobody is going anywhere. You think the end, but it’s only just the beginning.”

I’ve got to say that Flag, Skull and Rock n Roll is a marvelous album and a very impressive debut from Stoned Pirates. His innovative music is totally original, sounding like no one else I’m aware of. I love how he’s taken an eclectic mix of influences to create his own unique, fascinating sound. His beautiful, seductive melodies, compelling lyrics and use of a wide array of lush instruments and synths make for some really captivating songs that are pure joy to hear.

Connect with Stoned Pirates:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

MORGENDUST – EP Review: “Storm Will Come”

Morgendust

So music for old people? No fucking way!” So say Dutch indie rock band Morgendust, who with an average age of 46 are “the perfect age to start a band. Musically skilled, no more stagefright and enough experience in life to tell a story.” Formed just a year ago and based in Zwolle, Netherlands, Morgendust consists of Marco de Haan (lead vocals, guitars), Ron van Kruistum (guitars, backing vocals), Iwan Blokzijl (keyboards, backing vocals), Dario Pozderski (bass, backing vocals) and Job Noordmans (drums & percussion). Their sound is influenced by 80s acts they grew up with like Talk Talk, Duran Duran, Pink Floyd, Tears for Fears and Peter Gabriel, as well as more current acts like Radiohead, Editors and Elbow.

All are seasoned musicians, having previously played in bands like Soulstar, City Jam & Band of Glory, and professionally as hired guns in the commercial music industry. Their music has a maturity and worldliness that comes from having lived on this earth for a while and experiencing the joys and pains of life, love and relationships. Through their intelligent, thoughtful lyrics, they tell stories that everyone can relate to, whether you’re 20 or 60, and bring them to life with exquisite rock melodies and lush, stunning instrumentation. They’ve just released their debut EP Storm Will Come, and it’s a beauty.

The EP opens with the title track “Storm Will Come“, a gorgeous and powerful anthem inspired by the “butterfly effect” – that small causes may have larger effects. And right away it’s clear that these guys are phenomenal musicians, as all the instruments are played to absolute perfection. The vibrant guitars, deep bass line, resounding percussion, and sweeping keyboard synths are all magnificent, and de Haan’s soaring vocals bring goosebumps as he passionately sings We’re waiting for the truth to land in everyone. And when it’s said and done, a butterfly relocates…and a storm will come.”

Anything” is even more beautiful, with sparkling synths, lovely piano and sublime guitars. de Haan’s vocals are deeply moving as he plaintively sings of the selfishness and cruelty of some people who enter our lives, fuck us over, then leave: “My head spins round from all these circular themes. Ones who come, disappear, leave you anything but stone cold and longing for more.” The backing vocal harmonies are especially nice, and I love how the music builds to a powerful crescendo in the chorus, making for a dramatic finish to a fantastic song.

Kind of Blues” really channels the 80s with its fast-paced, driving rhythms and swirling, new wave-flavored synths. The lyrics speak to coming to the sobering realization that perhaps your life hasn’t turned out they way you’d dreamed: “So, we never had a plan. Never thought we‘d lose to this kind of blues. So, when we were young we had a life or two to choose.  Just romantic fools.”

Keeping with that general theme, “Nameless” seems to address how we dream and have expectations and desires, then with the passage of time and how our lives unfold, look back with regret on our mistakes and misfortune: “My truth is what’s behind me. All the rest we cannot know./ You need a name to function. To live you need a dream./ I have hurt myself far too long.” I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but once again I’m blown away by the incredible beauty and power of this poignant song.

Love Lost (Again)” is a bittersweet song that touches on the pain of longing for the return of a lost love: “You’re my heart’s desire. You’re my sun and rain. You’re the ocean waves, please come back again. Love lost again. I can’t win.” The lovely piano keys and haunting guitar chords are highlights here, as are de Haan’s emotion-filled vocals. And speaking of bittersweet, the final track “Allright” really hits us in the feels. It has a darker vibe, thanks to deep, pulsating bass, reverb-heavy guitars and throbbing industrial synths, but there’s also beauty present in the form of delicate keyboard and jangly guitar notes. de Haan’s plaintively laments about the futility of trying to project a happy demeanor when their relationship is falling apart: “I dream all day and cry all night, ’cause we pretend – no we demand – it’s allright.”

Folks, this is a truly stunning EP. Every single track on Storm Will Come is spectacularly beautiful, so much so that it’s impossible for me to pick a standout or favorite. Morgendust are an amazing group of super-talented musicians who collectively create musical magic.

Connect with Morgendust:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play