New Song of the Week: “All Said and Done” by RYAN REDWOOD

Ryan Redwood is a creative, charming and affable young British singer-songwriter based in Lowestoft. I’ve been following him since the beginning of 2018, back when he was lead vocalist for alternative indie rock band The Only Route, and reviewed several of their singles. After the band called it quits at the end of 2019, Ryan soldiered on as a solo artist, writing and recording songs influenced by some of his favorite acts like Oasis, The Charlatans, Catfish and The Bottlemen and Blossoms. He released his first single “Perhaps” in December 2020, and since then has released four more singles, the latest of which is “All Said and Done”, which I’m pleased to select as my New Song of the Week.

Ryan says “All Said and Done” is “effectively two songs sort of bashed together“. He’d finished the initial framework for the song, but hadn’t yet developed a bridge. He’d also composed another musical piece, but didn’t feel he could create an entire song around it, so he came up with the idea of inserting it into the middle of “All Said and Done” to change things up a bit. Under the guidance of producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist Sam Wilson, who then recruited his musician friend Dylan Levett to play sax, together they’ve created a wonderful, more melodically complex and interesting track.

The song starts off as a rousing rocker, with a lively blend of shimmery and jangly guitars bathed in reverb and accompanied by assertive thumping drumbeats. At the two minute-and-fifteen second mark, the music abruptly downshifts to a mellow instrumental interlude lasting about a minute, highlighted by Dylan’s terrific saxophone solo, giving the song a jazzy, sophisticated vibe. At the end of the interlude, everything ramps back up to the urgent rock groove heard at the beginning, ending with a strong finish. Ryan has a relatively low-key vocal style that’s not particularly powerful, but he does a fine job here, his earnest vocals rising in intensity along with the music.

The lyrics speak to the inevitable predictability and drudgery of day to day life that eventually afflicts us all as we age, but also taking solace in the fact we have a loved one beside us to help and support us along the way: “I can’t help but shake the feeling I’ll wake up one day, in the same job, in the same house, in the same place. When it’s all said and done, it’ll be me and you. When push comes to shove, it’s always better with you. When it’s all said and done, it’ll be us forever.”

I think “All Said and Done” is Ryan’s best work yet, and nicely showcases his growth and maturity as a musician, songwriter and vocalist.

Connect with Ryan:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music:  SpotifyApple Music / YouTube

MOUNT FAMINE – Single Review: “Offcuts”

Mount Famine are a British post punk/synth-infused indie rock’n’roll project based in Derby. Formed in 2019 as a collaboration of seasoned musicians with a shared love of such bands as The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs, Pet Shop Boys, Manic Street Preachers, Pulp and Suede, they aim to create music that, in their own words, “produces the adrenaline-fueled highs of indie disco dancefloors.” Hallmarks of their vibrant sound are infectious melodies, lush soundscapes and soaring vocals. A rather enigmatic band, they have no photos of themselves on any of their social media, nor do they list their members’ names. Band front man and vocalist Martin Stanier, who I know of from his having reached out to me on Instagram, explained that they’ve steered away from photos, wanting the focus to instead be on their music.

Beginning with their debut single “Faith” in January 2020, they’ve released a string of excellent singles over the past two and a half years. This past March, I included their fourth single “Distance” in a Fresh New Tracks post. The song garnered support from BBC Introducing East Midlands and Louder Than War, as well endorsements from actor Robert Carlyle and British broadcaster Terry Christian. I liked the song so much, it spent 11 weeks on my Weekly Top 30 list. Now they’re back with a new single “Offcuts“, a rousing anthem that calls to mind some of the great songs by New Order, Manic Street Preachers and The Killers.  

The song storms through the gates with an exuberant soundscape of swirling synths, roiling guitars and driving rhythms. Martin’s sparkling keyboards have a wonderful cinematic quality, and the layered shimmery and grungy guitars are quite marvelous. Also outstanding are the humming bassline and emphatic thumping drumbeats, both of which add great power and depth to the track. And, as always, Martin’s resonant vocals are incredibly pleasing, rising with a commanding force in the choruses. 

The song’s lyrics touch on the drudgery of executive management, work hierarchies, and the disposability of workers. Martin elaborated further: “It’s about a moment I had recently where I doubted myself. I spent some time in the company of some very senior managers in my job who weren’t nice or kind and treated others lower on the food chain really badly. And all the others treated them with adoration and respect that to my mind, they didn’t really deserve. I wondered if I had got it wrong and that doing this was the way forward. I mean, it didn’t last very long because of course that isn’t how to be or to treat people, but it also echoed the behaviour of a lot of our world leaders of late.

I am the new normal in rock and roll; discos
Kiss me, between the sheets
You're so discreet, discreet

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun 
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun 
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors

Fast cars, high class bars
Now you are stars, all stars
Diamonds and dollars
Now you look down on us, on us

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors
 
Maybe I misunderstood
And real life is Hollywood
And Sundays walking through the malls are the best days, best times of all

Funny, you're so funny
They laugh with you
But money and power have made you sour

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors
 
Maybe I misunderstood
And real life is Hollywood
And Sundays walking through the malls are the best days, best times of all

“Offcuts” is a fantastic radio-friendly song that’s certain to be a hit.

Follow Mount Famine:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud 

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 17 – “Seasick” by The Rare Occasions

The subject for Day 17 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song released this year“. This was another tough one, as there are literally thousands of songs to choose from. To help narrow my list of possible choices a bit, I decided to choose a song I like by an artist or band who follows me on Twitter, and who I’ve not yet written about in 2022. And the very first act that popped into my head is L.A.-based trio The Rare Occasions, and their terrific new single “Seasick“. I love their music, a glorious cornucopia of colorful melodies, sparkling arrangements, exuberant instrumentals, compelling lyrics and endearing vocals. With songs that are immediately memorable and delightfully addictive, it’s not surprising they’ve earned a massive following, with over 5.7 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone.

I first wrote about them in September 2020 when I reviewed their fantastic single “Alone”, so I won’t repeat a lot of background information about them that can be found in that article. But to summarize, with origins in New England, and based in Los Angeles since 2017, The Rare Occasions now consists of three very personable and talented guys: Brian McLaughlin on lead vocals and guitar, Jeremy Cohen on bass, and Luke Imbusch on drums. They’ve been putting out great music since the release of their debut EP Applefork in 2013, and last summer (of 2021), they released their outstanding second album Big Whoop. When I wrote about them two years ago, their song “Notion” had garnered approximately 1.7 million streams on Spotify. But after the song went viral on TikTok late last year, it’s now racked up more than 237 million streams! With their explosion in popularity, nine of their other songs have earned between 1-9 million streams.

Their latest single “Seasick” is a fun romp, with a bouncy, lighthearted groove set to Jeremy’s galloping rhythm, and highlighted by Luke’s thumping drumbeats and Brian’s exuberant surf guitars. Brian’s plaintive vocals are wonderful too, rising to electrifying wails in the lively choruses. The lyrics, which feature lots of nautical metaphors, speak to struggling with fears and insecurities that hold us back, preventing us from moving forward in life, living our truths and reaching our goals: “I can’t keep pushing back the plans I got, impersonating something that I’m not. / We get caught up in the little things, displaced from what we know. Though I’m not too fond of traveling, there’s a long long wake behind me.

The animated lyric video, with sweet artwork by Rhea Hanlon of Lost Lines Studio, and animation by Arianna Soto & Mamasoto Design & Media, shows the band floating in the sea on a small inflatable raft.

Follow The Rare Occasions:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp

Onism E – Single Review: “Lin Manuel”

Photos by JMK Pictures

For my final review that I’ll be writing for the foreseeable future, I’m featuring an amazing band with a fascinating name, Onism E. The brainchild of California-born, Texas-raised and now New York City-based singer-songwriter Eline Chavez, the term “Onism” can be defined as “The awareness of how little of the world you will actually experience.” Inspired by groundbreaking female rockers like Joan Jett, Bonnie Raitt and Melissa Etheridge, Eline draws from her experiences living in vastly different places to create her own distinctive style of edgy and soulful indie rock, expressed through her honest, often biting lyrics and fierce vocals.

To help deliver her message, Eline has enlisted three talented Texas musicians – Chris ‘Lefty’ Vargas on guitar, Chris ‘CeeRod’ Rodriguez on bass, and Raj Arenas on drums. The energy and inspiration they contribute helps elevate Onism E to even greater musical heights, and together, their warm, welcoming approach and riveting live performances have enabled them to form a strong positive relationship with their fans. Since the release of their debut single “Love You More” in August 2019, they’ve dropped several more outstanding singles, as well as an album Survivors in February 2021. Now they’re back with a brilliant new single “Lin Manuel“, a song inspired by Eline’s struggles of trying to make it as a musician during the uncertainty of the pandemic.

The song is darkly beautiful and melodic, with a moody, almost progressive vibe. The arrangement and instrumentation are pretty spectacular too. CeeRod lays down a sensuous throbbing bassline, while Raj keeps pace with his flawless drumming that goes from restrained to explosive and back again. Then there’s Lefty’s gorgeous intricate guitar work, which is positively mind-blowing. Wow, this man can play, coaxing shimmery notes, wobbly psychedelic riffs and screaming distortion from his six-string, seemingly with ease. All this incredible music serves as a dramatic backdrop for Eline’s powerhouse vocals, which she delivers with an impassioned conviction that’s downright chilling. “Lin Manuel” is a magnificent track in every sense of the word.

I asked Eline why she chose to name the song after the talented singer-songwriter, composer, playwright and actor, to which she kindly responded: “I’ve always found Lin [Manuel] an inspiring individual. He’s been one of those people that just kept going and working to make his dream happen. As an indie artist, I gravitate towards people like him because his story resonates with me. It’s about the everyday struggle where I question my place in this industry – ‘What am I doing? Should I keep playing? Should I keep working towards this goal?’ I know it’s a common artist struggle but during the pandemic, that voice got louder and I started questioning my next steps. I kept thinking…what would Lin do right now, what would Tom (Petty) or Bruce (Springsteen) do? The answer was always the same. Keep going. Keep writing. Keep believing.”

Those sentiments are beautifully articulated in her poetic lyrics: “Broken glass and shattered ceilings, I’m still waiting for my season they tell me you will one day see. But darkness comes and darkness goes, and I’m still all alone here with my dreams. / Lin Manuel reminded me that freedom comes at a cost for those who believe in. But I’m so scared of failing, I rarely sleep, I rarely sleep. And we’re all just working for better days, but sometimes I wanna scream!

Connect with Onism E: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music: SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

Purchase on Bandcamp

HOLY COVES – Single Review: “Desert Storm”

Hailing from beautiful Holy Island, situated just off Anglesey Island in northwest Wales roughly halfway between Dublin and Liverpool, alternative psychedelic rock outfit Holy Coves is the brain child of singer-songwriter Scott Marsden. Since its formation in 2005, the band has consisted of an ever-changing group of musicians, as Marsden brings in who he wants to work with for each project. Holy Coves released their debut album The Lizzies Ynys Môn on New Years Day 2008, then followed in 2011 with an EP and two singles, which were later included on their second album Peruvian Mistake, released in 2012.

After a nearly 10-year hiatus, brought on in part by the death of his best friend and manager, as well as his personal struggles with addiction and subsequent recovery, Marsden assembled a new group of esteemed musicians to record his third album Druids and Bards, due for release this coming August via his label Yr Wyddfa Records. These musicians are (with previous acts they’ve played with in parentheses) John Lawrence on guitar (Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci), Owain Ginsberg on guitar & synths (WE//ARE//ANIMAL, Hippies Vs Ghosts, The Heights), Jason Hughes on bass (The Painkillers), and Spike T Smith on drums (Morrissey, The Damned, New York Dolls). Marsden told me “It was a honour to work with them. I’ve wanted to work with all of them since I was a teenager. I’m very lucky. They are all geniuses.” He wrote and sang all songs, and co-produced the album with Lawrence, who also engineered the album. The two men shown flanking Marsden in the header photo are friends he’s brought in for live performances, who will also play on his next record.

In late March, Holy Coves released their first single from Druids and Bards, the brilliant “The Hurt Within”, which is currently enjoying a run on my Weekly Top 30. Now, only a month later, they return with the second single “Desert Storm“, and it’s another brooding cinematic stunner. Over a stomping, mesmerizing groove, they layer mysterious, psychedelic synths, crisp percussion and an arresting blend of droning and jangly guitars to create a dark and moody soundscape, but with a hint of optimism. Marsden has a clear and pleasing singing voice, and his slightly echoed vocals have a somewhat ethereal quality here as he earnestly details his struggles of keeping a troubled relationship together while suffering from severe drug addiction.

What you see is what you get
What you needs irrelevant
It's time we need to heal my friend
Let's go until we reach the end
Look how far we've come
We've only just begun
You're holding onto me
But I'm so far gone

Were coming up don't fight the feeling
Let's ride the storm
Were coming up don't fight the feeling
It's the desert storm
Were coming up don't fight the feeling
Let's ride the storm
Were coming up don't fight the feeling
It's the desert storm

I come to feel her love again
And take away all the pain
It seems like everyday I fight her now
It's tearing us apart
Right now I'm falling hard
Let's go back to the start
I'm falling off again
She's got me hook line babe

“Desert Storm” is a marvelous track, and if it and “The Hurt Within” are any indication, Druids and Bards is guaranteed to be a spectacular album.

To coincide with their album release, Holy Coves will kick off their 24 date Druids And Bards UK Tour on August 19th in Wrexham.

Connect with Holy Coves:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase on Bandcamp

Fresh New Tracks, Vol 11: Amongst Liars, FloodHounds & Mount Famine

As some of my regular readers and Twitter followers know, my recent bout of serious burnout caused me to decide, for the second time in six months, to quit writing music reviews. The fact that I actually do not enjoy writing, combined with a relentless and often overwhelming flood of submissions and requests for reviews from artists and PR firms, have time and again caused me tremendous anxiety and stress. On the other hand, I do enjoy lending support to indie artists and bands who follow me on social media in whatever small ways I can. Obviously, giving them a bit of press is an important part of that support. I’d like to continue doing so, but the challenge is finding a way to accomplish that without burning myself out again.

In order to continue featuring new music, I’ve decided to resurrect my ‘Fresh New Tracks’ series, which has been on a hiatus since I last wrote one in October 2021. For the series, I feature three or four new songs by various artists, with a few paragraphs about each one, rather than a full-blown review. Though they were generally well-received, I got the sense that some artists were not happy sharing the limelight with other artists or bands. But as more than a few musicians have told me, artists and bands should be grateful for any press, especially when I’m giving it to them for free.

Also, many of my reviews tend to be rather wordy and long, and being a slow, meticulous writer, they take me quite a while to get done. This seems to be a counter-productive approach in this day and age, where most people have the attention spans of a gnat. Although most artists and bands love when I write extensive and detailed reviews of their music, I’m guessing that few people actually read those long reviews in their entirety. Therefore, a short, concise description of each song would seem to be more appealing to a lot of readers who are pressed for time. With that in mind, I will make a valiant attempt to write a Fresh New Tracks post each week going forward. Today I’m featuring songs by three outstanding rock bands with great names from the UK, two of whom, Amongst Liars and FloodHounds, I’ve previously written about, as well as one that’s new to me, Mount Famine.

AMONGST LIARS – “Cut It”

Photo by Duncan Tyler

Hailing from Brighton & Eastbourne, Amongst Liars play a fiercely aggressive style of melodic hard rock, forged from a powerful trifecta of alternative rock, grunge and punk. Comprised of Ian George (lead vocals, guitar), Leo Burdett (guitar, backing vocals), Ross Towner (bass, backing vocals) and Adam Oarton (drums), they formed in September 2019 from the ashes of two successful previous bands – Saint Apache and Katalina Kicks. Not only are they all highly accomplished and talented musicians, they’re nice guys too. Ian in particular has been very supportive of me and my blog, which of course makes me a loyal fan who’s more than happy to support them as much as I can.

I first learned about them in early 2020, and was immediately blown away by their explosive debut single “Over and Over”. In the two succeeding years, they’ve followed with six more outstanding singles, many of which I’ve reviewed on this blog. Their latest is “Cut It“, a clarion call for people to stand up to abuse in all its forms. While they don’t consider themselves a ‘political’ band, Amongst Liars are not afraid to tackle some of the biggest socio-political issues of the day, including war mongering for financial gain, poverty, greed, fake news, deceitful politicians, election fraud, human rights abuses and climate change, and they’ve been outspoken advocates for social justice on several of their songs. About “Cut It”, the band explains: “These are difficult times behind many closed doors – words and actions can cause a lifetime of damage. Speak up for those being abused and bullied, and be kind – always.

The song is a ripper, overflowing with the signature searing riffs and pummeling rhythms we’ve come to love and expect from Amongst Liars. Then there’s that droning bass riff by Ross, creating a menacing vibe that chills us to the core. Ian has a beautiful singing voice that turns deadly when he needs to get his point across: “This violence bleeds silence, bleeds silence / Pray, lead us astray! Pray, just cut it!” I love the dark video, which shows the band performing the song surrounded by curtains of sheer fabric, creating powerful feelings of suffocating claustrophobia. “Cut It” will be included on their forthcoming self-titled debut album, due for release July 8th.

Follow Amongst Liars:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

FLOODHOUNDS – “Panic Stations”

Photo by Eleanor Freeman

FloodHounds are a terrific rock band from Sheffield who play a high-energy style of guitar-driven alternative rock, drenched in blues, punk and grunge influences. Formed in 2013, the band consists of Jack Flynn on guitar and vocals, Lauren Greaves on drums, and Anna Melidone, who replaced Joel Hughes on bass in summer of 2021. I’ve been following them for nearly six years, and they’re among the earliest bands I wrote about when my blog was still in its infancy, way back in October 2016 when I reviewed their excellent EP Look What You’ve Started.

In the years since, they’ve released numerous singles and a second EP Always in Sight, in 2019, and have toured extensively throughout the UK, including performances at the Isle of Wight and Liverpool Sound City festivals in 2019, as well as twice in Paris. FloodHounds remained active during the repeated lockdowns, putting out live streams and sessions for platforms such as Jagermeister, God Is In The TV Zine and Wentworth Festival, as well as self-producing a 10-track acoustic album. They also made the final shortlist of Record Store Day’s national video competition, and their innovative video for their single “Take It Too Far” garnered high placement at the London Music Video Festival 2020. Also in 2020, they released a brilliant single “Something Primeval“, a hard-hitting song about tapping into our inner resolve to survive in this world, which I also reviewed.

Now FloodHounds are back with “Panic Stations“, a stomping banger fueled by Jack’s jagged fuzz-soaked riffs, Anna’s grinding bassline and Lauren’s fearsome drumbeats. The biting lyrics call out those who spread lies and misinformation to sow fear and divisiveness, urging them to instead put their energy into trying to bring people together for a common good. “Panic Stations touches on the air of uncertainty we’ve all been labouring under“, explains Jack. “I wanted to write a song that echoed us roaring out of lockdown, and back into real life. The takeaway is that sticking together will serve us better than alienation and blind panic. It’s great fun to play live, it’s heavy but catchy, so people seem to really get on board with it.” In his arresting vocals, Jack emphatically implores “Give me something with meaning. And I will show you something to believe in. But if you just try and deceive me with all the lies that you hear blaring out your TV. It is your mission to heal division, so go and rally all the people who will listen.” It’s a great song.

Jack is also a photographer and graphic artist, and created the artwork for the single.

Follow FloodHounds:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

MOUNT FAMINE – “Distance”

Mount Famine are a rather enigmatic post punk/synth infused indie rock’n’roll project based in Derby. From what I can tell, they formed in 2019, and according to their bio, their sound is inspired by 80s bands such as The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs and Pet Shop Boys (all of whom I personally love too), and 90s bands like Manic Street Preachers, Pulp & Suede, along with “the same desire to tell stories that produce the adrenaline-fueled highs of indie disco dancefloors.” They have no photos of themselves on any of their social media, and I was told by band member Martin Stanier that they’ve steered away from photos, wanting the focus to instead be on their music. They’ve released four outstanding singles thus far, beginning in January 2020 with “Faith”, followed that July with “Pulse”, then “Lost” in February 2021, and now “Distance“, which dropped March 11th.

Martin reached out to me about “Distance” after seeing posts of my recent Top 30 song lists on Instagram, thinking it would be to my liking. Well, he was correct, as it’s right up my alley. With it’s rousing, guitar-driven melody, swirling cinematic synths and exuberant dance groove, all creating a glorious 80s-influenced wall of sound, it’s exactly the kind of sound I love. The band says the song was written and recorded on an old Roland synthesizer and beaten-up drumkit, which gives it that wonderful vintage 80s feel. The lyrics speak to the speed of life, and how it passes by with the blink of an eye, a sentiment they beautifully capture in the frenetic video.

Follow Mount Famine:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

New Song of the Week – “I Love You” by Fontaines D.C.

Irish post-punk band Fontaines D.C. (the suffix D.C. in their name stands for Dublin City, to distinguish them from L.A.-based alt pop-rock band The Fontaines) formed in 2017, but it wasn’t until summer of 2020 that I learned about them, when I heard their mesmerizing single “A Hero’s Death”, from their brilliant second album of the same name. I loved it at once, and after listening to the entire album, I became a fan of this exceptional band. Comprised of Grian Chatten (vocals), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan III (bass), and Tom Coll (drums), Fontaines D.C. met while students at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute in Dublin, and bonded over their common love of poetry. They began recording and self-releasing singles, as well as performing locally, and were ultimately signed to Partisan Records in 2018.

Since the release of their debut album Dogrel in 2019, Fontaines D.C. have garnered widespread critical acclaim as one of the best bands making music today. The album was named Album of the Year on the record store Rough Trade’s website, voted Album of the Year by presenters on BBC Radio 6 Music, and nominated for both the Mercury Prize and the Choice Music Prize. Their second album A Hero’s Death, which was written and recorded in the midst of extensive touring for Dogrel, was nominated for Best Rock Album at the 2021 Grammy Awards, losing to The Strokes’ The New Abnormal. They just released their darkly beautiful single “I Love You“, which I love so much, I’ve chosen it as my New Song of the Week.

The song is the second single from the band’s forthcoming third album Skinty Fia, due for release April 22. The album’s interesting title translates to “the damnation of the deer” in English. Fontaines D.C. bassist Conor Deegan III further elaborates about the band’s intent: “The Irish giant deer is an extinct species, but ‘skinty fia’ is also used as an expletive, in the way you’d say ‘For fuck’s sake’ if you bang your arm on a table or whatever. We just thought there was something really beautiful about that, because it’s representative of Irish culture in some sense. We were interested in the idea of something really precious or sentimental and attached to family, but also something that’s been taken away from us. Which doesn’t mean we can’t cherish it.

“I Love You” follows lead single “Jackie Down The Line” which was released a month ago, and is described by band frontman Grian Chatten as “the first overtly political song we’ve written”. In one sense, it’s a love song to their home of Ireland. Chatten, along with the rest of the band, relocated from Ireland to London to further their music careers, and the first two verses of the song address his guilt at becoming successful and leaving his beloved homeland. He explained to Rolling Stone: “I’m in a position there where I’ve made something of a career from trying to connect with and render the culture and country that I come from and try and express it, [and] in doing so, understand it myself and help other people understand it. [But] I’ve moved from that country, and I’m now living in a country that is responsible for a lot of the chaos in the country that I’m from, that still kind of looks down on that country. I feel guilty for having left. I feel like I’ve abandoned Ireland to some extent. Not that it can’t survive fine without me, but I feel like I’ve taken all this crap from it creatively, and then I’ve just left. I have this kind of strange feeling of guilt toward my leaving of Ireland.”

But the song also speaks to Chatten’s seething anger and disappointment over the current political climate in Ireland – expressed in the lyrics condemning two of its major political parties: “I will tell them ’bout it all / About the gall of Fine Gael and the fail of Fianna Fáil“- as well as one of Ireland’s grimmest historical atrocities, namely the decades of tragic brutality at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home in Galway, where a mass grave containing the remains of 800 babies was later discovered decades after the home’s closure. He rebukes both those responsible for the atrocity, as well as those who turned a blind eye, which he references in the scathing words “This island’s run by sharks with children’s bones stuck in their jaws.”

Musically, the song is gorgeous and brooding, opening with Conor Deegan III’s somber bass riff, which is soon joined by a glorious mix of O’Connell and Curley’s shimmery and jangly guitar notes reminiscent of The Cure. As Chatten begins to sing “I love you, I love you, I told you I do” in his signature captivating drone, the music expands with Tom Cull’s assertive thumping drums, keeping perfect rhythm with Deegan’s immaculate bassline. A little past the two-minute mark, the song turns darker, with heavier instrumentals and an intense repetitive drumbeat to match the rising anger in Chatten’s vocals, in which he practically spits the bitter lyrics, eliciting chills in the process.

I love you, I love you, I told you I do
It's all I've ever felt, I've never felt so well
And if you don't know it, I wrote you this tune
To be here loving you when I'm in the tomb
I've eddied the heart now, from Dublin to Paris
And if there was sunshine, it was never on me
So close, the rain, so pronounced is the pain
Yeah

Well, I love you, imagine a world without you
It's only ever you, I only think of you
And if it's a blessing, I want it for you
If I must have a future, I want to with you
Systеm in our hearts, you only had it before
You only opеn the window, never open up the door
And I love you, I love you, told you I do

Selling genocide and half-cut pride, I understand
I had to be there from the start, I had to be the fucking man
It was a clamber of the life, I sucked the ring off every hand
Had 'em plying me with drink, even met with their demands
When the cherries lined up, I kept the spoilings for myself
'Til I had thirty ways of dying looking at me from the shelf
Cloud-parting smile I had, a real good child I was
But this island's run by sharks with children's bones stuck in their jaws
Now the morning's filled with cokeys tryna talk you through it all
Is their mammy Fine Gael and is their daddy Fianna Fáil?
And they say they love the land, but they don't feel it go to waste
Hold a mirror to the youth and they will only see their face
Makes flowers read like broadsheets, every young man wants to die
Say it to the man who profits, and the bastard walks by
And the bastard walks by, and the bastard walks by
Say it to him fifty times and still the bastard won't cry
Would I lie?

I love you, I love you, I told you I do
It's all I've ever felt, I've never felt so well
And if you don't know it, I wrote you this tune
To be here loving you when I'm in the tomb
System in our hearts, you only had it before
Echo, echo, echo, the lights, they go
The lights, they go, the lights, they go
Echo, echo

Selling genocide and half-cut pride, I understand
I had to be there from the start, I had to be the fucking man
It was a clamber of the life, I sucked the ring off every hand
Had 'em plying me with drink, even met with their demands
And I loved you like a penny loves the pocket of a priest
And I'll love you 'til the grass around my gravestone is deceased
And I'm heading for the cokeys, I will tell them 'bout it all
About the gall of Fine Gael and the fail of Fianna Fáil
And now the flowers read like broadsheets, every young man wants to die
Say it to the man who profits, and the bastard walks by
And the bastard walks by, and the bastard walks by
Say it to him fifty times and still the bastard won't cry
Would I lie?

The dramatic, beautifully-filmed video was directed by Sam Taylor, and shows Chatten strolling through a dark, candle-lit church as he sings the first few verses. Two minutes in, he abruptly turns to face the camera, whereupon he launches into his scathing attack on the things that infuriate him about the country of his birth. By the video’s end, blood can be seen issuing from his chest.

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JONNY ASH – Single Review: “Disco”

Jonny Ash is a wonderfully-named band from North Wales who make an exciting, hard-driving and melodic style of indie rock. Comprised of brothers Callum (lead vocals, guitar) and Dan Gaughran (bass), Peter Roberts (lead guitar) and Mike Jones (drums), their big, high-energy sound is influenced by some of their favorite acts like The Stone Roses, Thin Lizzy, Oasis, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. Formed only a year ago, they wasted no time getting down to business by releasing their fantastic debut single “We Are The People” in August, followed two months later by the ripper “Boys With Black Eyes”, quickly earning them recognition throughout the UK, and radio play on BBC Wales, XS Manchester and Amazing Radio.

Now the Wrexham four-piece are back with a rousing new single “Disco“, a banger of a tune the band states has already become a favorite among their fans. Though the song sounds nothing like typical disco, the band says its BPM is the same as actual disco music, however, most people hearing the song would never realize it as they fall in line with the driving beat. Band lead guitarist Peter Roberts elaborates: “We are really excited to release our new track ‘Disco’, as it’s one of our favourite tunes to play live, based on the interaction we get from our amazing crowds. It’s usually saved to the end of our set because of how well It goes down regardless of where we are playing.”

The song opens with Dan’s super gnarly bass riff, to which a nice tapping of Mike’s drumstick is added before the music explodes into a roiling barrage of grungy riffs, throbbing bass and pummeling drumbeats, all of which become even more intense in the choruses. Peter lets loose with a blistering guitar solo in the bridge, leaving no doubt this is anything but a disco song, but rather a full-on rock stomper. Callum has a terrific singing voice, with the perfect amount of sexy swagger the song requires.

Like many songs of the disco era, “Disco” is about having a good time and letting loose at a club, having drinks, dancing to hot music and flirting with people you’re attracted to. “I see you come in all the time. If I had three wishes, then I would make you mine. Come on get closer, get right in my face. I want to see you dancing all over the place. The bar’s still open, the night is only young. When you get home, say hi to your mom. / And I fell in love with you at the disco.

“Disco” is a great track, and along with the guys’ two previous singles, showcases their impressive musicianship and skill for putting out solid rock songs. I’m happy to have learned about Jonny Ash, and look forward to hearing more from them soon.

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UNQUIET NIGHTS – Single Review: “In Spite of It All”

Unquiet Nights is an outstanding rock band with a somewhat unusual career trajectory. Originally started in Belfast, Northern Ireland as a solo project by singer-songwriter and guitarist Luke Mathers in 2006, he began recording tracks with help by Rodger Firmin on drums for what would become the first Unquiet Nights album 21st Century Redemption Songs. In 2010, Luke relocated to Italy, where he eventually finished and released the album.

He was later joined by Italian musicians Francesco Piciucchi on bass and keyboards, and drummer Matteo Bussotti for live shows, though Rodger still played drums on their recordings. In 2015 they released their beautiful and compelling second album Postcards in Real Time. One of the tracks from that album, “George Best City”, which was never released as a single but was used in the Federico Buffa Racconta documentary series, landed them several live national appearances on Italian TV stations. Their best known and most successful song, it’s now garnered more than 355,000 streams on Spotify. Luke moved back to Belfast in 2016, where he continues to record and release music with Rodger and Francesco as Unquiet Nights.

Rodger and Luke working their magic

I first learned about them in early 2018 when Luke reached out to me about their superb single “Promise of You”, which I reviewed. They quickly followed with “Young Believers”, then a year later they released another stellar single “Four Winds“, which I also reviewed. I enjoyed that song so much it ended up ranking #76 on my Top 100 Songs of 2019 list.

Now Unquiet Nights are back with a new single “In Spite of It All“, which they’ve released in conjunction with their third album First Ten (2012-2022). A sort of ‘greatest hits so far’, the album commemorates the ten year anniversary of their debut album 21st Century Redemption Songs, in recognition of their impressive body of work over the past decade. The album features ten songs they feel are an important part of their musical journey up to this point, including two songs from 21st Century Redemption Songs, three from Postcards in Real Time, the three standalone singles listed above, and the new one written especially for this collection, “In Spite of It All”. As depicted in the art work for the album, all ten songs are gems, written and produced by Luke, and flawlessly mixed and mastered by Neal Calderwood. 

Though not quite as hard-hitting as their last three singles, “In Spite of It All” is a beautiful rock song nonetheless, with a somewhat gentler, more melodic sound. As always, Luke’s guitars are gorgeous as he lays down an intertwining mix of urgent riffs and chiming notes over a hypnotic driving rhythm, courtesy of Francesco’s beautiful humming bassline and Rodger’s propulsive drumbeats. Francesco’s sparkling synths are the added jewel in the crown, beautifully complementing Luke’s swirling guitar to create an enchanting and exciting backdrop for his clear, plaintive vocals.

The lyrics seem to address the fact that the journey of life can be difficult and full of obstacles, and to make it, you shouldn’t follow the crowd, but instead forge your own path forward, learning from your mistakes and staying true to yourself: “You don’t have to jump just ’cause they tell you to jump. You don’t have to dance just ’cause they call you up. You don’t learn to walk before you learn to crawl. But you keep moving forward still in spite of it all.”

And here’s the full album, available for purchase on Bandcamp at a very reasonable price. I just bought mine!

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THE IVINS – Album Review: “Conditions”

I’ve been following Nashville alt-rock band The Ivins for nearly five years, and have had the pleasure of featuring them several times on this blog. I first wrote about them back in June 2017 when I reviewed their excellent debut album The Code Duello, then again in April 2019 with a review of their single “Certain”, followed a year and a half later, in November 2020, when I reviewed their single “Bloom” (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.) This past November, the talented four-piece dropped their second album Conditions, and like The Code Duello, it’s an ambitious work, featuring 13 stellar tracks.

Consisting of brothers Jim and Jack Ivins (with Jim on guitars & vocals and Jack on drums), Hatton Taylor on lead guitar, and Regan Akers on bass & vocals, the engaging four-piece plays a hard-hitting, guitar-heavy style of melodic rock. Their intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics are delivered with Jim and Regan’s earnest and raw, yet pleasing, vocals, backed by intricate riffs, sturdy basslines and aggressive percussion (courtesy of Jack’s athletic agility on his drum kit). On Conditions, the guys really pushed themselves further than they ever had before, and the result is an exciting, melodically complex and beautiful rock album. They were assisted by Michael Zuehsow on engineering and production, Robert Venable and Zach Scott on mixing, and Duncan Ferguson on mastering. Additional last-minute mixing and mastering were done by Caleb Sherman and Andreas Magnusson.

Before I get to my review, I want to share some heartfelt words Jim wrote about the album on his Facebook page: “I have never tinkered, worked harder on or been more emotionally invested in a record than this one. And it certainly beat the hell out of me. From that first day, it’s been a slog full of intense writer’s block, songs changing in editing, songs changing in mixing, re-writing lyrics, re-playing guitar parts long after they were “finished”. I had to go to a damn one-room cabin in the middle of the Tennessee wilderness alone for several days just to get the lyrics out (and that would prove to be just the first draft). And all of this drama is only fitting given the content. Going back to the beginning, this record started with a panic attack. A truly frightening, paralyzing episode the likes of which I had never before experienced and where I legitimately thought I was going to die. The ensuing mania that defined the next several months had me convinced that my girlfriend was about to go running for the hills. Sooooo that’s kinda what this record is about…..OK, maybe not entirely. But it’s basically a snapshot of my life from when I was turning 30, and all of the anxiety and fear that I had never experienced is the nucleus of it all. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are legitimately HAPPY songs on here! A few! I wrote a true love song for the first time in a decade after I had literally forgotten how to do it (I thank Matt Nathanson for showing me the way, writing for his last album that his goal was to write something sincere about his wife without sounding like a Hallmark card).

This record is also significant because it may be the only real “band” album that I have ever made. While Jack and I made the last one, this one was made by the FOUR of us – Jim, Jack, Hatton & Regan. ‘Conditions’ shines because of that and I am so so proud of it. I’ve been making records since I was 15 and have made something like ten or so and this very well may be the best one I’ve ever made. I’m not sure yet. I’ve lived in it way too long to see the forest from the trees and objectively make that determination. But if you are looking for a really interesting 46 minutes that takes you on a journey, I implore you: give this album a listen. I really think it’s great and that you will enjoy it.

Well, I gave it a listen all the way through from beginning to end, and let me say I was dutifully impressed, which doesn’t happen very often when I first listen to an album. All 13 tracks are strong, with no filler or toss-offs, and I’ll touch on most of them in my review. Things kick off with “Better Days“, a rousing rocker that serves not only as the opening track, but also as an introduction to the album’s overall theme. The lyrics speak to feelings of inadequacy and that your efforts don’t matter in the scheme of things, but hoping that will all change: “I long for better days. Days that haven’t happened yet. A future’s past worth remembering./ Because the only thing worse than worry is indifference.” The song features an abundance of time and melody changes that make for an arresting listen, and I love the shimmery guitars and atmospheric vibe in the bridge, during which Jim softly croons the line that makes me think the song is about him wanting to be valued as a musician – “Waiting for you to understand that rock’n’roll ain’t dead yet” – before everything erupts into a raging crescendo in the final chorus. It’s a great song.

On the hard-driving “All I Want“, Jim issues a plea for a return of the love he thought was his: “All I want is to feel the love you laid aground“, while the catchy ear worm “Begin Again” finds him ruminating about his feelings that his life is an endless cycle of disappointment: “Love only gives what you deal out, but you can’t leave out yourself. You can’t, you can’t begin again, when you find your middle never had an end.” The jangly guitars and and swirling synths gives the song an 80s feel.

One of my favorite tracks is “Love Tonight“, thanks to its infectious dance groove, Regan’s wonderfully sultry bassline, Jim and Hatton’s scorching riffs and Jack’s thumping drumbeats. Another standout is “Hide & Lie“, inspired by Jim’s difficulties with making small talk, and how he’s used alcohol to loosen up, as he elaborated to Gerard Longo for Nashville webzine Underground Music Collective: “When I was single, I was never the guy who could effectively do bar banter. Finding, talking and picking up girls from a large group of people? Not my thing, no matter how much I wanted it to be. Same goes for regular interpersonal relationships — never very good at networking, never very good at getting past that initial 30-60 second ‘how’ve you been?’ phase of conversations. So, simply put, alcohol was, is, my security blanket.”

The entertaining and humorous video for “Hide & Lie”, filmed at the Old Glory bar in Nashville, shows the band playing an audition performance at a bar where they’re having a hard time impressing the owner. To help them play better, they indulge in a bit of liquid courage served up by a sexy bartender played by Monique Staffile of Nashville rock band HER.

The great tunes keep coming. “Growing Pains” is a beautiful, melodically complex song highlighted by a flourish of wobbly distortion that would make Jimi Hendrix proud. The anthemic and pleasing “Patient” features some really pretty guitar work, nicely accompanied by Jack’s assertive drumbeats that give the song considerable heft. “Canyons” is a hauntingly beautiful rock song about missing a loved one who’s gone: “So what if I stayed in a dream? Would it make me closer to you, or would I just sleep. Because I know if I open my eyes, I’ll lose you again.” As always, the guitar work is fantastic, highlighted by gorgeous chiming notes. The grungy, anthemic “Scream” speaks to not allowing fear and complacency to rule your life: “It’s hard to let go, when comfort is controlled.”

The album closes on a powerful note with “Chameleon“, one of the darkest, most intense songs The Ivins have ever done, and I love it. The guys pull out all the stops on this song, unleashing a barrage of gritty, reverb-soaked riffs, pummeling rhythms and soaring choruses. The guys’ intricate, textured guitar work is really spectacular, and I love the spooky industrial synths throughout the track. My only criticism is that the instrumentals are so big and bombastic, they overpower the vocals, making them difficult to understand. But my guess is that they’re about politicians – or anyone without conviction really – who talk out of both sides of their mouths, trying to please everyone with their doublespeak, but pleasing no one in the end.

Conditions is an outstanding, beautifully-crafted album that nicely showcases The Ivins’ growth and maturity as both songwriters and musicians. They’re a talented, underrated band who deserve to be more popular and successful. Hopefully, this review will bring them at least a few more fans, which is what I aim for at the end of the day.

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