DRAFT EVADER – EP Review: “Heel Turn”

Heel Turn

As a blogger, I’ve gotten to know a great many indie artists and bands, a number of whom I’ve featured on this blog. It’s a real pleasure to follow them on their musical journeys, keeping up with new music they produce over time. And it’s especially heartening for me to watch the younger artists and bands get better and better as they mature and gain more experience. One such young artist is Draft Evader, an earnest singer/songwriter and guitarist based in Chicago who plays rock music with rock’n’roll and punk overtones. Draft Evader is the artistic name for the music project of Ryan Loree, who writes the songs, plays guitar and sings all vocals, with assistance by his good friend Joe Scaletta on bass and drums.

Draft Evader

Following up on his last single “The Devil’s Disguise,” which he released in October 2017 and I reviewed, he’s just released a new EP Heel Turn. “The Devil’s Disguise” is a fine, well-crafted single, but he really ups his game on Heel Turn. His song melodies are more fully developed, the instrumentals more expansive and complex, and the production values tighter. But the biggest improvement is in his vocals, which sound really great on the EP.

Heel Turn contains four new tracks that deal with darker themes like insecurity, depression and problematic relationships. He told me “I don’t write love songs, I write hate songs.” And what a songwriter he is, penning such relevant lyrics that perfectly express the pain and anguish he – and many of us – have felt at one time or another. The first track is “Warpath,” a powerful song about not wasting any more time dealing with duplicitous backstabbers who drive you crazy, and making the decision to just let them go. “…to speak my mind is a waste of time. Light up one more cigarette. We’ll walk the hall of hypocrites. And I will bite my nails to the skin. Burn all my fingertips. / A heel turn’s the only way.” The gritty riffs, thunderous bass and pounding drums powerfully convey the raw emotion expressed in the biting lyrics and vocals. I like the little piano riff that appears late in the track, and the strummed electric guitar in the outro that seems to symbolize the sense of sad resignation.

Complaints” is a terrific hard-driving song that was released as a single in March. The track’s arrangement and production are pretty close to perfection, and Ryan’s guitar work and vocals sound fantastic, as is Joe’s drumming. The lyrics speak of being an overly negative person, unable to see the good in anyone or anything and always complaining (something I’m sorry to admit I’ve been guilty of a few times myself):

Tell me all your secrets
Now I know too much
Don’t know what I’m thinkin’
or what I’ve become
I’ve got nothing better to say
Just constant complaints

Hell bent on a mission
Objective self-destruct
I’ve got nothing better to say
Just constant complaints

On “Stutter” he addresses insecurities that cause him to stutter in just about every life situation, except when he’s alone with himself or singing:

Well I stutter when I’m nervous
Well I stutter when I’m stoned
Well I stutter giving bad news
I don’t stutter when I’m alone

Well I stutter when I’m happy
And I stutter when I’m weak
Well I stutter in good company
I don’t stutter when I sing

The poignant rock ballad “Petty” is my favorite of the four tracks. Not only are the instrumentals stunning from start to finish, but Draft Evader’s heartfelt vocals are wonderful, with a raw vulnerability that makes the painful lyrics seem all the more powerful. It’s a gorgeous song. The lyrics are from the point of view of a person saying a final goodbye to someone who just doesn’t want to be with them any longer:

You are so different these days
I hope that the old you remains
Mistaken for friends, means to an end
I know things cannot stay the same
Petty that’s how you make me feel
Mending my wounds, need time to heal
Petty can’t hide, here’s something real
I’m ready, now serve my final meal

Though brief, with only four tracks, Heel Turn is monumental in scope. All four tracks are outstanding, powerful and flawlessly executed on every level. I’m so proud of Draft Evader, and look forward to hearing more awesome music from him!

Connect with Draft Evader:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify and Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp or itunes

AFTER ARISTOTLE – EP Review: “A Guide To Open Minds”

After Aristotle album art

After Aristotle is an indie alternative rock band based in Austin, Texas, and in late January they released their debut EP A Guide To Open Minds. Formed in 2016, the band consists of Kera Krause on vocals & ukelele, Cam Lamother on guitar, Tyson Zaria on bass, Ethan Schrupp on guitar & synth, and Zach Melvin on drums. The title of their EP encapsulates their collective approach to making music. In their bio they state: “We’re all about open mindedness. With a wide range of influences, our sound ranges from soft, indie rock to in your face punk. We let the music decide where it wants to go. We make the music we feel like making and have a great time doing it!”

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The EP has a rather heavy, dark theme. With their intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics the band takes on subjects such as depression, fake news and betrayal by both friends and our leaders, and our attempts to find solace through denial and/or self-medication. Setting the tone is opening track “I’ve Got No One to Brush My Teeth For,” a melancholy song about feeling lonely and depressed, unable to see a way forward. With painful resignation, Kera sings “It’s so sunny outside I don’t think I’m getting out of bed. All day under the covers that hope that the day goes away with all of my fear and self hate. Light up the medicine, kill my adrenaline. So scared I don’t know where I’ve been.” The melodic track has some excellent guitar work that goes from jangly to blistering and everything in between, and Zach’s aggressive drumming is on-point.

The hard-rocking “Fakes and Escapes” is my favorite track on the EP. Propelled by Tyson’s driving bass line, Cam and Ethan’s frantic shredded riffs and Zach’s thunderous drums make for a really exciting hard rock song. Kera spits the lyrics that speak of duplicity and betrayal: “Well did you ever bite the hand that fed? Last thing we need is another fake smile. But we’ve all been learning to not feel for a while.”

The band incorporates a bit of Americana on the poignant track “Substance,” featuring some lovely violin courtesy of guest artist Ethan Thayer.  Kera plaintively sings “We’re all pleading for a world we’ll never see, while the one where we live passes by like a dream. / We shouldn’t suffer to fuel their greed. And they wonder why we’re popping pills to get some peace. And they wonder why we’re drowning to feel clean. What dragon are we chasing?

The fast-paced rock song “Shallow Folk” is about having the courage to admit that the lies and stubborn false beliefs you shouted loud and often in order to convince others they were true has been a sham (if only a certain occupant of the White House would do a bit of this self-actualization):

Well what did I think I knew about the world or anything it consumes
Appointing answers as if I could back up my stances
If I shout it so loud will it earn me my chance now
Keep my head held high to combat the downspin of my selfish mind
Keep the crowd’s attention just until I believe in my own words
I’m still getting used to admitting when I’m wrong

You know what drives me crazy?
People who talk with nothing to say
See I couldn’t live another day with lips sewn shut, lungs black with regret
Mind shut so tight, I suffocate inside of it
But I’ve been shallow like water that’s two inches tall
It’s no surprise that I’ve been feeling so small

Escaping Handcuffs” ends the EP on a hopeful note. The lyrics speak to overcoming self-doubt and fear that are holding you back from achieving your potential and living a fuller, more satisfying life. “Don’t let the little things take up your time. Calm down your fight. Pull back the curtain. There’s a whole world and you’re acting so blind. Don’t be scared.” The horns are a nice touch on this soft rock tune.

A Guide To Open Minds is a strong debut effort from After Aristotle that showcases their skillful songwriting and musicianship. I’m curious to see what compelling topics they’ll set to music next.

Connect with After Aristotle on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on SpotifyApple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

BOOGIE BOARD – Album Review: “Ferric Tape Noir”

Ferric Tape Noir

I’m a sucker for surf guitar grooves, and am really enjoying what seems to be a resurgence of surf rock in all its variations, whether it be garage, psychedelic, punk or even grunge. So I was pleased when the musician Stephen Denning reached out to me about his music project Boogie Board, and his latest album Ferric Tape Noir, which dropped at the end of January. Denning is a solo artist from Chicago who describes his music as “fuzzy midwestern garage/ psych/ surf rock.” He writes, performs, records and masters all his music directly onto a 4-track tape machine in order to achieve a lo-fi sound, and I after listening to the album, I’d say he succeeds quite nicely.

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Before getting into the music itself, I’ll provide a bit of background about music tape. Curious about the words “Ferric Tape” in the album title, I Googled it and learned “ferric” refers to ferric oxide, one of the oxides of iron that happens to be magnetic. That quality makes it an ideal coating for tape that allows both the recording and removal of sound. The tape coating on most cassettes sold today as either “normal” or “chrome” consists of ferric oxide and cobalt mixed in varying ratios. According to the website Cassetro, “ferric tape offers deep booming bass, warm mid-range and excellent high frequencies up to 16 kHz (the upper end of most people’s hearing range).” Now I understand why Boogie Board would choose ferric tape to record his music.

He’s been a busy guy the past year, releasing his debut 12-track album Surf N Turf in May 2017, then following up with a five-track EP Dream Telepathy in September. He dropped Ferric Tape Noir at the end of January 2018, then two months later released a double single Portal Window & Infinity Stairs.

Most of the tracks on Ferric Tape Noir are brief, generally running one and a half to just over two minutes, with the exception of “Moon Waves,” which is three minutes long. Also, many are simple instrumental compositions, beginning with album opener and title track “Ferric Tape Noir,” where Boogie Board delivers a repetitive gritty bass-like riff to a rat-a-tat drum beat. I say ‘bass-like’ because though the heavy, gravelly riffs on his songs sound like they come from a bass guitar, he told me they’re all actually only guitar. He added that one track is guitar run through an amp and another features guitar through a bass amp, with the remaining tracks dedicated to drum machine and vocals.

Moon Waves” is more fully-developed, with an intricate little surf guitar riff flitting over another sustained gravelly riff and frantic drum beat. His extremely distorted vocals add an interesting, rather spooky dimension to the song. The psychedelic “Flying Shadow” is a lively romp, with jangly and fuzzy guitars following a bouncy punk dance beat. We can hear Boogie Board’s distorted repeating chants of “flying shadow” in the background. One of my favorite tracks is “Magic Swamp,” with dense, gritty riffs and a hypnotic beat. I love the bluesy guitar riff in the song’s second half.

Cowabunga” and “Abyss With Me” are straight-up lo-fi surf rock at its best. The latter track has more distorted vocals of him repeatedly wailing the song’s title. “Night Walk” is very short, basically consisting of a repetitive riff over a gentle tapping drumbeat. Another favorite of mine is album closer “Spectral Glide.” It’s one of the more melodic tracks, with an intriguing guitar riff floating above what sounds like a very gritty bass line and muffled drumbeat.

I thought I’d also touch on his latest two tracks. “Portal Window” has a great little riff along with his highly distorted vocals that are basically unintelligible, but highly effective in giving off a mysterious vibe he seems to want to achieve in his songs. “Infinity Stairs” delivers a fast-paced tempo with rapid thumping drums and more of his awesome fuzzy guitars, along with some tasty added side riffs. I can hear him sing “infinity stairs” but can’t quite make out the rest of the lyrics.

Overall, I like Boogie Board’s interesting style of lo-fi surf/garage rock, and the roughness of his sound. I think he’s a talented guitarist, and would like to see him try some more fully developed melodies and guitar riffs that would make his songs even more intriguing.

Stephen is also a talented graphic artist. You can check out some of his work on his Instagram page.

Connect with Boogie Board:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify
Purchase on Bandcamp

DAVID GERGEN – Album Review: “The Golden Light”

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David Gergen is a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles. He’s been making music for over two decades, and just released his 7th self-produced album The Golden Light in early February. He seems to drop a new album every four years – previous efforts being The Dreaming in 2014, The Nearer It Was…The Farther It Became in 2010, and Haunting Whirlwinds in 2006 (although he did release a five-song EP Odyssey in 2012).

Incorporating elements of alternative, indie and experimental rock with Americana and easy-listening, he writes beautiful piano and guitar-driven melodies to accompany his thoughtful lyrics about love, loss and renewal. He explains his writing process on his website: “I write songs faster than I can record them….lyrics are important to me. I change direction with each piece of work and rather than submit to any trends, I create music that I like first and foremost. Music that keeps me interested, that is the secret to longevity I think.”

As I listened to The Golden Light, I was struck by David’s exceptional piano playing and skill at writing melodic piano compositions, both of which are well represented on the lovely album opener “Closer to the Light.” The main piano riff is serene and hauntingly beautiful, and backed by a second layer of piano, as well as a delicately strummed acoustic guitar, mandolin and strings. The track has a spiritual feel, with lyrics that seem to be about hitting rock bottom and seeking a way out of the hole you’re in through love and redemption. David’s smooth vocals have a quiet intensity as he implores “I’m falling, fallingFalling, I’m falling…down. Down, worn and busted. Can love save me again? The only must have is light coming in? Closer, closer, closer to the light.” The song is one of the album highlights for me.

Talking About Love” is an uptempo song with more of a progressive rock sound, thanks to the predominance of electric guitar and a more aggressive drumbeat. The layered guitars on this track are really good. The brooding “Here and There” ventures toward an Americana vibe, and features some awesome moody guitars and piano keys that convey the sentiments expressed in the lyrics: “Slowly, the twinkle is leaving those eyes. Somber days the overture of the times. The moment you notice it’s already gone. I’m afraid to notice who’s driving this train. I know I’m falling in love with this feeling that’s here and there.

Another beautiful piano-driven track is “Looking Glass,” a poignant song that seems to be about facing your own truths with honesty and an open mind. David’s piano playing is exquisite, and the accompanying acoustic guitar and soaring string synths make for a really gorgeous song. His vocals are comforting as he sings: “Don’t run away there’s a price to be paid, it’ll come back to find you again. So many of us running in circles to find out what’s lying within. Life is so pretty like a beautiful city with its lights climbing up to the moon. High rising wild fire burns what it needs to renew. It passed through the looking glass….it’s gone, gone, gone, gone.

Sirens” is an interesting track with rather unusual melody progressions that keep us just a bit off balance, but in a good way. David employs otherworldly synths and a funky distorted guitar riff to create dissonance and a sense of uncertainty that complement the lyrics: “The sweet singing on the red sea leads you right to the edge. The sirens watching are breaking us in. How many signs does it take.

Another unconventional track is “Mountain,” which has two distinct parts. The first 50 seconds of the song consists of eerie, discordant synths and an echoed pounding drum that impart a sense of foreboding. That disturbing part ends with an abrupt shift to a melodic and pleasing Americana song with strummed and chiming guitars, lovely synths and piano. David croons “Can anybody see through the mountain? Can anybody see what’s there? If you only see, what you want to see. It’s an easy way to get lost.” The track closes out the last 10 seconds with a repeat of the discordant sounds, perhaps symbolizing the feeling of being lost?

David goes off in an experimental rock direction on the fascinating “Coffee in Bed.” He uses layers of differently-textured strummed guitars that are sometimes discordant, backed with spooky, ethereal synths to create a hauntingly beautiful and mesmerizing soundscape. David’s soothing vocals are almost seductive as he sings about the ardor of love’s desires: “Calm breeze, sun on her face. I bring her some coffee, she wants me to stay. Not in a long time has anyone said, you must be waiting for coffee in bed.

He follows up with “Big River,” a pleasing Americana ballad about making it home to be with his loved one, and closes the album with “Clouds and Lightning.” Piano is the only instrument on this lovely track about what appears to be death and rebirth, whether in the literal or figurative sense: “It’s easy now, when it comes. Separate the heroes from the villains. Higher than the clouds. The offering to guide you on the way out.  Talk slow, it’s me you’re looking for. Why are you trying to be so strong? Resting clouds, resting angel. There’s a story she’s trying to tell. And then they’re gone, crimson angels.”

I must concede that The Golden Light is a remarkable work that requires at least a couple of listens to fully appreciate the nuance and complexity of the music and poetic lyrics, though the songs still sound wonderful to the casual listener. I discovered new sounds and meanings with each additional listen, and grew to like the songs more and more, to the point where I now think the album is brilliant. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys piano rooted alternative and experimental rock music that’s just a bit out of the ordinary.

Connect with David:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

BRAVE YOU – Album Review: “Places”

Brave You

I’m back in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (having just written about progressive metal band UNDER AEGIS) to shine my spotlight on Brave You, one of my favorite indie bands that I’ve also previously featured on this blog. In 2016 I reviewed their outstanding debut Six Songs EP, and now have the pleasure of reviewing their new full-length album Places, which dropped in late February. Released through Halloween Records, Places is a concept album. The band’s guitarist & lead vocalist Alex Meylink explains: “Places is entirely about addiction, but we tried to avoid ever mentioning drugs or alcohol. We focused primarily on how addiction interacts with one’s emotional state and relationships, so I think it’s applicable to anyone suffering a mental health issue. These are songs written across a few years: in the early stages of recovery, in relapse, at ‘the bottom’, and finally coming to a place of good mental health and sobriety.”

Brave You plays alternative rock that’s highly melodic, but with an honest, post-grunge sensibility that gives them a distinctive style all their own. In addition to Meylink, the other band members are Noah Snyder on bass & backing vocals, and Erik Burtraw on drums & backing vocals. Outstanding, complex guitar riffs, aggressive drums, and really fine harmonizing vocals are the defining elements of their sound. Add their solid songwriting to the mix, and the result are songs of exceptional quality and depth. And if all that isn’t enough of a winning combination, they’re also pretty nice guys.

Places is aptly named, as each track title is about a specific location, whether it be a geographical one or simply a bedroom. The album kicks off with a distorted riff and voice over of a guy inviting his friends to go to the amusement park on “Lake Michigan.” Swirling guitars, Snyder’s humming bass and Burtraw’s crashing drums ensue, as Meylink earnestly sings of being in a precarious mental state: “So I’m safe for now. Even if it’s just one moment I could crack a smile, goddamn it.” Determined to make it, he defiantly sings “So I’m safe for now. So let’s burn that fucker down and build it up from better ground.”

I may be off base, but my take on “The Hospital” is that it’s about being depressed over the impending onset of winter, which symbolizes the possibility of having a relapse that would necessitate going back into rehab. The lighthearted video puts a happy face on a rather serious subject, namely trying to stave off winter, or preventing a downward spiral and keeping an upbeat attitude by having fun playing sports with friends. By video’s end, the band members are all wearing giant teddy bear heads, indicating they’re getting ready to hibernate, another metaphor symbolizing the inevitability of returning to the hospital for rehab.

One of my favorite tracks is “Mound St.” It starts off with Meylink’s echoed vocals and a gentle riff and drumbeat, then explodes with a barrage of wailing guitars and thunderous drums. Still in a fragile mental state and feeling pessimistic, Meylink sings: “I’d spent a few years treading water in stagnant pools. You asked me where my head had wandered off to. I’ve been lost. / If these are the best days of our lives then we are fucked. I am fucked. / On Mound Street, I let my losses pile up. Refused to claim stake in the rubble and the sum of the stories I told you and to myself: that I’m alright and getting by. So I coasted on hope or the concept of having it. Got myself dry as a bone til mine were cracking, but I couldn’t help but sink into quicksand and pits. A morass of “faultless” debt I could never hope to pay back.

Wind Lake” and “King Cross” are a couplet, with the latter being a precise continuation of “Wind Lake.” It’s interesting the band would create a separate track in “Kings Cross,” as it begins with the exact same riff that “Wind Lake” ends with. Both tracks feature Meylink’s gritty, screaming guitars and Snyder’s deep, droning bass line, sounding fantastic.

The guys’ wonderful harmonizing is well represented on “Washington.” The nimble guitars and bouncy drumbeat lend an optimistic tone for lyrics that speak to a resignation that though things aren’t going so great, we’ll just continue acting like they are: “So let’s just make it through this winter. Toss off the sharp and jagged splinters. No matter, all of this is fine.”

Hometown” speaks to the depression that began while growing up, and wanting to escape that environment in the hope things will get better:  “Always remember how you felt at this moment, in this placeAlone and inconsolable in the house that you grew up inYou wanted to burn that fucker down. Erase twenty years on solid ground.” The track has a great melody, and is filled with loads of jangly guitars and gritty bass. “South Milwaukee” is a short and beautiful track with chiming guitars and warm bass, but sad lyrics about feeling hopeless and alone. Meylink sadly sings “Overworked and underfed, in need of rest, I drove the twenty minutes to South Milwaukee instead, to you and your shitty friend. Towards a beacon of light in an otherwise meaningless night. / Selfish, I expected too much of your company. That just one night could fix me. It didn’t help me at all.

Bedroom” finds him trying to escape his demons by isolating in a safe place:  “Me and these ghosts, still talking until I’m finally sleeping. I just want to stay home, stay in my bedroom alone. Me and these ghosts, still talking until I’m finally sleeping. I just want to be whole.” As always, the frenetic instrumentals and vocal harmonies are first-rate.

The hard-driving, bittersweet “Your Bedroom” speaks to the pain and feelings of loss after the sudden death of a friend. “You’re no ghost, you’re a warmth. A ringing in the ears. A reminder. Stay in motion now. Make the movement matter. And this will freeze and crack, thawed only by the embers. You’re twenty seven forever. By the back door, your old pair of blue Tiger shoes we didn’t throw out, as if after a day or two like Lazarus you’d come from your room. We’d get a sandwich at Lulu’s. God, I’d do whatever you want to. I’d get clean. I’d sing loud. Just come on out.”

Places closes on an optimistic tone with the anthemic “Everywhere.” He’s now confident things will be OK: “I wanna take back this city from dead memories, take back my body. Call off the funeral procession for all these loves that built me. Those years searching for something greater than these homes. Well, I found it. Found it in my bones.” It’s a gorgeous track with layered guitars that start off as tender strums, gradually building to celebratory jangly riffs. Likewise, Meylink’s heartfelt vocals build along with the music, eventually soaring to a crescendo of spine-tingling harmonies. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a brilliant effort from a really fine band. I love Brave You and hope they continue making music for years to come.

Connect with Brave You: Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase Places on Bandcamp or iTunes

UNQUIET NIGHTS – Single Review: “Promise of You”

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I receive a lot of requests from artists and bands wanting reviews of their latest music or to be featured on this blog, and it’s fun to discover some great new music I would not have otherwise heard. So it was my good fortune when Luke Mathers, frontman of the indie rock band Unquiet Nights, reached out to me with their new single “Promise of You,” which officially drops tomorrow, February 16th.

Based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Unquiet Nights began in 2006 as a solo project for Mathers, who writes all his songs, plays guitar and sings. He began recording tracks for what would become the first Unquiet Nights album 21st Century Redemption Songs, then relocated to Italy in 2010, where the album was finished. Mathers eventually brought Italian musicians Matteo Bussotti and Francesco Piciucchi on board, and Unquiet Nights officially became a band. In 2015 they released a second album Postcards in Real Time, an outstanding work that I strongly recommend my readers make an effort to check out by using one of the links at the end of this review. Mathers moved back to Northern Ireland in 2016, though he still plays with Bussotti and Piciucchi, and has been working on new material for a third album.

Unquiet Nights Luke

“Promise of You” is the first single, and it’s a hard-rockin’ beauty! It starts off with a drawn-out electric guitar note, then an explosion of gritty guitars and fuzzy bass rain down, propelled by a crushing drumbeat that really gets the blood pumping. The track grows more intense as dramatic synths and layers of jangly and shredded guitars are added, building to a pulse-pounding crescendo. The instrumentals are phenomenal, and Mathers fervent vocals perfectly convey the unbridled passion he feels for another, and the exciting promise of a romantic entanglement.

It’s a fantastic track, and a promising (no pun intended) sign that Unquiet Nights will be delivering another stellar album for our listening enjoyment.

Connect with Unquiet Nights:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

THE TRIMS – Album Review: “Julian Street”

Trims album

San Jose, California-based indie post-punk band The Trims have been making great music for nearly a decade. Formed in 2009 by singer/songwriter/guitarist Gabe Maciel, The Trims also includes Billy Brady on drums and Mark Sharp on bass. Their on-stage charisma and skill at creating catchy, high-energy grooves have built them a huge following in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

They were one of the first bands I featured on this blog back in October 2015, and in August 2017, I reviewed their fantastic single “The One I Want.”  They’ve now released their second full-length album Julian Street (named after a major thoroughfare running through San Jose), which dropped in January, delivering ten superb tracks that showcase their exuberant guitar-driven sound.

The Trims photo

Julian Street starts off big with the exhilarating “Turn Out the Lights.” Our ears are instantly hit with an onslaught of Mark’s gritty bass and Billy’s hammering drumbeats, setting the stage for Gabe’s frantic riffs of chiming guitars. It’s clear their aim is to have us on our feet and dancing within seconds. With his fervent vocals, Gabe sings “Turn out the lights. Bring back the summer before our youth is gone.” On “Nobody Else” Gabe sings of his never ending devotion and not wanting to love anyone else.

Now is a good time to mention how much I love Gabe’s marvelous vocals and his signature guitar style, which seems to meld surf, punk, rock’n’roll and doo wop elements into a highly satisfying, upbeat sound uniquely recognizable as their own. Another thing is how well the guys play together, totally in sync with each other to create a tight sound.

Dying (Just to See Your Face)” and the lead single “The One I Want” are perfect examples of what I’m talking about, with intricate, fast-paced riffs of jangly guitars and a frenetic, heavy drumbeat. “Bedroom Mirror” has layers of multi-textured guitars over a funky bass line and drums that Billy seems to hit at 100 beats per second. The man is one hell of a power drummer!

The guys slow it down on the lovely acoustic ballad “Gone Away.” Gabe strums a melancholy riff on his guitar as he sings: “All we have is this moment to release what’s inside. All we have is tomorrow. I’ll be home in time. Tomorrow has gone away.” I really like this mellower sound which they do quite well, and wish they’d make more songs like this.

I Wish I Could Say” has Gabe wanting to apologize but unable to: “I would like to tell that I’m sorry for the stupid things I wish I’d never done./ I wish that I could say that the worst was over. I wish I could tell you nothing’s wrong.  But now I see I was mistaken. A fool who never seemed to care.”

Mark’s bass is prominently on display on the melodic hard-driving tracks “Hands of Time” and “You Tell Me.”  Of course, Gabe’s awesome guitar work and Billy’s skillful drumming are on-point as always. Album closer “Balam in Love” features generous synths that nicely complement the gorgeous guitars and throbbing bass, creating a bit of a new wave/punk-infused vibe. Gabe tells a lover that their relationship is over and he wants out: “There’s nothing more to say. This is the game you play. Just let me go.” It’s a brilliant track, and one of my favorites from this excellent and thoroughly enjoyable album.

Connect with The Trims:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify or Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

WONS PHREELY – Single and Video Review: “The Night Has An Alibi”

Wons Phreely Single Art

I’m a huge fan of Australian-born, and now Los Angeles-based, singer/songwriter Wons Phreely. The talented, hard-working musician has an interesting and unique voice to match his artistic moniker (his birth name is Justin Wonsley). He grew up in Perth, one of the world’s most isolated large cities, where he also felt isolated with regard to his desire to become a successful musician. So, in 2015 he relocated to Los Angeles and quickly immersed himself into the creative artistic environment where he could more fully grow as an artist.

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In 2016, with assistance from his backup band The Horses, he released an excellent single “Stars” (which I reviewed) that addressed his experiences overcoming self-doubt and fear of change, and enabling himself to make the life-altering move from Australia to Los Angeles. In November 2017, he followed up with a sparkling new single “The Night Has An Alibi,” inspired this time by his feelings of being out of place in Perth, and subsequently landing in the accepting artistic community of L.A. The hopeful lyrics speak to embracing all the surprises life has to offer, not letting fear keep you from living life to its fullest:

Daylight creeps in like a kick in the guts and the rush of blood
Check your look in the mirror, are you young enough
Cause it took you so long to get up dancing alone, while all the lights were down
In or you’re out, boy don’t wait around
Sister I know we should settle but I cant live a lie
Too long running, true blood pumping
Man I just get this feeling like I might explode inside
Because the night, the night, the night, the night
The night, the night, has an Alibi

The exuberant track opens with throbbing synths overlying a thumping beat, seemingly channeling “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, whose music has strongly influenced Phreely. His fervent vocals quickly enter the scene, backed by joyous riffs of jangly chiming guitars that are freaking awesome! A warm saxophone is introduced in the bridge, melding beautifully with the bouncy synths and ramping up the track’s already high energy. The lush wall of sound on the track reminds me of two of my favorite bands – The War on Drugs and Future Islands. Not wanting the song to end, I kept hitting replay.

Phreely has now released a rather creepy but brilliant video for the song. His inspiration came from the webzine NYLON.com when they premiered the single, where they stated it “belongs on the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack.”  The idea of ‘strange things’ struck a chord and led him to conceive of the very unusual visual for the song’s video. He explained “Since moving to L.A. I’ve been really engrossing myself in the film making world. I’ve been acting in a bunch of things too, so for this music video I decided to gather a lot of the talented people I’ve met on set, including an amazing cinematographer friend, and with their help I got to direct and produce the strangest video I could think of.

And has he ever! The video opens with a scene of Phreely asleep in bed with his girlfriend. As he awakens, the camera pans down to reveal him as only a head! He’s then shown resting atop the kitchen counter while his girlfriend reads the newspaper. Next she’s carrying him under her arm as she walks down the street, later placing him on the roof of the car as she drives to a club. When the doorman points to a sign notifying patrons of a $10 cover per person, she opens her bag to show him Phreely’s head. Soon he’s situated on the bar trying to down his drink, then his head is knocked off the bar and onto the floor. He ends up being placed on a stool on stage and sings with the band while everyone dances. At dawn, he leaves with another woman he met at the bar as she carries him away, at one point dropping him on the sidewalk! I love his facial expressions throughout the video that manage to make something that could have been creepy be lighthearted and hilarious. Have a look:

Phreely has begun working on a new album with his backing band The Horses, and I can’t wait to hear it! To learn more about him and his music, check out his Website

Follow him on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / YouTube / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / Google PlayiTunes

REBELLE – EP Review: “Hide”

Rebelle Album

Followers of my blog know I like featuring indie artists and bands, as I want to give them exposure and help them gain new fans. Another recent find is REBELLE, a wonderful band from Quebec, Canada who describe themselves as “Filthy with a beat, but really, really sweet.” Their melodic, aggressive sound immediately grabbed my attention and had me returning to their music again and again.

Based in Wakefield, a small town 20 minutes north of Ottawa, REBELLE consists of siblings David (guitar, lead vocals) and Rylee Taggart (synths, backing vocals), Ryan Wiles (bass, guitar, backing vocals), and Joey Kane (drums). In November 2017 they released their debut EP Hide, featuring three fantastic tracks.

Rebelle2

The title track “Hide” opens with Rylee’s sharp, menacing synths, then a scratchy guitar riff takes over, backed by Ryan’s throbbing bass line and Joey’s pounding drums. The tempo is broken at intervals by a screeching guitar, followed by an assault of David’s shredded and distorted riffs in the chorus and outro. His vocal gymnastics are quite amazing, going from smoldering to falsetto as he snarls the lyrics warning someone who’s deceived him: “Hide your head in the sand and stay out of my sight I told you. You’re walking into trouble. Cause I’m a creature lurking in the night, I’m behind you. You better run and hide.

Shoot Me Down” really showcases the band’s skill at writing great melodies, as well as their strong musicianship. The guitar work on this track is stunning, and once again, David’s vocals are sublime. But it’s on the third track “The Rapture” that REBELLE really show us what they can do. Blistering riffs of gritty guitars, heavy bass and tumultuous percussion set the tone for the hard-hitting song. David defiantly challenges those stoking fear of  impending apocalypse: “They say today we better change our ways. Won’t make it through tomorrow. There ain’t no other fate. No no, hey hey, this ain’t gonna ruin my day.” The music explodes as David wails “So you call this the rapture!” There’s some tasty guitar noodling in the bridge, followed by a reprise of the scorching instrumentals. The sharp, otherworldly synths that opened “Hide” close out “The Rapture,” bringing this marvelous little EP full circle. Though it’s short, the three songs sure pack a punch. My only criticism is that I wish there were more of them!

They’ve just released a dark new video for “The Rapture,” containing footage from the 1924 German silent film Die Niebelungen: Siegfried. David told the webzine Soundfiction that “The Rapture is weird and ambiguous, but suggestive. Mildly post apocalyptic, yet medieval.” Have a look:

I love REBELLE’s music and hope they bless us with more songs very soon. To learn more about them, check out their Website

For those of you in far eastern Canada, you can see them play at the following shows:

FEB 1
Quebec, QC, Canada
FEB 2
Fri 10 PM UTC-04 · by Rebelle
Halifax, NS, Canada
FEB 3
Sat 9:30 PM UTC-04 · by Rebelle
Moncton, NB, Canada
FEB 4
Sun 8 PM UTC-04 · by Rebelle
Charlottetown, PE, Canada
MAR 3
Gatineau, QC, Canada

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

VERITY WHITE – Album Review: “Breaking Out”

Verity White Album

Verity White is a singer/songwriter from Cheltenham, UK, and can this woman rock! She plays a bluesy style of alternative rock which, combined with the ferocity of her sultry vocal styling that at times reminds me of Pat Benatar and Joan Jett, makes for a hell of an exciting listen. Verity has been a backing vocalist with the UK band Pendragon, and performed with them on their European tour in 2017. Last November, she released her debut full-length album Breaking Out, which serves as a bold metaphor for this evolutionary next step in her career. With assistance from her husband Alex on guitars and production, Breaking Out delivers 10 stellar tracks.

Verity White

The album kicks off with the audaciously sexy title track “Breaking Out.” Gritty, blues-infused guitars engage in a seductive dance with the steamy bass line and drum beat. The tinkling piano keys in the bridge accentuate Verity’s sultry vocals as she defiantly declares her independence: “I’m worth more than you know. I’m stronger than you know, and I’m better on my own.” Indeed she is, and who are we to argue!

Verity’s amazing vocal range is showcased on “Zeroes and Ones,” where she really seems to channel Pat Benatar. It’s one of the album’s standout tracks, with fantastic instrumentals that complement her powerful vocals that go from soothing to raw.  The dark “Demons in Your Head” offers up fuzzy synths and a heavy buzzing bass line set to a thumping beat. The song’s lyrics speak to personal struggles with emotional issues: “Pop another pill into your mouth. Crumbling because you can’t let it out. Every day’s a constant struggle with the demons in your head. Trying to control you, so you just go back to bed instead.”

Verity let’s her rock goddess alter ego loose on the rousing “I Don’t Care.” With raw energy in her vocals, she sings about not giving a damn and casting aside all self-control on a night of partying: “Gonna drink ’til I can’t remember my name. Gonna drink ’til I can’t be the one to blame.”

See Through” features Alex’s beautiful intricate guitars, mesmerizing synths and Verity’s beguiling vocals, all set to a melodic dance beat. It’s a great song, and one of my favorite tracks on the album. The synth-heavy “Face It” is another gem, and Alex really shines as he lays down lots of gritty riffs. The duo pull out all the stops on the raw, melodically complex “Exhale.” Damn if this isn’t another standout track! Mysterious sweeping synths, snarling guitars, loads of crashing cymbals and a pulse-pounding bass line work in tandem to create a speaker-blowing soundscape. Add generous amounts of Verity’s passionate soaring vocals and you’ve got all the ingredients to raise goosebumps.

Your Darkest Secret” is a hard-driving rocker, with more of Alex’s shredded guitars and Verity’s saucy vocals, while the bluesy “Slow Fall” brings a hypnotic piano riff backed by fuzzy guitars and thumping drums. Album closer “Overcome” is a terrific rock song with awesome multi-layered guitar work. With her raw and sultry vocals on full display, Verity sings “Let the feeling overcome you. Til they’re right into the core. Changing all our dark perceptions. As you ask again for more. Why can’t I feel this way without you?

Breaking Out is a superb debut for Verity White, showcasing not only her mind-blowing vocal abilities, but also her skill for writing songs with compelling lyrics and outstanding melodies. She’s set the bar quite high with this album, but I’m confident she has what it takes to come back with more great music in the future. For now, she’s been touring the UK to promote Breaking Out, and you can catch her next at Mr Wolfs in Bristol, England on January 18th.

Connect with Verity:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes