KILLER TAPE – EP Review: “Ghosts”

Killer Tape2

Killer Tape is the music project of young artists Ella Heaton and Luke Hudson. Originally from Leeds, England, Ella is currently studying in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Luke in Berlin, Germany. In June (2019) they released their debut EP Ghosts, featuring three stunning lo-fi tracks. Melding elements of shoegaze, ambient, electronic and psychedelia, the duo create mesmerizing soundscapes that transport us to dreamy, faraway places.

First off is the title track “Ghosts”, a haunting, ethereal song that opens with clicks that sound like a cassette tape being placed into a player, accompanied by a droning acoustic guitar and mysterious, sinewy synths that gradually build as the track progresses. With breathy echoed vocals that sound appropriately ghost-like, Ella gently croons “There’s a man on the ceiling, and he’s full of misdemeanour.

The dreamy “Scrimmage” features marvelous glittery synths and a fuzzy, reverb-heavy guitar that borders on surf. Ella’s echoed chanting can be heard in the distance, accompanied by a spooky organ riff at the end of the song. I love it!

The final track “May Day” is brief, lasting only 1:40 minutes, but is a wonderful composition, with more of that spooky organ and throbbing spacey synths that impart a fascinating otherworldly vibe. This time it’s Luke’s distant echoed chants that can be heard. The track ends with the same clicking sounds we heard at the beginning of “Ghosts”, signifying that the tape has been removed from the player.

Ghosts is a great little EP from this talented young duo, and my only criticism is that it’s too short, leaving me wanting to hear more.

Connect with Killer Tape: Facebook / Instagram
Stream or purchase on Apple Music / Google Play / YouTube

ANDY K LELAND – Single Review: “A Chair is a Chair”

Andy K Leland Chair Art

Like most singer-songwriters, Italian indie folk artist Andy K Leland is a poet of sorts, penning lyrics loaded with meaning and expressed mostly through his pleasing acoustic guitar and quirky, off-beat vocal style. Andy – who was born Andrea Marcellini – refers to himself as Andrea’s “shadow-self, and the two selves fear each other.” That dichotomy is clearly evident in his songs, where his sometimes dark, depressing lyrics sharply contrast with his simple, catchy melodies and mellow lo-fi vibe. Despite his cynical, often bleak lyrics about life and relationships, his songs seem to tell us to not take life too seriously, or at the very least resign ourselves to life’s inevitable travails without losing our minds in the process.

Like a lot of artists I’ve reviewed lately, I’ve previously featured Andy several times on this blog, and you can read some of my reviews of his music by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post. He’s now released a wonderful new single “A Chair is a Chair“, and it’s one of his best songs yet. It still has the charming signature lo-fi acoustic vibe of all his music, but features added instrumentals in the form of mellotron and ambient drone guitar, played by guest musician Simone Laurino, giving the track a lovely, poignant and fuller sound. Andy recorded the song on his old Tascam 4-track cassette recorder, but the sound quality is quite good.

Regarding the song’s meaning, Andy told me “I wrote the first two lines of the verse right after an old weird memory about a chair came back. Don’t really know why that memory showed up… but that’s how it started. I can say that the song is totally about a dream I haven’t had yet. That’s pretty much it!”

Concentrate
Get your head
Hold it tight
Hold it tight
Release your head
Grab a chair
Use your brain man
Use your brain

Wave goodbye now your time is coming ‘round
Swaying forth and backwards
As you’re bouncing up and down
Guess you don’t want to get lazy oh it’s hard
Your crystal ball’s unfair you’d better hurry up
Time is crazy how come we are so let down?
Down

Up to you
Up to me
What could we do friend?
What would we do?
If you prefer now
Go out tonight
Stay put and beg your God to
Drift us apart, us apart

Wave goodbye now your time is coming ‘round
Swaying forth and backwards
As you’re bouncing up and down
Guess you don’t want to get lazy oh it’s hard
Your crystal ball’s unfair you’d better hurry up
Time is crazy how come we are so let down?
Down

Welcome all that’s my garden
Very nice place to be
The air is cool
So
Come lie down…

The trippy video, which was also directed and produced by guest musician Simone Laurino, shows a variety of psychedelic, sci-fi and kaleidoscopic images that represent the kinds of surreal things the mind would imagine in a dream.

Follow Andy:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on:  Bandcamp / iTunes

TWO METERS – EP Review: “The Blue Jay EP”

Two Meters EP art

While most musicians generally tend to express themselves through their music to one degree or another, Two Meters really bares his heart and soul on his songs. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Two Meters is the music project of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Costolo. Starting off with deeply personal and often brutally honest lyrics – which he expresses through vulnerable, slightly off-kilter vocals that go from barely a whisper to impassioned screams – he adds layers of heavily-textured guitars, harsh industrial synths, and other lo-fi ambient sounds to create impactful songs that elicit strong feelings from the listener. I’ve been replaying his songs for the past few hours and hear new details with every listen.

I asked Tyler how he came to call his project Two Meters. He explained “I have been playing water polo for about 15 years now. I did in college, and I was coaching too when I first started recording. Two Meters is a reference to the sport; it’s kinda similar to an offsides in soccer. I thought it sounded cool and was relevant to my life.”

Two Meters released his debut self-titled EP in June 2018, and now returns with The Blue Jay EP, which drops today. Released via the label Very Jazzed, The Blue Jay EP features five tracks that continue to explore the dark themes of loss and death that Tyler first introduced on Two Meters. He wrote and sang all lyrics and played all instruments on the EP (other than drums, for which he used sample loops or drum sounds from his  production software). Mixing was done by Yuuki Matthews and mastering by Warren Hildebrand.

The EP opens with “The Morning Train“, a brief lo-fi instrumental track consisting of dark, gnarly synths, pulsating bass and an ominous drumbeat that set a somber tone. This is followed by “Pools“, a powerful track that speaks to thoughts of drowning by suicide. Tyler explained: “I really was spending a lot of time by pools while I wrote that song and I was constantly having ‘call to the void’ type visions. I tend to gravitate toward darker themes in the music I listen to, so it makes sense that’s what I end up writing too.” The track starts off with a captivating twangy guitar riff, then moody, throbbing synths are added as Tyler sings in a morose tone “I spend a lot of time by pools. Looking deep in the water. Thinking how easy it’d be to slip under./ Just as dark sets in, it’s too late to swim back up.” Suddenly, we’re bombarded with an explosion of tortured, grinding synths and reverb-heavy distorted guitar that would make Marilyn Manson proud, as Tyler repeatedly screams “It’s too late!

Next up is “Ground“, a song about feelings of worthlessness. Tyler explained its meaning:  “At the time of writing the EP, I was feeling incredibly worthless. The idea being that in the grand scheme of everything, my life was the same as the poor bird I saw that died overnight.” The track opens with layers of heavily-strummed guitars and Tyler’s somber humming, followed by him singing in a monotone, as if to convey his emotional ennui. Then, with the introduction of distorted guitar notes, the tempo abruptly shifts as Tyler refrains the line “I am the bird, alone on the ground” in dual voices – one a dispassionate monotone, the other a desperate wail. Man, it just rips at your soul!

The appropriately-titled “Intro to an Attack” is another brilliant instrumental track. Like many Two Meter songs, it starts off with gentle synths and a bucolic strummed guitar, but 30 seconds in, the calm is shattered by that promised attack of glorious bone-crushing industrial mayhem and distortion. The final track “In the Wake” is a decidedly more hopeful song, despite its rather bleak vibe. Tyler said it speaks to his problems with panic attacks and anxiety, and how having his girlfriend Margo Dellaquila (who real life sings the reassuring vocals to him on the track) around really helps to keep him grounded.

The Blue Jay EP is a brief but astonishing work of incredible nuance, contrast and emotional honesty. Two Meters is skilled at lulling us with soothing melodies and vocals one moment, then punching us in the gut with brutal ferocity at others. The more I listened to this EP, the more I loved it.

Connect with Two Meters: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify 
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

BOOGIE BOARD – EP Review: “Rippers Only”

boogie board ep art

Last year, I wrote about Chicago-based surf/garage rock artist Boogie Board and his album Ferric Tape Noir, along with two extra singles (which you can read here). Boogie Board is the music project of guitarist and composer Stephen Denning, 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 gritty lo-fi sound. I’m a big fan of surf guitar and all it’s permutations, so am pleased to feature him once again, with his latest release Rippers Only.

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He’s produced quite a lot of music the past couple of years, starting with his debut 12-track album Surf N Turf in May 2017, followed by a five-track EP Dream Telepathy that September, then Ferric Tape Noir in late January 2018, and a double single Portal Window & Infinity Stairs two months later. On January 19, he dropped a new EP Rippers Only, delivering four new pieces of grungy surf rock candy for our listening enjoyment.

Most of Boogie Board’s tracks are on the short side, generally running approximately two minutes, give or take. At a total of only seven minutes, the EP comes and goes in a flash, but it’s a fun ride! The first track “Slow Roller” is catchy as hell, with a peppy drumbeat and a deep, gravelly riff that feels like bass, except it’s not. Denning likes to occasionally run his guitar through a bass amp to achieve a heavier sound. His vocals are as heavily distorted as the guitars as he chants “Slow roller. Go slow gonna take a drive. Slow roller. Gonna take my time.” Next up is “Keep It In Line“, with dense, grungy riffs set to a driving beat. Once again, Denning chants lyrics in heavily distorted vocals, however these I can’t make out. The track closes with lots of reverb.

Play It Cool” features very gnarly guitars over a repetitive frantic beat. Denning adds tasty little guitar flourishes to the mix as he shouts “I’m feeling good! Got to slow it down. I’m playing it cool!” The track leaves us feeling pretty good too. He closes things out with the title track “Rippers Only“. It’s very brief, running only 45 seconds, but it’s a gritty little banger overflowing with pulsating distortion. I really like it, but wish he’d made it into a more substantial track, as there’s a lot going on for him to work with.

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

ANDY K LELAND – Single Review: “Ticking Madness”

Like most singer-songwriters, Italian folk artist Andy K Leland is a poet of sorts. He pens lyrics loaded with meaning and delivered with a droll sense of humor, and expresses them through only his acoustic guitar and sparse vocals. Though he hails from the Adriatic coast of Italy, he sounds like he’s from the English Midlands, especially given his artistic moniker. In his bio, Andy – who was born Andrea Marcellini – calls himself Andrea’s “shadow-self, and the two selves fear each other.” That dichotomy is clearly evident in his songs, where his often dark, depressing lyrics sharply contrast with his simple, catchy melodies and pleasing acoustic guitar.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Andy’s sound is his quirky, off-kilter vocal style, in which he clips his words, sometimes dropping a letter or two. It all sounds charming in an off-beat sort of way, and perfectly suited to his mellow lo-fi sound. Despite his cynical, often bleak lyrics about life and relationships, his songs seem to tell us to not take life so seriously after all, or at the very least resign ourselves to life’s inevitable travails without losing our minds in the process.

Andy K Leland2

In early 2017, Andy began issuing a series of singles that were ultimately featured on his debut EP Happy Daze, which he released that September.  (You can read my review of Happy Daze here.) Keeping with his penchant for dark themes set to only an acoustic guitar, Andy’s just released a charming new single “Ticking Madness“, which dropped on December 4. Andy had this to say about the recording of the song on his Facebook page: “I’m broke as fuck and can’t handle any music recording software. Luckily, a friend of mine got me an old Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. I instantly fell in love with that machine and started fiddling around with it straightaway! Here’s what I’ve come up with. Sound quality is pretty rough, but really… who cares?! That’s love at first sight.”

Andy explained to me that the song is about time, specifically how quickly it passes (don’t I know it!)  The lyrics are pretty surrealistic, with each verse like a snapshot coming from the subconscious. They were inspired by a couple of events which happened to him over the last nine months that made him aware of how time is passing by so fast. “They kind of changed my perspective about time and… life maybe. This song is some kind of a turning point. As an artist and as a human being. I can say it’s the first time I have ever happened to write down some lyrics and be totally aware of what I really wanted to say.” Andy said he’s quite fond of this song, and I have to say I am too.

At 6.20 in the morning 
I did hear nothing 
When later on he told 
He told me he’s dead 
Now back at 4.12 pm 
I was feeling cool 
Until those stripes they spoke 
They spoke the truth, they all said 

Now you’re a man 
You’re a man 
That’s kind of crazy 
Mate c’mon don’t be lazy 
But that’s alright 
Oh no it’s not 
I love you mum XO 

Well now you are crying on my shoulder 
Feels good as the clock tower with no hands is timing out 
The graveyard of my mind 
Now how, how, how does it feel? 
Now how, how, how do you feel? 
And what will, what will I feel for you? 

Now I’m a man 
I’m a man 
That’s kind of crazy 
Things have grown so hazy 
But that’s alright 
Oh no it’s not 
I love you mum, break 

Ha-ha ha-ha 

Now fuck you all she’s my lady 
But I’m cheeky cheesy I call her baby 
And what if time goes out of mind 
Out of sight? 
Well that’s alright, well that’s alright 
Oh yeah

Follow Andy:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
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

DRUIDS – EP Review: “Pink Aliens”

Pink Aliens

Druids are an indie psychedelic punk rock band from New Orleans, and I’m completely smitten with their music! I can’t remember the last time I’ve had as much fun listening to a band as I do with their terrific debut EP Pink Aliens. Released back in February, it’s an adrenaline rush from start to finish, and I was hooked the moment I heard it.

All longtime friends with roots in the Crescent City, Druids consists of Brandon on guitar and lead vocals, Eric on bass, and Jeff on drums. Their hyper-kinetic lo-fi sound is built on elements of punk, psychedelic, surf, garage and doom rock, and influenced by some of their favorite bands like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Thee Oh Sees, Wand, Black Sabbath, Ty Segall, The Doors and Black Flag. These guys are beyond high-energy, and with their charisma and sense of humor – just look at those silver pants! – I’m sure they’re a blast on stage.

Druids

Cult of the Pink Aliens” kicks things off with buzzing guitars, crashing cymbals and hazy echoed vocals. At the two-minute mark it abruptly erupts into a driving punk beat with surf-rock guitar riffs that occasionally venture into distortion, aided and abetted by pounding drums and an onslaught of crashing cymbals. But hold on ’cause things really ramp up a notch on “Black Magic,” a frantic head-bopping punk-soaked romp that’ll have you thrashing about the room with abandon. Brandon’s skillful guitar and Jeff’s pulse-pounding drums keep the energy flowing at full throttle, making this my favorite track on the EP.

Not skipping a beat, “Endless Maze” offers up over five minutes of punk rock goodness, with an infectious stop-start beat and killer guitar work. Brandon’s extended guitar riff will leave you breathless. A throwback to late 60’s psychedelia, but with a late 70’s punk vibe, “Lightning Bolt” will have you yearning for pink sunglasses and striped bell bottoms. Once again, the guys amaze with their awesome guitar work.

Ty Dye Rain” is a psychedelic beach party on steroids, with exhilarating stop-start guitar riffs and lively percussion. Two-thirds of the way through, the tempo slows a bit and we’re treated to more extended riffs of shredded and distorted guitars. Opening with a cacophony of distorted guitars and sharp cymbals, “The Hex” continues the slower bass-heavy tempo, but the guys seem to like surprising their listeners by changing things up to a frenetic punk beat halfway through, and it sure makes for an exciting listen.

The song’s about an evil temptress who casts her evil spell on men:

So I see you’ve learned some tricks
Dabbled dark arts, became the witch
I can see you’re planning something causing trouble whats comes next
I can see you contemplating planning evil, pass the hex

There are numerous bands out there playing psychedelic and retro punk rock, but Druids take it to another level, and deserve greater recognition. I hope they’ll keep making more music, because I can’t wait to hear it. Those in the Kansas City, Missouri area can catch them in concert on October 13 at the Riot Room, where they’ll be performing with The Crystal Method and other bands.

Connect with the Druids on Facebook and stream or purchase Pink Aliens on Bandcamp