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

MACHINEKIT – Album Review: “I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND”

Album artwork by Jaydee Buege at Wire Mark Design

MACHINEKIT is a techno-punk band based in Los Angeles. Originally founded as Dharma in 2012 by John Rojas, Dave Cayetano and William Buege, as their sound evolved they made the decision in 2016 to change their name to MACHINEKIT, and the following year released their self-produced debut album Dysappearencer. They followed with two EPs and several singles, and in 2021, drummer Ryan Janke and multi-instrumentalist Ivan Garcia were added to their line up. All veterans of previous bands, the five musicians quickly bonded to become an even stronger musical force, combining their years of collective expertise and array of influences to create what they quite appropriately describe as “an agglomeration of chaos”. Now they’ve released their second album I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND, and it’s dark, aggressive and brutal, yet also strangely beautiful and sexy.

In early February, Rojas reached out to me about reviewing the album, and though it’s not the type of music I’m normally drawn to, I liked the songs and agreed to review it, even though I wasn’t quite sure how to write about this music. Soon after, I was hit with another bout of burnout, this time so serious that I decided to stop writing reviews altogether, though I would still honor the commitments I’d already made. To further complicate things, Rojas himself is a terrific writer who does reviews for the website Tourworthy, and after reading a few of his, I felt even more intimidated. But he was gracious and encouraging, and also generous in providing me with his thoughts and inspiration for writing the album, along with the lyrics, and I will do my best to give this album the credit it deserves.

Photos by Katie Viola

Before I get into discussing the songs, I’ll share some of Rojas’ eloquent words to provide context for I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND. “I started writing the album back in March of 2020. We had just gone into lockdown and I had nothing to do, so I just wrote music. Track 1, “In March of Nothing”, was actually written first and its title paves the way for what would be the concept of the entire album: loneliness. The title is both literal and figurative because 1) I literally had nothing to do in March, and 2) life felt so overwhelming that it confused my beliefs

During most of 2020 and 2021, I was dealing with a lot of personal issues that gave me a sense of emptiness and boredom. Eventually, I went sober, and for some reason, that exacerbated my loneliness, so I just got into making the album and it just so happened that I had something to say. With all the weirdness happening in politics and society, I felt more isolated, but I wanted to merge that confusing feeling with my personal life. I decided to be cryptic and discuss my childhood in La Puente, my drug use, my current relationships with people, and my interactions with my community and the public. I was also tired of feeling fear and resentment over the toxic behavior that was and still continues to come from the world, so I wanted to talk shit when I felt compelled. By the end of the creative process, I realized each facet was contributing to my loneliness in ways that I still don’t fully understand, but when it came to writing the words, I tried my best to be viscerally honest with myself.

I grew up going to punk shows and raves, and wanted to merge my love for both sounds, which inherently allowed me to push my musical boundaries while I was being inspired by nostalgia. It was definitely a weird formula, but it worked. Also, I had just opened my recording studio, MachineHouse Audio, so I had the privilege to experiment in all capacities with the sound, which I believe helped me get where I wanted to go. With starting the studio and dealing with lockdown, the economy and the world were flipped on their ass in all dimensions, and having trouble in my personal life, the message came back in full circle. The only thing that really stood out to me was that weird ambivalent type of loneliness that wasn’t negative nor positive. It was just filled with anxiety and equanimity, and I just happen to document where I was at the time.” 

As previously noted, the opening track “In March of Nothing” describes Rojas’ feelings of ennui and loneliness, as well as setting the overall tone for the album. The song starts off with ominous pulsating synths, portending rough times ahead. The music is gradually joined by a strong synth-bass beat as Rojas sings in a seductive, yet menacing voice “I am Jack’s lonely heart club band. Info news feeds me shit on high demand. The common clutch for the plastic adults. Programmed into the culture of cults. Hit me where it hurts. Enough to feel the burn.” As the song progresses, the music and vocals grow harsher and more intense, finally erupting into a bone-crushing maelstrom of dystopian madness as Rojas screams “They want my fun! They can have my fun! But the party is over!”

And speaking of dystopian madness, “LoveFuck” is a two-minute, 56-second-long psychedelic trip into hell. Machinekit unleash their sonic weaponry with a furious barrage of raging guitars, tortured industrial synths, crushing bass and explosive percussion. Rojas channels his inner beast as he savagely rails of his disillusionment over romantic love: “Young adults have all the fun. Pop-stars with fake luck. Click-bait when you’re done. Is it better than a morning fuck? Oh, What I wear fits. Oh, What I fear hits. Fear of missing out throughout those years. I don’t know where the feeling lives!” His vocals are so intensely feral, he’s left panting by song’s end, while I’m covered with goosebumps!

Distressor” sees Rojas questioning our belief systems and why we follow leaders who don’t seem to know what they’re doing either: “Who’s your modern angel of death? Aren’t you fuckin’ bored to death with picking someone to reform your thoughts? Public figures conduct chess fights. Do you really know wrong from right? I want a sign in full-form.” And on “Divebomb“, he ponders the soul-crushing impacts of the covid lockdowns: “Are you bored of staying in? Is your air getting thin inside your head, your home? Your head is a dead home.” In listening to the song, as well as the entire album, I was struck by its strong Nine Inch Nails vibe, and in fact, Rojas told me he’s a huge NIN fan. He really seems to channel Trent Reznor on this track, as his vocals go from seductive breathy whispers to brutal screams.

One of my favorite tracks is “Purge“, with its frantic, hard-driving techno/dance groove and glitchy industrial synths creating an intense, otherworldly soundscape. In a similar vein, “Glue” features loads of spacey distortion, glitches and blips layered over a hypnotic dance beat, punctuated with jagged, gnarly guitar riffs. Everything erupts into a bone-crushing crescendo in the choruses as Rojas wails “Your bloody thoughts have bloody clots. I can sense your dirty thoughts. Our bloody clogs have bloody spots. I can feel them when I’m not.” On the moody and psychedelic “Anti Anti“, Rojas seems to question his faith, acknowledging the sobering thought that whatever he or any of us believe, we’re all going to end up the same at the end: “And I’ll make my own damn bed at the very end. Cause the dirt is my home. I’m all alone, and I will belong to the worms.” I really like the haunting piano and trippy synths on this song.

One of the standouts is “Whore On The Floor“, a very dark song about the inner conflict between using our guile and physical beauty to get what we want, but also willingly submitting ourselves to those who take advantage of us. Rojas elaborates: “The song and the video for “Whore on The Floor” are intentionally explicit. As the first lyrics says, “Am I a whore on the floor? When I want to,” I have a conversation with myself of how I feel like a whore in many forms. The video portrays me being submissive to a beautiful woman, so I use my sexuality or sexuality in general to illustrate that concept. That song is very literal but can be associated with many things, ie: sex, love, life, money, power, friendship, etc. This again is tied to how the act of being submissive makes me feel like shit and lonely.” The ominous glitchy industrial synths, combined with Rojas’ menacing vocals – which culminate with his screams of “And what you want from me, won’t come for free!” – creates a dangerously sexy vibe.

The instrumental track “__X__” features a repeat of the glitchy synths heard in “Whore On The Floor”, accompanied by hauntingly beautiful sounds that serve as lead-in to the gorgeous closing track “Stressor“. Nearly six minutes long, the song is a magnificent tour de force, with a glorious kaleidoscope of shimmery guitars, spooky industrial synths, grinding bass and thunderous percussion, all of which blend in perfect alchemy to create a darkly cinematic wall of sound that’s at turns both breathtaking and terrifying. Rojas defiantly calls out those who threaten our individuality and identities with their judgemental, soul-killing influencer bullshit: “And then these gatekeepers intervene. They kill our dream with their social scenes. And I stare off in disbelief. So called decent motherfuckers just act like thieves./ And press the stress into my voice. I hear my name inside the noise. Outgrow each god and their brands. I am still Jack’s lonely heart club band.

Like many albums I’ve reviewed, it took a couple of listens for me to fully appreciate I AM JACK’S LONELY HEART CLUB BAND. With each successive listen, I heard more nuances in the myriad sounds and textures of its instrumentation, as well as the complex rhythms and melodies that give the songs such incredible impact and depth. Besides, who doesn’t need some brutally intense music to work out those aggressions now and then! Rojas and company have much to be proud of here, as they’ve created an exceptional, beautifully-crafted record. If you’re a fan of bands like Nine Inch Nails or Daughters, you will enjoy this album.

Follow MACHINEKIT: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase on Bandcamp  

New Song of the Week – SHIPS HAVE SAILED: “Love in October”

One of my very favorite indie bands is Los Angeles-based duo Ships Have Sailed. The brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Will Carpenter, who originally formed the band in 2012 with a few other musicians who’ve come and gone over the succeeding years, Ships Have Sailed has for the past five years or so consisted of just him and drummer Art Andranikyan. They play a pleasing style of alternative pop-rock characterized by beautiful melodies, intelligent, uplifting lyrics, and sublime arrangements and instrumentation. I love their music, and have written about several of their songs on this blog over the past three years. Two of them – “Escape” in 2019 and “Breathe” earlier this year – have reached #1 on my Weekly Top 30, with “Escape ranking #19 on my Top 100 Songs of 2019 list. And their last single “Take My Money” is currently enjoying an extended run on my Weekly Top 30. On September 30th, they dropped a brand new single “Love in October“, which is so special, I’ve chosen it as my New Song of the Week.

Will told me the song and its accompanying video were born out of both a long daydream of his, and their 2020 tour that was abruptly cut short by the Covid pandemic. He elaborates: “A lot of my songs come from a real, personal experience, [but] that actually isn’t the case here. This loss I’m describing in ‘Love In October’ didn’t happen in real life, it happened in a long and involved daydream (kind of a waking nightmare if you will) that prevented me from making a series of decisions that would have led straight to the actual situation. I’m grateful for that and for the fact that such a beautiful song came out of it.

One of the many things I like about Ships Have Sailed is that every song of theirs sounds uniquely different. Some of them, like “Escape” and “Breathe”, are uplifting ballads, while “Skin” has a laid-back folk vibe, and “Take My Money” is fun, bouncy pop. “Love in October” is one of their most musically complex songs yet, with a dramatic blend of cinematic and alternative rock elements that make it particularly compelling.

The song begins with a gorgeous orchestral instrumental intro that slowly builds into an almost religious experience. At about 55 seconds in, a rather haunting guitar note enters as the song transitions to a mid-tempo beat, accompanied by the introduction of bass, percussion and more guitar. Will’s beautiful vocals are heartfelt and vulnerable as he gently sings to a loved one, admitting he’s made mistakes and asking her to not abandon their relationship “Don’t walk away, I want you back. It seems I’ve stumbled in the wrong direction, on the train but off the track again. Ooh, I’d do anything to keep the leaves from falling. You know I’m all in.” When the chorus arrives, the song explodes into a full-fledged rock track, with blazing guitars, driving bass and Art’s aggressive drumbeats. Will’s vocals rise with emotion along with the more intense instrumentals as he fervently implores “How did we get here, love in October. Same old sun is so cold. But I don’t wanna let go.”

“Love in October” is a stunning track from start to finish. The gorgeous instrumentation and vocals, dramatic arrangement and flawless production make it one of their best songs yet.

With regard to the video, in March 2020, after much planning and preparation, Ships Have Sailed embarked on what was to be a 10-show tour across the Southwestern U.S. with fellow L.A. band Quitting Whitney. After playing only the first show in Las Vegas, their tour came to an abrupt halt the next day as Covid suddenly began spiraling out of control. Will explained “When we realized (in Denver) that our tour was going to completely fall apart, we had a choice to make: turn around and slump back to LA, or follow our non-refundable tour route and create as much content as possible along the way…really telling our story. We were sharing a van and all gear with another duo (Quitting Whitney) and we all agreed to find a silver lining and create some content and art along the way. We outlined two music video treatments on our way from Denver to Albuquerque, one for them and one for us, and I had Danny (my co-producer on ‘Love In October’) print me the rough production of the song (which wasn’t even totally finished yet) so we could have playback.” 

Each band shot video of the other playing their instruments at the AirBnB where they were staying, while the owner, who was staying in an adjacent guest house, thankfully didn’t mind the noise. They captured film footage from the road, and managed to turn a ‘ruined’ tour into something of an adventure, making two new friends in Matt and Ryan of Quitting Whitney along the way, and Will and Art becoming closer through the experience as well. Will also said that this is their first video that his wife Payal (via their wedding photos) has ever been willing to appear in.

Follow Ships Have Sailed: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Pandora
Purchase:  iTunes  / Amazon

VICIOUS ROOSTER – Single Review: “About A Revolution”

Vicious Rooster is the music project of Argentine-born and now Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, musician and producer Juan Abella. Drawing inspiration from some of his favorite bands like Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, Guns’n’Roses and Alice in Chains, his music is a rousing blend of classic and Southern rock, folk, blues and grunge. Both his guitar playing and vocals sound like he’s from Nashville or Austin, rather than Argentina.

Juan’s had a love of music since his childhood growing up in Argentina, where he began learning to play guitar at the age of ten. In 2016, he left his business career behind and relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a musician and study music business at the renowned Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Using songs he’d previously written about his experiences of feeling lost during the transition from his past life to his move to L.A., as well as some new compositions, he released his debut album The Darkest Light in 2017, an ambitious and impressive work featuring 12 tracks and running over an hour in length. After a three-year hiatus, he returned in August 2020 with a darkly beautiful Southern rock single “The Moon is Dancing”, then followed three months later with the powerful bluesy rocker “Something Goin’ On”. (You can read my reviews of both singles by clicking on the ‘Related’ links at the end of this post.)

Now Vicious Rooster returns with a new single “About A Revolution“, which he describes as “a cosmic introspective ride that encourages listeners to reinvent themselves and gather the strength to achieve their dreams.” He further elaborates: “Just like for many people, the pandemic allowed me to reconnect with songs and emotions that had remained dormant. There were no excuses for not paying attention to them and the time has come to give them the shine they deserve. ‘About A Revolution’ was part of a group of songs that I recorded in 2015 that had never seen the light until now.”

The song is a rousing Southern Rock banger, and once again, Vicious Rooster lives up to his moniker, delivering an electrifying barrage of scorching bluesy riffs guaranteed to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. He’s an amazing guitarist, coaxing an intricate array of lush and powerful sounds from his six-string that are truly mind-blowing. Also worth noting are the wonderful organ at the beginning of the song, as well as the outstanding percussion throughout. Juan’s colorful, emotive vocals are great too, rising and falling in perfect sync with the intensity of the instrumentals.

The lyrics essentially describe his own personal life-changing decision to leave his past life in Argentina behind and pursue his music dreams in L.A.:

Break your chains and start again
You know how hard it can be
When you feel nothing is real
Find a way to keep you strong
Your constant effort will pay off
It'll take some time to see
But in the end you'll get where you want to be

You've moved on, you're leaving your past behind
Don't look back, there's nothing there worth to find
Just focus on the way you want to go
And stay away from things that hurt your soul
Keep reaching for the dream you're fighting for

“About A Revolution” is a great song, and another superb single that further establishes Vicious Rooster as a rock star on the rise.

Follow Vicious Rooster on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon 

New Song of the Week – ASHRR: “Otherside”

Los Angeles-based alt-rock band ASHRR make some incredibly captivating music that’s strongly influenced by such acts as Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem. Comprised of singer-songwriter Steven Davis and artist/producers Ethan Allen and Josh Charles, the seasoned and highly-accomplished trio collectively have a long and impressive musical pedigree. Bringing together their diverse musical background and eclectic, wide-ranging experience, the three joined forces in 2018 after meeting through mutual musician friends, with the aim of collaborating to create the kind of music they all wanted to make. Charles explains “Our collective love of analog synth pop, classic new wave melodies and songwriting, and taking modern production to the limits, defines us. We all come from different backgrounds, which is what can be heard inside the music.” 

In October 2018 they released their beautiful debut single “Don’t Wait Too Long”, which premiered on NPR and garnered regular airplay on famed Los Angeles alt-rock radio station KROQ. They dropped their self-titled EP ASHRR a few months later, then followed in May 2019 with their outstanding debut full-length album Oscillator, which contained all the tracks from their EP, plus five new tracks. That October, they released an enchanting single “Sacrifice“, which I reviewed, then followed with three more singles, the latest of which is “Otherside“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

Released via Wehearnoise Records, it’s a darkly beautiful song that seems to address feelings of breaking free from the isolation of being in lockdown, and celebrating the joys of once again openly socializing with friends and loved ones: “Locked up inside another sundown, Let’s take a ride to the ghost town / I wanna be alive, shining on my face in the morning light. I still need you so…Come out in the open, meet me on the otherside.”

To convey their hopeful message of emerging from the darkness into the light, ASHRR builds upon a strong pulsating beat with a palette of bewitching darkwave synths in the style of Depeche Mode, then layers a rich mix reverb-soaked fuzzy and jangly guitars. The result is a brooding yet optimistic backdrop for Davis’s mesmerizing vocals as he sings the hopeful lyrics.

Connect with ASHRR:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple MusicYouTube
Purchase:  iTunesBandcamp

ANIA – Single Review: “Tuesdays”

Los Angeles has long been a magnet for young musicians wanting to establish themselves as artists, and I’ve featured many on this blog. One young and promising artist who caught my attention last summer was Ania Thomas, a massively-talented guitarist, songwriter and singer who identifies herself simply as Ania. Born and raised in Poland, she developed a love for music at a young age. She emigrated to America as a teen, first to Chicago, where she studied music at the School of Rock, then to Los Angeles, where she’s now based, to study music at USC and the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Inspired by such artists as Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Blondie, St. Vincent, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, L7, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, her aggressive music style is characterized by modern synth textures, killer guitar solos and bewitching vocals.

In 2019, she released two terrific hard-rocking singles “Run Away” and “Doors Close”, then followed in May 2020 with her third single “Poison“ (you can read my review here). After that, she collaborated on two singles, with Noir Production on “Miyako Sushi” and Marcio Hendrik on “Hollywood Moon”. In December she dropped her fourth solo single “Tuesdays“, for which she’s just released an accompanying video on January 22nd. Ania wrote the music and lyrics, arranged the song, played guitar and sang vocals. Bass was played by Philippe Mark, keyboards by Vito Vincenzo Sicurella, strings by Barry Fowler and drums by Seth. “Tuesdays”, along with her three previous solo singles, will be included on her forthcoming debut EP Ania in Chains, due out later this year

Ania was inspired to write “Tuesdays” by the many soul-crushing challenges we all faced in 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fallout, the deep and bitter political divide, and so on. “The song is really about being lost and finding yourself, I think. About finding your way. When the idea for it came to me, I was just walking around the mountains in LA and was trying to find myself again in nature. We’re all kind of lost right now, I think. We’re all there or we’ve all been there, all struggling with different things. But we’ll make it through.”

She delivers her hopeful message with a barrage of intricate fuzz-coated riffs, punctuated by some serious shredding and grinding distortion that create a strong sense of foreboding. Her amazing guitar work is backed by a powerful rhythm section of driving bass and tumultuous percussion that heighten the overall sense of tension quite nicely. Her commanding vocals are both seductive and urgent as she impels us to gather our inner strength and forge ahead through the difficulties with the belief that things will get better: “Inhale, Inhale. And now times have changed. But don’t give in / You’re gonna find a way. All out! All out! I beg you know A WAY.” I think “Tuesdays” is her best single yet!

Follow Ania:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase her music:  Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube / Amazon

leaving richmond – Album Review: “Visions”

leaving richmond is the instrumental electronic music project of Los Angeles-based composer and producer Jordan Pier. He recently reached out to me about his latest album Visions, which dropped November 13th. As I always do when preparing to review an artist or band’s music for the first time, I checked out his back catalog to better acquaint myself with his style and sound, and was surprised at his considerable music output over the past 10 years. From what I can tell, his first release, in 2010, was the EP The Secret Traditions of Washington Ave., a very respectable work featuring five tracks. Since then, he’s released another two EPs, several singles and five albums, the latest of which is Visions.

His works have received widespread acclaim from both music critics and fans alike, with several of his songs garnering airplay on NPR and other radio stations around the world. Despite the pandemic, he says 2020 has been an amazing year for him from a musical standpoint. In addition to composing and producing a new album, he also saw a number of his tracks land placements on popular TV shows as well as advertisements.

About his new album, Pier explains: “Following the release of [his previous album] ‘Great Distances’, I took a deep dive which bore fruit in multiple ways, particularly in honing my composition, production and engineering capabilities in aspects that were exciting and inspiring. I strove to take all the new skills I had learned and combined it with the organic songwriting I so loved. The melodic, layered guitar as the main and guiding instrument represents a return to roots as I simultaneously embraced new electronic techniques. As a result of this new outlook on songwriting and experience in the studio, the ‘Visions’ LP was born. Every track on this album is tied to and inspired by a visualization of some sort. What this album has allowed me to do is combine my love for music and imagery into one offering. It is my hope to provide a soundtrack for the thoughts of the listener and offer some respite.”

All tracks were composed, arranged, produced and engineered by leaving richmond, and mastered by Brian Hazard. The album kicks off with “You Must Break Yourself“, an enchanting track featuring a kaleidoscope of shimmery and spacey synths punctuated by dubstep-like percussive beats. The result is a dreamy and optimistic soundscape that, to my ears, evokes a sense of breaking free from whatever it was holding you back and entering an aura of enlightenment.

Memories of Another You” is a stunning feast for the ears that really showcases leaving richmond’s impressive compositional and production talents. He intertwines layers of gorgeous chiming guitar notes with glittery string synths and delicate skittering piano keys to create a scintillating soundscape that’s truly magical. It’s an instant favorite of mine. The lovely “There Is So Much to See” has a somewhat more subdued and introspective vibe, with warm, sumptuous synths.

Inspired by the 1879 painting Joan of Arc by Jules Bastien-Lepage, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Adherence” is a rather dark and somber track, with a deep bass synth-driven melody overlain with swirling synths and reserved jangly guitars that nicely convey Joan of Arc’s sense of purpose and valor. “Daydreams at the Cannery” was inspired by a character in the 2017 video game What Remains of Edith Finch?, developed by video game company Giant Sparrow. The shimmery guitars and glistening synths are intended to honor the beautiful storytelling and cinematic art of the game.

On a more spiritual level, “Washing Over Us” attempts to convey through music the concept that, in his words, “pure emotion can surround, envelop and cleanse us like the beautiful waters in the oceans and lakes around the world.” He skillfully employs watery synths, chiming guitar notes and ethereal choir-like vocals to create images of water nymphs singing in a crystalline lake. “The Frequency of You” is a beguiling guitar-driven track with wonderful spacey synths and a hypnotic toe-tapping beat. Once again, his guitar work is quite marvelous.

leaving richmond’s love of neon light signs was the inspiration behind the sublime “Red Orange Light“. The track opens with muffled sounds of neon gas pulsating through glass tubes, followed by a building cinematic soundscape of spacy synths and delicately-strummed jangly guitars, accompanied by a gentle dubstep beat. It’s an enchanting and beautiful song. Keeping with the more techno-oriented sound, the enchanting “The Soul is Greater” serves up more of those spacey, otherworldly vibes, highlighted by leaving richmond’s signature gorgeous shimmery guitars.

I’ve run out of descriptors and superlatives by now, so let me just say that closing track “And Then We Begin Again” is yet another exquisite song, and a fine finish to a stunning album. I’ve listened to a lot of electronic instrumental albums over the years, and Visions stands among the very best. leaving richmond’s skill for writing beautiful and compelling melodies is impressive, and his guitar work and keyboards are truly breathtaking.

Follow Leaving Richmond:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase:  BandcampAmazon

YARD OF BLONDES – Single Review: “Do You Need More?”

From humble beginnings in France as a folk pop duo making mostly acoustic music, Yard of Blondes have faced some of the same challenges and struggles as many young artists and bands experience since relocating to Los Angeles in 2014. Now a four-piece, they’re finally on an upward trajectory and making a name for themselves with their exciting and edgy style of alternative rock. The band is comprised of the hard-working French-born singer/songwriter and guitarist/vocalist Vincent Walter Jacob and bassist/vocalist Fanny Hulard, guitarist Burak Yerebakan, originally from Turkey, and Northern California native Forrest Mitchell on drums.

I’ve previously featured Yard of Blondes twice on this blog, first in July 2019 when I reviewed their marvelous bilingual single “Je veux danser tout l’été”, along with two alternative versions, then again this past February when I reviewed their single “Lowland”. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.) Now they’re back with “Do You Need More?“, the third single from their forthcoming debut album Feed the Moon, due for release early next year. The single and album were produced by Billy Graziadei (Biohazard, Powerflo), mixed by Michael Patterson (Nine Inch Nails, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and mastered by Maor Applebaum (Faith No More).

In a recent interview with music blog TrueStyleMusic, Vincent provided some background on “Do You Need More?”: “It was one of the first songs we wrote for our upcoming album, and it’s the song we always play first at our shows. It’s a song that seems very straight forward, but it evolves into a more complicated piece as Fanny is adding more and more layers of vocals, and as we end up breaking the installed routine with some surprisingly heavy bridge. Regarding the lyrics, it’s also a tricky song. It feels like a love song at the beginning, but it’s actually a toxic love story where one gaslights another, and it ends up with kind of a Stockholm syndrome situation.

The song is a rampaging beast, storming through the gates like a bat out of hell with furious riffs of grimy guitars and a thunderous barrage of explosive rhythms. Fanny’s throbbing bass line propels the song forward while Forrest keeps pace with his pummeling drumbeats. Meanwhile, Vincent and Burak are busy laying to the airwaves with their aggressive, intertwining guitars, delivering chugging riffs of shredded distortion that threaten to blow out the speakers. Vincent and Fanny’s expressive vocals rise to the occasion, becoming downright feral in the chorus as they wail “Do you need more? Do you really need more? Gimme, gimme, gimme some more! I want it all!” Finally, everyone spent, the song fades out in a hum of reverb.

If the three singles released thus far – “You and I & I”, “Lowland” and “Do You Need More?” are any indication, Feed the Moon is guaranteed to be a terrific album.

Connect with Yard of Blondes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #95: “My Type” by Saint Motel

The song at #95 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “My Type” by Los Angeles-based Saint Motel. I loved this song the moment it first hit my eardrums back in late 2014, and it turned me into a big fan of the band. Their rousing, sophisticated sound is a nod to the brassy exuberance of the Big Band era, but delivered with a fresh, contemporary indie pop approach. “My Type” is a deliriously catchy song with a powerful driving dance beat and an exuberant horn-driven hook that make for a joyful and fun listen. It also has one of the best tongue-in-cheek lyrics ever: “You’re know you’re just my type. Oh, you’ve got a pulse and you are breathing.”

Band front man A.J. Jackson, who has a terrific singing voice, produced and directed the stylish video for the track, which was filmed in a cool Mid-Century Modern house in L.A.

ANIA – Single Review: “Poison”

Ania

I recently learned about the amazing guitarist, songwriter and singer Ania Thomas – who identifies herself simply as Ania – when I read an interview with her by my Austalian friend Robert Horvat on his blog Rearview Mirror. Growing up in Poland, she developed a love for music at a young age. She emigrated to America as a teen, first to Chicago where she studied music at the School of Rock, then relocated to Los Angeles, where she’s now based, to study music at USC and also the Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Inspired by such artists as Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Blondie, St. Vincent, Tool, Rage Against the Machine, L7, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, her aggressive music style is characterized by modern synth textures, killer guitar solos and commanding vocals.

In 2019, she released two terrific hard-rocking singles “Run Away” and “Doors Close”, then followed up this past May with her third single “Poison“. All three songs will be included on her forthcoming debut EP Ania in Chains, due out later this year. Ania wrote, sang and played guitar on the track, while two friends from her music theory class, both of whom are named Matt, played bass and drums. She also engineered and produced the track herself.

About “Poison”, Ania told webzine comeherefloyd: “The song is about a breakup and that someone who breaks you. [It] shows how people are focused on their own world and are ignorant of the society we live in. As people, especially millennials today, we forget and are ignorant of the corrupt political system we are a part of, and are more interested in social media.” In an interview with the webzine UDS, she further elaborated “I tried to write a dark pop song something in the veins of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘The Hand That Feeds’, that has a dark pop element to it and synths similar to what St Vincent writes.”

Well, I think she succeeds quite nicely, producing a song that’s longer and darker than her previous songs, and featuring progressive rock elements that give it a more sophisticated vibe that’s both compelling and satisfying in equal measure. Ania works magic with her guitar, delivering intricate riffs of jangly, grungy and psychedelic guitars while the two Matts keep the moody rhythmic grooves humming along with their bass and drums, respectively. The swirling spacey synths add to the song’s ominous atmosphere, as do Ania’s ethereal vocals as she almost menacingly croons the refrain “Air is filling up with poison, and you keep breaking my shit.

She’s also released a colorful video for “Poison” that was directed by Will Milvid and beautifully filmed by Alex Ioanoviciu. She explained her intent behind the video to the website Scottish Music Network: “I wanted the ‘Poison’ video to expose the inauthenticity of the beautiful and vibrant image that many people associate with Los Angeles. Hollywood glamour is a part of the city, but it’s got an angsty side too. We all have an impact on the world around us. I want people to wake up and think critically for themselves, and understand that we can all fight for change if we aren’t absorbed in our own image. Sometimes we’re blinded by it. But if we look up from our phones, we can fight for change and a better future.”

In the video, Ania is shown performing the song in an alley off Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, interspersed with scenes of her breaking records and smashing a pie in her boyfriend’s face. In other scenes, she’s shown performing the song on stage in front of her drummer who’s wearing a Trump mask, finally having an altercation with him where she knocks him on his ass. Totally works for me!

“Poison” is a marvelous song that further advances Ania’s rising star as a female rock artist on the L.A. music scene and beyond. I plan to continue following her on her music journey.

Follow Ania:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream her music:  SpotifyApple MusicYouTube
Purchase:  Google playAmazon