THE STAR CRUMBLES – Album Review: “The Ghost of Dancing Slow”

Music act The Star Crumbles came to be rather serendipitously earlier this year when singer-songwriter Brian Lambert, who’s based in Denton, Texas, reached out to singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Marc Schuster, who lives in suburban Philadelphia, for some help with his song “Kids” (which I wrote about last March in a Fresh New Tracks post). The two had previously met on Twitter, but had never before worked with each other. Well, they immediately hit it off, so much so that they decided to collaborate together on more music projects, eventually leading to their creation of a new music act they dubbed The Star Crumbles. On September 30th, their debut album The Ghost of Dancing Slow was released on Bandcamp, and will go live on most other streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music, etc.) on October 7th. 

Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster

Before I get into the album, I want to provide a bit of background on Brian, Marc and The Star Crumbles. Brian has been writing and recording music for many years, and says he’s “reinvented himself more times than he can count.” He even tried his hand at country music for a while, but eventually realized that it just wasn’t for him. More recently, the prolific songwriter’s been making indie rock music inspired by some of his favorite acts like Spoon, Gang of Youths and the Replacements, and beginning in 2021, he challenged himself to writing, recording and producing a new song every week for an entire year. He now has an incredible body of work to his credit.

Marc is an insanely creative renaissance man in every sense of the word. Not only is he an educator, author and literary critic, he’s also a prolific songwriter and musician, recording both as a solo artist and as part of numerous music projects and collaborations with an ever-expanding roster of musicians. As if all that weren’t enough, he’s also a pretty good visual artist, is incredibly supportive of other artists and music bloggers (including yours truly), and has a terrific WordPress blog of his own called Abominations, where he writes about music and interviews lots of indie artists. I’ve featured him three times on my blog, including a review last February of his wonderful EP There Is No Down.

In addition to making music, both Brian and Marc are wildly imaginative and funny guys. Soon after forming The Star Crumbles, they came up with the idea of creating a tongue-in-cheek back story for the act. Since their music is strongly influenced by their shared love of 80s new wave music by such bands as The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, Ultravox and New Order, they decided that The Star Crumbles would have its origins in the early 80s, but due a number of unexplained circumstances, they suddenly disappeared from the music scene before having a chance to release their first album: “From 1982 to 1986, The Star Crumbles were always on the verge of something big – until they vanished without a trace, taking their eagerly anticipated album, ‘The Ghost of Dancing Slow’, with them. Everyone thought they had potential, but they were dogged by misfortune and bad timing. Also, they had terrible business sense.

The guys recruited a motley crew of friends and fans to provide their own unfiltered insight into what became of The Star Crumbles. The result (which I was honored to be a part of) is a brilliant and hilarious video documentary Beyond the Music. The inventiveness, originality and deadpan delivery of those who participated is really quite impressive! Please press play:

Okay, now lets get to the music. The Ghost of Dancing Slow was a DIY project, totally self-recorded and produced by Marc and Brian. Marc mixed the tracks, and they both had a hand in the final mastering. Marc played guitars and drums on all tracks, while both he and Brian played synths. All but one of the ten songs on the album were written by Brian and Marc, the exception being “Cool Down”, which was written by fellow musician Mike Mosley (who also appears in the documentary).

Opening track “Desperately Wanting” was The Star Crumbles’ first official single, released this past May. It’s a beautiful and compelling song about a couple who are unable to communicate their needs to each other, leaving their relationship in a perpetual state of limbo, with each of them feeling unfulfilled and unhappy. The album’s title is taken from the song’s lyrics: “The space that lies in between. The gap that lies in between, what we’re really wanting, we don’t want to talk about. The ghost of dancing slow, inside what we’re speaking. But we pretend not to know, what we’re really thinking.” Musically, the song is driven by Marc’s hypnotic bassline, over which he’s layered somber droning synths, thumping drumbeats and gently crashing cymbals. Both he and Brian played guitars. Brian’s plaintive vocals are both comforting and melancholy, nicely conveying the sad sense of resignation expressed in the lyrics. It’s a great song, and spent 12 weeks on my Top 30 chart this past summer.

Next up is their follow-up single “Shadows in the Dark“, another winning tune with a strong retro 80s vibe that borders on darkwave. The guitar work is fantastic, and I love that sizzling little guitar solo in the bridge. Brian’s fervent vocals are great as well. The cool video, which was created by Marc, features pixelated renditions of the band trapped in an eight-bit Atari nightmare.

On the timely and relevant “Conspiracy“, the guys take on those who spread conspiracy theories, and the damage it does to society: “While bald-faced lies are told, the rhythm of what’s true skips a beat. We wonder how they get away with it. There is no consequence for ineloquence that harms the trust. I think it’s more than just a bit intentional.” The gravity of the subject is driven home by the song’s unsettling vibe, created by a rather menacing groove, overlain with dark industrial synths and distorted guitars.

Cool Down” sounds like a long-lost song by Joy Division or The Cure, with gorgeous shimmery guitars and swirling synths, and Brian’s vocals sound better than ever here. “Cozumel” is a sweet song about spending time with a loved one in the Mexican resort, and though the subject matter is quite different, it made me think of Suzanne Vega’s great song “Tom’s Diner”. Those great jangly guitars return on the haunting new wave gem “Trees in the Forest“, with lyrics that seem to speak of feeling lost and disconnected from the world.

With its bouncy new wave vibe, “What Are We Waiting For” urges us to stop doubting ourselves and seize the moment so that we can move forward and live our fullest lives. “Spectres in Waiting” has a decidedly different feel than the other tracks on the album, with a somber, more introspective feel, highlighted by rather mournful guitar notes. The wonderfully-titled “Past, Present and Future Walk Into a Bar, It Was Tense” is another terrific story song, in which Brian talk-sings about his present self encountering his past and future selves in a bar, and wanting to ask them questions to gain a better understanding of himself: “All these years older, what do you get? I hope not colder, nor full of regret.” I love the song’s darker vibe and rather menacing gnarly guitars.

Closing track “If I Could” is the longest on the album, running over five minutes, and has a gentle, upbeat cadence that’s really pleasing. The song seems to be about searching for the truths that will help guide us to a better life, which I also think kind of encapsulates the overall them of the album: “Every time I thought I had an answer, there is just another question that begs that I go searching. Even when I find it, I’m left not truly knowing. I guess it will always be that way.”

The Ghost of Dancing Slow is a marvelous album, and we’re so fortunate The Star Crumbles were successful in retrieving the lost masters to these new wave gems so that we can enjoy them these many years later 😉

Those who purchase the album on Bandcamp will receive a bonus song. Also Friday, October 7th is Bandcamp Friday, meaning all proceeds from purchases go directly to the artists.

Connect with The Star Crumbles:  TwitterInstagram

Top 30 Songs for July 24-30, 2022

Photo by María José Govea

My new favorite song this week is the uplifting and poignant “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid” by Canadian art-rock band Arcade Fire. Released in late April, it’s the second single from their sixth studio album WE. About the song, band front man Win Butler told Pitchfork‘Lookout Kid’” is a reminder, a lullaby for the end times, sung to my son, but for everyone…. Trust your heart, trust your mind, trust your body, trust your soul. Shit is going to get worse before it gets better, but it always gets better, and no one’s perfect.” The video, produced by Ben Matheny and Nathan Harrison, and directed by Benh Zeitlin, is delightful.

Singer-songwriter and rapper Lizzo advances to #2 with her feel-good dance song “About Damn Time”. Debuting this week at #s 28-30 are “Lemon Tree” by L.A.-based alternative/indie folk rock band Mt. Joy“, “Tek It” by Brooklyn-based electro-pop duo Cafuné, and “Compliance” by British alt-rock band Muse.

  1. UNCONDITIONAL I (LOOKOUT KID) – Arcade Fire (2)
  2. ABOUT DAMN TIME – Lizzo (3)
  3. SEVENTEEN GOING UNDER – Sam Fender (1)
  4. A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE – Weezer (6)
  5. TELL ME THE TRUTH – Two Feet (4)
  6. BELIEVE – Caamp (5)
  7. AS IT WAS – Harry Styles (8)
  8. SYNCHRONIZE – Milky Chance (10)
  9. THE FOUNDATIONS OF DECAY – My Chemical Romance (11)
  10. CLOSER – The Frontier (12)
  11. LONELY – Sea Girls (13)
  12. THE FUNERAL – YUNGBLUD (14)
  13. IN THE MIRROR – The Interrupters (15)
  14. WARNING SIGNS – Band of Horses (16)
  15. MISTAKES – Sharon Van Etten (17)
  16. 2am – Foals (7)
  17. MY LOVE – Florence + the Machine (9)
  18. DESPERATELY WANTING – Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster (20)
  19. LIN MANUEL – Onism E (21)
  20. FAILURE TO COMPLY – MISSIO (22)
  21. BROKEN RECORD – NAVE (23)
  22. UNTIL I FOUND YOU – Stephen Sanchez (25)
  23. SUPERMODEL – Måneskin (26)
  24. BONES – Imagine Dragons (29)
  25. GREY – Holy Coves (30)
  26. WILD CHILD – The Black Keys (19)
  27. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (18) 20th week on list
  28. LEMON TREE – Mt. Joy (N)
  29. TEK IT – Cafuné (N)
  30. COMPLIANCE – Muse (N)

Top 30 Songs for July 17-23, 2022

There’s so much great music out now, I have at least 50 songs I’d like to put on my Weekly Top 30. “Seventeen Going Under” by Sam Fender remains at #1 for a second week. Closing in at #2 is Arcade Fire‘s heartwarming ““Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)”, while Lizzo slides into the #3 spot with her funk-pop earworm “About Damn Time”. German alt-rock band Milky Chance enter the top 10 with their cool song “Synchronize”. For some reason I cannot fathom, the song has not been anywhere near as popular as their previous single “Colorado”, even though I think it’s a better song.

Two songs make their debut this week: “Bones” by Imagine Dragons and “Grey” by Welsh rock band Holy Coves. While I’m a fan of Imagine Dragons, I didn’t care for their previous single “Enemy”, a massive hit now in it’s 35th week in the top 40 of the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, nine of them at #1, but I do like “Bones” a lot. (“Enemy” and “Bones” currently hold the #4 and #5 spots on the Alternative chart.) I’ve resisted putting “Bones” on my chart for the past several weeks, but it’s just too damn infectious! “Grey” is the second song by Holy Coves to appear on my Weekly Top 30; their single “The Hurt Within” spent 11 weeks on my list this past Spring.

  1. SEVENTEEN GOING UNDER – Sam Fender (1)
  2. UNCONDITIONAL I (LOOKOUT KID) – Arcade Fire (3)
  3. ABOUT DAMN TIME – Lizzo (5)
  4. TELL ME THE TRUTH – Two Feet (2)
  5. BELIEVE – Caamp (4)
  6. A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE – Weezer (6)
  7. 2am – Foals (9)
  8. AS IT WAS – Harry Styles (8)
  9. MY LOVE – Florence + the Machine (7)
  10. SYNCHRONIZE – Milky Chance (12)
  11. THE FOUNDATIONS OF DECAY – My Chemical Romance (13)
  12. CLOSER – The Frontier (14)
  13. LONELY – Sea Girls (15)
  14. THE FUNERAL – YUNGBLUD (17)
  15. IN THE MIRROR – The Interrupters (18)
  16. WARNING SIGNS – Band of Horses (19)
  17. MISTAKES – Sharon Van Etten (21)
  18. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (10) 19th week on list
  19. WILD CHILD – The Black Keys (11)
  20. DESPERATELY WANTING – Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster (22)
  21. LIN MANUEL – Onism E (23)
  22. FAILURE TO COMPLY – MISSIO (25)
  23. BROKEN RECORD – NAVE (27)
  24. BLOODRUSH – The Amazons (16)
  25. UNTIL I FOUND YOU – Stephen Sanchez (29)
  26. SUPERMODEL – Måneskin (30)
  27. BEDS ARE BURNING – AWOLNATION feat. Tim McIlrath (20)
  28. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (26) 21st week on list
  29. BONES – Imagine Dragons (N)
  30. GREY – Holy Coves (N)

Top 30 Songs for July 10-16, 2022

A year after it’s release in July 2021, the beautiful “Seventeen Going Under” by the immensely talented English singer-songwriter Sam Fender reaches the pinnacle of my Weekly Top 30. Somewhat of a sleeper hit, the song finally peaked at #3 on the UK Singles Chart this past January, when it also began getting airplay in the U.S. It eventually appeared on various Alternative song charts (where it recently peaked at #10 on the Billboard Triple A chart). Though I actually ranked it #44 on my Top 100 Songs of 2021 list, I felt compelled to add the song to my Weekly Top 30 in May, and it’s quickly climbed my chart ever since. Even though it’s now fallen off most charts, I love it more than ever, and it’s my current favorite song. Those gorgeous jangly guitars, exuberant trumpet and sax, cracking drumbeats and Fender’s arresting tenor vocals are all magnificent.

Written by Fender and released as the lead single from his brilliant and critically acclaimed second album Seventeen Going Under, the album in general, and song in particular, chronicle his life at 17 when his mother was afflicted with fibromyalgia and depressed because she could no longer work after 40 years of service as a nurse. Though she’d never missed a day of work, the Department for Work and Pensions harassed her with letters and treated her unjustly. Fender wanted to help her financially, even considering selling drugs to earn money, but she talked him out of it. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he commented: “That’s when my rose-tinted glasses fell off. 17 is when all the challenges begin: you’re not a baby, but you’re definitely not an adult.” With his striking tenor voice, strong Geordie accent, and heartthrob good looks, it’s hard to believe Fender was bullied for being overweight and unathletic as a child.

I think “Seventeen Going Under” is one of the most perfect songs I’ve heard in a long while, and in May, the song won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors. Fun fact: Sam Fender also plays Fender guitars.

And here’s Sam’s triumphant performance of the song last month at Glastonbury:

In other chart highlights, Arcade Fire‘s “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid) leaps 8 spots to #3, and YUNGBLUD‘s “The Funeral” jumps 6 spots to #17. Debuting at #s 29 & 30 are the beautiful “Until I Found You” by Nashville singer-songwriter Stephen Sanchez and “SUPERMODEL” by Italian band Måneskin.

  1. SEVENTEEN GOING UNDER – Sam Fender (2)
  2. TELL ME THE TRUTH – Two Feet (1)
  3. UNCONDITIONAL I (LOOKOUT KID) – Arcade Fire (11)
  4. BELIEVE – Caamp (6)
  5. ABOUT DAMN TIME – Lizzo (7)
  6. A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE – Weezer (8)
  7. MY LOVE – Florence + the Machine (4)
  8. AS IT WAS – Harry Styles (5)
  9. 2am – Foals (10)
  10. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (3)
  11. WILD CHILD – The Black Keys (9)
  12. SYNCHRONIZE – Milky Chance (13)
  13. THE FOUNDATIONS OF DECAY – My Chemical Romance (15)
  14. CLOSER – The Frontier (16)
  15. LONELY – Sea Girls (17)
  16. BLOODRUSH – The Amazons (12)
  17. THE FUNERAL – YUNGBLUD (23)
  18. IN THE MIRROR – The Interrupters (20)
  19. WARNING SIGNS – Band of Horses (21)
  20. BEDS ARE BURNING – AWOLNATION feat. Tim McIlrath (19)
  21. MISTAKES – Sharon Van Etten (26)
  22. DESPERATELY WANTING – Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster (24)
  23. LIN MANUEL – Onism E (25)
  24. THAT’S WHERE I AM – Maggie Rogers (14)
  25. FAILURE TO COMPLY – MISSIO (27)
  26. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (18) 20th week on list
  27. BROKEN RECORD – NAVE (30)
  28. WILD – Spoon (21)
  29. UNTIL I FOUND YOU – Stephen Sanchez (N)
  30. SUPERMODEL – Måneskin (N)

Top 30 Songs for July 3-9, 2022

Two Feet holds at #1 for a second week with his fiercely erotic “Tell Me The Truth”, while Sam Fender‘s glorious “Seventeen Going Under” jumps four spots to #2. Despite the fact it’s been around a while, my love for the beautiful and emotionally powerful song just keeps growing stronger. And speaking of staying power, Harry Styles‘ “As It Was” and the Black Keys‘ “Wild Child” are now in their 12th week in the top 10. “As It Was” has actually spent 11 weeks in the top 5, two of them at #1, while “Wild Child” spent 10 weeks in the top 4, two of them also at #1. Entering the top 10 this week is “2am” by Foals, from their marvelous new album Life Is Yours. Leaping 11 spots to #11 is the uplifting and poignant “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” by Arcade Fire, while “The Funeral” by YUNGBLUD climbs five spots to #23.

The one debut track this week is the hauntingly beautiful and cinematic “Broken Record” by British artist NAVE, the solo music project of singer-songwriter, composer and producer Nathan Evans. The prolific and hyper-talented musician, who possesses a gorgeous singing voice, is also front man for alternative rock band Native Tongue. Nathan states “‘Broken Record’ focuses on the like, follow and share society we have transitioned into over the past decade. Likes release dopamine like a drug and we become addicted to the validation, attention and acknowledgment of our successes or happiness. We hide behind filters and fake smiles to show an inaccurate reality we wish was real.” I can attest to the fact that I’m frightfully addicted to the need for validation, attention and acknowledgment of not only my blog, but also my tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts, all of which causes me frequent disappointment and unhappiness.

  1. TELL ME THE TRUTH – Two Feet (1)
  2. SEVENTEEN GOING UNDER – Sam Fender (6)
  3. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (2)
  4. MY LOVE – Florence + the Machine (3)
  5. AS IT WAS – Harry Styles (5)
  6. BELIEVE – Caamp (7)
  7. ABOUT DAMN TIME – Lizzo (8)
  8. A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE – Weezer (9)
  9. WILD CHILD – The Black Keys (4)
  10. 2am – Foals (12)
  11. UNCONDITIONAL I (LOOKOUT KID) – Arcade Fire (22)
  12. BLOODRUSH – The Amazons (10)
  13. SYNCHRONIZE – Milky Chance (14)
  14. THAT’S WHERE I AM – Maggie Rogers (15)
  15. THE FOUNDATIONS OF DECAY – My Chemical Romance (16)
  16. CLOSER – The Frontier (17)
  17. LONELY – Sea Girls (18)
  18. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (13)
  19. BEDS ARE BURNING – AWOLNATION feat. Tim McIlrath (19)
  20. IN THE MIRROR – The Interrupters (21)
  21. WILD – Spoon (11)
  22. WARNING SIGNS – Band of Horses (23)
  23. THE FUNERAL – YUNGBLUD (28)
  24. DESPERATELY WANTING – Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster (26)
  25. LIN MANUEL – Onism E (27)
  26. MISTAKES – Sharon Van Etten (29)
  27. FAILURE TO COMPLY – MISSIO (30)
  28. SLEEP – Gooseberry (20)
  29. VIRGINIA (WIND IN THE NIGHT) – The Head and the Heart (25)
  30. BROKEN RECORD – NAVE (N)

Top 30 Songs for June 26-July 2, 2022

Brooklyn, New York-based Two Feet (the music moniker of singer-songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Bill Dess) has been my favorite music artist for the past four years or so. I’ve written about him numerous times on this blog, and have seen three of his live shows. His latest single “Tell Me The Truth” assumes the #1 spot on this week’s Top 30, his tenth song to top my weekly chart. Many of his songs are sultry and sensual, but “Tell Me The Truth”, taken from his fourth album Shape & Form, is one of his darkest and sexiest yet. The lyrics are sung from the perspective of a man who’s tried everything to win the love of a woman he desires, to no avail. “For too long, I dream of you, All that you do. I watch you float on, float on. For too long, I contemplate, I try to be all that you need. So tell me the truth, my baby, baby. Is it me, is it you?

It’s a powerful and gorgeous song, and I love how it transitions from haunting interludes of restrained instrumentals and vocals in the verses, to an explosive, cinematic crescendo in the choruses, in which Two Feet’s vocals are more impassioned and raw than we’ve ever heard before. It’s also longer than most of his previous songs, and his scorching guitar solo in the final chorus is well worth the wait. He’s commented that it’s his favorite of all the songs he’s written and recorded, and I have to say that it’s certainly one of mine. The steamy video, directed by Brian Lipko and starring a finely chiseled Two Feet and sexy LA-based model and restauranteur Tina Louise, shows them experiencing the throes of unrequited sexual desire and angst, both together and alone.

Entering the top 10 this week are “About Damn Time” by Lizzo and “A Little Bit of Love” by Weezer, who I’m happy are still making music after nearly 30 years together. Making a strong upward movement are My Chemical Romance‘s “The Foundations of Decay” and Arcade Fire‘s “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)”, both of which climb seven spots to #16 and #22, respectively. Three new songs make their debut: “The Funeral” by British artist YUNGBLUD (which I realized I really like after reading this post by fellow blogger The Alternative Mixtapes), “Mistakes” by the always wonderful Sharon Van Etten, and the haunting “Failure to Comply” by MISSIO, another one of my favorite artists, who I’ll finally be seeing perform live in LA on July 30.

  1. TELL ME THE TRUTH – Two Feet (3)
  2. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (1)
  3. MY LOVE – Florence + the Machine (2)
  4. WILD CHILD – The Black Keys (4)
  5. AS IT WAS – Harry Styles (5)
  6. SEVENTEEN GOING UNDER – Sam Fender (7)
  7. BELIEVE – Caamp (9)
  8. ABOUT DAMN TIME – Lizzo (12)
  9. A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE – Weezer (11)
  10. BLOODRUSH – The Amazons (8)
  11. WILD – Spoon (6)
  12. 2am – Foals (13)
  13. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (10)
  14. SYNCHRONIZE – Milky Chance (15)
  15. THAT’S WHERE I AM – Maggie Rogers (16)
  16. THE FOUNDATIONS OF DECAY – My Chemical Romance (23)
  17. CLOSER – The Frontier (20)
  18. LONELY – Sea Girls (21)
  19. BEDS ARE BURNING – AWOLNATION feat. Tim McIlrath (22)
  20. SLEEP – Gooseberry (14)
  21. IN THE MIRROR – The Interrupters (25)
  22. UNCONDITIONAL I (LOOKOUT KID) – Arcade Fire (29)
  23. WARNING SIGNS – Band of Horses(26)
  24. LA CIENEGA – Chief Springs (17)
  25. VIRGINIA (WIND IN THE NIGHT) – The Head and the Heart (18)
  26. DESPERATELY WANTING – Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster (28)
  27. LIN MANUEL – Onism E (30)
  28. THE FUNERAL – YUNGBLUD (N)
  29. MISTAKES – Sharon Van Etten (N)
  30. FAILURE TO COMPLY – MISSIO (N)

Top 30 Songs for June 19-25, 2022

One of my best new finds of 2022 is the young British singer-songwriter Charley Hullah, who goes by just his last name, stylized as HULLAH. I learned about the handsome and talented London-based artist as a result of being a guest moderator for the BBC Music weekly song competition Fresh On The Net, for which he’d entered his single “Chasing Trains”. I loved the beautiful song the moment I heard it, and chose it as one of my five top picks out of the 170 entries. (Three others of those top five have also appeared on my Weekly Top 30: “Deception” by Hannah Reem & Noodle Beard, which reached #1 in late April, “The Hurt Within” by Holy Coves and “La Cienega” by Chief Springs, which is still on this list.) Now in its 15th week on my list, I’m thrilled to finally place “Chasing Trains” at the top. HULLAH’s compelling lyrics, haunting melody, sparkling atmospheric synths and ethereal vocals are gorgeous, and I love this song more with every listen.

In other chart developments, Two Feet moves up three spots to #3 with his smoldering song of desire “Tell Me The Truth”, and Florence + the Machine, The Black Keys, Harry Styles, Spoon, Sam Fender and Bob Moses continue to dominate the top 10. Caamp climbs three spots to #9 with their lovely “Believe”, Weezer‘s optimistic “A Little Bit of Love” also moves up three to #11, and Lizzo‘s delightful “About Damn Time” leaps 14 spots to #12. Making their debut this week are “Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)” by Arcade Fire, and the brilliant “Lin Manuel” by New York-based indie rock band Onism E.

  1. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (2)
  2. MY LOVE – Florence + the Machine (1)
  3. TELL ME THE TRUTH – Two Feet (6)
  4. WILD CHILD – The Black Keys (3)
  5. AS IT WAS – Harry Styles (4)
  6. WILD – Spoon (5)
  7. SEVENTEEN GOING UNDER – Sam Fender (8)
  8. BLOODRUSH – The Amazons (10)
  9. BELIEVE – Caamp (12)
  10. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (9)
  11. A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE – Weezer (14)
  12. ABOUT DAMN TIME – Lizzo (26)
  13. 2am – Foals (15)
  14. SLEEP – Gooseberry (7)
  15. SYNCHRONIZE – Milky Chance (17)
  16. THAT’S WHERE I AM – Maggie Rogers (18)
  17. LA CIENEGA – Chief Springs (11)
  18. VIRGINIA (WIND IN THE NIGHT) – The Head and the Heart (13)
  19. SHUT OFF THE LIGHTS – Bastille (16)
  20. CLOSER – The Frontier (22)
  21. LONELY – Sea Girls (23)
  22. BEDS ARE BURNING – AWOLNATION feat. Tim McIlrath (24)
  23. THE FOUNDATIONS OF DECAY – My Chemical Romance (25)
  24. ON MY KNEES – RÜFÜS DU SOL (19)
  25. IN THE MIRROR – The Interrupters (28)
  26. WARNING SIGNS – Band of Horses (29)
  27. DISTANCE – Mount Famine (20)
  28. DESPERATELY WANTING – Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster (30)
  29. UNCONDITIONAL I (LOOKOUT KID) – Arcade Fire (N)
  30. LIN MANUEL – Onism E (N)

Top 30 Songs for June 12-18, 2022

No matter how often I listen to “My Love” by Florence + the Machine, my love for it (no pun intended) only grows stronger, and the gorgeous song maintains a firm grip on the #1 spot for a third week. Moving up two notches to #2 is “Chasing Trains” by London singer songwriter HULLAH, another beautiful song I never tire of hearing. In other notable chart movements, my favorite artist Two Feet jumps six spots to #6 with his darkly sexy “Tell Me The Truth”, and Ohio band Caamp leaps 10 spots with their lovely song “Believe”.

Three new songs make their debut this week: “About Damn Time” by Lizzo, her first ever appearance on my chart, enters at #26. I know she’s one of the most popular artists around today, but none of her previous songs have really appealed to me until “About Damn Time”, and I can’t resist its infectious 70s dance groove. At #29 is “Warning Signs” by the wonderful Band of Horses, whose songs never disappoint. And bringing up the rear is “Desperately Wanting”, a haunting collaboration by prolific and talented singer-songwriters Brian Lambert and Marc Schuster.

  1. MY LOVE – Florence + the Machine (1)
  2. CHASING TRAINS – HULLAH (4)
  3. WILD CHILD – The Black Keys (2)
  4. AS IT WAS – Harry Styles (5)
  5. WILD – Spoon (6)
  6. TELL ME THE TRUTH – Two Feet (12)
  7. SLEEP – Gooseberry (3)
  8. SEVENTEEN GOING UNDER – Sam Fender (9)
  9. LOVE BRAND NEW – Bob Moses (7)
  10. BLOODRUSH – The Amazons (11)
  11. LA CIENEGA – Chief Springs (8)
  12. BELIEVE – Caamp (22)
  13. VIRGINIA (WIND IN THE NIGHT) – The Head and the Heart (10)
  14. A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE – Weezer (16)
  15. 2am – Foals (17)
  16. SHUT OFF THE LIGHTS – Bastille (18)
  17. SYNCHRONIZE – Milky Chance (19)
  18. THAT’S WHERE I AM – Maggie Rogers (20)
  19. ON MY KNEES – RÜFÜS DU SOL (13)
  20. DISTANCE – Mount Famine (15)
  21. THE HURT WITHIN – Holy Coves (14)
  22. CLOSER – The Frontier (24)
  23. LONELY – Sea Girls (25)
  24. BEDS ARE BURNING – AWOLNATION feat. Tim McIlrath (26)
  25. THE FOUNDATIONS OF DECAY – My Chemical Romance (29)
  26. ABOUT DAMN TIME – Lizzo (N)
  27. DECEPTION – Hannah Reem & Noodle Beard (21)
  28. IN THE MIRROR – The Interrupters (30)
  29. WARNING SIGNS – Band of Horses (N)
  30. DESPERATELY WANTING – Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster (N)

Fresh New Tracks, Vol 13 – The Orphan The Poet, Gooseberry, Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster

After devoting my previous two Fresh New Tracks posts to artists and bands from the UK, I’m back in America to shine my spotlight on three great new singles by four acts I’m particularly fond of – The Orphan The Poet, Gooseberry and Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster. So, without further ado…

THE ORPHAN THE POET – “Feelin’ Good (Could Be Better)”

Alternative pop-rock duo The Orphan The Poet are one of the most delightful acts I’ve come across in a while. Based in Columbus, Ohio, they consist of vocalist and guitarist David Eselgroth and bassist Jake Floyd, both lifelong friends. With a winning combination of irrepressible charm, high energy and zany playfulness, they leave a trail of joy and color in their wake. Plus they make some pretty terrific music too! I first featured them on a previous Fresh New Tracks post in February 2021 when I reviewed their electrifying single “The Moxie”. Now they’re back with a new single “Feelin’ Good (Could Be Better)“, and it’s catchy, upbeat and fun, which is what their music is all about.

Written and recorded by David and Jake, with assistance from their producer and long-time collaborator Matthew Bach Squire, and musician Jacob Virgil, the song is about feeling generally okay about your life, but not allowing yourself to settle, instead always striving to do and be better: “Don’t stop, now or never / Call up my fortune teller / On top, but it’s whatever / Feelin’ good, but could be better.” Musically, the song is an exuberant stomper, with bouncy riffs, driving bass and snappy drums, accompanied throughout by a jaunty organ riff that adds some great texture. David’s fervent vocals, backed by his and Jake’s soaring harmonies, dial up the song’s overall energy.

The guys will soon be embarking on a national U.S. tour with Weathers and Moontower, so click here for dates and cities.

Follow The Orphan The Poet:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

GOOSEBERRY – “Broken Dance”

And speaking of irrepressible charm, Brooklyn, New York-based Gooseberry have it in spades. Formed in 2019, and comprised of Asa Daniels (guitar/vocals), Sam Rappaport (keyboards/vocals), Will Hammond (bass) and Evin Rossington (drums), together they blend indie rock, R&B and light jazz to create their own distinctive sound that’s both incredibly pleasing and sophisticated. And having two lead singers is another big plus, as both Asa and Sam have wonderful voices. I first learned about them late last summer when Sam followed me on Instagram, and I quickly became a fan of both him and Gooseberry. Their immense talent, strong charisma and playful sense of humor won me over. Besides, how can you not love these guys after seeing this photo of them with their heads together?

I wrote about Sam last November when I reviewed his terrific solo single “Journeyman’s Ballet”, and am now thrilled to feature Gooseberry’s new single “Broken Dance“. Their fifth single, it follows “Sleep”, which they released only a month ago, and is the title track from their forthcoming debut EP Broken Dance. (“Sleep” recently debuted on my Weekly Top 30, and is assured to have a long run.) It’s beautiful and contemplative, with a languid, jazzy vibe, highlighted by Sam’s lovely, melancholic piano keys and pensive, beguiling vocals, and nicely complemented by Asa’s sparkling guitar notes, Will’s subtle bass and Evin’s perfect drumbeats. 

“Broken Dance” touches on ambition, failure and regret. Sam further elaborated to me: “The song is the tale of an idealistic young artist who sets off with a romantic partner to find success on the horizon. What unfolds is not only an account of the failure of those dreams (‘We tried to make it, but somehow time was taken away from me.’), but also an admission that the pursuit of those dreams came at the expense of someone else (“….and I never let you breathe…This dance, let’s break it. The dreams we shared were all mine anyway.”). [It’s basically] a song about the man who sets out to be someone, and the woman who finds herself but a prop on which to lean.” It’s another superb song from this great band on the rise.

Follow Gooseberry:  FacebookInstagram

Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster – “Kids”

Brian Lambert is an engaging, thoughtful and prolific singer-songwriter and musician based in Denton, Texas. He’s been writing and recording music for many years, and according to his bio, he’s “reinvented himself more times than he can count.” He even tried his hand at country music for a while, but came to the realization that it just wasn’t for him. More recently, he’s been making indie rock music inspired by some of his favorite acts like Spoon, Gang of Youths and the Replacements. He used to play gigs all over the DFW metroplex, but beginning in 2021, he challenged himself to writing, recording and producing a new song every week for a year.

Marc Schuster is an insanely creative and multi-talented renaissance man. Not only is he an educator, author and literary critic, he’s also a prolific songwriter and musician, recording both as a solo artist and as part of multiple music projects and collaborations with other musicians. He’s also a pretty decent visual artist, and if all that wasn’t enough, he’s also incredibly generous, funny and kind. I first got to know him several years ago through blogging (he has a terrific WordPress blog called Abominations), and he’s been among the most consistently loyal supporters of me and my blog. I’ve featured him three times on my blog, most recently last month when I reviewed his wonderful EP There Is No Down.

Supportive of other artists in his own right, Brian was recently inspired to write his latest song “Kids“, after hearing “This Can’t Be It”, a moving song by Oklahoma country singer-songwriter Matt Moran, with spare lyrics addressing the struggles of trying to make it as a musician. “Kids” further explores those struggles, urging us to hold onto our youthful sense of innocence and wonder, expressed by the lyrics “And when everything went wrong, we sang a brand new song. I want y’all to sing along, like we did when we were kids.”

After writing the song, he felt something was missing, so he reached out to Marc, asking for advice and thoughts as to whether his song needed synthesizers or something else. Marc came up with a great synth accompaniment for Brian’s fine guitar work, as well as some backing vocals that enhance Brian’s plaintive vocals, nicely filling out the song and giving it a wonderful anthemic rock vibe. I think it’s one of Brian’s best songs yet.

Marc also created a fantastic poster for the song, which Brian used for its cover art. 

Follow Brian:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Follow Marc:  BlogTwitterInstagram

MARC SCHUSTER – EP Review: “There Is No Down”

One of my favorite humans on the planet is Marc Schuster, who’s not only insanely creative and multi-talented, but also incredibly generous, funny and kind. I first got to know him several years ago through blogging (he has a terrific WordPress blog called Abominations), and he’s been among the most consistently loyal supporters of me and my blog.

A true renaissance man, Marc is an educator, author, literary critic, songwriter, musician and even a pretty decent visual artist. In addition to teaching English at Montgomery County Community College in southeastern Pennsylvania, he’s written several books, scripts for two short films, and numerous book reviews. He’s also a prolific musician, writing songs and recording music both as a solo artist and as part of multiple music projects. In just the past six months, he’s not only released several of his own singles and EPs, but also recordings by The Ministry of Plausible Rumours, a joint project with his cousin Vincent Zabielski, who put out a terrific album Summer Again last October, an outstanding improvisational instrumental album Simmons and Schuster that he made with fellow musician/educator Tim Simmons (you can read my review of that album here), and the single “In the Pink” by his collaborative music project Plush Gordon this past December.

Though Marc likes to experiment with different sounds, styles and textures, most of the songs he records as a solo artist have a delightful, indie bedroom-pop sensibility. Not only are his songs infectiously catchy, he has a wonderful knack for putting a youthful, often tongue-in-cheek perspective on everyday situations and problems many of us have faced at one time or another. On his new EP There Is No Down, which dropped February 2nd, he delivers five optimistic tracks (actually four plus an acoustic demo of one of them) assuring us that, no matter how crappy things may seem at the moment, there’s always reason to celebrate. For the recording of the EP, he was assisted by Paul Sanwald and Tim Simmons, who I’m guessing played piano.

Case in point is the trippy opening track “Funky Underpants“, wherein ‘funky’ refers to colorful and fun, not, well, you know… Over a languid bass-driven groove, Marc layers some lovely shimmery guitar notes and thumping drumbeats to create a jazzy, psychedelic backdrop for his dual auto-tuned vocals, half of which sound like Mick Jagger. He sings of wanting to pull himself out of the doldrums by letting loose in a pair of funky underpants: “Wishing I could dream, dreaming I could fly. Waiting on a world where we never die. I could be a saint or I could live in sin. I could live forever if my life would just begin. I want to sing. I want to dance. I want to wear a pair of funky underpants. I’ll take a drink. I’ll take a chance. I’ll take the world on in my funky underpants.

Along a similar vein, “Feel Free” explores misbehaving, even if just for the night, in order to have a bit of fun: “Everyone says we should know better, but I never could tell wrong from right. Let’s hit the town like we won’t remember it. Let’s disappear into the night. I’m up to no good, and you’re just as bad. This could be the best time I ever had. I’m looking at you, you’re looking at me. Is this what it’s like to feel free?” Musically, the upbeat song has a bouncy pop-rock sound with a lively mix of jangly and fuzzy guitars.

All We Are” has more of a rock vibe, with Marc’s marvelous fuzz-coated reverby guitars taking center stage. On this song, his vocals sound a bit like the late, great Tom Petty as he sings about the impermanence and brevity of our lives on this earth, and that we might as well make the best of things while we’re here: “The clouds roll in. The seasons change. We disappear. The world remains. All we are is right now.”

I think my favorite song on the EP is “Elevators“, a bittersweet piano-driven affair. I love the melancholy but beautiful piano keys, and the electric guitar solo in the bridge is superb. The lyrics speak of reminiscing about what seemed like simpler, more innocent times, yet not wanting to wallow in the past, but instead remain hopeful about the future: “So keep the fire burning to get us through the night. The wolves are creeping closer, but I think we’ll be all right. We used to ride in elevators, look down on the world below. We used to ride in elevators though we had nowhere to go.”

The fifth track “All We Are (Demo)” is an acoustic version of the third song on the EP, with only Marc’s gentle vocals and guitar. The spare treatment of the song nicely fits the simple and direct message expressed in the lyrics: “All we are is right now.” It’s a fitting finish to a lovely little EP.

Connect with Marc:  WebsiteTwitter / Instagram