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

“SIMMONS and SCHUSTER” – Album Review

I follow more blogs than a reasonable person should, and spend far too much time struggling to keep up with all their posts, often to the detriment of writing for my own blog. And like mine, a good many of them are about or related to music, which then entails devoting even more time listening to one or more songs those bloggers have shared, sometimes an entire album! So it’s nice when that time I’ve invested pays dividends in the form of great music discoveries. Such was the case when I heard the new album Simmons and Schuster on Abominations, a blog I follow that’s written by the hyper-talented and creative Marc Schuster. A collaboration between Schuster and fellow teacher/musician Timothy Simmons, the album is an unusual, fascinating and thoroughly unique work that I like so much, I have to share it with my readers.

A true renaissance man, Marc Schuster not only teaches English at Montgomery County Community College in southeastern Pennsylvania, he’s also written several books, scripts for two short films, and numerous book reviews, as well as writes songs and records music both as a solo artist and with music projects Plush Gordon, The Ministry of Plausible Rumours and experimental electronic music project Android Invasion. Last April, I featured his single “Before the Boys” on one of my Fresh New Tracks posts. I don’t know very much about Timothy Simmons, other than that he teaches music at Delaware Valley Friends School in Paoli, Pennsylvania, and is a terrific and imaginative musician as well.  

The album features seven wonderfully-titled instrumental moodscapes that run the gamut from dark and menacing to light and soothing, with a cinematic quality that makes it feel, in their words, “like the soundtrack to a film that has yet to be made.” Los Angeles-based noir rock band Edgar Allen Poets compared it to Dante’s Divine Comedy, calling it “A journey between hell, purgatory, and then heaven”, a description I cannot argue with. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect about the album is that it was almost entirely improvisational, in that none of the seven tracks were composed, written or planned out in advance. Schuster explained “Usually, Tim would just start playing, and then I’d either play along or overdub my parts. ‘Start With Drums’, for example, literally started with Tim playing drums, and then I added some guitar and bass parts.”

Each of them played various instruments, with Simmons mainly playing drums, upright electric bass and piano, whereas Schuster played mostly electric guitar and bass, as well as snare drum on “Infernal Combustion Engine” and cymbals on “Murky Depths”. Most of the instruments are analog, and the drums were all recorded live and, in some cases, looped or rearranged in the editing process. They recorded the majority of the album in Schuster’s basement studio on August 18 and 28, 2021, though they did a fair amount of editing and overdubbing afterward. The exception is the album’s closing track, “Ralph Waldo Steps In,” which Simmons recorded in his living room earlier in the year, and Schuster later adding a string arrangement. 

With Simmons and Schuster, the guys attempt to “depict the history of creation in the space of about forty-five minutes“. The darkly beautiful opening track “Start with Drums” represents the big bang, “flinging bits and pieces of music everywhere“. Actually, the track sounds somewhat more orderly than that to my ears, with Simmons’ repetitive drumbeats providing a kind of forward momentum in the creation of the universe, though Schuster’s throbbing bass and otherworldly blend of chiming and jangly guitars suggest the more random elements.

Next up is “Infernal Combustion Engine”, an eerie, almost dystopian sounding track intended to depict “a hot mess of a planet gradually taking shape“. The spooky music and sounds are created from mostly harsh industrial synths and sharp percussion, giving the track a strong sci-fi vibe. The first time I heard it, I immediately thought it would perfect as the basis for the soundtrack of the next installment of the Alien franchise, should there ever be one. Moving right along, “Murky Depths” “imagines the first signs of life appearing deep beneath the primordial sea“. It’s the longest track on the album, and has a cinematic, almost contemporary classical feel, with dramatic sweeping string synths, accompanied by subtle bass, strongly resonant chiming guitar notes and delicate cymbals.

Tadpoles,” so named when Schuster noticed that the graphic representation of the sounds Simmons was making on his bass looked like tadpoles in the recording software they were using, is a languid track musically describing the continuing evolution of life. The music consists primarily of Simmons’ gentle bassline, overlain by Schuster’s twangy guitar notes that give the track a laid-back feel. For this track, Schuster played a Squier VI, which has six strings and is kind of a hybrid between a bass and a guitar. There are also rather strange shrill sounds that to my ears sound like screeching tires or brakes off in the distance. I have no idea of their significance, other than to perhaps add a bit of edginess and texture to the track.

One of the more unusual tracks on the album is “Mucking It Up”, meant to represent “the first land animals crawling onto muddy shores.” There’s a gnarly glop-like sound throughout the track that I thought sounded like it might be from a didgeridoo (an Australian aboriginal wind instrument). When I asked Schuster about it, he said “That didgeridoo sound is actually Tim’s upright electric bass. I ran it through a series of effects in Reason, the program I use to record music. The main effect is called the Synchronus Timed Effect Modulator. That’s what gives it what I think of as the “mucky” sound, hence the song’s title. I thought it sounded like stepping in mud.”

The futuristic “The End Was a Mess (So We Cut It)” sonically represents humankind’s industrialization of the world, millions of years after its creation. Appropriately, the guys use a mix of spacy and ominous industrial synths, wobbly guitar notes and quirky sound effects to create a somewhat unsettling soundscape that very effectively conveys – to my ears at least – the negative aspects of industrialization on both the planet and it’s inhabitants. Thankfully, things close on a tranquil note with “Ralph Waldo Steps In”, an enchanting piano piece with beautiful strings. It’s a fitting and optimistic end to a marvelous work by these two imaginative and creative guys. I hope at least some of my readers will enjoy it as much as I do.

Stream the album on  SpotifyApple Musicdeezer

Purchase on  BandcampAmazon

Fresh New Tracks Vol. VII

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Fresh New Tracks post, and today I’m featuring three recently-released songs by three totally different acts I’m particularly fond of on a personal level: Chicago alternative electronic rock artist brett.grant.5, indie singer-songwriter Marc Schuster, and Texas hard rock’n’roll band The Metal Byrds.

“Reanimate” by brett.grant.5 featuring Emma Young

brett.grant.5 is the artistic name of Chicago-based singer-songwriter and composer Brett Grant, who’s been active in the Chicago music scene for many years, both as a member of several bands and as a solo artist. Drawing from a wide and eclectic range of musical sources and genres, ranging from 1920’s jazz and classical to electronic and experimental progressive rock, his sound is bold, unorthodox and always fascinating. Over the past couple of years, I’ve written about both his solo music as well as that of his band A Million Rich Daughters. Last June, I reviewed his single “Burning Fire”, a biting song repudiating the religious dogma that keeps people enslaved on so many different levels – mentally, socially, culturally and physically. He recently returned with a new single “Reanimate“, which features guest vocals by singer-songwriter, actor, model and producer Emma Young, who Brett got to know while they were students at Columbia College Chicago. They’d also played together in the band Sleep For Dinner, who released a self-titled EP in 2019.

“Reanimate” is a deliciously dark electronic track with a throbbing, super-gnarly bass groove overlain by an eerie mix of spacey, wobbly, and tortured psychedelic industrial synths, all working together brilliantly to create a dramatic and unsettling soundscape befitting the subject matter, which seems to me to be about how mankind keeps repeating the same destructive behavior over and over again, never learning from past mistakes. Brett has a distinctive singing voice, with the ability to sound vulnerable as well as diabolical, which he does here to great effect as he rails “Pretend you forgive, pretend you forget, pretend that it’s just another thought to repress.” Emma, on the other hand, has a lilting vocal style which provides a nice contrast as she hauntingly chants the chorus “I’m not trying to invalidate. I know they could soon eradicate. I can hear them start to salivate. Breathe in the undead, reanimate.”

The beautiful artwork for the single was created by Brett’s wife Ashlee.

Follow Brett: Twitter / Facebook / Instagram

Follow Emma:  FacebookInstagram

“Before the Boys” by Marc Schuster

Marc Schuster is a talented and creative renaissance man who I got to know through blogging (he has a WordPress blog called Abominations, which you can check out here). In addition to teaching English at Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania, Marc has written several books, written scripts for two short films, writes songs and records music as both a solo artist and with music projects Plush Gordon, The Ministry of Plausible Rumours and experimental electronic music project Android Invasion. On April 6th, he released his latest single “Before the Boys“, a song that speaks to, in his own words, “the tyranny of gender identity, wrapped in a bubblegum pop sensibility reminiscent of the Monkees. The song is about a free-spirited eleven-year-old girl who becomes self-conscious when someone pulls her aside and tells her to be more reserved and feminine because ‘boys are watching’. It’s told from the point-of-view of the eight-year-old boy who is crushed when the girl gives up her tomboy ways.”

It’s a sweet song, with a simple but catchy piano-driven melody, punctuated in the choruses with quirky synth sounds that create an endearing vibe. Marc’s low-key vocals are smooth and pleasing as he croons the lyrics from the perspective of an eight-year-old boy now disappointed that the eleven-year-old tomboy he had fun with has changed, and not for the better in his opinion:

Muddy knees and a bloody lip the day she turned self-sabotaging, 
A well-meaning grandmother pulled her aside and said, “Girl, don’t you know boys are watching?”
She was tough and she was cool,
And she wasn’t afraid to make noise.
Before the makeup, before the hair,
Before the laborious ploys.
Before, before, before the boys.

“Before the Boys” will be available on all streaming services by the end of the month.

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“Spitfire Pete” by The Metal Byrds

The Metal Byrds are a female-fronted rock band based in Austin, Texas, who play a hard-hitting style of rock infused with healthy doses of rock’n’roll and power pop, along with enough metal in the mix to give their songs a dark, edgy quality. Formed in 2018, the band consists of London-born singer-songwriter Suzanne Birdie, as well as guitarist Sly Rye, bassist Kevin Kurts and drummer Alex Romanov. Over the past two years, they’ve released three EPs – The Song Byrd in April 2019, Byrds on a Wyre in June 2020, followed by Life in 20 in October, which I reviewed. On April 4th, they dropped “Spitfire Pete“, the first single from their forthcoming album 4, due for release later this year. The song is dedicated to an autistic boy from Lincolnshire, England named Pete, who’s a big fan of the band and rock’n’roll. 

With blazing riffs and driving rhythms that would make AC/DC proud, The Metal Byrds fully engage their sonic weaponry to create a rousing rock song befitting the vintage film footage of British fighter pilots flying their Supermarine Spitfire aircraft during World War II and waging air fights against the Germans at the Battle of Britain. Sly Rye shreds the airwaves with fiery riffs and wailing distortion, while Kevin and Alex keep the pummeling rhythms moving forward at full throttle. Suzanne’s powerhouse aggressive vocals rise to the occasion as she fervently wails “All guns blazing, all night long. Pulling the trigger. Pulling the trigger and dropping the bomb. Spitfire Pete, whoa-oh. Never retreat, he’ll make a stand.” It’s a kickass banger!

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