LOST IN THE CITY – Album Review: “Leaving Home”

Lost in the City Leaving Home art

More than two years ago, in June 2016, Kansas City, Missouri alternative rock band Lost in the City released their superb debut album Genesis. It’s a monumental work, with powerful, thoughtfully-written lyrics addressing the familiar subjects of love, relationships and break-ups, but also the travails of touring, anxiety and depression, delivered with blistering guitar riffs, thunderous drums and passionate vocals. (You can read my review of Genesis here.)  Later that year, in the fall of 2016, they began writing songs for their new album Leaving Home, which drops today, October 12. Two years in the making, Leaving Home reflects the band’s growth and maturity, and the many life changes individual band members experienced, including graduating from college, changing jobs, relationships, and literally leaving home by moving out of their parents’ house for the first time.

Lost in the City band pic

Lost in the City is Shane Radford (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Keys, Synths), Dustin Proctor (Guitar), Cullan Wiley (Bass) and Kyle Constant (Drums).  For Leaving Home, Bret Liber, who’s also a musician in his own right, with the rock band Young Medicine, played keyboards in addition to recording, mixing and mastering the album tracks.

The album opens with “The Battle of Schrute Farms,” arriving in a barrage of raging guitars, humming bass and hammering drumbeats. Shane is joined by Jordan Rebman on vocals, and together, they’re an emotional powerhouse as they belt out the biting lyrics about cowardice in a relationship: “I’m forgetting the way you play, but I don’t regret anything. You’ll move on and so will the sun. Just take me for granted. Despite your efforts, you can’t take this from me.” At least that’s my take on it after Googling the song’s title, and finding this definition: “Thought by many to be the Northernmost battle of the American Civil War, The Battle of Schrute farms was instead a code name for the refuge for cowards escaping the the drudgery and conflict of war.”

From the Floor of an Attic in Portland” is an interesting song, with unusual chord progressions and instrumentation. Loud, fuzzy guitars, buzzing bass, piercing synths and complex percussion are dominant musical elements on this arresting track. Shane almost screams the hopeful lyrics “Tonight is the night to save a life. And I do believe that we all can change.” The soaring vocal harmonies in the chorus are wonderful, and I love the delicate piano riff in the outro.

As I continue listening to the album, one of the things that stands out is the sheer power and exuberance of the song arrangements, instrumentals and vocals. “Daylight” essentially captures the essence of the album – that embracing the inevitable changes that come our way is the key to surviving this thing called life.  The jagged guitar riffs and thunderous percussion are a perfect match for the uplifting lyrics: “The biggest decisions, I’ve made without a plan. Growth is the key to finding your purpose. I feel like I’m wandering away from old notions. / Everything looks better in the daylight. I’m taking time to forget what I’m seeing. My life’s been changing for some time now.”  The heartwarming video shows intimate scenes of the band just being themselves, playing, rehearsing and performing.

You Stopped This Train” is a hard-hitting melodic rock song about someone who’s chosen to abandon a relationship the singer believed was strong and lasting. Musically, the track features Shane and Dustin’s gritty, shredded guitars and Kyle’s furious drums, all anchored by Cullan’s powerful bass. The screaming guitars at the end of the track are fantastic, and perfectly convey the pain Shane expresses in his wailing vocals “You stopped this train when everything was going great. You walked away as you let it all fall apart.

With a barrage of jagged riffs and sweeping piano-driven synths, “Bangarang!” seems to call out the futility of war and conflict: “The tales of war aren’t exaggerated. The infighting ranks fall away./ Revenge should be used in no situation. It brings no change, just cold isolation.” The raucous “Into the Dark” features tortured riffs of gritty, distorted guitars and industrial-strength drums pounding out an exhilarating beat. Shane fervently sings of an optimistic light at the end of the tunnel: “No matter the changes, we’ll push through. Lifting our heads as we move on by. We don’t have time to doubt. Time will tell if we made it.” This optimistic outlook continues with “The Light Inside My Head,” as Shane sings of moving forward and not letting past mistakes hold you back: “I’m taking time to take note of where I am. Progress is progress, no matter how hard. I’m holding my future in my own hands, Bright sides are a brand new cycle.

One of my favorite tracks is “Metro Apartments,” with its haunting melody and grandiose instrumentals. Bret Liber’s guest vocals nicely complement Shane’s, and I love their vocal harmonies in the chorus. The lush, sweeping synths, thunderous drums and shredded guitars are positively spine-tingling. “The Upside Down” is a 48-second long interlude with dramatic piano-driven synths, and Shane’s repeated line “I’m sorry I grew up. I’m sorry I failed.” The brief track serves as an intro to the final track “Monsters Are(n’t) Real Pt. 2,” which is actually a continuation of the final track on their first album Genesis, “Monsters Are(n’t) Real.”  It’s a very dark and hard-hitting song, with piercing, tortured synths, raging guitars and furious drums that seem to grab us by the throat. All the optimism expressed in many of the previous tracks has been replaced with a overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair, resulting from a realization that the world is in fact a very bad place, and our futures are bleak (sort of how I’m feeling under our current presidential administration and Congress).

The world is worse than I thought it would be.
Filled with hope, I ran to the sea.
A sea of wanderers? Who could they be?
Filled with anger, who are we?

I’m sorry I grew up. I’m sorry I failed.
The monsters in our heads are so very real.
The doubts that fill us are the truth.
We’re just expendable pieces of youth.
War cries are louder than we need.
We take time to be free and see.

I’m sorry I grew up. I’m sorry I failed.
The monsters in our heads are so very real.
The sky is filled with dashed hopes and dreams.
“If you work hard, you’ll be whatever you want to be.”
We all know the truth as we march along.
We’re a piece of the puzzle, alone not strong.

It’s interesting that Lost in the City would choose to end their album on such a somber note. Nevertheless, Leaving Home is a brilliant and provocative work – a coming-of-age of sorts for this talented and thoughtful group of guys. Their songwriting and musicianship is outstanding, and I’m happy to watch them grow and mature as a band.

Connect with Lost in the City: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

LOUIE JAMES – Single Review: “Yellow Doors”

Louie James single

I recently stumbled upon a talented young singer/songwriter from Wakefield, England named Louie James, and was immediately struck by his fresh and honest take on folk rock. He started making a name for himself last year with the release of two stellar singles “Different World” and “Tonight,” and has now returned to grace our eardrums with his heartwarming new single “Yellow Doors.”

The track opens with a tender acoustic guitar riff that quickly drew me in, and once Louie’s soothing vocals entered I was totally hooked. It always amazes me when such a simple guitar riff can have the ability to move us so deeply. Louie’s earnest vocals have a breathy quality that’s pleasing and calming, yet at the same time so powerful. The recurring deep piano chord and whistled chorus are especially nice, adding lovely textures to the track.

The song lyrics speak to his feelings for his new love and how she’s made his life better.  “We’re chasing yellow doors, dreaming of the days. Keeping track the score of when our dark times slipped away. Before she came along, there was a shadow in my life. And I’m glad she stuck around. Made something right.” Take a listen to this beautiful song:

Connect with Louie:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

BRAVE YOU – Album Review: “Places”

Brave You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECOND PLAYER SCORE – Album Review: “Nobody’s Hero”

Second Player Score is one of those rock bands whose music gets better with each listen. When I first played their album Nobody’s Hero I thought “This is pretty good, with some terrific riffs and bass lines.” But as I listened for a second, third and fourth time, I discovered more surprises like nuanced chord change-ups, riffs that aren’t just terrific, but freaking amazing, and percussion that’s perfectly in sync with the melodies, bass and guitars. Throw in the compelling lyrics and you get an idea of how good Second Player Score’s music is.

Based in Vancouver, Washington, a medium-sized city across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, Second Player Score consists of Brian Tashima (guitar, lead vocals), Daniel Downs (bass, backing vocals) and Kyle Gilbert (drums/backing vocals).  They play hard-driving, melodic rock/pop/punk influenced by 90s Green Day and Bad Religion, two of their favorite bands. They released a fine debut album Fortress Storm Attack in late 2014, and followed up with a sophomore effort Nobody’s Hero late last year.

Second Player Score

Nobody’s Hero, as described on the band’s website, “is a quasi-concept album in the spirit of Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son or Green Day’s American Idiot.” The album is quite an ambitious effort, and plays out like a rock opera. Specifically, Nobody’s Hero tells the Dungeons & Dragons-esque story of a man who’s granted magical powers by an evil spirit, and ends up abusing those powers until he realizes the error of his ways.

Tashima explains “Basically, this guy gets seduced by a female demon who gives him these special abilities, and initially, he tries to help people with them, but then he eventually succumbs to the temptation of using them for selfish and corrupt purposes. Having done that, he becomes worthy of being her consort and siring her child – a daughter who will grow up to continue the cycle. The demon then betrays and abandons him, leaving him for dead. He survives, though, and uses what’s left of his powers to stop her in the only way possible, which is to cause an apocalypse that wipes everyone out, including them. It’s like a Greek tragedy.”

Bonestorm“kicks the album off to a rousing start with Tashima’s scorching, rapid-fire riffs, as he emphatically sings: “I know you dream about me. Can’t stop, you never doubt me. Your heart the price of freedom. Your soul will keep on breathing. / I’m nobody’s hero, some day you will see.” Gilbert pounds his drums with abandon, and the screaming distorted guitars at end are awesome.

Shredded guitars and Downs’ thumping bass usher in the hard-driving “Deep.” Though hesitant to connect with the woman to avoid being hurt again, the man’s willpower is beginning to weaken: “I’m still afraid to get deep into someone. I can’t take the pain so I make myself numb.” In “Circles” he sings: “Running circles round my mind. It’s like I’m dreaming all the time. Nothing ever feels the same. And I know that you’re to blame.” The bass-heavy melody abruptly changes to a rapid flourish at song’s end, furious riffs and pummeling drums signaling a dramatic shift in the story.

By “Demon’s Kiss,” he’s fallen under her spell, believing she’s his salvation: “I’ve always hoped I would know the glory of your warm embrace. I couldn’t cope til you came to me and saved me from the chase. And now I’m sure that I’ll worship you until my dying day.” Cause you’re the cure for the ills that led me far astray.” The band’s signature riffs, hard-driving bass and hammering percussion are on full display here.

One of my favorite tracks from a musical standpoint is “Hooked,” a high-energy rock-n-roll gem from start to finish, and the title’s self-evident. Tashima coaxes blistering riffs from his guitar and you can literally feel the buzz of Downs’ bass in your core. Next up is “Interlude Fall From Grace,” a three-and-a-half minute long instrumental that provides a dramatic bridge from the man’s seduction to his turn toward the dark side.

The man realizes the full extent of his capabilities in “Origin Story.” He’s now invincible to threats from outside forces, but also drunk with power. Tashima wails “No one can hurt me now, as long as I have you inside my mind. It’s like I’ve died and been reborn. This permanent intoxication gives me the courage now to look for something more.”

On “Head of Sin” he confesses that he’s used his powers for evil and now deserves to be cursed to hell: “It’s all a mess, I’ve crossed the line. I only  want what’s rightly mine. And I don’t care much anymore. So shut up now, don’t say a word. Before your cries become absurd. You know I’ve heard it all before. Cause now the only way to go is down. To hell that’s where I will be found.” The instrumentals on this track are as intense as the lyrics, and the guitars and bass in the outro are killer, perfectly conveying the chaos his life has now become.

Another standout track is the tumultuous “Drink the Poison,” which has a definite Green Day vibe. The man realizes the woman is not what he thought she was, that she’s duplicitous: “So cry your phony tears, you’re so insincere that I forgive you. I’ll die before I let you make more regrets.” I love the frenetic hammering drums that accompany the line ‘Your lies go on and on and on and on and on.” On “Never Let Me Down” he confronts the demon that he knows she’s betrayed him and now she will pay. Tashima snarls “You broke all your promises, left me to drown like this.

The album closes with “Comets,” an epic seven-and-a-half minute tour-de-force that proves without a doubt that these guys are masters of their respective instruments. Tashima’s guitar skills are positively mind-blowing, offering up a dizzying array of layered riffs and extended solos. One minute he’s ripping his guitar to shreds, the next he’s playing a jangly melodic solo, and everything in between. Downs lays down bass lines so heavy they threaten to blow out the speakers, and Gilbert pounds his drum kit with all he’s got. It’s my absolute favorite track on the album. They once again channel Green Day; at various times within the track I hear the influence of songs like “Basket Case” and “Novocaine,” which is fine by me as I love Green Day. The song lyrics describe a variety of apocalyptic disasters the man is capable of unleashing on the world, including comets, earthquakes, hurricanes and nuclear war. It’s a dramatic end to a superb, monumental album.

Follow Second Player Score:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / SoundcloudReverbnation

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Bandcamp / cd baby

Album Review: MUDD – “Look What I Found in Your Mom’s Top Drawer”

MUDD is a young pop-punk rock band from Kingston, Ontario, Canada. And by ‘young’ I mean young! The three band members are all just 16 years old and still in high school. They are:  Seth Hunt on lead vocals & guitar, Reilly Clark on bass & backing vocals, and Devin Pierce on drums & backing vocals. And even at their young ages, the guys already have a long history with music. According to their bio, Seth has been playing guitar since he was seven, Reilly started playing bass at the age of ten, and Devin has hit the drums since the age of seven. They formed as the band MUDD in 2014, and released their first full-length self-produced album on Bandcamp this past February.

MUDD

They recently approached me about reviewing their album and, upon seeing its title – Look What I Found In Your Mom’s Top Drawer – I had to say yes! Besides, I was impressed by their earnest belief in themselves, plus the fact they produced their own album and put themselves out there. The album features nine zany tracks that incorporate elements of punk, pop and garage rock into a wild stew of fun and crazy tunes about girls, sex and teenage angst that one would expect from 16-year-olds. The tracks are unmastered, so have a raw, unfinished quality that makes them sound essentially like live recordings, and it’s clear the guys had a blast recording them.

On tracks like “Twitch,” “SOB,” the electronic “Interlude (Not Today TM),” “Going Nowhere Fast” and “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” the guys show off their skills on their respective instruments. Lots of shredded guitars and frantic drumming are on display, making for some real head bangers guaranteed to get the party started and keep the energy flowing at high speed. Their vocals are a bit weak, but I think that’s mostly due to their young age. Their voices haven’t yet fully developed, and will likely improve as they grow, both in age and experience.

Some of their lyrics are hilarious. On “Interlude (Not Today TM),” Seth sings “This unicorn fell upon me, as it raced toward me with its horn, driving it towards my anus. I clenched my anus as I blocked the horn and I said ‘Not today.’ And then, I took out my sword of Avalon once again…” On “Japananoque,” the guys seem to just be fooling around, laying down some frenetic riffs as they sing “The women are fine, the women are fine, the women are fine everywhere.  They are not greasy, they’re very pretty. Japananoque. Suck on my cockque.

The guys can get serious too. “Where Are You” speaks to missing a lost love after a broken relationship. “I toss and turn, thinking about you sleeping in my bed. Old memories return and pictures they burn, except for the evidence of you in my bed. Where are you, and why can’t I see clearly now?”

Track listing:

  1. Twitch
  2. No Looking Back
  3. Where Are You?
  4. SOB
  5. Interlude (Not Today TM)
  6. Punk Rock Chick
  7. Going Nowhere Fast
  8. I Don’t Wanna Go Home
  9. Japananoque

https://mudd3.bandcamp.com/album/look-what-i-found-in-your-moms-top-drawer

MUDD’s songs are only available on Bandcamp at this time, and they don’t yet have any YouTube videos.  They’re currently in the process of recording a new EP with the provocative title No Peeing In The Pool. It should be another head banger! Connect with MUDD on Facebook and stream or download their EP on Bandcamp.