THE 86 SPECIAL – Single Review: “Dancing By The Moonlight”

From the ashes of what was the beloved West Sussex alternative rock band Third Time Luckie rises a new band The 86 Special. Calling their sound “modern day pop rock accompanied by 80s synth & stadium rock”, they aim to tickle our earbuds with music that’s retro, yet fresh, and always exciting. The 86 Special is made up of two former Third Time Luckie members Chris Horner (bass & lead vocals) and Carl Swietlik (drums), as well as Matt Dawe (rhythm guitar & vocals), Dom Parris (lead guitar & vocals) and Jake Rae (synth & keys). The band is so new that they don’t have any official photos yet.

They’ve just recorded their first song “Dancing By The Moonlight“, along with a promotional lyric video. It’s upbeat, catchy and fun, with a retro 80s blend of pop, rock and post-punk grooves that call to my mind some of the songs from bands like The Go-Go’s, Huey Lewis & the News and The Cars. The guys serve up a mix of jangly and fuzz-coated guitars, humming bass and snappy drumbeats, creating an exuberant, head-bopping song that’ll have even the worst wallflower heading straight for the dance floor. I especially love Jake’s lively piano keys that are liberally sprinkled throughout the track. Chris’s pleasing vocals are perfect for the song, and nicely accompanied by Matt and Dom’s backing harmonies. Great job all around guys!

The song is scheduled for release on May 18 for streaming and download on all major music platforms.

 

New Song of the Week – AIRPORT IMPRESSIONS: “Why Are We Here?”

Airport Impressions

I’ve written previously about the tremendous amount of great music being produced these days, and though I make an effort to try and keep up, a lot of it slips beneath my radar. Fortunately, I saw a tweet yesterday by my Sheffield, England Twitter friend John Oxley about the new single “Why Are We Here” by alt-rock band Airport Impressions, and immediately liked it so much that I decided to make it my New Song of the Week. I was also a little embarrassed to discover that Airport Impressions and I already follow each other on Twitter, but I’d somehow neglected to check out their music. My bad, because they’re fantastic!

Hailing from Malta, they’re the first artists from that Mediterranean island nation I’ve featured on this blog. They’re also undeniably one of the most successful acts to emerge from Malta. Drawing from elements of rock, pop and folk, their music is incredibly melodic and beautiful, reminiscent of such bands as The Killers, U2, Kings of Leon, and Mumford and Sons. Like many a band, they’ve undergone changes in lineup since forming in 2008, and now founding member Errol Sammut (guitar, lead vocals) is the only original remaining member. In the past two years, Daniel Genius (bass, backing vocals), Ryan Magro (lead guitar) and and Daryl Curmi (drums, percussion) have all joined the band to replace the former members who left.

Airport Impressions 2

Under their previous lineup, Airport Impressions released two outstanding albums, Minutes of a Lifetime in 2010 and Mariette in 2014. They’re both overflowing with gorgeous songs, and I strongly urge my readers to check them out on one of the music streaming platforms listed at the end of this post. Since the new members came on board, the band has released a number of terrific singles, the latest of which is “Why Are We Here?”, which dropped February 28.

The song has a darker feel than most of their music, with ominous industrial synths and a deep, throbbing bass line forming a dramatic foundation for the phenomenal guitar work and smashing drums. The piano and moody organ keyboards add texture and tension to the track, and I love the gnarly guitar solo in the bridge. Sammut’s vocals are fantastic, starting off with a vulnerable croon that sounds a bit like Bono, then erupting into impassioned wails in the chorus, backed by haunting echoed vocals. It’s a magnificent track.

The lyrics could be open to a rather broad interpretation, but to me they seem to speak to the eternal question of the reason for man’s existence – namely, what is the meaning of life, and what is our purpose on this earth? The lines “Can you hear my cries in the pouring rain? Can you walk the walk? Can you hear my call? Can you see me crawl?” are a plea to be noticed, to feel significant, to feel that our existence is worthwhile, especially to those around us.

To learn more about Airport Impressions, check out their Website

Connect with them on FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicYouTube
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

New Song of the Week – YARD OF BLONDES: “Lowland”

Yard of Blonds LOWLAND

Yard of Blondes is a French alternative rock band now based in Los Angeles. They started out as a folk pop act made up of singer/songwriter and guitarist/vocalist Vincent Walter Jacob and bassist/vocalist Fanny Hill, and after relocating to L.A., they expanded the band lineup with the addition of guitarist Burak Yerebakan and drummer Forrest Mitchell. They were featured on the 2016 compilation I love you all the time, along with Eagles Of Death Metal, Florence & The Machine, Kings Of Leon, Jimmy Eat World and many more. All the proceeds were given to the victims of the Paris attacks.

I featured Yard of Blondes last July (2019) when I reviewed their marvelously upbeat bilingual single “Je veux danser tout l’été”, along with two other alternative versions, a remix by French superstar DJ and producer Joachim Garraud, and a grungy home demo. The remix was produced in Garraud’s 100% solar-powered RV turned into a recording studio, in the middle of the Mojave desert which is documented in the music video for the song. Since then, they’ve been writing and recording new music for their first full-length album Feed the Moon, due for release later this year. The album was produced by Billy Graziadei (Biohazard, Powerflo), mixed by Michael Patterson (Nine Inch Nails, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) and mastered by Maor Applebaum (Faith No More).

On November 1, 2019 they released the first single “You and I & I” from the forthcoming album, and returned on Valentine’s Day with a second single “Lowland“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The single is accompanied by the release of a wonderful video produced by Fanny and Vincent, featuring footage filmed at LAX and Disneyland on their phones. About the song, Vincent explains “‘Lowland’ depicts the dark place we always go to when we are distressed. It’s the place where all our monsters live. In the song I feel I’m going back to that dark place, but this time you’ll accompany me to get out of here, just like Orpheus going to get Eurydice from death, except here the roles are reversed because Fanny is the one who is pulling me out from inside.”

The song features chugging riffs of exuberant layered guitars, propelled by hard-driving rhythms. Vincent and Burak’s guitar work is superb, and Forrest’s drums are spot-on, assertive yet restrained where needed. Fanny lays down a solid bass line while lending her soft backing vocals to the mix. Vincent’s beautiful, plaintive vocals convey a strong sense of vulnerability as he pleads for emotional support. Everything explodes in the bridge into a maelstrom of blistering riffs and thunderous percussion, Vincent’s raw, impassioned vocals rising to the occasion, and covering me with chills. It’s a fantastic, exhilarating track.

I got a one way ticket going back to Lowland
Keep me awake before I fall into the quicksand
Every plane I take
Every train I ride
Finally always lead me to that same old place

You take my hand
Sing a lullaby
Light the fireflies
Light the fireflies

I’m on my very own land I know every corner
I know exactly where is hiding the coroner
The tiger is here
Beside the lake of tears
I know exactly though the sun never rises

You take my hand
Sing a lullaby
Light the fireflies
Light the fireflies

Drifted eyes in fear
Scary palms shaking
All around

You take my hand
Sing a lullaby
And light the fireflies
Light the fire
You make me feel alive
Pull me out from inside
Your eyes are like a lighthouse
As you feed the moon I cry

Connect with Yard of Blondes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play / Amazon

CAYLEY THOMAS – Single Review: “Blue Jean Baby”

Cayley Thomas 2

Cayley Thomas is a singer-songwriter and guitarist born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and now based in Toronto. With a beguiling singing voice and talent for writing songs with arresting melodies and compelling, heartfelt lyrics, she’s been recording some very fine music for the past several years, beginning with her debut EP Ash Mountains in 2013. She followed up in 2016 with the excellent album Weird Love, then dropped an enchanting single “Midnight Hours” in November 2019. She’s now back with a great new single “Blue Jean Baby“, which along with “Midnight Hours” will be included on her forthcoming album How Else Can I Tell You?, due for release on May 1.

About the song, Thomas explains “‘Blue Jean Baby’ explores the pattern of feeling responsible for the emotions or actions of others at the expense of our own wellness. It’s like when you’re on an airplane and they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting other passengers. The accompanying video takes a sobering look at this. I think we can become preoccupied trying to do someone else’s work for them as a means to avoid our own self reflection.

Musically, the song has a languid, doo wop beat, and features a rich mix of instruments that produce an interesting and pleasing soundscape for Thomas’ sublime vocals. She plays the subtle organ work on the track, and has the assistance of several other talented musicians, including Connor Snell (who plays her boyfriend in the video) and Josh Beatty on guitars, Ben Whiteley on the terrific bass, Robin Claxton on drums, James Hill on synth, and Naman Cale adding an enchanting musical element to the song with his marvelous vibraphone.  Josh Eygenraam and Aaron Parker provide the cool sci-fi sound effects that arrive at the end like an alien spaceship.

eyes closed against the passenger window
everything in slow motion
barefoot high heels in hand
and i’m stumbling home to him

my blue jean baby
don’t worry baby
a love like yours will do me in

tv static and hazy
a dreamer of pictures and moonlight
everyone knows that you’re headline news baby
but stumble back home to me

my blue jean baby
don’t worry baby
a love like yours will do me in

The brilliant video, which stars Thomas and curly-haired musician Connor Snell as her too-cute-for-his-own-good boyfriend, along with a number of her Edmonton friends, was also produced and directed by Thomas, and edited by Thomas and Ryan Gullen. It shows Thomas and Snell at a party with friends, where everyone’s drinking and having a good time – with a few of the guys, including Snell, drinking too much. The mood changes as Thomas and her girlfriends become sullen, staring coldly at their boyfriends who are getting increasingly drunk. Eventually, Snell passes out, and she now has to be the adult and carry him home and put him to bed. Disgusted, she goes out into the cold night and ponders her situation before going back inside. After the credits, she and Snell are shown sitting at the breakfast table the next morning, him trying to eat some breakfast while she quietly writes in her journal and avoids looking at him. Watch the video:

Follow Cayley:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream her music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

VOX EAGLE – Single Premier: “Can’t Stop”

Regular readers of this blog know I write about a lot of indie artists and bands, as one of the things that drives me is wanting to support them in what little way I can. One of my absolute favorites – both from a musical and personal standpoint – is VoxEagle. Essentially the music project of Australian-born and now Colorado-based singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Crosby, VoxEagle first burst onto the music scene in the beginning of 2017 with the release of the electro-pop single “No Sleep”. The terrific song has been streamed over 279,000 times on Spotify. He then followed up with a second single “Come Over”, both of which were featured on his debut EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1., released in July 2017. I loved both songs so much they ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2017 list.

Also in 2017, Andy and his wife relocated from bustling Manhattan to the bucolic solitude of Evergreen, Colorado, high in the Colorado Rockies west of Denver. There, he built his own recording studio, which he dubbed “The Eagles Nest”, and set to work on his first full album, the brilliant genre-bending TriumAvium, which was released in October 2018. You can read my album review and interview with Andy here. One of the tracks on the album titled “Wander” went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 this past February.

Now he returns with a wonderful new single “Can’t Stop“, which I’m thrilled to premier today. The song officially drops on December 16 on all major digital music sites, some of which are included at the end of this post. “Can’t Stop” has a soulful dance pop vibe, and captures the infectious energy we first encountered on “No Sleep.”

VoxEagle Studio 2

That energy is the essence of VoxEagle’s unique, yet eclectic, sound. In our interview, he told me “VoxEagle is a musical energy; I hate to call it a band or whatnot. It’s vibe I suppose is with me at the helm, [though] the whole idea of VoxEagle in the beginning was to collaborate with various artists.” He added that his main overriding objective in making music is that “It’s just gotta have big melodies and be real energetic.

The track opens with spacey, almost seductive synths that quickly expand like a giant flower unfolding its petals into a beautiful explosion of sound and color. Starting with a deep, thumping bassline as a foundation, VoxEagle layers a rich palette of sparkling, dreamy synths, guitar, and percussion, including what sound like bongo drums, to create an exuberant groove that just makes you feel good. He has a fine, casual singing voice, and I like when he freestyles some of the lyrics. It all builds to an exhilarating crescendo before fading out with those spacey synths and pulsating bass. I love it!

Although “Can’t Stop” was written prior to the occurrence of a personal tragedy Andy recently experienced with the death of his best friend of 30 years, it really hits home for him, serving as a sort of anthem for his philosophy about life and his music career. He became so despondent over his friend’s death that he actually considered throwing in the towel on making music. Thankfully, he came around to realizing it would be impossible for him to stop, as making music is the one thing that keeps him sane at the end of the day – a sentiment I and many others I know can strongly identify with.

Those feelings are perfectly expressed in the lines “Every time I get the hook wrong, I stay back all night just to fix it cuz we can’t stop until we catch the feeling. All I know is that we’ve come too far. Too far to turn back now. Can’t stop these feet when they start moving, no.” I hope VoxEagle never stops making songs for us to enjoy.

Connect with Vox Eagle:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunesGoogle Play

PETER KLEINHANS Releases New Video for “Something’s Not Right”

Something's Not Right cover

Peter Kleinhans is a New York-based singer-songwriter who, after spending 30 years as a professional harness horse racer and announcer, decided to turn his love of music into writing and recording songs. His music is a pleasing mix of pop, folk and rock, with thoughtful lyrics and catchy melodies. He doesn’t have a particularly strong singing voice, but his distinctive vocals are warm and comforting. In February 2018 he released his debut album Something’s Not Right to critical acclaim. LA Music Critic hailed it “one of the best debut albums we have reviewed“, while Neufutur Magazine called it “an album that blends together Dave Matthews with the protest tradition of performers like Neil Young and Phil Ochs.”

Last October, Peter wrote a fascinating guest article for this blog about his song “91st Street”, which you can read here. Now I’m happy to feature him again for the release of his brilliant and compelling new video for the title track from his album “Something’s Not Right“. The song speaks to the general sense of uncertainty and unease that many Americans seem to be feeling about their country and their own future, while still trying to remain optimistic and grateful for what’s good. His video, produced by Peter and directed by filmmaker Harrison Kraft, brings his powerful lyrics to life with an entertaining, yet at times troubling, narrative. Peter explains his inspiration behind the song, as well as the making of the video.

“Something’s Not Right” was one of my first songs, and ended up being the title of my first album. I wrote it in 2013, and it reflected the sense of unease I was getting from many of the previously-comfortable friends I had made during my years of announcing horse races in Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. I’d taken the couple of years beforehand trying to understand the forces underlying the economy, and became convinced that although the economy was officially ‘in recovery,’ things were not improving for average Americans. This was confirmed for me by the universal sense I was receiving from everyone I knew that there was a deep unease and lack of security brewing from a thinning sense of stability and sustainability.

This song was written three years before the election — it’s not a political song. What interested me was that feeling of unease, the sense of something-not-being-right, and how it emanated not just from economic forces but also from the impersonal face of what the nation was presenting its citizens. The song begins by invoking Applebee’s and Lowe’s as the workplaces of the protagonist, and ends with a desperate appeal to Walmart as the only viable destination for the drive he takes (ostensibly to escape the mundanity of his experience) in the middle of the night.

I am very happy and lucky to have connected with Harrison Kraft and his brilliant and young set of filmmakers, who completely got the idea and brought it to life in this music video. They used the conceit of a July 4 celebration — a party that has lost its true feeling of celebration, and even the reason for celebrating — to convey this overall all-consuming sense of disillusion. It was Kraft’s vision to use mannequins to convey characters playing their roles in life but without really ‘being there’. The protagonist’s girlfriend oscillates from real to a simulation and so do many of the background characters. Reality starts to take on a disturbing turn in a number of ways: the hand flipping the burger suddenly turns to plastic, the son’s firecracker goes the opposite way- it’s supposed to be fake, but it becomes a real explosive. These ideas were all in the hands of the video production team; I’d discussed what I thought the central themes of the song were, and then I gave them free rein to take it wherever they wanted to go. They took the ball and ran with it, and I’m thrilled with the result. Sometimes you have to know when to give up control, but you’ve really got to have trust in your team when you’re doing that. I hope you enjoy the result, and be on the lookout for more music videos forthcoming from Harrison Kraft and his team!”

Peter Kleinhans – Something’s Not Right from Harrison Kraft on Vimeo.

Peter is currently finishing up his second album, due for release in early 2020. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Facebook /  Twitter  / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunesGoogle Play

ISAAC GRINSDALE – EP Review: “Entertainment”

Isaac Grinsdale EP Art

I recently learned about British singer-songwriter Isaac Grinsdale when he reached out to me about his new EP Entertainment. I’m so glad he did, because it’s a terrific work. Inspired by such artists as Jimmy Eat World, Radiohead, Placebo, Frank Turner and American Football, the Leeds-based musician writes songs with thoughtful, compelling lyrics and unconventional, yet enthralling melodies. Isaac learned to play the guitar in his early teens, and got heavily into hard rock music, which led him to play in several rock and hardcore bands. Now a bit older and wiser, he’s transitioned into making more introspective, singer-songwriter acoustic-driven music, which has culminated in the release of his debut EP Entertainment.

About his new music direction, Isaac explains “I was really inspired by the ethos of the band Refused: That as musicians we should be playing at the edge of our ability, and pushing the boundaries of our music at all times. Otherwise, we’re not playing the kind of music we should be. It’s always stuck with me and frames how I write.”  Entertainment provides ample evidence that he was right to follow his instincts, as all four tracks are beautifully-crafted and deeply honest. A skilled multi-instrumentalist, Isaac played all the instruments himself, and even produced and mixed the recordings.

Isaac Grinsdale performing

The first track “The Blind Leading the Blind” was also one of the first songs Isaac wrote and recorded. It’s a lovely tune, with a peppy guitar-driven melody that belies the withering lyrics that speak to the divisive rhetoric and false promises of our political leaders. In an interview with the webzine imPRESSED, Isaac stated that the song “is basically about growing up and realising the world we live in is fucked up – completely removed from what I was taught as a child.” His intricate strummed and chiming guitar work is exquisite, and all the supporting instruments are perfectly balanced, providing a strong, albeit understated soundscape that allows the guitars and Isaac’s clear, earnest vocals to shine.

They’re words that I have heard since a child
I hear them now: ‘I promise change!’
I once had no reason to doubt
Oh how strange it all seems looking back

Because now…

The suits fail to hide the Facade
And their words fail in their intended charm
And it all sounds so bizarre
Like a lexicon based on Orwell’s Newspeak

They are words that I have heard since a child
I hear them now again
But here where the blind lead the blind
It will all fall on deaf ears, that’s all they’ll find

In the great deception, our language will strip us, and the world, of any sense of the plural. Now we’re left to speak in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’

Inspired by a book by author Guy Debord: The Society of the Spectacle, the title track “Entertainment” is about how music, or any other art form for that matter, can provide a small counterbalance or escape to the depressing political bullshit touched on in the first track. Isaac based the cover art for his EP on the book’s cover art of the book, which he explained “captures perfectly the idea that we tend to look at the world through a distorted lens/framework.” The song has a rather interesting and unconventional, but pleasing melody that to my ears has a late-90s vibe reminiscent of artists of that period like Duncan Sheik and the Goo Goo Dolls.

Nullius in Verba” is my favorite of the four tracks, not only because of it’s hauntingly beautiful melody and sublime instrumentation, but also the message of the song, which I strongly identify and agree with. The title is Latin for “not in any words” – essentially “take nobody’s word for it”, and is also the motto of the Royal Society, the British national academy of sciences. Isaac touched on the song’s meaning in his imPRESSED interview: “[It’s] about the importance of science, and rational thinking, slowly creating a more progressive and liberal culture from our draconian past. I had a very religious upbringing, but as a late teenager, I started to discover a lot more about how science, over time, has largely overturned our ideas from our past. One example that springs to mind is that human beings have evolved, rather than being created by a supreme being. For me, these are some of our greatest achievements.” Isaac urges us to view things through open eyes and an open mind: “Take a close look at all the terms we lay down. To look at this as objectively as we can. Just not in words, just not in opinion. No don’t you tell God what to do with his days.”

The first thing that came to my mind when hearing the fourth track “Speed of Film” was Joni Mitchell, arguably one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time. Isaac’s unusual chord progressions and guitar notes call to mind many of Mitchell’s songs, and with his distinctive guitar-tapping technique, the song has a marvelous, fascinating sound. He explained that the song “is about how our memories make us into the people we are today. Lyrically, it’s packed with anecdotes of my friends and family: The great (and not so great) experiences we’ve had together.”

Entertainment is a wonderful debut effort by this skilled musician, who I admire not only for his impressive musical talents, but also for his unflinching stances on social and political issues. An interesting little side thing I noticed about the EP is that the four tracks are arranged such that each one is progressively longer than the one before. The first is 2:30 minutes long, while the last is 4:00 minutes. Isaac just finished recording his second record, an eight-track album titled Paper Crowns that he hopes to release in Spring of 2020, and I really look forward to hearing it. He’s supported acoustic greats such as Jon Gomm, Nick Harper and Beth Orton, and is now gearing up for a major UK Tour in support of his EP.

Follow Isaac:  Website / Facebook / Twitter 
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play / iTunes

MMIV – Single Review: “Room for Requirement”

MMIV 2

MMIV is a fairly new band from Leeds, England, comprised of Max Rawdon (vocals, guitar), Charlie Adshead (bass) and Jasper Exley (drums). They formed in mid 2018 when Charlie noticed some lo-fi tracks that Max had posted on the University of Leeds Band Society online pages, and reached out to him. The two immediately hit it off, and started working together on acoustic demos and performing as a duo at open mics around Leeds. They tried out a few drummers, eventually settling on Jasper, who had previously been in the local band Turn Stones with Charlie, and is also currently keyboardist for funk band Everyday People. For their debut single, they recorded one of Max’s original songs “Room for Requirement“, which was released on October 17.

In an interview with the webzine Lippy, Max said that “Room for Requirement” is “indebted” to his life at the university. Written during his first semester of first year, the song speaks to his period of transition coming from a small rural area to the overwhelming big city. The song celebrates the life of a student, even those times when it can all seem bewildering. You feel torn between missing the comforting familiarity of home, and the excitement of experiencing new things and meeting new people in a completely different environment. It’s against this backdrop that the roller coaster highs and lows of a budding romance can feel so intense.

The song has a pleasing lo-fi quality, with a catchy melody that slowly builds to a jubilant tempo in the chorus. Max lays down some very fine guitar work, letting loose with a terrific solo in the bridge. Charlie’s prominent bass line is particularly good, giving the track a solid depth, which is accentuated by Jasper’s lively drumbeats. Max’s low-key vocals are really nice, and being a sucker for British accents, I like how his shines through on this track. It’s a great debut from MMIV, and I look forward to hearing more from this promising band.

I just hope there’s nothing left required
And I’ve admired you from afar
I might lean my head above the island
And try to find it by a star
Do you feel like a bursting into life
Alright

Cause I don’t need nothing now, maybe a home
I think I’m better off dancing alone
Up down, turned around
Up down, turned around

All of the lights are shining very brightly
My head feels like it’s tingling slightly
The touch of your hand is enough to make me think it might be love again

Connect with MMIV:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Google Play

THUNDER FOX – Album Review: “Love at First Sniff”

Thunder Fox album art

Thunder Fox is a wickedly funny and talented group of guys from Sydney, Australia who’ve just put out a devilishly entertaining new album Love at First Sniff. It’s the most fun I’ve had listening to a record in a very long while, and the title is apropos, as it was definitely ‘love at first sniff’ for me! As EclecticMusicLover, I always enjoy when artists and bands mix things up genre-wise, and this band does it better than almost anyone, tossing in generous helpings of funk, blues rock, soul, hip hop, jazz and pop into their delectable music stew. In their own words, they serve “gooey hot horntastic shreddage, the best sauce for your ears ‘n eyes, causing sonic copulation worldwide.” Indeed they do! Their music is fun and bawdy, yet with a sexy sophistication that makes it incredibly appealing. It’s like Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Prince, Nick Jonas and Anderson .Paak all joined forces in one gigantic, over-the-top jam session!

Thunder Fox

Making all this saucy music mayhem are Sam “Sewad” Dawes (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Sam “Gnars” Frank (Lead Guitar/Vocals), Connor “Ronnoc” McCool (Bass), Max “Mecks” Vallentine (Drums), Travers “Full Travers” Keirle (Smooth Sax/Vocals/Rhymes) and Jesse “Jizze” Tachibana (Trumpet/Vocals/Synths). They’ve been prolific in their music output, releasing quite a lot of it over the past five years. From what I can tell, the first music they released was their very respectable six-track EP Cosmic Pudding in early 2015. They followed up with a few singles and dropped their second EP Mother Machine in December 2016, a great collection of songs including the brilliant “Vanilla Chinchilla”. More singles followed in 2018 and 2019, culminating in the release of their first full-length album Love at First Sniff on Halloween, which I have the distinct pleasure of reviewing today.

About the album, the band states: “The record muses on subject matter with a discernible sense of growth and progression while stretching across a canyon of mixed emotion surrounding love, existentialism and everything in between.” Lead singer Sam Dawes adds: “In our fast-paced, modernity-obsessed society, it has become apparent that some cornerstones of humanity, such as love, can alter on their surface yet remain unshaken at their core. ‘Love At First Sniff’ (and ‘Been Busy’ from it) is an elegy to and an observation of human connection and love in a world shaped by excess.”

Thunder Fox 2

Excess is the byword here, and more is most definitely better! The album opens with the title track “Love at First Sniff“, a rather sultry-sounding intro piece with ominously spoken lyrics and sparse, almost spooky instrumentals. The track ends with sounds of someone sniffing, our first clue that this isn’t going to be just any old conventional record. Thunder Fox then launches headlong into “WTF is This“, and we’re off on a phantasmagorical sonic adventure. Tachibana’s exuberant blaring trumpet is the highlight here, driving the track forward while a stop-start guitar riff provides the melodic substructure. Dawes’ colorful, silky vocals are an absolute delight to my ears as he croons “Be careful what you put in your mouth though. But that’s not just style, now is it sweetie pie? Oh yeah, I said it, and you didn’t think I would. But you did it, and you lied, and I didn’t think you could. /What the fuck is this? You got some nerve! But when you block my ears with those legs, it’s the warmest sound, yes I’ve ever heard.

As the song progresses, Dawes breaks into some brief high-speed rapping, then halfway through, the tempo changes to a languid, sultry groove. Horns and sax still blaring, our ears are now bathed by intricate funky guitars, wobbly bass and psychedelic synths as Dawes’ vocals turn seductive. It’s like the song has two completely different parts, with so much going on musically that I find it difficult to fully articulate all that I’m hearing. It’s really a phenomenal song, and I’m already blown away by this band’s astonishing musicianship.

Next up is “Been Busy” the second single from the album, and my first introduction to Thunder Fox. The song is a catchy as fuck earworm, with an upbeat, head-bopping tempo and more of those wonderful exuberant horns. Once again, the guys employ several melodic change-ups throughout the song, keeping us in a continual state of surprise. An interesting aspect of the song is that it starts off with the chorus “Ooh, I’ve been busy, not helping my health, but helping myself.” Dawes croons about having as much sex as possible to get over his pain: “When your heart is broken, only one thing left to do. Open up your kitchen, start taking those orders baby.”

As great as the song is, the hilarious video’s even better! Thunder Fox are definitely not afraid to put themselves out there. Wearing very suggestive wrestling singlets and white crew socks, the guys dance around against a number of spacey backdrops. Eventually, they spar with, and are ultimately vanquished by, the opposing team dressed in red singlets. How can you not love these guys?

On “Hot Tub“, the guys really channel their inner James Brown and Prince, with more soulful, funked-up grooves than should be allowed in one song. Have I mentioned how much I love this band? Their guitar work is fantastic, and the bass, synths, horns, sax and percussion are all perfection, creating a dynamic, funk-drenched backdrop for Dawes’ gorgeous vocals. Their lyricism is wonderful, and here’s an example why I think that: “My brain is a trickle-down economy, temptation’s so damn bitch. Yeah, so many issues but tissues won’t fix it. There’s a cream for every itch./ My baby’s boiling, she should sit down. There’s a line she don’t need to cross. It’s me here sitting in a hot tub…

Squeedup Vol. 2” is a twisted one-minute-long answer to their 2018 single “Squeedup”, and the first of three transitional interludes featured on the album. It quickly segues into the sexy and soulful love song “Look at U“, for which the guys have produced one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen. It stars the two Sams (Dawes & Frank) as characters hooking up on a dinner-date, with other band members making cameo appearances, These guys are crazy! Dawes’ sultry vocals remind me of Nick Jonas, and no more so than on this track.

The guys keep delivering the funky grooves with the jazz-infused “Every Single Day“, and I’m starting to run out of superlatives to describe them and their music. Once again, I’m loving Tachibana’s trumpet and Keirle’s sax, and Vallentine’s drumming is particularly awesome here. And it goes without saying that Dawes’ always impressive vocal gymnastics really shine on this track. “#fuck” is a dark instrumental interlude consisting of a reverb-heavy guitar riff, industrial synths and a pummeling drumbeat. It’s an interesting segue into the dark and sultry “I’m Your Man“. This song also has a jazzy vibe, with vibrant horns and sax, and a slowly building tempo. Dawes’ vocals sound increasingly diabolical as he warns “I’m your mutherfuckin’ man, so don’t you make no other plans.”

Baby, I’m Famous” opens with one of the guys saying “We’re running out of tape“, then another yells “Shut the fuck up and play! Bitch“, at which point McCool’s very funky bass enters the picture, and soon joined by the rest of the band jamming their respective instruments. The song has a strong Prince vibe, with some terrific guitar licks and psychedelic-tinged synths. I love Keirle’s tasty sax riff in the bridge that pays homage to the Average White Band’s classic “Pick Up the Pieces”. “360p” is the third interlude track, starting off with what sounds like someone searching for a radio station, finally settling on one where Thunder Fox is jamming hard.

The album closes with the eight and a half minute-long gem “Feels So Good“, a slow and sexy love song. It’s a beautiful track, reminiscent of some of the great soul songs of the 70s by acts like Earth, Wind and Fire and The Originals. The guys play as an incredibly tight unit, delivering soulful grooves that transport us to a state where we ‘feel so good’. The song has a dramatic extended run that reminds me of the Isaac Hayes masterpieces “Walk on By” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, and of course, Dawes’ silky smooth vocals are perfection.

It’s a fitting end to a terrific album, which I cannot gush about nearly enough. I’m now a massive fan of Thunder Fox, and in a funk that I’m half a world away in Southern California, because I would love to see them perform live. Those of you fortunate enough to be living in eastern Australia can catch them at one of their upcoming shows:

Thunder Fox 2019 Tour Dates

Fri 22 Nov – The Basement, Canberra
Sat 23 Nov – Yah Yah’s, Melbourne
Sat 7 Dec – Cambridge Warehouse, Newcastle
Sun 8 Dec – North Gong Hotel, Wollongong (free entry)
Thu 12 Dec – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay (free entry)
Fri 13 Dec – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
Sat 14 Dec – Imperial Hotel, Sunshine Coast
Sat 21 Dec – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Follow Thunder Fox:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Deezer
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon / Google Play / iTunes

New Song of the Week – MARVIN DEE BAND: “Sweetlake City”

Until recently, I wasn’t aware that The Netherlands had such a thriving music scene. Last month, I featured Dutch indie rock band Morgendust on this blog, and am now pleased to introduce the Marvin Dee Band. With their pleasing folk rock sound, influenced by such acts as Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, Gavin DeGraw, Sting and John Mayer, they honestly sound like they could be from Nashville or Austin, rather than Rotterdam. Although it was released a few weeks ago, I’ve chosen their latest single “Sweetlake City” as my New Song of the Week.

The Marvin Dee Band has been through many changes since forming earlier in the decade. These changes were the inspiration for their new album, simply and appropriately titled Changes. This wrenching period of unrest continued for more than two years, during which the band parted ways with three band members while in the middle of recording the new album. The lineup now consists of front man and songwriter Marvin Dee (guitar & lead vocals), Quintijn Kuypers (bass, backing vocals), Cas Ronckers (keyboards, backing vocals), Karsten Klemm (electric guitar, backing vocals) and Jonas Nieuwenbroek (drums).

Marvin Dee Band 2

The album was written and produced by Marvin Dee, and released on October 6th only in physical form on CD and Vinyl. It will be released on all streaming services soon. In addition to their new lineup, the band went all out for the recording of the album.  Wanting a fuller, more sophisticated sound, they recruited Ben Rodenburg for horn arrangements, Myrthe van de Weetering for strings arrangements, and Age Kat for additional electric guitar. I’ve listened to Changes, and it’s a beauty. Each of the 11 outstanding tracks reveal a little bit of the band’s story, reflecting the turbulent times the band went through these past two years, and emerging stronger then ever before.

The fourth single from Changes, “Sweetlake City” speaks to chasing dreams while also being thankful for what you already have. The band explains the inspiration behind the track: “A few years ago, Marvin traveled to America for a short solo tour. There, he met with Susan Rogers, former engineer/producer for Prince and the Barenaked Ladies. Susan told him about the ‘slingshot’: that part of your life that feels like it’s holding you back, but what eventually will prove to be the driving force and motivation to make music, launching you forward to where you want to be. For Marvin, that slingshot is his ‘Sweetlake City’ of Zoetermeer – the place where he works five days a week to provide himself with a steady income, in the hopes of one day making a living from music.”

The song has a rousing Americana vibe, thanks to a stellar blend of rhythm, electric and Country-style guitars, accompanied by a vibrant mix of lively piano keys, exuberant horns and smashing drums. The instrumentals are all fantastic, each one of them standing out, yet perfectly balanced to create an exhilarating backdrop for Marvin’s commanding, heartfelt vocals. It’s a wonderful song.

You spend all day doing work that doesn’t pay enough
And you don’t even like enough
You want to get away from this Sweetlake City
We’re all drunk in the morning on dreams that you don’t even dare to tell
But in the light every evening it seems like they’re right there
We’re all hooked up on plans made by someone we hardly know at all
But it’s hard to get up in the morning when life drags you down

Show me how, well tell me now
Sing out loud, want to live a little more
You want to live a little more

Connect with Marvin Dee Band:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Deezer
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play