BEACH WEATHER – Single Review: “Homebody”

In the space of only six months, alternative pop-rock trio Beach Weather have become one of my favorite bands. I first learned about them last summer when I heard their song “Sex, Drugs, Etc.”, which I loved at first listen. Though the song was originally recorded in 2016, and included on their debut EP Chit Chat, it wasn’t released as a single back then, and largely went unnoticed. After releasing a second EP What a Drag, the band went on hiatus as the three members, Nick Santino, Reeve Powers, and Sean Silverman, relocated to different cities and began working on their own solo projects.

As luck would have it, they decided to reunite in late 2021, and began work on their forthcoming debut album Pineapple Sunrise, due for release on March 3rd. In the meantime, “Sex, Drugs, Etc.” went viral on TikTok in the summer of 2022, and started getting airplay on AltNation and many alternative radio stations. The song eventually went all the way to #1 on the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart. It’s also spent 20 weeks and counting on my own Weekly Top 30, three of them at #1, and ended up ranking at #3 on my 100 Best Songs of 2022 list.

They released “Unlovable” last August, their first new release in five years. They followed in November with the melancholy but beautiful “Trouble With This Bed”, which just entered the top 10 on my Weekly Top 30. Today they’re back with their latest single “Homebody“, and I love it aleady! It’s more upbeat than their two previous singles, with a sunny vibe and infectious toe-tapping groove. Like all their songs, though, the instrumentation, musicianship and production values are top-notch, particularly the breezy synths and lively percussion. And lead singer Nick Santino’s vocals have an earnest, yet casual quality that’s incredibly appealing. All four singles will be included on Pineapple Sunrise.

About the song, Santino told Substream Magazine: “Homebody is a song about being a homebody. That’s about it. Who wants to go out and see people you don’t really like when you could just have your own party for one, roll a joint, order some tacos and watch YouTube all night. We think people are really going to relate to this one. It’s one of our new favorites.”

Been a downer for a minute
Sunshine in my eyes
Got me blurry all the time
Primadonna in my feelings
Just a kick back kid in the low lights

Homebody
Just a homebody
Let me slide for a while
It’s my own party
Homebody
Just a homebody
Let me slide for a while
Slide for a while

I can take it I can leave it
Cause I’m already bored
And it’s seven in the morning
Burning messages I
Can’t remember if I
Forgot or I’m ignoring

These days
I been fading away
And I wanted to stay
Don’t keep calling me, calling me nah ah
These days
I can dream out the day
In a lavender haze
Don’t keep calling me, calling me nah ah

Beach Weather have also released a delightful video to accompany “Homebody”, directed by L.A.-based photographer and content creator Guadalupe Bustos. With a nod to the 60s, the video shows the guys cavorting around the house in vintage robes as they go about their day as homebodies.

Follow Beach Weather: TwitterInstagramFacebook 

Stream their music: SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudAmazon Music / YouTube

BURN THE LOUVRE – Album Review: “Silhouettes”

Burn The Louvre are a Canadian indie rock duo based in Hamilton, Ontario, and consisting of Jordan Speare (vocals, guitar, ukulele, drums & percussion) and Sean Cooper (guitar/vocals). I first featured them on this blog this past April, when I included one of their songs “Driving in the Rain” in a Fresh New Tracks post. I provided some background about how the act began as a duo consisting of Jordan and his brother Dylan, and released two EPs in 2014 and 2017, But by 2018, Burn the Louvre became Jordan’s solo project, at which time he began work on a full-length album Silhouettes with the help of his friend Andrew Billone, of indie rock band Silvertone Hills, on lead guitar and bass. The album was recorded, mixed & mastered by engineer/producer Mickey Ellsworth, who also played synthesizers and additional percussion, and sang backing vocals.

Rather serendipitously, after he and Mickey finished recording Silhouettes in late 2018, Jordan received an email from guitarist Sean Cooper, in response to an old “musicians wanted” ad he’d forgotten to take down. The two immediately hit it off, and began jamming together on the already-recorded songs. Jordan recalls “The way he was able to come up with his own unique leads to songs that were already recorded, giving them different nuances while maintaining the vibe of each song…I mean, I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad practice. I felt this was a perfect opportunity to re-imagine Burn The Louvre as a duo and I am very happy he wanted to be a part of this.”

Photo of Jordan and Sean by iamnenkan

In early 2022, they decided to finally release Silhouettes, initially as 11 separate singles at the rate of one song per month over a period of 11 months, beginning in January with “Wish We Were”. They ended with “Honolulu”, which dropped simultaneously with the full album on November 29th. The songs, all of which were written by Jordan, explore the emotional minefield of young romantic love and relationships with extensive, relatable lyrics, delivered in his laid-back conversational singing style, and accompanied by catchy melodies and fine guitar work. Burn the Louvre’s music style is hard to classify, but can best be described as a pleasing and eclectic blend of punk, pop, rock’n’roll, singer-songwriter and folk.

The title track “Silhouettes” is one of more melodically interesting, starting off with an energetically-strummed folk guitar that’s soon joined by a tasty bass groove. The song seems to end at around 1:46 minutes, then starts up again and continues for 30 seconds until it seems to end yet again, only to start back up at a slightly slower pace. Jordan has an interesting sing-song vocal style, with an offbeat sensual drawl that’s quite endearing. Here he emphatically croons the lyrics about a doomed love affair: “Silhouettes in the yellow moon. Fell a little too hard and they split in two. Raw, a little out of tune. Beautiful and broken, but try not to swoon. Oh you…was disinterested until I heard her say ‘So nice to finally meet you’. Autumn eyes and sweet perfume. My heart might’ve skipped just a beat or two. That little black dress and those ruby shoes. Okay…was all that I could say. I sense there’s heartache on the way.

On “Wish We Were“, Jordan wistfully sings of a simpler, more innocent time when he was younger and things didn’t seem so heavy and problematic: “Well sometimes, I wish that we were younger. Turn nineteen in the early summer, with nothing but blue skies and moonshine spilling outside on a Wednesday night. Alone in the dark, such a beautiful sight. If only sometimes. But if we’d met before. Would you still be knocking on my door if you lived down the street? Would you just want to be friends with me? I’m wishing I could have the time back that I borrowed. Yesterdays are overrated, show me the tomorrows.” I love the song’s upbeat bouncy groove and jangly guitars.

On the lovely ballad “Driving In The Rain”, Jordan sings of driving through a rainstorm to see his girlfriend, with whom he has a troubled relationship: “I’m 15 minutes out, the sky is darker than her hair. And all Beck’s “Modern Guilt” has got me way too self-aware. The weather’s getting worse, man it’s really coming down. It’s just the second verse, but I think I’m gunna drown. Conventional conversation is ringing in my ears. I want to kiss her in the rain, so I can’t see the tears.” And “Lost With You” has a retro early 60s “malt shop” vibe, with a fun rockabilly quality in the guitars.

One of my favorites is “Nice Guy“, a lively post-punk rocker that has Jordan lamenting about how his good manners seem to go unappreciated by a girl he likes: “Really think that you don’t like me. Well, I’m sorry if I’m just too polite. Really wish that I could be an asshole. Blame my Mum, she’s the one who raised me right. But I’m sick of being the nice guy. I’ll give you my coat when it’s cold outside. Yeah, I’m so sick of always being the nice guy. It’s a phase I still haven’t got over, I’ll try, yeah I’ll try.”

His clever songwriting is strongly evident on “Easy“, a song about how love and relationships could be easy and stress-free, but we often have a way of over-complicating things: “Well, it could all just be so easy. Uncomplicated, apparent, simple too. It could all just be so easy. I’m so easy, yeah but so are you. Open my mouth, make a fool of myself. Could almost hear her falling back in love with someone else. You’re my last cigarette, it’s too bad for my health. Your love is cancerous and I’m just trying to kill myself.” The jangly and shimmery guitar work is terrific, accompanied by nice bass groove and subtle keyboards and percussion.

Dumb” is a rousing rock’n’roll gem, with twangy guitars and a catchy, toe-tapping beat. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics speak of wishing his ex-girlfriend ill: “I’d rather see you under the sea than see those big green eyes staring back at me. I’ll give your best to your new boyfriend, and let him know that he won’t ever see your face again“, but then admitting his threats were meant in jest: “I’d never hurt you, honestly. I’d never hurt you purposely, You’re lucky I’m not as dumb as I thought I was.” And on the sweet jangle pop song “Hey Stacey“, he sings of how he loves and misses her: “Hey Stacey, is there something wrong? You know I’d do my very best to make it right. I really thought that you might like this song. It’s kinda dumb, but it’s the best I’ve got tonight./ Trying so hard not to blow it. But has anybody ever told you you’re beautiful, but you don’t even know it?

Alison” is another sweet tune, this time with a bit of a doo wop vibe and featuring added vocals by Stephanie Deshane. The poignant lyrics speak of two wounded souls, seeking a bit of love and solace in each other’s arms, even if only for a night: “And Alison, you know I’ve been struggling trying to put my life together. She laughs and says, ‘mine’s not much better’. But Alison, I want to thank you for listening. Now, she’s not likely to stay, but I know I won’t soon forget her.

The final track “Honolulu” is a deeply personal one for Jordan. He explains: “‘Honolulu” is a song I wrote for my first girlfriend Gillian for her birthday. We’d always joked about running away to Honolulu one day, so I wrote this song about the idea of doing just that. To be honest, I really wasn’t the best boyfriend, but I did some things right and this song is definitely one of them. After opening the album with ‘Silhouettes’, which is a song about the aftermath of our relationship from my perspective, I felt it was fitting to close the album with ‘Honolulu’, a song about when times were great.” Appropriately, the song opens with a Hawaiian ukulele riff, accompanied by subtle bass notes. Halfway into the track, the tempo ramps up to a jaunty, head-bopping groove, with a strummed guitar joining the ukulele and bass while Jordan croons “Well I can’t say, I’ve felt this way before. My heart is on fire, yeah. It’s not a holiday, this is a getaway. Gill, hop on the plane and we’ll leave right now for Honolulu… feels so far away.”

Silhouettes is an enjoyable album from start to finish, filled with charming songs dealing with the ins and outs of love in a lighthearted, realistic way. Jordan and Andrew’s guitar work is terrific throughout, and the songs are all expertly-crafted and engineered, giving the album an outstanding quality of sound. Nice work guys!

Connect with Burn the Louvre:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

Purchase on Bandcamp

KOYAL – EP Review: “Joyride”

EP art by David Harris

Koyal is an Atlanta, Georgia-based band I recently learned about when one of their members Noah Weinstein reached out to me about reviewing their new EP Joyride, which dropped November 11th. Formed in 2018 while they were still in college, Koyal create pleasing pop-rock infused with an eclectic range of elements, including indie, alternative, rock’n’roll, blues and jazz. In addition to Noah, who plays guitar, drums and sings vocals, as well as recorded and produced the EP, the band consists of Pooja Prabakaran (lead vocals), Henry Wallace (drums & piano), Cooper Billsborough (lead guitar), Ethan Hunt (bass) and Sultan Sayedzada (keyboards).

The band seems to be a pretty cool, well-grounded bunch, with a positive and healthy outlook and realistic approach to the music business. In an interview last month with Shoutout Atlanta, the band explained “We are best friends first and are very kind, motivated, and passionate about music! We manage ourselves, which involves a lot of the less glamorous behind the scenes marketing, booking, planning strategy, producing the music, etc., but all those hours of work helped us transition from a college band to one known in the Atlanta music scene. We really enjoy networking and meeting other creatives! It’s led to so many friendships and helped us be a part of the Atlanta music community.”

They’ve released quite a lot of music over the past three years, beginning with their debut single “Yesterday” in February 2020, just prior to the pandemic outbreak. They followed up that April with their four-song EP Rooftop Hues, then more singles in early 2021, culminating with the release of their debut album Mountain City that July. Their latest release Joyride features four tracks with a jazzier feel than their previous works, and I like it!

Kicking things off is “Past Life“, an upbeat song with an exuberant groove, fortified by gnarly guitars, snappy drumbeats and lots of crashing cymbals, along with a delightful undercurrent of trilling piano keys. The lyrics seem to be about yearning for a simpler time: “I think I knew you in a past life. And I want to know you like I did last time. / And I want to go somewhere unknown. Where it’s you and the moon and me alone.” Most of the vocals are beautifully sung by Noah, while Pooja sings the pre-chorus in the bridge, followed by their dual harmonies in the final chorus. It’s a terrific song.

Tumbleweed” is a jaunty, piano-driven tune, with vocals nicely sung by Pooja. Henry’s piano work is so good, and I love how his notes are in perfect sync with the galloping drumbeats and swirling guitars. I also like how the song changes tempo at 2:30 to a sultry interlude, only to ramp back up at the end to a lively finish, highlighted by a flourish of jazzy saxophone. The song seems to be about two people supporting each other through good times and bad: “When I’m down you put your arms around me. When you’re down I do the same. You’ll see, you and me, and we’ll keep rolling on, rolling on, like a tumbleweed.”

As the EP progresses, each track becomes longer and more melodically sophisticated. “Open Window” has a cool, breezy vibe that reminds me a bit of the late 1950s/early 1960s bossa nova/jazz pop sound of João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim. The high quality of the instrumentation, particularly the piano, guitars and percussion, are evidence of the strong musicianship and impressive technical skills of these young band members. Pooja’s smooth, emotive vocals are wonderful, though I found it hard to understand some of the lyrics she sang.

The final track “I Wanna Believe” is a musical tour-de-force, with a heavier rock sound than the other three songs. The track was mixed for free by Greazy Wil (Wil Anspach) a Grammy winning engineer who ran a competition on TikTok that Koyal entered and won. The song reminds me a bit of “Stairway to Heaven”, in that it starts off slowly then gradually builds in intensity to a roaring crescendo, with three distinct melodic movements.

It opens with the sound of magical synths, followed by delicate chiming electric guitar chords and gentle percussion as Pooja sings to an unseen alien, wanting them to take her away from her earthly problems: “I look up to you. I wish you could take me away. Don’t know where we go, but you’ll help me leave this place. Why can’t I see you? A better version of myself.” Eventually, the music erupts with jagged guitar riffs, heavy thumping bass and aggressive drums as she wails “I wanna believe, in something bigger than myself. I wanna believe! There’s something out there, I know.” The music continues to grow ever more intense with scorching riffs, accompanied by a screaming torrent of psychedelic distortion and explosive percussion, before calming back down in the final 40 seconds to a lovely contemplative piano interlude. Wow, what a spectacular song!

Though it contains only four tracks, Joyride packs quite an impactful punch into its 16 and a half minute run time. The broad range of musical influences, combined with outstanding songwriting, top-notch musicianship and skillful arrangement and production values, all make for a high quality work that’s a joy to listen to. I must say that I’m very impressed with Koyal and their marvelous little EP.

Here’s the EP on YouTube:

And Spotify:

Connect with Koyal: TwitterInstagramFacebook

Stream their music: SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

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

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

Brian Lambert & Marc Schuster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with The Star Crumbles:  TwitterInstagram

MOUNT FAMINE – Single Review: “Offcuts”

Mount Famine are a British post punk/synth-infused indie rock’n’roll project based in Derby. Formed in 2019 as a collaboration of seasoned musicians with a shared love of such bands as The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs, Pet Shop Boys, Manic Street Preachers, Pulp and Suede, they aim to create music that, in their own words, “produces the adrenaline-fueled highs of indie disco dancefloors.” Hallmarks of their vibrant sound are infectious melodies, lush soundscapes and soaring vocals. A rather enigmatic band, they have no photos of themselves on any of their social media, nor do they list their members’ names. Band front man and vocalist Martin Stanier, who I know of from his having reached out to me on Instagram, explained that they’ve steered away from photos, wanting the focus to instead be on their music.

Beginning with their debut single “Faith” in January 2020, they’ve released a string of excellent singles over the past two and a half years. This past March, I included their fourth single “Distance” in a Fresh New Tracks post. The song garnered support from BBC Introducing East Midlands and Louder Than War, as well endorsements from actor Robert Carlyle and British broadcaster Terry Christian. I liked the song so much, it spent 11 weeks on my Weekly Top 30 list. Now they’re back with a new single “Offcuts“, a rousing anthem that calls to mind some of the great songs by New Order, Manic Street Preachers and The Killers.  

The song storms through the gates with an exuberant soundscape of swirling synths, roiling guitars and driving rhythms. Martin’s sparkling keyboards have a wonderful cinematic quality, and the layered shimmery and grungy guitars are quite marvelous. Also outstanding are the humming bassline and emphatic thumping drumbeats, both of which add great power and depth to the track. And, as always, Martin’s resonant vocals are incredibly pleasing, rising with a commanding force in the choruses. 

The song’s lyrics touch on the drudgery of executive management, work hierarchies, and the disposability of workers. Martin elaborated further: “It’s about a moment I had recently where I doubted myself. I spent some time in the company of some very senior managers in my job who weren’t nice or kind and treated others lower on the food chain really badly. And all the others treated them with adoration and respect that to my mind, they didn’t really deserve. I wondered if I had got it wrong and that doing this was the way forward. I mean, it didn’t last very long because of course that isn’t how to be or to treat people, but it also echoed the behaviour of a lot of our world leaders of late.

I am the new normal in rock and roll; discos
Kiss me, between the sheets
You're so discreet, discreet

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun 
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun 
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors

Fast cars, high class bars
Now you are stars, all stars
Diamonds and dollars
Now you look down on us, on us

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors
 
Maybe I misunderstood
And real life is Hollywood
And Sundays walking through the malls are the best days, best times of all

Funny, you're so funny
They laugh with you
But money and power have made you sour

Maybe I misunderstood
And dreams and schemes are not as fun
As real life, through office doors
We are Offcuts on director's floors
 
Maybe I misunderstood
And real life is Hollywood
And Sundays walking through the malls are the best days, best times of all

“Offcuts” is a fantastic radio-friendly song that’s certain to be a hit.

Follow Mount Famine:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud 

WILD HORSE – Single Review: “Bitter”

Hailing from East Sussex, England is the talented and charismatic young pop-rock band Wild Horse, consisting of brothers Henry and Jack Baldwin and long-time friend Ed Barnes. Now in their early 20s, the guys are seasoned musicians who’ve been writing and recording songs since forming in 2013, when they were barely teenagers. Both Henry and Jack are multi-instrumentalists who play guitar, bass and keyboards, as well as sing vocals, while Ed plays drums and percussion, sings backing vocals and plays guitar on a few tracks. The Baldwin brothers are also prolific songwriters who’ve penned hundreds of songs over the years, with five albums, three EPs and numerous singles to their credit. I’ve been following them on social media for nearly five years, and have reviewed two of their albums, DANCE!! Like An Animal in 2019, and When the Pool Is Occupied this past December, which you can read here. 

Always keeping busy and productive, Wild Horse has recorded a number of new singles which they plan on releasing this year, starting with “Joy Ride” this past June. They now follow up with a second single “Bitter“, which drops today. The song explores the emotional minefield of casual romantic relationships, in which one partner desires a ‘no strings’ arrangement with the freedom to see other people, leaving the other partner feeling dissatisfied, insecure and generally unhappy.

I really like the song’s breezy, guitar-driven melody, which nicely contrasts with the poignant, rather ‘bitter’ lyrics. As always, the guitar work is first-rate, accompanied by a lively rhythm section that keeps the toe-tapping groove going, while allowing the guitars and vocals to shine. Jack’s endearing, heartfelt vocals sound better than ever here, and we feel his sad resignation as he plaintively laments “A little bit of feeling’s what I need. And just a little bit of pleasure’s all you want. And now I’m stuck here in the middle, playing games. I really thought we could have talked this out by now. I’m just a little bitter.”

“Bitter” is a wonderful track, nicely showcasing Wild Horse’s continuing growth and maturity as a band.

Connect with Wild Horse:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

dwi – Single & Video Review: “Party4One”

One of the most fascinating artists I’ve come across over the past year is dwi, the music project of Canadian singer-songwriter Dwight Abell. He’s also bassist for Canadian alternative/power pop band The Zolas, who recently completed a tour of Canada and the U.S. Though he’s a devoted husband and father of two young boys living in the suburbs of Vancouver, he lets his creativity and imagination run totally wild with his zany alter ago, making outstanding music that’s innovative, quirky and fun. Last October, dwi released his brilliant debut album Mild Fantasy Violence, which I happily reviewed. One of the album’s tracks, “Good Friend”, spent four months on my Weekly Top 30, going all the way to #1 this past January.

Now he’s back with a marvelous new single “Party4One“, accompanied by a delightfully wacky video. He says the song is “about falling in love with yourself during an intense state of cabin fever. Love yourself, make out with yourself, and for the love of gawd, scare yourself. The weirdos are in charge now!” The song’s a blast from start to finish, with an infectious bouncy groove, highlighted by a chugging bass line, a lively mix of jangly and crunchy guitars, crisp, thumping drumbeats, and swirling psychedelic synths. dwi’s quirky vocals are relentlessly endearing as he sings “Hey reflection, I really like you. Don’t want your friends. Hey man, I think it’s pretty funny given who I am. Nothing can stop me, I’m living in a single player game. You can’t stop me, it’s a party for one.

The hilarious video was directed and produced by Canadian musician and film director Andrew Huculiak, and filmed in a house on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish), and Tsleil-Waututh nations. It stars dwi as an eccentric guy dressed in goth-punk black leather and a plaid skirt, with his hair featuring two tufts molded into devil horns. He enters an old house and proceeds to indulge in all sorts of childish antics, including playing video games with a giant stuffed teddy bear, overdosing on bowlfuls of Froot Loops, covering his face with lipstick in front of a bathroom mirror, and engaging in S&M pretend with the teddy bear. Haven’t we all wanted to run amok and do weird shit by ourselves at one time or another? I love it, and I love him!

Connect with dwi:  Twitter / Instagram / Facebook

Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music YouTube

JEEN – Single Review: “On and On”

JEEN (Jeen O’Brien) is a talented, successful and established singer-songwriter and musician from Toronto, Canada with quite an impressive resume. According to her bio, her songs have been used in commercials for such companies as Google, Panasonic, Estée Lauder, Kraft, BlackBerry, KIA, Rogers, MasterCard and Molson, as well as various movies and television programs, including Cook Off, Republic of Doyle, Instant Star, Ruby Gloom, Degrassi, Killjoys, Hockey Wives, Workin’ Moms, MTV Catfish, and MTV Are You the One. Though we’ve followed each other on Twitter for a while, she somehow slipped under my radar until a few days ago, when she reached out to me about her latest single “On and On“. I liked it at first listen, and agreed to feature it on this blog.

Before I’m able to properly review music by an artist I’ve not written about before, I check out their website and various social media accounts to learn as much as I can about them (alas, I’ll never be able to shake the research methods I learned in grad school), and try to listen to at least some of their music catalog to better familiarize myself with their sound. In searching through JEEN’s, I was amazed by her tremendous music output over the past eight years. After starting out as a member of Toronto alternative pop-rock band Cookie Duster (who released a fine album When Flying Was Easy in 2012), she went solo and released her debut album Tourist in 2014. Since then, she’s put out scores of singles and four more albums, most recently Dog Bite last October (2021). Her music is so good, I found myself going down a rabbit hole of binge-listening to her back catalog. Her alternative pop-rock music style and sound are somewhat similar to a few other female artists I’ve heard, yet also distinctly her own.

Photo by Laura Hermiston

“On and On” is the first single off JEEN’s forthcoming sixth album Tracer, due for release in October. For the recording of the single and album, which were co-produced by JEEN and her frequent collaborator Ian Blurton, JEEN played rhythm guitar, bass and synths, Ian played lead guitar and Stephan Szczesniak played drums. The song was also engineered and mixed by Ian, and mastered by Brad Boatright. JEEN says the song is “about breaking points and falling down more times than you’re willing to get back up. I wrote this song last year when everything was grinding me down and nothing seemed worth it.”

The song is a lively banger with a hint of punk undercurrent, driven by Stephan’s urgent thumping drumbeats and JEEN’s throbbing bass. Ian and JEEN lay down a colorful mix of grungy and chiming guitars, accompanied by exuberant sparkling synths, creating a rousing backdrop for her echoed, somewhat mumbled vocals, which are backed by her own soaring harmonies as she laments “Everything got so complicated. Every day’s so intoxicating. Anyway I tried a hundred times (and on and on and on). And I think you must be blind, when you say everything’s fine (and on and on and on). Hey I’m sorry that I lost my place, started running but I fell on my face.” I like the gnarly instrumental fade out at the end, as if to signify someone becoming emotionally deflated like a tire losing air.

For the rather trippy video, JEEN’s chosen a fascinating way to show her lyrics, including written in lipstick on a bathroom mirror, in ink on her hand and arm, crumpled scraps of paper, mylar balloons, an old sneaker and concrete walls, and typed out on a computer screen.

Connect with JEEN:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream her music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

Purchase on Bandcamp 

THE MILLION REASONS – Album Review: “Haven”

One of the perks (and there are a few downsides as well) of being a blogger who writes music reviews is getting to know a lot of musicians and bands from all over the world, some of them on a personal level. High on my list of favorites, both as musicians and humans, is Chicago-based rock band The Million Reasons. Though I’ve never met them in person, I seriously love these guys and consider them friends who honestly care about me as a person, rather than simply a blogger who can be of use to them. A few of them actually check in from time to time to ask how I’m doing, which means a lot to me. It also makes me an intensely loyal fan.   

The Million Reasons originally formed in 2016 as a trio comprised of Scott Nadeau on lead vocals, and Ken Ugel and Mike Nichols on guitars. They were joined a year later by drummer Colin Dill, then bassist Jason Cillo in 2018. I first learned about them when they followed me on Twitter in July 2018, around the time they released their magnificent single “Dizzy”. It was love at first listen, and I quickly became a big fan of theirs. Without question one of the most beautiful rock songs I’ve ever heard, I was happy to write a review of “Dizzy”. I loved it so much that it went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30, and ultimately ranked #69 on my 100 best songs of the decade list.

The guys went on to release a few more singles, then in August 2019, Scott decided to leave the band. Fortunately, they quickly found a phenomenal replacement in singer-songwriter Taylor Brennan, a close friend of Colin’s, and the band lineup was complete again. Taylor brought not only his impressive vocal talents, but also great songwriting skills and years of experience, which have expanded The Million Reasons’ musical horizons quite nicely. Whereas their music had primarily been classic rock/rock’n’roll oriented, some of their new songs venture more into progressive rock territory.

Photo by Lexi Nichols

All five band members are highly accomplished musicians, several of whom are also involved with other projects. Taylor is vocalist for alternative-progressive rock band Polarizer (who’s brilliant album Love From the Underground I reviewed last November). Ken is guitarist for rock bands Guardrail and Wild Gravity, and Colin and Jason are members of covers band Dad’s Night Out. Having five members, including two guitarists, their sound is dynamic, heavy and melodic, consistently delivered with incredible riffs, tight rhythms and powerful vocals – everything we lovers of rock want to hear.

With their new lineup, the band set to work writing new songs, as well as re-working a few song ideas from their previous iteration that had never been fully-developed. This culminated in the release of their EP If Not For the Fire in February 2020, which I also reviewed. The title single “If Not For the Fire” also climbed to the top of my Weekly Top 30 chart, and ended up at #20 on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list.

Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic cast its ugly pall soon after the EP’s release, hindering the relatively new lineup from touring or performing live to promote it. Also prevented from gathering together to record more songs, the guys soldiered on remotely, often struggling in the process. In the hopes of getting their music out to a wider audience, they signed with Pavement Entertainment in summer 2020, and once Covid restrictions were lifted, got back into the studio to continue recording songs for what would become their debut full-length album Haven, which finally dropped April 15th. It’s a beautiful work that was definitely worth all the blood, sweat and tears it took them to finally get it done and released.

The word ‘haven’, defined as a place of safety or refuge, is the perfect title for The Million Reasons’ new album, as it encapsulates all that got them to this point. The album features 11 tracks, including the four previously released on the EP, which have been re-engineered and mastered with a bigger and fuller sound. Though I did not conduct an interview, each band member beautifully articulated their own thoughts about the album, some of which I’d now like to share in order to provide some context.

Mike, Taylor, Colin, Ken and Jason

Taylor: “It’s an intensely personal album for me. But I/we always hope that our songs connect with people, whether it’s an individual or a crowd. I like to think there are enough overarching themes to speak to someone else going through the emotions represented by the songs; the highs, the lows, or especially if it’s both. It’s about one’s journey through highs and lows, no matter the obstacles, no matter the duration of the tumult. One of my favourite lyrics on this album is ‘It’s not over til it’s better’. It updates on the ’til its over’ aspect because to me the original phrase implies a potentially negative finality. The point being, I now believe there is always “better”. Even if the body shots keep coming, even if it feels like death by a thousand shots, even if “better” is achieved incrementally…if you keep going…if you work on yourself and surround yourself with love and support…it will get better. To me, that culminates in ‘Haven’. Haven is the place where you finally feel safe. The place where you finally feel home. The place where you finally feel better. The place where you finally feel like ‘you’.

To me, the album represents that natural chemistry cannot be denied. That’s obviously a theme of the lyrics, but the band also lived that. We have a great time together when we get together. Musically, we gel. I think we had the rocky start that could have ended some projects before they had a chance to get going. But we made it through and now we know what we are capable of. I love the record, I am as proud of it as anything I have done. When you have to work hard to get through adversity, the end result is that much sweeter. We’ve done that, and we like each other and this band more now than we did when we first met, I feel. So while this feels like our peak right now, like a penultimate record, I think it also represents that we’re in this together and we have what it takes to see this through indefinitely. We are a band, and a fucking good one. And we’re just getting started.”

Colin: “‘Haven’ is the culmination of 5 years of songwriting, practice, shows, line-up changes and hard work, all finally pieced together to create the true foundation and spirit of The Million Reasons as a band. The spirit being defined by keeping Rock N’ Roll alive and well and having a damn good time doing it. COVID impacted our timeline and motivation greatly. It was extremely challenging to find time to finalize writing and recording each piece whether at the studio or on our own. There were absolutely discouraging times that we would never quite get there, but we persevered and are absolutely ecstatic at the end product. I’m very proud of this album and release. I love the guys in the band like family and it’s so exciting to have this release finally happening. “If Not For The Fire” and the passion of the group, there would be no album!

Jason: “This really is a culmination of all the band’s work. Some of these songs were written during the first iteration of the group (Mike & Ken being the only remaining members) and then re-done with new vocals. I personally joined the band where the music was already mostly outlined for about half the album and the other half was written together. We write the music completely separate from the lyrics and let Taylor write on top of what we came up with. A lot of these songs came from jams or specific writing sessions in Ken’s apartment. Ken and I paired off a lot to write in a more rigid, methodical way, while Mike and Colin would go into the rehearsal space and jam with something recording them and then we’d converge on those ideas. I hope that [the album] gets in front of people who will enjoy it. I’ve never felt better about music that I’ve worked on and I know it’s good, it’s just a matter of showing the world that. Truthfully, I just want people to enjoy it and for the band to play some more shows to see that in-person.”

Ken: “‘Haven’ is our defining moment as a group and the place where we’ve established our sound. This is our base, and acts as the beginning of something special. The journey to find our ‘Haven’ over years of songwriting, lineup changes, and a pandemic; has led us here: our safe place, where we are coming into our own. The metaphorical and physical start of this new chapter of TMR. I truly believe if these songs were played to a wider audience and given the attention it deserves, we’d break out of the ‘only friends and family’ listening parties. I’d hope to start opening up for some bigger acts and get in front of new people over the next year. ‘Haven’ showcases everything the band is about and just to boost my self-esteem up a bit: I think it’s a damn good album!

Mike: “‘Haven’ is about overcoming adversity, from being at your lowest point and attaching your focus from one silver lining to the next in order to escape your rut. It’s an emotional story from Taylor’s point of view, but to me it can also represent the journey the band has gone through over the last few years. There’s darkness, but there’s light to bring us out of it. Lyrically, ‘Haven’ delves into love, loss, and self-doubt, followed by hope, confidence, and triumph over hardship. Musically, the album explores the spectrum of rock music we grew up listening to, from the poppy sensibilities of “1985” and “Alone With You”, to the high energy of “Oh, Tranquilizer” and “If Not For The Fire”, to the anger of of “All You Can’t Afford” and “Only Human”. “No North Star” might be a standout track on the album, easily distinguished by being melancholic and acoustic, but it also reads as a flashback, setting the scene for how we’ve arrived at the emotional state that came to influence the rest of the record. Track by track, there’s something for everybody. Everything about this album is overdue, it’s about time the world gets its ears on The Million Reasons. I want people to hear the album and love it. I want to play on stage for those people. I want this album to inspire people to create. ‘Haven’ is the catalyst that turns our dreams into reality.”

Well, I’ve heard the album loud and clear, and I love it more with each listen! Haven kicks off with “Oh, Tranquilizer!“, a rousing blast of atomic energy that both Ken and Mike name as one of their favorite tracks to play. And no wonder, as they deliver an onslaught of scorching riffs, fortified by Jason’s pummeling bassline and Colin’s explosive drumbeats. Taylor has a commanding tenor voice, dazzling our earbuds as he sings about our failing to clearly see what’s important amid all the noise: “Oh tranquilizer, this will be our year. You soothe the symptoms of this mania. We’ve got a lot to lose. Pay attention to the signs around. You’ve got a lot of nerve, to hear the noise but miss out on the sound.”

On the fiery (no pun intended) title track “If Not for the Fire”, the guys unleash their inner beasts, letting loose with an electrifying barrage of thunderous musical mayhem. The song is a rock masterpiece, and a highlight of the album. Taylor says the message behind the song is simple: “Do not settle. We get one go at this. Whatever makes you happiest, whatever makes you feel most alive, whatever lights you up, go fucking get it.” And once again, he raises goosebumps as he passionately wails of his need for an intense, almost obsessive kind of love that thrills and excites: “I came for the curse of, I came for the kiss of, A love divine that paralyzes. What did you come for, if not for the fire to light you up this way.”

The powerful video, filmed and directed by Philip Goode, shows Taylor seated at a table and struggling to write, juxtaposed with scenes of the band performing the song and working their magic with their respective instruments. Their energy and charisma are clearly evident.

Perhaps the most upbeat track on the album is “1985“, a bittersweet love song with an infectious and pleasing pop-rock sensibility that sets it apart from the others. I love the bouncy, guitar-driven melody, soaring harmonic choruses, and especially Colin’s spirited drumbeats. Taylor plaintively reminisces about lost time he could have enjoyed with a loved one: “Take me to 1985. I’d do it all again with you. I learned too late, the only priceless thing is time. Bring me back to 1985.

The guys get back to business churning out hard-rocking bangers on the next several tracks, starting with “Coup De Grâce“, a blistering song about a toxic and abusive relationship featuring lyrics with boxing metaphors: “Back in the ring again, absorbing the body shots. Jab to a cross then uppercut, sends me back to my corner.” I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but wow, these guys know how to deliver the rock goods, nearly blowing out the speakers with rampaging riffs and explosive, stomping rhythms. And it goes without saying that Taylor rises to the occasion with his jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics.

Shine On” has a bit of a Meat Loaf vibe, with it’s frantic galloping beat and aggressive guitar work, but especially in that Taylor’s vocals sound at times like those of the late, great singer. “Alone With You” is a proper rock tune with a catchy melody, intricate guitars, and thumping rhythms. Essentially a love song, Taylor sings of the joys of being with the woman he loves: “Anything to be alone with you. Where you go, I’m locked beside you babe. I don’t think I can get enough of you. And we are only getting started.” “Ride Or Die” starts off with a grunge vibe, highlighted by Jason’s gnarly bassline, but eventually explodes into a full-blown rocker with blazing riffs and heavy chugging rhythms every bit as good as some of the iconic rock songs of the late 70s and 80s. And on the poignant “Only Human“, Taylor pleads with a friend to not surrender to the pain that threatens to overwhelm them: “We’re far from done. But please hold on. You’re going to make it. Remember, it’s not over ‘til its better.”

Pretty Ones” is a brilliant track, with a complex melodic structure and intricate, yet powerful  instrumentation that give it a monumental prog-rock feel. Mike and Ken’s dual guitars are really spectacular here, and Colin’s drums are perfection. Taylor’s vocals are filled with intense passion as he sings the lyrics touching on restlessness and the internal struggle between putting down roots in one place or with one person vs. the desire for freedom, believing the grass is greener somewhere else or with someone else, but also fearing that perhaps we’re just running away from ourselves: “Ever after chasing down the pretty ones / Right back to the place where I am running from / In motion, stuck in motion / I fear it’s just my nature.

Without question the most beautiful song on Haven is “No North Star”, a powerful and melancholy ballad about a man ready to give up all vestiges of hope. The song opens with a mournful cello played by Alyssa Laessig, accompanied by a lovely acoustic guitar as Taylor forlornly laments about mistakes he’s made: “Four on the floor / As the shower head pours heat on me / Praying to the god of sorry / I’m sure she has questions for me.” The music gradually grows more expansive until reaching a dramatic crescendo at the end, at which point he passionately implores: “Stare in the sunken-in eyes of a ghost of a shell of a half of a half of a man / Saying what good can I be if I couldn’t be better for you / I couldn’t lie when you asked me to lie / But I’ll die if you ask me tonight / I’m going to die anyway / I might as well do it for you.” Along with “If Not For the Fire”, it’s my favorite song on the album.

The final track “All You Can Afford” is a dark and heavy kiss-off to a lover who’s pushed the relationship beyond the breaking point. The guys deliver a torrent of blistering psychedelic riffs and crushing rhythms during the first three minutes of the track while Taylor rails “I’m taking the keys to my heart and your car. I’ll leave you behind, hoping you’ll find all that you can’t afford, my love, anymore.” The music then transitions to a gritty, almost cinematic instrumental for the remainder of the song, punctuated by a rather ominous, barely intelligible male voiceover and a mix of sirens and other harsh sounds.

What more can I say that I haven’t already gushed about, other than to proclaim that Haven is a spectacular album and a glorious feast for the ears. The five talented lads of The Million Reasons have outdone themselves, and should be quite proud of what they’ve created here. This band deserves to be successful, and I hope this review will encourage my readers to give this album a listen. And if they like it even half as much as I love it, my efforts will have been worthwhile.

Connect with The Million Reasons:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

ALEXIS GERRED – Double Single Review: “Unbreakable” feat. MiG Ayesa & “Mary Go Round”

Alexis Gerred is an engaging and multi-faceted artist based in London, England. He began his career on stage, performing in productions of American IdiotOur House, Dreamboats and Petticoats, The West End Men, and Rooms, but his true passion is for music and singing. I last featured him on this blog in November 2018, when I reviewed his wonderful debut album Alexis (which you can read here). Now, I’m pleased to share his new double single “Unbreakable“, featuring vocals by MiG Ayesa, along with “Mary Go Round“, a cover of the song originally recorded by The Struts. 

“Unbreakable” was written by Gerred and produced by TylaJoe Connett, and is the lead single from his forthcoming EP, due for release later this year. The song features guest vocals by MiG Ayesa, the acclaimed Australian-Filipino singer and actor who’s performed on Broadway and London’s West End in such mega hits as Rock of Ages, Thriller Live, Annie, and We Will Rock You. It was Ayesa who’s responsible for inspiring Gerred to become an entertainer himself.

When Gerred saw his very first musical We Will Rock You, based on the career and music of Queen, in London’s West End and starring Ayesa, it was a revelation. He recalls: “I watched MiG Ayesa take to the stage and his delivery, passion and charisma flipped a switch inside me. Although I had never even attempted singing a note before, I knew I wanted to emulate him and follow a path that would one day see me up on that stage, too. I’ve followed his career and plucked inspiration from so many things he’s done. One that stands out in particular was his time on ‘Rockstar: INXS’ where I loved his rock ‘n roll style of showmanship.”

Having Ayesa record a song with him was a dream come true for Gerred, as not many artists get the opportunity to collaborate with the star who inspired them to make music to begin with. And let me state that the combination of these two talented and charismatic vocalists results in sonic fireworks. “Unbreakable” is the hardest rocking song Gerred’s ever done, and he really summons his inner beast to great effect, his raw vocals nicely contrasting and complementing Ayesa’s somewhat smoother vocal delivery. Musically, the song has an aggressive stomping groove and deliciously funky vibe reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I love the thunderous, driving rhythms and blistering guitars that hit full throttle in the bridge, highlighted by a screaming guitar solo that’s matched by note for note by the guys’ explosive vocal alchemy. Wow!

Collaborating on “Unbreakable” with Ayesa is even more meaningful given the personal nature of the song, which is based on a negative experience with a former acting agent. The song is about staying driven and focused on one’s dreams, an important message for many of us in today’s challenging, uncertain world. Gerred elaborates “This song is about resilience and determination. If I can inspire someone to take charge of their own lives and bounce back from adversity, that’s my goal.”

On his beautiful cover of the Struts song “Mary Go Round”, Gerred does great justice to the original, while making it his own. His vocals are a powerful combination of vulnerable and raw, beautifully conveying the feelings of pain and heartache of a broken relationship expressed in the poignant lyrics. “How long before my little pill starts kicking in. How long before your broken heart starts giving in? Here we go up, here we go down. Mary go round and round and round.”

It’s great to see Alexis Gerred back and sounding better than ever. Both “Unbreakable” and “Mary Go Round” are superb, and if the rest of the tracks on his upcoming EP are even half this good, it’s going to be a winner.

To learn more about Alexis, check out his website
Connect with him on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes