JUSTIN BEYNON – Album Review: “In Motion”

Justin Beynon is a musician and singer/songwriter based in Aberdare, Wales who I recently learned about when he reached out to me about his just-released debut album In Motion. Music has been a major part of Justin’s life since his childhood, and he’s played an active role in the Welsh music scene for the last 30 years. As a member of numerous bands over the years, he’s been featured on several albums, as well as collaborated on many projects as a session musician. He’s also taught guitar and piano for the last 24 years. Several years ago, he built his own home studio and began learning how to use new technology so that he could record the backlog of songs he’d been writing over the years. Last year he decided to produce his first solo album, and got busy recording songs in his home studio, singing and playing all the instruments himself, other than on four songs that he recorded in a studio with the help of a friend and former bandmate Meirion Townsend on drums. The tracks were then mixed and mastered by Matthew Evans.

Justin elaborates on the things that inspired him to record and release the album: “Long before this pandemic was even on the horizon, I had experienced some of the most difficult and emotionally challenging years to date. As a result, I began to feel my passion and drive for playing and creating music slowly ebb away. Things got really difficult. I wondered if I was done. But, as has been the case so may times in the past, music came to my rescue. This collection of songs started life as two separate EP’s but with a common thread, that life is constantly ‘in motion’, regardless of what gets thrown at us.

Putting this album together has been my way of navigating a very difficult time. It was a big step forward for me as a writer, to have the freedom to work to my own timescale and have the tools to record myself, without the restrictions of studio costs etc. It was also my first step in releasing my own music under my own name rather than a band name. I called the album ‘In Motion’ as it seemed an appropriate title to a life and body of work gathering momentum over time, from the past and into the future. It’s been my way of making sure that these songs don’t live and die in my head. I hope that whoever hears them will find something positive in them.

Well, I must say that after listening to In Motion, I’ve found plenty to like. First off are Justin’s engaging and catchy melodies. As someone with no musical aptitude whatsoever, I’m always impressed at how musicians are able to write great melodies and bring them to life with thoughtful arrangements and masterful instrumentation, which brings me to the second aspect of his music. Justin is an excellent guitarist, seemingly at ease playing a wide variety of styles ranging from folk, country and Americana to blues rock. He’s also a fine pianist, as evidenced on the opening track “All Inside” and the beautiful “All the Way Through”. Then there are his intelligent, heartfelt lyrics that speak to us in deeply meaningful ways which are expressed through his wonderful, no-frills vocals that remind me at times of the great Tom Petty.

He hits the ground running with the aforementioned “All Inside“, a rousing folk rock song that seems to speak to a relationship that’s failed due to a break down in communication and trust. Justin starts things off with his strummed acoustic guitar, then layers assertive piano keys and a driving bass line to add emotional depth to the song as he plaintively sings, “You’ll land, just like you did last time. You’ll stand, by keeping it all inside / Tell me, the reason for your disguise. Help me by keeping it all inside.” His blistering electric guitar that enters in the bridge and continues through the end of the track ends things on a high note.

Justin taps into his more soulful side on “The Walkover Rule“, laying down bluesy riffs over a mellow and funky groove that make this one of my favorite tracks on the album. He really channels Tom Petty on the next three tracks. The first, “Who Delivers?“, is a lovely, contemplative song where he seems to question the existence of faith: “Everyone’s talking like they know something. Like they found God. It’s probably nothing. Everybody knows somebody who delivers.” On the Beatle-esque “Another Universe“, he sings of hope and healing: “Until the sun comes out and warms the air like it was nothing. The day’s begun, start it all again. The fire and the rain will wash it all away into another universe.” And “The Sticks and the Stones” sounds like the best song Tom Petty never recorded, with a mix of jangly and twangy slide guitars that give the song a wonderful country rock vibe.

The melancholy “All the Way Through” is another of my favorites, as I’m a sucker for beautiful piano melodies. With only his haunting piano keys and stirring strings as a backdrop, Justin sadly laments to his partner of her unwillingness to make their relationship survive: “There’s nothing I can do to get you back inside the simple life. It’s perfectly entwined, and the love we’re trying to find is true. I really wanna see this all the way through. I’ll take it to a place where there ain’t any rules. I’m all out of luck.”

The mood picks up considerably with “Cheap Coat and Broken Wings“, a lively folk rock tune with some great Southern rock guitars, and on “One Long Kiss Goodbye“, with it’s exuberant toe-tapping melody and wonderful mix of jangly, chiming and gnarly guitars, accompanied by sparkling piano keys and snappy drumbeats. “Paper” is a particularly beautiful track, thanks to Justin’s shimmery guitar work and earnest vocals, enhanced by what I’m guessing are his own backing harmonies. The song seems to be a continuation of the sentiments first introduced on the opening track “All Inside”: “I don’t want to leave it all to chance. Do you want to wait for something greater? You’ve always lived with flashing lights. All of your dreams wrote out on paper.” He closes things out with “The Things That You Do“, a pleasing Country rock song with more of his terrific guitar work, and lyrics whose meaning I can’t quite figure out, but seem to speak to a loved one who takes him for granted: “The reason I fight ain’t over you. It’s not about the things that you do. I try, and I try ’cause of you, and you alone.”

To sum up, In Motion is a very fine, well-crafted album, and a wonderful debut effort from this remarkably talented musician. I’m truly impressed by Justin’s songwriting, musicianship and vocals, as well as his outstanding production abilities, and he should be very proud of what he’s created here. If you like an eclectic mix of folk and country infused with elements of blues, rock and pop, then you will enjoy this album.

Besides Soundcloud, Justin’s music can also be streamed on Spotify and Apple Music

Fresh New Tracks Vol. II

It’s been a while since I last posted the first of what was supposed to be a weekly, or at least occasional, digest of newly-released singles, but as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Now that the holiday season is behind us and we’re well into a new year, lots of new music is being released, far more than I can keep up with! This week I’m featuring three new releases by (in alphabetical order) Neil and Adam, Shimmer Johnson and Zero Azimuth.

“Bright Light” by Neil and Adam

Neil and Adam are singer/songwriters Neil McCloskey and Adam Hilligardt, who hail from suburban St. Louis, Missouri (where I lived from 1995-2011). Friends since high school, the duo have been making pleasing and melodic folk/pop/rock music on and off for several years. They were one of the earliest acts I featured on this blog, back in August 2016 when I reviewed their beautiful uplifting single “Everything is Alright”. They followed up with a couple more singles after that, and have just released “Bright Light“. It’s their first new single in three and a half years, and it’s great to have them back.

In their own words, “Bright Light” is a “powerful and heartfelt love song that touches on the struggles of intense feelings and emotions.” Over an infectious toe-tapping beat, the guys layer a mix of strummed acoustic and chiming electric guitar notes over Adam’s warm keyboards and sparkling synths, creating a lovely backdrop for Neil’s wonderful plaintive vocals. He implores to a loved one of the depths of his feelings, feeling frustrated by her unwillingness or inability to open herself up to love: “Scared of the bright light that’s burning in your heart / Waiting for the fist fight that rages in your heart.”

Follow Neil and Adam:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

“Love is Possible” by Shimmer Johnson

Singer/songwriter Shimmer Johnson has such a uniquely beautiful singing voice that it’s puzzling to me she has not yet become a major star – though her 2017 single “Pride” has been streamed more than 239,000 times on Spotify. Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, she started out writing and recording Country songs, but wanting to broaden her musical horizons and take advantage of her amazing vocal talents, she relocated to Los Angeles a few years ago, and has been working with songwriters such as Michael Jay, John West, Richard Bergman and Relik Gregos. A fine guitarist and pianist, Shimmer writes and sings compelling and lovely songs about life and love that we can all relate to. Her clear, pitch-perfect vocals skillfully convey the subtle yet powerful emotions expressed in her heartfelt lyrics, allowing us to connect with her songs on a deeply personal level.

I first featured her on this blog three years ago in February 2018 when I reviewed her single “Getaway”, and am now pleased to feature her latest single “Love is Possible“, which dropped January 5th. It’s a beautiful and hopeful pop ballad about the healing power of love. Shimmer’s silky vocals are comforting as she earnestly croons to a loved one that their love will endure through good times and bad: “I’d rather be safe and one with you than by myself. Two hearts as one they beat, I’m not by myself. Just a leap of faith in the stormy days, love is possible.” It’s a wonderful track.

Follow Shimmer Johnson:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

“Go With the Flow” by Zero Azimuth

Zero Azimuth is a young artist I’ve been following for a while who’s just released a great new single “Go With the Flow“. I don’t know a whole lot about him, other than that he’s an affable singer-songwriter named Adam from Columbus, Ohio who makes pretty good music that incorporates elements of alternative, indie rock and grunge. He released quite a bit of music in 2017, including two EPs Ex Post Facto and Quaint, as well as several singles, then went quiet for a couple years before returning in May 2020 with his terrific single “Same Evil”.

On January 4th, he dropped his latest single “Go With the Flow”, a song about trying to not let others’ indifference get the best of him. He starts off feeling a bit sorry for himself with the humorous lyrics “Oh hey there pretty baby, would you like to come over? I’m taking a bath, how ’bout you throw in a toaster.” But he eventually comes to a sober sense of resignation that he’s every bit as worthy a person as they are: “No one wants me. I’ll work on myself and give you all a goodbye kiss / And I’ll go, go with the flow, cause I think I know something they don’t.” With its mellow, alt-pop vibe and lively guitar-driven melody, the song reminds me of some of the music by Duncan Sheik and Blink-182.

Follow Zero Azimuth:  TwitterInstagram

THE FRONTIER – Single Review: “Sleep”

One of my absolute favorite indie artists is The Frontier, the music project and brainchild of singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer Jake Mimikos. Based in Fairfax County, Virginia, Jake is a talented, gracious and funny guy who I’ve grown quite fond of, both as an artist and a human. Since 2015, he’s released a substantial amount of music both as a solo artist and as a band under The Frontier moniker, and we’ve been following each other on social media for nearly that long. As with many bands, the members and lineup of The Frontier have varied over the years, but for the time being, the act is now mostly a solo project.

Drawing upon elements of pop, folk, rock and electronica, his music is always pleasing and flawlessly crafted. I’ve featured him several times on this blog, most recently this past June when I reviewed his wonderful single “It’s You”. I love it so much, it spent five months on my Weekly Top 30, and turned out to be my most-streamed song of the year on Spotify. (You can read that and previous reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.) Now he’s back with a beautiful new single “Sleep“, and I already love it too! The track was recorded and produced by Austin Bello for Fearless Records.

Jake is an excellent guitarist, and here his layered strummed and chiming guitars are so stunning, they take my breath away. He’s also gotten quite adept at programming synths and keyboards to create lush, sparkling soundscapes, as well as layering his lovely, heartfelt vocals into a rich tapestry of harmonies. He plaintively sings of the pain and unease he feels over not knowing where he stands with another, and yearning for a little sleep to momentarily forget his troubles: “I lay awake, but I’m dreaming / I just can’t get my mind off of you / All of these stories keep repeating / I don’t know which voice to listen to / I’ve never been one to get what I want / I’m always trying too hard / It’s something that I’ve been working on / It’s always so close yet so far / But for now, til the answers are found / Got to quiet the sun to sleep.

“Sleep” is a gorgeous and deeply stirring track that’s sure to be another hit.

Connect with The Frontier: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase: Bandcamp / iTunesAmazon

New Song of the Week – “Undone” by Tough on Fridays

In early October, I wrote a review of the outstanding debut album A Fantastic Way to Kill Some Time by Texas grunge pop-rock band Tough on Fridays. I knew the talented female-fronted band had a loyal and growing fan base, but I had no idea just how large and passionate it was. In just two and a half months, the review has received nearly 1,000 views, the most of any post I’ve written in 2020! Now the trio, consisting of Caleigh on vocals & guitar, Carly on bass & vocals, and Chris on drums, are back with a great new single “Undone“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

The song opens strong with Carly’s intricate moody bass riff and Caleigh’s cold, matter-of-fact vocals that perfectly convey the sadness and pain expressed in the biting lyrics addressing a selfish and miserable friend of her disappointment with them: “I wish you were special / I really wish you were special / No one was miserable like you.” Suddenly, we’re hit with a blast of her raging gnarly guitars and Chris’s smashing drumbeats as the song ramps up to a fast-paced punk-like tempo. Caleigh’s vocals turn more impassioned as she bitterly informs her friend that their relationship is broken beyond repair and finally come ‘undone’. It’s a banger, and I think it’s their best song yet.

 I wish you were special
 I really wish you were special
 No one was miserable like you
 No, no one had it as bad as you
 Oh lately
 You’ll always be temporary
 
 So point blank and in your face
 Maybe you’ll learn someday
 Make sure I’m not a necessity
 Right before you dispose of me
 Hate yourself and that’s ok
 I want out of your fucked-up game
 
 You’re in misery
 Stay far from me
 I want out of your fucked-up game
 
 You never had anyone
 You never liked to have fun
 I wasn’t just anyone
 Made me come all undone
 I was never really done
 Lie to me,
 Use me
 Stay far away
 Can’t use me up anymore

Follow Tough on Fridays:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / Reverbnation

Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

SOFT SHELTER – EP Review: “No Exits”

Soft Shelter is a talented young singer-songwriter, guitarist and music producer based in Southern California, who writes songs that explore such themes as memory, nostalgia, time, relationships, and climate change. His pleasing style of indie dream pop is laced with alt-rock, psychedelic and electronic elements, and delivered mostly with guitar, programmed synths and his soft, breathy vocals. He writes, arranges, produces and mixes all his own music in his home studio.

The prolific artist has released a tremendous amount of music over the past year, starting with his first single “Ashes” in November 2019, which he followed with two EPs and several singles, two of which – his EP Judgment Day and his single “Just a Ride” I reviewed earlier this year. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.). Now the busy man is back with a new four-song EP No Exits, which dropped on December 4th. He recorded the EP in his home studio with assistance by Noah Kastenbaum on songwriting and guitar, as well as backing vocal harmonies on “Those Days” and “No Exits.” Drums on “Butterflies” and “No Exits” were played by Grant Whitson. The EP was mastered by Matt Pereira (aka KOMAK), and the artwork was designed by Nikki Castro.

Opening track “Time (Pressure)” has an edgier rock vibe than Soft Shelter’s more typical sound, highlighted by Noah Kastenbaum’s terrific fuzz-coated electric guitar. I really like Soft Shelter’s languid melody and swirling synths that nicely complement Noah’s bluesy guitar licks. The lyrics speak to the relentless passage of time, and the pressures it places on our psyche and the way we live our lives, sometimes missing out on savoring the good stuff in our rush to the next big thing: “Hey wait – it’s gettin’ late. Don’t go – we’ll miss the show. Can’t sit and waste the time standin’ in that stupid line.”

On the contemplative “Butterflies“, he starts the track with a quote by French actress Anna Karina in the 1962 French film Vivre sa vie (My Life to Live), in which she leaves her husband and infant son hoping to become an actress, but ends up becoming a prostitute. She says “I forget that I’m responsible but I am. No, it’s like what I was saying: wanting to escape is a joke. After all, everything is beautiful, you just have to take interest in things and find them beautiful.” As such, “Butterflies” at first touches on the intense feelings of desire for someone: “She gave me butterflies every time and didn’t have to try. She made me lose my mind every time and didn’t have to try“, but then hits us with a cold reality that those feelings might fade: “How long ‘til you’re bored w/ this metamorphosis? How long ‘til you’re bored w/ this faded elegance?” Soft Shelter uses gentle piano chords and lush synths to create a dreamy backdrop for his soft, wistful vocals.

Those Days” is a lovely, introspective track that Soft Shelter states was “written after an intensely nostalgic experience.” His delicate mix of shimmery synths, piano, horns and xylophone are supplemented with Noah’s subtle electric guitar notes and backing vocals that give the song a gentle anthemic quality. Soft Shelter’s breathy vocals are especially enchanting as he softly croons “Back home after many years. Is it time to face my fears? And before these memories nostalgia takes its toll on me. And what’s past was never meant to last.”

On the title track “No Exits”, he uses a double entendre to reflect on both the anxieties over climate-change and to serve as a metaphor for challenges faced in a long-term relationship: “Oh lord, tell us how we’ve strayed. Would we wanna go back anyway? The hourglass has melted away. The sun’s burning us and we can’t stay.” Musically, the song starts off with strummed acoustic and electric guitars accompanied by gentle bass, keyboard synths and soft percussion that give a mellow folk-rock vibe. Gradually, the instrumentals and vocals build to a harder rock crescendo as the song ends in a flourish of distortion.

No Exits is a great little EP that nicely showcases Soft Shelter’s growth as a songwriter, musician and producer. I like that he’s exploring his rock side a bit more, while continuing to write compelling lyrics that draw from both personal and timely, as well as classic themes.

Here’s a YouTube audio of the entire EP:

Or, listen to individual tracks on Bandcamp:

Follow Soft Shelter on Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  BandcampAmazon

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #49: “Shut Up and Dance” by WALK THE MOON

The song at #49 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is the rousing ear worm “Shut Up and Dance” by pop-rock band WALK THE MOON. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, the band was started in 2006 by singer-songwriter Nicholas Petricca while he was a student at Kenyon College. The inspiration for his band name came from the Police song “Walking on the Moon”. In addition to Petricca, who also plays keyboards, the band includes Eli Maiman on guitar, Kevin Ray on bass, and Sean Waugaman on drums. They first gained success on the Billboard Alternative and Rock charts with their 2012 single “Anna Sun”, but it was their massive hit “Shut Up and Dance” that brought them international fame.

The song was actually a bit of a sleeper hit. Released in September 2014 as the lead single from their second album Talking is Hard, the song first appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 in late November 2014, then fell off after spending only two weeks at #98. It re-entered a week later, and slowly climbed the chart, ultimately peaking at 4 in May 2015, however, it spent many weeks at #1 on the Alternative, Hot Rock Songs and Adult Top 40 charts. It was also named the #1 song of 2015 on the Hot Rock Songs and Adult Top 40 charts.

Petricca and Maiman had initially developed the infectious verse that formed the beginnings of the song, but it all came together the following weekend while Petricca was at a nightclub in the Echo Park district of Los Angeles. The place was packed, it was taking forever to get a drink, and he was frustrated because he wanted to dance to the great music that was playing. His girlfriend told him to stop complaining and just dance with her, inspiring the title “Shut Up and Dance’. He envisioned the song “as an anthem for letting go of frustration and having fun”, and set the lyrics to a jubilant, catchy-as-hell dance beat, embellished with rolling riffs of jangly guitar, jazzy synths and thumping drums.

The endearing and funny video portrays Petricca as, in his own words, “an incredibly uncomfortable, awkward dork who is 100 percent me” at a bar, trying to look cool.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #75: “Out of My League” by Fitz and the Tantrums

The song at #75 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Out of My League” by Los Angeles-based pop/neo soul band Fitz and the Tantrums. Although they’d been making music since 2008, I was not familiar with them until my musical awakening in late summer 2013. One day I discovered the Billboard Alternative Rock chart, and it was a revelation! I saw songs by lots of artists I’d either never heard of, or who I knew about but wasn’t aware they had new music out. One of the songs riding high on the chart at that time was “Out of My League”, and I instantly fell in love with it’s exuberant piano and bass-driven synth pop grooves. The song is so damned electrifying and catchy, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I became a huge Fitz and the Tantrums fan, and bought their CD More Than Just a Dream, which also features their terrific follow-up single “The Walker”. I loved that CD so much I played it nearly to death over the next six months.

Fitz and the Tantrums are headed by front man and lead vocalist Michael Fitzgerald, and includes the lovely Noelle Skaggs on co-lead vocals, James King on sax and flute, Joseph Karnes on bass, Jeremy Ruzumna on keyboards and John Wicks on drums and percussion. A unique aspect of their music is that they have no designated guitarist, but they more than make up for it with a strong rhythm section and generous use of King’s sax (though it’s not prominent on “Out of My League”). Sadly, their two follow up albums have been rather disappointing to me, as well as many of their early fans and music critics. They seem to have abandoned their earlier soulful, groove-based sound in favor of a more pop-oriented style that just sounds generic and predictable. Also, their newer stuff hasn’t utilized Noelle Scaggs’ great vocals nearly enough. I still like them though.

I saw Fitz and the Tantrums in concert in a double bill with Young the Giant (two of whose songs have already been featured on this list) at the Los Angeles Forum in August 2019. They put on a fantastic show.

TOUGH ON FRIDAYS – Album Review: “A Fantastic Way To Kill Some Time”

Tough On Fridays is a female-fronted grunge-pop rock band based in Georgetown, Texas, a mid-sized city 30 miles north of Austin. Since forming in 2017, they’ve built an ever-growing fan base through their infectious music, relatable lyrics and high-energy live shows. Blending the best of indie, alt-rock, pop and grunge, they create their own unique style of edgy rock ‘n roll . Making the music are Caleigh on vocals & guitar, Carly on bass & vocals, and Chris on drums.

Since 2017, they’ve released numerous singles and EPs, and beginning this past March, they dropped a series of three double-singles – “Simplicity I”, “Simplicity II” and “Simplicity III” – every two months. On September 4th, they released their long-awaited debut album A Fantastic Way to Kill Some Time, featuring the six previously-released singles along with two new tracks. Showcasing their most mature and refined sound yet, the album was recorded at Empire Sound in Carrollton, TX under the direction of Matt Kennedy, who engineered and mixed the tracks. The album was produced by Eric Nielsen, and mastered by Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The album touches on the myriad challenges of young adulthood like self-identity, mental health, and the perilous minefield of relationships and dating. Opening track “Party Scene” sets the tone from both a musical and lyrical standpoint, with urgent riffs of grungy guitars, driving bass and pummeling drums creating an angst-filled vibe for the lyrics decrying the downsides of the party scene. Caleigh bemoans of her general distaste for parties, and how going to them makes her feel more lonely than when she’s alone: “I don’t know why I go all on my own where no one really knows you. Everyone acts drunk too. I just wanna go home all alone / The Party Scene it’s so obscene. The Party Scene it’s not for me.”

Pleased to Meet You” speaks to the anxieties that often occur when meeting new people, that perhaps they won’t like us. At the listening party for the album, Caleigh said “Pleased to Meet You” is a callback to their previous song “Summer” about being a burden, and is a sort of warning to people you meet that they may not want to know you because of your faults and shortcomings: “Maybe I’m different. Maybe I’ve changed. Maybe I’m just a little sad and deranged.” The gnarly guitars on this track are really good.

On “Out of the Blue (The Deep End)“, Tough on Fridays addresses body dysmorphia, a mental condition in which a person obsesses about a perceived flaw or defect in their appearance that’s either non-existent or so minor that others can’t see it. In a late night phone call, the singer expresses her insecurities to a friend: “Dear friend, are you up tonight? I just don’t feel quite alright. I know it’s out of the blue, but I got another shit tattoo. Haven’t slept since god knows when, and I think I’m going off the deep end. / You know it’s hard to stay beautiful.”

Problematic relationships are the subject of several tracks on the album, starting with “My Favorite Mistake“. The song was written and sung by the band’s previous bassist Kelly, who was a senior in high school at the time. (She has since graduated and is now in college at Belmont in Nashville.) To a rousing beat and heavily-strummed grungy guitars, she wistfully sings to a former boyfriend of her conflicted feelings: “You were my favorite mistake. You were the feeling that I love and that I hate. Still think about you, but I still feel you in these walls.”

On “Last Chance to Lose Your Keys“, Caleigh gives her undependable boyfriend the kiss-off: “I shoulda seen it all along. It’s guys like you that make me think I’m better off home on a Saturday night with all my doors locked up tight. I won’t be thinkin’ about you, baby.” The song was originally written by the now defunct band Brand New; Tough on Fridays bought the rights to the song so they could record it and Caleigh spun the lyrics. And on “Patches“, she laments of a boy she’s crazy about, but doesn’t think he feels the same toward her: “All he seems to be, a fucking mystery. Do I mean anything? ‘Cause to me you are everything. / You know you have me. You’ll always be my mystery You look so good to me.” The gentle jangly guitar gives this song more of a folk-rock feel.

Lonely Eyes/Pines” is a low-key grunge song with reverb-soaked fuzzy guitars and restrained percussion that create a somber backdrop for Caleigh’s melancholy vocals. The poignant lyrics speak of regrets over past mistakes and wanting to find a little peace of mind, yet knowing that she’ll keep fucking up: “The sins I repent I will commit all over again. And these pines I will frame. I know it’s seen better days.” “Bad Memories and Wishful Thinking” is a grungy little tune that perfectly encapsulates those times when you feel like everything sucks and you just want to wallow in your misery and self-pity: “If it would rain all day I would be happy just for one day. And I will change my name. For one day if only it’ll rain.”

A Fantastic Way To Kill Some Time is a fine debut album from this hard-working and earnest young band. I like the honesty that shines through in both their relatable lyrics and down-to-earth style of grunge. Plus, it’s always gratifying to see women making great rock music.

Follow Tough on Fridays:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudReverbnation

Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

SEPRONA – Single Review: “Rose Tinted Eyes”

Seprona is a British indie pop-rock band based in the music city of Liverpool. I first learned about them when they recently followed me on Twitter, and I’ve had their music on repeat all weekend! From what I’ve been able to gather from their social media accounts, the five-piece formed in 2010, and currently consists of front man Daniel Badger on vocals, Lewis on guitar, Christopher on bass, Niall on keyboards and Mike on drums. Together they make outstanding music that’s lively, melodic and catchy as hell.

They released their first single “Monsters” in 2015, then followed up with a series of terrific singles, culminating with their impressive debut self-titled EP Seprona in 2018. 2019 saw the release of the beautiful and rousing “The World’s End”, followed a year later with “Lost in the Lonely Hearts”, a wonderful, hard-driving track. In August, the guys returned with their latest single “Rose Tinted Eyes“, and it’s a deliriously infectious slice of dream rock.

The song has a bit of a retro 80s new wave/punk vibe, with an exuberant dance beat that grabs us firmly by the hips. I love the swirling riffs of chiming guitars, shimmery keyboards and galloping drum beats that build to a frenzy in the choruses. They all work in tandem to create an electrifying soundscape for Daniel’s sultry, emotionally-charged vocals.

The bittersweet lyrics speak of having chronic wishful thinking, and viewing a dysfunctional and dissatisfying relationship through ‘rose-tinted eyes’: “As I replay the tears baby I fantasize through rose tinted eyes / I create an illusion maybe / Though I try baby, I just cant believe you’re too blind to see / I’ll recharge those batteries / Through all your lies baby I think I must concede that my self esteem is detached from reality.

Follow Seprona:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

SHIPS HAVE SAILED – Single Review: “Low”

Ships Have Sailed

Los Angeles-based duo Ships Have Sailed are one of my favorite indie acts, and I’ve featured them on this blog a number of times over the past two years. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.) Consisting of singer-songwriter and guitarist Will Carpenter and drummer Art Andranikyan, they can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned when it comes to producing outstanding songs. They play a pleasing style of alternative pop-rock characterized by beautiful melodies, thoughtful, uplifting lyrics, and sublime arrangements and instrumentation. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Will twice, and his kindness and warmth shine through in his engaging vocals.

They’ve released quite a bit of music over the past eight years, and have been on a particularly creative streak since the beginning of 2019, beginning with their gorgeous single “Escape”. I love that song so much that it ended up at #19 on my Top 100 Songs of 2019 list. They’ve subsequently released several more great singles, their latest of which is “Low“, a beautiful song of hope that dropped July 22nd.

The song opens with Will’s sultry vocals accompanied by a somber piano riff, then the music expands to include heavier guitar, lush synths, and Art’s lively drums, all set to an infectious, pulsating melody. Will’s pleasing vocals become more impassioned along with the music as everything rises to a dramatic crescendo before calming down at song’s end.

The lyrics speak of not giving up when you feel you’ve hit bottom, instead remaining optimistic and hopeful, and cherishing those special people in your life who give you love and support in your goal of getting back up. Ships Have Sailed never fail to deliver superb songs, and “Low” is another winning tune.

Livin’ like there’s no tomorrow,
I had a dream and then I chased it,
But if I could I’d do it over,
For all the sweetness that I’ve tasted.

But sometimes livin’ don’t come easy,
It’s like you’re walking underwater,
One day you’re feeling like you’re close to the top, yeah…
And then you wake up at the bottom.

So pick me up I’m feeling low (oh),
I’m so afraid of letting go,
So pick me up again I’m feeling so low,
I’m just trying to live my life with no regret,
Trying to get to the top but I’m not there yet,
So baby can you pick me up again?

Meet me at the stroke of midnight?
Let’s find a fantasy and fake it…
So we’ll remember all the good and the bad times,
A memory is never wasted…

So pick me up I’m feeling low (oh),
I’m so afraid of letting go,
So pick me up again I’m feeling so low,
I’m just trying to live my life with no regret,
Trying to get to the top but I’m not there yet,
So baby can you pick me up again?

Since I published this review, Ships Have Sailed released a wonderful animated video for the song that was created by Ben Panfil:

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