HOUSE OF HARM – EP Review: “Coming of Age”

house of harm ep

It may be 2019, but the lasting legacy of 1980s post-punk and new wave (and all its sub genres) is very much alive and well, probably due in part to the fact it sounds so awesome! I know of several artists and bands whose sound is heavily influenced by the electronics-dominant music of bands like New Order, The Cure and Depeche Mode, to name some of the biggest acts from that period. One such band that I have the pleasure of featuring today is House of Harm, a duo from Boston consisting of Michael Rocheford on lead vocals & Cooper Leardi on guitar and synths. With just a casual listen, they could be unfairly labeled a New Order or Depeche Mode cover band, but a closer listen reveals the guys to be skilled songwriters and composers, crafting outstanding songs that easily hold their own against the aforementioned bands.

House of Harm released their excellent debut EP Demo in June 2017, followed later that year with a darkwave single “Isolator”, and in November 2018, they dropped their second EP Coming of Age, featuring four gorgeous tracks. First up is “Past Life“, a brooding but beautiful song that really channels Depeche Mode both instrumentally and vocally. The guys employ lush swirling synths, razor sharp percussion, and layers of richly textured, chiming guitars to create a magnificent shimmering soundscape.  Rocheford’s arresting vocals convey a sense of urgency and sad resignation as he laments “Let the past lay down tonight, I want it to, I want it to. Let the summer light catch your eyes. There’s someone new, someone new“.

About the track’s meaning, Rocheford told the webzine Vanyaland “The song is about spending time with someone you were formerly involved with and the struggles that come along with that.” Leardi added his feelings about the song: “‘Past Life’ was one of those songs that came to us like a lightbulb flash. All the elements were there. We were coming down from playing a string of shows, completely exhausted, and in one afternoon we wrote and recorded the whole song. It felt wrong to go back and change the magic we got that day, so the version you hear is just that. I can’t deny that there was a certain flavor in the air when we were working on it, something that reminds me of an ecstasy-fueled club in Ibiza or something… I think it puts us in a place and time, and that time is right now. I feel as though the song is there to say ‘We’re House Of Harm and this is what we’re about’.”

Always” is an updated version of a track that originally appeared on Demo. Leardi’s exuberant jangly guitars are the highlight here, accompanied by sparkling synths and wildly crashing cymbals. Rocheford fervently sings “You always keep it still. You always speak until. You always turn it around and smile in pain.” The marvelous title track “Coming of Age” features a powerful driving beat and a deeply resonant mix of swirling and moody synths that create a dramatic backdrop for Rocheford’s impassioned, soaring vocals as he implores to a former loved one: “And would you still run at the sight of me? And do you still you feel that you’ve thrown it away? And would you still lie, if I ever told you? And would you still say it’s a coming of age?” “Valentine” sounds a bit similar to “Coming of Age”, but with a frenetic beat that’s classic post-punk/new wave. If this bouncy, high-energy song doesn’t get you up and moving, nothing will.

Coming of Age is a wonderful little EP, and if you’re a fan of 80s post-punk/new wave, you’ll like this record. The arrangement and production are flawless, and the music and vocals sound clear and perfectly balanced. My only criticism is that with just four tracks, it feels rather like a teaser, leaving me wanting more. Perhaps that’s a good thing, as I eagerly await what House of Harm will grace our earbuds with next.

Connect with House of Harm:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

THE SILENCE KIT – Album Review: “Fall Protection”

The Silence Kit2

The Silence Kit is a Philadelphia-based band that plays dark indie alternative rock inspired in equal parts by post punk, shoegaze, neo-psychedelia, goth rock and avant-garde. Formed in 2002 by singer/guitarist Patrick McCay, the current lineup also includes Justin Dushkewich on bass, Darren O’Toole on drums & percussion, James Gross on guitar, and Bryan Streitfeld on synths. The band has released a number of albums, EPs and singles over the years, and in late October, they dropped their fifth album Fall Protection, which follows their acclaimed 2014 album Watershed.

The Silence Kit album

Their music has been compared to bands like The Cure, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, Nick Cave, and Television, but they’ve forged their own signature sound over the years, and Fall Protection sees the band continuing to grow and evolve, fusing together the atmosphere and intensity of early 80s post-punk and goth rock with the spirit of early 90s grunge and indie rock. In the recording of the album, the band had assistance from guest musician Kristin Kita, who played guitar on tracks #1, 7, 9, 10 and synths on #3, 5, 6, 8. The album was recorded and mixed by band front man Patrick McCay and mastered by Dave Downham.

Supermarket” kicks off the album with dark, almost psychedelic synths and grungy guitars propelled by a strutting bass line and infectiously melodic drumbeat. McCay’s vocals are wonderful, with a vulnerable urgency as he croons “In the glow of the supermarket. I wanna feel like I’m in my own dream…again. I miss the kiss of your first attraction. I want to be in deep and sleepless love…again. Time and time again, I will find you. / Lucky me, you found me too.” “New Year’s Eve” speaks to the random nature of our lives year in and year out: “There’s no such thing as karma, or what other’s like to call fate. What you give is irrelevant, and what you get is random…” The music features exuberant layers of fuzzy and jangly guitars and powerful drums.

This Time” serves up a deep, thumping bass line, delicious jangly guitars and the kind of strong, pummeling drumbeat that I love in songs. McCay’s emotionally wrought vocals seem to channel The Cure’s Robert Smith on this track. And the stunning chiming guitar work and sweeping melody on “Can We Skip This?” really showcase The Silence Kit’s strong musicianship. By the fifth track, the stellar, hard-hitting “Everything You Feel Good About,” I’m pretty well hooked on this band’s arresting music style and McCay’s slightly off-kilter but always captivating vocals.

The phenomenal “Wound” is another great example of what I’m talking about. The dark song starts off with a melancholy piano riff, accompanied by ominous synths, a deep, buzzing bass line and chugging guitars as McCay sings with a low, almost menacing voice. “I got this one thing on my mind. I’ve got to keep from losing you. / I wear this like it’s my own, a fine wound, so much to lose.” Two thirds of the way in, the tempo speeds up to a frantic pace as guitars rage and McCay screams “Don’t say a word” several times, then the music slows back down through to song’s end.

One of my favorite tracks is the brooding “Worry,” with its reverb-heavy layered guitars, sweeping psychedelic synths and tumultuous percussion that create an immense backdrop for McCay’s intensely passionate vocals. Another standout is the monumental six and a half minute-long “Never Say Goodbye.” Its haunting melody, lush, soaring instrumentals, and intricate guitar work are all positively breathtaking. The band keeps dazing our senses with raging riffs, dark synths, thunderous drums and raw vocals on “How Does it Feel?” and “Tablecloth.” McCay’s vocals sound decidedly British on the former track as he wails “How does it feel when you’re down and you find out everyone loves your best friend now? How does it feel when you’re gone?”

They seem to pull together all the elements of their signature sound and put them on full display on the gorgeous album closer “Discard.” The stunning reverb-heavy jangly guitars that open the epic track and continue throughout are fantastic, serving as the foundation for this magnificent song. Waves of sparkling, psychedelic synths wash over the guitars, aided by a deep bassline and layer upon layer of crashing cymbals and turbulent drums. It’s a massive song and the perfect ending to an equally massive album that leaves me awestruck.

Connect with The Silence Kit:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

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

Lost in the City Leaving Home art

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

Lost in the City band pic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LUNA ROSA Release Fundraiser Single & Video “Fear, Filth, Dirt & Death”

Luna Rosa Single Art

Luna Rosa is an outstanding Alternative/Psych/Indie rock four-piece formed in 2015, and hailing from Corby, Northamptonshire, UK. Making the music are Rory McDade (guitar, lead vocals), Aidan Furey (guitar, moves), Jack Connolly (drums, howls) and Charlie Thorneycroft (bass, noises). They released a superb self-titled EP Luna Rosa that same year, and followed up in 2017 with a fantastic double single “Mercurial Man/Vessels.” They now return with a powerful new single “Fear, Filth, Dirt & Death.

The song is a scathing attack on the negative aspects of Capitalism that helped make the fire at Grenfell Tower all the more deadly. (The cheap – and highly flammable –  insulating cladding used for the building renovation in 2017, just prior to the fire, is now believed to have caused the fire to spread much more rapidly.)

Musically, the track starts off with a galloping drumbeat and a scratchy guitar note, then explodes into a furious barrage of roiling guitar riffs and thunderous drums that seem to channel The Clash. The hard-driving music perfectly fits the harsh lyrics:

Fear Filth Dirt & Death
There’s fucking nothing left
The rest is left for the one percent at best
Look out for yourself
Prisoners of the State

Fear Filth Dirt & Death
You take away our NHS
It’s cause we matter less and less I know
It’s in your best interest

Heroes are buried in paupers graves
The money worth the morals you trade?
How come the ivory towers ain’t burning?
Grenfell fell for your earning
Prisoners of the State

The band explained their intent behind the song: “All money generated from the single as well as merchandise sales will be going to the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster. We are under no illusion that we can give these people what they need or deserve, but we feel the need to make the gesture and let them know that we stand with them.  Although dubious on whether to release this, as we didn’t want to cause anymore hurt, we thought there’s no better way to bring people together and show support than music.”

If you can donate £1 via our justgiving page, leaving your name and email we will get the song over to you:  https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/luna-rosa-single

Or you can buy it through our Bandcamp page and we will make sure everything goes over:  https://lunarosa.bandcamp.com/track/fear-filth-dirt-death

If you cant spare the £1 then please share!

Further Merchandise sales will be going to Firefighters & NHS Nurses. Thank you to Jordan Cameron for creating and donating the artwork to the cause.

Catch Luna Rosa at one of these upcoming shows:

Saturday, July 21  –  Percy’s Cafe Bar, Whitechurch, England w/Porcelain Hill

Saturday, July 28  –  Wrexfest 2018, Wrexham, Wales

Thursday, August 2  –  Kaleidoscope, Birmingham, England 

Friday, August 17  –  Shout About It, Liverpool, England

Saturday, August 18  –  Voodoo Lounge, Stamford, England w/Failsafe, Ten Years Dead

Friday, August 31  –  The Cookie, Leicester, England w/Oddity Road

Saturday, September 8  –  Rocked Up Hootenanny 2018, Rockingham Motor Speedway, Corby, England

Connect with Luna Rosa: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

GOODNIGHT JAPAN – Single Review: “Rush”

Goodnight Japan single

Goodnight Japan is a three-piece band from Sydney, Australia with a distinctive sound they colorfully describe as “Shoegazy bedroom-pop dreamscapes to punchy post-punk laced with dirty whisky blues.” Formed in 2016 by singer/songwriter/guitarist Abel Ibañez and bassist Gemma Conroy, drummer Joel van Gastel joined the band a year later to complete the lineup. All three of these talented individuals are involved in other projects as well – Abel is founder and co-editor of ERRR Magazine, Gemma is also known as the international model Meluxine, as well as a science journalist, and Joel is also drummer for Australian rock band Jenny Broke the Window.

When I asked Abel about the band’s unusual name, he explained that he used to have a band with his brother in Mexico City, where they were born and raised, and his brother came up with the name. “It was a bit of a joke at the beginning, because we would fantasize (of course) playing to big audiences in big arenas or stadiums and starting the concerts with a “Goodnight America” or “Goodnight Russia” and then “Goodnight Japan.” And then he decided that Goodnight Japan was going to be the name of our band. And we played a couple of gigs in Mexico under that name. I later formed another band –also in Mexico– and used that same name but in Spanish and a bit modified: we were Adiós Japón (Goodbye Japan).  Some years later, when I came to Australia and started playing with Gemma, I told her the story about the name and she just loved Goodnight Japan, so we took it back.”

They’ve just released a lovely new single “Rush,” a touching song with a pleasing mix of fuzzy guitar, humming bass and gentle percussion, all set to a toe-tapping beat. Abel’s heartfelt vocals have an earnest vulnerability as he sings the poignant lyrics that speak to someone who keeps resisting committing to a relationship, pleading with them to get off the endless cycle of indecision and just let love in:

You say you don’t want to rush 
You say you don’t want to break 
You say you don’t really care 
No you don’t give a damn 
People keep losing their minds 
Going ’round and around on this ride 

But this time let go 
‘Cause this time I’ve got you 
But this time let go 
‘Cause this time I’ve got you 

They’re currently recording more songs to be included on their upcoming EP, and I’m eager to hear them. In the meantime, you can catch them at one of these upcoming shows in New South Wales:

June 15   The Townie, Newtown, 9 PM w/Deep Space Supergroop & Trouble Cruise

June 29  Botany View Hotel, Newtown, 9 PM w/Jonas Nicholls & Deep Space Supergroop

July 28  The Record Crate, Glebe, 7 PM w/E for Echo x DARBY

Connect with Goodnight Japan on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Rush” on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

OLI BARTON & THE MOVEMENT – EP Review: “How Would I Know”

UK band Oli Barton & the Movement have been making quite the splash on the London music scene over the past year and a half. Beginning with their deliciously menacing debut single “Photograph” in late 2016, they dropped two more singles in 2017, then released their smashing album Into the Back Room that August, which I reviewed. They now follow up with a new EP How Would I Know, featuring three new tracks plus a live performance of the title track “How Would I Know?” that originally appeared on Into the Back Room.

The five member band is headed by the brilliant mastermind Oli Barton, who does the majority of the songwriting, plays guitar and sings lead vocals. The ace musicians helping Barton bring his songs to life include Ryan Wilson on lead guitar, Jamal Lagoon on Rhythm Guitar, Marco “Fuzz” Paone on Bass, and Josh Needham on Drums. With a winning combination of talent, creativity and personality, their eccentric style of alternative rock is a crazy-good mix of post-punk and psychedelia, fortified with touches of funk, grunge and pop. They employ all sorts of instruments, sounds and textures to create music that’s original and unconventional, and their direct, tongue-in-cheek lyrics are delivered with an abundance of irony and humor.

This is immediately evident on the frantic head banger “Stayed In.” The wild track has a bouncy punk/rock beat with a cacophony of plucky distorted guitars, galloping drums and tons of crashing cymbals. I love it! The amusing lyrics are a litany of bad shit that happens on those nights when you go out, drink too much, and get into trouble, thinking afterwards that you should have just stayed home to begin with (I’ve certainly had my share of those nights):

There’s blood on the dance floor
I’m fighting Mickey Mantle
for the last place in the queue

There’s puke down your shirt
from that girl who’s a flirt
and said she’d only had a few

Yeah you should have just stayed in
And no one would have thought any worse oh yeah

How Would I Know?” is a terrific live performance of the song at the University of West London. The song speaks to teenage relationship angst, specifically the frustrations of a 16-year old boy wishing he was older so he could marry his girlfriend and “cause everyone just seems so cool.” Then, with much exasperation, Barton implores ”But are you happy? “Cause that don’t seem such an awful thing to me. Yeah, did you ever try to deceive me yeah? How would I know?” It just occurred to me that the song has a bit of an early Weezer vibe, sort of like a more punkish take on “Say It Ain’t So.” I love the barrage of jangly and heavily distorted guitars and Paone’s funky bass, and Barton’s wonderful animated vocals are passionately delivered with his charming British accent. It’s a fantastic song.

As I listen to each track I decide that one is my favorite – until I hear the next one, causing me to reassess my earlier decision. “Turning the Noose” is a phenomenal track that really showcases the band’s outstanding musicianship and Barton’s jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics. God, I love this band!

The rousing “44” is a hard-driving rock’n’roll song that addresses the debauchery of celebrities like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey who use their fame and power to abuse others to get what they want. Wilson, Lagoon and Barton dazzle us with their adept guitar work, and Needham pounds his drum kit with abandon. Barton snarls the frank lyrics that get right to the point:

Would you ever so mind if I put it in raw, I’m 44
I’m sorry young girl but I’m wanting more, and I’m 44
And I look 26 but I am much more, I’m 44
I eat up every guy on the dance floor, I’m 44
Will you mind me closing that bedroom door, I’m 44
I’m sorry young boy but I’m wanting more, and I’m 44
My best friend told me the other night
This ain’t the way to be
If you swallow me I’ll give you the right
And I’ll show you how to get your kicks for free

How Would I Know is a tasty little EP that packs a hell of a punch in just four tracks. Oli Barton & the Movement excel with every single song they’ve ever recorded, and I’m excited to hear what they come up with next.

Follow Oli Barton and the Movement:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Google Play

THE HIGH RIP – Single Review: “Wasted”

The High Rip is a four-piece indie band from Liverpool, UK who play a deliriously infectious mix of alternative rock and post punk that just makes you feel good. And can’t we use some more of that right now! They also have a wry sense of humor – always a big plus for me. They state in their bio “The most notorious Liverpool gang of the 1890’s was The High Rip. Fast forward 120 years and it would seem little has changed.” Making up this current crew of Liverpool gang members are Ivan on lead vocals, Graham on guitar, Paul on bass and vocals, and Jo on drums.

They’ve released several excellent songs over the past year (I’m especially fond of “Best Holiday” and the T.Rex-ish “System Doesn’t Work”), and just dropped a terrific new single called “Wasted.” The rousing track has an upbeat 80s new wave vibe that reminds me of some of the great songs from The Cure and A Flock of Seagulls, two of my favorite bands from that era. The most arresting element for me is Graham’s exuberant jangly guitar riff that continues throughout the track, as well as some tasty little flourishes of distortion later on. Ivan’s lusty vocals are wonderful, as are Paul’s driving bass line and Jo’s masterful drums pounding out the irresistible beat. It’s a fantastic song that had me hitting replay, and so will you, my kind readers.

Despite the track’s upbeat vibe, its serious lyrics seem to speak of an approaching soul-crushing technocratic and authoritarian state, sort of like the one envisioned in 1984 (and which we’re sadly beginning to see glimpses of today):

And in the future, there will be no understanding
Just a series of rules to obey
And in the future there will be no together
No tomorrow, no today
Waste what you like, waste another lifetime
Wherever you stand you are in the way

And now this feels like, feels just like I always knew it would feel
Like the way that I was told
And in the future, there will be no happy ending
No way of coming in out of the cold
So waste what you like, waste another lifetime
Wherever you stand, you are in the way

Connect with The High Rip:  Facebook / Twitter
Stream their music on Soundcloud

LOW STANDARDS, HIGH FIVES – Single/Video Review: “Silent Decor”

I love when bands come up with offbeat or quirky names for themselves, and one of the better ones I’ve come across lately is Low Standards, High Fives, an alternative rock oufit from Turin, Italy. Formed in 2012, the band has continually evolved to shape their sound and musical direction. They expanded to a five-piece by 2016, and now consist of Ame Ray (guitar, lead vocals), Lore Frezza (bass, vocals), Luca Cravero (guitar), Endi Sassano (guitar, vocals) and Karl Lèmon (drums). Having three guitarists gives their music a heavier, fuller sound.

Low Standards High Fives

In January, the band released their hard rock single “Silent Decor,” which will be featured on their upcoming debut album Are We Doing The Best We Can? The album will be released through UK/US label Engineer Records on March 31st, and the band is making “Silent Decor” available as a free download via their Bandcamp page.

The band delivers aggressive riffs of grungy, jangly and shredded guitars and lots of crashing cymbals, anchored by a heavy bass line. Ray wails the lyrics about meaning nothing more to someone than just an ornament:  “So here’s what you need. A silent decor. Ornamental / What am I here for?” It’s a terrific rock track.

The unusual video shows a man thumbing through albums at a record store and choosing one titled “Silent the Kobras,” and in the next scene is shown holding the album over his head. The video segues to the band wearing wigs and performing the song at a club as the heavy metal band ‘Kobras.’ After the show, Ray gets out of their van to take a leak, and disappears without a trace. Nine months later, he’s shown lying naked in a field, then slowly gets up and stumbles off.

Connect with the band:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase their music on iTunes or you can download their previous EP’s for free on Bandcamp

THE TRIMS – Album Review: “Julian Street”

Trims album

San Jose, California-based indie post-punk band The Trims have been making great music for nearly a decade. Formed in 2009 by singer/songwriter/guitarist Gabe Maciel, The Trims also includes Billy Brady on drums and Mark Sharp on bass. Their on-stage charisma and skill at creating catchy, high-energy grooves have built them a huge following in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

They were one of the first bands I featured on this blog back in October 2015, and in August 2017, I reviewed their fantastic single “The One I Want.”  They’ve now released their second full-length album Julian Street (named after a major thoroughfare running through San Jose), which dropped in January, delivering ten superb tracks that showcase their exuberant guitar-driven sound.

The Trims photo

Julian Street starts off big with the exhilarating “Turn Out the Lights.” Our ears are instantly hit with an onslaught of Mark’s gritty bass and Billy’s hammering drumbeats, setting the stage for Gabe’s frantic riffs of chiming guitars. It’s clear their aim is to have us on our feet and dancing within seconds. With his fervent vocals, Gabe sings “Turn out the lights. Bring back the summer before our youth is gone.” On “Nobody Else” Gabe sings of his never ending devotion and not wanting to love anyone else.

Now is a good time to mention how much I love Gabe’s marvelous vocals and his signature guitar style, which seems to meld surf, punk, rock’n’roll and doo wop elements into a highly satisfying, upbeat sound uniquely recognizable as their own. Another thing is how well the guys play together, totally in sync with each other to create a tight sound.

Dying (Just to See Your Face)” and the lead single “The One I Want” are perfect examples of what I’m talking about, with intricate, fast-paced riffs of jangly guitars and a frenetic, heavy drumbeat. “Bedroom Mirror” has layers of multi-textured guitars over a funky bass line and drums that Billy seems to hit at 100 beats per second. The man is one hell of a power drummer!

The guys slow it down on the lovely acoustic ballad “Gone Away.” Gabe strums a melancholy riff on his guitar as he sings: “All we have is this moment to release what’s inside. All we have is tomorrow. I’ll be home in time. Tomorrow has gone away.” I really like this mellower sound which they do quite well, and wish they’d make more songs like this.

I Wish I Could Say” has Gabe wanting to apologize but unable to: “I would like to tell that I’m sorry for the stupid things I wish I’d never done./ I wish that I could say that the worst was over. I wish I could tell you nothing’s wrong.  But now I see I was mistaken. A fool who never seemed to care.”

Mark’s bass is prominently on display on the melodic hard-driving tracks “Hands of Time” and “You Tell Me.”  Of course, Gabe’s awesome guitar work and Billy’s skillful drumming are on-point as always. Album closer “Balam in Love” features generous synths that nicely complement the gorgeous guitars and throbbing bass, creating a bit of a new wave/punk-infused vibe. Gabe tells a lover that their relationship is over and he wants out: “There’s nothing more to say. This is the game you play. Just let me go.” It’s a brilliant track, and one of my favorites from this excellent and thoroughly enjoyable album.

Connect with The Trims:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify or Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

ANTIPOLE – Album Review: “Northern Flux”

Antipole Album Cover

Antipole is a coldwave/post-punk project from Trondheim, Norway, and the second act from Norway that I’ve featured on this blog (the first being Sherpa, who I featured in July 2016). They just dropped their first full length album Northern Flux. Released through  Unknown Pleasures Records, the ambitious new album contains 14 tracks, including five remastered songs originally featured on their previous EP Getting Frequent Now.

Essentially a solo project of songwriter/guitarist Karl Morten Dahl, Antipole was formed in early 2014, after Karl met Anne-Christel. He had previously written songs and been in other bands, but was inspired by Anne-Christel to write and record more music on his own in an early 80s new wave and post-punk style. In 2014, Antipole released a debut digital-only EP Panoply. Songs for AC, that featured eight instrumental tracks. This was followed with a second EP Getting Frequent Now in early 2017.

The songs on Northern Flux were written by Karl in collaboration with Paris Alexander and Eirene, both of whom are from Brighton, UK, and also provided ethereal vocals for all the tracks. The album was recorded at Lysverkvegen in Trondheim, Norway, and Blue Door Studio in Brighton,UK, and produced, mixed and mastered by Paris.

In an interview with Jeff Haight of the web magazine Overblown (which you can read here), Karl describes Antipole and some of the influences on their sound:

“I’m trying to create addictive, melancholic coldwave/post-punk. When I started Antipole in early 2014 the idea was to write melodies and record them in a way that they sounded like a post-punk band recording from 1982. I started recording songs again after I met Anne-Christel. She’s heavily into obscure post-punk old and new, and listening to that inspired me a lot. Obvious influences were and are New Order, Joy Division and The Cure. Not as obvious influences would be The Chameleons, The Sound and also newer bands like The KBV, Motorama and Mode Moderne. Whether the influences can be heard or not I’m not the one to decide. “Disintegration” by The Cure has been kind of a gold template to me. Very sad and emotional music, yet so beautiful. The songs have gotten more electronic after I started collaborating with Paris Alexander. He has also contributed a lot to song ideas/arrangements/writing and of course vocals plus writing his lyrics. Lately Eirene has also contributed a lot.”

Beginning with album opener “October Novel,” the strong influences of  Joy Division and The Cure can clearly be heard in Antipole’s mesmerizing sound. Hypnotic dance beats, jangly guitar-driven melodies and dreamy synth chords are the distinctive elements of their music.  Paris’ and Eirene’s distant, almost chant-like vocals are strangely seductive, lending an otherworldly feel to most tracks. Each track flows effortlessly into the next, allowing the listener to become swept away by the spellbinding rhythmic beats.

A standout track is “Shadow Lover,” with it’s powerful, throbbing bass line and intricate, jangly guitar work. With a hint of menace in his breathy vocals, Paris sings “You see through me. And I want you. I still want you. Yes I want you.”

Another of my favorites is the captivating 8 1/2 minute-long “Narcissus.” A pulsating beat drives the track forward as mysterious synths and a constant jangly guitar riff play off each other, gradually building in intensity as the song progresses. Paris hauntingly chants “I see you.

Track listing:

1.  October Novel
2.  Shadow Lover
3.  Dans l’entrée
4.  Summer Never Ends
5.  Reflected in You
6.  Magnolia Skies
7.  All Alone
8.  Le Châtelet
9.  Someday 45
10. Narcissus
11. Distant Fall
12. Closer
13. Please Let Me Sleep
14. Insight (Joy Division Cover)

Connect with Antipole:  Facebook / Twitter
Stream their music:  Spotify
Purchase:  Bandcamp