Hailing from Chicago, post-punk band a million rich daughters play a unique and fascinating style of, in their own words – “garage/industrial/horror inspired alternative post-punk – music that transcends the typical boundaries of the observable universe.” Founded by brothers Brett and Jake Grant, with Brett on vocals, guitars and synths, and Jake on drums, the four-piece now includes Matt Clepper on guitar and Dani Putrino on bass. (Brett also has a solo project under the moniker brett.grant.5.) Exactly two years ago to the day – November 15th also happens to be Brett’s birthday – they released their brilliant debut EP Hidden Parents, which I reviewed. Now they’re back with a haunting new single “Left Behind“, their first new music release in two years.
Brett was inspired to write “Left Behind” during a painful separation from his wife Ashlee (which thankfully was only temporary, as they’re both very special people who I’ve become quite fond of, albeit by long distance). He elaborates “In the broader sense, it’s about the helplessness of being left behind by someone who has outgrown you, and the feeling of betrayal that comes with that. One thing about this song is it’s all just AAA format. It’s a single verse repeated over and over as the music builds around it to the climax at the end. I intended for it to convey the whole concept of ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’ When I was going through all that, I was literally just stewing in my emotions, self medicating with whatever I could get my hands on, and I felt unable to break out of the cycle. Add to this, this ALL happened right at the beginning of Covid. So I was going through all this, and suddenly I couldn’t leave the house or see anyone.“
The song is darkly beautiful and melodic, with more of a dream pop sound than most of their previous songs. It opens with a simple, rather somber guitar riff as Brett forlornly laments “Well, I’ll swallow my pride and ‘ll eat my mistakes. And I’ll throw up the memory if that’s what it takes. Devour the regret, I’ll gorge on the shame. If it means in the end you’ll absolve me of blame. Your words when you left me been plaguing my mind. Now I’ve been vanquished, you’ve finally left me behind.”
Approximately 50 seconds into the track, Matt’s gorgeous swirling guitar enters, accompanied by Dani’s gently thumping bassline and Jake’s measured drumbeats, creating a dreamy but haunting backdrop for Brett’s increasingly impassioned vocals, backed by lovely soaring harmonies. Everything continues to build to a dramatic crescendo, replete with a blistering guitar solo in the final verse before trailing off in a outro of spooky synths as Brett sadly concludes “Your words when you left me been plaguing my mind. Now I’ve been vanquished, you’ve finally left me behind.” I love this song, and think it’s their best one yet.
The wonderful artwork for the single was created by Brett’s beautiful and creative wife Ashlee.
Paris Alexander is a creative and talented singer-songwriter, composer and electronic music producer based in Brighton, England. He’s been a long time collaborator with British singer-songwriter, producer and muse Tina Eirene (with whom he’s also romantically involved), as well as Norwegian coldwave/post-punk artist Antipole, with whom he co-wrote, sang vocals and played synths on, and produced three albums together (one of which, the 2017 release Northern Flux, I featured on this blog). Alexander and Antipole have also worked together on numerous projects with other artists, and Alexander has worked with fellow Brighton electro-rock band IAMWARFACE (one of my favorite British bands who I’ve also written about many times) and London electro-psych band Leg Puppy.
In late 2019, Alexander released two excellent darkwave singles, “Tense” and “Druids”, both featuring vocals by Eirene. Then, this past February, he began releasing a series of new singles, “Renaissance”, “Devour”, and “Lost in the City” (the latter of which I also reviewed). All three of those singles are included on his wonderful debut album Renaissance, which dropped September 17th. The album was co-written and co-produced by Eirene, who also sings vocals on most tracks, and recorded, mixed and mastered at Alexander’s Blue Door Music Studios in Brighton.
About the album, Alexander explained to me that the title “Renaissance” is intended to symbolize “a positive change in life and an onward journey,” as well as the fact that this is his first solo album (albeit with Eirene). Delivering 38 minutes of shimmery darkwave grooves in ten outstanding tracks, Renaissance has a retro late 80s feel in the vein of bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode and New Order, yet sounds current and original. One of the characteristics I especially like about the album is that, similar to The Cure, many songs feature beautiful jangly and chiming guitars which lend great texture and drama to their overall sound.
The album opens with the title track “Renaissance“, a brooding song with a mesmerizing fast-paced driving beat that sets the tone for what’s to come. Alexander explained that the melodramatic lyrics are a metaphor for an internal crisis that’s producing an anxiety attack: “The mine exploding in my face was my first clue. Dreams shattered, burning pain. My hands are tied, my heart is cold. Burn down, the ashes, left with nothing. Nothing. My hands are tied, my heart is cold.” His rich baritone vocals sound like a glorious mash-up of David Bowie and ABC’s Martin Fry, while Eirene’s sultry, otherworldly croons lend added mystery to the proceedings.
From that point on, each track seems to flow seamlessly into the next, transporting me to a dark but dreamy place. The hauntingly beautiful second track, “Son Chemin“, is one of my favorites. Loosely translated, the song’s title means one’s way or path forward, which seems to signify an emergence from the personal hell first described in the opening track “Renaissance”. Against a backdrop of lush atmospheric synths, the interplay between the throbbing synth bass groove and the delicate mix of moody and chiming guitars is quite marvelous.
As noted above, I’ve previously written about “Lost in the City“, a darkly beautiful song about the cold and anonymous aspects of urban life, and how despite living amongst lots of people, we can sometimes feel very isolated and alone. I love the assertive stomping beat, hypnotic bassline, moody swirling synths and bold jangly guitars. The accompanying video, beautifully filmed in black and white by Eirene, features scenes along and around the Thames River in historic South East London. The black and white tones and brooding skies nicely capture the darkwave elements of the music and lyrics.
Frequent collaborator Antipole contributes some dazzling jangly guitar work on “The Void“, a song awash in dreamy psychedelic synths and moody vocal harmonies. Another favorite of mine is “Devour“, a dramatic and stunning track featuring a sharp, pulsating beat, luxurious cinematic synths, shimmery guitars and enchanting harmonic choruses. The lyrics are rather ambiguous, but seem to speak to searching for a way out of the depths of despair: “I kneel on this dusty floor. Look up through the pane. Light shimmers on my refrain. The dust splinters the light. The moon breaches the night. My arms extend to the stars. My back it holds the scars. Gotta find a way.”
The stellar tracks keep coming on strong, and I’m running out of descriptors and superlatives. “Siren” has a pulsating, almost dubstep-type beat, overlain with mysterious sweeping synths, handclaps, and a repetitive and hypnotic guitar riff, all creating a mesmerizing soundscape. In her best siren-like voice, Eirene breathily croons “You’re the one that always draws the best of me. Hold on to the words that go unspoken. I want the sun to shine through the trees, and the warmth develop my sanity.” The dark and dramatic “Floating Cities” features strong, driving beats, otherworldly synths and the combined vocals of Alexander, Eirene and guest vocalist UIU aka Grey Blatsa, who also played synths.
On the lively “Sound of Vision“, Alexander layers fuzz-coated gnarly synths and chiming guitar notes over a strong, throbbing EDM beat and deep, almost funky bassline. The result is a mesmerizing dance track guaranteed to have you swaying your hips within seconds. Eirene’s bewitching siren-like vocals make a welcome return engagement on this terrific track as well. The charming video they produced for the song features vintage footage of women dancing and doing light striptease, courtesy of Prelinger Risque Archives.
The final two tracks, “Revival” and “Desire“, deliver more hypnotic grooves, darkwave synths and stellar guitar work. “Revival” has a rapid, driving beat and spacey synths, punctuated by beautiful jangly guitars and Alexander and Eirene’s somber vocal harmonies, while the more languid “Desire” features a sultry dance vibe with jangly guitars, swirling atmospheric synths and Eirene’s breathy vocals.
Before I know it, the album’s over, and the first thing I want to do is hit repeat so I can hear it all again. Renaissance is a beautiful, masterfully-crafted work, and one of the finest electronic music albums I’ve written about in a long while. If you’re a fan of darkwave electronic music, or bands like The Cure and Depeche Mode, you will enjoy this album.
Welsh music journalist Kevin McGrath has embarked on an ambitious effort to raise funds for Velindre Cancer Center in Cardiff, Wales, where he’s received treatment for his own cancer. A regular contributor to Wales Arts Review and New Sound Wales, McGrath came up with the idea to create a massive 40-track digital album release as a way to not only raise money for a worthy cause, but also pay back in kind for the life-saving care he’s received.
Accordingly, he reached out to some of his favorite musicians in Wales, as well as in places such as Italy, Finland and America, to donate a song, old or new, released or unreleased, toward the creation of a 40-track mixtape album. Well, the response was beyond what he expected, and the album, entitled V4Velindre, now has a whopping 50 tracks by some of the best bands in Wales, including Bandicoot, Climbing Trees, Campfire Social, and Head Noise, as well as established singer/songwriters such as Jodie Marie, Evans McRae and Dan Bettridge.
McGrath explains his mission for creating the album: “V4Velindre exists because from the minute that we are born our lives intersect with the National Health Service. We all have stories (happy and sad) of the crucial role the NHS plays in our very existence. Nothing, though, could have prepared us for the sacrifice that NHS staff all over the country made to keep us safe during the COVID pandemic. Just between March 2020 and December 2020 883 NHS staff members died from COVID doing their duty and so much more. As the NHS, and the nation, seeks to rebuild in the wake of the pandemic we need to come together and make our contribution. As Nye Bevan famously said, ‘the NHS will last only as long as there’s folk with faith left to fight for it’. That fight comes in many measures – some will work for the NHS, some will vote for the NHS, some will protest for the NHS, and some will help finance its upkeep through jumble sales and sponsored walks. Please consider purchasing V4Velindre. Every single penny of the proceedings that comes to me from the sale of this album (minus the Bandcamp commission) will be passed straight to the Velindre Cancer Centre, where I have been cared for as an outpatient for the past eight years.“
Among its 44 tracks, the album features songs by the last three winners of the Welsh Music Prize, including “O Silly Me” by young singer-songwriter Boy Azooga, “Brassneck” by indie legends The Wedding Present (an exclusive re-working of one of their all-time classics), “Who You Are” by BOB and “Enemy of Promise” by the Nightingales. In addition, the album includes songs donated by outstanding new Indie bands from Italy (Smile) Finland (That Forgotten Band) and the U.S. (Walter Etc, Eggs on Mars and Parker Woodland). Two of the songs are by Welsh artists I’ve previously featured on this blog: “Deal With the Devil” by the hyper-talented singer-songwriter GG Fearn, and “Stage Fright!” by electro-punk band Head Noise. There are also some newly-recorded tracks from Armstrong, Silent Forum, Burning Ferns and Y Dail that cannot be heard anywhere else but on this album.
Here’s a sampling of the wonderful songs included on V4Velindre:
V4Velindre will be available exclusively through Bandcamp as a digital-only release on October 1st, and may be pre-ordered here. If you pre-order, you will get five tracks now (streaming via the free Bandcamp app and also available as a high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more).
Soda Cracker Jesus is the brainchild of the wildly imaginative and enormously talented singer-songwriter and producer Regan Lane. The Tacoma-based musician has been involved in the Pacific Northwest music scene for nearly 40 years. Previously a member of Tacoma punk band Baby Knockorsand 80s rock band Strypes, he’s currently front man and ringmaster for psychedelic punk-rock band Strangely Alright, who I’ve featured numerous times on this blog. More recently, he helped produce the wonderful debut album Butterfly Hand Grenade for young up-and-coming rockers Stargazy Pie (which I reviewed), and is an active mentor in the successful Ted Brown Music Program, where he helps aspiring northwest musicians hone their craft.
Lane created Soda Cracker Jesus to express his “more punky power pop side”, with music influenced by acts like the Beatles, Kinks, Robyn Hitchcock, Julian Cope, XTC and more. He’s also been honest and candid on his social media about his former struggles with alcohol and substance abuse, and the happiness and joy that sobriety now brings him. The seasoned artist makes music that looks to the future, but also understands the power of the past and that duality helps shape his unique and signature sound. On April 1st, he released his Soda Cracker Jesus debut single “My Anthem” (which I also reviewed), and today he returns with his follow-up single “Drug My Soul“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The timely song explores the addictive nature of social media, and the alternate realities we can become immersed in if we’re not careful.
Lane further elaborates: “‘Drug My Soul’ is my perception of social media, at least for me. And it can be very seductive. I have a 12-year-old daughter who is very engaged in it, and I’ve seen it be a very good tool for information and exchanging ideas for her, but at times it exerts a pull that is similar to whatever one’s drug of choice is. (That’s based on my personal experience as a drug addict who’s been in recovery for a while.) And I’m no different. I can get lost in that shit if I’m not careful. And the fact that one can create a narrative of a reality that does not exist is weird and fascinating at the same time. I believe when all is said and done we are judged by our actions in the real physical world. As for the recording of the song, I again did all instruments, voices and production. I’m just trying to get better. Another cool thing for me was to play some slide guitar on this track. I played it a lot as a youngster and this was the first time in many moons that I’ve done that.”
As with “My Anthem”, once again Lane serves up a rousing post-punk banger, replete with a crushing mix of gnarly guitars layered over an assertive bassline and the kind of explosive, foot-stomping percussion that really gets the blood pumping. His instrumentation, arrangement and production values are all first-rate. The song opens with an ominous drumbeat and a teenage boy’s voiceover saying “I made a new friend“, followed by a woman (who could be his mother) asking “Real or imaginary?“, to which he replies “Imaginary.” Lane’s colorfully expressive vocals enter the proceedings as the music ramps up to an electrifying, almost menacing soundscape that continues for the remainder of the song. Things end rather abruptly with graphic sounds of a speeding car violently crashing into something. Wow!
All my friends are just pretend Nothing more than spreadsheets All my friends won’t let me send A different point of view Stumbling down the rabbit hole Chasing the feeling and all I want is more
Paris Alexander is a singer, songwriter, composer and electronic music producer based in Brighton, England. He recently dropped a mesmerizing new single “Lost in the City“, which I like so much that I have to share it with my readers. Co-produced by fellow Brighton singer-songwriter and producer Eirene at Alexander’s Blue Door Music Productions, the track is the third single from his forthcoming album Renaissance, due out later this year.
The talented musician has been a long time collaborator with Eirene, as well as Norwegian coldwave/post-punk artist Antipole, with whom he co-wrote, sung on and produced three albums together (one of which, the 2017 release Northern Flux I reviewed). Alexander and Antipole have also worked together on projects with other artists, remixing songs for such acts as Clan of Xymox and She Past Away. Additionally, Alexander has worked with London electro-psych band Leg Puppy on some of his music.
Starting with an assertive stomping drumbeat, Alexander layers a hypnotic bassline, moody swirling synths and bold jangly guitars that immediately make me think of The Cure. Some of the guitar work was played by Simon Meek, with added drums by Martin Meadows. Alexander’s deep baritone vocals have an ominous haunting quality, nicely conveying a rather dystopian vibe befitting the dark lyrics about the cold and anonymous aspects of urban life – how despite living amongst lots of people, we can sometimes feel very isolated and alone. The combination of living in a densely built environment with little or no natural spaces, and feeling overwhelmed by technology, only serves to exacerbate one’s sense of isolation and disconnection, of feeling ‘lost in the city’.
We’re lost in the city Going nowhere so fast We’re lost in the city Little do we care We’re lost in the City Techno, nostalgia, round cars, designed beer We’re lost in the city
Our brains are gone Lost to receivers, transformers, flat screens We’re lost in the city Strobe light flashing away Inner world far from here A world of rich hue
Get lost in yesterday In the city or in our minds Hang on to the thread of hope We’re desperate to find……(repeat)
We’re lost in the city….(repeat) Lost in the city
The darkly beautiful video was filmed in black and white by Eirene along, and in the vicinity of, the Thames River in historic South East London. The black and white tones and brooding skies beautifully enhance the darkwave elements of the music. Particularly interesting is that the scenes are all nearly devoid of people, adding to the overall sense of coldness and isolation expressed in the lyrics.
Bundy is a four-piece band from Long Beach, California who play a unique, eclectic and innovative style of post-punk rock with progressive overtones. I had the pleasure of seeing one of their shows a few years ago, and the high energy of their music translates well into their exciting on-stage performances. The band consists of front man Nani Serna (Lead Vocals, Guitar), Johnny Lim (Guitar, Keys), Mike Meza (Drums) and JB Vasquez (Bass). In January 2018, they released their magnificent debut album Bastard Performer, which in my review I described as “a kaleidoscopic soundscape of breathtaking melodies, complex musical structures and deeply meaningful lyrics that elicit strong emotional responses for the listener.”
From their beginnings in 2016, they’ve always shown a willingness to venture outside their comfort zone in the creation of music that pushes boundaries and grabs our attention in positive ways that both entertain and inform us. Since Bastard Performer, they’ve released a number of excellent singles, the latest of which is “Crush“, featuring the wizardry of Subtle Smiles, an electronic music duo consisting of producer Brian Frederick and singer-songwriter Marley Rae, who are also based in Long Beach. They make some terrific music too, so do check them out using one of the links I’ve provided at the end of this post.
Bundy recorded “Crush” almost two years ago, but felt like something was missing from the song, that it just wasn’t ready for release. They eventually turned to Subtle Smiles producer Frederick for help, who worked his magic to give the song a more epic feel befitting its powerful lyrics addressing self destruction and growth. Serna confides: “I wrote ‘Crush’ at a time when I was soaking in the chaotic. I had lived with relationship trauma that haunted me for 10 years. It sent me down a spiral of triggers. I wasn’t the person I wanted to be. Now we’re all better but the pain will keep resurfacing. I’m now living my best life, with love and joy. I have people who legitimately understand my issues. and I hope that if you are feeling down and crappy about yourself, let me tell you: with open hearts, REALLY looking at yourself, and taking steps to improve – things will get better and you can fix the cycle.“
Musically, Bundy and Subtle Smiles deliver a thrilling sonic eargasm bathed in cinematic psychedelic grooves. I love the dominant pulsating bass line, eerie synths, roiling guitars and thunderous percussion, all working together brilliantly to create a dark, menacing vibe. The intricate guitar riff in the bridge, accompanied by powerful galloping drumbeats, further heightens the tension. Serna has a beautiful voice that skillfully expresses strong emotions as he laments “Sooner or later you’ll find out all about me and how I was set off on a path to my own self destruction. Now we’re all better but the pain it keeps resurfacing when moments are remembered, the feelings are triggered. Another love to crush.”
British electronic goth punk rock band Calling All Astronauts have never shied away from writing provocative lyrics about the dark underbelly of politics, culture and society, and calling out authoritarians, fascists and racists as often and as loudly as possible. Drawing from an eclectic mix of genres and influences ranging from electro, alternative rock, goth, punk, metal, rap and dub step, the London-based trio create music that’s exhilarating, melodic, compelling and often in-your-face. Making this musical mayhem are vocalist/songwriter/programmer and producer David Bury, guitarist J Browning and bassist/keyboardist Paul McCrudden.
Since forming nearly a decade ago, Calling All Astronauts have released numerous singles and EPs, as well as three excellent albums – Post Modern Conspiracy in 2013, Anti-Social Network in 2016, and #Resist, which dropped this past June. (It’s hard to believe that nearly four years have passed since I reviewed their single “Life As We Know It”!) They’re now set to release one of the tracks from #Resist – “Divided States of America” – as their 19th single on September 18th. The single, being released via Supersonic Media, is a scathing attack on the current political situation in the U.S. As someone who loathes President Donald Trump and what’s become of the Republican Party that’s enabled him (not to mention the millions of delusional Americans who still support him), this song strongly resonates with me.
Musically, the song features a powerful punk-style dance beat that gets our blood pumping and emotions appropriately riled up. Paul McCrudden’s throbbing bass line is deliciously heavy and deep, pummeling our senses as he drives the rhythm forward like a battering ram, while J Browning lays down a swirling deluge of grungy guitars, punctuated by some nicely-placed stabbing chords. With his characteristically gruff vocals, David snarls the blistering lyrics with a venom that reflects my own sense of outrage and despair.
Society falling in a downward cycle
We checked it’s pulse, it’s signs ain’t vital
Decay. Decline. Sodom and Gomorrah
No matter what they tell you, there’s no tomorrow
Divided States of America
Didn’t know what they were voting for
Divided States Of America
Shut down, locked down, close the door
Two percent looking down at the rest
And the guy in the store wears a bulletproof vest
White folks offended by “Black Lives Matter”
But it ain’t their kids, whose blood is getting splattered
Divided States of America
Didn’t know what they were voting for
Divided States Of America
Shut down, locked down, close the doorMen in suits, above the law
Another refugee pushed against the wall
“The country’s fantastic, we’re doing great”
The President declares a De facto State
Divided States of America
Didn’t know what they were voting for
Divided States Of America
Shut down, locked down, close the door
For the single version used in the video, David’s three-year-old daughter Daisy is heard talking at the end. Engineer Alan Branch (NIN, Depeche Mode, U2) was mixing the track and asked David to record a straight version of the chorus for the end. As Daisy heard her daddy doing the lines over and over, she proceeded to run round the studio singing the chorus, whereupon a mic was quickly handed to her and she happily contributed a few words.
Here’s the slightly longer album version of the song:
San Jose, California-based indie post-punk band The Trims have been making great music for ten years now, and were one of the first bands to follow me on Twitter back in 2015 when I was an unknown blogger with only a handful of followers. Accordingly, they were one of the first bands I featured on this blog, and I’ve written about them a few more times since then, most recently in February 2018 when I reviewed their outstanding album Julian Street. This past December (2019), they released their latest single “Bending Time“, which I’m finally getting around to reviewing.
The Trims were founded by singer-songwriter and guitarist Gabe Maciel, who sought to “trim” out all the bad music he was hearing on the local music scene by writing good songs with catchy, groove-laden melodies, exciting instrumentation and relatable lyrics. Their sound draws influences from the likes of Joy Division, The Cure, The Doors, The Strokes and The Killers, but is uniquely their own. Like many bands, The Trims has seen several changes in lineup over the years, and now includes Maciel on vocals & guitar, Billy Brady on drums, Jerry Lozano on guitar, and Frank Hernandez on bass. Through their on-stage charisma and high-energy performances, they’ve built a loyal fanbase in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.
The influence of Joy Division and The Cure are immediately evident on this track, with a brooding bass-driven melody, thumping drumbeats and mesmerizing guitar runs. The Trims sound better than ever, with an impressive command of their respective instruments. Hernandez’ nimble bass line and Brady’s assertive drumming establish a solid rhythmic foundation, over which Maciel and Lozano layer a tasty mix of guitar textures, including a terrific surf guitar that adds tremendous color and depth to the song. I love Maciel’s clear, resonant vocals as he croons the lyrics that speak of a relationship that’s falling apart. He sings of being unable to reason with or break through to his partner as he tries to salvage their relationship, describing it as impossible to accomplish as ‘bending time’ itself:
You tell me it’s over, well that’s your point of view Foolish and lonely, I wait around for you I lie and lie and lie awake praying for your call Foolish and lonely with nowhere left to fall It’s like bending time
“Bending Time” is a great song, and yet another in an unbroken string of solid tunes from The Trims, who continue to deliver on their mission of crafting high-quality music. Those fortunate to be in the San Francisco Bay Area can catch them at one of these upcoming shows:
2/15/20 – The Branham Lounge, San Jose
3/13/20 – Jam Cellars, Napa
Though a relatively new band formed just last year (2018), Los Angeles-based ASHRR collectively have a long and impressive music pedigree. Comprised of singer-songwriter Steven Davis and artists/producers Ethan Allen and Josh Charles, the accomplished trio have a seasoned and eclectic musical background, combining their wide-ranging experience and diverse stylistic influences. Davis has headlined at the famed Rainbow Room, sharing the stage with Diana Krall and Tony Bennett, co-written songs with pop legend John Oates, and had his music featured on several TV shows and films, including Criminal Minds. He’s released numerous albums, including his jazzy, easy-listening What Happened to Romance and This is Christmas in 2015, a collection of great standards The Way You Look Tonight in 2016, and his tribute to 80s pop-rock classics Departure in 2018.
Allen is a record producer, mixer, engineer, writer, and multi-instrumentalist musician originally hailing from Austin and New Orleans. His credits include Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Ben Harper, The 88, Tricky, Luscious Jackson, The Cult, Gram Rabbit, Sheryl Crow, Tim Finn, Brant Bjork, Donita Sparks, Meg Myers, Patty Griffin and Better Than Ezra, as well as many licensing placements in film and television.
Charles is a critically acclaimed piano prodigy, guitarist, singer, producer and songwriter, mentored by the legendary Dr. John. He has recorded for Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment, Island Records and Elektra Records/Warner Music Group, and has produced/co-produced and written/co-written seven albums, including his own Love, Work & Money (2010) and 1974. He’s also produced exclusive sound content for Native Instruments and Splice, and has had many of his songs played on radio, film and TV, including several cuts with the aforementioned John Oates.
ASHRR joined forces after meeting through mutual musician friends, seeking to collaborate to create the kind of music they all wanted to make. Charles explains “Our collective love of analog synth pop, classic new wave melodies and songwriting, and taking modern production to the limits, defines us. We all come from different backgrounds, which is what can be heard inside the music.” Their sound is strongly influenced by Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Talking Heads and LCD Soundsystem, among others.
In October 2018 they released their first single, the captivating “Don’t Wait Too Long”, which premiered at NPR.org and garnered regular airplay on famed Los Angeles alt-rock radio station KROQ. They dropped their self-titled EP ASHRR a few months later, then followed this past May with their debut full-length album Oscillator, which contained all the tracks from their EP, plus five new tracks. In October (2019) they released a stellar new single “Sacrifice“, which I’m reviewing today. The song was co-written by all band members, vocals were sung by Davis, and instruments played by Allen and Charles, except for Blair Sinta on drums and Grant Curry on electric bass. Allen and Charles produced the track, which was then mixed by Allen and mastered by Dave Collins.
The uplifting song seems to me to be about looking back on one’s life, realizing that all the hurdles we faced, all the pain we may have experienced, were worth going through to get where we are now, to be the better person we’ve become. Davis’ rich, beautiful baritone vocals are backed by a dreamy soundscape of sweeping orchestral synths. Sinta and Curry provide a mesmerizing rhythm accompaniment with their jubilant percussion and resonant bass lines, respectively. It’s a gorgeous song.
The rain it will come And the wind it will blow You wanna stay true Don’t forget what you know
Haunted with memories Blinded by noise Too much to take A crack in the voice You lost the hope in your eyes Was it worth the sacrifice
Preachers preach Poets rhyme The years tick slowly out of time Angels watch while devils stare We took the poison without care The ferryman will name his price We all know the sacrifice
Innocence is all you have when you are young Darker days have come to pass And we are stronger looking back now on all those dreams denied It was worth the sacrifice
Today I’m happy to introduce my readers to a terrific band with an equally terrific name: a million rich daughters. Hailing from Chicago, they play an interesting and totally unique style of, in their own words – “garage/industrial/horror inspired alternative post-punk – music that transcends the typical boundaries of the observable universe.” That sounds about right. The band was founded by brothers Brett and Jake Grant, with Brett on vocals, guitars and synths, and Jake on drums. They were later joined by Matt Clepper, Rene Gutierrez and Taylor Ford, and just released their new EP Hidden Parents, which dropped November 15. After recording the album, Gutierrez and Ford left the band, and were replaced by bassist Josh Victor. Brett also has a solo project under the moniker brett.grant.5, and released his own EP disqui.etude this past June (which I reviewed).
The first track “Hitting Backspace” is a reworking of a song that was originally featured on disqui.etude. This time the mesmerizing track has been expanded by more than a minute, and gets a heavier full-band treatment. Starting off with moody, throbbing synths and shadowy bass chords, the music gradually builds into a spine-tingling crescendo of swirling jangly and psychedelic guitars, accompanied by harsh industrial synths and a deep, thumping percussive beat. Brett has a quirky, distinctive singing voice, and here he sings in a kind of plaintive monotone that grows more dramatic as the music intensifies. His vocals perfectly express the desperate feelings of being buried alive by the staggering weight of one’s problems: “It wasn’t like I anticipated facing all this in the time since yesterday. Sands keep falling. Feels like I’m slipping away, and trapped hitting backspace./ It wasn’t like I could keep up pacing, keep up pacing through the sands of yesterday.”
The next track “Love Me After” is a feast for the ears, and possibly my favorite on the album. It begins with an enticing mix of plucked guitar strings, delicate snare and a delicious little bass riff that really does it for me. Then a thumping drumbeat ensues, punctuated by jarring jolts of what sound to me like intensely amplified guitar chords. As Brett’s vocals enter the proceedings, the music explodes with equal measures of heavier guitars, synths and percussion. Brett passionately laments of a relationship heavily damaged by a long history of hurt and verbal abuse, yet still holding out hope that perhaps it can be salvaged: “Just like you said, I’m as good as dead, yet you call my words slander. One day we’ll break these goddamn mistakes. Maybe you’ll love me after?” The wailing guitar solo after the final chorus is wonderful.
“Melancholia” is a bit of a musical tour-de-force, as it takes us on a delightful four minute long sonic journey. The first part of the song features a frantic punk rock tempo, with rapid-fire riffs and pummeling drumbeats, all anchored by a killer bass line. At around 2:30, the song transitions to a languid, synth-driven melody, with crisp percussion and that lovely bass taking center stage. Eventually, the frantic punk vibe returns in the final chorus for a great, head-banging finish. The lyrics seem to be about not allowing yourself to be defeated by depression or the oppressive forces imposed upon us by others, and to instead speak up and fight for one’s rights: “If you feel like you’re captive in a boat with no captain, speak up! Well I can’t just forget it, and I’ll always regret it, come on. Melancholia’s passion is a pit of distraction, come on. Now we’ve lost all our assets and we can’t pay for access, speak up!”
“Truth Be Told” is another track from disqui.etude that’s given a fuller instrumental treatment here, with spooky synths, muscular thumping drumbeats and intricate layered guitars. The stabbing guitar chords add a dramatic touch to the mix to great effect. I think this remake nicely enhances the impact of the haunting lyrics that speak to feelings of misery and guilt over the death of a loved one. Brett’s heartfelt vocals are really moving as he sings “Truth be told, I never thought that you’d be dead. Truth be told, I just can’t get you out my head. Truth be told, I’ve been obsessing for so long, I’d give anything to write a different song. Truth be told, I should’ve been the one to go. Truth be told, this burden’s getting hard to hold.”
A million rich daughters dial the energy back up with “Possibly a Problem“, delivering furious riffs of jangly guitars and hard-driving rhythms. My take on the song’s meaning is that it’s about how as more aspects of ourselves and our past are revealed in the early stages of a new relationship, we fear the other may lose interest in us, given our shortcomings. In this case, alcoholism appears to be the possible problem: “Lost so many to elixir, don’t you disappear. I just want to make sure, if I’m sick again, be my cure. Possibly a small problem, but I just want to be your man.”
The title track “Hidden Parents” has a wonderful electro-psych rock groove, and I love the haunting lead melody. Once again, there’s a lot going on here musically speaking, with numerous tempo and melodic change-ups. At times the song has an 80s new wave vibe, only to later veer headlong into frenetic punk rock beats. Backed by dark, sweeping synths and aggressive rhythms, the intricate, multi-textured guitar work is fantastic. Brett’s distant, echoed vocals convey a vulnerable sense of desperation as he seems to be asking for forgiveness for the wrongs he’s done: “Oh things, have changed, the damage done. Oh look, at what, I have, become. Now I, am lame and most probably not sane. There is, no me, no in-between. There’s still, one thing, I want, to do. And what, I want is to get a little closer to you. Oh it’s always for you.”
I must admit that this was one of the most challenging reviews for me to write in my four years of doing this. Despite having only six tracks, there’s a whole lot to unpack in each song. Not being a musician, and having no music ability nor training of any kind, I sometimes have a difficult time articulating what I’m hearing. Hidden Parents is an experimental work, teeming with unconventional, ever-changing melodies, deep, often abstract lyrics, and loads of innovative, complex instrumentation that give it a compelling and fascinating sound. Indeed, Brett himself told me the album “is fucking weird; there’s a lot going on technique-wise in the music theory, as well as a lot of layers.” That’s for sure, and while it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think it’s brilliant.