AVA VOX – Album Review: “Immortalised”

Ava Vox is the music project of Irish singer-songwriter Elaine Hannon, a fascinating and seasoned artist who’s been involved with music for much of her life. Originally from Dublin and now based in County Meath, she started her music career at the age of 17 as vocalist for a band, then in 1986 she formed alternative goth rock/post-punk band The Seventh Veil. Their music garnered airplay on Irish radio and earned positive reviews in local press, and they even won a Battle of the Bands competition. They lasted five years until disbanding in 1991. Hannon spent the next few decades involved with various other music projects, and was in the early stages of forming another band when the Covid pandemic brought everything to a halt (as it did for just about every other artist and band) in early 2020. Unable to perform live or record together, she eventually made the decision that September to create her own solo act under the moniker Ava Vox.

With her distinctive deep vocal timbre and commanding delivery, not to mention her arresting goth persona, Ava Vox is a dynamic and compelling performer. Her music style is similar to that of her previous band The Seventh Veil, namely alternative rock imbued with goth rock and post-punk elements, and steeped in strong 80s sensibilities. She began recording songs remotely with a talented group of musicians from Dublin, Scotland, Brazil and Italy, for what would become her debut album Immortalised, which she released on March 25th. Specifically, piano/keyboards and Hammond organ were played by Ray McLoughlin, who also arranged the strings and co-produced the album, electric guitar by Enda Dempsey, bass by James Blennerhassett, and drums Robbie Casserly.

The album features eight marvelous tracks, five of which were previously written and performed by Hannon and her The Seventh Veil bandmates, along with three covers of iconic songs by The Cure, David Bowie and Soft Cell. She elaborates: “I revisited some songs that were written collectively by me and my previous band. I wanted to give these songs new life again, for the world to hear them. Then these songs would be preserved for evermore” – i.e. ‘immortalised’. As for the three covers, she stated that each of those artists and songs were inspirational for her, and hold a special place in her heart.

The album bursts open with “Crash” a darkly beautiful cinematic rocker and standout track. I love the aggressive, pulse-pounding beat, fortified with gothic industrial synths, powerful galloping rhythms and – most appropriately – a torrent of crashing cymbals. Ava’s commanding vocals raise goosebumps as she issues dire warnings of impending doom. The dramatic video, produced by Isaac Burke, is intended to bring attention to the devastation caused by climate change/global warming. Ava portrays the white witch goddess, symbolizing mother nature, who loves the earth and all its species, and provides us with a glimpse of the present and what the future could be, the potential end of the world/extinction of species and the human race.

All of the tracks on Immortalised are strong. “Silent Tear” and “Alone Again” are beautiful synth and guitar-driven rock songs, with compelling melodies that stuck with me long after hearing them. The latter song describes an abusive relationship, wherein the victim eventually finds the courage to escape from their abuser, but sadly falls prey to the abuser’s false charms and promises to change, returning for more: “It’s here again, in rings of garland. Opened eyes and telling hearts. Punch me, hard against the wall. Kick me, trip me, hush me til I fall.”

Another favorite of mine is “One Sweet Goodbye“, a haunting piano ballad about the searing pain that results from the end of a relationship. Ray McLoughlin’s gorgeous piano and string arrangement create a stunning cinematic backdrop for Ana’s heart-wrenching vocals as she laments “Goodbye, goodbye, I feel as though I will die.” “Heart of Good Intention” is great too, with it’s exuberant organ-based groove that calls to mind the music of early 80s The Kinks.

Ava does a fine justice to the three cover songs: “Tainted Love“, originally written by Ed Cobb and recorded by American singer Gloria Jones in 1964, and later covered in 1981 by British duo Soft Cell, “Life on Mars” by David Bowie, and “Love Song” by The Cure. “Tainted Love” is given a full-band treatment, with piano and Hammond organ played by Ray McLoughlin, electric guitar by Daniel Martin and drums by Jonathan Owens, whereas “Life on Mars” and “Love Song” are more stripped down, with mainly piano by Ray McLoughlin (as well as Hammond organ on “Life on Mars” and a bit of drums at the end of “Love Song”) accompanying Ava’s arresting vocals. “Love Song” is one of my all-time favorite songs, and has been covered by many acts, most notably 311, Adele, Good Charlotte, Tori Amos, Death Cab for Cutie and Nina Sky. Ava’s slowed-down interpretation is quite lovely, and her heartfelt vocals are particularly moving, beautifully expressing the intense enduring love described in The Cure’s lyrics.

I’m glad Ava Vox decided to immortalize her songs with this album, and she and her crew have done an outstanding job in its production and execution. Listening to Immortalised is 26 and a half minutes well spent.

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New Song of the Week – “I Love You” by Fontaines D.C.

Irish post-punk band Fontaines D.C. (the suffix D.C. in their name stands for Dublin City, to distinguish them from L.A.-based alt pop-rock band The Fontaines) formed in 2017, but it wasn’t until summer of 2020 that I learned about them, when I heard their mesmerizing single “A Hero’s Death”, from their brilliant second album of the same name. I loved it at once, and after listening to the entire album, I became a fan of this exceptional band. Comprised of Grian Chatten (vocals), Carlos O’Connell (guitar), Conor Curley (guitar), Conor Deegan III (bass), and Tom Coll (drums), Fontaines D.C. met while students at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute in Dublin, and bonded over their common love of poetry. They began recording and self-releasing singles, as well as performing locally, and were ultimately signed to Partisan Records in 2018.

Since the release of their debut album Dogrel in 2019, Fontaines D.C. have garnered widespread critical acclaim as one of the best bands making music today. The album was named Album of the Year on the record store Rough Trade’s website, voted Album of the Year by presenters on BBC Radio 6 Music, and nominated for both the Mercury Prize and the Choice Music Prize. Their second album A Hero’s Death, which was written and recorded in the midst of extensive touring for Dogrel, was nominated for Best Rock Album at the 2021 Grammy Awards, losing to The Strokes’ The New Abnormal. They just released their darkly beautiful single “I Love You“, which I love so much, I’ve chosen it as my New Song of the Week.

The song is the second single from the band’s forthcoming third album Skinty Fia, due for release April 22. The album’s interesting title translates to “the damnation of the deer” in English. Fontaines D.C. bassist Conor Deegan III further elaborates about the band’s intent: “The Irish giant deer is an extinct species, but ‘skinty fia’ is also used as an expletive, in the way you’d say ‘For fuck’s sake’ if you bang your arm on a table or whatever. We just thought there was something really beautiful about that, because it’s representative of Irish culture in some sense. We were interested in the idea of something really precious or sentimental and attached to family, but also something that’s been taken away from us. Which doesn’t mean we can’t cherish it.

“I Love You” follows lead single “Jackie Down The Line” which was released a month ago, and is described by band frontman Grian Chatten as “the first overtly political song we’ve written”. In one sense, it’s a love song to their home of Ireland. Chatten, along with the rest of the band, relocated from Ireland to London to further their music careers, and the first two verses of the song address his guilt at becoming successful and leaving his beloved homeland. He explained to Rolling Stone: “I’m in a position there where I’ve made something of a career from trying to connect with and render the culture and country that I come from and try and express it, [and] in doing so, understand it myself and help other people understand it. [But] I’ve moved from that country, and I’m now living in a country that is responsible for a lot of the chaos in the country that I’m from, that still kind of looks down on that country. I feel guilty for having left. I feel like I’ve abandoned Ireland to some extent. Not that it can’t survive fine without me, but I feel like I’ve taken all this crap from it creatively, and then I’ve just left. I have this kind of strange feeling of guilt toward my leaving of Ireland.”

But the song also speaks to Chatten’s seething anger and disappointment over the current political climate in Ireland – expressed in the lyrics condemning two of its major political parties: “I will tell them ’bout it all / About the gall of Fine Gael and the fail of Fianna Fáil“- as well as one of Ireland’s grimmest historical atrocities, namely the decades of tragic brutality at the Tuam Mother and Baby Home in Galway, where a mass grave containing the remains of 800 babies was later discovered decades after the home’s closure. He rebukes both those responsible for the atrocity, as well as those who turned a blind eye, which he references in the scathing words “This island’s run by sharks with children’s bones stuck in their jaws.”

Musically, the song is gorgeous and brooding, opening with Conor Deegan III’s somber bass riff, which is soon joined by a glorious mix of O’Connell and Curley’s shimmery and jangly guitar notes reminiscent of The Cure. As Chatten begins to sing “I love you, I love you, I told you I do” in his signature captivating drone, the music expands with Tom Cull’s assertive thumping drums, keeping perfect rhythm with Deegan’s immaculate bassline. A little past the two-minute mark, the song turns darker, with heavier instrumentals and an intense repetitive drumbeat to match the rising anger in Chatten’s vocals, in which he practically spits the bitter lyrics, eliciting chills in the process.

I love you, I love you, I told you I do
It's all I've ever felt, I've never felt so well
And if you don't know it, I wrote you this tune
To be here loving you when I'm in the tomb
I've eddied the heart now, from Dublin to Paris
And if there was sunshine, it was never on me
So close, the rain, so pronounced is the pain
Yeah

Well, I love you, imagine a world without you
It's only ever you, I only think of you
And if it's a blessing, I want it for you
If I must have a future, I want to with you
Systеm in our hearts, you only had it before
You only opеn the window, never open up the door
And I love you, I love you, told you I do

Selling genocide and half-cut pride, I understand
I had to be there from the start, I had to be the fucking man
It was a clamber of the life, I sucked the ring off every hand
Had 'em plying me with drink, even met with their demands
When the cherries lined up, I kept the spoilings for myself
'Til I had thirty ways of dying looking at me from the shelf
Cloud-parting smile I had, a real good child I was
But this island's run by sharks with children's bones stuck in their jaws
Now the morning's filled with cokeys tryna talk you through it all
Is their mammy Fine Gael and is their daddy Fianna Fáil?
And they say they love the land, but they don't feel it go to waste
Hold a mirror to the youth and they will only see their face
Makes flowers read like broadsheets, every young man wants to die
Say it to the man who profits, and the bastard walks by
And the bastard walks by, and the bastard walks by
Say it to him fifty times and still the bastard won't cry
Would I lie?

I love you, I love you, I told you I do
It's all I've ever felt, I've never felt so well
And if you don't know it, I wrote you this tune
To be here loving you when I'm in the tomb
System in our hearts, you only had it before
Echo, echo, echo, the lights, they go
The lights, they go, the lights, they go
Echo, echo

Selling genocide and half-cut pride, I understand
I had to be there from the start, I had to be the fucking man
It was a clamber of the life, I sucked the ring off every hand
Had 'em plying me with drink, even met with their demands
And I loved you like a penny loves the pocket of a priest
And I'll love you 'til the grass around my gravestone is deceased
And I'm heading for the cokeys, I will tell them 'bout it all
About the gall of Fine Gael and the fail of Fianna Fáil
And now the flowers read like broadsheets, every young man wants to die
Say it to the man who profits, and the bastard walks by
And the bastard walks by, and the bastard walks by
Say it to him fifty times and still the bastard won't cry
Would I lie?

The dramatic, beautifully-filmed video was directed by Sam Taylor, and shows Chatten strolling through a dark, candle-lit church as he sings the first few verses. Two minutes in, he abruptly turns to face the camera, whereupon he launches into his scathing attack on the things that infuriate him about the country of his birth. By the video’s end, blood can be seen issuing from his chest.

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A MILLION RICH DAUGHTERS – Single Review: “Left Behind”

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.

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Paris Alexander featuring Eirene – Album Review: “Renaissance”

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.

Tina Eirene and Paris Alexander enjoying themselves

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.

Follow Paris:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase on Bandcamp

New Compilation Album “V4Velindre” to Raise Funds for Welsh Cancer Center

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).

New Song of the Week – SODA CRACKER JESUS: “Drug My Soul”

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 Knockors and 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

Yeah Yeah
Drug My Soul
Yeah Yeah
Fill In the Hole

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PARIS ALEXANDER – Single Review: “Lost in the City”

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.

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Stream/purchase his music:  SpotifyApple MusicBandcamp

Bundy featuring Subtle Smiles – Single Review: “Crush”

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.”

Follow Bundy:  FacebookInstagram

Stream/purchase their music: SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicBandcamp

Follow Subtle Smiles:  FacebookInstagram

Stream/purchase their music: SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicBandcamp

CALLING ALL ASTRONAUTS – Single Review: “Divided States of America”

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 door

Men 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:

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Purchase: BandcampGoogle PlayAmazon

THE TRIMS – Single Review: “Bending Time”

The Trims

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

Connect with The Trims: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
“Bending Time” may be downloaded for free on their website