New Song of the Week – STRANGELY ALRIGHT: “Psych Film”

Strangely Alright Psyche Film

Strangely Alright is a five-piece band from Seattle, Washington who refer to themselves as an “Eclectic Traveling Minstrel Magic Music Medicine Show”. They’ve built a huge following not only because of their entertaining and quirky style of punk-infused psychedelic rock, but also for the strong messages of humanity, love, kindness and acceptance in their songs. The band is fronted by Regan Lane, who does much of the songwriting and sings lead vocals, Sean Van Dommelen (lead guitar, vocals), Ken Schaff (bass), Raymond Hayden (keyboards, vocals) and Jason Bair (drums). They’ve released a number of recordings over the past several years, including their terrific album The Time Machine is Broken in 2013, as well as a compilation album All of Us Are Strange (The Singles) and an EP Stuff, both of which were released in 2018. You can read my review of Stuff here.

On the heels of their epic and mesmerizing Pink Floyd-esque single “Inside a Place”, Strangely Alright are back with a fantastic new single “Psych Film“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The song is about connection, trust, and valuing someone for who they are, warts and all. About their creative process, the band explains: “Part of being in a band, or relationship for that matter, is trust. Regan and Sean’s songwriting chemistry and trust are based on mutual respect and similar journeys from that darkness into the light that work for them. ‘Psych Film’ is a perfect example of one of the ways they create. [It’s] like having two painters painting on the same canvas at different times in order to create one cohesive piece of art.”

The track is melodic and trippy, with a bit of a 70s era David Bowie vibe thanks to lush psychedelic guitars and wonderfully spooky synths. The drums and percussion are flawless, and I love the deep, throbbing bass and heavy, buzzing reverb that continues throughout the song. Regan’s pleasing vocals are comforting as he croons the optimistic lyrics:

In the best of us you’re gonna find a good thing
In the worst of us you’re gonna find a bad thing
A different job
A different life
A different God
A different wife
In the best of us you’re gonna find a good thing

I don’t have to be alone no more
Connection
I don’t have to change
Who I am today
I am here and that’s enough to make it all ok
Connection
In a movie where the hero isn’t handsome
He got a job but he cannot afford the ransom
A different skin
A beating heart
A different dream
A tiny spark
In a movie where the hero isn’t handsome
I don’t have to be afraid of me
Connection
There’s a tiny thread
That I cannot see
But I feel it when I touch it with an open mind
Connection

Ooooo
A sinner today a saint tomorrow
A sinner today

To learn more about Strangely Alright, check out their website
Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Reverbnation / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunesGoogle Play

THE SLYTONES – Album Review: “IT IS CALLED”

The Slytones It_Is_Called_FRONT

From the moment we first hear the sounds of someone sniffing a bottle, dropping ice cubes and pouring liquor into a glass, then taking a swig at the beginning of the opening track on the new album It Is Called by British band The Slytones, we just know we’re in for a good time. And quite frankly, can’t we all use a few more good times right now?!

Influenced by their love of The Doors, Mr. Bungle, Queens Of The Stone Age and Jimi Hendrix, as well as a colorful mix of Motown, psychedelia, gospel, blues, jazz and Afrobeat, the Brighton-based sextet make wildly entertaining music that’s bawdy, irreverent and funny as hell. Their hilarious, tongue-in-cheek lyrics tackle the minefield of love and relationships, and how they have a way of often exploding in our faces. As they so eloquently state in their bio, their sound “encompasses everything from schizophrenic fairground avant-pop and queasy skanking swamp-ska to crunching left-brain hard rock and mad scientist anti-funk.” To top things off, they dress in natty attire with their faces covered in black and white greasepaint, looking like six dapper mimes in their animated and theatrical performances.

Formed as a trio back in 2006, The Slytones eventually expanded to six members: Ashley Edwards (lead vocals/guitar), Bradley Wescott (guitar), Chip Phillips (keyboards, backing vocals), Chris Warren (bass) (though Carl Brothwood played bass on many of the album tracks), Freddie Hills (drums), and Robin O’Keeffe (percussion/backing vocals). They released their debut EP The Psychedelic Sound Of in 2011, then began recording new songs in 2013 for what was to be their first full-length album.

According to band drummer Hills (whose music I’ve previously reviewed both as a solo artist and as a session musician with fellow Brighton artists Ellie Ford and Liemba), The Slytones “spent three years slaving over it meticulously with a lot of love and attention to detail until it was finished around 2016. Despite all of this work, we got a bit fed up of playing the music industry game (and each other) and went on an indefinite hiatus. Now that we all have time on our hands, we decided to finally release it.” I’m glad they did, because it’s the most fun I’ve had listening to a record since last year’s Love at First Sniff by Australian band Thunder Fox.

The Slytones2

It Is Called was recorded at Ford Lane Studios in West Sussex, under the guidance of Rob Quickenden (Royal Blood, Tigercub, Demob Happy, Fickle Friends), who produced, mixed and mastered the album. Seven years in the making, the album was at last released on May 1st, and features 12 stellar tracks.

Kicking things off is “She Said She Came From the Sea“, which The Slytones first released back in 2015 as a double single with “Time Won’t Wait For Strangers”.  Opening with the aforementioned sound effects of liquor being poured and consumed, it’s the perfect drinking song about what appears to be a vexing mermaid who’s intruding on the singer’s free-wheeling ways. Lead singer Ashley Edwards has a raspy, sardonic and emotive vocal style that’s well-suited for their songs. We fully believe him when he sings “The truth is a stone. My heart is a rock. The women that surround me only long for my cock.” The accompanying video showing the guys performing the song on a pier and in the sea is delightful.

The Slytones are terrific musicians, adept at writing complex, ever-changing melodies and delivering them with an eclectic mix of instruments, sounds and stylistic elements that make for a fun and exciting listen. “Empire” is a great example of this, with a melody that alternates back and forth between a bouncy Latin-funk dance beat and a bluesy, guitar-driven groove that seems to channel the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”. In fact, Edwards sounds alarmingly like Jim Morrison when he wails the lyrics “Break down the walls, your empire falls!” The instrumentals are fantastic, especially the bluesy guitars and exuberant horns.

Another favorite of mine is “Sleeping Beauty Blues“, an appropriately bluesy track with everything from glittery synths, funky bass and blues guitars to honky tonk style piano, organ, jazzy drums and even a bit of cowbell for good measure. Then there’s Edwards cheekily crooning the lyrics about his girl not being all that she appears: “I got the sleeping beauty blues. / She sleeps like a beauty, but she snores like a fool.” There’s more musical mayhem to be heard on the rousing “Come Gigolo“, a wonderful tune with a feel similar to “Master of the House” from Les Misérables (at least to my ears). It also has some of the best lyrics: “I’m feeding all the lions to the dogs. As the idiots sleep, we massage their wives. Come gigolo my body ’cause my time is for sale. / Your mother should have slapped you before you were born.” The rousing vocal harmonies in the chorus are marvelous.

The Doors’ influence continues to be felt on many tracks. “Time Don’t Wait For Strangers” is another song with a complex, evolving melody. Opening with a peppy Latin beat, the song transitions after a minute into a languid and beautiful melody, with watery guitars and shimmery keyboards that remind me a bit of “Riders on the Storm”. At around 3:15, the song transitions once again, this time to a more psychedelic vibe with organ and heavier, distorted guitars. “Green Jacket” is a hard-hitting psychedelic and bluesy rocker, with some great fiddle, accompanied by Phillips’ lively keyboards and organ, and O’Keeffe’s gnarly percussive instruments. “The Seed They’d Sewn” has a bluesy vibe similar to “Love Me Two Times”, with lyrics that seem to describe a woman who’s turned out to be the Bad Seed: “She once was an angel, with skin so divine. Now the lizards congregate.. / The seed they’d sewn should not have grown / The sound they found, they should have drowned.”

Silver Harpoons” is a jazzy, bluesy and psychedelic fantasia. Edwards’ raw vocals are almost feral as he screams “Silver harpoons in the water. Night made to slaughter. Who are you?!” Later in the track, amid eerie synths and distorted riffs, his malevolence is palpable as he snarls: “Where is my goldmine? This corporate clothesline. I’m in a circus full of thieves. You’d kill a whale to feed your tart. I’ll fuck your wife to break your heart.” The infectious honky tonk piano makes a return appearance on the spirited “Shake the Cage“. Edwards and Wescott’s intense, bluesy guitars, Brothwood’s driving bass and Phillips’ piano are fantastic, and Hills does a fine job pounding out the lively rhythm.

Don’t Leave Me Alone” has a wonderful tango melody, punctuated with flourishes of bluesy, roadhouse-style grooves. On the amusing but dark “King of the Castle“, the band reference nursery rhymes to describe what appears to be a power-mad father. Edwards sounds rather diabolical as he croons “I’m king of the castle / Do you want to grow big and strong like your daddy? / Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin. Well I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.” The song starts off with a jaunty fun-house vibe, complete with ghoulish clown laughter. Edwards repeatedly sings “Come sing, come sing as we’re dancing“, then in the last minute of the track, the music turns darker and downright menacing, with distorted guitars, crashing cymbals and a wailing organ riff.

The guys pull out all the stops on the final track “Pull Your Finger Out“, a complex and meandering 7:52-minute long extravaganza with more melodic change-ups than I believe I’ve ever heard in one song. It starts off with a slow, organ-driven melody punctuated by a bluesy guitar riff, then shifts to a bouncy melody with honky tonk piano, then to a bluesy, guitar-driven vibe, featuring flute and quirky percussive instruments. Various instruments come and go as the tempo continues to change, with even a flourish of gypsy guitar at the halfway point, and later on, a harpsichord. The lyrics are ambiguous to me – and I’m probably way off base – but they seem to describe a vampire’s love life: “We dance in the wretched moonlight. Sing me a wicked lullaby. Like wild men, we scream at the moon. Conscious in mind, but body aloof. Pull your finger out. / I sleep in the day when the moon is away. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.” Whatever their meaning, it’s a great track.

I love this album and I love this band! It Is Called is 54 minutes of non-stop aural mayhem, and a blast to listen to from start to finish.  The Slytones are all amazing musicians, and I hope the release of this album will give them an impetus to reunite and make more music that brings a smile to our faces.

Follow The Slytones: FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream/purchase their music: Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music / Google Play

FOLLOW DEEP – Album Review: “Will You Still Love Me…”

Follow Deep album art

Follow Deep is a young indie/alternative rock band from Hull, England who are making quite a name for themselves on the UK music scene with their dynamic, innovative music and high-energy performances. Making the music are Luke Bushby (vocals, guitar & bass), Joe Ingram (bass, keyboards & saxophone), and Jed Pearson (drums, vocals). The talented trio skillfully blend elements of alternative, progressive, psychedelic and grunge rock to create their unique, eclectic sound, with an added bonus of having two vocalists and a saxophonist in the mix.

They released their debut single “Bad Influence” in December 2017, then dropped an EP of the same name in July 2018. They followed up with several new singles in 2019, and in December, released their debut album Will You Still Love Me, which I’m finally getting around to reviewing. The album features ten songs addressing the highs and lows of love, along with the myriad perils of entering into romantic relationships.

Follow Deep

The brilliant opening track “Before The Storm” is a shining example of Follow Deep’s solid songwriting and musicianship. The song has everything I love in a great rock song: a complex melody, a strong, driving bassline, intricate, multi-textured guitars, explosive percussion and superb vocals that span a wide emotional range. The aggressive gnarly riffs contrast nicely with the more subdued jangly guitars and deep bass during the track’s calmer interludes, and along with the dramatic stop-start breaks in the melody, keep the song’s overall tension on a high level. I really like Luke’s voice, which goes from a seductive croon as he sings “You’re a fan of Mozart / I love him too / But it’s now your time to…“, then launches into a chilling full-blown scream with “Sing!” I also love his well-placed shouts of “Woo” and the harmonica riff that comes later in the track.  The lyrics seem to speak to our darker impulses, and possibly someone suffering the effects of PTSD. In an voice electronically altered to sound evil and menacing, we hear the words “Do you know what it is to be a monster? You have no idea.”

The band has released two videos for the song, first a lyric video to coincide with the album release last December, then an official video at the end of February. I’ve included them both, as the film footage in the lyric video nicely complements the lyrics, whereas the official video shows the band performing the song.

Next up is the album’s lead single “Alive“, a terrific rock song about the overpowering feelings that hit us when we fall hard for someone: “Cuz you are the reason that I’m not OK. Cuz you are the reason that I’m in pieces.” The dual contrasting vocals of Luke and Jed are highlights on this track and also the sexy and grungy “Sweet Innocence“, one of my favorites on the album. A torrent of grimy guitars and crashing cymbals are layered over a deep, throbbing bassline, creating a sizzling-hot backdrop for the guys’ sultry mix of falsetto and deeper vocals as they alternately croon and wail: “Cuz I don’t wanna behave anymore. There’s no good in your heart.” “Press Rewind” is a bittersweet song about a couple facing the fact their relationship is over, and needing to move on. The track has a pleasing guitar-driven melody, backed by some gentle, sweeping keyboard synths.

Another standout for me is “Hearts In Hands“, with its outstanding bluesy guitars and the guys’ passionate vocals making for a really stellar track. “Lifeline” is a hard-driving rocker, with fuzz-coated jangly guitars, crunchy bass and lots of crashing cymbals. But the real treat is Joe’s lively saxophone solo in the bridge, injecting a bit of a jazzy flourish to the track. “Steal A Flower” is a dark, grungy song with a strutting bass-driven melody. Luke laments about a relationship that began with promise, but ended badly. “How did it get so dark? You are not my destiny. I know what we could have been.” The intense, gnarly riffs and heavy percussion that erupt in the final chorus are fantastic.

Paradise” is another fine example of how Follow Deep expertly fuses grunge with progressive and psychedelic elements to great effect. The track starts off with a fairly straightforward grunge rock melody, with some fine guitar work setting the tone. At 2:23, the guys inject a blast of grinding psychedelic riffs and spooky swirling synths that last about 28 seconds before calming back down to the previous melody. Luke admonishes: “I’ve told you once, won’t tell you twice. I’m sick of being nice. Why do you think you’re making it to paradise?” With that, the music abruptly launches back into the psychedelic trip, only this time with an onslaught of screeching, heavily distorted guitars that continue to the end.

The guys pull out all the stops on the final two tracks, beginning with the bombastic “Start A War“. Luke’s blazing guitar work is positively mind-blowing, accompanied by Joe’s lush, ominous synths that seem to channel Depeche Mode. Jed attacks his drum kit like a man possessed, adding tremendous power to this glorious track. On the 7:18 minute long “The Same“, they complete the question they began asking in the album title “Will you still love me the same?” This monumental track has more of a prog-rock feel, starting off slowly with a hauntingly beautiful little acoustic guitar riff. Gradually, the music expands into a thunderous soundscape, then Joe enters with a terrific, moody sax solo that’s pure bliss. At 3:50, the music calms down to the gentle acoustic guitar of the beginning, while Luke repeatedly croons the question in a lovely falsetto: “When I’m no longer here no more, will you still love me the same?” The music intensifies again, this time into a gorgeous extended instrumental, highlighted by a stunning guitar solo that continues for the last two minutes before fading out. It’s a magnificent track.

Will You Still Love Me… is a superb album from this very talented and creative trio who make up Follow Deep. I don’t know their ages, but I’m guessing they’re barely in their 20s, and their music has a maturity and complexity that’s quite impressive. With so many elements in the mix, there’s a lot going on here from a musical and compositional standpoint, and I found myself discovering something new with each listen. The guys are great songwriters and musicians, and have much to be proud of with their first full-length album. My lone criticism is that I wish a few more tracks featured Jed’s saxophone, but that’s pretty minor in the overall scheme of things.

Catch Follow Deep at one of these upcoming shows:

Sunday, March 8 – w/Bone Broke Kings, Slackrr & King Boa
West Street Live, Sheffield, UK

Thursday April 16 – w/Dude Trips
The Polar Bear, Kingston upon Hull, UK

As their name implies, follow them deeply on FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music on SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase on Google PlayAmazon

VOX EAGLE – Single Premier: “Can’t Stop”

Regular readers of this blog know I write about a lot of indie artists and bands, as one of the things that drives me is wanting to support them in what little way I can. One of my absolute favorites – both from a musical and personal standpoint – is VoxEagle. Essentially the music project of Australian-born and now Colorado-based singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Crosby, VoxEagle first burst onto the music scene in the beginning of 2017 with the release of the electro-pop single “No Sleep”. The terrific song has been streamed over 279,000 times on Spotify. He then followed up with a second single “Come Over”, both of which were featured on his debut EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1., released in July 2017. I loved both songs so much they ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2017 list.

Also in 2017, Andy and his wife relocated from bustling Manhattan to the bucolic solitude of Evergreen, Colorado, high in the Colorado Rockies west of Denver. There, he built his own recording studio, which he dubbed “The Eagles Nest”, and set to work on his first full album, the brilliant genre-bending TriumAvium, which was released in October 2018. You can read my album review and interview with Andy here. One of the tracks on the album titled “Wander” went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 this past February.

Now he returns with a wonderful new single “Can’t Stop“, which I’m thrilled to premier today. The song officially drops on December 16 on all major digital music sites, some of which are included at the end of this post. “Can’t Stop” has a soulful dance pop vibe, and captures the infectious energy we first encountered on “No Sleep.”

VoxEagle Studio 2

That energy is the essence of VoxEagle’s unique, yet eclectic, sound. In our interview, he told me “VoxEagle is a musical energy; I hate to call it a band or whatnot. It’s vibe I suppose is with me at the helm, [though] the whole idea of VoxEagle in the beginning was to collaborate with various artists.” He added that his main overriding objective in making music is that “It’s just gotta have big melodies and be real energetic.

The track opens with spacey, almost seductive synths that quickly expand like a giant flower unfolding its petals into a beautiful explosion of sound and color. Starting with a deep, thumping bassline as a foundation, VoxEagle layers a rich palette of sparkling, dreamy synths, guitar, and percussion, including what sound like bongo drums, to create an exuberant groove that just makes you feel good. He has a fine, casual singing voice, and I like when he freestyles some of the lyrics. It all builds to an exhilarating crescendo before fading out with those spacey synths and pulsating bass. I love it!

Although “Can’t Stop” was written prior to the occurrence of a personal tragedy Andy recently experienced with the death of his best friend of 30 years, it really hits home for him, serving as a sort of anthem for his philosophy about life and his music career. He became so despondent over his friend’s death that he actually considered throwing in the towel on making music. Thankfully, he came around to realizing it would be impossible for him to stop, as making music is the one thing that keeps him sane at the end of the day – a sentiment I and many others I know can strongly identify with.

Those feelings are perfectly expressed in the lines “Every time I get the hook wrong, I stay back all night just to fix it cuz we can’t stop until we catch the feeling. All I know is that we’ve come too far. Too far to turn back now. Can’t stop these feet when they start moving, no.” I hope VoxEagle never stops making songs for us to enjoy.

Connect with Vox Eagle:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunesGoogle Play

New Song of the Week – DENSE: “Fever Dream”

DENSE - FEVER DREAM (ARTWORK)

DENSE is a remarkably talented psychedelic garage rock band from Leeds, England, who combine thick, fuzz-soaked grooves with explosive riffs and intricate melodies to create music that’s incredibly intense and badass. As their name would imply, their sound has an impressive maturity, complexity and density, which I like to describe as ‘industrial surf-metal psychedelic rock’.  The trio consists of Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums).

A favorite of this blog, I’ve previously featured DENSE numerous times over the past two and a half years, most recently this past March when I reviewed their mind-blowing single “Displaced Face”  Now they’re back with another new single “Fever Dream“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. The single drops today, December 6th, via Leeds label Come Play With Me. DENSE were selected for this release by a panel of judges which included BBC Radio 1’s Phil Taggart, Adele Slater (agent to Liam Gallagher and Dream Wife), and Paul Riddlesworth from Dipped In Gold Recordings and Too Pure Singles Club.

About the track, Sam explains “’Fever Dream’ is based on a dream our singer Charlie had when he was really ill a couple years ago. In it, a withered man was left to die by a burning window before being dug up and forced to relive the tormenting experience all over again. The artwork relates to the introduction and later repetition of the agonising circumstance which the protagonist is in, left immobile in a chair being burnt by the scorching sun and unable to break the cycle of his suffering. The rocking chair left in the unused wasteland represents the isolation of this suffering against nature’s elements, visually encapsulating the track’s overall atmosphere.

The song immediately bursts forth with an intense barrage of gnarly guitars, throbbing bass and bombastic percussion. Charlie uses his guitar like a battering ram, pummeling the airwaves with relentless riffs of gritty, reverb-drenched distortion. At times, his guitar sounds like a buzz saw, while other times it mimics a machine gun. Dylan lays down a jaw-dropping bass line so heavy and deep I feel it in my core, while Sam smashes his drum kit like a man possessed. It all serves to create a massive, nightmarish wall of sound for Charlie’s demonic wails and screams. Wow, what a phenomenal track, and once again, DENSE blows our minds and ears with their brilliant musicianship.

“Fever Dream” is also being released on 7” vinyl, and is backed on the other side by fellow label mates Sea Leg’s single ‘Favourite Doll’. Limited signed copies of the vinyl can be ordered from http://cpwm.awesomedistro.com/.

DENSE will be launching “Fever Dream” at the following show tonight, 6 December, at Hyde Park Book Club.

DENSE show poster

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunesBandcampGoogle Play

 

BRAIN APE Release Trippy New Video for “Stop Sulking”

Brain Ape is a talented, wildly imaginative, and highly entertaining London-based rock band who skillfully fuse punk, stoner rock, grunge, noise rock and shoegaze to create their unique sound they call “Scratch Rock.” Originally formed at the beginning of 2012, the trio now consists of Minky Très-vain on guitar & vocals, Sol Alex Albret on bass, and Jamie Steenbergen on drums. In August 2017, they released their second album Auslander, which was released through Schlimbum Records, an independent record label started by Très-vain and Dydy Haynes. (The label was rebranded as Scratch Rock Records this past August.) It’s an ambitious work, containing 12 brilliant tracks and running nearly 55 minutes in length. I reviewed the album in January 2018, which you can read here.

Brain Ape 3

Brain Ape has just released “Stop Sulking”. the third and final single from Auslander, along with a trippy new video. The video, which is alternately disturbing, amusing and heartwarming, was filmed by frequent band photographer Nuri Moseinco, and produced by Alex, Minky and Dom Bolton. The dark song has a strong Nirvana vibe, with sharp, clipped verses, fuzz-soaked gnarly guitars and deep bass. I had a little chat with Minky about the track and video.

EclecticMusicLover:  First off, I really like your video for “Stop Sulking.” What made you & the band decide to make a video for that particular “Auslander” track?

Minky:  Glad you liked the video. For us, it’s a very defining end to our ‘Auslander’ experience. That record came out a couple of years ago now, and we’re very ready to move on from it. It’s been a terrific journey, and the band has turned into something much larger than we could ever have imagined. It’s still on an incredibly small scale, and I can’t stress that enough, but when we were recording the album we were in a band that nobody cared about, making music that was too harsh for most listeners, and due to a succession of drummers that didn’t work out we found ourselves playing live a lot less often than we would have liked. But ‘Auslander’ changed that. We’re now on the road more often than not, taking our music to places we’ve never been to before. We always took our little project as seriously as possible and have been dedicated to the music that we put out, so it’s nice for people to take our band seriously now too.

This video marks the end of that transition for us. It was important for us to do, for us. The reason we chose ‘Stop Sulking’ is because when we sat back having just completed ‘Auslander’ there was some debate as to what the first single should be off the record. ‘Give Me My P45’ won out as the lead single, but its only contender was ‘Stop Sulking’. So now with hindsight and the context of what the album means to us several years on, it felt only right to chose ‘Sulking’ as the finale.

EML:  The song seems to describe a depressed, petulant person who’s unhappy with his situation, feeling like he’s losing his mind or sense of self, that he has no control over what’s happening to him – am I close? I like how you’re shown wearing a straight jacket to convey these feelings described in the lyrics.

Minky:  It’s always interesting to me when I hear how people are interpreting our work. I’m a product of our genre in that I prefer to keep my own personal meaning to myself when it comes to lyrics, and I find it far more interesting to hear from other people about how our words have affected them. That’s the beauty in art: there is no right or wrong answer. As far as your interpretation? I’d say it’s not a terribly inaccurate description of where I was when we were making the record. The album ended up becoming a ‘coming of age’ story, but as we’ve lived with it for several years it’s come to mean something completely different to the band. Our lyrics tend to be ambiguous enough that they can lend themselves to different perspectives, even if those perspectives are coming from the same person years apart. My own interpretation can change from hour to hour, depending on my mood and environment. I’m a fairly rash person, and my mood can 180 at the flip of a coin.

For the video, we collaborated with the great Nuri Moseinco. He’s an amazing videographer and photographer, and our walks of life have been different enough that our views on the track were very varied when we sat down to brainstorm ideas for the video. I can’t remember who exactly came up with the idea for the straight jacket, but it plays off the rest of the footage. I’ll leave the meaning up to the viewer, as I think that’s important. No one wants to know how the magic trick is done once they’ve found out. They’d rather re-experience the wonder of not knowing. But once you know, it’s too late to go back. Ignorance is bliss, and art is ignorance.

EML:  The interplay between you and Sol & Jaime in the scenes where the three of you are together is interesting. Sometimes you’re all playing your instruments, and other times you’re sitting around looking serious or you are horsing around with Sol. Was there any conscious intent in the filming of those scenes?

Minky:  Everything we’ve ever done has always been very deliberate. In our view, if something’s worth doing at all then it’s worth doing right. The world needn’t be filled with people like us who take our art too seriously, as there’s always room for comedy, satire, and absurdity. For the most part, in fact, it’s very necessary to have those things. We’d all go mad, otherwise. But for whatever reason, Brain Ape has always been a serious deal to us. I don’t think we take ourselves too seriously, mind you. But we’d rather not make a mockery of a product that took years, blood, sweat, tears, and a lot of sacrifices to make. So when it comes to those scenes; yes, there was intent. My intent was probably different to Sol’s, and his probably different to Jamie’s. But every detail was thought out. The choice of camera, for example, was a deliberate artistic choice. It held a lot of meaning for us. We wouldn’t half-arse anything. The only thing I didn’t mean to do was dye my hair green before shooting the straight-jacket scenes. That was almost a complete fiasco.

Here’s the video, so enjoy!

Catch Brain Ape at one of their upcoming shows in the UK, beginning tonight:

NOV 14 – IVW Launch w/ Brain Ape, Manalishi, Junky Love, Indigo, 7 PM, Dublin Castle, Camden, London
NOV 15 – w/Gutterflower, Manalishi, & The Kecks, 8 PM, The Pipeline, Brighton
NOV 16 – A Northern Underground Liverpool, 2 PM, The Jacaranda Club, Liverpool
NOV 17 – A Northern Underground Manchester, Aatma, Manchester
NOV 26 – RAMS Presents II: Brain Ape, 7 PM, The Cavern Club, 83 Queen Street, Exeter

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

WE ROYALS – Single Review: “Ready For It”

We Royals is a new electro/psych rock duo from the mountains of Colorado, consisting of Andy Crosby on guitar and vocals, and Shelton Summerville on drums. Crosby is also the super-talented and wildly-creative brainchild behind electro/psych music project Vox Eagle, who I’ve previously featured on this blog a number of times. We Royals have just released their debut single “Ready For It” and it fucking rocks! The song is the first single from their forthcoming EP, due out soon.

We Royals

The song erupts like a rampaging T-Rex, laying waste to the airwaves as he slashes and smashes everything in his path. It’s as if Aerosmith and Nine Inch Nails combine forces to do battle with Godzilla for sonic supremacy. Crosby shreds and distorts his guitar to the breaking point, making it wail and scream over an intense humming bass line, while Summerville blows out the speakers with his relentless, explosive drumbeats. All of this is backed by harsh industrial synths, creating an incendiary soundscape for Crosby’s feral vocals. His raw, impassioned screams would do Steven Tyler proud.

The song has a raw, high-energy sound like one would hear in a live concert where a band really lets loose. Crosby told me that was essentially what he and Summerville were after: “It was such a super fast process of meeting and tracking and mixing the EP. We only had about 48 hours in studio to get it all done, and didn’t really get too much time to retrack anything so was a bit of a jammy rush. But for the first EP we were just kinda excited to quickly catch the energy and vibe from the rehearsal room the previous week, so it’s definitely more of a raw, live sounding record.”

“Ready For It” most definitely kicks major ass, and I can’t wait to hear the rest of the EP.

Connect with WeRoyals: Twitter / Instagram

Stream/purchase “Ready For It” on Spotify / Google Play / Apple Music

New Song of the Week: ROADKEEPER – “Narcissistic Peoples”

Roadkeeper

This past April, I featured Texas band Roadkeeper on this blog when I reviewed their single “Old Man’s War”, a stunning song about anxiety and worry over things, both real and imagined. I loved the song so much it spent 18 weeks on my Weekly Top 30. Formed only a little more than a year ago, the Tyler, Texas- based four-piece consists of songwriter/producer John Hetherington (vocals, synths, rhythm guitar), Trevor Tull (lead guitar), Nick Cogdill (drums) and Daniel Griffith (bass), all long-time friends. Roadkeeper is completely independent and self-produced, doing their recording, producing and mixing in John’s studio – dubbed ‘Yacht Country’ – and releasing their songs on their own label Equal Temperament.

Blending dreamy shoegaze with dramatic psychedelic rock, Roadkeeper crafts exquisite songs that envelop us with complex melodies and lush soundscapes while delivering compelling and often socially relevant lyrics that give us a lot to think about. Since forming, they’ve released four outstanding singles, and now return to grace our eardrums with a beautiful new single “Narcissistic Peoples“, which officially drops September 6th. About the song, the band states: “This song was originally meant to be a satirical take on sci-fi future fascist recruitment propaganda but lyrically it ended up personal and political. It was inspired equally by the erasure of and actions against American indigenous cultures by the ruling class as well as the current refugee crisis at the southern US border.”

Musically, the song features exuberant layers of richly-textured guitars and shimmery synths, nicely driven by Griffith’s subtle bassline and Cogdill’s crisp, thumping drumbeats. It all provides a dreamy, melodic backdrop for Hetherington’s smooth falsetto vocals. The music feels light and breezy, belying the seriousness of the rather biting lyrics. Though brief, running scarcely more than two minutes, it’s an incredibly impactful song nonetheless.  “Narcissistic Peoples” is another in a string of perfect singles from this exceptionally talented band, and I’m delighted to make it my New Song of the Week.

If you could be someone else just for a day
Would you wash their cares away
Or does the thought that they have it worse
Make your feelings hurt because you like to feel
Like a warrior fighting to save the world

Do you feel it?

It eats you alive but you’re not alone
There are millions of people, bitter and selfish
Narcissistic people waiting on a future
Where everyone looks like them
Everyone has power
Everyone has religion
There’s no one left to conquer

Connect with Roadkeeper:  Facebook / Twitter  / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

WHALE HOUSE – Album Review: “Clowder”

Whale House Clowder art

Whale House is a psychedelic rock band that got its start in 2007 when Caleb Price and Clayton Brice met while students at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. Sharing a love of both classic 60s counter-culture rock and the 90s alternative/grunge rock of their youth, they quickly bonded and began writing and producing songs together in Clayton’s apartment. Their music combines these two rock influences, while experimenting with structure and timbre to create their own unique modern rock sound. Wanting to take their music to the next level, they moved to the recording studio, where they could benefit from the expertise of a professional production team.

Whale House 2

Between 2009 and 2015 they released three EPs, and in 2016 dropped two singles, “Freeway” and “Think of Me”. That November, they released awesome videos of live performances of “Think of Me” and another of their tracks “Red Sun”. I reviewed those videos, which you can read here. Now, nearly three years later, Caleb and Clayton return with their first full-length album Clowder, which will be available on all streaming platforms September 7th, with CDs and vinyl shipping now.

The songs for Clowder were constructed over the course of a year from (in their own words) “sound bytes flung back and forth through the ether across the 300 miles that now separate Caleb and Clayton.” The album was recorded direct to tape at Drum Farm Studios, a re-purposed organic farm in northwest Wisconsin. With the help of drummer John Richardson, they recorded most of the tracks live as a three-piece to recreate the spontaneity of a live show. Veteran producer Tom Herbers produced and mixed the songs, and John Golden did the mastering.

Into the Bluffs” kicks off Clowder in a big way with a burst of Richardson’s pummeling drumbeats accompanied by melodic piano keys. Layers of fuzzy guitars, bass and more keyboards are soon added as Caleb and Clayton sing with a harmony as near-perfect as any I’ve heard in a while. The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but seem to speak to tapping into one’s spiritual being: “Give me a sign. Search yourself and follow me in. Look into the bluffs. Ghosts are gathering in the upper atmosphere. Spirits calmly watch me yeah.

Next up is “Doll“, a dark song inspired by Caleb’s experience spending time in the hospital with his mother while she was in a carbon monoxide poisoning induced coma. “And I know it’s over. I’ll pull the plug and let her go. After it’s over, I’ll start the engine, shut the door.” The song’s melody and structure give off a Nirvana vibe, with an ever-changing tempo that goes from chugging riffs of gnarly guitars to aggressive stop-start chords. Caleb’s plaintive vocals are wonderful, and I like how they rise with emotion along with the guitar notes. It all makes for a fascinating listen, and is one of my favorite tracks on the album.

A Great Fire” beautifully showcases the guys’ skill at writing complex melodies and using rich instrumentation to create an interesting soundscape that continually evolves and surprises our senses. The track opens with a strong thumping drumbeat and ominous synths, creating a mesmerizing backdrop for Clayton’s rather mournful vocals as he sings of far-off cosmic storms, possibly symbolizing unrest or even the end of the world. Gradually, guitar, bass and piano enter the mix, then everything ramps up in the chorus with jagged riffs and crashing cymbals as Clayton launches into an impassioned wail: “The pores of my skin are dripping acid. The dogs are fighting, the snakes are biting. The back of my eyelids explode with lightning!” It’s a fantastic song.

The lead single “Milk” was released on August 15th, along with a surreal and vividly colorful video. It’s a terrific grunge song, featuring a torrent of gnarly riffs set to a powerful driving beat. Caleb explained that the lyrics speak of someone bogged down in a sea of ego-driven minutiae while the the rest of the world keeps on moving forward: “Near the belly digesting away. Far away, and deep inside, visions of hell. Paralyzed from the food that has yet to metabolize. And it’s been so long. And the world moved on.

The guys take a melodic turn on the captivating “Elephant“, my absolute favorite track on the album. The lush mix of chiming and twangy guitars are drop-dead gorgeous, as are Clayton’s heartfelt vocals that express a deep vulnerability. At 2:22 minutes, a beguiling flute enters, giving the song a momentary Celtic vibe. “Spine” veers into folk-rock territory, but still retains a grunge sensibility thanks to the strong guitar work, and once again the guys’ vocal harmonies are really impressive. And speaking of strong guitar work, the guys dazzle us with their mind-blowing guitar skills on the trippy psychedelic gem “Shapeshifter“. We’ve barely had a chance to catch our breath before they return to hammer us with exuberant jangly riffs, deep, buzzing bass and frantic beats on the hard-driving banger “Papercuts“.

The title track “Clowder“is an intriguing song with fuzzy, reverb-soaked guitars and tumultuous percussion. Caleb explained the song’s meaning: “The song ‘Clowder’ is based on an old children’s book called ‘Millions of Cats’. It’s about a guy who goes out looking for a single cat and ends up being followed home by billions of them. We enjoy simple surreal imagery like that. The story ends up being about the destructive power of pride and the importance of being humble. That kind of suppression of ego is something Clayton and I aspire to and I think its a theme that pops up in a lot of our writing.” The song opens with sounds of Caleb whispering “Don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you“, then the music intensifies as Clayton’s vocals take a more insistent tone. In time, with guitars wailing and cymbals crashing in the chorus, Clayton emphatically repeats the line “Hundreds. Millions. Thousands. Billions.

Twilight Sleep” is an enchanting track, highlighted by a pleasing acoustic guitar and wonderful sweeping orchestral instrumentation that imparts an almost ethereal quality. The little piano riff in the chorus is especially good, and nicely complements Caleb and Clayton’s fervent vocal harmonies. Guest musicians on this track included violinist Ryan Young of Trampled By Turtles and cellist Hilary James of We Are The Willows. At the very end of the track, we hear Ryan Young state “I played one wrong note”, though it all sounded pretty damn perfect to my ears. The album closes with “Asleep On A Plane“, a brief but sweet love song. The music consists only of a resonant jangly guitar and bass, but combined with Caleb’s earnest vocals, the song packs quite an emotional punch.

I must admit that many of these songs took a couple of listens for me to fully connect with them, but once I did, I came to realize that Clowder is a brilliant and stunning album. Unlike a lot of pop and classic rock, with their catchy hooks and melodies that quickly bore into our brains, modern and experimental rock music requires us to really listen to hear and appreciate all the little nuances of the more complex melodies, innovative instrumentation, and somewhat abstract lyrics that Whale House have so cleverly written. If you’re willing to expend the time and effort to dig deep into their music, you will find a lot to enjoy on Clowder.

Their Record Release Party will take place Saturday SEP 14 at Brewery Nønic, Menomonie, Wisconsin

Connect with Whale House:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

New Song of the Week: DARKSOFT – “WannaCry”

Darksoft single art

This past February, I featured the creative and talented young Seattle music artist Darksoft when I reviewed his brilliant debut album Brain. Released in November 2018, Brain is a concept album named for the very first computer virus to attack the internet back in 1986, with each track named after infamous viruses that followed. In keeping with his penchant for writing and recording songs that address timely and relevant social and cultural issues related to technology, he’s just dropped a great new single “WannaCry“. The song was written and produced by Darksoft, and mixed and mastered by Mathieu Riede of L453RL4Dy Studios

The song features Darksoft’s signature fuzz-coated jangly guitars, accompanied by swirling synths and crisp percussion that create a dreamy, almost psychedelic soundscape. But my favorite aspect of the overall sound is his silky, almost breathy vocals that are incredibly pleasing, even when he sings of a rather disquieting subject.

The lyrics speak to the deep cultural and political divide in America, fed by our tendency to stay stuck in our own echo chambers. Reading and hearing only what we choose to read and hear makes it harder to learn the real truth, and reinforces our beliefs and opinions. Furthermore, the social networks we thought were friendly spaces now seem to be corrupted by those who use them to spread misinformation.

Maybe they just wanna give us all a say 
But I can’t help but feel like a pawn in some conspiracy 
What am I used to fight? 
Am I lined with the right history? 
Who are you working for? 
Are you buried in your day to day? 
I know, it shows 

So we live alone in our twin code 
Seeing polar sides to every lie 

wanna wanna cry 
you wanna wanna cry 
But you don’t know how… or why

Since I published this review, Darksoft released a fantastic video for the song:

Connect with Darksoft on Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Google Play
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby