DARKSOFT – Album Review: “Brain”

Darksoft Brain

Darksoft is the music project of Bill Darksoft, a smart and creative young artist from Seattle, Washington who’s produced one of the most interesting and brilliant concept albums I’ve heard in some time. Brain, which dropped in November 2018, is named after the very first computer virus to attack the internet back in 1986, with each track named after infamous viruses that followed.

He operates his own label and website Look Up Records (for which he also writes some pretty awesome reviews), and in addition to his music project, has played with many Seattle acts over the years. About his inspiration behind the creation of Brain, he explains: “Distanced through haunted screens, we rely on spooky contact that we don’t fully understand. At times, dark forces lurk on the other end, with a motive to con. Always a silhouetted hooded presence, the hacker has become our modern portrayal of Death; captor to the mind and its web of memories. As we stare deeper and deeper into the glowing comfort of this synthetic deception, trust has become the challenge of our modern paradigm, and the cyberscape the new Great Unknown. At its core, Brain is a story not only of the brain, but of the heart, as both confront trust and deception, the real and the synthetic, the mind and the motherboard, and the dark web connecting it all where the matter of our endless identities can be created as quickly as it can be erased, infected, encrypted…or simply revealed for what it truly is, beneath the hood.”

Brain opens with “Mydoom” a pleasant track with gauzy riffs of jangly guitars, subtle bass and gentle percussion. The lyrics speak to the seemingly harmless but insidious virus that keeps a watchful eye on one’s internet dealings: “I’ll just pop up in your window to see how it’s going. From time to time I will drain your battery life… Track you close, I’ll watch your move. Mydoom A has put a bug on you to stayIt’s ok to be vulnerable if you’ve got nothing to lose.” Darksoft has a velvety smooth vocal style that’s incredibly pleasing, giving the track a rather dreamy vibe. On “Elk Cloner“, he first warns about a virus that works to take over our thoughts: “They will enter your world. They can infiltrate microchips. They will stick like glue. They will modify you.” But then it’s as if the virus itself tells us not to worry and just remain calm: “No cause. No cause for alarm. No harm. We just occupy thought. No cause for alarm. No cause, just be calm.” The track has a lovely, mesmerizing melody and his vocals are really soothing, belying the rather menacing message.

Darksoft quickens the pace on the bouncy “Conficker“, though it still has a somewhat moody undertone with a mix of fuzzy and jangly guitars, shimmery synths and a determined drumbeat. The lyrics allude to the algorithms that control what we’re fed on social media, shaping our world view in the process: “We choose what you feel. No view into reality. Your life is ours… permanently.

With gnarly guitars and spooky synths propelled by a strutting bass line, “Lamex” speaks to how easy it is to escape into an artificial online world: “If you want a lame existence. They will send you a virus or two. Lamerism is the name of the tool I use”, yet yearning to break free and think clearly and independently: “I need to get out…To free my mind…To quit this code and leave the app I knew behind. If you look away you’ll open your eyes.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Heartbleed“, with its enthralling melody, irresistible drumbeat and gentle psychedelic groove, thanks to deliciously eerie synths. The jangly guitars are marvelous, the bass line’s sublime, and I absolutely love Darksoft’s warm, captivating vocals. I honestly think I would be perfectly happy listening to him sing the yellow pages!  My take on the song’s meaning is it seems to compare the feelings of someone who’s emotionally dead inside to that of a computer – a machine who only does what it’s programmed and directed to do: “Matter is a thing. You focus it’ll bring you life and pleasure. Just wait and see. Let your lead heart bleed.  Silicon and hardware respond.  Nothing really matters when you’re a machine… You live to be used by others.”

Another favorite is “Cryptolocker“, a darkly gorgeous song with dreamy and sometimes eerie synths that create a lush atmospheric soundscape. The gently-strummed chiming guitars are exquisite, as are Darksoft’s ethereal vocals that are seductive, yet menacing, as he coldly warns another not to fuck with him: “You don’t know who you’re dealing with. You don’t understand who you’re messing with. Lock me away and I will pull the plug from under you.”

I distinctly remember the virus for which “ILOVEYOU” is named. Darksoft uses it as an allegory for the emptiness and futility that can result from using online dating websites: “Every fuckin day is the same. Can’t look up from the screen. Crushes breakin over the phone. Guess that I’ll be alone. Til I see your message titled ‘love confession’. Feeling’ tempted by a lie; it’s a misdirection. You were nothing more than spam. My little love connection. Engineered to phish my soul. Been spoofed again by a false confession.” The song has an infectious drumbeat and some fine, intricate guitar work.

Code Red” is a beautiful, languid song featuring Darksoft’s resonant, pulsating guitars and sublime vocals, backed by his own harmonic choruses.  The lyrics seem to speak of clearing one’s mind of self-destructive thoughts and behaviors: “Everyone has a code. Some write them, others they follow a worm. Everyday, take a chance. Decrypt all the bullshit and break from the trance.” The final track “NightShade” is a mellow, anthemic rock song with jangly guitars and humming bass, accompanied by snappy drumbeats. NightShade seems to be a metaphor for drugs taken to numb the pains of life: “Where you’re from, how you came as I take it all away with NightShade. / If I can survive maybe then so can you. Aren’t we all playing role games? Infect the database with NightShade.”

Brain is a great album, and I love pretty much everything about it – Darksoft’s clever lyrics inspired by each of the computer viruses, his beautiful melodies, outstanding guitar work, first-rate production values, and stunning vocals. He’s an amazing talent, and I eagerly look forward to hearing what he comes up with for his next music project.

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

LOUD HOUND – Single Review: “Youthful Stranger”

Loud Hound Youthful Stranger

I’ve featured hundreds of artists and bands on this blog over the past three-plus years, and it seems half of them have released new music since the first of the year! Today I’m writing about LOUD HOUND, the music project of Tommy Florio, a talented young singer/songwriter from Ventnor City, New Jersey. The self-described “beachy boi extraordinaire” fuses elements of garage, surf and psych rock to create wonderful songs filled with catchy melodies, honest lyrics and irresistible guitar grooves.

In early 2018, he released his debut single “Fine By Me” – a lo-fi, high-energy, surf rock gem, then followed that May with the outstanding introspective single “Runnin’,” which I reviewed. Now he’s back with a great new single  “Youthful Stranger“, delivering a somewhat moodier dream pop vibe than his two previous singles. It really showcases his skill at writing songs with diverse melodies and instrumentation, and keeping his music sounding fresh.

Starting with a mix of strummed acoustic and jangly electric guitars as the primary drivers, LOUD HOUND adds some distortion, fuzzy bass and low-key percussion to create an intriguing backdrop for his slightly seductive echoed vocals. The music and vocals build as the song progresses, with some nice riffage in the chorus, then slows back down toward the end, with an interesting watery reverb effect on the guitars.

The lyrics seem somewhat ambiguous, but my take is that they speak to depression in a young adult who takes drugs to make it through life, feeling invincible once they take effect:

Youthful stranger watch as your dreams fall apart
Little blue pills keeps your friend up at night
The lonely dreamer survives the night
The lonely dreamer survives the night

Youthful stranger watch as your dreams come to life
Let’s pretend and play God
My life ready to stand tall
The lonely dreamer survives the night
The lonely dreamer survives the night

Connect with LOUD HOUND:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp

THE SILENCE KIT – Album Review: “Fall Protection”

The Silence Kit2

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

The Silence Kit album

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOUD HOUND – Single Review: “Runnin'”

I continue to learn about so many really talented young artists, and another recent find is LOUD HOUND, a musician from Ventnor City, New Jersey. LOUD HOUND is the artistic moniker of singer/songwriter Tommy Florio, who released a wonderful – and aptly named – debut single “Fine By Me” earlier this year (I say aptly named because it’s the kind of lo-fi surf rock I love), and now follows up with another fine new single “Runnin’.” The track has a slightly more polished sound than “Fine By Me,” bit still retains that great surf/garage rock vibe.

According to webzine Born Music, Tommy wrote the song one summer a few years ago when going through a spell of bad luck. “He had watched both his dog and grandmother pass away. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he discovered his girlfriend was cheating on him with her ex. Oh, and he broke his foot. You’d think this would be a summer he’d rather forget, however Tommy did everything he could to turn the summer into a positive and productively used his housebound time to record music.” Tommy explains that “Runnin’ is a song about love. Fighting for it, losing it, feeling it for the first time, watching it fade away, or even the melancholy feeling that exists with being in love.” 

The song opens with jangly surf guitar and a pleasing drumbeat that evoke a sun-kissed afternoon at the beach. At around 1:20, the guitars turn grittier, the drums more intense, and LOUD HOUND’s smooth vocals more impassioned as he sings of fleeing from painful experiences, yet running toward things that are unattainable:

runnin’ as far as we go
runnin’ is all i know, alright now
runnin’ for the poor man’s soul
runnin’ for all your gold, alright now

He lays down some pretty tasty distorted guitar in the bridge, then around 3:45 the track shifts to a languid tempo with gentle jangly guitar and cool, faraway-sounding synths. LOUD HOUND’s echoed vocals turn a bit melancholy as he wistfully sings the poignant lyrics about the love he lost:

there was so much i had to say 
she’s so far away
she was my gold, my lady
my baby, the summer rain

It’s a long track, running nearly six minutes, but is so good I didn’t notice it’s length one bit. Take a listen:

Connect with LOUD HOUND:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp

DENSE – Single Review: “The Smoke”

DENSE The Smoke

Despite seemingly continuous reports announcing its demise, rock music seems to be alive and well, especially in the UK where it’s thriving. One of the more innovative rock bands I’ve been following is DENSE, a young and immensely talented trio from Leeds, England, whose unique sound could best be described as ‘industrial psychedelic surfer garage rock.’ Sounds a bit complex, but when you hear their music you’ll understand what I mean. DENSE consists of Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums). Charlie also produces, mixes and masters their music. Despite their youth, their intense music style exhibits an impressive maturity, complexity and density – implied by their name, perhaps?

I’ve previously featured them twice on this blog, first in 2017 when I reviewed their mind-blowing debut EP Third Eye, then again this past January when I reviewed their monumental single “Irreversible Knot.” Now they’ve dropped another new single “The Smoke,” and it’s a real banger!

An opening spacey synth and little surf guitar riff give way to an explosion of gritty guitars, crushing bass and tumultuous percussion. As the track progresses, the intensity of the music ebbs and flows, allowing each instrument to dominate. One moment there’s a cacophony of raging psychedelic guitar, then an interlude of relative calm with the sounds of Dylan’s heavy throbbing bass and Sam’s simple drumbeat, only to be suddenly broken by a thunderbolt of Charlie’s distorted guitar. It all serves to create a continuous sense of tension that’s a signature component of their dynamic and complex sound. Charlie’s echoed, distorted vocals rise and fall in tandem with the instrumentals, adding to the song’s drama. It’s interesting that his wailing refrain of the title lyric “the smoke” sounds a lot like “bang bang” – at least to my ears.

Give this amazing song a listen and decide for yourself.

Connect with DENSE:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DENSE – Single Review: “Irreversible Knot”

Dense cover art

DENSE is an awesomely talented psychedelic garage rock band hailing from Leeds, England. In March 2017 they released a mind-blowing debut EP Third Eye, which I reviewed and you can read here. They’ve now returned with a new single “Irreversible Knot,” and it’s fantastic.

Their unique psychedelic garage rock sound is at once retro and futuristic. They claim as their inspiration such bands as Wand, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and Queens of the Stone Age, but I also detect hints of 60’s Yardbirds and early 80’s Billy Idol. If I had to put a label on their music style, it would be ‘industrial surfer metal rock.’ DENSE consists of Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals),  Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums). Charlie also produces, mixes and masters their music. Despite their youth, their intense music style exhibits an impressive maturity and density – implied by their name, perhaps? – that would be expected from a more seasoned band. Of course, based on the photo below, they still retain a playful sense of humor that would be expected from a group of young guys.

DENSE2

“Irreversible Knot” opens with a grainy echoed synth chord, then an ominous rapid surf guitar riff and buzzing bass line enter the scene, propelled by a tapping drumbeat. Just as we’re becoming mesmerized by the hypnotic beat, we’re hit with a thunderous barrage of fuzzy distorted guitars steeped in reverb, Sam’s wildly crashing cymbals, and Dylan’s heavy throbbing bass. Charlie’s echoed, distorted vocals go from sultry drones to savage wails, while he shreds and distorts his guitar even further, creating a trippy, psychedelic wall of sound.

Halfway through the track, things calm down to just echoed synths and throbbing bass, then with a scream from Charlie, a cacophony of distortion comes crashing back like a tsunami wave. A second lull occurs three quarters of the way through, with a final return of heavy chaotic sounds. This back and forth ramps up the song’s tension to the breaking point, clearly with the aim of tying us into irreversible knots. The track is so delicious that, even at over four minutes long it seems over in an instant, leaving me craving more.

Connect with DENSE:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
“Irreversible Knot” is available for a free download on Bandcamp

DRUIDS – EP Review: “Pink Aliens”

Pink Aliens

Druids are an indie psychedelic punk rock band from New Orleans, and I’m completely smitten with their music! I can’t remember the last time I’ve had as much fun listening to a band as I do with their terrific debut EP Pink Aliens. Released back in February, it’s an adrenaline rush from start to finish, and I was hooked the moment I heard it.

All longtime friends with roots in the Crescent City, Druids consists of Brandon on guitar and lead vocals, Eric on bass, and Jeff on drums. Their hyper-kinetic lo-fi sound is built on elements of punk, psychedelic, surf, garage and doom rock, and influenced by some of their favorite bands like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Thee Oh Sees, Wand, Black Sabbath, Ty Segall, The Doors and Black Flag. These guys are beyond high-energy, and with their charisma and sense of humor – just look at those silver pants! – I’m sure they’re a blast on stage.

Druids

Cult of the Pink Aliens” kicks things off with buzzing guitars, crashing cymbals and hazy echoed vocals. At the two-minute mark it abruptly erupts into a driving punk beat with surf-rock guitar riffs that occasionally venture into distortion, aided and abetted by pounding drums and an onslaught of crashing cymbals. But hold on ’cause things really ramp up a notch on “Black Magic,” a frantic head-bopping punk-soaked romp that’ll have you thrashing about the room with abandon. Brandon’s skillful guitar and Jeff’s pulse-pounding drums keep the energy flowing at full throttle, making this my favorite track on the EP.

Not skipping a beat, “Endless Maze” offers up over five minutes of punk rock goodness, with an infectious stop-start beat and killer guitar work. Brandon’s extended guitar riff will leave you breathless. A throwback to late 60’s psychedelia, but with a late 70’s punk vibe, “Lightning Bolt” will have you yearning for pink sunglasses and striped bell bottoms. Once again, the guys amaze with their awesome guitar work.

Ty Dye Rain” is a psychedelic beach party on steroids, with exhilarating stop-start guitar riffs and lively percussion. Two-thirds of the way through, the tempo slows a bit and we’re treated to more extended riffs of shredded and distorted guitars. Opening with a cacophony of distorted guitars and sharp cymbals, “The Hex” continues the slower bass-heavy tempo, but the guys seem to like surprising their listeners by changing things up to a frenetic punk beat halfway through, and it sure makes for an exciting listen.

The song’s about an evil temptress who casts her evil spell on men:

So I see you’ve learned some tricks
Dabbled dark arts, became the witch
I can see you’re planning something causing trouble whats comes next
I can see you contemplating planning evil, pass the hex

There are numerous bands out there playing psychedelic and retro punk rock, but Druids take it to another level, and deserve greater recognition. I hope they’ll keep making more music, because I can’t wait to hear it. Those in the Kansas City, Missouri area can catch them in concert on October 13 at the Riot Room, where they’ll be performing with The Crystal Method and other bands.

Connect with the Druids on Facebook and stream or purchase Pink Aliens on Bandcamp

UPRIGHT MAN – Album Review: “Upright Man”

Upright Man Cover blue

Upright Man is a New York City-based rock band who released their debut self-titled album yesterday August 18, 2017. And after just one listen through of Upright Man, I must unequivocally state that it’s magnificent. Poetic lyrics are paired with bold instrumentals and soaring harmonic vocals to create ten stellar tracks that elicit strong feelings for the listener (they certainly did for me). The album was flawlessly produced by Marc Copely (Roseanne Cash, B.B. King, Billy Squire) and Zev Katz (Jeff Beck, Hall & Oates, Aretha Franklin), and engineered by Bruce Sugar (Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh) at Avatar Studios and Sear Sound in NYC, and at Blackbird Studios in Nashville.

But the creative minds and musical talent behind all this fantastic music are Aidan Dolan (guitar/vocals), Nick Katz (bass/vocals), and Max Yassky (drums/percussion/backing vocals). The guys met while studying classical music composition at New York University, where they played together on various projects ranging from classical ensembles to rock bands. Their strong chemistry ultimately led them to form Upright Man. Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Crowded House, Little Feat, Led Zeppelin and XTC, they combine elements of alternative, psychedelic, roots rock and classic rock with complex harmonies and melodies to create their own unique sound.

Aidan explains, “Our different musical backgrounds make for an explosive chemical reaction that creates something none of us would have alone.” Nick adds, “We have an intense compulsion to write songs together, and do so constantly.” “Our goal is to write great songs, play genuine music and share it with the world,” says Max.

Upright Man

We’re introduced to Upright Man with the sweeping opening track “Elysia.” The song is melodic rock candy, with layered jangly guitars, sharp percussion, brilliant keyboards and captivating vocals. In fact, their colorful instrumentation and harmonic vocals are a defining element of the band’s wonderful sound, also beautifully demonstrated on the next track “Agorognostic.”

Say What You Mean” really shows what these guys can do, with complex rhythmic change-ups that go from calm, strummed guitar one minute to fierce guitar riffs accompanied by a cascade of crashing cymbals the next. Aidan snarls: “Is it what you really want? Was it what you really want? Is it everything you want?/ Everybody cares what you think. But nobody cares what you think.”

The title track “Upright Man” is a terrific post-grunge rock song with a hypnotic beat, fantastic gritty riffs and Nick’s assertive buzzing bass. The guys’ vocals are in perfect harmony as they sing: “Cities built on soot and ash. Follow the fate of those who’ve past. It was the dream of an upright man to be loved. I fell down from the sky to become up on high.  Then Aidan wails: “So tell me why won’t you stand with me. Baby tell me you love me. I don’t need the truth. I just need you.” The down-tempo “Ecstasy” offers up moody synths and mellow vocals, punctuated by flourishes of electric guitar and crashing cymbals that reach a crescendo before ending in a reverb-heavy haze.

Keyboards take center stage on the stunning “Three Easy Pieces,” a standout track and my favorite on the album. The combination of lush piano, delicate synths, electric guitar, gentle percussion and the guys’ lovely harmonizing vocals are positively gorgeous, creating a dreamy soundscape. Aidan’s vocals are sublime as he sings: “The TV said I need a life. Ain’t I livin’ life? You can’t live on porcelain and wine. When you’re hungry you’ll find what you need.”

Another favorite is “Alaska,” a languid, rather melancholy song about searching for one’s place in the world, but not quite getting there: “Got a tattoo says ‘Alaska’ but I’ve never been. 20 questions I could ask you but I’ll never win. Oh I just get so cold. Hold me darling, deliver me from shivering.” As to now be an accepted fact, the instrumentals and vocals are mesmerizing.

The guys dial up the energy on “Designer Mind” and “Animals.” Both are great rock tracks with assertive percussion, strong, gravelly bass and dynamic, multi-textured guitar work. Album closer “Checked Out” delivers a captivating melody and incredible layered instrumentals, including keys, intricate guitars, crisp percussion, sweeping synths and Aidan’s smooth vocals. This is another standout track that proves without doubt that Upright Man is an exceptionally talented collective. They’ve got a brilliant debut album on their hands, and it should be in yours.

To learn more about Upright Man, check out their Website and social media: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase: iTunes / Amazon

DENSE – EP Review: “Third Eye”

I continue to be astounded by the sheer number of talented young bands today that are making some really great music. Another recent find is DENSE, a psychedelic garage rock band hailing from Leeds, England. Their music is unlike any other band I’ve heard lately, with a sound that’s at once retro and futuristic. They claim as their inspiration such bands as Wand, King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard and Queens of the Stone Age, and though it may be entirely unintentional, I also detect hints of 60s Yardbirds and early 80s Billy Idol. But whatever their influences, their sound has what I would describe as an ‘industrial surfer metal rock’ vibe, and I love it.

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Making this awesome music are Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums).  Despite their youth, their intense music style exhibits an impressive maturity and complexity that would be expected from a more seasoned band. In March, DENSE released their debut EP Third Eye, which according to their bio “was crafted by Charlie Fossick in his bedroom one summer.” And while it may be lo-fi, it certainly makes up for it with a thunderous wall of sound.

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The title track “Third Eye” kicks things off with a barrage of gritty, distorted guitars and throbbing bass steeped in reverb, while Heffer hammers out an aggressive beat on his drum kit. Fossick’s electronically enhanced, otherworldly vocals are mesmerizing, and hold their own with the power and intensity of the music note for note. This is one hell of a song!

The video is awesome, with clever psychedelic visuals that perfectly complement the song and its theme.

Distorted buzz saw guitars are in full force on the scorching psychedelic instrumental track “Glutton Free.”  At times, the guitars wail and scream like a raging elephant. Metcalf’s pulsating bass gives the song incredible strength, with added help from Heffer’s pounding drums and crashing cymbals.

Stone” starts off with what sounds like small explosions or basketballs hitting the court on heavy reverb, then a nifty little bass line ensues, followed by an eruption of frantic shredded guitars. At roughly the two minute mark, we’re treated to a catchy guitar riff before the onslaught of shredded, gnashing guitars return to close out the track, which immediately segues into “Shade.” Almost as if DENSE didn’t want “Stone” to end, “Shade” sounds like a continuation of it, but with a slight change up in the melody, and minimal vocals. It’s OK by me, as I didn’t want “Stone” to end either.

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram /  Website

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase the EP on iTunes or download for free by joining their mailing list.