HOLY COVES – Single Review: “Desert Storm”

Hailing from beautiful Holy Island, situated just off Anglesey Island in northwest Wales roughly halfway between Dublin and Liverpool, alternative psychedelic rock outfit Holy Coves is the brain child of singer-songwriter Scott Marsden. Since its formation in 2005, the band has consisted of an ever-changing group of musicians, as Marsden brings in who he wants to work with for each project. Holy Coves released their debut album The Lizzies Ynys Môn on New Years Day 2008, then followed in 2011 with an EP and two singles, which were later included on their second album Peruvian Mistake, released in 2012.

After a nearly 10-year hiatus, brought on in part by the death of his best friend and manager, as well as his personal struggles with addiction and subsequent recovery, Marsden assembled a new group of esteemed musicians to record his third album Druids and Bards, due for release this coming August via his label Yr Wyddfa Records. These musicians are (with previous acts they’ve played with in parentheses) John Lawrence on guitar (Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci), Owain Ginsberg on guitar & synths (WE//ARE//ANIMAL, Hippies Vs Ghosts, The Heights), Jason Hughes on bass (The Painkillers), and Spike T Smith on drums (Morrissey, The Damned, New York Dolls). Marsden told me “It was a honour to work with them. I’ve wanted to work with all of them since I was a teenager. I’m very lucky. They are all geniuses.” He wrote and sang all songs, and co-produced the album with Lawrence, who also engineered the album. The two men shown flanking Marsden in the header photo are friends he’s brought in for live performances, who will also play on his next record.

In late March, Holy Coves released their first single from Druids and Bards, the brilliant “The Hurt Within”, which is currently enjoying a run on my Weekly Top 30. Now, only a month later, they return with the second single “Desert Storm“, and it’s another brooding cinematic stunner. Over a stomping, mesmerizing groove, they layer mysterious, psychedelic synths, crisp percussion and an arresting blend of droning and jangly guitars to create a dark and moody soundscape, but with a hint of optimism. Marsden has a clear and pleasing singing voice, and his slightly echoed vocals have a somewhat ethereal quality here as he earnestly details his struggles of keeping a troubled relationship together while suffering from severe drug addiction.

What you see is what you get
What you needs irrelevant
It's time we need to heal my friend
Let's go until we reach the end
Look how far we've come
We've only just begun
You're holding onto me
But I'm so far gone

Were coming up don't fight the feeling
Let's ride the storm
Were coming up don't fight the feeling
It's the desert storm
Were coming up don't fight the feeling
Let's ride the storm
Were coming up don't fight the feeling
It's the desert storm

I come to feel her love again
And take away all the pain
It seems like everyday I fight her now
It's tearing us apart
Right now I'm falling hard
Let's go back to the start
I'm falling off again
She's got me hook line babe

“Desert Storm” is a marvelous track, and if it and “The Hurt Within” are any indication, Druids and Bards is guaranteed to be a spectacular album.

To coincide with their album release, Holy Coves will kick off their 24 date Druids And Bards UK Tour on August 19th in Wrexham.

Connect with Holy Coves:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud

Purchase on Bandcamp

SOLAR EYES – EP Review: “Dreaming of the Moon”

One of my best new finds in 2021 was British psychedelic pop/rock collective Solar Eyes. Based in Birmingham and formed little more than a year ago, the trio is comprised of singer-songwriter, musician and producer Glenn Smyth, Tom Ford and Sebastian Maynard-Francis, who together play an arresting style of pop/rock awash in colorful psychedelic grooves, twangy surf guitars and dreamy cinematic synths. The moment I heard their music I became a fan, and happily reviewed their fantastic singles “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship” and “I See the Sun” (you can read those reviews by clicking on the ‘Related’ links at the end of this post), both of which included B-side tracks. I loved them all, and “I See the Sun” recently spent four months on my Weekly Top 30, two of them at #1. In February, Solar Eyes signed to Fierce Panda Records, through which they’re now releasing their debut EP Dreaming of the Moon, which drops today.

The EP features five tracks addressing a variety of topics, including love, loss, betrayal and the cost of fame. It opens with the title track “Dreaming of the Moon“, a haunting song with some of those gorgeous and cinematic Spaghetti Western vibes I love so much in “I See the Sun”, only slowed down and with greater emotional intensity. A mix of twangy and grungy guitars are layered over a galloping rhythmic beat and a backdrop of moody psychedelic synths, creating a sense of urgency and longing. Glenn has a pleasing voice, and here his vocals have an almost ethereal quality, which he uses to great effect to share his dreams with a loved one for a better life away from the world: “I been dreaming of the moon, I’m gonna get there soon and build a house for us two loons. I’m gonna drive us there, in my own spaceship, and let the world know that I got out. I been dreaming of the moon, how am I gonna make you see that I, really love you?

Here’s a cool 360° video of the band performing the song:

Nothing’s for Free” is a rousing stomper that seems to touch on the perils of being a rock star: “Make some money, girls will find you funny. The bright lights–they make you see, ahhh – nothing’s for free.” I love the song’s exuberant New Order-esque sound, with its lush, cinematic synths, swirling guitars and buoyant driving rhythms. On “Russian Roulette“, Glenn laments of a woman who stole his love and soul, leaving him alone and miserable: “In so much pain, but I’m not to blame. Can you put me out of my misery. The end is here, it’s all coming clear, my sense of freedom has gone.” The music is appropriately dark, with more of those wonderful twangy guitars and moody synths. But the highlight for me are the gorgeous notes from what sounds like a mandolin or balalaika, which combined with the mournful vocal chorus, give the song an almost funereal Russian feel.

Nobody Knows” is a full-blown rocker, with screaming psychedelic riffs, driving bass and thunderous drums that really get our blood pumping. The biting lyrics take issue with self-appointed people who make decisions that have a major impact on society, but are they right or do they even know what they’re doing? “Ooh burn the witches, ooh they’re just bitches. What did it solve? Nobody cares. / Ooh they’re the rulers, ooh they’re the soldiers, who is in charge? Nobody knows.” The music calms to a lovely interlude as it slowly fades out in the final 40 seconds or so.

The final track “Sitting Here on My own Again” reminds me of the music of another band, but I can’t quite put my finger on who it is. At any rate, it’s a wonderful, upbeat-sounding song, but with bittersweet lyrics about preferring to be alone and unhappy: “I gotta let you go, cos this was too far good. I don’t wanna be happy. I wanna sit on my own and play my guitar to myself and no one can hear what I sing, cos I am on my own. / Crying myself to sleep, and that is just my dream, and don’t you be so sad. It’sjust what we had la, la, la, la, la.” I really like the bouncy melody, and the chiming guitars are particularly enchanting.

Dreaming of the Moon is a fine little EP that nicely showcases Solar Eyes’ impressive creativity, imagination and musicianship. As noted by a fellow music blogger, each song sounds completely different, a good indication of the variety in their sound. I hope they’ll continue making great music together for a very long time.

To coincide with the release of their EP, they’re also giving their first ever live performance as a band tonight at a sold out show at Muthers Studio in Birmingham.

Connect with Solar Eyes: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube

New Song of the Week – “One and the Same” by FUTURE THEORY

A little over a month ago, I featured British alternative psychedelic rock band Future Theory when I reviewed their marvelous single “Hang Your Hat”. I’ve been following this talented group since early 2017, and their incredible musicianship has never failed to blow me away on every one of their releases. I’ve written about them numerous times over the years (you can read some of my reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post), and am happy to feature them yet again so soon, as I love their latest single “One and the Same“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

Blending elements of alternative and progressive rock, psychedelia, grunge, shoegaze and funk, Future Theory creates music characterized by lavish, complex instrumentation, intelligent lyrics and mesmerizing vocals. Like many bands, the Lincolnshire-based foursome has experienced some changes in lineup over time, and now consists of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Jacob Brookes on bass and Tom Paton on drums, although as with “Hang Your Hat”, former band members Rex Helley played bass and Rohan Parrett played drums on “One and the Same”. The track was recorded at 2fly Studios by Alan Smith, mixed and produced by Koncide (aka Chris Hengmith), Max and Chris, and mastered by Yves Altana and Chris Ree.

“One and the Same” is magnificent, and quite possibly one of their best songs yet. It starts off slowly and rather introspectively with shimmery strummed guitars, accompanied by gentle bass and crisp drumbeats as Max sings in his distinctive sultry croon that I love so much. Around 45 seconds, the music erupts in the first chorus into a glorious cinematic soundscape, highlighted by a glittery cascade of chiming guitars and fiercely crashing cymbals, instantly covering me with goosebumps. The music calms back down for the second verse, only to return to an even more dramatic crescendo in the final chorus, with Max’s vocals now more impassioned than ever, before the song ends in a trail of reverby distortion.

The official video, produced by Lewis Carter of 3Link Media, is as breathtaking as the song, with beautiful footage of marine life and outer space, combined with images of the band performing, overlain by kaleidoscopic explosions of color.

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud /  YouTube
Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

DENSE – Single Review: “Reckoning”

I’ve been following British psychedelic garage/punk band DENSE pretty much since their beginnings nearly five years ago, and it’s been gratifying to watch them grow and mature as artists. Based in Leeds, the wickedly talented trio – comprised of Charlie Fossick (Guitar/Vocals), Dylan Metcalf (Bass) and Sam Heffer (Drums) – live up to their moniker by combining thick, fuzz-coated grooves with progressive elements and fierce instrumentation to create music that’s electrifying, innovative and intense.

I’ve written about them numerous times over the past four and a half years, most recently in August 2020 when I reviewed their debut EP Abjection, which I described as “four combustible sticks of dynamite packed into 14 explosive minutes” (you can read some of my previous reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post). Now the guys are back with a new single “Reckoning“, which they refer to as “a desperately needed release of energy“. After listening to the track, I’d say that’s almost an understatement, as it’s a furious eruption of wailing distortion and sonic mayhem.

The guys have gained a reputation for their electrifying live performances, and they’ve somehow managed to capture that energy and inject it into their songs. As MC (who goes by @LeedsGigs_ on Twitter and writes about shows in and around Leeds) commented on my review of Abjection, “Seeing them live is a visceral experience and their music demands your attention. Charlie contorting primeval sounds from both mic and guitar through his pedal board, Dylan prowling the stage with adrenaline-fueled rockstar stances, riffing on a parody of every bedroom axeman, and Sam, limbs akimbo, thrashing his drumkit into quivering submission.”

According to their press release, “‘Reckoning’ is an abstract journey through anguish, capturing the frustrations of modern day life through utilisation of melodic dissonance alongside a focus on rhythm and groove-led songwriting, conveying what the lyrics represent. The track boasts a mix from Ross Orton, who has worked with the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Drenge, God Damn, Pulled
Apart by Horses and Working Men’s Club. This was the first track we wrote together in 12 months post-lockdown, and it feels like the track absorbed and channeled a lot of our pent-up energy and frustration that the three of us individually experienced during isolation
.”

That pent-up energy and frustration is manifested in an explosive barrage of super-gnarly guitars, grinding bass and bombastic percussion. Dylan drives the chaotic rhythm forward with a deep, chest-thumping bassline while Sam smashes his drumkit like a man possessed, the two of them somehow bringing order to the madness. Charlie unleashes the full fury of his double-barreled arsenal of gritty guitars and savage vocals, thrashing the airwaves with frantic, reverb-drenched psychedelic riffs, punctuated here and there by flourishes of screaming distortion, while sending shivers up and down our spines with his signature demonic wails and screams. The song is so intense, I’m left in a quivering heap by the end. It’s good to hear that DENSE have not lost one bit of their fearsome edge in the 12 months they’ve been quiet.

The guys pull no punches with their bitter lyrics that speak to a sense of hopelessness and despair, a reckoning with the terrible state of things:

When I get inside
I never feel dry
the rain it constantly pours
and I’ll ask for more

I feel a nervous pulse
men riding on horse
been dropped in the tank
shot, point blank

residing
I’m torn
providing
I’m born
declining
I’m torn
reclining
I’m born

I’m formed
we’re scorned
No future
And no past

and it sails,
to the core
sailing down to the core, to the core, to the core

Reliving
Past lives
and I’m always
Terrified

The ends are looking frayed
Cause it tore me
Fired under
No cause

residing
I’m torn
providing
I’m born
declining
I’m torn
reclining
I’m born

Reckon now?
Reckon now?
Re, Reckoning, Reckoning

I’m formed
we’re scorned
No future
And no past

and it sails,
to the core
sailing down to the core, to the core, to the core

DENSE will be launching “Reckoning” at a show tonight at the Castle Hotel in Manchester. They’ll perform again on the 13th at Royal Park Cellars in Leeds.

Connect with DENSE:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase on iTunes / Bandcamp 

SOLAR EYES – Single Review: “I See the Sun”

This past August, I featured the marvelously trippy single “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship” by British psychedelic pop/rock band Solar Eyes, which you can read here. Now the Birmingham trio, who are comprised of Glenn Smyth, Tom Ford and Sebastian Maynard-Francis, are back with a fantastic new single “I See the Sun“. Like their two previous releases “Acid Test” and “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship”, both of which included B-side tracks, “I See the Sun” is the A-side, with a B-side track “Where Are We Going Now?” As for why they’re releasing multiple songs each time, Glenn told me he has a huge stockpile of songs he’s already written, and just wants to get them out into the world and into our ears. Well, their songs are all so good that we’re more than happy to hear them! “I See the Sun” & “Where Are We Going Now?” is their third release in six months, with many more to come.

“I See the Sun” was born from a conversation Glenn had with the band’s mixing engineer Jeff Knowler. After Glenn mentioned to Jeff that he’d written a cool ’60s-sounding Tarantino-esque track on his newly acquired 12 string guitar, Jeff suggested that he watch Tarantino’s film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood before recording the track. Glenn took Jeff’s advice, and went up to his sweltering attic studio, where he found inspiration in the resounding reverb and echo chambers of late 60s music. He presented his recording to Jeff, who then put Once Upon A Time In Hollywood on loop in the background while he mixed Glenn’s track. The result is a gorgeous, cinematic song, highlighted by twangy western-style guitars that would make Ennio Morricone proud.

Everything about this song is perfect, beginning with that jolting opening guitar note to the infectious, galloping drumbeat, the swirling cinematic synths, castanet-like percussive sounds, soaring harmonies and, most of all, those fabulous spaghetti-western guitars. Then there are Glenn’s beautiful, reverb-drenched vocals as he sings of his eternal love for another: “I see the sun. The light shines on you and me. And that’s the way it’s meant to be, for eternity.” What a great song this is, and I’m loving this band.

“Where Are We Going Now” is equally beautiful and cinematic, and overflowing with more of those wonderful twangy western guitars. As with their previous videos, the colorful animated video for “I See the Sun” was created by Matt Watkins, a videographer, lighting and visual design producer who’s a frequent collaborator with Gorillaz.

Connect with Solar Eyes: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube

SODA CRACKER JESUS – Single Review: “Kaleidoscope”

Soda Cracker Jesus is the solo music project of the wildly imaginative and enormously talented singer-songwriter and producer Regan Lane, who’s also become a regular of this blog. The Tacoma, Washington-based musician has been actively involved in the Pacific Northwest music scene for nearly 40 years, with his hands in many projects, including serving as front man and ringmaster for psychedelic punk-rock band Strangely Alright, whose music I’ve written about numerous times. Earlier this year, he created Soda Cracker Jesus to express his more punky power pop side, calling the project “the spiritual and creative personal space that he goes to just be his musical self, a space where no matter which creative juices flow, whatever sonic creations are born, he knows that they come from an honest and personal place.”

Regan’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. With an undying sense of optimism, he creates music that looks to the future, but also understands the power of the past, and that duality helps shape his unique and signature sound. Since April 1st, he’s released four singles, beginning with the foot-stomping power pop banger “My Anthem”, followed by “Drug My Soul”, “Kill it Tomorrow”, and now his latest single “Kaleidoscope“. I reviewed the first two singles, which you can read by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post. He released “Kaleidoscope”, along with a lyric video, exclusively on Bandcamp, on October 27, but the song will be officially released on all music streaming platforms November 2nd.

The song has been beautifully described by Mark Platt of online radio station Radio Candy as “Lennon-meets-Bowie-meets-Peter Gabriel in a dark alley“, which I cannot argue with, as I definitely hear the ghosts of John Lennon and David Bowie. Regan states that the song was influenced by “late-era Beatles psychedelia and Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett years”, which is strongly evident in the beautiful, though somewhat spacey, atmospheric soundscapes. The soothing, ballad-like feel of the song is a departure from the harder-driving punk and power pop sound of Soda Cracker Jesus’ previous singles, and I like it! I love the lush, shimmery synths and gorgeous keyboards, which were played by Lee Gregory, as well as Regan’s chiming guitar notes. The subtle bass was played by Ray Hartman, and backing choruses were sung by fellow Strangely Alright bandmember Sean Van Dommelen. Regan produced the track, which was mastered by his longtime collaborator Todd Ensminger.

Regan wrote “Kaleidoscope” after his father passed away. He told me “My dad and I had a complicated relationship, but before he passed we were good. This song is about the emotions and feelings that come with that. I think anyone at any age can relate to dealing with loss. I don’t usually bare my soul but this is as close as it comes.” The lyrics are filled with meaning, but written with enough ambiguity so that each listener can interpret them as they see fit. In spots, the lyrics display a youthful innocence that seems to come from a child’s perspective: “I sure love my bicycle. It takes me where I need to go. And all the raindrops let me know the wind is at my back.” But later in the song, the wisdom that (hopefully) comes with age is apparent: “Father’s ghost has let me know I’m okay, we all get broken. What we get is just a token of what we give away. Kaleidoscope inside my head. Reflections of the hope I have. I look back but now is where I stand.”

Connect with Soda Cracker Jesus:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream/purchase his music on Bandcamp / SpotifyApple MusicYouTube

FUTURE THEORY – Single Review: “Hang Your Hat”

I’ve featured hundreds of bands on this blog since I began writing reviews in early 2016, and have to say that some of the best hail from the United Kingdom. And among all those great British bands, one that impressed me from the start is alternative psychedelic group Future Theory. Blending elements of alternative and progressive rock, psychedelia, grunge, shoegaze and funk, they write especially compelling songs characterized by lavish, complex instrumentation, intelligent lyrics and mesmerizing vocals. Like many bands, the Lincolnshire-based foursome has undergone some lineup changes over time, and now consists of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Jacob Brookes on bass and Tom Paton on drums, although for the recording of their latest single “Hang Your Hat“, former band members Rex Helley played bass and Rohan Parrett played drums.

I first wrote about them in April 2017 when I reviewed their fantastic 2016 debut EP Fool’s Dream, then twice in 2018 when I reviewed their excellent singles “Fractured Nation” and “Peace of Mind”. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.) Now the Lincolnshire-based foursome are back with “Hang Your Hat”, their first new single in more than three years. The lead single from their forthcoming self-titled debut album, the song is a biting kiss-off to a romantic partner who’s been unfaithful, and broken the bonds of trust in the relationship. The track was recorded at 2fly Studios by Alan Smith (Arctic Monkeys, Reverend & The Makers, 65daysofstatic), mixed and produced by Koncide (aka Chris Hengmith), Max and Chris, and mastered by Yves Altana and Chris Ree.

Musically, “Hang Your Hat” is a marvelous feast for the ears, with some of the more dramatic and varied guitar work I’ve heard packed into one song in a long while. The song opens with a fairly intense instrumental flourish like you’d normally hear in a bridge or chorus, with a barrage of fuzz-coated psychedelic guitars and lots of crashing cymbals. At around 25 seconds, the music calms to a languid bass-driven groove, accompanied by strummed guitar and light drums as Max begins to sing in his distinctive sultry croon. Those gnarly guitars and aggressive rhythms ramp back up in the chorus, then transition back and forth in another verse and chorus, punctuated with beautiful chiming guitar notes and highlighted by a killer reverb-soaked guitar solo in the bridge.

I love Max’s vocal style that’s equal parts sensuous and raw, and enhanced by echo and reverb that render them particularly effective here in conveying the bitterness and pain expressed in the lyrics: “I don’t want to do this anymore. Where did you go last night? I said I’d lose my mind, where did you go last night? Got to be, where did you hang you’re hat? You’re gonna need that some day, pick it up wrap it up, just for today.” In the calmer moments, he almost sounds a bit like Anthony Keidis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, not a bad thing at all.

With “Hang Your Hat”, Future Theory return in fine form, proving they haven’t lost their stride one bit during their hiatus. It’s a very strong track, and I’m confident we’ll be hearing more gems from them in their forthcoming album.

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud /  YouTube
Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

SOLAR EYES – Single Review: “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship”

Solar Eyes is a fairly new psychedelic pop/rock band from Birmingham, England. Curiously, they have no presence whatsoever on social media, so I don’t know a whole lot about them. What I do know is they’re a trio comprised of Glenn Smyth, Tom Ford and Sebastian Maynard-Francis, that their sound is influenced by such bands as the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Chemical Brothers and Death in Vegas (though I hear traces of The Cure, U2 and Oasis as well), and that their arresting brand of pop/rock is bathed in psychedelic grooves and dreamy cinematic synths.

In May, they released their excellent debut double single “Acid Test” and “Nothing’s For Free”, and now return with the infectious earworm “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship“, released on August 6th via AWAL/Sleeping Sun Recordings. The release is a sort of mini EP, as it’s accompanied by two additional tracks, “It’s Gone Forever” and “The Lotus and the Robot”. Glenn was inspired to write the song after hearing a friend proclaim that “life is like being a naked monkey on a spaceship, with no control.” Finding the line brilliant, Glenn felt compelled to write a song around it, only to later find out that his friend had actually first heard it on a Joe Rogan podcast. But no matter, it’s still a great lyric and song title.

The song is darkly beautiful and mesmerizing, with a wonderful pulsating bass groove overlain with lush, eerie synths, propulsive drums and swirling riffs of psychedelic guitars, all creating a gorgeous otherworldly soundscape befitting a space traveling monkey. I love Glenn’s echoed vocals that to my ears sound like a glorious mash-up of Bono Hewson and Liam Gallagher.

The cool animated video for the song was created by Birmingham-based videographer, lighting and visual design producer Matt Watkins, who’s also created videos and produced visual design & lighting for live performances by numerous acts, most notably Gorillaz.

The other two songs are great too. “It’s Gone Forever” has a brooding vibe, with a hypnotic beat and some nifty psychedelic guitar work, while “The Lotus and the Robot” is appropriately spacey, with eerie industrial synths, shrill psychedelic guitars and a droning vocal chorus. Solar Eyes are fine musicians, and I like every one of their songs a lot.

Stream their music on SpotifyApple MusicYouTube

ROADKEEPER – Single Review: “Take the L”

From the moment I first heard their single “Old Man’s War” back in the spring of 2019, I’ve been a big fan of Texas alt-rock quartet Roadkeeper. Blending dreamy shoegaze and dramatic psychedelic rock with complex melodic structures, they craft lush soundscapes that are a perfect backdrop for their intelligent, socially conscious, sometimes political, and always thought-provoking lyrics. Formed in 2018, the band 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, and releasing their songs on their own label Equal Temperament

I last featured Roadkeeper in January when I reviewed their magnificent single “Enemy Mine” (which spent more than four months on my Weekly Top 30). The song is a scathing attack on far-right white nationalist professional pundits who radicalize vulnerable young people by feeding them propaganda on social media and YouTube. Continuing in a similar vein, on June 24th, they dropped their 8th single “Take the L“, which addresses the ongoing immigrant and refugee crisis along the US/Mexico border, which has had an especially profound impact on Texas.

Written during the Trump administration and recorded in the Biden administration, the song shines a light on the fact this issue hasn’t gone away with the change in the White House. In an article in the webzine Clash, John explained “The song serves as an important reminder that the two major political parties in the US are just punting this issue back and forth to one another, so when is real change going to happen?

Roadkeeper never fails to amaze me, and with “Take the L”, they once again deliver an exceptional single. The layered mix of psychedelic and shimmery guitars are gorgeous, backed by sparkling atmospheric synths and thumping rhythms, all creating a melodic and captivating backdrop for the powerful lyrics. John has a wonderful and mellifluous singing voice, and here his smooth vocals remind me at times of Mark Foster (of Foster the People) as he laments “Just take the L and go, so we both get our way. We’ll burn at both ends and say ‘Who started it anyway?’. All these stolen kids who die in their sleep don’t mean anything.”

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

STRANGELY ALRIGHT – Single Review: “Alien Lover”

Strangely Alright is a delightfully quirky and wonderful psychedelic-punk rock band based in and around Seattle-Tacoma, Washington. I’ve been following them for approximately three years, and have become especially fond of them, both because of their terrific music and also for their strong sense of humanity. Accordingly, I’ve featured them several times on this blog (you can read my reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post).

Referring to themselves as an “Eclectic Traveling Minstrel Magic Music Medicine Show”, their unique and entertaining style of punk-infused alternative rock is heavily influenced by such iconic British acts as David Bowie, T.Rex, Pink Floyd, later-period Beatles, Suede, the Buzzcocks and Supergrass. Through their music, they strive to spread positive messages of love, kindness and acceptance, with a guiding philosophy of “Be kind. It matters. Love always wins, so don’t be a dick.

The band is comprised of front man and ringmaster Regan Lane, who does much of the songwriting and sings lead vocals, Sean Van Dommelen (lead guitar, backing vocals), Ken Schaff (bass), Raymond Hayden (keyboards, backing vocals) and Jason Bair (drums). They’ve released a number of recordings over the past several years, beginning in 2013 with their debut album The Time Machine is Broken, a compilation album All of Us Are Strange (The Singles) and an EP Stuff, both released in 2018, and too many singles to mention along the way. One of my favorites is the brilliant and trippy single “Psych Film”, which spent over four months on my Weekly Top 30, and ranked #42 on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list.

On March 5th, they dropped their latest single “Alien Lover“, a song Regan describes as “that space between a dream and waking up. We wanted to do something that sounded and looked like the world inside our heads… Where answers lead to questions like the light leads to the dark and back.” Like some of their other recent singles, “Alien Lover” is a long one, clocking in at eight minutes. With it’s meandering cinematic arrangement, trippy otherworldly synths, sweeping orchestral flourishes and bold, psychedelic guitars, the song has a marvelous and epic Pink Floyd-esque vibe. The spacey psychedelic touches and distorted guitar notes perfectly conjure up images of both that blurred state between dreaming and being half-awake, and of an ethereal alien lover inhabiting our dreams. Regan has a terrific and highly emotive vocal style, and his rather mischievous-sounding croons nicely complement the otherworldly music, as well as imparting a sense of an unconventional love described in the lyrics. It all makes for a wonderful trip we’re more than happy to take!

I’m so glad you’re here so I don’t have to disappear into the shame
Nothing really matters when I’m feeling like a shadow that can’t change
I was wrong and you were right and I am sad without your light we need
I just want to fly up in the sky so we’ll be free

Alien Lover
What’s your name?
Alien Lover
We can change
Alien Lover lover
I don’t know where to go
I am here to see the life you sacrificed for me to be here now
The gift I have is you and all your love it tells the truth it never shouts
Where we are and what we do and all the things that we can choose to be
Time is on our side we’re both alive to play the game
Alien Lover
What’s your name?
Alien Lover
We can change
Alien Lover

What’s your name?
Alien Lover lover
I don’t know where to go
Who we are
What we do
Who we are it always shows
What we give
What we lose
Who we are it always shows
Love gonna change what it needs to change
Love gonna go where it goes
Oh Oh
Oh oh
Oh Oh
Oh Oh

Alien Lover
Alien Lover
What’s your name?
Alien Lover
We can change
We can change, we can change
Alien Lover lover
I don’t know where to go
I don’t know where to go

To learn more about Strangely Alright, check out their website
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Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes