BRETT VOGEL – Single Review: “Superwoman Sway”

Brett Vogel is an immensely talented and hard-working singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles. We’ve followed each other on social media for nearly three years, and I find Brett to be a warm, kind and gracious guy. He was one of the very first artists I featured on this blog, way back in January 2016, and you can read that post here. Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, he grew up listening to his father’s records and became a fan of music at a very young age – something that I closely identify with, as I was listening to my parents’ Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Elvis Presley records as soon as I was able to walk.

Brett describes his passion for music: “Music is within every fiber of my being! I sincerely believe without music I’d be doomed. Music has kept me alive. Music, I believe, has saved my life. Music is love to me. Music helps people heal. It’s what connects people, and for that I’m grateful!” Blessed with a large vocal range and beautiful tone, Brett showcases his sweet and soaring falsetto in many of the wonderful songs he writes.

Brett Vogel

Brett released his first album Lonely Traveler in 2004, and subsequently moved to LA. He eventually became discouraged about the music industry and returned to Illinois, but after three years he decided to move back to L.A. and give music another go, and has never looked back. In 2015 he released his second album Never Giving Up, a superb effort featuring 11 beautiful tracks that are a celebration of his passion for – and dedication to – his dream of making music. Since then, he’s released several singles and remixes, the latest of which is his delightful new single “Superwoman Sway,” which dropped July 20th.

It’s an upbeat, happy tune with an infectious reggae/dance beat that aims straight for the hips.  The carefree guitars, lively synths and snappy drums transport us to a sun-kissed tropical beach, making it a perfect song for summer. Brett’s earnest vocals are lovely as he sings of his devotion for a loved one who brings so much joy to his life:

There you go brightening up my day 
You wouldn’t know it but it’s true
What you’ve got is that Superwoman Sway
I wouldn’t have any other

Through the thick and thin when I’m dashed upon the rocks
You stay close to me and give me all you’ve got
Through the lightning clouds
The sorrow and the rain
You take away my blue, brighten up my sky
To see the light again

Every little thing you do is so so you
I couldn’t have it any better no
Every little thing you do is so so you
I couldn’t have it any better

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

DANCING ON PLUTO – EP Review: “Paradise Fahrenheit”

Dancing on Pluto

Dancing on Pluto is a talented and charismatic rock band I learned about at the beginning of this year, when I first heard their fantastic single “Feels Good” (which I reviewed). Formed in early 2017 and based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dancing on Pluto is made up of four long time friends Chas (lead vocals), Josh (drums), Gilbert (guitar) and Ishmael (bass). Drawing influences from many of their favorite genres, including rock, hip hop, R&B, reggae, synth-pop, shoegaze and grunge, they create music that’s eclectic, interesting and unpredictable. They released their superb debut EP Abandon Ship in 2017, followed by “Feels Good” at the end of the year. In April, they dropped their second EP Paradise Fahrenheit, delivering five great new tunes for our listening pleasure.

Like they did on Abandon Ship, Dancing on Pluto really bends genres and mixes things up on Paradise Fahrenheit – one of the things I love about their music. The first track “Ozone” has a sunny reggae beat, but a hip hop element is added via Chas speed-rapping in the song’s middle. The acoustic and wobbly electric guitars are particularly good, with a tasty little riff in the bridge. The song seems to essentially be about not seeing the forest for the trees, and feeling pessimistic about life: “All I see, nestled in green, tripping over nothin’ by my own damn feet. I can’t see at all, no stars in the sky. No food and I’m starving.” But after spending time in the forest, he finds clarity and peace of mind, and his attitude becomes more optimistic: “Nestled in green. Visibly at ease. The stars are so beautiful.

Where the Wild Things Are” starts off as an uptempo rock song, with buoyant riffs and peppy drums. Halfway through, the track shifts to sort of a ska beat, with jangly guitars and strutting bass. Chas sings of teenage insecurities, self-doubt and the struggle for independence: “I know what people see. I’m scared that you’re too good for me. That’s why I’m always scared. / Is it because I get jealous when I see you in a crowd? Is it because I can’t take you where my thoughts get loud? Am I not beautiful enough for you to want to treat me good?

The joyously uplifting gem “Feels Good” is the song that first made me fall for Dancing on Pluto. Beginning with Chas yelling “It feels good, yeah!“, followed by a few seconds of a simple drumbeat and tapping drumsticks, the track bursts wide open with a barrage of shredded guitars, then settles back down. Chas’ incredible vocal dexterity really shines on this track – sounding as smooth and soulful as John Legend one minute, then raw and loud the next.  The tempo goes from a mellow, bass-driven groove while he croons “When you’re on your own, take time and deep breaths. And when you’re on your own you’ll find out…”, to an explosion of wailing guitars and thunderous drums with the refrain that perfectly describes the song’s affect on me:  “It feels good! It’s so good, right on!”

The guys change things up again with “Snowflakes on Mercury,” which sounds totally different than any of the other tracks on the EP.  The beautiful, languid song has more of a shoegaze vibe, with greater use of synths and keyboards, yet they insert some grungy riffs in the bridge, adding a bit of poignant drama. The lyrics seem to address self-awareness and appraisal: “Snowflakes, I want to see you even when you hurt my eyes. I want to feel you even when you hurt my skin. Falling and floating. You help all of my footprints be seen. So I can see how far I am from where I’ve been. Falling and floating.”

Monet,” is a seven-minute-long rock song with an incredibly pleasing and catchy melody, and marvelous strummed acoustic and electric guitar work. At roughly four minutes in, the tempo slows and riffs of jangly guitar dominate until drums and crashing cymbals return. The instrumentals all quiet down to just a simple acoustic guitar riff to close out the track. The lyrics seem to be about working through problems in a relationship: “I’d paint a picture of love that I can’t put into words for you. / This is your whole life, not just a cause worth fighting for. / I’m standing outside your door, ’cause I thought that I was more than the half-hearted fool you took me for. We’re fine ’cause our creator says so. We’ll be fine.

With Paradise Fahrenheit, Dancing on Pluto have another solid EP under their collective belts as they start to build an impressive discography. I love their music, and look forward to hearing more great and innovative songs from them.

Connect with Dancing on Pluto:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

JOHNNY KOWALSKI AND THE SEXY WEIRDOS – Album Review: “European English”

European English

Being the EclecticMusicLover, I enjoy a wide variety of music genres, and have a special appreciation for artists and bands that meld lots of different influences in the creation of their music. Well, Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos – a self-described “body-snatching carnival punk band” from Birmingham, UK – are eclectic on steroids! And, honestly, who could possibly resist a band called ‘The Sexy Weirdos?!’ Fusing Celtic, Balkan and Gypsy folk melodies with reggae, ska, mariachi, punk and rock’n’roll, they create a uniquely eccentric sound that’s totally original and deliriously entertaining.

Like many bands, they’ve undergone some changes in membership over the years since forming in 2009. The current lineup consists of frontman Johnny Kowalski (Vocals, Lead Guitar), Chris Yates (Bass), Ilias Lintzos (Percussion), John-Joe Murray (Violin), Matthew Osborne (Drums) and Katie Stevens (Clarinet, Tenor Sax). They released their debut album Victory for the Monsters in 2012, and followed two years later with Kill the Beast. In October, they dropped their third album European English, an extraordinary work that reflects their experiences touring across Europe, as well as time spent amongst Romani gypsies and artists in Josefov, Czech Republic, where many of the album’s songs were written.

Sexy Weirdos2

Things get off to a rousing start with “Megahorse,” a lively tune that conjures up images of a Yiddish folk dance, and sets the overall tone for the album. A careful listen reveals a rich diversity of instruments at play, most notably guitar, violin, and a chirping clarinet, anchored by thumping bass and a frantic drumbeat. In his distinctive spirited vocal style, Kowalski sounds like he’s singing at a Jewish wedding as he wails “If everyone thinks it, it must be right, ’cause everyone can’t be wrong. The lies that we fight to feel safe at night, are the lies that help keep us strong.”

The band’s sense of playful silliness and love of camp is charmingly evident on the zany video, as they take turns dancing to the song (with varying amounts of success).

 

A seductive Latin-infused bass line introduces us to “Relative Rudeboy,” then a playful violin and drumbeat ensue, accentuated by Stevens’ jaunty sax and a bit of cowbell thrown in for good measure. It all makes for a fun romp that’ll have even the biggest wallflower on their feet. The hips keep swaying with the infectious “Serbian Rumba.” Murray’s sultry violin takes a starring role, and Kowalski’s low, smoldering vocals are a delight as he sings: “Why should I be thinking of you right now? Not in this place and not in this time. And now he will preach at me for a long eternity. And I will be forced to agree, that I’m an asshole yes I see.”

The band evokes the Scottish Highlands with a bit of a gypsy vibe on the exuberant instrumental “Sicilian Stallion.” I love the festive violin, flute and electric guitar work, all propelled forward by a peppy drumbeat. They keep the energy flowing with the “Minor Calamity” and bouncy “Didn’t Find the Money.”

Raggadub (Manifesto in Three Parts)” is an interesting and complex track, with added dubstep and hip-hop elements, courtesy of guest artists Anne-Marie Allen, Smut Rakhra and Jugganaut. The first part beckons us to feel a connection with each other and the earth through music and dance: “Mother earth and sister of soul. Feel that connection and let your body roll.” Part two speaks to social injustice and corruption: “Idled masses yearn to breathe free. Fat on bread for 26p. A trace of fruit, sugar and bleach. Fluoride toothpaste from the pharmacy. Rotisserie chicken is pumped with fat. The sanctity of life is on a wire rack.” Jugganaut’s vocals in the frenetic third part are sung so fast I couldn’t understand them, but it’s certainly a climactic end to an amazing track!

The lively instrumental track “Matthew Matthew” brings an explosion of fluttering clarinet, violin, guitar and crashing cymbals. Kowalski seems to channel the late Joe Strummer on the boisterous “Flight of the Juniper,” which to my ears sounds like a song that could have been done by The Clash. The guitar work on this short but powerful track is wonderful.

Closing out the album is the captivating, psychedelic-tinged “Chinese Icicles,” a real tour-de-force and one of the standout tracks. The violin in all its forms takes center stage, with electric guitar in a strong co-starring role. The band employs all sorts of exotic instruments to lend a mysterious Asian vibe to an essentially hard rock track. The song is so compelling it seems shorter than its five and a half minute length. It’s a dramatic finish to a remarkable album, which you can listen to here:

Connect with the band:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify and purchase on Bandcamp