COUNCIL – Single Review: “The World is on Fire”

Alternative pop/rock band COUNCIL has been on an upward trajectory since the release of their debut EP Rust to Gold in November 2016 (which I reviewed and you can read here). Based in rural upstate New York, the band consists of three handsome brothers –Patrick, Doug and Andy Reeves.  Patrick (bass and lead vocals) and Doug (drums) are twins, and Andy (guitar) is a year younger, and I think it’s awesome that all three are talented musicians who’ve chosen to work together as a band, not to mention humble guys who are kind, gracious and appreciative of their fans.

Council bros

Rust to Gold, which was self released, has been wildly successful, garnering over 2.6 million streams in 16 countries on Spotify. The superb lead single “Rust To Gold” spent the most time of any song on Apple’s prestigious A-List Alternative Chart this year. It also spent 14 weeks on my Weekly Top 20, peaking at #7. The guys have now dropped their new single “The World is on Fire,” and it’s certain to be another big hit. The single’s being released through AWAL and Tom Sarig’s AntiFragile Records, and was produced by Justin Gray (Dirty Heads, John Legend), and mixed by Mark Needham (The Killers, Imagine Dragons).

“The World is on Fire” is an exuberant anthem that immediately grabs hold with a catchy, irresistible melody. The track kicks off with a galloping drumbeat and fuzzy synths that quickly build to a crescendo, before blasting open with Andy’s aggressive jangly guitar, Patrick’s heavy buzzing bass, and Doug pounding out the hard-driving beat with all the strength he can muster. Andy lays down some pretty awesome riffs, and there are moments where Patrick’s bass comes close to blowing the speakers.

With his impassioned vocals, Patrick sings about letting go of our lust and greed that threatens to destroy mankind, and learning to accept what’s really important and meaningful in our lives: “The world is on fire./I’ve seen enough, the violent birth of our souls. I’ve seen the lust, and I know it’s time to let it go./ Sometimes less is more than you’ll ever need. Love is like a war, but you better be sure where you place your desires.”

The guys keep the energy level at full throttle from start to finish, and I love their soaring harmonic choruses. Hell, I love everything about this fantastic song that gets better with each listen!

Connect with Council:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation

Purchase it:  iTunes / Bandcamp

Album Review: TWINTWO – “Twinwho?”

UK hip-hop artist Twintwo is one of my favorite rappers. I love his honest, thoughtful song lyrics and wonderful vocal delivery, especially given his British accent that I find quite charming. Hailing from Yorkshire and born Robert Winterburn, the hard-working singer/songwriter records and produces all his own songs. He released a terrific five-track EP Mr. Winterburn in 2016, which I reviewed on this blog exactly one year ago, that you can read here.  I liked the EP so well I purchased it! He’s back with a full-length album entitled Twinwho?, which dropped today, April 27.

Twintwo
Photo by Paul Blinston

Like many rappers, Twintwo writes autobiographical lyrics for his songs as a way of expressing himself though music. A skilled wordsmith, he writes about his self-doubt and the challenges of trying to make it in the music business, coming to terms with being an adult, and relationships – both romantic and with friends – and how they relate to his career choices.

Twinwho? opens with ominous synth sounds as we’re introduced to “Haven’t Changed,” a scathing tirade against those who doubt him and cast aspersions upon his dreams.  He rapid-fire raps “Call me the shit, call me the villain. I work on this music ’cause it’s so appealing to prove you’re wrong. Release the song, then you got family asking how you are feeling./ I don’t need a plan B, bitch where’s your head at? What’s with all the negativity? I don’t care if you ain’t feeling me. I’m feeling me. It’s real to me.”

The dark video was filmed in a gloomy abandoned warehouse, the perfect setting for the grim-sounding track.

Moving along, on “This Year,” Twintwo questions whether his life has in fact changed – hopefully for the better, though he doesn’t seem entirely comfortable with some of those changes. He’s not sure why, but last year felt weird – but then so does this year. What he is certain of, though, is that he wants to keep growing as an artist, not remain stuck in the same spot he was then or even now. He sings “This year’s been weird, it’s clear/ I don’t want to be in the same place I was last year, ’cause last year was weird. I sat and I stared, but I don’t want to be in the same place I was next year, ’cause last year was weird.” The track features a lively hip hop beat that has a bit of a carnival vibe.

Now is a good time to point out that he has a knack for artfully choosing some fantastic hip hop beats for his songs that always sound perfectly suited to the lyrics. Employing a somewhat similar beat on the lighthearted track “Pizza Girl,” Twintwo sings about lusting after a girl working in the pizza parlor, even though she happens to be abusing drugs, and he already has a girlfriend. And who hasn’t at one time or another lusted after someone who was wrong for us?

Pizza Girl
Photo by Paul Blinston

One of the standout tracks is “I’d Be Better,” a song about the difficulties of finding success as a rapper, and comparing himself with friends who chose different career paths by going to ‘uni.’ He questions his goals, while remaining defiant in his decision to push forward with his music: “Oh what I do just to get famous. I’m nameless, brainless, don’t know what my game is. Lifestyle dangerous, but but nothing changes. When you’re doing jack, I’ll be better being famous.” In addition to the compelling lyrics, the instrumentals for the track are really terrific, with lots of piano, percussion and violin. The wonderful video for the song was filmed in Twintwo’s home and around his town, and stars his mum and friends. It tells the song’s story in a lighthearted, endearing manner that’s a joy to watch.

Not a Cool Guy” has Twintwo bemoaning the fact he’s been spending a lot of energy and money trying to impress his girlfriend, possibly at the expense of his career: “I’m not a cool guy, got no tattoos. Three years old are my Air Nike shoes. I don’t follow trends I’d rather spend everything that I get on a vid just to push more views.” The somber beat and instrumentals are simple but quite effective for the theme and lyrics. He turns deeply introspective, agonizing about his doubts and fears on “Demons.” “I’m seeing demons when I’m sleeping. Am I losing my mind? I think you will find that I’m a goner. I’ll be working hard, I’ll be working on these records. I ain’t seeing friends as much, ’cause this music takes over. Feel like rap’s got me trapped. I can’t seem to adapt.” The dark track features haunting instrumentals and a sinister, disembodied voiceover that perfectly fit its theme.

Continuing on the introspective theme, Twintwo contemplates the rapid passage of time and whether he’s made any progress in fulfilling his life goals with “Time Flies.” The melodic song has a fantastic hip hop beat, accentuated by beautiful mesmerizing synths and awesome strong percussion. The track quickly segues to “Lethal,” which features guest rappers FMA, 12 Gage & DREADNOUGHT. The five and a half-minute long hard-driving hip hop song is a departure from the other songs on the album in terms of sound, though it still addresses the challenges of being a successful rapper in the highly competitive hip hop genre. “Most of these cats go undisturbed. I’m lethal when I got the mike in my hand. It ain’t a problem.” It’s nice to see him collaborate with other rappers, and it’s a great addition to the album. His awesome rapping skills are evident as he holds his own with the others.

Rob Winterburn1

One of my favorite tracks is the album closer “Before You Leave,” mainly because of its compelling, bittersweet lyrics. Twintwo sings of the conflicting emotions he feels about losing some of his friends as he continues on his quest to build a career in hip hop, and coming to terms with the realities of how friendships sometimes fade away as we move on. The song opens with a mournful piano movement and sounds of a rainstorm. As the strong hip hop beat sets in, he raps:

I don’t want to lose them. I wanna keep on top of them. Fuck, I don’t knowI finally had to break the cycle, and now I’ve been going full pace with this music since the start of this year, and this music’s is all about what I wanna do. But what some people don’t realize is that you have to work on it every day. Like it’s not just gonna just fall on your lap. Yeah sure, take a day off,  but whilst you’re relaxing, there’s someone working as hard as you. It’s hunger, it just get’s addicting.

I talked to my closest friend about the issue, she said ‘it’s just life, and even though we miss you, you have to keep going, you have to go continue. ‘Cause one day you’ll wake up, then the blow will hit you that you could have tried harder.’ 

I love my friends, I do. But you gotta put yourself first. If they don’t stick around, I know it really hurts. But you gotta do you. / Thing is, I’m a low maintenance friend and like, you can just text me once a week or once a month or whatever. I still show love and stuff, ’cause I know we’re busy and stuff. And the thing is, you shouldn’t have to really rely on your friends to make you happy, because one day they’re gonna leave you or stab you in the back. It’s just life…everyone’s busy now.”

I love this fantastic album, and am so happy to see Twintwo continue to grow as an artist. He seems mature for his years (he’ll turn 22 in June) and I’m confident he’ll make an impact on the world of hip hop and rap.

The tracklist:

  1. Haven’t Changed
  2. This Year
  3. Pizza Girl
  4. I’d Be Better
  5. Not A Cool Guy
  6. Demons
  7. Time Flies
  8. Lethal (ft FMA, 12 Gage & DREADNOUGHT)
  9. Before You Leave

Connect with Twintwo:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream his music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

EP Review: NEON HURRICANE – “Liquor Sweet”

I have a particular fondness for hard-working do-it-yourself indie artists and bands who write their own songs and play all their own organic music. Neon Hurricane is such a band. The relatively new, four-man collective from Glasgow, Scotland make music that stays true to the roots of classic rock and roll, employing three-part guitar harmonies to give their sound a definable retro vibe. The band members are Jason Minto on vocals, Graeme Craig on guitars, Connor Browning on bass, and James Maxwell on drums.

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The guys just recorded their debut three-track EP Liquor Sweet, and I’m delighted to review it. The first track “Sweet Lady” is a mellow rock tune, with lively buzzing guitars that remind me somewhat of early Boston. The song is anchored by just the right amounts of Connor’s bass and James’ sharp percussion, and Graeme’s guitar riffs are first-rate. Jason’s earnest, soulful vocals are perfectly suited for the song.

Everything ramps up a notch in “Raining Mondays,” with a faster, heavier beat and more aggressive guitars and drums. Jason’s vocals are also louder and more emotionally raw. The song lyrics speak of a guy who feels down on his luck until he meets a woman who shows him some interest. He fervently sings “And then I saw your face, then I heard you say, you take a chance on, you take a chance on, you take a chance on me, I take a ride with you.

The guys save the best for last, with the amazing tour de force “Follow the Rock n Roll.” They fully unleash their sonic weaponry, compressing so much creative energy and incredible musicianship into one song, that the result is nothing short of phenomenal. The track begins with the sound of wind, then a harmonica wails as Connor’s heavy, throbbing bass line takes over, augmented by James’ pounding drums. In short order, Graeme’s distorted and snarling guitar enters the scene, intensifying the song’s impact. Jason’s powerful vocals are more raw and bluesy than ever, and when backed by the guys’ harmonizing vocals and combined with the aforementioned music, we’re left with one of the most exciting rock and roll songs I’ve heard in a while. At 4:40 the guys blow the lid off with a vitriolic flourish of frantic bass, guitar and drums, and Graeme provides some high-pitched wails to match his screaming guitar solo. This track alone is more than enough proof that these guys are highly skilled musicians.

I love this band, and can’t wait to hear what they come up with next. Show them support by following on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribing to their YouTube channel. Liquor Sweet will soon be available for purchase on iTunes & Amazon.

EP Review: QUICK MACHINE – “Live Fast”

quick-machine-cover

There’s something special about guitar-heavy rock and roll that can’t be beat, especially when it’s fast, loud and in your face. Four-piece Boston band Quick Machine fill all those qualifications and then some! As their name suggests, they play ‘high-energy rock and roll fueled by dueling Gibsons, stacks of 100-watt amps and domestic adult beverages‘ (in their own words). Making the noise are  Eric Jackson (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Richie Kidd (Bass/Backing Vocals),  Shane Quinn (Lead Guitar/Backing Vocals) and Gia Love (Drums/Backing Vocals). (It’s very cool when a rock band has a female drummer.)

Quick Machine formed in early 2015 and, like several bands I’ve recently featured on this blog, spent much of their first year on the road playing gigs and building a dedicated and enthusiastic fan base before heading into the studio to begin recording their own songs. In November 2016 they dropped their debut EP Live Fast, a collection of four rousing rock and roll tracks guaranteed to have you on your feet and moving within seconds.

quick-machine

The EP opens strong with the exhilarating title track “Live Fast.” True to its title, the song blasts through the speakers with aggressive, shredded guitars and Richie’s heavy bass, signaling that we’re in for a wild ride. Gia pounds the hell out of her drum kit, while Eric and Shane’s guitars swirl and snarl with abandon as they lay down some formidable riffs. The song lyrics get to the point: “Live fast, die last, you keep on going ’til you can’t stop, you can’t stop, oh no.”

The awesome video for “Live Fast” shows the band performing the song in a dark industrial building, a perfect setting for the hard-driving track.

Not skipping a beat, “Devil in Me” keeps the high energy going at full speed, and the dizzying pace never lets up through “Steal My Soul” and “Skeletons.” Our ears are treated to more scorching-hot guitar riffs, buzzing bass and pounding drums. Eric’s powerful vocals add a raw, bluesy vibe to these rock and roll gems. In “Skeletons” he wails “Where is the fun in being revealed in the public eye? Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, no, I have become my Mr. Hyde. I drink, smoke, lie and cheat. I’m everything you want me to be.”

This is a great EP, with no throwaway songs. My only criticism is that with only four tracks, it’s over too soon, leaving me wanting more. For now I’ll just have to play it on repeat, and wait for Quick Machine to quickly drop some more tunes.

Here’s a great live performance of “Devil in Me.” This is clearly a band whose music is tailor-made to hear live, and if they ever make it to L.A. I’ll be first in line to buy a ticket.

To learn more about Quick Machine, check out their website. Show them support by following on Twitter,  Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to their YouTube channel. Stream their music on Spotify or Reverbnation.  Live Fast may be purchased on Bandcamp, iTunes or  Amazon.

EP Review: BRAVE YOU – “Six Songs EP”

Let me start off by saying that this review is long overdue, as I’m a huge fan of this talented indie band. I’ve been following Brave You for a while, and am now finally getting around to showcasing them on this blog. Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Brave You is Alex Meylink (guitar, lead vocals), Noah Snyder (bass, backing vocals) and Erik Burtraw (drums, backing vocals).

brave-you

The guys play alternative rock that’s highly melodic, but with an honest, post-grunge sensibility that gives them a distinctive style all their own. Outstanding, complex guitar riffs, Burtraw’s commanding drums, and their solid harmonizing vocals are the defining elements of their sound. And their skillful songwriting is clearly evident in their always compelling lyrics about life, love and relationship troubles. They released their terrific debut Six Songs EP earlier this year, and have been playing numerous venues in and around Milwaukee, which has helped build them a growing base of loyal fans.

brave-you-performing

The first two tracks on the EP, “Cavalier” and “Here, Here,” are great hard-driving songs with dazzling guitar work and strong percussion. Meylink lays down some scorching riffs over Snyder’s buzzing bass lines, while Burtraw’s thunderous drums and crashing cymbals ramp up the already high energy levels.  The opening riff on “Here, Here” is so good it gives me goosebumps with every listen.

The guys’ impressive musical talents are really showcased on the well-crafted track “Tiny Lives.”  The song’s structure and arrangement are first-rate, and the multi-textured guitar work is phenomenal. Meylink fervently sings about how our individual lives are rather insignificant in the overall scheme of things, but we can still make them meaningful in our own little corner of the world: “We can live our tiny lives. If we want to, if it matters to us. We can live out our tiny lives. We can make something.”  

“Suspended” has a bit of a Goo Goo Dolls vibe, as Meylink’s vocals remind me of John Rzeznik on this track. The big difference is the soaring background chorus which the guys excel at. The poignant lyrics address the singer’s admission of his shortcomings, and asking for forgiveness: “These are the most honest words I’ve ever said.  I don’t deserve you, don’t deserve you at all / I always thought I was a better man than all of this.

A standout track on the EP is the melancholy but beautiful “Vincent.” Once again, the guitars are sublime, and Meylink’s heartfelt vocals convey the feelings of despair and hopelessness expressed in the lyrics: “I want the sleep of the innocent. Wanna close my eyes / There ain’t no truth in this world when I don’t know my daughter’s name, when I don’t recognize her face.” Snyder explained to me that the song is about Meylink’s grandpa’s battle with Alzheimer’s.

The final track “North Avenue” offers up more great guitar, with riffs that go from delicately nimble to snarling. Meylink’s beguiling vocals smolder and soar with the changing intensity of the music, and the guys’ intertwining harmonies are marvelous as always.

To sum up, Six Songs EP is an excellent debut from a young band with a lot of promise. The guys are working on more songs and plan to release a full album in 2017, and I can’t wait to hear it. Follow Brave You on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to their YouTube  channel. Follow and stream their music on Soundcloud and Reverbnation, and their EP may be purchased on Bandcamp.

EP Review: RED LIGHT RUNNER – “What Are You Thinking About?”

My spotlight is still on the UK, where I now review the new EP What Are You Thinking About? from alternative indie post-punk rock band Red Light Runner, which dropped today, October 21st. The 5-track EP is their first release since their successful 2014 double-sided single “Lucky Thirteen/Just Might Find,” which itself arrived nearly seven years after their debut self-titled EP was released in December  2007. Those earlier tracks hold up well but, musically and lyrically, the band really ups their game with this new EP.

Hailing from Kent, Red Light Runner includes Dan Balson (Guitar, Lead Vocals), Russell France (Guitar), Lee Vickery (Bass) and Joe Michael (Drums).  Their fresh, high-energy music sounds like what you’d get if Blink-182 and Jimmy Eat World jointly gave birth to a new band. Catchy hooks, driving beats, assertive drums and lively, multi-textured guitars are the hallmarks of their songs. Although many of the lyrics address problematic relationships, this EP will have you on your feet from start to finish. Whether intentional or not, these are all songs meant to be performed live, and I’m sure these guys put on a great show.

red-light-runner

The EP starts off strong with “First Time,” as we’re hit with a barrage of shredded guitars and hammering drums. The track settles into a hard-driving rhythm with heavy melodic riffs, and Balson sings of disillusionment over a relationship turned sour. This is an exhilarating song that kicks ass!

The title track and first single “What Are You Thinking About?” speaks to living your own truth rather than wanting another’s life or living according to the expectations of others: “Someone else’s life is played out inside your head / Now it’s time to live the moments you have instead / Don’t allow yourself to lock you out / Always trust someone to turn you around / When you fall it seems a long way down / What are you thinking about?”  Rapid-paced guitars work in tandem with heavy bass and pummeling drums, resulting in a terrific song. This track, as well as others on the EP, feature backing vocals by songstress Charlie Dorrell.

Gnashing guitars announce the arrival of “Make You Pay,” another hard-driving track about bitterness over a failed relationship: “We’ve seen this road before, and I don’t think you understand / Another time, another place, another time and the moment slips too far away / I seem to find all my life, I’m left behind / I’ll make you pay.”  The powerful guitar riffs on this track are awesome, made even more so by Joe Michael’s thunderous percussion.

One of my favorite tracks is “Right Place Wrong Time.” The song rocks quite nicely, but with a bit more poignancy and, once again, the guitar riffs are superb, soaring to an ear-splitting distorted crescendo at the end. Charlie Dorrell’s sublime vocals are also more apparent on this track. The final track “Be Mine Again” is a rousing number, with more of the band’s signature complex, pummeling riffs and speaker-blowing percussion. The song addresses the singer’s need to survive life’s hardships: “Need to get out, pick myself up, carry on, and this world will be mine again.

I have to admit that it took a few listens for me to fully appreciate the quality and depth of the songs and lyrics, but my conclusion is that this is a very well-crafted EP that gets better with each listen. These guys are really accomplished musicians who coax some awesome sounds from their instruments, and the lyrics are not as obvious as they seem at first glance – or should I say listen?  Support these guys by following them on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to their Youtube channel. Stream their music on Spotify, and purchase their music on BandcampiTunes or other sites offering music for purchase.

EP Review: FLOODHOUNDS – “Look What You’ve Started”

It’s back to the UK to shine my spotlight on the incredibly talented indie-rock band FloodHounds. Hailing from Sheffield, the 3-piece band plays some really exciting guitar-heavy alternative rock infused with ample amounts of blues and funk.  Making this awesome music are Jack Flynn (lead guitar and vocals), Rhys Owens (bass) and Lauren Greaves (drums). Flynn and Owens, who’ve known each other for years, started FloodHounds after the band they were previously in broke up. They needed a drummer, and lucked out when they discovered Greaves, who joined them in late 2014 to complete the current line-up.

In 2015 they released their debut EP Bare Bones, featuring three well-crafted bluesy rock tunes. Now, the band has returned with an ambitious new EP Look What You’ve Started. Let’s dig in to see what it’s all about.

floodhounds

The EP bursts open with the hard-driving “A&E.”  Greaves’ pulse-pounding drums immediately set the pace for this powerful track, with lots of crashing cymbals adding excitement.  The stop and start composition of the track creates dramatic tension, with Flynn’s alternating scratchy and swirling guitars matching the ferocity of Owens’ heavy bass line. The guitars are really quite amazing, and Flynn’s vocals are mesmerizing.  The lyrics speak of someone – a friend or lover, perhaps – who’s going through tough times and in need of support:  “All the people look so tall, when you’re down on your luck and you fall. And though I know you’re on  your way, you need a little push to meet me halfway.

FloodHounds go all bluesy with “State of Mind,” a standout track about escaping a boring, mundane existence. Flynn sings: “Time has passed us slowly from one day to the next / All my friends are 9 to 5 and cashing their checks / And I’m running round in circles again, why do we try? They never said at school that we’d amount to much / You’re barely there it seems like you don’t give a fuck / And you’re wasting all your time outside, why don’t you try?  Makes you wonder if you’re ever gonna make it in this world alive.

The band keeps the bluesy vibe going while adding a bit of funk to the mix with “The Fear” and “Soulmates to Cellmates.” We’re treated to more stellar plucky guitar work, and Greaves’ formidable percussion skills are on full display. “The Fear” speaks to overcoming self-doubt and negativity that are holding the subject back: “Now I can’t help but wonder where you got your point of view / I don’t want to watch it bury you.”  By the time we get to “Soulmates to Cellmates,” it’s clear the EP’s theme is about dealing with inner conflict and the relationship troubles it causes.  In that track, the loved one becomes the oppressor, leaving the partner feeling shackled. “Being yours means I just have to wait / I don’t care how long it will take.

The more rock-oriented “End of the Road” offers up funky bass and shredded guitars, and the EP closer “Greatest Mistake” wraps everything up nicely with a slower, bluesy feel. The guitar riffs in this song call to mind those of the legendary Eric Clapton – at least to my ears. This is another standout track.

To sum up, Look What You’ve Started is a solid EP, with a bit of an Arctic Monkeys vibe – a good thing, as I love that band.  Support Floodhounds by checking out their website and following on Twitter and Facebook. Stream their music on Spotify and Soundcloud, and purchase on BandcampiTunes and other music purchase sites.

EP Review: CURE FOR GRAVITY – “Cure For Gravity”

From the moment I first listened to the opening song “Tonight” on alternative rock band Cure for Gravity’s new self-titled EP, I was bowled over by the sheer magnificence of their sound.  On October 14, the Berkeley, California based group dropped Cure For Gravity, a collection of six exceptional tracks that combine lush atmospheric synths with dazzling guitar work and strong percussion. The EP – and band for that matter – are aptly named, as their music soars straight to the heavens.

The band consists of three highly-skilled musicians – Joe Markert (Vocals, Keyboards, Guitars), Chris Gamper (Drums & Percussion) and Dave Walcott (Guitars, Wall of Sound, Backing Vocals). They released their first EP Fallen Stars in 2012, which featured four solid tracks with a mix of acoustic and harder rock sounds. They’ve taken a more experimental approach with Cure For Gravity, and the results are pretty incredible.

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“Tonight” opens with sounds from a rocket launch, then segues into distorted guitar, heavy bass and crashing cymbals before the track settles into a gorgeous sweeping affair with a Pink Floyd vibe. The song seamlessly transitions into the awesome second track “Sunspots,” by which time I was helplessly in love with this band’s music. The blistering guitar riffs in this six-minute long song are a wonder. Markert’s urgent vocals rise and fall perfectly with the music. The two tracks combined run over ten minutes, yet they’re so good they seem over in an instant.

“Just Like Candy” is pure delight, filled with playful guitar riffs that dance across big synthesizers and a buzzing bass line. With equal playfulness, his voice alternating from smoldering to falsetto, Markert sings of a woman who drives men crazy with her teasing indifference: “Violence on the dance floor / She wants less, but he wants more / They move left to right like an underwater knife fight / You’re blowing me down / She’s just like candy / Wearing a hole in me.”  At 3:25 the song erupts with a rapid, hard-driving guitar riff that reminds me a bit like the ending guitar flourish of an Allman Brothers song.

Things turn dark and heavy with the psychedelic-tinged “BlackMetal.” Once again, the band’s nimble guitar work is amazing. And the music and vocals are so gorgeous in the moving rock ballad “Push” that I’m nearly blown away. The superb closing track “Killing For the Queen” offers up more soaring synths and mind-bending guitars that prove without a doubt that these guys are masters of their craft.

To sum up, I love this fantastic EP and am now a huge fan of Cure For Gravity. Learn more about them by checking out their website, and support these guys by following on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to their YouTube channel. Stream their music on  Spotify and Soundcloud, and purchase on iTunes or Bandcamp.

Album Review: A BLUE FLAME – “What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains”

British singer/songwriter Richard Stone – who goes by the artistic name A Blue Flame – doesn’t consider himself a musician, but rather a compulsive writer of songs who also happens to play the guitar. For him, the song lyric is supreme, not the music or sound. On his album, What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains, he tells compelling stories using straightforward lyrics about life, love, faith, loss and heartbreak. And though he’s not as concerned about the music or sound of his songs, I think they’re superb, representing an amazingly eclectic range of styles from doo-wop and old-school pop to easy listening ballads and hard-driving rock.  Plus, his smooth, clear vocals perfectly suit his thoughtful lyrics.

When I asked Stone about his artistic name, he explained that ‘A Blue Flame’ just came to him, but he also liked “the balance in the name between the heat of a flame and the sadness of feeling blue. Blue flames are the hottest of all flames and they are also linked with strange, other worldly experiences like will o’ the wisps. It’s a name of contradictions between the scientific and paranormal, just like my music is a mass of contradictory influences.”  He said his songwriting has been influenced by some of the great songwriters such as Bob Dylan and the Beatles, but essentially any great song from one of any number of artists.

Stone writes all his songs and plays guitar. He arranges them with help from Adam Ellis, who co-produces and also plays guitar.  Other session musicians add their skills to the mix as needed, including Damon Claridge on drums, Andy Robertson on bass and keyboards, and Tony Robinson (who’s also played with the Manic Street Preachers and The Beautiful South, among other bands) on keyboards and horns.

a-blue-flame

The passage of time and the challenge of keeping the faith – both in God and yourself – are recurring subjects in A Blue Flame’s songs. The album opens with the sublime track “When Time Slowed Down.”  The song features beautiful piano, gentle guitar and snare drum, along with a captivating trumpet solo. With a hint of sadness in his voice, Stone wistfully sings of the fleeting nature of time, and the need to stop and savor the precious moments: “When all is said and done, and we’re just words upon a page inside a book that never opens / How will we be found?  We lucked out, the year we found the days when time slowed down.

Time’s passage is again alluded to on the tracks “Our Memories Fade” and the anthemic “Everyday Yesterday,” where an upbeat melody belies a deeper meaning: “Everyday, yesterday gets further away. I was born for the ninth time, a fool amongst the fools. Running in the nighttime and breaking all the rules. Till I saw I was the dullest stone in a box of golden jewels. It was clear that I knew nothing and my promises were cruel.

Stone plaintively urges self-belief and acceptance in the bittersweet ballad “Be Kind to Yourself” – “You know that your hate is a weakness, you know that you need to be brave. You’re scared of that something inside you that cries in the night to be safe” – and in the edgy, hard-rocking “I Don’t Know,” where Stone’s raw vocals seem to channel an exasperated Billy Joel. In “Feeling the Same,” he expresses empathy for someone feeling lost and alone with their pain and self-doubt.

Faith in God is questioned in the rousing “From God on Down.” Stone defiantly proclaims “I have been here a billion years, and I am so tired. I may, I may not exist. You might believe, you may well laugh. We’re all in the dark, from God on down.”  So too with the catchy pop-rock track “Out There Somewhere.”  Love and loss are the theme of the wonderful but rather mournful doo-wop tune “The Sun Refused to Shine.” The guitar solo in the last third of the song is great.

One of my favorite tracks is “Marlborough Park Avenue,” a poignant tune that calls to mind the incredible storied lyrics and singing style of Harry Chapin. To a gorgeous arrangement with gentle percussion, violin and multi-textured guitars that swirl, twang and chime, Stone fervently sings of a lost loved one “Though you’re not here, you still hold me together. The blossom is swimming around me / I think I’m in heaven.  I wish you were walking beside me, but you’ve gone on ahead.

Another standout is the hard-hitting kiss-off “The Girl Inside of You.” As with some of the other songs on the album, the upbeat, high-energy music – complete with “sha la la la, ooh sha la la las” – contrasts sharply with the fiery lyrics. Stone practically spits the lines “Rain falls down from a cloudless sky / I look up and I wonder why / It seems strange to me / It’s a motherfucking mystery / Farewell from the boy in me, who so fell for the girl inside of you.

What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains is an album that keeps getting better with each listen, as the poetic beauty of the lyrics continues to sink in. Learn more about A Blue Flame by checking out his website. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and stream his music on Spotify and Soundcloud. His music is available for purchase on CD Baby.

Song Review: Shelita Burke – “Belong”

Singer/songwriter Shelita Burke is one of those artists who come along every so often and, upon first hearing her music, you immediately wonder “wow, who is this woman with such a unique and beautiful voice?” Originally from Seattle, Burke spent a few years traveling in Europe, soaking up influences from a myriad of cultures and developing her singular music style in the process, until settling in Los Angeles.  Out of that journey was born her brilliant, highly-acclaimed debut EP Transfixed.  Released in late 2015, The EP features five gorgeous tracks, plus a remix of the title track. The jazz-infused songs offer up mesmerizing strumming guitar and Burke’s captivating, ethereal vocals that transport the listener to a dreamy otherworldliness.

In an excellent review of Transfixed, Lisa D’Arrigo of Indie Minded noted that Burke’s vocals “combine the pulsating delivery of Alanis Morissette with the sultry smoothness of Sade, the calmness of Nora Jones, and the high pitched runs of Joni Mitchell.”  I can’t come up with a better description than that to convey the feel of Burke’s amazing vocal styling. Take a listen to the title track “Transfixed” to get an idea of what Lisa and I are talking about:

Now Burke has completely changed things up with her hot new single “Belong.” Departing from the jazzy, ethereal sounds of Transfixed, Burke dives headfirst into EDM territory, creating a steamy dance track that proves beyond a doubt that, not only is she a vocalist with considerable range, she’s also one with a lot to tell us. In “Belong,” Burke submits herself willingly over to passion while seducing her lover to own her: “Let’s get it on, and on and on and on. Belong. What’s wrong with belong?  I can’t resist all you needed to say. You get me, you get me, you got me. You find me sweet and pretty. If you would own me, I’m easy to please. If you would use me, I would never leave. Crawling, for that something more.”  Whew!

Propelled by a hypnotic, driving beat, swirling synths and bold hand-claps set the tone for Burke’s smoldering, seductive vocals. This is one sexy number that will lure even the biggest wallflower onto the dance floor!  With nearly 700,000 plays on Spotify in less than three months, Burke has a certifiable hit on her hands.

Show Shelita some love by following her on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribing to her YouTube channel.  Stream her music on Spotify or Soundcloud, and purchase it on iTunes and other online music sites.