MANIPULANT – Album Review: “Eclectro”

Electro

As someone who cannot sing, play an instrument of any kind, nor read or compose music, I never fail to be impressed by people who can do those things, especially when they do them well. Even more impressive is when people create music that’s completely original and innovative, leaving me wondering how their minds ever came up with those sounds and melodies in the first place.

Such is the music of Manipulant, an imaginative and, dare I say brilliant, multi-instrumentalist/composer based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Born David Speakman, Manipulant creates “scientific sound spaces” – as so perfectly described on a few of the tracks on his superb second album Eclectro, which dropped in June. Following up on his 2016 debut album Méthode de Narration,  Manipulant once again utilizes hypnotic rhythms, dark synths and unconventional instrumentation on Eclectro to tell his stories. And this time around, he’s joined by British chilled trip-hop artist Stoneygate and Italian Astrophysicist Dr. Fiorella Terenzi, who provide unusual and mesmerizing backing vocals for some of the songs.

Manipulant

The mysterious-sounding “Run” kicks things off with strummed electric guitar and spacey synths, then a powerful throbbing bass line and strong drum beat take over,   accompanied by bursts of crashing cymbals and a retro 60’s surf guitar riff – the kind Dick Dale or The Ventures played back in the day.  In her sultry, almost whispry vocals, Stoneygate sings the bleak lyrics: “World is changing. Ominous sky. The rats are hiding. The birds are silent. Seems we’ve lost our way. Sides are bickering. / Jump back, turnaround, run.”

As Manipulant explained in an excellent interview with the blog Keepsmealive, he wanted the song to be “Something dark and driving. It needed to try to capture the mood I was seeing around me in the aftermath of the U.S. elections and some of the chaos that was happening elsewhere in the world.” I think he succeeded quite well; take a listen:

Methodical” has the kind of thumping dance beat that immediately goes for the hips, and I love it! The far-off echoed vocals, many of which are not understandable, lend an otherworldly vibe to this infectious track. Things turn ominous again with “Doctor, I Need Your Expertise,” in which the beautiful Dr. Terenzi – ‘Goddess of Acoustic Astronomy’ – speaks in her own tribute song. Opening with a menacing buzzsaw sound, Manipulant asks “Dr. Terenzi, where are you?” Her echoed, sci-fi sounding vocals add to the track’s eerie vibe as she says “You are listening to real sounds, scientific sound spaces,” while a pounding beat continues throughout the track.

Regarding the Kraftwerk-inspired EDM track “Marshmallow Fabrik,” Manipulant explained to Keepsmealive “I think many of us carry on as if we are living in a marshmallow factory. Everything is in order and it’s all fluffy and delicious. We don’t focus on things outside of our own space. We continue on with blinders as long as our personal factories keep producing things that make us happy.” Here, echoed voices spoken in German are accompanied by unusual synths that almost sound like a huge snorting alien animal.

Faulty Tap” is a 30-second instrumental interlude that begins with a loud drip, followed by pounding industrial-sounding synths to create a mood that Manipulant explained  “was an extension of the frustration of “Run” put into something as simple and maddening as a leaky faucet.” The organ takes a starring role on “jusq’à la mort nous sépare (The Organist).” It’s a reworking of “The Organist” from his first album, and the French title translated is “until death separates us.” The track is uptempo, with playful synths and a rapid but delicate drum beat that belies the rather somber lyrics, spoken in his echoed vocals: “Oh I’m worried, I have a bad feeling about this. You must understand, as a fellow organist, when I’m thwarted I become agitated. You’re not in control here. I’m in control here.

Next up is the one-minute long dirge-like interlude “Requiem for the 11th Earl of Sandwich,” which Manipulant explained represents the death of civility – Earl being ‘nobility’ which symbolized ‘civility.’ The mood abruptly shifts on the hauntingly beautiful instrumental “N / A / B / C / F“, which is a reworking of another track “Not All Birds Can Fly,” from his first album. (By now it’s clear that he loves strange and unusual song titles, but I digress…) The key instrument on this track is the sublime piano, accentuated by soaring synths.

Powerful throbbing bass and modulated buzzing synths make a return appearance on “The Doctor Meets 808.” And once again, Dr. Terenzi’s echoed vocals add to the eerie vibe, as she repeats the line “So you are listening to real sounds, scientific sound spaces,” as well as other lyrics. The track is essentially a reworking of “Doctor, I Need Your Expertise,” only with much heavier extended bass, as suggested by the ‘808’ in the song title.

Fiorella Terenzi
Dr. Fiorella Terenzi

Eclectro is one of the most unusual and sonically amazing albums I’ve heard in a long while. At times disturbing, and other times gorgeous, it’s a brilliant, meticulously crafted album that Manipulant should be proud of. Another thing he – and we fans – are proud of is his winning a third place WIGWAM Online Radio Award for Best Indie/Alternative Act of 2017.

To learn more about Manipulant, check out his Website

Connect on: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase Eclectro on: iTunes / Bandcamp

DEAD ON ARRIVAL – EP Review: “Chasing Tides”

It’s back to the UK to shine my spotlight on metal rock band Dead On Arrival. The Derbyshire four-piece was formed in 2011, and consists of Jack Dughan (Lead Vocals & Rhythm Guitar), Ben Calver (Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals), Connor Woodward (Bass) and George Lathbury (Drums). Drawing on influences from some of their favorite bands such as Metallica, Machine Head, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Asking Alexandria and Bring Me The Horizon, the guys make aggressive rock that’s melodic, raw and in-your-face. As they state on their Facebook bio, “Our passion is to write, produce and release our own music and then play it live and LOUD.

Dead on Arrival
Photo by Pete Key

Dead On Arrival released a full length debut album From the Ashes in 2016, and now return with a terrific EP Chasing Tides, which dropped on August 18. The EP delivers four scorching tracks that clearly demonstrate the band’s growth, both in songwriting and musicianship. Their song lyrics address themes of dysfunction and betrayal within ourselves, our relationships and our government leaders, and their ferocious instrumentals perfectly convey the strong feelings expressed in the lyrics.

Chasing Tides

Vulture in the Waves,” released as a single in late 2016, kicks things off with an onslaught of shredded guitars, powerful throbbing bass and pounding drums – all hallmarks of the band’s hard-hitting sound. Dughan wails the lyrics that speak of someone wracked with guilt and tormented by his actions:

Oh I’m the vulture in the waves
Chasing tides to escape my mistakes
Because I couldn’t live on
Knowing what I’ve done
And I hide in the shadows
It’s the only way to survive

Hammering drums and blazing riffs continue unabated on the hard-driving “Inside” and “Corrupted World.” Calver’s shredded and distorted guitars are mind-blowing, and the bass so heavy I felt it in my core. On the latter track, Dughan implores, “This is a final call. We will stand tall and fight against this corruption.”

As if the first three tracks aren’t aggressive enough, the guys unleash their full sonic arsenal on the bombastic “Sickening Thing.” The frantic guitar riffs rain down like thunderbolts, and Lathbury attacks his drums like a wild beast, nearly blowing out the speakers – and my ear drums! Woodward lays down a face-melting bass line, and Dughans’ fiery vocals match the brutal music note for note. It’s my favorite of the four tracks, and really shows what these guys are capable of.

Connect with Dead on Arrival:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on  Spotify and purchase on iTunes

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

CANDID – Single Review: “Lay Me Down”

UK rock band Candid is quickly establishing themselves as one of the most exciting bands on the indie music scene. The Coventry, England foursome released their debut single “Moving On” in the fall of 2016, then followed up with the fantastic single “Rumours” in May, which I reviewed. They’re now back with a new single “Lay Me Down,” which dropped on 6 August, and it’s superb.

Candid is comprised of brothers Rob (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Dan Latimer (lead guitar), Sam Baines (bass) and Ben Williams (drums). Their dynamic sound delivers catchy melodies, outstanding guitars, wicked percussion and Rob Latimer’s commanding vocals. As I noted in my previous review, Candid’s sound has been compared to Catfish and the Bottlemen. That’s fine by me, as I love Catfish and the Bottlemen and now love Candid as well.

Candid

“Lay Me Down” is an exhilarating track with scorching riffs and thunderous percussion.  The instrumentals build to a crescendo at the bridge, and continue through to the end – guitars wailing, cymbals crashing and Rob’s soaring chorus raising the hair on the back of my neck.

The lyrics speak to someone who’s let him down one too many times, causing him to finally quit a relationship that’s beyond repair:  “I won’t believe it, until I know its true, cause I can’t get to you, no matter how hard I tried to oversee it. It’s always someone who tries to get to you, put the thought in your mind. /And no matter how hard I tried to turn the other cheek. No matter how hard I’ve tried to look the other way. So lay me down. Cause nothing can stop me now.

Follow Candid:  Facebook  /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube

Purchase:   iTunes

NELSON REZEK – EP Review: “Nelson Rezek”

Nelson Rezek is a 24 year old singer, songwriter, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist based in Birmingham, Alabama. I’ve followed him since he was a member of the heavy metal band Broken Rail, which he left about a year ago to pursue his own career as a solo artist, and it’s been gratifying to watch him come into his own and grow artistically. Nelson began his musical journey at the age of 13, when he discovered his passion for playing the electric guitar. While still with Broken Rail, he started writing his own songs, the first of which was “Too Far Broken,” which he released as a single in March 2016. He’s now released his debut self-titled EP, and I’m pleased to review it.

Nelson Rezek

For inspiration in creating his music, Nelson draws on influences from some of his favorite bands like Korn, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, Slipknot and Stone Sour. He explains: “Writing music is like therapy for me. Great music tells a story, and the beauty of it is it speaks to each person in a unique and personal way. I want to let people know through my music that they are not alone.” His songs address relationships and the myriad emotions they entail, such as lust, betrayal and regret.

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Let me state upfront that Nelson is a phenomenal guitarist, and his complex, hard-driving guitar work is a dominant feature of his powerful sound. The first track “Part of Me” kicks things off with aggressive shredded guitars and hammering percussion. Nelson coaxes some fiery riffs from his six string while he snarls the biting lyrics that speak to someone who’s sucked the life out of the relationship, but he’ll never surrender his soul: “Go ahead and take this lie I own, I don’t fear you anymore. Go ahead and take all that I’ve known, but you’ll never take this part of me.”

Nelson delivers intricate, layered riffs, anchored by crushing bass and pounding drums that threaten to blow the speakers, on the mesmerizing “The Enemy.” With his smoldering vocals, he sings of letting everyone down, including himself:  “I am the enemy. I will let you down. Something inside of me, will always let me down.” He calms things down in the bridge, with a quiet voice over accompanied by a gentle guitar solo, before the music ramps back up to a crescendo in the outro.

He shows his softer side with the gorgeous ballad “Too Far Broken.” The song opens with a gentle riff, then layers of guitar, bass and percussion are added, creating an emotionally powerful track. Nelson fervently sings of his pain from a relationship that’s failed beyond repair: “Where’d you go? Why’d you have to leave it all behind? Too far broken. Can’t you see all this pain you’ve bottled inside of me.” The little guitar riff that’s introduced in the bridge is beautiful.

Prayers of the Guilty” is a high-energy, hard-rocking standout track (though, quite frankly, all are standouts as far as I’m concerned). Fast-paced jangly guitars erupt right from the start, with no let up as Nelson emotionally sings of the guilt he feels over his having let a loved one down. “If I could start a new beginning, would I even get to change the ending. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so empty, but all we got now is prayers of the guilty.”

The excellent video starts off with a woman in emotional distress who releases a letter into a lake. Then Nelson and his back-up musicians are shown performing the song in a natural setting, interspersed with with flashbacks of the woman ignoring her father’s calls because she was busy with her band, and scenes of her regretfully recalling happier times spent with him as a child. The video was directed by Kevin Wayne.

The hard-hitting “Drive Me Crazy” lives up to its title, as Nelson drives us crazy with an infectious melody and scorching hot riffs. Songs like this with a hard-driving beat and killer guitar work always get me going, and this is one of the best I’ve heard in a while. It’s a real head-banger that’s best enjoyed played full-blast!

Every time I listen to Nelson’s songs, I’m blown away by his strong musicianship and amazing guitar playing. Nelson Rezek is a strong, expertly-crafted debut effort that he should be proud of. I’m impressed by his hard work and determination to make the best music possible, and will continue following him on his musical journey. I encourage my readers to do the same by connecting with him on  Facebook /  Twitter /  YouTube

Stream his music: Spotify / ReverbnationSoundcloud

Purchase it:  BandcampiTunes

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”

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.