THE IVINS – Album Review: “Conditions”

I’ve been following Nashville alt-rock band The Ivins for nearly five years, and have had the pleasure of featuring them several times on this blog. I first wrote about them back in June 2017 when I reviewed their excellent debut album The Code Duello, then again in April 2019 with a review of their single “Certain”, followed a year and a half later, in November 2020, when I reviewed their single “Bloom” (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.) This past November, the talented four-piece dropped their second album Conditions, and like The Code Duello, it’s an ambitious work, featuring 13 stellar tracks.

Consisting of brothers Jim and Jack Ivins (with Jim on guitars & vocals and Jack on drums), Hatton Taylor on lead guitar, and Regan Akers on bass & vocals, the engaging four-piece plays a hard-hitting, guitar-heavy style of melodic rock. Their intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics are delivered with Jim and Regan’s earnest and raw, yet pleasing, vocals, backed by intricate riffs, sturdy basslines and aggressive percussion (courtesy of Jack’s athletic agility on his drum kit). On Conditions, the guys really pushed themselves further than they ever had before, and the result is an exciting, melodically complex and beautiful rock album. They were assisted by Michael Zuehsow on engineering and production, Robert Venable and Zach Scott on mixing, and Duncan Ferguson on mastering. Additional last-minute mixing and mastering were done by Caleb Sherman and Andreas Magnusson.

Before I get to my review, I want to share some heartfelt words Jim wrote about the album on his Facebook page: “I have never tinkered, worked harder on or been more emotionally invested in a record than this one. And it certainly beat the hell out of me. From that first day, it’s been a slog full of intense writer’s block, songs changing in editing, songs changing in mixing, re-writing lyrics, re-playing guitar parts long after they were “finished”. I had to go to a damn one-room cabin in the middle of the Tennessee wilderness alone for several days just to get the lyrics out (and that would prove to be just the first draft). And all of this drama is only fitting given the content. Going back to the beginning, this record started with a panic attack. A truly frightening, paralyzing episode the likes of which I had never before experienced and where I legitimately thought I was going to die. The ensuing mania that defined the next several months had me convinced that my girlfriend was about to go running for the hills. Sooooo that’s kinda what this record is about…..OK, maybe not entirely. But it’s basically a snapshot of my life from when I was turning 30, and all of the anxiety and fear that I had never experienced is the nucleus of it all. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are legitimately HAPPY songs on here! A few! I wrote a true love song for the first time in a decade after I had literally forgotten how to do it (I thank Matt Nathanson for showing me the way, writing for his last album that his goal was to write something sincere about his wife without sounding like a Hallmark card).

This record is also significant because it may be the only real “band” album that I have ever made. While Jack and I made the last one, this one was made by the FOUR of us – Jim, Jack, Hatton & Regan. ‘Conditions’ shines because of that and I am so so proud of it. I’ve been making records since I was 15 and have made something like ten or so and this very well may be the best one I’ve ever made. I’m not sure yet. I’ve lived in it way too long to see the forest from the trees and objectively make that determination. But if you are looking for a really interesting 46 minutes that takes you on a journey, I implore you: give this album a listen. I really think it’s great and that you will enjoy it.

Well, I gave it a listen all the way through from beginning to end, and let me say I was dutifully impressed, which doesn’t happen very often when I first listen to an album. All 13 tracks are strong, with no filler or toss-offs, and I’ll touch on most of them in my review. Things kick off with “Better Days“, a rousing rocker that serves not only as the opening track, but also as an introduction to the album’s overall theme. The lyrics speak to feelings of inadequacy and that your efforts don’t matter in the scheme of things, but hoping that will all change: “I long for better days. Days that haven’t happened yet. A future’s past worth remembering./ Because the only thing worse than worry is indifference.” The song features an abundance of time and melody changes that make for an arresting listen, and I love the shimmery guitars and atmospheric vibe in the bridge, during which Jim softly croons the line that makes me think the song is about him wanting to be valued as a musician – “Waiting for you to understand that rock’n’roll ain’t dead yet” – before everything erupts into a raging crescendo in the final chorus. It’s a great song.

On the hard-driving “All I Want“, Jim issues a plea for a return of the love he thought was his: “All I want is to feel the love you laid aground“, while the catchy ear worm “Begin Again” finds him ruminating about his feelings that his life is an endless cycle of disappointment: “Love only gives what you deal out, but you can’t leave out yourself. You can’t, you can’t begin again, when you find your middle never had an end.” The jangly guitars and and swirling synths gives the song an 80s feel.

One of my favorite tracks is “Love Tonight“, thanks to its infectious dance groove, Regan’s wonderfully sultry bassline, Jim and Hatton’s scorching riffs and Jack’s thumping drumbeats. Another standout is “Hide & Lie“, inspired by Jim’s difficulties with making small talk, and how he’s used alcohol to loosen up, as he elaborated to Gerard Longo for Nashville webzine Underground Music Collective: “When I was single, I was never the guy who could effectively do bar banter. Finding, talking and picking up girls from a large group of people? Not my thing, no matter how much I wanted it to be. Same goes for regular interpersonal relationships — never very good at networking, never very good at getting past that initial 30-60 second ‘how’ve you been?’ phase of conversations. So, simply put, alcohol was, is, my security blanket.”

The entertaining and humorous video for “Hide & Lie”, filmed at the Old Glory bar in Nashville, shows the band playing an audition performance at a bar where they’re having a hard time impressing the owner. To help them play better, they indulge in a bit of liquid courage served up by a sexy bartender played by Monique Staffile of Nashville rock band HER.

The great tunes keep coming. “Growing Pains” is a beautiful, melodically complex song highlighted by a flourish of wobbly distortion that would make Jimi Hendrix proud. The anthemic and pleasing “Patient” features some really pretty guitar work, nicely accompanied by Jack’s assertive drumbeats that give the song considerable heft. “Canyons” is a hauntingly beautiful rock song about missing a loved one who’s gone: “So what if I stayed in a dream? Would it make me closer to you, or would I just sleep. Because I know if I open my eyes, I’ll lose you again.” As always, the guitar work is fantastic, highlighted by gorgeous chiming notes. The grungy, anthemic “Scream” speaks to not allowing fear and complacency to rule your life: “It’s hard to let go, when comfort is controlled.”

The album closes on a powerful note with “Chameleon“, one of the darkest, most intense songs The Ivins have ever done, and I love it. The guys pull out all the stops on this song, unleashing a barrage of gritty, reverb-soaked riffs, pummeling rhythms and soaring choruses. The guys’ intricate, textured guitar work is really spectacular, and I love the spooky industrial synths throughout the track. My only criticism is that the instrumentals are so big and bombastic, they overpower the vocals, making them difficult to understand. But my guess is that they’re about politicians – or anyone without conviction really – who talk out of both sides of their mouths, trying to please everyone with their doublespeak, but pleasing no one in the end.

Conditions is an outstanding, beautifully-crafted album that nicely showcases The Ivins’ growth and maturity as both songwriters and musicians. They’re a talented, underrated band who deserve to be more popular and successful. Hopefully, this review will bring them at least a few more fans, which is what I aim for at the end of the day.

Connect with The Ivins:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify /  Apple Music
Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

VICIOUS ROOSTER – Single Review: “Something Goin’ On”

This past September, I featured Argentine-born and now Los Angeles-based artist Vicious Rooster on this blog when I reviewed his darkly beautiful single “The Moon is Dancing”. The music project of singer-songwriter, musician and producer Juan Abella, Vicious Rooster draws inspiration from some of his favorite bands like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, Guns’n’Roses and Alice in Chains to create his own unique style that’s a wonderful melding of classic and Southern rock, folk and grunge. Both his guitar playing style and vocals sound like he’s from Nashville or Austin, rather than Argentina. On November 25th, he released his follow-up single “Something Goin’ On“, delivering three raucous minutes of bluesy Southern rock goodness for our listening pleasure. The song was mixed by Mikal Reid, who’s worked with renowned artists such as Mick Jagger, Alice Cooper, Ben Harper, and Kenny Wayne Sheperd.

“Something Goin’ On” has a harder rock edge than “The Moon is Dancing” and I like it! Abella is a fine guitarist, and he lets er rip, slicing through the airwaves with an onslaught of layered gritty and bluesy guitars, punctuated by tasty little flourishes of distortion and highlighted by a scorching solo in the bridge. A throbbing bass line and explosive percussion keep the driving rhythm firmly on track. His fervent vocals keep pace with the intensity of the instrumentals as he exclaims to his love interest of the powerful effect she’s having on him: “Let me tell you baby, you’re breaking me in two. But there’s something goin’ on between me and you.”

If Vicious Rooster keeps putting out excellent records like these two singles and his previous album The Darkest Light, I’m confident he’ll have a long and successful career.

To learn more about Vicious Rooster, check out his website

Follow him on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon 

THE IVINS – Single Review: “Bloom”

Predictions that rock is a dying genre have been made for years, and despite the fact that not much of it seems to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart anymore, there’s still a lot of really great rock music being produced by musicians in America and around the world. One act doing their part to keep rock alive and well is Nashville, Tennessee band The Ivins. Consisting of brothers Jim and Jack Ivins (with Jim on guitars & vocals and Jack on drums), Hatton Taylor on lead guitar, and Regan Akers on bass & vocals, they make a hard-hitting, guitar-heavy style of rock they refer to as “Loud Alternative”. I’ve featured them twice on this blog, first in June 2017 when I reviewed their phenomenal debut album The Code Duello, then again in April 2019 with the review of their single “Certain”. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.)

Earlier this year, they released a beautiful cover of Halsey’s song “Graveyard”, then followed in July with “Composure”, a song addressing personal serenity and overcoming anxiety that was written and recorded remotely during the COVID-19 quarantine. Now they’re back with “Bloom“, the second in a series of singles they plan to release every two months for the foreseeable future, and which will be featured on their forthcoming second album Conditions. 2020 also saw The Ivins earn a nomination for Best Alt Rock band at this year’s Nashville Industry Music Awards, and Jim Ivins spearheaded a Nashville-centric collaborative album called Quarantunes, which featured more than 50 Nashville musicians, including members of Florida Georgia Line, 3 Doors Down, Daughtry, Tonic, Relient K, CKY, Accept and The Dear Hunter. 

“Bloom” is another rousing banger, with an onslaught of jangly and reverb-soaked gnarly riffs delivered by Jim and Hatton’s dual intertwining guitars. Regan drives the powerful rhythm forward with his pummeling bass line while Jack smashes his drum kit with his signature brute force. The blistering guitar solo in the bridge is terrific, as are Jim’s fervent vocals as he sings of his love and devotion to someone who makes him a better person: “That you are with me is just all I need to know. You are the water that makes all my dead leaves grow and cleansed them from poison to thrive in bloom.” He told me that the song was inspired “from personal experience in being a very lost person kind of floating through life, and how it really only takes one person and one connection to turn everything around.

Connect with The Ivins:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify /  Apple Music
Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

THE HONEST HEART COLLECTIVE – Single Review: “Linework”

The Honest Heart Collective is a rock band based in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Though they’ve been around for several years, I just learned about them when they reached out to me about their wonderful new single “Linework“, which dropped on July 17. As I always do when writing about an artist or band I’m not familiar with, I checked out their back catalog and was impressed by their high-energy and melodic style of rock’n’roll and honest songwriting addressing the eternal challenges of life, love and relationships.

Formed in 2013 by brothers Ryan and Nic MacDonald, The Honest Heart Collective now includes Jay Savage and Kevin Heerema. Their music is heavily influenced by their shared love of artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Johnny Cash, The Gaslight Anthem and Frank Turner. They’ve released quite a lot of music over the past seven years, including the albums Liars Club in 2015 and Grief Rights in 2018. They also recorded an EP Cash in 2016, a terrific four-track tribute to Johnny Cash. I highly recommend that my readers check it and their other music out on one of the music platforms listed at the end of this review.

The Honest Heart Collective

The band states that “Linework” “is about shared history, acceptance, and coming to terms with how your relationships change. It’s a familiar scenario where you find that you’ve drifted away from someone that was close to you, without realizing it when it was happening. You come to terms with it because you’ll always have those memories from the times you shared. Not everything is as permanent as tattoo ink. Try to stay in touch and make time for your friends as best as you can. Everyone’s busy these days – different schedules, different cities, different everything. Something as simple as sending a text or setting up a lunch date goes a long way. It might not be just like the old days, but it’s still important.”

“Linework” was co-written by all four band members along with Derek Hoffman, who also produced and mixed the track. Mastering was done by Dan Weston. With it’s exuberant riffs of chiming and jangly guitars, lively bass line and smashing drumbeats, the song has a feel-good anthemic quality that makes you want to stand up and cheer. Ryan’s plaintive vocals beautifully convey the mixed emotions of looking back and reminiscing over good times and missing the friends who’ve faded away, yet remaining optimistic about the future and vowing to make an effort to cherish those around us.

I really identify with the lyrics, as I too have seen some friendships that felt vital to my life at a certain point in time gradually fade after one of us moving to another part of the country, leaving a job, or some other major life change. It’s sad when looking back, but it just happens to everyone. “You had some of your own/ Now, they run around just like you / With a look in their eyes I’ve seen so many times / When we punks yeah we were fools / We’ll always have these damn tattoos / But it’s a little too late now / We had to find our way and it’s okay that we slowed it down / Though the ink may fade / Our hearts stay the same.”

The recording and production of “Linework” was funded in part by a grant from the Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent On Recordings, Canada’s private radio broadcasters, and the Government of Canada.

Follow The Honest Heart Collective:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple Music ReverbnationYouTube
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle PlayAmazon

PHILIP MORGAN LEWIS – Single Review: “Rock That City”

Philip Morgan Lewis3

British singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Philip Morgan Lewis is one of the more creative and adventurous artists I know of. The London East Ender isn’t afraid to explore a wide range of genres and influences for the creation of his own eclectic sound. Drawing from alternative rock, blues, garage rock, folk, R&B and EDM, he crafts exciting blues-soaked rock that nicely complements his distinctive raspy vocal style. He’s one of those artists you immediately recognize upon hearing his songs.

He’s released a fair amount of music over the past decade, beginning with his 2013 EP Karma Comedown. He then released a number of singles, and in late 2017 dropped his brilliant album Grief Harbour, which I reviewed. In 2019, he took a stylistic departure from his usual comfort zone and released a fun album House Works, featuring eight House/EDM tracks. He then followed a few months later with a fantastic bluesy single “Blowtorched Dreams”. Now Philip is back with a great new single “Rock That City“, released on July 13th via label Tx2 Records.

Written and recorded during the COVID-19 lockdown, the song is an ode to many of the social things we’ve all been missing these past several months. Philip says it’s “all about release and freedom”, and the lyrics speak to breaking loose and having a fun night on the town: “Gonna rock that city where life’s so crazy / And I go make it right / Gonna rock that city tonight.” A talented multi-instrumentalist, he plays all the instruments himself, and does a fine job here delivering some  bluesy rock’n’roll. With it’s strong, driving beat, buzzing bassline and grungy guitars, the song reminds me a bit of the great Black Keys song “Fever”. His unusual raspy vocals register in the higher octaves, resulting in a unique style and sound unlike any other singer I’ve heard.

The accompanying video was artfully filmed in black and white on the streets of London during the lockdown. A number of famous sites featured in the video that are normally filled with tourists were totally devoid of people. Philip is shown making his way through buildings, parking garages or the streets, completely alone.

Connect with Philip: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / YouTube / Apple Music
Purchase:  Amazon / Deezer / BandcampGoogle Play

THE COMMON VIEW – Single Review: “Cigarettes and Regrets”

The Common View Cigarettes & Regrets

It seems a lot of new music was released on June 26, and so far I’ve reviewed three singles that dropped that day. Now I’m writing about yet another one, the latest single “Cigarettes and Regrets” by British alt-rock band The Common View. The young Leeds-based band is a favorite of mine, as I’m impressed by both their outstanding music and unflinchingly outspoken advocacy for social justice. Their lively and melodic style of alternative rock is influenced by elements of indie pop-rock, post-punk revival and rockabilly. Originally formed in 2018 by three University of Leeds students with a shared love of music – Dom Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jose Ignacio Barrera (guitar) and Jacob Lindsay (vocals) – the band now consists of five members, including the three aforementioned guys plus Joe Sykes (bass) and Will McKay (drums).

I featured them three times in 2019, most recently last October when I reviewed their wonderful EP Man on the Moon. The prolific band subsequently dropped another EP If Not Now, When?, as well as three more singles, the latest of which is “Cigarettes and Regrets”. It’s the 16th song they’ve recorded in the less than two years they’ve been a band! And one of the things I love about them is that no two songs sound alike.

“Cigarettes and Regrets” is a rousing rock’n’roll gem with frantic punk overtones that make for a bouncy head-banger. The guys are highly skilled musicians, consistently delivering outstanding instrumentals on all of their songs, and this one’s no exception. I love Dom and Jose’s fast-paced jangly guitars that erupt into a glorious torrent of swirling riffs in the chorus. Joe and Will drive the lively rhythm forward with their throbbing bass line and snappy drumbeats, respectively.

I also like that The Common View has two fine vocalists, and I believe it’s Dom who sings lead vocals on this song. He croons the lyrics that speak of someone who’s cheated on his girlfriend with a one-night stand he picked up at a bar, and regretting his actions the next morning: “You wake up in the morning all full of regret. The taste of her lips like your last cigarette. You don’t know what to say to this girl beside you. Now it won’t be long til your girlfriend is back. And shortly thereafter, you’ll be forced to pack. It’s all coming down, and it’s been your fault.

The guys made a charming video that features a mix of stop action footage interspersed with humorous scenes of Jose packing up his instruments and himself into his guitar case, and Dom playing guitar and singing the song in various locations throughout the house. About the video, the band said “Our homemade video is a perfect reflection of how hard it is being a band during Lockdown.”

Follow The Common View on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play

FIREGLOW – Single Review: “Won’t Forget You”

Fireglow

Fireglow is a rock and roll band based in Sydney, Australia. Through their fun, upbeat style of 60s and 70s-inspired music and lively on-stage performances, they’ve built quite a local following since forming in the spring of 2018. Making the music are Chris (guitar/vocals), Sean (guitar/vocals), Bruno (bass), Catherine (keyboards) and Frankie (drums). Starting with the release of their first single “Back of Her Blue Eyes” in June 2019, they’ve been on a creative tear, dropping three more singles over the next six months. This past April (2020), they released their debut EP Fireglow II, featuring four new tracks. One of those tracks is “Won’t Forget You“,  which they released as a single on June 12, along with a video.

Even though it was released at the beginning of winter season in Australia, “Won’t Forget You” has a sunny vibe that makes it the perfect song for summer. Opening with the lines “She was fresh out of school, and she blew my mind like a virgin stone blowing down the sands of time / Summer sun wasn’t kind, it blistered our skin”, it’s a lighthearted song about the ups and downs of a summer romance. Over a toe-tapping groove courtesy of Bruno’s warm bass line and Frankie’s snappy drums, Chris and Sean layer a colorful mix of rhythm and jangly electric guitars, while Catherine’s ukelele and swirling organ riff adds a nice touch to the proceedings. Chris and Sean’s vocal harmonies are really wonderful too. It’s an incredibly pleasing tune that seems to channel the music of 60s bands like The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Turtles, as well late 70s Tom Petty.

The sweet video shows the band’s playful nature as they perform the song and frolic outdoors in the woods or by the seashore, waves crashing at their feet. It’s clear they like to deliver a little fun with their music.

Follow Fireglow:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple Music
Purchase:  Google PlayAmazon

New Song of the Week – THE KAIROS: “Teetotal”

The Kairos

After a brief stress-induced hiatus, I’ve decided to dip my toe back into writing about music again, as it’s just too important for me not to. Today I’m featuring the fantastic new single “Teetotal” by Liverpool band The Kairos, which I’ve selected as my New Song of the Week. It’s an electrifying, hard-driving banger of a tune and I love it!

Formed while in their early teens, The Kairos are Tom Dempsey (guitar and vocals), Owen Forrester (bass), Lewis Chambers (guitar) and Sam Bradley (drums and backing vocals). The up-and-coming young band has been making quite a name for themselves in the crowded Liverpool music scene, playing at some of the city’s famed venues like Heebie Jeebies, The Zanzibar, The Arts Club, 02 Academy and Jimmy’s. “Teetotal” is their second single, following up on their impressive debut track “Money Mind”, which they released in July 2019.

The song launches with a thunderous onslaught of jangly, reverb-soaked surf guitars, heavy, buzzing bass and aggressive drums, punctuated by flourishes of wailing guitar solos that set the airwaves afire. These guys are amazing musicians, delivering a spine-tingling barrage of sound with all the confidence and swagger of a seasoned band. Front man Tom Dempsey has a terrific, commanding vocal style, and I love how his Liverpool accent shines through in his passionate singing.

Lyrically, “Teetotal” speaks to the joys of youth and spending a night out with friends, forgetting the numbing weekday routine and more serious responsibilities: “The smell of smoke and the twist and choke, yeah it really brings me home./ The nights are gone and it wont be long before you’re back in work at ten, what on Earth will you do then?

Those of you in the Liverpool area can see them perform at the Invisible Wind Factory on Friday, February 21.

Connect with The Kairos: FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music: SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase: Google Play

SWILLY – Album Review: “Size Matters”

Swilly Size Matters

When I last featured rock band Swilly on this blog back in January 2018, they had just released their debut 13-track album Play It Loud (you can read my review here). Since then, they’ve been on a creative tear, releasing four more albums, the latest of which is the provocatively-titled Size Matters, an ambitious work featuring 14 tracks that dropped on September 30. It boggles my mind that a group of musicians can write that many songs over such a short period of time!

Swilly is the nickname of singer/songwriter and guitarist Steve Williams, but also the name of his band, which includes lead guitarist and songwriter Kevin Campbell and drummer Carl Holz. They’re an international band of sorts, as Williams and Campbell are based in British Columbia, Canada, while Holz is from Colorado, USA. They’re occasionally joined by Austrian guitarist Klaus Passegger who provides lead guitar on a few songs, and have also collaborated with scores of other artists from time to time. Heavily influenced by some of their favorite bands like ZZ Top, The Cult, Nickelback and Theory of a Deadman, Swilly has a bawdy sense of humor and like to have fun, playing the kind of down and dirty, kick-ass rock’n’roll you wanna hear on a Saturday night, throwing down a few beers with friends at the local Roadhouse.

Size Matters tackles the universal subjects of love, sex and relationships in all their messy variations – more specifically, how they can bring us immense pleasure, deep sadness, or be a colossal pain in the ass! The album features songs ranging from in-your-face, kiss-off rockers to heartfelt love ballads, and I’ll touch on some of the highlights. Kicking things off is “Stomping Around“, a clarion call to stand up and fight against injustice, whether it be guys cheating on their women or governments oppressing their citizens: “You let yourself down when you’re fooling around, and the girls’ gonna stomp their feet. /Not that I insist, but the world is pissed at the people getting pushed around. Government’s weak, and the future is bleak. So we gotta start stomping around.” The guys deliver blistering riffs of gnarly guitars accompanied by strutting rhythms and gritty vocals.

One of my favorite tracks is “Deep“, a raucous, bawdy tune with an infectious rockabilly vibe. Swilly extols the virtues of his hot babe with hilarious, straight-to-the-point lyrics and some terrific guitar noodling as he croons in his raspy drawl: “My girl loves to go down. She loves to wear that crown. Don’t get me wrong, she ain’t cheap. But dammit I love being balls deep!

He expresses his romantic ardor in a somewhat more conventional manner on the sultry track “I Love You“: “Do you know you’re my everything? I’m so in love with you, the crazy stuff you do.” To a languid tempo that compels some serious swaying of the hips, Swilly lays down an appealing mix of melodic guitar textures and percussive rhythms. It all makes for quite an arresting rock ballad, and I really like the contrast between Williams’ raw vocals and smooth humming.

Another great track is “My Bitch” an ass-kicking rocker about comeuppance and payback. Hard-driving riffs of snarling guitars, throbbing bass and pummeling drums, not to mention raspy vocals that really channel Billy Gibbons, give the song a strong ZZ Top vibe. The lyrics start out with Swilly yelling “You little bitch!” at his woman after she’s stayed out late carousing and acting inappropriately, vowing to repay her in kind and sending a clear message that she’d best not fuck with him: “Yeah I was out late. Yeah I lost track of time. I didn’t think it would be seen as a crime. I should have planned it out. I found money out back. I even made 100 bucks just to show my dick. Suck my dick! You little bitch!

Suck It Up” keeps the driving rhythmic grooves flowing with strutting riffs of gnarly guitars. The song seems to be about accepting the shit life throws our way, dealing with it as best we can, not letting it get the better of us, and trying to have a little fun now and then: “Suck it up. You do what you got to do./Big tears don’t make it better. Dirty love just makes it wetter./ Don’t whine, it makes you ugly. Don’t worry, the world loves ya honey. Come here, I’ll hold you tight.”

Swilly turns introspective on the bittersweet “I Let You Lie“, a poignant song with lyrics written by Tammy Throneberry, a Twitter friend of both the band and mine. The song speaks to the sadness and desolation resulting from a relationship that’s ended. In his raspy, heartfelt vocals, Swilly laments “You said you can’t live without me. But I’m alone. I long to hear your footsteps coming through that front door. You promised me forever. Now forever I wait. How much more I wonder can these two lives take?

Keeping with the theme of desolation, the heartbreaking “My Abyss” speaks to the enduring pain and emptiness from the loss of a loved one: “Never thought it would come to this, that love would be such an abyss. They say that you live on. How can I if you’re gone? Everywhere I look, I see you. You are everything that I do. Everything that I miss, have become my abyss.” I love the haunting guitar-driven melody, and the interplay between Williams’ acoustic and Campbell’s electric guitars is so damn good.

Album closer “Dirty Boys” is a rousing, hard-hitting track that showcases Swilly’s superb musicianship, with scorching guitar work, tumultuous percussion and tasty classic rock grooves. Quite frankly, it beautifully encapsulates the raw power and unbridled energy of the entire album and the band. Size Matters shows us yet again what a talented collective of musicians these guys are, delivering more of their great tunes that have the ability to thrill, and make us laugh, cry or just stomp our feet as we yell ‘fuck yeah’.

Connect with Swilly: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunes / Bandcamp / cdbaby

DUNES – Album Review: “Take Me to the Nasties”

Dunes Take Me to the Nasties

I’m back in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England (having recently written about folk singer-songwriter Holly Rees), this time to feature another act from that city, a stoner rock band called Dunes. Formed in late 2016, the trio consists of John Davies (guitar, vocals), Ade Huggins (bass, vocals) and Nikky Watson (drums). In their own words, they play “desert-riff-blues-tinted-disco-tinged-rock, which draws on influences such as Queens of the Stone Age, Torche, Death From Above 1979 and Clutch.” During their first 18 months as a band, they recorded and released two 5-track EPs, then began releasing singles in advance of their wonderfully-titled debut album Take Me to the Nasties, which dropped September 6th.  The album was recorded at the Sandcastle in Newcastle under the guidance of Graham Thompson, who also worked on the band’s previous EPs, and mastered by Dave Draper. It was released via Sapien Records (We Are Knuckle Dragger, Big Lad, Tank Engine, Scott Michael Cavagan).

The album blasts open with the rousing title track “Take Me to the Nasties“, and from this point forward, Dunes never let up on their relentless onslaught of head-banging stoner-punk rock’n’roll grooves. Here, their barrage of jagged riffs, crushing bass and pummeling drums leave us little choice but to pogo about like crazed banshees. I can’t quite make out all the lyrics, but as the title implies, Davies sings about sexual frustration, telling someone they can keep their tinder and grinder, and he’s going to the nasties.

Without skipping a beat, they launch headlong into “SOS“, a bombastic tune with a chugging guitar riff that reminds me a bit of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”, though overall, the song sounds very different. Besides the great guitar work, I also really like Davies and Huggins’ vocal harmonies as they implore “I’ll tell you what we all need. This shit to stop happening!” “Been Expecting You“, “Release the Clowns” and “Danger Mouth” keep the heavy, guitar-driven vibes coming on strong with thunderous riffs and speaker-blowing rhythms. I’m a sucker for hard-driving rock grooves, and gotta say I’m loving every track on this beast of an album!

And one of my favorites is “Phantom Head“, a moody, near-epic grunge song that ventures into progressive/hard rock territory with its melodic change-ups, tortured gnarly riffs, intense, reverb-heavy bassline and explosive percussion. The fierce guitar solo in the bridge is fucking spectacular, covering me head to toe with chills. On “Shakamoto’s Revenge“, “Lantern” and “Denim Casket“, Dunes seem to channel the early Foo Fighters with frantic, grungy riffs and powerful, driving rhythms. In fact, Davies’ vocals even sound a bit like Dave Grohl’s at times, including his scream at the end of “Shakamoto’s Revenge.”

Everything is Blue” closes the album on a high note with some mighty tasty psychedelic reverb-soaked guitar work that’s freakin’ fantastic! The song also has a somewhat progressive rock vibe, with interesting time and melodic changes and intense instrumentation, giving the track a complex, fuller sound that makes for a riveting listen.

Take Me to the Nasties is a solid album filled to the brim with hard-hitting rock tunes, all of them superb. There’s not a single throwaway or filler track to be found here, as every track could be a hit single. Davies, Huggins and Watson are three incredible musicians at the top of their game who should be very proud of their latest creation. I love it!

Connect with Dunes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play