VICIOUS ROOSTER – Single Review: “About A Revolution”

Vicious Rooster is the music project of Argentine-born and now Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter, musician and producer Juan Abella. Drawing inspiration from some of his favorite bands like Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, Guns’n’Roses and Alice in Chains, his music is a rousing blend of classic and Southern rock, folk, blues and grunge. Both his guitar playing and vocals sound like he’s from Nashville or Austin, rather than Argentina.

Juan’s had a love of music since his childhood growing up in Argentina, where he began learning to play guitar at the age of ten. In 2016, he left his business career behind and relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming a musician and study music business at the renowned Musicians Institute in Hollywood. Using songs he’d previously written about his experiences of feeling lost during the transition from his past life to his move to L.A., as well as some new compositions, he released his debut album The Darkest Light in 2017, an ambitious and impressive work featuring 12 tracks and running over an hour in length. After a three-year hiatus, he returned in August 2020 with a darkly beautiful Southern rock single “The Moon is Dancing”, then followed three months later with the powerful bluesy rocker “Something Goin’ On”. (You can read my reviews of both singles by clicking on the ‘Related’ links at the end of this post.)

Now Vicious Rooster returns with a new single “About A Revolution“, which he describes as “a cosmic introspective ride that encourages listeners to reinvent themselves and gather the strength to achieve their dreams.” He further elaborates: “Just like for many people, the pandemic allowed me to reconnect with songs and emotions that had remained dormant. There were no excuses for not paying attention to them and the time has come to give them the shine they deserve. ‘About A Revolution’ was part of a group of songs that I recorded in 2015 that had never seen the light until now.”

The song is a rousing Southern Rock banger, and once again, Vicious Rooster lives up to his moniker, delivering an electrifying barrage of scorching bluesy riffs guaranteed to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. He’s an amazing guitarist, coaxing an intricate array of lush and powerful sounds from his six-string that are truly mind-blowing. Also worth noting are the wonderful organ at the beginning of the song, as well as the outstanding percussion throughout. Juan’s colorful, emotive vocals are great too, rising and falling in perfect sync with the intensity of the instrumentals.

The lyrics essentially describe his own personal life-changing decision to leave his past life in Argentina behind and pursue his music dreams in L.A.:

Break your chains and start again
You know how hard it can be
When you feel nothing is real
Find a way to keep control
You got some debts to payoff
Take some time to see
But in the end you'll get where you want to be

You've moved on, you're leaving your past behind
Don't look back, there's nothing in the world to find
Just focus on where you want to go
And stay away from things that hurt your soul
Keep reaching for the dream you're fighting for

“About A Revolution” is a great song, and another superb single that further establishes Vicious Rooster as a rock star on the rise.

Follow Vicious Rooster on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon 

STARGAZY PIE – Album Review: “Butterfly Hand Grenade”

As someone who has zero musical aptitude or talent, I’m always impressed by those who do, and even more so when they’re as young as the guys in the band Stargazy Pie. Formed in 2019, the Tacoma, Washington-based foursome are all still in their teens, ranging in age from 15-19, but their music and lyrics have a level of quality and maturity well beyond their tender years. In January, they released their debut album Butterfly Hand Grenade, and I must say that it’s quite good! I also love that they named their band after a traditional Cornish fish pie. Traditionally, stargazy pie is filled with potatoes, eggs and whole pilchards (sardines) – yuk! – and baked with the fish heads poking though the pastry crust so that they appear to be gazing at the stars. Hence the band’s logo:

Making the great music are Jack Stoker (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), Logan Chernoske (lead guitar, bass, backing vocals), Logan Neville-Neil (bass, piano, backing vocals) and Sulli Olson-Rexroat (drums). The album was produced and engineered by Regan Lane and Sean Van Dommelen of the band Strangely Alright, whose music I’ve also featured a number of times on this blog. The beautiful album art was created by band guitarist, Logan Chernoske, who edited together two NASA photographs of butterfly nebulas with a shadowy image of the lead singer Jack.

The album kicks off with “Kinda Lame“, a rousing tune that takes me back to the 90s with a groove that reminds me a bit of songs by the Gin Blossoms or early Jimmy Eat World. The upbeat, driving rhythms contrast with the more serious lyrics that speak to the disappointment of unrequited love and coming to terms with the fact that the one you love just doesn’t feel the same about you. The instrumentals are all top-notch, and Jack’s vocals are in fine form, transitioning from smooth croons to soaring entreaties with ease as he laments “I think you’re making a big mistake. But I know that we can’t control these things. And baby if you just don’t feel the same, I think that’s kinda lame.”

Paranoid” is a terrific hard rock song, with marvelous chugging riffs of gnarly and distorted guitars, accompanied by galloping rhythms that create a heavier, more urgent sound for the bitter lyrics giving someone who’s betrayed you the big kiss-off: “So don’t come crawling back in shame. Cause I just can’t be friends with someone who wants to see me in pain. But now I’m Paranoid, Cause I know what you’ve done. If I can’t trust you then I can’t trust no one.” Once again, Jack’s vocals are outstanding.

The wonderfully-titled head banger “why’dyouleave(girl).wav” really channels Jimmy Eat World, with frantic rhythms and rapid-fire riffs a la “The Middle”, only faster and with lots more distortion. Jack’s vocal dexterity is impressive as he feverishly spits out the lyrics in perfect sync with the frenzied pace of the instrumentals as he implores ” Why’d you have to walk away? All I need is one more day. So much more I had to say. Things will never be the same. It didn’t have to end this way, oh I just want you to stay.”

The next three tracks address the guys’ anxieties and experiences as a young band, and once again I have to say that I’m both impressed and touched by their intelligent and introspective songwriting, especially given their young ages. The buoyant “Constellations” speaks to the healing powers of making and performing music: “I can’t erase these things that I’ve done. I’m on the run, oh I’m on the run. And I just won’t face what I’ve become. None of it’s fun, oh none of it’s fun. But I’ll go to waste if I don’t move on. I’ll make a name, I’ll be someone. Oh I know a place where we belong. We will be constellations. And we will sing to the nations.

$25 Guitar” is a sweet and poignant ode to the singer’s very first guitar that got him where he is today musically, and though it makes him sad, it’s now time for him to move up to a better model: “My twenty-five dollar guitar. Oh I knew you were a star. And it must be so very hard to hear, but my twenty-five dollar guitar, you just weren’t up to par. So leaving you shouldn’t leave me in tears.” In keeping with the sentimental subject, the song’s arrangement is more laid-back, with charming strummed guitars, however, the rhythm section is still rather spirited, though it doesn’t detract from the track’s mellower feel.

And on the boisterous garage rocker “Going Under“, they touch on the perils of falling prey to acting like a ‘rock star’, being full of yourself and disrespecting others and, ultimately yourself. “Lars Ulrich, he’s a prick. Ain’t got no talent on him. I think he’s full of it. But maybe that’s my problem. I can say you’re not great but you can say the same thing. Why do we wanna hate when we can just walk away? Making me wonder am I going under? / It’s not about what you decide to do with your life. It’s more how you treat stuff and if you do what is right. Don’t hate me, if you’re angry. Cause that’s exactly what I do. I hate that I’m angry and I keep disrespecting you.” Jack and Logan C. set the airwaves afire with face-melting riffs, while Logan N. and Sulli deliver non-stop pummeling rhythms.

The guys slow it back down on the title track “Butterfly Hand Grenade“, a lovely, bittersweet song about missing someone special. “Butterfly hand grenade. Got me feeling this way. Never know what to say cause I get lost when you smile. / Falling deep in denial. And it feels so wrong cause my heart still longs. And you’re not here.” The instrumentals are quite gentle, consisting mainly of strummed guitar and warm keyboards. When the song seems to end at around 2:48, the music returns with added percussion as Jack sadly ponders “So oh, I gotta know. Was this all real? Or was it for show? Oh, I gotta know. Was this all real? Or was it for show?

Everything comes full circle on the closing track “Pretty Great“, a call-back to the opening track “Kinda Lame”. Jack now concludes that he’s okay with the way things ended in the relationship after all, and that he’ll be alright: “Don’t worry about me, I’ll find someone who’ll be, oh all that I’ve dreamed. I once had this feeling, but now that I’m healing I’m finally set free. And that’s not to slight you. I still adore you, just not in that way. And now, everything is pretty great.”

Pretty great is an apt description for this delightful album. Butterfly Hand Grenade is a solid work, and a very impressive debut for this remarkably talented young band. Of course, some credit must be given to producers Regan Lane and Sean Van Dommelen. Still, it’s heartwarming to see a young act put out such a well-crafted work as this, and I hope we’ll be hearing more great music from them.

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JOHNNY RITCHIE – Single Review: “Social Robots”

Johnny Ritchie is an engaging and thoughtful young singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist I recently learned of when he reached out to me about his song “Social Robots“. Born and raised in Wabash, Indiana and now based in Great Falls, Montana, Johnny has had a lifelong interest in, and love for, music. He started learning to play piano and drums as a young child, and went on to study Contemporary, Urban, and Popular Music at Columbia College Chicago, and last year earned a B.A. degree in Music at Western Michigan University. He now has his own business teaching others to play piano, keyboards and drums, as well as providing lessons in music theory, songwriting and improvisation.

Released on March 19th, “Social Robots” is Johnny’s debut single. He states it was “inspired by human behavior regarding social media consumption following the tragedy of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL in 2018.” In a recent interview with Noah | MUA, Johnny explained that he originally wrote the song three years ago as a way for him to process the tragic event, and never planned on releasing the song as a single. But the events and traumas of the past year led him to decide to release it after all, as the lyrics seemed especially relevant to the times.

For the song, Johnny played piano and drums, and sang vocals, with guitar played by Charlie Petralia, and bass by Dale Guernsey. The track was produced by fellow Columbia College Chicago alumnus Brett Grant, who’s own single “Reanimate” I wrote about just last week (it was after seeing that review that Johnny reached out to me). The beautiful artwork for the single was created by Attie Schuler, who Johnny attended high school with in Wabash.

The song opens with sounds of a phone ringing, accompanied by a man’s voice slowed down to the point where it sounds creepy and disturbing as he speaks the first stanza addressing the pernicious effects of social media:

It is not the habit which addicts me,
But rather the enveloping feeling of escape.
It digs its fangs into my brain,
Slowly spreading its roots,
Hooking me eternally.

The song then abruptly transitions in both tone and feel, as Johnny sings his pointed lyrics about how we become social media robots to sounds of his lovely but melancholic piano keys. Soon Charlie’s chiming guitar, Dale’s subtle bass, and Johnny’s measured drumbeats enter the mix, creating a resounding backdrop for his plaintive vocals that grow more impassioned as the song progresses, only to calm back down at the end as he sings the final line “We’re all sad motherfuckers” with a sense of bitter resignation.

“Social Robots” is a fascinating and brilliant song, both musically and lyrically. While not immediately catchy or melodic, it has an unusual meandering flow that’s quite compelling, keeping a firm grasp on our interest as the song proceeds and the narrative unfolds. It’s an impressive debut from this promising young artist, and I can’t wait to hear more of Mr. Ritchie’s music.

Shackles on all our lives
Not on our wrists but on our minds
Tiny little screens with big fat lies of light
Oh don’t you think
Yeah don’t you mind
Just keep on scrolling you’ll be alright

Distractions, I see them in every way
They tell us the right thoughts to think and the words to say
But nobody ever goes outside to play
No don’t you think
Yeah don’t you pray
Just pretend like it’s still a beautiful day

Tell me no, we’ll see about that
Kick me down, I’m wiser if I don’t fight back
Oh I’ll learn from you and be better off
You may laugh or scoff but just go jerk off
You robot, you sad motherfucker

The crutches we lean on everywhere
They help us breathe in all this polluted air
They help us choose our favorite style of hair
Oh don’t you think
Yeah don’t you care
Just be a copy and no one stares

The voices we seek out for advice
We’re taking all their bullshit as something that’s wise
But nobody is ever thinking twice
So don’t you blink
Just take your vice
Just play your part, you’ll be alright

Robots looking for something that’s real
They’re all trying to think out what to feel
And kisses help, and so do hugs
And not to mention all the drugs
But we’re all robots
We’re all tied up in the same cords from our own plugs
We’re all robots
We’re all sad motherfuckers

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New Song of the Week – YOUNG DECADES: “Sinner”

It was a year ago almost to the day when British band Young Decades released their beautiful debut single “Islands”, on April 24, 2020. A few weeks later, I wrote a review of the song, in which I went into some detail about the band’s back story, which you can read about here. Formed during the early onset of the Covid pandemic, like every other artist and band around the globe, they were unable to tour or perform live. The guys decided to make the most of their down time, setting themselves on a frenetic mission to build up a catalog of songs and get them out to the listening public. Following the massive success of “Islands”, they released four more excellent singles, as well as several collections of remixes and alternative versions. On March 5th, they released an EP Let You Down, which featured all five of their singles.

A few months after I wrote my review, the band parted ways with their drummer, and soldiered on as a three-piece. Since they weren’t able to play live, not having a permanent drummer did not prevent them from recording new music. Nevertheless, just this week they’ve recruited a new drummer named Lee Cameron, so they’re back to being a foursome. In addition to Lee, their lineup consists of James Tidd (vocals), Scott Harvey (guitar, keyboards) and Liam Downey (bass). The various band members are scattered about the Midlands and North West England, but meet up for rehearsals and recording in the city of Stoke on Trent.

Today, April 23, they drop their latest single “Sinner“, which I’m pleased to name my New Song of the Week. The track was produced by band songwriter and vocalist James Tidd, with assistance from Human League bassist Ian Burden and long-time friend and engineer Tom Longworth, and mastered by Mike Marsh, who’s also worked with such bands as Phoenix, Chemical Brothers and Empire of the Sun. The song is a gorgeous sweeping anthem, with exuberant swirling synths and layers of roiling and jangly guitars. I love the throbbing bass and strong thumping drumbeats that make up the track’s powerful driving rhythm, and the dramatic piano flourishes add wonderful texture and depth.   

The song’s buoyant, uplifting melody contrasts with the rather cynical lyrics. As I previously noted in my review of “Islands”, James has a phenomenal singing voice, and his vocals are beautiful and heartfelt as he plaintively sings of his personal failings, admitting he’s a sinner who doesn’t want to be saved. “A funny thing is this life. You only get what you take. Ever feel you’re surrounded by wolves? Cause I do, I saw them in the news. But I’m not that guy. I’m not that good. I pray you do. I say not what I do. I’m a sinner now. I’m a sinner. And I don’t need saving.”

“Sinner” is a stellar track, and I think it’s Young Decades’ best single yet. So long as they keep making outstanding music like this, their star will surely continue to rise.

Follow Young Decades:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase: Bandcamp / Amazon

PAUL RENNA – Single Review: “Fire”

Paul Renna is a singer, songwriter and guitarist based in Dallas, Texas who’s been writing, recording and performing music, first with bands and later as a solo artist, for more than 25 years. His signature music style draws from folk, Southern rock and Americana, with his songs resting comfortably among all three genres. He released his first solo album Portrait in 2003, then after a quiet period lasting seven years, Paul returned in 2010 with his second album Freedom. In the years since, the prolific artist dropped two more full-length albums and three EPs, and in 2019, he released two singles, “Bound to Love” and “All My Life”, both of which I featured on this blog (you can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post). Now he returns with his latest single “Fire“, a blues-soaked gem that sees Paul delving deeper into Southern roots rock.

Paul actually wrote “Fire” a number of years ago, and originally featured an acoustic version of the song on his 2013 album Unplugged. For the single release, he teamed up with producer Paul Soroski in the creation of an edgier, more hard-rocking vibe befitting the song’s title. The two Pauls get right down to business, as the song opens strong with jarring guitar chords and wailing organ. Things quickly settle into an almost funky groove, as Paul lays down some bluesy guitars, accompanied by that terrific meandering organ and just the right amount of drums. As the song progresses, he layers more aggressive guitars, giving the song a heavier rock feel.

Paul has a commanding and emotive singing voice, with a slightly raspy quality that works especially well on this song, leaving us little doubt as to his lusty intentions: “I don’t need to be adored, up against the wall, down on the floor. We can set this place on fire.” It’s a wonderful bluesy rocker.

With the lifting of Covid restrictions in Texas, Paul is back performing live at venues throughout the Dallas-Ft. Worth region. Check out his Facebook and Twitter pages for dates and locations of upcoming shows.

Connect with Paul on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunesBandcamp

THE LEFT BACKS – Single Review: “The Feeling”

The Left Backs are an indie rock band originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland and now based in Liverpool. They were formed in 2015 by three lifelong friends Lucas Macpherson (vocals and bass), Max Lozowsky (guitar) and Benjamin Watt Doak (drums), who later relocated to Liverpool to attend university. Influenced by some of their favorite bands The Strokes, Nirvana, The Libertines and The Ramones, they make infectious, high-energy punk rock. Their songs have received airplay on BBC Introducing, and they’ve had the pleasure of performing at Threshold Festival and the renowned Sound City in their adopted home of Liverpool.

In 2017 they released their terrific debut EP The Morning After the Night Before, then followed with a number of singles, the latest of which is “The Feeling“, which dropped March 26th. With the pandemic lockdown preventing them from recording in studios, the guys decided to create their own studio in their apartment so they could record and produce their music themselves. Their last single “Welfare Lady” was the first to be recorded in their home studio, and “The Feeling” is the second. About the single, the band states “‘The Feeling’ comes at just the right time, not only dropping a couple of days before some UK social restrictions are lifted, but also it’s upbeat sound coupled with it’s feel-good nostalgic imagery make it the perfect soundtrack to the summer months being just around the corner.”

The song is a rousing, grunge-soaked banger, featuring a bombastic torrent of gnarly guitars dripping with reverb, giving it a lo-fi, yet intense, garage rock vibe. Max lives up to his name as he shreds his guitar to the max, letting loose with a blistering solo in the bridge, while Benjamin smashes his drum kit with equal fervor. Lucas lays down a punishing bass line as he wails the sparse lyrics “You know the feeling. But you can’t remember when. You want to feel it again!” It’s totally badass from start to finish!

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Purchase:  iTunes 

VEER – Single Review: “Red Tide”

VEER is a hard rock band based in the historic and charming Maryland capital of Annapolis, but their dark and aggressive sound would suggest roots in nearby Baltimore instead. Formed in 2016, the band consists of brothers Ronald (vocals and guitar) and Jon (drums) Malfi, Ryan Fowler (lead guitar), and Christian Mathis (bass). They hit their stride in 2018 with the release of their debut album Apocalyptic, Baby, which quickly made the Amazon Top 100 Rock Albums list. That same year, they won a Maryland Music Award for Best Rock Band, then went on to win Best Rock Song for their 2017 debut single, “Come Clean,” by the World Songwriting Awards, an international organization that promotes and recognizes songwriting in various genres throughout 129 countries around the globe. Their riveting live performances have earned them a loyal following in the mid-Atlantic region, where they’ve had the pleasure of opening for such acts as Buckcherry, Sponge, Fuel, Puddle of Mudd, Trapt and 40 Below Summer.

This past December they released their latest single “Red Tide“, which will be included on their forthcoming album Soft Machines, due out later this year. The song has a moody grunge undercurrent that – to my ears at least – gives it somewhat of an early Pearl Jam or Soundgarden vibe. The instrumentals are all fantastic, starting with layers of fairly intense gnarly guitars over a fuzz-coated shimmery riff that serves as the basis for the song’s ominous melody. Christian lays down a throbbing bass line in perfect accompaniment with Ryan’s moody riff, while Jon fervently attacks his drum kit, pounding out the powerful rhythm with impeccable timing. Ryan’s blistering guitar solo in the bridge is quite good too.

Ronald told me that the song is about “the repetitive nature of human beings, continually making the same mistakes over and over—be it in society in general or our personal lives.” His raw, impassioned vocals convey a strong sense of exasperation as he bitterly wails the refrain “I’ve been here before“. I really like “Red Tide”, and think it’s VEER’s best song yet. Have a listen, and let me know what you think.

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Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicYouTube

AMONGST LIARS – Single Review: “Black Days”

One of my favorite new* acts to emerge in 2020 was British rock band Amongst Liars. I placed an asterisk by their name because, while the band was technically new, each of its members are all seasoned musicians who came together after the breakup of their previous bands Saint Apache and Katalina Kicks. Thus, they had the advantage of starting out with a built-in following that’s grown exponentially since their rebirth. In little more than a year, Amongst Liars have written and recorded 18 songs, including their debut album to be released later this year.

They released four of those songs as singles in 2020, beginning in February with their spectacular debut “Over and Over”, followed by “Wolf Machine”, “Burn the Vision”, and “Mind”. I wrote about three of those singles on this blog, which you can read by clicking on the related links at the end of this post. I like their music so much that two of their singles – “Over and Over” and “Burn the Vision” – ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list. Now the guys are back with their fifth single “Black Days“, delivering more of the fiercely aggressive hard rock and in-your-face lyrics we’ve come to expect from them. The track was produced, mixed & mastered by David Radahd-Jones at Red City Recordings in Manchester.

Based in the Brighton/Eastbourne area, Amongst Liars consists of Ian George (lead vocals, guitar), Leo Burdett (guitar, backing vocals), Ross Towner (bass, backing vocals) and Adam Oarton (drums). Not only are they all highly accomplished and talented musicians, they’re nice guys too. And while they don’t consider themselves a political band per se, they haven’t shied away from expressing their opinions and anxieties about what’s been happening in the world. On “Burn the Vision” for example, the band took aim at political leaders who’ve sought to profit from the misfortune of others by distorting the media with fake news to spread their own narratives and lies. With “Black Days”, the band launches a full frontal assault on the last 10 years of Tory rule in the UK, calling out austerity measures, questionable decision making, incompetence, lies and self-serving political bias.

The band further elaborates: ”The last 10 years have seen some really despicable and self-serving politics in the U.K, which have caused huge division across the country, with hardship, suffering and ultimately many deaths amongst some of the most vulnerable people in society. Even in the last year there has been a huge contradiction in the approach to dealing with Covid and a large number of people still remain excluded from help and support. It just seems to be one thing after another, with nepotism, cronyism, greed and a ‘one rule for them, another for us’ mentality – and no accountability for government actions at all. This song reflects our frustration, and we had to release ‘Black Days’ as a commentary on everything happening and the desperation that a lot of people have felt during the last 10 years. The black days and the fires we sing about are both caused and fueled by the very people voted in to supposedly protect and develop a healthy society.

Amongst Liars always push their respective instruments to the breaking point in the creation of their signature explosive wall of sound, and they don’t disappoint on “Black Days”. The song opens ominously, with sounds of a buzzing alarm announcing an unfolding crisis, then Ian’s fearsome vocals enter as he wails at the top of his lungs “Black days are here now! Start the fire, burn it out!” From there, the guys deliver an unrelenting onslaught of shredded guitars and thunderous rhythms, laying waste to the airwaves like a rampaging sonic beast. They fully channel the strong sense of anger and frustration expressed in their searing lyrics into their music with a ferocity that’s positively mind-blowing in its intensity and raw power. As I’ve noted on my reviews of their previous songs, Ian’s a literal beast on vocals as he unleashes a full-throated denunciation of our failed and duplicitous leaders. It all makes for an electrifying, cathartic and highly satisfying listening experience.

The provocative and sometimes disturbing video shows footage of leaders like Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, juxtaposed with scenes of political protests and violence, patients dying of Covid, and vintage footage of nuclear explosions. It was produced, directed and edited by Josh R Lewis, with assistant editing by Robert Ruardy.

Like for all their singles, the terrific surreal artwork for “Black Days” was created by the artist Pierre Engelbrecht.

Follow Amongst Liars:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Amazon

Fresh New Tracks Vol. IV

It’s time for another installment of fresh new releases, and today I’m featuring three songs by (in alphabetical order) Ronnie the Bear, Tarraska and The Orphan The Poet.

“Moon Eyes” by Ronnie the Bear

Ronnie the Bear is the music project of Joshua Rukas, a charismatic and silky-voiced singer/songwriter from Grand Rapids, Michigan. A talented and versatile musician, he’s also drummer for punk/emo rock band MUSCLEMAN, as well as a former member of alt-rock band Dancing On Pluto, who I reviewed a couple times prior to their splitting up in August 2018. Last September, he released his stunning debut single “Do You Feel That?“, which I love so much that it ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list. He followed up at the end of October with his wonderful EP Lucid Dreams, and on February 14th he dropped his latest single “Moon Eyes“, a sweet song of young love that’s the perfect tune for Valentine’s Day.

Josh’s music is a pleasing blend of lo-fi alternative pop-rock, hip hop, psychedelic, synth pop and emo that he describes as ‘bedroom pop’, as he composes, performs, produces, mixes and masters all his own music at home. Over a lovely humming synth that sounds like a mellotron, he layers a colorful mix of swirling keyboard synths, crisp percussion, guitar and xylophone to create an enchanting backdrop for his soft, comforting vocals as he tells a lover of his strong feelings of devotion for her: “I want to melt into your arms / Your eyes are bigger than the moon / I’ve got a blanket built for two / I know I’ll find some warmth in you.”

Follow Ronnie the Bear on Twitter / Instagram

“Renegade” by Tarraska

Tarraska is a rock band based in Bournemouth, England. Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Alter Bridge, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Foo Fighters, Van Halen, Tremonti, Five Finger Death Punch and Guns N Roses, their music is a blend of classic and modern hard rock, characterized by heavy riffs, hard-driving rhythms and aggressive vocals. Originally formed in 2014 by lifelong friends Jack Lande and Ben Parker as a primarily acoustic cover band, the duo began writing their own songs in 2016, incorporating more electric guitars and heavier bass into their sound. They started touring around the UK, performing their own songs, and by the end of 2019, they had played more than 300 gigs in all manner of venues – pubs, clubs, restaurants, festivals and at private events. Jack plays rhythm and acoustic guitar and sings vocals, Ben plays lead, rhythm and bass guitar. Shaun Brown assists the duo on drums.

The guys released their excellent debut single “Trailblazer” in May 2020, and followed up in December with their second single “Renegade“. The two singles will be included on their forthcoming debut album, due out later this year. Both songs were recorded and mixed at Absolute Studios and GMMix in Bournemouth by Gareth Matthews, and mastered by Grant Berry at Fader Mastering in Manchester. Like a rampaging beast, “Renegade” storms through the gates with a barrage of fiery riffs and thunderous rhythms. Jack and Ben dazzle our senses with their strong musicianship as they unleash an unrelenting arsenal of guitar power, while Shaun shatters the airwaves with his powerful drum fills. Jack’s commanding vocals hold their own throughout the track with the hard-hitting instrumentals.

Jack told webzine Rock Regeneration that the song “deals with the emotions felt for a forbidden love and serves as a warning against lowering your guard in the face of real but ephemeral desires”. He further elaborates on the song’s press release: “For me, ‘Renegade’ is our most ambitious and musically expansive track to date, incorporating so much of the music we love and outlining what we want the band to become in the future. As for the song itself, the lyric tries to capture the intense and confusing emotions felt when caught up in a whirlwind love that, whilst genuine, may have or lead to destructive consequences.”

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“The Moxie” by The Orphan The Poet

The Orphan The Poet is an alternative rock two-piece from Columbus, Ohio consisting of vocalist and guitarist David Eselgroth and bassist Jake Floyd. Though we follow each other on Twitter and Instagram, I don’t know a whole lot about them, other than that they’ve been putting out great music for around five years, and seem to have a hell of a good time doing it. They released their debut EP Terrible Things in 2016, and have followed up with number of singles and a second EP in the years since. Two of their singles have garnered more than a million streams on Spotify: “Terrible Things” with over 1.8 million and “Queen Cobra” with over 1.1 million.

Their latest single “The Moxie” was released on February 12th. The song was written and produced by David and Jake, with the help of frequent collaborator and music producer Matt Squire, mixed by Joe Costable, and mastered by Mike Kalijian. According to a feature article I found in Earmilk, the guys wrote the song over Zoom during the early days of quarantine. The lyrics were inspired by their feelings, their positive outlook on life, and determination and self confidence that are the very essence of the word “moxie”. David confided “There were times when growing up I very much identified as a nerd to be honest. At the same time, I was a confident nerd. Looking back at the song now I’m like ‘oh, that’s what it’s about. This is what it means to me. These are the times that I’ve known I was a big dork but that didn’t change the strut in the step or whatever it was. I could see so much of myself in the lyrics just from my own experiences of being the nerdy kid. He wasn’t in the cool crowd, but he thought he was cool.”

The song is a tasty slice of exuberant alt-pop, highlighted by swirling synths, thumping bass, bold hand claps, and a riotous cacophony of fuzz-coated wailing guitars. David’s intense, spirited vocals are every bit as fun as the music. The lyrics are basically nonsensical, but speak to having a joyous, unabashed confidence: “Crash my car just to cause a scene / I’m gonna flip my spliff like I’m Steve McQueen / Soak my shoes in gasoline, I got these Motown moves from a magazine / (And all I wanna do is) Two step, marmalade, fever shake / I’m like a juiced up, tidal wave, every day (I got it) The Moxie.”

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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