TWO METERS – EP Review: “The Blue Jay EP”

Two Meters EP art

While most musicians generally tend to express themselves through their music to one degree or another, Two Meters really bares his heart and soul on his songs. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Two Meters is the music project of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Costolo. Starting off with deeply personal and often brutally honest lyrics – which he expresses through vulnerable, slightly off-kilter vocals that go from barely a whisper to impassioned screams – he adds layers of heavily-textured guitars, harsh industrial synths, and other lo-fi ambient sounds to create impactful songs that elicit strong feelings from the listener. I’ve been replaying his songs for the past few hours and hear new details with every listen.

I asked Tyler how he came to call his project Two Meters. He explained “I have been playing water polo for about 15 years now. I did in college, and I was coaching too when I first started recording. Two Meters is a reference to the sport; it’s kinda similar to an offsides in soccer. I thought it sounded cool and was relevant to my life.”

Two Meters released his debut self-titled EP in June 2018, and now returns with The Blue Jay EP, which drops today. Released via the label Very Jazzed, The Blue Jay EP features five tracks that continue to explore the dark themes of loss and death that Tyler first introduced on Two Meters. He wrote and sang all lyrics and played all instruments on the EP (other than drums, for which he used sample loops or drum sounds from his  production software). Mixing was done by Yuuki Matthews and mastering by Warren Hildebrand.

The EP opens with “The Morning Train“, a brief lo-fi instrumental track consisting of dark, gnarly synths, pulsating bass and an ominous drumbeat that set a somber tone. This is followed by “Pools“, a powerful track that speaks to thoughts of drowning by suicide. Tyler explained: “I really was spending a lot of time by pools while I wrote that song and I was constantly having ‘call to the void’ type visions. I tend to gravitate toward darker themes in the music I listen to, so it makes sense that’s what I end up writing too.” The track starts off with a captivating twangy guitar riff, then moody, throbbing synths are added as Tyler sings in a morose tone “I spend a lot of time by pools. Looking deep in the water. Thinking how easy it’d be to slip under./ Just as dark sets in, it’s too late to swim back up.” Suddenly, we’re bombarded with an explosion of tortured, grinding synths and reverb-heavy distorted guitar that would make Marilyn Manson proud, as Tyler repeatedly screams “It’s too late!

Next up is “Ground“, a song about feelings of worthlessness. Tyler explained its meaning:  “At the time of writing the EP, I was feeling incredibly worthless. The idea being that in the grand scheme of everything, my life was the same as the poor bird I saw that died overnight.” The track opens with layers of heavily-strummed guitars and Tyler’s somber humming, followed by him singing in a monotone, as if to convey his emotional ennui. Then, with the introduction of distorted guitar notes, the tempo abruptly shifts as Tyler refrains the line “I am the bird, alone on the ground” in dual voices – one a dispassionate monotone, the other a desperate wail. Man, it just rips at your soul!

The appropriately-titled “Intro to an Attack” is another brilliant instrumental track. Like many Two Meter songs, it starts off with gentle synths and a bucolic strummed guitar, but 30 seconds in, the calm is shattered by that promised attack of glorious bone-crushing industrial mayhem and distortion. The final track “In the Wake” is a decidedly more hopeful song, despite its rather bleak vibe. Tyler said it speaks to his problems with panic attacks and anxiety, and how having his girlfriend Margo Dellaquila (who real life sings the reassuring vocals to him on the track) around really helps to keep him grounded.

The Blue Jay EP is a brief but astonishing work of incredible nuance, contrast and emotional honesty. Two Meters is skilled at lulling us with soothing melodies and vocals one moment, then punching us in the gut with brutal ferocity at others. The more I listened to this EP, the more I loved it.

Connect with Two Meters: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify 
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

ROADKEEPER – Single Review: “Old Man’s War”

Roadkeeper

It always makes me happy when I discover a new band and instantly love their music. I was so impressed by the beautiful songs of the band Roadkeeper that I had to write a review of their latest single “Old Man’s War“. The Tyler, Texas- based group was formed less than a year ago by producer/vocalist John Eric Hetherington and drummer Nick Cogdill, who both previously played in the post-punk group Knifight, as well as guitarist Trevor Tull and bassist Daniel Griffith, all of whom are long-time friends. Roadkeeper is completely independent and self-produced, doing their recording, producing and mixing in John’s studio – dubbed ‘Yacht Country’ – and releasing their songs on their own label Equal Temperament.

Blending dreamy shoegaze with dramatic psychedelic rock, Roadkeeper crafts exquisite songs that envelop us with complex melodies and lush soundscapes, while delivering compelling lyrics that give us something to think about. Beginning in the fall of 2018, they released a series of singles, starting with “God in the Light of the Bar”, a laid-back song with shimmering guitars, horns and breezy synths, and “The Creeps”, a beautiful, anthemic song about emotional manipulation and abuse. In February 2019, they released their mesmerizing third single “Gushers”, which the band explains “deals with recent years’ murders of unarmed black people by police officers, and the way law enforcement and apologists reframe the job of police officer as a war or conflict between the just and unjust. Also how privileged people are starting to reframe their own lives and minor struggles as heroes journeys.”

Now the band follows up with their fourth single “No Man’s War” a melancholy but beautiful song about anxiety and worry over things, both real and imagined. The song starts off with a mix of both chiming and strummed acoustic guitars, as John sings in soft, breathy vocals of his fears:

I’m afraid of so many things
What the hell am I doing
Waiting for a change
People never change
And I’m stuck inside my heart
Waiting for someone to pick me up
And tell me everything’s OK
That it’s only just a dream
Wait and see

The music swells with lush shimmery synths, fuzzy bass and chiming guitars as he tries to convince himself that all is right with the world and he’s got nothing to worry about:

No disease is coming for me
And no conditions waiting to take you from me
And the world is happy
No one is dying
The ice isn’t melting
And everyone can be themselves

The dramatic sweeping synths continue during the bridge, then abruptly end, leaving us with just a simple strummed acoustic guitar as John reaffirms his anxieties and feelings of pessimism in the final verse:

I’m afraid of so many things
Every time I read
What’s breaking in the world
I lose a piece of me
To an old man’s war
They won’t be around to pick it up
When everything falls down

With “No Man’s War”, Roadkeeper continue to bat a thousand, delivering their fourth consecutive win in the form of a perfect song. I’m happy to be following this talented group of guys, and excited to hear what they come up with next!

Connect with Roadkeeper:  Facebook / Twitter  / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

OCTOBERS – EP Review: “Summer Waste”

Octobers EP

Octobers is an alternative/dream pop/postpunk band from British Columbia, Canada who formed in 2015. Comprising the band are brothers Nick and Joel Ellsay (guitar, synths, vocals), Hayden Shea (drums) and Liam Rhynolds (bass). They released their excellent debut Misfits EP that same year to positive reviews, also garnering airplay on indie and college radio stations throughout Canada and the U.S. The band went on a brief hiatus in 2017 after a few major life changes, but are now back and better than ever with a new EP Summer Waste.

The EP kicks off with the sunny and upbeat “California“. The song opens with a blast of drumbeats, then settles into a pleasing soundscape of chiming guitars, sparkling synths and a humming bassline that evokes images of a summer day at the beach. The pace quickens in the choruses with an exuberant jangly guitar solo and pummeling drums. The song lyrics seem to have dual meaning, with the singer possibly expressing his love for both ‘California’ a girl and the state: “Hey California. Something about ya. You are the sweetest sound. California, always did love ya. You’re the summer all year round.”

Sunshine” has the singer pondering the love that brightens his world: “Are you my sunshine? Are you my starry sky? Are you these glowing lights, cause you burn so bright.” I love the thunderous jangly guitars and percussion, and the Ellsay brothers’ vocal harmonies are really marvelous. The sunny vibes turn darker with “Be Still“, a heartfelt plea to a loved one to try and meet him halfway, and salvage their damaged relationship: “Just be still, don’t say a word, cause you’ve been talking all your life. The tables turned, now tell me what that feels like. / Lay down your gloves, I don’t wanna fight.” Once again, the guitar work is fantastic, and the rhythm section nicely complements with pulsating bass, thumping drumbeats, and lots of crashing cymbals.

Summer Waste ends on a positive note with “Higher“, a jubilant anthem about not giving up, and reaching as high as you can to reach your goals: “Once you start you never can stop. You go higher and higher and higher. Oh yeah!” Their jangly guitars on this track sound a bit like The Cure, which is never a bad thing. Overall, it’s a terrific little EP, with a title that could be misleading as it’s anything but a waste. The lyrics, while not necessarily deep, are honest and heartfelt, and the instrumentals are all outstanding, as are Nick and Joel’s sublime harmonies. Nicely done guys!

Connect with Octobers:  Facebook /  Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

DARKSOFT – Album Review: “Brain”

Darksoft Brain

Darksoft is the music project of Bill Darksoft, a smart and creative young artist from Seattle, Washington who’s produced one of the most interesting and brilliant concept albums I’ve heard in some time. Brain, which dropped in November 2018, is named after the very first computer virus to attack the internet back in 1986, with each track named after infamous viruses that followed.

He operates his own label and website Look Up Records (for which he also writes some pretty awesome reviews), and in addition to his music project, has played with many Seattle acts over the years. About his inspiration behind the creation of Brain, he explains: “Distanced through haunted screens, we rely on spooky contact that we don’t fully understand. At times, dark forces lurk on the other end, with a motive to con. Always a silhouetted hooded presence, the hacker has become our modern portrayal of Death; captor to the mind and its web of memories. As we stare deeper and deeper into the glowing comfort of this synthetic deception, trust has become the challenge of our modern paradigm, and the cyberscape the new Great Unknown. At its core, Brain is a story not only of the brain, but of the heart, as both confront trust and deception, the real and the synthetic, the mind and the motherboard, and the dark web connecting it all where the matter of our endless identities can be created as quickly as it can be erased, infected, encrypted…or simply revealed for what it truly is, beneath the hood.”

Brain opens with “Mydoom” a pleasant track with gauzy riffs of jangly guitars, subtle bass and gentle percussion. The lyrics speak to the seemingly harmless but insidious virus that keeps a watchful eye on one’s internet dealings: “I’ll just pop up in your window to see how it’s going. From time to time I will drain your battery life… Track you close, I’ll watch your move. Mydoom A has put a bug on you to stayIt’s ok to be vulnerable if you’ve got nothing to lose.” Darksoft has a velvety smooth vocal style that’s incredibly pleasing, giving the track a rather dreamy vibe. On “Elk Cloner“, he first warns about a virus that works to take over our thoughts: “They will enter your world. They can infiltrate microchips. They will stick like glue. They will modify you.” But then it’s as if the virus itself tells us not to worry and just remain calm: “No cause. No cause for alarm. No harm. We just occupy thought. No cause for alarm. No cause, just be calm.” The track has a lovely, mesmerizing melody and his vocals are really soothing, belying the rather menacing message.

Darksoft quickens the pace on the bouncy “Conficker“, though it still has a somewhat moody undertone with a mix of fuzzy and jangly guitars, shimmery synths and a determined drumbeat. The lyrics allude to the algorithms that control what we’re fed on social media, shaping our world view in the process: “We choose what you feel. No view into reality. Your life is ours… permanently.

With gnarly guitars and spooky synths propelled by a strutting bass line, “Lamex” speaks to how easy it is to escape into an artificial online world: “If you want a lame existence. They will send you a virus or two. Lamerism is the name of the tool I use”, yet yearning to break free and think clearly and independently: “I need to get out…To free my mind…To quit this code and leave the app I knew behind. If you look away you’ll open your eyes.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Heartbleed“, with its enthralling melody, irresistible drumbeat and gentle psychedelic groove, thanks to deliciously eerie synths. The jangly guitars are marvelous, the bass line’s sublime, and I absolutely love Darksoft’s warm, captivating vocals. I honestly think I would be perfectly happy listening to him sing the yellow pages!  My take on the song’s meaning is it seems to compare the feelings of someone who’s emotionally dead inside to that of a computer – a machine who only does what it’s programmed and directed to do: “Matter is a thing. You focus it’ll bring you life and pleasure. Just wait and see. Let your lead heart bleed.  Silicon and hardware respond.  Nothing really matters when you’re a machine… You live to be used by others.”

Another favorite is “Cryptolocker“, a darkly gorgeous song with dreamy and sometimes eerie synths that create a lush atmospheric soundscape. The gently-strummed chiming guitars are exquisite, as are Darksoft’s ethereal vocals that are seductive, yet menacing, as he coldly warns another not to fuck with him: “You don’t know who you’re dealing with. You don’t understand who you’re messing with. Lock me away and I will pull the plug from under you.”

I distinctly remember the virus for which “ILOVEYOU” is named. Darksoft uses it as an allegory for the emptiness and futility that can result from using online dating websites: “Every fuckin day is the same. Can’t look up from the screen. Crushes breakin over the phone. Guess that I’ll be alone. Til I see your message titled ‘love confession’. Feeling’ tempted by a lie; it’s a misdirection. You were nothing more than spam. My little love connection. Engineered to phish my soul. Been spoofed again by a false confession.” The song has an infectious drumbeat and some fine, intricate guitar work.

Code Red” is a beautiful, languid song featuring Darksoft’s resonant, pulsating guitars and sublime vocals, backed by his own harmonic choruses.  The lyrics seem to speak of clearing one’s mind of self-destructive thoughts and behaviors: “Everyone has a code. Some write them, others they follow a worm. Everyday, take a chance. Decrypt all the bullshit and break from the trance.” The final track “NightShade” is a mellow, anthemic rock song with jangly guitars and humming bass, accompanied by snappy drumbeats. NightShade seems to be a metaphor for drugs taken to numb the pains of life: “Where you’re from, how you came as I take it all away with NightShade. / If I can survive maybe then so can you. Aren’t we all playing role games? Infect the database with NightShade.”

Brain is a great album, and I love pretty much everything about it – Darksoft’s clever lyrics inspired by each of the computer viruses, his beautiful melodies, outstanding guitar work, first-rate production values, and stunning vocals. He’s an amazing talent, and I eagerly look forward to hearing what he comes up with for his next music project.

Connect with Darksoft on Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Google Play
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby

FUTURE THEORY – Single Review: “Peace of Mind”

Piece of Mind

I’ve featured quite a few artists and bands from the UK on this blog, and one of my favorites is the astonishingly talented Future Theory. The Lincolnshire-based foursome consists of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Rex Helley on bass, and Rohan Parrett on drums. Drawing inspiration from Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Soundgarden, Audioslave, Queens of the Stone Age, Coldplay and The Verve – and how can you possibly go wrong with inspiration from those legendary bands? – they’ve developed a lavish sound built on elements of alternative and progressive rock, shoegaze, psychedelia and funk. I’m not exaggerating when I use the word ‘astonishing’ to describe them, as their outstanding songwriting and musicianship has a complexity and depth that’s impressive for such a young band. And Max’s amazing vocal style possesses a nuanced emotional intensity that seems mature beyond his years.

Future Theory4

Future Theory released their spectacular debut EP Fool’s Dream in 2016 (which I reviewed), then followed in April of this year with a brilliant single “Fractured Nation,” which I also reviewed. Today they return with a new single “Peace of Mind,” and it’s another stellar track with complex melodies, intelligent lyrics and dazzling instrumentation.

The song kicks off with exuberant jangly guitars, crystalline synths and sharp percussion, all melding together to paint a rich tapestry of sound. Max’s sultry vocals have a raw, vulnerable quality that’s quite pleasing to my ears, though it’s sometimes difficult to understand some of the lyrics he’s singing. The instrumentals build to a turbulent mix of heavy bass, piercing guitars and crashing cymbals in the bridge, then break down to clear jangly riffs that seem to sparkle like glitter on the airwaves through to the end of the track. It’s a dark and beautiful song.

The lyrics speak to the struggle of maintaining a loving relationship by reassuring your significant other of your love and devotion in the face of her alcohol addiction: “Forget about your day and your worries now. Go back into the warmth and find your wants in supply. Cause I adore you and all the things you do for me.” But then he’s trying to hold on to his peace of mind while applying some tough love to convince her to quit drinking: “I gotta stay here. Piece of warmth. Peace of mind. Be so warm, be so quiet. Love factor aside, you need a kick in your behind. You try to make her realize the alcohol don’t fix inside.

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Google Play /  YouTube
Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

GOODNIGHT JAPAN – Single Review: “Rush”

Goodnight Japan single

Goodnight Japan is a three-piece band from Sydney, Australia with a distinctive sound they colorfully describe as “Shoegazy bedroom-pop dreamscapes to punchy post-punk laced with dirty whisky blues.” Formed in 2016 by singer/songwriter/guitarist Abel Ibañez and bassist Gemma Conroy, drummer Joel van Gastel joined the band a year later to complete the lineup. All three of these talented individuals are involved in other projects as well – Abel is founder and co-editor of ERRR Magazine, Gemma is also known as the international model Meluxine, as well as a science journalist, and Joel is also drummer for Australian rock band Jenny Broke the Window.

When I asked Abel about the band’s unusual name, he explained that he used to have a band with his brother in Mexico City, where they were born and raised, and his brother came up with the name. “It was a bit of a joke at the beginning, because we would fantasize (of course) playing to big audiences in big arenas or stadiums and starting the concerts with a “Goodnight America” or “Goodnight Russia” and then “Goodnight Japan.” And then he decided that Goodnight Japan was going to be the name of our band. And we played a couple of gigs in Mexico under that name. I later formed another band –also in Mexico– and used that same name but in Spanish and a bit modified: we were Adiós Japón (Goodbye Japan).  Some years later, when I came to Australia and started playing with Gemma, I told her the story about the name and she just loved Goodnight Japan, so we took it back.”

They’ve just released a lovely new single “Rush,” a touching song with a pleasing mix of fuzzy guitar, humming bass and gentle percussion, all set to a toe-tapping beat. Abel’s heartfelt vocals have an earnest vulnerability as he sings the poignant lyrics that speak to someone who keeps resisting committing to a relationship, pleading with them to get off the endless cycle of indecision and just let love in:

You say you don’t want to rush 
You say you don’t want to break 
You say you don’t really care 
No you don’t give a damn 
People keep losing their minds 
Going ’round and around on this ride 

But this time let go 
‘Cause this time I’ve got you 
But this time let go 
‘Cause this time I’ve got you 

They’re currently recording more songs to be included on their upcoming EP, and I’m eager to hear them. In the meantime, you can catch them at one of these upcoming shows in New South Wales:

June 15   The Townie, Newtown, 9 PM w/Deep Space Supergroop & Trouble Cruise

June 29  Botany View Hotel, Newtown, 9 PM w/Jonas Nicholls & Deep Space Supergroop

July 28  The Record Crate, Glebe, 7 PM w/E for Echo x DARBY

Connect with Goodnight Japan on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Rush” on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

FUTURE THEORY – Single Review: “Fractured Nation”

Fractured Nation

I seem to be revisiting a lot of artists and bands lately that I’ve previously featured on this blog, as many of them are releasing new music. One of them is the astonishingly talented UK band Future Theory.  The Lincolnshire-based foursome consists of Max Sander on rhythm guitar and vocals, Chris Moore on lead guitar, Rex Helley on bass, and Rohan Parrett on drums. Drawing inspiration from bands such as Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Audioslave, Queens of the Stone Age and The Verve, they’ve developed a lavish sound built on elements of alternative and progressive rock, shoegaze, psychedelia and funk. I’m not exaggerating when I use the word ‘astonishing’ to describe them, as their outstanding music has a complexity and depth that’s impressive for such a young band. And if that weren’t enough, Max’s amazing vocal style exhibits a nuanced emotional intensity that seems mature beyond his years.

future theory

Future Theory released their magnificent debut EP Fool’s Dream in 2016 (which I reviewed), and now follow up with a brilliant new single “Fractured Nation,” which dropped today, the 27th of April. The songs on the EP were all spectacular, setting a very high bar for the band, and “Fractured Nation” not only reaches but leaps over that bar.

The track is fantastic, with exuberant layers of chiming and distorted guitars, sparkling synths and Rohan’s wildly crashing cymbals. Max’s sultry impassioned vocals are captivating as he croons “There’s no syncopation in this fractured nation. It’s like druids spinning around. Zone in zone out. I feel the whole world slipping inside out. Is that what people dream about?” At about the halfway point, our eardrums are greeted by riffs of chiming guitars so stunning they bring chills. The music continues to build to a crescendo, before ultimately dissipating into an extended distorted guitar note lasting fifteen seconds to close out the track. It’s perfection from start to finish, and I’m elated that Future Theory has delivered such a marvelous song for our listening enjoyment. I’m excited to hear what musical delights they come up with next.

Catch Future Theory at one of these upcoming shows:

APR28
Sat 8:30 PM UTC+01 · 392 guests
Grantham, United Kingdom
MAY18
Fri 10:30 PM UTC+01 · by Future Theory
Lincoln, United Kingdom

Connect with Future Theory:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  Google Play /  YouTube
Purchase on:  iTunes /  Bandcamp

AFTER ARISTOTLE – EP Review: “A Guide To Open Minds”

After Aristotle album art

After Aristotle is an indie alternative rock band based in Austin, Texas, and in late January they released their debut EP A Guide To Open Minds. Formed in 2016, the band consists of Kera Krause on vocals & ukelele, Cam Lamother on guitar, Tyson Zaria on bass, Ethan Schrupp on guitar & synth, and Zach Melvin on drums. The title of their EP encapsulates their collective approach to making music. In their bio they state: “We’re all about open mindedness. With a wide range of influences, our sound ranges from soft, indie rock to in your face punk. We let the music decide where it wants to go. We make the music we feel like making and have a great time doing it!”

After Aristotle3

The EP has a rather heavy, dark theme. With their intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics the band takes on subjects such as depression, fake news and betrayal by both friends and our leaders, and our attempts to find solace through denial and/or self-medication. Setting the tone is opening track “I’ve Got No One to Brush My Teeth For,” a melancholy song about feeling lonely and depressed, unable to see a way forward. With painful resignation, Kera sings “It’s so sunny outside I don’t think I’m getting out of bed. All day under the covers that hope that the day goes away with all of my fear and self hate. Light up the medicine, kill my adrenaline. So scared I don’t know where I’ve been.” The melodic track has some excellent guitar work that goes from jangly to blistering and everything in between, and Zach’s aggressive drumming is on-point.

The hard-rocking “Fakes and Escapes” is my favorite track on the EP. Propelled by Tyson’s driving bass line, Cam and Ethan’s frantic shredded riffs and Zach’s thunderous drums make for a really exciting hard rock song. Kera spits the lyrics that speak of duplicity and betrayal: “Well did you ever bite the hand that fed? Last thing we need is another fake smile. But we’ve all been learning to not feel for a while.”

The band incorporates a bit of Americana on the poignant track “Substance,” featuring some lovely violin courtesy of guest artist Ethan Thayer.  Kera plaintively sings “We’re all pleading for a world we’ll never see, while the one where we live passes by like a dream. / We shouldn’t suffer to fuel their greed. And they wonder why we’re popping pills to get some peace. And they wonder why we’re drowning to feel clean. What dragon are we chasing?

The fast-paced rock song “Shallow Folk” is about having the courage to admit that the lies and stubborn false beliefs you shouted loud and often in order to convince others they were true has been a sham (if only a certain occupant of the White House would do a bit of this self-actualization):

Well what did I think I knew about the world or anything it consumes
Appointing answers as if I could back up my stances
If I shout it so loud will it earn me my chance now
Keep my head held high to combat the downspin of my selfish mind
Keep the crowd’s attention just until I believe in my own words
I’m still getting used to admitting when I’m wrong

You know what drives me crazy?
People who talk with nothing to say
See I couldn’t live another day with lips sewn shut, lungs black with regret
Mind shut so tight, I suffocate inside of it
But I’ve been shallow like water that’s two inches tall
It’s no surprise that I’ve been feeling so small

Escaping Handcuffs” ends the EP on a hopeful note. The lyrics speak to overcoming self-doubt and fear that are holding you back from achieving your potential and living a fuller, more satisfying life. “Don’t let the little things take up your time. Calm down your fight. Pull back the curtain. There’s a whole world and you’re acting so blind. Don’t be scared.” The horns are a nice touch on this soft rock tune.

A Guide To Open Minds is a strong debut effort from After Aristotle that showcases their skillful songwriting and musicianship. I’m curious to see what compelling topics they’ll set to music next.

Connect with After Aristotle on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on SpotifyApple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

LOVEPROOF – Album Review: “Neon Blood, Volume One”

Neon Blood album art

Loveproof is a studio project by singer Ciaran Megahey and instrumentalist & producer Brendan McGarvey. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the duo have a long, albeit interrupted, history together. The two met in high school while living in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, formed a band that quickly fizzled, and eventually went off on separate music career paths. Ciaran is also a member of Canadian indie band The Autumn Stones, which I featured on this blog in 2016, while Brendan is or has been involved with Jerkbank, Stereohoax and Sugarkill. As luck would have it, one day in 2013 the two ran into each other on the street as Ciaran was headed to an open mic. That reconnection got them reminiscing about old times, and ultimately deciding to once again collaborate musically. 

Ciaran Megahey
Ciaran Megahey

They began writing songs and soon had an interesting collection of dark and cryptic doom pop on their hands. Originally setting out to create a sound that would combine some of their early favorite bands Joy Division, Guided by Voices and My Bloody Valentine, they later decided to throw in some dub for good measure. They named their project Loveproof, in honor of the My Bloody Valentine classic “Loveless.” Referring to their sound as “Dreamy, Dubby Doom Pop,” the songs they wrote and recorded culminated in the production of their debut album Neon Blood, Volume One, which dropped on December 5, 2017. Ciaran sang all the vocals, while Brendan, who’s primarily a bassist, played and programmed all instruments and produced the album. The album was recorded at Brendan’s home studio in Toronto and mastered by Harris Newman (Handsome Furs, Craft Spells).

Many albums require a couple of listens for the music to grow on me, but this gorgeous album dazed my eardrums the moment I heard it. It kicks off with “The Power,” a dreamy soundscape of crystalline synths set to a hypnotic beat. Ciaran’s smoldering, breathy vocals are captivating as he asks “Couldn’t we do this over? Shouldn’t we do this over? / From your tower, feeling sour by the hour. Have you got the power?” The beautiful track really sets the tone for the album’s moody vibe. The songs deal mostly with relationships that are uncertain or fraught with danger, and the music is darkly mysterious or even sometimes menacing, but always stunning and never depressing or maudlin.

Ciaran dials up the thermostat a couple notches on the sultry “Sister Moonlight,” where he seductively sings of the spell a woman has cast over him: “Sex at dawn. Her every movement turns me on. In her arms I’ve found shadows and light.” Though a bit haunting, the instrumentals and Ciaran’s vocals are breathtaking. The fitting video features scenes from the 1961 B-movie The Devil’s Hand, a horror film about a man who falls in love with a woman who turns out to be involved in a satanic cult.

The mesmerizing “Post” delivers more shimmering synths and a bass-driven beat, and in his soothing, breathy vocals Ciaran reassures an insecure loved one of his eternal support and commitment: “And I am your signpost? With our worlds entwined. Post. Am I just in time? Post. When I make you shine. Post.” Their video for “Post” contains footage from the 1957 film Here Comes Tobor.

The Vortex” features Brendan’s enchanting Spanish-sounding guitar floating above layers of mysterious synths and a determined drum beat. Ciaran sings of a doomed relationship that seems to be based on lustful passion but filled with bitterness and anger: “Hold you close just like a keepsake. Slow to learn. Quicker to slash and burn when we dance into the vortex. Blinds on. Pile on. The lights came on. That’s when I came around. The sounds we made of hate gone twice insane. Dying on the vine.

Now is a good time to point out that Ciaran’s sublime vocals are strikingly similar to Bryan Ferry’s on several tracks. And some of those tracks even seem to channel Ferry’s sound and music style, especially the spellbinding “The Lowdown,” “Tabula Rasa” (which reminds me of “Don’t Stop the Dance,” a song I adore), “Modern Ecstacy” and album closer “Death’s Flower.”

The mysteriously moody “Clever As” has more of an electronica feel, with pulsating synths and a languid kick-drum beat. The biting lyrics speak to the damage caused by people who cleverly lie and intimidate to get what they want:  “Anyone can break your heart in two, mind you. Anyone as clever as you. Where ‘benign’ lecherous tribes prattle on ‘heaven won’t take long.’ When the crude credulous boob follows through all over the news.” That last line seems to perfectly describe the sociopath currently occupying the U.S. Presidency.

The title track “Neon Blood” is perhaps the most haunting song on the album, both musically and lyrically. The brooding, razor-sharp synths and crisp percussion create an icy aura that’s beautiful yet menacing. The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but my take on their meaning is that people in search of fame – represented by ‘Neon Blood’ – will cheat, lie and prostitute themselves to get it: “Faceless plagiarists, aimless and dangerous playboys, movies stars grovel at your feet. You’re serpentine inverted mind. My Neon Blood.” In reality, those searching for fame are actually the victims: “Howling at your wounds. But you’re the sheep and I’m the wolf.” Some pretty heavy stuff there, and a great example of Loveproof’s exceptional songwriting.

Neon Blood, Volume One is a marvelous and flawlessly produced album that provides a stunning listening experience that draws you in, enveloping your senses in a dreamy, otherworldly soundscape.

Follow Loveproof on Facebook
Stream their album on Spotify and purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

DANCING ON PLUTO – Single Review: “Feels Good”

Dancing on Pluto

It’s always a pleasure to discover a new band or artist whose music I instantly love. Dancing on Pluto is such a band. Formed just a year ago and based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, they’re an alternative rock band consisting of four long time friends Chas (lead vocals), Josh (drums), Gilbert (guitar) and Ishmael (bass). Their fun, energetic music is a blend of their favorite genres, including rock, hip hop, R&B, synth-pop, shoegaze and grunge – to name just a few of the influences I detect in their eclectic sound. They released their debut EP Abandon Ship in 2017, featuring five awesome tracks that I highly recommend my readers check out. They’ve now followed up with a terrific new single “Feels Good”  that immediately blew me away.

In an interview with the web magazine From the Depths Entertainment (which you can read here), the band explained the origin of their name, and what they want listeners to take away from their music:

“The concept, in short, is that Pluto is a planet of unexplored potential. It took until recent to even say it was a planet again. But Pluto is like our music. When you listen to our music, it is much like taking a trip to another planet. You are exploring the planet. But at the same time, you hear the song and they are jams. It makes you wanna dance, jam, tap your feet, or whatever. Thus, the name Dancing on Pluto. Our music is always changing and complicated because people, including us, are always changing and complicated.”

Dancing on Pluto3

Well, complicated is a good thing when music sounds as good as it does on “Feels Good,” which Chas announces with a shout out at the beginning of the track. After a few seconds of tapping drumsticks, a barrage of shredded guitars ensues, along with Chas’ wonderful vocals that sound as smooth as John Legend one minute, then raw and loud the next.  The tempo goes from a mellow, bass-driven groove while he croons “When you’re on your own, take time and deep breaths. And when you’re on your own…”, to a bombastic onslaught of more gritty shredded guitars with the refrain “…you’ll find out it feels good! It’s so good, right on! Get up! Go ahead, get down! Go ahead, right on!

The track seems to end at around 2:50 with the line “I’m having a revelation. Maybe we’re better off alone in the night.” But after a couple seconds, the calm is shattered when Chas lets out a yell, and a barrage of wailing guitars rains down upon us before settling back down at the end. We’re left drained but totally satisfied by this fantastic song that’s candy for the ears.

I love Dancing on Pluto and cannot wait to hear more songs from this incredibly talented young band.

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