Back in 2020 a song from UK based gazey-psych-stoner rockers Excellent Skeleton showed up here in the DCW world and was given a deep review. That track (“Stop Waking The Sun”) now appears with six other cuts on their just released album “On Mercury Sea.” Having previously lauded their “unabashed sonic cataclysm” and “pure aural mayhem,” attention is now turned to these additional compositions.
Album opener “Moving Away” rises up slowing on distant synths and twangy guitar figures. Soft vocal chanting can be heard entering the mix as foreboding textures are soon met with full band instrumentation. As this doom-laden groove lumbers forward, male-female vocal harmonies emerge (and sometimes submerge) expounding on “sun,” “highway,” “roadway,” “sky” and “the night.” With those mysterious images to ponder, an elevated manic guitar solo steps into the center of it all. Repeating that vocal passage once more, the band stomps its way to fade-out conclusion.
Follow-up cut “Train Station” emerges out of an ornate, FX-enhanced guitar figure soon met by a quick -tempo percussive beat. Lead male vocals take the dominant storytelling role, however wisely incorporation softer female background voices for dreamier responses. It all comes together on the lines “when you shine, you shine like gold – upon the soul.” Closing out with the repeated phrase “perfect moment” elicits an almost The Cure-like feel in attitude, despite the harsher guitars.
Emerging out of finger-picked open note chords, 8 minute epic-length “Mosquito” soon morphs into a full-throttle raging stomper. Tandem sung male-female vocals serve up impassioned lyrics with precise monotone delivery. Chord change segments shift away from the frontal onslaught momentarily, before returning with psychedelic guitar solos over the main progression.
“No Escape From You” adds a romantic-gazer feel to the proceedings, while maintaining the now-expected pummeling undertow. The Kevin Shields/Belinda Butcher vocal style is in full use here, both on the lovely verse progression and resolving title line chorus. Album title track “On Mercury Sea” is a two minute, 45 second ambient dreamscape of keyboard swells and layered, strummed guitars. A spoken word segment is introduced in the final minute, reciting what might be a fever dream about life's universal mysteries.
Sixth cut “Key To The City” nimbly blends pitch-bended, gazey guitars with a heavier bass and drums rhythm section. Space is cleared out on the verses for rising-progression tandem delivered vocal renderings. There's a particularly appealing high harmony that attaches on the end of periodic voicings. At over seven minutes in length, there's ample room for extended explosive instrumental forays. As stated at the top of this review, close-out track “Stop Waking The Sun” has been fully reviewed on this site, here.
Check out this amazing album here:
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Back at the beginning of 2022 Big Stir Records tipped this site off to the talented North Carolina singer-songwriter Chris Church. The album released at that time “Darling Please” received a full DCW track-by-track review. Chris now returns with a brand new album “Radio Transient” which once again gets a no-stone-unturned analysis right here. Produced and Engineered by Chris and his wife Lori Franklin, familiar names from the previously reviewed album are back. Drums were played by Nick Bertling who also provided recording assistance as well as the overall mastering. Lindsay Murray of the band Gretchen's Wheel once again contributed lovely harmony background vocals. For his part Chris wrote (with notated additions) all the songs, sang lead and background vocals, played guitars, bass guitar, synth, keys and percussion.
The album kicks off with the noise-pollution-assault inspired space fantasy “GCRT” (which is an abbreviation for Galactic Center Radio Transient) from whence the album title comes from. Bass guitar driven in that Joe Jackson “I'm The Man” style, vocal couplets of exasperated frustration give way to more cerebral plateaus of fantasy escape “detached in the physical plane.” Yes, it's a complaint song (totally relatable) where acknowledging “incoherent emissions are free” accurately point out “yes of course it's you, it isn't me!”
Initial single “Going 'Til We Go” fuses a pretty melody chorus with lyrics on the joys of marriage and how “shopping” might possibly be the wife's second favorite thing in life (hoping her husband is still the first). The hook is gorgeous “anything you want to tell me, anything you want to sell me, I'm gonna buy.” Harmonies on those lines are perfection and capture the spirit of 70's creatives like Dan Fogelberg and other artists of that genre.
A propulsive drum pattern and oblique bass guitar progession mark out dance floor conundrum “I Don't Wanna Dance With Me.” The surprising ambient middle section (repeated once more near the end) is a welcome reprieve from an otherwise forward driving groove, lyrically fixated on a reluctant dance partner. The pace slows somewhat on the power ballad “One More Chance To Get Over You” (which is a great title and theme). The lyrics are excellent, with tender thoughts like “sold me on the plan,” and insightful ruminations “waiting game inside my dreams.” Additional over-the-target lines “it's either breaking down or breaking through,” and “when you look me in the eyes I'll be so strong” drive home how much pretending we actually do in this life.
The self-confessed Lindsey Buckingham/The Fixx/Hall+Oates inspiration is on full display with “I Think I Think I Like You.” Equally important to the overall sound on this one is the much-heralded Danelectro 12-string guitar which apparently provides the bulk of chiming twang on the entire album. The sugary background vocals are particularly sweet here, employed in an appealing elongated mode. Quirky synth sounds are sprinkled throughout the Darryl Hall/Todd Rundgren 80's inspired “Already In It.” Minor chords (or are they 7ths?) tend to punctuate section ending lines, underscoring that “blue eyed soul” of the previously mentioned Hall+Runt. The lush romantic male background vocal harmonies emphasize that point further. Extra points for rhyming “starting to fall” with “ever need a wherewithal” and “right on time” with “shift the paradigm.”
Nick Bertling's rapid-fire drumming, Chris' Danelectro chime and Lindsay Murray's honeyed background vocal sheen reinforce the lyric heavy “Over And Out.” Loosely themed on “gossip,” the repeated ending refrain “you know you could always just stop” is good advice all around. While synthesizer plays a large sonic role on breakup song “Gotta Go Gotta Ramble,” the bass-guitar and drums interplay driving everything along is even more impressive. Once again, soaring vocal harmonies on the title line chorus lift the mood above it's subject matter.
Bass and drums provide the focused underpinnings for the popular bpm-dance-beat “Far Too Late.” Synth twiddles, elevated background vocals and an extended guitar-noodle mid-to-outro section add needed weight to lyrics that “rattle 'round like bumper cars in your head.” Video game samples make their way onto album closing track “Flip” which includes the appropriately related phrase “ready player one.” Standout lyric “we all need someone that we CAN do without” (emphasis added) drives home the absurdity of things we think we “need” and can't (but in reality “can”) do without.
The album is out on CD in record stores worldwide and streaming everywhere on March 24, and is up for pre-order at www.bigstirrecords.com, the BSR Bandcamp page, and online retailers now.
A previous review on this site of Chris Church can be found here. Which then qualified for that year's annual "Best Of" here.
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A year ago this month Canadian “mod” indie rockers Star Collector received an initial DaveCromwellWrites review feature on their video single “Green Eyes” off of their 5th album “Game Day.” The band is now back with a recently released 6th full-length “Attack, Sustain, Decay . . . Repeat.” Twelve songs in all, the DCW microscope now digs down into this latest work for a track-by-track review.
Opening track and the album's first single “Feel It Comin' On” benefits from a lively video to accompany it. Bursting out of the box in full motion, power-pop guitar chords and snare-to-tom-roll-drumming thunders underneath memorable slide guitar riffs. Consistently thematic in style, video imagery colorfully displays the 4-point musical-reference meaning of the album's title. As singer/songwriter/frontman Vic lays the vocal lines, “It's all or nothing” becomes an immediate catchy bridge hook. There are elements of The Who-style full band punctuation on end-of-verse-lines “my time,” “what's mine” and “stone jive” - where, bass guitar, and power chords lock in for emphasis. On reaching the title line chorus, a smoother plateau is reached with somewhat softer vocals. Momentarily putting the slide down, lead guitarist Steve rips a killer solo, just after an amusing lyrical bridge that references “pie,” “cookie jars,” “pile” and “rile.”
Check out this super fun song and video here:
Next cut “Beat It To Death” doubles-down on that power-pop prescription, with slashing guitar chords and bass guitar/drums tandem accents. Sweet wah-wah pedal riffs add a momentary Clapton-esque feel to it all. “The Back Of Your Head” comes on initially with a quieter, unaffected vocal style paired against a single guitar only. With the band kicking in fully after a minute and a half, buzzing guitar chords and Keith Moon drum fills are the preferred modus operandi. The songtitle meaning ultimately becomes clear as a metaphor in being able to see what's coming behind you. “Halfway Home” comes wrapped in an easy cruise groove, musing on life's journey as one big circular adventure.
“Running Through The Rain” adds a rich sonic element of organ into the mix, enhancing background vocals and an emphatic chorus. Similarly, a big-time guitar riff stitching the verses together is only surpassed by the nimble-fingered guitar solo midway through. “Black And Baby Blue” builds around an acoustic guitar, soft brush drumming and intimate vocal reading. Dealing with confidence-turned-self-doubt issues, essential lyric “holds you down, without a sound, and what else can you do?” defines the mood.
“If We Can't Take A Joke” is propelled along over a buoyant bassline that runs like a snake through the entire track. Drawing it's title from a common expression, it's ultimately used as a summation for perceived unrequited efforts. “Crashin'” brings back that classic cowbell-on-percussion groove and crunchy chords/bass guitar tandem. Rhyming the title word with “fashion,” “passion,” “smashin'” and “trashin'” seems like the most sensible thing to do.
“Cross My Heart” is a gentle finger-picked acoustic guitar driven number engaging in clever wordplay about a serious matter. Namechecking two popular “Tonight's The Night” songs ( one referencing first love, the other devastating addiction) ending in eventual loss. “Broken Butterflies” rides a groovy secret-agent-man bassline under verses sung with deep-voice aplomb. Crunchy guitars return on a chorus that serves as something of a pep talk on the harsh realities of life.
“Nineteen Dream” comes on with an easy, gradual groove, saving the full-band bombast for emphasis on the weightier passages. Reflecting back on a life where “the years just fly away” but noting “still got some things to say.” Final cut “Don't Have To Fold” closes out the album with defiant conviction wrapped in a hard-charging rocker. Musing on the passage of time, it's title references a cardplayers “hand” in this game of life.
Dig into this whole album here, along with how to acquire it and the bands entire catalog:
Connect with Star Collector via their Social Media here: Facebook - Instagram
A previous feature of Star Collector on this site can be found here.
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The frequently reviewed here vocalist Bryce Boudreau of the band Lunar Twin has collaborated with Italian recording artists Dead Miranda on a track off their latest album “Anima.” That records final track “The Valley Below” pairs Mr. Boudreau's voice with producing and recording artists Humbert Allison ( Vocals , Guitars , Bass and Synth) and Luigi Limongelli ( Programming and Effects , Drums). The results are an intriguing musical alliance that now receives a detailed review below.
A rising siren-like synth wave are the first audible tones before a deep-jungle percussive pattern commences. The mood is instantly dark and mysterious as the snap, crackle and popping beat slithers forward. Various textures make their way into the mix, like extended-note guitars and a variety of effects. Bryce begins his vocals in a hushed whisper, offering: “On the outside, in the night time ever wild in desert below.” The rhythmic pulse picks up with intensity, and repeated lyric “blood red moon” is separated by a strong guitar notation. A distant bubbling pulse commences underneath the more dominant bass+drums progression, adding one more ear-engaging level of sonic depth. The guitar figures become more frequent and intense, powering over top of the rhythms as vocal lines “Fly away/ I’m gonna fly away” and ultimately song title reference “In the valley below” bring the track to conclusion.
Listen to this killer track and find out how to acquire the entire album here:
Previous reviews of Bryce with his band Lunar Twin on this site can be found Here, Here, Here, Here and Here.
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