Friday, December 20, 2019

Best Of 2019: New Music Reviews

As the year 2019 comes to a conclusion, the time to reflect on music reviews composed and compiled by your truly is once again upon us. Original work that appeared here exclusively shares space with Dave Cromwell written reviews published monthly over the past year at The Deli Mag.  For the second year running a loose chronological timeline is somewhat held to for the “DaveCromwellWrites Best Of 2019.”

The early roots of rock and roll are on full display in NYC's Screamin' Rebel Angels sophomore album “Heel Grinder.” Out via this year launched Hey-Lo Records, the full-length was released on 1/24.  Fronted by dynamic, flame haired, tattood and glamorous Laura Palmer, the spirit of Little Richard, Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline are embodied within those 13 recorded tracks.

Lead single “Oh! My Soul” in fact covers the legendary (Little) Richard Penniman, infusing it with it an additional level of barrelhouse, juke joint boogie-woogie. The accompanying video (which can be viewed here) features red-hot Laura and her equally alluring “conjurers” tapping into the spirit world via tarot cards, magic potions, ouija boards and adorable Chihuahau puppies!

Deeper tracks touch on elements of rockabilly (“Hands Off,” “Iris”), early Sun Sessions era Elvis (“I Believe”) and a blusey stroll, torch song raveup (“Something on your Mind”).

Info on their upcoming show A Night of Rockabilly, Rhythm and Blues w/ Screamin' Rebel Angels can be found here.

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Brooklyn psych rock duo GHXST released their latest digital album “Gloom” at the end of 2018.

Playing a select number of hand picked shows at that time, they culminated the new year showcasing that material at the 2019 SXSW music festival.  Lead track “Hunger” immediately establishes a dark, slow-burn foreboding that places emphasis on deep-end howling guitars. Dreamy female vocals come adorned with a level of unsettling doom that David Lynch finds so appealing.

Additional tracks like “Ocean is a Desert” and “Vaquero” continues that vibe while adding elements reminiscent of a band like The Kills. “Bad Blood II” introduces a pulsating electronic synth progression, while “Ride” digs down into a bass-tone heavy groove that A Place To Bury Strangers frequently resides. Final track “Heatwaves” incorporates bended slide-guitar along with its apprehensive vocal delivery, dark ambiance and snaking progression.

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New York City's Lower East Side of Manhattan and the borough of Queens share a unique historical place in the annals of punk rock's evolution ever since The Ramones burst on the scene in the mid 1970's.

That same gritty, blue collar toughness can be found in today's like-minded and similarly situated rockers GIFTSHOP. Their latest EPBig In Astoria” (a February 16th digital release) delivers five searing tracks of updated power-punk with pop styling that would make Joey, Johnny, DeeDee and Tommy proud.

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Equal measures of industrial rock guitar electronica, seductive vocals and fashion model glam come woven together in the music of Turbo Goth. As popularity continues to grow in both their native Philippines and adopted home of nyc, the duo of Paolo Peralta and Sarah Gaugler impressed this past March at another official SXSW showcase.

A new album titled “Master Force” is in the works, with first video single “Love Will Be All There Is” delivering impressive results. High quality close-up imagery focuses on guitar strokes that sound like synth bursts inbetween Sarah's sensual vocals and alluring visuals.

It's forward stomping progression, bass-buzzing crunch and Paolo's slo-mo hair-flying movements are tempered by Sarah's flirtatious come-hither vocals and fashionable tattood figure. Picture a less-pop (and much cooler) Ariana Grande fronting a band like Ministry as a starting point for what this band has to offer.

Catch the band live in the new year on Saturday, January 18 at The Cobra Club in Brooklyn

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Innovative Norwegian artist Mortiis has created a unique catalog of music that dates back to the early 1990's.  Emerging out of the Black Metal scene, Håvard Ellefsen developed a solo project for the longer form music he was creating, complete with a dark and mythical image to accompany it.  Those early releases would see him co-founding a genre known as “dark dungeon synth” with significant solo records released between 1993 and 1999.

Those 90's era releases make up what is known as his Era 1 material, which encompasses extended ambient musical pieces that are equal parts cinematic and beat driven. After touring this solo material throughout Europe, Russia, Australia, Mexico and South America, Mortiis performed his Era 1 material in USA and Canada for the first time in 20 years earlier this year.  Engaging in an email interview with the artist just prior to his arrival on North American shores for those shows, a number of questions presented allow for a further look into this musical universe.

The artist is now set to release “Spirit Of Rebellion,” a re-interpreted expansion and continuation of the 1994 Era I classic Ånden som Gjorde Opprør on January 24th, 2020 via Omnipresence Productions / Dead Seed Productions.

A new video for the track “A Dark Horizon” has been unleashed and can be viewed here.

Additionally, MORTIIS will be returning to North America for an Era I headline run in early 2020,supported by avant-garde black metal hybrid T.O.M.B. The 15-date strong US tour kicks off on January 24th at The Whiskey Junction in Minneapolis and finishes on February 9th at San Louis Obispo's The Graduate(NB the last date is without T.O.M.B.)

Tickets to all shows are on sale now at:

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Dreampop continues to evolve in a variety of interesting and often unexpected ways. Brooklyn's Teen Body has taken this classic staple of introspective rock and added an emo element to it all. The results are quite intoxicating on their 2019 released album “Dreamo” via NYC label Broken Circles.

As the album title combines those two descriptive genres into one single word, so does the music represented on the eight songs it contains. “Fell Off” immediately strikes a wistful mood through melancholy chords and Shannon Lee's sweet vocal delivery. “Act Yr Age” opts for a more angular progression to support its over six minutes in length and lyrically dense story on the complications of romantic interaction. “Ballad of Tomboy Jerry” continues the record's pattern of initially restrained instrumentation that ultimately builds to a crescendo combined with Ms Lee's singular voice. Another vocalist eventually emerges with bassist Xela French providing the storytelling on “The Draag,” while both singers shine in tandem on the uptempo “Validation.” The penultimate title track pulls all of these elements together via exultant guitar hooks, deep resonant bass, slow-groove drumming and those emotive tandem vocals. Access “Dreamo” via the currently popular listening services here.

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The music of Sophie Ellis Bextor has been featured here at DaveCromwellWrites for the entire ten years of it's existence. However, initial interest in her recorded works and live appearances pre-dates the creation of this site by eight years. In 2001, official website forums served as the gathering place and proving grounds for ambitious writers and excited fans alike to discuss their best-loved artists. At that time Sophie was enjoying rising popularity in her home country England as well as throughout Europe and Australia, riding a wave of back-to-back hit records, “Groovejet” and “Murder On The Dance Floor.” Appearances on the legendary long running music show Top Of The Pops (frequently shown in the USA on import channel BBC America) helped to create pockets of loyal State side overseas fans as well.

In 2019 the time came for Sophie to look back on her storied career and celebrate it with her greatest hits album “The Song Diaries.” Not content to simply cobble together a collection of the already recorded tracks that typically constitutes a “greatest hits” album, Sophie embarked on a bold journey of re-recording every song from scratch and placing them in an orchestral setting. That ambitious undertaking resulted in 15 chronological order hits spanning from the very first solo single through all six of her studio albums (this now being her seventh) along with four bonus tracks encompassing significant historical reference points and/or enhanced alternate takes.

The entire detailed track-by-track review of Sophie Ellis Bextor's “The Song Diaries” can be found here.

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There's a lot more “hot pink” than anything really “satanic” in the songwriting and provocative live show of Hot Pink Satan.  Formed by the seductive Mollie Black (a/k/a Clea Cutthroat) and sonic maestro Jeremy Creamer (a/k/a allinaline – we all have multiple names now it seems), the duo strikes a perfect blend of industrial rhythms and sexually charged attitude.

Providing the musical blueprint for their wildly magnetic live show are a number of electrifying songs off of recent full-length release “Spells.”

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Pioneering psychedelic space rockers The Telescopes touched down in Brooklyn at The Knitting Factory in 2019 and put on a one of a kind hallucinogenic show. In the midst of their “Exploding Head Tour” (named after their current album “Exploding Head Syndrome”) founder and frontman Stephen Lawrie enlisted support act The Cult Of Lip to flesh out his live band. What transpired was a wave of swelling sonic drone where the structure of fully complete songs would emerge inside of. Rounding out noteworthy DaveCromwellWrites reviews at this time were deep-dive analysis of Dinowalrus, Odonis Odonis, Public Memory, The Carvels and The Hell Yeah Babies.

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Combining elements of pop, jazz, soul and heavy rock into an appealing progressive mix sees Brooklyn's Kleptokrat expanding local alternative rock parameters. Their 2019 released sophomore EP “Momentarily, to Grace” boasts five impeccably recorded, genre-twisting tracks. Soulful horns and sweet, jazzy female lead vocals establish the mood on opening song “The Great Leap Forward.”

Over the tracks four minutes, precise, angular structures give way to floating ambient interludes that merge together with beguiling charm. “Jumping Ship” applies those light and airy vocals to a lyrically dense story of relationships coming undone, punctuated by heavy bass, sax and drums. “Kleptocito” further adds touches of latin rhythms to what becomes an over five minute instrumental tour-de-force. Final cuts “The View at Bethlehem” and “Body in the Room” bring back those engaging, honeyed vocals over alternately dreamy-to-frenzied compositions.

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Animated band movements playing along with their explosive two-minute power-pop song is a can't-miss combination, and that's just what you get with Kissed by an Animal's 2019 release “The Good Times Are Here Again.”  Guitarist/vocalist Dima Drjuchin applies the technique of Rotoscoping to live action footage while adding a steady flow of flames, hearts, flowers, skulls, birds, bunnies and more to the Peter Max style psychedelic imagery.

Self-directed and drawn over in Adobe Animate, the track is a power-pop treat with crunchy guitar, hard-edge drumming and a fluid bassline. The first hook is reached just :30 seconds in via a descending progression that goes “sometimes hard to be a friend when the good times are here again.” An even bigger hook arrives with the chorus stating “when no one see's you, no one is holding you back,” that get's turned into “there IS no holding back.”

The riff breaks lean towards the heavy and tight Dinosaur Jr variety, adding a dramatic accent breaks and a touch of pitch-bended warped guitar tones. Big dreamy background “ahhh's” lift it higher into near dream-gaze territory.

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Explosive drop-D grunge-metal guitars and thundering drums introduce the August 2019 Citris single release “Hell Is a Place on Earth.” Written and performed by Angelina Torreano (guitar/vocals) and recorded/mixed and mastered by Chris Krasnow (who also contributes drums/bass and guitar) the track is a heavy rumination on personal failings against larger global issues.

Too selfish to die, too right to be happy, too weak to be leaned on. Leave it to me to destroy everything that is good,” the singer laments The title line chorus benefits from vocal layering, adding a big-studio sheen to that hook, as well as additional lines “give me your love, then take it away.” A pivotal statement arrives a minute in when the instruments drop out for the solo vocals declaration “I don't look back in anger.”

While that progression cycles through again (with alternate lyrical content), a sophisticated angular, prog-metal break emerges around the 3rd minute and takes the track to it's conclusion. This initial release served as an introduction to the full-length album “Delusions of Glamour,” which is out now on all digital platforms.

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Brooklyn dreampop band 4Vesta released their digital EP “Light and Chemicals” in 2019, underscoring the timeless appeal and continuing influence of a style created in the early 1990's on emerging musicians nearly 30 years later. Featured opening track “Evening Star” serves as an homage to the pitch-bended, layered guitars and submerged vocals on Kevin Shields' MBV masterpiece “Loveless.”

In fact, the songs title hearkens back two decades earlier to the guitar-looped ambiance of Fripp and Eno's 1975 album of the same name. This new track moves at a deliberately melancholy pace before exploding into forceful walls of guitars and voices, synonymous with a blissful state-of-mind. More discernible male vocals appear on “Full Spectrum” approximating Neil Halstead's low-key approach with Slowdive. “Autophase” doubles-down on the warped and warbly atmosphere, striking a middle ground between Colm O'Ciosig's Loveless contribution “Touched” and some of Ringo Deathstarr's recent output. Final track “Sea Plastic” serves up a five minute meditation on churning guitar textures, ethereal vocals and distant percussion. The EP is available for streaming on Spotify.

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Releasing their brand new album “Occabot” on November 1, 2019 via Rad Cult Records, The Stargazer Lilies re-imagined their previously established heavy stoner-doom/dreamgaze sound into something new.  Paragon Cause released their latest EPLies Between Us” in 2019, combining dream pop, indie, electronic, industrial, trip hop and alternative rock with soaring, passionate vocals. Emerging out of UK's growing glam-rock revival scene, Birmingham's TREMENDOUS released single “Copycat Killer” in 2019.

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Creating their own quirky blend of noisy dual-guitar dreampop, Russian Baths shared their latest single “Wrong” in advance of their debut full-length album “Deepfake.”  A crisp, syncopated drum pattern and bassline set up momentary jolting guitars, introducing soft-spoken lyrics “what's that effect you hear? Keep it in control.”

Elongated vocals emphasize the songs title with the refrain “I – was – wrong,” as atmospheric guitar textures rise in the background, momentary exploding, at other times chiming like town square bells. A sonic ascension begins midway through this nearly 5 minute track, creating a wall of hammered guitar chords against the single word songtitle “wrong.” One more quite plateau is reached, as clean dual guitar interplay engages over a simple, basic drum beat. Deepfake was released on 11/8 and is available now everywhere.

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Based out of Austin, Texas, Blushing released their ten track debut LP this past September. Australia's Trillion put out their six song record “When I Wake” in MayEngland's The Suncharms contributed their track “Jet Plane” to an ongoing compilation series in November.  Pacific coast darkwave duo Lunar Twin have been advancing tracks in anticipation of a brand new album “Ghost Moon Ritual.”  Puerto Rican musicians Sin Tribu (aka Warren Santiago), Boston, MA's Federico Balducci, Héctor Caolo's Sueño con belugas, Tom Lugo's Stellarscope, 3 Robots Records SELENES and Meviu§ all feature in the DaveCromwellWrites Year End Best Of review.

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