Friday, November 19, 2021

Accumulated Reflections on New Music and Memorial Tribute

The best recording artists put as much creative effort into every song they choose to include on their album. While standout tracks may appear, there is a consistent quality to each track on it. Those full-length albums deserve to be carefully listened to, from first track to last. This site makes a point to review those albums track-by-track, leaving no stone unturned. It's the deep dive and detailed analysis that sparks creative exploration and new experiences. Two full albums for a total of 19 songs receive the DaveCromwellWrites focus here. Finally, the loss of a beloved animal companion is never easy, and celebrating their influence on all those affected helps keep their spirit alive. 

Burbank, California based music label Big Stir Records provides a seemingly endless amount of wonderful new music. With their reach expanded internationally, there is a treasure trove of high-quality recording artists there, well worth checking out. The latest to find their way into the DCW sphere is the album “Earworms” by Croydon, England's Nick Frater. Scheduled for full release on November 19, a complete track-by-track review is given the CromwellWrites treatment right away.

Opening track and the album's first single “It's All Rumours” comes with an official video expanding on the cover collage image approach. The audio jumps out of the box immediately with rough-edged guitar riffs over a powerful rhythm-section progression. With visual images showing classic memories from days gone by (“get the BIG SOUNDS with Sears Instruments” and “give the new, big Sound Of Now”) fresh faced youngsters behind drum kits and winking gals with guitars at the beauty parlor double-down on 1960's-1970's nostalgia. As the vocals commence (an instantly likeable voice in that Nick Lowe/Dave Edmunds mid-range) key lyric punctuations like “hit the ground” and “run-around” are displayed in bold type over more eccentric video images.

The rhythmic vocal cadence and lyrical delivery share similar qualities with the Paul McCartney and Wings 1975 back-end hit single “Rock Show,” further adding to the songs appeal. “She sells her story to the Daily Hell” (surely a reference to British TabloidThe Daily Mail”) - “don't trust a word it's only kiss and tell” provide clever lyrical turn, with graphic emphasis in the video as well. “Did I stay? That's what they're starting to say” commences a perfectly constructed bridge. It all leads in to the falsetto sung, wonderfully hooky sing-along-chorus, appropriately centered around the songs title-line, capped at the end with a Beatles-esque “Ahh!” (or is that an homage to Freddie Mercury/Roger Meadows Taylor's combined voices in Queen). Embedded inside all of the lyrical examination is a basic romance story (of sorts) where “staying the night again” ultimately leads to “they don't know what to believe,” because – well – “it's all rumours – lying in your arms tonight.” There's even one more change section two-thirds of the way through serving up additional sonic elements (moving into 10CC piano territory) along with more curiously amusing found and reassembled imagery, with Mick Jagger showing up multiple times.

Listen and check out this wonderful song and video here:

The album's second cut “Buggin' Out” blends more Beatle-y inspiration, establishing a similar vocal cadence to the Paul McCartney penned “Wait” (from 1965's “Rubber Soul”) on the verse, along with “doo wop” background vocals on the chorus. “We could be breaking out – making out – staying out way too late” encapsulates the enthusiasm that chorus imparts. “What's with Your Heavy Heart?” chugs along with pop earnestness, propelled by some particularly whip-crack drumming. Another dip into Beatles vocal stylings (at least to this writers ear) comes on the “always rolling thunder and hiding undercover” change section. There's even a George Harrison-style slide-guitar hook fill for good measure.

Syrupy strings and bonkers synth twiddles introduces fourth cut “Lucky Strike.” Keyboards stab out the chord progression while up-in-your-ear vocals establish this lullaby tale. Soon enough the full band is engaged along with sugary background vocals to enhance the proceedings. “Making the same mistakes – over and over and over again” eventually gives way to “maybe soon we'll see happy endings on the horizon.” Impressively blistering tandem guitar soloing adds a near prog-rock tip to the whole proceedings.

The album's longest track (at 5:10) is also arguably it's best, with the heart-tugging ballad “Star-Crossed.” The smooth 70's am radio vibe is immediately apparent with it's soft “ooooh” background vocals, again bringing to mind the genius of band like 10CC or even Fleetwood Mac. Cool lounge electric piano and a powerful rhythm section of prominent bass guitar and drums provide the musical force for unfolding lyrics. “I would like – to leave in the morning. I won't ask – to know where your going.  Alll night – you keep yourself together – I won't ask again.” A song about personal relationships for sure – but listening can also furnish comfort and emotional release for anything you've ever loved. The rising background vocals behind lyrics “and I would like – to know where your heart IS – star-crossed once again” bring the title-line into focus. Piercing lead guitar riffs as bridging interludes echo both melody and sentiment with equal measure.

Questioning dogma is never a bad thing (regardless of whichever side it's coming from) and sixth track “Not Born Again” does that well. Embedded within a driving pop-rhythm is the lyrical refrain “you say that we never can play, 'cause baby you're not born again. But I pray we can make it this day, 'cause baby I'm not born again.” Much like Pete Townshend's “Won't Get Fooled Again” and his ultimate declaration “I'll get on my knees and pray - We don't get fooled again” we all eventually embrace our own “hypnosis.”  Discovering that seventh cut “Desert Ships” is based (at least partially) on legends of treasure ships buried in the California desert, a bit of research was in order. It seems there is some evidence to bear this out. The globe is a fascinating place, especially when digging deeper in it's rich, historical layered past. The the track itself is a piano driven, bright guitar-lick enhanced chugger, lyrically presented as a date stamped travelogue. “Palm Springs '75,” “Cat Walk '73,” “Fat Chance '71,” “Short Shrift '74” are all referenced, while a quick-delivery guitar solo supplies agile musical interlude.

A buzzing violin approximation and strong piano chords sustain dominant musical accompaniment on the sentimental, Paul McCartney-esque “The Unbroken.” Primary hook “cross your heart another day, holding on for us to stay – I heard you say” evoke the spirit of classic Beatles ballads, like “The Long And Winding Road.” The synth-driven “Who Says I Need A Plan At All?” elicits David Bowie's “Space Oddity” vibe, with that particular mellotron sound riding high throughout the mix. Doubling up on the ¾ waltz time to a steadier rock 6/8 allows the track to stand out from the album's previous, more pop oriented cuts. Closing entry “How to Survive Somebody” builds around that room-echo piano sound so prominent on Supertramp songs like “Goodbye Stranger.” This track moves at a slower pace – a true piano ballad – before ultimately bursting into full band and background accompaniment. Exploring the eternal subject of “knowing someone well” the title line turns the table from 'you' to 'me.'

"Earworms" by Nick Frater is out November 19 on vinyl, CD and all digital platforms.

Acquire the album via the Big Stir Records store.

Connect with Nick Frater here.

Previous Features about Big Stir Records on this site can be found Here and Here.

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EEP is an alternative rock band out of El Paso, Texas that plays a varied style of psychedelic dream pop and gazey indie music. Their latest album “Winter Skin” was released earlier this month, and features nine original, wide-ranging songs. Released on the local Hogar Records label, the tracks were produced and engineered by the band themselves, with recording and mixing done at Brainville Studios in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

Opening cut “Hanging On A Wire” makes clever use of muted ambient textures as it's sonic introductory point, before the clear, undistorted vocals begin. “You left me hangin on the rebound,” begins the pointed story of a one-sided affair. As deep level drumming kicks in, off-kilter tones share space with guitar power chords, leading into a soaring cascading vocal chorus. The dynamic flow is impressive, moving from elevated multi-layered vocals to spacious interludes with extended note guitar structures. A rhythmic shift develops under subsequent vocal passage “do you even care - why am I am I am I am I am I am I am I am I,” as forceful snare drum shots and buzzing guitars drive it all along.

Follow up track (and single release) “No Inbetween” sprinkles extra percussion on top of a decidedly rock solid drum beat and out-front bass guitar progression. The vocals commence in full shimmer mode stating how “you always compare something to everything.” A solid background sheen of voices creates an angelic halo around the singular lead vocal lines. As the essential change presents itself, a subtle downward shift can be felt on the lines “lay your judgement down for once - let it fly away from you.” Points must also be given for the cool “wah-wah” guitar solo and the coining of new word “inbetweenin'.”

Third entry (and also a single) “A Message To You” takes a clearly defined song structure and blankets it with pummeling rhythms, shearing guitars and wall-of-sound vocals. It's more than simple dreamgaze (although including the lyric “story in your gaze” is a clever touch), packing much more punch overall. While the opening chords emphasize a softer jangle, triumphant drums and buoyant bass guitar fills point the way to a coming force. This explosiveness hits in full motion, with stomping percussive beat, enveloping guitars and multi-layers of elongated vocals.  A minute in and right to the bridge, “it's so hard to explain” sparks those pleasure sensors in your brain as it should. That arousal is extended further with a Chorus that takes one single line and turns it into an uplifting celebration of hope. With the primary voices ringing that out, a chanting background vocal call-and-response approach heightens sensations further. A final beatless, ambient coda emphasizes the songs overall message of honest revelation, and that sometimes “it's ok to cry.”

One more single release, Ángeles is delivered entirely in the Spanish language, and features two guest percussionists playing the Djembe. According to the Bambara people in Mali, the name of the djembe comes from the saying "Anke djé, anke bé" which translates to "everyone gather together in peace" and defines the drum's purpose.   Fifth cut “Today I Woke Up” employs the ¾ (or is that 6/8) time signature for that alternative 1-2-3 waltz effect. The guitars are jangly, and the descending progression benefits from a dominant bass guitar pattern adding counter-melody movement. Inventive lyrical turns “the powers of my weirdness” and “crocus bulbs of irrepressible audacity” add psychedelic insights.

Stubblefield” pivots deeper into the psychedelic realm, utilizing backward playing, reverse instrumentation effects, hypnotic repeating drum pattern and bold extended guitar notes.  Additional psych-rock elements include inward-trip lyrics “if we turn around and go back to where we started, we just might understand all of the reasons why we parted - if we turn around and go back to where we parted, we just might understand all of the reasons why we started.” Sharing a similar auditory experience with The BeatlesTomorrow Never Knows,” the sequence-shifted layering of voices and periodic submergence under guitars pitches this track closer to true gazey-rock.

Stargazer” surfaces via otherworldly repeating bleeps and patterns before being joined by elastic-bending guitar textures. A full minute of this outer-space ambience flows until measured bass guitar and light-ticking percussion eventually joins in. Making lyrical references to “death,” “En plein air”(French translation: “in the open air”) and “Auvers,” the songs title (and content) appears to be referencing Vincent van Gogh's work and ultimate tragic end. A distinct tempo shift downward occurs at the songs midway point, emphasizing spacious ambience. The repeated closing mantra “life's for shooting man,” ultimately morphs into stark piano chords and a gentle floating away.

A singular driving guitar riff ushers in eighth track “Time Crunch.” As the band kicks in, forceful propulsion comes by way of hammering drums, vigorous bass and crunchy guitar chords. The verses roll out with syncopated snare-accented percussion underneath, while a larger sonic wall of gaze explodes on the lyrical “I've been watching you go” repeated passages. There's a holding-level interlude where dual harmony vocals repeat “under your nose,” leading into an extended intensity segment focusing on “I've been watching watching - I've been watching you go” once again. A final synth accompanied segment conclusively states “you've surely returned from a dream to discover- you've been dreaming your life away.”

Final entry “Slow Down” does just that, with it's measured pace and understated instrumentation. Focusing primarily on sincerely felt lyrics and vocal delivery, the album's title is revealed with the lines “Shed your anxious shaking Winter Skin - And let yourself be something new again.” A song of understanding and acceptance of the life cycle, it serves as a fitting conclusion to this truly inspired collection of songs.

Listen to every gorgeous track here:

Connect with EEP on their Social Media Here.

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On November 10, 2021 our precious baby girl cat Cherry crossed over the Rainbow Bridge to be with her twin brother, after 14 years of joyous life.  She was the most perfect chubby cat that ever lived and she will be missed and remembered forever.

Cherry came to us as a baby kitten with her brother in 2007.

She was a sweet and gentle cat who would purr up a storm at a moments notice.

Like most sibling pets, or those that arrive together, the bond of snoozing in close proximity (or actually on each other) was a very frequent activity.

Donning a holiday appropriate festive hat was certainly not out of the question.

Paws and claws out for a good solid stretch.

Helping out with the computer or around-the-house decorations was one of her specialties.

An open box is always an endless source of fascination.

Gettin' a leg up and chubby snooze-a-thon.

The endless fascination with and secure feeling of a sturdy cardboard box.

Cherry was a beauty and a wonderful companion.  We will never forget her.

Pawprints forever.

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