Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Comprehensive Exploration of Recent Audio and Video Releases

The welcome return of respected recording artists provide the lion's share of review material for this August 2022 Cromwell Writes music extravaganza. While the endless quest for one more perfect beach day or concert in the park under a night sky beckons, new music releases provide alternate motivation for a focused listening (and viewing) experience. Accompanied videos add a visual component to the storytelling, further expanding artistic vision. One brand new to this site artist also makes the cut, completing a four-play deep-dive analysis.

As longtime friends of this site The Stargazer Lilies prepare their 5th studio album release “Cosmic Tidal Wave” on October 14 via Floravinyl Records, a video for first single “Bending The Lines” is now available for us to enjoy. Having recorded the album tracks over the last few years in a number of places (PA, TX and FLA) the promise of classic psych and gaze also incorporating elements of bossa nova, trip hop and experimental orchestral sounds fuels anticipation for the full release.

The video opens with images of the ocean behind band frontwoman Kim Field, shot through a prism in windswept reverie. Fragmentary audible tones rise up, sounding like the language of majestic sea creatures. Drums kick in via the bands latest beat-keeper Cari Gi and keyboards flash on the screen for a moment, indicating the source of this next wave of sound. As those keys mark out a descending progression, rubbery-funk bass and complimentary wah-wah guitar established a deeper rhythmic pulse underneath. As Kim begins her ethereal dreamy-gaze vocals, the imagery continues to focus on her cool-shades and red lips, combined with mesmerizing ocean views.

Studio footage is further woven in, with visual emphasis on the bass, drums and Kim's vocals – all the while this dream-funk r+b groove floats along under icy keyboard textures above. Those initial eccentric “dolphin language” sounds never really disappear, creating one more motion in a mix that deftly blends elements of romantic-soul funk with an uplifting title-line chorus. As the camera moves around the studio more, we get more lively shots of drumming, fingers stabbling keys and John taking off into the stratosphere with an abrasive guitar solo that features long-held extended notes. Played out against that funk wah-wah background strikes the perfect balance between structure and reckless abandon.

Special mention goes to the live-in-the-studio drumming, which emphasizes high-hat work both in the expected disco-funk realm (or perhaps the promised “bossa nova” groove) as well as looser application on all the drums when called for. Additional props to Kim (and John) for finding a visual clone (at least in style) to compliment Kim's established look and attitude.

Check out this wonderful song and video here:

The Stargazer Lilies now begin a tour and prepare more pre-releases before the full album drops.

Previous Features on The Stargazer Lilies can be found on this site HERE - HERE and HERE.

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The steady output from Philadelphia's Patetico Recordings assures ample opportunity for reviews here on this site. The latest is a new release “From the ashes” by Stellarscope, which features the single “All the lies.” The album title is significant, as a storm destroyed the bands studio and recording equipment as the record was being made. Fortunately a recovered hard drive survived the destruction, and with it the tracks that make up this album. The band consists of Tom Lugo on vocals and guitar, Bob Forman on drums and Rob DeFlaviis on bass. They have been making music for the better part of the last two decades.

Soft guitar strumming introduces the single “All the lies” with one clean pass through the chords, before vocals and full instrumentation kicks in. “Keep saying -we’re doing so well – Pretending - that this isn't hell” is how the initial lyrics go. Behind that are waves of powerful ambient sonics, marching beat percussion and chiming guitar chords. More space is provided on the next lyrical pass, with the drums pulling back some on the lines “All the things you swore you’d do, remain undone, now look at you - A waste, slowly fading away.”

The chorus jumps out with intensity as layered voices bring home it's overall theme “Telling lies how can you live with yourself. Your always blaming somebody else - for everything that you have done wrong.” A subtle bass-line emerges under the assiduous mix, providing additional lower tone movement going forward. This is most apparent on the lyrical segment that goes “Keep saying - that it wasn’t you – Pretending - like nobody knew.” At the 2:20 mark of this three and a half minute song a wiry electric guitar solo commences for a tasty 15 seconds or so, before returning back to the chorus.

Check out this track right here:

Where you can also peruse and obtain the full Patetico Recordings back catalog.

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Influential bands of the 90's continue to re-emerge with new material, which is welcome news to audiences who have missed them. Consider the Portland trio – No 2 – back with their third album, but first in a number of years. Fronted by Neil Gust who originally shared songwriting duties in Heatmiser (along with Elliott Smith), No 2 rose out of that bands ashes in the late 90's. Teaming up with singer/bassist Gilly Ann Hanner (Calamity Jane) and drummer Paul Pulvirenti (Eyelids), the band released two albums and were featured on noteworthy tours before moving on to other projects in the early 2000's. Reuniting in 2019, a new album “First Love” is set for a September 9 release on on Jealous Butcher Records. Advance single and video releases have garnered positive feedback and are now reviewed here, below.

Crunchy guitar chords open the song and video in classic chunky-rock manner and quickly pivot to cool overhead shots of the drums, specifically some solid tom-tom thumping. The reverse view Remo drum head becomes a visual focal point, as it blends with images of our own glorious moon in hypnotic slow rotation. “Come out tonight” starts the vocals - “put my plan in motion,” is delivered in that Dave Grohl/Foo Fighters way you hear during the softer (non-screaming) segments. “Lit up by the possibilities” it continues, while hazy images of movement along a highway are paired against those compellingly shot sepia-toned captures of the band playing.

A tale of cruising the streets – looking for adventure – release – maybe even love - “by the morning I'll be on my hands and knees.” Wiry guitar riffs snake through instrumental passages up against power chords, bass guitar and jungle drum rhythm. As the explosive chorus declares “I'm on a mission, come with me,” it pivots into a slinky spy-movie groove propelled by bass guitar, tom-tom drums and open-note guitars. That calm is soon shattered by heavier riffs and descriptive lines about going “from bar to bar.” The biggest hook emphasizes frustration rather than conquest, stating “Want to cry all the way home. Took all night and I'm still alone.”

Check out this cool song and video here:

A follow-up video for the single “Too Much Is Not Enough” was also recently released, exhibiting similar appealing qualities. Chugging guitar chords with complimentary bass kicks things off via colorful VFX imagery. With the drums looking particularly cool in x-ray exposure, a spinning mannequin head is visually woven in-between those instruments. There are subtle Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music inflections on the chorus that contains the title line, along with an extended guitar note behind it all. That note extends into an instrumental break that emphasizes heavier guitar and bass depth, forceful accents on sharp rhythmic turns – before emerging into a “hoo hoo” vocal section. Military-style snare drumming and coordinated rhythm guitar serve as the undercurrent for the final verse, before erupting into a vocal-heavy, harmonious ending chorus.

Dig into this video track here:

The band’s brand new third album was produced by Joanna Bolme (Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks) and mixed by Gary Jarman (The Cribs) and Tony Lash (Heatmiser). Recorded over 3 years in studios and basements across Portland, OR and finished in a boathouse in Connecticut, the album is available for pre-order right now.

Speaking of album producer Joanna Bolme – two features on her live appearances with Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks can be found on this site Here and Here.

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Heavy blues rock has always been a particular favorite here at this site, and nobody does it better than Austin, Texas-based The Dizzy Bangers. Though relatively new here to the DCW orbit, a number of reviews have already made their way into prior features. The band is back with a new video release for their song “Painted Bruises,” earning additional commentary and analysis on it.

As shimmering guitar chords gently introduce the track, the image of a figure rising up in a forest is awash by the rising sun. A quick cut to a bedroom shows a woman lying forward, with emphasis on pensive facial expression. Her male counterpart is then shown sleeping, before images of the band playing their instruments against red clouds and dust, approximating some Southwestern (or even Martian) landscape. As the song's slithering-snake groove advances, we see the woman shutting off her alarm clock and fumbling for prescription pills. Images of the band playing in an amber haze commence the storytelling, about how she's “all so very high,” with visual evidence of pill consumption underway.

The chorus is large, bold and bombastic, emphasizing the lyrical hook “no she'll never pay for anything she's done - yeah she'll get away with everything she's done.” As the video progresses, the couple is now awake with the female meticulously putting on makeup. Cuts of the band playing and that mysterious desert figure reappearing accelerate the storyline. Much of the verses are delivered with a soulful, higher-pitch phrasing, which contrasts effectively against the hard and heavy chorus. Visually, the female protagonist seems pleased with herself as she takes selfies, while her partner looks on with a touch of skepticism.

A clever video editing technique shows the woman responding to her male counterparts casual inquiry with an insincere smile followed quickly by eye-rolling annoyance – before reaching once again for her pills. The chorus is in full-flight at this moment, with the lyrics “no she'll never say that she's the evil one” followed by “woman's will be done.” The instrumental break that follows is a joy to experience, with it's quick rhythmic accents and gnarly guitar figures. Video images of the woman offering pills to her man shows him declining. The camera shot view pivots to a direct shot of the couple on their bed – he looking chill with acoustic guitar, and she less-together with troubled thoughts.

Cut to the forest again and now three figures are in shrouded garb, in front of that blazing sun. The images zero in on a traditional “death” figure holding an armful of those prescription bottles. As the band thunders away through this crucial instrumental section, the vibe gets worse in the couples bedroom, with an increasingly aggravated female arguing with her dude. There's a biblical feel with the three figures in the woods, where an “Adam” is attempting to rescue his “Eve” from “death's” addiction temptation. More pills and alcohol are consumed in the bedroom, juxtaposed against “biblical Eve” tempting her “Adam” with the apple of sin. It all culminates with her painting “bruises” on her face (and soul) while writing accusatory messages in lipstick on the wall – like something out of a horror film. Now the social media pictures are used for this manufactured storyline, ultimate relationship destruction and even criminal repercussions based on a false narrative. It's a chilling, cautionary tale, and only the powerful music makes it palatable.

Check out this wild video here:

Keep up to date with the band via their Social Media at Facebook and Instagram

Previous Features on The Dizzy Bangers on this site can be found Here and Here.

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