Album Review: The Luxury – Bones & Beaten Heart

The Luxury – Bones & Beaten Heart

The Luxury

photo by Derek Kouyoumjian; photo courtesy of The Luxury

The Backstory

I first discovered The Luxury‘s music about a year and a half ago when a music industry friend of mine was promoting a show for a different band on Facebook; The Luxury was one of the other acts on the bill, but it’s the band whose music I liked best.  I was able to see The Luxury perform a few songs live when they performed at Church in Boston last summer.

The Luxury

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Album Review of The Luxury: Bones & Beaten Heart

The Luxury - Bones & Beaten Heart

image courtesy of The Luxury

The Luxury has a unique, identifiable sound; that’s usually a prerequisite for becoming one of my favorite bands/artists, one that I’ll go out of my way to share with friends, acquaintances, and anyone who will listen.

A confounding mix of almost-out-of-tune, memorable melodies, the occasional oddly distorted wall-of-sound overlay, and catchy songwriting underpin The Luxury’s trademark style. The result is a gloriously demented modern twist on Oasis-meets-The Killers-inspired pop-rock.

The Luxury

photo by Matt Hajdys; photo courtesy of The Luxury

I saw The Luxury in a small club, but its sound is large enough to fill a big theater and would lend itself to U2-esque arena presentation, if the band’s following was large enough and its budget was so inclined. Bones & Beaten Heart, which is meant to be listened to in its entirely, as the songs flow from one to the next, is a journey through this style; it’s as if a mid-tempo melodic rock band’s music has been filtered through a sonic funhouse mirror. And it’s so cool!

Some songs do stand out. The first Luxury song I ever heard, which falls late in the album, was “All I Ever Do Is Win.” It’s filled with lyrical gems like “I never meant to be so misunderstood/You just, you need an enemy to feel this good.” The big distorted guitar sound and “la la” vocals in the chorus are also inspired touches. Here’s a link to “All I Ever Do Is Win” – listen for yourself.

The Luxury

photo by; photo courtesy of The Luxury

“In Lieu of Goodbye” is another memorable track. It combines melody, a little techno-inspired keyboard, big harmonies, and thumping rhythm so effectively that it’ll have you singing to yourself “I’m so sorry that I’m not sorry enough” for hours afterwards.

It’s followed by “Ring Around the Ghost,” which has the sort of haunting aura you’d expect from its title, while its verses open with a tunefulness almost catchier than the choruses… OK, catchy in a different way.

“Losing My Time On You” starts with a heavy Beatles influence and overruns it with the occasional vocal wall-of-sound and sixties guitar riff.

The Luxury

photo by Matt Hajdys; photo courtesy of The Luxury

Soaring psychedelic rocker “Sleep Through Summer” is another track with breakout potential. The same is true of sweet, rhythmic pop-rocker “Why Don’t You Cry Anymore (Like You Used To),” which may be what Barenaked Ladies would sound like if they were moderately miffed.

The disc closes with “Nobody With You,” a Beatles-on-psychedelics ditty that’ll leave listeners swaying side-to-side uneasily, though it’s not quite mellow enough to warrant raising lighters in the air.

Overall, Bones & Beaten Heart is a crank-it-up, melodic, distorted, catchy, off-kilter mainstream rock journey. It possesses a unique, identifiable sound that positions The Luxury as top dogs in an otherwise largely unfilled niche in today’s musical landscape. So hop in the car, hit the road, roll down the windows, and blast Bones & Beaten Heart on 11.

Geoff’s Night Out: Danielle Miraglia and Tim Gearan at Atwood’s Tavern

Danielle Miraglia and the Glory Junkies/Tim Gearan Band

Atwood’s Tavern, Cambridge, MA

February 26, 2016

Tim Gearan Band w Danielle Miraglia

Danielle Miraglia with the Tim Gearan Band; photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Backstory

If you haven’t been reading the blog from the beginning, you may have missed it, but I reviewed Danielle Miraglia’s Glory Junkies album as installment #7 of my 9-part “Road Back to Music Journalism” series.

Friday nights are Tim Gearan’s night at Atwood’s Tavern. Each week, he brings in another great band to open for him. Because I hadn’t been out to see Danielle perform live since starting the blog, I had been looking for an opportunity, and this night came with a chance to catch Tim, as well, so it seemed like a perfect choice.

Danielle Miraglia & the Glory Junkies

Danielle Miraglia and the Glory Junkies

Danielle Miraglia & the Glory Junkies; photo by Geoff Wilbur

My level of appreciation for Danielle Miraglia’s talent is already well-documented. She can perform solo as an acoustic, almost folky blues singer, and she can perform a raucous, full-on rockin’ blues set with her band, the Glory Junkies. Tonight, of course, was a Glory Junkies night.

The band opened with “See the Light,” a stompin’ blues rock tune from the Box of Troubles CD that featured a nice fiddle solo and showed that Danielle’s tuneful blues growl was in full form tonight; the energy carried well into “Fair Warning.”

Next was “Famous for Nothing,” challenging the rhythm section, who adeptly kept the song under control as the vocals and guitar danced around the melody a bit.

Danielle Miraglia

Danielle Miraglia; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Through the rest of the set, Danielle did her usual amazing job on a Joplin cover, played a fun song off the Glory Junkies disc, grabbed the acoustic guitar for a new song – I didn’t ask for the title, but I’d assume it’s “Don’t Pray For Me” – that’s a real foot-stompin’ blues number with a smirk and a lotta howlin’ soul, and then added a Prince number.

The band closed its set with what’s a bit of a Danielle Miraglia standard, as well it should be, her powerful, force-of-nature rendition of Tom Waits’ “2:19.”

A deafening call for an encore was greeted with one last song, “Pick Up the Gun,” with a little spacy intro, great guitar-picking, vocal power, and significant use of a freaky fiddle sound I had never heard anywhere before this evening. This song, by the way, via a YouTube video of a live, outdoor performance, was one of the first songs I listened to when I was initially checking out Danielle’s music.

Tim Gearan Band

Tim Gearan Band

Tim Gearan Band; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Tonight was my introduction to Tim Gearan in a live setting, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, though I had an idea. He and his band are a powerhouse of full-steam-ahead, rollicking blues and blues-rock.

Tim opened his set by asking Danielle Miraglia to join him on vocals for the first two songs, which quickly got the house rocking.

After a couple more straight-ahead rockin’ blues numbers, Tim advanced to some funky blues.  By this point one thing was clear. Well, two things. First, this band could handle just about any variation of the blues with aplomb. Second, there’s so much texture in Tim’s voice, sometimes seeming to have a Southern-sounding bluesy edge to it, that it always contains lots of emotional power.

Or so I thought. The band’s rendition of Tom Waits’ “Clap Hands” combined spacy and psychedelic music with understated vocals. Proving Tim can deliver emotion without the power, when called for. And when the band next turned it down for a slow swayer, there was a hint of Randy Newman in Tim’s vocals.

I’m glad I got a chance to catch the Tim Gearan Band live. The evening ran late, so I couldn’t stay until the end, but I did stay a bit longer than I had planned because I couldn’t tear myself away. Indeed, I don’t get out to catch live music as often as I’d like, but this double-bill was clearly one worth leaving this house for. ‘Cause “my house don’t rock” the way a Danielle Miraglia/Tim Gearan show does.


Album Review: Gary Lucas & Jann Klose – Stereopticon

Jann Klose and Gary Lucas

photo by Julia Crowe; photo courtesy of Anne Leighton Media

Gary Lucas & Jann Klose – Stereopticon

The Backstory

The culmination of three years of collaboration between Gary Lucas and Jann Klose, Stereopticon hit the streets on January 8, 2016.

You’ll be forgiven if you’re not as aware of these fine musicians as you wish you were.

Guitarist Lucas is well known for his work with Captain Beefheart and Jeff Buckley. Throughout his career, though, he has released 25-plus solo albums; Stereopticon was the first of three discs scheduled for early 2016 release. Lucas currently plies his rock guitar hero trade across several active musical products crossing various genres.

Singer-songwriter Klose is a critically-acclaimed, award-winning musician, as well. Recently, he was featured as the singing voice of Tim Buckley in the 2012 film Greetings From Tim Buckley. And his most recent solo album, Mosaic, which I reviewed here a few weeks ago, won three 2014 Independent Music Awards.

Album Review of Gary Lucas & Jann Klose: Stereopticon

Gary Lucas & Jann Klose - Stereopticon

image courtesy of Anne Leighton Media

If you’re a fan of mid-range, strumming guitar pop/rock, you’ve found the gem you’ve been looking for. Acoustic guitar rock with no more than a hint of folk, perhaps only because of the acoustic guitar, which occasionally mellows out the overriding soft-to-medium rock singer-songwriter vibe. I’m familiar with Jann’s work through the years, and he lives and thrives in this sweet spot, adding other influences for spice. Stereopticon delivers on the promise of this musical style, producing several strumming-guitar-rock potential-hits.

The album opens like an old friend, snapping its fingers and sidling in with a warm strum and crystal clear vocals on “Fair Weather.” “Secret Wings” follows, similar in style but with a hint more energy and an engaging, uneasy musical tension in its intro that’s repeated in a couple others spots within the song.

One of the more energetic songs on the disc is “Well of Loneliness,” offsetting some abrupt acoustic guitar riffs with smooth crooning and a sax bridge to create a catchy package.

“Take Your Medicine” follows with a catchy opening guitar riff that flows into a gritty strained vocals, showing again why Gary and Jann are such an exceptional pairing.

A couple songs later, “Jewel Julia” is an engaging, powerful number that feels like perhaps a slightly louder companion to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” employing the same energy arc and emphatic drinking-song style.

Toward the end of the disc is “Mary Magdalene,” a tune that climaxes with some of the roughest energy on the disc. This track has garnered some interest within the music industry; it’s clear why, as it has a unique, striking energy.

In the end, Stereopticon is a collection of catchy soft-to-mid-tempo acoustic guitar rock songs that will be a long-valued member of any rock fan’s album collection, offering a well-constructed progression of music that will spawn a different few favorites for each listener; it’s a disc without weak spots, allowing for a satisfying listen from beginning to end.

What’s Next?

You can find upcoming gigs for Gary Lucas on his website, and for Jann Klose on his. Per their posted concert schedules, during the coming month, Gary has events in Silver Springs, MD on March 5th and in Brooklyn on March 18th. The only gig Jann currently has booked in March is in Vernon, NJ on March 18th.

Album Review: Forever Still – Tied Down

Forever Still – Tied Down

Forever Still

photo courtesy of Forever Still

The Backstory

I almost included Forever Still as part of the nine-part “Road Back to Music Journalism” series with which I launched this blog. This was the first band I discovered via Twitter. Forever Still followed me in January 2015, so I followed them back. When a band follows me, I usually follow them back, hoping I’ll find time to check out the music during my otherwise-busy schedule. (Occasionally I do find time; more often I don’t.) Forever Still followed up via a direct message with a link to the band’s music. I gave it a listen and was blown away. As I’ve followed the band since then, my appreciation for the band’s immense talent as singers, songwriters, and musicians has grown; with the release of Tied Down, I’m pleased to finally have an opportunity to write about Forever Still.

Danish heavy metal band Forever Still (Maja Shining, Mikkel Haastrup, and Dennis Post) burst upon the scene with its 2013 3-song EP Breaking FreeTied Down is the band’s first full-length album. The 10 tracks on Tied Down consist of two previously-released 3-song EPs (Scars and Save Me), an additional previously-released song (“Your Light”), and three new tracks. 14 months after Scars dropped, the band’s hard work culminated in the January 15, 2016 release of Tied Down.

Forever Still

photo by Lars Winther Schmidt; photo courtesy of Forever Still

Album Review of Forever Still: Tied Down

Forever Still’s Tied Down is a tuneful full-on metal assault. I can hear the comparison to Evanescence and other progressive gothic metal bands whose loud, aggressive musicianship combines with soaring vocals, but Forever Still has even more heavy metal street cred. For example, Maja’s screams and growls, used sparingly but extremely effectively, confirm her metal pedigree.

The album opens with one of its angriest-sounding songs, “Scars,” featuring pulsing heavy guitar rhythms, dissonance, and metal screams mixed with soaring vocals. The initial trio of songs also includes the catchy, soaring metal number that first captured my attention, “Miss Madness,” a song with obvious cross-genre potential. But sandwiched between them is “Once Upon a Nightmare,” a dark lyrical masterpiece that slowly became a favorite. The music is relentlessly powerful, and the vocals convey a painful story that’s easily understood even before you give the lyrics a good listen – the “whispering worms” line is particularly inspired.

Forever Still - Tied Down

image courtesy of Forever Still

“Awake the Fire” follows “Miss Madness” with a fast, rhythmic, headbanging pace – the first half of Tied Down doesn’t let the listener catch his breath for long. “Breathe In” follows with a similar pace (and some of Maja’s well-placed growls).

“Save Me” is a Forever Still ballad. In other words, it’s a slow, soaring metal number, but the well-crafted lyrics aren’t exactly sweet. Like the band’s faster songs, there’s a blend of strength and pain that resonates as lyrical honesty. And power. “Your Light” is a little more mid-paced but still with the same symphonic power-metal feel.

This brings us to the three songs I hadn’t heard before receiving the full-length album in January. The first of those is “Alone,” stylistically similar to “Save Me” but with a slightly faster tempo and perhaps a bit more defiance. “Break the Glass” and “Tied Down” are good companions to “Alone,” with “Tied Down” perhaps featuring a heavier rhythm and more frequently utilizing stretched-out, soaring vocals.

In all, Tied Down is a heavy rock masterpiece, a truth that won’t surprise Forever Still’s growing legion of fans. With its latest collection of songs, this cadre of Danish headbangers has shown the talent to stand side-by-side with the best metal bands across several sub-genres. If you haven’t already, check out Forever Still’s raw, crisp power. Just wow.

Geoff’s Night Out: Fifth Season Quartet at Social Restaurant and Bar

Fifth Season Quartet

Social Restaurant and Bar, Newton, MA

February 14, 2016

Fifth Season at Social Restaurant & Bar

photo by Geoff Wilbur

I didn’t take any notes at the club last night; I didn’t even take my camera with me (so all I have is a grainy image from my phone). It was, after all, Valentine’s Day, so I wasn’t out with the intention of writing about the show. But I would like to write a quick review of this terrific evening of music.

The event was a combination Valentine’s Day/Trifon Zarezan celebration hosted by the Bulgarian Center of New England. The jazz for the event was provided courtesy of the Fifth Season Quartet – Elena Koleva (vocals), Plamen Karadonev (piano, accordion), Greg Loughman (bass), and Austin MacMahon (drums).

Though I couldn’t tell you any of the songs performed in the first set, the music was smooth, varied, and engaging, the performance seemingly effortless yet impeccable. I never cease to be impressed with Elena’s vocals, and I also always take notice in appreciation (and perhaps this is just me) when Plamen simultaneously plays the accordion and the keys.

In addition to a couple of young, very special guest performers during each set, the group performed a few jazzed-up pop vocal numbers during the second set. I recognized songs from Billy Joel, Norah Jones. Fifth Season also added some Bulgarian jazz to the mix. In all, an enjoyable evening thanks to an exceptionally talented jazz quartet.

Album Review: Blurred Vision – Organized Insanity

Blurred Vision – Organized Insanity

Blurred Vision

photo courtesy of Judy Totton Publicity

The Backstory

I first heard Blurred Vision at a London showcase in October, which I wrote about here as part of my “Five Nights in London” series of live reviews. Since then, I’ve been enjoying the band’s CD, Organized Insanity, so much that I feel compelled to write a review of the album, too…

CD Review of Blurred Vision: Organized Insanity

Blurred Vision - Organized Insanity

album cover designed by Hugh Syme; JPG image courtesy of Judy Totton Publicity

Organized Insanity is an album of brand new, shiny, ’70s-and-early-’80s-style classic rock. You’ll most often hear the comparisons to Pink Floyd, and rightfully so. The band first achieved public recognition with its version of a Pink Floyd classic, with Blurred Vision’s variation entitled “Another Brick in the Wall (Hey Ayatollah, Leave Those Kids Alone!).” So the Pink Floyd influence runs deep. But if you listen closely, you hear an entire generation of rock influence in the band’s music to varying degrees. There’s some Electric Light Orchestra, Moody Blues, The Who, a hint of Boston, a little Beatles, perhaps a hint of The Police, and maybe even some Rush in there.

If you’re searching for deep Pink Floyd influence, look no farther than songs number two and four, “Rollin’ On” and “Long May You Run,” which both share a sonic kinship with “Comfortably Numb.”

Blurred Vision's Sepp Osley

photo © Judy Totton; photo courtesy of Judy Totton Publicity

By contrast, the meandering tunefulness of “Dear John” reminded me of a subtly catchy Beatles-esque tune. This was before I realized the “John” in the song was John Lennon. How appropriate.

“All I Wanted” seems to weave elements of ELO and Moody Blues into a straightforward rock tune.

From beginning to end, in fact, the album is a tremendous, brand new, shiny classic rock album. The two songs that stand out to me most, however, bookend the disc.

Album-opener “No More War,” in addition to its stylish, rhythmic opening, employs a particularly attention-grabbing bridge and artful use of Martin Luther King speech clips. In the end, you’ll catch yourself walking down the street later singing to yourself “no more war no more war no-more war no more war no more war…” (Stylistically, this reminds me a bit of Living Colour’s use of quotes from Malcolm X, JFK, and FDR in “Cult of Personality” – not bad company at all.)

Closing track “Organized Insanity,” meanwhile, combines a catchy, laid-back, pleasant chorus with sonically dissonant, Pink Floyd-reminiscent, protest-style verses. The song is well-placed, as fitting way to end the disc.

Blurred Vision

photo by Geoff Wilbur

About the Band

Canadian power trio Blurred Vision features Iranian-born brothers Sepp and Sohl Osley on guitar and bass and Ben Riley on drums. The brothers gained attention with a viral YouTube hit and a video produced by Babak Payami for “Another Brick in the Wall (Hey Ayatollah, Leave Those Kids Alone!).” Later, as a band, Blurred Vision recorded Organized Insanity with producer Terry Brown (who you may know best for his work with Rush, but his discography is a bit of a who’s who of great bands), who introduced the brothers to their drummer in order to fill out the trio.

The band is currently assembling its 2016 tour schedule, with the only date confirmed on the website so far its appearance at the Ramblin’ Man Fair in Kent, UK, on July 23rd. Check the band’s website for updates.