Single Review: Natalie Joly – “Yours to Stay”

Natalie Joly

photo courtesy of Nina Pickell, LLC

Single Review of Natalie Joly: “Yours to Stay”

Last month, I reviewed “Will You Ever Stop,” the second single from Natalie Joly‘s unnamed upcoming album. In this review, I’m introducing you to her new, third single, “Yours to Stay,” which drops today.

Natalie Joly - Yours to Stay

image courtesy of Nina Pickell, LLC

“Yours to Stay” proves Natalie can deliver an emotional, memorable ballad. The first couple of notes on the piano actually recall several piano-driven eighties hard rock power ballads, though Natalie stylistically remains much closer to her mid-level pop-friendly rock ‘n roll musical center. Natalie’s big, long, powerful notes, where she’s able to add length and power without sacrificing tone, are the closest thing this song has to a hook, though I also really dig the classic rock guitar runs, the key to any power ballad. Power builds throughout the course of the song, increasing the emotional currency slowly but steadily throughout the entirety of “Yours to Stay.” A very solid effort that’s enjoyable on the first listen but increases its hold on you with each subsequent play.

Looking Ahead

Check the “Events” tab of Natalie’s Facebook page to find upcoming live performances. (Currently, none are listed.)

Album Review: Robin Trower, Maxi Priest & Livingstone Brown – United State of Mind

Robin Trower, Maxi Priest & Livingstone Brown – United State of Mind

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

Album Review of Robin Trower, Maxi Priest & Livingstone Brown: United State of Mind (Manhaton Records)

What do you get when you combine classic rock guitar legend Robin Trower, reggae/R&B icon Maxi Priest, and esteemed musician/producer/mix engineer Livingstone Brown? These big-name groupings don’t always work, but in this case, the trio seems to have completely bought into their creative work together, and you get a truly always-on-point recording with broad-based appeal that’s a very cool, easy, enjoyable listen from beginning to end, quite possibly a must-have for your music collection, regardless of which of the three musicians your tastes are usually most closely aligned with.

Trower, Priest, and Brown kick things off with the title track, a funky, smooth, mid-tempo R&B number that flashes what would be a little danceable (if faster) beat that adds character and some guitar parts that draw your attention by slicing right through the rest of the music bed. “United State of Mind” is a great introduction to the style of music these have created. It’s a catchy, laid-back groove worth listening to with your eyes closed, one of my many favorite songs on this album.

Another favorite, the very next song, “Are We Just People,” slows things down but adds some urgency and a massively engaging, rhythmic, sexy musical hook.

“Hands to the Sky” has a big, open, cheerful, sunny-day vibe. The vocals, the phrasing, the upbeat rhythm, and the placement of the horns are all calming and smile-inducing.

“Good Day” showcases the sort of very cool, slow-rockin’ blues guitar-playing you’d hope and expect someone like Trower to bring to this project. It’s just one of several spots on this record that Trower’s guitarwork emphasizes the blues aspect of rhythm and blues.

“On Fire Like Zsa Zsa” is the kind of uptempo, kind-of-danceable number you might hear in the background of a film, perhaps during a montage while the protagonist is strutting through town getting things done or, really, during any montage segment that moves the story along quickly.

Next, the heartfelt, soulful, slow “Bring It All Back to You” is a powerful ballad. “Walking Wounded” follows, just as slow and powerful, but with a much darker tone, captured perfectly by the phrasing and emotion in Priest’s vocals. “Sunrise Revolution” carries the slower tempo through to a third straight song, but this with a hopeful message (“Maybe the time has come, where we should stand as one”), though its a message predicated on the less-than-stellar reality as a starting point. And “Where Our Love Came From” keeps the tone mellow, closing out the disc with plaintive guitar wails, pleading vocals, and a nice, calm fade-out.

Though Robin Trower, Maxi Priest, and Livingstone Brown may be a somewhat unexpected grouping of musicians, the result is a welcome addition to the pantheon of rock/blues/R&B music. It features strong songwriting, too many musical and vocal standout moments to count, and a cohesive-but-varied collection of songs. This is a smooth, relaxed R&B album with good, old-fashioned, big, rich, lush production, but still very song and artist-focused, able to appeal to a broad musical audience. So put the headphones on, sit back, relax, and let your ears enjoy.

Looking Ahead

You can find live performance listings for Robin Trower on the “Events” tab of his Facebook page or on the “Tours” page of his website. Robin currently has September and October U.S. tour dates listed, followed by an October date in Belgium and November gigs in the UK. Likewise, you can find upcoming show dates for Maxi Priest on the “Events” tab of his Facebook page. Currently, Maxi’s only listed upcoming show is a June 5th performance at the Bath Reggae Festival.

Album Review: Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt – Shadow of the Cyclone

Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt

photo courtesy of Aaron Nathans

World Premiere of Nathans & Ronstadt’s New Music Video: “Strongman”

Before I dive into the review, Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog is pleased to have the honor of presenting the official premiere of the very-cool video for “Strongman.” It’s the newest video from Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt, featuring the song “Strongman” from their Shadow of the Cyclone album.

Album Review of Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt: Shadow of the Cyclone

You’ve read about Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt on these pages before. I was first introduced to this Philadelphia-Cincinnati duo just two years ago at a house concert in Massachusetts. With Nathans on guitar and Ronstadt on cello, these songwriter-storytellers are able to pave a surprisingly broad path through their part of the music world. On their website, they refer to themselves as “progressive folk,” and I’d be unable to improve upon that in two words or fewer, so I won’t try. From slow to uptempo, from cheerful to ominous to downright silly, their performances and songwriting are varied enough that you’ll find the time passing quickly, wondering where the next curve leads, whether you’re catching them live or enjoying their new album, Shadow of the Cyclone.

Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt - Shadow of the Cyclone

image courtesy of Aaron Nathans

“Ghost Writer” kicks off the album with a sound reminiscent of the early ’70s, broad, open-sounding, big-festival folk music you used to hear on FM radio back when I was little kid. Almost-country folk, the storytellin’ kind. Indeed, a lot of the songs on Shadow of the Cyclone are “the storytellin’ kind.” It’s a lane Nathans & Ronstadt fill well, and for their skill at that alone, this would be a noteworthy disc. But they’re more versatile than that.

Nathans & Ronstadt throw a little silliness and a tad more energy our way on the fun, clever “Haunted House.” You know, I think the song’s concept could be the premise for a TV show. Someone get Netflix on the line!

“Strongman” is a bit dark and deep, at least initially, interspersed with lively music with a bit of a circus freakshow (or Coney Island, as referenced in the song) element, packaged into a neatly enjoyable bundle.

Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt

photo courtesy of Aaron Nathans

There are many songs on Shadow of the Cyclone that couldn’t be performed without a cello. Notably, the opening to “My Only Leap,” which adds an ominous flavor that would be tough for more traditional duos – those without deep-sounding, bowed instruments that aren’t tucked under the chin, for example – to replicate.

Nathans & Ronstadt plumb the depths a little deeper on “I Go Low,” a deep-vocalled, thought-provoking barroom-swaying declaration of a song that’s a fun ride that really does… well, go low.

The sole cover on Shadow of the Cyclone is a booming rendition of Sting’s “Englishman in New York.” The duo played this when I saw them perform live, and I’m really glad they included it in this collection.

“Phantasmagoria” is an instrumental that explores Nathans’ & Ronstadt’s influences, ranging cohesively (somehow) from hillbilly to chamber music. “Just One Minute” contrasts its pleasantly moving-along rhythm with a lot of tension, which is introduced by tempo changes and instrumentation. “Come On Sun” blends elements of folk-country, mid-tempo Americana, and classic rock (notably, in the occasional distortion); a cool blend.

That’s not everything on the album, but I think you get the picture – really cool, varied stuff with originality you’ll continue to appreciate after eight dozen listens.

Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt

photo courtesy of Aaron Nathans

Shadow of the Cyclone ends with “Carry a Tune,” an odd, side-to-side, toe-tapping swayer with well-placed harmonies and big, sweeping orchestration at times that suggests a panoramic view displayed on a motion picture screen. Covering a broad range, the song ends abruptly. Album over.

Coupling well-structured, thoughtful, traditional songwriting with crisp musicianship and booming vocals, then adding this duo’s instruments of choice, Nathans & Ronstadt have a sound that’s familiar but unique and difficult to replicate. That’s their calling card, and it’s the reason you should check out their music. Even if it’s not your go-to genre – it certainly isn’t mine – there’s a very good chance you’ll really dig this exceptionally talented duo’s music.

Aaron Nathans & Michael G. Ronstadt

photo courtesy of Aaron Nathans

Looking Ahead

You’ll find the duo’s live dates on the “Gigs” page of their website. There actually are a couple shows on the calendar at the moment. Don’t get too excited – the venues are doing online shows. But do get excited because they’ll be Nathans & Ronstadt shows. First is a Sunroom House Concert (Dover, DE) performance on March 13th; then a Linden Tree Coffeehouse (Wakefield, MA) gig on April 10th.

You can see each of them individually at performances listed on their individual websites. Per the “Gigs” page of Aaron’s website, he doesn’t have any solo performances scheduled. The “Shows” page of Michael’s website does list three Ronstadt Brothers gigs in mid-April.

Be sure to follow the duo’s and the individual artists’ websites for additional information and upcoming performances as they’re added.

Album Review: Dan Lawson Band – Abyssal Plain

Dan Lawson Band – Abyssal Plain

image courtesy of Dan Lawson

Album Review of Dan Lawson Band: Abyssal Plain

New England blues/blues rock group Dan Lawson Band kicks off its six-song CD with an old-school blues rhythm, groovy, shredding axework, and a seedy blues joint-worthy, half-spoken/half-sung, gravelly vocal growl on “Borderline.”

“Don’t Tell Me That You Love Me” is a classic blues jam, sporting only-in-blues lyrics like those from which the song title is drawn, “Don’t tell me that you love me, don’t be hanging ’round my back door.”

“Hell On Wheels” is that George Thorogood-styled, straight-ahead, attitude-filled blues rocker you’d expect from a good rockin’ blues group of the Dan Lawson Band’s caliber.

“Minor Issue” returns to slower, classic, poorly-lit club-style blues, much like “Don’t Tell Me…” earlier, serving up another tune built upon a classic blues rhythm, with wailing guitar supporting the emotional pleas of the vocals.

“Maryia” is the most classic rock-flavored song in this collection, with a ’70s or ’80s rock vibe. Striaght-ahead rock, “Maryia” brings to mind bands like the J. Giels Band, The Romantics, and the Michael Stanley Band. This tune would fall somewhere within the rock zone triangulated by that trio of rock mainstays.

“Turtle Soup” closes the six-song grouping with a frantic energy, sort of a rockabilly instrumental in blues-rock form. It’s as if the Dan Lawson Band is playing the patrons to the door, and indeed they are. The blues/rock club Abyssal Plain is closing for the night.

Throughout the disc, gritty, bluesy axework abounds, with all the energy of a top-shelf blues band at your favorite hole-in-the-wall dive bar packaged in album form. Thoroughly enjoyable beginning-to-end, I dig this disc.

Bonus

The band included its performance of “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'” in the review package I received. Available as a single, and dating back to 2014, I’ve gotta believe this groovy blues number is a favorite at the band’s holiday season gigs.

Looking Ahead

You can find where the Dan Lawson Band will be performing live via the “Calendar” page of the band’s website. There are currently 8 dates listed, in New Hampshire and Maine, from May through October, starting with a May 15th gig at the Kingston VFW in Kingston, NH. Check the website for details on currently scheduled shows and new performances as they’re added.

Single Review: Eliza & the Delusionals – Sentimental

Eliza & the Delusionals

photo by Luke Henery; photo courtesy of Reybee, Inc.

Single Review of Eliza & the Delusionals: “Sentimental”

Looking for a light, enjoyable good time? “Sentimental” is a catchy, jangly, upbeat pop song that has more than a bit of character. You might recognize Eliza & the Delusionals from their energetic, catchy 2019 breakout song “Just Exist,” which has almost 300,000 views on YouTube. Well, if that given you high expectations for this band, don’t worry. You won’t be disappointed by “Sentimental.”

Eliza & the Delusionals - Sentimental

image courtesy of Reybee, Inc.

The song starts slowly and airy, but it grows quickly into a guitar-based pop song with a steady, progressive beat and rich wall of sound almost entirely throughout, with minor breaks in the beat only at the exact moments necessary, in addition to a distorted dancing guitar line, particularly late in the song, to give the song texture. If it hadn’t been released in the fall, I would suggest it’s an ideal song for the summer. No matter; just keep it in your playlist until next summer. I’m pretty convinced it has enough staying power that you’ll still appreciate it by then.

Looking Ahead

One place you’ll be able to find concert dates for Eliza & the Delusionals is on the “Events” tab of the band’s Facebook page. (There are currently no dates listed.)

Album Review: Zach Phillips – The Wine of Youth

Zach Phillips

photo by Gloria Taylor; photo courtesy of Zach Phillips

Album Review of Zach Phillips: The Wine of Youth

I’ve reviewed a lot of hard rock lately, so here’s a little balance for you. Zach Phillips is a soft rock singer-songwriter of exceptional talent, delivering in The Wine of Youth a well-constructed songs and pleasant melodies delivered with his warm, welcoming voice. Its laid-back soft rock style incorporates healthy doses of soft Americana, more energetic roots rock and perhaps a hint of folk to create Zach’s unassumingly original sound.

Zach Phillips - The Wine of Youth album coverSometimes, as on “Spirits Rising from the Lake,” there’s a clear ’70s rock flavor to Zach’s music, maybe even a more modern Tom Petty flavor. It’s hard to place, exactly, since this song – most on this disc, in fact – just move along so pleasantly I catch myself bobbing my head left and right, tapping my feet, and enjoying. I’m sure you will, too.

Other times, like on “Stars Fading Behind Clouds,” the guitar picking suggests folk – just an example of one of the places I’m getting that vibe. In this instance, there’s an open-spaces, western, Americana flavor, as well.

Zach Phillips

photo via NAMM; photo courtesy of Zach Phillips

One of my favorite songs early on this disc, “Ladybird,” sports a different type of Americana flavor, with slide guitar (and the use of the word “magpie,” probably) giving it a down-home feel, though with a big, full sound like you might hear in a small-town concert hall.

“Cascadia” adds a little psychedelia – and much more volume – to Zach’s laid-back style. Then, next, as much as the power of “Cascadia” will shake you awake, “Stranded in the Sun” will let you drift off again. If you’re looking for the antidote to too much hard rock, this one of the recommended tracks, soft, meandering, and perhaps a little more thinly instrumented than most of the songs on this album. Introspective, as well, its deep thoughts conclude with “Please, would you take me as I am?”

Zach Phillips

photo by Gloria Taylor; photo courtesy of Zach Phillips

Other songs worth noting are “Cemetery Girl,” with a guitar and vocal style that are darker, producing an almost alt-rock vibe on what’s still very clearly a soft Americana style; “Caroline”, with a plodding pace that belies the song’s engaging, emotional slow build to power; and “Hey, San Diego,” which is a cheerfully uptempo ditty that lightly twangs, an open love letter to the city of San Diego.

The title song, “The Wine of Youth,” closes the album gently and nostalgically, a soft landing for an album that’s an ideal, welcome respite when you’re looking for a little calmness.

In total, The Wine of Youth is a sharply-assembled, enjoyable, laid-back soft rock album with the depth and breadth of underlying influences to pleasantly allow repeated listens. It’s a great addition to a broad-based music collection. I dig this disc.

 

Album Review: George Lynch & Jeff Pilson – Heavy Hitters

George Lynch & Jeff Pilson

photo courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

Album Review of George Lynch & Jeff Pilson: Heavy Hitters (Deadline Music)

Yes, you’ll know all of the songs. Or most of them, anyway. And we all know how cool popular songs can sound when exceptionally talented rockers give them a hard rock/light metal arrangement. This album does not disappoint. I always dig when hard rockers crank up the volume on covers of mellower tracks. When done well, you get… well, George Lynch & Jeff Pilson‘s Heavy Hitters.

Lynch and Pilson are joined on this album by Brian Tichy on drums and Wil Martin on lead vocals for most of the songs. Jeff Pilson takes the lead on “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” with Angelo Moore adding organ on that track. And Marq Torien provides vocals on “You Got the Love.”

The album kicks off with a delicious cover of Joan Osbourne’s “One of Us.” The big, open, slightly jangly sound of a George Lynch guitar opening is unmistakable, and the song builds slowly to power, pulling you in as you listen, loosening the reins just a little, and then delivering the goods with powerful guitars and vocals. Even though it’s a slow/mid-tempo number, it packs a huge punch and contains a dark, meandering guitar solo; it will soon be a favorite.

George Lynch & Jeff Pilson – Heavy Hitters

image courtesy of Glass Onyon PR

That’s followed by Lynch & Pilson’s renditions of Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “You Got the Love,” Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth,” Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World,” Madonna’s “Music,” OneRepublic and Timbaland’s “Apologize,” Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ “Nowhere to Run,” Prince’s “Kiss,” R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine),” and Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova,” with Lil’ Richard’s “Lucille” as a bonus track.

Among those, in addition to “One of Us,” there are a few more standouts for me. (Your mileage – depending on your specific musical tastes – may vary.)

“You Got the Love” sounds like the sort of jammin’ funky metal you’d expect from Extreme – not the hits, the more adventurous album tracks.

“Ordinary World” is enveloped in one of those guitar-heavy music bubbles, with a little edginess in the vocals before hitting the big, open, feel-good chorus. Honestly, before looking at the album information, I forgot this was a Duran Duran song. With this arrangement, it seems more like something you’d hear from one of those ’90s post-grunge hard rock bands instead, though it was one of Duran Duran’s more guitar-rockin’ hits, so it didn’t need as big an overhaul as, say, “Rio” would.

“Music” is pretty true to Madonna’s original, except cranked up to eleven with Tichy beating the hell out of the drums, trying to knock them through the floor, keeping a heavy, steady rhythm, AM radio static-filled shout-sung-but-tuneful vocals from Martin, a notable funky bass bit from Pilson, and, of course, Lynch’s guitar wails. By the end of the song, you’ll forget the original wasn’t this heavy.

“It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” is performed as a straight-ahead hard rocker, packing lots of oomph. And Lynch and Pilson mostly just add a full, rich, warm, rockin’ music base to “Champagne Supernova,” essentially turning it into the big-sound, six-and-a-half minute long slow-dance metal ballad on the disc… with the requisite late-song, super-long, shredding guitar solo, obvs. (Why do you think hard rock/metal guitarists are always so willing to do ballads?)

You’ll have other favorites, I’m sure, but those are mine. On the whole, this is a fun, really rockin’ album. George and Jeff have done a terrific job selecting songs that are well-designed for a hard rock/metal makeover. You know I love original music, but I also love super-original covers of great songs. If you do, too – especially when it’s George Lynch manning the axe! – grab a copy of Heavy Hitters.

Looking Ahead

When he’s back on the road, you’ll be able to catch George Lynch’s tour dates here at the “Tour Dates” section of his website. The George Lynch Fan Page on Facebook also does a good job of keeping up with him. You’ll have your choice between Jeff Pilson’s website and his Facebook page to keep up with his endeavors.

Album Review: Gráinne Duffy – Voodoo Blues

Grainne Duffy - Voodoo Blues

image courtesy of Frank Roszak Promotions

Album Review of Gráinne Duffy: Voodoo Blues

Voodoo Blues is a collection gritty, energetic, good-time blues and blues-based rock ‘n roll that’ll grab you by the throat at song number one and won’t let go. Gráinne Duffy‘s voice reminds me a lot of blues-based hard rocker Joanna Dean, whose solo release Misbehavin’ – with its moderate hit “Kiss This” – and subsequent album Code of Honor with her band Bad Romance back in the late ’80s and early ’90s were a couple of my favorite hard rock albums during tail end of the so-called “hair metal” melodic hard rock era. Code of Honor, in particular, leaned heavily toward the “blues” end of blues-based hard rock. Voodoo Blues is similarly positioned, though it may be just on the blues side of that line, at the rock end of hard rockin’ blues. Anyway, for me, “reminds me of Joanna Dean” is the equivalent of “must own this disc,” but I’ll dig into Voodoo Blues with a bit more detail.

The album kicks off with “Voodoo Blues,” an expansive, hot, hot desert-flavored opening that turns into a jangly rockin’ blues number, with wailing blues-rock guitar accompanying Gráinne’s rockin’, growlin’, oh-so-tuneful bluesy rock vocal howl. “Mercy,” next, accompanies that howl, guitar, and beat with some filthy, back alley blues-joint organ in ample support.

Pardon me, but doesn’t the opening guitar-driven rhythm of “Blue Skies” doesn’t have a hint of a country flavor to it? Or perhaps that line’s just been blurred by Shania Twain, who could also sing the hell out of this song with its big vocals and sass. Regardless of the comparison, Gráinne delivers it with a little more gravelly growl. Then, on “Shine It On Me,” Gráinne adds a little bit of a funky rhythm to the blues, as both guitar and organ drive this big-stage number.

Things slow down with “Don’t You Cry For Me,” an old-school, screaming, swaying, lay-it-out-there, preach-the-blues number. “Roll It” brings back the energy before “Wreck It” cranks it up to a full-on wail again; it’s a song with kind of a Fabulous Thunderbirds tempo, a hint of a wry Sheryl Crow-like hip coolness in the vocal delivery, and a George Thorogood-like pace on the guitar line.

Gráinne mellows things out with the smoother “No Matter What I Do,” a song whose tempo allows you to lean back, close your eyes, and sway. Kumbaya, rockin’ blues ballad style.

“Tick Tock,” the penultimate track, is a grimier number sung with serious attitude. And the disc closes with “Hard Rain,” a thumping, plodding, persistent, uncompromising, rockin’ blues tour de force that, I’m sure, fills the room with sound when performed live. And just like that, crash, the album’s over.

Speaking of catching a live show – and I’m just imagining here – if you’re around Boston, you’d hope to hear her in a premier blues listening room like 9 Wallis – a spot I love… and would love a lot more if it weren’t on the exact opposite side of the city from me. Of course, with her big sound and even bigger talent, she could just as easily be playing a large theater.

Anyway, I’ve been looking forward to sharing Gráinne Duffy’s music with you for a few months now. She’s one of those singers you know is special within the first five seconds. So, you know, give her five seconds to prove me right.

Looking Ahead

When she performs live, you’ll be able to find Gráinne’s performances listed on the “Events” tab of her Facebook page.

Single Review: Jamie Fontaine and the Level – “Save Your Life”

Jamie Fontaine and the Level

photo courtesy of Head First Entertainment

Single Review of Jamie Fontaine and the Level: “Save Your Life” (Stryker Records)

Boom! With a vibe that melds heavy rock like Three Days Grace with an almost grunge-like edge, Green Bay’s Jamie Fontaine and the Level deliver a song that’s explosive from the very first note (well, the first note after the buzz) on “Save Your Life.” Wry vocals cut through the wall-of-sound guitar/bass/drums, breaking momentarily – a very cool and effective songwriting trick – to launch into the chorus.

Jamie Fontaine and the Level - Save Your Life

image courtesy of Head First Entertainment

“Save Your Life” is a full-of-energy, get-yourself-pumped-up number that you’ll sing along with. Except during the guitar solo, of course; that’s when you’ll air-guitar. Sound-changes in the bridge and periodic vocal-only (or vocal-mostly) bits provide the variety necessary to ensure this song only improves over multiple listens. This is one of those catchy rock numbers that could be one of Jamie Fontaine and the Level’s signature songs for years to come.

Finally, to quote Jamie Fontaine, “The song began as a story of a failed relationship, one you literally need to save your life from.” It seems like the perfect song to review on Valentine’s Day, does it not? Turn it up!

Looking Back

Actually, I’ll start by looking back. I added this song to my review queue a few months ago, so it’s not surprising that since releasing “Save Your Life,” the band has released another single, “Low.”

Looking Ahead

You can find upcoming shows on the “Events” page of Jamie Fontaine and the Level’s website or on the “Events” tab of the band’s Facebook page. And if this song is any indication, the band will rock your face off. Two shows are currently listed: On May 16, 2021, they be at the WAMI Awards at Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee, WI; on May 30, 2021, you can catch them at The World’s Largest Brat Fest 2021 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI. Obviously, during a pandemic, check those listings as the dates grow closer.

EP Review: Dead Rituals – Dead Rituals II

Dead Rituals

photo courtesy of Dead Rituals

EP Review of Dead Rituals: Dead Rituals II

Kind of classic alt-rock meets dream pop with an edgy, indie attitude, Dead Rituals II is a really cool amalgamation of sounds that Dead Rituals‘ adept songwriting fits together quite well.

“Broken Memories,” for example, is primarily a catchy, hooky, mainstream classic alt-rocker that shifts about two-thirds of the way through into a floating dream pop number punctuated by rock drums as it merely prepares for its fade-out over the course of about 80 seconds. I wouldn’t recommend it as a songwriting style in general, but it totally works here, and it’s a great way to start this short collection of songs.

Dead Rituals - II

image courtesy of Dead Rituals

“Slow Down” has a more clearly ambient dream-rock vibe, mixing some classic new wave pop-rock rhythms with a very cool, buzzy, expansive rock sound. It’s this combination that gives the song its energy, a more rocking version of an album I discovered several years ago, the eponymous 2013 recording from the UK band Trophy Wife. Yeah, I know, I’m describing Dead Rituals’ sound – particularly that of “Slow Down,” by comparing it to a band you probably haven’t heard of. Sorry about that. But it’s a really cool sound; I’d love to pair Dead Rituals with Trophy Wife on a double-bill in college-town dive bar. Anyway, to keep us on our toes, “Slow Down” does the opposite of “Broken Memories”; rather than a long fade-out, the late tempo change in “Slow Down” is almost abruptly followed by the end of the song.

“When the Lights Are Out” again feels like it’s being played in a very big room, a slower-than-mid-tempo number that pings a bit like a guitar-driven, introspective, slightly-mumbling, college pop-rock band playing in an empty swimming pool. It’s a unique, engagin sound, and I’m sure my description hasn’t done it justice.

The four-song EP concludes with an acoustic version of “Slow Down” as a “bonus track.” It’s a fun deja vu, an altered version of the EP’s second song.

With a style that’s completely familiar yet creatively original, Dead Rituals II is a collection of music absolutely worth giving a listen to. Several, in fact, as it grows more comfortable and latches onto you deeper with each listen. Check it out.

Beyond the EP

Since releasing this EP in October, Dead Rituals released the song “2020 Eyelids” in December and “Broken Memories (Sight Telma Club Remix)” without a release date, though presumably after this EP, which contains “Broken Memories.” It’s an interesting reimagination of the track by Sight Telma Club.

Though no upcoming dates are listed at the moment, keep an eye on the “Events” tab of Dead Rituals’ Facebook page for gig listings.