Today is New Release Day. Every Friday is New Release Day. For our musical pleasure, this particular Friday is the debut album of Swedish artist Manuela Iwansson, Dark Tracks. I didn’t find the overall scope of the album dark other than its lamentations of lost love. And those lost loves are not always dark; some feel more like being set free, having a weight lifted from our shoulders.
The first track from Dark Tracks is titled Strangers on a Train, giving the first glimpse of the dark side of the tracks.
“A steady pace along dark tracks
I’m letting go while looking back.”
Dark Tracks may be an ode to lost loves, be it platonic or intimate, but the music propels those words forward with a frantic energy that feels like we can’t get away fast enough. Or, we may have to blast away from The Boys of Summer so we don’t remain maudlin and rooted in our emotional pain.
The song Dead Weight has a great line in it,
That’s getting lighter
It’s too heavy carrying you around
When you’re already gone.”
That, my friends, is one of the best examples of clinging to things in our past that weigh us down. Dead Weight that adds nothing to our lives. Dead Weight that holds us down and keeps us from being set free.
Dark Tracks has brilliant music that delivers those lyrics to us without detracting from their meaning. Manuela Iwansson is fond of the 70s & 80s female artists like Pat Benatar, Laura Branigan, and Suzi Quatro. She cites early new wave and punk like The Go-Go’s, X,Gun Club and Grace Jones as influences on her and her music.
When asked, “What genre does your music fall into?” Manuela answered “Rock/post-punk/new wave/punk.” I can irrevocably endorse Dark Tracks because Manuela’s musical influencers also heavily influenced my listening patterns. I easily picture myself in 1978 at the roller skating rink with Leather, the last cut on Dark Tracks, blasting out of the speakers as I did laps around the rink. I would also add a few more of my favourite roller derby songs to the playlist at the rink, Psycho Killer and Rock Lobster.
Dark Tracks is good music from start to finish. Not Finnish, Manuela Iwansson is Swedish, and this album will rock the winter away. The album features duets with Bria Salmena (Orville Peck, FRIGS, Bria) and Jack Ladder (Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders), as well as a stellar lineup of some of Sweden’s finest musicians: Henrik Palm (Henrik Palm, In Solitude, etc.), Elias Jungqvist (Viagra Boys, etc.), and Erik Klinga (Simian Ghost, etc.), among others.
The album ‘Dark Tracks’ is available on all streaming platformsthrough Lack of Sleep Records.
Writing a music blog is the equivalent of cavorting amongst the Elysian Fields. I look forward to hearing from the fresh artists just starting to dip their toes in the water on the edge of the fields each week. And then, there are the old friends I enjoy visiting every so often who permanently reside in the rolling hills of the Elysian Fields. I wish I could say that I love listening to them all, but, the truth is this, I don’t. Some instantly connect with my soul, become a part of my music life, and never leave. There are some that I listen to once and never listen to again. Today I listened to one of the former, an artist names Vails.
I am listening to an EP named Elysian Fields from the band/artist Vails. There is a dearth of information on the internet about Vails, so I will give a shout-out about the music.
I like it.
I like it, and if you listen to it, I feel you will also like it.
It is pleasant electronic atmospheric music on an EP named Elysian Fields. The artist is Vails on the label Elephant Music. elephantmusic.net
I have to keep plugging artists from the land that my heart comes from, Sweden. The latest in a long line of great musicians is Princess Tapioca.
Princess Tapioca has released their debut single payphone, a song that reflects one of many phone calls between two people struggling to keep the flame alive. Dreams and words about how good it could be are just dreams and words. At its core, ‘payphone’ is a lofi song, elevated with acoustic elements and light-hearted playfulness. Payphone kept reminding me of the holiday classic, Baby It’s Cold Outside, which is also a playful song featuring banter between two singers.
Princess Tapioca features childhood neighbours Alexandra Andersson and Josef Ask. The duo grew up on a peninsula outside of Norrköping before heading in different directions, only to once again find that old unshaken friendship. For a while, their lives were on two wildly different trajectories. Alexandra played SXSW with her band Ember Island, doing a remix of Where Are Ü Now with and for Justin Bieber, Diplo, Jack Ü, and Skrillex, and is still getting millions of streams across different platforms. In contrast, Josef shelved the idea of being successful in music and reportedly became an employee of the month at a local grocery delivery company.
Fortunately for us who love their music, Josef reconnected with Alexandra and became half of Princess Tapioca. The first single from Princess Tapiocas’ upcoming debut EP, payphone, is a song crafted in the best tradition of lo-fi sensibility. It sounds like payphone was recorded on an iPhone in the kitchen, and I say that in a good way. The song features a gentle guitar with soft percussion on a loop and the occasional ringing telephone. Their voices work well together, making it worth taking the time to listen.
Old Lodge Skins: [groans] I was afraid of that. Well, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.
–Little Big Man
Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn’t. That applies equally well to writing blogs about music. Sometimes the magic happens, and the blog almost writes itself. Sometimes the magic doesn’t happen, and I sit staring at a blank page. It matters not as to whether I like the music or not. I quite imagine that applies to making music as well. Sometimes the magic happens, and sometimes, it doesn’t. I am happy to tell you that the magic happens on a new Frenchy and the Punk release, Zen Ghost.
Old Lodge Skins asked, “Am I still in this world?”
Frenchy and The Punk counter with, “I promise to tell you if the world doesn’t end,” a line from the song ‘If The World Doesn’t End First‘ by Frenchy and The Punk from their new album Zen Ghost
Frenchy and the Punk is vocalist, percussionist and lyricist Samantha Stephenson and guitarist-composer Scott Helland, co-founder and bassist of Outpatients and Deep Wound (along with Dinosaur Jr. founders J Mascis and Lou Barlow). Samantha Stephenson has a strong husk voice reminiscent of Grace Slick, who is interestingly not listed as an influencer. They do list the B52s, and I can certainly hear that.
“We started writing Zen Ghost at the end of 2020 and have a few tracks that were written as recently as Spring 2022. It highlights the darker tones of what we do and is influenced by the environment in which we all live in at the moment,” says Samantha Stephens.
“The core theme to the album is ‘mind phantoms,’ the ghosts of our past that reside in our minds and can influence our present. The theme of breaking the chains of life choices that don’t align with one’s true authentic self has been rampant in the lyrics throughout the years. This record delves into the remnants of the voices and experiences that can still haunt us. This is the album we’ve always wanted to make.”
The character that Dustin Hoffman portrays in the movie Little Big Man, Jack Crabb, struggles throughout the story arc with his authentic self. I’m not sure if he had mind phantoms, but I can emphatically state that I have and do; the ghosts are real.
Zen Ghost is a solid album that explores the darkness of the age that we live in without falling into the morass. Old Lodge Skins asked, “Am I still in this world?” Frenchy and The Punk counter with the line, “I love you, I love you to the ends of the earth, I promise to tell you if the world doesn’t end.”
Frenchy and The Punk have put together an album full of good music. A stand out for me has been the track Church of Sound, with the lyrics, “I’m going to the church of sound, put on my headphones and drown drown, drown in the sound.” I love that line, “I’m going to the church of sound.” I didn’t go to a brick-and-mortar church today, it is Sunday as I write this, but I have been in the church of sound.
The track Blood offers some good political commentary. “I don’t want to see the world through your little microscope tunnel vision.” A jab at the people living in their echo chambers and only hearing or seeing what they already believe.
Zen Ghost is musically enchanting, with intelligent lyrics that can be gleaned more than once for the gems hidden in the songs.” Sometimes the magic works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.” The magic works for Frenchy and the Punk. They have created an album encouraging me to put on my headphones and drown in the sound.
I spent a couple of enjoyable hours today engaged in one of my favourite activities, bin diving for records. I did this in my hands-down favourite record store, Record Collectors Paradise. One other person in the store was down on their hands and knees like I was, reaching to the back row of the lowest bin, which was not good for the back but fun. I wonder if our being on our hands and knees is an almost reverential quality? Could it be considered being in a prayerful pose for our little gods who live on records and their ephemera?
When I got home and catalogued my finds, it occurred to me that the only reason I bought one of the albums was because of its cover art. It was a stylized prism which makes sense because the name of the family band is The Family Spectrum. I listened to the album, although I did not care what I heard because it was only the cover I had paid for. The music wasn’t terrible; it fits the stereotype of a family band playing faith-based music.
The cover is what caught my eye out of the hundreds of albums that flipped through my fingers today. That one had something that stood out from the rest of them. It had a prism. Nothing fancy, just a prism with a beam of white light coming from the left, always from the left for white light; that’s the rule. In the middle of the album stood a prism that could easily be mistaken for a door. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. The white light starts in a broken beam of white that becomes solid in the prism, does a funky bend and comes out the bottom of the prism in a spectrum of six colours.
Maybe I’m reading more into this than I should, but I see Bob and Heather taking tentative steps toward the prism, represented as in the stuttering light beam. They get married and become whole, Mom and Dad Bunkowsky; this is full all-out Christianese we’re talking about here. Exiting the prism, they are split into six colours representing their six children. There is no consensus on what colours should come from a prism; The Family Spectrum used the same six as Pink Floyd on Dark Side of the Moon.
Album covers are important. They are our first contact with that particular record. It doesn’t matter if we are searching for a record that we are familiar with or stumbling through the bins hoping something jumps out at us. It is the cover art that we see, and it triggers a synapse in our neural network, and we need to stop flipping at that album and make a decision. Do we pull this record out or not? Sometimes the price tag speaks louder than the cover art, and we keep flipping. Other times, we are compelled to pull the record out and explore it further. Today was one of those times. There was no price tag, but I’ve priced enough albums to know that this was bargain bin material, so I tucked it in my stack of purchases for today. Two albums. Headlines by Flash & the Pan and The Family Spectrum. The Flash and the Pan album cover is eye candy as well, which is perhaps good marketing. I bought it, didn’t I?
Album covers are important, and using a prism on The Family Spectrum album cover is what made me stop flipping when I saw this one. It is not the first time or only time that has happened. Album covers can make or break a sale, and iconic album covers and their copies are the ones that catch our eye in the record bin. When bin diving, I usually don’t stop to read the album’s titles. I typically see the artwork, but if that doesn’t tell me what I need to know, I will look for a title. If I don’t see one on the front cover, I will have to pull the album and explore it further, and it is at that point the marketing has paid off. Out of the thousands in the store, that particular album had made it out of the bin and into my hands. In my hands is one step closer to the till than the rest of the records in the store. Today two albums accompanied me to the till. Both of them had eye-catching covers.
Back to the prism yet again. The obvious connection is to Dark Side of the Moon (DSotM) by Pink Floyd. This iconic album cover is discussed in reverential terms, although it was released over 49 years ago. I have to start saving money for the 50th-anniversary special reprint. The record cover, which depicts a prism spectrum, was designed by Storm Thorgerson of the design firm Hipgnosis in response to requests from the Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright.
The Family Spectrum is not the only example of using a prism for cover art. The Canadian rock band Prism naturally used prisms in their cover art, most noticeably on their debut album, Prism. I won’t discuss the numerous other albums that play with the prism concept; I think we get the idea. An interesting side note is that the folks at Hipgnosis knew a bit about science when they designed the cover. It is a pretty accurate portrayal, according to Chalkdust. https://chalkdustmagazine.com/blog/mathematical-album-art/
I could not find a release date on the Sing From The Heart album but based on the date of DSoftM, it seems safe to suggest that it would be after 1973. Fortunately, The Family Spectrum covered a few other songs that may help us date this album.
“Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone)” is a song by Deena Kaye Rose. Rose recorded the song in 1976, but the original version failed to chart. Multiple artists covered the song, including Bobby Bare and John Denver. Denver’s version, released on the 1981 album Some Days Are Diamonds, was the album’s first single. Based on this, “Sing From The Heart” would be at least after 1976, but the most common cover is based on the John Denver cover, pushing the release date to after 1981.
“Chiquitita” (a Spanish term of endearment for a woman meaning “little one”) is a song recorded by Swedish pop group ABBA. It was released in January 1979, pushing the date closer to the 1981 John Denver cover.
One more song can offer us a dating clue: Happy Man by The Pat Terry Group on their 1976 album Songs Of The South. Again this is consistent with our other song clues. B.J. Thomas did a cover of Happy Man that received more airplay on non-faith-based radio stations. That track was released for airplay in 1978.
In conclusion, The Family Spectrum released this album sometime between 1973 and 1981 and used the prism concept from the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon, which came out in 1973. While it is not a blatant ripoff, it certainly borrows generously. I have to hit pause here, the family in The Family Spectrum. That is not their name. I thought it was at first, but it is just a stage name for the Bunkowsky family.
In conclusion, again, Sing From The Heart was engineered and co-produced by Clive Perry. From humble beginnings working in the studios of western Canada with everything from family bands to polka bands, Clive established a name as a recording engineer (Finucan Productions, Fred Penner, Crash Test Dummies) and in movie soundtracks with titles to his credit that includes Red Team (2000), Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988) and Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997).
In conclusion, album covers are important.
In conclusion, I like the album Songs Of The Heart by Daniel Amos. And I would like to do more blogging on album covers, thanks to The Family Spectrum for starting me on this rabbit trail, it’s been fun so far.
How are you doing? Not so good? That sucks. Can I help you in any way? Yeah. You can. How? Play the new album, 1134, by Little Destroyer. That’s all? Yeah, that and time to heal are all I need right now.
Cue 1134, hit play and listen carefully. The lead song, godcomplex, starts deceptively chill, but it explodes 40 seconds into the song. That explosion rang in my ears through godcomplex and the rest of the album. This song, godcomplex, is not your typical love song. 1134 is not a trite album. Little Destroyer have hit the reset button and are announcing that they are a force to be reckoned with. They are not your typical band. They are not trite. They are Little Destroyer.
Little Destroyer is a tight-knit trio of creative powerhouses Allie Sheldan, Chris Weiss and Michael Weiss. 1134 signals a fresh start for the female-led Tiny Kingdom with Allie Sheldan providing lead vocals, bass guitar and songwriting. Supporting her are Chris Weiss playing many different instruments, and Michael Weiss on percussion instruments.
The three are industry veterans with the scars to prove it. Little Destroyer is not a stranger to the harrowing experience of being a band in a very competitive market. They have a litany of almost chances & near misses behind them. Little Destroyer needed a break the Covid pandemic provided that break and gave them two years to reassess and regroup.
The creative process looked a lot different due to the accompanying restrictions of the pandemic. “We didn’t see each other for eight months,” Chris says, “Having to be apart really defined our creative process.” Tracks were built by passing files back and forth, each band member creating at home, allowing ideas to percolate differently – adding, layering, building. “We’ve always either been in a jam space or writing room together and often with a producer in the wings.” Chris continues, “In a jam space setting, you’re very much feeding off each other, and there’s an ebb and flow and things are happening so fluidly. When you’re apart, and you’re in your own head, you’re not able to bounce it off their expression. “Howard was such a good sport,” Allie shares, “We were able to get as weird as we wanted to, and after being locked inside for months, things definitely got weird. Not only did he get it, he supported and matched it, and started coming to the table with really crazy ideas. It felt like an exciting process for not only us, but also for Howard; the synergy was palpable.”
That synergy gave rise to authenticity within this album, the closest yet to capturing the rawness and seething energy of a live Little Destroyer performance (the stuff of legend) within the studio environment. “What producer is down with you not practising your parts before you record,” Michael laughs. “It needed to be so raw, so real, so unrehearsed.” And it’s this confidence in the vision, this ability to pull off a shoot-from-the-hip kind of idea flawlessly, that makes Michael the undisputed creative wellspring of the band.
Little Destroyer has created an album that rattled my speakers and charged at me like a banshee that had patiently waited for this moment to attack. After the full 39 minutes had played out twice, I sat back and asked myself what I had heard and how it felt. I listened to the honesty of emotions. Love hurts sometimes, and we must go through the pain to find the next level of love.
Final thoughts? I need to hear this album several more times to let the nuances play out. This album has more going on than a casual listen can absorb. The lyrics are honest and insightful, often brutal and often beautiful. The music, apart from the lyrics, is a delight. This trio knows how to rock, get down and dirty and make music that demands that we pay attention. The percussion is masterful to the point of being so good I almost didn’t hear it. Michael not only held down the rhythm of the music, but he also made it a stealth bomber that you didn’t hear coming until the cymbals crash jarred us from our complacent listening.
Meanwhile, we have Chris playing blistering guitar, making my fingertips bleed just listening to it. Allie not only sings but also makes her bass lines walk up and down the fretboard till my head is spinning. 1134 is one heck of a good record. I’ll put it into the best of 2022 countdown list. Good music, thanks, Michael, Chris and Allie. I look forward to seeing you live and grabbing some vinyl from your merch table.
I am sitting still and letting the music wash over me, waiting for inspiration to give my writing muse a push so I can get this blog done. Now! It’s been in my inbox for a week, fer cryin’ out loud. I’ve listened to the album several times, weaving it in and out of other blogs and the music they inspired, hoping it would catch some of the mojos from those examples. Alas, it still sits in my inbox.
I was sitting here just now, asking myself, ‘What does this music do to me?’ There are albums that I call my go-to’s. I “go to” them to lift my spirit on days when I want to stop the world and get off this planet. I go to them when I want some special music to acknowledge an occasion, a birthday, for example. I go to music because it can do things for me.
Music makes me feel good about myself.
Music heals emotional wounds.
Music can make me sing, even though I can’t sing.
Music gives me energy.
Music inspires me.
Music can make a blog appear out of nowhere because music inspires me to put how I feel into words. And those words are popping up quite literally while I write this posting.
On the first listen of this album, I was on the verge of throwing it onto the pile of also-rans. I’m glad I didn’t because I gave it another spin a day or so later and felt a glimmer of hope buried in those songs. Another day passed, and I was starting to grow fond of this album. The breakthrough came on Wednesday, I listened again, and I had a light bulb moment. I liked this album. I didn’t force it; it came on its own. It wasn’t contrived; it was genuine, not a Facebook-like. It was and is real. I like the album New Era by the Black Lilys.
Why? What is there about this album that turned indifference into attraction? Damn, now we’re back to the hard stuff. How do I put how I feel into words? What is the source of my interest in this album? I’ll start with the smart use of percussion/percussion sounds and how it changes. The song Invisible Strings, for example, begins with a gentle slow percussive sound sharing the stage with a voice that is almost a lament. However, by the time the song is barely a minute, there is a shift to a faster pace and uplifted vocals with added percussion, such as a wood block. The song then begins its transformation with changes back and forth in pacing and adding other musical forms, such as guitar and taikos. Hit pause and go and look it up. I didn’t know what taikos were, either. All of those, as mentioned above, create a multi-layered composition with a lot going on. Take your time listening to this and unravelling it for the beauty within. I went to the extreme of listening. I would listen for 30 seconds, rewind, and listen again. I was trying to parse out what was happening in the music. And what that music was doing to my neurons because it was taking me to a happy place.
Wow, that’s a lot for just one song, a good song, I might add. The rest of the album is the same, only different. Black Lillys is a pair of talented siblings hailing from Lyon, France. Camille Faure provides the vocals, and Robin Faure provides the guitar melodies. I couldn’t find credits for playing the keys, percussion and programming, so I will go out on a limb and split that credit between them. It doesn’t make a difference while you are listening, sit back and let the music of Camille and Robin take you away.
Camille Faure and Robin Faure tell us about their new album: New Era. “Our first album ‘Boxes’ taught us to reveal our own flaws and I think this album, ‘New Era‘, lets the light shine through. The last few years were very challenging in many ways. The more we learn about the world we live in, the angrier we get, and on the other hand, the more fascinated and amazed we are.”
“Every crisis carries with it a chance for creative forces to build new paths and to reinvent the world. It may be your own personal crisis or a global crisis. Where despair grows, hope grows. Like fresh spring after an endless winter, a new era is upon us whether we like it or not. This is what our album is about. New Era is not aiming for the best of worlds.”
Black Lilys gave me fresh air in this album, and I am glad I didn’t scoot this one to the trash bin instead of listening to it several times and gaining new admiration for the Black Lilys. You can send this blog to the trash bin, but I urge you to give this album more than one listen. I also recommend listening to it focused on the music, not Facebook. The Black Lilys have created a gem of great beauty that shines brightly and rises above the humdrum of the day. I look forward to hearing it again. The sooner, the better.
This blog is about the new album by Dmitry Wild, Electric Souls. It is not about the rabbit trails that I tend to take random walks down.
Fear is often portrayed as something that is bad and to be avoided at all costs. As part of an addiction treatment program, I taught a module focused on fear and its role in our lives. I hoped the men would walk away with the key that fear is not always bad. It can be a good thing. For example, I am afraid of standing too close to the edge of canyons. That is not acrophobia, which is an extreme or irrational fear of heights. My fear is situational and rational because there is a risk of falling, and I want to avoid falling from any height that could harm me. As an afterthought, it is not the fall that usually hurts people; it is the sudden stop at the bottom.
Dmitry Wild mentions fear in several songs in his Electric Souls album. The first instance is in the opening track, 21st Century, where the narrator is “setting fears on fire.” 21st Century is a terrific opener. It has energy, which, incredible as it may seem, gets carried forward and amplified through the remainder of the album.
Track two, Sweetest Thing, opens with fear, “Fear that’s standing at your door.” We are now facing our fear face to face; it is standing on the threshold of our lives. Interestingly, after saying, “That old hag is not your friend,” we are told to “Stop coming back to her dirty den.” The fear doesn’t come to us; we go to the fear. We go to its dirty den. Coming back is not a singular event because we are told not to “keep coming back.” We humans like to keep returning to the things that hurt us, such as addictions and compulsive behaviours. Sometimes it is no more profound than the fact that we have lived there so long it has become the only place we feel comfortable.
We “keep coming back” because “Your comfort made you numb.” That little nugget of information is in the song Liberation Woes, although the refrain echoes the Pink Floyd song Comfortably Numb. Finding comfort by making ourselves comfortably numb is how many people live their lives, including the narrator.
So, how does the narrator get out of this dilemma? The song Liberation tells us that “love will rise and set us free.” Liberation is also one hell of a jam track. The guitar soars, and we sing/shout the refrain till our throats are sore and love sets us free.
Moving forward from this arena rock candidate, we come to a happy little ditty called Don’t Need Anybody. This song hits the nail on the head for my preferred method of making myself comfortably numb. “If I only had money/to go and buy something,” I would be all right. The something in that refrain is usually music. If I only had money, I would buy a record or a CD. If I only had money, I would buy Dmitry Wilds’s new album, Electric Souls.
And then we come to what is most likely my favourite track from an album full of goodies, Summer of 21.This song sounds so happy and tells us we have “nothing more to fear.” As incredulous as it may seem, “can you believe that all diseases gone/can we believe that all the wars are done?” Unfortunately, the narrator and his friends will seek liberation through libation. They “are going to drown all” their “sorrows.” While that may seem like a good thing when they are “young, free and able,” I can tell from personal experience that it doesn’t work. Sorrows can not be drowned. You might make them soaking wet, but they bob to the surface and survive to pester us again. However, Summer of 21 is a terrific track if you can avoid reading my blog before you hear it. It trots along at a happy jaunt that reinforces the freedom the narrator seeks. The Summer of 21 is also a pleasant jam track. I can imagine this track in a small venue packed to the rafters with those who are “young, free and able.” The crowd would jump for joy as the guitar cuts through the crowd and ignites their pent-up energy. Not to be confused with The Summer of 41, which is a great book, this song is terrific. The Summer of 22 is gliding into autumn, but I will put Summer of 21 on my Summer of 23 mixtape.
Heads up! The next track is called Castle Walls, and it has a straight-through rock and roll feel with some searing beautiful lyrics.
“When you took my last name.” That is what happens when a couple is married, usually. One partner, usually the woman, takes their partner’s last name. Now, this is the part that I like. “There is nothing more a man could want.” When the castle walls, my defensive barriers, come tumbling down, and after the smoke clears, “There is nothing more a man could want.” There is nothing more a man could want than a loving woman who will help him navigate life.
At this point in the album, Dmitry Wild takes us on a journey via some waltzing, lilting music to the old world. God Ghost and a Ship is a fun little song. I have no idea what the message is in this song. I didn’t bother to unpack it. I chose to sit back and let the music wash over me.
Wizard and Small Affliction close out the album on a positive note. In the song Wizard, we learn that the only trick the Wizard knows is his love for her, the woman who took his last name. In Small Affliction, the narrator closes out the album by telling his love that she is his and will always be his.
Both of these tracks have a gentler, pastoral feel to them. Wizard is propelled forward by an acoustic guitar and joined by what almost sounds like a dash of C/W influence.
Small Affliction carries the acoustic guitar as well as a gentler lyrical accompaniment. It brings us down from the lofty heights of the rock anthems we heard mid-album, to a smooth exit that makes Electric Souls an enjoyable album to listen to from start to finish.
So, there you have it, Electric Souls by Dmitry Wild. A solid album that I fell in love with on the first listen and then let it grow on me over the next dozen or so listens. There is a quality in this album that I like. It is not a sappy boy meets girl, boy loves girl, boy loses girl album. No, siree, this album has some depth to the lyrics that only a repeated listen will unlock for you to hear. The same goes for the music. It has layers and layers of sound that deserve more than a casual listen. Overall I would rate this album as a solid listen that I wouldn’t be surprised to see on some end-of-year lists, perhaps even mine.
Hands Down, this song, We Are on the Run, hit me as little else has in the world of music that I have been listening to. I don’t know the formula to make me stop and listen and then listen again. I know some people engineer songs to be top 10 hits. As good as this song is, I don’t feel it is competition for Beiber. I don’t know what stirred my soul and told me to put my life on hold for 3 1/2 minutes while I listened to this song. Hands Down have crafted a lovely little song that entranced me.
Perhaps the refrain caught me, “Never gonna look back at this, no ones gonna care about my shit.” Profound. How many people will look back at this blog and care about what I wrote? Will anyone care about my shit? Probably not; these things tend to have a short life span.
I have found that I and others, I would imagine, spend an inordinate amount of time looking back. I use Ancestry to look back at my family tree and a few twigs. I am digitizing my family photos, and while they bring me joy at the moment, will anyone care about them a hundred years from now? Will anyone care about my shit?
What about the road I have walked down to get to where I am now? From the exuberance of memorable moments such as marriage and raising a child, will anyone care in the future?
We Are on the Run presents us with a conundrum. Is it worth the effort to live life to its fulness if it immediately becomes yesterday’s news and no one gives a shit? Is it worth the effort to craft a song that catches listeners’ ears today? Will anyone care about this song? Should I even be writing this blog? Will anyone look back at it? Will anyone give a shit about my shit?
I don’t know the answer, but I do know that the band Hands Down have crafted a wonderful little song that lit a spark in my life and is still shining. I care about it. I give a shit. This blog matters because I want it to mean something, if only for a day, I give a shit about it, and I am sure glad that Hands Down recorded the song We Are On The Run. I love it and look forward to a whole album.
The singer and multi-instrumentalist Alexandra Andersson from Ember Island plays the keyboard in Hands Down. One of the guitarists is Filip Magnusson, better known as Filip Finado. The other is Filip Sjögren, better known as Filip Sjögren. Felisia Westberg plays bass guitar and piano and, in addition to her artist project, has been seen behind Swedish greats like Ane Brun and Iiris Viljanen. And last but certainly not least, the drummer Josef Ask (Hemp Honey).
‘We Are on the Run’ is the first single of Hands Down’s sophomore album and will be released via Youth Recordings. And yes, I do give a shit.
Big Stir Records is thrilled to present the solo debut album from Uppsala, Sweden’s RICHARD ÖHRN, best known as the guitarist and one of the songwriters for indie pop darlings IN DEED. The all-new SOUNDS IN ENGLISH features the teaser singles “Love And Friendship” and “Take This Bottle” and sees release on CD and streaming worldwide on November 11, with pre-order and pre-save options live at www.bigstirrecords.com and everywhere now (with a limited edition vinyl run to follow). It’s a dazzling treasure chest of retro-modern pop-rock gems. A wide variety of styles, anchored in the swirling ’60s sounds of folk rock and chamber pop, shot through with the ’80s and ’90s alt-rock drive that fuels so much of In Deed’s music and reaching beyond for something new, unique, and wonderful.
Working alone for over nine years from his home studio in the Swedish countryside, RICHARD ÖHRN has crafted a set of 12 deeply personal but completely accessible tunes and framed them with the kind of classy, sophisticated arrangements that can’t help but evoke the ’60s. RICHARD ÖHRN takes a deeper dive into that era’s sounds than the usual megapopular influences. Richard’s sonic palette evokes The Hollies, The Zombies, Simon & Garfunkel, The Mamas and Papas, and Swedish touchstone artists like psych-folk heroes Tages (and from later eras, ABBA and The Cardigans). Melody and harmony are front and center and the guitars are by turns delicate (acoustic finger-picking and electric 12-string abound) and searing (lead breaks range from angular postpunk to biting blues in style). Richard deftly deploys a real piano found in a thrift store and personally restored. The production sparkles and each tune comes alive and connects.
RICHARD ÖHRN signals his intent with the opening track, Seal Your Move, which rides in on a ringing electric 12-string (that’s Öhrn’s trademark Burns), close minor-key harmonies in the vintage folk-rock style. 5th Month Announcement by the eerily sweet, intricately finger-picked 5Month Announcement, adorned with more otherworldly retro harmonies. And then the sparseness gives way to the rush of the driving Time’s Not Running Out, perhaps the record’s closest evocation of In Deed’s power pop urgency. Other highlights include the pastoral, near-baroque beauty of the uplifting introductory single Love And Friendship and a pair of radio-ready pop rockers: Someone To Forgive You, which revs up the Hollies for some cruising with the radio on, followed by the chiming, irresistible instant singalong song, “Take This Bottle.”
The utterly hummable yet scathing Take This Bottle – a literal “hold my beer and leave me alone” earworm evokes Elvis Costello, who was an inspiration for the tune. But where words are concerned, the title of SOUNDS IN ENGLISH is a throwback to Richard’s youth. “As a kid in Sweden, I remember English sounding cool, much cooler than our native language, when hearing it on television or records. So, you just made up sounds that were English-like,” he explains—citing his musician father’s collection of Beatles, Stones, Dylan, and Simon & Garfunkel LPs as keystones for his affinity for sonorous or evocative language over anything literal. He continues, “It’s been said that when listening to music, meaning is not as important as the sound of the words. I agree with this in many ways, and since I’m not a native English speaker, there is the freedom to make up lyrics that are first and foremost ‘singable,’ then perhaps add some meaning or logical sense.”
That freedom nonetheless results in some striking turns of phrase, as when Öhrn sings, in double-tracked harmony, “Deny all the needs with your chewing gum ease” over the slinky groove of The Coolest Manners. And the yearning for communication felt in Love, And Friendship almost mirrors the approach: “We don’t need words to say it, but I would if I would know what those would be.” That’s to say that Richard knows what he’s singing about – the pain, joy, regret and determination to do better that comes with relationships at all stages.
Nowhere is that so clear as when SOUNDS IN ENGLISH dives into the eclectic, vibrant end run of impassioned tunes that close it out. There, Öhrn takes on several pop-adjacent genres and makes them all his own. There’s the smokily soulful, Beach-Boys-harmony-laden Every Shade with its distinctive jangle-and-slide-guitar break (equal parts Petty and Harrison.) The Tages-and-Searchers-inspired “I Chose You,” is a stately, anguished melody underpinned by hammered piano, castanets and more 12-string. It gives way to the horn-driven country shuffle Could Have Loved You More and the passionate piano ballad If I Could Read Your Mind. Even as the song’s coda fades out, SOUNDS IN ENGLISH still manages to surprise and delight the listener by crossfading into the pizzicato string-led chamber pop of the enchanting Spanish Moon.
SOUNDS IN ENGLISH is a rarity in the modern pop-rock landscape where artists rush from release to release, barely giving listeners time to breathe. It’s a personal and captivating work crafted over nearly a decade while Richard applied his talents to numerous other projects, and the time and craft are immediately apparent. It must be said that the dedication and passion invested in its making are partly why Big Stir Records – we absolutely adore the record! — have committed to finding it a wider audience than perhaps its creator envisioned. “I don’t have any further ambitions but to get the music out there, no live gigs or putting together a band… it’s a studio project,” says Richard. “I just enjoy making music so much, I can’t stop it.” We’ll hear more from Richard Öhrn with IN DEED very soon, but his solo debut is a masterpiece in its own right that deserves to take the indie rock world by storm. Don’t miss one of 2022’s most tuneful and engaging surprises: SOUNDS IN ENGLISH from RICHARD ÖHRN.
At the end of the blog and the end of the day, I listened to the album from start to finish again as I wrote this, and I can’t say enough nice things about SOUNDS IN ENGLISH from RICHARD ÖHRN. On the album cover, we can see the studio he recorded the album in, a converted garage. I guess that makes him a one-man garage band. RICHARD played and sang all the sounds in the album. I’ll leave the last words to the man himself, RICHARD ÖHRN.
“I play all the instruments myself on the record. Since I don’t consider myself much of a drummer, I had to keep those parts simple. It took a lot of practice and patience to get it good enough, but I decided that was part of the whole idea, to improve as an all-around musician. Same goes for the piano parts… sometimes I had to use different tracks to record the chords/bass notes, and the higher stuff–my hands couldn’t always coordinate. I’m primarily a guitarist, but bass was the most fun to play and figure out the parts. As for the vocals, they’re all me. You can hear me refining my lead vocals over time, fitting them to the tunes and leaning into harmonies, layering and studio tricks to get that vintage sound.”
Norman again: those guitars a lovely. I could get lost in there with all that beautiful wood.