Every so often, a band and album comes out that you hear about but, forget to check out in a timely manner. That happened to me over the course of the last few months with the band of the week. A while back, I saw Riley Breckinridge of Thrice raving about the new Holy Fawn album Death Spells. I put it on my list of things to check out but, for some reason, I kept missing it. Well, that was a mistake. What a tremendous band they are, and their album is superb. This Phoenix, Arizona based band is quite possibly one of the best things Arizona has ever exported. Their blend of shoegaze, 90’s reverb rock, ambient tinges and crushing noise is captivating and hypnotic. There is a real depth to their songs and albums that has anyone listening stand at attention and feel compelled to get lost in the music. There’s an element of danger to this band that when you listen, you can tell they are about to erupt with a sound that is devastatingly beautiful. Their album Death Spells is definitely one of the best of the past decade and worth putting in any collection. Holy Fawn has also released a 3 song EP this past January entitled The Black Moon and it’s pretty damn fantastic as well. Holy Fawn is a band that should be on your radar and should be checked out live to get the full effect.
Today the lineup for Psycho Fest in Las Vegas was announced. One of the names that caught my attention right away on the bill was Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I’ve been a fan of them for years. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them a few times over the years and they never disappoint. I’ve previously written about them before, and if you haven’t ever really listened to them, you are missing out. With all that in mind, I started my day off delving back into their catalog and felt compelled to share their “title tracks” from their albums. They really have a knack for writing great rock songs, and their title tracks are pretty damn good.
Back in 1999, on the soundtrack and in the movie to the Adam Sandler film Big Daddy, something truly wrong happened. There was an atrocious cover of a song that should have never been allowed to be released. Sheryl Crow’s version of the Guns N Roses classic “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” I still remember hearing it in the movie and thinking this was terrible, and guess what, it still is. Her version was originally released as a bonus track on her third album. And even more interestingly, the recording not only won her a Grammy but, it was also produced by Rick Rubin. Over the years, Crow’s version has been regarded as one of the worst cover songs ever, and rightfully so. Despite all the negativity towards it though, it became somewhat of a hit in areas like Australia, Canada, Iceland and the U.K. I still want to know who thought this would be a good idea and who approved it to be in the movie.
For more than a decade now, people have been given the opportunity to hear William DuVall’s voice as he fronts Alice In Chains. He has truly done an exceptional job and his voice has breathed new life not just into the band but the legendary songs as well. William is not Layne but, that’s what makes his contributions to Alice so special. He brings with him a soul and spirit that helps to propel and carry on the legacy of one of the best bands ever. On the songs that he’s brought into the band and sang lead on, you can really tell why he was chosen to front the band. Plus the way he sings the older material, there are times when you are hearing it live, and you get chills from the way William sings.
Prior to joining Alice, William fronted and played guitar with the band Comes With The Fall. I had the opportunity many years ago to see a show of theirs and even then, I knew that guy was destined for something pretty remarkable. Late last year (2019), William released his debut solo album, One Alone. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and microphone, William shines and delivers one hell of a record. His vocal delivery on this album is superb as well as haunting and as I mentioned above, full of soul. Each of the 11 songs on One Alone is crafted so well, that you can tell that his ability as a songwriter is underused in Alice In Chains. One Alone is the type of album too that is a visceral listening experience. This album carries a lot of weight with songs like “Till The Light Guides Me Home,” The Veil Of All My Fears,” “Strung Out On A Dream,” “Still Got A Hold On My Heart,” “So Cruel,” and “Chains Around My Heart.” Albums like this don’t come out that often.
This is one of the best solo albums I’ve heard in a long time. There is something really special about this one. To be able to be so vulnerable and open like this is truly remarkable. The voice and words alone, will make you listen again and again. William is a talented guy who was the right choice for the Alice gig, without a doubt, and on this album, he really solidifies his place among the best voices in rock music.
For quite a while now, I’ve been delving deeper and deeper into The Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Corgan catalog. Along the way, I’ve discovered a plethora of songs that I forgot about and rediscovered my love of this band and what a truly great songwriter Billy is. One of the songs that I’ve really obsessed over is “Stand Inside Your Love” from the Machina album. Every time I come across a different version of this song, I get chills and find myself lost in a trance. This is truly an amazing song. Here’s a live solo acoustic version of it that I absolutely adore.
Over the last few years, there has been a surge of instrumental bands that have changed the landscape of what you can do without vocals. Certain bands have come to the forefront of that and have released seminal albums that have a lasting impact. Caspian, is one of those bands. Through their career, they’ve released a wide spectrum of albums that have reached the heights of cinematic and grandiose rock with an accompaniment of thunderous rhythms and riffs galore that would can shatter glass. It’s been 5 years since their last album, the very highly regarded, Dust and Disquiet. Now, Caspian have unleashed one hell of an epic album with On Circles that, is one of the most captivating of their career. There’s an intimacy on this album that comes out more and more as you listen, while at the same time, there’s an immediacy to it that drives you to tune in closer and closer. On Circles, is Caspian at a creative height and pushing themselves to step out of their comfort zone even more, for example, on closing song “Circles On Circles,” guitarist Phillip Jamieson adds vocals to this very introspective song.
Hands down, Caspian have released the first great album of 2020. This album is definitely going to be talked about through the whole year, as it should be. It covers a wide range of elements the band has become known for and touches on new ground that doesn’t feel out of reach for their capabilities. Caspian are back and ready to set sail on one hell of a journey with this album.
Ever since I heard Wiretap Scars by Sparta, I’ve been hooked. As much as I dug on At The Drive-In, I loved Sparta more. Well, now Sparta is back and getting ready to release a new album, Trust The River (to be released April 10). The first song released, “Believe” is quite an uplifting and promising song. It sort of has a vibe that harks back to their second album Porcelain. Either way, I’m stoked on having a new Sparta album and tour dates as well! 2020 is sure shaping up to be a pretty damn good year for new albums already.
Sparta Tour Dates:
04/23 San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill
04/24 Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour
04/25 San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
04/29 New York, NY – Mercury Lounge
04/30 New York, NY – Mercury Lounge
05/01 Philadelphia, PA – Boot & Saddle
05/02 Philadelphia, PA – Boot & Saddle
05/03 Somerville, MA – ONCE Ballroom