Category Archives: Album Reviews

BRKN LOVE – Selftitled

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: February 14, 2020

Genre: Rock, Hard Rock

Label: Spinefarm Records

The Los Angeles based rock band, BRKN LOVE, fronted by the twenty one year old, Toronto vocalist and guitarist, Justin Benlolo, have released their self titled debut eleven track effort, BRKN LOVE. Justin’s music career began shortly after he dropped out of high school at sixteen years of age with the encouragement of his friends and family and flew to New York City. Over the years of honing his craft in music while in NYC, he eventually went on to move to Los Angeles and form what is now, BRKN LOVE.

“All I could ever focus on was being on stage, screaming into a microphone, and playing my guitar in a rock and roll band for the world to hear,” says vocalist Justin Benlolo. 

BRKN LOVE’s debut album was produced by Joel Hamilton (Highly Suspect and Pretty Lights), which is a full circle type of occurrence for Justin and his band. BRKN LOVE was formed out of the emergence of bands in the likes of, Royal Blood and Highly Suspect, to name a few. These said bands were what inspired Justin to go forward with this project. Justin draws influence from other acts as well from, Led Zeppelin to Soundgarden as well, which can be heard throughout the band’s eleven tracks.

The album was recorded entirely live to tape to capture the band’s pure essence that flows within their sound and in their relatable and emotional lyrics. The band formed just last year in early 2019 and while still being relatively new to the music scene, the band have taken the United States by storm with a handful of tours and festival appearances under their belt.

Justin Benlolo and BRKN LOVE, tackle the lyrical subjects of love and loss on their debut self titled record. Perfect subject matter for an album released on Valentine’s Day. Throughout the eleven tracks on the album, Justin Benlolo speaks on his experience of love and loss of loss in various forms in friendships, significant others, and so forth. Despite the theme of love/loss, the entire album’s track list is full of upbeat, fast rock anthems, with a drizzle of a couple of slower rock ballads, that are all in their own ways, very well emotionally driven by Justin Benlolo’s lyrics.

The album opens up right out of the gate with the rock anthem, “I Can’t Lie,” a song about a friend who stabbed Justin in the back for no reason whatsoever. It sets the tone for the remaining ten tracks. The immediate second that Justin plays his first note on guitar and those vocal harmonies hit, a rush of electricity hit me. You can feel the true genuine, raw power of the song as if you’re in the room with the band as they were performing it live to tape. Effectively getting the true feel of the album as it was intended it, with no editing to the tracks in any shape or form.

“Shot Down,” has one of the most massive sounding guitar riffs on the entire album with Justin belting out the lyrics on top of it all. However this track is full of sexual innuendos, but take the track as you will. As Justin states, “It can be interpreted as a massive disaster song;” “My heart doesn’t bleed for you / I’m a dire wolf, gonna see it through / How long till your legs give out / Gonna be hard times, there will be no doubt.”

On the track, “Papercuts,” Justin’s falsetto shines bright throughout while tackling the topic of returning to a former lover, when you know it’s better not to; “You’re just a drug I love to take / You make me sick, I love the taste / Another wound I can’t keep shut / Another one, another papercut.”

The self titled album comes to a climax with the track, “In Your Hands.” The track is “an ode to life, that we’re going to ride the universe’s wave without worrying,” says vocalist, Justin Benlolo. Notably the song features one of the most remarkable vocal performances on the eleven tracks from vocalist, Justin Benlolo.

In conclusion, BRKN LOVE has a little something for every rock fan. Some catchy rock anthems throughout the album, a slight amount of slower rock ballads mixed between, quite the amount of tracks with a faster tempo, and most importantly, the guitars on the album remain consistently heavy for the duration of the album.

“The name represents who I am,” Justin leaves off. “You can honestly be a hopeless romantic and play tough music. Most of the lyrics deal with love and loss. That’s the vibe. You can share your feelings and still rock your face off at the end of the day. It’s what I’m going to do.”

Check out more from BRKN LOVE:

Ever Since I Lost My Mind – SUSTO

By Matt Harrison

We were passing around a post-show doobie-joint in Louisville, watching the security guard of the neighbouring property drive the perimeter of his jurisdiction with a burnt out taillight. “We’ll play the new album for ya tomorrow on the way to Nashville” SUSTO frontman Justin Osborne said to me from the front passenger seat. I sat in my same back row seat the next day when we hit the road and I first heard Ever Since I Lost My Mind.

The sounds of silence hang momentarily before the sharp pattern of acoustic strumming brings listeners into the newest SUSTO album. “Homeboy,” the first track on the album, is a rhythmically fluid and lyrically evocative anthem of the rising tide among Osborne and those he’s come up around in the prolific Charleston music scene. It’s a catchy and inspiring track that causes one to consider their potential, be they a musician or otherwise.

Rolling in as a light alternative, “If I Was” will have you shoulder dancing along before the lyrics come in. “If I was a saviour,” Osborne begins, “I’d help all the people get saved/ Dunk their heads under water just to make sure that they’re all okay, they’re all alright.” The song carries on this theme of giving in the lines “If I was a writer, I’d try to suck you all in/ Put out some real page turners that you’ll never ever wanna put down again.

As the song comes to a close the instruments gradually drift and mingle, seemingly on their own. The band was sharing an LSD trip in the studio and the music took that wavelength for a ride. At the song’s natural conclusion those final notes hung together, floating along in an unchoreographed stream of celestial interconnectedness.

At the midway point is “Last Century,” a powerhouse track that puts SUSTO’s rock and roll aptitude on display. It’s the sort of groovy tune you’ll turn up every time you hear that first sliding note. In the latter half of the song the band drops into another gear, putting listeners under a psychedelic trance of slow-motion rock and roll euphoria before the tempo picks back up and roars into the closing chants; “Hey man, you got the last century, the last century right; Hey man, I’ll see you on the other side.”

You may have missed too many episodes of Dora to understand what “Está Bien” is about, so I’ve gone ahead and written up the drunken translation Justin gave me on the last night I was on tour with his crew in Macon, Georgia. Once you’ve read it, you’ll see how the song is not only aesthetically beautiful but deeply mantric. “I hope Esta Bien can be used as a tool to teach simple Spanish while sharing a positive message” Justin explained to me that night in Georgia, “something parents can share with their kids to teach them something good.”

After tiptoeing through the dreamscape of the seventh track, “House of the Blue Green Buddha,” you will be ripped back to reality when “Livin’ in America” comes on. This song captures the enjoyment of turning up the amps, subsequently pissing off your neighbours and scaring the dog. “It’s meant to come across as sarcastic,” Justin said while he, Van the Good and I smoked a 5 am joint in Macon. “America is fun as fuck. I mean, I get we’re fucked up, but it’s fun.”

And then you’re back, neck deep in the mellow, lost again in the serenity of the album. The title track, “Ever Since I Lost My Mind,” brings a fleeting scent of freedom; the equanimity of nomadity. “This is our fuckin’ hymn out there on the road,” Justin said, looking out the same windshield through which endless miles have passed him by. “You’ve just entered this life” he nodded to newly appointed tour manager, Van, “and you’ve sampled it,” he nodded back to me, “but this has been my life for 15 years.”

Before you know it you’re at the end of the ride. “Waiting on the rain to just stop/ I’m three weeks off cocaine and that’s rough” Osborne sings, shameless in his humanity in the final track, “Off You.” What many connect with in Osborne’s songwriting is his unrelenting and continual honesty. His lyrics offer personal insight that emboldens the understanding that those who struggle within themselves are not alone. “I can’t seem to get myself off of you” are the words the album closes on, shedding a final streak of light on that which Osborne still works to overcome.

Songs unmentioned here were cut for the sake of relative brevity. Among them is the third track, “Weather Balloons,” which was written the day after an acid trip during a Charleston snowstorm that shut the city down. Much of this album can be heard on repeat until your headphones give out. However, when listened to as a single entity, this album reflects the mind of an artist working through his pains who recognizes the beauty and bliss around him.

I was standing outside the door of Rialto Row on my last day in Charleston, still fairly stoned and about to head to the airport. SUSTO was inside for their first full band practice since recording the album. The peak of “Last Century” roared through the door with the same force found on the album. What the future holds for SUSTO remains to be seen but those last lines I heard through the door paint the picture of expectation; “Exercise in the early mornin’/ Let’s try and get one for the radio.”

Enter your email HERE to be notified when the full piece about my time on the road with SUSTO is published in summer of 2019

Support SUSTO with a purchase of Ever Since I Lost My Mind: HERE

Previously published work from the SUSTO Stories Tour:

Another Day on the Road

Aimlessly Wandering Through Chicago

Dead Swords – Enders

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: March 8, 2019

Genre: Shoegaze, Ambient

Label: Human Blood Records

Dead Swords, the self described Doomgaze band based out of New Jersey have released their debut eleven track effort, Enders. The genre Doomgaze is a heavier form of the alternative rock sub-genre shoegaze. The band was formed in 2016 by the group’s two members Alex Rosamilia, the guitarist of The Gaslight Anthem, and Corey Perez of the bands Bottomfeeder and Let Me Run. Enders features an abundance of guest bassists, drummers, and vocalists throughout the album including Benny Horowitz, Alex’s band mate in The Gaslight Anthem on drums on the track, “Tonight.”

On the album’s two interludes, “Interlude 04” and “Interlude 05,” the poet Mischa Pearlman is featured. For those who may be wondering where “Interlude 01,” “Interlude 02,” and “Interlude 03” are, you can find them on the band’s previous two EPs, Skeletons and Broken Souls, as the band’s debut album is a continuation of what has already been written and released. Enders is also produced and mixed with the help of musician, Kevin Dye, of the fellow New Jersey band, Gates.

Enders focuses on Alex Rosamilia’s morbid fascination with death and everything surrounding the subject. The obviously grim lyrical theme is prominent throughout the entire album by not only touching on death, but also speaks of loss and what happens after you pass on. Despite the clear theme, the entire track list isn’t all gloom as the album does share a couple songs about love and hope. It’s no surprise with the albums lyrics and along with the band’s genre of shoegaze, that Enders makes for a very dark, emotionally driven album straight from the heart and soul of Rosamilia and Perez.

Do not let the albums average track length of seven minutes deter you from listening to Enders. The energy, emotion, and creativity pumped out by Alex, Corey, and their many musical guests leaves you with a strange euphoria through those eight-to-eleven minute tracks. What’s most notable is that feeling of the absence of time as you won’t even realize these tracks are so long.

Enders’ stand out tracks have to be “Fumetsu,” “Perception,” and “Ender.” “Tonight,” which is a little slower than the rest of the songs on the album’s track list, is also worth considering among the top standout tracks as it is easily one of the most emotional tracks on Enders. The topic of not fearing death is prominently found in the lines, “Do not fear the winding down / We all have been since the first round / A dimming light, a deafening sound; to become a simple earthen mound.”On the track “Perception,” Rosamilia questions his sense of purpose on earth; “Are we angel souls / Encapsulated in these bodies / Trying to go home?” The track, “Black” is about grieving and not being able to accept the death of a loved one. This seeps through in the lines, “I still won’t admit that you’re gone/ After all, after all that you’ve done.”

On Enders penultimate track, “Ender,” the constant overall theme of death hits a new height, when Rosamilia touches on it one last time. The song is about the last moments of thought before the end of ones life; “Before an eternity of white noise and black / Before an eternity of non-existence.”

“When I started Dead Swords, I really wanted to focus on letting the music be able to breathe,” Rosamilia says. “I have always been a fan of bands like Pink Floyd, My Bloody Valentine, or The Cure; bands that write songs that sprawl about over the course of seven-to-eight minutes. “Ender”, as well as the rest of the record, is my homage to those bands and those songs that take you for a 10-minute trip without you realizing how long you’ve sat there.”

Check out more from Dead Swords:

The Rainy Day Apparel – Reset EP

By Samuel Stevens

Release Date: December 15, 2018

Genre: Folk, Alt. Rock

Label: Self-Released

The Rainy Day Apparel is the brainchild of Manitoba musician, Nathan Strange. Strange’s venture into writing and performing through this musical project started all the way back in 2002. Reset is the first collection of music released by The Rainy Day Apparel and these five songs were mixed by Jordan Wiberg in British Columbia. Wiberg has previously worked with Canadian artists Jon Bryant, Sykamore, Paul Brandt, and many others.

Reset came to fruition after Strange had a year long time issue with back pain. The eventual diagnoses was a herniation near his spine that fully pinched his sciatic nerve and eventually required surgery and months of recovery. During Strange’s time searching for a diagnosis, and well after the back surgery Strange needed, he put his focus into his music. This allowed Strange to put his heart and soul into The Rainy Day Apparel project and produced the songs that eventually became Reset.

The five song effort begins with the number “Matches.” The track touches on the burden of grief that comes from leaving or running away from someone or something and knowing you can’t return. His lyrics are saturated with this message, coming through most prominently in the lines “I was only hoping to fix what’s broken / I picked a wonderful time to run / You can’t run from your demons / But you can light a fire; and they’re no match for you.”

The theme of recovery can be heard in the words of the track “Thaw Me Out;” “Good things come to those who wait / It all seems a little too late / The glaring sun shows the damage done / It’s staying for the long run / Thaw me out.” The EP’s title track, “Reset,” follows the mindset of a bad day and wanting nothing more than to wake up in the sunshine of tomorrow. This comes through in the lines, “Start again; start again / I’m hoping for just one more day / As I wish today away.” The theme of love sends sparks from the track “Why Would I?” with the lines, “I think with my heart / I can’t get you off my mind / Why in the hell would I? / Why would I?”

During my first listen of Reset, the EP’s themes and the tone of the music, particularly the track “Thaw Me Out,” took me back to a time I was just released from the hospital in the spring of 2008. After a two week stay, which resulted in numerous tests and a failed medical procedure. The songs took me back to a cold spring morning on one of the many days I was recovering. With the warm sun peaking through the cracks of the window onto my bed, along with the fragrance of morning dew mixing with the thawing soil blowing through my cracked window adjacent to my bed.

By fusing his infectious melodies, vocal harmonies, genuine song writing, and his simple melodic guitar playing throughout the record, this EP stands out in its own right. Strange’s unique blend of country twang with a mix of folk and alt. rock adds to the greatness of the five song effort.

The stand out tracks off the EP have to be “Matches,” “Thaw Me Out,” and the EP’s title track, “Reset.” Listening to Reset, will leave you wanting more. Hopefully a full length album is in the cards for The Rainy Day Apparel to solve that desire listeners are sure to be left with.

Check out more from The Rainy Day Apparel:

Lainhart: Senora May

By Matt Harrison

Upon hearing Senora May’s debut album, Lainhart, a few things will be made clear. For one, there’s no hunk of cheese big enough to coax her into the Rat Race. What she wants instead is a life outside the cage where she can stretch her legs and let her soul wander. Senora touches on this and more in her romantic album about life.

Not to be missed are the songs “Elusive,” “By My Lonesome,” and “Lainhart.” Written for a loved one who finds freedom only in reverie, the title track is sung like a letter from home. The bouncing tune reminds Lainhart of being “back in these hills every night in your dreams/ Shovelin’ hog shit while ya sing.” This song is meant to bring someone home, if only for the few minutes it takes to listen to.

At the midway point is “California King,” a stand out track both aesthetically and lyrically. Senora tells the story of love’s radiance fading to the ashes of nothing as cold stares turn to cold shoulders and quiet goodnights give way to the sharp click of the lights going out. As the years have passed, what was once the pain of loss has receded into a deeper understanding of what was and what is meant to be. Her pain has become hindsight understanding as she sings “I can’t even tell ya how we got this far, nor can I navigate the sea without a single star/ But I am the sun and I need no Goddamn moon.” The song ends with the same lines that began it; “There’s an ocean between us, calm as the eye of a storm/ Words won’t break it and tears won’t even cause a ripple.”

If you can’t hear the warbling of those first notes at the outset of “Only Want You,” you’ll need to add volume accordingly. This is a song that one can lean into like a drug when the other half of their heart flies across the country. Senora howls along with the wail of coyotes and together they are a tangled harmony of lovesick desertion. “The coyotes outside are singin’ my song” she says of the lonesome hillside anthem, bringing listeners to the solitude of wherever it is Senora sings her heart out from.

Senora May glows throughout this album, coming across to listeners as sweet, loving, and not to be fucked with. She embodies her own beautifully distinct and poetic fashion of interpreting life through music. Despite her past struggles she has found true happiness which flows at an unfreezable depth. She doesn’t mind being left alone, either, and she’d probably rather you left, anyways.