Soundtrack for a rainy night: Standing in the Shadow of your Ghost

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 11.20.37 PM

Pain, loss, and fear have never been so beautiful as captured musically by Philly indie rockers Stellarscope. If you love albums by Joy Division and The Cure(in the early 80s) then you will love the mood of “Standing in the Shadow of your Ghost.” For me it is fitting in this rainy night. The synths are spacey and the drums are robust. Basically, this album is the creative output of two people:  Tom Lugo & Bob Forman. You can tell that hours spent writing and recording together gave us this trippy output.

Most of the tracks are mid-tempo which is good for background music for dim lights and a book in hand. There are also danceable tracks like Only Strangers Now which calls to mind the late and great Ian Curtis. The gothic brooding of Tom Lugo’s voice and the hypnotic drums of Bob Forman create an almost beautiful form of revelation.

The power of “Standing in the Shadow of your Ghost” is in its craft. The quality of the recording is already evident in the first track and even though there is no darkness in your horizon, you will appreciate this for its creative strength.

The album closes with How it Ends with its oceanic soundscapes. All things must come to an end. Love, no matter how fervent can sadly end. In this sad times of instant gratification, Stellarscope remind us that you can take your tragedy and make it into art. And while we quietly weep for the ghost of our pasts, helpless to the obstinate hands of time, that aching and bleeding part of our humanity refuses to move on yet. Because our stubbornness to hold on to meaning is what makes us human after all.


Swallowed by the New album Q&A with Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket.


I was in college when I heard Something’s Always Wrong and Fall Down. They were massive hits and I rushed to the record store to buy Dulcinea. It was the height of The X-Files, Beavis and Butthead, Grunge and Neo Folk. I started following the band through music magazines and other publications, absorbing their tour updates as well as recording activities. There’s something special about their sound. And the center of it all was and still is, the charismatic Glen Phillips.

There is this irresistible optimism in this aura even if he was singing the saddest songs. Just watch Walk on the Ocean and All I want(for their album Fear) and you will see what I mean. The band was on a hiatus, the World Wide Web reached me and I started looking for his solo releases. That’s when I ‘discovered’ him again via MySpace. At that time, MySpace was huge and I cared about the musical aspect of the site as much as my networking activities. He released Mr Lemons to positive reviews. I remember Everything But You became my theme song before going to work at a call center. I thought the video was edgy, not the typical Toad the Wet Sprocket stuff, as this was purely Glen Phillips.

Swallowed by the New bolted out of the studio last month and I am honored to finally correspond with my musical idol. I was literally jumping up and down when I got his answers.


 Hi Glen, can you say that *Swallowed by the New *is perhaps your most honest album to date?

These songs certainly handling their subject matter in a pretty unveiled way. It’s head on about dealing with change and loss. All songs are little works of fiction, though. You start with something true and honest, but you end up serving the song itself more than the inspiration for the song, so they aren’t usually direct factual narratives, even though the emotional content is authentic. Songs have to have their own integrity and balance.

 Your fans are cheering that you are back with new music. What was it like to record the new album?

This record was made with more intent than much of what I’ve done as a solo artist. I felt like I knew what I wanted it to feel like, I knew what I needed to say. Paul Bryan was a great collaborator. He came at the recording from an angle that felt in total alignment with what I was after. Simple parts, minimal overdubs and ornamentation. He brought in some really great players but we kept the circle small enough that it had a real band feeling from top to bottom even though the songs are fairly disparate in style. I was in a pretty fragile space at the time – it was about 6-7 months after my marriage had ended. Paul gave me a lot of support without coddling me.

Can you tell us a bit about the string arrangement in Leaving Oldtown?

Paul did the arrangements on the record, and Eric Gorfian and the Section Quartet played the strings. Leaving Oldtown is written almost like a number from a musical. It’s pretty visual, not really a pop song. He was able to emphasize that more classic attitude with the strings.

Speaking of Leaving Oldtown, it is also your first single right? What’s the story behind the music video?

It’s the third single, but the other two were probably easy to miss. Don’t have much of a promo budget these days. The video was shot on trains in Japan. I took my middle daughter Zola there with me for a little tour in the spring. I put my iPhone in slo-mo mode and we would take turns holding it against the window as we would pull in and out of stations. It came out looking pretty great for a phone recording. The lion’s share of the work was sorting through the footage and editing. I enjoy that kind of trancelike work. Editing video is like writing and mixing a song at the same time. I would like to do a lot more of that.

How do you manage to preserve your amazing voice through the years?

Some years are better than others. I’ve moved the keys of a lot of songs down. I try and rest and stay hydrated, and warm up before I play. I didn’t use to warm up, just out of embarrassment, but I’ve had to get over that – it makes a huge difference. Cutting out alcohol really helps, too. Also just being more aware of how I sing and where I’m holding tension. Toad shows impact my voice way more than solo shows. It’s not just how hard I sing, it’s how I hold my body and how much emotional tension I bring in. My oldest daughter is taking a course in the Alexander Technique right now and I’m hoping to dive into that this year. It’s all about how we hold tension and it’s effect on the voice and body.

You are not afraid to address life’s weighty issues in you songs. Do you feel you are privileged to be able get away writing the songs you want and maintain a strong fanbase?

I’m really lucky that there’s people who are interested in my songs. I don’t think I’d to a very good job at chasing success. I’m not that kind of a writer. It needs to feel worthwhile, like I’m providing something that’s more than simple entertainment. I realize that the attention I got when I was young makes it so that a few more people listen to me, that I’m a poor enough salesman that I wouldn’t compete very well in the current market. I’m also aware that some people barely listen to my new music because they judge me by my past or just want me to cater to their nostalgia. I’m ok with all of that – I write music that I think is useful to people, and enough people seem to still find it useful that I can continue to do it professionally. I do think I might need to start learning some new tricks, though. I’d like to tour less some day, or tour at a level where I could bring more of home with me. We’ll see how all that pans out in due time.

 What can we expect following release of the new album?

I’ll be touring as a duo in 2016, trio in 2017. I’ve got a few ideas for projects in the works. I’m just getting my life together after a couple years of massive change. I’ve been divorced, lost my old home, had to work to love my new life and move on with gratitude. I moved out to Nashville a couple weeks ago, and go back to Santa Barbara for a week each month. I’m trying to not make any grand statements about what will come next, and just remain open and keep moving forward. It’s the beginning of a new life, so who knows where it’ll lead?

Your message to fans?

My dentist says you should all floss more than you probably do. And use soft bristles for your toothbrush!

And here I go, starting to listen to all his songs again.


Wow The Joys Of Modern Life by The Dennis McCalmont Band!


The Joys of Modern Life by The Dennis McCalmont Band has a dreamy and positive vibe. This is shown in the opening track Best Days of My Life which foretells the atmosphere of the whole record-energetic, smooth and timeless.

The introduction of funky guitars, groovy bass and smooth percussion call  to mind Jazz and R&B influences. His slick voice is the pillar of this release. I like singers who have big voices and great range. He embodies the likes of great 70s singers-combining the styles of Smokey Robinson and Phil Lynott.

The Joys of Modern Life boasts 12 songs that articulate the maturity of the singer-songwriter and his band. There is nuance in every song and there is also great passion. Each song feel like a holiday with their breezy melodies and apt instrumental arrangements.

This recording is a follow-up to his successful #SoulRecall  which I also featured in this blog. What can I say? It is always a pleasure to write about an artist who is fond of making amazinf albums. The Joys of Modern Life is filled with eloquent essays about how we live our lives written in song form. And I know listeners can identify their sentiments to each song and hopefully pick one of more stand out tracks as their favorites. I know I have mine.

Here’s an interesting blurb about the album:

One of The Joys of Modern Life is having the Musical Technology available to allow Four Musicians to go into a Room for Three Days and Record An Album… Now that’s just Brilliant! 
However the content of The Dennis McCalmont Band’s latest offering takes a more ‘tongue in cheek’ look at The Joys Of Modern Life. 
The Album kicks off with ‘Best Days Of My Life’ in a rush to get ready for the Day ahead! 
We’re living in a very uncertain World right now and McCalmont’s Lyrics seem to be right on Point, he addresses this from a Personal perspective on ‘Pure’ he laments ‘Once I Was Uncertain, but now I’m not so sure..’ and from the bigger picture ‘Your Life could change in a moment’ on ‘Nature Of Life’, and no one could argue that the Global Landscape has certainly changed recently, leaving us all a bit more insecure about our future. 

McCalmont and his Band of Soul Mates, Donal Hoban (Drums) Craig Donaldson (Bass) Michael Buckton Lead Guitar, John Flatley (Piano) and Tony Bambrick (Guitar), Rock and Groove their way through some tougher subject matter too, including reflections on Domestic Abuse ‘Leave’, Alcoholism and Addiction ‘Wasted’ where other Songwriters might fear to tread. 
But there is Hope… 
The Closing tracks ‘Time For Truth’ address Modern War and Conflict ‘When the World goes Crazy, You gotta trust Yourself ‘ is a hopeful lyrical Anthem with a clear message to continue to chart Your life course regardless of the difficulties around you. 

Yes Modern Life, with all it’s Technological Highlights can still be a very Dark Place for Real Lives to Survive, but they do…

So is this release different than #SoulRecall? Yes and No. I think his every release speaks about the time of their creation. I think it is different in a sense that the topics/themes are different from the last album. The style is distinctive. It is purely McCalmont with his love for good melodies and unique chord patterns. Though I must say  this one feels more pop and upbeat while the last one has an acoustic/jazzy feel-mostly.

So how do we assist this musically? I think McCalmont is already a better musician before he ventured into recording. Which I think a lot of indie artists out there can learn from. Creativity is not enough these days. You need the gift of eloquence that your listener can relate to, and can listen to time and time again. Here’s the track listing for The Joys of Modern Life:

1.Best Days Of My Life 03:27

2.Suffocate 02:57

3.Pure 04:26

4.Nature Of Life 03:47

5.Leave 03:25

6.If You See My Girl 02:47

7.Something She Said 02:56

8.Wasted 03:51

9.Fall 03:48

10. Time For Truth 03:39

11.When The World Goes Crazy 04:03


All songs from this release are generally lively. All eleven tracks crafted artfully. When The World Goes Crazy closes the album. And I think it is a timely song for these turbulent times. It says that you need to trust yourself. Trust your your humanity and the vallues that you’ve been taught as a child. Because I think in the end when everything crumbles, there will always be that light inside us that will never die-the light of love given to us by those who nurtured us to become who we are now. And that is our thread  out of every labyrinth. Thanks to The Joys of Modern Life for making me think that way.

Industrial Strength Set To The Groove of Pop:LÜJAH by Rakans


  • rakans(SoundCloud)
  • rakanscom(Twitter)
  • rakanscom(Instagram)

The internet is a good place to discover unique musical artists. I discovered the music of Rakans in the social media. He really takes time to talk to his listeners about his ideas. He is also happy to promote other artists. I heard probably two songs which made me realize that he has a potential to make it huge in the pop music scene. You know why? He doesn’t just sound interesting. He LOOKS interesting. His avant garde fashion sense is meant  to inspire and provoke.

Fashion and music go together!

He calls his music avant-garde pop/Industrial pop. And for a good reason. Rakans has created tunes that anyone can dance to. But these are not your typical ‘nice sweet sounding pop’ associated with the likes of Taylor Swift or Katy Perry.If you are uninitiated to edgy side of electronic music then Lüjah might sound strange, dissonant or even chaotic. But if you listen carefully, there is that unified idea that pulses throughout the rhythms and harmonies. His lyrics are fascinating.

Redsulfur is the current single. It is also my favourite as it reminds me of Nine Inch Nails and Massive Attack. But the rapping is all his. If you haven’t seen the music video yet then you better check it out. It is really interesting. Challenging established ideas is what Lüjah is all about. It is also about being faced with contradictions and how you deal with them. If you ask me, this album is better than anything released by other artists in the genre. I think this is more interesting than Skrillex. I think he will have Skrillex have a run for his money.

Gummy Bears hints the relationship of American hiphop to his European sound. And he can really sing. In Prayers, he’s singing about the great divide that religion imposes in all of us. And he belts out like George Michael too. What I appreciate about his work, is his dedication to the craft of writing pop songs. There is that slick sound in his recordings which I appreciate. Listen to BowBowBow which is one of his catchiest tracks. It will set you in the mood to strut.

Mr Little Jeans and the atmospheric power of her electronic pop.

I don’t know why it took so long for me to write something about Mr Little Jeans. I remember watching an episode of iZombie. And there’s this track playing in the background. It thought it was a cool tune as it reminds me of Til Tuesday with a bit of Cocteau Twins. Turns out it was Heaven Sent taken from her current album Pocketknife(she is now working on a new album).

He real name is Monica Birkenes. According to her bio, the pseudonym Mr Little Jeans is inspired by Kumar Pallana’s character in Wes Anderson’s film “Rushmore. She is a Norwegian singer-songwriter who is now based in California. Yes she makes awesome tunes that you can take with you to the gym while you do cardio or weightlifting. But there is more. Her music is atmospheric. I think this is what appeals to us-or people like us who dig this kind of style. She also makes fantastic melodies. Her music is really different. She doesn’t rely on loud vocals and generic ‘hits.’ There are moments when she layers her voice to create that ethereal effect, but then again she sets the balance by adding more bass and drums. And yes she sometimes create dissonance through chords and studio effects.

In her single Good Mistake, there is that part during the ad-lib secrion when the songs quiets down into drum and bass. There’s that unique bass line that deserves many Ridley Scott movies! I love her craft and her singing. I wish she continues into that atmospheric path no matter what style she incorporates in her new album.

Download Mr Little Jeans, Pocketknife Now!