“Funkin’ Blame Game” single captures Andrew Thomases asking the important questions

Courtesy of Andrew Thomases

Here at OTBEOTB there have been some tremendous guest blogs I’ve had the pleasure of putting out recently. Material placed upon these digital pages is required to speak; to have a message that’s as relevant to the reader as it is my own two eyes. And Andrew Thomases may have just made one of the most urgently poignant features I’ve had yet.

The singer-songwriter delves into the delicate guts of his recent single “Funkin Blame Game”, a muscly blues tune further enhanced by the presence of fellow rocker Anne Bennett on backing vocals. The duo together only adds to the punch of the lyrical message, which is what what may excite me most about giving a platform to Thomases words here.

We currently live during a time in history in which US human rights are vanishing at an alarming rate; actions initiated by discrimination and fear against those in society who are different. Subsequently, it strikes a chord to me to hear Thomases ask the question, why do people blame others for their actions instead of taking personal responsibility? To me it feels like a societal wound; you aren’t what we consider normal so we’ll harass you for that and deny our heinous actions are wrong.

But I’ll let Thomases take it from here and explain the rest. Enjoy this important bite of food for thought!

Image Courtesy of Andrew Thomases

What is going on in society today? It seems to me that people tend to blame other people for their problems and refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. Whether it is small individual actions or large-scale political or cultural sentiment, people are looking for scapegoats. This trend has bothered me so much that I recently wrote a song about it called “Funkin’ Blame Game.” 

As the lyrics explain, I tend to believe that the blame game derives from a deeper narcissistic trait that is rearing its head. We see it more and more in our leaders, and that opens up the door to emulation of that trait by everyday people. The narcissists believe that they are always right, that they cannot make mistakes, and, thus, any problem must be caused by others. If others blame them for something, they play the victim and complain that the blame is unfair. 

Thanks to Andrew Thomases for the image

This blame game is damaging our moral fabric. It is teaching our kids that it is wrong to admit to a mistake. That, if something goes wrong, they should point a finger at someone else. Some people no longer have the courage to take responsibility for their actions, especially the decisions that turn out wrong. This seems most prevalent in the people who should be leading our country. Without their leadership, spinelessness turns to anger, and anger is now turning to hate and splitting society into factions. These people are not serving as proper role models for our younger generation, and I fear that the blame game will continue. 

“Funkin’ Blame Game” is a direct attack on this type of behavior. Under the funky bass line, the catchy guitar riffs, and the ear-worm vocal melodies, the song chastises all of us for falling into the trap of providing excuses rather than admissions. How constant deflection of flaws is just not credible. And, it also explains how the blame game is killing our society.  However, the song ends on a positive note. It asks all of us whether we are prepared to stop playing the blame game. Don’t you want to cease playing the blame game?

Image courtesy of Andrew Thomases

Watch the lyric music video for “Funkin’ Blame Game” down below, and check out more of Andrew over at his website AndrewThomases.com. Big thanks to Andrew for contributing to this one!

Rockers Brightshine keep us hopeful with the summer of single “New Days”

Photos courtesy of Brightshine

I don’t know about you dear readers, but as summer hits I find my mind waxing nostalgic for songs that illuminate the open road feeling of these approaching brighter months. Sometimes those points of light can be harder to find in 2022, so when an all-important hook passes by… you’ve gotta grab at it like Marty McFly truck-surfing via skateboard to Huey Lewis in the Back To The Future intro. 

Luckily, California rockers Brightshine accommodate by living up to their name through a dazzlingly bright new single called “New Days”. Accompanied by a sweetly optimistic music video, the track hits like a bouncy mid-level rocker with an afterburn that takes off in a jet plane during the guitar solo. Slashing through with psychedelic strokes like The War on Drugs meets Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler and Warren Haynes, Brightshine’s lead man/guitarist Pete Sawyer’s fretwork takes “New Days” to another stratosphere in its quest and pursuit for… hope, to describe it in a word. 

Photos courtesy of Brightshine

At least that’s the implication here as the song rides the high of getting out of the dry, withered winter and spring and moving towards the bloom of bright flowers reaching out with soft fingers for a new tomorrow. Whether those small initial green buds remember the trauma of the conditions that were before is unknown; what IS is that they always bloom again.

There’s more than a few lessons we can absorb from that philosophy, so take a seat, listen and start learning (with the the band’s music video below of course!).

Thanks to Brightshine for the opportunity to review “New Days” out fresh today! The track will also appear on the group’s upcoming sophomore album “The Wire”, due out July 23rd.

Ruby Greenberg shows us why vulnerable “Roses” bloom so sweet in behind the scenes “peek”

Photos courtesy of Ruby Greenberg

I love any chance to use this blog to feature other voices besides this one you always see before you. My relationship with my own writing has had a tendency to ebb and flow in the last few years anyway, as is natural when it comes to that will o’ the wisp creativity. So in those moments, rather than fight burnout I’d rather pass the mic to someone with an inspired message.

Enter Ruby Greenberg. The Colorado-born indie-folk singer-songwriter has been impressing in 2022 with her new single “Roses”. We need more voices like hers defining the genre as it makes its way forth into the future, especially because we ALWAYS need new female musical voices to help show the way.

There aren’t enough.

Fortunate for me (and you the reader), Ruby was kind enough to provide a peek behind the curtain into what makes this new song “tick”. For that I’m deeply appreciative, as not all artists are willing to provide a vulnerable window into their creative process. It’s much easier to simply board that window up; just keep the mask tight. Instead, Greenberg shows us how to listen by explaining when she had difficulties doing just that, and how it led to “Roses”.

Enjoy.

Photos courtesy of Ruby Greenberg

“How to Share Space with the Ones You Love”

Many of us try to approach life treating others as we would want to be treated. We might even have been taught this value at a young age, told that it was something to strive for. It’s a reminder to treat others with kindness and respect and to be mindful of how we’d want them to listen to, support, or nurture us. But some time ago, I realized that sharing space with those I love could be done in an even better way: by treating them how they would want to be treated instead.

As I wrote one of my latest songs, “Roses,”I was thinking about a particular relationship in my life. I tried thinking about what it would look like if I showed up for that person in the way that they needed me to, instead of responding in the way that was most instinctive to me.

Photos courtesy of Ruby Greenberg

Sometimes I get excited when I talk to someone I feel close to. I might try to finish their sentences and chime in with my own thoughts. I might start thinking of what I want to say next. When they pause to find their words, I might jump in with what I think they’re going to say. I realized this isn’t always what people need. That energy, though it comes from an earnest place, doesn’t foster an environment of psychological safety when someone is sharing something vulnerable. I’ve come to think that the best way to connect is to be mindful of creating a space that’s about listening instead of responding. 

Someone might share news with us, describe a decision they made, or even act in a way that is different from how we do. How we handle this matters. When someone shares themselves with the world, the response they receive can impact whether they continue to show up as their true selves again and again, or if they feel shamed and start to hide away. When a loved one shares themselves and is rushed, dismissed, criticized, or ignored, it can cause them to shut down. Then that honest side of them might not shine through again. Creating safety for someone to share their truth in a relationship or interaction can mean that we get to truly know them instead of knowing a version of themselves that they created to make us feel comfortable. 

Photos courtesy of Ruby Greenberg

These meandering thoughts are what were stirring in my mind when I wrote “Roses”I tried to think of an image of bringing comfort and support to someone as I got to really know them. When someone invites you to a home that they’ve built for themselves, you don’t run inside and start painting the walls the color of your own house. You bring them a gift to brighten up their kitchen. And so it became the refrain for this song: “I won’t disturb the space that you’ve created. I will bring Roses for your table.”

Thanks so much Ruby! Listen to “Roses” below:

OK Cool brings the heat to the engaging “Songs From The Spare Room”

Image Courtesy of OK Cool

As many of you out there likely know, damn it’s easy to get stuck in a rut with your music collection. What I mean by this is while I have shelves and shelves of beautiful artistic material, some weeks I’m happily marooned in the Rap and Funk sections with no proper means of escape. Seems easy to leave, but the hook is in trying to make something else sound as good as what needs to be in my head right that very second.

Thankfully, Chicago-area outfit OK Cool have jumped behind my mental velvet rope to shake up the routine with the recent release of their two-song single Songs From The Spare Room. The duo of Bridget Stiebris and Haley Blomquist chew the scenery on tracks “Self Sow” and “Time and a Half”, capturing emotion in a bottle that’s equal parts anxiety as triumph. Buoyed by waves of guitars reminiscent of Sleater Kinney, Yo La Tango or Television, the pair embody the true spirit of shiny, math-y garage rock in a couple songs that take less than moments to hear in their entirety. The notion is downright punk in its execution and sticks the landing with ease.

Image Courtesy of OK Cool

Lyrically, Stiebris and Blomquist are in a similar place to many of us still processing the lifestyle changes and psychological fallout of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But unlike some musicians who choose to let their words bear the brutal brunt of the soul, OK Cool shows the heart on its sleeve more through these 6 string melodies. “Self-Sow” is an effervescent bird in flight amidst crescendoing thrash, while “Time and a Half” rocks in like a Smiths song played at double speed.

It may seem like cliche, but the short track times work to leave me wanting more in the best possible way. I think the most fun aspect of Songs From The Spare Room is just that, the feeling you’ve heard it before bleeding through the garage wall. And there is such a spirit to that, especially in all the kids who’ve ever started bands that way. It’s raw yet refined, rough around the edges, and has all the untapped potential of a diamond yet to be discovered.

It’s wonderful. Or rather, pretty OK Cool.

Andrew Thomases brings color, shading to the sprawl of “Suburban Void”

Courtesy of Andrew Thomases

As a kid growing up in the embers of a slow-dying small town, I was far from typical. I wasn’t into mindless goofing off with friends and I didn’t go out and get into the kind of trouble that’d inspire Bruce Springsteen to write Greetings From Asbury Park. I might have read about those exploits, but I tended to flee from what helped young people cope with their existential “Thunder Road”.

Thankfully, Andrew Thomases is back here on OTBEOTB to fill in the blanks for me with his new single “Suburban Void”. The track is a power-chording thumper; it feels like an omage to every thrashing band at a teen movie house party with adjoining lyrics to match and set the scene.

Courtesy of Andrew Thomases

Thomases growls his way through this leaned landscape of kids doing the random, mundane, and sometimes downright foolish as a way to escape the nature of their means. And, like all of us when we’re young, those methods eventually include many bad/embarrassing choices. That’s echoed in Thomases words, in which he looks back on these moments and finds them to be pathetic.

But I think that’s to be expected with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. If only we knew then what we know now, as they say. Growing pains are a real thing no matter your status or stature; sometimes we’ve got to get embarrassing to get better.

Just brace yourself, there will be embarrassing hairstyles along the way.

Check out the lyric video for “Suburban Void” below:

Audrey DuBois Harris brings all the soul to tender “Christmas Without You”

Courtesy of Audrey DuBois Harris

At this stage of the year it begins to feel like December is leaking away through our fingers like so much common hourglass sand. 2021 is quickly and quietly escaping to a close, culminating with the imminent conclusion of yet another holiday season. Perhaps this is a gradual sign of my age, but it feels like this holiday process rolls in faster and faster the longer I’ve been around. Hanukkah, Christmas, pick the time… these celebrations come and go with the presence of a lightning bolt nowadays. At least from where I sit 31 years into my own story.

As you might imagine that perspective brings on the occasional cloud of melancholy about aging, even amidst the bright lights and bulbs currently illuminating the streets and shop windows with their luminescent casts. There’s a battle in me waged internally between having appreciation for the happiness of those shimmering moments that count, and a little wistful sigh at watching them smokily float away with both feet on the accelerator. Uncaring of my wish that they might stick around just a bit longer and delay their inevitable conclusion. 

Courtesy of Audrey DuBois Harris

I feel both the sun and shade of those moods within the effervescent vocals of soprano Audrey DuBois Harris on her recent single “Christmas Without You”. The track is a sweetly jazz-smoked ode that is at once as heavy as it is uplifting. That’s all due to the intricately gorgeous timbre of DuBois Harris, who carries emotional layers like the fine gossamer silk of spider’s webs. As beautiful as they are strong. Once dubbed by soul legend Aretha Franklin as her “favorite soprano”, DuBois Harris draws the listener into the stirring heartbreak of existing without the one she loves, while also making “Christmas Without You” into a gorgeously capturing torch song about being with those who matter the most. 

Because when it comes to this time of year, the real priorities lie within our connections to others. There are certainly plenty of presents, parties and pretty light strands to be had, but the true gifts dwell within our shared community. That type of gathering becomes a vision that’s more difficult to see during these pandemic times, which makes “Christmas Without You” a rather perfect ode to so many lives right now. But the single also serves as a reminder that even while COVID is ongoing, its still important to check in with loved ones. Make that phone/Zoom call, reach out and don’t leave regrets hanging. 

If they matter the effort is forever worth the time. 

Andrew Thomases leaves us to wonder can we really “Outrun Evolution” on new single

Courtesy of Andrew Thomases

Last month, we took an unflinching look at the state of our Earth through the lens of humanity with Andrew Thomases and his single “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone”. The track is an alt-rocker’s plea to his fellow man to think about the consequences of negative actions against the environment. That’s because we may end up taking a lot for granted that won’t ever come back if we stay on this current path. I think in many ways, we’re already taking a lot for granted that’s already vanished into the stratosphere. It’s a difficult realization to live with, but an important one noted on the song.

This time around Thomases gives us the gear-shifting grit of “Outrun Evolution”, a tempo-bending single showcasing some nasty guitar lines and mankind’s equally nasty poker hand of self-inflicted circumstance. It’s a branch not far removed from “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone”, except it looks at humanity’s progress as a Pearl Jam rocker’s edge Icarus fable; destined to burn up in the sun astride trademark wings of white-hot six-stringed wax. 

Courtesy of Andrew Thomases

There is certainly a case to be made that our society is doing too much too fast to remain sustainable for the long haul. That progress without care can lead to cataclysm; fable’s long cursive strokes turned into reality’s nightmare. As I said before that’s a level of emotion difficult to confront head-on most of the time, but Thomases is among those creators who force our eyes (and ears) to dwell on the sights we need to behold. They’re often horrific, but they must be viewed. To paraphrase rapper Mac Miller, sometimes we only grow from anguish. 

From my own perspective, both of Thomases’ tracks gave me pause thinking about the world at large. There’s a part of my soul buried in my spirit that can’t take the subject because it seems so negatively daunting; that we only stand up to lose a little more ground with the passing of each day. But another portion of me applauds Thomases for speaking out; the great rockers, folkers and raconteurs never backed down from a cause no matter the circumstances. 

So take a moment with “Outrun Evolution” and “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone”, and never give in to those odds. 

Ricky Mendoza’s “MOVE” single tightly-illustrated in new music video

Courtesy of Ricky Mendoza

I’m really digging the non-stop electric sizzling tempo of Ricky Mendoza’s new music video for his song “MOVE”. The track (off Mendoza’s album THE NEW HURT) was already an absolute burner to begin with, buoyed as much by the arrangement as Mendoza’s rattlesnake rasping vocals taking assertive center stage. The Mexican-American folk-punker brings out the best of both genres on the single by carrying a Clash-like energy, as well as a folk singer-songwriter’s lyrical sensibilities. 

What I mean by that is emblematically displayed in Mendoza’s new video, which finds the artist playing both the pro- and antagonist of the story. In this battle of good and evil, Mendoza stays on the run and just ahead of the representation of his fears and anxieties. As an introvert since childhood, the analogy is a familiar one to me; an ever-constant battle of action versus brain chemistry locked in perpetual duel. 

Courtesy of Ricky Mendoza

But as this production also shows, you can only flee from those emotions for so long before there must be confrontation. And in true punk fashion, Mendoza decides to square off and run down his foe like a knight mid-joust. At first glance that may perhaps seem like the most linear, straightforward route of response, but in our many potential life situations and dilemmas often the best way out is to wind up going straight through. 

And initially, that concept can seem like a scary one. Perhaps even the most feared of all. But Ricky Mendoza’s “MOVE” shows us (as both viewers and listeners) that with a little courage, a dash of grit and a hint of vinegar, we can emerge on the other side better than from where we started. 

It’s hard, but the relief at the end is worth the risk of the trek. 

For more on Ricky, check him out on Facebook and Instagram, or find out more at his website rickymendoza.org.

Choi and Cure classic “Boys Don’t Cry” make for perfect pairing

Courtesy of Karen Choi

Cover songs can be a tricky art, especially when it comes to making them into great cover songs. For example, Hendrix did it with Dylan’s “Watchtower”, Jeff Buckley spiritually redefined Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, while Johnny Cash took Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” and made the track’s original pain sink even deeper into the flesh. Often it seems like the best way to make someone else’s song your own comes down to finding a whole new way to interpret how it makes you feel, and how that in turn influences the listener.

Lincoln, Nebraska-born singer-songwriter Karen Choi is one of the most current artists I’ve heard truly accomplish this creativity. She recently took on a new spin of the song “Boys Don’t Cry” by English rock group The Cure, and in my mind has delivered a beautifully definitive version. While the original certainly has its merits as a classic Brit-rock bop, Choi and her band strip it down and rebuild “Boys” as a Nashville pedal steel-shimmered, slow-danced ode to the Midwest red rust in the vein of Kacey Musgraves or Emmylou Harris.

Courtesy of Karen Choi

In fact, I think this allows Choi’s take on “Boys” to have more of an emotional veneer than the original allows for. While Cure frontman Robert Smith sings it with tears neatly tucked behind his sleeve inside an 80’s rock melody, Choi slows down the tempo to show all her feelings front and center. If this homage to “Boys” is a breakup, all the dirty laundry is coming out and, if I know a good country/folk song, those metaphorical clothes are going right out on the front lawn. 

It’s a straight-up take on the track, and shows even if you traditionally think of a song as one way, like a prism its actually much more about the angle of how you view it. Lucky for us as listeners, Karen Choi has provided a perspective that’s absolutely bursting with rainbows of light. 

Listen below:

Anne Bennett’s “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me” scorches with Underworld fire

Via Anne Bennett

When the mood hits just right, blues music has an almost drug-like power of intoxicating promise and persuasion deep within the storytelling of its sandpaper hollowed bones. Take Anne Bennett’s dark, rumbling new song “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me” for instance, which kicks off with an entrancing pattern of assertively arpeggioed acoustic guitar notes. The resulting melody feels like slow surrounding serpentine menace; beautifully engrossing to the eye until it’s too late to see the coils encircling your throat for an unfriendly final squeeze. 

That thunder-streaked, ominous fog is the perfect place setting for the backwoods murder balladry of “Hell”, which feels a bit like the love child of Alison Mosshart and Jack White’s Dead Weather side project, or White’s Raconteurs work (think “Carolina Drama”). It’s the perfect vibe as we get close to Halloween to imagine Bennett’s protagonist suffering a grim and gruesome demise on a dark, stormy night…. only to rise again, pulled back by the pursuit of revenge so fiery, swift and terrible even Lucifer himself can only stand back and watch with awe and admiration. 

Via Anne Bennett

In fact, as the rhythm of the song rises with swirling shades of harmonica, simmering electric guitar heat and chains in the percussion, I suddenly visualize that trademark hand from any horror movie rising from the freshly overturned dirt and dust. Stirred on by the trauma of those sins committed in the deep dark muddy, Bennett breaks free of those chains, her croon as equally unleashed as the ultimate promise of retribution, retaliation and brutal vengeance.  

I can’t begin to describe my sheer enjoyment when it comes to the atmosphere of “Hell Couldn’t Keep Me”. Half of the blues is just that, conveying… real blues and making the listener believe that truth. Take one guitar riff, add a pinch of “I woke up this morning”, but you gotta feel it somewhere down deep in your blood and soul. Lucky for us blood and soul is just the passion Bennett pours into this energizing blitz of a track.

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