Album Review: Melvin’s Holiday, by Lewis and the Strange Magics (Plus Interview)

Lewis and the Strange Magics are a heavy-psych band from Barcelona, Spain. The band produces groovy, stylish, psychedelic music, with strong funk and jam undercurrents. The band just released their third full length, Melvin’s Holiday. The album is a followup to the 2015 full-length Velvet Skin, the 2017 full-length Evade Your Soul, and the 2018 EP, The Ginger Sessions.

Melvin’s Holiday was independently released on September 6, 2019. It’s a concept album made up of nine, 1960’s and 70’s inspired, sexy, velvety, groovy, shag-carpeted tracks. Even the artwork by Shaun Miller is a throwback, with its retro style and filmy look. The album tells the story of Melvin, a rich man who divorces his wife and takes off on holiday in the Mediterranean, where he seeks happiness but finds only loneliness.

Musically, the entire album is catchy and easy to listen to, with plenty of creative guitar and keyboard tones. The lyrics are melodic and catchy, roughly comparable to the style of Ric Ocasek of The Cars. The album carries echoes of bands such as Pink Floyd, The Eagles, and Steely Dan, but with the psychedelic style and attitude that makes Lewis and the Strange Magics completely one of a kind. Get ready to sink into a velvet sofa and be carried away with the smooth flowing tracks. To help me get a better idea of the band’s song writing process and influences, I caught up with band leader and multi-instrumentalist, Luis Pomés, for the following interview.

The Sonic Sofa (TSS): Can you tell us a little bit about your recording process?

Luis P (LP): For this album we recorded everything in my home studio, with an audio interface to the computer and some microphones. Everything is digital but we tried to find an old/vintage sound.

TSS: What insight can you give us about the album’s lyrics and the Melvin character?

LP: My first intention was to do an album with songs that had a common theme: a summer and decadent atmosphere. I liked this concept and then when I was working on the final steps of the composition I realized that I could connect the songs by creating a character who lives all of the experiences that the lyrics show. So, I created the rich man, Melvin, and I changed some of the words to make a kind of rock opera. I think I got the idea of this concept, among other things, from a Roxy Music song that describes the decadence of a rich person who has a mansion but no one to share it with.

TSS: What is the band’s songwriting process and how does jamming play a part in it?

LP: I write everything in my mind, then I usually record some demos, or I explain the ideas to my band-mates to make a kind of jam. This last process was the one we used in our previous release, The Ginger Sessions EP. Sometimes I record a song without a definitive demo, making the arrangements while I’m recording, and this is why some tracks can have a jam band sensation.

TSS: What are the band’s influences, both musical and otherwise?

LP: All music I enjoy can be an influence, but for this album I think there’s a lot of Roxy Music, Funkadelic, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, heavy-psych in general, and cult movies from the 70s, both for the general atmosphere of the film or from their soundtracks. For example, the track Carpet Sun is a direct tribute to erotic movies soundtacks from those years, and the whole album is very cinematographic.

“groovy, stylish psychedelic music”

The album opens with Melvin (2:51), a short track featuring hand percussion, smooth organ tones, a crisp drum sound, and some tasty wah pedal. A Funky feel, harmonized vocals, and some jazzy brass tones make this a catchy intro track. Next up, Sad in Paradise (3:48) brings a tight, progressive, fuzzy riff. This track stands out among the others with straight up catchy vocals and a hook-filled chorus. Don’t miss the cool stereo effects of the double guitar lead.

Jazzy drums and organ set the tone for The Answering Machine (2:11), and heavy effects on the vocals and a crisp ride cymbal gives the song a San Francisco jazz feel. Fashion Siren (5:31) has a great sounding snare drum and crisp, Steely Dan-like tones on guitar. Probably one of the catchiest songs on the album, with creative keyboard lines and a funky, eclectic chorus, self-referencing the band’s “Strange Magic” in the lyrics.

Carpet Sun (2:21) features a dreamy intro, with some great layering and effects from the keyboards. Synthy and velvety, this short musical interlude is a nice, reflective break in the action. Following up, Village’s Wizard (4:32) is a nice, percussion heavy track, with easygoing keyboard tones and guitar and a smooth, Latin-jazz feel.

Driving classic-rock riffs and catchy, love song lyrics set the stage for Only a Fantasy (4:13). This track features a great keyboard lead with some interesting scifi-esque tones. Lounge Decadence (2:27) opens with a great bass line and the song employs plenty of Latin style rhythms. And closing the album, Afternoon on the Sand (6:28) starts off soft, with great sounding vocal harmonies before shifting to a swingy, bluesy style to finish off the album.

Melvin’s Holiday is an album that should be listened to straight through, from start to finish, for the full effect. The album is currently available for digital download on Bandcamp, and hopefully we’ll see a vinyl release in the coming months. Make to support the band by listening to their music and buying their merch. Thanks for reading The Sonic Sofa. Go in peace, and rock on, Sofanauts.

Circus Cannon releases new heavy psych EP, Ashmedai

Hailing from London, Circus Cannon is a powerful four-piece heavy-psych band. The band honed their sound while rehearsing in unused buildings, and ended up producing a sound that is both unique and eclectic. They seem to draw from powerful influences, but produce a sound that is unique and which adds diversity to the genre. The band’s newest independent release, Ashmedai, came out on July 4th, and is available for free or “name your price” on Bandcamp.

Ashmedai is the latest in the band’s quadrilogy of EPs, all of which demonstrate the band’s ability to create both interesting vocal driven and instrumental music. Ashmedai contains four songs, each very different from each other, but tied together by the common threads of riffs, trippy guitar leads, heavy bass, and pounding drums. The EP also features plenty of cool change-ups, heavy distortion, and an experimental flavor, sharing a vein with notable veterans like Dead Meadow.

Frog King (4:49) is the instrumental first-track. The wah pedal features heavily and the song has several tight change-ups that keep it rocking. Dynamic guitar leads and a dialed in rhythm section make this a solid opener, and the intensity and heaviness of the ending sound amazing.

The second track, Yes Yes Yes Yes (4:56), is proabably the EP’s most structured song. It starts right in with a riffy groove before the vocals make their first appearance. The vocals, though shaky at times, are very melodic and gave me some slight Nazareth vibes. The instrumental outro is mellow, with a nice, understated guitar lead.

Goblin (3:09) is one of the most experimental tracks on the EP, with a trippy opening, and an interesting drum beat that plays off of both the bass and guitar, which are employing different time signatures. This section is satisfyingly interrupted by a heavy section that unifies all of the instruments, before falling back into the multi-rhythmic groove for the finisher.

Wendigo (4:49) finishes up the EP solidly. The heavily distorted vocals sound great, forming out of phasing guitars, with each taking turns supplying the melody. The bass stands out heavily in a good way, holding down the song while the guitars explore the sonic space. The song wraps up with some tasty drum fills interspersed throughout a syncopated finish.

Ashmedai is a solid release that rewards repeat listens and draws you in with its complex sounds and arrangements. Remember to download it for free on Bandcamp or support the band by naming your price. If you’re in the London area, check out the band at a free show on September 13th at The Underdog, performing with Trevors Head and Dead Yeti.

The Sonic Sofa Podcast: Valley of the Sun, Gandalf the Green, and Brant Bjork

Podcast Transcript: I’m The Purlenaut and you’ve landed on the Sonic Sofa, your home for stoner rock reviews and podcasts. Hop on over to thesonicsofa.blog to read all the words and hear all the sounds. This month, we’re checking out music by Valley of the Sun, Gandalf the Green, and Brant Bjork. Become one with the Sofa, and prepare for blast off.

Valley of the Sun is a stoner rock band from Cincinnati, Ohio. The group produces driving desert rock with melodic vocals. Their riffy songs are known for being upbeat and positive. Their new album, Old Gods, will be released on May 24th through Swedish label, Fuzzorama Records. Here’s Means the Same.

Gandalf the Green is a three-piece psychedelic doom band from Huddersfield, England. The band produces heavy, fuzzy, riff-centric music, with strong psychedelic vibes. Their new single, A Billion Faces, was released on March 28. It was recorded in Dec, 2018 in Phipps Hall at the University of Huddersfield. Get ready for some heavy stuff. Here’s A Billion Faces.

Brant Bjork is a multi-instrumentalist from Palm Desert, California. His newest album, Jaccoozzi, was released on April 5, and is being advertised as a sort of lost album. The album was recorded in 2010, but immediately shelved. Bjork had gone to a house in Joshua Tree, CA to record material for his next solo album, but personal life changes as well as feeling burned out from extensive recording and touring caused him to change his plans. Bjork decided to scrap his original project and focus on creating improvised jams. This whole track plays like a psychedelic surf song. Here’s Oui.

Thanks for listening to the Sonic Sofa podcast. Check out the Sonic Sofa on mixcloud.com/purlenaut. Please support the bands by buying their music. If you have music or an artist that you think should be featured on the blog or podcast, contact The Purlenaut at thesonicsofashow@gmail.com. Go in peace and rock on, Sofanauts.

Yung Druid release riffy, 70’s influenced debut album

Yung Druid is a London-based heavy doom, psych quartet with low-tuned, riffy guitars and high-pitched melodic vocals. The group’s music is straightforward and solid, without being too complex. The group creates riffy, sludgy, classic metal, in the vein of Black Sabbath, but with some of the psychedelic sensibilities of softer bands like Dead Meadow and Sleepy Sun.

Ever since the single, Take Me to Your Dealer, dropped back in September of 2018, the groovy lead drew me in and I started keeping an eye out for the full album. Released on Bandcamp in April, Yung Druid’s self titled album is no disappointment: It’s full of high flying vocals, killer guitar leads, and walls of reverb and distortion. The drums sound great in the mix, with heavy cymbals that are really allowed to ring out and sing. The guitars and bass are down-tuned and heavy, and the vocals never struggle to hit the high notes.

The album officially releases on June 1, 2019 through Totem Cat Records. A limited run of 300 vinyl records is available for purchase on Bandcamp. Hopefully the band reissues more units for the June release as supplies are already limited (32 remain at the time of writing this).

Take Me to Your Dealer (5:56) is the album’s riffy opener. It’s a groovy, psych-doom song with X-Files inspired lyrics and a trippy last half that feels like you’re being taken away on an alien abduction trip.

Sleepy Eyes (6:47) is filled with commanding riffs and has some cool change-ups. Two vocal tracks create nice harmonies throughout the song. Heavy distortion on the guitars and lots of reverb on the vocals give this song some great psychedelic qualities.

Underneath the Aching Sky (4:35) is a shorter headbanger with some seriously catchy guitar and vocal hooks. The vocals carry some echoes of Ozzy and Geddy Lee, and the guitar riffs are dark and Sabbath-esque. Pay attention for the awesome sounding china cymbal.

Lung (4:47) takes a break from the heaviness is much softer. The vocals are a little more laid back and the song has some great guitar solo work.

After a hard hitting intro, Went into a Wooden Room (6:24) features a standout bass line guides the way into a psychedelic audioscape. The track grooves along and takes its time unfurling itself.

Morning Come (4:26) finishes the album strong. The closing song featuring strong guitar riffs, a solid rhythm section, and beautiful vocal melodies.

If you’re into 70’s influenced retro rock with tons of riffs, high flying vocals, and plenty of stoner lyrics, look no further than Yung Druid. Check out the music video which is just as trippy and spaced out as the music. The video also has tin-foil hat wearing aliens, so go for it!

Album Review: Brant Bjork’s Jacoozzi

Brant Bjork is a name that is almost synonymous with desert rock. He’s a multi-instrumentalist from Palm Desert, California, so prolific that he has an entire wikipedia page about his discography. He was a founding member of Kyuss, playing on seminal albums such as (Welcome to) Sky Valley and Blues for the Red Sun. He also played for a time in Fu Manchu, recording albums such as California Crossing and No One Rides for Free. In addition to his work with other bands, he also has an impressive lineup of solo releases.

His newest album, Jaccoozzi, was released on April 5, and is being advertised as a sort of lost album. The album was recorded in 2010, but immediately shelved. This was because Bjork had decided to tour with John Garcia and Kyuss Lives, but also because Bjork’s time in the studio did not go as expected. Bjork had gone to a house in Joshua Tree, CA to record material for his next solo album, but personal life changes as well as feeling burned out from extensive recording and touring caused him to change his plans. Bjork decided to scrap his original project and focus on creating improvised jams. While his sound engineer ran tape, Bjork laid down his drum beats first and then layered the songs with bass and guitar tracks, as well as occasional organs. The whole album is swingy and groovy and except for the final track, completely instrumental. There are plenty of jazzed up, psychedelic, desert-rock patterns that serve as jam tracks for Bjork to creatively elaborate on and explore. The album features some driving tribal beats and percussion, crunchy extended riffs, tasty guitar leads, and a fat bass sound. Whether you’re out grilling in the backyard, road-tripping through the desert, or chilling in the hottub, Jacoozzi will make for an awesome summer soundtrack.

The first track, Can’t Out Run the Sun, is a nearly eight minute song, built around the concept of a driving, tribal drum beat and heavy delay effects on the guitars. There are plenty of psychedelic, trance inducing patters that develop as the song adds guitar layers throughout.

The second track, Guerilla Funk, introduces hand percussion and a crisper bass sound, and funking it up as the name implies. Bjork’s heavy cymbals, completely allowed to ring out on the recording, sound so good, paired with the huge, ringing drum sound. The track clocks in at 7:20.

At half the length of the first two tracks, Mexico City Blues is a smooth, 12-bar based song that features drums beats with a slightly Latin feel. The tasty guitar leads make this one perfect for a twilight drive through the high desert.

Bjork explores a solo instrumental drum track on Five Hundred Thousand Dollars. It’s a 43 second bash fest on the drums that completely grooves. Black and White Wonderland slows things down with a very solid rhythm pattern between the drums and bass, paired with a very listenable guitar riff.

Oui picks up the pace with plenty of wah pedal and driving, tribal patterns on the drums. The whole track plays like a psychedelic surf song. Mixed Nuts follows it up in a laid back, jazzy way. There are some tasty bell taps on the cymbals, and some great harmonies between the bass and guitar.

Around the half minute mark, Lost in Race features a heavy bass riff, a great return of the hand percussion, and a huge drum sound. Organ tracks add a cool counterpoint melody throughout the song, sometimes dissonant, but adding to that improvised, jazzy feel.

The four minute track, Polarized, brings in several cool heavy psych elements, including, a backwards drum track, very fuzzy, feedbacky guitars, and a detached sounding piano line, that lays down the palpable rhythm melody of the song. The high pitched piano and guitar tones contrast nicely with the deep bass and dub-like drum beat.

Do You Love Your World? is the only track on the album with vocals. The song has a great classic rock sound and Bjork’s vocals, though a little quiet in the mix, sound clear and heartfelt. Perhaps this bit of vocal musing was a remnant of Bjork’s original material that carried through to, or maybe it was just something he came up with at the moment.

The important thing to remember is that this is an improvised jam album, halted before fruition, and presented in raw form, so if that sounds good to you, check out Brant Bjork’s Jacoozzi and get ready to groove.

Tour Dates

May 25 Pappy & Harriet’s – Pioneertown, CA

June 19 Hirsch – Nuremberg, Germany

June 24 Musikbunker – Aachen, Germany

June 25 Centralstation – Darmstadt, Germany

June 26 Musik Zentrum Hannover – Hanover, Germany

June 29 Austria Rockhouse – Salzburg, Germany


Heavy-psych band Crypt Trip release music video and new album, Haze Country

Haze Country was released March 8, on Heavy Psych Sounds

Based in San Marcos, Texas, Crypt Trip is a psychedelic hard-rock trio, bent on creating authentic, retro sounding rock that reaches to the 1970’s for its influence. The band produces a hard rocking sound and adds in their unique touch of southern and country vibes, all tinged in psychedelia.

Their new record, Haze Country, was released on March 8, 2019 by Heavy Psych Sounds and is a follow up to their January, 2018 album, Rootstock. The album is an eclectic mixture of sounds and themes that may remind listeners of early Rush, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, or The Allman Brothers Band, but it is done with appreciation of their style, not in an attempt to mimic what made them unique. The addition of tasteful pedal steel parts, provided by Geoff Queen, is a great touch. The band recorded with analog equipment, giving the record a warm classic rock sound. Complete with motorcycles and a 70’s motif, even the album art is retro, channeling some Easy Rider/James Gang energy. Buy the vinyl or digital album through Heavy Psych Sounds Records.

The first half of the album is high energy and fast paced. The first song, Forward, sets the tone with a driving rhythm section and tasteful use of steel guitar. Hard Times picks up the pace progressively, with riffy transitions, melodic vocals, and existential lyrics. Tightly tuned drums and the shimmering cymbals sound great and the reverb on the guitars is paired with the thick, harmonizing bass. Don’t miss the gong in the intro. The high energy continues as To Be Whole opens with an epic, fast paced intro and features poetic vocals that ponder love and existence, while the band provides plenty of jazzy jams. The next track, Death After Life, explores esoteric themes such as life and death with a distinct heavy blues sound. Some outstanding parts of the song are the harmonized guitar leads, heavy use of wah pedals, hand percussion, and great sounding bass. Wrapping up the first half, Free Rain is a heavy, blues-structured song with an interlude featuring harmonized vocals.

For the second half, things slow down and allow the album to breathe. The pedal steel returns on Wordshot, and the band explores some lower key sounds, with great use of phasers and harmonic layers throughout. 16 Ounce Blues is a country-tinged ode to motorcycles as well as a lament against the law. Pastures is a short, dreamy, acoustic instrumental, that slows things way down right before Gotta Get Away closes out the album in dramatic fashion. Gotta Get Away is a hard-hitting rocker, as well as a vehicle to a killer drum solo done in the tradition of greats like Bonham’s Moby Dick or Bill Ward’s Rat Salad. The music video that accompanies the song features a groovy vintage feel. Don’t miss the video, the album, or the band’s upcoming tour dates.

Mar 29 Villa K – Bludenz, Austria

Mar 30 Coq D’or – Olten, Switzerland

Apr 01 Café Trauma – Marburg, Germany

Apr 05 Cafe Tikolor – Erfurt, Germany

Apr 06 Gaststätte Eichenkranz – Dresden, Germany

Apr 11 Roadburn Festival – Tilburg, Netherlands

May 16 Monolith On The Mesa – Taos, NM