The Heavy Goes Heavy On The Old School Funk, R&B Again On ‘Sons’

Courtesy: ADA

Over the course of now more than a dozen years, funk-rock group The Heavy has made quite the name for itself with its music being used on television, in video games, in advertisements and even in the realm of politics.  Along the way, the band has released four full-length studio recordings, building its name as one of the most well-known and respected acts in the music community.  The band continued that success this spring when it released its fifth full-length studio recording, Sons.  The band’s latest recording does not necessarily break any new ground for the band, but at the same time does not necessarily just repeat the sound of the band’s previous albums.  To that end, the album deserves at least one list.  The album’s largely positive lyrical themes make it even more deserving of that listen.  ‘Better As One,’ which comes early in the album’s run is just one of the songs that serves to support the noted statements.  It will be discussed shortly.  ‘Burn Bright,’ the album’s closer, also supports the noted statements and will be addressed a little later.  ‘Simple Things’ is another of the album’s entries that serves to illustrate what makes the album wroth hearing, both for its lyrical and musical content.  When it is considered alongside the other two songs noted here and the rest of the album’s additions, the whole of the album proves to be a positive new offering from The Heavy.

The Heavy’s latest full-length studio recording Sons is a positive new offering from the funk-rock outfit that solidifies the group’s place even more as a viable musical organization.  That is proven both through the album’s musical and lyrical content, as is evidenced in part through the song ‘Better As One.’  The song’s musical arrangement wastes no time taking listeners back to the 1960s and conjuring thoughts of the late, great James Brown with its horns, drumming and vocal delivery of front man Kelvin Swaby.  The combination of those elements makes the song’s arrangement a work that despite coming in at just under three minutes, a work that is instantly infectious and one of the record’s best moments.  The addition of the clear social commentary featured in the song adds even more interest to the song.

Swaby sings in the song’s chorus, “I know that we can do better/I know we’re better as one/I know that we could do better without evil on our tongue.”  He continues in the chorus, “Can we take the head from the beast/That insisted we’re all different.”  Swaby is just as direct in the song’s second verse, as he sings, “If I was ignorant, I’d roll the dice/I’d roll with the evil eyes/I’d roll with the idiot/That lays the shame and plays dangerous/I’d forget all about it all/I’d forget all about a wall/I’d forget all about the mean/Of a human being/Nothing good at all.”  That verse, along with the clearly socially conscious verse, leaves little doubt as to the topic being addressed here.  The song is making note of the divisiveness within the nation today.  The note of “the wall” comes across as an indictment of Donald Trump and his comments about building a wall at the U.S./Mexico border.  Simply put, the song’s lyrical content is a commentary that will reach plenty of listeners.  When it is considered along with the infectious groove of the song’s musical content, the whole of the song makes it a clear example of just why this album is a positive new effort from the group.  It is just one of the songs that illustrates so well what makes the album well worth hearing.  ‘Burn Bright,’ which closes out the record, is another example of the album’s strength.

‘Burn Bright’ is a distinct change of pace from ‘Better As One’ both musically and lyrically.  Where ‘Better As One’ presents an upbeat, infectious groove in its arrangement and a socially conscious statement in its lyrical theme, the musical side of ‘Burn Bright’ is far more reserved.  This song’s arrangement is a much more soulful work that will appeal to fans of acts, such as Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, J.D. McPherson and other similar acts.  That is thanks to the use of the chorus and the song’s overall instrumentation with its guitars, drums, bass and drums.  That slower, more reserved nature of the song’s arrangement plays well into the seeming personal story told through the song’s lyrical theme.

In regards to the song’s seemingly personal story, it comes across as the subject telling another person of the positive effect that said person has had on the subject.  Whether that is on a romantic or general personal level is left for discussion, but regardless, still works.  The seeming story is inferred as Swaby sings in the song’s lead verse, “I was walking in the wrong direction/I was walking like a man on a wire/Couldn’t keep it for my own protection/Couldn’t keep it from the fire/Stayed dead through my heart/Can’t be dead/Stayed dead ‘cause my heart won’t lie/Just waiting for the one salvation/The same one to make it alright.”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “And even when I was building with impatience/Never made it to the mile long mile/Kept busy on the worst locations/And stopped following my ride/’Cause the desk ‘gon work with the devil/That desk ‘gon  take you for a ride/Be ready for the ramifications/of being crippled inside.”  From there, he sings in the song’s chorus, “You make this life burn brighter/You take away my pain/Break me from the chains/To keep us burning brighter.”  Again, it can be inferred from this, that the song, lyrically, focuses on a personal relationship and how one person has made another better by simply being in that first person’s life.  What is truly interesting here, going back to the song’s musical content, that slower tempo and the song’s grinding feel serves well to help illustrate the emotions of the song’s lyrical content.  The two elements together make the song a strong finish to the record, and the song in general one more example of what makes the album stand out.  It is not the last of the album’s most notable moments.  ‘Simple Things’ is one more example of the album’s strength.

‘Simple Things’ stands out just as starkly from the songs noted here – and the rest of the album’s songs – as they do from one another in part because of its arrangement.  This song’s arrangement is another work that wastes no time grabbing listeners’ attention.  The bass and keyboard-driven arrangement immediately lends itself to comparisons to some of the best works from Parliament Funkadelic.  What is really interesting here is Swaby’s vocal delivery here.  Where the song’s instrumentation conjures thoughts of the noted group, Swaby’s vocal delivery here conjures thoughts of Wild Cherry singer Rob Parissi.  That is especially the case in the song’s verses.  The choruses show Swaby leaning more in a funk/R&B direction in his delivery.  It sounds like quite the odd combination, but it is in fact quite enjoyable to hear, especially coupled with the song’s fun, mid-tempo old school funk arrangement.  The song’s arrangement is just one part of what makes it stand out.  Its lyrical content adds its own share of interest to the whole of the work.

The lyrical theme presented in ‘Simple Things’ comes across as a love song.  This is inferred as Swaby sings in the song’s lead verse, “Caught up in a daydream/Caught up in the heat of your love/There ain’ no misbehavin’/Ain’t no sense in f****** s*** up/’Cause time after time/I tell myself I’m better/Time after time/Evil tests my every pressure/Time after time/I’ll make it like you want me/’Cause my heart can’t bring it if my heart ain’t in it.”  Swaby continues in the song’s second verse, “Don’t ever run/Come save me/I ain’t never gonna give you the call/’Cause trust come necessary/And we ain’t standin’ here ready to fall/’Cause time after time/Expect love to be better/Thyme after rhyme/Temptation’s always out to get ya/Time after time if I can turn you on/because my heart don’t sing it if my heart ain’t in it.”  He and his band mates note additionally in the song’s chorus, “Make it all about the simple things/Break it down for the simple things.”  The simple things are what make relationships grow and thrive.  The note of a heart being in it adds to the inference that the song is a love song of sorts about someone being loyal to another.  This is just this critic’s own take on the song.  It could be a completely incorrect interpretation, but hopefully is somewhere in the proverbial ballpark.  When this possibly positive lyrical theme is coupled with the song’s – again – infectious musical arrangement, the whole of the song makes it yet another key addition to the album.  When the song in whole is considered along side the other two songs noted here and the rest of the album’s entries, the whole of Sons becomes a positive work that in whole, will appeal to plenty of listeners, and is another positive offering from The Heavy.

The Heavy’s latest full-length studio recording Sons is a positive new effort from the funk-rock band.  That is due both to its musical arrangements and its positive lyrical themes from start to finish.  Given, none of the material – musical or lyrical – breaks any new ground so to speak for the band, the album doesn’t just straight up rehash the band’s previous albums.  The three songs noted here clearly support that statement.  When they are considered along with the rest of the record’s entries, the whole album proves to be another successful offering from The Heavy.  More information on Sons is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and more at:










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Hannah Williams’ Second LP Takes First On Phil’s Picks’ 2016 Top 10 New Independent Albums List

Courtesy: Record Kicks

Courtesy: Record Kicks

The countdown to the year’s end continue today with yet another addition to Phil’s Picks’ 2016 “Best Of” lists.  This time, Phil’s Picks offers its list of the year’s top new independent albums.  This list was just as difficult as any assembled.  Readers should understand independent doesn’t necessarily mean unsigned.  Rather it encompasses unsigned bands and bands signed to independent labels, thus the title “Independent Albums.”  Included in this year’s list are new releases from Cage9, All Hail The Yeti, Hannah Williams and the Affirmations among many others.  As always, the list includes the year’s Top 10 new albums on the list as well as five honorable mention titles, bringing the total album count to 15.  So, without further ado, here are Phil’s Picks 2016 Top 10 New Independent Albums.


2016 Top 10 New Independent Albums


1) Hannah Williams and the Affirmations – Late Nights and Heartbreak


2) All Hail the Yeti – Screams From A Black Wilderness


3) Love and a .38 – Nomad


4) Buffalo Summer – Second Sun


5) Cage9 – Illuminator


6) Apollo Under Fire – Apollo Under Fire


7) The Heavy – Hurt and the Merciless


8) Celeb Car Crash – People Are The Best Show


9) Radio Exile – Soulfire


10) Ray Rocket – Do You Wanna Go To Tijuana


11) Another Lost Year – Alien Architect


12) Alexis Taylor – Piano


13) Garrett Klahn – Garrett Klahn


14) Pareidolia – Denied Truths


15) Phill Rocker – Hard To Bleed




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