Rebekah Bastian’s Blaze Your Own Trail: An Interactive Guide to Navigating Life with Confidence, Solidarity, and Compassion

If you are looking for a book about life that’s different from the usual account and non-fiction, I think you can scarcely do better than Rebekah Bastian’s Blaze Your Own Trail: An Interactive Guide to Navigating Life with Confidence, Solidarity, and Compassion. I think the word solidarity in the title is unquestionably important. She tailors this book to speak to women’s experience in modern life, particularly American life, though the book reaches further than that. Any woman in an industrialized and successful society can relate to nearly any aspect of life she takes on in this book and there’s nothing about the way she tackles life that will strain your belief. It’s all the more interesting that she does so in such an innovative fashion.


There’s some important research that she did to strengthen this book, but the most important part is how she builds the work. Blaze Your Own Trail is nearly like a novel in the way it approaches narrative, but she confounds conventional wisdom but installing a wide variety of alternate “plot developments” into the narrative. She asks readers at the end of each of its 58 chapters to make two choices that will take them to different chapters and send the book’s main character down different paths in her life. It’s an interesting approach to what we normally expect from such work and sets it apart as like nothing else I’ve read in recent history.

She puts it out there too in an easy to follow way. There’s no pandering to the reader, no sense of dumbing things down so we can understand what’s going on, but she nonetheless comes to readers on their level. It’s never hammy and melodramatic. That’s another thing I love about it. I’ve experienced many of the same things contained in this book, I’ve heard friends who have went through other of the same moments, and it’s this part of this book that will perhaps carry the greatest weight with female readers.


Having said that, I believe men can get something out of this book as well. Insights into what women experience and how they feel, yes, but it is madness to think men are immune to the pain of martial failure, numb to martial joy, and don’t experience pain watching and assisting their failing parents. Bastian leads a high powered professional life as a Vice President with Zillow Group, but that doesn’t stop me or any other open-minded reader from relating to what she depicts in this book.

Rebekah Bastian’s Blaze Your Own Trail: An Interactive Guide to Navigating Life with Confidence, Solidarity, and Compassion has the sort of jolt experienced readers are looking for. It isn’t a same old, same old text rolling through the predictable turns of fiction and non-fiction alike. It is her first book, but you can’t tell. Instead, she’s written an inspired book brimming with imagination and insight that’s difficult to forget and begs for additional reading thanks to the various approaches that you can take while reading the book.

Kim Muncie

Chris Mardini Releases Sleepless

In a gust of a verse that will set the tone for all of the kaleidoscopic harmonies soon to follow, Chris Mardini begins our journey into his heart amidst the opening bars of “Sleepless,” his third single currently out everywhere that quality independent pop is sold and streamed. There’s a bit of melancholy in his voice, but it’s nowhere near as strong as the optimism that drives the words cascading from his lips in this moment. Roughly thirty seconds sit between the first appearance of Mardini’s vocal and that of the percussion, but while this introduction is short and sweet, it’s more than powerful enough to put the entire audience in a state of tension that will find release later on in the song.


The drums come to life seemingly out of nowhere, ushering in a wave of guitar and bass lumbering that contradicts the pace of the verse altogether. Mardini is unfazed, unbothered by the contrasting tones coming together and evaporating before us in real time; there is only his voice and the instrumentation that pushes it forward through the stereo one gentle nudge at a time. Suddenly the percussion disappears once more, and the vocal hangs in the air above us as if to peer down at the world from the night sky, casting a judgmental stare over anything and everything below. We know there’s a climax around the corner, but waiting for it to come down on us is like counting down the final moments before a fireworks show is set to begin.

It’s too often said that a good pop song has to have a really good hook to seal the deal with listeners, but this narrative can be justifiably applied to “Sleepless.” When everything finally does culminate in a single incendiary descent into guitar fuzz and droning harmonization, we’re powerless to stop any urges to swing with the rhythm of the strings, the crash of the drums and the bludgeoning of the bassline. Chris Mardini is there in the eye of the storm, commanding our attention even when the music in the background is raging harder than the Atlantic in the late summer season. If anyone doubted his ability to rock a power ballad before now, they’re going to be changing their tune after hearing this track – for it just might be the best alternative pop song I’ve heard in a long time.


“Sleepless” concludes with one last instrumental plea from the guitar, branding us with an imprint of emotionality first presented to us in the lyrics and made too relatable for us to ignore as this final melodic ribbonry fades to black. I hadn’t listened to Chris Mardini’s music before now, and though I was told to have certain expectations coming into this review of his new single (which is also available in a striking music video as well), I didn’t anticipate hearing something quite as spellbinding as this. It’s hardly a perfect pop single, but for a relative rookie still getting his footing in the biz, it’s a five-star release listeners need to take note of.

 Kim Muncie

The Keymakers Interview

Welcome! We are excited to get to chat with you! We saw that you posted recently after your show in New York and you said that it was the best stage you have played. What made it so amazing?

Red: There’s nothing really quite like New York, so we were super excited to be a part of the nightlife in that city. But all things considered, it was definitely all of the people we got to share that night with that made it so special. We had family, friends, and fans out to see us and really felt like we got to pour every bit of our energy into that performance.

It really seems that you both love being on tour and sharing your live show with fans. Has the Spectra Tour made you love performing even more than before?

Rome: Absolutely. When we started performing, there was a sort of ‘training wheels’ stage where we were just getting our bearings on stage. Especially with a duo, there’s a lot you have to learn about feeding off each other and reading the energy that can only come from practice. Now that we’re starting to get the hang of it, it’s safe to say we love doing our thing up there on stage.

What would you say are the positives and negatives of the music industry? What is it about the music industry that makes some artists push forward? What do you think makes some artists quit?

Red: This is definitely an industry of ups and downs, and the way musicians handle that is really important. There will be good times where you feel like you’re on top of the world but there will also be times where you don’t think you can give it another hour in the studio, or another take in the booth. I think it’s those times where you’re dirt tired and catching ‘L’ after ‘L’ that really can break people. But a big realization is that those tough nights are the things that make those ‘top of the world’ moments a reality, so that keeps us going.

Tell us about your setlist – how do you decide on what you play? Do you mix things up every night?

Rome: We built our set over time, tagging tracks and making lists! It’s a mixture of our own released music, older and newer unreleased stuff, songs from others that inspire us and speak to us, and of course new music we’ve created just for the set. We have a ton of songs that we’re ready to play and we usually decide, night by night, which ones are on the list.

Are you writing new music while you are touring?

Red: Definitely, we always try to keep ourselves creating. Whether that’s creating voice notes on our phones or starting projects with a little MIDI keyboard we travel with, the ideas have to keep flowing. Sometimes we’ll get little breaks in our schedule when we can sit down and start to flesh out the ideas and bits that we’ve saved up, who knows when one of those will turn into a new single!

What social media platform is your favorite to connect with fans and why?

Rome: Instagram for sure! Give us a follow at @TheKeymakers and say hi! We absolutely love connecting with fans and hearing their favorite tunes. We also share the most on there so it’s a great place to keep up with whatever we’re up to.

End of Interview

Kings County are living up to the buzz

Critics have been getting excited about rockers Kings County since the 2019 release of their eponymous debut, and for good reason – riddled with strong-armed, rhythmic hard rock elements that their peers have mostly abandoned, the group’s sound follows the beat of its own drum both literally and figuratively, frequently bringing to mind some of the greatest entities in the history of the genre. Their guitar parts are studded with texture but sleekly appointed with an EQ that doesn’t over-exploit the distortion. The bass is bulging, but never so much so that we lose sight of its intricate arrangement and the interactions it shares with the drums. From a percussion-lovers point of view, tracks like Kings County’s new single “All That I Want” present a flood of beats that are as important to the integrity of the composition as any of the melodic components are, with the groove meeting the flowing poetry of the lead singer in often perfect unison. “All That I Want” is breaking down plenty of mainstream doors for the group this January, and whether we’re taking in its music video or just the single by itself, we feel every bit of muscle that the band wanted us to.


The mechanics of the chorus in this track aren’t that different from what we would hear in a pop song, only they come to us filtered through a heavy metal-minded framework unutilized by many of today’s most revered rock bands. Kings County wants us to ascend with them up the latter of an organic harmony in the hook before ripping away our footing and allowing for us to tumble into the groove alongside the drums, creating a lot of additional tension on the backend of what would otherwise be described as a highly cathartic chorus. It’s 80’s-esque but not so removed from the contemporary artistry of underground hard rock that we feel like we’re listening to a cover band, and for a group like Kings County, that’s as important as solidifying a lyrical narrative is (if not a lot more in instances like “All That I Want.”

Kings County are living up to the buzz and then some in their first album and its cornerstone single, and though they’re not getting as much love from the mainstream media as they are the indie press, I don’t think they care all that much. They don’t cross me as a band immersed in the politics of ego, and if they are, they’re doing a great job of setting all of that aside for the sake of their craft in “All That I Want” and the other eight songs included on the Kings County LP. Their sophomore album will tell us a lot more about their longevity and staying power as a group, but until that record arrives, this track is enough for me to stay tuned to this band’s dispatches as a studio act. Florida has produced some incredible rock music in the past, and this crew may well be its most recent export of supreme value.

Kim Muncie

Ruark Inman releases When You Coming Home

Gusty grooves adorn the string balladry of “Never Apart.” Discordant minor-key harmonies make merry with a happy-go-lucky swing beat in “Never Miss.” Ruark seduce us with a glowing melody in “Naturally,” the staggering “Sick of It,” “Time Wouldn’t Waste Away” and the title track of their new album When You Coming Home with as much ease as they do when provoking thoughts unique to every listener in a contemplative “Sweet Senseless World,” exotic “Dry October Noon,” smothering “Jack of all Trades” and surreal, J Mascis-like “In His Hands,” and while theirs isn’t the only fascinating new folk record hitting shelves this January, I personally think it’s one of the more important on the American side of the Atlantic. When You Coming Home is an LP that challenges us to connect with components of any given track that other artists would just as soon have us ignore, mostly for fear of overexposure, and though I would be lying if I said it wasn’t an incredibly involved listen from start to finish, it’s one I would recommend enjoying this year regardless of the listener’s interest in the genre.


Lyrics are frequently enigmatic but not self-absorbed in unsolvable riddles in Ruark’s rookie album, with some songs like “Never Apart,” “Sweet Senseless World” and “Naturally” capturing the slightly psychedelic nature of the poetry better than the other tracks do. Virtuosity doesn’t have much – if any – of a role to play in the big picture here, but when you’re experimenting with the harmonies that we find so plentifully in “Jack of all Trades” and “Time Wouldn’t Waste Away,” you don’t need a lot of extra pomp and polish to make a big impact on the audience. There’s a lot of natural texture to the strings and other elements in the band that were left untouched by the meticulous hand behind the soundboard, and even in the mix’s most calculated of moments, we’re never feeling as though we’re being overwhelmed with a lot of unneeded bells and whistles. We’re forced to draw our own conclusions from the music and lyrics in these songs, which isn’t something that can be said about the dreadfully mundane content you’ll hear on three out of four FM stations nowadays.

If When You Coming Home is a decent preview of what’s to come next for this emerging band of deeply talented players, Ruark Inman’s eponymous collective is going to be doing some big things in the 2020s that will leave scores of their closest rivals in and outside of the underground green with envy. There’s definitely a special energy to the music that they’re stirring up together in this first record, and while I think they’ve got a long way to go in terms of rounding out their sound and maturing the lyrical edge they’ve got to be all it can be, songs like “Dry October Noon” and the title track in When You Coming Home present us with one heck of a good start. I’ll be keeping them on my radar through the next couple of years, and I’d tell other alternative aficionados to consider doing the same.

Kim Muncie

“Every Dog Has Its Day” (LP) by Flat River Band

When it comes to getting personal in a song, there aren’t a whole lot of country groups as adept and skillful as Flat River Band are in most every song they record, and in their fifth studio album, the retrospective Every Dog Has Its Day, they impart one provocative country tale after another as though we were sitting with the power trio around a blazing flame in the wilderness. The fireside storytelling is perhaps the most endearing quality to be enjoyed in Every Dog Has Its Day’s most powerfully emotional tracks – “Beauty Amongst the Trees,” the title cut, “Wings of a Rumor” – but let me be perfectly clear when I say that there isn’t a single instance where Flat River Band shortchange listeners with the commanding harmonies they turn out in tracks like “John R. Brinkley,” “In Another World” and “No Hill for a Climber.” Iconic American imagery finds itself intertwined with deeply personal poetry in every song here, and for most country connoisseurs, it doesn’t get much better than that.


Most of the tracks on this record feel like they were composed specifically for the stage, and I must admit that I couldn’t help but wonder what songs like “Wings of a Rumor” and “Devil on the Side” would sound like if Flat River Band were to stylize them in more of a freeform jam than a standard start/top format as they do for the purposes of making this album. Every Dog Has Its Day concludes with so much force and energy that playing the record all over again is an urge almost too tempting for even the most disciplined of listeners to resist, and when taking into account how many different ways they could break this content down in a live performance, I can see this setlist becoming one of the more well-received of any they’ve worked with. I would really like to find out for myself in the near future, and hopefully with the buzz surrounding this LP, they’ll treat fans to a proper tour in 2020. There’s a volatile country music market prime for the taking right now, and with chops like theirs, they could absolutely make a play for the big time in this new decade.


Flat River Band have truly outdone themselves with this latest release, and if their goal was to raise the bar for both themselves and their scene in 2020, to say they were successful with Every Dog Has Its Day would be too grand an understatement for me to make. There’s a little bit of everything for audiences here – shades of country, bluegrass, folk, Americana, the western singer/songwriter style, you name it – and though it might be a mixture the group’s fans have come to know quite well in the last ten years, it’s one that I don’t see people getting sick of anytime soon. These guys are still doing some awesome work, and if you haven’t heard their music already, this LP would be an unbeatable way of getting a glimpse at their likeable, unpretentious personality in action.

Kim Muncie

Rob Alexander’s “Friend of Mine (Elton’s Epic)”

A gentle percussion and a gorgeous piano dance back and forth with one another as we listen in on the first few bars of Rob Alexander’s “Friend of Mine (Elton’s Epic),” and with the sway of every beat, we find a little bit more color within the growing melody before us. Alexander starts to sing, and even though his initial attack is as soft and decadent as the rhythm of the drums is, there’s a powerful presence to his words that we won’t soon escape in this five minute opus from 2019’s Being Myself LP (the second single from the album overall). In “Friend of Mine (Elton’s Epic),” this acclaimed south Florida singer/songwriter channels elements of retro pop/rock through an ultra-contemporary sonic lens, and though one could make the argument that he isn’t doing anything differently than he has in the past, I for one think this is what makes the track such an intriguing listen. For longtime supporters, Alexander is reaffirming everything we’ve already come to know and love about his sound here, and that’s something worth celebrating in this age of ever-changing artistic identities.


As has been the case with past releases, Alexander’s “Friend of Mine (Elton’s Epic)” is all about showcasing the epic vocal that he brings to the table, but the production doesn’t value his verses over any of the other elements in the track at all. There’s a lot of focus on the textures that the string parts add to the latter half of the song, and even though it might not be sporting the most boisterous bassline I’ve heard this January, there’s definitely enough of a kick to the bottom-end of the mix that we never feel like the backing band is failing to do their share of the heavy lifting. Rob Alexander is really good at arranging his music, and despite the high caliber intricacies that we’re hearing in play with this song, he never sounds particularly flustered or incapable of managing the complexities of the music. He’s come a long way since dropping his virgin LP, and from where I sit, it’s hard to see the momentum he’s got behind him slowing anytime soon.



If you haven’t heard Rob Alexander’s music before, now is the right time to get introduced to his sound. Being Myself marked a turning point of maturity, and among its most sterling tracks, “Friend of Mine (Elton’s Epic)” is probably one of the more complete and well-rounded from top to bottom. There’s still some room for improvement in Alexander’s work, but the same could be said for any artist in his peer group right now. He isn’t withholding from behind the microphone in “Friend of Mine (Elton’s Epic);” he’s giving us all of his heart and soul, establishing a style of storytelling that is becoming increasingly more distinguishable from that of his closest rivals, and if he’s able to continue his refinement of technique as he did in 2019 through the 2020s, I can see his brand making the crossover to the mainstream well before we reach the halfway point in the decade.

Kim Muncie 

NeuFutur writers have checked out Alexander a number of times, including his Being Myself and Long Road Coming Home.

Singer/Songwriter Andy Michaels releases new Album

The late 2010s produced a lot of interesting singer/songwriters, and among the more intriguing that I heard in 2019 was Andy Michaels, whose record Incendiary Heart raised a lot of eyebrows in his native Australia as well as overseas in the United States. A product of hybrid creativities and eclectic collaborations with singers like Tiarna Madison and Kerry Ironside, Incendiary Heart takes everything that was suggested as being possible in Michaels’ debut LP Revisited and reshapes it to fit a more surreal, boundless template, with songs like “Fireflies,” “Only Love Knows the Meaning of Goodbye,” the title track and “Emerald Eyes” exploring new musical realms for the composer behind the fireworks. It’s a quantum leap forward for this mild-mannered musician, and one of my go-to listens this January for sure.

While Revisited had some incredible harmonies, this album forces Andy Michaels to push himself to the very edge with his vocal, and the results of his efforts are pure gold. “Rambling Man,” the single “Darling It Hurts,” “Night and Day” and “I Can Fly” showcase some of his most profoundly emotive singing to date, while “Only Change Stays the Same” and “This Songs for You” allude to virtuosities still to be experimented with further in his next studio affair. He’s got so much to offer as a singer, and here, he’s giving up any hesitations he might have held within himself prior to now when it comes time to pick up the microphone (as can also be said for Carolyn Thomas and Sharon Court, who join Madison and Ironside as guests on Incendiary Heart).


There’s an unspoken urgency to “Darling It Hurts” that is never elaborated upon in the music video for the song, but I don’t know that it needs to be in order for us to feel the melodically cathartic release toward the end of the track. Michaels is so good at creating moods in his music, and in this song, as well as “Sticks and Stones” and “Humming Bird” in particular, his navigation of complicated instrumental arrangements should be enough to leave any indie connoisseur on their knees begging for more. For being only 51-minutes long, Incendiary Heart feels like a stuffed double LP loaded full of songs that are both familiar and totally new to even the most loyal of his fans.

I wouldn’t have said this before hearing his latest record, but now that I’ve given the album’s 14 tracks a go, I can’t wait to hear what Andy Michaels does in the 2020s. He’s really breaking through with Incendiary Heart and tapping into areas of his sound that had seemed inaccessible to him just an LP ago, and though this recent release isn’t without a couple of flaws here and there, it’s got enough sonic gusto to make up for whatever it might be lacking on the surface side of things. I’d be really curious to hear an all-out acoustic record featuring nothing more than Michaels and a 12-string guitar sometime, but even if he decides to do the exact opposite with his next piece, I’ll be all ears for his forthcoming output just the same.

Kim Muncie 

Two (LP) by This Time Band

If guitar sizzle is your style, I would definitely recommend taking a peek at the latest record from Canadian rockers This Time, Two, the next time you’re browsing new indie titles, because from the plodding fuzz of deep cuts like “Caught You in Love” and “Something About,” to the blustery palm-muted storm of “Be Somebody” and chief single “Runaway,” they absolutely embody the core of this band’s sound more than anything else does. As the main attraction of Two, the six-string play found in all ten of its songs is the foundation of every melody, and groove, that we hear between the verses.

“Runaway,” similarly to “Around” and “Be Somebody,” is in essence an 80’s proto-alternative rock song with an updated studio varnish, but its intoxicating sway more than makes up for what the track lacks in innovation. A lot of the songs on Two seem more like novelties than they do actual stabs at the Top 40, but truth be told, I don’t see anything wrong with this – after all, This Time aren’t claiming that they’ve reinvented the very nature of rock n’ roll in their most recent release; they’re simply playing the music that appeals to their personal sensibilities (which is frankly as genuine as it gets in this business).


The production style throughout the entirety of Two is a little jarring compared to what one would expect to hear in a standard pop/rock record, sort of in the vein of Steve Albini’s early 90’s output, but its abrasiveness just might be its saving grace when considering the stock stylizations of “Street Walking Blues,” “Solace Unexpected,” “Mother’s Son” and “The Turnaround.” These compositions definitely needed a bit of outside the box-type grooming, and because of all the grit on the master mix, they sound a lot more accessible and intriguing both together and individually.

For being a relatively short album (39 minutes total), there are a couple of unfortunate moments where Two feels rather bloated by its band’s ambitiousness. Take “Right in Front of You” for example – it’s a really great song, but because of how stacked its bassline feels, it sounds so suffocating as it lurches forward that it leaves us exhausted and unable to appreciate the stomp of “Caught You in Love,” its tracklist neighbor. This Time could stand to embrace a little creative conservatism, but at the same time I can see where some of their longtime listeners, not to mention the band themselves, might disagree.


Two presents us with a This Time that, as I see it, are biting off a little more than they can chew in some spots while playing it really, really safe in others, but despite the deep contrast in the material, I’d say it’s an album you should definitely examine this season if you dig guitar-driven rock n’ roll. It’s probably not going to segue the band from the underground into the international mainstream, but I don’t think that was this group’s intention here. For better or worse, they’re playing the music that makes sense to them, and that’s (sadly) something to be commended nowadays.

Kim Muncie

“Moses” by Jonathan Emile

The last couple of years have been a great time for fans of acoustic pop music. From the United Kingdom to the United States and beyond, artists have been coming out of the woodwork with roots music of the most erudite variety, and although the new single “Moses” from Jonathan Emile might not qualify as being the most prolific acoustic song I’ve heard in the last year, it’s undeniably one of the more melodic of its kind to come from an underground performer on either side of the Atlantic Ocean in 2019-2020.


Emile’s vocal in “Moses” is focused and unrestrained almost simultaneously, alluding to the importance of contrast in his work while also highlighting how magnetic his brand of melodicism can be when there isn’t a lot of excess to come between an artist and his audience. He doesn’t need a loud electric guitar riff and crashing drums to make the kind of stadium-shaking impact on his listeners that a big shot rock n’ roll band would, and in keeping things to the bare minimum in this track, he proves just how efficient and disinterested in commercialized fluff he is as an artist and as a songwriter.

The music video for “Moses” encapsulates the emotionality of the source material beautifully, but I don’t think it needed to be made in order for us to pick up on the youthful spirit behind the lyrical content, and specifically, the harmonies that bridge words to melodies in this song. Singles aren’t always a representation of an artist’s soul; in fact, they’re often a representation of who an artist wants to become through the commercial channels they penetrate. That isn’t the case with “Moses,” and after listening to some of the other song he’s released in his career, I don’t think it’s the case with any of the work he puts his name on.


Though relatively unknown to most indie fans in the United States, I think that Jonathan Emile has a legitimate shot at making some big noise with American audiences if can continue to turn out smashing songs like “Moses.” Emile is going to have a tough time going against some of the formidable competition that both the underground and the mainstream are producing as the 2020’s get started, but if he’s able to bring this kind of emotion to every single that he records from this point forward, he’ll be well on his way to making a big mark on the world.

Kim Muncie