EP Review: DREAMS OF VERTIGO – “Reject University, Part Two: From Six 2 Midnight”

Dreams of Vertigo is a Southern California rock band with a sense of humor. Their Twitter bio states “We play music, we are anti pay to play, we write music that you can relate to because #weareallrejects.” And in their Facebook bio, they explain that their band “started with an idea…that recent music just isn’t up to par with the high standards of the average music listener (haha).”  Based in Orange County, the band formed in 2012, and they play music that draws from numerous rock influences ranging from Green Day and Blink-182, to the harder sounds of Avenged Sevenfold. Making the music are Doug Ferguson on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Gonz Wolfy on bass and backing vocals, Jay Bear on lead guitar and backing vocals, and Brandon Betts on drums.

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In October, the band released a six-song EP Reject University, Part Two: From Six 2 Midnight, which is a follow up to their excellent 2014 EP Reject University, Part One: Freshman 15. Are those great EP titles or what! Going with the theme, the EP opens with a 35-second intro that features a woman at a school assembly welcoming students to Reject University, then we’re hit with an onslaught of heavy guitars that immediately segue to the terrific hard-driving first track “One False Move.” Rapid-fire riffs of shredded, swirling and distorted guitars are accompanied by heavy bass and pummeling drums, all serving to pump up the adrenaline. The guys’ vocals are aggressive yet harmonic as they sing of lies and deceit: “So take back your lies / I’ll never sign or be a part / Of all your schemes and all your dreams for one night.” This is a great song.

Escaping a doomed relationship is the subject of the catchy, high-energy “Facade.” “And here’s the tragic part, we worked so fucking hard /  I lost the fight but won the war, you’re all alone. And no one cares, your selfish words they cut right through.”  This great track has a Blink-182 vibe, with fast-paced guitar riffs overlying a thumping bass line and propelled forward by hammering drums. The track features guest vocals by Tony Lovato, lead singer for the punk-rock band Mest.  The pleasing third track “If I Ever” takes a mellower tone, with gentle guitars and percussion. Ferguson’s vocals on this song remind me of pop-rock singer Duncan Shiek.

The most dramatic track on the EP is “An (Un)Easy Goodbye,” a hard rock song about depression and thoughts of suicide. “I’m the rejected, the painfully neglected. My world is a war zone. Normalcy is washed out to sea, and swallowed up by the waves. Take away the poison plaguing me.” Gnashing, discordant guitars, set to a hard-driving beat with aggressive percussion and Ferguson’s raw, imploring vocals, successfully convey the sense of chaos the band is wanting to achieve in this song. The complex guitar riffs are really outstanding. The powerful video portrays the band members acting out their internal struggles with demons and suicidal thoughts while performing the song.

The hard-hitting “Underneath the X” offers up more great rapid-fire shredded guitars and strong drums. The lyrics speak to overcoming past mistakes and self-doubt that keep holding you back: “There’s a fortune I’ve been told, underneath the X. If I keep on digging deep enough, I’ll be buried with the rest.” The final track “Girls Night Out” is a raucous ode to girls gone wild. Beginning with the sound of a woman asking how her hair looks, the song breaks open with furious guitars, pummeling drums and lots of crashing cymbals. Gonz Wolfy sings “Seven, eight, nine shots, emotions are rising, rumors are spreading, and now the girls are fighting / Amy spills her drink all over Kelly. Hailey’s pulling hair off of Stacy.” Halfway through the track, hilarious voice overs of women gossiping are heard. “She is a whore. I love your dress. I seen her with John last week. Oh, that bitch is crazy.  That bitch. She is a total slut.” Such fun!

To sum up, this is a great EP with lots of energy and awesome guitar riffs that kick ass! Show Dreams of Vertigo some support by following them on Twitter,  Facebook  and Instagram. Subscribe to their YouTube channel, and stream their music on Spotify and Soundcloud. Their music may be purchased on iTunes.

Song Review: MADE OF EYES – “Wishing Well”

Every now and then you hear a song for the first time and you’re instantly blown away by it’s magnificence. That’s the feeling I got when I heard the brilliant new single “Wishing Well” from UK alternative rock band Made of Eyes. Following up on their previous, equally fantastic single “Feel Alive,” “Wishing Well” dropped today, November 28, and it’s a gorgeous work of musical art. Lush, soaring synths combine with thunderous guitars, forceful drums and a buzzing bass line to create a powerful, stadium quality anthem.

Made of Eyes is based in Glasgow, Scotland, and consists of four guys whose first names all begin with ‘J’ – JR Campbell on Guitar/Lead Vocals, Jason Stewart on Lead Guitar/Vocals, Jay Jay McMeekin on Bass, and Jacob Kane on Drums. The guys have been a band only since July 2015, but already have a definitive, polished sound.

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The track starts off with a dreamy synth melody, then blistering guitar riffs and hammering percussion take over. Jason, who’s lead vocalist on this single, passionately sings: “So throw me down the wishing well, and I hope you wish me well.” The song slows at the bridge with a brief but lovely guitar solo, then ramps back up for the finale with more soaring, thunderous riffs that bring goosebumps. With incredible emotion in his voice, Jason implores: “Why can’t you just be honest. It would save so much time.” This song is so good I had it on repeat more times than I can remember. Take a listen:

UPDATE: The band released their four-track Bonds early in 2017, which you can stream on Spotify or purchase on iTunes. You can also listen to their songs on Soundcloud.  Support them by following on  Twitter  and Facebook.

Top 20 Songs For November 27-December 3, 2016

1. WASTE A MOMENT – Kings of Leon (1)
2. SAY MY NAME – (IAM)WARFACE (2)
3. FEEL INVINCIBLE – Skillet (4)
4. STARBOY – The Weeknd (5)
5. LIFE ITSELF – Glass Animals (3)
6. CHANGES – MUTEMATH (7)
7. 24K MAGIC – Bruno Mars (14)
8. WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE – Grouplove (9)
9. BANG BANG – Green Day (6)
10. CLEOPATRA – The Lumineers (12)
11. SURE AND CERTAIN – Jimmy Eat World (13)
12. HEATHENS – twenty øne piløts (8)
13. STARS – Wons Phreely+Horses (11)
14. TONIGHT – Matto Rules (10)
15. BAD DECISIONS – Two Door Cinema Club (17)
16. THE SHAKES THAT YOU MAKE – Dyslexic Postcards (18)
17. BELONG – Shelita Burke (19)
18. ALL WE EVER KNEW – The Head and the Heart (15)
19. MY NAME IS HUMAN – Highly Suspect (N)
20. OBSOLETE – Agony in the Garden (N)

EP Review: THE PUSS PUSS BAND

Today I shine my spotlight on a singer/songwriter duo that goes by the fun, quirky name The Puss Puss Band.  They are multi instrumentalists Asa Galeozzie and Lee Pugh, a mainly studio based band from South Wales. Both have worked with numerous artists and bands in the UK and the Welsh music industry over the last ten years as writers & session musicians. They perform every aspect of their music: songwriting, instrumentals, vocals, arranging, engineering, producing and mixing. Asa plays guitar, bass, percussion, piano and melodica, while Lee plays lead guitar, bass and piano. The guys also have a sense of humor; on their Soundcloud page, they state that Asa plays tap shoes and Lee the mouth trumpet.

They released their debut self-titled EP The Puss Puss Band in October, and it features four outstanding tunes in a style the guys refer to as ‘jazz rock pop chill sounds.’ Their easy-going instrumentals and smooth vocals make for an incredibly pleasing listening experience – sort of a Style Council meets England Dan & John Ford Coley with just a touch of Dan Fogelberg. All those artists made really terrific music, and I think The Puss Puss Band’s music is in the same league.

The first track is the rather sexy “Feline Fine.” Sublime guitars and snare drum create a mellow vibe, and Lee’s beguiling vocals almost purr: “You got me working double time, you got me clocking overtime, you got me feline fine. And I know I can’t show you the things that I see, but sometimes I wish I could. Because you got something that makes me feel glad at night. And you got everything because you know you’re right.”  This is my favorite track on the EP.

The lovely ballad “Thinking of You” continues the mellow groove, but with a bittersweet edge. Its heartfelt lyrics speak about missing someone very deeply, and hoping they’re feeling the same about you. “I just wish that you could see, all the love for you I feel. But I’m descending in all this gloom. My heart free-falling like a lead balloon. Without you.” The guitars are especially nice on this track.

Alone” is a catchy, upbeat track with great chiming guitar riffs and Lee and Asa’s smooth intertwining vocal harmonies. The guys really channel the Style Council on this song. The pace slows back down to a dreamy haze with the enchanting folk-infused ballad “Perfect World.” Guest musician Patrick McDermott lays down some lovely banjo riffs over the guys’ laid back guitars.

The guys also recorded a great cover of The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry” a while back. Take a listen:

I love their smooth sound and am anxious to hear more music from these guys. Support The Puss Puss Band by following on Twitter and subscribing to their YouTube channel. Stream their music on Soundcloud, or purchase on Bandcamp.

Album Review: BRYAN HOWELL & THE STANDALONES – “Take the Risk”

Some music just makes you feel happy when you hear it. Bryan Howell, along with his back-up band The Standalones, makes that kind of music. Every time I listen to their new album Take the Risk, I can’t help but smile (and I sure can do with a lot more of that right now). After more than a year of blood, sweat and tears, Bryan Howell & The Standalones dropped Take the Risk in early August of this year, and it’s packed with ten stellar tunes that draw from a variety of rich influences: rock and roll, rockabilly, garage rock, power-pop, country, surf and indie rock, as well as the timeless music produced by Motown, Sun and Stax records. If all that’s not enough to get you excited, I don’t know what will.

Howell was born and raised in upstate New York, where he recorded Take the Risk, but subsequently relocated to Nashville to immerse himself in the vibrant music scene there. In a great interview with Shameless Promotions & Media (which you can view here), he stated that “pretty much every bedrock genre of American music—jazz, blues, country, rock and roll—has deep origin roots in the South. From any standpoint as a musician—great recording studios, great musical instruments, great venues, great players, great industry connections—Nashville has it.

Along with Howell – who writes the songs, plays rhythm guitar and sings lead vocals – for the album tracking in New York, The Standalones included Brandon Brault on drums, Matthew Copperwheat on guitar, and Dan Phillips on bass. After moving to Nashville, Howell assembled a new line-up for The Standalones with Ethan Sims on lead and rhythm guitar, and backing vocals, Wes Burkhart on bass, and Darren Darling on drums.

I don’t normally quote an artist very much in my reviews, but Howell has so eloquently described the album and the meaning behind his songs that I feel compelled to paraphrase him throughout this post. In another excellent interview with Jordan Mohler for the website Kill The Music (which you can read here), Bryan explained that the album “is a bit of a loose concept album, because it’s about putting yourself out there and going for it, picking yourself up as you realize not everything in life is perfect and living the best you can anyway. I guess at this point I’m dealing with basic human themes, wrestling with ideas about being human in what I feel is both a hyper-connected and really impersonal and cold time, and through the prism of growing up in the Rust Belt and what I see in society and people around me. But that said, there are also songs that are just about classic rock and roll stuff about girls, nights on the town, and having fun.”

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Now that I’ve provided a bit of background on Howell and where he’s coming from, let’s get to the music. The album opens with the rousing track “Your Saturday Night,” a wonderful, high-energy rock and roll treat that sets the tone for the entire album. A strong guitar solo kicks things off, followed by an explosion of rhythm and bass, big drums and Howell’s exuberant vocals that conjure up the joys of letting loose on a Saturday night. The guitar riffs and Howell’s vocals are awesome, and I could listen to this song over and over again!  The entertaining video is great too. Howell wanted the video to show the band playing in a venue where a lot of  bands start out – a typical suburban garage – and end with him living the artist’s dream of entering a theater to play a concert.

The album’s energy keeps flowing with the second track “Apologies and Promises.” The song’s fun, upbeat rock and roll arrangement contrasts with more serious lyrics that speak to letting go of negative, non-supportive people in your life: “Too much time wasting away, like apologies and promises / useless things I never miss / Too much time with so much to say / waiting for an open space / looking for an honest face.

Seriousness is cast aside for the deliriously fun throwback tune “Hot Summer Strut.” Combining rockabilly, surf and malt-shop vibes, the great guitar riffs and percussion are enhanced by hot saxophone work by Sam Kinninger. “Not Like the Movies” slows things down and brings us back to earth, with more serious lyrics about how life is not all happy endings like in the movies. Howell said that ‘movies’ is a euphemism for other things such as TV, social media or video games that people get lost in. At times, his raw vocals remind me of Mick Jagger’s in some of the Stones’ slower ballads like “Wild Horses” or “Waiting on a Friend.”

The subject is still a bit serious but the tempo ramps back up in “Time Marches On,” a track about how we all change as we go through life, and some of the friendships that once meant so much to us eventually fade away as we move in different directions.  Moving on in life is the subject of the poignant “Tough to Say Goodbye,” a very personal song for Howell. In an interview with Sound In The Signals, he stated that it “took on much greater depth when I vividly realized during pre-production and studio time that there was no way I could stay in upstate NY to pursue my music career. [It was] a somewhat bittersweet but cathartic song to track.”  The tremolo guitars in the song are sublime.

The energy level is turned all the way up in the rock and roll anthem ‘Cause I’m a Lion.” The song’s a defiant “fuck off” to conformity and boxing people in with expectations that don’t feel right for them: “And I’ve been stuck in this cage too long  / I’m sick and tired of all the apathy / No guts no passion / No dreams left to dream.” The rapid-paced, blistering guitar solos would make Chuck Berry proud. “Candy Store Love” brings a return of the catchy, malt-shop rockabilly that makes the album such a joy.  And “This is the Future,” with it’s punchy, stop and start guitar riffs, speaks to letting go of past hurts and bitterness and not allowing them to ruin your life from this point forward.

The closing track is the beautiful “Angel from the Lonely Coast.” Howell described the song as “touching on the rough underbelly of the Rust Belt – unemployment, heroin, fading neighborhoods – and a shaded biography of a few people I knew in the middle of it. Reflecting on my hope that these people can better their life and break free of their cycle, while noting the quiet bravery and heroism of people living honestly and strongly through an atmosphere like this.”  He felt it was the most fitting song to end the album. Guest saxophonist Sam Kinninger returns to lay down some haunting solos over the gorgeous swirling guitars. It’s a standout track and one of my favorites on the album. Take a listen:

To sum up, Take The Risk is a superb album by a tremendously talented and earnest singer/songwriter. The amount of time, effort and dedication Howell put into making this album is impressive and it shows. To learn more about Bryan Howell, check out his website.  Support him by following on Twitter,  Facebook and Instagram.  Stream Take the Risk, as well as his 2013 EP Lightning Through My Soul, on Spotify, and purchase them on iTunes, Bandcamp, or other sites offering music for purchase.

Top 20 Songs For November 20-26, 2016

1. WASTE A MOMENT – Kings of Leon (1)
2. SAY MY NAME – (IAM)WARFACE (3)
3. LIFE ITSELF – Glass Animals (2)
4. FEEL INVINCIBLE – Skillet (5)
5. STARBOY – The Weeknd (6)
6. BANG BANG – Green Day (4)
7. CHANGES – MUTEMATH (7)
8. HEATHENS – twenty øne piløts (8)
9. WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE – Grouplove (10)
10. TONIGHT – Matto Rules (11)
11. STARS – Wons Phreely+Horses (13)
12. CLEOPATRA – The Lumineers (14)
13. SURE AND CERTAIN – Jimmy Eat World (16)
14. 24K MAGIC – Bruno Mars (N)
15. ALL WE EVER KNEW – The Head and the Heart (12)
16. HYMN FOR THE WEEKEND – Coldplay featuring Beyoncé (9)
17. BAD DECISIONS – Two Door Cinema Club (18)
18. THE SHAKES THAT YOU MAKE – Dyslexic Postcards (19)
19. BELONG – Shelita Burke (20)
20. WISH I KNEW YOU – The Revivalists (15)

“Magic” Songs

While driving to an appointment this morning, I heard the Cars song “Magic” on the radio, and started thinking of all the hit songs either titled Magic or having the word in their title. So, without further ado, here are the memorable hit songs from 1960 to the present with ‘magic’ in their title.

1.  MAGIC – Pilot (1975)
The first hit song simply titled “Magic,” this fun, upbeat pop-rock tune by one-hit wonder Scottish band Pilot was produced by Alan Parsons of the Alan Parsons Project (who themselves had a string of hits from 1976-84). It was a big hit, reaching #5 and spending 12 weeks on the Billboard Top 40.

2. MAGIC – Olivia Newton-John (1980)
The biggest “magic” hit of them all, Olivia Newton-John’s “Magic” spent 4 weeks at #1 and 16 weeks on the Billboard Top 40. This really terrific song was featured in the really terrible musical Xanadu which, in addition to Newton-John, also starred Gene Kelly. The song was written by John Farrar who, along with Jeff Lynne of Electric Light Orchestra, also wrote the lyrics and music for the film soundtrack. Though the film was a flop, the soundtrack album was hugely successful, spawning several other hits for Newton-John and ELO (whose career was nearly wrecked by their involvement with the film).

3. MAGIC – The Cars (1984)
The second single from their phenomenal album Heartbeat City, The Cars’ “Magic” is an awesome pop-rock song – but then I’m biased, as I pretty much love all their songs. It was a modest hit, spending 11 weeks on the Billboard Top 40 and peaking at #12.

4. MAGIC – Robin Thicke (2008)
This “Magic” by American R&B singer Robin Thicke is from his third studio album Something Else. The song was written by him along with his then wife Paula Patton and James Gass.  It reached #2 on both the Billboard Adult R&B and Dance Club Charts, and #6 on the R&B/Hip Hop Chart, but only #59 on the Hot 100.

5. MAGIC – Coldplay (2014)
Another great “magic” song, this one by Coldplay was the first single from their rather experimental album Ghost Stories. It was a departure from their usual music style, and received critical acclaim, though some complained that it sounded too much like the Muse song “Madness,” with its similar chord progression and climactic flourish. The song peaked at #14 on the Billboard Top 40 and #1 on the Adult Alternative Chart. There’s no denying that the song’s video is absolutely brilliant. Chris Martin plays both the good and bad guys, and Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi plays the beautiful magician.

6. THIS MAGIC MOMENT – Drifters (1960); Jay & the Americans (1969)
This song was composed by lyricist Doc Pomus and pianist Mort Shuman, and was a modest hit first for Ben E. King and the Drifters, who took it to #16 in 1960. Jay & the Americans recorded another version of the song in 1968, and it reached #6 in March 1969, and spent 10 weeks in the Top 40.

7. PUFF, THE MAGIC DRAGON – Peter, Paul & Mary (1963)
This sweet, poignant song was written by Leonard Lipton and Peter Yarrow of the folk band Peter, Paul & Mary, and was based on an earlier poem by Lipton. The song was a big hit, peaking at #2 and spending 11 weeks in the Billboard Top 40.

8. DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? – The Lovin’ Spoonful (1965)
The Lovin’ Spoonful were one of the most successful American pop-rock bands of the mid 60s and their catchy, upbeat song “Do You Believe in Magic? was their first chart hit, peaking at #9 and spending eight weeks in the Billboard Top 40.

9. MAGIC CARPET RIDE – Steppenwolf (1968)
From the legendary hard rock band Steppenwolf, this amazing song was so representative of the psychedelic influence in a lot of rock songs during the period from 1966-69. It was a huge hit, reaching #3 and spending 13 weeks in the Billboard Top 40.

10. MAGIC BUS – The Who (1968)
This great classic from The Who was written by Pete Townshend in 1965 while they were recording My Generation, but the song was not recorded by the band until 1968. Although they were one of the biggest bands in the world from the late 60s through the early 80s, selling millions of albums and selling out hundreds of concerts, they had relatively few big “hits” on the Billboard Hot 100 (which was also true for many other rock bands). “Magic Bus” peaked at #25 and spent only six weeks in the Top 40.

11. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN – Santana (1970)
Undoubtedly one of the best of the “magic” songs, “Black Magic Woman” is a rock classic from the legendary guitarist Carlos Santana and his band. The guitar riffs in this song are incredible. It was hugely popular, peaking at #4 and spending 12 weeks in the Top 40.

12. MAGIC MAN – Heart (1976)
The second single from Heart’s brilliant debut album Dreamboat Annie, “Magic Man” was their first Top 10 hit, peaking at #9. Ann Wilson said it was about her then boyfriend Michael Fisher, who was the band manager and several years older than her. The song’s unique sound was produced by the use of a Minimoog synthesizer.

13. COULD IT BE MAGIC – Barry Manilow (1975); Donna Summer (1976)
“Could It Be Magic” was  written by lyricist Adrienne Anderson and pianist Barry Manilow. The melody was based on Frederic Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor. Initially released in 1971, it was later re-recorded, and released as a single in 1975. It was Manilow’s third charting single, peaking at #6 and spending 13 weeks on the Billboard Top 40. Disco diva Donna Summer recorded another version of the song for her album A Love Trilogy, which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Dance Chart, but only at #52 on the Hot 100.

14. STRANGE MAGIC – Electric Light Orchestra (1976)
British symphonic rock band Electric Light Orchestra was immensely popular and successful, with twenty Top 40 singles during the years 1975-86.  From their fifth studio album Face the Music, the beautiful track “Strange Magic” was their third charting single, peaking at #14 and spending nine weeks in the Top 40.

15. YOU MADE ME BELIEVE IN MAGIC – Bay City Rollers (1977)
This song was the fifth charting single from the Scottish pop band Bay City Rollers, and the only song of theirs that I could ever tolerate. It peaked at #10 and spent 12 weeks in the Billboard Top 40.

16. IF IT’S MAGIC – Stevie Wonder (1977)
One of Stevie Wonder’s most beautiful songs, “If It’s Magic” is from his magnificent opus album Songs In The Key Of Life. This song never charted, but I included it on this list because it’s such a wonderful track.

17. EVERY LITTLE THING SHE DOES IS MAGIC – The Police (1981)
One of the best of many awesome songs from The Police, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” is from their fantastic fourth album Ghost in the Machine. This song was unique in that it includes the piano as an instrument, uncommon for most Police songs. It was a big hit, peaking at #3 and spending 15 weeks in the Top 40.

18. YOU CAN DO MAGIC – America (1982)
This really lovely pop-rock song by America was released ten years after their massively successful debut single “A Horse With No Name,” an indication of their staying power. “You Can Do Magic” was their seventh Top 10 single, peaking at #8 and spending 15 weeks in the Top 40.

19. MAGIC STICK – Lil’ Kim & 50 Cent (2003)
“Magic Stick,” by hip hop artist Lil’ Kim, is from her third studio album La Bella Mafia. The song features fellow American rapper 50 Cent and was produced by Carlos “Fantom of the Beat” Evans. Despite not having a physical release or music video, the song was a huge hit, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

20. 24K MAGIC – Bruno Mars (2016)
The most recent “magic” song on this list – and currently at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 as of the date of this post – the wonderfully funky and upbeat “24K Magic” looks to be another smash hit for R&B singer Bruno Mars.

Let me know what you think of these songs, or if I left out any other “magic” hit songs.

Featured Single: MAHOGANY DANNIE – “Leap”

I had the good fortune of discovering a promising new singer/songwriter today when she followed me on Twitter. She goes by the artistic name Mahogany Dannie, and what an amazing, powerful voice she has!  Hailing from soulful Memphis, Tennessee, Dannie has always been an achiever, spending much of her life in creative pursuits ranging from writing short stories and poetry, being active in sports and studying Criminal Justice. More recently, she learned to play the guitar and writing songs, thus finding her true passion for making music.

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Dannie released her debut single “Leap” in late July, and it’s a real powerhouse of a track, both musically and vocally. Her clear, commanding vocals soar in this anthemic song about overcoming one’s fears and doubts through the encouragement and support of a loved one and working toward what’s important and meaningful in life. “You said you would be there for me / I thought you left, leaving me behind / But you were there, pushing me to reach out be free / take that leap of faith.”  The song’s arrangement is superb, with assertive piano backed by strong synths, percussion and bass. Take a listen:

To learn more about Mahogany Dannie, check out her website, and follow her on Twitter  and  Facebook.  Stream “Leap” on Spotify and Reverbnation, and purchase on iTunes or other sites offering music for sale or download.

Top 20 Songs for November 13-19, 2016

1. WASTE A MOMENT – Kings of Leon (3)
2. LIFE ITSELF – Glass Animals (1)
3. SAY MY NAME – (IAM)WARFACE (4)
4. BANG BANG – Green Day (2)
5. FEEL INVINCIBLE – Skillet (7)
6. STARBOY – The Weeknd, Daft Punk (9)
7. CHANGES – MUTEMATH (8)
8. HEATHENS – twenty øne piløts (6)
9. HYMN FOR THE WEEKEND – Coldplay, Beyoncé (5)
10. WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE – Grouplove (11)
11. TONIGHT – Matto Rules (12)
12. ALL WE EVER KNEW – The Head and the Heart (10)
13. STARS – Wons Phreely + the Horses (14)
14. CLEOPATRA – The Lumineers (16)
15. WISH I KNEW YOU – The Revivalists (15)
16. SURE AND CERTAIN – Jimmy Eat World (18)
17. YOU DON’T GET ME HIGH ANYMORE – Phantogram (13)
18. BAD DECISIONS – Two Door Cinema Club (N)
19. THE SHAKES THAT YOU MAKE – Dyslexic Postcards (N)
20. BELONG – Shelita Burke (N)

Single Review: BEN WRIGHT – “Starry Nights”

Ben Wright is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Manchester, UK (a city with a vibrant music scene, from which have come a few bands I’ve previously featured on this blog). In his bio, Ben states that he writes acoustic folk/pop music that’s influenced by blues, reggae and rock. He released a wonderful debut single “Starry Nights” in October, along with a beautifully-filmed video. He said he was inspired to write the song “whilst travelling and sleeping in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand.”

The poetic lyrics describe the simple beauty of a starry night in the rural countryside, unblemished by the artificiality or pretense of urban life. “Looking down from high above, they’re flickering til the day is born. No artificial beams can reach the sky. No piercing sounds will break the night. Starry nights relive your innocence. There’s no delusions and no hollow men.”

Musically, the song has a lovely melody, with a pleasing acoustic rhythm guitar riff overlying gentle percussion and bass.  Ben’s soothing vocals perfectly fit the music, conveying a tranquil sense that everything’s alright with the world – a feeling that’s sorely needed at the moment. The gorgeous video, which shows Ben walking and/or performing the song by a lake, nicely complements the track.

Support Ben by following him on Twitter and Facebook. Ben also teaches guitar lessons on his YouTube channel, which you can check out here.  Stream the song on Spotify, and purchase on iTunes or Amazon.