Top 30 Songs for May 31-June 6, 2020

1. LEVEL OF CONCERN – twenty one pilots (1)
2. CAUTION – The Killers (2)
3. BLACK MADONNA – Cage the Elephant (3)
4. DELETER – Grouplove (4)
5. LOST IN YESTERDAY – Tame Impala (5)
6. YOUR LOVE (DÉJÀ VU) – Glass Animals (7)
7. MARIA – Two Feet (8)
8. BAD DECISIONS – The Strokes (6)
9. LEMON DROP – Absofacto (10)
10. HELL N BACK – Bakar (11)
11. BLINDING LIGHTS – The Weeknd (9)
12. IF NOT FOR THE FIRE – The Million Reasons (13)
13. LONELINESS FOR LOVE – lovelytheband (15)
15. SHINE A LITTLE LIGHT – The Black Keys (12)
16. HALF YOUR AGE – Joywave (20)
17. LAY YOUR HEAD ON ME – Major Lazer featuring Marcus Mumford (21)
18. BLACK & WHITE LOVE – Beating Hearts Club (22)
19. RUN – Joji (19)
20. BE AFRAID – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (25)
21. EXPECTATIONS – Katie Pruitt (26)
22. SHANGRI-LA – EOB (23)
23. HONEYBEE – The Head and the Heart (27)
24. ME & YOU TOGETHER SONG – The 1975 (17)
25. OH YEAH! – Green Day (14)
26. LIVING IN A GHOST TOWN – The Rolling Stones (29)
27. PSYCH FILM – Strangely Alright (30)
29. OVER AND OVER – Amongst Liars (23)
30. SOMEONE ELSE – Rezz & Grabbitz (N)

New Song of the Week – SECRET AMERICAN: “Here Comes A Man”

Secret American4

Secret American is a delightfully unique band I’ve grown to love over the past year or so, ever since being introduced to them and their music by another blogger. They’re a bi-coastal band, born from the collaboration of singer/songwriter and guitarist Derek Krzywicki, who lives in the small town of Carpinteria on the California coast east of Santa Barbara, and his long-time friend Todd Mecaughey, a producer/engineer and musician from Philadelphia. Despite their distance, they began working together on music fairly regularly for over a year in Philadelphia, as well as collaborating through the internet from their home studios, and eventually formed Secret American. Using songs Derek had written previously, the two created their debut 2018 album Warmth & Shelter (which I reviewed in March 2019). The band was gradually expanded to a seven-member lineup with the addition of Katie Frank, Tony Unander, Alex Baranowski, Rory Geoghegan and Jon McNally.

Their refreshing, laid-back sound is at once retro yet contemporary, eccentric yet familiar. While their song lyrics often address serious subjects that make us think, they’re presented with sunny melodies, breezy instrumentation and pleasing vocals that make for happy listening experience. Since the release of Warmth & Shelter, Secret American has been recording and releasing new singles that will eventually be included on their second album. Their latest is “Here Comes a Man“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

The song opens with a rather pensive trumpet, then settles into a languid tempo, highlighted by a strong, thumping drumbeat and wonderful twangy guitar notes. With seven musicians contributing to the music, we hear all sorts of instruments and sounds, including horns, snare drums, keyboard synths, guitar and bass. But perhaps the most striking of them all are the occasional reverb-heavy distorted guitar chords that punctuate the proceedings from time to time, adding a touch of danger to the otherwise sunny upbeat vibe.

I love Derek’s smooth singing voice, which registers in the higher octaves just below a falsetto. He sounds appropriately seductive as he sings the great come-on lyrics to a woman he finds attractive, urging her to ditch the man she’s with and give him a chance instead:

Hello, I’ve seen your face before, I don’t recall your name
You’re looking at me too long through a glass of champagne
I’m a greyhound headin’ at ya, making all the stops
I’m a loosening my collar, I’m a drinking on the rocks
But the man right next to you, who is that man?
Is he making you happy, doesn’t look like he can
So I’m a walk right to ya, gonna pass that man
My eyes wide open

Here comes a man (x3)
Here I come

“Here Comes a Man” is another terrific song from this incredibly talented group of musicians. Their superb songwriting and musicianship never fail to amaze me, and so long as they continue to produce such great songs, I shall remain a devoted fan.

Connect with Secret American on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

CROSSFLOW & IAMWARFACE – Single Review: “Take the Shot”

British electro-rock group IAMWARFACE is one of my favorite indie bands, with an aggressive name that’s a perfect descriptor for their bombastic and edgy groove-based sound. I’ve written about the Brighton & London-based band numerous time on this blog over the past four years, most recently last August (2019) when I reviewed their magnificent album Year of the Dragon. Their creative and charismatic front man Matt Warneford recently teamed up with Bedfordshire-based musician/producer Crossflow (aka Karl Morey) to collaborate on a spectacular new song “Take the Shot“, which drops today. Crossflow co-produced, mixed and mastered Year of the Dragon, and was eager to work with Warneford again: “Been working with these guys for a while in a production capacity so it was only a matter of time until Matt and I got writing, both being filthy electronic shouty guitar bastards.

Matt Warneford
Matt Warneford

Crossflow composed the music and arrangement for “Take the Shot”, then sent it on to Warneford, who wrote and sang the lyrics. The song features the explosive dynamics, darkly beautiful melodies and always-lurking sense of danger typically found on many IAMWARFACE songs, but Crossflow injects layers of harsh industrial synths into the mix, giving the track an even more ominous Nine Inch Nails feel. Underlying the whole thing is a crushing dubstep-style beat that would make The Prodigy proud. The result is a bombastic and spooky soundscape for Warneford’s electrifying vocal gymnastics. He’s an amazing vocalist, with the ability to sooth us with a beautiful croon one moment, then chill us to the bone with a feral rawness the next as he snarls “Take the shot, suck it up!

I’m not certain, but the very dark lyrics seem to be from the perspective of a vampire, or possibly a zombie, stuck in an afterlife filled with regret:

I cannot breathe, I cannot feel
Just waiting here in the afterlife
These wounds won’t heal
My lips are sealed
Face up against the cage
Like you and everybody else

I’ve loved every single song by IAMWARFACE, and “Take the Shot” is no exception. So crank up the volume and have a listen for yourself!

Follow IAMWARFACE:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

Follow Crossflow:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream/Purchase his music:  SpotifyApple MusicGoogle Play

EML’s Favorite Songs – THE UNDISPUTED TRUTH: “Smiling Faces Sometimes”


As a teenager back in the late 1960s to mid 1970s, I was madly in love with soul and R&B music (still am, actually), and among my favorite songs from those years is “Smiling Faces Sometimes” by The Undisputed Truth. Written by the renown Motown songwriting team of Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it’s a dramatic psychedelic soul song about phony, back-stabbing people who do their friends wrong behind their backs. The song peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, but was a huge #1 hit in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I lived at the time.

Beginning in the mid 1960s, Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong helped turn Motown into a veritable hit machine. Along with Smokey Robinson and the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Whitfield and Strong were instrumental in the creation of what was referred to as “The Motown Sound”, as well as the late-1960s subgenre of psychedelic soul. They were one of the principal songwriters for the Temptations, penning such hits as “Cloud Nine”, “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “War”, “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)”, “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”, “Smiling Faces Sometimes”, and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”, as well as the brilliant “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”, which was a monster #1 hit for both Gladys Knight & the Pips and Marvin Gaye.

“Smiling Faces Sometimes” was first recorded by the Temptations as a 12:43-minute-long opus that was included on their 1971 album Sky’s the Limit. An edited version of the song was to be released as a 45 single, but was scrapped when one of the track’s co-vocalists Eddie Kendricks left the Temptations for a solo career in April 1971. Undaunted, Whitfield quickly turned to another psychedelic soul group he’d created known as The Undisputed Truth, and had them record the song, which was released that May. Whitfield liked to record dramatically different versions of the same song with different Motown artists (see “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”), so having The Undisputed Truth record “Smiling Faces Sometimes” was a no-brainer. He later had the Temptations record The Undisputed Truth song “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”, which became a #1 hit for them.

Whitfield created The Undisputed Truth in 1970 to further explore his interest in producing more songs in his psychedelic soul format, but also partly in response to fan criticism that he was using the Temptations as his personal plaything. The Undisputed Truth consisted of Joe Harris, Billie Calvin and Brenda Evans, all seasoned vocalists who’d previously worked with other soul and R&B acts.

It’s a darkly beautiful song with a sophisticated, yet menacing vibe thanks to a brilliant arrangement and stunning instrumentation. The track opens with what sounds like an abrupt horn blast, quickly followed by a deep bass line, wobbly guitar notes and a brief flourish of cinematic strings. Then, a rattle-based beat kicks in, nicely conveying mental images of a rattlesnake lurking in the shadows, which is alluded to in the lyric “beware of the handshake that hides the snake”. The intricate psychedelic guitar work is really fantastic, as are the jazzy horns and soaring strings, while that continuous rattling percussion keeps the eerie vibes alive. I love that all three band members share vocals, giving the song a fuller, more exciting sound. Their urgent, soulful vocals are perfect as they warn of the evil lurking behind our backs. I love this song. 

Smiling faces sometimes
Pretend to be your friend
Smiling faces show no traces
Of the evil that lurks within
(Can you dig it)

Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don’t tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof
Oh lord, yeah

Let me tell ya, the truth is in the eyes
Cause the eyes don’t lie, amen
Remember a smile is just a frown turned upside down
My friend, so hear me when I’m sayin’

Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don’t tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof

Beware, beware of the handshake
That hides the snake
(Can you dig it, can you dig it)
I’m a-telling you beware
Beware of the pat on the back
It just might hold you back
Jealousy (jealousy)
Misery (misery)
Envy, I tell you, you can’t see behind

Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
Hey, they don’t tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof

And your enemy won’t do you no harm
‘Cause you’ll know where he’s coming from
Don’t let the handshake and the smile fool ya
Take my advice I’m only tryin’ to school ya

Smiling faces, smiling faces sometimes
They don’t tell the truth
Smiling faces, smiling faces
Tell lies and I got proof

LYIA META – Single Review: “Now I Know the Reason Why”

lyia meta2

One of my favorite female vocalists is Malaysian singer-songwriter Lyia Meta, who I’ve featured a number of times on this blog over the past two and a half years. (You can read my previous reviews listed under “Related” at the end of this post.) Based in Kuala Lumpur, Lyia is an astonishingly talented, gracious and lovely woman, with a dazzling powerhouse voice to match. (She’s also a highly accomplished visual artist, and last year did a wonderful pencil drawing of me, which was very flattering to say the least!)

With her deep, smoky and resonant vocal style, and masterful ability to cover multiple genres ranging from blues and hard rock to pop and country with ease, she’s become an international music star, winning numerous music awards over the past several years, including the 2018 Josie World Music Artist Award, which was presented to her in Nashville, Tennessee. More recently, her song “All of My Love” has been nominated for an International Portuguese Music Awards People’s Choice Award in two categories.

While Lyia often writes her own songs, she also collaborates with other songwriters and musicians from time to time, not only to broaden her own musical horizons, but also to support other songwriters. With that in mind, for her latest single “Now I Know the Reason Why” she collaborated with songwriters Mike Jones and Jerry Jake Howard, Sr. The song was inspired by a true story and written from first hand experience, and although it’s not Lyia’s own story, the powerful lyrics strongly resonated with her. The song was produced by R. Gary Farmer, who also played organ and keyboards. Session musicians Michael Headrick played steel and lead guitar, Chips Roland played bass and Al Samples played drums.

“Now I Know the Reason Why” is a beautiful, blues-soaked country song about the sorrow and pain that comes from losing someone you love to another. The bittersweet lyrics are from the point of view of a woman seeing the man she loves marry another woman. It’s the kind of heartbreaking torch song Patsy Cline could have sung back in her day, and Lyia’s marvelous heart-wrenching and bluesy vocal performance makes us believe she’s lived every word of it. Listening to her sing, it’s easy to think she’s from Nashville rather than Kuala Lumpur. The instrumentals and music arrangement are superb, and I especially love the terrific organ, piano and steel guitar that give the track its wonderful country flavor. It’s a great song.

I saw my baby with her yesterday
Oh how it hurts, it was his wedding day
I saw my love walk down the aisle
I heard the words they had to say
I heard them say ’til death do us part’
Every word was hurting my heart
And I saw the way he kissed her
And how he held her so tight

I saw the way he held her hand in his
And lord, all I could do was cry
Because I’m losing the one who loves me
And now I know the reason why

I saw the way he kissed her
And I saw the look in her eyes
And then I heard them say ‘I do’
And all I could do was cry

I saw my love walk down the aisle with his new love
And then I watched them drive away
Lord I lost my true love on that day
And now I know, yes now I know the reason why

Connect with Lyia: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes / AmazonGoogle Play

LIAM SULLIVAN – Single Review: “When This is Over”

Liam Sullivan When This is Over

I’ve been featuring a lot of British artists on this blog lately, and singer-songwriter Liam Sullivan is now the seventh in a row. The engaging musician from Leeds reached out to me a few days ago about his latest single “When This is Over“. He’s a fine songwriter and guitarist, and has a lovely and vibrant singing voice that’s quite pleasing. His music can generally be classified as alternative rock with strong folk overtones, and I’ve been listening to and really enjoying his back catalog of songs, which I strongly urge my readers to check out on one of the music platforms listed at the end of this review.

Liam Sullivan3

Liam has been writing and performing music for well over a decade, and released his first solo EP Restless in June 2017, featuring four stunning tracks. More recently, he teamed up with a group of musicians to form his own back up band, and released an equally beautiful second EP The News I Needed in December 2019. On May 1st, he released “Wasted Days”, a poignant single about depression and feelings of uselessness, and now follows with “When This is Over”, which dropped on May 25th. Written and recorded during the COVID-19 quarantine, the song is a hopeful look ahead toward happier times.

Like “Wasted Days”, “When This is Over” has a gentler folk vibe, with just Liam’s beautifully-strummed acoustic guitar, accompanied by soft percussion. His vocals are heartfelt yet comforting as he laments of the many things we’ve been unable to do socially with others during this unprecedented quarantine, while remaining optimistic that we will do them all again one day. He also admonishes us to take a look at ourselves, and not place blame or remain divisive about something that many have suffered from. It’s a wonderful song.

Maybe someday when this is over
We can sit out in the sun
Maybe someday when this is over
We will embrace everyone
Maybe someday when this is all over
We will share a beer
Maybe someday when this is all over
We will see what happened here

What’s in your heart, and your mind?
This is not the time for choosing sides
What’s in your heart, your mind?

Maybe someday when this is over
I can shake your hand
Maybe someday when this is over
We will understand more
Maybe someday when this is over
We can start again
Maybe someday when this is all over
It’s over, it’s over

What’s in your heart, and your mind?
This is not the time for choosing sides
What’s in your heart, your mind?

Follow Liam:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music / YouTube
Purchase:  Google Play / Bandcamp

HAN BLOOM – Album Review: “Higher State of Mind”

Han Bloom Higher State of Mind

Han Bloom is a classically trained pianist, composer and singer-songwriter based in London, England. Strongly influenced by modern jazz, progressive rock and experimental music, she uses her classical training to musically explore themes of interest to her such as society, politics, culture, ideology, conformism and big brother, among others. In her bio, she states that she “always strives to be as original and free thinking as possible. Creativity is the answer.” Sounds like a winning combination to me.

With that in mind, Han recently released her ambitious debut album Higher State of Mind, which dropped on May 1st. She wrote all music and lyrics, played piano and all other keyboards, programmed all instruments (other than the drums that were played on some tracks by Eddie Van Dorgen), sang all vocals, and produced, mixed and mastered the entire album herself (with the exception of one track “Free Me Now”, which was produced by Harry Powell). With 13 tracks and running an hour in length, there’s a lot to listen to, but I’ll touch on the songs that really clicked with me.

The album opens with “Bach Got Funked Up“, a fascinating instrumental track that fuses contemporary classical, modern jazz and experimental elements. Employing an array of ominous wobbly and spacey synths and jazzy piano chords, Han creates a trippy and mysterious soundscape that whets our appetite for what’s to come. Next up is “Burn“, a bewitching track that starts off quietly, with distant sounds of storms accompanied by the most delicate of keyboard synths. As her low-key, quirky vocals enter, the tempo changes to a toe-tapping beat, with jazzy piano, organ, cool synths and gentle percussion. I like the whispy little ‘whoosh’ snare sounds she uses to convey a feeling of water being softly poured onto a smouldering fire.

Blasphemy” resonates strongly with me, as I like Han’s biting lyrics touching on the hypocrisy that so often exists in religion and democracy: “Don’t tell me with your shit decree, excuse my Christianity. Don’t tell me about blasphemy, when you don’t know how to live in peace. Don’t tell me with your shit decree, about democracy, cause you don’t know nothing about me. But it don’t matter, so I won’t shatter, But they don’t listen, so I keep on living in sin, gladly.” I really like the song’s cool, jazzy grooves, and the deep synth bass,  moody piano keys and tapping percussive beats that make it a great listen.

One of my favorite tracks is “Finer Things“, both for it’s great tongue-in-cheek lyrics and mellow, jazzy vibe. Han’s conversational-style vocals and nimble piano work give the song a fun, casual quality that makes it sound like a live recording of a performance you’d hear in an intimate little nightclub. In fact, I think her music style is well-suited for that format, and it would be fun to see her perform live. About the song, she says “‘The Finer Things’ is a disposable comedic tribute to Frank Zappa that utilises the ridiculousness and profound impact of ‘influencers’ and ‘influence culture’, and the subsequent snowflake generation that it resonates with.”

I love the lines decrying influence culture and the fact she’s doesn’t quite measure up to their shallow definition of success: “Hello, my name is Hannah Bloom, and this song is about the death of influence culture…hopefully. I wanna shop at Liberty, but they welcome me bitterly, ’cause I ain’t got no money. I’m sorry, ’cause in my disposable song, don’t get me wrong. I like the finer things and I sure do love the joy that it brings. I love Pucci, Emilio Pucci…so much better than Gucci. So tutti frutti, but instead I’m wearing Tom Sweeney, which is for men.” Exasperated, she later asks “Can somebody please explain to me what an influencer is? “Cause in my mind it just makes sense that they’re professional beggars. And a lot of people would say the same thing about musicians. And they do say the same things. But we actually do stuff, and we’re just undervalued, whereas influencers are like super valued in society. And it’s like please stop making our generation stupid and meaningless.” I couldn’t agree more!

On “Free Me Now“, Han uses a greater electronic approach and somewhat darker tone to address the subject of addiction. In her notes about the track, she states that she developed the song’s framework off a Korg Tribe drum pattern machine she’d been experimenting with. She then layered delicate piano and organ keyboards to create an enchanting soundscape for her airy vocals. About the song’s meaning, she explains: “Lyrically it depicts a prior relationship with addiction that I needed to express in a raw and free form; hence the experimental instrumentation found in this track.” Her blunt lyrics get straight to the point: “I have an obsession. Addiction, yeah. My mind is imprisoned. Loneliness is not your friend. Free me now. You gotta let me out. Free me now. I don’t wanna be a burnout.

On the moody “These Games” – which Han says was inspired by the George Orwell classic 1984 – she rejects the expectations and ethical wrongs of social conditioning practiced by Western societies, pressuring us to conform to a specific set of social norms, and leaving us often feeling like our lives are unfulfilled. Han croons “So she goes to work for the man. Hiding his sweet lies, pulling the wool over their eyes. She says ‘I don’t know why I do it. And I don’t know how I do it. But I need to survive’. / So he says he stayed at work late today. Hiding his bitter lies. Wasting his own time, and he knows he’s not right to do it. But he just can’t say no ’cause money’s his goal. / And I see it happening every single day. And I don’t know why they play these games with themselves.” The song has a languid, piano-driven melody, with delicate synths, subtle organ notes, and Eddie Van Dongen’s gentle percussion.

My absolute favorite track is album closer “Light and Love (Coda)“, a stunning eight-minute-long instrumental that really showcases Han’s impressive compositional and piano-paying talents. She weaves a rich tapestry of ambient and glittery atmospheric synths, then adds vibrant piano keys to create a breathtaking contemporary classical piece that can easily hold its own among the works by many of today’s classical composers. I would love to see her put out an entire album of this kind of instrumental music.

I’ll be honest that it took a couple of plays for this album to grow on me, as the melodies are more experimental and free-form than typical pop, folk or rock music, requiring a more careful listen to fully appreciate its many nuances. I love when artists fuse multiple elements and genres into their music, and I applaud her courage to experiment with her sound and create a style uniquely her own. If you like music that strays from the conventional, with more contemporary, experimental and progressive jazz, pop and rock vibes, delivered by some really superb piano work, then you will enjoy Higher State of Mind.

Follow Han:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream her music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

New Song of the Week – AS SIRENS FALL: “Puppy Squad”

As Sirens Fall

As Sirens Fall is a charismatic and talented alt-rock band based in the northern English city of Leeds. Through their exciting, innovative and edgy style of what they call “aggressive pop”, provocative and entertaining videos, and theatrical live performances, including appearances at such festivals as Download, Bingley Music Live and Camden Rocks, they’ve grown quite a large base of die-hard fans over the past six years or so. The band consists of Mikey Lord (vocals), Will Truby (guitar), brothers Adam (guitar) and Jason Doveston (bass), and Bailey Roper (drums).

Beginning with their 2015 debut single “From Across the Waves”, As Sirens Fall have released a steady stream of singles and EPs, including The Hospital Party in 2016 and Where Lost Things Go in 2018. Their fantastically dark 2019 single “We Go Down Together” has been streamed over 108,000 times on Spotify. They dropped their latest single “Puppy Squad” on May 15, then followed with an electrifying video for the song on the 23rd that I love so much, I’ve chosen it as my New Song of the Week.

About “Puppy Squad”, Mikey states: “This song is about realising that I could stand up for who I am. I don’t have to fit in with people who make me feel small or unimportant. I don’t have to be a sidekick. Neither do you. Be you and turn it up loud til the very end. f ‘em up, puppies!” It’s quite honestly one of the most dramatic and exhilarating songs I’ve heard in a while, with in incendiary onslaught of wailing guitars, buzzsaw bass and eardrum-shattering percussion. Man, can these guys rock! Will and Adam shred their guitars nearly to bits, while Bailey smashes his drums like a wild beast, raising our adrenaline.

And speaking of beasts, Mikey’s vocals are downright feral as he screams and shrieks like a man possessed, raising hairs on the back of my neck. He’s sings at such a breakneck speed in spots that it’s hard to understand all the lyrics, but when he snarls “I’m tasting you before I come alive again” like a seductive vampire, it’s hard to not shudder just a little bit. In the song’s quieter moments, he croons in a purr that’s equal parts sexy and menacing when he sings: “And Lily looked at me from across the room and smiled. And I thought, ‘Ah honey, you’ll never understand what these creatures can do.’ And she looked at me deep, with those gorgeous baby blue eyes. And I laughed. And I said ‘Are you feeling alive, cutie pie?‘”

The soaring vocal harmonies in the chorus are really marvelous too. “Puppy Squad” is fantastic, and I love every single thing about it. Have a listen and like Mikey says, turn it up loud!

Follow As Sirens Fall:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudReverbnation
Purchase:  Band StoreGoogle PlayAmazon

Top 30 Songs for May 24-30, 2020

1. LEVEL OF CONCERN – twenty one pilots (1)
2. CAUTION – The Killers (2)
3. BLACK MADONNA – Cage the Elephant (3)
4. DELETER – Grouplove (5)
5. LOST IN YESTERDAY – Tame Impala (4)
6. BAD DECISIONS – The Strokes (7)
7. YOUR LOVE (DÉJÀ VU) – Glass Animals (8)
8. MARIA – Two Feet (9)
9. BLINDING LIGHTS – The Weeknd (6)
10. LEMON DROP – Absofacto (12)
11. HELL N BACK – Bakar (15)
12. SHINE A LITTLE LIGHT – The Black Keys (10)
13. IF NOT FOR THE FIRE – The Million Reasons (17)
14. OH YEAH! – Green Day (11)
15. LONELINESS FOR LOVE – lovelytheband (18)
17. ME & YOU TOGETHER SONG – The 1975 (14)
19. RUN – Joji (20)
20. HALF YOUR AGE – Joywave (22)
21. LAY YOUR HEAD ON ME – Major Lazer featuring Marcus Mumford (24)
22. BLACK & WHITE LOVE – Beating Hearts Club (28)
23. OVER AND OVER – Amongst Liars (16)
24. SHANGRI-LA – EOB (27)
25. BE AFRAID – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (29)
26. EXPECTATION – Katie Pruitt (30)
27. HONEYBEE – The Head and the Heart (N)
28. EVERYTHING I WANTED – Billie Eilish (23)
29. LIVING IN A GHOST TOWN – The Rolling Stones (N)
30. PSYCH FILM – Strangely Alright (N)

BRANWELL BLACK – Single and Video Review: “Love Life”

Branwell Black Love Life
Photo by David Pear

I recently learned about the talented young British artist Branwell “Bran” Black when he followed me on Instagram. Influenced by some of his favorite artists like Kate Bush, Madonna, Charli XCX, Kerli, Evanescence and Tokio Hotel, the London-based singer-songwriter, producer, dancer and model creates captivating synthpop music. Born in Oxford, England but raised partly in France, both Bran and his older brother Morgan developed a love of music while very young, as their father was an accomplished rock drummer. Being around live music much of his life and seeing fans reacting to his father’s music inspired him to start producing music of his own. During his years in France, Bran started to write and produce music with Morgan, with whom he eventually formed a band called Brothers Black/Posie. Spending part of his youth in France exposed Bran to a different culture and different musical elements as well, and a result he’s also recorded and produced music in French.

Bran has been a busy guy over the past year. In September 2019, he released his debut single “J’attends L’amour”, then quickly followed up with “What You Want”, as well as an EP Posie with his band Brothers Black/Posie. This past February, before everything shut down in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, he performed at a sold out show with his back up band at O2 Academy Islington. And on May 8, he dropped his latest single “Love Life“. Bran told me the uplifting song has a double meaning: “It’s a reflection on my love life, and also a voice to tell me to love life itself.” He wrote the music and lyrics, played piano, sang vocals and produced the track, with Morgan providing added vocals. Matt Willis played guitar, Dan Rosu played drums, and mixing was done by Edwin Harris.

The song has a sunny and sensual retro 80s vibe, with a pulsating EDM beat and vibrant, shimmery synths creating a captivating soundscape. I really like Bran’s tinkling piano keys, as well as Matt’s edgy guitar notes at the end of the track. Bran has a soft, sultry vocal style that’s seductive, yet vulnerable as he plaintively sings of wanting not only another’s love, but also being able to love oneself and the life he has. Morgan’s vocals are also lovely as he sings the refrain ‘love life’.

I wanna be with someone that’ll love me forever
Laying staring at the stars never believing in better
All around is all I see and all I see is you
Love the one you’ve always known is true

If your heart really wants it tell me that you want it
Wake up
Well I don’t need another star-crossed lover’s breakup

So baby, I wanna be with someone that’ll love me forever
Telling memories, I want to be the one you can treasure
Forever, and ever
If your heart really wants it tell me that you want it
Wake up
Well I don’t need another star-crossed lover’s breakup
That’s life
That’s what it feels like
Love life

I wanna be with someone that’ll love me forever
And wherever I’ll be they won’t forget me in December
Love life
All around is all I see and all I see is me
Forever, and ever
Love life

In addition to his musical side, Bran has started to incorporate dancing into his performances to bring his music alive through physical expression. What that in mind, he’s now released a stylish new video for “Love Life”. The video was filmed, directed and produced by David Pear, and showcases Bran’s strong charisma, as well as the influence of artists like Madonna and Charlie XCX, exemplified by his and his fellow models and dancers’ voguing.

Follow Branwell:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream his music:  SpotifyApple MusicDeezer / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Amazon