There’s so much new music being released these days that it’s already time for another installment of Fresh New Tracks. Today I’m featuring new songs by (in alphabetical order) Virginia-based singer-songwriter The Frontier, British rock band Partisan, and Montana-based singer-songwriter Johnny Ritchie. All three singles were released yesterday, April 8th.
THE FRONTIER – “Closer”
The Frontier is the music project of singer-songwriter Jake Mimikos, who’s based in northern Virginia. An enormously talented, gracious and funny guy, he’s released an impressive amount of music both as a band and a solo artist under The Frontier moniker since around 2015, and we’ve followed each other on social media for nearly that long. Drawing upon elements of pop, folk, rock and electronica, his music is incredibly pleasing and flawlessly crafted. As with many singer-songwriters, Jake’s songs are often inspired by personal experiences, and touch on such topics as love, relationships and loss. He prefers to write lyrics that are honest and straightforward, as if he were having a conversation with a friend. I’ve loved all of his songs, and have featured many of them on this blog over the years. Two of his singles, “Dark Places” (from 2019) and “Can We Go Back” (from 2021) went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30, while “Sleep” (released in late 2020) reached #2.
On his latest single “Closer“, The Frontier delivers more of the catchy and melodic pop-rock we’ve come to love and expect from him. The song is more upbeat and pop-oriented than some of his previous releases, with a bouncy, guitar-driven groove and colorful synths nicely complementing the optimistic lyrics. About the song, Jake told Cool Top20 blog “This song was written during the pandemic while there was a very intense feeling of loneliness and isolation going on. It’s really a response to that. Wanting to get back to feeling connected again, I wanted to release something that hopefully everyone might be able to relate to and enjoy. I’m hoping that came through in the song. This song is special because it was 100% funded and supported by my friends, family, and fans. Huge thanks to everyone who contributed to my kickstarter to make this happen.“
PARTISAN – “Animal”
Manchester, UK rock band Partisan was one of the earlier bands to follow me on Twitter way back in 2016, and I loved their high-energy style of melodic rock right from the start. Now comprised of Stuart Armstrong on guitar and vocals, Dan Albon on bass, and Leo Stanfield on drums, I first wrote about them in August 2016 when I reviewed their fantastic single “Juggernaut”, then two months later had the pleasure of meeting them when they performed at the legendary Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip. I featured them a second time in June 2018 when I reviewed their single “Oxygen.” They followed with three more singles over the next two years, before the pandemic brought things to a halt.
Now, I’m happy to report that the guys are back with a brilliant new single “Animal“. It’s their first new music in over two years, and was definitely worth the wait. The song is both melodically beautiful and intensely satisfying from a rock perspective. It’s an electrifying stomper, highlighted by Stuart’s gorgeous, intricate guitar work, Dan’s driving bassline and Leo’s galloping drumbeats. I love Stuart’s beautiful tenor singing voice, which sounds better than ever here. The lyrics speak to the inherent dichotomy that exists with physical love and lust, namely that we often want a bit of both devil and angel in a romantic partner, but more heavily oriented toward the latter, of course: “Give me some more of that modern love. One from below, and two from above. Animal.” I love this song, and cannot get enough of it!
JOHNNY RITCHIE – “Too Much Trouble“ featuring Jay Davis
Johnny Ritchie is an engaging and thoughtful young singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Great Falls, Montana. With a lifelong love for music, he began learning to play piano and drums as a young child, then went on to study Contemporary, Urban, and Popular Music at Columbia College Chicago, and in 2020 earned a B.A. degree in Music at Western Michigan University. He now has his own business teaching others to play piano, keyboards and drums, as well as providing lessons in music theory, songwriting and improvisation. He also writes and records music in which he fuses alternative and experimental rock with neo-psychedelia and contemporary jazz to create incredibly fascinating soundscapes.
In March 2021 he released his debut single “Social Robots”, a song addressing human behavior and social media consumption following the tragedy of the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL (which I reviewed). He followed with “Tired of the Media”, a song decrying the scare tactics so often used by the media. Now he returns with another socially topical single, “Too Much Trouble“, which touches on the superficiality of many of our interpersonal interactions these days, specifically the feelings of emptiness, disconnectedness and isolation that often result from using dating apps. Social media platforms were supposed to bring us closer together, but as Johnny noted to me, they “ironically make us feel more disconnected from those traits of human connection that we so desperately desire: love, physical touch, understanding and acceptance.”
Musically, the song has an incredible arrangement and sophisticated jazzy vibe, dominated by a fabulous soulful organ and deliciously funky bass groove. The trippy psychedelic synths, subtle guitar notes and crisp percussion are perfection, and nicely complemented by some well-placed finger snaps adding even more coolness to the proceedings. The marvelous solo at the end was performed by his friend Jay Davis on an electric wind instrument. Johnny’s smooth, low-key vocals are wonderful too, exuding just the right amount of emotion as he sadly ponders “Is it too much trouble, baby, to want to know your mind? / I want to connect, skin on skin contact. But it’s only video call dates, swiping to find a mate. Nothing seems to last more than a day.”