It’s been over two and a half months since my last Fresh New Tracks post, as I haven’t felt much enthusiasm for writing about music, but I thought it was time to try and get back into the groove. Accordingly, today I’m featuring three new singles by three very different artists I’ve previously featured on this blog. They are, in alphabetical order, German collective 5ON5, Texas singer-songwriter Brian Lambert, and British indie pop-rock band Wild Horse.
5ON5 – “Balloon”
Based in beautiful, cosmopolitan Berlin, Germany, 5ON5 is a collaborative music project comprised of four distinctly unique artists spanning two generations and coming from completely different music backgrounds. The brainchild of Max Koffler, a singer-songwriter, musician and producer with over 20 years experience in the music industry and two solo albums to his credit, 5ON5 also includes singer-songwriter and producer $INAN (aka Sinan Pakar), rapper and visual artist Maxx B, and singer Yumin. Their unusual name 5ON5 was inspired by Max’s music label sonsounds, and reflects the group’s eclectic blend of music genres and styles, including EDM, synth pop, hip hop and alternative rock. I’ve previously featured Koffler’s music on this blog twice in 2018, as well as two of 5ON5’s singles, “Runaway” in 2021, and most recently last January, “Don’t Dance” (which was one of my most-read reviews of 2022). They followed with four more singles in 2022, and now kick off 2023 with their latest single “Balloon“, accompanied by an animated video, which dropped January 12th.
The song, which was produced by Koffler along with Steve van Velvet, and mixed and mastered by Jeson Huang, seems to be about going on a journey without any particular agenda “I don’t know where we’re meant to fly so purposeless, so purposeless…” One of the things I like most about 5ON5’s music is how well their individual vocals harmonize, and I love the song’s airy dance groove, spacey synths and delicate mix of chiming and twangy guitar notes.
The colorful video, created by Max Klumker, shows animated versions of the four band members singing and dancing against a glorious ever-changing backdrop of figures, ranging from Mary Poppins and Easter Island statues to astronauts and lovable aliens, floating through the skies in hot air balloons, spaceships or by their own accord.
BRIAN LAMBERT – It’s Good
Brian Lambert is an engaging, thoughtful and extremely prolific singer-songwriter and musician based in Denton, Texas. He’s been writing and recording music for many years, and says he’s “reinvented himself more times than he can count.” He even tried his hand at country music for a while, but came to the realization that it just wasn’t for him. More recently, he’s been making indie rock music inspired by some of his favorite acts like Spoon, Gang of Youths, Soul Asylum and the Replacements. He used to play gigs all over the DFW metroplex, but with Covid putting a halt to that, in 2021 he challenged himself to writing, recording and producing a new song every week for a year, an ambitious feat he went on to accomplish! He’s continued to write and record songs both as a solo artist and in collaboration with a host of other musicians he’s met on Twitter. One he’s worked with the most is Marc Schuster, a singer-songwriter and musician from the Philadelphia area who’s also an educator, author, literary critic, blogger and visual artist. Together they’ve collaborated to create a separate music act The Star Crumbles, and last September, they released their fantastic debut album The Ghost of Dancing Slow (which I reviewed). Now Brian returns with his latest single “It’s Good“, which dropped yesterday, January 27th.
The song is a collaboration with Schuster as well as fellow musician Mike Mosely, who performs under his own musical moniker Jr Moz Collective. Brian elaborates: “I had Covid over Christmas, and had some pretty wild dreams. In this particular dream, I got the chords to a song, and whenever that happens, it seems to make sense to get up as soon as you can, and grab your guitar and write it down. Lyrically, I wasn’t exactly sure where to go with it, so I decided to write a letter to my 11-year-old self. I cut a demo, and sent it to my friend Mike Mosely, who said ‘cut the song today’“. Even though Brian’s voice was still gravelly due to the effects of Covid, he went ahead and recorded the song anyway. He also played acoustic guitar and keyboards, with electric guitars and bass played by Mike and drums by Marc.
The result is a really compelling tune with a bit of a roots rock vibe, highlighted by some fine guitar work. The heartfelt lyrics, which Brian’s ravaged vocals make all the more poignant, offer encouragement to a young boy in that awkward transitional period between his childhood and teen years: “And you are, whatever you think you are. As bright as a shining star. Yeah, it’s good.” The video shows Brian driving around town and visiting vintage and resale shops in what I’m guessing are in and around his hometown of Denton.
WILD HORSE – “Cougar”
Hailing from East Sussex, England is the talented and very charismatic young pop-rock band Wild Horse, consisting of brothers Henry and Jack Baldwin and long-time friend Ed Barnes. Now in their early 20s, the guys are seasoned musicians who’ve been writing and recording songs since forming in 2013, when they were barely teenagers. Both Henry and Jack are multi-instrumentalists who play guitar, bass and keyboards, as well as sing vocals, while Ed plays drums and percussion, sings backing vocals and plays guitar on a few tracks. The Baldwin brothers are also prolific songwriters who’ve penned hundreds of songs over the years, with five albums, three EPs and numerous singles to their credit. I’ve been following them for over five years, and love their music. I have reviewed two of their albums, DANCE!! Like An Animal in 2019, and When the Pool Is Occupied in late 2021, as well as one of their singles “Bitter” last September (which you can read here) The song spent two months on my weekly top 30 last fall. They’ve been releasing new singles every few months, and their latest is “Cougar” which also dropped yesterday, January 27th.
Despite their young ages, Wild Horse are not afraid to tackle mature subjects, and “Cougar” is perhaps their most ‘adult’ song yet. The band explains: “‘Cougar’ is a tale of a lonely housewife who starts using psychedelics and visiting younger men to escape the pain of real life and her failing marriage. Told from the point of view of one of her conquests, the funky indie pop track expresses secret desires, bitter regrets and sweet oblivion. The song’s ending refrain of “how sweet the sound” features the soulful gospel vocals of Jalissa Livermore and reminds everyone that even if you know it won’t end well, you can’t turn back. It simply feels too good.”
It’s a terrific song, and I love the sensuous groove, lush synths, sparkling keyboards, snappy drums, and funky guitars. Jack’s plaintive vocals nicely convey the conflicting emotions expressed in the lyrics “Cougar, You tell me that you’re married. You say it’s not a problem. He’s always working out of town. You tell me that you want me. You’re getting yourself ready. And like a deer under the headlights I find myself drawn into your life. This isn’t gonna end well. That man has left you broken. Confined inside these four gold walls.”