Top 30 Songs for April 30-May 6, 2023

“New Gold”, the marvelous collaboration between virtual band Gorillaz, Australian alternative psychedelic music project Tame Impala, and American rapper Bootie Brown, remains at #1 for a second week. Holding at #2 for a second week is the beautiful “Tropic Morning News” by The National, which previously spent two weeks at #1. Depeche Mode‘s “Ghosts Again” holds at #3 for a second week, and “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus moves up a notch to #4. Moving up three spots each are “Soften” by Canadian singer-songwriter Alex Southey, to #5, and “Bluebell Wood” by British singer-songwriter Frank Joshua to #6. Entering the top 10 are “Kid” by The Revivalists, climbing three spots to #8, and “Eat Your Young” by Hozier, which jumps six spots to #10.

Two songs make their debut this week: the gorgeous “Those Eyes” by Toronto band New West, entering at #29. The song, which reminds me a bit of Coldplay’s beloved earlier songs like “Yellow” and “Fix You”, was actually released in May 2019 as their very first single, and later included on their debut EP Call Me When You Hear This Song. Like Beach Weather’s “Sex, Drugs, Etc.”, the song apparently went viral on Tik Tok, and has recently been climbing the Alternative charts. Entering at #30 is “Why”, a stunning song by British psychedelic indie rock band Future Theory, an immensely-talented act I’ve written about many times on this blog. This is their third song to appear on my Top 30, with their 2021 single “One and the Same” reaching #3.

  1. NEW GOLD – Gorillaz, Tame Impala & Bootie Brown (1)
  2. TROPIC MORNING NEWS – The National (2)
  3. GHOSTS AGAIN – Depeche Mode (3)
  4. FLOWERS – Miley Cyrus (5)
  5. SOFTEN – Alex Southey (8)
  6. BLUEBELL WOOD – Frank Joshua (9)
  7. TRANSMITTER – Sea Power (4)
  8. KID – The Revivalists (11)
  9. THE WALK HOME – Young the Giant (10)
  10. EAT YOUR YOUNG – Hozier (16)
  11. PEPPER – Death Cab for Cutie (6)
  12. LOVE FROM THE OTHER SIDE – Fall Out Boy (7)
  13. PAID OFF – Oli Barton & the Movement (14)
  14. WOLF – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (15)
  15. I WANT YOU DEAD – Two Feet & Allie Cabal (12)
  16. THE PERFECT PAIR – beabadoobee (17)
  17. NOT STRONG ENOUGH – boygenius (18)
  18. GO DOWN RIVER – The Heavy Heavy (20)
  19. DUMMY – Portugal. The Man (21)
  20. ESSENCE – Refeci & Shimmer Johnson (22)
  21. BACKPATTERS AND SHOOTERS – The Zangwills (13) 20th week on chart
  22. ANGELICA – Wet Leg (24)
  23. 1982 – Morgendust (25)
  24. RESCUE ME – Dirty Heads (26)
  25. LEAVING – Au Gres (27)
  26. TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (19) 22nd week on chart
  27. THE WAY – Manchester Orchestra (29)
  28. IN MY HEAD – Mike Shinoda & Kailee Morgue (30)
  29. THOSE EYES – New West (N)
  30. WHY – Future Theory (N)

KEWEN – Single Review: “Chapters”

Kewen is the solo music project of British singer-songwriter Callum Kewen, who plays a pleasing style of folk rock inspired by such acts as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen. Based in Northeast England, the busy young musician is also frontman and lead vocalist of soft rock band Kewen & The Crosswalks, and does oral music reviews of local artists on his Facebook page.

He’s been releasing music as a solo artist for six years, beginning with his debut singles “This Feelin’” and “This April Day” in April 2017, followed that September by his first EP Chimes. He followed that EP with more singles, culminating in the release of his second EP A Little Bit of Magic in 2019. He dropped a lockdown single “Freedom” in 2020, then a single “The Line” in 2021. Since then, he’s been working on his debut album Chapters, due for release in September. He just dropped the album’s title single “Chapters“, an upbeat song of optimism and hope for a better future.

Kewen elaborates on his inspiration for writing the song and album: “This album has been 2.5 years in the making and I’ve put my heart and soul into it. I wrote ‘Chapters’ not long after I went through a breakup in my personal life. I took myself off to the Lake District in the UK for a night of wild camping on the mountain side, and wanted to get into a different frame of mind which is something I had never done before. This was one of two songs I wrote up there that day, and I think they may be some of the best stuff I’ve ever written. I very much felt at that time in my life that I was moving onto the next chapter in my life and I knew I wanted to title my next project in relation to that. The song started writing itself once I got pen to paper and it was probably done within the hour.

For the recording of the song, Kewen played acoustic rhythm guitar and sang lead and backing vocals, with additional contributions by several of his fellow musicians: Oliver Cobb, who produced the track, played electric rhythm and lead guitars, Kewen & the Crosswalks bassist Hannah Ward played bass and sang backing vocals, Jack Herron played drums, and WayneOnSax played the wonderful saxophone. Primary backing vocals were sung by Teah McCafferty, along with Hope Laverty, James Brown and Eddie Hogg.

I really like the song’s bouncy melody and infectious toe-tapping groove, highlighted by lots of cheerful guitar noodling, exuberant percussion and that marvelous wailing sax. Though he strains a bit on the higher notes, Kewen’s plaintive vocals are pleasing as he fervently sings “I can feel the chapters closing in, I can feel the chapters of life. I can feel the chapters, and everything’s alright. I can feel the pages of this worn-out book, I can feel the new pages rise.” The delightful backing vocals, especially those of Teah McCafferty, nicely complement his. “Chapters” is a fine single, and a promising glimpse of what we can expect on the forthcoming album.

Connect with Kewen: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Find his music on SpotifyApple Music deezer / YouTube

PHILIP MORGAN LEWIS – Single Review: “When You’re Shattered”

British singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Philip Morgan Lewis is a creative and engaging artist who’s long been a favorite of mine. Drawing from an eclectic range of music genres and influences, including alternative rock, blues, R&B, soul, jazz, garage rock and folk, the London East Ender crafts his own unique sound. That unique style, combined with his distinctive unusual and raspy singing voice that sounds like no one else, makes his music instantly recognizable as only his. And, as I’ve noted on previous reviews, I like how each of his songs is uniquely different, with every release surprising us with a totally new vibe. Moreover, he isn’t afraid to address the darker side of humanity and the emotional wreckage of failed relationships, love gone bad and our sometimes self-destructive ways, while also offering glimmers of hope and redemption.

Over the past decade, Philip has released quite a lot of music, including his 2016 EP Karma Comedown, two albums, the brilliant Grief Harbour in 2017 (which I reviewed), and the ambitious 18-track opus work Now + Then in 2021, as well as over a dozen singles, a number of which I’ve also reviewed. Two of my favorites are “Come Find Me Back”, which ranks #88 on my 100 Best Songs of 2021 list, and “Redchurch Street Blues”, ranking #63 on my 100 Best Songs of 2022 list.

Now he’s back with “When You’re Shattered“, the first single from his upcoming EP, due for release on June 20th. Philip says the song was quite cathartic for him. “I have written a lot over the past year as I was going through a very rough time. I realised that even though I was struggling, I kept on answering “I’m alright mate” when asked how I felt. This track is about that- don’t even try to hide [your feelings], just let it out and help might come.”

Philip wrote, produced, recorded and mixed the track, played guitar, bass, percussion and keyboards, and sang vocals. His 12 year old daughter Annick, who’s sung on all of this records since she was four, sang backing vocals. The track was mastered by Fred Miller in his Copenhagen studio. Released via Philip’s own label TX2 Records, a cool-looking special limited edition 7-inch 45 rpm red vinyl pressing of the single is also available.

To drive home his point, Philip starts with a strong driving beat, fueled by a bold, thumping bassline. He then layers a marvelous array of blues-soaked grungy guitars, snappy drums and mysterious swirling synths, creating a dark, cinematic backdrop for his emotion-packed vocals that range from sultry croons to fervent entreaties. Annick’s lilting backing vocals, which sound far more mature than a 12 year old, are wonderful, and the perfect complement to her father’s raspy croons. “When You’re Shattered” is another gem in an unbroken string of superb releases by this uniquely talented artist.

Your body’s torn to pieces
Your mind is drifting free
You seek blue ladders
That’ll take you to the sky
Well I tell you baby
Your heart is sick and tired
Keep on pretending sugar
This love will never die

When you’re shattered
When you’re shattered
Shattered deep inside
When you’re shattered
Oh baby when you’re shattered
Don’t even try to hide

Now keep on moving baby
Push on through the crowd
When you think of what you’ve been through
This shuffle brings you down
People tell you what to do
They sell you dirty lies
Say everything's all right
And you know that everything’s all wrong
Cause’ when you’re
Six feet buried deep babe
You sure just waste your time

When you’re shattered
Baby when you’re shattered
Shattered deep inside
When you’re shattered
Baby when you’re shattered
Don’t even try to hide
Don’t even try to hide

When you’re shattered
When you’re shattered
Shattered deep inside
Don’t even try to hide
When you’re shattered
Baby when you’re shattered
Shattered deep inside
Don’t even try to hide
You’re shattered baby

Oh you’re just shattered babe
Oh you’re just shattered babe
Oh you’re just shattered babe

Connect with Philip: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Find his music on Spotify / YouTube / Apple Music / Amazon / deezerTidal

Top 30 Songs for April 23-29, 2023

I love when artists from different genres and backgrounds come together to create music, especially when the pooling of their collective talents and imagination results in glorious sonic alchemy. One of the finest examples of this in recent memory is “New Gold”, a brilliant collaboration between virtual band Gorillaz (fronted by British singer-songwriter and producer Damon Albarn), Australian alternative psychedelic music project Tame Impala, and American rapper Bootie Brown (aka Romye Robinson). The deep, pulsating beat and lush, intricate synths by Albarn, producer extraordinaire Greg Kurstin, and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker create a magical backdrop for Albarn’s and Parker’s dreamy vocals and Brown’s flawlessly rapped verses, all of which not only complement each other beautifully, but also create a palpable sense of excitement and energy. The song is a gorgeous feast for the senses, and ascends to the #1 spot on my latest Weekly Top 30.

Co-written by them all, the song’s lyrics speak to the ephemeral and often unfulfilling things too many people indulge in, expressed in the chorus “New gold, foolish gold, everything will disappear.” They rely on self-delusions or any number of palliatives, rather than face their problems in a realistic way, whether it be the ultimately self destructive overuse of cosmetic surgery that often ages poorly, abuse of party drugs that destroy the user’s mind, or endless social media drama, wasting time on online content lacking any real value or engaging in online arguments that only serve to make us feel more isolated than ever.

In other chart developments, Young the Giant‘s poignant and lovely “The Walk Home” enters the top 10, and two songs make their debut: “The Way” by American alt-rock band Manchester Orchestra, at #29, and “In My Head” by Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) and Arizona-based singer-songwriter Kailee Morgue, at #30.

  1. NEW GOLD – Gorillaz, Tame Impala & Bootie Brown (3)
  2. TROPIC MORNING NEWS – The National (1)
  3. GHOSTS AGAIN – Depeche Mode (4)
  4. TRANSMITTER – Sea Power (2)
  5. FLOWERS – Miley Cyrus (6)
  6. PEPPER – Death Cab for Cutie (5)
  7. LOVE FROM THE OTHER SIDE – Fall Out Boy (7)
  8. SOFTEN – Alex Southey (9)
  9. BLUEBELL WOOD – Frank Joshua (10)
  10. THE WALK HOME – Young the Giant (12)
  11. KID – The Revivalists (14)
  12. I WANT YOU DEAD – Two Feet & Allie Cabal (13)
  13. BACKPATTERS AND SHOOTERS – The Zangwills (8)
  14. PAID OFF – Oli Barton & the Movement (15)
  15. WOLF – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (16)
  16. EAT YOUR YOUNG – Hozier (23)
  17. THE PERFECT PAIR – beabadoobee (19)
  18. NOT STRONG ENOUGH – boygenius (20)
  19. TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (11) 21st week on chart
  20. GO DOWN RIVER – The Heavy Heavy (21)
  21. DUMMY – Portugal. The Man (22)
  22. ESSENCE – Refeci & Shimmer Johnson (24)
  23. PAGES – White Reaper (17)
  24. ANGELICA – Wet Leg (27)
  25. 1982 – Morgendust (28)
  26. RESCUE ME – Dirty Heads (29)
  27. LEAVING – Au Gres (30)
  28. YOU GOTTA DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO – Darksoft (18)
  29. THE WAY – Manchester Orchestra (N)
  30. IN MY HEAD – Mike Shinoda & Kailee Morgue (N)

KEVIN ROBERTSON – Album Review: “Magic Spells Abound”

Kevin Robertson is a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Aberdeen, Scotland who makes a very agreeable style of jangle pop. His music is strongly influenced by a range of influences, including 60’s pop, classic and psychedelic rock, 80’s jangle music and 90’s Brit pop. He’s been actively recording and releasing music both as a solo artist and as a member of Aberdonian (I love that word) jangle pop five-piece The Vapour Trails since 2019.

In a short period of time, Kevin has released a sizable amount of music under his own name, beginning in 2021 with his debut album Sundown’s End, followed by Teaspoon of Time in 2022, as well as a number of singles, demos and session recordings. On March 31st, he dropped his latest album Magic Spells Abound, an aptly-titled collection of nine exquisite songs. Recorded by Kevin with the help of musical friends who have appeared on his releases over the years, the album was produced by Nick Bertling, and released by the Subjangle label in conjunction with Futureman Records.

Listening to Magic Spells Abound calls to mind the music of so many great acts of the 60s, 70s and 80s, yet Kevin’s beautifully-crafted songs are thoroughly original. The album opens with “As the Crow Flies“, a charming and hopeful song that immediately makes me think of the beautiful melodies and harmonies of the Traveling Wilburys. In fact, Kevin’s pleasing vocals even remind me of the late George Harrison on this track as he sings “Don’t be afraid of the sunshine. Don’t cause alarm. Don’t be afraid of this darkness. It means you no harm.” So, too, with the mysterious and lovely “Candlestick Morning“, where his vocals and intricate guitar work seemingly pay homage to Harrison, at least to my ears.

On “Make Believe” and “Autumn Brings“, with their captivating melodies and infectious, foot-stomping grooves, both his stunning jangly guitars and vocals seem to channel the Byrds. Kevin’s skill for writing beguiling melodies is beautifully showcased on the winsome “The Crest of a Dream“, highlighted by an enchanting hook and some fine harmonica work. And on the breezy, uptempo “Cloak and Dagger“, Kevin and company nicely capture the glorious harmonies of Crosby, Stills & Nash.

One of my favorite tracks is “Wander On“, with it’s catchy toe-tapping beat, colorful array of jangly and fuzzy psychedelic guitars, and buoyant Beatles-like harmonies. The lovely, folk-tinged “Sunset” is yet another terrific song, with it’s bewitching twangy guitars and sublime harmonies. And on the final track “Equilibrium Blues“, Kevin blends pleasing folk rock with spacey psychedelia to create a fascinating and compelling song that’s part Crosby, Stills & Nash and part Electric Light Orchestra. The lyrics seem to speak of evil forces at work to create uncertainty and chaos around us: “They’re coming from the gutter, to destroy your equilibrium./ There’s not enough love in the sky to bring such a tear to one’s eye.”

I like everything about this album – the masterful arrangements, gorgeous guitar work and myriad instrumental touches – but it’s the marvelous harmonies throughout that really make Magic Spells Abound such a great record for me. Kevin is a very talented singer-songwriter and musician, and has much to be proud of with his latest work.

Connect with Kevin:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Find his music on BandcampSpotifyApple Music 

Top 30 Songs for April 16-22, 2023

The beautiful “Tropic Morning News” by The National holds at #1 for a second week, with Sea Power‘s majestic “Transmitter” also remaining at #2. “New Gold” by the dream collaboration of Gorillaz, Tame Impala and Bootie Brown slides into 3rd place (Gorillaz & Brown performed the song at the Coachella Music Festival this past Friday night), while Depeche Mode‘s “Ghosts Again” assumes the #4 spot. British singer-songwriter Frank Joshua enters the top 10 with his sublime love song “Bluebell Wood”.

Three songs make their debut this week: Entering at #23 is the amazing “Eat Your Young” by Irish singer-songwriter Hozier. He states the song was inspired by Gluttony, one the 9 Circles of Hell contained in the first part of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem Divine Comedy, and describes a feast being prepared and served together with the chaos that comes with it. “Rescue Me” by Southern California reggae-ska rock band Dirty Heads enters at #29, and “leaving” by Michigan singer-songwriter Au Gres enters at #30.

  1. TROPIC MORNING NEWS – The National (1)
  2. TRANSMITTER – Sea Power (2)
  3. NEW GOLD – Gorillaz, Tame Impala & Bootie Brown (6)
  4. GHOSTS AGAIN – Depeche Mode (7)
  5. PEPPER – Death Cab for Cutie (4)
  6. FLOWERS – Miley Cyrus (8)
  7. LOVE FROM THE OTHER SIDE – Fall Out Boy (5)
  8. BACKPATTERS AND SHOOTERS – The Zangwills (3)
  9. SOFTEN – Alex Southey (10)
  10. BLUEBELL WOOD – Frank Joshua (12)
  11. TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (9)
  12. THE WALK HOME – Young the Giant (14)
  13. I WANT YOU DEAD – Two Feet & Allie Cabal (15)
  14. KID – The Revivalists (16)
  15. PAID OFF – Oli Barton & the Movement (17)
  16. WOLF – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (18)
  17. PAGES – White Reaper (11)
  18. YOU GOTTA DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO – Darksoft (13)
  19. THE PERFECT PAIR – beabadoobee (22)
  20. NOT STRONG ENOUGH – boygenius (25)
  21. GO DOWN RIVER – The Heavy Heavy (26)
  22. DUMMY – Portugal. The Man (28)
  23. EAT YOUR YOUNG – Hozier (N)
  24. ESSENCE – Refeci & Shimmer Johnson (27)
  25. EYEZ – The Arcs (19)
  26. WEIGHTLESS – Arlo Parks (20)
  27. ANGELICA – Wet Leg (29)
  28. 1982 – Morgendust (30)
  29. RESCUE ME – Dirty Heads (N)
  30. LEAVING – Au Gres (N)

THOMAS CHARLIE PEDERSEN – Album Review: “Employees Must Wash Hands”

Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark is Thomas Charlie Pedersen, a thoughtful and earnest singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who calls his pleasing style of music “chamber folk”. It’s a fitting description, as his sound is characterized by intricate melodies, understated yet lush arrangements, beautiful instrumentation and comforting vocals.

Thomas has been making music for nearly 20 years (he must have started out when he was 13, as he still looks quite young!), both as a solo artist and as part of alt-rock band Vinyl Floor, which he formed in 2004 along with his brother Daniel and a third member who recently departed. Vinyl Floor has released five albums since 2009, whereas Thomas has released three under his own name, beginning with his debut album Second Hand War in 2016, followed four years later by Daylight Saving Hours. Now he returns with Employees Must Wash Hands, a lovely work featuring 15 tracks. The album is being released by Vinyl Floor’s own label Karmanian Records.

Thomas actually recorded two albums in 2021, this solo record as well as Funhouse Mirror with Vinyl Floor, which was released in September 2022. He explains how Employees Must Wash Hands came to be: “The Covid lockdown situation was a highly creative period for my brother Daniel & I. Alongside the Vinyl Floor tracks, I found I had written 15 more songs but I didn’t exactly know what to do with them. Daniel and I had been working on and off on band demos for quite some time, and when I suddenly was isolating at home I found myself writing even more stuff on my acoustic guitar & piano. I lived with these songs alone for a while, and late at night I could work on the lyrics for hours on end. At one point, our studio time with the band in Sweden got postponed – leaving us with 5 months of practically nothing to do but wait.

To keep ourselves on our toes, we decided to record almost the entire ‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ album and we wrapped up the additional recordings once we got back from band sessions in Sweden. What you have here is the other side of the ‘Funhouse Mirror’ sessions – a quieter and somewhat more introverted and reflective album, but also showcasing a more arranged and ‘band-like’ feel than my previous solo efforts. Some of these songs deal with man’s relationship with God and God ́s relationship with man. Who has abandoned who? And is there any faith or spirituality left? They also deal with isolation, self doubt, and all the other stuff on my mind during the strange time that was Covid lockdown.”

The album, whose title is a cheeky nod to that strange pandemic time, serves up 36 minutes of introspective indie folk-pop goodness. Most of its 15 tracks are less than three minutes long, making for a quick and very enjoyable listen. Thomas’s brother Daniel had a major hand in the album, helping out with everything from arranging the songs to recording, producing & mixing them. He also sang backing vocals and played instruments on most tracks.

It opens with “Yesterdays And Silly Ways“, a pleasant track with a buoyant melody but somewhat darker lyrics about hiding behind an upbeat façade that hides less happy truths: “You tried your best, it was not your fault. Don´t try to delay me, your concrete walls proceed to retain a lonesome feeling. Yesterdays and silly ways.” Keeping with a similar theme, “Oh Whatever” seems to be spoken from God’s perspective to people and their tendency to fall prey to greed and ignorance: “Oh, my children, the sky is painted blue, but all you do is lying and denying every clue. Oh, my lost children, where money and mistrust is king. It´s sad to be the relayer, since I brought you everything.”

On the melodic “Slow Passage” Thomas sings of finding a bit of rejuvenation for his soul: “I might opt for a peaceful retreat or a lone walk in the woods, ‘cause a break from the wilderness will surely do me good“, with a catchy toe-tapping beat and some great guitar noodling.

One of my favorite tracks is “Rains On Saturn“, a beautiful piano-driven song that seems to speak of people who search for something better, while not appreciating what they already have: “You may prevail in your zeal for new horizons, but the sky you had was clear and when it rained, it rained diamonds. Drought for forty days, for golden times you yearn, just like when it rains on Saturn.” I really like the song’s lovely piano melody, accompanied early on by subtle sounds of rockets shooting through the heavens, then later by stirring strings. Thomas’s pleasing vocals are backed by his and Daniel’s enchanting harmonies.

Coarse Rasp of Yours” is a wonderful folk-pop song of remembrance and affection, with poetic lyrics containing the album title: “Employees must wash hands. It’s weird to feel oppressed by reality. A few emotional feeds, painted infinity. There are only a few things left which I truly still adore, a real blonde and that coarse rasp of yore.”

Several tracks have a strong classical sensibility: “Mass in D Minor” is a somber dirge-like song about being stuck in a state of depression and ennui: “I’ve become a regiment of drugs, booze and cigarettes. My smile’s just a cry in disguise. Life is just a sentiment, a motion of silhouettes. The sun is now a cloud in my eyes.” “Fiddler & the Travesty” is a hauntingly beautiful song with melancholy piano and hopeful strings, and Thomas and Daniel’s lovely harmonies as they lament “Fiddler and the travesty, can’t escape his destiny. Singing his heart out to no one. He must not sing forever.” And as it’s title suggests, “Organ Prayer (in E Flat)” is a church-like hymn with great lyrics calling out sanctimonious posers and phonies: “I´ve had enough of your dense accolades. Choose side or fall flat with the crowd. A prayer must lose some effect when it comes off too proud. Tell your lame friends to go screw themselves.”

One of the sweetest tracks is the poignant “You Can’t Have it Both Ways” a Beatles-esque song with lovely strummed acoustic guitar and a wonderful organ riff, accompanied by the guys’ sublime harmonies. “Sooner Than You Think” has more of a rock feel, with a driving beat and grungy guitars. The lyrics speak of trying to regain trust in a troubled relationship: “Recycled trust, we should aim for something new, but you long for the past and, honestly, I do too. I will gaze at your beauty without a nod or a blink.We may face the truth sooner than you think.”

I like how Thomas builds his songs around a particular instrument. Case in point is the lovely piano melody of “Tremble and Reel“, with what sounds like a recorder adding some nice touches, or “Beach in Vietnam“, a sweet 47-second-long love song consisting of a simple but impactful piano riff, accompanied by his heartfelt vocal. Strummed guitars form the basis of the beguiling love song “Night of Stars“, and the uplifting folk song “Worry Beads“, both of which also feature the guys’ delightful harmonies.

The album closes on a beautiful note with the stirring piano instrumental “Stagnant Pools of Sorrow“. The combination of gorgeous piano and orchestral strings gives the track a classical feel as well. It’s a fine finish to a truly wonderful collection of carefully-crafted songs. So just sit back in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and let them wash over you.

Here’s the album on YouTube:

And on Spotify:

Connect with Thomas:  FacebookTwitter 

Find his music on SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

Artist Spotlight – Chris Mardula

I seem to be in a pattern of writing about British artists lately (this is my seventh in a row!), but truth be told, they reach out to me about their music far more often than artists from any other countries, including the U.S. Today, I’m shining a spotlight on Chris Mardula, a singer-songwriter from Durham County in Northeast England. His music style is strongly informed with elements of folk, indie rock and blues.

A seasoned musician, he’s played in several bands over the years, but often felt frustrated by uneven levels of commitment by other members. He told me that with everyone having other responsibilities, it was often difficult getting everyone on the same page. Sick and tired of having to rely on other people, he eventually decided to move forward on his own as a solo artist. “I’ve had all of these songs just sitting there doing nothing for years. I thought to myself, it’s time I do something with them and get them out there to be heard. If there’s only me, there’s no excuses. So I built myself a little studio in the house and got busy making a few demos and writing some new tracks.

Last November, Chris began releasing songs at the rate of one per month, starting with a lovely demo titled “Don’t let me down“. Consisting of just his strummed acoustic guitar and heartfelt vocals, the song is a poignant folk ballad about a fragile relationship. He assures his partner that he’ll be there for her, imploring her to not let him down: “Please stop complaining over things that I do. If you’re not so happy, you know what to do. Said I’d be there, I guess I always will. Just don’t let me down, C’mon now, don’t let me down. Cause this time is gonna be the last.” Listening to his pleasing vocals, I could easily be convinced that Chris was from Nashville or Austin instead of Northeast England.

He followed in December with his first official single “Take It Or Leave It“, which is my favorite song he’s released thus far. Written several years ago, Chris says the song is about living in a small town, making the most of it and finding your way forward while getting through the drag of everyday life, and how things usually turn out alright in the end. For this song, he layers beautiful programmed strings and vibrant percussion over strummed guitar notes, creating a stirring cinematic backdrop for his warm vocals as he fervently sings “Taking chances on the outside. I’m on the outside looking in. See my friends and see their faces. And all the places that we’ve been. So take it or leave it. Seen it all before. Take it or leave it. Cause you know you wanted more.”

In January, he dropped “Fade Away“, a beautiful rock song with a more powerful feel than his previous two. Chris’s guitar work is quite impressive as he unleashes an onslaught of scorching riffs over a background of strummed guitars, sweeping strings and riotous percussion. The lyrics seem to speak to the enduring pain over the death of a friend or loved one that refuses to fade away. “Days since he left me, was the day that he died. Still I can’t forget you, still here in my mind. Why can’t it all just fade away?” The song’s compelling video features footage shot by Chris, Craig Addison and Ella Brown.

February saw the release of “Catch a Fire“, an impactful rock song about not continuing to waste our precious time, and to keep pushing forward through the obstacles and pain life throws our way, in order to achieve our dreams and become a better person. The song has a bit of a Southern rock vibe, thanks to Chris’s splendid mix of bluesy and twangy guitars.

His most recent release “Calm In The Storm” is a terrific bluesy instrumental, where his skills on the guitar, piano and drums are allowed to really shine.

While it could be argued that the music world has more than enough ‘guys with guitars’ to go around, I think the quality of his songs places Chris near the top of a crowded field. Based on the five tracks he’s released so far, I’d say that he’s a pretty talented songwriter, musician and vocalist with a promising future. I also like that each of those five songs sounds completely different, a testament to his ability to reach across genres. He’s now putting the finishing touches on his debut album Monumental Horizons, which he plans on releasing later this year.

Here are his songs on Spotify:

Connect with Chris: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Find his music on SpotifyApple MusicAmazon MusicSoundcloudYouTube

A.WAKE – EP Review: “The Seed – Root Chakra Remix EP”

A.Wake (short for Anita Wake) is a fascinating and innovative singer-songwriter and musician based in Sheffield, England who’s been actively making music for several years, both as a member of several bands (in which she played bass and sang backing vocals) and more recently, as a solo artist. With a passionate interest in sound therapy, mysticism and the healing properties of music, she seeks to incorporate healing frequencies and modern music elements into her songs.

She released her enchanting debut single “Lemuria” last July, then followed in October with the darkly beautiful “Railings”, which I reviewed. Now she returns with her latest release The Seed – Root Chakra Remix EP, an unusual and interesting concept work featuring three different versions of her song “The Seed”, along with a shortened radio edit of the third remix.

Starting with the line “The seed of creation in you“, a quote by an angelic entity named Kryon, who’s been channeled through noted American author and medium Lee Carrol, A.Wake wrote the words “Stop wasting your life. Want what you do. Stop chasing the strife.” She then added these lines written by an unknown source and spoken by a man who’s also unknown: “If you only care enough for a result, you will almost certainly attain it. If you wish to be rich, you will be rich. If you wish to be learned, you will be learned. If you wish to be good, you will be good. All things are possible to him that believe it.” 

About the song and EP’s concept, she explains “‘The seed’ remixes are embedded with a root chakra balancing frequency, that can help you to stabilise your material world, earn money, find your life purpose, and feel grounded and connected to others. It should help you to stay focused and present.

The first remix, by fellow Sheffield electronic act The23s (who’s debut single “Never Be the Same” I reviewed in February), has an exotic Middle Eastern vibe that lends itself well to the song’s mystical subject matter. A.Wake’s bewitching array of hums, vocals and chants are simply captivating, backed by mysterious synths and ambient sounds of chirping birds layered over a languid pulsating groove.

The second remix, by DJ Steal, an electronic producer and composer also based in Sheffield, starts off with a delicate piano movement that seems to promise a gentle treatment of the song, but it’s soon joined by sharp percussive beats and industrial synths, taking the song into darker territory. A.Wake’s vocals sound more ethereal here, while the man’s vocals are more clear than in the previous remix.

The third remix, by LEen, another Sheffield-based electronic artist, is the longest of the three, running over seven and a half minutes. This remix features a hypnotic EDM beat, layered with a contrasting mix of airy and harsher industrial synths that very effectively create feelings of both euphoria and tension. A.Wake’s vocals are more enchanting than ever, soaring to great heights along with the music. I love a good dance groove, and though I like all three remixes, I think this one’s my favorite. I can definitely imagine myself getting lost to this in a dance club.

The fourth track is a high-voltage, four-minute long reimagining of the LEen remix, featuring some wonderful instrumental touches not found in the original. All in all, I must say that The Seed – Root Chakra Remix EP is a very enjoyable little collection of remixes!

Connect with A.Wake: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Find her music on BandcampSpotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud 

NAVE – Interview & Album Review: “God’s Waiting Room”

Though my feelings about social media are conflicted and complicated – a sentiment I’m confident many others share – one of the things I do like about it is that it’s allowed me to connect with a lot of really talented musicians and bands. One I’m happy to know is NAVE, the solo music project of British singer-songwriter, composer and producer Nathan Evans. Incorporating a broad array of genres and styles, including alternative rock, electronica, trip-hop, ambient, orchestral and dark wave, the hyper-talented Bournemouth-based artist creates dramatic, incredibly compelling music that’s often atmospheric and gorgeous, but sometimes also harsh and disturbing. Nathan is a thoughtful guy who’s unafraid to tackle issues relating to social justice and mental health, calling out the incessant bullshit and hypocrisy we seem to be faced with on a daily basis.

A truly prolific songwriter, he’s released a staggering amount of music over the past 10 years, both as NAVE (also sometimes represented as Nave or N.A.V.E.) and as front man of alternative psychedelic rock band Native Tongue. He’s been on a creative tear since 2021, and from what I can tell, he dropped eight singles last year, including “Broken Record”, a hauntingly beautiful song decrying the addictive nature of social media and its negative impacts on our emotional well-being. I love it so much, it went all the way to #1 on my Top 30 chart and ranks #14 on my 100 Best Songs of 2022 list.

He’s continued to release lots of new music in 2023, and on February 19th, he dropped God’s Waiting Room, a monumental work which I believe is his first full-length album. The words “full-length” are a massive understatement, as the album contains a mind-boggling 31 tracks! Because of its daunting length, it was a few days before I was able to give it my full attention, but once I did, I was literally blown away! The word “masterpiece” is often overused and lightly awarded, but I can say with all certainty that in the case of God’s Waiting Room, it’s well-earned. Listening to this brilliant and stunning album is an immersive experience that takes us on a sonic journey through the many moods, ideas and emotions of NAVE’s creative mind.

In order to gain a bit of insight into his inspiration for creating such an epic work, I asked Nathan to answer a few questions, which he was more than eager to do. Here’s what we talked about:

EML: You’re an astonishingly prolific musician and composer Nathan, and I’m truly in awe of your tremendous output. Not only have you released an epic 31-track album, you’ve also recently released a number of other stand-alone songs. Where and how do you find your inspiration for all this music?

NAVE: First off, thank you for your continued support and kind words. You have been a true rare find in this shallow industry. The lack of camaraderie and true music lovers is scarce and we need more people like yourself who truly care about new music. 

My 31 track album is a collection of songs and ideas spanning over 8 years to now. The majority of those songs were never intended to be released, but after going back and listening, I felt it was important because they carry so much emotion. I tend to release stand-alone songs that I spend a lot of time on and have that feeling of “oh this is a single”. The reason I called the album ‘Gods Waiting Room’ is because most of the songs aren’t singles, but more snapshots of moments in my life. What was going on and how I was feeling. I could imagine them all being played in a waiting room because they are so random and odd. 

In answer to your question though, the honest response is I don’t know where and how I find the inspiration to have such a high output. Maybe I feel I have something to prove to myself and others who never believed in me. I was written off in school for having ADHD, and was medicated for 6 years with Ritalin so I always felt like an outcast. Maybe my subconscious wants to leave behind a large library of work that I feel is important. Maybe I’m on an autistic spectrum and I can’t stop jumping from one idea to the other, constantly trying to outdo myself and find my “smells like teen spirit” banger. Maybe I am trying to refine my tools and become the best I can be, which is very similar to the mentality I had when I was competing in trampolining from the age 5-11 and had to come 1st in all competitions. If I would come in 2nd ever, it would be crushing. I knew I had the magic and that has translated to music today 

EML: Continuing on the theme of inspiration, some of the tracks on ‘God’s Waiting Room’ seem to have titles and/or lyrics dealing with self-assessment, mental health or personal well-being – e.g. “Jealous Little Bitch”, “Passive Aggressive”, “Son of a Rich Man”, “Computer Is My Friend” and “Kiss My Bad Side”. Are any of these songs autobiographical, or a means of addressing some inner demons or conflict?

NAVE: I find my songs either have a personal meaning, a message, or they don’t mean anything to me. Some tracks are blunt, some are cryptic, which means something to me, but to someone else interpreting them, it is completely different (which tends to happen often). Someone will tell me what my song means to them and I’ll be like “whoa, that’s not what I had in mind”. But I love that and it’s become clear from people’s comments that my music/lyrics creates imagery and causes multiple interpretations which I love.

For example, the songs you’ve mentioned. “Jealous Little Bitch” is an instrumental song, but made at a time when I was angry at certain people in my life and patterns of behaviour where I felt jealousy from “friends” or “family” instead of support and love. “Son of a Rich Man” was a dig at certain people that would never know the stress and uncertainty of having no money. They have an easy ride almost in a world where billionaires exist, and shouldn’t. I compare them to cartoon characters in a fairy tale paradise.

My track ‘Rose Tinted Glasses”, which was a stand alone release, was probably the most personal and therapeutic song I’ve ever written, about the loss of my Mum at 26. I put out a music video of it and I would cry every time I’d watch it. I’ve never had that with any song I’ve ever written and it addressed grief, anger and such sadness in me.

Another driving force isn’t so much facing inner demons but a feeling of obligation and duty to spread truth, love and light. Call out corruption, bullshit and lies. I made a tune called “blood thirsty billionaires” and made a video calling out certain people and shone a light on the ridiculous injustice and imbalance. It pisses me off that actors, musicians, sportsmen and whoever don’t use their platform enough to stand up to the lies we are fed everyday. The food we eat is full of harmful pesticides, the water we drink contains high levels of chlorine and the doctors don’t have our best interest at heart. They just read from a script or give us big pharma products. Cancer is 1 in 2 from the water, food and air, yet we freak out over a flu that mainly kills old and vulnerable people. We keep bending over to the government and accepting their lies and obeying without thinking for ourselves and truly questioning. Can you tell I am passionate about all this stuff. Can you see maybe why I make so much music lol?

EML: You certainly have a lot to say! When recording your songs as a solo artist, do you play and record all the music yourself? And besides the piano as your primary instrument, accompanied by what I’m guessing are lots of programmed synths, what other instruments do you play?

NAVE: Yeah, I mostly use the keyboard to write in synths, then programme and edit the drums. Then I finally add vocals. The vocals are always hit and miss. Sometimes they come quick and other times its a slog. I focus on the beat, atmosphere, melody and bass to create a vibe and if it makes me feel something, I quickly know whether to spend more time or move on. There always comes a time when I produce where that moment happens. Its like a magic. A transition occurs when the song comes to life and its amazing. I play drums, piano, guitar, bass and hope to learn the violin one day. I tried once and was terrible. The noise was so bad, I was unable to persist. So big respect to you violin players out there. You truly have to crawl through thorns and stinging nettles to reach the roses.

EML: With 31 amazing tracks, you could have broken them up into two or even three separate albums. Why the decision to include them all in one monumental album?

NAVE: I had considered that, but it felt they were all from a chapter in my life and belonged together. It also shows my progression till now and it was appealing to release a large body of work, particularly under such a poignant album title.

EML: That certainly makes sense. What other musicians or bands do you consider primary influences for your music?

NAVE: I ingested a lot of music as a teenager, but over the years I tend to stay away from listening to music as I find it better to be naive and not influenced by others’ music. The more music I listen to, the more chance I might feel I am copying them or “I cant do that because that sounds like that” if you know what I mean? But obviously Radiohead, Nirvana, Queens Of The Stone Age, Muse, BRMC, UNKLE, Jose Gonzalez, Deftones, Limp Bizkit, Morcheeba, Moby were big influences. Our bass player in my band Native Tongue is a music freak so he shows me a lot of new music and one track in particular that blew me away recently and inspired me to write my track “CONNIFER” is the track “NOT” by Big Thief. Incredible song.

EML: Is there anything I’ve neglected to ask that you’d like people to know about yourself or your music?

NAVE: I have struggled not finding the audience I was hoping to. It hurts when I put my heart and soul into these songs and I can’t reach anyone new or build my fan base, no matter how hard I try. I feel I’m finally coming to peace with that and doing this because I love it, not for people’s validation. My main drive has always been to reach people, and its been a painful road reaching so few people and not building that fan base I hoped for. Obviously there is still time but if it never happens, then fuck it. I still touched you and others, and devoted myself to an outlet which has kept me sane for so many years. Without it, I may not even be here now to answer these questions. 

So my final thing to say is to everyone out there, do what makes you happy and try not to seek happiness externally. Think for yourself and question authority. We have been boxed up like objects and we are still treated like slaves working long hours for no money. It doesn’t have to be this way. Seek the truth within yourself and the world will open up like a flower. Independent thought. Love yourself and be kind to others. 

Thank you Jeff. You are a star. 

EML: Thank YOU Nathan for taking the time to answer my questions, and for all your incredible music. Hopefully, this review and interview will bring you at least a few more fans.

Okay, let’s get to God’s Waiting Room, shall we? Because it contains so many tracks – all of which are outstanding – I won’t be doing my usual track-by-track discussion, as it would take me forever and besides, no one would read it all! Instead, I’ll touch on my favorites, as well as some of the more fascinating and impactful tracks. Of the album’s 31 offerings, 17 are instrumentals, whereas 14 feature lyrics and vocals of some kind or another.

On the unsettling opening track “The Speaker“, NAVE talk-sings in a mysterious whispered voice “Why do you listen to the speaker? Isn’t that, in listening to the speaker, you’re listening to yourself? Is that what is taking place? The speaker is only pointing something out. Acting as a mirror in which you only see yourself. Your own state of mind. Your own consciousness. And if at the end of these talks, you say to yourself ‘I have not changed’, why, it is your fault.” Though I didn’t ask him, my guess is that the song set the overall tone for the album, also serving as a kind of introduction.

As the album unfolds, each new track brings a different mood and vibe, keeping it sounding fresh and holding our attention. The second track “Sleepy Head” is a darkly beautiful instrumental featuring a mesmerizing trip hop groove and rather spooky string synths. And speaking of spooky, “White Witch” is downright chilling as NAVE drones “Never again, will you and I suffer. Never again, will the world go by unnoticed” against a mysterious cinematic backdrop that would make a great opening for a horror film.

Several instrumental tracks, like “Into the Abyss“, “Twilight Zone” and “Watch It Unfold“, are atmospheric and beautiful, with haunting piano movements, sparkling synths and cinematic strings. One of my favorites is the stunning “Linda’s Song“, with its vibrant piano keys, soaring strings and pleasing guitar chords. I also love “Jealous Little Bitch“, with its gorgeous violin notes and eerie synths layered over an assertive skittering beat.

Another favorite (on an album full of favorites) is “Passive Aggressive“, with its trippy hip hop groove, highlighted by menacing industrial synths sprinkled here and there with twinkling little touches that keep the song from sounding too heavy and dark. NAVE does a great job rapping the wonderful lyrics about an encounter with an unpleasant receptionist at a medical appointment: “Walk in the door, time for my appointment. Ignored by a lady unhappy in employment. Making me wait for a good few minutes. Grittin’ my teeth, pushed to the limit. I calm myself, instant reflection dealing with this middle-aged bitch on reception. Stay strong, try not to break. Refrain from explaining, I’m here cuz my balls ache. I’ve come a long way, massive obsessive, passive aggressive.

Swim Away With Me” is so quietly majestic and beautiful, it brings tears to my eyes. Then, abruptly changing the mood with “Millions of Wilfully Ignorant Sleepwalkers“, he skillfully uses a droning melody and rather ghostly, dream-like synths to convey a sense of people moving through life like zombies, seemingly unaware of their surroundings. The darkly beautiful “Breath With Me” has a strong Radiohead vibe, thanks in large part to the beguiling falsetto by appropriately-named guest vocalist Ethereal, which seems to channel Thom Yorke.

The terrific “Son of a Rich Man” is a languid and bluesy, guitar-driven song that NAVE touched on earlier as being a dig at people born with a silver spoon in their mouths. I love the pointed lyrics: “I don’t know who I am anymore. In fact, I don’t think I ever did. I’m indecisive, with hindsight bias. Sure, the grass could always be greener./ But who knows, paradise could just be a fairly tale, only fit for cartoon characters and billionaires. Maybe I should make a plan, or wait to reincarnate as the son of a rich man.”

One of the most beautiful tracks on the album is “Infinite Ground“, where NAVE’s dreamy echoed vocals meld so perfectly with the delicate acoustic guitar notes, it nearly takes my breath away. The unusual “Tashi Delek” is a dark song, featuring a strong trip hop beat, deep bass and harsh industrial synths, punctuated by contrasting delicate xylophone sounds. NAVE’s otherworldly vocals add to the song’s edgy vibe as he wails “I looked at your face. I couldn’t help but stare. I got you on my mind. There ain’t nothing wrong. Just a slip of the tongue. Can you feel my pain? And I miss you.”

The album closes with the contemplative piano piece “My Goodbye“, a beautiful and fitting end to this exquisite work of musical art. I’ve probably listened to God’s Waiting Room more than 15 times, and it manages to reveal new sounds, textures and meanings each time I hear it. I love this album, and hope at least some of my readers will appreciate and enjoy it too.

Connect with NAVE: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Find his music on SpotifyApple MusicBandcampYouTube Soundcloud