JADED JANE & OLIVIA RUFF – Single Review: “Bogotá”

As a music blogger, I’ve gotten to know hundreds or perhaps even thousands of musicians and bands over the past six years, many of whom I’ve written about on this blog. And like many relationships – whether casual or deep – that each of us form throughout our lives with neighbors, classmates, co-workers, social media followers or even fellow bloggers, the same goes for artists. For a variety of reasons, we sometimes just connect with certain people on a deeper, more meaningful level and, over time, develop a genuine friendship based on mutual admiration and respect.

One such artist I’ve grown quite fond of is Axel Jane Olsson, who along with his brother Adam make up the Swedish act Jaded Jane. Since learning about them in early 2019, I’ve come to admire these guys, both for their wonderful, uplifting music and the positive vibes they spread through their kindness, love and joy. Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, and now split between Gothenburg and Glasgow, Scotland, the duo celebrate humanity and diversity through their music, writing compelling songs with positive, life-affirming lyrics and delivered with gorgeous piano-driven melodies and lush soundscapes. The brothers are hard-working and prolific musicians, and have released six outstanding albums since 2015, most recently Everythism in April, along with numerous singles. I’ve previously written about them three times, including an extensive artist spotlight and interview in April 2019, and a review in April 2020 of their gorgeous song “Heaven is Heart” (which ranks #71 on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list). You can read those reviews by clicking on the “Related” links at the end of this post.

Now Jaded Jane is back with a beautiful new single “Bogotá“, which dropped September 10th. The song is a collaboration with soulful-voiced American singer-songwriter Olivia Ruff, her father Michael Ruff (a Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter and BMI and Cable Ace Award winner who’s worked with such notable artists as India Arie, Bonnie Raitt, David Sanborn, Lionel Richie, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, Kenny Loggins, Ricky Lee Jones, Diane Schuur, John Lee Hooker and The Jacksons), and Swedish drummer Per Lindvall, who’s played drums for many Swedish artists and bands, including ABBA, as well as in the Michael Ruff Band.

An uplifting song about living in the present and recognizing yourself in a loved one’s smile, “Bogotá” was written by Axel in 2017 while on a plane to Colombia. For the song’s recording, he sang lead vocals, played Moog bass and various instruments, his brother Adam played acoustic guitar, Olivia Ruff sang backing vocals, Michael Ruff played piano, organ and synths, and Per Lindvall played drums. Others involved in the recording and/or production include Rubens Millet Herrera on percussion, Jerry Sillah and Bylund Strings & Horns on vocal recordings and edits, and Åke Linton on engineering and sound mixing. The beautiful artwork for the single was designed by Tora Söderberg.

The song has a breezy retro 80s pop vibe, thanks no doubt to the influence of Michael Ruff and his experience working with many artists from that time period. But it also sounds refreshing and current, with a sunny, almost exotic feel. The combination of Michael’s sparking keyboards and Axel’s pulsating Moog bass, accompanied by Per’s gentle drumbeats, make for an incredibly pleasing listen and a perfect backdrop for Axel and Olivia’s captivating vocal harmonies as they sing of love’s simple joys: “Bogotá, I see heaven in your eyes. Bogotá, you find ways to make me smile. Tonight we’ll stay in this moment, to share the purest love we have. In love, together we are strong“.

Connect with Jaded Jane:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Tidal
Purchase on iTunesBandcamp

Top 30 Songs for September 12-18, 2021

L.A. band The Neighbourhood hold the top spot for a second week with their beautiful single “Stargazing”. Moving up to #2 is “Missing Piece” by Vance Joy. Though I’ve liked the Australian singer-songwriter ever since hearing his 2014 hit “Riptide”, it took a while for “Missing Piece” to grow on me. But it’s such a sweet love song, it’s hard not to like it. A band I’ve really come to love is Lord Huron, and their song “Mine Forever” leaps 14 spots to #7. Imagine Dragon’s poignant “Wrecked” jumps 10 spots to #9. Debuting this week are “Freak” by L.A. band Surf Curse and “Never Looked Back” by British alt-rock band The Zangwills.

  1. STARGAZING – The Neighbourhood (1)
  2. MISSING PIECE – Vance Joy (3)
  3. SATURDAY – twenty øne piløts (4)
  4. DEVIL – Two Feet (2)
  5. TRANSPARENT SOUL – WILLOW featuring Travis Barker (6)
  6. LAST TRAIN HOME – John Mayer (7)
  7. MINE FOREVER – Lord Huron (21)
  8. STOP MAKING THIS HURT – Bleachers (9)
  9. WRECKED – Imagine Dragons (19)
  10. LIKE I USED TO – Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen (5)
  11. BE A WOMAN – DeLaurentis (13)
  12. ENNUI – Dawning (12)
  13. MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X (8)
  14. BAD DREAM – Cannons (16)
  15. WHAT YOU SAY – Cold War Kids (17)
  16. TAKE THE L – Roadkeeper (18)
  17. THE ANGEL OF 8TH AVE. – Gang of Youths (20)
  18. EVERY WINDOW IS A MIRROR – Joywave (11)
  19. SOLAR POWER – Lorde (9)
  20. I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE – Måneskin (23)
  21. TAKE MY MONEY – Ships Have Sailed (24)
  22. MAKING A FIRE – Foo Fighters (25)
  23. CAN YOU HANDLE MY LOVE?? – WALK THE MOON (26)
  24. CAN WE GO BACK – The Frontier (14) 20th week on list
  25. WE ARE BETWEEN – Modest Mouse (15)
  26. DISTORTED LIGHT BEAM – Bastille (28)
  27. NDA – Billie Eilish (29)
  28. HUSH – The Marías (30)
  29. FREAKS – Surf Curse (N)
  30. NEVER LOOKED BACK – The Zangwills (N)

EML’s Favorite Songs – “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” by The Walker Brothers

1966 is arguably one of the greatest years in the history of recorded music, and one of the many standout songs that year was The Walker Brothers’ gorgeous “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”. Even though I was only 11 years old when the song came out, I loved it, and it still has the power to cover me with chills 55 years later. The magnificent cinematic arrangement and orchestration, combined with Scott Walker’s achingly beautiful baritone vocals, make it one of the most dramatically compelling songs of its time. The lyrics speak to feelings of desolation and loneliness after a break-up.

Loneliness
Is a cloak you wear
A deep shade of blue
Is always there

The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore
The moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky
The tears are always clouding your eyes
When you’re without love, baby

Emptiness
Is a place you’re in
With nothing to lose
But no more to win

The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore
The moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky
The tears are always clouding your eyes
When you’re without love

Lonely
Without you baby
Girl I need you
I can’t go on

The song was originally written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio for fellow Four Seasons band member Frankie Valli, who’s solo 1965 recording of it failed to chart. The Walker Brothers recorded their version the following January, and that spring the song went all the way to #1 in the UK and #2 in Canada, but only peaked at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although American by birth, The Walker Brothers relocated to England in 1965, where they became much more successful and popular than they were in the U.S.

Interestingly, The Walker Brothers were not brothers, nor were any of them born with the name Walker. John Walker was born John Joseph Maus, but began using the surname Walker in his teens, while Scott Walker was born Noel Scott Engel, and Gary Walker was born Gary Leeds. John and Scott originally formed The Walker Brothers Trio in Los Angeles in 1964, along with Al “Tiny” Schneider, with John on guitars and lead vocals, Scott on bass and backing harmonies, and Al on drums.

Later that year, they met Gary Leeds, who’d played drums with The Standells from 1962-64, and eventually replaced Al Schneider on drums. They changed their name to simply The Walker Brothers, and eventually both Scott and Gary took the surname Walker as well. Leeds, along with the help of Rolling Stones band member Brian Jones, persuaded his bandmates to consider relocating to England, where their early rock and roll and blues style would go down well in “swinging London”. (Wikipedia)

Once in London, they signed a recording contract with Philips Records, whereupon Philips producer and A&R man Johnny Franz began refashioning their sound from upbeat R&B to more dramatic pop ballads similar to those of The Righteous Brothers (another brother act who weren’t really brothers). With this new direction, Scott Walker become the group’s de facto frontman and lead vocalist, as his distinct baritone was better suited to their new sound. Under Franz’ direction, and with full ‘wall of sound’ orchestral arrangements by Ivor Raymonde and performed by session musicians, The Walker Brothers scored their first #1 hit in the UK in 1965 with their cover of “Make It Easy on Yourself,” a Burt Bacharach and Hal David ballad originally recorded by Jerry Butler. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” would be their second and final song to top the UK charts, as well as chart on the Billboard Top 40.

They continued to have more chart hits in the UK through 1967, but with diminishing commercial success as pop continued to evolve, making their music sound dated. They also had to leave the UK for six months in 1967 because of work permit problems, which didn’t help. By the end of 1967, the pressures of stardom, internal tensions and ‘artistic differences’ had taken their toll, and The Walker Brothers officially disbanded in 1968. All three members continued to release solo records, however, in late 1974 all three agreed to reform The Walker Brothers, and in 1975, they released the album No Regrets, followed by two more albums Lines and Nite Flights, which were less commercially successful. They drifted apart for good by the end of 1978. The three went on with their individual music careers, with Scott having the most success by far. He’s been cited as an influence by many British recording artists, including David Bowie and Radiohead. John passed away in 2011 and Scott in 2019.

“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” has come to be considered The Walker Brothers’ signature song, as well as an important song of the so-called Rock Era. NME ranked it at No. 357 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, Pitchfork ranked it at No. 187 on its list of The 200 Best Songs of the 1960s, and it is listed in the 2010 book 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die.

New Song of the Week – MARS MOTEL: “Don’t Move On Yet”

One of my favorite indie bands is Brooklyn, New York-based Mars Motel. Formed in 2017 by singer/songwriter and guitarist Sarik Kumar, their beautiful music melds a dreamy 90s Brit-pop vibe with an immersive, guitar-driven wall of sound, and highlighted by Kumar’s captivating vocals that remind me of Young the Giant’s Sameer Gadhia. They’ve undergone a few changes in lineup over time, and are now a duo consisting of Kumar and bassist Justin Lieberthal. I previously featured them on this blog twice in 2019, when I reviewed their gorgeous singles “Coming Up For Air” (which ranks at #16 on my Top 100 Songs of 2019 list) and “My House is About to Fall Apart”, almost two years ago to the day. You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.

After a nearly two year absence, Mars Motel is back with a brand new single “Don’t Move on Yet“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. It’s their first official release since their debut album Passenger X in October 2019, and sees them going in a slightly different direction in terms of their sound and music style. “Don’t Move on Yet” has a somewhat more introspective, laid-back feel, while still featuring their signature exquisite melodies, outstanding instrumentation and stellar arrangements. I’m glad they’re still making music, and that they haven’t lost their touch.

The music was written by Kumar and Lieberthal, and the lyrics by Kumar and his long-time friend Samuel Arnoqyan, with whom he’s been collaborating since their high school days, but never on a Mars Motel song. For the song’s recording and production, they enlisted the help of Los Angeles-based drummer Dana LaMarca to play drums, and their friend Matt Maroulakos who produced, mixed and engineered the track. Mastering was done by Mike Piacentini.

The song is haunting and beautiful, with a languid groove propelled by Liebenthal’s marvelous smoldering bassline and LaMarca’s measured, perfectly syncopated drumbeats. Kumar’s intricate chiming and psychedelic guitars are gorgeous, accompanied by spacy atmospheric synths that give the song a bit of an otherworldly feel, especially toward the end. As always, Kumar’s vocals are lovely and heartfelt as he plaintively sings the simple, yet powerful lyrics spoken from a man to his partner, trying to reason with her that he works long hours in order to make them a better life, and pleading with her to not abandon him: “I explained I worked all for you. All for you. You say that’s all I ever do. Ever do. Don’t you see that it’s only me, trying to say. And how can I show you why you should stay? Don’t move on yet.”

The arresting video was created by Noah Wilskey.

Mars Motel will be performing the single at a show on September 17 at the Mercury Lounge in New York. Check this link for ticket info.

Connect with Mars Motel: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase: Bandcamp / iTunes

SATIN – Album Review: “Origami Heart”

Satin is a Los Angeles-based alternative rock band, whose music is influenced by a range of rock subgenres, including but not limited to classic, alternative, progressive, hard and even Southern rock. Fronted by singer-songwriter and guitarist Robert Cross, the group also includes David Bucci (lead guitar), Scott Wintermute (bass) and producer Tim Frantz (drums, keyboards). Cross also plays keyboards and synthesizers. They released their debut album Drop Dead Gorgeous in 2019, and on September 2nd, dropped their follow-up album Origami Heart, which they’ve asked me to review.

The album’s fairly long with 13 tracks, many of them addressing the minefields of love and relationships, and the heartache and pain that result when love dies or things go terribly wrong. But for the most part, the band lives up to their Satin moniker, delivering honest, relatable lyrics with pleasing melodies, tight rhythms, outstanding guitar work and Cross’s mostly laid-back vocal style.

Case in point is the pretty opening and title track “Origami Heart“, with it’s gently upbeat Southern rock vibes. The sweet lyrics celebrate the euphoria of feeling strong romantic love for another: “Oh I can’t escape the joy of being close to your nape. Feeling the softness of your skin as I catch your scent as I breathe in. As I fold you in my arms like an origami heart.” But the euphoria turns to sadness on the lovely Tom Petty-esque “Sabotage“, as Cross laments about how his actions damaged his relationship beyond repair: “It didn’t happen by accident. It didn’t come without cause. But I’ll never hold you again, as our love’s come to end. Yes I’m a master of sabotage.”

Continuing on that theme of feeling remorse, the dark “My Every Nightmare” speaks to the negative outcomes resulting from one’s self-destructive behavior: “Somehow it seems that by chasing my dreams, I made my every nightmare come true.” And on “Useless“, Cross sings of his sad realization that it’s now too late to make up for his bad behavior: “Cuz it tears at me from the inside out, knowing I was so naïve and clueless somehow. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that any love I have for you is useless now.”

Satin dip their toe into prog rock on the stunning “In This Wonderland“, one of my favorite tracks on the album. The layered jangly and psychedelic guitars are gorgeous, and the bass and measured percussion are perfection, flawlessly transitioning from subtle to tumultuous. The lyrics are filled with fairy tale references to describe feelings of losing touch with reality, unable to make sense of anything anymore: “Madness descends and surrounds me like a prison cell, As harlequins all around me chase white rabbits and dragon’s tails. This nonsense is hard to believe So forgive me if I don’t understand Cuz nothing is quite what it seems In this wonderland.”

They channel their harder rock side on “My One and Only“, where they let loose with a volley of heavy riffs and driving rhythms. Similar to “My Every Nightmare”, the lyrics speak of being unable to escape from self-destructive behaviors: “I constantly find myself wasting my precious time engaged in actions destructive to me. Deep down I know I’ve been holding on to something selfishly. My one and only love.” “Music Box” is a brief but grandiose cinematic instrumental interlude that immediately segues into “Love to Be Loved“, a lively head-bopping rocker about wanting another to love you as much as you love them.

Another favorite is “Move On“, a beautiful anthemic ballad with stirring orchestral strings and twangy guitars that lend a bit of a Western feel in the vein of great songs like “Wichita Lineman”. The poignant lyrics speak to coming to terms with the fact that a relationship is over and that it’s time to let it go and move on: “Those times went by so fast and now they’re gone. Left with the right choices and the wrong. And I’ve spent a long time waiting… And now it’s time to move on.”

Album closer “Fearless” ends things on a decidedly pessimistic note. The biting lyrics are somewhat ambiguous in that they could be directed by the singer toward another or perhaps to themselves: “Could you take a look at the lines on your face and recognize them as your own? Could you realize the scars, they can’t be erased? They only get worse as you sit there alone within your home. And there’s not a thing you can do to save your soul. Fearless as you are, you’re still out of control.” This song has a bit of prog rock feel as well, with interesting time signatures and dramatic guitar runs.

I’ll be honest, it took a couple of listens for this album to really grab me, but once it did, I came to more fully appreciate the many nuances of the music, as well as the album’s fine arrangements and production values. This is why I’m a strong believer in giving music a chance before hearing it once and quickly dismissing it. So listen to Origami Heart with open ears and an open mind, and hopefully you’ll come to like it as much as I do.

Connect with Satin:  TwitterInstagramFacebook

Stream/purchase their music:  SpotifyApple MusicBandcamp

DYING HABIT – Single Review: “Think”

Dying Habit is an alternative rock band from the Isle of Anglesey in northwest Wales, and comprised of brothers Nathan (vocals & bass) and Mark Jones (drums), and their best friend Alan Hart (guitar). Formed in 2016, they play an intense and grungy style of melodic alternative rock steeped in progressive undertones and teeming with complexity and nuance. I’ve followed them pretty much since their beginning, and have written about them several times on this blog, most recently last November when I reviewed their excellent debut album Until the Air Runs Out. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.)

In August, Dying Habit returned with a terrific new single “Think“, which will be included on their forthcoming EP Antidotes, due for release later this year. It’s a darkly beautiful banger, featuring the signature melodic time changes, compelling lyrics and brilliant instrumentation we’ve come to expect from these talented musicians. Alan’s intricate guitar work is fantastic, with so many different layers and textures at play – from lovely chiming chords to thunderous fuzz-coated chugging riffs to flourishes of screaming distortion – that it sounds like there are three guitarists instead of only one. Meanwhile, the Jones brothers drive the powerful rhythm forward with a pummeling bassline and explosive drumbeats, all working in a glorious alchemy to create a spine-tingling backdrop for Nathan’s plaintive vocals.

The band states the lyrics describe the thoughts of someone after having killed themselves: “It’s morning. I don’t know. Turning to the light for something. The sunlight is getting in my eyes. There’s only one way this day is going. Memories are coming back but I don’t know what to do. There’s blood on my face and I’m lying next to you. / I think they’re going to take me straight to hell. Demon’s taking over everything. What the hell am I supposed to do. I got a bad feeling.” While the subject is arguably grim, the song is great, and I think it just might be one of Dying Habit’s best yet.

Connect with Dying Habit:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Apple Music / SpotifySoundcloud

Purchase their music:  AmazonBandcamp

Top 30 Songs for September 5-11, 2021

I’m going to try something different for my Weekly Top 30 posts. Because they get little engagement, I’ll start providing a brief narrative introduction at the beginning to hopefully generate a bit more interest.

After Two Feet’s four-week-long reign at the top with his darkly smoldering “Devil”, Los Angeles alternative rock band The Neighbourhood take over the top spot with their dreamy love song “Stargazing”. Ever since the release of their gorgeous monster hit “Sweater Weather” in 2013 (which ranks at #4 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s), The Neighbourhood have been one of my favorite bands. I love just about every song they’ve released, and I’m happy to see them still flourishing after eight years. The sweet video shows the band as their alter-egos Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones, and features cameos by Lana Del Rey, Blake Griffin, Jaden Smith, Benny Blanco, Devon Carlson, Mac DeMarco and Alexa Demie.

Debuting on this week’s list are “NDA” by Billie Eilish and “Hush” by The Marías.

  1. STARGAZING – The Neighbourhood (2)
  2. DEVIL – Two Feet (1)
  3. MISSING PIECE – Vance Joy (4)
  4. SATURDAY – twenty øne piløts (5)
  5. LIKE I USED TO – Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen (3)
  6. TRANSPARENT SOUL – WILLOW featuring Travis Barker (11)
  7. LAST TRAIN HOME – John Mayer (12)
  8. MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X (6)
  9. STOP MAKING THIS HURT – Bleachers (10)
  10. SOLAR POWER – Lorde (7)
  11. EVERY WINDOW IS A MIRROR – Joywave (13)
  12. ENNUI – Dawning (14)
  13. BE A WOMAN – DeLaurentis (16)
  14. CAN WE GO BACK – The Frontier (8)
  15. WE ARE BETWEEN – Modest Mouse (9)
  16. BAD DREAM – Cannons (18)
  17. WHAT YOU SAY – Cold War Kids (19)
  18. TAKE THE L – Roadkeeper (20)
  19. WRECKED – Imagine Dragons (21)
  20. THE ANGEL OF 8TH AVE. – Gang of Youths (22)
  21. MINE FOREVER – Lord Huron (23)
  22. WELCOME TO THE PARTY – Jack Droppers & the Best Intentions (15)
  23. I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE – Måneskin (25)
  24. TAKE MY MONEY – Ships Have Sailed (26)
  25. MAKING A FIRE – Foo Fighters (27)
  26. CAN YOU HANDLE MY LOVE?? – WALK THE MOON (28)
  27. STICKY – The Maine (17)
  28. DISTORTED LIGHT BEAM – Bastille (30)
  29. NDA – Billie Eilish (N)
  30. HUSH – The Marías (N)

Awen Veleda & The Wandering Lights – EP Review: “An Alien Invasion in the Petty Kingdoms (Part 1: Prelude)”

Awen Veleda & The Wandering Lights is a Brighton, England-based music collective that brings together musicians from around the world to create a unique brand of contemporary folk. The project is headed by songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Mike Five (who also plays guitar for the rock band 1 in Five and co-hosts a music podcast with Dr. Bones). They’ve just released their debut EP An Alien Invasion In The Petty Kingdoms (Part 1: Prelude), a concept work exploring how people deal with the unexpected, manage change through their own beliefs and context, and find ways to work together. The name Awen Veleda is a fictitious person, with ‘Awen’ meaning inspiration, while ‘Veleda’ was a 1st century prophetess who was worshipped by Germanic peoples, and her name has come to be synonymous with inspirational wisdom.

The story for An Alien Invasion In The Petty Kingdoms (Part 1: Prelude) is set in 9th Century Britain, amid an unexpected and shocking event that unfolds through the voices of various characters, all scrambling to understand the truth and come to agreement about how to deal with it. The collaborative EP is based on an original narrative and accompanying music written by Mike Five, with lyrics and lead vocals by GRIM17. In addition to Mike Five, who played guitars, organ, piano, drums, synths, shakers, tambourines and birdsong recordings, and GRIM17, for this EP The Wandering Lights is also comprised of One Blind Mouse, who performed the string arrangements and also mixed and mastered the EP, Gemma Kirk, who sang backing vocals on “A Message to the King”, Becca Wright, who played fiddle on “The Witan” and “Chieftain Caiside”, Iona James, who sang backing vocals on “The Real Ealdorman”, Ron Bowes, who played harmonica on “The Real Ealdorman”, Sadie-Rei, who sang joint lead vocals on “Lucrezia”, and Rae Cameron, who played flute on “Lucrezia”.

In advance of the EP’s release on Bandcamp on September 3rd, The Wandering Lights have also released music videos for three of the tracks. The EP will be released on all other music streaming platforms on November 5th. They’ve included all the lyrics for each song on their Bandcamp page.

The EP begins with “A Message to the King“, which describes the adventures of two messengers who travel day and night to reach the King with the terrifying news that an army of mysterious mercenaries has invaded the eastern end of the kingdom. But this is no ordinary group of heathens, as they may not even be human. Unsure themselves of what they’ve actually seen, or that anyone would believe them, their message must reach the King at all costs.

The song opens and closes with spacey sci-fi sounds, a nod to the mysterious alien nature of the invaders. But for the bulk of the track, the music settles into a dark and haunting soundscape of mournful piano and stings, accompanied by Mike Five’s strummed acoustic guitar. GRIM17’s vocals are perfect for the song’s dark mood, and Gemma King’s ethereal choral vocals add a wonderful ghostly vibe.

For the official video, Mike Five and Co. overlaid their track onto the original video for “The King” by Italian animator Goga Mason, which was itself a retelling of the classic story of King Kong. Though it’s a fascinating and compelling video, the visuals do not match the storyline of “A Message to the King”, so I’m not sure why they would use it for this song.

On track two, “The Witan“, a quickly-assembled witan advises the King to take immediate action against the invaders, but before he acts he must uncover the facts and separate them from rumor and superstition. (In England from the 6th to 10th centuries, a witan was a wise man who advised the king on specific issues, and often a member of the Witenagemote, or assembly of wise men, which was the forerunner of the future English Parliament.) Led by a dominant thumping drumbeat overlain with moody strings and acoustic guitar and highlighted by Becca Wright’s lively fiddle, the song has an ancient Celtic feel.

The Red Ealdorman” (an ealdorman, old English for alderman, was an official of Anglo-Saxon England appointed by the king, who was responsible for law, order, and justice in his shire and for leading his local fyrd, or militia) addresses the efforts by a particular official who’s sent by the King to raise the fyrd and gather an army in preparation for battle. Because of the unusual and potentially daunting circumstances behind their mysterious foe, the King will need all the help he can assemble, even from his enemies – in this case a Celtic Chieftain and his tribe. The prominent organ used in the track gives it a gospel feel, while Ron Bowes’ haunting harmonica and Iona James’ lovely backing vocals add a nice folk touch. Also, to my ears, GRIM17’s vocals on this track remind me a bit of U2’s Bono Hewson.

The video produced for this track enlisted the help of The Wandering Lights’ own army of music lovers from around the world, their own personal fyrd, if you will.

Chieftain Caiside” sees the red ealdorman, aka the crimson man, meeting with the King’s nemesis Chieftain Caiside, and delivering an urgent message of peace and unity, in their common need to defeat a newfound foe. Thankfully, the chieftain is responsive, and promises his support to the King: “The crimson man rides from my sights, with a message I sent that I hope is right. I won’t be the reason for the downfall these kingdoms may yet incur. I’ve heard your words, I’ve heard your words. Uncommon enemies.” Once again, Becca Wright’s rousing fiddle is a highlight of the song.

The final track “Lucrezia” is the most beautiful of the five, and also my favorite. At this point in the saga, the King, struggling to get to the truth, comes to the realization that the unusual challenges he faces will require creative solutions. He concludes that to achieve the greater good, one sometimes has to do something possibly sinful by comporting with beings outside his own religion, and contacts the Priestess Lucrezia to see if her visions can offer guidance – whilst praying to his own God for forgiveness. “Lucrezia, you’ve been light, love and teacher, So much for so long. But once more I must beg your indulgence. Could you lend me your song?” to which she replies with promise of her assistance that also comes with a warning: “King, I lend you arm and leg so you can make amends .Abuse them not. I am nonviolent until you force my hand.”

GRIM17’s vocals are raw, plaintive and heartfelt on this track, and the silky croons of Sadie-Rei (of the California alt-pop/punk band Until Further Notice) are as enchanting as we’d expect from a priestess. I love the sounds of chirping birds, as well as Mike Five’s beautiful acoustic guitar, One Blind Mouse’s somber strings, and Rae Cameron’s captivating flute. It’s a gorgeous ending to Part 1 of this saga, which I’m now eager to watch unfold.

Artist Spotlight – Ivor Game

Ivor Game is a British singer-songwriter from Middlesex who’s been making music for most of his life. He began playing guitar and singing at the age of ten, and in his teens, played with a number of bands. When he entered his 20s, he began performing as a solo artist in small clubs and venues around London, and later toured throughout the UK and Ireland, parts of Europe and all the way to America, where he performed in Los Angeles and Nashville.

His music is a pleasing, laid back style of indie pop with strong folk undercurrents and intelligent, straightforward lyrics touching on life, love and relationships. His songs are also quite economical, both instrumentally and length-wise. Generally, the only sounds we hear are his acoustic guitar and gentle, understated vocals, though some tracks may also feature subtle piano, strings and/or percussion. Most of Ivor’s songs are under three minutes in length, with a fair number clocking in at under two minutes, but whatever their length, each song sounds complete and as long or short as it needs to be to get his message across. As the old adage goes, sometimes less is more.

Beginning with his debut album Hit the Big Time in 1996, the prolific musician has released a total of 12 albums at the rate of one every two years, his most recent work being Be Good to Yourself in 2018, as well as numerous singles along the way. Several of his songs have garnered airplay on radio stations across the UK and around the world. A highlight for Ivor was having his song “Highbury” played at half time during the Arsenal vs. Tottenham North London Derby at The Emirates Stadium on November 18, 2017.

One could spend many hours listening to Ivor’s extensive discography. I’ve listened to quite a bit of it to prepare for this article, and there are so many wonderful songs to choose from. But I’ve selected a few I especially like that I feel give a good representation of his sound. One of his most recent singles, from May 2020, is “I’m Not Sure”, a poignant folk song about not yet having come to terms with a restless romantic partner you fear may leave you for good: “It’s easy to hang on to the past, and try to make the whole thing last. But things are always moving on. One day I might wake up with you really gone. I’m remembering the time that you walked out my door. But you’re still in my sights, how long for I’m not sure.”

The song received airplay on Readifolk, Deal Radio, Hayes FM and Marlow FM in England, Acoustic Routes in Wales and the RTE in Ireland, as well as in Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand and New York, USA.

“It Ain’t You and Me” is a track that originally appeared on his 2010 album Then. The song was recently played on Tom Robinson’s show on BBC6 Music, and the response was so positive that Robinson asked Ivor if the song could be made more easily accessible for people to listen to or download. Accordingly, Ivor made it available as a stand alone track on both Bandcamp and YouTube.

A particularly lovely song is his 2017 single “Water and Wine”, which is both longer (3.47 minutes) and features ethereal keyboard synths and gentle percussive textures, creating an enchanting backdrop for his soothing vocals.

His most recent single, released in May, is “You Lovely You”, a comforting song about those special friendships in our lives that endure despite distances apart or the passage of time: “I only see you once in a blue moon. But it feels like yesterday that I was here with you. Oh, oh, oh, you lovely you. We seem to pick up where we left off. But we’ll always be the ones that time forgot. Everyone gets old, but we do not.” The song has a breezy, vintage feel like it could have been written in the 1920s.

While I’m a huge fan of alternative rock, dream pop, R&B and dance music, it’s also nice to indulge in a little easy-listening folk pop once in a while to relax and gather my thoughts. Ivor Games’ soothing tunes fit the bill nicely, and I hope my readers will enjoy them as much as I do.

Connect with Ivor: FacebookTwitter

Stream his music: SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

Purchase on Bandcamp

Top 30 Songs for August 29-September 4, 2021

  1. DEVIL – Two Feet (1) 4th week at #1
  2. STARGAZING – The Neighbourhood (2)
  3. LIKE I USED TO – Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen (3)
  4. MISSING PIECE – Vance Joy (8)
  5. SATURDAY – twenty øne piløts (9)
  6. MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X (4)
  7. SOLAR POWER – Lorde (6)
  8. CAN WE GO BACK – The Frontier (5)
  9. WE ARE BETWEEN – Modest Mouse (7)
  10. STOP MAKING THIS HURT – Bleachers (11)
  11. TRANSPARENT SOUL – WILLOW featuring Travis Barker (12)
  12. LAST TRAIN HOME – John Mayer (17)
  13. EVERY WINDOW IS A MIRROR – Joywave (15)
  14. ENNUI – Dawning (16)
  15. WELCOME TO THE PARTY – Jack Droppers & the Best Intentions (10)
  16. BE A WOMAN – DeLaurentis (18)
  17. STICKY – The Maine (14)
  18. BAD DREAM – Cannons (20)
  19. WHAT YOU SAY – Cold War Kids (21)
  20. TAKE THE L – Roadkeeper (22)
  21. WRECKED – Imagine Dragons (23)
  22. THE ANGEL OF 8TH AVE. – Gang of Youths (24)
  23. MINE FOREVER – Lord Huron (25)
  24. MARTYR – Oli Barton & the Movement (13)
  25. I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE – Måneskin (26)
  26. TAKE MY MONEY – Ships Have Sailed (27)
  27. MAKING A FIRE – Foo Fighters (29)
  28. CAN YOU HANDLE MY LOVE?? – WALK THE MOON (30)
  29. NOTHING2 – Strange Souvenirs (19)
  30. DISTORTED LIGHT BEAM – Bastille (N)