COLD WEATHER COMPANY – Single Review: “Way Up”

Cold Weather Company

I recently learned about Cold Weather Company when they followed me on Twitter and shared their latest single “Way Up“, and I was instantly enchanted with their music. Since then, I’ve been binge listening to their substantial back catalog (they’ve released three albums over the past four years). Based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the alternative folk band formed in 2013, and consists of Brian Curry, Steve Shimchick and Jeff Petescia. All share songwriting and singing duties, with Curry and Petescia playing guitar and Shimchick on piano.

Influenced by the music of such bands as Mumford and Sons, Fleet Foxes, Dave Matthews, Chad Stokes, Tallest Man on Earth, Coldplay, Keane and The Decemberists, their richly melodic sound is both guitar and piano-driven, with all three of them singing in perfect harmony. They released their lovely debut album Somewhere New in 2015, which had a pure, acoustic sensibility that allowed the guitars and piano to really shine. A year later, they dropped A Folded Letter, another album containing 13 tracks that delivered more of their sublime acoustic guitar/piano compositions. All of the songs are beautiful, but two of the highlights are “Wide-Eyed” and “Gettysburg”. They followed up in 2017 with an all-instrumental version of A Folded Letter, then early this year they released their gorgeous third album Find Light, an ambitious work featuring 16 tracks in which they expanded upon their sound with the addition of more orchestral instrumentation. That album received widespread and very well-deserved acclaim.

In August, they released their latest single “Way Up”, and it’s a real stunner of a tune. The song opens with the tinkling of piano keys, then expands into a breathtaking soundscape of strummed guitars, gentle bass and some of the most enthralling piano I’ve heard recently. I’m not sure which band member is singing the lead vocals, but they’re positively captivating. And as always, the guys’ vocal harmonies are exquisite. I love this song.

The band states that “Way Up” “is about finding a new perspective, and seeking hope when things are looking bleak. We could all use a little bit of that sometime.” We sure can!

Soon I’ll find my peace with time and break this (Break this hold, break this hold, from sea)
Cause I’m not foolish, I was made to shake this
No more breathless fights adrift in missteps
Oh, I’ll rise
All I ever needed is the current to survive

I found my way up, I saw the ocean meeting the sky
I found my way up, I saw the ocean meeting the sky

No more restless nights of drifting listless in my mind
Cause all I ever needed is the current to survive
I found my way up

Follow Cold Weather Company:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

JAMIE ALIMORAD – Album Review: “This is Tomorrow Calling”

Jamie Alimorad

Singer-songwriter Jamie Alimorad has had music in his blood practically all his life. As a teen, he played in a garage band, for which he wrote all the songs, and in high school, he was literally the face of the music department. By the time he was attending college at Northeastern University in Boston, he released his first EP Cornerstone (in 2010), then followed up two years later with his critically-acclaimed full-length album Words Left Unsaid, winning several music and songwriting awards. His very first video, for the song “Beautiful” from that album, has been viewed over 2 million times! Writing and recording songs had always seemed to come easy to him. Then, suddenly, it wasn’t so easy anymore.

Starting in early 2015, and continuing over the next few years, he wrote and recorded dozens of songs for a new album, but none of them satisfied him. He grew frustrated and filled with crippling self-doubt, wondering if he’d ever be successful again. So, he took a couple of classes with famed singer-songwriter, musician and producer Gino Vannelli, who offers small Art of  Song & Voice Master Class sessions at his music studio in Troutdale, Oregon. Jamie took one of his songs “A Moment Is All I Ask” to the second class, and after working on the song together, he and Vannelli realized they’d make a great team collaborating on an original project. That project ultimately became Jamie’s second album This is Tomorrow Calling, which was released on September 27th.

Working with Vannelli was an artistic rollercoaster ride for Jamie, filled with unique challenges and opportunities. He recalls “No one had ever told me in music, ‘It’s not good enough.’ No one had ever said, ‘You could be better.’ Gino put me on an island. No map, no shelter, no supplies. Make the island paradise, find a way out, or die. Those were the options, and it was up to me to create my tomorrow. Eventually Gino and I recorded eight songs together. Upon moving to Los Angeles, I did two more cuts with [Gino’s brother] Ross Vannelli. These two legends took me under their wings and opened my eyes to who I am. I’m eternally grateful for everything they’ve done for me.”

For the album, Jamie sang lead and backing vocals, and played keyboards, acoustic guitar and programming. Gino Vannelli played additional keyboard, organ, acoustic guitar, synth bass, drums, percussion and programming. Ross Vannelli sang backing vocals and also played keyboard, electric guitar, synth bass, drums, percussion and programming. Additional keyboards and programming were provided by George Whitty and Greg Goebel, electric guitar by Dalton Cyr, and backing vocals by Julie LaMeng and Moorea Masa. The album was produced by Gino Vannelli, though two of the tracks were produced by Ross.

Jamie’s pleasing sound could probably best be classified as adult contemporary pop-rock, although his music includes elements of folk, Americana, country and jazz. His thoughtful, relatable lyrics are set to catchy melodies and brought to life through superb instrumentation and rich sound textures. Listening to This is Tomorrow Calling, I’m struck by how good it sounds – the beautiful arrangements, lush soundscapes and, most notably, Jamie’s marvelous vocals. Every track is superb, showcasing his skillful songwriting, musicianship and impressive vocal range, but I’ll highlight my personal favorites.

The album opener “Brighter Days” is a terrific, upbeat song about not letting your problems overwhelm you, and staying positive in the hope that things will get better. A phrase in one of the lyrics is the album’s title, and really encapsulates its overall theme of love and resilience. “When living’s hard and you think you’re better off dead. This is tomorrow calling, there are brighter days ahead.” The genre-bending song has an infectious dance beat, with a bit of a country-rock vibe thanks to twangy guitars and some great vocal harmonies, and hits us in all the right feels. In conjunction with its release this past August, Jamie partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to raise funds for their cause. Proceeds from sales of a “Brighter Days” t-shirt at https://www.teepublic.com/user/jamiealimorad will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

On “Not Just Another Pretty Face“, Jamie sings of the many virtues of the object of his affection in addition to her good looks. “You’re more than a heavenly sight. Not just a Renoir on the wall, or a statue in a marble hall. You’re not just another pretty face. That’s what I love most of all.” The jazzy piano, organ runs and lively percussion, along with his smooth vocals and occasional scatting, make for an incredibly delectable song in the style of Michael Bublé.

Down on Golden Shores” is a lovely but bittersweet song about loss, with some especially poignant lyrics like these:  “Poor Louie was one of the best-looking dudes you ever did see. Kandahar sure did a number on his perfect body. /My Alex was so full of life. I thought someday to make her my wife. But the world is full of best-laid plans, made by sea and golden sands.” The piano, gentle guitar, harmonica and strings are all sublime, as are Jamie’s heartfelt vocals.

The radio-friendly “Not Ready to Say Goodbye” was the lead single from the album, and with its haunting melody, beautiful guitar work and infectious Latin rhythms, is definitely one of the standout tracks. Jamie passionately implores to the woman he’s fallen for to not end their budding relationship: “I fell head over heels, I jumped when you said jump. Too fast, too deep, just call me a chump. Not ready to say goodbye. Not ready to take the fall. Not ready to say goodbye. I’m in it for the long haul.”

A track that jumped right out at me on my first listen of the album was “Lucky Me“, a delightful kiss-off song that Jamie wrote as needed therapy after a bad breakup. The amusing lyrics describe how he quickly fell for her, only to discover that she was toxic: “They popped right out of my head when I laid my eyes on her, not knowing what kind of claptrap lay in my future. Lucky me! She came and went in a New York minute. Lucky me! It’s a beautiful world and I’m right back in it. The two best days of my life: One was finding her. Ooh the second one was losing her. Lucky me.” With its jazzy organ, guitar and percussive grooves, the song has a cool, late 70s Steely Dan vibe, and is one of my favorites on the album. And need I mention yet again how good Jamie’s vocals are?

How Could I Love Again” is a poignant song about having such a deep, intense love for someone that you don’t believe you are capable of ever loving another. The beautiful, piano-driven melody provides a moving backdrop for Jamie’s heartfelt vocals as he laments “Once I loved one woman such, that I thought to die without her touch. Because I loved her far too much, how could I love again?

On the album closer “Nights In the Back Bay“, Jamie seems to recall his experiences while attending college in Boston, and wanting to recapture the passion and creativity he had for making music back then. “I remember when the road had no end. My faith has been shaken, my heart keeps aching to return to those nights in the Back Bay. I’ve gotta get born all over again.” Musically, the song has a hauntingly beautiful melody that sounds brooding at times, yet uplifting and hopeful at others. The laid-back twangy guitars give the track an Americana feel, and the tinkling piano keys, synths, bass and crisp percussion are all wonderful.

This is Tomorrow Calling is a gorgeous work, with some of the finest production values of any album I’ve heard in a long while. Jamie and the Vannelli brothers should be very proud of their creation, as it’s impressive on every level. While its laid-back, easy-listening style probably won’t appeal to everyone, anyone who enjoys quality music, great lyrics and beautiful male vocals will enjoy this album.

Jamie will be opening for Gino Vannelli on Saturday, October 12 at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, CA.

To learn more about Jamie, visit his Website
Connect with him on:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon /  Google Play

DVR – Album Review: “All Good Things”

DVR All Good Things - Copy

DVR is a studio music project by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Olav Christensen. Originally from Denmark, Christensen is now based in Brooklyn, NY, and writes, records, produces and masters all his music. He’s been recording music for a number of years, sometimes as a solo act, but often collaborating with other musicians as well. His songs are very eclectic (I like that!), ranging from electronica to alternative rock to pop, and everything in between. He began releasing singles in 2015, and dropped his first full-length album California in 2016, then followed up with an EP Down in July 2018, which I reviewed, then an experimental all-instrumental album Instantiate in June 2019. Now he returns with an ambitious concept album All Good Things, in which he explores the state of the world today and imagines the possibility of a terrible outcome.  

Christensen explains: “All Good Things” is an imagined snapshot of the moment – of our collective realization – of the end of everything. We all knew it was coming at some point in the future but surely not in our lifetime or our children’s, right? It starts with our leaders failing to lead. Too busy enriching themselves, they march us all steadily towards our own inevitable annihilation. There is a moment of clarity, tangible around the world. It is a moment of precious truth when a single looming event on the horizon, threatens to end all of us. Now, when it is undeniable; we each react in our own way. Do we reflect on our lives? Do we find comfort in each other? Do we just have a party and go out dancing?”

The album opens with the instrumental “Prelude – The March Towards Inevitability“, a quirky, experimental-sounding track that sets a somewhat unsettling mood. While at times feeling discordant and chaotic, the song still has a melodic, almost contemporary classical structure that makes for an intriguing listen that’s actually rather soothing. This discordant, experimental vibe continues with the title track “All Good Things“, as DVR employs a rich mix of spacey, psychedelic synths and sounds, accompanied by a driving percussive beat and additional guitar by Bjørn Ginman. With a gentle soaring chorale sung by Rorie Kelly, Nico Z. Padden and Pauline Salotti as a backdrop, he sings: “So this is how things come to pass. All that remains is dust and gas. And all good things come to an end. Whatever you believe in, whatever you pretend. For what it’s worth, we had a good run right down to the end.”

Special Friends, Arrow of Time, Entropy” is an unusual track, actually three different songs strung together, and running ten and a half minutes long. It feels almost like a classical piece with three distinct but related movements. The first part, “Special Friends”, features more of those quirky, psychedelic synths, accompanied by Christensen’s daughter Hadley Rose’s baby-like electronically-altered vocals, which are mostly unintelligible. They’re kind of endearing, yet have an almost menacing feel when combined with the music. At around 3:30, the track changes to “Arrow of Time” with a transition to smoother, ethereal synths that give the track a dreamy, atmospheric vibe. Some lovely delicate guitar work is provided by David Rolo. At 6:50, the track abruptly shifts to “Entropy” with the entrance of a voice over by Alan Watts: “Memory, is a dynamic system. It’s a repetition of rhythms. Reality escapes all concepts. You, are just as much the dark space beyond death as you are the light interval called life.” From there the song takes a jazzy turn with some cool guitar work by Andy Pitcher and double bass by Dean Johnson. Later, Watts offers up a matter-of-fact conclusion: “Let go of the breath. You can’t hang on to yourself. This isn’t terrible. But it’s just going to be the end of you as a system of memories.”

Come Inside” has a Peter Gabriel vibe, both in terms of the song’s structure and melody and DVR’s plaintive vocals. His intricate jangly guitar work is terrific, and so is the smooth bass by guest musician Bobby McCullough. Additional female vocals by Rosie Bans provide a nice contrast to DVR’s.  One of the lovelier tracks is “Quiet Breakdown“, thanks to swirling synths, sublime guitar work and the enchanting sape, a traditional lute originating from Central Borneo played by guest musician Rayhan Sudrajat, who also played bass. DVR sings “I’ll come at you lightly, I’ll meet you halfway. I’m headed for a quiet breakdown. I think it won’t be long.”

We’ve now arrived at “Here We Are“, where we’ve made the decision to go out in style and just party.  My favorite track, it’s an upbeat dance pop song that contrasts with the rather morbid lyrics about going all-out to celebrate the end of humanity. “Here we are, at the apex of humanity. Standing tall before the fall. Falling over each other to witness the final act. The hottest show in town tonight. Everyone dresses sharp for the end of all mankind. It’s going to be out of sight.” Guest vocalist Courtney Hans sounds like a young Madonna, which is partly why I like this song so much. Additional guitar is by Justin Chamberlin, and Bobby McCullough returns on bass.

All Good Things – Reprise” is a different take on the title track. The song opens with the sound of a phone busy signal, then a mix of glittery and Polynesian synths enter, along with a voice over of Noam Chomsky talking about the existential threat of global warming and how the current U.S. administration has chosen to not only disregard that threat, but actually accelerate the problem. Once his voice over ends, we hear the lyrics now sung by guest vocalist Aradia. The music gradually swells into a rock feel, with a terrific guitar solo by TJ Dumser, and bass played by Michael Friis. The track finishes with the ominous beeps of the Early Warning System.

This is the Day” closes the album on a predictably dark note, but with a smooth, soft-rock groove that keeps things from being too maudlin. Guest musician Bjørn Ginman is back, laying down a hypnotic and haunting guitar solo that’s so good. DVR croons with a sad air of resignation “This is the end of the night. Your immaculate decay. And if you’ve ever wondered what that was like, what that would feel like, hey, this is the day. This is the end of the road. You’ve come a long way haven’t you?

All Good Things is a brilliant concept album that artfully shines a light on the precarious geopolitical situation we now face, while presenting it in an entertaining and enjoyable manner though compelling lyrics and intriguing soundscapes. I love that Christensen collaborated with such a wide range of musicians and vocalists to give his music an incredible variety of styles, textures and sounds.

Connect with DVR:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream on Spotify
Purchase on Bandcamp

Top 30 Songs for September 29-October 5, 2019

1. UNDER THE COLD LIGHT OF THE MOON – Crystal Cities (1)
2. 3 NIGHTS – Dominic Fike (4)
3. GO – The Black Keys (5)
4. SOCIAL CUES – Cage the Elephant (6)
5. THE HYPE – twenty one pilots (8)
6. CRINGE – Matt Maeson (7)
7. COMING UP FOR AIR – Mars Motel (2)
8. RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE DEVIL – Revolvers (3)
9. DOIN’ TIME – Lana Del Rey (10)
10. FOUR WINDS – Unquiet Nights (11)
11. RAGGED TOWN – Secret Player Score (12)
12. HEAT OF THE SUMMER – Young the Giant (14)
13. GOOD THINGS FALL APART – ILLENIUM with Jon Bellion (15)
14. GOODBYES – Post Malone featuring Young Thug (16)
15. THIS LIFE – Vampire Weekend (13)
16. FALLING WITH STYLE – Heist At Five (9)
17. THE MIDDLE – Agency Panic (18)
18. SECRETS – The Million Reasons (19)
19. DISSOLVE – Absofacto (21)
20. UNDER THESE SCARS – Falling Into Red featuring Dev (23)
21. WANNACRY – Darksoft (22)
22. WHEN AM I GONNA LOSE YOU – Local Natives (17)
23. SOMEONE YOU LOVED – Lewis Capaldi (27)
24. WHY DID YOU RUN? – Judah & the Lion (20)
25. DESERVING OF LOVE – Lyia Meta (26)
26. FIGHTER – Joseph (28)
27. UNDERGROUND – MISSIO (29)
28. DRIFTING AWAY – Stereohaze (30)
29. ALLIGATOR – Of Monsters and Men (25) 19th week on list
30. BAD GUY – Billie Eilish (24) 19th week on list

TREMENDOUS – Single Review: “Copycat Killer”

Tremendous

This review was written by guest reviewer David Thurling, a lover of music from Britain who has graciously offered to help with my crushing workload. I previously featured TREMENDOUS on this blog this past March, when I reviewed their single “Open for Closing”.

On their previous single “Open for Closing”, Birmingham-based British three piece TREMENDOUS tantalized us with a wonderful song that revealed their obvious Glam Rock and Rock influences. EclecticMusicLover previously pointed to such names as T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, Slade and Aerosmith as providing a lot of the DNA for the band’s overall sound. While “Open for Closing” hinted at these influences, the band’s new single, “Copycat Killer” grabs you by the throat and throws you around the room with them.

TREMENDOUS features Mark Dudzinski (Guitar/Vocals), Ryan Jee (Bass) and David Lee (Drums), and on listening to the new single “Copycat Killer”, the guys defy their economy of members by producing a powerhouse performance. The song opens with the main refrain from the chorus, shifting up through the gears of ascending power chords before settling into the verse and vocals. Mark opens with the ominous line: “I go outta of my head, I go outta of my mind. Now she’s in for the kill and claws out for mine“, pre-empting a classic case of pending relationship doom, all with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Whereas “Open for Closing” featured a sometimes measured, almost sensitive performance in parts, especially with Mark’s exquisite vocal range, there can be no denying that this latest entry to their catalogue is a pure case of raucous “balls’n’all”. The bass and drum rhythms of Ryan and David respectively drive the song along with euphoric and uplifting intensity. The pre-chorus section suddenly reverts to a calming guitar vamp and is enjoyably reminiscent of classic new wave and to some degree guitar driven Brit Pop. We are somewhat reminded of Graham Parker from the 70’s and 80’s to Britpop icons such as Suede and Pulp. This is beautifully structured song writing as the calm is short lived before the guys launch into an undeniably frenetic and entirely catchy chorus:

She’s a Copycat Killer, Copycat Killer
Headlines cry over this milk spiller
She’s a Copycat Killer, Copycat Killer
With nine lives she’s the new shock thriller

The swagger and confidence of this band is infectious. They have all the down and dirty of Jagger and Richards at their best, the showmanship and vocal power of Steve Tyler and a sense of fun not often seen amongst young and emerging bands. “Copycat Killer” may not be the best song TREMENDOUS have delivered but it emphatically announces the band’s determination to reach the top. With TREMENDOUS, hard-hitting guitar music is in very safe hands.

“Copycat Killer” will be officially released November 22 on all streaming platforms, and is the 4th single from their forthcoming debut album Relentless, due for release early in 2020.

Connect with Tremendous on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

New Song of the Week – KAROLINA ROSE: “Greytopia”

Karolina Rose Greytopia

This past February (2019) I featured New York-based singer-songwriter Karolina Rose on this blog, when I reviewed her gorgeous debut EP INVICTA. Born and raised in Philadelphia to Polish parents, Karolina graduated from the prestigious Wharton Business School and had a successful career on Wall Street, which she ultimately left to pursue her dream of making it as a full-time musician. During the past six months, she’s been a very busy woman, playing numerous shows to promote her EP, recording new music, and spending the month of August in Europe, where she attended the Midem music conference in Cannes and performed on TV in her ancestral country of Poland.

Today, she drops a brand new single “Greytopia“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. It’s a beautiful, intoxicating track about an idyllic place Karolina has imagined. She explains “It’s a little planet I created where we only support each other and follow our highest path without judgement, swirling emotions included.” The emotions aren’t the only things swirling, as the sweeping glittery synths, throbbing guitar and lively percussive beats dance around Karolina’s sultry vocals. She really has a stunning voice, so silky and vibrant, with the ability to seduce us one moment, then nearly bring us to tears the next with her earnest vulnerability.

The song was written and performed by Karolina, with Simon Kafka on guitar. It was flawlessly produced by Elliot Jacobson, and mixed and mastered by Mike Tuccillo. Together, they’ve all created a stellar track that’s sure to be another hit for this lovely artist.

I came to visit this new land
A fairytale in every way
The internet here only has positive news
Fan girls & boys are lounging, exposing their tattoos

Marble message on the wall
We wash our hair with crushed flowers

‘Cause it’s a greytopia
Sometimes I’m gloomy, sometimes I’m happy
And everything in between
In between you and me
In this greytopia
In this greytopia

Creator made us each this way
Named us the originals, molded us from clay
To do our highest work, masters of our fate
Haters from Earth are waiters
It’s always sunny, the post is run by bunnies

Marble message on the wall
We wash our hair with crushed flowers

‘Cause it’s a greytopia
Sometimes I’m gloomy, sometimes I’m happy
And everything in between
In between you and me
In this greytopia
In this greytopia

Black spades, red hearts,
Black spades, red hearts,
Diamonds, diamonds, diamonds,

‘Cause it’s a greytopia
Sometimes I’m gloomy, sometimes I’m happy
And everything in between
In between you and me
In this greytopia
In this greytopia

Connect with her on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon / Big Cartel

GLASS VIOLET – Single Review: “Chemicals”

Glass Violet Chemicals

Glass Violet is a fairly new band from Bristol, England that I’ve recently come across, and I really like their sound. Formed in 2018 by guitarist/lead vocalist Tom Hurdiss and guitarist/vocalist Alex John, and influenced by acts like Kasabian, The Killers, Foals and Catfish and the Bottlemen (all bands I love), the two began writing songs together. They soon added Josh Walsh (bass), Matt West (drums) and Declan Pollard (synths, keys) to complete the band lineup.

They released a hard-rocking banger of a demo track “North Sentinel Island” this past March (2019), and followed up with their official debut single “Chemicals” on August 16th. The song’s an upbeat anthemic tune, with exuberant layers of jangly and swirling guitars, accompanied by a deep, buzzing bass line, aggressive percussion and melodic keyboards. Tom’s clear, earnest vocals have just the right amount of fervor, and I love how his charming British accent shines through. It’s a terrific song.

About the song’s lyrics, Alex told me “We basically wanted to just write a song that sort of soundtracks a night out. The lyrics aren’t anything special and they don’t mean much. But it’s catchy and it works. Our lyrics normally have more meaning and are quite conceptual, so we’re looking forward to getting that across in the future releases.”

Connect with Glass Violet:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / deezer / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Google Play

PAUL RENNA – Single Review: “All My Life”

Paul Renna

This lovely piece is by guest reviewer David Thurling, whose son James Thurling was until recently frontman of the British alt-rock band Revolvers, and now a member of Bitter Lime. I previously featured Paul Renna this past February, when I reviewed his beautiful single “Bound to Love”.

Paul Renna has long established himself as a genuinely talented singer/songwriter with his roots firmly embedded in the Lone Star state.  While not venturing too far into either the heavier blues sound often associated with Texas rock nor the well-worn path of Country blues or Americana folk, his music seems to straddle all three with a joyous charm.  He has the unique ability to explore often poignant and melancholic themes with a gentle and genuine sincerity so wonderfully captured by his deft vocal talent. There is an edge to his voice that when coupled with often painful lyrics brings out a truly emotional response,  In his new single, “All My Life”, Paul continues with themes of love and reconciliation albeit in an entirely up tempo, toe tapping rocker that is overflowing with hope, passion and the promise of a wonderful life to come.  This is a song that is undeniably commercial with first-class production qualities and catchy, jangly guitar hooks.

“All My Life” kicks off with a “Springsteenesque” count in and in some ways, delivers its humble narrative in a manner that would no doubt sit comfortably with The Boss.  Country influenced guitar licks weave in and out of a driving drum and bass pattern – not too heavy, not too light.

Lyrically Paul is not treading any new ground here but as is often the case, when it’s personal, the simple yet heartfelt pleas of forgiveness take on a universal appeal.  Apart from anything, it’s a damn catchy melody that demands to be sung along with while breezing along the highway with the top down.

Lay me down, and get my feet off the ground
I’ve been running for so long, running for so long.
Watch over me, make a wish and try to believe
You’ve been helping me this far, helping me this far

All my life, it’s been you
Please give a little bit of your heart,
Give it to me, give it to me
Please can’t we go back to the start
I’m on my knees, I’m on my knees for you

With several forthcoming shows in and around Dallas, it would be well worth the effort to spend a night with a genuine troubadour who’s infectious songwriting will certainly beguile you.  In “All My Life”, Paul has knocked out a fantastic dance floor filler.

Connect with Paul on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes

 

XENNON – Album Review: “MIAMI COP”

Xennon Miami Cop

XENNON is a synthwave artist/producer and music teacher who’s originally from the U.K., but now based in Tokyo, Japan, and he’s just released his debut album MIAMI COP. A busy man, he’s also curator of the Synthwave Sounds playlist on Spotify. Inspired by the 80s hit TV show Miami Vice, and the synth-driven pop-rock that was also popular in the 80s, MIAMI COP is a concept album that tells the story of an alternative Miami circa 1987. In this story, the city is a dystopian world in which technology has advanced far beyond our own world’s, and crime has spiraled out of control. Against this backdrop of illegal firearms and drug trafficking stands a troubled police officer named Jack Lancer, the MIAMI COP who aims to do battle with the bad guys.

The album was written, performed, produced and mixed by XENNON, and mastered by acclaimed music engineer Pete Maher, whose clients have included such noted acts as U2, The Killers, The White Stripes, The Pixies, The Rolling Stones, Nine Inch Nails, the 1975, Katy Perry, Depeche Mode, Liam Gallagher, Linkin Park and many more. Additional guest vocals and voice-over work on some tracks were provided by Allie, Bill Fore and Benny Rose. XENNON has dedicated his album to the memory of Jeanette Portues.

MIAMI COP opens with “Miami Beach Chase“, a fast-paced song that sets the stage for the battle to come, as Jack goes on a high-speed pursuit of a criminal on the streets of Miami. The exuberant track immediately reminds me of Patti Labelle’s 1985 dance-pop hit “New Attitude”, which was also featured on the Beverly Hills Cop Soundtrack. XENNON turns introspective on the poignant “Flashback to Holly“, where Jack reflects on better times with his now ex-wife Holly, who left him because of his drinking and aggressive behavior, and how he wishes he’d treated her better: “But I can’t say the words that are deep in my regret. Like, ‘did I let you down?’ I couldn’t see you smiling back at me at first, but I can now./Let go, moving slow, because time is the only thing that makes it better.” The vibrant, shimmery synths and pulsating percussive beats enhance the powerful emotions expressed by XENNON’s clear, plaintive vocals.

Ominous grinding synths beautifully capture the evil essence of notorious arms dealer Baron Cleeth on “A New Enemy“. Jack comes to terms with what he must do to redeem himself and save Miami: “Saved in me, is the least that I can do to erase what I regret. Now, take me from me./Hating what I’ve done. Know then what I’ll do. Hating what I’ve become. But I know then what I’ll do.” Bill Fore provides Cleeth’s menacing voice-over. “The Visit” sees Jack going to visit Holly in an attempt to win her back, but she’s having none of it. The track has a bouncy, upbeat tempo and sweeping glittery synths that belie the bittersweet lyrics. Guest vocalist Allie sings Holly’s parts as she gives Jack the brush-off: “Shifting blame is what you do best. But I’m tired, yeah I’m tired. And I’m tired of trying.”

The Broken Man” is a near-epic, mostly instrumental track running seven and a half minutes. The music starts off with magical-sounding synth chords, accompanied by a deep, fluttering jazzy bass riff. The music then expands with psychedelic synths and an ominous throbbing percussive beat. Later in the song, guest vocalist Benny Rose performs the spoken voice-over for Jack’s boss Captain Carson, who admonishes him for being stupid and foolish to embark on a dangerous raid, and to use his pain and suffering as the fuel to re-ignite the fire inside him and become the valiant man he used to be.

Heeding his captain’s advice, Jack cleans up his act and pulls himself together on “The Montage“. XENNON employs more of those 80s dance-pop grooves with a bouncy deep percussive beat and lots of shimmery synths, giving the track a sunny, upbeat vibe that complements the hopeful lyrics: “Finally the fog is lifting and I can see everything once again. Achingly, I stand assisting the reason I’m here taking over me.”

With his attitude improved and confidence back, as he prepares to do battle with Cleeth, Jack decides to try again with Holly, sending her “The Letter“. Musically, the song has a strong 80s synth-pop sound, with a chorus that reminds me a bit of the chorus in Starship’s 1986 hit “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”. XENNON’s vocals are especially wonderful here, soaring to a near-falsetto in places as he croons “I’m alive, I’m seeing sights with my soulmate standing by my side. Can’t believe my eyes, where everything I ever wanted is mine. This part of my heart, is forever growing. I hope I show it every day. All the years that we spent, I want more of them. Cause I couldn’t be happier another way.

Everything comes to a head on “The Raid” an exhilarating eight-minute-long tour de force. The track starts off with a cool special FX arrangement by Benny Rose, where we hear crystalline sounds of breaking glass, voices from a crowd of people and a circling police helicopter, all accompanied by deep, throbbing bass. Both Fore and Rose are back, providing voice-overs for Cleeth and Captain Carson, respectively. XENNON delivers a complex kaleidoscope of swirling, psychedelic, and industrial synths to create aural imagery of the epic battle between the Miami police and Cleeth’s gang of thugs. It’s a dramatic finish to a clever and imaginative concept work.

I’m not entirely sure we needed more 80s-inspired synthpop, but XENNON brings a fresh and creative approach to the genre with his ambitious and impressive debut effort. He’s done a very fine job composing exciting music and writing thoughtful lyrics, then using synthesizers to create the distinct moods and sounds that bring his classic tale of good vs. evil to life.

To learn more about the storyline for MIAMI COP, as well the character bios and images, go to XENNON’s Website.  You’ll find everything you need to know about the MIAMI COP universe, allowing you to more fully enjoy the overall experience. All artwork for the album and website was done by Travis Wright.

Connect with XENNON:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

EML’s Favorite Songs – PATSY CLINE: “Crazy”

I’ve really been enjoying the Ken Burns series Country Music that’s been airing on PBS the past few weeks, and it’s reminded me of several classic country songs that I love. So, over the next week or two, I’ll be writing about a few of my personal favorites, the first of which is “Crazy” by Patsy Cline. The beautiful but heartbreaking song was Cline’s highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #9 and reaching #2 on the Country Chart, and has endured as one of the most popular and beloved songs of all time in the 58 years since its release. It was stated in the Country Music series that it’s the most-played jukebox track of all time.

Patsy_Cline-1962_EP

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in 1932, Cline is considered one of the most important and influential female vocalists of the 20th Century, and one of the first country music artists to successfully crossover onto the pop charts. With her deep, resonant singing voice and ability to convey strong feelings of emotional pain and longing, she could bring even the biggest cynic to their knees. The Washington Star magazine beautifully described the essence of her vocal style: “She creates the moods through movement of her hands and body and by the lilt of her voice, reaching way down deep in her soul to bring forth the melody. Most female country music vocalists stand motionless, singing with a monotonous high-pitched nasal twang. Patsy’s come up with a throaty style loaded with motion and E-motion.

After a slow start, with a series of singles she recorded for Four Star Records failing to become hits, Cline finally had her first break-out hit “Walkin’ After Midnight” on the Decca Records label in 1957. Then, surprisingly, she didn’t have another chart hit until 1961’s “I Fall to Pieces”. In June of that year, she and her brother were in a near-fatal head-on car crash in which she was thrown through the windshield, suffering a severe cut to her forehead that narrowly missed her eyes and left her with a huge scar. After recovering well enough from the accident, though still in pain, she recorded “Crazy”. And oh man, that pain seems to emanate from her very core when she delivers those poignant lyrics with such conviction that we believe every word.

Like with many classic songs, “Crazy” has an interesting back story.  Cline’s husband Charlie Dick actually first heard the song one night on a jukebox while waiting for her in a bar. It was a recording by Paul Buskirk and His Little Men, featuring Hugh Nelson – now known as Willie Nelson – who wrote the song. Dick thought it would be a perfect song for her, and approached Nelson about them recording his song, to which he agreed. He then pitched it to Cline, who didn’t like it, and didn’t want to record it. She considered herself a country singer, and didn’t particularly like the vulnerable heartbroken sound of songs like “Crazy.” But her record producer Owen Bradley believed those songs were exactly right for her, and ultimately convinced her to record it.

Bradley wanted to produce a new and more sophisticated form of country music by adding more instrumentation and background vocals to create a fuller, richer sound. He brought in The Jordanaires, who also sang backup on a lot of Elvis Presley’s songs, and hired young piano player Floyd Cramer, as well as bass guitarist Bob Moore. Cline listened to Buskirk & Nelson’s version of “Crazy” and decided she would perform it differently, removing a spoken section that was featured on the original recording.  When the song was set to be recorded on August 17, 1961, Cline first performed some other material, and by the time they got to “Crazy”, she was tired and had difficulty singing the song’s higher notes due to residual rib pain from the car accident. Bradley sent her home to rest while the musicians laid down the instrumentals without her. A week later she returned and recorded her vocal in a single take. As we can all attest, it was perfect, and the rest is history.

Her untimely death less than two years later was a terrible loss, and we can only imagine how many more wonderful songs she could have given the world.

Crazy
I’m crazy for feeling so lonely
I’m crazy
Crazy for feeling so blue

I knew
You’d love me as long as you wanted
And then some day
You’d leave me for somebody new

Worry
Why do I let myself worry?
Wondering
What in the world did I do?

Oh, crazy
For thinking that my love could hold you
I’m crazy for trying
And crazy for crying
And I’m crazy for loving you

Crazy
For thinking that my love could hold you
I’m crazy for trying
And crazy for crying
And I’m crazy for loving you