9fm – Single Review: “First Blush”

9fm - Jarrod Pedone

9fm (short for Ninth Floor Mannequin) is the solo music project of New Jersey-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jarrod Pedone. Drawing influences from some of his favorite artists like Paul Simon, Fleet Foxes and James Blake, Pedone melds folk and alternative rock, injecting bits of synth pop here and there to create fascinating and pleasing songs. He’s also a big fan of the classic TV show The Twilight Zone, as well as the more recent Twilight Zone-influenced British sci-fi anthology series Black Mirror, and many of his song lyrics are based on particular episodes of those shows.

In September 2018, I reviewed 9fm’s marvelous EP Little House, and am now happy to feature his latest single “First Blush” which dropped April 27th. The song is based on Season 3, Episode 4 of Black Mirror, entitled “San Junipero”. San Junipero is a simulated beach resort town where the deceased can live and the elderly can visit, all inhabiting their younger selves’ bodies in a time of their choosing. The plot involves two women, Yorkie and Kelly, who meet at a nightclub, and eventually become romantically involved. They meet up at different times over the years in both San Junipero and in the real world, where they face real-life complications. In the end, both are euthanised so that they can be together in San Junipero.

9fm wrote the music and lyrics, sang vocals and performed all the music on “First Blush”, as well as recording, mixing and mastering the track himself in his home studio. Starting with skittering percussion and assertive drumbeats, he layers lo-fi synths, humming keyboards, and what sounds like a bass guitar, though it could also be guitar that’s been fed though a pedal or some other device to give it a deeper tone. The result is a dramatic, fast-paced song that captures the sense of urgency and emotional intensity described in the lyrics about an unusual and logistically challenging love affair. His smooth vocals have an ethereal, almost otherworldly quality that’s quite pleasing and well-suited to the subject matter. “First Blush” is another fine effort from this talented guy.

A life in a place & time, we didn’t choose
Abide by the rules we find, oh ’ til we’re through
Then I decide on a place in a time to reside that I wished were true
But who we are we can’t escape, so I wrecked that too

At first blush
I came on way too strong
I’d never known someone like you
So I knew first, the path that I would choose
I’d trade that life for one with you
Please see it through
You’re all I have to lose

A place in a time designed for our own use
A place we can feel alive, in health & youth
So I decide on a place in a time to reside that I wished were true
So now here we are now free to stay, until we’re through

Without a doubt, the lives we learn to lead die out, & then, leaving us only
to find out, the lives we’re meant to lead are found, not with, but without, stable ground

Follow 9fm:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  SpotifySoundcloud / iTunes
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

GG FEARN – EP Review: “Black Mirror”

gg-fearn-black-mirror-cover-ep

Some of the more interesting and provocative songwriting these days is coming from young female artists such as Billie Eilish, Courtney Barnett and Jade Bird, as well as indie artists like Erin Incoherent (who I featured last December) and GG Fearn, a remarkable 18-year-old singer-songwriter from Carmarthen, Wales. With a singular talent and maturity beyond her years, GG (short for Georgia) first started writing songs at the age of nine, and has become quite the wordsmith, penning thoughtful and frank lyrics about life and the darker aspects inherent in many of us. She’s already become a seasoned performer, having played at many different venues, most notably the famous Cavern in Liverpool, and her songs have received airplay on BBC Wales, and other radio stations throughout the UK. She’s just released a terrific four-song EP Black Mirror, which dropped on May 28.

In the creation of her music, GG melds elements of folk, pop, alternative rock, jazz and hip hop into a unique sound stew that could best be described as ‘dark folk-pop.’ She also has a clear and lovely singing voice brimming with character and confidence, while still retaining a touch of vulnerability. When combined with her compelling lyrics, it gives her songs a worldliness and sophistication that’s very relatable.

She gets right down to business on the EP opener “Deal With the Devil“, an upbeat-sounding song that belies its dark theme. The lyrics address the subject’s awareness of her wicked nature, and her feeling perfectly okay about it: “Another day. Chaos parade. Domestic life comes hand in hand with a knife, to use on you, your partner too. I looked in the mirror one night. Suddenly my soul takes flight. I made a deal with the devil. I don’t know why he picked me. I guess that something clicked. But living without your soul, it ain’t so bad. I never really had one anyway.” Musically, the song features crisp, bouncy synths that have an almost industrial feel, punctuated by glittery keys and subtle bass kicks. GG’s layered vocals are backed by a gruff, barely audible male vocal in the chorus, sounding as if the devil himself is singing in unison with her.

The superb title track “Black Mirror” opens with a simple, almost dubstep beat, then settles into a catchy bass-driven tempo that has us bopping our heads and swaying our hips. I love the intricate funky guitars, and GG’s layered vocals are really quite marvelous as she croons about not being happy with the current state of things. The black mirror seems to reflect all the stuff that’s troubling her, and she’s not liking what she sees: “I think I’m going crazy. Vision’s going hazy.  I know. I hear the shotgun ring, but you don’t hear a thing. Harm can be a comfort when poison is your king. A necklace made of pearls, and artificial girls. I’m stuck in a black mirror.”

I love all the tracks on the EP, but my favorite is “Teen Queen“, an in-your-face declaration of “Attention: someone new is now in charge!” Or, as fellow blogger Lakisha Skinner so beautifully put it in her wonderful Klef Notes review, it’s the “I’m the girl who will wear black to the prom and nobody betta say one thing to me about it song!”

Starting off with a magical little xylophone riff, the song quickly bursts open with lush, glittery synths and thunderous percussion, as if symbolizing a fairy princess making her grand entrance. As GG defiantly proclaims, “Now the deed is done, done, done, done…” a strutting dance beat kicks in and I’m hooked! She continues making her newfound dominance clear: “I’ve traveled through hell and all of its towns. God only knows where I’ve been. I’m the only girl that can wear the crown. Yes, I’m your new teen queen. You can call me narcissistic, but please don’t forget sadistic. I, I am your new teen queen. Nothing that they’ve ever seen. Your time on stage is through. Make way for someone new, new, new, new…” 

The rather cynical “Famous Last Words” speaks to our impermanence, regardless of how important we think we are while we’re alive: “Legacies they can be cruel whether you wear rags or jewels. I want mine to beat them all, so that when I fall, I want to be remembered. I want to go down in history. I want to be the greatest. I want to be the best.” The cold reality, however, is that most of us will be forgotten: People won’t remember when you’re dead. All the brilliant things that you have said. You can be known all around, but that don’t mean you’ll keep your crown even if you stitch it to your head. /And her famous last words were…(what were they?)”  The song has a catchy hip hop/trap beat, with sharp synths and deep bass. It’s a good song, and sounds like one Taylor Swift could have done, only better.

Black Mirror is a great little EP, and GG Fearn is an immensely talented songwriter, composer and vocalist with a lot to say. Hopefully, she’ll continue expressing herself with more wonderful songs very soon!

Connect with GG: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase “Black Mirror” on Amazon / Google Play