New Song of the Week – SECRET AMERICAN: “Here Comes A Man”

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Secret American is a delightfully unique band I’ve grown to love over the past year or so, ever since being introduced to them and their music by another blogger. They’re a bi-coastal band, born from the collaboration of singer/songwriter and guitarist Derek Krzywicki, who lives in the small town of Carpinteria on the California coast east of Santa Barbara, and his long-time friend Todd Mecaughey, a producer/engineer and musician from Philadelphia. Despite their distance, they began working together on music fairly regularly for over a year in Philadelphia, as well as collaborating through the internet from their home studios, and eventually formed Secret American. Using songs Derek had written previously, the two created their debut 2018 album Warmth & Shelter (which I reviewed in March 2019). The band was gradually expanded to a seven-member lineup with the addition of Katie Frank, Tony Unander, Alex Baranowski, Rory Geoghegan and Jon McNally.

Their refreshing, laid-back sound is at once retro yet contemporary, eccentric yet familiar. While their song lyrics often address serious subjects that make us think, they’re presented with sunny melodies, breezy instrumentation and pleasing vocals that make for happy listening experience. Since the release of Warmth & Shelter, Secret American has been recording and releasing new singles that will eventually be included on their second album. Their latest is “Here Comes a Man“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

The song opens with a rather pensive trumpet, then settles into a languid tempo, highlighted by a strong, thumping drumbeat and wonderful twangy guitar notes. With seven musicians contributing to the music, we hear all sorts of instruments and sounds, including horns, snare drums, keyboard synths, guitar and bass. But perhaps the most striking of them all are the occasional reverb-heavy distorted guitar chords that punctuate the proceedings from time to time, adding a touch of danger to the otherwise sunny upbeat vibe.

I love Derek’s smooth singing voice, which registers in the higher octaves just below a falsetto. He sounds appropriately seductive as he sings the great come-on lyrics to a woman he finds attractive, urging her to ditch the man she’s with and give him a chance instead:

Hello, I’ve seen your face before, I don’t recall your name
You’re looking at me too long through a glass of champagne
I’m a greyhound headin’ at ya, making all the stops
I’m a loosening my collar, I’m a drinking on the rocks
But the man right next to you, who is that man?
Is he making you happy, doesn’t look like he can
So I’m a walk right to ya, gonna pass that man
My eyes wide open

Here comes a man (x3)
Here I come

“Here Comes a Man” is another terrific song from this incredibly talented group of musicians. Their superb songwriting and musicianship never fail to amaze me, and so long as they continue to produce such great songs, I shall remain a devoted fan.

Connect with Secret American on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

THUNDER FOX – Album Review: “Love at First Sniff”

Thunder Fox album art

Thunder Fox is a wickedly funny and talented group of guys from Sydney, Australia who’ve just put out a devilishly entertaining new album Love at First Sniff. It’s the most fun I’ve had listening to a record in a very long while, and the title is apropos, as it was definitely ‘love at first sniff’ for me! As EclecticMusicLover, I always enjoy when artists and bands mix things up genre-wise, and this band does it better than almost anyone, tossing in generous helpings of funk, blues rock, soul, hip hop, jazz and pop into their delectable music stew. In their own words, they serve “gooey hot horntastic shreddage, the best sauce for your ears ‘n eyes, causing sonic copulation worldwide.” Indeed they do! Their music is fun and bawdy, yet with a sexy sophistication that makes it incredibly appealing. It’s like Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Prince, Nick Jonas and Anderson .Paak all joined forces in one gigantic, over-the-top jam session!

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Making all this saucy music mayhem are Sam “Sewad” Dawes (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Sam “Gnars” Frank (Lead Guitar/Vocals), Connor “Ronnoc” McCool (Bass), Max “Mecks” Vallentine (Drums), Travers “Full Travers” Keirle (Smooth Sax/Vocals/Rhymes) and Jesse “Jizze” Tachibana (Trumpet/Vocals/Synths). They’ve been prolific in their music output, releasing quite a lot of it over the past five years. From what I can tell, the first music they released was their very respectable six-track EP Cosmic Pudding in early 2015. They followed up with a few singles and dropped their second EP Mother Machine in December 2016, a great collection of songs including the brilliant “Vanilla Chinchilla”. More singles followed in 2018 and 2019, culminating in the release of their first full-length album Love at First Sniff on Halloween, which I have the distinct pleasure of reviewing today.

About the album, the band states: “The record muses on subject matter with a discernible sense of growth and progression while stretching across a canyon of mixed emotion surrounding love, existentialism and everything in between.” Lead singer Sam Dawes adds: “In our fast-paced, modernity-obsessed society, it has become apparent that some cornerstones of humanity, such as love, can alter on their surface yet remain unshaken at their core. ‘Love At First Sniff’ (and ‘Been Busy’ from it) is an elegy to and an observation of human connection and love in a world shaped by excess.”

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Excess is the byword here, and more is most definitely better! The album opens with the title track “Love at First Sniff“, a rather sultry-sounding intro piece with ominously spoken lyrics and sparse, almost spooky instrumentals. The track ends with sounds of someone sniffing, our first clue that this isn’t going to be just any old conventional record. Thunder Fox then launches headlong into “WTF is This“, and we’re off on a phantasmagorical sonic adventure. Tachibana’s exuberant blaring trumpet is the highlight here, driving the track forward while a stop-start guitar riff provides the melodic substructure. Dawes’ colorful, silky vocals are an absolute delight to my ears as he croons “Be careful what you put in your mouth though. But that’s not just style, now is it sweetie pie? Oh yeah, I said it, and you didn’t think I would. But you did it, and you lied, and I didn’t think you could. /What the fuck is this? You got some nerve! But when you block my ears with those legs, it’s the warmest sound, yes I’ve ever heard.

As the song progresses, Dawes breaks into some brief high-speed rapping, then halfway through, the tempo changes to a languid, sultry groove. Horns and sax still blaring, our ears are now bathed by intricate funky guitars, wobbly bass and psychedelic synths as Dawes’ vocals turn seductive. It’s like the song has two completely different parts, with so much going on musically that I find it difficult to fully articulate all that I’m hearing. It’s really a phenomenal song, and I’m already blown away by this band’s astonishing musicianship.

Next up is “Been Busy” the second single from the album, and my first introduction to Thunder Fox. The song is a catchy as fuck earworm, with an upbeat, head-bopping tempo and more of those wonderful exuberant horns. Once again, the guys employ several melodic change-ups throughout the song, keeping us in a continual state of surprise. An interesting aspect of the song is that it starts off with the chorus “Ooh, I’ve been busy, not helping my health, but helping myself.” Dawes croons about having as much sex as possible to get over his pain: “When your heart is broken, only one thing left to do. Open up your kitchen, start taking those orders baby.”

As great as the song is, the hilarious video’s even better! Thunder Fox are definitely not afraid to put themselves out there. Wearing very suggestive wrestling singlets and white crew socks, the guys dance around against a number of spacey backdrops. Eventually, they spar with, and are ultimately vanquished by, the opposing team dressed in red singlets. How can you not love these guys?

On “Hot Tub“, the guys really channel their inner James Brown and Prince, with more soulful, funked-up grooves than should be allowed in one song. Have I mentioned how much I love this band? Their guitar work is fantastic, and the bass, synths, horns, sax and percussion are all perfection, creating a dynamic, funk-drenched backdrop for Dawes’ gorgeous vocals. Their lyricism is wonderful, and here’s an example why I think that: “My brain is a trickle-down economy, temptation’s so damn bitch. Yeah, so many issues but tissues won’t fix it. There’s a cream for every itch./ My baby’s boiling, she should sit down. There’s a line she don’t need to cross. It’s me here sitting in a hot tub…

Squeedup Vol. 2” is a twisted one-minute-long answer to their 2018 single “Squeedup”, and the first of three transitional interludes featured on the album. It quickly segues into the sexy and soulful love song “Look at U“, for which the guys have produced one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen. It stars the two Sams (Dawes & Frank) as characters hooking up on a dinner-date, with other band members making cameo appearances, These guys are crazy! Dawes’ sultry vocals remind me of Nick Jonas, and no more so than on this track.

The guys keep delivering the funky grooves with the jazz-infused “Every Single Day“, and I’m starting to run out of superlatives to describe them and their music. Once again, I’m loving Tachibana’s trumpet and Keirle’s sax, and Vallentine’s drumming is particularly awesome here. And it goes without saying that Dawes’ always impressive vocal gymnastics really shine on this track. “#fuck” is a dark instrumental interlude consisting of a reverb-heavy guitar riff, industrial synths and a pummeling drumbeat. It’s an interesting segue into the dark and sultry “I’m Your Man“. This song also has a jazzy vibe, with vibrant horns and sax, and a slowly building tempo. Dawes’ vocals sound increasingly diabolical as he warns “I’m your mutherfuckin’ man, so don’t you make no other plans.”

Baby, I’m Famous” opens with one of the guys saying “We’re running out of tape“, then another yells “Shut the fuck up and play! Bitch“, at which point McCool’s very funky bass enters the picture, and soon joined by the rest of the band jamming their respective instruments. The song has a strong Prince vibe, with some terrific guitar licks and psychedelic-tinged synths. I love Keirle’s tasty sax riff in the bridge that pays homage to the Average White Band’s classic “Pick Up the Pieces”. “360p” is the third interlude track, starting off with what sounds like someone searching for a radio station, finally settling on one where Thunder Fox is jamming hard.

The album closes with the eight and a half minute-long gem “Feels So Good“, a slow and sexy love song. It’s a beautiful track, reminiscent of some of the great soul songs of the 70s by acts like Earth, Wind and Fire and The Originals. The guys play as an incredibly tight unit, delivering soulful grooves that transport us to a state where we ‘feel so good’. The song has a dramatic extended run that reminds me of the Isaac Hayes masterpieces “Walk on By” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, and of course, Dawes’ silky smooth vocals are perfection.

It’s a fitting end to a terrific album, which I cannot gush about nearly enough. I’m now a massive fan of Thunder Fox, and in a funk that I’m half a world away in Southern California, because I would love to see them perform live. Those of you fortunate enough to be living in eastern Australia can catch them at one of their upcoming shows:

Thunder Fox 2019 Tour Dates

Fri 22 Nov – The Basement, Canberra
Sat 23 Nov – Yah Yah’s, Melbourne
Sat 7 Dec – Cambridge Warehouse, Newcastle
Sun 8 Dec – North Gong Hotel, Wollongong (free entry)
Thu 12 Dec – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay (free entry)
Fri 13 Dec – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
Sat 14 Dec – Imperial Hotel, Sunshine Coast
Sat 21 Dec – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Follow Thunder Fox:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Deezer
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon / Google Play / iTunes

New Song of the Week: SECRET AMERICAN – “Lonely”

This past March, I had the pleasure of featuring the delightful band Secret American when I reviewed their marvelous 2018 album Warmth & Shelter. Now they’re back with a wonderful new single “Lonely“, which I’ve selected as my New Song of the Week. The song is the first single off their forthcoming second album, and explores the age-old conundrum between being in a committed relationship and holding on to one’s freedom.

Secret American is a bi-coastal band, born from the collaboration of singer/songwriter and guitarist Derek Krzywicki, who lives in the small town of Carpinteria on the California coast east of Santa Barbara, and his long-time friend Todd Mecaughey, a producer/engineer who lives in Philadelphia. (Todd has stated that their name comes from them being simultaneously proud and ashamed to be American – a sentiment I currently share). Completing the band’s seven-member lineup are the very talented musicians Kevin Killen, Katie Frank, Tony Unander, Alex Baranowski and Rory Geoghegan.

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Their refreshing, eclectic sound is at once retro yet contemporary, unique yet familiar. As I noted in my review, the retro aspect of their music evokes the carefree California pop-rock vibe of The Lovin’ Spoonful, while their contemporary side channels the laid-back grooves of Cage the Elephant. And though their song lyrics often address more serious, thought-provoking topics, they’re presented with sunny melodies, breezy instrumentation and pleasing vocals that make for happy listening experience.

“Lonely” features a rich mix of shimmery synths, layers of twangy and jangly guitars, soulful bass and crisp percussion, all wrapped in a captivating melody that envelops us like a warm blanket. Derek’s smooth, sultry vocals are so damn seductive and bewitching as he croons about how, despite the occasional loneliness, being single and free is preferable to being imprisoned in a relationship – or is it?

Cause if you wanna be like me, you better be lonely
You’d better think only of the woman you had
Cause if you wanna be like me, you better be lonely
You’d better think only of the man you had

Oh I’m not giving it up I said
Oh I’m not giving it up I said
Oh I’m not giving it up for you

I wanna be who I want to
I wanna see who I want to, baby yeah
I wanna feel them feels too
But I can’t have that with you

Can’t have my number
Can’t have my time
Though that I want you, you can’t be mine
You can lead me to water, but I wouldn’t drink
You can make me love you, but I’ll always think

Secret American make fascinating videos for many of their songs, and for “Lonely” they’ve produced not one, but TWO delightful videos, both created and edited by Todd’s wife Natalie Mecaughey. The first contains vintage footage from what appears to be a fifties film about a couple on a scenic bus trip across the U.S., who experience snags in their relationship. The second is a mashup of footage of couples enjoying romantic moments on a pier, juxtaposed with poignant images of Jerry Seinfeld and Jason Alexander looking uncharacteristically reflective.

Catch Secret American at one of these upcoming shows:

Sep 25 – Milkboy Philly, Philadelphia, PA
Sep 26 – Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC
Sep 27 – The Royal AmericanCharleston, SC
Sep 28 – Primal Brewery, Huntersville, NC
Sep 29 – The Radio Room, Greenville, SC

 

Connect with Secret American on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunesGoogle Play

JADED JANE – Single Review: “Trapped”

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This past April, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing and writing about the remarkably talented and undeniably charismatic Olsson brothers Axel and Adam who call themselves Jaded Jane. (You can read my article and interview with Axel Jane here.) Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, but now split between Gothenburg and Glasgow, Jaded Jane seeks to celebrate humanity and diversity through their music, writing compelling songs with positive, life-affirming lyrics. Drawing upon a wide range of influences such as pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip-hop, they create beautiful, piano-driven melodies and lush soundscapes. Since 2015 they’ve produced four outstanding albums, and are now recording their fifth, to be titled “117″ and due out in October.

They’ve just released the first single from the album, a gorgeous, contemplative song called “Trapped“. The deeply moving song was written by Axel Jane Olsson and recorded by Åke Linton. Axel played the beautiful piano melody, and the haunting cello was played by David Bukovinszky, with lovely string arrangements by Mattias Bylund and Nils Petter Ankarlund.

Axel explains that the song “is about feeling trapped in life, trapped in your circumstances, trapped in a loop of monotony.” Though he laments about feeling lost to the point of no longer recognizing who he really is, he retains a glimmer of hope that his life will get better through faith and love. His smooth, beautiful vocals are heartfelt as he sings:

Trapped in a loop I can’t get out
Stuck in a dream I had a long time ago
What do I really want to do
Now is the only time worth living for

Ah, I am trapped in a loop.
Ah. Am I stuck in a dream, that I had a long time ago

Wrapped up in my identity
Who am I, I no longer know, who I am
Lost my sense of reality
Talking to the man in the mirror now
Cause I don’t know, who I am anymore
Lift me up high where I belong
Fill me up with faith, hope & love again.

The stunning video for “Trapped” was filmed on the streets of Glasgow, and shows the strikingly handsome Axel, who has a dancer’s physique, gracefully moving to the music in different settings.

Connect with Jaded Jane:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play

JADED JANE – Artist Spotlight & Interview

I’ve commented previously on this blog about my continual amazement at the sheer magnitude of enormously talented musicians around today who are creating incredible music. In such a seemingly overcrowded industry, it’s inevitable that so many of these musicians and bands struggle to get their music heard, despite the ready availability of a staggering amount of it that’s free for the taking (which as we all know is another entire set of issues). That’s where music bloggers like myself come in, writing about indie artists we like and helping to spread the word about their music and hopefully gain them a few more followers and fans. With that in mind, today I have the pleasure of introducing to my readers the remarkably talented and undeniably charismatic Olsson brothers Axel and Adam who call themselves Jaded Jane.

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Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, but now split between Gothenburg and Glasgow, Jaded Jane seeks to celebrate humanity and diversity through their music, writing compelling songs with positive, life-affirming lyrics. Drawing upon a wide range of influences such as pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip-hop, they create beautiful, piano-driven melodies and lush soundscapes. Since 2015 they’ve produced four excellent albums, and are now recording their fifth, due for release later this year. I reached out to Jaded Jane to talk about themselves and their music, and was happy Axel agreed to share some of their story.

EML:  Hello Axel. Thank you for agreeing to talk with me. First off, by way of introductions, tell me a little about Jaded Jane – when did you guys form the band, and how did you and your brother Adam decide on the name “Jaded Jane”?

Axel:  Thanks Jeff. I am super glad to be part of your music blog. Jaded Jane and the musical adventure of brothers Axel and Adam Jane Olsson began in our early youth, being the sons of musician Christer Olsson (Plums, Noll 31, Scandinavian 5) and a mother with a passion for music. Growing up to the sounds of Motown, The Beatles and Michael Jackson, to name a few, it was only natural for us to develop a keen sense of melody, harmony and originality. We grew up in the Gothenburg, Sweden suburb of Hammerhill, and our path eventually lead us to New York & Los Angeles, where we spent ten years back and forth immersing ourselves with some of the most inspiring musicians on Earth. The name Jaded Jane came to me in a dream in 2013, when I was living in New York. The name deals with the jaded aspect of the modern human being. Jaded Jane is also a song from our debut album Diversity, and is about life, death and meaning. The name ‘Jane’ has an androgynous quality that is inclusive and gender neutral.

EML:  What prompted you to make those moves from Sweden to Los Angeles and New York, and why did you choose to leave New York for Glasgow, rather than return to Sweden? Does Glasgow have a more thriving music scene?

Axel:  It’s been a long road moving back and forth to New York, Los Angeles and now Glasgow. We came home to Sweden for a few years after New York, and then we ended up collaborating with a few Scottish artists which led us to Glasgow. It is a vibrant music city, with areas that remind me of Brooklyn, NY.  When you are moving to a new city you are putting yourself in a whole new world, which sculpts you into another story and adventure, I have always been excited about learning and growing on all fields as a human being. So I am now in Glasgow, while Adam is still based in Gothenburg.

EML:  Your music is beautiful and uplifting, and your songs offer positive, life-affirming messages. What is the inspiration behind your music and sound?

Axel:  That means a lot to hear that the songs & music spread those messages. We feel that the music we create is greater than us and has the power to heal by touching people on a deeper level. By being brutally honest with ourselves, we allow others to feel that side of us. The things that are the most personal are ultimately the most universal. My inspiration comes from experiencing all of life’s challenges, both the highs and lows.  From a young age, me and Adam starting asking questions about our society, and felt an urge to share our musical stories with other people in hope that it will touch and lift someone who is low.

EML:  Do you both write the songs and lyrics together? And do you both play all the instruments and synths yourselves, or do you work with other session musicians to help create your music?

Axel:  I have written all the songs on the albums released thus far, and we do play all of the instruments. However, on the new album “117” we’re currently working on, Adam is featuring two of his new songs. Adam plays fretless bass, guitar and sings, and I play the piano, synthesizers and also recording and producing the tracks. We previously collaborated with guitarist Mike Stern on our first album Diversity, and L.A.-based soul singer Frank McComb on The Puzzle, an album we made prior to becoming Jaded Jane. But our journey really took off in a new direction while meeting our third member Åke Linton, a sound artist from Sweden who is now part of creating the soundscapes and sounds of Jaded Jane.

EML:  The track “Crystal Stair” on your latest album Salvation is an intriguing song. How did you discover that speech from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and why did you choose to build a song around it?

Axel:  The whole Salvation album was recorded live in a studio in Gothenburg, on Queen’s old console and the song “Crystal Stair” was just a small improvised part that came from one of the sessions. Both me and Adam have always been inspired by Martin Luther King, and we thought it’d be cool to have his voice on top of the melodies and sounds of the improvised piece.

EML:  I was touched by your recent Instagram post about your struggles and frustrations with trying to make it in this very tough music business. Your music is so wonderful, and you guys need to be heard by a larger audience, which is why I’m happy to feature you on my little music blog. That said, one of the issues I think is that today, most people seem to prefer hip-hop, Country or rock music, rather than beautiful, piano-based easy listening compositions like yours. Yes, there is still a niche for your genre of music, and there are successful artists making music similar to yours such as James Blake and Sufjan Stevens, but they often collaborate with hip hop or other artists to appeal to a wider audience. You’ve stated that you would like to collaborate with other artists, and in fact have a couple of times, like you did with rapper Scope (Jake Lewis) on the track “Life” from your album “One Way”, but that it’s been a struggle getting more artists to collaborate. Any thoughts?

Axel:  You are very right, It is a big challenge to get people to listen to a full song nowadays, even though you spent your whole life building and working on your craft, The masses seem to react to the loudest playing songs. I am looking forward to writing and recording more with similar minded artists, The struggle in paying rent and earning money for food has and I am guessing will always be there when it comes to true artistry, I am a full time busker / street performer in Glasgow at the moment, and that has definitely made me humble in how hard it can be to earn money; it gives you a whole new respect for how to use them.

The music business is a tough field to be in, I have always felt and I know Adam felt it too. We are outside of the business, however, we the songwriters and artists are what makes it possible to make a business out of it, so I am determined to find out what’s going on.

EML:  Your press release states that you’re managed by Scirca Music Group. Some artists & bands choose to hire a management company or PR firm to help them, while others wish to do everything themselves. Have you found it helpful to work with a manager?

A year ago I reached out through social media in search for a music publisher and manager, which got me in contact with the newly started Scirca Music Group. It has been a learning experience for both me and Adam and for the management company, as they are just starting out. I would like to encourage other artists to learn about how it all works, and how it is built up, that is the key to understanding and hopefully knowing where you want to go from there.

EML:  What are you guys working on now? Any plans for another album?

Axel:  As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been recording a new album “117” to be released later this year. It’s being recorded and mixed by our Sound Artist Åke Linton. I’m singing & playing on an old upright piano, and Adam is playing a Spanish nylon guitar & also singing some vocals. The last pieces of the songs on ”117” are being recorded with string arranger & producer Mattias Bylund adding a cello to the songs by cellist David Bukovinszky. Last but not least, I am laying down the bass lines on a 1976 Moog Synthesizer and warm analog pads on a 1980s Korg Polysix. We just shot the first music video for our upcoming single ”Trapped”. It was exciting and it turned out great.

EML: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about Jaded Jane that I’ve neglected to ask?

Axel:  Yes, we want to share our message of “Ignorance Separates, Music Unites”. We want to take a stand even more, making it clearer that we are for all human beings,  especially the ones without a voice. Equality, Humanism, and Reverence for the Beauty and Majesty of Nature are all subjects we care about.

We are from the “hood” of our hometown and we wish to display a different side [to that part of the Gothenburg area] than what is mainly portrayed in media with their car fires, etc. The growth of racist/nationalistic political parties such as SD* is something that we want to be an antidote for. We’ve always stayed clear of politics in our music but when it comes to these ethical & moral values we want to be very clear that we stand for diversity, equality and lifting positive stories about the “hood” which almost always have been a place of brotherhood and acceptance for us. Yes there are problems, but there need to be a more nuanced and balanced portrayal in media. We want to do our part as a counterweight to the negative.

* SD stands for Sweden Democrats, ironically, a socially conservative and far right-wing populist political party.

So lets dig a bit into Jaded Jane’s wonderful catalog and get a feel for their music. They released their debut album Diversity in 2015, a genre-bending work featuring eight tracks drawing upon pop, rock, soul, R&B and hip hop elements. As the title suggests, the songs address uplifting themes of embracing diversity and working together to make the world a better place. Every track on the album is superb, but my favorites are the lovely ballad “Jaded Jane”, the anthemic “After”, “Meaningful Destiny”, with its beautiful piano and shimmering guitar, the funky “The Cure”, with guest vocals from rapper KJ Denhert, and the soulful and fun “Walk the Walk”. Their musicianship and knack for writing infectious melodies that hook us in right from the start are impressive, and I love Axel’s casual vocal style that frequently breaks into a crooning falsetto.

In February 2017, they released their fantastic second album One Waywhich saw them branch out and further experiment with their sound by incorporating more complex and multi-textured synthesizers, deep bass lines and trap beats into their soulful mix. The highlights here are “Tell Me What”, with spacey synths and a funky bass line that’ll rock your world, “Breathing”, with colorful psychedelic synths and guitar chords that are fucking magical, and “Life”, a brilliant track featuring killer rap verses by British rapper Scope (Jake Lewis) that beautifully complement Axel’s falsetto vocals. The uplifting lyrics speak of not letting your past troubles define you or keep you from realizing your dreams: “Living life just watch me risk it, made mistakes but don’t regret ’em / I put on a happy face to hide where I come from / Put your knife down, listen to my rhyme / Everything’s gonna be alright.

Only eight months later, Jaded Jane dropped yet another album Always & Forever, once again going off in another direction with their sound. This time, Axel’s beautiful piano playing takes center stage, with the songs all featuring sublime piano-driven melodies that take their music toward an ambient, easy-listening vibe. In describing his inspiration for the album, Axel wrote as if speaking to his father: “When I sat down by the piano I could feel your presence. I let the songs happen the way they were meant to. Through music we can communicate with another world, here it is, and it is for you, in the here and now and in the hereafter.” The beautiful title track “Always & Forever” is a moving tribute to their father. “Hard to believe that you are gone this time. Oh give me strength to carry on. Easy to smile when you are by my side. You’ll live forever in my heart.”

The opening song “Serendipity” is a serene, 13-minute long piece of atmospheric heaven, with extended runs of delicate piano, guitar and whispery synths that are mesmerizing. The song begins as an instrumental-only track that seems to end at around 3:45 minutes, then starts back up at 4:00, this time with Axel’s tender vocals singing the praises of their father: “It was your light. It was your love, that shone through all of us.” This portion of the song ends with a gradual fade-out of reverb at around 8:45, only to start back up at 9:30 with sparse piano keys, accompanied by strummed guitar and whispery synths that throb until the end of the song.

Jaded Jane Salvation

Their fourth and most-recent album is the gorgeous Salvation. Released in November 2018, the album continues with what Jaded Jane refers to as their “exploration of soulful soundscapes of consciousness” that we loved on Always & Forever.  The entire album flows like an atmospheric river of mesmerizing piano-driven sound, enveloping and transporting us to a comforting place of love, peace and serenity. The beautiful title track “Salvation” has simple, spiritual lyrics that speak to finding peace of mind and salvation in the hereafter: “I’ll stay right here, through my last tears. Ain’t got nothing left to fear. Salvation. It’s the longest street, I will follow thee to another space and time. I will walk this road, never looking down, to the place that we’ll call home.”

Another standout track is “Ethereal”, which lives up to its name with breathtaking atmospheric music. Axel’s piano work is absolutely stunning, backed by sweeping glittery synths, gently thumping drumbeats and Adam’s subtle guitar notes.

“Orion” is a beautiful instrumental track, consisting of only delicate piano, gentle drumbeats and whispy ambient background synths. Though over five minutes long, it seems much shorter. The track segues uninterrupted into album closer “Crystal Stair”, with a continuation of the gentle drumbeats and whispy synths. At one minute, words from a famous 1960 speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Spelman College enter: “Your life’s blueprint must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love and justice. Don’t allow anybody to pull you so low as to make you hate them. Don’t allow anybody to cause you to lose your self-respect to the point that you do not struggle for justice. However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation in which to live.

The track encapsulates the message of love, tolerance and social justice that Jaded Jane seeks to spread by Salvation, and with all their songs. I greatly admire these guys, both in terms of the wonderful music they make, and the positive vibes they spread through their kindness, love and joy. I cannot wait to hear their new album.

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

CuriousHour – EP Review: “Explore”

Curious Hour ep

If you like soulful, blues-soaked rock accompanied by raw, passionate female vocals, then you should be listening to the music of UK band  CuriousHour. Formed two years ago, the London-based four-piece consists of guitarist Andy Grazebrook, vocalist Emily Grazebrook, drummer Wal Srankiewicz and bassist Aaron McIntosh. In July, 2017 they released their superb debut EP Explore, which I have the pleasure of reviewing today.

The first track “Lailah” arrives on sound waves of fuzzy guitars, strutting drums and a humming bass line. Then, Emily’s rich, bluesy vocals enter the scene and within seconds I’m blown away. Wow, what a voice she has! The kind of voice that demands your attention. She seems to channel the raw soulfulness of Tina Turner, the bluesy feels of Amy Winehouse, and the unrestrained passion of Janis Joplin. On “Lailah,” a palpable sense of tension and uncertainty simmers beneath the seeming coolness of her voice, occasionally piercing the surface as she croons about not knowing which direction to take: “Solo, solo, solo. Walking, walking walking. Don’t know, don’t know which way to go.” As the track progresses, Andy lays down some nimble guitar work, while Aaron gently strums his bass. It’s a great song.

The next track “Yield” is positively sublime. The guys are in perfect sync on their respective instruments, and Emily raises goosebumps as she fervently wails the lyrics expressing the depths of her hunger for another’s love: “I would do anything if you only lay your hands on me. / I’d cause a tidal wave to charge, wipe out all of humanity. Send them streaming from the land. Swallow them up into the sea. So that I could be with you. Oh I would give you the world if you’d love me.”

One of the things that strikes me as I listen to the EP is how beautifully each track flows into the next, sustaining the spell that CuriousHour have cast upon our ears, minds and souls. At times their bluesy sound reminds me a bit of Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother & the Holding Company. “Geraldine” is mesmerizing, and once again, Emily’s vocals are breathtaking. And no more so than on “Wanted,” where her jaw-dropping vocal gymnastics are on full display. She alternately seduces, snarls and wails the lyrics that speak to a detestable scoundrel: “You’re so quick on the draw, even your horse hates ya. Price on my head. Don’t stop til I’m dead. / You’re above the law but even your momma hates ya. How much to walk away?” The guitars, bass and drums on this epic track are all pretty amazing too.

The band dials up the energy on “Dark Surf,” a rousing rock’n’roll song with awesome fuzzy guitar work and thunderous drumming that make for an exciting listen. Two thirds in, the tempo slows to a languid, bluesy lull in the bridge, before ramping back up to full speed for an exhilarating finish. Emily’s refrain of “rise and fall” is an apt description of the song.

Explore is a wonderful EP that gets better with every listen, and every track is fantastic. There’s a lot of nuance in Andy’s intricate guitar work, Aaron’s subtle bass and Wal’s expert drumming, and each time I was able to detect something new I’d missed previously. Then there’s Emily’s mind-blowing vocals, which I could never tire of hearing.

CuriousHour have been gigging regularly ever since their inception, spreading their noise around London, the south of England and around the UK with plans to play in Europe. In the meantime, those of you in the UK can catch them at one of these upcoming shows:

JULY 11 7:30 & 10:30 PM  CURIOUSHOUR @ THE DUBLIN CASTLE

AUG 25 7:00 PM  NESTIVAL, The Birds Nest, London

Connect with CuriousHour:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp

BARBUDO – Single Review: “Secret Admirer”

I recently stumbled upon yet another terrific British band (there are so many!) named Barbudo, and it took me only a few minutes of listening to their music to become a fan. Consisting of brothers Ben and Harry Stanworth and Elliot Salter, they fuse elements of old-school funk, soul, psych rock and smooth R&B to create an infectious and incredibly pleasing sound they call ‘Nu-eyed funk’. But whatever one calls it, I hear influences from The Isley Brothers, Rufus, Steely Dan, Average White Band and Style Council, and how could you possible go wrong with that lineup?

Barbudo Performing

Following up on their exceptional 2017 EP Pleasures, Barbudo has just dropped a sparkling new single “Secret Admirer,” and it was instant love for me. The band have managed to craft an uplifting, intoxicating track that’s at once both cool and hot – sort of like sipping an icy Margarita at a tropical beach bar. The coolness comes from a breezy mix of smooth vocal harmonies, chiming synths, chill bass lines, and shimmering grooves on the clavinet, while the summery Latin dance beat and funky guitar riffs provide ample steam.

In describing the song, Ben explains We were going for a Latin-infused funk vibe, like a blend of Michael Jackson and Santana.” Harry adds “It’s a playful confession of secretly liking something that is deemed ‘uncool’ by most people. You might not publicly admit to liking it, but beyond judging eyes you see it for what it is. Like listening to Coldplay when you are sad…” Hey now – I love Coldplay and am not ashamed to admit it!

But seriously, “Secret Admirer” has all the right ingredients for the perfect summer song, and I can’t stop hitting replay. Listen for yourselves and you’ll be helplessly moving your hips within seconds.

Connect with BARBUDO: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase: iTunes / Bandcamp