I’ve been following Canadian artists Krosst Out and Melotika for more than four years, and it’s been gratifying to watch them grow both artistically and professionally. Krosst Out is the musical alter-ego of singer-songwriter and rapper Aaron Siebenga,, who grew up in a small town not far from Toronto, and melds hip hop with grunge, alt-rock and punk to create his own unique contemporary sound. Melotika is the alter-ego of Mel Yelle, a Montreal-born sultry-voiced singer-songwriter who makes intriguing electro-pop.
The hard-working and creative duo met in Toronto, but are now living in Montreal. They’re both successful artists in their own right, as well as a delightfully charming and hilarious couple I’ve grown quite fond of over the years, and have featured them both numerous times on this blog. Last October, I reviewed Krosst Out’s debut album Phone Calls With Ghosts, a deeply personal work addressing youthful mistakes, broken relationships, and the reality that nothing will ever again be what it once was. (You can read that review here.) And just last month, I chose Melotika’s latest single “Beautiful Disguise” as my New Song of the Week, which you can read about here.
Now the two are back with a hot new collaborative single “Runaway“. The song was recorded at Phase One studio in Toronto under the guidance of long-time collaborators Jor’Del Downz and Sean Savage. Drums were played by Spencer “Taabu” Heaslip, who also mixed and mastered the track. With “Runaway”, Krosst Out and Melotika wanted to create a dynamic, punk influenced hip hop ballad reminiscent of the late 1970’s London punk scene. Krosst Out explains “I’ve been calling it 1977 punk meets rap, or Sid and Nancy meet hip hop.I wrote this at the same time I was writing my album Phone Calls With Ghosts, [but] in the end, I just felt like this song deserved to be a stand alone track. ‘Runaway’’s message is one that all can relate to, especially during these times; it’s one of escapism, running away from a place you no longer want to be in. There’s times where we do just need to pick up and run away from everything. If you find yourself in a place you don’t want to be in, pick yourself and run away from that spot, put yourself someplace better. It’s meant to be this cross between both happy and melancholy. The beat was an anthem type feel that gets you amped up, but my chanting of ‘I don’t want to be here’ gives you the feeling of hopping on the next train to anywhere, running away.”
The song opens with a flurry of spritely skittering synths, then expands with a layer of brooding synths as Melotika croons her lyrics followed by Krosst Out, who raps his lines as a deep trip hop beat kicks in. Soon the melody ramps up into a frantic punk beat at they both shout “I wanna run away, I gotta run away, I’m gonna run away!” This back and forth continues throughout the song, providing alternating moments of frenzied tension with calmer interludes of introspection that convey a cool sense of self-awareness and humor.
The two have made a crazy-fun video that nicely showcases their strong charisma and zany playfulness.
I follow thousands of indie artists from around the world, and have featured several hundred of them on this blog over the past five and a half years. One that I’m particularly fond of is Canadian artist Melotika, the alter-ego of singer-songwriter Mel Yelle. The hard-working, charismatic and personable artist began her music career in Toronto, releasing her first music in early 2018, but moved back to her home town of Montreal last summer. Her distinctive, sultry vocal styling, exotic beauty, and strong sense of individuality and determination coupled with an endearing vulnerability, set her apart from a lot of other female artists. Her honest and relatable lyrics touch on the universal subjects of relationships and love, as well as timely issues such as the minefield of social media and how pressures to conform can affect our emotional well-being.
I’ve featured Melotika’s music on this blog several times over the past three years, when I reviewed her singles “Unaware Part II [Blindside]”, “Bittersweet Reality“ and “Bury the Bones“, a dark, haunting song about a woman who’s a psychopathic killer. And just last month, I featured a collaborative single “Eternal Eclipse” that she recorded with German electronic music producer Lazer Squad as one of four fresh new tracks. Now, the prolific artist returns with her latest single “Beautiful Disguise“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. Released on February 12th, it’s the lead single from her forthcoming album Dancing Without You, due for release this coming fall. She wrote the lyrics, and the music was composed by her frequent collaborator Sean Savage, who also mixed and mastered the track.
A concept album, Dancing Without You will be a collection of songs that Melotika states are “sort of like a personal diary exposing super vulnerable moments of my life, through alternative electro pop dance music. If I were a teenager, this would have been the perfect pop album to listen to.” Especially fond of artists like Blondie, Eurythmics, Madonna and Depeche Mode, she wanted to capture the essence of their 80s dance-pop/new wave sound for “Beautiful Disguise”, and I think she and Sean succeed quite nicely. The mesmerizing song features a lush palette of shimmery, almost haunting synths and bold hand claps layered over a hypnotic dance beat. Melotika’s rich, sultry vocals were run through tape, providing a captivating vintage texture that’s quite appealing.
“Beautiful Disguise” is based on a song Melotika first wrote in her late teens. She shared some details about it on her Facebook page: “The original song was called ‘Misery’ then switched to ‘Victim’ for some time. The song was a generic angsty break-up type song. Last year when I looked back at it, I decided to reinvent the song and add some more fictional story telling. I thought that a typical break up song would be cliché and over done, so I created a tale about a beautiful forbidden lover, and breaking free from the toxic situation. The lyric ‘The devil inside of me is the devil inside of you when you got nowhere else to go’ refers to the concept ‘misery loves company’. Do we fall in love with bad people or are we obsessed and fall in love with the drama?“
I’ve been following Canadian singer-songwriter and rapper Krosst Out since early 2017, when he reached out to me about his debut EP Life of the Party, an outstanding work that examined the darker aspects of party life, along with the sex, drugs and alcohol abuse that often go hand in hand. (You can read my review here.) Since then, the hard-working artist has released a number of singles and collaborations with other artists, and just dropped his debut album Phone Calls With Ghosts, which was a labor of love for him.
Born and raised in the small town of Campbellford, Ontario, he first studied piano as a child, then took up the bass guitar in his teens. He moved to Toronto, where he started his music career, but earlier this year he relocated to Montreal with his girlfriend and fellow music artist Melotika (who I’ve also featured on this blog several times). Influenced by the music of artists such as Manafest, Eminem, Underoath, Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Nas, and Marilyn Manson, he fuses hip hop with grunge, alt-rock and punk to create his own unique contemporary sound. And like a lot of hip hop artists, his songs draw heavily from his own life experiences, with brutally honest, introspective and raw lyrics.
Phone Calls With Ghosts is a decidedly bleak work addressing youthful mistakes, broken relationships, and the reality that nothing will ever again be what it once was. Krosst Out elaborates: “Ghosts aren’t just your run of the mill spooks, they’re the thoughts and actions of your past that torture you, the baggage you never seem to shrug off. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to hide my demons from myself and the rest of the world, that I thought it was time I faced everything head on. It was like these ghosts were trying to call [me] my whole life and I never picked up. Writing this [album] was my therapy, it helped me come out of this dark place I’d been in, and made me realize more about myself. Ghosts are real, they are the thoughts that torture you, the people you leave behind, the moments you never get back.“
The album was recorded mostly at Pink Distortion Music in Toronto, under the guidance of producer and mixer Adam Van Ameringen aka Rain, although “Intro (Preface)”, “Reckless” and “Black & White” were produced by another frequent collaborator Jor’Del Downz. The entire album was mastered by Sean Savage.
Opening track “Intro (Preface)” does just what it implies, laying out for us what the album’s about and setting the overall dark mood. Against a backdrop of throbbing, reverb-heavy bass accompanied by enchanting synths, Krosst Out tearfully pleads “Can you hear me? Can you really hear me out there? Pick up the phone!” A heavy beat then kicks in as he launches into an angry freestyle rapping tirade, recounting his early dreams of making it as a successful hip hop artists, the sacrifices he made and poverty he endured, and decrying those who never had faith in him: “Don’t ask me why I’m angry / Don’t ask my why I’m upset / These likes and these retweets don’t amount to much / Fuck every single person that ever doubted me / Cause I’ve been down and out.” The song ends with a woman’s voice (who I’m guessing is Melotika) saying, as if a telephone operator, “Welcome to phone calls with ghosts. Thank you for calling.“
“Funerals”, the lead single from the album that I reviewed this past April, touches on how Krosst Out has changed and grown since leaving Campbellford. It’s often challenging when leaving home and moving away to make a new life for ourselves, and though we generally maintain a sense of love and fondness toward family and friends we left behind, the distance and passage of time can complicate and/or diminish relationships. He told me the song title “Funerals” is a metaphor for the death of his old self. “I feel like I’ve just grown so much that I’m unrecognizable now, but at the same time, if I wanted to go [back] home I couldn’t. Also, the more you grow, the more you have people that will hate you for that.” The song has a heavy dub step beat, with a dramatic mix of spooky psychedelic synths, deep, throbbing bass and glittery keyboards creating a dark and moody backdrop for his impassioned free style rapping as he laments about the guilt trips foisted upon him by his mother and friends.
Krosst Out taps into his love of grunge on “Drive“, a cynical song about just saying fuck it, ditching your problems and heading out on the road in search of thrills, because nothing really matters anyway. “Cause I’m living for today, put that on my gravestone.” I like the dark vibes and Rain’s badass grungy guitar riffs at the beginning and in the choruses.
The haunting “Edges” speaks of a failing relationship, with the singer pleading to his partner to stop torturing him. Swirling keyboards contrast sharply with ominous harsh industrial synths to create a darkly beautiful backdrop for Krosst Out’s bitter vocals as he bemoans “We push, we pull, we scream, we shout, you say you want me out.” Guest vocalist Kyle Laird of Ontario metal band As the Structure Fails growls the chorus “You’re breaking my heart. So I’m burning these bridges. Stop tearing me apart. Cause I’m only these edges.”
On “Reckless“, he sings about not giving a fuck what others think of him to a guitar-driven melody over a dubstep beat. Rain’s grungy guitars make a return appearance on “Running in Traffic“, a song that continues on the theme of living life recklessly with a fatalistic attitude. With his voice brimming with emotion, Krosst Out raps “Never played it safe. Screaming here I am. Running in that traffic. Please don’t hold my hand. Gotta take my chances, gotta be a man. Now the ghosts are calling.“
“Background” is a bleak yet beautiful song about that seems to be about a person contemplating suicide. Over a sharp knocking beat and pulsating rhythm, Krosst Out and Rain layer haunting piano keys and a lovely strummed guitar. Krosst Out raps about his feelings of depression and futility, with Rain joining him in vocal harmonies on the chorus: “There are days I wish to just not wake up. I won’t be that shoulder that you needed to lean on. I can’t be that person that you need right now. Let me go, let me go into the background.“
The final track “Black & White” has a funereal grunge rock vibe, with a deep, reverb-heavy bass groove, accompanied by an almost haunting chiming guitar riff played by Andrew Falcao. Krosst Out ruefully raps the lyrics that speak of past regrets he has no desire to correct, and the pain he continues to self-medicate: “I never said goodbye to my friend that died at 25 / But these hard pills get easier to swallow. Don’t be alarmed, numbing myself is just part of the process. All of this shit is just hard to process / You can erase me if you like, black & white. It makes no difference, so take me out.” The instrumentals continue for the final two and a half minutes of the song, highlighted by Falcao’s marvelous guitar solo.
Phone Calls With Ghosts is a marvelous little album with a huge, impactful sound. I love Krosst Out’s songwriting and lyricism, and while he doesn’t have a particularly strong voice, he’s a highly emotive vocalist and terrific freestyle rapper. It’s been a distinct pleasure following on his musical journey over the past four years and watching him grow as an artist. I’m so very proud of him.
One of the things I most enjoy about being a music blogger is getting to know a lot of musicians and bands through social media, and following them on their musical journeys over time. An artist I’ve grown particularly fond of is Krosst Out, a singer-songwriter and rapper from Toronto, Canada. I first learned about him in early 2017, when he reached out to me about his debut EP Life of the Party, an outstanding work that examined the darker aspects of party life, along with the sex, drugs and alcohol abuse that often go hand in hand. (I reviewed that EP, as well as one of his later singles, both of which you can find under “Related” at the end of this post.)
Born and raised in the small Ontario town of Campbellford, he first studied piano as a child, then took up the bass guitar in his teens. Influenced by the music of artists such as Manafest, Eminem, Underoath, Rage Against The Machine, System Of A Down, Vinnie Paz, Nas, and Marilyn Manson, he developed a love for alternative rock, hip hop and rap. He played in various local bands, developing his rapping skills along the way, and eventually moved to Toronto, where he started writing his own songs. Drawing upon the aforementioned influences, he fuses hip hop with grunge, alt-rock and punk to create his own unique sound. Like a lot of hip hop artists, his songs draw heavily from his own life experiences, with honest, raw and introspective lyrics.
On March 13, he dropped his latest single “Funerals“, and followed up with a brilliant companion video for the song that was filmed and directed by Eric Soto. The track was produced by Adam Van Ameringen, recorded at Pink Distortion Music in Toronto, and mixed and mastered by Sean Savage.
“Funerals” is a deeply personal song for Krosst Out, and touches on how he’s changed and grown since leaving Campbellford. It’s often challenging when people leave home and move away to make a new life for themselves, and though we generally maintain a sense of love and fondness toward family and friends we left behind, the distance and passage of time can complicate or often diminish relationships. Krosst Out told me the song title “Funerals” is a metaphor for the death of his old self. “I feel like I’ve just grown so much that I’m unrecognizable now, but at the same time, if I wanted to go [back] home I couldn’t. Also, the more you grow, the more you have people that will hate you for that.”
The song opens with Krosst Out telling us who he is now, accompanied by resonant keyboard notes:
I’m not that kid that you used to know
Now I’m living life so unusual
Less weddings and more of these funerals
The tempo then abruptly shifts to a heavy dub step beat, as the music expands with a dramatic mix of spooky psychedelic synths, deep, throbbing bass, glittery keyboards and some of the sickest percussive synths I’ve heard in a while. The instrumentals are really superb, creating a dark and moody backdrop for Krosst Out’s impassioned free style rapping as he laments about the guilt trips foisted upon him by his mother and friends:
You’re always telling me that I don’t pick up that phone much anymore And you don’t call home Why are the people that you’ve got ignored Saying that you’re one of us But it’s pretty clear that you’re not You think that you’re better You think that you’re big now Move from the small town Go and get the big stuff Now that your ego’s even bigger now And you fucking forgot our names, wow
From that same town where nothing ever happened But that was back then Fuck those memories you can have em I’m past it I’m not that kid that you used to know Want black roses at my funeral
And I’m sorry mom, but I’m not that kid that you used to know
He goes on to sing that his new life isn’t all a bed of roses either:
But if you have to know I hate this city
Cause I been here too long
And I know that I can’t go home
Cause I don’t belong
And no I don’t need no phone call
Hold on, spare me the sad song
I don’t need to hear about the old me
It should be quite clear that’s what I don’t need
I’m just a grown man who can’t afford these groceries
If you think the grass is greener on my side
It’s not really
The fascinating video was filmed mostly in a church, and shows Krosst Out singing the song as if addressing an imaginary congregation. He then goes into a restroom, where he cuts off all his hair, and is later shown as his new self singing the song in a gymnasium, as well as outside at night, digging a hole with a shovel, seemingly for the purpose of burying his old self.
Cayley Thomas is a singer-songwriter and guitarist born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and now based in Toronto. With a beguiling singing voice and talent for writing songs with arresting melodies and compelling, heartfelt lyrics, she’s been recording some very fine music for the past several years, beginning with her debut EP Ash Mountains in 2013. She followed up in 2016 with the excellent album Weird Love, then dropped an enchanting single “Midnight Hours” in November 2019. She’s now back with a great new single “Blue Jean Baby“, which along with “Midnight Hours” will be included on her forthcoming album How Else Can I Tell You?, due for release on May 1.
About the song, Thomas explains “‘Blue Jean Baby’ explores the pattern of feeling responsible for the emotions or actions of others at the expense of our own wellness. It’s like when you’re on an airplane and they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before assisting other passengers. The accompanying video takes a sobering look at this. I think we can become preoccupied trying to do someone else’s work for them as a means to avoid our own self reflection.”
Musically, the song has a languid, doo wop beat, and features a rich mix of instruments that produce an interesting and pleasing soundscape for Thomas’ sublime vocals. She plays the subtle organ work on the track, and has the assistance of several other talented musicians, including Connor Snell (who plays her boyfriend in the video) and Josh Beatty on guitars, Ben Whiteley on the terrific bass, Robin Claxton on drums, James Hill on synth, and Naman Cale adding an enchanting musical element to the song with his marvelous vibraphone. Josh Eygenraam and Aaron Parker provide the cool sci-fi sound effects that arrive at the end like an alien spaceship.
eyes closed against the passenger window everything in slow motion barefoot high heels in hand and i’m stumbling home to him
my blue jean baby don’t worry baby a love like yours will do me in
tv static and hazy a dreamer of pictures and moonlight everyone knows that you’re headline news baby but stumble back home to me
my blue jean baby don’t worry baby a love like yours will do me in
The brilliant video, which stars Thomas and curly-haired musician Connor Snell as her too-cute-for-his-own-good boyfriend, along with a number of her Edmonton friends, was also produced and directed by Thomas, and edited by Thomas and Ryan Gullen. It shows Thomas and Snell at a party with friends, where everyone’s drinking and having a good time – with a few of the guys, including Snell, drinking too much. The mood changes as Thomas and her girlfriends become sullen, staring coldly at their boyfriends who are getting increasingly drunk. Eventually, Snell passes out, and she now has to be the adult and carry him home and put him to bed. Disgusted, she goes out into the cold night and ponders her situation before going back inside. After the credits, she and Snell are shown sitting at the breakfast table the next morning, him trying to eat some breakfast while she quietly writes in her journal and avoids looking at him. Watch the video:
When I last featured rock band Swilly on this blog back in January 2018, they had just released their debut 13-track album Play It Loud (you can read my review here). Since then, they’ve been on a creative tear, releasing four more albums, the latest of which is the provocatively-titled Size Matters, an ambitious work featuring 14 tracks that dropped on September 30. It boggles my mind that a group of musicians can write that many songs over such a short period of time!
Swilly is the nickname of singer/songwriter and guitarist Steve Williams, but also the name of his band, which includes lead guitarist and songwriter Kevin Campbell and drummer Carl Holz. They’re an international band of sorts, as Williams and Campbell are based in British Columbia, Canada, while Holz is from Colorado, USA. They’re occasionally joined by Austrian guitarist Klaus Passegger who provides lead guitar on a few songs, and have also collaborated with scores of other artists from time to time. Heavily influenced by some of their favorite bands like ZZ Top, The Cult, Nickelback and Theory of a Deadman, Swilly has a bawdy sense of humor and like to have fun, playing the kind of down and dirty, kick-ass rock’n’roll you wanna hear on a Saturday night, throwing down a few beers with friends at the local Roadhouse.
Size Matters tackles the universal subjects of love, sex and relationships in all their messy variations – more specifically, how they can bring us immense pleasure, deep sadness, or be a colossal pain in the ass! The album features songs ranging from in-your-face, kiss-off rockers to heartfelt love ballads, and I’ll touch on some of the highlights. Kicking things off is “Stomping Around“, a clarion call to stand up and fight against injustice, whether it be guys cheating on their women or governments oppressing their citizens: “You let yourself down when you’re fooling around, and the girls’ gonna stomp their feet. /Not that I insist, but the world is pissed at the people getting pushed around. Government’s weak, and the future is bleak. So we gotta start stomping around.” The guys deliver blistering riffs of gnarly guitars accompanied by strutting rhythms and gritty vocals.
One of my favorite tracks is “Deep“, a raucous, bawdy tune with an infectious rockabilly vibe. Swilly extols the virtues of his hot babe with hilarious, straight-to-the-point lyrics and some terrific guitar noodling as he croons in his raspy drawl: “My girl loves to go down. She loves to wear that crown. Don’t get me wrong, she ain’t cheap. But dammit I love being balls deep!”
He expresses his romantic ardor in a somewhat more conventional manner on the sultry track “I Love You“: “Do you know you’re my everything? I’m so in love with you, the crazy stuff you do.” To a languid tempo that compels some serious swaying of the hips, Swilly lays down an appealing mix of melodic guitar textures and percussive rhythms. It all makes for quite an arresting rock ballad, and I really like the contrast between Williams’ raw vocals and smooth humming.
Another great track is “My Bitch” an ass-kicking rocker about comeuppance and payback. Hard-driving riffs of snarling guitars, throbbing bass and pummeling drums, not to mention raspy vocals that really channel Billy Gibbons, give the song a strong ZZ Top vibe. The lyrics start out with Swilly yelling “You little bitch!” at his woman after she’s stayed out late carousing and acting inappropriately, vowing to repay her in kind and sending a clear message that she’d best not fuck with him: “Yeah I was out late. Yeah I lost track of time. I didn’t think it would be seen as a crime. I should have planned it out. I found money out back. I even made 100 bucks just to show my dick. Suck my dick! You little bitch!”
“Suck It Up” keeps the driving rhythmic grooves flowing with strutting riffs of gnarly guitars. The song seems to be about accepting the shit life throws our way, dealing with it as best we can, not letting it get the better of us, and trying to have a little fun now and then: “Suck it up. You do what you got to do./Big tears don’t make it better. Dirty love just makes it wetter./ Don’t whine, it makes you ugly. Don’t worry, the world loves ya honey. Come here, I’ll hold you tight.”
Swilly turns introspective on the bittersweet “I Let You Lie“, a poignant song with lyrics written by Tammy Throneberry, a Twitter friend of both the band and mine. The song speaks to the sadness and desolation resulting from a relationship that’s ended. In his raspy, heartfelt vocals, Swilly laments “You said you can’t live without me. But I’m alone. I long to hear your footsteps coming through that front door. You promised me forever. Now forever I wait. How much more I wonder can these two lives take?”
Keeping with the theme of desolation, the heartbreaking “My Abyss” speaks to the enduring pain and emptiness from the loss of a loved one: “Never thought it would come to this, that love would be such an abyss. They say that you live on. How can I if you’re gone? Everywhere I look, I see you. You are everything that I do. Everything that I miss, have become my abyss.” I love the haunting guitar-driven melody, and the interplay between Williams’ acoustic and Campbell’s electric guitars is so damn good.
Album closer “Dirty Boys” is a rousing, hard-hitting track that showcases Swilly’s superb musicianship, with scorching guitar work, tumultuous percussion and tasty classic rock grooves. Quite frankly, it beautifully encapsulates the raw power and unbridled energy of the entire album and the band. Size Matters shows us yet again what a talented collective of musicians these guys are, delivering more of their great tunes that have the ability to thrill, and make us laugh, cry or just stomp our feet as we yell ‘fuck yeah’.
Titus Calderbank is a remarkably talented young singer/songwriter from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and he’s just released a beautiful and moving new single “Mistakes“. The song has a bit of a gospel quality, with a haunting piano-driven melody fortified by a soaring organ riff, celebratory drumbeats and Titus’ gorgeous vocals, backed by anthemic choruses. His deeply resonant vocal style is quite marvelous, with a power to stir our hearts and souls.
About the single, Titus explains “‘Mistakes’ is a song about failure and regret. A song about missing the mark. It’s also a song of redemption and asking for forgiveness. Humans often fall short. At the end of the day, we have to accept that we’re all trying our best. What I hope to communicate through this song is that mercy and forgiveness are always an option. We can either be slaves to our past mistakes or make peace with them and move on. We can grace our enemies with forgiveness or we can die with bitter hearts.”
Choices I made Long ago they Bubble up And they surface to my soul
But darling then Was I myself Was I who I wanted me to want to be
Won’t you take a part of me Won’t you take a part of me Place it deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, See if I still make mistakes
Here’s a video of him performing the song live, with his lovely piano as the only instrument to accompany his beautiful vocals that remind me a bit here of Rufus Wainwright.
Also released in conjunction with “Mistakes” is a second track “Could Have Done Better“. It’s a bit lighter in tone, with a catchy guitar-driven melody, but still features that lovely organ, strong percussion, and Titus’ arresting vocals. Like “Mistakes”, it also deals with atoning for one’s past wrongs and asking for forgiveness. It’s a wonderful song too.
In an effort to try and showcase more artists and bands on this blog, today I’m launching another new feature “New Song of the Week”, where each week I’ll post a newly-released single. For my first selection, I’ve chosen the poignant new song “Tell Me” by Canadian artist Ghostly Beard, which dropped yesterday, May 6th. Ghostly Beard is the artistic moniker of French born, but now Montréal, Canada-based, singer/songwriter Patrick Talbot, who I first wrote about in March 2018 when I reviewed his beautiful album Inward.
Somewhat of an enigma, Ghostly Beard prefers the focus to be entirely on his music rather than him, therefore, has chosen to remain physically anonymous, and never shows his image on any of his albums or social media, nor does he perform live. That said, he’s a thoughtful and talented songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist with a lot to tell us, which he beautifully expresses through his compelling lyrics, sublime vocals and dreamy, mellow soundscapes that draw from soft rock, jazz, pop, progressive rock and fusion, among other influences. When listening to his music, one can hear his inspiration from such legendary artists and bands as Steely Dan, Pink Floyd, Michael Franks, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, the Beatles, Genesis, XTC, and Weather Report. All his music is entirely self-produced at his own Studio GB in Montréal.
“Tell Me” starts off with a somber piano riff and strummed electric guitar, then as Ghostly Beard’s smooth, comforting vocals enter, gentle percussion and bass are added to the mix, creating a rather melancholy yet lovely soundscape. The bluesy guitar solo in the bridge is especially nice, and I love the glittery keyboard synths in the final minute that end the song on a high note.
My interpretation of the lyrics are that they speak of a troubled relationship that’s breaking apart, and that only through their shared love can they try and salvage what remains. Ghostly Beard told me that on a broader level, they’re generally about how things in the world seem to be upside down these days.
The beast is crawling A darker looking future You can’t live without a tear The door is closed, alone it ends, tonight Hiding the light, oh no!
Now tell me what’s knocking me down And why were you screaming so loud Tell me what’s knocking me down While the world is spinning around
There’s only one thing left To stop this pain With all our loving We could try
When I last featured Canadian singer/songwriter Guy Paul Thibault on this blog back in September 2017, he had a few months earlier released his wonderful album It’s About Time, an appropriate title given the span of 17 years since his previous solo album. (You can read my review here.) Now the Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia-based musician returns with a superb follow-up effort The Road Between. Listening to his pleasing style of rock-infused Americana/Alt-Country music, it would be easy to assume he’s from somewhere like Nashville, Tennessee, rather than the maritime provinces of eastern Canada.
Over the past two years, Guy Paul has received numerous accolades, including being named 2018 Artist of the Year on New Vision Radio (New Jersey), one of the Top 40 Indie Artists of 2017 on several Ontario, Canada radio stations, having several of his singles appear on numerous Indie Music charts in Canada, the U.S., UK and Australia, and having It’s About Time named one of the top albums of 2017 by The Halifax Musicphile.
Guy Paul played most of the instruments on The Road Between, although Shawn Cherry played drums, and Ian Lewer played bass on the opening track “Anymore”. Guy Paul sang all lead vocals, and Carolyn Cherry sang most of the backing vocals, except for those on “Talk to Me” and “No One Understands”, which were sung by Lisa Comeau-McDow. Guy Paul’s daughter did all the hand claps and played tambourine.
The album features nine tracks that address love and relationships, and all the attendant joy and heartache they bring. Case in point is album opener “Anymore“, a poignant Alt-Country tune about feelings of betrayal and sadness over a love affair that went south. Against an urgent backdrop of really fine electric and slide guitar work, Guy Paul laments “You don’t know where I sleep at night anymore. You don’t know what it’s like in my life anymore. Why don’t you love me anymore?”
The Country-rock tinged “Dangerous Strangers” speaks to an illicit affair about to go down between two people – one with a faithful wife back home, and another seeking revenge on the man who cheated on her: “For a minute think you saw, what was really on my mind. A touch of evil, it could be a simple little crime. You can only think of him, how he broke your heart. Are you gonna do to him what he did to you.”
One of my favorite tracks is “Talk to Me“, a powerfully moving song about a couple struggling to communicate through the wall that’s built up between them: “Talk to me about anything you want. Just look at me like you sometimes care. Tell me what it is that you want. Show me that you’re somewhere in there.” The dramatic instrumentals, especially the intricate guitar work, are fantastic, creating a palpable tension that’s a perfect accompaniment for Guy Paul and Lisa’s beautiful, impassioned vocals. The piano-driven ballad “Take Me” touches on the passage of time and how lovers can drift in and out of your life: “Funny how time flies. In her world and in mine. Children, death and love crimes. Chances that seemed to rush by. / Only love can save my soul, from years of pain untold. Love me if you can. She said ‘Try to be my man’.”
Another highlight for me in an album filled with them is the haunting “Who Are You“. The track opens with a mournful organ riff and drumbeat, followed by an achingly beautiful twangy guitar riff. Soon, Guy Paul’s resonant vocals enter the scene, backed by Carolyn’s soft croons as the instrumentals build, creating a lush, moody soundscape. The lyrics speak of a couple who’ve become strangers to each other after years of disappointment and hurt: “Cause here is the moonlight. And these are our scars. Though you lie here beside me, I can’t tell who you are.” This track really showcases Guy Paul’s skills for songwriting and crafting gorgeous melodies.
He lightens the mood with the celebratory “Day Drinking“, a fun rock’n’roll tune about just forgetting one’s problems and spending the day with a loved one like you’re on holiday. Things turn serious again with the darkly beautiful “No One Understands“, an ode to someone who’s stood by you through good times and bad: “And no one understands but you. Why I do the things I do. And no one comprehends the secret wars that I have led. No one understands but you.” Once again, Guy Paul is joined by Lisa Comeau-McDow, and their vocal harmonies are sublime. The guitar solo in the bridge is pretty wonderful too.
“Don’t You See Me Cry” is one of the more rock-oriented tracks on the album, with lots of great intricate guitar work, accompanied by some terrific piano keys. Instrumentally, this is one of the standouts on the album, and the distorted guitar riffs are particularly good. The dark lyrics seem to speak of someone who was already feeling bad, and put his hopes on a woman who ended up only hurting him more: “I was such a strong man with no love left in his eyes. Well you changed all that and now I could just die. Don’t you see me cry.” The album closes on a bittersweet note with “Catch My Fall“, a song about a young runaway who he allowed into his heart and life, but was too young and unsettled to stay with him: “Much too young and always on the run. The rhythm in her feet always pulled her towards the sun. She couldn’t stop, just couldn’t settle down.”
Guy Paul’s songs have a way of boring themselves into your mind and soul, staying with you long after hearing them. I found myself liking this album more with each listen, discovering new sounds in the music, and deeper meanings in the compelling lyrics. I appreciate that he included them on his Bandcamp page, which also made my job of discussing each track easier. If you’re a fan of Americana and Country-rock, you will enjoy The Road Between.
I continue to be amazed and a little amused that I’ve gained a reputation as a music blogger who artists and bands reach out to in hopes I’ll listen to and write about their music, especially given the fact I play no instruments, cannot read music, have never written a song, and know zero about computer music programs or synthesizers. Hell, I only learned a few years ago that a bass guitar has only four strings as opposed to a standard six-string guitar! That said, I’m immensely impressed by people who can do all those things. I also try to keep an open mind about all kinds of music, and (almost always) know a good song when I hear it.
With that in mind, I’m pleased to feature a young, promising musician from Canada who goes by the artistic name PHYSIA. It’s the basement project of 19-year-old college student James Bings, who just released his self-titled debut EP Physia on the 25th of January. Now based in Victoria, James grew up in the small city of Williams Lake, deep in the Cariboo region of British Columbia, and learned to play guitar and bass at a young age. He developed his skills performing live with his late grandfather, mostly jig and waltz songs. Drawing inspiration from bands like Mac Demarco, HOMESHAKE and Mild High Club, he wrote the songs for Physia during his freshman year of university, and recorded, produced and mixed them by himself. He played guitar and bass, and used synthesizers for the percussion.
His songs are all instrumentals, characterized by his lush-sounding reverb-drenched guitars, subtle bass and gentle percussion. The first track “Cool Cat” is an aptly-named, pleasing song with jazz-infused jangly guitars and just a hint of percussion. The title track “Physia” is sublime, with a lovely melody and terrific jangly and chiming guitars. I especially like the watery guitars that appear later in the song that add a bit of funkiness to the track. “Beach Interlude” is a short track, only 1:16 minutes long, but it’s a beauty, with some fine guitar work that conveys images of a romantic night on the beach.
“Nice Dog” is a mellow, happy tune with jazzy, reverb-heavy riffs, accompanied by a pleasant little percussive beat. The song seems to end at the 3-minute mark, then suddenly starts back up with a sped-up version of the same melody and guitar riff, ending on an exuberant note. “Floral” is another brief track, but James’ intricate guitar work is really beautiful.
My favorite is “Drag Queen” which has the most complex and fully-developed melody of all the tracks. The sweeping jangly and chiming guitars are gorgeous, and I love the effect of James’ soaring vocals that meld so beautifully with the guitars, creating a wonderful glittery soundscape. I asked James why he gave the track that title, and he said he was inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race, which he and his girlfriend enjoy watching. The laughter of who I’m guessing is James and his girlfriend at the end is a fun touch.
Physia is a great little EP, and a very respectable debut effort that James should be proud of. He’s a fine guitarist and composer, and I really like his sound. I’m confident his skills will continue to grow and improve as he matures, and I’d like to see him use more complex melodies, guitar riffs and synths, and perhaps even try writing lyrics and adding more vocals to his songs.
The cool artwork for the EP was created by graphic and digital artist, editor/motion designer and composer Harrison Ames Barrett https://www.ames.digital/