KROSST OUT – Single/Video Review: “Funerals”

Krosst Out Funerals

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.

Connect with Krosst Out:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / SoundcloudApple Music
Purchase on BandcampGoogle Play

CAYLEY THOMAS – Single Review: “Blue Jean Baby”

Cayley Thomas 2

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:

Follow Cayley:  FacebookTwitterInstagram
Stream her music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase:  BandcampGoogle Play

SWILLY – Album Review: “Size Matters”

Swilly Size Matters

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’.

Connect with Swilly: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunes / Bandcamp / cdbaby

New Song of the Week: TITUS CALDERBANK: “Mistakes”

Titus Calderbank

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.

Connect with Titus on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes /  Bandcamp

New Song of the Week – GHOSTLY BEARD: “Tell Me”

Ghostly Beard Tell Me

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

Connect with Ghostly Beard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase his music on iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon

GUY PAUL THIBAULT – Album Review: “The Road Between”

Guy Paul Thibault Album

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.

Connect with Guy Paul:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Google Play / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Bandcamp / cdbaby

PHYSIA – EP Review: “Physia”

physia

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.

james bing

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/

Connect with Physia on Instagram / Facebook
Stream/purchase his music on Spotify / Bandcamp / Soundcloud / iTunes

GHOSTLY BEARD – Album Review: “Inward”

I’ve noted in previous posts that one of the things I like about Twitter is the huge amount of new music I’m exposed to from the many musicians and bands who follow me. And in addition to all the terrific music, I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know some truly kind and generous people who I can call friends. They’ve not only supported me and my blog, they’ve also shown themselves to be strong supporters of other artists. One of those musicians is singer/songwriter Patrick Talbot, who goes by the artistic name Ghostly Beard.

Somewhat of an enigma, Ghostly Beard is originally from France but now calls Montréal, Québec, Canada home. Preferring the focus to be entirely on his music rather than him, he’s chosen to remain physically anonymous, so he never shows his image on any of his albums or social media, nor does he perform live. That said, he’s a creative and talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist with a lot to tell us, which he expresses so beautifully through his intelligent 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, Genesis, XTC, and Weather Report.

Ghostly Beard has been a busy man, recording and releasing lots of music over the past year or so, including his superb album Invisible, which dropped last October (of 2017). More recently, he’s released two new songs that will be featured on his forthcoming album Inward, which is scheduled to drop on May 4th, and the subject of this review. The album contains ten tracks that have more of a soft-rock vibe than the jazzier Invisible, though jazz elements are still well-represented on Inward.

Like all his music, the album is entirely self-produced.  He wrote all the music and lyrics, played all instruments, and recorded, mixed and mastered the songs at his own Studio GB in Montréal. He sang all vocals, other than for guest vocals provided by Emma Caiman on “Night Train” and his daughter Sarah Talbot on “Going Away.” The imaginative album cover photography is courtesy of Pol Ùbeda. Also, it must be noted that all proceeds from album sales will be given to MusiCounts – https://www.musicounts.ca/ – a Canadian charity organization that promotes music education through a wide variety of programs, including scholarships and providing musical instruments and equipment to after-school music programs and other community non-profit organizations.

Inward Album

The album opens with “How Does It Feel?” a laid-back tune with rather pensive lyrics about feeling that your life hasn’t mattered…that your existence has made no impact on the world: “When you’re so invisible what do you do in the title role? And when you know it’s far too late to take your place again in the human race. How does it feel? To be less than real.” The gently strummed and chiming guitars, accentuated by just a hint of reverb, are really pleasing, and the electric guitar riff that begins in the bridge and continues through to the end adds a nice complexity to the track. The languid drumbeat is accompanied by lightly crashing cymbals and a sweet xylophone that’s heard throughout the track. Ghostly Beard’s smooth vocals are warm and comforting, and seem to lessen the sting of the unhappy lyrics.

The warmth of his vocals, a major characteristic of his overall sound, are strongly evident on the bittersweet “The Love in Your Eyes,” an easy-going song dedicated to his mother, Christiane. His words beautifully express his feelings of loss and missing her in a way that everyone who’s lost a loved one can identify with: “Out of the blue I felt your absence. And into my heart an empty place. I reached for your light, I couldn’t find it. What would I give to see you now! And I had to say goodbye when I knew it would be for the last time. However hard I tried I couldn’t see all the love in your eyes anymore.”


In addition to his smooth, comforting vocals, another signature element of Ghostly Beard’s music is his layered, multi-textured guitar work that imparts a rich, fuller sound. His skillful use of strummed acoustic guitar alongside chiming and distorted electric guitars, all grounded by subtle bass lines, are exquisitely showcased on tracks like the Country-tinged “Gone,” the soft-rock ballad “Let Go” and the jazzy “It Doesn’t Matter.”  And his ace guitar playing really shines on the sparkling instrumental track “Autumn Blues,” where his fantastic bluesy guitar work seems to channel Steely Dan.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Night Train.” The captivating song tells the story of two unhappy people on a train fantasizing about a chance encounter: “We were strangers on the night train riding in the dark. Going nowhere to speak of, just escaping from the past. / And the tears started falling down. Was it yours or was it mine? / As the train was heading north, I thought of all I’ve left behind. Who knows what crossed your mind when your eyes crossed mine?” The dream is disrupted by a explosive riff of distorted guitars, then the music calms back down to its previous languid pace as reality returns: “Never spoke and never will. It all happened in a dream. During that fleeting moment in the world that passed away. / We leave so little trace but a memory in the dark. Ooh, taking the life train. Ooh, riding the long way home.” I love the instrumentals on this track, and Ghostly Beard’s vocal harmonies with Emma Caiman are marvelous.

Another standout is the darkly beautiful “9 to 5 (Barely Alive).” Nearly eight minutes in length, the influence of Pink Floyd is clearly evident, with extended guitar riffs floating above a somber but lovely piano movement. The track opens and closes with the sounds of voices as if at a gathering, adding to the sense of isolation. Ghostly Beard sounds resigned as he wistfully sings of the soul-crushing tedium of a 9 to 5 job: “9 to 5, you leave your soul behind and drag your worried mind to earn your place back in the line. / You’re barely alive. Just another day to make it through. All you do is give your light away.

Let It Rain” is a pretty but very sad song about being heartbroken over a loved one’s betrayal:  “I’ll never trust another one. I need some time to be sane again. My whole being out of hand. Entire world just turned to sand.” Not wanting to end things on a down note, Ghostly Beard delivers upbeat feels on the bouncy album closer “Going Away.” With assistance from his daughter Sarah on backing vocals, he sings about the thrill of getting away from life’s daily routines and problems, and going off on an adventure filled with possibilities. It’s a fitting closing track to an aptly-titled album filled with beautiful, introspective songs.

Track listing:

1. How Does It Feel?
2. The Love in Your Eyes
3. Gone
4. Autumn Blues
5. Night Train
6. Let Go
7. It Doesn’t Matter
8. 9 to 5 (Barely Alive)
9. Let It Rain
10. Going Away

Connect with Ghostly Beard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase his existing music or pre-order Inward on iTunes / Bandcamp / Amazon

KROSST OUT – Single Review: “The Death of Me ft. Jor’del Downz”

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Krosst Out is a talented young hip hop artist from Toronto, Canada. In March 2017, he released his debut EP Life of the Party, an outstanding effort that examined the darker aspects of the party life, and its attendant abuse of sex, drugs and alcohol (you can read my review here). He’s now releasing a new autobiographical single “The Death of Me featuring Jor’del Downz.” It drops February 26, which is also his birthday and will be available on all music streaming and purchase sites.

The track is fantastic, with a strong trap beat and mysterious wobbly synths creating a deep sense of foreboding. The production is flawless and tight, and Krosst Out’s performance shows how his vocals have matured since Life of the Party. He passionately sings of his anxiety and insecurities of trying to make it as a hip hop artist, and the frustration of having to spend much of his precious time working at dead-end jobs instead of devoting it to his music dream:

When I’m gone they’ll know they’re wrong
These words are all I got

They’ll never know what I go through
It’s the death of me
I’ve really been at my wits end lately
This back and forth between jobs got me going crazy
Now I don’t want to fight with my boss
It’s just that he don’t pay me
How do you expect me to not say these things?
Not pretend that I am not bleeding

Jor’del Downz enters 2/3 of the way through the track, rapping about the pressures of being a rapper and confirming the feelings expressed by Krosst Out:

I’m fed up and I’m stressed out
And I could care less about who’s opinion on who’s the next out
Probably cause you’re left out
But that’s expected when it’s rap I mess with
Or any other genre I might invest in

Since the song’s release, Krosst Out has dropped a cool new video that includes only his portion of the track.

See Krosst Out at one of these upcoming Cognitive Diss Eastern Canada Tour shows:

APR 13 FRI  –  Overtime Sports Bar, Kingston, Ontario
APR 14 SAT  –  The Diezel Room, Oshawa, Ontario
APR 18 WED  –  Lexi’s Lounge, Moncton, New Brunswick
APR 20 FRI  –  Menz & Mollyz Bar, Halifax Nova Scotia
APR 21 SAT  –  Baba’s Lounge, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
APR 27 FRI  –  Detour Music Hall, St Catharines, Ontario
APR 28 SAT  –  Cognitive Diss Tour/ Melotika EP Release Party @ The Cavern Bar, Toronto

Connect with Krosst Out:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp

SHIMMER JOHNSON – Single Review: “Getaway”

Singer/songwriter Shimmer Johnson has the voice of an angel. Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Shimmer started out writing and recording Country songs, but has recently drifted toward a more pop-oriented sound. In addition to playing guitar, she’s also a fairly decent pianist. She writes compelling lyrics that speak to the joys and pain we all experience in life, and sets them to hauntingly beautiful piano-driven melodies. Her clear, pitch-perfect vocals skillfully convey the subtle yet powerful emotions expressed in her heartfelt lyrics, allowing us to connect with her songs on a deeply personal level.

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Shimmer has been collaborating with other songwriters, including Michael Jay, John West, Richard Bergman and Relik Gregos, in the creation of her newer songs. She’s recorded five over the past year, in preparation for a new album Pride, scheduled for release in May. One of those songs, released as a single in the summer of 2017, is “Getaway.” Addressing the subject of mental illness, the poignant track offers a positive message of hope and assurance that things will get better.

Everybody needs a little faith, a little love, a little break
A private getaway to collect those thoughts inside
Everybody needs a getaway sometimes
When life is hard and you can’t breathe
And you fall to your knees
Just remember that everything will be OK
When you can’t struggle anymore
You’re giving up, you want no more
Just remember you can breathe

Do yourself a favor and listen to some of her other tracks to more fully appreciate her superb songwriting, piano and vocal talents.

Connect with Shimmer:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Reverbnation / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes