DEBRIS DISCS – Single Review: “We Never Die”

Debris Discs is the solo music project of British singer-songwriter James Eary, former front man of Manchester, England alternative dream pop band Coves & Caves. Last October, I featured his first single “Animals“, and now he’s back with his third release “We Never Die“. It’s a beautiful and poignant song that touches on the notion that love is a powerful and enduring component in the cycle of life. The song is part two of his hope and survival themed audio triptych, the first of which was his previous single “Daniel and the Apocalypse”, which he released in January.

Eary states that the song was inspired by a visit to his grandparent’s memorial bench on a windswept day on the Northwest English coast. “‘We Never Die’ is an attempt to find comfort in the despair of loss. It tells the story of lifetime lovers so entwined they reach their end of days in tandem. They search for solace in the legacy they leave behind and a love that burns in perpetuity. It’s a message to each other and their families that this is not the end. There are no goodbyes.

“We Never Die” is an enchanting dream pop gem, fashioned from a rich palette of swirling glittery synths, subtle guitar chords and gentle percussive grooves. Debris Discs skillfully incorporates all these musical elements into a lush, sweeping backdrop for his sweet vocal harmonies, resulting in an achingly beautiful track that captures the power and romance of an enduring love. He has a marvelous singing voice that registers in the higher range, just below a falsetto, and it’s positively sublime on this track.

It’s ok we never die
They keep our dreams
And our names they engrave in aluminium
On a park bench plaque
For all to see
Who we were, what we did, where we’ve been

Muscles knotted
All our words forgotten
Milky eyes, milky eyes
We’ve come too far
So now we wait for stars
And no goodbyes, no goodbyes

It’s ok we never die
No eulogy
Just a spark, flickers free from the embers
To illuminate and help them see
Who we were, what we did, where we’ve been
Who we were, what we did, where we’ve been

Connect with Debris Discs: Twitter
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

ISOLDA – Single Review: “Night Time”

Isolda is a London-based singer-songwriter and musician who recently dropped her debut single “Night Time” on November 13. It’s a captivating track, and an impressive debut for this promising young artist, who began writing songs as a child. Classically trained on the violin and piano, she spent her formative years playing in orchestras, then later performing her songs at the piano in and around London. Inspired by those classical influences, as well as her interest in EDM, synth pop, psychedelic pop and trip hop, she began experimenting with electronic and acoustic elements to create her own unique sound, even learning to produce her own music in her north London home.

Isolda2

With the assistance of Dave De Rose on drums and Ami Kirby on violin, Isolda recorded her first EP Night Time, from which the title track is the lead single. The EP was mixed by noted sound engineer Shuta Shinoda at Hackney Road Studio, and is scheduled for release in early 2020. About “Night Time”, Isolda explains “The song is a hypnotic electronic beat-driven piece, written on sleepless nights and dreamlike states of realisation as time pulls us further away from the persons we loved and the places we have been. [It’s] a contemplation on the identity lost, and the resulting wakeful alertness that persists when the psyche has been disturbed from such reflection during a dark night of the soul, inspired by the inability to sleep when the past haunts someone as they press on towards an unknown future.”

“Night Time” has a rather unusual opening, starting off with a muffled synth chorus that quickly fades out as if the power source has been cut. After a second of silence, a delicate synth riff begins, then the music swells into an enchanting, ethereal soundscape of lush atmospheric synths. Isolda skillfully chooses from a bold palette of sparkling orchestral and percussive sounds to create a dreamy backdrop for her spellbinding, breathy vocals. She gently croons “And on this long road, no turning back. No, there is no, no, no going back. I was in a lifetime, away. It wasn’t my time to find a way. / It’s the night time, but I can’t get back to sleep.”

The fascinating video shows footage of traveling through city streets at night, interspersed with surreal images of Isolda in different settings that one could imagine her experiencing in a dream. Have a look and listen:

Connect with Isolda:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Night Time” on Spotify 
Purchase:  iTunes  

New Song of the Week – DEBRIS DISCS: “Animals”

Debris Discs

I recently wrote about two different musicians who use an interesting moniker for their music projects, and now have a third to introduce to my readers. Debris Discs is the solo project of British singer-songwriter James Eary, former front man of Manchester, England alternative dream pop band Coves & Caves. They released a well-received and critically acclaimed album Spinnerets in 2014, and played numerous shows, including a BBC live session, but eventually went on indefinite hiatus as the band members went off on their separate ways. James packed up his synthesizer and settled down into family life up in the hills of the High Peak in Derbyshire, but soon realized he couldn’t shake the music-making bug. So, in between day jobs, married life and helping to raise babies, he got back to writing songs and recording music.

His first single under the project Debris Discs is “Animals“, which I’ve selected as my New Song of the Week. The song was inspired by the real-life experience of working in the murky world of financial services from someone very close to James’ heart. He explains “It suggests that if things get to be too much, there’s always another, more soul-nourishing path to choose for a better life – one that might not always be the most obvious. This song should resonate with listeners in the current climate of corporate greed and horrible humans. As the chorus suggests, maybe it’s time to work with animals.”

For Debris Discs, James draws upon an eclectic mix of influences from some of his favorite acts like The Delgados, The Beach Boys, OMD, Giorgio Moroder, The Pet Shop Boys and G Funk.  Using swirling analogue synths and snappy drum machines, funky guitar notes, and a sprinkling of children’s toys he found lying around the house, James adds his pleasing vocal harmonies to create an upbeat, light-hearted tune that’s both inspiring and a delightful listen.

They’ve been working their way in
To get under your skin
Suck at your soul
Always practicing mind games
Won’t give up til they take you far too low
If these people make your blood run cold
Then it’s time to work with animals

You’ll get love that’s unconditional
And it’s OK to be fallible
Homo sapiens aren’t practical
So it’s time to work with animals

Connect with Debris Discs: Twitter
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

HERO WARSHIP – Double-Single Review: “Therewithal / Halcyon Then Gone”

Hero Warship is the solo music project of Joey Doyle, who’s also front man for the Irish band Fiction Peaks, a terrific alternative folk-rock group I’ve featured on this blog a number of times in 2016 and 2017. He released two singles “Chrysanthemum” and “Lesser of Evils” in May (2019), and now returns with another wonderful double single “Therewithal” and “Halcyon Then Gone“, which drop today, October 24. The talented Dubliner is a great songwriter and guitarist, with a beautiful singing voice too. (He’s also a pretty good visual artist.)

Doyle takes a stripped down approach on these two songs, using only guitars and piano to create a captivating soundscape for his gentle vocals. The first track “Therewithal” features layers of cheerfully strummed acoustic and rhythm guitars, accompanied by more somber piano keys that give the song a contemplative air. He earnestly sings the poignant lyrics that seem to me to speak of the ephemeral nature of happiness and contentment. “By the way, I think I thought I had a handle on life suspended on a sunbeam infinitely calls, to an individual sense of therewithal.”

“Halcyon Then Gone” is a simple but lovely song with a haunting piano-driven melody providing the only music for Doyle’s heartfelt, falsetto vocals. He told me the song is a kind of tongue and cheek look at making millions by cheating the casino (casino as a metaphor for a kind of consumer driven, shallow life style). but then giving all the money away and doing it all over again: “When I make my millions I’ll call you, to meet me at the end before we start. This time I’m sure, I’m on to my surefire winning streak, loading the dice, cleaning the house out of countless funds, then give it all away again.


Purchase on Bandcamp / Google Play 

BLOOM DE WILDE – Single Review: “Rock, Plant & Animal”

I recently learned about London, England-based singer-songwriter, producer and visual artist Bloom de Wilde when she reached out to me about her new single “Rock, Plant & Animal.” I was enchanted by her fascinating avant garde sound and imaginative approach to her music, and am happy to feature her on my blog. Influenced by her favorite artists such as Radiohead, Erik Satie, Jeff Buckley, Meredith Monk, Miles Davis, Tom Waits, Björk, Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, NIna Simone, Moondog and Toxic Chicken, Bloom fuses dream, ethno and experimental art pop, folk and jazz with surrealistic yet uplifting lyrics and unconventional melodies to create exuberant, colorful soundscapes that transport us to dreamy, faraway places.

Bloom De Wilde2

Bloom has been writing and recording songs for several years, and some of her older tracks can be found on her Soundcloud account. In July, she released a beautiful single “Soul Siren”, and on October 7th, she dropped “Rock, Plant & Animal”, a hopeful ode to nature and our Earth. The track was written and arranged by Bloom and co-produced by her and Nick Trepka, who also did the mixing. Recording was done at the Cowshed Studio in London by Joe Leech, with assistance by Grace Banks, and mastered by Nick Watson. Bloom sang vocals, played guitar, piano and programming, and had assistance by several musicians, including Nick Trepka on bass and programming, Yuval Juba Wetzler on drums, Sam Ritchie on flugelhorn and trumpet, Jally Kebba Susso on kora (a West African long-necked harp lute), Gazel Algan on viola and violin, and Mao Yamada on double bass.

And what a captivating song it is, with the kora, horns and strings adding a dreamy, exotic lushness to the sound. The rich instrumentation and enthralling melody provide a stunning backdrop for Bloom’s bewitching vocals. Her unusual and distinctive vocal style is somewhat reminiscent of Björk, in that she uses her voice like another instrument. She’s not quite a soprano, but reaches almost childlike high notes as her voice sweetly croons and soars, creating quite an emotional impact.

About the song, Bloom explains: “I wrote this song for my children, about this living Earth I love so dearly, and all the precious life upon it. I believe everything in this world has a living essence, a soul, and all is connected. We are all One – Rock, Plant and Animal. We are all instances of the Universe, perceiving itself from infinite subjective perspectives. With everything that is happening in the world right now, I think it is clear the time has come to change our ways. To approach each day with humble gratitude, our hearts open wide, souls radiating, dancing and dreaming a new world into reality. A harmonious, life-sustaining world, where we look after each other, our animal brothers and sisters, and our Earth mother that nurtures us.”

There lives a humble sound
That renders love and peace
It ripples on the water
And rustles in the trees

We’ll make that sound a yes
We’ll make that sound a yes, yes, yes

Of our beloved earth
As puzzle poem beings
Rock, Plant and Animal all dream
We’ll bravely open doors
Our shadows softy cooing
My darling, you’ve done the wait, now sing
Your true song

And make that sound a yes
And make that sound a yes, yes, yes

The enchanting video was produced by Bloom and Kai Nobuko, and stars Bloom dancing about a forest clearing, wearing a colorful floral headpiece designed by Jimmy Boer. As she dances, bright flowers, butterflies and birds issue from her fingertips. It’s all so wonderfully magical.

Connect with Bloom:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play

New Song of the Week: DAVID VIVIAN – “Always”

David Vivian

Two months ago I featured singer-songwriter and guitarist David Vivian upon the release of his third single “Weekend”. Now the Santa Barbara, California-based musician is back with his beautiful new single “Always“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week. David states that “Always” is “about the idea of trying to find someone in one’s art when that can only ever be a mediation.”

The song opens with a haunting little guitar riff, then expands with pleasing keyboard, bass and percussive synths to create a dreamy backdrop for David’s silky, ethereal vocals. He lays down some fine, intricate guitar work throughout the track, and his solo in the bridge is really wonderful. “Always” is a fairly simple track, but has a quiet intensity that hits us in the feels. It’s a beautiful song, and another in a string of excellent singles from this promising young artist.

Dear love, sorry I hurt you
Please know I didn’t mean to
And know I’ll always want you
I can’t explain—I’ve just got to
And I just want you to know

That I was wrong
So wrong
Yes I thought I
Could find you in a song
But I was wrong
I took too long

Dear love, I don’t deserve you
Until all this pain has left you
I want you to have it all
Let’s throw a party, let’s have a ball
And know I’ll be here if you fall
Yes I’ll be here if you fall

Yes I was wrong
So wrong
Yes I thought I
Could find you in a song
But I was wrong
I took too long

Connect with David on Facebook / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase on  Bandcamp / Apple Music / Google Play

ARTHUR KAY – EP Review: “Arthur Kay”

Arthur Kay

Arthur Kay is a renaissance man of sorts. The hard-working and versatile Norwegian musician has been a prominent figure in the Oslo music scene for the past decade. In addition to being frontman for galactic jazz-pop band Dr Kay and his Interstellar Tone Scientists, Kay has worked or collaborated with indie rock band The Switch, Norwegian rapper Ivan Ave, and neo-psychedelic pop-rock band Orions Belte, among others. Becoming a veritable whiz kid on synths and keyboards while still a young child, Kay had mastered Ray Manzarek’s iconic “Light My Fire” organ solo by the age of eight.

Now Kay has recorded his first solo effort, a self-titled EP Arthur Kay that’s scheduled for release on October 11 via Jansen Records. In advance of the EP release, he’s unveiled the first single “Holiday Pay“. The upbeat song is a celebration of the Norwegian institutional policy of employers being required by law to pay a certain percentage of last year’s wages as holiday pay during the Summer months. Like the title would suggest, the song has a bouncy dance beat that evokes a blissful summer day at the beach. Kay artfully employs a mix of sunny keyboard synths, an irresistible dance groove, and touches of jazz and funk to create a breezy track that just makes you feel good. Kay’s smooth vocals are pleasing as he sings about the joys of having nothing pressing on his schedule: “The rush of sweat pants, and lazy mornings every Sunday. Of waking up too early Monday, knowing where I’ll be the entire day. Holiday day, holiday pay, that’s the life that I chose, OK.”

Kay has produced two versions of the song, a 6:13 minute-long ‘single version’ featuring some terrific instrumental runs that would have made it a great disco song back in the late 70s or early 80s, and a shorter 3:42 minute-long radio edit.

The EP will feature four other tracks, the first of which is “Say It Out Loud“, an exuberant jazz-infused tune with an infectious strutting beat. If this song doesn’t get you moving, nothing will! Kay’s jazzy synths and intricate keyboard work are sublime, and quite impressive. It’s no wonder he’s in such demand by other artists wanting him to play music for their songs. The lyrics speak to his adoration for his love and how, even though he’s hurt her in the past, she’s the one that sustains him: “You are my power. You are my one. You are all the things I love under the sun.”

Next up is “Higher Ground“, a languid, ethereal track with hazy atmospherics and glittery synths that make for an enchanting listen. The bittersweet lyrics lyrics speak to coming to terms with the fact that the only way to survive is to completely avoid the one you want but cannot have: “A higher ground is all there is, and all that’s left for me to do. This blankly stare at empty space, and concentrate on simply just not calling you. Take a stand, as a peaceful man, and make my way from A to B./I’ll keep on falling. I’ll keep on getting through. And all I have to do is stay away from you. That’s everything that’s left of what was me and you.

On “My Love is an Only Child“, Kay seems to channel James Blake, with stunning piano work, delicate synths and soft, layered vocals. With a sense of sad resignation, Kay croons the poignant lyrics that seem to touch on the fragile nature of his love: “My love is an only child. No he can’t come play outside. Won’t go running around with scissors. That’s the point that you’ve been missing.” It’s a really captivating track.

Standing on Shoulders” starts off with a beautiful piano-driven melody as Kay sings about growing up with childhood fantasies and dreams of being a hero, going on adventures and saving the world: “I was mad with desire, stoking a fire, singing my songs of a savior far away. The savior was older and wiser than me. He held all the answers and sway. His feelings could be what he’d like them to be, but never did he run away. ” Suddenly, the music transitions to a lively Latin-infused beat, with exuberant synths and percussion added to the mix. Kay acknowledges that his childhood dreams were made possible by being able to stand on the shoulders of others who were there to support and nurture him: “Well, that savior was me, but now age 33, I have the hopes of my youth now following me. / I’m beginning to see that my savior was also just standing on shoulders and reaching for dreams that were living inside an adventure that’s made just for people like me.

Arthur Kay is a lovely and immensely enjoyable little EP by this talented singer-songwriter and musician. He’s a great lyricist and composer, skilled at crafting songs with thoughtful, introspective lyrics, memorable melodies and beautiful instrumentals.

Connect with Arthur on Facebook
Pre-order Arthur Kay on Bandcamp

HARROLAND – Single Review: “Brothers”

Harroland

I first featured British alternative indie-rock band Harroland this past February upon the release of their single “Home” (read my review here), the first in a series of releases planned for 2019. The single received airplay on BBC Radio’s Introducing program, and the band is quickly gaining a large following, already being dubbed the ‘Best New Band’ in the Reading area. They’re now back with a wonderful new single “Brothers“, which officially dropped on June 21st.

Based in Reading, England, Harroland is comprised of siblings Michael (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Kate Kennedy (synths, keyboards, backing vocals), Steve Tabor (lead guitar), and drummer Stu Roberts, who joined the band in March. “Brothers” is the band’s first release under the current lineup. They express their social and political consciousness through compelling, relevant lyrics, and package them with gorgeous soundscapes that make for a pleasing listening experience.

Whereas “Home” addressed those intent on holding onto their own power while disregarding the hopes and dreams of others, “Brothers” explores the concept of people choosing to live their lives under invisible power structures that offer a false sense of freedom. Michael Kennedy explains: “It’s this idea that maybe we forgo our own desires for the safety of working within a corporate environment – that we are unlikely to take risks or take command of our own lives. What would happen if we did the opposite? Is such a life, for the average person, sustainable, or even possible?

“Brothers” is a stunning track, with an irresistibly catchy tempo and glorious instrumentals. The band plays as a tight unit, each member performing their part with perfection to create a song of exceptional quality. Steve’s guitar work is fantastic, and Stu does a stellar job pounding out the captivating beat. Kate’s dreamy keyboards are a thing of beauty, and I love how they interplay with Steve’s chiming guitar. Michael deftly keeps the rhythm with his strummed guitar, but a highlight for me are his distinctive vocals, which I find utterly enchanting. I love this song, and have listened to it at least 20 times already!

We can fantasize about everything we do
Take it back, take it back right now
Don’t tell me it ain’t true
And hold it straight
Line it up and let it loose
Lap it up, lap it up right now
There’s nothing else to choose

We can compromise
Change our jobs and trade our lives
No matter what I think, someone’s in charge of mine
I can calculate
That even if I was to leave
I’d have a freedom
That lacks security

Maybe we’re like brothers rolling across this land or
Maybe we’re like someone else in somebody else’s hands

The video for the song is a live performance by Harroland at Pyramid Studios in Reading, which they won in a competition run by the studio. It was filmed by local photographer Victoria Holt and edited by Kate Kennedy. The track was mixed and mastered by sound engineer Jack Twiner, who’s a co-owner of Pyramid Studios.

Connect with Harroland on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream on Spotify / Apple Music

CRYSTAL CITIES – Single Review: “Under the Cold Light of the Moon”

Crystal Cities Single Pic

‘Dream Rock that sounds like Death Cab For Cutie had a War On Drugs with The Beatles.’ That’s how Australian band Crystal Cities describe their enchanting sound, and it’s spot-on. Their wonderful songs feature thoughtful lyrics and stunning melodies delivered by superb instrumentation and vocals. In March 2017, the Sydney-based three-piece released their outstanding and critically acclaimed debut EP Who’s Gonna Save Us Now. The gorgeous title track and lead single “Who’s Gonna Save Us Now”, which I featured on this blog that April, reached #1 on the Unearthed Overall Charts within a few days of its release, and ended up on my 100 Best Songs of 2017 list. Now they’re back with a stunning new track “Under the Cold Light of the Moon“, the lead single from their forthcoming album of the same name, set for release on 31 May.

Crystal Cities is comprised of the very talented Geoff Rana (Vocals, Guitars), Jared King (JK) (Bass, Backing Vocals) and Daniel Conte (Drums). Since the release of their EP, the guys have had a productive two years and have come a long way, from a garage in Sydney to Abbey Road Studios in London. First, they signed a record and publishing deal with global music company Audio Network (one of a group of companies owned by Toronto, Canada-based multinational mass media and entertainment company eOne). Second, through that partnership, the band had the opportunity to record their debut album Under the Cold Light of the Moon at the prestigious Abbey Road Studios.

According to Rana, the new single “was inspired by the plight of young North Korean girl Yeonmi Park who escaped North Korea in search of freedom.” After seeing her moving speech at the One Young World Summit 2014 in Dublin, Ireland, where she told the audience “When I was crossing the Gobi desert, scared of dying, I thought nobody in this world cared. It seemed that only the stars were with me. But you have listened to my story. You have cared. Thank you very much”, Rana felt compelled to interpret her story through a song.

Crystal Cities Yeonmi Park

And what a beautiful, uplifting song it is! Starting off with a faint whisper of synths and delicate tapping of cymbals, a chugging riff of jangly guitar, set to a thumping drumbeat, soon enter the mix along with Rana’s raspy, yet lovely vocals. The music gradually builds as layers of guitar and percussion are added, backed by lush orchestral strings that create a stirring, cinematic soundscape for the hopeful lyrics:

Made my way out through the desert
Made my way across the sand
Under cover of the night I’m face to face
I’ve been thinking of a place
I’ve been making my escape
Under the cold light of the moon

Rana’s intricate guitar work is gorgeous, while King and Conte keep a tight rhythm with their defty-played bass line and drums. The song, along with the rest of the album, was flawlessly mastered by Paul Stefanidis at Viking Lounge Mastering, engineered by Adam Alexander and John Romeo (assisted by Tayla Gibbs), and mixed by L.A.-based engineer Paul Lani (David Bowie, Prince, Megadeath). Regarding the provocative photo for the single and album which shows the guys blindfolded, Rana explained: “This album will have plenty of lyrical references to themes of escape, resistance, and limited/restricted views. Having us positioned in a sort of prisoner-like scenario with blindfolds on seemed a great way to represent these themes.” The photos are courtesy of Amy Benjamin Photography.

The beautiful animated video for the song tells the adventure of Yeonmi Park’s harrowing nighttime escape. It was created by Jordyn-Rae Morrison (The-F0X).

Connect with Crystal Cities:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

DEREK SCHMIDT – Album Review: “Major Arcana”

Derek Schmidt Major Arcana

Derek Schmidt is an imaginative and talented queer composer, songwriter, and sound designer based in San Francisco, and he’s created one of the most uniquely wonderful and ambitious musical works I’ve ever come across. With over 15 years experience working and performing in the Bay Area in solo performances and as front man for three different acts – folk band All My Pretty Ones, queer electronic band Adonisaurus, and Oakland electronic band Partyline  – Derek has produced numerous albums across many genres, and has been a featured composer on independent film and performance art projects, including the feature length film Home And How To Break It. Most recently, on March 1st he released an opus concept album Major Arcana, a monumental 22-song interpretation of the trump cards (or major arcana) of the tarot deck.

The album was a five-year-long undertaking made possible through the San Francisco Arts Commission’s Individual Artist Grant, one of the city’s most prestigious awards for individual artists. Each song explores one of the 22 trump cards, from 0 The Fool to 21 The World (Universe). As Derek explains: “Each card is a meditation on the symbolism within that card, as well as my own personal relationship to the card. Utilizing samples as a form of sympathetic magic, a mixture of both personal and more transcendent lyric writing, acoustic and electronic arrangements in combination with lush harmonies, Major Arcana has become a set of exploratory rituals attempting to capture the wisdom of each card, for myself and for everyone.

Derek Schmidt2

With a running time of one hour and 38 minutes, listening to this album is an immersive experience. If you allow yourself the freedom to do so, you can easily get lost in its enthralling soundscape of electronic dream pop magic. Musically, the album features a bold array of synthesizer sounds and textures, complemented by Derek’s enchanting ukelele. I’ve never fully appreciated just how beautiful music from a ukelele can be, but Derek draws forth sounds that are exquisite and utterly charming.

I generally tend to discuss or at least mention every track on my album reviews, but with 22 of them on Major Arcana, doing so would turn this review into a thesis. So, I’ll instead touch on some of what I consider to be highlights or my personal favorites. The album opens with “0 The Fool”, named for the first card of the tarot deck. One of my favorite tracks on the album, it perfectly showcases Derek’s skill at using synthesizers to create richly complex musical compositions. He employs all sorts of exotic and quirky synths, pulsating drumbeats and clicks, over which he layers his lovely strummed ukelele, and the result is an absolutely captivating song. Derek’s pleasing vocals have an earnest vulnerability as he sings: “Before I begin, and after I’m gone. That’s where I’ll be. That’s where I belong. Not afraid anymore, my arms open wide./ What is real, always was. And cannot be destroyed. And a fool for me. I’m a fool for you.”

Derek continues to explore each card in the tarot deck, artfully tailoring the synth sounds and song lyrics to the card’s themes.  Swirling spacey synths highlight “I The Magician” and “II The High Priestess”, with the latter featuring sharp thunderbolt-like sounds that conjure up images of spells being cast. The exuberant horn synths at the beginning of “IV The Emperor” symbolize the power and majesty of the position, and Derek’s ukelele riff later in the song is sublime.

On “VI The Lovers”, Derek uses sunny, whimsical synths as a backdrop for his lyrics extolling the joy of his love affair: “I love to love my lover so. To understand all that I don’t. It’s his fluency, won’t scare me. We laugh like kids, we find out things./ Where I am and where do you begin?” “IX The Hermit” sees him pondering loneliness and isolation: “It all comes down to a room of one’s own./ And all I need is a little more time. A few more hours in the day, and then I’ll turn to everything I’ve put aside. / Rearrange the furniture and open windows, give yourself some air.” And on the gorgeous “XI Lust”, he expresses ardent desire and passion through dramatic, soaring synths.

As would be expected, “XII The Hanged Man” is dark, with moody synths, a mournful backing chorus and a pensively strummed ukelele, accompanied by a funereal march drum roll. Derek sings of things from the point of view of a man about to be executed: “Hanged man sees it differently. Upside down, blood rushing to my head. Unfriendly faces become smiles instead. How many times have I been here before? Caught up, emotionless and always wanting more.” “XIII Death”, on the other hand, is not at all depressing, and in fact is one of the more beautiful songs on the album, with glittery, uplifting synths and Derek’s soaring ethereal vocals. He envisions life’s end as a new beginning: “A great unknown, behind the door. The ocean floor. A mystery yet to solve. The ones unmet. The tears unshed.”

A standout track is the mesmerizing and powerful “XIV Art”, for which Derek has created a fantastic video with the help of visual artist Video Hole (J Mason Buck).

Another of my favorites is “XVI The Tower”, one of the more musically complex tracks on Major Arcana. It’s a rather melancholy song, yet contains many beautiful and melodic passages that continually surprised and held my interest at it unfolded. And “XVII The Star” is pure delight, with its spacey sci-fi synths, sweeping melodies and lovely ukelele. “XVIII The Moon” is another highlight, and was the first song Derek wrote for the card cycle. In an interview with webzine Out Loud Culture!, he explained: “I was inspired by the meaning of the card, which usually involves ideas around intuition, illusion, and a general mystery. To me the moon is an ever present set of symbols like all of the cards that capture some aspect of the human condition. It’s a playful card but it can be bewildering, and I loved writing a song about that mystery. It was like a meditation.”

Closing the album is “XXI The Universe”, an appropriately epic six and a half-minute-long fantasia of glorious sound. Derek pulls out all the stops in creating a song of such incredible beauty and nuance that it takes my breath away. He uses a dazzling array of intricate synths ranging from glittery keyboards and shimmery strings to sharp industrial, sci-fi and atmospheric sound effects. All of this is of course accompanied by his beautifully strummed ukelele and richly-layered ethereal vocals. It’s one of the most spectacular tracks on the album, and a fitting conclusion to this magnificent and monumental work.

Connect with Derek:  Facebook / Instagram
Stream on Spotify
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby