THE FRONTIER – Single Review: “Sleep”

One of my absolute favorite indie artists is The Frontier, the music project and brainchild of singer-songwriter, guitarist and producer Jake Mimikos. Based in Fairfax County, Virginia, Jake is a talented, gracious and funny guy who I’ve grown quite fond of, both as an artist and a human. Since 2015, he’s released a substantial amount of music both as a solo artist and as a band under The Frontier moniker, and we’ve been following each other on social media for nearly that long. As with many bands, the members and lineup of The Frontier have varied over the years, but for the time being, the act is now mostly a solo project.

Drawing upon elements of pop, folk, rock and electronica, his music is always pleasing and flawlessly crafted. I’ve featured him several times on this blog, most recently this past June when I reviewed his wonderful single “It’s You”. I love it so much, it spent five months on my Weekly Top 30, and turned out to be my most-streamed song of the year on Spotify. (You can read that and previous reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the end of this post.) Now he’s back with a beautiful new single “Sleep“, and I already love it too! The track was recorded and produced by Austin Bello for Fearless Records.

Jake is an excellent guitarist, and here his layered strummed and chiming guitars are so stunning, they take my breath away. He’s also gotten quite adept at programming synths and keyboards to create lush, sparkling soundscapes, as well as layering his lovely, heartfelt vocals into a rich tapestry of harmonies. He plaintively sings of the pain and unease he feels over not knowing where he stands with another, and yearning for a little sleep to momentarily forget his troubles: “I lay awake, but I’m dreaming / I just can’t get my mind off of you / All of these stories keep repeating / I don’t know which voice to listen to / I’ve never been one to get what I want / I’m always trying too hard / It’s something that I’ve been working on / It’s always so close yet so far / But for now, til the answers are found / Got to quiet the sun to sleep.

“Sleep” is a gorgeous and deeply stirring track that’s sure to be another hit.

Connect with The Frontier: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase: Bandcamp / iTunesAmazon

MICHAEL LANE – Single Review: “Coming Home”

Michael Lane is a German-American indie-folk singer-songwriter and producer based in Germany, near the city of Nuremburg. He was born in Germany to a German mother and an American GI father, but spent much of his childhood and teenage years living in America, before moving back to Germany as an adult, where he now lives with his wife and son. Michael himself served in the U.S. military, and was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. A talented and prolific songwriter, Mike writes thoughtful lyrics inspired by his own life experiences, sets them to sublime melodies, and delivers them with fine guitar work and pleasing vocals.

Beginning with the release in 2014 of his debut album Sweet Notes, Michael has made a name for himself in Germany and beyond, even having his single “Liberty” chosen as the official song of the 2015/2016 Four Hills Tournament, Europe’s biggest international ski jump event. He followed up over the next five years with three more albums, his most recent being the outstanding Traveling Son, released in October 2019. He now returns with a lovely and moving new single “Coming Home“, released via Greywood Records on September 11th. Inspired in part by the COVID-19 quarantine that confined many of us to our homes for several months, Michael thought about how being at home has different meanings for each of us, in both positive and negative ways. And as different as people are, so are the emotions at the thought of coming home just as unique.

“Coming Home” is a message of hope and assurance that, in times of crisis, people will return to the important things in life. Michael explains: “The song ‘Coming Home’ isn’t just about coming home, but more about the feeling you get or have when you’re at a place that you would consider your home. Growing up I moved around a lot, and never really had a steady place that I could call home until I started my own family, and now I do have my own place to call home. It really is a sanctuary for my soul, where I can relax and enjoy the finer things in life.”

It’s a beautiful song, opening with Michael’s gently-strummed guitar and soothing vocals. He gradually layers additional sparkling guitar notes, along with subtle percussion, delicate synths and his own backing vocal harmonies, creating a dreamy soundscape evoking the warmth and comfort of home. He softly croons of his tender feelings for his loved one and their home: “Your smile warms me up like a fire inside / Our home is like a sanctuary for the soul / It will never get old when we’re here in our home.”

The beautiful video shows Michael walking along a path in the countryside at dusk, the fading light of the setting sun softly illuminating his face as he sings the song.

Follow Michael:  FacebookTwitter / Instagram

Stream/purchase his music:  SpotifyApple Music / Google Play

CORMAC O CAOIMH – Single Review: “I’m in Need”

A few weeks ago, I featured Cork, Ireland-based collaborative music project SomeRiseSomeFall when I reviewed their beautiful song “The Rain Came Down on Everything”. After reading that review, fellow Corkonian (I love that word) musician and singer-songwriter Cormac O Caoimh reached out to me about his new single “I’m in Need“, and I’m glad he did because I really like his music! He’s a skillful wordsmith and guitarist, writing sublime indie folk/pop songs overflowing with thoughtful, intelligent lyrics about the universal subjects of life, love, hope and loss, and delivered with subtle hooks, fine instrumentals and his pleasing vocals that sounds a bit like Paul Simon at times. His catchy melodies seem to effortlessly draw us in, then stay with us long after the songs end. I found myself humming “I’m in Need” long after hearing it. As Mojo Magazine so eloquently put it: “each song superglues to the memory“.

Cormac O Caoimh

Cormac has released a substantial amount of music over the past 15 years or so, including four studio albums, the most recent of which was his marvelous 2017 release Shiny Silvery Things. (I strongly encourage my readers to check out his music, which you can find on most music platforms, some of which I’ve listed at the end of this post.) Now he’s putting the finishing touches on his forthcoming fifth album Swim Crawl Walk Run, due for release on May 15. “I’m in Need” is the album’s lead single, which Cormac released on February 21st. The single and album were produced by his friend and fellow musician Martin Leahy, a talented multi-instrumentalist who’s collaborated with Cormac on previous records, and also played drums, bass, keyboards and more on the new album. The lovely backing vocals on “I’m in Need” and other tracks on the album are by Aoife Regan.

Cormac gave me the opportunity to have an advance listen to Swim Crawl Walk Run, and it’s a stunning work. It’s obvious he poured his heart and soul into it, as he explained in his message to me: “It is the first album I actually enjoyed making. I have been playing live with Martin Leahy for over 8 years but this is my first time making an album with him. It was a joy. I loved the whole process. It was relaxed, exciting, calm, manic. Everything. And the end product is something I could not be prouder of. The songs morphed and moved and grew during the process and the end result is an album I’m not sure I can top. It is full of singles. I want to release them all and I can’t wait for the first one to get out there.”

About the song, Cormac states: “During the writing of ‘I’m in need’ I did have the simplicity and directness of The Beatles ‘Help!’ as an influence. ‘Help me’ as a lyric is so fragile and honest and sad…but the song isn’t. The song is catchy and poppy. It works on two levels. I wanted the same for ‘I’m in need’. I wanted it to have meaning but more so a groove and be catchy. The feeling of the song also evolves. What starts as vulnerable ends up as a celebration of our humanity. We are all in need at times. Our feelings can be shaped by our thoughts. Musically the chorus gets more emphatic and joyful as the song progresses musically demonstrating the power of positivity.”

“I’m in Need” has a mellow and catchy acoustic-guitar driven melody, but a deeper listen also reveals a slight jazzy quality to Cormac’s guitar work that’s quite marvelous. His guitar notes beautifully meld together with the gentle percussion and keyboards, resulting in a harmonious and captivating soundscape. His calm, smooth vocals are exquisite, and like the music, blend in perfect harmony with Aoife Regan’s backing vocals. I like the spacey little sound effects inserted into the middle of the song that perk up our ears.  It’s a lovely and wonderful song.

Catch Cormac at one of these upcoming shows, all in Ireland:

Apr 27 – Mick Murphy’s, Ballymore Eustace
May 02 – The Glens Centre, Manorhamilton
May 15 – Album launch @ The Kino, Cork
May 29 – The Dc Music Club, Dublin
Jun 12 – The Weir Folk Club, Midleton

To learn more about Cormac, check out his Website
Connect with him on  FacebookTwitter
Stream his music on SpotifySoundcloudApple Music
Purchase/pre-order on BandcampWebsiteGoogle Play

PETER KLEINHANS Releases New Video for “Something’s Not Right”

Something's Not Right cover

Peter Kleinhans is a New York-based singer-songwriter who, after spending 30 years as a professional harness horse racer and announcer, decided to turn his love of music into writing and recording songs. His music is a pleasing mix of pop, folk and rock, with thoughtful lyrics and catchy melodies. He doesn’t have a particularly strong singing voice, but his distinctive vocals are warm and comforting. In February 2018 he released his debut album Something’s Not Right to critical acclaim. LA Music Critic hailed it “one of the best debut albums we have reviewed“, while Neufutur Magazine called it “an album that blends together Dave Matthews with the protest tradition of performers like Neil Young and Phil Ochs.”

Last October, Peter wrote a fascinating guest article for this blog about his song “91st Street”, which you can read here. Now I’m happy to feature him again for the release of his brilliant and compelling new video for the title track from his album “Something’s Not Right“. The song speaks to the general sense of uncertainty and unease that many Americans seem to be feeling about their country and their own future, while still trying to remain optimistic and grateful for what’s good. His video, produced by Peter and directed by filmmaker Harrison Kraft, brings his powerful lyrics to life with an entertaining, yet at times troubling, narrative. Peter explains his inspiration behind the song, as well as the making of the video.

“Something’s Not Right” was one of my first songs, and ended up being the title of my first album. I wrote it in 2013, and it reflected the sense of unease I was getting from many of the previously-comfortable friends I had made during my years of announcing horse races in Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. I’d taken the couple of years beforehand trying to understand the forces underlying the economy, and became convinced that although the economy was officially ‘in recovery,’ things were not improving for average Americans. This was confirmed for me by the universal sense I was receiving from everyone I knew that there was a deep unease and lack of security brewing from a thinning sense of stability and sustainability.

This song was written three years before the election — it’s not a political song. What interested me was that feeling of unease, the sense of something-not-being-right, and how it emanated not just from economic forces but also from the impersonal face of what the nation was presenting its citizens. The song begins by invoking Applebee’s and Lowe’s as the workplaces of the protagonist, and ends with a desperate appeal to Walmart as the only viable destination for the drive he takes (ostensibly to escape the mundanity of his experience) in the middle of the night.

I am very happy and lucky to have connected with Harrison Kraft and his brilliant and young set of filmmakers, who completely got the idea and brought it to life in this music video. They used the conceit of a July 4 celebration — a party that has lost its true feeling of celebration, and even the reason for celebrating — to convey this overall all-consuming sense of disillusion. It was Kraft’s vision to use mannequins to convey characters playing their roles in life but without really ‘being there’. The protagonist’s girlfriend oscillates from real to a simulation and so do many of the background characters. Reality starts to take on a disturbing turn in a number of ways: the hand flipping the burger suddenly turns to plastic, the son’s firecracker goes the opposite way- it’s supposed to be fake, but it becomes a real explosive. These ideas were all in the hands of the video production team; I’d discussed what I thought the central themes of the song were, and then I gave them free rein to take it wherever they wanted to go. They took the ball and ran with it, and I’m thrilled with the result. Sometimes you have to know when to give up control, but you’ve really got to have trust in your team when you’re doing that. I hope you enjoy the result, and be on the lookout for more music videos forthcoming from Harrison Kraft and his team!”

Peter Kleinhans – Something’s Not Right from Harrison Kraft on Vimeo.

Peter is currently finishing up his second album, due for release in early 2020. To learn more about him, check out his website and follow him on Facebook /  Twitter  / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunesGoogle 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 

GG FEARN – EP Review: “Black Mirror”

gg-fearn-black-mirror-cover-ep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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