LOVEPROOF – Album Review: “Neon Blood, Volume One”

Neon Blood album art

Loveproof is a studio project by singer Ciaran Megahey and instrumentalist & producer Brendan McGarvey. Based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the duo have a long, albeit interrupted, history together. The two met in high school while living in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, formed a band that quickly fizzled, and eventually went off on separate music career paths. Ciaran is also a member of Canadian indie band The Autumn Stones, which I featured on this blog in 2016, while Brendan is or has been involved with Jerkbank, Stereohoax and Sugarkill. As luck would have it, one day in 2013 the two ran into each other on the street as Ciaran was headed to an open mic. That reconnection got them reminiscing about old times, and ultimately deciding to once again collaborate musically. 

Ciaran Megahey
Ciaran Megahey

They began writing songs and soon had an interesting collection of dark and cryptic doom pop on their hands. Originally setting out to create a sound that would combine some of their early favorite bands Joy Division, Guided by Voices and My Bloody Valentine, they later decided to throw in some dub for good measure. They named their project Loveproof, in honor of the My Bloody Valentine classic “Loveless.” Referring to their sound as “Dreamy, Dubby Doom Pop,” the songs they wrote and recorded culminated in the production of their debut album Neon Blood, Volume One, which dropped on December 5, 2017. Ciaran sang all the vocals, while Brendan, who’s primarily a bassist, played and programmed all instruments and produced the album. The album was recorded at Brendan’s home studio in Toronto and mastered by Harris Newman (Handsome Furs, Craft Spells).

Many albums require a couple of listens for the music to grow on me, but this gorgeous album dazed my eardrums the moment I heard it. It kicks off with “The Power,” a dreamy soundscape of crystalline synths set to a hypnotic beat. Ciaran’s smoldering, breathy vocals are captivating as he asks “Couldn’t we do this over? Shouldn’t we do this over? / From your tower, feeling sour by the hour. Have you got the power?” The beautiful track really sets the tone for the album’s moody vibe. The songs deal mostly with relationships that are uncertain or fraught with danger, and the music is darkly mysterious or even sometimes menacing, but always stunning and never depressing or maudlin.

Ciaran dials up the thermostat a couple notches on the sultry “Sister Moonlight,” where he seductively sings of the spell a woman has cast over him: “Sex at dawn. Her every movement turns me on. In her arms I’ve found shadows and light.” Though a bit haunting, the instrumentals and Ciaran’s vocals are breathtaking. The fitting video features scenes from the 1961 B-movie The Devil’s Hand, a horror film about a man who falls in love with a woman who turns out to be involved in a satanic cult.

The mesmerizing “Post” delivers more shimmering synths and a bass-driven beat, and in his soothing, breathy vocals Ciaran reassures an insecure loved one of his eternal support and commitment: “And I am your signpost? With our worlds entwined. Post. Am I just in time? Post. When I make you shine. Post.” Their video for “Post” contains footage from the 1957 film Here Comes Tobor.

The Vortex” features Brendan’s enchanting Spanish-sounding guitar floating above layers of mysterious synths and a determined drum beat. Ciaran sings of a doomed relationship that seems to be based on lustful passion but filled with bitterness and anger: “Hold you close just like a keepsake. Slow to learn. Quicker to slash and burn when we dance into the vortex. Blinds on. Pile on. The lights came on. That’s when I came around. The sounds we made of hate gone twice insane. Dying on the vine.

Now is a good time to point out that Ciaran’s sublime vocals are strikingly similar to Bryan Ferry’s on several tracks. And some of those tracks even seem to channel Ferry’s sound and music style, especially the spellbinding “The Lowdown,” “Tabula Rasa” (which reminds me of “Don’t Stop the Dance,” a song I adore), “Modern Ecstacy” and album closer “Death’s Flower.”

The mysteriously moody “Clever As” has more of an electronica feel, with pulsating synths and a languid kick-drum beat. The biting lyrics speak to the damage caused by people who cleverly lie and intimidate to get what they want:  “Anyone can break your heart in two, mind you. Anyone as clever as you. Where ‘benign’ lecherous tribes prattle on ‘heaven won’t take long.’ When the crude credulous boob follows through all over the news.” That last line seems to perfectly describe the sociopath currently occupying the U.S. Presidency.

The title track “Neon Blood” is perhaps the most haunting song on the album, both musically and lyrically. The brooding, razor-sharp synths and crisp percussion create an icy aura that’s beautiful yet menacing. The lyrics are somewhat ambiguous, but my take on their meaning is that people in search of fame – represented by ‘Neon Blood’ – will cheat, lie and prostitute themselves to get it: “Faceless plagiarists, aimless and dangerous playboys, movies stars grovel at your feet. You’re serpentine inverted mind. My Neon Blood.” In reality, those searching for fame are actually the victims: “Howling at your wounds. But you’re the sheep and I’m the wolf.” Some pretty heavy stuff there, and a great example of Loveproof’s exceptional songwriting.

Neon Blood, Volume One is a marvelous and flawlessly produced album that provides a stunning listening experience that draws you in, enveloping your senses in a dreamy, otherworldly soundscape.

Follow Loveproof on Facebook
Stream their album on Spotify and purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

MELOTIKA – Single Review: “Unaware Part II [Blindside]”

Melotika single

Melotika is a Toronto, Ontario, Canada-based electronic indie/pop project consisting of singer/songwriter Mel Yelle and DJ/producer Jackman Jones, also known as Mista T Dot. Last year they released two singles “Downtown Summer ft. Krosst Out” and “Unaware,” and on January 30 they dropped a sultry new track “Unaware Part II [Blindside].”

According to Mel Yelle, it’s a continuation of the theme expressed in “Unaware,” and open to interpretation. My take is that “Unaware” is about struggling to maintain one’s identity in the face of a relationship that’s unraveling. In “Unaware Part II [Blindside],” she’s confronting the person who blindsided her, telling them she no longer cares, is moving on, and so should they:

Quit callin’ when my make-up fallin’ and I wonder why you’re not alone? 
Big ballin’ and I see you stallin’ while your trippin’ at the mall 
Go getter, why you even bother? When it’s just so clear you see 
No better, doesn’t even matter, no it doesn’t really matter to me 

If you want it! Can you start it! You’re a getaway! 
If you thought it! And you need it! Do it anyway! 
Jumpstart, we won’t be apart; to the unknown 
If you want it, and you need it I won’t ever want you alone 

Blindside of the future, blindside it’s my nature 
Don’t want any part of it, so much more to see 

Mel Yelle

Born and raised in Montreal, Mel Yelle’s rich, smoky vocals remind me at times of fellow Quebecois Celine Dion, with whom she also bears a striking resemblance. Combined with Jones’ sultry hip-hop beats and mysterious echoed synths, together they’ve produced a track brimming with sensuous grooves that raise body temperatures and aim straight for the hips. It’s a marvelous song.

Melotika will be releasing their first EP in March. To learn more, connect with them on  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes or Bandcamp

WONS PHREELY – Single and Video Review: “The Night Has An Alibi”

Wons Phreely Single Art

I’m a huge fan of Australian-born, and now Los Angeles-based, singer/songwriter Wons Phreely. The talented, hard-working musician has an interesting and unique voice to match his artistic moniker (his birth name is Justin Wonsley). He grew up in Perth, one of the world’s most isolated large cities, where he also felt isolated with regard to his desire to become a successful musician. So, in 2015 he relocated to Los Angeles and quickly immersed himself into the creative artistic environment where he could more fully grow as an artist.

Wons Phreely2

In 2016, with assistance from his backup band The Horses, he released an excellent single “Stars” (which I reviewed) that addressed his experiences overcoming self-doubt and fear of change, and enabling himself to make the life-altering move from Australia to Los Angeles. In November 2017, he followed up with a sparkling new single “The Night Has An Alibi,” inspired this time by his feelings of being out of place in Perth, and subsequently landing in the accepting artistic community of L.A. The hopeful lyrics speak to embracing all the surprises life has to offer, not letting fear keep you from living life to its fullest:

Daylight creeps in like a kick in the guts and the rush of blood
Check your look in the mirror, are you young enough
Cause it took you so long to get up dancing alone, while all the lights were down
In or you’re out, boy don’t wait around
Sister I know we should settle but I cant live a lie
Too long running, true blood pumping
Man I just get this feeling like I might explode inside
Because the night, the night, the night, the night
The night, the night, has an Alibi

The exuberant track opens with throbbing synths overlying a thumping beat, seemingly channeling “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, whose music has strongly influenced Phreely. His fervent vocals quickly enter the scene, backed by joyous riffs of jangly chiming guitars that are freaking awesome! A warm saxophone is introduced in the bridge, melding beautifully with the bouncy synths and ramping up the track’s already high energy. The lush wall of sound on the track reminds me of two of my favorite bands – The War on Drugs and Future Islands. Not wanting the song to end, I kept hitting replay.

Phreely has now released a rather creepy but brilliant video for the song. His inspiration came from the webzine when they premiered the single, where they stated it “belongs on the ‘Stranger Things’ soundtrack.”  The idea of ‘strange things’ struck a chord and led him to conceive of the very unusual visual for the song’s video. He explained “Since moving to L.A. I’ve been really engrossing myself in the film making world. I’ve been acting in a bunch of things too, so for this music video I decided to gather a lot of the talented people I’ve met on set, including an amazing cinematographer friend, and with their help I got to direct and produce the strangest video I could think of.

And has he ever! The video opens with a scene of Phreely asleep in bed with his girlfriend. As he awakens, the camera pans down to reveal him as only a head! He’s then shown resting atop the kitchen counter while his girlfriend reads the newspaper. Next she’s carrying him under her arm as she walks down the street, later placing him on the roof of the car as she drives to a club. When the doorman points to a sign notifying patrons of a $10 cover per person, she opens her bag to show him Phreely’s head. Soon he’s situated on the bar trying to down his drink, then his head is knocked off the bar and onto the floor. He ends up being placed on a stool on stage and sings with the band while everyone dances. At dawn, he leaves with another woman he met at the bar as she carries him away, at one point dropping him on the sidewalk! I love his facial expressions throughout the video that manage to make something that could have been creepy be lighthearted and hilarious. Have a look:

Phreely has begun working on a new album with his backing band The Horses, and I can’t wait to hear it! To learn more about him and his music, check out his Website

Follow him on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify / YouTube / Apple Music
Purchase on Bandcamp / Google PlayiTunes

MAX KOFFLER – Album Review: “GAMES”

games album cover

Max Koffler is an indie musician from Berlin, Germany who’s been actively making music since his teens, when he formed a band called Kerosin. In 2004 he decided to go solo, and after touring in Korea for a while, he released a respectable debut album Taboo in 2008. He subsequently spent a long while writing and recording songs for what would become his second album GAMES, which he released in March of 2017.

Incorporating an eclectic mix of music genres and styles, including alternative rock, pop, EDM, and jazz, GAMES really showcases Max’s journey and growth as a musician. The maturity of his songwriting is exemplified by more complex melodies, song structures, lyrics and instrumentation, as well as stronger vocals. With 14 tracks, the album’s a real tour de force, with contributions by Seoulmates (a German group that was formed to support Max on his Korean tour), Max’s brother Hanno (who’s an accomplished actor), and a group of musicians who, along with Max, were involved in the workshop Mix With The Masters, conducted by the famed music producer Jimmy Douglass (Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin, Foreigner, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, Jay-Z).

The opening track “Choose Your Fate” was just released as a single on New Years Day. It’s an upbeat synth-pop song that celebrates Max’s love for Berlin, and the inspiration it gives him to be the best person he can be. Swirling synths and a mellow bass line are set to a slow, catchy dance beat, making for a pleasing listen. The video, which was posted on YouTube in March 2017, shows Max walking around various sites in Berlin (a magnificent city rich in history and culture that I visited many years ago, and can attest to it’s beauty and charm).

One of my favorite tracks is “Europaroma,” a charming ode to the multi-culturalism of Europe. Shimmery synths set to a languid dubstep beat, and lyrics sung in Italian, French and English by Max’s smooth and sometimes auto-tuned vocals, make for a delightful feel-good song. “Limits” has a mesmerizing synth-driven dance beat with Max’s echoed vocals that are occasionally electronically altered, and the mysterious “The Fire is Yours” features a captivating guitar riff and fuzzy synths set to a hypnotic EDM beat that intensifies as the song progresses. Max repeats the lyric “Harmful you are to me.”

Max turns up the energy on the frenetic “Love Songs,” an infectiously catchy rock song that aims straight for the hips. I love the lyric “I don’t like love songs, but I love you.” “Shake Hands” is another fast-paced rock song loaded with synths, and featuring a great guitar riff and Max’s sung and whispered vocals. The anthemic “The Boldest Cats” has a joyous folk-rock vibe, with lovely acoustic guitar, organ and just the right amount of drums. Max’s earnest vocals are backed by an incredibly pleasing chorus sung by a group of musicians from Mix With The Masters. “Big Chart” and “Purple” are excellent pop-rock tracks with jangly guitars and deep bass lines, and featuring sublime backing vocals by Seoulmates.

Max sings a love song to the Korean capital he fondly remembers on the uplifting rock ballad “Saranghae Seoul.” The last line of the song is poignant and hopeful: “I know there’s a second half you miss, but one day you will kiss what’s lying north of you.” On the brief but moving track “May I Ask,” Max implores a loved one to let him know if she still has feelings for him: “You decide if I shall live or starve from lovelessness. And so I say, may I ask if you still want me the way you once promised?

Max incorporates jazz influences on the last three tracks, starting with the captivating “Watergum.” The delicate guitars and keyboards on this track are really nice. “Long Lost Land” has a mellow, early 60’s jazzy feel with a bluesy bass riff, subtle piano and gently crashing cymbals. Max’s vocals are particularly good, as he scats in a falsetto later in the song. And the backing vocals by Seoulmates are lovely, as always. The arresting album closer “Wenn” features beautiful piano keys and synths, and an enthralling guitar riff  floating above a skittering bass line. Max’s brother Hanno vocals are captivating as he sings the German lyrics.

GAMES is a wonderful album, filled with songs that require a deeper listen to fully appreciate all the subtle elements Max incorporates into his music. I find that the songs get better with each listen, and am totally smitten by the whole affair!

Connect with Max:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Deezer
Purchase:  iTunes 

YOU’RE AMONG FRIENDS – EP Review: “One Day You’ll Look Back”


You’re Among Friends is a Cleveland, Ohio-based band who play a laid back style of funky, blues-infused folk rock that just makes you feel good. Following up on their wonderful album As We Watch the Years Go… (which they released in July 2016 and I reviewed last year), they dropped a new EP One Day You’ll Look Back at the end of November 2017. It’s a short EP, containing four tracks totaling only ten minutes in length, but it delivers the kind of honest, relatable songs about life and relationships the band does so very well. Making the music are Anthony Doran (lead vocals and guitars), Kevin Trask (bass, keyboards and backing vocals) and drummer Frank Mirabelli, a recent addition to, and sixth drummer for, the band.

The first track “I’m Happier Now” is a pleasant, upbeat tune about the happiness and joy a loved one brings to his life: “I can barely remember what life was like before you arrived. So I know I’m happier now. All I know is that I’m happier now. It’s true.” Anthony’s jangly guitar nicely complements Kevin’s humming bass line, while Frank bangs out the mellow beat on the drums.

The guys get philosophical on the funky “Back to Work Tomorrow,” speaking to the soul-crushing routine of a dead-end job, and advising against letting it define your life. I love the rather cynical lyrics to this song, as I think a lot of us can relate to them:

Work your fingers down to the bone
But in the end what do you have to show for it?
Except a few dollars that you’ve already spent
Because the money rolls out faster than it comes in
Well it’s an uphill battle towards a long decline
If you let your work define your life
If you worry about it you will lose your mind
It’s not like you get paid to think
Time flies, even when you’re not having fun
One day you’ll look back and half your life will be gone
Well that’s all time that you’ll never get back
I hope it was worth it working so hard for the man

You Lost Interest First” has a country vibe with an infectious bouncy guitar riff and toe-tapping beat. The song’s about a couple who’ve both lost the feelings for each other that initially drew them together. A catchy, uptempo beat belies the somewhat negative sentiments of “Not My Thing.” With a hint of resignation in his voice, Anthony sings:

It’s hard to make me smile
You can try your best but it probably won’t work
It’s not that I’m depressed
I don’t try to be dark, I’m not a jerk
It’s just that smiling is not my thing
Don’t like the sunshine I like the rain

All in all, One Day You’ll Look Back is a nice little EP featuring songs with simple melodies and compelling lyrics that make for a highly pleasurable listen.

Connect with You’re Among Friends:  Blog / Facebook / Twitter
Stream their music:  Spotify / Napster / Google Play / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

SKINNY WIZARD – Single Review: “Phantom Pain”

Skinny Wizard builds houses by day, but come nightfall his musician alter-ego takes over. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Skinny Wizard – whose given name is Bill Cherry – is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who began playing guitar at the age of six.  As he tells in his bio “I took it seriously during my high school years, but then I moved away from home and life took over. I didn’t really understand how the music industry worked and it was easier to make money building houses to make someone else rich.” It’s a sentiment I’m sure a lot of musicians can attest to.

Now that he and his wife are empty-nesters, Skinny has taken up his six-string again, and gotten back to expressing himself through his music. He plays mostly folk and blues-rock, genres he seems most comfortable with as a solo artist. He’s just released a new single “Phantom Pain,” a moving song he felt he had to write to honor the death of a friend from suicide.

The track starts out with sounds like being in a thunderstorm or possibly a subway train, then he begins strumming his acoustic guitar and singing the honest, heartfelt lyrics expressing bittersweet feelings of pain over the loss of a good friend:

I woke last night and I thought I heard you talking
But that’s absurd ’cause you’ve been gone over a year
And I remember all the good things we done together
A new definition for a thing called Phantom Pain
And that’s the way it goes sometimes you don’t know what life brings
You just keep pressing on in spite of all the odds
I hope to see you again someday

He has a casual, pleasing style of guitar playing, and though not overly strong, his vocals are well-suited for a gentle folk ballad like “Phantom Pain.” Check it out:

Connect with Skinny Wizard:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Purchase “Phantom Pain” on cdbaby