DARREN CAMPBELL – Single Review: “Wherever You Are”

Darren Campbell is a talented and hard-working 24-year-old singer/songwriter from Scotland who’s now based in London, UK. He’s been making music since his teens, releasing his first single “Find My Way” in January 2012. He followed with the EP Days to Come later that year, and has released a great number of fine singles in the years since. His latest is a beautiful song “Wherever You Are,” which dropped in May.

Darren Campbell single art

The track opens with a delicate jangly guitar riff and ambient synths, immediately enchanting our eardrums. Fifteen seconds in, the guitars and synths expand into an exuberant and gorgeous wall of sound, accompanied by a joyous toe-tapping beat. Darren’s strong, earnest vocals convey the optimism, hope and love expressed in his lyrics:

Wherever you are, wherever you go
Always watch the stars unfold
The love you wanted you could know
The lives we live are wonderful
When you think about me when you think about us
I don’t want you to fear babe
I want you to trust

In an interview with music blog Music Musings & Such, Darren explained his inspiration  for writing the song: “‘Wherever You Are’ is inspired by the need to travel and see what’s out there in the world. I have older brothers in the States, great friends living in different countries and my parents back home in Scotland. With this song, I captured the feelings I had regarding the need to get out of your comfort zone and experiencing life whilst still feeling close and connected with the ones you love, even if they may be half the world away!”

The gorgeous music video for “Wherever You Are” was filmed and edited by Patrick Zangl, and follows Patrick and friend Christina Canek, accompanied by their beautiful husky, in their exploration of South Tyrol in northeastern Italy.

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

PANDARAMA – EP Review: “Mixed Messages”

PandaRama

PandaRama is a creative young alternative pop/rock band from Miami, epicenter for the thriving South Florida music scene. (I’ve featured quite a number of South Florida artists & bands on this blog, including Above the Skyline, Sunghosts, Dyslexic Postcards, Xotic Yeyo, Raker and John Defeo.) I also happen to have an adorable cat named Panda, so it’s only natural I’d like a band called PandaRama.

The band was formed 2014 by Christian “Panda” Benabe (vocals) and Steven Quintanilla (guitar) while they were students at Miami-Dade College, and they were joined two years later by drummer William Snyder. In September 2016 they released their first EP 37.5%, a solid effort with five very good tracks, and in May of this year, they dropped a new EP Mixed Messages. They’re currently working on recording a full-length album, but wanted to showcase their softer side. So, they recorded acoustic versions of a few songs, which resulted in the more ambient and experimental approach used on Mixed Messages, and I think they turned out quite nicely. The songs all address troubled relationships with honest, biting lyrics set to sublime melodies.

For the first track “Toxic,” PandaRama skillfully melds elements of acoustic folk/rock with synthpop to create a great-sounding and powerfully moving song. Despite the dark subject matter, the instrumentals are beautiful, with Steven’s intricate, rapidly strummed guitar work, accompanied by swirling synths and a gentle drumbeat.  Panda’s commanding vocals are filled with emotion as he sings the bitter lyrics about a relationship damaged beyond repair:  “This could be toxic. The grievances we hold. This is toxic. The story left untold. Those beautiful lies we left behind. We slowly killed ourselves inside.”

Someone Save Me” is a poignant ballad about someone in a precarious emotional state pleading with a loved one to help him keep it together: “Give me a reason to stay. Why shouldn’t I throw it all away? Instead of you standing there, show me that you really care. Prove yourself to me. / Recovery is a couple of words away. Giving up is an action I won’t take. All I need is to hear you go ‘Someone save me’.”

My favorite track is “Sweet Daughter of Blood,” a lovely song about a not so lovely woman. The gorgeous music, consisting mostly of delicate keyboard synths and Steven’s exquisite acoustic guitar work, sharply contrasts with the scathing lyrics, sung by Panda with an icy bitterness:

Disguising your lies with those pretty eyes
Oh boy what a joy just to have you around
Dear pretty girl you reeked of disaster
Make your plans, have them run a little faster
As you separate all in the family

Fooled just a little
Harbored a meany devil
Sick twisted individual
Monster, monster, monster
We had a monster, monster, monster
She was a monster, monster, monster
There goes the monster, monster, a monster
Good riddance to the monster

Hey sweet daughter of blood
I’m kicking you from my life to throw you in the mud
Guilty, with treason in the family
You don’t really care, watch us suffer everywhere
But no, not today. In hell you will stay
So burn away

As the song draws to a close, the hauntingly beautiful guitar riff is gradually replaced with sounds of crackling flames. I love it!

Follow PandaRama:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube
Stream their music:   Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  iTunes

TRUE THE GRAY – Single Review: “Greet Your Tragedy”

True the Gray is a metalcore band based in Denver, Colorado. Formed in 2016 from the ashes of metalcore band Me Against Sunrise, True the Gray consists of Peter Vaughn (guitars, vocals, percussion, keys) and Scotty Wilson (vocals, guitars, percussion). The guys are friendly and engaging, referring to themselves as “Just two friends making heavy, passionate music that features references to Transformers, chicken and rice stuffing, and crematoriums.” Works for me! They released a very respectable debut self-titled EP True the Gray in 2016, and now follow up with a face-melting, emotionally powerful new single “Greet Your Tragedy.”

The guys explain that the song “is about someone on the verge of madness, trying to hang on to what semblance they have of their former selves. An anthem for mental health.” It opens with a gritty distorted guitar chord, setting an ominous tone for things to come. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose as the song erupts into a maelstrom of bone-crushing staccato riffs, wailing distortion, and massive, ear-piercing percussion. These guys mean business, delivering a relentless onslaught of furious instrumentation that elevates the track’s emotional impact nearly to the breaking point. Their chilling vocals range from savage growls and furious screams to impassioned soaring harmonies. By song’s end, we’re left dazed and spent.

“Greet Your Tragedy” is a brilliant, flawlessly-crafted track, with compelling lyrics and superb instrumentals, vocals and production values. The guys really up their game on this mind-blowing powerhouse of a song, and it’s their best work yet.

Connect with True the Gray:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes 

CENTURY THIEF – EP Review: “Deaf Beneath the Waves”

Century Thief is a six-piece indie folk/rock band based in Toronto, Canada.  Drawing from influences like Broken Social Scene, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Wilco, and Elliott Smith, they’ve developed a melodic, unconventional and captivating sound. Thanks to an impressive array of instrumentation, including brass, woodwinds, keys, guitars, bass and drums, as well as lush vocal harmonies, their music has a rich orchestral quality, yet is very accessible and down to earth. A sound engineer in Montreal once described their sound as “trash lounge folk prog rock” – a fitting description they liked so much they use it in their bio.

Century Thief

Century Thief is comprised of Michael Legere (guitar and vocals), Kathryn Kearns (keys, woodwinds and vocals), Omar Shabbar (guitar and vocals), Dante Matas (bass), Adam Reid (brass) and Colin McNally (drums). They released their debut EP Reverie in 2015, and this May dropped their stunning new EP Deaf Beneath the Waves. The band provided a bit of background about the EP to webzine Live in Limbo: “Deaf Beneath the Waves is about coming to terms with your place in the world. The songs interrogate past patterns of behavior, and struggle to light a path forward. The EP is a nostalgic inquiry into mortality, futility and the desire to find meaning and purpose in life and love. It was recorded at a farmhouse in Madoc, Ontario.”

The first track “406” is a hauntingly beautiful but melancholy song about acknowledging the hurt one has caused another in a relationship, and wanting forgiveness and a second chance: “How could I mess up this bad? Please forget these mistakes I have. And I can’t stop thinking about you.” The track starts off with an enchanting, almost magical intro, with delicate xylophone and strings, then acoustic guitar and keyboards are gradually added along with lovely harmonizing vocals. The instrumentals expand to include moody trumpet, fluttering flute and smooth percussion as the track builds to a climax. It’s a gorgeous song whose melody stayed with me long afterwards.

You Are Here” is a beautifully moving track with a bit of a jazzy vibe. Lovely keyboards and trumpets take a starring role, and Legere’s vocals are really wonderful as he sings about feeling unsure of how to continue in the relationship: “I’ve been pacing around the same ideas. Haven’t worked before, this time I’m not sure.” The backing vocal harmonies are sublime.

The band states that the third track “Science of Solace” is “about waking up submerged in a lake and deciding whether to return to the surface, to grow some gills and start a new life, or just sink into the next world.” It has more of a pop song feel, with Kathryn’s charming vocals dominating, backed with an extended horn riff, pleasing tempo and some discordant synth sounds.

All three tracks are marvelous, and over far too quickly. Century Thief is an amazingly talented group of musicians, and we need to hear more of their innovative music, hopefully soon!

Connect with Century Thief:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes

CIRCLE CASINO – Single Review: “Bierkeller”

Circle Casino band pic

You know those instances where you hear a song for the first time and you instantly love it? Well, that’s what I felt when I laid my ears on the wonderful debut single “Bierkeller” by UK band Circle Casino. Released in January, the song is so ridiculously catchy and upbeat it made me feel like a giddy teenager. Comprised of lead singer and guitarist Jordan Ashurst, lead guitarist Tom Brindle, bassist Arran Murphy and drummer Tim Glynn, the band amusingly describe themselves thusly:  “Fresh out of your nan’s microwave, Circle Casino are a band from Greater Manchester, caressing your ear-buds with sweet sweet love.” I can most certainly attest that they caressed mine exactly as promised!

The track kicks off with a bouncy riff of jangly guitars and an infectious drumbeat, grabbing hold of your ears and hips with a firm grip from which you won’t be wanting an escape. Layers of intricate guitars and synths are added, along with a thumping bass line, making for a gorgeous musical backdrop for Jordan’s beguiling vocals. I’m one of those silly Americans who finds British accents endlessly charming, so I love that his Mancunian accent comes through in his vocals.

With a rather unusual title for a song from a British band, “Bierkeller” is named for a German drinking establishment where the song’s storyline takes place. The lyrics tell the tale of a character who has a sexual encounter with a woman in the bathroom of the Bierkeller. “She’s got her hands inside. Her hand’s in mine. Her hand’s down mine as she guides me away. I can keep your bathroom secret. ‘Cause I’m your bathroom secret.

“Bierkeller” is fantastic, and an outstanding debut for Circle Casino. If they follow up with songs even half as good, I’m confident they’ll still sound terrific, and I cannot wait to hear them!

Show support for Circle Casino by following them on:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

XOTIC YEYO – Album Review: “Chocolate Decadence”

Chocolate Decadence

Xotic Yeyo is an entertaining band with a cool name, and they’re bound and determined to get our asses on the dance floor with their funky psychedelic rock grooves. The Miami-based threesome consists of Stu Sauce on guitar and lead vocals, Rod Reiter on bass and backing vocals, and Cody Orange on drums. Their upbeat sound is influenced by funk greats like Parliament, Curtis Mayfield, Average White Band, Prince, Gil Scott Heron, Phish, Primus and Jamiroquai, among others.

The guys dropped their debut EP Down 2 Funk in November 2016, which I reviewed, and are now back with a full-length album Chocolate Decadence, featuring 10 tracks guaranteed to funk you up! (The three original tracks from Down 2 Funk are included on Chocolate Decadence.) The artwork for both their EP and album are pretty risqué, and a good indication of their playful attitude and approach to their music: don’t take yourself too seriously, let loose, and have a good time.

Xotic Yeyo

That’s immediately evident on the zany opening track “Heyo Yeyo Mr. Snowman.” It’s a humorous take on a Christmas holiday song, with silly lyrics sung by Stu’s grainy vocals, but when the guys lay down some funky grooves, it all works. And it goes without saying that the video would be as crazy as the song, with a Black Santa passing out small gift boxes filled with snow – a precious commodity in South Florida where it never snows. (Interestingly, both ‘yeyo’ and ‘snow’ are slang for cocaine, but I’m sure it’s meant only as a pun in the video.)

One of the things I really like about Xotic Yeyo is how their songs sound like they’re being played live. On many of their tracks, they launch into what seem like mini jam sessions, giving them a spontaneous lo-fi vibe that sounds fresh and never over-produced. Some great examples of this can be found on tracks like “You, Me & the Funk,” with it’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics “A ménage a trois out on this dance floor. / Gonna funk so hard, you’ll never funk no more.”

Another is Disco Zombies,” an infectious earworm with great guitar riffs and jazzy grooves set to a catchy dance beat. Stu sings of the perils of looking for romance on the dance floor: “Fall in love on the dance floor with disco zombies that take control. Fall in love on the dance floor, they bite your neck and they suck your soul.” And one of the best is “Trip the Lights,” a six and a half minute long funk fest. I love Stu’s wobbly distorted guitar riff that continues throughout the song, backed by Rod’s funky bass and Cody’s strutting drums and crashing cymbals.

The guys take a mellower turn on “Love Triangle,” a pleasing track with a laid back R&B/hip hop tempo. Stu’s guitar work is terrific, and nicely complemented by Rod’s smooth bass line and Cody’s cool percussion. Stu’s gentler vocals sound really nice on this track, especially when harmonizing with Rod’s backing vocals.

The guys sing about who they are and what they do on the delightfully funky “Mothership,” which I think should have been the first track on the album. The band’s funky style is in full swing on this track, with Stu’s awesome guitar riffs in perfect rhythmic harmony with Rod’s funked-up bass. Stu’s quirky, rapid-fire vocals inject a playful hip-hop energy that makes this a fantastic tune. The song’s video shows the guys performing the song and cavorting with friends, clearly enjoying what they’re doing and proving they’re all about having fun and wanting their listeners and fans to have fun too.

Catch Xotic Yeyo at one of these upcoming shows:

Apr 19     Dada – Delray Beach, FL 
Apr 27     Kilted Mermaid – Vero Beach, FL
May 17    Orange Blossom Jamboree – Brooksville, FL 
May 18    The Warrior –  Tallahassee, FL

Connect with the band:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Chocolate Decadence may be purchased through this site:  http://music.jamdiggy.com/music/1353476855/chocolate-decadence-xotic-yeyo

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 NYLON.com 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