KAROLINA ROSE – EP Review: “INVICTA”

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Falling in love with a song or artist the moment you first hear their music is among life’s greatest pleasures – certainly for me anyway. And that is precisely what I felt when I listened to the new EP INVICTA by Karolina Rose. Inspired by the music of artists such as Kate Bush, Debbie Harry, Florence Welch, The Cranberries, David Bowie and Madonna, the Brooklyn, New York-based singer/songwriter writes songs about her own experiences and presents them with beautiful commanding vocals.

Born and raised in Philadelphia to Polish parents, Karolina graduated from the prestigious Wharton Business School and had a successful career on Wall Street, which she ultimately left to pursue her dream of making it as a full-time musician. (I can identify with her life-changing decision to leave behind a successful career for which she spent years of study, as I left my job as a city planner to own and operate a bed & breakfast inn.) She began writing songs on her acoustic guitar, and performing them in clubs in and around New York City, gradually building a loyal following. Realizing she needed to take her music to the next level, she teamed up with Grammy Award wining producer/engineer/mixer Andros Rodriguez (Madonna, Shakira, Florence + the Machine) for her debut EP INVICTA, which dropped on February 1st.

Speaking on the meanings behind the title and theme of INVICTA, Karolina explains: “The word ‘INVICTA’ means unconquered, and is found on the coat of arms of Warsaw (the city where my parents come from), so the title represents my strength and who I am. From quitting my job on Wall Street to having to navigate a brand new industry, there was a lot to learn on the journey towards INVICTA’s creation. Following your truth is not always the easy choice. And for that I call the record INVICTA; it is to say ‘I did it’ and I am ready to fight for what I love.”

KarolinaRose

The EP kicks off with the anthemic “Crystal Gem“, a hopeful declaration of Karolina’s determination to pursue her dream, no matter the odds. Backed by shimmering synths and a driving dance beat, she confidently sings: “No one can stop me now, from doing what I want to do. How nice it would be, to be taken care of endlessly. ” The track sounds like a song Katy Perry could have sung, only better. “Love Crazy” is a sultry affair that speaks to how we throw caution and common sense out the window when the pangs of love hit us like a ton of bricks. The track features lush swirling synths and fluttering percussion, creating a beautiful backdrop for Karolina’s fervent vocals that convey the blind passion of falling madly in love, helpless to resist its siren call: “Love, it makes you do crazy things. / Nothing else matters.”

One of my favorite tracks is “Going to Berlin“, a fantastic dance pop anthem that tells the tale of a woman who overcomes heartbreak by going off and jet-setting the world’s greatest cities. Karolina explains: “The concept first came to me when I was hanging at the Russian baths in downtown Manhattan with a good friend discussing her growth and how much she’s changed. She had left an old love behind in Europe to move to NYC and fearlessly follow her dreams. She then, of course, went to Berlin…” I love the throbbing EDM beat and Karolina’s wonderful layered vocals, and this lyric is so good: “She was lip-smacking good. Hold her tight if he could. But he lost her. Regret seeps in. She’s not coming back.”

Downhill” is a slow, moody track filled with powerful sweeping synths and mesmerizing percussion. In an interview with webzine CelebMix, Karolina states that the lyrics speak to the “simultaneous feelings of excitement and fear when pursuing something entirely new and unknown.” She passionately sings “I’m on the edge, lost and found. Can you hear the screaming sounds? We reach the skies before we go downhill.”

A standout track is the sad but beautiful “Goodnight, Mr. Moon“, inspired by Karolina’s experiences of exploring grief through dreams and nightmares. On her Facebook page she explained: “I have suffered from nightmares for many years. I often have hallucinations when I sleep. I wake up and see things in my bedroom or projected onto the walls or something within my room takes a different shape and moves. The first verse of the song takes inspiration from one of my nightmares where I woke up and it literally looked as if the moon was projecting a spotlight onto my wall and it looked like a scene was playing out. It may sound magical, but it was quite frightening. I started coming up with the visualization of someone hallucinating in the middle of the night, bringing back their loved one by talking to Mr. Moon. She communicates with her lost love in the nighttime. She processes her grief through dreams. She thinks it’s real until the end of the song when she wakes up from the dream and knows it’s really time to say goodbye.

The dreamy synths, gentle percussion and her mix of soft and soaring vocals are a perfect match for the poignant lyrics: “How do I get it all back? All the pieces of my heart? How do I get it all back? All the pieces came apart. How do I get you back?

The final track “Move With Me” was actually Karolina’s very first single, which she released two years ago, in February 2017. The song has a wonderful throwback 80s New Wave vibe that’s become so popular again recently. I love the bouncy EDM beat that aims straight for the hips, along with the glittery techno synths that remind me of songs by A-ha and New Order. Karolina’s vocals exude seduction as she implores the object of her desire to quit wasting time and get busy loving her: “Check my pulse. Am I still alive? / Do you know you took me by surprise? Fragile, young love. What will be, will be. Move a little bit faster now. Go a little bit faster now. There’s no time to waste, so baby pick up the pace and move with me.

INVICTA is an outstanding EP that beautifully showcases the impressive songwriting and vocal talents of this very lovely artist. Every track is superb, making for a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. I want to give special thanks to fellow blogger Hasan Bayez of SheBOPS for recommending Karolina. Check out his great blog too!

To learn more about Karolina, check out her Website
Connect with her on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / AmazonBig Cartel

WIDE EYED BOY – EP Review: “Sun Again EP”

Wide Eyed Boy Sun Again EP

Since first hearing their incredible debut single “Wolves” two years ago, I’ve been totally smitten with British band Wide Eyed Boy. I’ve featured the charismatic Liverpool foursome on this blog three times now, beginning with my review of “Wolves” almost exactly two years ago, in February 2017, then a review of their magnificent follow-up single “Loving You is So Easy” that July, and an interview in May 2018, shortly after the release of their third single “Sun Again”. They’ve just dropped their first EP Sun Again EP, and it’s my pleasure to feature them for the fourth time.

Wide Eyed Boy consists of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitar, keyboards) and Tom Taylor (Drums). They all met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and quickly bonded over their shared love of music. They made the decision to release a series of singles to get their music out there and heard, and they’ve succeeded quite nicely. Since the release of “Wolves”, they’ve earned a reputation as one of Britain’s best indie bands, and have gained a large following of loyal fans.

The EP includes their three aforementioned singles, plus two new tracks. It opens with the title track “Sun Again,” an exuberant affair, with roiling riffs of Jonny and Kobi’s fuzzy guitars and bass, propelled by Tom’s furious drums and wildly crashing cymbals. Oliver has one of the most beautiful voices around today, and his smooth, clear vocals are dazzling, soaring along with the instrumentals as they build to a goosebump-inducing crescendo. About the song, the band states: “It’s about escape. Breaking out of that vicious cycle of mundane life and getting back that sense of freedom to go do whatever the hell you want.”

The beautiful new video just released for “Sun Again” features actor Daniel Donskoy, and alternately shows scenes of Wide Eyed Boy performing the song, and scenes of Donskoy portraying a man who’s angry and in distress, racing his car through the English countryside, then running from the car into a field and collapsing on the ground, spent and finally feeling free.

I loved “Wolves” the moment I heard it, and made me an instant fan of this band. Everything about this phenomenal track is perfect – the haunting melody, compelling lyrics, flawless arrangement and production, propulsive drumbeat, gorgeous sweeping synths, nimble, layered guitars, and Oliver’s incredible vocals that are absolutely mesmerizing. Oliver stated the song ‘is about letting people in that are bad for you.’ He passionately sings “Why can’t I leave it all behind? Why can’t I save myself this time? I fall just a little bit, don’t wanna be a part of it. Wolves are the only friends I know.”

“Wolves” was so awesome that I didn’t think the guys could top it, but I was even more blown away by their magnificent follow-up single “Loving You is So Easy“. The swirling guitars, sultry bass line, sweeping gnarly synths and Oliver’s captivating vocals are all positively breathtaking. The song lyrics are fairly straightforward – “I don’t care the way you care. I can see it in your stare. But the way that we collide, it’s getting harder every time. Loving you is so easy. Easy when I’m down, down, down” – but Oliver delivers them quite seductively, before launching into a soaring falsetto in the chorus, adding more chills to the ones already covering my body. I love this song so much it ranks #13 on my Top 100 Best Songs of 2017 (“Wolves” was #17).

Next up is “See the Light“, yet another beautiful song from this amazing band. This track is slower in tempo and more ballad-like than their other songs, with acoustic guitar, shimmery synths and gentle percussion. The song is about a relationship that’s failed past the point of return and the desire to move on. Oliver’s heartfelt falsetto vocals are sublime as he plaintively sings the poignant lyrics: “I’ve gone missing. Something’s not alright. I don’t wanna run but I’m struggling to see the light. / Can’t you see what I’ve become? Stay away from me.”

The band closes out the EP with the rousing pop/rock banger “Fire“. The radio-friendly track features a catchy melody, pulsating synths, chiming guitars and pummeling drums that all build to an exciting crescendo in the chorus. The lyrics are a plea to someone for whom the singer has strong feelings to save him with their love and support: “Fire! I’m burning now. I really need you now. Fire! Don’t let me down. Pull me from the ashes.

Sun Again is an awesome little EP with five outstanding tracks, and a testament to Wide Eyed Boy’s impressive songwriting and musicianship. I cannot wait to hear what new songs they come up with next to dazzle our eardrums.

Connect with Wide Eyed Boy: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

JAMES BAKIAN – Single Review: “Terrified”

James Bakian Terrified

James Bakian is an exceptionally talented, hard working and charismatic young singer/songwriter from London, England. He wrote his first song at the age of six, began studying piano at seven, and released his first EP By Your Side in 2016 when he was only 13. In the two years since, the prolific musician has continued recording and building a loyal fan base. He released his appropriately-named second EP Unstoppable – a really fine effort featuring six tracks – in late 2017 (which I reviewed), and so far in 2018 has released an astonishing 12 singles, the latest of which is “Terrified,” which drops today, November 23.

Now 15, James possesses a phenomenal vocal styling with a depth and maturity beyond his years. He writes all his own lyrics and music, records all the instruments, and is now even producing his songs. I’ve been following him for about two years, and it’s gratifying to watch him grow professionally and hear his vocals and music style get better and better as he matures. He was recently a Featured Artist on BBC Radio London’s BBC Introducing show, where his song “Ice Cold” was played.

“Terrified” is a lovely, soulful track, with sublime jazzy synths set to a gentle drum loop. James’ tinkling piano keys are exquisite, driving the delicate melody forward and creating a beautiful backdrop for his smooth, heartfelt vocals that speak to feeling lost, aimless and alone, without purpose or love in his life. James states that it’s “about someone going through a dark time but choosing to remember and hope for the good times, and reaching out for help.” Despite his youth, he manages to convey the sense of pain and despair expressed in the lyrics in a way that’s believable and convincing. It’s another stellar effort from James that only bolsters my belief that this talented young man has a very bright and promising future.

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

DVR – EP Review: “Down”

DVR pic

DVR is a studio project by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Olav Christensen. Originally from Denmark, Olav is now based in Brooklyn, NY, and writes, records, produces and masters all his music. He’s been recording music for a number of years, and began releasing singles in 2015, and dropped his first full-length album California in 2016. That work was inspired by memories collected by Olav when he lived in Santa Monica, and was a collaborative effort with bassist/synth musician Ancelmo James.

In late July, he released a new EP Down, which he describes as “five depressing songs for the kids, guaranteed to make you feel better.” While the songs’ themes do address the down sides of love and relationships, his wonderful music is generally upbeat, having the effect of softening the raw emotions expressed in his dark, poetic lyrics.

The first track “Precious Little Time” is a lovely pop-rock ballad that seems to be about regret over past transgressions that resulted in the loss of a loving relationship. The instrumentals are a pleasing mix of acoustic, electric and slide guitars, accompanied by gentle percussion, that perfectly complement the wistful lyrics:

Precious little time makes me lose my head
It’s not that you did wrong, I’m just hanging by a thread
Running out of time and I keep slowing down
Beat and broken down, knees to the ground
I’ll send you love from the great beyond
To take the edge off breaking my bond

Low” has an edgier rock sound, with fuzzy and psychedelic guitars, heavy bass and industrial synths set to a driving beat. DVR’s electronically distorted vocals give the track a bit of a Peter Gabriel vibe. It’s a brilliant song, and probably my favorite on the EP. “Another Year” is a soulful pop-rock track with some fine, intricate electric guitar and a strong thumping drumbeat.  His smooth vocals are really nice, as are his own backing harmonies, which he very effectively uses on other tracks as well. He sings about his shortcomings and how he always fails to live up to his best intentions: “I won’t make no resolutions. There really is no point. Cause when it comes to execution I just disappoint.”

He speeds things up on “Your Shoes,” a peppy, upbeat-sounding rock song with great guitar work and decidedly dark lyrics. Spoken from the point of view of someone who’s completely cynical and emotionally dead, his words offer a bit of empathy to another who’s suffering, though from what we’re not told. His earnest, emotionally-charged vocals almost reach a falsetto level at times.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow 
But I’ve been dead for a while 
My spirit’s dull and hollow 
My soul is dark and vile
But here 
Close to the ground 
Flat on my back 
Nothing to lose 
Here 
I realize what it’s like 
To be in your shoes

On “Undetected,” DVR employs a wide assortment of rich guitar textures, and layers them over a thumping bass line and strutting drumbeat to create an uptempo backdrop for his heartfelt vocals. With a sense of sad resignation, he laments about how the object of his desire doesn’t seem to care about him:

I’d like to be on your radar
It’s my favorite place to be
But all the while, here you are
Not looking for me
I’m always undetected
As I drift across your scope
I’ll always be neglected
Here at the end of my rope

Down is a great little EP that left me wanting more from this versatile artist. Though he refers to himself as a “shitty” guitarist in his Twitter bio, I’d say he’s a pretty good one! And given his rather prolific output over the past few years, I’m sure we’ll be hearing new music from DVR soon.

Connect with DVR:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream on Spotify
Purchase Down on Bandcamp

THE PUSS PUSS BAND – Single & Video Review: “We Should Be”

Puss Puss Band We Should Be

I’m back in Wales (having just featured Welsh band Dying Habit), this time to talk about the lovely new single “We Should Be” and it’s delightful video from The Puss Puss Band.  Based in Cardiff, and consisting of multi-instrumentalists Asa Galeozzie and Lee Pugh, the band is named for Asa’s cat Puss Puss. Both are accomplished musicians who’ve worked with numerous artists and bands in the UK and Welsh music industry over the last ten years as writers & session musicians. They perform every aspect of their music: songwriting, instrumentals, vocals, arranging, engineering, producing and mixing. Asa plays guitar, bass, percussion, piano and melodica, while Lee plays lead guitar, bass and piano, as well as sings lead vocals.

In April 2017, with help from seasoned musician John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick, the guys released their beautiful debut album Echoes Across the Cruel Sea. I reviewed the album along with an interview with Lee, which you can read here. Over the past six months or so, they’ve been writing and recording songs for a second album, and “We Should Be” is the first single. It’s a wonderful song, delivering the pleasing jazz and folk-infused pop we’ve come to expect from these talented guys. And once again, Mr. Bundrick lends his expertise on the keyboards.

The bittersweet song is about missing someone and wishing they were back in love with you so you could be together. Layers of gently strummed guitar, crisp percussion and delicate synths create a sparkling backdrop for Lee’s smooth, breathy vocals that convey a sad resignation as he sings the poignant lyrics:

Lighted excited waiting in the rain
Two minutes ‘til I see you again
Near misses, longed for kisses
An everlasting wait
The magic word that is her name

We stole our days away
Wishing by the sea
Wrapped up in you
Wrapped up in me

The way you see the world
Is just the same
It’s just the way you feel about me that’s changed

But we should be….
We should be in love
We should be in love…
See you’re all I’m wishing on

Dying, just trying to find
The words to say
The few minutes that I’ll see you today
Near misses, longed for kisses
An everlasting wait
The tragic word that is my name

If the way you see the world
Is just the same?
Maybe there’s no need…
To hurt in vain?

Is it right?
To close up tight?
To feed this cold divide…
Between you and me?
Is it so hard to see?…
That we should be

We should be…
We should be in love…
We should be in love…
You’re all I’m wishing on
We should be….in love

The video is one of the most delightful I’ve seen in a long while. It shows a man in a cat suit (played by Lee) sitting or standing in various locations on a busy street in Cardiff, holding a large flip chart printed with words that are directed at his love interest. By and by, he walks past a busking musician (played by Asa) and throws a few pieces of dry cat food into his guitar case. I love the scenes where he’s chasing pigeons, riding the merry-go-round, and when he sits on the bench, offers some of his food to a man who politely turns him down, then proceeds to eat it out of the bowl. At the end, the busker sees him sitting forlornly on the ground next to the merry-go-round, offers his hand, and they walk off together down the street holding hands. What a sweet story, and I love both the song and video!

Connect with The Puss Puss Band:  Website / Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music on Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp or iTunes

WIDE EYED BOY – Artist Spotlight & Interview

Wide Eyed Boy

Liverpool foursome Wide Eyed Boy burst onto the local music scene in early 2017 with their gorgeous debut single “Wolves,” quickly making a name for themselves throughout the UK and beyond – even here in the Coachella Valley of Southern California where yours truly resides. They followed up in July with another magnificent single “Loving You is So Easy.” I loved both songs so much I featured them on this blog, and both reached #1 on my Weekly Top 20. “Wolves” ended up at #17 and “Loving You is So Easy” at #13 on my 100 Best Songs of 2017.

Wide Eyed Boy is comprised of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitars, keyboards) and Tom Taylor (Drums). In March, they dropped their third single “Sun Again,” another stellar track that provides further proof they’re a band of exceptional songwriting talent and musicianship. The exuberant track opens strong with roiling riffs of fuzzy guitars, propelled by Tom’s hammering drums and a cascade of crashing cymbals. Oliver’s smooth, clear vocals are dazzling as always, soaring along with the instrumentals as they build to a goosebump-inducing crescendo. Regarding the song, the band states: “It’s about escape. Breaking out of that vicious cycle of mundane life and getting back that sense of freedom to go do whatever the hell you want.”

I’d like to say that I ‘sat down with’ the band for a conversation – which I would absolutely love to do! – but, given the fact we’re 6,000 miles apart, we conducted our interview over the internet. Fortunately, all four band members took time to respond to my questions.

EML: Hello guys, I’m honored to have the opportunity to interview you! As you know, I’ve been a huge fan of yours since I first heard “Wolves.” I think you’re one of the best indie bands in the UK, if not the world! I already know a bit about you – that you all met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), became friends and eventually formed a band. Also, you went to Budapest, Hungary in 2016 to write songs. What prompted you to decide to go to Budapest? Did you feel you’d have more inspiration for your songwriting there, rather than in Liverpool, and if so, why?

Jonny:  Thanks for having us! Yeah that’s how it all started. We’ve written a lot of music in Liverpool so Budapest was an opportunity to go somewhere completely different, have some fun, get sunstroke and gain some inspiration from a new environment. As Oli’s family are originally from Hungary they still have a house  in the country which is what gave us the chance to go over and make some noise for a couple of weeks.

EML: Is your songwriting a collaborative process that each of you take a roughly equal part in? Or do certain band members take greater responsibility for writing lyrics and/or music?

Kobi:  Our songwriting is definitely a collaborative process! Most of the time Jonny, Tom and I will have more of an influence on the music/arrangement side of things and Oli writes the main melodies and harmony and lays down the bare bones of lyrics. But the cool thing is, at the end of it, we sit down and go through all the ideas Oli has and we finish the lyrics off together to get some sort of finalised song. Collaboration is the only way to make music great!

EML: I don’t know your ages, but you all exhibit a real maturity in your songwriting, both in terms of compelling lyrics and your gorgeous melodies, not to mention your amazing musicianship. Were any of you active musicians or play in other bands prior to attending LIPA?

Tom: We all played in bands before we went to LIPA. It’s what we loved to do, I started my first band back at school. I remember we got all of our mates to come down to the local pub and we played a gig, I think we only had two songs so the rest we just played covers. So yeah we all played loads of music before WIDE EYED BOY I’m sure if you asked we still all remember our first gig but that’s another question.

EML: Oliver, you have an incredible voice, which I’m guessing is a natural gift to a large degree. Did you have formal vocal training while growing up or at LIPA?

Ollie: Thank you for the compliment. I had one to one singing lessons at LIPA and I also had training in Germany years ago. Obviously it did always come natural to me and I started singing professionally at the age of 10 but after my voice broke I felt like I needed to relearn how to use my voice properly.

EML: Your songs are really magnificent, with expansive instrumentation and arrangements that transcend mere pop and rock. What and/or who are some of the influences for your sound and songwriting?

Tom: In WIDE EYED BOY we are each influenced by so many different bands but its good really as it means when we’re travelling we have loads of different tunes on in the car. We all agree on Oasis and RHCP, but coming from a city like Liverpool there are so many bands that we’ve been watching for years like Clean Cut Kid and The Wombats. We’ve also been lucky to go on tour with Feeder and The Rifles and we learnt loads from them. There’s too many to list really.

EML:  I already love your latest single “Sun Again,” which you formally released on March 9th, but I saw a video of you performing an acoustic version of it a year ago on Liverpool Noise. I’m assuming it’s one of the many songs you wrote while in Budapest. I’m curious as to why you are periodically releasing singles, rather than an EP or album, given that you’ve already written enough songs for a full album? And when do you plan on releasing a full album?

Jonny: Thank you very much, Sun Again was actually one of the first songs we wrote as a band and was an idea around for a while that we’re really glad we finished and recorded. We’re still a really new band so releasing singles just made a lot of sense to us at this point although there’s no doubt bigger bodies of work will be coming sometime soon.

EML: Despite releasing only a few singles, you’ve managed to quickly build quite a large following, which has to be incredibly gratifying. Has your seemingly overnight success been a surprise, and do you feel any pressure to keep upping your game?

Ollie: It truly feels amazing when the crowd sings along to our songs because it shows that we actually managed to reach people. I wouldn’t personally call it an overnight success because if you are so closely involved in a project you don’t even realise how it’s growing. However, we do obviously notice the positive resonance and all we can do is to try our best, and release music we are very proud of.

EML:  I see this question asked by a lot of interviewers, but I’m gonna ask it anyway LOL. In addition to what we’ve already discussed, are there any other things about you or your music I neglected to ask that you’d like your fans to know?

Kobi: Haha, if you’re wondering if we have any new songs coming soon…we have LOTS of new material we have been working on…that’s all I can say at the moment but they’re very exciting, not going to spoil anything (I’m terrible at secrets).

Here’s a fun fact, our band name Wide Eyed Boy is actually someone…a human in this world (alive)…I’ll let people figure it out!

Have a listen to their songs and I’m confident you’ll agree that they’re pretty amazing.

Connect with Wide Eyed Boy: Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

V A L E – Single Review: “Better Place”

VALE

UK indie pop band V A L E  set the winter airwaves ablaze this past January with their gorgeous debut single “Fire.” Now the East Midlands duo – consisting of Will Bond (vocals, piano, synths & guitar) and Olly Walton (drums & synths) – return with a breathtaking new single “Better Place.” Employing lush synths and a seductive dance beat in a similar style to that which made “Fire” such a marvelous track, with “Better Place” V A L E has created an emotionally stirring and achingly beautiful dream pop song.

Starting off with dramatic piano keys, the guys add layers of sparkling synths and a gorgeous, mesmerizing guitar riff, all set to a pulsating dance beat that grabs us by the ears, hips and heart. Will’s smooth vocals are captivating as he fervently sings of the betrayal that’s caused him pain and led to the breakup of their relationship:

You were the reason I was riding on the wave
You pulled the plug now I’m sinking
I stood and watched you turn my trust into the grave
I don’t know what I was thinking

I gave you everything so why’d you misbehave?
You knew my love was unblinking
And all the times I turned an eye and still forgave
You let me down now I’m drinking

Ooh, I still think about ya
Ooh, I still see your face
Ooh, life goes on without ya
Ooh, need to find a better place

With just two stellar singles thus far, V A L E is already establishing themselves as an act on the rise and one to watch. I love their songs and look forward to hearing more from them soon.

Connect with VALE: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

“Better Place” will be available for streaming or purchase on all major music platforms on May 25th.

JAMES BAKIAN – Single Review: “Ice Cold”

James Bakian

James Bakian is a majorly talented and charismatic young singer/songwriter from London, UK. He’s only 14 years old, but possesses a phenomenal vocal styling with a maturity beyond his years. He writes all his own songs and music, and records all the instruments. He’s also a hard-working and prolific musician. James released his second EP Unstoppable – a really fine effort featuring six tracks – in late 2017 (which I reviewed), and in the first three months of 2018 he’s already dropped five new singles, the latest of which is “Ice Cold,” which debuted on March 30.

The new song is a bit of a departure from his usual soulful pop sound. James states that he’s been exploring R&B and lo-fi hip-hop, and boy does he deliver! The track is mesmerizing, starting off with sounds of static and a hesitating synth chord, then unfolding into a gorgeous soundscape of shimmering keyboard synths floating above a languid hip hop beat. James’ smooth vocals are captivating, and sound better than ever. He can seduce us one moment, then raise goosebumps with impassioned pleas the next. It’s a fantastic song, and it’s wonderful seeing his music and vocals continue to mature so nicely.

“Ice Cold” speaks to not allowing self-doubt and past mistakes to turn you into a bitter person:

Build up strength to live a day yeah
All you want is to escape yeah
Don’t let words intoxicate you
We all get deserted sometimes

We get disappointed with what we’re assigned
Can’t go without a complaint in your mind
Losing your patience is turning you blind
You need space to rewind

Cause you’re ice cold
And it’s making you bad but you deserve a chance
And we all make our mistakes but they are just mistakes
We don’t catch the message so we all get sad

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

JAMES BAKIAN – EP Review: “Unstoppable”

James Bakian EP

There are so many talented musicians making really good music these days, but every so often we come upon one who stands above the crowd. James Bakian, a charismatic young singer/songwriter from London, UK, is such an artist. He’s only 14 years old, but possesses a phenomenal vocal styling with a maturity beyond his years. His love of music has been in his blood since he was a young child, and he wrote his first song “Oh Baby” at the age of six! He began studying piano at seven, and from that point on, he knew he wanted a career in music.

Drawing inspiration from some of his favorite artists like Maroon 5, Charlie Puth, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Sia, Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes, Justin Bieber and Drake, James has developed a singing style that fits his beautiful voice. In his bio, he explains his creative process:  “When the inspiration to write a song comes, I sit at the piano, a melody forms and then the lyrics flow! I write a lot about love and heartbreak but I’ve never been in love…yet! My dream is to keep writing and singing and for people to get to know and enjoy my music! One day I’d love to do a world tour.

James Bakian

James released a very respectable debut EP By Your Side in 2016, and at the end of 2017 he dropped his second EP Unstoppable. The new EP shows how much his vocals and songwriting have matured in less than two years. On the sultry title track “Unstoppable,” he effortlessly goes from a seductive croon to a yearning falsetto as he pledges his undying love, pleading for her not to hurt him. The warm synths and crisp percussion are beautiful and soothing, a perfect accompaniment to his superb vocals.

Most of his songs are piano-driven compositions, backed with lovely violin-heavy synths, gentle percussion and subtle guitar. On the melancholy “Ain’t Sure,” James emotionally declares “I ain’t sure if I want you more / I’m letting go / You’ve broken me, you tore me up I’m on the floor / I can’t believe how I ever thought you cared about me.”  “Colour” has him extolling the depth of his adoration, pleading for her to let him go if she can’t love him the way he loves her. The uptempo “Know You” features a softly pulsating dance beat, and the funky guitar in the outro is a nice touch. And as always, James’ vocals are flawlessly sublime.

Poison” is a terrific kiss-off song set to a thumping bass-driven dance beat. James rebukes a former lover who’s now toxic for him: “You’re poison, it hurts me. Don’t think I can take this. You destroyed me with your kiss. You gotta leave. I’ll make it, please right now.”  “Red Dress” has him mourning the loss of a girl he loved who’s now left him: “Oh there she goes off to where who knows? But all I know is that she’s gone. Never coming back. Disappeared from view.”

Unstoppable is a wonderful EP, and a fitting description for this supremely talented young man with a big, beautiful voice. James is an ambitious, hard-working guy, and just a few weeks after the release of Unstoppable, he dropped two new singles! I’m certain that his star will only grow brighter as his songwriting and vocal style continue to mature.

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

ANCA – EP Review: “Tomorrow in Sight”

ANCA album cover

Anca is a lovely young indie singer/songwriter from Sydney, Australia who released her equally lovely debut EP Tomorrow in Sight in December 2017. She writes heartfelt lyrics based partly on her own personal experiences, and sets them to delicate piano-driven melodies. She played piano and drums on all the tracks, with assistance from Ian Craig on guitar and JimmyJay Lovelace on bass.

Her folk-pop music style contains elements that at times remind me a tiny bit like Jewel, yet sounds totally fresh and original. In her bio info, Anca shares her feelings about the EP: “This is my debut EP of the best songs I wrote before turning 21. Recorded on the piano I grew up with, I am incredibly excited to share the music from this period of my life. After the release of this record, tomorrow is in sight with my adult songs coming next year!

Opening track “Trainwreck” sets the tone with a sweet piano riff and gently strummed electric guitar creating a mood that’s soothing, yet lighthearted. ANCA’s delicate vocals are enchanting as they skitter across the soundwaves. She explains the meaning of the song and its charming video:

Trainwreck is a song where I am laughing at myself for how terrible I am when it comes to dating. The particular story starts with me starting to see a guy and things going really well until we hang out and I have a few too many and make an absolute idiot out of myself. The video definitely goes overboard – I didn’t really break a glass in the original but the catastrophe level was pretty close! But hey, if you can’t laugh at yourself then what can you do? At least one of us found it funny!

On “Red Flags” Anca muses on whether she should open herself up to a possible relationship: “I could be wrong, maybe I should let you in“, yet she has reservations, afraid of being hurt: “Red flags run from my eyes. I know it’s hard to see when you’re so high.” The track features a beautiful little guitar riff, accompanied by subtle piano and gently pummeling drums.

Learning to Let Go” has her coming to terms with the pain caused by a failed relationship and moving on: “Learning to let go was the hardest thing I’ve ever known.” Continuing on that theme, Anca closes the door on any hope of a reconciliation on “Talk About It.” “Why don’t you run away. I don’t know why you want to talk about it. I know why I don’t want to talk about it. You’re not gonna change my mind.” And though the song is clearly pop-oriented, her vocals at times have a bit of a hip hop quality in their cadence.

Anca turns somber on the haunting “Hey Anna,” addressing the pain and despair of someone having the unattainable goal to be perfect: “Hey Anna, get out of my head. You made your point, I heard what you said. / What the mirror shows, is someone I don’t know. You know I’d give anything to be perfect.” But then she sings an emotional tribute to the strength and inspiration she gains from her grandma on the folk ballad “Nana’s Song.” “When I’m with you, I don’t have to be afraid. If I cry, you chase the monsters away. When I’m with you, I don’t have to wear a mask. If I tried, you see right through it anyway.”

It’s an uplifting finish to a fine EP that takes us on Anca’s journey of self-discovery and life lessons learned. I hope she delivers on her promise of new music very soon.

Connect with ANCA:  Website / Facebook / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify or Apple Music  and purchase on iTunes or Bandcamp