HULLAH – Single Review: “Wild as the Wind”

One of my best new finds of 2022 has been British singer-songwriter, producer and sound designer Charley Hullah, who goes by just his last name, stylized as HULLAH. I first learned about the handsome, talented and highly engaging London-based artist as a result of being a guest moderator for the BBC Music weekly song competition Fresh On The Net, for which he’d entered his gorgeous single “Chasing Trains”. I loved it the instant I heard it, so much so that it ended up spending 20 weeks on my Top 30 chart, going all the way to #1.

Born and raised in the Midlands, HULLAH relocated to London in 2013 to study songwriting at The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, where he earned a B.A. Since graduating, he’s worked as a creative freelancer in the music and media industries, writing and producing music for his solo act, as one-half of the electro-pop duo Futuretape (currently on hiatus), and for other artists, as well as sound-designing for theatre, creating digital content, organising music workshops and working on events such as the Artist and Manager Awards. Most recently, he became Content Manager for Disabled Students UK, and has held the role of Content Manager for Alight Media where he developed a content delivery department for high budget nationwide out-of-home media campaigns.

According to his bio, HULLAH “creates music inspired by a passion for nightlife culture and stories from the queer community. Wrapped in the sonic flavours of trip-hop, 90’s house and synth-pop, his tracks emulate a nocturnal spirit and are complemented by the themes of city living, alienation, ambition and a sense of dejection – commonly expressed through his lyrics. His songs, both introspective and solitary, offer insight into how he navigates his way through the noise and distortion of everyday city life.” His music is inspired by such acts as as Everything but the Girl, Real Lies, Portishead and Pet Shop Boys.

He’s just released his third solo single “Wild as the Wind“, and it’s every bit as magnificent at “Chasing Trains”. Written and produced by HULLAH and mixed by Matt Catlow, the track features more of the lush, sultry vibes I loved on his previous song, but with even more sound textures that take it to a higher, more sophisticated level. Whereas “Chasing Trains” was entirely electronic, “Wild as the Wind” is anchored by a deep, sensuous bassline played by fellow musician Gabrielle Ornate, and fortified with spine-tingling distorted guitar work played by Orlando Sadler. HULLAH explains: “I knew that I wanted and needed live instrumentation on this one so I reached out to my great friends Gabrielle and Orlando. Gabrielle laid down killer bass on this that just glues the whole track together. It packs a gut-punch. Orlando mirrored the sense of dejection in the soundscape and lyric by creating these huge, distorted synth-like guitar lines that create an awesome atmosphere.”

Well, I have to say that together, they’ve created something quite spectacular. “Wild as the Wind” is a dramatic, hauntingly beautiful little masterpiece. The combined warmth of Gabrielle’s sensuous throbbing bassline and HULLAH’s plaintive sultry vocals contrasts with – yet perfectly complements – the icy soundscape created by the ghostly industrial synths. There are so many wonderful little instrumental touches heard throughout the track, like the sparkling keyboards and delicate jangly guitar notes. I’ve been listening to it on endless repeat.

As to the song’s meaning, HULLAH elaborates: “‘Wild as the Wind” is an ode to the wilderness I feel inside myself – the parts of myself I don’t understand and have to grapple with. It’s about trying to make friends with your own insecurities, worries, dread, hopes and desires – the things you don’t quite understand but that equally push and pull you in life nonetheless. There’s the ‘us’ that we present to the world and then there’s the ‘us’ that we are when we are alone, uncomfortably alone. That’s what I mean by wilderness, the space in between those two versions of yourself. ‘Wild as the Wind’ is about not trying to contain this wilderness – it’s about truly seeing those aspects of yourself and attempting to accept and be at peace with them. The song was initially written about two people in my life that were going through hard times. As I kept writing, I later realised that it also reflected my own experience navigating this wilderness I felt they were also battling with.”

You've spend a lifetime looking for something on the other side
You could spend another drifting like you do
All that guilt and history is like a thorn caught in your sleeve 
I know the pain, the hurt and how you yearn to let it go

And I can't save the soul you hold
And I can't save you on my own
I can't do that, but you can't see that
If you don't swim now you will drown

You're as wild as the wind
And I can't catch you
Cause you're as wild as the wind
And I can't cage you

You're so warm outside, but so cold within
A smile is a wall that's caving in
You're breathing to a rhythm that you can't play
Little feet don't make big steps without 
Soles that can tread some hard ground
So how many years will be lost before you finally take the reins?

There's no escaping a wild mind
No easy way to win the fight
But you must fight back
You must see that all that you need is in yourself

Cause you're as wild as the wind
I can't catch you
Cause you're as wild as the wind
And I can't cage you
You're full of grace and gold
So let the wind be what you know
And be as wild as the wind
And let it take you

Though time is all you fear
And nothing is all you feel
Keep on running for a reason
Just let that reason be your life

Connect with HULLAH:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud 

Purchase on Bandcamp

BARBARA – Single Review: “Waiting Outside Alone”

Since bursting onto the British music scene at the beginning of 2021 with their wonderful debut single “BRB”, pop duo Barbara has built a loyal following with their pleasing retro brand of, in their own words, “soft, syrupy progressive fop pop”. The music project of Henry and John Tydeman, two charming brothers from Brighton and Hove, England, Barbara describes their sound as “a bit of 70s US AM radio, a dash of English music hall, the effortless catchiness of a Broadway musical, a sprinkling of sequined power pop, luscious Disney strings and glorious golden harmonies.” Listening to their feel-good music, I’d say that’s a perfect description I cannot improve upon.

They followed “BRB” with three more singles, including the delightful “Rainy Days in June” (which I reviewed last November), as well as their debut five-track EP Mildly Entertaining this past April. Now they’re back with a terrific new single “Waiting Outside Alone“, which drops today, November 9th. As with their other songs, John and Henry sang vocals, with keyboards played by Henry, guitar by Dean Llewelyn, bass by Jack Hosgood and drums by Lawrie Miller. The song features their signature sunny vibe, with a bouncy, toe-tapping 60s groove fueled by subtle bass, snappy drums, a colorful mix of chiming and gnarly guitars, and cheerful synths, punctuated by some tasty organ notes. But the highlight for me are John and Henry’s beautiful lilting harmonies, which are quite marvelous. I love how well their singing voices complement one another.   

In sharp contrast to the song’s carefree, upbeat sound, the thoughtful lyrics touch on a darker, more serious subject. Barbara explains “The lyrics reflect an intense, youthful frustration; ‘Waiting Outside Alone’ both calls out the reactionary elements that have come to dominate British politics, and laments the sidelining of young people from the fractious national debate.” The same can be said about American politics. “Waiting Outside Alone” is song we need today, and I love it.

Everywhere we walk about, we stop to talk about people, and places and things,
It’s all we want to think, kick up a stink about people, that wait in the wings by the side of the stage, in the words on the page of the editorial, the dictatorial view,
Shouldn’t the commentator’s comment be true?

Where did the chancers, dreamers, blue eyed schemers,
Men in suits and window cleaners go?
Ooh, wo, ho, oh, oh


Coz I’m waiting outside alone,
And the rest of the world don’t know,
That it breaks me down, the way those clowns are treating me, keeping me, waiting outside alone

Everywhere she goes she says she’s making this country’s case and staking her well-found reputation on stiff upper lips and soldier songs

Stiff upper lips won’t save the men in suits and badger baiters oh,
Ooh, wo, ho, oh, oh

Coz I’m waiting outside alone,
And the rest of the world don’t know,
That it breaks me down, the way those clowns are treating me, keeping me, waiting outside alone

Coz I’m waiting outside alone,
And the rest of the world don’t know,
That it breaks me down, the way those clowns are treating me, keeping me, waiting outside alone

Do I have to be on my own?
Ooh woo ooh ooh ooh
Ooh, woo ooh ooh
Treating me, keeping me….

Connect with Barbara: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube

CAITLIN LAVAGNA – Single Review: “Night Bus”

Sometimes the most compelling lyrics are born from adversity and pain, which is certainly the case for the beautiful new single “Night Bus” by Welsh singer-songwriter Caitlin Lavagna. Born and raised in the picturesque Rhondda Valley, with strong Gibraltarian roots, the multi-talented and lovely singer-songwriter, musician and actress has had a life-long love for music and the arts, with a special passion for percussion and drums. Her vibrant vocal style is heavily influenced by some of her favorite artists like Sting, Stevie Nicks, Florence Welch, P!nk and Adele. 

Photo by Akta Photography

In July 2021, Caitlin released her marvelous debut single “How Not To Start a Fight”, which I reviewedNow she’s back with her second single “Night Bus”, which is every bit as good. In addition to singing both vocals and backing harmonies, she also played drums and percussion on the track. And from what I was able to gather from her Instagram post about the song, fellow Welsh musician Mark Croft played guitar and bass, Joe Rodwell programmed synths, and Lucas August Mendes produced, engineered and mixed the track. 

The song was inspired by her experience of moving to London for the purpose of furthering her music and acting career, and the disappointments and struggles she faced while there. She elaborates: “‘Night Bus” is about being a young creative in a big city with life getting in the way of that creativity. Working 40 hours a week, burning money on everything apart from your career, going around in circles and seeing the worst of a city you thought would give you your big break. As a young Welsh Actor Musician, I experienced this recently when deciding to finally leave London and move home to the Rhondda. It was a difficult time, because after all, everyone says you won’t be successful unless you’re in the City. That was not my experience at all. I was so tired. When I did have time, I would be burnt out from work or supporting other musician and actor friends in shows and gigs I couldn’t really afford to go to. I hope people can relate to this track and that it provides them some comfort and escape. It is both angry and triumphant with a catchy melody and beat!

I like how the song starts off slowly, with Caitlin’s lovely pensive vocals accompanied by gently-strummed guitar notes and airy synths, then gradually builds into a dramatic sweeping anthem. The sparkling synths, thumping bass and lively guitars are superb, but just as with “How Not To Start a Fight”, the highlight for me are Caitlin’s commanding impassioned vocals, as well as her exuberant galloping drumbeats that give the track such incredible energy and force. It’s a wonderful track.

I’m feeling sad
Sad girl on the train 
I feel so bad
It’s coming back again 

Come to London City 
When you cry you look so pretty
It’s a waste that no one looks at your face 
When I close my eyes that’s when I feel like I’m alright 
When I’m awake then I get lost in the space 

I’m so tired…

Fist fights
Laddered tights 
Dancing under fairy lights 
Thought I was doing fine 
Night bus 
Reckless 
Everybody look at us 
But not in the morning light 
Woahhh 
Eighteen 
Daydreams 
Circling my bloodstream 
The City that swallowed me up

I learn my lines 
I turn up to play 
I show up on time 
Reject me anyway

Come to London City 
When you cry you look so pretty
It’s a waste that no one looks at your face 
When I close my eyes that’s when I feel like I’m alright 
When I’m awake then I get lost in the space 

I’m so tired…

Fist fights
Laddered tights 
Dancing under fairy lights 
Thought I was doing fine

Night bus 
Reckless 
Everybody look at us 
But not in the morning light 
Woahhh 
Eighteen 
Daydreams 
Circling my bloodstream 
The City that swallowed me up 

Woahhh

(So tired of the City) 
Fist fights
Laddered tights 
Dancing under fairy lights 
Thought I was doing fine 
Night bus 
Reckless 
Everybody look at us 
But not in the morning light 
(So tired of the city)
Woahhh 
Eighteen 
Daydreams 
Circling my bloodstream 
The City that swallowed me up

And I try and I fail and I try and I fail and I try 
(Fist fights
Laddered tights 
Dancing under fairy lights)
I get up again
And I try and I fail and I try and I fail and I try 
(Night bus 
Reckless 
Everybody look at us)
I get up again

And I try and I fail and I try and I fail and I try 
(Woahhh) 
In the City that swallowed me up

Connect with Caitlin:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream her song:  Spotify / Apple MusicYouTube

Irish Singer-Songwriter Brí releases video for her beautiful song “Time”

It was almost exactly one year ago, on March 19, 2021, that I first introduced Dublin-based singer-songwriter Brí to my readers when I reviewed her hauntingly beautiful song “More Than”. Her pleasing style of indie pop features folk and electronic overtones which, combined with her heartfelt lyrics and lovely, resonant vocals, results in deeply compelling songs of incredible beauty and emotional depth. She followed “More Than” with two more singles, “If I Wasn’t Scared” and “In My Head”, then in October (2021), she released her debut full-length album Hide, an outstanding record that includes those three aforementioned singles, as well as the beautiful song “Time“, for which Brí has just released a new video.

About “Time”, Brí stated that it’s “the song I hold most dear from my album Hide. Written about a heart that’s taking too long to mend, ‘Time’ is what I thought that feeling would sound like.” For the recording of the song, which was mixed and mastered by Asta Kalapa, the understated but stunning piano was played by Jake Richardson, and the lovely cello by Kaitlin Cullen-Verhauz.

Brí’s beautiful but melancholy vocals powerfully convey her frustration and sadness as she laments to someone who cannot fully commit to a relationship: “Cause you told me you missed me, you want me back. And you smiled with your eyes as you held my hand. Now you’re saying you need time to think again. Oh, what am I to you, cause I’m not your friend. No, I’m not your friend. Do you need time, do you need time, you can have all mine.” 

The music video, filmed in black and white in a single take by Mark Doyle at Windmill Lane Studios, shows Brí singing the song in a dimly lit room. I like that the focus is on her, with soft backlighting against a blurry background, which makes for a more impactful visual.

Follow Brí:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream/purchase her music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Bandcamp

RICK SABATINI – Album Review: “There Goes the Van Man”

I recently learned about Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Rick Sabatini when he reached out to me on Facebook about his album There Goes the Van Man. Released on New Year’s Day, the album features nine wonderful tracks with lighthearted relatable lyrics addressing the emotional minefields of romantic entanglements and responsibilities of young adulthood. It’s his second album, marking an eight-year span since the his first release Album 1 Demos back in November 2013. A delightful collection of lo-fi acoustic songs, Album 1 Demos is available for free download on his Bandcamp account.

Rick, who’s also been a member of The Band Sheep for the past several years, told me he composed most of the the songs for There Goes the Van Man five or six years ago on his iPad, but didn’t have the money to properly record it in a studio at the time. So, he started his own business doing painting and carpentry to earn money to fund the record, as well as earn a living, since he’d gotten married and had a child along the way. He finally recorded the album in a studio with the help of session musicians, and the result is a really enjoyable and well-crafted work.

Rick’s pleasing, highly accessible music can generally be described as indie pop with elements of folk, rock and jazz, and characterized by catchy melodies, lots of great guitar work and his endearing laid back vocals. The album opens with “At Your Service“, a sweet song about finding romance while working at a shoe store: “Just another day at the shoe store, the meet and greet, the fit your feet and send you out the door. Some of them I know by first name, and last name too. / If there’s anything that I can do for you baby, I’m at your service like a god at your church while you’re preachin’.”

Next up is “Van Man“, a terrific auto-biographical song about Rick that also serves at the de-facto title track, given its refrain “There goes the van man.” He croons about his workday routine “I was the van man today, I took the van real far away. I did stuff and got paid. I brought something that I made. I blasted sports radio. That’s just the way that I go when I’m driving down the open road.” The song is fantastic, with a wonderful, breezy melody and lots of cool instruments like organ, banjo and exuberant sax, adding nice Americana and jazz elements, as well as incredible texture to the overall sound. If all that’s not enough, there’s also a great guitar solo in the bridge too.

The Office” is a fun Americana song with a lively piano-driven melody and more of that great banjo. The cheeky lyrics speak to the drudgery of working at a dead-end office job: “I don’t like to drive when it’s dangerous. Roads are pretty treacherous, but the boss man, he doesn’t give a shit. He says ‘I want you in’, well if I crash would you pay for it? I’m desperate, strapped for cash, and I can’t afford another accident. It’s a lot to risk, just to waste my day away in the office.

On the bouncy “Tax Return“, Rick sings of the joys of finally being able to treat his girl to a nice evening out, now that he’s gotten his tax refund: “Baby relax I got my tax return. Girl let’s go out, I got some cash to burn. We’re gonna find somewhere nice to eat. The government paid me real good this week.” The musical highlights of the track are the great bassline, guitars, organ and piano keys, and I love the vocal harmonies.

One of my favorite tracks is “Talk to Me“, with its smooth and sophisticated jazzy vibe. I love the intricate, funky guitars, cool keyboards and subtle snare drums, but for me the biggest highlight are Rick’s lovely soothing vocals, backed by gorgeous Beach Boys-esque harmonies. This song really showcases his strong songwriting, musicianship and vocal abilities. “Colleen” is another great song, opening with a gospel-like organ riff and Rick’s voiceover speaking as an airline pilot to a plane full of passengers. That wonderful organ riff continues throughout the song, serving as its driving force and overlain with guitar, strings, sax and crisp percussion. Rick sings to a woman named Colleen of his desires for her affection: “Colleen, I might not be your man right now, but someday I will.

Devils” is a fascinating track, and much darker than the other songs on the album. Musically, it has a languid trip hop beat, with spooky synths, somber piano keys and skittering drumbeats, and in the background can be heard a man’s voiceover, speaking about LSD. It all serves to create an unsettling vibe. Rick’s vocals, which remind me of Mark Foster of Foster the People on this track, have a sense of sad resignation as he laments about trying to overcome drug addiction, or possibly a relationship that’s falling apart because of a partner who’s either addicted to drugs or cheating on him: “I’m trying to quit the devil, but he’s got his grip so tight on me it’s hard not be deceived and made of fool of. Well I’m wrestling with the devil. It’s not something that I’m proud of, but do you have to be so loud in the restaurant? I’m just trying to get back to normal. Well I caught you with the devil. You smelled like his cologne. All those moments you were alone, his smoky breath, the telephone. I thought we were getting back to normal.

On the upbeat “Principal Problems“, Rick sings from the perspective a high school kid frustrated with his principal, who’s trying to make him quit his aggressive behavior that’s earned him a reputation as a tough guy on campus: “I’m gonna punch my principal in the face, if he tries to stop my fight with Tony Robinson./ You’ve got an occupation, I’ve got a reputation to hold up.” And on the delightful album closer “Tel Aviv Blues“, he sings of a woman he loves and how her ambivalence is making him crazy: “At night I’m wonderin’, about what you’re doing. You’re my baby, but only in my dreams. Only kissing me when I fall asleep. I told my best friend, a real good Christian, he said ‘You don’t need her love, you need the Lord’. But the Lord ain’t never kissed me good before. I’m back to drinkin’, I’m tryin’ hard to rid you from my mind.” The song has a lively Southern rock feel, with a colorful mix of twangy guitars and banjo, accompanied by swirling organ, sax and a great toe-tapping rhythm.

There Goes the Van Man is a marvelous album, and I’m so glad Rick reached out to me about it. He’s a talented guy who knows his way around a song, and here he delivers nine superb tracks. Each one is different from the next, a testament to his eclectic sound and the quality of his songwriting. This album needs to be heard by as many people as possible, and I hope some of my readers will enjoy it as much as I do.

Stream/purchase Rick’s music: BandcampSpotifyApple MusicYouTube

MARC SCHUSTER – EP Review: “There Is No Down”

One of my favorite humans on the planet is Marc Schuster, who’s not only insanely creative and multi-talented, but also incredibly generous, funny and kind. I first got to know him several years ago through blogging (he has a terrific WordPress blog called Abominations), and he’s been among the most consistently loyal supporters of me and my blog.

A true renaissance man, Marc is an educator, author, literary critic, songwriter, musician and even a pretty decent visual artist. In addition to teaching English at Montgomery County Community College in southeastern Pennsylvania, he’s written several books, scripts for two short films, and numerous book reviews. He’s also a prolific musician, writing songs and recording music both as a solo artist and as part of multiple music projects. In just the past six months, he’s not only released several of his own singles and EPs, but also recordings by The Ministry of Plausible Rumours, a joint project with his cousin Vincent Zabielski, who put out a terrific album Summer Again last October, an outstanding improvisational instrumental album Simmons and Schuster that he made with fellow musician/educator Tim Simmons (you can read my review of that album here), and the single “In the Pink” by his collaborative music project Plush Gordon this past December.

Though Marc likes to experiment with different sounds, styles and textures, most of the songs he records as a solo artist have a delightful, indie bedroom-pop sensibility. Not only are his songs infectiously catchy, he has a wonderful knack for putting a youthful, often tongue-in-cheek perspective on everyday situations and problems many of us have faced at one time or another. On his new EP There Is No Down, which dropped February 2nd, he delivers five optimistic tracks (actually four plus an acoustic demo of one of them) assuring us that, no matter how crappy things may seem at the moment, there’s always reason to celebrate. For the recording of the EP, he was assisted by Paul Sanwald and Tim Simmons, who I’m guessing played piano.

Case in point is the trippy opening track “Funky Underpants“, wherein ‘funky’ refers to colorful and fun, not, well, you know… Over a languid bass-driven groove, Marc layers some lovely shimmery guitar notes and thumping drumbeats to create a jazzy, psychedelic backdrop for his dual auto-tuned vocals, half of which sound like Mick Jagger. He sings of wanting to pull himself out of the doldrums by letting loose in a pair of funky underpants: “Wishing I could dream, dreaming I could fly. Waiting on a world where we never die. I could be a saint or I could live in sin. I could live forever if my life would just begin. I want to sing. I want to dance. I want to wear a pair of funky underpants. I’ll take a drink. I’ll take a chance. I’ll take the world on in my funky underpants.

Along a similar vein, “Feel Free” explores misbehaving, even if just for the night, in order to have a bit of fun: “Everyone says we should know better, but I never could tell wrong from right. Let’s hit the town like we won’t remember it. Let’s disappear into the night. I’m up to no good, and you’re just as bad. This could be the best time I ever had. I’m looking at you, you’re looking at me. Is this what it’s like to feel free?” Musically, the upbeat song has a bouncy pop-rock sound with a lively mix of jangly and fuzzy guitars.

All We Are” has more of a rock vibe, with Marc’s marvelous fuzz-coated reverby guitars taking center stage. On this song, his vocals sound a bit like the late, great Tom Petty as he sings about the impermanence and brevity of our lives on this earth, and that we might as well make the best of things while we’re here: “The clouds roll in. The seasons change. We disappear. The world remains. All we are is right now.”

I think my favorite song on the EP is “Elevators“, a bittersweet piano-driven affair. I love the melancholy but beautiful piano keys, and the electric guitar solo in the bridge is superb. The lyrics speak of reminiscing about what seemed like simpler, more innocent times, yet not wanting to wallow in the past, but instead remain hopeful about the future: “So keep the fire burning to get us through the night. The wolves are creeping closer, but I think we’ll be all right. We used to ride in elevators, look down on the world below. We used to ride in elevators though we had nowhere to go.”

The fifth track “All We Are (Demo)” is an acoustic version of the third song on the EP, with only Marc’s gentle vocals and guitar. The spare treatment of the song nicely fits the simple and direct message expressed in the lyrics: “All we are is right now.” It’s a fitting finish to a lovely little EP.

Connect with Marc:  WebsiteTwitter / Instagram

AU GRES – Single Review: “do you think we’re old enough”

There’s a lot of music talent coming out of southern Michigan, and over the past year or so I’ve written about a number of artists and bands putting out some really exceptional music, including Michigander, Dawning, Jack Droppers & the Best Intentions, Jake LeMond, and Au Gres (aka Joshua Kemp). A talented singer-songwriter and all-around personable guy, Joshua named his music project after the small town of Au Gres, located in a rural area of northern Michigan where he vacationed as a youth with his family, and which holds a special meaning for him.

He released his sweet debut single “Nervous” in October 2020, which has been streamed 116,000 times on Spotify, then followed in February 2021 with “At Home in the Dark”, a beautiful and exuberant song of love and devotion. I liked both songs so much, they each spent many weeks on my Weekly Top 30, with “At Home in the Dark” ending up at #73 on my Top 100 Songs of 2021 list. (I also reviewed both songs, which you can read by clicking on the ‘Related’ links at the end of this post.) Now Au Gres returns with a lovely new single, “do you think we’re old enough“, an introspective song of hope for a better future.

The song finds Au Gres reminiscing about life on a rainy summer day, wistfully thinking about his youthful dreams and ambitions. Though he’s somewhat disappointed that some have gone unmet, and that life may not have turned out quite the way he’d envisioned, he remains optimistic that greater success will come with time and maturity. “I’m so sorry for dreaming about the future. Maybe I’ll be better when we’re old enough. Hey I’m sorry for dreaming about the future. Hey I’m sorry. Do you think we’re old enough?

Musically, the song has a serene, dreamy vibe, with beautiful delicately-strummed acoustic guitar notes layered over intricate glittery synths, punctuated here and there with subtle percussive sounds that add interesting texture to the enchanting soundscape. The gentle drum fills are just the right touch to drive the song forward without overpowering the other instruments. Joshua has a pleasing singing voice, and his smooth, comforting vocals are well-suited to his sound and music style. Here, he nicely conveys a slight sense of melancholy, while also expressing feelings of optimism and hope in the choruses.

With “do you think we’re old enough”, Au Gres has delivered another winning single, and I love that he used a photo of himself as a young toddler attempting to play the piano for the single’s cover art.

Connect with Au Gres:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his songs:  SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube 

Purchase on:  BandcampAmazon

almost sex – Single Review: “Lucille”

Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, the exceptionally talented and undeniably attractive couple who call their music project almost sex have been on a creative tear since the release of their debut single “Knockoff” in September 2020. In the 16 months since, they’ve dropped nine more singles at the rate of one every 6-7 weeks, the latest of which is “Lucille“. I first learned about them a year ago when I read a great review of their beautiful second single “Charmer” by fellow blogger The Alternative Mixtapes, who posited that “their name is meant to imply that their music is almost as good as sex.” As smitten with them as I now am, he subsequently wrote about them two more times. The duo followed me on Instagram a few months ago, and I’ve decided it’s high time I featured them on my own blog. 

How can you not be smitten with such a stunning couple!

Consisting of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Nick Louis and architect, multi-media artist and musician Warren LaSota, almost sex met online through a dating app during the first Covid lockdown in early Spring 2020. Little did they realize at the time that they were forming not only a romantic relationship, but also an artistic one too. Nick and Warren began sharing poetry, song lyrics and music demos back and forth over the internet, and two months later they finally met in person, whereupon they recorded and subsequently released “Knockoff.”

Drawing from elements of folk, post punk, alternative rock, electronica and indie bedroom pop, their sound is richly varied and eclectic. Consequently, none of their songs sound alike, and I love every single one of them. Nick has a distinctive and endearing vocal style that reminds me somewhat of Passenger on songs like “Charmer”, “Swallow”, “Part of You” and “Lucille”, grandson on “Collapse”, and like no one else on the rest. Warren’s bewitching ethereal harmonies nicely complement Nick’s vocals on several tracks.

Their latest offering “Lucille” is the lead single from their forthcoming debut EP We’re Okay, due out on April 1st. Co-written, produced, mixed and mastered by Ken Helmlinger, the song has a rather melancholy vibe, with a languid melody driven by Nick’s strummed acoustic guitar, and accompanied by a subtle but resonant bassline and nice drum fills. Little instrumental touches like the gentle finger-plucked guitar notes and enchanting sounds from what I’m guessing is a mellotron add some interesting textures to the song.

Nick’s warm, vulnerable-sounding vocals convey a sad resignation as he softly croons the lyrics addressing the end of a relationship with a woman named Lucille that wasn’t meant to be, and relieved it’s finally over: “And after all these complications, I really should be grateful it’s the end. / Cause time was never on our side. Lucille, goodbye.” Warren’s backing harmonies in the choruses are sublime, making for a really lovely track.

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MMIV – Single Review: “The Drugs Are Running Out”

MMIV is the music project of young British singer-songwriter Max Rawdon. I actually first wrote about MMIV two years ago when it was a fledgling band comprised of Max and two other musicians he’d met while at the University of Leeds. Alas, they weren’t able to survive the challenges of the pandemic, and eventually went their separate ways. Now based in East London, Max has decided to continue MMIV as a solo artist, and has released his first single “The Drugs Are Running Out“.

Calling it “a sad indie ballad in pop song’s clothing“, Max wrote “The Drugs Are Running Out” to address his conflicting emotions about turning 22, and the realization he’s now fully into adulthood, with all the added responsibilities that entails. He explains “The song chronicles the creeping awareness that youth won’t last forever, and the moment that the party is peaking, but also, unfortunately, about to end, knowing that work is always there in the morning.” The track was written, performed and recorded by MMIV, and produced by George Murphy (Drug Store Romeos, The Specials, The Coronas).

It’s a charming pop tune, with a catchy toe-tapping beat and thumping bass groove, accompanied by snappy drum fills, ethereal synths and breezy guitars that gradually build to a joyous crescendo as the song progresses. Max’s clear, low-key vocals have a pleasing quality too, with just the right amount of emotional intensity that grows in tandem with the music.

I've not been agreeing with my food recently
Told me you know someone great that I can go and see
One day, we're caught in the rain 
So we'll get off the street and back to your place
And open up a bottle of wine
Take our wet clothes off and hang them to dry
Then it's a party with all of your friends
But you know that the night will come to an end
And you're all laughing, but you don't know why
While clothes are hung to dry

I told you I was leaving for a new town, a new city
I thought that it was sad that I couldn't stick around or take you with me
You know that I adore some fun, so why don't we stay a little longer
You said in that case maybe we'll need something stronger

So the next day we do it again
We get off our jobs and back to your place
And open up a bottle of wine
Take our work clothes off, head into the night
Where it's a party with all of your friends
But you know that the night will come to an end
You're all laughing, but you don't know what about
Cause your friends are hung to dry and the drugs 
The drugs are running out
Yeah, the drugs are running out
The drugs are running out
Yeah, the drugs are running out

“The Drugs Are Running Out” is a terrific song, and a fine debut effort from Max. I look forward to hearing more songs from this promising young artist.

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CAITLIN LAVAGNA – Single Review: “How Not To Start a Fight”

Caitlin Lavagna is a singer-songwriter and musician from South Wales, and she’s just released her terrific debut single “How Not To Start a Fight“, which dropped July 30th. It’s a catchy, upbeat pop song about a break-up, specifically, how to end a relationship with as little drama as possible.

Growing up in the Rhondda Valley, Caitlin’s long had music and the arts in her blood, with a special love for singing, dancing and drumming. While in college, she was one half of indie folk duo Only The Reign, who released two self-recorded albums and spent two years busking and gigging, earning a strong local following. She later studied at the prestigious Rose Bruford College, in their Actor Musicianship BA honors degree program, and while there, formed a band called Big Wednesday, for which she plays drums. They busked and played gigs around London as time permitted, also recording a self-titled three-track EP. All three recordings are still available on all major music streaming platforms.

Her passion for strong rhythms is clearly evident on the track, the marvelous throbbing bass and galloping drumbeats driving the melody forward with unbridled energy. I don’t know the identities of her fellow musicians who played some of the instruments on the track, but they all do a masterful job. There are so many great touches, like the strummed acoustic and electric guitars, deliciously funky bass notes and lovely piano keys. But the highlight for me are Caitlin’s beautiful, emotive vocals that go from a soothing croon in the verses to commanding defiance in the choruses as she announces that she’s done with the relationship, while accepting partial responsibility for its failure, and now moving on.

Cross my fingers, hope to die
Before you find out, before I hit the ground
Party's over, it's goodnight
Word is going around
I am working out how not to start a fight
How to say goodbye
How to tell you why, how to make it right
Cause slowly over time, my bark turned into bite
It's no one's fault but mine

“How Not To Start a Fight” is a wonderful song, and a stellar debut effort from this talented young artist. I look forward to hearing what Caitlin comes up with next.

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