MICCOLI – EP Review: “1/2”

I’m back in the UK to shine my spotlight on Miccoli, a wonderful adult alternative/pop band from Birmingham, England. The band is comprised of three talented and strikingly attractive siblings: twin brothers Adriano and Alex Miccoli and their sister Francesca. Adriano plays guitar, Alex plays piano and guitar, and Francesca plays piano and harmonica, and all sing – quite beautifully I must say. In fact, their extraordinary harmonizing vocals are a hallmark of their sublime music style.

They’ve been making music together for many years, but 2017 is turning out to be a break-out year for Miccoli. In February, they released a gorgeous single “Idle Stranger” to rave reviews, and now deliver a lovely four-track EP entitled 1/2 which drops today, May 12. The songs deal with love and relationships, and the challenges they bring. In addition to the smooth vocals, their music features beautiful melodies, soft piano and stellar guitar work that make for an incredibly pleasing listen.

Miccoli

The first track “Idle Stranger” is a bittersweet plea for someone to not toy with your affections, acting like they love you but unable to fully commit: “So hear me now cause I don’t wanna be loved by you, if you’are gonna be an idle idle idle stranger. I’ve told you now cause I don’t wanna feel love like this cause you will always be an idle idle idle stranger.” The intricate, layered guitar work is exceptional, and nicely paired with gentle piano and percussion.  The beautiful video produced for the song was filmed in Venice.

The emotionally-charged “Undo” speaks to a loved one who’s slipping away from the relationship: “Every time that I get close to you, you’re a world away and I just can’t get through. All you do all you do is try, to undo. But this heart beats for you.” The track starts off slowly, with a gentle strummed guitar and Miccoli’s soft vocals, then breaks open with an assertive drum beat and lots of fantastic layered guitars.

Lights” is a lovely song with a catchy melody and hopeful lyrics: “Cause when the lights go out and I’m all alone, and I feel like there’s nowhere to turn, I will close my eyes and I’ll think of you. ‘Cause you are every beat of my heart.” The jangly guitars on this track are especially nice. The band just released a great new video for the song that was filmed in Las Vegas, famed for its lights and thus perfectly suited for the track.

The final track “Devices” is breathtakingly beautiful, with mellow strummed guitar and delicate piano. Miccoli’s beguiling harmonic vocals register just above a whisper, giving the song an ethereal quality. It’s my personal favorite of their songs, though I think every one of them is superb. This terrific EP is well-crafted and definitely worth owning.

Follow Miccoli:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter
Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

Song Review: WIDE EYED BOY – “Wolves”

I know that I keep featuring artists and bands from the UK on this blog, but there are just so many good ones making great music that I can’t help myself. Another recent discovery is Wide Eyed Boy, a four-man New Wave/Indie-pop collective based in Liverpool, a city rich in music history and influence. They’ve released a stunning new single “Wolves” in advance of their self-titled debut EP due for release this Spring.

wide-eyed-boy

Wide Eyed Boy consists of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitars) and Tom Taylor (Drums). They all met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (which was founded by Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty), and bonded over a shared love of music. They headed to Budapest, Hungary in 2016 to write songs for their album and returned to Liverpool to record it with the help of producer Rich Turvey.

“Wolves” is one of those songs that make you stand up and take notice the moment you first hear it. Everything about it is perfect – the melody, lyrics, arrangement, production, instrumentals and vocals. Musically, the song has an exuberant, hard-driving drumbeat, gorgeous sweeping synths and nimble multi-layered guitars. Nagy has an incredible voice, and his soaring vocals are absolutely mesmerizing, adding a haunting beauty to this exceptional track. I loved it at first listen, and kept hitting replay.

Nagy 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.

The beautiful video contains frenetic scenes of urban life, filmed in and around Manhattan.

Wide Eyed Boy have set the bar quite high with “Wolves,” and if their other songs are even half as good, our ears are in for a real treat when they release their EP. I for one can’t wait to hear it! Support these guys by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Stream “Wolves” on Soundcloud.

Album Review: Above The Skyline – “Go For Broke”

South Florida has a vibrant music scene, thanks to a diverse, multi-cultural population with a tremendous mix of influences. Several months ago I wrote a feature on the Miami-based indie rock band SunGhosts, and now I shine a spotlight on the young, incredibly talented five member collective Above The Skyline. They play an edgy style of alternative pop/rock with touches of R&B, funk and punk. Following up on their acclaimed 2015 EP A Different Breed, the young band (all are in their early 20’s) have released an ambitious new album Go For Broke.

Their bio states “the band prides itself on being different but yet producing a sound that everyone can love and listen to with ease.” That’s certainly the case, as Go For Broke is chock-full of melodic tunes that feature catchy hooks, complex, multi-layered guitar riffs, dynamic percussion and really fine vocals.  Making this great music are Chloe Santiago on drums, Eric Green on guitar, Zach Wood on keyboards and vocals, Alec Enriquez on bass, and Peach Martine on vocals.  Chloe and Eric, who’ve known each other since they were kids and have been playing together for more than 12 years, formed Above The Skyline in 2013. Within a year, Zach, Alec and Peach joined the band, completing the current lineup. 

Despite their youth, all have extensive musical backgrounds. Eric began studying music history and theory at the age of five, along with taking piano lessons, and at nine he began studying guitar. He met Chloe while taking lessons at Music Depot, and eventually was part of a couple of hardcore metal bands. Chloe started playing drums at seven, and played in marching bands in middle and high school. Zach is grateful his mother forced him to take piano lessons, which eventually led him to learn saxophone and percussion as well. He also played in middle and high school marching bands. Alec began studying guitar in high school, and eventually fell in love with the bass. Peach, who not only sings, but is also a songwriter and actress, has been writing and recording since penning her first song on the piano at age six. She plays piano, guitar, some violin and harmonica.

above-the-skyline

The album opens strong with “Another Side of Me,” a power-ballad that introduces us to the band’s killer guitars and highly melodic music style. Buzzing guitars work in tandem with a driving drumbeat and Alec’s heavy bass, resulting in a crazy-good track. Zach fervently sings “All I want you to do is stop being you. You’ve got another side of me that I don’t want none of.”  The catchy, energetic “Counting Heartbeats” comes at us with a thumping drumbeat and shredded guitars, then we’re hit with Peach’s commanding vocals and, halfway through the song, assertive piano is introduced, adding complexity to the track.

“Do I Really Look Like I’m a Guy With a Plan Margot” is a standout track, and one of my favorites on the album. Its incredible arrangement – featuring thunderous guitar riffs, pummeling drums, intricate piano and soaring violin – give it a rock opera vibe. Zach’s powerful vocals match the intensity of the music. Plus, it’s a great song title!  The band channels the Red Hot Chili Peppers a bit on “Entitled,” with guitar chords similar to the awesome ones used in their classic “Dani California.” Peach’s vocals soar, aided by Zach’s backing harmonies, and the organ solo is terrific.

Peach’s considerable singing talents are on full display on the beautiful anthem “Feel the Light.” Her vocals soar (there’s that word again, but it so applies here) with the lush orchestration. It’s Zach’s turn to shine on the hard-driving “Fireball,” on which our ears are treated to more killer guitar work and Chloe’s powerful drums. The title track “Go For Broke” features harmonizing vocals by Zach and Peach, accompanied by a driving beat and gnashing guitars. Synth chords are introduced two-thirds of the way into the track, giving it a bit of a psychedelic feel. This is a great song.

“See Where We Go” is the first single, just released in advance of the album, and it’s definitely a radio-friendly track with a catchy hook, energetic upbeat melody and sizzling harmonic vocals by Zach and Peach. Watch the lyric video here:

The gorgeous ballad “Strength” is another standout track, and my absolute favorite. Musically, the song is very different from the others on the album, with only beautiful piano and violin, and Zach’s heartfelt vocals are captivating.  It’s the type of song that will have many people – me included – tearing up halfway through. The lyrics are so powerfully moving: “And I know it’s so hard when these walls are caving in. But I stare and wonder at this war you’re gonna win. Cause you give me the strength just to make it through the night when we’re with you. I’m in awe of all your wonderful acts of courage that you do. But this time we have is not all that’s left.

With an abrupt jolt, the album closes with the hard rock gem “Tonight.” Blazing machine gun riffs intertwined with Eric’s shimmery guitars, heavy bass and crashing cymbals make this one exhilarating badass tune, proving beyond any doubt that Above The Skyline is a band with formidable talents. With an exceptional EP and full album now under their belts, they have a promising future, and I’m certain we’ll be hearing much more to come from them.

To learn more about Above the Skyline, visit their website. Support them by liking them on Facebook and following on Twitter. Subscribe to their YouTube channel and stream their music on Soundcloud. Go For Broke is available for purchase on iTunes and other platforms offering music for purchase.

Tall Poppies

Tall Poppies are a delightfully eccentric indie-pop band fronted by identical twin sisters Susan and Catherine Hay, who originally hail from Perth, Australia. As the sisters note on their website, Perth is the most isolated (big) city in the world, and they dreamed of moving to London to have a music career. They followed that dream by emigrating to London in 2006, and named their band Tall Poppies. In their matching knee socks and bob hairstyles, both sisters provide melodic, harmonizing vocals for all their songs, with Susan playing bass, and Catherine on lead guitar. They later added violinist Diarmuid Nugent and drummer Doug Fink (formerly of Noah and the Whale) to complete their distinctive Tall Poppies sound.

The band is fiercely independent, handling all aspects of recording and production of their own material, as well as the quirky video clips that accompany the songs. Their latest EP High Time, a collection of old and new songs, was released in Autumn 2015 and they’ve been touring throughout the UK to promote their music. They plan on recording new material for an entire album to be released later in 2016.

“Heart Palpitations,” from High Time, is a cheerfully upbeat piece of pop confection. The twins’ intertwining harmonic vocals are perfectly complemented by deft guitar and soothing violin. The song’s fun, whimsical video of the two cavorting around the countryside was filmed over one weekend. Catherine, who’s currently studying at the London College of Fashion, designed the clever palpitating heart costume out of extra red fabric she had lying around.

Their latest single, “Cat Got Your Tongue?” is a deliriously catchy indie pop tune with a retro vibe. Its masterful guitar riffs, plucky violin and hammering drums that will have you dancing even if you’re a certified wallflower! The stylish, colorful video is so entertaining that I found myself hitting repeat so I could watch it over and over again.

An older song, “In Your Dreams,” is a lovely, gentle ballad that really showcases Susan and Catherine’s beautiful harmonizing vocals.

You can follow Tall Poppies on Twitter and Facebook. Their music is available for listening on Soundcloud and Spotify, and for purchase on itunes or their website.