DVR – Album Review: “All Good Things”

DVR All Good Things - Copy

DVR is a studio music project by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Olav Christensen. Originally from Denmark, Christensen 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, sometimes as a solo act, but often collaborating with other musicians as well. His songs are very eclectic (I like that!), ranging from electronica to alternative rock to pop, and everything in between. He began releasing singles in 2015, and dropped his first full-length album California in 2016, then followed up with an EP Down in July 2018, which I reviewed, then an experimental all-instrumental album Instantiate in June 2019. Now he returns with an ambitious concept album All Good Things, in which he explores the state of the world today and imagines the possibility of a terrible outcome.  

Christensen explains: “All Good Things” is an imagined snapshot of the moment – of our collective realization – of the end of everything. We all knew it was coming at some point in the future but surely not in our lifetime or our children’s, right? It starts with our leaders failing to lead. Too busy enriching themselves, they march us all steadily towards our own inevitable annihilation. There is a moment of clarity, tangible around the world. It is a moment of precious truth when a single looming event on the horizon, threatens to end all of us. Now, when it is undeniable; we each react in our own way. Do we reflect on our lives? Do we find comfort in each other? Do we just have a party and go out dancing?”

The album opens with the instrumental “Prelude – The March Towards Inevitability“, a quirky, experimental-sounding track that sets a somewhat unsettling mood. While at times feeling discordant and chaotic, the song still has a melodic, almost contemporary classical structure that makes for an intriguing listen that’s actually rather soothing. This discordant, experimental vibe continues with the title track “All Good Things“, as DVR employs a rich mix of spacey, psychedelic synths and sounds, accompanied by a driving percussive beat and additional guitar by Bjørn Ginman. With a gentle soaring chorale sung by Rorie Kelly, Nico Z. Padden and Pauline Salotti as a backdrop, he sings: “So this is how things come to pass. All that remains is dust and gas. And all good things come to an end. Whatever you believe in, whatever you pretend. For what it’s worth, we had a good run right down to the end.”

Special Friends, Arrow of Time, Entropy” is an unusual track, actually three different songs strung together, and running ten and a half minutes long. It feels almost like a classical piece with three distinct but related movements. The first part, “Special Friends”, features more of those quirky, psychedelic synths, accompanied by Christensen’s daughter Hadley Rose’s baby-like electronically-altered vocals, which are mostly unintelligible. They’re kind of endearing, yet have an almost menacing feel when combined with the music. At around 3:30, the track changes to “Arrow of Time” with a transition to smoother, ethereal synths that give the track a dreamy, atmospheric vibe. Some lovely delicate guitar work is provided by David Rolo. At 6:50, the track abruptly shifts to “Entropy” with the entrance of a voice over by Alan Watts: “Memory, is a dynamic system. It’s a repetition of rhythms. Reality escapes all concepts. You, are just as much the dark space beyond death as you are the light interval called life.” From there the song takes a jazzy turn with some cool guitar work by Andy Pitcher and double bass by Dean Johnson. Later, Watts offers up a matter-of-fact conclusion: “Let go of the breath. You can’t hang on to yourself. This isn’t terrible. But it’s just going to be the end of you as a system of memories.”

Come Inside” has a Peter Gabriel vibe, both in terms of the song’s structure and melody and DVR’s plaintive vocals. His intricate jangly guitar work is terrific, and so is the smooth bass by guest musician Bobby McCullough. Additional female vocals by Rosie Bans provide a nice contrast to DVR’s.  One of the lovelier tracks is “Quiet Breakdown“, thanks to swirling synths, sublime guitar work and the enchanting sape, a traditional lute originating from Central Borneo played by guest musician Rayhan Sudrajat, who also played bass. DVR sings “I’ll come at you lightly, I’ll meet you halfway. I’m headed for a quiet breakdown. I think it won’t be long.”

We’ve now arrived at “Here We Are“, where we’ve made the decision to go out in style and just party.  My favorite track, it’s an upbeat dance pop song that contrasts with the rather morbid lyrics about going all-out to celebrate the end of humanity. “Here we are, at the apex of humanity. Standing tall before the fall. Falling over each other to witness the final act. The hottest show in town tonight. Everyone dresses sharp for the end of all mankind. It’s going to be out of sight.” Guest vocalist Courtney Hans sounds like a young Madonna, which is partly why I like this song so much. Additional guitar is by Justin Chamberlin, and Bobby McCullough returns on bass.

All Good Things – Reprise” is a different take on the title track. The song opens with the sound of a phone busy signal, then a mix of glittery and Polynesian synths enter, along with a voice over of Noam Chomsky talking about the existential threat of global warming and how the current U.S. administration has chosen to not only disregard that threat, but actually accelerate the problem. Once his voice over ends, we hear the lyrics now sung by guest vocalist Aradia. The music gradually swells into a rock feel, with a terrific guitar solo by TJ Dumser, and bass played by Michael Friis. The track finishes with the ominous beeps of the Early Warning System.

This is the Day” closes the album on a predictably dark note, but with a smooth, soft-rock groove that keeps things from being too maudlin. Guest musician Bjørn Ginman is back, laying down a hypnotic and haunting guitar solo that’s so good. DVR croons with a sad air of resignation “This is the end of the night. Your immaculate decay. And if you’ve ever wondered what that was like, what that would feel like, hey, this is the day. This is the end of the road. You’ve come a long way haven’t you?

All Good Things is a brilliant concept album that artfully shines a light on the precarious geopolitical situation we now face, while presenting it in an entertaining and enjoyable manner though compelling lyrics and intriguing soundscapes. I love that Christensen collaborated with such a wide range of musicians and vocalists to give his music an incredible variety of styles, textures and sounds.

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

ARTHUR KAY – EP Review: “Arthur Kay”

Arthur Kay

Arthur Kay is a renaissance man of sorts. The hard-working and versatile Norwegian musician has been a prominent figure in the Oslo music scene for the past decade. In addition to being frontman for galactic jazz-pop band Dr Kay and his Interstellar Tone Scientists, Kay has worked or collaborated with indie rock band The Switch, Norwegian rapper Ivan Ave, and neo-psychedelic pop-rock band Orions Belte, among others. Becoming a veritable whiz kid on synths and keyboards while still a young child, Kay had mastered Ray Manzarek’s iconic “Light My Fire” organ solo by the age of eight.

Now Kay has recorded his first solo effort, a self-titled EP Arthur Kay that’s scheduled for release on October 11 via Jansen Records. In advance of the EP release, he’s unveiled the first single “Holiday Pay“. The upbeat song is a celebration of the Norwegian institutional policy of employers being required by law to pay a certain percentage of last year’s wages as holiday pay during the Summer months. Like the title would suggest, the song has a bouncy dance beat that evokes a blissful summer day at the beach. Kay artfully employs a mix of sunny keyboard synths, an irresistible dance groove, and touches of jazz and funk to create a breezy track that just makes you feel good. Kay’s smooth vocals are pleasing as he sings about the joys of having nothing pressing on his schedule: “The rush of sweat pants, and lazy mornings every Sunday. Of waking up too early Monday, knowing where I’ll be the entire day. Holiday day, holiday pay, that’s the life that I chose, OK.”

Kay has produced two versions of the song, a 6:13 minute-long ‘single version’ featuring some terrific instrumental runs that would have made it a great disco song back in the late 70s or early 80s, and a shorter 3:42 minute-long radio edit.

The EP will feature four other tracks, the first of which is “Say It Out Loud“, an exuberant jazz-infused tune with an infectious strutting beat. If this song doesn’t get you moving, nothing will! Kay’s jazzy synths and intricate keyboard work are sublime, and quite impressive. It’s no wonder he’s in such demand by other artists wanting him to play music for their songs. The lyrics speak to his adoration for his love and how, even though he’s hurt her in the past, she’s the one that sustains him: “You are my power. You are my one. You are all the things I love under the sun.”

Next up is “Higher Ground“, a languid, ethereal track with hazy atmospherics and glittery synths that make for an enchanting listen. The bittersweet lyrics lyrics speak to coming to terms with the fact that the only way to survive is to completely avoid the one you want but cannot have: “A higher ground is all there is, and all that’s left for me to do. This blankly stare at empty space, and concentrate on simply just not calling you. Take a stand, as a peaceful man, and make my way from A to B./I’ll keep on falling. I’ll keep on getting through. And all I have to do is stay away from you. That’s everything that’s left of what was me and you.

On “My Love is an Only Child“, Kay seems to channel James Blake, with stunning piano work, delicate synths and soft, layered vocals. With a sense of sad resignation, Kay croons the poignant lyrics that seem to touch on the fragile nature of his love: “My love is an only child. No he can’t come play outside. Won’t go running around with scissors. That’s the point that you’ve been missing.” It’s a really captivating track.

Standing on Shoulders” starts off with a beautiful piano-driven melody as Kay sings about growing up with childhood fantasies and dreams of being a hero, going on adventures and saving the world: “I was mad with desire, stoking a fire, singing my songs of a savior far away. The savior was older and wiser than me. He held all the answers and sway. His feelings could be what he’d like them to be, but never did he run away. ” Suddenly, the music transitions to a lively Latin-infused beat, with exuberant synths and percussion added to the mix. Kay acknowledges that his childhood dreams were made possible by being able to stand on the shoulders of others who were there to support and nurture him: “Well, that savior was me, but now age 33, I have the hopes of my youth now following me. / I’m beginning to see that my savior was also just standing on shoulders and reaching for dreams that were living inside an adventure that’s made just for people like me.

Arthur Kay is a lovely and immensely enjoyable little EP by this talented singer-songwriter and musician. He’s a great lyricist and composer, skilled at crafting songs with thoughtful, introspective lyrics, memorable melodies and beautiful instrumentals.

Connect with Arthur on Facebook
Pre-order Arthur Kay on Bandcamp

GG FEARN – EP Review: “Black Mirror”

gg-fearn-black-mirror-cover-ep

Some of the more interesting and provocative songwriting these days is coming from young female artists such as Billie Eilish, Courtney Barnett and Jade Bird, as well as indie artists like Erin Incoherent (who I featured last December) and GG Fearn, a remarkable 18-year-old singer-songwriter from Carmarthen, Wales. With a singular talent and maturity beyond her years, GG (short for Georgia) first started writing songs at the age of nine, and has become quite the wordsmith, penning thoughtful and frank lyrics about life and the darker aspects inherent in many of us. She’s already become a seasoned performer, having played at many different venues, most notably the famous Cavern in Liverpool, and her songs have received airplay on BBC Wales, and other radio stations throughout the UK. She’s just released a terrific four-song EP Black Mirror, which dropped on May 28.

In the creation of her music, GG melds elements of folk, pop, alternative rock, jazz and hip hop into a unique sound stew that could best be described as ‘dark folk-pop.’ She also has a clear and lovely singing voice brimming with character and confidence, while still retaining a touch of vulnerability. When combined with her compelling lyrics, it gives her songs a worldliness and sophistication that’s very relatable.

She gets right down to business on the EP opener “Deal With the Devil“, an upbeat-sounding song that belies its dark theme. The lyrics address the subject’s awareness of her wicked nature, and her feeling perfectly okay about it: “Another day. Chaos parade. Domestic life comes hand in hand with a knife, to use on you, your partner too. I looked in the mirror one night. Suddenly my soul takes flight. I made a deal with the devil. I don’t know why he picked me. I guess that something clicked. But living without your soul, it ain’t so bad. I never really had one anyway.” Musically, the song features crisp, bouncy synths that have an almost industrial feel, punctuated by glittery keys and subtle bass kicks. GG’s layered vocals are backed by a gruff, barely audible male vocal in the chorus, sounding as if the devil himself is singing in unison with her.

The superb title track “Black Mirror” opens with a simple, almost dubstep beat, then settles into a catchy bass-driven tempo that has us bopping our heads and swaying our hips. I love the intricate funky guitars, and GG’s layered vocals are really quite marvelous as she croons about not being happy with the current state of things. The black mirror seems to reflect all the stuff that’s troubling her, and she’s not liking what she sees: “I think I’m going crazy. Vision’s going hazy.  I know. I hear the shotgun ring, but you don’t hear a thing. Harm can be a comfort when poison is your king. A necklace made of pearls, and artificial girls. I’m stuck in a black mirror.”

I love all the tracks on the EP, but my favorite is “Teen Queen“, an in-your-face declaration of “Attention: someone new is now in charge!” Or, as fellow blogger Lakisha Skinner so beautifully put it in her wonderful Klef Notes review, it’s the “I’m the girl who will wear black to the prom and nobody betta say one thing to me about it song!”

Starting off with a magical little xylophone riff, the song quickly bursts open with lush, glittery synths and thunderous percussion, as if symbolizing a fairy princess making her grand entrance. As GG defiantly proclaims, “Now the deed is done, done, done, done…” a strutting dance beat kicks in and I’m hooked! She continues making her newfound dominance clear: “I’ve traveled through hell and all of its towns. God only knows where I’ve been. I’m the only girl that can wear the crown. Yes, I’m your new teen queen. You can call me narcissistic, but please don’t forget sadistic. I, I am your new teen queen. Nothing that they’ve ever seen. Your time on stage is through. Make way for someone new, new, new, new…” 

The rather cynical “Famous Last Words” speaks to our impermanence, regardless of how important we think we are while we’re alive: “Legacies they can be cruel whether you wear rags or jewels. I want mine to beat them all, so that when I fall, I want to be remembered. I want to go down in history. I want to be the greatest. I want to be the best.” The cold reality, however, is that most of us will be forgotten: People won’t remember when you’re dead. All the brilliant things that you have said. You can be known all around, but that don’t mean you’ll keep your crown even if you stitch it to your head. /And her famous last words were…(what were they?)”  The song has a catchy hip hop/trap beat, with sharp synths and deep bass. It’s a good song, and sounds like one Taylor Swift could have done, only better.

Black Mirror is a great little EP, and GG Fearn is an immensely talented songwriter, composer and vocalist with a lot to say. Hopefully, she’ll continue expressing herself with more wonderful songs very soon!

Connect with GG: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase “Black Mirror” on Amazon / Google Play

ELLIE FORD – Album Review: “Light. Repeated.”

Ellie Ford album art

British singer/songwriter Ellie Ford is quite possibly the only harpist in the music world to head up a band. In addition to being an accomplished harpist, the multi-talented Brighton, England- based artist also plays guitar and sings like an angel, using her voice almost like another instrument. Assisting Ellie in the creation of her uniquely innovative Alternative Folk music are Fred Hills (drums & percussion), Andrew Stuart-Buttle (violin, mandolin, bass and backing vocals), Harry Haynes (guitar and backing vocals) and Freya Bowes (clarinet and backing vocals).

Ellie Ford band

Ellie first graced the airwaves in 2013 with her debut EP Show Night In, then followed up with a full album The Other Sun in 2016. Now she’s back with a lovely new album Light. Repeated., which dropped on 17 May. Featuring eight exquisite songs, the album sees Ellie further exploring themes of life, love and relationships through her poetic lyrics, unconventional melodies, richly layered instrumentals and the marvelous interplay between her glorious harp and enchanting vocals. Listening to the album is an immersive experience, and it’s easy to become enveloped by the enthralling soundscapes she and her band so skillfully weave.

The album opens with “Gold“, a captivating song in which Ellie’s shimmery harp strings take center stage, but with ample help by Freya’s clarinet, Harry’s strummed guitar, Fred’s gentle percussion, and Andrew’s violin, which gives the track a bit of a Celtic vibe. Ellie croons in her lilting vocals, “Kicking and calling and bracing for falling as I leave. But for a little gold, I could tide it over.”

Next up is “Light. Repeated.“, a bewitching tune that’s probably my favorite track on the album. The highlights for me are Fred’s hypnotic, seductive drumbeats and Freya’s jazzy clarinet, but Andrew’s bass, Harry’s guitar and that infectious rattle are all pretty terrific too. And it goes without saying that Ellie’s harp adds a magical component. Freya’s soulful clarinet takes a starring role on “Tired Eyes” with Ellie’s harp strings providing a strong counterpoint. The interplay between her fluttering vocals and Freya’s gorgeous clarinet notes is breathtaking, and the guitars, deep bass and drums are perfection.

My Bird Won’t Sing” is a re-imagining of a song that was originally included on The Other Sun. The previous acoustic version featured only Ellie’s vocals and her strummed guitar, but for this new version she lengthens the track by one and a half minutes, and gives it the full instrumental treatment by her band, yet keeping the vibe decidedly understated. The result is an intriguing song that holds our interest with unexpected melodic shifts that almost border on progressive jazz. Ellie’s ethereal vocals are sublime as she sings the lyrics that seem to speak of the thin line between reality and escape:  “My bird won’t sing. Have no idea what it means. And that’s OK, I don’t mind./ My diamond ring shines like the real thing. And that’s OK, I don’t mind. Comin’ off a little blind. What are we doing? Don’t you know that’s the ruin of our kind? I’m beginning to think that I might have lost my mind.

Ellie Ford by Chloe Imbach

The beautiful songs keep on coming. Another favorite is the bittersweet “All That is Left“, which features some of the most enthralling instrumentals of any song on the album. The mix of harp, piano, guitar, violin, clarinet, drums, and what sounds possibly like dulcimer, are absolutely stunning, and so are the vocal harmonies between Ellie and the guys. The lyrics speak to a relationship that’s over: “There will come a day when you’ll return. Dirt in your hair and your clothes all torn. And I’ll be gone. And all that is left, will be left to the dogs.” As its title suggests, “A Strange Brood” is a languid, brooding song lasting nearly six and a half minutes. Its  mysterious, spacey synths, tinkling piano keys, bluesy guitars, plucky harp, deep bassline and lots of crashing cymbals make for an enthralling listen.

Woods” starts off with an Eastern European Folk vibe, thanks to the Gypsy tones of Andrew’s violin and Freya’s clarinet, accompanied by Ellie’s plucked harp strings. But with the addition of heavy electric guitars and pounding drums in the bridge, the song transitions to a more intense rock feel. Album closer “The North Wind” really showcases the incredible synergy between Ellie’s harp playing and unique vocal style, and how she so beautifully complements one with the other. Other instrumentation on the track includes guitar and Fred’s kick drum and percussion, as well as the introduction of Andrew’s violin at the end.

I’ll admit that Light. Repeated. took a couple of plays to really grow on me. Though the songs sounded lovely and interesting when first hearing them, their complexity and unusual melodic structures required more than just a casual listen for me to fully appreciate. There’s an incredible amount of nuance and depth to the music and lyrics that are revealed with each successive listen, and even after hearing some of the songs five or six times, I discovered new sounds and textures. The production and song arrangements are flawless, and I’m impressed with the skilled instrumentation by the supporting musicians who help Ellie bring her magical songs to life.

Connect with Ellie: Facebook / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes

GRACE-ATTALIE – Single Review: “Polluted: The Medley”

Though the music I’ve written about on this blog has more often than not involved various forms of rock, folk, electronic or pop, as EclecticMusicLover I do like to feature other genres as well, especially from countries outside the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Today I have the pleasure of featuring singer/songwriter Grace-Attalie, a young woman with one of the most amazing and distinctive vocal styles I’ve heard in a long while. Originally from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and now based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Grace uses her soulful voice like a musical instrument, producing exquisite vocal sounds and textures with such incredible depth and emotional range that they leave me speechless.

In December 2018, she released her marvelous debut EP Polluted, featuring three excellent songs drawing from soul, jazz, Latin and African music influences. Now, she’s released a new medley of the three tracks, entitled simply “Polluted: The Medley“, along with a video of her performing the song with musicians Ngwato Mapalakanye on guitar and Joe Simoz on drums. The video was beautifully filmed in subdued light with cool blue tones by photographer and cinematographer Ryan Jarrett.

Though each of the three songs – “Eggshell”, “Standards” and “Sombre Storm” – are distinctly different, they’re artfully melded together seamlessly in the medley to flow as one flawlessly smooth and gorgeous composition. Simoz taps out the sultry tempo that hovers somewhere between a Latin and African-flavored jazz beat. Backed by airy synths and a sensual bass line, Mapalakanye’s strummed electric guitar notes are sublime, and a perfect complement to Grace’s lush vocals that go from breathy purr to deep smoke. It’s an absolutely captivating track.

To more fully appreciate Grace-Attalie’s astonishing vocal talents, spend a few extra minutes and listen to the three wonderful original songs here:

Connect with Grace-Attalie on Twitter
Stream “Polluted” on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

THE AUTUMN STONES – EP Review: “Into the Light”

Autumn Stones EP

The Autumn Stones are a Toronto, Canada-based band who play music that’s difficult to label as any particular genre, but who cares, really, so long as it sounds great. Their beautiful, pleasing sound incorporates elements of alternative rock, dream pop, jazz, and what the band refers to as “literary rock,” which I take to mean songs built around intelligent, thoughtful lyrics – which theirs have in abundance. Another aspect of their music is their use of a wide array of instruments, especially saxophone and organ that, along with their signature gorgeous jangly guitars, creates a lush soundscape for their wonderful songs.

Autumn Stones

Formed in 2009, the band’s current lineup consists of founding member Ciaran Megahey (vocals & guitar), Marcus Tamm (bass), Dan Dervaitis (guitar, keys, piano), Gary Butler (sax & keyboards) and Raymond Cara (drums & percussion).  They released their debut album Companions of the Flame in 2011, followed by Escapists in 2015, which I reviewed in 2016. In June of this year, they dropped their third album Emperor Twilight, a stunning work that I also reviewed. Now they’re back with a new four-track EP Into the Light, which dropped November 23. Like Emperor Twilight, the EP was co-produced by The Autumn Stones and Andy Magoffin, and is described by the band as a companion piece to the album.

First up is the title track “Into the Light.” Band frontman Megahey explains about its creation: “We were working on ‘Into the Light’ around the same time as the album sessions, but it wasn’t quite ready to record. Simultaneously, we all felt it was among our strongest songs and couldn’t wait to realize it fully. I’m glad we took the time to fine-tune it and now the track gets its own spotlight in this EP release.” The wait was certainly worthwhile, as “Into the Light” is magnificent. The gorgeous track features layers of exuberant jangly guitars, along with warm saxophone, both hallmarks of The Autumn Stones’ beguiling sound. Megahey’s smooth vocals are sublime, with a seductive quality that also manages to convey a sense of vulnerability. The lovely sax notes on this track were played by Paul White.

The second track “Hardwired” is a terrific pop-rock song with jazzy undertones, courtesy of Gary Butler’s wonderful strutting sax. The guitar work is great too, and the distorted flourishes at the end make for a nice finish. Megahey sings of his hedonism: “My dirty brain is like a slave. It’s like a beatnick. I’ve seen the light. I found the truth. It doesn’t hide. It doesn’t need to. I’m hardwired.” “Higher” soars with lots of soulful sax and fantastic jangly guitars, accompanied by Marcus Tamm’s deep bass and Ray Cara’s crisp percussion.

The Bigger They Fail” is an acoustic version of a song by the same name that appeared on Emperor Twilight, and was previously released as a B-side to that single. Like the original, it’s a hauntingly beautiful dreampop song that reminds me a bit of “Under the Milky Way’ by The Church. This stripped-down version features only acoustic guitar, piano and a bit of tambourine, but is still every bit as stunning and compelling as the original. And it goes without saying that Megahey’s vocals are bewitching as always.

Like all their releases, Into the Light is perfection from start to finish. I love the Autumn Stones’ music, and will likely continue to feature all of their future musical offerings. They will be launching Into the Light with a show at Toronto’s Monarch Tavern on December 8, with guests TBA.

Connect with The Autumn Stones:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunesBandcamp

FRED HILLS – Single Review: “Ketu”

Fred Hills is a creative and talented freelance drummer and composer from Brighton, UK, and he’s just released a captivating new instrumental single “Ketu.” A graduate of the British Institute of Modern Music in Brighton, Fred combines his love of jazz, rock, prog, electronica, folk and world music with inspiration from his favorite artists, as well as his travels, to create compositions filled with colorful rhythms and melodic ‘open-handed’ beats. Fred has collaborated and performed in the UK and Europe with a number of musicians and groups, including The Slytones, Hot Moth, Time for T, Ellie Ford, Michael Baker and Mara Simpson.

Fred told me that “Ketu” was inspired by his travels around India in late 2017. In their premier of the song’s video, the online music webzine Arctic Drones notes that the song was also inspired by “his experience with Hindu astrology, which sparked an interest in how lunar and solar energy systems may affect someone both mentally and physically. Fred stated that “Ketu” represents karmic collections – both good and bad – tangible and supernatural influences.” He adds that “Ketu” is an instrumental song built on an expansive emotional spectrum, mixing ambivalence and enchantment, hope and discovery.” The track was co-produced by Fred and Alex Barron, who also played bass and did the mixing and mastering.

The song opens with mysterious synths and a delicate guitar riff, then Fred’s intricate drums enter as the synths and guitar expand with the introduction of Alex’s bluesy bass notes. Fred’s arresting drum work, which the track is built around, has a quiet intensity that’s incredibly dynamic, yet never overpowering. The sparkling synths are gorgeous, and his jazzy guitar riffs are fantastic. In the video, Fred appears to be almost in a trance-like state as he plays the drums, which is the same feeling I get while listening to this gorgeous and mesmerizing song. Watch, listen, and see for yourself:

To learn more about Fred, check out his Website

Connect with him on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Check out more of his music on Soundcloud
Purchase “Ketu” on Bandcamp

SUM Releases Video For Their Uplifting New Single “It’s Alright to Be Me”

SUM2

SUM is a New York City-based band with an admirable philosophy and loads of talent. They’ve created their identity from the meaning of the Latin word “Sum” (pronounced “soom”), which means “to be” or “I am.” Their aim is to inspire us to accept who we are and to understand and embrace our own uniqueness.  Their exuberant music style, born from a fusion of jazz, soul, hip hop and pop, is beautifully showcased on their uplifting new single “It’s Alright to Be Me.” It’s the first single from their forthcoming self-titled debut album SUM, due for release in late September.

The band is lead by drummer, composer and arranger Steve Belvilus, and the lovely soulful vocals are courtesy of the engaging Patryce Williams, who’s also a professional actress. Rounding out the ensemble are Joel Desroches (Piano), Olivier R. (Keys), Andrew Gould (Sax), Gil “XL” Defay (Trumpet) and Francesco Beccaro (Bass). In an interview with VENTS Magazine, Steve explained their reasoning behind writing “It’s Alright to Be Me”:  “When we played shows, people kept messing up the name of our band and we always had to explain the meaning. So I decided to write a song that hopefully will become a hit so that we don’t have to explain ourselves anymore.

Lyrically, the track explains what the band is all about, and was created to be their defining song, and also an anthem of empowerment:

At a young age struggling to become all I can be
I was afraid to show the treasures inside of me
Many people wanted to make fun of me
But now I see the light that’s been in me

The light is the essence inside of me
The “I” you see is bright and shines all over me
SUM is the Latin word that defines me
It means the “I” that’s bright in me

I don’t care if you don’t like what’s within
I’d rather be myself cause that’s all I can be
SUM means I or to be the essence of me
It’s alright to be me, that’s what SUM means to me

The heartwarming and charming video skillfully captures the message expressed in the lyrics. It opens in a classroom, where Patryce plays both a teacher and a student who’s tormented by a classmate. Later on, the band is shown performing the song at a small party, and the boy who teased the childhood Patryce is now an adult. He approaches her adult self with a gift and an apology, and all is forgiven as they hug one another. Take a look:

Connect with SUM:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream or purchase “It’s Alright to Be Me” 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

THE AUTUMN STONES – Album Review: “Emperor Twilight”

Autumn Stones

The Autumn Stones are a Toronto, Canada-based band who play music that’s difficult to label as any particular genre, but who cares, really, so long as it sounds great. Their beautiful, pleasing sound incorporates elements of alternative rock, dream pop, jazz, and what the band refers to as “literary rock,” which I take to mean songs built around intelligent, thoughtful lyrics – which theirs have in abundance. Rather unique in their music style is their use of a wide array of instruments, especially saxophone and organ that, along with their gorgeous jangly guitars. creates a lush soundscape that serves as the basis for their wonderful songs.

Since forming in 2009, the band’s undergone a number of changes in personnel, and the current lineup consists of founding member Ciaran Megahey (vocals & guitar), Marcus Tamm (bass), Gary Butler (sax & keyboards), Raymond Cara (drums & percussion) and Dan Dervaitis (guitar & organ). They released their debut album Companions of the Flame in 2011, followed by Escapists in 2015, which I reviewed in 2016. Now they’re back with a stunning new album Emperor Twilight, which dropped on June 22. The album was recorded at Andy Magoffin’s House of Miracles studio in Cambridge, Ontario, and co-produced by the band and Magoffin, who also engineered and mixed it. Harris Newman did the mastering, and I have to say everyone involved in the recording and production of Emperor Twilight did a fantastic job, as The Autumn Stones have never sounded better.

In describing the album’s sometimes doleful theme, Megahey explains: “I’m a little preoccupied with exploring human nature’s dark side. I guess I have always thought of that as the artist’s role in culture. I think, for all the gloom easily pointed out, there’s a lot to be hopeful over and cheered by in the world. Emperor Twilight is also about being grateful for that and resisting the temptation to be cynical.

Kicking off the album is “Nightmares,” a beautiful track that speaks to utopian visions and the tribal and hypocritical aspects of our nature that give rise to authoritarianism.  “Pale as a ghost. Hungry again. Nightmares are born again.” The splendid jangly guitars and Butler’s soulful sax, both defining elements of The Autumn Stones’ appealing sound, are on full display here, as well as on the bouncy “Living in a Dream.” I love Megahey’s smooth, emotive vocals that have a vulnerable, yet seductive quality.

I thought those first two tracks were beautiful – and they surely are! – but the romantic and incredibly melodic “Fontana” is honestly one of the loveliest songs I’ve heard this year. The jangly guitar work is stunning, the swirling keyboard and organ riffs are sublime, and Megahey’s vocals are positively captivating. It’s my favorite track on the album, though quite frankly, I love them all.

Lovebomb” has more of a rock feel, with reverb-drenched and fuzzy guitars overlying a solid buzzing bass line.  Megahey sings of our natural carnal instincts: “There’s a sin in our skin. Can you blame us? Lovebomb.” On “The Bigger They Fail,” their gorgeous jangly guitars seem to channel The Cure, and Butler’s smooth sax is sublime.  I’m running out of superlatives to describe their songs, but damn this is a beauty, and yet another favorite of mine. The upbeat “Lovelife” has a breezy Style Council vibe and, as always, the guitars, bass, sax and percussion are perfection. Megahey croons the positive lyrics about embracing the good things about your life, and letting go of the bad: “You’ve go to love life down to the bitter end. Cause you don’t get a second chance. It’s so late, but is it too late?

The album’s marvelous lead single “Mandatory Love” is an exuberant gem that seems to tell us that love should liberate, rather than imprison, the heart and mind. The instrumentals are dazzling, and the lyrics poetic:

It was an idea unrare
Breathes like solid air
A total flop, a keystone cop
Agents of despair

This little heart, you’re set upon
This little heart, it can’t beat wrong

Our gilded prologue
Drives a wedge
Fills our ancient cup
This little dove locked up
She cannot be tamed
By mandatory love

It was an idea unsound
Feels like shaky ground
A total bore, a ‘less not more’
The undead overground

Closing out Emperor Twilight is the sweeping anthem “Every Little Shadow.” Dervaitis’ lovely organ work takes a starring role on this moving track, and the guitars are superb. It’s the perfect ending to as close to perfect an album that I’ve heard this year. Every track on this beautiful album is outstanding, and I cannot heap enough praise upon it. The guys that make up The Autumn Stones are all gifted musicians, and I hope they continue to grace our ears with their music.

Connect with The Autumn Stones:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase:  iTunesBandcamp