SARAH MAY – Single Review: “Nothing to You”

London-based singer-songwriter Sarah May has had music in her blood nearly all her life. She began writing songs at the age of nine, and taught herself to play guitar and keyboard. She recorded her first song when she was 14, and released her first CD of original songs at 17. Since then, she’s continued to write, play and release music, also managing to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice along the way. To date, she’s written over 100 songs that touch on many of life’s perplexing issues such as love and heartache, depression, addiction, politics, sexism, partying and financial hardship.

Sarah has just dropped a gorgeous and haunting new single “Nothing to You.” It’s a rather long track, clocking in at 5:22 minutes, but is so lovely and compelling I don’t want it to end. Opening with a somewhat mournful keyboard synth, the song gradually expands into a captivating soundscape of moody synths and gentle percussion as Sarah’s smooth vocals wash over our ears. Her voice is stunning and understated as she earnestly sings the lyrics addressing the pain of unrequited love, of being obsessed with someone who has no feelings for you:

Sittin’ here missing you knowing I’ve not crossed your mind
Things still remind me of you regardless of the passing time
Trying to find out what you’re doing without having to get in touch
Feeling like a stalker, Never knew I liked you this much

I wanna go wherever you are right now
Though I know it’s not a good idea
Or I could drink alone at home
Find someone else on Tinder

I want you to see me and fall in love with me
I want you to be near and sense that I am here
But dream is all I do, because I mean nothing to you

The backing choruses, which I’m guessing are Sarah’s own vocals layered over her main vocals, are sublime, giving the track a dreamy ethereal quality that beautifully emphasizes the sense of loneliness expressed in the lyrics. It’s a marvelous song.

Connect with Sarah May: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase “Nothing to You” on Spotify / Soundcloud / iTunes

JAMES BAKIAN – Single Review: “Terrified”

James Bakian Terrified

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

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

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

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

ALEXIS GERRED – Album Review: “Alexis”

Alexis Gerred3

Alexis Gerred is a hard-working, charismatic and multi-faceted artist based in London, England. A seasoned performer, he’s appeared in numerous stage productions in The West End, on national television, and on various tours around the UK and Asia for over 10 years. Some of those productions include American IdiotOur House, Dreamboats and Petticoats, The West End Men, Rooms, and many more. He loves being creative in any area of performance, but his true passion lies with singing. Alexis has penned numerous pop/rock songs over the past several years, and earlier this year, he launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for the recording of his first album, reaching his goal in a matter of weeks. On October 26, he dropped the album, simply titled Alexis, but there’s nothing simple about it, as it’s filled with ten solid tracks ranging from lovely heartfelt ballads to rousing pop-rock bangers.

Alexis album

Many of the songs on Alexis offer positive, upbeat messages, and no more so than album opener “Sweet Angel,” a beautiful, uplifting song about unconditional love and support that Alexis released this past April as the lead single (you can read my review here). Originally written as a thank you to his parents, he says the song now also reflects how he wishes to bring up his own two children. Layers of chiming and fuzzy guitars, delicate piano and just the right balance of percussion provide the perfect backdrop for Alexis’ dynamic vocals that are raw and passionate one moment, then a gentle falsetto the next as he sings the stirring lyrics “I know you’re falling. I see you falling deeper down. I’ll show you how to fly with broken wings. Sweet Angel.

Face the Crowd” is a rousing pop-rock song about standing up for yourself and not letting your fears or self-doubts keep you from realizing your potential. “Stand up and face the crowd. Find out what your worth. Stand up and greet the crowd.” Alexis’ fervent vocals remind me a bit of Steve Perry on this and a few other tracks when he really gets into the groove. A particularly strong standout is the anthemic “Rule the World,” a powerful duet with fellow stage performer Danielle Steers, who has an astonishing voice in her own right. Their soaring vocal harmonies are so good they give me goosebumps, and the hard-hitting rock instrumentals are fantastic. This song should be released and pushed as the next single, as it’s as radio-friendly a tune as any I’ve heard all year.

Alexis has a beautiful voice, and it’s on the slower ballads where that beauty really shines through. “Hold You Close” is a lovely and deeply moving pledge to his young children that he’ll love and protect them, guiding them as they grow: “I’ll hold you close. I’ll help you fly to the moon. Stay by me. Don’t let anyone take away your dreams. Stay true to you. / I love you my girl, my son.” The gentle acoustic guitar and Alexis’ tender vocals are sublime. He turns very emotional on “Save Me,” as he sing of the hopelessness he feels: “Save me, I can’t do this anymore. Through dark nights. Medicate me, I can’t do this anymore.” Another favorite of mine is “The Lucky Ones” a gorgeous and poignant piano-driven ballad about the loss that results from the end of a relationship. Alexis’ plaintive vocals convey the sadness and despair expressed in the lyrics: “It broke my heart to say goodbye when your eyes said ‘I’m leaving you my darling.’  But I’ll hold you close at a distance.”

Alexis lets the sparks fly on the hard-rocking “Don’t Let Go,” his passion-filled vocals reaching for the skies along with the raging guitar riffs and thunderous drums. He teams up with Norwegian country singer Liv Austen on the lovely folk ballad “Home.” Their pleasing vocals blend together quite nicely on this wistful song about missing each other and looking forward to being together again: “I’ll be coming home, I’m coming home. I’ll never see the light of day til I hold you once again.” He shows his soulful side on “Road to Redemption,” his edgy R&B-tinged vocals accompanied by gnarly riffs and funky bass.    Album closer “No Ordinary Girl” is another uplifting and incredibly catchy rock anthem. The opening melody and drumbeat of the song reminds me a little of The Cranberries’ classic song “Dreams.” Alexis’ powerful soaring vocals pair beautifully with the high-energy riffs of jangly guitars, heavily crashing cymbals and hard-driving beat, making for a marvelous and exhilarating track.

Alexis is a beautiful, meticulously-crafted album and a testament to Mr. Gerred’s skillful songwriting, musicianship and vocal abilities. It’s an impressive debut, and one that should make him quite proud.

To learn more about Alexis, check out his website
Connect with him on Facebook / Twitter / Intagram
Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

MELOTIKA Releases New Video for “Bittersweet Reality”

Melotika is an indie/pop artist based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the alter-ego of singer/songwriter Mel Yelle. Born and raised in Montreal, Mel’s rich, smoky vocals remind me at times of fellow Quebecois Celine Dion, with whom she also bears a striking resemblance. She teamed up with electronic DJ/producer Jackman Jones (also known as Mista T Dot) to create urban beats for her debut EP Unaware, which dropped this past March. I reviewed her sultry single “Unaware Part II [Blindside]” in February, which you can read here.

Melotika

She’s just released a stylish new video for “Bittersweet Reality,” one of the tracks on Unaware. The song features cool synths set to a hypnotic dark wave dance beat, with hand claps, kick drum, bass and chanted backing vocals adding fullness to the sound. Mel’s vocals have a sense of bitter resignation as she sings about the conflict between our reality and the self-image of the persona we project to the world based on who we think we should be: “Doesn’t matter what we say, you won’t believe it anyway. Done my time but talk is cheap. Your bittersweet reality. Running back and forth at times can drain all my energy.”

About the video, Mel explains “‘Bittersweet Reality’ is about losing yourself in a synthetic realm of beauty and social media appearance. The character I am playing is a vulnerable side of me believing everything the media has taught me, and on the other hand rebelling against it.”

She’s shown scrolling through her social media accounts on her mobile device, elated one moment, then frustrated and angry the next as she reacts to either the attention she feels she deserves or criticism – or even worse, indifference – which pisses her off (sentiments I can certainly attest to feeling at times). Ultimately, she suffers a meltdown over all the conflicted emotions. Take a look:

Connect with Melotika on  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes or Bandcamp

HANNAH CLIVE – Single Review: “Remember to Breathe”

Hannah Clive2

Hannah Clive is a lovely and charming singer/songwriter based in London, UK, and I’ve been meaning to feature her on this blog for a while. Influenced by such legendary ladies of song as Adele, Carole King, Kate Bush and Janis Ian, Hannah writes heartfelt songs that cross many genres, including indie rock, folk, pop, alt-country, blues and even a bit of jazz. She released a gorgeous single “Remember to Breathe” in November 2017, and I’m finally getting around to reviewing this wonderful song.

The track opens with an ominous synth chord that draws us in, then Hannah’s exquisite piano riff enters and we’re instantly hooked. Wow, this is stunning! A delicious assortment of sparkling synths are added along with subtle guitar and gentle percussion, courtesy of producer Brian Tench, creating a dreamy soundscape that’s the perfect backdrop for Hannah’s captivating vocals. I’m blown away by her ability to seduce us one moment, then nearly move us to tears the next. It’s all incredibly breathtaking, so her admonition for us to ‘remember to breathe’ is entirely apropos! The song is so utterly mesmerizing that I keep hitting replay.

The lyrics speak to the concept of having faith and believing in yourself, casting aside obstacles that try to stand in your way, and finding your own truth and path in life:

And when the power of love is greater than the love of power
So it’s said, then my friends we might find some peace
And though it sounds naive –
It’s a direction in which I could set my feet…but just
Remember to breathe

Connect with Hannah:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  Bandcamp / iTunes

VERIS – Single Review: “Gimme More”

VERIS Gimme More

Boston duo VERIS burst onto the indie music scene in early summer 2017 with their infectious ear worm of a dance track “Opening Night.” They followed in September with their sultry and seductive “Devil in the Details,” which was a Top 10 hit on my Weekly Top 30 Chart. (I featured both songs on this blog, which you can read here and here.) Now they return to please our eardrums with a fantastic new single “Gimme More, and they sound better than ever!

Veris

VERIS is singer/songwriter/guitarist AJ Edwards and songwriter/drummer Mark Hylander, and with assistance from Bleu (William James McAuley III), who produced and co-mixed the song with Ducky, they’ve created a stylish and sexy track that really showcases their musical versatility. The song is different from their previous two singles – it’s always a good thing to change things up and bring fresh sounds – but still delivers a catchy melody, cool grooves, smart lyrics, great vocals and fine instrumentals, all things we’ve come to love about VERIS.

With an irresistible strutting bass-driven dance beat that grabs hold of both hips, “Gimme More” quickly has us in its thrall. The seductive dance groove is punctuated in spots by trap-like break downs and lots of quirky electronic synths, making for an interesting and exciting track.  AJ’s smooth vocals are wonderful, soaring to a pleasing falsetto as he sings of feeling besotted with desire for another:

I can’t help I’m impatient
Is it a crime, lock me up
I’ve got nothing but time
Is this more than just an obsession
Please let me in, gotta feel, gotta feel it yeah
Gimme more

It’s a great song, and certain to be another hit for the creative duo. Take a listen:

Connect with VERIS:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify and Soundcloud, and purchase on iTunes

BRETT VOGEL – Single Review: “Superwoman Sway”

Brett Vogel is an immensely talented and hard-working singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Los Angeles. We’ve followed each other on social media for nearly three years, and I find Brett to be a warm, kind and gracious guy. He was one of the very first artists I featured on this blog, way back in January 2016, and you can read that post here. Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, he grew up listening to his father’s records and became a fan of music at a very young age – something that I closely identify with, as I was listening to my parents’ Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Fats Domino and Elvis Presley records as soon as I was able to walk.

Brett describes his passion for music: “Music is within every fiber of my being! I sincerely believe without music I’d be doomed. Music has kept me alive. Music, I believe, has saved my life. Music is love to me. Music helps people heal. It’s what connects people, and for that I’m grateful!” Blessed with a large vocal range and beautiful tone, Brett showcases his sweet and soaring falsetto in many of the wonderful songs he writes.

Brett Vogel

Brett released his first album Lonely Traveler in 2004, and subsequently moved to LA. He eventually became discouraged about the music industry and returned to Illinois, but after three years he decided to move back to L.A. and give music another go, and has never looked back. In 2015 he released his second album Never Giving Up, a superb effort featuring 11 beautiful tracks that are a celebration of his passion for – and dedication to – his dream of making music. Since then, he’s released several singles and remixes, the latest of which is his delightful new single “Superwoman Sway,” which dropped July 20th.

It’s an upbeat, happy tune with an infectious reggae/dance beat that aims straight for the hips.  The carefree guitars, lively synths and snappy drums transport us to a sun-kissed tropical beach, making it a perfect song for summer. Brett’s earnest vocals are lovely as he sings of his devotion for a loved one who brings so much joy to his life:

There you go brightening up my day 
You wouldn’t know it but it’s true
What you’ve got is that Superwoman Sway
I wouldn’t have any other

Through the thick and thin when I’m dashed upon the rocks
You stay close to me and give me all you’ve got
Through the lightning clouds
The sorrow and the rain
You take away my blue, brighten up my sky
To see the light again

Every little thing you do is so so you
I couldn’t have it any better no
Every little thing you do is so so you
I couldn’t have it any better

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

BEN WRIGHT – EP Review: “Lifeline”

Ben Wright is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Manchester, UK – a city with a vibrant music scene, from which have come several artists and bands I’ve previously featured on this blog. I’ve also been a little amazed by the number of singer/songwriters in the UK that play folk or Americana music, some of whom I’ve also featured on this blog. But then I remember that American folk and country music has its roots in the music that British, Scottish, and later Irish settlers brought to America. In Ben’s case, his pleasing style of acoustic folk/pop is influenced by blues, rock, and even a little reggae. He released a wonderful debut single “Starry Nights” in October 2016, which I reviewed. Now he’s returned with a seven-track EP Lifeline, released in early June through Sound-Hub Records.

Ben Wright

For the recording of the album, Ben played guitars and sang all vocals, the esteemed musician/producer Barrington Mole (White Moor, The Further, Ejector Seat) played bass, and Dan Williams played drums. The EP kicks off with the title track “Lifeline,” a lovely song about not letting fear of failure keep you from pursuing your dreams. Ben sings of his struggle to make it as a musician, though the lyrics could apply to any type of performance art. His smooth, calm vocals are incredibly pleasing as he sings: “Cause I’ve been waiting so many years to see this blurry silhouette coming through these tears. Cause I don’t want to be waiting for another lifetime. So I’ll throw these dreams a lifeline.”

The song’s arrangement and production are on-point, and Ben’s slide guitar work is positively sublime. I really like the video that shows him and his fellow musicians performing the song. For the video, the supporting musicians are Chris Bull on acoustic guitar, Dave Fox on bass, and Alex Bayley on drums.

Ben states that he was inspired to write the beautiful second track “Starry Nights” “whilst travelling and sleeping in the middle of nowhere in New Zealand.” The poetic lyrics describe the simple beauty of a starry night in the rural countryside, unblemished by the artificiality or pretense of urban life. “Looking down from high above, they’re flickering til the day is born. No artificial beams can reach the sky. No piercing sounds will break the night. Starry nights reveal innocence. There’s no delusions and no hollow men.” The song has a lovely melody and acoustic rhythm guitar riff overlying gentle percussion and bass. Ben’s soothing vocals convey a sense of tranquility – that everything’s alright with the world. The charming video, which shows Ben walking and/or performing the song by a lake, nicely complements the track.

Visions of You” is an upbeat folk song about celebrating the love he feels for his girl, while the cheerful “My Hometown” has a peppy reggae vibe. One of the things I like about this track are all the different guitar textures, including the wobbly little riff that can be heard throughout.

A favorite track is “She’s Leaving Town,” a bittersweet song about the end of a relationship that leaves him blindsided: “She’s leaving town tonight. The boy has no idea what it’s all about./ That smile is just an illusion.” The track has a bluesy feel, and the funky guitars and bass are really terrific. “Home Beyond the Pines” is another great track – oh hell, they’re all great! It starts off with a a bewitching little guitar note that expands into a pleasing acoustic riff, set to a happy toe-tapping beat.

As I listen to each track, I’m struck by the serene beauty of Ben’s voice, and no more so than on the gentle folk song “Fight Against the Tide.” His vocals are tender and heartfelt as he sings the inspirational lyrics about not letting self-doubt and the setbacks that life sometimes throws our way keep you from moving forward and living your own truth: “Wash away your pride. Don’t neglect your mind’s eye. Trust the strength you have inside, and fight against the tide.” It’s another favorite of mine.

Lifeline is a marvelous, well-crafted EP filled with songs that make you feel good, even when the subject matter is not particularly happy. Ben’s songwriting, musicianship and vocals are all first-rate, and he should be very proud of this work. An accomplished musician, he also teaches guitar lessons on his YouTube channel, which you can check out here.

Connect with Ben:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Apple Music / Spotify / Deezer
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon UK / Google Play

LYIA META – Single Review: “Without Walls”

Without Walls cover art

I receive lots of submissions from artists and bands asking me to listen to their music or, hopefully, write a review of it. Most of the time the music is decent or better, and I rarely turn anyone down (which is why I’m always running behind schedule). But every so often, I’m immediately blown away the moment I hear their music. Such is the case with Malaysian singer/songwriter Lyia Meta, a lovely woman with a voice to match. Her rich, soulful vocal style is impressive, with a powerful arresting quality reminiscent of the legendary Shirley Bassey.

Lyia released her debut EP This is Lyia in 2016 to wide acclaim, garnering airplay on radio stations in Europe, as well as indie internet music radio stations in the UK, U.S., Germany and Australia, including Radio Wigwam (UK), Home of Rock Germany, LA Rocks Radio, Banks Radio Australia and many more. In August of 2017, she won the award for Best Female Artist from Radio Wigwam. In January of this year, she dropped a new single “Without Walls,” and it’s fantastic.

The track opens with soft, mysterious synths and Lyia pensively singing “I’m thinking of yesterday. She’ll find a way. And everything I remember, would stay. ‘Cause life without walls, feels like it’s love.” The music builds into a powerful soundscape of shimmering synths and a sensual, bass-driven dance beat, while Lyia’s smoldering vocals raise goosebumps as they soar to the heavens. Those moments of exuberance alternate with interludes of relative calm, where lovely synths with piano and strings dominate. She sings: “Forever in my mind, forever in my heart. Promises that came undone. We played it from the start. This life without walls. It feels like it’s love. We’re bending rules and skipping stones. Know your worth.” It’s a gorgeous song that I guarantee will have you on your feet dancing and hitting the replay button.

Lyia is also an accomplished visual artist. Check out her work on her art website.

Connect with Lyia: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on iTunes / Amazon

JAMES BAKIAN – EP Review: “Unstoppable”

James Bakian EP

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

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

James Bakian

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

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

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

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

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