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

SECRET POSTAL SOCIETY – 2021 Year-End Recap

Six months ago (in July 2021) I wrote a feature article about Secret Postal Society, the music project of Welsh singer-songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Craig Mapstone, in which I focused on his intent to write and record a new song every week throughout 2021 (read my article here). At the time, he had successfully reached the halfway point in his very ambitious goal, with 27 songs under his belt. Well, I’m happy to report that Craig fully achieved his objective of faithfully releasing a new song every week, and by year’s end, he’d put out a total of 53 songs, including two Christmas-related tracks. He’s now asked his followers to let him know what our five favorites of his many songs are, and I’ve decided to write this post to tell him! 

Secret Postal Society - Craig Mapstone

Before I get to my picks, I want to say a few things: First off, Craig is one of the kindest, most gracious and humble musicians I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know as a music blogger, and I’ve become quite fond of him both professionally and personally. He’s also incredibly talented, creative, and hard-working, and his discipline and ability to remain laser-focused on his goal puts many others – including me – to shame. Which leads to my second point, that I’m absolutely dumbfounded by his impressive output. The ability to write, record and release a new song – along with an accompanying video – week in and week out for an entire year is amazing in itself, but to achieve such a high level of quality in nearly every track is nothing short of astonishing.

Though his sound can generally be described as singer/songwriter-oriented pop and soft-rock, infused with touches of indie folk, his music is actually fairly eclectic. Some of his songs feature elements of grunge, progressive, post-punk and alternative rock, so there’s something for just about everyone in his discography (other than for fans of R&B or hip hop). It was extremely difficult winnowing down my list of favorite Secret Postal Society songs to only five, but herewith are my top five picks, followed by six honorable mentions that could all have easily been among my top five. Worth noting is that most of my favorites were written and recorded in the latter half of the year, an indication that Craig’s songwriting and musicianship grew better and stronger the more songs he wrote. 

1. Fly

Though Craig doesn’t have an especially powerful voice, its comforting warmth is well-suited to his generally laid-back musical style, and no more so than on “Fly“, my favorite of all his songs. His 21st song, released last May, it’s his longest track, running over six minutes, and also his most beautiful. Craig’s twangy strummed guitar notes, accompanied by lovely strings, xylophone, and what sounds like a mellotron, create a hauntingly beautiful soundscape. His gentle vocals exude a deeply heartfelt sense of sadness as he sings the bittersweet lyrics expressing pain and regret over a relationship that’s ended, but remembering glimmers of what brought you both together in the beginning: “The ones we love are the ones we hurt the most. We fly so close. We fly so close. I kissed you once, and it took my breath away.”

The accompanying video is courtesy of The Internet Archives, and features footage from the classic 1923 silent film Safety Last!, directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor and starring Harold Lloyd.

2. A Thousand Times

Released in July as his 31st song, “A Thousand Times” is a perfect pop tune, with a breezy vibe reminiscent of songs by such bands as Fleetwood Mac, The Outfield and the Gin Blossoms. Craig’s jangly guitars and sunny synths are delightful, and the song is just so catchy and feel-good that it makes me happy. The lyrics seem to speak of a budding romance between two people who’ve been playing emotional footsie with each other for a while: “We both have secret smiles and glances. We play games young lovers still play. I believe we deserve second chances. I’ll wait a thousand times for you love.

3. Alive

While it might not be one of Secret Postal Society’s most interesting songs from a musical standpoint, “Alive” is nevertheless one of my favorites because of Craig’s thoughtful lyrics, not to mention that it was released on my birthday in August as his 35th song. Many of his songs speak not only of romantic love, but love for humankind and each other, and this one’s a fine example of that. He acknowledges that while he may not be all that important in the scheme of things, he’s glad to be alive, and urges us live our lives with love and understanding for one another: “So we fight to survive through the lows and the highs ’cause we’ve got to keep going. So I look in your eyes. You know it’s OK to cry. I’m just grateful that you are alive.” It’s a warm and pleasing track, and the guitars and keyboards in the bridge are really lovely.

4. I Will Follow You

Released in October as his 40th song, “I Will Follow You” has a strong R.E.M. feel, which is why it appeals to me so much. Craig’s a fine guitarist, and his work is especially good on this track. The lyrics are spoken to a loved one, assuring them that they’ll always have your love and support: “Time and again I was always with you as a friend. But I guess that I never told you. I know that life’s hard. No one said it was easy at all. But we’ll be fine, and I will follow you.” The beautiful video was produced by Yaroslav Shuraev (Pexels). 

5. Something From Nothing/Points of Light 

Released in November as song #47, “Something From Nothing/Points of Light” is sort of a couplet, like having two songs for the price of one. With its urgent, intricate riffs and driving melody, “Something From Nothing” has a Foo Fighters vibe, but unlike the Foos’ similarly-titled song that ends in an explosive crescendo, Secret Postal Society’s ends on a calm, lovely and contemplative note with “Points of Light”. I like that Craig’s young son Reuben sings these optimistic closing lyrics along with him: “Don’t you let your sun go out. And never let the others dim the shine of hope you have inside. I see in you the light eternal.” 

Very Honorable Mention:

Numb – A terrific alt-rock song with swirling synths and a great guitar riff reminiscent of “Lazy Eye” by Silversun Pickups

Hurt – A darkly beautiful, grungy track with industrial-sounding synths and fantastic reverby guitars.

Halfway There – A lovely guitar-driven track featuring shimmery keyboards and Craig’s soothing vocals, with optimistic lyrics addressing both his half-year milestone, but also a struggling relationship halfway toward its fulfillment.

A Song For Leaving You – A great kiss-off song with a captivating hip-swaying beat, spacey synths and some really gorgeous guitar work.

What’s Up Dude? – A languid and cool alt-rock song co-written and sung by Craig and his young son Reuben, with lyrics directed at slackers, encouraging them to get busy: “This is not a game of chance, you have to do the work, SO DO IT!

It’s Not a Christmas Song (Unless the Sleigh Bells Are Ringing) – A thoroughly delightful contemporary Christmas song that’s as good as many I’ve heard from major artists. And once again, we’re treated to Reuben’s sweet vocals.

Craig is now enjoying a well-deserved rest from his exhaustive songwriting and recording schedule, and isn’t quite sure where he’ll take Secret Postal Society going forward. But I for one hope he’ll continue putting out more great songs, albeit at a more reasonable pace.

Follow Secret Postal Society:  Facebook / Instagram 

Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube

JAMIE ALIMORAD – Single Review: “Give a Little Lovin'”

Jamie Alimorad is a talented, charismatic and congenial singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles. Music has been a big part of his life since his early teens, and by the time he was a college student at Northeastern University in Boston, he released his first EP Cornerstone (in 2010), then followed up two years later with his critically-acclaimed full-length album Words Left Unsaid, winning several music and songwriting awards. His very first video, for the song “Beautiful” from that album, has been viewed over 2 million times. Jamie then experienced a creative slump lasting several years, during which he became filled with crippling self-doubt, wondering if he’d ever be successful again.

He eventually decided to take a few classes with famed singer-songwriter, musician and producer Gino Vannelli, who offers small Art of  Song & Voice Master Class sessions at his music studio outside Portland, Oregon. The two hit it off, and Gino eventually became his mentor. The two began working together writing and recording songs for what would become Jamie’s outstanding second album This is Tomorrow Calling, which was released in September 2019. (You can read my review of the album here.)

Jamie in the studio with Ross Vannelli

Now Jamie is back with a great new single “Give a Little Lovin’“, his first release in more than two years. The song was co-written by Jamie and composer, songwriter and producer Ross Vannelli (Gino’s brother), who also produced and arranged the track. The duo spent several months last year writing, arranging, recording, and mixing lots of new songs that Jamie plans on releasing in 2022. “Give a Little Lovin'” is the first of them. Drawing inspiration from the music of Prince, Morris Day & The Time and Bruno Mars, the two have fashioned an infectious and upbeat pop gem imbued with sexy swagger and funky grooves. From the wonderful opening guitar strums to the swirling synths, sultry strings, funky bass and lively drumbeats, the song is a master class in arrangement and instrumentation. Everything about the song is flawless and fresh-sounding, without ever feeling over-produced.

Jamie told me the song is “essentially about the chase; man sees woman, falls in love/lust with woman. Will she let him in?” As always, his strong, emotive vocals are exquisite, perfectly capturing his feelings of being intensely besotted with a beautiful woman:

Cross my heart and hope to die
I want you and that’s no lie
Never been so captivated
Don’t wanna make it complicated
I hope that I can make it clear tonight

From the moment that I saw you
I couldn’t live my life without you
I wanna make it all about you
Oh oh oh oh oh

Give a little lovin’

“Give a Little Lovin'” is marvelous, and if Jamie’s upcoming songs are half this good, we’re in for a treat!

To learn more about Jamie, visit his Website
Connect with him on:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon 

5ON5 – Single Review: “Don’t Dance”

Berlin, Germany-based music collective 5ON5 is a collaborative project comprised of four distinctly unique artists spanning two generations and coming from very different music backgrounds. The brainchild of Max Koffler, a singer-songwriter, musician and producer with over 20 years of experience in the music industry and two solo albums to his credit, 5ON5 also includes singer-songwriter and producer $INAN (aka Sinan Pakar), rapper and visual artist Maxx B, and singer Yumin. Their unusual name 5ON5 was inspired by Max’s music label sonsounds, and reflects the group’s eclectic blend of music genres and styles, including EDM, synth pop, hip hop and alternative rock. 

Last August, they released their enchanting debut single “Runaway”, which was actually a ‘maxi-single’ featuring an original version of the song and a special party remix (you can read my review here). 5ON5 followed in late November with their second single “Ayo”, and are now back with their third release “Don’t Dance“, which drops today, January 7th. Written and produced by Max and Sinan, the track was mixed by Jeson Huang and mastered by Chris Gehringer at Sterling Sound. 

I love any song with a dance beat, whether it be disco, EDM, dance-pop or house, so “Don’t Dance” is right up my alley. And despite it’s title urging us not to, the song most definitely compels us to sway our hips with a hypnotic, head-bopping deep bass groove, over which 5ON5 layer a colorful mix of skittering synths, humming keyboards and throbbing percussive beats. The distinctive vocals of each of the four members, some of which have been electronically altered, are wonderful, and I especially love their beautiful harmonies in the choruses. The combination of the sophisticated instrumentation and captivating vocals make for a really great dance track.

As to the song’s meaning, my take is that it’s generally about trying to come to terms with a relationship that can never be, however, Max told me the lyrics are open to one’s own interpretation. He also stated that the song has an unintended side story; during the period in which they finished recording the song and wrote their press release, clubs in Berlin had recently reopened, only to partly close again, but only for dancing. In other words, people were allowed to meet in clubs, but weren’t permitted to dance. He added “this song isn’t particularly about that, but these are the times wherein people don’t dance, or only in secret.”

Put 'em waves on you to slide every night
Never mind
It‘s alright

I put 'em waves on you to slide every night
Never mind

And I don’t dance anymore
No I don’t want to dance
And I don’t dance anymore
No I don’t want to dance
want to dance

Now we out here cuttin' dem ties
We got no place, nowhere to hide
Why you so afraid of love songs
and push ‘em till tomorrow
Flying high like a satellite
so we choose darkness over light
Can’t act on what I don’t know
so I rather stay solo

Would you love me if I told you I would never dance
Would you love me if I cry for you
All our dreams are lost forever in the neverland
and will never ever come back to you
Back to you


So wonderful in review
Wonderful in review
Wonderful in review

I don’t dance any amore (wonderful in review)
I don’t dance any amore (wonderful in review)

The accompanying animated video for the song was created by Joong Hyun Cho, and shows the members of 5ON5, as well as Vane and Eli The Kid, as animated versions of themselves dancing to the music.

Connect with 5ON5:  FacebookInstagram 

Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music

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.

Connect with MMIV:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

BARBARA – Single Review: “Rainy Days in June”

Barbara is the music project of Henry and John Tydeman, two charismatic brothers from Brighton and Hove, England. Bucking the current music trends of hip hop, dancepop, 80s revival, post punk and godawful bro-country, their sunny, uplifting sound is a charming and anachronistic blend of – in their own words – “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 songs, I’d say that’s a fitting description I cannot improve upon.

The guys released their wonderful debut single “BRB” this past January, then followed in May with “New Communications”, a lighthearted take on the pitfalls of social media. Both songs garnered support by BBC Introducing and Louder Than War, and this past summer, they had the pleasure of performing at the Isle of Wight Festival. Now they’re back with a breezy new single “Rainy Days in June“, which dropped November 26th. Lovingly produced by Tom Rees, vocalist and guitarist for Welsh band Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, the song is a delightful ode to the joys of being alone. John and Henry sang vocals, with keyboards played by Henry, guitar by Dean Llewelyn, bass by Jack Hodgood and drums by Lawrie Miller.

Barbara really do channel the 70s on “Rainy Days in June”, with a pleasing and catchy pop melody that reminds me of songs like John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back”. In fact, it would make a great theme song for a TV sitcom. The sunny keyboards, buoyant rhythms and colorful guitars create a joyful backdrop for John and Henry’s lilting harmonies. Their smooth vocals are sublime, perfectly capturing the carefree sense of contentment with quietly sitting alone at home with a good book, away from the craziness and noise of crowds. It’s a terrific song, and my personal favorite among their three singles.

People say I'm silly to be sitting on my own
They're going to a party, but I'd rather be at home
Rainy days in June, but I'm making the best of it
I'm a halfway through this hardback
And I long to get back to the rest of it
These rainy days

Rainy days in June, with nothing to worry me
And there's no one I need to see
And no where important to go
But god knows I remember there were hundreds of people
And so, I'm ashamed that I took to my heels and slipped away

In a nod to the throwback vibe of the song, the brothers used a great vintage photo from the 60s of their grandparents John and Pauline for their single cover art. And for the delightful video, they used footage taken from their holiday in France this past summer.

Connect with Barbara: FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music: Spotify / SoundcloudYouTube

SAM RAPPAPORT – Single Review: “Journeyman’s Ballet”

Sam Rappaport is an engaging, tousle-haired singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, New York, and he’s just released a wonderful new single “Journeyman’s Ballet“. It’s his second single as a solo artist, following the release this past February of his debut single “Till the Morning Comes”. Sam is also a founding member of Brooklyn indie R&B/blues rock band Gooseberry, who’ve released a number of terrific singles over the past couple of years.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California, Sam began playing piano at the tender age of five, however, he never considered himself good enough to be a “musician”. Throughout his youth and well into his years at Vassar College, basketball was his first love. But as he told NYS MUSIC earlier this year for their article about his debut single: “I held onto the NBA dreams as long as I could, but once I hit college it was pretty clear that those dreams were out of reach. Still, I spent the first three years of college thinking that I’d end up overseas playing in some Euro league. I remember finishing a practice my senior year, running to the bathroom, heaving all the liquid in my body into a trash can, and thinking–I don’t want to do this anymore. So I quit.

After college, Sam worked at a variety of jobs, including as a case manager at a welfare office, a reporter for local newspapers and a bartender at a Sichuan restaurant. But through it all, he never lost his passion for music. He settled for a few years in Chicago, where he played keyboards for R&B singer Brandon James, then relocated to Brooklyn, where he honed his music skills by playing at open mics, house parties and comedy shows. Through those performances, as well as his live shows with Gooseberry – not to mention both his and Gooseberry’s fine music releases – he’s garnered a growing base of loyal fans and followers. I was amazed by the outpouring of love and support for Sam and his single on Instagram today.

“Journeyman’s Ballet” was written and sung by Sam, who also played piano. The remaining instruments were played by Daniel Alvarez and Jordan Dunn-Pilz of the band Toledo, who also produced the track. Mastering was done by Mike Kalajian of Rogue Planet Mastering. The song has a pleasing jazzy soft-rock vibe reminiscent of late 70s/early 80s Steely Dan. Sam’s sparkling piano keys are nicely complemented by Daniel and Jordan’s lilting guitar notes and gentle percussion that enhance, rather than overpower, allowing his lovely piano to really shine. Sam’s smooth, understated vocals are soothing and lovely, and perfectly suited to the song’s languid melody.

About the song’s title, Sam explained it’s “about the dance of someone who is avoidant, always on the move, always looking to escape, to outrun the monsters within. This dance does welcome isolation.” The lyrics speak to those operating under the delusion that they can escape their problems or outrun their personal demons, hoping for a desired outcome simply by changing jobs, romantic partners or where they live, without directly addressing their inherent issues first. (I hate to admit that I’ve been guilty of this myself more than once.) In the song’s chorus, he ponders “Who are we for the mile we walk alone? Who are we when the lies become our home? Who are we when the night turns day, and the monsters still remain.

For the song’s video, Sam enlisted the help of Cassandra Angelini-Vazquez, who dressed him in a tutu and filmed him at Coney Island. Unfortunately, the video won’t be ready for several more days, so for now we’ll have to settle for this audio and a still of Sam standing in New York Bay.

Sam’s music may be found on: SpotifyApple MusicYouTubeAmazonBandcamp

EWAN PATRICK – Album Review: “Forever Love”

Ewan Patrick is a talented and thoughtful singer-songwriter from Edinburgh, Scotland who’s had music in his blood for much of his life. He studied contemporary classical composition at Napier University in Edinburgh, then earned a graduate degree in Music Production at Leeds College of Music. He’s also played in many bands over the years, performing extensively across the UK, including at a number of major music festivals. More recently, Ewan has recorded some of the songs he’s written over the years that he says “never quite found their place in any of the bands I’ve played in.

In October 2020, he released his first double A-side single “Retrospect/Hurricane”, then followed this past February with a second double A-side single “Feels Good To Be Alive/Two Hearts“, which I reviewed. Now he returns with his debut full-length album Forever Love, featuring 10 wonderful tracks touching on the universal subjects of life, love, loss, family and current affairs. The four previously-released singles are included on the album, along with six new songs, all of which beautifully showcase Ewan’s outstanding songwriting, performance and production skills, as he records, mixes and masters all his music by himself. 

His songs are a pleasing mix of acoustic, folk rock, piano ballads and anthemic rock, nicely sequenced in a way that gives the album a balanced, fresh-sounding flow. Ewan has a strong, clear and beautiful singing voice too, which sounds great on every style of song he sings. The album opens with “Feels Good To Be Alive“, an uplifting rock song about recognizing the things that really matter and that, despite one’s problems, life is still worth living: “Nothing’s working but I’m feeling carefree. I’m still hurting, yet it doesn’t bother me. Why? Because I’m still alive. It feels good to be alive.” The song starts off low-key, with his acoustic guitar accompanied by gentle percussion, then explodes into a torrent of electric guitar and crashing cymbals for a dramatic finish.

Next up is “Hurricane“, a rousing guitar-driven rock song about standing up against oppression: “No longer hiding in the shadows. No longer afraid of speaking up. The winds of change are gradually building, and we’re looking just like a hurricane.” Another politically topical song, and one of my favorites on the album, is “Not Invincible“, which Ewan says was written during the first lockdown, after the murder of George Floyd last year in Minneapolis. It’s a hauntingly beautiful track, with sweeping cinematic synths, highlighted by mournful piano keys and stunning guitars. 

Like the opening track “Feels Good To Be Alive”, several songs explore various aspects of making the most of our time on this planet, and successfully navigating through both good times and bad. “Law of Life“, which sounds like a song that could have been recorded by Tears For Fears, addresses the inevitability of change. Ewan gives us something to think about: “It’s a law of life. Can’t fight the changing tide. What will you sacrifice? Will you be left behind? Are you looking forward to a better past?” On the beautiful piano ballad “Be Strong“, he encourages us to remain steadfast and resilient in the face of those changes: “You wait a lifetime, and then one moment can change your life. So many questions, keep searching for answers that aren’t easy to find./ Be strong, you’re stronger than you’ll ever know.” And on the bittersweet folk-rock track “Retrospect“, he speaks to the heartache and pain of moving on from a relationship that’s ended. “To say goodbye is the hardest part, but like the continents we drifted apart. The broken promise brings a tear to our eyes as we kiss for the very last time.”

Then there are the songs that are the most deeply personal for Ewan. The title track “Forever Love” is a lovely piano ballad written for his young daughter, and expressing the joy she brings him: “And every day you give me is a little miracle. Cause you’re my forever love.” Along a similar theme, the poignant “You Don’t Get A Second Chance At Life” is a conversation between a parent and child, in which the parent offers advice for living their best life: “So fall in love. Try to be kind. But speak the words that are on your mind./ Spread your love and share your time. Leave all your dark thoughts far behind. You don’t get a second chance at life.” The hard-driving rocker “The Call of Home” is a heartwarming ode to his beloved home town of Edinburgh: “Around every corner, another vista to break your heart. We’ve been apart far too long. I feel the call of home.” His guitar work is particularly good, a colorful mix of shimmery notes and thunderous riffs.

Perhaps the most personal song of all is album closer “Two Hearts“, which Ewan composed while writing his own wedding speech. He recalls “I was not for a minute trying to contrive a love song for my future wife but it just kind of happened.” The song is appropriately beautiful and heartfelt, with him singing of his love and devotion, and how his bride has made him a better man. “You took my hand. Made me a man. You’ve made me better than I’ve ever been. Come walk with me through hopes and dreams, and together we’ll take the world head on. Two hearts will beat as one.” It’s a fitting song with which to end this wonderful, uplifting album.

Forever Love is a first-rate, meticulously-crafted work, and a very impressive debut by this talented musician. I hope we’ll be hearing more great music from Mr. Patrick soon.

Connect with Ewan:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream his music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple MusicYouTube

Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

Fresh New Tracks Vol. IX

It’s been a while since my last installment of Fresh New Tracks, and truth be told, I’ve been rather hesitant to do more of these posts, as I suspect a lot of artists don’t appreciate sharing the limelight with others. That said, there’s just so much great music being released nearly every day, and my time to write posts and reviews is limited, so combine them I must.

For my latest installment, I’ve chosen new singles by three of my favorite indie artists, all prolific musicians who possess really beautiful singing voices – Australian singer-songwriter G. Samedi, American singer-songwriter The Frontier, and Canadian-American singer-songwriter Shimmer Johnson. I’ve previously featured each of them on this blog numerous times, and love their new songs so much that I have to share them.

“Rearview” by G. Samedi

Sam looking cool as always

G. Samedi is the music project of Sam Dawes, a remarkably talented and dangerously charismatic singer-songwriter from Sydney, Australia. He’s also lead vocalist and songwriter for the wonderful soul/funk/jazz/pop band Thunder Fox, who I’ve written about several times as well. He has a distinctive soulful and silky vocal style that effortlessly glides from smooth, sultry croons to a plaintive falsetto and back again. Drawing from R&B, soul, trip hop, electronic and alternative rock elements, Sam creates moody and sensuous soundscapes for the expression of his bold lyrics addressing the darker and more introspective aspects of love and relationships. He writes all his own music and lyrics, records and programs all instruments, sings all vocals, and produces and mixes all tracks. The only think he outsources is the mastering.  

While still actively involved with Thunder Fox, who will be releasing their second album next month, Sam began recording and producing some of his songs as a solo artist in early 2020. In less than two years, he’s released an astonishing 10 singles, one of which, “Icarus”, I reviewed this past May. His latest is “Rearview”, which dropped October 16th, and it’s another stunning & dreamy track. I love all the colorful instruments and sounds he incorporates into the song, highlighted by sparkling synths, enchanting organ, and a mix of shimmery and gnarly guitar notes. As always, his layered vocals are smooth, sensuous and incredibly emotive.    

Connect with G. Samedi: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

“On the Other Side” by The Frontier

Jake sharing a moment with his trusty sidekick Atlas

Regular readers of this blog know I’m a huge fan of The Frontier – aka Jake Mimikos, who’s based in Fairfax County, Virginia. Jake is an enormously talented guy with a kindness and sense of humor to match, and I’m quite fond of him both as an artist and human. Since 2015, he’s released an impressive amount of music both as a solo artist and as a band under The Frontier moniker, and we’ve been following each other on social media for nearly that long. Drawing upon elements of pop, folk, rock and electronica, his music is always incredibly pleasing and flawlessly crafted. As with many singer-songwriters, Jake’s songs are often inspired by personal experiences, and deal with love, relationships and loss. He prefers to write lyrics that are honest and straightforward, as if he were having a conversation with a friend. I’ve loved all of his songs, and have featured several on this blog, most recently “Shattered”, which I reviewed this past July. Two of his singles, “Dark Places” (from 2019) and “Can We Go Back” (from earlier this year) reached #1 on my Weekly Top 30, while “Sleep” (released in late 2020) reached #2.

On October 15th, he dropped his latest single “On the Other Side”, a beautiful song with heartfelt lyrics directed at a former romantic partner that’s hurt him, and who he now wants to try and get over: “Gotta get my head right, gotta get you out of my mind. Tell me what it feels like on the other side.” About the song, Jake told the blog Cool Top 20The music for this song came to me, oddly enough, when I was creating a video on Tik Tok. At the time, I was just messing around and posting little videos of me playing with my looper pedal. One of the loops I created had this really cool lead part over this simple progression. When I heard it I knew instantly I wanted to develop it a bit more and turn it into a song. You can hear the lead guitar part over most of the song in the background. It’s really simple, but to me it was the coolest thing hearing it come together.” It sounds very cool indeed Jake!

Connect with The Frontier: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

“Starts with You” by Shimmer Johnson

Shimmer working her magic

Let’s kick the mood into high gear with a hot new dance-pop song, “Starts with You” by Shimmer Johnson. Originally from Edmonton, Canada and now based in Los Angeles, Shimmer has an incredibly beautiful and resonant singing voice. Her clear, pitch-perfect vocals are strong, but with a raw vulnerability that beautifully conveys the subtle yet powerful emotions expressed in her heartfelt lyrics, enabling us to connect with her songs on a deeply personal level. In addition to her amazing vocal talents, she’s also a fine guitarist and pianist, and has collaborated with several songwriters and producers to create an impressive repertoire of outstanding songs over the past few years. She started out singing Country songs, but eventually transitioned to a more adult contemporary pop sound. 

I’ve featured Shimmer several times on this blog, most recently this past June when I reviewed her powerfully moving single “It’s Fate’s Turn”. Her latest single “Starts with You”, released on October 15th, sees her venture into dance-pop, and I absolutely love it! Co-written by Shimmer, her husband Corey, and Ted Perlman, the song features an infectiously upbeat dance groove guaranteed to have even the biggest wallflowers on their feet and swaying their hips. It’s essentially a song of love that starts off with the singer feeling a bit unsure about her new lover’s intentions: “All alone feeling emptiness. She’s leaving. He won’t see me. What I need, I can’t breathe” but ends up with her feeling happy and secure: “He does see me. What I need to be free (Feel this moment). He helps me see all the things I can be.” I love the funky little Nile Rodgers-like guitar riff and Shimmer’s smooth, breezy vocals. It’s a great track that’s already one of my favorites of her many songs, and I’m certain it will be a hit.

Connect with Shimmer:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

JADED JANE & OLIVIA RUFF – Single Review: “Bogotá”

As a music blogger, I’ve gotten to know hundreds or perhaps even thousands of musicians and bands over the past six years, many of whom I’ve written about on this blog. And like many relationships – whether casual or deep – that each of us form throughout our lives with neighbors, classmates, co-workers, social media followers or even fellow bloggers, the same goes for artists. For a variety of reasons, we sometimes just connect with certain people on a deeper, more meaningful level and, over time, develop a genuine friendship based on mutual admiration and respect.

Axel and Adam Olsson

One such artist I’ve grown quite fond of is Axel Jane Olsson, who along with his brother Adam make up the Swedish act Jaded Jane. Since learning about them in early 2019, I’ve come to admire these guys, both for their wonderful, uplifting music and the positive vibes they spread through their kindness, love and joy. Originally from Gothenburg, Sweden, and now split between Gothenburg and Glasgow, Scotland, the duo celebrate humanity and diversity through their music, writing compelling songs with positive, life-affirming lyrics and delivered with gorgeous piano-driven melodies and lush soundscapes. The brothers are hard-working and prolific musicians, and have released six outstanding albums since 2015, most recently Everythism in April, along with numerous singles. I’ve previously written about them three times, including an extensive artist spotlight and interview in April 2019, and a review in April 2020 of their gorgeous song “Heaven is Heart” (which ranks #71 on my Top 100 Songs of 2020 list). You can read those reviews by clicking on the “Related” links at the end of this post.

Now Jaded Jane is back with a beautiful new single “Bogotá“, which dropped September 10th. The song is a collaboration with soulful-voiced American singer-songwriter Olivia Ruff, her father Michael Ruff (a Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter and BMI and Cable Ace Award winner who’s worked with such notable artists as India Arie, Bonnie Raitt, David Sanborn, Lionel Richie, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole, Kenny Loggins, Ricky Lee Jones, Diane Schuur, John Lee Hooker and The Jacksons), and Swedish drummer Per Lindvall, who’s played drums for many Swedish artists and bands, including ABBA, as well as in the Michael Ruff Band.

Olivia Ruff (photo by Mallory Francks)

An uplifting song about living in the present and recognizing yourself in a loved one’s smile, “Bogotá” was written by Axel in 2017 while on a plane to Colombia. For the song’s recording, he sang lead vocals, played Moog bass and various instruments, his brother Adam played acoustic guitar, Olivia Ruff sang backing vocals, Michael Ruff played piano, organ and synths, and Per Lindvall played drums. Others involved in the recording and/or production include Rubens Millet Herrera on percussion, Jerry Sillah and Bylund Strings & Horns on vocal recordings and edits, and Åke Linton on engineering and sound mixing. The beautiful artwork for the single was designed by Tora Söderberg.

The song has a breezy retro 80s pop vibe, thanks no doubt to the influence of Michael Ruff and his experience working with many artists from that time period. But it also sounds refreshing and current, with a sunny, almost exotic feel. The combination of Michael’s sparking keyboards and Axel’s pulsating Moog bass, accompanied by Per’s gentle drumbeats, make for an incredibly pleasing listen and a perfect backdrop for Axel and Olivia’s captivating vocal harmonies as they sing of love’s simple joys: “Bogotá, I see heaven in your eyes. Bogotá, you find ways to make me smile. Tonight we’ll stay in this moment, to share the purest love we have. In love, together we are strong“.

Connect with Jaded Jane:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Tidal
Purchase on iTunesBandcamp