BARBARA – Single Review: “Waiting Outside Alone”

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Connect with Barbara: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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

CAITLIN LAVAGNA – Single Review: “Night Bus”

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

Photo by Akta Photography

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

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

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

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

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

I’m so tired…

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

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

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

I’m so tired…

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

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

Woahhh

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

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

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

Connect with Caitlin:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream her song:  Spotify / Apple MusicYouTube

GRANFALLOON – Album Review: “CALENDAR”

I continue to be astounded by all the creativity and talent coming out of the British music scene, and one of my favorites (who I’ve been following for several years) is Granfalloon, the music project of Manchester-based singer-songwriter, producer and guitarist Richard Lomax. Using acoustic guitars, synthesizers and drum loops, along with unusual instruments such as vintage Omnichords, the engaging, curly-haired artist creates his own unique style of music that’s a pleasing hybrid of lo-fi alternative folk, experimental and electronica. His songs are enchanting little stories touching on the many idiosyncrasies of everyday life, but with a dollop of quirky surrealism to keep them fun. And his warm, soothing vocals, delivered with a lighthearted cheekiness and charming accent, are so wonderful I would literally enjoy hearing him sing the telephone book. Simply put, his songs make me feel happy.

Since forming Granfalloon in late 2016, Lomax has released a fairly steady stream of singles and albums, beginning with his debut album Down There For Dancing in 2017. He followed two years later with his beautiful second album RGB, then dropped his marvelous third album Positive Songs in August 2021, a collaborative work featuring 11 tracks produced for The Positive Song Project, launched by Lomax and his friend Lobelia Lawson during the first lockdown of 2020. They invited songwriters to create new music by challenging themselves to focus on positive aspects and feelings, rather than negative or depressing songs about feeling isolated and bored during lockdown. The response was overwhelming, resulting in the creation of over 300 tracks by artists from around the world. (I reviewed two of the tracks from Positive Songs – “Working On Your Own” and “The Pigeon” – which you can read by clicking on the Related links at the end of this post.)

Now he’s back with his fourth album Calendar, featuring 12 delightful tracks. I’ll leave it to him to explain his inspiration behind the album’s creation: “The roots of this album can be traced back to 2014, when I was recording a debut album with my previous band. It was the 13th time I had recorded that album. Getting it right was proving difficult… A different approach was needed to keep things fresh. I would write new songs, one every week, without perfectionism weighing down the process. By the end of 2014 I had amassed 52 new songs, each one reflecting the week I’d experienced, all framed as fevered journal entries. After founding Granfalloon in 2016 and releasing two albums, I went into the studio in February of 2020 to begin the task of committing definitive versions of the songs from my ’52 Project’.

Obviously the pandemic put the project on hold and ironically, now everyone had a double album of songs squirrelled away. But I never wrote because I had too much time on my hands. Writing has always been a matter of necessity for me. I returned to the studio again in 2021 with a core band from the Positive Songs Project to whittle down the original 52 to 12 songs. These 12 songs comprise this new album ‘Calendar’.”

In addition to Lomax, who sang lead vocals and played guitars, Wurlizter, Omnichord and melodica, a host of other musicians contributed their talents on some or all of the songs, adding a colorful kaleidoscope of instrumental sounds and textures: Daz Woodcock (bass, vocals, organ, keys), Andy Lyth (drums, percussion, banjo), Cleg (guitars, mandolin, vocals), Garreth Knott (trumpet), Sarah-Jane Pearson (vocals), Caffs Burgis (vocals, synths), Dom Major (guitars), Ellie Boney (cello), George Burrage (violin), Robin Melinda Koob (violin), Molly Becker (violin), Tim Davies (drums), Jack Wakeman (bass), and Jason Alder (contrabass clarinet).

The songs encompass an array of styles, from the exotically folksy “Witch of Woodplumpton” and seductively bluesy “Eulerian Circles“, to the whimsically poppy “Bee on a String” and Americana-tinged “A Year After the Party Died“. But the one thing they all have in common is their outstanding arrangements, instrumentation and production values. The album kicks off with “Archive“, which opens with Jason Alder’s fascinating contrabass clarinet notes, nicely accompanied by twangy guitars, George Burrage’s violin, Ellie Boney’s cello, Tim Davies’ military-style drumbeats. and Sarah-Jane Pearson’s gentle vocals.

I like all the songs of Calendar, but I’ll call out some of the standouts for me, as well as some particularly lovely little moments heard on a few tracks. The aforementioned “Witch of Woodplumpton” is pleasing, but with a mysterious undercurrent, and lyrics that speak to the historic and ongoing oppression of women: “From Mary of Eden to Joan of Arc, we’ve been burning and burying you from the start. You have to dig your way out of your own grave.” Richard’s intricate guitar work is sublime, and I think I also hear Cleg’s sweet mandolin notes. And once again, we’re treated to Sarah-Jane Pearson’s smooth backing vocals, Ellie’s lovely cello, and George’s violin, with added violin by Robin Melinda Koob for good measure.

Paint It By Numbers” is a cheeky number sung from the perspective of a professor who can only express their love through mathematical figures: “Shall I compare thee to the fundamental theorem of algrebaic K-theory? Like Pythagorus said, something’s deeply irrational about the square root of 2 where the 2 are me and U. Let me show you the numbers. Tell you in numbers. Lay down the numbers. Paint it by numbers 4 U.

Far and away the highlight for me on the album is the thoroughly enchanting “Please Write Responsibly“, which tells the story of an innocently-written song that goes rogue: “This yarn had caused more harm than was ever my intention. I’d only scribbled words on paper, I hadn’t wanted this destruction. I mean, whoever got hurt by a story? What song brought a government to its knees? What poem dismantled a tank, or started World War 3? And As I tracked the trail of carnage caused by my fantasy, it leapt right out of my computer screen and began to attack me. My Story tore me limb from limb, all the while screaming with glee: ‘Words are more powerful than you ever could conceive So please write responsibly!’” The beguiling song features the musical handiwork of Richard and Dom Major on guitars, Molly Becker on violin, Daz Woodcock and bass, and Andy Lyth on the sweet banjo. I love this song, which is currently enjoying an extended run on my Weekly Top 30.

Another favorite is the bouncy “Bee on a String“, with its lively guitars and Garreth Knott’s warm trumpet. The lyrics describing a woman who keeps a bee on a string trapped in a tupperware box in her refrigerator are an allegory for keeping her man similarly under her control: “I know you’re fascinated by me but won’t you let me be free? Why won’t you let me bee free? O must you keep me in a deep freeze. It makes me sleep so you keep me, and she keeps bees in a deep freeze...”

O Joyce” tells the story of a Joyce over a 60-plus period of years, beginning with how her mother bought a pet Macaw who she named Bobby Corwen when Joyce was a young child. It’s a cute little ditty, with some nice trumpets by Garreth and guitar, Wurlizter and Omnichord by Richard. I also like how he whispers in a slightly seductive voice, “Joyce, make us a cuppa tea“, after each verse.

All My Old Lovers (live on the same street)” is a rather wistful, introspective song about past loves, loss, and the need to move on and away from judgmental neighbors and gossiping tongues: “All the meetings they’ll have about this and that, make you feel so exposed. In a small town like this all you do is exist. This is no place to heal. It’s time to move on – You can’t live here any more.” The song is lovely, with a bit of a melancholy undercurrent, highlighted by gentle chiming guitar notes, cello and violin. Richard’s smooth vocals convey a slightly sad sense of resignation.

In a similar vein, “The Day the Party Died” speaks to loss and the passage of time, with references to several mythical characters like Ahab, Peter Pan and Cupid to drive home the inevitable changes that happen with time. Not all of these changes are for the better, expressed in the lyrics “They’ve turned the club into a takeaway. They’ve turned the pub into a takeaway. They’ve turned our home into a takeaway.”

But then on the album closer “Rushmore“, Granfalloon admonishes us to look to the future with hope and optimism, and not dwell in the past: “Don’t waste your life on a memory. The wind will change, both kind and strange. It’s never as dark as you think.” The song is another favorite of mine, as I love the dramatic shimmery electric guitars and beautiful soaring vocal harmonies in the chorus. It’s a fine finish to a delightfully charming album. With Calendar, Richard and his fellow musicians have created a lovely and thoughtful work that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable listen, for which they should be very proud.

Follow Granfalloon:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

His albums are only available as a digital download on Bandcamp and in CD format, though several of his singles are also available for streaming on SpotifyApple Music & Soundcloud.

WILD HORSE – Single Review: “Bitter”

Hailing from East Sussex, England is the talented and charismatic young pop-rock band Wild Horse, consisting of brothers Henry and Jack Baldwin and long-time friend Ed Barnes. Now in their early 20s, the guys are seasoned musicians who’ve been writing and recording songs since forming in 2013, when they were barely teenagers. Both Henry and Jack are multi-instrumentalists who play guitar, bass and keyboards, as well as sing vocals, while Ed plays drums and percussion, sings backing vocals and plays guitar on a few tracks. The Baldwin brothers are also prolific songwriters who’ve penned hundreds of songs over the years, with five albums, three EPs and numerous singles to their credit. I’ve been following them on social media for nearly five years, and have reviewed two of their albums, DANCE!! Like An Animal in 2019, and When the Pool Is Occupied this past December, which you can read here. 

Always keeping busy and productive, Wild Horse has recorded a number of new singles which they plan on releasing this year, starting with “Joy Ride” this past June. They now follow up with a second single “Bitter“, which drops today. The song explores the emotional minefield of casual romantic relationships, in which one partner desires a ‘no strings’ arrangement with the freedom to see other people, leaving the other partner feeling dissatisfied, insecure and generally unhappy.

I really like the song’s breezy, guitar-driven melody, which nicely contrasts with the poignant, rather ‘bitter’ lyrics. As always, the guitar work is first-rate, accompanied by a lively rhythm section that keeps the toe-tapping groove going, while allowing the guitars and vocals to shine. Jack’s endearing, heartfelt vocals sound better than ever here, and we feel his sad resignation as he plaintively laments “A little bit of feeling’s what I need. And just a little bit of pleasure’s all you want. And now I’m stuck here in the middle, playing games. I really thought we could have talked this out by now. I’m just a little bitter.”

“Bitter” is a wonderful track, nicely showcasing Wild Horse’s continuing growth and maturity as a band.

Connect with Wild Horse:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

SAM RAPPAPORT – Single Review: “Easy to Love”

There are so many outstanding artists around today who are creating some really excellent music. One of my favorite finds of the past year is Sam Rappaport, a talented and affable singer-songwriter based in Brooklyn, New York. His mellow music style draws from elements of adult contemporary pop, folk, rock, soul and jazz, which he delivers with thoughtful, relatable lyrics and beautiful, pleasing vocals.

I first featured him on this blog last November, when I reviewed his wonderful single “Journeyman’s Ballet”. At the time, he was also a member of the indie R&B/blues rock band Gooseberry, who I’ve also written about, but he amicably parted ways with them in May to pursue his solo career. (Both “Journeyman’s Ballet” and Gooseberry’s single “Sleep” spent many weeks on my Weekly Top 30 earlier this year.) Now Sam is back with a new song “Easy to Love“, which is the lead single from his forthcoming debut EP Get Me Away From Myself.

Produced by Lorenzo Wolff and recorded at Restoration Sound Studio in Brooklyn, NY, “Easy to Love” explores both the difficulty and ease of falling in love, and the conflicting emotions of fear and desire inherent in romantic intimacies. “I think it’s about dating apps. A Tinder anthem of sorts. But I also think it’s about fear and desire, intimacy and suffocation“, says Sam.

For recording of the track, Sam played piano and Wurlitzer, and sang vocals, Lorenzo Wolff played bass, synths, acoustic guitar, baritone guitar, tuba and vibraphone, Dave Scalia played drums and percussion, Ryan Weisheit played saxophone, and Tiffany Wilson sang backing vocals. The song starts off slowly, with a gentle drumbeat and strummed acoustic guitar as Sam softly croons the lyrics, then gradually builds as a colorful array of instruments are added to create an exuberant, almost celebratory vibe. The arrangement and production are first-rate, and I love how each instrument can clearly be heard, particularly Sam’s dulcet piano keys, Lorenzo’s subtle bass and fuzzy vibraphone, and Ryan’s jazzy sax.

As always, Sam’s warm vocals are pure delight, beautifully conveying the casual, somewhat detached but rather bemused emotions expressed in the lyrics, and nicely accompanied by Tiffany’s lilting backup vocals. As it’s title suggests, “Easy to Love” is just that. It’s another fine single by Sam, and I look forward to the release of his EP.

Some people search for love for their entire lives
They sit in dim lit bars
They try to turn the waitress to a wife
They beat their head against the wall
Cause there's no finger for the ring
But I'm not mining for a heartbreak
That's the thing

They tell me finding love is rather hard
They take a redeye to Chicago with a Valentines Day card
They say this will last forever
But if it leaves it won't come back
I'm not saying it's a good thing
But it's easier than that

The way you laugh makes me tingle
The way you touch me makes me cry
And I know I'll end up leaving in the night
It's just too easy to love
And that's why

Some people search for love their entire lives
They say it might come once so don't think twice
They say hold on once you've got it
Else it's likely to be gone
But there's a billion people out there
That's what's wrong

The way you laugh makes me tingle
The way you touch me makes me cry
I know I'll end up leaving in the night
It's just too easy to love
And that's why

The wonderful photos were taken by Grace Rivera.

Connect with Sam on Instagram

Sam’s music may be found on: Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube / Amazon / Bandcamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stream/purchase Rick’s music: BandcampSpotifyApple MusicYouTube

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