AISHIA – Single Review: “Aura of Gold (The First Meeting)”

aishia

As EclecticMusicLover, I’m always thrilled when given the opportunity to write about artists from around the world. Today I’m featuring a second artist from Malaysia – the lovely and talented young singer-songwriter Aishia, who just released her beautiful debut single “Aura of Gold (The First Meeting)“. Born and raised in Mumbai, India, she now lives in Kuala Lumpur (like the Malaysian artist Lyia Meta who I featured earlier this month). Only 17 years old, Aishia has a golden voice, with maturity and vocal ability that seems far beyond her tender age.

She began writing songs at the age of 12 and started proper vocal training at 15, though she had performed in small events and gatherings in Kuala Lumpur, which helped her gain experience performing. Like most artists, Aishia loves music, and had this to say: “Music is a part of me; no matter where I go, I need to be able to create music. It’s who I am and something I love doing. I’m also always listening to as many different kinds of music I can get my hands on. It keeps me inspired and motivated to create new things.”  Some of her musical inspirations include such varied artists as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ed Sheeran, Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift, Estrella Morente, Stromae, Sofia Ellar, Henry Mancini and Michel Legrand.

“Aura of Gold” is the first single from her forthcoming debut album of the same name, scheduled for release in March. The album is an experimental concept album, co-written and produced by Malaysian composer and music producer Zameer. Her main aim in putting the concept album Aura of Gold together was to create an almost cinematic environment through which its music could successfully tell the story of two people who fall in love, but eventually have to part ways due to events beyond their control.  Zameer told me they used mostly orchestral instruments to create the organic sounds, with no modern synths or FX.

The enchanting song has a lush, sweeping soundscape of Indian and Middle Eastern influences, delivered by a rich array of instruments, including sitar, tabla, flute, violin and other Indian and Middle Eastern string and percussion instruments. The music evokes the mystery and romance of the legendary stories of Scheherazade and the Arabian Nights. Aishia’s clear, strong vocals are beautiful and captivating as she sings to a new lover: “You came with the fire of life in your eyes. Walking towards me like some heavenly sight. I recalled your face from those ancient times. Aura of gold, silvery lights.”

“Aura of Gold (The First Meeting)” is a gorgeous song, and a promising debut from this very talented young woman. She and Zameer have created something quite wonderful, and I cannot wait to hear the whole album.

Connect with Aishia:  Facebook / Instagram / Twitter
Stream/purchase “Aura of Gold” on  Spotify / SoundcloudiTunes 

STUART BLANCE – Album Review: “Utopia”

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Stuart Blance is a talented and thoughtful singer-songwriter from Perth, Scotland. (He also happens to be a terrific landscape and events photographer.)  He’s been writing and recording songs since 1999, and in 2001 he released his debut CD Utopia, an ambitious work featuring 13 tracks covering genres ranging from folk and Americana to pop and rock. In the years since, he has performed in venues throughout Scotland and also in London, and recorded several singles, three of which are included on his 2018 EP On Your Side.  Given the renewed interest in his music, Stuart felt the time was right for Utopia to be heard again, and so the album was re-released in digital form in December 2018, and I have the pleasure of reviewing it today. The songs all sound as fresh and relevant now as they did when they were recorded nearly two decades ago.

Stuart’s engaging music style is characterized primarily by gently-strummed acoustic guitar, often accompanied by percussive synths and occasional subtle bass notes. His contemplative lyrics touch on oft-covered subjects of life, humanity, heartache and pain, with the goal of sharing uplifting messages of hope and optimism. This is clear on the opening track “Lifeline“, where he urges us to stay true to ourselves in finding our way forward in life: “You’ve got it all, don’t throw your life away. And you’ll see where your path lies. Just follow your lifeline. The future lies ahead, it’s yours to keep.” So too on the title track “Utopia” a pleasant folk song where he extols the virtues of positive thinking and striving to be a good person: “You may be a dreamer, seeing good when it’s not there. Or maybe a believer in being kind and fair. Even if you’re feeling low, always try and smile.” And on Burnout“, he gently advises us to not push ourselves to the breaking point: “Slow down, take a short break. Just take your time. Enjoy the ride. You’re heading for a burnout.”

Several of the tracks on Utopia are really lovely and deeply moving. One of my favorites is “Memories“, a beautiful song with strummed guitar and delicate atmospheric synths that create a haunting, yet enthralling soundscape for Stuart’s calm, soothing vocals. He wistfully sings about revisiting past experiences that shaped his life: “Memories keep flooding back. Creeping into places that I haven’t been to in quite a while. Diaries kept for years on end. Words unheard for decades. Untold secrets brought to life. Oh I feel so at ease about these old memories. Won’t you please reminisce with me about these old memories?

Another favorite is “Slower Than the Flow“, a languid, hymn-like song in which he asks compelling questions for which simple answers continue to elude us: “Why do people go through life with their eyes closed? Why so many people without homes? Why can’t we take some time to look around us? Spare a thought and show someone you care. / Why must we fight like little children? Why must it always end in tears? Why is the root of violence in religion? When will the stigma disappear?

On the amusing “Fact or Folklore“, Stuart playfully ponders a number of fairy tale myths with droll satire: “Did Jack climb his beanstock, was Goldilocks so pure? She slept with the three bears, then went back for more. / Did Humpty Dumpty fall? I heard at first they shot him, then kicked him off the wall. / Climb over the rainbow, we’ll meet the Wicked Witch. She thinks that she’s scary, but she’s a stupid bitch.” And yet another personal favorite is “Anytime“, one of the most interesting tracks on the album from a music standpoint, and also the longest, clocking in at six minutes. The song opens with fluttering spacey synths which gradually fade into the background as Stuart’s pleasing layered acoustic guitar notes and smooth vocals enter the mix. The synths return to the forefront as the guitars fade, and continue through to the end as the song closes on a mysterious and atmospheric air.

Stuart switches gears in a big way on the final two tracks, replacing his laid-back folk persona with a punk-rock alter-ego. “Groovy People” is a simple but fun tune about partying with cool people in a hot club, delivered with chugging riffs of fuzzy guitars and a rousing drumbeat. Stuart’s vocals sound completely different here, with a bit of an early David Bowie twang. Even better is “Comin’ On Up“, where he really lets loose with hard-driving riffs of gnarly guitar and buzzing bass, set to a heavy thumping drumbeat. I really love this track, and want to hear more of this side of him! Some might feel these last two tracks don’t belong on what is otherwise an acoustic folk album, but I think it’s perfectly fine, and makes for a great, upbeat ending to an excellent work.

Connect with Stuart on Facebook / Twitter
Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase through his website https://stuartblance.com/store and some songs are also available on Bandcamp

SARAH MAY – Single Review: “Because I Turned You Down”

Sarah May is a seasoned singer/songwriter and music producer based in London, England who’s been writing and recording songs since she was a teen. Only a month ago, in early December 2018, she impressed us with her release of a beautiful and haunting single “Nothing to You”. The song addressed the pain of unrequited love and being obsessed with someone who has no feelings for you, and showcased Sarah’s captivating, yet understated vocal style. (You can read my review here.)  She now returns with a new single “Because I Turned You Down“, a bold track with brutally frank lyrics that speak to female empowerment, specifically with regard to the expectations some men have about dating and sex. It’s an incredibly satisfying song from both a musical and message standpoint.

Sarah wrote the music and lyrics and produced the track, with mixing and mastering done by James Preston. The music consists primarily of subtle keyboard and percussive synths set to a thumping dance beat. As the track progresses, bits of spacey and wobbly synths provide added texture to the music, but still allow Sarah’s smooth, clear vocals to shine as she defiantly sings the no-holds-barred lyrics:

Can you try to understand
I don’t hate you just cause you’re a man
I just hate the way you think
And the way you treat women
Yeah, you’re simply a dick
To you it comes as a surprise
That a girl can go out drinking with the guys
And end the night in her own bed
Without giving you head in the taxi ride

Do you think that’s how you pull a girl
Buy her a drink and throw your cliche lines at her
Just cause I’m drunk, doesn’t mean that its okay
So take your hands off me, please pull yourself away

And because I turned you down, you say that I’m a bitch
I must be a lesbian or some kind of hardcore feminist
I should feel lucky that you showed interest in me
Cause I’m ugly, I’m not worthy of your time
I’m some kind of hippie freak

Connect with Sarah May: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase her music on Spotify / Soundcloud / iTunes

LYIA META – Single Review: “All of My Love”

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I’ve featured a number of international artists on this blog, and one of my favorites is Malaysian singer/songwriter Lyia Meta. Based in the beautiful capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Lyia is a stunning woman with a voice to match. With her deep, resonant vocal style, she’s become an international star, having won numerous music awards over the past three years, including the VIMA (Voice Independent Music Award, representing multiple countries in Southeast Asia) for Best Overall Female Act in 2016, the GLOBAL Music Award and Radio Wigwam (UK) Award for Best Female Artist in 2017, and the 2018 Josie World Music Artist Award, which was presented to her last September at the world’s largest independent awards show, in Tennessee. She also happens to be an amazingly talented visual artist!

In early 2018, Lyia released her enchanting single “Without Walls”, which I reviewed and liked so much it earned a spot on my Top 100 Songs of 2018. In December, she dropped her latest single “All of My Love“, a powerful pop/rock anthem written by award winning British singer/songwriter and producer Paul Michael Curtis. She usually writes her own songs, but said “All of My Love” really resonated with her when Paul pitched it to her. The song is the perfect vehicle for Lyia, as her commanding vocals hold their own against the soaring instrumentals.

The song has a throwback 80s feel, reminiscent of some of the pop-rock anthems of that period, but with an updated sound. The beautiful, sweeping instrumentals are marvelous, especially the piano and lush strings, and the hard rock guitar riffs add a nice bit of drama to the track. Lyia passionately sings of her longing for someone she still loves and can’t get over, despite the fact they’re no longer together. “But I’m still waiting, and I can’t let go. My heart is breaking and I want you to know. You’ve got all of my love, and all of my heart. I believed you when you said we’d never be apart.” It’s a great song, and so is the video, which features a dynamic mix of lovely and bittersweet visuals.

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

SARAH MAY – Single Review: “Nothing to You”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JAMES BAKIAN – Single Review: “Terrified”

James Bakian Terrified

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

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

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

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

ALEXIS GERRED – Album Review: “Alexis”

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

Alexis album

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

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

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

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

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

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

MELOTIKA Releases New Video for “Bittersweet Reality”

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

Melotika

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

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

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

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

HANNAH CLIVE – Single Review: “Remember to Breathe”

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

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

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

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

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

VERIS – Single Review: “Gimme More”

VERIS Gimme More

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

Veris

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

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

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

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

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