A BLUE FLAME – Album Review: “When Your Whole World Turns to Dust”

When You're Whole World Turns to Dust

British singer/songwriter Richard Stone – who goes by the artistic name A Blue Flame –tells compelling stories about life, love, faith, loss and heartbreak through poetic, heartfelt lyrics and sublime melodies. And though he’s not as concerned about the music or sound of his songs as he is the lyrics, I think they sound just right. His songs reflect an eclectic range of styles from doo-wop and old-school pop to easy listening ballads, folk and rock. Plus, his smooth, clear vocals are pleasing to the ear and perfectly suit his thoughtful lyrics.

Following up on his phenomenal 2016 album What We’ve Become is All That Now Remains, which I reviewed, A Blue Flame dropped When Your Whole World Turns to Dust at the end of September 2017. (he does seem to like long album titles!) He takes a somewhat darker tone on this album; many of the song lyrics are sad or bittersweet, speaking to failed relationships, regret, or disillusionment with the state of things. And yet they’re lovely to listen to and never depressing, offering glimmers of optimism and hope.

He writes all his songs and plays guitar on all the tracks. He arranges them with assistance from Adam Ellis, who co-produces and also plays guitar.  Other session musicians add their skills to the mix as needed, including Damon Claridge on drums, Andy Robertson on bass and keyboards, and Tony Robinson on keyboards and horns.

A Blue Flame 2

Back to the Stars” kicks things off with a languid tempo that feels rather like a sad slow dance, as a somber trumpet takes center stage. Soft tinkling of piano keys, a lightly strummed acoustic guitar and gentle snare drums complete the music. With an air of melancholy in his voice, A Blue Flame croons a message of hope and redemption: “When your whole world turns to dust. And all that you’ve known lies shattered and torn in undiluted sorrow. Look at the sky up above and know that you’re loved. Look up and know that you’re loved. And we’ll go back to the stars.”

The sad theme continues with “We Feel Like We Feel,” a beautiful but wistful song with layers of twangy strummed guitars, organ and a soft snare drum. The poignant lyrics speak to a relationship in which the feelings that once drew them together have drained away, leaving them feeling emotionally empty:  “Fleeting bittersweet memory. We found things that you can’t see. Every day we wake up wondering how the day starts. All we can feel is the cold of the steel in our hearts.” “Don’t Wait” is an uptempo pop tune with jangly guitar, piano and smooth trumpet.  A Blue Flame urges us to not waste any more time clinging to fear, self-doubt and regret, and to just “Strip off, dive in and swim.”

One of my favorites is “21st Century Blues,” a catchy song with a hook that would make Burt Bacharach proud. Tony Robinson’s bold trumpet has a starring role, with keyboards, piano and guitar adding to the great instrumental mix. The lively rock guitar riff in the bridge gives the track an extra jolt of energy.

The Future’s a Mystery” is a lovely little song about not worrying about what the future may bring, and just enjoying what we have now: “The future’s a mystery, let’s get on with living today.” A slow doo-wop beat and a beguiling trumpet are defining elements of the hopeful “A Better Way.” A Blue Flame advocates a solution for getting out of our funk: “All we need are easy days to chase the blues away. Let’s find a better way.”

One of the prettiest but also saddest tracks is “The Words Wouldn’t Form” a bittersweet song about feeling heartbroken over someone who’s left you for another. A Blue Flame’s doleful vocals convey a deep sadness as he sings: “I don’t know why I could not say goodbye. Darling I don’t know why the words wouldn’t form.” Musically the song features a gentle strummed guitar, lovely flute and xylophone, and the backing chorus is beautiful. A celtic-sounding flute and acoustic guitar are a sweet backdrop on “All We Need to Know.” The lyrics speak to the honest realization that a relationship was not going to survive. With a hint of cynicism, he admonishes us not to take life so seriously on the peppy “Everything’ s a Lie.” “There’s no need to cry when everything’s a lie. Nothing makes sense anymore. Show me the door.”

A Blue Flame rocks out on the next two tracks. “Empty Head” is a great, hard-hitting song in which he concludes that ignorance is bliss: “Nothing springs to mind. Empty head is here again.” The edgy “See What Tomorrow Brings” is terrific, incorporating touches of psychedelia and punk, and is a song David Bowie could have done. It features heavy guitars, bass and drums, and the distorted guitar riff at the end is awesome. It’s another of my favorites on the album.

The album closes on an optimistic note with “Love Will Set Us Free,” a beguiling song with a similar smooth, slow tempo as the opening track. The piano work is especially sublime, as are A Blue Flame’s vocals and the backing chorus. It’s a fitting end to a unique and wonderful album. His lyrics, music and vocals meld together perfectly, and the album’s production values and music arrangements are outstanding on every level. It all makes for a really beautiful and highly satisfying listen.

Connect with A Blue Flame:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase:  cdbaby / iTunes

VERITY WHITE – Album Review: “Breaking Out”

Verity White Album

Verity White is a singer/songwriter from Cheltenham, UK, and can this woman rock! She plays a bluesy style of alternative rock which, combined with the ferocity of her sultry vocal styling that at times reminds me of Pat Benatar and Joan Jett, makes for a hell of an exciting listen. Verity has been a backing vocalist with the UK band Pendragon, and performed with them on their European tour in 2017. Last November, she released her debut full-length album Breaking Out, which serves as a bold metaphor for this evolutionary next step in her career. With assistance from her husband Alex on guitars and production, Breaking Out delivers 10 stellar tracks.

Verity White

The album kicks off with the audaciously sexy title track “Breaking Out.” Gritty, blues-infused guitars engage in a seductive dance with the steamy bass line and drum beat. The tinkling piano keys in the bridge accentuate Verity’s sultry vocals as she defiantly declares her independence: “I’m worth more than you know. I’m stronger than you know, and I’m better on my own.” Indeed she is, and who are we to argue!

Verity’s amazing vocal range is showcased on “Zeroes and Ones,” where she really seems to channel Pat Benatar. It’s one of the album’s standout tracks, with fantastic instrumentals that complement her powerful vocals that go from soothing to raw.  The dark “Demons in Your Head” offers up fuzzy synths and a heavy buzzing bass line set to a thumping beat. The song’s lyrics speak to personal struggles with emotional issues: “Pop another pill into your mouth. Crumbling because you can’t let it out. Every day’s a constant struggle with the demons in your head. Trying to control you, so you just go back to bed instead.”

Verity let’s her rock goddess alter ego loose on the rousing “I Don’t Care.” With raw energy in her vocals, she sings about not giving a damn and casting aside all self-control on a night of partying: “Gonna drink ’til I can’t remember my name. Gonna drink ’til I can’t be the one to blame.”

See Through” features Alex’s beautiful intricate guitars, mesmerizing synths and Verity’s beguiling vocals, all set to a melodic dance beat. It’s a great song, and one of my favorite tracks on the album. The synth-heavy “Face It” is another gem, and Alex really shines as he lays down lots of gritty riffs. The duo pull out all the stops on the raw, melodically complex “Exhale.” Damn if this isn’t another standout track! Mysterious sweeping synths, snarling guitars, loads of crashing cymbals and a pulse-pounding bass line work in tandem to create a speaker-blowing soundscape. Add generous amounts of Verity’s passionate soaring vocals and you’ve got all the ingredients to raise goosebumps.

Your Darkest Secret” is a hard-driving rocker, with more of Alex’s shredded guitars and Verity’s saucy vocals, while the bluesy “Slow Fall” brings a hypnotic piano riff backed by fuzzy guitars and thumping drums. Album closer “Overcome” is a terrific rock song with awesome multi-layered guitar work. With her raw and sultry vocals on full display, Verity sings “Let the feeling overcome you. Til they’re right into the core. Changing all our dark perceptions. As you ask again for more. Why can’t I feel this way without you?

Breaking Out is a superb debut for Verity White, showcasing not only her mind-blowing vocal abilities, but also her skill for writing songs with compelling lyrics and outstanding melodies. She’s set the bar quite high with this album, but I’m confident she has what it takes to come back with more great music in the future. For now, she’s been touring the UK to promote Breaking Out, and you can catch her next at Mr Wolfs in Bristol, England on January 18th.

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

ADAM COMPTON – Single Review: “Waste a Weekday”

Adam Compton

Adam Compton is a singer/songwriter based in Stevenage, UK, and he just dropped a lovely new single “Waste a Weekday.” The song is a follow up to his excellent debut EP Believe, released earlier this year. Adam also plays in the band Trouble With Tuesday, but wanted to record some of his songs as an acoustic solo act.

“Waste a Weekday” is an uplifting song about just forgetting the outside world and spending a quiet romantic day at home with a loved one. The track has a folk-rock feel, with acoustic guitar that goes from gentle strumming to exuberant and jangly. Smooth, sweeping violin and crisp percussion add subtle dramatic effect that never overpowers. Adam’s pleasing tenor vocals are earnest as he sings:

And we can pretend the world outside don’t exist, yeah
We’re talking over who is gonna have to get the biscuits
To dunk in our tea while we’re binge watching Netflix
We can go outside but why would I do that?
Rather stay in bed watching “Orange is the New Black”
And if I went to work, then I know I’d have to leave her
Being reclusive, ’cause you’re my favorite person to waste a weekday with

Connect with Adam:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music on Spotify & Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes & Amazon

VERIS – Single Review: “Devil in the Details”

Devil in the Details

Boston duo VERIS are quickly establishing themselves as one the most exciting new acts of 2017. Comprised of singer/songwriter/ guitarist AJ Edwards and songwriter/drummer Mark Hylander, VERIS released their fantastic debut single “Opening Night” in June, which I reviewed. Now they’re back with a seductive new single “Devil in the Details.

 

Veris

The song is darker and more musically complex than the bouncy, upbeat “Opening Night.” This time around, VERIS incorporates trap and hip-hop beats, as well as eerily beautiful synthesized instrumentals and altered vocals to create a mysterious and sultry track. The song opens with a gentle synth, then a throbbing bass line enters as AJ fervently sings of being unable to resist the temptress who has him spellbound with desire:

Pull me closer, lock the door and turn the lights off
I don’t want to dive in deeper, but you know I can’t give it up
Test the water, feel my way across your current
Swimming never came this easy, and I know I can’t give it up
You’re the devil in the details

Sexual tension builds as layers of soaring instruments are added along with a recurring shrieking otherworldly vocal that disturbs the rapturous mood, perhaps startling the singer back to reality? AJ’s vocals are backed by a deeper vocal in the chorus, adding to the overall sense of mystery. It’s an amazing song.

 

Follow Veris on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on Spotify and Soundcloud, and purchase on iTunes

VERIS – Single Review: “Opening Night”

I love when I hear a song for the first time and am instantly hooked. Such was the case when I first listened to “Opening Night” by VERIS, after they reached out to me with their debut track. Hailing from Boston, VERIS is singer/songwriter/ guitarist AJ Edwards and songwriter/drummer Mark Hylander, and they’ve got one of the hottest feel-good songs of the summer! It’s a bouncy, catchy romp that aims straight for the hips, and even the dullest wallflower cannot escape its infectious dance beat. The instrumentals are first-rate, and AJ’s delightful vocals convey a strong sense of optimism that makes the track all the more enjoyable.

Veris
Photo by Elevin Studios

The exuberant track was written by Edwards and Hylander, and is essentially a love song about living life to the fullest, savoring every moment like it’s opening night:

Take a bow when the curtain rises.
We’re alive and living like it’s opening night. 
We live through dark and golden ages.
Break a leg on center stages like opening night.

“Opening Night” was produced by Bleu, engineered by Ducky Carlisle, mixed by David Spreng, Bleu & Ducky, and mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering, with assistance from Maria Rice. The lyric video was produced by Umesh Gallage, and features footage from a 30’s movie musical that I can’t identify, but is the perfect accompaniment to the track.

Follow Veris on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream “Opening Night” on Spotify and Soundcloud, and purchase on iTunes

KAZE – EP Review: “No Filter”

Being the EclecticMusicLover, it goes without saying that I’m fond of artists and bands whose music style is – well, eclectic. The Manchester, UK band KAZE certainly fits that description. Their sound is so varied and interesting that it’s pointless to try and categorize it into any particular genre. When listening to their debut EP No Filter, I hear elements of pop, folk, jazz, shoegaze, and even alternative rock – sometimes all in one song. They list Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles, The Cardigans and Amy Winehouse as some of their main influences, but I also hear a bit of classic, old-school torch song vibe that gives their music a unique quality that makes for an incredibly pleasing and compelling listen.

KAZE

Formed by Graham McCusker and Amy Webber in February 2016, they chose the name KAZE because it means “wind” in Japanese – the interpretation of which they leave to their listeners. In addition to Amy on vocals and Graham on keyboards and backing vocals, the band line-up includes Thomas Fripp on guitar, Dan Peate on bass and Jonathan Needham on drums.

KAZE Band

They released No Filter in March 2017 with a sold out gig at The Castle in Manchester. The EP was produced by Colin Towns (Ivor Novello songwriting judge/BAFTA nominated composer), engineered by Toby Wood (Lord Of The Rings/associate EMMY Award winner) and mixed by Adriano Buffone (Kubb/Avicii/Jessie Ware).

The jazz-infused first single from the EP “Pinned On You” opens with a discordant mix of instruments, perfectly conveying the feelings expressed in the lyrics about having your life turned upside down by the realization that the person you love just doesn’t feel the same about you: “I pinned all my hopes on you, but just as I fell, you told me you’re not into me too. I pictured a life with you, but bright as you were, you just couldn’t come into me too.” Amy’s strong, impassioned vocals are backed by sharp percussion and a sturdy bass line that add power to the song’s message. The complex, nuanced instrumentals bring new surprises with each listen, and the jazzy piano riff and tasty electric guitar solo in the bridge are terrific.

Feel” sets a contrasting tone, with a lovely, contemplative piano melody and smooth instrumentals. Amy’s vocals are sublime, at one point sounding a bit like Barbra Streisand when her voice soars in the bridge. I especially love the backing chorus on this track. The band employs only an acoustic guitar on the poignant ballad “Unfamiliar Room.” With a hint of melancholy in her voice, Amy sings about the anxiety of undergoing potentially life-changing medical procedures: “Knowing looks and a brief smile. Waiting for news that won’t beguile. All shapes and sizes, some sad too soon, in this unfamiliar waiting room. Pressure digging in, jazz chords and they sing, while my body’s being screwed.” The song was inspired by Graham’s own experience with chemotherapy treatments.

Things turn upbeat on “Come Away,” a breezy song about leaving one’s problems behind and starting on a new life adventure with someone special: “Quit your job, pack your bag, are you ready for a life you’ve never had?  Grab your stuff and lock the door, we’re going somewhere you’ve never been before. Come away, come away, run away with me.”  KAZE expertly fuses pop, rock and jazz elements, all building to a fantastic crescendo at the end.

No Filter is a stellar debut effort, and I suspect we’ll be hearing more great music from KAZE in the near future.

Connect with KAZE:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp

SAM CLARK – Song Review: “Out of Reach”

Sam Clark is a talented and charismatic singer/songwriter/actor with a long list of professional accomplishments in TV, film and music. Born and raised in Australia, Sam is now based in Los Angeles, and has just released a terrific new single “Out of Reach,” along with a beautifully-filmed, heartwarming video.

According to his website bio, Sam rose to fame in Australia with his starring role in the long-running TV show Neighbours, for which he was nominated for several awards during the program’s 850+ episode run. He released a debut album Take Me Home in 2010, which generated two singles, “Broken” and “Devastated,” that garnered #1 spots on the ARIA Physical Singles Sales chart. A year later, he dropped the excellent five-track EP my own way…  Sam went on to star in his first feature film Mental, for which he also wrote and performed several original songs. After moving to Los Angeles he starred in the Emmy-winning FOX/Paramount production Grease: Live. He’s now in production on his next album with his Grammy award-winning songwriting partner Bill Grainer. “Out of Reach” is the first single from that album, which is planned for release later this year.

Sam Clark

“Out of Reach” is a lovely pop song about discovering you’re blessed with love you never thought you’d find. Sam explained his inspiration for the song: “I want my songs to be catchy without compromising their lyrical content. If I had to choose a single theme that runs through all my songs, it would be love.

Musically, the track has a catchy, upbeat melody, with crisp percussion and warm acoustic guitar throughout. Sam’s charming vocals are incredibly pleasing, and perfectly suited for the positive, heartfelt lyrics: “A hopeless dreamer but I’m wide awake. I never thought that it could feel this way. You are beyond my wildest disbelief. I always thought this kinda love was out of reach.

The delightful video was filmed by Carlos PenaVega and Giovanny Lago, and directed by David Del Rio. It shows Sam arriving home on the day of his birthday, only to be disappointed when he learns all of his friends and family are busy or unable to get together to celebrate with him. He then discovers a pair of hiking boots in a gift box, along with a note that starts him on a treasure hunt that ultimately leads him to a spot in the hills where his friends and girlfriend are waiting for him. Then he gets a big surprise when his parents show up, making him realize he has love in all its forms – romantic, friendship and family.

Both song and video left me feeling happy, and that all’s right with the world. And that’s something we can sure use a lot more of right now!

To learn more about Sam, check out his Website

Show him some love by following on:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream his music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes

Featured Song: JODY WHITESIDES – “Rise Up”

Jody Whitesides is a seasoned singer/songwriter who’s been making music for 20 years. We’ve followed one another on Twitter for quite some time, but I somehow missed that he’d released a powerful new protest song “Rise Up” on January 20, 2017 – the day Donald Trump was inaugurated President of the United States. Being a music blogger, I rarely make my political opinions known on this platform, however, I continue to be horrified on a daily basis that a cruel, narcissistic sociopath is our President, so Jody’s song resonated strongly with me. Plus, it’s a pretty good pop-rock tune from a musical standpoint.

Jody Whitesides

On his website, Jody eloquently explains his inspiration for “Rise Up”:

You might ask yourself why did I release it on Inauguration Day? Its a great question that has a real live answer.  I felt it my duty to call out the fact that the country has elected the wrong person. A person who claims to be for the “little” guy, but in reality is solely out for himself and his family. If there is one thing that I hope to achieve, it is to have people Rise Up against going backwards in this country. My desire is to see people gather and protest. To demonstrate. To call out the elected leaders to start doing their jobs rather than creating chaos.

Regardless of whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party, Tea party, whomever – you can put this song to use. In fact, I’d love to see you putting it into action. Share your photos and videos, of your using it for protest, with me on Instagram or Twitter. I’ll be happy to RT or share the love. Go forth and make use of your freedom, before you lose more of it. Enjoy it, sing it, share it!”

Song Lyrics:

Things took a turn ’bout an hour ago
We lost another freedom don’t you know
Is this what you meant – ignore evidence
Now we watch truth lay down to arrogance

No one will admit our elected leadership
Went an’ made everything such a mess
Has the land of the free
Forgot the home of the brave
And become scared to

Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up defend your rights (defend your rights)
Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up and win this fight (win this fight)
Rise Up

Take a look around what do you see
A snipe hunt being led by Wall Street Freaks
We know what you heard – all of the applause
That circus came to sell off all our laws

Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up defend your rights (defend your rights)
Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up and win this fight (win this fight)
Rise Up

Deregulation bad legislation
Corporations shouldn’t be diplomatic engines
Lightning rods for maneuvering fraud
Paint their path to heaven then act like gods
Moral turpitude conflicting attitudes
Clandestine video shows us who is lewd
Our education ain’t evil invention
Its a key to learning a needed lesson

Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up defend your rights (defend your rights)
Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up and win this fight (win this fight)
Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up defend your rights (defend your rights)
Rise Up (Rise Up)
Rise Up and win this fight (win this fight)
Rise Up

Jody W performing

Here’s a bit of background on Jody’s extensive music career:

Born and raised in New York, Jody initially studied at Boston’s Berklee College, then went on to the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood. He now calls Park City, Utah home. He humorously refers to his sound as “A Funky Audio Lap Dance For Your Ears.” His considerable music output has been extremely eclectic, which is especially appealing for me, the EclecticMusicLover! At various points in his long career he’s recorded rock, folk, pop, psychedelic, funk and dance songs, handling all those genres quite well, actually.

His first album release was with his band AMALGAM in 1998, then he released a terrific rock/psychedelic/funk-infused solo album E.nergy A.udio R.evolution in 2000, followed by the folk rock-oriented Is This Considered Naked (love that title!) I recommend my readers take the time to check them out, as well as his later albums Initial Spank, A Natural Leap Forward and Practical Insanity. In 2010, he recorded a sports anthem “Do You Want to Play,” along with remixes of the song for every NFL, MLB, NHL and WNBA team! More recently, prior to recording “Rise Up,” Jody recorded the fun psychedelia/hip hop-tinged dance single “Touch” in 2015, and the soulful dance-pop single “Thump Thump Thump” in 2016.

To learn more about Jody, check out his website.
Connect with him:  Facebook / Twitter /  Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify /  Soundcloud /  YouTube
Purchase:  iTunes

Song Review: MAD MACHINES – “Once I Was a Lion”

Mad Machines is a five-piece band based in Toronto, Canada. Their high-energy music melds elements of Hard Rock, Funk, Punk-Noir and Dream Pop – with a bit of Disco thrown in just to mix things up – and their lyrics are always entertaining. They released an excellent debut EP Re-Humanizer in January 2016 (which I highly recommend my readers check out), and in March dropped a fun new single “Once I Was A Lion.

Mad Machines

The band line-up includes Jordan Lassalle (Lead Vocals, Guitar), Raymond Cara (Drums, Percussives, Backing Vocals), Jordan Quinn (Keyboards, FX, Backing Vocals), Neil Culbert (Guitars, Backing Vocals) and Joseph Slegtenhorst (Bass).

Regarding the backstory for the song, Lassalle explained: “Once I Was A Lion is a strange departure of a song for us; it was actually initially inspired by Disney’s The Lion King. I woke up one day with one of the songs from that film in my head and it got me to thinking something along the lines of, ‘what if Simba turned out to be a fuck-up drunkard of a king? Wouldn’t that be funny!’ Since then, the song has evolved; I found myself also writing a reflection piece on how at some point or another, we all feel like kings and queens of our respective kingdoms. It’s a feel-good tune and a real fun pop-rocker to play.

Indeed it would be, as it’s all that and more. The infectiously catchy song kicks off with a distorted guitar solo, then things bust wide open with crashing drums, heavy buzzing bass and lots of killer bluesy riffs. The guys are terrific musicians! Lassalle’s vocals are wonderful, occasionally soaring into a pleasing falsetto, and backed by his band mates’ harmonizing choruses. He croons the tongue-in-cheek lyrics that can’t help but put a big smile on your face:

Once I was a lion, yeah once I was king, crushing my problems between my teeth. Ruler of my kingdom with an iron paw. Rolling through the jungle like an atom bomb. All the lady lions used to stop and stare, hoping I would try and take ’em to my lair. Once I was a lion and life was sweet, until she came and took that crown away from me. / They took my fangs, they took my claws. / And I’m the king of the jungle baby. At least I was before.

Listen to “Once I Was A Lion” here:  Soundcloud

Connect with Mad Machines:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Purchase their music on Bandcamp

EP Review: RUN WITH IT – “How to Start a Fire”

Run With It is one of the hardest-working bands I know. The Kansas City three-piece has been touring and gigging throughout the Midwest, East Coast and Southern U.S. nearly non-stop since Summer 2016 – even playing a concert at Doha Air Force Base in Qatar! – yet somehow managed to also record a superb new EP How to Start a Fire, which dropped on March 24. I’ve been following them for quite a while, and featured them on this blog in February 2016. The band recently signed with the Southern Valley Record label, and I’m thrilled to see their star grow.

Making the music are Miguel Caraballo on Lead Vocals and Guitar, Ben Byard on Bass and Backing Vocals, and Daniel Cole on Drums. (Ben replaced Clint Velazquez who left the band last September to devote his full attention to his Base Academy of Music.) They play accessible pop-rock that draws influences from rock’n’roll, alternative rock, R&B, folk and even a bit of blues. Their song lyrics touch on oft-covered themes of life, love, and relationships, as well as the struggle to find one’s own truth and way in the world.

Run With It
Photo by Chris Mullins Photography

The EP opens strong with the gorgeous rock song “I Need a Light,” which was released as the first single. The track’s arrangement and production values are perfect, and together the dynamic instrumentals and strong vocals create an incredibly tight, compelling song. Musically, the song begins with a lovely piano riff that continues on and off throughout the track, then heavy bass, thunderous percussion and dreamlike synths take over, accompanied by intricate guitar work. Miguel’s impassioned vocals rise and fall with the music’s intensity, and the powerful guitar solo toward the end gives me goosebumps every time.

The emotionally hard-hitting lyrics speak to feeling lost and alone, in search of a path forward and someone who can be counted on: “I need a light so bright that the sun seems dim. I need something that will not fade. Held tight like the hand of a friend. I need someone that won’t runaway.

I love this song, which has spent 15 consecutive weeks on my Weekly Top 20 Chart.

On the pleasing track “Don’t Waste My Time,” the guys skillfully mesh delicate circular piano movements with a lovely guitar riff.  I’m impressed by the generous use of the piano in their music, giving it a fuller, highly melodic sound. Also, some of their songs have an anthemic quality, with complex, layered instrumentals and soaring choruses. A good example is “Time,” a track with beautiful music that contrasts with biting lyrics about how the passage of time can be cruel: “Time, she’s a liar, a thief. Her teeth in my flesh, How do I get free. Blood, the taste in my mouth. Her bloody fist, gonna knock me out.” Another is “One More Fight,” an uplifting song with a sweeping melody and some terrific bluesy guitar riffs, not to mention Miguel’s heartfelt vocals.

Move On” speaks to letting go of a failed relationship and moving on. Again, beguiling piano, layered guitars and just the right amount of percussion make this a great track.  The infectiously upbeat “On Your Own” has a bit of a folk-rock vibe, with robust acoustic and electric guitars, and Miguel’s earnest vocals expressing the hopeful lyrics: “There’s a song deep in your heart. It’s like a raging lion is gonna tear you apart.”

How to Start a Fire is a well-crafted EP with six solid tracks, and I look forward to hearing more from these busy guys. They’ve already begun working on new music for us fans to enjoy.

To learn more about Run With It, check out their website and follow on Twitter /  Facebook /  Instagram. Watch their videos and vlogs on their YouTube channel.

Stream How to Start a Fire on Spotify and purchase on iTunes.